Friday, July 12, 2024

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2004)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2003)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a good first hour for SummerSlam '03.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2002)

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

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

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

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

This match was nine minutes of fuckin' great.

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Oscar Film Journal: The Long Voyage Home (1940)

Welcome back to the Oscar Film Journal, here at Enuffa.com!


Still toiling back here in the 1940s and still on the theme of "films photographed by Gregg Toland," today I'll be reviewing one of John Ford's lesser known films, The Long Voyage Home, starring John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, and a host of character actors as a ragtag group of merchant marines tapped by the British government to deliver a shipment of explosives to London, around the start of World War II.  The sailors are a rowdy lot, prone to drunken debauchery and very bad decisions.  Case in point, while the ship is docked in the West Indies at the film's outset, Mitchell's character Driscoll, the group's de facto leader, sneaks ashore one night to arrange for a host of native female guests to smuggle booze aboard the ship so the crew can party.  Later in the film the crew, prone to mob mentality, begins to suspect one of their own, a shifty Englishman named Smitty, of being a German spy because of his secretive behavior.  Smitty isn't, but that doesn't stop them from tying him up and raiding his possessions, determined to prove his guilt at all costs.  In the film's third act when Wayne's character, a rather dimwitted Swede named Olsen decides to return home after ten years at sea, but he and the group can't help getting roped into one last blowout at a seedy tavern, where the waitstaff and a sailing agent have ulterior motives to keep Olsen from leaving.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2001)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 8, 2024

The History of WWE SummerSlam (2000)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 5, 2024

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1999)

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHACK!

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

WWE Money in the Bank 2024 Preview & Predictions

Time for another skimpy five-match B-PPV from WWE that everyone will claim is the greatest piece of "cinema" they've ever seen....


It's another internationally hosted show that's light on star power and outrageously expensive to get a ticket for, WWE Money in the Bank.  The most tired gimmick in WWE gets another go-round, in its 19th year of existence.  Jesus, next year will be the two-decade mark, for a gimmick that's barely ever elevated anyone.  So we have two ladder matches, a World Title match, an Intercontinental Title match that should steal the show, and a trios match to set up one of the weakest SummerSlam main events in recent memory.



Women's Money in the Bank: Iyo Sky vs. Chelsea Green vs. Lyra Valkyria vs. Tiffany Stratton vs. Naomi vs. Zoey Stark


This one could not be more telegraphed given how weak this field is.  Iyo's already won MITB, and of the remaining five women Tiffany is the only future main eventer.  She and Iyo will do some cool spots, but man is this lineup thin.

Pick: Tiffany

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1998)

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

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

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

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

Right.  In.  The Dick.

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

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Oscar Film Journal: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

And we're back with another entry in the Oscar Film Journal, here at Enuffa.com!


Today's subject is a film I resisted watching for many years due only to the fact that it beat out It's a Wonderful Life for Best Picture of 1946 (along with an astounding eight more trophies).  But I finally gave it a whirl after learning that the cinematographer on this film was Gregg Toland of Citizen Kane fame.  I'm talking about the post-WWII drama The Best Years of Our Lives, starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Theresa Wright and Virgina Mayo.  

TBYOOL was one of the first films to tackle the subject of war veterans struggling to readjust to life in the world after coming home from battle.  In the opening scenes we're introduced to three vets all headed to the same hometown, who quickly form a bond during their flight.  March's character Al Stephenson is a middle-aged husband and father of two who left a lucrative but unfulfilling banking job to enlist, and now finds everyday civilian life rather dull unless he's heavily alcohol-medicated.  Andrews' character is Fred Derry, a bomber pilot who suffers from PTSD and has no viable job skills, whose vapid, gold-digging wife seems uninterested in him without his uniform.  The third vet is a young sailor named Homer Parrish (played by actual veteran Harold Russell, in his feature debut), who lost his hands and had them replaced with hooks (Parrish actually suffered this disability in real life), and can't bring himself to resume his relationship with fiancĂ©e Wilma, fearing that she won't want to commit to taking care of him.

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1997)

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

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

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

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

Some belated 4th of July FIREWORKS!

Monday, July 1, 2024

AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2024 Review: Swerve and Will Have Arrived

Never doubt AEW when it comes to PPV.  Just don't do it.  This company is untouchable at putting on absolute banger shows.  Case in point the 2024 edition of Forbidden Door, a ten-match main card (plus some very fun pre-show bouts) where the worst thing on the show was the perfectly fine opening match.  The match layout also made it fly by, as they saved most of the longer matches for later in the show.


After an enjoyable Mariah May-Saraya tournament match that saw May steal a win with a rollup, and a blazing lucha trios match featuring the legendary Mistico, Forbidden Door kicked off proper with hometown hero MJF vs. technical lucha wizard Hechicero in a fast-paced clash of styles.  This only got ten minutes but they had enough time to tell the story of Hechicero targeting Max's recently rehabbed shoulder, and Max keeping up with Hechicero's technical prowess.  Max escaped a double arm submission and hit Adam Cole's Tequila Sunrise destroyer and his own brainbuster to win the match and foreshadow his impending date with Cole.  Solid stuff to get the PPV started.  ***1/2

The History of WWE SummerSlam (1996)

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

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

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

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

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