Saturday, August 31, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Bissell Brothers Brewing (Portland, ME)

Welcome to another Portland, Maine-themed Brewery Reviewery, here at!

Bissell Brothers Portland
4 Thompsons Point #108
Portland, ME 04102

Bissell Brothers Three Rivers
157 Elm Street
Milo, ME 04463

Our next stop on the tour is the white-hot Bissell Brothers Brewing, located at Thompsons Point in downtown Portland, with a second branch in Milo, ME.  Bissell offers an eclectic roster of brews, with some core beers and some small-batch flavors.  The Portland taproom is bright and full of energy, with local artwork adorning the walls and tons of kickass merch for sale (I picked up a shirt because their logo is boss).  Sadly they don't offer tasting flights, but you can order full pours or pick up cans to go.  There's also a walk-up eatery called Locally Sauced next door, where you can grab some sober-up food while you're enjoying the beers.  This place was hopping when we visited and I get the impression that's generally the case.  Kind of a picnic atmosphere going on.  Picnic-plus-tasty-goddamn-beers.... 

Nothing Gold (8.2%): Our hoppiest beer to date. Brewed to celebrate what was, what's next, and ultimately what is.

JB: This is one of those juicy IPAs that gives you flashbacks - tangy, hoppy, full-bodied, and tremendously addictive.  I've recently become a NEIPA aficionado and it's because of beers like this one.  My favorite of the bunch.

Umbra (7.5%): An oatmeal stout with Maris Otter base malt—this is our first dark beer to enter regular production.

JB: I love me a good stout, and this one is very rich but also kinda dry, with strong coffee and cocoa notes that don't overpower the beer.  Well-played.....

The Nuclear Whim With the Fuse of a Mile (7.6%): An IPA to celebrate our 4th year of existence.

JB: Another delicious IPA, this one was juicy and very smooth with a little sweetness but also had those earthy pine/weed notes you'd find in a Fiddlehead IPA.

Lucent (Small Batch, 4.9%): Meaning “glowing” or “lit from within”, Lucent is a traditional German-style Helles, derived from the German word hell which translates to “bright”, words which describe the look of the beer perfectly. The style was invented by Munich-based brewery Spaten in 1894 as a lighter version of their Oktoberbier. Longer fermenting and low hop addition create (ideally) a full-bodied, light colored pale lager that tastes biscuity, lemony, leans a little more towards the malty side of things, and has a dry finish on the palate. All of which serve to make this beer endlessly drinkable and, as some of us have taken to saying, a true guzzlebrau.

JB: Nothing super fancy about this Helles, it's just very easy-drinking and sessionable.  Perfect for a day on the beach.

Bissell Brothers is on fire right now and it's easy to see why.  The four beers we tried were all easy recommendations, and I look forward to exploring the rest of their roster.  The room is loud and busy, but it's a very fun ambience and gives the impression that you're part of something big.  Check this place out if you haven't already!

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Friday, August 30, 2019

NJPW Royal Quest Preview & Predictions

NJPW's first major show after the fantastic G1 Climax is upon us, and it's across the pond in the lovely UK.  It's time for NJPW Royal Quest!

Now that we have our Tokyo Dome main event contender set (pending Kota's two briefcase challenge matches), it's time to defend some of these championships and build off the stories from the G1.  We have four title matches and a bunch of tag bouts, on a show that has a pretty spectacular top end.  The newest Bullet Club member will be challenging for the NEVER Title, the Ace of the Universe will go after the RPW British Champion, and the returning Minoru Suzuki has a major bone to pick (or break) after being left out of the G1.

But first the undercard.

Rocky Romero & RPG3K vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Shota Umino & Ren Narita

This will be a fun little opening tag.  Sho and Yoh could use some re-establishing to get back in the title hunt, while Umino and Narita should be going on excursion any day now.

Pick: The Chaos guys obviously win here.

Kota Ibushi & Juice Robinson vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo

I find this an odd spot for the current G1 Champion, but maybe Kota wanted a nice easy match after the grueling month he just had.  Juice is obviously due a US Title rematch with Moxley coming off his win on the last night of B Block action.  Takahashi and Hikuleo should be pushovers.

Pick: Kota & Juice

Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles vs. Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo

This should easily be the best pre-intermission match, with the IWGP Jr. Tag Champs and the IWGP Jr. Champ represented.  I'll just sit back and watch the fireworks.  I'd say Phantasmo getting a pin over Ospreay to set up a future title shot would be a good move.

Pick: Ishimori & Phantasmo

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1992)

This right here is a helluva SummerSlam - emanating from Wembley Stadium, this show turned the WWF formula on its head.....

SummerSlam '92 - Wembley Stadium - 8/29/92

Now this is a fuckin' SummerSlam.  The 1992 edition was not only the best PPV of the year, but would remain the best SummerSlam PPV until at least 1997.  This show featured two very good to excellent main event matches, some decent midcard bouts, and very little filler.

The World Title match between Randy Savage and Warrior probably wasn't quite up to their WM7 match, but this was still good stuff.  The face vs. face dynamic added a new wrinkle and these two both worked hard to pull off an epic.  Inserting Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect into this angle was pretty stupid, as the feud became a bickering contest about which babyface sold out by hiring Mr. Perfect.  As it turned out the answer was "neither."  Flair and Perfect showed up and more or less ruined the ending of the match.  I'm actually not sure why Flair wasn't given his own match for this show.  Still a fine WWF Title match, even if it would be massively upstaged later in the evening.

These two were really fighting over who
had the more obnoxious outfit.

The undercard featured a few good bouts.  The Legion of Doom defeated Money Inc. in the opener, and then disappeared from WWF television until 1997; former Demolition partners Crush and Repo Man (Smash) had a brief but fun little nothing match; and Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel had a terribly entertaining heel vs. heel match while competing for Sherri Martel's affections.

The rest of the undercard wasn't much to look at.  Nailz squashed Virgil, Earthquake & Typhoon defeated the Beverly Brothers, and The Undertaker beat Kamala by DQ in a pointlessly short bout.

But the main event of the show still holds up as one of the best matches of all time.  Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith unexpectedly got to close the show for the Intercontinental Title, and created an in-ring masterpiece.  Legend has it that Davey was very hungover for this match and had to rely heavily on Bret to guide him through, but you'd never know by watching it.  Bret and Davey gelled perfectly and delivered a 25-minute technical classic.  The match was built around the backdrop of intra-family tension between Bret, his sister Diana, and Diana's husband Davey.  Despite being another face vs. face match, Bret played the heel here, allowing Davey to be the conquering hero in his home country.  Bret may have lost but this match cemented his status as a worthy main eventer, and almost directly led to him winning his first WWF Championship.  This is just an awesome bout.

All kinds of BOSS.

1992 marked a real turning point in the WWF product where the giant musclebound superheroes were being phased out in favor of smaller, more athletic wrestlers like Bret and Shawn, who could put on great 20-25 minute wrestling matches.  SummerSlam '92 is a great illustration of this, as the Bret Hart era really began here.

Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith
Worst Match: Nailz vs. Virgil
What I'd Change: Book Ric Flair in an actual match.  It's a shame the Triple Threat match hadn't been invented yet, because Savage vs. Warrior vs. Flair would've been a no-brainer.
Most Disappointing Match: Undertaker vs. Kamala - Why this only went three minutes I don't know.  Not that I was expecting a classic, but this was barely even a match.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Warrior didn't win the WWF Title.  Going into this I was sure he'd end up with the belt.  I wanted to see Savage keep it for a while longer, so I was relieved he got to retain.  Of course he dropped it back to Flair two weeks later, but that's beside the point.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Better than WrestleMania VIII? - Yes


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The History of WWE SummerSlam (1988)

From the wrestling-obsessed maniac who brought you the History of WrestleMania series (me, obviously), welcome to The History of SummerSlam!!

Since 1988 WWE's SummerSlam has been the flagship PPV of the summer season.  More often than not it's the secondary tentpole of WWE's calendar, almost like WrestleMania's little brother.  Storylines are built throughout the season, and when done properly, culminate with the summer spectacular.

As a fan I've found over the years that SummerSlam is almost an underrated series - WrestleMania gets so much hype and attention (and I tend to rewatch those matches so frequently), I often overlook how many great matches and moments have taken place at the #2 show of the year.  Recently during a few hours of boredom I began comparing each SummerSlam to its corresponding 'Mania show (i.e. SummerSlam '88 vs. WrestleMania IV, etc.) and found that over the years SummerSlam has been the best PPV of the year just as often as the Grandaddy.  Many times the little brother has overshadowed his attention-grabbing counterpart.  Don't believe me?  Let's take a trip down WrestleMemory Lane!

SummerSlam '88 - Madison Square Garden - 8/29/88

The inaugural 'Slam followed fairly closely the formula created by the original WrestleMania.  Madison Square Garden?  Check.  Huge tag team main event?  Check.  Special guest referee?  Check.  Odd assortment of house show matches between guys who weren't really feuding?  Check.  Pretty strange really. 

The main event of this show was enormous - for the first time ever WWF Champion Randy Savage would team with Hulk Hogan as The MegaPowers against common enemies Andre the Giant and Ted Dibiase.  The announcement of this match blew my 12-year-old mind, as did the addition of guest ref Jesse "The Body" Ventura.  The match itself falls into the same category as Hogan-Andre '87.  Not great from a workrate standpoint but a whole helluvalotta fun.  The angle with Elizabeth stripping down to her skivvies as a distraction was pretty stupid, particularly since they failed to deliver on the promise of a bikini.  But otherwise a fun match.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1989)

Welcome back to our History of SummerSlam series!  We're picking up where we left off, with the second edition, for me a considerable improvement on the first....

SummerSlam '89 - Meadowlands Arena - 8/28/89

The sophomore 'Slam holds a special place for me.  It was far from a perfect show but at the time it just felt like a big deal, and from a star power perspective it was a pretty stacked PPV.  I was at the Saturday Night's Main Event taping a month prior when the company started building in earnest toward SummerSlam, so I really got into the hype for this show.

Following the tag team main event template from the previous year's show, the WWF continued the huge MegaPowers feud by teaming Hulk Hogan up with Brutus Beefcake against Randy Savage and Hogan's onscreen nemesis in the film No Holds Barred, Zeus.  The fact that WWF Champion Hogan's main feud for the summer of 1989 was against costar "Tiny" Lister who, according to the storyline "became lost in the character," was truly moronic.  But they built Zeus up as an invincible killing machine who was impervious to chair shots.  Sadly they didn't bother teaching him how to wrestle, as his moveset consisted of choking, punching his opponents' trapezius muscles, and more choking.  The match itself was very similar to the 'Slam '88 main event, but not as good.  Savage worked hard to make the match exciting though, and despite one of the stupidest endings ever (Hogan completely no-sold Savage's elbowsmash and then knocked Zeus out with Sensational Sherri's tiny purse - what was in there, a roll of uranium quarters??) it was still a fun, dumb 80s main event.

Watch your junk goin' over those ropes, Zeusy-boy.

The undercard however had a triumvirate of awesome bouts.

In the opener, new WWF Tag Champs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard wrestled The Hart Foundation in one of my all-time favorite tag matches.  These were the two best teams in the company at the time and they completely tore it up.  Not sure why this wasn't a Title match if the Harts were gonna lose anyway, but whatever, it's still boss.  Best WWF match of the year says I!

This move always blew me away.
Neidhart slammed his own partner on top of Tully.

SummerSlam '89 featured two big six-man tag matches, one of which was great - The Rockers & Tito Santana vs. The Rougeaus & Rick Martel.  This match was action-packed and incredibly fast-paced.  All kinds of great teamwork and reversals here.

The final killer match on this card was I-C Champ Rick Rude defending against The Ultimate Warrior.  Their 'Mania 5 bout was strong, but this match blew that one away.  16 minutes of excellent power wrestling resulting in Warrior's second I-C Title, plus it marked the beginning of Roddy Piper's comeback!

The rest of the show ranged from mediocre (Ted Dibiase vs. Jimmy Snuka, Mr. Perfect vs. Red Rooster) to bad (Dusty Rhodes vs. Honky Tonk Man, Demolition/Jim Duggan vs. Twin Towers/Andre), but there wasn't anything really offensive on this show, and the three great matches plus the entertaining-if-silly main event made up for all the shortcomings.

Best Match: Brain Busters vs. Hart Foundation
Worst Match: Honky Tonk Man vs. Dusty Rhodes
What I'd Change: Given what a flop No Holds Barred would end up, I would've elevated a new monster heel WRESTLER to align with Savage.  Zeus really had no business in a wrestling ring.
Most Disappointing Match: The Demolition six-man.  This looked to be an epic match but only went about 6 minutes or so.  Also on paper, Mr. Perfect vs. Terry Taylor looked pretty good.  However since Taylor's gimmick at the time was to act like a male chicken that kinda ruined it.
Most Pleasant Surprise: I actually wasn't looking forward to Warrior vs. Rude.  I enjoyed their first match but was a little sick of both guys by SummerSlam.  As it turned out this was one of both guys' best bouts.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Better than WrestleMania V? - Yes


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The History of NJPW Dominion (2016)

NJPW rebuilds their roster and sets the stage for a record-shattering IWGP Title reign.....

Osaka-Jo Hall - 6.19.16

The 2016 edition came at a strange transitional period for New Japan, when they were still recovering from the loss of four major players a few months earlier.  While AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Anderson and Gallows were making waves in WWE, NJPW was hard at work to fill the void.  Kenny Omega had emerged as the new top gaijin, winning the vacant Intercontinental Title (I'm still baffled they didn't have Nakamura drop the belt to him on his way out the door), while Tetsuya Naito skyrocketed to the main event scene, winning the New Japan Cup tournament on his way to a shocking IWGP Title victory over Okada at Invasion Attack.  Replacing Anderson & Gallows as the tag team division centerpiece was another pair of Bullet Club guys, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, who got off to a rocky start but quickly grew into the role.  And yet another emerging new star was Jr. Heavyweight sensation Will Ospreay, who defeated Ryusuke Taguchi in the Best of the Super Juniors final to earn a shot at division champion Kushida.  So in spite of the talent loss, New Japan was making the best of things and then some (as we'd see over the next year).

Dominion opened with the Bullet Club B-Team of Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi facing the Hunter Club of Captain New Japan, Yoshitatsu and Togi Makabe.  The heels attacked at the bell and worked over Yoshi momentarily, but things broke down quickly and spilled to the outside.  Fale attacked Makabe with the railing, while Page hit CNJ with a shooting star press off the apron (This spot was terrifying, as Page underrotated and was lucky not to land on his head).  Yoshi finally made the hot tag to Makabe, who worked with CNJ to dominate the heels, but Page hit Last Rites on CNJ to win the match, and hung him over the ropes after the bell.  Not much to write home about here, just a proper showcase for Page more than anything else.  *1/2

Up next was a the first of three Chaos vs. Los Ingobernables matches on the show, as the two newest LIJ members Sanada and Bushi faced Tomohiro Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi.  Bushi started right in with heel tactics, choking Yoshi with his T-shirt and opening the door for the heels to work him over for a few minutes, before Yoshi hit a neckbreaker and tagged Ishii.  Ishii ran wild on both LIJ members.  With all four men in the ring Yoshi and Sanada had some good exchanges, with Sanada hitting a top rope dropkick, lariat, and a TKO.  He went for Skull End but met an Ishii lariat.  Yoshi then countered a second Skull End attempt with his Butterfly Lock, which Bushi tried to break up but found himself snared in an Ishii choke.  Sanada tapped to give Chaos the win.  This was a decent match but pretty skippable.  **1/4

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

AEW All Out Preview & Predictions

The Wednesday Night Wars are about to begin, and the wrestling landscape is as newsworthy as it's been in almost twenty years.  But first AEW has a flagship PPV to give the brand a proper launch.

Where Double or Nothing served as an introduction, and Fyter Fest and Fight for the Fallen were appetizer shows, All Out will be AEW's true cornerstone PPV that makes the company official as a sports organization.  We'll be crowning an inaugural AEW Heavyweight Champion and setting up top contenders for the Tag Team and Women's titles, as well as blowing off (I assume) the Young Bucks-Lucha Bros feud.  If all goes according to plan, All Out will be the company's signature PPV event, the one people really remember as the true beginning, setting into motion the Wednesday night series.  As of now the main show has seven matches, plus two on the pre-show.  The big matches will almost certainly deliver huge, the undercard ones could be hit-or-miss.  But this PPV should have no shortage of memorable moments.

Pre-Show Women's Casino Battle Royal: Nyla Rose, Britt Baker, Yuka Sakazaki, Allie, Brandi Rhodes, Teal Piper, Ivelisse, Jazz, Big Swole, Sadie Gibbs & 11 TBD

This match will determine one of two top contenders for the Women's Title on October 2nd.  I'm not sure how the other will be established but whoever wins this obviously has to be someone they're pushing long-term.  The match should be middling at best, like the men's version, but whatever, it's the pre-show.

Pick: I'll go with Britt Baker as she's clearly someone they're building around.

Pre-Show: Jack Evans & Angelico vs. Private Party

This should be a fun sprint.  Both teams have to be in the Tag Title mix somewhere, so this will showcase them.  Take your pick I guess.

Pick: I'll go with Evans & Angelico

Darby Allin vs. Joey Janela vs. Jimmy Havoc

This match makes sense in the opening slot, as it will be fast-paced and get the crowd warmed up.  Of the three I like Allin's star potential the most, provided he can stay healthy.  He's young and has a unique look, and he's already been booked unexpectedly strong, going to a 20-minute draw with Cody.  So to me he's the guy this match should be used to elevate.

Pick: Darby Allin

Monday, August 26, 2019

The History of NJPW Dominion (2015)

The next four Dominion shows were really something, starting with this masterpiece.....

Osaka-Jo Hall - 7.5.15

The 2015 Dominion PPV was the first NJPW show I truly anticipated as a fan, after initially diving into the product with WrestleKingdom 9.  Between January and July 2015 I perused their back catalogue and watched the big matches from New Beginning, Invasion Attack and Wrestling Dontaku.  But Dominion was the first stacked New Japan show after WK9, and I made it a point to sit down and view it from start to finish, on the day it aired.  Another bit of trivia for you, Dominion 2015 was the first NJPW show I wrote a predictions column for (I went 8 for 9).  If WrestleKingdom 9 converted me into a New Japan fan, Dominion 2015 vaulted New Japan ahead of WWE on my list of wrestling priorities, and I haven't looked back.

This show was the culmination of a year-long arc for the company's rising Ace, Kazuchika Okada, who'd been unseated for the IWGP Title by AJ Styles (partly due to Bullet Club shenanigans), and spent the intervening months 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 ended that feud and set the stage for a rematch with AJ at the second-biggest show of the year.  Such was the central story of Dominion 2015.

But first the undercard...

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.  The Bucks took a lot of abuse early in the match from both teams but managed to outmaneuver Fish and O'Reilly on the outside, leaving Romero and Beretta to flatten reDRagon with planchas meant for Matt and Nick.  From there the Bucks staged a walkout which prompted RPG Vice to give chase, and Matt and Nick superkicked them both on the ramp before running back into the ring.  RPG Vice nearly got counted out but just made it back in.  After lots of wild exchanges, Kyle O'Reilly took out both RPG Vice members with a rebound lariat, and Fish hit a top rope Falcon Arrow on Romero for a nearfall.  But the Bucks came back, knocking reDRagon out of the match with twin superkicks, Matt superkicked Beretta out of the ring, and the Bucks hit More Bang for Your Buck on Romero to retain the belts.  A super fun opener with the type of Jr. action you'd expect from these three teams.  ***3/4  

Next up was one of only two "forgettable" matches of the night; Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma and Tetsuya Naito.  This match was historically significant, as it marked more or less the beginning of Tetsuya Naito becoming the Ingobernable we all know and love today.  Honma was ambushed by the heels at the opening bell, and Naito sauntered down to the ring, in no hurry to help out his partner.  The opening few minutes consisted of Fale and Takahashi pounding Honma, and every time Honma escaped to his corner Naito refused to tag in.  Finally Naito agreed to do some work, leveling both heels with a dive to the outside and offering his signature pose back in the ring.  Naito locked Fale in a Figure Four but ran into some trouble and tagged Honma back in, taking a powder on the outside.  Honma flattened Takahashi with a running headbutt, and Naito detained Fale long enough for Honma to hit a top rope headbutt for the win; this was during a time when Honma lost basically always, so the crowd was jubilant at his success here.  Naito bailed after the bell and left Honma to his celebration.  The rest of course is history; Naito would soon become one of the company's top draws thanks to his transformation into an anti-hero.  A decent match with nice character development, but not a standout on a show like this.  **1/2

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 mostly relied on submission holds, repeatedly locking in guillotine chokes and armbars, while Shibata fought back with sickening forearms, palm strikes, and a pair of stiff-as-hell corner dropkicks.  The most memorable moment came when Sakuraba locked a rear naked choke on a standing Shibata.  Shibata inched toward the ropes with Sakuraba on his back like a spider monkey, but as he reached out, Sakuraba converted the hold into a double butterfly lock to trap both Shibata's arms; Shibata had to resort to reaching the ropes with his teeth to break the hold.  Shibata spun Sakuraba around with a lariat but got caught in another choke that nearly passed him out.  Shibata escaped and locked in his own choke, which he released just long enough to score a match-ending Penalty Kick.  This was fantastically brutal and different from anything else on the show.  ***3/4 

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2000)

King of the Ring 2000 - FleetCenter - 6.25.00

The 2000 edition has to be one of the most disappointing PPVs of all time.  Considering how amazing the WWF product was in 2000 and how strong the roster, anything less than a homerun would've been a letdown, but with this show they didn't even seem to try.  The tournament began with a field of 32 wrestlers, making it the largest in history.  That the company even had 32 viable competitors for such a tourney was remarkable, and I was incredibly excited to see this play out.  Unfortunately the booking of the PPV made no sense, wasted some of the company's best talents, and they tried to cram eleven matches onto a three-hour show.

The massive first-round field boiled down to Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle (Stop right there, that should've been your Final Four, period.), Rikishi, Val Venis, Crash Holly(?), and Bull Buchanan(??).  Right off the bat they got the brackets wrong, wasting Angle vs. Jericho on a quarterfinal match while pitting Holly and Buchanan against each other.  One of these matches had immense potential, the other did not.  On top of that, three of the four best candidates fell short of the semis.  Chris Benoit pointlessly got himself disqualified against Rikishi, Eddie lost to the no-longer-relevant Venis, and Jericho got beaten by Angle.  So yeah, Crash Holly made it to the semifinals but Benoit, Guerrero and Jericho didn't?  Anyone else find that scenario just wrong?  By the way, not one match in this tournament lasted even ten minutes, and the two longest bouts were in the quarterfinals.

The semis saw Kurt Angle make quick work of Crash Holly, while Rikishi trounced Venis in just over three minutes.  The Angle-Rikishi final was fun while it lasted, but failed to even crack the six-minute mark.  Again.  Why would the final match of a supposedly prestigious tournament fail to reach double-digits?  In the positive though, this tournament win helped solidify Kurt Angle as a future main event star.

Again with the stupid crown and sceptre

The non-tournament matches ranged from pretty good to Worst Match of the Year.  The one bright spot on this show was a four-way elimination match for the Tag Team Titles, as unlikely Champions Too Cool (What the hell kinda move was that?) defended against Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz, and T&A.  Edge & Christian managed to regain the straps in a solid show stealer.

Next was the match voted Worst of the Year by the Wrestling Observer, as Pat Patterson faced Gerald Brisco in a Hardcore Evening Gown Match.  Another example of "What demographic is this aimed at?"  Fortunately it was very short.  Much like my patience by this point in the evening.

Seriously, was anyone buying the PPV for this?

A fairly pointless, convoluted handicap match went on just before the tourney final, as X-Pac, Road Dogg and Tori faced the Dudley Boyz in a Tables Dumpster Match.  After nearly ten minutes of run-of-the-mill table spots and hardcore action, DX's numbers advantage took its toll on Bubba and D-Von, and they were stuffed into the dumpster.  But they got their heat back immediately by hitting X-Pac and Road Dogg with 3-Ds and powerbombing Tori through a table.  This feud stunk.

Speaking of convoluted, the main event was a six-man tag for the WWF Title.  Champion Triple H teamed with his future in-laws Vince & Shane against The Rock, Undertaker and Kane, where whomever scored the pinfall would be the WWF Champ.  In the match's closing moments this of course led to dissension among the babyface team as they fought over who got to score the pin.  Ultimately The Rock pinned Vince following a People's Elbow and won the belt.  What a tremendously stupid way to win a Championship.

The Rock pins Vince McMahon......
to win Triple H's WWF Title.....wait, what???

So yeah, this show was a great big disorganized dump heap.  Only three matches were even worth watching, and most of the tremendous roster was wasted.  Despite the WWF product being top-notch in 2000, only one of the Big Five PPVs really lived up to expectations, and it wasn't this one.  I actually waited in line to get tickets to this turd, and fortunately it was sold out by the time I got to the front.  Dodged a bullet there I tell ya!

Best Match: Too Cool vs. Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. T&A
Worst Match: Pat Patterson vs. Gerald Brisco
What I'd Change: Cut the show down to the tourney plus two matches, make the main event a Triple H-Rock-Taker-Kane four-way, have Benoit, Jericho & Eddie make the semifinals of the tournament, and overall get your shit together!
Most Disappointing Match: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho, which was fine but nowhere near what they were capable of
Most Pleasant Surprise: NNNNNNNNope.
Overall Rating: 2/10


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Saturday, August 24, 2019

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1999)

King of the Ring 1999 - Greensboro Coliseum - 6.27.99

As with the product in general mid-1999, the King of the Ring showed major chinks in the WWF armor.  This show restored the full 8-man bracket to the PPV with very rushed, mixed results, and while a pair of solid main event brawls and the overall tournament made for a fun one-time watch, this PPV doesn't hold up too well to scrutiny.  Also, like in 1995, the company handpicked their intended new main eventer despite the fans not buying into him.

The first round consisted of three abbreviated bouts - X-Pac vs. Bob Holly, Kane vs. ex-WCW star The Big Show (heavily favored to win the whole thing but unceremoniously knocked out in the first round), and Billy Gunn vs. Ken Shamrock.  None of these were long enough to be memorable.  However the final first-round match pitted former friends The Road Dogg and Chyna.  While no in-ring masterpiece, it was certainly intriguing seeing Chyna go head-to-head with one of the male stars in a major singles bout.  Previously she had only really appeared in mixed tag matches.  This probably got more time than it deserved but I never found it boring.  Road Dogg won after 13 minutes.

The semifinals saw Billy Gunn quickly defeat Kane and X-Pac even more quickly defeat best friend Road Dogg, leading to what should've been a solid big man vs. underdog final match.  Unfortunately Billy Gunn and X-Pac were only given 5:35, harkening back to the half-assed mid-90s tournament finals and once again undermining the whole tourney concept.

Mr. Ass beats up Mr. Pac

Not surprisingly the three non-tournament matches constituted the real meat of the show.  The first was a brief-but-thrilling #1 Contenders match for the Tag Titles, as Edge & Christian began their storied rivalry with The Hardy Boyz.  This was one of those matches that ended up better than it should've given how short it was.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Welcome to the long-awaited return (by at least three people) of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at!  It's been a while for this feature, but at long last I found the time to sit down and watch a movie I can't help but sorta like, despite it being pretty goddamn terrible.  That "film" is the infamous (ya know, MORE than famous) 1967 television special "written" and "directed" by The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour!

Inspired by mid-60s cross-country bus trips organized by author Ken Kesey, and mostly Paul McCartney's brainchild (though he later said he wasn't sure he wanted to take the full blame for it), Magical Mystery Tour tells the story (for lack of a better word) of the band and a group of their friends taking a bus excursion across the English countryside, interspersed with music videos of the band's latest songs (featured on the album of the same name).  And, well, that's it.  The Beatles attempted to conjure a plot out of thin air but the resulting film is more a collection of little episodes and sketches than it is a proper story.  It was horribly received upon its release (not helped by the fact that the BBC channel on which it originally aired didn't have color capability at the time), but has somewhat gained in popularity since (probably because The Beatles were involved) and currently enjoys a very generous 62% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (Disney probably paid them to put that there, amirite??).

I became a hardcore Beatles fan around age ten and sought out all their music and films, and in 1986 my parents bought me a low-grade VHS copy of this movie that looked like absolute cow shit.  And because it was a Beatles endeavor I'd convinced myself it was quality entertainment, knowing deep down it was a major misfire from a band I'd held up as infallible.  Still to this day part of my brain has a weird appreciation for this flop, and when I discovered a cheap Blu-Ray restoration on Ebay I had to bite.  In 1080p this film absolutely gains something back from a visual standpoint, so there's that at least.  And despite being a disorganized mess, parts of it have an offbeat charm to them.  But man, is this thing a clusterfuck if you go into it expecting an actual movie.

But enough introductions, let's take a look at the pluses and minuses of Magical Mystery TourA Hard Day's Night this ain't.....

The Awesome

Beatles Songs

Any movie whose soundtrack is comprised of Beatles music automatically scores a few points with me (as it should with everyone).  Granted, the songs written specifically for this film, "I Am the Walrus" excluded, are probably not on anyone's Beatles top ten list.  But this movie is essentially strung together on a clothesline of Beatles music videos, so that aspect has to be considered its strongest feature.  Imagine how much better it would've been if it were built around the second side of the MMT album though.  "Strawberry Fields," "Penny Lane," "All You Need Is Love..."


To that end, each music video is pretty cool visually.  Paul's "A Fool on the Hill" was shot in the mountains of France and boasts some beautiful natural scenery.  "Flying" largely consists of discarded landscape shots from Dr. Strangelove but with color filter effects (Did Stanley Kubrick lift that idea for similar shots in the 2001 "stargate sequence" or vice-versa?).  "I Am the Walrus" is a super bizarre, trippy video that Paul McCartney himself later cited as the one indisputable positive to come out of this film.  "Blue Jay Way" is gloomy and atmospheric like the song that inspired it.  "Your Mother Should Know" is a fun little ballroom act sequence.  On top of the videos, there are some interesting little touches scattered throughout.  The Aunt Jessie nightmare sequence for example includes an unnerving shot of a little person snapping photos from a swinging cage apparatus, a shot that would've been right at home in a David Lynch film.  So regardless of its myriad of shortcomings, Magical Mystery Tour definitely has no dearth of intruiging things to look at.

Brewery Reviewery: Geary Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Welcome to another Portland, Maine installment of Brewery Reviewery here at!  We're goin' old school for this one, as we visit the longest-running American craft brewery east of the Rockies, Geary Brewing Company!

Geary Brewing Company
38 Evergreen Drive 
Portland, ME 04103

This was one of the more interesting Portland visits for us; from the moment we walked in, Geary's felt different from the new-school breweries nearby.  Located (unfortunately) about a half-mile down the road from the Industrial Way cluster of brewers (Beermuda Triangle), Geary's has a distinctly old-world vibe about it, and that carries over to the beers as well.  Founded in 1983, long before most people even knew what craft beer was, Geary's was the brainchild of David and Karen Geary, who had a passion for traditional British beers.  David studied across the pond to learn the techniques and brought them back to Maine, creating a UK-inspired pale ale that, at the time was unlike just about anything available in the US.  The Gearys have since sold the brewery and retired, but their recipes live on, among a slew of new flavors and varieties.  The Geary's staff was friendly and very knowledgable, sharing stories of Geary's long history as we tasted, making for a fun, relaxed experience.  The atmosphere at this place is almost quaint, in a good way, which sets it apart from the younger establishments.  And they had a long list of tasty brews to boot....

Pale Ale (5.2%): Our flagship is a classic British-style pale ale with a nod to the legendary beers of Burton-on-Trent.  It has a copper color with a malty body and medium mouthfeel.  Stone fruit sweetness complements the traditional bitterness of this ale.

JB: Not unlike Sam Adams Boston Ale, this flagship is a simple-but-flavorful English bitter, with a malt-forward palate.  Very easy to drink, it's like visiting an old friend (Did that sound pretentious?  I don't care).

Hampshire Special Ale (7.5%): Maine's original "winter warmer," the unique, incredibly complex HSA is a clear, mahogonay-colored strong ale with a heavy body and thick mouthfeel.  A toasty, malty, stone fruit sweetness complements and contrasts the assertive flavors of the large hop build and noticeably high alcohol content.

JB: My favorite of the bunch, this special ale has a lovely blend of crispness and a bit of dunkel flavor from the yeast.  Me likey.

Pick Me (4.8%): Brewed with fresh Maine wild blueberries, this lager captures the unique, robust flavor profile of those tiny blue miracles with a clean, fresh finish in every sip.

JB: Several years ago I'd never have been caught dead drinking a blueberry beer, but I've come to appreciate them quite a bit, particularly the subtle ones.  This is one of those, with a unique purple tinge and light blueberry notes.

Brewery Reviewery: Lamplighter Brewing Co. (Cambridge, MA)

Welcome to another edition of Brewery Reviewery, here at!  We love craft beer and we think you should too, so we visit local purveyors of delicious beer and report back with the good news....

Lamplighter Brewing Co.
284 Broadway
Cambridge, MA

Today's installment concerns Lamplighter Brewing in Cambridge, MA, a quirky, lively venue built in a decked-out industrial garage, wherein the brewmasters serve up an eclectic variety of IPAs, Belgian-inspired ales, lagers, pilsners, and the occasional stout.  There's a little something for everyone and the menu is ever-evolving.  You can order full pours, half-pours, cans, bottles, or one of two preset tasting flights, and there's a back room for events like Trivia Night, Bachelor episode parties, and other stuff.  Whatever night you pay them a visit you're in for some fun, plus a cornucopia tasty beverages.

We were fortunately enough to try a lotta brews, so let's get to it.  The list is broken down by the two themed flights (IPAs and light stuff), plus a few standalone beers we tried.

Flight #1: Hoppy Days 

Honalee (6.6%): Honalee is a New England-style IPA brewed with Slovenian-grown Styrian Dragon and Styrian Wolf hops. Known for their fruit-forward and floral aromas, these varieties deliver tropical notes of ripe mango and elderflower, making for a delightfully juicy and refreshing pint. Named after the mythical land featured in Peter, Paul, and Mary’s song, Puff the Magic Dragon. Keep cold and enjoy fresh!

Tasting Notes - Elderflower, mango, strawberry candy

JB: This one is a mix of hoppy and sweet; I picked up honey and mango notes.

Dad Bod (6.9%): Dad Bod is a full bodied IPA brewed in honor of Father’s Day and dry hopped with Eureka and Simcoe. Combining characteristics from several IPA traditions, this ale is hazy like a New England-style IPA, piney like a West Coast IPA, and sports a snappy bitterness in the classic American IPA tradition. Bright citrus flavors lead to earthy and herbal undertones, resulting in a unique bouquet of pomelo, mint, and resiny pine. Brewed in honor of dads everywhere (and their bods).

Tasting Notes - Pine sap, mint, pomelo

JB: Kind of your standard session IPA with some bitterness but not overwhelming.  The pine notes take center stage.

Chris Cornell's "Disappearing One": An Acoustic Cover

Welcome to Song Garden: An Acoustic Tribute to Chris Cornell.

Video #2: "Disappearing One" from Euphoria Mourning, 1999

Recorded at Yebba Studios, Norwood, MA.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Parents' Night In #23: Point Break - Utah, Get Me Two!

It's the end of summer, so we're watching the classic 90s action film, Point Break, with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze!  Justin and Kelly drink Sam '76 and talk about Keanu's status as America's sweetheart, Patrick's status as a super-charismatic badass, Lori Petty's surprisingly busy acting schedule, and why Point Break is so much better than it looked in the trailers.  Join us for more couch-ridin' fun on Parents' Night In!

#KeanuReeves #PatrickSwayze #90sMovies #ActionMovies

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Top Ten Things: Beatles Songs (John Lennon Edition)

Welcome to our third and final Top Ten Things pertaining to the songs of The Beatles!  I've saved my favorite for last, as today I'll be talking about the best songs written by the Beatle everyone thinks of first, John Lennon.  Check out the George and Paul lists if you haven't already...

John was sort of the unofficial leader of the group over their first few years, the oldest and most irreverent of the three original members (Ringo didn't join until 1962), and initially the strongest songwriter.  Despite the band having to clean up their image when Brian Epstein signed on as their manager, trading in leather jackets and greaser haircuts for suits and their trademark mop-tops, John always retained a bit of the bad boy image and attitude he originally brought to the table.  Unlike other pop stars of the period, John presented himself in interviews with candor and a zany sense of humor, and would later become politically outspoken and controversial, one of the first musicians to get involved in activism.

As for his songwriting, I consider John the most creative of the band, always thinking outside the box and coming up with envelope-pushing ideas.  Where Paul's songs tended to be more inviting and structurally conventional while introducing new orchestration, John's tunes often had an edge to them, along with a dark surrealist bent.  Many of his greatest compositions played with words to evoke bizarre mental imagery; he could seemingly find inspiration in almost anything and turn it into a memorable song lyric.  For my money John's songs stole the show on most of The Beatles' albums, particularly from Revolver through the White Album; nearly every favorite of mine on those four records is a John song.  Sadly after the White Album John began to distance himself from all things Beatles, and his contributions to their last two records were somewhat reluctant.  But when you add up all the iconic Beatles songs over their world-changing run, John scores the most points in my book.  He may not have been the strongest overall musician in the group or had the best voice (Paul takes both of those honors), but I'd say he was easily the most imaginative member of the band.

Here now are the greatest Beatles songs written by John Lennon.... 

Honorable Mentions

In My Life

John described this song as the first serious lyric he ever wrote, a bittersweet meditation on his childhood that included nods to absent friends (Stuart Sutcliffe for example).  An introspective song bordering on anthemic, "In My Life" showed remarkable maturity and thoughtfulness beyond John's 25 years.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite

Inspired by an 18th century circus poster John bought at an antique shop, "Mr. Kite" got its lyrics almost verbatim from said poster, but musically the track is hugely groundbreaking.  To achieve a circus atmosphere John and producer George Martin played an organ break in the middle of the song, and in the outro Martin had the tape cut into footlong sections and thrown in the air, then reassembled at random to achieve a dreamlike, surrealistic quality.  On the band's most psychedelic album, "Mr. Kite" may be the most psychedelic song.

Dear Prudence

Written for Prudence Farrow, who became so immersed in Transcendental Meditation she often refused to come out of her hut for days at a time, "Dear Prudence" became a life-affirming anthem about experiencing the world fully and not getting lost in oneself.  Built on a delicate finger-picked guitar line, the song builds to a beautiful emotional peak (George's lead guitar melody near the end chokes me up every time I hear it); in execution "Dear Prudence" ended up so much more powerful than the simple bit of friendly encouragement it began as.  This one has grown on me leaps and bounds over the years.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Music Review: Korn - The Serenity of Suffering

Well it's been about a week and a half since Korn's new album The Serenity of Suffering was released, and it's mostly been getting solid reviews as a return to the band's heavier roots.  My esteemed colleague Mike Drinan and I have each listened to the album multiple times and thought we'd discuss our respective takes on the record.  So here goes....

Justin: Ok, now that we've had some time to really digest it, what are your thoughts on the band's 12th outing?

Mike: I like it a lot. This album suits my preference on how I like Korn to sound. I love the deep, bass-heavy guitar riffs and Jonathan Davis' guttural screams mixed with his scratchy scatting. In fact, I love Jonathan's vocals on this entire album, with the exception of "Take Me" where I didn't like how he enunciated certain syllables in a weird way (Instead of singing "me" he'd stretch it to sound like "may" and continued doing this throughout the song). For the most part, he sounds intense, melodic and violent, really fitting the musical tone of the band, especially on the track "The Hating". He rarely went quiet on any of the songs and that's just fine with me. On their last album The Paradigm Shift, he didn't sound as emotionally committed. I saw an interview with Head and Munky where they said Jonathan had to fall back in love with heavy music after the direction they went in prior to The Paradigm Shift.  I thought this disconnect came through on that album which contributed to me feeling indifferent toward it. It's nice to hear Jonathan sing with that same power again. Musically, the band sounds like they're firing on all cylinders on this album. The guitars give each song a great backdrop to support Davis' vocals and on a few songs are pretty melodic. Fieldy has sort of taken a step back in the sense that his bass isn't as featured as on previous albums. I still hear it but not as prominently.

The highlight of this album for me was the buildup in "Everything Falls Apart" where Davis sings "There is nothing in my head" over and over, louder and louder until the band just breaks through and opens the song up with that constant heavy pounding. Holy shit I loved it!

All in all, I loved this album and think it's their best since Untouchables.

Favorite tracks: Insane, Rotting In Vain, Black Is The Soul, Everything Falls Apart

Justin: I am very underwhelmed by this album.  It's slickly produced, competently written and well-performed, but it feels to me like a band going through the motions.  It doesn't have the emotional punch of their early albums; there's only so far you can take the "I had a fucked up childhood" thing once you're a millionaire rock star without it sounding forced.  I much preferred the variety of The Paradigm Shift and Untitled, where each song stood out from the rest and had divergent hooks and grooves.  Sure some of the results were mixed, but at least with those albums I could easily identify each song.  On TSOS I feel like every song blurs into the next, with the exception of "Rotting in Vain" and "Take Me" to a lesser extent.  Most of the riffs sound stock to me, unlike on TPS where Head's return to the band seemed to ignite a creative spark.  In terms of heavier recent Korn I liked Remember Who You Are much better than this album; again, it was uneven but on songs like "Pop a Pill" (one of my all-time favorite Korn songs) and "Oildale" I felt like Jonathan actually meant what he was saying and the raw emotional power was there.  I'm not sure if it's just that slick production doesn't really fit Korn's musical style, or if it's the fact that almost every song on TSOS is in a minor key, which for me makes them feel logey and drab (Initially Korn separated themselves from every other heavy band by almost exclusively writing chorus hooks in a major key).  But aside from the two aforementioned tracks, plus "The Hating" and "Everything Falls Apart" there isn't much on this album that excites me.  I miss the urgency of "What We Do," the quirkiness of "Spike in My Veins," and the power of "Prey for Me" from The Paradigm Shift.  I'm pretty sure every song on TSOS is also in the same key and close to the same feel/tempo, which doesn't help separate them from each other, and Davis doesn't stray much from about a five or six-note mid-range, where on "Pop a Pill" for example he really belted out some higher notes.  In terms of the "death growl" vocals, they sound too polished for me.  In the Life is Peachy days his screamed vocals had a real visceral quality and rawness, but here I think the glossy production robs his screams of their teeth.  For me all these factors just make this album kind of a drag to sit through, despite the lack of any truly bad songs.  I find the whole album just middling.

For me this album ranks solidly below TPS, Remember, and Untitled (but just above The Path of Totality and certainly ahead of Take a Look in the Mirror and See You on the Other Side).

Also, where have you been, Jonathan's always pronounced "me" as "may" or occasionally "muuuy."

Soundgarden's "Fell On Black Days": An Acoustic Cover

Welcome to Song Garden, an acoustic tribute to Chris Cornell.  Our first official video for Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days" is below.  Recorded at Yebba Studios in Norwood, MA.

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The History of WWE King of the Ring (1998)

Possibly the best-remembered King of the Ring is this one....

King of the Ring 1998 - The Igloo - 6.28.98

The WWF got back on track in a huge way in 1998, fueled by Attitude and with Steve Austin at the wheel.  Between Austin's white-hot run as World Champ, DeGeneration X's crass-but-lovable antics, and The Rock oozing charisma all over the place, the WWF finally pulled ahead of WCW in the ratings after nearly two years.  While the King of the Ring won't win any points for scientific grappling, the intensity of some of the brawls on this show (one in particular) makes it an essential chapter in WWF lore.

The tournament once again took a bit of a backseat to the two main event matches, but after two forgettable semi-finals (The Rock defeating Dan Severn, and Ken Shamrock trouncing Jeff Jarrett), we were treated to a pretty damn good final match.  The Rock and Shamrock had faced each other several times on PPV already, both in tag matches and in singles bouts, but this was the first time they were given long enough to really shine.  In a tremendous back-and-forth match (aided by Triple H's amusing guest commentary), Shamrock finally scored a decisive win over the I-C Champ to win the tournament (No ceremonial crown and scepter for Ken).  While Shamrock never reached the heights of the previous two KOTR winners, it did solidify him as a reliable semi-main eventer.

You don't see the seated anklelock anymore...

The non-tournament matches on this PPV were numerous and varied, beginning with a fun little six-man tag.  Taka Michinoku teamed with The Headbangers against his former (and future) teammates Kaientai in a near-seven-minute whirlwind.  Nothing amazing but a good way to kick things off.

The one stinker on this show involved Jerry Lawler refereeing a match between Too Much (later renamed Too Cool) and Al Snow & Head (Al's disembodied mannequin head).  The story here was Al trying to win a WWF contract after spending several months in ECW.  He lost, but ended up on the roster anyway.  This was crap.

Next up though was a neat little singles match as Owen Hart took on the newly-returned X-Pac.  Now equipped with one of the coolest characters in wrestling, Sean Waltman put on a strong showing against the massively talented Owen, and the two created a midcard highlight.

An underrated Tag Team Title match was next, as the hugely popular New Age Outlaws took on the New Midnight Express (Bob Holly and Bart Gunn).  While the NME gimmick may have been ill-advised, at the time I liked this pairing, and they gelled quite well with Billy and The Road Dogg.  Solid stuff there.

Top Ten Things: Beatles Songs (Paul McCartney Edition)

Welcome to the second installment of our Beatles-related Top Ten Things, here at, where I count down the ten best tunes written by each of the Fab Four's three songwriters (Sorry Ringo...)!  If you missed the George Harrison edition, click HERE to check it out!  And click HERE for the John Lennon one.

Today it's Paul McCartney's turn.  One half of probably the greatest songwriting duo in the history of the planet, Paul was in my estimation the most accomplished pound-for-pound musician in the Beatles.  With a voice that ranged from smooth-as-silk to soulful and ballsy to screeching and harsh, Paul probably brought the most diversity of sound to the band.  From 1965 when he introduced the unfathomably out-of-character "Yesterday" into their repertoire, Paul was always pushing the boundaries of production and orchestration.  It was his idea to link together the songs on Sgt. Pepper, arrange the Side 2 song fragments of Abbey Road into a cohesive suite, and make an improvised movie about a bus tour of the English countryside....okay so not all his ideas landed.  But Paul in many ways was the most directly responsible (not to discount the others by any means) for The Beatles' music being perceived as a bona fide artistic endeavor.

Aside from all that though, the man wrote some incredibly iconic songs.  This installment and the next about John were much harder to narrow down than the George edition, simply because of the volume of classic tunes they each churned out.  On to the Honorable Mentions!

Honorable Mentions

Sgt. Pepper/Reprise

The two-part song that tied The Beatles' most famous album together, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and its reprise total under three-and-a-half minutes, but their pure rock n' roll energy is palpable.  The first part kicks off the album with rollicking swagger, punctuated by horns and audience murmurs to give it a live feel, while the reprise sends the pseudo-concept album home with a guitar-charged bang before the grand finale of "A Day in the Life."  I always found most of Paul's Sgt. Pepper output to be rather overshadowed by John's contributions, but I love this two-parter.

Drive My Car

Kicking off the revered Rubber Soul album is this vigorous guitar rocker rife with sexual innuendo, about an aspiring movie star who hires a fella to be her chauffeur with benefits.  Paul and John's double-lead vocal harmonies bounce over bluesy lead guitars, underscored by Paul's tight, palm-muted bass sound (I believe this is the first time he used that technique and I always loved how it sounded).

You Won't See Me

Another Rubber Soul standout is one of three songs he wrote about his crumbling relationship with actress Jane Asher.  "You Won't See Me" took some cues from The Four Tops and other Motown groups, while the lyrics marked a departure from Paul's sweeter, more innocent early years.  Rubber Soul is generally cited as The Beatles' turn to a more mature sound, and this simple breakup song is one of several illustrations of that.

And now for the main event....

10. Lady Madonna

The first single released during The Beatles' return to stripped-down rock n' roll (after the psychadelic 1966-67 period), "Lady Madonna" gained inspiration from rhythm & blues piano icon Fats Domino.  Vocally Domino inspired Paul to such an extent that he altered his singing style to match Domino's soulful timbre, creating a whole new signature "McCartney voice" (my favorite version of Paul, incidentally).  At just over two minutes, "Lady Madonna" is nonetheless densely packed, its lyrics a rumination on the working single monther, with obvious Catholic undertones.  This is one of my favorite Paul pastiches.

9. Yesterday

One of the most widely covered songs in music history, "Yesterday" wormed its way into Paul's brain while he was asleep, and upon waking he raced to a piano so he wouldn't forget it.  The melody came to him so easily he assumed he must've heard it somewhere, and asked everyone he knew if they recognized it.  Once established as an original idea, the song was given the working title "Scrambled Eggs" while Paul tweaked it, and the final lyrics didn't take shape until months later.  The despondent ballad was such a departure from The Beatles' established sound that it took strenuous convincing from producer George Martin to keep it as a solo performance with a string quartet behind it, and the rest of the band vetoed its release as a UK single.  But "Yesterday" instantly became a phenomenon, with a top-ten Matt Monro cover version released that same year, the first of literally thousands of versions.  The song may be simple and saccharine, but there's no denying its significance in broadening The Beatles' artistic palette.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Wrestling's Greatest Finishers: Piledriver

Welcome to the third installment of Wrestling's Greatest Finishers, here at, where I discuss a classic finishing maneuver, its physics, its origins, its significance in this fake sport we all love so much.

Today, due to overwhelming popular demand (okay, one person requested it), I'll be talking about one of the most devastating wrestling moves ever invented, one that's spawned a dozen or more variations and legitimately injured numerous dudes, the piledriver!

Thought to be invented by Wild Bill Longson, wrestling star of the 1930s-50s, the piledriver involves picking up your opponent upside-down, his head between your legs, and falling to a sitting position, thus driving him head-first into the canvas.  Realistically this move could kill a person, and for decades it was portrayed as perhaps the most dangerous move in the business.  Hell, the original version of the move was actually banned by WWE for many years, in no small part due to Steve Austin's real-life neck injury as the result of Owen's botched attempt.  The piledriver is one of those moves that must be terrifying to let someone put on you; you are literally putting your life in another person's hands.

Wait, that guy isn't tucking his head,
and that looks like a hardwood floor...

Anyway, the piledriver was a staple of the 70s and 80s, used as a finisher by the likes of Terry Funk, Harley Race, Jerry Lawler, and most famously during my childhood, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff.  For my money Orndorff's version is still the greatest of all time, in terms of the original variant.  Where Funk, Lawler and others would lift their opponents into position and gently fall to their butt, Orndorff would actually jump slightly in the air while holding his victim, sweeping his own legs up so the drop on the opponent's head would look absolutely crippling (In 2000 an aging Orndorff actually compressed his own spine delivering the move on WCW television).  It was one of the best-protected moves of the era; if Paul piledrove you, you were done.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1997)

King of the Ring '97 - Providence Civic Center - 6.8.97

The KOTR took a step back down in 1997, as a disorganized tournament coupled with last-minute card reshuffles made for a muddled show and a thin roster.  It was also something of a do-over for Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who had been pegged to win the tourney in 1996 but was instead punished for the infamous "Curtain Call" incident the night of Diesel and Razor Ramon's WWF exit.  So this show was an endeavor to set his career back on track.

What made no sense though was that Helmsley had been eliminated by Ahmed Johnson in the first round on free TV (the PPV would again only feature the semis and finals), but kayfabe threatened legal action since he was supposedly unaware he could be ousted due to a disqualification (even though that precedent had been set in numerous tournaments already).  So Hunter won the next qualifier against Crush, and would face Ahmed again in the semis.  Their PPV match was brief and just as forgettable as the first, but Hunter won, earning him a finals spot.

In the other semifinal the now-sympathetic, complex babyface Mankind faced Jerry Lawler in a pretty slow, meandering brawl in which Lawler used an invisible foreign object.  By that I mean he motioned pulling something out of his tights that evidently fit all the way into his fist and repeatedly punched Mankind with it.  Now, even if that was supposed to be a ball bearing or some such object, would that really add much oomph to a regular punch?  Did Lawler forget to actually stuff something in his drawers before the match?  Regardless, Mankind won, and would face Helmsley for the crown.

"Wait, I gotta wear this...ridiculous thing?  I resign..."

Their finals match was good but not great - it had some intense spots but was longer than necessary and felt like it never got out of second gear until the waning moments.  Highlights included Hunter hitting the Pedigree through the announce table, and Chyna bludgeoning Mankind with the royal scepter.  After nearly 20 minutes Hunter was crowned the '97 King of the Ring, and thus began in earnest his path to main event status.

Non-tourney matches included a RAW-quality Goldust-Crush match, a fun but middling six-man pitting Owen Hart, British Bulldog & Jim Neidhart against Sycho Sid and the Legion of Doom, and the double main event.

First up was the current WWF Tag Champions Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin facing each other.  The background of this match started with the newly formed Hart Foundation targeting all of the American WWF wrestlers (sparking the awesome US vs. Canada feud).  Owen Hart and the Bulldog had been Tag Champs but lost the Titles to Austin and the returning Shawn Michaels (whom you'll recall went home three months earlier to "find his smile").  Shawn was then set to feud with Bret Hart again and it was announced they would have a ten-minute time limit challenge at King of the Ring (not sure what the point of a ten-minute match was), while Austin would face former friend Brian Pillman.  But Bret sustained a knee injury in a real-life backstage skirmish with Shawn, and would miss the PPV.  The Hart Foundation suggested instead that Shawn fight Austin since the two didn't fully trust each other.  "Divide and conquer" I believe it's called.  The match was quite good but didn't quite live up to my lofty expectations of a masterpiece, and after nearly 23 minutes it ended in a double disqualification.  The best moment though was watching the two walk back to the dressing room while suspiciously keeping an eye on each other.  Hilarious.

My God...look at that team....

As for the main event, recently-crowned WWF Champion The Undertaker would face Nation of Domination leader Faarooq.  Yeah, this wasn't any more exciting than it sounded.  Faarooq was a pretty non-threatening opponent for Taker and there was little suspense here.  Taker won a mediocre match with the Tombstone before Ahmed Johnson ran in and eventually attacked Taker.  The prospect of a Taker-Ahmed match was very intriguing to me, but Ahmed got hurt again before it could ever take place.

"Bitches, prepare to eat armpit!"

King of the Ring 1997 was roughly a two-match event.  Austin vs. Michaels is obviously worth seeking out, and Hunter-Mankind has some good moments and some historical significance, but otherwise this PPV wasn't much better than your average RAW (though at least nothing was terrible).  The WWF would find its creative footing over the coming months with the US-Canada feud hitting high gear and the emergence of the Attitude approach.  But KOTR '97 was a rather shabby entry from a company desperately in need of a fresh approach.

Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin
Worst Match: Mankind vs. Jerry Lawler
What I'd Change: The tournament felt very half-assed in general.  I know the roster was thin, but it was only an 8-man field and Owen, Davey, Pillman, Vader (who may have still been stuck in Singapore after roughing up a TV host there), and Sid were all left out.  Also, Faarooq as the #1 contender??
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the tourney final, which wasn't bad but wasn't anywhere near as good as their subsequent matches
Most Pleasant Surprise: Nothing really
Overall Rating: 5/10


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