Thursday, May 28, 2020

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 11 (Royal Rumble 2002)

A new year dawns, but the Invasion Angle rages on, heading into the 2002 Royal Rumble....

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

Night After Vengeance

RAW opens with fireworks and revelry as Vince and most of the WWF roster march down to the ring in high spirits.  Vince takes the mic.  "Ladies and gentlemen, in my 28 years as owner of this company I don't think I've ever been more proud than I am at this very moment.  Last night at Vengeance, at long last, the World Wrestling Federation Championship returned home where it belongs, around the waist of a WWF Superstar.  After four months, Hollywood Hogan's reign of terror is over, the WWF and WCW Championships are unified as the Undisputed WWF Championship, our side has also regained the European Title thanks to Edge, and The Alliance controls only two remaining titles, the Intercontinental and the Cruiserweight.  That situation will be remedied tonight, in this very ring.  But first I'd like to welcome the man of the hour, the brand new Undisputed WWF Champion, STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN!!!"

Austin's music hits and he appears from behind the curtain, both championship belts slung over his shoulders.  Suddenly Chris Jericho runs up from behind and waffles him with a broom handle, knocking him down.  Vince and the rest of the WWF locker room are stunned.  Jericho bashes Austin repeatedly and pulls a microphone out of his back pocket.  "Congratulations Austin, you won back the WWF Title.  Well guess what, it's coming home to me next!  Last night I beat a rain check into The Rock's candy-ass, and that makes me the new #1 contender!  At the Royal Rumble Chris Jericho will be the new Undisputed WWF Champion!"  Jericho drops the mic and leaves as Austin crawls to his feet and the show goes to commercial.

Back from break, Austin is being checked out by doctors and Vince backstage, but pushes the doctors aside.  "Get these jackasses outta my face, a little snot like Jericho ain't gonna keep me down."  Vince tries to calm him down but Austin isn't having it.  "Get me Jericho in the ring tonight, damn ya!"  "Fine Steve, fine.  You pick a tag team partner and I'll notify Jericho to pick one as well."

The announcers inform us that Cruiserweight Champion Billy Kidman is up next to defend his title against X-Pac.  They have a whirlwind 10-minute match where Kidman retains by countering the X-Factor with a low dropkick and hitting the shooting star press.

Backstage, Hogan, Bischoff and friends are reeling from their defeat at Vengeance.  Bischoff says they need a new strategy to get back on top.  Hogan says "I have just the thing, brother.  You just wait and see."

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

AEW Double or Nothing 2020 Review - Stadium Stampede!

AEW delivered big again.  Double or Nothing 2020, while probably not their best PPV to date (I think Revolution is still their yardstick), was nonetheless an incredibly entertaining show full of great energy, some damn fine wrestling, and one of the most purely fun main events I've ever seen.  The eight-match card flew by, numerous bouts landing within or near **** range, the company showcasing some of their young talent and even protecting most of the match losers.  AEW once again worked beautifully around the empty arena problem, seating wrestlers and crew around the ring to make noise, and mixing the audio so the "crowd" was louder than the in-ring action.  Thus the absence of an arena full of fans was barely noticeable.  Aside from one match/result I have a gripe about, I loved this show.

The PPV kicked off with the Casino Ladder Match, structured like a cross between a Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank.  SCU buddies Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky drew the first two numbers and had some fun exchanges before Kip Sabian entered with sidekick Jimmy Havoc, who interfered liberally on his behalf.  Next was Darby Allin, who had an insane spot off a ladder with his skateboard.  Orange Cassidy was fifth and asked for clarification on the rules, selling annoyance when told he'd have to climb a ladder.  Colt Cabana was sixth, Joey Janela (subbing for the injured Fenix) was seventh.  Janela did a few crazy things, like hitting a Death Valley Driver on one of the giant poker chips.  Luchasaurus was eighth and ran wild on everyone before the ninth and final entrant, mystery competitor Brian Cage.  At first everyone ganged up on Cage and buried him under a pile of ladders and poker chips, but he eventually shook it off, had a nice big man exchange with Luchasaurus, and finally press-slammed a ladder with Darby on top of it, over the ropes to the floor.  Cage then climbed up and retrieved the prize poker chip to win.  This was a great debut for Cage, who looked like a monster, but also allowed Allin, Janela and others time to shine.  The plan is for Cage to challenge Jon Moxley at Fyter Fest.  A very fun ladder schmozz with some good character moments.  ***1/2

Next up was the best straight-up wrestling match of the night, on a card with a lot of car wreck matches.  MJF and Jungle Boy proved why they're two of the most promising young talents in the business.  This had a fantastic gallant babyface vs. douchebag heel dynamic, with MJF antagonizing and mocking JB early on and even faking an injury at one point to get in a cheapshot.  Jungle Boy matched MJF hold-for-hold in the opening minutes, and these two strung together some really nice grappling.  Finally MJF took over, going after Jungle Boy's arm, which later paid off when JB tried to slap on a submission hold but couldn't.  The most memorable spot of the match came very late when JB hit a reverse rana on the apron that looked like it killed MJF.  But since MJF was on the floor, Jungle Boy couldn't pin him, having to roll him back in and give him time to recover.  The finish came after a series of cradle reversals, and MJF scored a European Clutch to "steal" the win.  This was pretty great and I hope this becomes a perennial feud.  Their chemistry together is palpable and they can help each other grow into big-time stars.  MJF winning this time was the right move as he's clearly being groomed for a major push.  That said, Jungle Boy needs to rack up some wins so people don't forget about him.  ****

Thursday, May 21, 2020

AEW Double or Nothing 2020 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of AEW Predictions, here at!

Feels like it's been ages since AEW's last PPV, but this Saturday at long last we'll be treated to the second annual Double or Nothing, albeit in front of an empty Jaguars stadium.  But AEW has adjusted to this empty arena format better than WWE has, so this show oughta be a fun little outing.  The linup feels a bit like a secondary PPV as opposed to one of their flagships, but given the circumstances I get it.  Just like they don't want to have Blood n' Guts in front of no one, it doesn't make sense to put together an absolutely loaded show when there's no live crowd.  But I think they'll do alright here.

Let's get started.

Pre-show match: Private Party vs. Best Friends

This match is for a Tag Team Title shot, presumably on an episode of Dynamite.  So it could go either way.  The match should be a very entertaining sprint.  Private Party have gotten a title match before but I don't think Best Friends have.  I'll pick them this time.

Pick: Best Friends

Shawn Spears vs. Dustin Rhodes

This was just added last night.  Spears failed to beat Dustin's brother last year but now's his chance for some redemption.  I see no reason not to give Spears the win here.  Dustin's 50 and won't be hurt in losing.  Spears needs to pick up some wins in order to be taken seriously.

Pick: Spears

Dr. Britt Baker vs. Kris Statlander

I really like Kris, and Britt is finding her groove, particularly as a heel.  This should be fun.  The company seems fully behind Baker as a rising heel star, so I have to think she wins here.

Pick: Baker

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 10 (Vengeance 2001)

As 2001 comes to a close, the Invasion Angle coalesces around a huge Title unification....

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

Night After Survivor Series

RAW opens with Vince in the ring, beaming from last night's victory.  Vince says "Last night, the WWF took a major step in vanquishing The Alliance, as our Survivor Series squad won an incredible main event.  As a result, all of WCW's championships are hereby defunct.  And a wrestling company without legitimate championships is that much closer to oblivion.  Right now I'd like to call one man to the ring to personally congratulate him.  He's the reason our side has won this major victory.  Ladies and gentlemen, your American hero, Kurt Angle!"  Angle proudly comes down to the ring and hugs Vince.  "Vince, I'd just like to express how thankful I am for the opportunity to prove to all these people that not only am I the best wrestler in the world, not only do I live and breathe the three I's, but I bleed red, white, blue....and WWF!  I am so proud to be your Olympic hero and your Sole Survivor!  And now I'd like your permission to challenge Hollywood Hogan for the WWF Championship so I can bring that prestigious title back where it belongs."  Vince responds, "Kurt, I would be more than happy to grant that request.  Therefore, in three weeks at Vengeance, in this very ring, it will be Hollywood Hogan vs. Kurt--"  Steve Austin's glass shatter interrupts Vince.  Austin saunters to the ring and yanks the mic from Vince's hand.  "Hold on there, ya dumb bastards.  First off Kurt, you ain't the best wrestler in the world.  The best wrestler in the world is the one talkin' at you right now and lookin' at your stupid hang-dog face.  Second, if anyone's owed a damn title match with Hogan it's Stone Cold, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let you screw this up again.  At Vengeance it's gonna be Hogan vs. Austin, or I'm gonna stomp both your asses down right now."  Hogan suddenly shows up on the Titantron.  "Oh boys....I see you're arguing among yourselves like a buncha little babies, but you're forgetting one thing.  I'm the WWF Champion and I decide who I face at Vengeance.  Oh, and you may have won at Survivor Series, but my main man Booker T ain't giving up his WCW Championship without a fight.  so here's what: how about we have a little mini-tournament at Vengeance?  One of you two idiots can challenge me, the other can challenge Booker, and the winners face each other to determine the first-ever Undisputed WWF Champion?  And I hate to break it to ya, but it's gonna end up Hollywood Hogan vs. Booker T, brother!"  Austin and Angle both nod to Vince.  Vince replies "Fine, Hogan.  At Vengeance it will be....Hogan vs. Austin, and Booker vs. Angle, with the winners facing each other for all the marbles.  But how about tonight we have a tag team match.  Hogan and Booker vs. Austin and Angle!"

Friday, May 15, 2020

Parents' Night In #35: Superman (1978), The Movie Review

Kelly & Justin are back to talk about the beloved original epic superhero film, Richard Donner's 1978 classic Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando.  Kelly in particular grew up with this film, watching it repeatedly at her grandfather's house and memorizing every moment.  Justin became a fan much later, having grown up with Superman II but never giving the original its due.  But both of us love it now, a throwback to a simpler time when superhero films were still very quaint and the idea of a big-budget blockbuster Superman movie was unheard of.

We'll discuss the making of this film but also its legacy, its sequel, comparisons to recent Superman movies like Superman Returns and Man of Steel, comparisons of Christopher Reeve to Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill, and comic book films as a whole.  So crack open a beer, sit back and join us for this special episode!

Dedicated to John Hartmann (1931-2020), for whom Superman '78 was an all-time favorite.

You can also listen to a podcast version of this episode at

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Wrestling Do-Overs: The Invasion Angle, part 9 (Survivor Series 2001)

It's November 2001, and that means the Invasion Angle do-over has reached Survivor Series, where the WWF will do battle with The Alliance!

To read this series from the beginning, click HERE

Night After No Mercy

RAW opens with Kurt Angle already in the ring.  He apologizes to Vince and the WWF fans for letting them down last night.  He tried to reason with Steve Austin to work together and bring the WWF Title home where it belongs, but like a true rattlesnake, Austin could not be reasoned with.  He even offered him half the bounty to take the pin, but a rattlesnake doesn't care about money.  Austin's music hits and he charges the ring, attacking Angle.  Austin stuns him and Angle rolls out of the ring.  Austin takes the mic and demands Vince confront him right now.  "You stuck your stupid little nose in my business again last night and screwed me out of winning back my WWF Title, and now I'm gonna beat it out of ya!"  Vince reluctantly heads to the ring and tries to explain himself.  "I was just doing what was best for the WWF, dammit!  Why couldn't you and Angle work together?  We could've done this together!"  Angle is back in the ring now, backing up Vince.  Austin says "Last time I won the WWF Title I took your help and I damn near couldn't sleep at night for six months because of it.  I ain't never doin' it with your help again."  Austin goes to kick Vince but Angle blocks it and they're in each other's faces.

Hogan, Booker T and Bischoff appear on the Titantron.  Hogan speaks.  "Hello ladies.  Good to see you're still catfighting amongst yourselves.  Meanwhile guess who's still the WWF Champ.  Hollywood Hogan.  And who's still the WCW Champ?  Booker T, brother.  Ya know why?  Because The Alliance knows how to work together as a team to get things done!"  Austin, Vince and Angle stop arguing and Vince takes the mic.  "Funny you should mention teams.  Because in four weeks is the Survivor Series, where it's all about teamwork.  How about this?  You pick your best five, we'll pick our best five, and if we win, the WCW Championship gets absorbed into the WWF Championship!  Not only that, we'll have Intercontinental Champion vs. US Champion.  Light Heavyweight Champion vs. Cruiserweight Champion.  The team that wins at Survivor Series gets to keep their championship lineage.  The losers will see all their titles become defunct."  The WCW guys discuss for a moment.  "Ya know somethin' Vinny Mac?  That's not bad.  I always liked your style.  Since we're all here tonight, why don't we have some fun?  You, Steve and Kurt against Uncle Eric, Bookerman, and Hollywood, jack!"  It's official - Survivor Series will be headlined by a five-on-five elimination match, with the losing team's championships going away, plus a huge six-man tag to headline RAW.

The show features some Survivor Series qualifying matches.  Chris Jericho defeats Test to become the third man on Team WWF.  Sting defeats Ric Flair to earn a spot on Team Alliance.

In the show's main event, the WWF team has trouble getting along and the WCW team controls much of the contest.  Austin bickers with Angle and Vince slaps him from the apron.  Austin knocks tags Vince into the match and knocks him down with a punch.  With Vince loopy, Bischoff tags in and peppers Vince with martial arts kicks, gloating with each one.  Suddenly Vince catches one of them, tackles Bischoff and pounds him.  Vince drags Bischoff into his corner and tags Angle, who hits suplex after suplex.  Angle tags Austin, who hits a Stunner and covers Bischoff.  Angle and Vince run interference as the ref counts three.  RAW goes off the air with a glimmer of hope for Team WWF.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Cinema Showdown: Superman Returns vs. Man of Steel

Originally published in 2015...
Welcome to another edition of Cinema Showdown, here at, where I'll take two movies that are either based on the same source material, present the same story, or just share many similarities, and see which one stacks up better.

Today I'll be talking about the two most recent cinematic takes on the beloved character of Superman: 2006's Superman Returns, directed by Bryan Singer, and 2013's Man of Steel, from Zack Snyder.

Superman is generally credited with launching the superhero genre of comic books, and is an internationally recognized, mythic embodiment of heroism.  The sole survivor of a doomed alien race, Superman arrived on Earth as a baby and was adopted by simple farmers.  As he grew into manhood he discovered his super powers and eventually came to understand and accept the inherent responsibility that came with them, embarking on a lifelong crusade to rid the world of evil and protect the people of his adopted home.

These themes were captured beautifully in Richard Donner's 1978 epic Superman: The Movie.  While far from perfect and frought with production challenges and creative issues, Superman conveyed a sense of wonder and lighthearted optimism in bringing to life this virtuous character, introducing him to a whole generation of filmgoers and creating the superhero movie as we know it.  After three sequels the franchise eventually fizzled, and for nearly twenty years every attempt at a cinematic rebirth for The Man of Tomorrow was aborted prior to production.

Then in 2006 Bryan Singer released Superman Returns, which was presented as a direct sequel to Superman II (1981).  Retroactively nullifying the largely-reviled Superman III and IV, Returns takes place five years after II, whereupon Superman has, well, returned to Earth after a mysterious five-year absence and found that the world didn't necessarily miss him.  At the same time Lex Luthor has been released from prison (largely due to Kal-El being unavailable to testify against him) and hatched a new plan to take over the world using crystals from the Fortress of Solitude.  The plot of this film was eerily similar to that of the 1978 original (Luthor attempts to change the Earth's landscape to create his own priceless real estate, almost certainly at the expense of millions of lives), and while a few of the performances were well-received, the film was a box office disappointment.  Its planned sequel was scrapped, and it was back to the drawing board for The Big Blue Boy Scout.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

WWE Money in the Bank 2020 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another edition of WWE Predictions, here at!  We're still in quarantine, but that doesn't mean WWE can't make more bad movies....

Well I did it, I cut the WWE Network cord after WrestleMania.  WWE's product has simply strayed so far from what I enjoy in a wrestling show, AEW is providing a much more fun North American alternative, and now with the lockdown continuing it seems we'll be treated to even more pre-taped "movie" matches like Taker vs. AJ.  So why am I still doing WWE predictions, you ask?  Good question.  Force of habit maybe?  I dunno.  I won't be watching Money in the Bank, but I'll try to pick some winners anyway, just to prove to myself I'm still accurate about 70% of the time.  So let's do this...

Fatal 4-Way Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. Miz & Morrison vs. The Forgotten Sons vs. Lucha House Party

Why in the hell did they put the belts right back on New Day?  What was the point of Miz & Morrison's one-month reign?  Christ.  Anyway, this reeks of "filler match," so I don't think the titles are changing again already. 

Pick: New Day retains

Smackdown Women's Championship: Bayley vs. Tamina

Uhh, Tamina?  Really?  Aren't these two both heels?  I know you wanna save Bayley vs. Sasha (for fuck's sake, FINALLY) for a bigger show like SummerSlam (especially when Boston is Sasha's hometown) but was Tamina the only other available challenger?  I don't have much hope for this one.

Pick: Bayley has to retain until the Sasha match happens

Universal Championship: Braun Strowman vs. Bray Wyatt

Yeesh, this isn't gonna be much of a match at all.  I'm still flabbergasted that they spent all that time building up Wyatt, only to have him lose in embarrassing fashion to Goldberg, all so Goldberg could lose to Roman, who then dropped off the WrestleMania card, forcing Goldberg to lose a stinker of a match to Braun.  What a shit show.  So now Wyatt is right back to challenging for the belt instead of in the midst of a six-month reign.  This could go either way, but I'll pick Braun to retain since he just won it, and since it looks like Bray won't be The Fiend this time around.

Pick: Strowman retains 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Last Action Hero

Welcome to yet another Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I, your faithful editor, examine an old classic cinema turd and analyze its pros and cons.

Today it's the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger flop, Last Action Hero!  Directed by John McTiernan (of Die Hard and Predator fame) and released just a week after the mega-blockbuster Jurassic Park, LAH didn't stand a chance at the box office and it predictably died a quick death.  Last Action Hero tells the story of Danny Madigan, a 12-year-old boy obsessed with Schwarzenegger movies, specifically his fictitious Jack Slater series.  Danny frequently cuts school to visit a nearby run-down theater, owned by his elderly friend Nick.  One night Nick invites Danny to a private midnight screening of Jack Slater IV, and gives him an old-timey movie ticket which was supposedly a gift from Harry Houdini.  Unbeknownst to both of them, the ticket has magical properties, and upon being torn in half, it opens a portal between the real world and the one on the screen.  Danny unwittingly winds up inside the film and becomes Jack Slater's sidekick, and eventually both of them pursue the film's main villain Mr. Benedict back to the real world to save the real Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This is an unabashedly silly premise that had already been much more skillfully explored in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, where Mia Farrow's character goes to see a film so many times one of the characters begins interacting with her and escapes the confines of the screen.  You won't find Purple Rose in an ASM column, as there isn't anything shitty about it - it's a very smart, well-made film.  Still, despite being a dumbed down echo of Purple Rose, Last Action Hero is not without its charm; it has some entertaining action scenes sprinkled with satire, plus some fun comedy elements.  But yeah, there's a lot wrong with it too. 

The Awesome


Going into this movie I was pleasantly surprised by how much the filmmakers satirized the concept of the summer blockbuster.  Last Action Hero pokes fun at the action movie genre at almost every turn (not unlike the way Scream picks apart horror films - RIP Wes Craven), which for a movie nerd like me made for quite a lark.  Arnold seems right at home dissecting the very type of film that made him an international megastar, and it's refreshing to see a mainstream commercial movie actor not take himself too seriously.  Inside the Jack Slater movie Danny is able to consistently predict what's about to happen because everything in the movie is an action film cliché.  And of course being an action movie cliché himself, Jack has no idea; on the contrary, he keeps insisting his world is real.  This all made for an amusing, self-aware tone at a time when the action film genre was in desperate need of a shakeup.

Little Details

This movie is full of fun little moments and in-jokes, like when Danny takes Jack to a video store to prove he's a fictional character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Terminator 2 standee they find depicts the T-800 played by Sylvester Stallone instead.  I also found Danny's action movie daydream version of Hamlet as played by Arnold pretty damn funny ("To be, or not to be....not to be," **Cue explosion**).  There are numerous cameos as well, like Robert Patrick as a T-1000, Sharon Stone as Catherine Trammel (from Basic Instinct), Danny Devito as an animated police cat, Ian McKellan as Death (from The Seventh Seal), and others.  LAH is full of little sight gags and Easter eggs.


Parents' Night In #34: Predator (1987) - Kelly's Live Reaction

Kelly has never seen Predator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura, so we decided to record her live reaction to this 80s classic monster movie.  Wait till you hear her reaction to the Predator's hideous mandible-face.  It's Alien meets Rambo as Arnie and his team of elite soldiers face a terrifying beast from another world.  Join us for some fun as I subject Kelly to mandibles, scorpions, entrails, and Jim Hopper "skinned alive!"  And then when we're done, GET TO THE CHOPPA!!!

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