Friday, September 28, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: 300

Welcome to another edition of's Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I pick apart a beloved cinematographical (is that a word?) feast and shatter its aura of watchability for everyone.  I'm probably overestimating my influence, but you get the idea.

Today I'll be dissecting the 2007 battle epic 300, directed by Zack Snyder and based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller.  300 recounts The Battle of Thermopylae, where the Spartan King Leonidas, along with 299 of his ruthlessly tough soldiers, stood against a massive Persian army led by King Xerxes.  And, well, that's it.  That's the entire plot of the film really.  In flashback we learn that, like all male Spartan children, Leonidas experienced a childhood of intentionally-inflicted cruelty designed to harden him, that he might one day be a great king and soldier.  There are also subplots involving a corrupt religious cult called the Ephors, who order Leonidas not to move against the Persians, plus one of the Spartan Council is revealed to be in Xerxes' back pocket.  Other than that though it's basically an extended two-hour battle sequence.

So what are the pros and cons of this Frank Miller-inspired film?  Let's take a look, because.....THIS! IS! ENUFFA!!!  See what I did there?

The Awesome


Like Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City, Zack Snyder took Frank Miller's stunning comic book panels and recreated them for the screen, assembling an almost shot-for-shot adaptation that looks absolutely gorgeous.  The colors are almost exactly like the graphic novel, the characters have been brought to life in painstaking detail, and the action is stylized to reflect the over-the-top movements depicted in the book.  The film adaptations of both Sin City and 300 proved to be very influential in creating these impossible comic book worlds.  If you're going to make a CG-heavy film, this is how you do it.

Whatever the movie's flaws, this is a gorgeous shot.

Battle Scenes

As I said above, the combat is heavily stylized to echo Miller's drawings and give the characters and events a sort of mythic quality.  The blood and gore are turned way up as well, mimicking Miller's explicit visual approach.  It's a good thing the battle sequences work so well, becuase this film has a lot of them.  A LOT.


Snyder has literally translated Miller's artwork in the costume department as well.  All the characters are dressed exactly like their two-dimensional counterparts, and they look great.

Effects & Makeup

There's a theme going on here - when it comes to the visual aspects of the film, everything is first-rate.  The special effects and makeup are no different.  Snyder uses CGI not as a substitute for reality, but as a way to heighten and distort reality.  The backgrounds are murky and flat, bathed in yellows and browns, just as Miller drew them.  The Spartans all have CG-enhanced six-pack builds and brandish perfect bronze shields.  But when practical effects were called for, Snyder used traditional prosthetics as well.  The Ephors are wart-covered and repulsive, the deformed Ephialtes is a grotesque hunchback, the Executioner is an enormous, clawed being resembling the Cenobites from Hellraiser.  The makeup and effects perfectly capture Miller's bizarrely-rendered characters.

Give that man a Baby Ruth!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Mass Music Review #1: Mission of Burma

Welcome to a new feature called Mass Music Review, where Chris Gillespie, nephew of our own Dan Moore, takes a look back at some of the influential bands to come out of Boston.  Today it's Mission of Burma!

The debut release of Boston band Mission of Burma, the EP Signals, Calls, and Marches has quite the legacy in rock music, as everyone from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, and even Fugazi cite the band as an inspiration. Many critics laud it as a landmark in alternative and indie rock, citing its heavy instrumentals harkening to hardcore punk accompanied by thoughtful lyrics and musical sophistication not traditionally found in the fast and loud punk bands littered throughout America at the time (1981, to be specific). The EP features two of the band’s most commercially accessible songs: "That’s When I Reach For My Revolver" and "Academy Fight Song," along with underrated songs like "Max Ernst" and "Fame And Fortune."

The band from left to right: Martin Swope, Roger Miller, Peter Prescott, Clint Conley

Mission of Burma began as a trio with Roger Miller (guitar), Clinton J. “Clint” Conley (bass), and Peter Glen Prescott (drums) in 1979, with their first show being on April 1st of that year at the now-closed Modern Theater. Later that same month, Miller wrote a new song that he believed would be improved by a tape loop (loops of magnetic tape used to create repetitive, the rhythmic musical patterns or dense layers of sound when played on a tape recorder) and contacted Martin Swope, with whom he had previously written some pieces for piano and tape. This led to Swope contributing to the band’s music more and more until he was considered an integral part of the band, receiving equal credit on the group’s recordings and appearing in group photographs along with the trio.

The band received a lot of help and support from the city, with local magazine Boston Rock printing a lengthy interview with the band prior to the release of their first record and MIT’s community radio station WMBR playing their song “Peking Spring” repeatedly in 1979 until it became their most played song of the year. The band even planned to release the song as a single but felt it had run its course by the time they had signed to Boston-based record label Ace of Hearts in 1981.

After signing with the label, the group released their first single “Academy Fight Song” written by Conley, with the Miller-penned “Max Ernst” (named for the painter) as the B-Side. The production on the single was much more refined and cleaner than the ragged and chaotic live performances of the band. Initially, they objected to such a drastic change but changed their minds after the single’s first pressing sold out quickly. By the end of that year, the EP would sell out its initial pressing of 10,000 copies.

NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed Preview & Predictions

New Japan's PPV schedule is becoming a lot like WWE's, with too many events slated right on top of each other.  I know their top revenue driver is live attendance, but jeezus guys.

Anyway, coming off of three Destruction shows featuring a couple ****1/2 main events, it's another visit to the States, as New Japan returns to the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach for Fighting Spirit Unleashed!  Seems a bit hasty to already be back, and ticket sales are reflecting that a bit.  But hopefully they'll get a decent turnout in the end.

The show itself looks pretty fun, with a couple title matches, the second Jr. Heavyweight semi-final, a great on-paper tag team main event, and a slew of multi-man tags as usual.  So let's get to the picks....

Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH vs. Roppongi 3K

Man, when is RPG3K gonna win back those Jr. Tag belts?  The hell's going on with those straps?  Anyway this should be a fun little opener that will hopefully give Sho and Yoh a win to get them back into contention.  It'll be short but energetic.

Justin: RPG
Landon: RPG3K

The Addiction vs. Hangman Page & Chase Owens

The first of a handful of guest spots on this card, it'll be interesting to see Daniels & Kazarian on a NJPW show.  Again, this should be a fun tag bout with solid work all around.  Page vs. Daniels should be an entertaining pairing.

Justin: I'll go with the Addiction
Landon: Page and Owens

Jeff Cobb, Chris Sabin & Flip Gordon vs. Hirooki Goto, Beretta & Chuckie T

Cobb vs. Goto is the money match here, but Sabin and Gordon should have some nice exchanges with Beretta and Chuckie as well.  I'd say this could set up a Goto-Cobb NEVER Title match, but they had to go and give that belt to Taichi of all people.  The fuck??

Justin: Team Goto
Landon: CHAOS

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Batman (1989)

Hello and welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at, where I examine a wonderful piece of popcorn fare and essentially ruin it for everyone.

Today I'll be talking about the Father of Modern Superhero Movies, Tim Burton's 1989 opus Batman, starring Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michael Keaton as the title character.  When it first came out, Batman was a major pop culture event, garnering huge mainstream media coverage and all sorts of cross-promotion, in a manner not seen since the original Star Wars films.

Still a fantastically awesome poster.

Batman was something of a risk for Burton, as a dark, brooding superhero film had never been attempted, and most mainstream audiences still thought of the Caped Crusader in terms of the campy 1960s TV show.  But in the comics, Batman had long since returned to his Noir-ish roots, and Burton drew inspiration from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, as well as taking visual cues from Film Noir and German Expressionism.  The result was an unusually dark comic book film that took quite seriously the idea of a man dressing up as a bat to fight crime.

But while the movie felt absolutely right at the time, it has to a certain extent been rendered obsolete by some piss-poor sequels and Christopher Nolan's superb Dark Knight Trilogy.  Watching Burton's film now is great fun for nostalgia purposes, but it's honestly a little hard to take seriously after the advent of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the good and the bad of Tim Burton's Batman....

The Awesome

Michael Keaton

Remember how outraged we all were when Keaton was announced as Batman?  As I recall the exact quote from everyone upon hearing the news was "What. The goddamn. Hell??"  But at the time Keaton was a pretty splendid Batman/Bruce Wayne.  He brought a quiet sense of morose intensity to the role and despite not being at all physically suited to play a 6'2" 215-pound superhero, made us all believe he was The Dark Knight.  As with many aspects of this film, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy bettered Keaton's performance by a pretty wide margin (In fact, after watching Christian Bale in the suit, Keaton looks positively waifish by comparison), but his portrayal stood for 16 years as the best cinematic Batman.

Look at that six-pack.  That suit must work out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Cinema Showdown: Manhunter vs. Red Dragon

"I am the Dragon. And you call me insane. You are privy to a great becoming, but you recognize nothing. You are an ant in the afterbirth. It is your nature to do one thing correctly. Before me, you rightly tremble. But fear is not what you owe me.....You owe me awe!"

These chilling words from serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, the fearsome villain of Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon, sum up perfectly his deranged mindset and motivation for murder.  He believes that killing families and arranging them like dolls will transform him into a god.  FBI Agent Will Graham, possessing a gift for empathizing with murderers, has been assigned to chase down Dolarhyde with help from famed sociopath Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Red Dragon has twice been adapted for the screen - first in 1986 as Michael Mann's thriller Manhunter, starring William Petersen, Dennis Farina, Tom Noonan, and Brian Cox; and again in 2002 as a direct prequel to the suspense classic The Silence of the Lambs, starring Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Ralph Fiennes, and of course Anthony Hopkins.

Manhunter was met with mixed reviews and anemic box office receipts but has since become a cult favorite on home video.  Red Dragon was fast-tracked following the massive financial success of Hannibal, and itself made a hefty profit and garnered generally positive reviews.

But which version is superior?  I will assemble a case, comparing the various aspects of each film, from casting/performances to sets to music, and decide definitively which adaptation works better.  ***Note: Interestingly both directors used Dante Spinotti for cinematography.***


Will Graham: William Petersen vs. Edward Norton

***Another Note: Hugh Dancy of the TV series Hannibal is actually the best onscreen Will Graham to date, in my opinion, but I'm only discussing the two films at this time.***

Both of these actors are quite talented and, in portraying the protagonist of this story, play to their individual strengths.  Petersen plays Graham as an emotionally wounded man, just barely recovered from his former profession of tracking serial killers.  His final assignment, capturing Hannibal Lecter, left him mentally broken and he subsequently spent time in an institution to heal his own psychological scarring.  Petersen's Graham carries an overwhelming hesitancy throughout the film, as he isn't sure he is up to the task of catching one more murderer.  Edward Norton's Graham seems less emotionally affected by his run-in with Lecter; his reluctance to participate in the Tooth Fairy case is borne more out of responsibility to his family and the fact that catching Lecter almost killed him (During the opening credits we learn that Graham was in a coma for a time).  So this Graham's motivation is a bit more physical in nature than that of his counterpart.  Norton is probably a bit more business-like, Petersen is more haunted.  Both of these interpretations of the character work fine, but I'll give a slight nod to Norton because he's just a more compelling actor than Petersen.  I think Norton more cleverly carries us through the process of Graham's work (and that's partly due to the script as well) while expertly portraying an everyman we can identify with.  Petersen's Graham is so morose it's sometimes hard to like him. 

Point: Red Dragon

Jack Crawford: Dennis Farina vs. Harvey Keitel

Again we have a close battle, as both actors are accomplished character veterans who tend to more or less play the same type of role - a grizzled but likable tough guy.  They both portray Crawford in the same way, and in both cases it works fine.  But for me the definitive Jack Crawford will always be Scott Glenn, who brought a sly intellectualism to the role and made you unsure if you fully trusted Crawford.  So since neither Farina nor Keitel quite nailed the character as I prefer him, I'll call this a push. 

Point: Draw

Monday, September 24, 2018

Top Ten (Eleven) Things: Spinal Tap Songs

Welcome to the only edition of Top Ten Things that goes to eleven!  Today we're ranking the songs of everyone's favorite fictional heavy metal band, Spinal Tap!

Made famous of course by the 1984 Rob Reiner "mockumentary," Spinal Tap's three core members are David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer).  The largely improvisational masterpiece This is Spinal Tap lampooned the world of hard rock n' roll, taking no comedic prisoners and delivering some of the all-time great metal-related, "too close to home" comedy bits.  Who can forget Nigel's wireless unit picking up the control tower at the Air Force base?  Or Derek setting off the airport metal detector with the foil-wrapped cucumber stuffed down his pants?  Or undoubtedly the most famous bit, Nigel's custom Marshall head whose dials all go to 11?  The film is an absolutely hysterical satire of the rock industry, featuring totally authentic performances from the entire cast and a flawless script.  It's simply one of the most quotable films ever made.

But what sets This is Spinal Tap apart from other fake documentaries is the legitimacy of the musicians.  McKean, Guest, Shearer, and the rest of the band played their own instruments, and along with Rob Reiner, wrote all the songs.  And despite the lyrics being mostly tongue-in-cheek (and brilliantly funny), this band put out some pretty great hard rock tunes, including a full album's worth featured in the film, and a follow-up eight years later (which in my opinion is the better of the two records).  McKean and company are all great comedic actors but I'll be damned if they aren't accomplished rock n' rollers too.

So here are the best songs ever recorded by England's loudest band.......This list goes to eleven.... 

11. Christmas With the Devil

A title that dates back to the production of the film, "Christmas With the Devil" is exactly the type of song its moniker implies; a Satanic Christmas carol complete with jingle bell accompaniment and morbidly descriptive lyrics.  "The elves are dressed in leather and the angels are in chains," intones David to kick off this Sabbath-esque dirge.  Featured on the second album Break Like the Wind, this might be the most purely "metal" sounding of all their tracks.  Notice also the word "Hallelujah" sung backwards in the bridge.  Hilarious.

10. Rainy Day Sun

Another song from BLTW, "Rainy Day Sun" is meant to be one of the band's late 60s recordings, from when Spinal Tap were a psychadelic hippie band.  With heavy Beatles influences including some backtracked vocals and rain sounds, this song captures the spirit of the era, lending some tangible depth to the band's fictional backstory.

9. Just Begin Again

A power ballad duet from BLTW, "Just Begin Again" features a guest appearance by Cher and makes use of deliberately trite love song lyrics like "Life is just a meal/And you never say when," and "Life is just a show/Go reload your gun."  And despite the silliness of the words, this song is actually poignant and powerful, led by two strong vocal performances.

8. Rock n' Roll Creation

In the context of the film this tune is from the "pretentious, ponderous collection of religious rock psalms" known as The Gospel According to Spinal Tap.  Melding biblical elements with hard rock tropes, "RNR Creation" has one of the more evil-sounding main riffs in the catalog, mixed with simple but memorable vocal harmonies.  This song was featured in the unforgettable movie scene where Derek gets trapped in his "body snatcher" pod for the duration of the tune.

Top Ten Things: Metallica Albums

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!  Today I look at the catalog of the biggest metal band in history, the mighty Metallica!

Anyone who knows me at all knows I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Metallica aficionado, and if you've read for any length of time you've probably gotten that sense as well.  For me the summit of Music Mountain is twofold - there's The Beatles and there's Metallica.  Everyone else is just trying to reach the top.

With the release of the band's tenth album Hardwired...To Self-Destruct, they've finally put out enough original studio albums to fill out one of these damn lists.  So I figured it's time for me to sort 'em all in my preferred order.  Let's get to it.....

10. St. Anger

Metallica's much-maligned "therapy" record and its accompanying film Some Kind of Monster were essentially a document of a band coming apart at the seams and ultimately stitching themselves back together.  Recording began in 2001 when internal relations within the group were at an all-time low, and departed bassist Jason Newsted had been temporarily replaced by producer Bob Rock.  The album's tone was ugly, messy and raw, reflecting many of the previously unspoken feelings floating around between the remaining band members.  St. Anger was met with much scorn from diehard Metallica fans at the time of its release, and in 2003 I considered it a pretty big disappointment.  But over the years I've come to appreciate it from a visceral, emotional standpoint.  It was the album the band needed to make, to come back together and trudge forward.  The muddy lack of production, de-tuned guitars, and that awful pinging snare drum helped put to music the state of mind the band was in, illustrating what a bloated monster Metallica had become.  With St. Anger out of their system Metallica would now be free to find themselves again.

Key Tracks: Frantic, My World, Sweet Amber

9. ReLoad

The second half of Metallica's late-90s two-parter, this 76-minute collection featured some of the band's most experimental material.  A continuation of the alt-metal sound established with Load, this album took things a step further, somewhat eschewing Metallica's riff-driven roots for more textural guitar work and unusual instrumentation.  Songs like the country-tinged "Unforgiven II" and the Tom Waits-influenced "Low Man's Lyric" (featuring a hurdy-gurdy) pushed the boundaries of what constituted the Metallica sound.  ReLoad definitely includes some B-material ("Better Than You," "Slither") and a few songs too reminiscent of those on Load ("Fixxer" is essentially "Outlaw Torn 2"), but it's got a few classics as well, like the driving opener "Fuel," still one of my all-time Metallica favorites.

Key Tracks: Fuel, Carpe Diem Baby, Prince Charming

8. Kill 'Em All

The album that kicked off one of the greatest musical careers of all-time, Kill 'Em All essentially invented the speed/thrash metal genre, boasting razor-sharp twin rhythm guitars and machine-gun drum blasts.  It was the prototype for modern metal records and introduced the world to Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett and Burton.  In my estimation it's still one of the greatest-ever debut albums and certainly one of the most influential.  Despite its efficacy however this record hasn't aged as well for me as some of the others.  It often feels like Speed Metal 101, as it lacks some of the depth and sophistication Metallica would discover only a few years later.  Still there's no denying what a metal milestone Kill 'Em All proved to be.

Key Tracks: Hit the Lights, The Four Horsemen, Jump in the Fire

Friday, September 21, 2018

You Used to Be Soooooo Good: The Alien Franchise

Welcome to another edition of You Used to Be Sooooo Good, where Dan Moore (@SouthieDanimal) and I put on our crotchety old man hats and grumble about how much better stuff used to be before you damn millennials took over the world.  

Anywho, today's topic is the Alien franchise - a once mighty sci-fi/horror series that began with two amazing films and then somehow lost its way.  Dan, what's your take?

DAN: The first Alien movie is one that scared the ever-loving shit out of me. It may seem simplistic now to place a horror movie in space (In fact, most failing horror franchises just chuck their super-bad up into the stars to try to grab some box office gold), but at the time, this was a novel concept. Sure, there were tons of B-movies in space, but this was a big budget flick with some well-known actors in it. And it was scary as hell to me. I saw it on VHS around 1990 when I was 12. The set design, the gore, the monster itself, all nightmare fuel for little ol' me. And I watched it repeatedly. I loved it. Loved the monster, loved all the characters and loved the epic, scary silence of the space universe that director Ridley Scott created. And of course loved Ripley. Sigourney Weaver was known to me at the time as Dana Barrett from Ghostbusters so to see her in this flick, evading and eventually killing a rampaging monster of death was quite a shock. But nothing was as shocking as what this franchise would become with the second film in the series.

JUSTIN: I actually saw Aliens first, in 1986, at the age of eleven.  I'd obviously heard of the original Alien, heard that it was just about the scariest movie ever made, and knew of the now-iconic chestburster scene.  But going into Aliens I was so utterly terrified of what I was about to witness, and for about the first ten minutes of the movie I was on the verge of a panic attack, thinking to myself "I can't do this.......I can't do this...."  But once that initial fear settled down and I simply let the movie unfold in front of me, it was to this day one of my all-time favorite cinematic experiences.  That movie kicked my ass for 137 minutes, ratcheting up the intensity to an unfathomable level.  The final hour is almost non-stop action-horror, and the climactic battle with the alien queen (one of the greatest puppet effects in movie history) stuck with me for weeks.

Mind.  Fucking.  Blown.

It actually wasn't until a year or two later that I finally watched the first movie, and initially I was underwhelmed by it.  Considering the frenetic pace and unrelenting pitch of Aliens, the first movie seemed so simple and frankly quaint to me on the first viewing.  This was at an age when I didn't appreciate things like psychological dread or claustrophobia, which is what the experience of the first film is all about (not to mention a movie as visually rich as Alien loses a lot on pan-and-scan VHS).  The first film grew on me after repeated viewings, and of course now I fully grasp what an understated sci-fi/horror masterpiece it is.  I saw an interview with one of the producers, who rightly pointed out that Alien is the haunted house, while Aliens is the roller coaster.  And from a purely visual standpoint, Ridley Scott's film is superior to James Cameron's.  Alien is one of the most visually stunning films ever made, while Aliens is less about atmosphere and more about the story.  Regardless, the first two films of this franchise are like an all-time great double album.  Both are amazing achievements for very different reasons.

Top Ten Things: Wrestling T-Shirts

Welcome one and all to yet another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  It's a list of ten things.  A list steeped in hyperbole.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Today we'll be talking about the greatest wrestling T-shirts of all time, in my humble estimation (Ah fuck humble, I'm right!).  Wrestling T-shirts are an invaluable marketing tool for any wrestling star.  Not only do you get fans to pay to advertise you to the world, if a T-shirt design is particularly eye-catching and memorable it can elevate that wrestler in the eyes of the fans (and management).  Think of how many times you watched a RAW or Nitro and saw a sea of Austin 3:16 or nWo shirts in the crowd.  The T-shirt can help make the star, especially if it sells like hotcakes and the company has no choice but to push the wrestler.  Generally speaking the best shirts in my opinion are either very simplistic and easy to spot, or tastefully pay homage to existing pop culture imagery.  It also helps when the wrestler himself frequently wears the shirt, giving the garment an air of authenticity (In fact every entry on this list falls into that category).  Here now is my list of the best wrestling T-shirt designs....

10. Eddie Guerrero (Scarface)

Our first entry is a play on the iconic poster for the film Scarface.  While I've never been much of a fan of this movie, the poster is one of the great pieces of cinema marketing, and Eddie's shirt uses this theme beautifully.  It also fits Eddie's character, that of the lying, cheating, stealing con man who makes no apologies for his win-at-all-costs mentality.  This was one of the few great shirts of the Ruthless Aggression era.

9. Cactus Jack (Wanted)

Speaking of a shirt befitting a character, how perfect is Cactus Jack's shirt displaying a Wanted poster for the crazed outlaw?  It worked so well in fact that when Mick Foley resurrected the Cactus persona in 1997 he actually wrestled in the shirt.  It's a simple design with an indie feel to it, and it encapsulates the violent, maniacal Cactus Jack character.

8. John Cena (NES)

Another shirt that lifts its design from existing artwork, this one is based of course on the cover art for Nintento Pro Wrestling, one of the earliest and most beloved wrestling video games.  For years this was the go-to game for wrestling enthusiasts.  As you may recall, the WWF's early entries in the video game arena were quite lacking, but this game had serious replay value.  Anywho, Cena's shirt simply substitutes his likeness where Fighter Hayabusa's once resided, as he's about to drop the Five Knuckle Shuffle.  On the back we get images of Cena dropping the move, with control pad iconography below.  Just a brilliant play on the NES artwork and one of several very cool Cena shirts (I also love the Pabst Blue Ribbon one).

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Top Ten Things: Weird Al Yankovic Albums

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

Today I'll be talking about a musical legend.  And a comedy legend.  And a certified genius (Seriously, he skipped second grade and was senior year valedictorian at sixteen).

Weird Al Yankovic burst into the American lexicon in 1984 with an off-beat parody of a Michael Jackson hit, and has somehow managed to build a hugely successful thirty-plus-year career lampooning our most cherished pop music stars.  As an eight-year-old Michael Jackson fanatic I was initially offended that anyone would parody one of his songs, but Al won me over when I first saw the video for "Eat It."  Here was a dorky, bespectacled nerd mimicking all of Jackson's dance moves (badly I might add) and conjuring comedy from already-tired rock video imagery.  By age twelve I'd bought all of Al's records, and I've been a huge fan ever since.  In 2000 I got to see Al from the front row, and he even yelled at me for not singing along to "Dare to Be Stupid."  It was indeed a privilege.  A new Weird Al CD is event listening in my house (for me anyway, my wife is non-committal).  Despite originating as a novelty act, Weird Al has endured three decades and shows no signs of stopping.  For many artists, being parodied by Al is a badge of honor, a sign that they've truly "made it."  Al is like a pop culture mirror, making light of all the silly fads we as a society cling to.  Here now are my ten favorite Weird Al Yankovic albums....

10. UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff

The soundtrack to Al's 1989 summer flop sadly didn't fare much better than its film counterpart, but it did contain some fun parodies and solid originals, plus a few snippets of the film itself.  Al's spoof of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing," which is essentially the Beverly Hillbillies theme set to different music, was accompanied by an excellent sendup of the Straits video.  Other highlights were "Spam," based on REM's "Stand," and two hilarious originals, "Generic Blues," which literally just recycles all the woe-is-me blues lyrical tropes, and folk-rock epic "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," which recounts in great detail a trip to go see the World's Largest Twine Ball (Yes, such a thing actually exists).  Released at a time when a) the summer movie season was quite cluttered (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Star Trek V, and Lethal Weapon 2), and b) Weird Al's record sales were somewhat contingent on including a Michael Jackson parody, this album and film kinda got lost in the shuffle.  But it's not too shabby at all and shows evidence of Al's growth as a musician.

Key Tracks: Generic Blues, Spam, The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

9. Dare to Be Stupid

Al's third album, and the first musical comedy album to see a CD release, showed that Al was growing beyond his reputation as "that funny guy who does the Michael Jackson parody."  With songs like "Like a Surgeon," "I Want a New Duck," and the superb "Yoda" (based on The Kinks' "Lola"), Al was attempting to last beyond the fifteen-minute lifespan most gave him.  But it's in the original songs where this album really achieves.  Style parodies like the doo-wop ballad "One More Minute" and the Devo-inspired title track demonstrated Al's gift for recreating different genres (Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh once said that "Dare to Be Stupid" captured the exact sound he himself had been trying to create).

Key Tracks: Dare to Be Stupid, One More Minute, Yoda

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The History of NJPW King of Pro-Wrestling (2012)

From the guy who loves wrestling "more than I love air" as our friend B-Cuddy puts it, welcome to another series of PPV History, here at!

This time we're tackling the relatively new annual NJPW event, King of Pro-Wrestling.  Unlike say a WrestleMania or the January 4th Tokyo Dome shows, KOPW has only been in existence since 2012, when the company made its debut on iPPV.  But man, did New Japan kick things off with a bang.  The inaugural King of Pro-Wrestling show garnered loads of praise, winning the Wrestling Observer award for Best Major Show of 2012, as well as Match of the Year.

From then on, KOPW took its place as one of New Japan's "Big Four" PPV events; given its placement on the calendar relative to the Dome, you could liken it to a Survivor Series.  The show has had its share of classic matches and stories, and it's always the most anticipated event of New Japan's fall season, perennially headlined by an IWGP Championship bout.

So let's take a look at the brief but noteworthy history of this annual PPV....

KOPW - Sumo Hall - 10.8.12

The inaugural event is still considered one of New Japan's finest PPVs, no small feat considering how many spectacular shows they've delivered since.  A loaded card featuring numerous championship matches and one for the G1 Climax briefcase (the first year that the G1 winner was guaranteed a Tokyo Dome main event), this show had a ton of star power and variety, and one of the hottest bell-to-bell crowds I've ever seen on a Japanese PPV.  This audience sounded like 80s NWA.

The opening contest was a six-man tag pitting Yuji Nagata and Muscle Orchestra (Strong Man and a returning Manabu Nakanishi) against three members of the CHAOS stable, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano and Takashi Iizuka.  This match was a wild brawl, with participants tagging in and out quickly and plenty of outside the ring shenanigans.  Of note in some of these bouts was the ringside presence of two young lions named Hiromu Takahashi and Takaaki Watanabe, better known today as Evil.  The action here was solid if unspectacular, but the highlight took place roughly midway through when Ishii and Nagata began chopping the shit out of each other.  Eventually the heels (CHAOS were solidly a group of bad guys at this point) got a cheap victory after Iizuka hit Nakanishi with his iron glove, allowing Yano to roll him up for the pin.  Nothing amazing in-ring, but this crowd was electric from the opening bell.  **

The first really notewothy match was the Jr. Heavyweight Tag Championship, with Forever Hooligans defending against Time Splitters.  This was fast-paced and crisply worked, with both teams getting virtually all their spots in, including the Hooligans teased dissension followed by a hug-out (a hilarious bit they used to do).  Rocky Romero and Alex Kozlov were a great mix of athleticism and heel comedy, while Time Splitters were one of the great underdog babyface tandems.  After fourteen-plus minutes, Romero countered a corner double-team move by pushing Alex Shelley over the top rope to the floor and countering a Kushida powerbomb into a sunset flip, into a roll-up, retaining the straps.  Not the best finish ever, but the rest of the match was splendid.  ***1/2

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Top Ten Things: Family Ties Episodes

Welcome to another television-related Top Ten Things, where I'll pick my ten favorite episodes of a classic show.

Today it's the unforgettable 80s family sitcom that launched the career of Michael J. Fox, Family Ties!  When I was a kid, Thursday night primetime on NBC was unfathomably awesome.  For a few years you had The Cosby Show (fuck you Bill...) at 8pm, Family Ties at 8:30, and Cheers at 9.  Three of the greatest television shows ever, back-to-back-to-back.  Man, those were good times.

Anyway, Family Ties ran seven seasons, chronicling the goings-on of the Keatons, your average midwestern middle class family, but with a twist.  See the parents, Steven and Elyse, were ex-hippies who spent their college years steeped in the 1960s anti-war, peace & love movement, while their eldest son Alex was a stuffy, business-obsessed Republican who dreamed of becoming a powerful Wall Street executive.  This flipped the usual sitcom dynamic of the strict parents and the rebellious teenager.  Running contrary to most family TV shows, Alex (Michael J. Fox in the role he was born to play) generally didn't get into trouble with his parents in the traditional sense; instead their conflicts stemmed from their opposing ideologies and Alex's overactive ambition.

The two Keaton daughters were also wildly divergent characters.  Mallory the middle child (Justine Bateman in an often underrated performance) was a more typical teenage character - struggling at school and focused on her social life - while the youngest (until season 3) Jennifer was a precocious preteen who later displayed advanced intelligence and academic drive like Alex, albeit with much more compassion.  Then there was Andy.  Introduced in season three as a way to explain star Meredith Baxter-Birney's real-life pregnancy, Andy didn't become a full-fledged character until season five, when they magically aged him from toddler to preschooler so he'd have a speaking role.  Child actor Brian Bonsall was passable in the part, with stilted delivery but occasional moments of genuine sweetness and humor.

As for Steven and Elyse, they were perfectly cast.  Michael J. Fox may have been the show's breakout star (deservedly so, he worked very hard to make what could've been a detestable caricature into a sympathetic, three-dimensional, devoted son/brother), but in hindsight Michael Gross was for me almost always the show stealer.  His dramatic choices were reliably spot-on, and his comedic timing absolutely ingenious.  Meredith Baxter-Birney (initially the best-known cast member) took the somewhat unglamorous task of being the show's de facto "straight man" and imbued Elyse with gentle, poised wisdom, while getting to show off her acting chops perhaps more than any of her castmates.

Aside from reversing the parent-child dynamic, Family Ties was also notable for tackling serious subject matter with candor and realism.  Seldom did family sitcoms in the 80s talk openly about things like sex, drug use, race, suicide, child abuse, and of course politics.  The show employed the heartwarming family sitcom form as a vehicle to explore these topics and make them palatable, while also featuring smart writing and characters with real complexity.  It veered into slapstick at times too, but the cast had such great chemistry they almost always made it work.  Most episodes were structured with a fairly predictable formula - two or more characters would have a conflict in the first act, it would reach a crisis in the second, and in the final scene they would talk it out and come to a resolution.  Very few episodes strayed from this format, yet the show almost never felt repetitious because the issues at hand were so relatable.  I consider Family Ties to be one of the few long-running sitcoms that never "jumped the shark."  For me the last few seasons were just as consistent as the early ones, in spite of elements like Steven's increasing buffoonery or Mallory's over-the-top ditziness in the last few seasons.

Aside from its dated fashion trends, pop culture references, and grainy videotape medium, Family Ties is largely a timeless show that explores issues we as a society still grapple with 30+ years later.

Here are, in my estimation, the ten best episodes, plus some Honorable Mentions (Note: This list is pretty heavy on Season 4, as it was easily my favorite of the seven)....

Monday, September 17, 2018

WWE Hell in a Cell 2018: You've Succeeded Despite Your Best Efforts

Well in spite of its faults and WWE's "best efforts," Hell in a Cell managed to be one of the best top-to-bottom PPVs the company has put on this year.  All seven matches were at least pretty good, a few were outstanding, and most of the booking was inoffensive.  I mean, it's sad WWE's standards have fallen so far, but I'll take a consistently entertaining show from them whenever I can get it.

I should note that Renee Young's presence in the announcing booth is such an improvement over Coachman.  Renee isn't Jesse Ventura or anything, but unlike Coachman she has a passion for the business and actually understands it.  And since Cole and Graves actually like her there's no distracting bickering going on.  So for the first time in ages, RAW's announce team actually enhanced the matches rather than hurt them.  Kudos to Renee for being the first-ever full-time female announcer.

The festivities began with Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton in the Cell.  Now, it made basically zero sense for this match to be in the HIAC format, but these guys made the most of it, sidestepping the type of Cell brutality WWE no longer allows for a few new ideas.  This was worked like an old-school No DQ match, methodical but rugged.  The usual Hardy high spots were sparse, but in their place were things like Orton wedging Jeff's head between ladder rungs and stomping the ladder, both guys whipping each other with Jeff's studded belt (which perforated Orton's back in several dozen places), and of course Orton taking a screwdriver and twisting Jeff's pierced earlobe (which made me cringe like I was watching thoracic surgery).  At the end of the match Hardy set up two ladders and a table for his leapfrog spot, but instead climbed to the ceiling, swung like a gymnast, and dove for the table.  Problem was Orton had moved (way too early), and Jeff crashed through the table.  The referee inexplicably called for medical help, despite this hardly being the worst bump we've seen in one of these matches.  But Orton insisted he count the pinfall, and he did so.  Then Jeff got stretchered out.  The injury angle was goofy and absurd considering Hell in a Cell is supposed to be the most brutal match type, but overall I liked this match a lot.  Not too shabby for a match I didn't care about.  ***1/2

Next up was Charlotte vs. Becky for the Smackdown Women's Title.  This match was intricate, fast-paced, and really well-worked.  A few slip-ups aside the action here was crisp and athletic, reminding us all what a women's match was supposed to look like post-Women's Revolution.  Months of Carmella train wrecks robbed us and the division of serious contests, so it was refreshing to see these two get the chance to tear it up.  The crowd was into it too, solidly behind Becky (despite her being positioned as the heel).  After 14 minutes Becky countered a spear with a rollup to upset Charlotte and capture the title.  What I wanted to see next was Becky extending her hand to try and renew their friendship, only for Charlotte to reject her and turn heel.  That would've been in line with fan reactions to this feud.  But instead, stubborn WWE booked the opposite, where Charlotte went to congratulate Becky and was rebuffed with extreme prejudice.  Whatever, at least the match was really good.  ***1/2

The show stealer took place third, as Dolph & Drew (Drolph ZigglIntyre?) defended against Seth & Dean.  This 23-minute match started out basic but quickly built in pacing and intensity, with the final third chock full of wild near-falls.  All four guys worked their asses off and the crowd went right along for it, buying nearly every false finish.  This is the kind of match that revives a dying division; imagine going from Matt & Bray vs. The B-Team to this, in the span of two months.  After throwing basically everything at each other, Seth superplexed Dolph, floated through and went for a Falcon Arrow, but was interrupted by Drew's Claymore Kick.  Dolph fell on top of him to score the pin.  Goddamn helluva match and easily the best thing we've gotten from this Seth-Dolph feud.  ****1/4

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Top Ten Things: Unnecessary Movie Remakes

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things!  I am your host, Justin, and I'll be bitching about something most would consider trivial.  But ya know, that's my thing.  So stick it.

Today I'll be talking about an issue that's plagued Hollywood for many years - particularly this century - the unnecessary remake.  Remakes are nothing new; the early decades of cinema saw countless movies done over, to take advantage of ever-improving technology and greater budget availability (just like now).  Plus it was a way for the studios to make easy money with a known title and not have to come up with original ideas (just like now).  Sadly these remakes often failed to live up to the artistry and craftsmanship of the original versions (just like now) and many of them fell by the wayside.  In the last fifteen years or so it seems just about every film churned out is either a remake, a sequel, a reboot, a prequel, a requel, a threequel, a squeakuel (okay that one just applies to the Chipmunks), and any new ideas get squeezed out of the mix except at Oscar season.  Some of the remakes in recent years have been downright baffling, in many cases at the expense of original films that absolutely got it right the first time.  So let's take a look at some of those....

10. The Karate Kid

Directed by John G. Avildsen of Rocky fame, The Karate Kid tells a similar story of an unlikely underdog's one chance at redemption.  Danny Larusso is the new kid in a California suburban school, who immediately runs afoul of some local bullies who also happen to be martial arts students.  After taking a few beatings from these kids, Danny enlists the help of the superintendent of his apartment building, an old Okinawan by the name of Mr. Miyagi.  The film follows Danny's unorthodox training and builds to the karate competition where Danny overcomes the odds and wins the whole thing.  This was a truly inspirational 80s film that has aged fairly well despite some cheesy moments and its similarity to Rocky.  But in 2010 Will Smith co-produced an "update" starring his son Jaden as the titular "Kid" and Jackie Chan as the Miyagi character.  While it got mostly positive reviews, it just struck me as cheap exploitation of a known brand (Lots of that going on in Hollywood), and I can't imagine anyone deeming it the definitive version, nor do I recall anyone clamoring to see it remade.  Makes one wonder when an ill-advised Rocky remake will see the light of day.

9. Psycho

Speaking of remakes no one asked for, in 1998 Gus Van Sant released his homage/shot-for-shot recreation of Alfred Hitchcock's iconic thriller.  This version would be in color, thus robbing the film of the original's distinctive look, and aside from a few shots now made possible by updated technology (the opening crane shot into the hotel room window for example), Van Sant offered literally nothing new.  He used the original shooting script and didn't make any changes to the story, nor did he try to make it his own.  This was nothing more than a vanity project, akin to a contemporary band covering a classic old song note-for-note, resulting in a banal sound-alike.  This doesn't even cover the senselessly inappropriate casting of Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates in a performance that can't hold a candle to Anthony Perkins' original.  If I ever said "Let's watch Psycho" and the person I was hangin' out with popped in the 1998 version I'd punch them square in the face.

8. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Another classic horror movie pillaged by new millennium Hollywood, TCM broke new ground in 1974 as a realistic, gritty slasher film, before such a thing even existed.  Despite hardly showing any explicit violence, the film succeeded in being a psychologically disturbing, visceral experience that gave birth to the legendary character of Leatherface.  After several terrible sequels the franchise got a reboot in 2003 when Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes company tackled the material, creating a slickly overproduced, run-of-the-mill gorefest with no sense of realism.  This went against the spirit of the original, which relied on mood and guerrilla-style filmmaking to plunge the viewer into palpable terror.  The '03 version was simply another geek show in an already overfarmed genre, and it seemed Platinum Dunes was transparently cashing in on the name recognition.  Worse, it prompted remakes of every popular slasher movie from the 70s and 80s.  Which brings us to....

7. A Nightmare on Elm Street

Ugh.  In 2010 Platinum Dunes, having churned out remakes of TCM, Halloween and Friday the 13th, finally undertook the most stylish of the 80s slasher franchises, A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Things actually got off to a promising start when the always-creepy Jackie Earl Haley was cast as Freddy Krueger.  And, well, that's it.  Everything else about this remake stunk.  From the paint-by-numbers look of the film to the overuse of CG animation to the unimaginative dream sequences, to the explicitly revealed "Freddy is a child molester" twist, this film was devoid of the fun and ingenuity of the original.  It was so poorly received the studio abandoned the planned sequel and left us only with this disposable retread.

Friday, September 14, 2018

WWE Hell in a Cell 2018 Preview & Predictions

And we're back!  Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at!

This month is WWE's Hell in a Cell PPV, where the most demonic structure is used not so much to settle a blood feud, but to fulfill an annual obligation.  Everyone's on the edge of their seat!  This year we have two Cell matches, neither one of which really warrants the Cell gimmick.  And we have a very personal regular match that might've actually lent itself to an appropriate use of the Cell.  But what do I know?

I will say this show looks quite good on paper, which is more than I can say for most WWE shows lately.  I certainly don't care about every match on here but even the ones I'm not that interested in have potential to be solid.  So there's that.

Let's get to it.

***Dan is in the lead with 65% accuracy (43/66), Dave and I are tied in second with 62% (41/66), and Landon is pulling up the rear with 56% (37/66)***

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. Rusev Day

It's the battle of Days!  Whenever I have a battle of days, sick days usually win.  Anyway, I'm disappointed to once again not see The Bar going after the belts, but maybe they're saving Cesaro & Sheamus for another time.  This match doesn't interest me much since I don't see Rusev Day as a serious threat so soon after the New Day won the belts.  This'll be ok I guess.

Justin: New Day retain
Dan: Yup
Landon: New Day
Dave: New Day

Hell in a Cell: Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy

Really?  THIS warrants a goddamn Cell match?  This recycled feud from ten years ago, based on essentially "I'm jealous because Jeff is more popular than I am?"  Cheer up Randy, at least you're not Roman.  Meanwhile AJ and Joe have had a very personal feud over the WWE Title, but they just get a regular match.  Makes sense.  Is anyone terribly invested in Hardy-Orton, because I sure ain't.  As I feared when Orton got involved with Jeff, Nakamura, the US Champion, has been reduced to an afterthought.  Fuck this place.

Justin: Orton wins
Dan: Seems pointless to even have this match but I guess RKO.
Landon: Wait, this is actually happening??  Uhh.....Randy?
Dave: Orton I guess

Mixed Tag Match: Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse

I don't care much for this.  Maybe my concept of mixed tag matches is stuck in the 80s, but aside from Ronda's debut at this year's WrestleMania I can't remember any truly strong examples of this match type.  A feud that's been main eventing Smackdown week after week should culminate in something better than what has traditionally been a sideshow throwaway match.  Remember Savage & Sherri vs. Dusty & Sapphire?  That's the first thing that comes to mind when I think "Mixed Tag."  Maybe the Danielsons and the Mizanins will redefine it here, I don't know.  But I'm not terribly excited about this.

Justin: The Bryans stood tall at the end of Smackdown which usually means The Mizes win here.  But Miz also won the first match of this feud at SummerSlam.  So it's a coin flip.  Heads.  I'll pick the Bryans.
Dan: Miz & Missus
Landon: Daniel and Brie
Dave: The Mizes

Thursday, September 13, 2018

NJPW Destruction 2018 Preview & Predictions

It's September, and that means it's time for New Japan's triple PPV!  Destruction will once again emanate from three different cities on three different days, with only one or two really important matches on each show.  With that in mind, Landon Wayne (@LSWayne21) and I are back with our picks for the top nine matches of the tour.

It goes without saying, but NJPW offers an incredible product.  2018 has been, by and large, just as much a banner year for New Japan as 2017 was (financially moreso), with numerous five-star matches, fantastic major shows, and an absolutely stellar G1 tournament.  The fall months are typically when things wind down a little and build toward the Tokyo Dome, but that doesn't seem to be happening this year.  The Destruction shows feature two of the biggest and potentially best matches of the year, both of which could've reasonably been saved for King of Pro-Wrestling in October.  I'm curious how big that show is going to be, given the scheduled Destruction main events.

Anyway, let's get to the picks....

Destruction in Hiroshima

Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Evil & Bushi vs. Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Taka Michinoku & El Desperado

These shows, as always, have no shortage of multi-man tag matches, so I limited this preview to the biggest few.  This one pits the active members of LIJ (Hiromu Takahashi is sadly out with a neck injury until mid-2019) against four of the Suzuki-Gun thugs.  All three Destruction shows feature this feud in some form.  This'll be fun and chaotic, with both stables making liberal use of rulebreaking tactics.  I'll go with SG to win the first round.

Justin: SG
Landon: SZGN

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Great Bash Heel vs. Kazuchika Okada, Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi

A preview of the briefcase match in Kobe, Tanahashi will team with his old pals GBH against Okada and two of his stablemates.  I suspect we'll get a Tanahashi-White rematch in October since White did defeat Tana in the G1.  Stands to reason I would say.  With that in mind I think White scores the pin on someone here.

Justin: CHAOS
Landon: CHAOS, who is still trusting Jay White for some reason

IWJP Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Oh man.  This match stole the entire G1 tournament for me.  What in god's name are Omega and Ishii gonna to do each other when the title is on the line?  This is basically an automatic five-star match.  If The Greatest Match Ever hadn't already happened at Dominion I'd say this had a good shot at Match of the Year.  Might have to settle for second-best.

Justin: Omega retains obviously
Landon: Omega retains, but there's this shred of me that still wants Ishii to win.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Jaws Movies, Ranked

by Dan Moore

In honor of the Jaws franchise all being available via streaming, here now are all the Jaws flicks ranked in order, from worst to best. Bear in mind, I have an unhealthy obsession with one of them. I’ll let you decide which.


Easily the worst of the bunch. This one was made back when 3-D was the next hot thing but also the next hot garbage because the technology SUCKED. Bland performances, forgettable 3-D effects and the worst use of Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett Jr. ever.  You wanna see these two masters go at it, go find a movie called Enemy Mine that has Quaid in a bad fake beard and Jr. covered in makeup resembling some sort of fish pussy. It’s TREMENDOUS.

A homeless man and a squid walk into a bar...


The least offensive of the sequels. It’s got most of the original actors playing their original parts. Even though Roy Scheider was forced to make this movie against his will, he doesn’t phone it in. His Chief Brody is still a determined and downright awesome public official. Sure, it’s ridiculous. Here comes another killer shark eating folk around Amity whilst the local bureaucratic bigwigs don’t believe the Chief. The funniest parts about this one are when Brody goes to the Mayor and tells him they might have a shark problem AGAIN. Larry Vaughn wants NO part of this insane man’s ramblings about a great white eating more people. Just get the fuck out of his office so he can get a handy from Tabitha the secretary.

Jesus Christ, again with this shark shit, Marty??

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Top Ten Things: Wrestling Championship Belts

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

Today I'm talking about some of my favorite championship belt designs in wrestling lore.  For decades the WWF generally seemed to have the most eye-catching belt configurations, but in recent years other companies have somewhat surged ahead in this area.  With the advent of the Universal Title it became clear WWE was endeavoring to make all their belts look the same, a la UFC.  To me that's both uncreative and bad business - if you're trying to sell loads of belt replicas wouldn't you want each one to look unique?

A great-looking belt design can add a sense of grandeur to a title, helping elevate it beyond simply being a prop, to being one of the richest prizes in the game and a symbol of excellence.  Of course a lot of that also depends on who wears the strap, but a championship belt needs to look like something for which every wrestler would be willing to risk it all.

Anyway, here are my ten favorite championship belt designs of all time....

10. WWE US Title (current)

Probably the least conventional of the designs on this list, the WWE version of the US Title uses the American flag as the center plate background, with images of the Statue of Liberty on the side plates.  While the NWA and WCW versions of the belt sported understated stars and stripes imagery, the WWE version just took it one step further, conveying literally the idea of a United States Champion.

9. WWF Intercontinental Title (1985-1998, current)

For years this was the best-designed belt in the WWF.  When the "Winged Eagle" belt was adopted in 1988, the Intercontinental Title became physically the largest belt in the company, and for a long time this was the top belt for the in-ring workhorses.  It displayed a simple, blocky design (which was borrowed by both WCW and ECW for some of their belts) with the side plates all carrying the company logo behind the image of two wrestlers grappling.  This design was so successful the company went back to it in 2011, after the rather bland Attitude Era design was discontinued.  It's kinda sad the best-looking current WWE Championship is the one recycled from the 80s.

8. TIE: ROH World Title (current, 2012-2017)

I had to cheat here and include a tie.  The current and former Ring of Honor belt designs are both incredibly ornate and gorgeous to look at.  The previous one boasted leaves climbing up the sides in incredible detail, bringing to mind Roman gladitorial games, while the new version smacks of kingly tradition, with its paisley flourishes adorning a stylized crown above the nameplate.  These are both beautiful belts.