Friday, July 9, 2021

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1989)

This one's generally considered the best of the bunch....

Glory Days - Baltimore Arena - 7.23.89

1989 was in my opinion the best year in NWA history.  The company had undergone major management and booking changes with the sale to Ted Turner, but the emphasis was still on simple storylines and athletic wrestling.  It's no surprise that the 1989 Great American Bash was and is considered a classic PPV, with loads of star power and several standout matches.  It's also a source of a bit of frustration for me, because with a bit of retooling this show could've been basically perfect.  It was the first hour that got in the way.

The show opened with a two-ring Battle Royal showcasing several midcard stars and some of the company's newest talent.  The 14-man bout included Eddie Gilbert, Terry Gordy, Steve Williams, Scott Hall, Bill Irwin, Brian Pillman, Ranger Ross, Mike Rotunda, Ron Simmons, Rick & Scott Steiner, Kevin Sullivan, and the Skyscrapers, who won the whole thing and split the winnings.  While the two-ring format set this apart from traditional Battle Royals (and made for a nice unusual visual the whole night) this was pretty nondescript stuff, really only notable for monster heels Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey getting a big win.

I thought the Skyscrapers were pretty boss at the time

What didn't make sense were the next two bouts that followed.  First Brian Pillman faced Bill Irwin in a ten-minute squash that clearly didn't belong on a PPV, then The Skyscrapers showed up again to annihilate The Dynamic Dudes, in another glorified showcase match.  These two matches took up nearly 20 minutes that should've gone to some of the later bouts.

Another pointless match was next as Jim Cornette faced Paul E. Dangerously in a Tuxedo Match.  I'm generally against manager vs. manager bouts full-stop, but especially when both of them are involved in one of the headlining matches designed to help settle their issue.

The show really got going in match 5, as the Steiner brothers faced Mike Rotundo and Kevin Sullivan in a wild Texas Tornado match.  This was about as good as could be expected, with all four guys doing a lot with what little time they were alotted.  Imagine how much better this could've been with five more minutes.

The really stacked portion of the show kicked off with Sting vs. Great Muta for the TV Title, a blazing match that's about as good as any 8.5-minute match you'll ever see.  Sting began the bout by diving from one ring to the other on top of Muta.  They crammed everything they could into this, with lots of wild top-rope spots and over-the-rope dives which were unheard of in 1989.  It's too bad they weren't given fifteen minutes to really steal the show.  After Muta accidentally spit mist into Nick Patrick's eyes, the finish was the old back suplex into double-pin spot, where it wasn't clear whose shoulders were down.  Sting was declared the winner but the belt was later held up and Muta won the rematch.  This was a damn fine little match but should've been a MOTY contender.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1988)

We've entered the PPV era of the Great American Bash.....

The Price for Freedom - Baltimore Arena - 7.10.88

Jim Crockett's NWA dove into the PPV market in late 1987 and again in January of 1988.  Both events flopped, largely due to the WWF airing shows opposite, but in July of '88 JCP finally had a chance to run a PPV unopposed.  This PPV would be a streamlined, five-match card, much as the first two Clash of the Champions specials had been.  The buyrate hinged on the popularity of new babyface Lex Luger, and his quest to dethrone former mentor Ric Flair for the NWA Title.  While the lineup was strong and most of the matches worked to some degree, the booking would be questionable at best.

The show opened with a wild, very exciting World Tag Title match, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Sting & Nikita Koloff.  Structurally this was your typical Tully & Arn match where they get their asses kicked for the first ten minutes before using some underhanded tactic to take over on offense.  In this case it was JJ Dillon distracting Koloff and baiting him to go for the Russian Sickle on the outside.  Koloff missed the clothesline and hit the post, and the Horsemen smelled blood.  Tully and Arn worked over Koloff's arm until the hot tag spot when Sting cleaned house.  Sting nailed Tully with the corner splash and applied the Scorpion Deathlock, but time ran out before he could get a submission (Strangely this match only got a 20-minute time limit).  Aside from the formulaic structure this was a helluva fun tag match with an absolutely NUCLEAR crowd.

The biggest standout of the show was the Fantastics vs. Midnight Express US Tag Title match. Taking over where the Rock n' Roll Express left off, Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton gave the Midnights one of their greatest feuds, as both this and their previous match at Clash of the Champions were full of athletic, high-impact tag wrestling.  The big stipulation here was that Jim Cornette was locked above the ring in a cage, wearing a straitjacket - a hilarious visual, but it took forever to get Cornette in there due to his repeated protests.  The match finally got underway and was almost non-stop motion.  Just a super display of tag team work that didn't follow the traditional formula.  The Midnights won the US Tag belts when Bobby Eaton hit Fulton with a chain.


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The History of NWA/WCW Great American Bash (1985-1987)

What's up everybody?  It's July, and that means it's time for yet another stroll down Wrestling History Boulevard, with's PPV History series!

Since July was the month of the NWA's Great American Bash, (which became a month-long tour before morphing into a standalone PPV and later WWE/NXT event), let's take a look back at this glorious summer tradition.  For the purposes of this piece I'm only including the original NWA/WCW lineage, not the ill-advised WWE retread from 2004-2009 or the newfangled NXT versions.  Before I get to the actual PPV history though I'd like to talk a little about the '85 show and the '86-87 tour highlight tapes.

GAB '85 - American Legion Memorial Stadium - 7.6.85

The Great American Bash was originally a one-night supercard held on July 6th, 1985 and co-headlined by a Ric Flair-Nikita Koloff World Title match and a Dusty Rhodes-Tully Blanchard cage match for the TV Title.  No uncut copies are available to my knowledge (Come on WWE, throw that shit up on the Network!), but in the 80s Pro Wrestling Illustrated released a severely hacked-up VHS tape where they boiled the entire show down to one hour.

Not sure who the babyface is here, but ok.

Sadly it wasn't much of a watch since nothing got adequate time.  And looking at the undercard lineup we probably didn't miss a whole lot.  The Road Warriors faced Ivan Koloff & Krusher Kruschev (later known as Smash from Demolition), and Magnum TA fought Kamala.  Moving on...

GAB '86 - Numerous Venues - 7.1.86-8.2.86

The first full Bash tour took place in 1986 and was notable for Ric Flair defending the NWA Title on literally every show.  Guy worked like a horse!  His challengers were as follows:  Ricky Morton, Hawk, Ron Garvin, Nikita Koloff, Robert Gibson, Animal, Magnum T.A., Wahoo McDaniel and Dusty Rhodes.  What I wouldn't give to see a full DVD set of just those Title defenses.  Anyway, Turner Home Entertainment would release a highlight VHS tape consisting of 9 matches.  Top bouts from that cassette included Flair vs. Hawk, Ronnie Garvin vs. Tully Blanchard in a Taped Fist match, The Road Warriors vs. Ivan & Nikita in a chain match, The Rock n' Roll Express vs. Ole & Arn Anderson, Nikita Koloff vs. Magnum TA in Match 4 of their Best of 7 series, and of course Flair vs. Dusty in a cage, which culminated in Dusty capturing the NWA Title (He'd lose it back three weeks later but this was a huge moment at the time).  This tape is also hard to come by, and if anyone knows where it can be viewed online, comment below with the details.  But as I recall this was a solid two-hour collection of matches.  The Flair vs. Dusty match was included on one of WWE's DVD collections (Greatest Stars of the 80s I believe), and is probably the best Flair vs. Dusty match I've seen.  It's tough to give this tape a full grade based on two-decade-old memories, but roughly:

This match wasn't too shabby

Best Match: Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes
Worst Match: Jimmy Valiant vs. Shaska Watley
Overall Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

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 intense 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.  

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Independence Day

Welcome to another Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at, where I overanalyze some big dumb slab of escapist entertainment to the point that you unfriend me on social media*.

*Please don't unfriend me, I'm so lonely....

Today's victim-- er, subject is the 1996 blockbuster event picture Independence Day, directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman.

Independence Day's release twenty-five years ago was preceded by mucho fanfare, with moviegoers anticipating that generation's defining summer movie, a la Star Wars.  Its interest bolstered by promotional images of landmark buildings being decimated by giant alien saucers, ID4 made an absolute KILLING at the box office, garnering over $800 million worldwide on a $75 mil budget.  It was assumed this would be the first of a trilogy since it was supposed to sorta be the next Star Wars and it grossed a fuckton.  But oddly a sequel was never made until two decades later.  Maybe the filmmakers didn't have another story to tell.  Maybe they still don't....

Anywho, you might ask yourself "Why does ID4 qualify as an Awesomely Shitty Movie?"  Well my reasons this time are slightly different than usual.  For me, this film was unabashedly awesome the first time I watched it, and agonizingly shitty on every repeat viewing.  This is a prime example of a film you should only watch one time.  Then throw it away and never speak of it again.  Don't even think about it.  You'll only break your brain and end up in a home.

So let's pick apart this ham-fisted clod of a summer movie, shall we?

The Awesome


The special effects in this movie looked amazing at the time and for the most part still look at least pretty good a quarter-century later.  Some of the compositing is a little messy, particularly when they show the Earth from space, but the alien craft are still convincing, the model work (which I almost always prefer over excessive CG) looks tangible and believable, and there are multiple shots in the first hour or so that still hold up.

This part still works

Alien Ships Appear

For example the moments when the giant saucers appear over the various major cities.  We see several shots of the massive ships emerging from behind the clouds and it looks great.  The filmmakers expertly conveyed the scope of the spacecraft, showing us just how insanely huge and intimidating they are.  Few things are as immediately threatening as an alien ship blocking out the sun and spanning the width of an entire city.  Super cool-looking stuff.

So does this

Iconic Imagery

This film also provided several lasting images, such as the saucer blowing up the White House, the Empire State Building, etc.  These moments would have a huge influence on Hollywood blockbusters even to this day (More on that later).  Even the poster looked boss, depicting one of the ships hovering over New York City.  The marketing team certainly earned their keep with this movie.

And this

Friday, July 2, 2021

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2002)

We've reached the end of road for this ten-year tradition.  The King of the Ring PPV would limp to the finish line with this half-hearted effort.....

King of the Ring 2002 - Nationwide Arena - 6.23.02

2002 was the final year of this PPV as interest in it had waned and by 2003 WWE sorta stopped caring about elevating new people for a while.  The show definitely went out with a whimper with the exception of that year's tournament winner.  This edition was, I believe, the first time it was officially announced that the KOTR winner would get a WWE Title shot at SummerSlam.

The semifinals included a very solid but slightly underwhelming (and controversial) Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam match.  These two had teased a feud six months earlier while Jericho was the Undisputed Champion, but never got a PPV match out of it.  So here they were in the semifinal bracket.  The match was absolutely fine, and by default ended up stealing the show, but I think I, like many people, were expecting an instant classic.  Fans took to the interwebs in droves criticizing the match, and Jericho took the comments very personally.  While many of the comments were admittedly harsh and unnecessary, I can't disagree that this wasn't up to the level Jericho and RVD were capable of.

This was fine.

The other semifinal pitted Test against WWE's newest developmental call-up Brock Lesnar, who had taken RAW by storm and decimated the Hardy Boyz on numerous occasions.  Now he was being very quickly elevated to prepare him for much bigger things.  Infamously of note is that WWE had originally planned for Lesnar to defeat Steve Austin in a tournament qualifying match on RAW, with no buildup whatsoever.  Austin wisely refused, citing what a colossal waste hotshotting such a huge match would be.  This of course led to Austin's WWE hiatus for the better part of a year.  Lesnar and Test were both accomplished big men and aside from a couple awkward moments this was a strong, hard-hitting brawl.  The finish was oddly booked, as Lesnar needed a Paul Heyman distraction in order to win.  Not sure why they protected a midcard heel like Test against their chosen new star, but the match was fine.

Yeah this was a great idea.  Idiots.

The finals would thus be Rob Van Dam vs. Brock Lesnar.  Going into this show I figured RVD would win the tourney given how green Lesnar was.  I thought Lesnar would destroy Van Dam after the match and set up a feud to keep RVD occupied till SummerSlam.  But I clearly underestimated Lesnar's prodigiously emerging skills and the company's commitment to getting him over.  Lesnar made pretty short work of Van Dam, wrapping the match up in under seven minutes.  This was also decent but really should've been a full-length match; once again the importance of the tournament was lacking.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Top Ten Things: Anthrax Songs (10-1)

Alright, we've reached the pinnacle of Anthrax Mountain.  The Top 10.  The songs that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.  Here are my picks for Anthrax's ten greatest tunes....

Click for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3...

10. Potters Field

I mentioned while discussing "Only" what a radical change Sound of White Noise was for Anthrax fans, with its grungy, midrange-saturated guitars and dearth of thrashy palm muted attack, but what softened the transition for me at least was the album opener "Potters Field."  Beginning with the literal sound of white noise and a strange little voiceover intro ("This is a journey into sound...") and building to a full-on explosion of metal pummeling, "Potters Field" blasts out of the speakers with the synchronized rat-a-tat of Charlie's snare and Scott's guitar before settling into a sinister midtempo groove.  By the time John Bush's sandpapery vocals kick in with a resentful invective from the point of view of a damaged adult wishing his parents had aborted him, we're fully prepared that this will still be a brutal metal record, just from a different angle than we're used to.  "Potters Field" is an absolutely killer opening track from a reinvented Anthrax, still delivering that signature driving double-time beat.  

9. Armed and Dangerous

Anthrax's first foray into kinda/sorta power ballad territory was this early tune which they released twice - once for the hastily released Armed and Dangerous EP (put out to showcase their new singer Joey Belladonna) and again for their second full-length record Spreading the Disease.  "Armed and Dangerous" begins with a crystalline, shimmery acoustic guitar riff, over which Joey demonstrates his powerful clean vocal style, intoning sorrowfully about being trapped in a cage (metaphorically speaking).  Halfway through though, the crunchy metal guitars kick in and the song moves into its heavy phase, building to a monstrous, thrashy triplet feel, and the lyrics take on a defiant, vengeful bent - "We'll take on the world with rebellion/We're dangerous down to the last."  Already on their second album Anthrax was demonstrating their aptitude for writing powerful metal anthems.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Top Ten Things: Anthrax Songs (20-11)

And we're back with Part 3 of our Anthrax Top 40 countdown, chugging away toward the best of the best.  Here are #20-11....

Click for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4...

20. Only

After a hugely successful album cycle with Persistence of Time and Attack of the Killer B's followed by three big 1990-91 tours, Anthrax decided they needed a new frontman.  Joey Belladonna's vocal style simply wasn't compatible with the direction the band needed to go - darker, grittier, uglier.  Enter Armored Saint's John Bush.  In 1993 the band released their sixth album Sound of White Noise, heralding a fairly radical change in direction.  They were still unmistakably a metal band, but with a raw, raunchy, midrange-heavy guitar sound and a gravely-voiced new singer to match.  The first single unapologetically dropped in everyone's lap was the grunge-tinged "Only," featuring rumbling drums and open, strummed power chord riffs, over which Bush's Steven Tyler-esque rasp intoned about a dysfunctional relationship - "Revolve around yourself, it's you and no one else/Hard for me to stay."  "Only" became a huge radio hit, proving it was possible for a band like Anthrax to reinvent themselves for a new era.

19. Caught in a Mosh

Back to classic Anthrax, one of the most beloved songs from one of their most beloved albums, "Caught in a Mosh" was partly inspired by a guitar tech getting injured in a mosh pit.  He literally coined the title of the song, and the band merged it with lyrics about suffering a disagreeable person, creating an all-time metal anthem.  From the blazing speed metal gallop of the verses to the pounding choruses, this song provided audiences ample opportunity to engage in heavy-duty moshing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2001)

Time for my personal favorite of the bunch.....

King of the Ring '01 - Continental Airlines Arena - 6.24.01

Going from the 2000 edition to the 2001 King of the Ring is like stepping out of a Justin Bieber concert and being handed a million dollars.  The 2001 incarnation was a thousand times better than its predecessor, and this would prove to be the end of the WWF's amazing 18-month creative run, before the Invasion Angle began in earnest to ruin everything.

The tournament portion was once again reduced to just the final three bouts, leaving plenty of room for the non-tourney matches to dazzle.  The 16-man field was whittled down to four friends, all on the heel side of the aisle - Rhyno, Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle, or Team RECK.  But Edge was slowly morphing into a babyface singles star and this tourney would prove his launching pad.

Angle vs. Christian and Edge vs. Rhyno were both pretty short but quite watchable openers, and Edge's final bout with Angle, while certainly not at the level of Bret vs. Bam Bam, was a damn sight better than most previous KOTR finals.  One of the subplots going into this was the possibility of Angle winning back-to-back tournaments, but also the fact that he might have to pull triple duty as he was booked to fight Shane McMahon later on.  Edge won the final and began his climb through the singles ranks, while Christian began to show jealousy of his tag partner that would lead to their split and subsequent feud.

Angle was almost a two-time KOTR

As I said, the non-tourney matches provided the meat of this show.  After a lackluster Dudley Boyz vs. Kane & Spike Dudley bout (the WWF tag division would never be the same after Edge & Christian split up), the final three bouts comprised an amazing trilogy.

Top Ten Things: Anthrax Songs (30-21)

Welcome to the second part of  our Anthrax - 40 Years, 40 Songs countdown!

We've reached #30-21, and in this installment we'll talk about some of the band's lower-tier classics.  

Click for Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4...

30. Harms Way

One of the quirkier tunes on Volume 8 is this alt-rocker that kicks off with acoustic guitar and a brash John Bush announcing "Here comes the biggest asshole that the whole world has ever seen," before settling into a syncopated midtempo groove.  The chorus hook is one of the catchiest on the record and would've been right at home on late 90s post-grunge radio.  And don't forget the slide guitar solo in the middle....

29. Bring the Noise

Perhaps even more significant than their first rap foray "I'm the Man" is this Public Enemy cover/team-up, featured on the Attack of the Killer B's EP.  "Bring the Noise" was a massive crossover single and stands as one of the earliest metal-rap mashups.  The song was so well-liked by fans of both groups it led to a double-headlining tour in the fall of 1991.  Only a few years later rap-metal fusion had become its own genre, dominating rock radio and influencing both pop culture and fashion for years to come.  "Bring the Noise" can be cited as one of the form's earliest prototypes.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Top Ten Things: Anthrax Songs (40-31)

Welcome to another special multi-part Top Ten Things, here at!

If you're an Anthrax fan like I am, you're probably aware that the band is in the midst of a multi-episode YouTube documentary celebrating their 40-year history.  I've been enjoying this series quite a bit; the talking head segments were all recorded via webcam during COVID, with the band members and various friends and peers reminiscing about each phase of Anthrax's storied career.  Since I've had Anthrax on the brain I thought it would be fun to count down my 40 favorite tunes by the thrash legends.  Forty years, forty songs.  See what I did?  Anyway, here's Part 1, counting down #40-31.  Stay tuned for the other installments and you can also check out my ranking of Anthrax's albums HERE.

Click for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4....

40. I'm the Man

This is more of an honorary inclusion, but the significance of Anthrax's crossover rap hit can't be overlooked.  A super-heavy thrash metal band releasing a comedic, Beastie Boys-influenced hip hop single was pretty unthinkable at the time, and it was one of the earliest tunes to start to break down the walls between the two genres (along with the Run DMC cover of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way").  Originally Anthrax intended for the Beastie Boys themselves to feature on the track, but scheduling didn't permit it, and Scott Ian, Charlie Benante and Frank Bello opted to perform the vocals themselves.  "I'm the Man" became an unexpected hit, prompting the band to throw together an EP with two edits, a Black Sabbath cover, and three live tracks (including "I'm the Man" itself).  The song now plays more like a fun nostalgia trip, but at the time I couldn't get enough of the I'm the Man EP.  I actually prefer the 1991 remake featured on Attack of the Killer B's, but the original is obviously a much more important track.

39. Zero Tolerance

The closing track of Anthrax's 2016 album For All Kings is a brutal, 200 bpm assault on the senses, taking to task all of humanity's crimes perpetrated in the name of religion.  The song pulls zero punches, asking its various targets the burning question "On the day you meet your god, what will he say?"  "Zero Tolerance" is a no-frills, machine-gun riff-laden closer designed to remind everyone that Anthrax can still hurl molten metal whenever they want.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (2000)

King of the Ring 2000 - FleetCenter - 6.25.00

The 2000 edition has to be one of the most disappointing PPVs of all time.  Considering how amazing the WWF product was in 2000 and how strong the roster, anything less than a homerun would've been a letdown, but with this show they didn't even seem to try.  The tournament began with a field of 32 wrestlers, making it the largest in history.  That the company even had 32 viable competitors for such a tourney was remarkable, and I was incredibly excited to see this play out.  Unfortunately the booking of the PPV made no sense, wasted some of the company's best talents, and they tried to cram eleven matches onto a three-hour show.

The massive first-round field boiled down to Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle (Stop right there, that should've been your Final Four, period.), Rikishi, Val Venis, Crash Holly(?), and Bull Buchanan(??).  Right off the bat they got the brackets wrong, wasting Angle vs. Jericho on a quarterfinal match while pitting Holly and Buchanan against each other.  One of these matches had immense potential, the other did not.  On top of that, three of the four best candidates fell short of the semis.  Chris Benoit pointlessly got himself disqualified against Rikishi, Eddie lost to the no-longer-relevant Venis, and Jericho got beaten by Angle.  So yeah, Crash Holly made it to the semifinals but Benoit, Guerrero and Jericho didn't?  Anyone else find that scenario just wrong?  By the way, not one match in this tournament lasted even ten minutes, and the two longest bouts were in the quarterfinals.

The semis saw Kurt Angle make quick work of Crash Holly, while Rikishi trounced Venis in just over three minutes.  The Angle-Rikishi final was fun while it lasted, but failed to even crack the six-minute mark.  Again.  Why would the final match of a supposedly prestigious tournament fail to reach double-digits?  In the positive though, this tournament win helped solidify Kurt Angle as a future main event star.

Again with the stupid crown and sceptre

Friday, June 25, 2021

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1999)

King of the Ring 1999 - Greensboro Coliseum - 6.27.99

As with the product in general mid-1999, the King of the Ring showed major chinks in the WWF armor.  This show restored the full 8-man bracket to the PPV with very rushed, mixed results, and while a pair of solid main event brawls and the overall tournament made for a fun one-time watch, this PPV doesn't hold up too well to scrutiny.  Also, like in 1995, the company handpicked their intended new main eventer despite the fans not buying into him.

The first round consisted of three abbreviated bouts - X-Pac vs. Bob Holly, Kane vs. ex-WCW star The Big Show (heavily favored to win the whole thing but unceremoniously knocked out in the first round), and Billy Gunn vs. Ken Shamrock.  None of these were long enough to be memorable.  However the final first-round match pitted former friends The Road Dogg and Chyna.  While no in-ring masterpiece, it was certainly intriguing seeing Chyna go head-to-head with one of the male stars in a major singles bout.  Previously she had only really appeared in mixed tag matches.  This probably got more time than it deserved but I never found it boring.  Road Dogg won after 13 minutes.

The semifinals saw Billy Gunn quickly defeat Kane and X-Pac even more quickly defeat best friend Road Dogg, leading to what should've been a solid big man vs. underdog final match.  Unfortunately Billy Gunn and X-Pac were only given 5:35, harkening back to the half-assed mid-90s tournament finals and once again undermining the whole tourney concept.

Mr. Ass beats up Mr. Pac

Not surprisingly the three non-tournament matches constituted the real meat of the show.  The first was a brief-but-thrilling #1 Contenders match for the Tag Titles, as Edge & Christian began their storied rivalry with The Hardy Boyz.  This was one of those matches that ended up better than it should've given how short it was.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1998)

Possibly the best-remembered King of the Ring is this one....

King of the Ring 1998 - The Igloo - 6.28.98

The WWF got back on track in a huge way in 1998, fueled by Attitude and with Steve Austin at the wheel.  Between Austin's white-hot run as World Champ, DeGeneration X's crass-but-lovable antics, and The Rock oozing charisma all over the place, the WWF finally pulled ahead of WCW in the ratings after nearly two years.  While the King of the Ring won't win any points for scientific grappling, the intensity of some of the brawls on this show (one in particular) makes it an essential chapter in WWF lore.

The tournament once again took a bit of a backseat to the two main event matches, but after two forgettable semi-finals (The Rock defeating Dan Severn, and Ken Shamrock trouncing Jeff Jarrett), we were treated to a pretty damn good final match.  The Rock and Shamrock had faced each other several times on PPV already, both in tag matches and in singles bouts, but this was the first time they were given long enough to really shine.  In a tremendous back-and-forth match (aided by Triple H's amusing guest commentary), Shamrock finally scored a decisive win over the I-C Champ to win the tournament (No ceremonial crown and scepter for Ken).  While Shamrock never reached the heights of the previous two KOTR winners, it did solidify him as a reliable semi-main eventer.

You don't see the seated anklelock anymore...

The non-tournament matches on this PPV were numerous and varied, beginning with a fun little six-man tag.  Taka Michinoku teamed with The Headbangers against his former (and future) teammates Kaientai in a near-seven-minute whirlwind.  Nothing amazing but a good way to kick things off.

The one stinker on this show involved Jerry Lawler refereeing a match between Too Much (later renamed Too Cool) and Al Snow & Head (Al's disembodied mannequin head).  The story here was Al trying to win a WWF contract after spending several months in ECW.  He lost, but ended up on the roster anyway.  This was crap.

Next up though was a neat little singles match as Owen Hart took on the newly-returned X-Pac.  Now equipped with one of the coolest characters in wrestling, Sean Waltman put on a strong showing against the massively talented Owen, and the two created a midcard highlight.

An underrated Tag Team Title match was next, as the hugely popular New Age Outlaws took on the New Midnight Express (Bob Holly and Bart Gunn).  While the NME gimmick may have been ill-advised, at the time I liked this pairing, and they gelled quite well with Billy and The Road Dogg.  Solid stuff there.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1997)

King of the Ring '97 - Providence Civic Center - 6.8.97

The KOTR took a step back down in 1997, as a disorganized tournament coupled with last-minute card reshuffles made for a muddled show and a thin roster.  It was also something of a do-over for Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who had been pegged to win the tourney in 1996 but was instead punished for the infamous "Curtain Call" incident the night of Diesel and Razor Ramon's WWF exit.  So this show was an endeavor to set his career back on track.

What made no sense though was that Helmsley had been eliminated by Ahmed Johnson in the first round on free TV (the PPV would again only feature the semis and finals), but kayfabe threatened legal action since he was supposedly unaware he could be ousted due to a disqualification (even though that precedent had been set in numerous tournaments already).  So Hunter won the next qualifier against Crush, and would face Ahmed again in the semis.  Their PPV match was brief and just as forgettable as the first, but Hunter won, earning him a finals spot.

In the other semifinal the now-sympathetic, complex babyface Mankind faced Jerry Lawler in a pretty slow, meandering brawl in which Lawler used an invisible foreign object.  By that I mean he motioned pulling something out of his tights that evidently fit all the way into his fist and repeatedly punched Mankind with it.  Now, even if that was supposed to be a ball bearing or some such object, would that really add much oomph to a regular punch?  Did Lawler forget to actually stuff something in his drawers before the match?  Regardless, Mankind won, and would face Helmsley for the crown.

"Wait, I gotta wear this...ridiculous thing?  I resign..."

Their finals match was good but not great - it had some intense spots but was longer than necessary and felt like it never got out of second gear until the waning moments.  Highlights included Hunter hitting the Pedigree through the announce table, and Chyna bludgeoning Mankind with the royal scepter.  After nearly 20 minutes Hunter was crowned the '97 King of the Ring, and thus began in earnest his path to main event status.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1996)


King of the Ring 1996 - MECCA Arena - 6.23.96

What a difference a year makes.  The 1996 edition was everything the previous KOTR wasn't.  Exciting, fresh, memorable, and the tournament elevated someone who actually deserved it.  For the first time only the semifinals and finals would take place on the PPV; the first two rounds would be decided on RAW and Superstars.  The sparser PPV format allowed the WWF to stack the card, and while it de-emphasized the tourney to a certain extent, it made for a much stronger overall show.

To kick things off we were treated to an excellent semifinal matchup between WWF newcomers Steve Austin and Marc Mero.  These two former WCW talents delivered a fast-paced, action-packed bout which infamously included an errant Mero kick that split Austin's lip open.  Austin finished, and won, the match before being rushed to the hospital for stitches.

Hard to believe Mero was hired at three times Austin's pay
The other semi pitted tournament favorite Vader against the newly-returned Jake Roberts, and was more of an angle than anything else.  Vader was disqualified early on and went ballistic, destroying Jake with multiple splashes after the bell.  This beautifully set up the eventual final, where a stitched-up Austin took advantage of Jake's injury to dominate him for four-plus minutes before tying up the tourney with a Stunner.

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1995)

Dear God, what are we about to unleash on the world???

King of the Ring 1995 - Corestates Spectrum - 6.25.95

As bad as KOTR '94 was, that show was WrestleMania 19 compared to this putrid collection of dog vomit.  In one of the earliest examples of tone-deaf booking on Vince's part, the tournament this time around was meant to elevate midcard tag wrestler Mabel, who was now a heel, much to the delight of no one.  Shawn Michaels, having just returned to action after a sudden babyface turn and a brief kayfabe injury, was heavily favored by fans to win the crown.  When Shawn was eliminated in the first round the live crowd tuned right the fuck out.

Even Shawn was bored shitless

The pre-show match didn't bode well for the PPV, as Razor Ramon had to miss the tourney due to a rib injury.  To determine his replacement, IRS would face midcarder Savio Vega on the Free For All show.  Savio won the forgettable bout and would make it all the way to the tournament final, defeating heavy (no pun intended) favorite Yokozuna by countout and besting Jeff Jarrett's sidekick The Roadie (why Brian Armstrong made the PPV but I-C Champion Jarrett didn't I dunno).  But since Savio wasn't established no one cared.  Other tournament lowlights included The Undertaker first-round elimination at the hands of Mabel (with an assist from Kama), and the Shawn Michaels-Kama time limit draw, which even the great HBK couldn't make work.  The Philadelphia fans HATED this tournament, and the eventual winner King Mabel would prove one of the least successful pet projects in WWF history, despite headlining that year's SummerSlam.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The History of WWE King of the Ring (1994)

Welcome back to's History of WWE King of the Ring!

King of the Ring '94 - Baltimore Arena - 6.19.94

Yeesh, what a downturn this show took from the previous year.  Where the 1993 tournament carried real weight and accounted for the two longest and best matches of the PPV, this time the company skimmed through the tournament (allotting only 8.5 minutes to the LONGEST tourney bout), and inexplicably put a one-off Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler match in the main event.  Not to mention football player Art Donovan was part of the announce team, and knew exactly zilch about wrestling.  Thus his commentary was laughable at best and distractingly nonsensical at worst.

Of the three non-tournament matches only one was worth seeing, and despite being the billed main event it took place in the middle of the show.  WWF Champion Bret Hart defended against Intercontinental Champion Diesel, in a shockingly good bout.  Diesel was a very unproven monster heel at this point but he had excellent chemistry with Bret as it turned out, and this was a fine 22-minute main event.  Diesel won by disqualification when Bret's old partner Jim Neidhart attacked Diesel, hoping to negate the unfair advantage caused by Shawn Michaels' interference.

Dammit Jim....

The second non-tourney match was for the Tag Titles, as The Headshrinkers defended against Yokozuna and Crush.  I'd hoped for the heel tandem to win the straps here, as they would've made a dominant pairing.  But a distraction by Lex Luger cost them the match, and Crush & Yoko would never team again.

For some bizarre reason the main event slot went to the aforementioned Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler debacle.  This amounted to twelve-plus minutes of nondescript brawling leading mercifully to a Piper win.  In what universe this could be considered a fitting main event I have no idea.  Now let us never speak of it again.

The tournament took up seven of the ten matches on the card, and despite some intriguing pairings nothing really stood out given the abbreviated length.  The one memorable match in the tourney was the Owen Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid semifinal, which was about as good as any 3.5-minute bout I've ever seen.  They crammed a ton of action into such a short time. Still though, it was only 217 seconds, so it could only be so good.  The Owen vs. Razor final could've easily been a 4-star affair had it gone 15-20 minutes, but the company only gave them six and a half.  I dunno about you, but for me a guy winning the final of a tournament in such short order when said tourney is meant to elevate him kinda negates the importance of it all.  Owen won the tournament in part thanks to Jim Neidhart, who revealed himself to be in cahoots with Owen the entire time, having preserved Bret's Championship for the eventual Bret-Owen rematch.  Still the crown went to an eminently deserving new heel who was now the top antagonist in the company, setting the stage for SummerSlam.

How was this match not epic?

This was a one-and-a-half match show.  There's no other way to describe it.  The WWF Title match was great, and the Owen-Kid semi was a spectacular short match.  Otherwise this show stunk to high heaven.

Best Match: Bret Hart vs. Diesel
Worst Match: Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler
What I'd Change: Skip the Piper-Lawler nonsense, leave Art Donovan at home, and give the tournament matches a feeling of actual importance.  Owen vs. Razor only being allotted 6:35 is inexcusable.
Most Disappointing Match: Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon
Most Pleasant Surprise: How well Diesel worked with Bret
Overall Rating: 3.5/10

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The History of WWE King of the Ring (1993)

From the wrestling weirdo who brought you The History of WWE WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and Royal Rumble, it's the official History of WWE King of the Ring!

That's right, now that I've tackled WWE's Big Four PPV histories, I'm strapping myself into the ol' time machine to take another look at what was temporarily one of the Big Five.

The King of the Ring tournament was originally a special house show attraction held annually in New England, before the WWF decided to add it to the PPV schedule in 1993.  At the time the WWF calendar only featured the Big Four PPV events, so creating a fifth was a pretty huge deal.  Over the next decade the annual PPV was used as a springboard for many up-and-coming stars, with mixed results.  In 2003, due to sagging buyrates, the company discontinued the event, replacing it with Bad Blood, and only brought the tournament itself back on free television every few years.  Here now is a look back at this sometimes great, sometimes awful PPV....

King of the Ring '93 - Nutter Center - 6.13.93

The inaugural PPV edition of the tournament was centered around re-establishing Bret Hart as a top babyface after the mindbendingly stupid booking of WrestleMania IX, where Bret lost the WWF Title to Yokozuna only for the returning Hulk Hogan to swoop in and take the belt in an impromptu match.  Widely considered the worst WrestleMania of all time, that show did no favors for the man presumably pegged to lead the company through the 90s.  On top of that, Hogan took the belt and went home after previously agreeing to drop it back to Bret at SummerSlam.  Instead Hogan refused to appear on any house shows for two months and insisted on losing it back to Yokozuna at the KOTR PPV.  Is it any wonder I can't stand that guy?

The non-tournament matches included a decent Intercontinental Title defense by Shawn Michaels against Crush, a forgettable eight-man tag pitting The Smokin' Gunns & The Steiners against The Headshrinkers & Money Inc., and of course the godawful Hogan-Yokozuna rematch.

Par for the course at this point in his career, Hogan just kinda went through the motions, once again feebly attempting to recapture the magic of his 'Mania 3 match with Andre.  After 13 pretty rancid minutes, Harvey Wippleman climbed on the ring apron in the guise of a ringside photographer, and his camera exploded in Hogan's face.  Yoko capitalized and reclaimed the Championship, in one of the stupidest match finishes since, well, WrestleMania IX.  Hogan vanished from WWF TV for nine years, and the "exploding camera" incident was never explained.

Screw you Hogan.  YOURE FIIIIIRED!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Mallrats

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, where I dissect a cinematic clunker that I also happen to enjoy.

Today's topic is Kevin Smith's second film Mallrats.  After the indie success of his smart, slacker-centric Clerks in 1994, Smith was given a much larger budget by Universal Studios to do basically the same type of movie.  But this time our pair of lovelorn, do-nothing 20-something protagonists spend their aimless free time at a mall, trying to repair their failed relationships.  Returning from Clerks are the zany supporting characters Jay & Silent Bob, who in this film are given some action-comedy set pieces and get to directly affect the plot.  The studio more or less took Smith's trademark formula and attempted to make it more mainstream, with very mixed results.  At the time I found this film unequivocally hilarious, but it's probably aged the worst of Smith's View Askewniverse outings.

So let's look at what worked and what didn't....

The Awesome

Jason Lee

Almost everything great about his movie begins and ends with Jason Lee.  The former skateboarder became a major find for Kevin Smith, who would cast him in numerous subsequent films.  But perhaps no role was as big a show stealer for Lee as Brodie Bruce, the mall-obsessed comic book and video game junkie whose lack of ambition has cost him his girlfriend Rene.  Lee's brilliantly vulgar, reactionary delivery is responsible for most of the film's best lines, and his natural charisma allows the viewer to identify and root for this character in spite of his many flaws and obnoxious persona.

I fuckin' love that guy.

Shannon Doherty

One of two principles cast for their name value, Shannon Doherty gives a harsh but oddly likable performance as the strong-willed, no-bullshit Rene, who's reached the end of her patience with her lazy, inattentive boyfriend.  The focus of the movie is on the male characters, but Doherty admirably conveys why the firebrand Rene is such a good match for Brodie.


Michael Rooker

Character actor Michael Rooker plays the film's main antagonist Jared Svenning, whose primary motivation is to keep T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) from dating his daughter.  Svenning is an aspiring game show producer/host whose pet project Truth or Date serves as the film's Maguffin.  Rooker plays this role with over-the-top relish, serving as both a villain and something of a buffoon who, as a television producer, is in over his head.

Don't eat the pretzels!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

WWE Hell in a Cell 2021 Preview & Predictions

Another month, another incomplete match lineup only a few days before a WWE PPV.

This Sunday is WWE's Hell in a Cell, a show they moved up from October to June for some reason.  As of now only five matches have been announced, and I don't know how this company expects to get people really invested in these shows without telling us ahead of time what the full card looks like.  Four of the bouts look pretty good, the fifth is a goddamn embarrassment.  Let's take a look....

Alexa Bliss vs. Shayna Baszler

Fuck outta here with this shit.  Put this Alexa Bliss storyline in a box and throw it in the ocean.  It is simply stunning to me that WWE diehards are actually defending this.  Imagine having a legit badass like Baszler on your roster and using her to get over a horror cartoon character no one gives a crap about.  And spare me the nonsense about "Yeah but AEW did a Mimosa Match!"  The difference there is, that was a light comedy match designed to spotlight a star who is super popular for his comedic character, and it didn't involve anyone with supernatural powers.  Get this Alexa drivel off my TV.

Pick: Obviously the legit badass loses to the girl with magical powers.  Fuck this company.

Smackdown Women's Championship: Bianca Belair vs. Bayley

These two had a decent match last month but the finish was an outta nowhere rollup, so they have a chance here to really deliver.  Bianca is a great babyface, Bayley is an obnoxious-as-hell heel, both are very capable workers.  Should be fun.  Bianca obviously retains.

Pick: Bianca keeps the strap