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

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

Friday, August 23, 2019

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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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.

Please Like and Subscribe!

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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.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Parents' Night In: The Podcast!

Attention Parents' Night In fans - now you can enjoy some of our episodes as audio-only podcasts, on a multitude of platforms!  We're on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, Google Podcasts, Pocket Cast, Radio Public, Breaker and Overcast.  Click below for your favorite platform! 

Apple -

Spotify -

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Google Podcasts -

Pocket Casts -

Radio Public -

Breaker -

Overcast -

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Wrestling's Greatest Finishers: Sweet Chin Music

Welcome to another edition of Wrestling’s Greatest Finishers, here at!  Today I’ll be talking about the signature move of my all-time favorite wrestler, Shawn Michaels.  It’s been called the Crescent Kick, the Superkick, and most famously by HBK, Sweet Chin Music.  Whatever its handle, the side kick to the jaw has become an enduring, easily imitated maneuver.

“Gentleman” Chris Adams allegedly created the move, but the first incarnation I ever saw was when Haku began using it in the WWF, calling it the Crescent Kick.  Haku was extremely agile for his size, and the Crescent Kick demonstrated his balance and flexibility while also carrying an aura of mystery appropriate to his South Pacific heritage.  For a while Haku was the only wrestler I remember utilizing the move.

Then The Rockers arrived.  Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty brought probably a dozen tandem moves with them to the WWF, one of which was the double superkick.  Initially I didn’t pay that move much attention given how much more spectacular most of their other offense was.  It wasn’t until that fateful Barber Shop segment in January 1992 that the superkick truly became a fearsome piece of in-ring weaponry.  In turning on his longtime tag partner, Michaels demonstrated how gut-wrenchingly sudden and devastating the move could be.

As a new singles star Shawn primarily used the superkick as a setup move for his teardrop suplex – a finisher I found pretty underwhelming for a former aerial master.  In the early 90s a heel couldn’t maintain heat if his moveset displayed too much flash, so Shawn kept his game grounded and opted for an arsenal designed to show off his newfound mean streak.  As he moved up the roster it became clear the teardrop wasn’t cutting it as a finishing move.  In non-wrestling segments Shawn would generally use the superkick to lower the boom on an unsuspecting rival, so it only made sense that he promote that move to his full-time finisher.  It was the perfect utility move he didn’t need to be in the ring to execute.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

NJPW G1 Climax 29 Recap: Kota Ibushi Makes History

G1 Climax 29 has come to an end, after five crazy weeks of restaurant-quality matches on tap.  As always, the results have set up some fascinating threads over the next five months between now and the Dome, we got a first-time G1 winner, some inevitable top title matches have been set up, and we were treated to an incredible newsworthy angle to open up intriguing possibilities.

The tournament is always full of ongoing stories, and this year's was no different.  We had half a dozen G1 newcomers including the red-hot Jon Moxley going 5 for his first 5 matches and leading the B Block throughout, Shingo Takagi making the transition from Junior to Heavyweight and carving out a NEVER Openweight niche alongside Ishii and Goto, Kenta finding himself again after five years of WWE setbacks, Will Ospreay continuing his incredible year and stealing multiple A-Block shows, and for me the most pleasantly surprising, Lance Archer growing exponentially as a performer before my very eyes.  Archer is now my favorite superheavyweight in the business - dude's peaking at 41 and probably still hasn't hit his ceiling.  Give that man an Intercontinental Title run, stat.

Other notable moments and threads included Zack Sabre Jr. underperforming, dropping his first four bouts and becoming the first mathematical elimination, Jay White nearly doing the same before a late tournament rally that won him the block, Sanada finally earning a win over Kazuchika Okada in the final 13 seconds of the time limit, Kota Ibushi wrestling the entire tournament on a sprained ankle and still delivering ****+ matches, and as always, Tomohiro Ishii becoming the tournament MVP, delivering the B Block Match of the Night on six of his nine go-rounds.  Give that man an Intercontinental Title run as well!

The G1 final saw a blazing-hot heel turn by Kenta, who betrayed his Chaos partners and joined the Bullet Club.  His mentor Katsuyori Shibata attacked him as he was about to cut a promo, the first instance of in-ring physicality by Shibata since his retirement in 2017.  Does this mean.....  Shibata was then laid out by the Bullet Club before Kenta posed sitting on top of him.  If this means what I think it means....

But of course the biggest story coming out of all this is Kota Ibushi's emotional journey to his first G1 Climax trophy.  Ibushi dropped his first two matches but went on to win his last seven on the way to the Final, including a hard-fought win over IWGP Champ Okada.  In the finals Jay White took every shortcut imaginable to rob Ibushi of his destiny, but Ibushi was unstoppable, flattening White with three Kamigoye knees.  It would appear our WrestleKingdom 14 main event will be the Okada-Ibushi rematch, and for me this is the most exciting WK main event since Okada-Omega.  But Okada will have to get through Sanada and Minoru Suzuki (to whom he lost in a tag match), and Ibushi will have to defend his briefcase against Kenta and Evil.  Both of those matches were great, so I have no complaints about seeing them again.

NJPW's fall season is shaping up to be one of the more exciting since I've been a fan, and in September I'll finally get to see them in person.  Interesting times ahead.  As for the G1 itself, it was a great five weeks as always, though I'd place this tourney a step below 27 and 28.  It was maybe the best field they've ever had but I felt like there were fewer Match of the Year contenders than in the last two.  But that's a nitpick, I look forward to revisiting some of these bouts in the near future.

Monday, August 12, 2019

WWE SummerSlam 2019: Seth Beats Brock For Real

Well that's more like it.  SummerSlam 2019, while certainly no instant classic PPV, was nonetheless a thoroughly easy show to watch, managing to stay well under four hours and providing a variety of solid undercard matches and a pretty great main event.  Yes I'm still pissed about how many top stars were left off the show; Roman vs. Bryan obviously would've been far preferable to Goldberg-Ziggler and KO-Shane.  But in 2019 WWE any show that doesn't leave me feeling ripped off or exhausted by the end is a win.  And would ya know it, for the most part the booking actually made sense too.

The show kicked off with the Becky Lynch-Natalya submission match.  I guess since Becky closed WrestleMania and Seth opened it, they had to swap spots for this show.  This was the exact right type of match for the stipulation, with both women working over the body part their respective finishers target.  Becky went after Nattie's arm to soften her up for Disarm-Her, and Nattie attacked Becky's historically weakened knee.  Each of them stole the other's finisher at one point, teasing the humiliation of having to tap out to their own move.  The most memorable spot was Nattie locking in a Sharpshooter in the turnbuckles, leaving Becky dangling out of the ring as she struggled to break free.  Becky nearly submitted to a second Sharpshooter mid-ring, but managed to reverse it into the Disarm-Her for the win at about 12:30.  This was a fine opening match, easily one of Becky's best this year (along with her Rumble match with Asuka and the WrestleMania main event).  Hopefully a performance like this will restart Becky's momentum, which they squandered with the Lacey Evans feud.  ***1/2

Next up was one of two matches I was dreading, as Dolph Ziggler got killed dead by Goldberg in under a minute.  But for what this was it was executed damn near perfectly.  Ziggler and Goldberg stared each other down for a moment, and suddenly Ziggler leveled him with a superkick, covered him, Goldberg kicked out at one, and the sequence was repeated.  Ziggler charged, Goldberg cut him off with a sick-looking spear (Ziggler takes this move better than perhaps anyone), followed by the jackhammer for the win.  Ziggler got on the mic and trash talked him, Goldberg returned to the ring and speared him again.  Ziggler did it again and Goldberg hit him with a third spear before finally leaving.  Now, feeding Ziggler, irreparably damaged though he is, to a 50-year-old who hasn't had a real match since 2003, is idiotically counterproductive.  But the live crowd went apeshit for this, the tease of Ziggler winning an upset was great, and Ziggler made the spear look like a spine-shattering move.  That said, I still don't get why everyone likes seeing Goldberg's one-note schtick over and over, or how this is supposed to translate to good long-term business.  But for what it was, they nailed it.  NR

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

I left the theater after Quentin Tarantino's ninth film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in a state of giddiness.  This movie will challenge you with its considerable 160-minute running time, the first third of which cuts a very methodical pace and has you wondering where and why it's going, but it comes together so well and so thoroughly in the third act it leaves you exhilarated by Tarantino's signature, balls-out audacity and eager to watch it again.

Boasting superb dual lead performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt (who are being dubbed "the last big movie stars" due to the film industry's new reliance on spectacle and branding over star power to open a picture), OUATIH tells the story of an aging TV Western star and his stunt double/best friend, set against the backdrop of the Sharon Tate murders.  DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, once a household name for his leading role on hit show Bounty Law, now struggling to stay relevant and making a living in one-off TV villain roles.  Brad Pitt is Cliff Booth, Rick's former stuntman-turned-gopher, content just to be his best buddy's personal assistant/handyman.  Leo is both pitiable and hilarious in a good ol' Southern boy turn that brings to mind Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy, while Pitt brings his uncanny, affable charisma, relishing every moment in this Jeff Lebowski-esque role and often stealing the screen.  Both actors deliver some of their best-ever work here; DiCaprio's standout moments include a meltdown in his trailer after botching a scene and a subsequent triumphant take, Pitt's include a visit to the Spahn Ranch where he encounters the Charles Manson family.

The supporting cast is full of notable, colorful performances, with dozens of new and recognizable faces peppering the screen (Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell and other members of Tarantino's repertory pop up in cameos and he even refers to them in the credits as The Gang).  My favorites were Margaret Qualley as Pussycat, an aggressively provocative member of the Manson family, and Julia Butters as a precocious child actor with whom Rick Dalton shares a touching exchange.  Interestingly Qualley (daughter of Andie MacDowell) is one of at least three famous Hollywood children in the film; Kevin Smith's daughter Harley Quinn and Uma Thurman's daughter Maya Hawke (a dead ringer for her mother, both in appearance and voice) also appear as Manson girls.  And of course there's Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, a role curiously sparse on dialogue, written more as an icon to be worshiped than as a fully fleshed out character, so her tragic real-life fate hangs over every moment she's onscreen.  Robbie imbues Tate with a simple, innocent beauty; she's a unanimously adored pixie whose star was on the rise until that fateful August night in 1969.

I won't go too deep into plot details as it's better if you go in cold, but this film is full of lovingly crafted details and tropes of late 60s Hollywood, so much so that multiple scenes simply involve a character traveling someplace either by car or on foot, just so Tarantino can show us how painstakingly he recreated the period.  Everything looks authentic, lived-in, grimy and decadent; a true homage to a bygone era.  I'd be lying if I said a few of the early scenes couldn't have been trimmed a bit to get us where we're going a little sooner; in the moment there were a few times I was restless to know where the trip was taking me.  The film's structure is unusual too; we spend most of the first two hours over a February weekend and then jump ahead six months for the third act.  But by the end everything fell into place for me and I couldn't help but marvel at the confidence with which Tarantino steered this film (like virtually all his films), taking it to places unexpected and pouring his love for acting and shot composition into every minute.

Like most Tarantino films, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood stuck with me long after the credits rolled - the performances, the morbidly dark laughs, the immersive minutiae, the historical elements...  I can't wait to experience it all again.

I give the movie **** out of ****.

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NXT TakeOver: Toronto II Preview & Predictions

It's that time again - the one WWE product that works consistently is due for another kickass TakeOver special, where they pre-emptively show the crumbling main roster team how it's done.  NXT is back, bay bay!

The second TakeOver emanating from Toronto, this five-match card will continue the best feud of 2019, likely bringing it to a fitting conclusion in what is sure to be a Match of the Weekend contender at worst.  Get ready for Cole-Gargano III!  But first, let's look at the undercard.

Candace LaRae vs. Io Shirai

Now, I'm not sure why Io wasn't tapped for a rematch with Shayna Baszler, as their Chicago match was first-rate and Io seemed like she should be the one to finally dethrone the dominant ex-MMA star.  But Io's loss instead fueled a heel turn as she betrayed her friend Candace, and here we are.  This should boast some strong storytelling and it'll be interesting to see how Io changes her style to suit her new character.  High fliers generally don't make strong heels, so I imagine she'll adopt a much more vicious moveset.  I can't see Io losing her first major match as a villain.

Pick: Io

NXT North American Championship: Velveteen Dream vs. Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong

This should be a pretty great non-stop action kinda bout, with Dream doing the flying and Dunne and Strong bringing the crisp, brutal striking offense.  It's always safe to assume the main roster crew is looking to call up someone after one of these shows, but that roster is so overloaded right now no call-ups make sense.  Plus there are rumors NXT's weekly show will be on FS1 to counterprogram AEW.  Why am I mentioning all this?  Well, Dream seems tailor-made for the main roster, so whenever I predict any of his matches that fact is always in the back of my mind.  I could see Strong winning this to round out his stable's championship pedigree.

Pick: Strong

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Wrestling's Greatest Finishers: DDT

Welcome to a new feature here at, Wrestling's Greatest Finishers, where I'll take an in-depth look at one of the legendary signature moves in pro wrestling lore, examining its origins, popularization, physics, and where it is today.

For this inaugural edition I’ll be looking at one of the most beloved of all finishing moves, the DDT.  Such a simple maneuver, yet also one of the more treacherous and violent, the DDT was allegedly an accidental innovation from the man with whom it is most associated.  Jake “The Snake” Roberts maintains he had grabbed his opponent in a front facelock when both men’s weight shifted, resulting in Roberts appearing to drive the other fella’s head into the mat.  This origin story has been disputed over the years, but what’s unquestionable is the DDT’s lasting, visceral appeal, along with Jake’s success in making it one of the all-time great finishers.

In the 80s most North American wrestling holds (including finishing moves) were fairly basic.  Hulk Hogan for example made a career of ending matches with the legdrop of all things; King Kong Bundy would simply squash guys in the corner; the Junkyard Dog used a rudimentary powerslam.  Once in a while you’d get a high flier with a top rope finisher, but for the most part finishing moves looked pretty safe and unspectacular.

Then along came Jake’s DDT - one of those finishers no one, and I mean NO ONE got up from.  Jake would often attempt the move several times during a match, but if he actually nailed it the match was over, period.  It was portrayed as so effective in squash matches that Jake could subsequently dump his signature python on top of an unconscious opponent and the guy would never know what happened.  Finishing moves in general were held up with much greater sanctity in the 80s than they are now, but even by the standards of that era the DDT was a showstopper.  It was rather fitting that a character nicknamed “The Snake” was equipped with a maneuver so akin to a sudden cobra strike.  Once the head and face of Jake’s poor victim were drilled into the canvas, he wasn’t getting up without smelling salts or an adrenaline shot to the aorta.

Another superb aspect of the move was Jake’s ability to execute it without warning, on an opponent of virtually any size.  Given his slender, less than spectacular build, a power move like a superplex would hardly have suited Jake.  But the DDT’s effectiveness only depended on quick reflexes and the inevitability of gravity.

The DDT became arguably the most popular single maneuver in the business, to the extent that the WWF eventually had trouble keeping Jake a heel.  Even against popular babyface opponents the crowds started chanting “D-D-T” during Jake’s matches, and it was clear he needed to become a babyface.  This may be the most significant example of a wrestler owing so much of his success to his choice of signature move.