Thursday, April 30, 2020

Top Ten Things: Worst WWE Women's Champions

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, and another in our series examining some of wrestling's worst champions.  

Today I'm looking at the worst Women's Title runs in company history, which includes the original incarnation of the belt, the ill-concieved Divas Championship, and one entry for the current version.  The role of Women's wrestling in WWE has run the gamut over the years, from novelty act to eye candy to piss-break match to legitimate athletic attraction.  Over the past three years they've made some great strides in presenting the women as an important part of the show while excessively patting themselves on the back for their progressiveness in this area (In reality TNA and other promotions were literally years ahead of them).  But I'll take a little disproportionate self-congratulating if it means having a real women's division.  Now if Vince could just let Hunter take the creative reins on the main roster we'd really have something.  Look no further than the difference between Sasha-Bayley in NXT and Sasha-Bayley now.

Anywho, given the wildly divergent approaches WWE has taken with the division, there were bound to be some championship runs that were just plain stinkers.  Here are ten of them, in chronological order....

1. Velvet McIntyre (1986)

For the majority of the original title's existence it sat squarely around the waist of The Fabulous Moolah, who famously held it from 1956 until 1984 (minus several unrecognized title changes).  Moolah was a major draw for decades and when the WWF went national in the 80s her feud with Wendi Richter was a big part of the show (thanks in part to the involvement of pop star Cyndi Lauper).  After regaining the strap from Wendi via the original WWF Screwjob (Vince was a jerk even back then), Moolah dropped the title to up-and-coming babyface Velvet McIntyre at a house show in Australia.  And then won it back six days later, also at a house show in Australia.  Velvet of course never won the belt again.  Velvet's McEntire title run took place on one foreign continent.  See what I did there?

2. Rockin' Robin (1989)

So back to Moolah, she eventually dropped the title for keepsies to Sensational Sherri, which the company touted as a huge deal since she'd rarely been without it for thirty years.  Sherri was built up as a huge heel women's star (for the time anyway), and while not that prominently featured on WWF TV, she kept the title for 15 months before losing it to Rockin' Robin.  Robin however wasn't presented as terribly important beyond her initial win, getting only one major televised title defense at the 1989 Royal Rumble against Judy Martin, with whom she feuded for basically the remainder of the year.  Robin then left the company in early 1990, taking the belt with her, and the title was discontinued.  That's a pretty bad indictment of Robin's lack of importance as a champion when she's barely on television for most of her reign and the belt is simply swept under the carpet when she leaves.

3. Debra (1999)

The Women's Title went through two resurgences in the 90s - Alundra Blayze was the belt's custodian during the New Generation era (before also leaving with the belt and infamously throwing it in the trash on WCW Nitro), and then in late 1998 Sable became the division's new centerpiece.  Considering she was originally a valet, Sable picked up the in-ring game pretty quickly and became a very popular attraction before turning heel that spring.  But backstage she and Vince McMahon had gotten into a heated contractual dispute (allegedly she was asked to go topless and she later sued for sexual harrassment), and she'd fallen out of favor with the rest of the roster.  So in May of 1999 Sable was booked in an Evening Gown match against Debra McMichael, technically winning the bout when she tore Debra's gown off.  But Commissioner Shawn Michaels instead ruled that the woman who'd lost her gown was actually the winner, and thus non-wrestler Debra was now the Women's Champion.  How one can win a championship by literally LOSING a match is beyond me.  Debra dropped the belt to Ivory four weeks later and went back to being Jeff Jarrett's valet.  The whole thing made no sense and was a shoddy contingency plan for the Sable fiasco.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 8 (No Mercy 2001)

Kurt Angle gets caught in the middle of the Steve Austin-Hollywood Hogan feud as we head toward No Mercy 2001....

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

RAW after Unforgiven

RAW opens with Vince in the ring, mic in hand, Kurt Angle at his side.  He starts to say something about Kurt Angle being a fair and impartial referee at Unforgiven but is immediately interrupted by Austin's music.  Austin storms down to the ring and yanks the mic out of Vince's hand.  "Vince, I ain't in the mood for your crap, so piss off, I got nothin' to say to your stupid ass.  I'm here to deal with this lump of garbage you call a fair and impartial referee."  Vince exits the ring and watches from ringside.  Austin berates Angle for not keeping control of the match, Angle keeps saying "I was doing my job."  Austin says to Vince, "You know damn well I'm not through stompin' a mudhole in Hogan's ass, but I want a piece of your suck-up Kurt Angle too.  At No Mercy it's Hogan-Angle-Austin for the WWF Title.  Make the damn match, because Stone Cold said so!"  Vince hesitantly slides back in, Austin hands him the mic.  "Fine Steve.  At No Mercy it will indeed be Hogan vs. Angle vs. Austin, for the WWF Title.  You two resolve your issues however you need to, but above all, one of you needs to win back that championship!  I'll personally put up one million dollars to whichever of you defeats Hogan and brings the WWF Championship home."  Angle shakes Vince's hand, then Austin shakes it, only to lay him out with a kick/Stunner combo.  Angle takes a powder and Austin walks up the ramp as the show goes to break.

Later in the show Hogan (with Booker, Bischoff and others) cuts a promo about The Alliance's continued dominance.  "Booker T made good on his promise last night, jack!  He regained his WCW Title from that Hollywood Hack, The Rock!  And guess what, I'm still the wrestling god.  I'm still the WWF Champion, brother!  But I hafta give a shout-out to the one WWFer I kinda like, Christian, who was Johnny-on-the-spot in my match once he saw Crooked Kurt Angle's officiating.  He was having none of it, and he stuck his neck out to see justice done, man!  Ya know somethin' Uncle Eric?  Booker?  I think we should throw young Christian a bone and give him a match, tonight, for your US Championship!  Now that you're the six-time WCW Champion, how 'bout you give an up-and-coming superstar an opportunity at greatness?"  Bischoff smiles and Booker nods.  "Ya know, Hollywood, I can dig THAT, SUCKAAAA!"

In the main event Booker faces Christian for the US Title.  They lock up and exchange some basic wrestling holds, but then suddenly Christian does a feeble rollup and Booker exaggeratedly waves his legs to kick out but can't.  Christian wins the US Title.  Booker stands up as the referee awards Christian the belt, and they hug.  Bischoff from ringside throws Booker a T-shirt, and Booker unrolls it, revealing a WCW logo, and presents it to Christian, who proudly puts it on.  Christian is the newest Alliance member.  Backstage an enraged Edge trashes the locker room as RAW fades to black.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Top Ten Things: Worst WWF/E Tag Team Champions

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things devoted to piss-poor championship title reigns!  As you may have guessed from my previous entries (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE), I like complaining about crappy champions.  So thought I'd continue doing so.  Admit it, you're happy to read more of it.

Anyway, today I'm tackling the subject of weakest WWF/E Tag Team Championship reigns of all time.  The WWE Tag Championship dates back, in some form, to the company's 1963 inception (and even earlier; the WWWF United States Tag Titles were created in 1958).  After a couple different incarnations, the World Tag Team Championship as it was known for decades was created in 1971 and was first worn by Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler (who captured the titles via a REAL tournament, as opposed to the imaginary ones Buddy Rogers and Pat Patterson won for their respective inaugural titles).  This version of the tag belts was around until 2010 when they were merged with the WWE Tag Team Titles (from Smackdown), and for some reason the current RAW Tag belts follow that newer lineage that began in 2002, while the current Smackdown Tag belts only date back to 2016.  I don't get it either.

Regardless, this particular set of belts has a rich, storied history, and just about every team that was anyone possessed them at one time or another.  For years the longevity record was held by Demolition, who had a stranglehold on the titles for 16 months.  Recently though The New Day eclipsed that record, but again the current set of belts is supposedly not the same as the old one.  I dunno.  Fuck it.

That's all irrelevant, I'm just here to talk about the shitty champions, so here we go, in chronological order.....

1. 1-2-3 Kid & Marty Janetty (1994)

As with the previous Worst Champions lists, there are some entries here that aren't intrinsically undeserving, but made the list due to the way their title run was booked.  Our first example is one such....example.  In January of 1994 this upstart team, fresh off winning their Survivor Series match two months earlier (outlasting fellow team members Razor Ramon and Randy Savage, plus opponents IRS, Diesel, Adam Bomb and Rick Martel) got a title shot against The Quebecers on Monday Night RAW and shocked everyone by winning the straps.  This was an exciting title change for rising underdog Sean Waltman and Shawn Michaels' former sidekick, and it seemed like the company had made a brand new star babyface tag team.  Aaaand then they dropped the belts back to The Quebecers at a house show one week later and were never heard from again as a team.  Pointless.

2. Men on a Mission (1994)

Another short-lived title run in between Quebecer stints took place over a two-day period in England, only two months after Kid & Marty's.  Mo and Mabel, the goofy but sorta dominant babyface tandem who took The Quebecers to the limit at WrestleMania X, finally got the job done at a house show two weeks after 'Mania.  What an accomplishment, and what a treat for the British fans--- oh wait, they lost the belts back 48 hours later.  And like Marty and Waltman, they'd never win them again.  Look, I wasn't the biggest MOM fan by any means, but what is the point of giving a team a championship for two days and never putting them anywhere near said championship again?  And what was with Jacques and Pierre temporarily losing the belts over and over?

Monday, April 27, 2020

Parents' Night In #33: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Time to be Quentin Quarantino'd with Justin & Kelly as we watch Tarantino's latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, with Margot Robbie as 60s icon Sharon Tate.  We love the 1960s anyway, and this film transported us to that era, just before Woodstock, when the country was about to be shattered by the Charles Manson murders.  OUATIH is the story of aging Western TV star Rick Dalton, trying to regain relevance in an era where he feels out of place.  We'll talk about Tarantino and his films, the controversy surrounding Robbie's sparse dialogue, the Bruce Lee scene, over-the-top violence, TV and movie westerns, and more!

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Top Ten Things: Worst WWE Intercontinental Champions

Welcome back to Top Ten Things, here at!  I recently posted my list of the worst WWE Champions of all time, and now I'm back with its counterpart, counting down the ten worst Intercontinental Champions of all time.

The I-C Title has a rich history dating all the way back to 1979, when Pat Patterson was named the first champion (winning a fictitious tournament in Brazil, just as Buddy Rogers had done 16 years prior).  This secondary championship was used as both a major drawing card, particularly to headline "B team" house shows, and as a stepping stone/litmus test for future WWF Champions.  18 men have won this championship on their way to the WWE Title (and a few, like Pedro Morales, The Big Show and The Miz, won this belt after that one).  During the first two decades of this title's existence it was a pretty huge deal to win it.  Becoming the Intercontinental Champion was not only a major vote of confidence from the company, but it usually signified you were one of its workhorses.  During the Hulk Hogan era, the I-C Championship match was often the most technically impressive match on the card, the one the diehard fans most looked forward to.  But then around the turn of the century it began to devolve into more of a prop that almost anyone on the card could win at one time or another, and by 2010 it became almost a career liability for its wearer.  The I-C Champion was now one step above curtain jerker, and was often less likely to be included on PPVs than before he won the belt.  In recent years the company has made more of an effort to rehab the value of this once-prestigious championship, but it's still a long way from being what it was.

Regardless though, every era has had its share of stinker champions.  Here are the ten weakest Intercontinental Champions in history (according to me).....

1. Kerry Von Erich (1990)

Let me get this out of the way: I never thought Kerry Von Erich was any good as a wrestler.  The guy had literally two moves, the claw and the discus punch, and he used each of them roughly a thousand times per match.  In 1990 the WWF brought him in and renamed him The Texas Tornado.  That name is stupid.  What is he, Sy-Klone from He-Man?

Look at this asshole.  Actually I'd put the belt on him over Kerry....

Anyway, at SummerSlam 1990 the Intercontinental Championship match was scheduled to pit Mr. Perfect against challenger Brutus Beefcake.  But a parasailing accident left Beefcake with a shattered face, and a last-minute change to the card became necessary (Coincidentally Beefcake was supposed to challenge for the belt at SummerSlam two years earlier but suffered a kayfabe injury, leading to an identical situation).  Hoping to recapture the magic of The Ultimate Warrior's surprise I-C Title win in 1988, the company trotted out Mr. Tornado as Mr. Perfect's new challenger, and had him pin the accomplished veteran in five minutes.  Kerry won the I-C Title just one month after his WWF debut, and within a matter of weeks he was getting booed by live audiences.  That November they put the belt back on Mr. Perfect, and Von Erich spent the next two years floundering in the lower card before vanishing from WWF TV in late '92.  This situation should've been a valuable lesson to the company about not rushing a guy to the belt too fast, lest the crowd completely turn on him.  Sadly they've repeated this mistake many times, particularly with this title.

2. The Mountie (1992)

In the grand tradition of weak-as-fuck transitional heel champions, Jacques Rougeau, now playing the character of an evil Canadian mounted police officer (I guess Vince never watched Dudley Do-Right?) upset Bret Hart for the belt at a house show (Bret was going through contract negotiations and I guess they didn't want to allow for the possibility of him walking out with the belt - Jeezus, did Vince EVER trust that guy?).  Two days later The Mountie dropped the belt to Roddy Piper at the 1992 Royal Rumble.  This was by far the most significant thing Rougeau ever did as a singles wrestler, and it's a pretty shabby accomplishment.  He went on to lose a lot of matches over the next year before re-emerging as one half of The Quebecers and winning two Tag Team Titles.  Piper meanwhile, held the strap till the WrestleMania VIII classic match where he lost it to Bret.  I have to think that if Bret hadn't been undergoing contract negotiations he would've just kept the belt the whole time and we wouldn't even be talking about this now.

3. Dean Douglas (1995)

In October of 1995, Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels got into an altercation at a Syracuse bar that left him pretty badly beat up.  The kayfabe explanation was that nine dudes attacked him unprovoked in the parking lot, but in actuality he drunkenly mouthed off to a group of Marines and they let him have it.  Regardless, he was unable to make his scheduled PPV title defense against Dean (Shane) Douglas, and rather than simply vacating the belt, the company oddly announced Douglas as the winner and new champion by forfeit.  His first defense was against Razor Ramon and he lost, thus Dean Douglas is in the record books as having been Intercontinental Champion for 20 minutes.  Douglas had only been with the company for three months prior to this (Remember what I said about rushing guys to the belt?), there was no logic in him automatically winning the belt on a forfeit, and he left the company only two months later.  Shane Douglas played this silly character pretty well and could work a match, but the company stuck him in a no-win situation here.  Taking a new guy most fans aren't familiar with, having him win a championship without wrestling a match, and then having him lose said title 20 minutes later is just counterproductive.  Who's gonna take him seriously after that?  It's almost like they didn't want Shane to succeed.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Top Ten Things: Worst WWE Champions

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at, where I count down the ten best (or in this case, worst) of something.

Today what's on my mind is shitty WWE Champions.  The WWE (formerly WWF, formerly WWWF) Championship is the most celebrated wrestling title in the history of the business.  While it's not currently the most prestigious (as my colleague Joseph Chaplin and I discussed HERE), it has the richest overall lineage and is by definition the most well-known championship.  Just about every luminary to make his mark in North American wrestling the last 40 or so years has won or at least contended for that belt.  When WCW went belly-up in 2001, the WWF Title became the only recognized worldwide championship, and while WWE has had two top belts for most of the the intervening years, it's generally the WWE Title that's been presented as the most important.

But there have been times when a wholly undeserving fellow has been graced with a Title run, much to the chagrin and puzzlement of those of us with logical thought processes.  Then there have been times when a perfectly viable guy has won the belt but the company never really got behind him or presented him as worthy, thus his title reign was a big honkin' flop.  In each of these cases, the value of the Title has taken a nosedive or at least been temporarily damaged.  Below are ten examples of these two scenarios, in chronological order.

1. Stan Stasiak (1973)

The old WWWF was what they called a "babyface territory."  The promotion depended on a heroic, long-running Champion to sell tickets and drive revenue.  Thus whenever a heel won the belt, it was simply as a transition so they could quickly put the belt on a different babyface.  Case in point, the weakest of these early heel champs, Stan "The Man" Stasiak.  In 1973 Pedro Morales was enjoying a nearly three-year run as the face of the company, but fans began clamoring for their former hero Bruno Sammartino to win back the Title he'd held for 7-1/2 years (Still the longest title run in wrestling history).  Not wanting a babyface vs. babyface title change, the company decided at the last minute to book Stasiak in a "banana peel" win over Morales (The ol' spot where the babyface hits a belly-to-back suplex on the heel, but the heel raises his shoulder and the babyface pins himself).  Stasiak was now the unlikeliest of WWWF Champions.  So unlikely in fact that he dropped the belt to Sammartino just nine days later.  When you realize that Killer Kowalski (a major heel draw for the promotion) never held the belt but Stasiak did, it's even more baffling.

2. Sgt. Slaughter (1991)

WrestleMania VI was headlined by the hugely successful Hulk Hogan-Ultimate Warrior match, wherein Warrior scored an ultra-rare clean pin over the company's golden (more like golden-brown) goose.  The match was considered such an epic encounter (For the record I was never a fan of this match but I get why others liked it so much), that it seemed inevitable we'd see it again at WrestleMania VII.  It made perfect sense after all; 'Mania 6 drew a huge stadium crowd and the company wanted to fill an even larger venue (the 100,000-seat LA Coliseum) the following year.  What match could be bigger than the biggest rematch in WWF history?  But instead Vince opted to have perennial midcarder (and only marginally coordinated worker, who incidentally had just returned to the WWF five months earlier) Sgt. Slaughter defeat Warrior for the strap at the Royal Rumble, position him as an Iraqi sympathizer to cash in on the Gulf War, and let Hogan be the conquering American hero.  This booking was totally rushed and contrived, and it was the first time as a fan that I felt they had devalued the WWF Title.  Slaughter wasn't remotely believable enough in the ring to be the company's top champ, the exploitation of the Gulf War felt sleazy and cheap (and by the time 'Mania 7 rolled around the skirmish had been over for a month), and not surprisingly ticket sales for the event tanked, to the point they had to move 'Mania to the much smaller LA Sports Arena.  This was an epic failure that signaled the end of the 80s boom period.

3. Hulk Hogan (1993 & 2002)

This entry is a little different.  Yes I know Hulk Hogan was one of the company's greatest champions, but of his six WWF Title reigns, only three were any good.  The fourth lasted only a few days, as he was stripped of the belt due to a controversial win.  But his fifth and sixth reigns were downright insulting to the intelligence, and thus warrant inclusion on this list (Incidentally this entry pushes JBL off the list - you're welcome John).

In 1992 Hogan walked away from the business to pursue an acting career.  That didn't work out so well, and Vince brought him back in early 1993.  The WrestleMania main event that year was Bret Hart, the WWF's new top babyface vs. Yokozuna, its newest monster heel.  Yokozuna won the belt in cheap fashion, and then Hogan inexplicably ran down to the ring to protest the decision, despite never having interacted with Bret at all leading up to this.  Yokozuna even more inexplicably challenged Hogan to a match on the spot, and Hogan won back the Title in seconds.  Thus WrestleMania IX ended with both main event participants looking like chumps while the increasingly irrelevant Hogan stood tall with the strap.  The plan was for Hogan to face Bret at SummerSlam, but Hogan balked at the idea and went home for two months, leaving house shows without the WWF Title being represented.  Vince had to scramble to get the belt back on a full-time guy, and Hogan vs. Yokozuna II was booked at King of the Ring.  Hogan dropped the belt and left the WWF again for nearly a decade.  The ending to WrestleMania IX stands as the worst, most counterproductive PPV climax of all time.

In 2002, after the demise of WCW, Vince decided to resurrect WCW's most successful angle, the nWo.  Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash returned to the company at No Way Out and ran amok for two months.  This set up Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X8.  What no one bargained for though was the Toronto crowd giving Hogan a white-hot hero's welcome.  Those damn Canadians came unglued for Hogan, and during the post-match shenanigans the company turned him babyface, thus nullifying the nWo stable.  Vince was so blinded by the 'Mania crowd reaction in fact that he scrapped plans for new champion Triple H to defend against The Undertaker at Backlash, and had him face the 48-year-old Hogan instead (Incidentally, Hogan's win-loss record post-return was 1-1 at that point).  Hogan's sixth title win was wrong on multiple levels.  First, the WWF had redefined itself in the late 90s by showcasing young, edgy, exciting stars to combat WCW's focus on former WWF names from the 80s.  Putting the belt on Hogan in 2002 was completely inappropriate given how far past his prime he was, and how hard he'd tried to put the WWF out of business.  Second, the WWF audience had for years been conditioned to the top champion being a strong in-ring worker.  Bret, Shawn, Austin, Rock, Triple H, Taker, Angle, Jericho, all of the significant champions of the era could deliver restaurant-quality matches on a consistent basis.  Hogan could still entertain, but he was never an accomplished in-ring talent, and this was simply not acceptable for a WWF Champion in 2002.  Third, Triple H was just being established as the company's new top babyface.  Taking the belt off him only four weeks after his big WrestleMania win undermined everything they were trying to do with him.  Hogan's title run was understandably not well-received; he dropped the belt to The Undertaker a month later, and was gone again by August.  It's rare for a star of Hogan's caliber to have two terrible WWF Title runs, but by golly he did it.  

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Top Ten Things: Worst NWA/WCW/WWE US Champions

Welcome to yet another Top Ten Things here at  I'm on a freakin' roll with this Worst Champions series, so here we go again.

This time I'll be talking about the US Title, which started as the NWA's number-two Championship in 1975.  The US Title was extremely prestigious for many years, with the NWA automatically recognizing its owner as the #1 contender to the World Championship.  I always found this odd, since the US Champ almost never got a shot at the World Champ, but nonetheless it hammered home the idea that this was an extremely valuable belt that could headline a house show any day of the week (as long as the NWA Champion wasn't on the card).  Like the Intercontinental Title, winning the US Championship often served as a stepping stone for younger talents on their way to the big belt.  Between the NWA, WCW and WWE incarnations of the title, 18 men have won the US Championship on their way to one of the respective World Titles.  Still, as with any championship, this one was not without its share of weak-ass winners.  Here are ten such examples....

1. Michael Hayes (1989)

The flamboyant Michael Hayes was a well-known star by the time he returned to the NWA in early 1989.  He was a babyface initially, but turned heel on Lex Luger, joining Hiro Matsuda's short-lived stable that had replaced The Four Horsemen.  Hayes and Luger feuded, and Hayes captured the US Title at WrestleWar but lost it back two weeks later.  The idea of Hayes winning the belt wasn't inherently a bad one, but the execution was terrible.  The feud with Luger was clearly just a stop-gap until the summer, when Luger himself turned heel on Ricky Steamboat.  Meanwhile Hayes reformed the Fabulous Freebirds and got a run with the NWA Tag Team Titles.  This US Title run however just felt tacked-on and pointless.  It's like they weren't sure what to do with Hayes when they brought him back, and just tried a bunch of different things before he settled back into the role he was best suited for.

2. Jim Duggan (1994)

WCW circa 1994 was when Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan jettisoned nearly everything that made WCW what it was.  It instead became WWF-lite, where Hogan recycled numerous feuds already done better a decade earlier, brought in a host of his old pals, and gave them prominent spots on the roster.  Homegrown stars like Steve Austin got pushed aside in favor of former WWF stars from the 80s.  Case in point, when Jim Duggan debuted at Fall Brawl 1994 as the surprise challenger for Austin's US Title.  Austin was scheduled to challenge Ricky Steamboat, but Steamboat was injured and the belt was awarded to Austin via forfeit (a nonsensical way to have a title change hands, as I previously mentioned HERE).  Enter Duggan, who proceeded to squash Austin in 35 seconds for the strap.  Good thing Austin didn't have any star potential, huh?  Absurd.  Duggan would go on to get killed by Vader three months later, and remained a lower midcard guy the rest of his WCW run.  Oh, and that Steve Austin guy ended up making a different company quite a bit of money.

3. One Man Gang (1995)

Along those same lines, Hogan also brought in the One Man Gang, fresh off, well, four years of not much (He had a brief 1991 run in WCW but was fired late that year). Gang returned to WCW, got to be the last man eliminated in the inaugural World War 3 60-man battle royal (shades of the first Royal Rumble), and one month later upset Kensuke Sasaki for the belt at Starrcade ' a dark match at the end of the show.  Yeah, they booked a US Title match to take place after the PPV went off the air and had a title change occur.  Not only that, the match was restarted immediately and Sasaki regained the title, but the company didn't acknowledge the second title change.  'The fuck sense does that make?  You book two dark match title changes but ignore the second one?  Gang would hold the belt just over a month before dropping it to Konnan and disappearing from WCW only weeks later.  Just another case of WCW trying to revive the career of an irrelevant 80s WWF star and failing miserably.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 7 (Unforgiven 2001)

SummerSlam 2001 left the WWF reeling as The Alliance captured the top championship.....

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

RAW After SummerSlam

RAW opens with the entire Alliance assembled in and around the ring.  Bischoff has the mic and he's standing next to Hogan, who's got the WWF Title around his waist.  "I told you!  I told all of you!  I told you at SummerSlam this man, the wrestling god, the Immortal Hollywood Hogan, would stomp all over your little Rattlesnake and win the WWF Title!  None of you believed me, but I told you!"  Hogan holds up the belt as the crowd boos like crazy.  Hogan takes the mic.  "Last night the WCW-ECW Alliance reigned supreme, Jack!  Oh sure we had a few setbacks.  Booker T, you had a rough night, brother.  But don't worry, you're still the US Champion and soon enough you'll send Dwayne back to LA and become the..."  Booker says it with him.  "Six time! Six time! Six time! Six time! Six time! Six time! WCW Champion!"  Hogan continues, "Lance, Bubba and D-Von, Sting, RVD and Goldberg all showed those WWF hacks how it's done, and last but not least, we have a new saying around these parts: Hogan 3:16 says 'I just killed your Rattlesnake.'"  Bischoff and Hogan share an obnoxious laugh.  Bischoff takes over: "Since we pounded the crap out of your WWF roster and left your company in ruins, we're gonna take a well-deserved night off and go party like only the Alliance can.  Enjoy your second-rate wrestling show, folks!"  The Alliance exit up the ramp as the show goes to commercial.

Back from break and Vince goes into the WWF locker room and orders the whole roster out to the ringside area.  They all come out, and Vince and his top guys are in the ring.  Austin is missing.  Vince takes the mic.  "I'm gonna say this quite frankly, guys.  WCW kicked our ass last night.  They made us look stupid.  And now they're off partying while we're trying to put the pieces back together.  I'm embarrassed, for both you and myself.  Dammit, you sons of bitches, get mad!  Rock, you hit 'em where it hurts, you're the new WCW Champion!  You're our shining beacon!  Wait, where's Steve?....Why isn't Steve out here?....In the back, anyone seen Steve?..."  A cameraman backstage runs toward a commotion and suddenly on the Titantron we see Austin interrogating an arena staff member.  "Where are they stayin', ya piece of crap?  Where's Hogan's hotel??"  "I don't know, I told you!"  Austin throws him to the ground and heads for the exit.  "I'm gonna comb this whole damn city for those pieces of trash!"  Vince yells after Austin, "No Steve, this isn't the right way!"  Austin ignores him and leaves the building, dragging a cameraman with him as we go to break.

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 6 (SummerSlam 2001)

The Invasion PPV has dire consequences, and SummerSlam promises several epic WWF vs. WCW matches......

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

RAW after Invasion

RAW begins with Eric Bischoff, Paul Heyman and the entire Alliance in the ring.  Bischoff gloats about winning the first battle at Invasion.  Rob Van Dam now holds both the Intercontinental and Hardcore Championships, and henceforth the Hardcore Title is no more.  "The Hardcore Title is for glorified stunt men like Mick Foley, not accomplished athletes like Rob Van Dam!"  Lance Storm captured the European Title from Matt Hardy, and The Dudley Boyz retained the WWF Tag Titles, meaning The Alliance now controls every WWF Championship but one.  "And the man who holds that Title, Steve Austin, got pinned in the middle of this ring by our fearless leader, The Immortal Hollywood Hogan!"  Hogan steps forward and laughs arrogantly before hugging Bischoff.  Hogan takes the mic and cuts a promo on Austin, saying Austin and his pathetic Team WWF couldn't get the job done and Team WCW made short work of those losers.  "As I recall there's a big PPV coming up in August called SummerSlam - just one of many WWF PPVs the Hulkster built.  Austin if you have any guts at all you'll give Hollywood Hogan a shot at that piece of tin on your shoulder, and I'll show you what a real WWF Champion looks like!"

The show goes to commercial just after JR announces that Vince McMahon and the WWF roster has not yet arrived in the building and he doesn't know what's been planned for tonight's show.

After the break, Heyman has returned to the announce table while Bischoff is still in the ring, with the Alliance surrounding it on the outside.  "Since Mr. McMahon and his band of losers still hasn't shown up to this arena, the WCW/ECW Alliance will be running RAW tonight.  And since The Alliance loves beating up losers, you're about to see a few of our guys tune up by squashing a handful of nobodies we found at the local bingo hall.  First up is your brand new European Champion, Lance Storm!"

Storm makes short work of a local jobber, submitting him with the single-leg Boston crab in just under two minutes.

"Wow, what an amazing athlete Lance is!  We are blessed to have him on the WCW roster!  Okay, next up it's one of the premier tag teams in wrestling today, Diamond Dallas Page and Kanyon!"

DDP & Kanyon kill two local jobbers.

"I know, it's incredible to watch DDP and Kanyon work, isn't it?  You're lookin' at the next WCW Tag Champs right here.  Anyway, you all might wanna sit down for this one.  Right now you're gonna be treated to a rare free television match from the premier Champion in this business today, the five-time WCW Champion, Booker T!!!!"

Booker begins squashing a jobber when a handheld camera shot appears over the Titantron.  JR and Heyman are in disbelief as a familiar voice bellows over the PA system.  "Booker T!  Oh Booker T?  Before you finish beating up on that jabroni I though you'd like to get a look at your opponent for SummerSlam.  Four weeks from now you'll be putting the WCW Title on the line against...." the camera pans over and it's The Rock! "...the trailblazing, eyebrow raising, jabroni-beatin', pie-eatin', best in the present, future and past, and if ya don't like it, YOU CAN KISS THE ROCK'S ASS!!"  The crowd erupts as Booker watches the Titantron in a state of shock.  The jobber comes up behind Booker and rolls him up for a three count, and Booker loses it, nailing the jobber with three axe kicks.  Suddenly the WWF roster storms the ring and the two rosters get into a wild brawl.  JR says, "My God, this is utter chaos!  Don't go anywhere, Monday Night Raw will be right back!"

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 5 (Invasion PPV)

We've reached the first official in-ring appearances of Team WCW.

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

RAW After King of the Ring

Vince comes out and says that after watching Kurt Angle beat his son to within an inch of his life at King of the Ring, he's come to realize how important it is to protect what he holds dear.  That means both his family and the company he built.  Since the end of March, the WWF has been under attack, and he's watched his employees suffer repeatedly at the hands of a bunch of lawless hooligans.  But when he watched his son Shane take the worst beating of his life to protect the family business, that lit a fire under him, and now the line is drawn in the sand.  The WWF will not stand for this any longer.  "Eric Bischoff, you want a war?  In four weeks there will be a WWF PPV event, and if you and your band of pirates have the cojones to show up, you'll get a war!  We'll call the event....INVASION!!"

It's announced that Chris Benoit suffered an injury during the Triple Threat match and its aftermath, and will be out indefinitely (real-life neck injury), but Chris Jericho has asked for a one-on-one Title match with Steve Austin tonight!

Undertaker and Kane will enact their Tag Title rematch clause next week against The Dudley Boyz, after Sting appeared and cost them the belts.

Edge has a coronation segment after winning the King of the Ring tournament, and Christian shows signs of jealousy, teasing a breakup.

Austin vs. Jericho is the main event.  The two have an excellent 15-minute match free of interference, and Austin counters a Lionsault and hits the Stunner to retain.  As he's celebrating, Bischoff appears on the Titantron.  "Congrats on another win Steve.  Tell your boss Vince that I accept his challenge at Invasion.  Whaddya say we each put together a five-man team for the main event of that show?  You pick your four best WWF pals, and I'll assemble my WCW contingent.  Let's see, we have WCW Champion Booker T, Goldberg, Ric Flair, Sting......I guess that leaves one spot open.  I wonder if we can find one more guy....."  Bischoff says to someone off-screen, "What do you think?"  The camera pans over and it's Hollywood Hulk Hogan!  "Uncle Eric, I think I'm wide open on July 22nd.  I will see you at Invasion!"

The announcers go bananas as RAW goes off the air.

The Next Week

Vince announces the members of Team WWF at Invasion.  It will be the WWF Champion Steve Austin leading the team of Triple H, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and The Big Show!

Jim's Mock 2020 NFL Draft: Goin' Local

Our colleague Jim Fitch is back after a long absence, and he's here to talk football!

Hi all, and welcome to my contribution to the endless flood of 1st-round mocks, which you are likely already tired of.

Full List of 2020 Ravens NFL Draft Picks

This one should, hopefully, be kind of fun, though. Two of the (few) upsides of the COVID-19 pandemic are time to read, and time to write. And I loves me some football reading. So what I have done for this mock is a bit different: I have read, and watched, and listened to, as much local and team-specific football journalism I can possibly consume. And, as one does, I have come to love some, to like some, and to dislike some. And for every team, I have a new local favourite source.

For each pick, I will share that new local favourite source with you. And then I will pick exactly who that source tells me to pick, providing of course that the player is still available. If that source has selected a trade, I will make that trade, but only if a local source covering the other team that I like (not necessarily my new local favourite, but a good source) has proposed the same trade for first-round purposes). If the player selected by my new favourite local source has already been drafted, though, I will make a selection for that team myself.

Okay, then: with all of that junk out of the way, let’s step to the socially-distanced podium. The Bengals are on the clock.


The local source: The Cincinnati Enquirer Bengals Beat Podcast.  Available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeart Radio – all of the usual suspects. It’s really fun. Try it out.

Their pick: QB Joe Burrow, LSU.

Is the player available?: this is the first pick.

The pick: QB Joe Burrow, LSU. And absolutely no one is surprised.


The local source: Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post. The Post has lots of strong football columns, and they do not all agree on what ought to happen with this pick. I am going with Brewer here, because I just love his writing style.

His pick:

Is the player available?: Yup.

The pick: EDGE Chase Young, OSU. I would trade down. Young is utterly incredible; his ceiling comparison is, not kidding, Michael Strahan. But this team is swiss cheese, and also has a youthful defensive line featuring multiple first-round picks. It’s nice to have an embarrassment of riches at a key unit, but not if every other part of your team, you know, sucks?


The local source: Chris Burke, Lions columnist for The Athletic (subscription-only): over a decade of national experience at ESPN, Motown native, data out the wazoo, and eminently readable.

His pick: TRADE: Miami receives 2020 1st (3rd overall); Detroit receives 2020 1st (5th overall), 2020 2nd (39th overall).

Can a quality Miami local source trade partner be found? Yes. Mike Tanier, Dolphins columnist for the Bleacher Report makes the identical trade here: Both Burke and Tanier also select the same players at 3 and at 5, too, which makes this easier for yours truly.

The pick: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama. Without tanking.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Top Ten Things: Worst NWA/WCW World Champions

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at, where I gripe about yet another wrestling championship whose prestige has been sharted on because of nonsensical title reigns.  Christ guys, get it together....

Today I'm talkin' about the granddaddy of them all.  The original holy grail of pro wrestling.  The NWA/WCW World Heavyweight Championship.  It's the one that supposedly dates back to 1905 when wrestling was on the level.  In actuality it can only be traced back to 1948, and the WCW version ceased to be recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance as of 1991.  The actual NWA World Title is still in existence today, after a five-year association with TNA.  But since the NWA's current footprint is quite small nowadays I'll only be discussing the two versions that were truly considered World Titles - the original incarnation from 1948-1991, and the WCW World Title which covered 1991-2001.  For many years this championship was THE most prestigious in wrestling.  Before WWE became the juggernaut it is today, Vince Sr's northeast WWWF promotion was an upstart offshoot of the NWA, and thus their top championship wasn't considered quite as big a deal as the NWA's.  Ditto for the AWA World Title (established in 1960).  For a good twenty years the NWA World Title was the big one.  And then in the mid-90s when WCW surged in popularity, their version of the World Title was viewed as the top belt in the game.  For a little while anyway.  But both versions of the championship had their share of stinker champs.  Here are ten of them..... 

1. Tommy Rich (1981)

For a long time Rich was the youngest-ever World Champion.  A popular mainstay in Georgia Championship Wrestling, Rich upset the legendary Harley Race for the belt at the age of 24.  And then he lost it back to Race four days later.  What the hell was the point you ask?  Apparently the switch was done to gain promoter Jim Barnett power within the NWA.  But Jeezus Christ this was stupid, and given that Rich never attained world championship status again, this ensured his career peaked very early.  If you're gonna give a young, unlikely babyface a run with your top belt, at least give him a chance to see how he does.  Otherwise skip it.

2. Kerry Von Erich (1984)

Ugh, Kerry Von Erich stunk.  Seriously, I never liked this guy, and it still bugs me that of all people he got to beat Ric Flair for the belt, less than six months removed from Flair's epic Starrcade '83 win.  I know the original plan was for Kerry's brother David Von Erich to become the NWA's new top babyface before he died, but did we really need to put the belt on Kerry for 18 days just as a tribute?  The match wasn't even that good, and they had to put the belt back on Flair anyway because he had a big match scheduled against Steamboat.  If making Kerry the Champion is gonna get in the way of the match you're really serious about promoting, what's the point of doing it?

3. Ron Garvin (1987)

Speaking of unworthy dudes getting to defeat Flair, in 1987 the NWA was looking to set up a huge main event for Starrcade, particularly since the WWF had countered the flagship supercard with the inaugural Survivor Series.  The idea was for someone to unseat Flair as the champion so Flair could win the title back in grand fashion at Starrcade.  Problem was, no one wanted to be a transitional champion for two lousy months, but Garvin took the job (for which I don't blame him; he was 42 years old at the time).  So Garvin was booked to win the belt in September, and then didn't defend it for two months.  Don't ask me why - a handful of good title defenses would've at least made him look like he belonged in that spot.  Flair of course regained the title at the big PPV, and on the bright side, the match was pretty great.  But Ronnie Garvin was never really presented as World Champ material and his career never reached anywhere near that level again.  They really should've just let Barry Windham beat Flair at the Crockett Cup in April, have a solid seven-month run, and then lose it back at Starrcade.  That would've been something.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Parents' Night In #32: The Godfather (1972), Francis Ford Coppola's Masterpiece

Kelly & Justin are back to discuss the greatest of all gangster films, Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece The Godfather.  We'll cover Kelly's legitimate shock upon learning halfway through that Michael was played by Al Pacino (Nope, not kidding), the recurring harbinger of doom in the form of oranges, Mo Green's outRAGEous Boston accent, how Virgil Solozzo became known as The Turk, and Kelly invents a new form of dance.  Get cozy on that couch and hang out with the PNI gang!

Subscribe to our channel and click the Notification bell to stay updated on future episodes, and don't forget to visit, follow us on Twitter (@EnuffaDotCom), join us on Facebook and Google+ (search "EnuffaDotCom")!

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Brewery Reviewery: Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co. (Newport, RI)

Welcome to another Brewery Reviewery, here at!  I love beer and I love going to the places where they make the beer.  And then I like to write about the places where they make the beer that I love.  This past weekend on our annual trip to Newport, RI I headed over to one of the first breweries I'd ever visited, Newport Storm!

Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co.
293 JT Connell Hwy
Newport, RI 02840

Newport Storm (which now falls under the combined banner of Newport Craft Brewing & Distilling Co.) was founded in 1999 by a group of friends who had all majored in chemistry, and for years served as the state's only brewery.  They eventually expanded into distilled spirits as well, now offering whiskey, rum, gin, amaro and moonshine.  Their tasting room offers all that, plus a variety of their signature beers, as well as guided (or self-guided) tours around the facility.  The tasting room was always an inviting spot, and recent updates like improved seating and board games have made it even cozier.  I'm not a spirits guy, so I went with a beer flight; of the six options on tap a flight includes four 4 oz. pours for nine bucks, plus if you hold onto your tasting card and present it at Brick Alley Restaurant & Pub (an ever-popular Newport spot) they'll give you a Newport Storm beer on the house with the purchase of an entree.  Can't go wrong there.

Anyway, let's get to the brewskies.  In addition to the four I sampled in the tasting room I purchased two others for take-home enjoyment, and of course cashed in my tasting card at Brick Alley for another....

Thursday, April 16, 2020

RIP Howard Finkel (1950-2020)

Legendary WWF/WWE ring announcer and Hall of Famer Howard Finkel has passed away after several years of worsening health problems.  Finkel was for decades the voice of the company, serving as the primary ring announcer from the late 1970s until the early 2000s.  When I started watching wrestling in 1986, Finkel's unique, throaty delivery immediately caught my ear, and to this day when I think of how a ring announcer should sound, The Fink's voice is what springs to mind (Sorry, Michael Buffer).  By contrast the NWA's ring announcer at the time Tom Miller had a stilted quality to his delivery, while I always found his successor Gary Cappetta's voice too nasal and thin for that role.  But Fink's voice had a grandeur about it.  No matter how inconsequential the match, when Fink got up there and announced the participants, it felt like a big deal.  And when there was a title change, whoa baby.  "Your winner, ladies and gentlemen......and NEEEEEWWWWW World Wrestling Federation Champiunnn...."  There was no one like him in that role and there never will be again.

Howard Finkel is also credited with coming up with the name WrestleMania.  Yeah, no big deal.  Finkel named the biggest and longest-running PPV event in wrestling history, what of it?  It's only the most universally recognized event name ever, and it came from this little balding man with a huge voice.  I seriously hope he and his family continue to get massive royalty checks for that in perpetuity.

Howard Finkel's contributions to the wrestling industry were significant and lasting.  He and his signature ring announcing will forever be missed.  Godspeed to the greatest ring announcer of all time.

RIP Howard Finkel, 1950-2020 

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Movies of Disbelief: It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Before I get started, let me preface this by saying I love It's a Wonderful Life.  Absolutely love it.  It's one of my top ten all-time favorite films, I've loved it since I was about nine years old, my wife and I watch it every year at Christmastime without fail.  I adore this film.

Released in 1946, It's a Wonderful Life was Frank Capra's favorite of all his movies.  The story of the downtrodden everyman George Bailey (in THE performance of Jimmy Stewart's career), who is visited in his most desperate hour by a guardian angel, was based on a short story called The Greatest Gift, written on a Christmas card by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939 and published in 1944.  RKO Pictures optioned the film rights and went through three screeplay drafts before deciding not to move forward with the project, and sold the whole kit n' kaboodle (plus the three drafts) to Frank Capra's Liberty Pictures for a cool ten grand, exactly what they paid for it in the first place.

Capra fleshed out this simple fantasy parable into a 130-minute dramedic masterpiece, about a small-town fellow who is unselfish to a fault, having spent so much of his life helping everyone around him he has become disillusioned and discouraged, ultimately neglecting his own dreams.  George Bailey had planned from an early age on becoming a successful architect and builder, hoping to design skyscrapers and bridges, travel the world, and be someone of great importance.  But circumstances being what they are, George never leaves his hometown, instead inheriting his father's Building & Loan business and spending decades trying to save the townspeople from financial ruin at the hands of Bedford Falls' evil tycoon Mr. Potter.  When George's business faces collapse itself, George contemplates suicide, but is visited by his guardian angel Clarence, who shows George just how important he's been to everyone in his life.  Realizing his desperation was a shortsighted mistake, George rushes home to his family and friends, and all is well.

George Bailey is a greater man than most of us will ever be....

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Top Ten Things: Star Wars Characters

What's the haps, folks?  Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

Well we are in the midst of a new trilogy in the grand Star Wars saga.  I for one loved The Force Awakens (in spite of its admitted flaws and reliance on story beats from A New Hope) and liked The Last Jedi quite a bit (also in spite of its admitted flaws).  For me what's worked so well about this new series are the numerous captivating characters that have pulled me into the story, much as their OT counterparts did four decades ago.  The prequel trilogy unfortunately introduced almost no characters I found interesting or terribly memorable, even including the young versions of Obi-Wan and Anakin (the one real keeper for me was Darth Maul, whom George Lucas didn't, um...keep).  So no, this list does not include any characters from Episodes 1-3, except in their respective 4-6 form.  Sorry Prequelers, I think those movies stink.

Anywho, here are my ten favorite Star Wars characters, updated post-TLJ.  Here we go....

10. Yoda

The Empire Strikes Back introduced a spectacular achievement in the art of puppetry.  In Episode V, Luke travels to the Degobah system and encounters Yoda, the most powerful wizard in the galaxy.  So strong is he with the Force that his diminutive size matters not.  Voiced by Frank Oz, Yoda provided so many quotable lines and taught us all about the nature of the Force and what it means to be a Jedi.  His involvement in the story elevated its mystical concepts to something much more complex and philosophical than simple magic.  Yoda hammered home the spirituality of the Jedi arts, forcing Luke to reexamine his outlook and grow immensely as a character.  The prequels sadly reduced Yoda to a lightsaber-wielding video game character, but originally Yoda was quite remarkable and represented everything beyond the narrow limits of the physical world.

9. Finn

The #2 good guy of the new trilogy is former Stormtrooper FN-2187, dubbed Finn by his new BFF Poe Dameron.  Finn was raised by the First Order for one reason - to be an agent of death and oppression.  But during his mission on Jakku he had an attack of conscience and defected, rescuing Poe and eventually helping Rey and the Resistance destroy Starkiller Base, before being maimed by Kylo Ren.  In The Last Jedi Finn and series newcomer Rose are dispatched to a casino planet to find a codebreaker who can stop the First Order from tracking the crippled Resistance through hyperspace.  Finn starts the second film disillusioned about our heroes' chances, but by the end his friendship with Rose and loyalty to his new allies win out, and he embraces his role in helping to lead the "Rebel scum."  In The Rise of Skywalker we learn through a few subtle hints that Finn very likely has budding Force powers, as he can sense Rey's movements while she's away.  Their implied romance never comes to fruition but it seems that they've connected on a different level.  This charismatic, rather reluctant hero played by John Boyega has tremendous chemistry with his fellow protagonists and is a very welcome addition to the Star Wars mythos.

8. Obi-Wan Kenobi

When the original Star Wars was being cast, George Lucas enlisted several unknowns to play the principle characters, but he realized he'd also need some veteran actors in supporting roles.  One such actor was Sir Alec Guinness, who immediately lent this bizarre space movie some credibility.  Guinness brought to life the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a former Jedi Knight instrumental to the growth of Luke Skywalker.  Kenobi's primary function in the story is to begin Luke's (and our) education on the concept of the Force.  Through Obi we learn about this mystical power and how vital it is to the success of the Rebellion.  We also learn about the Dark Side and how it corrupted Darth Vader.  Kenobi sacrifices himself so our young heroes can escape, but then as an ethereal being aids Luke in destroying the Death Star.  Obi-Wan represents our first glimpse into the spiritual side of this galactic good vs. evil struggle.  In the prequels Obi-Wan (as played by Ewan MacGregor) is also the one heroic character with any real depth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Followups

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

Today I'll be talking about some slightly-hidden gems given the unenviable task of directly following WrestleMania.  Every year 'Mania seems to play out like a season finale of sorts, with long-running angles and feuds being resolved, and new stories beginning.  But with no off-season, WWE marches right on to the next PPV (formerly In Your House and Backlash, now Extreme Rules) and has to assemble a show that could easily come off as anticlimactic given its position on the PPV calendar.  Some years though, the 'Mania followup PPV has actually outclassed The Show of Shows and presented one or more Match of the Year candidates.  Backlash 1999 and 2000 for example were far and away superior to 'Mania 15 and 16 respectively.  Ditto for Extreme Rules 2011 and 2012.  Not so much for Payback 2017....

Here now are the Top Ten Matches from Post-WrestleMania PPVs.

10. The Shield vs. Evolution - Extreme Rules 2014

This dream match of sorts was a wild, action-packed example of faction warfare.  The Shield had recently turned against The Authority, and Triple H retaliated by reassembling his most accomplished stable, now consisting of three former WWE/World Champions.  Now I had hoped for an 8-man WarGames-style match including Daniel Bryan and Kane, and I still think WWE dropped the ball by not booking that match after it was so perfectly set up the night after WM30.  That said though, this six-man delivered huge and further established The Shield as the most dominant faction in years.

9. John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar - Extreme Rules 2012

Brock Lesnar's WWE return was an absolutely huge deal.  After an eight-year hiatus Lesnar reappeared on RAW the night after WrestleMania 28 and left John Cena laying in a heap.  A No Holds Barred match was immediately signed for Extreme Rules, and would be the first signature "Brock Lesnar" match, where he employed both pro wrestling and MMA techniques to create a unique, big-fight atmosphere.  The match began with Lesnar brutally bloodying Cena with hard elbows to the forehead, marking the first WWE use of significant "color" in several years.  This groundbreaking fight showcased a dominant Lesnar performance until the very end, when Cena evened the playing field with a chain and got a shocking (and in retrospect terribly ill-advised) win over the returning Beast.  It took some time for WWE to properly use Lesnar during his post-UFC run (His record after one year back was 1-2!), but fortunately they soon remembered that Brock Lesnar is supposed to destroy everything in sight, and have since worked much harder to preserve his drawing power.

8. Mankind vs. Big Show - Backlash '99

After a tremendously disappointing first-time matchup at WrestleMania XV, Mankind and The Big Show redeemed themselves with this brutal Boiler Room Brawl.  The inaugural Backlash event one-upped 'Mania 15 in every way, and this match was everything the first encounter wasn't.  Mankind brought his typically high pain threshold, taking a brutal table spot and cutting his hand on a pane of glass before escaping the boiler room.  Not only did this match steal the show at Backlash '99 but I consider it the far better of the two Boiler Room Brawls.

7. Randy Orton vs. Cactus Jack - Backlash 2004

Another Foley classic, this time Mick donned the red & black flannel and trimmed way down to resurrect his original in-ring persona, Cactus Jack.  Randy Orton was just gaining traction as a future main event player, and Foley made sure he looked like a million bucks.  This outlandish, violent Street Fight featured barbed-wire bats, thumbtacks, falls off the stage, and buckets of blood.  The enduring image for me is of Orton taking a bump, barebacked, on a pile of thumbtacks.  Simply one of the most grisly moments I can recall in a wrestling match.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Movies of Disbelief: Rounders (1998)

I love poker.  It's one of the greatest games ever invented; a unique mix of skill, lying, reading people, and just plain luck.  No other game meshes these aspects together like poker, and no poker variation is as pure and elegant as Texas Hold 'Em.  And no movie is as responsible for popularizing Texas Hold 'Em as Rounders.

Released in 1998 and starring Matt Damon, Edward Norton and John Malkovich, Rounders tells the story of a prodigious poker player named Mike McDermott who loses his entire bankroll one night and vows never to return to the table.  That is until his best friend Worm gets out of jail and essentially drags him back into the seedy New York poker underworld.  Mike and Worm then find themselves desperately trying to win $15,000 in just a few days to avoid being killed by loan sharks, and Mike rediscovers what made him fall in love with the game to begin with.

Rounders is a riveting, taut thriller but also a darkly comic, eminently quotable cult film about following our passions and staying true to what we are.  It also features one of the least plausible scenes of all goddamn time.

About halfway through the film Mike's live-in girlfriend and fellow law student Jo discovers that Mike has broken his promise to stay away from gambling, and while he's out, she packs up all her shit and moves out of their apartment.  Mike comes home to find Jo's things gone, and is quite frankly neither surprised nor all that visibly upset.  He and Worm then drive to Atlantic City for a night of poker shenanigans and it's just like old times.

"Rolled up Aces over Kings....."

Soon after this, Mike is seen alone in his apartment watching an old World Series of Poker VHS tape, when his friend and fellow gambler Petra (an unreal sexy Famke Janssen) shows up to talk to him about Worm.  Petra works at one of their regular poker clubs, and she informs Mike that Worm has run up thousands in debt, in Mike's name.  Then this exotic, statuesque Eastern European bombshell, who gushes like a school girl whenever Mike is around, begins kissing Mike and asks to stay.  Ya know, so they can touch each other in a very impure manner.  Probably multiple times.  Whichever way Mike fancies.  Instead, Mike awkwardly pulls away and says he'll see her soon, and she leaves.

"So uh, Mike? You gonna just sit there moping or are we gonna do a good piece a-bidness?"

Now look, assholes, I can buy all the over-the-top poker showdowns, I can buy the montage where Mike and Worm play high-stakes games at places like country clubs, cigar bars and even what appears to be a Greek sandwich shop, I can buy Worm totally fucking up Mike's shit at the State Troopers' game with super-obvious deck stacking that anyone who's ever laid eyes on a playing card could spot, hell, I can even buy John Malkovich's outRAGEous Russian accent.  What I can't, and WON'T swallow is a handsome young fella whose girlfriend has just hit the bricks turning down a wild night of horizontal mattress bingo with Famke fucking Janssen.  It would never happen.  In any realistic universe the second she starts kissing him, that apartment is pure bedlam.  What few possessions he has left would be strewn about the floor, out the window, probably shoved up his ass.  There's zero chance he'd let her do any less to him than ANYTHING SHE WANTS.  I'm sorry Michael, you're simply not a believable character anymore.  Quite frankly I hope Teddy KGB takes every red cent you own.

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