Monday, July 30, 2018

Music Review: Avatar - Avatar Country (2018)


I first became aware of Swedish metal band Avatar around the time their 2016 album Feathers & Flesh was released.  Right away frontman Johannes Eckerstrom's outlandish appearance and wildly energetic charisma caught my eye, and the band's mix of melodic and death metal elements coupled with their general sense of humor hooked me in.  I'm generally not much of a death metal fan, but Eckerstrom's approach to that style of singing is uniquely visceral and he uses the technique to punctuate the vocal melodies as opposed to relying on it completely.  The band's quirky guitar riffs and harmonized double leads also set them apart from similar groups, giving Avatar a blend of thundering brutality and comical eccentricity.

Avatar's latest album Avatar Country runs a lean 43 minutes and contains a number of very good songs.  Unfortunately of the ten tracks only six feel like fully fleshed-out ideas.  The concept album about a fictional king (who is mentioned in every song title) opens with a sarcastically funny anthem of sorts, "Glory to Our King," which features layered vocal harmonies over symphonic backing tracks.  My ears perked up when I first heard the melodic strains, but at a mere 51 seconds the song ends before it can really get going.  I would've liked this idea to be further explored and run maybe two or three times as long.

The first real track is an 8-minute epic called "Legend of the King," which features Avatar's signature melodic metal sound, with a harmonized guitar riff serving as one of its main hooks, plus a lofty, operatic chorus.  This is probably the album's strongest song and feels like a band stretching its prog-metal legs.

Maybe the most instantly grabby tune is the AC/DC-esque title track, "The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country," a bouncy midtempo blues rocker on which vocalist Johannes Eckerstrom channels a bit of Brian Johnson while also providing some super catchy harmonies on the chorus.

The other two standouts are the European power metal-infused "Statue of the King," which has probably the strongest chorus on the album, and the de facto closing song "King After King," an uptempo tune with a bittersweet tone (Its lyrics deal with the king's death and remembrance).

The record finishes in anticlimactic fashion with a pair of rather forgettable instrumentals that seem like they were added to artificially extend the album to full-length.  Avatar Country is essentially a six-song EP stretched out to ten songs.

Overall despite its strong points, this record feels like a bit of a disappointment after the hugely satisfying Feathers & Flesh; with not enough meat on its bones and several promising ideas left partially unexplored.  It's fine as an interstitial release, a la Anthrax's Attack of the Killer B's, but it leaves me hoping Avatar gets back in the studio sooner rather than later.

I give the album *** out of *****.


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Awesomely Shitty Movies: Last Action Hero

Welcome to yet another Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I, your faithful Enuffa.com editor, examine an old classic cinema turd and analyze its pros and cons.


Today it's the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger flop, Last Action Hero!  Released just a week after the mega-blockbuster Jurassic Park, LAH didn't stand a chance at the box office and it predictably died a quick death.  Last Action Hero tells the story of Danny Madigan, a 12-year-old boy obsessed with Schwarzenegger movies, specifically his fictitious Jack Slater series.  Danny frequently cuts school to visit a nearby run-down theater, owned by his elderly friend Nick.  One night Nick invites Danny to a private midnight screening of Jack Slater IV, and gives him an old-timey movie ticket which was supposedly a gift from Harry Houdini.  Unbeknownst to both of them, the ticket has magical properties, and upon being torn in half, it opens a portal between the real world and the one on the screen.  Danny unwittingly winds up inside the film and becomes Jack Slater's sidekick, and eventually both of them pursue the film's main villain Mr. Benedict back to the real world to save the real Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This is an unabashedly silly premise that had already been much more skillfully explored in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, where Mia Farrow's character goes to see a film so many times one of the characters begins interacting with her and escapes the confines of the screen.  You won't find Purple Rose in an ASM column, as there isn't anything shitty about it - it's a very smart, well-made film, unlike this one.  Still, despite being a dumbed down echo of Purple Rose, Last Action Hero is not without its charm; it has some entertaining action scenes sprinkled with satire, plus some fun comedy elements.  But yeah, there's a lot wrong with it too. 



The Awesome

Satire

Going into this movie I was pleasantly surprised by how much the filmmakers satirized the concept of the summer blockbuster.  Last Action Hero pokes fun at the action movie genre at almost every turn (not unlike the way Scream picks apart horror films - RIP Wes Craven), which for a movie nerd like me made for quite a lark.  Arnold seems right at home dissecting the very type of film that made him an international megastar, and it's refreshing to see a mainstream commercial movie actor not take himself too seriously.  Inside the Jack Slater movie Danny is able to consistently predict what's about to happen because everything in the movie is an action film cliche.  And of course being an action movie cliche himself, Jack has no idea; on the contrary, he keeps insisting his world is real.  This all made for an amusing, self-aware tone at a time when the action film genre was in desperate need of a shakeup.


Little Details

This movie is full of fun little moments and in-jokes, like when Danny takes Jack to a video store to prove he's a fictional character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Terminator 2 standee they find depicts the T-800 played by Sylvester Stallone instead.  I also found Danny's action movie daydream version of Hamlet as played by Arnold pretty damn funny ("To be, or not to be....not to be," **Cue explosion**).  There are numerous cameos as well, like Robert Patrick as a T-1000, Sharon Stone as Catherine Trammel (from Basic Instinct), Danny Devito as an animated police cat, Ian McKellan as Death (from The Seventh Seal), and others.  LAH is full of little sight gags and Easter eggs.

Heh.....

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 3 (1994-1996)

Moving right along with the third installment.....


SummerSlam '94 - United Center - 8/29/94

This here is about half of a good PPV.  The summer of '94 in the WWF was largely centered around the Bret vs. Owen feud, which was fantastic.  It would come to a head at SummerSlam, as the two brothers dueled in a steel cage.  Unfortunately the match didn't live up to my expectations, nor was it even the main event of the show.

Bizarrely they decided to have the returning Undertaker (absent since January after losing a Casket Match to Yokozuna) fight his doppleganger in the main event of SummerSlam, without really establishing first that the doppleganger was a fake.  Ted Dibiase showed up on WWF TV and announced Taker's return, then brought him out to wrestle.  And it was fairly obvious this was not Mark Callaway, but not obvious enough that we the audience could see where they were going with it.  It was as though Callaway had been fired and they tried in earnest to pass off impostor Brian Lee as the same man.  Then suddenly there were house show cards being booked with two separate Undertakers, but none of this was mentioned in the actual storylines.  And then the announcement came that at SummerSlam the main event would be Undertaker vs. Undertaker.  Just a very sloppily thrown-together angle.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Top Ten Things: Superior Movie Sequels

Yo yo yo!  Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com! 

As a companion piece to my Disappointing Movie Sequels column I thought I'd compile a list of sequels that were actually superior to the original.  It's something that doesn't happen often, but there have been numerous second or third cinematic chapters that have either expanded on or generally outperformed their predecessor. 

**Please note, two common picks you won't see on this list are The Godfather part II and The Empire Strikes Back.  Don't start throwing fruit yet, hear me out.  While both of those films are great, I prefer The Godfather I and A New Hope, respectively, just by a hair.  I can understand why some like the sequels better but I'm not one of those people.**

**Please further note, I also haven't included The Two Towers or Return of the King, as the Lord of the Rings trilogy is really just one extended film.**


So let's get to business....


10. Terminator 2: Judgment Day


James Cameron's 1984 classic The Terminator took Arnold Schwarzenegger's already burgeoning movie career to the next level by casting him as an evil cyborg sent from the future to destroy the mother of his enemy John Connor.  From this simple concept Cameron created a mythic film saga of self-aware machines turning on their creators and laying waste to the entire planet; a concept borrowed for The Matrix series, among others.  Only problem with the first film was the modest budget, which didn't allow Cameron to fully realize the story.  Some of the effects were quite clunky and prevented full audience immersion.  Seven years later he more or less remade the movie but set it during John's childhood, when a second Terminator has been sent to kill him instead of Sarah. 
Unbeknownst to the evil machines, John's future self has reprogrammed one of the original Terminators (played of course by Arnie) to protect little John.  T2 tells a very similar story but expands on it both visually and conceptually.  John's mother Sarah is now a hardened badass who is determined to stop the creation of the network of machines before it ever starts, and she begrudgingly accepts Arnie's help despite her previous traumatic experience at the hands of his predecessor (not unlike Ripley's hangup with androids in Aliens).  As for the new evil Terminator, that one's an upgrade model comprised of liquid metal, who can shapeshift and is nigh indestructible.  This character is the subject of some of the movie's most innovative and expensive special effects, as he morphs from one likeness to another.  The result is a pretty thrilling action movie which, despite basically being a retread, is an improvement on the original at almost every level.  My only two complaints were that Edward Furlong wasn't much of an actor, and I missed Michael Biehn's presence.  Seriously, that guy rules!




9. Bride of Frankenstein


I first saw the original 1931 Frankenstein on the TV show Creature Double Feature when I was probably seven years old, and like most kids I was fascinated by this little film about a man who creates a monster.  It wasn't until years later when I actually read the book that I realized how simplistic the Karloff film was.  So many story threads were tossed out and the moral ambiguity of Frankenstein himself was sort of glossed over in favor of a hero vs. monster scenario.  Yes we somewhat sympathize with the monster, but he's kind of a mindless brute in the film, rather than the eloquent, tragic figure of the novel.  In college I finally watched Bride of Frankenstein, and my original assessment was that it strayed so far from the book and was so unabashedly weird that I hated it.  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.  The story is also much more complex and Karloff's monster is completely sympathetic, aided by his newfound ability to speak (Sadly all of his dialogue is monosyllabic and clunky, but you take what you can get).  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; Lanchester based her movements on those of a bird to achieve a sense of otherworldiness.  That this was such a memorable character is even more amazing considering how brief her appearance is.  My only real gripes with Bride of Frankenstein are a) that there was no effort to make the few characters recast from the first film look like the original actors, even though Bride begins immediately after the first movie ends (For example the Burgomeister is now thin and has a mustache and Frankenstein's wife Elizabeth is suddenly waaaaaay hotter), and b) that Frankenstein's lab has a lever in the middle of the room that blows up the entire building.  What might I ask moved him to install such an easily-activated self-destruct mechanism?


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Top Ten Things: Debut Albums

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I count down a list of ten things.  Pretty obvious really.

Today it's the top ten debut albums of all time!  Now just to clarify, this list is in no way based on sales figures, it's simply the debut albums I feel are the strongest and/or most influential.

Generally a band's debut album rarely stands up as their best work, in my estimation.  For most bands it takes a good three or four records for them to truly find their voice, and with maturity and seasoning comes a much stronger, more confident output.  But every so often a band will emerge with a record that just blasts right out of the gate and changes the industry forever.  Even more rare is the debut album that remains the band's finest work.  There are a few of those in this list.  So without further blathering, let's get to it.  After each album I'll name my three favorite tracks.


But first a few honorable mentions:

Black Sabbath
Key Tracks: "Black Sabbath," "The Wizard," "NIB"

Weezer (The Blue Album)
Key Tracks: "Say It Ain't So," "My Name is Jonas," "Undone (The Sweater Song)"

The Beatles - Please Please Me
Key Tracks: "I Saw Her Standing There," "Twist & Shout," "Please Please Me"

Rage Against the Machine
Key Tracks: "Bombtrack," "Killing in the Name," "Know Your Enemy"

A Perfect Circle - Mer de Noms
Key Tracks: "The Hollow," "3 Libras," "Sleeping Beauty"

Alice in Chains - Facelift
Key Tracks: "Man in the Box," "Confusion," "Sunshine"


Alright, now for the main event....


10. Stone Temple Pilots - Core


In the early 90s the hard rock scene was turned on its ear with the advent of the grunge movement.  Based primarily in Seattle, grunge was everything 80s hard rock was not.  Glamorous hairstyles, garish outfits and decadent party lifestyles gave way to flannel shirts, an unkempt look and a more introspective, moody sensibility.  Stone Temple Pilots hailed from San Diego as opposed to Seattle, and arrived on a scene a bit later than their northwestern counterparts, but their debut album Core fit right into the grunge pantheon.  Boasting clear influences from Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, STP were initially decried by critics as cheap imitators, but they soon began exploring more varied musical styles and carved out a place for themselves quite separate from their grunge precursors.  For my money though Core was their best and most complete effort, featuring several classics still considered essential early 90s alt-rock fare.

Key Tracks: "Plush," "Creep," "Crackerman"




9. KoRn


Only a few years after grunge dominated the airwaves, another hard rock subgenre was birthed by this ragtag group of Bakersfield, California oddballs.  Detuned 7-string guitars, an ugly percussive bass tone, loose, syncopated drums, and anguished, gravelly vocals combined to make a uniquely disturbing musical form later dubbed "nu-metal."  Whatever its label, this type of music served as a form of psychotherapy for its architects, who used the raw emotional suffering of an abusive upbringing as their inspiration.  The cover depicts a young girl sitting terrified in the shadow of an adult abuser, and this illustrates perfectly the subject matter contained within.  Songs like "Clown" and "Faget" are angry responses to would-be bullies, while "Shoots & Ladders" and the heart-wrenching "Daddy" (which climaxes with singer Jonathan Davis breaking down in hysterical sobbing) address wanton childhood cruelty.  With this emotional, dissonant record, KoRn spawned countless nu-metal imitators and completely altered the hard rock genre for the better part of a decade.

Key Tracks: "Need To," "Clown," "Daddy"


Friday, July 27, 2018

Top Ten Things: July PPV Matches

Welcome to another edition of Enuffa.com's Top Ten Things, where I assemble a list of ten something-or-others and what-have-yous and decide what order they should go in.

Today I have a list of the ten greatest July PPV matches of all time.  The July PPV wasn't invented until 1988, when the NWA created a Great American Bash special headlined by Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger for the World Title.  For years the NWA/WCW was alone in presenting a PPV event in July, but in 1995 the WWF jumped in, filling the monthly gaps in their PPV schedule with a series of In Your House shows.  In 20 years nary a July has gone by without a PPV event.  While none of the Big Four shows have ever taken place during this month, the annual B-shows have supplied some real classics, some of which I'll talk about, startiiiiing...............now.




10. Midnight Express vs. Southern Boys - GAB '90 - 7/7/90


In 1990 the Midnight Express delivered some of the best matches of their career, and some of the best matches that year.  After dethroning US Tag Champs Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk at Capitol Combat, the Midnights defended against hot new babyface team The Southern Boys (Tracey Smothers and Steve Armstrong) at the Great American Bash.  The result was a blazing 18-minute tag team clinic that saw the Midnights retain.  In a rather poor in-ring year for the NWA, the US Tag division stood above the rest.




9. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn - Battleground - 7/24/16


These former best friends-turned hated rivals clashed one last time at the 2016 Battleground, in a match intended to put their epic feud to bed forever.  And what a battle it was.  Zayn and Owens know each other so well and have worked together so long they'd be hard-pressed to have a bad match, but this bout pulled out all the stops and ratcheted up the drama.  After a brief feeling-out process the big moves appeared fairly early in the match, with Zayn nearly killing himself on an errant springboard moonsault.  Owens then attacked Zayn's vulnerable right arm before Zayn staged a late-match comeback, complete with multiple brutal-looking half-nelson suplexes.  After several unsuccessful attempts to hit the Helluva Kick, Zayn finally nailed the move, picked Owens up almost with a look of regret, and hit a second for the win.  This match easily stole the show and proved one of WWE's best bouts of the year, while giving Zayn a much-need big win.




8. Jeff Hardy vs. Rob Van Dam - Invasion - 7/21/01


The Invasion PPV should've been the start of the greatest angle in wrestling history.  Unfortunately the WWF misfired at almost every turn, burying just about every non-WWF guy in the process.  The one import that caught fire though was Rob Van Dam, who for about six months was pushed to the moon, beginning with this Hardcore Title match against Jeff Hardy.  The two daredevils traded breathtaking high spots in a match that ranged all over the arena, before Van Dam snared his first taste of WWF gold.  The Invasion show may have been a disappointment but this match delivered huge.


The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 2 (1991-1993)

Picking up where I left off in Part 1, here's the second installment of Enuffa.com's History of SummerSlam.....


SummerSlam '91 - Madison Square Garden - 8/26/91

The mediocrity continued with SummerSlam '91, which many fans strangely hail as a classic.  I'll grant that it was a somewhat stacked show where multiple feuds were blown off, but there's very little good wrestling here.  The Savage-Elizabeth wedding angle also took up way too much time and probably should've happened on free TV to set up Savage's return to the ring.

The main event was the continuation of one of the least fun feuds in wrestling history, Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter.  I cannot believe the WWF was still trying to exploit the Persian Gulf War six months after it ended.  Just pitiful.  This time it was Hogan teaming with Warrior against Slaughter, Col. Mustafa (a repackaged Iron Sheik, as though we wouldn't recognize him), and Slaughter's manager Gen. Adnan.  Here's a question, if Slaughter was the lowest ranked of the trio, why was he the leader?  Anyway the match stunk and was notable only for the inclusion of Sid Justice as the guest referee, and for being Warrior's last match for a while after backstage contractual shenanigans led to his firing.


The match this show is most remembered for was Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart for the I-C Title.  This would be Perfect's final match for over a year as nagging injuries forced him to the sidelines.  This match was quite good (though I don't rate it as highly as most do), and Bret's singles career took off from this point.  Given how much pain he was in, Perfect did a helluva job elevating "The Hitman."

Perfect submitted the second the hold was applied.
Given his real-life back issues this is not surprising.

The Legion of Doom would complete their Tag Team Championship trilogy by defeating the Nasty Boys in a Chicago Street Fight, which has to go down as the tamest No-DQ match ever.  Hardly any weapons factored into this match and it went a whopping six minutes.  Still it was great to see Hawk & Animal become the only team to win the AWA, NWA and WWF Tag belts.

The other two big blowoff matches were The Big Bossman defeating The Mountie in a "loser spends the night in jail" match that was really only memorable for the post-match antics (Jacques Rougeau played the chickenshit heel to perfection as he was dragged literally kicking and screaming into his cell); and Ted Dibiase vs. former bodyguard Virgil for the Million Dollar Belt.  Not much of note there either.

There were a few other forgettable matches and several prominent talents left off the show altogether, such as The Rockers, The Undertaker and Jake Roberts (I know, Taker and Jake were used for the wedding reception angle, but still).

The wedding angle was a typical staged wrestling wedding but this time featured two beloved stars.  Again, this should've aired on free TV, maybe on Saturday Night's Main Event.  Then the post-wedding angle with Jake and Taker crashing the reception could've aired that same night instead of a week later.

The best part about this angle was Savage repeatedly saying, during the
weeks leading up to it, "I'M GETTING MARRIED!"

WWF PPVs in 1991 weren't much better than the 1990 PPVs, and this show falls right into that pattern.  Only slightly better than 'Slam '90, this show featured a very good I-C Title match and not much else of note.

Best Match: Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart (Bret was definitely Mr. SummerSlam back in those days)
Worst Match: Natural Disasters vs. Bushwhackers (noteworthy only for being Andre the Giant's final WWF appearance)
What I'd Change: Put the wedding on a SNME episode a few weeks later to set up Savage's in-ring return at Survivor Series (ya know, instead of using Survivor Series as an ad for Tuesday in Texas?) and book Taker, Jake and The Rockers in various matches.
Most Disappointing Match: Nasty Boys vs. Legion of Doom - I knew LOD would win the belts here but the match was totally forgettable.  They really should've had LOD beat the Hart Foundation at WM7.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Again, no real positive surprises here.
Overall Rating: 3.5/10
Better than WrestleMania VII? - No


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Parents' Night In #10: Jaws (1975)

Kelly and Justin are back to talk about one of their all-time favorite films, one they just GOTS ta watch every summer, the Spielberg masterpiece JAWS!




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Book Review: The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era


Chad "The Doc" Matthews of LordsofPain.net fame is back with another countdown of the top 100 something-or-others of the WrestleMania Era (for Doc's purposes that's 1983 to the present).  While his previous tomes focused on the greatest stars and champions of said era, his latest volume deals with the top 100 matches and rivalries of the past 35 years in both WWE and WCW.

Matthews' intent here is to create an objective match/feud ranking, taking into account not only the quality of key matches, but the buildup to them, the character interactions, and the feud's overall impact on the business for its time (The end of the book covers his scoring methodology in detail if you're interested).  After poring through decades of matches and moments, Chad put each candidate head-to-head with its peers in an attempt to nail down a definitive Top 100 that any wrestling fan can reasonably agree with.  As with all art forms, there is of course an unavoidable element of subjectivity when trying to argue that Match/Rivalry A is better than B, but Matthews does present a lucid, pretty compelling argument for the placement of each entry.

There are definitely inclusions (and exclusions) I didn't agree with, but I have to give the author credit for making a strong case for his rankings.  For example Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels being in the top 40, above many other feuds/matches I would deem far superior.  I wasn't a fan of this feud or match in general at the time and I've never felt the urge to revisit it.  But between Hogan-HBK drawing a very strong buyrate, Shawn managing to carry the entire feud on his own (Hogan opted not to appear on basically any TV leading up to the match), and Shawn getting out of Hogan one of his best-ever bouts (though hardly one of Shawn's best), I can at least appreciate why Matthews rates it so highly.  If you've read Doc's LOP columns you already know he's a fair and well-reasoned debater, and that comes across in the book as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Top Ten Things: Disappointing Movie Sequels

What up, my nerds?  Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be talking about a heartbreaking cinematic experience that makes me die inside a little bit and eats away at my very faith in humanity - the disappointing movie sequel.  You've been there; a beloved film classic gets a new chapter, you get all excited in the pants area, you rush out to buy a ticket, you plant yourself in that dark theater, trembling with anticipation, and then.......Two hours later the lights come up and you say, out loud, to no one in particular, "What the absolute fuck did I just watch???"

Then you go home and it hits you: that aforementioned beloved film classic has now and forever been defiled by the ineptly-produced, soul crushing twaddle that followed.  It's like winning the SuperBowl and then crashing your car into a ditch on the way to the after-party.  It's like buying your wife a diamond necklace and then dragging it through the shit-filled drainpipe at the end of Shawshank Redemption.  It's like flying to Paris, visiting the L'Ouvre, and defecating all over the Mona Lisa.  And now you're out ten bucks and bubbling over with resentment.

Okay I might be overstating the emotional effect of these crappy films, but you get where I'm coming from.  Here now are the Top Ten Most Disappointing Movie Sequels (Note: To avoid this piece devolving into a Star Wars/Hobbit/Prometheus-bashing session I have not included any prequels - sequels only).....



10. Mission: Impossible II


Our first entry is the 2000 sequel to the very successful Brian DePalma-directed adaptation of Mission: Impossible, starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt.  Released in 1996, MI was a taut, suspenseful and pretty cerebral update of the TV show, featuring enough action set-pieces to please the summer popcorn crowd but enough character stuff and intricate plot to elevate it above the usual dreck.  I consider it one of the better offerings of that summer.  Fast-forward four years and Tom Cruise was back for the sequel, directed by John Woo and loaded with action and Wachowski-influenced fight scenes.  Problem was the story wasn't very compelling (a scientist develops a bioweapon which is then hijacked by a former colleague of Ethan's who plans to cause a mass infection so he can then sell the antidote at inflated prices), the action owed way too much to The Matrix, the central love triangle was tedious, and the villain (Dougray Scott) was more annoying than menacing.  Also where the first film was very smartly constructed, this one felt dumbed down and full of fan-service moments.  For example, in the first film Ethan uses latex masks to impersonate different people.  These masks are hyper-realistic and make Hunt indistinguishable from the real person.  I'd imagine such a sophisticated disguise would take considerable time to prepare and fabricate, not to mention you'd have to know that the guy you're impersonating is supposed to be in a particular place at a specific time for the ruse to work.  However in the second film, Hunt and Dougray seem to just have masks like this on-hand, ready to wear on the fly.  So clearly this gimmick was only thrown into the movie because it was used in the first one.  Overall I just found MI2 very uninteresting and kind of a generic action film with the MI name slapped on it.  Fortunately a) the series found its footing again with Ghost Protocol, and b) Dougray Scott opted to be in this film instead of playing Wolverine.  We all dodged a bullet there.

The History of WWE SummerSlam, part 1 (1988-1990)

From the wrestling-obsessed maniac who brought you the History of WrestleMania series (me, obviously), welcome to The History of SummerSlam!!


Since 1988 WWE's SummerSlam has been the flagship PPV of the summer season.  More often than not it's the secondary tentpole of WWE's calendar, almost like WrestleMania's little brother.  Storylines are built throughout the season, and when done properly, culminate with the summer spectacular.

As a fan I've found over the years that SummerSlam is almost an underrated series - WrestleMania gets so much hype and attention (and I tend to rewatch those matches so frequently), I often overlook how many great matches and moments have taken place at the #2 show of the year.  Recently during a few hours of boredom I began comparing each SummerSlam to its corresponding 'Mania show (i.e. SummerSlam '88 vs. WrestleMania IV, etc.) and found that over the years SummerSlam has been the best PPV of the year just as often as the Grandaddy.  Many times the little brother has overshadowed his attention-grabbing counterpart.  Don't believe me?  Let's take a trip down WrestleMemory Lane!




SummerSlam '88 - Madison Square Garden - 8/29/88

The inaugural 'Slam followed fairly closely the formula created by the original WrestleMania.  Madison Square Garden?  Check.  Huge tag team main event?  Check.  Special guest referee?  Check.  Odd assortment of house show matches between guys who weren't really feuding?  Check.  Pretty strange really. 

The main event of this show was enormous - for the first time ever WWF Champion Randy Savage would team with Hulk Hogan as The MegaPowers against common enemies Andre the Giant and Ted Dibiase.  The announcement of this match blew my 12-year-old mind, as did the addition of guest ref Jesse "The Body" Ventura.  The match itself falls into the same category as Hogan-Andre '87.  Not great from a workrate standpoint but a whole helluvalotta fun.  The angle with Elizabeth stripping down to her skivvies as a distraction was pretty stupid, particularly since they failed to deliver on the promise of a bikini.  But otherwise a fun match.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Top Ten Things: Worst WWF/E Tag Team Champions

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things devoted to piss-poor championship title reigns!  As you may have guessed from my previous entries (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE), I like complaining about crappy champions.  So thought I'd continue doing so.  Admit it, you're happy to read more of it.


Anyway, today I'm tackling the subject of weakest WWF/E Tag Team Championship reigns of all time.  The WWE Tag Championship dates back, in some form, to the company's 1963 inception (and even earlier; the WWWF United States Tag Titles were created in 1958).  After a couple different incarnations, the World Tag Team Championship as it was known for decades was created in 1971 and was first worn by Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler (who captured the titles via a REAL tournament, as opposed to the imaginary ones Buddy Rogers and Pat Patterson won for their respective inaugural titles).  This version of the tag belts was around until 2010 when they were merged with the WWE Tag Team Titles (from Smackdown), and for some reason the current RAW Tag belts follow that newer lineage that began in 2002, while the current Smackdown Tag belts only date back to 2016.  I don't get it either.

Regardless, this particular set of belts has a rich, storied history, and just about every team that was anyone possessed them at one time or another.  For years the longevity record was held by Demolition, who had a stranglehold on the titles for 16 months.  Recently though The New Day eclipsed that record, but again the current set of belts is supposedly not the same as the old one.  I dunno.  Fuck it.

That's all irrelevant, I'm just here to talk about the shitty champions, so here we go, in chronological order.....



1. 1-2-3 Kid & Marty Janetty (1994)


As with the previous Worst Champions lists, there are some entries here that aren't intrinsically undeserving, but made the list due to the way their title run was booked.  Our first example is one such....example.  In January of 1994 this upstart team, fresh off winning their Survivor Series match two months earlier (outlasting fellow team members Razor Ramon and Randy Savage, plus opponents IRS, Diesel, Adam Bomb and Rick Martel) got a title shot against The Quebecers on Monday Night RAW and shocked everyone by winning the straps.  This was an exciting title change for rising underdog Sean Waltman and Shawn Michaels' former sidekick, and it seemed like the company had made a brand new star babyface tag team.  Aaaand then they dropped the belts back to The Quebecers at a house show one week later and were never heard from again as a team.  Pointless.





2. Men on a Mission (1994)


Another short-lived title run in between Quebecer stints took place over a two-day period in England, only two months after Kid & Marty's.  Mo and Mabel, the goofy but sorta dominant babyface tandem who took The Quebecers to the limit at WrestleMania X, finally got the job done at a house show two weeks after 'Mania.  What an accomplishment, and what a treat for the British fans--- oh wait, they lost the belts back 48 hours later.  And like Marty and Waltman, they'd never win them again.  Look, I wasn't the biggest MOM fan by any means, but what is the point of giving a team a championship for two days and never putting them anywhere near said championship again?  And what was with Jacques and Pierre temporarily losing the belts over and over?




Monday, July 23, 2018

Brewery Reviewery: One Love Brewery (Lincoln, NH)

Welcome to another Brewery Reviewery here at Enuffa.com, where I sample some local beer flavor and tell you all what I think.


 
One Love Brewery
25 South Mountain Rd Unit 4
Lincoln, NH 03251

My latest brewery visit took place at One Love Brewery in Lincoln, NH, on the main drag through town, just off of 93.  The family and I had just taken in a movie and wanted to grab a bite for lunch, and I wanted to drink some goddamn beers.


One Love is a German-style pub with a traditional feel; lots of wood with an open, multi-floor seating plan and 19th century decor; a very welcoming atmosphere.  The food there is your typical pub fare, with lots of comfort food options plus German favorites like pretzels with beer cheese and spicy mustard (We had a serving of those and they were quite tasty).  I wasn't super hungry so I just had a garden salad for my lunch entree, and it was actually very nice.  I do love me some balsamic dressing.


But beer is the reason I'm here, so let's get to that.

Top Ten Things: Worst NWA/WCW World Champions

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, where I gripe about yet another wrestling championship whose prestige has been sharted on because of nonsensical title reigns.  Christ guys, get it together....


Today I'm talkin' about the granddaddy of them all.  The original holy grail of pro wrestling.  The NWA/WCW World Heavyweight Championship.  It's the one that supposedly dates back to 1905 when wrestling was on the level.  In actuality it can only be traced back to 1948, and the WCW version ceased to be recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance as of 1991.  The actual NWA World Title is still in existence today, after a five-year association with TNA.  But since the NWA's current footprint is quite small nowadays I'll only be discussing the two versions that were truly considered World Titles - the original incarnation from 1948-1991, and the WCW World Title which covered 1991-2001.  For many years this championship was THE most prestigious in wrestling.  Before WWE became the juggernaut it is today, Vince Sr's northeast WWWF promotion was an upstart offshoot of the NWA, and thus their top championship wasn't considered quite as big a deal as the NWA's.  Ditto for the AWA World Title (established in 1960).  For a good twenty years the NWA World Title was the big one.  And then in the mid-90s when WCW surged in popularity, their version of the World Title was viewed as the top belt in the game.  For a little while anyway.  But both versions of the championship had their share of stinker champs.  Here are ten of them..... 





1. Tommy Rich (1981)


For a long time Rich was the youngest-ever World Champion.  A popular mainstay in Georgia Championship Wrestling, Rich upset the legendary Harley Race for the belt at the age of 24.  And then he lost it back to Race four days later.  What the hell was the point you ask?  Apparently the switch was done to gain promoter Jim Barnett power within the NWA.  But Jeezus Christ this was stupid, and given that Rich never attained world championship status again, this ensured his career peaked very early.  If you're gonna give a young, unlikely babyface a run with your top belt, at least give him a chance to see how he does.  Otherwise skip it.





2. Kerry Von Erich (1984)


Ugh, Kerry Von Erich stunk.  Seriously, I never liked this guy, and it still bugs me that of all people he got to beat Ric Flair for the belt, less than six months removed from Flair's epic Starrcade '83 win.  I know the original plan was for Kerry's brother David Von Erich to become the NWA's new top babyface before he died, but did we really need to put the belt on Kerry for 18 days just as a tribute?  The match wasn't even that good, and they had to put the belt back on Flair anyway because he had a big match scheduled against Steamboat.  If making Kerry the Champion is gonna get in the way of the match you're really serious about promoting, what's the point of doing it?





3. Ron Garvin (1987)


Speaking of unworthy dudes getting to defeat Flair, in 1987 the NWA was looking to set up a huge main event for Starrcade, particularly since the WWF had countered the flagship supercard with the inaugural Survivor Series.  The idea was for someone to unseat Flair as the champion so Flair could win the title back in grand fashion at Starrcade.  Problem was, no one wanted to be a transitional champion for two lousy months, but Garvin took the job (for which I don't blame him; he was 42 years old at the time).  So Garvin was booked to win the belt in September, and then didn't defend it for two months.  Don't ask me why - a handful of good title defenses would've at least made him look like he belonged in that spot.  Flair of course regained the title at the big PPV, and on the bright side, the match was pretty great.  But Ronnie Garvin was never really presented as World Champ material and his career never reached anywhere near that level again.  They really should've just let Barry Windham beat Flair at the Crockett Cup in April, have a solid seven-month run, and then lose it back at Starrcade.  That would've been something.



Sunday, July 22, 2018

Top Ten Things: Disappointing Wrestling PPVs

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

Today's topic is something we can all relate to as wrestling fans.  You're all set up in front of the TV, maybe with a beer in hand, maybe some popcorn, maybe a slice of pizza, maybe a nice wholesome bowl o' broccoli.  That warning screen flashes, instructing you against the unauthorized reception of the upcoming broadcast, and the anticipation has reached a fever pitch.  You can't wait to see three or four hours of wrestling awesomeness unfold before your eyes.......And then you're treated to sports-entertainment shit sandwich.  Nothing about the show lives up to your expectations.  Your world crumbles around you.  And you're goddamn pissed.  The following are ten examples of such an experience for me.....



10. WrestleMania IV


After the unequivocal success (both commercial and critical) of WrestleMania III, the WWF had their work cut out for them to somehow make the followup even bigger than the Hogan vs. Andre-headlined blockbuster.  They decided that a first-time-ever WWF Championship tournament would do the trick, and booked a brilliantly-executed swerve to vacate the Title.  This 14-man tourney would be the centerpiece of WrestleMania IV, but the card would include a staggering eighteen scheduled bouts (only sixteen took place due to tournament draws) over a period of four hours.  If that sounds like an overloaded show, that's because it was.  There were simply too many matches crammed into this PPV and thus nothing got enough time to shine; the tournament final was given a skimpy nine-and-a-half minutes, making it the shortest WrestleMania main event ever until 1993.  Where WrestleMania III featured both an in-ring masterpiece (Savage vs. Steamboat) and a tremendously entertaining spectacle (Hogan vs. Andre), 'Mania IV boasted no truly memorable bouts, and aside from Randy Savage's Championship coronation in the finale, boasted nary an historic moment.  Couple all this with a largely uninterested live crowd comprised mostly of business guests of Donald Trump's, and what ensued was a dull, dreary WrestleMania that served as the WWF's worst PPV of 1988.




9. Great American Bash '88


The NWA's third-ever PPV event featured two huge firsts, Ric Flair defending the World Title against his former Horsemen protege Lex Luger, and a monumental five-on-five war inside a three-decker steel cage.  Going into this I couldn't wait to see how this incredible, foreboding structure would be utilized, and I anticipated the company's new top babyface dethroning the heel Champion.  Well, Luger came up short of the Title in just about the stupidest way possible - the Maryland State Athletic Commission stopped the match because Luger was bleeding from the forehead, despite Luger having snared Flair in his Torture Rack finisher.  And the Tower of Doom as it was called consisted of the two teams essentially trying to race each other from the top cage to the bottom so they could each run away from the battle.  This match was both boring and confusing to watch.  Elsewhere on the card we got two very good tag team matches, neither of which had a clean finish, and a Barry Windham-Dusty Rhodes US Title match involving a heel turn that made no sense, from someone not involved in the match whatsoever (Ronnie Garvin).  The nonsensical booking turned what should've been a pretty great show into an overthought calamity with almost no satisfying finishes.  Fortunately the company would refocus under the new Ted Turner regime and string together several great PPVs over the next year and a half.




8. Survivor Series 1990


The 1990 edition of this Thanksgiving PPV introduced a new wrinkle.  Not only would we be treated to the usual series of team elimination matches, but the survivors of each bout would meet at the end for a climactic Survival Match.  Also the company teased the debut of a new character for weeks leading up to the event, as a giant egg appeared on WWF television  and would apparently hatch at the PPV.  The resulting show featured abbreviated elimination matches, the one involving WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior stuck in the opening slot, and the big egg-hatching reveal turned out to be a man in a turkey suit dancing with Gene Okerlund.  The Gobbledygooker was never involved in any match or storyline going forward and served no purpose whatsoever.  Finally the big Survival Match main event went a scant 9:31 and played out like a warmup showcase for Warrior and Hulk Hogan.  This PPV was a poorly assembled mess except for the debut of The Undertaker, the only good thing it's remembered for.



Saturday, July 21, 2018

Toys That Pissed Us Off: Playsets

Welcome to a new feature here at Enuffa.com!   Today our very own Dan Moore and I will discuss some of the toy playsets from our respective youts (What is a yout?) that really burned our asses for one reason or another.

Playsets in theory were all kinds of awesome.  You had your action figures and were all set to reenact some awesome movie sequence or what have you, but you needed a setting for the excitement to take place in.  You could either use your imagination and pretend the top of your dresser was the Death Star, or you could fashion something out of cardboard boxes, or you could be like the cool kids and get the officially licensed playset specifically designed to go with your toys.  And when it was good, it was AWESOME.  The G.I. Joe line for example boasted nary a bad playset.  From the Defiant shuttle to the Cobra Terror Drome, to the massive 7.5-foot USS Flagg, those playsets set the standard for action figure accessories.  Sadly not all playsets were so well-thought out.  Here are eleven such examples, in no particular order.

We'll start with one of the most beloved toy franchises, the original Kenner Star Wars line.




1. Jabba's Throne Room


Justin: Let's get one thing out of the way - the Jabba figure itself was spectacular.  It was easily one of the best Star Wars toys Kenner ever produced, with incredible detail, movable arms and a tail that twitched when you turned Jabba's head.  This toy looked fantastic.  His throne though was a different story.  The detail looked good, and it included a trap door into which Jabba could send his victims to be eaten by the Rancor.  But there were one or two problems.  First off, the trap door was the surface the Jabba toy sat on.  So you'd have to remove Jabba to access it.  Second, the door opened OUTWARD.  The hell kinda trap door opens up like that?  The victim would be catapulted across the room!  Third, the area under the trap door was so shallow your Luke figure could only be placed there in a horizontal position.  So there was no reenacting the Rancor scene with this stupid toy.

Dan: I wanted to LOVE this fucking playset. My cousin Jefferey told me all about it before I got it. How cool Jabba was. How awesome all the accessories were. And that it had a working pit. I was fucking PSYCHED. I had one of those Inhumanoid giant toys who could double for the Rancor so I was ready to play.

This giant fellow in the middle?  Oh yeah, Rancor on 'roids!

And then I got the dumpster fart of a playset. Realizing that my dreams of having Luke get chased around under Jabba were crushed, I quickly dispatched with the playset itself and recreated one on my own out of a plain cardboard box, like a true poor person.






2. Ewok Village


Justin: To be fair, this was a pretty impressive playset for its time.  A big walkway area with a fire pit, over which you could pretend the Ewoks were roasting a person, a tree elevator, and a net for capturing unwitting Rebels underneath.  But compared to the setting in the film this was really skimpy.  Only one place to roast people?  A net underneath the village instead of off in the woods nearby?  An elevator that only holds like two people at a time?  Not to mention very little actually happened in the Ewok village in the movie - all the Endor action took place in the open woods.

Dan: I actually loved this playset a lot. But yes, my initial bitching about it was that there was no room to cook up both a Skywalker AND a Solo. I was PISSED. I refashioned the useless elevator into another roasting pit and I was happy about that. My parents were not happy, however, years later when they bought the Sherwood Forest playset from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and realized it’s the SAME FUCKING TOY.



Also, the Friar Tuck toy was a Pig Guard from Jabba’s palace with a new head. Blew my mind



Friday, July 20, 2018

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1991)

Alright, time to hold my nose as I review this stinker.....


Legend vs. Legacy - Baltimore Arena - 7.14.91

Oh wait, scratch that.  Change of plans....

Luger vs. Windham - 7.14.91

In a scant two years the NWA (morphing into WCW) went from being at the top of its game to being in absolute creative shambles.  Nowhere is this more evident than at their 1991 summer spectacular.  Ric Flair, the NWA's top star for the past decade, had reached a contractual impasse with the new management (led by the cosmically inept Jim Herd) and was forced out of the company while still in possession of its top championship.  His scheduled match with Lex Luger was thus off, and WCW's scrambling to plug this roster hole seemed to have a domino effect on the rest of this PPV.  Once again they shoehorned eleven matches onto a three-hour broadcast, and once again most of the matches belonged in a wrestling dump heap.

Case in fucking point: Steve Austin & Terrence Taylor vs. Bobby Eaton & PN News in a Capture the Flag Scaffold Match.  Sweet merciful Christ, what the hell was this?  Scaffold matches in general are terrible, but this achieved new levels of putrid.  The scaffold itself looked so rickety and unsafe I don't know how these four guys were even coaxed up there.  Once on the platform they did basically nothing for the better part of ten minutes, aside from trying to not die.  After several agonizing minutes of a match three of these four guys should've been mortified to have on their resumes (I'll let you guess which three), Bobby Eaton captured the other team's flag to euthanize this shitshow.

Absolute drivel

Next up was one of several not-ready-for-PPV bouts: Tom Zenk vs. Diamond Stud, a forgettable free TV match featuring an enormously jacked Scott Hall a year before he jumped to the WWF and mainstream success.  Stud won after some interference from DDP.  Moving on....

We go from the future Razor Ramon to the future Diesel, as Ron Simmons faced Oz.  Apparently every match on this show featured a future WWF talent from 1996.  This also belonged nowhere near a PPV.  A portly Kevin Nash looked lost for most of this, yet somehow got to dominate the match.  Eventually Ron Simmons woke everyone up with a clothesline that sent Oz over the ropes, but Oz soon took over again.  Simmons eventually won with a powerslam.

Simmons' reaction upon learning he'd be working with Oz: ".....DAMN!"

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Top Ten Things: Star Trek Films

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


I've been a Star Trek fan since about the age of four when my parents were watching the original series on TV and I wandered into the room to see a weird dude with pointy ears and a bowl cut prattling on about space anomalies and whatnot.  From then I was hooked, and despite not understanding much of the sci-fi technobabble at that age, I could somehow easily identify with the gallant Captain Kirk, the crotchety Dr. McCoy, and of course the computer-minded Mr. Spock.  My fandom increased tenfold in the early 80s when I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and these characters and their adventures were presented on a much larger scale.  We were still treated to philosophical explorations of the human condition, but with much slicker production values and effects.

The Star Trek films were major events for me every 2-3 years and some of them still hold up among my favorite science fiction movies.  We're currently in the middle of the third series of films; from 1979-1991 the original Star Trek cast graced the big screen, and then from 1994-2002 the Next Generation crew got their turn.  Finally in 2009 Paramount rebooted the series completely, recasting the original characters and converting Star Trek into more of a Star Wars-esque action franchise.

But how do the 13 movies stack up against each other?  This being a Top Ten Things column I'll only talk briefly about the three films I've ranked at the bottom.

Star Trek: Insurrection has to be the weakest in the entire series, with its half-hearted storyline about a society of 600 Ba'ku hogging the life-extending resources of an entire planet at the expense of their dying brethren the Son'a.  And for some reason the Enterprise helps the Ba'ku stay there.  Huh??  Don't the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

Next up is Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, a nigh-unwatchable mess of a film that clearly suffered from a Hollywood writer's strike, leaving director William Shatner without a coherent script.  This film cost $33 million, more than any previous Star Trek movie, yet the effects are Original Series bad.  Basically everything went wrong here, and the film fails to find a middle ground between goofy comedy and heavy emotional drama.

Our final entry to fall short of the top ten is Star Trek: Generations, the one that kicked off the NextGen films.  Generations has some fun moments but its convoluted plot involving an energy ribbon that somehow absorbs people and lets them live out their wildest fantasies simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny, nor does the shoehorned involvement of Captain Kirk.  And did we really need to see the Klingons and their Bird of Prey AGAIN??

Now that we've gotten the worst of the bunch out of the way let's look at the top ten Star Trek films....





10. Star Trek Beyond


Here's a movie I had high hopes for.  I'd read that this was the closest the new series has gotten to capturing the philosophical, character-driven bent of the original show.  And while Beyond has a little of that - Kirk for example laments early on that the ongoing voyage is taking its toll on him and his crew - sadly the film plunges almost immediately into an extended action sequence that leaves the Enterprise in pieces in a matter of minutes.  They don't treat poor Enterprise well in these films, do they?  Anyway, the crew gets separated during the space battle and we learn a little about the villain Krall.  Mostly that his name is Krall.  Seriously, this film uses a fine actor like Idris Elba pretty shabbily.  He's given nothing to do in the first two acts except bark angrily, and it's not until the final half hour we're told his motivation and his true identity; by then it's hard to care.  What I liked about this film: Kirk had some solid character moments, McCoy and Scotty had more to do, the new character Jaylah was very cool and likable, Krall and Kirk had one poignant scene toward the end, and the Spock-Uhura romance was barely present.  What I didn't like: Krall is motivated by revenge just like the last three Star Trek villains, Krall is barely a character beyond that, there's once again too much emphasis on Star Wars-y action, and Spock's wig looks terrible.  Distractingly so.  Star Trek Beyond is the weakest of the current series.  And what exactly does "Beyond" refer to?






9. Star Trek: Nemesis


Nemesis is a guilty pleasure.  It's a pretty terrible, unnecessarily dour affair featuring a young clone of Captain Picard trying to destroy the Enterprise, Romulus and Earth, and contains far too many Wrath of Khan callbacks and a go-nowhere subplot involving an earlier model of Data, but damn if it isn't entertaining drivel.  A young, far less jacked Tom Hardy plays Shinzon, Picard's clone who spent his childhood enslaved on Romulus's sister planet Remus, building up a severe hatred for both his Romulan oppressors and his "father" Picard.  He fashions a giant evil starship to exact his revenge, and all hell breaks loose.  This template of a revenge-obsessed villain with a gigantic ship would oddly be used in some form for all three reboot films, despite Nemesis tanking at the box office.  Still this film includes some of the best space battle sequences in the NextGen series, plus Tom Hardy!  But it's not good...






8. Star Trek (2009)


The 2009 reboot essentially took the original series characters, boiled them down to their most easily identifiable cursory traits, and turned them into action heroes.  This film is an all-thrusters-ahead popcorn movie that vaguely resembles the series we all know and love.  Casting was key here, and fortunately Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg do an admirable job of reimagining their characters while staying more or less true to their predecessors.  This film is all about setting up the new version of Star Trek and thus the main plot is fairly forgettable.  A revenge-hungry Romulan named Nero has been chasing a future incarnation of Mr. Spock through time in retaliation for Spock's failing to save Romulus from a supernova, and a space battle ensues between the brand new Enterprise and Nero's monstrous vessel.  Star Trek 2009 is full of slick visuals, engaging action and light humor but fails to explore profound human themes the way the original series did.  Still it's a fun popcorn movie with characters we can all relate to, thus it's better than 90% of the summer blockbusters these days.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

WWE Extreme Rules 2018: A Microcosm of Vince's Shitshow


Move over Backlash, there's a new sucky PPV sheriff in town.  Extreme Rules felt like WWE was actively trying to put on a bad show, between the filler matches, the multiple instances of counterproductive booking, and the noteworthy moments WWE expects everyone to remember in place of good wrestling.  This felt like a Bischoff-era WCW PPV, except without a show stealing Cruiserweight Title match.  I'm hard-pressed to pick a match of the night; only two bouts are in contention but neither of them was even on par with the opening G1 match on night 3 (Michael Elgin vs. Hangman Page).  WWE's product is in absolute shambles right now and it requires on my part a Herculean effort to even get annoyed with it.  That's how little I care.

The show opened with a pair of utterly forgettable matches, one of which featured a title change.  The B-Team defeated Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt for the RAW tag belts in a nothing, free TV-caliber match, and then Finn Balor "upset" Baron Corbin with a small package in another free TV-caliber match.  It's adorable they're still trying to present Corbin as any kind of threat, but no, I'm not buying it.  Balor's position in this company is so far beneath where he should be, but they have so many more issues beyond that I can't even focus on him.  *1/2 for the B-Team match, *3/4 for the Balor one.

Case in point, the systematic sabotage of Asuka in service of the least deserving women's champion since the Kelly Kelly era, Carmella.  I just want to sit down with Vince and ask him, "Why do you hate Asuka so much?"  I also want to sit down with Triple H and ask, "Why are you letting Vince destroy stars you've so carefully built?"  Going into WrestleMania 34 Asuka was something special.  An undefeated, legit badass with gargantuan charisma.  Three months later Asuka is just another one of the girls, just another dimwitted babyface who gets distracted by shiny objects at the expense of her title aspirations.  That a nothing in-ring talent like Carmella even beat Asuka to the championship, let alone got to pin her twice on PPV is a microcosm of how ass-backward Vince's booking philosophy is these days.  After five minutes of forgettable action, James Ellsworth predictably escaped his shark cage but got stuck hanging upside down, at which point Asuka forgot all about winning the title and instead beat up Ellsworth.  And then Carmella rammed her into the shark cage and pinned her.  Asuka could not have been made to look more ineffectual if WWE were deliberately trying (and I'm convinced they were).  DUD



Monday, July 16, 2018

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1990)

The New Revolution - Baltimore Arena - 7.7.90

1989 to 1990 was quite a dropoff in quality for the NWA, and the Great American Bash PPV falls right in line with that.  The long-awaited Ric Flair vs. Sting showdown had been in the works for months, and was originally booked for WrestleWar that February.  But a knee injury sidelined Sting for four months and Lex Luger took his spot, turning babyface and feuding with Flair until Sting was ready.  While this was certainly a huge marquee match, I wasn't a Sting fan at the time and therefore wasn't particularly excited about his inevitable Title win.  I was also pissed that the company reverted just about all the top stars to where they were in 1988.  Flair and the Horsemen were the top heels, Luger was a babyface again.  It all felt like a retread.

As for this show, once again they crammed way too many matches in, and this time it was an astonishing eleven bouts, nearly half of which had no business on a PPV.

First up was Brian Pillman vs. Buddy Landell.  This was a decent enough opener, as Pillman was obviously quite accomplished and Landell was a solid hand.  I'm not sure what the purpose was though.  They weren't feuding and Pillman had come off of a really strong US Title program with Lex Luger, followed by a US Tag Title run.  Why was he being wasted in a throwaway showcase match?

Next was Mike Rotunda vs. The Iron Sheik.  Seeing mid-80s WWF guys like Sheik, Orndorff, Bob Orton, and Junkyard Dog show up in the NWA in 1990 was so strange.  I guess they just wanted recognizable names to help put over the younger NWA stars at this point.  Rotunda had given up his Varsity Club gimmick in favor of a sailor persona, which was beyond stupid.  Rotunda didn't have babyface charisma at all and the Captain Mike thing reeked of 80s jobber.  Mike won a brief match that was out of my head the moment it ended.

The third consecutive throwaway match on this show, Dutch Mantell vs. Doug Furnas was designed to showcase newcomer Furnas, but the match went on far longer than it needed to, and again, I'm not sure why this was included on a PPV.  Furnas won with an impressive belly-to-belly suplex after eleven ponderous minutes.

The oddly pleasant surprise of the night was Harley Race vs. Tommy Rich, in an incredibly physical match given Race's age (He was 47 but looked 60), that proved Race could still turn it up when he needed to.  Contrary to expectations, Race did most of the crazy bumping, including his usual back somersault over the ropes ending with his head hitting the ring apron.  This match had historical value since nine years earlier Rich upset Race for the NWA Title, but otherwise this was a superfluous match that was better than it had any right to be.

How'd Eaton not suffer massive spinal compression?

The proper PPV began with the Midnight Express vs. Southern Boys, another classic effort by Eaton and Lane.  In the tradition of MX's battles against The Rock n' Roll Express and The Fantastics, this match began with babyface team dominance as The Southern Boys stayed one step ahead of the Champs for the better part of ten minutes.  Eaton and Lane eventually took control after some heel tactics, and the match built to a melee with multiple finishers before Eaton rolled up Tracy Smothers in a small package for the win.  The Midnights were in peak form in 1990 and this was one of the highlights of their year.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Welcome to yet another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I examine a film that is horribly, deeply, life-wreckingly flawed but for one reason or another I can't help tossing it into the DVD player every so often.


Today the film in question is the third installment of the original Mad Max Trilogy, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.  I'm a huge fan of this series - the inaugural Mad Max is a mercilessly bleak dystopian film with an unrelentingly frantic pace, wherein our protagonist loses everything he cares about and becomes a sadistic revenge-seeker.  The second film, The Road Warrior, is simply one of the greatest action films I've ever seen.  This hugely influential piece of pop culture is essentially a Western set in a post-apocalyptic future, where Max has been aimlessly roaming the wasteland scavenging fuel and food, and lends his considerable survival skills to help a small band of colonists defeat a gang of homicidal marauders.

The first two movies make up two-thirds of a near-perfect trilogy.  Unfortunately, as with many trilogies, the third episode falls devastatingly short of expectations.  With Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, director George Miller stepped back into a Co-Director role after his longtime producer Byron Kennedy was killed in a helicopter crash.  Right off the bat this movie would lack the main driving creative force behind the first two films.  Still there was an interesting story to be told here, and some aspects of it worked quite well.  Let's take a look at the pros and cons of Beyond Thunderdome.


The Awesome

Mel Gibson

None of these movies would work at all without Mel Gibson's thoroughly compelling turn as the emotionally broken Max Rockatansky.  Gibson has lately revealed himself to be a totally crazy person with serious bigotry issues, but it's impossible to deny what an onscreen talent he used to be.  When I first heard they were making a new Max film without Gibson I couldn't possibly picture anyone else in the role (I have to admit though, Tom Hardy's a fantastic choice).  Like Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Bruce Willis as John McClane, Mel Gibson was born to play Max.  He brought rugged, taciturn charisma and a hardened heroic quality to this lonely but honorable character.  We're able to completely sympathize with him despite his moral ambiguity.

Max is a BAMF