Thursday, April 28, 2016

WWE Payback 2016 Predictions

Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at, where my esteemed (not really) colleague Dan Moore and I attempt prodigious feats of prognostication!

Yeah, so we both did horribly picking WrestleMania 32 winners, mostly because the booking at that show made no sense whatsoever.  I scored 5/11 and Dan turned in a measly 3/11.  Unreal.  Get your head outta your ass, Dan.

But maybe we can redeem ourselves this month, as WWE presents a PPV that looks WAAAAY better than WM32, Payback!  With Shane McMahon in charge (despite losing his WrestleMania match with control of RAW on the line - makes sense), RAW has become a much more watchable endeavor.  Fresh matchups, focus on newer talent, consistent wins to build up said talent, etc.  I'm sure control of RAW will go back to The A-Snore-ity soon (Get it?  Like "Authority" but with snoring?), but for a few weeks anyway things have actually been intriguing for a change.  So let's look at the Payback lineup...

Pre-Show US Championship: Kalisto vs. Ryback

Sigh.  Remember a year ago when John Cena made the US Title relevant again?  Yeah, that's all out the window.  We're back to this belt being a worthless piece of patriotic tin defended on a pre-show between two guys they've barely shown on RAW or Smackdown.  This match means absolutely zilch.

Justin's pick: I guess Kalisto retains again
Dan's pick: Dude, I don’t care. Have Ryback win, make him go on a killing spree.

Tag Team Tournament Finals: Enzo & Cass vs. The Vaudvillains

I like that there are actually enough teams now to do an 8-team tournament.  I like that the #1 Contenders' spot is meaningful enough for 8 teams to want to vie for it.  I like that two entertaining NXT call-up teams are in the finals.  This should be a solid outing.  Enzo & Cass are already over.  Not so sure about the Vaudvillains.

Justin's pick: I imagine the VVs win through nefarious means, perhaps due to Dudleyz interference.
Dan's pick: I like the cut of these Vaudvillains' gib.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Corbin was called up a little too soon in my estimation.  There are many more deserving NXT guys right now than he.  But he's got a pretty good character and a good look, and Ziggler will certainly make him look like a monster.  Poor Dolph.

Justin's pick: Corbin obviously
Dan's pick: I don’t care for this Corbin fellow. He’s balding, he wears a leather vest, and he stole "Lone Wolf" from Rambo. That said, Ziggler hasn’t won shit since back in the 60s. Bye bye, Dolph.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2016 Predictions

Welcome to another set of PPV Predictions!

Today we're looking at the upcoming NJPW Wrestling Dontaku show taking place this Tuesday, May 3rd.  Initially this was to be the second of a double-shot, as Wrestling Hinokuni had been scheduled for April 29th.  But after the earthquake that took place in Kunamoto on April 14th, New Japan opted to cancel Hinokuni and spread those nine scheduled matches across three shows.  Two of them will now take place at Dontaku, while the rest will happen on Road to Dontaku shows.  I was actually more excited about the Hinokuni lineup than Dontaku's, but the additions to this card have made this quite a stacked show.  So let's take a look...

Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Juice Robinson & Captain New Japan

This'll be another basic opening squash for Fale, who's been feuding with Hiroshi Tanahashi.  Nothing more, nothing less.

My Pick: Fale & Takahashi

Kazushi Sakuraba, Will Ospreay, Yoshi-Hashi & Gedo vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask, Jay White & David Finlay

This one should be a lot of fun actually.  Ospreay is really something to behold, and the idea of him mixing it up with Tiger Mask and especially Jay White is quite appealing.  I'd love to see a singles feud between Ospreay and White.  I'd also like to see more done with Tiger Mask, as he's always fun to watch.

My Pick: Team Chaos probably wins here, given the other team has two Young Lions

IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship: Roppongi Vice vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet

A rematch from Invasion Attack, this match should be just as good as that one.  The jury's still out on whether Ricochet is jumping to WWE, but the fact that he and Sydal dropped the titles so quickly kinda points to that scenario.  This match is likely just to cement RPG Vice as the top dogs in the division.

My Pick: RPG Vice

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin & Yoshitatsu vs. The Elite

Another rematch from IA, their first encounter was loads of fun and I expect more of the same.  Tatsu has adopted a "Bullet Club Hunter" gimmick, complete with Triple H-style mannerisms and ring gear.  Get it?  Hunter?  Anyway, should be another fun match, though I'm not sure why the Six-Man straps aren't on the line. (UPDATE: The straps are now up for grabs!)

My Pick: Since these belts have been jumping around like crazy I'll go with The Elite to regain.

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Great Bash Heel

Yeesh, the first go-round between these two teams was not good.  The third Invasion Attack rematch on this card, this one's not likely to be much better, but hopefully Tama Tonga and his brother Tanga Roa will get their shit together.  This tag division desperately needs some depth.  Maybe bring back the Briscoes to help out?

My Pick: I could see Makabe and Honma regaining the straps until the Guerrillas improve their in-ring game.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata

This one should be BRUTAL.  Both of these dudes spent some time in MMA and work a very stiff style.  I anticipate some crazy strike battles and a good submission game on both sides.  Shibata has been working his way through the older guard stars, so a win over their de facto leader would be a feather in his cap.

My pick: Shibata

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Kushida vs. Jushin Thunder Liger

Along those same lines, Kushida has been an excellent custodian/representative for the Jr. division and is now facing probably the greatest Jr. of all time in Liger.  This has a real "passing of the torch" flavor to it and I look forward to seeing if Liger's able to keep up with Kushida in 2016.  Meanwhile I hope New Japan has a host of newbies ready to challenge Kushida next.

My pick: Kushida

Evil vs. Hirooki Goto

These two wrestled last fall and it was more of an angle than a match.  I think this will be a much stronger showing.  Evil has been improving and Goto seems more motivated now that he's involved with Chaos.  Should be an entertaining brawl.

My pick: Evil needs the win to move up the card a bit and maybe challenge Shibata next

Kazuchika Okada vs. Sanada

The former IWGP Champ vs. the newest Ingobernable.  I'm not very familiar with Sanada's work, as I didn't catch his time in TNA, but he's apparently a good hand in the ring.  I expect loads of outside interference, with Okada eventually overcoming the odds to keep him looking strong after dropping the belt.

My pick: Okada

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii

I love this matchup.  Naito's been playing a great douchebag heel and Ishii is a no-bullshit bruiser who isn't gonna be amused or thrown off by Naito's mind games.  On paper this match actually looks more fun to me than Okada-Naito did.  Ishii will look to punish the crap out of Naito and I imagine there will be some shenanigans from Naito's stablemates.  Obviously Ishii isn't winning the strap here but it's nice to see him headline a PPV.

My pick: Naito

There's your lineup.  Looks like a helluva fun show with a lot of variety and five title matches.  While I still miss Nakamura, Styles and Ibushi on NJPW shows, it's a fun time to be a fan of this company.  Thanks for reading!  Comment below with your picks!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Black Trunks, Black Boots: The Appeal and the Success of the NJPW Young Lions

by Landon Wayne

When you think of Japanese pro wrestling, New Japan in particular, what comes to mind? Well, there’s the Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi whom many credit with bringing New Japan into the prominence and success the company enjoys today. Or you could turn to a star of the past, like Yuji Nagata, the Blue Justice who once held the record for most title defenses of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, in a reign that spanned over a year. Maybe you think of the NEVER Openweight Title, and the current holder Katsuyori Shibata, who demonstrates the puroresu old ways with merciless strikes and submissions. I could go on, but the keen reader would have noticed the unifying thread that connects the above men. All of them were at one point young boys in New Japan, or Young Lions as they’ve become known. Many, including myself, can and do argue that their success and popularity can be directly correlated to their tenures as the extras of the company.

So, what’s a Young Lion? For the uninformed or out of the loop, Young Lions are the men who started training at, or had a little training before going to, the New Japan Dojo. They’re the men you see taking entrance gear and titles from their owners before matches start, helping wrestlers to the back after matches should they need assistance, and they’re typically in opening matches taking the deciding fall in tag matches or singles matches. These are all simply at-event or on-camera duties, as they have other tasks from sunrise to sunset, as WWE wrestler Finn Balor has attested.

“I was [24 and] a full young boy, so I’d be woken up at 7:30, clean the toilets, clean the ring, sweep outside the streets...You basically run all the errands for the older wrestlers, it’s almost like a hazing.”

-Finn Balor, Talk Is Jericho, May 20th, 2015

The difference between the Young Lions and WWE’s enhancement talent is that the Young Lions will eventually make something of themselves in New Japan. In each match, they get progressively more and more offense and time. While they are jobbers, they are typically made to look good in their matches. Each wrestler is able to build a repertoire of moves in their efforts against the established wrestlers of the company. Along with their moveset is built a personality that they can carry throughout their time with the company. But the most important aspect of these matches are the chemistry they build with the established wrestlers inside the ring, serving them later when it comes time to be in more competitive and longer matches. But chemistry is also established with the fans, the men and women getting to see the future and find their new favorites. In WWE [and I promise I’m not turning this into a WWE rant] men like Zack Ryder and Jack Swagger are brought in to make their opponents look good, but that’s about it. You never see a focus on the talent or personality of the losing party. Men come to the main roster hot and either stay hot or cool off perpetually, a pyramid scheme that requires fresh faces to be slingshotted regularly. Meanwhile, Tanahashis and Shibatas can be on top much longer because their fan base is comprised of much fewer bandwagoners and more career-long fans. Because they remember when Hiroshi wore those black trunks "and dammit, I’ve been with him all the way and I’m not abandoning ship now."

Game of Thrones: Season Six, Episode 1 - “The Red Woman”

by Dan Moore

This just in: Lord Commander of the Night's Watch Jon Snow is still dead. But there’s definitely some goings-ons afoot that could lead to his resurrection. Last night’s season premiere of  GoT, “The Red Woman,” was a tad underwhelming, as the show has so many moving pieces at this point that it’s tough to focus on any one of them for an extended period of time. It feels like we get one scene of each of the main characters and then hurry up, we gotta move onto the next ones!

That being said, the premier episode set up things nicely for the season, as brief as each setup was. We got:

---Arya doing her best Nick Parker impression as a blind pseudo samurai in the streets of Braavos (Yeah, I dropped a reference to a completely obscure and shitty Rutger Hauer action movie where he’s blind. Deal with it)
Love this flick.

--- Margaery still in jail trying to make demands on Jumpin’ Jack Flash, to no avail (Yeah, I dropped a reference to a somewhat obscure Whoopi Goldberg movie. Deal with it)

Not this one so much

---There’s a major Coup d'état as the Sand Snakes are bumping off everyone in Dorne. They seem like nice girls.

---The Boltons are very happy Stannis was killed (of course we never saw his body)

Friday, April 22, 2016

NXT: Live from Lowell, MA

Welp, the NXT crew just rocked my socks off.

I had the privilege of attending the house show last night in Lowell, MA (NXT's first-ever visit to New England) and was treated to one of the most fun nights of live wrestling I've ever seen (Even my wife had a good time watching a wrestling event, and that's saying someting).  Legit, I've been attending wrestling events just shy of 29 years, and this made me feel 12 years old again.  The eight matches were all a breeze to sit through, the crowd ate up every minute of it, and there wasn't a shred of cynicism about this show.  When 2800 jaded, smart wrestling fans buy into every babyface and boo every heel (except Samoa Joe, who's just too awesome to hate), you know you've done something right.  This was such a refreshing experience after years of being forced to question every bonehead decision made by main roster Creative.  NXT's product is so simple and untainted any wrestling fan can appreciate it.  The average episode of RAW is just over three hours and is a chore to sit through.  This show was two hours and forty-five minutes and cruised by at about a hundred miles an hour.  And on top of all this, the show ended with a monumental NXT Title change!  But we'll get to that....

These were balcony seats and our view was still amazing

Even the show opener, pitting Mojo Rawley against Riddick Moss (who got several "Who are you?" chants) was fun to watch, mostly due to Rawley's unparalleled energy.  He's no Kurt Angle between the ropes, but it's impossible not to like the guy.  He just gives off the air of someone who's so happy to be there it becomes infectious.

That goes double for the babyface team in match #2.  Bayley and Carmella faced Dana Brooke and Peyton Royce in a classic old-school undercard-type match, where the babyfaces got the better of the heels almost all the way through and the crowd was tickled pink.  Is there a more likable figure in all of pro wrestling right now than Bayley?  To anyone who thinks traditional babyfaces don't work in 2016, Exhibit fucking A.

The third match nearly stole the show, as Tommaso Ciampa faced the former Biff Busick, Chris Girard in a sick display of technical wrestling that eventually included some brutal chop battles.  Going into this I wasn't very familiar with either guy (aside from their names), but the match was so good they both won me over.

Another technical standout was Austin Aries vs. Manny Andrade (formerly La Sombra).  Andrade was very over here and thus Aries worked as a de facto heel.  Their chemistry was fantastic and I'd love to see more of this pairing.  After a ton of near-falls Aries broke out the Last Chancery for the tap-out win.  Super fun match.

The moment I was most looking forward to was next.  Shinsuke Nakamura, currently my favorite wrestler in the world, made his New England debut against Elias Samson (who had Honky Tonk Man heat in this building).  Nak's entrance felt like a huge moment, even in this small, stripped-down venue.  Aside from the main event finish, Nakamura had the biggest pop of the night.  The match itself was little more than a five-minute showcase (even billed as such on the program), but it was a magical thing to finally see Nakamura in person.  There is no one else in wrestling with that level of charisma.

My god.....LOOK AT HIM

Michael Drinan Remembers Prince (1958-2016)

I was never much into Prince. Some of it had to do with the timing of his career vs. when I was born, but most of it had to do with the music I was into it at the different highlights of his career. I was born in 1980, which pretty much wipes out his first six albums for me because I was too young and it was before I took any interest in music. My first realization of Prince came when I was seven when he released Sign o' The Times, but at the time my interests lay solely in rock music and the burgeoning hip hop genre. Certain music has a way of introducing itself to you at certain, specific times in your life which causes you to miss other music as it's also happening.

Prince came much more into my interests when he made the Batman soundtrack and followed it up with his early '90s work Graffiti Bridge, Diamonds and Pearls, and "The Love Symbol" album. Even though my attention and focus at the time was centered around Metallica and the explosion of grunge music, it was difficult to ignore the noise Prince was making with his music, his name, and his standoff with his record label. I was captivated by Prince, but maintained a distance from his music because I wasn't sure what he and his work were all about. He was a mystery to me and, years later I realized, that was kind of the point.

There are a few artists throughout the history of popular music that I might not have been interested in, for one reason or another, but understood their greatness and genius. Pink Floyd is one of those artists. I never got into Pink Floyd, even after multiple attempts, but I knew they were great simply because I had ears and listened to how they played and how their songs were structured. Prince was that same kind of artist for me. I could enjoy his songs all day every day and some I knew the words to, but for whatever reason, I just couldn't get into Prince.

Throwback Thursday: NXT Title Changes Hands at House Show

by Landon Wayne

Well shit,

Less than a day after I state that I can’t wait for Samoa Joe to be NXT Champion, I get the news that he dethroned Finn Balor at the NXT house show in Lowell, Massachusetts. In an era where it’s almost taboo for something important to happen while the cameras are off, the fact a title changed hands at a main event is almost unheard of. The last time the titles changed off camera that I can remember was When the team of Paul London and Brian Kendrick defeated Cade and Murdoch while in South Africa for the World Tag Titles in 2007 (That’s a good trivia fact for you.)

On the cynical side, though, this may be a set up for Finn to gain the title back soon. In the aforementioned title change, Cade and Murdoch regained their titles three days later on the same tour. Until Samoa Joe comes to Florida with the belt and stands in front of the TV, I remain excited yet skeptical about this turn of events.

Then again, I was this way when Ishii won the ROH TV championship. And now we’re on day 63.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

NXT Weekly Recap: April 20th, 2016 (Samoa Joe vs. Apollo Crews)

Welcome to the first of many weekly NXT reviews from our newest writer Landon Wayne!  

Landon is a Buffalo native with three passions in life: Food, professional wrestling and video games. He can be typically found scouring New Japan World for hidden gems, reliving old memories on the WWE Network, or playing old video games on an emulator. The ability to download a pizza still eludes him.

Follow Landon on Twitter @LWayne21

I have a long history with NXT. My first NXT episode was sometime in 2013, before you could find NXT anywhere except dedicated stream sites (not that I use them…). I was at their first show outside of Florida when they went to Columbus in 2015, and then again in 2016. To say I’m a fan of the brand is an understatement. That’s not to say I think all is well and fantastic in the land of the future stars, and I promise to give a fair and unbiased look at the NXT product as it comes out…at least, as unbiased as I can give it.

American Alpha defeated Enzo and Big Cass

The opening match of the hour finds a tag match between the incumbent champions and two of the main roster’s newest stars. With the insertion of these two and the Vaudvillains in the main roster, the tag ranks in NXT have thinned considerably, much as the Women’s roster did last summer. Hopefully both American Alpha and the Revival will remain in Florida for a while to help new teams build up.

The match was interesting in that both teams are faces, and both took turns getting the heat on the other; Jason beating on Enzo, then Cass beating on Gable. This was really about as good as a match between these two could get without a turn or a proper buildup. Jason fired up twice in the process of winning, the champs eventually hitting Enzo with their assisted backdrop.

**3/4 for a solid match with nothing really botched or going wrong.

Backstage, Apollo Crews talked about how he had followed Joe even before he was wrestling, and how he was ready for him. Decent 15-second promo.

No Way Jose hype video played, and apparently he’s wrestling next. I have a bad feeling about this.

No Way Jose defeated Alexander Wolfe

I was not disappointed. Not only is his name ACTUALLY No Way Jose, but it’s a dancing gimmick. I faintly remember this man being in a squash tag match earlier in the year, there’s no way one could forget that hair. I tried my best not to focus on the gimmick, but it found a way to be prevalent throughout the match. Can’t wait to hear Michael Cole call him "So much fun to watch!" He won a short match with some kind of heart punch(?). Not impressed but willing to give it a chance. Definitely want to see more of his opponent though.

*1/2 - debut match, not much more it could’ve been.

Backstage a suit interviewed Austin Aries. Aries talked about Baron Corbin and how he doesn’t need luck, 'cause he has skill. If Corbin or anyone wants to find him, they know where to look. Still really excited for Aries to be here. I expect his rise in notoriety and popularity to be as gradual and as steady as it was in TNA when he first debuted. Wait and watch is what I say.

Elias Sampson is playing "Wonderwall" when William Regal tells him he’ll be facing Shinsuke Nakamura next week. Good.

Remembering Chyna (1970-2016)

In yet another case of a once beloved wrestling star dying tragically young, Chyna (Joanie Laurer) was found dead in her home yesterday at the age of 45.  Sadly I can't say I was surprised when I heard the news.  Chyna had clearly been in a very bad place for several years, having posted numerous internet videos of herself very obviously under the influence of some substance.

But once upon a time Chyna was a uniquely gifted WWF wrestler and personality, brought in as a bodyguard for Hunter Hearst Helmsley before eventually becoming the first and only female Intercontinental Champion.  I remember upon her debut, being knocked out by what an unusual choice she was for a "heater" as they call it.  Hunter was a snobby blueblood character who now needed a woman to do his fighting for him (To be fair, a woman who looked like she could beat the crap out of most of the guys).  Such a pairing had never been attempted before in wrestling; bodyguards were always large dudes, like Diesel or Mr. Hughes.  Bringing in a female bodybuilder, particularly one with such a fantastic aura about her, immediately made Hunter stand out from the pack.  While I don't doubt Triple H would still have become a big star regardless of Chyna's involvement, there's no denying the positive effect her presence had on his career from 1997-1999.

After eighteen or so months in the company Chyna finally made the foray into being an active wrestler, becoming the first woman to participate in the Royal Rumble and the King of the Ring tournament.  There was even a tease of her challenging Steve Austin for the WWF Title at SummerSlam that year, and the fact that fans didn't totally reject that idea is a testament to how believable Chyna was as an imposing figure.  True such a match would never have been a five-star classic, but an Austin-Chyna main event would certainly have garnered big mainstream attention.

In October of 1999 Chyna captured the IC Championship from Jeff Jarrett, and this groundbreaking turn of events was initially very well-received.  Chyna was hugely popular at this time and it felt like a major gender barrier had been broken down.  Here was an extremely athletic, muscular woman who had also developed a much more feminine look (thanks in no small part to some cosmetic surgery), but who carried enough credibility that we all bought her beating up a male wrestler on her way to a Championship.

2000 saw her paired with Eddie Guerrero as his girlfriend/in-ring rival, in what was a very intriguing six-month arc.  This allowed the company to explore what would happen if two active wrestlers became romantically involved.  It was something very different, and Chyna was once again crossing barriers.

Her final run in the company was in the more traditional role of Women's Champion, and due largely to the dissolvement of her relationship with Triple H and his subsequent relationship with Stephanie McMahon, she left the company shortly thereafter.  It's a shame such a pioneer so suddenly ended her connection with the industry in which she'd made such an impact.

Regardless of her choices post-WWF, Chyna will always be remembered as a trailblazing female performer in a male-dominated industry, whose influence can never be discounted.

RIP Chyna (1970-2016)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Movie Review: Locke (2014)

Writer-Director Steven Knight's Locke is a riveting 85-minute character study that takes place entirely in the front seat of a car.  There's no way a movie this constrained should work as a compelling piece of drama, but it does, completely, in a way that is urgent, honest, and feels absolutely real.

Locke stars the always spellbinding Tom Hardy as the title character, a construction foreman who's just abandoned a major cement-pouring job and confessed an extramarital affair to his wife, to be with his mistress as she gives birth to their unexpected child.  The entirety of the film deals with the consequences of this decision and we spend 85 minutes with Locke on his car ride as he juggles/manages these crises and relationships via Bluetooth.  Hardy's performance is a masterful exercise in believable restraint as he attempts to talk these various characters down from their respective ledges.  The script wisely makes Locke the paragon of composed reasoning; a lesser film would've shown us Hardy chewing the (limited) scenery and playing to the cheap seats.  Locke's adherence to logic is almost cruel at times; when his mistress asks if he loves her he replies, "How could I?  I hardly know you."

Locke's motivation for this desertion of his life's commitments is gradually made clear as he sporadically carries on a one-sided conversation with his dead father, who was absent during Locke's childhood.  He thinks he's doing the right thing, being there for this lonely woman when she needs someone most, and ensuring his newborn child doesn't grow up without a father.  In a way this is an act of supreme selflessness - "I made one mistake and I'm trying to make it right."

If it seems like I've given away too many plot points, I haven't really.  This film isn't about story progression, but about the strength of this one character and the actor bringing him to life.  Hardy is really something to behold here; despite the film literally being comprised of a series of cellphone conversations our attention never wavers.  The power of his performance and the character interactions keeps us transfixed for nearly an hour and a half.  It feels as though we're sitting in the passenger seat, living out this personal catastrophe with him.  I must also credit the vocal performances of the folks on the other end of the various phone calls, with whom Hardy conversed in real time (Evidently the entire film was shot in real time, which gives it the feel of a one-man stage play), including Sherlock's Andrew Scott as Locke's colleague Donal, Ruth Wilson as his wife Katrina, Olivia Colman as his mistress Bethan, and Ben Daniels as his boss Gareth (who appears in Locke's phone contacts as "Bastard").

Locke is a uniquely engrossing and deeply personal cinematic experience; we spend 85 minutes with this noble but flawed person at his lowest point and watch him try to make sense of it all.  This film is simple, powerful, and deals with complex real-life issues we can all identify with.

I give it ***1/2 out of ****

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

WWE vs. NJPW Supercard II

Welcome to the 2nd Annual WWE vs. NJPW Supercard!  Some of you may recall the dream PPV I assembled last year, which culminated in a Daniel Bryan-Shinsuke Nakamura main event we were so close to seeing in real life (Seriously, Nakamura jumps to WWE and a week later Bryan retires?  What kinda shit is that??).  Well the rosters on both sides look quite different than they did a year ago, so I've decided to turn this piece into a yearly tradition.  Read on!

WWE's roster has been plagued with injuries as you know, so the available talent pool is most certainly not at 100%.  But there's also been an influx of outside stars brought in, plus some NXT call-ups, making this collection of talent actually pretty fresh and exciting overall.  It's just up to the company to make sure they come across as stars we can invest in.

New Japan's in the same boat but for a different reason.  WWE has been raiding the New Japan roster since WrestleKingdom, forcing bookers Jado and Gedo to reshuffle the deck and really get creative with the stories being told.  Thus far they've defied expectations and presented some excellent shows, and the new directions they've chosen are clicking with the audience.  Much like the WWF circa 1998, many new opportunities have opened up for this roster to climb the ol' ladder and carry the company forward.  It's made for an intriguing and unpredictable time in New Japan.

So let's take a look at the 2016 face-off!

Cesaro vs. Hirooki Goto

Kicking things off is a battle of two extremely talented wrestlers who seemingly haven't reached their potential.  Cesaro is pound-for-pound one of the most gifted athletes in all of WWE, possessing freakish strength rivaling that of Brock Lesnar, and incredible agility on par with Chris Jericho.  There should be no ceiling for the Swiss Superman, yet he hasn't quite risen to main event status.  Hopefully that will change in 2016.

Hirooki Goto is a former IWGP IC Champ but has never won the top Championship.  But two months ago he joined the vaunted Chaos stable led by Kazuchika Okada, hoping the change of scenery would improve his main event prospects.  Goto has long been viewed as a very capable wrestler who can deliver big matches, but something of a gatekeeper.

Both wrestlers will be eager to prove their mettle and make a big statement.  Cesaro will look to outmaneuver Goto and hit numerous European uppercuts, while Goto's attack will focus on the head and neck.  After eleven minutes of furious action Cesaro's pure athleticism wins out as he counters a Shouten attempt with a forearm uppercut, followed by the Neutralizer.

Kalisto vs. Kushida

It's a dazzling aerial battle as the WWE US Champion faces the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion!  Kalisto has managed to break out of a moderately successful tag team and become a singles champ, hoping to succeed Rey Mysterio as WWE's top hispanic star.  The diminutive luchadore has taken much of Rey's signature style and turned up the volume, slowly building his own highlight reel.  While he hasn't been pushed very well as the US Champ, Kalisto is nontheless extremely exciting to watch and his best days are still ahead.

Kushida has become one of New Japan's finest in-ring talents, utilizing a mix of aerial strikes and MMA submissions, and demonstrating impressive ring generalship to make every spot count.  Another former tag specialist, he's grown into an excellent Jr. Heavyweight representative, already helping elevate this Title to the same level of importance as the NEVER Openweight belt.  In another year he may have done for the Jr. belt what Nakamura did for the Intercontinental.

This will be a fast-paced, blazing contest with loads of crowd-pleasing moves.  Kalisto will look to keep things quick, using his slight speed advantage, while Kushida will try to ground the lucha star and soften up the arm for his Hoverboard armlock.  After twelve spectacular minutes Kushida finally counters Kalisto's Salida del Sol and locks in the Hoverboard, forcing the tapout.

Sami Zayn vs. Katsuyori Shibata

Sami Zayn is becoming one of my favorite WWE workers, always delivering passionate, gritty matchups that connect with the crowd.  He's easily the most likable babyface on the main roster and I hope management allows him to reach his full potential as an underdog star.  Whether facing a smaller star like himself or a larger bully of an opponent, Zayn is able to adjust his style to put on the best match possible.

The current NEVER Openweight Champ, Shibata is one of the most brutal strikers in New Japan, playing off his MMA experience and bringing a lethal combination of forearms, kicks and headbutts.  Anytime Shibata's in there, be prepared to cringe as he tries to literally beat his opponent into unconsciousness.  His rear naked choke/Penalty Kick combination is one of NJPW's most effective finishers.

This would be a real test of Zayn's toughness, as Shibata would endeavor to pound the crap out of him.  Zayn would need to use his agility to play a hit-and-run game.  At the twelve-minute mark, after absorbing incredible punishment, Zayn would eventually fall to the choke/Penalty Kick.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NJPW Invasion Attack: The Surprise Hit of the Spring!

I said in my Preview & Predictions column (I got 8 for 9 baby!) for Invasion Attack that today's NJPW feels a lot like the WWF circa 1998.  In both cases the company had lost several top talents and was forced to shake things up and make the most of what they had left.  And that mentality came through big at this past Sunday's PPV, as New Japan put the focus on several new or reinvigorated stars, creating a renewed sense of excitement out of a difficult situation.

After the usual warm-up tag matches, one a squash (Fale & Takahashi vs. Taguchi & Robinson), the other designed to return some older stars to roles of prominence (Liger, Nagata & Kojima vs. Sakuraba, Yano & Yoshi-Hashi), the show settled into a nearly unbroken string of top-notch bouts.

New Chaos partners Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii had a nice little match against Los Ingobernables members Evil and Bushi that helped further establish this faction rivalry (more on that later).  I like the move of adding Goto to the Chaos group, as he'd become pretty stagnant in 2015 despite a short run with the IC belt.

The show really took off with matches 4-7, starting with Matt Sydal & Ricochet against Roppongi Vice.  This was an excellent Jr. Tag bout that reframed Rocky Romero and Trent Barretta as a major force in that division.  Sadly Ricochet's loss here telegraphed what I feared - that a jump to WWE is imminent.  That puts yet another hole in New Japan's roster.

Ricochet, don't go!!

The fifth match for me stole the show, as Jr. Heavyweight Champ Kushida defended against the debuting Will Ospreay.  If you haven't seen the 22-year-old Brit Ospreay, stop reading this column and go watch this match (Come back though as soon as you're done).  Ospreay is really something special, particularly for someone with only four years' experience.  His agility is off the charts, plus he can grapple like nobody's business.  The reversals and aerial moves in this match were unbelievable and I found myself repeatedly saying out loud, "Come on!"  There are rumors that Ospreay is also headed to WWE soon and I really hope New Japan was shrewd enough to lock him in for at least a year.  This guy could be a top-tier player in NJPW (and probably anywhere else, but I'd rather he stuck around).

Unreal match

The hits continued with a wild, extremely satisfying Six-Man Tag Title match, as Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks faced Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, and the returing Yoshitatsu.  Omega repeatedly teased hitting Yoshi with the Styles Clash, the move that injured him in late 2014, which immediately built sympathy for the returning babyface.  The near-falls and tandem moves in this match were lightning-fast and plentiful, and team Tanahashi won the straps in the end to create a feelgood moment.  Also Michael Elgin made a challenge for Omega's Intercontinental Title, which should be an amazing bout.  Love where this is headed.

Side note: I hope The Elite, as Omega and the Bucks are calling themselves, split off to form their own group.  The Bullet Club thing has kinda run its course and with all the top core members gone they're more or less reduced to a midcard act, minus the three Elite members.  Fale, Takahashi and the Guerrillas of Destiny should come up with a new name perhaps and just do their own thing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Monday Night RAW: Shane Should Be In Charge for Realsies

Last night's RAW left me as optimistic about WWE's main roster as I've been in probably two years.  For the first time in 2016 RAW had a sense of urgency, like Creative actually gave a shit about what they were churning out.  I have to think Shane McMahon was contributing offscreen as well as on, because it makes no sense otherwise that a creative team demonstrating nothing but cosmic ineptitude for months suddenly becomes competent again simply based on this week's pretend authority figure.  Leave aside the fact that Shane being in charge onscreen makes zero sense and renders his entire two-month angle with The Undertaker meaningless, and that The Wyatts and The League of Nations have no reason to dislike each other.  This was easily the most entertaining RAW so far this year, and if Shane was indeed in on the Creative for this show, he needs to be given much more rope going forward.

First off, this show had three very good matches, one of which was easily PPV quality.

AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn was in my estimation AJ's best WWE match to date, proving wrong any doubters who thought he'd have trouble adjusting to the 'E style.  It certainly didn't hurt that he was in there with Zayn, who's become one of the best in-ring talents in the entire organization, but AJ looked like a major player here, right at home in McMahon's ring.  AJ definitely should've won at WrestleMania, but in the past eight days he's been booked with tremendous momentum and I'm sure at Payback he'll come off as a major threat to Roman's Empire.

Another standout match was Charlotte vs. Natalya; no surprise given the quality of their previous bouts.  Nattie was over HUGE, by the way.  The crowd went nuts when it looked like she won the belt.  Nice to see such a hot crowd for the women.  I assume based on Nattie's DQ win that she'll get another crack at the PPV, and that should be a classic.  No sign of Sasha or Becky, so I'm not sure what the plan is there.  I'm hoping they keep Sasha chasing Charlotte till SummerSlam so she can get a huge victory in Brooklyn.

The third good match was Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro for a shot at Miz's I-C belt.  This was another fine contest with two laugh-out-loud Owens moments.  The first was when Owens had Cesaro in a headlock and screamed, "I have the best headlocks!  Headlock master!"  I desperately hope this turns into a crowd chant and/or a T-shirt.  The other occurred when Owens rolled out of the ring in frustration, swatted JBL's hat off the commentators' table, and then picked it up for him, saying "I got carried away John."  Byron Saxton said something to JBL about the exchange, and JBL calmly replied, "Kevin Owens is a nice person.  He's a gentleman, Byron."  Cracked me up.  Anywho, Cesaro won the match and is now in line for a shot at The Miz.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Music Review: Deftones - Gore

by Dan Moore

With their 8th studio album in 28 years, Deftones continues to dish out solid albums and ear-bleeding tunes. Their newest, Gore, is no exception. Trying to top 2012’s masterful Koi No Yokan is almost impossible, but they give it a good try with this newest effort. From beginning to end, this album is what you’d come to expect from Deftones output. Crunching guitar riffs, haunting vocals from frontman Chino Moreno and his trademark cryptic lyrics. Whereas Koi No Yokan seemed to be one long excellent track, there’s a distinct separation between songs on this release. They go from the epic guitar and chorus of "Prayers/Triangles" to the long form "Acid Hologram" followed by the screaming on "Doomed User." They all work together to form an excellent beginning to the album.

The band continues to be lumped in with the nu-metal craze from the 90s, but they’re so much more than that. They’ve evolved past that generalization and into their own genre of music. I’ll call it a mix of ambient sounds and rock. Look no further than "Xenon" on this album, and try to tell me that’s a nu-metal song. It’s a sound unlike any Deftones song that’s come before it. A truly unique tune amidst their entire catalog.

Deftones performing at Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion Aug 1, 2015.
This show left me legless as it rocked off the bottom part of my body.

It’s not as cohesive as previous efforts, as it will go from quiet anguish to truly jarring loud guitar work. It’s a bit of a wandering effort when that happens. It takes you out of the moment as you have to reconfigure your brains from being pleasantly attacked with Chino’s melodies to being punched in the face with huge guitar riffs. At times it’s a good thing. But it hurts the flow of the album overall.

This album shifts from being overly dependent on Stephen Carpenter’s guitar work to mixing in a lot more of Frank Delgado’s electronics work. The result is a dreamier quality to the songs than ever before, but it's also quite dark and sinister sounding. A beautiful nightmare, if you will.

I’ve been a huge Deftones fan from the beginning, and this album proves they still have it. They’re at the top their game once again. Though not as good as the previous Koi No Yokan (and it should go without saying, nothing will top their truly exquisite masterpiece, 2000’s White Pony), Gore continues the outstanding string of albums Deftones has produced. They show no signs of slowing down.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Pro Wrestling: A Mark's History, part 28 (The Horrifying Death of Chris Benoit)

2007 was the year I became a Ring of Honor fanatic.  I started the year by attending a live show (Dedicated) which featured a pretty damn good Samoa Joe vs. Nigel McGuinness match, plus a host of other fun bouts (Davey Richards vs. Rocky Romero, a wild mixed tag where Daizee Haze was legit rammed head-first into the post and sprouted a potato from her forehead, and a fine Briscoes vs. Aries & Strong 2/3 falls main event).  While there were certainly much stronger ROH shows, the action was so crisp and had such a sense of urgency WWE lacked that I was blown away by this experience.  I'd been to two ROH shows in 2003 but this one felt like a much more well-rounded package and the action was relentless.

At intermission I picked up four ROH DVDs, largely with the intent of finally checking out some of Bryan Danielson's work.  I'd read glowing things about him for months and was quite intrigued to see what all the fuss was about.  I went with Main Event Spectacles (featuring Danielson vs. AJ Styles), Fight of the Century and Irresistable Forces (both headlined by Danielson vs. Joe), and of course I had to pick up the ROH show that generated unprecedented internet buzz and singlehandedly jumpstarted their DVD business, Joe vs. Kobashi.  I watched all four in short order and was shocked by two things.  The first was that Kobashi was not a diminutive high-flying wrestler as I'd pictured (I knew nothing about the man prior to this), but a brawny slugger who could trade brutal power moves with Joe, leading to one of the best ROH matches of all time.  The other shocker was Danielson, who I'd also pictured as an aerial wrestler, but whose style owed more to William Regal and Ric Flair.  This was a consummate mat technician who seemingly knew more holds and counters than anyone since Lou Thesz.  Danielson's grappling-heavy matches with Joe and AJ were a huge breath of fresh air at a time when WWE relied heavily on gimmick matches and outmoded Attitude Era tropes.  Right away I couldn't wait to absorb as much ROH as I could find.  Within a few months they'd become my favorite wrestling promotion by far.

Goddamn this was great

In WWE the two big feuds were John Cena vs. Umaga about which I was less than interested, and the reunited DX, Triple H and Shawn Michaels (who'd spent much of 2006 feebly trying to reprise their 1997 comedy schtick despite now being 37 and 41 respectively, and feuding interminably with Vince & Shane McMahon) against the exciting new heel team of Randy Orton and Edge, or Rated RKO.  I loved this pairing of the company's top two heels, but unfortunately they were booked as DX punching bags for much of the rivalry.  The plan for WrestleMania 23 was a rematch of 'Mania 22's headliner, Cena vs. Triple H.  Holy jeezus this idea bored the shit outta me.  I wasn't all that impressed by their first go-round and certainly didn't need to see it again.  But Hunter tore his quad for the second time at the New Year's Revolution PPV, and Plan B was put into action.  This involved Shawn Michaels stepping in to take Hunter's place, and it would also mean the dissolving of DX (Thank Christ!).

The Royal Rumble was bafflingly referred to as "the most star-studded Rumble of all time," which is guffaw-inducing if one takes even a cursory glance at the lineup.  Go ahead and look it up on Wikipedia, I'll wait......  After a very lackluster show which included the overrated Cena-Umaga Last Man Standing match to blow off their feud, the Rumble itself boiled down to Shawn vs. Undertaker, and this would prove to be the one outstanding segment of the show.  Shawn and Taker traded near-eliminations for several minutes, unknowingly foreshadowing their future pair of WrestleMania classics.  Taker eventually got the win, but I couldn't help lamenting that the two World Title challengers at WrestleMania were both over 40.  WWE desperately needed to start building for the future, and the only guys getting real opportunities were surefire non-starters like Umaga, Bobby Lashley, Chris Masters, and Mr. Kennedy.  I really thought it should've been CM Punk getting the Rumble win and a main event push, given how over he was and how far ahead of Vince's pack of favorites.

The one good part of Rumble '07

In TNA they'd already screwed up just about everything they'd been doing well.  Kurt Angle beat Samoa Joe in a rubber match that January and became an immediate fixture in the World Title picture, while Joe languished as an upper-midcard gatekeeper.  TNA began importing even more former WWE/WCW talent like Scott Steiner and Tyson Tomko while keeping their homegrown stars at arm's length from the top Championship.  This, coupled with constant screwjob finishes, cheap publicity signees like Adam "Pacman" Jones (who wasn't allowed to take bumps but was given a Tag Team Title run anyway), and bonehead gimmicks like the Reverse Battle Royal, made TNA completely unwatchable by year's end.  It was clear TNA would never be a viable WWE alternative, as their creative strategy seemed to consist of trying to "out-WWE" the actual WWE.  No, my only solace would be with Ring of Honor.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

NJPW Invasion Attack 2016 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of PPV Predictions!  This Sunday is New Japan's latest offering, Invasion Attack!  

It's been a rough year so far for NJPW, as they've lost several of their top talents, from AJ Styles to Nakamura to the Bullet Club to Kota Ibushi.  WWE has been all over their shit of late, and New Japan is finding themselves scrambling to rebuild their roster.  Kinda reminds me of the WCW vs. WWF dynamic in early 1998.  WCW had signed away quite a few talents and the WWF had to dig deep to find stars up to the challenge of carrying the company forward.  I don't doubt New Japan will fill that void, but it may be a bumpy ride on the way.  That said, this year's Invasion Attack looks like a pretty strong show despite the thinner roster.  Let's take a look....

Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi

The first of two filler tag matches, this one pits the lower-card Bullet Club guys against Jr. Heavyweight stalwart Taguchi and former NXT talent Juice Robinson.  I don't expect anything incredible here, just a fun little opener.

My pick: Bullet Club

Kazushi Sakuraba, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata

And here's the other warm-up match, which features the comedy of Yano mixed with the MMA of Sakuraba and Nagata.  I expect this will be better than the opener but again, nothing special.  Probably just a feel-good ending.

My pick: Team Liger

Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Evil & Bushi

Goto recently joined the Chaos stable which will hopefully reinvigorate his career.  I like the pairing of Goto and Ishii and wouldn't mind seeing them go after the Tag belts.  The Ingobernables stable needs something and I'm not sure what.  Their antics were entertaining at the beginning but I feel like they're treading water at this point.  The problem is they won't be outdoing The Bullet Club, so as long as that faction exists any other heel stables will seem weak by comparison.

My pick: Goto & Ishii

IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship: Matt Sydal & Ricochet vs. Roppongi Vice

This is a tough one to pick, since WWE has apparently been courting Ricochet.  Personally I hope Ric stays in New Japan, as they can't really afford to lose more stars.  Plus I love the Sydal/Ricochet combination.  But I could see New Japan hedging their bets and taking the belts off them, just in case.  They know Romero isn't going anywhere.

My pick: RPG Vice

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Kushida vs. Will Ospreay

I'm really excited about this one.  I've yet to see Ospreay in the ring but I've heard great things.  Hopefully Ospreay will make his mark here and be one of the next guard of New Japan stars.  That said, Kushida's been an excellent Jr. Champ so far and I don't think it's time to take the belt off him yet.

My pick: Kushida

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Top Ten Things: AJ Styles Matches (Pre-WWE)

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!  In honor of WWE newcomer AJ Styles' WrestleMania debut, I thought I'd look back at the pre-WWE career of this truly remarkable athlete. 

AJ's career dates back to 1998, when he burst on the scene in NWA Wildside before a new promotion called TNA snapped him up and made him a cornerstone in their X-Division.  Simultaneously an indie promotion known as Ring of Honor collected all the best talent from around the world, and Styles now had two prominent companies in which to make a splash.  He would create a stellar body of work in both companies, quickly earning a reputation as one of the best pound-for-pound workers in the business.  In 2014 his decade-long run in TNA was over, and he made the jump to New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he'd add a gritty, strike-based dimension to his dazzling in-ring arsenal.  In only two years AJ would amass easily a dozen Match of the Year candidates, feuding with the best stars in the company.  Then in January 2016 he'd finally sign with WWE, making a huge debut at the Royal Rumble.  In his first 18 months in WWE AJ has delivered multiple top-notch bouts and won the WWE Title, while adjusting perfectly to the WWE product.  Regardless what level of success he achieves in Titanland, one cannot deny that AJ is one of the most innovative, special talents in the history of pro wrestling, with a body of work that speaks for itself.

Here now are AJ's top ten matches, pre-WWE.....

10. Bryan Danielson vs. AJ Styles - Dissension - 1.28.06

Danielson and Styles had fought each other before, but this was the best match they ever had.  The crown jewel of ROH and the cornerstone of TNA faced each other in early 2006 in a brilliant, evenly-contested match in which Danielson repeatedly goaded Styles into losing his cool.  This match demonstrated Bryan's gift at playing the cocky heel, and after 31 minutes of tremendous back and forth, he narrowly retained the ROH Title.  I could watch these two fight all day long, and it really sucks we won't get to see this pairing in WWE.

9. Petey Williams vs. AJ Styles vs. Chris Sabin - Final Resolution

Ultimate X was a fairly goofy gimmick match, but in 2005 Williams, Styles and Sabin made it work, creating one of the best and most innovative spotfests I've ever seen.  Resisting the traditional three-way format where one guy is almost always resting while the other two duke it out, they strung together super creative spots that involved all three participants, building to a sensational climax.  An early TNA highlight.

8. AJ Styles vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - G1 Climax 25 Day 17

This was just EPIC.  27 minutes of exemplary storytelling with the top Block A spot hanging in the balance.  AJ's Bullet Club members were not at ringside, so there was no outside shenanigans, and the result was the best match these two have ever had together.  I was fully expecting AJ to take this one, so the suspense in the final minutes was palpable as Tanahashi hit multiple Hi-Fly Flows to win the Block.

7. AJ Styles vs. Minoru Suzuki - G1 Climax 24 Day 7

Voted Wrestling Observer's Best Match of 2014, this pitted AJ's explosive aerial offense against Suzuki's gritty MMA attack, and the result was one helluva fight where both men's stables got involved mid-match.  Suzuki worked AJ's arm like crazy, and at one point AJ amazingly countered an armbreaker with a one-armed version of the Styles Clash before hitting the full version for the win.  Great, great match.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Music Review: Weezer - "The White Album"

by Michael Drinan

Weezer is a band that, time and again, I’ve placed high hopes and expectations on in an effort to convince myself they are a really great rock band, not just a pretty good rock band that hit it out of the park on their first two albums (“The Blue Album” and Pinkerton) and mediocrity the rest of the way. So, after being let down time and again, album after album, one could make the argument that my disappointment is self-inflicted. Maybe Weezer doesn’t want to be what I want them to be? With the release of their new self titled album, “The White Album”, it’s become clear to me that one should not expect much from Weezer, just repetition.

When listening to their latest self-titled effort, I found it be catchy, fun and melodic, almost in an ode to The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. Each song made me tap my foot, bob my head and caused me to picture blaring this album on my car stereo in the summer with the windows down. Rivers Cuomo is known for his catchy melodies that stick in your mind, even on Weezer’s shittiest of albums. Overall, “The White Album” is a good rock/pop album and comes from a band that seems to still enjoy playing together. They sound tight and together.

This album could be a pseudo-concept album centered around the beach and California but more so on summer with Rivers going through all his experiences during the season, with the excitement and romances, the fantasies and the drugs, only to be let down at the end by declaring it an “Endless Bummer”. As inspiration for this album he used the dating app Tinder to meet different girls and learn about them and what they want,presumably, out of him. He took in his California surroundings and created stories and characters from them. He wrapped it all together into a catchy, weird teenage awkwardness. “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” sounded like the closest callback to “The Blue Album” I’ve heard from the band. The beginning of “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” sounds like a Beach Boys song so much that if it wasn’t for Rivers’ straining to reach the high notes later in the song I might not have been able to tell the difference. The closing two songs on this album are fantastic. “Jacked Up” sounds like a complete departure from the Weezer sound that I immediately dismissed the annoying high pitched “I’m all jacked up over you/I’d bury diamonds just for you”. The song also has my favorite line on the album “Why why why do my flowers always die?” A very provocative and introspective lyric that I love, especially coming from Rivers. The closer “Endless Bummer” is a great acoustic song that seemed to sum up the summer of experiences of love and heartache, into a declaration of mediocrity. The stripped-away strumming of his guitar is striking and the slow buildup of the rest of the band coming into the song is one of the best musical moments on the album.

The highlight for me is the single “King of the World”, the rare song in which Rivers lets us see him for exactly who he is, a considerate, sensitive man who really loves his wife. He really wants to create a better world for his wife so she doesn’t have be scared, sad or anxious about all the bad stuff that the world can cause. It’s a song with subject matter that I think Rivers hasn’t given us before. I really appreciated that song.

Combine all this with producer Jack Sinclair’s love and devotion to Weezer’s early work and you have an album that is right out of the 90s. This album does sound like Weezer of “The Blue Album” period and there are even a couple of songs that could’ve been leftovers from Pinkerton. However, I can’t shake the feeling that that isn’t a good thing.

Monday, April 4, 2016

WrestleMania 32, or How Long Can We Make This Show?

Well WrestleMania 32 is now in the books.  The very, very, very long books.  Jeezus Christ, what were they thinking stretching that PPV to FIVE hours??  Plus two hours of pre-show?  Absolute insanity.  But was the show any good?  Yes.  And no.  Let's cut open this bloated WrestleMania corpse and see what's inside.

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 I don't much like Ryder winning (Are we back to the I-C Title being a jobber belt?), I liked this match a lot; much more than last year's.

Sami Zayn was on FIRE

Next up was AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho, part 4.  This got 17 minutes and was easily the best these two have produced so far.  But Jericho still came off a little sluggish at times, and it's really time for Styles to work with a younger, quicker opponent.  Comparing this to AJ's routine five-star matches in NJPW illustrates pretty clearly that Jericho's lost a step over the past five years.  Still this was a damn fine undercard match, and despite more 50-50 booking it was a strong Match of the Night contender.

Looks like they'll get one more chance to really make this feud work

The New Day vs. League of Nations was oddly changed to a regular six-man, as Wade Barrett acted as the manager.  This was slightly above RAW quality, with everyone very motivated to make their mark.  It's a real shame the League of Nations hasn't been booked as an actual threat, or this match would've been elevated by a good story.  LON took the expected win to keep the feud going, but were then made to look like total punks at the hands of Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Mick Foley.  I will never, for the life of me, understand the mentality behind bringing back guys from 20 years ago to beat up the current stars.  Why would you ever call attention to your past product being superior to that of today?  Vince really hates those damn millennials I guess.  Makes sense, after all "they're not at all trepidatious."

Friday, April 1, 2016

B-Cuddy's Uninformed Wrestling Predictions: WrestleMania 32

Everyone's favorite wrestling hater is back to offer his predictions on Sunday's WrestleMania spectacular!  Take it away Brando, ya flyin' douche you.....

WrestleMania. The Super Bowl of bad acting and man-tights. The Holy Grail of make-believe. So how many is this now? WrestleMania 35? 67? No answer required because I couldn’t care less. Superfan Editor sent me the list of matches and corresponding pictures. I’m surprised he found the time. I think he’s working on a recap of a backyard match between four 10-year-olds in Saigon. Anyways, from the list for Sunday, it looks like this thing is approximately 13 hours long. I understand it’s the biggest pretend event of the year, but Christ almighty. Real or fake, I don’t think a “sporting event” should eclipse the time it takes to fly to Mars, or for Derek to read a book. But that’s just me. Let’s get this bullshit over with…

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

I have no clue what this is. I don’t know who’s involved in the match or what the point is. So we’re off to a great start. All I got was a picture of that behemoth. Forgive my vulgarity, but can you imagine the mule on that guy? They should have used him to find oil.

The Pick: I’m sure someone wins.

The Usos vs The Dudley Boyz – Tag Team Match

The Usos are wearing shirts that say “USO CRAZY.” Get it? LOL!!! I guess the war-paint is alright, but what the hell do I know?  They seem like a formidable tag team?.. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯      On the other side, The Dudley Boyz picture resembles a photo of Dave and one of his exes. So there’s that.

The Pick: I’ll go with the Usos. What difference does it make?

The Total Divas vs B.A.D. & Blonde – 10 Diva Tag Match

Back in the day when I would actually watch this horseshit, there were, maybe, two women who wrestled. Three, if Chyna is considered female on whatever planet she’s from. Now there’s 10 fighting at once like there’s a shoe clearance at the UGGs store.  Hopefully they just fight and don’t go yipping at each other on the mics. Because if you wanted to watch 10 women squawk at each other about nothing, you could just watch The View. However, I will say this…you got a better shot of an actual fight breaking out during this than at any other point in the night. Because I don’t care what business it is or where they work…there is absolutely ZERO chance that all 10 girls get along. ZERO. Take any girl you know. I’ll bet you any amount of money she doesn’t like a total of 9 other girls she works with. If she claims she does, remember she’s just lying so she‘s right and you’re wrong. It’s a classic move.

The Pick: I only know who one girl in this photo is, and that’s Paige. So I’ll go with her. Or whatever team she’s on, or however this works.

Kalisto vs Ryback – United States Championship

After a journey which I’m sure started with selling oranges at an intersection or running a Taqueria stand, Kalisto has worked all the way up to US Champ. It’s the American Dream in true form. Bravo, Masked Man. His no-neck opponent looks like Miggsy, only masculine.

The Pick: Kalisto tries to land a flying Burrito off the top rope, but Ryback catches him, and gives him a steroid-suplex into the next dimension.