Friday, February 28, 2020

WWE and The Oldberg Show, part 2

Sweet fucking Christ on a popsicle stick, did they just seriously take this indestructible monster heel they've been building nonstop for six months and job him out in under three minutes, to Bill fucking Goldberg??  Is this real life?  Am I having a stroke?  Is Vince?

How sad is it that nine years later, CM Punk's infamous "pipe bomb" promo is just as relevant as ever?  Vince McMahon, year after year, keeps demonstrating how appallingly tone-deaf he has become as a promoter.  This guy in 2020 is so bad at building new stars he threw his hands up and put one of his two top championships on a 52-year-old WCW headliner who hasn't had a good five-plus-minute match since 2003, sacrificing the one current star he's been consistently building up over the last half-year.  And to boot, this scenario is just a rerun of 2017, when he did the same thing to Kevin Owens in 21 seconds.  Last October the Fiend basically got murdered with a hammer by Seth Rollins after taking eleven curb stomps, but still got up.  Yet he can't withstand four spears and the most feeble-looking jackhammer of all time?  This is just embarrassing.

Look, I have no problem with booking the dream match of Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania (aside from the fact that Oldie can't actually take bumps or do more than a four-minute finisher-fest - but tell me more about how WWE main events are about psychology and storytelling...), but there was zero need for the Universal Title to be involved.  Zero.  Goldberg could've been booked to beat literally anyone else at Super Showdown to build him up for this.  Squashing The Fiend, who may not be a ratings-mover but nonetheless has sold a lot of merch, is 100% counterproductive and there is no rational argument to be made to the contrary.  Yay, Goldberg popped a rating on Smackdown.  Super.  So in five weeks after he drops the Title to Roman and goes away, then what happens?  The ratings go right back to where they were, yes?  So what long-term benefit comes out of this?  Spoiler alert: none.  And anyone who thinks Roman won't get booed like crazy for beating the beloved legend is delusional.  We're going right back to 2017 when he beat Taker.

Elsewhere on that Saudi shit sandwich, we got to see AJ Styles lose to the 55-year-old Undertaker, in 20 seconds, after a single chokeslam, allegedly to set up another 'Mania dream match.  But who the fuck wants to see that now?  AJ lost clean after one move.  Why should I care about seeing the heel redeem himself?  Speaking of delusional, Vince, Taker and anyone else who thinks the near-senior Dead Man is physically up for a match reminiscent of his 2009-2010 feud with Shawn is not being honest with themselves.  That feud was a decade ago, and in 2020 Taker can barely walk around comfortably.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

AEW Revolution Preview & Predictions

A-E-Dubs!  A-E-Dubs!  This Saturday night AEW is back on PPV with Revolution.  You see, the puppy was just a dog.  But the PPV.....that my friends, was a revolution.

Sorry, had a Billy Madison moment there.  Anywho, this show is nicely stacked from top to bottom and the weekly Dynamite series has done a pretty excellent job of building up the big bouts.  I expect a new company highpoint with this PPV.  I hope I'm right.  From a star power standpoint this main event is their biggest match to date, the tag title match has the potential to be their best bout so far, and we're getting the long-awaited payoff to a hugely personal feud.  This oughta be great.

Let's pick some winners.

SoCal Uncensored vs. The Dark Order

This feud is built around the tease of Christopher Daniels joining the Dark Order and revealing himself to be the Exalted One or whatever they're calling it.  I don't think Daniels is the guy, as it's too obvious.  I think they're biding their time until Luke Harper/Brodie Lee is free from his WWE no-compete clause and he can be the new leader.  That would be a good move.  That said I think the Order wins this in spite of Daniels' rejection.

Pick: The Dark Order

Pac vs. Orange Cassidy

Mr. Cassidy is finally wrestling a match in AEW.  I imagine this won't be a clinic given Cassidy's gimmick, and it probably won't last long, but it should be entertaining.  Pac will get something of a good match out of him before winning.

Pick: Pac

Darby Allin vs. Sammy Guevara

This'll be a wild one - Allin is a crazy man and Guevara is super athletic.  This is a potential show stealer and they've done a great job of building interest.  If the company had a secondary singles belt this would be a good fit for it.  Time to introduce an AEW Television Champion or whatever they wanna call it.

Pick: Guevara kinda desperately needs a win

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Top Ten Things: February PPV Matches

Hello and welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at, where I make a nerdy, dorky list of the ten best examples of something I like, and you are forced to read it.

Today I'll be talking about the top ten February PPV matches of all time, as decided by me.  February falls smack-dab in the middle of the Road to WrestleMania, and its PPV event is often the forgotten little sibling of 'Mania and the Royal Rumble.  But that doesn't necessarily make it a throwaway event.  Some real gems have occurred in the second month of WWE's PPV calendar (which in some cases have outshone every match at 'Mania itself), and even outside WWE there have been some excellent matches and events held in February (I've included some NWA/WCW and NJPW entries as well).

So let's get to it!

10. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoake Honma - NJPW The New Beginning in Sendai 2.14.15

After defeating Ishii at WrestleKingdom 9 for the NEVER Openweight Championship, Togi Makabe suffered a sudden injury and New Japan vacated the title.  Ishii then faced perennial underdog but huge crowd favorite Honma to crown a new champ.  And the result was a brutally stiff battle full of knifing chops, diving headbutts, and crazy intensity.  Honma ultimately came up short and the "Stone Pitbull" Ishii regained the Title.  This match was highly praised as one of many 2015 Match of the Year candidates on NJPW's calendar, and I can't disagree.

9. Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker - WWE No Way Out 2.19.06

The main event of No Way Out '06 saw World Champion Kurt Angle lock up with a man he considers possibly the greatest wrestler of all time, The Undertaker.  This epic bout was presented as a clash of two babyfaces and ran over 29 minutes, featuring loads of dramatic near-falls and action ranging all around the ringside area.  Finally after his Anklelock was countered into a Triangle Choke, Angle rolled forward to trap Taker underneath him for the pin.  This was WWE's best match of the year.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Top Ten Things: Quentin Tarantino Characters

What's up kids?  Time for another episode of Top Ten Things, here at, where I do a silly little countdown of.....things.

Today it's a list of my favorite characters from the films of Quentin Tarantino!  Mr. Tarantino has a tremendous gift for writing quirky, memorable dialogue in a way that helps establish clearly drawn, relatable characters, many of whom shouldn't be relatable given their occupation or role in the story.  QT is famous for writing scumbags, murderers, thieves and ne'er-do-wells as people we actually want to spend time with; they're regular folks just like us, except that they do awful things for a living.  Sure, there's the occasional legitimate "good guy" character, but almost everyone in Quentin's films is a shade of gray.  Regardless though, his characters are nearly always colorful, eloquent on some level, and above all unforgettable.

Here is a list of the best ones....

HM: Budd (Kill Bill)

Probably my favorite Michael Madsen performance is that of the alcoholic lowlife Budd, self-exiled from his brother Bill's crack team of assassins after a crisis of conscience, but still possessing innately acute survival instincts.  Budd's very posture says volumes - slumped over, defeated, resigned to a destitue life in a shabby desert trailer while working nightly at a local strip club.  The once accomplished mercenary now takes routine browbeatings from his boss and spends his free time getting liquored up and listening to Johnny Cash records, awaiting his fate at the hands of Beatrix Kiddo.  Madsen's work here is wonderfully nuanced and despondent, conveying Budd's sense of self-punishment; wracked with guilt over what he and his colleagues did to Beatrix but still ultimately loyal to his older brother, Budd is the only one on Kiddo's Death List 5 who gets the better of her.

HM: Elle Driver (Kill Bill)

Perhaps the most purely evil character in the Kill Bill saga is the callous, scheming, one-eyed assassin Elle Driver, played with depraved delight by the cast-against-type Darryl Hannah.  She only has modest screen time, but Hannah and QT imbue Elle with tangible malevolence, coupled with a mercenary's sense of honor.  Despite being former teammates with The Bride, it's established early on that Elle and Beatrix have never liked each other, yet they have immense mutual respect as professionals.  We first meet Elle as she plans on disposing of a comatose Bea via lethal injection, offering a peaceful death as a gift.  Later Elle double-crosses Budd by hiding a black mamba snake in his satchel of money, articulating her disgust that he of all people seemingly got to finish Bea off (a great monologue).  Elle is such a fascinating, shrewd villain I think she could carry her own movie.

HM: Shoshanna Dreyfus (Inglourious Basterds)

At first glance, Basterds seems to be mostly about Lt. Aldo Raine and his squad of Nazi-hunters, but the real central protagonist is Shoshanna Dreyfus, who barely escapes as her family is massacred in the first scene and assumes the moniker of French cinema owner Emmanuelle Mimeaux.  Dreyfus manages to keep her true identity secret from the Nazis even as her theater is selected for the grand screening of Joseph Goebbels' new propaganda film, and she concocts a plan to burn the place down with the Third Reich's high command trapped inside.  Played with beautiful subtlety by Melanie Laurent, Shoshanna is one of Tarantino's highly intelligent, crafty female protagonists.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Top Ten Things: Corrosion of Conformity Songs

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at, where I rattle off a list of things I dig.

Today I'm talking about a band of unsung stoner metal heroes that began in the early 1980s as a hardcore punk trio and evolved into thrash, groove metal, sludge, and southern rock, along the way becoming a quintet and then a four-piece.  These guys were briefly in rotation on FM rock radio in the mid 90s but have unfortunately spent most of their career in relative obscurity despite always putting out quality, iconoclastic molten sludge, I'm talking about Corrosion of Conformity.

I first became aware of COC thanks to that great old staple of MTV, Headbanger's Ball, which presented three hours of metal awesomeness every Saturday night.  In early 1993 I happened upon two videos featuring this surly group of southern hicks pounding out groove-oriented guitar dirges and barking anthems of revolt and rebellion, and I was hooked immediately.  I went out and bought their third album Blind, and was knocked squarely on my ass by the sledgehammer rhythm guitars and righteous rage-infused lyrics.  In late 1994 they followed it up with Deliverance, which featured a major lineup change (guitarist Pepper Keenan had taken over on lead vocals from Karl Agell, while original bassist Mike Dean had returned in place of Phil Swisher) and a turn to Sabbathy, pothead alt-metal, yielding some well-deserved mainstream attention.  From then on COC was a staple around my house, and I've been groovin' to them ever since.  This band doesn't get nearly enough love.

With that, let's take a look at the best of Corrosion of Conformity!

HM: Damned for All Time

After the evil-sounding instrumental "These Shrouded Temples..." kicks off the Blind album, the late Reed Mullin's (RIP Reed!) syncopated drums transition us into a midtempo groover called "Damned for All Time," a scathing rebuke of politicians and their warmongering, that shifts feels from section to section.  Karl Agell's narrator reels in disgust at the crimes against humanity perpetrated by America's ruling class on a daily basis, fearing that we are all, like Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, damned for all time.

HM: Clean My Wounds

Maybe COC's best-known song is this simple tune from Deliverance, lyrically a toned-down thematic cousin to "Damned," as Pepper Keenan laments the violence around him, his cries for absolution unanswered ("Help me Jesus, help me clean my wounds/He said he cannot heal that kind").

HM: Seven Days

This melancholy dirge over a shuffle feel seems to be from the point of view of Christ, trying to make sense of his obligation to a human race he isn't sure is worth saving, while acknowledging his own human shortcomings.  It's one of Keenan's most powerful vocal performances and contains some of his most poignant lyrics ("Well I'm the one/I face the change I know that stands before me/Believe in me, cuz I damn sure don't believe in you").

HM: Dirty Hands and Empty Pockets/Already Gone

One of COC's most unusual tunes is this two-part shuffle that stars with just bass and drums, over which Pepper's sandpapery spoken verses eviscerate America's exploitation of third-world countries ("As we bleed another nation so you can watch your favorite station").  The lyrical perspective then changes, giving way to a high-energy guitar boogie from the point of view of the exploited soldier ("One day you will see when you're six feet down like me/Remember me when you're safe at home/I'm already gone").  This song also shows off veteran drummer Stanton Moore's bouncy chops.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Top Ten Things: Guns N' Roses Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, fans!  You know the drill.  It's a countdown, there's ten items, I rant about each of 'em for a bit, and you either agree with me or not.

Today it's the top ten greatest songs by one of the most controversial rock n' roll bands of all time, Guns N' Roses.

Formed in 1985, GNR combined the lineups of singer Axl Rose's Hollywood Rose with that of guitarist Tracii Guns' band L.A. Guns, creating a dangerous hard rock powderkeg that drew from the decadence of the '80s L.A. music scene along with the blues-rock sensibility of '70s supergroups like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

Their first full-length album, Appetite for Destruction, was released in 1987, and about a year later on the heels of the wildly successful singles "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle," reached Number 1 on the Billboard charts.  The band was the hottest act in rock music, seemingly overnight.  Appetite went on to become one of those universal records that literally everyone owns, like AC/DC's Back in Black, Michael Jackson's Thriller, or Metallica's "Black Album."

Three years later came their long-awaited followup, a double album called Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 that featured several epic songs and a much larger musical scope.  The albums contained a combined thirty tracks spanning over two-and-a-half hours, and spawned multiple radio hits.  The band had graduated to touring stadiums and it seemed they'd remain one of the biggest groups in the industry for the rest of their career.

But soon after releasing a rather ill-conceived covers album in the early 90s, Guns N' Roses split up due to personal and creative differences and went dormant, with Axl retaining rights to the band name, while the other members pursued their own projects.  The band seemed to have almost been erased from rock history, becoming largely irrelevant, until rumors surfaced a few years later of a new GNR album with a new lineup, called Chinese Democracy.  After several aborted recordings and lineup changes, Democracy was finally released in 2008, and while it failed to reach the success of previous albums, it was pretty well received by the critics and proved that Axl could still deliver that signature high-pitched howl.

GNR continues to tour (now with Slash and Duff McKagan back in the band!) and are working on a followup to Chinese Democracy, but given their track record who knows when it'll actually come out?  My money's on 2062, Axl's 100th birthday.

Anyway, enough history.  Here now are the ten best GNR songs in my estimation....

10. Don't Cry

A classic GNR-style ballad about Axl's breakup with Erin Everly (which inspired several songs on Use Your Illusion), "Don't Cry" was recorded in two versions.  The first was released as a radio single and had simpler, more radio-friendly lyrics - "Talk to me softly/there's something in your eyes/Don't hang your head in sorrow/And please don't cry," where the alternate version on UYI2 has a darker tone with more complex and introspective lyrics - "I thought I could live in your world/As years all went by/With all the voices I've heard/Something has died."  In either case, "Dont' Cry" is a somber but very hooky breakup song that builds to a soaring final chorus and that weird, sustained multitracked vocal note at the end.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Top Ten Things: WORST WWF Wrestling Superstars LJN Toys

Welcome back!  Alright, now that we've counted down the ten best LJN Wrestling Superstars toys, let's look at some that didn't make the grade.  Ones that either looked like absolute shite or that served zero purpose when you were trying to put together a pretend wrestling match (a phrase I know is technically redundant).  Some of these damn toys just hurt my brain and I don't know what LJN was thinking when they created the molds.  Here we go.... 

10. Warlord

Alright, you might be asking why Warlord is on this list when a) the toy looks quite a lot like him and b) he's got a decent pose for doing wrestling moves.  This toy pissed me off to no end for one reason: WHERE THE FUCK ARE HIS PANTS???  The Warlord as of 1989 wore long tights, ALWAYS.  So why the goddamn hell is he wearing little Speedo trunks on this toy?  Did no one at LJN bother to look at even a single a picture of this guy that extended below his waist?  Not only that, he's missing kneepads.  Do just a cursory bit of homework and this toy becomes one of the best in the line.  But because of pure fucking laziness, he's relegated to the bottom of the pile.  Also, where the hell was Barbarian??

Likeness - 7
Playability - 7
Total - 14

9. Iron Sheik

This is another one that looks vaguely like the real guy but in a very superficial way.  If you look closely, the facial features don't particularly resemble the Iron Sheik at all.  Again, I feel like they based this sculpt on the cartoon show instead of the actual human.  So this one gets a middling score there.  And his pose kinda sucked.  He's doing the vaudville strongman pose, which was okay for headlocks, clotheslines and maybe a suplex, but it was absolutely impossible to do Sheik's finishing move, the Camel Clutch.  If you can't do the guy's finisher that subtracts significant points.  Pretty lame, LJN.

Likeness - 5
Playability - 5
Total - 10

8. Paul Orndorff

What the hell were the sculpting team smoking when they made the Orndorff figure?  He's got a gigantic, malformed head, he's impossibly jacked, and he's missing kneepads.  Clearly this mold was done by the same guy that did Greg Valentine's, because this is one of the most unpleasant-looking action figures ever made.  This is what Paul Ordorff would look like if someone parked a bus on his face.  Not to mention, the physique they gave him is more Arnold than Orndorff, who was quite buff but not bodybuilder huge.  As far as playability though, he scores fairly high since his arm flexing was conducive to clotheslines and elbows, plus you could do a press slam or a Torture Rack.  But Christ, what an awful-looking toy.

Likeness - 3
Playability - 7
Total - 10

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Movie Review: Fighting With My Family (2019)

Wow, after 17 years WWE Studios has finally made a good movie.  The Paige biopic Fighting With My Family, written and directed by Stephen Merchant, is slyly funny, poignantly inspiring, oddly sweet, and quite superbly acted, while showing a respect for the craft of professional wrestling that's unusual for a Hollywood film.  More than respect actually, it displays a pretty intimate knowledge of what these performers go through to become successful WWE stars.  Of course that should stand to reason being that the film was co-produced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, based on a UK documentary about Paige and her family.

Led by a wonderful Florence Pugh performance as Saraya Bevis/Britani Knight/Paige (Pugh absolutely shines in this role, conveying a touching vulnerability under the grizzled exterior of a young woman raised by wrestlers), the film also boasts strong supporting turns from Nick Frost and Lena Headey as her wrestler/promoter parents, Jack Lowden as her brother Zak who's worked his whole life for a shot in WWE, and a surprisingly compassionate Vince Vaughn as Hutch Morgan, the WWE coach/talent scout who has to be tough and cynical with his recruits but underneath has his own regrets about the business.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The History of NXT TakeOver: Portland

The NXT brand once again delivered a killer TakeOver special, stringing together six good-to-excellent matches with nary a low point on the card.  While for me some matches went too far in a few places and the show lacked a true MOTY contender, NXT Portland was nonetheless a tremendous effort.

The show kicked off with the North American Title match, pitting old rivals Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic in a hard-hitting power battle.  These two powerhouses threw everything at each other, including a few death-defying dives and a climactic Spanish Fly off the top rope from Dijakovic.  The crowd was red-hot for this and every match, and bought into all of it.  Lee and Dijakovic's chemistry was very evident, as they've been working together for years, and this felt like NXT's version of a crazy indie match.  My only complaint was that after the Spanish Fly spot, Lee kicked out, Dijakovic went for a power move but his back gave out, and Lee just finished him with the Big Bang Catastrophe out of nowhere.  That felt like a parody of the WWE-style finish, where one guy seemingly has the match wrapped up but the other guy does his big move suddenly and wins.  Aside from that though, this was really good.  ****

The surprise hit of the night for me was the Tegan Nox-Dakota Kai Street Fight, which was shockingly violent, crisply worked, and exciting all the way through.  It was probably still the weakest match of the night by default, but that's not a knock on the match itself.  Nox and Kai did some spectacular stuff, including a German suplex on a trash can, a top-rope chokeslam, and a top-rope Molly Go-Round.  The story was that Nox was so preoccupied with punishing Kai, she declined to go for the pin after a Shining Wizard and instead put her on a table and put a chair around her head with the intent of Pillmanizing her, but Raquel Gonzalez tossed her off the top rope on to the table (another brutal-looking spot, as the table didn't break but instead tipped over on contact), allowing Kai to get the pin.  Damn good fight.  ***1/2

Top Ten Things: WWF Wrestling Superstars LJN Toys

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

Today I have not one but TWO lists for you, and they're opposite sides of the same coin.  Back in the 80s we wrestling fans had very limited options as far as the available toys with which to recreate our favorite in-ring matches and rivalries.  In 1985 Remco (makers of the fabulous He-Man knockoff toys based on obscure DC Comics characters like Warlord and Arak) unveiled a modest series of AWA action figures (plus Ric Flair) and a cardboard ring for the action to take place in.  These toys were quite functional but sadly also very generic, being made from essentially the same body mold.  As I got older I came to value poseability over visual aesthetics, and along with my vast collection of He-Man guys the Remco figures became my primary wrestling toys.  Man did I run a helluva Federation.  But I'm getting ahead of myself....

Also in 1985 the WWF got into the action figure game, releasing a colorful, oversized line of LJN toys called Wrestling Superstars.  These massive hunks of rubber had zero points of articulation, paint that would rub off in literally minutes, in some cases questionable-at-best resemblance to their real-life counterparts, and were easily capable of inflicting blunt force trauma to a person's skull.  They were so heavy and dense the accompanying toy ring couldn't handle the stress of play and would routinely crack; my ring had to be replaced less than a year after I got it.  But if you were an eleven-year-old, new pro wrestling fan like me, goddamn these toys ruled.  They were unlike any action figures out there; at eight inches tall they dwarfed all other figures on the market besides the unwieldy 12-inch dolls that had long since become obsolete.  With a roster of colorful, larger-than-life characters to model the toys after, LJN had no shortage of eye-catching products to offer.  The sucky thing about these toys was their rather hefty price tag for the time.  These fuckers cost a good 8 bucks a pop, which for my age was way too much to easily collect them.  Thus my early matchmaking abilities were limited; when I first began accumulating these toys at the end of 1986 I only had three figures, all babyface characters.  The hell am I supposed to do with that?

Anyway, while some of these toys were very playable thanks to well-chosen poses and slight flexibility in the rubber, others were not so much.  Likewise, while some figures carried quite serviceable likenesses to the actual people they represented, others looked like barely-formed humanoid blobs.  I noticed a trend at the time - certain character molds seemed to be done by the same person, and that guy was terrible at capturing realistic facial features, plus all the toys this guy worked on had gigantic nipples for some reason.  Go back and look at the figures for Greg Valentine, Paul Orndorff, Brutus Beefcake and a few others.  The faces look awful and the nips are like the Capitol building dome.

So here's where these lists come in.  I've compiled the ten best and worst LJN figures, based on a combination of likeness accuracy and playability.  I'm trying to keep it as fair as possible, since some figures looked great but were useless to play with, and some had perfect wrestler poses but looked like Sloth from The Goonies.  This being an era long before computer-scanned faces I'll go fairly easy on the likeness ratings, and the playability will be somewhat determined by each wrestler's moveset.  I'll give you the ten best ones today and the ten worst in Part 2.  Let's get to it.....

10. Ricky Steamboat

The Steamboat figure had a pretty detailed face/hair sculpt and a lean, defined body type that more or less matched the real guy.  The resemblance wasn't exactly uncanny but it vaguely looked like Steamboat.  The arms were posed in a way that body slams and suplexes were possible, and his hands were open which lent itself to Steamboat's chops.  This toy was a solid bit of work from LJN.

Likeness - 7
Playability - 7
Total - 14

9. Greg Valentine

Valentine's toy was one of the uglier in the series, with a face like a mean old lady and bright yellow hair like banana ice cream.  Then again, Greg Valentine was always rather homely, so the rough sculpt kinda fit.  This was one of the toys in the series that looked like the sculptor either worked solely from memory or forgot to put on his glasses.  It's a vague representation of Greg Valentine that kinda sorta captures his essence, but by no means is it true to life.  Like at all.  But what this figure lacked in realism it made up for in utility.  Valentine was posed perfectly for slams, suplexes, and most of all, that signature Valentine elbow drop.  You couldn't do the Figure Four, but then again I've never seen a wrestling figure that could.  This one scores quite well on playability.

Likeness - 6
Playability - 8
Total - 14

8. Hart Foundation

Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart were more often than not sold as a team, so I'm including them as one entry.  These guys looked quite a bit like the real people and the sculpts captured their body types pretty realistically.  The ring attire looked pretty much just like the Harts' actual gear.  My only issue aesthetically, and this was true for a lot of these toys, is that Bret is wearing his sunglasses, which of course he never wore while wrestling.  As far as their respective poses, they were vaguely configured to do wrestling moves.  Bret's arms were partly outstretched to do clotheslines and slams, while Neidhart could easily do a powerslam (though I'm not sure why the fingers of his right hand are spread out).  These two toys looked good and could get you through a match.

Likeness - 8
Playability - 6
Total - 14

Friday, February 14, 2020

Top Ten Things: WWF Saturday Night's Main Event Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at, where I count down the ten best (or worst) items pertaining to something-or-other....

Today I'm talking about what used to be, for me growing up at least, the greatest wrestling show on television, Saturday Night's Main Event.  For those not familiar with the show (I'm not sure I wanna know you), Saturday Night's Main Event aired a few times a year on NBC during Saturday Night Live's timeslot and usually featured four or five matches taped a few weeks earlier.  This was back when you almost never saw real matches on free television, as the weekly shows generally consisted of quick squash matches designed to draw ticket buyers to local house shows.  But every couple months we were treated to a handful of competitive bouts between top stars, and it was EVENT VIEWING.  As a 12-year-old who never got to see the PPVs until they were available on VHS, seeing Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage or The Ultimate Warrior wrestle a match on free TV was the most monumental thing happening that month.

The show's initial run ended in '92 (following a one-year move from NBC to Fox) before it resurfaced in 2006-07.  Unfortunately by that time the magic was gone, as fans had long been accustomed to seeing big free TV matches every week on RAW and Smackdown.  SNME was clearly a pre-Monday Night War phenomenon and couldn't work in the modern era.  But at the time of its original run it was truly a delight.

Here now are the ten greatest matches in the history of this fantastic show. (Note: for the purposes of this column I've included the air date as opposed to the taping date)

10. Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bossman - 5/27/89

Hogan's first televised WWF Title defense after WrestleMania V was against his old foe The Big Bossman, in a steel cage no less.  At the time I had jumped off the Hogan bandwagon, siding with Randy Savage in the MegaPowers split.  Thus I wasn't terribly excited about this match going in, nor did I care for Hogan's No Holds Barred nemesis Zeus being integrated into WWF storylines.  Zeus attacked Hogan prior to this match to add a little suspense, but it was obvious Bossman wasn't winning the belt here.  However the match itself turned out to be a very entertaining cage brawl, the highlight of which was Hogan suplexing Bossman off the top of the steel structure.  In 1989 that spot was one of the most death-defying things I had ever seen, and it made this a very memorable bout.

9. Mr. Perfect vs. Tito Santana - 7/28/90

On a stacked SNME episode that featured three Title matches, what seemed like a throwaway Intercontinental defense turned out to be a very well-worked, show-stealing match.  This aired a month before Summerslam, and oddly they gave away the scheduled Warrior-Rude PPV main event on this show for free (I know the SS match was in a cage, but still).  So there wasn't much suspense there, and even less in the Tag Team Title match, as Demolition (scheduled to face the Hart Foundation at the PPV) defended against The Rockers here.  But Mr. Perfect, whose Summerslam opponent was up in the air following Brutus Beefcake's infamous parasailing accident, would face the man he defeated to win the vacant I-C Title that April, Tito Santana.  At the time I feared Perfect would drop the Title here, setting up a rematch at the PPV, but with some help from Bobby Heenan ("He's gotta beat you!  You don't hafta beat him!") on the outside, Perfect delivered a successful and enjoyable Title defense.

8. Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff - 1/3/87

At the time this was one of the WWF's biggest televised matches, being the blowoff for the legendary Hogan-Orndorff feud which lasted through most of 1986.  It was also the first steel cage match ever shown on free WWF television, and therefore felt like a huge deal.  While this doesn't get a lot of points for technique, it was a pretty good brawl that led to a false ending, when both men escaped the cage simultaneously.  As I recall this was the first time I ever saw such a scenario, where two different referees declared opposing winners.  The show broke for a commercial and when it resumed the match had been restarted.  This of course led to Hogan getting the clear victory, settling this rivalry and freeing the Champion up for his impending feud with Andre the Giant.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

NXT TakeOver: Portland Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of PPV Predictions, here at!

This weekend we're getting an NXT TakeOver show that doesn't immediately precede a main roster PPV, and it's on a Sunday to boot.  This here is what you'd call "NXT trying to stand on its own."  The lineup looks pretty spectacular as always, and we're getting an unusual six matches instead of five.  I imagine this means the show will go a full three hours, and I ain't even mad.  At least one major NXT star seems to have a WrestleMania match in her future, and I wonder if others will follow.

Let's take a gander and make some predictions....

Street Fight: Dakota Kai vs. Tegan Nox

This is the long-awaited payoff to Kai's shocking heel turn at Survivor Series and the rules are out the window.  Should be heated, and the crowd should be into it.  I think it'll get somewhat lost in the shuffle on a loaded card like this, but it should be a fun bout.

Pick: This being Nox's revenge story I'll pick her to win

North American Championship: Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic

The two monster babyface pals face off for Lee's newly won NA Title.  This should be a real battle of the bulls.  Keith is obviously keeping the title here and will I assume face Roderick Strong at the 'Mania weekend show, but Dijakovic should give him an entertaining first big title defense.

Pick: Lee retains

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Top Ten Things: Well-Deserved Oscars

Welcome to another Oscar-related edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

You might say I've got Oscars on the brain, because today's edition is comprised of occasions when the Academy absolutely got it right, in terms of awarding acting performances.  I've talked before about times Oscar has snubbed a great performance, and about shocking upsets, but there have certainly been times the right person won for the right role.  In fact there have been years when I've decided, "Regardless what wins Best Picture and all the others, as long as this person wins this award I'll be happy."  Below is the list, in chronological order.

1. Robert DeNiro (Raging Bull)

The Academy may have dropped the ball in many other categories from 1980 (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor), but one award that absolutely went to the right guy was the Best Actor statuette.  Robert DeNiro's tormented, violent turn as middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta remains his most famous performance, and it's also the most noted example of an actor altering his body shape for a film (DeNiro gained about sixty pounds for the later scenes in which LaMotta lets himself go and becomes a seedy nightclub owner).  Had anyone else walked away with this award it would've been a crime.

Key Scene: Probably the most purely visceral scene is the one in which LaMotta goes to prison and throws a self-loathing-induced fit, pounding the crap out of the cement wall and wailing like a madman.  I can't imagine an actor having to endure more than a single take of this scene.

2. Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda)

A rare case of a comedic performance outshining the competition, Kevin Kline's brilliantly hilarious turn as Otto provided dozens of quotable lines and managed to steal the show from comedy legends John Cleese and Michael Palin.  Kline brought to life a dimwitted character in the smartest way possible, with an amazingly nuanced, uproarious delivery.

Key Scene: Probably my favorite moment (and my favorite to quote) is the profanity-laced chain of insults Otto hurls at Archie (Cleese) after catching Archie with Wanda.  Such a magnificent tirade.

3. Kathy Bates (Misery)

Stephen King's thriller about a crazed fan taking her favorite author hostage was skillfully adapted by Rob Reiner in 1990, and the main reason the movie version worked so well was the performance of Kathy Bates.  A relative unknown at the time of her casting, Bates adeptly alternates between matronly warmth and terrifying emotional instability.  She is totally effective as this obsessed manic-depressive, but in a very realistic way, making the whole ordeal that much more harrowing.

Key Scene: Upon learning her guest Paul Sheldon has been out of his room, she ties Paul up and drugs him, and explains both her discovery, and his punishment.  The calmness she conveys as she prepares to hobble him is truly chilling.

The Great PPVs: Chi-Town Rumble '89

Welcome to another edition of The Great PPVs - whether you're reading this via our friends at or at our own site, I hope you're enjoying this series thus far as we look back on some of the all-time great wrestling shows.

Since it's February I thought I'd take a look at one of the old NWA's greatest offerings from the 1980s, Chi-Town Rumble!  This one-time PPV took place on February 20, 1989 (a Monday night for some reason) and is most remembered for its critically acclaimed main event that launched one of the greatest rivalries in the annals of the business.  But this show had a damn good undercard as well, with most of the company's major titles on the line and a some big feuds resolved.  Chi-Town Rumble served as an excellent sequel to the previous year's Starrcade (for my money the 1988 edition was the best of the bunch), while also kicking off what was pretty universally considered the greatest year in the company's grand history.

The show got off to a slow start with a pair of undercard singles bouts.  First up was the returning Michael Hayes facing one of the Russian Assassins.  This match oddly got nearly sixteen minutes despite being little more than a showcase to re-establish Hayes as an upper midcard babyface, but it was largly inoffensive.  It was followed by another pseudo-showcase match for Sting, who went over twenty minutes against Butch Reed, with better results.  Neither of these matches is terribly important or all that memorable except in building up two future singles champions, but from the third match on the show never faltered.

The first of five good-to-great matches pitted The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette vs. The Original Midnight Express and Paul E. Dangerously, with a Loser Leaves the NWA stipulation (Unfortunately Dennis Condrey had jumped the gun and left the company before this event, and utility man Jack Victory replaced him).  Like the MX vs. OMX match at Starrcade, this was a wild, fast-paced affair with the added bonus of the two managers scuffling.  After almost sixteen minutes the babyface Midnights scored the pin after a double flapjack to Randy Rose.  While not quite at the level of the Starrcade bout, this was a very entertaining match and a good blowoff to the feud.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Top Ten Things: He-Man Action Figures

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  I hope you're ready for some serious nerd nostalgia, because thanks to the fantastic new Netflix series The Toys That Made Us, I have 1980s action figures on the brain.

One episode of said TV series focused on the wonderful 80s toy line known as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  Anyone who grew up in that era remembers these larger-than-life figures with impossible musculatures, colorful appearances, pun-driven names, and bizarre quirks/powers.  The first time I saw the original He-Man commercial my brain almost exploded.  These figures looked nothing like any other action figures available at the time.  The characters were so vibrant and otherworldly you couldn't take your eyes off them.  Mattel hit one out of the park with this toy line, scoring record-breaking numbers four or five years in a row, and consistently introducing new series of memorable characters year after year.  A side note: this toy line introduced me to the concept of recycled molds.  Pretty much every figure had the exact same torso mold and initially there were only three sets of arms and legs.  Even as a seven-year-old I noticed this.  But it didn't matter, these toys fucking rocked my nuts off.  A syndicated tie-in cartoon show proved invaluable for selling MOTU figures and for a little while He-Man ruled the action figure market, spawning numerous ripoff lines, my favorite of which were the Remco figures based on obscure DC Comics characters like Warlord and Arak (They even had a disclaimer on the package: For Use with Masters of the Universe action figures).  Personally I wish they'd re-release the original MOTU figures (like they did in 2001) because I'd scoop a bunch of 'em up again.  For my son to play with.  Yeah, that's it.....

Note: Once I got really into wrestling, the He-Man line doubled as my wrestling toys, since they were the perfect size for the WWF toy ring.  Shut up, you did it too....

But which characters were my favorites?  Which of these silly fantasy barbarian toys have stuck with me three-plus decades later?  Let's take a look.....

10. King Hiss

This absurdly over-the-top figure was like He-Man meets Transformers, and the leader of The Snake Men or whatever they were called (an older character named Kobra Khan joined up with this villainous stable as well, like in a pro wrestling angle).  King Hiss looked like a human wearing snake-like armor, but pop off his arm and torso coverings, and GAAAAH, HE'S LITERALLY A GODDAMN SNAKE-MAN!!!  His actual upper body was comprised entirely of snakes (oddly his legs were still humanoid though), creepy enough to unnerve even his fellow bad guys.  I spent so much time transforming this guy from man to snake-man and it was a fairly ingenious gimmick.

9. Faker

On paper this has to be the stupidest toy ever.  An evil robot that's supposed to be a dead ringer for He-Man, except he has blue skin, Skeletor-style armor, and a visible tape recorder in his chest (courtesy of a sticker).  The idea is that Skeletor built this droid to infiltrate the good guy lair and pimp He-Man's friends for information.  Skeletor must think Team He-Man are either legally blind or just absolute fucking morons.  Who would fall for this trap??  "Whoa, He-Man, you're looking a little pekid, maybe have a nice lie down and some soup?  By the way, here are those Grayskull blueprints you asked for...."  Added to that, Faker was an appallingly flagrant cannibalization of an existing toy, just to sell more toys.  You gotta marvel at Mattel's balls, man.  Regardless of how illogical this character was, the toy looked awesome.

8. Mer-Man/Stinkor

Speaking of blatant mold recycling, in 1984 Mattel took one of the original characters, Mer-Man, painted him black & white, doused him in some kinda putrid-smelling chemical, and repackaged him as a skunk-like character named Stinkor.  Nevermind that a skunk-man wouldn't have webbed feet or fin-like ears, this guy looked boss.  And his armor covered his nose and mouth, implying he smelled so bad even HE couldn't stand it!  I loved the black, white, red and orange color scheme, and the stinky gimmick was brilliant.  Think about it - Mattel got us to buy an action figure that smelled like a goddamn skunk.  Either we're all suckers or Mattel are a buncha Jedi Masters who can bend everyone to their will.  The smell eventually wore off, but Stinkor remained one of my all-time favorite characters.

As for Mer-Man, this mold was much more appropriate for an undersea creature, and his scaly armor looked killer.  It did always bug me that his face looked nothing like the cartoon, comics or even the picture on the back of the packaging!  Also they originally were going to call him Sea Man, but changed it for obvious reasons.  Can you imagine one of the heroes saying "Oh no!  Sea Man is all over our base!  Why is Sea Man so hard to get our hands on?   I feel all slimy now that I've touched Sea Man!"

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Top Ten Things: Obscure 1980s Toys

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  Today I'm thinkin' about old toys I wish I still had.  Because apparently I'm eleven.

The 1980s was an amazing era to be a kid.  We children of the 80s were treated to some of the most badassistic (Yeah I made up a word) action figure lines ever offered up.  Think about it, in the same decade we had Star Wars toys, He-Man, Transformers, and GI Joe (plus the short-lived DC Super Powers and Marvel Secret Wars), and those are just a handful of the toy lines that were hits!  We also had a fuckton of action figure series that were either short-lived or outright flopped, and those are the ones I'm here to talk about today.  I got to thinking about some of the more obscure toys I had as a kid and the list just kept growing on me.  Some of them I had trouble finding on Google because the name escaped me, but eventually I found 'em all.  Not only does this piece feature a top ten but I've included three Honorable Mentions.  So, strap on your nerd hats and join me for a look back at some of the best obscure toys of the 80s!

HM: Karate Kid (Remco)

Yeah this set came with giant chopsticks to catch a giant rubber fly.

From the hit 1984 film Rocky But With Karate, these stupid, one-note toys had some inexplicable charm to them.  Literally the only two characters I ever found were Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi (apparently Johnny, Kreese and others were available later on), but each figure had one arm and one leg that were spring-loaded, so when you pushed a button they would either chop or kick.  This one set I got came with both characters and a litany of structures for them to chop through or break.  Wooden boards, ice, brick walls, this coat rack-lookin' thing, you name it.  Destroying fake wood with these figures was stupid fun.

HM: Clash of the Titans (Mattel)

They released the first wave and then they RELEASED THE KRRRAKEN!

What a promising line this was, until it wasn't.  The wonderful 1981 fantasy film Clash of the Titans had so many colorful characters and creatures that lent themselves to toy designs, in the same way the Star Wars trilogy did.  The first (and thanks to poor sales, only) series included Perseus (a fantastic Harry Hamlin likeness), his buddy Thallo, Calibos, and for some reason Charon the ferryman (who only appears in the film for like four seconds), plus a Pegasus toy (with zero points of articulation) and a huge Kraken (who looked boss).  Insanely the coolest looking character in the movie, Medusa, never got a toy, but maybe she, Andromeda and some of the Greek gods would've been included in series 2.  Regardless, these were solid toys that deserved a better run.

HM: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Kenner)/Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (LJN)

This is one of my favorite films, but what are you supposed to do with these?

Two different toy companies tried to make "fetch" happen in the 80s with Indiana Jones.  When Raiders of the Lost Ark came out it was a no-brainer that Kenner, fresh off its colossal success with the Star Wars line, would introduce a similar-in-scale line of Indy toys.  Only problem was, beyond the main character no one else in that movie does a whole lot that lends itself to action figure play.  Indy does all the heavy lifting.  What are you supposed to do with Marion in a removable evening gown, or the black-clad swordsman whom Indy shoots like a dog in the street?  Or Belloq or Toht or Col. Dietrich, who are all excellent baddies in the film but have no action sequences to speak of?  The one character Indy has a fistfight with is the nameless bald German mechanic, but that'd keep you busy for what, five minutes?  It's a shame, these were good looking toys for the time, but aside from Indy himself there wasn't much you could do with 'em.  Even the few playsets they had were pointless (more on that HERE).

Damn good detail on these but again, what do I do with 'em?

Then in 1984 LJN tried their hand with 5-inch figures for Temple of Doom, releasing five characters but running into the same problem.  Playing with these toys was all about Indy performing daring stunts and escapes.  Beyond that you're stuck.  Thus when The Last Crusade came out, no one even bothered with a toy line.  'Twas a pity. 

Okay now for the meat of the list....

Friday, February 7, 2020

Top Ten Things: Oscar Snubs, Best Picture Edition

Welcome to another Oscar-themed edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  The big Academy shindig is just days away, so why not take this opportunity to do more complaining about stuff they ignored over the years?

You may have seen my previous Oscar Snubs list, which centered on individual performances Oscar failed to recognize, but this time I'm talking about entire films that flew under the radar in the all-important Best Picture category.  So many great films both mainstream and otherwise have come and gone with little or no attention paid by the Academy, and some of them seemed tailor-made to garner award nominations.  But for whatever reason (in some cases political) they garnered large quantities of the shaft instead.  Here are ten such examples, in chronological order...

1. City Lights (1931)

Only one of Charlie Chaplin's classic films, The Great Dictator, was ever nominated for Best Picture (partly because much of his work predated the Oscars), but here's a second film that should've been included.  City Lights is the delightfully touching story of Chaplin's Little Tramp, who falls in love with a blind flower girl, happens upon some money, and gives it all to her so she can get her eyes fixed.  Such a simple plot, but executed in the signature Chaplin style that earns both laughs and tears throughout.  The Academy was still finding its legs in 1931 (the release window was split over calendar years at this point), but surely there must've been a slot for what is widely considered Chaplin's greatest film.

Key Scene: The finale in which the now-seeing flower girl hands the Tramp a flower, touches his hands, and realizes he's the one who helped her see, remains one of the most genuinely touching in cinema history.  If this doesn't choke you up, you're a monster.

2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Walt Disney's first full-length animated film broke box office records and blew everyone's mind-holes upon its release.  Disney had gambled basically his entire career and studio on this ambitious, expensive project, hoping to revolutionize animation, and it paid off in truckloads of cash and a cartoon feature dynasty.  An art form that had previously been aimed at entertaining children for 5-10 minutes in front of "real" movies was now looked upon as a true artistic achievement, and just about every animated feature since owes something to the success of Disney's first homerun.  But the Academy more or less viewed the animated film as something of a cheat, not to be judged alongside live-action movies.  Thus when it came time for awards season Walt Disney was given a somewhat begrudging Honorary Oscar instead of a bona fide Best Picture nod.  It wasn't until 1991 that an animated feature was given the big nomination (Beauty and the Beast), and not until 2001 did the Academy create a separate category for animated features.

Key Scene: Hard to pick just one, but I always loved the Queen's transformation into the old hag, reminiscent of Jekyll & Hyde.  Kids back then must've freaked the fuck out.

Top Ten Things: Oscar Upsets

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  It's a list of ten things that stand aTOP all other things.  See?

Well we are in the midst of movie awards season, which for me means a mad dash to catch up on all the Oscar bait I haven't seen yet.  Thus when the Golden Globes and Oscars roll around I'll be much more educated and opinionated about the winners and losers.  Over the years we've seen some pretty shocking winners; some pleasant surprises, some bile-churning outrages.  Very often it seems Mr. Oscar suffers from acute myopia, as literally dozens of Best Picture winners fail to make much of a lasting impression on the American lexicon, while many of the losers are universally lauded as masterworks for decades to come.  The same can be said of individual performances and the actors attached to them.  Sometimes an actor or actress can win the gold statue and go on to do literally nothing of note, while perpetually snubbed thespians continue to impress critically and commercially despite the lack of Academy love.

So let's take a look at the ten most noteworthy upsets in Oscar history.  This list includes nominees for Best Picture, Director, and acting awards.

10. Crash over Brokeback Mountain

One of the most infamous recent shockers took place in 2006, as Paul Haggis's ensemble piece about racial tensions in America took home the gold despite the outpouring of support for Ang Lee's touching cowboy love story.  Almost immediately Crash suffered something of a backlash, and few people today recall it as an all-time classic, while Brokeback Mountain helped launch the serious acting careers of Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and of course the late Heath Ledger.  For the record I enjoyed both films but I didn't consider Crash a multiple-time watch.

9. Gene Hackman (Unforgiven) over Jack Nicholson (A Few Good Men)

The 1993 ceremony saw a battle of heavyweights in the Best Supporting Actor category, as the respective villains of Clint Eastwood's understated Western and Rob Reiner's courtroom drama went head-to-head.  Hackman took the award but it's Nicholson's performance that is much more remembered (and quoted) 20-plus years later, as the iconic Col. Nathan Jessup.  Lines like "You can't handle the truth!" and "Are we clear??" "Crystal." are part of our vernacular, while Hackman's turn as Little Bill Daggett, though certainly skillful, was far less memorable.

8. Bob Fosse (Cabaret) over Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather)

Speaking of memorable vs. not-so-much, in 1973 choreographer/musical theater director Bob Fosse won the Best Director award for Cabaret, despite Francis Ford Coppola seeming a shoe-in for his masterful work on The Godfather.  The epic mafia drama has since become an essential part of any cinefile's collection, while Cabaret is.....well, not so much.