Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK11)

The greatest in-ring feud of all time began here....

WrestleKingdom 11 - 1.4.17

Well this was a big deal, folks.  WrestleKingdom 11 was, as expected, a major hit for New Japan, proving unequivocally that they'd recovered from the significant talent losses of 2016.  But more importantly it was headlined by one of the most buzz-worthy main events of the last twenty years.

The big news coming out of WrestleKingdom 11 was that the 2017 Match of the Year had already been decided.  Hell, this may have been the match of the decade.  I almost don't know how to describe it.  I can't remember being this blown away by a wrestling match since the Triple H-Shawn Michaels-Chris Benoit main event at WrestleMania XX.  If anything tops Okada vs. Omega in 2017 (or anytime soon) I can't wait to see it.  This was nearly 47 minutes of just about everything you could ever want out of a main event.  The match started methodically with both men showcasing their grappling skills.  Act 1 lasted roughly 15 minutes and then the match surged to another level, with Act 2 consisting of some of the most insane high spots I've seen since the Attitude Era.  Omega landed a moonsault from the top rope, over the railing to the floor, he took a back body drop over the top rope through a table on the floor, Okada took a Dragon Superplex that looked like it killed him, and so on.  And this was only the second act of the match!  After this the drama actually escalated as both guys tried to put each other away, Omega kicked out of the Rainmaker (joining a very exclusive club) and tried in vain several times to hit the One-Winged Angel before finally falling to the fourth Rainmaker of the match.  Again, this went 47 minutes and didn't feel a moment too long for me.  I've never seen anything like this.  Dave Meltzer awarded this match an unprecedented six stars, and in no way do I consider that hyperbole.  Okada vs. Omega was one of the most incredible wrestling matches I've ever seen in my thirty-plus years as a fan.  They'd wrestle twice more in 2017, creating the greatest trilogy of matches since Flair-Steamboat (or maybe ever), followed by a match in 2018 that astoundingly was even better.

Jeezus Christ this match was incredible.

The main event was so good in fact that I feel like the rest of the card got unfairly overshadowed.

The show opened with Tiger Mask W (aka Kota Ibushi) vs. Tiger the Dark (aka ACH) in a quick, lighthearted six-minute match.  Nowhere near what these two are capable of, but it wasn't supposed to be.  Ibushi would fortunately drop the mask just in time for 2017's G1 tournament and resume being the all-encompassingly awesome Golden Star.

The first standout was the Jr. Heavyweight Tag match, a vastly more memorable bout than the previous three WrestleKingdom 4-ways.  Don't get me wrong, those are always fun, but it was great to see the Junior Tags get a simple two-on-two match that told a story.  But this still had the crazy high spots, like Trent Barreta doing a swan dive out of the ring and hitting nothing but floor.  Jeezus, how did he not die?  Rocky Romero then got double-teamed to death before making a surprise comeback and winning the belts.  This was great.

Next was the Gauntlet Match for the six-man belts, a three-segment melee that was fine, but kinda peaked early.  The Bullet Club trio faced the Chaos trio in a fun 7-minute match before moving on to the LIJ trio.  LIJ made short work of the BC and then faced the Champions, Kojima, David Finlay and Ricochet.  LIJ's cheating tactics won the day and the straps (only to lose them one night later to Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi and Ryusuke Taguchi).  This was fine, but forgettable.

Cody (Rhodes) made his big New Japan debut against Juice Robinson, in what was a fine showcase and more than I was expecting.  Juice got in a lot of offense (the reason became apparent at New Year's Dash when Juice pinned Goto to earn a NEVER Openweight Title shot), but Cody predictably won with the CrossRhodes.  Solid debut for Cody wherein he began to demonstrate his worth as a New Japan star.  This was also unexpectedly Juice Robinson's coming out party, as he quickly became a very viable rising star in New Japan.

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK10)

NJPW followed up the near-perfect WK9 with another near-perfect show....

WrestleKingdom 10 - 1/4/16

Wow.  New Japan Pro Wrestling did it again.  They were tasked with living up to the transcendent WrestleKingdom 9 and somehow they managed to do just that.  WrestleKingdom 10 set the bar VERY high for all other wrestling shows in 2016, it was no stretch to say the Best PPV of the Year Award was already decided as of January 5th.  There was literally not one bad match on this show.  It started off incredibly fun and with almost no wasted time in between matches the pitch never dropped below "neato."

The opener was predictably wild and innovative, as reDRagon, The Young Bucks, Roppongi Vice, and Aerial Dogfight (Matt Sydal & Ricochet) tore it up with crazy tandem moves galore.  After nearly 17 minutes of non-stop offense Matt & Nick Jackson regained the Jr. Heavyweight straps.  Great way to kick things off, as usual.

Next was the NJPW debut of The Briscoes, who teamed with Toru Yano against Bullet Club members Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Takahashi.  This was probably the weakest match of the night, but only by default.  For twelve minutes these six put on a helluvan entertaining little show, culminating in Yano and the Brothers winning the brand-new Six-Man Championship.

For the first time ever the Ring of Honor World Title was defended in the Tokyo Dome as Jay Lethal and Michael Elgin delivered a fine undercard match.  While a bit underwhelming for a major title bout, this was still very solid stuff.

Moving right along, the hits kept racking up with Kenny Omega vs. Kushida in the rubber match for the Jr. Heavyweight Title.  While not as strong as their previous two bouts (understandable given the time constraints), this was still easily a 3.5-star affair and told the story of Kushida defying the odds to regain the Title.  It also served as Omega's swan song in the Jr. division (as we'd see the following night).  Damn good stuff.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie Review: Marriage Story (2019)


With his new Netflix-produced film Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach has crafted an emotional powderkeg.  Starring Scarlet Johanssen and Adam Driver as a 30-something couple going through an ugly divorce, Marriage Story is an understated, at times upsetting, family drama that shows us the best and worst of a generally likable husband and wife.

The film doesn't exactly take sides, though the husband Charlie spends the first act mostly being blindsided after his wife Nicole hires a high-powered attorney (a stellar Laura Dern), who convinces her client that Charlie needs to be punished for an extramarital affair and his to-a-fault devotion to his work.  Nicole wants a divorce because she feels like she has nothing of her own in the marriage; Charlie is a successful New York theater director and she is his leading lady, but she's got a television pilot on the table in LA, setting up an impasse.  Initially the pair agree to an amicable, lawyer-free divorce, but Nicole brings in Dern's shark, and the couple's friendliness devolves quickly.

The second act largely involves Charlie flying back and forth, trying to balance west coast time with his son Henry (Nicole, via her lawyer, is threatening to take away custody) with an upcoming Broadway run for his play.  Forced to hire his own attorney, Charlie initially consults a rival shark (played by a scenery-chewing Ray Liotta) but realizes he can't afford $900 an hour plus a $25k retainer, and instead hires a semi-retired, thrice divorced lawyer played by Alan Alda, who's seen the process "bring out the worst in good people" and urges Charlie to acquiese to Nicole's demands.  Despite this obviously overwhelming pressure, compounded by Henry's apparent lack of interest in spending quality time with him, Charlie mostly tries to roll with the punches and make the best of things.  But the cracks begin to show when it becomes apparent that he'll need to establish permanent residence in Los Angeles or risk losing Henry altogether.

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK9)

My proper introduction to NJPW, and probably still the greatest PPV I've ever witnessed....

WrestleKingdom 9 - 1/4/15

Every so often a wrestling PPV comes along that seems to render obsolete everything that came before.  There aren't enough superlatives to describe how fucking good the ninth edition of WrestleKingdom was; from top to bottom this show was entertaining at worst, and more often than not was transcendent.  I'm not exaggerating when I say WK9 was just as good as WrestleManias 17 and 19, and annihilated pretty much every other PPV below that top echelon.  This is one of the best wrestling shows I've ever seen.

The show opened with an amazing display of Jr. Heavyweight tag team wrestling, with reDRagon defending their straps against the Young Bucks, Forever Hooligans and The Time Splitters.  There was no big story being told in this match, it was simply a game of aerial oneupmanship.  All four teams worked at a blistering pace to rev up the 36,000 in attendance, and this match accomplished exactly what it needed to.

Next up were the only two low points of the show, a six-man tag and an 8-man.  Each match only went five minutes and both were inoffensive but forgettable.  The first pitted Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima and Tomoaki Honma against Bullet Club members Bad Luck Fale, Jeff Jarrett and Yujiro Takahashi in a sports-entertainment kinda match.  Nothing much memorable here other than Honma getting a rare PPV win.  The other multi-man was a little more fun, as Naomichi Marufuji, TMDK (Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste), and Toru Yano faced the Suzuki-gun stable of Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, Shelton X Benjamin and Takashi Iizuka.  This one had better action than the six-man but was just as brief.  Don't worry though, from here on out this show had nary a lull.

The fourth match was an MMA-hybrid between Minoru Suzuki and Kazushi Sakuraba, to be won only by submission or knockout.  Both guys worked a gritty, realistic fight in which Sakuraba beat the hell out of Suzuki's arm, only for Suzuki to come back with an airtight choke for the win.  Not quite at the level of WK7's Nakamura-Sakuraba, but still captivating.

The fifth bout took this show to the next level, as Tomohiro Ishii defended the NEVER Openweight Title against Togi Makabe, in one of the most ferocious knock-down matches I've ever seen.  At several points this match devolved into each man taking turns smashing the other with forearms and palm strikes.  Makabe would take this match with the King Kong Knee Drop.  This is probably the greatest NEVER rivalry since that Title's inception.

Nothin' like a knee drop to the head.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Parents' Night mINi: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Welcome to a special short bonus PNI episode, or Parents' Night mINi, as Kelly & Justin discuss the beloved TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas!  We'll talk about our history with this special, why it's still required annual viewing, the magic we used to feel at Christmastime (that sadly goes away as an adult), and Linus's habit of thumb sucking...

Crack open a cold drink and enjoy this special episode!  Don't forget to LIKE and SUBSCRIBE!





Thanks for reading - subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Mix, Facebook and YouTube!








The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK8)

Probably the weakest of the great WrestleKingdoms, but still a helluva show....

WrestleKingdom 8 - 1/4/14

We're officially in the middle of a streak, as NJPW followed up the excellent WK7 with an almost-as-great WK8.  This show was a bit of a donut, with a good beginning and a great end but not much of a middle.  But that's okay, the good stuff far outweighed the bad.

Kicking things off was a 4-way for the Jr. Heavyweight Tag belts: The Young Bucks vs. Forever Hooligans vs. Suzuki-gun vs. Time Splitters.  This was a crazy spotfest with a lot of comedy mixed in, such as Taka and Taichi spending the first three minutes at the commentators' table.  The action was pretty much non-stop and a lot of fun.  Young Bucks won with the amazing More Bang for Your Buck (I won't attempt to describe this move as it's too complex - just Youtube it).  Even more amazing was the announcer calling the move: "MORE BANG-UH FOR YOUR BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK-UH!"

The World Tag belts were up next, as Killer Elite Squad defended against Bullet Club members Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows.  This was an energetic Tag Title match where the Bullet Club guys outheeled Smith and Archer and therefore took the belts.  Interesting to see KES become the de facto babyfaces.

In the third slot was the NWA Championship: Rob Conway vs. Satoshi Kojima was surprisingly good, with Kojima carrying most of the workload and the crowd responding well to everything he did.  Nothing mindblowing but a good little match.

The first low point was fourth, as Kazushi Sakuraba & Yuji Nagata faced MMA fighters Daniel & Rollie Gracie.  New Japan has done some excellent faux-MMA matches, but this wasn't one of them.  The Gracies, talented fighters though they may be, don't work well in a pro wrestling format, partly due to their basically being devoid of charisma.  Not terrible, but not good either.

The obligatory Great Muta match was next as he teamed with Toru Yano against Minoru Suzuki & Shelton Benjamin.  A pretty good tag match, largely because of Suzuki and Benjamin's heel shenanigans keeping things fun.  Yano, ever the cheater, managed to play a sympathetic character while still using underhanded tactics.  Muta once again used way too many Shining Wizards.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK7)

Alright folks, this is where it really gets good.  The next seven installments of WrestleKingdom are about as good as any consecutive editions of any PPV I can recall.  

WrestleKingdom 7 - 1/4/13

What a splendid show this was.  From start to finish, WrestleKingdom 7 delivered at about the highest possible level, including an instant classic main event, an unexpectedly great IC match, and one of the best Triple Threats I've ever seen.  New Japan was in the midst of a wrestling renaissance, my friends.

The show started with an amusing opening match designed to ease the crowd into it: Akebono, Manabu Nakanishi, MVP and Strong Man vs. Chaos (Bob Sapp, Takashi Iizuka, Toru Yano and Yujiro Takahashi).  This had a lot of kinda goofy spots, like the babyfaces all hitting corner avalanches on all four heels.  I think they did that spot two or three times actually.  Anyway the match was inoffensive but felt like a throwaway.

The proper start to WK7 was Masato Tanaka vs. Shelton Benjamin for the NEVER Openweight Title, in what was pretty damn good for a six-minute match.  Four more minutes and this would've approached three-star territory.  Side note: Shelton should go back to being a babyface, as his style was much more exciting that way. 

Next up was KES (Davey Boy Smith jr & Lance Archer) vs. Sword & Guns (Hirooki Goto & Karl Anderson) in a surprisingly good Tag Title match.  I didn't think I'd be all that impressed with KES, but they've made a solid top team.  Seeing Karl Anderson as a babyface was pretty weird - he even wore light-colored gear.  This was full of action and fun tandem offense.

The first classic of the night was next, between Yuji Nagata and Minoru Suzuki.  This was their third WK match together, and this blew the other two out of the water.  Really hard-hitting action as usual but this match felt much bigger and got the time it needed.  Nagata finally got the win with the Backdrop Hold after some amazingly stiff wrestling.

Whammo!

The show stealer of WK7 was in the center of the card: Prince Devitt vs. Kota Ibushi vs. Low-Ki for the Jr. Heavyweight Title.  Just an amazing, amazing match, and seriously one of the best of its kind that I've ever seen.  These three managed to make a 3-way match flow totally smoothly, where it wasn't just two guys fighting while the other sold on the outside.  And when that did happen, the third guy would show up out of nowhere with an insane spot.  At multiple points, Wrestler A would hit a big move on Wrestler B, only for Wrestler C to immediately follow it up with some huge move on Wrestler A.  Just a breathtaking match you should go out of your way to see.  Low-Ki by the way was able to wrestle at this level while wearing a full suit (in tribute to the videogame Hitman), which is insane to me.

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK6)

The last WrestleKingdom show to not be a classic....

WrestleKingdom VI - 1/4/12

WK6 was a bit of a step back.  It was by no means a bad show; in fact every match was at the very least watchable.  But in the vein of a SummerSlam '93 there were neither highs nor lows.  It was one of those PPVs where it's hard to pick the best match because nothing really stood out from the pack.

The show started out quite promising, with Apollo 55 vs. No Remorse Corps.  This was a great opener with fast-paced, continuous action with crazy tandem offense.  All four worked well but once again Devitt was the standout - watching NJPW has given me a real appreciation for Devitt/Finn Balor that I wouldn't be able to fully process based only on his NXT run.

The blazing speed continued with Jushin Thunder Liger, Kushida, Máscara Dorada and Tiger Mask vs. Atlantis, Taichi, Taka Michinoku and Valiente.  This was a spectacular Lucha showcase with all kinds of wild aerial moves.  A lot of fun througout, but the ending was abrupt and anticlimactic, kinda coming out of nowhere.

The five-minute Kazuchika Okada vs. Yoshi-Hashi was next; little more than a showcase for Okada's new Rainmaker character (his third gimmick in as many WK PPVs).  The crowd wasn't reacting to his stuff yet, and his Rainmaker clothesline was much less brutal.

The fourth match was a slugfest, as Stack of Arms (Masakatsu Funaki and Masayuki Kono) faced  Seigigun (Yuji Nagata and Wataru Inoue).  This was really good while it lasted and featured stiff MMA-infused offense.  Sadly it was too short to amount to that much and felt like they were rushing to fit everything in.  Five more minutes would've elevated this one.

Next up was MVP and Shelton Benjamin vs. Masato Tanaka and Yujiro Takahashi, in a so-so tag match.  Shelton still looked like his WWE self in 2012; lately he's looked sluggish and unmotivated, but maybe it's his current heelish character.  His offense here was was quite lively.  Tanaka brought out the obligatory table and kendo stick spots.  Not bad but not very memorable either.

The IWGP Tag Championship was next: Bad Intention vs. Tencozy.  This was a pretty good Tag Title match with lots of double teaming and relaxed tag rules.  Almost a tornado tag.  I'm still not convinced Albert was any better in Japan than in the US, and he returned to WWE only a couple months later.

Business picked up a bit with the final five matches, the first of which was Hirooki Goto vs. Takashi Suguira.  This wasn't quite at the level of their WK4 match, which felt like a main event.  This was shorter and felt more like a midcard match.  Still good and stiff, but lacked the drama and suspense of their previous match.

Kaboom!

Next was Togi Makabe vs. Yoshihiro Takayama, which was a little plodding but had some good spots, such as Makabe spider-suplexing Takayama off the top rope.  Takayama is just very sluggish and his style is a little tough to get into.  Against an opponent like Nakamura who can sell like crazy for him, he seems more impressive, but against a brute like Makabe he just seems like a bit of a clod.  Not a bad match but not super exciting either.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK5)

Tanahashi faces another old-guard NJPW star.....

WrestleKingdom V - 1/4/11

WK5 was similar to WK3 in that it was a consistently watchable show but was missing a must-see match.  Still there was a lot to like about this show and a ton of great talent showcased.  WK5 was the final event in the series to feature TNA talent.

There were two preshow matches but only one really stuck out - Koji Kanemoto and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kenny Omega and Taichi.  This was a very well-worked tag match with tons of spectacular offense.  Omega was clearly the star here, and it's easy to see why he'd soon become a top Jr. Heavyweight player (and of course a main event star later on).  I would've loved to see this as the hot opening match.

The first official PPV bout was Bad Intentions vs. Beer Money vs. Muscle Orchestra for the IWGP Tag belts.  Quite a car wreck of an opener, with 2-3 guys in the ring at a time while everyone else sold on the outside.  This match had decent energy, like all six wrestlers wanted to set the pace for the show.  The most memorable visual was Strong Man gorilla pressing the 330-pound Matt Bloom.  Totally forgettable but on ok opener.

Next up was an incredibly fun Lucha tag match - Máscara Dorada and La Sombra vs. Jushin Thunder Liger and Héctor Garza.  Even at forty years old Garza still looked great, and Sombra displayed some amazing top-rope dives.  Pretty short, but a really exciting aerial bout.

The first semi-miss of the night was next: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Takashi Iizuka in a Deep Sleep to Lose match (meaning you had to put your opponent away with a sleeper hold).  This was a fairly plodding affair and the sleeper stipulation made for a very anticlimactic finish, but this wasn't all bad either.  Just not something I'd ever watch again.

Rob Van Dam vs. Toru Yano was next.  Entertaining, but outside of a few painful-looking spots this was your garden-variety garbage match.  For what it was it was well-executed.  The crowd was into RVD much more than they'd been into Team 3-D the previous two shows, even chanting his initials along with him.  This was fine but approaching filler territory.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Movie Review: Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker


And with that, the Skywalker Saga has come to a bittersweet end.  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth episode in the series and the eleventh live-action Star Wars film overall, has garnered pretty shockingly tepid reviews, but not from this guy.  I liked it.  A lot.

JJ Abrams is back to close the trilogy he opened, given the unenviable task of reconciling the story threads in his safe crowdpleaser The Force Awakens with Rian Johnson's subversive, divisive (but pretty excellent) The Last Jedi.  Given the divergent approaches of the two directors - one offers total deference to the original trilogy, the other trolls fanboys somewhat - it's kind of miraculous that Abrams was able to weave it all together in a satisfying way.  This film ties up not only this trilogy, but the nine overall episodes, lending meaning and explanation to elements of TFA and TLJ, and striking a through-line of sorts all the way back to the events of the prequels.  Several reviewers have complained of JJ retconning some of Rian's narrative choices, but there's really only one element that could even be called retconning, and only, as Obi-Wan once put it "from a certain point of view."  JJ provides answers to all the important questions raised in the first two films and resolves the dramatic tension pretty beautifully overall.

As always I won't go into spoilers, and to that end I won't even reveal many plot details; to describe the main story arc would be saying too much (Few blockbusters can be described that way, so kudos to Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio for such ingenuity).  A more fitting way to discuss the story is to talk about the characters.  Rey and Kylo, the heart of this trilogy and two of the most compelling Star Wars characters ever created, confront their destinies, their choices, and each other, with stirring emotional results (Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver once again deliver wonderful, show stealing performances).  Poe Dameron further grows into his role as a natural leader and we learn more about his past.  Finn the former Stormtrooper finally embraces his latent heroism and becomes an inspiration to others.  We get a few new characters, one of which I found an adorable throwback to some of the creatures in the original trilogy.  There are some major story turns, some expected, some not.  And of course we get the obligatory Star Wars action set pieces, though this film is surprisingly driven more by characters than by action, which I appreciated; characters and emotion.  I found myself legitimately choked up four or five times during this movie, and that's another testament to Abrams, Johnson and the various screenwriters for creating characters that are easily invested in.

Was the movie perfect?  No, but let's be honest, none of them are.  TROS, like every Star Wars film, has clunky expository dialogue, some scenes that aren't given enough time to breathe, and a few plot contrivances.  But none of these minor gripes were enough to take me out of the mood.  Like the original trilogy, the characters are so relatable and compelling, and the pure filmmaking so visually stunning and immersive, they carried me through whatever storytelling flaws were present.  I daresay TROS was a stronger third act for this trilogy than Return of the Jedi was for that one. 

Whatever the fanbase's complaints, and they always have plenty, The Rise of Skywalker is another very strong entry in the Star Wars mythos, lovingly crafted by an obviously devoted fan aiming to guide the series to safe and satisfying landing.  Could Abrams have taken more risks?  Yes.  Would I be interested in seeing how Johnson would've handled this chapter?  Absolutely.  But for the most part TROS does a very admirable job of bringing it all home and answering our myriad questions.  All in all, this trilogy has been a breath of fresh Star Wars air after the disastrous prequels, and I can't wait to watch them back-to-back-to-back (If I ever find seven consecutive free hours to do so).  The Rise of Skywalker is a fitting, affecting conclusion to this 40-plus-year-old saga.

I give the film ***1/2 out of ****.


Thanks for reading - subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Mix, Facebook and YouTube!







The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK4)

WK4 was easily the best of the early editions.....

WrestleKingdom IV - 1/4/10

Here at last is a WrestleKingdom show that's consistently entertaining and also has multiple 3.5-4 star matches.  The stars were beginning to align for New Japan, as the notable talents were falling into their respective current roles and spots on the card.  WK4 also featured a New Japan vs. Pro Wrestling NOAH rivalry, as four second-half matches comprised a card-within-a-card.

A quick six-man kicked things off, as Mitsuhide Hirasawa, Super Strong Machine and Wataru Inoue faced Jushin Thunder Liger, Kazuchika Okada and Koji Kanemoto.  This was an okay opener but far too short to amount to anything.  It was very weird seeing a 21-year-old Okada, who carried himself completely differently back then.  Brief but inoffensive.

The show picked up big with the second match, as Apollo 55 (Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi) defended the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight straps against Averno and Último Guerrero.  This was a highly entertaining Cruiserweight tag match, with Devitt in particular shining like the rising star he was, displaying spectacular offense and a great ring presence.  On a more streamlined card this match  would've been the hot opener.

The Heavyweight Tag Championship was next, as Team 3-D defended against No Limit (Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro) and Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson) with Hardcore rules.  A decent enough garbage match, and light years better than the previous year's Team 3-D bout.  No Limit and Karl Anderson brought enough workrate to compensate for the other three guys.  The hardcore stuff was very played out even in 2010 and they weren't doing anything groundbreaking.  Also the tables and chairs in Japan are pretty flimsy-looking so none of the big hardcore spots looked all that dangerous.  The whole "Get the tables!" bit clearly doesn't play in Japan, as the crowd was apathetic.  But this match was fine.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Parents' Night In #27: It's a Wonderful Life (1946), the Greatest Christmas Movie

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, yadda yadda yadda!  Justin & Kelly are back to discuss their favorite Christmas movie, the one that makes them wanna bawl their eyes out at least a dozen times, Frank Capra's masterpiece It's a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed!

It's a Wonderful Life
has been a part of our lives since we were kids, and decades later we've found new ways to relate to this film about a good man who falls into despair.  It's a must-watch for us every holiday season and we're happy to share our thoughts with all of you!

Sit back, relax, grab a drink, and laugh and cry with us as we watch It's a Wonderful Life!

And don't forget to LIKE and SUBSCRIBE!




Thanks for reading - subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter, MeWe, Mix, Facebook and YouTube!








Thursday, December 19, 2019

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK3)

It's a generational battle/passing of the torch in the main event.....

WrestleKingdom III - 1/4/09

The third edition of WK was most definitely a consistently good overall card.  As usual there were multiple six-plus-man tags but they were mostly different degrees of fun, and a few of the top-billed matches rose to 3.5-star territory or better.  Despite the involvement of TNA talent in several matches I was actually able to track all of them down, so unlike WK2 this review is complete.

To kick things off we had Místico, Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Averno, Gedo and Jado in a very fun opening match showcasing Mistico, the future (and now former) Sin Cara, whose offense was flashy and hyper-agile.  How he's able to land on his feet after a hurricanrana I'll never know.  Anyway, good stuff to kick off the PPV.

Next was the Motor City Machine Guns vs. No Limit.  This was a typical but highly entertaining Jr. Heavyweight tag match with pretty continuous acton throughout and tons of creative spots.  Nothing wrong with that.

The Jr. Heavyweight action continued with Low-Ki vs. Tiger Mask IV.  This was a solid match but never seemed to get to the next gear.  The early going was fairly slow but it picked up later on.  Strangely methodical for such a short match.

The first miss of the night was next, as Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Riki Choshu and Masahiro Chono faced Giant Bernard, Karl Anderson, Takashi Iizuka and Tomohiro Ishii.  There didn't seem to be much point to this one, and the match wasn't long enough for everyone to get their shit in.  Why was Nash even here?  I'm not sure he ever got tagged in.

Jushin Thunder Liger and Takuma Sano vs. Koji Kanemoto and Wataru Inoue was in the fifth slot.  Another fast-paced, enjoyable tag match.  The Liger-Kanemoto stuff was very crisp and engaging.  Liger won the match with a superplex - a rarity these days.

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK2)

NJPW teams with TNA for their second WrestleKingdom card...

WrestleKingdom II - 1/4/08

(Note: Apologies for my WK2 coverage, as NJPW World unfortunately doesn't have it in its entirety due to TNA's involvement; any match featuring a TNA-contracted wrestler at the time is missing.  A couple of these matches are clearly no big loss - Bernard & Tomko vs. The Steiners for example - but the two openers, AJ Styles/Christian Cage/Petey Williams vs. Devitt/Minoru/Milano Collection, and Wataru Inoue vs. Christopher Daniels, are two matches I was excited about.  I was able to track down the semi-main event, Kurt Angle vs. Yuji Nagata, on YouTube, so at least I got to see the most important of the TNA matches.  Anywho, this piece will only cover half the card.)

The second show on paper appeared to be a much more fitting lineup for the biggest PPV of the year, and even featured several top TNA stars.  As with most WK shows the lower card guys were crammed into multi-man tags, but at least this time those matches were spread out a little so they'd stand out more.  Plus the main event was actually a singles match for the IWGP World Title.

Due to the lack of TNA matches on the network, we'll pick up in match 4, as Katsushi Takemura, Masato Tanaka, Tatsuhito Takaiwa and Yutaka Yoshie faced Koji Kanemoto, Ryusuke Taguchi, Takashi Iizuka and Tiger Mask.  This was a decent 8-man spotfest.  Tiger Mask especially looked good, and there were some fun exchanges between Tanaka and Kanemoto (who looks like and uses some of the same offense as Shibata).  Solid but forgettable.

Next was Legend (Akira, Jushin Thunder Liger, Masahiro Chono, Riki Choshu and Tatsumi Fujinami) vs. Yasshi, Gedo, Jado, Shuji Kondo and Taru.  This was another clusterfuck 10-man with the action spilling out all over ringside.  Not much memorable here but it was reasonably enjoyable for seven minutes.

Skipping down the card, we have Hirooki Goto vs. Great Muta, which was a pretty good upper midcard match.  Goto attacked Muta during entrances and had the upperhand until Muta came back with the mist, and then used a ladder and other weapons to bloody Goto.  Keiji Muto looked slimmer and in better shape than the previous year, and his diminished mobility was somewhat hidden by the smoke and mirrors of the Muta character.  A little on the slow side but a fairly entertaining match.

Nagata doesn't quite nail the Crossface.

The co-main event was Kurt Angle vs. Yuji Nagata.  A very well-worked technical match, reminiscent of Angle-Benoit.  The grappling early on was crisp, as is to be expected with Kurt Angle, while the second and third acts featured good submission reversals and counters.  From a pure wrestling standpoint this was the best match on the card.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 4 (King of the Ring 2001)

It's time to build to the 2001 King of the Ring!  Check out Part 3 if you missed it....

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE



King of the Ring

The next night on RAW, Vince announces that he is seeking legal action against Bischoff and WCW, and once again assures the audience that WCW talent will never again appear on WWF television.  Shane McMahon interrupts and tells Vince he is embarrassed by how badly Vince has handled this crisis.  Had Shane been in charge of the WWF, he'd have smoked out the WCW contigent long ago and challenged them to an all-out war.  "Dammit, you're Vincent Kennedy McMahon!  Are you scared WCW might actually win?  Over the collection of talent we have??"  Vince looks down, despondent, unsure what to do.  Shane slaps him across the face and begins to berate him, which brings out Kurt Angle to Vince's defense.  "How dare you slap this man?  He is your father, and my friend!  Anyone who questions Vince's manhood will have to answer to me!"  Vince tries to calm the situation down but Angle jumps on Shane and pummels him.  Vince pulls Angle off and yells at him.  Angle says, comically, "I was helping you!"

The KOTR tournament starts, and plays out mostly like it did in real life.  Over the next couple weeks it boils down to Angle, Edge, Christian and Rhyno.

Steve Austin petitions Vince for another match against Booker, but Vince unequivocally refuses to sanction another match with any WCW talent.  Instead he sets up a gauntlet match, with Triple H, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, Undertaker, Kane, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho.  The match starts with Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy.  Jeff wins with a Twist of Fate after seven minutes.  Then Kane enters and Jeff beats him with a Swanton after six minutes.  Triple H is next, and he gets caught by surprise with a rollup after three minutes.  Jericho is next and he dispatches an exhausted Jeff with a Lionsault after five minutes.  Undertaker is next, and they have a helluva big man-little man match, where Jericho counters a Last Ride with an over-the-top sunset flip after ten minutes.  Finally Benoit enters, and it's a classic technical match.  After twelve minutes Benoit hits a German suplex and the ref counts three.  But its revealed that both men's shoulders were down.  The show goes off the air with no official decision.


Over the coming weeks Angle pesters Vince to let him fight Shane at King of the Ring.  Vince says, "No, you're already in the tournament."  Angle kisses up to Vince, saying what Shane said was way out of line.  Shane cuts another promo saying he would love to fight Angle.  To make it interesting he proposes that if he wins, he gets control over the WWF, and will deal with WCW in the most aggressive manner possible, which is what Vince should've done if he really had "grapefruits."  Vince finally says, "You think you have the grapefruits to beat an Olympic gold medalist AND run this company?  Fine!  But whatever Angle does to you is out of my hands."  Shane agrees, and also proposes a Street Fight, so there's no excuses.

The History of NJPW WrestleKingdom (WK1)

From the wrestling-fixated Enuffa.com creator, who brought you the comprehensive histories of WWE's Big Four PPVs (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series) comes another PPV History series: New Japan Pro Wrestling's WrestleKingdom!


How's it hangin' folks?  Time for yet another Enuffa wrestling history lesson, this time about a major annual PPV that I only discovered a couple years ago.  When Jeff Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling announced they'd be distributing NJPW's WrestleKingdom 9 PPV in the States, and Jim Ross himself would be the play-by-play man, I immediately took notice.  I'd read some great things about New Japan even before this, and saw that over the past four years they've garnered loads of Wrestling Observer awards, but until January 2015 I hadn't seen a single NJPW match.  Then an even bigger announcement dropped: New Japan had created its own WWE Network-style streaming service, offering every major show since the company's 1972 inception all for the price of 999 yen per month (That's around nine bucks for American subscribers).  What this meant was that I'd be able to see WK9 as part of my subscription (alas, JR's commentary was not included, but that's ok).  I was quite impressed with WK9, particularly the consistency of its match quality from start to finish.  For a show mostly featuring talent I'd never seen before, and for which I had no context, this was pretty spectacular.  (Note: I watched WK9 again a few months later, now with the proper context, and....well you'll see my revised opinion in Part 3)  From there I started perusing the library, picking out matches and shows I'd read great things about, and in a matter of weeks I was hooked on New Japan Pro Wrestling.  As it stands now, I'm a bigger fan of NJPW than WWE.  New Japan's product is simple, elegant, athletic, realistic, and unbelievably fun to watch.

So this historical piece will be a little different than the WWE ones, in that I've been a WWE fan for nearly 30 years, while New Japan is still relatively new to me.  I've become quite familiar with the current roster, but I unfortunately won't have quite as strong a historical perspective to draw from.  So I'll be talking more about the quality of these WrestleKingdom shows in and of  themselves, and less about their place in the grand scheme.  But for those of you who aren't yet acquainted with New Japan, you may find this approach helpful.  Think of it as something of a beginner's guide, if you will.  As for you New Japan veteran fans, if I've missed any important details, feel free to comment below!

WrestleKingdom is New Japan's biggest show of the year, held annually on January 4th at the Tokyo Dome (I was surprised to learn that the date never changes, regardless of the weekday).  The Tokyo Dome Show tradition began in 1992 and the event has carried various names, but it wasn't until 2007 that the show was broadcast on PPV and given the WrestleKingdom moniker.  So I'll only be talking about the nine (thus far) PPV editions of this extravaganza.  Let's get to it!



WrestleKingdom - 1/4/07

Like WrestleMania, WK is typically a four-hour event.  Unlike WrestleMania, they're able to comfortably fit 9-11 matches on the card without criminally shortchanging anyone.  One thing (of several) New Japan does way better than WWE is time management. 

The inaugural WK card was sort of an odd mishmash, with only four singles matches on a card of nine.  Clearly they wanted to fit as many guys in as possible, but unfortunately it meant the first half of the show was a blur of multi-man tags.

The opener featured El Samurai, Masanobu Fuchi and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Akira Raijin, Kikutaro and Nobutaka Araya.  It was basically a comedy match, with Kikutaro (who wears a bizarre pink mask based on the Japanese god of good fortune) complaining a lot and even getting punched and kicked by the ref.  Nothing memorable here.

Next up, current NJPW bookers Gedo and Jado took on Tokyo Gurentai (Mazada and Nosawa Rongai) in a match that saw Gurentai dominate the first half of the match, only to fall short in the second.  Not much of interest going on in this one either.

Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe, Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) were up next against former WWE midcarders D'Lo Brown, Buchanan and Travis Tomko.  This was the first match where I was familiar with everyone.  Buchanan still moved well in 2007 but looked pretty out of shape compared to his 2000 WWF run.  Despite this match being eight years ago, Yano and Makabe looked almost exactly the same.  Ishii not so much, as he sported more colorful gear and a weird-looking tuft of hair on top of his head.  If I didn't know he was in this match I wouldn't have recognized him at all (He wasn't given much to do anyway).  This match was ok and didn't overstay its welcome, but was also totally forgettable.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Top Ten Things: December PPV Matches

Welcome to another December-themed Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be talking about my ten favorite December PPV matches.  Aside from WCW's Starrcade, December has generally been a month for B-level PPVs and few Match of the Year candidates.  But there have most definitely been exceptions, both from WWE and other promotions.  One match I really would've liked to include in this list is Ric Flair & Barry Windham vs. The Midnight Express from Clash of the Champions IV.  But that wasn't a PPV, it was a special TV event, so I had to leave it out.  Anyway, here's my top ten December PPV matches of all time.





10. Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle - WWF Vengeance  - 12.9.01


The first of the WWF/WCW Title Unification semi-final bouts, this pitted WWF Champ Austin against arch-nemesis Kurt Angle, in a repeat of their SummerSlam and Unforgiven 2001 battles.  This time though, Austin was back to being the top babyface and Angle was the heel.  There wasn't anything fancy about this, it was just an excellently-worked old-school wrestling match.  While not at the level of their amazing SummerSlam bout, Austin and Angle nontheless put on a helluva show, culminating in Austin reversing a Stunner attempt and countering with his own to retain the strap and advance to the Finals.





9. CM Punk vs. Alberto Del Rio vs. The Miz - WWE TLC - 12.18.11


CM Punk's first PPV defense in his 434-day WWE Title run may have been against two less-than-threatening opponents (Miz especially was coming off a two-month burial), but that didn't take away from this exciting TLC match.  All three men worked hard to make this innovative and unpredictable.  Punk was handcuffed to a ladder and later to one of the turnbuckles, creating suspense about how he'd get out of this one with his Title intact.  Punk got to play the role of "smart babyface" (which sadly doesn't happen often) and after unscrewing one of the ring ropes, he GTSed Miz on his way to victory.




8. Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero - WWE Armageddon - 12.15.02


During the Smackdown Six Era, the two most accomplished former Radicalz met at Armageddon in a no-frills, old-fashioned wrestling match that stole the show.  Benoit and Guerrero had wrestled each other dozens of times in the past, and this fit right into their considerable catalog.  While slightly marred by Chavo's unsuccessful interference attempts and a couple of early miscues, this was still a fine bout with a suspenseful submission finish.


Monday, December 16, 2019

Top Ten Things: Wrestling PPVs of the 2010s

Welcome to a special Decade-End Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  It's the end of the two-aught-tens, so therefore it's time to start counting down the best stuff of the decade.  Stay tuned for several more lists like this in the coming weeks, but for right now let's talk about wrestling PPVs!

Pro wrestling is and always has been a rapidly changing industry, but not since the late 90s has an era been so tumultuous as this one.  At the start of the decade WWE was the one big game in town, TNA was foolishly trying to reignite the Monday Night War, Ring of Honor was coping with the loss of some of its top stars, and NJPW was just beginning to dig itself out of financial ruin thanks to a hot new main eventer named Hiroshi Tanahashi.  Fast-forward ten years and WWE has two major global competitors and a "developmental" brand that consistently outshines the main roster, Impact is creatively improving but lacks star power, ROH has become the new TNA, and pro wrestling as an art form has evolved beyond where anyone thought possible in 2009.  From a talent standpoint WWE boasts perhaps the greatest wrestling roster ever assembled (though on RAW and Smackdown they still don't know what to do with most of them), while New Japan has become the template for combining thrilling in-ring action with detail-oriented storytelling, and building new stars.  Meanwhile All Elite Wrestling is hoping to create a true North American alternative to WWE's monopoly, and NXT is now the most exciting piece of WWE programming.  We're in the midst of a new ratings war, as AEW and NXT duke it out every Wednesday night, while New Japan accomplished something WWE hadn't in years - selling out Madison Square Garden.  It's an exciting, sometimes frustrating, often breathtaking time to be a wrestling fan, and the 2020s promise no shortage of surprises.

But now let's talk about the best PPVs of the 2010s.  From 2010-2019 WWE was hit-or-miss as always, but managed to mine a handful of gems, NXT TakeOver specials rarely scored below an 8/10 for me, and New Japan, bless 'em, smashed the mold into oblivion, producing some of the best PPV events mine eyes have ever seen.  Word of warning, this list is extremely New Japan-heavy.  So let's get to it, but first a few Honorable Mentions...



HM: NJPW King of Pro Wrestling 2012 - New Japan's earliest candidate for "best show ever," which would be upstaged easily a dozen times over the next seven years.


HM: WrestleMania XXX - Nicknamed YEStleMania, this show was centered around Daniel Bryan's journey to the WWE Title.


HM: AEW Full Gear - All Elite's best show so far boasted four ****+ matches and a fantastic heel turn.




10. WWE SummerSlam 2013


WWE's one real standout PPV of 2013 was essentially a three-match show, but a) those three matches included the company's two best of the year, and b) the remaining four bouts totaled 27 minutes of in-ring time.  What this show is remembered for is its double main event, a thrilling no disqualification war of attrittion between CM Punk and Brock Lesnar (still Brock's best match since his 2012 return) and a gutsy MOTY-caliber WWE Title contest between John Cena and the white-hot underdog Daniel Bryan that began his months-long quest to become the unlikely face of the company.  Icing on this cake included a very strong Alberto Del Rio-Christian World Title match and a few solid undercard bouts including Cody Rhodes vs. Damien Sandow, and Dolph Ziggler vs. Big E.  WWE's product in 2013 was as inconsistent as ever, but on this night they delivered a classic show.





9. WWE Money in the Bank 2011


2011 was the Summer of Punk in WWE, and while the followup to this stellar PPV was unfathomably stupid and damaging to the megastar CM Punk had suddenly become, there's no taking away from what an incredible moment Money in the Bank 2011 represented.  It started with the June 27th "pipe bomb" promo to close RAW, where Punk, set to leave the company in three weeks, challenged John Cena to a WWE Title match on his way out and aired his grievances with a promotion that had taken him for granted.  From then on he became a cult anti-hero, and on July 17th, in front of his hometown crowd, he and Cena had a career-defining main event match that saw Punk unseat Vince's posterboy and abscond with the company's top championship.  Of course the company totally failed to stick the landing with this storyline, simply replacing Punk as the champion with Rey Mysterio and then Cena again a week later, leading to a champion vs. champion rematch at SummerSlam (after which Kevin Nash inexplicably showed up to screw Punk out of the title).  But this main event was good enough to render Punk a made man for the rest of his WWE run, plus it featured two excellent MITB Ladder Matches, won by rising star Daniel Bryan and WWE favorite Alberto Del Rio.  This show represented a temporary shift away from Vince pushing HIS favorites and paying more attention to his audience, and it has to be considered the best main roster show of the decade.



The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (2000)

Mercifully the Starrcade PPV series comes to an end after long since becoming a shell of its once-magnificent self.....

Starrcade 2000 - MCI Center - 12.17.00
2000 would be the last full calendar year in WCW's existence, and watching that year's Starrcade now is like watching anything from TNA.  The tagline should've been "It's just a matter of 'when.'"  The roster was much more youthful than in most years of the Bischoff era, but sadly the young talent never had the chance to catch on, thanks to the company's total lack of effort in building them up in the first place.  By late 2000 it was clear WCW was not long for this world, and the years of bad decisions had doomed the promotion.

Considering it was their biggest show of the year (and they were featured on the poster) I'm not sure why Sting and Booker T were omitted from the show, or why Jindrak & O'Haire, the company's best tag team, didn't get a match.

The announce team consisted of Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson, and the intolerable Mark Madden.  How anyone thought swapping Bobby Heenan for Madden was a sound move is beyond me.  Madden ranks right below Don West on the Annoying Commentator Scale, and he's a verrrrry close second.

The opener here was WCW's attempt to recreate the magic of the WWF's TLC matches, except that three teams were competing for a shot at the singles Cruiserweight Title (held by Chavo Guerrero).  That meant that even though these guys were teaming up during the match, only one guy could actually win.  Ummm, ok.  The participants were Shane Helms & Shannon Moore vs. The Jung Dragons vs. Jaime Noble & Evan Karagias.  Aside from some repeated sloppy spots early on this was a fun watch.  Obviously nowhere near the level of the Dudleyz/Hardyz/E&C matches, but still entertaining.  Shane Helms and Shannon Moore defied the rules and pulled the contract down simultaneously.  I'm not sure how that played out but I know Helms got a match against Guerrero the following month at Sin.

I know TLC.  I've watched TLC.  This match is no TLC.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Wrestling Do-Overs: Starrcade '89

Welcome to another installment of Wrestling Do-Overs, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll take a famous wrestling event or angle and reimagine it the way I would've booked it.  Today I'll pick apart the 1989 edition of the NWA's flagship event, Starrcade



Starrcade '89 took place on December 13th (a Wednesday - what an odd night to do a PPV) at The Omni in Atlanta, GA.  The strategy to make this event stand apart from all other PPVs was to hold two simultaneous round-robin tournaments, one for singles wrestlers and one for tag teams.  The winners of each tournament would get.......bragging rights I guess?  There was never a tangible prize at stake, which right away raised a red flag.  Still the concept was intriguing and allowed us to see a handful of first-time matchups.

Before I get into my version of the lineup, let's take a quick look at what actually transpired and I'll explain why I don't think it worked.  The card was as follows:

Steiner Brothers vs. Doom - 12:24
Lex Luger vs. Sting - 11:31
Road Warriors vs. Doom - 08:31
Ric Flair vs. The Great Muta - 1:55
Steiner Brothers vs. Road Warriors - 7:27
Sting vs. The Great Muta - 8:41
The New Wild Samoans vs. Doom - 8:22
Lex Luger vs. Ric Flair - 17:15
The New Wild Samoans vs. Steiner Brothers - 14:05
Lex Luger vs. The Great Muta - 4:15
Road Warriors vs. The New Wild Samoans - 5:18
Sting vs. Ric Flair - 14:30

Sting won the singles tourney while the Road Warriors won the tag team round-robin.

On paper there are some top-flight matches here, to be sure.  Flair and Sting were the top two babyfaces at the time and their alliance added a new dynamic to this matchup.  Flair vs. Luger took place at the previous year's Starrcade but now their roles were reversed which made this bout different from the last.  Hawk & Animal vs. The Steiners was a major dream match as both teams were wildly popular and dominant.  Even Flair vs. Muta looked great in theory.

But here's why this card didn't really work for me.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

WWE TLC 2019 Preview & Predictions

It's time once again to predict a WWE PPV that the company has deemed unworthy of announcing a full lineup ahead of time.  This Sunday is the annual Tables, Ladders & Chairs event, and we have a terribly underwhelming seven matches announced three days out.  Missing are several of the company's top stars, such as Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Bayley, and others.  I don't understand what this company is doing anymore.


So yeah, just like with Hell in a Cell two months ago, WWE is taking for granted that their audience will watch a minor PPV event sight-partly-unseen.  Seven matches is better than three, but how hard is it to plan three weeks of television so that the entire card can be made clear by the final week?  I'm assuming the obvious Rollins-Owens match isn't happening yet, even though it's been set up already.  Kinda like Roman vs. Bryan should've happened at either SummerSlam or Clash of Champions.  The way this company works I fully expect Rollins and Owens to be teaming together in two months...

Let's get this over with.



Aleister Black vs. Buddy Murphy


After six-plus months of literally doing nothing with the guy, they're finally giving Aleister a goddamn PPV match.  And it's against a more-than-capable opponent, so I expect good things out of this.  'Course they'll probably end up bumping it to the pre-show just to piss me off.  But as of now this is one of three matches I'm interested in.

Pick: Black obviously wins this





Tables Match: Bobby Lashley vs. Rusev


Jeezus H. Christ do I not give a shit about this.  WWE should just stop doing love triangle-type angles; I'm pretty sure the only good one ever was Triple H-Steph-Angle, which still ended badly.  This feud has been full of nonsensical crap, like Lashley being arrested after Rusev violated his restraining order.  On top of all that, Tables Matches are dumb.

Pick: I hope it's Rusev so this nonsense can finally end.  It's been what, three months?



The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1999)

This right here is one of the worst wrestling shows I've ever seen.....

Starrcade '99 - MCI Center - 12.19.99
By late 1999 the wheels were fully off the WCW wagon, and the company decided to steal away the WWF's two head writers, Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara, in the hopes that their supposed magic could save WCW.  The problem was of course that without Vince McMahon and others as filters for Russo's wacky Crash TV style, there was no magic.  Instead Russo and Ferrara made a bad product even worse, and it was reflected in this parody of a flagship PPV.  Abbreviated matches, gratuitous run-ins, nonsensical finishes, it was all plainly on display at Starrcade '99, one of the worst PPVs I've ever had to endure.

It should be noted this was the third consecutive Starrcade held at the MCI Center, and their attendance dropped from 17,500 in 1997 to 16,000 in 1998 to 8600 in 1999 (to 6600 in 2000).  Yeesh.

The Mamalukes faced Disco Inferno & Lash Leroux in a watchable tag match to open the show.  Vito and Johnny the Bull had pretty crisp offense, but their mob gimmick was pretty goofy.  This was inoffensive, which is more than I can say for basically the rest of the show.

The next ten matches were assorted piles of puke, starting with Madusa vs. Evan Karagias for the Cruiserweight Title.  This was in the era when intergender matches were fairly common, and watching them now is pretty uncomfortable.  Madusa won in 3:30 after Evan's valet Spice turned on him.

Next was the Hardcore Title match between Norman Smiley and Meng.  Late '99 WCW involved numerous attempts by Vince Russo to out-WWF the WWF, and the newly formed Hardcore division was one of those.  Sadly WCW's HC division consisted almost entirely of comedy matches.  This was mildly amusing but ultimately pointless.  Smiley retained after Fit Finlay and Brian Knobbs knocked Meng out with a lead pipe.

One good match out of thirteen.  What are the odds?

Shane Douglas's Revolution stable was next, against Jim Duggan and three mystery partners, who turned out to be the reformed Varsity Club.  Yes, in 1999 WCW trotted out a midcard stable from a decade earlier.  This match was wretched (as was Shane's over-the-top commentary) and ended with the Varsity Club turning on Duggan, allowing the injured Douglas to get the pin.  However the VC continued beating up members of Revolution all the same.  Ok then....

More bad comedy followed as Vampiro took on Steve Williams, with Oklahoma (you remember, Ed Ferrara doing a tasteless one-joke Jim Ross impression) locked in a cage.  If Vampiro won, he'd get five minutes with Okie.  Williams got himself disqualified after five minutes of brawling, leading to a three-minute Vampiro-Oklahoma match that was apparently No DQ?  They oddly gave Okie a lot of offense in this match (Oh wait, Ferrara was one of the bookers, of course), until The Misfits (yes, the punk band) got involved.  This was crap.

And so was our next match, Curt Hennig and Creative Control (Don & Ron Harris) vs. Booker T and Midnight.  This was supposed to be a six-man tag but Booker and Stevie Ray were about to start feuding, so Stevie mostly sat this one out.  The match was shite regardless.  Also it was sad how far out of their way WCW went to take cheapshots at the WWF during this period.  The Harris brothers were renamed Patrick and Gerald, and the former Virgil went from being called Vincent to Shane.  Methinks Russo should've spent more time trying to make WCW watchable and less time making fun of his former company, who at this point was kicking WCW's ass on a weekly basis.

Jeff Jarrett wrestled the first of two matches against Dustin Rhodes in a Bunkhouse Stampede (read: Hardcore Match) that saw Curt Hennig interfere repeatedly.  Since Jarrett was billed as "The Chosen One," ordained by the as-yet-unseen authority figure as WCW's next big star, the announcers mentioned "The Powers That Be" (Vince Russo's unofficial name) about 700 times during this bout.  Jeezus H. Christ.  Oh, also the announcers kept talking about Dustin going by his real name instead of using the Seven "gimmick."  Hey dickheads, we know wrestling's fake, but you're not supposed to actually present it as a work.  If the announcers and the wrestlers all acknowledge on-air that it's fake, why are they all fighting each other?  This amounted to eleven laborious minutes of forgettable, generic brawling.

Still it was a masterpiece compared to the DDP vs. David Flair Crowbar on a Pole Match (Russo apparently loved anything hanging from a pole, because this era was full of dumb crap like this).  Flair whacked Page with the crowbar before the bell to at least give himself a chance, but DDP wrapped this one up in just under four minutes.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ten Christmas Gifts That Changed My Life

What's up folks?  Well it's Christmastime, and that means hanging lights, trimming trees, and buying presents for your loved ones so they can promptly return 'em to the store on the 26th.  But this time of year always triggers childhood memories of how magical it all used to be.  The seemingly endless suspense of wondering what cool shit your parents/Santa was gonna leave you, the seemingly endless get-togethers with the extended family on Christmas Day, while you're bored shitless just waiting to get back to all your new toys, the seemingly instantaneous week off from school before that sad, lonely return on January 2nd, when you and your school friends compared Christmas toy hauls.

And speaking of Christmas toys, I got to thinking, what were my favorite gifts over the years?  Which December 25th surprises made my big toe shoot up in my boot, as Little Richard would say?  Well lemme take you back to a simpler time.....




1978: Muppet Drum Kit


My big Christmas gift at age three was a toy drum set with pictures of the Muppet Show band Dr. Teeth on it.  I fell in love with this stupid kit instantly, and while I never actually learned to play the drums, I had a grand ol' time beating the crap outta those skins.  It outlived its novelty and usefulness within a couple years, but this was the fist major gift I ever remember getting.  For me it's what set the tone for this massive December festival so many of us hold dear.





1982: Atari 2600


I imagine my household was one of millions that got this console for Christmas around this time.  Our big family gift in 1982 was the legendary Atari 2600, which came with the incredibly diverse Combat (featuring tank battles, airplane battles, boat battles, and any other 4-bit vehicles you could blow up real good), but my parents also picked up Asteroids, Surround (which I loved because it was essentially Tron's "light cycle" sequence), and Video Olympics (a massive collection of sports games that utilized the "paddle" controllers), plus a couple other games I can't recall at the moment.  This console became our very lives for a few years, and the whole family enjoyed it.  Everyone who was anyone in the early 80s had one of these damn things, and the game cartridges were plentiful.  By 1985 we had probably 30 games, and it wasn't until '86/'87 that another game console had taken its place in America's heart....





1982: Castle Grayskull


My other big gift in '82 was this classic He-Man playset, a badass-looking castle with a ton of accessories but in retrospect, very little playability (A castle with only two floors?  And an elevator??  And a laser cannon???  The hell sense does that make?).  But at age 7 I didn't care, this thing was fuckin' fantastic.  I had a handful of the figures by this point and played with this castle like it was my job.  A few years later Snake Mountain followed and now I had lairs for both the heroes and villains.  Now that I think about it, who exactly was supposed to live in Castle Grayskull?  Was it He-Man's house?  I dunno.

Seriously, why would an ancient castle have an elevator??


The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1998)

And now for the night WCW cut Goldberg's legs off......


Starrcade '98 - MCI Center - 12.27.98
And I thought Starrcade '97 was bad.  Jeezus, that was a magnum opus compared to this disorganized mess.  1998 was the year WCW really started collapsing under its own weight.  The top stars had so much control over their characters that nothing involving them made any sense, and when one homegrown star somehow managed to surge in popularity certain egos went out of their way to hobble him (Hmm, that sounds familiar).  We were at the height of the nWo Wolfpac run, which involved the heel nWo faction feuding with the vaguely babyface nWo "red & black" team comprised of Kevin Nash, Lex Luger, Randy Savage, Konnan, and the formerly huge babyface star Sting (How badly was Sting's mystique damaged by his association with this stupid group?).  So let's examine this shitshow....

Things started out okay with a double Cruiserweight Title match.  First it was Billy Kidman vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Juventud Guerrera in a crazy fun opening match.  Kidman and Mysterio attempted to stay allied but that was short-lived.  Guerrera had recently joined Eddy's LWO (Yet another nWo offshoot - Christ) so he was a cocky heel here.  Lots of high-risk moves and innovative pin attempts.  All three guys did a great job of selling exhaustion by the end to make the Cruiserweight offense mean something.  Eddy got involved toward the finish but his interference backfired and Kidman retained.  Once again the Cruiserweights got more time than any other match, which is pretty shocking.

The Cruisers continued to be the one bright spot in WCW.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1997)

Starrcade '97, the night WCW effectively handed the WWF the Monday Night War....

Starrcade '97 - MCI Center - 12.28.97

Starrcade '97 was the night WCW killed all their momentum.  They'd been dominating the ratings for well over a year with arguably the hottest angle of all time coupled with a miles-deep roster, and had just taken away yet another top WWF star.  This time it was Vince's franchise player, Bret Hart.  To be fair, Vince helped broker the deal, citing the inability to pay Bret the amount he'd agreed to.  But with all those factors, plus the loooooong-awaited in-ring return of Sting (who'd adopted a Crow-inspired gimmick and hadn't wrestled a match in over a year), Starrcade '97 should've been WCW's WrestleMania III.  It should've been the PPV that launched WCW into the mainstream stratosphere, solidifying them as wrestling's number-one brand, and been the big payoff to the nWo storyline: the returning WCW hero conquers the villainous invaders and restores balance to the besieged company.  But nope, Hulk Hogan and his ego got in the way.  Again.

The two masters Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko kicked things off for the Cruiserweight Title.  These guys couldn't possibly have a bad match, so this was a fine opening contest.  While it wasn't at the level of their ECW classic series, it still got 15 minutes and had strong action, plus had the role reversal with Eddie as the heel and Malenko as the no-nonsense babyface.  Good stuff so far.

Eddy vs. Dean was always a fine showing.

Not-so-good stuff followed it, as The Steiners & Ray Traylor faced Randy Savage, Scott Norton & Vincent.  How odd to see Savage and Elizabeth on the heel side and Dibase managing the babyfaces.  This wasn't much of a six-man.  Scott Steiner had some good moves as usual but he was already an over-muscled, bloated oaf by this point.  I'm not sure why he felt the compulsion to get so big.  The action here was mostly clumsy, with everyone well past their prime.  Jeezus Elizabeth looked amazing in the 90s.  Savage's top-rope elbow however did not.

The History of NWA/WCW Starrcade (1996)

A surprisingly entertaining Starrcade thanks to a strong undercard....

Starrcade '96 - Nashville Auditorium - 12.29.96
By 1996 WCW was dominating the WWF in the ratings and had become the most popular wrestling promotion in the world, fueled by the ongoing nWo storyline and the influx of international talent most North American fans had never been exposed to.  Starrcade '96 was a pretty perfect cross-section of the overall WCW product.  Most of their in-ring strength was in the undercard, while the main event matches were storyline-driven and featured very little actual wrestling.  Having run roughshod over WCW, Hulk Hogan and the nWo were then challenged by Roddy Piper, returning after a 13-year WWF association.  True to form, WCW was still regurgitating 1980s WWF feuds, but now Hogan was the heel and Piper was the babyface.  It was a very odd hybrid product; the smaller names were doing their damnedest to steal the show, while the big names were lumbering around the ring like it was 1987 WWF and the crowds were eating it up.

The announce team once again consisted of Tony Shiavone, Bobby Heenan (hilarious as always), and Dusty Rhodes (A more long-winded, barely intelligible announcer I cannot recall).  Plus Mike Tenay sat in during the Cruiserweight matches and Lee Marshall during the Women's match.  Four men is way too many for a commentator team.

The opening match, for the Cruiserweight Title (plus 8 other belts) pitted Dean Malenko against  Ultimo Dragon.  This was great for its spot on the card; a very strong opener that amazingly got more time than any other match.  Nice crisp action from both guys, a little slow in the middle, but it ramped up again for the third act, capped off by a cool finishing sequence full of reversals.  Cruiserweight wrestling was one of the few things WCW did way better than the WWF at this point.

The second of three matches involving New Japan stars was next, as Madusa battled Akira Hokuto to crown the first WCW Women's Champion.  This was a good little women's match and I had forgotten how good Madusa could be.  Too bad the company did very little with her after this.  The WCW Women's Title was vacated after Hokuto left the US and WCW never resurrected it.  So in the end this match didn't mean anything, but it was still very watchable.

Probably the best match of the night was third, as Rey Mysterio faced Jushin Thunder Liger in a true Cruiserweight dream match.  Nice high-impact offense from both guys.  Liger had slowed down a little but Mysterio brought the movement and played the usual underdog role.  Pretty weird to see New Japan go 3-0 on a WCW PPV.  A hotter crowd would've elevated this to the next level.  This just needed some drama added to it.

Ka-BOOOM