Monday, April 30, 2018

WWE Greatest Royal Rumble: Titus Steals the Show

Jeezus that show was long.  WWE's Greatest Royal Rumble, in the new tradition of WrestleMania, ran an exhausting five hours, with a near 80-minute Rumble main event.  Had the show been a blowaway hit, the excessive running time (bloated with what were essentially propaganda segments designed to make everyone feel good about how far the Saudi kingdom has come, ya know, since women are allowed to drive now) could be overlooked.  But sadly most of the matches came off like house show bouts, with everyone sorta going through the motions.  There were a few standouts but nothing in the **** realm. 

The show opened, oddly, with John Cena vs. Triple H in a textbook house show match.  This moved very slowly in the first half and built to a couple false finishes, ultimately coming across like two aging wrestlers really taking it easy.  As an opening match designed to get the somewhat casual audience excited this was fine.  I wouldn't watch it again though.  Cena won after multiple AAs for the expected feelgood ending.

Somehow after 10+ years of doing the STF,
Cena still hasn't learned how to make it look painful.....

One of the minor standouts was the Cruiserweight Title match, as Cedric Alexander and Kalisto had an energetic little battle with some innovative spots.  Again, the talent in the division is quite good, they just need a true star to carry the ball.  Cedric is exceedingly capable between the ropes but I don't see him as a division centerpiece.  But this match was fun and served as the one real hit of the first five bouts.

The next three matches were house show-quality at best.  Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy defeated The Bar in a match that wasn't at all fitting of a tournament final.  It felt like Wyatt was the only guy who really got to do anything here.  How a Cesaro and Sheamus match can be totally forgettable is beyond me.  So Wyatt & Hardy will presumably hold the belts for a while until the inevitable break up.  Eh...

The worst match of the night, not surprisingly, was Jeff Hardy vs. Jinder.  If anyone needs further evidence of Jinder's suckitude, watch the spot where Jeff goes for a Whisper in the Wind, misses by a mile, and Jinder sells it anyway.  That Vince McMahon thought this guy was WWE Title-worthy still hurts my brain.  Reinstate this guy as Jobber to the Stars, dude.

And the other Tag Title match was predictably short, as Harper & Rowan beat the shit out of the Usos in roughly five minutes.  This was fine for what it was meant to be.  I assume The New Day are next to feud with the Bludgeons.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Parents' Night In #6: American Psycho (2000)

Join Kelly and Justin for some Christian Bale ogling, and booze.....

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Awesomely Shitty Movies: Regarding Henry

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at!  For those who haven't joined us for one of these, I take a movie with both good and bad aspects (or awesome and shitty ones), and separate them from each other.  Put each of them in "timeout," if you will.

Today's subject is the 1991 melodrama Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford and Annette Bening and directed by Mike Nichols.  Regarding Henry is the story of a hotshot jerk lawyer who's the MVP of his firm but who doesn't have much of a relationship with his wife or daughter.  Henry is the victim of a shooting, which leaves him with retrograde amnesia and a childlike personality, and has to put his life and relationships back together from scratch.  Feel-good feelies ensue....

The film has elements about it that work and most certainly some elements that don't.  It received mixed reviews and failed to make much of a splash at the box office, but it's still affectionately remembered as one of Harrison Ford's more touching roles.

So here I am to lay out the pros and cons of this intriguing but very flawed film....

The Awesome

Harrison Ford

I'm a huge Harrison Ford fan.  Always have been.  I'll watch just about anything with him in it, and in 1991 I made it a point to do so.  His natural, effortless performance in this film carries it a pretty long way.  Had a lesser actor (Bill Pullman for example) been cast in this role the movie would've fallen right on its stupid face.  In the first act Ford plays a very convincing self-important asshole (which makes me wonder why he hasn't been cast in more villainous roles), and after the shooting he slips right into the simple-minded version of Henry.  We care for him a great deal in spite of his earlier transgressions.  Ford does more with facial expressions than just about anyone in the business, and he makes the material work about as well as it can.

For you wrestling fans, CM Punk's slicked hair was inspired by Henry's.

Annette Bening

Bening was an emerging star at this point and her turn as Henry's wife Sarah is fully believable and heartfelt.  When Henry's a successful, unscrupulous lawyer Sarah is basically a kept woman who seems at ease with this business-like relationship, and later she takes on the burden of becoming the breadwinner/caretaker of the household.  We feel this new, overwhelming stress weighing on her and the performance rings true.  Bening and Ford have great chemistry that holds the film together, even when the script shortchanges them.

For you wrestling fans, AJ Styles' soccer mom hair was inspired by Sarah's.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Top Ten Things: A Perfect Circle Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

With the release last week of A Perfect Circle's fourth album Eat the Elephant (their first in over 13 years), I thought I'd count down my ten favorite APC songs (which include some new material).  A Perfect Circle formed in 1999 when Tool's guitar tech Billy Howerdel played some original songs for Maynard James Keenan, and MJK liked the material so much he proposed adding his own vocals and recording them.  The following year the band's debut album Mer de Noms was released, garnering critical and commercial praise and setting new sales records for a debut album.  APC initially had a bit of a Tool-lite sound to my ears, incorporating Keenan's signature vocals with stripped down Adam Jones-esque guitar riffs, but with repeat listens it was clear they were their own animal, utilizing different instrumentation and a wider array of rock and alternative styles.  Keenan bounced back and forth between both bands (plus Puscifer) ever since, and each band brings different aspects of his personality to the table (hence why he wears a wig for APC appearances).  A Perfect Circle album will always deliver something unique and unexpected, and their combined audio and visual presentation sets them apart from other alt-rock outfits.

Here are my ten favorite APC songs....

10. Blue

The band's second album Thirteenth Step largely deals with various aspects and points of view of drug addiction.  The third single "Blue" is about the aftermath of a drug overdose and the associated guilt of letting an addict indulge themselves to the point of death.  The dark subject matter is somewhat tempered by the sardonic lyrical tone - "Call an optimist, she's turning blue," and the result is one of APC's more lingering numbers.

9. Eat the Elephant

The oddly tearjerking opening track from APC's newest album is very simply about struggling to begin a journey or endeavor, not knowing how or where to start.  Billy Howerdel was apparently thinking of Chester Bennington when he wrote it, and lines like "Where to begin eludes me/Without you to remind me" evoke loss and being lost, in heartwrenchingly straightforward terms.  This piano ballad is a very unusual way to kick off a rock record, but it sets the tone for a very different APC album and is one of its deeply moving standouts.

8. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

The strongest song on Eat the Elephant in my opinion is this upbeat, 80s new wave-tinged single about our strange obsession with celebrities and how their deaths affect us, as well as our preoccupation with other modern paraphernalia.  With references to "Willy Wonka, Major Tom, Ali and Leia," this tune was apparently inspired by REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It," pointing out how absurd it all seems when you really think about what 21st century society deems important. 

NJPW Wrestling Hirokuni & Dontaku 2018 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to an unusual installment of NJPW Predictions here at!

Well New Japan is in full-on saturation mode right now, with Wrestling Dontaku more or less being expanded to three full shows, plus a slew of Road To shows before and in between.  We're not going to try to predict every match on this tour, but we'll give you the highlights and pick the important matches.  So here we go....

Wrestling Hinokuni

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Evil & Sanada vs. Killer Elite Squad

These two teams had a goddamn helluva contest at WK12, with the LIJ fellas playing the babyfaces in peril role to perfection and KES playing absolute monsters.  I daresay this was my favorite HW Tag Title match in WrestleKingdom history.  This match should be excellent too.  I had hopes that Evil & Sanada would be the new division centerpiece but I feel like that hasn't happened exactly.  Seems like the company is reluctant to lose them as singles stars.  With that in mind I could see KES regaining the straps here.

Justin: KES
Landon: Evil and SANADA

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Minoru Suzuki vs. Tetsuya Naito

It's LIJ vs. SG again, as the sadistic bastard takes on everyone's favorite anti-hero.  Suzuki just won the belt in February and I'm honestly not sure if Naito is penciled in to challenge Okada again, so a title change here would seem strange to me.  But it could happen I suppose.  I'll still with the champ though.  Should be a fine main event.

Justin: Suzuki retains
Landon: Suzuki retains

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

WWE Greatest Royal Rumble Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at!  

Coming off the heels of what I consider one of the best WrestleManias of the past 10 or so years, WWE is venturing to Saudi Arabia for a special Network Event that is nearly as stacked as 'Mania, capped off with the biggest Royal Rumble in history.  It's felt to me like Triple H has had a much bigger hand in the booking in 2018, and while 'Mania included some major head-scratchers that clearly bore Vince's fingerprints, the company seems to be on a creative upswing.  Last week's roster shakeup created some pretty exciting prospective matchups for the spring and summer, and this show feels like the second half of a season finale before we get to the new stuff.

So let's get to the predictions.  None of us did well on our 'Mania picks, thanks to the aforementioned baffling wins and losses.  Dave is in the lead with 57% (8/14), while the rest of us have a measly 43% (6/14).  Yeesh....

Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Kalisto

Cedric is coming off his 'Mania pre-show win, and his first major defense is against the diminutive lucha.  As usual I give less than a shit about this division, but the match should be fun.  Have it go on first and get the crowd going.

Justin: Cedric retains since he just won the thing.
Dan: Ok
Landon: Cedric.  I need to start watching 205 Live again.  Apparently it's gotten awesome.
Dave: Sure, Cedric

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The Usos

Another new set of champs, The BB steamrolled The Usos and New Day three weeks ago and I expect them to do the same here.  This'll be another short contest I think, as Harper & Rowan continue their reign of terror.

Justin: BB
Dan: Yes
Landon: Bludgeon Brothers
Dave: BB

Monday, April 23, 2018

Music Review: A Perfect Circle - Eat the Elephant (2018)

It's strange that A Perfect Circle's previous album, a 2004 collection of cover songs (plus two originals) was called Emotive.  That title would be much more appropriate for their latest release, Eat the Elephant.  I've been a Maynard James Keenan fan for many years now but I can't recall any other recording in which he so plainly wears his heart on his sleeve.  This is a sparse, contemplative album where Keenan's vocals do the vast majority of the sorrowful heavy lifting.

The band seemingly strove to put the listener off-balance from the start, as the opening title track is a deeply expressive, touching piece about being overwhelmed by beginning a daunting task, wrestling with the idea that you just might not have it in you (such as recording a new Perfect Circle album after 14 years away, perhaps?).  This barebones tune instantly caught my ear by being so different from anything else APC has ever recorded (my first thought was "This reminds me of Bowie's "Blackstar"), and by the second listen it became my new choke-up song by dealing with an urgently relatable theme - "Where to begin eludes me/Without you to remind me."

From there the album covers multiple sociopolitical issues, starting with our obsession with electronics and instant gratification in "Disillusioned," a song that points out the irony of a society addicted to cellphones and social media as a way to stay connected, inadvertently resulting in our isolation behind anonymous screens.  "Time to put the silicon obsession down" indeed.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Disney's Star Wars is Light on Lightsabers (and Why That's Okay)

It's no secret that there is quite a vocal contingent of Star Wars fans taking a massive dump on everything Lucasfilm has done with the franchise since coming under the Disney umbrella.  We've seen and heard complaints ranging from "Not My Luke" to "SJW" to "Mary Sue" to "Man-hating" and everything in between.  It's become so virulent, actual valid criticisms of the films have been all but drowned out.  The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are not perfect films.  The former borrowed just a bit too much from A New Hope, while the latter attempted to tackle a few too many things at once and felt disorganized.  That said I enjoy both of them quite a lot and rank them 3rd and 4th in the series, respectively.  Rogue One was an interestingly different take on the Star Wars mythos, focusing on the war aspect and boasting some of the best space battles in the entire series, but for me failed to introduce any characters I really cared about and routinely strayed too far into Fan Service territory.

But I'm not here to debate the merits or flaws of these movies, I'm here today to talk about one of the funniest and most simpleminded complaints I've seen about Disney's Star Wars efforts thus far: "There's not enough lightsaber duels!"  Yes, I actually saw someone post this as a reason not to like the Disney Star Wars films.  Of the soon-to-be four films so far, only one has featured a traditional lightsaber duel.  Sweet mother of Jeebus, what has this fanbase come to?

This gripe is pure hilarity, something a third-grader would complain about.  Is the quality/quantity of lightsaber duels directly proportional to the quality of the overall film?  Let's look back at the original two movies, most unanimously considered the two best.  A New Hope features one awkwardly staged duel between an old man and a bodybuilder in a cumbersome mask.  The choreography is stilted, simplistic, and impeded by the fragility of the "blades" being used.  For the 1977 debut film the sabers were made of a reflective but delicate material that would break easily when Alec Guinness and David Prowse bashed them together.  So the first-ever Star Wars lightsaber fight was extremely limited and is generally considered the worst of all of them.  Yet A New Hope is one of the most beloved films of all time.  Is anyone really judging this movie based on the lightsaber duel?  Don't answer that, someone probably is...

This is about as athletic as this fight gets....

The filmmakers learned from this sequence, and going forward used a much more durable material for the blades, adding the glowing laser effect completely in post-production.  Thus every subsequent duel was much more lively and energetic, and the actors were able to really whack the swords together and give the scene a sense of urgency.

That said, even the Empire and Return of the Jedi duels were pretty simple from a choreography standpoint.  But guess what folks - a lightsaber duel is rarely about complex fencing maneuvers.  It's about one character confronting another over a deep-rooted conflict.  In Empire Luke is inexperienced and fearful, challenging Vader for the first time and mostly getting his ass kicked.  The success or failure of the Rebellion is seemingly on his shoulders, and his chances aren't good.  In ROTJ Luke's power is much closer to Vader's but he's reluctant to engage his father at all because he's trying to redeem him.  Neither of these duels is anything fancy, neither features a spectacular exchange.  But they're powerful scenes because of the character conflict.  You could remove the lightsabers altogether and the scenes would still work as an exchange of ideas and themes.  See what I'm getting at?

Still the best duel in Star Wars history for my money.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Movies of Disbelief: It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Before I get started, let me preface this by saying I love It's a Wonderful Life.  Absolutely love it.  It's one of my top ten all-time favorite films, I've loved it since I was about nine years old, my wife and I watch it every year at Christmastime without fail.  I adore this film.

Released in 1946, It's a Wonderful Life was Frank Capra's favorite of all his movies.  The story of the downtrodden everyman George Bailey (in THE performance of Jimmy Stewart's career), who is visited in his most desperate hour by a guardian angel, was based on a short story called The Greatest Gift, written on a Christmas card by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939 and published in 1944.  RKO Pictures optioned the film rights and went through three screeplay drafts before deciding not to move forward with the project, and sold the whole kit n' kaboodle (plus the three drafts) to Frank Capra's Liberty Pictures for a cool ten grand, exactly what they paid for it in the first place.

Capra fleshed out this simple fantasy parable into a 130-minute dramedic masterpiece, about a small-town fellow who is unselfish to a fault, having spent so much of his life helping everyone around him he has become disillusioned and discouraged, ultimately neglecting his own dreams.  George Bailey had planned from an early age on becoming a successful architect and builder, hoping to design skyscrapers and bridges, travel the world, and be someone of great importance.  But circumstances being what they are, George never leaves his hometown, instead inheriting his father's Building & Loan business and spending decades trying to save the townspeople from financial ruin at the hands of Bedford Falls' evil tycoon Mr. Potter.  When George's business faces collapse itself, George contemplates suicide, but is visited by his guardian angel Clarence, who shows George just how important he's been to everyone in his life.  Realizing his desperation was a shortsighted mistake, George rushes home to his family and friends, and all is well.

George Bailey is a greater man than most of us will ever be....

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Movies of Disbelief: Rounders (1998)

I love poker.  It's one of the greatest games ever invented; a unique mix of skill, lying, reading people, and just plain luck.  No other game meshes these aspects together like poker, and no poker variation is as pure and elegant as Texas Hold 'Em.  And no movie is as responsible for popularizing Texas Hold 'Em like Rounders.

Released in 1998 and starring Matt Damon, Edward Norton and John Malkovich, Rounders tells the story of a prodigious poker player named Mike McDermott who loses his entire bankroll one night and vows never to return to the table.  That is until his best friend Worm gets out of jail and essentially drags him back into the seedy New York poker underworld.  Mike and Worm then find themselves desperately trying to win $15,000 in just a few days to avoid being killed by loan sharks, and Mike rediscovers what made him fall in love with the game to begin with.

Rounders is a riveting, taut thriller but also a darkly comic, eminently quotable cult film about following our passions and staying true to what we are.  It also features one of the least plausible scenes of all goddamn time.

About halfway through the film Mike's live-in girlfriend and fellow law student Jo discovers that Mike has broken his promise to stay away from gambling, and while he's out, she packs up all her shit and moves out of their apartment.  Mike comes home to find Jo's things gone, and is quite frankly neither surprised nor all that visibly upset.  He and Worm then drive to Atlantic City for a night of poker shenanigans and it's just like old times.

"Rolled up Aces over Kings....."

Soon after this, Mike is seen alone in his apartment watching an old World Series of Poker VHS tape, when his friend and fellow gambler Petra (an unreal sexy Famke Janssen) shows up to talk to him about Worm.  Petra works at one of their regular poker clubs, and she informs Mike that Worm has run up thousands in debt, in Mike's name.  Then this exotic, statuesque Eastern European bombshell, who gushes like a school girl whenever Mike is around, begins kissing Mike and asks to stay.  Ya know, so they can touch each other in a very impure manner.  Probably multiple times.  Whichever way Mike fancies.  Instead, Mike awkwardly pulls away and says he'll see her soon, and she leaves.

"So uh, Mike? You gonna just sit there moping or are we gonna do a good piece a-bidness?"

Now look, assholes, I can buy all the over-the-top poker showdowns, I can buy the montage where Mike and Worm play high-stakes games at places like country clubs, cigar bars and even what appears to be a Greek sandwich shop, I can buy Worm totally fucking up Mike's shit at the State Troopers' game with super-obvious deck stacking that anyone who's ever laid eyes on a playing card could spot, hell, I can even buy John Malkovich's outRAGEous Russian accent.  What I can't, and WON'T swallow is a handsome young fella whose girlfriend has just hit the bricks turning down a wild night of horizontal mattress bingo with Famke fucking Janssen.  It would never happen.  In any realistic universe the second she starts kissing him, that apartment is pure bedlam.  What few possessions he has left would be strewn about the floor, out the window, probably shoved up his ass.  There's zero chance he'd let her do any less to him than ANYTHING SHE WANTS.  I'm sorry Michael, you're simply not a believable character anymore.  Quite frankly I hope Teddy KGB takes every red cent you own.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Movies of Disbelief: Superman Returns (2006)

Our new feature Movies of Disbelief will focus on one unforgivable aspect of a movie that already has a lotta problems.  Because why not?

Ah, the much-maligned Superman Returns.  Bryan Singer's 2006 attempt to relaunch the Richard Donner Superman franchise was the amalgamated end-result of multiple aborted projects (including the infamously unfilmed Nicolas Cage version) and ended up costing an absurd $250 million all told.  Starring Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, and newcomer Brandon Routh as the Man of Steel himself (in an admirable performance that more or less channels Christopher Reeve's), Superman Returns takes place five years after Superman II, when Kal-El, umm......comes back to Earth after investigating a supposed Krypton sighting.  The sighting turned out to be nothing, making Supes' entire disappearance no more than a half-assed, unimaginative plot device (Jeezus guys, come up with SOME valid reason for him to be missing, will ya?), and Superman gets back to saving people and thwarting Lex Luthor's evil schemes. The film opened to much fanfare, but left audiences and critics pretty cold.  The bloated 154-minute running time, the rather languid pace, and an excruciating subplot involving Lois's son who may or may not be the product of Kal's SuperSeed (Spoiler alert: He's Superman's kid. We all know from the start he's Superman's kid. That this film is at all coy about it is one of its biggest and stupidest issues.) all contributed to Superman Returns' lackluster box office performance, and the intended sequel was scrapped.

But look, regardless of whether Superman Returns was a sprawling mess (It was), or whether it was a cheap, soft reboot of the Christopher Reeve series (Again, it was), or whether it was still light years better than Man of Steel (Yup, it was), there's one thing we can all agree on, and it's what I'm here today to talk about....

Lex setting up shop on Mordor...

Superman Returns ultimately centers around yet another real estate-based plot hatched by Lex Luthor, to grow a new continent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, declare himself the owner of said landmass, and charge people truckloads of money to buy property on Lexarctica or LexAmerica or Lexstralia or whatever the hell he planned to call it.  To that end he makes a trip to Superman's Fortress of Solitude, steals a bunch of Kal's magical Kryptonian crystals (the ones that power his big alien computer console), and launches one crystal wrapped in Kryptonite (Real nice, a "humans only" rental policy - fuckin' racist...) into the ocean.  This film establishes (from something that I guess was implied in the 1978 movie) that these Kryptonian crystals grow like a Chia Pet on PCP when submerged in water, and one crystal shot into the ocean floor sprouts a massive, arid, gray continent.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Top Ten Things: Kazuchika Okada Matches

Welcome to an epic installment of Top Ten Things, here at!  Why is this one epic, you ask?  Well because today I'm counting down the ten* greatest matches of the man pretty unanimously considered (by those familiar with his work) the best damn wrestler on the planet at this moment, the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada!

For those of you not acquainted with Okada, he is New Japan Pro Wrestling's "Ace."  Their top dog.  Their biggest box office attraction during one of the company's most lucrative periods since its formation in 1972.  At only 30 years old, Okada has already mastered literally every facet of the game (and sweet Jeezus, he may not have even peaked yet!), having been selected in 2012 as the heir apparent to Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW's previous top guy, who led their 2007-2015 resurgence).  Tanahashi is as responsible as anyone for helping Okada get where he is today, but even aside from their years-long feud, Okada has proven virtually incapable of having a bad match, more often than not turning in absolutely stellar performances both in terms of action and storytelling.  Kazuchika Okada is the complete package: great look, super charismatic, eminently athletic (I submit as Exhibit A his balletic dropkick), boasts compelling and diverse moveset, and wields one of the best-protected finishers in the business, the Rainmaker clothesline.  Some consider the Rainmaker too simple a finisher, but it's all in the way it's presented.  Nearly all of Okada's moves target the opponent's neck, weakening it throughout the match to soften it up for the killing stroke of the spine-bending short-arm lariat.  Sometimes it takes multiple Rainmakers to put an opponent away, but unless your name is Tanahashi, Naito or Omega, you're not kicking out after that move, ever.  Okada is the longest-reigning IWGP Champion of all-time (both in a single reign and cumulatively) and is well on his way to reaching a full two years in this, his fourth overall title run.  If you're a NJPW fan, consider yourself lucky to be alive in this moment, as we're witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime star.

But which Okada matches stand out from the rest?  Well I've managed to narrow it down to ten, with a couple asterisks.  I cheated a bit with the top two entries, as they each deal with a series of matches which would be both impossible to rank individually AND eat up the entire list.  So with that said, read on.....

10. Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin - G1 Climax 27 Day 4

One of the earliest great matches of the 2017 tournament, Okada vs. Elgin showcased both men at their best, each pummeling the other with their full movesets.  The contest became about Elgin's mindnumbing power against Okada's well-rounded offense and unparalleled grit.  After 25+ minutes, during which Elgin countered a Rainmaker into a gasp-inducing powerbomb, Okada finally nailed a Tombstone and multiple Rainmakers to take his second win of the tourney.  This was a main event in every sense of the word.

9. Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - G1 Climax 24 Final

The 2014 G1 Climax all came down to the co-leaders of the CHAOS stable, who waged an intense, action-packed 23-minute war for the right to main event WrestleKingdom 9.  Okada had recently dropped the IWGP Title to New Japan's newest star AJ Styles, and the story of this G1 was Okada's journey, clawing his way back into title contention.  In the closing moments Okada defiantly leveled his stablemate with repeated Rainmaker clotheslines, putting an exclamation point on his tournament win, and completing a masterful bit of storytelling.  They'd nearly equal this match a year later on the penultimate night of G1 25, but for me this bout is their definitive one.

8. Kazuchika Okada vs. Naomichi Marufuji - King of Pro-Wrestling 2016

Perhaps one of the unexpected classic bouts of 2016 was this KOPW main event pitting the NJPW Ace vs. the NOAH Ace.  A rematch from their excellent G1 battle, this match exceeded that in my opinion, almost never letting up during its 28-minute runtime.  Marufuji was beyond aggressive, going after the IWGP Champion with no remorse, at one point hitting an absolutely sick-looking apron piledriver.  Some finisher stealing and several gripping near-falls later, Okada pulled through to retain after multiple Rainmakers, echoing his WrestleKingdom 10 match with Tanahashi.  This was the match that made me fully stand up and take notice of just how good Okada was becoming, foreshadowing the milestone year he was about to have in 2017.

Top Ten Things: Chris Jericho Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at  Since it's WrestleMania weekend and I'll be watching The Show of Shows with the band Fozzy, I thought I'd count down the ten greatest matches of The Ayatollah of Rock n' Rollah himself, Chris Jericho!

A friend asked me a few years ago, "If you could be any wrestler, who would you be?"  And my answer was "I gotta go with Jericho.  Think about it, the guy had two dream careers growing up - pro wrestler and rock star - and goddammit, he got to do BOTH of them."  Jericho is one of those "complete package" wrestlers - athletic, innovative, charismatic, and a promo-cutting machine.  He has the uncanny ability to reinvent himself whenever he needs to, adding new layers to his character and churning out quotable lines and catchphrases with staggering frequency.  "Ever - E-E-E-EEEEVERRRR be the same againe," "Trashbag ho," "Would you please shut. The hell. Up," "I am the best in the world at what I do," "Drink it in, man," and "You just made the list" are just a sampling of Jericho's more memorable promo moments.  He's gone from an obnoxious rock star character to a soft-spoken sadist to a scarf-wearing hipster, and yet every new wrinkle he adds still fits the overall Jericho persona.

But today I'm here to talk about his accomplishments in the ring.  Jericho's turned in so many classic bouts over two-plus decades that picking just ten was quite a challenge; just when I thought I'd narrowed it down I'd remember another great match I'd forgotten about.  So a couple favorites like Jericho vs. Juventud at SuperBrawl, or the fantastic Ladder Match with Shawn (Yeah I know) just missed the cut.  I'm sure not everyone will agree with this ranking but here it is.....

10. Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Jericho - Unforgiven - 9.23.01

The much-maligned Invasion Angle will never win any awards for booking, but it did produce some classic matches, such as this show stealer.  Rob Van Dam had debuted in the WWF two months earlier and became the hottest star in the company, winning a blazing feud against Jeff Hardy before moving on to Jericho.  Their Hardcore Title match at Unforgiven was a searingly intense battle full of weaponry and aerial tactics, and ultimately RVD finished Y2J with the Five-Star Frog Splash to retain.

9. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho - Unforgiven - 9.7.08

The best feud of 2008 was undoubtedly Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels.  After a babyface return in late 2007, Jericho quickly turned heel again in early '08, modeling a new persona after the character of Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men.  Jericho became soft-spoken, sullen, and sanctimonious, insisting that born-again Christian Shawn Michaels was a hypocrite who didn't follow his own beliefs.  Their feud was intended as a one-off match that spring but stretched over nearly six months.  The best match of this saga in my opinion was the non-sanctioned street fight at Unforgiven, which sprung from an incident at SummerSlam.  Jericho invited Michaels and his wife Rebecca to his talk show, and their bickering led to Jericho accidentally knocking Rebecca out with a punch.  This was fairly tame by Attitude Era standards, but in the new PG Era it was treated as a huge deal, and the two wrestlers played it to the hilt.  Their fight was brutal without being bloody, and it ended via ref stoppage when Michaels had beaten Jericho unconscious.

WWE WrestleMania 34: Best One in Over a Decade?

That there was a straaaaaange WrestleMania.  At times excellent, at times frustrating, this was a show full of contradictions.  The long and short of it is, WrestleMania 34 had a slew of good to very good matches, a refreshingly renewed focus on today's current full-timers, a variety of bouts that appealed to the different fan segments, and a few issues that prevented it from being an all-time great WrestleMania.

But man, it was really shaping up to be one of the best ever for a while.  The PPV Proper kicked off with a pretty stellar Triple Threat for the Intercontinental Title, with Finn Balor and Seth Rollins challenging The Miz.  These three worked a blistering pace, with high spots and reversals abound, and had the crowd on the edge of their seats the whole time.  Balor appeared to have the match won after a Coup de Grace on The Miz, when Rollins came out of nowhere with a Curb Stomp, knocking Balor into Miz's back, and following up with a second Curb Stomp on Miz himself for the win.  Just an excellent 15-minute-plus opener that got the crowd (who for the first half of the show was one of the better 'Mania audiences in recent memory) super-energized.

Second was the highly anticipated Smackdown Women's Title match pitting Charlotte against the Women's Rumble winner Asuka.  This was a fantastically worked match; both women looked stupendous and tough as nails.  Asuka at one point suplexed Charlotte off the apron to the floor, after which Charlotte repeated "I can't breathe" several times, and I'm not sure that wasn't legit.  Charlotte later hit a scary-looking Spanish Fly off the top rope, adding to her big move repertoire.  Asuka worked in some MMA-style submissions, countering a Charlotte moonsault into a triangle choke and later tying her up in a vicious-looking Zack Sabre-esque multi-limb hold.  Near the finish, Charlotte leveled Asuka with a spear (which looked better than any Roman's ever done), and after failing to get the three-count began crying in frustration.  She then slapped on the Figure-Eight, which Asuka fought for several moments before tapping out and taking her first-ever loss in WWE.  My initial reaction to this was "Dude. Bullshit."  Defeating Asuka before she was even made a main-roster champion seems a wee-bit counterproductive, as it may reduce her to "just one of the girls," and ruins the whole Streak vs. Streak match they could've booked against Ronda.  But evidently the plan for next year may be Charlotte vs. Ronda, which would have much more mainstream appeal.  If that's the plan, and they're considering main eventing WrestleMania 35 with it, then I'm okay with this.  If not, then I revert to my initial reaction.  Regardless, I daresay this was the best-ever women's match at a WrestleMania (It's between this and the triple threat from two years ago).

Next up was the US Title 4-way, with Randy Orton defending against Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal, and Rusev, who was BY FAR the most over guy in the match.  This was a nine-minute sprint, with more or less nonstop action from the get-go.  Every guy got ample time to showcase his stuff, and the finish came down to Rusev about to tap out Jinder with the Accolade before Jinder's sidekick jumped on the apron and ate a Rusev kick, allowing Jinder to hit the Khallas for the win.  I guess we still have to justify Jinder's ill-advised 2017 push?  Whatever.  Maybe Rusev chases the US Title for a little while.  Just push the guy already, the fans LOVE him.

The History of NXT Takeover: New Orleans

NXT has outdone themselves this time.  TakeOver: New Orleans might possibly be the best show the upstart developmental brand has ever put on, a three-hour extravaganza with five incredible matches, not one of which could be realistically rated below ***1/2.  With four title bouts and one deeply personal grudge match as the headliner, this show was everything you could want out of a TakeOver special.

The festivities exploded right out of the gate with a violent but safe six-way ladder match for the new NXT North American Title.  Adam Cole, Velveteen Dream, Killian Dain, Lars Sullivan, and the debuting EC3 and Ricochet put on one of the best multi-man schmozz bouts in recent memory, with multiple threads coming together to introduce this new championship in style.  Dain and Sullivan gave us a battle of the bulls multiple times throughout the match, Richochet showcased his unparalleled acrobatics, Velveteen Dream demonstrated that he's much tougher than his flamboyant character would indicate, EC3 took some crazy bumps (though he seemed absent for much of the bout), and Adam Cole played the opportunist to the hilt, swooping in at the last second to retrieve the title and become the inaugural North American Champ at the 31-minute mark.  This was a wild, brutal affair and set the tone for a rugged night of wrestling.

Next up was a Women's Title rematch, as Ember Moon faced Shayna Baszler once again.  Where their MMA-inspired first match felt unique but perhaps a little clunky, this bout blended the MMA and pro wrestling styles beautifully while still feeling like an animosity-laden fight.  Ember had done her homework, countering nearly every Baszler attack and going after her arm to try to render Baszler's submission repertoire useless; at one point Baszler slammed her dislocated shoulder into the ring post to pop it back into place.  This was an intense back-and-forth that included Ember hitting the Eclipse from the apron to the floor before Baszler eventually countered a second Eclipse in the ring, locking in her rear naked choke for an eventual pass-out title win.  This was one of the best NXT Women's matches in some time and the intimidating Baszler should make a very credible champion.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Top Ten Things: "Acquired Taste" Films

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

Today I'll be talking about films that, at least for me, have required numerous viewings to fully appreciate and enjoy; films that, like the best music, become better with familiarity.  Sometimes a single watch doesn't allow you to process every nuance of the script or performances, or fully take in the visual composition at work, or nail down the subtext of what the director was trying to say.  And sometimes appreciation of a film just comes to you with age.  Something I wasn't interested in or couldn't relate to in my teens or 20s might be fascinating to me in my 30s or 40s.

I'm reminded of a Stanley Kubrick quote: The idea that a movie should be seen only once is an extension of our traditional conception of film as an ephemeral entertainment rather than as a visual work of art.

You said it Stanley.  Here are ten such films.....

1. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

I first watched Bride of Frankenstein in college and my original assessment was that it strayed so far from the book and was so unabashedly weird that I hated it.  I'd become such a fan of the novel and Mary Shelley's complex depiction of the creature that the Universal film versions frustrated me to no end.  But upon later viewings I developed an appreciation for the film's uncompromisingly bizarre tone and for how ballsy its anti-religious and sexual undertones were for 1935.  Despite the simplicity of his speech in this film Karloff's monster is completely sympathetic and by this point in the story he's become the clear protagonist moreso than Dr. Frankenstein.  The performances by Ernest Thesinger as the sinister, rather flamboyant Dr. Pretorious, and Elsa Lanchester as The Bride are also iconic in the pantheon of classic monster films.  The Bride's "birth" is obviously the most film's famous scene; that this was such a memorable character is even more amazing considering how brief her appearance is.  What really sticks out about Bride after multiple viewings though are the Expressionist visuals; the use of light and shadow, the multi-plane shot composition, the use of wide-angle lenses.  What began for me as a goofy, over-the-top sequel has become my favorite of the Universal Monster films.

2. Citizen Kane (1941)

Kane is another film I first watched in college.  My English Literature class covered this film for some reason, and our professor had us watch parts of it to illustrate the artistry of some of the visuals and the narrative style.  What I saw piqued my interest enough to buy the VHS tape and I sat down and watched the whole thing.  And while I did appreciate the visuals to a certain extent I'd be lying if I said the story jumped out at 18-year-old Justin.  For a teenager raised largely on action films this rise-and-fall tale about a newspaper tycoon wasn't exactly the most exciting thing I'd ever seen.  But the imagery kept me enough of a fan that I rewatched it several times, and much later as an adult who'd actually tasted life, my appreciation of the story grew considerably.  One day about five years ago I decided to pop in the DVD after not having viewed the film in several years, and suddenly it all clicked for me.  The shot composition, the performances, the circular story structure, it was all ingenious, game-changing stuff.  Citizen Kane is now one of my all-time favorite films, and it only took me about two decades to realize it.

Wrestling Do-Overs: WrestleMania IX

Welcome to another edition of Wrestling Do-Overs, where I'll examine a wrestling show or angle and reshape it as I think it should've been (For other examples see my WrestleMania IV and Starrcade '89 editions).  Today I'll be going back and retroactively fixing what is the most widely reviled of all WrestleManias, the ninth edition!

Now let me preface this by saying 'Mania 9 is not my least favorite of them all.  It's certainly not a good show but it had a few decent matches and despite the worst-booked ending ever in the history of wrestling-- nay, entertainment-- nay, humankind, there have been worse installments in WrestleMania history.

But don't think I'm letting this show off the hook.  It was quite clearly a mess and could've been fixed up pretty nicely with only a few adjustments.  So let's first take a look at the lineup and see why it didn't work.

Intercontinental Championship: Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka - 18:13
The Steiner Brothers vs. The Headshrinkers - 14:22
Doink the Clown vs. Crush - 8:28
Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund - 3:45
Tag Team Championship: Money Inc. vs. The Mega-Maniacs - 18:27
Lex Luger vs. Mr. Perfect - 10:56
The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez - 7:33
WWF Championship: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna - 8:55
WWF Championship: Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan - 0:22

Yeesh, that's what passed for a WrestleMania lineup in 1993?  Okay, first let's look at what did work.

To start with, I kinda liked the Roman Colosseum theme - I know, it was corny and led to way too many cheap laughs, but overall I enjoyed the idea of dressing up Caesar's Palace as a Roman arena.  It gave the show a nice sense of pageantry and made it look different from other PPVs and even other WrestleManias.  Could they have left out some of the window dressing, like making the announcers dress up in togas?  Yes.  But overall I didn't have a problem with the theme, and holding the event outside made it feel special.  By the way, the officially announced attendance figure was 16,891.  I call bullshit on that.  Look at this pic below.  No chance in hell did they fit more than 8,000 in that little venue, and that's being generous.

17 thousand people my ass

A few of the matches were good, as I said before.

The opening Shawn Michaels-Tatanka match was solid stuff, and while certainly not one of Shawn's career highlights, was easily the best match Tatanka ever had.  This got a good amount of time (though I would've shortened it to maybe 15 minutes) and Shawn got to steal the show (by default, but still).  The countout ending was weak, but I still like this match.

The Steiners-Headshrinkers bout was another good one.  Rick and Scott had burst on the WWF scene a few months earlier and were way over, and these two teams meshed quite well actually.  I'll never forget the spot where Rick reversed a Doomsday Device-type move by catching Samu in midair and suplexing him off Fatu's shoulders.  Just a sick spot.

This was both craze-balls and amaze-balls

I found Crush vs. Doink inoffensive and mildly entertaining, so I'll leave that one alone.  Doink's psycho clown character was great, and so of course they turned him babyface six months later and he became a throwaway comedy act.  Dipshits.  Anywho, this match can stay just because it furthered a feud.

Parents' Night In #5: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Kelly and I spend our Easter Eve enjoying an old Easter Eve tradition, with booze!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Top Ten Things: Undertaker WrestleMania Matches

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

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

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

10. Undertaker vs. Kane - WrestleMania XIV

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

9. Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - WrestleMania 21

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

8. Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVII

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Movie Review: A Quiet Place (2018)

by Mike Drinan

A Quiet Place is directed by John Krasinski and stars himself alongside his real life wife Emily Blunt. The film is about a family’s survival in a world that has been taken hostage by monsters that have an acute sensitivity to sound. Once they hear a sound they attack with lightning speed and are ferocious. Ladies and gents, this film is intense and so good. There are so many great things, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here.

Let’s start with the characters. I’m not a big fan of the horror genre, which this film is classified as, mainly because I can’t stand the stupidity of the characters. You find yourself annoyed because they enter a room without turning on a light, or they hear crazy sounds or noises and they continue to walk toward them. Like, hey asshole, your friends are all missing and there’s weird shit happening, so why don’t you fucking leave! A Quiet Place separates itself because the characters are actually intelligent and very careful. Lee Abbott (Krasinski) has done his research on these monsters; their characteristics, strengths, habits. Along with his pregnant wife Evelyn (Blunt), they’ve transformed their house and living situation in order to protect themselves and their two kids. They speak in sign language, mainly because their oldest daughter, Regan, is deaf. They set up a lighting system that will tell you if there’s danger at the house or if it’s safe. They replaced board game pieces with pieces of cloth. They painted the wooden floor of their house where there are no creaks so you know where it’s safe to step. They even set up a soundproof room for when Evelyn gives birth and a soundproof wooden box with an oxygen mask if the baby is crying. Genius! These are the kind of characters you can root for and hope they survive. They’re not morons.

The story line is really well done and relatable. I won’t go into it because it will give some stuff away but Krasinski (who is also a co-writer on this film) really gives this family a good backstory that makes the audience understand some of the actions and feelings of the characters. Really adds a layer to the plot that isn’t too complex but heartfelt and damn near emotional.


Why Shinsuke Nakamura’s shocking heel turn at WrestleMania 34 should lead to a high-voltage feud with AJ Styles, and will put a new charge into his WWE career

By Ryan K. Boman of

With all the shock waves that were sent through the WWE Universe on Sunday Night, the epic heel turn of Shinsuke Nakamura should not to be lost in the current. It may very well be the spark of something big.

Nakamura, after coming up short against longtime friend and rival AJ Styles for the WWE Championship, turned on The Phenomenal One and made a stunning character move at WrestleMania... one that will likely send a charge through his career.

Upon entering WWE in 2016, The Artist had already been an established superstar in Japan, holding the IWGP Championship on three occasions and wrestling classic matches against the likes of Styles, Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi. His signing received much fanfare at the time, and had some fans believing that the 'E' had finally acknowledged - if not fully embraced - the concept of Strong Style.

Initial reactions were great, as Nakamura cultivated two successful championship reigns in NXT and quickly graduated to the main roster. Along with him, he brought one of the greatest custom theme songs ever. His quirky, mysterious and irreverent behavior made him like a charming guest in the WWE ring. Fans happily cheered along, as this aloof and eccentric Asian superstar danced with them to all the good vibrations they could handle.

Then, somewhere along the way, the power went out.

The flash and dash started to inexplicably fade, all while Nakamura continued to rack up victories and receive favorable booking. Things were fizzling, and it seemed like the audience was ready to get off the 'Shinsuke bandwagon'.

Even his supposedly, star-making Royal Rumble win didn't give him much of a buzz. At least, not the kind that's normally worthy of a high-profile match under the mega-watt lights of WrestleMania.

Now suddenly, Nakamura leaves New Orleans with more attention than ever. His newfound attitude and fresh storyline will be wrapped around the WWE title on Smackdown Live over the course of the summer.