23 May 2007

LOST Season Finale

Either a great swerve or the ultimate "jump the shark" moment.

I'm not sure yet.

And I think it's Ben in the coffin.

22 May 2007

CHIKARA Anniversaro preview

new article up at the Tope Suicida section of the Blog...

13 May 2007

Kinsley on Hitchens

Michael Kinsley's NYT review of Hitchen's great new book "God is Not Great."


Still reading it myself, but yes, it is a wonderful book.

07 May 2007

Four Horsemen DVD review

Four Horsemen: An Elite DVD Set

After seeing the WWE’s new Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen DVD, I was compelling to try and write down some remembrances of what it was like to be a Horsemen fan back during their original run.

Unlike many of my friends that are wrestling fans, I came to the business later than most. I didn’t start watching until I was in my early teens. I started watching during the early Hogan WWF era, but, thanks to living in the Mid-Atlantic area and having a rotor on our antenna, I was able to see the NWA Crockett shows out of both Baltimore and Philadelphia. (We also got to see the World Class show shown in York PA, but that’s for a different day.)

I soon learned to prefer the more serious and athletically-based NWA, instead of the more cartoony WWF product. I immediately gravitated toward the ostentatious Ric Flair over the lumbering Hulk Hogan. It also didn’t take me long to become a heel fan, choosing the Midnight Express over their teeny-bopper Rock-and-Roll counterparts.

It was great when the heels banded together to run rough shod over their babyface opponents. It was not long after I started watching the NWA shows in 1985 that the hated Minnesota Wrecking Crew of Ole and Arn Anderson (I was too new to have heard of Gene Anderson) teamed up with Flair to injure the “immensely popular” Dusty Rhodes. Soon, they were also teaming with Tully Blanchard (once called in Pro Wrestling Illustrated “the K-Mart Fashion Plate”) against Rhodes, Magnum TA, Manny Fernandez and any other number of mid-card babyfaces. And it was not long before the four men, in early 1986, became The Four Horsemen.

It’s amusing now, in hindsight, to know that “The Horsemen” were named thanks to an off-the-cuff remark by Arn Anderson, made because all the men (and then-manager J.J. Dillon) happened to be doing an interview together in the WTBS studios.

It can be argued that the original Horsemen incarnation was the best and all the rest were pale imitations. Ole and Arn were a prototypical 1970s/80s heel tag team, Tully was a textbook cocky heel that fans loved to hate and Flair was the World Champion and the best worker in the company.

Personally, I would choose instead the Flair/Arn/Tully/Barry Windham version. Windham was one of the best wrestlers in the world at the time and, like most workers, was better as a heel than as a babyface. He also joined the group after one of the most memorable angles of the late Crockett era: Windham’s heel turn on Lex Luger that allowed Anderson and Blanchard to regain the Tag Team titles.

There were great WCW versions of the Horsemen, specifically the Pillman/Benoit or Benoit/Malenko versions, but the Nitro Horsemen were, to me, always a pale imitation of the old teams. And that’s coming from a smart fan that worships at the Benoit altar.

Looking at the actual WWE set, there are lots of pluses, but also a few minuses. The documentary is certainly helped by having most of the talent interviewed (Ole being the noticeable absence) and it appears that they were free to be candid as they wanted to be. It is odd, though, to see Flair and Tully discussing booking decisions and other backstage issues, while Arn continues to kayfabe history, treating matches as if they were shoots and the like. (This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as one of the things that made Arn’s book such an interesting read a few years ago was it also did not break kayfabe.)

NWA/WCW fans who had to live through the lean years will love to see Flair shoot on Jim Herd and Eric Bischoff. Sadly, there were no clips of the infamous “We Want Flair” 1991 Great American Bash PPV, where fans rioted over how Flair had left the company over Herd’s incompetence.

Like all WWE DVD documentaries, their version of history is not quite how it happened. Some facts are omitted and the chronology of events is sometimes spotty, with clips of angles or matches shown out of order. By now, however, the viewer should be used to the fact that the company is re-writing history as it sees fit, usually to paint the company in the best possible light, given the situation.

The match/angle/interview selection on the disc is also a curious assortment. There are many fans out there (most notably the infamous “Front Row, Section D” group from the Carolinas) who could have picked many better matches. Part of the problem is likely due to some things having already appeared on previous DVDs (like the Flair, Benoit and Pillman issues). That said, wouldn’t the disc have been improved by replacing the Tully/Dusty match with the famous Tully/Magnum TA Starrcade I Quit Match (which admittedly was technically pre-Horsemen)?

Sadly, we have to see the repugnant N.W.O./Horsemen angle, something that hit so close to home that it brought Arn Anderson’s wife to tears. Nice to see that Eric Bischoff admit that it should have been handled differently after all these years.

Hopefully, one of the reasons for the curious match selection is that there will be another DVD set and that disc will have some of the better-known contests, like Flair winning the world title from Rhodes when Baby Doll turned heel or some of the taped fist matches between Tully and “Hands of Stone” Ronnie Garvin. One match I hope will eventually see the light of day is something I was supposed to see live and didn’t make the show: the 1988 Tag Team title change between the Midnight Express and Arn/Tully, the Horsemen’s last match before going to the WWF and becoming the Brainbusters.

Obviously, this DVD set is a must purchase for the longtime wrestling fan that may have given on the current wrestling scene. How could you pass up the chance to see lesser Horsemen like Luger, Sid Vicious and Paul Roma buried, hearing Flair, Windham and Anderson acknowledging they were forced into teaming with men who obviously were not at their level as performers? Or a chance to relive one of this heel fan’s favorite angles, the famous “Make it Good” parking lot attack on Rhodes? To paraphrase Arn Anderson, “I want to toot this disc’s horn. Toot! Toot!”