Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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.

Monday, June 17, 2024

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.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Top Ten Things: Movie Plot Twists

Welcome to Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I compile a list of stuff that, let's be honest, is ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things.  But let's do it anyway...

Today it's the Top Ten Movie Plot Twists of all time.  The plot twist is an age-old narrative device used to reframe an entire story and make the audience go, "Wait, whaaaaaaaat??"  When executed correctly it can save a poor film (Saw, Terminator 3) by creating a memorable ending that stands out much more than the film itself, or it can make an already good film a transcendent piece of pop culture.  A good plot twist generally makes the movie a mandatory repeat watch, as the first viewing results in a colossal mindfuck, while the second allows us to put the pieces together with the new frame of reference.  It also requires great skill and discipline on the part of the storyteller, as they need to give away enough information that the reveal doesn't feel like a cheat, but keep enough cards hidden that the audience won't see it coming.


Here are the ten greatest plot twists in cinema history, according to me.....


*****SPOILERS AHEAD******


10. The Prestige: "A brother...a twin..."


Christopher Nolan's moody period piece about feuding 19th century magicians has great fun playing around with the timeline, creating narratives within narratives as each of the main characters reads the other's diary and we see flashbacks from multiple points of view.  The rivalry centers around a trick known as The Transported Man, in which the magician disappears into a cabinet at one end of the stage only to instantly reappear from an identical cabinet twenty feet away.  Alfred Bordin (Christian Bale) invented the trick, and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) becomes obsessed with discovering the secret, even commissioning the creation of a newfangled teleportation device.  In the film's climactic twist ending it's revealed that Bordin had a twin brother the whole time.  He and the brother would take turns playing the role of Bordin's assistant Fallon, and both committed so fully to their secret that it ruined Bordin's marriage, his career, and eventually cost the brother his life.  The filmmakers masterfully manipulate the audience's sympathy, transferring it from Angier to Bordin midway through the movie.  The final reveal caps off that transition perfectly.
   



9. The Wizard of Oz: "There's no place like home"


One of the most famous and often imitated twist endings is the "It was all a dream" scenario, wherein the protagonist wakes up to find that none of the events we've just witnessed actually happened.  In a lesser story this can be an infuriating revelation, but in the case of The Wizard of Oz it turned out iconic.  Dorothy gets trapped in her house during a tornado, is knocked unconscious, and is transported to a magical world called Oz, populated by witches, little people, talking scarecrows, tin men and lions, and of course, color.  After a whimsical journey to see the famous Wizard about helping her get home, a good witch named Glinda tells her to click her heels together and suddenly she wakes up in her own black & white bed, having dreamed the whole darn thing.  While this type of plot device has been parodied and watered down over the years, in this case it was a brilliant piece of storytelling.  The Wizard of Oz is probably the quintessential family movie and I always associate it with a time before the advent of DVDs and on-demand streaming, when we could only watch it once a year on TV.  Truly an Event Viewing experience.   


Thursday, June 13, 2024

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Rock

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  For those just joining us in progress, ASM is a regular feature where I pick apart a film that neither qualifies as a particularly good film nor as a piece of junk.  Every movie spotlighted in this column is something I either enjoy despite itself, or a movie that could be really good if the filmmakers just got out of their own way.

Today's ASM is the 1996 Michael Bay action vehicle, The Rock, starring Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery and Ed Harris.  The Rock tells the story of a former US General who hijacks Alcatraz Island, taking 80 civilians hostage, and threatens to launch a poison gas missile into San Francisco if his demands aren't met.  The US Government, not wanting to negotiate, sends in a team of Navy Seals, plus a former Alcatraz inmate who knows how to enter the prison undetected, and a chemical weapons expert to disarm the missiles.  As expected, things don't quite go according to plan and all hell breaks loose in the prison.


So why was The Rock both good and bad?  Let's find out....


The Awesome

Lead Actors/Characters

The Rock really begins and ends with its three lead actors. 

Nicolas Cage is spot-on as Stanley Goodspeed, the everyman type who's been thrust into an extraordinary situation and repeatedly survives by the skin of his teeth.  He is our eyes and ears throughout the story, keeping his head down during the intense action and letting the more experienced military characters do the heavy lifting while he concentrates on disarming missiles.  The fact that he has a pregnant girlfriend waiting for him at home adds consequence and sympathy to his plight; we reaaaallly hope he gets out of this alive.

Sean Connery as John Mason essentially plays an older James Bond type - a grizzled SAS veteran brought in to show the Navy Seals how to get in and out of the prison.  When we first meet him, Mason has been imprisoned by the US Government for 30 years without being charged, for refusing to divulge classified information.  During the ensuing combat, Mason is always in control of the situation and never gets rattled.  He forms an unlikely bond with Goodspeed and more or less guides/protects him (and us) through the action.  Mason initially wants to run once the shit hits the fan, but Goodspeed reminds him that his daughter would be within the blast radius if the bad guys launch their missiles.  So he has to juggle helping Goodspeed while also planning his escape at the end.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

WWE Clash at the Castle: Scotland Preview & Predictions

This weekend is WWE's return to the UK for Clash at the Castle, this time in Drew McIntyre's home country of Scotland.


Once again it's a lean five-match show.  Unfortunately WWE doesn't seem to think much of Scotland, since this card looks pretty mid at best.  Drew finally gets his rematch with the transitional champ who cashed in on him, two throwaway women's matches, an admittedly good Intercontinental Title match with a damaged-goods challenger whom the champ has already beaten, and....*checks notes*.....the exact same scenario for the WWE Title.  This company can't book a babyface champion to save their lives.  Newly crowned babyface champ gets challenger who isn't at all credible anymore, beats him clean, challenger goes on a mean streak, gets a rematch because "reasons."  Are they deliberately cooling Cody off until Dwayne and Roman come back?



Women's Tag Team Championship: Bianca Belair & Jade Cargill vs. Alba Fyre & Isla Dawn vs. Shayna Baszler & Zoey Stark


Yeah this is pointless.  Bianca and Jade retain, obviously.  Jade does her usual schtick, showing very little in-ring improvement.

Pick: Bianca & Jade

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Face/Off

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll examine a movie that is horribly entertaining but also entertainingly horrible.

Today's entry in the series is John Woo's 1997 action thriller, Face/Off



Face/Off stars John Travolta as FBI agent Sean Archer, whose son was killed by his arch-nemesis Castor Troy, a manic, sadistic terrorist played by Nicolas Cage.  Six years later Troy announces to the FBI that there's a bomb hidden somewhere in Los Angeles which could potentially kill millions of people.  The FBI attempts to capture Troy in an ambush but Troy ends up in a coma before they can learn the location of the bomb.  After unsuccessfully interrogating every member of Troy's gang, Archer reluctantly submits to a radical new procedure wherein his face will be removed and replaced with Castor's, allowing him to impersonate his enemy and infiltrate the maximum security prison where Castor's brother/accomplice Pollux is being held.  Archer's subterfuge fools Pollux, who reveals the bomb's location, but before Archer can arrange his release from prison, the real Castor Troy emerges from his coma, forces the surgeon to apply Archer's face to his, and then kills everyone who knew about the procedure.  The real Sean Archer is now trapped in prison as Castor Troy, while the real Castor Troy takes over Archer's life.

This is one of the most convoluted premises of any action movie I've ever seen, but somehow the filmmakers managed to pull a pretty entertaining piece of crap out of what probably should've been a disastrous effort.  So let's take a look at what worked and what didn't.



The Awesome

John Travolta & Nic Cage

First and foremost, the two leads do an excellent job in this film of convincing the audience that a) this scenario is at all believable and b) that for most of the film's running time they are each playing the opposite character.  Travolta plays Archer as a spiritually broken man, haunted by the death of his son and consumed with catching the bastard who killed him.  His relationships with his wife and daughter are in shambles and the only thing that will bring him peace is taking Troy down.  Cage plays Troy as a high-wire act - oozing evil charisma and relishing his own depravity. 


When the ol' switcheroo occurs, each actor gets to explore the other character.  Cage as Archer brings an even greater sense of melancholy and develops a rather tender relationship with Troy's girlfriend Sasha (Gina Gershon), while Travolta's Troy rekindles the romance with Archer's wife (Joan Allen), and is actually able to identify with Archer's troubled teenage daughter (Dominique Swain).  He also becomes an FBI hero when he locates and diffuses his own bomb and uses all the Bureau's resources to chase down "Castor Troy."  Both actors are fantastic in both roles and have a lot of fun imitating each other.


Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Welcome to yet another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I examine a film that is horribly, deeply, life-wreckingly flawed but for one reason or another I can't help tossing it into the DVD player every so often.


Today the film in question is the third installment of the original Mad Max Trilogy, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.  I'm a huge fan of this series - the inaugural Mad Max is a mercilessly bleak dystopian film with an unrelentingly frantic pace, wherein our protagonist loses everything he cares about and becomes a sadistic revenge-seeker.  The second film, The Road Warrior, is simply one of the greatest action films I've ever seen.  This hugely influential piece of pop culture is essentially a Western set in a post-apocalyptic future, where Max has been aimlessly roaming the wasteland scavenging fuel and food, and lends his considerable survival skills to help a small band of colonists defeat a gang of homicidal marauders.

The first two movies make up two-thirds of a near-perfect trilogy.  Unfortunately, as with many trilogies, the third episode falls devastatingly short of expectations.  With Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, director George Miller stepped back into a Co-Director role after his longtime producer Byron Kennedy was killed in a helicopter crash.  Right off the bat this movie would lack the main driving creative force behind the first two films.  Still there was an interesting story to be told here, and some aspects of it worked quite well.  Let's take a look at the pros and cons of Beyond Thunderdome.


The Awesome


Mel Gibson

None of these movies would work at all without Mel Gibson's thoroughly compelling turn as the emotionally broken Max Rockatansky.  Gibson has lately revealed himself to be a totally crazy person with serious bigotry issues, but it's impossible to deny what an onscreen talent he used to be.  When I first heard they were making a new Max film without Gibson I couldn't possibly picture anyone else in the role (I have to admit though, Tom Hardy proved himself a fantastic choice).  Like Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Bruce Willis as John McClane, Mel Gibson was born to play Max.  He brought rugged, taciturn charisma and a hardened heroic quality to this lonely but honorable character.  We're able to completely sympathize with him despite his moral ambiguity.

Max is a BAMF

Monday, June 10, 2024

Mad Max (1979): Revisiting the Mad Max Franchise

Welcome to a special four-episode look at one of my favorite film series!  You know it, you love it, it's Mad fucking Max.


Mad Max.  Few film titles convey such a fountain of information and connotation as those six letters.  When George Miller conceived the title for his first feature film (Jesus, what a debut...), he tried to think of a name that would be simple, easy to remember, alliterative, and most of all evocative.  The fact that only the third letter of each word was different was a plus, and even more compelling was that the title ended in an X.  Is there a phonetically more jarring letter in the English language?  Couple that with the absolutely iconic chrome/lightning bolt/grill graphic design in the opening titles, and immediately the viewer is keenly aware this film will not be for the squeamish.  Things are about to get intense up in this bitch.

Produced on a scant $400,000 budget by the barely experienced Miller and Byron Kennedy, Mad Max was a veritable powderkeg of an action movie, shot guerrilla-style while capturing the look of a big-budget film.  Proper safety precautions weren't even considered; the cinematographer was often seated in a chair mounted to the front of a vehicle, or strapped to the back of a motorcycle to achieve the immersive, frenetically-paced action shots.  It's a near-miracle no one was seriously injured during the making of this teleplay.  The cinemascope aspect ratio allowed for the car chase shots to feel even faster than they were; with the sky and distant background cropped out of the frame all you're left with is the road and the vehicles, hurtling toward camera.  

Friday, June 7, 2024

The History of NJPW Dominion (2021)

Well that was a rather short Dominion PPV, wasn't it?  Only five matches, two of which were barely over ten minutes.  Not only that, we got a very unexpected main event result, as for the third time that year someone won their first IWGP Title.  


After guest commentator Hiromu Takahashi addressed the crowd assuring everyone he'd be back in action soon, NJPW Dominion 2021 opened with a ten-man tag match, pitting members of Chaos plus Hiroshi Tanahashi against a Bullet Club squad let by Evil.  This boasted fast-paced action and was enjoyable while it lasted, but a sub-twelve-minute match featuring ten dudes isn't going to leave a lot of room for folks to get their shit in.  The biggest story coming out of this match was in the Juniors division, as Taiji Ishimori and Sho carried the third act of the match, culminating in Ishimori snaring the win with a Bloody Cross.  Pretty forgettable overall, but inoffensive.  **1/2

The second multi-man tag pitted Tetsuya Naito, Sanada and Bushi against Dangerous Tekkers and Douki, with the main story being Naito and Sanada meshing well as a new tag team.  Like the opener this was fine but too short to be very memorable.  Zack Sabre and Sanada had the best exchanges, with a lot of pinning combinations and reversals.  Finally after eleven-plus minutes Sanada scored an upset by countering a ZSJ European Clutch with a cradle of his own.  Thus Naito and Sanada are your new #1 contenders for the IWGP Tag belts.  I like that matchup and it's nice to see some new blood in the heavyweight tag ranks.  The temporary demotion of Naito rather telegraphed the main event result though...  **1/2

Thursday, June 6, 2024

The History of NJPW Dominion (2019)

Welp, Dominion 2019 was definitely not on the level of 2018, or 2017, or 2015.  But then those three editions are three of the best PPVs I've ever seen.  Still I have to consider this show, very good though it may have been, as a mild disappointment.  I've come to expect Dominion to automatically be a Show of the Year contender, and this wasn't that.  Fortunately it was a sellout and set up some cool stuff for the future, but I was expecting a grand slam and they only hit a triple.


The show kicked off with a Jon Moxley showcase, as he made short work of Shota Umino.  I get why this went under four minutes but I would've liked to see more from these two.  That said, this was a very good four-minute squash, with Moxley taunting Umino during a series of Umino forearms; the veteran toying with the rookie.  Moxley finished Umino with his double-arm DDT and then helped him up post-match, giving Umino his endorsement before announcing his intention to enter the G1.  Between his excellent US Title win over Juice Robinson and this match, the stage was already set for Moxley to prove how much better he was outside WWE.  This was fine for what it was.  **3/4


From Moxley's first appearance as US Champion we moved onto Shingo Takagi's first as a division crossover star, as he and Satoshi Kojima beat the tar out of each other.  As a Junior, Shingo had been able to bully and overpower every opponent, but heavyweight Kojima wasn't standing for it and gave it all right back.  These guys had some sick forearm and lariat exchanges and built to a strong finish, with Shingo hitting a Pumping Bomber and Last of the Dragon to get his first heavyweight singles win.  Shingo's run as a company MVP heavyweight was underway.  This was an excellent little fight, particularly for its place on the card.  ***3/4


The first of two mongrel tag matches was next, as Minoru Suzuki and Zack Sabre faced Yoshi-Hashi and Jushin Thunder Liger.  These four paired off for most of the bout, Suzuki building to a future match with Liger and Yoshi proving himself as a British Heavyweight Championship challenger for Zack.  Suzuki and Liger's exchanges were fun, while Yoshi wasn't the most credible opponent for Sabre.  But he stole a win here with a magistral cradle.  This was a garden variety undercard tag match.  **1/2

The weakest match on the card was the six-man tag pitting Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jay White, Chase Owens and Taiji Ishimori.  Usually Tanahashi is able to hide his physical limitations in a singles match, but he wasn't able to do so here.  Tana looked so beat up and tired, his offense wasn't nearly as crisp as usual.  Taguchi's story during this match was his inability to hit the Funky Weapon hip attack.  Ishimori didn't do much here, leaving Owens, Juice and White to carry most of it.  Not much to this.  **

Things picked up with the NEVER Openweight Championship, as Taichi had one of his best matches to date against Tomohiro Ishii, who had what was for him a middling encounter.  This was very solid stuff, with Taichi actually fighting for a change, begging the question, both from the announcers and myself, "Why aren't all of his matches like this?"  After some early stalling and usual Taichi antics, the second half of this match became a more typical Ishii fight, with traded strikes, suplexes and some Taichi submission attempts.  Ishii eventually won with a sliding lariat (after multiple missed attempts) and a brainbuster to recapture the NEVER Title.  This match was very good, a step below Shingo-Kojima.  ***1/2


The Tag Titles were next as GOD faced Evil & Sanada in a pretty standard tag match.  There was some good action but nothing terribly noteworthy.  Jado interfered liberally, hitting Evil with a kendo stick from the outside, and later pulling the referee out of the ring to stop him from seeing Tama Tonga tapping to Evil's Scorpion Deathlock.  After a ref bump Jado came in with the stick again but Bushi appeared, spraying black mist into his face and knocking him out with a tope.  Evil & Sanada went for the Magic Killer but Tama broke it up and rolled up Evil, hooking the tights for the cheap win.  This was fine but not much else.  ***

The real meat of the show, as expected, was the final three bouts, starting with an incredible Dragon Lee-Will Opsreay match.  Ospreay stated a few days ago he and Lee intended to steal the show here, and they did just that, with an epic 20-minute Juniors match.  After several minutes of thrilling back-and-forth, Lee propped Ospreay on the outside railing and hit a stunning tope, knocking both guys over the railing and the Japanese announce table.  Absolutely wild spot that was actually safer than it looked.  Ospreay later hit a gorgeous corkscrew moonsault to the floor.  One of my favorite spots, incredibly simple though it was, involved Dragon Lee attempting to run away from Ospreay but getting cut off by a hook kick.  Such a basic but brilliant moment.  Another great exchange saw Ospreay take a reverse rana but counter a Lee running charge with a Spanish Fly out of nowhere.  And of course they did the spot where Ospreay appears to take a top rope rana but lands on his feet and both guys sell the magnitude of that reversal.  Ospreay repeated his finish from his Shingo match a few days earlier, putting away Dragon with a top rope OsCutter/Stormbreaker sequence to once again capture the Jr. Title.  Just a spectacular performance by both men.  ****3/4


The semi-main event was one of those matches I have to reluctantly give a very high rating to.  At this point I was convinced Ibushi and Naito had a suicide pact, considering how many times they've dropped each other on their heads over the years.  This match was slower paced than their previous ones but the second half featured so many piledrivers, reverse ranas, and other spiking moves it became really uncomfortable to watch.  And don't get me started on that apron German suplex spot.  Like, obviously the plan was for Naito to flip Ibushi all the way over so he landed on the floor on his stomach (ridiculously dangerous as it is), but Ibushi didn't clear the apron and the side of his head caught the edge on the way down, which looked like it folded his head into his shoulder at a 45-degree angle.  Jeezus fucking Christ.  I spent the rest of this match saying "What the fuck are you doing??"  That Ibushi was even able to get up after that, let alone finish a match full of crazy high spots is baffling.  And from a workrate standpoint this match was pretty great.  But after this I didn't want to see them wrestle each other ever again (Fortunately their WrestleKingdom 15 main event was much safer).  Naito kicked out of a Last Ride and countered the Kamigoye with a DDT that Ibushi took like Rob Van Dam.  Naito finished him with Destino to recapture the I-C Title.   ****1/4 for the mechanics of the match, but zero stars for the common sense displayed in getting there.


The main event, following two spectacular matches, left me feeling a little underwhelmed truth be told, but there was plenty of good stuff here.  Okada and Jericho worked a very unusual style for New Japan, with Jericho playing the Terry Funk-type heel and Okada altering his usual main event style to match.  Jericho subverted several of Okada's usual spots, such as the clean rope break at the beginning, where Jericho answered Okada's pat on the chest with an eye poke.  Then later Okada tossed Jericho over the barricade and went for his high cross body but Jericho countered with a Codebreaker.   Late in the match Jericho attempted to steal the Rainmaker but Okada ducked and hit the Codebreaker for a nearfall.  Okada avoided Jericho's new Judas Effect and countered another Codebreaker by throwing Jericho over his head.  Jericho went for a sunset flip but Okada sat on top and got a quick pin, echoing the first fall with Kenny Omega last year.  Jericho was pissed and attacked Okada after the bell, using a chair and hitting the Judas Effect.  Guest commentator Tanahashi came to Okada's rescue, setting up a dream match with Jericho, at WrestleKingdom 14.  The story of this match really seemed to be Jericho robbing the fans of a typical Okada main event, with multiple signature spots broken up, a slower-than-usual pace, and an out-of-nowhere finish.  Okada never even hit the Rainmaker and certainly didn't get a post-match promo.  For what they were going for this was very well-done, it just left me slightly vexxed because it wasn't the match I expected.  On balance I'll give it **** because it was well-worked and accomplished what it set out to accomplish.  Arch-villain Chris Jericho pissed off the New Japan faithful and was protected in a loss.


So yeah, Dominion 2019 was certainly not the instant classic show we've come to expect from the annual June PPV, but it was very far from a bad show too.  On the contrary, a show like this on WWE's calendar would be considered one of their best of the year.  For New Japan though it was just good.  

Best Match: Dragon Lee vs. Will Ospreay
Worst Match: The six-man
What I'd Change: Tell Ibushi and Naito to stop trying to die.  
Most Disappointing Match: As good as it was, Ibushi-Naito was really difficult to watch.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Taichi can actually deliver a good NEVER match when he wants to.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10


Alright, bring on the G1 Climax!  Thanks for reading - follow us on TwitterMeWeFacebook and YouTube!


2018
2020


 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

The History of NJPW Dominion (2018)

Okada-Omega IV.  The new wrestling yardstick.  The 60+-minute epic that made everything else feel obsolete.  The culmination of an 18-month rivalry that ranks among the greatest in the history of the business.  Oh, plus a bunch of other good stuff.....


2018's PPV of the Year may primarily be remembered for its main event, but it was anything but a one-match show.  In addition to the 6-star classic (or 7, or 8, however many snowflakes you wanna give it), this show boasted three other ****+ matches by my count, and while it took a few matches to really get going, this edition of Dominion ranks among the finest.

The opener was a short but entertaining Jr. Tag Title match, with Roppongi 3K challenging El Desperado & Kanemaru, hoping to regain the straps.  The heels took advantage of a slight ref bump and Kanemaru used a whiskey bottle on SHO for the win.  It's a shame these guys only got nine minutes for a title opener and even stranger that RPG3K didn't win.  Nothing spectacular in this opener, it was fine.  **

Next up was Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Juice Robinson & David Finlay in another short bout.  This was all about setting up White vs. Robinson, which it did nicely.  Robinson got the pin on White with Pulp Friction, and these two would deliver a fantastic US Title match at the G1 Special in San Francisco a month later.  This however was just a quick 7-minute match.  **

A third undercard tag match pitted Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano against Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.  This was the best of the three openers, mostly due to the Ishii-Suzuki interaction (Who doesn't love watching these two maniacs pummel each other?).  Sabre got the win for his team by tapping out Yano, but after the match Ishii and Suzuki brawled into the back.  Another fun little match.  **1/4

The first really noteworthy bout was the NEVER Openweight triple threat.  Hirooki Goto and Michael Elgin carried most of the weight here while Taichi played the chickenshit heel who picked his spots and tried to stay out of danger.  After some nice three-way spots and some good powerbrokering from Goto and Elgin, Elgin won by buckle bombing Taichi into Goto and then Elgin-bombing Taichi for the pin.  This match wasn't your usual NEVER slugfest, and leaving Taichi out of it would've been a major improvement, but it had some clever spots and was well worked.  ***1/2

Here's where the show really started to take off.  The Young Bucks, freshly moved up to the heavyweight tag division, challenged Evil & Sanada in an energetic, dramatic bout where both Bucks sold injuries - Matt's back became an issue again, and Nick missed a kick on the apron and whacked his foot on the post.  Both injuries played into multiple spots and the Bucks were in peril for much of the bout.  This can be considered the match where Matt and Nick Jackson successfully transitioned from spotfest wrestlers to really great storytellers, and it felt markedly different than their Jr. division stuff.  After multiple exciting false finishes, the Bucks took the match and the straps with More Bang for Your Buck.  One of the best heavyweight tag title matches I've seen in NJPW.  Seven months later the Bucks would drop the titles back to Evil & Sanada and make their New Japan exit, but this bout served as an historic template for their work in AEW.  ****1/2


The History of NJPW Dominion (2017)

NJPW follows up the superb WrestleKingdom 11 with a similarly structured Dominion, complete with four rematches from that show....


In a year when the company, especially its top champion, was churning out classics like a five-star match assembly line, NJPW Dominion 2017 was yet another homerun for the world's greatest current wrestling promotion.  Its nine-match lineup included nary a misstep; the matches ranged from "entertaining opening match fluff" to "pretty good" to "goddamn awesome" to "transcendent."  By my calculations the show included four ****+ matches, the last of which served as an in-ring Godfather 2 to its predecessor.  Five months after Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega lit the wrestling world ablaze with their epic Tokyo Dome main event for the ages, they did it a second time.

First though, let's look at the undercard.

The opening 8-man tag was quick, energetic and inoffensive.  Nothing much at stake but everyone got a little time to warm up the crowd, and team Tiger Mask won after Togi Makabe landed the King Kong Knee Drop on Nakanishi.  I believe this was Kota Ibushi's final Tiger Mask W appearance, thank god.  **1/4

Next up was the 6-Man Title gauntlet match, which was slightly better than its WK counterpart but ultimately entertaining without being terribly memorable.  The first and last segments were probably the strongest, but I find gauntlet six-man tags kind of a slog to sit through.  I'd have preferred a simple six-man tag for the titles.  Team Chaos won the first fall after Toru Yano hit a low blow on Yujiro Takahashi.  He tried to do the same in the second fall to Taichi and Kanemaru but Zack Sabre Jr. rolled him up in a bridging cradle to make short work of Chaos.  Taguchi, Juice and Ricochet were next and had a bit of baseball-themed fun, where Taguchi trapped Taichi in the corner and acted as a catcher, Ricochet wound up and threw an air pitch, and Juice acted as a ball, cannonballing Taichi.  Juice ended up pinning Taichi with Pulp Friction after Kanemaru accidentally whiskey-sprayed him.  Zack Sabre then trapped Juice in an Octopus Hold after the bell, until Evil, Sanada and Bushi entered.   Los Ingobernables retained in the end after Bushi hit a second-rope codebreaker on Taguchi.  Like I said, this was fine but too long for its spot and importance.  **

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

NJPW Dominion 2024 Preview & Predictions

Remember when NJPW Dominion was a lock for one of the best shows of the year?  Good times....


Yeah so this Sunday is New Japan's second-biggest PPV of the calendar year, and this lineup.....this is not my kinda lineup.  We have an IWGP Title match I'm not at all excited about, a Super Juniors final that should be good but hardly worthy of the main event of the company's second tentpole event, a couple promising secondary title matches, and that's about it.  I know NJPW is in a rebuilding phase but Jesus, where's the rebuilding??


Tetsuya Naito vs. Callum Newman


Why is the company's biggest remaining full-time star in the opener?  I'm glad Newman is getting this chance but shouldn't this be presented as a way bigger deal if they're serious about his future?  This just seems...weird.

Pick: Naito is obviously winning




TMDK vs. Clark Connors, Drilla Molony & LJ Cleary


Standard undercard throwaway trios match.  I'll go with team Zack.

Pick: TMDK

The History of NJPW Dominion (2016)

NJPW rebuilds their roster and sets the stage for a record-shattering IWGP Title reign.....

Osaka-Jo Hall - 6.19.16

The 2016 edition came at a strange transitional period for New Japan, when they were still recovering from the loss of four major players a few months earlier.  While AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Anderson and Gallows were making waves in WWE, NJPW was hard at work to fill the void.  Kenny Omega had emerged as the new top gaijin, winning the vacant Intercontinental Title (I'm still baffled they didn't have Nakamura drop the belt to him on his way out the door), while Tetsuya Naito skyrocketed to the main event scene, winning the New Japan Cup tournament on his way to a shocking IWGP Title victory over Okada at Invasion Attack.  Replacing Anderson & Gallows as the tag team division centerpiece was another pair of Bullet Club guys, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, who got off to a rocky start but quickly grew into the role.  And yet another emerging new star was Jr. Heavyweight sensation Will Ospreay, who defeated Ryusuke Taguchi in the Best of the Super Juniors final to earn a shot at division champion Kushida.  So in spite of the talent loss, New Japan was making the best of things and then some (as we'd see over the next year).

Dominion opened with the Bullet Club B-Team of Bad Luck Fale, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi facing the Hunter Club of Captain New Japan, Yoshitatsu and Togi Makabe.  The heels attacked at the bell and worked over Yoshi momentarily, but things broke down quickly and spilled to the outside.  Fale attacked Makabe with the railing, while Page hit CNJ with a shooting star press off the apron (This spot was terrifying, as Page underrotated and was lucky not to land on his head).  Yoshi finally made the hot tag to Makabe, who worked with CNJ to dominate the heels, but Page hit Last Rites on CNJ to win the match, and hung him over the ropes after the bell.  Not much to write home about here, just a proper showcase for Page more than anything else.  *1/2

Up next was a the first of three Chaos vs. Los Ingobernables matches on the show, as the two newest LIJ members Sanada and Bushi faced Tomohiro Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi.  Bushi started right in with heel tactics, choking Yoshi with his T-shirt and opening the door for the heels to work him over for a few minutes, before Yoshi hit a neckbreaker and tagged Ishii.  Ishii ran wild on both LIJ members.  With all four men in the ring Yoshi and Sanada had some good exchanges, with Sanada hitting a top rope dropkick, lariat, and a TKO.  He went for Skull End but met an Ishii lariat.  Yoshi then countered a second Skull End attempt with his Butterfly Lock, which Bushi tried to break up but found himself snared in an Ishii choke.  Sanada tapped to give Chaos the win.  This was a decent match but pretty skippable.  **1/4

Monday, June 3, 2024

The History of NJPW Dominion (2015)

The next four Dominion shows were really something, starting with this masterpiece.....

Osaka-Jo Hall - 7.5.15

The 2015 Dominion PPV was the first NJPW show I truly anticipated as a fan, after initially diving into the product with WrestleKingdom 9.  Between January and July 2015 I perused their back catalogue and watched the big matches from New Beginning, Invasion Attack and Wrestling Dontaku.  But Dominion was the first stacked New Japan show after WK9, and I made it a point to sit down and view it from start to finish, on the day it aired.  Another bit of trivia for you, Dominion 2015 was the first NJPW show I wrote a predictions column for (I went 8 for 9).  If WrestleKingdom 9 converted me into a New Japan fan, Dominion 2015 vaulted New Japan ahead of WWE on my list of wrestling priorities, and I haven't looked back.

This show was the culmination of a year-long arc for the company's rising Ace, Kazuchika Okada, who'd been unseated for the IWGP Title by AJ Styles (partly due to Bullet Club shenanigans), and spent the intervening months trying to climb back up the mountain (with a heartbreaking loss to Tanahashi at WrestleKingdom 9).  Okada's road to Dominion had been a troubled one, with a couple losses to Bad Luck Fale before a big win at Invasion Attack that ended that feud and set the stage for a rematch with AJ at the second-biggest show of the year.  Such was the central story of Dominion 2015.

But first the undercard...

The show opened with a wild, fast-paced offering from the Jr. Heavyweight Tag division, as The Young Bucks defended their Titles against reDRagon and RPG Vice.  The Bucks took a lot of abuse early in the match from both teams but managed to outmaneuver Fish and O'Reilly on the outside, leaving Romero and Beretta to flatten reDRagon with planchas meant for Matt and Nick.  From there the Bucks staged a walkout which prompted RPG Vice to give chase, and Matt and Nick superkicked them both on the ramp before running back into the ring.  RPG Vice nearly got counted out but just made it back in.  After lots of wild exchanges, Kyle O'Reilly took out both RPG Vice members with a rebound lariat, and Fish hit a top rope Falcon Arrow on Romero for a nearfall.  But the Bucks came back, knocking reDRagon out of the match with twin superkicks, Matt superkicked Beretta out of the ring, and the Bucks hit More Bang for Your Buck on Romero to retain the belts.  A super fun opener with the type of Jr. action you'd expect from these three teams.  ***3/4  


Next up was one of only two "forgettable" matches of the night; Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma and Tetsuya Naito.  This match was historically significant, as it marked more or less the beginning of Tetsuya Naito becoming the Ingobernable we all know and love today.  Honma was ambushed by the heels at the opening bell, and Naito sauntered down to the ring, in no hurry to help out his partner.  The opening few minutes consisted of Fale and Takahashi pounding Honma, and every time Honma escaped to his corner Naito refused to tag in.  Finally Naito agreed to do some work, leveling both heels with a dive to the outside and offering his signature pose back in the ring.  Naito locked Fale in a Figure Four but ran into some trouble and tagged Honma back in, taking a powder on the outside.  Honma flattened Takahashi with a running headbutt, and Naito detained Fale long enough for Honma to hit a top rope headbutt for the win; this was during a time when Honma lost basically always, so the crowd was jubilant at his success here.  Naito bailed after the bell and left Honma to his celebration.  The rest of course is history; Naito would soon become one of the company's top draws thanks to his transformation into an anti-hero.  A decent match with nice character development, but not a standout on a show like this.  **1/2

The really stacked portion of the card began next with the Katsuyori Shibata-Kazushi Sakuraba fight.  And I mean FIGHT.  This was one of the best simulated MMA bouts I've ever seen and I'd rank it right up there with Sakuraba-Nakamura from WK7.  The grappling looked totally convincing and snug, and Shibata's strikes were brutal.  Sakuraba mostly relied on submission holds, repeatedly locking in guillotine chokes and armbars, while Shibata fought back with sickening forearms, palm strikes, and a pair of stiff-as-hell corner dropkicks.  The most memorable moment came when Sakuraba locked a rear naked choke on a standing Shibata.  Shibata inched toward the ropes with Sakuraba on his back like a spider monkey, but as he reached out, Sakuraba converted the hold into a double butterfly lock to trap both Shibata's arms; Shibata had to resort to reaching the ropes with his teeth to break the hold.  Shibata spun Sakuraba around with a lariat but got caught in another choke that nearly passed him out.  Shibata escaped and locked in his own choke, which he released just long enough to score a match-ending Penalty Kick.  This was fantastically brutal and different from anything else on the show.  ***3/4 


The History of NJPW Dominion (2014)

The Bullet Club has taken over, folks.  It's New Japan, 2014....

BodyMaker Colosseum - 6.21.14

By June 2014 the Bullet Club had gone through a major shift, as founder Prince Devitt left New Japan for TitanLand (following a Loser Leaves NJPW match at Invasion Attack), and was replaced as leader by the industry's hottest free agent AJ Styles.  AJ made a major statement from the start, capturing the IWGP Championship in his New Japan in-ring debut.  Also by this point buzzworthy indy tag team The Young Bucks had been added to the mix, making the Bullet Club a diverse, powerful stable.  The 2014 Dominion show was fairly strange compared to the others; with no IWGP Title match on the card it would instead by headlined by an Intercontinental Championship match (the third of five such NJPW PPVs that year), while IWGP Champion Styles was in a tag match third from the top.  What's weirder about this show is that by my count three of the five pre-intermission bouts scored **** or better, while none of the final four matches did.  What is this, a WWE show??  But Dominion 2014 was still a solid, easy to watch outing with some fine wrestling.

The show opened gorgeously with The Young Bucks vs. Time Splitters for the IWGP Jr. Tag belts.  This began with lots of innovative, fast-paced action, the Splitters mostly frustrating the Bucks.  Matt and Nick eventually took control after their patented head scissor/flying kick combo, and kept outmaneuvering Alex Shelley to keep him from escaping as they worked him over.  The Bucks broke out a slew of tandem moves over several minutes, and finally Shelley evaded them and got the hot tag.  Kushida ran wild, taking out both Bucks, but fell victim to a Doomsday Device dropkick for a two-count.  Time Splitters recovered and hit a tandem Sliced Bread for a nearfall.  Kushida went for the Hoverboard Lock but Matt countered with a tombstone setup for the IndyTaker.  The pin was broken up and the Bucks hit their tandem 450 splash for another two-count.  Finally they went for More Bang for Your Buck, but it was broken up, and Kushida snared a Hoverboard lock on Nick for the tapout finish.  Just an awesome, prototypical Bucks-Splitters match to kick off the show; exactly the kind of match you'd want from these teams.  ****1/2


The shortest match of the night, and the only one under ten minutes, pitted Tetsuya Naito against Tama Tonga in a crisp, energetic match.  Tonga attacked before the bell and controlled most of the early moments, taking the action outside and hitting a TKO-type move to drop Naito throat-first on the railing, which looked brutal.  Naito beat the 20-count and took over the match with a neckbreaker, and the remaining minutes featured quick back-and-forth action.  Tonga got the advantage with a backdrop suplex and the finishing sequence was full of reversals until Naito found a break and hit the Stardust Press for the win.  This was fun.  ***

Maybe the unexpected hit of the night for me (and I'm not sure why I was surprised by this) was Goto and Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata and Tomoaki Honma.  These four guys beat the shit out of each other for eleven minutes and it was glorious.  Honma attacked before the bell, pummeling Shibata with chops and stomps, but Shibata wasn't having it and engaged both guys with traded forearms.  Later in the match Shibata and Honma had an incredible striking battle, trading rapid-fire palm strikes until Honma leveled him with a lariat and tagged Nagata.  Shibata and Nagata then had a sick striking war of their own and traded backdrop suplexes.  Shibata and Nagata eventually spilled out of the ring as Goto and Honma fought inside.  Honma hit a blockbuster but missed his diving headbutt.  Goto landed a yushi guroshi but Honma countered the Shouten with a small package for a nearfall.  Goto then hit a Dominator-type move for the win.  Shibata and Nagata continued brawling all the way to the dressing room.  This was like a NEVER Openweight tag match, stiff as fuck and full of nonstop action.  ****