Friday, March 31, 2017

NXT TakeOver: Orlando Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NXT TakeOver Predictions, here at  My colleague Landon Wayne and I will dissect this Sunday's Network special and offer our predictions.

NXT has fallen off a bit in quality since last year's near-perfect Dallas show, but the black & yellow brand still has the potential to deliver a high-quality WrestleMania precursor that scratches us die-hard fans where we itch, in a way the main roster show probably won't.  So let's get after it....

Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, No Way Jose & Ruby Riot vs. SAnitY

Our opener (I'm assuming) is this eight-person mixed tag match, pitting NXT's big heel stable against a collection of babyfaces.  This should be a pretty crazy affair and a lot of fun.  The babyface team has the good workers, the heel team has the good characters.  I expect a lot of outside the ring brawling and a whole lotta cheating.  Good way to kick off the show if that's the direction they take.

Justin's pick: SAnity's winning this
Landon's pick: If you want Young and his unit to have any kind of momentum, then they win here. A loss doesn't kill them, but the win over the babyfaces helps immensely.

Aleister Black vs. Andrade Almas

This match could also be the opener but since Black is a new commodity and presumably this is a showcase match for him, it might make sense to go second.  Almas is finally finding his niche character-wise but still seems to be fodder for the new guys.  This should be a fine little match though.  I've heard good things about the former Tommy End so I'm intrigued for his NXT debut.

Justin's pick: Black
Landon's pick: Black wins an obligatory "Takeover Debut match" Match

The History of WrestleMania: 31-32

Levi Stadium - 3.29.15

WrestleMania 31 (or Play Button as Vince apparently wants it known) had probably the worst buildup in over a decade.  There was almost no urgency to the product leading into this show, and my expectations were as low as I can remember for a WrestleMania.  As it turned out though, this was a very solid PPV featuring several good-to-very good matches and no real stinkers.  I've read some reviews of 'Mania 31 calling it one of the best WrestleManias of all-time (Dave Meltzer initially called it one of the best shows he's ever seen but dialed back his praise on a second viewing).  Personally I find that assessment waaaaaay overboard.  I mean let's be honest, this show was nowhere near as good as 'Manias 17 or 19.  Come on.  This PPV had several good matches but no great ones, some great results and some not so great, not nearly enough wrestling for a four-hour broadcast (The seven matches totaled about 100 minutes which is downright skimpy), and the longest match was in my opinion the worst by far.

There were two preshow matches (I will never understand why WWE can't fit nine matches on a four-hour PPV when they routinely fit eight on a three-hour one), and one of them was quite entertaining.  The Fatal 4-Way tag match had highspots galore and lots of fun tandem offense that showcased three of the four teams (Sadly Jey Uso sat out the match with a legit shoulder injury).  Cesaro & Kidd won as expected, and I liked Cesaro's douchy heel move of letting Jimmy Uso hit his finisher on Big E, tossing Jimmy out of the ring and covering E himself.  Fun way to open the festivities.

The Battle Royal on the other hand I found rather pointless.  The only participant who gained anything from it was Damien Mizdow (and by proxy The Miz I guess), when he finally turned babyface and nearly eliminated Big Show to win the whole thing.  And of course the company followed up on Mizdow's crowd support with....nothing.  Overall WWE wasted several opportunities to make some underneath guys look good - The New Day all got owned by Show and looked stupid in the process, Hideo Itami from NXT was given about thirty seconds to shine before also being punked out by Show (How pissed d'ya suppose Triple H was by this?), and finally Mizdow failed to get the job done in the end.  The announcers pushed the whole "Big Show has never won a battle royal" thing, but was anyone really clamoring to finally see that happen?  This ended up being another one of those matches that didn't help anyone.

God I miss him (*sniff*)

Moving along to the main card.  The Seven-Man I-C Ladder Match opened the show as I figured it would, and it was a fun watch that didn't really feature anything we haven't seen before.  Once it was over it was forgotten, like a run-of-the-mill Adam Sandler movie (back when he was funny).  Obviously Daniel Bryan winning the one Title he'd never held was a great moment, and had he not suffered another injury shortly thereafter I've no doubt he would've revitalized the I-C Title much as Cena did with the US.  As for the multi-man Ladder Match I think it's time to retire the concept, for a while at least.  There's simply nothing more to do with these matches.  Every conceivable high spot with ladders has been done it would seem, and each of these matches now blurs into the rest.  What's most significant about this match now is that it was Daniel Bryan's final 'Mania match, and he became a Grand Slam Champion.  Sorry, gettin' dusty in here......

Next up was one of the two high points of the night - Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins.  At the time I was flabbergasted how early this was placed, but by the end it made sense.  Orton and Rollins nearly tore the house down as expected.  The bout was fast-paced and featured multiple intricately timed spots, including a breathtaking finish.  Unfortunately these two were only given 13 minutes so the match wasn't able to get out of 3-star territory.  Had it gone five minutes longer we'd probably be looking at a Match of the Year candidate.

Those five minutes could've easily been taken away from match #3.  Personally I found Triple H vs. Sting a pretty wretched affair.  They started out having an okay match and after ten minutes it disintegrated into a total Senior's Tour clusterfuck involving DX and the nWo attempting to brawl around ringside.  The live crowd went nuts for this, but I spent the next ten minutes groaning.  In the first place this match was never supposed to be about WWF vs. WCW.  Sting even said as much in his promo.  But ol' Vince couldn't help shoehorning that tired, fifteen-year-old concept into the proceeding.  Second, why on Earth would the nWo ever rush to Sting's aid?  They were mortal enemies in WCW (minus the idiotic Wolfpac angle), and two of the three members are Hunter's best friends!  Not to mention all three are obviously working for WWE now.  None of this lunacy made any sense, and when it was over we were once again left with the takeaway "WCW are poopyheads, WWE rules!"  This match felt like it was booked by a child.  I half-expected a reveal that Will Ferrell and the kid from The Lego Movie were behind it all.

This broke the Guinness record for oldest combined age in a wrestling ring

Thursday, March 30, 2017

WWE WrestleMania 33 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to a brand new season of WWE Predictions here at!  Today my esteemed colleague Dan Moore and I will talk the sprawling dumpster fire that is the WrestleMania 33 lineup.  Jeezus this card's all over the place....

Well for the third year in a row WrestleMania looks passable at best, with not one match that for me qualifies as "must-see."  I miss the urgency of the WrestleManias of yesteryear, when the company put together the best possible feuds and matches so 'Mania felt like a climax instead of a bloated standalone show.  This card has 13 bouts scheduled, with at least three of those already bumped to the pre-show.  I have to think one more will join them - no chance in hell WWE can fit more than 9 matches on the five-hour main PPV, not with that 700-yard entrance ramp.  Also, how in the hell is there room on the main card for Goldberg, Taker and Shane but not Zayn, Joe or Kurt Angle??  If you're gonna bring back a near-50-year-old how do you not pick the guy who never stopped wrestling and who could still outwork 90% of the active roster??

Anyway, let's get to it.

***I won the 2016-17 season of predictions, with a 64% accuracy rate to Dan's 56%.  We suck.***

Pre-Show Andre the Giant Battle Royal

I've been saying this for two years, but this concept's shelf life is over.  The annual Battle Royal to Get Everyone on the Show should be a dark match like in the olden days.  Does anyone give a shit about this anymore?  Also how do you justify relegating Braun Strowman and Sami Zayn to the goddamn pre-show?  Why not do a Strowman-Big Show rematch?  Why not do a Zayn-Joe rematch?  Christ....

Justin's pick: Strowman is a mortal lock to win this.
Dan's pick: Yeah, he's GOT to.

Pre-Show Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Austin Aries

It's a shame this is on the pre-show because this should be pretty great if given time.  Neville's been a great heel Champion so far and Aries is one of the best in the biz.  Time to just do a 205 Live PPV event if RAW Creative isn't gonna give this division the main show attention it deserves.

Justin's pick: It's too early to change this belt.  Neville retains in a way that allows for a rematch.
Dan's pick: AA will win the day.

Pre-Show Smackdown Women's Championship Six-Pack Challenge: Alexa Bliss vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Mickie James vs. Carmella vs. Naomi

This is pretty pointless.  Again, gotta cram everyone on the card, so let's have a six-way clusterfuck instead of presenting a compelling feud.  Rather than a six-pack challenge (which is what I'll be doing from my couch that night) I was really hoping for a six-way Makeout Match.

Justin's pick: Since Naomi just came back, Naomi.
Dan's pick: I dunno...Mickie.

RAW Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: Anderson & Gallows vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Enzo & Cass

First off, I'm not sure why WrestleMania needs a goddamn host every year now.  It's a pointless bit of window dressing that just takes time away from the wrestling.  Furthermore I'm not sure why The New Day isn't involved in this match or why they seem generally uninterested in winning back their Tag Titles.  Ya know, the ostensible reason all these guys are in this fake fighting organization?  Anyway, this is another match set up to get as many people on the card as possible.  Not terribly interested in the tag scenes on either show right now.  Both divisions feel like an afterthought.  But the addition of the Ladder Match stip just made this a little more interesting.  TLC 2000 this won't be, but they have a better chance now of the match being kinda fun.

Justin's pick: A&G just won these damn things so they should retain
Dan's pick: I'm sick of Enzo & Cass' schtick, so I'm hoping they don't win...but I think they will.

Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin

This could be alright.  Corbin's been improving slowly over the past few months.  I'm still not totally sold on him but Vince obviously is.  Because TALL.  Should be a fairly unruly match given the two participants.

Justin's pick: Corbin picks up his first Title.
Dan's pick: Yea, I don't dig Corbin too much but he's got the momentum going in.

John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse

I can't even wrap my head around this one.  Like him or not, John Cena is still the company's biggest star AND one of its best workers.  Why then, in the FUCK, would you waste him in a mixed tag match at the biggest show of the year?  This is akin to Savage & Sherri vs. Dusty & Sapphire.  In both cases one of the company MVPs was paired with a female wrestler against the guy he was feuding with and his non-wrestler companion.  The 1990 match stunk up the Skydome, and I can't see this being all that noteworthy either.  The whole situation is fucking baffling to me.  Couldn't we at least get Cena vs. Miz one-on-one (And no, I'm not picking on the women, I just don't like mixed tag matches.  At all.) since this show is apparently about redoing shitty 'Mania matches from years past?

Justin's pick: Team Cena wins
Dan's pick: This is so dumb. Cena should be fighting Reigns or Taker or JESUS ANYTHING BUT THIS. Whatever. Cena.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Dive Bars of America: BullShots (Atlantic City, NJ)

by Dan Moore

This column features some of the greatest and grossest dive bars in the U.S. of A. I’ll be using a rating system between 1 and 4 handlebar mustaches, which is the preferred mustache by 9 out of 10 old timers in dive bars.

2309 Pacific Ave
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

You had me at $2 Bud Lights, BullShots.

My dear friend, Scotty Pickles, is getting married this year and we needed a place to go for his bachelor party so’s we could gamble, son. We decided Vegas was too far and Foxwoods too close. We settled on Atlantic City. As we drove to check into our place, we zoomed past that delightful sign above. We knew we found our spot. Bud Light is Southie water so this was a friendly place for us. BullShots has a long bar with a room in the back that has pool tables and oh yea, it’s connected to a strip club.

Fun Factor: Oh, there’s a ton in this joint. There’s all kinds of silly shit hanging from the walls here. There’s pool tables in the back (though I never made it back there because BEER). They got beer pong, hookah and tons of promotions all week. It’s a veritable drunken playground. Oh, and it’s connected to a strip club.

Also, they got cigarettes, and smoking is always fun!

Beer Choices: They had $2 Bud Light. That’s really all I needed. But yes, they had a surprisingly diverse beer menu for a hole in the wall bar. Yeungling, Stella and many of your other big name beers. The funniest part about the booze in this joint is that you hafta buy your beers in this bar and then bring it over to the strip club. AC has some weird law where the strip clubs can’t serve booze if they show completely NEKKED womens, so to get around it, some of the strippy strips require you to bring your own beer. It’s truly a wonderful scene watching grown men pay $15 bucks for a 6 pack and get walked over to the strip club by a stripper to watch them strip. The circle of life, indeed. 

The History of WrestleMania: XXVIII-XXX

SunLife Stadium - 4/1/12

And here's Part 2 of WWE's slap in the face to Daniel Bryan and Sheamus fans of all ages....

'Mania 28 was a good show.  I daresay it was a very good show.  And it was also one of the more disappointing 'Manias because it could and should have been a truly great show.  It was one match away from achieving greatness.  One match away from four of the eight matches on the card being heralded as classics.  I'll give you three guesses which match I'm referring to.  Go on, think about it, I can wait.....

Imagine my relief when the opening bell rang and the ring announcer declared, "The opening contest is for the World Heavyweight Championship."  Fantastic!  Daniel Bryan and Sheamus got screwed last year, but WWE is making amends by giving them a second chance to fight at WrestleMania, and for the World Title no less!  This is gonna be a great match and I don't even care that it's on first!  My excitement would last eighteen seconds.  One Brogue Kick later, I found myself in the exact same state of unbridled rage as I had a year earlier.  So Sheamus and Daniel Bryan were cheated out of a WrestleMania moment not once, but TWICE.  I just wish I could've been in on the creative meeting where the "18 seconds" decision was made.  I just want to hear the logic that was used to rationalize this booking.  Here's how I would carefully expose this idea for the purely nonsensical stupidity it was:

1. Whether you realize it or not, both Sheamus and Daniel Bryan are very over with a good portion of the audience and those people are really looking forward to this match, especially since they didn't get it last year.  Making this a one-move match will really piss those people off and you'll already have lost them for the rest of the show (which is how I reacted - I seriously didn't care about the rest of the show until Match #7).

2. How do you expect Sheamus to get over as a top-flight babyface when he just won the World Title by essentially sucker-punching his heel opponent?  In what universe is that a good way for a babyface to get over?

3. How much does it cheapen the second most important Title in the company to have it change hands in an 18-second opening contest?

4. Why would you ever charge your audience $70 a pop for an event and then intentionally not deliver on one of the top four advertised matches?  What did you think was going to happen?

Stupidest decision ever made by human beings.

Anyway you all know the rest, the fans were highly pissed and all but ruined the second match, Randy Orton vs. Kane (which was actually a pretty good contest) by chanting "Daniel Bryan" for the next 20 minutes.  Thus began the trend of live crowds hijacking WWE shows in support of Mr. Bryan.  Obviously in hindsight this little 18-second incident helped catapult Bryan to where he is today, but so would an amazing 15-minute war where Sheamus just barely eked out a win (which would've gotten Sheamus over as well).

Bad decision #2 was next, as Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes, who was in the middle of a great run and hoped to break the Honky Tonk Man's 15-month record, lost to The Big Show in a five-minute throwaway bout (Rhodes would win the title back four weeks later, making this title change pointless).

Bad decision #3 followed as celebrity guest (God I'm tired of those) Maria Menounos teamed with Kelly Kelly to face Divas Champion Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres.  After an okay four-minute women's match, Beth got pinned by Maria.  I'd like to repeat that: the physically gifted and imposing Divas Champion, accomplished pro wrestler Beth Phoenix got pinned by Access Hollywood co-host Maria Menounos.  See what I mean about celebrity guests making the business look stupid?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Top Ten Things: Favorite WrestleMania Moments

Welcome to another WrestleMania-themed Top Ten Things, folks!  With the Show of Shows emanating from Orlando this Sunday, and thus WrestleMania on my brain, I thought I'd look back at the ten best moments from the previous 32 editions.

In addition to hopefully providing some great and memorable matches, WrestleMania has also largely been about those special moments that live in your biological hard drive forever.  There has certainly been no shortage of such occurrences at The Showcase of the Immortals, whether it's a particularly significant move someone did during a match, or a striking visual, or something that happened after the match was over.  At its best, WrestleMania creates lasting memories, and here are ten that will stick with me for the rest of my days....

10. Hogan-Rock Staredown (WrestleMania X8)

In 2002 the WWF brought back Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall just in time for 'Mania season, and the former set his sights on The Rock, in an Icon vs. Icon match.  When I first learned of this plan I absolutely hated the idea; the company had built itself back up as a showcase for young, current talent, and bringing back old guys for a big money match, particularly ones who were key in nearly destroying the WWF via their competition, really got my goat.  In fact you can trace Vince's current fetish for part-timer-centric WrestleMania matches to this point.  But goddamn if this wasn't a super fun match, and it all kicked off with an extended staredown that had 65,000 Toronto fans losing their ever-lovin' minds.  Hogan and Rock stood face to face and each began scanning the rabid Skydome crowd before finally locking up in battle.  They had that building in the palms of their hands and no match on that card could possibly have followed this one.

9. Lesnar Almost Dies (WrestleMania XIX)

'Mania 19 is my all-time favorite edition.  It was such an unexpectedly great show from a company that had bungled nearly every major angle in the previous two years, this stacked card soared past the superb WrestleMania X-Seven for me.  And the most memorable moment from this show was Brock Lesnar's errant shooting star press in the closing moments of the main event.  The 290-pound Lesnar had performed this size-defying move countless times in OVW but had never attempted it on the main roster, and this was to be the finish to his biggest match yet.  But he somehow hesitated just a split-second before leaping off the turnbuckle and failed to achieve the necessary rotation.  Instead he came crashing down on the top of his head, in one of the most frightening visuals I've ever seen as a wrestling fan.  This could easily have killed a lesser man, but Lesnar miraculously managed to finish the match, delivering his third F5 of the night to capture the WWE Title.  He also escaped with only a concussion and was back in action a week later.  I probably would've died on general principle.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The History of WrestleMania: 25-XXVII

Welcome to Part 9, beginning with the 25th Anniversary....of the year before WrestleMania started!

Reliant Stadium - 4/5/09

Speaking of WrestleMania cards I wasn't excited about, we now arrive at the "25th Anniversary" of WrestleMania (good lord that marketing drove me nuts - does WWE think people can't count?).  Early 2009 was an extremely stagnant time for the company, where the same 5 or 6 wrestlers were being shuffled around the same 5 or 6 spots and no new talent was breaking into the main event scene.  If you take the seven participants in the top three matches of 'Mania 24 and compare them to the top three matches of 25, swap out Flair for The Big Show and you have the same seven guys.  Couple this with very poor buildup for both Championship matches and you have a recipe for an anemic WrestleMania season.  As it turned out though, the show was pretty good. 

Triple H vs. Randy Orton took the main event slot and despite an awful, awful buildup (Explain to me again why I'm supposed to cheer for the all-powerful McMahon family just because Randy Orton beat them up?  Didn't Steve Austin make a megaface career out of beating up the McMahons?) and a suitably disinterested live crowd, they managed to salvage a solid Title match out of it.  But really the only good segment leading up to this match was when Orton handcuffed Triple H to the bottom rope and forced him to watch Stephanie be DDT'd and kissed by his arch-rival.  Then the following week all the tension was immediately diffused as Triple H broke into Orton's house and beat the snot out of him.  I thought the whole point of the PPV match was to get the audience to want to see the villain get his comeuppance.  If that happens a week before the big match, why should we care?  Also given the highly personal nature of this feud, you'd think WWE would've made the match a no-DQ match of some sort.  Instead the only stip was that if Hunter got disqualified he'd lose the Title.

Oh look, it's the only good part of this feud

The Smackdown Title match was a Triple Threat that I was equally blase about - Edge vs. John Cena vs. The Big Show.  Their feud centered around some twisted love triangle with Vickie Guerrero, yadda yadda.  Bottom line is that the match was actually really entertaining.  I was very shocked by how much fun it ended up being.

But the real standout of 'Mania 25 was of course the epic 30-minute war between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.  I honestly didn't get caught up in the build for this match either and by this point was so fed up with WWE's lack of star-building that I half-expected this to be mediocre.  I was wholly incorrect, as these two legends showed us all how it's done.  This match ended up being one for the ages.

Movie Review: Raw (2017)

French newcomer Julia Ducournau's gripping psychological body horror brings to mind many of the great aspects of Roman Polanski's Repulsion, including and especially the idea of a young woman's sexual awakening.  Starring an exceedingly gifted Garance Marillier as freshman veterinary student (and staunch vegetarian) Justine, Raw begins during her first week at school - a cruel, rather torturous hazing period during which new students have their rooms ransacked, are dragged to mandatory late-night raves, are doused with animal blood, and are forced to eat rabbit kidneys.  The latter incident seemingly triggers a long-repressed hunger in Justine which manifests itself as a constant, overwhelming craving for human flesh.

This haunting, disturbing film unfolds as a metaphor for Justine's budding sexual maturity and self-discovery.  Her older sister Alexia, an upperclassman at the same school, serves as both mentor and tormentor, in very unexpected ways, and the story soon begins hurtling toward a showdown for the role of alpha-female.

Ducournau uses bleakly gorgeous cinematography and somewhat muted colors as an understated canvas on which to render her vivid character study.  The coldness of the setting reminded me of Kubrick at times, with expansive, wide-angle shots showing the characters' tiny forms off in the distance.  At other times she uses shaky handhelds to plunge the viewer directly into the chaos, like when the diminutive Justine tries to navigate her way through overcrowded decadent parties.

The guitar/synth-driven score by Jim Williams heightens the severity of the horror elements in much the same way as Disasterpiece's superbly unnerving score for It Follows.  Moments of revulsion are made that much more jarring with Williams' piercing strains; one particular bit of Justine's new self-awareness merged amazingly with the music underneath to hammer home the severity of we've just seen.

I can't say too much about the narrative itself without giving away spoilers, and it's better if you go into this movie cold.  Suffice it to say Raw delivers multiple shocks that impact far more effectively than your garden-variety jump scare, gruesome imagery that unsettles on a very elemental level, profound and universal themes that resonate long after you've left the theater, and deliciously unexpected, horrific twists.  The acting is understated, internalized, and wholly believable, particularly from the two leads, Marillier and Ella Rumpf, both relative newbies who fully embody the two halves of this perverse sibling rivalry.

Raw is one of the best, most original horror films I've seen in recent years; thought-provoking, urgently captivating, and thus far for me a psychological lingerer.  I can't wait to watch it again.

I give this film **** out of ****.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The History of WrestleMania: 22-XXIV

Rosemont Horizon - 4/2/06

'Mania 22 reminds me a little of the old-school WrestleManias, where there was a whole host of different kinds of matches and a little something for everyone.  It ended up being a much more fun show that I expected, particularly since I was less than thrilled about most of the matches going in.
WWE was fully in "I'll do what I want and you'll like it" mode in 2006, making booking decisions that were absurdly perplexing to many of the fans.  John Cena was not getting over in the expected fashion, as about half the crowd started booing him on a regular basis.  His match here against Triple H was possibly the most infamous example of this, as easily half the Chicago crowd were rabidly cheering for Hunter to destroy WWE's new posterboy.  The match itself was very solid, partly thanks to the fans in the arena, and Hunter repeated his 'Mania 20-ending tapout in the center of the ring to help elevate Cena.

This looks awfully familiar....

The Smackdown brand's champion Kurt Angle defended his Title in a Triple Threat against Randy Orton and 2006 Rumble winner Rey Mysterio, in a match that fell horribly short of expectations due to the time constraints.  I'll never understand why this match only got 9 minutes when it was supposed to elevate Mysterio to the main event.  It was an excellent free TV match but just an okay 'Mania bout, and Mysterio would go on to have one of the worst Title reigns of all time as the company seemingly went out of its way to bury him in every non-title match.

Conversely one match that got a stupidly excessive amount of time was Shawn Michaels vs. Vince McMahon, in a glorified 18-minute squash.  This match was completely one-sided for almost the entire duration and most of the action was run-of-the-mill garbage stuff until Shawn hit an elbow drop off a 12-foot ladder, smashing Vince through a table.  Eighteen minutes for one memorable spot.  Simply stunning.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Dive Bars of America: The Cellar Tavern (Abington, MA)

by Dan Moore

This column features some of the greatest and grossest dive bars in the U.S. of A. I’ll be using a rating system between 1 and 4 handlebar mustaches, which is the preferred mustache by 9 out of 10 old timers in dive bars.

The Cellar Tavern
221 North Avenue
Abington, MA 02351

Thar she blows.  It's an actual cellar.  Under someone's home.  With an old timey truck thereabouts.

I recently moved even more south than the south shore, and have been looking for a dark place to wet my whistle. And lo and behold, this beautiful basement arrived on the horizon. The Cellar has a long bar that’s also combined with a horseshoe shaped part. It’s got a buncha tables for your eating and boozing pleasures too.

Fun Factor: This place is a drunkard’s heaven. They do all kinds of specials during the week. Like a ladies night on Thursdays with raffles and half-priced food.  It’s got the requisite Keno, dart boards abound, a killer juke box and Yahtzee for grownups. Throw a few bucks around and who knows, maybe you’ll walk outta here with enough cash to buy some Advil for your next hangover because…

Booze Choices: ARE DIRT CHEAP. My dear lord. You saddle up to this stick with 20 bucks, and you are going home in a body bag. Ice cold Bud Light drafts are 2 bucks and they have a myriad of cheap mixed drinks all over the place. If you had a bad day at your shitty job (and all jobs are shitty unless you’re a porn star or 3rd string NFL quarterback), this is the place to drown your sorrows.

Delicious & cheap. Just like me.

Movie Review: The Great Wall (2017)

by Dave Moore

1000% Garbage.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Top Ten Things: Avenged Sevenfold Songs

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at!

Today I'll be talking about my ten favorite songs by crossover metal gods Avenged Sevenfold!  I first became aware of A7X in 2005 when their third album City of Evil blasted its way onto the airwaves.  Songs like "Bat Country" and "The Beast & The Harlot" showed the band's musicianship and dexterity with complex prog-metal arrangements, and those were among the simpler tunes on the record.  I liked the album but wasn't blown away by it.  Then a few years later I gave their self-titled fourth album a listen and was stunned by the versatility on display.  From thrash to pop-metal to country to Broadway, this album had incredible variety and demonstrated the band's lust for new sounds and genres.  For me though their greatest album is 2010's Nightmare, which tempered the excess of City of Evil while preserving much of the flexibility of the self-titled record.  Several tracks were the result of their drummer The Rev's untimely death the previous year, lending the record a palpable expressiveness.  In my opinion the less said about 2013's Hail to the King the better; this was presented as an attempt to record a simple, classic-sounding metal album but to me came across as largely a Metallica "Black Album" ripoff.  But Avenged Sevenfold rebounded huge with their seventh album The Stage, a progessive concept album dealing with themes of space exploration, artificial intelligence, and humanity's self-destructiveness.  A7X was back on top of their game.

What really strikes me about A7X is their neverending determination to reinvent themselves and make every album different from the others.  Always intent on challenging the industry status quo, they've stated they don't care how heavy their music is as long as it's good.  I have great respect for bands who strive to transcend their genre, particularly when they're as musically accomplished as these fellas.

I'll be frank - this list exclusively contains songs from Self-Titled, Nightmare, and The Stage.  For me these three albums are in a class well above the other four (plus Diamonds in the Rough) and nothing from Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, Waking the Fallen, City of Evil, or Hail to the King made the cut.  But I'll include some honorable mentions:

"Unholy Confessions"
"Bat Country"
"Strength of the World"
"Until the End"
"Dancing Dead"

Okay, now for my ten faves.  Here we go....

10. Lost

One of the most strikingly radio-friendly A7X songs, this speed metal anthem about man's inhumanity  boasts an impossibly fast tempo, shredding guitars, and a strangely saccharine melody with autotune-assisted choruses.  At first the effect seems out of place in a metal song, but you very quickly get used to it and before long the hook gets stuck in your head.  The song's energy is undeniable, as was the band's growing songwriting proficiency and confidence in trying new things.

9. Creating God

This midtempo, Alice in Chains-esque song about the dangers of experimenting with artificial intelligence would be at home on any rock radio station.  Syncopated guitars create a foundation for grungy vocal harmonies which build to a simple, soaring cautionary hook.  This was the first song on The Stage to really jump out on the inaugural listen, and remains one of my favorites.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The History of WrestleMania: XIX-21

Time for three of my faves.  One amazing, one uneven but pretty great, one very solid......

Safeco Field - 3/30/03

This has to be the most stacked card I've ever seen.  I can't recall any other PPV where the last five matches are good enough and/or big enough to be a main event.  'Mania 19 is really quite something.

The main event was Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title, and this marked the first WWE PPV since December 1997 wher the main event did not include Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, or the Undertaker.  For someone like me who was burned out on the Attitude Era Big Four, this was a real breath of fresh air.  Angle and Lesnar put on a wrestling clinic that featured suplexes and reversals galore, and culminated in one of the most frightening botched spots in wrestling history. 
Brock Lesnar went for a Shooting Star Press, a move he had performed dozens of times in OVW and planned to debut in a WWE ring.  Unfortunately he positioned Angle two-thirds of the way across the ring and there was no way he could've gotten both the distance needed and the rotation.  Lesnar landed on his head and ended up pushing Angle out of the way.  It's a miracle he squeaked by with only a concussion.  But they finished the match and it was a classic.

How this didn't result in Lesnar's untimely demeez is beyond me.

If Angle-Lesnar was the #1 match of 'Mania 19, Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho was #1A.  In a classic student vs. teacher-type bout, Shawn proved himself just as good as before he walked away from the ring in 1998, and Jericho proved himself just as good as Michaels (no small feat by any stretch).  This was a dazzling mix of aerial wrestling, mat technique, and plain ol' drama.  Personally I think Jericho should've won, but his kick to Shawn's junk after the match was a great exclamation point on a fantastic bout.

Say it with me: Right. In. The Dick.

'Mania 19 had a pair of huge marquee matches late in the card, the first of which was Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon's violent, bloody brawl that should've been a stinker but ended up pretty damn good, if about five minutes too long.  The match features probably my favorite evil Vince moment, as the camera zoomed in on him peeking menacingly over the ring apron while clutching a lead pipe.
The second match of this one-two combination was the final Rock-Austin encounter; their third WrestleMania match and their fifth PPV match overall.  It ended up being Austin's swan song and allowed him to pass a torch of sorts to The Rock (who also left the company shortly thereafter, but finally got a PPV win over his old rival).  It was arguably better than their 'Mania 15 match but not as good as the 'Mania 17 one.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mallrats

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I dissect a cinematic clunker that I also happen to enjoy.

Today's topic is Kevin Smith's second film Mallrats.  After the indie success of his smart, slacker-centric Clerks in 1994, Smith was given a much larger budget by Universal Studios to do basically the same type of movie.  But this time our pair of lovelorn, do-nothing 20-something protagonists spend their aimless free time at a mall, trying to repair their failed relationships.  Returning from Clerks are the zany supporting characters Jay & Silent Bob, who in this film are given some action-comedy set pieces and get to directly affect the plot.  The studio more or less took Smith's trademark formula and attempted to make it more mainstream, with very mixed results.  At the time I found this film unequivocally hilarious, but it's probably aged the worst of Smith's View Askewniverse outings.

So let's look at what worked and what didn't....

The Awesome

Jason Lee

Almost everything great about his movie begins and ends with Jason Lee.  The former skateboarder became a major find for Kevin Smith, who would cast him in numerous subsequent films.  But perhaps no role was as big a show stealer for Lee as Brodie Bruce, the mall-obsessed comic book and video game junkie whose lack of ambition has cost him his girlfriend Rene.  Lee's brilliantly vulgar, reactionary delivery is responsible for most of the film's best lines, and his natural charisma allows the viewer to identify and root for this character in spite of his many flaws and obnoxious persona.

I fuckin' love that guy.

Shannon Doherty

One of two principles cast for their name value, Shannon Doherty gives a harsh but oddly likable performance as the strong-willed, no-bullshit Rene, who's reached the end of her patience with her lazy, inattentive boyfriend.  The focus of the movie is on the male characters, but Doherty admirably conveys why the firebrand Rene is such a good match for Brodie.


Michael Rooker

Character actor Michael Rooker plays the film's main antagonist Jared Svenning, whose primary motivation is to keep T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) from dating his daughter.  Svenning is an aspiring game show producer/host whose pet project Truth or Date serves as the film's Maguffin.  Rooker plays this role with over-the-top relish, serving as both a villain and something of a buffoon who, as a television producer, is in over his head.

Don't eat the pretzels!

The History of WrestleMania: 2000-X8

And we've arrived at a new millennium!

Arrowhead Pond - 4/2/00

The year 2000 saw the WWF freshen up its product in a major way.  The influx of WCW castoffs and new homegrown stars led to tremendous improvements in the in-ring product, and the absence of Steve Austin for most of the year forced the company to elevate several other uppercard talents.

That year's WrestleMania goes down as probably the strangest of the bunch, as the roster had gotten so large that everyone had to be crammed into multi-man matches and tag bouts.  In fact this edition of 'Mania featured nary a traditional singles match.

The main event saw entirely too much focus put on the McMahon Family squabbles, as each of the McMahons accompanied one of the participants to the ring.  Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley was a pretty good if overly long main event match, but sadly the company's owners took way too much of the spotlight.  This show holds the distinction of being the first 'Mania card to end with a heel Champion.

Say what you want about him now, but in 2000 Triple H was a BAMF.

Three of the WWF's newest stars got their chance to steal the show as Kurt Angle defended the I-C and European Titles against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in a 2-Falls Triple Threat.  The match was nothing amazing, but it was a solid showing by three of the company's future main eventers.

Also on the card was a highly entertaining six-person tag match between the Radicalz (Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn), and Too Cool & Chyna. The wrong team won, but it was a fun, fast-paced bout.

Friday, March 17, 2017

New Japan Cup: The Opening and Quarter Final Matches

With the opening round and the quarter finals of the New Japan cup in the books, speculation has been reinvigorated in earnest over who will win the semifinals and finals match, and what title they’re going to challenge for. After a loaded set of first round matches, the last two days shape up to certainly be interesting. We have a representative of each faction in the New Japan wars who could take the cup, setting up great scenarios no matter who wins. With the final two days on the horizon, I'm going to go through the first round matches with you all, as well as the quarter finals briefly, and give some insight on the remaining match-ups .  I’m not going to discuss the undercard matches, just know that they serve the same purpose as G1 undercards (Namely to build up to the important singles matches the next day.)

The History of WrestleMania: 13-XV

And on we go....

Rosemont Horizon - 3/23/97 

1997 was the WWF's ratings nadir during the Monday Night War with WCW.  They were right in the middle of an 82-week trouncing, and their PPV buyrates reflected that - 'Mania 13 did an abysmal .72 I believe.

But early '97 was also the very beginning of the Attitude era, before the WWF even fully acknowledged that the business was radically changing.  Snow-white babyface characters were no longer cool to cheer for; instead it was a foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, redneck bully named Steve Austin who captured the fans' imagination and became their hero.  The company was about to switch gears in a major way.

The WWF's original plan for WrestleMania 13's centerpiece was a rematch of Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels from the previous year.  Shawn apparently suffered a knee injury just 6 weeks before the big show (which may or may not have been a way to avoid doing the job for Bret) and announced that he'd be taking time off indefinitely, thus relinquishing the WWF Title.  This left the company scrambling for a new main event to build the show around. 

Sucky main event, but this was a nice moment

Two title changes later, and the belt was back around the waist of Sycho Sid, who it was announced would be defending against The Undertaker (marking the first time Taker would challenge for a championship at WrestleMania).  Seemingly Taker and Sid tried to emulate the Taker-Diesel match from 'Mania 12, but unfortunately it failed to live up to that match, and a subpar main event was the result.  This match went too long and, as was often the case, Sid looked lost for much of it.  Taker finally won the WWF Title however, giving the show a feel-good ending.

The other big matchup was the aforementioned Steve Austin vs. an angry, edgier Bret Hart in a no holds barred Submission match, with UFC import Ken Shamrock as the guest referee.  The ensuing battle was nothing short of legendary.  From an action standpoint there have certainly been better matches (including Bret-Austin 1 at Survivor Series '96, IMO), but I can't think of a better example of pure storytelling in a wrestling match.  Bret went into this match the babyface and left a reviled, vicious heel.  Austin went into the match a nasty bully and emerged as a gallant, tough-as-nails hero.  The visual of Austin being trapped in Bret's Sharpshooter as torrents of blood streamed down his face became one of pro wrestling's iconic images.  Masterful work by both guys.

Is there a more violently iconic image in the history of wrestling?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Top Ten Things: Undertaker WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  Today we're talking about The Phenom, The Deadman, The Conscience of WWE, and his greatest bouts at WWE's biggest PPV of the year, WrestleMania!

Probably the greatest streak in fake sports was the one held by The Undertaker, a winning streak at WrestleMania that lasted over two decades and led to one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history when it was broken.  What started as an organic bit of booking happenstance evolved into possibly the biggest perennial feature on The Showcase of the Immortals.  Suddenly there was a built-in long-term storyline for one of the top WrestleMania matches every year, and for quite a while Taker's match either stole the show or came damn close.  Even after The Streak was broken by Brock Lesnar, Taker's match would continue to be one of the top featured attractions.

But which of his 'Mania showings stand atop the others?  Here now are, in my estimation, The Undertaker's greatest WrestleMania bouts....

10. Undertaker vs. Kane - WrestleMania XIV

Taker's first great 'Mania bout didn't occur until he'd already established a six-match winning streak (Yes, his 1996 match with Diesel was solid, but aside from that his 'Mania outings up until this point were forgettable at best).  In 1997 Taker was involved in a long storyline arc wherein his former manager Paul Bearer revealed he had a long-lost half-brother named Kane (Ironically Kane was actually Taker's first name when he debuted).  The company built up Kane's first appearance for several months before he attacked Taker during the first Hell in a Cell match, and from then on he was established as an unstoppable monster.  Also to the company's credit, they held off giving away too much physical interaction between the Brothers of Destruction, so by the time this match finally took place it truly felt like Taker would be facing his ultimate adversary.  The match itself didn't disappoint; the two behemoths delivered a very physical fight that Taker was only able to win via three consecutive Tombstone piledrivers.  Even in a loss, Kane was set up as a major star.

9. Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - WrestleMania 21

After a serious in-ring slump in 2003-04, Taker was able to return to form in this underrated match with the Legend Killer.  Orton had just finished a horribly failed babyface run in late 2004 and the company wisely turned him heel again, leading to Orton challenging Taker to a Legend vs. Legend Killer match.  These two worked extremely well together, delivering one of the better matches on the card that ended with Taker reversing an Orton Tombstone into his own for the win.  Taker and Orton would go on to have a series of strong matches throughout 2005, in a feud that helped re-elevate Orton.

8. Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVII

In 2011 both The Undertaker and Triple H returned from a long hiatus.  Taker's return was teased ahead of time, but just as he was about to cut a promo the familiar strains of Motorhead filled the arena, announcing The Game.  The two veterans stared each other down before Hunter wordlessly made a challenge by turning his gaze to the WrestleMania 27 sign.  The match itself, while full of typical No-DQ frills, was a fairly epic, very dramatic WWE-style main event with some great gasp-inducing nearfalls.  Taker finally won with Hell's Gate but was so exhausted he had to be stretchered to the back on a forklift.  But these two would outdo each other one year later, both in terms of storytelling and action.