Monday, July 31, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2004)

A step up from 2003 overall, but this edition was still not the on-paper classic it looked like....

SummerSlam '04 - Air Canada Centre - 8/15/04

This SummerSlam was a bit underwhelming for me.  I had extremely high expectations for an overall great card with multiple classics, and other than two predictably great matches there wasn't much else going on.  It seemed like there were some time management issues given how short some of the bouts were, but I can't figure out where all that time went.

The opening six-man between the three Dudleys and Rey Mysterio, Paul London & Billy Kidman was a fine way to kick off the show.  Very quick and exciting, and showcased some nice Cruiserweight action, plus Bubba and Devon.

Second was the payoff to one half of one of the stupidest ongoing angles I can remember: Kane had been stalking Lita, trying to hook up with her.  Lita was dating Matt Hardy at the time, who ran to her rescue.  Kane challenged Matt to a match, where if Kane won, Lita would be forced to marry him.  First, in what universe would any woman agree to marry a guy she hated, if her boyfriend couldn't beat up said creep?  Why wouldn't Lita have just gotten Kane arrested for stalking her and repeatedly assaulting her boyfriend?  Second, in what universe would a marriage under duress be legally binding?

Kane beat the bejeezus out of Matt to win the match, and Lita ended up having to marry him.  Then Kane impregnated her, about which she was horrified, until Gene Snitsky showed up one day and bashed Kane with a chair, causing him to land on top of Lita, causing a miscarriage, about which Lita was devastated.  So she was upset that the demon spawn her evil stalker husband gave her would never be born.  And then Kane became the babyface in a new feud with Snitsky, only to later feud with Edge, for whom Lita dumped Kane, turning heel in the process.  Unbelievable.  Sorry for the tangent.  This Kane-Hardy match stunk.

Next up was John Cena vs. Booker T in a Best-of-Five series for the vacant US Title, and the company inexplicably put Match #1 on the SummerSlam card.  I was looking forward to this, but being the first match in the series it only went 6 minutes and amounted to very little.

Friday, July 28, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2003)

In 2003 the company snatched a stalemate from the jaws of certain victory, with a half-good SummerSlam....

ASummerSlam '03 - America West Arena - 8/24/03

The 2003 edition of the summer extravaganza is probably the most infuriating, in that it was so very close to a great PPV and somehow managed to fall spectacularly short.  With only a few adjustments this show could've been awesome.  Instead it was just a pretty good show that had the stupidest ending since WrestleMania IX.

The show opened with a throwaway World Tag Title match - La Resistance (more or less a carbon copy of the Rougeau Brothers from the 80s) vs. The Dudley Boyz.  This was, I believe, the 387th time these two teams had faced each other in televised matches, but that didn't stop WWE from throwing this match on the show.  Nevermind that the previous month's Smackdown-only PPV had an amazing WWE Tag Title match of Haas & Benjamin vs. Mysterio & Kidman, and literally everyone who bought this show probably would've rather seen that again.  But whatevs.

Next up was Undertaker vs. A-Train (yup, they repackaged the big fat hairy bald dude Albert as the big fat hairy bald dude A-Train).  This was during the year or so where Vince was convin....um, CERTAIN that Albert was gonna be a huge main event heel.  He had thrown Edge at him, and when Albert didn't get over they kinda blamed Edge.  Then they started a months-long feud between Taker and Big Show/Albert.  That didn't work either.  A couple months after this show they even stuck Albert in there with Chris Benoit, hoping the latter's impeccable workrate would get Mr. Train over.  By the beginning of 2004 they finally realized Albert was destined to be a midcarder (Until 2012 when they put a bunch of fake Japanese tattoos on his face and called him Lord Tensai, with the intent of feuding him with John Cena).  Anyway, this match is about what you'd expect.  Slow, plodding, and inconsequential.

Third was one of a slew of 2003 PPV matches featuring non-wrestlers (holy jumpin' Christ there were a lot of these), as RAW GM Eric Bischoff faced WWE heir-apparent Shane McMahon.  This whole feud was built around Bischoff coming on to Shane's mom, and Shane vowing revenge.  The angle was super creepy and at the same time defied anyone with more than 150 brain cells to care in the slightest.  The match was a total waste of ten-and-a-half minutes of my life (by comparison the Cruiserweight Title match that got bumped to the pre-show got roughly one-fifth of this running time), and is one of many examples from 2003 of just how delusional the McMahon family was about their own drawing power.  Lotta that still going on......

Not a good first hour for SummerSlam '03.

These two couldn't have a sucky match if they tried.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2002)

Greatest SummerSlam of all time, comin' atcha.....

SummerSlam '02 - Nassau Coliseum - 8/25/02

One of the best WWE events I've ever seen.  This show ranks up there with 'Mania 17 and 19.  Eight matches, not one of them bad, and a few of them in the four-star range.  Literally the only thing missing from SummerSlam 2002 was a five-star classic.  This show took place during the red-hot RAW vs. Smackdown feud, where GMs Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon were constantly trying to one-up each other each week.  Behind the scenes Paul Heyman was writing Smackdown and just knocking it out of the park every week (this was the beginning of the orgasmically good Smackdown Six era).  SummerSlam '02 is a perfect illustration of how much better the blue brand was at this point.

The show opened in impossibly spectacular fashion with Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio.  This was nine minutes of awesome.  Mysterio was still healthy at this point, and could do absolutely astounding things in the ring.  Paired with a general like Kurt Angle, there was no way this match couldn't be incredible.  My only complaint is that this match wasn't twice as long.

This match was nine minutes of fuckin' great.

Chris Jericho was enjoying one of the worst, most depressing examples of misuse in wrestling history.  He had just been traded to RAW, where there was almost no one really great to work with.  Had he stayed on Smackdown he could've been part of the Smackdown Six (or Seven I guess).  Sadly Jericho went from headlining WrestleMania to floundering in the RAW midcard for the next three yearssince there wasn't an available top heel spot for him there.  He had a brief and unremarkable feud with Ric Flair and bafflingly lost clean to the 53-year-old in this match.  It's a pretty good match, it's just that Jericho deserved so much better.

Smackdown was well-represented by the third match: Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero.  This feud produced a trilogy of absolute classics, the first of which took place here.  Excellent 11-plus-minute bout that showcased both guys as future main eventers.  After you watch this match, go and find their no-holds-barred rematch from Smackdown which took place about a month later.  You will not be disappointed.

Next up was the Tag Title match between Lance Storm & Christian, and Booker T & Goldust.  Booker and Goldust had been paired as an unlikely babyface duo, and managed to get hugely over.  This match is no classic but it's not too shabby either.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2001)

In the midst of the worst-botched wrestling angle of all time came an incredible SummerSlam....

SummerSlam '01 - Compaq Center - 8/19/01

This show was awesome.  SummerSlam 2001 took place at the height of the Invasion angle which, while remembered by history as an abysmal failure on a massive scale, did produce a few good PPVs, most significantly this one.

From top to bottom nearly every match on the card was good to great, a few of them were first-time dream matches, and there was a big-time feel to the whole proceeding.

The show opened in style with an I-C Title match between WCW's Lance Storm and the WWF's newest King of the Ring, Edge.  This was short and to the point, but featured fast-paced back-and-forth action.  Great way to kick off the show.

Next up was a fun little six-man tag: The Dudleys and Test vs. The APA and Spike.  Nothing spectacular here, but it was a nice addition and brought some variety to the show.

In the third slot was an excellent Cruiserweight Title Unification match between X-Pac and Tajiri.  This match existed outside the Invasion angle as neither man was part of the Alliance.  Nevertheless it was a blistering small-man contest and marked the end of the WWF Light Heavyweight Title, which was absorbed into the Cruiserweight belt (I mean that literally; the Cruiserweight belt swallowed the other one like an amoeba).

Chris Jericho and Rhyno were up next and had a match nearly worthy of a semi-main slot.  Jericho had some trouble with the overly loose ropes, but managed to hold his own in this very solid undercard bout.

Bout 6 was a rematch to the amazing RVD-Jeff Hardy spotfest from Invasion.  To up the ante, this was made a Hardcore Title Ladder Match.  While it wasn't quite up to the high standard set by the first encounter, this was a fine, brutal Ladder Match and helped cement RVD as the hottest star in the company.

This led to a terribly botched spot that could've been awesome.
But at least no one got hurt.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2000)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 24, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1999)

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHACK!

Friday, July 21, 2023

ROH Death Before Dishonor 2023 Preview & Predictions

This Friday it's the most afterthoughtiest Ring of Honor PPV in history, Death Before Dishonor 2023!


I kid, I kid.  Tony Khan has a lot on his plate right now, from back-to-back PPV-level shows in August to last night's Blood and Guts Dynamite (which I got to see in person and it was AWESOME), but this ROH show has been rather haphazardly tossed together, thanks partly due to one guy being unavailable and another being injured.  The original main event was to be Claudio Castagnoli defending the ROH Title against Eddie Kingston but with Eddie being in Japan for the G1 Climax that was out.  Thus Mark Briscoe was slated to get the shot instead and he got hurt.  So now it's Claudio vs. Pac, which might actually be a better match than either of the other two.  There are also five other title matches and a couple fun undercard bouts.  Let's get into it.




ROH TV Championship: Samoa Joe vs. Dalton Castle


Yeah, this one doesn't blow my skirt up as they say.  Castle won a four-man Eliminator tournament to get this shot but he's never really been my cup of tea as wrestlers go.  He's amusing and all, but hard to take seriously as a title contender.  I imagine Joe gets a pretty one-sided win here.

Pick: Joe retains




ROH Pure Championship: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Daniel Garcia


This should be a fine contest, both are legit grapplers.  Garcia's title shot comes from a tag match on Dynamite where Garcia stole a pin over Shibata.  The title has jumped around pretty consistently over the last year, with each champion only getting 3-4 months with it.  I could see that trend continuing I guess.  Maybe Shibata regains it in December?

Pick: I'll go with Garcia

Thursday, July 20, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1998)

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

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

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

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

Right.  In.  The Dick.

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1997)

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

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

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

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

Some belated 4th of July FIREWORKS!

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1996)

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2023

The History of WWE Summerslam (1995)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 14, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1994)

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, July 13, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1993)

Welcome to the most mediocre PPV ever, SummerSlam 1993!

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1992)

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1991)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Things: The Rocky/Creed Films, Ranked

Welcome to a special installment of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  This edition is so special in fact that we only have nine things to rank.  Don't ask....


Today I'm here to talk about the Rocky/Creed film series!  The brainchild of struggling actor/screenwriter Sylvester Stallone, Rocky came about as a fit of inspiration in 1975, after Stallone watched no-name fighter Chuck Wepner shock the world by going the distance with the legendary Muhammed Ali.  He found the story of a million-to-one underdog a compelling mirror of his own journey in the film business, and pitched the idea to producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler at an audition.  They were intrigued and asked him to write a script, which he hammered out on lined paper in the span of three days.  Stallone's inspiring tale of a club fighter getting a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the Heavyweight Championship instantly captured their imagination, and the film was greenlit.  Limited to a tiny $950,000 budget, the production was a whirlwind affair, shot over four weeks, and no one was prepared for the cultural milestone the finished film would become.  $225 million and a Best Picture Oscar later, Rocky the film was as incredible an underdog story as its protagonist, and it quickly spawned a series.  The franchise is now nine films deep including the Creed spinoffs, with no signs of slowing down, and more amazingly, possessing of some of the sturdiest legs of any film saga.  After 46 years and counting, you simply can't knock this franchise off its feet.

But which installments are the best?  Which are the worst?  How does one rank these stirring, inspirational films spanning over four decades?  Let's hit the heavy bag and see if we're ready to go the distance.  Too many boxing metaphors?




9. Rocky V


The much-maligned fifth chapter earned most of its derision.  One of only two Rocky films I consider bad movies, Rocky V unfortunately didn't even reach "so bad it's good" territory.  I respected the filmmakers' endeavor at something different after taking the "Rocky as superhero" thing as far as it could go in Rocky IV.  They tried to take the series back to its gritty roots, having Rocky lose his fortune (through one of the most convoluted financial plot devices in film history) and move back to his old Philly neighborhood.  Suffering brain damage after his grueling Drago fight, Rocky is forced to retire from boxing but instead becomes a trainer to up-and-coming fighter Tommy Gunn, who then ditches Rocky for a hotshot promoter and wins the championship.  Rather than build to an in-ring climax between Rocky and Tommy, the film instead has them fighting in an alley behind the neighborhood bar.  The attempt to eschew the Rocky formula while not really eschewing it just made for a muddy, uninteresting, drab film, and worse, at the time it seemed the Rocky franchise would go out with a rather embarrassing whimper (Originally Rocky was going to be killed during the street fight; thank god that didn't happen....).

Monday, July 10, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1990)

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, July 7, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1989)

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

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

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

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

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

The undercard however had a triumvirate of awesome bouts.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

NJPW G1 Climax 33 Preview & Predictions

It's that time of year again, where a whole buncha badass dudes fight each other over a four-week period to earn a shot at the IWGP Championship at the biggest NJPW show of the year.


Well the company decided on the four-block format again this year, but unlike the 2022 edition this one has a much more exciting field with a great mix of established stars and compelling young guys looking to make their mark on this business.  For the first time in several years we have a handful of potential winners, plus a lot of names that could be made with a strong performance.  Opening things up even further is the fact that there will be a quarterfinal round, with the top two guys in each block moving on.  So eight guys will have a chance to get to the semis.  While I'm still not crazy about having four blocks, it does make for a lighter schedule for everyone and each night of the G1 gets to be all tournament matches instead of half throwaways.  The hard part for me is going to be keeping up with it all, although I think the block matches will have a 20-minute time limit this year.  

Let's look at the blocks below:


Block A: Sanada, Chase Owens, Hikuleo, Ren Narita, Shota Umino, Yota Tsuji, Gabriel Kidd, Kaito Kiyomiya

This block is almost all G1 first-timers and a few of them actually have a shot at winning this, as the company is clearly focused on making the next generation of headliners.  Lotta great youth vs. youth matchups in this one.


Block B: Kazuchika Okada, Yoshi-Hashi, Taichi, Kenta, Great O-Khan, Will Ospreay, Tanga Loa, El Phantasmo

Mostly G1 veterans in this block and it will almost certainly come down to two names, but we could see a spoiler make it to the semis.


Block C: David Finlay, Tomohiro Ishii, Evil, Tama Tonga, Shingo Takagi, Aaron Henare, Eddie Kingston, Mikey Nichols

This could be the block to watch as far as great, hard-hitting matchups.  Ishii, Shingo and Eddie in the same block = fireworks.


Block D: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Hirooki Goto, Zack Sabre Jr., Toru Yano, Jeff Cobb, Shane Haste, Alex Coughlin

Lots of G1 experience in this block, with Tana, Naito, Goto and Yano leading the charge in that department.  

 

Alright, as I did last year, instead of reviewing all 32 participants by name, let's take a look at the plausible list of winners/runners-up in each block and see where we stand.

Block A: In this block you have IWGP Champ Sanada, Shota Umino, Ren Narita as a longshot, and my personal pick Yota Tsuji, who impressed the shit out of me at this year's Dominion.  This kid has IT and should have a rocket strapped to his back.  I could see Tsuji winning this entire tournament.

Block B: Okada is always a favorite, and Will Ospreay is the second-favorite.  It'll be one of those two, with ELP as the longshot.

Block C: This one also has two pack leaders, former champ Shingo Takagi and new top heel gaijin David Finlay.  I think it's David's time to stamp his name on this tourney with a block win (and maybe more).

Block D: Weirdly I don't see either Tanahashi or Naito, two surefire bets, winning this block due to their nagging injuries.  Both of them have kinda moved on to the Nagata/Tenzan/Kojima role in this tournament, though either of them could make the quarterfinals at least.  Ultimately I think D Block goes to either Zack Sabre, with either Naito or Cobb as the runner-up.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1988)

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


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

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




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

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

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