Thursday, April 14, 2022

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Batman (1989)

Hello and welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies here at Enuffa.com, where I examine a wonderful piece of popcorn fare and essentially ruin it for everyone.

Today I'll be talking about the Father of Modern Superhero Movies, Tim Burton's 1989 opus Batman, starring Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michael Keaton as the title character.  When it first came out, Batman was a major pop culture event, garnering huge mainstream media coverage and all sorts of cross-promotion, in a manner not seen since the original Star Wars films.

Still a fantastically awesome poster.

Batman was something of a risk for Burton, as a dark, brooding superhero film had never been attempted, and most mainstream audiences still thought of the Caped Crusader in terms of the campy 1960s TV show.  But in the comics, Batman had long since returned to his Noir-ish roots, and Burton drew inspiration from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, as well as taking visual cues from Film Noir and German Expressionism.  The result was an unusually dark comic book film that took quite seriously the idea of a man dressing up as a bat to fight crime.

But while the movie felt absolutely right at the time, it has to a certain extent been rendered obsolete by some piss-poor sequels and Christopher Nolan's superb Dark Knight Trilogy, as well as Matt Reeves' new, even Film Noir-ier The Batman.  Watching Burton's film now is great fun for nostalgia purposes, but it honestly became a little hard to take seriously after the advent of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the good and the bad of Tim Burton's Batman....



The Awesome


Michael Keaton

Remember how outraged we all were when Keaton was announced as Batman?  As I recall the exact quote from everyone upon hearing the news was "What. The goddamn. Hell??"  But at the time Keaton was a pretty splendid Batman/Bruce Wayne.  He brought a quiet sense of morose intensity to the role and despite not being at all physically suited to play a 6'2" 215-pound superhero, made us all believe he was The Dark Knight.  As with many aspects of this film, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy bettered Keaton's performance by a pretty wide margin (In fact, after watching Christian Bale in the suit, Keaton looked positively waifish by comparison), but his portrayal stood for 16 years as the best cinematic Batman.

Look at that six-pack.  That suit must work out.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Top Ten Things: Star Trek Films

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


I've been a Star Trek fan since about the age of four when my parents were watching the original series on TV and I wandered into the room to see a weird dude with pointy ears and a bowl cut prattling on about space anomalies and whatnot.  From then I was hooked, and despite not understanding much of the sci-fi technobabble at that age, I could somehow easily identify with the gallant Captain Kirk, the crotchety Dr. McCoy, and of course the computer-minded Mr. Spock.  My fandom increased tenfold in the early 80s when I went to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and these characters and their adventures were presented on a much larger scale.  We were still treated to philosophical explorations of the human condition, but with much slicker production values and effects.

The Star Trek films were major events for me every 2-3 years and some of them still hold up among my favorite science fiction movies.  Thus far we've had three series of films; from 1979-1991 the original Star Trek cast graced the big screen, and then from 1994-2002 the Next Generation crew got their turn.  Finally in 2009 Paramount rebooted the series completely, recasting the original characters and converting Star Trek into more of a Star Wars-esque action franchise.

But how do the 13 movies stack up against each other?  This being a Top Ten Things column I'll only talk briefly about the three films I've ranked at the bottom.

Star Trek: Insurrection has to be the weakest in the entire series, with its half-hearted storyline about a society of 600 Ba'ku hogging the life-extending resources of an entire planet at the expense of their dying brethren the Son'a.  And for some reason the Enterprise helps the Ba'ku stay there.  Huh??  Don't the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

Next up is Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, a nigh-unwatchable mess of a film that clearly suffered from a Hollywood writer's strike, leaving director William Shatner without a coherent script.  This film cost $33 million, more than any previous Star Trek movie, yet the effects are Original Series bad.  Basically everything went wrong here, and the film fails to find a middle ground between goofy comedy and heavy emotional drama.

Our final entry to fall short of the top ten is Star Trek: Generations, the one that kicked off the NextGen films.  Generations has some fun moments but its convoluted plot involving an energy ribbon that somehow absorbs people and lets them live out their wildest fantasies simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny, nor does the shoehorned involvement of Captain Kirk.  And did we really need to see the Klingons and their Bird of Prey AGAIN??

Now that we've gotten the worst of the bunch out of the way let's look at the top ten Star Trek films....





10. Star Trek Beyond


Here's a movie I had high hopes for.  I'd read that this was the closest the new series has gotten to capturing the philosophical, character-driven bent of the original show.  And while Beyond has a little of that - Kirk for example laments early on that the ongoing voyage is taking its toll on him and his crew - sadly the film plunges almost immediately into an extended action sequence that leaves the Enterprise in pieces in a matter of minutes.  They don't treat poor Enterprise well in these films, do they?  Anyway, the crew gets separated during the space battle and we learn a little about the villain Krall.  Mostly that his name is Krall.  Seriously, this film uses a fine actor like Idris Elba pretty shabbily.  He's given nothing to do in the first two acts except bark angrily, and it's not until the final half hour we're told his motivation and his true identity; by then it's hard to care.  What I liked about this film: Kirk had some solid character moments, McCoy and Scotty had more to do, the new character Jaylah was very cool and likable, Krall and Kirk had one poignant scene toward the end, and the Spock-Uhura romance was barely present.  What I didn't like: Krall is motivated by revenge just like the last three Star Trek villains, Krall is barely a character beyond that, there's once again too much emphasis on Star Wars-y action, and Spock's wig looks terrible.  Distractingly so.  Star Trek Beyond is the weakest of the most recent series.  And what exactly does "Beyond" refer to?






9. Star Trek: Nemesis


Nemesis is a guilty pleasure.  It's a pretty terrible, unnecessarily dour affair featuring a young clone of Captain Picard trying to destroy the Enterprise, Romulus and Earth, and contains far too many Wrath of Khan callbacks and a go-nowhere subplot involving an earlier model of Data, but damn if it isn't entertaining drivel.  A young, far less jacked Tom Hardy plays Shinzon, Picard's clone who spent his childhood enslaved on Romulus's sister planet Remus, building up a severe hatred for both his Romulan oppressors and his "father" Picard.  He fashions a giant evil starship to exact his revenge, and all hell breaks loose.  This template of a revenge-obsessed villain with a gigantic ship would oddly be used in some form for all three reboot films, despite Nemesis tanking at the box office.  Still this film includes some of the best space battle sequences in the NextGen series, plus Tom Hardy!  But it's not good...






8. Star Trek (2009)


The 2009 reboot essentially took the original series characters, boiled them down to their most easily identifiable cursory traits, and turned them into action heroes.  This film is an all-thrusters-ahead popcorn movie that vaguely resembles the series we all know and love.  Casting was key here, and fortunately Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, and Simon Pegg do an admirable job of reimagining their characters while staying more or less true to their predecessors.  This film is all about setting up the new version of Star Trek and thus the main plot is fairly forgettable.  A revenge-hungry Romulan named Nero has been chasing a future incarnation of Mr. Spock through time in retaliation for Spock's failing to save Romulus from a supernova, and a space battle ensues between the brand new Enterprise and Nero's monstrous vessel.  Star Trek 2009 is full of slick visuals, engaging action and light humor but fails to explore profound human themes the way the original series did.  Still it's a fun popcorn movie with characters we can all relate to, thus it's better than 90% of the summer blockbusters these days.


Top Ten Things: Women's WrestleMania Matches

Well it's been a while, but welcome to a brand new edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I make a list of ten things and put them in a certain order.  It sounds so arbitrary when I phrase it like that....


Today I'm talking about matches taking place at WrestleMania, specifically women's matches.  Say what you will about WWE's annual spring spectacular or its product in general - the quality is hit-or-miss at best nowadays, and we went from obscenely long five-plus-hour shows to a two-night WrestleMania weekend (which I much prefer over the former).  But one thing we seem to be able to count on in recent years is that at least one offering from the women's division will deliver in the clutch.  WWE boasts the most robust, talented roster of female grapplers in the business these days, and while there's still too much of a focus on Vince's preferred type, in the form of Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, Carmella, Lacey Evans, etc., the cream has consistently risen to the top of WWE's women's division.  Said division has come a very long way from the Divas matches of old, usually sandwiched in between far more important bouts and only allotted 4-6 minutes, or worse, given the eye candy treatment of Bra & Panties matches, Playboy pillow fights, and other stupidity.  For every time Trish Stratus or Lita attempted to transcend back in the day there were upwards of a dozen other instances of the women being presented as either an afterthought or a debasement.  But now the women's division has become one of the featured attractions at the Showcase of the Immortals, sometimes in more than one bout.  Hell, there are times when they end up more or less saving the show.  Here now are the best women's matches in WrestleMania history (and for the purposes of this article I've included one mixed tag match).




HM: Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler - WrestleMania 36


2020's WrestleMania was an odd one thanks to COVID restrictions preventing it taking place in front of an audience.  The two nights were taped the week before, with very mixed results.  One of a few mild Night 1 successes was this RAW Women's Title match, pitting the uber-popular Becky Lynch against the winner of that year's women's Elimination Chamber, Shayna Baszler.  Shayna had singlehandedly run through all her Chamber opponents on the way to 'Mania, and it was expected she'd steamroll Lynch on her way to main roster gold.  But odd booking prevailed and Becky countered a Kirafuda Clutch with a Bret Hart-style rollup to retain the title at 8:30.  Not a great match by any means, but a solid showing from both women, and to date Becky Lynch's last WrestleMania appearance, wherein she'd all but guaranteed reaching a full year as the champion.




10. Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax - WrestleMania 33


This Fatal 4-Way Elimination match came to be after Charlotte lost the RAW Women's Title to Bayley on an episode of RAW.  She then also lost in her bid to regain the belt at Fastlane (her first-ever loss on a main roster PPV).  Sasha meanwhile had been feuding with Nia, and both of them beat Bayley in non-title matches to earn a spot here.  This match was a step down from the WrestleMania 32 women's Triple Threat match but still featured some fun action.  Charlotte, Sasha and Bayley triple-teamed Nia Jax to get her eliminated first, Charlotte eliminated Banks with the help of an exposed turnbuckle, and Bayley quickly used the same turnbuckle to defeat Charlotte and retain.  This saga could've easily been better planned by having Bayley win the title from Charlotte at WrestleMania 33, thus ending her previously undefeated streak on PPV.  But aside from squandering a bigger moment this match was a pretty good showcase of the burgeoning RAW women's division.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 4 (#10-1)

Alright, now it's time for the really good shit.  The all-time great shit.  Such good shit.  



Click here for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3



10. Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair - WrestleMania 37, Night 1


The historic WrestleMania 37 Night 1 main event was one of the most satisfying in recent memory.  For the first time ever two women of color main evented a WrestleMania card, delivering an athletically marvelous, emotionally resonant near-classic that created a brand new top star in the division.  Smackdown Women's Champion Sasha Banks turned in a Bret Hart-like performance as she steered the bout with a veteran's confidence and made her relatively inexperienced challenger look like a megastar.  Bianca Belair played the self-assured, prodigious, eminently likable babyface to the hilt, keeping up with Banks and displaying incredible athletic feats, not the least of which was a spot where she caught Banks on an outside-the-ring dive, rolled through, pressed her over her head, and walked up the ring steps to toss her back in.  After a clever tug of war with Bianca's hair braid that ended with Bianca using it like a whip on Sasha (complete with a sickening crack and a nine-inch welt across Sasha's ribs), the challenger landed a 450 splash and a Kiss of Death finisher to win her first WWE gold.  Off-camera Sasha smiled with satisfaction, watching her opponent bask in the glory of the moment she helped engineer.  Both women shined here; Bianca earned her spot as the new face of the division, while Sasha cemented her place as one of the best women wrestlers in WWE history.
  



9. Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns (vs. Seth Rollins) - WrestleMania 31


Maybe the most unexpectedly great WrestleMania main event took place at the 2015 edition, as the reviled babyface Roman Reigns challenged the unstoppable Mayor of Suplex City (a phrase he coined during this match), Brock Lesnar.  Brock had decimated John Cena for the WWE Championship at the previous SummerSlam, allowing almost no offense during their 16-minute squash, and then all but disappeared with the title for most of the next six months.  At the 2015 Royal Rumble Brock, Cena and Seth Rollins had a spectacular Triple Threat match, where Brock turned back both challengers in dominant fashion.  Enter Reigns, the company's handpicked "it" guy whom the fans wanted nothing to do with.  Reigns won the Rumble match that night to earn his WrestleMania spot, but was booed unmercifully, and this main event had all the markings of a dud; an absentee heel champion vs. an unliked babyface challenger.  But the match ended up being an exercise in brutality as these two monsters beat the piss out of each other.  Brock took a legit headbutt to the ring post which opened a huge gash on his forehead, while Reigns got suplexed into oblivion and kept getting up.  But the most memorable thing about the match was the unique finish, as Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase mid-match, curb stomping Brock, attempting a second stomp that was countered into an F5 attempt that was thwarted by a Reigns spear, and then curb stomping Reigns to win the match and the WWE Title.  The Santa Clara crowd exploded at the surprise finish and Rollins stood tall, swinging the strap over his head as Michael Cole dubbed the title change "The Heist of the Century."  Thus began Seth Rollins' excellent run as the company's top heel.




8. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania XII


The longest match in WrestleMania history, and thus far the only Iron Man match at this event, pitted the company's top two babyfaces against each other in an unprecedented athletic display.  Bret Hart was the veteran technician, while Shawn Michaels was the charismatic upstart.  Planned as the first part of a trilogy of bouts designed as a torch passing, this match played out as an old-school grappling contest for much of the first half.  Shawn stymied the champion with an expected ground game, while Bret grew increasingly frustrated and employed some heelish tactics.  The second half picked up, with much more high-risk offense, but neither man could gain a pinfall.  In the closing moments Shawn went for a dropkick but Bret countered into a Sharpshooter.  Shawn withstood the pain for nearly a full minute as the clock ran down to zero, leaving the match a time limit draw.  But WWF President Gorilla Monsoon ordered the match restarted under sudden death rules, much to Bret's chagrin.  The angry champion attacked Shawn's weakened legs, but Shawn answered with a pair of superkicks to win the title and start off his main event run.  Given its slow pace and frequent lack of crowd heat, this bout hasn't aged as well as one would think, but it does stand as a singular achievement in WWE lore - a mostly pure scientific marathon between two of the company's all-time best.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 3 (#20-11)

Moving on to round 3 of our countdown, here's where we get to the pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good stuff....



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



20. Chris Jericho vs. Triple H - WrestleMania X8


This might be the one WrestleMania main event that suffered the most from a bad build.  Chris Jericho famously defeated The Rock and Steve Austin in one night to become the Undisputed Champion, which surely should've boosted his credibility big time, right?  Well, no.  Upon winning the unified titles, Jericho was booked as a joke champion, often opening RAW and Smackdown in matches against guys like Maven and Tazz, whom he struggled to defeat.  Making things worse was Triple H's Royal Rumble win establishing him as the #1 contender at WrestleMania, because Hunter was much more concerned with his estranged wife Stephanie than with the task of defeating the Undisputed Champ.  Thus Jericho was portrayed as Steph's lackey, bringing her hand cream, watching her dog, ya know, stuff a World Champion does...  Y2J was made to look like such a lowly chumpstain it totally killed any interest in this main event, and on the night of the PPV the two headlined in front of a dead crowd (It didn't help of course that The Rock and Hulk Hogan had torn the house down and the crowd was just done after that).  These two worked a good match but everything fell flat, and thus Triple H's big moment was more of a whimper than a bang.  Imagine sabotaging your own main event program just to make yourself appear out of the other guy's league....




19. Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. The Big Show - WrestleMania 2000


WrestleMania 2000 has to be the strangest edition of all time (except for maybe the COVID one).  There wasn't a single solitary one-on-one match under standard rules (Terri vs. The Kat had an over-the-top-rope stip), and the main event was a Fatal 4-Way elimination match, just so they could shove the entire McMahon family into the proceedings.  Jesus H. Christ, if I never see any of these people on my TV again it'll be too soon.  So instead of the expected Rock vs. Triple H headliner they added The Big Show (who technically won the Royal Rumble due to The Rock's feet accidentally hitting the floor first) and then just to give Mick Foley a WrestleMania moment they unretired him to complete the square.  The match was fine, rather overlong, and in the end anticlimactic.  The Big Show got triple-teamed early and was ousted from the match in under five minutes, Mick Foley turned in a less-than-stellar performance, not having gotten back into ring shape in time, and Rocky and Hunter carried the bulk of the bout.  It seemed a foregone conclusion that The Rock would defy the odds and regain the WWF Title, but in the interest of swerving everyone, Rock's cornerman Vince screwed him, delivering two chair shots to allow Hunter to retain the belt.  The Rock flipped out after the match, hitting Stephanie with a Rock Bottom/People's Elbow combination.  A month later at Backlash The Rock would win the title back anyway, so in hindsight it seems silly not to just have him win at the biggest show of the year.  Then again Triple H's victory here was historic as the first time a heel left WrestleMania as WWF Champion.  This was a so-so main event. 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Demotions

Hey everyone, welcome back to another Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com


Now that this year's spring extravaganza is in the books, I thought I'd go back and take a look at some of the worst WrestleMania demotions in history.  What do I mean by that?  Well I'm talking about instances where a particular wrestler either main evented or featured very prominently in a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania.  I picked the ten fifteen most glaring examples of this and I'm presenting them in chronological order.  Here we go.



1. Paul Orndorff - Main Eventer to Curtain Jerker


"Mr. Wonderful" was one of the great WWF heels of the 80s.  His feuds against Hulk Hogan were the stuff of legend.  Unfortunately Orndorff was also kind of a split personality, character-wise.  Nowadays certain wrestlers turn face and heel with the frequency of an 80-year-old with incontinence (see Show, Big), but in the 80s a character turn was a big deal.  Orndorff however was unusually fickle, feuding with Hogan, befriending him six months later, turning on him again, befriending him again, etc. 

Orndorff headlined the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Roddy Piper against Hogan and Mr. T.  Despite taking the pinfall, Orndorff was featured in one of the biggest matches in company history.  At 'Mania 2 though, a babyface Orndorff found himself opening the show in a totally forgettable four-minute double countout with Don Muraco.  Thus the tradition of WrestleMania Demotions began.




2. King Kong Bundy - Caged Monster to Comedy Act


King Kong Bundy was a legitimately scary dude in 1986.  He was a 6'4", 450-pound wall of humanity with a shaved head, whose finisher simply consisted of squashing a guy in the corner of the ring.  He challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at 'Mania 2 in a Steel Cage match (The first and only time a WrestleMania has been headlined by such a bout).  While no five-star classic, the match cemented Bundy as an imposing threat to the Title.  Fast-forward a year later, and Bundy was stuck in a goofy comedy match, teaming with two minis against perennial jobber-to-the-stars Hillbilly Jim and two other minis.  After only three-plus minutes, Bundy earned a disqualification by bodyslamming Little Beaver.  A far cry from nearly dethroning the WWF Champion the previous year.


Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 2 (#30-21)

Continuing with our WrestleMania main event rankings, let's get into #30-21!  


Check out Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4




30. Triple H vs. Roman Reigns - WrestleMania 32


Only slightly better than Reigns' third WrestleMania main event was his second, a dull, languid 27-minute outing against Triple H, who'd recently won a superfluous ninth WWE Championship at that year's Royal Rumble.  I know Seth Rollins' late-2015 knee injury threw a wrench into the company's WrestleMania plans, but was there seriously no one else they could've pushed into a WWE Title feud with Reigns here?  No?  Let's just go with another semi-retired part-timer in a top slot then.  Super.  Reigns had started to gain a bit of crowd support during his feud with Sheamus a few months earlier, Superman Punching Vince and savagely beating the Celtic Warrior to regain the championship after Sheamus's Money in the Bank cash-in.  But a month later at the Rumble the company booked him to look like an unlikable chump once more, as he voluntarily left the Rumble match to have a kayfabe injury tended to, only returning near the end.  Way to make your top babyface look the opposite of gallant.  Anyway, Hunter swooped in to win the belt, and the match was set for 'Mania, even though Dean Ambrose was WAY more over and in fact delivered a far superior match to this one only a few weeks earlier.  It's never a good sign when the B PPV three weeks before WrestleMania features a main event that bitchslaps the 'Mania one.  Maybe Ambrose should've gotten this spot instead, hmm?  But no, Vince was going to have his guy in the main event, and not surprisingly Roman failed to get over in a basic, sluggish Triple H snorer.  He'd drop the title to the returning Seth Rollins only a few months later, and then Dean Ambrose would immediately cash in Money in the Bank.  So the belt ended up on Dean after all....

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Main Events, Part 1 (#42-31)

Welcome to another Top Ten Things, or should I say, Top FORTY-TWO Things, here at Enuffa.com!  I decided to put every WrestleMania main event in order from worst to best, and split it into four parts so as to make it a little more digestible for you folks.  "But Justin," you're probably saying, "How can there be a Top 42 when there have only been 41 WrestleMania shows?"  Well, I'll explain that one in a bit.


WrestleMania is of course the biggest PPV of the year, a time when athleticism and spectacle intermingle on the biggest possible scale for one night a year (or two nights nowadays).  The results over the last near-four decades have been mixed, but when WWE is on their game, they're capable of transcending the art form.  When they aren't, it ranges from uninspired to the drizzling dumpster farts.  This list has a little of everything, as the WrestleMania main event has historically been overshadowed by another match on the card more often than not (roughly two out of every three times by my calculation).  But whether or not the participants deliver in the final match of the evening, the WrestleMania main event is the ultimate goal for just about everyone who throws their hat into the wrasslin' ring.  It's an honor bestowed only on a select few, and even fewer truly make their moment count.  Let's peruse the WWE archives and see which 'Mania main events have measured up and which ones belong on history's scrap heap.....

Click here for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4



42. Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania IX


Alright, so I said earlier I'd explain why there are 40 entries on this list, and here's the reason.  WrestleMania IX's main event as officially announced was Bret Hart defending the WWF Championship against newly minted monster heel Yokozuna, who earned his title shot at the 1993 Royal Rumble.  That match took place as planned, but immediately afterwards Hulk Hogan showed up to protest the result (Yokozuna beat Bret after Mr. Fuji threw salt in the champ's eyes), and Yokozuna challenged him to a match on the spot.  Nevermind that it made zero sense for the brand new *heel* WWF Champion, who'd just endured a grueling nine-minute match, to challenge a fresh babyface for an impromptu title defense.  Hogan accepted with Bret's blessing (which also made no sense as Bret and Hogan had never really interacted before), dodged an errant salt throw from Fuji that landed in Yoko's eyes (Apparently salt is the deadliest weapon ever, as it was responsible for two title changes in one night), and dropped his big stupid leg to win the WWF Title only two minutes removed from the PPV's official main event finish.  A guy who wasn't even booked to headline the show walked away with the gold (an occurrence which would repeat 22 years later under much better circumstances) while the two new main event guys were made to look like chumps.  This was goddamn disgraceful and entirely counterproductive at a time when the WWF desperately needed to move on from the Hogan Era, and worse, Hogan would take the belt home for two months, reneging on his backstage promise to put Bret over at SummerSlam.  To paraphrase George Carlin, fuck Terry, Terry sucks.  This "match" is the worst main event in WrestleMania history, but I'll be goddamned if I'm not also going to acknowledge that show's true main event on this list.  Hence Bret vs. Yokozuna will appear as well, bringing the total number of entries to 40.




41. Sgt. Slaughter vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania VII


Speaking of Terry and sucking, the main event of WrestleMania VII was centered around the recently returned Sgt. Slaughter, who instead of being the heroic American soldier we all knew and tolerated, announced himself as an Iraqi sympathizer, complete with a Saddam Hussein lookalike manager and a flag burning.  He defeated The Ultimate Warrior at the Royal Rumble, thus robbing fans of a Hogan-Warrior rematch which would've done ENORMOUS business, and setting up this stinker of a main event instead.  Fans were so unimpressed with this bout headlining the show in fact, WrestleMania VII had to be moved from its original 100,000-seat location at the LA Coliseum to the much smaller 16,000-seat LA Sports Arena.  The match in practice was about as good as it looked on paper, which is to say it wasn't good.  At all.  Hogan and Slaughter plodded around the ring for a pretty excruciating 21 minutes before Hogan put a merciful end to Slaughter's title reign, and this match.  Ridiculously their feud would continue until SummerSlam, a full six months after our real-life skirmish in Iraq had ended.
 

Top Ten Things: Debut WrestleMania Matches

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


It's WrestleMania season and that means my brain looks for 'Mania-related nonsense to write about.  You can read a few of my previous such lists HERE, HERE and HERE.

Today I'll be talking about the greatest WrestleMania debuts in history.  By that I don't mean wrestlers who actually debuted at WrestleMania; that would be a short list that more or less begins and ends with Fandango (God, they actually jobbed out Chris Jericho to that guy....).  No, I mean the first WrestleMania match of a given wrestler or tag team (or in some cases multiple stars in the same match).  Looking back at the history of this great annual tradition, there have been some quite notable WrestleMania rookie performances.  In some cases a new star was launched right into the main event of the biggest show of the year, something that's basically unthinkable in today's WWE, where WrestleMania is more often than not The Showcase of Semi-Retirees.

But enough complaining; here, in chronological order, are the eleven greatest performances by WrestleMania rookies (plus four honorable mentions).  As noted, there are a couple of entries where I included every participant in a given match due to all of them being 'Mania first-timers.



Honorable Mentions

Ted Dibiase made his WrestleMania debut in the 1988 WWF Title tournament, lasting all the way to the finals and the main event, and coming withing a hair of winning the championship.

Kane's first 'Mania match was a near-show stealer of a semi-main event, as he took his onscreen brother The Undertaker to the limit.

Japanese sensation Shinsuke Nakamura made his 'Mania debut in a very good (not quite great) WWE Title match against AJ Styles, after winning the 2018 men's Royal Rumble.

Former UFC crossover star Ronda Rousey made her WrestleMania debut in 2018 as well, tagging with Kurt Angle to defeat Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and shining a much bigger spotlight on the women's division.





1. British Bulldogs - WrestleMania 2


Davey Boy and Dynamite became a WWF tag team in 1985 and pretty quickly climbed the ranks, due in no small part to the excellent matches they were having with fellow Stampede Wrestling alums The Hart Foundation.  Their tag team feud was pretty legendary and brought new levels of athleticism to the WWF tag division, which up until that point mostly consisted of informal pairings of singles stars.  The Bulldogs would challenge Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake for the straps at the second WrestleMania, stealing the show in a hard-hitting, action-packed bout that culminated in one of the more unorthodox finishes I can remember; Davey rammed Valentine's head into Dynamite's rock-hard skull, knocking both of them out, and covered "The Hammer" for the win.  It was unusual but it got the job done, and the Bulldogs enjoyed a 10-month reign before being dethroned by their old rivals, Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart.





2. Demolition - WrestleMania IV


Echoing the Bulldogs' quick rise to fame, in 1987 longtime WWF midcarder Bill Eadie was teamed with NWA import Barry Darsow to form a Road Warriors-esque tandem called Demolition.  Ax and Smash, as they were now known, instantly caught the attention of the fans, with their rugged, smashmouth brawling style and colorful, intimidating appearance.  Strong booking and solid in-ring performances helped Demolition stand out from both the other WWF teams and their inspiration The Road Warriors, and by WrestleMania IV they were challenging Strike Force for the titles.  After a 12-minute battle, Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji handed Ax his cane, which was used to knock out Rick Martel and win Ax & Smash the championship.  Their first reign would "smash" all previous longevity records in the tag team division, lasting a whopping 16 months (a record that stood for 27 years) and cementing Demolition as one of the all-time great teams.





3. Nasty Boys - WrestleMania VII


Wow, ANOTHER tag team.  I'm gonna be honest, I never got why Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were pushed in every promotion they wrestled for.  I was never impressed with them in any capacity, and in the case of their WWF run I'm sure at least part of it was because of their friendship with Hulk Hogan.  But whatever the reason, Knobbs & Sags became number-one contenders for the tag belts a scant three months after their WWF debut (by winning a tag team battle royal), and at WrestleMania VII they captured the titles from the Hart Foundation, after which Bret and Jim went their separate ways.  The Nastys held the belts until SummerSlam when they ran into a brick wall known as The Legion of Doom.  They'd never win the titles again, and by early 1993 they were fired from the WWF.  But their 1991 rise to the top was shall we say, meteoric.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Promotions

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

It's WrestleMania season, which always gets me thinking about nerdy things having to do with the Showcase of the Immortals.  I previously wrote about WrestleMania Demotions, citing ten examples of a particular star going from a position of great prominence one year to an afterthought the next (poor Randy Savage suffered this fate twice).  But in the spirit of positivity let's take a look at ten examples of the opposite situation.  There have been times when a given talent either opens the show or only gets scraps at the WrestleMania table one year and is then catapulted to a potentially career-making moment the following year.  Here are ten such scenarios...




1. King Kong Bundy - WrestleMania 1 to 2


The monstrous Bundy made a statement in his WrestleMania debut, literally squashing jobber to the stars S.D. Jones in what was meant to be a record-setting nine seconds but actually went more like 24.  Still it was a one-sided, dominant appearance that helped establish the 450-pound monster with a wider audience and groom him as one of the company's top heels.  Just one year later Bundy would challenge WWF Champion Hulk Hogan in a steel cage match at the second WrestleMania, enjoying a career peak as Hogan's most forbidding opponent to date.  Bundy was sadly never positioned at that level again, and if you refer to my Demotions list, he found himself way back down the card a year after this.  But going from a 24-second undercard squash one year to a huge main event the next is quite a promotion.





2. Chris Jericho - WrestleMania 17 to 18


WrestleMania X-Seven is considered by most to be the apex of the Attitude Era, a culmination of everything the WWF product had evolved into during the Monday Night War, as well as a celebration of their total victory over WCW.  Chris Jericho arrived in the WWF late in the ratings war and wasn't yet positioned as one of the very top guys by early 2001, more a beneficiary of the WWF's dominance than a factor in getting them there.  Thus his match at WM17 was a brief Intercontinental Title defense to open the show.  But one year later he found himself the company's top champion, seemingly being groomed as one of the next class of main eventers.  On paper everything looked great; Jericho would defend the Undisputed WWF Title (just unified with WCW's version) against Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania X8.  Unfortunately egos and bad booking got in the way, and this feud was horribly botched from start to finish.  Jericho was booked as a fluke champion, and worse, he was the third wheel in Hunter and Stephanie's recent onscreen breakup, presented as Steph's whipping boy instead of as the company's top heel.  The resulting match was an underwhelming foregone conclusion, and Jericho quickly fell down the card over the next several months.  Still, Chris Jericho went from WrestleMania curtain jerker to main eventer in the span of one year - no small feat.





3. Kurt Angle - WrestleMania 18 to 19


The same year Chris Jericho was headlining the show, Kurt Angle was thrown into the midcard against Kane, in a serviceable but fairly forgettable affair - frankly a rather shabby way to have treated one of the more important figures in the Invasion angle.  But 2002 was the year Angle really proved himself as a main event player, delivering stupendous PPV matches against Edge, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio, and Los Guerreros (the vaunted Smackdown Six Era).  By year's end Angle had won the WWE Championship, and the WrestleMania plan was for him to put over WWE's newest main event sensation Brock Lesnar.  This dream match of collegiate wrestling champions was almost derailed when Angle discovered he needed neck surgery, but he opted to tough it out for the one match before going under the knife.  The result was a classic 'Mania main event (and the first PPV main event in over five years to not include Austin, Rock, Triple H or Undertaker) that showcased both men's grappling skills and climaxed with a horrifyingly botched shooting star press from Lesnar.  In just over 365 days Kurt Angle went from a secondary player to a WrestleMania elite.


Monday, April 4, 2022

WWE WrestleMania 38, Night 2: Brock & Roman Phone It In

Night 2, for the third consecutive year, was easily the weaker of the two WrestleMania shows; even the presence of another super-energized crowd (likely comprised of mostly the same people as Night 1) couldn't cover for a mediocre-at-best slate of matches.

If you missed the Night 1 review, click HERE


Things started out with promise (after a seemingly interminable Triple H appearance that ended with him leaving his boots in the ring to officially retire), with the RAW Tag Title match.  RK-Bro, Street Profits and Alpha Academy delivered a very enjoyable spotfest with nonstop action, some great big-move moments, and a finish that brought the crowd to its feet.  Why WWE changed the rules for three-way tags to have three legal men at all times, I'm sure I don't know, but it didn't hurt the flow here.  There were some big dives to the outside from Chad Gable and Angelo Dawkins early on, and Riddle played the babyface in peril once again but made the hot tag to Randy Orton.  RK-Bro cleaned house and set up stereo draping DDTs, but their dual RKO attempt was broken up and Street Profits hit Gable with a Doomsday Blockbuster for a nearfall.  The finish came when Montez Ford's top rope dive was countered into a Riddle RKO and Gable's was countered with an Orton RKO for the win.  Post-match Street Profits offered to share a drink with RK-Bro and Gable Steveson (seated at ringside) but Chad Gable interrupted.  Steveson gave him an overhead suplex for his trouble.  Thus far Steveson doesn't have nearly the natural charisma of a Kurt Angle or a Brock Lesnar but we'll see.  This was a very good opener.  ***1/2


Not so good (at all) was the next match, as Bobby Lashley had to try and carry the near-immobile Omos to a passable match.  They got six minutes, most of it unwieldy and not very exciting.  This guy needs to be sent back down to developmental until he can move around well.  Lashley did what he could, including a hard-earned vertical suplex which served as the bout's high point.  A bad-looking back spear and a proper front spear later, and Lashley was the winner.  This would be the first of three matches on this card to end with a spear.  But tell me how overused the superkick is again?  *

Alright, the third bout was one of those matches I was dreading, knew was going to be super embarrassing and stupid, and yet it was maybe the most purely fun thing on the show.  Sami Zayn and Johnny Knoxville had one of the better dumb comedy matches you're ever likely to see.  This was pure crap and it's stuff like this that makes the average person roll their eyes when you mention the phrase "pro wrestling," but it was a big, stupid guilty pleasure.  They started out with standard garbage-match antics - trash cans, crutches, cooking sheets, a stop sign, etc.  After Sami suplexed Knoxville through a table, Party Boy showed up to interfere and stripped down to his thong.  Then Wee Man appeared and bodyslammed Sami, which was impressive.  Knoxville triggered a pyro as Sami climbed to the top rope, causing him to crotch himself on the top turnbuckle, then rolled a bowling ball into his groin.  Then came the mechanical ball-kicking machine, then Sami walked into the giant hand (which somehow appeared out of nowhere).  Knoxville put Sami through a table covered with mousetraps before putting him in a giant mousetrap (that didn't work quite right).  Knoxville covered him for the win and the Jackass crew celebrated.  This was unfathomably stupid but sadly one of the most successful things on the show.  Would I have rather seen Sami vs. Ricochet for the Intercontinental Title?  100%.  Like I said, this is why no one takes the secondary belts seriously.  I'll be a good sport and give this ***1/4.


WWE WrestleMania 38, Night 1: Becky & Bianca Steal the Show

Man, it's almost hard to believe the same company put on these two WrestleMania shows.  The first night was a pretty good, approaching very good, WrestleMania card, with three matches reaching or approaching four-star territory by my count, and a feelgood main event.  Night 2 had a somewhat promising first half and then kinda drove off a cliff and never got back on track.  The two worst matches of the weekend were on Night 2, and a comedy match featuring the guy from Jackass more or less stole the night.  That's not good at all.  I will say the crowd was nuclear for both shows, so at least there's that.  I haven't seen a WWE crowd this hot in a long time.

For the Night 2 review click HERE


Both nights had time management issues, because it's WWE and they don't know or don't care about fitting everything in properly.  The New Day-Sheamus/Holland match got moved from Night 1 to Night 2 and ended up going 100 seconds anyway.  Given the four-hour running time of each show there was of course no reason Balor vs. Priest and the Intercontinental three-way couldn't have been included.  It makes me laugh when WWE fans refer to AEW as minor league; not once has AEW ever had to bump a match off a major show completely because they ran out of time, while WWE's done it countless times over the years.

Night 1 started with the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, a match that had promise but was unfortunately derailed by an injury when Rick Boogs attempted the John Cena double fireman's carry spot and his knee buckled.  Apparently he suffered both a torn quad and a torn ACL, poor soul.  That left Shinsuke Nakamura to hastily finish the match against the Usos, and he ultimately fell victim to their version of the 3-D.  This only went 7 of the planned 14 and thus fell very short of expectations.  *3/4

The second match wasn't a whole lot better, nor could it be given Drew's opponent.  Baron Corbin had a typical Baron Corbin match, while Drew did his best to elevate it, hitting a Kenny Omega dive to the outside at one point.  Corbin hit End of Days and Drew kicked out, made a comeback, hit the Future Shock DDT, and finished him with a Claymore.  Post-match, Madcap Moss got in Drew's face, but Drew took his sword and actually cut two of the ropes (which was for some reason accompanied by an exploding sound - were there pyros inside the ropes?).  We got numerous endless video packages while they changed out the ropes.  This match was just there.  **

Friday, April 1, 2022

Top Ten Things: Batman Theatrical Films, RANKED

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


Now that the dust is starting to settle following the release of Matt Reeves' buzzworthy new take on the Caped Crusader it's time for fanboys like me to do what we do - place The Batman in an opinion-laced Top Ten list.  It's clear from the varied big-screen (and small-screen) adaptations, not to mention the gamut-running comic book takes on the character, that the Batman mythos is simply the most thematically and atmospherically rich superhero lore ever created.  Over 80 years after the vigilante in the cowl and cape first swung onto the pages of Detective Comics, fans and creators alike are still dissecting his dual personas and his unparalleled rogues gallery, and as The Batman's impressive box office receipts show, there's still a healthy public appetite for all things Gotham.  

So let's get after it, shall we?  I've ranked the fourteen theatrically-released Batman feature films but left out 2016's Suicide Squad since Bats only had a cameo in that one, and 2019's Joker since we only see Bruce Wayne as a boy.  Man, looking over this list and how different the various interpretations are it's hard to believe these are all about the same character....




14. Batman & Robin


Yup, 25 years later Joel Schumacher's second and (thankfully) final Batman film is still the worst of the bunch.  In fact it's possibly the worst movie I've ever seen.  Had it been written as a straight-up satire like its primary inspiration (Batman '66 and its companion TV series), it might've at least worked as a tongue-in-cheek sendup.  But tonally it couldn't decide whether it was trying to be that or an earnest summer blockbuster, and it failed to work as either one.  George Clooney (widely considered the worst-ever onscreen Batman) looks like he'd rather be working on any other project.  Arnold Schwarzenegger's dialogue consists almost entirely of bad puns.  Chris O'Donnell provides Exhibit A in the Why Robin Doesn't Work as a Film Character trial.  Alicia Silverstone gets shoehorned into this film, painfully morphing her Clueless character into an action heroine.  Only Uma Thurman's performance can be described as successful, as she somehow finds the balance between campy cartoon and femme fatale.  B&R nearly ended Batman as a cinematic property, underwhelming at the box office and drawing the ire of fans and critics to the point that its intended sequel was scrapped and Warner Brothers went eight years before releasing a new Bat-movie.  As my wife once described it while I was hate-watching Batman & Robin on TV one Saturday afternoon, "This is what a Batman movie would be like if a ten-year-old wrote it."  Absolute drivel, this film.




13. Justice League (Whedon cut)


Faring not much better is DC's half-assed answer to Marvel's massively successful Avengers saga, an intended tentpole film the studio rushed headlong to get to, despite having no real plan and certainly no real patience.  Man of Steel unwittingly served as DC's shared universe springboard, BvS hastily introduced the rest of the Justice League without giving people a reason to care about them, and Wonder Woman became the one truly successful piece of the DCEU.  But then came the main event, all but derailed when director Zack Snyder abruptly left the project after the death of his stepdaughter.  The studio, still desperate to deliver their Avengers counterpart for a November 2017 release, brought in the guy who'd helmed the first two actual Avengers films, even though tonally Joss Whedon and Zack Snyder could not be more different.  In answer to (very valid) criticisms that Batman v Superman was too dark and devoid of fun, Whedon was instructed to bring levity and a lighter color palette to Justice League, reshooting over half the existing footage (complete with the world's worst CG effect to cover Henry Cavill's moustache).  The result was a terribly uninteresting tonal smorgasbord with garishly fake-looking special effects, very poor performances, and amateurish color timing.  The theatrical cut of Justice League somehow managed to be the least successful DCEU entry in the entire series, despite its original purpose as the big team-up event picture.  See what happens when you don't plan these things out?  

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 37

WrestleMania 37 marked a return of live crowds to WWE events, after a year of Thunderdome shows.  And it was a pretty enjoyable two-night PPV with a pair of main events that actually delivered.


Night 1 opened, after a 30-minute rain delay (kinda shocking that this is the first time this has ever happened for an outdoor WrestleMania), with the WWE Title match.  Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre were given 18 minutes and made the most of it, with a hard-hitting hoss battle.  Drew got all of his big moves in and went for the Claymore but MVP pulled Lashley out of the ring to save him.  Drew dove over the ropes onto both guys, broke out a kimura lock (homage to Brock Lesnar?), and eventually set up for the Claymore again, but MVP yelled from ringside to Bobby, which distracted Drew long enough for Bobby to duck the kick and apply the Hurt Lock.  Drew fought it for a while and tried to fall back on top of him for a pin, but Lashley rolled through and held on, pulling Drew to the mat and wrapping his leg over.  The ref checked on Drew and called the match for Lashley due to a pass-out.  This seemed like the wrong finish for the first match in a year in front of fans - if Lashley was to retain they should've put this match somewhere else on the card.  Just a really odd, decisive finish for the heel champion, almost like The Rock losing to Triple H at WrestleMania 2000.  Plus it made Miz's brief title run utterly pointless.  But anyway the match was very good.  Drew was booked so weakly for the rest of this feud that he fell down the card and as of this point still hasn't regained the title he was screwed out of.


Match #2 was not so good, and it was the Tag Team Turmoil match.  I was fully expecting the surprise return of Becky Lynch with Charlotte Flair as her partner, but that didn't happen so we were stuck with the five announced teams.  Carmella and Billie Kaye beat Naomi and Lana with an assisted rollup, then tried the same tactic on the Riott Squad but the ref broke it up.  Ruby Riott pinned Billie Kay after a senton.  The Riott Squad also beat Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke after a rollup.  Then Tamina and Natalya won the whole match after Tamina hit a Superfly splash off the top rope.  Not much to this.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Top Ten Things: Undertaker WrestleMania Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Today we're talking about The Phenom, The Deadman, The Conscience of WWE, and his greatest bouts at WWE's biggest PPV of the year, WrestleMania!


Probably the greatest streak in fake sports was the one held by The Undertaker, a winning streak at WrestleMania that lasted over two decades and led to one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history when it was broken.  What started as an organic bit of booking happenstance evolved into possibly the biggest perennial feature on The Showcase of the Immortals.  Suddenly there was a built-in long-term storyline for one of the top WrestleMania matches every year, and for quite a while Taker's match either stole the show or came damn close.  Even after The Streak was broken by Brock Lesnar, Taker's match would continue to be one of the top featured attractions.

But which of his 'Mania showings stand atop the others?  Here now are, in my estimation, The Undertaker's greatest WrestleMania bouts....




10. Undertaker vs. Kane - WrestleMania XIV


Taker's first great 'Mania bout didn't occur until he'd already established a six-match winning streak (Yes, his 1996 match with Diesel was solid, but aside from that his 'Mania outings up until this point were forgettable at best).  In 1997 Taker was involved in a long storyline arc wherein his former manager Paul Bearer revealed he had a long-lost half-brother named Kane (Ironically Kane was actually Taker's first name when he debuted).  The company built up Kane's first appearance for several months before he attacked Taker during the first Hell in a Cell match, and from then on he was established as an unstoppable monster.  Also to the company's credit, they held off giving away too much physical interaction between the Brothers of Destruction, so by the time this match finally took place it truly felt like Taker would be facing his ultimate adversary.  The match itself didn't disappoint; the two behemoths delivered a very physical fight that Taker was only able to win via three consecutive Tombstone piledrivers.  Even in a loss, Kane was set up as a major star.




9. Undertaker vs. Randy Orton - WrestleMania 21


After a serious in-ring slump in 2003-04, Taker was able to return to form in this underrated match with the Legend Killer.  Orton had just finished a horribly failed babyface run in late 2004 and the company wisely turned him heel again, leading to Orton challenging Taker to a Legend vs. Legend Killer match.  These two worked extremely well together, delivering one of the better matches on the card that ended with Taker reversing an Orton Tombstone into his own for the win.  Taker and Orton would go on to have a series of strong matches throughout 2005, in a feud that helped re-elevate Orton.




8. Undertaker vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXVII


In 2011 both The Undertaker and Triple H returned from a long hiatus.  Taker's return was teased ahead of time, but just as he was about to cut a promo the familiar strains of Motorhead filled the arena, announcing The Game.  The two veterans stared each other down before Hunter wordlessly made a challenge by turning his gaze to the WrestleMania 27 sign.  The match itself, while full of typical No-DQ frills, was a fairly epic, very dramatic WWE-style main event with some great gasp-inducing nearfalls.  Taker finally won with Hell's Gate but was so exhausted he had to be stretchered to the back on a forklift.  But these two would outdo each other one year later, both in terms of storytelling and action.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 36

WrestleMania in the time of COVID..... 


The one WrestleMania to take place in front of zero fans, in the Performance Center, Number 36 was definitely a mixed results-type show.  The lack of live crowd certainly hurt the overall vibe but everyone worked hard to negate the effects of the room silence; one side effect that was often entertaining was being able to hear the wrestlers trash-talk during each match.  My biggest complaint is that on both nights the final two matches were either underwhelming or just plain stupid.  Why Vince thinks a top championship match going under five minutes is acceptable at WrestleMania, I'm sure I don't know.  

After a pretty entertaining 4-minute pre-show match pitting Cesaro against Drew Gulak, the proper show began with the Women's Tag Titles.  Asuka & Kairi Sane faced Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, in a pretty well-worked match that just went too long.  In front of a crowd this 15-minute match might not have worn out its welcome, but here it ended up dragging a bit by the end.  Asuka came off great in this empty-arena environment though, taunting her opponents for much of the bout.  The Kabuki Warriors dominated much of the bout, but in the end the babyfaces hit a Cross neckbreaker/Twisted Bliss combination on Kairi to regain the belts.  This was a fun opener that just went about three minutes too long.

The match I was least looking forward to was next, as Elias faced everyone's favorite reason to change the channel, Baron Corbin.  After an angle on Smackdown where Corbin knocked Elias off the camera perch to the concrete floor, they teased Elias not being able to wrestle.  But of course Elias came out, not selling anything, bashed Corbin with his guitar, and the match was underway.  This ended up an okay 9-minute TV match but nothing more.  Corbin dominated a lot of the action but after a rope-assisted pin attempt that failed, Corbin got rolled up by Elias (with a handful of tights) for the three.  

The most baffling match placement of either night was next as Becky Lynch defended against Shayna Baszler.  How this went on third and only got eight-and-a-half minutes is beyond me.  This was pretty much all action as they traded strikes and submission attempts back and forth.  Becky at one point hit a uranagi on the apron which looked great.  The match ended when Becky went for Disarm-her but Shayna reversed into the choke.  Becky refused to submit and did the Bret Hart-Steve Austin spot where she rolled backward to pin Shayna and retain.  A year into Becky's title reign this was the wrong move, Shayna should've won here.  What's worse is that Becky announced one month later that she was pregnant and would be relinquishing the title anyway.  So having her go over in this match was pointless.  One of a few booking decisions that didn't make sense to me, but a solid if underwhelming match. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

WWE WrestleMania 38 Preview & Predictions

This weekend is WrestleMania 38, and as usual WWE is doing their best to put on the least exciting lineup they can!


Don't get me wrong, there are a few bouts I'm genuinely looking forward to.  But then there are numerous bouts that belong nowhere near the biggest show of the year, and some GLARING omissions.  

Just take a look at this.

Guys who have a match at WrestleMania 38:

Johnny Knoxville
Logan Paul
Happy Corbin
Rick Boogs
Ridge Holland
Pat McAfee
Austin Theory
Otis
Omos


Guys who do not have a match at WrestleMania 38:

Finn Balor (current US Champion)
Ricochet (current Intercontinental Champion)
Damian Priest (remember how protected he was for like a year?)


Sorry WWE loyalists, there is ZERO excuse for the company's two secondary singles champions to be left off a TWO-NIGHT show while some D-list celebrities and not-ready-for-primetime players get slots.  None.  This is why no one takes those two titles seriously anymore.  What's worse, the WWE and Universal Titles are almost certainly being unified for a little while, so the company could really do with a secondary title that means something to fill that void, no?  I'm pretty sure when Vince puts these shows together he thinks "Hmmm, how can I ruin the night for at least 20% of the audience?"  Whether it's a good SummerSlam marred by that Becky-Bianca squash, a good WrestleMania marred by that Sheamus-Bryan squash (wow, that was TEN YEARS AGO), or an historic women's main event marred by being on after midnight at the end of a seven-hour show, Vince is apparently incapable of presenting a big PPV without including a heaping dose of goodwill-damaging stupidity.

Anyway, this wasn't meant to be a WWE bitch-fest, so let's predict some matches.

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 35

Another WrestleMania with too many matches that ran too long, to the point that even the historic main event everyone wanted to see kinda fell flat thanks to an exhausted crowd being asked to stay until well after midnight.


Sweet Jeezus, why does a wrestling PPV ever need to go five-and-a-half hours, plus a two-hour pre-show?  Like, ever?  Someone in WWE needs to pick Vince up by the face and shake him until he grasps this idea.  WrestleMania 35, like the previous three editions, was a good three-hour show buried inside a pulsating blob of dimpled fat lasting twice as long.  By the end of the show the white-hot women's main event everyone was frothing at the mouth to see was met with subdued indifference.  That's not good.  How does the man with four decades of experience as a promoter not see this?

The four pre-show matches were split down the middle in terms of quality.  Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese had a very good, innovative, exciting cruiserweight match, the women's battle royal was entirely forgettable and Carmella of all people won, The Revival wrenched a quite watchable RAW Tag Title match out of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder, who became the new champs despite never winning any matches, and the men's battle royal was equally forgettable except for Braun Strowman predictably eliminating Colin Jost and Michael Che.  I'm still not sure what the point of their involvement was.

Alright, now for the main card.  After an Alexa Bliss/Hulk Hogan introduction, Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins kicked off the show (HUUUUUUUHHH???).  Brock attacked Seth before the bell, tossing him from barrier to barrier, over one of the announce tables multiple times, and generally beating the piss out of him before demanding the match be started.  Finally the bell rang, Brock suplexed Seth numerous times, went for the F5, Seth escaped and pushed Brock into the ref, knocking him out of the ring, low-blowed him, and delivered three Curb Stomps, leading to the pin at 2:30 officially.  Metlife Stadium went nuts for this finish, so this has to be considered a successful segment, but as one of the five matches I was genuinely looking forward to, this was a major letdown for me.  Apparently the decision to put this on first was made after the show started.  When the lineup of your biggest show of the year is being switched around on the fly, you just might be Eric Bischoff....  Anyway this was fine for what it was, but it was barely a proper match.  Seth's run as the conquering hero champion fell right on its face pretty quickly after this, thanks to an interminable feud with Baron Corbin (plus Seth's own social media ineptitude).  He'd lose the title back to Brock and then win it back at SummerSlam in a vastly superior match.


Next up was AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton, which while not being the blowaway most people anticipated, was nonetheless a really good 16-minute bout and for a while the best thing on the show.  They teased several times the idea that Orton could hit the RKO as a counter to one of AJ's big moves, but AJ wisely avoided it every time.  Late in the match Orton did hit a sudden RKO but AJ kicked out of the pin, the action spilled outside, at which time AJ hit the Phenomenal Forearm from the top rope to the floor, rolled Orton back in, and hit it again in the ring to win the match.  I liked this match a lot; AJ added to his streak of delivering one of the best matches on the WrestleMania card.  Sadly this streak would end one year later, ironically at the hands of The Streak guy.