Friday, April 30, 2021

Top Ten Things: 2 out of 3 Falls Matches

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

Today I'll be discussing one of the oldest, time-honored wrestling match types, the 2-out-of-3 Falls match!  Back in the olden days 2/3 Falls was a common format for Championship matches, as a way to truly determine the better competitor and rule out fluke victories.  In the old NWA system, all World Title matches were required to be contested under these rules, and quite often the match would go to a time limit draw in the third fall, which protected both guys for future bouts.  I've always enjoyed this type of match as it lends itself to longer, more epic matches with a heavy emphasis on good old mat wrestling.  During the Attitude Era the WWF added a wrinkle to the 2/3 Falls match by giving each fall a different set of rules (i.e. traditional rules for the first fall, No DQ for the second, etc.), calling it Three Stages of Hell.  Regardless though, there's something epic about a 2/3 Falls match when done well.

Let's take a look at what I consider the ten best examples of 2/3 Falls....




HM - Angle/Benoit vs. Edge/Mysterio - Smackdown - 11.7.02


In the fall of 2002 the RAW and Smackdown shows each had exclusive rosters, and Paul Heyman's Smackdown was crushing RAW on a weekly basis, both creatively and in the ratings.  Much of SD's success can be attributed to these four competitors, who made up two-thirds of the revered Smackdown Six (Los Guerreros were the other two).  The World Tag Championship had been made a RAW-exclusive Title during the roster split, and Smackdown GM Stephanie McMahon decided to create a separate set of belts for her show.  Hence a tournament was assembled which boiled down to Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit vs. Edge & Rey Mysterio at No Mercy, in a 22-minute classic.  The rematch took place only a few weeks later on Smackdown, and it was a 2/3 Falls match.  While not quite as good as the PPV bout, this featured incredible action and palpable suspense, as Edge & Mysterio played the underdogs to perfection on their way to a Title victory.





10. Demolition vs. Hart Foundation - SummerSlam - 8.27.90


In early 1990 the WWF's tag team division essentially consisted of three top babyface tandems - Demolition, The Hart Foundation, and The Rockers.  Sure there were a few heel teams such as The Bolsheviks and The Orient Express, but they were all booked as jobbers to the stars, and the Harts and Rockers were presented as the only credible threats to the Champions Demolition.  Just after WrestleMania VI it looked like the Harts were slowly turning heel, adopting some underhanded tactics and referring to Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty as "tumbling teenyboppers."  It seemed like Bret and Jim would be positioned as villain challengers to the popular facepainted duo of Ax & Smash.  But two factors caused a change of plans.  The first was that the Harts were still extremely popular and the fans didn't really want to boo them.  The second was that the aging Bill Eadie (Ax) was no longer able to wrestle a full schedule and needed to take more of a managerial role in Demolition, necessitating the introduction of a younger third member, Crush.  With Demolition now working as a three-man team it made more sense to turn them heel and invoke the "Freebird Rule," where any two members of a Championship team could defend the Titles (I love this gimmick, by the way).  So at SummerSlam, the Hart Foundation were positioned as babyface underdogs facing a dastardly powerhouse team who frequently pulled the old "switcheroo" during their matches, subbing in a fresh man for an injured one.  The result was a very strong 2/3 Falls match that saw Hart and Neidhart overcome the odds (with an assist from WWF newcomers Hawk & Animal) to regain the Tag belts.  After a brief, disappointingly one-sided feud with the Legion of Doom, Demolition were sadly phased out less than a year later, while the Harts enjoyed a strong run with the belts.





9. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho - SummerSlam - 8.27.00


The year 2000 was an amazing one for the WWF.  With the influx of almost all of WCW's best workers, the WWF roster was now loaded with tremendous in-ring talent creating fresh matchups and feuds galore, possibly the best of which involved the two Chrises.  Jericho and Benoit had worked together for years, both in Japan and in Atlanta, and in the spring/summer of 2000 they resumed their feud, facing each other three times on PPV and several more times on RAW and Smackdown.  The rivalry reached a fever pitch at SummerSlam, in a 2/3 Falls match.  While not quite given enough time to fully steal the show, Jericho and Benoit nevertheless delivered a forgotten near-classic that ended the feud for the time being.


Top Ten Things: Worst WWE Champions

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, 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 29, 2021

Top Ten Things: Worst NWA/WCW World Champions

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, 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.



NJPW Wrestling Dontaku Preview & Predictions

It's NJPW Wrestling Dontaku time, and that means two nights of sparsely assembled cards with only a few matches of note each night.  Of course in 2021 that's nearly every NJPW show.  


So yeah, there are essentially three important matches over the two nights, plus a couple bouts related to the Tag Team Titles.  The three big title matches should all be excellent, but I'm longing for the days when New Japan stacked most of their PPV events.  If this year's Dominion isn't a loaded show I'll be very sad.  Let's pick some winners.....



Night 1


Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tanga Loa


Man, how thin is this division when the same two teams just keep meeting up?  New Japan desperately needs to drop the Jr. Tag and Six-Man Tag belts and just move all the tag teams into a single division.  I will never understand why they got rid of the Intercontinental Title but kept three sets of tag belts.  Anyway, ZSJ vs. Tanga should be fun.  Zack's matches always stand out because his style is so different.  The stip here is that if Zack wins, he and Taichi get another shot, if they lose they don't ever get another shot.  Since there are basically no other teams around I'll pick Zack to win here.

Pick: ZSJ




Iron Finger from Hell Ladder Match: Taichi vs. Tama Tonga


I assume the rules here are that if you climb the ladder and grab the Iron Fingers you get to use them?  That's goofy.  Both guys can work, so hopefully it'll be entertaining.  No idea who wins here but since Iron Fingers are Taichi's thing I'll pick him to win I guess.

Pick: Taichi

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at Enuffa.com!  This here is the first installment that features a film I'd give a full non-recommendation....


We're heading back to the 80s today, with a movie that heads back to the 40s through the early 70s.  The 1989 Best Picture winner was textbook 80s Oscar bait, a light-footed comedy-drama that kinda sorta tackled the issue of race in mid-century America but in a very safe, innocuous fashion.  I'm talking about Driving Miss Daisy, starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, and based on the 1987 stage play by Alfred Uhry.  DMD is about a rich southern widow who takes her car out for a spin one day and learns that at her advanced age she's no longer sound behind the wheel, driving it backwards into her neighbors yard and totaling the vehicle.  Her son (played by Dan Aykroyd) insists that he hire her a chauffer, a prospect she resists kicking and screaming.  But gradually Hoke (Freeman) wins her over with his calm demeanor and uncanny ability to handle her excitable, disagreeable nature.  Over the years Hoke becomes her most trusted companion, gradually helping her understand the ugliness of oppression and bigotry (something that as a Jewish woman in the Jim Crow south she begins to experience firsthand); Daisy exhibits some racist behavior early in the film but by the end actually attends a dinner where Martin Luther King speaks (though she fails to extend Hoke a proper invitation).  The pair age into retirement and are forced to separate, only visiting each other once in a while at Daisy's retirement home.  And, well, that's it.

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Followups

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

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 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.



Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Nomadland (2020)

And now for the second half of today's Oscar Film Journal - I've already talked about the film and performance I think SHOULD have won at the Oscars, here's the movie that DID win.


Based on Jessica Bruder's non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century, director Chloe Zhao's meditative, immersive docudrama stars Frances McDormand as a widow who lost her job at a manufacturing plant, the only major business in her town (which itself shut down once the plant folded), and became a traveling member of the "gig economy."  She takes seasonal work at a nearby Amazon plant and then drives around the country working at various locales such as a Badlands campground, the Wall Drug restaurant, and a sugar beet plant, but spends part of her time in an Arizona community with other nomads who haven't been able to find enough work to keep a permanent residence.  

The film is essentially a series of little episodes and vignettes as Fern (McDormand) develops friendships with her fellow roamers, spends some time with her sister in California, visits another nomad Dave (played by David Strathairn) who's now staying with his family, and just tries to keep her van maintained.  It's more of a non-narrative experience than a traditional film, its uniqueness no doubt the reason it earned so many accolades; Nomadland is about evoking mood and setting, not so much about a story.  

Oscar Film Journal: Promising Young Woman (2020)

The Oscars may be over, but I'm still pluggin' away at the Oscar Film Journal.  Because the Oscars got one award very wrong this year from where I sit....


I'll be reviewing the other side of this particular issue a bit later, but right now I'm focused on what I felt was the best of the Best Picture nominees, Emerald Fennell's explosive directorial debut, Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan in a career performance that, goddammit, should've won her the Best Actress award.  I've been a low-key fan of Mulligan's for about a decade now, after her dripping-with-sadness turn as Sissy in Steve McQueen's Shame, and again after her venom-spitting supporting role in Inside Llewyn Davis (I still often quote the phrase "Because you are SHIT!").  Mulligan is a veritable chameleon, as evidenced by the fact that until this past week I'd never heard her speak in her native English accent (which is as proper as that of Sherlock Holmes).  But her performance as Cassie in Promising Young Woman is a force of nature; she absolutely commands the screen in every frame, seething with righteous anger beneath a veneer of dark sarcasm.

If you're not familiar with the premise by now, Promising Young Woman is about a former med school student who dropped out after her best friend Nina was sexually assaulted by a classmate, and now roams bars and nightclubs pretending to be fall-down drunk so men will take her home.  But once she gets there she hits them with the truth, hoping to hold a mirror up to their complicity in perpetuating rape culture.  She reconnects with another classmate who seems to actually be a decent fellow, but when he mentions that Nina's rapist is now getting married, she hatches a plan to punish everyone involved.  

Monday, April 26, 2021

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 4 (#10-1)

Alright, now it's time for the really good shit.  The all-time great shit.  Such good shit.  



Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3



10. Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair - WrestleMania 37, Night 1


The historic WrestleMania 37 Night 1 main event was one of the most satisfying in recent memory.  For the first time ever two women of color main evented a WrestleMania card, delivering an athletically marvelous, emotionally resonant near-classic that created a brand new top star in the division.  Smackdown Women's Champion Sasha Banks turned in a Bret Hart-like performance as she steered the bout with a veteran's confidence and made her relatively inexperienced challenger look like a megastar.  Bianca Belair played the self-assured, prodigious, eminently likable babyface to the hilt, keeping up with Banks and displaying incredible athletic feats, not the least of which was a spot where she caught Banks on an outside-the-ring dive, rolled through, pressed her over her head, and walked up the ring steps to toss her back in.  After a clever tug of war with Bianca's hair braid that ended with Bianca using it like a whip on Sasha (complete with a sickening crack and a nine-inch welt across Sasha's ribs), the challenger landed a 450 splash and a Kiss of Death finisher to win her first WWE gold.  Off-camera Sasha smiled with satisfaction, watching her opponent bask in the glory of the moment she helped engineer.  Both women shined here; Bianca earned her spot as the new face of the division, while Sasha cemented her place as one of the best women wrestlers in WWE history.
  



9. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins) - WrestleMania 31


Maybe the most unexpectedly great WrestleMania main event took place at the 2015 edition, as the reviled babyface Roman Reigns challenged the unstoppable Mayor of Suplex City (a phrase he coined during this match), Brock Lesnar.  Brock had decimated John Cena for the WWE Championship at the previous SummerSlam, allowing almost no offense during their 16-minute squash, and then all but disappeared with the title for most of the next six months.  At the 2015 Royal Rumble Brock, Cena and Seth Rollins had a spectacular Triple Threat match, where Brock turned back both challengers in dominant fashion.  Enter Reigns, the company's handpicked "it" guy whom the fans wanted nothing to do with.  Reigns won the Rumble match that night to earn his WrestleMania spot, but was booed unmercifully, and this main event had all the markings of a dud; an absentee heel champion vs. an unliked babyface challenger.  But the match ended up being an exercise in brutality as these two monsters beat the piss out of each other.  Brock took a legit headbutt to the ring post which opened a huge gash on his forehead, while Reigns got suplexed into oblivion and kept getting up.  But the most memorable thing about the match was the unique finish, as Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase mid-match, curb stomping Brock, attempting a second stomp that was countered into an F5 attempt that was thwarted by a Reigns spear, and then curb stomping Reigns to win the match and the WWE Title.  The Santa Clara crowd exploded at the surprise finish and Rollins stood tall, swinging the strap over his head as Michael Cole dubbed the title change "The Heist of the Century."  Thus began Seth Rollins' excellent run as the company's top heel.




8. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XII


The longest match in WrestleMania history, and thus far the only Iron Man match at this event, pitted the company's top two babyfaces against each other in an unprecedented athletic display.  Bret Hart was the veteran technician, while Shawn Michaels was the charismatic upstart.  Planned as the first part of a trilogy of bouts designed as a torch passing, this match played out as an old-school grappling contest for much of the first half.  Shawn stymied the champion with an expected ground game, while Bret grew increasingly frustrated and employed some heelish tactics.  The second half picked up, with much more high-risk offense, but neither man could gain a pinfall.  In the closing moments Shawn went for a dropkick but Bret countered into a Sharpshooter.  Shawn withstood the pain for nearly a full minute as the clock ran down to zero, leaving the match a time limit draw.  But WWF President Gorilla Monsoon ordered the match restarted under sudden death rules, much to Bret's chagrin.  The angry champion attacked Shawn's weakened legs, but Shawn answered with a pair of superkicks to win the title and start off his main event run.  Given its slow pace and frequent lack of crowd heat, this bout hasn't aged as well as one would think, but it does stand as a singular achievement in WWE lore - a mostly pure scientific marathon between two of the company's all-time best.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The 93rd Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

Welcome to the 6th Annual Academy Awards Predictions column here at Enuffa.com, where my colleague Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I compete for bragging rights, prognosticating the Oscars!


As we all know, 2020 was the weirdest year ever for movies.  Thanks to COVID, very few films were actually released in theaters and the ones that were only saw modest-at-best box office receipts.  Many films were of course pushed back to avoid such financial disappointment, while others were made exclusive to streaming services or simultaneously released in theaters and at home.  The qualifying window was extended for this year's ceremony to include any film released between January 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021.  For the first time since the 1930s the Oscars include films released during two different calendar years.

As of this moment I've only seen four of the Best Pic nominees but I'm hoping to bang through a couple more this weekend before the show.  We shall see.  Mr. Drinan is ahead of me I think, and he's also been trouncing me in the predictions the past few years.  Come on, Ballard, get it together!



Best Picture

The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
Minari
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7


Justin:  Of the eight films this year I've seen Judas, Mank, Sound of Metal, and Chicago 7.  I admired a great deal the performances in Judas, I loved the noir atmosphere and score of Mank, I related to the personal connection to sound and music in Sound of Metal, and I found Chicago 7 yet another gripping screenplay by the master Aaron Sorkin.  Of the four I think Chicago 7 was my favorite in fact, but I know it's not taking home the statue, at least not in this category.  Of the four films I have yet to watch I'm really looking forward to Promising Young Woman, as I've heard glowing things about it.  But my pick for the gold this year is Nomadland, the story of a woman who loses her job and decides to, in the words of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, "walk the Earth."  I've heard mixed things about this one but it sounds like one of those fascinating character studies that's all about establishing mood and setting.  I think Nomadland will take home the trophy.

Prediction: Nomadland


Mike: I have seen all but Mank, Sound of Metal and The Father. Out of all that I've seen, Promising Young Woman is my favorite and I hope you get to see it this weekend because it's really good. I really enjoyed Chicago 7 and I'm not surprised it got nominated but it felt like an actor's film. You know, not Best Picture worthy but could nab some acting awards. I felt the same about Judas. Really great seeing Sacha Baron Cohen take on a serious role. He was good. Before awards season began, my frontrunner pick for Best Picture was Minari. Such a well-crafted story with a lot of heart and humility to the characters. I loved it. Buuuuut, you have to keep the thunder rolling throughout awards season and right now Nomadland seems to be a freight train that might be unstoppable. I am picking it to win but hoping for Minari with the upset.

Prediction: Nomadland


JB Update: I watched PYW last night and it's superb, I think I agree it's my favorite of the nominees. 



Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg - Another Round
David Fincher - Mank
Lee Isaac Chung - Minari
Chloe Zhao - Nomadland
Emerald Fennell - Promising Young Woman


Justin: Quite a diverse group of directors this year, two of whom are women (which I think is a record for this category), and two of whom are Asian-American (which I'm 99% sure is a record for this category).  Last year of course Bong Joon Ho became the first Asian director to take home the statue.  I think we'll see a streak formed this year, as Chloe Zhao is my pick to win for Nomadland, also making her the first female director since Kathryn Bigelow to win this award.  Side note, it's good to see David Fincher get his third Best Director nomination; hopefully one of these years he'll win one.

Prediction: Chloe Zhao


Mike: Chloe Zhao has been absolutely cleaning up in this category this awards season and I think the Academy will keep it going for her. 

Prediction: Chloe Zhao


Friday, April 16, 2021

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 3 (#20-11)

Moving on to round 3 of our countdown, here's where we get to the pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good stuff....




Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.



20. Chris Jericho vs. Triple H - WrestleMania X8


This might be the one WrestleMania main event that suffered the most from a bad build.  Chris Jericho famously defeated The Rock and Steve Austin in one night to become the Undisputed Champion, which surely should've boosted his credibility big time, right?  Well, no.  Upon winning the unified titles, Jericho was booked as a joke champion, often opening RAW and Smackdown in matches against guys like Maven and Tazz, whom he struggled to defeat.  Making things worse was Triple H's Royal Rumble win establishing him as the #1 contender at WrestleMania, because Hunter was much more concerned with his estranged wife Stephanie than with the task of defeating the Undisputed Champ.  Thus Jericho was portrayed as Steph's lackey, bringing her hand cream, watching her dog, ya know, stuff a World Champion does...  Y2J was made to look like such a lowly chumpstain it totally killed any interest in this main event, and on the night of the PPV the two headlined in front of a dead crowd (It didn't help of course that The Rock and Hulk Hogan had torn the house down and the crowd was just done after that).  These two worked a good match but everything fell flat, and thus Triple H's big moment was more of a whimper than a bang.  Imagine sabotaging your own main event program just to make yourself appear out of the other guy's league....




19. Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. The Big Show - WrestleMania 2000


WrestleMania 2000 has to be the strangest edition of all time (except for maybe the COVID one).  There wasn't a single solitary one-on-one match under standard rules (Terri vs. The Kat had an over-the-top-rope stip), and the main event was a Fatal 4-Way elimination match, just so they could shove the entire McMahon family into the proceedings.  Jesus H. Christ, if I never see any of these people on my TV again it'll be too soon.  So instead of the expected Rock vs. Triple H headliner they added The Big Show (who technically won the Royal Rumble due to The Rock's feet accidentally hitting the floor first) and then just to give Mick Foley a WrestleMania moment they unretired him to complete the square.  The match was fine, rather overlong, and in the end anticlimactic.  The Big Show got triple-teamed early and was ousted from the match in under five minutes, Mick Foley turned in a less-than-stellar performance, not having gotten back into ring shape in time, and Rocky and Hunter carried the bulk of the bout.  It seemed a foregone conclusion that The Rock would defy the odds and regain the WWF Title, but in the interest of swerving everyone, Rock's cornerman Vince screwed him, delivering two chair shots to allow Hunter to retain the belt.  The Rock flipped out after the match, hitting Stephanie with a Rock Bottom/People's Elbow combination.  A month later at Backlash The Rock would win the title back anyway, so in hindsight it seems silly not to just have him win at the biggest show of the year.  Then again Triple H's victory here was historic as the first time a heel left WrestleMania as WWF Champion.  This was a so-so main event. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 2 (#30-21)

Continuing with our WrestleMania main event rankings, let's get into #30-21!  


Check out Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4



30. The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns - WrestleMania 33


WrestleMania 33 was one of those shows with about four potential main events, where I believe the company wasn't even sure until that weekend which bout would go on last.  The Universal Title match pitted Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, but you can't end a WrestleMania with a five-minute match, right?  Oh wait...  The WWE Title match was a laughably terrible Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt outing (later outdone in its awfulness with a rematch four years later).  The other marquee match that could've gone last was Triple H vs. Seth Rollins in a 25-minute mentor vs. student bout, which felt like a WrestleMania main event except that it took place three hours into a five-hour show.  But the company opted to put The Undertaker's swan song last, an intended passing of the torch to the current generation of stars, in particular Roman Reigns (Yup, Vince was still trying to make fetch happen with babyface Reigns at this point).  So the 52-year-old Undertaker, moving like a much older man, went out there and worked a 21-minute match with the spry, youthful Reigns, and more or less stunk up the joint, botching spots, hobbling around, and generally looking eons past his prime.  Reigns won the match after numerous spears, and in the segment's most memorable moment Taker took off his hat, coat and gloves and left them in the ring, as if to close the door on his legendary career.  The problem was, the match just wasn't very good, and Taker was so unhappy with his performance he unretired a year later, rendering the only truly effective part of the match meaningless.  It also didn't help that Taker's historic WrestleMania streak had already been broken three years earlier and thus Roman's win over him here was far less significant.  This is the kind of wastefulness that happens when you don't plan ahead and look at how a creative decision might affect the future.




29. Triple H vs. Roman Reigns - WrestleMania 32


Only slightly better than Reigns' third WrestleMania main event was his second, a dull, languid 27-minute outing against Triple H, who'd recently won a superfluous ninth WWE Championship at that year's Royal Rumble.  I know Seth Rollins' late-2015 knee injury threw a wrench into the company's WrestleMania plans, but was there seriously no one else they could've pushed into a WWE Title feud with Reigns here?  No?  Let's just go with another semi-retired part-timer in a top slot then.  Super.  Reigns had started to gain a bit of crowd support during his feud with Sheamus a few months earlier, Superman Punching Vince and savagely beating the Celtic Warrior to regain the championship after Sheamus's Money in the Bank cash-in.  But a month later at the Rumble the company booked him to look like an unlikable chump once more, as he voluntarily left the Rumble match to have a kayfabe injury tended to, only returning near the end.  Way to make your top babyface look the opposite of gallant.  Anyway, Hunter swooped in to win the belt, and the match was set for 'Mania, even though Dean Ambrose was WAY more over and in fact delivered a far superior match to this one only a few weeks earlier.  It's never a good sign when the B PPV three weeks before WrestleMania features a main event that bitchslaps the 'Mania one.  Maybe Ambrose should've gotten this spot instead, hmm?  But no, Vince was going to have his guy in the main event, and not surprisingly Roman failed to get over in a basic, sluggish Triple H snorer.  He'd drop the title to the returning Seth Rollins only a few months later, and then Dean Ambrose would immediately cash in Money in the Bank.  So the belt ended up on Dean after all....

Oscar Film Journal: Fatal Attraction (1987)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at Enuffa.com.  The awards are coming up fast....


Today's subject is a lurid piece of rather trashy pulp that not only made a fortune but somehow grabbed the Academy's attention, Fatal Attraction, starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close.  You all know the story by now - Douglas stars as Danny Gallagher, a high-powered New York lawyer who has a torrid weekend fling with a work associate, who then becomes a maniacal stalker looking to turn the affair into a relationship at all costs.  Played with complexity and legitimately frightening eroticism by Glenn Close, the character of Alex Forrest is one of the legendary cinematic femme fatales, and the role launched Close's career while earning her a well-deserved Oscar nod.  Douglas's performance is quite strong as well; he's made a career of playing very flawed protagonists desperately slipping to the end of their pitiful rope.  The unsung performance in the film (though she did also get a Supporting Actress nomination) is from Anne Archer as Danny's devoted wife, who doesn't suspect a thing until Alex begins to turn the Gallaghers' lives upside down.  Poor Beth Gallagher thinks her marriage is on solid ground until this whackjob boils her daughter's new rabbit (That's just uncalled for, Alex).  

Watching this film for the first time (I had seen bits and pieces and knew the major beats of the plot), I found myself thinking "THIS got a Best Picture nomination??"  It's obviously a well-made erotic thriller with strong performances by all three leads, and Close became something of a pop culture icon in the process, but let's take an honest look at this thing.  Fatal Attraction is an over-the-top film noir crossed with a checkout line romance novel (even the title evokes it).  Had the filmmakers been a little more daring they could've seriously explored the Alex Forrest character and her terrifying psychological issues, instead of just making her a full-on horror film maniac.  We get glimpses of nuance during the second-act fallout of the affair, as Alex manipulates Danny in different ways to get him to stay in her life.  But the producers changed the climax of the movie from a disturbing but believable suicide/murder frame-job ending to something resembling a slasher film denoument, complete with a "killer's not really dead" moment.  I get why they reshot this; it's a crowd-pleasing Hollywood finish, but it lowers the material from a sophisticated grown-up thriller to popcorn schlock.  They weren't even all that imaginative in the execution either; there are shovel-to-the-face obvious suspense tropes, like the killer popping up in the bathroom mirror behind one of the good guys, or a shot of the married couple sleeping and a slow pan over to the phone just before it suddenly rings at 2am, or a water-level shot of the full bathtub just before the killer pops out of the water.  This stuff is B-movie cheeseball, and simply has no place in a supposedly Oscar-worthy film.

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 1 (#40-31)

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, or should I say, Top FORTY Things, here at Enuffa.com!  I know WrestleMania 37 is now in the history books, but for the first time in years the WrestleMania mood stuck with me days after the show, so I'm running with it.  To that end I decided to put every WrestleMania main event in order from worst to best, and split it into four parts so as to make it a little more digestible for you folks.  "But Justin," you're probably saying, "How can there be a Top 40 when there have only been 39 WrestleMania shows?"  Well, I'll explain that one in a bit.


WrestleMania is of course the biggest PPV of the year, a time when athleticism and spectacle intermingle on the biggest possible scale for one night a year (or two nights nowadays).  The results over the last near-four decades have been mixed, but when WWE is on their game, they're capable of transcending the art form.  When they aren't, it ranges from uninspired to the drizzling dumpster farts.  This list has a little of everything, as the WrestleMania main event has historically been overshadowed by another match on the card more often than not (roughly two out of every three times by my calculation).  But whether or not the participants deliver in the final match of the evening, the WrestleMania main event is the ultimate goal for just about everyone who throws their hat into the wrasslin' ring.  It's an honor bestowed only on a select few, and even fewer truly make their moment count.  Let's peruse the WWE archives and see which 'Mania main events have measured up and which ones belong on history's scrap heap.....

Click here for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4



40. Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania IX


Alright, so I said earlier I'd explain why there are 40 entries on this list, and here's the reason.  WrestleMania IX's main event as officially announced was Bret Hart defending the WWF Championship against newly minted monster heel Yokozuna, who earned his title shot at the 1993 Royal Rumble.  That match took place as planned, but immediately afterwards Hulk Hogan showed up to protest the result (Yokozuna beat Bret after Mr. Fuji threw salt in the champ's eyes), and Yokozuna challenged him to a match on the spot.  Nevermind that it made zero sense for the brand new *heel* WWF Champion, who'd just endured a grueling nine-minute match, to challenge a fresh babyface for an impromptu title defense.  Hogan accepted with Bret's blessing (which also made no sense as Bret and Hogan had never really interacted before), dodged an errant salt throw from Fuji that landed in Yoko's eyes (Apparently salt is the deadliest weapon ever, as it was responsible for two title changes in one night), and dropped his big stupid leg to win the WWF Title only two minutes removed from the PPV's official main event finish.  A guy who wasn't even booked to headline the show walked away with the gold (an occurrence which would repeat 22 years later under much better circumstances) while the two new main event guys were made to look like chumps.  This was goddamn disgraceful and entirely counterproductive at a time when the WWF desperately needed to move on from the Hogan Era, and worse, Hogan would take the belt home for two months, reneging on his backstage promise to put Bret over at SummerSlam.  To paraphrase George Carlin, fuck Terry, Terry sucks.  This "match" is the worst main event in WrestleMania history, but I'll be goddamned if I'm not also going to acknowledge that show's true main event on this list.  Hence Bret vs. Yokozuna will appear as well, bringing the total number of entries to 40.




39. Sgt. Slaughter vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania VII


Speaking of Terry and sucking, the main event of WrestleMania VII was centered around the recently returned Sgt. Slaughter, who instead of being the heroic American soldier we all knew and tolerated, announced himself as an Iraqi sympathizer, complete with a Saddam Hussein lookalike manager and a flag burning.  He defeated The Ultimate Warrior at the Royal Rumble, thus robbing fans of a Hogan-Warrior rematch which would've done ENORMOUS business, and setting up this stinker of a main event instead.  Fans were so unimpressed with this bout headlining the show in fact, WrestleMania VII had to be moved from its original 100,000-seat location at the LA Coliseum to the much smaller 16,000-seat LA Sports Arena.  The match in practice was about as good as it looked on paper, which is to say it wasn't good.  At all.  Hogan and Slaughter plodded around the ring for a pretty excruciating 21 minutes before Hogan put a merciful end to Slaughter's title reign, and this match.  Ridiculously their feud would continue until SummerSlam, a full six months after our real-life skirmish in Iraq had ended.
 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Top Ten Things: Undertaker WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today we're talking about The Phenom, The Deadman, The Conscience of WWE, and his greatest bouts at WWE's biggest PPV of the year, WrestleMania!



Probably the greatest streak in fake sports was the one held by The Undertaker, a winning streak at WrestleMania that lasted over two decades and led to one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history when it was broken.  What started as an organic bit of booking happenstance evolved into possibly the biggest perennial feature on The Showcase of the Immortals.  Suddenly there was a built-in long-term storyline for one of the top WrestleMania matches every year, and for quite a while Taker's match either stole the show or came damn close.  Even after The Streak was broken by Brock Lesnar, Taker's match would continue to be one of the top featured attractions.

But which of his 'Mania showings stand atop the others?  Here now are, in my estimation, The Undertaker's greatest WrestleMania bouts....




10. Undertaker vs. Kane - WrestleMania XIV


Taker's first great 'Mania bout didn't occur until he'd already established a six-match winning streak (Yes, his 1996 match with Diesel was solid, but aside from that his 'Mania outings up until this point were forgettable at best).  In 1997 Taker was involved in a long storyline arc wherein his former manager Paul Bearer revealed he had a long-lost half-brother named Kane (Ironically Kane was actually Taker's first name when he debuted).  The company built up Kane's first appearance for several months before he attacked Taker during the first Hell in a Cell match, and from then on he was established as an unstoppable monster.  Also to the company's credit, they held off giving away too much physical interaction between the Brothers of Destruction, so by the time this match finally took place it truly felt like Taker would be facing his ultimate adversary.  The match itself didn't disappoint; the two behemoths delivered a very physical fight that Taker was only able to win via three consecutive Tombstone piledrivers.  Even in a loss, Kane was set up as a major star.




9. Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - WrestleMania 21


After a serious in-ring slump in 2003-04, Taker was able to return to form in this underrated match with the Legend Killer.  Orton had just finished a horribly failed babyface run in late 2004 and the company wisely turned him heel again, leading to Orton challenging Taker to a Legend vs. Legend Killer match.  These two worked extremely well together, delivering one of the better matches on the card that ended with Taker reversing an Orton Tombstone into his own for the win.  Taker and Orton would go on to have a series of strong matches throughout 2005, in a feud that helped re-elevate Orton.




8. Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVII


In 2011 both The Undertaker and Triple H returned from a long hiatus.  Taker's return was teased ahead of time, but just as he was about to cut a promo the familiar strains of Motorhead filled the arena, announcing The Game.  The two veterans stared each other down before Hunter wordlessly made a challenge by turning his gaze to the WrestleMania 27 sign.  The match itself, while full of typical No-DQ frills, was a fairly epic, very dramatic WWE-style main event with some great gasp-inducing nearfalls.  Taker finally won with Hell's Gate but was so exhausted he had to be stretchered to the back on a forklift.  But these two would outdo each other one year later, both in terms of storytelling and action.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Top Ten Things: Women's WrestleMania Matches

Well it's been a while, but welcome to a brand new edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I make a list of ten things and put them in a certain order.  It sounds so arbitrary when I phrase it like that....


Today I'm talking about matches taking place at WrestleMania, specifically women's matches.  Say what you will about WWE's annual spring spectacular or its product in general - the quality is hit-or-miss at best nowadays, and we went from obscenely long five-plus-hour shows to a two-night WrestleMania weekend (which I much prefer over the former).  But one thing we seem to be able to count on in recent years is that at least one offering from the women's division will deliver in the clutch.  WWE boasts by far the most robust, talented roster of female grapplers in the business these days, and while there's still too much of a focus on Vince's preferred type, in the form of Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, Carmella, Lacey Evans, etc., the cream has consistently risen to the top of WWE's women's division.  Said division has come a very long way from the Divas matches of old, usually sandwiched in between far more important bouts and only alotted 4-6 minutes, or worse, given the eye candy treatment of Bra & Panties matches, Playboy pillow fights, and other stupidity.  For every time Trish Stratus or Lita attempted to transcend back in the day there were upwards of a dozen other instances of the women being presented as either an afterthought or a debasement.  But now the women's division has become one of the featured attractions at the Showcase of the Immortals, sometimes in more than one bout.  Hell, there are times when they end up more or less saving the show.  Here now are the ten best women's matches in WrestleMania history (and for the purposes of this article I've included one mixed tag match).




10. Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler - WrestleMania 36


2020's WrestleMania was an odd one thanks to COVID restrictions preventing it taking place in front of an audience.  The two nights were taped the week before, with very mixed results.  One of a few mild Night 1 successes was this RAW Women's Title match, pitting the uber-popular Becky Lynch against the winner of that year's women's Elimination Chamber, Shayna Baszler.  Shayna had singlehandedly run through all her Chamber opponents on the way to 'Mania, and it was expected she'd steamroll Lynch on her way to main roster gold.  But odd booking prevailed and Becky countered a Kirafuda Clutch with a Bret Hart-style rollup to retain the title at 8:30.  Not a great match by any means, but a solid showing from both women, and to date Becky Lynch's last WrestleMania appearance, wherein she'd all but guaranteed reaching a full year as the champion.




9. Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax - WrestleMania 33


This Fatal 4-Way Elimination match came to be after Charlotte lost the RAW Women's Title to Bayley on an episode of RAW.  She then also lost in her bid to regain the belt at Fastlane (her first-ever loss on a main roster PPV).  Sasha meanwhile had been feuding with Nia, and both of them beat Bayley in non-title matches to earn a spot here.  This match was a step down from the WrestleMania 32 women's Triple Threat match but still featured some fun action.  Charlotte, Sasha and Bayley triple-teamed Nia Jax to get her eliminated first, Charlotte eliminated Banks with the help of an exposed turnbuckle, and Bayley quickly used the same turnbuckle to defeat Charlotte and retain.  This saga could've easily been better planned by having Bayley win the title from Charlotte at WrestleMania 33, thus ending her previously undefeated streak on PPV.  But aside from squandering a bigger moment this match was a pretty good showcase of the burgeoning RAW women's division.

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Demotions

Hey everyone, welcome back to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com


In anticipation of this year's spring extravaganza, I thought I'd go back and take a look at some of the worst WrestleMania demotions in history.  What do I mean by that?  Well I'm talking about instances where a particular wrestler either main evented or semi-main evented a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania.  I picked the ten twelve most glaring examples of this and I'm presenting them in chronological order.  Here we go.



1. Paul Orndorff - Main Eventer to Curtain Jerker


"Mr. Wonderful" was one of the great WWF heels of the 80s.  His feuds against Hulk Hogan were the stuff of legend.  Unfortunately Orndorff was also kind of a split personality, character-wise.  Nowadays certain wrestlers turn face and heel with the frequency of an 80-year-old with incontinence (see Show, Big), but in the 80s a character turn was a big deal.  Orndorff however was unusually fickle, feuding with Hogan, befriending him six months later, turning on him again, befriending him again, etc. 

Orndorff headlined the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Roddy Piper against Hogan and Mr. T.  Despite taking the pinfall, Orndorff was featured in one of the biggest matches in company history.  At 'Mania 2 though, a babyface Orndorff found himself opening the show in a totally forgettable four-minute double countout with Don Muraco.  Thus the tradition of WrestleMania Stock Drops began.




2. King Kong Bundy - Caged Monster to Comedy Act


King Kong Bundy was a legitimately scary dude in 1986.  He was a 6'4", 450-pound wall of humanity with a shaved head, whose finisher simply consisted of squashing a guy in the corner of the ring.  He challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at 'Mania 2 in a Steel Cage match (The first and only time a WrestleMania has been headlined by such a bout).  While no five-star classic, the match cemented Bundy as an imposing threat to the Title.  Fast-forward a year later, and Bundy was stuck in a goofy comedy match, teaming with two minis against perennial jobber-to-the-stars Hillbilly Jim and two other minis.  After only three-plus minutes, Bundy earned a disqualification by bodyslamming Little Beaver.  A far cry from nearly dethroning the WWF Champion the previous year.


Monday, April 12, 2021

WWE WrestleMania 37, Night 2: The Bad Guys Win Everything

WrestleMania 37, Night 2 was a pretty good show overall, by my estimation a small step down from Night 1, but with plenty to enjoy, including another stellar main event.  I will say it was refreshing to have two WrestleMania shows where the main event outshined everything else - that doesn't happen often; it's been six years since the last time.  Maybe the weirdest thing about Night 2 was the fact that of the seven matches, six were won by heels.  What a downer.


WWE got the worst crap out of the way early, with Randy Orton vs. The Fiend as the opening match.  There was a bunch of stupid visual effects-related stuff leading to Bray Wyatt's entrance, including his morphing from the burnt Friday the 13th Part 6 version of The Fiend back to the regular one.  He emerged from a giant jack-in-the-box and hit Orton with a diving clothesline, and we were off (complete with the headache-inducing red lighting that by all rights should've long ago lost someone their job).  These two did a competently worked five-minute match that ended with Wyatt about to hit Sister Abigail on Orton, only to be distracted by Alexa Bliss leaking black ooze all over her face.  Orton took advantage to hit Wyatt with the RKO for the pin, the lights went out, and when they came back up everyone was gone.  Ummm, what?  So Orton burned this guy alive, he disappeared for three months, returned at Fastlane to set up his great revenge at WrestleMania, and lost in five minutes?  Seriously, kill this character off.  He sucks.  Go back to swamp-dwelling Bray Wyatt with the whole world in his hands.  This Fiend shit is early-90s WWF terrible.  Fuck this feud.  *

The second-worst match of the night was next as Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax defended against Tag Team Turmoil winners Natalya and Tamina, and while clunky and sloppy in spots, this was decent.  Shayna and Nattie worked well together, Nia and Tamina did big power moves on each other.  Shayna at one point hit a knee lift that apparently caused Nattie to bite right through her lip - sweet jeezus that had to hurt.  The finish came at 14 minutes when Nattie locked Nia in a sharpshooter, unaware that Nia had blind-tagged Shayna in.  Shayna came up from behind and locked in the kirafuda clutch, causing Nattie to pass out.  This was pretty good but insanely got more time than anything except the main event.  That's fucking mental.  **

WWE WrestleMania 37, Night 1: Sasha & Bianca Deliver Big

WrestleMania 37 is in the books, the first WWE shows in front of a proper audience in 13 months, and the second WrestleMania to be split across two nights.  Overall each night was an enjoyable affair with some good to very good matches, two excellent main events, some questionable booking (par for the course in this company), and the crowning of a couple of new stars.  Night 1 was the more successful show, more consistent and with better time management, but Night 2 was a solid outing in its own right.  But we'll get to that....


Night 1 opened, after a 30-minute rain delay (kinda shocking that this is the first time this has ever happened for an outdoor WrestleMania) during which numerous stars cut actual unscripted promos for the first time in forever, with the WWE Title match.  Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre were given 18 minutes and made the most of it, with a hard-hitting hoss battle.  Drew got all of his big moves in and went for the Claymore but MVP pulled Lashley out of the ring to save him.  Drew dove over the ropes onto both guys, broke out a kimura lock (homage to Brock Lesnar?), and eventually set up for the Claymore again, but MVP yelled from ringside to Bobby, which distracted Drew long enough for Bobby to duck the kick and apply the Hurt Lock.  Drew fought it for a while and tried to fall back on top of him for a pin, but Lashley rolled through and held on, pulling Drew to the mat and wrapping his leg over.  The ref checked on Drew and called the match for Lashley due to a pass-out.  This seemed like the wrong finish for the first match in a year in front of fans - if Lashley was going to retain they should've put this match somewhere else on the card.  Just a really odd, decisive finish for the heel champion if McIntyre is getting a rematch later (which I assume he is).  It was almost like The Rock losing to Triple H at WrestleMania 2000.  Plus it made Miz's brief title run utterly pointless.  But anyway the match was very good.  ***3/4


Match #2 was not so good, and it was the Tag Team Turmoil match.  I was fully expecting the surprise return of Becky Lynch with Charlotte Flair as her partner, but that didn't happen so we were stuck with the five announced teams.  Carmella and Billie Kaye beat Naomi and Lana with an assisted rollup, then tried the same tactic on the Riott Squad but the ref broke it up.  Ruby Riott pinned Billie Kay after a senton.  The Riott Squad also beat Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke after a rollup.  Then Tamina and Natalya won the whole match after Tamina hit a Superfly splash off the top rope.  Not much to this.  *1/2