Tuesday, August 31, 2021

NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam at MetLife Dome Preview & Predictions

NJPW is back with another stadium show that in the time of COVID can't possibly sell out, Wrestle Grand Slam!

This weekend it's back-to-back nights at the MetLife Dome in Tokozawa, and we've got a slew of title matches on tap.  Night 1 especially looks very promising, with the long-awaited return of Kota Ibushi in the main event, plus a big first-time collision of former RPG3K members Sho and Yoh.  Night 2 on the other hand has Hiromu Takahashi returning to try and reclaim the belt he never lost.  Both nights will feature a Stardom exhibition match on the pre-show, which should be fun.  I've never actually seen a Stardom match but I've been meaning to.  Regardless both shows feature some potential classics.  Let's take a look.....

Night 1

Flying Tiger vs. Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi

The warmup tag match will see Takahashi getting his feet wet before his big title match on Night 2.  I don't expect this to go very long and I think Tiger Mask IV is there to eat the pin.

Pick: LIJ

Sho vs. Yoh

This should be pretty great.  Sho in particular is awesome and I'm excited to see what he can do as a new heel.  It's almost a Shawn vs. Marty dynamic.  I see some singles championships in Sho's future and maybe Yoh's as well.

Pick: Sho needs to win the first contest

Friday, August 27, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Empire Records

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I take a closer look at either a flawed old favorite, a lofty disappointment, or a cult flop.  Today's subject is the latter.  It's the 1995 box office bomb Empire Records, a film that was little more than a thin excuse to sell a soundtrack album, but with a surprisingly accomplished cast and a heart that's actually in the right place.

Empire Records is yet another 90s slacker comedy that takes place in one day, centered around a group of teens working in a music store.  The assistant manager learns at the outset that the store's owner is getting ready to sell this Delaware fixture to a retail chain, and takes drastic measures to try and prevent this tragedy.  The rest of the story sort of hinges on this moment, but each character has his or her own personal arc, and for a critical and commercial bomb the screenwriters juggled all these threads somewhat admirably.  But yeah, this movie absolutely TANKED at the box office and didn't gain any real recognition until its home video release, where it became a cult favorite.

Side note, Regency Enterprises executive Michael Nathanson greenlit this film, and was approached two days later with the script for a little movie called Clueless, which he promptly turned down because he was already making a teen movie.  Clueless of course went on to make a huge profit for Paramount.  Goddamn, that's gotta sting.

So let's settle into this record store groove and separate the hit songs from the stinkers....

The Awesome


For a teen comedy that flopped with both audiences and critics, this movie has a helluva lot of acting talent and future-star power.  Two-time Oscar winner Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler, Anthony LaPaglia, Debi Mazar, Robin Tunney, Maxwell Caulfield, and a few future character actors in Ethan Randall, Rory Cochrane, Johnny Whitworth and Brendan Sexton.  That's a pretty deep cast, and their respective characters supply many of the film's charms.  Pretty much every character is likable/relatable in some way.  Joe is the reluctant father-figure who'd do anything for his staff, Corey is the anxious overachiever, Gina is the loose girl with a heart of gold, AJ is the likable art student who's heartsick for Corey, Lucas is the lovable scamp who wants to save the store from becoming a stuffy corporate retailer.  This cast and their performances elevate the trite script above its station.

I like this group of crazy kids....

Capturing the 90s

90s nostalgia is big these days, and Empire Records has a ton of it.  Thus for us sad old adults, watching it now is like being transported back to those carefree college days of short skirts, Doc Martens, mom jeans, flannel shirts, front-curtained men's hairstyles (think 90s Johnny Depp), and post-grunge alternative.  Which brings us to the soundtrack, really the driving force of the film.  Empire Records was reviewed at the time as "a soundtrack in search of a movie," and I can't really argue much.  This movie feels like it was made just to sell records, thus the CD is loaded with transitory 90s artists like Gin Blossoms, Edwyn Collins, The Cranberries, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Better Than Ezra, while the film also includes Sponge, Dishwalla, Ass Ponys, etc.  Empire Records is exploding with 90s pop culture and it's hard now not to get swept up in all of it, particularly as someone who lived through that era.

Short-ass skirt? Check. Bare midruff? Check. Sad clown hair? Check.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Top Ten Things: Must-See Samoa Joe Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com, where I count down the ten best or worst of whatever's on my mind.  Today it's the mighty Samoa Joe, and his fantastic career.

I first became aware of Joe in 2003 when I attended a live ROH event, and upon hearing his name thought he'd be some kind of lame cartoon character.  When he appeared from behind the curtain I still wasn't convinced, based on his unconventional physique.  And then I saw him wrestle.  Folks, from 2003-2009 Samoa Joe was as good as anyone in the entire world at professional wrestling.  Unfortunately by '09 TNA had already spent about three years either underutilizing or completely wasting Joe's immense skillset, and he became rather unmotivated as a result, failing to build on his already stellar body of work.

Joe's NXT run from 2015-2017 was quite dominant and included two NXT Title reigns (I got to witness his first championship win over Finn Balor in person), and he eventually made it to the main roster for a while, where he had noteworthy scuffles with Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman, as well as a lengthy feud with old rival AJ Styles.  An injury sidelined him for over a year and he spent some time as a color commentator before being released and re-hired to NXT, becoming the brand's first three-time champion.

Anyway, here's a look at Joe's pre-WWE classics.....

10. Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk - ROH: Joe vs. Punk II - 10/16/04

Largely credited with putting both Punk and Joe on the Indy wrestling map, the second match of their much-heralded trilogy is widely considered to be the best.  Punk and Joe went a full hour for the second time, wrestling to a draw, in a match that pulled out all the stops and earned the elusive "five-star" rating from the Wrestling Observer.  I don't love it as much as others do, but it is quite an accomplishment from two of the best workers of the past two decades.

9. Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe - TNA: Final Resolution - 1/14/07

Joe and Angle fought several times on TNA PPV, and this was the third in an early trilogy that began with Angle's TNA debut.  TNA rather squandered the hugeness of the Joe-Angle feud, hotshotting this match immediately upon Angle's arrival.  However the matches speak for themselves, and their first encounter still stands as TNA's biggest PPV buyrate.  Anyway, the Final Resolution match was 30-minute Iron Man match full of drama and gutsy action.  It was evenly contested until the 25-minute mark when Angle pulled ahead 3-2, and Joe just barely failed to tie it up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The History of NXT TakeOver: 36

What may have been the final NXT TakeOver as we know the concept was a smashing success.  The 36th Network special from WWE's only consistently good brand featured nary a bad match, boasting two bouts that easily cruised into ****+ territory, and three others that were solid ***1/2 fare.

The show's unexpected hit opened things, as LA Knight defended the Million Dollar Belt against Cameron Grimes in a bout I had no interest in, but one that delivered in spades.  These two worked a blistering match with loads of high-impact offense including Grimes hitting his backflip powerslam after skinning the cat back into the ring and Knight hitting a top rope German suplex.  Knight tried to use the Million Dollar belt but Ted Dibiase took it away, tossed it into the ring to distract the referee, and locked Knight in the Million Dollar Dream.  He threw Knight back into the ring and Grimes put him away with his Cave-In double stomp to win back the title.  A very good opener that I enjoyed much more than I expected to.  ***1/2

Next up was the Women's title as former best friends Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai faced off in an intensely personal contest, a la Diesel vs. Shawn in 1995.  Dakota used her speed and flexibility to keep Raquel off-balance for the bout's first act.  Raquel seemed to take a little while to find her rhythm in this match but by the second half everything looked really good.  Kai at one point hit her Kai-ropractor, a Canadian Destroyer-like back-cracker that looks super cool.  She tried to finish Raquel with a Balor-esque top rope stomp but Raquel kicked out.  They fought on the top rope and Raquel withstood a yakuza kick and got off her Chignona Bomb from the second rope to retain.  Another very good match from a young champion solidifying herself as the division's leader.  ***3/4

Top Ten Things: CM Punk Matches

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

Today I'll be counting down the ten greatest matches of one of the most controversial figures in wrestling history, CM Punk

As he did a decade ago, CM Punk just became the most talked-about star in professional wrestling, having made his long-awaited return to the business on August 21st on AEW Rampage.  One of the most gifted talkers in wrestling history, Punk gave a heartfelt speech in front of one of the most molten live crowds I've ever seen, and laid the groundwork for a whole new lease on his career.  Now freed of WWE's creative shackles, Punk will be able to fully craft his own promos and matches, and lend his considerable artistic acumen to helping build a better future for both AEW and the wrestling industry at large.  I have no doubt he will leave AEW better than he found it, and in a few years I'll need to make amendments to this list, but regardless, Punk has undoubtedly cemented a legacy as one of the most fascinating and unconventional top wrestling stars of the last twenty years.  Here now are the ten best matches in the remarkable roller coaster career of CM Punk.

10. John Morrison vs. CM Punk - ECW TV 9.4.07

In 2007 Punk was a member of WWE's third brand, the revived (and horribly watered down) ECW.  Punk was handpicked by Paul Heyman to be the show's hot new star, and despite tepid feedback from the head office, became a major cult favorite.  After over a year of flirting with the ECW Championship and being passed over in favor of seemingly less appropriate candidates (Bobby Lashley anyone?), Punk would get his one last shot at then-Champion John Morrison (a great athlete but another odd choice to represent the "hardcore" brand).  Their hand somewhat forced by Morrison's suspension for a Wellness Policy violation, WWE finally gave Punk his first taste of gold on a weekly ECW episode.  After a fantastic back-and-forth match, Punk triumphed and began a short run with the ECW Title.

9. Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk - Joe vs. Punk II 10.16.04

Largely credited with putting both Punk and Joe on the Indy wrestling map, the second match of their much-heralded trilogy is widely considered to be the best.  Punk and Joe went a full hour for the second time, wrestling to a draw, in a match that pulled out all the stops and earned the elusive "five-star" rating from the Wrestling Observer.  I don't love it as much as others do, but it is quite an accomplishment from two of the best workers of the past decade.

Monday, August 23, 2021

WWE SummerSlam 2021: Becky Returns and Then Pisses People Off

Well, as expected WWE's SummerSlam 2021 was yet another mixed bag of a show.  A few of the matches were very good, a few of the matches were utterly pointless, and God forbid we have a WWE PPV without a moment that flat-out pisses people off.  SummerSlam had all of these things.  Vince McMahon once again proved he could fuck up a bag of Doritos.

The PPV kicked off with the RAW Tag Championship, as AJ Styles and Omos defended against RKBro in a short but energetic bout that brought to mind old school PPVs where the opening match was just an easily digestible warmup.  AJ did almost all the work for his team and meshed well with both opponents, there were some fun spots later in the match as Matt Riddle took an Omos apron slam and an AJ moonsault DDT on the floor, perfectly executed.  It boiled down to AJ and Orton, who missed his first RKO attempt but scored on the second, pinning AJ to win the straps.  The crowd loved this title change and Riddle was ecstatic, and even Orton looked happy.  Decent little opener.  ***

Immediately the streak of good matches ended as Alexa Bliss faced Eva Marie in a useless regular match that didn't belong anywhere near a PPV.  There was no supernatural bullshit, which was good, but we were subjected to an Eva Marie match, which was bad.  Bliss hit Twisted Bliss off the top, followed by a DDT for the win.  I can guarantee this match did not garner a single ticket purchase or Peacock subscription.  Why was this on this show?  *

Friday, August 20, 2021

WWE SummerSlam 2019 Preview & Predictions

I hope you've enjoyed our look back at SummerSlam's 30+ year history, because now it's time to predict this year's edition.  And it looks......kinda boring.  

Thanks to Vince McMahon's gnat-like attention span, this year's lineup comes off as one of the most disorganized in recent memory, if not ever.  There are some good on-paper matchups, but most of the rumored bouts I was excited for either got tossed off on free television the past two weeks, or in the case of Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan, Vince couldn't figure out how to get from Point A to B to C, in time for the third-biggest show of the year.  I'd like to repeat that.  Vince McMahon, who's been doing this job since 1983, couldn't move a feud between two of the company's biggest stars along fast enough to get the resulting match on his third-biggest PPV.  For one thing, this "career-altering announcement" Daniel Bryan teased three weeks ago simply got thrown out.  No payoff at all.  Because apparently no one watches these stupid shows week to week.  Attention religious WWE viewers: Vince McMahon thinks you're stupid.  Always has.  So Vince decided to nix that whole angle and instead positioned Bryan as the guy who's been mysteriously attacking Roman backstage, but waited so long that he only had 12 days to put the match together in time.  Still this could've happened, had he written the reveal to be on this week's RAW.  But no, he instead saved the Erick Rowan reveal for the last five minutes of the go-home Smackdown, so Bryan still hasn't even been established as the guy behind it all.  Fuck's sake.

Aside from Roman-Bryan, we're also not getting Nakamura-Ali (they booked Ali to beat Nak in a non-title match and then had him lose to someone else a week later, so the I-C Champ now has no feud), Aleister Black vs. Sami Zayn (given away for free), the RAW Tag Title match (Anderson & Gallows won it on RAW), the Women's Tag Title match (gave it away on RAW and had the wrong fucking team win - Asuka and Kairi need to get out of WWE, pronto).

But don't worry, this lineup is chock full of part-timers and old-timers.  Brock, Orton, Shane, Trish, and for fuck's sake, Goldberg, the guy whose match with the Undertaker is sure to win Worst Match of the Year honors.  No wonder young people don't watch this shit anymore, the two big title matches involve OVW Class of 2002 stars, Shane and Goldberg are 50, and Trish, god love her, hasn't been relevant since the Dubya administration.  You couldn't find room for Reigns, Bryan, Nakamura, Joe, Rey, Andrade, Black or Zayn on a SummerSlam card??  This is like the SummerSlams from 10-12 years ago where they just left off half the big stars for no reason.

Fuck it, let's get this over with....

Cruiserweight Championship: Drew Gulak vs. Oney Lorcan

Oh good, they found room on the show for 205 Live.  Look, I'm not pickin' on the cruiserweights, they're all very talented and their matches are basically always good.  But 205's viewership is simply not strong enough to justify this title getting represented on every PPV (or pre-show) when the Intercontinental and every set of Tag belts can't even make it on.  Seriously, why did they bother creating a Women's Tag Title and then do absolutely nothing with it?  Fuck.  Anyway, this'll be fine and will probably happen on the pre-show.  Gulak just won the belt last month, so he'll keep it.

Pick: Drew Gulak

Thursday, August 19, 2021

WWE SummerSlam 2021 Preview & Predictions

This Sunday, no wait, SATURDAY is SummerSlam 2021, and we've got ten matches of varying quality to preview!

Welp, after two years we'll finally get to see a SummerSlam take place in front of a live crowd, at a 70,000-seat stadium no less.  About half the show looks intriguing, about one quarter of the show looks pretty dull, and the remaining quarter looks like the drizzling shits.  Once again WWE has left some great talent on the shelf for the third-biggest show of the year while granting spots to numerous people who don't deserve them.  But we'll get to that, don't you worry.

Let's pick some winners....

Alexa Bliss vs. Eva Marie

What in the name of all things holy, THE FUCK, is this piece of shit match doing on a SummerSlam card?  Asuka doesn't have a match but these two zeroes do?  Don't get me wrong, Alexa can wrestle, but not as this dumbass Fiend continuation.  Fuck this storyline, fuck this gimmick, it's pure drivel and I can't believe anyone with a say in this company thinks it's quality television.  Hell, I can't believe these two women think it's quality television.  I dearly hope this gets bumped to the pre-show.

Pick: Alexa wins because we need to continue having her defecate all over the women's division with hypnotism and scary dolls.

Drew McIntyre vs. Jinder Mahal

Another piece of shit match.  Jinder Mahal has a spot on this show but Cesaro, Nakamura and Owens don't.  Let that sink in.  How the mighty McIntyre has fallen.  Dude went from the WWE Title picture for the better part of 18 months to trying to get a good match out of maybe the worst WWE Champion ever.  This is gonna suck.  Can we at least add Heath Slater so it's a 3MB Triple Threat?

Pick: Drew

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

NXT TakeOver 36 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to the predictions for possibly the final good NXT TakeOver special before Vince totally ruins the brand.  It's TakeOver 36!

Yup, the decree has come down from on high.  NXT will no longer be a viable brand in its own right with accomplished workhorses and an eclectic collection of up and coming stars.  Nope, we'll be going back to the 2005-2013 era where developmental is just a place to try and teach wrestling skills to a bunch of uncoordinated bodybuilders who all look and wrestle the same.  Imagine how out of touch a wrestling promoter has to be in 2021 to think the key to success is for every new star to look like Batista.  Hey Vince, NO ONE GIVES A FUCK WHAT THE GUY LOOKS LIKE ANYMORE.  We want to see wrestlers who can wrestle and connect with us.  The concept of a guy having THE LOOK went out the window a long fucking time ago.  Either let this shit go or step down.

Words cannot express how depressing NXT is about to become....

Anyway here's the lineup for Sunday.

Million Dollar Championship: LA Knight vs. Cameron Grimes

I didn't give a sloppy deuce about the Million Dollar title back in the day and I certainly don't now, thirty years on.  Why they brought back this gimmick I'm sure I don't know.  Neither of these guys does all that much for me either, so I don't expect much of this match.  I do expect both of these guys to get called up in the somewhat near future and not used.  Because that's what NXT is going back to.

Pick: I guess Cameron wins the belt?

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Top Ten Things: Megadeth Albums, Ranked

Welcome to a special extended edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I rank stuff.

Today it's the 35-plus-year album catalog of speed metal titans Megadeth!  That's right, I'll be ranking all fifteen albums released by the former Metallica founding member and his revolving door of backing musicians - of the Big Four thrash bands, Megadeth has been the most prolific, despite their colleagues having a two-year head start.  Man, back in high school and college I lived for Megadeth, holding them higher even than Metallica for several years.  I got my first taste of the band in early 1990 with the purchase of Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? and from then I was hooked (in mouth).  Dave Mustaine was my guitar (and hair) hero, and I spent way too much time copying his playing style (my voice at the time was more suited to Hetfield's so I became a wannabe amalgam of the two).  The release of a new Megadeth album became a long-awaited event every couple years and it was a common occurrence for me to purchase the album and give it multiple listens on the first day.  Sadly as with all 80s metal bands the mid-to-late 90s were not kind, and Megadeth lost a lot of their cool factor around this time.  They experimented heavily with different sounds and styles with varying results, before returning to a traditional metal timbre in the early aughts.  But while most Megadeth fans fully welcomed the band's thrashy 21st century output, I found myself quite underwhelmed by most of it; to me it sounded like a copycat band trying to recreate Megadeth's signature sound rather than Megadeth returning to form.  So be warned, the bottom half of this list is heavily skewed toward Megadeth's recent work.  But enough blathering on, let's get after it....

15. Endgame

This album got a lot of praise on its release (and ever since) but I think it's probably the band's worst album.  Yes it's heavy and yes it's full of thrashy riff shredding, but Dave apparently had somehow lost the ability to write a vocal melody in the mid-2000s, as nearly all of his vocal parts on this album involve shoehorning lyrics obviously written without a clear melody in mind.  And rather than hone them it sounds like he just slapped on whatever meandering melodic idea would fit the number of syllables.  Aside from the choruses of "1320'," "Head Crusher," "How the Story Ends," and "The Right to Go Insane," there isn't a strong vocal idea on this album, and Dave's range here is nonexistent; when did he lose his upper register?  Couple that with technically impressive but joyless instrumentals (I feel like nearly every lead guitarist/drummer combination since Friedman and Menza has been largely devoid of personality in their playing), and Endgame is a chore to sit through, like a Megadeth tribute band trying to approximate a Megadeth album.  4.5/10

Key Tracks: "1320'," "Head Crusher," "How the Story Ends"

14. Dystopia

Megadeth's most recent album may be technically really impressive and convey a bit more enthusiasm than the handful of records before it, but aside from "The Emperor" and "Post-American World" there isn't a memorable song in earshot.  The songwriting is simply not there, nor is Dave's voice up to the task of matching the music's aggression and complexity.  I was into just about every song until his vocals came up.  Also at a certain point the whole "Everything's going to hell," conspiracy-minded right-wing subject matter feels disingenuous coming from a guy who's been rich and famous for the last thirty years - what exactly are you rebelling against at this point?  Lyrical gripes aside, if I want to hear a recent metal album that's both aggressive and bursting with technical wizardry I'll pop in Haken's Vector, not this.  5/10

Key Tracks: "The Emperor," "Dystopia," "Conquer or Die!"