Thursday, January 31, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Hannibal

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, where I examine a movie that I want so badly to fully enjoy, but like a crappy, unreliable boyfriend/girlfriend, it just won't get its shit together and commit.

Such a description is very fitting of the film Hannibal (2001), the much-anticipated sequel to the iconic Silence of the Lambs, which saw Anthony Hopkins return to the role that made him a gazillionaire, Hannibal Lecter.  Hannibal had been planned for several years, after Lambs author Thomas Harris announced he'd be writing a follow-up to the massive hit.  Hopkins, Jodie Foster, and director Jonathan Demme jumped right on board, and the world waited patiently while the novel came to fruition.  Unfortunately by the time of its publication in 1998, Demme declined to participate due to the novel's lurid tone, and Foster had already decided to direct her own film and would not be available.  The scramble was on to replace two of the three integral pieces of the puzzle, and eventually Ridley Scott was attached to direct, with Julianne Moore replacing Foster as Clarice Starling.

So why does this movie qualify as Awesomely Shitty?  In short, I find Hannibal a pretty infuriating example of a movie I was absolutely pumped for and ready to love, but so many things about it were executed just plain wrong.  And a few of these things could've been fixed so easily, either with a quick rewrite or an edit.  Before I get to all that negative stuff though, let's talk about what worked.

The Awesome

Julianne Moore

Excuse me for a moment.....JULIANNE, I F*CKIN' LOVE YOU!!

If Clarice had to be recast (and she did), I can't think of a better actress to inherit this amazing character than Julianne Moore.  I've been a big Juli-fanne (TM pending) for a couple decades now, and so despite my reservations about Jodie Foster not returning I was pretty stoked to see Moore take the part.  Julianne is one of the most versatile and consistently great actresses working today, who for years was undeservedly snubbed by Oscar until finally taking home the gold in 2015.  Where Foster's Clarice was young and idealistic, Moore's incarnation of the character has become cynical and untrusting after a decade of petty FBI politics and unsavory treatment at the hands of the Old Boy Network.  Over ten years she has earned the dubious honor of having more kills to her name than any other Agent, and at the start of the film she is forced to shoot yet another suspect when the uncooperative DC police undermine her authority in a drug raid.  The Bureau uses this incident as an excuse to take her out of the field, and she's reassigned to the seemingly futile case of the long-disappeared Lecter.  Moore plays Clarice as a woman who once dreamed of being an FBI agent, only to later find that the Bureau doesn't share her virtuous nature and in many ways isn't worthy of having her.

Stuff I Drew, part 4 (Yet More Champions of the Galaxy)

Okay, more of these stupid drawings.  Each of these was based completely on a real person.  The first two are revamps of existing characters in the game, Adam Blast and Lance Atlas.  Now you wrestling fans may remember that in 1999 the WWF's programming was very racy and fraught with sexual undertones, even introducing a porn star character named Val Venis.  I thought the names Adam Blast and Lance Atlas sounded a lot like porn star names so I based the revamped characters on that, using Venis as a model for Atlas, and Jeff Jarrett as the model for Adam.  Pretty stupid characters, but I was happy with the drawings themselves.

Based on a photo of Jeff Jarrett

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    Movies of Disbelief: Signs (2002)

    Welcome to another Movies of Disbelief, where I examine one particular issue with an otherwise good film and why it irritates me so.  Today's subject, the 2002 alien invasion film Signs.

    M. Night Shyamalan.  Has there ever been a more divisive film director?  Or more accurately, has there ever been a film director whose output has ranged from "universally lauded" to "fiery garbage on a stick?"  M. Night burst on the scene seemingly out of nowhere with his third film The Sixth Sense (I legit had no idea he'd made two other movies until I looked it up for this article), which proved a smash-hit and popularized the mindfuck ending like no other film had.  He followed it up with the mostly acclaimed but less successful Unbreakable, an intimate twist on the superhero genre (which of course spawned a trilogy nearly twenty years later), and then it was time for Signs.

    Starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix, Signs was another "up close and personal" take on a genre film, this time The Alien Invasion picture.  Gibson is a widowed ex-minister-turned-farmer who finds a crop circle in his field, seemingly left by an alien presence, and soon other signs of an invasion spring up, including strange noises, animals exhibiting abnormal behavior, and lights in the sky.  Eventually news reports surface of alien sightings, leading to one of the great monster reveals, an amateur video taken at a kids' birthday party (This moment is chillingly effective).  The film expertly builds suspense throughout its entire running time, leading to a final showdown between Gibson's family (brother and two kids) and one of the creatures......and then it falls apart totally and completely in the last fifteen minutes, when it turns out the aliens are allergic to water.  Yeah that's right, simple, old fashioned water.

    Dude, scary as fuck.

    But that's not even what has my goat about this movie.  Don't get me wrong, it's annoying as all hell that an advanced species capable of interstellar travel - one that would've necessarily taken atmospheric readings before landing on any planet, to ensure the air is breathable - couldn't figure out that not only is our planet 70% covered with liquid that will disintegrate them, but its atmosphere is LOADED with it.  Like, how did they walk around a humid climate such as Brazil without inhaling moisture that would've corroded them from the inside?  How did it not happen to rain in any of the locales they invaded?  But okay, let's say for argument's sake, they couldn't figure out Terra Firma has water coming out its ass.  We'll shelve that gripe, as I have bigger goddamn fish to fry with this movie.

    Hmmm, what d'ya suppose I could do with ol' Wonder Bat here?

    No, what really pisses me off about this film is the other climactic "reveal," where Mel and his family are under siege by one of these lizard men, and only after flashing back to his wife's cryptic dying words "Tell Merrill to swing away" does it occur to Mel, "Say, perhaps I should urge my brother to grab that baseball bat on the wall and Al Capone E.T.'s fucking brains out."  Yeah that's right.  Instead of instinctively going for the first blunt instrument he can get his hands on, he ponders for a moment the last thing Mrs. Gibson said to him after a drunk driver pinned her to a tree, and it just so happened to suggest these Martian motherfuckers could be felled by a Louisville Slugger to their big green faces.  I know when I'm being attacked I try to think of a deceased loved one's final earthly guidance, no matter how irrelevant it might seem.  This one time I got mugged, and my first impulse was to reflect on my grandmother's dying advice, "Boy, you show 'em you're good as gold," and I proceeded to take a golden piss all over that mugger, who ran screaming into the night.  What a fucking stupid ending to this movie.  Someone invades your home, you find a weapon and attack them with it.  It's literally one of the first two impulses you'd have, the other being to hide.  Why in the FUCK would this scene need an enigmatic flashback that neatly ties into the domestic crisis our heroes find themselves in?

    This movie should be called Signs...That Your Director is a Pretentious Asshole.

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    Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    The History of NXT TakeOver: Phoenix

    The NXT brand did it again this past weekend, overshadowing the main roster with a modest 160-minute, five-match TakeOver special.  As usual there was nary an ounce of fat on the card, all five matches carried some value, and a couple were outstanding.

    The show kicked off in pretty spectacular fashion with a Tag Title match pitting Roderick Strong and Kyle O'Reilly against War Raiders, in a bout that would've made Tully, Arn, Hawk and Animal proud.  This was exactly the type of match I wanted it to be, with the Raiders playing the innovative, dominant power brokers and the Undisputed Era the crafty technicians.  This featured much more back and forth than the old NWA formula, but the arc was the same.  Just a classic tag team encounter that built to a peak with just enough nearfalls to not overstay its welcome.  Hanson and Rowe ultimately scored the win and the titles with Fallout, and the place went nuts.  I loved this match.  ****1/2

    Next up was the de facto weakest match on the show, as Matt Riddle got his first proper TakeOver match against his nemesis Kassius Ohno.  Ohno controlled most of the bout, playing the bully to the hilt, while Riddle was the undersized babyface in peril.  Riddle took a ton of punishment over the bout's nine minutes but kept fighting through, eventually trapping Ohno and delivering repeated elbow strikes for the submission win.  Very solid stuff.  ***

    Stuff I Drew, part 3 (More Champions of the Galaxy)

    Here's the next batch of characters from that damn wrestling card game (I was obsessed with this game for like 4 years).  Incidentally if anyone is wondering what the game is called, or if I just made the whole thing up, Google "Champions of the Galaxy" and you'll find it.  This game is horribly addictive....

    The first two characters were an original tag team I created called The Destroyers.  My RPE friends will recognize the names, though Apocalypse looks quite different.  I obviously used The Undertaker as an inspiration but tried to scale him more like The Big Show (or The Giant as he was called at the time).

    Monday, January 28, 2019

    WWE Royal Rumble 2019: It Was a Strong B+

    Well it wasn't the blow-away event it looked to be on paper, but the 2019 Royal Rumble was a fine show with a slew of very good matches and nothing bad.  Hard to complain about that.  Even the pre-show stuff was solid (Check out the blistering Cruiserweight 4-Way especially).

    But let's get into the proper PPV, as five hours is plenty to talk about.  The show kicked off with a pretty great Asuka-Becky Lynch bout that was rock solid technically and built to a series of traded submission attempts.  After a brutal-looking Asuka cradle neckbreaker off the apron to the floor, Asuka and Becky made their way back into the ring for a climactic stretch where both women attempted to tap the other with her own finisher.  Finally Asuka scored an Asuka lock, and turned it into a Cattle Mutilation-esque variation by bridging on top of Becky for the tapout win.  This match was probably my favorite on the show.  Excellent stuff that made Asuka look really strong but showed Becky could keep up.  I was quite sure we hadn't seen the last of Becky....  ****

    Next up was the one match I didn't care about, The Bar vs. Shane & Miz.  But this was fun.  Cesaro and Sheamus worked a stiff match as usual, Miz stayed away from most of it, and Shane took some good spots while dishing out a few of his own.  I still have a problem with the near 50-year-old non-wrestler Shane going toe-to-toe with actual wrestlers, but he makes it entertaining at least.  The spot of the match was Shane going for a coast-to-coast on both Bar members only for Cesaro to stand up and catch him for a Giant Swing - very cool counter.  Finally Miz hit Cesaro with the Skull Crushing Finale and Shane landed a shooting star press to win the belts.  This is obviously building to a Shane-Miz match at 'Mania, which I also don't care about.  But whatever.  **1/2

    Friday, January 25, 2019

    NXT TakeOver: Phoenix Preview & Predictions

    Welcome to the first NXT predictions column of 2019 here at!

    Well, much like last November we have a huge, potentially great weekend of wrestling before us.  This year's Rumble on paper is the strongest lineup they've ever put together for the January classic, and not to be outdone, NXT is hoping to once again steal the weekend.  This lineup, as usual, could certainly do that.

    Let's take a look....

    Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno

    It's Matt Riddle's first real TakeOver match, after his seconds-long TakeOver debut at WarGames.  It's also his third match against Ohno.  I can't imagine he loses here, as that would be stupid.

    Justin: Riddle
    Landon: Riddle

    NXT North American Championship: Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano

    This match is almost certain to steal the show.  Holy jeezus.  Gargano is coming off a grudge match loss to Aleister Black, so I could see him winning the belt here, giving DIY both singles belts in NXT.  It would also make sense for Ricochet to be called up ASAP since he's better than 90% of the main roster guys.  Regardless I'll be shocked if this isn't the Match of the Night.

    Justin: Gargano
    Landon: Gargano takes the NA title here.

    NXT Women's Championship: Shayna Baszler vs. Bianca Belair

    I know zilch about Bianca, other than she's fully a homegrown WWE talent with a crossfit background.  I can't see her winning the belt in her first big match; Baszler will retain to continue her fearsome title run.

    Justin: Shayna retains
    Landon: Shayna

    NXT Tag Team Championship: Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders

    Holy jeezus, part 2.  This should be insanely good.  It's the 2018 version of Tully & Arn vs. The Road Warriors.  Hanson & Rowe will steamroll the heels for the first act, Strong & O'Reilly will take control with underhanded tactics in the second, and then the Raiders will make a comeback that includes a championship win.  Unlike Starrcade '87 there will be no Dusty finish.

    Justin: War Raiders win the belts
    Landon: Get ready for War

    NXT Championship: Tomasso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black

    This should be yet another excellent match.  Both these guys had incredible showings at WarGames and both got big wins.  I could see Black being groomed for a call-up sooner rather than later, plus it seems like a wasted opportunity not to have Gargano and Ciampa both win singles belts and reunite as a Two-Man Power Trip-esque heel team.

    Justin: Ciampa retains
    Landon: Ciampa

    This is gonna be one helluva ride.  NXT is still impossible to beat as far as WWE programming goes, but both this and the Rumble should be pretty great.

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    WWE Royal Rumble 2019 Preview & Predictions

    Welcome to the first round of WWE Predictions for 2019!  It's January and that means it's the start of what is traditionally the best part of WWE's calendar year, The Road to WrestleMania!

    This year's Royal Rumble card is as stacked on paper as any I can recall.  The Rumble PPV has returned to form over the past few years, after several underwhelming or downright terrible editions (Ahem, 2015).  With the addition of an annual women's Rumble match the show has become a lot more fun, not to mention it's doubled the number of Rumble pools to bet on.  Hopefully unlike in 2018 WWE will follow through on the promise set up by the Rumble PPV and WrestleMania's booking will actually make sense.

    There are a whopping eight matches scheduled for this show - I have to think at least one will get bumped to the pre-show since each Rumble takes up an hour, leaving only two hours for six remaining bouts.  But we'll see.  Anywho, let's get to the picks...

    ***I've managed to take the lead with 68% accuracy (75/111), Dan and Dave are tied with 65% (72/111), and Landon's in the caboose with 64% (71/111).***

    Fatal 4-Way Cruiserweight Championship: Buddy Murphy vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami

    I assume this will be bumped to the pre-show, but it should be a lot of fun.  Murphy has been a pretty great CW Champ, Kalisto is always fun to watch, and Tozawa and Itami will be looking to have that WWE career-defining match.  With AEW starting up and potentially providing a new place to make a good living, I imagine we'll see some of these underutilized WWE guys will start getting some real attention to keep them happy.

    Justin: I'm gonna stick with Buddy

    Landon: Buddy retains
    Dave: Buddy

    Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Bar vs. Shane McMahon & The Miz

    This is the one match on the show I truly don't care about.  This Shane-Miz angle is silly and we all know it's leading to a WrestleMania match between them.  Yawn.  This match should be ok but I'm not interested in it.

    Justin: Shane & Miz win the belts so they can lose them, split up, and fight each other in April
    Dan: I hate wasting the Miz with's so pointless. He could be the top heel in the comapny, instead he's stuck with the boss's son. But they're gonna win.
    Landon: The Bar
    Dave: The Bar

    US Championship: Rusev vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

    To my way of thinking it was either too early or too late for Rusev to dethrone Nakamura for the US Title.  Rusev got super hot about a year ago thanks in no small part to Aiden English's entrance announcements, so of course WWE split them up months later with no payoff.  Now Ru' is back with Lana but neither of them has Russian accents anymore?  Stupid.  Anyway, I have to think Nak is either gonna get moved up the card or he's gonna leave for AEW (his contract is up in the next few months).  Either way I don't see him regaining the title here.  This match could also get bumped to the pre-show.

    Justin: Rusev retains
    Dan: Wait, they're not Russian anymore? What the fuck? WEIRD. All American Rusev for the win.
    Landon: Rusev
    Dave: Didn't realize this was still a title.  Rusev I guess.

    Smackdown Women's Championship: Asuka vs. Becky Lynch

    This is one of the two matches I'm most excited for.  WWE accidentally announced this a month ago, retracted it, had a #1 Contender's match, and went with it anyway.  This should be great.  Becky obviously should lose here, enter the Women's Rumble, and win that to redeem herself.

    Justin: Asuka retains
    Dan: Yes
    Landon: Asuka
    Dave: Asuka

    Thursday, January 24, 2019

    The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 11 (2018)

    And we're almost done with our historical Rumble journey....

    Wells Fargo Center - 1.28.18

    2018 kicked off with a helluva good PPV, as WWE continued its rediscovery of how to put on a fun Royal Rumble.  TWO in fact.  For a while there the Rumble had become one of my least favorite events on their calendar, but by 2018 it had fully returned to form, with one of the best examples of the gimmick, plus an historic first women's edition.  There was nary a bad match on the main card, both Rumbles delivered, there were memorable moments abound, lots of fun surprise entrants, a clear direction for WrestleMania, and a monumental debut to end the show.  Hard to ask much more of a Rumble PPV.

    First up, oddly, was the WWE Title match.  AJ Styles defended against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, in a crisply worked 16-minute match.  Nothing spectacular here, but the three of them worked well together and AJ even got to bust out his moonsault-reverse DDT combo (the first WWE instance of this move I remember seeing).  Styles retained after countering an Owens pop-up powerbomb into a roll-up, but Owens and Zayn protested since Owens technically hadn't tagged into the match.  Solid opener.

    Next was the Smackdown Tag Title match (SD kinda got shafted with this lineup; both of their bouts went on first), as The Usos defended against Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin.  Energetic, fast-paced and well-booked, with a shocking two straight falls for Jimmy and Jey, this was a fine undercard match.  I liked that the first fall was long and the second fall was surprisingly short - it was realistic and defied the typical structure for a 2/3 Falls match.

    The men's Royal Rumble was third out of six, which was pretty baffling until the end of the show when it was made clear why.  I daresay this was the best Rumble match since 2004.  The booking of this match was predictable in a good way; everyone who should've gotten to shine did.  The final five ended up being the five most plausible winners.  Finn Balor entered at number 2 and made the final four, having lasted 57+ minutes.  And of course Shinsuke Nakamura got his WWE career-defining moment by outlasting both John Cena and Roman Reigns to win the whole thing (after 44 minutes of in-ring time).   This is how you book a Royal Rumble match in 2018.  Other notes: The returning Rey Mysterio looked better than he had in ten years, Andrade Almas and Adam Cole both had good showings and it was great to see the NXT guests not geeked out on the main roster for a change (Almas's main roster career is another matter unfortunately).  Anyway, this was a fantastic Rumble match that ranks up there with the 1992 and 2004 editions.  WWE's follow-up on Nak's big moment of course sucked, as he failed to dethrone AJ Styles for the title at four consecutive shows, two of those matches going to a draw.  But for one night it looked like Nak was poised to break the glass ceiling.

    Participants: Rusev, Finn Balor, Rhyno, Baron Corbin, Heath Slater, Elias, Andrade Almas, Bray Wyatt, Big E, Sami Zayn, Sheamus, Xavier Woods, Apollo Crews, Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, Kofi Kingston, Jinder Mahal, Seth Rollins, Matt Hardy, John Cena, The Hurricane, Aiden English, Adam Cole, Randy Orton, Titus O'Neil, The Miz, Rey Mysterio, Roman Reigns, Goldust, Dolph Ziggler
    Final Four: Shinsuke Nakamura, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Finn Balor
    Long Man: Finn Balor (57:30)

    The match given the unenviable post-Rumble spot was Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan vs. The Bar.  This was easily the weakest match on the show and since Jason Jordan was injured and still hasn't returned, the whole angle was pointless, but this was inoffensive.  And The Bar regained the straps as they should have.  So no complaints there.

    Wednesday, January 23, 2019

    The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 10 (2015-2017)

    We're almost up to date.  Read on.....

    Royal Rumble - First Union Center - 1.25.15

    For the second straight year Vince McMahon's stubborn tone-deafness backfired on him at the Royal Rumble.  The egregiousness of the booking was even worse than 2014's Rumble, and here's why: at least in 2014 an argument could be made that WWE didn't realize how badly Batista's comeback and Rumble win would be received.  I mean, those of us with the capacity for logical thought knew Batista's return wasn't going to galvanize the fanbase like Vince hoped, and that 2014 was clearly Daniel Bryan's time.  But WWE realized they'd made a mistake and worked diligently to correct it, and eventually we got the WrestleMania we deserved.  But WWE learned nothing from this fiasco apparently, as you'll see.

    Before I go on any further about this turd of a Rumble match, let's recap the undercard.

    The Ascension experiment fell on its face out of the gate, as the fans didn't buy these two generic-looking Indie-style midcarders as the second coming of the Road Warriors.  But no matter, they still got a decisive win over The New Age Outlaws.  This stunk.  Moving on.

    Another tag match followed, this one a WWE Tag Title match between The Usos and Team Mizdow.  Not bad but not much more than a run-of-the-mill RAW match.

    Third time's the charm?  Not so much.  The Bella Twins faced Paige & Natalya in the third consecutive tag match on this show, and while probably the best bout so far, this also wasn't much to tell the grandkids about.

    Amazingly, a memorable and awesome match broke out in the semi-main slot, as WWE Champ Brock Lesnar defended against John Cena and Seth Rollins.  Man, what a stunningly worked match.  All three guys wrestled like this was the main event of WrestleMania, packing the bout with non-stop action, near-falls, and high spots.  Lesnar dominated early with German suplexes galore (including a double GS on Rollins flunkies Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury) before being put through a table by Rollins mid-match.  Rollins would then turn in a career performance, nearly defeating John Cena for the Title if not for Lesnar's third-act comeback.  Lesnar finally finished off Rollins by countering a Curb Stomp with an F5, retaining the Title and capping off his best match since SummerSlam 2013.  One of the best Triple Threats I've ever seen.

    Had the Rumble match been anywhere near as good as the three-way this PPV would've been saved.  Alas it wasn't good.  At all.

    Monday, January 21, 2019

    The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 9 (2012-2014)

    Welcome to part 9.  Mediocrity ensues.  In terms of the Rumble events, not my writing.  You know it and you love it.  Let's get on with it....

    Royal Rumble 2012 - Scottrade Center - 1.29.12

    What a phoned-in show this was.  Considering the company had two excellent World Champions in January 2012 they sure put on a shoddy Rumble PPV.  An undercard with only one really good match (which was underwhelming), and a Rumble match featuring one of the worst lineups in history.  Let's examine this turd.  God, even the poster for it sucks.

    The show opened, as so many PPVs of the time did, with the World Title match.  New Champion and smarmy dickish heel Daniel Bryan defended in a steel cage against two of the biggest men on the roster, Mark Henry and The Big Show.  The match told a good story and much of it consisted of Bryan using any weasely tactic possible to evade a toe-to-toe fight.  But at under ten minutes and with two massive opponents Bryan was hardly put in a show-stealing position.  This was okay, and the right guy won.

    The obligatory Divas match was next as Beth Phoenix and Natalya (dubbed The Divas of Doom) teamed with the Bella twins against Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox and Tamina Snuka.  The DoD were the primary focus of the division at this point and seemed poised for a good heel run which would lead to a Beth vs. Natalya match at WrestleMania.  Alas none of that came to fruition and Natalya was saddled with an "uncontrollable gas" gimmick (who wouldn't get over with that?) while Beth got the privilege of being pinned cleanly by talk show host Maria Menounos at 'Mania 28.  Lovely.  This match was what it was, i.e. five minutes of "meh."

    The ill-conceived John Cena vs. Kane feud was kicked off third.  Typical WWE nondescript brawl ending in a double countout, necessitating a rematch in February.  Given how thin the Rumble roster was, couldn't these two have just been included there?

    Do I have your attention now?

    Oh lovely, a squash match is next.  Brodus Clay (Remember him?  He was gonna be a huge deal.) destroyed Drew McIntyre (Remember him?  He was gonna be a huge deal.) in 65 seconds.  Thus began the disturbing 2012 trend of routinely including squash matches on PPV.

    The one highlight of the evening was the WWE Title match pitting CM Punk against Dolph Ziggler, with GM John Laurinitis serving as the guest ringside enforcer.  I'm not sure what company officials were smoking when they elected to give Johnny Ace an on-air role, but he was terrible.  Like embarrassingly bad at everything.  And this is a guy who used to be a moderately successful wrestler.  This match was fine but the Johnny L bullcrap got in the way and they weren't given enough time to knock one out of the park.  Punk retained at about 14:30.

    Sunday, January 20, 2019

    The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 8 (2009-2011)

    Welcome back to our Royal Rumble History retrospective!  We've come to the end of the 2000s!

    Royal Rumble 2009 - Joe Louis Arena - 1/25/09

    Here's a rather tepid event if I've ever seen one.  The 2009 Rumble was thoroughly mediocre and frankly not all that memorable.  It had a series of middling undercard matches followed by a Rumble match where nearly all the big names entered early and overstayed their welcome.

    The opener was a match for the now-defunct ECW Title, as new monster heel Jack Swagger (a guy in whom I saw tremendous potential at the time) vs. Matt Hardy.  This was a solid match that showcased the All-American American pretty well.

    The All-American American, JACK THHHHHHWAGGER!!

    Next was a Women's Title match featuring Beth Phoenix defending against Melina.  Your basic six-minute Divas match.  Melina captured the belt.

    Third was one of the weaker World Title matches in recent memory as John Cena faced JBL.  This was against the backdrop of a godawful JBL-Shawn Michaels feud, in which Michaels supposedly had financial problems and was hired by JBL to help him win the World Title.  First off, Shawn had been a WWE employee on and off for 20 years and was easily one of the higher-paid stars in 2009.  Are we supposed to believe he's in such financial peril he'd accept a manservant position working for another wrestler?  The feud was awful and this match was devoid of suspense since obviously JBL wasn't winning the Championship.

    The best undercard match of the night was WWE Champ Jeff Hardy defending against Edge.  This was a well-worked 19-minute match with a lame ending.  It was rumored leading into this that the returning Christian would interfere and cost Jeff the Title, leading to a feud between them.  Instead WWE opted to have Matt Hardy (who had just wrestled earlier as a babyface) turn against Jeff so they could fight at 'Mania, and then make up a month later.  Nevermind that Edge's longtime best friend Christian would have a much more logical reason for helping Edge.  The Hardy vs. Hardy feud yielded a couple decent PPV matches but was a terribly ill-conceived angle.

    The Rumble match itself had a strong cast of characters but unfortunately too many of the top stars entered early in the bout and almost all of them lasted well over 30 minutes (four of them lasted over 45!).  The result was a Rumble with the same faces being present throughout the duration and essentially no potential winners entering during the later portions.  Look, I'm all for having one or two guys last a long time in the Rumble but when it's six or seven it removes the specialness of the accomplishment.  If all the top guys can stay in 30-45 minutes, the Rumble must not be that grueling a match.  It was a different way of booking the Rumble but overall I didn't think it worked.  The final four were Orton and his two Legacy partners Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase, against Triple H.  Hunter somehow survived this 3-on-1 scenario long enough to dump out Cody and Ted, but was ultimately ousted by Orton.  The next two months featured a ludicrously-booked Triple H-Randy Orton feud culminating in one of the worst-received WrestleMania main events in history.

    ....And that's for kickin' me out of Evolution!!

    Saturday, January 19, 2019

    The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 7 (2006-2008)

    Welcome back to and our Royal Rumble History!  We've entered the John Cena Era!

    Royal Rumble 2006 - American Airlines Arena - 1/29/06

    Aaaaand we're back to another one-match Rumble PPV.  The 2006 edition featured a flat-out abysmal undercard with not one but two shitty Title matches, BOTH OF WHICH went on after the Rumble itself.  That's correct, the Royal Rumble went on fourth out of six.  Unbelievable.

    The show opened with a decent enough Cruiserweight Six-Way match, as Kid Kash defended against Gregory Helms (having shed his Hurricane gimmick), Funaki, Nunzio, Jamie Noble and Paul London.  This went just shy of eight minutes but was a fun opener.  Helms got the pin to capture the Title and was set up for a promising heel run.  Unfortunately, as was common with Cruiserweight Champions, the company more or less forgot about him.

    Next was a nigh unwatchable women's match as hot new heel Mickie James (who was amazing in this role) faced glorified model Ashley Massaro, with Women's Champ Trish Stratus as guest referee.  Utterly pointless, and even a talented worker like Mickie couldn't carry Ashley to a passable bout.  But ya know, Ashley was on the cover of Playboy so they had to feature her heavily.

    Another throwaway was next as The Boogeyman defeated former WWE Champion JBL in just under two minutes.  The Boogeyman character was cartoonish but well executed, however the performer Marty Wright couldn't wrestle a lick.  Just dreadful.

    Fourth out of six was the Rumble match.  This edition centered around the tasteless exploitation of Eddie Guerrero's death two months earlier, as Rey Mysterio had begun dedicating everything he did to Eddie, repeatedly talking to the ceiling on camera.  Mysterio delivered a career performance here though, drawing number 2, going coast-to-coast, and breaking Chris Benoit's longevity record.  The match boiled down to Rey, Triple H (who drew #1), and Randy Orton.  Rey as usual played the underdog to perfection, outmaneuvering both heels to win the match.  This appeared to be setting up Rey vs. Kurt Angle at WrestleMania, which would've been spectacular, but unfortunately the company added Randy Orton to the World Title mix and then only gave the three guys 9 minutes at 'Mania.  Rey would go on to have one of the worst World Title runs ever booked.  Anywho, this Rumble match was well-done and made Rey look great for one night at least.  Other highlights included the returning Rob Van Dam, and both members of MNM having impressive stints.

    Rey beat two-thirds of Evolution in one match.

    Friday, January 18, 2019

    The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 6 (2003-2005)

    Here we go with Part 6 of The History of WWE Royal Rumble!

    Royal Rumble 2003 - FleetCenter - 1.19.03

    What a perfect illustration of how much better Paul Heyman's Smackdown was than RAW in 2003.  The '03 Rumble holds a special place for me because I was in attendance.  The WWE product at this point had spectacular highs coupled with absolutely dreadful lows, and this PPV showcased both.

    The big story of this Rumble was the mega-face push of Brock Lesnar, who had been betrayed by Paul Heyman two months earlier (in one of the most nonsensical angles of the era), and who was now returning from a brief injury.  The opening match was a Rumble qualifier between Lesnar and The Big Show which, while better than their Survivor Series '02 encounter was still only about six minutes.  But it accomplished what it needed to and provided a decisive win for Lesnar on his way to the Rumble.

    Next was a Tag Title throwaway - The Dudley Boyz defeated William Regal and Lance Storm for the straps.  This was inoffensive but pretty dull.

    Third was the culmination of probably the worst storyline of 2002 - Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie.  Weeks earlier it was revealed that Dawn had been banging Torrie's father Al, and there was a storyline wedding complete with Al Wilson stripping down to his skivvies (Just what we all wanted to see!).  A week or so later Al "died" while he and Dawn were on their honeymoon, specifically during the physical act of love.  Torrie blamed Dawn for killing her father and thus we were subjected to this matchup.  Three and a half minutes of pointless.

    But at least Torrie vs. Dawn was bad and short, unlike our next bout.

    The World Championship would be decided between Triple H and the latest WCW import, Scott Steiner.  Steiner had debuted awkwardly at Survivor Series and after a pretend bidding war between the WWE brands, showed up on RAW and announced that he was contracted to get a Title shot.  Now I could be wrong about this but I'm pretty sure he didn't wrestle a single solitary match leading up to this one.  And it's clear no one in WWE bothered to watch any of his late WCW bouts, because I can't imagine he'd have been in line for a main event push based on any of those "classics."  The RAW team must've been desperate for someone to feud with Hunter, since they'd buried all the top babyfaces over the previous four months.  I guess maybe they should've presented Booker, Kane or RVD as worthy challengers at Survivor Series, hmm?  It was also baffling that they took this Big Poppa Pump character, a 'roided-up freak who used uncomfortable sexual humor to get crowd heat, and tried to make him a likable babyface.  There was nothing heroic about Scott Steiner in this incarnation, and therefore no reason to want to see him beat up Triple H.  Plus the horrific buildup to this match consisted of posedowns, arm wrestling challenges and gibberish Steiner promos, resembling a late 80s Ultimate Warrior feud, and not in a good way.

    How much did these two spend on PEDs that year?

    During the match intros the live crowd gave Steiner a lukewarm reception and popped pretty big for Hunter despite him being the heel.  But their reaction changed within the first few minutes of the match, when it became clear what a shit-show we were all watching.  By the end of this clumsy, repetitive crapfest the entire FleetCenter audience was booing both guys, and after botching some suplexes and being clearly winded for much of the bout, Steiner's days as a main event babyface were numbered. 

    Look it's Kurt Angle slapping the Anklelock on some dude.

    Thursday, January 17, 2019

    Stuff I Drew, part 2 (Champions of the Galaxy again)

    Here's the next wave of drawings I did for that wrestling game I was talking about.  The first character was an original of mine, who I ended up reusing later when I needed original characters for the Smackdown videogames (my RPE friends will sorta recognize Zombie even though he looks very different here).  The other two are makeovers of existing game characters.

    For Zombie I based his facial structure on a pic of Owen Hart.  Reason being that on TV Owen's character had snapped, turned heel, and started biting people a lot.

    Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Matrix

    Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at, where I take a closer look at a film that is either beloved in spite of its faults or reviled in spite of its virtues, or that simply has such a mix of those two things it's stuck somewhere in between.

    Today's subject is the 1999 cyberpunk action smash-hit, The Matrix!  The brainchild of the Wachowski brothers, The Matrix was a hip, new take on the humanity vs. machines theme that's been explored extensively in science fiction, driven by a capable cast and revolutionary special effects.  It became a touchstone at the time of its release, having such a profound and immediate influence on the genre that its visual tropes actually became obsolete by the time the sequels came out four years later.  In a way it was too big a hit for its own good, and the second and third films were viewed as a pretty massive disappointment.  But however botched the follow-through on this saga, the first film remains a visually engaging, conceptually neat sci-fi/action vehicle that could've been even more had the producers not dumbed it down for us popcorn-gorging slobs.

    So let's take a look at what still works, and what still doesn't, about The Matrix!

    The Awesome


    The plot of this movie is super cool.  It's a dystopian future and machines have become self-aware and taken over the world, imprisoning the human race as an energy source while plugging them into a virtual reality designed to keep them pacified and complacent.  Nearly every person left after the apocalypse was born into this matrix, occupying a cryo-pod but under the impression they're all living normal human lives in the late 20th century.  A few resistors like Morpheus got wise and dared to pull back the curtain, hoping to free the others and bring down the machines.  Our main protagonist Neo is a highly sought-after computer programmer/hacker, whom Morpheus believes will be "the one" to free humanity.  It's high-concept sci-fi fun, with lofty, existential themes that are eminently relatable; who wouldn't be able to get behind a small band of heroes trying to save the world?  It's the cinematic embodiment of Rage Against the Machine!


    The special effects invented for The Matrix were possibly the most influential of that era.  Nearly every action sequence features "bullet time" effects, where a computer-controlled ring of cameras rapidly spins around a subject, firing off a single frame in quick succession.  When blended with a CG-modeled background, the effect creates the illusion of time stopping as our hero manipulates space-time within the Matrix.  The martial arts scenes made liberal use of this effect and it was unlike anything ever put to film at that time.  It was so successful and popular nearly every action movie for the next few years ripped it off in some form, even when it didn't make sense in context (which was usually the case - see Charlie's Angels or Mission Impossible 2).  The visual effects here were hugely groundbreaking.

    This move was so popular WWE wrestler Trish Stratus started using it.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2019

    The History of WWE Royal Rumble, part 5 (2000-2002)

    Welcome back to's Royal Rumble History as we kick off the new millennium!

    Royal Rumble 2000 - Madison Square Garden - 1.23.00

    Night and day.  That's how I'd compare the WWF product from 1999 to 2000.  After Vince Russo left, overly contrived angles, abbreviated matches, and a lack of focus on in-ring all went out the window.  In their place were excellent matches, a blossoming talent pool, and storylines that made sense.  The 2000 Royal Rumble was the perfect way to kick off what was probably the best single year in the company's history.

    The first match saw new WWF star Kurt Angle against a mystery opponent.  The roof came off MSG as the surprise was revealed to be former ECW Champion Tazz.  While I hated, HATED the extra "z" in his name, Tazz made short work of Angle with a dominant three-minute win.  Sadly this was the last time Tazz was used correctly as a WWF wrestler.  He faded into the midcard almost immediately after this and transitioned into an announcer role.

    An unlikely Match of the Year candidate was next as The Hardy Boyz faced The Dudley Boyz in the first-ever Tables Match.  These two teams cut the most blistering pace I'd ever seen, assembling a dizzying array of death-defying high spots which climaxed with Jeff Hardy performing a Swanton off the loge entranceway onto Bubba Ray, and through two tables.  This match would be the prototype for the TLC series.

    Shit's about to get real.

    An ill-conceived bikini contest took up ten minutes of valuable airtime and culminated in Mae Young taking her top off, to the delight of no one.

    The I-C Title was next, as co-Champions Chris Jericho and Chyna (such a dumb angle, don't ask) faced Bob Holly in a Triple Threat to determine the Undisputed I-C Champ.  Not sure why Holly was included - surely the co-Champs should've settled their feud one-on-one.  Anyway, Jericho prevailed.

    A throwaway Tag Title match was next, as The New Age Outlaws had a quick two-minute win against the Acolytes.

    The semi-main went to the WWF Title match.  New heel Champion Triple H, whose main event run had thus far been shaky at best, set out to prove that he did indeed belong at the top of the roster by taking on Cactus Jack in a Street Fight.  Much as he had done to establish The Rock as a main event heel in 1999, Mick Foley went above and beyond to cement Triple H as a new headliner worthy of carrying the company into the next decade.  Triple H himself proved he was more than just a cowardly heel Champion by taking vast sums of punishment over the course of this 27-minute bout.  This match featured one of the more grotesque endings I've seen, as Foley took a Pedigree face-first onto a pile of thumbtacks.  This was the match where I became a full-on Triple H fan (until mid-2002 that is).  Also a Match of the Year candidate (though I think their Hell in a Cell match at No Way Out was even better).

    Dude.  Thumbtacks in face.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2019

    Stuff I Drew, part 1 (Champions of the Galaxy)

    It is now time for the Fine Arts portion of the site.  Below are a few pieces of artwork I've done, all of which are from this SUPER nerdy wrestling dice game I used to play, called Champions of the Galaxy.  There were character cards with wrestling moves on the back and you rolled dice to see which move your character did.  Anywho, I created some of my own characters and revamped some of the existing ones.  So while I'm not exactly proud of how these drawings came to be, I am proud of the drawings themselves.

    I'll show you some more artwork in the future, but here's a few for now....

    This was an existing character in the game but I used a picture of Goldberg as the basis and then altered him to look like Holocaust.

    An original character of mine, his look is based on a pic of Pepper Keenan from Corrosion of Conformity.

    Thantos is one of the flagship characters in the original game but I used Sycho Sid's facial structure.

    Click HERE for more....

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    Top Ten Things: Beatles Albums

    Welcome to another Top Ten Things!  Today I'll be talking about one of the most celebrated, universally beloved bands of all time, The Beatles!

    The Beatles were possibly the first music group I was ever introduced to as a kid.  My parents played me some of Sgt. Pepper and I was hooked instantly.  By sixth grade I began making mix tapes of their tunes (Yes, this was when mix tapes were still a thing), and thanks to the Compleat Beatles documentary I became an expert very quickly.  In 1987 my parents bought a CD player (I felt so ahead of the curve), and The Beatles' entire catalog was one of the first available in that format.  I devoured their music like crazy and for a couple years they were one of very few bands I listened to (until I discovered metal that is).

    Today, along with Metallica, The Beatles are my favorite band in the universe, and when I fire up one of their albums on the ol' iPod it's a ceremonious moment.  I tend to listen to their whole catalog front to back, over a period of several days.  Yeah I'm a dork.  Shut up.

    Anyway, here's a list of what are, in my opinion, The Beatles ten greatest albums.

    10. A Hard Day's Night

    In 1964 The Beatles had conquered both the UK and the US, becoming such pop culture icons they were tapped to star in a feature film.  Directed by Richard Lester, A Hard Day's Night starred the Fab Four as themselves, in a "day in the life" kind of story.  The band travels by train to an auditorium where they'll perform for a live TV special, and in tow is Paul's troublemaker grandfather who tries to turn everyone against each other.  The soundtrack album featured numerous classic early Beatles songs, like the energetic title track, the bittersweet "If I Fell," the instantly catchy "I Should've Known Better," the bluesy "You Can't Do That," and the morose "Things We Said Today."  A Hard Day's Night followed up The Beatles' first two pop albums with slightly more mature content and showed a band beginning to temper their signature sound.

    9. Help!

    After the huge success of A Hard Day's Night, a second Beatles film was inevitable.  This time it would be a big-budget James Bond-inspired screwball comedy about a Far-East cult hunting down the band in the hopes of recovering a sacrificial ring mailed to Ringo.  The movie featured numerous action-comedy set pieces, plus seven brand new Beatles tunes.  The music showed a bit more depth and some instrument variation, and the album boasted probably the first major departure - a somber guitar ballad of Paul's called "Yesterday."  Paul was the only Beatle on the recording, and would be accompanied by a string quartet, a first for the band.  Other highlights included the mellow waltz of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," the urgent "The Night Before," and the anxiously bouncy "I've Just Seen a Face."  Help! showed the band continuing to expand their musical range on their way to arguably the most creative period in their career.

    8. Let It Be

    Originally intended as a live concert film entitled Get Back, Let It Be eventually morphed into an album/documentary that showed The Beatles coming apart at the seams.  Their interpersonal relationships were in shambles and the live recording sessions were filled with palpable tension.  So unpleasant was the experience that the band opted to shelve the album and move on to Abbey Road, as a way to end their career on a high note.  As the band dissolved, producer Phil Spector was hired to sort through the dozens of songs and takes, and whittle everything down to a concise record.  The result was a solid-if-inconsistent album that would serve as the band's denouement.  Side 1 is full of good-to-great songs, like John's strangely lyriced "Dig a Pony" and his existential ballad "Across the Universe," and Paul's iconic piano-driven title track.  Inexplicably Spector also included a one-minute snippet of "Dig It," a ponderous go-nowhere jam, and their brief take on the traditional ditty "Maggie Mae."  Side two's highlights were both contributions from Paul; the optimistic "I've Got a Feeling," and the energetic "Get Back."  Despite Spector's orchestral embellishments on songs like "The Long and Winding Road," Let It Be features a stripped-down, intimately live snapshot of The Beatles at their lowest point.  Yet even as the band crumbled they managed to churn out some undeniably great songs and cement their legacy as a transcendent rock group.