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

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

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.  ***

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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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.

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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

AEW Fyter Fest 2022, Week 1 Preview & Predictions

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

That's right, it's time for AEW's annual Fyter Fest episodes of Dynamite!  Week 1 has a solid lineup with two championship matches plus a non-title match featuring the Interim AEW Champ, and a certified hoss fight between two former tag team partners, while Rampage has an ROH Title match and a potential tag classic.  Let's take a gander at Fyter Fest 2022, Week 1.....

Serena Deeb vs. Anna Jay

This match is here to help build Serena's upcoming ROH Title match on July 23rd.  Anna will put up a fight but ultimately Deeb will twist her into pretzels and get some momentum heading into Lowell, MA.

Pick: Serena

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Jake Hager

This should be pretty great.  Claudio is a force of nature and Hager is a legit badass.  Everyone claiming AEW is just spotfest wrestling should watch this one and shut their cake hole.  Rugged, stiff powerhouse wrestling at its finest.  Claudio is obviously winning since he just arrived.

Pick: Claudio

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1989)

This one's generally considered the best of the bunch....

Glory Days - Baltimore Arena - 7.23.89

1989 was in my opinion the best year in NWA history.  The company had undergone major management and booking changes with the sale to Ted Turner, but the emphasis was still on simple storylines and athletic wrestling.  It's no surprise that the 1989 Great American Bash was and is considered a classic PPV, with loads of star power and several standout matches.  It's also a source of a bit of frustration for me, because with a bit of retooling this show could've been basically perfect.  It was the first hour that got in the way.

The show opened with a two-ring Battle Royal showcasing several midcard stars and some of the company's newest talent.  The 14-man bout included Eddie Gilbert, Terry Gordy, Steve Williams, Scott Hall, Bill Irwin, Brian Pillman, Ranger Ross, Mike Rotunda, Ron Simmons, Rick & Scott Steiner, Kevin Sullivan, and the Skyscrapers, who won the whole thing and split the winnings.  While the two-ring format set this apart from traditional Battle Royals (and made for a nice unusual visual the whole night) this was pretty nondescript stuff, really only notable for monster heels Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey getting a big win.

I thought the Skyscrapers were pretty boss at the time

What didn't make sense were the next two bouts that followed.  First Brian Pillman faced Bill Irwin in a ten-minute squash that clearly didn't belong on a PPV, then The Skyscrapers showed up again to annihilate The Dynamic Dudes, in another glorified showcase match.  These two matches took up nearly 20 minutes that should've gone to some of the later bouts.

Another pointless match was next as Jim Cornette faced Paul E. Dangerously in a Tuxedo Match.  I'm generally against manager vs. manager bouts full-stop, but especially when both of them are involved in one of the headlining matches designed to help settle their issue.

The show really got going in match 5, as the Steiner brothers faced Mike Rotundo and Kevin Sullivan in a wild Texas Tornado match.  This was about as good as could be expected, with all four guys doing a lot with what little time they were alotted.  Imagine how much better this could've been with five more minutes.

The really stacked portion of the show kicked off with Sting vs. Great Muta for the TV Title, a blazing match that's about as good as any 8.5-minute match you'll ever see.  Sting began the bout by diving from one ring to the other on top of Muta.  They crammed everything they could into this, with lots of wild top-rope spots and over-the-rope dives which were unheard of in 1989.  It's too bad they weren't given fifteen minutes to really steal the show.  After Muta accidentally spit mist into Nick Patrick's eyes, the finish was the old back suplex into double-pin spot, where it wasn't clear whose shoulders were down.  Sting was declared the winner but the belt was later held up and Muta won the rematch.  This was a damn fine little match but should've been a MOTY contender.


Monday, July 11, 2022

Top Ten Things: Guns N' Roses Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, fans!  You know the drill.  It's a countdown, there's ten items, I rant about each of 'em for a bit, and you either agree with me or not.

Today it's the top ten greatest songs by one of the most controversial rock n' roll bands of all time, Guns N' Roses.

Formed in 1985, GNR combined the lineups of singer Axl Rose's Hollywood Rose with that of guitarist Tracii Guns' band L.A. Guns, creating a dangerous hard rock powderkeg that drew from the decadence of the '80s L.A. music scene along with the blues-rock sensibility of '70s supergroups like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.

Their first full-length album, Appetite for Destruction, was released in 1987, and about a year later on the heels of the wildly successful singles "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle," reached Number 1 on the Billboard charts.  The band was the hottest act in rock music, seemingly overnight.  Appetite went on to become one of those universal records that literally everyone owns, like AC/DC's Back in Black, Michael Jackson's Thriller, or Metallica's "Black Album."

Three years later came their long-awaited followup, a double album called Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 that featured several epic songs and a much larger musical scope.  The albums contained a combined thirty tracks spanning over two-and-a-half hours, and spawned multiple radio hits.  The band had graduated to touring stadiums and it seemed they'd remain one of the biggest groups in the industry for the rest of their career.

But soon after releasing a rather ill-conceived covers album in the early 90s, Guns N' Roses split up due to personal and creative differences and went dormant, with Axl retaining rights to the band name, while the other members pursued their own projects.  The band seemed to have almost been erased from rock history, becoming largely irrelevant, until rumors surfaced a few years later of a new GNR album with a new lineup, called Chinese Democracy.  After several aborted recordings and lineup changes, Democracy was finally released in 2008, and while it failed to reach the success of previous albums, it was pretty well received by the critics and proved that Axl could still deliver that signature high-pitched howl.

GNR continues to tour (now with Slash and Duff McKagan back in the band!) and are working on a followup to Chinese Democracy, but given their track record who knows when it'll actually come out?  My money's on 2062, Axl's 100th birthday.

Anyway, enough history.  Here now are the ten best GNR songs in my estimation....

10. Don't Cry

A classic GNR-style ballad about Axl's breakup with Erin Everly (which inspired several songs on Use Your Illusion), "Don't Cry" was recorded in two versions.  The first was released as a radio single and had simpler, more radio-friendly lyrics - "Talk to me softly/there's something in your eyes/Don't hang your head in sorrow/And please don't cry," where the alternate version on UYI2 has a darker tone with more complex and introspective lyrics - "I thought I could live in your world/As years all went by/With all the voices I've heard/Something has died."  In either case, "Dont' Cry" is a somber but very hooky breakup song that builds to a soaring final chorus and that weird, sustained multitracked vocal note at the end.

Friday, July 8, 2022

NJPW G1 Climax 32 Preview & Predictions

The most intensive pro wrestling tournament in the land is back next week, and I'm here to give you all my thoughts about it, whether or not you asked.....

Yes, it's that time of year once again, the G1 Climax tournament, New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual grand tradition, wherein 20 wrestlers.......wait what?  It's twenty-EIGHT this year?  Cool, so does this mean they're including some AEW guys to really spice things up?  Okay, Lance Archer, who else?  That's it??  Seriously?  So it's just more filler than usual?  And they're splitting it up over four blocks?  The hell??

Yeah I'm not crazy about this new format.  If guys like Moxley, Danielson, Page, Claudio, Kingston, etc. aren't being added to the mix, what's the point of expanding the field?  You're literally just adding more guys who have no chance of winning and diluting the number of must-see matches.  Seriously, look at this field.

Let's examine how many possible winners there are in each block.

Block A: Kazuchika Okada, or Jeff Cobb as a longshot.  But it's Okada.

Block B: Jay White, or Sanada as a longshot.  But White's the champion, he's winning the block.

Block C: This actually has numerous possible winners - Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Evil (Please no), or Zack Sabre Jr.  So at least there will be some suspense in this block.

Block D: Will Ospreay or Shingo Takagi

Not much point in watching the bouts that don't involve the aforementioned folks, is there?  Toru Yano vs. Jonah for example isn't going to impact anything.  Sure, there are nothing matches like that every year, but with four blocks there's gonna be way more of that stuff than marquee matchups.  I just don't get it.  Is this like a test run for next year when they'll add some AEW fellas?

Anyway, rather than go through all 28 guys in this piece, I'll just talk about the potential winners I mentioned.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1988)

We've entered the PPV era of the Great American Bash.....

The Price for Freedom - Baltimore Arena - 7.10.88

Jim Crockett's NWA dove into the PPV market in late 1987 and again in January of 1988.  Both events flopped, largely due to the WWF airing shows opposite, but in July of '88 JCP finally had a chance to run a PPV unopposed.  This PPV would be a streamlined, five-match card, much as the first two Clash of the Champions specials had been.  The buyrate hinged on the popularity of new babyface Lex Luger, and his quest to dethrone former mentor Ric Flair for the NWA Title.  While the lineup was strong and most of the matches worked to some degree, the booking would be questionable at best.

The show opened with a wild, very exciting World Tag Title match, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Sting & Nikita Koloff.  Structurally this was your typical Tully & Arn match where they get their asses kicked for the first ten minutes before using some underhanded tactic to take over on offense.  In this case it was JJ Dillon distracting Koloff and baiting him to go for the Russian Sickle on the outside.  Koloff missed the clothesline and hit the post, and the Horsemen smelled blood.  Tully and Arn worked over Koloff's arm until the hot tag spot when Sting cleaned house.  Sting nailed Tully with the corner splash and applied the Scorpion Deathlock, but time ran out before he could get a submission (Strangely this match only got a 20-minute time limit).  Aside from the formulaic structure this was a helluva fun tag match with an absolutely NUCLEAR crowd.

The biggest standout of the show was the Fantastics vs. Midnight Express US Tag Title match. Taking over where the Rock n' Roll Express left off, Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton gave the Midnights one of their greatest feuds, as both this and their previous match at Clash of the Champions were full of athletic, high-impact tag wrestling.  The big stipulation here was that Jim Cornette was locked above the ring in a cage, wearing a straitjacket - a hilarious visual, but it took forever to get Cornette in there due to his repeated protests.  The match finally got underway and was almost non-stop motion.  Just a super display of tag team work that didn't follow the traditional formula.  The Midnights won the US Tag belts when Bobby Eaton hit Fulton with a chain.


Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1985-1987)

What's up everybody?  It's July, and that means it's time for yet another stroll down Wrestling History Boulevard, with's PPV History series!

Since July was the month of the NWA's Great American Bash, (which became a month-long tour before morphing into a standalone PPV and later WWE/NXT event), let's take a look back at this glorious summer tradition.  For the purposes of this piece I'm only including the original NWA/WCW lineage, not the ill-advised WWE retread from 2004-2009 or the newfangled NXT versions.  Before I get to the actual PPV history though I'd like to talk a little about the '85 show and the '86-87 tour highlight tapes.

GAB '85 - American Legion Memorial Stadium - 7.6.85

The Great American Bash was originally a one-night supercard held on July 6th, 1985 and co-headlined by a Ric Flair-Nikita Koloff World Title match and a Dusty Rhodes-Tully Blanchard cage match for the TV Title.  No uncut copies are available to my knowledge (Come on WWE, throw that shit up on Peacock!), but in the 80s Pro Wrestling Illustrated released a severely hacked-up VHS tape where they boiled the entire show down to one hour.

Not sure who the babyface is here, but ok.

Sadly it wasn't much of a watch since nothing got adequate time.  And looking at the undercard lineup we probably didn't miss a whole lot.  The Road Warriors faced Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev (later known as Smash from Demolition), and Magnum TA fought Kamala.  Moving on...

GAB '86 - Numerous Venues - 7.1.86-8.2.86

The first full Bash tour took place in 1986 and was notable for Ric Flair defending the NWA Title on literally every show.  Guy worked like a horse!  His challengers were as follows:  Ricky Morton, Hawk, Ron Garvin, Nikita Koloff, Robert Gibson, Animal, Magnum T.A., Wahoo McDaniel and Dusty Rhodes.  What I wouldn't give to see a full DVD set of just those Title defenses.  Anyway, Turner Home Entertainment would release a highlight VHS tape consisting of 9 matches.  Top bouts from that cassette included Flair vs. Hawk, Ronnie Garvin vs. Tully Blanchard in a Taped Fist match, The Road Warriors vs. Ivan & Nikita in a chain match, The Rock n' Roll Express vs. Ole & Arn Anderson, Nikita Koloff vs. Magnum TA in Match 4 of their Best of 7 series, and of course Flair vs. Dusty in a cage, which culminated in Dusty capturing the NWA Title (He'd lose it back three weeks later but this was a huge moment at the time).  As I recall this was a solid two-hour collection of matches.  The Flair vs. Dusty match was included on one of WWE's DVD collections (Greatest Stars of the 80s I believe), and is probably the best Flair vs. Dusty match I've seen.  It's tough to give this tape a full grade based on two-decade-old memories, but roughly:

This match wasn't too shabby

Best Match: Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes
Worst Match: Jimmy Valiant vs. Shaska Watley
Overall Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Top Ten Things: Star Wars Characters

What's the haps, folks?  Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

Well we are in between trilogies in the grand Star Wars saga.  Lots of rumors swirling about upcoming film projects but so far nothing concrete.  In the meantime Disney+ has no shortage of television series for us to dig into.  But for the record I'm a big fan of the overall sequel trilogy, in spite of its imperfections (and let's be honest, part of the charm of Star Wars has always been its imperfections).  For me what's worked so well about sequels are the numerous captivating characters that have pulled me into the story, much as their OT counterparts did four decades ago.  The prequel trilogy unfortunately introduced almost no characters I found interesting or terribly memorable, even including the young versions of Obi-Wan and Anakin (the one real keeper for me was Darth Maul, whom George Lucas didn't, um...keep).  So no, this list does not include any characters from Episodes 1-3, except in their respective 4-6 form.  Sorry Prequelers, I think those movies stink.

Anywho, here are my ten eleven favorite Star Wars characters.  Here we go....

11. Yoda

The Empire Strikes Back introduced a spectacular achievement in the art of puppetry.  In Episode V, Luke travels to the Degobah system and encounters Yoda, the most powerful wizard in the galaxy.  So strong is he with the Force that his diminutive size matters not.  Voiced by Frank Oz, Yoda provided so many quotable lines and taught us all about the nature of the Force and what it means to be a Jedi.  His involvement in the story elevated its mystical concepts to something much more complex and philosophical than simple magic.  Yoda hammered home the spirituality of the Jedi arts, forcing Luke to reexamine his outlook and grow immensely as a character.  The prequels sadly reduced Yoda to a lightsaber-wielding video game character, but originally Yoda was quite remarkable and represented everything beyond the narrow limits of the physical world.

10. Finn

The #2 good guy of the sequel trilogy is former Stormtrooper FN-2187, dubbed Finn by his new BFF Poe Dameron.  Finn was raised by the First Order for one reason - to be an agent of death and oppression.  But during his mission on Jakku he had an attack of conscience and defected, rescuing Poe and eventually helping Rey and the Resistance destroy Starkiller Base, before being maimed by Kylo Ren.  In The Last Jedi Finn and series newcomer Rose are dispatched to a casino planet to find a codebreaker who can stop the First Order from tracking the crippled Resistance through hyperspace.  Finn starts the second film disillusioned about our heroes' chances, but by the end his friendship with Rose and loyalty to his new allies win out, and he embraces his role in helping to lead the "Rebel scum."  In The Rise of Skywalker we learn through a few subtle hints that Finn very likely has budding Force powers, as he can sense Rey's movements while she's away.  Their implied romance never comes to fruition but it seems that they've connected on a different level.  This charismatic, rather reluctant hero played by John Boyega has tremendous chemistry with his fellow protagonists and is a very welcome addition to the Star Wars mythos.

9. Obi-Wan Kenobi

When the original Star Wars was being cast, George Lucas enlisted several unknowns to play the principle characters, but he realized he'd also need some veteran actors in supporting roles.  One such actor was Sir Alec Guinness, who immediately lent this bizarre space movie some credibility.  Guinness brought to life the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a former Jedi Knight instrumental to the growth of Luke Skywalker.  Kenobi's primary function in the story is to begin Luke's (and our) education on the concept of the Force.  Through Obi we learn about this mystical power and how vital it is to the success of the Rebellion.  We also learn about the Dark Side and how it corrupted Darth Vader.  Kenobi sacrifices himself so our young heroes can escape, but then as an ethereal being aids Luke in destroying the Death Star.  Obi-Wan represents our first glimpse into the spiritual side of this galactic good vs. evil struggle.  In the prequels Obi-Wan (as played by Ewan MacGregor) is also the one heroic character with any real depth (and the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series lended even more to that incarnation of the character).