Friday, June 29, 2018

Classic Album Review: Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks (1975)

Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks is an album I was very late to discovering.  I didn't get into Dylan at all until 2008, and initially I busied myself with his 1960s output, particularly his landmark trilogy of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde.  I developed an appreciation for those albums (and some of his early all-acoustic stuff), but none of them quite landed for me as "essential" records.  It wasn't until a year later when I finally gave Blood a listen, and had finally found a true favorite Dylan album.  Here was an emotionally raw, melancholy, atmospheric album that conveyed a sense of grounded maturity Dylan's "rock star" releases of the 60s lacked.

Blood on the Tracks was written and recorded while Dylan was going through a separation from his wife Sara, and while he's denied it repeatedly, the lyrics feel like a cathartic purging of his personal woes.  Nearly every song deals with themes of love, loss, regret, and emotional pain.  If Dylan wasn't directly writing about his disintegrating marriage, it certainly feels like that situation at least shaped his creative process (How could it not?).  The title seems a metaphor for how much of himself he poured into these recordings.  Blood on the Tracks indeed.

Originally nearly every song was recorded in New York as a stripped-down acoustic performance, until Dylan's brother David convinced him to re-record half of them with a full band in Minneapolis, in order to give the album's sound more variety.  The new song versions were hastily recorded only three weeks before the album's release.

The album's tone is set by the bouncy but lyrically forlorn opener "Tangled Up in Blue," where the narrator reconnects with an old flame after many years and realizes he could've made things work with her.  "We always did feel the same/We just saw it from a different point of view..."

The first of the subdued, pensive New York recordings is "Simple Twist of Fate," a somber lament about a failed relationship that begins promisingly but ends with the woman abruptly leaving and the narrator wandering around hoping to find her again.  "Hunts her down by the waterfront docks where the sailors all come in/Maybe she'll pick him out again/How long must he wait..."

Top Ten Things: Wrestling Matches of the 2000s

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

Following my Top Ten 80s Matches and Top Ten 90s Matches, today it's my Top Ten Double-Aught Wrestling Matches (that's matches of the 2000s).  The pro wrestling industry went through catastrophic changes in the early part of that decade, as WCW and ECW were both sold to Vince McMahon, making the WWF the only big game in town.  The WWF was then forced to change its name to WWE, while upstart promotions TNA and Ring of Honor sprouted in 2002.  We saw a new crop of headliners in Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista, plus a surge in the quality of indie wrestling, led by AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson.  The industry began shedding the "hardcore" style so prevalent in the late 90s and returned somewhat to a traditional mat-based focus (with exceptions of course), and eventually WWE even went back to family-friendly PG content.  While the overall product was very uneven, it's safe to say the 2000s brought us some of the very best matches we'd ever seen.  Here now are ten of them.....

10. Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania - 4.5.09

In 2009 WWE's product was stagnant as ever, with the same five or so guys having been featured at the top of the card for a good three or four years straight.  WrestleMania 25's lineup featured all the usual faces in prime spots and very few young stars, and I was frankly burned out on the Cenas, Ortons, Triple Hs, and Edges of the world.  I honestly didn't get caught up in the build for this match either - two 45-year-olds reigniting a few from eleven years earlier?  No thanks, man.  Of course I was wholly incorrect, as these two legends wove together an absolute 30-minute masterpiece, showing us all how it's done.  A prototypical WWE "main event," this match featured loads of reversals, finisher kickouts, and some crazy outside-the-ring dives (one of which looked like it killed Taker dead).  This match ended up being one for the ages.

9. AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe - Turning Point - 12.11.05

There have been more action-packed matches, more brutal brawls, more epic contests.  But in December 2005 Samoa Joe and AJ Styles told a story between the ropes that has seldom been equaled before or since.  Joe arrived in TNA that summer and was immediately pushed as an unstoppable monster, who had his way with basically everyone in the X-Division.  AJ was the superbly skilled conquering hero; the last line of defense against Joe's reign of terror.  The pace started out methodical but escalated continously throughout the match.  Joe dominated AJ with his brutal moveset, but the defiant Styles refused to back down, eventually kicking out of Joe's pin attempts at the one-count just to stick it to the villain.  Blood pouring out of his mouth, Styles managed to lift the 280-pounder up for the Styles Clash, and despite diminished height the move still looked absolutely vicious.  Joe kicked out however, and finished AJ with the rear naked choke, capping off one of the best examples of pure in-ring storytelling I've ever seen.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Movies of Disbelief: Grease (1978)

I'm back to bitch and moan about a movie that I find simply too ridiculous to believe.....

So this past weekend my wife forced me, very much against my will, to watch the classic musical Grease for the first time from start to finish.  I had seen bits and pieces of it on TV over the years, probably even the entire movie all told.  But never had I sat through the film end-to-end and experienced what so many girls (and probably some dudes too) of my generation were so in love with.

The lighthearted 1950s throwback starring Olivia Newton-John Travolta (like "Bennifer" only waaaaay longer) tells the story of two unlikely high school sweethearts and their star-crossed romance.  Travolta plays Danny Zuko, the bad-assiest greaser dude in the school who wears leather jackets, supes up cars, and can dance almost as good as Tony Manero (....wait....).  Newton-John plays Sandy Olsson, a straight-laced Aussie chick who met Danny on the beach over the summer and they had a real good thing, if ya pick up what I'm puttin' down.  But her parents plan to move the family out back to.....the outback, so she thinks she and Danny are destined to never see each other again.

Good thing the film moved the setting from Chicago to California,
otherwise I'd be saying "Where the fuck is this beach??"

But wait, Sandy's parents change their minds and she ends up at Danny's high school.  And then each of them informs their respective group of friends about their summer fling, but with VERY conflicting stories.  She describes Danny as a perfectly romantic gentleman, while Danny describes her as a filthy slut (BONG!).  Uh oh.  The rest of the movie is just essentially the "will they or won't they" schtick, with the obvious outcome, a buncha song & dance numbers, and a twist where at the end Danny starts dressing like the respectable jock douchebags and Sandy starts dressing like a, well, filthy slut (BONG!), complete with leather jacket, skin-tight chaps and a newfound smoking habit (I wonder if she's ever tried reefer).  So I guess the moral of the story is, "Just be whatever your insensitive prick of a boyfriend wants you to be and your relationship will be great!"

"Oh wait, I don't need the letterman jacket, she went all trashy just for me!"

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Pearls Before Swine: Why Daniel Bryan Needs to Leave WWE

Over the past couple months, one thing has become very clear to me: Daniel Bryan needs to leave WWE.  After his miraculous return to in-ring action I gave WWE the benefit of the doubt, that they'd learned from their short-sighted, spiteful booking of Bryan from his previous run.  But no, they've apparently learned squat (as usual; look who's in charge).

To the delight of fans everywhere, Bryan managed to overcome his previously career-shortening concussion issues to return to the ring, and is featured on the same roster as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, and The Miz, with whom he has a built-in feud stemming from his time as Smackdown GM.  Given that Bryan's WWE contract expires in September, you'd think the company would want to make the idea of his re-signing as attractive as possible by throwing him some quality PPV opponents and presenting him as a major upper-card attraction.  But thus far who have they given him to work with?

After his return match at WrestleMania (which they booked in such a way that he missed the first half of the match due to an attack by Owens and Zayn), Bryan got saddled with trying to make chicken salad out of the inept (but tall, so "future star") Big Cass.  This feud lasted two months and Cass was fired immediately afterward, and the two matches were mediocre at best.  Great use of one of your top stars, guys.  Now they've teased the long-awaited Bryan-Miz match finally happening but instead just reunited Bryan with Kane to go after the Tag Team Titles.  Is this 2012?  Isn't Bryan above this now?  And why would he trust Kane, the last guy he feuded with prior to his 2014 injury?  This feels like an orchestrated attempt to once again cool off the most popular guy in the company, when they should be getting the best possible match combinations out of him while they still can.

I've seen the argument that "Well, Bryan hasn't signed a new deal so why would they put the title on him?"  He doesn't need to win the WWE Title.  I don't care if he never wins it again.  Shawn Michaels didn't win any singles championships from 2002 till his 2010 retirement.  But what they should be doing, as they did with Shawn, is matching him up with guys with whom he can consistently steal the show, the AJs and Samoa Joes (and for fuck's sake Nakamura), while he's still around.  If he re-signs after that, great, put the belt on him for a while if you want.  But the way they've been using him is akin to Shawn feuding with lumps like Chris Masters (which actually happened, and how'd that work out in getting Masters over?).  A feud with Cass and a Team Hell No reunion are beneath him at this point.  It's like the company doesn't want him delivering Match of the Year candidates because then they'll have to admit to themselves that they need him.

It's time for Bryan to move on.  There are literally half a dozen career highlight matchups waiting for him in New Japan.  Imagine Bryan participating in next year's G1 tournament.  Bryan vs. Okada, Bryan vs. Omega, Bryan vs. Naito, Bryan vs. Sabre, and on and on.  Daniel Bryan in WWE in 2018 is pearls before swine.

Top Ten Things: CM Punk Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at

Today I'll be counting down the ten greatest matches of one of the most controversial figures in wrestling history, CM Punk

Originally published in 2016.....

In light of Punk's impending, long-awaited UFC debut, I thought I'd reminisce about the greatest matches in the career of this extraordinary talent.  Whether he returns to the ring at some point or not, and regardless of his degree of success in MMA, he has undoubtedly cemented a legacy as one of the most fascinating and unconventional top wrestling stars of the last twenty years.  Here now are the ten best matches in the remarkable roller coaster career of CM Punk.

10. John Morrison vs. CM Punk - ECW TV 9.4.07

In 2007 Punk was a member of WWE's third brand, the revived (and horribly watered down) ECW.  Punk was handpicked by Paul Heyman to be the show's hot new star, and despite tepid feedback from the head office, became a major cult favorite.  After over a year of flirting with the ECW Championship and being passed over in favor of seemingly less appropriate candidates (Bobby Lashley anyone?), Punk would get his one last shot at then-Champion John Morrison (a great athlete but another odd choice to represent the "hardcore" brand).  Their hand somewhat forced by Morrison's suspension for a Wellness Policy violation, WWE finally gave Punk his first taste of gold on a weekly ECW episode.  After a fantastic back-and-forth match, Punk triumphed and began a short run with the ECW Title.

9. Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk - Joe vs. Punk II 10.16.04

Largely credited with putting both Punk and Joe on the Indy wrestling map, the second match of their much-heralded trilogy is widely considered to be the best.  Punk and Joe went a full hour for the second time, wrestling to a draw, in a match that pulled out all the stops and earned the elusive "five-star" rating from the Wrestling Observer.  I don't love it as much as others do, but it is quite an accomplishment from two of the best workers of the past decade.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Top Ten Things: 90s Wrestling Matches

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!

Last week I posted my list of the greatest 80s matches, and I'm now following it up with the best of the 90s.  The 90s were a tumultuous time in the wrestling industry, where the product changed drastically and became a completely different animal by the end of the decade.  In the WWF the focus shifted from larger-than-life characters to more serious technical wrestlers, and then to a gritty, more violent, and more explicit product.  WCW's focus went from the established traditions of the sport to a counter-culture movement.  In my opinion, the WWF's in-ring product outclassed WCW for most of the decade, and so this list is very WWF-heavy.  But feel free to comment below with anything you feel I've overlooked.  Here we go....

10. Vader vs. Sting - Starrcade - 12.28.92

Probably WCW's best feud of the 90s was Sting vs. Vader, and probably their best match took place at Starrcade, in the finals of the King of Cable Tournament (Don't ask what the eff that means).  This was all kinds of awesome - stiff, snug and believable all the way through.  Vader's size and dominant style would realistically make most of his matches into rather unwieldy squashes, but Sting was so freakishly strong he could manhandle Vader for much of the match.  This resulted in some amazing spots, like the second-rope superplex, Sting's over-the-top plancha on both Vader and Harley Race, and the finish where Vader dove off the top rope and Sting caught him midair and slammed him to the mat.  Just a great main event, and I could watch these two beat the shit out of each other all day long.  Vader may have been Sting's greatest opponent.

9. Undertaker vs. Mankind - 6.28.98

Probably the most infamous match of all time, aside from the Montreal Screwjob.  In 1998 Taker, and especially Mankind, wrote a new chapter in pro wrestling brutality.  After two death-defying falls from the top of the Cell (one planned, one frighteningly accidental), Mick Foley delivered a superhuman effort in going another 12 or so minutes and completing the best match these two ever had together (Keep in mind also that Taker was working on a broken foot).  Concussed and delirious, Foley famously approached Taker backstage when it was over and asked "Did I use thumbtacks?" to which Taker replied, "Look at your arm Mick."  It's an uncomfortable match to view now, but at the time it probably exemplified the WWF Attitude more than any other single bout.

8. Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart - WrestleMania - 4.5.92

The match that stole the show at WrestleMania VIII (pretty amazingly considering Flair vs. Savage was on the card) was the I-C Title match between Roddy Piper and Bret Hart.  These two put on a 13-minute classic that had more action, crisper wrestling, and even a better blade job than the WWF Title match.  Bret Hart recounted the story in his autobiography - the WWF had a no-blading policy at that point, and Bret's bladejob was so subtle and realistic, Vince thought he was legitimately cut and took no action against him.  Flair's bladejob on the other hand was very obvious and earned him a fine.  I'd say this was easily Piper's best match.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Parents' Night In #9: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Join Kelly and Justin as they enjoy one of their favorite MCU films, Guardians of the Galaxy!  Plus booze.....

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

RIP Big Van Vader (1955-2018)

RIP Big Van Vader (1955-2018)

I first became aware of Big Van Vader in 1990 when he debuted on WCW television.  With his "cyborg elephant" helmet that could shoot steam all by itself and his weird jockstrap-esque mask, Vader had one of the stranger appearances I'd ever seen.  At the time I figured he was just another gimmicky monster heel who wouldn't last.  Fast-forward two years and he had dethroned Sting to win the WCW Title, trading wins and losses in some of the best matches of the year.  For my money Sting was Vader's greatest opponent due to his mix of power and athleticism; Sting could take Vader's pummeling and dish it right back.  Vader dominated the promotion for the next three years, feuding with Sting, Cactus Jack, and Ron Simmons, and maintaining his standing as the company's most fearsome villain.  Sadly a feud with Hulk Hogan damaged his credibility somewhat, and he jumped to the WWF in early 1996, where he was immediately pushed as a killing machine.

Vader made a splash in the Royal Rumble that year, eliminating a few opponents and clashing with the WWF's resident monster heel Yokozuna.  This Battle of the Bulls kept Vader occupied through the winter/spring months, and Vader more or less took over Yoko's spot in the company, aligning himself with Jim Cornette, Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith.  These three were the company's top heels through the summer, and their feud with Shawn Michaels and friends climaxed at SummerSlam with a stellar WWF Title match.

Vader and Shawn put together a fascinating big man-little man war, where Shawn managed to stay a step ahead for much of the bout but eventually felt the brunt of Vader's punishing offense.  Shawn took a countout loss before Cornette goaded him into restarting the match, followed by a disqualification and another restart.  In the end Shawn pinned Vader, but the 400-pounder looked dominant in defeat.  Backstage politics prevented the planned Surivor Series rematch, but Vader was back in the title picture in mid-1997, this time feuding with The Undertaker.  Alas, WWF gold eluded him throughout his tenure there, but for two years he was one of the company's best heels.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Great Wrestling Champions: Kazuchika Okada (2016-2018)

Welcome to the second installment of The Great Champions, here at, where I examine a wrestling championship reign that made a financial and artistic difference to the industry.  Today's entry is topical; we just saw the end of one of the greatest title reigns I've had the privilege to witness in my thirty-plus years as a wrestling fan.  It's the record-shattering fourth IWGP Championship run of "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada!

For those of you not familiar, Okada is New Japan's current Ace (what they call their top star), whose landmark rivalry with his predecessor Hiroshi Tanahashi served as a transition from one top dog to another (Tanahashi is unanimously credited with bringing NJPW out of its mid-2000s downturn and reinvigorating the product).  Their numerous main event matches together captured the imagination and raised the bar for in-ring storytelling, for some even eclipsing Misawa-Kobashi as Japan's greatest wrestling feud.

The 6'3" Okada came up through NJPW's dojo system, took an excursion overseas (as all dojo grads do), and returned with a new look, a new, charismatic heel persona, and a prodigious understanding of how to work a main event-level match.  Okada's ability to adjust to his opponent's style and thus make every big match different from the last, coupled with his painstaking attention to detail and arguably unparalleled expressiveness in the ring, have made him in the opinion of many the best wrestler alive today.

At WrestleKingdom VI, having won his first match back in the company, Okada challenged Tanahashi for the IWGP Championship, and defeated him only a month later, at the age of 24.  That the company put such stock in such a young man, and that Okada earned every raining dollar of it, is nothing short of staggering.  Okada lost the title back to Tanahashi in June of 2012 but won it back the following April, keeping it nearly a year this time.  Their multi-year rivalry helped raise the profile of the championship and New Japan as a whole, and by the time he'd won his third title (from AJ Styles), Okada was ready to assume Tanahashi's former mantle.  At WrestleKingdom 7 and 9 he'd failed to beat Tanahashi at the company's biggest event (actually leaving WK9 in tears), but at WK10 he finally achieved that elusive accomplishment, solidifying his status as NJPW's new It Guy.  His third IWGP Title run would come to an end a few months later at the hands of another new main eventer, Tetsuya Naito, but he'd regain the championship only two months after that.

Thus began what would become a truly legendary 720-day reign.  The sheer number and variety of scale-breaking classic matches, coupled with the commercial growth it brought the company, is astonishing.

Okada defeated Naito at Dominion 2016 in a very good 29-minute battle whose result shocked a lot of people.  Early 2016 seemed to be Naito's coronation, as he more or less stepped into Shinsuke Nakamura's former spot, the charismatic anti-hero.  He handily won the New Japan Cup and challenged Okada at Invasion Attack, and it felt like Naito and his Los Ingobernables stable would rule the roost for the time being.  But Okada put a quick end to Naito's first (and thus far only) IWGP Title run, which amazingly never hurt Naito's incredible drawing power (This would come up again 18 months later).

The History of NXT TakeOver: Chicago II

NXT's latest TakeOver special, simply entitled Chicago II, featured five matches of the good-to-excellent variety and was headlined by an epic grudge rematch.  Gargano vs. Ciampa is the most personal NXT feud since Owens vs. Zayn, and these two have been stellar in conveying the pure good vs. evil nature of their rivalry.  The undercard featured all three titles being defended, plus a pretty great little athletic showcase between Ricochet and Velveteen Dream.  So let's get into it.

The show opened with The Undisputed Era (I still hate that name) vs. Oney Lorcan (and that one) & Danny Burch for the NXT Tag belts.  These teams pulled out every stop they could find, as though they were desperately trying to steal the show.  The last third got perhaps a little overindulgent with the false finishes, but this was still a helluva good tag title match.  Roderick Strong in particular looked great, and the challenging team were made to look incredibly resilient, despite not much experience together.  A damn fine opener.  ***3/4

The second bout came very close to actually stealing the show.  Ricochet and Velveteen Dream felt like a main event in itself, starting out pretty methodically but gradually ramping up the action like crazy.  At one point Ricochet got suplexed from the apron to the floor, which looked positively brutal.  Velveteen's motivation was that Ric stole his thunder as the promotion's new aerial wizard.  The last few minutes were super dramatic and Ric got the duke with the 630 splash, a move I still can't believe is humanly possible.  ****

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Bald Guy Walks Into a Bar: The Cottage Bar & Restaurant (Weymouth, MA)

Welcome to a new feature here at, A Bald Guy Walks Into a Bar, where I visit a local watering hole I WOULD be caught dead in, and tell y'all what I thought of the food & drink, the atmosphere, and the special attractions if any.

Today's subject is a recent addition to Weymouth, MA, an Irish-style pub called The Cottage, which offers tons of comfort food favorites, a modest lineup of draft and bottled beer (plus wine, and the hard stuff I'm too much of a puss to drink), and a rotating event calendar that includes live music, open mic nights, and Stump Trivia.

26 Union St.
Weymouth, MA 02190 


Right as you walk in it's clear this is a relaxed, care-free environment, with ample bar seating and plenty of tables.  As it's inspired by classic Irish pubs, there's a very basic decor and the walls are covered with Irish art, photos and tchotchkes.  Nothing fancy going on here, and that's what I want in an Irish drinking establishment.  We sat at the bar (where the stools were solidly comfy) and our bartender was friendly and accomodating.  No complaints here.

Rating: 3 Baldies out of 4


Good comfort food is a thing of beauty, and The Cottage has some pretty fantastic eats at cheapo prices.  I ordered the Irish Beef Stew, a traditional stew topped with mashed potatoes (sweet Jeezus that's a genius idea).  This stuff was tasty as all hell and even more filling.  My wife Kelly had a Cobb Salad topped with steak tips, and these things were unreal.  Tender, firegrilled hunks of red meat.  I'm ordering a plate of those next visit.  Our two entrees combined ran us $31.  Hard to beat that unless you're at some shithouse like Applebee's.

Rating: 4 Baldies out of 4 

WWE Money in the Bank 2018: The Night Asuka Became Stupid

Alright look, can someone answer me this question?  Does Vince McMahon have some kind of genetic commitment to including at least one infuriatingly baffling booking decision on every single PPV?  Money in the Bank 2018 was, overall, a decent show.  It was about an hour too long, with a few matches that belonged nowhere near a live audience, but it wasn't a bad show by any means.

But everything good about it was overshadowed for me by one of the stupidest finishes maybe ever, when Asuka, moments away from beating Carmella for the Smackdown Women's Title, got distracted like a cat confronted with a dangly object, because someone dressed in her ring entrance gear (quite obviously a man judging by this person's meaty hands) got up on the ring apron and stood there.  Asuka reacted as though a demon from her past showed up to collect a debt, so I thought maybe they were doing some kinda character building with her, like when Christian first showed up during Edge's matches.  But no, it was just James Ellsworth under there.  He unmasked and Asuka was still frozen in place, despite already kicking out of a Carmella roll-up.  One superkick later and Carmella pins Asuka to retain.  How fucking dumb are we expected to believe Asuka is?  How dumb does WWE think we are for being expected to accept a finish like this?

Now, a few logical questions:

1. Did Carmella and Ellsworth plan this ahead of time?  If so, why didn't Ellsworth show up one of the half-dozen other times Carmella was in serious trouble?

2. Did Ellsworth know the appearance of some stranger in an Asuka mask would halt Asuka dead in her tracks, or was that just a lucky break?

3. If it's the latter, what did he think was gonna happen?  What if Asuka just said "Oh, that's weird," and proceeded to kick a rain check into Carmella before pinning her?

There is nothing more deadly to a babyface character than booking them like an idiot.  No one wants to cheer for an easily duped shmuck.  So congratulations Vince, you've once again taken someone Triple H spent a lot of time and money building up in NXT and made them not special.  Between her premature first loss at 'Mania and now being made to look like a complete fool (after the inexcusible indignity of having to struggle against Carmella of all people), Asuka is just one of the girls now.  Fuck you.

Friday, June 15, 2018

NXT TakeOver: Chicago II Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of NXT Predictions, here at, where we predict the special events of the one part of WWE that still works consistently!

Look, I don't even watch NXT's weekly show, but even when I think I'm not up-to-date enough on the brand's goings-on, I can still sit down and watch the fuck out of a TakeOver special and feel like I spent my time wisely.  That's the mark of a good wrestling product, when you don't necessarily HAVE to catch every weekly show to understand and appreciate what's happening on the big ones.  Simple stories in wrestling are still the most effective.

Anywho, the black & yellow brand has once again put together a great-looking card that won't feel like it lasts five days, with three title matches, an undercard bout between two up-and-comers, and an all-time grudge rematch.  Undoubtedly this will once again trounce the main roster show in terms of quality and enjoyment, begging the question (again), does Vince not care that developmental's audiences are WAY more enthusiastic than RAW & Smackdown's?  It's just fucking baffling to me.

Anyway let's take a look at the matches....

Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream

This could actually steal the show if given enough time.  Dream has already impressed everyone with his charisma and athletic ability, and Ricochet is superhuman.  I'm just lookin' to see some fireworks here.

Justin: Ricochet wins his first big singles match in NXT
Landon: Ricochet

NXT Women's Championship: Shayna Baszler vs. Nikki Cross

Baszler is a legit scary woman and carries herself like a goddamn monster.  Nikki Cross is a crazy person with zero fucks to give.  This oughta be a wild one.  Shayna's calculated precision attack vs. Nikki's unruly brawling.  It's like Ken Shamrock vs. Mankind.

Justin: Shayna retains
Landon: Baszler

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WWE Money in the Bank 2018 Preview & Predictions

Welcome back to's WWE Predictions!  It's been a while since WWE dropped a mediocre-at-best turd on PPV.  Feels like I haven't bitched about their misuse of their stacked talent roster in ages.  And with New Japan having just delivered an amazing Dominion card headlined by possibly the best match I've ever seen in thirty-plus years of watching wrestling, Money in the Bank is gonna feel very anti-climactic.  But we got a job to do.....

As much on-paper potential as this show has, WWE's writing has been so stilted and goofy I'm having a hard time bringing myself to give a shit.  Styles vs. Nakamura has been a terribly booked feud, robbing them of what should've been a classic series of matches.  Daniel Bryan is still saddled with trying to give Big Cass any credibility as an in-ring performer.  Sami Zayn is being used to get the robotic Bobby Lashley over.  And bafflingly they're pairing Ronda Rousey up against Nia Jax, who isn't at all ready of carrying someone so new to pro wrestling in a match.

On top of this, rumors are rampant that Brock Lesnar will finally be dropping the the Universal Title, at SummerSlam.  To Roman Reigns.  For the love of fucking Christ, enough with the Brock-Roman shit.  They've wrestled three times, each match getting worse feedback than the last.  Roman isn't your guy.  Seth Rollins is.

Sadly with WWE's recently announced deal with Fox, giving them an exorbitant amount of cash for broadcast rights to Smackdown, Vince is about to start caring even less about putting out quality television.  There's no longer an incentive to do so.  Christ....

Anyway, let's get to the picks.

***Little Dave Moore is in the lead with 69% (22/32), I'm in second with 66% (21/32), Landon is next with 63% (20/32), and Dan's right in the rear with 56% (18/32)***

Pre-Show Match Smackdown Tag Team Championship: Bludgeon Brothers vs. Anderson & Gallows

Welp, this got pushed off the main card.  Just as well, it's a throwaway (though it could be decent) and 10 matches on a B PPV is way too many.  Karl and Luke have zero chance of winning the belts here.

Justin: BB retain
Dan: Bludgeon me.
Landon: BB
Dave: I liked Karl & Luke when they first came up. WWE buried them and they will stay buried. BB retain

Bobby Lashley vs. Sami Zayn

Fuck me....this feud is built around stupid comedy segments involving Lashley's fake sisters, obstacle courses, and other non-wrestling crap.  The company better be paying attention to how good a heel Sami is, because that's all that's being accomplished here.  No one gives a rat's butthole about Lashley the Charisma Vacuum.  He wasn't relevant in 2007 and he certainly isn't now.

Justin: Lashley wins anyway
Dan: Lashley STINKS, but he'll win.
Landon: Lashley
Dave: Who cares?  Lashley.

Smackdown Women's Championship: Carmella vs. Asuka

Okay, here's how this should go.  Asuka kills Carmella dead in 28 seconds, new champion.  Anything other than this scenario is an insult to Asuka.  Also tell me again why Vince had Charlotte end Asuka's streak just to have her drop the belt to Carmella?  Was it just to knock Triple H's hard work down a peg or two?

Justin: Asuka better win this
Dan: I agree.
Landon: Asuka
Dave: It's Asuka time.

Monday, June 11, 2018

NJPW Dominion 2018: Okada-Omega Is the New Yardstick

Dude.  Holy actual fucking shit.  If Okada-Omega IV wasn't the greatest match of all time, I dunno what is.  I went into this saying "Well, they're gonna try to top everything they've done before, and if two guys could do it, it's Okada and Omega.  But let's be realistic, it'll probably be their second or third-best match.  And that's good enough."  But no, they actually fucking topped everything they've ever done before.  If there had previously been a case to be made against Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega being the two absolute best wrestlers in the world (and really, there wasn't), there definitely isn't now.  These guys set an impossibly high bar for themselves at WrestleKingdom 11 and somehow managed to clear it at Dominion 2018.  This main event was about as perfect a match as I've ever seen.

But first let's talk about the rest of the show.  Even if the undercard of this PPV had sucked, the main event was so incredible it's an 8/10 show for that alone.  But fortunately the undercard did not suck at all.

The opener was a short but entertaining Jr. Tag Title match, with Roppongi 3K challenging El Desperado & Kanemaru, hoping to regain the straps.  The heels took advantage of a slight ref bump and Kanemaru used a whiskey bottle on SHO for the win.  Very odd choice keeping the belts on SZGN here but I imagine RPG3K will get them back sooner or later.  Nothing spectacular in this opener, it was fine.  **

Next up was Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay in another short bout.  This was all about setting up White vs. Robinson, which it did nicely.  Robinson got the pin on White with Pulp Friction, and these two will face off for the US Title at the G1 Special.  Just a quick 7-minute match.  **

A third undercard tag match pitted Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano against Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.  This was the best of the three openers, mostly due to the Ishii-Suzuki interaction (a big singles match is upcoming and should be glorious).  Sabre got the win for his team by tapping out Yano, but after the match Ishii and Suzuki brawled into the back.  Another fun little match.  **1/4

The first really noteworthy bout was the NEVER Openweight triple threat.  Hirooki Goto and Michael Elgin carried most of the weight here while Taichi played the chickenshit heel who picked his spots and tried to stay out of danger.  After some nice three-way spots and some good powerbrokering from Goto and Elgin, Elgin won by buckle bombing Taichi into Goto and then Elgin bombing Taichi for the pin.  Elgin vs. Goto is already announced for Kizuna Road, so that should be a helluva fight.  This match wasn't your usual NEVER slugfest but had some clever spots and was well worked.  ***1/2

Here's where the show really started to take off.  The Young Bucks, freshly moved up to the heavyweight tag division, challenged Evil & Sanada in an energetic, dramatic bout where both Bucks sold injuries - Matt's back became an issue again, and Nick missed a kick on the apron and whacked his foot on the post.  Both injuries played into multiple spots and the Bucks were in peril for much of the bout.  Matt and Nick Jackson have successfully transitioned from spotfest wrestlers to really great storytellers, and this match felt different than their Jr. division stuff.  I'm really excited to see how the heavyweight class looks with them in the mix.  After multiple exciting false finishes, the Bucks took the match and the straps with More Bang for Your Buck.  One of the best heavyweight tag title matches I've seen in NJPW.  ****

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Music Review: Ghost - Prequelle (2018)

After an ugly lawsuit between current and former members, Swedish metal band Ghost have returned with their fourth LP Prequelle, and the results are, well, underwhelming.  Feeling less like a fresh set of new songs and more like a plate of leftovers from Meloria (their killer 2015 album), Prequelle pretty much explores the same sonic territory but lacks the instant throat-grab of songs like "He Is" and "Cirice."  Where Meloria and its 2013 predecessor Infestessumam (my personal favorite Ghost record) were chock full of excellent 70s and 80s-esque hard rock that channeled bands like Blue Oyster Cult and even (gasp!) ABBA, Prequelle is just a slate of competently written and performed tunes that satisfy without dazzling.

Even minor standouts like the glam metalish "Rats" and "Dance Macabre" and the intriguing but incomplete-sounding closer "Life Eternal," with its numerous key modulations and emotive hook, sound like B-side material rather than album highlights.  The choice to put two full-length instrumentals on one record strikes me as odd too - the second of these, an atmospheric waltz called "Helvetesfonster," keeps my attention at least, but the first, called "Miasma," feels like a song for which they just couldn't come up with a vocal part (though I did like the use of saxophone toward the end).  Couple that with the truncated intro track "Ashes," and you're left with only seven songs that feature the band's frontman and primary creative force. 

That's not to say Prequelle doesn't sound great, it certainly does.  The slick, full-sounding production on Meloria is back on this album; the instruments all sound huge and thunderous, and Cardinal Copia's dense vocal harmonies provide plenty of ear candy as usual.  It's just that the prodigious songwriting of the last two records is missing here.  I don't hate any of these tunes, but I don't love any of them either. 

Prequelle is a decent effort, but unlike Infestessumam and Meloria, sadly doesn't feel like an essential Ghost record.

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

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NJPW Dominion 2018 Preview & Predictions

Holy jumpin' shitballs this show looks good.  Like, "the most fun you can have with your clothes on" good.  Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself - welcome to another round of PPV Predictions here at

As I was saying, Dominion has all the markings of an all-time classic PPV.  Epic main event?  Check.  Awesome special attraction match?  Check.  Wildly athletic Jr. Heavyweight match?  Check.  Guest stars?  Check.  Potentially division-altering Tag Title match?  Check.  Literally the only thing missing from this show is Kota Ibushi (where the hell is he??).  There's no reason this can't be the PPV of the Year.

So let's get to the predictions....

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Roppongi 3K

This'll be the hot opener to kick things off.  Now that the Super Juniors tourney is over, RPG3K needs to regain the straps and go back to being the division's new featured team.  I'm not expecting an incredible match here, but this should be fun.

Justin: RPG
Landon: Let's get these straps on RPG so that Desperado can challenge for the Junior Heavyweight title.

Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi

This is one of the few New Japan shows where even the throwaway tag matches early on the card hold some intrigue for me.  I often skip these types of matches, but this and the next match could both be quite entertaining.  I like that White and Finlay are feuding over a championship, now that they're all growns up.  White is still looking for his career-defining match, but I have no doubt he'll find it.  I have a feeling this is to set up White vs. Juice over the next couple months.

Justin: I guess I'll go with Juice and Dave
Landon: Juice and Dave.  Sorry Yoshi.

Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano

Again, this could just be a filler match but I'm actually interested in it; anytime Ishii mixes it up with Suzuki or Sabre I'm on board.  I'd like to see a real feud between Ishii and Sabre.  This should have some nice brutality mixed with Yano's comedy antics.

Justin: Suzuki-Gun
Landon: SZGN

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Parents' Night In #8: Star Wars - The Last Jedi (2017)

Join Kelly and Justin for a super-sized episode of the hottest show on YouTube*, as we drink booze and talk about the most controversial Star Wars film of all time, The Last Jedi!  Is it as bad as some people say?  As great as other people say?  Is Rose the worst character ever?  Are "butthurt fanboys" overreacting?  Let's take a closer look!

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*According to a panel of experts who live in our house.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Movie Review: Solo - A Star Wars Story (2018)

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the type of movie Rogue One really should have been - a gritty, small-scope heist film with an assortment of unseemly, well, roguish types we can't help but identify with.  Where Rogue One didn't give any of its characters an arc or relatable traits (aside from the smart-ass droid), Solo actually has colorful characters who are fun to spend a couple hours with and keeps the action sequences pretty toned down (though that Rogue One space battle is fucking awesome).  It blends elements of crime movies and Westerns to finally give us a different kind of Star Wars film (with an admittedly way-too-dark palette - sometimes it was hard to see who we were looking at).

Alden Ehrenreich stars as the young version of everyone's favorite intergalactic smuggler, in a performance that doesn't equal Harrison Ford's iconic turn (Honestly, how could it?), but captures enough of that Solo swagger and cocksuredness that we aren't distracted by the fact that it isn't Ford.  Ehrenreich is likable, smarmy and generally in way over his head, like Han Solo should be.  There were rumors of the filmmakers being unhappy with his work early on, to the point that he had to be sent to an acting coach.  I'm not sure how much of that is true, but whatever they did worked just fine.  So no complaints about the film's lead, which is half the battle in and of itself.

Solo also boasts several engaging supporting characters, including Donald Glover's much-anticipated portrayal of Lando Calrissian.  Glover does solid work here, emulating Billy Dee Williams' natural charisma and distinctive manner of speech, while dialing up Lando's more scoundrel-ish traits.  When we meet Calrissian he is a gambling aficionado who seemingly spends all his time in seedy underworld locales, loving the action at the card table.  Han and Lando immediately have an uneasy rapport, neither trusting the other in the slightest but each finding something irresistable about the other.  They don't get a ton of screen time together but the seeds are planted for their later interactions.

Chewbacca is lovable as usual, and his chemistry with Han is instantly established; right away it's clear these two are buddies for the long haul.  Chewie's introduction was handled nicely, in such a way that the two characters believably feel indebted to each other.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Great PPVs: NJPW Dominion 2015

It's been a while, but welcome back to The Great PPVs, here at and, where I take a look back at a wrestling show that just kicked all kinds of ass and left me asking for seconds.  With New Japan's Dominion show coming up I thought I'd look back at the first Dominion show for which I was an NJPW fan, Dominion 2015!

This PPV was the culmination of a year-long arc for Kazuchika Okada, who'd been unseated for the IWGP Title by AJ Styles (partly due to Bullet Club shenanigans), and spend the rest of 2014 and the first half of 2015 trying to climb back up the mountain (with a heartbreaking loss to Tanahashi at WrestleKingdom 9).  Okada's road to Dominion had been a troubled one, with a couple losses to Bad Luck Fale before a big win at Invasion Attack that put that feud to bed and set the stage for The Rainmaker to face Styles at the second-biggest show of the year.

But first the undercard...

Dominion was in my estimation the second-best PPV of 2015 behind WrestleKingdom 9.  The show's nine matches flew by, with the two headliners falling well into ****+ territory and several other bouts approaching that.  Only two matches could even be considered weak, and one of those was more of an angle than a proper match.

The show opened with a wild, fast-paced offering from the Jr. Heavyweight Tag division, as The Young Bucks defended their Titles against reDRagon and RPG Vice.  NJPW does cruiser-style action better than anyone, and these three teams got the crowd warmed up nicely, delivering a fun 14-minute sprint that ended with More Bang for Your Buck.  Very enjoyable opener.

Next up was one of the weaker matches of the night; Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma and Tetsuya Naito.  This took place during the very early stages of Naito becoming the Ingobernable we all know and love today, so if nothing else the match has some historical significance.  Naito sauntered down to the ring, in no hurry to help out his partner who was already being ambushed by the two Bullet Club members, and even refused to tag into the match until very late.  Eventually Honma got the surprise win, but Naito bailed immediately after the closing bell.  Turning the bland babyface Naito into the scoundrel he is today would of course prove to be a major box office boon for New Japan.

The really stacked portion of the card began next with the Katsuyori Shibata-Kazushi Sakuraba fight.  And I mean FIGHT.  This was one of the best simulated MMA bouts I've ever seen and I'd rank it right up there with Sakuraba-Nakamura from WK7.  The grappling looked totally convincing and snug, and Shibata's strikes were brutal.  Sakuraba dominated the match with some amazing submissions, clinging to Shibata like a spider monkey, until finally Shibata broke free (at one point reaching the ropes with his mouth, as all his limbs were unavailable) and took the match with the Penalty Kick.  This was a fascinating watch.