Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cinema Showdown: Hulk 2003 vs. Hulk 2008

    

The Incredible Hulk is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters.  He is pure, unbridled rage.  Fury incarnate.  The perfect embodiment of what happens to us all when our emotions become too potent to control.  The meek, intellectual, physically limited Bruce Banner morphs into the mindless, gigantic destroyer known as the Hulk.  Few fictional characters are as universally relatable or recognizable, and this story is a natural for cinematic interpretation.

The late 70s saw a TV version of the character, as Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno costarred in The Incredible Hulk series.  The show was very popular but due to technological and budgetary limits it failed to fully capture the spirit of the comic.  Instead of being a giant with unlimited strength and near-invincibility, the Hulk was merely a large, very muscular man with green skin who never spoke and liked to throw people around.  The series was followed by three rather poorly-received TV movie sequels, and it seemed that a theatrical feature film based on the character would never happen.

Ferrigno oddly looks simian in that wig.  Hulkey Kong!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame (2019)


Lotta stuff to unpack from Avengers: Endgame.  It's a complicated case, Maude, lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous.  The fourth, and I guess presumably last, Avengers film is a packed-to-the-gills denouement bursting with action, emotion and what would be called, in a lesser film, fan service.  I prefer to think of it as fan rewards; Endgame has so many little nods and story thread resolutions to the previous 21 films in the MCU, it manages to simultaneously be a broad crowd pleaser while also catering to the Marvel die-hards.  It's also the shortest three-hour film you'll ever sit through.

I'll keep this review as spoiler-free as I can.

Endgame picks up just after Infinity War left off - Thanos has just wiped out half the universe's population and our remaining heroes are trying to figure out a way to undo it all.  But things progress quite contrary to expectations, basically throughout the film.  Forget everything you expected was going to happen and just enjoy the ride.

Where Infinity War had literally dozens of characters vying for screen time (and somehow directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely made it work), Endgame's cast is stripped down and thus there's much more room for character moments and payoffs; the focus is fittingly on the original six Avengers.  The two films together play out like an epic double album, not unlike Tarantino's Kill Bill in some ways.  The first half was full of action and inciting incidents, while the second zoomed in on character arcs to give the first half more meaning (I'm excited to watch them back-to-back).  Tony Stark and Steve Rogers get the most screen time and dramatic heft, but Black Widow and Hawkeye surprisingly get a ton of room to shine as well, and Bruce Banner/Hulk and Thor's respective character arcs take unexpected turns.

But the show stealer may be Karen Gillan as Nebula, who in the first Guardians film could've easily just been a nothing henchwoman but has over four films become the most shockingly complex unlikely hero in the entire series.  Nebula's reluctantly erring on the side of compassion and ongoing struggle with her choices vs. her instincts has made her an absolutely fascinating piece of the puzzle, and she finds herself confronting that very dichotomy here.  Kudos to both James Gunn for writing her that way in the first place, and Markus/McFeely for seeing it through.

There's obviously no shortage of epic action on display here but like most of the MCU films before it, Endgame makes it all meaningful, continually giving us new and compelling reasons to care about these characters and their battles.  At least four or five times I found myself getting choked up by an action scene moment, in that "How cool is this?" kinda way.  And of course the film has numerous emotional beats and bittersweet touches; I'm not sure any other comic book film has ever been bursting with so much sentiment.

Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of an eleven-year journey that began modestly with an Iron Man origin film; that this $20 billion (so far) empire was spawned from a relatively small-scope movie about an at-the-time third-string Marvel character is truly astounding.  Talk about building a brand - Endgame's opening weekend domestic gross eclipsed Iron Man's entire US run by $32 million, while its worldwide box office more than doubled Iron Man's!  The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an astounding achievement from a staggeringly sure-footed company.  Even some of its early lesser output is entertaining at worst, and still meaningful in the bigger picture (The Dark World of all films is referenced in this one).  Endgame isn't the last MCU film but it does feel like well-earned grand finale whose scope and spectacle won't likely be topped anytime soon.

I give the film ***1/2 out of ****.


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Top Ten Things: Movie Plot Twists

Welcome to Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I compile a list of stuff that, let's be honest, is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things.  But let's do it anyway...

Today it's the Top Ten Movie Plot Twists of all time.  The plot twist is an age-old narrative device used to reframe an entire story and make the audience go, "Wait, whaaaaaaaat??"  When executed correctly it can save a poor film (Saw, Terminator 3) by creating a memorable ending that stands out much more than the film itself, or it can make an already good film a transcendent piece of pop culture.  A good plot twist generally makes the movie a mandatory repeat watch, as the first viewing results in a colossal mindfuck, while the second allows us to put the pieces together with the new frame of reference.  It also requires great skill and discipline on the part of the storyteller, as they need to give away enough information that the reveal doesn't feel like a cheat, but keep enough cards hidden that the audience won't see it coming.


Here are the ten greatest plot twists in cinema history, according to me.....


*****SPOILERS AHEAD******


10. The Prestige: "A brother...a twin..."


Christopher Nolan's moody period piece about feuding 19th century magicians has great fun playing around with the timeline, creating narratives within narratives as each of the main characters reads the other's diary and we see flashbacks from multiple points of view.  The rivalry centers around a trick known as The Transported Man, in which the magician disappears into a cabinet at one end of the stage only to instantly reappear from an identical cabinet twenty feet away.  Alfred Bordin (Christian Bale) invented the trick, and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) becomes obsessed with discovering the secret, even commissioning the creation of a newfangled teleportation device.  In the film's climactic twist ending it's revealed that Bordin had a twin brother the whole time.  He and the brother would take turns playing the role of Bordin's assistant Fallon, and both committed so fully to their secret that it ruined Bordin's marriage, his career, and eventually cost the brother his life.  The filmmakers masterfully manipulate the audience's sympathy, transferring it from Angier to Bordin midway through the movie.  The final reveal caps off that transition perfectly.
   


9. The Wizard of Oz: "There's no place like home"


One of the most famous and often imitated twist endings is the "It was all a dream" scenario, wherein the protagonist wakes up to find that none of the events we've just witnessed actually happened.  In a lesser story this can be an infuriating revelation, but in the case of The Wizard of Oz it turned out iconic.  Dorothy gets trapped in her house during a tornado, is knocked unconscious, and is transported to a magical world called Oz, populated by witches, little people, talking scarecrows, tin men and lions, and of course, color.  After a whimsical journey to see the famous Wizard about helping her get home, a good witch named Glinda tells her to click her heels together and suddenly she wakes up in her own black & white bed, having dreamed the whole darn thing.  While this type of plot device has been parodied and watered down over the years, in this case it was a brilliant piece of storytelling.  The Wizard of Oz is probably the quintessential family movie and I always associate it with a time before the advent of DVDs and on-demand streaming, when we could only watch it once a year on TV.  Truly an Event Viewing experience.   



Thursday, April 25, 2019

Top Ten Things: "Acquired Taste" Films

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be talking about films that, at least for me, have required numerous viewings to fully appreciate and enjoy; films that, like the best music, become better with familiarity.  Sometimes a single watch doesn't allow you to process every nuance of the script or performances, or fully take in the visual composition at work, or nail down the subtext of what the director was trying to say.  And sometimes appreciation of a film just comes to you with age.  Something I wasn't interested in or couldn't relate to in my teens or 20s might be fascinating to me in my 30s or 40s.

I'm reminded of a Stanley Kubrick quote: The idea that a movie should be seen only once is an extension of our traditional conception of film as an ephemeral entertainment rather than as a visual work of art.

You said it Stanley.  Here are ten such films.....




1. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)


I first watched Bride of Frankenstein in college and my original assessment was that it strayed so far from the book and was so unabashedly weird that I hated it.  I'd become such a fan of the novel and Mary Shelley's complex depiction of the creature that the Universal film versions frustrated me to no end.  But upon later viewings I developed an appreciation for the film's uncompromisingly bizarre tone and for how ballsy its anti-religious and sexual undertones were for 1935.  Despite the simplicity of his speech in this film Karloff's monster is completely sympathetic and by this point in the story he's become the clear protagonist moreso than Dr. Frankenstein.  The performances by Ernest Thesinger as the sinister, rather flamboyant Dr. Pretorious, and Elsa Lanchester as The Bride are also iconic in the pantheon of classic monster films.  The Bride's "birth" is obviously the most film's famous scene; that this was such a memorable character is even more amazing considering how brief her appearance is.  What really sticks out about Bride after multiple viewings though are the Expressionist visuals; the use of light and shadow, the multi-plane shot composition, the use of wide-angle lenses.  What began for me as a goofy, over-the-top sequel has become my favorite of the Universal Monster films.





2. Citizen Kane (1941)


Kane is another film I first watched in college.  My English Literature class covered this film for some reason, and our professor had us watch parts of it to illustrate the artistry of some of the visuals and the narrative style.  What I saw piqued my interest enough to buy the VHS tape and I sat down and watched the whole thing.  And while I did appreciate the visuals to a certain extent I'd be lying if I said the story jumped out at 18-year-old Justin.  For a teenager raised largely on action films this rise-and-fall tale about a newspaper tycoon wasn't exactly the most exciting thing I'd ever seen.  But the imagery kept me enough of a fan that I rewatched it several times, and much later as an adult who'd actually tasted life, my appreciation of the story grew considerably.  One day about five years ago I decided to pop in the DVD after not having viewed the film in several years, and suddenly it all clicked for me.  The shot composition, the performances, the circular story structure, it was all ingenious, game-changing stuff.  Citizen Kane is now one of my all-time favorite films, and it only took me about two decades to realize it.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Great PPVs: Fully Loaded 2000

Welcome to the fifth installment of The Great PPVs - whether you're reading this at Enuffa.com or TheGorillaPosition.com, I hope you're ready for a little trip down Memory Lane.


Today I'm taking a look at what I consider the best PPV from one of (if not THE) greatest years in WWF/E history, the year 2000.  2000 was, from a profitability and creative standpoint, the apex of the WWF Attitude Era.  After the late 1999 departure of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara, whose "Crash TV" style of booking had become stale and nonsensical, the following year saw a return to a more focused product with a much greater emphasis on the in-ring aspect.  Imported WCWers like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero certainly helped, as the upper midcard now boasted some of the most talented grapplers in the world.  Additionally the tag team division flourished that year, thanks to breakout performances of Edge & Christian (who'd finally found a winning gimmick with their dorky metalhead schtick), the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz.  Between the aforementioned rising stars and the already established names, the WWF's 2000 roster was one of the best ever assembled.

One interesting thing about the company's PPV calendar that year was that the Big Five PPVs, with the exception of the Royal Rumble, vastly underdelivered, mostly due to the shows being overcrowded and sloppily booked.  But the B-PPVs that year were almost all incredible, with stellar main events and stacked undercards that effectively utilized the thriving locker room.  Fully Loaded is one such example of a PPV with both excellent top-billed bouts and strong supporting ones.  The subtext going into Fully Loaded was that the existing WWF main eventers (The Rock, Triple H and The Undertaker) were all being challenged for their spots by the new guard (namely Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle).  The show was billed as a Triple Main Event (though Double is really more accurate), and while the glass ceiling was by no means shattered here, it was perhaps cracked just a little.  And two of the three big matches delivered huge.

But first the undercard: The show opened with a wildly competitive mixed six-person tag match, as The Hardyz and Lita faced Test, Albert (T&A, get it?) and Trish Stratus.  This tag team feud didn't exactly light up the airwaves, but most of the intrigue here was between the WWF's two "It-girls," Trish and Lita, who would feud on and off for the next six years and serve as the backbone of this new and exciting Women's division.  This was a highly entertaining opener, which Team Extreme won after a climactic exchange between the women, culminating in Lita's top-rope moonsault on Trish.


Next was a throwaway meant to showcase the former ECW Champion Taz(z) against another ECW alum Al Snow.  This match was brief and mostly dominated by Taz(z), who finished Snow with his Tazzmission (a Cobra Clutch variant).  This would sadly be the last time Taz(z) was well-used in the WWF, as he began a pointless feud against Jerry Lawler that fall, and by early 2001 was relegated to being an underneath guy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

WWE vs. NJPW Supercard V

Welcome to the 5th annual WWE vs. NJPW Supercard here at Enuffa.com, where I take the best and brightest talent from the two biggest wrestling companies in the world and pit them head-to-head.  And the results, more often than not, are EXPLOSIVE!!!


This year I was worried I might have trouble putting together a compelling lineup because of the AEW departures, but in assembling this card I was reminded that New Japan's talent depth is going to be just fine with or without The Elite.  And of course WWE has no shortage of talent on their roster, regardless of Creative's perpetual incompetence in booking them.  I daresay this is one of the strongest lineups of the five I've put together.

Note: One regret I have about this series is that I'm not able to include female wrestlers on the card.  New Japan seriously needs to add a women's division or start up a "sister" promotion (no pun intended) like ROH has.  They're way behind the curve on this one.

You can check out the first four editions here: 2015 2016 2017 2018




Braun Strowman vs. Tomohiro Ishii


Braun is consistently one of WWE's most misused talents over the past couple years, red-hot one month, left with no one to feud with the next.  A year ago he was so over many suggested he, and not Roman Reigns, should be the company's chosen one.  But somehow every WrestleMania season he ends up left out in the cold, more or less.  This year he at least got to win the Andre Battle Royal, joining such luminaries as Cesaro, Big Show, Baron Corbin, Mojo Rawley, and Matt Hardy.  Yeesh, that trophy does nothing for anyone, does it?  Regardless, Strowman can always be plugged into a major feud and have credibility as a superhuman monster.

Ishii is similarly almost never presented as a top contender despite being hugely over in his own right, and one of the best in-ring talents in the entire world.  The Stone Pitbull can always be counted on to deliver insanely good, rugged fights that often steal the show.  Why Ishii isn't given more big singles matches throughout the year is beyond me; the man is an artist.

This would be an unusual battle of bulls with a significant size mismatch.  Strowman would have a huge power advantage but Ishii would hit and run, recalling his numerous battles with Bad Luck Fale.  Ishii would have to set aside his usual machismo about hitting his signature brainbuster, as lifting the 380-pound Strowman for that move would be nothing short of miraculous.  Ishii would spend much of the bout trying to chop down his much larger opponent, but in the end Strowman's monstrous size would prove too much.  Strowman counters an ill-advised brainbuster attempt with his powerslam for the win at 9 minutes.

Winner: Braun Strowman





Kevin Owens vs. Jeff Cobb


Owens' recent return to action has been fairly bizarre to say the least.  Originally slated to face Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania, Owens was shown in vignettes as an average Joe and family man, no doubt to contrast with Bryan's holier-than-thou environmentalist persona.  But when that feud was more or less nixed, Owens was left with nothing to do at 'Mania and has lately been hanging out with The New Day in Big E's absence.  Owens as a babyface feels like a sarcastic gimmick and I'm wondering if he'll pull a Sami Zayn-type heel turn soon.

Jeff Cobb is fresh off defeating Will Ospreay to become a double champion; the ROH TV/NEVER Openweight champ has all the momentum in the world heading into this match.  I'm curious how often we'll see him on NJPW shows and how long he'll keep the title.  He certainly fits the NEVER Openweight style to a tee.  For a man his size Cobb has scary agility.

This would be a stiff, rugged fight with two big heavyweights pulling out spectacular moves that defy their size.  We'd see a great mix of strong style brawling and unexpected aerial moves.  12 minutes in Owens hits a swanton and sets up Cobb for a Stunner, but Cobb holds on, reverse-suplexes Owens, and hits Tour of the Islands for the win.

Winner: Jeff Cobb





Finn Balor vs. Minoru Suzuki


After two-plus frustrating years following his one-day Universal Title run, Finn finally captured the Intercontinental Title at Elimination Chamber and again at WrestleMania.  Balor continues to be one of the company's best and most underutilized talents, whose stop-start pushes are vexing to say the least.  Hopefully a change of scenery following his move to Smackdown will give him more chances to steal the show, leading to a long, successful I-C title run.

Minoru Suzuki, at 50 years old, still shows no signs of slowing down.  He's one of the few wrestlers who can lose a match and still come off as one of the most dangerous men in the world.  Suzuki has held the IWGP, Intercontinental, and NEVER Titles in New Japan and is a credible challenger to everyone of them whenever he's given a shot.  Sadism is the name of the game for Minoru.

Finn would try to keep this match fast-paced and create lots of space between him and Suzuki.  Minoru would want to keep it deliberate and get in close.  The outcome would depend on whose strategy was more successful.  After 12 minutes Finn falls victim to a rear naked choke, but counters a Gotch piledriver with an X-Factor, followed by a corner dropkick/Coup de Grace combo for the win.

Winner: Finn Balor






Rey Mysterio vs. Will Ospreay


Mysterio returned to WWE for good late last year and while he hasn't been used to his full potential (the guy is 46 years old and moves like he's 30), Rey has had some strong moments in that time.  His feud with Andrade yielded some excellent matches and he's been a consistent US Title contender.  His move to RAW will hopefully give him some new opponents to tear it up with - Ricochet I'm looking in your general direction....

Will Ospreay is coming off a NEVER Openweight Title loss, but is still one of the company's most prominent rising stars.  He's already established himself well against heavyweights with a strong showing in the New Japan Cup tournament, and I anticipate him throwing his hat in for this year's G1 Climax to fully transition to the heavyweight division.  Ospreay is only 25 but has already demonstrated incredible natural talent well beyond his years.  As long as he stays healthy he should become one of NJPW's top stars over the next five years or so.

This match would be a spectacular showcase of aerial tactics, with Ospreay uncharacteristically attempting to slow the match down and use his size advantage.  Rey would do his usual stick-and-move stuff, frustrating Ospreay early on.  But eventually Ospreay would employ his newly perfected ground game to turn the tide.  After 14 minutes Ospreay dodges a top-rope splash and hits an OsCutter followed by the Stormbreaker for the pinfall.

Winner: Will Ospreay


Monday, April 22, 2019

Top Ten Things: Anthrax Albums

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!


What's on my mind today is legendary thrash metal band, Anthrax!  One of metal's vaunted Big Four (along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer), Anthrax formed in New York City in 1981 and set themselves apart from other metal outfits with their muscular, kinetic sound and underlying sense of humor.  Where bands like Slayer strived to be as dark and demonic as possible, Anthrax kept things a little fun and nerdy, taking cues from heroes like Iron Maiden by including literary elements (mostly Stephen King) and comic booky subject matter.  Anthrax were also one of the first metal bands to tackle topics like racism, homelessness and genocide, attempting to raise a bit of social awareness and build their sonic brutality around positive energy.  And with their rap-metal crossover hits "I'm the Man" and "Bring the Noise" (the latter being a Public Enemy cover that actually featured PE), they foreshadowed the rap-rock craze that emerged in the late '90s.  Maintaining a drug-free lifestyle, Anthrax has aged much more gracefully than some of their metal brethren; their recent records have sounded just as vital as their earlier work and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  The three-pronged rhythm section of Charlie Benante's impossibly ballistic drums, Frank Bello's gritty, pulsing bass, and Scott Ian's jackhammer guitar riffage (easily on par with their Metallica counterparts) has served as the band's signature foundation for over three decades and in 2018 is just as asskicking as ever.

Here now are the Anthrax albums, ranked (The only full-length LP not to make this list is their debut Fistful of Metal, which featured Neil Turbin on vocals and Dan Likler on bass, and sounded like a band still trying to find its identity).....




10. Stomp 442


John Bush's sophomore effort as Anthrax's frontman had a crisply produced, punchy sound that was initially very promising and a step up sonically from Sound of White Noise, but unfortunately the songs on Stomp 442 were nowhere near as strong.  This being the mid-90s, when metal was about as uncool as could be, Anthrax veered more into alternative groove-metal on this record (something akin to say, Biohazard), and the songs blurred into each other a bit.  This record is steeped in midtempo sludge, with only a few noteworthy tracks that for me don't even crack the band's top 20.  It also loses a point for the lack of Anthrax's cool-ass logo on the cover (their logo is one of the most awesome ever created); for some reason they opted for a totally generic stoner rock-type logo instead.  This album fared poorly on the charts and they were soon dropped from Elektra Records as a result.  But not to worry, things improved.  Side note: To this day I still don't understand what the title is supposed to mean.  Side note #2: The album cover was originally intended for Bruce Dickinson's second solo album but he couldn't afford it, so Anthrax scooped it up instead.

Key Tracks: "Riding Shotgun," "In a Zone," "Nothing"





9. Volume 8: The Threat is Real


The 1998 followup was no classic album by any means, but where Stomp 442 featured a slate of mediocre chugging tracks, Anthrax took a much more adventurous approach on this album.  The overall sound and production is muddy and has a late 90s DIY feel, but the songwriting is actually quite solid here.  It seemed like John Bush, whose vocals had up to now felt, for me, a bit "square peg" on an Anthrax record, finally found the right melodic strategy on Vol. 8.  Songs like "Catharsis," "Harm's Way," and the pretty supberb "Stealing from a Thief" showed a band less concerned about fitting a particular style and happier just writing good, grungy rock tunes.  Volume 8 has a varied set of hard rockers plus the touching hidden track "Pieces" (written and sung by Frank Bello, who's brother had recently been killed), and the result is a significant step up from Stomp.

Key Tracks: "Crush," "Harm's Way," "Stealing from a Thief"





8. State of Euphoria 


SoE was the first Anthrax album I ever heard (back in early 1990) and it hooked me right away.  I was familiar with the name of the band and for some reason based on the T-shirts I'd seen I envisioned a band similar to Guns N' Roses.  I was surprised to find they had more in common with Metallica, albeit with Joey Belladonna's much cleaner vocal style.  Right away it was clear this band was a little different, letting their playful personalities shine through amid the high-energy metal heft.  The opening track "Be All, End All" carried an upbeat message, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" took on phony, studio-enhanced pop stars, "Make Me Laugh" attacked the hypocrisy of celebrity preachers, and the sardonic "Now It's Dark" was inspired by the David Lynch cult film Blue Velvet.  But Anthrax scored a solid hit with their cover of "Antisocial," originally recorded by French metal band Trust (Incidentally this song is featured in the 2017 film It).  State of Euphoria runs out of steam about two-thirds in and Joey's vocal parts clung way too closely to the guitar riffs for my taste, but it's a solid record that still has sentimental value.

Key Tracks: "Make Me Laugh," "Antisocial," "Now It's Dark"


Friday, April 19, 2019

Parents' Night In #18: The Big Lebowski (1998)

The latest Parents' Night In episode premieres tonight, April 19th at 8pm Eastern!

Our superfan Evan joins us on the couch for a special episode of Parents' Night In, where we watch and discuss Justin's favorite comedy, The Big Lebowski!  We shoot the shit about the film and what it means to us, its former standing as the heavyweight film champion of the word "fuck," some of the origin theories of the "420" phenomenon, and we'll check out some craft beers!

Click below anytime after 8pm ET to watch, and don't forget to SUBSCRIBE!





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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Top Ten Things: A Perfect Circle Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!


With the release last week of A Perfect Circle's fourth album Eat the Elephant (their first in over 13 years), I thought I'd count down my ten favorite APC songs (which includes some new material).  A Perfect Circle formed in 1999 when Tool's guitar tech Billy Howerdel played some original songs for Maynard James Keenan, and MJK liked the material so much he proposed adding his own vocals and recording them.  The following year the band's debut album Mer de Noms was released, garnering critical and commercial praise and setting new sales records for a debut album.  APC initially had a bit of a Tool-lite sound to my ears, incorporating Keenan's signature vocals with stripped down Adam Jones-esque guitar riffs, but with repeat listens it was clear they were their own animal, utilizing different instrumentation and a wider array of rock and alternative styles.  Keenan has bounced back and forth between both bands (plus Puscifer) ever since, and each band brings different aspects of his personality to the table (hence why he wears a wig for APC appearances).  A Perfect Circle album will always deliver something unique and unexpected, and their combined audio and visual presentation sets them apart from other alt-rock outfits.

Here are my ten favorite APC songs....




10. Blue


The band's second album Thirteenth Step largely deals with various aspects and points of view of drug addiction.  The third single "Blue" is about the aftermath of a drug overdose and the associated guilt of letting an addict indulge themselves to the point of death.  The dark subject matter is somewhat tempered by the sardonic lyrical tone - "Call an optimist, she's turning blue," and the result is one of APC's more lingering numbers.





9. Eat the Elephant


The oddly tearjerking opening track from APC's newest album is very simply about struggling to begin a journey or endeavor, not knowing how or where to start.  Billy Howerdel was apparently thinking of Chester Bennington when he wrote it, and lines like "Where to begin eludes me/Without you to remind me" evoke loss and being lost, in heartwrenchingly straightforward terms.  This piano ballad is a very unusual way to kick off a rock record, but it sets the tone for a very different APC album and is one of its deeply moving standouts.





8. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish


The strongest song on Eat the Elephant in my opinion is this upbeat, 80s new wave-tinged single about our strange obsession with celebrities and how their deaths affect us, as well as our preoccupation with other modern paraphernalia.  With references to "Willy Wonka, Major Tom, Ali and Leia," this tune was apparently inspired by REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It," pointing out how absurd it all seems when you really think about what 21st century society deems important.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Barewolf Brewing (Amesbury, MA)

Welcome to the second half of our two-part Brewery Reviewery chronicling our trip to the breweries of Amesbury, MA!  Check out our review of Silvaticus HERE.

Barewolf Brewing
12 Oakland Street
Amesbury, MA 01913​


Our second stop was Barewolf Brewing, minutes away from Silvaticus, in another old mill building just outside the town center.  If the atmosphere at Silvaticus was on the mellow side, Barewolf's space is more like a basement party (their website actually describes it as such), where you have your friends over, play video & board games, listen to music and get a bit juiced.  There's ample merriment to be had here.  I personally found the loudness of the room overwhelming at times but that didn't stop me from enjoying the brews quite a lot.  Another nice Barewolf feature is how dog-friendly they are.  On this particular day there must've been seven pups hanging out with their respective owners, and they were all happy to have me come say hello.  All events are more fun with dogs.  Barewolf is also a place your kids wouldn't mind accompanying you to.  There's plenty to keep them occupied while you're sampling.

Anyway, Barewolf is unusual in that they basically never brew the same thing twice.  If one of their beers is particularly popular they'll do something similar next time, but the recipe is always changing.  Fortunately their take-home fridge is generally well-stocked with whatever they have on tap that day (I picked up three different 4-packs, including the last of one batch).  But don't worry, if your favorite isn't there the next time you go back, you'll find plenty of new stuff to like.  You can actually see a list of everything they've ever brewed here - www.barewolfbrewing.com/beers.


Barewolf has nine tap lines so there's always a good variety of flavors to choose from.  Let's get to it (I was only able to try six of the nine - hey, I'm not a machine)....


Top Ten Things: War Films

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today's collection of stuff is a slew of all-time great war films spanning roughly 80 years of cinema.  Why does the war movie genre engage and fascinate us?  Why is war such a rich and profound subject for a filmmaker to explore?  Perhaps it's because we can't help but be drawn to stories concerning humanity at its most base.  Perhaps it serves as a purging of our worst impulses.  Whatever the reason, there have been so many universally lauded, lasting films made on the subject it was difficult for me to narrow it down to ten.  This list includes extremely varied interpretations of the experience, some based on true events, some completely fictitious, one or two even satirical.  Here now are my picks for the ten greatest war films ever made...



10. Platoon


The film that put Oliver Stone on the map, Platoon is loosely based on Stone's own experiences as a young man who volunteered to fight in Vietnam and got a whole lot more than he bargained for.  Platoon covers in horrifyingly grim detail the disorientation of battle, the torturous strain of everyday combat duty, the hopelessness and isolation of the jungle.  This slice-of-life story is punctuated by a power struggle between the unit's two senior officers, one played with a sense of unqualified decency by Willem Dafoe, the other with hard-boiled menace by Tom Berenger.  Their conflict serves as the catalyst for the main character's (Charlie Sheen) transformation from wide-eyed rookie to calloused warrior.  Stone's unforgiving look at the true horrors of war won numerous Oscars and catapulted director and lead actor to tremendously successful careers.





9. Glory


Matthew Broderick starred as Col. Robert Gould Shaw in Edward Zwick's powerful 1989 account of the first black regiment in US military history.  The film was based in part on Shaw's frequent correspondence during his time in the military, and painstakingly recreated the arduous training and harsh conditions the Massachusetts 54th were subjected to.  After months of not being taken seriously as soldiers (and receiving unequal pay), the 54th demonstrated extraordinary bravery in a doomed suicide mission to take Fort Wagner, during which Shaw and roughly half of his men were cut down.  The tales of the 54th's grit eventually led to the Union Army accepting 180,000 black volunteers and helped turn the tide of the Civil War.  This potent war epic also featured performances by Morgan Freeman (in a pre-typecast but very Morgan Freeman-esque role), Andre Braugher, and a star-making Denzel Washington turn as a resentful, emotionally damaged former slave, for which Washington won his first Oscar.





8. Duck Soup


Generally considered The Marx Brothers' best and most irreverent comedy, Duck Soup concerns the conflict between two fictional nations, Freedonia and Sylvania.  Sylvania's Ambassador Trentino has hatched a plot to take over Freedonia and marry the country's chief financial benefactor Mrs. Teasdale, while Freedonia's leader Rufus T. Firefly (played by Groucho) attempts to bait Trentino into a physical confrontation so he can force him out of the country.  The various hijinx lead to a full-scale war, and the battle scenes (along with the famous and amazingly hilarious "mirror scene") are the stuff of comedy legend.  Duck Soup lampoons the very notions of nationalism and political bluster, and was so derisive it actually turned off Depression Era audiences and threatened to derail the Brothers' careers.  The film surged in popularity in the 60s however, as anti-war sentiment swept the nation, and has since been hailed as an unmitigated classic.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Followups

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be talking about some slightly-hidden gems given the unenviable task of directly following WrestleMania.  Every year 'Mania seems to play out like a season finale of sorts, with long-running angles and feuds being resolved, and new stories beginning.  But with no off-season, WWE marches right on to the next PPV (formerly In Your House and Backlash, now Extreme Rules) and has to assemble a show that could easily come off as anticlimactic given its position on the PPV calendar.  Some years though, the 'Mania followup PPV has actually outclassed The Show of Shows and presented one or more Match of the Year candidates.  Backlash 1999 and 2000 for example were far and away superior to 'Mania 15 and 16 respectively.  Ditto for Extreme Rules 2011 and 2012.  Not so much for Payback 2017....

Here now are the Top Ten Matches from Post-WrestleMania PPVs.



10. The Shield vs. Evolution - Extreme Rules 2014


This dream match of sorts was a wild, action-packed example of faction warfare.  The Shield had recently turned against The Authority, and Triple H retaliated by reassembling his most accomplished stable, now consisting of three former WWE/World Champions.  Now I had hoped for an 8-man WarGames-style match including Daniel Bryan and Kane, and I still think WWE dropped the ball by not booking that match after it was so perfectly set up the night after WM30.  That said though, this six-man delivered huge and further established The Shield as the most dominant faction in years.




9. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar - Extreme Rules 2012


Brock Lesnar's WWE return was an absolutely huge deal.  After an eight-year hiatus Lesnar reappeared on RAW the night after WrestleMania 28 and left John Cena laying in a heap.  A No Holds Barred match was immediately signed for Extreme Rules, and would be the first signature "Brock Lesnar" match, where he employed both pro wrestling and MMA techniques to create a unique, big-fight atmosphere.  The match began with Lesnar brutally bloodying Cena with hard elbows to the forehead, marking the first WWE use of significant "color" in several years.  This groundbreaking fight showcased a dominant Lesnar performance until the very end, when Cena evened the playing field with a chain and got a shocking (and in retrospect terribly ill-advised) win over the returning Beast.  It took some time for WWE to properly use Lesnar during his post-UFC run (His record after one year back was 1-2!), but fortunately they soon remembered that Brock Lesnar is supposed to destroy everything in sight, and have since worked much harder to preserve his drawing power.




8. Mankind vs. Big Show - Backlash '99


After a tremendously disappointing first-time matchup at WrestleMania XV, Mankind and The Big Show redeemed themselves with this brutal Boiler Room Brawl.  The inaugural Backlash event one-upped 'Mania 15 in every way, and this match was everything the first encounter wasn't.  Mankind brought his typically high pain threshold, taking a brutal table spot and cutting his hand on a pane of glass before escaping the boiler room.  Not only did this match steal the show at Backlash '99 but I consider it the far better of the two Boiler Room Brawls.




7. Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack - Backlash 2004


Another Foley classic, this time Mick donned the red & black flannel and trimmed way down to resurrect his original in-ring persona, Cactus Jack.  Randy Orton was just gaining traction as a future main event player, and Foley made sure he looked like a million bucks.  This outlandish, violent Street Fight featured barbed-wire bats, thumbtacks, falls off the stage, and buckets of blood.  The enduring image for me is of Orton taking a bump, barebacked, on a pile of thumbtacks.  Simply one of the most grisly moments I can recall in a wrestling match.



The Viking Experience: A Symptom of WWE's Stupidity

Image result for the viking experience
Fuck. This. Noise.

I can't believe I have to get angry about this shit.  I can't believe a hugely talented pair of wrestlers I greatly admire gets called up from developmental to the main roster and beats the RAW Tag Champions in their debut match, and I still have to be pissed they were called up.  All because the cosmically obtuse guy with dementia who runs the place decided the name War Raiders wasn't money enough.  Welcome once again to WWE, the enemy of fun.

"Hmm, let's see, they dress like vikings, so they should have viking names (Erik and....Olaf? Sven? Lars? Nope, we already have a Lars. I'll come back to this later...) and their team moniker should definitely feature the word 'viking.'  Viking Soldiers?  No, that's not right.  Vikings of Doom?  Nah, too derivative.  Wait, wasn't there some hippie guitar player the kids were all into when I was in my twenties?  Jimmy something.  Jimmy....Hegstrand.  The Jimmy Hegstrand EXPERIENCE, that was the name of the group!  The Viking Experience!  Perfect!  The kids'll love that, they dig the pop culture references.  It's um, GROOVY and all that.  And since they dress like vikings we'll say they're actual vikings, like they only eat raw meat and they fashion their own weapons.  That'll play like gangbusters!  We're gonna make a fortune with this gimmick!"

I don't know how many times I need to repeat this - Vince McMahon is hopelessly and embarrassingly out of touch with what wrestling fans in the 2010s want to see, and he needs to relinquish control of this company immediately.  There is not one single reasonable argument to be made that The Viking Experience as a name is an improvement over War Raiders.  None.  Anyone who seriously wants to defend this change is welcome to try to convince me, but you'd have to be a crazy person to actually believe it.  War Raiders sounds like two bad ass motherfuckers who will decapitate you if you have too much bass in your voice.  The Viking Experience sounds like a fucking Epcot attraction.  There is nothing whatsoever intimidating about this name.  Aside from the obvious and inexcusable racist stereotype Tony Atlas was forced to portray in 1990 this name/gimmick change reminds me of the Saba Simba bullshit; because these guys dress as mythic figures we have to pretend they actually live this gimmick?  How fucking stupid does Vince think his audience is?  In 2019?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Silvaticus (Amesbury, MA)

Welcome to a special two-part Brewery Reviewery, here at Enuffa.com!  The premise is simple - I visit local purveyors of delicious craft beer, try as many as I can, and tell you all what I think.

This past weekend I visited not one, but two breweries in Amesbury, MA (stay tuned for the second review in the next couple days).  My parents moved there about six years ago and I've been meaning to get to these two establishments since I learned about them.

Silvaticus Brewery
9 Water St.
Amesbury, MA 01913
Info@brewerysilvaticus.com


The first stop on this mini-tour was Silvaticus, a brewery specializing in Belgian and German styles - right up my alley.  Located in one of the old mill buildings in downtown Amesbury, the taproom is modest but inviting, with an open view of the brewing floor and large picnic tables for visitors to relax.  There's also an outdoor beer garden with a view of the Powwow River, occasional events, and board games to keep you entertained.  The music playlist was eclectic and unusual for a brewery, featuring classic rock, reggae, and a bit of full-on metal from Pantera.  This is also one of the cleanest taprooms I've ever been in and the atmosphere is pretty mellow (at least on a Sunday afternoon).

But let's take a gander at the beer, shall we?

Silvaticus currently offers seven flavors, but they change out one or two every week to keep things fresh.  Their website doesn't have a current roster, so you just have to take the leap and see what they have.  Their selection ranges from dark and rich to light and crisp, and of the five flavors I sampled I found nary a miss.


Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Running Man

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

Today we'll dissect and discuss what is possibly The Mother of Awesomely Shitty Movies (or at least a well-respected Aunt), The Running Man!  Based to the loosest possible degree on the novel by Richard Bachman (or Stephen King as he's known to everyone), The Running Man tells the story of a dystopian future where the global economy has collapsed and the country is a police-state.  The masses are controlled by a military-industrial complex that keeps them placated with violent television and a steady stream of disinformation.  The most popular TV show is called The Running Man, where convicted felons are hunted down by cartoonish gladiator-types called Stalkers.  The host/creator of the show is the slimy but immensely charismatic Damon Killian, who has become a beloved cultural icon.

The Running Man (1987)


The protagonist of the film, Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger), is a former SWAT cop who after refusing to kill dozens of food rioters, is framed for their deaths and wrongfully imprisoned.  He and two fellow prisoners (members of an underground resistance whose mission is to expose the corrupt establishment and restore democracy) escape, only to end up as Running Man contestants.

What ensues is a fantastically awful amalgam of pro wrestling and numerous side-scrolling video games, as the Runners have to evade a series of Stalkers in order to get to the next stage.

This film is absolute tripe, but holy lord it's entertaining.  And here's why....



The Awesome

The Backdrop

This movie creates a richly detailed little universe for our characters to inhabit.  From the fake TV shows and commercials, to the neat technological advances, to the bit characters, the filmmakers have done a fine job of establishing the environment and making this seem like a real world that could actually exist.  To a certain extent it reminds me of the dystopia of Robocop.  There are some tangible aspects of this universe that make the story somewhat believable.

Reminds me a little of Blade Runner.  Just a little.



Friday, April 12, 2019

Top Ten Things: Shawn Michaels WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  And welcome to yet another episode of my barely coherent ramblings about the phenomenon known as WrestleMania.  Today I'm talking about the ten greatest 'Mania appearances by my all-time favorite wrestler, The Heartbreak Kid himself, Shawn Michaels.


Several years ago people started referring to Shawn Michaels as "Mr. WrestleMania," and one doesn't need to look very hard to see why.  In terms of consistently delivering show stealing performances on the WWE's biggest stage, Shawn has no equal.  From 1994-1998, and again from 2003-2010, Michaels' WrestleMania match was generally considered either the best or second-best match on the show, and during those same years his 'Mania match won Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Match of the Year a staggering NINE times (plus he had two non-WrestleMania winners).

Look, I don't need to prattle on about what an incredible pro wrestler Michaels was, so let's just get to the list.  Here now are my ten picks for Shawn's greatest WrestleMania matches.





10. Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XI


What should have been main event of 'Mania 11 was also the only worthy match on the card, as former friends Diesel and Shawn Michaels battled for the WWF Title.  Diesel's abrupt main event push was the WWF's attempt to recreate the success of Hulk Hogan.  Sadly Kevin Nash had nowhere near the overwhelming fan support Hogan did, and the Hartford crowd actually ended up cheering the breathtaking athletic abilities of Shawn Michaels, despite his being the heel.  Even in losing the match, Shawn positioned himself as the next main event babyface and the most popular guy in the company.





9. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania 23


Originally slated to be a Cena-Triple H rematch from WM22, this bout was the substitute after Hunter suffered another quad tear.  And as it turned out this match vastly outperformed its predecessor; John Cena and HBK delivered a fantastic main event for the WWE Title that cemented Cena as the face of the company.  Shawn made him look incredibly strong and helped him rise above the "You can't wrestle" chants he had so long inspired.  For me this was the match where Cena turned the corner to become an accomplished worker who could consistently perform in a big match situation.  The 55-minute RAW rematch got much more attention at the time, but I prefer this bout.





8. Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair - WrestleMania XXIV


Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair was one of the most emotional matches I've ever seen.  Michaels obviously deserves a lot of the credit for making this match great, as he bumped around like crazy, per usual.  But Flair's storytelling was also off the charts and he emoted wonderfully, making the audience really care about his career-ending journey.  The final seconds of the match when Flair tearfully begged Shawn to hit the superkick, followed by the sorrow on Shawn's face, made for one of the most memorable of all 'Mania moments.  I given Flair's age at this point I had low expectations going into this, but two of the all-time greats stole the show with this memorable bit of storytelling.



Thursday, April 11, 2019

Movie Review: Us (2019)


Jordan Peele's sophomore effort, the dread-filled Us, is one of those horror films that comes and goes as you watch it, and you leave the theater saying, "That was real good stuff."  Then your brain begins to recall all the little touches you weren't paying attention to because you were wrapped up in the story, and a few hours later you find yourself saying, "Dammit, now I need to watch that again."  Like The Shining (an obvious influence that gets more than one nod from Peele), Us lends itself to multiple viewings and is dripping with subtext and social commentary.

The simple narrative of a vacationing family confronted by their horrific dopplegangers plays a lot like a feature-length Twilight Zone episode (I won't say any more about the plot; it's better if you go in cold), but Peele and his collaborators create arresting visuals and audio to fill every scene and frame with palpable unease.  Michael Abels' score particularly stands out, with a creepy-as-hell choral/Gregorian intro piece and a few cues that again bring to mind Kubrick's horror masterpiece.  Mike Gioulakis (of It Follows and Split fame) quotes other filmmakers (I defy anyone to watch the sequence on the beach and not think of Jaws, even aside from the young boy's T-shirt), while adding his own visual style.

And of course there's the cast.  Led by a(nother) extraordinary performance from Lupita Nyong'o, in a dual turn that was so convincing I had to constantly remind myself she was playing both parts, the actors embody "everyman" types in their primary roles, while being operatically frightening as their alternates.

The craftsmanship on display elevates Us from a horror B-movie into a suspenseful, sophisticated parable about class distinctions, race and xenophobia that leaves everything open to multiple interpretations.  Like Ridley Scott did with Alien, Peele has populated the screen with accomplished actors and striking visuals to reward the viewer with not only visceral suspense but an evocative pictorial and aural experience. 

For me the first viewing was about revealing the secrets of the film's story.  The second and beyond will be about unwrapping its various underlying themes and appreciating the artistry that went into it.  Us is a rare horror film that will haunt you long after you've stopped watching it, and for me that's the best kind there is.

I give the film ***1/2 out of ****.


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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

NJPW/ROH G1 Supercard: New Japan Is Awesome, ROH Not So Much

Well one thing was made abundantly clear at G1 Supercard; Ring of Honor needs NJPW way more than NJPW needs Ring of Honor.  For a company that was once the pinnacle of in-ring wrestling (check out their 2004-2009 library if you don't believe me), ROH has fallen far indeed.  Most of the ROH-centric contributions to G1 felt like I was watching TNA - a flat women's match that ended with Angelina Love and Velvet Sky laying out the new WOH Champion, a street fight that went from a singles match to a six-man and went on forever, Enzo and Cass of all people joining the promotion, and a solid but overlong ladder match with the least over guy walking away with the ROH Title.  This was like watching two separate shows.  One was pretty great, the other was kinda brutal.  Just listen to the live crowd; they're all chanting "New Japan" during the intro, the New Japan-heavy matches all got great reactions while the ROH stuff was mostly muted.  Hell, the show sold out last year with only three names having been announced: Okada, Naito and Tanahashi.  ROH may have helped open the door for New Japan to grow their US audience, but New Japan sold out this show.


Let me start though by saying how surreal it was to see these two companies in a sold-out Madison Square Garden.  That factor added a ton of splendor to this show, and if you just watch the opener and the final six matches you'd have yourself a near-perfect PPV.  I'm certainly not here to bash the show as a whole, this was the second-best big show of the weekend.

After a forgettable pre-show Honor Rumble that went a taxing 42 minutes (the lone memorable moment was Liger vs. Muta, which sadly didn't last long), the show proper kicked off with a fairly fantastic Will Ospreay-Jeff Cobb match for both the NEVER and ROH TV Titles.  The clash of styles made for a very compelling match, as Ospreay's speed met Cobb's brute strength.  Ospreay however tried to play Cobb's game, often standing toe to toe with his much larger opponent, and in the end it cost him.  He went for a top-rope Stormbreaker but Cobb reversed it into Tour of the Islands (followed by a second one) and pinned him to win the NEVER Title.  I was a little sad to see Ospreay drop the belt already but Cobb is tailor-made for the NEVER division and I certainly won't complain about seeing more of him in NJPW.  Helluva good opening match that could've gone a little longer.  ***3/4


Second on the card was the first ROH-exclusive match, and it went fifteen seconds.  In fact my feed cut briefly and by the time it came back the match was already over.  Rush pounced on Dalton Castle at the bell, hit him with two finishers, and it was done.  Oookay then.  Castle flipped out and beat up his entourage after the match.  NR

The third match was to be Kelly Klein's crowning moment as the new centerpiece of the ROH Women's Division, but unfortunately the crowd basically didn't care about this at all.  Klein and Champion Mayu Iwatani had a passable match that suffered from zero crowd heat, ending with two K-Power drivers and Klein standing tall as the new champion.  Then Love and Sky came out, and Mandy Leon (who'd been the guest commentator) appeared to rush to Klein's aid only to turn on her.  This was right out of an old Impact episode and the crowd pretty much hated it.  The match itself gets **.  The angle stunk.

Top Ten Things: Undertaker WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today we're talking about The Phenom, The Deadman, The Conscience of WWE, and his greatest bouts at WWE's biggest PPV of the year, WrestleMania!



Probably the greatest streak in fake sports was the one held by The Undertaker, a winning streak at WrestleMania that lasted over two decades and led to one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history when it was broken.  What started as an organic bit of booking happenstance evolved into possibly the biggest perennial feature on The Showcase of the Immortals.  Suddenly there was a built-in long-term storyline for one of the top WrestleMania matches every year, and for quite a while Taker's match either stole the show or came damn close.  Even after The Streak was broken by Brock Lesnar, Taker's match would continue to be one of the top featured attractions.

But which of his 'Mania showings stand atop the others?  Here now are, in my estimation, The Undertaker's greatest WrestleMania bouts....




10. Undertaker vs. Kane - WrestleMania XIV


Taker's first great 'Mania bout didn't occur until he'd already established a six-match winning streak (Yes, his 1996 match with Diesel was solid, but aside from that his 'Mania outings up until this point were forgettable at best).  In 1997 Taker was involved in a long storyline arc wherein his former manager Paul Bearer revealed he had a long-lost half-brother named Kane (Ironically Kane was actually Taker's first name when he debuted).  The company built up Kane's first appearance for several months before he attacked Taker during the first Hell in a Cell match, and from then on he was established as an unstoppable monster.  Also to the company's credit, they held off giving away too much physical interaction between the Brothers of Destruction, so by the time this match finally took place it truly felt like Taker would be facing his ultimate adversary.  The match itself didn't disappoint; the two behemoths delivered a very physical fight that Taker was only able to win via three consecutive Tombstone piledrivers.  Even in a loss, Kane was set up as a major star.




9. Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - WrestleMania 21


After a serious in-ring slump in 2003-04, Taker was able to return to form in this underrated match with the Legend Killer.  Orton had just finished a horribly failed babyface run in late 2004 and the company wisely turned him heel again, leading to Orton challenging Taker to a Legend vs. Legend Killer match.  These two worked extremely well together, delivering one of the better matches on the card that ended with Taker reversing an Orton Tombstone into his own for the win.  Taker and Orton would go on to have a series of strong matches throughout 2005, in a feud that helped re-elevate Orton.




8. Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVII


In 2011 both The Undertaker and Triple H returned from a long hiatus.  Taker's return was teased ahead of time, but just as he was about to cut a promo the familiar strains of Motorhead filled the arena, announcing The Game.  The two veterans stared each other down before Hunter wordlessly made a challenge by turning his gaze to the WrestleMania 27 sign.  The match itself, while full of typical No-DQ frills, was a fairly epic, very dramatic WWE-style main event with some great gasp-inducing nearfalls.  Taker finally won with Hell's Gate but was so exhausted he had to be stretchered to the back on a forklift.  But these two would outdo each other one year later, both in terms of storytelling and action.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The History of NXT TakeOver: New York


Wow.  What a fucking show this was.  The NXT gang once again smoked the shit out of the main roster, delivering their best effort to date.  NXT TakeOver: New York was everything you could want from a pro wrestling show.  Five matches, all different, all good to excellent, with an epic main event to cap it all off.  The RAW/Smackdown crew will be hard-pressed to equal this show anytime soon.

TakeOver kicked off with an absolutely stellar Tag Title match, as War Raiders defended against Ricochet & Aleister Black.  This twenty-minute clinic featured numerous instances of each team trying to one-up the other at their own wheelhouse.  Hanson & Rowe, known for their power moves, took to the air to prove to Ric and Black they could do it just as well.  Ricochet picked up the massive Hanson and hit an overhead slam to show how deceptively powerful he is, despite technically being a cruiserweight.  The nearfalls were stunning and the rabid Brooklyn crowd bought into all of them.  After missing the 630 senton, Ricochet fell victim to a brutal-looking Fallout (Animal and Hawk would be proud), and the Raiders retained.  Just a stunning opener to set the tone.  ****1/2


The match I was least excited about was the North American Championship, Velveteen Dream defending against MMA import Matt Riddle.  But these two delivered huge, in a perfect clash of styles.  Riddle's grapple-based offense is crisp as can be, while Dream's natural charisma and old school callbacks totally won the split crowd to his side.  Riddle got frustrated as the match wore on and began playing the heel, trying to twist Dream into knots and tap him out.  Finally at about the 17-minute mark he locked in his BroMission finisher, only for Dream to roll back and get the quick pin.  Riddle was furious and it looked like we'd see a full heel turn, but in the end he regained his "bro-jo" and accepted a fistbump from the champ.  Excellent sleeper match that sold me on Riddle (I was already on the Dream bandwagon).  ****