Thursday, June 30, 2016

You Used to Be Soooooo Good: Steven Spielberg

Welcome to another edition of You Used to Be Soooo Good, where Justin and I, Dan Moore, discuss things used to be awesome but now, eh, not so much. This week we discuss a true master of the cinema. A man responsible for some of the hightest-grossing, most iconic films of all time.

Steven Spielberg:  You Used to Be Soooo Good

DAN:  For decades, Mr. Spielberg has created the most memorable scenes in film history. Chief Brody shooting his fishy nemesis. Henry Jones Jr. getting chased by a Rushmore-sized stone. Elliot chauffeuring ET across the nighttime sky. A giant thunder lizard magically popping outta nowhere and eating tiny bird-like monsters. Incredible moments forever burned into people’s brains…but those were all a looooooong time ago.  For sure, he has made some great movies in the intervening years, especially Saving Private Ryan, which I believe is his last great movie. But for me, his output in the last two decades besides that one stellar film has been…eh…I’ve liked some of them, but none have blown me away, or necessitated repeated viewings like his early Jones movies, E.T., and Jurassic Park.

What an iconic image....

There have certainly been entertaining films. Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can are both enjoyable to watch. But they are one-and-done type movies for me. I remember liking both when I saw them, but not enough to seek them out and watch again. His films in the last few years have not stuck out to me like his earlier works. Perhaps that’s unfair, being that those are some of the biggest hits of all time. But the truth hurts sometimes.

JUSTIN: I'm forced to largely agree with you, though I'll grant Steven one more recent great film, Minority Report.  I consider that one of the best sci-fi movies of this young century.  Great story, intriguing cerebral concepts, fine performance by Tom Cruise.  But even that was 14 years ago (which blows my mind by the way), and while he's had a few other good films (Lincoln, Catch Me If You Can), yeah nothing has compared with his plentiful iconic work of the 80s and early 90s.

What's extraordinary about Spielberg is that he's been able to make films that appeal to a very broad audience without pandering.  His big summer blockbusters have mostly been a lot of fun to watch but also contain heart and a brain.  Jaws, Raiders, E.T., Jurassic Park to a lesser extent - all action or fantasy-driven but with characters we can all relate to and a pervading sense of wonder.  But at the same time Spielberg is capable of making truly important, culturally significant films like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.  You'd be hard-pressed to find a more versatile commercially successful director out there.  Spielberg knows how to create and present stories in a way that mass audiences can be fully swept up in the story but also feel like they were intellectually engaged.

Just a smorgasbord of awesome.....
To be fair, he had some missteps back in the day as well.  Always was hardly an all-time classic, Hook is pretty abysmal, and while I enjoy the first Jurassic Park movie, it's a step down from blockbusters like Raiders and Jaws.  But lately his popcorn fare has been forgettable at best and puke-inducing at worst (Don't get me started on Indy 4 - never happened.  NEVER HAPPENED I SAID!), while his Oscar bait films have mostly just been pretty good.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dan's Top 9 - R-Rated Movies That Don't Work When Censored

Welcome to another edition of Dan's Top 9, where my associate Dan Moore counts down the nine best or worst......something or other.


We've all been there. A lazy, hungover Saturday. Laying in your underpants on the couch, flipping channels. And on TBS, a classic movie you love comes on. Then it's ruined by Eddie Murphy calling someone 'a stinking jerk face'. You need swears and blood in your R-rated flicks, and these flicks are the biggest Debbie Downers without those beautiful curse words.

9. Any Horror Movie - I gotta have a broad scope for this first entry. Whenever you throw on TNT and Friday the 13th comes on, you must change it immediately. There is ZERO point in watching, say, a Michael Myers film without the blood and guts. You may as well go to the Louvre during a power outage.

8. Total Recall - Quick, what's the first thing you think of when remembering this classic Arnold Schwarzenegger schlock action movie? Three fuckin' tits, that's what (followed closely by "Get your ass to Mars"). Without that very crucial moment in the movie and dare I say AMERICAN HISTORY, what's the point?

7. Requiem For A Dream - One of the most depressing films ever. Seriously, I've seen it once and wanted to swan dive out a window. Without all the depravity the R rating afforded this, it seems to be about friends on a road trip and a nice old lady winning big on a game show...wait a minute, I'd watch that over and over again! That sounds lovely!

 6. Clerks - This whole movie is a walking fuck/shit/tranny joke. Without the cursing, this movie is a sad, black & white documentary about two losers slinging cigs in a filthy convenience store. Can't see box office lines for that one.

5.  Goodfellas - Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci are in the Swearing Hall of Fame for this flick. No two ways about it. If I can't hear Tommy Devito ask about being a fucking clown or telling Spider to get him a fucking drink, what's the fucking point, I ask ya? Now go get your fuckin' shine box.

4. Robocop - One of the most beautifully over-the-top violent, bloody action movies ever made. Gorgeous vulgarity and hyper violence make this a great R-rated movie. Its balls are completely clipped when you watch it on The WB. Hearing Clarence Boddicker ask the ladies to please get out instead of "Bitches, leave" really hurts the integrity of the bloodbath.

3.  Scarface - This movie would be 8 minutes long without the swears. Maybe there'd be 14 lines of dialogue. Tops. All it would be is majestic shots of the Miami coastline and interiors of drug mansions. So it's an episode of Cribs.

2.  Big Lebowski - THE quintessential vulgarity movie. There's swears in this movie for no reason, no FUCKING reason at all times. I never want to view this without a healthy dose of every swear word known to man. Though the basic cable version does have a glorious dubbing of Walter Sobcheck screaming about a stranger in the Alps. Perhaps it's alluding to some deleted side mission about finding a lost pal in the mountains?!?!

1. Showgirls - Duh. What're ya gonna do, crack stick to the dialogue??  Hold on, that could work...wait a minute.................................yea all right that wasn't bad.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Game Of Thrones Season Six Finale ("The Winds Of Winter")

by Dan Moore

Another season in the books (or more accurately, past the books. Take that you reading snobs “Oh I can read, have you heard about this thing called Red Wedding?” Go screw, I saw King’s Landing EXPLODE). Now for us viewers, winter is here, as we have to wait next April for new episodes to drop. I feel like the Hound now, wandering aimlessly, looking for someone, anyone, to give my life purpose.

Last night’s finale was everything GoT fans have been waiting for. There was intrigue. Betrayals. Twists and SPLOSIONS!! Let’s start there. After SCREWING us out of the Cleganes fighting each other, Cersei has to head to the Sept of Baelor to face her charges with the High Sparrow. After Loras bent over (heh) and accepted all his punishments and denounced the Tyrell name, it was time for the Queen Mother to show up and stand trial. But the bitch never did. She had the Zombie Mountain grab her son, had Qyburn get the kids from Hostel to off Pycelle, and then they ran to the hills because they done gonna blow everything up, son.

And there was Predator blood EVERYWHERE

I found it strange that everyone all of a sudden had this panic looked on their face, as if something eminently awful was about to occur. Why would all the folk in the Sept think something terrible like that would happen? They all had looks of fear but it's not as if explosions are a commonplace occurrence there.

Having destroyed all her enemies in one fell swoop (The Tyrells are all mostly dead, the Sparrow, the Faith militant, lotta corpses this week) with the Mad King’s hidden cache of wildfire, Cersei was looking good to start ruling behind the scenes with her son King Tommen as the figurehead. But Tommen had other thoughts, as all those dead folk really messed up his head and he took a swan dive off the Red Keep and went ker-splat.

This kid's about to have a real king's landing

Now, Cersei is the Queen of Westeros. She’s playing the Game of Thrones all right. Where does this leave her? Well, she can’t be having anymore of Jamie’s kids, I’d say. They’re 0-3 there. It seems she needs a proper husband again, and there’s a certain King in the Iron Islands that’d be prime material.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Game of Thrones Season Six, Episode 9 ("Battle of The Bastards")

by Dan Moore

NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT. For six seasons, this show has given us characters we’ve come to know and love and beaten the ever-loving snot out of them while allowing characters we know and loathe to thrive.  Scumbags the likes of which the land of television have never seen have become king on this show, or have become lords of many lands for butchering the nice guys we grow attached to. But not this week. Finally, we get some payback.


Jon Snow and his ragtag army are headed to Winterfell to take it back FOR THE GOOD GUYS. Outnumbered and outgunned, Snow has to make a stand Ramsay Bolton and his troops because the script says so. God forbid his sister Sansa tell him that she invited Littlefinger’s army to show up. Why would she not tell Jon that she sent a message to Littlefinger asking for help? That’s quite vexing to me.

Anyhow, they head to the battlefield, but not before Ser Davos talks a stroll around the place and finds Shireen’s toy that he made for her, all burned up. That gets the ol’ Onion Knight a-thinking. Is he gonna put 2 and 2 together and figure out Melisandre burned up that poor little girl? Is Mel gonna be looking down the business end of Davos’ no fingered assault? I kinda hope so. That scene with Shireen last year (check out what I had to say then  was BRUTAL. I hope she gets her own fiery end.

Before the armies engage, Ramsay pulls out his trump card, the youngest Stark, Rickon. He tells Rickon to go join his brother by running across the huge expanse of earth between them. As Rickon starts running, Jon jumps on horseback to grab his brother as Ramsay starts firing arrows towards the young lad.  Now, farbeit for me to tell this kid how to get away from a murderous torture man, but for Christ's sake, when someone is firing arrows at you, DON’T RUN IN A STRAIGHT LINE. Jesus, kid, zig zag for me one time.

Rickon's entire Madden playbook

Rickon clearly eats arrow and croaks. Which holds no real dramatic effect. He wasn’t a character; he was a plot device. I knew nothing about him except I was supposed to care about him because he was a Stark. But nah. This sets off the bloodiest, goriest and just plain grimiest battle in GoT history. Bodies everywhere, mud all over, and giants dispensing justice. It was a grand spectacle. As Jon’s army is out manned and out gunned, things start to look bad for our favorite bastard.

But then this week’s deus ex machina shows up in the form of the Vale’s army, led by Sansa and her man friend Littlefinger. I must say I saw this coming. I thought the whole battle itself was quite predictable and you KNEW they couldn’t kill Jon Snow again. It just woulda killed all narrative credibility. That being said, I still very much enjoyed the whole thing. It was predictable, sure but it was still visually stunning and quite well done.

Monday, June 20, 2016

WWE Money in the Bank 2016: The Return of the Babyface

Well Money in the Bank was nothing if not eventful.  WWE is clearly trying to shake things up following some pretty terrible ratings in recent weeks (Heavily featuring a babyface Champion nobody likes will do that), and last night's PPV felt like a company finally trying to right the ship again.  I wouldn't call it a great show and it was missing at least one Match of the Year candidate, but it was a solid outing built on the backs of three strong main events and a huge, potentially game-changing finish.

WWE's new PPV format is apparently no longer constrained by a three-hour limit, as this show ran about 3.5 and both bouts previously announced for the Pre-show were included.  I have mixed feelings about this development.  On the plus side, this allows more of the roster to be included on the actual PPV and no matches need to be shortchanged.  On the minus, it enables WWE's already sloppy time management and may tend to burn out the crowd both in the arena and at home.  But we'll see how it goes in the long run.

The show opened with a fun 4-Way Tag Title match.  I went into this thinking New Day probably wouldn't escape with their belts, but also knowing none of the challengers were really ready to wear them yet.  This match had some nice fast-paced action and everyone had ample time to do their thing.  There were more than a few awkwardly timed moments however and the inexperience of the two NXT teams was exposed a bit.  Once Michael Cole mentioned New Day's longevity as Tag Champs I figured they'd be retaining, and that's exactly what happened.  Of course he cited Paul London & Brian Kendrick as the longest-reigning WWE Tag Champs, forgetting that Demolition are actually at the top (as World Tag Champions).  But whatever.  The New Day will probably eclipse London & Kendrick.

Next up was hopefully the final match in the Baron Corbin-Dolph Ziggler feud.  I'd call this easily the best of their series.  Ziggler made Corbin look good, and Corbin still needs to put together an actual moveset.  Passable stuff.

Third was the women's tag match, which was pretty forgettable RAW-quality fare.  It was sad to see the Women's division so minimally represented after so many months of growth.  But the aftermath set up a very promising story.  Becky Lynch inadvertently cost her team the match and Natalya got pinned after Charlotte's Natural Selection finisher.  Nattie was sobbing after the loss (Rather an odd touch; it's not like the Title was on the line here), but suddenly leveled Becky with a clothesline.  I like this as a new feud, and what's more it's a secondary Women's feud that doesn't involve the Champion.  So I think we're in store for a bit deeper focus on the women.  That's a good thing.

The other former Pre-show match was next, as Apollo Crews made his WWE PPV debut against Sheamus.  These two had decent chemistry, and aside from a slow first half this was reasonably entertaining.  I'd have preferred a more decisive win for Crews, but once Sheamus dominated so much of the match I figured Crews would pull out a flukish win to set up a rematch.

NXT Weekly Recap: June 15, 2016 (Almas vs. Dillinger)

by Landon Wayne

Samoa Joe Title Reign: Day 55

The first week of the New Era of NXT begins…with less fanfare and less actual change than when there was an apparent New Era on the main roster. What will the following months hold, with half the established tag teams and half the established women we’ve had in the past?

Authors of Pain with Paul Ellering defeated an unnamed team in their debut match. Completely one-sided bout that immediately made me tune out. In the first few minutes of a show, this wasn’t good. I see nothing unique about this team, even considering they are trying to rework the Road Warriors, AGAIN. Their finish is a lariat/Russian leg sweep combination. Didn’t get either of their names, or their jobber opponents, or the referee for that matter. Paul is the only name I knew of these 5 men.

Not even worth giving a rating.

Andrade Almas was interviewed backstage about his debut. He had a black version of his entrance gear on, but would be wearing the white version in his match later. Dillinger interrupted, calling him a fluke. Rematch is scheduled for later tonight. I could have sworn that Dillinger was going to be a face after his match a few weeks ago, but as long as he’s on my screen I’m okay.

Paul and the Authors were walking by backstage, and Ellering refused to comment on his new wards. If there’s supposed to be hype I don’t see it.

Carmella defeated Tessa Blanchard. Still waiting for Tessa to impress me. Still waiting to see what everyone sees in Carmella. Carmella used the not Koji Clutch again.


There was a Samoa Joe promo, which bettered my mood. He asked EVERYONE what they would, and will, sacrifice to come after him. Awesome.

Blake and Murphy said they’re going to give it one more chance. And that match is next.

Friday, June 17, 2016

No Right to Be This Funny: Throwaway Movie Dialogue

Welcome to a special piece called No Right to Be This Funny, where Dan Moore and I will be examining some of the greatest lines of throwaway dialogue in film history.  In each case, the line was made mostly or completely by the actor's delivery and generally made us laugh very unexpectedly.  We'll include links to video clips so you can see and hear the awesomeness for yourselves.

The first two entries are from the 80s classic Gremlins.

Clip #1, sees Billy's friend Pete (Corey Feldman) attempting to deliver the Pelzer's Christmas tree, while himself dressed in a cumbersome Christmas tree costume.  His frustrated exclamation cracks me up every time.

"Ah Christ...."

One-on-One: Top Five Talkers in Wrestling History

Welcome to another edition of One-on-One, where my friend Jim Fitch and I discuss something related to the wacky world of pro wrestling!

Continuing with the Top Five theme from last time, we'll each be giving our picks for the Top Five Talkers in Wrestling History.

Since I got the last word in the previous edition, I'll be going first this time.  Here we go....

First, let me start off by saying this was a really difficult category to narrow down to five people.  So many figures in the wrestling business have made such amazing careers out of being able to communicate and draw in the audience with a simple collection of words.  The "gift of gab" is unfortunately something I was not really blessed with.  I'm much better at communicating via the written word, where I can think about things ahead of time and carefully craft what I want to say.  The ability to captivate a person or a whole group of people by speaking on the fly is a truly remarkable thing to me.  I wish I were good at it.

In the wrestling business, being able to cut a good promo is just as important (and often moreso) as being able to wrestle.  Think of how much less success Hulk Hogan would've enjoyed had he possessed the speaking ability of say Jack Swagger.  He would've been a midcarder at best.  But fortunately for Hogan he was charismatic and could skillfully get across his character, and we all bought into it.

Cutting a promo in 2014 is sadly a bit of a lost art, as in WWE most promos are tightly scripted by a team of mediocre-at-best writers who clearly don't know the wrestlers' characters as well as the wrestlers do themselves.  Imagine if Steve Austin or The Rock had been forced to adhere to scripts.  There would be no "Austin 3:16," no "If ya smell what The Rock is cookin'."  I long for the days when the talent will be given the chance to write their own promos again.

Anyway, just a handful of names who didn't quite make the cut include CM Punk, Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper, Shawn Michaels, Jesse Ventura, Jim Cornette, Bobby Heenan, Arn Anderson, Chris Jericho, and possibly shocking to all of you reading this, The Rock.

I'm not including Rock in my top five and here's why.  The Rock is an absolutely amazing talker and has coined more catchphrases than anyone in the business, but then he got in the habit of simply regurgitating them to the point of absurdity and after a few years stopped innovating.  Where he falls short for me is that he didn't change up his promos to suit each feud.  He would just do paint-by-numbers promos and rattle off the same jokes to every guy he sparred with.

Furthermore The Rock set the terrible precedent of babyfaces who were "too cool" to let the heels get under their skin.  And if the heel doesn't get under the babyface's skin, why are we paying to see the babyface beat up the heel?  John Cena and Sheamus are less than universally over, precisely because they've used Rock's promo style as a model (The difference between those two and Rocky, is that Rocky was so good at that schtick that he made it work).  Steve Austin on the other hand, while also using catchphrases, made it clear the heel DID get under his skin.  What his promos usually boiled down to was, "look, this is all a moot point cuz this Sunday when we get in the ring I'm gonna kick the shit out of you anyway," and then he did just that.  So I'm sorry Dwayne, you are cut.

But enough of my pontificating, here's the top five.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Most Hated Men in Sports

by Dan Moore

Here we are in the lull of sports playoffs. The Stanley Cup just ended. The NFL isn’t playing. MLB is going through the rigors of the regular season and in the midst of the NBA Finals, thankfully those coddled millionaires get ANOTHER off day after landing in an exclusive hangar being whisked away from their private jets in stretch limos filled with hookers, cocaine and booze I can’t pronounce nor afford. So let’s talk about the most hated man in each of the major sports during this hiatus, shall we? None of this is at all balanced, rational or thought-out. It’s mainly jealousy that these guys are awesome and not on the teams I root for (except for one).

I'll let you guess which one...


Pretty sure this one is unanimous. From his cocky-ass special “The Decision” to his goddamn messiah complex on the court, there are TONS of reasons to hate this asshole. His flopping technique is unparalleled. I believe he played the fish at the end of Faith No More’s “Epic” video.

Pictured: Bron-Bron

How those spineless twerps in Cleveland accepted him back with open arms, I’ll never understand. This prick left them in the dust, the fans burned jerseys, hell the OWNER OF THE CAVS told LBJ to go get fucked, but years later, “Oh I’m coming home” and all is right with the world. This guy’s a grade-A dickhead.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kobe. It’s Kobe, right? Sure he just retired, but the hate is still there.  Only the Lakers and their asshole, fake fans like him. They show up in the 2nd quarter with around 9 minutes left to be seen on camera, and head out in the 3rd, with their shitty Black Mamba shirts on and ugly, plastic surgery faces. Fuck LA. Oh, and Kobe too. The daughters of the world are in a safer place now that he’s not travelling all over the US during the season.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WWE Money in the Bank 2016 Preview & Predictions

Welcome back to your official WWE Predictions!

This Sunday is the always entertaining Money in the Bank PPV, and it's looking like a pretty stacked lineup, at least toward the top of the card.  I've talked at length about being burned out on multi-man Ladder Matches (and the MITB concept in general) but at least this year WWE has assembled a host of good-to-excellent workers, and limited the match to the original format of six participants.

Elsewhere on the card we have a huge WWE Title match and (in my mind) an even bigger first-time dream match.  Should be a fun show and apparently it's the last PPV before the impending roster split (I have mixed-at-best feelings about this but I'll save judgment until we know more info).

Pre-Show Match: Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler

Jeezus H. Christ, why is this feud still going on?  This will be the third PPV Pre-Show match for these two in a row, and it's also the second time in 2016 a match has been stuck on the Pre-Show for three consecutive PPVs (the other being Kalisto vs. Ryback).  Oddly enough no one has cared about either feud.  Funny how being relegated to the Pre-Show doesn't get guys over.  Anyway, both of these dudes need something else to do.  I don't care about this feud at all.

Justin's pick: Corbin euthanizes this feud once and for all
Dan's pick: I DON'T CARE. I guess the not over at all and charisma-less Corbin wins here. POINTLESS

Pre-Show Match: Sheamus vs. Apollo Crews

Yes, once again there are multiple Pre-Show bouts.  Gettin' pretty tired of that shit.  This is the second to feature an NXT call-up vs. a go-nowhere main roster star whose potential has been squandered.  Unlike Ziggler vs. Corbin though, at least this matchup is intriguing.  Should be a solid effort.

Justin's pick: I could see this going either way.  Conventional wisdom says the heel should win the first match of the feud, but Crews hasn't exactly been on fire and could use the win himself.  Eh, I'll go with Crews.
Dan's pick: Crews

NJPW Dominion 2016 Predictions

Welcome to another round of PPV Predictions!

This Sunday is New Japan's second biggest show of the year, Dominion, and what a stacked card it looks to be!  The company is doing a fine job adjusting after losing several top talents in January, and while there are still holes in the roster (ahem, tag division) they've managed to put together some pretty outstanding shows in 2016.  Dominion on paper appears the strongest card since WrestleKingdom.

Last year's Dominion was the first New Japan show I did predictions for (hard to believe it's been almost a year), and I went 8 for 9.  This time my esteemed colleague Landon Wayne will be offering his picks as well.  So let's get to it....

Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Togi Makabe, Yoshitatsu & Captain New Japan

This is the one throwaway match on the card, once again featuring Bad Luck Fale.  Not sure where they're going with this guy.  I've never been much of a fan, but he's been treading water killing guys at the bottom of the card for months now.  Time to shit or get off the pot.  Adam Page from ROH is making his NJPW debut as a newly initiated Bullet Club member.  We'll see what happens there.

Justin's pick: Bullet Club wins another opening squash
Landon's pick: Bullet club. No real reason for the other team to win. Hopefully Page gets showcased.

Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Sanada & Bushi

This could be a decent little tag match, as the Sanada-Ishii interaction should be fun to watch.  Going forward I'd say Ishii should move into the I-C Title hunt; I'd love to see him face Omega this fall.

Justin's pick: Naito's boys win
Landon's pick: Either Ishii pins BUSHI or SANADA pins HASHI...personally I think the former is more likely.

Evil vs. Hirooki Goto

This'll be the third PPV singles match between these two.  In the first outing Goto won by disqualification after getting killed by Los Ingobernables, and in the second Evil won.  So Goto's due here I think.

Justin's pick: Goto
Landon's pick: Goto gets the win, but to quote Bryan Alvarez "this feud must continue."

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Matt Sydal & Ricochet vs. reDRagon vs. Young Bucks vs. Roppongi Vice

Now we get to the meat of the PPV, the first of a whopping six title matches.  This is your garden variety Jr. Tag four-way, which one could argue are very overplayed.  But it should still be a helluva good time.  This is actually a direct rematch from WrestleKingdom 10 except Sydal & Ric are the champs going in.

Justin's pick: The Champions just won the belts back at Dontaku and these straps have been bouncing around excessively in 2016.   So I'll stick with the champs to retain here.
Landon's pick: Please. Don't. Change. The. Titles. Again. Super High Flyers to retain.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Game Of Thrones Season Six, Episode 8 ("No One")

by Dan Moore

Well, that was pointless. Not this latest hour of GoT. There was some intrigue, plot development and heads getting torn asunder of bodies. That was good stuff. No, I’m talking about Arya and the end of her journey in Braavos. Seriously, what was the point? For the last two plus years we have watched this young lady get trained to be a part of some weirdo no-faced assassin cult and now she’s just…not. Seems like it was an enormous waste of time for us viewers. There better be a much bigger payoff from this storyline down the stretch.

This is the only Faceless Man I trust

The real meat of the episode was watching the Hound dispense some barbaric justice all over the renegade Brothers without Banners. He chopped off heads, dicks, whatever was readily available to be severed from the scumbags that killed his friends. Towards the end of his walking revenge tour, he bumps into his former enemies, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros Of Myr. They all seem to be getting along now, as they convince the Hound to join up with them. The Hound is in a much more mellow mood these days, his Voorhees-like massacre notwithstanding, and he tags along with this bunch of merry men. They’re off to God knows where at this point but I like where this plot is going.

Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing, it seems we will not be getting our dream matchup of Clegane v Zombie Clegane, as King Tommen has ruled Trial by Combat illegal now! Cersei done lost her superhuman dead man security guard. The High Sparrow is being quite the puppet master behind the scenes, getting Tommen to bend to all his requests. One has to wonder if Tommen is gonna stick with this decree though. Does he really not care about his Mom that much anymore?

Beat it punk, ya bother me!
(I would never say this to his putrid, frightening face) 


---Oh look in Mereen, the masters come in their ships for their slaves but lo and behold the deus ex machina of the series shows up just in time. Take a bow, Drogon, you’re not at all predictable. It was so obvious that dragon was gonna show up. Where are my surprise plot twists nowadays?

---Also in Mereen, Varis leaves his little friend Tyrion to head off to Westeros to drum up some support. It was a scene that should’ve been more touching, as these two have become real pals, but it was played off like two dudes sending back fish in a restaurant.

---And finally, The Riverrun conflict came to an end, with Brienne showing up, making nicey nice with Jaime, trying to make nicey nice with the Black Fish, but in the end, Edmure Tully takes his rightful place as Lord of Riverrun, and it seems the only casualty was the Black Fish. Again…why did this plot play out? No battle, no one of true consequence perished…just odd. Tis a shame too, cause I liked the Black Fish and he was barely used. Such a shame.

One-on-One: Top Five Tag Teams of All Time

Welcome to another edition of One-on-One!

Today the topic is the Top Five Greatest Tag Teams of all time.  For this edition my NXT-obsessed colleague Landon Wayne will be joining me to give his picks.  But first, mine....

Justin: As with great singles wrestlers, for me a great tag team has to be the perfect combination of several attributes - workrate, presence, chemistry both with each other and with a variety of opponents, a long-term commitment to the tag team division, and the ability to draw just as well as the singles guys.  These days tag team wrestling is unfortunately nowhere near the art form it used to be.  While WWE has recently put more of a focus on the tag division than they had in several years, gone are the days of 8-10 full-time tag teams being featured on television, all vying for those elusive straps.  Invariably you can gauge the overall commercial success of the major North American wrestling promotions by looking at the strength of their tag team divisions.  During the 80s boom period, both the WWF and NWA had deep tag rosters; in the WWF's case, enough for a 20-man Tag Team Elimination match at the first two Survivor Series PPVs.  Then in the early 90s most of the good duos either left or split up, resulting in an anemic division, and coincidentally the company's revenue dropped sharply.  Are these two things related?  I dunno.  But during the wildly successful Attitude era the tag division flourished once again, only to become virtually non-existent from 2004 until 2012.

I miss the days when the World Tag Team Championship was treated as just a notch below the World Title.  For tag team wrestlers it was the highest accolade they could hope to receive, short of splitting up with their tag partner and going alone.  Many teams back in the day had no interest in singles success - their purpose in the business was to be the world's best team.  In some cases one member of a team just wasn't the same without the other.  Try to imagine Smash from Demolition as a singles star.  It doesn't work - the magic came when he and Ax appeared together.  Pairings like that tended to make the best teams, though obviously there have been exceptions.  But regardless, great tag teams have always been one of the major attractions on the card, and when presented properly a Tag Title Match can be the main event of the show any day of the week. 

My top five tag teams all have some things in common - they all had undeniable chemistry as partners, they could all work a show-stealing match, they all reached the pinnacle of at least one major tag team division, and they were all major box office attractions.

5. Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard

Anderson & Blanchard were one of those teams that as a kid I absolutely HATED.  They weren't flashy, they didn't look like movie stars or superheroes, and onscreen they were great big a-holes.  But when they were in the ring I wanted to see them get beat up, and that's the mark of a great heel duo.  I actually resented the fact that they were the top team in the company.  It was fitting that they were part of Ric Flair's stable, because like Flair they didn't appear to be the toughest team and their moveset didn't feature any fancy crowd-pleasing maneuvers.  Instead their deal was great wrestling matches full of psychology where they made their opponents look amazing and still managed to squeak by with a cheap, heat-magnifying win.  In other words they were the quintessential heel tag team.  Their extensive resume included fantastic matches with power-centric teams like The Road Warriors and Demolition, aerial teams like The Rock n' Roll Express and The Rockers, or equally well-rounded teams like The Hart Foundation.  Arn and Tully were one of those teams that would absolutely crush it no matter who you put 'em in there with.  And on top of everything, both guys could cut killer promos.  Ric Flair may have been the leader of The Four Horsemen, but Arn & Tully were the backbone.

4. The Hardy Boyz

Matt & Jeff Hardy are probably the antithesis of Anderson & Blanchard.  The Hardys built their reputation on flashy, dangerous, high-impact spot wrestling, and along with Edge & Christian and The Dudley Boyz, reinvented the Ladder Match for the new millennium.  Matt and Jeff started out as WWF jobbers who just happened to take a beating better than anyone else on TV.  In 1998 I can recall being excited any time one of the featured tag teams would be facing the Hardys in a squash match, because it meant one of the most entertaining squashes I'd ever see.  Eventually the Hardys developed such a following they were repackaged as a real, full-time tag team on the main roster.  With their Hot Topic-inspired wardrobe and innovative combination moves, they evolved into the 2000s version of The Rock n' Roll Express or The Rockers - two undersized babyfaces who bumped and sold like crazy, and whose offense consisted of wild aerial tactics.  Eventually they became the team you knew would push the envelope every night, in terms of what crazy risks they were willing to take (Jeff especially).  These days such dangerous spots can no longer be performed, but at the height of the Attitude Era The Hardy Boyz became one of the WWF's premier attractions, and are now regarded as one of the most exciting teams of all time.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The History of NXT TakeOver: The End

The End - Full Sail University - 6.8.16

The End you say?  The end of what?  Oh, The End of the Beginning?  Whatever that means....

NXT TakeOver: The End looked on paper like it could possibly be the best edition so far.  The main event would be the first-ever NXT Steel Cage match, blowing off the Samoa Joe-Finn Balor Title feud.  Plus Women's Champion Asuka would defend against rising monster heel Nia Jax, NXT Tag Champs American Alpha would grant a return match against former Champions The Revivial, and perhaps most intriguing, Shinsuke Nakamura would have a dream match of sorts with Austin Aries.  But did the show live up to the hype?  Let's break it apart and see....

The opening match was little more than a showcase for the debuting Andrade "Cien" Almas, formerly known as La Sombra in Mexico and Japan.  But don't shortchange Tye Dillinger, who perfectly held his own and was a great complement to Almas.  They put together an entertaining little bout and the crowd had fun with dueling chants playing off the two wrestlers' nicknames, "Cien" or "one hundred" and "The Perfect 10" respectively.  Almas won with a running double-knee strike in the corner, which seems a little tame for such a flashy wrestler.  But this was a great way to warm up the audience.

Next up was the Tag Team Title rematch, and American Alpha and The Revival pulled out all the stops in this one.  There were tandem moves left and right, crazy false finishes, and throwbacks to the tag teams of yesteryear.  The Revival at one point broke out the Midnight Express's Veg-o-matic move, and later in the match set Gable up for a Doomsday Device-type move, whereupon Gable caught Dawson in midair and belly-to-belly suplexed him to the mat off Dash's shoulders, a la The Steiners vs. The Headshrinkers from WrestleMania IX.  But the real shocker was The Revival nailing Jordan with Shatter Machine and picking up the clean victory to become the first two-time NXT Tag Champions.  Helluva tag match, and these two tandems blow away the entire division on the main roster.  After the bout American Alpha was decimated by NXT's newest team The Authors of Pain, managed by the returning Paul Ellering.  Loved seeing Ellering show up!

Miggsy Previews The Belmont Stakes

by Michael Parker

This Saturday is the 3rd and final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes. This is not only the oldest of the three races but also the longest, a grueling one-and-a-half miles. In my opinion, this is the toughest one to win, particularly for horses who were chasing the Crown. This race opens up for horses with more rest, and distance specialists. You’ll remember a few years ago, Tonalist upset California Chrome in his bid for the Triple Crown. Tonalist was much fresher and had the distance. It was so vexing; California Chrome’s owner went on a crazy rant that included him basically telling his wife to sit down and shut up on national TV. It was electric.

I'll fight to get you your diabeetus medication.

Everyone was hoping for a rubber match between Nyquist and Exaggerator but Nyquist was forced to withdraw after getting a cold racing in the rain at the Preakness. Baltimore robs us again.

Omar coming.

Suddenbreakingnews: Gets a major upgrade in jockey and benefits from skipping the Preakness. You should have him in your verticals, especially your superfectas.

Destin: Gun to my head and I had to pick a grey horse in this race, I’m picking him. He fresh and should be at or on the lead early. Plus he’s one-for-one at Belmont.

Cherry Wine: I consulted BumWineBob about this horse and he confirmed that this horse is indeed bum wine and not even one of the good kinds. He’s grey and gross.

Stradivari: I’m not convinced yet. He finished 4th in the Preakness over a sloppy track so I can’t hold that against him BUT his only impressive wins have come running away in maiden special and a $60K allowance. Until he proves he can compete at this level, I’m looking elsewhere.

Gettysburg: Out of respect for those who lost their lives on the Pennsylvania field, I won’t say anything bad about this horse…but I want to, real bad.

Seeking the Soul: Should be seeking slower horse to run against, NEXT.

Trojan Nation: I got him as my live long shot, like Jingles or Turk getting to bareback their WIVES…It’s possible.

Lani: Too foreign, too tired, too grey, too gross.

Exaggerator: He’s clearly the best horse in this field but the Triple Crown circuit is a tough gauntlet. Does he have enough left in him for this distance? For a straight win bet, I’m looking elsewhere. He’s a 9/5 favorite so there’s no money in that but I will have him in my verticals. He’s too good not to.

Brody’s Cause: I believe it was Chief Brody’s cause to shut down the beaches that holiday weekend on Amity Island. If people listened, maybe that Kintner boy would still be alive. What that has to do with this horse, I don’t know.

Creator: I’m staying away from this horse much like its owner, Bobby Flay of Food Network fame, should have stayed away from strange pussy while he was married THREE TIMES. Plus, he’s grey and gross.

My bets:

$5 WPS on 9

$1 trifecta box 2,4,11,12

$.10 superfecta box 2,4,9,11,12

Thursday, June 9, 2016

One-on-One: Top Five Favorite Wrestlers of All-Time

Welcome to the second edition of One-on-One!  Tonight my friend Jim and I discuss our top five favorite wrestlers of all time and why.  I'll let Jim go first cuz I like to get in the last word.  HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Jim: What I like most in a wrestler is in-ring performance, and what I like most in a wrestler’s in-ring performance is, generally speaking, violent and realistic-looking offence (pardon the “C”: I’m Canadian).  To me the ultimate offensive moves look abjectly vicious, but on analysis cannot possibly be so: think of Jerry Lawler’s punches, or of Edge’s Downward Spiral.  At first glance you’re thinking “holy shit that guy’s DEAD”, and after a sober second look you’re even more impressed as a fan because clearly the receiver is going to be just fine fifteen minutes from now.  As he or she ought to be.

So it will come as no surprise that my “top five” professional wrestlers have or had an offensive move set that made them look, in one way or another, crisp, rugged, violent … dangerous as hell.  And that includes my number one choice, who to the uninitiated might appear, in the words of Eddie Ellner (both a real person and a big fan of my number one, btw), “a little soft”.

5.  Dynamite Kansai

Aja Kong is generally considered to be the nastiest of the AJPW classic era Big Six, and that’s not hard to understand.  Bull Nakano is generally considered the scariest, and that’s not hard to understand.  But watch Kansai throw a simple front kick.  Or a Stu Hart uppercut.  Or the “Burst of Dynamite” running knee thrust.  Then shudder remotely from the pain through the screen.  Then watch it again.  Kyoko Inoue’s going to be okay.  Maybe she’ll need a little ice, but she’ll be fine.  As I said, collectively those two joint and beautiful realities are the sign of a true artist.

4.  Bruiser Brody

The “Intelligent Monster” made the fans run in the opposite direction.  I still contend that “Immigrant Song” is the best entrance theme ever that wasn’t designed as an entrance theme, because when Plant wailed, you knew Brody’s hapless opponent was about to do a little wailing, too.  Only Barry Darsow had a more painful-looking bodyslam.  Only Curt Hennig and maybe Jumbo Tsuruta threw dropkicks that high, tight, crisp, dangerous.  Only Jake Roberts could flash you as believeable a “you’d best stay back” look.  Brody loved his wife.  Brody loved his kids.  God help you if Brody didn’t like you.  And the only people Brody hurt were promoters – which is sad, because one of them got hurt so badly he killed him.

3.  Chris Jericho

Jericho may be the only member of the Observer Hall of Fame to have never put an opponent in the hospital for anything other than observations.  Think about that: you’d need some kind of harmonic convergence of skill, trustworthiness and plain dumb luck to perform that well for that long at such an elite level without a single hospital trip to your discredit.  And damn does Y2J rock the whole game hard.  He looks good in and out of the ring.  If there’s ever been a wrestling “genius”, it’s probably Jericho.  And he probably spells “offence” with a “C”, too, which is also pretty cool.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The History of NXT Takeover: Unstoppable

Unstoppable - Full Sail - 5.20.15

NXT's sixth Network special was a step down from the previous two, but still a solid two hours of wrestling.  There wasn't a bad match on the show but only one of the six bouts really stood out.  Then of course the show closed with probably the biggest debut in NXT history up to that point.  But we'll get to that....

Kicking things off was Finn Balor vs. Tyler Breeze in a very strong opener that started out methodical and built to some crazy high spots.  Near the end Balor disappeared outside the ring before attacking Breeze on the ramp.  He then dove off the Titantron, rolled Breeze back into the ring, and finished him with the Coup de Grace.  Solid match.


Unstoppable marked the first time an NXT special featured two women's matches.  Charlotte & Bayley vs. Emma & Dana Brooke amounted to a pretty good, fast-paced tag match.  Charlotte and Bayley played the uneasy allies who stayed professional enough to get the job done.  Nothing amazing but a good undercard match.

A surprise hit for me, Rhyno vs. Baron Corbin was a surprisingly effective brawl that never dragged.  Rhyno was the first veteran brought in to NXT to lend the brand some credibility, and he did a fine job of making Corbin look strong while still getting in his stuff.  Not bad at all.

The Tag Titles were next as Blake & Murphy faced Enzo & Cass in an entertaining tag match.  Enzo had his working shoes on, doing most of the bumping around before making the hot tag to Cass.  The ending was a tad overbooked with Carmella and Alexa Bliss fighting outside.  Alexa would then dump an exhausted Enzo off the top rope to be pinned.

I said earlier that Unstoppable was the first NXT special with multiple women's matches, and it also began the trend of the Women's Division truly upstaging the men.  Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch was a match full of excellent psychology and mat-based wrestling.  The two traded classic grappling holds and each worked the other's arm throughout.  Sasha even broke out some Bryan Danielson-style stretch moves that looked excruciating.  Near the end Becky came back, assaulted Sasha's arm and applied her armbar finisher before Sasha made the ropes.  Sasha countered a top-rope move with a vicious-looking armbreaker from the top and applied the Bank Statement for the win.  Banks established herself here as THE woman to beat in NXT, but she and her next challenger would write a new chapter for women's wrestling at the next two TakeOvers.

Destroying that arm

The Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn NXT Title rematch was hindered a bit by Zayn's shoulder injury from RAW against John Cena, but I'll be damned if they didn't throw together a nice little 13-minute fight.  Zayn stayed one step ahead of Owens the entire match, making it look like he might do the impossible.  The action spilled to the outside, where Owens caught Zayn in a powerbomb on the apron, and the match was called a no-contest from there.  Officials hovered around Zayn but Owens continued his attack until even William Regal came out to stop him.  Owens hit Regal with a headbutt, and then the big closing moment of the show - Samoa Joe made his NXT debut to stare down Owens!

Dude it's so fuckin' on...

All-in-all, while not a great show, Unstoppable featured one excellent match and several decent ones, and ended with arguably the biggest moment in the brand's young history at that point.  Samoa Joe would be the first of several non-WWE veterans to show up on NXT under their original names, thus partially reversing WWE's inane policy of forcing all signees to pick a trademarkable name.  Anywho, solid show.

Best Match: Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch
Worst Match: Blake & Murphy vs. Enzo & Cass by default
What I'd Change: Given Zayn's injury the main event couldn't really have gone longer, but in a perfect world it should have
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the main event, but it certainly wasn't bad at all
Most Pleasant Surprise: Baron Corbin vs. Rhyno
Overall Rating: 7/10


NXT TakeOver: The End Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another edition of predictions! 

Well tonight is the highly anticipated NXT TakeOver special, cryptically entitled The End.  The end of what?  Not sure.  I'm guessing the Balor-Joe feud, but there have been rumors that the title implies the upcoming brand split on the main roster will have some sort of overarching effect on NXT as we know it.  I hope dearly that this is not the case, as NXT and its TakeOver specials are the one aspect of WWE programming the company consistently gets right.

Case in point is this special tonight.  Holy shit what a lineup!  Let's get to the predictions.  Here to also offer his picks is my associate Landon Wayne, whose NXT Weekly Recaps can be found right here at!

Andrade "Cien" Almas vs. Tye Dillinger

This little number will likely be just a showcase for the debuting Andrade, who was previously La Sombra in Mexico and Japan.  I had the pleasure of seeing him at the NXT Lowell house show in April (plus some of his Sombra work in New Japan), and this guy is a treat to watch.  Dillinger is a solid hand in the ring and should give him a good debut win.

Justin's pick: Andrade
Landon's pick: The obligatory debut of this Takeover show. The former La Sombra goes up against Dillinger in what is sure to be a good match, but will still be in the shadow of the rest of a stacked as hell card. If you've read my articles you know I like Dillinger a lot, and hope he can go on to better things after this appearance.

Obviously, Almas

NXT Tag Team Championship: American Alpha vs. The Revival

I love watching these two teams.  This is easily the best WWE tag team feud in quite some years.  It's like watching The Steiners vs. Anderson & Blanchard.  Their match at Dallas was fantastic and I expect more of the same.  Both teams are good enough for the main roster by a mile, but selfishly I hope they stick around NXT for a while longer.

Justin's pick: AA retains
Landon's pick: Gable, Gable, Gable, Gable... GABLE will be great as always, as will his partner. This match caps off a feud but also represents the zenith of tag team action in NXT. I don't think the division will ever be this as good ever again. Still, the era is gonna go out with a bang.

American Alpha to retain, Revival to get lost in the shuffle as soon as they go to RAW, but it was fin while it lasted.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The History of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn

Brooklyn - Barclays Center - 8.22.15

The night before SummerSlam, NXT put on their own summer spectacular, selling out a major sports venue for the first time (nearly 16,000 people!) and creating a milestone event.  The brand had evolved into a remarkable alternative to WWE's main roster product, and TakeOver: Brooklyn would be a perfect snapshot of everything NXT was doing right.

Kicking things off, Japanese legend Jushin "Thunder" Liger made his WWE debut thirty years into his career, in a really fun opener against Tyler Breeze.  Tyler got in enough offense to look strong, while Liger did most of his signature moves on the way to a match-winning Liger Bomb.  Very appropriate match for its spot on the card.

Da bomb

Blake & Murphy vs. The Vaudvillains was also a lot of fun, as Alexa Bliss's interference on behalf of Blake & Murphy was neutralized by the surprise appearance of indie sensation Blue Pants in the corner of The Vaudvillains.  I was a little underwhelmed by Blake & Murphy overall so I was glad to see The Vaudvillains take the straps here.

Apollo Crews, formerly Uhaa Nation in Ring of Honor, made his televised NXT debut here in a short showcase match against perennial punching bag Tye Dillinger.  Dillinger's offense seemed a little tentative but Crews made a big impression with his crazy acrobatics, finishing the bout with his amazing standing moonsault.

Next up was Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin.  A battle of the bulls, this match allowed both guys to get in their stuff.  Corbin looked maybe slightly out of his depth against a veteran like Joe, but still came off as a pretty dominant foil.  Joe eventually countered End of Days into the Coquina Clutch for the win by ref stoppage.

Flair vs. Steamboat.  Angle vs. Benoit.  Rock vs. Austin.  Tanahashi vs. Okada.  Sometimes two wrestlers come together and become perfect natural adversaries.  Everything they do in the ring just clicks and seems effortless.  They tell a gripping story using incredible combinations of maneuvers, culminating in an astonishing marriage of action and drama.  Sasha Banks vs. Bayley is one of those feuds.  At TakeOver: Brooklyn these two put on probably the greatest women's match I've ever seen.  Sasha was the classic overconfident heel and Bayley was the consummate underdog babyface, and the ensuing battle was utterly magical.  After 17 miraculous minutes Bayley hit a reverse top rope hurricanrana and followed it up with her Bayley-to-belly suplex to capture the NXT Women's Title.  This was arguably the best or second-best WWE match of 2015, and I could watch these two wrestle all day long.

I can't say enough good things about this match

The main event for the NXT Title would have a hard time following the women's classic, but Finn Balor and Kevin Owens did about as well as can be imagined.  These two put together a worthy main event Ladder Match that felt totally different from the previous bout, working a safe-but-brutal-looking style, and bringing the Brooklyn crowd to its feet.  The match finished in spectacular fashion, with Owens falling off a ladder to a bridged ladder below, and Balor hitting the double stomp there before climbing up and grabbing the belt.  A damn fine main event that managed to not be totally overshadowed by the transcendent Women's match.


TakeOver: Brooklyn was a watershed moment for NXT, eclipsing SummerSlam's attendance figure, and delivering two massive main events.  From this moment on WWE's main roster would be routinely outclassed by the upstart "developmental" promotion (It can be argued this was already happening, but Brooklyn sealed it).  NXT had morphed into a full-fledged second brand, and the Women's Title was now just as prestigious as the men's.  This was one of WWE's best shows of the year.

Best Match: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley
Worst Match: Apollo Crews vs. Tye Dillinger, by default
What I'd Change: I can't think of anything
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really
Most Pleasant Surprise: That someone finally figured out how to make American women's wrestling a viable brand
Overall Rating: 9/10


Monday, June 6, 2016

Game of Thrones Season Six, Episode 7 ("The Broken Man")

by Dan Moore


In a classic case of "We never saw the body so this guy is probably still alive," Sandor Clegane, AKA The Hound, showed up right away in last night’s episode. The producers went right into the opening of the show, skipping the theme music, which threw me off for a minute. But all was forgiven when I got a look at the roadkill-like face of everyone’s favorite Clegane. The Hound was left for dead but was found by cocksucking Al Swearengen (I have no clue what his name was last night, as I don’t think they called him anything but a septon, so he’s Al fucking Swearengen to me).

Hail to the seven fucking Gods, cocksucker. 

Al saved the Hound from imminent death and in the intervening time, he’s shown the Hound how to not be such a bloodthirsty scumbag. Al knows this from experience, as he is a now reformed killer himself. Of course, his backstory doesn’t get much more than a paragraph because Al is straight up murdered by a buncha dudes on horseback. In fact, they kill all of Al’s merry men, and the last scene we have is of the Hound grabbing an axe, presumably out to get vengeance for the death of his new friends.

In the short term, I’d say those three dudes are FUCKED. The Hound don’t play around. In the long run, you know his return means right? CLEGANE BOWL, CLEGANE BOWL, GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY!!!

They better get this on PPV with Jim Ross calling this fight, WWE style.

The other big development last night was that right before Arya was about to leave Braavos, she was used as a pin cushion by the faceless girl-person whose name I don’t know either. Sensing a pattern here? Arya pays off the captain of a boat for passage to Westeros in the morning…as it turns out, that wouldn’t work out. She’s up and stabbed and to avoid death, the youngest Stark girl jumps in the water to escape. Will she live? Who knows (Yes, she will).

The History of NXT TakeOver: Respect

Respect - Full Sail - 10.7.15

Aside from the Iron Man main event, the centerpiece of the show was the semis and finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic (Kinda strange to pay tribute to Dusty with a tag tournament given his greatest fame was as a singles, but okay).  The opening match was a semifinal between Finn Balor & Samoa Joe and Dash & Dawson (now known as The Revival).  This was a good fast-paced affair with Dash & Dawson showing off their throwback tag team skills.  It's very refreshing in 2015 to see two guys dedicated to the craft of tag team wrestling, given how much effort WWE has seemingly exerted to throw away that art form.  Balor and Joe teased some tension at the finish when Balor demanded a tag-in just before Joe delivered the Muscle Buster.  Balor then hit the Coup de Grace but tweaked his already worked-over knee.

The second semi-final arguably eclipsed the first, as Rhyno & Baron Corbin faced Jason Jordan & Chad Gable (now known as American Alpha).  Jordan and Gable looked fantastic here, showing many of the same skills and mannerisms of Team Angle (Jordan especially carries himself like Kurt).  The match built to a pretty great series of near-falls, reversals and finishers before Corbin countered Gable off the ropes with End of Days.  Fine matchup.

Next the vaunted Japanese women's star Asuka made her NXT debut against Dana Brooke, in one of the more entertaining glorified squashes I've seen.  Asuka just commands attention when she's onscreen.  Everything she does looks real and her facial expressions are some of the best in the business.  She takes the acting component of pro wrestling to the next level.  Brooke got in very little offense, as the match was all about showcasing Asuka's strikes and submissions.  A helluva debut for an extraordinary performer.


The show was nearly stolen by the fourth match as Tyler Breeze faced Apollo Crews.  I wasn't expecting this to be as competitive as it was, but Breeze actually got to dominate much of the bout, working Crews' back and using some very clever tactics to outmaneuver his larger opponent.  Crews made a late-match comeback and went for the standing moonsault, which was blocked, before debuting a new finisher - a spin-out powerbomb.  Pretty fantastic little match, and it's a shame the main roster doesn't know what to do with an excellent hand like Tyler Breeze.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The History of NXT TakeOver: London

London - SSE Arena - 12.16.15

For the first time NXT broadcast a special from across the pond, in front of 10,000 screaming Londonites.  This particular show might've been the most well-rounded TakeOver to date, as every match felt like a big deal and multiple newcomers were elevated.

The opening contest nearly stole the show, as Japanese sensation Asuka faced NXT stalwart Emma.  The wrestling here was incredibly crisp and Emma held her own against Asuka's innovative offense.  Late in the match Dana Brooke attempted to interfere multiple times, nearly costing Asuka the bout, first by DQ then by pin.  But Asuka outmaneuvered both adversaries to eventually win with the Asuka Lock.  Normally I hate overbooked finishes like this, but it was almost as though they teased a RAW-type finish only to deliver the clean submission in the end.  Helluva contest.


The intensity level stayed high with the Tag Title match, as The Revival faced Enzo & Cass.  Much like the previous match I figured the better technical workers would dominate, but Enzo & Cass kept pace with the Champs and the teams delivered a pretty excellent tag match.  I've said it before, but The Revival is such a refreshing act, calling to mind the tag teams of the Jim Crockett era.  After nearly 15 minutes Dash & Dawson finished Enzo with the lung blower.

Undoubtedly the weakest match of the night was in the third spot, but even this wasn't bad at all.  Baron Corbin faced Apollo Crews in a middling brawl.  I'm still not sold on Corbin's offense, as aside from a couple big moves he mostly relies on generic big man strikes.  He seems to not always know what to do next.  But this match was fine, just nothing amazing.

New monster women's heel Nia Jax got her first big match in the semi-main slot, challenging NXT's new cornerstone Bayley.  This match had a very slow pace due to Jax's methodical power style, but it told a great story of Bayley's experience and savvy keeping her one step ahead of her much larger opponent.  Late in the match, after taking much punishment, Bayley utilized a guillotine choke as her primary weapon, slowly wearing Jax down until eventually forcing the tapout.  Very strong stuff.

Jax is still pretty green, but she'll get there

The main event pitted NXT Champ Finn Balor against former ally Samoa Joe, after the latter turned on him.  This was an excellent New Japan-esque match that started tentative and built to a fantastic war of strikes, reversals and finishers.  Joe twice attempted the Muscle Buster only for Finn to escape, thus protecting his devastating finisher.  After countering a superplex attempt, Finn shoved Joe off the ropes and hit the double stomp to retain.  Undoubtedly Joe's best NXT match to date, and arguably the best men's TakeOver main event.


The London show was a streamlined five-match show that absolutely flew by and felt like one of the old Clash of the Champions shows where no slots were wasted and almost everything worked like a charm.  After losing three of the Four Horsewomen, NXT quickly and amazingly rebuilt the women's division with a mix of experienced and green stars, and after the departure of Kevin Owens, repositioned Finn Balor as the face of the brand.  This was probably NXT's best TakeOver special yet.

Best Match: Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe
Worst Match: Baron Corbin vs. Apollo Crews
What I'd Change: Very little, this show rocked
Most Disappointing Match: Corbin vs. Crews
Most Pleasant Surprise: How good Emma is in the ring.  I hadn't seen much of her work before this, but she kept up with Asuka beautifully.
Overall Rating: 9/10