‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’: Season 1 Review

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 1

Everybody has their own pop culture blind spots including movies, T.V., music etc. etc. that people rave about that you just haven’t seen for whatever reason because there’s literally not enough time to see it all while also having a life, but that second part is overrated. Anyways, Buff The Vampire Slayer has been at the top of my list for as long as I can remember, and I’ve seen pretty much everything else Whedon has done outside of the Buffy world so it’s been long overdue to experience in seminal work.

Now I’ve never been the biggest supernatural/fantasy fan in the world, but I am a huge fan of teen angst and teens having to deal with their INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT problems and trying to make their way through life and all that. Of course Buffy’s caveat is that sometimes when the pressures of high school just aren’t enough, you gotta contend with creatures from the netherworld that try to kill you. Usually on these types of shows where they juggle the main conceit of the show with the characters dealing with their real life problems I tend to zone out of the former aspect of the show, especially when each story is contained to each episode. It’s a short first season, but the show does a nice job of stringing along a decent serialized story for the season that continues from episode to episode, if slowly, but also has episodes that you could easily just drop in for.

By far my favourite thing of the entire series was how quick it got itself off and running and how little exposition, if all, was used. There was no long drawn out episode or scenes explaining how or why Buffy was a vampire slayer of all things, it was just an assumed acceptance in this world and even though it’s a fantastical thing treating it this way kept everything very grounded. As well, when others found out what she does and that creatures such as vampires, werewolves and other demonic monsters are just as much real life as zits they didn’t freak out or take episodes trying to accept and come to grips with the world changing before they knew it, nope they just accepted things and it was off to helping Buffy or filling out the world in whatever sense. Cutting all this fat lets everybody get right to the meat of things and avoids storylines and cliches that we already know how they will end up. And with knowing that there’s six more seasons after this I’m sure a lot of that backstory and explanation will be further shaded in.

I really enjoyed the first season even though it didn’t do anything amazingly, but really used the 13 episodes it had perfectly to set up this world to even further expand and deepen it in the future. I’m really hoping the future seasons rely more on serialization and have long continuing stories and big bads that the show can build towards and off rather than just relying on baddies of the week all the time. I don’t have much else to say at this point, besides being really excited to see how this universe gets fleshed out and also I’m just counting down until Giles gets killed off, because that could not be more blatantly being set up for down the line.

‘American Tabloid’: Review

American Tabloid

I still remember spring break 2007 like it was yesterday. I was home alone for the entire week and was left up to do whatever I wanted until Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse came out on Friday, which my dad was taking me to to enjoy, along with seven other people as we watched it bomb miserably. Anyways, for some reason I was latched onto the allure of L.A. Confidential, hearing how great the movie was all these years, but for some reason I got the book first and set out on sparsely enjoying it over my break. Except it didn’t happen exactly like that, I became incredibly engrossed in the novel, attempting to make sense in my brain how a book this dense, sprawling and inter-woven could even be created. I was blow away by the uniqueness of storytelling, through a seemingly unlimited cast of characters, the way a picture of Los Angeles of years past was painted so immediately and perfectly and how every step the book took seemed perfectly ordained in some kind of masterpiece laboratory. James Ellroy became my favourite author after just that one book and I became one of those awful people who hocked how much better the book is than the film, even if the film is very, very good, it still couldn’t compete with the novel. I never understood how people said certain books were “unfilmable,” but after reading L.A. Confidential I understood, thus why the movie changes some things in order to make a two-hour movie make some sense.

Fast forward a few years, I’d read the rest of Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet, The Black Dahlia being another incredible work and his second best known work, and then The Big Nowhere which I love and has some echoes of scope to L.A. Confidential, but never matches and then finally White Jazz which I enjoyed, but not to the level of the others. And now as I type for some reason the reading bug as hit me again and the thought of “Hey, if James Ellroy is indeed your favourite author you should probably, I dunno, read all of his books.” So, that’s why I’ve been doing, starting from the beginning of his bibliography and filling in the blanks.

I’d always been eager to get my hands on his first three books, but could never track them down, but now in doing so they serve as an interesting portrait to what Ellroy would eventually come. Brown’s Requiem is a solid, if not wholly memorable effort that sets the groundwork for the themes of the detective on the case, femme fatales, lowly street urchins, jaunts to Mexico, and the seedy language and environment that he’d make his name off. Clandestine was an immediate favourite for me, doubling down on the scope from his first novel, and providing that epic sprawling feature that his books always now seem to inhabit. Killer On The Road was an interesting departure, writing in the point of view of a captured serial killer as he documents his killings and evasion from the police. The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy are much more pared down detective novels that focus on Hopkins’ almost solely and his target, and in doing so are invitingly slim and easy to breeze through.

And finally (sorry for all this exposition babble, it’s my worst writing habit), I’ve reached the Underworld Trilogy, a series of books that I have always ben excited to undertake, with the thought of Ellroy’s prose hitting on the 60s era of happenings with the Kennedy’s and political intrigue seemed like too much of a perfect pairing. It’s the perfect way for Ellroy to evolve as a writer, yet still while sticking with what got him to the dance in the first place and what makes his stories tick. American Tabloid is another epic and sprawling tale that follows three men Pete Bondurant, an ex-con, hired gun for whoever is paying, Kemper Boyd, an ambitious FBI agent sent to infiltrate the Kennedy brothers’ organization who gets more than he bargained for and Ward Littell, an FBI agent who has the mentality of a cockroach when it comes to getting a job done, resistance. The book flips back and forth, chapter to chapter between each man as they progress deeper into the poltical underbelly of the late 1950s all the way through John F. Kennedy’s inauguration as president to the Bay of Pigs and ending with the assassination of JFK. The book is an epic and takes these events and expertly places these characters around these happenings in a realistic way that never infringes on history, but plays with it like a dangerous time bomb.

That’s one of Ellroy’s best skills, having his fictional characters interact with very real characters (such as J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hugh, Jimmy Hoffa) and real events that never seem like pandering or resorting to lame jokes in the vein of “Look at this interaction between fictional character and historical character that is only funny to you because of context!!!” It’s one of Ellroy’s best traits that again helps you immediately feel of the times and provides a very real backdrop to these characters and never seems like a gimmick or that he’s unnecessarily namedropping.

Again Ellroy creates a full roster of characters (you basically need to keep track on a separate piece of paper) that weave in and out of each other’s lives and who knowingly and unknowingly cause the downfall of others. As much as the time frame of his novels are celebrated, it’s always the vibrant and realistic characters to a fault that rings true for me. My favourite thing about the treatment of characters by Ellroy is the sort of see-saw rise and fall between the two FBI agents Boyd and Littell. Boyd begins the novel as a hotshot agent tasked to infiltrate and take down the Kennedy’s with full backing from J. Edgar Hoover, while Littell is a somewhat disgraced agent who is scraping by and attempting to remedy his clout with the agency, but messes up a bunch on the way that puts a target on his head. Eventually, without spoiling much, as the book progresses Boyd gets in too deep and his motivations change while he’s exposed to a different life than he’s been used to and it changes him, while Littell pulls himself out of his rut and becomes a a major player and catalyst to the ending events of the novel.

Nothing will touch L.A. Confidential, but American Tabloid gets that spirit and feel of that epic, sprawling historical/crime/political book that only Ellroy can write and something that you just know he feels little pressure to write from the shadows of his past monumental success’ to make another classic. It only gets me more excited to read the rest of the trilogy and again kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’: Review

Mission: Impossible - Rogue NationTom Cruise has been a top Hollywood for two decades now and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that when all is said and done the Mission Impossible movies will be his greatest legacy. Now on the outset that seems like a slight against a supposed good dramatic actor like Cruise (yes, good not great), but through all his dramatic performances, which again are fine, but nothing that has permanently resonated for him to make a career off chasing that Oscar. No, Cruise is through and through at his best when he takes on the action hero role, a role that again when just looking at him doesn’t really seem to compute for the small, diminutive Cruise who doesn’t look like he can kick all THAT much ass. But, ass he indeed kicks, and boy is he good at it.

The Mission Impossible movies have always been some of my favourite action movies, most noticeably elevated by Cruise’s performance and willingness to do just about anything. The first one just the steady introduction of the series as a remake of the TV series, into the ridiculous guilty pleasure, Limp Bizkit infused and John Woo directed second entry that holds a special place into my heart, into new-age techno-thriller area with the uniformly game J.J. Abrams at the helm, to the last installment which blew my mind and is one of the best action movies of the past decade with Brad Bird taking on directing duties. That’s one of the cool things about the series, each film in the five part series so far has a different director with their own subtle takes on how it should look and what the action set-pieces will entail. The suave coolness of Woo bleeds into the new generation of cyber happenings into Bird’s lavish globe hopping.

The fifth film led by Christopher McQuarrie definitely takes after the last entry in scope and framework, leading a basic storyline through cities across the world ripe for Cruise to engage in epic action scene after action scene. And through it all that’s what people want to see and that’s what they give you. The film opens on the heavily advertised scene of Cruise jumping on a plane and breaking into the cargo hold, with no wires or protection to save him from his fiery death, that oh yeah Cruise just happened to do by himself without any stunt protection. There’s a fun scene that happens concurrently with an Opera taking place, another where Cruise must hold his breath for two minutes while he traverses an underwater water system, a fantastic motorbike chase (with shades of the second film) and so on.

I mean, when it really comes down to it with action movies you don’t really care much about the plot or anything like that, it doesn’t hurt to have something engaging that makes the action and characters even that more relatable, but breaking things down to the bare-bones it’s the fun and epicness of action movies that makes them succeed. Hence why another deep series, “Fast And The Furious” has only grown more popular and exceedingly more outlandish. The Mission Impossible movies give you all that, the story is always the stock modern day spy tale where they good guys are trying to pry some technology from the big bad guy, and the movies do it well, but their grandiose action scenes and locales is what makes the films tick.

Any old film has action sequences, but the Mission Impossible ones always seem to take it up a notch, while seemingly equally out-of-this-world while also very grounded and believable. The fifth film hits similar notes to the fourth film, for its benefit, but unlike the last installment it loses its steam as it progresses leading up to a disappointing climax that witholds a large action scene in place of a more subdued and tense showdown of different sorts. It works fine enough, but it’s just not enough of a gangbusters end note to a movie that was already waning to the end. Again, these are modern-day Mission Impossible movies so of course it’s over two hours long, and undoubtedly could’ve been shaved down a bit to provide a tighter film. Cruise is the big selling point of course and he’s as great as ever, Simon Pegg is fine, I guess, as the most blatant example of comic relief ever. The real surprise is Rebecca Ferguson filling the necessary female role, but does it without falling into the trap of the female who needs saving or some kind of validation of Cruise’s character. I wouldn’t be against her returning in some capacity. And then boring Jeremy Renner showed up to collect his cheque.

Off the tails of “Ghost Protocol” a movie that actually made IMAX worth it for once and gave me a legit panic attack, the anticipation for the fifth installment was at an all time high for me, and was one of the few Summer movies I was anticipating. While it didn’t end up reaching the heights of the fourth one, still in and out itself it was a worthy successor and still continues to breathe life into a series that shows no stopping, especially with Tom Cruise’s inability to age or fail to want to do insane action scenes across the world.

7.5/10

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

Hey, another year down, and this time I actually took brief notes while I watched, so hopefully it’ll better trigger my memory. Let’s go through this thing in sequential order/whenever I felt motivation enough to jot down a note.

The Triple H/Mick Foley stuff to start the year was some pretty great stuff, with Triple H fully entrenched now as the top heel with the belt and a hold on the company through his relationship with Stephanie McMahon. They’re both a juxtaposition of styles with Triple H being the more technical wrestler with Foley being of the more whatever-it-takes brawler type, but both meshed in the middle with their skill at hardcore matches. Thus we got an excellent street fight match at the Royal Rumble (including a really fun tables match between The Dudley Boyz and Hardyz that really kick started these TLC gimmick matches in the tag division) draped in blood featuring thumbtacks, barbed-wire bats, handcuffs, trash cans and all that and both men put on an excellent show. Their Hell In a Cell match at No Way Out to blow off their one-on-one feud was also very good and continued the lineage of Foley taking ridiculous Cell spots.

The lead up to WrestleMania was pretty disappointing and lacking to me. The Rock beat Big Show to win the Royal Rumble, but under some controversial means where his feet basically touched before Show’s and probably really shouldn’t have been the winner, I have no clue if this was intended or not, but thus they feuded over the spot for a bit. The different permutations of the main event leading into Mania was maddening, it literally changed every week and basically undermined the Royal Rumble and every new number one contender as they legit just had new number one contender matches each week. I didn’t think they’d actually let Big Show main event Mania, but I guess they got away with it when they finally settled on a four-way between Triple H, The Rock, Big Show and Mick Foley, which I was not looking forward to at all. There was a pretty clever twist when each McMahon was backing a man with Stephanie with Triple H, Vince with The Rock, Shane with Big Show and Linda with Foley. The match wasn’t very good and overlong and I thought for sure The Rock would take the belt from Triple H, but nope he retained to cap off a very lackluster Mania. I was really feeling the absence of Austin and Undertaker as they were the stars of the last couple years and didn’t really feel like the other guys did a good job of carrying the show without them.

The funniest thing was that leading up to Mania Big Show was booked as this big, strong, imposing mean bastard who was main event tier and then right after his big show(ing) at Mania 2000 he was booked as a big, dumb comedy act who dressed up in costumes and danced with Rikishi. It was amazing the 180 they pulled.

We also finally got the debut of Christ Benoit, which I was looking forward to, along with Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturan as the defected from WCW. I enjoyed their little storline to begin where they were The New Radicalz and just beat people up as the new guys, but it was eventually clear that Benoit was the main one they would push as they pretty quickly got separated. And of course Eddie wouldn’t get the big push right away, but would do some nice work with Chyna that really sold his comedic chops and acting ability, not to mention how good of a wrestler he was of course.

I finally saw the whole Mae Young giving birth to a hand thing and it was just as messed up and dumb as I imagined. Basically just a reminder that, yep, I am still indeed watching the Attitude Era.

Chris Jericho really started to heat up even more with the fans and they loved everything he touched and said, especially due to them putting him over for the belt on Raw, for however briefly. Even still it’s obvious that with Austin gone on injury that The Rock is still the THE star of the business who gets incredible pops. It’s hard to tell who got a bigger pop at the height of their stardom, but it’s probably Austin by a hair.

I have a special place in my heart for Too Cool, going back to the days when Scotty 2 Hotty was my favourite wrestler when I first started watching all this garbage, for reasons that really boil down to how cool it was that his hair came out the top of his hat. But, anyways, I was surprised how over Too Cool was when they started out and they were actually working some main event matches on TV and ones with Triple H and The Rock, although it didn’t last too long and they wen back to being low card gimmicks. It was also pretty obvious that they wanted to push Rikishi up the card and he was the only one they really cared about because #Samoan.

Speaking of Too Cool, the tag team division was stacked at this time, with Too Cool, The Dudley Boyz, The Hardyz, Edge & Christian, Crash and Hardcore Holly, The Acolytes, Test & Albert, D-Generation X and later Right To Censor. They definitely had options although not all the teams were always at their peak, because they all couldn’t be, but each slided in and out nicely for some solid mid-card matches.

Edge & Christian are the best and their dumb frat boy humour always works on me because it’s so dumb and they both play perma-fried bros so well. They would later get a nice push with Kurt Angle, further doubling down on the dumb, oblivious guy theme. The best running joke with E&C was when they’d always try to fake injuries to get out of matches and would do whatever it takes to not defend their belts. Just the best.

I have another special place in my heart for Right To Censor, and I even vividly remember making their logo as some kind of pop-up art project in school as a kid, and no I have no idea why of all the colourful superstars of the time I picked a Right To Censor logo to ape. I really love their gimmick as an extension and pesudo-commentary on the Attitude Era’s awful treatment of women as just piece of meat to parade around in the smallest amount of clothes possible and book solely in matches where they strip each others clothes off. They would always get immediate heat with their entrance theme which was a bunch of annoying alarms that wouldn’t stop. And even better to fulfill the whole irony quotient The Godfather and Val Venis, the pimp and porn star gimmicks of years past would join and renounce their ways.

So, then at Backlash The Rock finally won the title over Triple H and they feuded into Judgment Day into a one hour Iron Man match which was a super cool concept to actually pull off (that they would never do nowadays) even if the match wasn’t all that great. Shawn Michaels was the special guest referee and The Undertaker made his glorious return in his infamous biker gimmick (lol!) screwy finish, screwy finish and Triple H had the belt back.

King Of The Ring happened with Kurt Angle (more on him soon) amazingly winning the titular title of the PPV and The Rock won the title back because the world championship in the Attitude Era is basically a hot potato that goes from person to person, even in weird tag matches where you can win the singles title, like The Rock did.

And then Chris Benoit’s push coincided with The Rock’s title reign and oh, damn, they let Benoit man event a pay-per-view this yearly and I was surprised, but it was a lot of (brief) fun. He’s not really the best on the mic, but his in ring work was in matched and he literally put on a fantastic match with everyone, so it was always worth paying attention. This also included the Triple H/Chris Jericho feud in a Last Man Standing match which included great work as always by both of them. And then with his sublte into not-so-subtle macking on Stephanie McMahon Kurt Angle’s push into the main event slowly began to crescendo. Thus Kurt and Triple H feuded for a couple pay-per-views, basically over Stephanie, it went on a little bit too long for my taste, but Kurt made it all work. Angle is the best because he’s so good at doing dumb comedy bits and selling them amazingly with his naivety and commitment, but at the same time he’s totally believable as a main eventer who can kick ass and get it done with his technical prowess. He really was the perfect guy in WWE to measure their incessant want for dumb comedy, be entertaining and actually wrestle a good match.

And then everything culminated with Kurt taking the title from The Rock, which I really wasn’t expecting, I thought it was way too soon to put the belt on Kurt, but I always forget how much they love flip-flopping the title. And of course he was great with the belt as a little twerp who tried to get out of everything.

Kurt then took the backseat to the returning Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was awesome to finally have back, but oh my god, like a repeat of the build-up to Mania, the storyline of WHO RAN OVER AUSTIN, took forever and had a bunch of fake-outs and then it was finally revealed to be Rikishi (lol!) who thus turned heel into bad man Rikishi (lol!) with some dumb reasoning about the #Samoan connection between him and The Rock as to why it was done.

To finish off the year we had the big Armageddon Hell In A Cell match between *takes a breath* Kurt Angle, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker and Rikishi. Which one of those names doesn’t belong? Either way, I was really looking forward to the match, and it was indeed good, but nothing great, which was fine by me, because I kind of half-expected everything to cancel out and it’d be terrible.

And so I guess the final thing to end the year was Mick Foley getting ousted as commissioner, oh yeah, Mick Foley was commissioner for the majority of the year after he came back from retirement. I really didn’t talk about it because it didn’t really do much for me, mainly Foley’s comedy schtick where he would always be in random places backstage taking up office and all his pandering to the crowd. He was a pretty hollow replacement for a figure in power, although I do obviously know he was like that to differentiate from the Vince’s and Shane’s in the past.

I honestly didn’t really dig this year as a whole, it was very inconsistent and could never maintain steam, or when it did it would grasp onto something for wayyy too long and drive it into the dirt. The lack of Austin and Undertaker hurt things, as they were huge reasons why I loved the last couple years and of course Taker’s new gimmick takes some getting used to. It also felt less of an “Attitude” type year as the previous ones, I think mainly because they were fully entrenched in this new identity and were set on a pretty straightforward cruise control. The Rock was great, as always, even if he did get semi-overshadowed later in the year, but that was mainly due to Angle with the belt which was a pretty good change of pace. I was gonna take a break after this year (it’s been four years!) since I’m semi losing steam on a lot of things, but the promise of WrestleMania 17 (which I’ve been told is the best) and my intrigue of the whole invasion angle has me piqued to see how much further I can last.

WWF Attitude Era: 1999

WWF Attitude Era: 1997

WWF Attitude Era: 1999

We’re fully entrenched in the Attitude Era now, and what a lot of people think of as the most hot year during the time and possibly of all time. Everybody seems to be firing on all cylinders and at points of the year Austin, Triple H, The Rock, Undertaker, The McMahon’s and Mankind are all involved in the main event picture. Basically THE people you think of when the era is discussed. This is also the year when stuff gets particularly batshit with evil entities sacrificing women, sex addictions, drug-induced weddings and so-on. Let’s get into it.

The first half of the year was yet again dominated by all the Austin/McMahon shenanigans that we love from this time and would eventually wrap stuff up on a one-on-one level, at least for the time being. You had the dumb choice of Mr. McMahon winning the Rumble, but of course he wasn’t actually going to main event Mania for the title, so their big outting came in a pretty fun cage match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. A match that Vince take an actual pretty big bump off the cage onto a table and one that saw Big Show literally get birthed into the WWF, coming through the bottom of the ring to provide insurance that was never delivered upon. This being WWF, where there basically always has to be an evil authority group the McMahon lead Corporation with The Rock as the champ out-front led into WrestleMania where Austin was possibly as hot as ever and no way was he not leaving Philly without the belt, which he did.

Alongside the The Corporation you had The Undertaker heeling it up as the leader of the Ministry of Darkness who at one time tried to, in the full outlandishness of the era, sacrifice Stephanie McMahon, with McMahon sinking down for help with Austin against him. Of course this is wrestling, so McMahon would turn on Austin yet again and the formation of the Corporate Ministry showcased the massive stable that resulted. It was a big, dumb failure and didn’t really go anywhere, but we got the amazing IT’S ME, AUSTIN meme and Austin getting to be fake head of the company, and it was fun living in that alternate world for a couple weeks.

Probably (?) the most famous Attitude Era moment happened at the end of the year, and one that literally has shaped the company and basically been the face of it behind-the-scenes and in front from then all the way until right now in 2015 when I’m writing this, the “marriage” between Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. Now first off we get the whole Stephanie/Test courtship and marriage that includes the absolute goldmine of Test trying to act, he might give some of the most unconvincing acting by any wrestler in the company, it’s quite impressive in how bad it is.

Now outside of the whole original “drugging someone and forcing them into marriage” thing, they way they filmed everything was actually quite engaging. Triple H comes out to pester Vince yet again and points to the titantron, and cue the most amateur video, that seemingly keeps going on and on and becomes even more creepy as you feel like a weird voyeur into this even more disturbing situation, and then the handheld camera pans over to Stephanie passed out and Triple H in his glee-filled frat-boy self somehow getting a marriage out of all this. In that moment it is quite striking and effective. Now this is all stupid and makes no sense, but it’s an interesting moment and one that is still remembered to this day. Of course, they backtrack on the whole “drugging a woman and forcing her into the command of a man” thing by having her TOTALLY have been along with it the whole time as Stephanie turns on her dad at the Armageddon pay-per-view.

Continuing with the full-out wackiness of this year of the Attitude Era, we have Mark Henry turning into “Sexual Chocolate” where he’s all of a sudden a sex addict and engages in some weird fetishes and vignettes where he goes after all sorts of women. I mean, it just wouldn’t be the Attitude Era if women weren’t being degraded in some sort of way. The “women’s” division filled with evening gown matches and bikini contests just wasn’t enough. I will say that I enjoyed the little vignettes of Mark Henry’s escapades if nothing for how they let superstars be characters outside of the arena and ring and actually showed some work filming these little bits out and about at places and really provided a sense of character and that these people were actually living in our fully-functional world and not just within the confines of the backstage arena area or the physical ring. There’s not that much of that anymore, but I guess with the advent of social media and content through other means fills the shading and backstory that they couldn’t always do back then so easily.

1999 is almost noteworthy solely on a couple debuts of a couple superstars alone, namely Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle. Jericho’s is one of the most iconic introductions of all time, when the epic countdown of theme starts during one of The Rock’s promo’s and then the crowd goes crazy when it hits zero, Jericho comes out and right off the bat proves he’s one of the few to be able to go toe-to-toe with The Rock on the mic. Jericho is really Jericho right out the gate, the self-obsessed shyster who does whatever he wants.

Kurt Angle’s debut is a little different, he got the promos leading up to his debut, laying on thick his prestige as an Olympic athlete along with his goofy demeanor. It’s funny that they would consistently refer to him as a “real” athlete in that he actually wrestled, ie. not fake, and went on about this whereas in todays world they wouldn’t be caught dead calling any other kind of athlete “real” or somewhat on a higher level that “professional wrestling.” Really it’s only the start of their characters and leading into 2000, they become much more of main event players.

Oh my god, so let’s talk about the “Kennel from Hell” match. I had heard things about this match and how bad it was, always popping up in those “worst gimmick” matches lists, but I never knew too much about it, but boy am I glad I came in cold to this. What a brick of a match from every angle. So, basically it’s a Hell in a Cell match with a cage inside with “rabid” dogs patrolling around the inside. As sinister as it might sound, it doesn’t even come close to that. The dogs of course are a non-factor and do nothing, but like anyone actually expected them to attack someone or bite, they just walked around and barked and just proved an auditory nuisance. Now maybe if you get a couple charismatic guys or have some wrestlers with chemistry and skill go at it and you could make things interesting, but nope it’s the dull void of Big Boss Man against the tepid insanity of Al Snow. A lot of the match was just each wrestler caught up in some machination of the match and completely separated from their opponent. The match barely went 10 minutes and was just an utter mess all around. The only thing that could have made it messier was if the dog’s had a little more to eat before they came out there.

I guess, I should continue my whole, this was the year of _______ thing. Which, obviously it was, The Rock. I mean, Austin owned the first half of the year and probably would have the rest if he didn’t get injured. But, all that nuclear energy of Austin’s just transferred right over to Rocky just as his mannerisms and mic work were getting perfected, not to mention his cocky look and bam, just like that the people had their new idol. The Rock bounced around the main event near the end of the year, but really just as importantly enjoyed some character-strengthening feuding and not-so mutual partnership with Mankind that delivered some great hilarity from their juxtaposition of characters.

Now, I didn’t really intend for this to be last, but here we are and I guess we should talk about the biggest thing to ever happen in the World Wrestling Federation, the death of Owen Hart. Of course people not even remotely interested in wrestling know of the event, how somebody literally died during a wrestling event, the biggest company for it in the world and everything just trudged on. I knew how everything happened, but was always curious to see how it played out in realtime during the pay-per-view and finally watching it it was just so damn chilling. We see Owen Hart, as the Blue Blazer, cutting a promo doing his fun, little superhero schtick and then it cuts to what always is the ring for the entrance, but this time it doesn’t. This time we cut directly to Jim Ross who sternly outlines that there has been an accident with Owen Hart’s zip-line descent into the ring. The camera hauntingly shoots everything but the ring, the ring that Owen Hart’s lifeless body lays in after supposedly hitting the ring post and ropes and ricocheting back. The camera is focused on the nervous energy of the crowd, probably unsure what exactly they are seeing of this business who makes it’s living on things being not exactly what you think they may be. Eventually, Owen is carted off, we don’t see this, and then time goes on and the next match comes forth like nothing happened. But, it’s awful and weird and I can’t imagine how the wrestler came out and continued on with all of this after their friend and co-worker died in the same ring they must compete in. I don’t know how Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler kept talking, even through understandably emotional means. And then the dagger. I couldn’t believe they actually said this and had it released on the show as succinctly and almost coldly as they did. Another cut back to Jim Ross speaking to the camera and he flat out explains that Owen Hart has died, in the middle of a pay-per-view something they’ve done hundreds of times before, and man the energy going forward is just the weirdest thing ever. I can’t imagine being in that building and feeling that. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but it’s kinda insane to me that they didn’t stop the show, from reading things it seems like different wrestler have varying opinions on that. The event as sad and devastating as it was, provided ammunition to others, but beyond all that someone lost their life and even now it’s hard to quantify. The Owen Hart tribute show the next night was incredible, dropping all storylines and just having tribute matches to Owen with cut-in memories from the superstars out of character. The Triple H one was especially touching. But, as the WWF is, and as they always will, next week they were right back at the grind, nothing had happened, one of their superstars hadn’t died a few weeks back, it was like it had ever been, except one of the greatest wrestler who ever grappled inside those four posts was no longer there.

This was another great year, and although I think I enjoyed 1998 a bit more for the full brunt of Austin, 1999 was just a really fun mix of all these different things being thrown into the melting point of the Attitude Era. The crazy factions, the passing of the torch from Austin to The Rock, the rising of Triple H, the emerging tag team division, weird sex stuff, sacrifices, British Bulldog coming back for some reason, Mr. McMahon main-eventing three pay-per-views, I mean, I could just go on and on, this year crammed so much in. Now onto the new millennium…

WWF Attitude Era: 1998

WWF Attitude Era: 1997

WWF Attitude Era: 1998

So, Stone Cold is just a little bit over, isn’t he? Man, just when I said 1997 was the year of Bret Hart, 1998 just blows that out of the water with Stone Cold, he went nuclear times 10. Just if you could bottle the energy the crowd expends when the glass shatters on Stone Cold’s entrance, you could power a small city for a week. This is the Attitude Era I was waiting for ass-kicker Stone Cold Steve Austin taking over, throwing up middle fingers, chugging down a couple Steveweisers and stunning everyone in sight, and feuding with Vince McMahon. Stone Cold/Vince is everything I wanted it to be and literally the defining the storyline of the defining era for the company.

The whole year was basically the Austin/McMahon feud, with Austin basically owning the entire company and everything being fed through his veins. Leading into Mania XIV it was obvious he was going over HBK, how couldn’t he? The crowd went nuclear everytime they saw even a glimpse of him. He would feud with Mankind/Dude Love for a bit, but things really hit their stride when he got involved with the whole Undertaker/Kane thing flip-flopping the belt. That’s one thing the Attitude Era was never afraid of, randomly dropping the top title on RAW or giving out short reigns, like Kane got at King Of The Ring. Austin was just on a tear all year, and what a time to watch him captivate the entire product at the time.

Oh, man, so let’s talk about it King Of The Ring ’98, Undertaker vs. Mankind Hell In A Cell with probably? the most famous moment in wrestling history. I mean, you could debate that, but like top three at least. Anyway, who cares, Undertaker throws Mick Foley (let’s personalize him here for effect) off the top of the goddamn cell threw an announce table. Of course I’d seen this several times before in, like, every WWF highlight package, but jeez, the shock value just doesn’t go away. Mick Foley, Mrs. Foley’s little boy, falls off a ginormous steel structure through a table, and for all intents and purposes he dies. He doesn’t, but it sure she seems like he did. That was before the match even “started,” and Foley gets stretched away and we go on to the next match, still with our mouths agape. Except that’s not what happens, and seeing that moment I never even thought of, I just assumed that was at the end of things, nope, Foely comes back and wrestles a full match and eventually gets put through the top of the cell. Like, man, Foley gets insane credit for this, but wrestling a full match after that is insanity. And then he comes out for the Austin/Kane main event, too! Incredible. This was actually really a great pay-per-view all the way through, and shouldn’t be remembered just for that “gimmick” moment.

If this was Austin’s year, The Rock was just behind, he was just getting his character’s mannerisms down and would start the great beginnings of his feud/partnership thing with Mankind. Like 1997, it was fun watching him become this character that would define the generation and eventually become larger than WWF and wrestling would ever imagine. The Rock was just beginning to pop off, but obviously Austin was running around, but I think it gave him time to bubble under, really get to know his character and be immediately ready to transition into the main event picture in little time, and the fans just starting to go crazy for him more and more where in the coming year he’d get Austin level responses. His Mankind feud was really fun, with these two polarizing characters and was a great storyline between the two, playing well off of each other leading into the coming years.

This was also the true coming out party of D-Generation X, who really started the whole random stupid throwaway comedy that WWF would constantly come back to. They were basically a frat that just went around and caused mayhem, making dumb jokes and occasionally beating people down. Really planting the seeds for Triple H to break away from the group. He had an awesome little feud with The Rock, which culminated in a fantastic ladder match at SummerSlam, but unfortunately saw Triple H go down with an injury that put him out for the rest of the year, really squandering that push and momentum he had.

The official “main player” aspect of Kane really kicked off here, with him slowly edging out of only being associated with the Undertaker and feuding solely with him. As cool as the Undertaker/Kane feud was to begin with, where it started in 1997, but actually picked up in this year, it eventually wore out it’s welcome for the time being, so it was nice to see Kane involved with others. Even if it just was adding Stone Cold for a bit, since he obviously elevated anybody who he was with.

I don’t know if I fully articulated it here, but I had a ton of fun with this year, where no matter how you slice it, the Attitude Era that we know is fully underway. Stone Cold was the through-line through the whole year, especially going against Mr. McMahon, and was certainly what catapulted this whole time period into the stratosphere. Future main-eventers like Triple H and The Rock were just getting their characters in full order like we remember them, and were just getting ready to explode in the coming year.

WWF Attitude Era: 1997

WWF Attitude Era: 1997

WWF Attitude Era: 1997

So, basically those 1,500 words that you probably didn’t read from the previous post I didn’t intend to write. I just originally intended to write some background on me and wrestling since I legit haven’t mentioned it anywhere on this blog before, I think? Anyways, whatever, we’re gonna talk about the Attitude era now, which is much more fun than me trying to break down wrestling into a connection to my childhood and growing up and all that.

The Attitude era is the idea of wrestling that people think of when they have no clue about wrestling or don’t follow it. It was the advent of “adult” themes including increased violence, sexuality (exploiting women to the absolute nth degree), swearing etc. You know, basically all that good stuff that pre-teen boys strive for in everything. It’s also the era of stars that everybody knows and that were arguably the most famous and actually transcended into modern everyday culture. You got your The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Undertaker as the big ones that put it into the stratosphere. You ask some rando on the street who doesn’t know about wrestling to name a wrestler and 9/10’s it’ll be one of these guys. We’re pretending Hulk Hogan doesn’t exist.

Now I grew up in the Ruthless Aggression, spanning somewhere around 2002-2006, and I love it because of my previous nostalgia attached to it in my childhood, but of course the Attitude era reigns over all. I missed it and never got to see any of it live, although I’ve experienced a lot of it through various clips, reading, video games and all that. But now with this new fangled Internet thing, I can go back and watch it all, and I have nothing better to do, so that’s what I’ve been doing. People always drone on about how great the era was, and c’mon, mainly just because it was so exploitive and did crazy shit, how about the wrestling, was it actually any good?

Nobody can really agree on when the Attitude era began. Some say it was when Stone Cold won the King Of The Ring in 1996, some say the start of 1997, some say the Montreal Screwjob in November of ’97, some say after WrestleMania XIV in March of 1998. I could not settle on a definitive answer, and everybody had their own definition, so because I’m OCD and couldn’t just start randomly mid-year I started from the first Monday Night RAW episode of January and started my trek.

This is not gonna be a sequential post going through the 1997 Attitude era year in order, because honestly I finished it like a month + ago and am just writing about it now. Anyways, to skip ahead, I found my answer, the vast majority of 1997 I would not consider the Attitude Era. It was definitely a major transitional time into the era, but never would fully become it until 1998 when it just snowballed so fast into it. But, yes, for sure, November of 1997 is when they changed the logo and that definitely was the vast catalyst that sped the process up.

Take for instance Triple H, or I guess Hunter Hearst Helmsley at this time and The Rock, or I guess Rocky Maivia at this time, they were stuck in their old gimmicks and at the start of the year weren’t even close to being the stars we know of them from the era now. That’s why 1997 was so cool, because I could see the small, subtle changes in front of my eyes that would grow into massive changes for these characters, storylines and even arena set-ups. It wasn’t the Attitude era per’se, but it was fascinating watching everything slowly loosen up and fall into the new era. Triple H was always a dick, but he started off as an elitist country club like kid, then in November with the forming of D-Generation-X became an anti-authority dick. Rocky Maivia was this wrestler who didn’t talk and who was only spoke of because of his father, nothing really about what HE actually did. The seeds were planted for these characters, and they would all sprout before anyone really knew it.

But, as you do in wrestling you always like to say “It was the year of ______” if you think of this time who do you think of? And 1997 was definitely Bret Hart and to a slightly lesser degree Shawn Michaels. Hart was by far the focal point of the year, beginning as the the face that everybody loved into the heel that everybody hated. And of course this all culminated in possibly THE defining moment in WWE history, the Montreal Screwjob. This was my first time watching it, and with everything that was built up to it over the years and everything I heard about it, the match itself was pretty underwhelming, although granted the actual match isn’t why the event is remembered, with the finish and all the backstage politics making it what it was. Just watching it in and of itself, with zero outside context and obviously not watching it during the time period and the behind-the-scenes stuff it’s hard to take all the context of it, but it’s still an incredible turning point for the company and the one which catapulted Vince McMahon, the wrestling promoter owner, to Vince McMahon the larger than life antagonistic boss character that would rule over the company in storylines for the next several years.

This review/recap thing, because I wrote it is obviously not in sequential order, so I’m just going to throw out some random thoughts that didn’t really deserve their own paragraph or whatever. I’m so used to wrestling nowadays where they build up a feud or have a reason for people fighting (if amazingly flimsy), but this year is completely different. In April/May they were all like “Uhhhh, Undertaker you’re randomly going to feud with Farooq for some reason, we don’t know why, but, uh, just go for it for a PPV.”

I always knew Ken Shamrock was in the WWF at some point, but I always just assumed it was come bit/celebrity-esque cameo for a pay-per-view or two. I didn’t know he was just legit a full-fledged wrestler on the program, jeez, as if I couldn’t hate him more.

As a Canadian/Albertan the focus of a pay-per-view at and around Calgary and the Stampede was super cool, and it also manages to be underratedly one of the best of the year. Obviously goes to the credit of how over the Hart’s were at this time and how they were the focal point of the year for the company. Ralph Klein was in attendance rocking a cowboy hate. What a year.

How does the first Hell In A Cell match with Shawn Michaels versus Undertaker at Badd Blood not get more shine, that match was incredible. It’s crazy how they nailed the essence and epicness of the Cell match on their first go at it. Just goes to show the quality that HBK/Taker always delivers, and hey, I heard they had a couple decent WrestleMania matches a few years later.

Match of the year was definitely Owen Hart versus British Bulldog for the European Championship. My god, the technician on display in this match, I haven’t seen much like it.

Oh, damn. How could I forget, actually scratch that match of the year statement I just made. Oh my god, Bret Hart/Steve Austin Submission match at Mania. This was a match of course I’ve heard of, and more accurately seen THAT image of, Austin’s faced bloodied screaming in agony after being in the sharpshooter from Bret. You just don’t forget images like that. And this match lived up to everything I’d heard of it and more. It’s just fantastic any way you shape it. Amazing technical wrestling from Hart, and even Austin, throw in some brawling to Austin’s favour, a little ring bell action, a great finish and the beginning of Hart’s heel turn. Damn, I think I might need to watch this again right now.

I guess that’s all I have to say. Granted I’m writing this quite a while removed from finishing this year, and have a couple more under my belt now (those write-ups are coming soon, I hope) and it was definitely an interesting watch. Coming in I wanted the sex and violence of the Attitude Era I’ve heard about all these years, but I came in a bit too early, but you know, I’m really glad I got this context and transition period. I grew up in modern day wrestling conditions and style, so the older stuff from the early 90s and earlier just fails to register with me often and frankly I get bored with it. I was afraid I would with this year when I saw how far removed it really was, I did at parts, but it was fascinating to watch how quickly the landscape of wrestling and weekly television changed for the WWF, how they groomed characters and subtly and not-so-subtly began shifting into the era that would define their product and produce their highest popularity of all time.