Thursday, April 28, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Superman II

Welcome back to's Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I examine what exactly draws me to certain films that so spectacularly fail to live up to their potential.

Continuing with the superhero theme from last time, today I'll be dissecting the only good sequel from the vaunted Christopher Reeve franchise, Superman II!

In 1978 Richard Donner was tasked with directing two epic Superman films back-to-back.  Unfortunately budget and schedule issues would force him to shelve the second movie and focus on delivering the first, lest producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind fail to see a return on their massive financial investment.  Released in December 1978, Superman: The Movie was a huge commercial and critical success, ensuring the intended sequel could now be completed.  But after months of creative tension during the incredibly long shoot, the Salkinds opted not to bring Donner back to finish the second movie (It was estimated that about 75% of the footage was already completed).  Instead comedy director Richard Lester (of A Hard Day's Night fame) was brought in, and in order to officially receive directorial credit he'd need to not only complete the remaining 25%, but also reshoot a third of the already-completed footage.

The result was an immensely entertaining but horribly inconsistent sequel, featuring very divergent visual styles from two completely different directors.  This coupled with obvious continuity problems stemming from the principle actors' appearances noticeably changing between 1977 and 1980 gave Superman II a rather disjointed feel.

So let's take a look at what worked and what didn't, about this beloved Superman sequel!

The Awesome

Christopher Reeve

As with the first movie, Reeve embodied the perfect fusion of wholesome farmboy shyness and statuesque physical presence to bring to life what is still thus far the best cinematic interpretation of the Man of Steel.  This is one of those roles that a particular actor was born to play.  Reeve just captured the essence of this iconic figure and his alter-ego so brilliantly I'm not sure anyone will ever match his performance.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2022 Preview & Predictions

Wow, has it really been four months since I did NJPW picks?  Jesus, I gotta get back on the horse.

Welcome to a long-overdue round of New Japan Pro Wrestling predictions here at  This weekend it's the annual Wrestling Dontaku show, and unlike most of NJPW's recent cards this one actually looks like a proper PPV lineup, with six championship matches and a pair of strong main events.  NJPW's product has been struggling of late, with travel limitations preventing some valuable talent from appearing, underfilled, noise-restricted arenas providing a less-than-exciting backdrop for the matches, and some questionable booking moves keeping the company from reaching its previous creative heights.  But the recent New Japan Cup and Windy City Riot both point to things picking back up in the coming months, and holy fuckin' shit, we're getting an AEW vs. NJPW PPV in June!

But first, let's look at the Dontaku lineup.....

Tatsumi Fujinami, Shingo Takagi & Bushi vs. Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taka Michinoku

Tatsumi Fujinami is making a rare in-ring appearance at the ripe age of 68.  I don't expect him to do much here, particularly since he's teaming with Shingo (and Bushi), who can easily carry the load for his side.  This match should be an enjoyable opener to warm up the crowd.  I don't see Fujinami's squad losing; I think Michinoku is here to eat a pin.

UPDATE: Fujinami has tested positive for COVID and is being replaced by a mystery partner.  No idea who that could be.  Maybe Kushida?

Pick: LIJ & TBD

Hiromu Takahashi vs. Yoh

This one should be pretty damn good - two of the Jr. Heavyweight division's most accomplished babyface stars facing off.  I wonder if the newly released Kushida will make an appearance on this show, either after this match or after the Jr. Title match later on.  I'm not sure if he's dealing with a no-compete or not, but his return to NJPW can't get here fast enough.  But that's neither here nor there.  The upshot is, this match should be really good and likely one of the best things on the show if given time.

Pick: Takahashi

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Dead Poets Society

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at!  It's time once again for me to cut open a beloved classic and tell you all why it's not as good as everyone seems to think it is.

Today's example is the critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning 1989 film Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams as an anti-establishment teacher at a prestigious prep school, who forms a close bond with his students and encourages them to be forward-thinking dream followers.  His unconventional teaching style comes into question and soon has repercussions quite at odds with the school's cookie-cutter approach to education.

This film was a big hit and built on Robin Williams' Good Morning Vietnam success as a serious (albeit slightly comedic) actor.  It would be his second consecutive role to earn him a Best Actor nod.

So why do I consider DPS an Awesomely Shitty Movie you ask?  Well let's take a closer look....

The Awesome

Robin Williams

Dead Poets Society was the second mainstream film to showcase Robin Williams' considerable dramatic chops.  Generally known for his manic, zany comedy antics, Williams mostly delivers a nuanced, understated performance as the benign, free-spirited Literature professor, and we believe it when the students become inspired by him.  The scene where he coaxes a spontaneous, evocative poem out of the cripplingly shy Todd Anderson is genuinely touching, while his emotional breakdown after Neil's death is a briefly heartbreaking moment.  Aside from a few moments where he veered way too far into typical Robin Williams territory, this was a fine performance that elevated Williams as an Oscar-caliber actor.

Stop making me cry, Mork!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Oscar Film Journal: CODA (2021)

It's been a while but welcome back to the Oscar Film Journal, here at!

Today I'll be talking about a film that just became the 94th to win the Best Picture Oscar, CODA.  Sian Heder's heartwarming family dramedy concerns a high school senior named Ruby Rossi (played by prodigious English actor/musician Emilia Jones), born of a deaf family working in the Gloucester, MA fishing industry.  Despite being the youngest member of her family, her parents and older brother depend on Ruby to help run the business and navigate its political and regulatory ins and outs, as part of the local union.  Specifically fishing boat fees are becoming prohibitively expensive and everyone is struggling just to break even, and finally Ruby's father Frank (a superb Troy Kotsur in an Oscar-winning performance) decides to start his own independent company.  Ruby becomes more integral to the family business than ever as she's asked to promote the new venture and get other anglers on board.  

The problem though, is that fishing isn't Ruby's passion, music is.  Turns out Ruby is a helluva singer, and her high school music teacher takes an interest in helping develop her natural ability, grooming her for a scholarship audition at Berklee College of Music.  Torn between loyalty to her family and a chance to break out of Gloucester and do what she loves, Ruby finds herself at odds with her mother (an excellent Marlee Matlin), who's scared to let Ruby go both for personal and business reasons and who doesn't understand Ruby's passion for music, having never heard it.  But Ruby's brother Leo resents that the family is so dependent on her and feels overlooked and unappreciated for his contributions, telling Ruby that her passing up the chance to leave would be a slap in the face to people like him. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Batman (1989)

Hello and welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at, where I examine a wonderful piece of popcorn fare and essentially ruin it for everyone.

Today I'll be talking about the Father of Modern Superhero Movies, Tim Burton's 1989 opus Batman, starring Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michael Keaton as the title character.  When it first came out, Batman was a major pop culture event, garnering huge mainstream media coverage and all sorts of cross-promotion, in a manner not seen since the original Star Wars films.

Still a fantastically awesome poster.

Batman was something of a risk for Burton, as a dark, brooding superhero film had never been attempted, and most mainstream audiences still thought of the Caped Crusader in terms of the campy 1960s TV show.  But in the comics, Batman had long since returned to his Noir-ish roots, and Burton drew inspiration from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, as well as taking visual cues from Film Noir and German Expressionism.  The result was an unusually dark comic book film that took quite seriously the idea of a man dressing up as a bat to fight crime.

But while the movie felt absolutely right at the time, it has to a certain extent been rendered obsolete by some piss-poor sequels and Christopher Nolan's superb Dark Knight Trilogy, as well as Matt Reeves' new, even Film Noir-ier The Batman.  Watching Burton's film now is great fun for nostalgia purposes, but it honestly became a little hard to take seriously after the advent of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the good and the bad of Tim Burton's Batman....

The Awesome

Michael Keaton

Remember how outraged we all were when Keaton was announced as Batman?  As I recall the exact quote from everyone upon hearing the news was "What. The goddamn. Hell??"  But at the time Keaton was a pretty splendid Batman/Bruce Wayne.  He brought a quiet sense of morose intensity to the role and despite not being at all physically suited to play a 6'2" 215-pound superhero, made us all believe he was The Dark Knight.  As with many aspects of this film, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy bettered Keaton's performance by a pretty wide margin (In fact, after watching Christian Bale in the suit, Keaton looked positively waifish by comparison), but his portrayal stood for 16 years as the best cinematic Batman.

Look at that six-pack.  That suit must work out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Top Ten Things: Star Trek Films

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

I've been a Star Trek fan since about the age of four when my parents were watching the original series on TV and I wandered into the room to see a weird dude with pointy ears and a bowl cut prattling on about space anomalies and whatnot.  From then I was hooked, and despite not understanding much of the sci-fi technobabble at that age, I could somehow easily identify with the gallant Captain Kirk, the crotchety Dr. McCoy, and of course the computer-minded Mr. Spock.  My fandom increased tenfold in the early 80s when I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and these characters and their adventures were presented on a much larger scale.  We were still treated to philosophical explorations of the human condition, but with much slicker production values and effects.

The Star Trek films were major events for me every 2-3 years and some of them still hold up among my favorite science fiction movies.  Thus far we've had three series of films; from 1979-1991 the original Star Trek cast graced the big screen, and then from 1994-2002 the Next Generation crew got their turn.  Finally in 2009 Paramount rebooted the series completely, recasting the original characters and converting Star Trek into more of a Star Wars-esque action franchise.

But how do the 13 movies stack up against each other?  This being a Top Ten Things column I'll only talk briefly about the three films I've ranked at the bottom.

Star Trek: Insurrection has to be the weakest in the entire series, with its half-hearted storyline about a society of 600 Ba'ku hogging the life-extending resources of an entire planet at the expense of their dying brethren the Son'a.  And for some reason the Enterprise helps the Ba'ku stay there.  Huh??  Don't the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

Next up is Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, a nigh-unwatchable mess of a film that clearly suffered from a Hollywood writer's strike, leaving director William Shatner without a coherent script.  This film cost $33 million, more than any previous Star Trek movie, yet the effects are Original Series bad.  Basically everything went wrong here, and the film fails to find a middle ground between goofy comedy and heavy emotional drama.

Our final entry to fall short of the top ten is Star Trek: Generations, the one that kicked off the NextGen films.  Generations has some fun moments but its convoluted plot involving an energy ribbon that somehow absorbs people and lets them live out their wildest fantasies simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny, nor does the shoehorned involvement of Captain Kirk.  And did we really need to see the Klingons and their Bird of Prey AGAIN??

Now that we've gotten the worst of the bunch out of the way let's look at the top ten Star Trek films....

10. Star Trek Beyond

Here's a movie I had high hopes for.  I'd read that this was the closest the new series has gotten to capturing the philosophical, character-driven bent of the original show.  And while Beyond has a little of that - Kirk for example laments early on that the ongoing voyage is taking its toll on him and his crew - sadly the film plunges almost immediately into an extended action sequence that leaves the Enterprise in pieces in a matter of minutes.  They don't treat poor Enterprise well in these films, do they?  Anyway, the crew gets separated during the space battle and we learn a little about the villain Krall.  Mostly that his name is Krall.  Seriously, this film uses a fine actor like Idris Elba pretty shabbily.  He's given nothing to do in the first two acts except bark angrily, and it's not until the final half hour we're told his motivation and his true identity; by then it's hard to care.  What I liked about this film: Kirk had some solid character moments, McCoy and Scotty had more to do, the new character Jaylah was very cool and likable, Krall and Kirk had one poignant scene toward the end, and the Spock-Uhura romance was barely present.  What I didn't like: Krall is motivated by revenge just like the last three Star Trek villains, Krall is barely a character beyond that, there's once again too much emphasis on Star Wars-y action, and Spock's wig looks terrible.  Distractingly so.  Star Trek Beyond is the weakest of the most recent series.  And what exactly does "Beyond" refer to?

9. Star Trek: Nemesis

Nemesis is a guilty pleasure.  It's a pretty terrible, unnecessarily dour affair featuring a young clone of Captain Picard trying to destroy the Enterprise, Romulus and Earth, and contains far too many Wrath of Khan callbacks and a go-nowhere subplot involving an earlier model of Data, but damn if it isn't entertaining drivel.  A young, far less jacked Tom Hardy plays Shinzon, Picard's clone who spent his childhood enslaved on Romulus's sister planet Remus, building up a severe hatred for both his Romulan oppressors and his "father" Picard.  He fashions a giant evil starship to exact his revenge, and all hell breaks loose.  This template of a revenge-obsessed villain with a gigantic ship would oddly be used in some form for all three reboot films, despite Nemesis tanking at the box office.  Still this film includes some of the best space battle sequences in the NextGen series, plus Tom Hardy!  But it's not good...

8. Star Trek (2009)

The 2009 reboot essentially took the original series characters, boiled them down to their most easily identifiable cursory traits, and turned them into action heroes.  This film is an all-thrusters-ahead popcorn movie that vaguely resembles the series we all know and love.  Casting was key here, and fortunately Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg do an admirable job of reimagining their characters while staying more or less true to their predecessors.  This film is all about setting up the new version of Star Trek and thus the main plot is fairly forgettable.  A revenge-hungry Romulan named Nero has been chasing a future incarnation of Mr. Spock through time in retaliation for Spock's failing to save Romulus from a supernova, and a space battle ensues between the brand new Enterprise and Nero's monstrous vessel.  Star Trek 2009 is full of slick visuals, engaging action and light humor but fails to explore profound human themes the way the original series did.  Still it's a fun popcorn movie with characters we can all relate to, so not a total miss.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Demotions

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

Now that this year's spring extravaganza is in the books, 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 featured very prominently in a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania.  I picked the ten fifteen 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 Demotions 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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Top Ten Things: Debut WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to yet another Top Ten Things, here at!

It's WrestleMania season and that means my brain looks for 'Mania-related nonsense to write about.  You can read a few of my previous such lists HERE, HERE and HERE.

Today I'll be talking about the greatest WrestleMania debuts in history.  By that I don't mean wrestlers who actually debuted at WrestleMania; that would be a short list that more or less begins and ends with Fandango (God, they actually jobbed out Chris Jericho to that guy....).  No, I mean the first WrestleMania match of a given wrestler or tag team (or in some cases multiple stars in the same match).  Looking back at the history of this great annual tradition, there have been some quite notable WrestleMania rookie performances.  In some cases a new star was launched right into the main event of the biggest show of the year, something that's basically unthinkable in today's WWE, where WrestleMania is more often than not The Showcase of Semi-Retirees.

But enough complaining; here, in chronological order, are the eleven greatest performances by WrestleMania rookies (plus four honorable mentions).  As noted, there are a couple of entries where I included every participant in a given match due to all of them being 'Mania first-timers.

Honorable Mentions

Ted Dibiase made his WrestleMania debut in the 1988 WWF Title tournament, lasting all the way to the finals and the main event, and coming withing a hair of winning the championship.

Kane's first 'Mania match was a near-show stealer of a semi-main event, as he took his onscreen brother The Undertaker to the limit.

Japanese sensation Shinsuke Nakamura made his 'Mania debut in a very good (not quite great) WWE Title match against AJ Styles, after winning the 2018 men's Royal Rumble.

Former UFC crossover star Ronda Rousey made her WrestleMania debut in 2018 as well, tagging with Kurt Angle to defeat Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and shining a much bigger spotlight on the women's division.

1. British Bulldogs - WrestleMania 2

Davey Boy and Dynamite became a WWF tag team in 1985 and pretty quickly climbed the ranks, due in no small part to the excellent matches they were having with fellow Stampede Wrestling alums The Hart Foundation.  Their tag team feud was pretty legendary and brought new levels of athleticism to the WWF tag division, which up until that point mostly consisted of informal pairings of singles stars.  The Bulldogs would challenge Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake for the straps at the second WrestleMania, stealing the show in a hard-hitting, action-packed bout that culminated in one of the more unorthodox finishes I can remember; Davey rammed Valentine's head into Dynamite's rock-hard skull, knocking both of them out, and covered "The Hammer" for the win.  It was unusual but it got the job done, and the Bulldogs enjoyed a 10-month reign before being dethroned by their old rivals, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart.

2. Demolition - WrestleMania IV

Echoing the Bulldogs' quick rise to fame, in 1987 longtime WWF midcarder Bill Eadie was teamed with NWA import Barry Darsow to form a Road Warriors-esque tandem called Demolition.  Ax and Smash, as they were now known, instantly caught the attention of the fans, with their rugged, smashmouth brawling style and colorful, intimidating appearance.  Strong booking and solid in-ring performances helped Demolition stand out from both the other WWF teams and their inspiration The Road Warriors, and by WrestleMania IV they were challenging Strike Force for the titles.  After a 12-minute battle, Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji handed Ax his cane, which was used to knock out Rick Martel and win Ax & Smash the championship.  Their first reign would "smash" all previous longevity records in the tag team division, lasting a whopping 16 months (a record that stood for 27 years) and cementing Demolition as one of the all-time great teams.

3. Nasty Boys - WrestleMania VII

Wow, ANOTHER tag team.  I'm gonna be honest, I never got why Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were pushed in every promotion they wrestled for.  I was never impressed with them in any capacity, and in the case of their WWF run I'm sure at least part of it was because of their friendship with Hulk Hogan.  But whatever the reason, Knobbs & Sags became number-one contenders for the tag belts a scant three months after their WWF debut (by winning a tag team battle royal), and at WrestleMania VII they captured the titles from the Hart Foundation, after which Bret and Jim went their separate ways.  The Nastys held the belts until SummerSlam when they ran into a brick wall known as The Legion of Doom.  They'd never win the titles again, and by early 1993 they were fired from the WWF.  But their 1991 rise to the top was shall we say, meteoric.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Promotions

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at

It's WrestleMania season, which always gets me thinking about nerdy things having to do with the Showcase of the Immortals.  I previously wrote about WrestleMania Demotions, citing ten examples of a particular star going from a position of great prominence one year to an afterthought the next (poor Randy Savage suffered this fate twice).  But in the spirit of positivity let's take a look at ten examples of the opposite situation.  There have been times when a given talent either opens the show or only gets scraps at the WrestleMania table one year and is then catapulted to a potentially career-making moment the following year.  Here are ten such scenarios...

1. King Kong Bundy - WrestleMania 1 to 2

The monstrous Bundy made a statement in his WrestleMania debut, literally squashing jobber to the stars S.D. Jones in what was meant to be a record-setting nine seconds but actually went more like 24.  Still it was a one-sided, dominant appearance that helped establish the 450-pound monster with a wider audience and groom him as one of the company's top heels.  Just one year later Bundy would challenge WWF Champion Hulk Hogan in a steel cage match at the second WrestleMania, enjoying a career peak as Hogan's most forbidding opponent to date.  Bundy was sadly never positioned at that level again, and if you refer to my Demotions list, he found himself way back down the card a year after this.  But going from a 24-second undercard squash one year to a huge main event the next is quite a promotion.

2. Chris Jericho - WrestleMania 17 to 18

WrestleMania X-Seven is considered by most to be the apex of the Attitude Era, a culmination of everything the WWF product had evolved into during the Monday Night War, as well as a celebration of their total victory over WCW.  Chris Jericho arrived in the WWF late in the ratings war and wasn't yet positioned as one of the very top guys by early 2001, more a beneficiary of the WWF's dominance than a factor in getting them there.  Thus his match at WM17 was a brief Intercontinental Title defense to open the show.  But one year later he found himself the company's top champion, seemingly being groomed as one of the next class of main eventers.  On paper everything looked great; Jericho would defend the Undisputed WWF Title (just unified with WCW's version) against Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania X8.  Unfortunately egos and bad booking got in the way, and this feud was horribly botched from start to finish.  Jericho was booked as a fluke champion, and worse, he was the third wheel in Hunter and Stephanie's recent onscreen breakup, presented as Steph's whipping boy instead of as the company's top heel.  The resulting match was an underwhelming foregone conclusion, and Jericho quickly fell down the card over the next several months.  Still, Chris Jericho went from WrestleMania curtain jerker to main eventer in the span of one year - no small feat.

3. Kurt Angle - WrestleMania 18 to 19

The same year Chris Jericho was headlining the show, Kurt Angle was thrown into the midcard against Kane, in a serviceable but fairly forgettable affair - frankly a rather shabby way to have treated one of the more important figures in the Invasion angle.  But 2002 was the year Angle really proved himself as a main event player, delivering stupendous PPV matches against Edge, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, and Los Guerreros (the vaunted Smackdown Six Era).  By year's end Angle had won the WWE Championship, and the WrestleMania plan was for him to put over WWE's newest main event sensation Brock Lesnar.  This dream match of collegiate wrestling champions was almost derailed when Angle discovered he needed neck surgery, but he opted to tough it out for the one match before going under the knife.  The result was a classic 'Mania main event (and the first PPV main event in over five years to not include Austin, Rock, Triple H or Undertaker) that showcased both men's grappling skills and climaxed with a horrifyingly botched shooting star press from Lesnar.  In just over 365 days Kurt Angle went from a secondary player to a WrestleMania elite.

Monday, April 4, 2022

WWE WrestleMania 38, Night 2: Brock & Roman Phone It In

Night 2, for the third consecutive year, was easily the weaker of the two WrestleMania shows; even the presence of another super-energized crowd (likely comprised of mostly the same people as Night 1) couldn't cover for a mediocre-at-best slate of matches.

If you missed the Night 1 review, click HERE

Things started out with promise (after a seemingly interminable Triple H appearance that ended with him leaving his boots in the ring to officially retire), with the RAW Tag Title match.  RK-Bro, Street Profits and Alpha Academy delivered a very enjoyable spotfest with nonstop action, some great big-move moments, and a finish that brought the crowd to its feet.  Why WWE changed the rules for three-way tags to have three legal men at all times, I'm sure I don't know, but it didn't hurt the flow here.  There were some big dives to the outside from Chad Gable and Angelo Dawkins early on, and Riddle played the babyface in peril once again but made the hot tag to Randy Orton.  RK-Bro cleaned house and set up stereo draping DDTs, but their dual RKO attempt was broken up and Street Profits hit Gable with a Doomsday Blockbuster for a nearfall.  The finish came when Montez Ford's top rope dive was countered into a Riddle RKO and Gable's was countered with an Orton RKO for the win.  Post-match Street Profits offered to share a drink with RK-Bro and Gable Steveson (seated at ringside) but Chad Gable interrupted.  Steveson gave him an overhead suplex for his trouble.  Thus far Steveson doesn't have nearly the natural charisma of a Kurt Angle or a Brock Lesnar but we'll see.  This was a very good opener.  ***1/2

Not so good (at all) was the next match, as Bobby Lashley had to try and carry the near-immobile Omos to a passable match.  They got six minutes, most of it unwieldy and not very exciting.  This guy needs to be sent back down to developmental until he can move around well.  Lashley did what he could, including a hard-earned vertical suplex which served as the bout's high point.  A bad-looking back spear and a proper front spear later, and Lashley was the winner.  This would be the first of three matches on this card to end with a spear.  But tell me how overused the superkick is again?  *

Alright, the third bout was one of those matches I was dreading, knew was going to be super embarrassing and stupid, and yet it was maybe the most purely fun thing on the show.  Sami Zayn and Johnny Knoxville had one of the better dumb comedy matches you're ever likely to see.  This was pure crap and it's stuff like this that makes the average person roll their eyes when you mention the phrase "pro wrestling," but it was a big, stupid guilty pleasure.  They started out with standard garbage-match antics - trash cans, crutches, cooking sheets, a stop sign, etc.  After Sami suplexed Knoxville through a table, Party Boy showed up to interfere and stripped down to his thong.  Then Wee Man appeared and bodyslammed Sami, which was impressive.  Knoxville triggered a pyro as Sami climbed to the top rope, causing him to crotch himself on the top turnbuckle, then rolled a bowling ball into his groin.  Then came the mechanical ball-kicking machine, then Sami walked into the giant hand (which somehow appeared out of nowhere).  Knoxville put Sami through a table covered with mousetraps before putting him in a giant mousetrap (that didn't work quite right).  Knoxville covered him for the win and the Jackass crew celebrated.  This was unfathomably stupid but sadly one of the most successful things on the show.  Would I have rather seen Sami vs. Ricochet for the Intercontinental Title?  100%.  Like I said, this is why no one takes the secondary belts seriously.  I'll be a good sport and give this ***1/4.

WWE WrestleMania 38, Night 1: Becky & Bianca Steal the Show

Man, it's almost hard to believe the same company put on these two WrestleMania shows.  The first night was a pretty good, approaching very good, WrestleMania card, with three matches reaching or approaching four-star territory by my count, and a feelgood main event.  Night 2 had a somewhat promising first half and then kinda drove off a cliff and never got back on track.  The two worst matches of the weekend were on Night 2, and a comedy match featuring the guy from Jackass more or less stole the night.  That's not good at all.  I will say the crowd was nuclear for both shows, so at least there's that.  I haven't seen a WWE crowd this hot in a long time.

For the Night 2 review click HERE

Both nights had time management issues, because it's WWE and they don't know or don't care about fitting everything in properly.  The New Day-Sheamus/Holland match got moved from Night 1 to Night 2 and ended up going 100 seconds anyway.  Given the four-hour running time of each show there was of course no reason Balor vs. Priest and the Intercontinental three-way couldn't have been included.  It makes me laugh when WWE fans refer to AEW as minor league; not once has AEW ever had to bump a match off a major show completely because they ran out of time, while WWE's done it countless times over the years.

Night 1 started with the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, a match that had promise but was unfortunately derailed by an injury when Rick Boogs attempted the John Cena double fireman's carry spot and his knee buckled.  Apparently he suffered both a torn quad and a torn ACL, poor soul.  That left Shinsuke Nakamura to hastily finish the match against the Usos, and he ultimately fell victim to their version of the 3-D.  This only went 7 of the planned 14 and thus fell very short of expectations.  *3/4

The second match wasn't a whole lot better, nor could it be given Drew's opponent.  Baron Corbin had a typical Baron Corbin match, while Drew did his best to elevate it, hitting a Kenny Omega dive to the outside at one point.  Corbin hit End of Days and Drew kicked out, made a comeback, hit the Future Shock DDT, and finished him with a Claymore.  Post-match, Madcap Moss got in Drew's face, but Drew took his sword and actually cut two of the ropes (which was for some reason accompanied by an exploding sound - were there pyros inside the ropes?).  We got numerous endless video packages while they changed out the ropes.  This match was just there.  **

Friday, April 1, 2022

Top Ten Things: Batman Theatrical Films, RANKED

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

Now that the dust is starting to settle following the release of Matt Reeves' buzzworthy new take on the Caped Crusader it's time for fanboys like me to do what we do - place The Batman in an opinion-laced Top Ten list.  It's clear from the varied big-screen (and small-screen) adaptations, not to mention the gamut-running comic book takes on the character, that the Batman mythos is simply the most thematically and atmospherically rich superhero lore ever created.  Over 80 years after the vigilante in the cowl and cape first swung onto the pages of Detective Comics, fans and creators alike are still dissecting his dual personas and his unparalleled rogues gallery, and as The Batman's impressive box office receipts show, there's still a healthy public appetite for all things Gotham.  

So let's get after it, shall we?  I've ranked the fourteen theatrically-released Batman feature films but left out 2016's Suicide Squad since Bats only had a cameo in that one, and 2019's Joker since we only see Bruce Wayne as a boy.  Man, looking over this list and how different the various interpretations are it's hard to believe these are all about the same character....

14. Batman & Robin

Yup, 25 years later Joel Schumacher's second and (thankfully) final Batman film is still the worst of the bunch.  In fact it's possibly the worst movie I've ever seen.  Had it been written as a straight-up satire like its primary inspiration (Batman '66 and its companion TV series), it might've at least worked as a tongue-in-cheek sendup.  But tonally it couldn't decide whether it was trying to be that or an earnest summer blockbuster, and it failed to work as either one.  George Clooney (widely considered the worst-ever onscreen Batman) looks like he'd rather be working on any other project.  Arnold Schwarzenegger's dialogue consists almost entirely of bad puns.  Chris O'Donnell provides Exhibit A in the Why Robin Doesn't Work as a Film Character trial.  Alicia Silverstone gets shoehorned into this film, painfully morphing her Clueless character into an action heroine.  Only Uma Thurman's performance can be described as successful, as she somehow finds the balance between campy cartoon and femme fatale.  B&R nearly ended Batman as a cinematic property, underwhelming at the box office and drawing the ire of fans and critics to the point that its intended sequel was scrapped and Warner Brothers went eight years before releasing a new Bat-movie.  As my wife once described it while I was hate-watching Batman & Robin on TV one Saturday afternoon, "This is what a Batman movie would be like if a ten-year-old wrote it."  Absolute drivel, this film.

13. Justice League (Whedon cut)

Faring not much better is DC's half-assed answer to Marvel's massively successful Avengers saga, an intended tentpole film the studio rushed headlong to get to, despite having no real plan and certainly no real patience.  Man of Steel unwittingly served as DC's shared universe springboard, BvS hastily introduced the rest of the Justice League without giving people a reason to care about them, and Wonder Woman became the one truly successful piece of the DCEU.  But then came the main event, all but derailed when director Zack Snyder abruptly left the project after the death of his stepdaughter.  The studio, still desperate to deliver their Avengers counterpart for a November 2017 release, brought in the guy who'd helmed the first two actual Avengers films, even though tonally Joss Whedon and Zack Snyder could not be more different.  In answer to (very valid) criticisms that Batman v Superman was too dark and devoid of fun, Whedon was instructed to bring levity and a lighter color palette to Justice League, reshooting over half the existing footage (complete with the world's worst CG effect to cover Henry Cavill's moustache).  The result was a terribly uninteresting tonal smorgasbord with garishly fake-looking special effects, very poor performances, and amateurish color timing.  The theatrical cut of Justice League somehow managed to be the least successful DCEU entry in the entire series, despite its original purpose as the big team-up event picture.  See what happens when you don't plan these things out?