Friday, July 29, 2022

WWE SummerSlam 2022 Preview & Predictions

Welp, we're supposedly in the post-Vince McMahon era of WWE (except I'm pretty sure Vince is still running the company from his house, being that he still owns majority stock).  This Saturday's SummerSlam PPV may be an indicator of where WWE is headed creatively going forward.  Or it may just be more of the same.  Either way, this lineup......this is not my kinda lineup.

Once a-fucking-gain, the Intercontinental Title is sitting in catering, along with its current holder, who by the way is better than almost everyone actually on the card - Gunther/Walter can work circles around almost the entire roster.  Also the top I-C contender they set up like a month ago - nowhere to be seen.  Also the really exciting high flier who would be massively over if they'd just fucking do something with him - nope, sorry Ric, nothing for you this month.  But don't worry, Baron Corbin is on the show.  As is the fanboy commentator living out his own wrestling fantasy camp.  As is The Miz.  Oh and one of the few matches I was actually into is off the show so they can save it for next month.  Super.  Yeah, I don't have high hopes for SummerSlam 2022.

Logan Paul vs. The Miz

Boy do I not give a tupenny fuck about this.  The Miz hasn't been a proper threat to anyone in years, and Logan Paul, dipshit that he is, insists on being portrayed as a babyface, despite literally NO ONE wanting to see him in that role.  Watch as Miz gets cheered like a hometown hero in this match.  Like, how can a company just flatly defy what its entire audience wants and then use little tricks to try and make it look like that's not what they're doing?  Jesus.  For the record, I get why they signed Logan, he's actually a PPV draw.  But use him correctly for fuck's sake.

Pick: Logan Paul, obviously

Pat McAfee vs. Baron Corbin

Fuckin' hell with this.  A bad wrestler vs. a tourist.  Yeah this is totally more important than the company's second-oldest singles title being defended.  I'm 100% confident more people would rather see Gunther vs. Shinsuke Nakamura than this crap.  Watch them add the I-C Title match to the fucking preshow.....

Pick: McAfee

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2000)

In a year when the WWF was firing on all cylinders, this overcrowded show has to be considered a disappointment.  Still it had its high points....

SummerSlam 2000 - Raleigh Entertainment & Sports Arena - 8/27/00

Here's a bloated PPV lineup.  As with that year's WrestleMania, the company decided to put entirely too many matches on the SummerSlam card.  Unlike 'Mania, they only had the standard three hours to squeeze in ten matches.  As a result the show was very diluted, despite about half of it being quite good.  But even some of the good matches weren't really given enough time to breathe.

For the second consecutive year the main event was a Triple Threat for the WWF Title, this time between The Rock, Triple H, and Kurt Angle.  This was a pretty damn good 3-way match, and was probably the first time the Triple Threat became worthy of headlining a PPV.  Where just about every previous incarnation of this gimmick was either slow, sloppy, overly chaotic, or all three, this match had a much clearer flow to it.  It was a blessing in disguise that Kurt Angle was legitimately knocked out of the match for much of the running time due to a botched table spot, as it left Triple H and The Rock to settle the match down for a while.  When Angle returned late in the match it created a nice dynamic shift.

Just before the table pulled an ad lib and smashed Angle's face.....

The show featured a pair of awesome undercard matches.  The first was a 2-out-of-3 Falls match between the two Chrises - Jericho and Benoit.  These two had spent much of 2000 feuding over the I-C Title and had both been elevated to semi-main event players.  This match was the third in an excellent trilogy of PPV bouts.  While not up to the standard of their Backlash match (which IMO was one of the best matches of 2000), this was a pretty great undercard match.  It was only given about 16 minutes, which given the stipulations is pretty skimpy.  Had this been an 8-match card they could've had probably another ten minutes to make this match epic.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1999)

Vince Russo's final PPV with the company was kind of a mess but still managed to be a very fun show....

SummerSlam '99 - Target Center - 8/22/99

SummerSlam 1999 is one of those PPVs where you know you've basically been fed a platter of garbage, but you kinda couldn't help enjoying it.  This show was essentially the climax of the Vince Russo era as he left for WCW a month later, and the booking leading up to this show was sloppy and nonsensical.  At this point Titles were changing hands on an almost weekly basis so their value took a nosedive and it was sometimes even hard to remember who was a Champion.  The Steve Austin phenomenon had become a bit stagnant and it seemed clear it was time for a new star to break out while Austin took a little break.

That new star was Triple H.  Repackaged as a ruthless, cunning superheel, Hunter made a bold move to go against the grain and not rely on catchphrases or flash.  Rather, he went old-school and just became a big sadistic bully who liked to dissect opponents.

It seemed clear Hunter would be the one to dethrone Austin at SummerSlam, but then the booking took several confusing turns, starting with Chyna winning a #1 Contender's Match on RAW.  Then the following week Hunter got his Title shot back.  Then the following week Mankind was added to make it a Triple Threat (from what I've read this was due to Austin not wanting to drop the Title to Hunter, but I don't know for sure).  Anyway, that's how it ended up, and in a stunning publicity stunt, Jesse Ventura would return to the WWF as the guest referee.

The match itself was your typical 1999-era WWF brawl.  Wild action, little real wrestling, some shenanigans between Ventura and Shane McMahon (it was fun to see Ventura back in a WWF ring).  The match was ok but not great.  Mankind won the Title and then lost it to Triple H the next night, begging the question "Why not just have Hunter beat Austin," which lends credence to the above rumor.  Triple H attacked Austin after the match as a way to write him off the show for a couple months.


The History of WWE SummerSlam (1998)

The Attitude Era was in full-swing, and in August 1998 the WWF presented a huge event....

SummerSlam '98 - Madison Square Garden - 8/30/98

The 1998 edition felt like a monumental event.  At a time where the company was still rebuilding from the roster holes left by Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and others, they made the most of things and began manufacturing new exciting characters like crazy.  Led by Steve Austin and the "Attitude" formula, the WWF was riding the biggest wave of momentum in a decade.

SummerSlam was headlined by a huge face vs. face match for the WWF Title - Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker.  This would be Austin's biggest Title defense to date, and the result was a helluva good brawl.  An accidental head collision early in the match knocked Austin loopy for a minute but he gutted it out and managed to deliver a main event-worthy bout that included an insane legdrop-through-table spot by Taker.

Right.  In.  The Dick.

The semi-main spot featured an Intercontinental Ladder Match between the company's two biggest rising stars, The Rock and Triple H.  These two would feud on and off for the next two years, but this is the match that really catapulted both to the next level.  While not a gasp-inducing spotfest like the two HBK-Razor matches, this one featured gritty, hard-hitting action, some outside interference, and a nuclear crowd who cheered for the heel Rock just as much as for the babyface Triple H.  In fact this match led to a brief face turn for Rocky, before he swerved everyone and joined Mr. McMahon's Corporation.

The third-most hyped match was for the Tag belts, as the New Age Outlaws attempted to regain the Titles from Kane & Mankind.  Unfortunately this didn't end up being much of a match due to the storyline falling out of the two heels.  Kane no-showed the match, leaving Mankind in a handicap situation.  The Outlaws made rather short work of him, especially after Kane showed up and bashed Mankind with a sledgehammer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

AEW Fight for the Fallen 2022 Preview & Predictions

It's Wednesday and you know what that means....

AEW's Fight for the Fallen 2022 is upon us, and we've got a helluva little Dynamite lineup this week, with an AEW Title match, a Women's Title match, an FTW Title match, and the in-ring return of BRYAN DANIELSON!  Oh man.....oh mama.....

Handicap Match: Swerve Strickland vs. Tony Nese & Mark Sterling

As a non-fan of handicap matches I'm not expecting greatness here, but maybe it will lead to a Strickland-Nese singles match, and maybe Nese will find a tag partner to challenge the champs.  Either of those would be solid.

Pick: I gotta think Sterling eats the pin here

Sammy Guevara vs. Dante Martin

This should be a wild one.  Both guys are aerial wizards and Sammy is straight-up insane with his risk-taking.  We'll see all kinds of airborne wackiness and hopefully no one gets hurt.  

Pick: I think Sammy wins

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1997)

In the late 90s SummerSlam returned to a Big Four feel, starting with the 1997 edition....

SummerSlam '97 - Meadowlands Arena - 8/3/97

Now this is a fuckin' SummerSlam, part 2.  SummerSlam '97 was the climax of the awesome USA vs. Canada feud that resulted in a slew of singles matches involving the Hart Foundation vs. their American opponents.  The stakes of each match was very high, particularly the World Title match, where if Bret Hart failed to beat The Undertaker, he would never again be able to wrestle in the US.  Special referee and Bret's mortal enemy Shawn Michaels was also subject to a stipulation, whereby if he showed any favoritism toward Taker, HE would never be able to wrestle in the US. 

The match itself was a methodical but drama-filled epic, with the Bret-Shawn dynamic adding another layer to the tension.  Taker almost seemed like a third wheel as the power struggle between the other two took center stage.  After 25 minutes of action, Bret and Shawn got into an argument, where Bret provoked Shawn into swinging a chair at him, only to duck as the chair knocked out Taker.  Bret covered him for the pin and Shawn was forced to make the count.  This was absolutely genius booking, but had the unfortunate effect of making Bret the third wheel as Shawn and Taker then engaged in a landmark feud.  Odd that both the prologue and aftermath of this match saw the WWF Champion as the afterthought.  Anyway, damn good main event.

Some belated 4th of July FIREWORKS!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1996)

The year of Shawn Michaels included a pretty damn weak overall SummerSlam, but that didn't stop Shawn and Vader from putting on a classic....

SummerSlam '96 - Gund Arena - 8/18/96

The 1996 edition was pretty indicative of the overall roster depth, or lack thereof, at that time.  Almost every PPV event that year had a very strong upper card with not much below the top two or three bouts.  SummerSlam felt a little skimpy as a result.  There was an amazing main event, a couple of decent undercard matches, and a whole lotta filler.

Shawn Michaels defended the WWF Title against monster heel Vader in a spectacular clash of styles.  This match was one of a whole string of awesome HBK main events that year.  Despite a miscue or two (which Shawn rather shamelessly called attention to during the match - is that where Randy Orton learned it from?), and an overbooked pair of false endings, this was one of the best matches of 1996.  Considering how much difficulty Shawn had beating Vader, they probably should've had the planned rematch at Survivor Series, but alas backstage politics put the kibosh on that.

Wait, why is Shawn in the ring with that fan wearing a jockstrap on his face?

The History of WWE Summerslam (1995)

In 1995 the WWF was running on Diesel Power, and it was fairly disastrous both commercially and critically.  But this show was pretty decent in spite of itself....

SummerSlam '95 - The Igloo - 8/27/95

Here's a show that on paper looks absolutely wretched.  A weak main event, a slew of free TV-caliber matches, a host of top talent missing from the card (seriously, were Owen, Bulldog, Yokozuna, Sid & Luger booked elsewhere that night??), and only one PPV-worthy bout.  Yet somehow this was a pretty good PPV with a host of entertaining matches.

The main event is one of the weakest in SummerSlam history.  In yet another attempt to recreate Hogan vs. Andre, they booked Diesel to face the newest King of the Ring, Mabel.  There was literally zero heat between these two, and if they insisted on doing another Power Wrestler vs. Fat Guy match, why not book Yokozuna to win the KOTR tourney and challenge Diesel?  At least Yokozuna had Championship credibility, ya know, having been a former Champion.  The match was predictably underwhelming and short.

Wait, why is Diesel in the ring with a guy in a Grimace costume?

The real standout of this SummerSlam was of course the Ladder rematch for the I-C belt between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, the two men who defined the Ladder Match 17 months earlier.  While not up to the legendary status of their first go-round, this is still a damn fine Ladder Match with memorable spots involving TWO ladders (In 1995 the idea of a second ladder being introduced was mind-blowing. No I'm serious.) and a different dynamic being that both guys were now babyfaces.

Monday, July 25, 2022

ROH Death Before Dishonor Review: FTR-Briscoes Is a Five-Star Classic

This past weekend's Death Before Dishonor PPV was the first Ring of Honor show I've watched since probably 2011, and it did not disappoint.  At a lean three hours and seven matches, the main show was a breeze with nary a bad bout, numerous memorable, top-notch contests, and an all-time great tag team match as the main event.  This was one of the best shows of the year.

Shockingly things kicked off with the Jonathan Gresham-Claudio Castagnoli ROH Title match (which unfortunately resulted in some backstage unpleasantness as Gresham blew up at Tony Khan and requested his release, citing "lack of communication").  Claudio was greeted as a returning hero by the Lowell crowd, and these two had a very good opener, short though it was.  At 11-and-a-half minutes this wasn't long enough to reach truly great territory, but with this much in-ring talent even a brief encounter was going to deliver.  Gresham went after Claudio's knee early, which affected Claudio's power game and also prevented him from locking on a sharpshooter midway through.  It looked as though Gresham had negated Claudio's size advantage, but Claudio came back with Danielson-style hammer elbows before hitting his Ricola Bomb to win the match and his first-ever ROH World Championship.  Confetti fell from the ceiling as a teary-eyed Claudio celebrated his grand homecoming.  The two competitors shook hands before Gresham made his exit.  This was a really strong opener but needed five more minutes to get to the next level.  ****

Next up was the Six-Man Tag Championship, as Dalton Castle and his Boys challenged The Righteous.  This was for my money the weakest match on the show, but it was still alright.  The action was fast and furious, and the bout didn't overstay it's welcome at just under ten minutes.  The crowd was pretty subdued for this until Castle started launching his two partners over the ropes onto their opponents on the outside.  This went on for about a dozen reps and finally woke up the audience.  After some nearfalls, Castle hit his spinning faceplant finisher to win the titles.  Decent little buffer match between the two Blackpool Combat Club appearances.  ***

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1994)

Taker vs. Taker - what a shitshow.....

SummerSlam '94 - United Center - 8/29/94

This here is about half of a good PPV.  The summer of '94 in the WWF was largely centered around the Bret vs. Owen feud, which was fantastic.  It would come to a head at SummerSlam, as the two brothers dueled in a steel cage.  Unfortunately the match didn't quite live up to my expectations, nor was it even the main event of the show.

Bizarrely they decided to have the returning Undertaker (absent since January after losing a Casket Match to Yokozuna) fight his doppelganger in the main event of SummerSlam, without really establishing first that the doppelganger was a fake.  Ted Dibiase showed up on WWF TV and announced Taker's return, then brought him out to wrestle.  And it was fairly obvious this was not Mark Callaway, but not obvious enough that we the audience could see where they were going with it.  It was as though Callaway had been fired and they tried in earnest to pass off impostor Brian Lee as the same man.  Then suddenly there were house show cards being booked with two separate Undertakers, but none of this was mentioned in the actual storylines.  And then the announcement came that at SummerSlam the main event would be Undertaker vs. Undertaker.  Just a very sloppily thrown-together angle.

Wait, why is Taker in the ring with that cosplayer?

Friday, July 22, 2022

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1993)

Welcome to the most mediocre PPV ever, SummerSlam 1993!

SummerSlam '93 - Palace of Auburn Hills - 8/30/93

Here's a show steeped in mediocrity.  SummerSlam '93 is an odd case of a PPV event providing neither highs nor lows.  Every match except one (Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales) is watchable, but almost none of them are memorable.

The big story going into this show was the rise of Lex Luger as the All-American hero who bodyslammed Yokozuna on the 4th of July.  Luger had been using the goofy Narcissist heel persona that understandably didn't light the world afire, and with the departure of Hulk Hogan the company felt it needed another musclebound superhero to build the company around.  Luger toured the country in a bus to promote the event, and all signs pointed to him becoming the next WWF Champion and posterboy.

The match itself was underwhelming.  It wasn't a bad match per se, but also not terribly exciting.  Luger winning the Championship would've at least provided the big moment the bout (and PPV) needed but strangely the company didn't pull the trigger, instead booking a countout win for Luger, complete with a post-match victory celebration generally reserved for an actual Title win.  This moment was just baffling; Luger and other babyfaces basking in the glory of his All-American countout.  Just bizarre.

YAAAAYYYY!!  Congratulations Lex, on winning........nothing.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

ROH Death Before Dishonor 2022 Preview & Predictions

Well this is a first.  In the eight years I've been writing up wrestling predictions for, not once have I attempted to prognosticate a Ring of Honor show.  I was a HUGE ROH fan in its heyday, from 2003-2009, when the only way to see most of their shows was to buy the DVDs from their website.  I still have a big collection from that era, and goddamn, those DVDs still feature some of the best wrestling I've ever seen (Danielson-McGuinness is one of my all-time favorite feuds).  ROH's impact on the business is still being felt to this day - Danielson, Punk, Joe, Claudio, The Bucks, Rollins, Styles and so many others have enjoyed great mainstream success after ROH put them on the map as cult heroes, and the promotion's emphasis on top-notch, creative in-ring action is still being emulated by AEW and at times even WWE.  Ring of Honor was the place where true artists went to hone their craft and create an organic fan following.  It was to the 2000s what ECW was to the 90s, a unique approach to the wrestling business that even the big worldwide companies took notice of.

But enough reminiscing.  Let's look at this Saturday's Death Before Dishonor show!

This is a pretty damn stacked card, bolstered by the use of numerous AEW talents, some of whom cut their teeth in ROH itself.  I'm hoping the buyrate is strong enough that HBO Max or someone within the Discovery/Warner umbrella gives ROH its own weekly programming.  Tony Khan is certainly putting his best foot forward with this lineup.

Pre-Show: Allysin Kay vs. Willow Nightingale

You'll have to forgive my unfamiliarity with a few of the talents involved on this show.  Allysin Kay is one of them, I don't think I've actually seen her wrestle.  I have seen Willow though, and I like her a lot.  She has a unique look, great natural athleticism, and a really likable babyface vibe about her.  Whether it's in ROH or AEW, Willow should become a core member of the women's roster.

Pick: Tough to pick this one since I don't know what the pecking order is.  I think since Kay is more established she probably wins.

ROH Six-Man Championship: The Righteous vs. Dalton Castle & The Boys

Yeah I know very little about any of these dudes.  As the lone trios match on the card I'm sure it will be a wild, fast-paced affair.  I guess I'll go with the champs to retain.

Pick: The Righteous retains

ROH Women's Championship: Mercedes Martinez vs. Serena Deeb

These two are both longtime vets and this should be a fine contest.  Deeb can always be counted on to deliver the goods in the ring and I think she'll be rewarded here with a title win.  As someone with a bit more name recognition than Martinez thanks to being a heavily featured AEW player, Deeb as champion is a smart business move.

Pick: Deeb

ROH Pure Championship: Wheeler Yuta vs. Daniel Garcia

This match could steal the show, and from a purely technical standpoint is likely to do so.  Both guys are fantastic grapplers with realistic fight credibility.  When they were first announcing matches for this show, this match was the one that piqued my interest.  Should be great.

Pick: I think Wheeler retains

ROH TV Championship: Samoa Joe vs. Jay Lethal

This one's been building since both guys signed with AEW a few months back.  Jay was Joe's protege back in the mid-aughts and there's a loooooong history there.  Since they know each other so well I expect this to be pretty great.  It'll be interesting to see Joe finally back in an ROH ring - will he be able to recapture the old magic?

Pick: This is another tough one to pick.  I could see Joe retaining, but I also think Jay needs the title more, and the fact that he has two guys with him at ringside points to some interference.  I'll go with Jay to score the upset.

ROH World Championship: Jonathan Gresham vs. Claudio Castagnoli

Oh man, this should be a great one.  Claudio is superhuman, Gresham is a technical wizard.  It'll be a wonderful homecoming for Claudio, a former ROH staple who's never won the big one.  I think he's gonna do that here, at long last.  Another smart business move - Claudio is instantly recognizable to wrestling fans thanks to his long WWE run, so if the goal is to get ROH its own weekly show, putting the title on Castagnoli is the way to go.

Pick: Claudio

ROH Tag Team Championship 2-out-of-3 Falls: FTR vs. The Briscoes

Holy jeez this is gonna be nuts.  These two teams had a helluva match at Supercard of Honor and I expect them to top that here.  2/3 Falls is my favorite type of gimmick match and I think they'll get a good 40 minutes to tell this story.  This clearly needs to be the main event of the show, given the story and the fact that no one's gonna want to follow it.  FTR is still carving out their place as the best damn tag team in the biz.  This match will go a long way in cementing that reputation.  Sit back and watch the fireworks.

Pick: FTR retains

So yeah, lotta great stuff on tap this weekend.  It's the first time I've ordered an ROH PPV since 2008 and I'm excited to see the promotion return to its roots, but on a much larger stage.

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The History of WWE SummerSlam (1992)

This right here is a helluva SummerSlam - emanating from Wembley Stadium, this show turned the WWF formula on its head.....

SummerSlam '92 - Wembley Stadium - 8/29/92

Now this is a fuckin' SummerSlam.  The 1992 edition was not only the best PPV of the year, but would remain the best SummerSlam PPV until at least 1997.  This show featured two very good to excellent main event matches, some decent midcard bouts, and very little filler.

The World Title match between Randy Savage and Warrior probably wasn't quite up to their WM7 match, but this was still good stuff.  The face vs. face dynamic added a new wrinkle and these two both worked hard to pull off an epic.  Inserting Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect into this angle was pretty stupid, as the feud became a bickering contest about which babyface sold out by hiring Mr. Perfect.  As it turned out the answer was "neither."  Flair and Perfect showed up and more or less ruined the ending of the match.  I'm actually not sure why Flair wasn't given his own match for this show.  Still a fine WWF Title match, even if it would be massively upstaged later in the evening.

These two were really fighting over who
had the more obnoxious outfit.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1991)

We've reached the early 90s, when the WWF presented a pretty bad SummerSlam that everyone for some reason remembers very fondly.......

SummerSlam '91 - Madison Square Garden - 8/26/91

The mediocrity continued with SummerSlam '91, which many fans strangely hail as a classic.  I'll grant that it was a somewhat stacked show where multiple feuds were blown off, but there's very little good wrestling here.  The Savage-Elizabeth wedding angle also took up way too much time and probably should've happened on free TV to set up Savage's return to the ring.

The main event was the continuation of one of the least fun feuds in wrestling history, Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter.  I cannot believe the WWF was still trying to exploit the Persian Gulf War six months after it ended.  Just pitiful.  This time it was Hogan teaming with Warrior against Slaughter, Col. Mustafa (a repackaged Iron Sheik, as though we wouldn't recognize him), and Slaughter's manager Gen. Adnan.  Here's a question, if Slaughter was the lowest ranked of the trio, why was he the leader?  Anyway the match stunk and was notable only for the inclusion of Sid Justice as the guest referee, and for being Warrior's last match for a while after backstage contractual shenanigans led to his firing.

The match this show is most remembered for was Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart for the I-C Title.  This would be Perfect's final match for over a year as nagging injuries forced him to the sidelines.  This match was quite good (though I don't rate it as highly as most do), and Bret's singles career took off from this point.  Given how much pain he was in, Perfect did a helluva job elevating "The Hitman."

Perfect submitted the second the hold was applied.
Given his real-life back issues this is not surprising.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1990)

The 1990 edition was a major step down from the first two, which were flawed shows to begin with.  This one's pretty terrible....

SummerSlam '90 - Philadelphia Spectrum - 8/27/90

What a mess this show was.  They tried to cram 10 matches in, only 9 of which happened due to a forfeit, the WWF Champion was given an opponent who was never built up to be a World Title contender, thus stripping the main event of any suspense, and Hulk Hogan was once again paired with an obese monster heel.

First we'll highlight the good parts: The Rockers fought the new tag team of Hercules and Paul Roma, dubbed Power & Glory in more of an angle than a match.  Shawn Michaels was "injured" at the outset, leaving Marty Janetty in a handicap situation.  But it was a nice introduction of the new heel team, who unfortunately never got much traction after this.

The Hart Foundation once again challenged Demolition for the Tag belts, this time in a 2 out of 3 falls match.  And once again the Harts stole the show at SummerSlam, supplying 15 minutes of solid tag team action.  The Harts finally won the Titles and the recently-debuted Legion of Doom were set up to feud with their WWF imitators.

The main event cage match between The Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude was a pretty good ten-minute bout.  Nowhere near as good as their 'Slam '89 match, but not bad at all.  Unfortunately Rude hadn't ever been positioned as a serious WWF Championship challenger and since Warrior defeated him the previous year (and a month before this PPV on Saturday Night's Main Event) there wasn't much heat for this match.  Rude would leave the WWF shortly after this.  Sadly for Warrior he was never really pushed as the #1 guy in the company after winning the Title from Hogan.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1989)

Welcome back to our History of SummerSlam series!  We're picking up where we left off, with the second edition, for me a considerable improvement on the first....

SummerSlam '89 - Meadowlands Arena - 8/28/89

The sophomore 'Slam holds a special place for me.  It was far from a perfect show but at the time it just felt like a big deal, and from a star power perspective it was a pretty stacked PPV.  I was at the Saturday Night's Main Event taping a month prior when the company started building in earnest toward SummerSlam, so I really got into the hype for this show.

Following the tag team main event template from the previous year's show, the WWF continued the huge MegaPowers feud by teaming Hulk Hogan up with Brutus Beefcake against Randy Savage and Hogan's onscreen nemesis in the film No Holds Barred, Zeus.  The fact that WWF Champion Hogan's main feud for the summer of 1989 was against costar "Tiny" Lister who, according to the storyline "became lost in the character," was truly moronic.  But they built Zeus up as an invincible killing machine who was impervious to chair shots.  Sadly they didn't bother teaching him how to wrestle, as his moveset consisted of choking, punching his opponents' trapezius muscles, and more choking.  The match itself was very similar to the 'Slam '88 main event, but not as good.  Savage worked hard to make the match exciting though, and despite one of the stupidest endings ever (Hogan completely no-sold Savage's elbowsmash and then knocked Zeus out with Sensational Sherri's tiny purse - what was in there, a roll of uranium quarters??) it was still a fun, dumb 80s main event.

Watch your junk goin' over those ropes, Zeusy-boy.

The undercard however had a triumvirate of awesome bouts.

Monday, July 18, 2022

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1988)

From the wrestling-obsessed maniac who brought you the History of WrestleMania series (me, obviously), welcome to The History of SummerSlam!!

Since 1988 WWE's SummerSlam has been the flagship PPV of the summer season.  More often than not it's the secondary tentpole of WWE's calendar, almost like WrestleMania's little brother.  Storylines are built throughout the season, and when done properly, culminate with the summer spectacular.

As a fan I've found over the years that SummerSlam is almost an underrated series - WrestleMania gets so much hype and attention (and I tend to rewatch those matches so frequently), I often overlook how many great matches and moments have taken place at the #2 show of the year.  Recently during a few hours of boredom I began comparing each SummerSlam to its corresponding 'Mania show (i.e. SummerSlam '88 vs. WrestleMania IV, etc.) and found that over the years SummerSlam has been the best PPV of the year just as often as the Grandaddy.  Many times the little brother has overshadowed his attention-grabbing counterpart.  Don't believe me?  Let's take a trip down WrestleMemory Lane!

SummerSlam '88 - Madison Square Garden - 8/29/88

The inaugural 'Slam followed fairly closely the formula created by the original WrestleMania.  Madison Square Garden?  Check.  Huge tag team main event?  Check.  Special guest referee?  Check.  Odd assortment of house show matches between guys who weren't really feuding?  Check.  Pretty strange really. 

The main event of this show was enormous - for the first time ever WWF Champion Randy Savage would team with Hulk Hogan as The MegaPowers against common enemies Andre the Giant and Ted Dibiase.  The announcement of this match blew my 12-year-old mind, as did the addition of guest ref Jesse "The Body" Ventura.  The match itself falls into the same category as Hogan-Andre '87.  Not great from a workrate standpoint but a whole helluvalotta fun.  The angle with Elizabeth stripping down to her skivvies as a distraction was pretty stupid, particularly since they failed to deliver on the promise of a bikini.  But otherwise a fun match.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Top Ten Things: Stanley Kubrick Films

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at!  A couple weeks ago I made a list of Quentin Tarantino's ten best, and thought it might be appropriate to give Stanley Kubrick similar treatment.  

Kubrick was one of the all-time great film auteurs, creating a unique visual style characterized by fluid camera movement, unnervingly symmetrical deep focus photography, and often a cold emotional detachment.  His films often contained deep subtext and were generally much more about the human condition as a whole, than about the fate of the individual characters.  He would build his stories around lofty philosophical concepts and themes, which he hammered home with every sequence.  Kubrick was notorious for being a perfectionist, often asking his onscreen talent for dozens upon dozens of takes before he saw one he liked, and demanding strict continuity on the set.  Considering he was active for over 45 years his filmography was quite sparse, and in later years his filmmaking process was so painstaking it became infamous.  His last film Eyes Wide Shut for example was in production for a staggering 17 months, and he just barely lived long enough to see its completion.

Stanley Kubrick was one of the most controversial, divisive, and thought-provoking filmmakers of all time, and he left behind a stunning body of work containing some of the most amazing visuals ever put to film.  Lending themselves to varied analyses, his films demand repeated viewings and tend to reflect humanity's virtues and (more often) deep-seated flaws.  What a tremendous talent this man was.

Here now is a list of his ten best works.

But first, check out a piece I wrote about Kubrick's early effort Killer's Kiss, which has grown on me quite a lot.

10. Lolita

This 1962 adaptation of Nabakov's provocative novel was met with vehement scorn from religious groups upon its release, to the point that Kubrick had trouble even getting it distributed.  The story concerns a middle-aged man's love affair with a 12-year-old girl and his subsequent fall from grace.  Kubrick enlisted Nabakov himself to adapt the novel into a screenplay but changed several elements and played up the dark comedic aspects, such as the supporting character of Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers).  Beholden to the MPAA, Kubrick also had to keep much of the lurid material implied rather than explicit.  The result was a pretty outrageous "dramedy" with strong performances from its lead actors, in particular Sellers and the 16-year-old Sue Lyon, whose turn as the title character is well beyond her years.  I consider Lolita one of Kubrick's lesser efforts, but it's certainly never dull.

9. The Killing

Kubrick's third feature (though only his second "official" release as he pulled his first film Fear & Desire from theaters) is an early example of the heist-gone-wrong story.  Based on the novel Clean Break, The Killing is about an intricate plot to rob a racetrack of $2 million, and the aftermath of the crime which leaves most of the conspirators dead.  The theme of "even the best laid plans..." is prevalent in this film, and the carefully orchestrated robbery ultimately fails due to multiple unforeseen events.  The standout performance belongs to Sterling Hayden, who brings a cynical, grizzled quality to criminal mastermind Johnny Clay.  In assembling the film, Kubrick played around with the timeline, presenting certain events from multiple points of view.  I have to think The Killing had a big influence on Quentin Tarantino when making Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown.  The Killing is an early example of Kubrick's considerable intellect as he moves his characters around like chess pieces.

8. Full Metal Jacket

The late 80s saw a bevy of Vietnam-related films, and Kubrick's adaptation of The Short-Timers was one of the most noteworthy.  Though later to the game than he'd hoped, Kubrick nonetheless presented a fascinating take on the evils of war and their effect on the human psyche.  The film is split into two parts, the first (and best) of which depicts Parris Island Marine Corps basic training, where Private Joker (Matthew Modine) witnesses the complete mental breakdown of Private Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio) at the hands of a brutal drill instructor (R. Lee Ermey, in a brilliantly vulgar performance).  The second half of the film then picks up with Joker's exploits as a war correspondent in Vietnam.  While still atmospheric and beautifully shot, the second half is unfortunately nowhere near as strong as the first, given that it's missing the two best characters in the film.  Still, Full Metal Jacket remains one of the best films made about Vietnam and about the dehumanization of those who lived through it.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Robocop 2

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I take a closer look at a movie that's either a guilty pleasure, an overpraised mound of tripe, or just a disappointment.  Today's entry is the latter.  That's right, it's one of the biggest letdowns in movie sequel history, Robocop 2!

In 1987 director Paul Verhoeven and writers Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner unveiled a near-perfect masterpiece of sci-fi/action/dark comedy/political satire with the original Robocop.  Part takedown of unchecked capitalism, part Christ allegory, part superhero romp, part ultraviolent gorefest, Robocop amazingly managed to juggle all these different tonal elements and weave them into a tightly written, multi-layered thrill ride that could be appreciated on varied levels.  Robocop has to be one of the smartest-written popcorn movies of all time; a brilliant marriage of deft scripting, superb direction and gut-wrenchingly amazing makeup effects (courtesy of past-master Rob Bottin).  I could go on for pages about how goddamn awesome that movie is, but that's not why I'm here.

The 1990 sequel on the other hand, while not a total miss, nonetheless fails to live up to its predecessor on basically every front.  There was a lot of potential here, with a script from comic book genius Frank Miller and direction by Irvin Kershner, who a decade prior had made one of the greatest sequels ever.  How could they possibly go wrong?  Well, they found a way.  They found a lotta ways.  Robocop 2 has some things going for it, but it's also got a metric fuckton of issues.

Let's take a look, shall we?

The Awesome

Peter Weller

I'm not sure any other actor can ever play this role.  It certainly hasn't worked yet with anyone else (Robert John Burke and Joel Kinnaman, I'm looking in your general direction).  Weller was born to play the tragic figure of this martyred officer-turned-cyborg.  His understated, taciturn demeanor and everyman heroism make him perfect for this conflicted character.  Sadly the script here doesn't give him nearly as much to do as in the first film; in the first act he's still struggling to let go of his previous life (something that was seemingly resolved in the first movie), in the second act he's barely present at all, and in the third he's relegated to pretty mindless action movie antics.

The Adventures of Buckaroo BadAss.  No?

Same Tone

Robocop 2 brings back the satirical tone of the first movie, complete with over-the-top violence that is both disturbing and darkly comic, plus those wonderfully droll newscast/TV commercial interludes.  Two of the best moments in the entire film are when a couple of the "Robocop 2" prototypes immediately commit suicide; it's both grisly and hilarious, like so many moments in the first movie. There's also the political backdrop of OCP plotting to essentially buy out control of Detroit so they can tear the entire thing down and finally build Delta City.  This all fits in well with what Neumeier, Miner and Verhoeven established in the original.

This stuff is hy-larious.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Top Ten Things: Harrison Ford Characters

Welcome to a special edition of Top Ten Things, here at!  It's been a while since I created a new one of these, but the occasion definitely warranted a return to the list-making ring.....

It's July 13th, 2022, and that means it's the 80th birthday of iconic actor and national treasure Harrison Ford!  Growing up in the early 80s, Mr. Ford was my first celebrity hero, thanks of course to his not one but TWO transcendent popcorn movie characters, the swashbuckling scoundrel Han Solo and the intrepid, world-traveling archaeologist Indiana Jones.  Starring in that era's two most successful action-adventure movie franchises made him the most recognizable movie star in the world at the time, and for many years Ford's films outgrossed those of any other actor.  Not bad for a guy who'd all but given up on acting in the mid-70s due to a dearth of quality roles.  It's pretty staggering to think the film industry had written him off during his salad days, deeming him "not believable as a movie star," his looks too rugged and his acting style too understated to be a leading man.  

Indeed, Ford was never even supposed to be cast in the two legendary roles that made him world-famous.  George Lucas, having already used him in American Graffiti, only brought him in to read for other actors when casting Star Wars because he happened to be working as a carpenter across the hall.  But he nailed the character of Han Solo so completely Lucas had no choice but to give him the part.  Four years later when Steven Spielberg suggested Ford for Indiana Jones, Lucas again balked, not wanting Ford to become the Robert Deniro to his Martin Scorsese.  Only after Lucas's first choice Tom Selleck became unavailable thanks to his Magnum P.I. commitments did Lucas assent to offering Raiders of the Lost Ark to Ford.  His unexpected rise to superstardom is one of the great Cinderella stories of Hollywood lore.

From then Ford could pick and choose his projects, and throughout the late 80s and 90s he mostly focused on roles that would challenge him as an actor, rather than simply taking comfortable action star gigs.  Films like Witness, Frantic, Working Girl, and Presumed Innocent revealed new facets to his acting game and proved he could bring credibility and gravitas to any kind of film, be it a heavy drama, a suspense thriller, or a light comedy.  He'd continue taking on action vehicles as well - films like Patriot Games, The Fugitive, and Air Force One scored big at the box office, in no small part thanks to Ford's cache as a relatable everyman action star.  By the late 90s he'd established himself as a versatile leading man with a subtle economy to his acting style.  Rather than relying on flashy speech-making in his films, Ford leaned toward conveying emotion and tension through facial expression and body language.  Sadly at awards season he'd be perennially overlooked (except once), but his choices set did him apart from his fellow leading men.

In recent years Ford's filmography has mostly included a lot of B-movies, his only really notable projects being reprisals of his most famous characters, but regardless of film quality, anytime Harrison Ford is in a film, I'm interested in seeing what he'll do.  He is one of the all-time great movie stars, and by all accounts a pretty damn cool dude in real life.

Here are some of his career highlights....

HM: Quinn Harris (Six Days, Seven Nights)

Heads-up, some of the entries on this list won't so much be reflective of the quality of the film in question, but on Ford's contributions to it.  Six Days, Seven Nights is a highly entertaining piece of crap, an Ivan Reitman-helmed adventure comedy where Ford's character is a grizzled pilot hired to transport Anne Heche's magazine editor to Tahiti for a photo shoot.  They hate each other at first but of course end up falling in love after some wacky Pacific island hijinks.  But Ford's performance is a pretty great comedic spin on his usual rugged action hero persona, and helps elevate the film above its station.

HM: Dr. Norman Spencer (What Lies Beneath)

Likewise in Robert Zemeckis's pretty terrible attempt at Hitchcock-style suspense, Harrison Ford is the film's brightest spot, providing a rare and welcome performance as a villain.  I'd love to see Ford try this in a smarter film (Incidentally he'd been offered the Nick Nolte role in Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear but turned it down, hoping to land Deniro's spot instead), his performance here is so much against type it makes an otherwise drivelous piece of supernatural melodrama worth a look.