Monday, February 26, 2018

The Great PPVs: Fully Loaded 2000

Welcome to the fifth installment of The Great PPVs - whether you're reading this at or, I hope you're ready for a little trip down Memory Lane.

Today I'm taking a look at what I consider the best PPV from one of (if not THE) greatest years in WWF/E history, the year 2000.  2000 was, from a profitability and creative standpoint, the apex of the WWF Attitude Era.  After the late 1999 departure of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara, whose "Crash TV" style of booking had become stale and nonsensical, the following year saw a return to a more focused product with a much greater emphasis on the in-ring aspect.  Imported WCWers like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero certainly helped, as the upper midcard now boasted some of the most talented grapplers in the world.  Additionally the tag team division flourished that year, thanks to breakout performances of Edge & Christian (who'd finally found a winning gimmick with their dorky metalhead schtick), the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz.  Between the aforementioned rising stars and the already established names, the WWF's 2000 roster was one of the best ever assembled.

One interesting thing about the company's PPV calendar that year was that the Big Five PPVs, with the exception of the Royal Rumble, vastly underdelivered, mostly due to the shows being overcrowded and sloppily booked.  But the B-PPVs that year were almost all incredible, with stellar main events and stacked undercards that effectively utilized the thriving locker room.  Fully Loaded is one such example of a PPV with both excellent top-billed bouts and strong supporting ones.  The subtext going into Fully Loaded was that the existing WWF main eventers (The Rock, Triple H and The Undertaker) were all being challenged for their spots by the new guard (namely Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle).  The show was billed as a Triple Main Event (though Double is really more accurate), and while the glass ceiling was by no means shattered here, it was perhaps cracked just a little.  And two of the three big matches delivered huge.

But first the undercard: The show opened with a wildly competitive mixed six-person tag match, as The Hardyz and Lita faced Test, Albert (T&A, get it?) and Trish Stratus.  This tag team feud didn't exactly light up the airwaves, but most of the intrigue here was between the WWF's two "It-girls," Trish and Lita, who would feud on and off for the next six years and serve as the backbone of this new and exciting Women's division.  This was a highly entertaining opener, which Team Extreme won after a climactic exchange between the women, culminating in Lita's top-rope moonsault on Trish.

Next was a throwaway meant to showcase the former ECW Champion Taz(z) against another ECW alum Al Snow.  This match was brief and mostly dominated by Taz(z), who finished Snow with his Tazzmission (a Cobra Clutch variant).  This would sadly be the last time Taz(z) was well-used in the WWF, as he began a pointless feud against Jerry Lawler that fall, and by early 2001 was relegated to being an underneath guy.

Top Ten Things: Shawn Michaels WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  And welcome to yet another episode of my barely coherent ramblings about the phenomenon known as WrestleMania.  Today I'm talking about the ten greatest 'Mania appearances by my all-time favorite wrestler, The Heartbreak Kid himself, Shawn Michaels.

Several years ago people started referring to Shawn Michaels as "Mr. WrestleMania," and one doesn't need to look very hard to see why.  In terms of consistently delivering show stealing performances on the WWE's biggest stage, Shawn has no equal.  From 1994-1998, and again from 2003-2010, Michaels' WrestleMania match was generally considered either the best or second-best match on the show, and during those same years his 'Mania match won Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Match of the Year a staggering NINE times (plus he had two non-WrestleMania winners).

Look, I don't need to prattle on about what an incredible pro wrestler Michaels was, so let's just get to the list.  Here now are my ten picks for Shawn's greatest WrestleMania matches.

10. Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XI

What should have been main event of 'Mania 11 was also the only worthy match on the card, as former friends Diesel and Shawn Michaels battled for the WWF Title.  Diesel's abrupt main event push was the WWF's attempt to recreate the success of Hulk Hogan.  Sadly Kevin Nash had nowhere near the overwhelming fan support Hogan did, and the Hartford crowd actually ended up cheering the breathtaking athletic abilities of Shawn Michaels, despite his being the heel.  Even in losing the match, Shawn positioned himself as the next main event babyface and the most popular guy in the company.

9. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania 23

Originally slated to be a Cena-Triple H rematch from WM22, this bout was the substitute after Hunter suffered another quad tear.  And as it turned out this match vastly outperformed its predecessor; John Cena and HBK delivered a fantastic main event for the WWE Title that cemented Cena as the face of the company.  Shawn made him look incredibly strong and helped him rise above the "You can't wrestle" chants he had so long inspired.  For me this was the match where Cena turned the corner to become an accomplished worker who could consistently perform in a big match situation.  The 55-minute RAW rematch got much more attention at the time, but I prefer this bout.

8. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair - WrestleMania XXIV

Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair was one of the most emotional matches I've ever seen.  Michaels obviously deserves a lot of the credit for making this match great, as he bumped around like crazy, per usual.  But Flair's storytelling was also off the charts and he emoted wonderfully, making the audience really care about his career-ending journey.  The final seconds of the match when Flair tearfully begged Shawn to hit the superkick, followed by the sorrow on Shawn's face, made for one of the most memorable of all 'Mania moments.  I given Flair's age at this point I had low expectations going into this, but two of the all-time greats stole the show with this memorable bit of storytelling.

WWE Elimination Chamber 2018 Review: Still Trying to Make "Fetch" Happen

The WrestleMania 34 card is taking shape, and there are two major bits of news coming out of Elimination Chamber.  Both of these items played out as expected, and people seem to be complaining about them as though they're surprised.  I'm excited for one, indifferent toward the other.

The first big news is that Ronda Rousey will indeed be competing at WrestleMania, and all signs point to a mixed tag match against Triple H and Stephanie, likely with Kurt Angle as Ronda's tag partner.  I'm fine with all of this - it's a payoff that was teased three years ago, and Angle makes perfect sense to team with Ronda.  Both have a legitimate combat sports background, both were highly touted as major acquisitions for WWE, and with Angle blowing the whistle on the Helmsleys' subterfuge during the contract signing, it seems appropriate for him to volunteer.  This won't be a five-star classic, but it'll be a high profile way to introduce Ronda as a full-fledged WWE wrestler, it keeps Hunter out of one of the long matches of the night, and it's a big box office attraction-type match.  Yes, the Boss vs. Wrestler feud has been done to death, but the fact that it's the female version of that angle gives it a different flavor, and after this blows over Ronda can be incorporated fully into the women's division.  This'll be fine.

The other news is that Roman Reigns is once again headlining WrestleMania.  Sigh.  There's nothing surprising about this, and Brock vs. Roman will likely be a better overall match than Brock vs. Braun would've been.  But with the way Braun was booked in this Chamber match it really should be him in the main event, having an all-out car collision of a match with Brock.  Now I'm not sure how they resolve the unfinished business with Strowman, unless Brock re-signs, nor do I have any idea what Strowman's 'Mania plans are.  It is strange that both big 'Mania matches set up last night are payoffs from three years ago.  At least the long-term storytelling is in place there.

The show itself was solid stuff.  The non-Chamber matches were nothing spectacular, but none of them were really bad either.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

WWE Elimination Chamber 2018 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at!

Shockingly WWE pulled off a pretty damn good Royal Rumble last month, delivering two very strong Rumble bouts (the men's match ranks very high on my all-time Rumble list) and a solid undercard to boot.  Let's hope they can keep the creative momentum going.  With Vince focused on relaunching the XFL (I still can't believe it) it really seems like Triple H and Steph have taken a bigger role in putting together these shows.  The Rumble PPV seemed to be missing Vince's fingerprints, as did this week's RAW which included a 107-minute gauntlet match (Vince Russo's head must've exploded - he coulda fit 15 Something-on-a-Pole matches into that window).  This Chamber show has a lot of potential despite the overcrowding of the men's Chamber and the silly booking leading to it.  I have fairly high expectations for both of these matches.

So let's get down to bidness...

***I'm at 80/109 (73%), Landon's at 69/97 (71%), Dave's got 52/75 (69%), and Dan's trailing badly with 66/109 (60%)***

"Woken" Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt

This match was already given away on free TV a few weeks back, so the first-time aspect is gone.  I haven't seen much at all of Matt Hardy's resurrected TNA persona, but from what I've read WWE has completely fucked it up.  Yet another reason why scripted promos don't work.  Just let the guy do his thing for Chrissake.  Nothing much at stake in this match, both guys are kinda treading water.  Hey, whatever happened to the Sister Abigail character?  Wyatt was supposed to debut it last fall but he got sick and was pulled off the show, and they just forgot about it after that.

Justin: It literally does not matter who wins this.  I'm guessing both guys get thrown into the Andre Battle Royal at 'Mania, so who cares?  Bray won the match in January so I'll pick Matt here.  50-50 booking....
Dan: Woken.  They done fucked this feud up already though.
Landon: IT'S 50-50, MOTHERFUCKERS.  Matt wins.
Dave: No idea.  Sister Abigail.  (Matt, whatever)

RAW Tag Team Championship: The Bar vs. Titus Worldwide

Not sure what Titus and Crews did to earn a title shot, but whatever.  I'm glad Cesaro and Sheamus are on the card at least.  With Jason Jordan on the shelf and that feud now finished, I have no idea what the plan is for The Bar going forward - probably a multi-team match at 'Mania again.  Regardless, C&S just won back the belts so they ain't losing 'em here.

Justin: The Bar retains
Dan: The Bar
Landon: The Bar
Dave: The Bar

Asuka vs. Nia Jax

The stipulation here is that if Nia wins she gets added to Asuka's WrestleMania match for the RAW Women's Title.  Only problem is Asuka hasn't confirmed which title she's going for.  So what if Nia wins and then Asuka's like "Nah, I'm gonna fight Charlotte instead?"  This should all be moot, since ending Asuka's streak here would be the stupidest thing ever.  But I wouldn't put it past them either.  I'm guessing Asuka wins here, decides to challenge Charlotte, and Nia gets the shot at Alexa Bliss anyway by winning some kinda #1 contenders match on RAW.

Justin: Asuka
Dan: Come on.
Landon: Asuka
Dave: Asuka

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Top Five Films of the Year: 2006

Welcome to another installment of our Top Five Films of the Year series, where I recap my picks for the best movies of a given calendar year.  Today we're talking about 2006 a rather sparsely populated year for really great films.  There wasn't much of value in terms of popcorn movies that year (Superman Returns and X-Men: The Last Stand for example felt okay at the time but didn't age well), but Oscar bait season provided some quality films.  Here are five of them.

5. Children of Men

Alfonso Cuaron's stark adaptation of the 1992 sci-fi novel takes place in a dystopian future Great Britain, where humanity is facing an infertility crisis.  It's been 18 years since a human baby was born, and society has begun to break down, with political groups waging war on each other, almost every government in the world having fallen to chaos, and Britain having turned into a police state.  A former activist named Theo (Clive Owen) is tasked by his ex-wife and her allies with escorting a pregnant refugee to the coast so she can meet up with scientists in Portugal and aid them in finding an infertility cure.  Along the way Theo and his friends are ambushed and betrayed, and the film becomes a taut race for survival.  Cuaron makes incredible use of long, unbroken shots in a few of the action sequences, giving them a wholly unique feel and plunging us right into the bedlam.  Clive Owen makes a splendidly flawed, unlikely hero, while Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine supply memorable supporting performances.  Children of Men touches on themes of immigration policy, religious faith, and redemption, while exploring a fascinatingly thoughtful science fiction premise.

4. Rocky Balboa

Well this wasn't supposed to happen.  The sixth entry in the dead-horse Rocky franchise should never have been even watchable, let alone one of the best in the series.  But Sylvester Stallone managed to wash off the foul stink of the wretched Rocky V and present a completely worthy conclusion to the saga.  While this film doesn't totally ignore the events of V (Rocky is still back to his working-class roots), it picks up the story years later after Adrian has died (Stallone famously explained the decision to kill her off by citing how much of a drag her character had become).  Rocky now owns a successful Italian restaurant and has settled into a comfortable (albeit lonely) retirement, until an ESPN dream fight simulator pits Balboa against the current heavyweight boxing champion Mason Dixon, piquing the public's interest in seeing the matchup for real (inspired by George Foreman's unlikely comeback in the 90s).  Rocky eventually agrees to the exhibition fight and we wander into familiar territory, complete with the classic Training Montage.  As with the first Rocky film however, this movie is not really about the fight, but rather focuses on the characters.  Rocky has seemingly lost his sense of purpose after Adrian's death and spends much of his energy mourning her, while her regretful brother Paulie is anxious to leave that part of his life behind ("Stop talking 'bout yesterday, Rock! Yesterday wasn't so great!").  Rocky develops a relationship of sorts with Marie, a girl he used to know from the old neighborhood, and in growing close with her and her son Rocky begins to really live again.  I had no expectations of enjoying this film.  The idea of picking up the Rocky series again after 17 years seemed totally absurd, but to his credit Stallone rediscovered what made these movies work in the first place and crafted an excellent final chapter (until the equally excellent spinoff Creed showed up that is) that rivals the original.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wrestling Interview: Sydal Still Soaring

by Ryan K. Boman of

If you’re looking for Matt Sydal these days, all you have to do is look up.

UP… as in far above the ring, where the high-flying veteran has spent a good portion of his 18-year professional career. And WAY UP, as the man currently standing atop Impact Wrestling’s X-Division, after capturing the championship from Taiji Ishimori on January 12, at a recent set of Impact! tapings.

He spoke with this week, and discussed his current run in Impact Wrestling, as well as a decorated career that took flight when he was just a teenager.

Still just 34 years old, it seems almost impossible to believe that Sydal made his debut with Gateway Championship Wrestling in St. Louis all the way back in 2000. In doing so, he also became the first person under the age of 18 to receive a wrestler’s license from The State of Missouri.

“I was trained at the GCW training center in Florissant, Missouri,” Sydal recalled, “I started out going to the shows as a fan. I was still in high school, but when I found out there was local wrestling, it absolutely blew my mind.”

“That’s what sealed the deal for me. It wasn’t watching it on TV. It was seeing it live and up close that made me want to be a wrestler.”

Upon making his debut, Sydal quickly became known as one of themost dynamic daredevils on the independent circuit. He had a tremendous run in Ring of Honor in the early 2000’s, working with such stars as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and current Impact World Champion Austin Aries.

During this time, he would make appearances for  then-TNA Wrestling, including a pay-per-view match at Victory Road. His eye-popping talent eventually led him to a contract with WWE, where he performed under the name, Evan Bourne. His collaboration with Kofi Kingston, Air Boom, was a tremendous success and resulted in a WWE World tag team title reign.

“We had a ton of fun,” Sydal said, of his time teaming with Kingston. “I don’t want to say it was a precursor to The New Day, but I think that Air Boom had some of the same elements that New Day has now.”

The Great PPVs: WrestleMania X

Welcome to another edition of The Great PPVs, here at and!

Today I'll be revisiting another classic WrestleMania PPV, specifically the apex of the New Generation era, WrestleMania X!

'Mania 10 was the first WrestleMania I ever ordered on PPV (I'd gone to see WM5 on closed-circuit TV), and also the first WWF PPV in a while that I was urgently stoked for.  At the time I was a huge Lex Luger fan (yeah I know), and had been following his main event babyface push intently.  Vince was for several months banking on Luger becoming the next Hulk Hogan, repackaging him as an all-American hero, feuding him against the monstrous WWF Champion Yokozuna, and giving him a countout win in the main event of SummerSlam '93.  I was disappointed that he'd failed to capture the belt that night, but figured it was all building to a rematch at WrestleMania.  When Luger and Bret Hart became co-winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble (something that's never happened before or since), I thought, "This is his time, it's gonna happen!"  Due to the double winner, it was announced that Yokozuna would defend the title against one Rumble winner, and the second would face the champ later in the show.  I was sure Luger would finally unseat Yoko and then successfully defend against Bret in the main event, a match I was beyond excited to see.

Little did I know that the fans overall just weren't that into Luger as the top guy, and it was Bret who'd captured their attention and affection.  WrestleMania X would be a transformative show for me; as my childlike fascination with the already past-his-prime Luger would begin to fade, and my new appreciation for the company's two best workhorses, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, was just beginning.  Bret was one of those wrestlers I liked a lot, but he was never my favorite guy.  When he beat Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Title in 1991 I was a little bummed because I liked Perfect better.  When he upset Ric Flair for the WWF Title I was excited at the company's new direction, but was sad that Randy Savage was no longer the focus.  By late 1993 I was all aboard the Lex Express, and Bret was probably my third-favorite babyface, after Lex and The Undertaker.  Meanwhile Shawn had caught my attention with great performances at Survivor Series 1992 and 1993 (both against Bret, coincidentally).

Bret had just begun a feud against his brother Owen, which I figured would occupy him for months and thus he wouldn't regain the title just yet.  After a coin flip that determined Luger as the first challenger, Bret would face Owen before getting his own title shot.  This was another match I couldn't wait to see, and I expected a classic.

The other bout of interest was Shawn Michaels challenging Intercontinental Champ Razor Ramon, which was changed to a Ladder Match shortly before 'Mania.  My only familiarity with Ladder Matches at this point were a pretty terrible Dusty Rhodes-Tully Blanchard match in 1985 and a disappointing Bret-Shawn bout that took place in 1992.  Thus my initial reaction to this announcement was "Dude, whyyyy??"  Keeping with this show's apparent theme of defying my expectations, the Ladder Match would prove me wrong in a profound way.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Movie Review: Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird features one of the most authentic portrayals of a high schooler I've ever seen.  Saoirse Ronan's star-making turn as the title character envelops her completely, and she finds the exact balance of teen angst (both the romantic and career sort), social frontrunning (Lady Bird at one point seems to forsake her best friend for the popular girl in school), and deliberate quirkiness (who names themselves "Lady Bird?") without overplaying any of it.  This character is socially clumsy and unclear how much of the real world works, but like all teenagers thinks she has it all figured out.  Ronan isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, even becoming deeply unlikable at some moments.  In the end though, she's just a raging teenager trying to create opportunities in life by escaping the stagnancy of suburban Sacramento.

The other primary performance, just as integral to the film, is Laurie Metcalf (of Roseanne fame) as Lady Bird's judgmental, passive-aggressive mother Marion, who professes her deep motherly love one moment and denigrates her daughter's apparent lack of realistic ambition and intelligence the next.  Their tumultuous relationship is so genuine I felt like I was watching real-life family squabbling.  Metcalf has a few understated, show stealing moments that fully justify her first-time Oscar nomination (I love that this wonderfully talented actress is finally getting some real recognition - for more evidence of her abilities, watch the Roseanne episode "Crime and Punishment").

A senior in high school, Lady Bird fancies herself a future math major, but sadly isn't very good at math.  She tries her hand at drama club but fails to impress the director of the school play.  She goes through two love interests during the year, neither of which proves to be very compatible with her, for very different reasons.  Her newly unemployed father (a victim of the 2002 recession) agrees to secretly help her apply for financial aid so she can apply at some east coast colleges, while her mother resents her for even considering moving away.  The film plays out as a series of episodes throughout one school year, with the realism of a documentary.

One thing I was struck by was the film's refusal to pay off side characters in the expected fashion.  The school's popular girl Jenna is a bit of a bad influence on Lady Bird but also seems to genuinely like her, until their friendship is damaged by Lady Bird's dishonesty.  In a lesser film this would've led to Jenna publicly shaming Lady Bird at school, but here their bond just quietly fades.  Lady Bird's brother and his live-in girlfriend are another example - at the outset it seems like the two of them will be set up as antagonistic characters, but as it turns out both Miguel and Shelly are deceptively caring people.  There's a touching moment where the even-tempered Shelly takes Lady Bird aside to point out how good Marion has been to her.  I actually would've liked to spend more time with Lady Bird's siblings, but then the film's not really about them.  This story is about Lady Bird and how her life and perspective are shaped by her relationships with others. 

Lady Bird reminded me of 2007's Juno in some ways, but it felt more grounded in reality than that film; I always thought the dialogue in Juno seemed calculatingly literary in a way that didn't quite ring true.  Here everything feels totally real, to the point that I'd love to revisit this character in four or five years and see how everything turned out for her.  Greta Gerwig's directorial debut is quite something.

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

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Top Ten Things: War Films

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

Today's collection of stuff is a slew of all-time great war films spanning roughly 80 years of cinema.  Why does the war movie genre engage and fascinate us?  Why is war such a rich and profound subject for a filmmaker to explore?  Perhaps it's because we can't help but be drawn to stories concerning humanity at its most base.  Perhaps it serves as a purging of our worst impulses.  Whatever the reason, there have been so many universally lauded, lasting films have been made on the subject it was difficult for me to narrow it down to ten.  This list includes extremely varied interpretations of the experience, some based on true events, some completely fictitious, one or two even satirical.  Here now are my picks for the ten greatest war films ever made...

10. Platoon

The film that put Oliver Stone on the map, Platoon is loosely based on Stone's own experiences as a young man who volunteered to fight in Vietnam and got a whole lot more than he bargained for.  Platoon covers in horrifyingly grim detail the disorientation of battle, the torturous strain of everyday combat duty, the hopelessness and isolation of the jungle.  This slice-of-life story is punctuated by a power struggle between the unit's two senior officers, one played with a sense of unqualified decency by Willem Dafoe, the other with hard-boiled menace by Tom Berenger.  Their conflict serves as the catalyst for the main character's (Charlie Sheen) transformation from wide-eyed rookie to calloused warrior.  Stone's unforgiving look at the true horrors of war won numerous Oscars and catapulted director and lead actor to tremendously successful careers.

9. Glory

Matthew Broderick starred as Col. Robert Gould Shaw in Edward Zwick's 1989 powerful account of the first black regiment in US military history.  The film was based in part on Shaw's frequent correspondence during his time in the military, and painstakingly recreated the arduous training and harsh conditions the Massachusetts 54th were subjected to.  After months of not being taken seriously as soldiers (and receiving unequal pay), the 54th demonstrated extraordinary bravery in a doomed suicide mission to take Fort Wagner, during which Shaw and roughly half of his men were cut down.  The tales of the 54th's grit eventually led to the Union Army accepting 180,000 black volunteers and helped turn the tide of the Civil War.  This potent war epic also featured performances by Morgan Freeman (in a pre-typecast but very Morgan Freeman-esque role), Andre Braugher, and a star-making Denzel Washington turn as a resentful, emotionally damaged former slave, for which Washington won his first Oscar.

8. Duck Soup

Generally considered The Marx Brothers' best and most irreverent comedy, Duck Soup concerns the conflict between two fictional nations, Freedonia and Sylvania.  Sylvania's Ambassador Trentino has hatched a plot to take over Freedonia and marry the country's chief financial benefactor Mrs. Teasdale, while Freedonia's leader Rufus T. Firefly (played by Groucho) attempts to bait Trentino into a physical confrontation so he can force him out of the country.  The various hijinx lead to a full-scale war, and the battle scenes (along with the famous and amazingly hilarious "mirror scene") are the stuff of comedy legend.  Duck Soup lampoons the very notions of nationalism and political bluster, and was so derisive it actually turned off Depression Era audiences and threatened to derail the Brothers' careers.  The film surged in popularity in the 60s however, as anti-war sentiment swept the nation, and has since been hailed as an unmitigated classic.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Top Ten Things: Debut WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to yet another Top Ten Things, here at!

It's WrestleMania season and that means my brain looks for 'Mania-related nonsense to write about.  You can read a few of my previous such lists HERE, HERE and HERE.

Today I'll be talking about the greatest WrestleMania debuts in history.  By that I don't mean wrestlers who actually debuted at WrestleMania; that would be a short list that more or less begins and ends with Fandango (God, they actually jobbed out Chris Jericho to that guy....).  No, I mean the first WrestleMania match of a given wrestler or tag team (or in some cases multiple stars in the same match).  Looking back at the history of this great annual tradition, there have been some quite notable WrestleMania rookie performances.  In some cases a new star was launched right into the main event of the biggest show of the year, something that's basically unthinkable in today's WWE, where WrestleMania is more often than not The Showcase of Semi-Retirees.  Tying into my article about new WrestleMania main eventers, consider this fact: of the ten entries on this list, only ONE is from the last fifteen years.  One.  This is a scathing indictment of WWE's refusal to allow new stars to shine on the company's biggest stage, when nearly everyone's first WrestleMania match these days is forgettable and disposable.

But enough complaining; here, in chronological order, are the ten greatest performances by WrestleMania rookies (plus two honorable mentions).  As noted, there are a couple of entries where I included every participant in a given match due to all of them being 'Mania first-timers.

Honorable Mentions

Ted Dibiase made his WrestleMania debut in the 1988 WWF Title tournament, lasting all the way to the finals and the main event, and coming withing a hair of winning the championship.

Kane's first 'Mania match was a near-show stealer of a semi-main event, as he took his onscreen brother The Undertaker to the limit.

1. British Bulldogs - WrestleMania 2

Davey Boy and Dynamite became a WWF tag team in 1985 and pretty quickly climbed the ranks, due in no small part to the excellent matches they were having with fellow Stampede Wrestling alums The Hart Foundation.  Their tag team feud was pretty legendary and brought new levels of athleticism to the WWF tag division, which up until that point mostly consisted of informal pairings of singles stars.  The Bulldogs would challenge Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake for the straps at the second WrestleMania, stealing the show in a hard-hitting, action-packed bout that culminated in one of the more unorthodox finishes I can remember; Davey rammed Valentine's head into Dynamite's rock-hard skull, knocking both of them out, and covered "The Hammer" for the win.  It was unusual but it got the job done, and the Bulldogs enjoyed a 10-month reign before being dethroned by their old rivals, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart.

2. Demolition - WrestleMania IV

Echoing the Bulldogs' quick rise to fame, in 1987 longtime WWF midcarder Bill Eadie was teamed with NWA import Barry Darsow to form a Road Warriors-esque tandem called Demolition.  Ax and Smash, as they were now known, instantly caught the attention of the fans, with their rugged, smashmouth brawling style and colorful, intimidating appearance.  Strong booking and solid in-ring performances helped Demolition stand out from both the other WWF teams and their inspiration The Road Warriors, and by WrestleMania IV they were challenging Strike Force for the titles.  After a 12-minute battle, Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji handed Ax his cane, which was used to knock out Rick Martel and win Ax & Smash the championship.  Their first reign would "smash" all previous longevity records in the tag team division, lasting a whopping 16 months (a record that stood for 27 years) and cementing Demolition as one of the all-time great teams.

3. Nasty Boys - WrestleMania VII

Wow, ANOTHER tag team.  I'm gonna be honest, I never got why Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were pushed in every promotion they wrestled for.  I was never impressed with them in any capacity, and in the case of their WWF run I'm sure at least part of it was because of their friendship with Hulk Hogan.  But whatever the reason, Knobbs & Sags became number-one contenders for the tag belts a scant three months after their WWF debut (by winning a tag team battle royal), and at WrestleMania VII they captured the titles from the Hart Foundation, after which Bret and Jim went their separate ways.  The Nastys held the belts until SummerSlam when they ran into a brick wall known as The Legion of Doom.  They'd never win the titles again, and by early 1993 they were fired from the WWF.  But their 1991 rise to the top was shall we say, meteoric.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WWE: Home of Copycats and Overcrowding

There are two rather infuriating trends taking hold in WWE these days.  The first is that Smackdown seems to be stealing all their ideas from what happens on RAW, while the second is the overthinking and overcrowding of PPV main events.

I'm not sure when the Smackdown writing team decided to just start copying whatever Team RAW does, but I first noticed it when they booked a trio of heel NXT call-ups to debut on Smackdown exactly ONE NIGHT after the same thing happened on RAW (minus Paige of course, who wasn't a call-up but a returning star).  Absolution, led by a black-haired gothy chick and featuring an eye-catching blonde and a tough-looking brunette, shows up on RAW and attacks a buncha women mid-match.  The very night night, The Riott Squad, led by a black-haired gothy chick and featuring an eye-catching blonde and a tough-looking brunette, shows up on Smackdown and attacks a buncha women mid-match.  Has WWE combined the writing teams or have they just not been talking to each other during the week to ensure there's no duplication of efforts?

No, you're not seeing double.  WWE did the same angle two nights in a row.

This copycat trend continued at the Royal Rumble, when both the WWE and Universal Title matches involved three men.  Yes, one of them was a handicap match as opposed to a Triple Threat, but come on, did we really need Kane added to the Lesnar-Strowman match?  The fight everyone wanted to see was Brock vs. Braun.  Adding Kane to the title picture diluted a potentially huge rematch (not to mention Kane hasn't been relevant since the Dubya administration), and it doesn't appear we'll be getting another one-on-one Lensar-Strowman encounter, unless WWE swerves us all at Elimination Chamber and has Braun go over instead of Roman.

And speaking of the Chamber, this week on RAW they held a Second Chance 4-way, errr, 5-way to determine the final participant in the men's Chamber match.  It was originally slated to be Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Matt Hardy vs. Apollo Crews, but midway through the show they added Seth Rollins to the match (since his program with Jason Jordan just evaporated due to Jordan's neck issues).  And thanks to a double-pin on Wyatt (which a referee with any experience wouldn't realistically count since two guys were pinning him), the match had co-winners in Balor and Rollins.  And rather than schedule a run-off match next week for the coveted Chamber spot, they just said "Fuck it, both guys are in!"  Huh??  So this Elimination Chamber is gonna have seven guys instead of six.  Does that mean three dudes start the match?  The Miz (who lost a match to determine the #1 entrant) and both Finn and Seth, since they back-doored their way into the Chamber?  This is just fuckin' goofy.  Why are these GMs taking such an "anything goes" approach?  How weak does it make the authority figure look when their solution to every booking conundrum is to simply throw their hands up?  How cheap does it make the title in question look when they keep adding contenders to every match?  Turns out you don't have to beat people to earn a title shot, you just have to not lose.  This is 50-50 booking gone berserk.

"Guess what Seth, we get to SHARE the 6th Chamber spot!"

Whatever, at least the Chamber match is pretty stacked (except for Elias, what the actual fuck is he doing here??).  The latest instance of Smackdown copycat booking however truly vexing.  The stage was set for AJ Styles to defend at Fastlane against either Sami Zayn or Kevin Owens, pending a #1 Contender's match between the two.  When that match went to a no-contest, what did they do?  You guessed it, they had the GM throw his hands up and say "Fuck it, BOTH guys get a title shot."  What is this, fuckin' Oprah?  "YOU get a title shot, and YOU get a title shot!"  So Owens and Zayn are both in, fine.  AJ vs. KO vs. Zayn would be a great triple threat match.  But wait.  A couple days later it's announced that Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin will have a match the following week to determine the fourth guy in the Fastlane main event.  Wait, what??  Ziggler and Corbin have no beef with AJ or Owens or Zayn, and have done literally nothing to earn a WWE Title shot.  Adding either of them to the match is nonsensical.  Know what's even more nonsensical?  Rebooking Smackdown so that it won't be Ziggler vs. Corbin at all; instead it'll be Corbin vs. Owens and Ziggler vs. Zayn, where if Ziggler and/or Corbin wins, he/they BOTH get added to the Fastlane main event.  Gee, I wonder what's gonna happen.....  What a shock, both guys won their respective matches and now it's a 5-way at Fastlane.  What is wrong with this company?  Shoehorning more guys into every PPV main event doesn't make them better.  Know what makes main event matches better?  A clear conflict between two participants, that the audience can get invested in.  Cluttering up the main event picture with guys who shouldn't be there creates unneeded parity and undermines the very idea of a main event, not to mention it leaves basically no one for the undercard matches. 

Quick name me a great 5-way match, ever.  I'll wait......

And isn't it a crazy coincidence that every #1 Contender's match lately has ended in some kind of indecisive scenario that necessitates BOTH guys getting what they want?  They may as well just hand out participation trophies at the beginning of every episode.  Let's just throw out the belts altogether, now every WWE Superstar is special!

The Royal Rumble gave me a real sense of optimism for this year's WrestleMania season, for the first time in years, but this wishy-washy booking is not instilling me with a lot of confidence, nor is the idea of Smackdown repeating everything RAW does.  Knock it off, jerks....

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018 T-shirts Available Now!

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The Great PPVs: WrestleKingdom 9

Welcome to the third installment of our Great PPVs series, here at and!  I hope you've enjoyed this weekly trip down nostalgia lane so far, as we reminisce about wrestling PPV events that transcended the genre and elevated the art form.

Today I'll be talking about a much more recent PPV, one that took place only three years ago but made a huge difference for me as a wrestling fan and likely had a similar effect on many of you.  I'm talking about NJPW's WrestleKingdom 9, which emanated from the legendary Tokyo Dome on January 4th, 2015.

WK9 was the first NJPW event to be shown on North American PPV systems and also served as the ribbon cutting show for the brand new (New Japan's answer to the WWE Netowrk).  Prior to this event you could order NJPW shows on iPPV, but the North American audience for this product was scarce at the time.  What drew me to this show was not only the incredible buzz the New Japan product was getting, but the fact that Jim Ross would be returning to the broadcast booth for the first time in years.  That JR was lending his unparalleled announcing talents to a non-WWE show was of considerable significance and it gave the whole thing a must-see feel.  Unfortunately the only way you could get the English commentary was by ordering the show on traditional PPV, so for my first viewing I'd have to settle for the Japanese version on NJPW World (I've since become pretty fond of the over-the-top Japanese announcing despite the language barrier, but it took some getting used to).

But no matter, the anticipation going into this show was quite intense for New Japan fans, largely due to the hugeness of its main event - an IWGP Title rematch between the company's Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi (essentially the John Cena of New Japan but with more of a Shawn Michaels in-ring style) and the heir apparent to lead the company into the next decade, Kazuchika Okada.  As I would learn, these two had built a stellar rivalry over the previous three years and delivered numerous Flair-Steamboat-esque classics.  The expectation was that this show would be the passing of the torch to the new face of the company.

My first viewing of WrestleKingdom 9 was a little strange since I knew very few faces on their roster.  Obviously AJ Styles was more than familiar to me, but aside from Kota Ibushi, Alex Shelley and The Young Bucks (all of whom I'd seen wrestle for Ring of Honor a few times) I didn't really know anyone else.  So initially all I had to go on was the match quality.  My appreciation for this show wouldn't fully emerge until I'd perused the NJPW library for a few months and then given it a second viewing.  And once I knew who the players were and what their matches meant, it was a whole new ball game.

The show kicked off with a wild four-way Jr. Tag Title match, as defending champs reDRagon faced the Bucks, Time Splitters (Kushida & Alex Shelley) and Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov).  This would prove to be an excellent example of a hot opener, as all four teams worked at full speed to rev up the crowd.  After thirteen minutes of furious action, reDRagon retained their titles.  Time Splitters and Forever Hooligans would split shortly after this show, as Romero formed Roppongi Vice with Baretta, while Kushida became a permanent fixture of the Jr. singles division.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Top Ten Things: Film Musicals

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at!  We give you ten examples of something we like or dislike, and arguments ensue.....

Today I'm discussing a topic that is, dare I say, not really near and dear to my heart, the movie musical.  By and large I'm not much of an enthusiast of the musical.  The idea of a narrative that's constantly being interrupted by its characters spontaneously breaking out into song & dance numbers has always struck me as such a strange concept.  Why does a character need a four-minute song to convey a simple thought or feeling when two lines of dialogue will do?  Why does a film's running time need to be inflated to three hours when there's only 90 minutes of story to tell (Sound of Music, I'm looking in your general direction....)?

That said, there are movie musicals I value quite a lot, either because the story and performances resonate with me, or because the songwriting is so strong, or some combination thereof.  A great musical number can add emotional depth to a scene that wouldn't even be emotionally engaging, simply because of the artistry on display.  I've found myself getting unexpectedly choked up during certain numbers due to the execution being so spectacular.

One thing I should note about this list: I have not included any Disney films because the list would be almost exclusively Disney, and that would be kinda boring.  So I've left those movies out.

Anyway, here we go.....

10. Little Shop of Horrors

This one's been a favorite since I was eleven years old.  In the mid 80s my parents picked up a cheap VHS copy of the original Roger Corman cult classic The Little Shop of Horrors, a grisly horror-comedy about a man-eating plant.  I instantly became a fan of this cheesy B-film and was delighted when it was adapted as a Broadway musical (which my parents took me to see in 1986), and again as an all-star film version of said musical.  The comedy elements were dialed up and the evil plant given a much more colorful personality, via a sophisticated puppet; the puppetry effects in the film version are quite amazing, even today.  Starring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene (reprising her role from the stage version) with supporting and cameo appearances by Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and Jim Belushi, plus the voice of Levi Stubbs (of The Four Tops), LSOH is a fun, colorful, self-aware romp with memorable musical set pieces and hooky, early 60s-influenced tunes.  For a film based on a musical based on another film, this one holds up tremendously well.

9. A Hard Day's Night

The first of two Beatles films on this list, A Hard Day's Night is generally the venerated one, a simple "day in the life" story about the world's biggest pop group that involves them traveling by train to a theater where they'll perform for a TV special.  Storyline-wise that's about all that happens.  But this film's charm is in the interaction of the four leads (plus their road managers and Paul's crotchety grandfather).  The Beatles, despite not being trained actors, were pretty natural comedians in front of the camera, particularly the witty, sarcastic John Lennon.  Directed by Richard Lester, AHDN is often revered as Britain's answer to the Marx Brothers, with zany misadventures and hilarious one-liners abound.  But the music of course takes center stage; the band released this film in tandem with their third album of the same name, and seven brand new tracks were featured.  This film was such a hit that the group and their director reunited a year later with a second (and in my opinion even better) followup.

8. Jesus Christ Superstar

Originally written, recorded and released as a double concept album, Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece was so successful that it was fleshed out into a Broadway musical/rock opera about the final days of Christ, portraying him as the world's first celebrity who has become a danger to the political and religious establishment.  Then in 1973 director Norman Jewison brought the show to the big screen, as a visually lavish but aesthetically minimalistic film shot almost entirely in the Israeli desert, where a cast of actors recreate the show with a mix of historical and contemporary elements.  The music drives the narrative, and the principle actors all deliver fantastic performances, in particular Carl Anderson in a soulful, athletic take on Judas, and Bob Bingham as the imposing, villainous Caiaphas.  This gritty, austere adaptation captures the mood of both the 1970s and the story's biblical era, achieving a strange balance between the two that works better than it has any right to.  And of course Webber's music is spectacular; perhaps the definitive example of rock opera.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Top Ten Things: WWE Elimination Chamber Matches

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at!

We're only a couple weeks from the 2018 Elimination Chamber PPV, where the WrestleMania lineup could be dramatically reshaped.  For several years this match/PPV served as the final stop on the Road to WrestleMania, and it had a huge impact on the top Title picture.  It seemed in 2015 that the concept was being retired due to logistical problems with hanging the Chamber from the arena ceiling.  But thankfully WWE dusted off this match last year and it's apparently here to stay.

The Elimination Chamber was first introduced in 2002 as an Eric Bischoff creation, combining aspects of Survivor Series, WarGames, and the Royal Rumble into one brutal fight.  Two men would start the match and every few minutes another would enter, until by pin or submission each entrant would be eliminated.  The wrinkle was that the entire ring would be surrounded by a massive chain-cage structure, and all but the first two participants would be trapped in pods until it was time to join the melee.

This is an unpopular opinion, but I considered the first Chamber match a failure.  I found it slow, plodding, awkward, and ultimately counterproductive in creating a strong RAW roster at a time when Smackdown was smoking RAW creatively and in the ratings.  The match was all about the Hunter-Shawn feud, and the other four guys were treated as afterthoughts.  On top of that, no one seemed sure what to do inside this terrifying-but-unfamiliar structure.  Fortunately the kinks were ironed out after the inaugural edition and over the past fourteen years the Chamber has provided numerous classic clusterfucks.  Here now are my ten favorites.....

10. Daniel Bryan vs. Santino Marella vs. Wade Barrett vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Big Show vs. Great Khali - Elimination Chamber - 2.19.12

Despite one of the least auspicious lineups in the Chamber's history, this match ended up pretty great, mostly due to the late-match work by Bryan and Marella.  WWE wisely kept Khali's involvement to a minimum, booking Big Show to pin him almost immediately after a spear.  The rest of the match featured solid action, but it was the dramatic near-win by Marella and the heel work by Bryan that made this match truly memorable.  For a few minutes they had an entire arena believing Marella might actually win the belt, but ultimately Bryan submitted him with the LeBell Lock to retain.  Bryan would of course go on to infamously lose to Sheamus in 18 seconds at WrestleMania, a stupid and ill-conceived booking move that ended up doing much more for Bryan's success than Sheamus's.

9. Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Chris Jericho vs. JBL vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Umaga
No Way Out - 2.17.08

2008's No Way Out PPV began the several-year trend of the Elimination Chamber being used to shape the main event picture for WrestleMania, with two #1 Contender matches determining challengers for each brand.  The RAW Chamber match was easily the superior one, with a stacked lineup, lots of Jericho vs. Michaels action, and a career-elevating performance by Jeff Hardy.  Triple H would outlast the others to earn a WWE Title match against Randy Orton (he'd be joined by John Cena) before capturing the Title at Backlash and taking it to Smackdown in the 2008 Draft.

8. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena vs. Sheamus vs. Cesaro vs. Christian
Elimination Chamber - 2.23.14

The 2014 Chamber might have had the best pound-for-pound lineup, with five World Champions involved, plus the accomplished Cesaro.  The action was spectacular, with all six participants entering the match before any were eliminated.  The booking toward the end got a bit outlandish, with the Wyatt Family causing Cena's elimination and Korporate Kane assisting with Daniel Bryan's, but it was a highly engaging Chamber match and ended up being Christian's career finale.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Top Ten Things: WORST WWF Wrestling Superstars LJN Toys

Welcome back!  Alright, now that we've counted down the ten best LJN Wrestling Superstars toys, let's look at some that didn't make the grade.  Ones that either looked like absolute shite or that served zero purpose when you were trying to put together a pretend wrestling match (a phrase I know is technically redundant).  Some of these damn toys just hurt my brain and I don't know what LJN was thinking when they created the molds.  Here we go.... 

10. Warlord

Alright, you might be asking why Warlord is on this list when a) the toy looks quite a lot like him and b) he's got a decent pose for doing wrestling moves.  This toy pissed me off to no end for one reason: WHERE THE FUCK ARE HIS PANTS???  The Warlord as of 1989 wore long tights, ALWAYS.  So why the goddamn hell is he wearing little Speedo trunks on this toy?  Did no one at LJN bother to look at even a single a picture of this guy that extended below his waist?  Not only that, he's missing kneepads.  Do just a cursory bit of homework and this toy becomes one of the best in the line.  But because of pure fucking laziness, he's relegated to the bottom of the pile.  Also, where the hell was Barbarian??

Likeness - 7
Playability - 7
Total - 14

9. Iron Sheik

This is another one that looks vaguely like the real guy but in a very superficial way.  If you look closely, the facial features don't particularly resemble the Iron Sheik at all.  Again, I feel like they based this sculpt on the cartoon show instead of the actual human.  So this one gets a middling score there.  And his pose kinda sucked.  He's doing the vaudville strongman pose, which was okay for headlocks, clotheslines and maybe a suplex, but it was absolutely impossible to do Sheik's finishing move, the Camel Clutch.  If you can't do the guy's finisher that subtracts significant points.  Pretty lame, LJN.

Likeness - 5
Playability - 5
Total - 10

8. Paul Orndorff

What the hell were the sculpting team smoking when they made the Orndorff figure?  He's got a gigantic, malformed head, he's impossibly jacked, and he's missing kneepads.  Clearly this mold was done by the same guy that did Greg Valentine's, because this is one of the most unpleasant-looking action figures ever made.  This is what Paul Ordorff would look like if someone parked a bus on his face.  Not to mention, the physique they gave him is more Arnold than Orndorff, who was quite buff but not bodybuilder huge.  As far as playability though, he scores fairly high since his arm flexing was conducive to clotheslines and elbows, plus you could do a press slam or a Torture Rack.  But Christ, what an awful-looking toy.

Likeness - 3
Playability - 7
Total - 10

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Top Ten Things: WWF Wrestling Superstars LJN Toys

Welcome to a special two-part edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

Today I have not one but TWO lists for you, and they're opposite sides of the same coin.  Back in the 80s we wrestling fans had very limited options as far as the available toys with which to recreate our favorite in-ring matches and rivalries.  In 1985 Remco (makers of the fabulous He-Man knockoff toys based on obscure DC Comics characters like Warlord and Arak) unveiled a modest series of AWA action figures (plus Ric Flair) and a cardboard ring for the action to take place in.  These toys were quite functional but sadly also very generic, being made from essentially the same body mold.  As I got older I came to value poseability over visual aesthetics, and along with my vast collection of He-Man guys the Remco figures became my primary wrestling toys.  Man did I run a helluva Federation.  But I'm getting ahead of myself....

Also in 1985 the WWF got into the action figure game, releasing a colorful, oversized line of LJN toys called Wrestling Superstars.  These massive hunks of rubber had zero points of articulation, paint that would rub off in literally minutes, in some cases questionable-at-best resemblance to their real-life counterparts, and were easily capable of inflicting blunt force trauma to a person's skull.  They were so heavy and dense the accompanying toy ring couldn't handle the stress of play and would routinely crack; my ring had to be replaced less than a year after I got it.  But if you were an eleven-year-old, new pro wrestling fan like me, goddamn these toys ruled.  They were unlike any action figures out there; at eight inches tall they dwarfed every other figures on the market besides the unwieldy 12-inch dolls that had long since become obsolete.  With a roster of colorful, larger-than-life characters to model the toys after, LJN had no shortage of eye-catching products to offer.  The sucky thing about these toys was their rather hefty price tag for the time.  These fuckers cost a good 8 bucks a pop, which for my age was way too much to easily collect them.  Thus my early matchmaking abilities were limited; when I first began accumulating these toys at the end of 1986 I only had three figures, all babyface characters.  The hell am I supposed to do with that?

Anyway, while some of these toys were very playable thanks to well-chosen poses and slight flexibility in the rubber, others were not so much.  Likewise, while some figures carried quite serviceable likenesses to the actual people they represented, others looked like barely-formed humanoid blobs.  I noticed a trend at the time - certain character molds seemed to be done by the same person, and that guy was terrible at capturing realistic facial features, plus all the toys this guy worked on had gigantic nipples for some reason.  Go back and look at the figures for Greg Valentine, Paul Orndorff, Brutus Beefcake and a few others.  The faces look awful and the nips are like the Capitol building dome.

So here's where these lists come in.  I've compiled the ten best and worst LJN figures, based on a combination of likeness accuracy and playability.  I'm trying to keep it as fair as possible, since some figures looked great but were useless to play with, and some had perfect wrestler poses but looked like Sloth from The Goonies.  This being an era long before computer-scanned faces I'll go fairly easy on the likeness ratings, and the playability will be somewhat determined by each wrestler's moveset.  I'll give you the ten best ones today and the ten worst in Part 2.  Let's get to it.....

10. Ricky Steamboat

The Steamboat figure had a pretty detailed face/hair sculpt and a lean, defined body type that more or less matched the real guy.  The resemblance wasn't exactly uncanny but it vaguely looked like Steamboat.  The arms were posed in a way that body slams and suplexes were possible, and his hands were open which lent itself to Steamboat's chops.  This toy was a solid bit of work from LJN.

Likeness - 7
Playability - 7
Total - 14

9. Greg Valentine

Valentine's toy was one of the uglier in the series, with a face like a mean old lady and bright yellow hair like banana ice cream.  Then again, Greg Valentine was always rather homely, so the rough sculpt kinda fit.  This was one of the toys in the series that looked like the sculptor either worked solely from memory or forgot to put on his glasses.  It's a vague representation of Greg Valentine that kinda sorta captures his essence, but by no means is it true to life.  Like at all.  But what this figure lacked in realism it made up for in utility.  Valentine was posed perfectly for slams, suplexes, and most of all, that signature Valentine elbow drop.  You couldn't do the Figure Four, but then again I've never seen a wrestling figure that could.  This one scores quite well on playability.

Likeness - 6
Playability - 8
Total - 14

8. Hart Foundation

Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart were more often than not sold as a team, so I'm including them as one entry.  These guys looked quite a bit like the real people and the sculpts captured their body types pretty realistically.  The ring attire looked pretty much just like the Harts' actual gear.  My only issue aesthetically, and this was true for a lot of these toys, is that Bret is wearing his sunglasses, which of course he never wore while wrestling.  As far as their respective poses, they were vaguely configured to do wrestling moves.  Bret's arms were partly outstretched to do clotheslines and slams, while Neidhart could easily do a powerslam (though I'm not sure why the fingers of his right hand are spread out).  These two toys looked good and could get you through a match.

Likeness - 8
Playability - 6
Total - 14

The Great PPVs: Chi-Town Rumble '89

Welcome to another edition of The Great PPVs - whether you're reading this via our friends at or at our own site, I hope you're enjoying this series thus far as we look back on some of the all-time great wrestling shows.

Since it's February I thought I'd take a look at one of the old NWA's greatest offerings from the 1980s, Chi-Town Rumble!  This one-time PPV took place on February 20, 1989 (a Monday night for some reason) and is most remembered for its critically acclaimed main event that launched one of the greatest rivalries in the annals of the business.  But this show had a damn good undercard as well, with most of the company's major titles on the line and a some big feuds resolved.  Chi-Town Rumble served as an excellent sequel to the previous year's Starrcade (for my money the 1988 edition was the best of the bunch), while also kicking off what was pretty universally considered the greatest year in the company's grand history.

The show got off to a slow start with a pair of undercard singles bouts.  First up was the returning Michael Hayes facing one of the Russian Assassins.  This match oddly got nearly sixteen minutes despite being little more than a showcase to re-establish Hayes as an upper midcard babyface, but it was largly inoffensive.  It was followed by another pseudo-showcase match for Sting, who went over twenty minutes against Butch Reed, with better results.  Neither of these matches is terribly important or all that memorable except in building up two future singles champions, but from the third match on the show never faltered.

The first of five good-to-great matches pitted The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette vs. The Original Midnight Express and Paul E. Dangerously, with a Loser Leaves the NWA stipulation (Unfortunately Dennis Condrey had jumped the gun and left the company before this event, and utility man Jack Victory replaced him).  Like the MX vs. OMX match at Starrcade, this was a wild, fast-paced affair with the added bonus of the two managers scuffling.  After almost sixteen minutes the babyface Midnights scored the pin after a double flapjack to Randy Rose.  While not quite at the level of the Starrcade bout, this was a very entertaining match and a good blowoff to the feud.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

THE POWER OF THE PIN 2.5.18: Little Big Man

by Ryan K. Boman of


The first time I heard those three letters, I assumed it was another plateful of WWE fast food marketing, with extra fries, in an already-saturated market. Like many of the company's other 'side dishes', it wouldn't be the first recipe for disaster that Vince McMahon used to feed starving network executives.

In the beginning, it was just that: fat and puffy, a competition-about-wrestling-within-a-show, with all three of those parts being interchangeable.

Generally considered a gimmick-filled flop, fans couldn't take the original incarnation of the product seriously, despite it showcasing some great talent like EC3, Wade Barrett and Titus O'Neill. The WWE wouldn't stop meddling with the product, as if it kept pushing its latest brand extension to just follow along.

In its precocious, adolescent stage, NXT was nothing more than an annoying little brother to the parent company. The audience often treated it as a mere distraction from more important, grown-up things.

But like the sloppy, undersized kid who used to tag along, NXT eventually found its growth spurt. It even went through a puberty of sorts, when it was given full-fledged responsibilities in June 2012, replacing Florida Championship Wrestling as the flagship television show of WWE's developmental wing.

Things started to click from there, and the brand went from being an afterthought to an asset. And, what once appeared to be a creative sewage hole turned out to be WWE's fountain of youth.

A steady stream of top level indy performers have been a trademark of the brand, keeping things interesting for even the smartest of fans. The NXT loyals often speculate about who is coming to developmental in the future, and how they will fit in. The constant 'newness' and re-mix of talent makes the atmosphere there feel eternally young.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Great PPVs: WrestleMania III

What's up folks?  Time for a new weekly feature called The Great PPVs, where I revisit a wrestling show that captured the imagination and carved out a place for itself in the annals of the business.

This being the first installment I thought I'd start at the beginning.  Or more precisely, at the beginning of my time as a wrestling fan.  I started watching this pretend sport in November of 1986 (after having been sucked into the characters and pageantry via Hulk Hogan's Rock n' Wrestling cartoon).  The first three major angles I was privy to as a fan were Randy Savage trying to crush Ricky Steamboat's neck with the ring bell (for which I absolutely HATED Savage at the time), referee Danny Davis screwing the British Bulldogs out of the Tag Team Titles (for which I absolutely LOATHED Davis), and Andre the Giant turning against his best friend Hulk Hogan, challenging him to a WWF Title match (for which I absolutely REVILED Andre).

Around the same time the WWF had been showing ads for something called WrestleMania III.  I was like, "What's that, some sort of convention?  And when were WrestleMania 1 and 2??"  Then when Andre challenged Hogan to a match at WrestleMania it all fell into place.  "Oooooh, WrestleMania III is like a special wrestling show."  I didn't yet grasp the concept of PPV, so this was all new to me.

Those three aforementioned angles, along with the retirement of Roddy Piper, would form the backbone of the WrestleMania card, a lineup so magnanimous it could only be held in the massive, 90,000-seat Pontiac Silverdome.  To help build the main event, the main draw for this monumental PPV, the WWF touted Andre's seeming imperviousness; he had not, according to the WWF, ever been defeated in a wrestling ring (in fact he had lost a couple matches outside the WWF), nor even body slammed (even a cursory knowledge of wrestling history of course disproved that factoid - Hogan himself had slammed Andre only seven years earlier).  They also booked a special battle royal on Saturday Night's Main Event a few weeks before 'Mania, where Andre eliminated Hogan before being tossed out by numerous other wrestlers.  The WWF Magazine published a Tale of the Tape, claiming Andre was 7'5", 520 pounds to Hogan's 6'8", 294 pounds (down from his usual billed weight of 303 - nice touch).  All signs pointed to the four-year WWF Champion's time being up.  There was no way he could beat the unbeatable.

Saturday, February 3, 2018 Koozies Have Arrived!

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    Friday, February 2, 2018

    Super Bowl LII Prop Bets: Patriots vs Eagles

    by Dan Moore (@SouthieDanimal) & Mike Parker (@UncleMiggsy

    Here we are at the end of another football season. Lo and behold the Patriots are in the Super Bowl again. And what better way to celebrate them in the big game again then by betting on a bunch of stupid, trivial bullshit? (All odds & bets courtesy of Bovada) 

    Dan's Choice: Tails hasn't failed me in years...but is it time for me to meet Heads again at the turn of the tide? Hmmmm...Here's the all time coin toss stats...

    Tails has come up 4 times in a row...I'm sticking with TAILS, which is not only an excellent side of coin, but a hell of a Sonic the Hedgehog sidekick. 

    His real name is Miles. MILES!!

    Miggs' Choice: I’m going with HEADS. Any math nerd will tell you that the coin flip is 50/50 no matter what but I don’t buy that. Looks at all these winners named for the ol’ noggin.