Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Storrow’s Revenge

by Mike Berk

Well fans, its been another long hot summer in Boston and as Mother Nature finally decides to open her legs and let the heat out of her nether regions, that can only mean one thing -  students are coming back to Boston. And that also means morons will decide that their 14-foot rented U-haul will definitely squeak under the bridges on Storrow Drive.

It seems like once a week now trucks are getting stuck on Storrow. I recall a brand new Boston Fire Department truck trying its hand at squinching under a 9-foot overpass with their 16-foot rig.

According to the Wiki page I just Googled, “The parkway is named for James J. Storrow, an investment banker who led a campaign to create the Charles River Basin and preserve and improve the riverbanks as a public park. He had never advocated a parkway beside the river, and his widow publicly opposed it.”

I have no idea who Storrow is, but I can see why he is angry - he never wanted a massive roadway with his namesake on it. Someone must have pissed him off something fierce though. In fact I think I just pissed him off - as I write this, my second bathroom toilet* is phantomly running. It must be Storrow’s Revenge!!

I'm coining the phrase Storrow’s Revenge!

It has to be revenge, an investment banker thinking of ways to get money from the public.  I'm sure he decided to put low bridges on his road and gobble up trucks that dare to pass. How can anyone be that stupid to drive a truck on his road??

This major crosstown parkway feasts on box trucks like I devour General Gau's at a Chinese buffett.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Monday Night RAW: Kevin Owens is The Man

Over the past week on RAW, due to inaugural Universal Champion Finn Balor's untimely injury, WWE was forced to book a do-over.  We had the first round of an eight-man tournament where the winners faced off in a four-way elimination match to crown the second Champion.  Our options were the obvious choice of Seth Rollins (a former WWE Champ who carried the WWE brand for most of last year), Roman Reigns (the company favorite whom they're still trying to push as a top babyface despite fan revulsion), Kevin Owens (a fantastic upper echelon heel seemingly ready for breakout status), and Big Cass (Huh??).

I was fully expecting WWE to go the safe route and book a three-month Reigns vs. Rollins feud, with Reigns either chasing Rollins or Reigns winning and then maybe doing a gradual double-turn.  But WWE wisely realized they needed something big to happen here, and that's what we got.  Triple H made a surprise return, helping Rollins eliminate Reigns and then just as we were all expecting Owens to meet the same fate, BOOM!  Triple H double-crossed his old protege, allowing Kevin Owens to win the Universal Title.  Now this I like!

Word is that prior to Balor's injury, Owens was lined up to be his first challenger.  We'd have been treated to some classic bouts, as Balor vs. Owens yielded two excellent NXT Title matches in 2015.  But now it appears Rollins will turn babyface (finally!) and take Balor's place in this feud, albeit as a challenger.  I said months ago when Rollins came back that he should be the avenging angel, back to reclaim the Championship he never lost.  Now finally we seem to be getting that scenario.

I assume Reigns will move back down the card to finish his business with Rusev and maybe win the US Title (This wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, having another WrestleMania headliner/former WWE Champ as the US Champ), while Owens and Rollins feud over RAW's top belt.  Rollins will now be working against Triple H's handpicked Champion and I have to think will eventually face Hunter himself at WrestleMania 33.  We could also see Owens' buddy Chris Jericho added to the title mix, creating tension within JeriKO.  All of those prospects are exciting and fresh, and if WWE doesn't screw this up (Big IF), we could be in for an intriguing fall season for a change (Historically the fall tends to be creatively the worst few months on WWE's calendar).

Between Owens vs. Rollins, Ambrose vs. Styles, Orton vs. Wyatt, Miz vs. Bryan's surrogate, and Charlotte vs. Bayley, there's a lot to keep us entertained through this new era of excessive PPVs.  It's a rarity during these brand splits for both shows to actually present something worth seeing, but WWE may be about to accomplish that feat for the first time.

What they need to do with Owens, to avoid him falling into the "Hunter's Bitch" designation like Rollins and Orton did previously, is have him fully enlist Hunter's help even when it's not necessary.  Rollins and Orton were determined to make it on their own but The Authority kept having to bail them out.  Owens should be clearly portrayed as good enough to do his own dirty work, but entitled enough that he's always counting on Hunter to get him out of sticky situations.  Then he should be indignant when Hunter doesn't come through.  That way it's more like Hunter is acting as Owens' right-hand man instead of the opposite.  And Owens is so good at being the trash-talking heel who thinks he'll always be able to back it up, this should work splendidly.  I like where this could be going.

They should keep that belt on Owens until Balor returns and set up a big match at 'Mania; if they truly are all-in on Balor there's no better way to re-coronate him.

It's a little early to fully celebrate, given WWE's track record, but contrary to my expectations the brand split is kinda sorta goin' okay so far....

Monday, August 29, 2016

Remembering Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

by Mike Berk

Mr. Wonka has died.

Jerome Silberman, better known to the world as Gene Wilder, has died from what the interwebs stated was complications from Alzheimers. A nasty illness if I've ever heard of one.

What wasn't nasty was Mr. Silberman's - ahem - Mr. Wilder's career. A beloved actor on the silver screen, he starred in so many of your father's favorite movies - Blazing Saddles, Young Frankstein (Franken-STEEN - my apologies), Willy Wonka and The Producers to name just a few.

He also teamed up with Richard Pryor a few times to produce some decent flicks - Silver Streak, Stir Crazy and See No Evil, Hear No Evil.

But I'll always remember him as Willy Wonka - the titular character of one of my favorite movies growing up.  His grand entrance alone could be the subject of a semester in film school. Why the limp, why the purple coat, why all the hullabaloo....

Another great scene from Willy Wonka:

He rarely acted after the 90s - maybe he was battling the disease then, maybe he knew when to get out and leave 'em wanting more.

If I believed in this sorta thing - I'd say he and Richard Pryor are up in heaven making more movies together, and eventually Mel Brooks will be there with them to direct Blazing Saddles 2 (Dammit - President Skroob can't die).

RIP Mr. Wonka - thank you for all your movies. GOOD DAY SIR!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Top Ten Things: Wrestlers Who Made Championships (2000 - Present)

by Landon Wayne

The discussion comes up all the time. Does the wrestler make the title or does the title make the wrestler? There’s certainly no straight answer, as both statements can be proven as true throughout a title’s lifespan. But for today, I’m focusing more on those wrestlers who made their belts feel important. Those champions who elevated their title to grander heights. The requirements to be on this list are simple; the wrestlers on this list had to leave the belt looking better than when they first won it. Whether it’s with long reigns, great defenses, or by the reputation of the winner solely, these ten men took their prizes and shined them up real nice for the wrestlers that followed.

10) Gregory Helms as the Cruiserweight Champion

This one may just come from personal bias and nostalgia, but I think the selection is still valid. Gregory Helms has three recorded title reigns, one in WCW, one as The Hurricane, and this particular title reign that started at the Royal Rumble of 2006. In the year and change that followed, Helms was able to defend the title numerous times against a variety of opponents. He was also pitted in a few Champion vs Champion matches, against the likes of Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, and Bobby Lashley. Unfortunately, the prestige and importance of the belt remained near unchanged in the eyes of the Smackdown powers that be, usually opening PPVs, if not lost in the shuffle entirely. Within a year of losing the championship it would become inactive. Gregory places 10th on this list, but not for a lack of trying.

9) John Cena as the United States Champion 

The WWE put serious effort into making the U.S. Title mean something. Cena won the U.S. Title from Rusev at Wrestlemania 31, and what followed was a solid three months of weekly defenses, all in quality matches, plus two successful PPV defenses against former Champ Rusev. Following was a trio of fantastic matches with the debuting Kevin Owens. Finally losing the TV title to ROH World Champ-- I mean U.S title to WWE Champion Seth Rollins, Cena did his damndest to make the title mean something with his great reign. Unfortunately, the luster on the belt would not last. In the same length of Cena’s reign, the title changed hands five separate times. Nice try, Big Match John.

8) Austin Aries as the TNA X-Division Champion

Like Gregory Helms earlier in the list, Austin Aries held the X-Division title in TNA longer than anyone before him. Unlike Helms, though, Aries was able to use his status as a champion to be propelled to greater things. During his reign, Aries began his destined rise to the top, starting to challenge heavyweights, all while also defending his X-Division title. Eventually, Aries capitalized by creating “Option C”, wherein he surrendered his title in exchange for a World Title shot. Aries' effect on the X-division title lasted longer than with the Cruiserweight and U.S. titles, though it would return to its hot potato, spotfest status eventually.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wastin' Away Again in Whopperritoville......

Introducing our newest contributor, expert in garbage cuisine, and good friend Sok Maher (Proununced Sook, as in “Look, it’s Sook, he has more shitty food with him”). He dared tackle Burger King’s newest menu item today.  

Wastin' Away Again in Whopperritoville... Searchin' for myyyy lost packet of sauce. 
(The Definitive Whopperrito Review)

This was clearly the first Whopperrito of the day, as I overheard an employee remark, "Hey, I've never made one of these yet... Where's the level?" While I am unsure of how precisely parallel it is to the floor, I am sure that it was an enjoyable eat. Not outstanding. Not life-changing. Is it better than a Doritos Locos Taco? No. That is more due to my unwavering love for Doritos than anything. Let's go to the tale of the tape (All scores based on a 1 - 5 system, 5 being the best)....

Flavor - 3

I'm just not a Whopper guy really. In Dracut/Lowell the BK is (was?) two plots down from the McDonald's. I think I've been to that BK less than five times in my entire life. But there is nothing that makes this an "-ito" aside from the soft tortilla shell... No Mexican spices. No traditional burrito add-ons like sour cream, guac, or beans. Or maybe I'm just not a Whopper guy.

Price - 4

Just over $3. The meal, which includes a drink, fries, and a mule is like $7. I'm severly underestimating the cost of making mediocre fries and fountain beverages. I am guessing if you have the app, they are practically giving these things away. But that combo meal price is just too alto for this chico.

Food Quantity - 5 

This is where the Whopperrito shines (if you're obese). One Whopperrito with no sides left me with that delightful feeling of contentness. Now, could I eat another? Please stop reading now if you think not. But two would fully satisfy a hungry Sok, while one will satiate my appetite in between feedings. 5/5!!!

Intangibles - 2

The Whopperrito name is gold, Jerry. Gold. But that's about it. This is essentially a half step away from emptying a chicken caesar wrap and filling it with a blended Whopper. If you know a better way to get soft tortilla shells, I'm all ears.

Overall - 3

The only fun thing about the Whopperrito is saying it. And maybe wondering why an employee needs a level to make one. I guess the only way to properly rate the Whopperrito is to rank it with the other gimmick foods.

My list...

Lobster Roll (McD) < Double Down (KFC) < Mozzarella Sticks (McD) < Whopperrito (BK) < Hot Dog (BK) < McRib (McD) < Doritos Locos Taco (TB) < Famous Bowl (KFC).

So there you have it. Whopperrito is better than McDonald's mozzarella sticks. I guess I could have saved like 400 words and just put it that way.

The History of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II

The second annual Brooklyn NXT special is in the books.  Let's see what went down....

Brooklyn II - Barclays Center - 8.20.16

Yet another banner showing for the NXT brand, Brooklyn II solidified the tradition of NXT setting the tone for SummerSlam weekend and keeping the main roster on its toes.  For the second straight year, NXT sold out the Barclays Center and unleashed a barrage of good-to-great matches, debuted some new faces, and made history.

The show opened with veteran Austin Aries taking on the fun-loving No Way Jose, who decided to get a little serious after weeks of being bullied by A-Double.  Aries' technique matched up well with Jose's unorthodox style, and the two put on a strong 12-minute opener that ended with Aries tapping Jose with the Last Chancery.  A good showing for Aries and a nice first step in the evolution of Jose's character.

Next up was the debut match for Ember Moon, whose was presented with an intimidating air of mystique, complete with unnerving red contact lenses and a vampiric look.  Her opponent Billie Kay surprisingly got most of the offense, but the story here was Ember's resiliency, as she regained control and finished Billie off with a spectacular twisting Stunner off the top rope.  Great finisher, decent little match.

The final undercard bout was the televised in-ring debut of former TNA Champion Bobby Roode, who absolutely has WWE's music production team to thank for much of his instant overness.  That entrance theme is super hooky and has a heavy Queen influence.  Two days later and it's still stuck in my head.  Roode's opponent, Andrade Almas, is a lot of fun to watch in the ring, with innovative, quirky offense, but has yet to define who his character is supposed to be.  Roode on the other hand owns the ring character-wise but his offense is a bit lacking.  After a solid nine minutes of action Roode finished Almas with a banal pumphandle slam.  Surely he can come up with a better finisher than that.

The show kicked into high gear with the final three bouts, all of them for championships.  The Revival put on an absolute tag team clinic against Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano.  The bout started pretty methodical but dazzled in the second half, with insane counterwrestling and near-falls.  The crowd bought into every two-count and the last five minutes contained half a dozen believable false finishes.  At the end of the bout Dash Wilder hobbled Gargano with a chopblock, allowing Scott Dawson to submit him with a reverse figure four.  Helluva tag match, and yet another excellent showing from The Revival.

Monday, August 22, 2016

WWE SummerSlam: The Best Main Roster PPV of 2016 (by default)

Well it was quite a wrestling weekend to say the least.  Between the mostly excellent NXT TakeOver special (a full review will be forthcoming) and last night's SummerSlam (including pre-show matches) WWE gave us roughly 8.5 hours of wrestling.  Now, I'm as big a wrestling fan as anyone I know (Trust me, most people I know think I'm batshit insane because of how much I like this stuff), but 8.5 hours is a lot to ask anyone to commit to.

One thing that's so nice about the NXT specials is they're never longer than 150 minutes or so.  They never overstay their welcome.  But main roster PPVs these days aren't beholden to traditional PPV time constraints, and thus even the B-shows are starting to run 3.5 hours, while WrestleMania and Summerslam are each over four, plus two hours of preshow content.  By the end of the proper PPV you feel like you've been watching for days and the main event suffers because of it.  That's counterintuitive by anyone's standards.

So how was SummerSlam?  That's honestly a hard question to answer, given what a mixed bag it was.  This lineup was the most stacked in many years, with no fewer than four potential Match of the Year candidates (on paper anyway), plus a good amount of variety in the undercard.  Had the execution been stronger we'd likely be including SummerSlam 2016 in the "Greatest SummerSlam Ever" conversation.  But a few things kept it from reaching that level.  First though, let's talk about what did work.

Let me preface this by saying that there were no bad matches on this show.  I didn't dislike anything except the one match that turned into a non-match.

I would've liked to see Cesaro vs. Sheamus actually open the PPV, since these two always work well together and this was no exception.  It wasn't anything amazing but in the first slot this would've fit perfectly.  Sheamus won the first match of the series as I figured, and this was a fitting way to kick off the series (and should've kicked off the proper PPV).

The actual opening match, JeriKO vs. Enzo & Cass, was just fine but it was very strange to see Kevin Owens, seemingly on the verge of breakout status, relegated to an opening tag match (Though nowhere near as infuriating as Sami Zayn's position in a preshow tag match).  I figured this was all to set up a Jericho-Owens feud, but it looks like JeriKO could be destined for the Tag straps at some point soon.  I guess I'm okay with that.  It would certainly be a feather in Owens' cap to dethrone The New Day.  This was fine.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Landon's Top Ten G1 Climax Matches

by Landon Wayne

G1 Climax is over, and trying to boil down the top 10 out of over 90 matches is a Herculean Effort. And since I don’t feel like going mental over watching that much OVER again, I’m going to cop out and give you my 10 favorite matches from the G1, in no particular order. These are the highlight matches that I’d recommend to anyone. Now as a spoiler, the “semifinals” of Tanahashi/Okada and Naito/Omega and the Finals of the tournament will NOT be on this list. Because you shouldn’t need me to tell you to watch them. I will also not mention Okada vs Ishii, because Dave Meltzer gave it 5 stars, and that speaks for itself.

We’ll start with a trio of matches that I was really happy to see. SANADA vs Tanahashi, YOSHI-HASHI vs Kenny Omega, and Tama Tonga vs Tomohiro Ishii were showcases of just how much the three G1 rookies could really do. SANADA and YOSHI’s first matches in the tournament served to showcase them against two of the biggest stars in the company; SANADA playing a powerful and determined figure against consummate good guy Tanahashi, and YOSHI showing great fighting spirit against the leader of The Bullet Club. Tama Tonga’s G1 was a very slow start, but after picking up a victory against Tanahashi, he really started giving good performances, and his match against Ishii certainly proved to be his best. Though it was against Ishii, and trying to get a bad match out of the man is near impossible.

Two of my favorite matches from the tournament are matches that many may not have even considered. When Tetsuya Naito vs Yuji Nagata was over, I was surprisingly satisfied with what I had watched. The story of the match was diverted from Naito’s usual disrespect shtick. There seemed to be a slight change in Naito’s disposition here. In his matches with Tanahashi and Okada, you can see his disdain for the men at the top of the hill, but with Nagata that wasn’t present. You could see the respect he had for the man he faced, many times treating him as a more legitimate threat than many would, and in that way made the veteran seem great throughout the match. Now let’s talk about Kenny Omega vs Toru Yano, and what was possibly my favorite match before the semifinals happened. I knew this match would be an enjoyable experience, Kenny with his DDT and PWG experience and Yano being Yano. But the 9 minutes this match lasted were enjoyable from bell to bell. Low blows, hair pulls, distracted refs and exposed turnbuckles made this a tear-rending comedy for the ages.

Michael Elgin vs Katsuyori Shibata certainly gets a nod for the significance of a Champion vs. Champion contest, a rarity in New Japan anytime except for the tournament. The match itself was exciting, showing the two different kinds of power a wrestler can hold, exhibiting the physical feats of Elgin and the striking ability of Shibata. Another great “title” match up came from the A Block, when Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Naomichi Marufuji gave us the battle of the Aces. New Japan’s and NOAH’s bests came to blows near the end of the tournament, and will stand to be a great testament to both men and their companies. Another excellent once-in-a-year matchup came between EVIL vs Tetsuya Naito. Stablemates don’t fight often, and this was the first time (save possibly from Watanabe’s Young Boy days) that these two ever had a match. 20 minutes later the two were still fighting in a match not many may have given a chance. But you all should.

Finally, a look at the strong style of yesterday and the strong style of today. Tomohiro Ishii vs Togi Makabe was a very good condensed version of their NEVER Openweight feud of 2015. The two men beat the holy Tenryu out of each other, and gave everyone a very good show on the last day of A block matches. And Katsuyori Shibata vs Katsuhiko Nakajima proved to be everything everyone told me it would be. One match took Nakajima from zero to ten in my eyes, in what was a wonderfully crisp and painful match. Both matches showcase two mentalities of strong style; the rough and blunt style that Makabe and Ishii brought, and that sharp, fast pace that Shibata brought and Nakajima delivered right back. Truly, a pair of can’t miss performances.

WWE SummerSlam 2016 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of WWE PPV Predictions!

This Sunday is the #2 PPV on WWE's calendar, SummerSlam!  Like last year the show is in Brooklyn, the show will be four hours, and the show has the potential to be a classic.  Actually I found last year's SummerSlam a rather unexpected pleasure, one that for me easily upstaged WrestleMania 31.  This year's WrestleMania set the bar fairly low, and on paper the SummerSlam lineup bludgeons it to death with its own shoes.  There are at least three or four potential Match of the Year candidates on this show and I'm not sure which bout I'm most excited for.

The WWE brand split is in full effect, with predictably mixed results.  The good news is we have a bevy of marquee matchups on this card and a ton of star power.  The bad news is, WHERE THE FUCK IS SAMI ZAYN??  The guy won his feud with Kevin Owens while delivering a MOTY candidate, and they have nothing for him to do??  Move him to Smackdown where there's room then.  Christ!

Anyway, let's take a look at the lineup.

***Currently I'm two picks ahead of Dan, 29/43 to 27/43.***

Best of Seven Series, Match 1: Cesaro vs. Sheamus

I'm not sure why this needs to be a Best of Seven series, especially since they've already fought twice on RAW.  But I like this pairing.  I'd like it even more if Sheamus weren't damaged beyond repair.  Both of these guys should really be on the blue brand, as they're getting lost in the shuffle on the overcrowded RAW.  But this match should be a good, stiff slugfest.  Cesaro better come out of this feud with some real direction.

Justin's pick: I think Sheamus takes the first match in the series
Dan's pick: Dude, I dunno. This seems pointless to me. Cesaro.

Becky Lynch/Carmella/Naomi vs. Natalya/Eva Marie/Alexa Bliss

Not much going on in this one except for the Becky-Nattie feud.  Somehow this is leading to the introduction of a Smackdown Women's belt, and if you ask me (and WWE hasn't) I'd prefer the current Women's Champ simply be featured on both shows.  But what do I know?  There's enough talent in this match for something entertaining but I doubt it gets much time.

UPDATE: Eva Marie has been suspended, so she will no longer be participating.  Dunno if that means a handicap match or what.  Personally I'd just turn it into a five-way for the new Smackdown Women's Title.

Justin's pick: Team Nattie
Dan's pick: GO BECKY

Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Apollo Crews

It's telling how thin the Smackdown roster is when Crews is already getting an IC Title shot.  Crews has thus far had no direction and little in the way of a character.  He's an accomplished athlete and a likable babyface, but main roster Creative hasn't given us a reason to care about him.  Know what would've been ten times better?  Move Sami Zayn to Smackdown and have him feud with The Miz!  What sense does it make that the super-over Zayn isn't on this show but the not-over Crews is in a Title match?

Justin's pick: This could go either way, but since fans aren't really clamoring to see Crews win the belt it makes much more sense to leave it on Miz for now.
Dan's pick: I see no point in giving this to Apollo right now.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NXT TakeOver Predictions!

This weekend, the night before SummerSlam, the NXT roster is invading the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to once again show the main roster how it's done.  You'll recall that last year's TakeOver: Brooklyn was a fantastic show with an astounding double main event, the first half of which wrote a new chapter in the annals of women's wrestling.

This year's lineup looks just as strong.  We have a new women's star debuting, a former TNA Champion making his televised in-ring debut, a potential tag team classic, a TakeOver: Dallas Women's Title rematch, and a dazzling first-ever dream match for the NXT Championship.  This is gonna be a big deal.

Let's get to the predictions.  I'm currently 9 for 10 since I started picking NXT winners.  Mr. Landon Wayne will also give his picks.

Ember Moon vs. Billie Kay

The former Athena (of Shimmer fame) is making her NXT debut this Saturday, against NXT enhancement talent Billie Kay.  This is a showcase match for Ember, so obviously she's winning.

Justin's pick: Ember Moon
Landon's pick: Ember Moon

Austin Aries vs. No Way Jose

It's the comedy wrestler vs. the no-nonsense grappler.  Should be an interesting clash of styles and it'll be fun to see how frustrated Aries gets trying to work around Jose's shenanigans.  In the end though I have to think Aries shuts him down.

Justin's pick: Austin Aries
Landon's pick: Austin Aries

Bobby Roode vs. Andrade Almas

This should be a really fun match.  Andrade has an exciting, explosive style and Bobby Roode is a helluva mechanic.  This being Roode's first televised NXT match, I can't see him losing.

Justin's pick: Bobby Roode
Landon's pick: Bobby Roode

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

by Dan Moore


Three movies into the DC Cinematic Universe, three swings and misses. After watching the dour mess that Man of Steel and the long, complicated, and ultimately disappointing Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad was supposed to be DC’s fun entry into their movie world. They failed, miserably.

The movie starts off ok enough. Amanda Waller, played masterfully by Viola Davis, is high-ranking government official that decides in the aftermath of Supes' death, they need some real scumbags to protect the Earth. Of course. That’s logical. They introduce all the Suicide Squadders, with Will Smith’s Deadshot getting the most backstory and screen time. Which makes sense, he’s one of the most popular actors in the world. What doesn’t make sense is that he’s supposed to be a bad guy. And the bad guy actions they show him making in his introductory flashbacks is killing mobsters. So…not really a bad guy. Sure, he’s a hitman that gets paid for his killings, but they only show him killing bad guys. He’s also got a young daughter he cares about, so he’s actually just trying to make enough money to take care of his kid.  I realize that’s so Will Smith isn’t shown as some vile scumbag devoid of any possible redemption, but to make a villain team with a good guy-ish leader is already suspect.

Then we get Harley Quinn, the Joker’s girlfriend played marvelously by Margot Robbie. She nails this role, even while not really given much to say (though when she does talk, she somewhat mimics Arleen Sorkin’s iconic voice as Harley from Batman the Animated Series). Peculiar, as she’s essentially the second lead in this flick after Smith. Her backstory shows how she was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum assigned to the Joker but OOPS, she falls in love with Mr. J. Here’s kind of where the movie goes off the rails for me, and it’s twofold:

1. Why is Harley invited into the Squad? Everyone else has some sort of super-ish powers. She’s just some crazy loon who knows the Joker.

2. I’m pretty sure she’s here so we get a glimpse at Jared Leto’s Joker. He doesn't really belong in this movie. It's just weird the way they inserted him into it. He shows up from time to time in flashbacks and in the storyline proper, but for no real reason. The movie kinda just throws him in there like "Hey look, it's the Joker, that kooky killer clown you know; we don't need to tell you why!"

The History of NXT TakeOver: Rival

Rival - Full Sail - 2.11.15

Continuing the upward trend, NXT put together another near-classic show with Rival, which paid off the two-month Zayn vs. Owens feud and also shook up the Women's division a bit.  This show once again featured some incredible action, particularly in the final three bouts, and was overall on par with the first TakeOver.

Starting things off was Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze; a decent match but a little underwhelming.  I don't know if Itami and Breeze just didn't have that much chemistry or if Itami was having trouble adjusting to NXT in general.  The ending was a bit out of nowhere, as Itami won with a running kick.  Thus far Itami hasn't come close to his work in Japan.

Next was the only miss of the night, as Baron Corbin faced Bull Dempsey in a brief but inoffensive little brawl.  I think this was Corbin's first real feud and Dempsey provided a change from the usual Corbin squashes.  Ultimately though Dempsey wasn't much of a challenge and Corbin won in under five minutes.

The Tag Titles were up next in a bout that almost fell off the rails.  Blake & Murphy defended against Lucha Dragons in what turned out a very fun tag match with wild tandem moves and a ton of nearfalls.  Both Sin Cara and Kalisto botched moves early on but once they found their footing this match settled into a nice little outing.  After a blind tag Kalisto hit the Salida del Sol on Murphy only for Blake to roll him up for the pin.  Nice stuff.

The triad of excellence began with Finn Balor vs. Adrian Neville.  This was one helluva good #1 Contender's Match that started out methodical with Neville once again wrestling more like a heel, but the match escalated into some nice oneupmanship with a red-hot crowd.  Balor countered the Red Arrow by raising his knees, rolled up Neville up for a two-count, and then hit the Coup de Grace for the win.  This was good enough to be a main event, and it was only fourth out of six.

This match was ultimately a passing of the NXT torch

The real show stealer of the undercard though was the 4-Way Women's Title match, as NXT's "Four Horsewomen" tore the house down with a non-stop war.  While 4-Way matches are often a tough sell for me, all of these women delivered; Charlotte played the dominant Champion, Sasha and Becky were the scrappy challengers, and Bayley was the underdog who showed nary a bit of offense until late in the match.  After nearly pulling off an upset, Bayley was tossed out of the match along with Becky, and Sasha locked in the Bank Statement on Charlotte.  Charlotte fought the move for about a full minute before Sasha rolled her backward for a pin and the Championship.  While not on the level of Charlotte vs. Natalya, or the later Sasha-Bayley bouts, this was still a super high-energy match and began a trend of the women routinely upstaging the guys in NXT.

Sasha's reign of awesome began here

The main event paired up old frenemies Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship.  Wow.  This was one of those main events that had great action but also told such a compelling story.  Owens' role was akin to Lesnar's when he suplexed the bejeezus out of Cena.  But this match ended up stronger than that one because Zayn got to fight back more and also because Zayn is a more convincing underdog.  So the crowd actually became visibly concerned by the end when Owens hit five or six powerbombs in a row.  Finally the ref stopped the fight and awarded Owens the NXT Title.  Just a fantastic piece of drama between two guys with great chemistry.

Not so much a match as an unbridled ass-kicking

Not much else to say about this show; it was an excellent TakeOver special that arguably tied the first TakeOver as the best in the series thus far.  But NXT would continue to outdo themselves in the coming months.

Best Match: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens
Worst Match: Baron Corbin vs. Bull Dempsey
What I'd Change: Not a ton, maybe have Itami work more on finding his new identity
Most Disappointing Match: Hideo Itami vs. Tyler Breeze
Most Pleasant Surprise: That the Women's 4-way was such a hit
Overall Rating: 8.5/10

R Evolution

Monday, August 15, 2016

NJPW G1 Climax 26 Thoughts & Recap

Well sir (and madam), another G1 Climax tournament is in the history books, and what a wild ride it was.  This is only the second G1 I had the privilege of experiencing as it happened, and while the tourney began in slightly underwhelming fashion compared to last year's, it built to a cresendo and ended on a VERY high note, with two near-perfect "semi-final" matches and an almost equally great Final.

Both Landon and I correctly predicted the winner (meaning I called both this and the BOSJ winner, because I rule), and I couldn't be happier that the company went with the more adventurous choice of Kenny Omega to headline next year's WrestleKingdom.  I know many were upset that Naito didn't get the duke, but as I said before, we've seen Okada vs. Naito twice this year, and they co-headlined WrestleKingdom 8 already.  Now is the time to create new main eventers, and Kenny Omega proved over the last two nights of the G1 that he is more than ready for that position.

The two NOAH imports both put on impressive showings - Naomichi Marufuji predictably had good-to-excellent matches with almost all nine of his opponents, while Katsuhiko Nakajima, with whom I was unfamiliar going in, impressed me quite a bit with top-notch showings against Michael Elgin, Naito, Kenny Omega, and Shibata.  This NJPW vs. NOAH angle they set up yesterday is certainly intriguing, and hopefully they'll get some good mileage out of it.

The booking of the tourney was certainly unexpected.  Tanahashi for example went 0 for his first 3 matches before going on a tear and coming within inches of winning A Block.  The execution of the A Block finale was shocking in a good way; Tanahashi and Okada put on yet another epic match that ran the full 30 minutes, going to a draw and allowing Hirooki Goto to back-door his way to the Finals.  Goto had several very good showings during the tournament but once again fell short of the big win at the end.  I'm not sure where his story goes from here (I have a good idea, more on that in a bit).  IWGP Champ Okada took a few pretty significant losses, dropping matches to Bad Luck Fale, Marufuji, and stablemate Ishii (I want like crazy for Ishii to use that loss as the impetus for demanding a Title shot).  LIJ members Evil and Sanada got some big wins, Evil over Shibata (I'd love to see a rematch of that one) and Michael Elgin; Sanada over Goto, Ishii and Tanahashi.

The tournament MVP this year (for at least the second time some would argue) was Tomohiro Ishii, who turned in multiple great performances against a variety of opponents, most notably his Chaos pal Okada.  Ishii would've been my choice to win A Block as a matter of fact.  The guy deserves a main event run, as he's consistently one of the most compelling stars in the company.

As always this year's G1 had easily half a dozen Match of the Year candidates (though not as many as the 2014 and 2015 editions), and narrowing the list down to a Top Ten was a bit challenging.  But I've done so - below are my picks, in chronological order.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Upcoming Albums Mike is Excited For

by Michael Drinan

We all love it when artists we follow release new material. New music, new sounds, something new to bitch about. Then there are times when a whole slew of artists you like release new material all around the same time, causing you to meticulously plot and plan when to preorder what album just so you don’t blow your entire savings to get the limited edition color vinyl that is only available if you preorder the album and YOU HAVE get them all! (*sigh* my life!)

Anyways, here are the upcoming releases I’m looking forward to.

Lydia Loveless - Real  
Out 8/19

This country-punk artist caught my attention when she showed up on Rolling Stone’s “10 Artists You Need To Know” back in January 2014. She was about to release her third album Somewhere Else to critical acclaim at the time and instantly became an artist I would incessantly follow. I caught her live show twice that year and it was amazing. It was country rock music but felt more like a punk show. She made enough noise to have documentarian Gorman Bechard make a film about her as she recorded her new album. Her voice is cutting, her lyrics pretty provocative. She is not your typical country music artist. She floats between country, punk, rock and pop. There are a couple of songs on the new album that sound almost New Wave-ish indicating that she’s continuing to branch out to new styles of music, which is always a plus.

Angel Olsen - MY WOMAN
Out 9/2

Indie rock/folk artist Angel Olsen released the fantastic album Burn Your Fire For No Witness in 2014 which put her on my radar. She also received some Twitter validation from Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney (a personal Top 5 all time favorite band) after its release. Her follow up, MY WOMAN, sees her branch out a little further into a more pop-oriented sound while addressing “the complicated mess of being a woman.” She’s a fantastic songwriter and her lyrics are often dark as they are punishing, wrapping around themes of love, identity, and strength vs. weakness. She’s one of the few emerging artists where I’m really looking forward to seeing what she does.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of All Time, Picked Apart (51-100)

By Michael Drinan

We carry on with our bashing of Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by tackling entries 51-100. Check out my thoughts on the Top 50 of the list here.

51. Simon and Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water
52. Al Green - Greatest Hits
53. The Beatles - Meet The Beatles!
54. Ray Charles - The Birth of Soul: The Complete Atlantic Recordings
55. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland
56. Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
57. Stevie Wonder - Songs In The Key Of Life
58. The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet
59. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Chronicle Vol. 1
60. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica
61. Sly and the Family Stone - Greatest Hits
62. Guns N’ Roses - Appetite For Destruction
63. U2 - Achtung Baby
64. The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
65. Phil Spector - Back to Mono (1958-69)
66. Van Morrison - Moondance
67. Radiohead - Kid A
68. Michael Jackson - Off The Wall
69. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin (aka 4)
70. Billy Joel - The Stranger

Overall I like this group a lot, however it does give us more unnecessary greatest hits compilations which is just infuriating. If you’re going to go with a Ray Charles album at #54 it’s hands down Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. It was a game changer and raised the genre of country music to extraordinary heights. You can take your pick at what Sly and the Family Stone album should be at #61 instead of their Greatest Hits. We haven’t even gotten through the Top 100 of this list and this “greatest hits issue” is already a problem.

*takes a deep breath*

Alright, I like Bridge Over Troubled Water at #51. It was such a great album by a fractured duo that it showed through even in the album’s title. As much trouble that persisted in the songs, Simon and Garfunkel expressed it in the most peaceful and emotional way.

Meet The Beatles! is in the perfect spot also. It’s such an influential album to many artists and fans alike but its placement doesn’t feel forced.

Really happy to see Guns N’ Roses’ debut album in the Top 100 at #62. It’s such a great rock album.

Billy Joel’s The Stranger coming in at #70 is also a good thing to see considering he was never a favorite among critics during this period. That album is fantastic and could be confused with a greatest hits album considering how many well-known classic songs are on there. It’s also my favorite album to play on vinyl, just has a great feel to it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Movie Review - Batman: The Killing Joke

by Dan Moore

One of the most iconic of Batman comic book stories, The Killing Joke is seen as the definitive origin story of the Dark Knight’s most feared nemesis, the Joker. The story of a poor, sad sack comedian with a pregnant wife coerced into a robbery, it shows how one really bad day can make a man go insane. It’s a masterfully woven tale that is almost impossible to screw up if you adapt it to the screen.

DC screwed up this adaptation to the screen. Masterfully. The gist of the story is (SPOILER ALERT) the Joker goes nuts after his wife is accidently killed. Years later, he wants to prove that anyone can go nuts. He goes to Barbara Gordon’s (the Commissioner's daughter) house. He shoots her in the spine, paralyzing her, and kidnaps the Commissioner. But Jim Gordon’s resolve holds and Batman once again saves the day. The story is a tad short, so they had to pad it a little.

So what did they add to this adaptation? They wrote a roughly 30-minute prologue to the main story, about Barbara and her adventures as Batgirl. It’s a completely subpar Batman story about a generic thug and gangsters with guns. It seems like it woulda been a filler episode on the old Batman Animated Series and here they are adding it to a feature-length adaptation of one of the most famous stories in the Dark Knight detective’s history.

Not only that, but they also screw up Barbara’s portrayal completely. Complaints about the original comic stem from the fact that Babs is used as the weak female motivation to get the guys' plots moving around. So the producers of this flick wanted to add to her story to make her a more fully-realized character. No problem there. But how they do it is completely wrong. I’ve always looked at Batman as a teacher to Batgirl. A mentor of sorts. But not here. Oh no. In this, they use Babs as a sort of lovelorn teenage girl. She’s got a major crush on Batman that he doesn’t reciprocate. When they get into an argument concerning Batgirl’s methods on the case after chasing bad guys on a roof, it becomes a shouting match, then it gets physical, with the kicking and the punching. And then they bone. Seriously. In the middle of night, on top of this roof, after fighting each other, Batgirl jumps onto Batman, kisses him, takes her top off, and he gives her the ol’ batarang. It’s LUDICROUS. It’s so out of character with how this relationship is traditionally portrayed as to be laughable. It completely took me out of the story. I laughed out loud at this development.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of All Time, Picked Apart (1-50)

by Michael Drinan

In 2003, Rolling Stone compiled what they deemed to be the definitive list of The Greatest Albums of All Time. They reached these conclusions using a poll of 271 artists, producers, industry execs and journalists. They’ve updated that list by using a 2009 poll of the same experts asking for the Top 100 Albums of the 2000s to compile this newer “definitive” list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Please join me as I completely rip it apart.

We’re going to do things a little different and start from #1-50 because it’s probably the most predictable section. They’ve done these kind of lists for a long time now that you could probably guess the top spots with relative ease so the suspense is pretty lacking.

Here’s the Top 20:

1. The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
3. The Beatles - Revolver
4. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
5. The Beatles - Rubber Soul
6. Marvin Gaye - What’s Going On?
7. Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
8. The Clash - London Calling
9. Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde
10. The Beatles - The White Album
11. Elvis Presley - The Sun Sessions
12. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
13. The Velvet Underground and Nico - The Velvet Underground
14. The Beatles - Abbey Road
15. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced?
16. Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
17. Nirvana - Nevermind
18. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
19. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
20. Michael Jackson - Thriller

Please...stop me if you’ve seen this before.

Barely anyone is going to argue with the Top 20 and if they do they’re only nitpicking placement. All of these albums had a historical and artistic impact on popular music at the time of their release. Whether they were appreciated at the time of their release is another issue but for the most part, it’s an easy Top 20 to digest. There’s nothing outrageous about it. Maybe, and I mean maaaaaaybe London Calling at #8 is a little high, especially over Blonde On Blonde, but again...nitpicking.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

by Dan Moore

Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones and the rest are all back again for the thirteenth Star Trek movie, and the third in this action-packed reboot series. As my colleague Justin and I have discussed before, these movies have been technically sound and overall enjoyable, however they’re lacking the strong characterization of the previous films. They’ve got their big action scenes and giant special effects, but they haven’t quite given us the versions of the iconic characters we've come to know and love.

That said, they make huge strides in this new installment towards fixing that gripe. This movie has easily the best and most heartfelt interactions of these iconic characters yet in this series. Kirk and the gang finally all feel like friends, instead of the audience just understanding that they are supposed to be. They speak warmly to each other, there’s real camaraderie between them all and the scenes with Spock and Bones on their journey alone feel exactly how two friends would interact as they’re being put in a tough situation.

It’s a good thing the characters are finally real people because this particular Trek is just…meh. The Trekkers are in their third year of their five-year mission, and they come upon an escape pod. The survivor tells them that the ship, filled with her people is trapped and needs help. Which turns into an ambush. The Enterprise is attacked and destroyed, stranding its crew on the nearby planet below. The crew is separated into groups and must find each other while simultaneously fighting the bad guy that caused the ambush and destruction of their ship.

It’s a very pedestrian plot device. Just chucking the crew on a forest planet doesn’t get my juices flowing. It seems more like an episode of one of the TV shows than a big-budget Trek movie. It’s a standard plot device: separate your main characters into little groups and have them meet up with each other just in time to save the day. It was terribly predictable in that sense.

The bad guy, Krall, played by Idris Elba, is totally underwhelming. He’s got some weird voice he’s doing and he’s buried under piles of makeup. When you got a guy like Elba in your cast, why hide him? I felt no sense of dread from the guy. Not a very good villain.

And the villain’s plan…it’s been done a million times before. Christ, Star Trek: Generations AND Wrath of Khan have essentially the same bad guy motivation. There’s some changes but it’s very similar. Totally lazy in the bad guy department.

To be fair, the way the bad guy ships attack, like a swarm of locusts,
is cool to look at

As with the previous two films in this series, the effects are awesome-looking. And the action is front and center all over this movie, thanks in large part to director Justin Lin, of The Fast and the Furious franchise. He amps up the action and even includes a goddamn motorcycle chase. IN SPACE. It’s not as silly as it sounds. But it’s silly.

This is an okay Trek movie at best. After the epic new reboot and the second one at least incorporating THE iconic villain of the franchise, this third entry seems to take the foot off the gas. It’s a forgettable, likable film. It is safe to say this one does not enter into the pantheon of great Trek films. Adding excellent characterization to these movies finally adds a huge layer of enjoyment to them. 'Tis a shame the rest of the flick was so mediocre.

Monday, August 1, 2016


by Dan Moore

Jason Bourne is BACK! And he’s got a new hat! Matt Damon returns as everyone’s favorite amnesiac government killer (How they didn’t name this Bourne Again is beyond me).

Fixed it
Bourne is off the grid…again. But some old white dude that’s in charge of some shady agency has to kill him…again. So he gets pulled back in, against his will, into the world of secret agents and killing…again. And there’s a vast conspiracy that Bourne knows about that can’t be leaked because of government secrets…again. Have you seen any of the previous Bourne movies? Congratulations, you’ve seen this one too!

Yes, Bourne, that cockeyed optimist, has gotten himself mixed up in the high stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue all over again. This movie, like the previous trilogy (and hell even the Damon-less Bourne Legacy), is done quite well. It’s what you’d expect from a Bourne movie. It’s also a lot of the same. We’ve seen it all before. Bourne’s a little more weathered and tired-looking, but there he is kicking ass again. There’s scenes in big rooms with computers and people hacking this and that. These scenes are interchangeable with all the other movies in the Bourne series. It’s all been done before.

They also tack on some sort of family-type origin story. It’s ludicrous. Seems our boy, little Davey Webb, never really stood a chance when it came to becoming a zombified super warrior. This plot element seems totally forced just to get us another Bourne movie. Also, the prior movie, Legacy, made it a huge point to say how Bourne disappeared and they couldn’t find him. Like he was a legend in the espionage game. And then they find him in literally minutes, at the beginning of this movie. If Damon and director Paul Greengrass’ whole point was to invalidate the last flick they had nothing to do with, mission accomplished.

This guy?  Yeah, never happened.

That’s not to say I hated the movie. Far from it. I like all the Bourne flicks, and this one is no exception. Damon is still great as the stoic government agent. The supporting characters are fine as usual. And the action scenes are shot great. They’re tense and not confusingly edited. As always, the car chases are awesome.

These movies need some new life, however. Bourne can’t keep being off the grid, then back on it. We don’t need more classified documents being declassified. And for Christ’s sake, how many more old white guys are gonna be behind these giant conspiracies and projects with weird names like Treadstone and BlackBriar? We’ve gone through Bryan Cox, Albert Finney, David Strathairn and now ol’ craggle face Tommy lee Jones. Who’s left? Glad you asked.

1. Michael Douglas, head of operation RomancingTheStone
2. Christopher Walken…actually not a bad idea.
3. Sean Connery…that’s right, JAMES FUCKING BOND comes back and puts this pussy with his fractured memories off the grid…for good.

Or we can mix it up, get an old black actor to be in charge.

1. Morgan Freeman. He’s running operation WHACK!briar (Gotta get that urban crowd)
2. That’s it. Freeman’s the only old black guy Hollywood likes to use.

Anyway, the new Bourne movie is just like the old Bourne movies. It’s a good action picture. But this formula is getting a little stale. Hopefully the next one will give us a new template cause I’m sick of the goddamn grid, being off it, being on it, whatever, just get rid of it.

I'd Like to Introduce You To......The Selfish Giant

by Michael Drinan

British filmmaking has been on the decline for the past few years, with very little British films being made and between 2003 and 2010 only 7% of British films made a profit.  Most of this has to do with British dramas being tougher to sell to British audiences, and big budget action flicks appeal to British entertainment studios because there is a better chance for profit.  However, with the success of films such as this one being highlighted and Philomena, just a couple of British films that have garnered rave reviews along with awards, maybe films that pack an emotional punch will get more attention with British studios.  Personally, I like emotional movies because I can relate to them, they’re more “human” and there’s a lot of modesty to them.  Also, the acting is usually superb.  I’m not talking “chick flicks” like Steel Magnolias or Beaches, those films are just too over the top for me to the point where I stop believing them.  When movies try too hard to get their audience to cry, for me its usually the opposite, I just end up rolling my eyes and dismissing the film.  When films trust the story progression with its characters without going straight to the waterworks, it blends itself into a perfect human story.  With that, let me introduce you to The Selfish Giant.

The film takes place in Northern England and centers around best friends Arbor and Swifty.  Arbor suffers from ADHD, angry outbursts and, along with his mother, shoulders the burden of his older brother’s drug debts.  Swifty is the oldest of eight in his family who lives in a house that doesn’t have basic needs, with a father who rents furniture and then sells it in order to support his family.  Both children long for affection and validation and find it in each other.  Arbor who has a short temper and is constantly in trouble leans on the always reliable Swifty, who is a gentler soul but is a rock of support for his friend.
The two boys come across a money making idea of rummaging the neighborhood for scrap metal and electrical wiring and selling it to Kitten, the local junk dealer who races street horses as an extra means to make money.  After he loses a race, he becomes aware of Swifty’s keen ability to handle his prize horse and enlists him to race him.  At the same time, Arbor sees the thieves making more money and begins to follow their lead.  The two rely on each other as they struggle to survive.  Dealing with his brother’s drug debts, Arbor feels a responsibility to help his mother as does Swifty with his family.  Arbor’s desire to make more money and going to any lengths necessary in order to obtain has him tip-toeing a fine line between honorable and being flat out dumb.  This runs up against Swifty’s belief that they shouldn’t push the envelope too much or else trouble will find them and take its toll.  Its in this conflict where the punch to the great lies.
The Selfish Giant is a gritty, realistic and human story that centers around the themes of friendship, capitalism, greed and the struggle to survive against the odds.  Its a grim tale that, in the end, opens you up and forces you to feel.  When I saw this film, I couldn’t help but cry and be touched by this film.  It was one of the best films I’d seen last year and continues to renew itself as such each and every time I watch it.
There isn’t a lot of action to this but the characters are clear and vibrant and the performances are just fantastic.  It won heavily at film festivals around Britain and the two boys portraying Arbor and Swifty both won for Best British Newcomer because the jury refused to separate them.  The film is highly rated holding a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Even though its a British film, I highly recommend the subtitles since the accents are thick and heavy to the point where it reminds you of Brad Pitt in Snatch.  The story is a moving portrayal of the friendship that exists where merely living seems bleak and pointless.  I challenge you not to feel something with this movie.

The Selfish Giant is streaming on Netflix.

Check out the trailer people!