Thursday, November 15, 2018

NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2018 Preview & Predictions

Goddamn this show looks great.  Despite only being four matches, this might be the most stacked show in NXT history.  Oddly the NXT Title match is the LEAST interesting of the four, but that should be excellent nevertheless.  This weekend has some serious potential in general, even on the main roster side.

Let's get to pickin'....

Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano

I can't believe Gargano is a heel now.  Apparently the feud with Ciampa broke his soul and made him a violent bastard.  Not a bad story I guess.  I wonder if DIY will eventually reunite as heels.  This match could steal the show given the talent involved, and on this card that's saying something.

Justin: This has to be more than a one-off match, right?  If so, Gargano should win the first go-round.
Landon: Gargano

NXT Women's Championship 2/3 Falls: Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane

I love this.  These two have had two very good outings so far and 2/3 Falls matches when done well are fantastic (Okada-Omega anyone?).  Since there are only four bouts on the show I think this'll get adequate time; I'm thinking in the 25-minute range.  Baszler just regained the title last month so she's gotta retain here.

Justin: Shayna retains
Landon: Shayna

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 9 (2011-2013)

These next three are quite a mixed bag....

Survivor Series 2011 - Madison Square Garden - 11/20/11

This show was loads of fun, up until the main event.  There's not a bad match on the card, but I found the Rock/Cena vs. Miz/Truth tag match utterly depressing.  But we'll get to that in a bit.

The PPV opened with a spectacular US Title match, as Dolph Ziggler defended against the departing John Morrison.  These two gelled superbly and JoMo left WWE with a bang.  This eleven-minute match featured 17 kinds of Awesome.  For those counting, that's roughly 1.5 kinds of Awesome per minute.

Second was a solid Divas Title match between Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres.  Nothing mindblowing, but both of these women could work, and they did.

The lone elimination match was next, as Wade Barrett led Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, Hunico (the former Fake Sin Cara and now simply known as Sin Cara), and Mr. Double-Duty Dolph Ziggler against Randy Orton, Sheamus, Kofi Kingston, Mason Ryan (??), and Sin Cara (now simply known as Not Sin Cara).  As always someone had to be pinned very early; this time it was Ziggler, and shortly after that Sin Cara injured himself (man this guy turned out to be a bust) and had to forfeit his spot.  Once that stuff was over though, this turned into a pretty good elimination match.  Barrett was just beginning to look like a real star and along with Cody, outlasted Team Orton to take the duke.  Sadly Barrett was plagued by injuries the rest of his WWE run and his push was never fully realized.

The World Title match was up next as Mark Henry defended against The Big Show.  On paper this sounds like a snorefest, but it was actually pretty decent.  The action was stiff and included the old Tackle-Through-The-Barricade spot.  Henry hit Show with a nutshot to cheaply retain the belt, and Show made him pay for it by injuring his leg with a chair.  This would've been the perfect time for Mr. Money in the Bank Daniel Bryan (who wasn't booked on this show) to cash in and win the World Title in front of a rabid New York crowd, but the company chose to save that for the TLC PPV in December.  Whatever....

All you gotta do is tap, Del Rio.  Tap-tap-tappa-roo!

The true main event of the evening was second-to-last as WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio defended against WWE's newest folk hero CM Punk.  This was a fantastically-worked match, full of great action, drama, submission holds and reversals.  After 17 minutes Punk forced Del Rio to tap out to the Anaconda Vice and began his legendary 434-day reign as WWE Champion.  The MSG crowd ate up this match and its aftermath with a serving ladle.  Unfortunately its awesomeness would be upstaged by the billed main event.....

New WWE Champion: Did Bryan Danielson Just Debut in WWE?

Well that was certainly a surprise.  As WWE often does, the company shook up the Survivor Series lineup at the eleventh hour, and the for the second year in a row the WWE Title changed hands less than two weeks before the PPV, thus altering one of the top matches.

Daniel Bryan is the new WWE Champion.  Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is how mixed my feelings are about this development.  On one hand, I've been waiting four-and-a-half long years for Daniel Bryan to win back the belt he never lost.  On the other, AJ Styles was so close to eclipsing CM Punk's reign (mid-January would've been the benchmark).  On one hand, Daniel Bryan is now a heel and will undoubtedly be incredibly entertaining in that role (Please please please bring back "I have till five!").  On the other, Styles very possibly would've eked out a win over Brock Lesnar to avenge last year's loss.  On one hand we finally get to see the SummerSlam 2014 main event we were supposed to get.  On the other, that match was designed to be a complete squash and this could be too.  On one hand, this shakeup is super newsworthy and may create loads more interest in Survivor Series.  On the other, it's now kind of a heel vs. heel main event, where it used to be a clear babyface-heel dynamic.  On one hand, Bryan winning the title is a big Smackdown moment obviously engineered to create a can't-miss feel about the show and increase its ratings before Fox takes over.  On the other, they gave away a huge title change on free television with zero buildup.

So yeah, I'm conflicted on the whole thing, but mostly leaning positive.  After all, this ensures the AJ-Bryan feud will continue into December and we should finally see that match on PPV at TLC.  Between that and the likely Ambrose-Rollins match, that PPV is looking pretty sweet right now.  Plus the smart money would be on Bryan keeping the belt till WrestleMania at least, more or less guaranteeing a strong co-main event.

As for Bryan vs. Lesnar, I just want to see a competitive match like Brock vs. AJ was.  I imagine Brock has enough respect for Bryan to not just steamroll the guy, not to mention it would look really lame for a newly turned, newly crowned heel champion to get killed five days later by the other champ (WWE has done more insane things of course).  So I think it's realistic to hope for a reasonably back-and-forth match, especially if Bryan cheats his ASS off.  And on that note, I think Bryan should steal the win here.  Think about it; Bryan is definitely staying with the company for three more years, Brock may not be (no one knows what he's doing after WrestleMania at this point).  Bryan plans on wrestling every PPV and every weekly TV show, Brock won't be back till at least the Rumble.  Have Strowman and AJ both try to cost their respective enemies the match if you have to, have Bryan go full-on Zack Sabre Jr. and try to tie Brock in knots or win with cradles, have him go full Eddie Guerrero and cheat at every turn, I don't care how underhanded it is.  But Bryan should get the cheap win to give him plenty of heat going into TLC, a show Brock isn't wrestling on anyway. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Brewery Reviewery: Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co. (Newport, RI)

Welcome to another Brewery Reviewery, here at!  I love beer and I love going to the places where they make the beer.  And then I like to write about the places where they make the beer that I love.  This past weekend on our annual trip to Newport, RI I headed over to one of the first breweries I'd ever visited, Newport Storm!

Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co.
293 JT Connell Hwy
Newport, RI 02840

Newport Storm (which now falls under the combined banner of Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co.) was founded in 1999 by a group of friends who had all majored in chemistry, and for years served as the state's only brewery.  They eventually expanded into distilled spirits as well, now offering whiskey, rum, gin, amaro and moonshine.  Their tasting room offers all that, plus a variety of their signature beers, as well as guided (or self-guided) tours around the facility.  The tasting room was always an inviting spot, and recent updates like improved seating and board games have made it even cozier.  I'm not a spirits guy, so I went with a beer flight; of the six options on tap a flight includes four 4 oz. pours for nine bucks, plus if you hold onto your tasting card and present it at Brick Alley Restaurant & Pub (an ever-popular Newport spot) they'll give you a Newport Storm beer on the house with the purchase of an entree.  Can't go wrong there.

Anyway, let's get to the brewskies.  In addition to the four I sampled in the tasting room I purchased two others for take-home enjoyment, and of course cashed in my tasting card at Brick Alley for another....

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 8 (2008-2010)

Moving on to the era when the 5-on-5 elimination matches started to get good again.....

Survivor Series 2008 - TD Garden - 11/23/08

The 2008 edition was uneven at best.  The good matches were worth watching and the bad matches are to be avoided like a three-week-old pastrami sandwich.  On the plus side there were three traditional elimination matches, and on the minus side there were three mediocre-or-worse singles bouts.

The show opened with a 5-on-5 match, as Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio, The Great Khali, and Cryme Tyme (yet another one of those classy "ethnic" WWE gimmicks) faced JBL, Kane, MVP, John Morrison, and The Miz.  Once past the idiotic, overly-quick eliminations this settled into some okay, watchable Survivor Series fare.  Nothing big was at stake, but it was just a solid, old-school elimination match.  Shawn, Mysterio, and for some reason The Great Khali were the survivors (shortly after this the company finally figured out that Khali probably shouldn't be beating anyone given his physical condition).

A Divas elimination match was next, featuring RAW's Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, Candice Michelle, and Jillian Hall against Smackdown's Michelle McCool, Victoria, Maria, Maryse, and Natalya.  Once again we the audience were expected to believe that brand loyalty was more important to these wrestlers than moral alignment.  The match featured a series of rapid-fire eliminations spread over nine-and-a-half minutes.  Quite forgettable.  Beth Phoenix won the whole thing.

In slot 3 was the first singles match of the night, as The Undertaker and The Big Show plodded through a Casket Match.  I've never felt much chemistry between these two, and this was no different.  Tedious.  Very tedious.

The best 2008 elimination match was next, as Randy Orton led Shelton Benjamin, William Regal, Cody Rhodes, and Mark Henry against Batista, CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, Matt Hardy, and R-Truth.  This match came about because two months earlier at Unforgiven, Orton attacked and punted World Champion Punk backstage, resulting in Punk being taken out of his title defense that night, costing him the Championship by forfeit.  I'm not sure in what universe it's believable that a Champion can be sneak-attacked backstage minutes before his scheduled defense, and the company penalizes him by immediately stripping him of the belt, thus allowing his last-minute replacement (Chris Jericho) to capture said Title.  The whole point of this was to start a major feud between Orton and Punk, but only weeks later Batista returned to WWE TV and usurped Punk's spot in the feud.  Punk became a total afterthought and never got a return Title match, instead having to win another Money in the Bank briefcase to get near the strap again.  Anyway, the match was quite good, despite yet another first-minute elimination and Punk being taken out unceremoniously midway through.  Orton and Cody survived.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 7 (2005-2007)

Rather a mixed bag from '05-'07.....

Survivor Series 2005 - Joe Louis Arena - 11/27/05

This right here is a pretty damn good show.  Shockingly, for the second consecutive year the Survivor Series main event was a traditional elimination match.  While it was built around a completely phony "brand loyalty" premise, it was nice to see a melee between two superteams serve as the top-billed match at this event.

The card opened with a WCW retread - Chris Benoit vs. Booker T in a Best-of-Seven Series match for the US Title.  Their chemistry in 2005 was nowhere near on the level of their 1998 work, but this was still a fine way to open the show.  As with SummerSlam, Benoit went from headlining this PPV in 2004 to curtain-jerking in 2005.

Trish Stratus then took on Melina for the Women's Title in a pretty solid little match.  Trish was usually awesome, and Melina's absurd flexibility always made for some memorable spots.  Not bad.

Third up was a match I wasn't expecting to enjoy at all - Triple H vs. Ric Flair in a Last Man Standing match.  This feud started that October on the "USA Homecoming" episode of RAW, when Triple H turned on Flair for basically no reason.  Seriously, the feud was based on the thinnest of motivations.  Hunter said he realized Flair was no longer a legend and had to be stopped.  Really guys?  That's all you have?  Anyway, this match was definitely longer than it should've been, but still an exceptional, violent brawl with all kindsa flowing crimson.

"You must be stopped, ex-legend!"

The WWE Title match was next as first-time Champion John Cena defended against Kurt Angle.  This was sadly nowhere near their Unforgiven match two months prior, and due in part to special referee Shawn Daivari's biased officiating it devolved into a rather gimmicky affair.  The brief 13-minute running time didn't help either.

In the death spot was the one truly bad match of the night, as RAW GM Eric Bischoff faced Smackdown GM Teddy Long.  The whole RAW vs. Smackdown feud was so utterly forced and devoid of any genuine heat.  Did anyone in the audience truly believe any of these guys was loyal to their own brand, especially when they held Draft Lotteries almost every year to shuffle the roster around?  Idiotic.  Anyway, this was what you'd expect from two non-wrestlers.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Top Ten Things: WWE Survivor Series Teams

What up, m'nerds!  Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at!

With the 32nd annual Survivor Series around the corner (Hard to believe it's been three decades!) I thought I'd take a look back at my ten favorite Survivor Series squads over the years.  As many of you may know I'm a huge fan of the Survivor Series concept - always have been - especially when we get to see two superteams duke it out on the big PPV stage.  Often an elimination match is only built around one feud: the captain of one team vs. the captain of the other.  In cases like that you'll often see teams like The Undertaker's 1995 bench, comprised of low-carders Henry Godwin, Savio Vega and "Make a Difference" Fatu.  Hardly an all-star cast, and since they swept that match Taker didn't even really need them.  But when a match consists of multiple A-listers trying to resolve multiple angles and rivalries, magic happens.  Let's take a look at the list.

***Note: I'm presenting this in chronological order, as ranking these ten teams would be difficult, and I don't like things that are difficult.***

1. Team Randy Savage (1987): Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake & Jim Duggan

The first-ever Survivor Series match pitted Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man and four of his pals against two former Champs and a few other guys who'd had issues with HTM.  Savage's team boasted easily the strongest lineup of the inaugural PPV.  Beefcake, Roberts and Duggan were all super over, but the most mind-blowing inclusion was Savage's former archnemesis Ricky Steamboat, with whom he'd feuded on and off for two years.  The sight of these two working together after Savage's babyface turn was incredible.  Ultimately this team made fairly easy work of HTM's lineup, only suffering one pinfall loss (Beefcake) and losing Duggan to a double countout before gaining a 3-on-1 advantage on Honky Tonk, who took a powder at the end.  This stacked team kicked off the grand Survivor Series tradition with a bang.

2. Team Powers of Pain (1988): Powers of Pain, Hart Foundation, British Bulldogs, Rockers & Young Stallions

This particular concept yielded the Match of the Night at the first two Survivor Series PPVs and I can't believe no effort was made before 2016 to bring it back.  The 1987 20-man match was excellent and highlighted the WWF's robust tag team division.  The 1988 incarnation did it one better, delivering my favorite WWF match of 1988.  The Powers' team included three of the most talented duos in wrestling history - The Harts, The Bulldogs and The Rockers - and looking back now it's stunning to think about how much talent resided in that corner of the ring.  The match eventually boiled down to The Powers vs. Demolition and The Conquistadors, when Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji turned on them before being adopted by the now-heel Powers of Pain.  Probably still my all-time favorite elimination match.

3. Hulkamaniacs (1989): Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts & Demolition

The match may have been a staggering disappointment full of lazy disqualifications and no surprises, but there's no denying what a strong team this was.  WWF Champ Hogan, Tag Champs Demolition, and perennial favorite Jake Roberts assembled for the 1989 main event (slated third on the card for some reason) to take on Ted Dibase, Zeus and The Powers of Pain.  Had the booking been stronger and the heel team not been comprised of stale characters, this could've been a classic battle.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 6 (2002-2004)

This installment, if anything, proves that I should likely see a therapist about my wrestling-related issues.  But I'm not wrong.  Read with caution.....

Survivor Series 2002 - Madison Square Garden - 11/17/02

Sweet mother of God this show pissed me off.  Really, on so many levels this show made me want to smash lots of things with a steel girder.  Besides the obvious surface-level stupidity of this not at all being a proper Survivor Series lineup (Not one traditional SS match?  Really?), the booking was so incredibly nonsensical it actually hurt my face.  Some of the matches were fine, but the backstage political games that plagued WWE at the time undermined almost everything good that happened.  So strap on your hip boots, cuz we's about to wade through some shit.

The opening match was a six-man elimination Tables Match. Ooooh, so close to being an actual Survivor Series match, but nope.  During the brand split in early 2002, the company decided to split up not one, but two of their top tag teams, The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz, essentially gutting the entire division.  Oh, and they made the Tag belts exclusive to RAW so almost no teams even existed to fight over them.  Makes sense.  Anyway, this match saw Bubba Dudley, Spike Dudley and Jeff Hardy face Three Minute Warning and Rico.  It was fine for what it was, but I gave less than a poop.  There's one moment during the match where Jeff Hardy is brawling outside the ring and the participants have clearly been told to pick up the pace and get to the finish.  Rico gets up on the second rope and quite audibly yells, "Jeff! Get in here!"  Well done sir.

Second was a Cruiserweight Title match between Billy Kidman and Jamie Noble.  This was fine.  Seven minutes was enough for them to make an impression at least.

The Women's Title match was next as Trish Stratus defended against her crazed, smitten rival Victoria (another Trish feud played out in similar fashion a few years later with Mickie James).  Victoria was great as this psychotic character who seemed to harbor romantic feelings for Trish.  She also had Tatu's "All the Things She Said" as her entrance theme, which was fucking fantastic - probably the best entrance theme in the company at the time.  This match was pretty good and elevated Victoria as an excellent heel champ.

Okay, here's where things get stupid, folks.  The WWE Title match saw the company's newest main event star Brock Lesnar, fresh off cleanly defeating Rob Van Dam, The Rock and The Undertaker in PPV bouts (plus Hogan and Flair on free TV), defend against The Big Show, fresh off defeating almost no one on RAW for months.  Big Show had been floundering for the better part of two years and lost basically every feud he was involved in, only to be traded to Smackdown and immediately given a #1 Contender's spot.  Umm, what?  To make matters worse, the storyline was that Lesnar's manager Paul Heyman legitimately feared for Lesnar's well-being after Big Show attacked him, and was convinced Lesnar couldn't win the match.  Keep in mind Brock Lesnar was undefeated at this point while The Big Show just came off a horribly unsuccessful midcard run on RAW.  Got that?  So Lesnar's manager Paul Heyman didn't think the undefeated WWE Champion could beat his newest challenger who had just spent months losing most of his matches.  Did WWE think their viewers didn't watch both shows?  Also of note: Big Show's most recent PPV match prior to this was at May's Judgment Day, where he and Ric Flair lost a handicap match to Steve Austin.  Yeah there's a credible challenger.

Why is Big Bully Busick beating up Brock Lesnar?

Anyway, the match was a four-minute brawl where the big story was that Lesnar's ribs were injured (to be fair Lesnar was legit injured so he couldn't work a full match).  Lesnar dominated much the match, lifted Big Show up for an F5 (incredible), and went for the pin, only for Heyman to turn on Lesnar and help The Big Show win the Title.  So let me make sure I'm clear on this.  We're supposed to believe that Paul Heyman was so convinced his guy couldn't beat this perennial midcarder that he "opportunistically" turned on Lesnar, despite Lesnar never having lost a match, and despite Lesnar having THIS match won.  Sorry, did anyone at WWE Creative bother to proofread this garbage before they greenlit it?  This is some of the worst storytelling I've ever been privy to.  None of this made sense, and it wasted the potentially HUGE moment of Brock Lesnar's first pinfall loss by giving it to someone who wouldn't benefit from it (oddly similar to WCW booking Kevin Nash to beat Goldberg).  Oh, and the match wasn't good.

The one really great match on this show was the WWE Tag Team Title match (the company realized that RAW had basically no tag teams left to challenge the champions Chuck & Billy, so rather than the logical option of having the champs wrestle on both shows they created a Smackdown-only set of Tag belts) - a Triple Threat Elimination bout between Champions Rey Mysterio & Edge, Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit, and Los Guerreros.  This three-way feud for the straps resulted in some spectacular television in the fall of 2002, or as it's known by most, The Smackdown Six Era.  The only problem was that the belts changed hands every couple weeks.  Angle and Benoit were the first champions, but two weeks later they lost the belts to Edge & Mysterio, who lost them here to Eddie & Chavo.  But this was a helluva good match (with a slightly anticlimactic third act after Angle & Benoit were ousted), and really the only bright spot on the show.

Yes, I mean that wholeheartedly.  The Tag Title match was far and away the best thing on this card, including the inaugural Elimination Chamber.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Top Ten Things: Metallica Songs

And we're back with another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

Today I'll be talking about what are in my estimation the ten best songs by the greatest metal band of all time, Metallica!  For those of you who are new to the site, my associate Dan Moore and I argued at great length about Metallica's recent works HERE, but we both agreed that in the pantheon of face-melting, gut-pummeling, earhole-drilling heavy music, Metallica stand head, shoulders, knees and toes above the rest.  From their searing debut Kill 'Em All to their mainstream rock megahit Metallica (otherwise known as The Black Album), to their misguided, psychotherapy-infused St. Anger and subsequent return to shred-worthy form, the epic Death Magnetic, Metallica have crafted a masterful body of work consisting of nine (soon to be ten) distinctive studio albums that span three decades.

But which of their dozens of legendary songs are the best of the bunch?  It was tough to narrow it down to ten and I had to take into account both my own personal connection to the songs and their overall importance.  Let's take a look, shall we?

10. My Apocalypse - The blistering closer of Death Magnetic is reminiscent of the band's early thrashers.  The track is impossibly fast and visceral, and leaves the listener with the clear impression that, yes, Metallica is back to the business of making old-school speed metal better than anyone in the business.

9. Frantic - This selection will undoubtedly be controversial, but the one great song on St. Anger is a brutally heavy aural juggernaut that features a killer tritone-based guitar riff over Lars' relentless percussive hammering (for this one track I can forgive that horribly annoying ringing snare).  Plus I always dug the nu-metal influence of that "Frantic-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tock" line.

8. Fuel - The Load/ReLoad double album has taken a lot of flak over the years for being "too different," and "too grungy" for Metallica's core fanbase, but both albums contain several gems, the best of which is ReLoad's opening track.  "Fuel" has a kinetic, driving beat and an awesomely heavy detuned riff, accompanied by a tremendously hooky chorus.  This was the closest thing to a traditional metal song from Metallica's most experimental era.

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 5 (1999-2001)

We've reached a pretty dark time in the history of this great event.  Beware!

Survivor Series 1999 - Joe Louis Arena - 11/14/99

I hated this show.  HATED it.  Survivor Series 1999 is very high on my all-time worst PPVs list.  It's just pure tripe almost from start to finish, and full of half-assed short-attention-span bouts.  Plus the much anticipated triple threat between the WWF's top three stars ended up not happening as planned due to one of them being unable to compete prior to the show, thus necessitating an incredibly stupid injury angle.

Shane and Steph are very concerned.  Imagine how Vince must've felt.

There were four traditional elimination matches, only one of which passed the ten-minute mark:
The Godfather, D-Lo Brown and The Headbangers faced The Dudley Boyz and the Acolytes.  Godfather and D-Lo won in a quick and forgettable nine-minute bout.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Top Ten Things: Non-Traditional Survivor Series Matches

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

As everyone who's spent any significant time discussing wrestling with me knows, I love me some Survivor Series elimination matches.  Every year I look forward to them, hoping beyond hope that WWE won't completely screw them up.  Some years my faith is rewarded (2016), some years not so much (2017).  But as we all know, Survivor Series is often about more than just the traditional 5-on-5 matches.  Some years the SS gimmick is completely upstaged by a regular old singles or tag team affair.  Some years in fact, one or two non-gimmick matches end up saving the entire show (when the company has decided not to take the traditional SS matches seriously).  Today's list is all about the regular ol' wrestling matches that have stood out, despite their lack of Survivor Series-ness.

Here we go.....

10. Dolph Ziggler vs. John Morrison - 11.20.11

Our first entry is the opening match of the 2011 edition, and the final WWE match for John Morrison, better known these days as Impact Heavyweight Champion Johnny Impact, better known in my household as Johnny Glampants (Damn, he's handsome).  This was a spectacular US Title match, as Dolph Ziggler defended against the aforementioned Captain of Starship Pain.  These two gelled superbly and JoMo left WWE with a bang, nearly stealing the show with a thrilling exercise in nonstop action.  This eleven-minute match featured 17 kinds of Awesome; for those counting, that's roughly 1.5 kinds of Awesome per minute. 

9. Batista vs. The Undertaker - 11.18.07

The Hell in a Cell main event of Survivor Series '07 was the blowoff to the excellent Undertaker-Batista World Title feud.  These two had amazing chemistry and turned in a handful of show-stealing matches that year; I consider 2007 to be when Taker rediscovered his considerable in-ring ability, and also the year Batista came into his own as a worker.  After twenty-plus minutes of back-and-forth action, the returning Edge interfered, disguised as a ringside cameraman, and cost Taker the bout.  While run-in endings usually detract from big matches, in this case Edge's meddling made perfect sense and kicked off a great feud with Taker that lasted through most of 2008.

8. CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Ryback - 11.18.12

The 2012 Series was originally to be headlined by a 5-on-5 match between Team Punk (CM Punk, Miz, Alberto Del Rio, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow) vs. Team Foley (Randy Orton, Ryback, Kofi Kingston, Kane and Daniel Bryan).  Two weeks out however, Vince changed the card around so there'd be a WWE Title match as the main event - CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Ryback.  Going in I was so pissed about the card reshuffle that I figured this would be a forgettable schmozz of a match.  I was incorrect - these three put together one of the two best matches of the night.  This was a high-energy, chaotic brawl full of believable near-falls that culminated with Ryback hitting Shellshock on Cena.  Before he could get the pin though, three unknown assailants clad in black stormed the ring, beat the tar out of Ryback, and triple powerbombed him through a ringside table.  Punk then opportunistically covered the unconscious Cena to retain the belt.  Those three attackers?  Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.  This of course proved to be one of the most exciting angles of the decade, launching the careers of three future top stars, and putting an exclamation point on a helluva main event.

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 4 (1996-1998)

Moving into the late 90s and the inception of WWF Attitude!

Survivor Series 1996 - Madison Square Garden - 11/17/96

Survivor Series '96 might be the best-ever PPV thrown together with seemingly no logic or common sense.  There are some good matches on this show, but really look at it - the lineup is a complete fucking mess.  Aside from one singles match there wasn't much of a reason for anything that happened here.  Four new wrestlers made their in-ring debuts on this show (FOUR!  That's way too many debuts all at once.), only one of the three elimination matches was assembled around a feud, one of the three singles matches was totally unnecessary at this point, and the WWF Title challenger had no business getting a title shot.  I really don't know what they were thinking putting this show together the way they did.

The opening match was entirely built around nothing.  Yet another two-teams vs. two-teams elimination bout, Tag Champions Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith teamed with The New Rockers against The Godwinns and WWF newcomers Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon.  Furnas & Lafon were a celebrated team in Japan but American audiences were not familiar with them at all, and they made no RAW appearances before debuting at this show.  Yet immediately they were positioned as the #1 Tag Title contenders.  Aside from this match having a lot of good wrestling, there was no reason to care about any of it.

Match #2 was the fourth PPV meeting between The Undertaker and Mankind.  Now, let me preface this by saying the Taker-Mankind feud from 1996-1998 was and is one of the greatest feuds of all time.  But they had already wrestled each other on PPV in a regular singles match, a Boiler Room Brawl, and the first-ever Buried Alive match.  So to follow this up the company opted for.....another regular singles match??  This made no sense.  If the level of violence wasn't going to escalate, have Taker and Mankind each captain a Survivor Series team.  Ya know, since the show is called Survivor Series??  This match was fine, but totally anticlimactic after their three previous efforts, and was probably the weakest of this entire feud.

The one elimination match involving a real feud was next, as I-C Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley led Crush, Goldust and Jerry Lawler against Marc Mero, Jake Roberts, "The Stalker" Barry Windham (what a laughable gimmick), and another debuting star, Rocky Maivia (at least with Rocky the WWF showed a bunch of vignettes leading up to this).  This match was just ok, but I did like that both captains were eliminated before the end.  Rocky overcame the odds to win the whole thing, much to the delight one really.  This was long before Maivia showed us all what a true star he could be, and I'll confess that until his 1997 heel turn I didn't see any real potential in him.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Hateful Eight

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, where I pick apart the pros and cons of a given film.  Sometimes it's a movie I'm quite fond of in spite of its flaws, sometimes it's a movie I wish I could be more fond of in spite of its flaws.  Today's entry falls into the latter category.  It's Quentin Tarantino's latest opus, The Hateful Eight.

Quentin Tarantino is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.  His uniquely demented filmography includes three Best Picture nominees, literally dozens of classic sequences, and some of the wittiest, most memorable dialogue ever put to film.  Drawing from his video store geek origins in the early 90s, Tarantino has built a body of work full of loving pastiches of gangster films, westerns, war movies, pulp novels, and even horror films, assembled with such enthusiasm and bravado one can't help but be swept up in their frenetic energy.

So what went wrong with H8?  This epic-length western concerns an eclectic group of bad guys and unscrupulous lawmen who get snowbound in a Wyoming lodge, and the film shows us in painstaking detail how this sociopolitical powderkeg might play out.  You've got a bounty hunter, a notorious outlaw, a black Civil War Major, a racist Civil War General, a British hangman, a newly elected Sheriff, a cowboy, and a Mexican dude.  Plus a stagecoach driver and a handful of other characters who make brief appearances.  The film plays out like an ultra-violent parlor drama, almost entirely taking place in one room, as the characters argue, scheme, bargain, and eventually start shooting at each other.  Like his 2007 film Death Proof, H8 is little more than an exercise in style, and while Tarantino films always have plenty of that (I found the first half of DP a delightfully entertaining play on cheaply cobbled together 1970s grindhouse fare), it left a lot to be desired in other areas.

So let's take a look at the virtues and drawbacks of The Hateful Eight....

The Awesome


As always, Tarantino's casting is first-rate; this film is largely populated with sure-footed veteran actors who suit their characters perfectly.  Kurt Russell is the down n' dirty bounty hunter John Ruth, who will stop at nothing to make sure his quarry, the brutal outlaw/killer Daisy Domergue (a gleefully degenerate Jennifer Jason Leigh, who earned an Oscar nod) hangs to death at Red Rock.  Samuel L Jackson is the resourceful former Civil War officer Marquis Warren, whose instincts are always on point and who's the closest the film has to a protagonist.  Walton Goggins is the slack-jawed, slightly dimwitted "good ol' boy" Chris Mannix, who's on his way to Red Rock to begin his term as Sheriff.  Bruce Dern is the bitter, tight-lipped old Confederate General Sanford Smithers.  And Tim Roth is the oddly foppish Red Rock hangman Oswaldo Mobray.  Whether Tarantino mainstays like Jackson and Roth, or newcomers like Leigh, each member of the cast slips comfortably into their "hateful" roles.  No complaints about the performances.

No shortage of onscreen talent here.


Shot in glorious 70mm (an odd choice considering most of the film takes place in the one room), H8 is a beautiful-looking film, peppered with some breathtaking shots of the snow-covered Wyoming landscape (actually shot in Colorado).  Regular Tarantino collaborator Robert Richardson gives the film a classic widescreen look, and it's a shame there weren't more locations in the story to take advantage of the medium.

They shoulda filmed the whole movie outside.

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 3 (1993-1995)

After three pretty bad editions of the Thanksgiving Night/Eve Spectacular, things somewhat got back on track in the mid-90s.......

Survivor Series 1993 - Boston Garden - 11/24/93

Well that's more like it.  The '93 Series PPV was something of a return to form after the format had been watered down and then abandoned completely over the three previous years.  This show marks the first time a wrestling PPV had ever been held in Boston, so it has some sentimental value for me.  I was tempted to buy a ticket, but since it was Thanksgiving Eve and I'd have to travel home to the 'burbs anyway, I opted to watch on the tube.

This show not only put the focus back on the elimination matches, but for the first time since 1990 the main event was one of them.  The company made the most of a terribly depleted roster and put on a pretty damn good show, all things considered.  This would sadly be Bobby Heenan's final WWF PPV, as he would soon leave the company and wind up in WCW.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Big NJPW & WWE News from The Weekend

Big weekend for wrasslin' news, folks.  Two major PPV events took place, one good, one embarrassing, but both have some heavy ramifications for the next couple months of matches and angles.  

Power Struggle

First off, NJPW's final major event of the year is in the books, and Power Struggle was a solid show with three very good top matches.  Chris Jericho of course retained the Intercontinental Title over Evil, in a highly entertaining back-and-forth brawl that helped build toward the Jericho-Naito rematch at the Dome.  Evil held his own in his second-ever PPV main event, while Jericho looked good once again working his Terry Funk-esque style.  Post-match Naito stepped up to challenge Jericho for the Dome, and Jericho said he's already beaten Naito and will not be facing him again.  But New Japan announced the match a day later anyway.  That was weird. 

The match of the night for me went to Naito vs. Sabre, a technically dazzling clash of styles typical of Sabre, with Naito struggling throughout to counter Zack's innovative grappling.  Naito worked over Sabre's neck early on, which ended up making the difference, as Zack couldn't lock in his Orienteering with Napalm Death finisher properly.  Naito hit a Destino out of nowhere and followed it up with a second for the win.  A very strong semi-main event match. 

The runner-up was Ishii vs. Suzuki, an absolutely brutal fight that mostly consisted of the two of them standing toe-to-toe and hitting each other as hard as they could.  Just insane strikes in this one.  Ishii outlasted his sadistic opponent to retain the RPW Title.  I'm curious if he'll get to defend it again at the Dome (hopefully against someone like Sabre?).

Hirooki Goto regained the NEVER Openweight Title in another stinker against Taichi.  I'm really not sure what they were thinking putting that belt on Taichi, who's a good chickenshit heel character but all wrong for the NEVER belt.  Goto needs a good opponent for the Dome so that title can get back on track.

The final piece of big news from Power Struggle was RPG3K winning back-to-back Super Jr. Tag tournaments, setting up a rematch of the three-way finals at WrestleKingdom.  Kind of odd that Bushi & Shingo would be included in the Jr. Tag Title match since they lost here, but I'm okay with it.  I called it in my predictions that no matter who won here we'd likely see a rematch at the Dome. 

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 2 (1990-1992)

Sadly the WWF followed up its first three good-to-excellent Survivor Series PPVs with three mediocre-to-awful ones.  Here we go with Part 2.....

Survivor Series 1990 - Hartford Civic Center - 11/22/90

Dear God this show sucked.  For the first time (and certainly not the last), the WWF took the amazing Survivor Series concept and diluted it beyond all recognition.  The 4-on-4 format was still in effect from 1989 but they added the wrinkle that the survivors of each match would meet at the end of the show for a "Grand Finale" match.  A very cool idea in theory, but a terrible one in execution.

For one thing it resulted in six elimination matches - far too many for a three-hour PPV.  For another, the company also added a Mystery Egg segment - the climax to a weeks-long series of teasers where at the TV tapings they would show this giant turkey egg in the arena and let everyone know it was due to hatch at the PPV (How did they pinpoint the exact date, might I ask?).  At the Series, the egg hatched, and it was a man in a turkey suit, known as the Gobbledy Gooker.  The Gooker ran down to the ring and danced with Mean Gene Okerlund, and that was it.  That's what this whole angle was built around.  Just a colossal waste of everyone's lives.

Anyway, the show opened (OPENED!!) with the match involving WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior.  This was the match I was most looking forward to, mind you; the hyped main event, and it went on first.  Warrior captained a team of Kerry Von Erich and the Legion of Doom, against Mr. Perfect (with whom Warrior was NOT feuding at the time) and the three members of Demolition.  Nevermind that Warrior was actually feuding with Randy Savage (who I presume wasn't medically cleared to wrestle, being that the two never fought until the following March), the lineup still looked intriguing.  And then it only went fourteen minutes.  Wait.  Thus far the shortest-ever Survivor Series match was almost 18 minutes, while the others were well over 20.  The MAIN EVENT of this Survivor Series PPV lasted fourteen minutes??  Something ain't right here.  Warrior won, incidentally.

Hmm, which of these four guys doesn't belong?
Incidentally only one of these men is still living.

Next was the Dream Team of Dusty Rhodes, Koko B. Ware, and The Hart Foundation against the Million Dollar Team of Ted Dibiase, Honky Tonk Man, Greg Valentine, and mystery partner Kane the Undertaker (that's right, his first name was originally Kane).  This match was pretty good partly due to the intrigue of Taker's introduction, and partly because of the later stretches of the match when it came down to Bret vs. Dibiase.  Ted won the whole thing.

Friday, November 2, 2018

NJPW Power Struggle 2018 Preview & Predictions

It's the last big stop on the way to the Dome!  Power Struggle is upon us, and on paper looks like a very solid show.  There's no monumental main event match but rather a host of very good uppercard bouts, including the New Japan return of Chris Jericho, defending his Intercontinental Title for the first time.  His presence alone should mean a sellout.

Anyway let's get to this WrestleKingdom 13-shaping show....

Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV, Soberano Jr. & Volador Jr. vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, ACH, Chris Sabin & Toa Henare

It's the leftover Jr guys from the tournament against each other.  Should be a fun opener that goes around 8 minutes.

Justin: Team Liger
Landon: Taguchi Japan

Kushida & GBH vs. Robbie Eagles & Guerrillas of Destiny

This is here to further build the BCOG guys I think.  Should be decent.

Justin: BCOG
Landon: BCOG

Super Jr. Tag League Finals: El Desperado & Kanemaru vs. RPG3K vs. Bushi & Shingo Takagi

We've got a very unusual scenario for this final match, a three-way tie with each team having beaten one of the other two teams.  The winners here (provided it's not Desperado & Kanemaru) will presumably get a title shot at the Dome.  Frankly I'd like to see Sho & Yoh vs. Bushi & Tagaki as the Dome Jr. Tag match.  But I have a feeling they'll set up another three-way somehow.  Anyway this should be fun.

Justin: Bushi & Takagi
Landon: LIJ

Kazuchika Okada & Beretta vs. Jay White & Bad Luck Fale

This one's all just to set up Okada vs. White in January, so we'll get a preview of that match.  Okada-White has potential to be one of the great feuds of 2019.  Beretta's gotta be here just to take the fall I think.

Justin: The New Original Bullet Club
Landon: White kills Beretta

The History of WWE Survivor Series, part 1 (1987-1989)

From the wrestling-dependent jackoff who brought you The Histories of WWE WrestleMania and SummerSlam comes the official History of WWE Survivor Series.

Welcome to my retrospective about what has traditionally been one of my favorite wrestling concepts, the Survivor Series.  The PPV debuted in 1987 when the WWF's chief rival, the NWA, decided to venture into the PPV market with Starrcade '87.  Vince McMahon, in full-on predatory mode, created a new gimmick PPV to go head-to-head with Jim Crockett's flagship show, but also told the cable companies they would have to choose between Starrcade and Survivor Series, and if they chose the former they would not be permitted to carry the following year's WrestleMania event.  This unfortunately crippled Starrcade's distribution (a shame since Starrcade '87 was a helluva show) and essentially ruined Crockett's PPV hopes, leading to the promotion's sale to Ted Turner in 1988.

The Survivor Series was built around a simple but ultra-awesome concept, superteams of five men (with either one or two captains depending on the year) battling for supremacy in a sequence of elimination matches.  The last team (or portion thereof) left standing would be the winners.  I had seen six-man elimination tag matches but the idea of a 5-on-5 version blew my freakin' mind and I absolutely loved this plan.

For the first few editions the show was entirely comprised of these elimination matches, but as the years have worn on WWE has almost disowned them and made the card more like a regular old PPV with an occasional elimination bout thrown in.  The result has been a very watered-down version of a once epic annual tradition.  But let's take a look at the history of WWE's second-oldest PPV event.

Survivor Series 1987 - Richfield Coliseum - 11/26/87

The original Survivor Series was an absolutely colossal extravanganza.  The three-hour PPV consisted of only four matches, three of which pitted teams of five against each other.  The fourth (and this was fucking GENIUS) stacked five tag teams to a side, and when one man from a tag team was eliminated, both members were gone.  So for example if Dynamite Kid got pinned, his partner Davey Boy Smith had to leave the ring as well.  This match type was only featured in the first two Survivor Series' (and was brought back in 2016), but it was amazing.  It also demonstrated how incredibly deep the tag team division used to be.

That there is a tag team division.

The first event opened with the team of Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts, Brutus Beefcake, and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan facing the Honky Tonk Man, Hercules, "Outlaw" Ron Bass, Harley Race, and Danny Davis.  Savage and HTM were feuding over the Intercontinental Title, and the "Macho Man" had become the second-most popular babyface in the company.  Also consider how monumental it was that Savage and Steamboat were teaming up only months after their venomous blood feud.  This match was absolutely thrilling and kicked off this historic event in style.  Team Savage was dominant, winning the match with three survivors (Savage, Steamboat and Jake) after the hopelessly outnumbered Honky Tonk Man took a powder and got counted out.  Just twenty-four minutes of BOSS.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

George Romero's Living Dead Trilogy: Day of the Dead (1985)

Welcome to the final part of my Living Dead Trilogy retrospective.  If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, check 'em out.....

Dawn of the Dead was such a success the distributor, United Film Distribution Company, signed Romero to a three-picture deal, provided that one of those three films would be a sequel to Dawn.  Romero, fearing that if said sequel wasn't a hit he'd lose the chance to direct the two non-zombie films, opted to save it for last.  His next two movies were Knightriders, a Renaissance faire drama which flopped due to poor distribution, and Creepshow, a horror anthology which was a modest hit but by no means a smash.  As a result, UFDC hedged their bets with the Dawn sequel, only willing to adhere to the original $7 million budget if Romero released it as an R-rated film.  Up to this point George had planned for Day of the Dead to be a massive, sweeping zombie epic, "the Gone With the Wind of zombie films," but refused to compromise the intended violence and gore for an R rating.  Thus the budget was slashed in half and Romero was forced to completely overhaul the project.  The resulting film was initially seen as an underwhelming, depressing letdown after the thrill-ride of Dawn, and made most of its money overseas and on home video.  Amazingly though, Day of the Dead has developed an enthusiastic cult following in the thirty-odd years since, in many ways becoming just as influential as its two predecessors.

Day of the Dead takes place a considerable time after Dawn, when the human race is all but wiped out, and only a few pockets of civilization remain, mostly underground.  The story centers around a small military/scientific contingent occupying an abandoned mine, hoping to find some sort of solution to the zombie infestation.  Living conditions are nearly unsustainable and the scientific team is at the mercy of a crazed Captain, who is uninterested in studying the zombies and simply wants to destroy them.  What follows is a power struggle and clash of ideas between the two factions that actually contains more thematic human drama than any other film in the series.

This guy's a whackaloon.

One of the main plot threads concerns the lead scientist, Dr. Logan (a compellingly demented Richard Liberty), who has begun experimenting on zombie specimens, hoping to "tame" them.  His most promising subject is a ghoul called "Bub," who seems to understand/remember how to work basic tools and appears almost civilized.  This subplot exploits a fascinating story element: that the zombies are no longer the bad guys.  Zombies simply act according to their instinctual nature and the only evil left in the world is that which is perpetrated by the survivors.