Monday, May 20, 2024

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2000)


King of the Ring 2000 - FleetCenter - 6.25.00

The 2000 edition has to be one of the most disappointing PPVs of all time.  Considering how amazing the WWF product was in 2000 and how strong the roster, anything less than a homerun would've been a letdown, but with this show they didn't even seem to try.  The tournament began with a field of 32 wrestlers, making it the largest in history.  That the company even had 32 viable competitors for such a tourney was remarkable, and I was incredibly excited to see this play out.  Unfortunately the booking of the PPV made no sense, wasted some of the company's best talents, and they tried to cram eleven matches onto a three-hour show.

The massive first-round field boiled down to Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle (Stop right there, that should've been your Final Four, period.), Rikishi, Val Venis, Crash Holly(?), and Bull Buchanan(??).  Right off the bat they got the brackets wrong, wasting Angle vs. Jericho on a quarterfinal match while pitting Holly and Buchanan against each other.  One of these matches had immense potential, the other did not.  On top of that, three of the four best candidates fell short of the semis.  Chris Benoit pointlessly got himself disqualified against Rikishi, Eddie lost to the no-longer-relevant Venis, and Jericho got beaten by Angle.  So yeah, Crash Holly made it to the semifinals but Benoit, Guerrero and Jericho didn't?  Anyone else find that scenario just wrong?  By the way, not one match in this tournament lasted even ten minutes, and the two longest bouts were in the quarterfinals.

The semis saw Kurt Angle make quick work of Crash Holly, while Rikishi trounced Venis in just over three minutes.  The Angle-Rikishi final was fun while it lasted, but failed to even crack the six-minute mark.  Again.  Why would the final match of a supposedly prestigious tournament fail to reach double-digits?  In the positive though, this tournament win helped solidify Kurt Angle as a future main event star.

Again with the stupid crown and sceptre

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Top Ten Things: Chris Cornell Albums

**Originally published 5/21/17, updated in 2022**

Welcome to a special Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com.


Chris Cornell's suicide last week has left a ragged, gaping hole in the music world many of us are still struggling to come to terms with.  As my colleague Dan Moore talked about HERE, Cornell was a golden-throated force of nature, whose mindbending vocal range and soulful power were unmatched in rock music.  He rose to prominence as one of the pioneers of grunge but later explored genres as wide-ranging as singer/songwriter rock, adult contemporary, folk, and even dance pop.  Few artists have created such a wildly divergent body of work, and for me no other singer ever wielded his instrument with such effortless agility and emotive grace.  My coping mechanism has been to learn and record as many of his songs as I can and hope I do them even a modicum of justice (You be the judge).

But today I'll be talking about his amazing discography as I count down my ten favorite Cornell albums.  Here we go.....




HM. Chris Cornell - Scream


Cornell's most divisive album was 2009's Scream, an electronic pop collaboration with hotshot producer Timbaland that combined Chris's rock songwriting sensibility with a hooky R&B sound.  The results were understandably mixed, but the album yielded some excellently written songs, like the bleakly syncopated "Time," the anthemic, strikingly mature love song "Never Far Away," and the title track, a gloomy ode to relationship strife.  While far from Cornell's best work, Scream showed an artist cheerfully exploring new territory and reinventing himself.





HM. Soundgarden - Louder Than Love


Soundgarden's sophomore effort showed an improvement over its predecessor both in production and in songwriting, with songs like the anthemic lament of environmental destruction "Hands All Over," the dark and violent "Gun," the tongue-in-cheek "Full On Kevin's Mom" (about a friend of Chris's who actually hooked up with their friend Kevin's mom) and "Big Dumb Sex" (a parody of 80s cock-rock tunes), and the de facto title track "Loud Love."  Soundgarden were emerging as the leaders of this new, strange rock n' roll movement coming out of Seattle, and Chris's soaring vocals were beginning to garner mainstream attention in a big way.  But the band's third album would show exponential creative growth....






10. Chris Cornell - No One Sings Like You Anymore, Vol. 1


The first of what will hopefully be numerous posthumous releases, NOSLYA is an album of cover songs, recorded in 2016 and put out in 2020 by Cornell's estate.  The eclectic material all lends itself well to Chris's unique interpretation, and he put his own beautiful stamp on all ten songs.  From well-known favorites like Guns N' Roses' "Patience" and Prince/Sinead O'Connor's mega-hit "Nothing Compares 2U," to John Lennon's semi-deep cut "Watching the Wheels" and songs I was unfamiliar with like "Sad Sad City" by Ghostland Observatory, this album is a bittersweet reminder of Chris's transcendent gifts, and a wonderful little addition to his already incredible discography.  I can't wait for Volume 2.





9. Soundgarden - King Animal


Cornell's grunge quartet had split in 1997 but reunited 13 years later for a tour, and began writing new music for their sixth studio album.  The result was King Animal, a safe but fairly triumphant return for the grunge pioneers, that fit right in with their previous output.  Album highlights included the Sabbathy "Blood on the Valley Floor," the eccentric, off-balance "Bones of Birds," the folky "Halfway There" which would've been at home on a Cornell solo record, and the classic Soundgarden feel of "Eyelid's Mouth."  It was a long time coming, but King Animal would be a worthy Soundgarden record and ultimately the band's final completed work.





8. Audioslave - Out of Exile


After his first solo album's disappointing commercial performance, Cornell was able to reinvigorate his career by forming a supergroup with three members of then-defunct Rage Against the Machine, creating an unusual groove-rock hybrid.  Their second album is our #8 entry on this list.  Released in 2005, Out of Exile may not have been the hard rock powderkeg of the band's debut, but it was a perfectly sturdy followup, providing trademark Tom Morello guitar riffs in songs like "Your Time Has Come" and the title track, and some gentler, more thoughtful tunes like "Be Yourself" and "Doesn't Remind Me."  Out of Exile built on the successful formula of the first record and in retrospect serves as a fine companion piece.


Friday, May 17, 2024

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1999)

King of the Ring 1999 - Greensboro Coliseum - 6.27.99

As with the product in general mid-1999, the King of the Ring showed major chinks in the WWF armor.  This show restored the full 8-man bracket to the PPV with very rushed, mixed results, and while a pair of solid main event brawls and the overall tournament made for a fun one-time watch, this PPV doesn't hold up too well to scrutiny.  Also, like in 1995, the company handpicked their intended new main eventer despite the fans not buying into him.

The first round consisted of three abbreviated bouts - X-Pac vs. Bob Holly, Kane vs. ex-WCW star The Big Show (heavily favored to win the whole thing but unceremoniously knocked out in the first round), and Billy Gunn vs. Ken Shamrock.  None of these were long enough to be memorable.  However the final first-round match pitted former friends The Road Dogg and Chyna.  While no in-ring masterpiece, it was certainly intriguing seeing Chyna go head-to-head with one of the male stars in a major singles bout.  Previously she had only really appeared in mixed tag matches.  This probably got more time than it deserved but I never found it boring.  Road Dogg won after 13 minutes.

The semifinals saw Billy Gunn quickly defeat Kane and X-Pac even more quickly defeat best friend Road Dogg, leading to what should've been a solid big man vs. underdog final match.  Unfortunately Billy Gunn and X-Pac were only given 5:35, harkening back to the half-assed mid-90s tournament finals and once again undermining the whole tourney concept.

Mr. Ass beats up Mr. Pac

Not surprisingly the three non-tournament matches constituted the real meat of the show.  The first was a brief-but-thrilling #1 Contenders match for the Tag Titles, as Edge & Christian began their storied rivalry with The Hardy Boyz.  This was one of those matches that ended up better than it should've given how short it was.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Movie Review: The Iron Claw (2023)


Sean Durkin's The Iron Claw, a biopic about the seemingly cursed Von Erich wrestling family, is a noble, admirable effort but ultimately frustrating in its incompleteness.  The 132-minute film has to cover so much ground and so much tragedy neither the events nor the characters are given enough room to breathe.  

The saga begins with a flashback to patriarch Fritz Von Erich (a stern, show-stealing display of cold machismo by Holt McCallany), a struggling up-and-coming pro wrestler living with his wife and two sons in a trailer, vowing to become NWA World Champion so he can properly provide for his family.  We then skip ahead to 1979 to meet the elder of the two sons, Kevin (Zac Efron in a capable but perhaps too internalized performance), now an aspiring pro wrestler himself, working for his father's World Class Championship Wrestling promotion in Dallas.  Kevin is one of four surviving brothers; the Von Erich's first-born Jack Jr. died at age six (the film omits the actual youngest brother Chris and sort of amalgamates him into the Mike Von Erich character, the youngest in this film).  Fritz plays favorites with his sons and uses rather cruel encouragement to drive each of them to succeed.  David Von Erich is about to debut as a wrestler as well, and demonstrates natural charisma and a gift for gab which Kevin lacks.  Kerry Von Erich, who would ultimately go on to be the most famous of the bunch, is a track and field athlete training for the Olympics.  Mike is the shy, skinny kid of the litter who would rather study music than athletics.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1998)

Possibly the best-remembered King of the Ring is this one....

King of the Ring 1998 - The Igloo - 6.28.98

The WWF got back on track in a huge way in 1998, fueled by Attitude and with Steve Austin at the wheel.  Between Austin's white-hot run as World Champ, DeGeneration X's crass-but-lovable antics, and The Rock oozing charisma all over the place, the WWF finally pulled ahead of WCW in the ratings after nearly two years.  While the King of the Ring won't win any points for scientific grappling, the intensity of some of the brawls on this show (one in particular) makes it an essential chapter in WWF lore.

The tournament once again took a bit of a backseat to the two main event matches, but after two forgettable semi-finals (The Rock defeating Dan Severn, and Ken Shamrock trouncing Jeff Jarrett), we were treated to a pretty damn good final match.  The Rock and Shamrock had faced each other several times on PPV already, both in tag matches and in singles bouts, but this was the first time they were given long enough to really shine.  In a tremendous back-and-forth match (aided by Triple H's amusing guest commentary), Shamrock finally scored a decisive win over the I-C Champ to win the tournament (No ceremonial crown and scepter for Ken).  While Shamrock never reached the heights of the previous two KOTR winners, it did solidify him as a reliable semi-main eventer.

You don't see the seated anklelock anymore...

The non-tournament matches on this PPV were numerous and varied, beginning with a fun little six-man tag.  Taka Michinoku teamed with The Headbangers against his former (and future) teammates Kaientai in a near-seven-minute whirlwind.  Nothing amazing but a good way to kick things off.

The one stinker on this show involved Jerry Lawler refereeing a match between Too Much (later renamed Too Cool) and Al Snow & Head (Al's disembodied mannequin head).  The story here was Al trying to win a WWF contract after spending several months in ECW.  He lost, but ended up on the roster anyway.  This was crap.

Next up though was a neat little singles match as Owen Hart took on the newly-returned X-Pac.  Now equipped with one of the coolest characters in wrestling, Sean Waltman put on a strong showing against the massively talented Owen, and the two created a midcard highlight.

An underrated Tag Team Title match was next, as the hugely popular New Age Outlaws took on the New Midnight Express (Bob Holly and Bart Gunn).  While the NME gimmick may have been ill-advised, at the time I liked this pairing, and they gelled quite well with Billy and The Road Dogg.  Solid stuff there.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Movie Review: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024)


The 21st century Planet of the Apes franchise has been given a fresh set of legs, seven years after the conclusion of the superb "prequel" trilogy, with Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.  

Set 300 years or so after the events of War for the Planet of the Apes and the death of tribe leader Caesar, Kingdom introduces us to a whole new clan of chimpanzees, one that has figured out how to train birds of prey both as pets and protectors.  A young ape named Noa (played with wide-eyed naivete by Owen Teague), along with friends Anaya and Soona, are engaged in a rite of passage: collecting eagle eggs to take home and raise from birth.  The trio succeeds after a scary near-fall, but that night Noa encounters what appears to be a feral human (No humans have been seen in years and they are all thought to be non-verbal and animalistic thanks to effects from the simian flu), and his egg is crushed in the scuffle.  Noa promptly goes off to find a new egg but runs afoul of another clan of apes, this one armored and wielding homemade cattle prods, and the marauders tail Noa's horse back to his home and burn the place down, before kidnapping the entire tribe.  Noa is left for dead but embarks on a quest to rescue his family and friends, accompanied by an erudite orangutan named Raka (who informs him of Caesar's history and teachings), and the feral human (a poker-faced Freya Allan) from the village (who is not what she seems).

Monday, May 13, 2024

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1997)

King of the Ring '97 - Providence Civic Center - 6.8.97

The KOTR took a step back down in 1997, as a disorganized tournament coupled with last-minute card reshuffles made for a muddled show and a thin roster.  It was also something of a do-over for Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who had been pegged to win the tourney in 1996 but was instead punished for the infamous "Curtain Call" incident the night of Diesel and Razor Ramon's WWF exit.  So this show was an endeavor to set his career back on track.

What made no sense though was that Helmsley had been eliminated by Ahmed Johnson in the first round on free TV (the PPV would again only feature the semis and finals), but kayfabe threatened legal action since he was supposedly unaware he could be ousted due to a disqualification (even though that precedent had been set in numerous tournaments already).  So Hunter won the next qualifier against Crush, and would face Ahmed again in the semis.  Their PPV match was brief and just as forgettable as the first, but Hunter won, earning him a finals spot.

In the other semifinal the now-sympathetic, complex babyface Mankind faced Jerry Lawler in a pretty slow, meandering brawl in which Lawler used an invisible foreign object.  By that I mean he motioned pulling something out of his tights that evidently fit all the way into his fist and repeatedly punched Mankind with it.  Now, even if that was supposed to be a ball bearing or some such object, would that really add much oomph to a regular punch?  Did Lawler forget to actually stuff something in his drawers before the match?  Regardless, Mankind won, and would face Helmsley for the crown.

"Wait, I gotta wear this...ridiculous thing?  I resign..."

Their finals match was good but not great - it had some intense spots but was longer than necessary and felt like it never got out of second gear until the waning moments.  Highlights included Hunter hitting the Pedigree through the announce table, and Chyna bludgeoning Mankind with the royal scepter.  After nearly 20 minutes Hunter was crowned the '97 King of the Ring, and thus began in earnest his path to main event status.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

NJPW Resurgence 2024 Preview & Predictions

This Saturday it's yet another NJPW Strong-branded PPV, this one emanating from Ontario, CA!


It's time for NJPW Resurgence, featuring some filler in the first half of the card but some fine stuff on the backend, including an important IWGP Title defense for Jon Moxley, against his protégé.  I'll just make predictions for the six important bouts.  Of note: Mustafa Ali vs. Lio Rush is for some reason relegated to the pre-show.  Punishment for Ali acting like a prima donna and refusing to lose (even though he was a jobber in WWE)?  Who knows?  Let's get after it....



Strong Women's Championship: Stephanie Vaquer vs. Alex Windsor


After seeing Stephanie's title defense in Chicago last month, I am 100% sold on this Chilean superstar in the making.  Steph has IT, and I'm invested.  Alex Windsor for those who don't know, is Will Ospreay's fiancée, in one of the bigger matches of her career thus far.  I expect Stephanie will retain but this should be fun.

Pick: Vaquer retains


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1996)

AUSTIN 3:16 IS BORN.

King of the Ring 1996 - MECCA Arena - 6.23.96

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1995)

Dear God, what are we about to unleash on the world???

King of the Ring 1995 - Corestates Spectrum - 6.25.95

As bad as KOTR '94 was, that show was WrestleMania 19 compared to this putrid collection of dog vomit.  In one of the earliest examples of tone-deaf booking on Vince's part, the tournament this time around was meant to elevate midcard tag wrestler Mabel, who was now a heel, much to the delight of no one.  Shawn Michaels, having just returned to action after a sudden babyface turn and a brief kayfabe injury, was heavily favored by fans to win the crown.  When Shawn was eliminated in the first round the live crowd tuned right the fuck out.

Even Shawn was bored shitless

The pre-show match didn't bode well for the PPV, as Razor Ramon had to miss the tourney due to a rib injury.  To determine his replacement, IRS would face midcarder Savio Vega on the Free For All show.  Savio won the forgettable bout and would make it all the way to the tournament final, defeating heavy (no pun intended) favorite Yokozuna by countout and besting Jeff Jarrett's sidekick The Roadie (why Brian Armstrong made the PPV but I-C Champion Jarrett didn't I dunno).  But since Savio wasn't established no one cared.  Other tournament lowlights included The Undertaker first-round elimination at the hands of Mabel (with an assist from Kama), and the Shawn Michaels-Kama time limit draw, which even the great HBK couldn't make work.  The Philadelphia fans HATED this tournament, and the eventual winner King Mabel would prove one of the least successful pet projects in WWF history, despite headlining that year's SummerSlam.

Monday, May 6, 2024

WWE Backlash 2024 Review: The Crowd Chants in Lyon, France

WWE's followup to WrestleMania, Backlash France, has come and gone.  And it was a very strong, streamlined, three-hour show with five matches, minimal nonsense between bouts, and a molten crowd clearly starving for live wrestling.


A note about that crowd: the atmosphere was insane throughout this show and somehow this crowd never got tired.  There were chants, songs, lots of jumping up and down; no doubt these folks were having a helluva time.  Farbeit for me to disabuse anyone of having fun at a wrestling show, but my only complaint is that unlike a crowd that's white-hot for a specific match or for every specific match, this crowd was white-hot just for being in the building.  They weren't really responding that much to the action itself, which as a viewer left me distracted from the matches rather than enhancing them.  A lot of the major beats of each match didn't get the big pops that add juice to a great wrestling match; the crowd was just excited to see wrestling in front of them.  I'll certainly take this over a dead crowd, but for me it wasn't the same as say, the WrestleMania crowd or the Revolution crowd, where their attention was fixated on the matches and their energy took specific spots and moments to the next level.

Another note about Triple H's media scrum comments: Knock that shit off.  You sound like Trump crying "fake news" every time something negative is (accurately) reported.  If you missed this story, a journalist at the end of the scrum asked Hunter about the reports from Fightful and PWInsider saying Drew Gulak was let go by the company due to Ronda Rousey's accusation of his inappropriate behavior toward her (which of course Drew denied, saying "I went to shake her hand and it accidentally brushed the string of her sweatpants." Yeah, sure thing bud.).  Rather than saying something that would've been GOOD for optics, like "We take these accusations very seriously and we decided not to renew Drew's contract," Hunter said "First of all, if you're going to cite news sources cite some good ones," and followed it up with "We didn't release Drew, his contract ran out and we opted not to renew it," as though this had zero to do with Ronda's accusations.  Tone-deaf as fucking always.  WWE and Hunter both privately apologized to Fightful and PWInsider after publicly slamming them.  Didn't some guy now in WWE once say "The apology better be as loud as the disrespect?"  I guess Levesque doesn't agree with that sentiment.  Fuck that guy.

Friday, May 3, 2024

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1994)

Welcome back to Enuffa.com's History of WWE King of the Ring!

King of the Ring '94 - Baltimore Arena - 6.19.94

Yeesh, what a downturn this show took from the previous year.  Where the 1993 tournament carried real weight and accounted for the two longest and best matches of the PPV, this time the company skimmed through the tournament (allotting only 8.5 minutes to the LONGEST tourney bout), and inexplicably put a one-off Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler match in the main event.  Not to mention football player Art Donovan was part of the announce team, and knew exactly zilch about wrestling.  Thus his commentary was laughable at best and distractingly nonsensical at worst.

Of the three non-tournament matches only one was worth seeing, and despite being the billed main event it took place in the middle of the show.  WWF Champion Bret Hart defended against Intercontinental Champion Diesel, in a shockingly good bout.  Diesel was a very unproven monster heel at this point but he had excellent chemistry with Bret as it turned out, and this was a fine 22-minute main event.  Diesel won by disqualification when Bret's old partner Jim Neidhart attacked Diesel, hoping to negate the unfair advantage caused by Shawn Michaels' interference.

Dammit Jim....

The second non-tourney match was for the Tag Titles, as The Headshrinkers defended against Yokozuna and Crush.  I'd hoped for the heel tandem to win the straps here, as they would've made a dominant pairing.  But a distraction by Lex Luger cost them the match, and Crush & Yoko would never team again.

For some bizarre reason the main event slot went to the aforementioned Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler debacle.  This amounted to twelve-plus minutes of nondescript brawling leading mercifully to a Piper win.  In what universe this could be considered a fitting main event I have no idea.  Now let us never speak of it again.

The tournament took up seven of the ten matches on the card, and despite some intriguing pairings nothing really stood out given the abbreviated length.  The one memorable match in the tourney was the Owen Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid semifinal, which was about as good as any 3.5-minute bout I've ever seen.  They crammed a ton of action into such a short time. Still though, it was only 217 seconds, so it could only be so good.  The Owen vs. Razor final could've easily been a 4-star affair had it gone 15-20 minutes, but the company only gave them six and a half.  I dunno about you, but for me a guy winning the final of a tournament in such short order when said tourney is meant to elevate him kinda negates the importance of it all.  Owen won the tournament in part thanks to Jim Neidhart, who revealed himself to be in cahoots with Owen the entire time, having preserved Bret's Championship for the eventual Bret-Owen rematch.  Still the crown went to an eminently deserving new heel who was now the top antagonist in the company, setting the stage for SummerSlam.

How was this match not epic?

This was a one-and-a-half match show.  There's no other way to describe it.  The WWF Title match was great, and the Owen-Kid semi was a spectacular short match.  Otherwise this show stunk to high heaven.

Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Diesel
Worst Match: Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler
What I'd Change: Skip the Piper-Lawler nonsense, leave Art Donovan at home, and give the tournament matches a feeling of actual importance.  Owen vs. Razor only being allotted 6:35 is inexcusable.
Most Disappointing Match: Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon
Most Pleasant Surprise: How well Diesel worked with Bret
Overall Rating: 3.5/10







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Thursday, May 2, 2024

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2024 Preview & Predictions

Another busy wrestling weekend, as in addition to WWE's Backlash show there's also a pair of NJPW Wrestling Dontaku shows.  And they're.....kinda thin, but there should be a few bangers on there.


We've got a pair of big title matches headlining their respective shows, plus some very promising undercard title matches, plus one special singles match between two of the company's biggest rising stars.  As usual I'll skip predictions for the undercard tag matches as they don't really matter.

Let's take a gander...


Night 1


NJPW TV Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Jeff Cobb


This one could steal the entire weekend.  ZSJ is one of the best doing it right now, and Cobb is always awesome.  These two have lit up the ring together in the past and this should be no different.  Zack just won this title in a killer match with Matt Riddle at Windy City Riot, so he's not losing yet.

Pick: ZSJ retains


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1993)

From the wrestling weirdo who brought you The History of WWE WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble, it's the official Enuffa.com History of WWE King of the Ring!

That's right, now that I've tackled WWE's Big Four PPV histories, I'm strapping myself into the ol' time machine to take another look at what was temporarily one of the Big Five.

The King of the Ring tournament was originally a special house show attraction held annually in New England, before the WWF decided to add it to the PPV schedule in 1993.  At the time the WWF calendar only featured the Big Four PPV events, so creating a fifth was a pretty huge deal.  Over the next decade the annual PPV was used as a springboard for many up-and-coming stars, with mixed results.  In 2003, due to sagging buyrates, the company discontinued the event, replacing it with Bad Blood, and only brought the tournament itself back on free television every few years.  Now it's going to become a Saudi event instead.

Here now is a look back at this sometimes great, sometimes awful PPV....

King of the Ring '93 - Nutter Center - 6.13.93

The inaugural PPV edition of the tournament was centered around re-establishing Bret Hart as a top babyface after the mindbendingly stupid booking of WrestleMania IX, where Bret lost the WWF Title to Yokozuna only for the returning Hulk Hogan to swoop in and take the belt in an impromptu match.  Widely considered the worst WrestleMania of all time, that show did no favors for the man presumably pegged to lead the company through the 90s.  On top of that, Hogan took the belt and went home after previously agreeing to drop it back to Bret at SummerSlam.  Instead Hogan refused to appear on any house shows for two months and insisted on losing it back to Yokozuna at the KOTR PPV.  Is it any wonder I can't stand that guy?

The non-tournament matches included a decent Intercontinental Title defense by Shawn Michaels against Crush, a forgettable eight-man tag pitting The Smokin' Gunns & The Steiners against The Headshrinkers & Money Inc., and of course the godawful Hogan-Yokozuna rematch.

Par for the course at this point in his career, Hogan just kinda went through the motions, once again feebly attempting to recapture the magic of his 'Mania 3 match with Andre.  After 13 pretty rancid minutes, Harvey Wippleman climbed on the ring apron in the guise of a ringside photographer, and his camera exploded in Hogan's face.  Yoko capitalized and reclaimed the Championship, in one of the stupidest match finishes since, well, WrestleMania IX.  Hogan vanished from WWF TV for nine years, and the "exploding camera" incident was never explained.

Screw you Hogan.  YOURE FIIIIIRED!!!

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

WWE Backlash France Preview & Predictions

This Saturday WWE brings their annual PPV Backlash to France.  And apparently they don't think all that much of France, because this is kind of a nothing PPV, truth be told.


Thus far only five matches have been announced and while they should all be decent from an in-ring standpoint, there's precious little going on story-wise.  Yet oddly no "Where's the story??" complaints from the WWE faithful.  Weird.  WWE is not surprisingly in a place where they blew their load with WrestleMania and clearly didn't have much planned after that in the short-term.  Without Dwayne and Roman around they don't seem to know what to do with themselves, case in point the mostly, well, *pointless* WWE Draft, wherein 90% or so of those drafted are on the same show they started on, and no one of any real consequence jumped brands.  They're just punting until they can start building for Cody vs. Rock.  It's quite an indictment of their creative vacuum that a 51-year-old whose career peaked during the Clinton administration is the guy their long-term booking is built around.

Anyway let's take a look at this card....




Randy Orton & Kevin Owens vs. Solo Sikoa & Tama Tonga


Sweet Jesus, this Bloodline bullshit won't ever go away, will it?  Now it's down to the C-team for the time being.  No Roman, no Rock, no Jimmy, Jey's doing his own thing, so now we're left with Solo who loses all the time, and the 41-year-old Tama Tonga, whom Eric Bischoff referred to as a "great YOUNG talent," proving that Eric had never heard of the guy before he debuted on Smackdown.  And yet he expects to be taken seriously when he offers AEW booking advice.  Anyway, nothing about this match interests me; Tonga was a solid but usually pretty unremarkable part of NJPW's roster and I can't imagine he'll light this place on fire given WWE's creative limitations.  But if they want The Bloodline to stay relevant till Roman gets back I have to think they win here.  Oh, and Owens is gonna end up eating the pin.

Pick: Solo & Tama


Monday, April 29, 2024

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

In case you missed them, click HERE for Rise and HERE for Dawn


War for the Planet of the Apes


So, ya know how the third movie in a trilogy is always the weakest one, almost without fail?  That's out the window now.  War for the Planet of the Apes is the best, most poignant, most emotionally engaging film in the series, one that moved me almost to tears several times.  It pays homage to such classics as Apocalypse Now and Bridge on the River Kwai, while spectacularly concluding the trilogy and also providing some of the most breathtaking visuals in the entire series.

Director Matt Reeves and screenwriter Mark Bomback returned for the third installment in which Caesar and his apes must prepare for the inevitable war against a human military force hell-bent on exterminating them.  The human contingent is led by a maniacal Colonel (a fantastic, tortured Woody Harrelson, with a nod to Marlon Brando) who has become so dangerous and bloodthirsty he's begun killing off some of his own men and even using a few traitorous apes to do his bidding.  The Colonel wrongs the ape colony (in ways I won't reveal here), prompting Caesar and three of his lieutenants to seek vengeance while the rest of the apes retreat to a new home across the desert.  The story takes multiple unexpected turns and builds to a spectacular climax, but I'll leave you to discover that for yourself.

Suffice it to say, this film is beautiful, poetic, contemplative, exciting.  Andy Serkis once more delivers a note-perfect, deeply subtle mo-cap performance which transcends the special effects and makes the Caesar character as real as nearly any live-action performance you'll ever see.  Another standout is series newcomer Steve Zahn as Bad Ape, a wonderful character who provides most of the film's laughs but is also heartwrenchingly sad.  Like I said, I found parts of this film deeply moving, and Zahn's performance was one of them.  It's high time the Academy started recognizing motion-capture performances at awards time, even if it's a special category.

The effects team has outdone themselves here; these hyper-intelligent apes look so believable they've somehow dug themselves out of the uncanny valley.  For most of War's running time the analytical part of my brain that notices these things was not on alert.  Caesar and his apes have to be considered the most brilliantly realized CG characters in film history.  I often come down hard on the use of CGI, but Matt Reeves and his creative team have figured out the exact right way to utilize the technology.

War for the Planet of the Apes, like Logan earlier this year, is a film that transcends its genre and provides much more than simple summer popcorn entertainment.  This is a profoundly affecting film that will stick with you long after you leave the theater, and it caps off one of the best trilogies of the past thirty years, amazingly managing to top the first two entries.

I give War for the Planet of the Apes **** out of ****.



Thanks for reading!  Comment below with your Ape thoughts, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Mix, Facebook and YouTube!




Friday, April 26, 2024

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Note: In case you missed my Rise review, click HERE


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


After his initial spark of genius, Rise director Rupert Wyatt was unable to commit to a sequel on the studio's timetable, and was replaced by Matt Reeves of Cloverfield and Let Me In fame.  While I'd be interested in seeing what Wyatt would've done with a sequel, Reeves proved himself a more sure-footed director, brilliantly handling the larger scope of the second (and third) film.

Set ten years after Rise, Dawn begins by showing us the effects of the super-virus Will Rodman accidentally unleashed.  The human population has been decimated, with only a fraction being naturally immune to the disease.  The apes meanwhile have created their own civilization in the redwood forest.  Caesar, now a full adult with a wife and son, has become the apes' exalted, compassionate leader.  After a run-in with a team of human scouts, a power struggle develops between Caesar and another ape called Koba, who still harbors deep hatred of humans for his mistreatment in their labs.  The humans have set up a colony in the city and need access to a hydroelectric dam within the apes' domain so they can restore power.  A very uneasy truce is formed, and Caesar gradually bonds with a few of the humans - Malcolm, his son Alexander, and his second wife Ellie.  But Koba can't accept peace and he engineers a coup, shooting Caesar and framing the humans as an excuse to attack their compound.  Koba and the apes take over the city while Malcolm helps nurse Caesar back to health.  Eventually a violent showdown ensues between the two apes, and Caesar comes to realize that a human-ape war is now unavoidable.

That this synopsis creates so many potential pitfalls but manages to avoid every one of them is nothing short of miraculous.  Dawn could have easily devolved into a trite, manipulative "apes good, humans bad" story, but the script is so deftly written we are able to understand and empathize with the point of view of every major character.  More than that, it establishes parallels between the apes and the humans, illustrating the similarities of the two species.  Caesar is delicately trying to balance his own desire for a peaceful coexistence with his need to protect his race, and Malcolm feels the same way, understanding that the apes are intelligent, reasonable creatures.  On the other side of each coin, Koba is a severely damaged character who is now defined by his hatred of humanity, while the human leader Dreyfus (an always compelling Gary Oldman) is prepared for a violent showdown and will preserve the human race at all costs.  This creates a fascinating parable of sociopolitics and once again the characters and their motivations are front-and-center, while the action sequences are a byproduct.  I also love that the first act of the film contains very little dialogue; the apes communicate primarily through sign language.  As summer blockbusters go, Dawn is a stunningly quiet film.

Dawn takes the incredible dramatic foundation of the Caesar character and expands on it, showing us his maturity and courage as a leader and father but also the violence of which he is capable when wronged.  Koba has also become an amazingly realized, three-dimensional villain, who deeply respects Caesar but whose anger has swallowed him whole and turned him into a monster.  This installment also improves on the original in terms of the human characters; Jason Clarke as Malcolm delivers a heartfelt, relatable performance as a man clinging desperately to the last vestiges of human compassion, wanting above all to reach a peaceful understanding with Caesar.  Gary Oldman plays Dreyfus as an uncertain military leader, a broken man who has lost everything and refuses to let humanity perish on his watch.  These are all well fleshed-out, fascinating personae with believable and understandable motivations, and the film resists the urge to become a sweeping action epic, preferring instead to stay close and intimate with its central characters.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a significant improvement over its impressive predecessor that further fleshes out the Caesar character and his place in this society, while also providing more substantial human characters for him and the other apes to play against.  Matt Reeves' direction is confident and thoughtful, while the pensive, thematic script by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver defies expectations, grounding the events in complex social and political commentary.  This is how you do a summer sci-fi film.

I give Dawn of the Planet of the Apes **** out of ****.


Click here for the War review

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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Well color me shocked.  When I first learned Hollywood was rebooting the Planet of the Apes franchise I groaned, loudly.  Tim Burton's 2001 PotA remake, while boasting incredible makeup effects and a couple decent performances, was largely a disappointing, drivelous mess with a nonsencial reimagining of the original's famous twist ending.  I thought, "Why in the name of all things holy, THE FUCK, do we need more of these movies??"  So I skipped Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it was released.  Then surprisingly I began to hear some pretty great buzz about it, particularly centered on Andy Serkis's motion-capture performance as the main character Caesar.  But I never got around to watching it, and when the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was released in 2014 I read similarly complimentary things about that film and said to myself, "Justin" I said, "You should get your ass to a TV and watch these movies."  But I still never got around to it.  Finally with the announcement of the third movie War for the Planet of the Apes I said, "Goddammit, just fuckin' DO IT!"

So I did.  And here's what I thought of them, starting with Rise.  Stay tuned for the Dawn and War reviews coming soon....

**Note: I've included SPOILERS for the first two films but not the third**



Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Rise of the Planet of the Apes drew me in almost immediately with the Frankenstein-esque theme of tampering with nature, as well as family loyalty and the exploitation of animals.  Here was a summer "action" film with hardly any action, but a thoughtful focus on the aforementioned concepts and a deeply explored character arc.  Director Rupert Wyatt took the original premise and asked the question "How might we have gotten there?"  Rise presents a practical, real-world explanation of how the Earth could believably be taken over by hyper-intelligent simians, in the same way Batman Begins explored how a man might take to dressing like a giant bat to fight crime (Wyatt himself made that connection in interviews and I happen to agree with him).

This refreshingly small-scope narrative introduces Will Rodman, a promising scientist (James Franco in a solid if unspectacular performance), who experiments on chimps with a powerful Alzheimer's drug, driven by a very personal motivation (His father suffers from the disease).  Rodman secretly adopts a baby chimp whose mother passed onto him the effects of the drug, naming him Caesar.  Caesar shows incredible intelligence at an early age, but as with all domesticated simians, becomes increasingly difficult to control as he matures.  A violent incident with a neighbor leads to Caesar being sent to an ape sanctuary run by a cruel father-son team, and Caesar becomes a hardened alpha-male, taking over the shelter, learning how to escape, and exposing the other apes to the intelligence-augmenting drug.  This builds to a sensational battle between the super-apes and the authorities, leading to Caesar's army setting up a new civilization in the redwood forest.  Meanwhile the Alzheimer's drug has created a deadly super virus in humans that begins to spread worldwide.

While the human performances in Rise are passably effective, the driving force in the film is Andy Serkis's groundbreaking work as Caesar.  As with his turn as Gollum in Lord of the Rings, Serkis is a revelation here, conveying entirely through facial/body language (and what he calls "digital makeup)" amazingly subtle, tangibly real emotional nuances.  Here is an Oscar-worthy performance with almost no dialogue; we feel every moment of Caesar's growth, suffering, loneliness, and finally triumph.  Had this aspect of the film not delivered, Rise would have fallen apart in a heartbeat.  But both Serkis's acting and the amazingly realistic CG rendering are so effective you forget you're watching an animated character (a phenomenon even more prevalent in the sequels).  And Serkis was just getting warmed up...

I give Rise of the Planet of the Apes ***1/2 out of ****.


Click here for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (posted 7/26/17)

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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Top Ten Things: Opening PPV Matches

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

With AEW Dynasty in the books and the fantastic match that kicked off that show, I got to thinking about my favorite PPV opening matches over the last 35 years or so.  I eventually narrowed it down to 25, and in a fairly agonizing process, managed to pick my favorites.  Like a killer opening song on an album, a great opening match can instantly grab your attention and set the tone for the rest of the evening.  It gets the live crowd excited, which in turn lends more energy to the rest of the PPV.  The quality of the opening bout can leave almost as big an impression as that of the main event; if a show starts well and ends well you tend to remember it as a damn fine show (I do anyway), even if the stuff in the middle isn't so hot.  At the very least a great opening match makes me want to watch the show a second time.  Most PPVs tend to feature shorter bouts to kick things off, but every so often the first match either steals the show outright or comes pretty damn close.  Here are ten such examples.....




HM: AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon - WrestleMania 33


The main card of the 2017 edition of WrestleMania kicked off with a match I wasn't at all happy about.  AJ Styles, by far the most accomplished star in the company over the previous 14 months, was saddled fighting Vince's son instead of tearing it up with someone of his caliber.  But I'll be damned if it wasn't incredibly entertaining.  AJ was amazing as usual, and Shane had his working shoes on just trying to keep up.  Many of the spots were 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 was shockingly the best match of the night.  This match proved that AJ Styles could have a good match with anyone, and also earned AJ the company's permanent stamp of approval.





HM: Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler - Bragging Rights 2010


Probably D-Bryan's first true standout match in WWE was this sleeper hit to kick off the second and final Bragging Rights PPV.  By far the best match on the show, this US Champ vs. IC Champ bout allowed Bryan to show off his technical prowess against an opponent who could hang with him move-for-move.  This see-saw match went a thrilling 16 minutes, including a false finish where Ziggler seemed to have won the match but Bryan's foot was on the rope, before Bryan tapped Ziggler out with the LeBell Lock.  The pair followed it up with an equally good rematch the next night on RAW.  At year's end, WWE cited this as one of the best matches of 2010, ranking it second (I believe) only to Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker.  This was the first instance of the company openly showing appreciation for Bryan's abilities.





10. Brian Pillman vs. Jushin Thunder Liger - SuperBrawl II


The second SuperBrawl PPV, the best in the series, had the show stolen by this groundbreaking opening contest for the newly minted WCW Light Heavyweight Title.  This 17-minute bout was full of great false finishes and big high spots, demonstrating this wonderful alternative to the norm known as cruiserweight wrestling and showcasing a style of wrestling North American fans weren't yet accustomed to.  Pillman won with a bridging leg cradle after Liger missed a top-rope splash, regaining the short-lived championship.  While Jr.-style wrestling wouldn't catch on for a few more years, this match served as one of the templates.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Top Ten Things: He-Man Action Figures

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  I hope you're ready for some serious nerd nostalgia, because thanks to the fantastic new Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, I have 1980s action figures on the brain.


One episode of said TV series focused on the wonderful 80s toy line known as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  Anyone who grew up in that era remembers these larger-than-life figures with impossible musculatures, colorful appearances, pun-driven names, and bizarre quirks/powers.  The first time I saw the original He-Man commercial my brain almost exploded.  These figures looked nothing like any other action figures available at the time.  The characters were so vibrant and otherworldly you couldn't take your eyes off them.  Mattel hit one out of the park with this toy line, scoring record-breaking numbers four or five years in a row, and consistently introducing new series of memorable characters year after year.  A side note: this toy line introduced me to the concept of recycled molds.  Pretty much every figure had the exact same torso mold and initially there were only three sets of arms and legs.  Even as a seven-year-old I noticed this.  But it didn't matter, these toys fucking rocked my nuts off.  A syndicated tie-in cartoon show proved invaluable for selling MOTU figures and for a little while He-Man ruled the action figure market, spawning numerous ripoff lines, my favorite of which were the Remco figures based on obscure DC Comics characters like Warlord and Arak (They even had a disclaimer on the package: For Use with Masters of the Universe action figures).  I was so goddamn excited a few years ago when they re-released essentially the original MOTU figures, and I scooped a bunch of 'em up again.  For my son to play with.  Yeah, that's it.....

Note: Once I got really into wrestling, the He-Man line doubled as my wrestling toys, since they were the perfect size for the WWF toy ring.  Shut up, you did it too....

But which characters were my favorites?  Which of these silly fantasy barbarian toys have stuck with me three-plus decades later?  Let's take a look.....




10. King Hiss


This absurdly over-the-top figure was like He-Man meets Transformers, and the leader of The Snake Men or whatever they were called (an older character named Kobra Khan joined up with this villainous stable as well, like in a pro wrestling angle).  King Hiss looked like a human wearing snake-like armor, but pop off his arm and torso coverings, and GAAAAH, HE'S LITERALLY A GODDAMN SNAKE-MAN!!!  His actual upper body was comprised entirely of snakes (oddly his legs were still humanoid though), creepy enough to unnerve even his fellow bad guys.  I spent so much time transforming this guy from man to snake-man and it was a fairly ingenious gimmick.





9. Faker


On paper this has to be the stupidest toy ever.  An evil robot that's supposed to be a dead ringer for He-Man, except he has blue skin, Skeletor-style armor, and a visible tape recorder in his chest (courtesy of a sticker).  The idea is that Skeletor built this droid to infiltrate the good guy lair and pimp He-Man's friends for information.  Skeletor must think Team He-Man are either legally blind or just absolute fucking morons.  Who would fall for this trap??  "Whoa, He-Man, you're looking a little pekid, maybe have a nice lie down and some soup?  By the way, here are those Grayskull blueprints you asked for...."  Added to that, Faker was an appallingly flagrant cannibalization of an existing toy, just to sell more toys.  You gotta marvel at Mattel's balls, man.  Regardless of how illogical this character was, the toy looked awesome.





8. Mer-Man/Stinkor


Speaking of blatant mold recycling, in 1984 Mattel took one of the original characters, Mer-Man, painted him black & white, doused him in some kinda putrid-smelling chemical, and repackaged him as a skunk-like character named Stinkor.  Nevermind that a skunk-man wouldn't have webbed feet or fin-like ears, this guy looked boss.  And his armor covered his nose and mouth, implying he smelled so bad even HE couldn't stand it!  I loved the black, white, red and orange color scheme, and the stinky gimmick was brilliant.  Think about it - Mattel got us to buy an action figure that smelled like a goddamn skunk.  Either we're all suckers or Mattel are a buncha Jedi Masters who can bend everyone to their will.  The smell eventually wore off, but Stinkor remained one of my all-time favorite characters.


As for Mer-Man, this mold was much more appropriate for an undersea creature, and his scaly armor looked killer.  It did always bug me that his face looked nothing like the cartoon, comics or even the picture on the back of the packaging!  Also they originally were going to call him Sea Man, but changed it for obvious reasons.  Can you imagine one of the heroes saying "Oh no!  Sea Man is all over our base!  Why is Sea Man so hard to get our hands on?   I feel all slimy now that I've touched Sea Man!"



Monday, April 22, 2024

AEW Dynasty 2024 Review: Swerve is the Champ, Ospreay is Superman, Danielson is the GOAT

Jesus, what a show.  AEW hit yet another PPV homerun with their lastest offering Dynasty, which featured a big title change in the main event that should take the company in a fresh new direction, an absolutely chaotic tag team ladder match with a perfectly booked surprise return, and the match most folks are buzzing about, a dream match that turned out to be one of the best bouts you'll ever see on American soil.


The big long-term news is of course the long-awaited coronation of Swerve Strickland as AEW's first African-American World Champion.  Swerve and Samoa Joe were put in an unenviable position following the two best matches of the night, but worked hard to deliver a worthy main event that should serve as one of the company's most historic moments.  Joe played the role of 90s Vader, dominating Swerve for much of the match.  Early in the match Swerve went to the turnbuckles and faked a dive, having Joe's casual dodge move scouted, and the two wound up outside, where Joe slammed Swerve into the announce table, removed some ringside padding and powerslammed him onto the exposed floor.  Joe tried to clothesline Swerve against the ring post but Swerve moved and Joe wrapped his arm around it.  Swerve then targeted the arm, at one point doing his signature arm snap, and later wrenching Joe's weakened arm from around his neck to escape the Coquina Clutch.  Joe hit a Muscle Buster for a close two-count, and Swerve hit the House Call and Swerve Stomp for a nearfall of his own.  They ended up on the top rope where Swerve seemed to go for a Swerve Stomp from there, but missed and had to adjust midair, quickly powerbombed Joe to the mat, and hit another Swerve Stomp to win the title.  It's a pity the intended high spot didn't work, as the finish felt a bit flatter than it should have.  But this was a very good, if slightly underwhelming, main event and the crowning of a major new main event star.  ***3/4


Thursday, April 18, 2024

AEW Dynasty 2024 Preview & Predictions

Hey remember a month ago how I said I'd be shocked if any PPV topped AEW Revolution this year?  Apparently AEW's response to that was "Hold my fuckin' beer."  Jeezus, what a lineup this is.


The inaugural AEW Dynasty PPV is upon us, and on paper it's a card for the ages.  A potential all-time dream match, a probable historic coronation of the company's hottest babyface, a monster title defense for Okada, a blowaway ladder match, and a slew of strong undercard bouts.  And there are still a ton of key people not even on the show.  This oughta be sick.



Zero Hour AEW/ROH Trios Championship: The Acclaimed & Billy Gunn vs. Bullet Club Gold


I will say, thank Christ this feud is coming to an end; it's been going on in some form for at least four months and it was never all that exciting.  I really hope the plan is to unify these two sets of titles because having two sets of trios belts is just silly.  Yes they're technically for different promotions, but BCG has been on AEW television way more than they've been on the brand they're supposed to be representing.  Let's pare down these championships huh (That goes for you too, WWE)?  Anyway, it's time for The Acclaimed to drop their titles, as they've barely defended these damn things since winning them at All In(!?).  Jay White and friends get the duke here and hopefully move on to another trio they can have a more heated feud with.

Pick: Bullet Club Gold




Adam Copeland, Eddie Kingston & Mark Briscoe vs. House of Black


Speaking of trios, this one should be a lot of fun.  Cope and his allies have been stymied by HOB for several weeks and it's time for them to come together and vanquish their common enemies.  Team Cope has two current champions in Adam and Mark, so I think they're winning this.

Pick: Cope, Eddie and Mark


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Top Ten Things: Obscure 1980s Toys

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today I'm thinkin' about old toys I wish I still had.  Because apparently I'm eleven.

The 1980s was an amazing era to be a kid.  We children of the 80s were treated to some of the most badassistic (Yeah I made up a word) action figure lines ever offered up.  Think about it, in the same decade we had Star Wars toys, He-Man, Transformers, and GI Joe (plus the short-lived DC Super Powers and Marvel Secret Wars), and those are just a handful of the toy lines that were hits!  We also had a fuckton of action figure series that were either short-lived or outright flopped, and those are the ones I'm here to talk about today.  I got to thinking about some of the more obscure toys I had as a kid and the list just kept growing on me.  Some of them I had trouble finding on Google because the name escaped me, but eventually I found 'em all.  Not only does this piece feature a top ten but I've included three Honorable Mentions.  So, strap on your nerd hats and join me for a look back at some of the best obscure toys of the 80s!



HM: Karate Kid (Remco)

Yeah this set came with giant chopsticks to catch a giant rubber fly.

From the hit 1984 film Rocky But With Karate, these stupid, one-note toys had some inexplicable charm to them.  Literally the only two characters I ever found were Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi (apparently Johnny, Kreese and others were available later on), but each figure had one arm and one leg that were spring-loaded, so when you pushed a button they would either chop or kick.  This one set I got came with both characters and a litany of structures for them to chop through or break.  Wooden boards, ice, brick walls, this coat rack-lookin' thing, you name it.  Destroying fake wood with these figures was stupid fun.




HM: Clash of the Titans (Mattel)

They released the first wave and then they RELEASED THE KRRRAKEN!

What a promising line this was, until it wasn't.  The wonderful 1981 fantasy film Clash of the Titans had so many colorful characters and creatures that lent themselves to toy designs, in the same way the Star Wars trilogy did.  The first (and thanks to poor sales, only) series included Perseus (a fantastic Harry Hamlin likeness), his buddy Thallo, Calibos, and for some reason Charon the ferryman (who only appears in the film for like four seconds), plus a Pegasus toy (with zero points of articulation) and a huge Kraken (who looked boss).  Insanely the coolest looking character in the movie, Medusa, never got a toy, but maybe she, Andromeda and some of the Greek gods would've been included in series 2.  Regardless, these were solid toys that deserved a better run.





HM: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Kenner)/Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (LJN)

This is one of my favorite films, but what are you supposed to do with these?

Two different toy companies tried to make "fetch" happen in the 80s with Indiana Jones.  When Raiders of the Lost Ark came out it was a no-brainer that Kenner, fresh off its colossal success with the Star Wars line, would introduce a similar-in-scale line of Indy toys.  Only problem was, beyond the main character no one else in that movie does a whole lot that lends itself to action figure play.  Indy does all the heavy lifting.  What are you supposed to do with Marion in a removable evening gown, or the black-clad swordsman whom Indy shoots like a dog in the street?  Or Belloq or Toht or Col. Dietrich, who are all excellent baddies in the film but have no action sequences to speak of?  The one character Indy has a fistfight with is the nameless bald German mechanic, but that'd keep you busy for what, five minutes?  It's a shame, these were good looking toys for the time, but aside from Indy himself there wasn't much you could do with 'em.  Even the few playsets they had were pointless (more on that HERE).

Damn good detail on these but again, what do I do with 'em?

Then in 1984 LJN tried their hand with 5-inch figures for Temple of Doom, releasing five characters but running into the same problem.  Playing with these toys was all about Indy performing daring stunts and escapes.  Beyond that you're stuck.  Thus when The Last Crusade came out, no one even bothered with a toy line.  'Twas a pity. 


Okay now for the meat of the list....