Monday, November 30, 2015

Pro Wrestling: A Mark's History, part 22 (Eric vs. Stephanie)

2002 was the first year in which WWF/E ran unopposed as a major wrestling company, but in the wake of WCW's and ECW's respective demises, two new companies formed. 

The first, Ring of Honor, was founded by Rob Feinstein and booked by Paul Heyman protege Gabe Sopolsky.  Like ECW it was a gritty, no-frills indie promotion with an emphasis on the in-ring product.  But unlike ECW the wrestling was technically-based instead of hardcore.  Veterans like Christopher Daniels, Low-Ki, and newcomer Bryan Danielson were showcased, and the company would bring in several international stars from time to time to give the product some flavor.  In lieu of a weekly TV show, very card would be available on VHS and later DVD, via RF Video.  Though it would take several years, ROH would come to be a major influence on the wrestling industry, just as ECW had done previously.  But we'll get to that.

The other new company was owned by Jeff and Jerry Jarrett, and was to be an NWA affiliate.  For some reason they called it Total Nonstop Action, or TNA (get it?), and the NWA gave them permission to use the sanctioned NWA World Championship as it's top belt.  The product was without a weekly cable timeslot, so instead they ran weekly two-hour PPVs from a venue in Nashville, which was a helluva financial commitment for anyone wanting to follow along.  For the most part TNA felt like a continuation of 2000 WCW; the top stars were either WWE castoffs or former WCW stars, and the product was needlessly raunchy.  The one innovation though was the newly created X-Division, which was similar to WCW's Cruiserweights, except there was no weight restriction.  The division was initially built around Jerry Lynn and hot new indie star AJ Styles, who would prove to be TNA's franchise player for the next decade.  While TNA wasn't exactly classic stuff, it did at least provide an alternative to an increasingly frustrating WWE product.

AJ's reign of awesome began in 2002.

After King of the Ring 2002 it was clear WWE was casting their lot with the prodigious Brock Lesnar.  He'd won the annual tournament and would be facing the Undisputed Champion at SummerSlam.  I had some reservations about his ability to deliver a PPV main event so early in his career but was excited for the company's focus on a young star.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

NFL Pick 'em: Week 12

Dan's Picks

This is honestly getting ridiculous. I lose a pick on a goddamn "inadvertent whistle" play?? What is this world coming to? This is beyond annoying. Tom Brady is in bounds and throws a beauty to Danny Amendola, and TWEEEEET whistled away for...something. I mean, look at Danny boy here, on his way to the promised land.

But nope, there goes 6 points, bye bye, I’m a loser. Unreal. I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.

St. Louis (+9) @ Cincinnati THE PICK - CINCINNATI
It’s a pretty bad look when your quarterback’s head gets slammed into the ground like Greg Hardy’s woman and he is still allowed to play, somehow.

There's nothing funny about this.
The NFL would have you believe that they care about the well-being of their players. That concussions are something they are actively trying to prevent. As evident in last week’s game, surely they jest. And with the Rams deciding that hey, Marshmallow-brains here is good to go this week...I’m on the Red Rifle and the cats to take this one down.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NFL Pick 'em: Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to a special holiday edition of NFL Pick 'em. Before you hork down pounds of turkey & gravy drenched side dishes, why not take a little taste of some lousy picks by myself, Miggsy & B-Cuddy? Here we go.

Dan's Picks

Philadelphia @ Detroit (Pick ‘Em) THE PICK - WATCH SOMETHING ELSE
Holy shit, what an awful game this is gonna be. Seriously. Butt Fumble master Mark Sanchez is getting another start for the hapless birds, and the only guy in town with a bigger head than Charlie Brown, Matt Stafford, continues to suck it up for the Lions.

Turning this game on your television is possibly the meanest thing you could do to your family on this holiday, short of not making mashed potatoes for dinner (thanks Uncle Benny). I have zero confidence in either of these teams. You should watch the turkey cook instead of this nonsense. Gun to my head…DETROIT

Monday, November 23, 2015

WWE Survivor Series Recap, or "I Throw My Hands Up"

Well folks, another Survivor Series is in the books, and my esteemed colleague Dan Moore and I are back with our analysis. 

Perennial Loser, er, I mean new WWE Champion Sheamus

Spoiler alert: This show pissed us both off.  But aren't we more entertaining that way?  Dan, your take?

DAN: What a missed opportunity last night for the WWE. The injury to Seth Rollins could have been a blessing in disguise. A chance to elevate some young talent on the roster and really start to push some new stars in the world of sports entertainment. Instead, Vince and his crazy cooks in the WWE kitchen served us up a shit sandwich.

The wrasslin’ portion of the show was actually fine. Match of the night was Roman Reigns vs. Alberto followed by Ambrose-Owens (Owens could be the company’s ultimate heel if he’s given that chance someday). I didn’t even have a problem with the combatants in the thrown together Survivor match. The teams were filled with capable members but the match itself lacked a story, as it was put together like, yesterday morning. 

No, my problem stems from the total lack of storytelling all night. It was atrocious. For example, in the aforementioned Survivor match, the heels were led out by the comedic tag champs, the New Day. No problem there. However, they attempted to make a humorous turn with Sheamus, your Money in the Bank briefcase holder. Normally, that’s not an issue. But when later in the evening, the very same Sheamus cashes in the contract against a newly crowned Champion Roman Reigns, something is very amiss here. Let me get this straight: the super babyface Reigns just lost to a man who an hour beforehand was acting like a clown and coming up with nonsensical phrases to get the audience to laugh, only to be mocked himself by his teammates? This is your heel champion now?

Friday, November 20, 2015

WWE Survivor Series 2015 Predictions

Welcome to another edition of official predictions!  November is of course the month when WWE takes its second-oldest PPV tradition and craps all over it with a watered-down shell of what Survivor Series used to be (Don't get Dan and me started on that).

This year the centerpiece of the PPV is the final two rounds of the WWE Title tournament.  Former Champion and backbone of the company Seth Rollins suffered a serious knee injury as you all know, and was forced to vacate the belt, thus WWE held a 16-man tourney to crown a new Champion.  The tournament itself has been pretty solid and has made for some fine TV matches over the past two weeks (Reigns vs. Cesaro is probably the tourney highlight so far).

The other big hyped matchup this year is the Brothers of Destruction vs. Bray Wyatt & Braun Strowman.  Now when this all got set up a month ago it seemed clear the plan was for all four Wyatts to face Taker, Kane and two other babyfaces in a Survivor Series match.  Ya know, woulda made sense.  But no, apparently Vince thinks a plain RAW-quality tag team match would be a bigger draw (Vince, what color is the sky in CrazyLand?).  So we're stuck with what is likely to be a plodding, phoned-in affair.  Next?

The one ray of Survivor Series hope was just announced at the Smackdown tapings the other night, as ten of WWE's brightest, most promising midcarders (for whom Creative has no plans going forward) will be assembled into a traditional elimination match.  Of course WWE hasn't announced which ten guys will be involved.  Why would you hype a Survivor Series match ahead of time for Survivor Series??  But at least we'll get a 5-on-5 match.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

NFL Pick 'em: Week 11

Dan's Picks

These picks....they’re not my kinda picks. Sure, I’m on the bottom, but let’s be real. It’s an unbelievable case of bad luck. If goddamn Mike Tomlin didn’t play for a TD with like 8 seconds left in the first week, if the Chiefs, the GODDAMN Chiefs don’t beat the Broncos for the first time in four years in a game where the most prolific regular-season passer in the history of the FUCKING LEAGUE threw four interceptions on 20 goddamn tosses, then I’m right up there with Bald & Balder. The only thing those two idiots hafta worry about picking correctly is what size Turtle Wax they need to shine up those fucking cue balls on their big fat necks. Now, let’s get to some more picks, which are most likely wrong. Fuck.

This is how I feel right now. Not really.
That performance by Manning last week was HILARIOUS.

Green Bay (+1) @ Minnesota THE PICK - GREEN BAY
The Pack are on a three game losing streak. Minny has pulled off a five (FIVE!?!) game winning streak. It’s been a great ride for the Vikings. But, much like Miggsy buying pairs of pants with a waistline in the thirties, it’s gonna come to a stop. Green Bay is coming off a shocking loss to the Lions at home and methinks they no likey that (plus, getting a point with the Packers is rare). I’m assuming they come out with a vengeance and destroy Minnesota, but I’m probably wrong because I stink.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pro Wrestling: A Mark's History, part 21 (Get the 'F Out)

The first major event in 2002 was the long-awaited return of Triple H, who had finally recovered from his cringeworthy quad tear in May of '01.  The vignettes they'd been playing were clearly designed to get Hunter over as a returning hero, and I anticipated a mega-babyface push for him heading into WrestleMania season.  Remember, before he left I was a big Triple H fan, so the idea of a probable Triple H-Chris Jericho WrestleMania main event was electrifying to me.  Sadly it wouldn't exactly play out like I'd hoped.

Jericho, who had defeated both The Rock and Steve Austin at Vengeance 2001 to become the Undisputed Champ, was almost immediately treated as a transitional belt-holder, routinely booked in the opening segment on RAW against lower-card opponents like Maven and Tazz.  Not only that but these weren't exactly squash matches.  Jericho had trouble beating seemingly anyone, and it looked as though he was being deliberately portrayed as an undeserving fluke Champion.  Heading into the new year all signs pointed to a nice little Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam feud, culminating in a WWF Title match at the Royal Rumble.  But inexplicably their blowoff match took place on an episode of Smackdown, and Jericho was once again paired against The Rock for the PPV.  This seemed like a totally wasted opportunity to a) deliver a really great semi-main event at the Rumble, b) solidify Rob Van Dam as a new main event star after his surprising Hardcore Title loss to The Undertaker (who had pretty nonsensically turned heel in December), and c) stack the Rumble match itself with as many top-tier stars as possible.  What we got on that PPV was a third Jericho vs. Rock go-round that wasn't nearly as captivating as the first two, a Rumble match with a very obvious winner and only three other potential candidates, and Rob Van Dam relegated to a two-minute cameo at the end of the match (He should consider himself lucky, the other former Alliance star Booker T only got 33 seconds).

Hunter?  Why are your shoulder so big?

This was the first time I became acutely aware of petty backstage politics creating blatantly counterproductive booking, at least in the WWF (Christ, in WCW it was practically announced every week on Nitro).  While in hindsight there was obviously a lot of this stuff going on for years, even during the excellent 2000/early 2001 era, either I hadn't been as wise to the product or the company had done enough things right that I didn't notice so much.  That all changed post-Invasion.

Friday, November 13, 2015

NFL Pick 'em: Week 10

Brandon (16-11, 21pts)
Miggsy (16-11, 20pts)
DNM III (13-14, 17pts)

Dan's Picks

Hey it's Dan. I got nothing to say.

Carolina (-6) @ Tennessee THE PICK - CAROLINA 
The Panthers defensive line has been bonkers lately and they might have the best linebacker group in the league. I mean, look at Luke Kuechly, he's an animal!

Ok, maybe this pic of him looking like an accountant in an
oversize jersey was the wrong one to pick. 

Tennessee's offensive line has been atrocious. Methinks young Marcus may need a dry cleaner big time come Monday for all the grass stains he'll be wearing.

Kansas City @ Denver (-7) THE PICK - DENVER
Peyton is 3 yards away from beating notorious dick pic slinger Bret Favre's all time yards passing record.

The official jeans for interception prone QBs with small wangs.

Even noodle arm Manning has to be able to sling a few lame ducks on this putrid Chiefs team. Denver's defense should give Alex "I was drafted before Aaron Rodgers" Smith fits all day. He may not even break 100 yards passing. You can do this with every draft, but the fact that roughly a million teams passed on Rodgers is astounding. It's such a huge blunder in a league where there's maybe 8 good quarterbacks. To have one ready to go in the draft and keep passing him by is amazing.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

You Used To Be Sooooo Good: WWE Survivor Series

AND WE'RE BAAAACK!!!  It's been a while folks, but my esteemed colleague Dan Moore and I are back with a brand new installment of You Used To Be Soooo Good.  You know the drill, we examine something we once loved, explain why it sucks now, and work through our pain.

This here is a REAL logo.

Today we'll be talking about what used to be one of our favorite wrestling PPVs, the Survivor Series.  Debuting in 1987, the Series was built around gigantic team matchups, where two captains would gather their closest allies and wage war on their hated enemies.  It was a pure, uncomplicated format, and it worked beautifully.  But after the first few years the company began to stray from this concept.  Over the past two decades the elimination portion of the shows has been more often than not phoned in, while the focus has been on the regular ol' singles matches.  Thus Survivor Series has mostly devolved into a generic PPV where little of importance takes place.  Dan, what's your take on this once-beloved tradition?

DAN: Ah, the classic Survivor Series. At the time it debuted, it easily shot to the top of the charts as my favorite wrestling event. The idea of the PPV was, in retrospect, so simple, but so awesome. Tag teams made up of five men, with each man pinned (or DQd or counted out) being eliminated from the match, thus creating survivors. The year this show was born, I was heavy into my love of wrasslin'. We were all at my grandmother's house for Thanksgiving and because the show was on Thanksgiving night, my father made me and my brother leave early so we wouldn't miss a second of this brand new wrestling extravaganza. It's truly one of my favorite wrestling memories, and the very first Survivor Series is ingrained in my head as one of the all time great pay-per-views.

JUSTIN: I first heard about Survivor Series at a house show on Halloween night.  My dad and I went to the Worcester Centrum and on the back of the programs was an ad depicting Hulk Hogan's team on one side and Andre the Giant's team on the other.  I said, "What's this about?"  Just below that was an "Also featuring Randy Savage's team facing The Honky Tonk Man's team."  I said, "This sounds most intriguing."  Yes, at age 12 I used the word "intriguing."  I swear.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Brief History of James Bond

**Editor's Note: Welcome to a special look at the history of James Bond, from our own Bond Consultant Dave Moore (Dan's brother).  Dave has what you might call an unhealthy fixation on everyone's favorite British spy.  So to commemorate the latest 007 opus Spectre, he's put together a little retrospective.  Enjoy!**

As many people know James Bond made his return to the screen this past weekend in SPECTRE, and I couldn't be more excited about a new Bond Film.  People who know me, know I'm a huge James Bond fan, both of the movies and the books.  The moment I first saw the inside of that gun barrel appear on the screen and a lone man walked into frame, fired his gun, and blood trickled down the screen, seven-year-old Dave was hooked.

Decades later, after 24 movies, who's the best Bond? Everyone has their personal favorite. Here is my breakdown:

For me it starts and stops with the original Bond, Sean Connery.  He's the first man to bring the character to life on film and he's still the best.  His presence on screen was electric. His physicality in the train fight with Robert Shaw's Red Grant in From Russia with Love made this a groundbreaking sequence.  He dripped sexuality and charisma. He was suave, charming and got any woman he looked at. He had the ability to deliver a perfectly-timed and witty one-liner. He was the coolest character in film at the time. Up until Daniel Craig, he was the closest to the James Bond from the books. Sadly Connery tired of the role and left after You Only Live Twice.  He came back a few years later for Diamonds are Forever but it wasn’t the same as the earlier films.

Pro Wrestling: A Mark's History, part 20 (The Invasion)

Ah, the Invasion Angle.  The most disappointing thing in wrestling history.  When Vince McMahon bought WCW I (like all wrestling fans everywhere) salivated at the thought of finally getting to see the top stars from both companies lock up in the ring.  Austin vs. Goldberg, Hogan vs. The Rock, Triple H vs. Sting (okay, two of those three did eventually happen, but stay with me here), and a host of other epic marquee matchups would now be possible.  Except they weren't.  Reason being, all of WCW's biggest names were still under contract to Time Warner for another year or more, and Vince didn't want to fork over the cash to buy them out.

Uh oh, the enemy is sitting politely in their seats.  What are we gonna do??

So instead the only "invaders" we got were the largely unproven midcard talent no one really cared about seeing in a WWF ring (Booker T excepted, he was the one real star Vince bought at this point).  The early stages of the Invasion consisted of random attacks by lower-echelon WCWers like Mike Awesome and Lance Storm (nothing against Lance at all, but he wasn't exactly a WCW cornerstone).  Finally at King of the Ring we saw Booker T for the first time as he attacked Steve Austin during his WWF Title match.  But since Austin won the match anyway this didn't make much of an impact.

The master plan for this Invasion was for Shane McMahon to lead the new WCW charge and split off into his own brand, slated for Friday nights on TNN.  The top four talents on whose shoulders WCW would be rebuilt were Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Test, and Buff Bagwell.  Wait, what??  Yup, someone in the WWF thought Buff Bagwell would be a top-flight WCW main eventer, and the first-ever WCW match broadcast on RAW pitted Buff against Booker T.  And then the match stunk up the joint.  Literally, the arena reeked of failure and self-loathing.  Coming off 18 solid months of WWF programming that was absolute gold 90 per cent of the time, I had very high hopes for a relaunched WCW under the McMahon banner.  When this Booker-Buff match flopped harder than an M. Night Shyamalan film, it stung.  The match was so bad it killed the relaunch dead before it even got out of the gate.  The network pulled the plug on the experiment, and Bagwell got his walkin' papers.

Friday, November 6, 2015

NFL Pick 'em: Week 9

Points standings 

Last week, I came down a bit. The week before, I was perfect, eating cavier and drinking champagne. A couple losses on Sunday, I'm horking down filet o' fish and guzzling syrup.

Your mother teach you to chug?

Nothing you can do about it except pretend everything's just peachy and go about your business. Like Miggsy and his hairline.


Atlanta (-7) @ San Francisco THE PICK - ATLANTA
Thank you.

New York Giants (-2 1/2) @ Tampa Bay THE PICK - NEW YORK
I hate Eli, and the Giants. I feel I need to say that each time I pick them. He stinks, yet with the sorry state of QB talent in the NFL, is legit top ten in the league. He shows that he can be great (like last week's 6 TD performance and two specific games in February we won't talk about). But he makes so many stupid mistakes, like Cuddy buying a large shirt (No, it fits dude, your gut is almost contained). I have to, HAVE TO, believe they're better than Tampa. Of course, I'm probably wrong. But I hate Florida. The whole state. It's overrated, humid, pricey and filled with Coke dealers and cousin fuckers. Not to mention the buncha dickheads that flock there to spend half their salaries to see teenagers dressed up like a fucking mouse. Holy shit, look, a fake castle, I'm a princess and it only cost me A MILLION DOLLARS. Seriously, Florida, eat a dick.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

NJPW Power Struggle 2015 Predictions

Welcome back to PPV Predictions, where I dissect the upcoming NJPW Power Struggle show!

We've arrived at what is essentially the final stop on the Road to WrestleKingdom, where things fall into place for the company's January 4th extravaganza.  As in previous years, Power Struggle is a pretty basic collection of matches not really designed to have lasting ramifications, but to warm everyone up for WK10.  Let's take a look at the scheduled bouts.

**Since I started predicting New Japan shows I'm 21/26 - not too shabby.**

David Finlay, Jay White, Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Máscara Dorada, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tiger Mask

This show will contain several get-more-names-on-the-card matches, the first of which is this eight-man tag.  Many of these guys opened King of Pro-Wrestling as well.  Team Liger won that match, and I'm picking them here too.

Justin's pick: Liger/Dorada/Taguchi/Tiger Mask

Togi Makabe, Captain New Japan and Juice Robinson vs. Cody Hall, Doc Gallows and Tama Tonga

The first of three multi-man tags involving the Bullet Club, this pits the stable's bottom echelon against former Never Champ Makabe and his two partners.  Coming off a loss at KOPW I imagine Makabe gets a bit of rehabbing in this match.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

31 Horror Movies in 31 Days: Psycho

by Dan Moore

The final review #31Movies31Days

Psycho (1960)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Janet Leigh

This was it. The big one. The very first horror movie I ever saw in my life. Psycho. I watched it at my Aunt's house on the Movie Loft with Dana Hersey on WSBK TV 38, Boston. And it scared the bejesus out of me. The requisite "no more showers" was promised by myself, and I'm quite sure I held onto that pledge for a solid week.

The plot, of course, involves Norman Bates and his eponymous hotel. When Marion Crane, who is on the run after robbing her boss of $40,000, checks in, she meets this strange boy who has an even stranger infatuation with his little-seen mother. Mother resides in the creepy house overlooking the hotel, and if I thought the hospital in Session 9 was scary, check this shit out.


The movie is iconic for a myriad of reasons. The house. The hotel. The music. The still-scary-to-this-day shower scene. And of course, Mother.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pro Wrestling: A Mark's History, part 19 (Vince Buys WCW)

2001 might be the most significant year in the history of pretend fighting.  After decades of the North American wrestling landscape being dominated by two or three major promotions, the year 2001 saw one company survive the Monday Night War by absorbing the other.  On March 26th, the unthinkable happened, as Vince McMahon bought WCW and assimilated it into his own company.  The final Nitro featured a simulcast segment where Vince announced to the world that he had bought the company, only for Shane McMahon to appear and drop the bombshell that HE had in fact purchased WCW out from under Vince.  This set the stage for the biggest wrestling angle of all time, the Invasion.

But before we get to that, let's rewind to January.

The 2001 PPV calendar was probably even better than the 2000 one, as four of the five Big PPVs were absolutely spectacular, and a few of the B shows were excellent too.  The Royal Rumble kicked things off perfectly, with a stacked Rumble match that entertained all the way through and culminated in Steve Austin's reascension, a worthy semi-main event in the Kurt Angle-Triple H WWF Title match (despite the lack of a babyface to root for), and the two Chrises, Benoit and Jericho, stealing the show with an amazing Ladder Match for the I-C Title.

The Chrises had a helluva six-month stretch in 2001

It was obvious the planned main event of WrestleMania 17 (dubbed X-Seven for some reason) was The Rock vs. Steve Austin.  I was less than pumped for this I must confess, as we had seen it two years prior and I had hoped for someone new to be elevated to that level.  Plus it was a face vs. face match and I just didn't feel much heat from it.  Turned out I had little to worry about, but we'll get to that in a bit.

At the 'Mania 17 press conference, Vince announced "This won't be the biggest WrestleMania ever, but it will be the best."  I'll never forget that line, as #1 it was 100% true, and #2 WWE in recent years seems to have forgotten that philosophy when putting together WrestleMania shows.  In trying to make each one as big as it can be, they've forgotten about making it better than the others.

Monday, November 2, 2015

31 Horror Movies in 31 Days: Session 9

by Dan Moore

Here we are, the final reviews.  Join the discussion on Twitter with #31Movies31Days

Day 30: Session 9 (2001)

Director: Brad Anderson
Starring: David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III

New shorts. That's what you'll need after watching this one.

The movie's plot involves an asbestos removal company doing a job in a dilapidated mental institute. And the place looks real nice. Honestly.

Perhaps I'll summer here

Strange things start to occur once the crew gets in the building. One of the workers starts listening to old reel-to-reel session recordings, adding an even creepier layer to the happenings and the goings on. To tell more of the plot is not fair to the new viewer. Needless to say, you'll be scared.