Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Parents' Night In #25: Bride of Frankenstein (1935) - Our Favorite Universal Monster Film!

Happy Halloween!  Justin and Kelly are back with another classic Universal horror film, Bride of Frankenstein starring Colin Clive, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Thesiger, Valerie Hobson, and of course the legendary Boris Karloff!  We discuss the origins and making of James Whale's masterpiece, its run-ins with Hays Code censors, and its shocking-for-1935 subtext.  Sit back, watch and laugh as we dissect the greatest of all Universal monster movies!


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Monday, October 28, 2019

The History of NWA/WCW Halloween Havoc (1989)

Welcome to another look at PPV History, here at!  This being the Halloween season I'll be looking back at the very first PPV I ever ordered, the NWA's inaugural Halloween Havoc!

Halloween Havoc '89 is a bit of an overlooked gem.  1989 was considered by most to be the NWA's best-ever year from a creative and match quality standpoint, featuring two landmark Ric Flair feuds and the rise of future headliners like Sting, Lex Luger and The Steiners.  It was the company's first full calendar year under the ownership of Ted Turner, and it felt like the changes at the top temporarily brought about a renewed sense of focus.

Most fans correctly cite The Great American Bash and Chi-Town Rumble as the company's top two PPVs of that year, but for me Halloween Havoc isn't far behind.  Sporting a stacked card (particularly in the tag team division) and a unique first-time gimmick match, Havoc was a thoroughly enjoyable show from start to finish, and it became one of the company's flagship PPVs until its 2001 demise.

But let's take a closer look, shall we?

Philadelphia Civic Center - 10.28.89

The centerpiece of this show was the first-ever Thunderdome match pitting Ric Flair and Sting against Terry Funk and The Great Muta.  After having feuded for much of 1988, Flair and Sting became allies at The Great American Bash, discovering they had common enemies.  The ensuing feud became so heated and intense it was decided the only way to settle it would be inside a giant steel cage with an electrified top and campy horror decor adorning the upper sections.  Each team would have a "second" stationed at ringside holding a white towel, and the match could only end when said team representative threw in said towel.  To ensure law and order, the NWA brought in the vaunted Bruno Sammartino as the guest referee.  This match sure had a lot of window dressing, but it all helped give the bout a big-fight atmosphere and made it feel like something special.

It may seem quaint now but in 1989 this dive was the goddamnedest thing

The match itself was a wildly fun brawl that ranged all over ringside as the four combatants gradually figured out the lay of the land.  The fisticuffs frequently took place on the side of the cage as Terry Funk repeatedly attempted escape.  Sting made good use of the structure at one point, diving off the cage rungs onto an unsuspecting Funk in the center of the ring.  Another memorable moment occurred early in the match, when a cage prop caught fire and Muta managed to put it out with his green mist.  I'm pretty sure that's never happened before or since.  After an unruly 23-minute battle, Flair caught Funk in the Figure Four and Sting nailed Funk's legs with multiple top-rope splashes.  Funk's manager Gary Hart attempted to interfere but ran into Flair & Sting's second, Ole Anderson, who knocked Hart loopy with a punch.  Hart's towel flew out of his hand and Sammartino declared Flair and Sting the victors.  While certainly not on par with Flair vs. Steamboat or the two Flair vs. Funk singles matches, the Thunderdome match was a very worthy main event and all four guys worked hard to make the awkward match structure a success.  My only gripes were the lack of blood and the fluky finish.  But then this match wasn't designed as the blowoff to this feud - that would happen at New York Knockout.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 2 (Backlash 2001)

Continuing my revisionist version of The Invasion Angle (click HERE for Part 1)....

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

The Next Night

Now here's where things really begin to take shape.  If you'll recall The Rock was leaving for several months to film The Scorpion King, so to write him off TV they had to "suspend" him.  Also to further Austin's heel turn he aligned himself with the despised Triple H, forming The Two-Man Power Trip.  I loved this alliance but again, it hurt business so I'm willing to erase it from the history books (particularly since it was short-lived).

Time for the Justin version: Austin goes to the ring, takes the mic, and explains why he accepted Vince's help at 'Mania.  During his year-long absence he was obsessed with winning back the WWF Championship.  It's all he thought about.  Then Triple H sidetracked him, and even bested him at No Way Out.  But when it came time to face The Rock, he was gonna do whatever it took to win back the Title, even duping Vince into thinking Austin would be the corporate Champion he wanted back in 1998.  So Vince agreed to help him beat The Rock.  But Austin'll be damned if he's gonna do anything differently than he ever has.

The Rock interrupts and points out that Austin couldn't beat him straight-up so he had to get help.  Austin says "I told you Rock that I was gonna do whatever it took to win back this Title."

Vince comes out and berates both Rock and Austin, and says he's not worried because in four weeks at Backlash Austin will defend the WWF Title against the man who beat him at No Way Out, Triple H!  The Rock reminds Vince that as the former Champion he is entitled to a rematch and is going to enact that clause tonight!

The main event arrives and Austin and Rock have a hard-fought rematch (Vince sits at ringside), with neither man seemingly able to get the duke.  Suddenly JR announces that there's been a security breach outside and there's some sort of commotion in the backstage area.  There's a split-screen keeping up with the action in the ring as the backstage camera tries to capture what's happening.  We see about fifteen masked men beating up the security team and they start pouring through the backstage curtain.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Movie Review: Joker (2019)

Todd Phillips' Joker is one of the more tangibly uncomfortable films in recent memory.  We spend its two-hour running time in intimate proximity with a severely mentally ill fellow named Arthur Fleck, who is either ignored, dismissed or antagonized by everyone he comes in contact with, except for his equally disturbed mother who seems to have, among other issues, Munchausen Syndrome (when we meet him, Arthur is taking seven different prescription meds at any given time).  Fleck works as a clown-for-hire, rented out for store closing sales and children's hospital visits, but dreams of being a famous stand-up comedian, attending open-mic nights and taking hopelessly tone-deaf notes on what plays with a crowd and what doesn't.  He also fantasizes about being discovered by late-night talk show host Murray Franklin (an insensitive Robert Deniro, reversing roles from The King of Comedy, one of Joker's primary inspirations).

Joaquin Phoenix is a realistically terrifying force in this role (bringing to mind his Oscar nominated triumph as off-the-rails PTSD victim Freddie Quell in The Master, as well as DeNiro's troubled lead characters in Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy), unafraid to alienate the audience and push his portrayal into authentically unpleasant places.  I'd be shocked if Phoenix doesn't get an Oscar nod; he is a truly fearless actor and his performance legitimately feels like one of those dangerous immersions that must've stayed with him for weeks after shooting wrapped.

This film works even without the comic book trappings, relying on them only as window dressing while approaching this well-worn mythos from a different angle.  It's like the opposite of the Batman origin.  Instead of a wealthy orphan dedicating his life and unlimited fortune to fighting crime, we have a poverty-stricken outcast lashing out at a system that threw him overboard, inspiring Gotham's like-minded downtrodden to rise up against the wealthy.  While I found the sociopolitical commentary a bit messy and heavy-handed at times, it's nonetheless an interesting approach in imagining how a sociopathic arch-criminal like The Joker would come to be.

The 1981 Gotham City in this film is grimy, seedy and unwelcoming like the NYC of Taxi Driver, made worse by an ongoing garbage strike that's left the streets overflowing with refuse.  Rampant disillusionment hovers over this Gotham like a black cloud, permeating every scene until the tension becomes palpable and oppressive; spending two hours in this environment alongside this character will most certainly not be for everyone.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Parents' Night In #24: IT (2017) - Kelly Is Scared of Pennywise....

It's Halloween time, and that means Justin & Kelly sit down and watch some horror films!  Our latest Parents' Night In episode is about the 2017 smash-hit, Stephen King's IT, starring Bill Skarsgard as everyone's favorite murderous supernatural clown Pennywise!

We discuss the differences between the book and the film, the 80s, our favorite Red Sox players from childhood, and the correct indefinite article one should use preceding words that start with "H."  Yeah, I know, just go with it.....

#Halloween #IT #ITChapterTwo #StephenKing #HorrorMovies

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Top Ten Things: 10 Ways to Fix WWE

Welcome to a special edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

It's no secret that WWE's product is in tatters these days, with disorganization at an all time high, ratings and morale nearing all-time lows, storylines with no endgame being thrown at the wall willy-nilly in the hopes that something, anything, sticks, no current roster members getting over (except maybe one), old-timer appearances yielding inevitably diminishing returns, young audiences walking away in droves, etc.  Creatively the company is resembling WCW in its dying days more and more, and were it not for the exorbitant fees they're getting from Fox, USA and Saudi Arabia we'd likely be witnessing the death throes of Vince McMahon's juggernaut.  Inexplicably virtually everyone in the industry seems to recognize some of the fundamental mistakes Vince has been making for the last fifteen years except Vince himself.  Ever the fragile ego, Vince has long surrounded himself with sycophantic yes-men too terrified to challenge him on his creative decisions, and the result is a product that's hopelessly out of touch with what wrestling fans in 2019 want to see. 

But I'm here with some constructive suggestions, most of them pretty simple, to fix WWE's creative process and return the product to its former glory.  Before you call me a "WWE hater," know that I've been watching this company's product since 1986.  I've been a Network subscriber since Week One.  I don't hate WWE.  I want WWE to put on compelling television again.  I've seen them do it and I know they're capable of brilliance, they just need to find it again.  So let's get started.  Vince, if you're reading (you're not, I know), please take these suggestions to heart...

1. No Scripted Promos

First and foremost, this, this, a thousand times this.  Scripted promos are maybe the most counterproductive creative policy in wrestling history.  Literally every major star in the history of the business who got over even partially by cutting promos (which is almost all of them) did so because they had the freedom to develop their character and speak in a way that sounded spontaneous and heartfelt.  You hired these people because you saw in them something compelling, yes?  Presumably they know better than a team of hack writers how their character would speak - after all, the best wrestling characters across the board were simply extensions or exaggerations of the person underneath.  Imagine someone like Steve Austin or The Rock or Ric Flair or Dusty Rhodes trying to get over in this climate.  We'd never have "Austin 3:16," that promo was a spur-of-the-moment idea in response to something Jake Roberts said earlier on that show.  We'd never have smelled what The Rock was cooking, that's just a fun catchphrase he came up with off the cuff.  We'd never hear from the "limousine riding, jet flying son of a gun," who was given as much mic time as he needed, or the "son of a plumber," whose promo philosophy was all about selling his upcoming match, not himself.  The art of cutting a promo is one of the most vital parts of making a wrestling product successful, and WWE lost that art a long time ago thanks to stilted, forced, unnatural-sounding dialogue, where two people wait for their turn to recite rather than have a conversation.  Maybe the worst part of all this is that Vince McMahon for a long time hasn't understood what makes a babyface likable, and therefore every babyface is written as either a shriveling coward or a jerk.  Get back to real promos again and you'd see probably 90% of WWE's creative woes go away.  A good talker like the former Dean Ambrose would be able to connect with the audience AND hype his big match with Seth Rollins, thus making the fans genuinely care about seeing the former friends duke it out.  Ratings and buyrates would go up, thus getting more eyes on the other talent as other natural talkers organically rose to the top like so much cream.  We as the audience would believe in these characters and their feuds, and the live audience would actually seem excited to be there.  Emotion and excitement are contagious, and a good promo generates both.      

2. Stop "Producing" Matches and Commentary

Along those same lines, the practice of "producing" everything else on WWE television, from the corporate buzzword-infested commentary to the matches themselves, needs to end. 

No one wants to see a show full of essentially the same match over and over.  This philosophy about how WWE has its own "style" of wrestling is pure nonsense.  WWE doesn't have a "style," it has a corporate policy wherein nearly all the in-ring creativity of its wildly talented roster is sucked out of nearly every match, resulting in every match feeling meticulously planned out and identical to the last.  Compare for example the AJ Styles-Daniel Bryan matches from this past year with their mid-2000s work in Ring of Honor.  Yes I get that there's an age difference factor, but their indie matches felt urgent and organic, like they were actually involved in a real fight.  They listened to the crowd and proceeded based on what was connecting and what wasn't.  Wrestlers need to be able to improvise in response to the audience so they don't lose them over the course of the match.  Now look at the Styles-Bryan match from the Royal Rumble, which was already facing an uphill battle because it had to follow Becky Lynch's Rumble win.  The bout was slow, overly methodical, lacking any urgency, and too long for a slot following a 72-minute Rumble.  These two guys needed the freedom to change the planned bout (like Bret and Owen did in 1994 when Bret realized Owen's aerial tactics would've hurt his effectiveness as a heel) and get the crowd invested, but in 2019 WWE that sort of free-thinking is a no-no.

As for the wretched banter that passes for commentary in this company, WWE needs to remember that the commentators are the de facto hosts of the show.  We as the audience need to actually like spending time with our hosts.  The play-by-play announcer needs to be someone we trust to guide us through the stories being told and enhance them, not a corporate shill we think is trying to sell us more shit.  Michael Cole, for as good as he is at navigating Vince's barrage of order-barking through the headset, comes off as the latter.  I don't feel anything genuine from Cole as an announcer and he's not someone I'd ever want to hang out with.  He's a company man who's there to further a mandated narrative and parrot idiotic buzzwords like "sports entertainer" and "WWE Universe," or cringe-inducing phrases like "controlled frenzy" to describe Kofi Kingston, or "real-life superhero" for Ricochet.  He doesn't talk like a real person and he's almost never given a chance to enrich the story in the ring.  The color commentator (and there should almost always be one, not two), needs to have an easy chemistry with the PBP announcer, whether from a babyface/neutral position or a heel position (Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan were masters at being heel color-men).  If both announcers are babyfaces we need to get the sense that they really like hanging out together (JR and Tony Schiavone anyone?).  If the color man (or woman) is a heel, they need to disagree with the lead announcer without it coming off as bickering.  Gorilla Monsoon and Ventura/Heenan could argue in a way that was amusing.  Michael Cole and Corey Graves don't; instead it comes off like petty squabbling and it's like listening to your parents have a fight.  If we don't like the people hosting the show, why would we want to spend three hours watching it?  

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Parents' Night In #13: Frankenstein (1931)

Join Kelly & Justin as we discuss the horror classic Frankenstein!  We'll talk about Boris Karloff's performance, James Whale's direction and set design, Telling Bird Zinfandel, and more!

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and MeWe!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Parents' Night In #14: The Shining (1980)

It's Halloween time and that means Kelly & Justin pop in one of their favorite scary movies, Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's classic The Shining!  That also means Kelly & Justin pop open some delicious beer and wine and talk about said film for your enjoyment!  

From Jack Nicholson's operatic high-wire act to Shelley Duvall's brilliant hysterics, to the gorgeous steadicam photography to the amazingly realized Overlook Hotel set, The Shining is as fascinating today as it was in 1980....

Watch, listen, laugh, like and SUBSCRIBE!

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Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 1 (Bischoff Buys WCW)

Welcome to another edition of Wrestling Do-Overs, where I'll examine a famous (or infamous) event or angle from pro wrestling's rich history and reimagine it as I would've executed it, thereby demonstrating that a) I should be booking this stuff, and b) I should immediately seek psychological help.

Today I'll be talking about the 2001 Invasion - the fallout of the WWF's purchase of WCW.  As we all know this disappointing angle was a trainwreck from the start and Vince McMahon threw away tens of millions of dollars just to satisfy his own ego and present WCW as a vastly inferior organization/product.  After about five months of excruciating storylines the whole angle was prematurely nixed at Survivor Series 2001 and things went back to normal the next night.

Modern North American wrestling had seen two major invasion angles prior to this one.  One of them (the NWA's purchase of UWF) was an utter disaster and its architect Jim Crockett sold his own company to Ted Turner less than a year later.  The other (obviously the nWo) was a monumental success, at least for a little while, and made WCW the biggest wrestling company in the world.  Vince unfortunately modeled his Invasion angle after the former.

But what could the WWF have done to make the Invasion the record-breaking all-time classic it should've been?  I'm going to create an alternate reality where the WWF didn't horribly botch potentially the biggest money-making storyline of all time.  This will be a multi-part column covering a full year: March 26, 2001 (the date of the final episode of Monday Nitro) through March 18, 2002 (the RAW after WrestleMania X8).

Vince's first mistake was refusing to hire the handful of remaining top WCW stars because they were still under contract to Time Warner and buying them out supposedly would've cost too much money.  But the ratings and PPV buys yielded by such signings would've easily offset these costs and more.  Really Vince could have hired just five additional people, for a total of probably $15 million, and this angle immediately would've been a massive hit with almost no effort required.

With these five names they could earn back that $15 mil in probably two months:

1. Hulk Hogan
2. Ric Flair
3. Goldberg
4. Sting
5. Eric Bischoff

Four of these five men would end up signing with the WWF within two years anyway.  Hell, Flair redebuted with the WWF the night after the Invasion ended!

The Final Nitro

So here's how things should've kicked off.  On March 26, 2001 the final Nitro aired, and at its conclusion Shane McMahon showed up to announce he had bought the company out from under his father.  This is all wrong.  The McMahons' egos were so out of control they actually believed they and their family squabbles were bigger draws than the wrestlers themselves.  It obviously got worse that summer when they put Stephanie in charge of the ECW squad, and then in 2003 the PPV calendar was littered with McMahon in-ring appearances.  So this whole saga got off on the wrong foot, turning WWF vs. WCW into little more than a convoluted Vince vs. Shane feud.  Anyone who thinks Vince vs. Shane was really what the fans wanted to see is not being honest with themselves.

The man fans really wanted to see mix it up with Vince was a fella by the name of Eric Bischoff.  Vince and Eric had real-life animosity, and ever since 1998 when Bischoff issued a public challenge to fight Vince, fans had been intrigued by the potential matchup.

This is the power struggle we all wanted to see

Monday, October 14, 2019

Winery Outlinery: Broken Creek Vineyards (Shrewsbury, MA)

Welcome to a brand new feature here at, Winery Outlinery (sister series of Brewery Reviewery)!  Yeah that's right, I'm branching out into wine reviews.  Thanks to Adam from I've been drinking and discussing a lot of wine lately, so let's give this a go.  Hopefully I won't come off as a wine amateur....

Broken Creek Vineyard
​​614 South St 
Shrewsbury, Ma 01545

This past weekend my family and I traipsed out to Worcester to see my mother sing at the Worcester Jazz Festival, and on the way home we drove through the Shrewsbury, MA neighborhood where I grew up.  Right down the street from our old house there just happens to be a young little winery called Broken Creed Vineyard.  Launched in late 2015 by Eric Preusse, Broken Creek is a small boutique vineyard offering an eclectic variety of reds, whites, and a few special editions, all of which have big, bold flavor and a ton of character.  Of all the wineries I've visited, Broken Creek has perhaps the most memorable roster of wines; each one is an unusual take on its respective varietal and they stick with you after you've left.  Tastings are $10 for five one-ounce pours and you get to keep your branded wine glass - that there is a bargain.  Broken Creek also books private events in their welcoming, rustic tasting room.

So let's dive in and talk about some wine, shall we?

Riesling: A dry white wine made with grapes sourced from California.  This wine has notes of nectarine and pineapple. ​

JB: My wife and I got into Rieslings a decade ago during a visit to the Finger Lakes (Riesling country), so I'm always on the lookout for a good dry one.  This fit the bill nicely; light and dry with just a hint of citrus.  The Riesling was my favorite of the whites and I picked up a bottle to go.

Chardonnay: This is a well balanced white wine with flavors of green apple, citrus and hints of vanilla.​

JB: Generally my favorite white varietal is an oaky, buttery Chardonnay.  Broken Creek's version is unoaked, drier than a typical Chard, with just a bit of fruitiness.  I liked this one too but preferred the Riesling. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

NJPW King of Pro-Wrestling 2019 Preview & Predictions: No Red Spotlights!

It's October and that means it's time for NJPW's biggest show of the fall season, King of Pro-Wrestling!

This year's lineup has five big matchups with potential Tokyo Dome ramifications, plus the usual undercard tag bouts.  Should be a helluva fun PPV to watch, and boy do we need one of those desperately these days.  One thing I can guarantee with this show, we'll never see a red-tinted, no disqualification match stopped because one dude was using a hammer.  KOPW will automatically be better than Hell in a Cell.

Sorry, had to get a WWE dig.  Let's do some predictions.

Ryusuke Taguchi & RPG3K vs. El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Douki

Your standard undercard six-man opener.  I suspect this is about getting Sho & Yoh a win.  I was on hand in Lowell to see them almost defeat GoD for the tag belts, which was a helluva match.  I'd love to see them move up to the heavyweight division full-time.

Pick: Good guys win

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma vs. Togi Makabe & Toru Yano

Okay, first off, how is Tanahashi in the second match of the night?  Bizarre.  Second, when did Makabe and Yano become buddies again?  Third, does this mean we'll see the violent Yano of old?  This could be good, could be a throwaway.  We shall see.  I guess Honma probably eats the pin?

Pick: Most Violent Players

Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi & Bushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Lance Archer & Taichi

Another shockingly low spot on the card belongs to Mr. Naito, who's been on a bit of a tailspin lately.  I'm guessing we'll see a Naito-White rematch at the Dome where he'll regain the I-C Title.  Or maybe he'll feud with Zack over the RPW belt.  One thing's for sure though, I wanna see an Archer-Shingo feud.  Goddamn that'd be something.

Pick: Either Taichi or Bushi is taking the pin in this one.  Flip a coin.  I'll say LIJ wins.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Brewery Reviewery: Blacklab Brewhouse & Kitchen (Barcelona, Spain)

Welcome to a special edition of Brewery Reviewery here at, where I visit a facility in which they make delicious craft beers, and I drink 'em all.  For this review I traveled all the way to Barcelona, Spain with Adam from (I'm a beer guy, he's a wine guy) and among our tapas, cava and vermouth adventures we happened upon Blacklab Brewhouse & Kitchen!

Blacklab Brewhouse & Kitchen
Palau de Mar
Pla├ža Pau Vila 1
Barcelona 08039

Located near the water in downtown Barcelona, Blacklab is a restaurant/brewery with a variety of brews and a robust menu split into western pub favorites like nachos, wings, fries and mac & cheese, and eastern fare like ramen, dumplings, edamame and Asian ribs, plus burgers, salads and more.  There's ample seating both inside and outside (we chose the latter), and events such as brewery tours and live bands.  The atmosphere is fun and relaxed, and if you like craft beer, chances are they'll have something for you.

So let's take a gander at these brews....

Renaissance Man NEIPA (5.1%): New England IPA. Creamy body, hazy appearance and a ton of juicy, citrusy hop aromas. Low bitterness.

JB: I love NEIPAs, and this was an excellent specimen.  Cloudy, tangy, full of that citra hops flavor I adore, with notes of mango.  I liked this one so much I had to order a full pint after the flight.

Manor Farm Saison (5%): Saison. Our last saison of the season. An updated recipe with more caramelized malts and abundant Belgian yeast characteristics due to high temperature fermentation.

JB: Saisons are always a refreshing, spicy bit of fun.  This had the signature wyeast flavor like a Hefeweizen, with just a hint of citrus and clove.

Terraplane (5.2%): Robust Porter. Great dark malt flavors, but not too much body. Made for the Barcelona climate.

JB: Drinking a porter in 70-degree weather seems odd, but this was pretty enjoyable.  Dark and rich with strong coffee notes and a slightly bitter finish.  I'd have maybe dialed back the coffee a tad, but Terraplane is a solid effort.

La Normal (5%): Golden Ale. Finally back on draft. Easy drinking and refreshing golden beer.

JB: If you're a fan of say, Night Shift's Nite Lite lager, this'll scratch you where ya itch.  La Normal is light and crisp with a balanced flavor.  Perfect for a hot day.

Music Review: Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury

by Mike Drinan

Sturgill Simpson’s third album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, was a concept album that stood as an open letter to his first born son. It was a heartfelt project filled with love, lessons, worry, pain and hope and it garnered the Kentucky native critical acclaim and commercial success, but also the Grammy for Best Country Album. I ranked it as the #4 Album of 2016. It was some of his best work to date and caused critics and the country music establishment to go crazy over him.

His newest release, Sound & Fury? He’s just looking to burn all that shit down.

Turning to a new sound, Simpson has adopted a heavier, bluesier tone and combined with Bobby Emmett’s synths, his songs have a more dystopian feel to them. The listener is immediately oriented to the new sound by the instrumental intro track “Ronin”, a title that carries an underlying theme and statement throughout the album: Sturgill’s doing his own thing and leaving a trail of fire in his wake. “'Cause it's "fuck all y'all" season, don't give me a reason/And watch your house burn to the ground” he plainly states on “Last Man Standing”, a high energy, barn burner of a song that seems to take aim at the country music industry as a whole and all the bullshit and hypocrisy that comes with it.

Those who have followed Sturgill’s career are used to this attitude from him, but he’s setting the record straight for any new listeners coming his way, thanks to his 2016 Grammy win. Sturgill just wants to be left alone to do what he does best and be surrounded by those who care. “Mercury In Retrograde” takes exception to those that seek him out with ulterior motives, while “Best Clockmaker on Mars” sees Sturgill ache to be back home, alone with his wife who is not afraid of calling him out on his bullshit. It’s a refreshing love song from Simpson lyrically, yet with a sick bluesy guitar riff and heavy synths as the backdrop, he still sounds annoyed as fuck. Not that that’s a bad thing because it’s a killer track.

It’s the instrumentation that is the most jarring but also the strength of this project. At first listen, it was unsettling to hear Simpson’s thick country vocals in the middle of this heavy, psychedelic music. As my wife said, “This doesn’t sound like Sturgill Simpson.” Once I was on my second and third listens it clicked, and sounded like Sturgill was not only in his wheelhouse, but actually having a great time.  These elements only began to heighten the songs for me. There’s a great mix between the guitar, synths and bass on the lead single “Sing Along” that gives it such a unique texture. The song is also home to my favorite lyric “I know you know that you’re killing me but it’s worth it just to see you smile”. Hot damn y’all.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Top Ten Things: Chris Jericho Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at  Since it's WrestleMania weekend and I'll be watching The Show of Shows with the band Fozzy, I thought I'd count down the ten greatest matches of The Ayatollah of Rock n' Rollah himself, Chris Jericho!

A friend asked me a few years ago, "If you could be any wrestler, who would you be?"  And my answer was "I gotta go with Jericho.  Think about it, the guy had two dream careers growing up - pro wrestler and rock star - and goddammit, he got to do BOTH of them."  Jericho is one of those "complete package" wrestlers - athletic, innovative, charismatic, and a promo-cutting machine.  He has the uncanny ability to reinvent himself whenever he needs to, adding new layers to his character and churning out quotable lines and catchphrases with staggering frequency.  "Ever - E-E-E-EEEEVERRRR be the same againe," "Trashbag ho," "Would you please shut. The hell. Up," "I am the best in the world at what I do," "Drink it in, man," and "You just made the list" are just a sampling of Jericho's more memorable promo moments.  He's gone from an obnoxious rock star character to a soft-spoken sadist to a scarf-wearing hipster, and yet every new wrinkle he adds still fits the overall Jericho persona.

But today I'm here to talk about his accomplishments in the ring.  Jericho's turned in so many classic bouts over two-plus decades that picking just ten was quite a challenge; just when I thought I'd narrowed it down I'd remember another great match I'd forgotten about.  So a couple favorites like Jericho vs. Juventud at SuperBrawl, or the fantastic Ladder Match with Shawn (Yeah I know) just missed the cut.  I'm sure not everyone will agree with this ranking but here it is.....

10. Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Jericho - Unforgiven - 9.23.01

The much-maligned Invasion Angle will never win any awards for booking, but it did produce some classic matches, such as this show stealer.  Rob Van Dam had debuted in the WWF two months earlier and became the hottest star in the company, winning a blazing feud against Jeff Hardy before moving on to Jericho.  Their Hardcore Title match at Unforgiven was a searingly intense battle full of weaponry and aerial tactics, and ultimately RVD finished Y2J with the Five-Star Frog Splash to retain.

9. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho - Unforgiven - 9.7.08

The best feud of 2008 was undoubtedly Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels.  After a babyface return in late 2007, Jericho quickly turned heel again in early '08, modeling a new persona after the character of Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men.  Jericho became soft-spoken, sullen, and sanctimonious, insisting that born-again Christian Shawn Michaels was a hypocrite who didn't follow his own beliefs.  Their feud was intended as a one-off match that spring but stretched over nearly six months.  The best match of this saga in my opinion was the non-sanctioned street fight at Unforgiven, which sprung from an incident at SummerSlam.  Jericho invited Michaels and his wife Rebecca to his talk show, and their bickering led to Jericho accidentally knocking Rebecca out with a punch.  This was fairly tame by Attitude Era standards, but in the new PG Era it was treated as a huge deal, and the two wrestlers played it to the hilt.  Their fight was brutal without being bloody, and it ended via ref stoppage when Michaels had beaten Jericho unconscious.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

WWE Hell in a Cell Preview & Predictions....For Three Matches

Umm, so there's still a Hell in a Cell PPV in three days, right?  Like, we're still expected to want to tune in and watch this show despite only three matches having been announced and almost all the RAW and Smackdown hype going toward Fox and Crown Jewel, right? 

I mean I'm actually interested in the three matches we know about, but would it have been that hard to announce two or three more over the course of this week?  Christ, another company starts up and Vince just forgets everything else.  RATINGS, people!  We need RATINGS!  Nah, screw the PPV!  Hey Vince, remember the last time you threw together a PPV the day of?

So, I guess I'll do predictions for the three matches we have, and speculate on a fourth.

Probable WWE Championship Rematch: Brock Lesnar vs. Kofi Kingston

Brock vs. Kofi is taking place on Smackdown, and I can't imagine Vince would book this unless he intended for Brock to win the WWE Title again.  Brock will win in a dominant performance, they'll anounce a rematch at the PPV and Brock will retain.  It'll be short and basic, and Kofi will just be one of the guys again.  Sigh....

Pick: Brock retains

Roman Reigns & Daniel Bryan vs. Erick Rowan & Luke Harper

Jesus fuckin' Christ.  Remember how this whole "Who attacked Roman" storyline was meant to set up Roman vs. Bryan?  First at SummerSlam, then Vince decided that was too soon so he dragged it out and left both guys off that show.  Then he changed his mind and had Rowan turn on Bryan and just be the mastermind the whole time.  Then he decided to have Bryan run to Roman's aid and now they're pals.  This is like a combination of "Who Ran Over Austin" and the Sasha-Bayley Non-Feud of 2018.  Fuck, why does anyone bother following along with WWE's angles from week to week when Vince himself can't seem to recall where he left off?  Anyway, this match should be good and should have a big-time feel.  It's nice that Daniel Bryan is finally getting another fucking PPV match after like four months.  He's only one of your biggest stars.  I'm a little pissed he's already a babyface again though, his heel character was awesome.  Maybe it's all a scam and he'll turn on Roman and reveal Harper and Rowan are both his henchmen.  That would be ideal.  But I dunno if Vince is smart enough to do it that way.  Plus Rowan's beaten both of them in singles matches now, so if Bryan were working Reigns he's been taking multiple asskickings from Rowan to get there.  I'll pick the good guys to win.

Pick: Reigns & Bryan