Monday, July 22, 2019

The History of WWE Summerslam (1995)

In 1995 the WWF was running on Diesel Power, and it was fairly disastrous both commercially and critically.  But this show was pretty decent in spite of itself....

SummerSlam '95 - The Igloo - 8/27/95

Here's a show that on paper looks absolutely wretched.  A weak main event, a slew of free TV-caliber matches, a host of top talent missing from the card (seriously, were Owen, Bulldog, Yokozuna, Sid & Luger booked elsewhere that night??), and only one PPV-worthy bout.  Yet somehow this was a pretty good PPV with a host of entertaining matches.

The main event is one of the weakest in SummerSlam history.  In yet another attempt to recreate Hogan vs. Andre, they booked Diesel to face the newest King of the Ring, Mabel.  There was literally zero heat between these two, and if they insisted on doing another Power Wrestler vs. Fat Guy match, why not book Yokozuna to win the KOTR tourney and challenge Diesel?  At least Yokozuna had Championship credibility, ya know, having been a former Champion.  The match was predictably underwhelming and short.

Wait, why is Diesel in the ring with that fan in a Grimace costume?

The real standout of this SummerSlam was of course the Ladder rematch for the I-C belt between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, the two men who defined the Ladder Match 17 months earlier.  While not up to the legendary status of their first go-round, this is still a damn fine Ladder Match with memorable spots involving TWO ladders (In 1995 the idea of a second ladder being introduced was mind-blowing. No I'm serious.) and a different dynamic being that both guys were now babyfaces.

I hope Razor got a helluva Christmas gift that year for saving Shawn's life.

As I said before, most of this card was taken up by free TV-type matches, including an excellent hot opener of Hakushi vs. 1-2-3 Kid, a good squash between Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Bob Holly, a jobber match between Skip and Barry Horowitz (what was this feud doing on PPV??), and Bret Hart fighting Jerry Lawler's protege Isaac Yankem (who went on to much better things a few years later) in a rare miss for Bret (he never did have much chemistry with Glen Jacobs unfortunately).

The unexpected hit of the night was the Undertaker's Casket Match against Kama.  I had no hopes at all of liking this match, but it ended up being one of the better matches of the night.

All in all while I'm not sure what the company was thinking putting together such a lackluster lineup for the second biggest show of the year, SummerSlam '95 is still a pretty good watch, if not all that memorable.

Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon
Worst Match: Smokin' Gunns vs. Blu Brothers (I ask again, why were Owen and Yokozuna, the WWF Tag Champions, not on this show??)
What I'd Change: A lot.  The problem was the overabundance of heels and the dearth of babyfaces.  First, since Davey Boy Smith turned heel just before this, why not book him against his former tag partner Lex Luger?  Swap out the Horowitz match for that.  Next, let's go with Diesel vs. Yokozuna as the main event.  Have Mabel fight Bret perhaps.  Since "it takes a king to know a king," Lawler could've recruited Mabel to go after his sworn enemy.  Third, since Hakushi wasn't going to be pushed long-term anyway, sub in Owen Hart to fight 1-2-3 Kid.  It would still be a blistering match and Owen would've actually gotten on the card.  That just leaves Sid as the one omission, and he obviously wasn't missed.
Most Disappointing Match: Bret Hart vs. Isaac Yankem - Jacobs just wasn't there yet as far as in-ring ability, it was a dumb gimmick, and even Bret couldn't get a good match out of him at that point.
Most Pleasant Surprise: Undertaker vs. Kama
Overall Rating: 6/10
Better than WrestleMania XI? - Yes


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The History of WWE SummerSlam (1994)

Taker vs. Taker - what a shitshow.....

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

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

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

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1993)

Welcome to the most mediocre PPV ever, SummerSlam 1993!

SummerSlam '93 - Palace of Auburn Hills - 8/30/93

Here's a show steeped in mediocrity.  SummerSlam '93 is an odd case of a PPV event providing neither highs nor lows.  Every match except one (Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales) is watchable, but almost none of them are memorable.

The big story going into this show was the rise of Lex Luger as the All-American hero who bodyslammed Yokozuna on the 4th of July.  Luger had been using the goofy Narcissist heel persona that understandably didn't light the world afire, and with the departure of Hulk Hogan the company felt it needed another musclebound superhero to build the company around.  Luger toured the country in a bus to promote the event, and all signs pointed to him becoming the next WWF Champion and posterboy.

The match itself was underwhelming.  It wasn't a bad match per se, but also not terribly exciting.  Luger winning the Championship would've at least provided the big moment the bout (and PPV) needed but strangely the company didn't pull the trigger, instead booking a countout win for Luger, complete with a post-match victory celebration generally reserved for an actual Title win.  This moment was just baffling; Luger and other babyfaces basking in the glory of his All-American countout.  Just bizarre.

YAAAAYYYY!!  Congratulations Lex, on winning........nothing.

The undercard featured a few pretty good matches but again, nothing past 3-star territory.  The highlight of the night was WWF Tag Champs The Steiners vs. The Heavenly Bodies, in a very good undercard tag bout.  Also strong was Bret Hart, mired in midcard doldrums, taking on Doink the Clown, who subbed for the "injured" Jerry Lawler.  Bret and Doink had a solid match which led to Lawler's injury being exposed as a fake.  Bret then had a brief match with Lawler which didn't amount to much at all.

The Intercontinental Title match, which should've been epic, saw Shawn Michaels defending against Mr. Perfect.  HBK vs. Perfect.  Read that and just think about how ungodly awesome that match would be.  Yeah well, it wasn't.  Perfect seemed unmotivated and Shawn was uncharacteristically out of shape, leading to a banal affair that also ended in a countout.  Really?  Both singles Championship matches decided by a countout??

Yikes, Shawn was HUNGRY in those days.

The rest of the show consisted of RAW-caliber matches: Razor Ramon vs. Ted Dibiase, Marty Janetty vs. Ludvig Borga, IRS vs. 1-2-3 Kid, and a six-man pitting Tatanka & The Smoking Gunns vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & The Headshrinkers.  Nothing of note there.

SummerSlam '93 was a PPV where basically nothing important happened.  When it was over everything was pretty much as it had been the week before.  No titles changed hands, no new feuds were born, no old feuds were resolved, and no matches were must-see.  Lex Luger became a main event WWF star briefly, but that's about it.  Seven months later he was a midcarder again.

Best Match: Steiners vs. Heavenly Bodies
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales - Seriously, this feud started in January of '93 and didn't end until August.  Seven months of just putrid drivel, spread over three PPVs.  Coincidentally seven months is how long each of their matches felt.
What I'd Change: I mean I'd probably actually have Luger win the belt I guess.  If you're trying to create the next Hulk Hogan you can't have him come up short in his first attempt,right?
Most Disappointing Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. Perfect - How they screwed this one up I'll never know.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I guess Bret Hart vs. Doink?
Overall Rating: 6/10
Better than WrestleMania IX? - Yes, this sucky ending is still way better than WM9's sucky ending.


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Friday, July 19, 2019

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1992)

This right here is a helluva SummerSlam - emanating from Wembley Stadium, this show turned the WWF formula on its head.....

SummerSlam '92 - Wembley Stadium - 8/29/92

Now this is a fuckin' SummerSlam.  The 1992 edition was not only the best PPV of the year, but would remain the best SummerSlam PPV until at least 1997.  This show featured two very good to excellent main event matches, some decent midcard bouts, and very little filler.

The World Title match between Randy Savage and Warrior probably wasn't quite up to their WM7 match, but this was still good stuff.  The face vs. face dynamic added a new wrinkle and these two both worked hard to pull off an epic.  Inserting Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect into this angle was pretty stupid, as the feud became a bickering contest about which babyface sold out by hiring Mr. Perfect.  As it turned out the answer was "neither."  Flair and Perfect showed up and more or less ruined the ending of the match.  I'm actually not sure why Flair wasn't given his own match for this show.  Still a fine WWF Title match, even if it would be massively upstaged later in the evening.

These two were really fighting over who
had the more obnoxious outfit.

The undercard featured a few good bouts.  The Legion of Doom defeated Money Inc. in the opener, and then disappeared from WWF television until 1997; former Demolition partners Crush and Repo Man (Smash) had a brief but fun little nothing match; and Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel had a terribly entertaining heel vs. heel match while competing for Sherri Martel's affections.

The rest of the undercard wasn't much to look at.  Nailz squashed Virgil, Earthquake & Typhoon defeated the Beverly Brothers, and The Undertaker beat Kamala by DQ in a pointlessly short bout.

But the main event of the show still holds up as one of the best matches of all time.  Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith unexpectedly got to close the show for the Intercontinental Title, and created an in-ring masterpiece.  Legend has it that Davey was very hungover for this match and had to rely heavily on Bret to guide him through, but you'd never know by watching it.  Bret and Davey gelled perfectly and delivered a 25-minute technical classic.  The match was built around the backdrop of intra-family tension between Bret, his sister Diana, and Diana's husband Davey.  Despite being another face vs. face match, Bret played the heel here, allowing Davey to be the conquering hero in his home country.  Bret may have lost but this match cemented his status as a worthy main eventer, and almost directly led to him winning his first WWF Championship.  This is just an awesome bout.

All kinds of BOSS.

1992 marked a real turning point in the WWF product where the giant musclebound superheroes were being phased out in favor of smaller, more athletic wrestlers like Bret and Shawn, who could put on great 20-25 minute wrestling matches.  SummerSlam '92 is a great illustration of this, as the Bret Hart era really began here.

Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith
Worst Match: Nailz vs. Virgil
What I'd Change: Book Ric Flair in an actual match.  It's a shame the Triple Threat match hadn't been invented yet, because Savage vs. Warrior vs. Flair would've been a no-brainer.
Most Disappointing Match: Undertaker vs. Kamala - Why this only went three minutes I don't know.  Not that I was expecting a classic, but this was barely even a match.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Warrior didn't win the WWF Title.  Going into this I was sure he'd end up with the belt.  I wanted to see Savage keep it for a while longer, so I was relieved he got to retain.  Of course he dropped it back to Flair two weeks later, but that's beside the point.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Better than WrestleMania VIII? - Yes


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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Parents' Night In #22: A League of Their Own (1992)

We're back with a baseball-themed episode of Parents' Night In! Justin & Kelly enjoy some local beer and watch the 1992 classic A League of Their Own, starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Rosie O'Donnell!

We discuss the film's wonderful ensemble cast, women's sports, Garry Marshall's outrageous New York accent, and Justin's irrational disdain for Bill Pullman's acting.

Join us for some fun, here at Parents' Night In, and don't forget to SUBSCRIBE!

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The History of WWE SummerSlam (1991)

We've reached the early 90s, when the WWF presented a pretty bad SummerSlam that everyone for some reason remembers very fondly.......

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

You Used to Be Sooooo Good: Star Trek Movies

Welcome to another edition of You Used to Be Soooo Good, where Justin & I, Dan Moore (@SouthieDanimal), discuss things used to be awesome but now, eh, not so much. This week is a tad different, in that we are talking about films we actually like now but they’re missing…something from the old days.

Star Trek Movies:  You Are Stiiiiiiill Kinda Good, But Used to Be Sooooo Much Better

The classic, awesome Enterprise of the original films.

DAN: Oddly enough, Justin and I both watched Star Trek Into Darkness again on the same night independently, but clearly linked in a strange psychic way. And while I do enjoy the film (except for the dumb surname) and its reboot-starting predecessor, there’s definitely a lack of character development in these new films that hurt them. These flicks boast incredible effects, great action, competent acting; they are terribly entertaining, but really dumb. The iconic Trek characters have basically no personality. They have the idea of the old characters, but nothing’s fleshed out.

JUSTIN: Right, the spirit of the characters is there (which is more than you can say for Man of Steel – I’ll keep shitting on that film till my dying day), but it's basically Kirk and Spock in action figure form.  Both Star Trek '09 and Into Darkness featured a gigantic black monster vessel as the evil ship. It's also pretty humorous how blatantly Into Darkness copied entire passages of dialogue from ST2.

DAN: I believe they call that an "homage" now, and not plagiarism. The creators of this new Trek series are playing off the existing archetype of the old Trek series characters. What we already know about them, and not doing much else. Also, Chris Pine just doesn’t do it for me as Kirk.

JUSTIN: I actually like Pine a lot as Kirk.  I think I like him better than Zach Quinto. For me, Pine’s Kirk is closer to Shatner's than Quinto's Spock is to Nimoy's.  And that's more the writing than anything else - this Spock is kind of a jerk and is pretty easily swayed into becoming emotional.

DAN: My problem with him as Kirk is he’s just sort of a generic hero man. There’s nothing memorable about his Kirk like there is about Shatner’s. I do like him, and I think he’s dreamy but there’s just not enough there for me to care about his Kirk.

Yup, they look and feel vaguely like the original characters.

JUSTIN:  True, and that's really the case with all of them.  They just took a cursory approximation of the original characters and stuck 'em in these movies.  Kirk's heroic and repeatedly defies authority (how he's able to hold onto the Captain's chair at all is beyond me), Spock is cold and logical (unless the story requires him to fly into a rage and beat the piss out of the bad guy), McCoy is curmudgeonly and spouts metaphors constantly, Uhura speaks other languages (and is now for some reason the #3 character in the pecking order), Sulu's good at fencing, Scotty's really funny, and Chekhov is Russian. It's odd that Admiral Pike has gotten more screen time than any of those guys.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1990)

The 1990 edition was a major step down from the first two, which were flawed shows to begin with.  This one's pretty terrible....

SummerSlam '90 - Philadelphia Spectrum - 8/27/90

What a mess this show was.  They tried to cram 10 matches in, only 9 of which happened due to a forfeit, the WWF Champion was given an opponent who was never built up to be a World Title contender, thus stripping the main event of any suspense, and Hulk Hogan was once again paired with an obese monster heel.

First we'll highlight the good parts: The Rockers fought the new tag team of Hercules and Paul Roma, dubbed Power & Glory in more of an angle than a match.  Shawn Michaels was "injured" at the outset, leaving Marty Janetty in a handicap situation.  But it was a nice introduction of the new heel team, who unfortunately never got much traction after this.

The Hart Foundation once again challenged Demolition for the Tag belts, this time in a 2 out of 3 falls match.  And once again the Harts stole the show at SummerSlam, supplying 15 minutes of solid tag team action.  The Harts finally won the Titles and the recently-debuted Legion of Doom were set up to feud with their WWF imitators.

The main event cage match between The Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude was a pretty good ten-minute bout.  Nowhere near as good as their 'Slam '89 match, but not bad at all.  Unfortunately Rude hadn't ever been positioned as a serious WWF Championship challenger and since Warrior defeated him the previous year (and a month before this PPV on Saturday Night's Main Event) there wasn't much heat for this match.  Rude would leave the WWF shortly after this.  Sadly for Warrior he was never really pushed as the #1 guy in the company after winning the Title from Hogan.

The blue bar cage.  Must've hurt like a sonofabitch to get thrown into that thing.

Now for the rest of the show.  Hogan's match with Earthquake is nigh unwatchable; yet another Hogan vs. Big Fat Dude match that tried unsuccessfully to recapture the magic of Hogan vs. Andre.  They added The Big Bossman and Dino Bravo as the two corner men to create more intrigue, begging the question: Why not just make this a tag match?

Randy Savage was completely wasted in a two-minute squash of Dusty Rhodes, and his manager Sherri Martel beat Dusty's valet Sapphire by forfeit when Sapphire sold out to Ted Dibiase.

The other major bout was Mr. Perfect defending the I-C Title against a mystery opponent, because for the second time Brutus Beefcake had to miss his scheduled Title shot, this time due to a real-life injury caused by a parasailing accident.  Beefcake's substitute was WWF newcomer Kerry Von Erich (one of my all-time least favorite wrestlers), who made short work of Perfect to win the belt.

Add three other forgettable midcard matches and you have yourself a show very indicative of the piss-poor WWF PPVs in 1990.  They weren't doing very much right at this time and it was evident in all their major shows.

Best Match: Demolition vs. Hart Foundation
Worst Match: Jim Duggan/Nikolai Volkoff vs. Orient Express - Really?  This was on an actual PPV?
What I'd Change: I'd trim some of the fat to allow the two best matches - Harts vs. Demolition and Warrior vs. Rude - to be much longer.  I'd probably make the Hogan match a tag match just to make it a little faster paced.  I'd give Savage a real match to work with, whether that means giving him and Dusty a good 10-12 minutes or giving him a fresh opponent.  How does Savage only get two minutes?
Most Disappointing Match: Savage vs. Dusty.  I say again, two minutes??
Most Pleasant Surprise: Not much really.  What little I expected to enjoy, I did.
Overall Rating: 3/10
Better than WrestleMania VI? - Yes, but they're both garbage.


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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Lamplighter Brewing Co. (Cambridge, MA)

Welcome to another edition of Brewery Reviewery, here at!  We love craft beer and we think you should too, so we visit local purveyors of delicious beer and report back with the good news....

Lamplighter Brewing Co.
284 Broadway
Cambridge, MA

Today's installment concerns Lamplighter Brewing in Cambridge, MA, a quirky, lively venue built in a decked-out industrial garage, wherein the brewmasters serve up an eclectic variety of IPAs, Belgian-inspired ales, lagers, pilsners, and the occasional stout.  There's a little something for everyone and the menu is ever-evolving.  You can order full pours, half-pours, cans, bottles, or one of two preset tasting flights, and there's a back room for events like Trivia Night, Bachelor episode parties, and other stuff.  Whatever night you pay them a visit you're in for some fun, plus a cornucopia tasty beverages.

We were fortunately enough to try a lotta brews, so let's get to it.  The list is broken down by the two themed flights (IPAs and light stuff), plus a few standalone beers we tried.

Flight #1: Hoppy Days 

Honalee (6.6%): Honalee is a New England-style IPA brewed with Slovenian-grown Styrian Dragon and Styrian Wolf hops. Known for their fruit-forward and floral aromas, these varieties deliver tropical notes of ripe mango and elderflower, making for a delightfully juicy and refreshing pint. Named after the mythical land featured in Peter, Paul, and Mary’s song, Puff the Magic Dragon. Keep cold and enjoy fresh!

Tasting Notes - Elderflower, mango, strawberry candy

JB: This one is a mix of hoppy and sweet; I picked up honey and mango notes.

Dad Bod (6.9%): Dad Bod is a full bodied IPA brewed in honor of Father’s Day and dry hopped with Eureka and Simcoe. Combining characteristics from several IPA traditions, this ale is hazy like a New England-style IPA, piney like a West Coast IPA, and sports a snappy bitterness in the classic American IPA tradition. Bright citrus flavors lead to earthy and herbal undertones, resulting in a unique bouquet of pomelo, mint, and resiny pine. Brewed in honor of dads everywhere (and their bods).

Tasting Notes - Pine sap, mint, pomelo

JB: Kind of your standard session IPA with some bitterness but not overwhelming.  The pine notes take center stage.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1989)

Welcome back to our History of SummerSlam series!  We're picking up where we left off, with the second edition, for me a considerable improvement on the first....

SummerSlam '89 - Meadowlands Arena - 8/28/89

The sophomore 'Slam holds a special place for me.  It was far from a perfect show but at the time it just felt like a big deal, and from a star power perspective it was a pretty stacked PPV.  I was at the Saturday Night's Main Event taping a month prior when the company started building in earnest toward SummerSlam, so I really got into the hype for this show.

Following the tag team main event template from the previous year's show, the WWF continued the huge MegaPowers feud by teaming Hulk Hogan up with Brutus Beefcake against Randy Savage and Hogan's onscreen nemesis in the film No Holds Barred, Zeus.  The fact that WWF Champion Hogan's main feud for the summer of 1989 was against costar "Tiny" Lister who, according to the storyline "became lost in the character," was truly moronic.  But they built Zeus up as an invincible killing machine who was impervious to chair shots.  Sadly they didn't bother teaching him how to wrestle, as his moveset consisted of choking, punching his opponents' trapezius muscles, and more choking.  The match itself was very similar to the 'Slam '88 main event, but not as good.  Savage worked hard to make the match exciting though, and despite one of the stupidest endings ever (Hogan completely no-sold Savage's elbowsmash and then knocked Zeus out with Sensational Sherri's tiny purse - what was in there, a roll of uranium quarters??) it was still a fun, dumb 80s main event.

Watch your junk goin' over those ropes, Zeusy-boy.

The undercard however had a triumvirate of awesome bouts.

In the opener, new WWF Tag Champs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard wrestled The Hart Foundation in one of my all-time favorite tag matches.  These were the two best teams in the company at the time and they completely tore it up.  Not sure why this wasn't a Title match if the Harts were gonna lose anyway, but whatever, it's still boss.  Best WWF match of the year says I!

This move always blew me away.
Neidhart slammed his own partner on top of Tully.

SummerSlam '89 featured two big six-man tag matches, one of which was great - The Rockers & Tito Santana vs. The Rougeaus & Rick Martel.  This match was action-packed and incredibly fast-paced.  All kinds of great teamwork and reversals here.

The final killer match on this card was I-C Champ Rick Rude defending against The Ultimate Warrior.  Their 'Mania 5 bout was strong, but this match blew that one away.  16 minutes of excellent power wrestling resulting in Warrior's second I-C Title, plus it marked the beginning of Roddy Piper's comeback!

The rest of the show ranged from mediocre (Ted Dibiase vs. Jimmy Snuka, Mr. Perfect vs. Red Rooster) to bad (Dusty Rhodes vs. Honky Tonk Man, Demolition/Jim Duggan vs. Twin Towers/Andre), but there wasn't anything really offensive on this show, and the three great matches plus the entertaining-if-silly main event made up for all the shortcomings.

Best Match: Brain Busters vs. Hart Foundation
Worst Match: Honky Tonk Man vs. Dusty Rhodes
What I'd Change: Given what a flop No Holds Barred would end up, I would've elevated a new monster heel WRESTLER to align with Savage.  Zeus really had no business in a wrestling ring.
Most Disappointing Match: The Demolition six-man.  This looked to be an epic match but only went about 6 minutes or so.  Also on paper, Mr. Perfect vs. Terry Taylor looked pretty good.  However since Taylor's gimmick at the time was to act like a male chicken that kinda ruined it.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I actually wasn't looking forward to Warrior vs. Rude.  I enjoyed their first match but was a little sick of both guys by SummerSlam.  As it turned out this was one of both guys' best bouts.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Better than WrestleMania V? - Yes


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Monday, July 15, 2019

You Used to Be Sooooo Good: Tool

Welcome back to our semi-regular feature. This one's a tad different. Typically we take something that was once AWESOME but now sucks. This time, we're talking about a band that is badass and great but is MIA except for a bunch of mini-tours over the past year



DAN: I remember the first time I heard Tool. Back when MTV used to be a music channel and not a place for teen whores to show off their bastard kids, I watched the video for "Sober" off Tool's first album, Undertow. The first impression I had wasn't so much about the music but the visual components of this truly bizarre stop-motion Claymation-type video.

The spastic dance this little creep did freaked me out

I knew fuck all about the band, and it stayed that way until MTV once again showed me a video by them. Ostensibly named "Track #1", this song was enough to intrigue to search out the band behind this odd videos. When I purchased ├ćnima I realized the name of that song was actually "Stinkfist" and MTV changed it because EWWW HANDS IN BUTTS.

But that album was hypnotizing. It was MILES away from the grungy pop-ish like rock music I was listening to at the time. The chord progressions, the insanely elaborate drum beats and the one-of-a-kind vocals of lead singer Maynard James Keenan made for a band the likes of which mine ears had never heard. I needed more after listening to ├ćnima. In what turned out to be a pattern, it would be a long wait.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1988)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 12, 2019

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

In 1982, Ridley Scott released one of the most visually influential sci-fi films of all time, a hard-boiled film-noir set in a dystopian future, involving a police officer (Harrison Ford) tasked with hunting down and killing four replicants (artificial humans engineered for off-world manual labor).  Fast-forward 35 years to the Denis Villeneuve-helmed Blade Runner 2049, which picks up the story three decades later with a new Blade Runner character (Ryan Gosling), who not only has to "retire" unauthorized replicants but gets mixed up in a mystery that could unravel civilization as we know it.

Villeneuve takes great care in preserving the imagery and feel of Scott's original universe but adds some of his own art-house sensibilities and expands on the story considerably.  Where the first film's narrative was exceedingly straightforward (cop has to find and kill four robots, and does so), BR 2049 embroils its protagonist in a much more engaging story with numerous plot twists and an emotional arc.  As a big fan of the original film, I will say that its greatest weakness is the thinness of its plot.  It took me several viewings over nearly a decade to fully appreciate Blade Runner, and it's not surprising that mainstream audiences were not enthusiastic about it upon its release.  It's a bleak, slow-moving film with not much in the way of story reveals, and ultimately becomes more of an exercise in style.  The sequel retains that tone but also gives the audience more relatable characters and a plot that requires a more active viewer. 

The casting is excellent across the board; Ryan Gosling is note-perfect as the gritty, impassive lead character, who becomes increasingly conflicted as the story unfolds.  Harrison Ford, despite limited screen time, is given much more to do emotively than in the original, and his rather forced love story with Sean Young in that film actually works better now because of its aftermath; the events of this film lend more emotional depth to that one.  Blade Runner 2049 boasts three very strong female performances as well, starting with Robin Wright as Gosling's stern, pragmatic police Lieutenant, whose only concern is preserving the delicate, uneasy harmony between humans and replicants, no matter the questionable ethics involved.  Ana de Armas has a touching, sympathetic turn as Joi, Gosling's holographic love interest, who displays more humanity than perhaps any other character - think Scarlett Johannson in Her, but with a physical manifestation.  Finally there's Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, a cold, fearsome replicant working for Jared Leto's Niander Wallace, who orders her to unravel the film's central mystery before Gosling's character does.

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1988)

We've entered the PPV era of the Great American Bash.....

The Price for Freedom - Baltimore Arena - 7.10.88

Jim Crockett's NWA dove into the PPV market in late 1987 and again in January of 1988.  Both events flopped, largely due to the WWF airing shows opposite, but in July of '88 JCP finally had a chance to run a PPV unopposed.  This PPV would be a streamlined, five-match card, much as the first two Clash of the Champions specials had been.  The buyrate hinged on the popularity of new babyface Lex Luger, and his quest to dethrone former mentor Ric Flair for the NWA Title.  While the lineup was strong and most of the matches worked to some degree, the booking would be questionable at best.

The show opened with a wild, very exciting World Tag Title match, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Sting & Nikita Koloff.  Structurally this was your typical Tully & Arn match where they get their asses kicked for the first ten minutes before using some underhanded tactic to take over on offense.  In this case it was JJ Dillon distracting Koloff and baiting him to go for the Russian Sickle on the outside.  Koloff missed the clothesline and hit the post, and the Horsemen smelled blood.  Tully and Arn worked over Koloff's arm until the hot tag spot when Sting cleaned house.  Sting nailed Tully with the corner splash and applied the Scorpion Deathlock, but time ran out before he could get a submission (Strangely this match only got a 20-minute time limit).  Aside from the formulaic structure this was a helluva fun tag match with an absolutely NUCLEAR crowd.

The biggest standout of the show was the Fantastics vs. Midnight Express US Tag Title match. Taking over where the Rock n' Roll Express left off, Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton gave the Midnights one of their greatest feuds, as both this and their previous match at Clash of the Champions were full of athletic, high-impact tag wrestling.  The big stipulation here was that Jim Cornette was locked above the ring in a cage, wearing a straitjacket - a hilarious visual, but it took forever to get Cornette in there due to his repeated protests.  The match finally got underway and was almost non-stop motion.  Just a super display of tag team work that didn't follow the traditional formula.  The Midnights won the US Tag belts when Bobby Eaton hit Fulton with a chain.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

AEW Fight for the Fallen Preview & Predictions

Wow, already another AEW show this weekend.  Keeping up with this, the G1, Extreme Rules and the Evolve show all in the span of two days is gonna be murder....

AEW Fight for the Fallen is this Saturday, with the box office proceeds going to the victims of gun violence.  I can get behind that.  Like Fyter Fest two weeks ago this is one of their "minor" big shows, broadcast for free on B/R Live (in the US at least), and the matches are partly designed to build to All Out next month.  But a number of them should be quite the spectacle in their own right.  We have a lean, five-match main card with two pre-show bouts.  Let's get to it.

Pre-Show Match: Jimmy Havoc, Darby Allin & Joey Janela vs. MJF, Sammy Guevara & Shawn Spears

This will be a fast-paced showcase match for six of the company's up-and-comers.  Allin established himself nicely in his 20-minute draw with Cody, Joey Janela absorbed unfathomable punishment in an Unsanctioned loss to Jon Moxley, MJF has already shown himself to be one of the industry's strongest heel promos, and Shawn Spears made headlines by attacking Cody with a chair and inadvertently scraping off part of his scalp (Jeezus that was grotesque).  Since they're obviously setting up Cody vs. Spears at All Out, I'll pick the heels to win here.  Should be a fun way to rev up the crowd.

Pick: MJF/Sammy/Shawn

Pre-Show Match: Sonny Kiss vs. Peter Avalon

I know very little about these two beyond their gimmicks, so this will be an introduction to both for me.  I'll go with Sonny to get the win.

Pick: Sonny Kiss

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 BEER KOOZIE Giveaway! Click for Details.....

As we edge closer to the ONE MILLION VIEWS threshold, we thought we'd celebrate this milestone by raffling off TEN official beer koozies!

If you'd like to win one of these bad boys, simply sign up for our mailing list (the popup that appears when you first visit our website)!  You'll automatically be entered in the raffle.  Refer a friend and get an additional entry!

Our drawing will be on Monday, July 22nd!

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WWE Extreme Rules 2019 Preview & Predictions: Put This Company in a Box and Throw It In the Ocean

Oh good, another WWE PPV is this weekend.  Another off-the-rails shitshow where Vince and his crack team of writers further demonstrate how hopelessly out of touch they are with the wrestling 2019 audience.  I can't wait....

Yes, it's Extreme Rules time folks.  This particular PPV title has been around for ten years and it feels like twenty.  Actually to be fair, Extreme Rules is usually a decent show.  Last year not so much, and aside from a few matches I don't have a lot of hope for this one either.  Look at the main event, for Chrissakes.  The undercard is gonna have to carry the load, just like on a Nitro-era WCW show.  It is unfathomable to me that, in the midst of the lowest ratings RAW and Smackdown have ever posted, and coming off maybe the worst-attended WWE PPV of all time in Stomping Grounds (if it ain't the worst it's definitely up there), Vince is still doubling down on Baron Corbin, Lacey Evans and Shane McMahon as three of the featured players.  Hey Vince, NO ONE CARES ABOUT THESE PEOPLE.  Oh, but Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff are in charge now!  Look, Heyman is an absolute genius in this industry.  I have no complaints about giving him creative power that he should've had all along.  But Eric fucking Bischoff??  The guy who's had one successful idea ever (which he lifted from NJPW), who hasn't been relevant as a creative mind since 1999?  Am I stoned?  Fuckin' hell, let's get this over with...

Cruiserweight Championship: Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese

I assume this will get bumped to the pre-show.  Another CW match I don't care about but it'll undoubtedly be a good one.  Gulak just won this so I'll pick him.

Pick: Drew retains

Smackdown Women's Championship Handicap Match: Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross

Handicap matches are stupid.  I don't like them.  If Bayley wins, Alexa and Nikki look like fools.  If Alexa and Nikki win, they had to double team Bayley to do it.  Spoiler alert: I don't think they'll win - they've been building a feud between Alexa and Nikki for weeks and one of them would have to let the other pin Bayley essentially.  Course all this does is make Bayley the third wheel in this match, and it's never a good idea to do that to the champion.  Where in the fuck are Asuka and Kairi??

Pick: Bayley retains

RAW Tag Team Championship: The Revival vs. The Usos

This should be a really good tag match if they give it enough time.  Both teams are great and despite WWE treating Dash and Dawson like putzes more often than not, they're still pretty over.  This should be one of the show highlights.

Pick: I'll stick with the champs to retain

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The History of NJPW Dominion (2016)

NJPW rebuilds their roster and sets the stage for a record-shattering IWGP Title reign.....

Osaka-Jo Hall - 6.19.16

The 2016 edition came at a strange transitional period for New Japan, when they were still recovering from the loss of four major players a few months earlier.  While AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Anderson and Gallows were making waves in WWE, NJPW was hard at work to fill the void.  Kenny Omega had emerged as the new top gaijin, winning the vacant Intercontinental Title (I'm still baffled they didn't have Nakamura drop the belt to him on his way out the door), while Tetsuya Naito skyrocketed to the main event scene, winning the New Japan Cup tournament on his way to a shocking IWGP Title victory over Okada at Invasion Attack.  Replacing Anderson & Gallows as the tag team division centerpiece was another pair of Bullet Club guys, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, who got off to a rocky start but quickly grew into the role.  And yet another emerging new star was Jr. Heavyweight sensation Will Ospreay, who defeated Ryusuke Taguchi in the Best of the Super Juniors final to earn a shot at division champion Kushida.  So in spite of the talent loss, New Japan was making the best of things and then some (as we'd see over the next year).

Dominion opened with the Bullet Club B-Team of Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi facing the Hunter Club of Captain New Japan, Yoshitatsu and Togi Makabe.  The heels attacked at the bell and worked over Yoshi momentarily, but things broke down quickly and spilled to the outside.  Fale attacked Makabe with the railing, while Page hit CNJ with a shooting star press off the apron (This spot was terrifying, as Page underrotated and was lucky not to land on his head).  Yoshi finally made the hot tag to Makabe, who worked with CNJ to dominate the heels, but Page hit Last Rites on CNJ to win the match, and hung him over the ropes after the bell.  Not much to write home about here, just a proper showcase for Page more than anything else.  *1/2

Up next was a the first of three Chaos vs. Los Ingobernables matches on the show, as the two newest LIJ members Sanada and Bushi faced Tomohiro Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi.  Bushi started right in with heel tactics, choking Yoshi with his T-shirt and opening the door for the heels to work him over for a few minutes, before Yoshi hit a neckbreaker and tagged Ishii.  Ishii ran wild on both LIJ members.  With all four men in the ring Yoshi and Sanada had some good exchanges, with Sanada hitting a top rope dropkick, lariat, and a TKO.  He went for Skull End but met an Ishii lariat.  Yoshi then countered a second Skull End attempt with his Butterfly Lock, which Bushi tried to break up but found himself snared in an Ishii choke.  Sanada tapped to give Chaos the win.  This was a decent match but pretty skippable.  **1/4

Monday, July 8, 2019

Movie Review: mother! (2017)

What to say about mother!?  That's uh....that's a movie alright.

Darren Aronofsky's divisive allegory about a married couple whose tranquil country home is overrun by unwanted guests plays out like a two-hour nightmare directed by Roman Polanski (with a few Kubrickian touches as well).  The wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, seemingly has various repeated hallucinations (including a bloody spot on the floor rotting away into the basement beneath, a beating heart inside the walls, lightbulbs exploding, etc.), while her writer's-blocked poet husband (Javier Bardem) invites more and more guests into the house, seemingly as a way to avoid intimacy with her.  Gradually Lawrence's mental state appears to become further detached from reality, and everything goes completely haywire.

That, on the surface, is essentially the plot of the film.  I can't really say anything more without involving ***SPOILERS***, so from here on in, consider yourself warned.  I'll try to be as non-specific as I can.

First off I'll answer the question of whether I "liked" mother!  The answer truly is this - I'm not quite sure.  While just about every review I've read has either enthusiastically praised Aronofsky's bold, anti-mainstream attack on the senses or comically dismissed the film as utter trash (I'm looking at you Rex Reed, you odiously miserable douchebag), my feelings rested squarely in the middle, somewhere.

I admired Aronofsky's technical prowess; mother! has the off-putting visual claustrophobia of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, with the down n' dirty graininess of The Wrestler.  I admired the performances across the board.  Bardem is somehow warmly menacing, like someone you want to trust if only you could shake the feeling that he's hiding a dreadful secret.  Ed Harris is affable but presumptuous.  Michelle Pfeiffer (great to see her again) nearly steals the show as a prying, socially inappropriate pillar of passive-aggressive.  And Jennifer Lawrence, while not quite giving a career performance, holds the film together as the overwhelmed homemaker who gives as much of herself as she possibly can while clinging desperately to her patience and sanity.  I admired the anxiety-building tone of the first half, where we know something is very much not right in this house but can't figure out why or what.  I admired the absolute hallucinatory anarchy of the second half, where rooms, situations and people seem to morph into something completely different the second we take our eyes off them, as in a vividly bad dream.  It must've taken incredible dexterity and confidence to stage and film these sequences, and from a visceral standpoint they work.

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Patriot

Hello and welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies at, where I analyze and interpret a piece of cinematic art/product and try to decide whether it's awesome or shitty.

This week I thought I'd revisit the 2000 Mel Gibson historical epic The Patriot, directed by Roland Emmerich (of Independence Day fame) and co-starring the late Heath Ledger.

The Patriot tells the story of Benjamin Martin, a widower and veteran of the French-Indian War who has retired to his home in Charleston, SC with his seven children.  As tensions mount between the American colonies and Great Britain, Martin is called upon to vote on the formation of a Continental Army.  He refuses to support such a measure, fearing no good will come of a war with England, but the Army is approved regardless, and his eldest son Gabriel enlists.  From there the Revolutionary War escalates, and after the ruthless English Colonel Tavington (Jason Isaacs) kills Martin's son Thomas, Martin finds himself fully embroiled in the War and becomes one of the Americans' most skillful military leaders.  What follows is a dramatic, action-oriented historical piece covering Martin's exploits as a guerrilla fighter who vexes General Cornwallis (Tom Wilkinson) at every turn, while Colonel Tavington counters with particularly cruel tactics.

So what worked and what didn't?  Well let's take a look....

The Awesome

Mel Gibson

As always, Gibson turns in a compelling, dynamic performance, blending his proficiency as an action-hero with his more nuanced dramatic chops to create a convincingly human protagonist.  Despite being praised as a war hero, Martin has a much more realist view of himself as a man who has done things for which he is ashamed, and who, as a single father, can no longer afford to be the idealist he once was.  This establishes a captivating friction, both between Martin and his superiors, and between Martin and Gabriel, who wants to contribute to the war effort despite his father's objections.  During the later parts of the film the evils of battle take their toll on Martin and he feels the loss of his own humanity.  Gibson conveys all this superbly and is completely believable in the role (Again, the man's a sick asshole in real life but I'll be damned if he wasn't one of the best actors out there for a while).

Oddly this is his mugshot from that 2004 DUI.

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1985-1987)

What's up everybody?  It's July, and that means it's time for yet another stroll down Wrestling History Boulevard, with's PPV History series!

Since July was the month of the NWA's Great American Bash, (which became a month-long tour before morphing into a standalone PPV event), let's take a look back at this glorious summer tradition.  For the purposes of this piece I'm only including the original NWA/WCW lineage, not the ill-advised WWE retread from 2004-2009.  Before I get to the actual PPV history though I'd like to talk a little about the '85 show and the '86-87 tour highlight tapes.

GAB '85 - American Legion Memorial Stadium - 7.6.85

The Great American Bash was originally a one-night supercard held on July 6th, 1985 and co-headlined by a Ric Flair-Nikita Koloff World Title match and a Dusty Rhodes-Tully Blanchard cage match for the TV Title.  No uncut copies are available to my knowledge (Come on WWE, throw that shit up on the Network!), but in the 80s Pro Wrestling Illustrated released a severely hacked-up VHS tape where they boiled the entire show down to one hour.

Not sure who the babyface is here, but ok.

Sadly it wasn't much of a watch since nothing got adequate time.  And looking at the undercard lineup we probably didn't miss a whole lot.  The Road Warriors faced Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev (later known as Smash from Demolition), and Magnum TA fought Kamala.  Moving on...

GAB '86 - Numerous Venues - 7.1.86-8.2.86

The first full Bash tour took place in 1986 and was notable for Ric Flair defending the NWA Title on literally every show.  Guy worked like a horse!  His challengers were as follows:  Ricky Morton, Hawk, Ron Garvin, Nikita Koloff, Robert Gibson, Animal, Magnum T.A., Wahoo McDaniel and Dusty Rhodes.  What I wouldn't give to see a full DVD set of just those Title defenses.  Anyway, Turner Home Entertainment would release a highlight VHS tape consisting of 9 matches.  Top bouts from that cassette included Flair vs. Hawk, Ronnie Garvin vs. Tully Blanchard in a Taped Fist match, The Road Warriors vs. Ivan & Nikita in a chain match, The Rock n' Roll Express vs. Ole & Arn Anderson, Nikita Koloff vs. Magnum TA in Match 4 of their Best of 7 series, and of course Flair vs. Dusty in a cage, which culminated in Dusty capturing the NWA Title (He'd lose it back three weeks later but this was a huge moment at the time).  This tape is also hard to come by, and if anyone knows where it can be viewed online, comment below with the details.  But as I recall this was a solid two-hour collection of matches.  The Flair vs. Dusty match was included on one of WWE's DVD collections (Greatest Stars of the 80s I believe), and is probably the best Flair vs. Dusty match I've seen.  It's tough to give this tape a full grade based on two-decade-old memories, but roughly:

This match wasn't too shabby

Best Match: Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes
Worst Match: Jimmy Valiant vs. Shaska Watley
Overall Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

NJPW G1 Climax 29 Preview & Predictions (A Block)

The G1 Climax is upon us once again, and this year's tournament has a whole slew of fresh faces.  On paper this is one of the more exciting G1 lineups I've ever been privy to; the A Block is exploding with star power, while the B Block has a ton of intriguing first-time matchups (and some big names in its own right).  The 2017 and 2018 editions have to be considered the two greatest wrestling tournaments ever held, but 2019 has the potential to give both of them a run for their money.  We're about to see some great shit.

My colleague Landon Wayne and I decided to do things a little differently this year: I'll be previewing the A Block participants and he'll cover B Block at his site - don't forget to check it out when you're done reading here!  We will however each give our three most anticipated matches from both blocks, plus our respective Finals predictions.

So let's get to it.  Here are the A Block participants....

Kazuchika Okada

The five-time IWGP Champion has gone into this tournament with the title more often than without, and always finishes as one of the block leaders.  He's won the whole tournament twice (2012 & 2014) and never fails to deliver at least one or two MOTY candidates.  He's obviously not winning this year (though he was so unstoppable in 2017 I actually picked him to win it despite being the champ), but he'll look to spoil it for the eventual block winner.

Hiroshi Tanahashi

Man, if there was ever a year for the Ace to sit out the G1 it's 2019.  Tanahashi has looked really rough lately and is clearly hurting a lot.  I'm not sure how many classic Tana matches we'll see in this tournament but hopefully he can rise to the occasion.  Maybe he's been working us all and he's not as banged up as he looks?  Tana is a three-time G1 winner (2007, 2015 & 2018), but the first trophy didn't come with a WrestleKingdom #1 contender certificate.  He's also the only man to successfully cash in said certificate (kinda crazy when you think about it - the G1 winner is 1 for 7 at the Dome).  Tana's not repeating.  There's just no way.  But let's hope he can still deliver like the Ace we all know and love.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1996)


King of the Ring 1996 - MECCA Arena - 6.23.96

What a difference a year makes.  The 1996 edition was everything the previous KOTR wasn't.  Exciting, fresh, memorable, and the tournament elevated someone who actually deserved it.  For the first time only the semifinals and finals would take place on the PPV; the first two rounds would be decided on RAW and Superstars.  The sparser PPV format allowed the WWF to stack the card, and while it de-emphasized the tourney to a certain extent, it made for a much stronger overall show.

To kick things off we were treated to an excellent semifinal matchup between WWF newcomers Steve Austin and Marc Mero.  These two former WCW talents delivered a fast-paced, action-packed bout which infamously included an errant Mero kick that split Austin's lip open.  Austin finished, and won, the match before being rushed to the hospital for stitches.

Hard to believe Mero was hired at three times Austin's pay
The other semi pitted tournament favorite Vader against the newly-returned Jake Roberts, and was more of an angle than anything else.  Vader was disqualified early on and went ballistic, destroying Jake with multiple splashes after the bell.  This beautifully set up the eventual final, where a stitched-up Austin took advantage of Jake's injury to dominate him for four-plus minutes before tying up the tourney with a Stunner.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Top Ten Things: Beatles Songs (John Lennon Edition)

Welcome to our third and final Top Ten Things pertaining to the songs of The Beatles!  I've saved my favorite for last, as today I'll be talking about the best songs written by the Beatle everyone thinks of first, John Lennon.  Check out the George and Paul lists if you haven't already...

John was sort of the unofficial leader of the group over their first few years, the oldest and most irreverent of the three original members (Ringo didn't join until 1962), and initially the strongest songwriter.  Despite the band having to clean up their image when Brian Epstein signed on as their manager, trading in leather jackets and greaser haircuts for suits and their trademark mop-tops, John always retained a bit of the bad boy image and attitude he originally brought to the table.  Unlike other pop stars of the period, John presented himself in interviews with candor and a zany sense of humor, and would later become politically outspoken and controversial, one of the first musicians to get involved in activism.

As for his songwriting, I consider John the most creative of the band, always thinking outside the box and coming up with envelope-pushing ideas.  Where Paul's songs tended to be more inviting and structurally conventional while introducing new orchestration, John's tunes often had an edge to them, along with a dark surrealist bent.  Many of his greatest compositions played with words to evoke bizarre mental imagery; he could seemingly find inspiration in almost anything and turn it into a memorable song lyric.  For my money John's songs stole the show on most of The Beatles' albums, particularly from Revolver through the White Album; nearly every favorite of mine on those four records is a John song.  Sadly after the White Album John began to distance himself from all things Beatles, and his contributions to their last two records were somewhat reluctant.  But when you add up all the iconic Beatles songs over their world-changing run, John scores the most points in my book.  He may not have been the strongest overall musician in the group or had the best voice (Paul takes both of those honors), but I'd say he was easily the most imaginative member of the band.

Here now are the greatest Beatles songs written by John Lennon.... 

Honorable Mentions

In My Life

John described this song as the first serious lyric he ever wrote, a bittersweet meditation on his childhood that included nods to absent friends (Stuart Sutcliffe for example).  An introspective song bordering on anthemic, "In My Life" showed remarkable maturity and thoughtfulness beyond John's 25 years.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite

Inspired by an 18th century circus poster John bought at an antique shop, "Mr. Kite" got its lyrics almost verbatim from said poster, but musically the track is hugely groundbreaking.  To achieve a circus atmosphere John and producer George Martin played an organ break in the middle of the song, and in the outro Martin had the tape cut into footlong sections and thrown in the air, then reassembled at random to achieve a dreamlike, surrealistic quality.  On the band's most psychedelic album, "Mr. Kite" may be the most psychedelic song.

Dear Prudence

Written for Prudence Farrow, who became so immersed in Transcendental Meditation she often refused to come out of her hut for days at a time, "Dear Prudence" became a life-affirming anthem about experiencing the world fully and not getting lost in oneself.  Built on a delicate finger-picked guitar line, the song builds to a beautiful emotional peak (George's lead guitar melody near the end chokes me up every time I hear it); in execution "Dear Prudence" ended up so much more powerful than the simple bit of friendly encouragement it began as.  This one has grown on me leaps and bounds over the years.

The History of NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way

Fatal 4-Way - Full Sail - 9.11.14

The Fatal 4-Way special served as a follow-up to the previous show, as the top four men's wrestlers faced off in one match.  Also Kalisto was back with a new partner to challenge for the Tag Titles, and Charlotte began her game-changing Women's Title run.  Finally the show would feature a big debut of a well-respected imported talent.

The show opened with The Ascension vs. Lucha Dragons, which was easily the best Ascension match thus far on these specials, but still only about a two-star affair.  The Dragons provided most of the movement in the bout and the crowd ate up everything they did.  A botched sunset flip powerbomb aside, this was fine for its spot and resulted in a big title change.

Next up was Baron Corbin vs. CJ Parker in a thirty-second squash to give Corbin a dominant win.  Not much else to say about it, other than it probably should've gone 90 seconds to better showcase Corbin's offense.

The weakest match was probably Enzo Amore vs. Sylvester Lefort.  This was a hair vs. hair match that in the end didn't deliver the promised head-shave, at least not to the right guy.  Instead Lefort's sidekick Marcus Louis got shaved.  The match itself wasn't good and never got out of first gear.  Pretty banal stuff.

Another squash followed, as Bull Dempsey mauled Mojo Rawley in just over a minute.  Not sure why they needed two matches like this on the same show, nor why Dempsey was ever a candidate for a big push.

At the time one of the biggest NXT debuts of all-time, KENTA was introduced on this show and  announced that his new name would be Hideo Itami.  The Ascension, pissed about having lost the Tag belts, attempted to ruin Itami's moment, but he fought them off.  It's strange to see this segment now, since Itami's NXT run was quickly derailed by a long-term injury.