Thursday, April 15, 2021

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 2 (30-21)

Continuing with our WrestleMania main event rankings, let's get into #30-21!  


Check out Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4



30. The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns - WrestleMania 33


WrestleMania 33 was one of those shows with about four potential main events, where I believe the company wasn't even sure until that weekend which bout would go on last.  The Universal Title match pitted Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, but you can't end a WrestleMania with a five-minute match, right?  Oh wait...  The WWE Title match was a laughably terrible Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt outing (later outdone in its awfulness with a rematch four years later).  The other marquee match that could've gone last was Triple H vs. Seth Rollins in a 25-minute mentor vs. student bout, which felt like a WrestleMania main event except that it took place three hours into a five-hour show.  But the company opted to put The Undertaker's swan song last, an intended passing of the torch to the current generation of stars, in particular Roman Reigns (Yup, Vince was still trying to make fetch happen with babyface Reigns at this point).  So the 52-year-old Undertaker, moving like a much older man, went out there and worked a 21-minute match with the spry, youthful Reigns, and more or less stunk up the joint, botching spots, hobbling around, and generally looking eons past his prime.  Reigns won the match after numerous spears, and in the segment's most memorable moment Taker took off his hat, coat and gloves and left them in the ring, as if to close the door on his legendary career.  The problem was, the match just wasn't very good, and Taker was so unhappy with his performance he unretired a year later, rendering the only truly effective part of the match meaningless.  It also didn't help that Taker's historic WrestleMania streak had already been broken three years earlier and thus Roman's win over him here was far less significant.  This is the kind of wastefulness that happens when you don't plan ahead and look at how a creative decision might affect the future.




29. Triple H vs. Roman Reigns - WrestleMania 32


Only slightly better than Reigns' third WrestleMania main event was his second, a dull, languid 27-minute outing against Triple H, who'd recently won a superfluous ninth WWE Championship at that year's Royal Rumble.  I know Seth Rollins' late-2015 knee injury threw a wrench into the company's WrestleMania plans, but was there seriously no one else they could've pushed into a WWE Title feud with Reigns here?  No?  Let's just go with another semi-retired part-timer in a top slot then.  Super.  Reigns had started to gain a bit of crowd support during his feud with Sheamus a few months earlier, Superman Punching Vince and savagely beating the Celtic Warrior to regain the championship after Sheamus's Money in the Bank cash-in.  But a month later at the Rumble the company booked him to look like an unlikable chump once more, as he voluntarily left the Rumble match to have a kayfabe injury tended to, only returning near the end.  Way to make your top babyface look the opposite of gallant.  Anyway, Hunter swooped in to win the belt, and the match was set for 'Mania, even though Dean Ambrose was WAY more over and in fact delivered a far superior match to this one only a few weeks earlier.  It's never a good sign when the B PPV three weeks before WrestleMania features a main event that bitchslaps the 'Mania one.  Maybe Ambrose should've gotten this spot instead, hmm?  But no, Vince was going to have his guy in the main event, and not surprisingly Roman failed to get over in a basic, sluggish Triple H snorer.  He'd drop the title to the returning Seth Rollins only a few months later, and then Dean Ambrose would immediately cash in Money in the Bank.  So the belt ended up on Dean after all....

Oscar Film Journal: Fatal Attraction (1987)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at Enuffa.com.  The awards are coming up fast....


Today's subject is a lurid piece of rather trashy pulp that not only made a fortune but somehow grabbed the Academy's attention, Fatal Attraction, starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close.  You all know the story by now - Douglas stars as Danny Gallagher, a high-powered New York lawyer who has a torrid weekend fling with a work associate, who then becomes a maniacal stalker looking to turn the affair into a relationship at all costs.  Played with complexity and legitimately frightening eroticism by Glenn Close, the character of Alex Forrest is one of the legendary cinematic femme fatales, and the role launched Close's career while earning her a well-deserved Oscar nod.  Douglas's performance is quite strong as well; he's made a career of playing very flawed protagonists desperately slipping to the end of their pitiful rope.  The unsung performance in the film (though she did also get a Supporting Actress nomination) is from Anne Archer as Danny's devoted wife, who doesn't suspect a thing until Alex begins to turn the Gallaghers' lives upside down.  Poor Beth Gallagher thinks her marriage is on solid ground until this whackjob boils her daughter's new rabbit (That's just uncalled for, Alex).  

Watching this film for the first time (I had seen bits and pieces and knew the major beats of the plot), I found myself thinking "THIS got a Best Picture nomination??"  It's obviously a well-made erotic thriller with strong performances by all three leads, and Close became something of a pop culture icon in the process, but let's take an honest look at this thing.  Fatal Attraction is an over-the-top film noir crossed with a checkout line romance novel (even the title evokes it).  Had the filmmakers been a little more daring they could've seriously explored the Alex Forrest character and her terrifying psychological issues, instead of just making her a full-on horror film maniac.  We get glimpses of nuance during the second-act fallout of the affair, as Alex manipulates Danny in different ways to get him to stay in her life.  But the producers changed the climax of the movie from a disturbing but believable suicide/murder frame-job ending to something resembling a slasher film denoument, complete with a "killer's not really dead" moment.  I get why they reshot this; it's a crowd-pleasing Hollywood finish, but it lowers the material from a sophisticated grown-up thriller to popcorn schlock.  They weren't even all that imaginative in the execution either; there are shovel-to-the-face obvious suspense tropes, like the killer popping up in the bathroom mirror behind one of the good guys, or a shot of the married couple sleeping and a slow pan over to the phone just before it suddenly rings at 2am, or a water-level shot of the full bathtub just before the killer pops out of the water.  This stuff is B-movie cheeseball, and simply has no place in a supposedly Oscar-worthy film.

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 1 (#40-31)

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, or should I say, Top FORTY Things, here at Enuffa.com!  I know WrestleMania 37 is now in the history books, but for the first time in years the WrestleMania mood stuck with me days after the show, so I'm running with it.  To that end I decided to put every WrestleMania main event in order from worst to best, and split it into four parts so as to make it a little more digestible for you folks.  "But Justin," you're probably saying, "How can there be a Top 40 when there have only been 39 WrestleMania shows?"  Well, I'll explain that one in a bit.


WrestleMania is of course the biggest PPV of the year, a time when athleticism and spectacle intermingle on the biggest possible scale for one night a year (or two nights nowadays).  The results over the last near-four decades have been mixed, but when WWE is on their game, they're capable of transcending the art form.  When they aren't, it ranges from uninspired to the drizzling dumpster farts.  This list has a little of everything, as the WrestleMania main event has historically been overshadowed by another match on the card more often than not (roughly two out of every three times by my calculation).  But whether or not the participants deliver in the final match of the evening, the WrestleMania main event is the ultimate goal for just about everyone who throws their hat into the wrasslin' ring.  It's an honor bestowed only on a select few, and even fewer truly make their moment count.  Let's peruse the WWE archives and see which 'Mania main events have measured up and which ones belong on history's scrap heap.....

Click here for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4



40. Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania IX


Alright, so I said earlier I'd explain why there are 40 entries on this list, and here's the reason.  WrestleMania IX's main event as officially announced was Bret Hart defending the WWF Championship against newly minted monster heel Yokozuna, who earned his title shot at the 1993 Royal Rumble.  That match took place as planned, but immediately afterwards Hulk Hogan showed up to protest the result (Yokozuna beat Bret after Mr. Fuji threw salt in the champ's eyes), and Yokozuna challenged him to a match on the spot.  Nevermind that it made zero sense for the brand new *heel* WWF Champion, who'd just endured a grueling nine-minute match, to challenge a fresh babyface for an impromptu title defense.  Hogan accepted with Bret's blessing (which also made no sense as Bret and Hogan had never really interacted before), dodged an errant salt throw from Fuji that landed in Yoko's eyes (Apparently salt is the deadliest weapon ever, as it was responsible for two title changes in one night), and dropped his big stupid leg to win the WWF Title only two minutes removed from the PPV's official main event finish.  A guy who wasn't even booked to headline the show walked away with the gold (an occurrence which would repeat 22 years later under much better circumstances) while the two new main event guys were made to look like chumps.  This was goddamn disgraceful and entirely counterproductive at a time when the WWF desperately needed to move on from the Hogan Era, and worse, Hogan would take the belt home for two months, reneging on his backstage promise to put Bret over at SummerSlam.  To paraphrase George Carlin, fuck Terry, Terry sucks.  This "match" is the worst main event in WrestleMania history, but I'll be goddamned if I'm not also going to acknowledge that show's true main event on this list.  Hence Bret vs. Yokozuna will appear as well, bringing the total number of entries to 40.




39. Sgt. Slaughter vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania VII


Speaking of Terry and sucking, the main event of WrestleMania VII was centered around the recently returned Sgt. Slaughter, who instead of being the heroic American soldier we all knew and tolerated, announced himself as an Iraqi sympathizer, complete with a Saddam Hussein lookalike manager and a flag burning.  He defeated The Ultimate Warrior at the Royal Rumble, thus robbing fans of a Hogan-Warrior rematch which would've done ENORMOUS business, and setting up this stinker of a main event instead.  Fans were so unimpressed with this bout headlining the show in fact, WrestleMania VII had to be moved from its original 100,000-seat location at the LA Coliseum to the much smaller 16,000-seat LA Sports Arena.  The match in practice was about as good as it looked on paper, which is to say it wasn't good.  At all.  Hogan and Slaughter plodded around the ring for a pretty excruciating 21 minutes before Hogan put a merciful end to Slaughter's title reign, and this match.  Ridiculously their feud would continue until SummerSlam, a full six months after our real-life skirmish in Iraq had ended.
 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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 13, 2021

Top Ten Things: Women's WrestleMania Matches

Well it's been a while, but welcome to a brand new edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I make a list of ten things and put them in a certain order.  It sounds so arbitrary when I phrase it like that....


Today I'm talking about matches taking place at WrestleMania, specifically women's matches.  Say what you will about WWE's annual spring spectacular or its product in general - the quality is hit-or-miss at best nowadays, and we went from obscenely long five-plus-hour shows to a two-night WrestleMania weekend (which I much prefer over the former).  But one thing we seem to be able to count on in recent years is that at least one offering from the women's division will deliver in the clutch.  WWE boasts by far the most robust, talented roster of female grapplers in the business these days, and while there's still too much of a focus on Vince's preferred type, in the form of Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, Carmella, Lacey Evans, etc., the cream has consistently risen to the top of WWE's women's division.  Said division has come a very long way from the Divas matches of old, usually sandwiched in between far more important bouts and only alotted 4-6 minutes, or worse, given the eye candy treatment of Bra & Panties matches, Playboy pillow fights, and other stupidity.  For every time Trish Stratus or Lita attempted to transcend back in the day there were upwards of a dozen other instances of the women being presented as either an afterthought or a debasement.  But now the women's division has become one of the featured attractions at the Showcase of the Immortals, sometimes in more than one bout.  Hell, there are times when they end up more or less saving the show.  Here now are the ten best women's matches in WrestleMania history (and for the purposes of this article I've included one mixed tag match).




10. Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler - WrestleMania 36


2020's WrestleMania was an odd one thanks to COVID restrictions preventing it taking place in front of an audience.  The two nights were taped the week before, with very mixed results.  One of a few mild Night 1 successes was this RAW Women's Title match, pitting the uber-popular Becky Lynch against the winner of that year's women's Elimination Chamber, Shayna Baszler.  Shayna had singlehandedly run through all her Chamber opponents on the way to 'Mania, and it was expected she'd steamroll Lynch on her way to main roster gold.  But odd booking prevailed and Becky countered a Kirafuda Clutch with a Bret Hart-style rollup to retain the title at 8:30.  Not a great match by any means, but a solid showing from both women, and to date Becky Lynch's last WrestleMania appearance, wherein she'd all but guaranteed reaching a full year as the champion.




9. Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax - WrestleMania 33


This Fatal 4-Way Elimination match came to be after Charlotte lost the RAW Women's Title to Bayley on an episode of RAW.  She then also lost in her bid to regain the belt at Fastlane (her first-ever loss on a main roster PPV).  Sasha meanwhile had been feuding with Nia, and both of them beat Bayley in non-title matches to earn a spot here.  This match was a step down from the WrestleMania 32 women's Triple Threat match but still featured some fun action.  Charlotte, Sasha and Bayley triple-teamed Nia Jax to get her eliminated first, Charlotte eliminated Banks with the help of an exposed turnbuckle, and Bayley quickly used the same turnbuckle to defeat Charlotte and retain.  This saga could've easily been better planned by having Bayley win the title from Charlotte at WrestleMania 33, thus ending her previously undefeated streak on PPV.  But aside from squandering a bigger moment this match was a pretty good showcase of the burgeoning RAW women's division.

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Demotions

Hey everyone, welcome back to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com


In anticipation of this year's spring extravaganza, I thought I'd go back and take a look at some of the worst WrestleMania demotions in history.  What do I mean by that?  Well I'm talking about instances where a particular wrestler either main evented or semi-main evented a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania.  I picked the ten twelve most glaring examples of this and I'm presenting them in chronological order.  Here we go.



1. Paul Orndorff - Main Eventer to Curtain Jerker


"Mr. Wonderful" was one of the great WWF heels of the 80s.  His feuds against Hulk Hogan were the stuff of legend.  Unfortunately Orndorff was also kind of a split personality, character-wise.  Nowadays certain wrestlers turn face and heel with the frequency of an 80-year-old with incontinence (see Show, Big), but in the 80s a character turn was a big deal.  Orndorff however was unusually fickle, feuding with Hogan, befriending him six months later, turning on him again, befriending him again, etc. 

Orndorff headlined the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Roddy Piper against Hogan and Mr. T.  Despite taking the pinfall, Orndorff was featured in one of the biggest matches in company history.  At 'Mania 2 though, a babyface Orndorff found himself opening the show in a totally forgettable four-minute double countout with Don Muraco.  Thus the tradition of WrestleMania Stock Drops began.




2. King Kong Bundy - Caged Monster to Comedy Act


King Kong Bundy was a legitimately scary dude in 1986.  He was a 6'4", 450-pound wall of humanity with a shaved head, whose finisher simply consisted of squashing a guy in the corner of the ring.  He challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at 'Mania 2 in a Steel Cage match (The first and only time a WrestleMania has been headlined by such a bout).  While no five-star classic, the match cemented Bundy as an imposing threat to the Title.  Fast-forward a year later, and Bundy was stuck in a goofy comedy match, teaming with two minis against perennial jobber-to-the-stars Hillbilly Jim and two other minis.  After only three-plus minutes, Bundy earned a disqualification by bodyslamming Little Beaver.  A far cry from nearly dethroning the WWF Champion the previous year.


Monday, April 12, 2021

WWE WrestleMania 37, Night 2: The Bad Guys Win Everything

WrestleMania 37, Night 2 was a pretty good show overall, by my estimation a small step down from Night 1, but with plenty to enjoy, including another stellar main event.  I will say it was refreshing to have two WrestleMania shows where the main event outshined everything else - that doesn't happen often; it's been six years since the last time.  Maybe the weirdest thing about Night 2 was the fact that of the seven matches, six were won by heels.  What a downer.


WWE got the worst crap out of the way early, with Randy Orton vs. The Fiend as the opening match.  There was a bunch of stupid visual effects-related stuff leading to Bray Wyatt's entrance, including his morphing from the burnt Friday the 13th Part 6 version of The Fiend back to the regular one.  He emerged from a giant jack-in-the-box and hit Orton with a diving clothesline, and we were off (complete with the headache-inducing red lighting that by all rights should've long ago lost someone their job).  These two did a competently worked five-minute match that ended with Wyatt about to hit Sister Abigail on Orton, only to be distracted by Alexa Bliss leaking black ooze all over her face.  Orton took advantage to hit Wyatt with the RKO for the pin, the lights went out, and when they came back up everyone was gone.  Ummm, what?  So Orton burned this guy alive, he disappeared for three months, returned at Fastlane to set up his great revenge at WrestleMania, and lost in five minutes?  Seriously, kill this character off.  He sucks.  Go back to swamp-dwelling Bray Wyatt with the whole world in his hands.  This Fiend shit is early-90s WWF terrible.  Fuck this feud.  *

The second-worst match of the night was next as Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax defended against Tag Team Turmoil winners Natalya and Tamina, and while clunky and sloppy in spots, this was decent.  Shayna and Nattie worked well together, Nia and Tamina did big power moves on each other.  Shayna at one point hit a knee lift that apparently caused Nattie to bite right through her lip - sweet jeezus that had to hurt.  The finish came at 14 minutes when Nattie locked Nia in a sharpshooter, unaware that Nia had blind-tagged Shayna in.  Shayna came up from behind and locked in the kirafuda clutch, causing Nattie to pass out.  This was pretty good but insanely got more time than anything except the main event.  That's fucking mental.  **

WWE WrestleMania 37, Night 1: Sasha & Bianca Deliver Big

WrestleMania 37 is in the books, the first WWE shows in front of a proper audience in 13 months, and the second WrestleMania to be split across two nights.  Overall each night was an enjoyable affair with some good to very good matches, two excellent main events, some questionable booking (par for the course in this company), and the crowning of a couple of new stars.  Night 1 was the more successful show, more consistent and with better time management, but Night 2 was a solid outing in its own right.  But we'll get to that....


Night 1 opened, after a 30-minute rain delay (kinda shocking that this is the first time this has ever happened for an outdoor WrestleMania) during which numerous stars cut actual unscripted promos for the first time in forever, with the WWE Title match.  Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre were given 18 minutes and made the most of it, with a hard-hitting hoss battle.  Drew got all of his big moves in and went for the Claymore but MVP pulled Lashley out of the ring to save him.  Drew dove over the ropes onto both guys, broke out a kimura lock (homage to Brock Lesnar?), and eventually set up for the Claymore again, but MVP yelled from ringside to Bobby, which distracted Drew long enough for Bobby to duck the kick and apply the Hurt Lock.  Drew fought it for a while and tried to fall back on top of him for a pin, but Lashley rolled through and held on, pulling Drew to the mat and wrapping his leg over.  The ref checked on Drew and called the match for Lashley due to a pass-out.  This seemed like the wrong finish for the first match in a year in front of fans - if Lashley was going to retain they should've put this match somewhere else on the card.  Just a really odd, decisive finish for the heel champion if McIntyre is getting a rematch later (which I assume he is).  It was almost like The Rock losing to Triple H at WrestleMania 2000.  Plus it made Miz's brief title run utterly pointless.  But anyway the match was very good.  ***3/4


Match #2 was not so good, and it was the Tag Team Turmoil match.  I was fully expecting the surprise return of Becky Lynch with Charlotte Flair as her partner, but that didn't happen so we were stuck with the five announced teams.  Carmella and Billie Kaye beat Naomi and Lana with an assisted rollup, then tried the same tactic on the Riott Squad but the ref broke it up.  Ruby Riott pinned Billie Kay after a senton.  The Riott Squad also beat Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke after a rollup.  Then Tamina and Natalya won the whole match after Tamina hit a Superfly splash off the top rope.  Not much to this.  *1/2

Friday, April 9, 2021

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 36

WrestleMania in the time of COVID..... 


The one WrestleMania to take place in front of zero fans, in the Performance Center, Number 36 was definitely a mixed results-type show.  The lack of live crowd certainly hurt the overall vibe but everyone worked hard to negate the effects of the room silence; one side effect that was often entertaining was being able to hear the wrestlers trash-talk during each match.  My biggest complaint is that on both nights the final two matches were either underwhelming or just plain stupid.  Why Vince thinks a top championship match going under five minutes is acceptable at WrestleMania, I'm sure I don't know.  

After a pretty entertaining 4-minute pre-show match pitting Cesaro against Drew Gulak, the proper show began with the Women's Tag Titles.  Asuka & Kairi Sane faced Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, in a pretty well-worked match that just went too long.  In front of a crowd this 15-minute match might not have worn out its welcome, but here it ended up dragging a bit by the end.  Asuka came off great in this empty-arena environment though, taunting her opponents for much of the bout.  The Kabuki Warriors dominated much of the bout, but in the end the babyfaces hit a Cross neckbreaker/Twisted Bliss combination on Kairi to regain the belts.  This was a fun opener that just went about three minutes too long.

The match I was least looking forward to was next, as Elias faced everyone's favorite reason to change the channel, Baron Corbin.  After an angle on Smackdown where Corbin knocked Elias off the camera perch to the concrete floor, they teased Elias not being able to wrestle.  But of course Elias came out, not selling anything, bashed Corbin with his guitar, and the match was underway.  This ended up an okay 9-minute TV match but nothing more.  Corbin dominated a lot of the action but after a rope-assisted pin attempt that failed, Corbin got rolled up by Elias (with a handful of tights) for the three.  

The most baffling match placement of either night was next as Becky Lynch defended against Shayna Baszler.  How this went on third and only got eight-and-a-half minutes is beyond me.  This was pretty much all action as they traded strikes and submission attempts back and forth.  Becky at one point hit a uranagi on the apron which looked great.  The match ended when Becky went for Disarm-her but Shayna reversed into the choke.  Becky refused to submit and did the Bret Hart-Steve Austin spot where she rolled backward to pin Shayna and retain.  A year into Becky's title reign this was the wrong move, Shayna should've won here.  What's worse is that Becky announced one month later that she was pregnant and would be relinquishing the title anyway.  So having her go over in this match was pointless.  One of a few booking decisions that didn't make sense to me, but a solid if underwhelming match. 


The History of NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Night 2

At the end of my Stand & Deliver Night 1 review I said "Let's see if Night 2 can top it."  And the answer is no.  No it can't.  S&D Night 2 was a pretty good show made to look not so great trying to follow such a fantastic Night 1.  In fact I would say the best match on Night 2 was behind the three or four best matches on Night 1.  Maybe NXT is better reigned in at around two hours.  Maybe Night 1 just had the better roster of talent.  Regardless, I was underwhelmed by Night 2 and in a perfect world I could actually see either night of WrestleMania besting this show.


The show opened with the Cruiserweight Unification match between Santos Escobar and Jordan Devlin.  These two worked pretty hard for the bout's 18 minutes but didn't do anything we haven't seen before in one of these ladder matches (I've said this before but I think it's time for a long moratorium on ladder matches - they just aren't special anymore).  There were plenty of big spots but it's simply not safe to do anything that comes close to the danger of the TLC matches of 20 years ago.  And without that level of danger there's not much point to a ladder match (There was a nice Devlin moonsault off the top of the ladder - pretty spectacular).  What made things worse is the late-match interference of Legado Del Fantasma, who knocked the ladder over as Devlin was climbing, and then just left.  So first off, why did they wait so long to show up, and second, why did they voluntarily leave afterwards?  Their involvement made no sense at all; what is this, RAW?  The finish came when both men were climbing but Escobar pushed Devlin backwards off the ladder, through a ladder propped up against the turnbuckle, before retrieving both belts to become the Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion.  Side note: Vic Joseph needs to stop acknowledging the "This is awesome" chants - he did it twice in this match alone, and his response is always "This is indeed awesome."  Stop it.  This was fine but nothing more.  ***1/4


Next up was a free TV-quality Women's Tag Title match, as Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart faced Candice LaRae and Indi Hartwell.  They got ten minutes, which was plenty to do what they needed to do.  The most memorable spot was Shotzi almost killing herself with a tope onto both opponents, who somehow BOTH missed catching her - that's pretty inexcusable.  Fortunately Shotzi hit the dasherboards back-first and seemed to be fine.  And then Ember did a top rope moonsault onto both opponents, who succeeded in catching her.  Back in the ring, Ember hit her Eclipse finisher (still a marvelous-looking move) on both challengers, and Shotzi hit her top rope senton on Indi to retain the belts.  Again, this was fine.  ***


The History of WWE WrestleMania: 35

Another WrestleMania with too many matches that ran too long, to the point that even the historic main event everyone wanted to see kinda fell flat thanks to an exhausted crowd being asked to stay until well after midnight.


Sweet Jeezus, why does a wrestling PPV ever need to go five-and-a-half hours, plus a two-hour pre-show?  Like, ever?  Someone in WWE needs to pick Vince up by the face and shake him until he grasps this idea.  WrestleMania 35, like the previous three editions, was a good three-hour show buried inside a pulsating blob of dimpled fat lasting twice as long.  By the end of the show the white-hot women's main event everyone was frothing at the mouth to see was met with subdued indifference.  That's not good.  How does the man with four decades of experience as a promoter not see this?

The four pre-show matches were split down the middle in terms of quality.  Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese had a very good, innovative, exciting cruiserweight match, the women's battle royal was entirely forgettable and Carmella of all people won, The Revival wrenched a quite watchable RAW Tag Title match out of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder, who became the new champs despite never winning any matches, and the men's battle royal was equally forgettable except for Braun Strowman predictably eliminating Colin Jost and Michael Che.  I'm still not sure what the point of their involvement was.

Alright, now for the main card.  After an Alexa Bliss/Hulk Hogan introduction, Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins kicked off the show (HUUUUUUUHHH???).  Brock attacked Seth before the bell, tossing him from barrier to barrier, over one of the announce tables multiple times, and generally beating the piss out of him before demanding the match be started.  Finally the bell rang, Brock suplexed Seth numerous times, went for the F5, Seth escaped and pushed Brock into the ref, knocking him out of the ring, low-blowed him, and delivered three Curb Stomps, leading to the pin at 2:30 officially.  Metlife Stadium went nuts for this finish, so this has to be considered a successful segment, but as one of the five matches I was genuinely looking forward to, this was a major letdown for me.  Apparently the decision to put this on first was made after the show started.  When the lineup of your biggest show of the year is being switched around on the fly, you just might be Eric Bischoff....  Anyway this was fine for what it was, but it was barely a proper match.  Seth's run as the conquering hero champion fell right on its face pretty quickly after this, thanks to an interminable feud with Baron Corbin (plus Seth's own social media ineptitude).  He'd lose the title back to Brock and then win it back at SummerSlam in a vastly superior match.


Next up was AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton, which while not being the blowaway most people anticipated, was nonetheless a really good 16-minute bout and for a while the best thing on the show.  They teased several times the idea that Orton could hit the RKO as a counter to one of AJ's big moves, but AJ wisely avoided it every time.  Late in the match Orton did hit a sudden RKO but AJ kicked out of the pin, the action spilled outside, at which time AJ hit the Phenomenal Forearm from the top rope to the floor, rolled Orton back in, and hit it again in the ring to win the match.  I liked this match a lot; AJ added to his streak of delivering one of the best matches on the WrestleMania card.  Sadly this streak would end one year later, ironically at the hands of The Streak guy.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The History of NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Night 1

Well, Night 1 of NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver, um, delivered.  Big time.  Of the five matches, I'd call four pretty great.  And, unlike a lot of WWE-related shows, they were all very different.  Maybe now that NXT is moving to Tuesdays and thus isn't head-to-head with AEW anymore, Vince lost interest and is going to let the one good WWE brand run more or less on its own again.


The show started with a rather short but technically excellent grapple-fest between Pete Dunne and Kushida, which was all about stringing together great chain wrestling sequences.  I love these kinds of matches and in 2021 we don't see enough of them.  From grappling and submissions, the match progressed to striking, before moving on to the big moves.  Kushida nearly had the match won with the Hoverboard Lock but Dunne reached the ropes twice, tweaked Kushida's fingers to the point that Kushida couldn't throw his signature punch without hurting himself, and hit the Bitter End to take the match.  Damn good stuff in the opener.  ****


My least favorite bout, though it was enjoyable, was the Gauntlet Eliminator, basically an Elimination Chamber without the Chamber.  Leon Ruff and Isaiah Scott started things out with fast-paced exchanges before Bronson Reed entered.  Reed dominated both guys, using his superior size and strength.  Next in was Cameron Grimes, who paid Scott to form an alliance, and the two heels double teamed Ruff, resulting in his quick elimination as Dexter Lumis joined the fray.  Lumis hit moves on everyone, looking like a monster.  The final entrant was LA Knight, who cut a promo on everyone and proceeded to hit a bunch of big moves including a Kurt Angle-style superplex after quickly scaling the ropes.  Knight pinned Lumis with a quick cradle but was quickly eliminated by Reed.  Isaiah Scott turned on Grimes, pinning him with a rollup, and Reed and Grimes had a strong final sequence full of high impact offense.  Reed eventually won with his big splash off the top rope to punch his ticket against Johnny Gargano.  Good match but it went kinda long.  ***1/2


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

WWE WrestleMania 37 Preview & Predictions

It's that time of year again, when WWE throws a whole buncha shit at the wall and calls it WrestleMania!


Actually this year's show looks pretty strong overall.  Yes, the buildup has been atrocious as always, which is why I don't watch the weekly shows - imagine how fucked your booking has to be for RAW and Smackdown to make people care LESS about your upcoming PPVs.  But if the company gets out of the way and just lets these people work, WrestleMania 37 might actually be good.  For one thing this will be the first WWE show in front of a live audience in over a year.  That fact alone ought to make for a red-hot crowd; unlike most years the fans will actually seem happy to be there.  Like Mania 36, the theme is pirates and skull flags, and we're also getting two nights of WrestleMania.  Unlike 36, the shows are in a proper stadium with the bells and whistles one associates with the show of shows.  Plus, and this has me pretty stoked, no Triple H and no Undertaker.  It's the first WrestleMania since number 11 with neither guy wrestling on the card.  That's amazing.  In their place though are Edge (absurdly in one of the main events, but at least he hasn't been around every year stealing top spots), and Shane McMahon (zero defense for this, get him off these 'Mania shows).  Oh and Bad Bunny.  Whatever.  Also absent from WrestleMania are Shinsuke Nakamura (inexcusable), Jey Uso (who will probably be in Roman's corner?), Ricochet (why is this guy still in the company at this point?), and a host of other poor saps.  On the bright side though, each night of 'Mania should be well under four hours.  I'm all for that.  The phenomenon of the live crowd being totally burned out by the time the main event arrives got old real fast.

So let's dive in.  We have two nights and 14 matches to cover....



Night 1


Tag Team Turmoil: Lana & Naomi vs. Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose vs. The Riott Squad vs. Natalya & Tamina


The winners of this match get a shot at Nia Jax & Shayna Bazsler on Night 2.  Yeah, I'm thinkin' this can't be it.  There has to be a surprise last-minute team that swoops in and wins this.  I'm thinking probably Charlotte Flair and Bayley, or better yet, Charlotte and the returning Becky Lynch.  Why not?  It's in front of a live crowd, the pop will be huge.  That seems the likely scenario actually; it's a perfect "WrestleMania moment" kinda thing.  If I'm wrong and there's no surprise team, I guess I'll go with The Riott Squad?

Pick: TBA, or Riott Squad




RAW Tag Team Championship: New Day vs. AJ Styles & Omos


Between Kofi, Xavier and AJ this match should be quite good.  Omos is a big 7-foot question mark, but a match like this is ideal to hide his weaknesses.  Hey, remember when Kofi was the WWE Champ?  Good times.  Anyway, I can't see AJ and his monster heel bodyguard losing here.

Pick: AJ/Omos


The History of WWE WrestleMania: 34

WrestleMania has reached its mid-30s and is starting to question its life choices as it hurtles toward midlife crisis territory....

Image result for wrestlemania 34 logo

This here was a straaaaaange WrestleMania.  At times excellent, at times frustrating, this was a show full of contradictions.  The long and short of it is, WrestleMania 34 had a slew of good to very good matches, a refreshingly renewed focus on current full-timers, a variety of bouts that appealed to the different fan segments, and sadly a few issues that prevented it from being an all-time great WrestleMania.

But man, it was really shaping up to be one of the best ever for a while.  The PPV Proper kicked off with a pretty stellar Triple Threat for the Intercontinental Title, with Finn Balor and Seth Rollins challenging The Miz.  These three worked a blistering pace, with high spots and reversals abound, and had the crowd on the edge of their seats the whole time.  Balor appeared to have the match won after a Coup de Grace on The Miz, when Rollins came out of nowhere with a Curb Stomp, knocking Balor into Miz's back, and following up with a second Curb Stomp on Miz himself for the win.  Just an excellent 15-minute-plus opener that got the crowd (who for the first half of the show was one of the better 'Mania audiences in recent memory) super-energized.


Second was the highly anticipated Smackdown Women's Title match pitting Charlotte against the undefeated Women's Rumble winner Asuka.  This was a fantastically worked match; both women looked stupendous and tough as nails.  Asuka at one point suplexed Charlotte off the apron to the floor, after which Charlotte repeated "I can't breathe" several times, and I'm not sure that wasn't legit.  Charlotte later hit a scary-looking Spanish Fly off the top rope, adding to her big move repertoire.  Asuka worked in some MMA-style submissions, countering a Charlotte moonsault into a triangle choke and later tying her up in a vicious-looking Zack Sabre-esque multi-limb hold.  Near the finish, Charlotte leveled Asuka with a spear (which looked better than any Roman's ever done), and after failing to get the three-count began crying in frustration.  She then slapped on the Figure-Eight, which Asuka fought for several moments before tapping out and taking her first-ever loss in WWE.  My initial reaction to this was "Dude. Bullshit."  But it became clear before long that the plan for 'Mania 35 was Charlotte vs. Ronda, which of course later morphed into a Triple Threat including the white-hot Becky Lynch.  So in retrospect this result made sense, even if I was pissed about it at first.  Regardless, I daresay this was the best-ever women's match at a WrestleMania up to this point.


Next up was the US Title 4-way, with Randy Orton defending against Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal, and Rusev, who was BY FAR the most over guy in the match.  This was a nine-minute sprint, with more or less nonstop action from the get-go.  Every guy got ample time to showcase his stuff, and the finish came down to Rusev about to tap out Jinder with the Accolade before a Singh Brother jumped on the apron and ate a Rusev kick, allowing Jinder to hit the Khallas for the win.  This result made no sense given how over Rusev was, and Jinder dropped the belt to Jeff Hardy two weeks later in Saudi Arabia.  It's sad how badly they squandered Rusev.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Preview & Predictions

Welp, WWE has attempted to corner the market on everyone's television viewing this week, with nine straight days of programming.  Last night it was RAW, tonight it's the Hall of Fame ceremony, and this Wednesday and Thursday it's the first two-night NXT TakeOver special, Stand & Deliver (followed by Smackdown, two nights of 'Mania, RAW and NXT).  


We have ourselves some pretty great-looking matchups on tap for this pair of shows.  I'm not up on all of NXT's goings-on (perhaps I'll watch the weekly show more often now that it will no longer be head-to-head with AEW), but I'll be damned if NXT hasn't put together a pretty stacked lineup.  Let's get started....


Night 1


Pete Dunne vs. Kushida


This might be the one I'm most interested in.  Both guys are fantastic, both guys killed it at the last TakeOver show, both guys deserve to be NXT headliners.  This should be a tremendous, hard-hitting match with lots of grappling as well.

Pick: I think Dunne wins this one.




Gauntlet Match: Leon Ruff vs. Isaiah Scott vs. Bronson Reed vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis vs. LA Knight


I'm generally not a fan of gauntlet matches; what a stupidly arbitrary way to determine a #1 contender.  They tend to be overly long sequences of overly short singles matches.  Not sure who wins here to challenge Johnny Gargano on Night 2, but I'll pick Dexter Lumis I guess.

Pick: The guy with the nerdiest name

Oscar Film Journal: The Hustler (1961)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal review, here at Enuffa.com!


Today's subject is the 1961 billiards-related classic, The Hustler, starring Paul Newman, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott and Jackie Gleason.  This gritty saga of gambling, winning and losing, and unlikely romance centers around "Fast" Eddie Felson, a prodigious pool hall hustler who along with his manager Charlie, travels town to town playing for money.  His ultimate quarry is pool legend Minnesota Fats (Gleason), whom he challenges to a series of games.  Eddie dominates most of the 25-hour session but can't bring himself to quit while he's ahead, and Fats cleans him out by the end.  Financially ruined and now "outed" as a hustler, Eddie plans to move on but meets Sarah (Piper Laurie), a part-time college student and full-time alcoholic, at the bus terminal.  The two connect instantly and Eddie moves in with her, breaking his partnership with Charlie.  Facing a choice between resuming his life as a hustler and going all-in with Sarah, Eddie strikes up a business arrangement with Fats' associate Bert (an austere George C. Scott) to get him back in a game against Fats.  Under Bert's cruel tutelage, Eddie learns the true nature of hustling, sacrificing his humanity and more to become a "winner."

Directed by Robert Rossen, a former Communist who sold out over 50 associates during the HUAC hearings in the 1950s, The Hustler is steeped in guilt and regret, now read almost as a parable for Rossen's McCarthy-era betrayals.  The Eddie character doesn't realize his dream of becoming the best pool player until after he's destroyed the two relationships he cared about, first his partnership with Charlie, then his romance with Sarah.  That inner conflict, career ambition at all costs vs. personal happiness, is central to the story, and The Hustler was one of few American films at the time to directly address such a theme.  

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 33

Another year, another interminable WrestleMania with way too many nostalgia acts....

Camping World Stadium - 4/2/17

Amazingly in 2017 WWE put on an even LONGER show than WM32 - the Kickoff started at 5pm Eastern and the main PPV ended at 12:13am.  Jeezus H. Christ guys.  I believe the phrase "too much of a good thing" was invented specifically for modern WWE PPVs.  Anyway, 'Mania 33 had a surprising amount of good stuff, considering how unenthusiastic I was going in.  Where 'Mania 32 was about half-good, 'Mania 33 upped that to about two-thirds, and even the bad stuff was pretty inoffensive.  Sadly most of the weak matches happened in the final third of the show.  Cut an hour out of the main PPV and you'd have something approaching an A- grade.  But let's take the deep dive.

First the pre-show stuff.  The Cruiserweights kicked things off with a quite nice bout that got a shocking 16 minutes.  Neville and Austin Aries worked pretty hard to deliver something memorable and for the most part succeeded.  WWE took a commercial break in the middle, which needs to fucking stop.  There is zero excuse for this.  It's your own network and you have the option to present matches uninterrupted.  Anyway, we got some pretty intense action culminating in Aries hitting a 450 splash, followed by the Last Chancery.  Neville appeared on the verge of tapping out but gouged Aries' injured eye to escape and hit the Red Arrow to retain.  Solid stuff.


The Andre Battle Royal was next, and as usual it was silly at best.  Big Show and Braun Strowman were eliminated mindbogglingly early, at which point I assumed Sami Zayn would probably get a nice little win here.  But when they showed Rob Gronkowski in the front row prior to the bell I should've smelled a rat.  Sure enough, Gronk got into an altercation with Jinder Mahal which led to him getting in the ring and shoulderblocking Mahal, allowing Mojo Rawley to recover from an earlier attack and win the whole thing.  This was purely to get a bit of mainstream media coverage and Mojo Rawley didn't benefit from this win whatsoever.  Once again the Andre Battle Royal serves very little purpose.

The third pre-show match, and the most infuriating, was Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for the I-C belt.  Why this particular belt has been so devalued is beyond me.  Ambrose and Corbin did nothing in this match to earn a main PPV slot, but it struck me as a chicken-and-egg scenario.  Did they phone it in because they were on the pre-show, or were they on the pre-show because the company knew they'd phone it in?  This was an entirely forgettable bout which got ten minutes and ended with Ambrose reversing End of Days into Dirty Deeds to retain.

The PPV proper kicked off with AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon in a pretty shockingly good match.  I was torn on this because Shane was booked to be a step ahead of AJ for most of the bout, but I'll be damned if it wasn't entertaining.  Many of the spots were way over-the-top, including Shane countering AJ's 450 splash into a triangle choke, Shane missing a Shooting Star Press, AJ trying the Van Terminator but running into a trash can, and Shane doing his own Van Terminator.  AJ finally took the win after hitting the Phenomenal Forearm, capping off what turned out to be the best match of the night.  Nothing even approaching AJ's bouts with Cena, but this was a lot of fun.  AJ turned babyface after this and feuded with Kevin Owens for the US Title for a while before regaining the WWE Title late in the year.


Monday, April 5, 2021

Top Ten Things: Debut WrestleMania Matches

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


It's WrestleMania season and that means my brain looks for 'Mania-related nonsense to write about.  You can read a few of my previous such lists HERE, HERE and HERE.

Today I'll be talking about the greatest WrestleMania debuts in history.  By that I don't mean wrestlers who actually debuted at WrestleMania; that would be a short list that more or less begins and ends with Fandango (God, they actually jobbed out Chris Jericho to that guy....).  No, I mean the first WrestleMania match of a given wrestler or tag team (or in some cases multiple stars in the same match).  Looking back at the history of this great annual tradition, there have been some quite notable WrestleMania rookie performances.  In some cases a new star was launched right into the main event of the biggest show of the year, something that's basically unthinkable in today's WWE, where WrestleMania is more often than not The Showcase of Semi-Retirees.

But enough complaining; here, in chronological order, are the ten greatest performances by WrestleMania rookies (plus four honorable mentions).  As noted, there are a couple of entries where I included every participant in a given match due to all of them being 'Mania first-timers.



Honorable Mentions

Ted Dibiase made his WrestleMania debut in the 1988 WWF Title tournament, lasting all the way to the finals and the main event, and coming withing a hair of winning the championship.

Kane's first 'Mania match was a near-show stealer of a semi-main event, as he took his onscreen brother The Undertaker to the limit.

Japanese sensation Shinsuke Nakamura made his 'Mania debut in a very good (not quite great) WWE Title match against AJ Styles, after winning the 2018 men's Royal Rumble.

Former UFC crossover star Ronda Rousey made her WrestleMania debut in 2018 as well, tagging with Kurt Angle to defeat Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and shining a much bigger spotlight on the women's division.





1. British Bulldogs - WrestleMania 2


Davey Boy and Dynamite became a WWF tag team in 1985 and pretty quickly climbed the ranks, due in no small part to the excellent matches they were having with fellow Stampede Wrestling alums The Hart Foundation.  Their tag team feud was pretty legendary and brought new levels of athleticism to the WWF tag division, which up until that point mostly consisted of informal pairings of singles stars.  The Bulldogs would challenge Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake for the straps at the second WrestleMania, stealing the show in a hard-hitting, action-packed bout that culminated in one of the more unorthodox finishes I can remember; Davey rammed Valentine's head into Dynamite's rock-hard skull, knocking both of them out, and covered "The Hammer" for the win.  It was unusual but it got the job done, and the Bulldogs enjoyed a 10-month reign before being dethroned by their old rivals, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart.





2. Demolition - WrestleMania IV


Echoing the Bulldogs' quick rise to fame, in 1987 longtime WWF midcarder Bill Eadie was teamed with NWA import Barry Darsow to form a Road Warriors-esque tandem called Demolition.  Ax and Smash, as they were now known, instantly caught the attention of the fans, with their rugged, smashmouth brawling style and colorful, intimidating appearance.  Strong booking and solid in-ring performances helped Demolition stand out from both the other WWF teams and their inspiration The Road Warriors, and by WrestleMania IV they were challenging Strike Force for the titles.  After a 12-minute battle, Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji handed Ax his cane, which was used to knock out Rick Martel and win Ax & Smash the championship.  Their first reign would "smash" all previous longevity records in the tag team division, lasting a whopping 16 months (a record that stood for 27 years) and cementing Demolition as one of the all-time great teams.





3. Nasty Boys - WrestleMania VII


Wow, ANOTHER tag team.  I'm gonna be honest, I never got why Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were pushed in every promotion they wrestled for.  I was never impressed with them in any capacity, and in the case of their WWF run I'm sure at least part of it was because of their friendship with Hulk Hogan.  But whatever the reason, Knobbs & Sags became number-one contenders for the tag belts a scant three months after their WWF debut (by winning a tag team battle royal), and at WrestleMania VII they captured the titles from the Hart Foundation, after which Bret and Jim went their separate ways.  The Nastys held the belts until SummerSlam when they ran into a brick wall known as The Legion of Doom.  They'd never win the titles again, and by early 1993 they were fired from the WWF.  But their 1991 rise to the top was shall we say, meteoric.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 32

Jeezus, this show just didn't end.  I think it's still going on.....

AT&T Stadium - 4.3.16

Vince McMahon's stubborn refusal to move on from the Roman Reigns pet project continued with 'Mania 32, as Reigns would challenge WWE Champion Triple H (Yes, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was WWE Champion in 2016.  For fuck's sake.) and theoretically send everyone home jubilant.  Except that by 2016 Reigns was as unpopular as ever, and this main event took place in front of a crowd that had already sat through SIX HOURS of wrestling.  But we'll get to that.  Let's take a look at the "biggest" WrestleMania of all time.  And by "biggest" I mean "most reminiscent of being stuck in a well for several days as a senile old man bludgeons you with a loaded colostomy bag."  This show went on FOREVER.

The three pre-show matches all roughly amounted to filler.  Kalisto vs. Ryback was the best of them and really should've been included on the PPV (instead of the stupid battle royal).  Kalisto looked good and had surprisingly okay chemistry with Ryberg.  The 10-Diva match was actually watchable and just about everyone got some time to do stuff.  The Usos-Dudleyz bout was your basic free TV match.  Meh.

The real show kicked off with the 7-man Ladder Match, as I suspected it would.  I wasn't much looking forward to this, but I'll be damned if they didn't knock it outta the park with this one.  Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn carried the majority of the workload, and based on their innate chemistry it understandably gave this spotfest a big boost.  Sin Cara, Zack Ryder and Dolph Ziggler all got a big spot or two as well.  The crazy moments in this match were much more memorable than in last year's Ladder Match, and while Ryder winning this just to drop the Title to Miz 24 hours later (They seriously couldn't have given it to Sami and had his feud with Owens be for the belt??), I liked this match a lot; much more than the previous year's Ladder Match.

Zayn is a madman

Next up was AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho, part 4.  This got 17 minutes and was easily the best these two produced, but also had a nonsensical ending, as Jericho beat AJ to tie their series 2-2.  The next night AJ would win a great Fatal 4-Way and become the new #1 Contender.  So why'd he lose this match??  Still this was a damn fine undercard bout and a strong Match of the Night contender.

One of the best dropkicks in the biz

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 31

And we're past enumerated WrestleManias, moving on to symbols instead.....


Levi Stadium - 3.29.15

WrestleMania 31 (or Play Button as Vince apparently wants it known) had probably the worst buildup in over a decade.  There was almost no urgency to the product leading into this show, and my expectations were as low as I can remember for a WrestleMania.  As it turned out though, this was a very solid PPV featuring several good-to-very good matches and no real stinkers.  I've read some reviews of 'Mania 31 calling it one of the best WrestleManias of all-time (Dave Meltzer initially called it one of the best shows he's ever seen but dialed back his praise on a second viewing).  Personally I find that assessment waaaaaay overboard.  I mean let's be honest, this show was nowhere near as good as 'Manias 17 or 19.  Come on.  This PPV had several good matches but no great ones, some great results and some not so great, not nearly enough wrestling for a four-hour broadcast (The seven matches totaled about 100 minutes which is downright skimpy), and the longest match was in my opinion the worst by far.

There were two preshow matches (I will never understand why WWE can't fit nine matches on a four-hour PPV when they routinely fit eight on a three-hour one), and one of them was quite entertaining.  The Fatal 4-Way tag match had highspots galore and lots of fun tandem offense that showcased three of the four teams (Sadly Jey Uso sat out the match with a legit shoulder injury).  Cesaro & Kidd won as expected, and I liked Cesaro's douchy heel move of letting Jimmy Uso hit his finisher on Big E, tossing Jimmy out of the ring and covering E himself.  Fun way to open the festivities.

The Battle Royal on the other hand I found rather pointless.  The only participant who gained anything from it was Damien Mizdow (and by proxy The Miz I guess), when he finally turned babyface and nearly eliminated Big Show to win the whole thing.  And of course the company followed up on Mizdow's crowd support with....nothing.  Overall WWE wasted several opportunities to make some underneath guys look good - The New Day all got owned by Show and looked stupid in the process, Hideo Itami from NXT was given about thirty seconds to shine before also being punked out by Show (How pissed d'ya suppose Triple H was by this?), and finally Mizdow failed to get the job done in the end.  The announcers pushed the whole "Big Show has never won a battle royal" thing, but was anyone really clamoring to finally see that happen?  This ended up being another one of those matches that didn't help anyone.

D-Bry becomes a Grand Slam Champion


Moving along to the main card.  The Seven-Man I-C Ladder Match opened the show as I figured it would, and it was a fun watch that didn't really feature anything we haven't seen before.  Once it was over it was forgotten, like a run-of-the-mill Adam Sandler movie (back when he was funny).  Obviously Daniel Bryan winning the one Title he'd never held was a great moment, and had he not suffered another injury shortly thereafter I've no doubt he would've revitalized the I-C Title much as Cena did with the US.  As for the multi-man Ladder Match I think it's time to retire the concept, for a while at least.  There's simply nothing more to do with these matches.  Every conceivable high spot with ladders has been done it would seem, and each of these matches now blurs into the rest.  What's most significant about this match now is that it was Daniel Bryan's final 'Mania match for a while, and he became a Grand Slam Champion.

Next up was one of the two high points of the night - Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins.  At the time I was flabbergasted how early this was placed, but by the end it made sense.  Orton and Rollins nearly tore the house down as expected.  The bout was fast-paced and featured multiple intricately timed spots, including a breathtaking finish.  Unfortunately these two were only given 13 minutes so the match wasn't able to get out of ***3/4 territory.  Had it gone five minutes longer we'd probably be looking at a Match of the Year candidate.

Those five minutes could've easily been taken away from match #3.  Personally I found Triple H vs. Sting a pretty wretched affair.  They started out having an okay match and after ten minutes it disintegrated into a total Seniors Tour clusterfuck involving DX and the nWo attempting to brawl around ringside.  The live crowd went nuts for this, but I spent the next ten minutes groaning.  In the first place this match was never supposed to be about WWF vs. WCW.  Sting even said as much in his promo.  But ol' Vince couldn't help shoehorning that tired, fifteen-year-old concept into the proceeding.  Second, why on Earth would the nWo ever rush to Sting's aid?  They were mortal enemies in WCW (minus the idiotic Wolfpac angle), and two of the three members are Hunter's best friends!  Not to mention all three are obviously working for WWE now.  None of this lunacy made any sense, and when it was over we were once again left with the takeaway "WCW are poopyheads, WWE rules!"  This match felt like it was booked by a child.  I half-expected a reveal that Will Ferrell and the kid from The Lego Movie were behind it all.

This broke the Guinness record for oldest combined age in a wrestling ring