Friday, March 31, 2023

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 38

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 hadn't seen a WWE crowd this hot in a long time.

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 Finn Balor vs. Damian Priest and the Intercontinental three-way from that week's Smackdown 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 on the fly 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.  

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.  

Thursday, March 30, 2023

ROH Supercard of Honor 2023 Preview & Predictions

Not to be overlooked this WrestleMania weekend, this Friday is Ring of Honor's annual mega-show, marking the first anniversary of ROH's resurgence under Tony Khan's ownership.  

This lineup is another stacked one, with a long-brewing ROH Title feud coming to fruition, a couple of NJPW stars joining the party, a wild AAA Mega Title match, and a special ladder match to crown new tag team champions, dedicated to Jay Briscoe.  This should be one spectacular show in front of 4000-plus fans, so let's take a dive....

ROH Six-Man Tag Team Championship: The Embassy vs. AR Fox, Blake Christian & Metalik

Could this be Brian Cage's swan song under the Tony Khan umbrella?  No one's really sure, but if the Embassy drops the straps here that could be our answer.  This will be a lot of nonstop action and would make sense as the opening match to get the crowd revved up.

Pick: I foresee a title change to kick things off with a bang.  Fox/Blake/Metalik 

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Daniel Garcia

Just announced last night, this one pits the AEW up-and-comer against the NJPW all-time great.  Must be a dream come true for young Daniel.  I assume he'll more than happily do the job for the vaunted legend, but Tanahashi will do everything he can to make him look like a million bucks before it's over.

Pick: Tanahashi

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 37

WrestleMania 37 marked a return of live crowds to WWE events, after a year of Thunderdome shows.  And it was a pretty enjoyable two-night PPV with a pair of main events that actually delivered.

Night 1 opened, after a 30-minute rain delay (kinda shocking that this is the first time this has ever happened for an outdoor WrestleMania), with the WWE Title match.  Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre were given 18 minutes and made the most of it, with a hard-hitting hoss battle.  Drew got all of his big moves in and went for the Claymore but MVP pulled Lashley out of the ring to save him.  Drew dove over the ropes onto both guys, broke out a kimura lock (homage to Brock Lesnar?), and eventually set up for the Claymore again, but MVP yelled from ringside to Bobby, which distracted Drew long enough for Bobby to duck the kick and apply the Hurt Lock.  Drew fought it for a while and tried to fall back on top of him for a pin, but Lashley rolled through and held on, pulling Drew to the mat and wrapping his leg over.  The ref checked on Drew and called the match for Lashley due to a pass-out.  This seemed like the wrong finish for the first match in a year in front of fans - if Lashley was to retain they should've put this match somewhere else on the card.  Just a really odd, decisive finish for the heel champion, almost like The Rock losing to Triple H at WrestleMania 2000.  Plus it made Miz's brief title run utterly pointless.  But anyway the match was very good.  Drew was booked so weakly for the rest of this feud that he fell down the card and as of this point still hasn't regained the title he was screwed out of.

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 36

WrestleMania in the time of COVID..... 

The one WrestleMania to take place in front of zero fans, in the Performance Center, Number 36 was definitely a mixed results-type show.  The lack of live crowd certainly hurt the overall vibe but everyone worked hard to negate the effects of the room silence; one side effect that was often entertaining was being able to hear the wrestlers trash-talk during each match.  My biggest complaint is that on both nights the final two matches were either underwhelming or just plain stupid.  Why Vince thinks a top championship match going under five minutes is acceptable at WrestleMania, I'm sure I don't know.  

After a pretty entertaining 4-minute pre-show match pitting Cesaro against Drew Gulak, the proper show began with the Women's Tag Titles.  Asuka & Kairi Sane faced Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, in a pretty well-worked match that just went too long.  In front of a crowd this 15-minute match might not have worn out its welcome, but here it ended up dragging a bit by the end.  Asuka came off great in this empty-arena environment though, taunting her opponents for much of the bout.  The Kabuki Warriors dominated much of the bout, but in the end the babyfaces hit a Cross neckbreaker/Twisted Bliss combination on Kairi to regain the belts.  This was a fun opener that just went about three minutes too long.

The match I was least looking forward to was next, as Elias faced everyone's favorite reason to change the channel, Baron Corbin.  After an angle on Smackdown where Corbin knocked Elias off the camera perch to the concrete floor, they teased Elias not being able to wrestle.  But of course Elias came out, not selling anything, bashed Corbin with his guitar, and the match was underway.  This ended up an okay 9-minute TV match but nothing more.  Corbin dominated a lot of the action but after a rope-assisted pin attempt that failed, Corbin got rolled up by Elias (with a handful of tights) for the three.  

The most baffling match placement of either night was next as Becky Lynch defended against Shayna Baszler.  How this went on third and only got eight-and-a-half minutes is beyond me.  This was pretty much all action as they traded strikes and submission attempts back and forth.  Becky at one point hit a uranagi on the apron which looked great.  The match ended when Becky went for Disarm-her but Shayna reversed into the choke.  Becky refused to submit and did the Bret Hart-Steve Austin spot where she rolled backward to pin Shayna and retain.  A year into Becky's title reign this was the wrong move, Shayna should've won here.  What's worse is that Becky announced one month later that she was pregnant and would be relinquishing the title anyway.  So having her go over in this match was pointless.  One of a few booking decisions that didn't make sense to me, but a solid if underwhelming match. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

WWE WrestleMania 39 Preview & Predictions

It's that time again, folks.  It's the biggest wrestling show of the whole year, one that's been so watered down in recent years I've had a very tough time getting much excitement out of it.  But this year is different.

Yes, this weekend is the 39th edition of WrestleMania, the PPV WWE's entire calendar year used to build to.  And for the first time in a loooong time the build for this show and its on-paper lineup feel like something special.  I still haven't been watching the weekly programming (there are only so many hours in a day), but I've been keeping up with how most of these matches were put together, and it's been refreshing to see things done in a simple, logical, straightforward manner where the result in most cases will be a good in-ring payoff.  The main event is the culmination of a year-long journey for the WWE Title challenger.  Both women's title matches involve a decorated veteran facing a younger upstart, though in one case the veteran is the champ and in the other she's the challenger.  We have a rare celebrity match that could actually steal the show.  We have a massive Tag Team Title match pitting the dominant, long-reigning champs against two of the company's hottest babyfaces.  We have a Hell in a Cell match that was built up in the traditional fashion instead of just shoehorned in to fit a gimmick PPV.  We have a probable stinker between a finish-spammer and an immobile giant - hey, they can't all be good, it is still WWE after all...

But the point is, this is the most promising lineup for a WrestleMania show in I dunno how long, and it'll be the biggest test of Triple H's still-young tenure as head of main roster Creative.  If he knocks this one out of the park (and financially that's already been the case), regardless who buys WWE, there's little business reason for Vince to try and take back the reins.  But we'll see.  As someone who's been a jaded-at-best WWE fan for most of the last twenty years it feels good to actually care about WrestleMania again.

Let's look at the lineup....

US Championship: Austin Theory vs. John Cena

This old vs. young dream match of sorts is slotted to open Night 1.  Theory has long been touted as having the potential to be the next John Cena, and while I personally don't see it, let's not forget how not-promising Cena was at that age.  Anyway, this should be entertaining, as Theory does have natural charisma and Cena at this point is fun to watch at worst.  Generally speaking it doesn't make sense for the old guy to beat the current guy for whom you have high hopes, and I think Hunter would tend to agree.  Theory should retain unless the plan is for Cena to stick around for a month or more, which I don't think it is.

Pick: Theory retains

Becky Lynch, Lita & Trish Stratus vs. Damage CTRL

Another match featuring stars of old, there's oodles of in-ring ability and charisma in this one.  Unlike the previous bout though, there's no harm here in having the veteran team win, especially since Becky will likely be the one scoring the pinfall.  Should be a short but fun bout.

Pick: Team Becky

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 35

Another WrestleMania with too many matches that ran too long, to the point that even the historic main event everyone wanted to see kinda fell flat thanks to an exhausted crowd being asked to stay until well after midnight.

Sweet Jeezus, why does a wrestling PPV ever need to go five-and-a-half hours, plus a two-hour pre-show?  Like, ever?  Someone in WWE needs to pick Vince up by the face and shake him until he grasps this idea.  WrestleMania 35, like the previous three editions, was a good three-hour show buried inside a pulsating blob of dimpled fat lasting twice as long.  By the end of the show the white-hot women's main event everyone was frothing at the mouth to see was met with subdued indifference.  That's not good.  How does the man with four decades of experience as a promoter not see this?

The four pre-show matches were split down the middle in terms of quality.  Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese had a very good, innovative, exciting cruiserweight match, the women's battle royal was entirely forgettable and Carmella of all people won, The Revival wrenched a quite watchable RAW Tag Title match out of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder, who became the new champs despite never winning any matches, and the men's battle royal was equally forgettable except for Braun Strowman predictably eliminating Colin Jost and Michael Che.  I'm still not sure what the point of their involvement was.

Alright, now for the main card.  After an Alexa Bliss/Hulk Hogan introduction, Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins kicked off the show (HUUUUUUUHHH???).  Brock attacked Seth before the bell, tossing him from barrier to barrier, over one of the announce tables multiple times, and generally beating the piss out of him before demanding the match be started.  Finally the bell rang, Brock suplexed Seth numerous times, went for the F5, Seth escaped and pushed Brock into the ref, knocking him out of the ring, low-blowed him, and delivered three Curb Stomps, leading to the pin at 2:30 officially.  Metlife Stadium went nuts for this finish, so this has to be considered a successful segment, but as one of the five matches I was genuinely looking forward to, this was a major letdown for me.  Apparently the decision to put this on first was made after the show started.  When the lineup of your biggest show of the year is being switched around on the fly, you just might be Eric Bischoff....  Anyway this was fine for what it was, but it was barely a proper match.  Seth's run as the conquering hero champion fell right on its face pretty quickly after this, thanks to an interminable feud with Baron Corbin (plus Seth's own social media ineptitude).  He'd lose the title back to Brock and then win it back at SummerSlam in a vastly superior match.

Next up was AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton, which while not being the blowaway most people anticipated, was nonetheless a really good 16-minute bout and for a while the best thing on the show.  They teased several times the idea that Orton could hit the RKO as a counter to one of AJ's big moves, but AJ wisely avoided it every time.  Late in the match Orton did hit a sudden RKO but AJ kicked out of the pin, the action spilled outside, at which time AJ hit the Phenomenal Forearm from the top rope to the floor, rolled Orton back in, and hit it again in the ring to win the match.  I liked this match a lot; AJ added to his streak of delivering one of the best matches on the WrestleMania card.  Sadly this streak would end one year later, ironically at the hands of The Streak guy.

Monday, March 27, 2023

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 34

WrestleMania has reached its mid-30s and is starting to question its life choices as it hurtles toward midlife crisis territory....

Image result for wrestlemania 34 logo

This here was a straaaaaange WrestleMania.  At times excellent, at times frustrating, this was a show full of contradictions.  The long and short of it is, WrestleMania 34 had a slew of good to very good matches, a refreshingly renewed focus on current full-timers, a variety of bouts that appealed to the different fan segments, and sadly a few issues that prevented it from being an all-time great WrestleMania.

But man, it was really shaping up to be one of the best ever for a while.  The PPV Proper kicked off with a pretty stellar Triple Threat for the Intercontinental Title, with Finn Balor and Seth Rollins challenging The Miz.  These three worked a blistering pace, with high spots and reversals abound, and had the crowd on the edge of their seats the whole time.  Balor appeared to have the match won after a Coup de Grace on The Miz, when Rollins came out of nowhere with a Curb Stomp, knocking Balor into Miz's back, and following up with a second Curb Stomp on Miz himself for the win.  Just an excellent 15-minute-plus opener that got the crowd (who for the first half of the show was one of the better 'Mania audiences in recent memory) super-energized.

Second was the highly anticipated Smackdown Women's Title match pitting Charlotte against the undefeated Women's Rumble winner Asuka.  This was a fantastically worked match; both women looked stupendous and tough as nails.  Asuka at one point suplexed Charlotte off the apron to the floor, after which Charlotte repeated "I can't breathe" several times, and I'm not sure that wasn't legit.  Charlotte later hit a scary-looking Spanish Fly off the top rope, adding to her big move repertoire.  Asuka worked in some MMA-style submissions, countering a Charlotte moonsault into a triangle choke and later tying her up in a vicious-looking Zack Sabre-esque multi-limb hold.  Near the finish, Charlotte leveled Asuka with a spear (which looked better than any Roman's ever done), and after failing to get the three-count began crying in frustration.  She then slapped on the Figure-Eight, which Asuka fought for several moments before tapping out and taking her first-ever loss in WWE.  My initial reaction to this was "Dude. Bullshit."  But it became clear before long that the plan for 'Mania 35 was Charlotte vs. Ronda, which of course later morphed into a Triple Threat including the white-hot Becky Lynch.  So in retrospect this result made sense, even if I was pissed about it at first.  Regardless, I daresay this was the best-ever women's match at a WrestleMania up to this point.

Next up was the US Title 4-way, with Randy Orton defending against Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal, and Rusev, who was BY FAR the most over guy in the match.  This was a nine-minute sprint, with more or less nonstop action from the get-go.  Every guy got ample time to showcase his stuff, and the finish came down to Rusev about to tap out Jinder with the Accolade before a Singh Brother jumped on the apron and ate a Rusev kick, allowing Jinder to hit the Khallas for the win.  This result made no sense given how over Rusev was, and Jinder dropped the belt to Jeff Hardy two weeks later in Saudi Arabia.  It's sad how badly they squandered Rusev.

Friday, March 24, 2023

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 33

Another year, another interminable WrestleMania with way too many nostalgia acts....

Camping World Stadium - 4/2/17

Amazingly in 2017 WWE put on an even LONGER show than WM32 - the Kickoff started at 5pm Eastern and the main PPV ended at 12:13am.  Jeezus H. Christ guys.  I believe the phrase "too much of a good thing" was invented specifically for modern WWE PPVs.  Anyway, 'Mania 33 had a surprising amount of good stuff, considering how unenthusiastic I was going in.  Where 'Mania 32 was about half-good, 'Mania 33 upped that to about two-thirds, and even the bad stuff was pretty inoffensive.  Sadly most of the weak matches happened in the final third of the show.  Cut an hour out of the main PPV and you'd have something approaching an A- grade.  But let's take the deep dive.

First the pre-show stuff.  The Cruiserweights kicked things off with a quite nice bout that got a shocking 16 minutes.  Neville and Austin Aries worked pretty hard to deliver something memorable and for the most part succeeded.  WWE took a commercial break in the middle, which needs to fucking stop.  There is zero excuse for this.  It's your own network and you have the option to present matches uninterrupted.  Anyway, we got some pretty intense action culminating in Aries hitting a 450 splash, followed by the Last Chancery.  Neville appeared on the verge of tapping out but gouged Aries' injured eye to escape and hit the Red Arrow to retain.  Solid stuff.

The Andre Battle Royal was next, and as usual it was silly at best.  Big Show and Braun Strowman were eliminated mindbogglingly early, at which point I assumed Sami Zayn would probably get a nice little win here.  But when they showed Rob Gronkowski in the front row prior to the bell I should've smelled a rat.  Sure enough, Gronk got into an altercation with Jinder Mahal which led to him getting in the ring and shoulderblocking Mahal, allowing Mojo Rawley to recover from an earlier attack and win the whole thing.  This was purely to get a bit of mainstream media coverage and Mojo Rawley didn't benefit from this win whatsoever.  Once again the Andre Battle Royal serves very little purpose.

The third pre-show match, and the most infuriating, was Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin for the I-C belt.  Why this particular belt has been so devalued is beyond me.  Ambrose and Corbin did nothing in this match to earn a main PPV slot, but it struck me as a chicken-and-egg scenario.  Did they phone it in because they were on the pre-show, or were they on the pre-show because the company knew they'd phone it in?  This was an entirely forgettable bout which got ten minutes and ended with Ambrose reversing End of Days into Dirty Deeds to retain.

The PPV proper kicked off with AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon in a pretty shockingly good match.  I was torn on this because Shane was booked to be a step ahead of AJ for most of the bout, but I'll be damned if it wasn't entertaining.  Many of the spots were way over-the-top, including Shane countering AJ's 450 splash into a triangle choke, Shane missing a Shooting Star Press, AJ trying the Van Terminator but running into a trash can, and Shane doing his own Van Terminator.  AJ finally took the win after hitting the Phenomenal Forearm, capping off what turned out to be the best match of the night.  Nothing even approaching AJ's bouts with Cena, but this was a lot of fun.  AJ turned babyface after this and feuded with Kevin Owens for the US Title for a while before regaining the WWE Title late in the year.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 32

Jeezus, this show just didn't end.  I think it's still going on.....

AT&T Stadium - 4.3.16

Vince McMahon's stubborn refusal to move on from the Roman Reigns pet project continued with 'Mania 32, as Reigns would challenge WWE Champion Triple H (Yes, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was WWE Champion in 2016.  For fuck's sake.) and theoretically send everyone home jubilant.  Except that by 2016 Reigns was as unpopular as ever, and this main event took place in front of a crowd that had already sat through SIX HOURS of wrestling.  But we'll get to that.  Let's take a look at the "biggest" WrestleMania of all time.  And by "biggest" I mean "most reminiscent of being stuck in a well for several days as a senile old man bludgeons you with a loaded colostomy bag."  This show went on FOREVER.

The three pre-show matches all roughly amounted to filler.  Kalisto vs. Ryback was the best of them and really should've been included on the PPV (instead of the stupid battle royal).  Kalisto looked good and had surprisingly okay chemistry with Ryberg.  The 10-Diva match was actually watchable and just about everyone got some time to do stuff.  The Usos-Dudleyz bout was your basic free TV match.  Meh.

The real show kicked off with the 7-man Ladder Match, as I suspected it would.  I wasn't much looking forward to this, but I'll be damned if they didn't knock it outta the park with this one.  Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn carried the majority of the workload, and based on their innate chemistry it understandably gave this spotfest a big boost.  Sin Cara, Zack Ryder and Dolph Ziggler all got a big spot or two as well.  The crazy moments in this match were much more memorable than in 2015's Ladder Match, and while Ryder winning this just to drop the Title to Miz 24 hours later (They seriously couldn't have given it to Sami and had his feud with Owens be for the belt?  Ya know, to make the Intercontinental Title mean something?), I liked this match a lot; much more than the previous year's Ladder Match.

Zayn is a madman

Next up was AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho, part 4.  This got 17 minutes and was easily the best these two produced, but also had a nonsensical ending, as Jericho beat AJ to tie their series 2-2.  The next night AJ would win a great Fatal 4-Way and become the new #1 Contender.  So why'd he lose this match??  Still this was a damn fine undercard bout and a strong Match of the Night contender.

One of the best dropkicks in the biz

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 31

And we're past enumerated WrestleManias, moving on to symbols instead.....

Levi Stadium - 3.29.15

WrestleMania 31 (or Play Button as Vince apparently wants it known) had probably the worst buildup in over a decade.  There was almost no urgency to the product leading into this show, and my expectations were as low as I can remember for a WrestleMania.  As it turned out though, this was a very solid PPV featuring several good-to-very good matches and no real stinkers.  I've read some reviews of 'Mania 31 calling it one of the best WrestleManias of all-time (Dave Meltzer initially called it one of the best shows he'd ever seen but dialed back his praise on a second viewing).  Personally I find that assessment waaaaaay overboard.  I mean let's be honest, this show was nowhere near as good as 'Manias 17 or 19.  Come on.  Hell, it wasn't even on par with 'Mania 30.  This PPV had several good matches but no all-timers, some great results and some not so great, not nearly enough wrestling for a four-hour broadcast (The seven matches totaled about 100 minutes which is downright skimpy), and the longest match was in my opinion the worst by far.

There were two preshow matches (I will never understand why WWE can't fit nine matches on a four-hour PPV when they routinely fit eight on a three-hour one), and one of them was quite entertaining.  The Fatal 4-Way tag match had highspots galore and lots of fun tandem offense that showcased three of the four teams (Sadly Jey Uso sat out the match with a legit shoulder injury).  Cesaro & Kidd won as expected, and I liked Cesaro's douchy heel move of letting Jimmy Uso hit his finisher on Big E, tossing Jimmy out of the ring and covering E himself.  Fun way to open the festivities.

The Battle Royal on the other hand I found rather pointless.  The only participant who gained anything from it was Damien Mizdow (and by proxy The Miz I guess), when he finally turned babyface and nearly eliminated Big Show to win the whole thing.  And of course the company followed up on Mizdow's crowd support with....nothing.  Overall WWE wasted several opportunities to make some underneath guys look good - The New Day all got owned by Show and looked stupid in the process, Hideo Itami from NXT was given about thirty seconds to shine before also being punked out by Show (How pissed d'ya suppose Triple H was by this?), and finally Mizdow failed to get the job done in the end.  The announcers pushed the whole "Big Show has never won a battle royal" thing, but was anyone really clamoring to finally see that happen?  This ended up being another one of those matches that didn't help anyone.

D-Bry becomes a Grand Slam Champion

Moving along to the main card.  The Seven-Man I-C Ladder Match opened the show as I figured it would, and it was a fun watch that didn't really feature anything we haven't seen before.  Once it was over it was forgotten, like a run-of-the-mill Adam Sandler movie (back when he was funny).  Obviously Daniel Bryan winning the one Title he'd never held was a great moment, and had he not suffered another injury shortly thereafter I've no doubt he would've revitalized the I-C Title much as Cena did with the US.  As for the multi-man Ladder Match I think it's time to retire the concept, for a while at least.  There's simply nothing more to do with these matches.  Every conceivable high spot with ladders has been done it would seem, and each of these matches now blurs into the rest.  What's most significant about this match now is that it was Daniel Bryan's final 'Mania match for a while, and he became a Grand Slam Champion.

Next up was one of the two high points of the night - Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins.  At the time I was flabbergasted how early this was placed, but by the end it made sense.  Orton and Rollins nearly tore the house down as expected.  The bout was fast-paced and featured multiple intricately timed spots, including a breathtaking finish where Orton countered a Curb Stomp attempt into an RKO.  Unfortunately these two were only given 13 minutes so the match wasn't able to get out of ****1/4 territory.  Had it gone five minutes longer we'd probably be looking at a Match of the Year candidate.

Those five minutes could've easily been taken away from match #3.  Personally I found Triple H vs. Sting a pretty wretched affair.  They started out having an okay match and after ten minutes it disintegrated into a total Seniors Tour clusterfuck involving DX and the nWo attempting to brawl around ringside.  The live crowd went nuts for this, but I spent the next ten minutes groaning.  In the first place this match was never supposed to be about WWF vs. WCW.  Sting even said as much in his promo.  But ol' Vince couldn't help shoehorning that tired, fifteen-year-old concept into the proceeding.  Second, why on Earth would the nWo ever rush to Sting's aid?  They were mortal enemies in WCW (minus the idiotic Wolfpac angle), and two of the three members are Hunter's best friends!  Not to mention all three are obviously working for WWE now.  None of this lunacy made any sense, and when it was over we were once again left with the takeaway "WCW are poopyheads, WWE rules!"  This match felt like it was booked by a child.  I half-expected a reveal that Will Ferrell and the kid from The Lego Movie were behind it all.

This broke the Guinness record for oldest combined age in a wrestling ring

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Oscar Film Journal: Cries and Whispers (1972)

Time for a weird entry in the Oscar Film Journal....

Today I'll be attempting to dissect Ingmar Bergman's Oscar-nominated period drama Cries and Whispers, released in 1972 but oddly recognized by the Academy as a 1973 film.  What are they, the Grammys??

Anyway, Cries and Whispers centers around three 19th century sisters and their housekeeper.  The eldest(?) Agnes is dying of late-stage cancer and is in crippling pain almost constantly.  Her two sisters Maria and Karin take turns watching over her, along with Anna the housemaid.  Interspersed with this main story thread are Maria and Karin's flashbacks to traumatic episodes involving their respective husbands.  Maria cheated on hers with Agnes's doctor, causing her husband Joakim to attempt suicide by stabbing himself.  Karin is repulsed by her husband and engages in self-mutilation to dissuade him from wanting her sexually.  Both sisters have very strong neuroses in dealing with others - Karin can't bear physical contact of any kind, while Maria seems to interact with everyone erotically, indifferent to the consequences of her actions.  Anna, the most religious of the group, lost her young daughter years earlier and is the most genuinely affectionate toward Agnes in her time of need, cradling her dying friend against her naked skin (Could they have been lovers?  The film doesn't say for sure.).  All four of these women are scarred by trauma of one kind or another, and the film focuses very closely on their various forms of suffering.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXX

It's time to talk about YES-tleMania!

Superdome - 4/6/14

2014's installment was probably the only time I can remember where the fans wielded so much power that WWE was forced to overhaul the lineup of their biggest show of the year.  The originally planned headliner was Randy Orton vs. Batista for the WWE Title.  I'm not sure how anyone in the company thought that was a fitting main event for WrestleMania, but the fans reacted to this development with unbridled hostility.  Add to that the departure of CM Punk (slated to face Triple H) and the surge of fan support for Daniel Bryan, and Vince eventually changed everything around, making Bryan's journey to the Championship the main story thread of the night.

First up, the pre-show Fatal 4-Way Tag match was a fun, action-packed bout and would've been a welcome hot opener on any card.  It really should've been exactly that on the actual PPV.  Nice to see The Usos retain, and even nicer to see Cesaro turn on Jack Swagger and begin his rise to singles stardom.  More on that later.

The PPV itself opened with the obligatory Hulk Hogan host segment, but Steve Austin and The Rock made surprise appearances, and seeing all three in the ring together was certainly historic.  Unfortunately the segment lasted twenty-five minutes.  Twenty-Five.  Look, I get that this was a really special moment, having these three in the ring at the same time, but this is WrestleMania.  This night should by and large be about the actual wrestling and the promos should be kept to a minimum.  A promo is meant to sell a match or an event.  We've already purchased the event, so what are you selling us at this point?

Anyway getting past that, the opening match (which incidentally didn't begin until 38 minutes in!) was the much-anticipated Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H main event qualifier.  And as expected it was an epic duel.  Both guys played their roles to perfection and told a helluva Face-In-Peril story for 26 minutes.  As predicted, Bryan won the match clean to propel himself into the WWE Title match, but Hunter attacked him after the bell in the hopes of rendering him too injured to compete later on.  Made perfect sense and beautifully enhanced the drama of Bryan's quest.

One of the more symbolic feuds in WWE history...

The Shield vs. Kane & The New Age Outlaws bout was rather a disappointment as I had hoped for a solid eight minutes.  But Ambrose, Rollins & Reigns made the most of their allotted three minutes and emerged once again as a dominant faction about to have much bigger fish to fry.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Oscar Film Journal: The Queen (2006)

Welcome back to the Oscar Film Journal, here at!  Still plugging away at past nominees, hoping to cross that halfway mark this year....

Today's entry is the 2006 biographical drama The Queen, starring Helen Mirren in a performance that won her the Oscar, plus Michael Sheen and James Cromwell.  Directed by Stephen Frears and written by The Crown creator Peter Morgan, The Queen takes place mostly over a one-week period in 1997, just after Princess Diana's fatal car crash, and covers what was essentially a power struggle between Britain's long-serving Queen Elizabeth II and its newly elected, optimistic young Prime Minister Tony Blair.  As the country grieves intensely for the beloved ex-Princess (whose relationship with the Royal Family was contentious at best), Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip's apparent aloofness toward the tragedy draws public ire, contrasted with Blair's heartfelt, galvanizing speech dubbing Diana "The People's Princess."  The Queen and the Prime Minister find themselves at odds in dealing with the fallout, Elizabeth clinging to the old, traditional mindset of not publicly showing emotion and keeping the grieving process private and "dignified."  Blair however has his finger on the pulse and correctly determines that the country needs its leaders to show empathy and guide them through this difficult time.  Despite having a very different vision for Britain's leadership, Blair also recognizes that he and his Queen need to remain allies for the good of the nation, privately urging her to join him in comforting her people.  As the out-of-touch Elizabeth and Philip further dig their heels in, their public approval nosedives to the point that one in four Brits supports ending the monarchy altogether.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXIX

Once in a Lifetime!  And by "once," we mean "once plus one"......

MetLife Stadium - 4/7/13

'Mania 29 will go down as one of the least exciting PPVs ever.  It wasn't good enough or bad enough to be very memorable.  It's a completely middle-of-the-road WrestleMania that didn't really advance any storylines or elevate anyone.  The three main event matches featured four part-timers and only two current stars.  Two of the three main events were unnecessary rematches of recent bouts that weren't good enough to warrant a second go-around.  It didn't feel like the company took any risks whatsoever with this event, and the result and quality of nearly every match was terribly predictable.

First the pluses: to be fair a few of the undercard matches were fun.  The opening six-man between The Shield and Randy Orton/Sheamus/Big Show accomplished perfectly what any good opening match should.  It was high energy, showcased some young, exciting talent, and got the crowd hyped.

The Tag Team Title match of Team Hell No vs. Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston was also solid, though too short to be significant.  But at least Daniel Bryan finally got a real match at WrestleMania, and even got the win.

Chris Jericho and Fandango had an unexpectedly good match that seemed to start Fandango's WWE career off with a bang.  Of course the company didn't follow up on it and so Jericho put him over for nothing.  Stuff like this is why a scatterbrained 68-year-old shouldn't be booking the show.

The Undertaker and CM Punk predictably stole the show with a dramatic and memorable 4-star bout that showed Punk able to hold his own against The Phenom.  For the first time in many years it seemed The Streak might actually be in jeopardy, and in hindsight given what happened the following year they probably should've just let Punk be the guy to end it.  It would've done more for Punk than it did for Brock.  2013 was the year Punk became Jobber to the Part-Timers and it was instrumental in his leaving the company in 2014.  Throw the guy a frickin' bone.

Wow, this wallpaper's BOSS.

Friday, March 17, 2023

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXVIII

Another potentially great WrestleMania ruined by stupidity....

SunLife Stadium - 4/1/12

And here's Part 2 of WWE's slap in the face to Daniel Bryan and Sheamus fans of all ages....

'Mania 28 was a good show.  I daresay it was a very good show.  And it was also one of the more disappointing 'Manias because it could and should have been a truly great show.  It was one match away from achieving greatness.  One match away from four of the eight matches on the card being heralded as classics.  I'll give you three guesses which match I'm referring to.  Go on, think about it, I can wait.....

Imagine my relief when the opening bell rang and the ring announcer declared, "The opening contest is for the World Heavyweight Championship."  Fantastic!  Daniel Bryan and Sheamus got screwed last year, but WWE is making amends by giving them a second chance to fight at WrestleMania, and for the World Title no less!  This is gonna be a great match and I don't even care that it's on first!  My excitement would last eighteen seconds.  One Brogue Kick later, I found myself in the exact same state of unbridled rage as I had a year earlier.  So Sheamus and Daniel Bryan were cheated out of a WrestleMania moment not once, but TWICE.  I just wish I could've been in on the creative meeting where the "18 seconds" decision was made.  I just want to hear the logic that was used to rationalize this booking.  Just a few points for Vince and his creative team:

1. Whether you realize it or not, both Sheamus and Daniel Bryan are very over with a good portion of the audience and those people are really looking forward to this match, especially since they didn't get it last year.  Making this a one-move match will really piss those people off and you'll already have lost them for the rest of the show (which is how I reacted - I seriously didn't care about the rest of the show until Match #7).

2. How do you expect Sheamus to get over as a top-flight babyface when he just won the World Title by essentially sucker-punching his heel opponent?  In what universe is that a good way for a babyface to get over?

3. How much does it cheapen the second most important Title in the company to have it change hands in an 18-second opening contest?

4. Why would you ever charge your audience $70 a pop for an event and then intentionally not deliver on one of the top four advertised matches?  What did you think was going to happen?

Stupidest decision ever made by human beings.

Anyway you all know the rest, the fans were highly pissed and all but ruined the second match, Randy Orton vs. Kane (which was actually a pretty good contest) by chanting "Daniel Bryan" for the next 20 minutes.  Thus began the trend of live crowds hijacking WWE shows in support of Mr. Bryan.  Obviously in hindsight this little 18-second incident helped catapult Bryan to where he is today, but so would an amazing 15-minute war where Sheamus just barely eked out a win (which would've gotten Sheamus over as well).

Bad decision #2 was next, as Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes, who was in the middle of a great run and hoped to break the Honky Tonk Man's 15-month record, lost to The Big Show in a five-minute throwaway bout (Rhodes would win the title back four weeks later, making this title change pointless).

Bad decision #3 followed as celebrity guest (God I'm tired of those) Maria Menounos teamed with Kelly Kelly to face Divas Champion Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres.  After an okay four-minute women's match, Beth got pinned by Maria.  I'd like to repeat that: the physically gifted and imposing Divas Champion, accomplished pro wrestler Beth Phoenix got pinned by Access Hollywood co-host Maria Menounos.  See what I mean about celebrity guests making the business look stupid?

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXVII

What a disappointing bag of crap this show turned out to be....

GeorgiaDome - 4/3/11

Oh man, this segment and the next are going to exhume all kinds of buried anger.  Just warning you...

'Mania 27 ranks at #2 on the Most Disappointing WrestleManias list.  Not since 15 was so much potential wasted at the biggest show of the year.  For the first time in several years, three new uppercard heels were featured prominently on the card, the WWE Title match included a first-time champion, and a large contingent of young, rising talent was given some of the 'Mania spotlight.  Then everything went to Hell.

**Note: I did not read any internet wrestling news the day of this show so any last minute card-shuffling was unknown to me when the show started.**

I knew something was wrong right out of the gate when 'Mania host The Rock opened the show with a pointless, meandering monologue that went on for 15 minutes and actually, I sh*t you not, included him leading the fans in a "Wrestle! Mania!" call and answer.  Fif. Teen. Minutes.

Then bafflingly the opening match was the World Title match between Edge and 2011 Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio, in what should've been Del Rio's breakout match.  Instead what transpired was a very good eleven-minute hot opener where #1 of WWE's three new top heels failed to close the deal and went home a loser.

Next was a very solid midcard match between Rey Mysterio and Cody Rhodes that oddly got more time than the World Title match.  But it was a fine contest so I didn't complain.

Third was an 8-man tag that could've been a fun, wild brawl.....had it been given more than 90 seconds.  Yup.  Ninety seconds.  The Corre vs. Big Show/Kane/Santino Marella/Kofi Kingston was given less time than it's taken me to write this paragraph.  Their ring entrances lasted longer than the match.  I can't imagine in my wildest daydreams why this match wasn't simply bumped off the main card.

Up next was another very good match - CM Punk vs. Randy Orton.  Finally Punk would be given a real 'Mania match that went into double digits.  These two told a really great story and delivered a near show-stealer.  Unfortunately as with Punk's 'Mania 26 match, WWE decided to give the babyface the win in the first encounter, making the subsequent PPV rematch unnecessary and devoid of any heat.  Score 0 for 2 for the WWE's new top heels.

Match #5.  Sigh.....  Announcer Michael Cole vs. Wrestler-turned-Announcer Jerry Lawler.  WWE had turned Cole heel months earlier and thus the announce table became a massive, non-stop bickering session for every TV taping.  These two could barely concentrate on whatever match was happening in front of them every night because they were constantly cutting into each other.  Just painful to listen to.  Now I gave this program the benefit of the doubt and thought it would lead to a mildly entertaining 5-minute beatdown on Cole which would really get the crowd going.  Instead we were subjected to nearly 14 minutes of Cole beating up Lawler (?!), after which Lawler made his comeback and won the match, after which the Anonymous RAW General Manager (one of the worst ongoing angles ever) disqualified Lawler due to referee Steve Austin's physical involvement in the match (one of the worst-ever uses of Steve Austin).  Fourteen minutes this match got.

Yup, this got more time than the World Heavyweight Championship.

The match of the night was next, as Triple H attempted to end The Undertaker's 'Mania streak, and while full of typical No-Disqualification shortcuts, these two put on a very dramatic, brutal fight with some great nearfalls.  My only complaint about the match itself is that the final ten minutes mostly consisted of big move-two count-rest repeated several times.  Cut five minutes out of this 29-minute bout and you'd have an easy ****1/2 star rating.  The match ended with Taker submitting Triple H in the Hell's Gate, followed by Hunter walking out under his own power and the exhausted Taker needing to be stretchered out.  This segment from entrances to exits took about 50 minutes, which was totally excessive.  Side note: I don't wanna hear anyone ever claim AEW does too many finisher kickouts, as this match had seven of them.  Seven.  Three Pedigrees, two Tombstones, a Last Ride, and a chokeslam.  If you were find with that, kindly sit the fuck down with the complaints about AEW doing that sort of thing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Oscar Film Journal: The Fabelmans (2022)

Welcome back to the Oscar Film Journal, here at!  I'm on a roll, let's keep it goin'....

"Hollywood is so out of ideas Steven Spielberg had to make a movie about Steven Spielberg."  Alright, that was a good one, Jimmy Kimmel.  

Yes, today's subject is the semiautobiographical The Fabelmans, directed and co-written by legendary auteur Steven Spielberg, about his teen years as a budding filmmaker, amid his parents' dissolving marriage.  Starring Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen and relative newcomer Gabriel LaBelle as young Steven (called Sam Fabelman in the film), The Fabelmans begins with a five-year-old Sam and his first moviegoing experience.  His parents take him to see The Greatest Show on Earth, and Sam is captivated/terrified by that film's climactic train crash sequence.  For Hanukkah he receives a toy train set and becomes obsessed with recreating the scene, much to his father's chagrin.  But his free-spirited, piano-playing mom shows him how to film the staged crash with a home movie camera so he can watch it over and over instead of damaging the toy train.  From there little Sam is hooked on making movies, already possessing of an innate cinematic eye.  Fast-forward a decade and teenage Sam is a prodigious young director, creating westerns and war films with his Boy Scout troop.  But his left-brained father Burt thinks he should abandon his "hobby" and focus on starting a real career, while his mother Mitzi becomes visibly unhappy in their marriage and is drawn instead to Burt's best friend Bennie.  Sam finds himself caught in the middle, using filmmaking as a way to avoid dealing with personal conflicts.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXVI

2010 saw one of the better-executed 'Mania builds, culminating in one of the better 'Manias in some time....

University of Phoenix Stadium - 3/28/10

'Mania 26 had one of the best buildups of any 'Mania card in recent memory.  From January to April 2010 WWE was in peak form, presenting exciting new feuds and expertly rekindling old ones.  WrestleMania XXVI was a grand culmination that felt very special.

Both World Championship matches involved fresh rivalries, or at least rivalries that hadn't yet been beaten into the ground.  John Cena vs. Batista had only occurred once before as a face vs. face Summerslam match, and in 2010 Batista was a ruthless, bitter heel; a role I always felt much better suited him.  In hyping this match WWE referenced Batista's clean win over Cena in 2008, and also had Batista physically maul Cena at every turn which truly put the babyface character in jeopardy.  This is how you build a classic hero vs. villain match.  Not only that, but they provided Batista's heel character excellent motivation in the form of professional jealousy over not becoming the WWE's Posterboy.  The match itself while not epic, was a strong WWE-style championship bout where Cena finally got a win over his larger rival.

On the Smackdown side, we were finally treated to a Chris Jericho vs. Edge PPV match (this was scheduled to happen in 2002 before Edge was rerouted into a tag team with Hulk Hogan, and again in 2004 but Edge got hurt), and WWE built their feud around the fallout from their shortlived tag team run.  Edge sustained an injury, forcing Jericho to find a replacement tag partner, and in doing so Jericho publicly threw Edge under the bus.  Edge unexpectedly returned at the 2010 Royal Rumble, targeting Jericho, and winning the title shot.  Nice simple way to build to a Championship match at 'Mania, and the resulting match was very good, if hampered by a rather lethargic crowd.

Finally we got a Jericho-Edge PPV match!

Elsewhere on the card, multiple newer talents got actual matches instead of being crammed into the annual Money in the Bank spotfest (this edition was won, surprisingly, by Jack Swagger).  CM Punk and Rey Mysterio got a pretty good little 6-minute bout (criminally short by my calculations), The Miz and Big Show successfully defended the Tag Team belts against John Morrison and R-Truth (even shorter), and Sheamus's first 'Mania match saw him take on his offscreen mentor Triple H (in Hunter's first non-championship 'Mania match since 2001).

The returning Bret Hart finally got his long-awaited onscreen revenge for Montreal, against Vince McMahon.  Sadly while the buildup to this match was pretty intriguing, the match itself was nigh unwatchable and about twice as long as it should've been.  Bret was severely limited in what he could do in the ring, and WWE blew what could've been a nice late-match twist.  During Vince's ring introduction he appeared with Bret's entire family seemingly in his corner, making it appear as though Bret would be facing a whole entourage.  Unfortunately it was revealed right at the beginning of the match that the Harts duped Vince into thinking they were on his side, thus destroying all suspense and turning the whole affair into a heel vs. 15 babyfaces scenario.  Not much of a match when the heel gets beaten up by 15 people for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Oscar Film Journal: Women Talking (2022)

Still playing catch-up with this year's Best Picture nominees, so here's another Oscar Film Journal entry for ya!

This time it's the true-story-inspired Women Talking, written and directed by Sarah Polley (now an Oscar winner for Best Adapted Screenplay), and starring a host of accomplished actresses including Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, and in what is essentially a cameo, Frances McDormand.  The film is based on a novel by Miriam Toews, which was inspired by a real-life incident that took place in Bolivia.  It seems there was a colony of Mennonites wherein a hundred-or-so women and girls were drugged and raped by several of their male co-habitants, and when the perpetrators were finally caught, a handful of the victims met to decide what their next course of action should be.  The novel (and film) are a fictionalized version of those meetings.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 25

Time to talk about the 25th Anniversary....of the year before WrestleMania started!

Reliant Stadium - 4/5/09

Speaking of WrestleMania cards I wasn't excited about, we now arrive at the "25th Anniversary" of WrestleMania (good lord that marketing drove me nuts - does WWE think people can't count?).  Early 2009 was an extremely stagnant time for the company, where the same 5 or 6 wrestlers were being shuffled around the same 5 or 6 spots and no new talent was breaking into the main event scene.  If you take the seven participants in the top three matches of 'Mania 24 and compare them to the top three matches of 25, swap out Flair for The Big Show and you have the same seven guys.  Couple this with very poor buildup for both Championship matches and you have a recipe for an anemic WrestleMania season.  As it turned out though, the show was pretty good. 

Triple H vs. Randy Orton took the main event slot and despite an awful, awful buildup (Explain to me again why I'm supposed to cheer for the all-powerful McMahon family just because Randy Orton beat them up?  Didn't Steve Austin make a megaface career out of beating up the McMahons?) and a suitably disinterested live crowd, they managed to salvage a solid Title match out of it.  But really the only good segment leading up to this match was when Orton handcuffed Triple H to the bottom rope and forced him to watch Stephanie be DDT'd and kissed by his arch-rival.  Then the following week all the tension was immediately diffused as Triple H broke into Orton's house and beat the snot out of him.  I thought the whole point of the PPV match was to get the audience to want to see the villain get his comeuppance.  If that happens a week before the big match, why should we care?  Also given the highly personal nature of this feud, you'd think WWE would've made the match a no-DQ match of some sort.  Instead the only stip was that if Hunter got disqualified he'd lose the Title.

Oh look, it's the only good part of this feud

The Smackdown Title match was a Triple Threat that I was equally blase about - Edge vs. John Cena vs. The Big Show.  Their feud centered around some twisted love triangle with Vickie Guerrero, yadda yadda.  Bottom line is that the match was actually really entertaining.  I was very shocked by how much fun it ended up being.

But the real standout of 'Mania 25 was of course the epic 30-minute war between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.  I honestly didn't get caught up in the build for this match either and by this point was so fed up with WWE's lack of star-building that I half-expected this to be mediocre.  I was wholly incorrect, as these two legends showed us all how it's done, with masterful storytelling, a couple of insane dives that probably should've killed each of them, and a few of the most shocking false finishes anyone had ever seen.  This match ended up being one for the ages.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Oscar Film Journal: Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Welcome to a special day-after entry in the Oscar Film Journal!

Well the 95th Academy Awards are in the history books, and as expected one film dominated the show, winning seven out of eleven trophies and becoming only the third movie to take home three Oscars for acting (the previous two being A Streetcar Named Desire and Network).  That film is Everything Everywhere All at Once, written and directed by Daniel Kwan (Westborough MA represent!) and Daniel Scheinert, a pair of Emerson College alumni who got their start in music videos and broke into feature films with 2016's Swiss Army Man.  I caught EEAAO in the theater when it came out last spring but inexplicably couldn't formulate a proper review of it.  I enjoyed it on the first viewing but at the same time felt sort of bombarded by it all (I mean it is right there in the title).  It was an unquestionably original and unabashedly creative premise, held together by some pretty great performances, but aside from that I wasn't really sure how to review or rate it.

Well this past weekend in prep for the Oscars I gave it another look (My wife hadn't seen it at all yet and by the end was moved to gushing, sobbing tears), and this time I liked it a lot more and found it profoundly moving.  Like so many films that throw a lot at you "all at once," this one really demands multiple spins to fully process it all.  Yet, almost paradoxically, in the end it's really about very simple, very relatable themes (particularly for those of us who are both someone's child AND someone's parent).

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XXIV

For the second year in a row WWE delivered a shockingly good 'Mania....

Citrus Bowl - 3/30/08

After four years, WrestleMania returned to the roman numeral naming convention.  This was one of those PPVs that completely defied my expectations.  I went into this show not being very excited about anything except Undertaker vs. Edge.  I didn't care at all about the Orton-Cena-Triple H feud, didn't really want to see Ric Flair wrestle anymore at his advanced age, and most certainly didn't care about Floyd Mayweather.  But 'Mania 24 ended up being a pretty great show that really delivered where it counted.

Shawn Michaels vs. Ric Flair was one of the most emotional matches I've ever seen.  Michaels obviously deserves a lot of the credit for making this match great, as he bumped around like crazy, per usual.  But Flair's storytelling was also off the charts and he emoted wonderfully, making the audience really care about his career-ending journey.  The final seconds of the match when Flair tearfully begged Shawn to hit the superkick, followed by the sorrow on Shawn's face, made for one of the most memorable of all 'Mania moments.

The kick that ended Flair's's gettin' a little dusty in here.....

Friday, March 10, 2023

95th Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

This Sunday it's the 95th Annual Academy Awards, and my associate Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) are back to offer our preview and predictions.  Mike is probably gonna sweep these damn things yet again and I'll just end up getting upset, but we're gonna do this anyway.

I'm in the exact same position I was at this time last year, having seen half of the Best Picture nominees and hoping to bang out a couple more over the weekend before the show.  The five I've seen have ranged from stunningly great to "Why the fuck is this movie even nominated?" (You know which one you are Maverick....)  

This disturbing trend where the Academy is obligated to include at least one or two popcorn movies just to attract a bigger Nielsen rating feels like straight-up pandering to me, not to mention they always give the award to one of the smaller films anyway.  And they didn't even include the one popcorn movie from 2022 that actually deserves to be there (Had The Batman actually crossed the billion-dollar mark you know goddamn well they would have).  Fortunately I don't think any of the three fluff movies have a snowball's chance in Hell of winning Best Picture.  But it just feels wrong to have to refer to the Top Gun remake sequel or the reeeeeally delayed Avatar followup as a Best Picture nominee.  Hollywood's been churning out too many remakes and sequels and reboots and prequels and spinoffs and requels as it is, do they really need to win awards for it?

Ok enough old-man sky-yelling, let's pick some winners!

Best Picture

Avatar: The Way of Water
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Triangle of Sadness
Women Talking

Justin: Alright, I've seen All Quiet which was amazing, Banshees which was pretty great, Elvis which was pedestrian despite a really strong lead performance, EEAAO which was fun and original, and Top Gun which was paint-by-numbers shite despite really impressive flight sequences.  Of those five my favorite was All Quiet; just a beautifully made, harrowing, immersive war film.  But that's all moot, because Everything Everywhere All at Once is a mortal lock to take this award and probably most of the awards it's nominated for.  That movie is on fire right now, and I'm not even mad.  It wasn't my favorite of the field but it was imaginative as hell, and that should be rewarded.  Not to mention one of its directors, Daniel Kwan, is from my hometown of Westborough, MA.  REPRESENT!!!

PickEverything Everywhere All at Once

Mike: I’ll forgive the insolence in your tone,  Top Gun: Maverick is really well positioned to get the upset. The action laced with dramatic overtones and a splash of nostalgia, not to mention the outstanding performances that will literally take your breath away while in the danger zone, makes it such a considerable film. How do you go against it?

Pick: Kidding. Everything Everywhere All At Once for sure.