Monday, June 7, 2021

Movies of Disbelief: Grease (1978)

I'm back to bitch and moan about a movie that I find simply too ridiculous to believe.....


So this past weekend my wife forced me, very much against my will, to watch the classic musical Grease for the first time from start to finish.  I had seen bits and pieces of it on TV over the years, probably even the entire movie all told.  But never had I sat through the film end-to-end and experienced what so many girls (and probably some dudes too) of my generation were so in love with.

The lighthearted 1950s throwback starring Olivia Newton-John Travolta (like "Bennifer" only waaaaay longer) tells the story of two unlikely high school sweethearts and their star-crossed romance.  Travolta plays Danny Zuko, the bad-assiest greaser dude in the school who wears leather jackets, supes up cars, and can dance almost as good as Tony Manero (....wait....).  Newton-John plays Sandy Olsson, a straight-laced Aussie chick who met Danny on the beach over the summer and they had a real good thing, if ya pick up what I'm puttin' down.  But her parents plan to move the family out back to.....the outback, so she thinks she and Danny are destined to never see each other again.

Good thing the film moved the setting from Chicago to California,
otherwise I'd be saying "Where the fuck is this beach??"

But wait, Sandy's parents change their minds and she ends up at Danny's high school.  And then each of them informs their respective group of friends about their summer fling, but with VERY conflicting stories.  She describes Danny as a perfectly romantic gentleman, while Danny describes her as a filthy slut (BONG!).  Uh oh.  The rest of the movie is just essentially the "will they or won't they" schtick, with the obvious outcome, a buncha song & dance numbers, and a twist where at the end Danny starts dressing like the respectable jock douchebags and Sandy starts dressing like a, well, filthy slut (BONG!), complete with leather jacket, skin-tight chaps and a newfound smoking habit (I wonder if she's ever tried reefer).  So I guess the moral of the story is, "Just be whatever your insensitive prick of a boyfriend wants you to be and your relationship will be great!"

"Oh wait, I don't need the letterman jacket, she went all trashy just for me!"

Friday, June 4, 2021

NJPW Dominion 2021 Preview & Predictions

Man, New Japan can't catch a break this year.  Due to COVID breakouts in Japan, the company had to postpone two big stadium shows (as well as push Dominion back by a day), but also they've had two top singles champions in 2021 vacate their titles due to injury.  Both tag team divisions are basically nonexistent right now, and the Juniors division is running on fumes.  Ya know, I can't help but notice all this seemed to coincide with their inexplicable decision to do away with the Intercontinental Title.  Are the two things related, I dunno.....


Anyway, this *Monday* is the annual Dominion show, historically the company's second-biggest PPV of the year, historically in among the best shows in a given year.  Not so much in 2020.  And probably not in 2021 either, although this lineup does have some potential.  We only have five matches, two of which are multi-man clusterfucks, but the three singles bouts on the card should all be pretty great.  If those three deliver the goods and the two openers are watchable at worst, Dominion could be one of those smaller, no-fat shows that ends up being one of the best of the year.  We'll see.  Let's take a look.....




Hiroshi Tanahashi/Hirooki Goto/Tomohiro Ishii/Yoshi-Hashi/Sho vs. Evil/Taiji Ishimori/Chase Owens/El Phantasmo/Yujiro Takahashi


For some reason a ten-man tag always feels much more special than a six or eight-man.  Here we have Chaos-plus-Tanahashi against the Evil wing of the Bullet Club.  If this gets a decent amount of time and the guys are motivated to deliver more than a garden-variety opening match, this could be a lot of fun.  I guess based on the lineups this will probably set up Tana vs. Evil, and maybe either Goto or Ishii vs. Phantasmo?  

Pick: I don't think it matters much, but to throw the crowd a bone and start things off on a lighter note, the babyfaces should probably win.




Tetsuya Naito/Sanada/Bushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr./Taichi/Douki


So this one is interesting.  Zack and Taichi just regained the Tag Titles and now they're facing three of the LIJ fellas.  Could they be setting up Naito and Sanada as challengers?  I wouldn't mind seeing that.  Man, that tag division is barely even there at this point.  This company needs to recruit some teams.  Naito could probably use a good six months working tag bouts to give his knees a rest.

Pick: I'll go with the good guys here too, to set up a big tag team match down the line.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

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 TwitterMeWeMixFacebook and YouTube!


2018
2020


 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Top Ten Things: May PPV Matches

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

Today I'll be talkin' wrestling (What a shock), specifically the ten best PPV matches to have taken place in the month of May.  WWE's PPV calendar has only included May for the past 20 years, but those two decades have yielded some veritable classics.  I've also included multiple New Japan matches, from their annual May event Wrestling Dontaku.  .....And that's enough of an intro.  Let's get to it!





HM. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit - Judgment Day - 5.20.01


In 2001 the two best technical wrestlers in the WWF began a rivalry that would last nearly two years on and off.  After a 14-minute gem at WrestleMania 17 and a 30-minute Submission match the following month, Angle and Benoit faced off at Judgment Day in a Three Stages of Hell match, where the first fall would be a standard match, the second would be submission-only, and the third would be a Ladder Match for Angle's Olympic Gold Medal.  Benoit would quickly win the first fall (probably too quickly) but Angle came back to take the second and third (with help from Edge & Christian) in a tremendous match.  The two would resume their feud in late 2002 and add several other classics to their respective resumes.





HM. Prince Devitt vs. Low-Ki - Wrestling Dontaku - 5.3.12


This Jr. Heavyweight Title match stole the show at the 2012 Dontaku PPV, starting out meticulously but gradually ramping up the intensity and high-risk offense.  Both guys showed why they're more than just small spotfest wrestlers, as this match was full of drama and psychology.  In the second half of the match they broke out the innovative offense and quick reversals, and after twenty minutes (not to mention both guys kicking out of each other's finishers) Low-Ki won with a Ki Krusher.  One of several New Japan classics from the future Finn Balor.





10. The Shield vs. Evolution - Extreme Rules - 5.4.14


One of the best feuds of 2014 culminated in this enormous six-man tag at Extreme Rules, between the dominant anti-establishment trio known as The Shield, and Triple H's reformed stable of former WWE Champs, Evolution.  This rivalry reminded me of the old Road Warriors vs. Four Horsement battles, and this match was a crazy melee that went all over the arena.  The final moments of the match saw Seth Rollins leap off the loge entranceway onto his enemies, in the bout's most memorable moment.  With four of the six men occupied outside, Reigns finished Batista back in the ring with the Superman punch/Spear combination to end a fantastic brawl.


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


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

AEW Double or Nothing 2021: Interfering With Greatness

AEW's third annual Double or Nothing PPV is in the books, and it was quite a noteworthy event.  I would say overall the show fell just short of being a truly great PPV, but it was still a damn good show that boasted numerous bouts in the **** range and a very hot crowd that was clearly super excited to finally see in-person wrestling again.  What kept it from reaching elite level (pun alert) for me was an over-reliance on interference and outside the ring shenanigans.  But we'll get to that.



The show opened with one of two matches that could be considered a "hoss fight," Hangman Page vs. Brian Cage.  These two had an athletic, hard-hitting match that almost felt like a G1-type contest, with no slow spots and a pace that built throughout.  Late in the match Cage attempted to steal Page's Buckshot Lariat, but hesitated and Page countered with an F5 (My initial reaction to this was that it felt like a miscue, but it makes sense that Cage wouldn't execute the move smoothly since it's not his).  The first of way too many outside the ring distractions occurred, with Ricky Starks and Hook coming down to distract the referee (Cage had asked his teammates to stay away for this match).  Starks gave Cage the FTW belt to use as a weapon but Cage refused, and when he turned around Page leveled him with the Buckshot for the win.  Very good match but having a run-in right in the opener was immediately too much.  ***1/2

Next up was the Tag Title match, as the Young Bucks, full-on embracing their heel personas, defended against Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston.  This was paced like an old-school tag match, with the Bucks doing very little of their high flying offense and Moxley playing the badass good guy in peril.  Mid-match we got another distraction spot, as Anderson and Gallows attempted to interfere but Kingston was ready and launched himself on top of Gallows.  But the confusion allowed Matt Jackson to hit Moxley with a spray can, opening up a forehead cut.  Matt and Nick mocked various WWE figures throughout the match, from Nick's Randy Savage impression to Matt's Hulk Hogan, to a Shield powerbomb tease.  The final few minutes of the match were full of false finishes, submission attempts, and big counters.  After withstanding a barrage of superkicks, Moxley took five BTE Triggers in a row for the loss.  Another excellent Bucks match, but the interference kept it from equaling their all-time great bouts.  ****1/4


Monday, May 31, 2021

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.  **

Friday, May 28, 2021

Movies of Disbelief: Star Wars (1977)

Welcome to another Movies of Disbelief here at Enuffa.com!  It's time to discuss an unnecessarily major beef I have with one of my favorite films.....


Star Wars.  Just saying those two little words conjures up so much imagery, nostalgia, and special effects badassery.  In 1977 George Lucas dropped perhaps the greatest-ever 200-megaton awesome-bomb on the world, in the form of his sci-fi/fantasy swashbuckler, introducing us all to iconic characters Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and of course Darth Vader.  If you didn't grow up with Star Wars in your life, I'm sorry, your childhood was trash.  This film and its two sequels shaped so many lives, and eventually spawned a bona fide pop culture empire (See what I did there?) that keeps churning out new material every year.

So yeah, it's safe to say I'm a Star Wars fan.  No, scratch that, I'm a Star Wars OG.  I've been in Star Wars Heaven since '77.  Well probably more like '79, I was only 18 months old when the first movie came out.  As far as I'm concerned the original film is still the best of the entire franchise.  Empire is a damn close second, but to me A New Hope is one of the most perfect cinematic experiences ever crafted.  And it's Unaltered or nothing by the way, none of that Special Edition bullshit.  I don't need to see cartoon Jabba showing up or a CG-cluttered Mos Eisley, and don't even get me started on Greedo.  If you believe the updated version of that scene is superior to Han blasting Greedo through the fucking pelvis unprovoked, you should check directly into a home for the criminally insane, as you are a danger to both yourself and others.

Take this shit right here, put it in a box, and throw it in the fucking ocean.

Anyway, even though Star Wars is one of my absolute favorite films ever made in this or any universe, there are nonetheless a few plot contrivances numerous people have pointed out, and that was even before Lucas completely fucked up the continuity with Special Editions and prequels.  The first and perhaps most frequently cited is when C-3P0 and R2-D2 launch an escape pod from Tantive IV and the Imperial gunners decide not to shoot it down, something which would have prevented the entire film from happening.  Way to cover your bases, assholes.  Another is, why didn't the Death Star just blow up the planet of Yavin, thus destroying the fourth moon and the Rebel Base with it, instead of taking the time to orbit around and allow the Rebels a chance to attack?  But these nitpicks are forgivable considering how fantastic the rest of the movie is.

I hope these two nitwits got Force-choked
and then Vader peed on their dead bodies.

Where I draw the line though is at Luke keeping the surname Skywalker despite being raised in hiding from his now evil father and the more evil Emperor.  Twenty years earlier Luke and his twin sister were separated and reared by different families so as not to pop up on Vader's radar (That almost rhymes).  Leia became Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan.  But not only did they send Luke to Vader's home planet of Tatooine, they called him Luke SKYWALKER, after his father.  Real nice subterfuge, dummies.  Wait a second though, Luke grew up with his "uncle" Owen Lars, whom he was raised to believe was Anakin's brother, yes?  So why the hell wasn't he called Luke Lars?  And if Luke thinks Owen is his actual uncle, how did they explain to him why his father's surname wasn't also Lars?  Maybe they shared with him the terribly uninteresting saga of the time Anakin showed up at the Lars homestead and brought his dead mother home, and then left?  Jeezus what a boring bedtime story.  "Uncle Owen, how come my name is Skywalker?"  "Well Luke, your dad's mom married my dad.  I only met him for ten minutes and frankly didn't know him from Adam.  He was exactly nothing to me.  So forget all that stuff I told you about how he went off to war and I resented him for it.  'Twas all pure nonsense that homeless hippie Ben told me to tell you.  Here's what really happened, my stepbrother showed up, asked about his mom, buried her corpse in the backyard over there, and then skipped town with our protocol droid.  Wait, DID I JUST BUY BACK MY OWN FUCKING PROTOCOL DROID??  Son of a two-dollar whore!!!"

God I hate the prequels....


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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Regarding Henry

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com!  For those who haven't joined us for one of these, I take a movie with both good and bad aspects (or awesome and shitty ones), and separate them from each other.  Put each of them in "timeout," if you will.


Today's subject is the 1991 melodrama Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford and Annette Bening and directed by Mike Nichols.  Regarding Henry is the story of a hotshot jerk lawyer who's the MVP of his firm but who doesn't have much of a relationship with his wife or daughter.  Henry is the victim of a shooting, which leaves him with retrograde amnesia and a childlike personality, and has to put his life and relationships back together from scratch.  Feel-good feelies ensue....

The film has elements about it that work and most certainly some elements that don't.  It received mixed reviews and failed to make much of a splash at the box office, but it's still affectionately remembered as one of Harrison Ford's more touching roles.

So here I am to lay out the pros and cons of this intriguing but very flawed film....



The Awesome


Harrison Ford

I'm a huge Harrison Ford fan.  Always have been.  I'll watch just about anything with him in it, and in 1991 I made it a point to do so.  His natural, effortless performance in this film carries it a pretty long way.  Had a lesser actor (Bill Pullman for example) been cast in this role the movie would've fallen right on its stupid face.  In the first act Ford plays a very convincing self-important asshole (which makes me wonder why he hasn't been cast in more villainous roles), and after the shooting he slips right into the simple-minded version of Henry.  We care for him a great deal in spite of his earlier transgressions.  Ford does more with facial expressions than just about anyone in the business, and he makes the material work about as well as it can.

For you wrestling fans, CM Punk's slicked hair was inspired by Henry's.



Annette Bening

Bening was an emerging star at this point and her turn as Henry's wife Sarah is fully believable and heartfelt.  When Henry's a successful, unscrupulous lawyer Sarah is basically a kept woman who seems at ease with this business-like relationship, and later she takes on the burden of becoming the breadwinner/caretaker of the household.  We feel this new, overwhelming stress weighing on her and the performance rings true.  Bening and Ford have great chemistry that holds the film together, even when the script shortchanges them.

For you wrestling fans, AJ Styles' soccer mom hair was inspired by Sarah's.


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

AEW Double or Nothing 2021: Stadium Stampede II

Oh man.  Oh mama.  AEW Double or Nothing the Third is this Sunday, and it's as stacked a PPV as they've presented in their two-year history.  Some big title matches, a showcase match or two, a battle royal, and a huge Stadium Stampede war to cap it all off.  This is gonna be great.


Say what you will about AEW; their roster is too big for two hours a week (which is being rectified as of August), they throw too much at the wall just to keep everyone busy, their programming can be a bit disorganized.  But ya know what?  Unlike with WWE programming I actually give a shit about what's happening.  There is a clear effort to elevate as many people as possible, there are clear centerpieces in every division, there is a clear focus on who the next crop of stars will be.  And on top of that, the in-ring stuff is mostly good-to-excellent.  AEW's product is as engaging for me as any North American wrestling product in years, and with Double or Nothing being the first PPV in 15 months held in front of a capacity crowd, I expect a helluva goddamn show. 

Let's take a look at the lineup.....



Casino Battle Royale


As always this show will feature the battle royal-Royal Rumble hybrid.  It's mostly just a fun way to get a lot of extra faces on the card, but with something at stake, namely a future AEW Title match.  We have 20 names announced plus a mystery entrant.  As tempted as I am to get my hopes up that Bryan Danielson is that entrant, let's be realistic - you don't debut a star like Danielson as the surprise entrant in a battle royal.  You announce a debut like that ahead of time and get some hype out of it.  So I have no idea who it will be.  Andrade maybe?  Anyway, as usual I'll whittle this roster down to who believably has a chance to win.  You got Christian Cage as the favorite, plus Penta, and.....well, that's about it.  I mean, it's for a title shot on Dynamite most likely, so you could give it to a longshot like Jungle Boy (which I wouldn't be sad about, and oddly Luchasaurus is not in the match).  But it's basically down to Cage, Penta, JB or TBA.  I'll go with Cage since they've already teased heat between him and Kenny Omega, and the match would be really good.

Pick: Christian Cage




Hangman Page vs. Brian Cage


Speaking of Cages, Brian has a rematch with Adam Page, after more or less squashing him a couple months ago and derailing his #1 contender status.  But since there was interference in that match, Page has challenged Brian to a rematch with no bullshit.  Hangman is obviously one of the company's future top guys and a heavy favorite to be the one to dethrone Kenny Omega, so he's gotta win this.  When the Hangman catches you.....you hang.....

Pick: Hangman Page 

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Top Ten Things: Marx Brothers Films

Welcome to Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I talk about things.  Ten things.  The top ten things.  See?


Today what's on my brain is the Marx Brothers.  You know 'em, you love 'em.  Groucho!  Chico!  Harpo!  Zeppo (sometimes)!  Born Julius, Leonard, Adolph (later Arthur), and Herbert, the Marxes (along with a fifth brother Gummo) honed their craft for years on the Vaudeville circuit before gaining notoriety with three Broadway hits, and from there they swept the nation as movie stars.  Boasting incredible onscreen chemistry fueled by Groucho's unparalleled wit, Chico's hilariously sleazy Italian character, and Harpo's astonishing gift for pantomime, the Marx Brothers left an indelible mark on both cinema and comedy, with a 15-year film career that spawned numerous timeless classics.

Here are the Marx Brothers' ten best films, according to me....




10. The Big Store


The Marxes' intended final film was this 1941 farce set in a department store whose co-owner has hired private detectives (Groucho, Harpo & Chico) to investigate a plot by the store manager to murder her nephew.  It lacks the urgency and inventiveness of their prime years but does include its share of silly set pieces one would expect from a Marx Brothers movie.  The Marxes would come out of retirement to make A Night in Casablanca in 1947 (after Chico revealed he owed large gambling debts), but The Big Store was billed as their swan song.





9. Room Service


Based on a 1937 play, Room Service was the only Marx film not written specifically for the brothers.  It concerns a stage producer and his ragtag crew going to any lengths necessary not to be evicted from their hotel room before their play's opening performance, and while fairly screwball, features the Marx Brothers at their most restrained.  This was also the first Marx film to abandon the traditional character relationships between Groucho, Harpo and Chico.  In this film Harpo and Chico's characters work for Groucho and the three are in cahoots from the start; in this respect as much as any other, Room Service doesn't quite feel like a Marx film, but it does at least feature a little of their trademark onscreen mischief.





8. Monkey Business


The first Marx film not based on a play was their third overall, about four stowaways who run amok on a cruise ship and fall in with two separate warring gangs.  Monkey Business is a rather odd film, in that a story arc is put into place but multiple threads are left unresolved, such as the protagonists evading the authorities, Groucho's romance with Thelma Todd's character, the aftermath of the kidnapping and rescue of Joe's daughter, etc.  Also notable about this film is the lack of musical numbers other than Chico and Harpo's instrumental solos.  Monkey Business is definitely my least favorite of the Paramount movies and I can't help wondering why they didn't instead make a film version of I'll Say She Is, particularly given the way they shoehorned in the Maurice Chevaille bit from that play.  Still this movie isn't without its charm.


Monday, May 24, 2021

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 


Friday, May 21, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: The Hateful Eight

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I pick apart the pros and cons of a given film.  Sometimes it's a movie I'm quite fond of in spite of its flaws, sometimes it's a movie I wish I could be more fond of in spite of its flaws.  Today's entry falls into the latter category.  It's Quentin Tarantino's 8th opus, The Hateful Eight.


Quentin Tarantino is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.  His uniquely demented filmography includes three Best Picture nominees, literally dozens of classic sequences, and some of the wittiest, most memorable dialogue ever put to film.  Drawing from his video store geek origins in the early 90s, Tarantino has built a body of work full of loving pastiches of gangster films, westerns, war movies, pulp novels, and even horror films, assembled with such enthusiasm and bravado one can't help but be swept up in their frenetic energy.

So what went wrong with H8?  This epic-length western concerns an eclectic group of bad guys and unscrupulous lawmen who get snowbound in a Wyoming lodge, and the film shows us in painstaking detail how this sociopolitical powderkeg might play out.  You've got a bounty hunter, a notorious outlaw, a black Civil War Major, a racist Civil War General, a British hangman, a newly elected Sheriff, a cowboy, and a Mexican dude.  Plus a stagecoach driver and a handful of other characters who make brief appearances.  The film plays out like an ultra-violent parlor drama, almost entirely taking place in one room, as the characters argue, scheme, bargain, and eventually start shooting at each other.  Like his 2007 film Death Proof, H8 is little more than an exercise in style, and while Tarantino films always have plenty of that (I found the first half of DP a delightfully entertaining play on cheaply cobbled together 1970s grindhouse fare), it left a lot to be desired in other areas.

So let's take a look at the virtues and drawbacks of The Hateful Eight....



The Awesome


Cast

As always, Tarantino's casting is first-rate; this film is largely populated with sure-footed veteran actors who suit their characters perfectly.  Kurt Russell is the down n' dirty bounty hunter John Ruth, who will stop at nothing to make sure his quarry, the brutal outlaw/killer Daisy Domergue (a gleefully degenerate Jennifer Jason Leigh, who earned an Oscar nod) hangs to death at Red Rock.  Samuel L Jackson is the resourceful former Civil War officer Marquis Warren, whose instincts are always on point and who's the closest the film has to a protagonist.  Walton Goggins is the slack-jawed, slightly dimwitted "good ol' boy" Chris Mannix, who's on his way to Red Rock to begin his term as Sheriff.  Bruce Dern is the bitter, tight-lipped old Confederate General Sanford Smithers.  And Tim Roth is the oddly foppish Red Rock hangman Oswaldo Mobray.  Whether Tarantino mainstays like Jackson and Roth, or newcomers like Leigh, each member of the cast slips comfortably into their "hateful" roles.  No complaints about the performances.

No shortage of onscreen talent here.



Cinematography

Shot in glorious 70mm (an odd choice considering most of the film takes place in the one room), H8 is a beautiful-looking film, peppered with some breathtaking shots of the snow-covered Wyoming landscape (actually shot in Colorado).  Regular Tarantino collaborator Robert Richardson gives the film a classic widescreen look, and it's a shame there weren't more locations in the story to take advantage of the medium.

They shoulda filmed the whole movie outside.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Death Proof

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I pick apart a guilty pleasure film, or a movie that has most or all of the ingredients to be great but can't quite get there.


Today's subject is a little of both.  It's the 70s exploitation/slasher film throwback, Death Proof, aka Quentin Tarantino's Worst Movie.  Originally released as half of the double-bill Grindhouse along with Robert Rodriguez's zombie pastiche Planet Terror (a bona fide ASM in its own right), Death Proof follows the slasher formula but with a crazed stunt driver committing vehicular homicide on groups of women.  Oddly split into two halves, the story begins with an Austin, TX radio DJ and her friends going out to celebrate her birthday.  Along the way they run afoul of Stuntman Mike, and it ends badly.  In the second half Mike has relocated to Tennessee, stalking a new group of women, two of whom happen to be stunt drivers themselves, and it ends badly again, this time for Mike.

That's really all there is to the plot; like many horror films, particularly the slasher variety, it's all about style over substance.  Fortunately Quentin Tarantino is the quintessential expert on imbuing a film with style and immersing the viewer in his detailed little worlds.  There's a lot to like about this movie, and I find myself needing to rewatch it every few years to spend time with some interesting characters and see if there's more to this film than I remembered.  There isn't really, but it's still a fun little romp and a lovingly created crappy 70s drive-in flick.

So let's look at the pros and cons of Death Proof...



The Awesome


Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell has to be one of my favorite actors who's done very few films I like.  Sure there's The Thing, Backdraft, Tombstone, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and three Tarantino outings, but he's also done a lotta crappy movies.  Regardless though, Russell improves every film he's in.  He oozes natural charisma and whether playing a hero or a villain you can't take your eyes off him.  That's most certainly true in Death Proof, where he starts out charming everyone in the bar and making Tarantino's quirky dialogue jump off the page, and then morphs into a murderous maniac.  Russell as Stuntman Mike is absolutely perfect casting.

Careful, or in his book you'll be filed under Chickenshit...




Jungle Julia

Speaking of "can't take your eyes off" someone, Sydney Tamiia Poiter as local DJ Jungle Julia absolutely commands the screen whenever she's on it.  As Mike himself observes, "she is a striking-looking woman."  Poiter is statuesque, effortlessly sexy, and bursting with sass.  Why Tarantino never cast her in anything else after this is beyond me; I could watch her all day long.

Sweet Jeezus....


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.  ****

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The History of NJPW Dominion (2013)

We've entered the Bullet Club era!

BodyMaker Colosseum - 6.22.13

New Japan was firing on all cylinders in 2013, with an incredible slew of big PPVs plus an awesome G1 tournament, and Dominion was no exception.  The company had found its second Ace in Kazuchika Okada, who now enjoyed a lengthy second IWGP Title reign, but a brand new stable was creating a huge buzz and would take the puroresu world by storm.  Jr. Heavyweight babyface Prince Devitt had turned on his Apollo 55 partner Taguchi and formed Bullet Club, a foursome consisting of gaijin wrestlers that also included Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Karl Anderson (by year's end The Young Bucks and Doc Gallows would be added to the group).  Bullet Club usurped Chaos as the most notorious heel stable and would assert their dominance over the next several years.  But the first top for Devitt was NJPW's Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi!

But first the undercard...

The opener featured the burgeoning Jr. Tag division, as Forever Hooligans defended the championship against Time Splitters.  Alex Kozlov began the proceedings by singing the Russian anthem, and all I have to say is Kozlov is no Nikolai Volkoff.  The match started with Alex Shelley putting on a grappling clinic against Kozlov, making use of European style wrestling to control the action.  Soon Kushida and Romero tagged in and provided the wild, fast-paced Jr. moves.  After a skirmish on the outside involving the railing, the heels took over and worked Shelley while Kushida was down, repeatedly cutting off the tag attempts.  Finally Kushida got the hot tag in and cleaned house.  Romero blocked a Time Splitter attempt and nearly won with a small package, then Kozlov came back in and the Hooligans hit their Demolition-style finisher on Kushida for a nearfall.  Time Splitters hit their signature sequence of chain moves, but the Hooligans nailed Kushida with a Torture Rack/flying knee combination to retain the belts.  This was a very fun Jr. tag bout that would soon become the standard match type for New Japan PPV openers.  ***1/2

The next available match on NJPW World (they're missing the Bullet Club-Nagata/Honma/Captin NJ six-man for some reason) is a triple threat IWGP Heavyweight Tag Title match, with champions Tencozy vs. Toru Yano & Iizuka vs. Killer Elite Squad.  KES attacked Tencozy at the bell and dominated both teams during the opening stretch, but Chaos took the fight outside, taping Archer and Davey to the railing and going to work on Tencozy.  After a few minutes KES broke free and had back and forth exchanges with Tencozy.  KES hit their double powerbomb on Yano but the referee had been bumped and there was no pin.  Tencozy hit their Tencozy Cutter on Archer for a nearfall before Kojima lariated the crap out of him to get the pin.  This was mildly fun and chaotic, but a bit tedious at times.  **1/2

Next up was the NWA Championship, with Manabu Nakanishi challenging Rob Conway.  This match was fun after a few minutes when Nakanishi made a comeback, but pretty dull when Conway was in control.  After hitting a dive to the outside, Nakanishi leveled Conway with a lariat and a spear, and slapped on the Torture Rack, but Conway escaped.  Nakanishi went to the top rope but Bruce Tharpe distracted him, allowing Conway to use his Ego Trip neckbreaker for the win.  This was mediocre.  **

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

WWE WrestleMania Backlash: Zombies. Really? REALLY?!

WWE WrestleMania Backlash.  Pretty good show.  Whole lotta good wrestling on this show.  Strong work from everyone involved.  Oh, and zombies.  Wait, what?  Yeah.  Fucking zombies dude.....


Ya know that saying in wrestling that the audience really only remembers the ending of a show?  Apparently that's not true.  Apparently equally as compelling a stick in an audience member's craw is something unfathomably stupid that happens in the middle of a show, overshadowing all the good stuff that happened before and after.  Because for me the first thing I'll remember about WrestleMania Backlash for years to come is the fact that WWE actually put on a lumberjack match, where the lumberjacks surrounding the ring were goddamn fucking zombies.  Zombies that somehow obeyed the rules of a lumberjack match and thus didn't run into the ring during the bout's seven official minutes.  Zombies that went after the announcers, forcing them to "relocate to a secure location" to call the rest of the match.  Zombies that ate The Miz and John Morrison alive at the end.  Morrison miraculously survived the attack, but since The Miz is legit injured, WWE is going to let itself off the hook in explaining why he isn't a pink pile of goo now, and by the time he returns in 3-4 months they'll pretend this fiasco never took place.  Fuck this company.  Even removing the zombies from the Miz-Damian Priest match, it wasn't any good.  Imagine seriously getting behind a new guy finally and having this be his coming out match.  A match where zombies attacked and murdered his opponent after the closing bell.  I don't wanna hear another peep out of the AEW critics ever again, no matter how many botched explosions or soft-looking stunts they show on their programming.  At least AEW doesn't have its wrestlers get EATEN A-FUCKING-LIVE.  This match was embarrassingly terrible and I feel bad for everyone who had to pretend it was real.  DUD
 
Ok that bullshit is out of the way, now we can talk about the rest of the show, which was very good.  The opening triple threat between Rhea Ripley, Asuka and Charlotte Flair was a fast-paced, energetic match with almost non-stop movement.  It won't rank high in the pure storytelling category, but these three worked very hard and the pace just kept picking up throughout the bout.  The last few minutes in particular were quite invigorating, as each woman took turns hitting each other with big moves and nearfalls.  Finally Charlotte blocked an Asuka charge with a big boot from the apron, but was knocked to the floor as Rhea hit Asuka with Riptide to retain the belt.  I assume we'll now get Rhea vs. Charlotte at Hell in a Cell (now in June for some reason), and hopefully that means Rhea gets to avenge her nonsensical WrestleMania 36 loss.  This was a very fine opener.  ***3/4

Top Ten Things: Chris Cornell Albums

**Originally published 5/21/17**

Welcome to a special Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com.


Chris Cornell's suicide last week has left a ragged, gaping hole in the music world many of us are still struggling to come to terms with.  As my colleague Dan Moore talked about HERE, Cornell was a golden-throated force of nature, whose mindbending vocal range and soulful power were unmatched in rock music.  He rose to prominence as one of the pioneers of grunge but later explored genres as wide-ranging as singer/songwriter rock, adult contemporary, folk, and even dance pop.  Few artists have created such a wildly divergent body of work, and for me no other singer ever wielded his instrument with such effortless agility and emotive grace.  My coping mechanism has been to learn and record as many of his songs as I can and hope I do them even a modicum of justice (You be the judge).

But today I'll be talking about his amazing discography as I count down my ten favorite Cornell albums.  Here we go.....




HM. Chris Cornell - Scream


Cornell's most divisive album was 2009's Scream, an electronic pop collaboration with hotshot producer Timbaland that combined Chris's rock songwriting sensibility with a hooky R&B sound.  The results were understandably mixed, but the album yielded some excellently written songs, like the bleakly syncopated "Time," the anthemic, strikingly mature love song "Never Far Away," and the title track, a gloomy ode to relationship strife.  While far from Cornell's best work, Scream showed an artist cheerfully exploring new territory and reinventing himself.





HM. Soundgarden - Louder Than Love


Soundgarden's sophomore effort showed an improvement over its predecessor both in production and in songwriting, with songs like the anthemic lament of environmental destruction "Hands All Over," the dark and violent "Gun," the tongue-in-cheek "Full On Kevin's Mom" (about a friend of Chris's who actually hooked up with their friend Kevin's mom) and "Big Dumb Sex" (a parody of 80s cock-rock tunes), and the de facto title track "Loud Love."  Soundgarden were emerging as the leaders of this new strange rock n' roll movement coming out of Seattle, and Chris's soaring vocals were beginning to garner mainstream attention in a big way.  But the band's third album would show exponential creative growth....






10. Chris Cornell - No One Sings Like You Anymore, Vol. 1


The first of what will hopefully be numerous posthumous releases, NOSLYA is an album of cover songs, recorded in 2016 and put out last year by Cornell's estate.  The eclectic material all lends itself well to Chris's unique interpretation, and he put his own beautiful stamp on all ten songs.  From well-known favorites like Guns N' Roses' "Patience" and Prince/Sinead O'Connor's mega-hit "Nothing Compares 2U," to John Lennon's semi-deep cut "Watching the Wheels" and songs I was unfamiliar with like "Sad Sad City" by Ghostland Observatory, this album is a bittersweet reminder of Chris's transcendent gifts, and a wonderful little addition to his already incredible discography.  I can't wait for Volume 2.





9. Soundgarden - King Animal


Cornell's grunge quartet had split in 1997 but reunited 13 years later for a tour, and began writing new music for their sixth studio album.  The result was King Animal, a safe but fairly triumphant return for the grunge pioneers, that fit right in with their previous output.  Album highlights included the Sabbathy "Blood on the Valley Floor," the eccentric, off-balance "Bones of Birds," the folky "Halfway There" which would've been at home on a Cornell solo record, and the classic Soundgarden feel of "Eyelid's Mouth."  It was a long time coming, but King Animal would be a worthy Soundgarden record and ultimately the band's final completed work.





8. Audioslave - Out of Exile


After his first solo album's disappointing commercial performance, Cornell was able to reinvigorate his career by forming a supergroup with three members of then-defunct Rage Against the Machine, creating an unusual groove-rock hybrid.  Their second album is our #8 entry on this list.  Released in 2005, Out of Exile may not have been the hard rock powderkeg of the band's debut, but it was a perfectly sturdy followup, providing trademark Tom Morello guitar riffs in songs like "Your Time Has Come" and the title track, and some gentler, more thoughtful tunes like "Be Yourself" and "Doesn't Remind Me."  Out of Exile built on the successful formula of the first record and in retrospect serves as a fine companion piece.