Thursday, August 31, 2023

WWE Payback 2023 Preview & Predictions

Busy weekend this Labor Day with back-to-back PPVs Saturday and Sunday night.  And oddly both shows are kind of lacking in star power while also looking on paper like a series of good matches.  

The first one is WWE Payback, traditionally one of the company's lesser shows.  And true to said tradition, this show feels like a low B-PPV lineup.  Still I'm interested in seeing a few of these bouts, particularly the World Title match.  Plus the two women's matches are holdovers from the intended SummerSlam card.  Oh and there's a Grayson Waller talk show segment featuring Cody Rhodes, because that sorta thing belongs on a paid event.  But let's get into it....

LA Knight vs. The Miz

This is not one of the more intriguing matches for me.  The Miz is beyond damaged goods at this point, a buffoon not to be taken seriously as a threat to anyone, while I simply don't get the LA Knight obsession, the same way I didn't get why everyone loved Zack Ryder 12 years ago.  Like, he's fine.  He's a reasonably entertaining act, I just don't see him as a top guy at all.  But this match should be alright, they're both perfectly capable in the ring and good at character work.

Pick: LA Knight is obviously winning

US Championship: Rey Mysterio vs. Austin Theory

Here's a rematch from a few weeks back, when Rey Mysterio was allowed a title shot to replace Santos Escobar who had won a tournament over Mysterio for said title shot.  To be fair I guess Rey was legit injured in that tourney final and was probably supposed to win it.  Anyway, not much interest from me in this match either, it should be fine.  My first instinct says Theory regains the title here, as that Mysterio win felt like just a quick feelgood moment.

Pick: Theory  

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Top Ten Things: Avatar Songs

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at, where I rank stuff in some kind of order, fully aware that my opinion really has no effect on the universe as we know it.  Today, in honor of having just had my face melted off by this band in concert (for the second time), I'm counting down my favorite tunes by Swedish metal band Avatar!

If you've never checked out this vastly entertaining quintet (and you should), their music ranges from melodic death metal to groove metal to orchestral to AC/DC-influenced blues-rock, but it's all done with a darkly caustic sense of humor.  From a technical standpoint the band is tight as a pair of spandex leggings, and they're led by one of the most captivating, sardonically entertaining frontmen to come down the pike in a long time.  Johannes Eckerstrom is positively magnetic on stage, sporting circus ringmaster garb and Norwegian Black Metal-style corpsepaint, his between-songs banter a morbidly comic nod to such figures as The Joker and Marilyn Manson.  Eckerstrom's maniacal antics drive the stage show, while his four bandmates hurl basketball-size gobs of molten heavy metal at the delighted crowds.  "Would you all bleed for me," he asks?  "YEESSS!" the audience eagerly shouts.  "Oh, don't do that, that's sick..." he replies.  If you like your music heavy, hooky and with a tinge of biting, razor-sharp sarcasm, don't miss a chance to check out Avatar's live show.  This band will kick your ass and have you laughing at the same time.

But I digress, we're talking about their best songs.  Avatar started out as a traditional death metal band, albeit with melodic guitar riffs and harmonies, but have evolved to include numerous eclectic musical elements and styles, including Eckerstrom tempering his strident death metal howl with melodic, power metal-inspired singing.  Their detuned guitars will put a rumble in your belly, the thundering drum and bass-driven grooves will get your head bouncing, and the vocal hooks will get stuck in your head for days.  Avatar is heavy metal for people who like to have fun listening to heavy metal.

On to the Top 10 list, but first a few honorable mentions....

HM: In Napalm

The nihilistic fourth track on Black Waltz has one of the album's best chorus hooks, featuring one of its most demented lyrics, "Let me cleanse my soul in napalm."  Pretty effed up thing to say if you ask me...

HM: Tower

The somber closing track from Hail the Apocalypse, "Tower" initially takes on the tone of a comforting lullaby, but the lyrics gradually reveal the speaker's true intention, love by imprisonment.  One of their most mellow, subtly sinister tunes.

HM: A Statue of the King

The driving first single from their latest album, "A Statue of the King" is a sly, tongue-in-cheek bit of blind cultism, as the lyrics weave phallic symbolism in describing the erection of a statue to the fictional(?) ruler, with phrases like "bigger than the best one" and "they lack proper stone and rocks and balls."

HM: The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country

One of the most memorable tracks from Avatar Country is this AC/DC-esque blues rocker, an invitation to prospective new worshipers of the titular king, with Brian Johnson-style vocals and a sardonic tone.  "Lay down, embracing the earth, this is your final rebirth."

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Robocop 2

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

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

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

Let's take a look, shall we?

The Awesome

Peter Weller

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

The Adventures of Buckaroo BadAss.  No?

Same Tone

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

This stuff is hy-larious.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

AEW All In 2023 Review: A WrestleMania-Sized Spectacle

AEW's biggest show of all time is in the history books, and it was a doozy of a PPV.  While not quite on the level of their greatest shows for me (Full Gear 2021, Revolution 2023), this show was pretty spectacular overall.  By my count seven of the nine main card bouts reached **** or better, which is a new record.  We had rock-solid old-school wrestling, we had wild, chaotic multi-man matches, we had a couple bouts full of intense violence, and above all we had an epic, story-driven main event that kept the company's most successful angle going a little longer.  This was a WrestleMania-sized spectacle in front of a white-hot live crowd.

After a pair of pre-show matches, the latter of which apparently led to yet another backstage altercation involving CM Punk (less serious and may not have been Punk-instigated this time), Punk himself opened the show with a "real" World Title defense against his old rival Samoa Joe.  These two had a fine opening match that fell somewhere between their classic ROH encounters and their rather forgettable Collision one.  It only went 14 minutes but they packed a lot into it, including homages to Hulk Hogan and Terry Funk.  At one point Joe swung Punk through the bottom half of the announce table, breaking the front of it apart and causing Punk to bleed.  Late in the match Joe did his sequence of submission holds, softening Punk up for the Muscle Buster, but Punk escaped and hit his old finish, the Pepsi Plunge, to retain his fake title.  Very good opener in front of a pro-Joe crowd.  ****

Next up was the Golden Elite vs. Bullet Club Gold/Takeshita trios match.  This got twenty minutes and was a lot of fun, with tons of athletic exchanges, building to a strong peak and a logical finish meant to set up a singles match (Why I didn't see such a finish coming when I did my predictions, I'm sure I don't know).  Kota Ibushi was sadly still the weak link here, as he has more ring rust to shake off.  There was a moment where Ibushi and Omega did their stereo springboard moonsaults and Ibushi slipped off the second turnbuckle and had to do the move from the bottom one, and another moment where he seemed unsure where he was supposed to be.  Hopefully with time he'll come close to the quality of work he was putting in two years ago.  Anyway this match built to a tremendous peak, with Page and Omega hitting big moves on the heels, but suddenly out of nowhere Takeshita scored a rollup pin on Omega to win the match.  It was announced after the show that Kenny Omega vs. Konosuke Takeshita is official for All Out, and man is that gonna be a good one.  ****1/4 for the trios bout.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

AEW All In 2023 Preview & Predictions

Alright who's excited??  This Sunday is the long-awaited AEW All In PPV spectacular, the biggest show in company history, in front of one of the biggest crowds in wrestling history (It remains to be seen whether it's the largest paid wrestling audience or not, we'll have to wait to get the official number)!

Contrary to the veritable army of social media whiners, I'm actually very excited for this lineup, as I'm not the type of person who fantasy-books a show and then gets disappointed when said fantasy card doesn't come to fruition.  Newsflash: CM Punk vs. Kenny Omega was never going to happen on this show, nor was The Elite vs. CMFTR.  Anyone who built either of those bouts up in their head as a real possibility at this juncture wasn't being honest with themselves.  What we have instead is a huge AEW Title match involving the biggest angle in the company, a massive rubber match between the two best tag teams in the world (I can't believe people are griping about this one after pissing and moaning that it didn't happen a year ago), a huge dream match originally slated for the 2021 Tokyo Dome show, an absolute banger of a trios match with The Golden Elite, the return of Stadium Stampede, and much more.  As with most AEW PPV lineups, if you can't find *something* here to enjoy, the problem is you.

Anyway let's get into it....

Zero Hour ROH Tag Team Championship: Aussie Open vs. MJF & Adam Cole

This is a weird addition to the lineup but if the MJF-Cole story is going where I think it's going, it makes sense.  So here's where I think it's going (and it felt like AEW kinda tipped their hand last night with Renee showing all the clips of Cole acting shady and Cole storming off): Adam Cole came up short in the AEW Title Eliminator match back in June, MJF wouldn't give him another chance, they ended up tag team partners in the Blind Eliminator tournament, and it was at that point Adam Cole began manipulating MJF into eventually giving him a title match.  In classic parasitic form, Cole preyed on MJF's loneliness and insecurity, getting him to turn over a new leaf and trust again, and it was all designed to maneuver himself into a match for the Triple B.  And Cole's suggestion that they go after the ROH Tag belts together seems to be a way to wear MJF out ahead of the main event.  Cole will spend most of this match on the apron while MJF does the lion's share of the work.  Aussie Open will retain and MJF will come out of this match tired or kayfabe injured.  

Pick: Aussie Open retain

Zero Hour FTW Championship: Jack Perry vs. Hook

I figured once Perry vs. Rob Van Dam took place on free TV that Hook would ultimately show up and challenge Perry to a rematch at All In.  I was actually kinda hoping Perry would retire the belt as it doesn't actually mean anything, but this match should be good anyway.  Hook almost certainly regains the title so Jack can go after a real one.  The International Title seems a good choice for Mr. Perry, plus Jack vs. Orange would be stunning.

Pick: Hook

AEW Trios Championship: House of Black vs. The Acclaimed & Bad Ass Billy Gunn

It's the return of 90s Billy Gunn, whatever that means.  Last night on Dynamite Billy ran in to help Max and Anthony against the Trios Champs and said fun-loving Daddy Ass won't make it to Wembley but Bad Ass Billy Gunn will.  So long as The One Billy Gunn is nowhere to be found....  Anyway this rematch has been building for a while and should be a lot of fun.  I'd have kept these titles on House of Black for a while longer but this seems to be the logical spot for a title change.

Pick: The Acclaimed and Mr. Ass

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Top Ten Things: Beatles Albums

Welcome to another Top Ten Things!  Today I'll be talking about one of the most celebrated, universally beloved bands of all time, The Beatles!

The Beatles were possibly the first music group I was ever introduced to as a kid.  My parents played me some of Sgt. Pepper and I was hooked instantly.  By sixth grade I began making mix tapes of their tunes (Yes, this was when mix tapes were still a thing), and thanks to the Compleat Beatles documentary I became an expert very quickly.  In 1987 my parents bought a CD player (I felt so ahead of the curve), and The Beatles' entire catalog was one of the first available in that format.  I devoured their music like crazy and for a couple years they were one of very few bands I listened to (until I discovered metal that is).

Today, along with Metallica, The Beatles are my favorite band in the universe, and when I fire up one of their albums on the ol' iPod it's a ceremonious moment.  I tend to listen to their whole catalog front to back, over a period of several days.  Yeah I'm a dork.  Shut up.

Anyway, here's a list of what are, in my opinion, The Beatles ten greatest albums.

10. A Hard Day's Night

In 1964 The Beatles had conquered both the UK and the US, becoming such pop culture icons they were tapped to star in a feature film.  Directed by Richard Lester, A Hard Day's Night starred the Fab Four as themselves, in a "day in the life" kind of story.  The band travels by train to an auditorium where they'll perform for a live TV special, and in tow is Paul's troublemaker grandfather who tries to turn everyone against each other.  The soundtrack album featured numerous classic early Beatles songs, like the energetic title track, the bittersweet "If I Fell," the instantly catchy "I Should've Known Better," the bluesy "You Can't Do That," and the morose "Things We Said Today."  A Hard Day's Night followed up The Beatles' first two pop albums with slightly more mature content and showed a band beginning to temper their signature sound.

9. Help!

After the huge success of A Hard Day's Night, a second Beatles film was inevitable.  This time it would be a big-budget James Bond-inspired screwball comedy about a Far-East cult hunting down the band in the hopes of recovering a sacrificial ring mailed to Ringo.  The movie featured numerous action-comedy set pieces, plus seven brand new Beatles tunes.  The music showed a bit more depth and some instrument variation, and the album boasted probably the first major departure - a somber guitar ballad of Paul's called "Yesterday."  Paul was the only Beatle on the recording, and would be accompanied by a string quartet, a first for the band.  Other highlights included the mellow waltz of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," the urgent "The Night Before," and the anxiously bouncy "I've Just Seen a Face."  Help! showed the band continuing to expand their musical range on their way to arguably the most creative period in their career.

8. Let It Be

Originally intended as a live concert film entitled Get Back, Let It Be eventually morphed into an album/documentary that showed The Beatles coming apart at the seams.  Their interpersonal relationships were in shambles and the live recording sessions were filled with palpable tension.  So unpleasant was the experience that the band opted to shelve the album and move on to Abbey Road, as a way to end their career on a high note.  As the band dissolved, producer Phil Spector was hired to sort through the dozens of songs and takes, and whittle everything down to a concise record.  The result was a solid-if-inconsistent album that would serve as the band's denouement.  Side 1 is full of good-to-great songs, like John's strangely lyriced "Dig a Pony" and his existential ballad "Across the Universe," and Paul's iconic piano-driven title track.  Inexplicably Spector also included a one-minute snippet of "Dig It," a ponderous go-nowhere jam, and their brief take on the traditional ditty "Maggie Mae."  Side two's highlights were both contributions from Paul; the optimistic "I've Got a Feeling," and the energetic "Get Back."  Despite Spector's orchestral embellishments on songs like "The Long and Winding Road," Let It Be features a stripped-down, intimately live snapshot of The Beatles at their lowest point.  Yet even as the band crumbled they managed to churn out some undeniably great songs and cement their legacy as a transcendent rock group.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Top Ten Things: Beatles Songs (John Lennon Edition)

Welcome to our third and final Top Ten Things pertaining to the songs of The Beatles!  I've saved my favorite for last, as today I'll be talking about the best songs written by the Beatle everyone thinks of first, John Lennon.  Check out the George and Paul lists if you haven't already...

John was sort of the unofficial leader of the group over their first few years, the oldest and most irreverent of the three original members (Ringo didn't join until 1962), and initially the strongest songwriter.  Despite the band having to clean up their image when Brian Epstein signed on as their manager, trading in leather jackets and greaser haircuts for suits and their trademark mop-tops, John always retained a bit of the bad boy image and attitude he originally brought to the table.  Unlike other pop stars of the period, John presented himself in interviews with candor and a zany sense of humor, and would later become politically outspoken and controversial, one of the first popular musicians to really get involved in activism.

As for his songwriting, I consider John the most creative of the band, always thinking outside the box and coming up with envelope-pushing ideas.  Where Paul's songs tended to be more inviting and structurally conventional while introducing new orchestration, John's tunes often had an edge to them, along with a dark surrealist bent.  Many of his greatest compositions played with words to evoke bizarre mental imagery; he could seemingly find inspiration in almost anything and turn it into a memorable song lyric.  For my money John's songs stole the show on most of The Beatles' albums, particularly from Revolver through the White Album; nearly every favorite of mine on those four records is a John song.  Sadly after the White Album John began to distance himself from all things Beatles, and his contributions to their last two records were somewhat reluctant.  But when you add up all the iconic Beatles songs over their world-changing run, John scores the most points in my book.  He may not have been the strongest overall musician in the group or had the best voice (Paul takes both of those honors), but I'd say he was easily the most imaginative member of the band.

Here now are the greatest Beatles songs written by John Lennon.... 

Honorable Mentions

In My Life

John described this song as the first serious lyric he ever wrote, a bittersweet meditation on his childhood that included nods to absent friends (Stuart Sutcliffe for example).  An introspective song bordering on anthemic, "In My Life" showed remarkable maturity and thoughtfulness beyond John's 25 years.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite

Inspired by an 18th century circus poster John bought at an antique shop, "Mr. Kite" got its lyrics almost verbatim from said poster, but musically the track is hugely groundbreaking.  To achieve a circus atmosphere John and producer George Martin played an organ break in the middle of the song, and in the outro Martin had the tape cut into footlong sections and thrown in the air, then reassembled at random to achieve a dreamlike, surrealistic quality.  On the band's most psychedelic album, "Mr. Kite" may be the most psychedelic song.

Dear Prudence

Written for Prudence Farrow, who became so immersed in Transcendental Meditation she often refused to come out of her hut for days at a time, "Dear Prudence" became a life-affirming anthem about experiencing the world fully and not getting lost in oneself.  Built on a delicate finger-picked guitar line, the song builds to a beautiful emotional peak (George's lead guitar melody near the end chokes me up every time I hear it); in execution "Dear Prudence" ended up so much more powerful than the simple bit of friendly encouragement it began as.  This one has grown on me leaps and bounds over the years.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Top Ten Things: Beatles Songs (Paul McCartney Edition)

Welcome to the second installment of our Beatles-related Top Ten Things, here at, where I count down the ten best tunes written by each of the Fab Four's three songwriters (Sorry Ringo...)!  If you missed the George Harrison edition, click HERE to check it out!  And click HERE for the John Lennon one.

Today it's Paul McCartney's turn.  One half of probably the greatest songwriting duo in the history of the planet, Paul was in my estimation the most accomplished pound-for-pound musician in the Beatles.  With a voice that ranged from smooth-as-silk to soulful and ballsy to screeching and harsh, Paul probably brought the most diversity of sound to the band.  From 1965 when he introduced the unfathomably out-of-character "Yesterday" into their repertoire, Paul was always pushing the boundaries of production and orchestration.  It was his idea to link together the songs on Sgt. Pepper, arrange the Side 2 song fragments of Abbey Road into a cohesive suite, and make an improvised movie about a bus tour of the English countryside....okay so not all his ideas landed.  But Paul in many ways was the most directly responsible (not to discount the others by any means) for The Beatles' music being perceived as a bona fide artistic endeavor.

Aside from all that though, the man wrote some incredibly iconic songs.  This installment and the next about John were much harder to narrow down than the George edition, simply because of the volume of classic tunes they each churned out.  On to the Honorable Mentions!

Honorable Mentions

Sgt. Pepper/Reprise

The two-part song that tied The Beatles' most famous album together, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and its reprise total under three-and-a-half minutes, but their pure rock n' roll energy is palpable.  The first part kicks off the album with rollicking swagger, punctuated by horns and audience murmurs to give it a live feel, while the reprise sends the pseudo-concept album home with a guitar-charged bang before the grand finale of "A Day in the Life."  I always found most of Paul's Sgt. Pepper output to be rather overshadowed by John's contributions, but I love this two-parter.

Drive My Car

Kicking off the revered Rubber Soul album is this vigorous guitar rocker rife with sexual innuendo, about an aspiring movie star who hires a fella to be her chauffeur with benefits.  Paul and John's double-lead vocal harmonies bounce over bluesy lead guitars, underscored by Paul's tight, palm-muted bass sound (I believe this is the first time he used that technique and I always loved how it sounded).

You Won't See Me

Another Rubber Soul standout is one of three songs he wrote about his crumbling relationship with actress Jane Asher.  "You Won't See Me" took some cues from The Four Tops and other Motown groups, while the lyrics marked a departure from Paul's sweeter, more innocent early years.  Rubber Soul is generally cited as The Beatles' turn to a more mature sound, and this simple breakup song is one of several illustrations of that.

And now for the main event....

10. Lady Madonna

The first single released during The Beatles' return to stripped-down rock n' roll (after the psychedelic 1966-67 period), "Lady Madonna" gained inspiration from rhythm & blues piano icon Fats Domino.  Vocally Domino inspired Paul to such an extent that he altered his singing style to match Domino's soulful timbre, creating a whole new signature "McCartney voice" (my favorite version of Paul, incidentally).  At just over two minutes, "Lady Madonna" is nonetheless densely packed, its lyrics a rumination on the working single mother, with obvious Catholic undertones.  This is one of my favorite Paul pastiches.

9. Yesterday

One of the most widely covered songs in music history, "Yesterday" wormed its way into Paul's brain while he was asleep, and upon waking he raced to a piano so he wouldn't forget it.  The melody came to him so easily he assumed he must've heard it somewhere, and asked everyone he knew if they recognized it.  Once established as an original idea, the song was given the working title "Scrambled Eggs" while Paul tweaked it, and the final lyrics didn't take shape until months later.  The despondent ballad was such a departure from The Beatles' established sound that it took strenuous convincing from producer George Martin to keep it as a solo performance with a string quartet behind it, and the rest of the band vetoed its release as a UK single.  But "Yesterday" instantly became a phenomenon, with a top-ten Matt Monro cover version released that same year, the first of literally thousands of versions.  The song may be simple and saccharine, but there's no denying its significance in broadening The Beatles' artistic palette.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Top Ten Things: Beatles Songs (George Harrison Edition)

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, here at!  It's been a while since I made one of these stupid lists, but I thought of kickass three-parter for y'all!  Today I'm all about The Beatles, those four lovable mop-tops from Liverpool who went on to change the entire fuckin' world.

A couple years ago I compiled my list of The Beatles' best albums, and while it occurred to me back then to do a list of songs as well, I ran into a conundrum: How the actual hell do you narrow down the Beatles' iconic song catalogue to ten choices?  It would be nigh impossible.  So instead I've saved myself hours of agony by compiling not one list, but three: the ten greatest Beatles songs written, respectively, by the group's three songwriters - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and today's subject, George Harrison!

George has always been considered the unsung hero of the band, finding himself in the unenviable position of having to compete with the two-headed compositional juggernaut known as Lennon-McCartney.  While the two prodigies were virtually pooping out gold records, George was left to his own devices to come up with one or two tunes he just hoped would be deemed worthy of inclusion on each album.  Though his early output certainly didn't stack up to standout singles like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You," George was diligent and untiring, honing his unique gifts and molding himself into a great composer in his own right.  By the time the band recorded Revolver, George could consistently be counted on to deliver at least one album standout; he was sadly almost always limited to two tracks per disc, and when the band broke up he'd amassed a double album's worth of material which became his solo record All Things Must Pass.

With all this in mind, let's take a look at the Top Ten Beatles Songs: George Harrison Edition.... 

Honorable Mentions


George's anti-establishment anthem about consumerism and class relations dates as far back as the Revolver writing sessions but wasn't finished until the White Album.  The use of harpsichord calls to mind snooty 18th century upper-crusters, while the lyrics have a biting satirical bent.

The Inner Light

One of three Harrison-penned Beatles songs to use traditional Indian instruments, "The Inner Light" deals with his newfound interest in Transcendental Meditation.  The music alternates between slow, meditative lyric sections dealing with spirituality, and upbeat Indian temple music making liberal use of George's sitar; the prevailing theme here is about discovering one's inner peace.

Within You, Without You

Probably George's most famous sitar-based song, and his only track on Sgt. Pepper, was steeped in traditional Indian music but with a mix of Western instrumentation as well.  The lyrics evolved out of a philosophical conversation with Beatles friend Klaus Voorman about embracing the non-physical.  I always found this song a bit overlong, but it was nonetheless an adventurous major sonic departure for the band.

Alright, now for the top ten....

10. For You Blue

A simple, bouncy 12-bar blues composition written for his wife Pattie, "For You Blue" was heavily influenced by a trip George took to Woodstock, NY to jam with Bob Dylan and The Band, a welcome contrast to the discordant White Album recording sessions.  This song ended up on the Let It Be album, itself a very troubled production, but it managed to retain its intended care-free vibe, and is one of George's two strong Let It Be offerings.

9. Long, Long, Long

Perhaps the quietest of all Beatles songs, from the "quiet Beatle," George's hauntingly serene ballad about his reconnecting with God immediately follows Paul's violently heavy "Helter Skelter" on the White Album, making for an abrupt mood swing.  The song has a sad-but-relieved vibe about it, as though George were atoning for his time experimenting with mind-altering substances and truly finding tranquility in mysticism.

8. Blue Jay Way

Released at the height of Beatles psychedelia, George's lone contribution to the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack is a ghostly, atmospheric tune written on a Hammond organ while George and Pattie waited for friends to arrive at their rented LA house, immediately after a long flight from London.  Harrison's songs usually seemed to take on a darker tone than John or Paul's, but that's especially true of "Blue Jay Way," which perfectly conveys George's post-flight exhaustion and impatience waiting for his house guests.   

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2022)

It's time to look at the first WWE PPV of the Triple H booking era (except Vince set all this up so it was really still his show).

SummerSlam 2022 was kind of the end of an era coming off the heels of Vince McMahon's numerous sex scandals that resulted in his temporarily stepping down from power (of course he'd force his way back in less than a year later but for a while there we had nice things).  Triple H had fully taken control of Creative by this point but he was still obligated to present the lineup Vince had scheduled.  Thus SummerSlam still felt like a Vince offering.  And like most Vince offerings in the 2020s this one was just okay, one match had no business being on the show at all, and the Intercontinental Title was missing completely.  Because Vince hates secondary titles.  

Things started of well with a Bianca Belair-Becky Lynch rematch from WrestleMania, that didn't quite live up to that one.  They got 15 minutes and worked well together as always, and Bianca retained the title after an exciting finishing sequence.  Becky hit a second-rope Manhandle Slam for a nearfall and went up to the top but Bianca countered with a Spanish Fly followed by the KOD to keep the belt.  This marked the end of Becky's ill-concieved heel turn (finally!) as after the match the returning Bayley came out to ringside, flanked by her new stable made up of Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai.  This moment felt like one of Triple H's few contributions to the show.  Anyway, a very good opener and the best pure wrestling match on the show.

Next up was the surprise hit of the evening as Logan Paul made his WWE debut against The Miz, proving himself maybe the best celebrity wrestler of all time.  The match wasn't truly great or anything, but it was very competently worked and exciting, and Paul looked like a natural.  This was a preview of much better things for the YouTube celebrity.  The highlight of the bout was Paul hitting a long-distance frog splash on Miz through the announce table, before finishing him off with his own Skull Crushing Finale.  Not too shabby at all.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2021)

Well, as expected WWE's SummerSlam 2021 was yet another mixed bag of a show.  A few of the matches were very good, a few of the matches were utterly pointless, and God forbid we have a WWE PPV without a moment that flat-out pisses people off.  SummerSlam had all of these things.  Vince McMahon once again proved he could fuck up a bag of Doritos.

The PPV kicked off with the RAW Tag Championship, as AJ Styles and Omos defended against RKBro in a short but energetic bout that brought to mind old school PPVs where the opening match was just an easily digestible warmup.  AJ did almost all the work for his team and meshed well with both opponents, there were some fun spots later in the match as Matt Riddle took an Omos apron slam and an AJ moonsault DDT on the floor, perfectly executed.  It boiled down to AJ and Orton, who missed his first RKO attempt but scored on the second, pinning AJ to win the straps.  The crowd loved this title change and Riddle was ecstatic, and even Orton looked happy.  Decent little opener. 

Immediately the streak of good matches ended as Alexa Bliss faced Eva Marie in a useless regular match that didn't belong anywhere near a PPV.  There was no supernatural bullshit, which was good, but we were subjected to an Eva Marie match, which was bad.  Bliss hit Twisted Bliss off the top, followed by a DDT for the win.  I can guarantee this match did not garner a single ticket purchase or Peacock subscription.  Why was this on this show? 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2020)

2020 was the year wrestling shows were mostly staged in front of no crowds due of course to the COVID 19 pandemic, and that year's SummerSlam felt those effects like every other show.  

The 2020 edition felt in a lot of ways like an old-school SummerSlam card, with only seven matches and a three-hour running time.  In that respect the show was somewhat refreshing.  It also felt like an old SummerSlam show due to the numerous big names missing from the card (AJ, Bryan, Owens, Zayn, Nakamura, Cesaro, etc.).  In that respect the show was somewhat stupid.

Kicking things off was the first of two women's title matches where Asuka was the challenger, and she took on Smackdown Women's Champion Bayley, with then-BFF Sasha Banks in the champ's corner.  Keep that in mind, as it would play into the story of both matches.  These three women nearly carried the show; Asuka and Bayley both worked hard to make this a strong opener, and it turned into a nice little rematch from their NXT rivalry.  There were some innovative moments like when Bayley countered an apron hip attack by catching Asuka's legs and slamming them into the edge of the ring.  Bayley then went after the injured leg, which would become a factor in Asuka's second match as well.  Asuka eventually snared the Asuka lock but Sasha distracted her from the outside and Asuka swung around with a kick to Sasha's head.  Asuka went for another apron hip attack but Sasha pushed Bayley out of the way and took one for the team, while Bayley got an airtight cradle to retain the belt.  Good, compact opening match with a well-executed screwy finish.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2019)

SummerSlam 2019, while certainly no instant classic PPV, was nonetheless a thoroughly easy show to watch, managing to stay well under four hours and providing a variety of solid undercard matches and a pretty great main event.  

The show kicked off with the Becky Lynch-Natalya submission match.  This was the exact right type of match for the stipulation, with both women working over the body part their respective finishers target.  Becky went after Nattie's arm to soften her up for Disarm-Her, and Nattie attacked Becky's historically weakened knee.  Each of them stole the other's finisher at one point, teasing the humiliation of having to tap out to their own move.  The most memorable spot was Nattie locking in a Sharpshooter in the turnbuckles, leaving Becky dangling out of the ring as she struggled to break free.  Becky nearly submitted to a second Sharpshooter mid-ring, but managed to reverse it into the Disarm-Her for the win at about 12:30.  This was a fine opening match and easily one of Becky's best that year after her goodwill had been squandered for months in a feud with Lacey Evans.

Next up was one of two matches I was dreading, as Dolph Ziggler got killed dead by Goldberg in under a minute.  But for what this was it was executed damn near perfectly.  Ziggler and Goldberg stared each other down for a moment, and suddenly Ziggler leveled him with a superkick, covered him, Goldberg kicked out at one, and the sequence was repeated.  Ziggler charged, Goldberg cut him off with a sick-looking spear, followed by the jackhammer for the win.  Ziggler got on the mic and trash talked him, Goldberg returned to the ring and speared him again.  Ziggler did it again and Goldberg hit him with a third spear before finally leaving.  Now, feeding Ziggler, irreparably damaged though he is, to a 50-year-old who hasn't had a real match since 2003, is idiotically counterproductive.  But the live crowd went apeshit for this, the tease of Ziggler winning an upset was great, and Ziggler made the spear look like a spine-shattering move.  That said, I still don't get why everyone likes seeing Goldberg's one-note schtick over and over, or how this is supposed to translate to good long-term business.  But for what it was, they nailed it.  

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2018)

SummerSlam 2018 finally saw Roman Reigns' big Universal Title coronation, as after three-and-a-half years he defeated Brock Lesnar for the first time.  This climactic battle lasted six minutes.  Six.

Barclays Center - 8.19.18

This SummerSlam was frustratingly inconsistent and suffered from repetitive booking and a nonsensical match order.  It was a middling show, despite a few of the bouts being quite good.  Things oddly peaked in the middle of the PPV, and although it never dragged like the previous two SummerSlams, by the end I walked away mildly unsatisfied.

After the disdainful crowd response Brock-Roman II got at WrestleMania 34, common sense dictated this rematch should be kept short to prevent the audience from shitting all over it.  While that was probably still the right move, what a nothing match this was.  First off, Braun Strowman interrupted the ring introductions to announce that unlike other MITB holders, he wasn't a coward who would cash in when the champ's back is turned.  "Cool" I thought, "he's adding himself to the match like a monster babyface realistically would."  Nope.  He just stated that he's cashing in after the match.  So how's that really any different than cashing in when the guy's back is turned?  You're still a fresh challenger facing an exhausted champion.  How is that not cowardly?  It turned out to be a moot point anyway, but really think about this for a second.  This is why Money in the Bank needs to go away; no one really gets elevated by holding the briefcase anymore.

Anyway, Brock vs. Goldberg in 2017 proved you can have a red-hot sub-five-minute match that is memorable and that the crowd will eat up.  But after the first thirty seconds of Punch-Spear, this match was a buncha fluff.  Brock got a guillotine choke, hit a few suplexes, attacked Braun Strowman with a chair to prevent him from cashing in, and then got speared out of nowhere to lose the belt.  The indestructible Brock Lesnar, who earlier had taken three SuperPunches and two spears but still had it in him to counter with a guillotine choke, got pinned from one spear after controlling the second half of the match.  This was the most anticlimactic title change since Cena beat JBL in 2005, and nowhere near as good as either WrestleMania match between these two.  Strowman was clearly put out there to prevent "We Want Strowman" chants and get the crowd hyped for a possible cash-in, but what does it say about your main event when you have to trick your audience into not booing it?  This more or less sucked and illustrated why people in 2018 and beyond were and are tired of Brock.  Roman had to relinquish the title only two months later when his leukemia relapsed, thus further diminishing what should have been the culmination of an emotional journey.

Monday, August 14, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2017)

Another mixed-bag PPV from WWE in 2017....

SummerSlam '17 - Barclays Center - 8.20.17

SummerSlam 2017 felt a bit like one of those older WWF PPVs that had a ton of variety and was oddly more enjoyable than it probably deserved to be.  The ten main PPV matches cruised by at a decent pace and this show never felt to me like a slog, a la SummerSlam 2016.  There wasn't anything truly great on the show, but there were several very good matches, most of which occurred in the second half.  In that way this was like the anti-WrestleMania; the previous two 'Manias started out strong and become a major drag by the final hour.

Of note, the crowd for NXT TakeOver the night before was electric from start to finish.  The SummerSlam crowd was mostly pretty dead except during a few select matches.  I've asked this before, but isn't Vince bothered by this phenomenon?  You'd think he'd figure out a way to make the main roster crowds' enthusiasm match that of the NXT audience.

Things kicked off in very strange fashion, with the John Cena-Baron Corbin match.  I'm not sure who thought this would make for a hot opener, but it wasn't; Corbin's nondescript offense and Cena's seeming lack of motivation of late failed to jumpstart the Brooklyn crowd.  There was a nice callback near the end of the match, where Cena tossed Corbin to the buckles, Corbin slid out of the ring, and immediately slid back in.  Earlier in the bout this spot resulted in Corbin leveling Cena with a clothesline, but Cena turned the tables the second time, hitting a clothesline of his own, followed by the AA for the win.  Not much of a match, but I got some enjoyment out of it because my son watched it with me and he's a big Cena fan.

Next up was a much stronger match, pitting Smackdown Womens' Champ Naomi vs. Natalya.  These two strung together some nice, innovative offense, the wrestling was fairly crisp, and Nattie finally got a well-deserved Title win with the Sharpshooter.  Perfectly serviceable undercard match with the right winner.

The worst match of the night was third, as Big Cass and Big Show sleepwalked through a fairly excruciating ten minutes.  I'm not sure why this needed to be on the main card while the Smackdown Tag Title match wasn't, nor were The Miz or The Hardyz, and Sami Zayn and Dolph Ziggler were absent from this show completely.  The only memorable bit was Enzo squeezing out of the shark cage, which immediately led to him getting murdered by Cass.  Pointless, particularly since less than a year later both Enzo and Cass were gone.

Speaking of pointless, Randy Orton beat Rusev with an RKO in ten seconds.  Poor Rusev.  Not that I was excited about this match anyway, but Jeezus this was a waste.

Things picked up again with the RAW Women's Title match, as Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks delivered a well-worked 13-minute bout on par with Naomi-Nattie.  This wasn't on the level of Sasha and Charlotte's matches, and certainly nowhere near as good as the show stealing Asuka-Ember Moon match from the night before, but Alexa played the douchebag heel to perfection and these two had undeniable chemistry.  Sasha won the belt for the fourth time via Bank Statement tapout.

So the first five matches definitely felt like an undercard, in the same way that New Japan structures their PPVs.  The last five matches felt like the real meat of the show.

Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt was a solid outing, with Balor no-selling Wyatt's theatrics.  The action was just pretty good, but it was interesting to see Balor throw everything back in Wyatt's face, so to speak.  Balor was one step ahead most of the bout and finished it with the Coup de Grace for the decisive win.  This unexpectedly ended the feud, as the blowoff match scheduled for No Mercy that fall was derailed by a Wyatt stomach bug.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2016)

The 2016 edition was like a demonstration of everything that was good and bad about the WWE product.  The highs shined, the lows sucked....

SummerSlam '16 - Barclays Center - 8.21.16

What an exhausting show this was.  It went four-plus hours and by the second half both the live crowd and I were drained, to the point that when the second-to-last match for the US Title was a non-starter I was actually kinda relieved.

This lineup was the most stacked in many years, with no fewer than four potential Match of the Year candidates (on paper anyway), plus a good amount of variety in the undercard.  Had the execution been stronger we'd likely be including SummerSlam 2016 in the "Greatest SummerSlam Ever" conversation.  But a few things kept it from reaching that level.  First though, let's talk about what did work.

I would've liked to see Cesaro vs. Sheamus actually open the PPV, since these two always work well together and this was no exception.  It wasn't anything amazing but in the first slot this would've fit perfectly.  Sheamus won the first match of the Best of 7 series.

The actual opening match, JeriKO vs. Enzo & Cass, was just fine but it was very strange to see Kevin Owens, seemingly on the verge of breakout status at that point, relegated to an opening tag match (Though nowhere near as infuriating as Sami Zayn's position in a preshow tag match). This of course led to one of the best ongoing angles of that time period, the bromance between Owens and Jericho.  As for the match, it was okay.

Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte was the first of probably three instances where I said aloud, "This match is happening already??"  Putting this match so early on the card seemed to undermine the importance of the Women's Title and the company's new outlook on the division.  That said, this was a fine contest that suffered from a few sloppy moments and an over-reliance on big risks.  These two would go on to trade the Title back and forth throughout the fall (including a headlining Hell in a Cell match), before Charlotte finally won the feud.  Anyway, this was a splendid match all things considered, though this feud really peaked with their first meeting on RAW at the end of July.

One of several moments in this match where I feared for Sasha's life

Friday, August 11, 2023

Top Ten Things: Christopher Nolan Films

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

It's another bonus edition of TTT, as we have not ten but twelve entries to discuss - time to rank Christopher Nolan's filmography!  I've been a Nolan fan since Memento's 2001 theatrical release, and over the past two-plus decades this cerebral English director has already compiled an extraordinary body of work, creating a singular brand of intelligent, crowd-pleasing blockbuster films.  Nolan's affinity for challenging, puzzle-like movies was apparent from the beginning, but he also reinvented the Batman franchise by grounding it in reality and making its protagonist a deeply flawed, real-world hero trying to redeem his broken city.  Nolan's films generally demand repeat viewings, keeping the viewer on their toes and often letting the editing drive the narrative so there's no cinematic fat on the bone.  Every new Christopher Nolan film is event viewing for me, guaranteed to present a story in a genre-defying way audiences have never seen before.

Here now are Christopher Nolan's films, ranked....

12. Following

Nolan's feature debut was this neo-noir with a non-linear narrative, about an aspiring writer who looks for inspiration by shadowing people he sees on the street.  He falls in with an experienced burglar and begins to make a habit of breaking into strangers' homes, stealing various items, and selling what he can.  Soon though he becomes romantically involved with one of his "victims," whom he learns is mixed up with a local mobster.  Meanwhile nothing he comes to believe about her or his mentor is what it seems.  Following was made for a paltry $6,000 and is thus quite rough around the edges, but already Christopher Nolan showed his gift for labyrinthine storylines and devilish plot twists, two things he'd execute much more assuredly in his second film, Memento.

11. Tenet

Perhaps Nolan's most Nolan-est film was this 2020 puzzle box loaded to the brim with so much exposition he himself seemed to have trouble conveying it all.  John David Washington stars as The Protagonist, a CIA agent tasked with stopping a time-inverting terrorist plot that will create backward-traveling entropy and unmake the world as we know it.  Got all that?  Nolan as usual stacks the film with talented, capable actors and creates some truly unique set pieces, such as staging a fistfight while one participant is traveling forward through time and the other is traveling backward.  And while Tenet provides an entertaining, James Bond-on-conceptual-steroids cinematic experience, sadly some of the plot details get lost in the translation (not helped by the audio mix, which buries crucial dialogue under thundering sound effects).  Still Tenet is yet another innovative spy thriller from a director who loves his puzzles.

10. Insomnia

Nolan's remake of the 1997 Swedish thriller of the same title, Insomnia stars Al Pacino as an aging LAPD detective assigned to a murder investigation in Alaska during the "midnight sun" season.  The Pacino character accidentally kills his partner during a shootout, after said partner has revealed he intends to testify against Pacino in an Internal Affairs case.  Complicating the matter is the at-large murderer (a superbly creepy Robin Williams), who witnessed the shooting and attempts to blackmail Pacino into pinning the murder on the victim's abusive boyfriend.  What follows is a fascinating moral dilemma, where the flawed protagonist must choose between saving himself or bringing a killer to justice.  Insomnia takes the suspense thriller genre and turns it upside down, throwing curve balls at the audience every step of the way.  Pacino and Williams have splendid chemistry together, and Nolan's direction lends this noirish thriller a modern edge.

9. Dunkirk

Nolan's streamlined, visceral account of this World War II rescue tells the story from three different points of view: the air, the sea, and the land.  The film intercuts between the three locales, expanding time in some instances and showing us some of the same events from multiple points of view.  There's little historical context presented, so the material depicted must speak for itself and create an immersive viewing experience.  For the most part this element works, though I would've liked to see more about who these characters were and what the battle itself meant in the grand scheme of WWII.  You'll need to do a little homework to fully appreciate what's happening.  Still Nolan and co. deftly handle the genre, presenting a gritty, palpably harrowing war film and adding yet another impressive entry to his resume.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2015)

Here's a show I wasn't excited for that turned out to be pretty great....

SummerSlam '15 - Barclays Center - 8/23/15

Sometimes it pays to have low expectations.  Case in point the 2015 SummerSlam extravaganza.  I went into this show with the mindset of "I'll be content as long as I don't feel like my night was wasted," and what I got was a consistently very entertaining wrestling show with a ton of variety where every match felt like it got enough time, and a few actually stood out.

The much-dreaded-by-me Brock Lesnar-Undertaker main event was easily the best match delivered by these two since their No Mercy 2002 Hell in a Cell.  It was streamlined, hard-hitting, full of nice little nuances (the double situp for example), and while the ending left me baffled at first, once the replay explained everything I actually kinda liked it.  Granted we've been conditioned that the timekeeper never rings the bell until the official calls for it, but in all these years you'd think human error would get in the way at least once.  Well, this was that one occurrence.  Taker tapped out and the timekeeper jumped the gun.  It was a realistic screwup and it protected Lesnar as an unstoppable monster while reframing the feud with Taker playing more of a heel.  I liked this match a lot, and the lasting image for me was of the defiant Lesnar flipping Taker off just before passing out to Hell's Gate.

Ok this was pretty boss.

The Match of the Night however was Seth Rollins vs. John Cena.  Both guys were motivated to overshadow every other match despite being placed only 7th of 10 bouts, and aside from a couple miscues, this was a helluva contest.  Rollins essentially worked babyface, pulling out every crazy, crowd-pleasing move he could muster.  My fellow New Japan fans surely noticed Rollins borrowing from Hiroshi Tanahashi's moveset (High Fly Flow, Slingblade), and even Kota Ibushi's (standing shooting star press).  The finish, where Jon Stewart stormed the ring and whacked Cena with a chair to cost him the match, was met with a lot of scorn, but WWE covered it brilliantly the next night by having Stewart say he couldn't bear to see Ric Flair's 16-time record tied.  Simple, logical, and made for a nice little moment where Cena gave Stewart the AA.

This was even more boss.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2014)

Considering how upset I was not to see Bryan vs. Brock on this show, it turned out pretty damn good...

SummerSlam '14 - Staples Center - 8/17/14

The 2014 SummerSlam was a rock-solid show with a pretty stacked lineup and no bad matches.  It almost resembled the 2012 edition but was infinitely better-executed and boasted one of the most unusual and memorable main events in a long time, while also spotlighting several strong midcard feuds.

The opening match was yet another I-C Title meeting between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler.  While the feud was never treated with much importance, these two always had decent chemistry in the ring, and this was an enjoyable 8-minute kickoff.  The Title itself was long-dead, thanks in part to becoming such a hot potato, but no complaints about the match.

Next up was the second PPV bout between AJ Lee and Paige.  As with the I-C Title, the Divas Championship had been bouncing back and forth between these two.  Paige won here in just under five minutes, which sadly wasn't enough time to have the barn burner AJ and Paige were capable of.

Rising heel Rusev was third, in a Flag Match with recently-turned "Real American" Jack Swagger.  Swagger provided a somewhat credible midcard challenge for the undefeated Bulgarian, but the nature of Swagger's (and especially manager Zeb Coulter's) in-ring persona kinda prevented him from fully connecting with the audience.  Had this not been a USA vs. Russia feud, there wouldn't have been much heat.  But this match was fine.  Nothing amazing, but a good power vs. power matchup.

Things picked up big in the fourth slot as Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins finally had their much-anticipated first match.  The previous month at Battleground, Ambrose had been thrown out of the building for attacking Rollins backstage, and Rollins won their scheduled match by forfeit.  The extra month of buildup made this feud red-hot, and Ambrose's loose cannon persona coupled with the host of Lumberjacks outside the ring made this a wildly entertaining brawl.