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

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Top Ten Things: The Rocky/Creed Films, Ranked

Welcome to a special installment of Top Ten Things, here at!  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 47 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 return the series 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....).

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.