Friday, March 31, 2017

NXT TakeOver: Orlando Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NXT TakeOver Predictions, here at Enuffa.com.  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



Thursday, March 30, 2017

WWE WrestleMania 33 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to a brand new season of WWE Predictions here at Enuffa.com!  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
@SouthieDanimal

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.

BullShots
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. 



Monday, March 27, 2017

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 ****.

Friday, March 24, 2017

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

by Dan Moore
@SouthieDanimal

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 Enuffa.com!


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"
"M.I.A."
"Demons"
"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.


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.

Brenda??




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!


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.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Movie Review & Discussion: Logan (2017)

Well folks, this is a week late because I just got around to seeing it (I have a kid, sue me), but holy crap was Logan awesome.  It was an emotionally complex, grounded, and above all moving look at the character of Wolverine.  I have no qualms about saying this is the best-ever cinematic execution of the character, and easily Hugh Jackman's strongest performance in the role.  Dan, what did you think of Logan?


Dan: A damn fine feature film. One of the best comic book movies I've ever seen. It was action packed, at times funny, and truly an emotional ride. And I damn near cried. Which is saying something, because I'm a heartless monster. Jackman really played up the world weary, beat-up and just plain tired version of Wolverine. He looked like a pair of jeans you've owned for a decade, all frayed and destroyed. It's a real departure from the un-killable superhero we've become used to in the last 17(!) years of X-Men movies. This run-down version of Logan really adds humanity to the character. Jackman always played Wolverine to the Nth degree and has been great in the role. But seeing him here as his life is winding down adds another incredible layer to the performance.


Justin: His physical vulnerability and emotionally wrecked persona just made for a much more interesting version of the character and gave Jackman more dramatic meat than he's ever had in these films.  I also liked the elements borrowed from the Mad Max films and numerous westerns like Unforgiven and Shane.  I've read a few reviews comparing this iteration of Logan to Clint Eastwood's aging gunslinger in Unforgiven and I think that's pretty spot-on.  This guy lived through the battles, saw most of his friends die, and just wants to wind down the clock at this point, but is called to do one last heroic job.


Jackman is surrounded by excellent supporting performances as well.  Patrick Stewart is a 90-something, near-senile version of Professor X, and conveys pathos and heartbreak as never before, Stephen Merchant shows incredible dramatic chops as Caliban the mutant tracker, Boyd Holbrook brings southern swagger and cold sadism as the villainous Donald Pierce, and newcomer Dafne Keen shines in a near-wordless performance as Logan's genetically engineered daughter Laura/X-23, nailing both the emotional scenes and the berzerker rage action stuff.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wrestling Do-Overs: WWF WrestleMania IV

What up fools?  Welcome to Wrestling Do-Overs, where I'll take a famous pro wrestling card or angle and reimagine it the way I would've booked it.

Today I'll be talking about WrestleMania IV, which took place March 27, 1988 at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.  This show is best remembered for the first-ever WWF Title tournament which saw Randy "Macho Man" Savage win four matches to become the new Champion.  Now all that is great, but the show itself from a wrestling standpoint, well.....kinda sucked.  They tried to cram sixteen matches on a four-hour PPV, only one of which lasted more than twelve minutes (that being a terribly dull fifteen-minute draw in the first round).  There was simply too much going on and not enough time for any of the individual matches to properly deliver.


So I'm going to overhaul the card and present it the way I think it should've gone down.  Before I do though, let's look at the card the way it actually transpired:


Plus:

20-Man Battle Royal
Honky Tonk Man vs. Brutus Beefcake
Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules
British Bulldogs/Koko B. Ware vs. Islanders/Bobby Heenan
Strike Force vs. Demolition

See what I mean?  There just wasn't enough good wrestling going on, and even the tournament final/main event was an overbooked nine-minute mess when it should've been a potential Match of the Year.

So first off, let's change the 14-man tournament to an 8-man.  Now I know what you're thinking; but Justin, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant are supposed to get a bye into the second round!  And they still do; Hogan and Andre are automatically entered into the tournament, whereas the remaining six competitors have to win qualifying matches on WWF Superstars of Wrestling in the weeks leading up to the show. 


Tournament Qualifiers

Ted Dibiase defeats Don Muraco
Jim Duggan defeats One Man Gang
Randy Savage defeats Butch Reed
Ricky Steamboat defeats Greg Valentine
Jake Roberts defeats Dino Bravo
Rick Rude defeats Bam Bam Bigelow

So your first-round bracket looks like this:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Music Review: Avenged Sevenfold - The Stage

What a return to form!  After 2013's lackluster Hail to the King, which to me resembled a phoned-in attempt to duplicate Metallica's "Black Album," Avenged Sevenfold returned in 2016 with....well, a vengeance, abruptly unleashing their....well, seventh album The Stage.  The release of this AI/outer space-centric concept album was handled with a bit of calculated misdirection; to coincide with the release of the first single (and title track), pro wrestler and A7X chum Chris Jericho "leaked" on his podcast that the band's album would drop in December and would be called Voltaic Oceans.  Then suddenly on October 27th photos of the actual album sprung up on the internet, confirming that its surprise release was in fact scheduled for the 28th, and also revealing its real title.


Regardless of the album's unconventional publication, Avenged Sevenfold have crafted a melodic, progressive metal masterpiece that repeatedly rewards the listener over multiple spins.  M. Shadows described the record as "a grower, not a shower," and I couldn't agree more.  My first impression was roughly, "Hmm, okay there's some good stuff here - nice to hear A7X doing what they're good at again."  The complexity and versatility of the music impressed me but only a few songs really jumped out at first, like the Alice in Chains-y "Creating God," and the vocal harmony-rich, almost baroque-sounding "Higher."  Then after three or four full listens it finally clicked.  These songs get better and better with each listen - you pick up little nuances and bits of ear candy you didn't catch before, and despite the technology-driven subject matter the album has a real personal, human touch to it.

For one thing the band and their producer Joe Barresi bucked the trend of making the album as loud and compressed as possible.  The Stage has a dynamic range and sonic intricacy I haven't heard on a metal record in years, if not decades.  Here's an album that demands the listener meet it halfway; it's not going to bludgeon you over the head with "state-of-the-art" walls of compression to make sure you're still paying attention.  There's a real depth of sound that harkens back to classic metal from the 70s and 80s.  The band is also in incredible form here.  Guitarists Zacky Vengeance and Sinister Gates deliver some of their best-ever lead work on this album, crafting passionate but technically pristine solos, while new drummer Brooks Wackerman fits the A7X paradigm like a custom-made glove.  On top of this, singer M. Shadows has forgone any pitch correction on his vocal tracks.  What you hear is the real deal - unaltered, human performances by a frontman intensely invested in the subject matter.

Shadows perused loads of material about artificial intelligence, space exploration, simulation theory, and philosopher Giordano Bruno, and wove all of these elements into a complex, 74-minute musical journey that spans multiple genres and moods.  The album begins and ends in epic fashion, the opening title track a tempered rumination on humanity's self-destructive tendencies, and the closing track "Exist" a prog-metal opus intended as a musical interpretation of the beginning of the universe.

A few words about "Exist" - this is a fifteen-minute song that feels like eight; its numerous, distinct sections fly by, from the whirlwind Philip Glass-inspired guitar arpeggio showcase and thrashy syncopated rhythmic front section, to the pensively serene, almost folky vocal movement halfway through, and finally to the galloping extended outro over which Neil deGrasse Tyson delivers a thoughtful monologue about our place in the universe.  I can't explain exactly why, but this song leaves me choking back tears every time I listen to it.  Perhaps it's the spectacularity of the music, the tranquility of the vocal section, or the strange hopefulness of Tyson's words.  Or all of it.  This is a truly affecting piece of music and a major achievement from an already accomplished band still finding new ways to stretch its legs.

Other standout songs include the aforementioned "Creating God," the vocals of which bring to mind not only AIC, but John Corabi's work with Motley Crue, "Higher," which harkens back to some of the material on Diamonds in the Rough, and the succinct but tremendously hooky "Paradigm."

But this is not an album about individual songs.  The Stage is a collective work of musical art, meant to challenge our ideas about humanity and the consequences of our achievements.  As an album it is greater than the sum of its parts, one that a listener needs to really spend some time with in order to fully absorb and appreciate.  The Stage almost defies a conventional review because it would be scarcely possible to speak intelligently of it after only a cursory listening experience.  It's kind of paradoxical that such a meticulously crafted, multifaceted piece of music was released as a surprise.  "Oh, by the way, here's our new album and it's gonna blow your freakin' mind if you let it."

With The Stage, Avenged Sevenfold have delivered a timeless prog-metal album that by all rights should stand the test of time as one of their greatest triumphs, and an all-time genre classic.

I give the album ****1/2 out of *****.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

NJPW New Japan Cup Preview & Predictions

What's up everyone?  NJPW has announced the brackets for the 2017 New Japan Cup, so my colleague Landon Wayne (@LSWayne21) and I will look at the participants and potential outcomes and see who the likely winner is.  There are several new faces this year and only one previous NJ Cup winner (Tanahashi), in addition to some potentially awesome first-round matchups.  


The structure is different this year in that they've spread out the tournament over ten days.  I have mixed feelings about this layout - I get that they want to draw as much money from the bracket as possible, and by stacking the first round with big matches they can headline multiple shows throughout.  But at the same time it does feel a little contrived; Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii shouldn't be a first-round match.  They're both top seeds and realistically ought to be facing each other later on.  Ditto with Shibata and Suzuki.  But I guess since those matches will be headlining or co-headlining their respective cards they'll get time to be great.  It's just very odd to me that a big first-time match like Omega vs. Ishii is being thrown out there at the beginning of a tournament.


Anyway let's get to the participants....


Hiroshi Tanahashi

Justin: This two-time Cup winner is one of six believable winners this year, but I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell of him taking this down.  Okada vs. Tanahashi should probably never happen again except maybe in the G1.  Tanahashi should make it to the semis and then probably lose to Michael Elgin.

Landon: Tanahashi’s lost in the first round two years in a row, to Fale and to Yano in 2016 and 2015, respectively. My gut feeling is that he’s gonna lose again this year, hopefully going on to have a higher caliber match with this opponent than the past two.



Evil

Justin: You know, there is a chance Evil pulls out a huge upset and knocks Tanahashi out in the first round.  I could see that happening and it'd be a great feather in his cap.  Then maybe he faces Elgin in the semis.

Landon: Well, Justin, I’ll go one step beyond that and say he could make it to the finals themselves, where he and Omega could have a great match. I have a lot of faith in EVIL (whacky gimmick excluded) and him going far in this tournament would be a great kickstarter


Monday, March 6, 2017

WWE Fastlane 2017: More like FastLAME

Welp, that was just plain fuckin' stupid.  The Universal Title is now around the waist of a 50-year-old who's had a total of just over five minutes of in-ring time in the last 13 years.  All so he can finally lose to another part-time guy, who will take the belt and go screw for several months until he drops it to Roman Reigns at SummerSlam.  What a worthless prop this Title is gonna be when it's all over.

Fuck right off with this

But let's back up and start from the beginning.  Fastlane sucked.  Yes there were several good matches, but no great ones and the booking was nonsensical almost across the board.  WWE's Good 2017 PPVs streak has ended at two.  And I don't see WrestleMania 33 starting a new one.

This PPV started out fairly promising, with Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn putting together a pretty good nine-minute match that got Joe across as a murdering bastard.  This obviously could've been a lot better had it gotten 15 minutes or more, and considering they had time for two unannounced throwaway matches that no one cared about, I'm baffled this was so short.  Is Joe not allowed to do the Muscle Buster anymore?  He attempted it here but Zayn blocked it and Joe used the Uranage slam in its place before locking in the Coquina Clutch for the win.  If WWE has banned the Muscle Buster officially, they're idiots.  Tyson Kidd is literally the only guy who's been injured by that move, and that was a freak accident for which Joe was not held responsible.  Anyway this was fine.  No idea what Joe's role will be at 'Mania though.  Maybe Joe vs. Finn Balor?


Next up was a perfectly serviceable Tag Title match, with Anderson & Gallows (no longer calling themselves The Club apparently and thankfully) retaining over Enzo & Cass thanks to some heelish shenanigans.  No complaints here.  This was exactly what it needed to be.

Sasha Banks and Nia Jax had a pretty entertaining David vs. Goliath match that played out more or less how I expected.  Aside from a few awkward moments I liked this match, as did the live crowd.  I was actually kinda shocked they were so into this considering how poor Sasha and Nia's previous outings were.  Sasha won with an O'Connor roll to get a flukish victory, as I figured.  Jax isn't hurt much by this loss, although this would be one of three winning streaks ended on this show, further proving an earlier point of mine that WWE should never again do a winning streak angle, as they always, ALWAYS fuck up the payoff.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bare Naked (Chicken) Ladies

by Sok Maher

Taco Bell pulled a KFC on us and invented an item where fried chicken replaces the flour based carbohydrate-rich outer layer.  This food item needs no introduction, but for posterity’s sake I give to you the Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chalupa (NCC)!


Needless to say, there was a huge public outcry for a review.  But this, my friends, is more than just a review; it’s a confession.  Here it goes… I HAVE NEVER EATEN A KFC DOUBLE DOWN.  I know, I know.  I can hardly believe it myself.  This is one of those classic, “I’m not mad… I’m disappointed” situations.  

Love at first bite?  Pretty damn close.  This chicken is spiced up real nice.  Not really a fan of cold, raw tomatoes, but even they are tolerable when wrapped in this deep fried deliciousness.  I wish someone would wrap me up in a piece of deep fried chicken   On to the review…



Flavor – So the chicken really makes or breaks the NCC.  This should come as no surprise for a sandwich made entirely of chicken.  It is perfectly spiced, perfectly cooked, and I’m pretty sure gluten-free for all you hypochondriacs out there.  I’d say it’s at least 90% actual chicken.  It’s rare that anything I do is 90% pure.  Gracias Taco Bell.  I give this 5 sombreros on the standard 5 sombrero scoring system.
   





Top Ten Things: Beatles Albums

Welcome to another Top Ten Things!  Today I'll be talking about one of the most celebrated, universally beloved bands of all time, The Beatles!


The Beatles were possibly the first music group I was ever introduced to as a kid.  My parents played me some of Sgt. Pepper and I was hooked instantly.  By sixth grade I began making mix tapes of their tunes (Yes, this was when mix tapes were still a thing), and thanks to the Compleat Beatles documentary I became an expert very quickly.  In 1987 my parents bought a CD player (I felt so ahead of the curve), and The Beatles' entire catalog was one of the first available in that format.  I devoured their music like crazy and for a couple years they were one of very few bands I listened to (until I discovered metal that is).

Today, along with Metallica, The Beatles are my favorite band in the universe, and when I fire up one of their albums on the ol' iPod it's a ceremonious moment.  I tend to listen to their whole catalog front to back, over a period of several days.  Yeah I'm a dork.  Shut up.

Anyway, here's a list of what are, in my opinion, The Beatles ten greatest albums.




10. A Hard Day's Night


In 1964 The Beatles had conquered both the UK and the US, becoming such pop culture icons they were tapped to star in a feature film.  Directed by Richard Lester, A Hard Day's Night starred the Fab Four as themselves, in a "day in the life" kind of story.  The band travels by train to an auditorium where they'll perform for a live TV special, and in tow is Paul's troublemaker grandfather who tries to turn everyone against each other.  The soundtrack album featured numerous classic early Beatles songs, like the energetic title track, the bittersweet "If I Fell," the instantly catchy "I Should've Known Better," the bluesy "You Can't Do That," and the morose "Things We Said Today."  A Hard Day's Night followed up The Beatles' first two pop albums with slightly more mature content and showed a band beginning to temper their signature sound.




9. Help!


After the huge success of A Hard Day's Night, a second Beatles film was inevitable.  This time it would be a big-budget James Bond-inspired screwball comedy about a Far-East cult hunting down the band in the hopes of recovering a sacrificial ring mailed to Ringo.  The movie featured numerous action-comedy set pieces, plus seven brand new Beatles tunes.  The music showed a bit more depth and some instrument variation, and the album boasted probably the first major departure - a somber guitar ballad of Paul's called "Yesterday."  Paul was the only Beatle on the recording, and would be accompanied by a string quartet, a first for the band.  Other highlights included the mellow waltz of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," the urgent "The Night Before," and the anxiously bouncy "I've Just Seen a Face."  Help! showed the band continuing to expand their musical range on their way to arguably the most creative period in their career.




8. Let It Be


Originally intended as a live concert film entitled Get Back, Let It Be eventually morphed into an album/documentary that showed The Beatles coming apart at the seams.  Their interpersonal relationships were in shambles and the live recording sessions were filled with palpable tension.  So unpleasant was the experience that the band opted to shelve the album and move on to Abbey Road, as a way to end their career on a high note.  As the band dissolved, producer Phil Spector was hired to sort through the dozens of songs and takes, and whittle everything down to a concise record.  The result was a solid-if-inconsistent album that would serve as the band's denouement.  Side 1 is full of good-to-great songs, like John's strangely lyriced "Dig a Pony" and his existential ballad "Across the Universe," and Paul's iconic piano-driven title track.  Inexplicably Spector also included a one-minute snippet of "Dig It," a ponderous go-nowhere jam, and their brief take on the traditional ditty "Maggie Mae."  Side two's highlights were both contributions from Paul; the optimistic "I've Got a Feeling," and the energetic "Get Back."  Despite Spector's orchestral embellishments on songs like "The Long and Winding Road," Let It Be features a stripped-down, intimately live snapshot of The Beatles at their lowest point.  Yet even as the band crumbled they managed to churn out some undeniably great songs and cement their legacy as a transcendent rock group.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

WWE Fastlane 2017 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to your official Enuffa.com predictions for this Sunday's WWE Fastlane!  God I hate that name for a PPV.  It's really just so stupid, and evocative of nothing.  Might as well call it WWE Morning Commute.


This year's show looks quite solid on paper, with a main event that will either deliver big or won't deliver at all.  I don't see it going any other way.  It'll either be a great fight or a pointless squash.

***I'm WAY ahead of Dan for the year, and Fastlane will be the final PPV of the 2016-17 season.  Dan needs a miracle to pull ahead in the final stretch.  I'm up 72/116 to 66/116.  Both our averages are terrible, by the way.***

Dan: OH YOU'RE SAYING I GOTTA PICK THE OPPOSITE OF ALL YOUR PICKS?!?!?! CAN DO!!!




PreShow Match: Akira Tozawa & Rich Swann vs. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar


This here is your basic throwaway Cruiserweight match.  There's no real point to this except as a way to position Tozawa as a future contender for Neville.  This'll get eight minutes including a commercial break.

Justin's pick: Tozawa & Swann
Dan's pick: THE OTHER GUYS




Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax


If this gets time and is a back & forth match it'll be good.  If it's another squash it'll suck.  But since the apparent plan is a Women's Title 4-Way at WrestleMania it only makes sense for Sasha to eke out a win and get back into the Title hunt.  Jax loses nothing by dropping this match - she's been built up as a monster for months.

Justin's pick: Sasha Banks
Dan's pick: THE OTHER GIRL




WWE Tag Team Championship: The Club vs. Enzo & Cass


Ugh.  I don't care about either of these teams right now.  Taking the belts off Sheamus & Cesaro was a batshit stupid idea - they were over, The Club isn't.  Not to mention S&C achieved a huge feat by ending New Day's record-breaking Title run only to drop the belts like two months later.  So now we have this uninspired feud.  There's no reason to do another title change here.

Justin's pick: The Club retains
Dan's pick: THE OTHER GUYS




WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Jack Gallagher


This is gonna be fun.  Gallagher is a tremendously entertaining chap.  He has zero chance of winning the belt here but this match should contain some comedy gold.  Then Neville can move on to his inevitable feud with Austin Aries, which will be actual GOLD.

Justin's pick: Neville retains
Dan's pick: THE OTH-- Well no, not here.  Neville.


WWE Smackdown: Vince Admires Jerks

A couple quick things about last night's Smackdown....

1. This John Cena-Miz feud is all wrong for multiple reasons.  The most glaring thing I took away from this is that Cena legitimately doesn't think The Miz is worthy of his attention at WrestleMania.  While that may sorta be true, Jeezus H. Christ, John!  Ya don't go saying that on national television.  During their face-to-face promo, Miz accused Cena of having too much backstage pull, to which Cena replied, "If I were actually pulling the strings, there's no way I'd be standing here talking to you, I'd be face to face with The Undertaker."  Wow, way to marginalize a guy who's worked really hard over the years to progress as a viable star.  Is The Miz a main event guy?  No, not right now.  But in the past year he's improved immensely and gotten himself way over as a dirtbag, chickenshit heel.  Cena should show him a little more consideration than that.  A lot more consideration, really.  And even if Cena didn't write that line, he's certainly got enough clout to get it nixed from the script, as it makes both The Miz and this entire feud look like a big fat waste of time.

"Wait, I gotta fight THIS loser??"

Not to mention, The Miz is entirely correct when he points out that a few years ago Cena gave The Rock a vatload of shit for being a part-timer who used wrestling as a springboard to Hollywood before opportunistically returning for a big WrestleMania spot, while Cena was there busting his ass every night.  And now the shoe's on the other foot - Cena is more or less exactly where The Rock was at the beginning of his film career, while Miz is a hardworking full-timer who can't get a top match.  Just like in 2012, WWE is trying to persuade us to cheer the wrong guy.  Why in the world would anyone root for Cena in this situation?  He's making himself out to be a total hypocrite while also undressing Miz as a worthy opponent.  Just another example of WWE not understanding what makes a sympathetic babyface (which by the way is probably the biggest reason no full-timer on the main roster is a draw anymore).

This feud and match would be bad enough just with all that, but they're also adding Nikki Bella and Maryse to the match, when there have been exactly ZERO mixed tag matches that were really any good (The best one I can think of was Sable & Edge vs. Marc Mero & Jackie at SummerSlam '98).  Nikki by the way still hasn't really resolved her feud with Natalya, being that their only two televised matches ended in a draw and a Nikki loss.  But now Nikki's in a prominent WrestleMania role while Nattie will be where, in a pre-show six-woman tag?  "Wins and losses come and go," I guess, as Nikki would say.


2. So lemme get this straight - Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble but gave up his Title shot out of apparent loyalty to Bray Wyatt.  Okay, historical precedent would say that the Rumble runner-up now gets the automatic Title shot, but with a split roster I guess that's out the window now (Plus, who wants to see Roman Reigns get ANOTHER WrestleMania Title match)?  Fine.  So we have a battle royal to determine a new challenger, which comes down to a botched ending where AJ Styles and Luke Harper are supposed to hit the floor at the same time, necessitating a singles match.  Harper clearly actually won the battle royal, but whatever, let's do the one-on-one match.  AJ beats Harper clean to become the #1 contender, but then at the end of the show Orton announces he wants the match with Wyatt after all.  Umm, no Randy.  You gave up your Title shot.  Piss off.  You don't get to just change your mind after someone else has already earned it.

Because nothing says "HERO" like a nice graveyard desecration.

So we have yet another supposed babyface who isn't worthy of being cheered - a wishy-washy, untrustworthy dick who pledged undying allegiance to his friend Bray and then set fire to his sister's grave.  That's not at all admirable.  Like, in any way.  Has Vince McMahon never actually met a virtuous human being in real life?  Cuz this isn't how they act.  Meanwhile AJ Styles, another supposed heel, is about to get screwed out of his title shot because of Orton's indecisiveness.  Either that or they have a runoff match next week to finally determine the #1 guy, which if you ask me is a waste of a potentially incredible first-time match that should be saved for a PPV.  I assume if that match happens Shane will somehow cost AJ the match so they can set up that debacle at 'Mania.  And again, who are we rooting for in that scenario?  The heel got fucked over by his boss.  On RAW Seth Rollins (a top babyface) got fucked over by his boss and we're supposed to rally behind him.  Can we get even a modicum of consistency?


Lately WrestleMania season feels like Vince has just come back from a nine-month absence with a ready-made 'Mania lineup, and any current angles and feuds just need to be dropped so they can shoehorn all the wrestlers into place for the big PPV.  There's almost nothing organic about any of these 'Mania matches.  They exist because Vince wants them to.  Rollins vs. Triple H is literally the only big match with a real backstory.  I miss the days when there was a logical buildup to WrestleMania and it was about the culmination of a year's worth of feuds and angles, or the emergence of new stars.  Instead it's become a standalone show where wrestlers are plugged in wherever they sorta fit, after the matches with the biggest possible appeal to the casual viewer are sorted out months in advance.  What a fuckin' bummer....