Saturday, November 16, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2011)

This show was on its way to being really good, until an idiotic main event match...

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.....

Friday, November 15, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2010)

Well, half of this show is good...

Survivor Series 2010 - American Airlines Arena - 11/21/10

Survivor Series 2010 is like two different shows.  The first half is pretty fantastic.  The second half is so bland it's like the company ran out of energy at the 90-minute mark and just slapped together the last four matches.

The show opened wonderfully with Daniel Bryan defending the US Title against Ted Dibiase.  Bryan was on a major roll, delivering show-stealing matches for the last four PPVs.  This one was no different.  While not on the level of his bouts with Dolph Ziggler, The Miz or John Morrison, Bryan-Dibiase was one hell of an opening contest and further cemented Bryan as a rising star.

Yeah D-Bry!  I love y--- er, I mean...you're quite a grappler.....

Second was one of a series of strong matches between John Morrison and Sheamus.  These two had excellent David vs. Goliath chemistry and their feud, while not exactly raising Sheamus's stock, elevated Morrison splendidly, for a while at least.  Morrison and Sheamus would top themselves at TLC a month later in a thrilling ladder match.

Next up was Dolph Ziggler defending his Intercontinental Title against NXT Season 2 winner Kaval (formerly Low-Ki).  WWE clearly didn't bank on Kaval winning NXT but their hand was forced when the audience overwhelmingly voted for him.  The prize was a PPV Title match of his choosing.  This was another well-worked midcard bout and Kaval looked right at home as an I-C contender.  Unfortunately despite obvious fan support WWE stubbornly refused to do anything with Kaval, even going so far as to inform him they had no plans for him, and he requested his release shortly after this match.  Another example of how much disdain WWE seemingly has for its own audience at times.

The final match in the "good" half of this show was the traditional elimination match.  Alberto Del Rio captained the team of Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, and Tyler Reks against Rey Mysterio, Big Show, MVP, Kofi Kingston, and Chris Masters.  This was solid if a little unremarkable.  Del Rio was strangely knocked out by Big Show halfway in, which more or less telegraphed who was winning this match, given the card position of his four teammates.  Rey and Big Show survived after taking out a slew of midcarders.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

AEW Full Gear, the Company's Best Show So Far

Alright, it took me a few days to watch this whole thing (lotta shit going on these days), but I finally finished it last night, and goddamn this was a good show.  AEW has outdone themselves with Full Gear, a seven-match main card featuring a stellar double main event and a slew of good-to-great undercard bouts.  Some new talents got big wins here, we got a great heel turn, and two of the main event guys tried to murder each other (if you're into that sorta thing).  This was one of the best shows of 2019.


The show kicked off with a Bucks Hot-Opener Special, as they mixed it up with hated rivals Ortiz & Santana (I hate the name Proud & Powerful for these guys - they need to come up with something better).  This was wild and blistering, as one expects from a Bucks match, with lots of high spots mixed with good psychology.  Notable were callbacks to two classic bouts - one was the Bucks vs. Evil & Sanada from Dominion 2018, with Nick missing a kick and injuring his leg on the post (which came back to haunt him when it was time for the Meltzer Driver), the other was the Steiners-Headshrinkers match from WrestleMania 9, as Matt countered a Street Sweeper attempt with a powerslam off Ortiz's shoulders.  The match went a fairly epic 21 minutes and came to a head when Matt missed a corner charge and P&P hit the Street Sweeper on Nick for the sudden pin.  Post-match they got into it again but the Rock n' Roll Express, who were seated at ringside, got involved and Ricky Morton actually hit Ortiz with a fucking Canadian Destroyer and then did a tope to the outside.  At age 63.  Just insane.  Anyway, pretty great stuff and the right team went over.  This feud will continue, as evidenced by the backstage brawl on the following Dynamite episode.  **** 


Hangman Page vs. Pac was a fantastic battle that made both guys look great and served as a definitive Page match.  These two put together a great mix of brawling and high impact signature moves, with Pac avoiding the Buckshot multiple times and Page cutting off the Black Arrow and hitting a top rope fallaway slam.  The most brutal-looking spot came midway as Pac hit a brainbuster onto a ringside chair; this looked like it killed Page.  At the end of the bout Page missed another Buckshot Lariat and Pac tried to low-blow him, but Page caught it and nailed the Deadeye piledriver for the win.  Just excellent stuff from both guys.  ****1/4


The weakest match on the proper PPV (which was still a solid bout) was Shawn Spears vs. Joey Janela, given the unenviable task of following the first two matches.  But Spears looked strong here and Janela got to do a few daredevil spots, including taking a snap powerslam on the apron.  At one point Spears cleverly tied Janela's hair to the turnbuckle using the tag rope and got in several free shots.  The finish involved some great heel tactics - Spears untied a turnbuckle pad, forcing the referee to put it back on, and he and Tully did the old Brain Busters spike piledriver on the floor.  Spears then rolled Joey back in and hit his Death Valley Driver for the decisive win.  Nothing amazing but a very watchable match to help establish Spears as a rising heel star.  **3/4

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2009)

I daresay this was the best Survivor Series of the aughts...
Survivor Series 2009 - Verizon Center - 11/22/09

A quantum leap over the 2008 edition, this Survivor Series moved along with purpose and was a streamlined, entertaining show.  I wasn't too excited about any of it initially but it ended up being a damn fine show.  Interestingly, Vince McMahon told investors in 2009 that he was getting rid of the Survivor Series concept and PPV, saying it had become "obsolete," (as I recall he considered replacing it with WarGames, an even older idea) and I was highly pissed, being that SS has always been one of my favorite gimmicks.  Fortunately cooler head prevailed and the Series stuck around, and is still going strong.

The opening match featured WWE's "youth movement", as Team Miz - Miz, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger took on Team Morrison - John Morrison, Matt Hardy, Evan Bourne, Shelton Benjamin, and Finlay (ok, Fit wasn't exactly part of the "youth movement").  This was a very well-worked elimination match and showcased much of the company's young talent, at a time when the roster desperately needed a shakeup.  For months every WWE PPV was being headlined by the same five guys, and this was the first concerted effort to push some new faces.  Sheamus was dominant and survived along with Miz and McIntyre.  It was clear from this match that the Celtic Warrior was being groomed for big things.

Next up was the newly-turned-heel Batista (Big Dave's work during this run was great) out to destroy his former friend Rey Mysterio for costing him the World Title at Bragging Rights.  Little more than a seven-minute flogging, this match was nonetheless well-executed and conveyed how dangerous Evil Batista could be.

Evil Dave is pretty boss.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2008)

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.

Top Ten Things: Alanis Morissette Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I make lists.  Lots and lots of lists.

Coming off my recent viewing of the stupendously awesome new Broadway show Jagged Little Pill, inspired by the Alanis Morissette album of the same name, I thought I'd make a list of my favorite Alanis songs.  Why not indeed?


I first became aware of Alanis while working at Strawberries record store in the summer of 1995.  One of the promotional tapes we were required to play on a loop all day long included two of her hits, "All I Really Want" and "Hand in My Pocket."  Being a fairly narrow-minded teenage metalhead at the time, my first response to these tunes was "What's with all the goddamn caterwauling??"  As with so many artists and bands I eventually came to love, I couldn't stand these songs initially.  My brain simply wasn't ready to accept this unconventional alt-rock approach to popular radio music.  But then I had to hear them once every hour, and of course they grew on me like a fungus.  Soon after that, my sister told me about another song called "You Oughta Know," and I was surprised it wasn't on the Strawberries tape (for what later became obvious reasons).  When I finally did get to hear it, via MTV, it broke my mind-hole and I immediately exercised my Strawberries employee discount to buy the Jagged Little Pill cassette.  On first listen I fell in love with both the album and Alanis herself (she was a MAJOR celebrity crush of mine for a few years).  I'd never heard pop music with such raw, emotive honesty; I felt like the album reframed my entire worldview, the way you come out of a productive therapy session with a new lease on life.  It was poignant, hopeful, sad, derisive, healing, and on top of that irresistibly hooky.  I was a superfan.

I got to see Alanis in concert a year later, and her visceral stage presence and vocal power absolutely blew me away; I actually liked some of her live versions better than the recordings.  Twenty-plus years later I still consider that one of the best live shows I've ever seen.

Morissette's other albums haven't had the significance for me that JLP did (I imagine that's probably true for many), but seeing the new Broadway show gave me new layers of appreciation and love for the seminal record.

But enough about me, let's talk about songs for a minute.  Here are my ten favorite Alanis Morissette songs (plus four Honorable Mentions)....

For a full review of the Jagged Little Pill Broadway show, click HERE.



HM: All I Really Want

My gateway Alanis song was this JLP opener, a contemplative tune about what she wants out of a relationship and life in general.  It right away spotlighted her offbeat delivery and lyrical playfulness, and while it's not a tippy-top favorite for me, "All I Really Want" nonetheless holds a special place as the song that converted me into a fan.



HM: Head Over Feet

This sweet, tender love song was among the first collaborations between Alanis and her longtime producer/co-writer Glen Ballard.  Its simple chord progression and gentle lyrics about falling in love with your best friend made it a natural radio single, and it immediately became one of her most popular songs.



HM: Joining You

Boasting a Sting-like chorus hook, "Joining You" is about Alanis reaching out to a troubled friend going through a deep depression, saying "I've been where you are, and if I thought we as human beings were reduced to our worst and simplest qualities I'd still be there with you."



HM: Hands Clean

The first single off Under Rug Swept, "Hands Clean" is almost a sequel to "Right Through You," about a music business mentor that took advantage of Alanis when she was young and swore her to secrecy.  While "Right Through You" was rife with resentment and anger over the situation, "Hands Clean" is her way of moving past the episode and forgiving herself for keeping quiet about it.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2007)

Welp, this was an improvement at least....

Survivor Series 2007 - American Airlines Arena - 11/18/07

Things got somewhat back on track in late 2007, as WWE rediscovered consistently watchable PPVs.  That year's edition of No Mercy and Survivor Series began a string of solid shows.  While Series wasn't exactly a throwback to the gimmick's glory days, it was still a strong PPV with two excellent main events.

The show kicked off in style as CM Punk defended the ECW Title against John Morrison and The Miz in a brief but exciting Triple Threat match.  For a little while the company was finally starting to get behind Punk as a rising babyface star (partly out of necessity due to JoMo being suspended for PEDs).

Next was a rather pointless inclusion, a one-fall ten-Divas tag team match.  It was forgettable but inoffensive.

Another free-TV quality match followed as Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch successfully defended the World Tag straps against Bob Holly and Cody Rhodes.  Holly and Rhodes became a team in the logical fashion: they wrestled each other several times with Holly repeatedly beating the piss out of Rhodes until he "learned respect."  This was a terrible angle and a perplexing way to create a babyface duo.  The match here was fine but far from noteworthy.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Top Ten Things: Disney Animated Films

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where tell y'all about a few of my favorite things.  Ten, to be exact.

What with the launch of the new stream service Disney+, today what's on my mind is Disney films.  Specifically the animated variety.  Before Disney was a multimedia, multi-franchise mega-empire, their bread and butter was making well-crafted, feature-length animated movies the whole family could enjoy.  So beloved were these films that the studio re-released them every five to ten years so a whole new generation of kids could experience them.  Many of them are so engrained in our culture it's hard to imagine what childhood must've been like before Walt Disney came along.

But which Disney films are the best?  Which ones still resonate decades later?  Well, here's my take....



10. Beauty and the Beast


Our first entry is one that frankly hasn't aged all that well for me, 1991's Beauty and the Beast.  While this one holds up as a visually rich, touching love story that appeals to viewers of all ages, it strikes me as far less timeless than some of its animated brethren.  The voice acting and songwriting is very much out of an early 90s Broadway production which firmly dates the film for me (along with the unnecessary use of computer animation in that one scene).  Nevertheless BATB is still widely hailed as an all-time classic that, like The Little Mermaid, returned Disney's animation studio to its former glory throughout the 90s.





9. The Great Mouse Detective


Easily my favorite Disney feature of the 1980s was this take on the Sherlock Holmes mythos, with all the characters recast as small animals.  The Sherlock figure is now a mouse called Basil, his Dr. Watson-esque partner is Dr. Dawson, and the film's diabolical Moriarty character is a rat, known as Professor Ratigan.  The Great Mouse Detective is a delightful action-adventure cartoon that sees Basil and Dawson helping a young girl find her kidnapped father and climaxes with a thrilling, CG-enhanced chase through the inner workings of Big Ben's clocktower.  This affectionate Holmes pastiche was only a modest box office success but I consider it an underappreciated near-classic.





8. One Hundred and One Dalmatians


One of the most purely fun Disney features was this 1961 canine-centric adventure, about a pair of dalmatians (Pongo and Perdita) whose puppies get stolen by a sadistic fur fanatic to be made into a coat.  Pongo and Perdita enlist the help of a network of dogs in and around London to find their pups, and the story takes them all over the country.  This isn't the most substantial Disney film but it's relentlessly entertaining, features an iconic villian in Cruella de Vil, and spawned one of the catchier songs in the Disney catalog.  Its animation style places it squarely in the early 60s, but unlike Beauty and the Beast, the datedness works in this film given when it takes place.


The History of WWE Survivor Series (2006)

Here's a PPV I would call joyless...

Survivor Series 2006 - Wachovia Center - 11/26/06

What a depressing show this was.  Survivor Series 2006 was a nice little cross-section of how uninspired and defiantly unsatisfying the WWE product was that year.  Looking over this card there were several potentially good matches, but sadly not one of them broke out of the two-star range.  WWE at this point was pushing who they wanted to push and more or less ignoring everyone else, regardless of how over they were (see Punk, CM).  Basically every match on this card felt like the whole crew was going through the motions and didn't want to be there.  Soooo, let's get started analyzing this bore of a show.

The opening match saw the already dead and buried Spirit Squad (featuring the future Dolph Ziggler) against four Legends with a combined age of roughly 240 - Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Ron Simmons and Sgt. Slaughter.  As with any nostalgia vs. youth match the Legends team won (Flair singlehandedly eliminated three of the Squad members to become the sole survivor), thus ensuring no long-term benefit from the match whatsoever.  This stunk.

Next was the US Title match between Chavo Guerrero and Chris Benoit.  This was fine but wouldn't remotely make either guy's highlight reel.

The third match was Lita's retirement bout against Mickie James for the Women's Title.  Of all the matches on this PPV this was probably the only one with any urgency or motivation from its participants.  Lita clearly wanted to go out with a bang, and both women delivered.

Up fourth was an elimination match that should've been epic given the talent involved.  Triple H, Shawn Michaels, CM Punk and the Hardy Boyz faced Randy Orton, Edge, Johnny Nitro, Gregory Helms, and Mike Knox.  Hmmm, which of these ten dudes doesn't belong?  Could it be the guy who was eliminated 40 seconds into the match?  Yup, WWE once again decided to essentially pull a bait-and-switch by knocking someone out of the match right at the outset.  I love when that happens.  Anywho, what should've been a 20-plus-minute war became an eleven-minute clean-sweep, as the heels were made to look totally ineffectual and incompetent.  And yet the DX-Rated RKO feud continued for two months after this match, even though Edge and Orton got their asses handed to them in decisive fashion here.

Next up is an elimination match featuring DX! The Hardyz! CM Punk!
.............oh, and five other guys.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Theater Review: Jagged Little Pill


Dear Hamilton,

You are and have been the single greatest theatergoing experience of my life thus far.  I regret to inform you however, that your soundtrack's position of "music I choke back tears to on the way to work" is about to be usurped by the forthcoming soundtrack to Jagged Little Pill, the latest Broadway sensation based on the songs of Alanis Morissette.  

Sincerely, 

Justin


What an emotional gut-punch this show is.  Jagged Little Pill uses Alanis's milestone album (plus several of her other tracks) as the inspiration and backbone for a family-centric drama that tackles issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual assault, drug addiction, and marital strife.  That one show is able to juggle this many sociopolitical themes without stumbling over itself is remarkable, but book writer Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) weaves them over and around each other effortlessly, while introducing and developing an ensemble of relatable but flawed everyperson characters.

We open on an affluent suburban family.  The parents, Mary Jane and Steve, have a strained marriage, partly due to his being a workaholic and her behavior growing erratic after a car accident a year earlier.  Their son Nick is an overachiever (largely thanks to Mary Jane's incessant pushing), while their adopted African-American daughter Frankie is a high school activist who resents her parents' overcompensation at treating her as if she were white.  Tension ratchets up after Nick's best friend is accused of raping one of their classmates, while Frankie jilts her girlfriend Jo for a new boy at school.  What results is an emotionally and politically charged exploration of all these hot-button issues as each character is forced to confront their choices and relationships.

The performances by this extraordinary ensemble cast are all wonderfully poignant, and the arrangements and execution of Morissette's music are true to the spirit and brutal honesty of her original recordings.  Marveling at how effectively and seamlessly the songs are incorporated and repurposed, I was reminded why I fell in love with Alanis's megahit album in the first place.  These songs resonate well beyond their mid-90s timeframe, examining universal subjects and emotions with a stunning, raw frankness almost unheard of in pop music.  Their application in this show adds new layers of empathy and relevance, providing numerous choke-up moments as these characters are cracked open and spilled out.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2005)

The first Survivor Series to be themed around an idiotic RAW vs. Smackdown rivalry, this was nonetheless a very good PPV....

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 9, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2004)

The Randy Orton babyface experiment peaks here before its steep crash...

Survivor Series 2004 - Gund Arena - 11/14/04

The 2004 edition was a great big donut PPV - good at the beginning and the end, but empty in the middle.  This was honestly a show I wasn't expecting to like much at all, but it ended up being pretty decent.  The push was on for the OVW Class of 2002, as Randy Orton had become the company's top babyface despite being ill-suited for the role, and John Cena and Batista were emerging to the forefront.  I wasn't much interested in any of these guys but I got why they were being pushed.  JBL as the WWE Champ however was another matter.  Still befuddled by that one.

The opener was a Fatal 4-Way Cruiserweight Title match, as Spike Dudley defended against Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero and Billy Kidman.  Exactly the type of match you want to kick off a PPV - fast-paced and full of crowd-pleasing moves.

Next was a potential show-stealer, as Shelton Benjamin defended the I-C Title against Christian.  This was given ample time and both guys turned in some fine work.  Remember when the company actually seemed to give a shit about Shelton?  And the I-C belt?

The donut hole began now, with the Smackdown elimination match.  Kurt Angle, Carlito, Luther Reigns (any relation to Roman?), and Mark Jindrak faced Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Big Show, and John Cena.  For the second year in a row the SD elimination match seemed like it was only included out of obligation, and one of the participants was eliminated before the opening bell.  Unbelievable.  Carlito ran in fear from his nemesis John Cena (from whom he had cheaply won the US Title in his television debut) and was counted out.  From there Team Eddie dominated and made short work of the heels, winning the match in a scant twelve minutes.

Angle's team got bitchslapped here.

The most offensive match on the show was next, as The Undertaker took on the cosmically inept, made-Sycho-Sid-look-competent Heidenreich.  John Heidenreich was essentially WWE's attempt to replace Brock Lesnar as a monster heel, except he lacked Lesnar's wrestling background and most of his athletic ability and natural presence.  But they still paired him with Paul Heyman hoping the name association and Heidenreich's passing resemblance would make us all forget about Brock.  So in essence he was the 2004 counterpart to Fake Razor & Diesel.  By the way there was a point in this match where John struggled noticeably to figure out how to execute a Cobra Clutch.  How he made it past Developmental I'll never know.  This went sixteen laborious minutes.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2003)

The company rediscovered five-on-five matchups again in 2003, but also presented a lotta shit on top...

Survivor Series 2003 - American Airlines Center - 11/16/03

Speaking of shows that piss me off, take a look at this rather homely little number.  Survivor Series 2003 was quite a mixed bag of random nuts that could've been pretty awesome if reimagined by persons of sound mind.  Like most of what happened in 2003 WWE, the good stuff was really fantastic, but you had to wade through some of the most ill-conceived and/or half-assed drivel to get to it.

Let's start with the main event, as WWE decided to.  Yes, the opening match of this show was the traditional elimination bout involving the WWE Champion (which at the time was still the top belt in the company, in spite of what Triple H wanted everyone to think).  Brock Lesnar led a team of The Big Show, A-Train, Matt Morgan, and Nathan Jones (seriously, he was still employed even after having been removed from the WrestleMania card for being so bad in the ring) against Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Bob Holly, Bradshaw, and an up-and-coming breakout star by the name of John Cena.  This was far and away the match I was most looking forward to, and it not only opened the show, but was given a paltry 13 minutes.  I'd like to repeat that: a ten-man elimination match involving the WWE Champion (and US Champ for that matter) opened the show, and was only given thirteen minutes.  To kick things off, Bob Holly (who had just returned after sustaining a real-life neck injury in a 2002 match against Lesnar) shoved the referee and was disqualified before the match even started.  So already they failed to deliver the advertised match, as it was now a handicap elimination bout.  Sorry, but that's basically a bait-and-switch.  Next, both A-Train and Bradshaw were eliminated within the first minute.  Isn't that special.  After twelve more minutes of rushed action unbecoming of what should've been the main event of the show, Chris Benoit made Lesnar tap and John Cena pinned Big Show to win the match, setting up challengers for both Smackdown singles belts.  Aside from a few good minutes, this more or less sucked.

Probably the most disappointing elimination match ever.

Next, Molly Holly (paying tribute to the recently deceased Crash Holly by wearing a CH armband) defeated Lita to retain the Women's Title.  This was fine for what it was.

The third slot was originally supposed to go to the Cruiserweight Title match between Tajiri and Jamie Noble, but instead they booked a completely purposeless altercation between Eric Bischoff and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, bumping the aforementioned match to the preshow.  They exchanged heated, poorly delivered insults and eventually Cuban got RKOd by Randy Orton.  I am almost without words.  They actually cut a Title match from a show people paid real money to see, to make room for a staged argument involving two non-wrestlers, one of whom had no association with WWE.  If WWE can produce any credible evidence that this segment helped their business or future ratings in any way I will sign over the deed to my house.

The actual third match was Kane vs. Shane McMahon, making this the sixth PPV of 2003 to feature at least one McMahon in a match (and the third PPV of the year to feature TWO McMahons wrestling).  I dunno what this family was smoking in 2003 that made them think people were climbing over each other in the hopes of seeing WWE's owners pretend to fight other people (or each other).  Just unreal stupid.  Anyway this was an Ambulance Match, or as I like to call it, a Casket Match.  Same rules except with an ambulance doubling as a casket.  This stunk other than featuring another Shane-should-be-dead highspot.

For some reason they booked a forgettable Tag Title match between Los Guerreros and The Basham Brothers (one of the most nondescript teams I can recall).  This was your standard free TV match and didn't warrant inclusion on this card.

Finally a PPV-worthy bout broke out as Team Bischoff (Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Christian, Scott Steiner, and Mark Henry) faced Team Austin (Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, Booker T and The Dudley Boyz) in an elimination match for control of RAW.  Over the previous six months or so RAW was run by co-GMs, Steve Austin and Eric Bischoff, whose bickering yielded some pretty amusing segments but got tiresome after a while.  Finally it was decided they would each assemble a team with the winner becoming the sole GM.  For 27 minutes WWE reminded us all how good the Survivor Series concept could be.  This match was full of excellent action and drama, and came down to Shawn Michaels alone against Orton, Jericho and Christian.  A horribly bloodied Michaels fought valiantly, eliminating Jericho and Christian before finally succumbing to Orton.  Steve Austin was then forced to step down and gave a heartfelt farewell speech.  Of course he'd be back on TV a couple months later as the RAW "Sheriff," so in the end this match meant very little.  But it's still one of the best-ever Series matches.

Probably the most unexpectedly awesome elimination match ever.

Time for McMahon circlejerk #2 of the evening, as Vince took on The Undertaker in a Buried Alive match.  This amounted to little more than an extended squash.  Taker bloodied Vince in the opening seconds and spent the next eleven minutes pummeling him, only to be attacked by Kane in the closing moments, allowing Vince to win.  Yup, Vince booked himself to beat The Undertaker.  So let's see, Vince McMahon holds a WWF Title win over Triple H, a Royal Rumble win over Steve Austin, and a Buried Alive Match win over The Undertaker.  This is the pro wrestling booking equivalent of bending in half and blowing oneself.  For the record this sleep-and-nausea-inducing hokum was only about a minute shorter than the Lesnar elimination match, and LONGER than the main event of this show......

.....which ended up being the Goldberg-Triple H World Title rematch.  Remember their match at Unforgiven 2003?  Photocopy it, take out the novelty of a first-time dream match, and throw in a bunch of failed run-ins, and you have this.  Goldberg retained despite Randy Orton, Batista, and Ric Flair all attempting to interfere.  So one could argue that if the Title wasn't going to change hands and this match wasn't going to really one-up the first encounter, that it probably shouldn't have gone last.

There was really only one reason to watch Survivor Series 2003, and no matter how much they'd like to believe it, it wasn't to see a McMahon wrestle.  Outside of the RAW elimination match, which is pretty incredible, this show was mostly comprised of hot garbage.  Between Vince and Shane each fighting a Brother of Destruction, Triple H and Goldberg having another go through the motions, and the Smackdown elimination match getting comically shortchanged, there's crap oozing out all over the place here.

Best Match: Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. Vince McMahon
What I'd Change: Alright, ready?  Put the Smackdown elimination match on last and change the teams as follows: Brock Lesnar/Big Show/A-Train/Shelton Benjamin/Charlie Haas (how were Haas & Benjamin not booked??) vs. Kurt Angle/Chris Benoit/John Cena/Los Guerreros.  Give that match 25 minutes and watch the fireworks.  Move Triple H-Goldberg to the semi-main slot.  It wasn't good enough to be last.  Combine the Vince-Shane nonsense so it's Vince/Kane vs. Taker/Shane, and make that a Tag Team Buried Alive match.  And put the Cruiserweight Title match back on the show.  Then you have a streamlined six-match PPV with two great elimination matches, one of which is the main event.
Most Disappointing Match: Team Angle vs. Team Lesnar - I'm still pissed at how far this fell short of expectations.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Team Austin vs. Team Bischoff
Overall Rating: 5/10
Better than WrestleMania XIX and/or SummerSlam '03? - Negatory.


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2002










The History of WWE Survivor Series (2002)

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.  The one significant piece of this match was D-Von's run in at the end to help Bubba defeat Rico via a 3-D.  The Dudleys were reunited, correcting one of the two aforementioned tag splits.

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 passable 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 of 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 7, 2019

AEW Full Gear Preview & Predictions

It's the first AEW PPV since the launch of Dynamite, which means it's the first PPV the company has been able to hype in the traditional fashion.  Thus for me it's the most exciting PPV of AEW's young history.  Let's talk Full Gear!


This Saturday's extravaganza has to be considered the most stacked AEW show thus far, with a huge AEW Title match, a triple threat tag title scramble, and three big grudge matches, including the delayed Kenny Omega-Jon Moxley war.  This show on paper has PPV of the Year potential.

I realize I haven't been writing much about Dynamite as a show.  Five weeks in, the fledgling primetime series has already reminded me how much fun a two-hour weekly wrestling show can be.  With its strong balance between good wrestling, hot angles, emotive promos (it could use more of these), and innovative video packages, Dynamite is an incredibly easy show to watch and in many ways feels like what RAW used to be when RAW was consistently good (something that last happened nearly two decades ago).  The wrestling is fun, the crowds are always raucous, the promos are genuine and don't overstay their welcome, and I absolutely love the commentary team.  Jim Ross, Excalibur and Tony Schiavone have an easy chemistry, actually get along with each other, and seem happy to be there, unlike WWE's various announce teams, who come off as scripted corporate shills and bicker incessantly.  I enjoy spending time with the AEW announcers, and it's a pleasure to hear Ross and Schiavone together again after so many years.  Dynamite isn't a perfect show, but it is a truly enjoyable one.  I look forward to seeing this show reach its full potential.

Alright, back to Full Gear.  This show's stacked.  Let's pick some winners...




Pre-Show Match: Dr. Britt Baker vs. Bea Priestly


Considering how well they've built up this feud I'm actually a little sad this match isn't on the main card.  Baker is definitely green but her Pittsburgh homecoming a couple weeks ago was handled so perfectly she came off like a megastar, and this should be her defining match thus far.  Hopefully the in-ring work will deliver.  I have to think Baker gets the win here.

Pick: Britt





Shawn Spears vs. Joey Janela


Spears has a ton of asshole heel potential and it seems like this is the beginning of his real push.  His short feud with Cody a few months ago served as more of a tryout as it turns out; I figured he'd beat Cody in their first match and feud for the rest of the year, but that wasn't in the cards.  Spears needs a big win here to establish himself just below the top tier of stars, otherwise it's a waste to have a talent like Tully Blanchard as his manager/mouthpiece.  Side note: I'm not sure what Tessa Blanchard's contract situation is, but if she's a free agent, AEW needs to snap her up immediately and pair her with her father and Shawn.  As for Joey Janela, he'll bounce around like crazy to make Spears look like a brutal jerk, so this should be a solid match.

Pick: Spears



The History of WWE Survivor Series (2001)

The botched Invasion Angle ends with a premature whimper at Survivor Series 2001....

Survivor Series 2001 - Greensboro Coliseum - 11/18/01

The 2001 installment was the big blowoff to the most disappointing wrestling angle of all time, The Invasion.  The WWF had purchased WCW in March of 2001 and retained all their talent, except the guys everyone wanted to see fight the top WWF stars.  Hogan, Flair, Sting, Goldberg, Nash & Hall were all still under contract to Time Warner for another year and would've apparently cost too much money (for this billion dollar entertainment juggernaut).  So instead the top WCW guys Vince got were Booker T (fine wrestler but still unproven as a main eventer), Diamond Dallas Page (who got killed dead by The Undertaker in his first WWF program), and Buff Bagwell (No I'm serious, they thought he was gonna be a WCW cornerstone.  Unbelievable.).  To supplement the rather anemic WCW contingent Vince merged them with all the former ECW talent, calling them The Alliance, and made the WWF Champion Steve Austin their leader.  Because if anyone in the company would want to bring down Vince and the WWF, it's the guy who became a pop culture icon thanks to Vince and the WWF (this would be like Sting becoming the leader of the nWo in 1996).  For three months the non-WWF wrestlers were made to look like total chumps, with the exception of the white-hot Rob Van Dam who, despite being part of the heel anti-WWF faction, was the most popular guy in the company.  As a result this whole angle died a slow death, and Survivor Series 2001 was a way of putting it out of everyone's misery.

The main event was a traditional elimination match (for the first time in eight years), where the losing team would cease to exist as a wrestling organization, and its members would all be fired (unless they possessed championships or won the Immunity Battle Royal, or it just didn't make sense for them to be written off TV).

The first match was a throwaway featuring European Champion Christian (an Alliance guy) beating Al Snow (a jobber guy).  This was your standard RAW-quality match.

Next was a complete waste of time as turncoat William Regal (one of several WWF guys who joined The Alliance for seemingly no reason) handily defeated rising star Tajiri in under three minutes.  Hey, how 'bout instead Tajiri challenges Christian?  That would've been great.

Third was a unification match for both the WWF I-C Title and the WCW US Title.  The WWF's Edge fought The Alliance's Test in a pretty solid eleven-minute match.  Edge walked away with both belts, but we'd see more of Test on this show.

The first noteworthy match was next as the WWF and WCW Tag belts would be unified.  The Hardy Boyz faced The Dudley Boyz in a Steel Cage match.  This could've been a little better, but it was still very watchable and featured fine Hardyz-as-underdogs storytelling.  The Dudleyz won the match to ensure they'd still have jobs.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (2000)

In a year when the company was white-hot and creatively kicking ass, this show was a wasted opportunity....

Survivor Series 2000 - Ice Palace - 11/19/00

The 2000 edition was a very frustrating one for me.  I had really gotten fed up with the lack of emphasis on elimination matches and how chintzy they had become.  The roster in 2000 was so stacked they could've effortlessly put together a good old-school Survivor Series card, but instead they went with a slew of regular matches and only two rather short elimination bouts.

The opening match was a six-person tag that could've easily been turned into an intergender elimination match by adding a member to each team.  Steve Blackman, Crash Holly and Molly Holly faced T&A and Trish Stratus.  This went only five minutes and was a rather vexing inclusion to the lineup.

The first elimination match was next as The Radicalz (Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn) took on Road Dogg, K-Kwik, Billy Gunn and Chyna.  It was a fairly one-sided affair mostly designed to give the Radicalz something to do.  Benoit and Saturn won the match, but this wasn't great.  Benoit would regain some footing the following month by capturing the I-C Title from Billy Gunn.

Third was one of the few bright spots on the card as Kane and Chris Jericho had a very entertaining midcard match.  I say this a lot, but they probably should've just captained opposing teams.  Still this was a solid outing which was sadly followed by a lame Last Man Standing match the next month.

Another pointless match was next as William Regal defended the European Title against Bob Holly.  Since the opening match featured six people and this match featured two, and both matches sucked, why couldn't they have been combined into one elimination match, hmmm?

The midway point featured the first bout of the "triple main event," as The Rock faced turncoat/cousin Rikishi.  The background of this rather ill-conceived feud dates back to Survivor Series 1999.  Remember how Steve Austin was run down by a mystery driver to explain his year-long absence from TV as he received spinal fusion surgery?  Leading up to his return they finally revisited this angle to establish a payoff.  There was a two-episode RAW arc where Commissioner Mick Foley questioned everyone who was in the building the night of the incident, and it was established the driver of the car had blond hair.  Now it seemed like all signs were pointing to Shawn Michaels being the culprit, which had me all in a tizzy (I discounted Triple H since he was far too obvious a choice - more on that later).  But as it turned out, Rikishi was the mystery driver.  Incidentally, Rikishi had literally just debuted on television the day before Survivor Series '99.  So this guy who had just joined the WWF decided to run over the top star in the company, to help out his cousin The Rock, who was the company's number-two star?  I mean in a way it makes sense, but it was pretty effin' thin.  Plus, no one wanted to boo Rikishi.  He was an amusing babyface character who generally lightened the mood with dancing and occasional comedy spots, but could still hold his own in a good stiff match.  There was no business reason to turn him heel, and doing so undermined his whole persona.

So Rikishi fought a returning Steve Austin at No Mercy 2000 in a brief no-contest, then later in the night attacked The Rock, costing him the WWF Title.  Ummmm, wasn't your whole motivation supposed to be to HELP The Rock?  Shortly thereafter on RAW it was revealed that Rikishi was working for someone else, who paid him to run down Austin (the result of the company panicking when Rikishi's unwanted heel turn didn't light the world on fire).  That someone else?  Triple H.  The most obvious guy to want Austin out of the way in 1999.  Really?  Has no one in this company ever watched a murder mystery?  This was so poorly written it was actually comical.  So now Rock wanted revenge against Rikishi, and Austin wanted revenge against Hunter.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1999)

We've reached a pretty dark time in the history of this great event.  Survivor Series 1999 is one of the worst wrestling shows I've ever seen....

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.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1998)

One of the worst wrestling tournaments ever, that was super entertaining at the time....

Survivor Series 1998 - Kiel Center - 11/15/98

The 1998 edition almost defies critique as a wrestling event.  Almost.  As an angle played out over a three-hour running time it was rather genius.  As a professional wrestling show it was abysmal.  Once again nothing about this show earned it the title of Survivor Series.  The PPV was built around a WWF Title tournament after Steve Austin lost the belt under controversial circumstances and the belt was vacated.  As with WrestleMania IV, the company tried to cram far too much into one show, and this didn't even have the benefit of a fourth hour.  Fourteen matches in three hours.  Simply batshit insane.

There were two non-tournament matches, Sable vs. Jacqueline for the new Women's Title (this one stunk), and a Triple Threat for the Tag belts pitting The New Age Outlaws against The Headbangers and D-Lo Brown/Mark Henry (this one was mediocre).

The tournament itself was shabbily thrown together and had some baffling inclusions such as jobber Duane Gill, midcarder Al Snow, newcomer Steven Regal, who had only been in the company a few weeks, and two first-round matches featuring McMahon henchman the Big Bossman.  Now the storyline going into this was that Vince would do anything to keep Austin from regaining the Title, and had handpicked (rather reluctantly) Mankind to be the next Champion (Mankind had shaved off his beard and styled his hair for the occasion).  Mankind opened the show against pushover Duane Gill to allow him easy advancement.  Steve Austin's first round match was against Bossman, tasked specifically with injuring Austin and hindering him going forward (why not just use a crooked referee to take Austin out of the tournament right at the beginning?).  The Rock, who had been slowly turning babyface and had run afoul of Vince, was slated to face Triple H in the first round.  Triple H, despite being injured, was nonetheless billed to appear on this show in a rather shameless bait-and-switch.  Instead Rocky faced the Bossman (making his second first-round appearance) and quickly rolled him up in a four-second match.

The second round featured a shitty Undertaker-Kane rematch, a very good little Rock-Shamrock rematch (where Bossman's interference on Shamrock's behalf backfired), a Steve Austin bye into the semis, and an exceedingly brief Al Snow vs. Mankind bout.

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1997)

November 9th, 1997 - perhaps the most infamous day in wrestling history....

Survivor Series 1997 - Molson Centre - 11/9/97

Speaking of PPVs that are a complete fucking mess, the 1997 Survivor Series suffered from all kinds of problems.  I'm guessing that due to the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding WWF Champion Bret Hart's impending departure from the company (essentially forced by Vince, mind you), there wasn't much time or energy left to focus on the rest of the card.  Bret had initially agreed to stay through November '97 and drop the title before he left, Vince insisted it had to be to Shawn in Montreal, Bret refused, you know the rest.  Anyway there were seven matches on the card, most of which were mediocre or just too rushed and/or chaotic to be very good.

First up was (what a shock) an elimination match consisting of four tag teams.  The New Age Outlaws teamed with The Godwinns to face The Headbangers and The New Blackjacks.  This was watchable and helped get the Outlaws over as the hot new heel team, but otherwise not much going on.

Second was a totally pointless elimination match between Crush's DOA stable and an Apartheid-inspired heel stable, the Truth Commission.  Essentially the whole point of the Commission was to get over a new giant wrestler named Kurrgan, whose career fizzled very quickly but who can be seen in such blockbuster films as 300 and Sherlock Holmes.  Kurrgan basically won the whole 9-minute match by himself.  Welcome to ThrowawayLand.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Welcome to yet another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!


Today's entry is for me one of the great disappointments in cinematic history.  In 1994 Francis Ford Coppola followed up his critically and commercially successful Dracula adaptation with a production of Frankenstein, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, with Robert Deniro as the creature.  Like Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was an operatic, gritty, almost pulpy screen version of the novel that featured fairly graphic blood and gore, and appealed to the mid-90s culture of excess.  Unfortunately it wasn't nearly as well-received as its counterpart and flopped in the States, though it did pretty well overseas.

Being a huge fan of Coppola's Dracula, I was salivating at the prospect of a faithful Frankenstein adaptation, and for a solid five years I tried to convince myself that this film worked.  But it doesn't.

So what went wrong?  How did such a promising endeavor fail to connect with its audience?  Let's take a look....



The Awesome


Robert Deniro

In an odd bit of casting against type, Robert Deniro was tapped to play the reviled, misshapen creature, and even stranger, his character/performance is the most understated and relatable.  In a film where almost everyone has comically histrionic moments of distress and anguish, Deniro oddly provides an anchor, portraying the creature as a misunderstood brute who is pretty gentle by nature until pushed too far.  Despite having to act through heavy makeup, Deniro, like Boris Karloff in the 30s, was able to convey a wide range of emotions and make us care about him.

Looks like Leatherface almost



Helena Bonham Carter

She's asked to go a bit over-the-top occasionally (to go along with her absurdly large hairstyle), but overall Carter's performance as Victor's fiancee Elizabeth is tender and nuanced, making the romantic elements of the story ring true even as the rest veers into parody.  She comes across as a strong 90s cinematic love interest while staying true to the period setting.  

"The hair needs to be bigger on top!
It's gotta be a wall, a wall!"

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1996)

Here's a PPV that felt barely cobbled together but was still mostly enjoyable....

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 of.....no 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.

Friday, November 1, 2019

NJPW Power Struggle 2019 Preview & Predictions

This Sunday is NJPW's last major show in Japan before the Tokyo Dome (they're returning to California next weekend but no word on what the cards look like yet), so let's take a gander at the half-card that's been announced for NJPW Power Struggle!


Power Struggle is one of the lesser major PPVs in the New Japan calendar but usually there are at least a handful of notable matchups and we get a further idea of what the WrestleKingdom card will be.  This year's show features two big singles championship matches plus the Super Junior Tag League final.  Let's predict some winners....



Super Junior Tag League Final: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. RPG3K

We've seen this match a thousand-or-so times, so this isn't the most exciting final I could've wished for.  But hopefully this will catapult Sho and Yoh back into title contention.  RPG3K vs. Ishimori and El Phantasmo would be a fine Jr. Tag Title match at the Dome I'd say.  This should be an okay match.

Pick: Sho & Yoh gotta get it done





Special Tag Team Match: Kazuchika Okada & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi


This is all about building up the Night 1 Dome main event (a match I'm quite pumped for), Okada vs. Ibushi.  Hashi seems out of place here but I guess he's the only choice left in CHAOS, what with Goto and Ishii being indisposed.  He's obviously there to take the pinfall.  Thus the logical pick is....

Pick: Hirota Tanabushi





Tetsuya Naito vs. Taichi


Here's one I don't care much for.  Haven't these two had pretty shoddy outings in the past?  Both these guys love to stall so half the match is probably gonna be that.  Naito needs a decisive win to get back on track.  I assume they're still toying with his pledge to unify the World and I-C belts?

Pick: Naito



The History of WWE Survivor Series (1995)

Another return to form for Survivor Series as the November tradition moves to Sunday night...

Survivor Series 1995 - USAir Arena - 11/19/95

To paraphrase Bobby Heenan, comparing Survivor Series '94 to Survivor Series '95 is like comparing horse manure to ice cream.  The 1995 edition was such a monumental improvement it's hard to even consider them as the same type of event.  While the '94 edition felt disorganized and largely inconsequential aside from a few key moments, this show featured multiple strong elimination matches and a big marquee Title match.

1995 was not a very successful year for the company, as Diesel failed to draw as WWF Champion and fans instead preferred the athleticism of Bret Hart and hot new babyface star Shawn Michaels.  But several newcomers were added to the roster which freshened up the product, such as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Ahmed Johnson, Hakushi and Goldust.

The first match featured mostly bottom-level talent but ended up being one of the best on the show.  The Bodydonnas - Skip, Rad Radford, Tom Prichard, and surprise member The 1-2-3 Kid took on The Underdogs - Marty Janetty, Bob Holly, Hakushi, and Barry Horowitz.  These eight guys wrestled like they had something to prove, as the match featured lots of aerial moves and spectacular high spots (for example Janetty's mindblowing top rope powerbomb on Skip).  The Kid stole a victory in the end after his new stablemate Sycho Sid interfered, and this seemed to be the beginning of a nice heel push for Sean Waltman.  However due to some drug issues his career stagnated and he left for WCW several months later.

Next up was a women's match reminiscent of the Team Sherri vs. Team Moolah bout from 1987, featuring several Japanese women wrestlers utilizing intricate, crowd-pleasing movesets previously not seen in the WWF.  The Women's Champion Alundra Blayze captained a team of Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa and Chaparita Asari against Bertha Faye's team of Aja Kong, Tomoko Watanabe and Lioness Asuka.  This was a highly entertaining, action-heavy showcase of Japanese-style wrestling that seemed to signal the push of Aja Kong as a major women's star.  Unfortunately Alundra Blayze defected to WCW a month later and the planned Women's Title feud was off.  Still this is easily worth a watch.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The History of WWE Survivor Series (1994)

Back to sub-standard Survivor Series fare.....

Survivor Series 1994 - Freeman Coliseum - 11/23/94

Here's an ugly bit of business.  Survivor Series '94 saw the return of 5-on-5 elimination matches, which sounds like it'd be great.  Unfortunately the WWF didn't seem to care about making them seem at all important, so they came off as a jumbled mess.  The two main events on the show were singles matches (this began an infuriating trend of every major feud on a Survivor Series card being settled in a singles match while the elimination matches were treated as obligatory filler), neither of which really delivered.

Far too similar to the first match on the 1991 card, the opening match here had all the hallmarks of a classic.  The Bad Guys - Razor Ramon, 1-2-3 Kid, British Bulldog, and The Headshrinkers vs. The Teamsters - Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, and Jeff Jarrett.  A bunch of good workers and a bunch of future main eventers.  What could go wrong?  Well, much like its 1991 counterpart, this match started out great, establishing Diesel as a killing machine, and then about twenty minutes in, ended with five - FIVE - men getting eliminated at the same time, with one guy left standing as the winner.  This was so unbelievably stupid.  It all happened after Shawn accidentally superkicked Diesel (the third time this had happened), leading to Diesel chasing Shawn out of the ring and back to the dressing room.  The rest of their team went with them to try and break up the impending melee, and the referee counted the whole team (yes, the WHOLE TEAM) out of the ring.  Umm, shouldn't only the legal man be counted out?  And then the next legal man would get counted out?  So like, shouldn't the referee have had to count to fifty to eliminate the entire team?

Hey look, it's the Kliq......and Davey Boy.

Look, dummies.  Here's what you do with this match.  The main objectives were obviously to break up Shawn and Diesel, turn Diesel face, and position Diesel as the next main event guy.  So instead of wasting everyone's time with a 20-minute match without a third act and a totally nonsensical ending, how 'bout you have Diesel run through Razor's whole team (like he did), tag Shawn in (like he did), hold Razor for the superkick (like he did), have Shawn miss and hit Diesel (like he did), and then have Razor roll Shawn up for the pin.  Then Diesel (now the legal man) realizes what happened and angrily chases Shawn back to the dressing room, thus getting counted out and making it a 3-on-1 match.  Razor gallantly battles Owen, Jarrett and Neidhart, eventually eliminating "The Anvil," befor Owen and Jarrett's heel tactics become too much and Jarrett covers Razor for the win (thus setting Jarrett up as the #1 I-C contender, which they were gonna do anyway!).  Would that have been so hard?  Then you'd have an epic, dramatic elimination match that elevated Diesel and Jarrett, set up the Shawn-Diesel feud, and painted Razor as a courageous fighter who never gave up despite the long odds.

Nope, let's just throw out another potentially awesome Survivor Series match.  Next?