Saturday, April 29, 2017

WWE Payback 2017 Preview & Predictions

with Dan Moore (@SouthieDanimal) and Landon Wayne (@LSWayne21)

Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at!  This month we're trying a three-man predictions panel, as our colleague Landon Wayne joins Dan and myself for some prognostications.

Well folks, the first post-WrestleMania PPV of 2017 looks quite solid on paper, minus one match (it's pretty obvious which one).   It's always refreshing when 'Mania season is over and we can get back to focusing on the actual roster.  As for this Superstar Shakeup nonsense, I'm holding judgment for a little while to see how everything plays out.  But I do hate this new Jinder Mahal push, which reeks of the same out-of-nowhere booking as in 2002 when the Big Show jumped from RAW, where he was a jobber to the stars for months, to Smackdown, where suddenly he was so fearsome Paul Heyman dumped Brock Lesnar to manage him.  Most of us either watch or follow both shows, guys.  We're not morons.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.  This show should be quite good overall, so let's get to it.

***So far this season I'm 9/12 to Dan's 5/12.  Landon's season will start now.***

Pre-Show Match: Enzo & Cass vs. Anderson & Gallows

I don't care much about either of these teams anymore - The Club got a half-assed, brief Title run that did them no favors, and Enzo & Cass's shtick got old months ago.  The match should be okay I guess.

Justin's pick: Enzo & Cass finally get a win I guess.
Dan's pick: I guess. I don't care. Both these teams annoy me at this point.
Landon's pick: Bullet Club, because Landon's policy is Ride till you die, and I will die with Gallows and Anderson

WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Austin Aries

These two had a pretty damn good opener at 'Mania and hopefully they'll get a comparable amount of time.  Neville has been a great custodian of the division and I'd probably keep the belt on him a while longer, but I dunno if WWE has the patience for that.

Justin's pick: I have a feeling AA takes the belt here
Dan's pick: AA FTW
Landon's pick: There's no one left for Neville to face, so Aries gets it here.

RAW Tag Team Championship: The Hardy Boyz vs. Sheamus & Cesaro

I like this pairing - the Hardyz got one of the biggest pops at 'Mania for their surprise return and Title win.  However I don't see them as long-term Champions this time around.  S&C really should never have dropped the belts when they did.  Plus Matt needs a reason to be "Broken."

Justin's pick: Cesaro & Sheamus recapture the gold
Dan's pick: Hardyz keepz the beltz
Landon's pick: We can do to hold off on the broken turn for a little longer.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NFL Draft Preview 2017

Well, sports fans, tonight is it! After months of pointless games and a gigantic comeback in the championship, we finally get to the good stuff!


Guys in suits sitting around desks and calling out names all night! HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS IS ELECTRIFYING!!!


Man oh man, when I think of awesome sporting events, nothing gets my dick dripping like dudes at a desk saying names and talking about how high their ceilings are. You want excitement? Teams might trade picks for future picks that will be new guys with different names! Holy Jumping Christ, I'm moist.

Here now is what I would do with the first 5 draft picks.

#1 CLEVELAND BROWNS: I'd look for the remote.
#2 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Change the channel to literally anything else.
#3 CHICAGO BEARS: Seriously, anything else. Big Bang Theory, Real Housewives shows, maybe even an E! special about some junkie, like Whitney Houston or some shit.
#4 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Oh holy shit, you're kidding me, I CAN'T FIND THE REMOTE!
#5 TENNESSEE TITANS: Jump in front of a bus. Off myself. Anything is better than this garbage. I don't understand how any moron can watch this repetitive tripe for hours and hours on end. And I LOVE sports. Now if you'll excuse me, baseball is on.

And this is only the 1st inning. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

We Are At War: WWF Unforgiven 1998

So Spring Stampede last week was, for the most part, pretty good. The undercard matches were competitive, and the nWo matches were overall tolerable. So many of the things we're led to believe about WCW remain true today. But how will the WWF product hold up?

Unforgiven, April 26th, 1998

We're coming off one of the most significant Wrestlemanias of all time, with Steve Austin firmly at the helm, Rock and HHH building up slowly with their factions on the undercard. We're in for what looks like a loaded card, including the infamous first ever Inferno match between Undertaker and Kane.

The commentary team is the now iconic pair of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. This may come as a shock, but they're just as good as people remember them being. They had their flow down, and very seldom did they talk over each other, a problem that plagued the WCW commentary team last week.

Farooq, Ken Shamrock, and Steve Blackman vs The Nation (The Rock, D'Lo Brown, and Mark Henry) w/Kama Mustafa
Shamrock was unusually hot this night. It's amazing how of all six of these men, only two would go on to hold world titles in this company. The story that the Nation had betrayed Farooq translates well nineteen years later, and even if Ross wasn't driving the point home the psychology in the ring would tell you. The match started off really hot, but once we got to the heat that lasted 20 minutes in this 10 minute match, the crowd died a death. It seriously got worse until I was begging for the match to be over. Which came about 30 seconds after the hot tag, where Farooq pinned Rock.

Meltzer Rating: 1/2*
The match started very good, but then died a death as I said. Shame.

Triple H vs Owen Hart for the European Championship, Chyna in a Shark Cage
A week ago I said that AJ Styles was my favorite all-time wrestler. But for a long time, Owen Hart easily held that spot. He's still easily in my top 10, and is probably never leaving. But Race almighty, was he acting like a dork in this match, He seemed to be channeling every hokey 80s southern babyface. Maybe he was just trying to make himself laugh. The match was building up to being a good performance, before the bullshit happened.

So try and follow me, and remember I'm making none of this up.
Chyna, suspended in a cage 20 feet in the air, bends the cage bars and escapes. She proceeds to dangle from the cage, which gets lowered by Road Dogg. She then distracts about 6 people, so that X-Pac could clonk Owen in the head with a fire extinguisher, so Hunter could get the pin.

Got that? Don't care, moving on

Meltzer Rating: **3/4
It would have been good, bu then the shenanigans made it pointless.

The New Midnight Express w/Jim Cornette vs The Rock and Roll Express for the NWA Tag Team Championships
It was a traditional 80s tag team match, in the middle of the Monday Night Wars. t some point you could feel the crowd trying to care, but they really couldn't. I wanted to get myself excited for this match, but couldn't because of the dead crowd. Mechanically the match was fine, and there was some fun double team spots from the Midnight. But God bless all five men involved, but they were out here to die a death. Midnight won.

Meltzer Rating: *
Jim Cornette was out there and making it somewhat entertaining.

Sable vs. Luna Vachon, Evening Gown Match
What a fucking relic this match was. The fact that this got the second biggest reaction on the show is ridiculous. Sable's dress did a good job of not showing how big Sable's chest was. Seriously, you could kill a mini with those things. I don't know what else to say, there was tits abound.

Meltzer Rating: 1/2*

New Age Outlaws vs LOD 2000 w/Sunny for the WWF Tag Team Championships
Sunny is ridiculously hot. Hawk and Animal are getting on in age,but at this point they still look alright. Road Dogg did his singalongcoming out, and part of the crowd was going along with it. This was the Road Warriors trying to do a WWF tag match with heat and comebacks, and it's never worked in the past and didn't work here. Hawk got beat up forever, and only Jerry Lawler's commentary could save me. The match ended in a German Dusty finsih, completely wasting everyone's time.

Meltzer Rating: 3/4*
Tag team wrestling in the late 90s was dead as a door nail. It'll be another year and change before we get the E&C/Hardys revival.

I'm not sitting through a Jeff Jarrett Concert. Y'all can go fuck yourselves.

 Kane vs The Undertaker, Inferno Match
A match that turned out to be very good on camera, this was the first really entertaining match on the show. The second official match in the Goddamn Feud That'll Never End, it was a well paced Kaiju fight surrounded in fire for aesthetic.Eventually, the match spilled outside, and The Undertaker managed a spectacular dive over the top rope and the fire. The ending fell flat, seemingly almost an accident in story, which is a shame for a very good monster fight. It took forever for Tim White to call for the bell, as Kane ran with his arm on fire to the back.

Meltzer Rating: **3/4
This match has been on at least two DVD sets before, so it's real easy to find this match on accident. Would I go out of my way to see this match on the Network? Maybe not, but if you're here for the main event, maybe consider watching this one.

Steve Austin vs. Dude Love for the WWF Championship
Dude Love was always my sleeper favorite persona of Mick Foley. This is Austin's first big show title defense, and already he's fully into the McMahon feud that arguably helped win the War. Despite the silence for about half the roster, the crowd went wild for Austin. While not a technical spectacle, the fight was a very good story between these two men. They brawled in the ring, outside the ring, up the ramp, back down the ramp, and eventually back in the ring. Then, in 1998, we had our first instance of a Montreal Screwjob tease, as McMahon came out after promising catastrophe earlier. We didn't get a Screwjob, however, as Austin murdered Vince dead with a chair, Stunned Love, and counted his own three count.


Meltzer Rating: ****
A good main event. The Austin character is fun to watch, despite the style of match not being my preference. But I can see the appeal, and in the end this was just the continuation of the story for next month.

They say you can forgive a bad undercard if there's a good main event. Well, despite a very good main event, and a fun Inferno match, the rest of this card just absolutely dragged the whole show down. This is the side that won the Monday Night War? This is the boom period that had millions of fans and thousands of PPV buys? It has to get better.


(All Meltzer Ratings taken form The May 4th, 1998 issue of the Wrestling Observer.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku and Friends, The Preview

I think Gedo's finally lost his crackers with this one.

While definitely viable with the depth of their roster, spreading seven title matches out over three events is going to make for a crazy week. It would be equally crazy for me to try and preview every individual event that has a title match on it. So I'm going to be cutting what I look at down to the matches that New Japan deems important. Namely, the matches they've chosen to showcase on their video packages that play before the Road To Wrestling Dontaku events. Let's get started.

Road To Dontaku, 4/27 (CHAOS vs Suzuki-Gun)

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship (Second Defense): Suzuki-Gun (Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c) vs. Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Baretta)

I'm not surprised that the Jr. Tag title match is on the Road To show. As hot as Takahashi has made the Jr. Heavyweight title lately, Taichi and Kanemaru have cooled the tag titles off. That's nothing personal, just that between schmozz finishes and Taichi being generally hated for all the wrong reasons, there's just no interest for the tag titles. Roppongi Vice has spent all the time since losing their belts trashing the champions, and a loss here would look bad on the former champs

Landon's Pick: RPG Vice. Normally, I'm not one to endorse short title reigns, but seriously Suzuki-Gun is death for these titles.
Justin's Pick: RPG needs to win the belts back.

 NEVER Openweight Championship (Fourth Defense): Hirooki Goto (c) vs Minoru Suzuki

This one should be fun. In what is Goto's toughest challenge for the NEVER Openweight Title yet, the champion goes against the baddest man in New Japan.This leads to an interesting crossroads in the life of the NEVER Openweight title itself. Either Goto defends the belt, and shuts every doubter of his reign down (and ties Masato Tanaka and Tomohiro Ishii for total defenses), or Minoru takes the belt to begin a reign with the title that could last till Wrestle Kingdom 13. This match certainly could shine as the main event of this show.

Landon's Pick: Goto defends. Suzuki shouldn't be going for the NEVER title anyway. But if Suzuki wins it it'll be an interesting time.
Justin's Pick: This should be brutal and awesome.  On one hand I agree Goto should retain and solidify himself as THE new NEVER Openweight guy.  But on the other hand Suzuki has yet to win a big match since returning.  Eh, maybe Suzuki wins the belt for a few months before dropping it back to Goto.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Dan's Top 9: Movies That SHOULD Be Remade

by Dan Moore


A little while ago, my esteemed colleague Justin Ballard wrote an article about unnecessary remakes. I agreed with all of 'em except Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I have no loyalty to the original and the remakes, prequels and sequels have been decent (albeit forgettable) horror movies. It got me to thinking though…what flicks are out there that need a new version? These aren’t all necessarily bad movies; just flicks I feel need an updating. Starting off here with a few sequels.

9. Beverly Hills Cop 3

The first two Cop flicks are two of the funniest Eddie Murphy movies ever made. They show Murphy at the very apex of his comedic powers. Both of them are eminently re-watchable. Then they laid this turd on our doorsteps. While the first two are filled with hilarious jokes and boobies, this one is a hodgepodge of boring set pieces and an unreal annoying Eddie Murphy performance. Need this remade with the true Axel Foley, cursing up a storm and shooting bad guys with his friends, Detectives Taggart & Rosewood.

George Lucas cameo’d in this, and even the maker of the
Star Wars prequels couldn’t believe how bad this was. 

8. Lethal Weapon 4

Filled with two of the most memorable cops ever put to screen, Riggs & Murtaugh became friends to all of us that have watched the original 3 over and over again. Incredible action scenes and a real sense of comradery between the two leads make Lethal Weapons 1,2 & 3 some of the best buddy cop movies ever made. And then part 4 showed up. With NOTHING resembling a cohesive script and chock full of waaaay too many characters, Lethal Weapon 4 was DOA. They shoulda went with a less-is-more approach like the original cause this movie SUCKS.

7. Battlefield Earth

When watching a movie with 10-foot dreadlocked aliens, I’m always hoping for veiled messages from a space cult delivered by an overacting John Travolta. This is an awful movie filled with all kinds of subliminal speak for L. Ron Hubbard’s Space Diary, er I mean, "Religion."  But at its very basic level is a decent sci-fi movie idea: Aliens took over earth, and hundreds of years later a human rebellion tries to take it back. Too bad it was all gummed up with the word of Xenu.

Yeah, this is all your favorite Hollywood stars' religious deity. Makes sense.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

WWE vs. NJPW Supercard III

Welcome to the 3rd Annual WWE vs. NJPW Supercard, here at!  In 2015 I came up with the bright idea to imagine what would happen if the two biggest wrestling companies in the world went head-to-head (Read the 2015 one HERE).  By 2016 both rosters had undergone massive changes so I revisited the topic and made it a yearly thing (Read that one HERE).  So here's the third edition - WWE currently sports the most stacked roster it's had in years, while NJPW took a difficult transition period and managed to flourish, filling its lineup holes with a host of new and growing stars, and their product is as strong as ever.  But which roster looks better now?  I've booked eleven fantasy matchups and given my picks for who I'd pick to win.  

Let's get to the matchups!

Neville vs. Hiromu Takahashi

After a terribly uneventful year on the main roster as a one-dimensional babyface, Neville suffered a leg injury in early 2016 that put him on the shelf for 8 months.  But it was a blessing in disguise; the time away allowed him to overhaul his character and he returned as a bitter heel with his sights set on destroying the new Cruiserweight division.  Neville won the CW Title in short order and has been a fantastic centerpiece ever since.

The former Kamaitachi returned to New Japan in 2016 after a three-year absence, with a new villainous persona aligned with the roguish Los Ingobernables stable.  His first act was to challenge the Jr. Heavyweight Champion Kushida to a match at WrestleKingdom 11, where he captured the title in a blazing 16-minute contest.  Takahashi has already carried himself like a major star and been a huge asset to the wildly popular stable.

This match would be fast and furious, with stunning aerial moves and lightning-fast counterwrestling.  Neither man would be afraid of taking shortcuts, but in the end Takahashi's pals on the outside would be a difference-maker.  Look for Takahashi to take the match in 9 minutes after a Time Bomb.

Winner: Hiromu Takahashi

Dean Ambrose vs. Katsuyori Shibata

Ambrose has had a pretty successful year, winning Money in the Bank and cashing in the briefcase for a WWE Title win the same night, and later capturing the Intercontinental Title.  While not perceived at quite the same level as his two former Shield-mates, Ambrose has nonetheless become a reliably prominent star and gotten plenty of the company's focus.

Shibata spent most of 2016 as the centerpiece of the NEVER Openweight division, delivering multiple strong style classics before finally dropping the belt to his old friend Hirooki Goto at WrestleKingdom 11.  Since then he's moved up the card, winning the New Japan Cup and challenging Okada for the IWGP Championship in an epic war.  Shibata's future is up in the air after the Okada match, but we're all hoping he's able to get back in the ring (minus the shoot headbutts of course).

This would be an insane war of attrition, with both men quick to engage in a slugfest and neither wanting to back down an inch.  Ambrose would be very comfortable taking the fight to the floor, while Shibata would prefer a straight-up in-ring battle.  At the 12-minute mark Ambrose would go for Dirty Deeds, but Shibata would push him into the ropes, Ambrose would go for a pendulum clothesline only to walk into a Shibata headbutt to the chest, followed by a choke and the PK for the win.

Winner: Katsuyori Shibata

Kevin Owens vs. Hirooki Goto

Kevin Owens had a tremendous 2016/early 2017, rekindling his blistering feud with Sami Zayn before capturing the new Universal Championship and forging an uncomfortably close friendship with Chris Jericho.  Owens was the main focus of RAW after the new brand split, until he turned on Jericho and lost the Universal Title to Goldberg.  But he rebounded at WrestleMania 33 by defeating Jericho for the US Title.  Owens remains one of the best heels in the company and isn't afraid to make the fans hate him.

Goto once again had an up-and-down year in 2016, falling just short of the IWGP Title AND the G1 Climax tournament, but began 2017 by dethroning his old friend Shibata for the NEVER Openweight Title.  Thus far his run has been quite dominant and he continues to deliver the goods between the ropes.

This match would be rugged and intense, with Goto's no-nonsense style clashing with Owens' surprising agility.  The striking would be brutal and I could see this devolving into dueling forearms and headbutts to the chest.  Owens would be quick to try to find shortcuts, while Goto would be full-steam ahead.  Owens would escape the Shouten-kai and counter the GTR by turning over, shoving Goto into the ropes and hitting a lightning-quick Pop-up Powerbomb for the win at 13 minutes.

Winner: Kevin Owens

Friday, April 21, 2017

TNAce: The Essential AJ Styles Collection, Disc One

AJ Styles is probably my favorite, all-time favorite wrestler. Yes, more than Ishii, Silas Young, or even Harley Race. So getting the four disc Essential Collection of his best matches in TNA has always been on my radar. I know that TNA's beginnings were less than stellar...and some of the middle...and...and I mean 2012 was really good...But AJ Styles, even back in 2007 when I started watching TNA, had talent that rose above the schlock. So as I put in disc 1 of the set, a group of matches I've never seen before, I thought surely, SURELY, this applied throughout the earlier days.


June 19th, 2002
AJ Styles, Low Ki, and Jerry Lynn vs The Flying Elvises (Jorge Estrada, Jimmy Yang, and Sonny Siaki)
Ho boy...I guess this match is on here more for profiling purposes. It was the first official match on TNA's first show. Really, the only way I can describe it is thus;
Move Move.
Move Move Move Dive Move.
Dive Dive Dive.
There's no real reason to watch this match beyond historical reasons. Plus, the Elvises won.

June 26th, 2002
AJ Styles vs Psicosis vs. Low Ki vs. Jerry Lynn, Double elimination match for the X-Division Championship
This should have been the first match on the collection. There was constant movement and action, with a series of singles falls eventually boiling the match down to AJ Styles and Jerry Lynn within the first 10 minutes. It set AJ up as strong champion (spoilers, he wins), but also makes Jerry Lynn look really good by dominating through much of the match. It's clear to anyone that young Styles as a lot of potential that they could tap into. Unfortunately, the X-Division would go on to be treated like the undercard of WCW's day, and many of the fantastic wrestlers of the division would never get a chance in the main event. But, this isn't the place for that bitter debate.

Lynn vs. Styles was a very good match-up.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

We Are At War: WCW Spring Stampede 1998

19 Years ago, the Monday Night Wars raged on. I was 4 years old when the WWF broke the ratings dominance WCW, 7 when WCW folded forever. The Attitude Era is remembered as such a mythical time, of tremendous TV and great PPVs. Revisionist history tells us that WCW was a sinking ship from around the split of the nWo and before, and that the WWF started their almighty comeback with Austin's title reign that started at Wrestlemania 14.

Conveniently, both of these happened in the spring of 1998, where I'm gonna pick up in the timeline. I'm not going to be reviewing the weekly Raw and Nitro shows, because I seriously don't have the time or patience for that shit. Instead, I'm going to pick up their slack, and cover the PPVs as they come down the pike. There's gonna be good, there's gonna be bad. May Macho Man have mercy on my soul.

Spring Stampede, April 19th 1998
 6 Days ago, WWF beat WCW in the ratings war for the first time in 84 weeks. 20 minute Hogan promos dominate the program's pime time, and an undercard struggle for attention by putting on great matches that go ignored by the people in power. That is the stage set for April in 1998.
The opening package focused entirely on the nWo, only a passing mention of Sting, the World Champion. The Wolfpac split is coming soon, and Nash and Hogan's interactions in the video say as much. There's a smattering of nWo shirts in the crowd, like Bullet Club shirts are in crowds today.

Schiavone, Tenay and Heenan are our commentary booth. They're generally unoffensive, and I generally like all three of them. Heenan does a good job on color, with Mike and Tony doing good play by play.

Goldberg vs. Saturn
Goldberg was ridiculously popular. The crowd went wild when his music came on. He was labeled as 73-0, and the Number One contender for the United States Title. Almost immediately, he almost kills Saturn with a Pumphandle Fallaway. He certainly had an explosive style that was entertaining as hell. Not to take away from Perry Saturn, who had a very unique and fun to watch style. Goldberg threw Saturn around like a cruiserweight, the rest of the Flock interfered. Goldberg murdered Kidman with a spear. Golberg stood through the Rings of Saturn, and hit a Jackhammer from a Fireman's Carry. Goldberg was stupid strong, and stupid awesome. A really fun opener.

Meltzer's Rating:*1/2
It was short, and smokey, but it was fun regardless.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Music Review: Mastodon - Emperor of Sand (2017)

Prog-metal titans Mastodon are back with their seventh album, an ambitious, melodic, metaphorical journey called Emperor of Sand.  In the same vein as their trilogy of concept albums (Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye), Emperor contains an ongoing story arc, about a man cursed with a death sentence by an evil sultan.  The band chose this parable to explore the idea of a person dying from cancer, and the result is a thoughtful and thematic work, with a real focus on great songwriting.

Reunited with producer Brendan O'Brien (who helmed Crack the Skye in 2009), Mastodon largely breaks free of easy categorization on this album, presenting a hybrid of their signature frenetic drum patterns/arpeggiated guitars and a structurally stripped down, vocal-driven sound not unlike some of the material on 2011's The Hunter.  The three vocalists, Troy Sanders, Brent Hinds and Brann Daillor share lead duties more than ever before, trading off sections within the same song almost across the board.  This lends each track considerable textural variety and allows each singer to stretch his range; vocally this is the best Mastodon has ever sounded.

The album's 51-minute running time flies by, as the aforementioned Sanders, Hinds, Daillor and Bill Kelleher effortlessly pound out a dazzling flurry of hooky hard rockers. From the swinging triplet feel of the opening track "Sultan's Curse" to the Queens of the Stone Age-esque single "Show Yourself," to the stuttery slow-groover "Steambreather" (my personal favorite), to the emotionally anthemic "Ancient Kingdom," the band has assembled an amazing stretch of memorable, instrumentally agile tunes.  For me the album only falters briefly with the 10th track "Scorpion Breath," a noisy, one-dimensional nod to Mastodon's early work that feels out of place here.  But the disc closes strong with "Jaguar God," a multi-section 8-minute epic that gradually increases in intensity, from somber acoustic waltz to driving metal dirge.

Emperor of Sand shows a confident quartet pushing their boundaries again, after the somewhat safe but admirable effort of Once More 'Round the Sun.  I'd actually like to hear them go full prog-rock without feeling pressured to include more traditional metal elements.  On this album it almost sounds like they've included a bit of that just so as not to alienate their older fans.  But for me this album is probably their second-best work after The Hunter; it's inspiring to hear Mastodon tackle a conceptual central theme once again with such vigor, via such robust songwriting.  Emperor of Sand includes some of the band's best material yet.

I give the album **** out of *****.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Helluva Band: Mastodon

Welcome to yet another feature here at - Helluva Band!  Each entry in this series will dissect the career of a specific band (or artist), while also covering the author's (sometimes it'll be me, sometimes not) introduction to the band, and his/her history as a fan.

For this edition I've chosen to spotlight prog/sludge/alt-metal band Mastodon.

Weird-lookin' dudes, man.....

This unusual band from Atlanta are known for non-traditional song structures, odd-time signatures, dazzling arpeggiated guitar riffs, astonishing jazz-influenced drum parts, and stylistically diverse vocals ranging from throaty barbaric screaming to clean melodic singing.  Three of the four members share vocal duties - bassist Troy Sanders has historically been the primary vocalist along with guitarist Brent Hinds, but on recent albums drummer Brann Dailor has taken up some of the slack as well (guitarist Bill Kelliher has only sung lead on one bonus track thus far), which has enhanced the diversity of their sound.

I first became aware of Mastodon in 2007, when a buddy of mine (hey Mike!), an avid metal fan like myself, highly recommended them.  I had heard the name before but knew nothing of their sound.  This was at a time when I had grown really tired of all the music I owned and was actively looking for new bands and artists to listen to (a few months later I got my first iPod and my musical tastes began to broaden exponentially).  After looking the band up on Wikipedia I was intrigued by the description of their music and the thematic elements of each of their albums, and decided to purchase Leviathan and Blood Mountain (the former had won all kinds of accolades from various metal magazines). 

Each of the band's first four albums had an elemental motif.
Blood Mountain, the third album, dealt with Earth.

Blood Mountain was the first album I listened to, and I'd be lying if I said I was immediately blown away.  The overall sound was a little different than I expected (I figured there would be more of a nu-metal influence, with sludgy, detuned guitar grooves and gruff but hooky vocal melodies), I had a hard time getting into the vocal style, and the music seemed overly busy and strangely unfocused.  There were definitely some songs that caught my attention, specifically "Sleeping Giant," "Colony of Birchmen," and "This Mortal Soil."  Other than that though, I wasn't terribly enthusiastic about the album.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

NJPW Sakura Genesis Preview & Predictions

by Landon Wayne

Invasion Attack no more!

Rebranded this year and including 200% more cherry blossoms, the annual Spring event looks to be a great follow up to the spectacular New Beginning shows of February. With three awesome singles matches carrying an undercard of gang warfare, Ryƍgoku is going to be the stage to a great event that may bring long term ramifications for the company. So right now, Justin and I are going to preview all the matches on the card, from opening bell to the main event.

David Finlay, Jushin Thunder Liger & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Hirai Kawato, Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka

It's just going to be the typical Young Lion opening match. Katsuya's size scares the ever-loving Jesus out of me. Teruaki Kanemitsu, who stole my heart as a Young Lion months ago, hasn't been seen since taking his attitude against Yuji Nagata, presumably killed by the 3rd generation in the Dojo one night. Still like Oka and Kawato a lot, though.

Landon's Pick: Do you really need me to say?
Justin's Pick: Team Finlay

Chase Owens, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W, Togi Makabe & Yuji Nagata

Chase Owens is back in New Japan, most likely for the upcoming Best of the Super Juniors. Ibushi's involvement in this match probably means he'll be in the BOSJ as well, which excites me.

Landon's Pick: Bullet Club
Justin's Pick: I'll go with the babyfaces here.  If Ibushi as Tiger Mask W is in the Jrs. tournament, he better take off the mask in time for G1.

RPG Vice & YOSHI-HASHI vs. El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki & TAKA Michinoku

Suzuki-Gun is literally just Minoru and a gang of Jr Heavyweight geeks. Suzuki-Gun doesn't scare me, and a Minoru on his own would be more intimidating than him dragging his goof troop along.

Landon's Pick: YOSHI's gonna get piledriven and that makes me sad.
Justin's Pick: Suzuki-gun

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Movie Review: Survivor Type (2012)

Director: Billy Hanson
Starring: Gideon Emery

Four full years after I became aware of the film, I finally got a chance to see Billy Hanson's acclaimed Dollar Baby adaptation of Stephen King's "Survivor Type," the grotesquely disturbing short story of a disgraced surgeon who gets stranded on a miniscule island and goes to outrageously great lengths to survive.

Hanson debuted the film in 2012 at numerous horror film festivals and it generated considerable buzz, garnering multiple awards and unanimous praise from critics and fans alike.

Where King's story is presented as a written diary, Hanson translated the medium as a gritty, 30-minute "found footage" film.  The format plunges us directly into this ghastly tale, allowing the viewer to identify with this less-than-admirable character and his increasingly grim plight.  English character actor Gideon Emery delivers a stunning one-man-show performance as Dr. Richard Pine, showing us in short HD video snippets a man gradually losing his mind (and body) from hunger, desolation and drug use.

Anyone familiar with "Survivor Type" knows what happens next - Pine begins amputating and eating parts of his own body to stay alive, and his diary entries become more and more nonsensical and disjointed as the film hurtles toward the inevitable.  Hanson's approach to this material is simple and straightforward, allowing Emery's completely believable and realistic performance to take center stage.  As for the grisly details, Hanson shows just enough to make the audience shudder (and maybe dry-heave a little), but wisely leaves a lot of it to the imagination like the original story does.  The prosthetic effects are modestly presented but quite persuasive, and the makeup team does a tremendous job of making Emery look like a man who's literally withering away before our eyes.

All this would be for naught if the performance didn't work.  But it does, pretty spectacularly.  Gideon Emery compellingly brings across Pine's self-defeating hubris in the early scenes as he's certain he'll be rescued quickly, and later becomes palpably unhinged and hopeless after hacking off various parts of himself.  The most upsetting clips of course are the numerous ad hoc surgeries he performs, where Emery depicts not only unfathomable agony but also kind of a strange testosterone-fueled satisfaction in withstanding the pain.  By the end the character almost seems to be taking a masochistic pleasure in the amputations, spurred on by a growing dependence on his supply of heroin.  Emery's performance is naturalistic and fairly restrained given the extreme nature of the story, and he carries the film superbly.

Stephen King's ingeniously unsettling self-cannibalization yarn has been pretty flawlessly adapted here by Billy Hanson, in what has to be considered the definitive film version.  If you're a fan of traumatic horror films, and especially if you're a Stephen King devotee, you'll love "Survivor Type."  Just don't eat anything for about an hour beforehand....and you probably won't wanna eat much afterwards either.  

The History of NXT TakeOver: Orlando

Orlando - Amway Center - 4.1.17

Once again NXT set the bar high for WrestleMania weekend with a fine TakeOver showing.  While certainly not on the level of last year's sublime Dallas show, TakeOver: Orlando supplied nary a bad match and some pretty damn good wrestling action.  Also in contrast to most main roster PPVs, this show flew by with a lean 155-minute running time.  To kick off "the next chapter" of NXT, Commissioner William Regal presented brand new Title belts, all of which are an improvement over their predecessors.  The new designs are more elaborate and convey greater splendor, making the Titles all seem less like mere developmental props.

Kicking things off was a wild eight-person mixed tag match, with SAnitY facing the makeshift babyface combo of Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, Ruby Riot, and subbing for a kayfabe injured No Way Jose, the returning Kassius Ohno (God I hate that ring name).  This chaotic brawl got the live crowd primed, with fast-paced action that culminated with Killian Dain stealing Kenny Omega's One-Winged Angel finisher to put Dillinger away.  Once Ohno was added to the match I figured the babyfaces would get the duke, but it made more sense for the heels to win here.  It would also be a running theme on this show.  Nice little opening match that served its purpose well.

Next up was the much-anticipated debut of the former Tommy End, now called Aleister Black.  Black's entrance called to mind The Undertaker's histrionics, with a nice Nosferatu reference as he was raised on a platform, horizontal to vertical.  Black and his opponent Andrade Almas had fairly good chemistry, although the match felt a little longer than it needed to be; by the end it seemed like they were filling time a bit.  Black got a decisive win with Black Mass, a roundhouse head kick.  Not the most exciting finisher but it looked effective.  This was the weakest match of the night, which means NXT put on a fine show.

The show's highlight was third, the Elimination Triple Threat Tag Title match pitting The Authors of Pain against DIY and The Revival.  This was a fantastically energetic bout, with DIY and Dash & Dawson repeatedly teaming up to try and take down the monster champs.  Recounting all the action would be basically impossible, but there were tandem moves galore, including each DIY member pairing with a Revival member to do the teams' respective finishers on Akam and Rezar.  Eventually though AoP took DIY out with The Last Chapter, leaving The Revival as big underdogs.  After only three more minutes Dash and Dawson then fell to The Super Collider (Great move with a great name), allowing The Authors to retain.  I was pretty low on AoP when they debuted, but they earned a stripe or two in this match, showing significant improvement in the stamina department and taking some very stiff shots.  Definite Match of the Night.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Dive Bars of America: The Ducktown Tavern (Atlantic City, NJ)

by Dan Moore

This column features some of the greatest & grossest dive bars in the U.S. of A. My rating system has between 1 and 4 handlebar mustaches, which is the preferred mustache by 9 out of 10 old timers in dive bars.

Ducktown Tavern
2400 Atlantic Ave
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

One of the coolest logos in the dive bar world

In our journey to Jersey, the boys & I ventured outside of the casinos for awhile. Tough to believe, but it’s true. Outside of going to BullShots, we ended up heading past this spot, the Ducktown Tavern. It’s a huge, long bar with two rooms and it’s open 24 FUCKING HOURS A DAY. Yeah, that’s right.

Fun Factor:  The place was HUGE. There were two giant rooms in the joint. They had a ton of TVs and I think dartboards and such in the back…but we were all pinned in a corner, drinking beers and watching TVG to get our horse betting fix going. We made our own fun...and very little money. 

The man brought his own racing form.  He's got a problem.

WWE WrestleMania 33 Review

Amazingly, WWE put on an even LONGER show than WM32 - the Kickoff started at 5pm Eastern and the main PPV ended at 12:13am.  Jeezus H. Christ guys.  I believe the phrase "too much of a good thing" was invented specifically for modern WWE PPVs.  Anyway, 'Mania 33 had a surprising amount of good stuff, considering how unenthusiastic I was going in.  Where 'Mania 32 was about half-good, 'Mania 33 upped that to about two-thirds, and even the bad stuff was pretty inoffensive.  Sadly most of the weak matches happened in the final third of the show.  Cut an hour out of the main PPV and you'd have something approaching an A- grade.  But let's take the deep dive.  Let me preface by saying I need to rewatch basically the entire show, as my feed was frought with Network issues and almost every match got interrupted at least once.  So the following is my initial assessment.....

First the pre-show stuff.  The Cruiserweights kicked things off with a quite nice bout that got a fairly shocking 16 minutes.  Neville and Austin Aries worked pretty hard to deliver something memorable and for the most part succeeded.  WWE took a commercial break in the middle, which needs to fucking stop.  There is zero excuse for this.  It's your own network and you have the option to present matches uninterrupted.  Anyway, we got some pretty intense action culminating in Aries hitting a 450 splash, followed by the Last Chancery.  Neville appeared on the verge of tapping out but gouged Aries' injured eye to escape and hit the Red Arrow to retain.  Solid stuff.

The Andre Battle Royal was next, and as usual it was silly at best.  Big Show and Braun Strowman were eliminated mindbogglingly early, at which point I assumed Sami Zayn would probably get a nice little win here.  But when they showed Rob Gronkowski in the front row prior to the bell I should've smelled a rat.  Sure enough, Gronk got into an altercation with Jinder Mahal which led to him getting in the ring and shoulderblocking Mahal, allowing Mojo Rawley to recover from an earlier attack and win the whole thing.  I can't see this as anything more than WWE engineering some mainstream news coverage.  Don't expect a Mojo push from this.  Once again the Andre Battle Royal serves very little purpose.

The third pre-show match, and the most infuriating, was Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for the I-C belt.  I guess if there isn't a 7-man Ladder clusterfuck for this Title it doesn't get to be on the main card.  This was an entirely forgettable bout which got ten minutes and ended with Ambrose reversing End of Days into Dirty Deeds to retain.  I'm willing to bet we see a much better rematch on Smackdown this week.

The PPV proper kicked off with AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon in a pretty shockingly good match.  I was torn on this because Shane was booked to be a step ahead of AJ for most of the bout, but I'll be damned if it wasn't entertaining.  Many of the spots were way over-the-top, including Shane countering AJ's 450 splash into a triangle choke, Shane missing a Shooting Star Press, AJ trying the Van Terminator but running into a trash can, and Shane doing his own Van Terminator.  AJ finally took the win after hitting the Phenomenal Forearm, capping off what was probably the best match of the night.  Nothing even approaching AJ's bouts with Cena, but this was a lot of fun.