Fuck everything, right? I remarked to a friend, soon after the reality of 2016’s crushing blows to decency started to set in, that I needed to watch some wrestling since that was the only place where things make sense to me. For the most part, good guys and bad guys are pretty clearly laid out, and good usually wins out in the end. Outside of horror films, it’s my favorite way to escape, and boy howdy did 2016 require a shit-ton of escapism. These are the wrestling highlights of the year for me.
By Tyler Hodg
WWE Story Time, a collection of tales from former and current WWE wrestlers set to cartoon depictions, has proved itself to be a decent source of humor and entertainment within its two installments. The issues I had with the debut episode, such as the poorly rendered animation, subdued subject matter, and short length, have not been rectified; however, the stories themselves make the second episode better than its predecessor. For this reason, it’s best to examine the anecdotes individually, and to continue using this format with reviews of future episodes.
By Tyler Hodg
Shocking: WWE wrestlers have gotten themselves into some crazy situations on the road, and are fantastic at telling their tales. This is why WWE Story Time, a brand-new show on the WWE Network, is a brilliant concept; it features legendary Superstars sharing personal anecdotes over a cartoon reenactment. But despite the appropriate marriage of spoken word and visualization, there are too many minor issues with the show to want to “mark” out about it.
The lure of a colourful mask, high-flying and fast-paced energy, and over-the-top characters can’t be denied, even among non-fans of pro wrestling. Lucha libre, Mexico’s own brand of pro wrestling, is an intrinsic part of Mexican culture, and Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz’s documentary Lucha Mexico puts this phenomenon on full display, warts and all.
This whole batshit season of Lucha Underground, starting with the rise and fall of Mil Muertes, the introduction of the monster Matanza, and everything in between, has led to this moment. The final three episodes for the year comprise “Ultima Lucha Dos,” Lucha Underground’s season finale, and all the pieces are in place for some wild confrontations.
Doglegs co-founder, and star of the film, Shintaro Yano (ring name “Sambo” Shintaro) strikes a fighting pose. © Alfie Goodrich
Japanese wrestling or “puroresu” is a tradition that goes back to the 1950s, and is most closely associated with a more realistic, hard-hitting “strong style” than we normally see in Western pro wrestling, which is far more choreographed. Strikes usually land for real, though the intention is still primarily to put on a show, not actually hurt one’s opponent. The style is tough on the performers, and those that thrive in the competitive landscape of “puro” are considered some of the best and most resilient wrestlers in the business. Still, the style is often hard to watch, given what we know now about concussions and other injuries that can be commonplace in puro.
You can imagine, then, how hard it is to watch a puro match, not between able-bodied athletes in peak physical condition, but with disabled wrestlers. Heath Cozens’ Doglegs, a documentary about an eponymous group of mostly disabled Japanese wrestlers, is certainly difficult to sit through, but is ultimately worthwhile for its ability to wring triumph from tragedy.
This arc of Lucha Underground is the beginning of the drive to Ultima Lucha Dos, the second season finale of the show. It’s where all the established storylines are set to climax and, in some cases, converge. Last year’s two-part finale was the best episode of Lucha Underground so far, and did a great job of setting the wheels in motion for Season Two. Ultima Lucha Dos should be at least as explosive, based on the pieces being put into place.
It’s Good News/Bad News time. The good news is that I am submitting a chapter to an upcoming book anthology. The bad news is that the deadline is quickly approaching and I need to finish!
This means that Popshifter will be going on a bit of a break until June. In the meantime, please enjoy the following articles that you might have missed over the last couple of weeks.
What about movies? If you’re looking for something to see this weekend that is the exact opposite of The Nice Guys, you might try Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise. Tyler Hodg enjoyed the videogame adaptation of Rachet and Clank, while Christine Makepeace was appalled by the sexism in documentary All Dolled Up.
If you want music recommendations, look no further than Popshifter! Melissa Bratcher enjoyed the self-titled debut of Big Star’s Jody Stephens with Luther Russell, a.k.a. Those Pretty Wrongs; adores by Ominivore’s reissue of two albums from The Blind Boys Of Alabama; thinks the latest album from Gregg Martinez, Soul of the Bayou, is a charmer; and is thrilled by the way On The Ropes shows that the Honeycutters keep getting better.
Tim Murr thinks Black Absinthe could be as big as AC/DC after hearing Early Signs of Denial; Tyler fondly reminisces about Sloan’s album The Double Cross on its five-year anniversary and praises Royal Tusk for adding some spice to the frequently stale genre of rock on DealBreaker; and Eric Weber describes his history of discovering Divine’s music in his review of the Cherry Red Records anthology, Shoot Your Shot.
Finally, Sachin Hingoo catches us up with what’s happening on Lucha Underground.
Hey, I just met you,
and this is crazy,
loves lucha libre!
It’s been a few weeks since we’ve visited the Temple, and with Dario Cueto back in control and his feral brother Matanza as champion, the whole show has a different feel. Gone is Mil Muertes looming over the Temple on his throne and the candles and other spooky touches Catrina put in Dario’s office. Instead we’re back to having live bands play us into the shows and a general feeling that chaotic violence can erupt at any time. I have to say that I’m glad to have Dario back in the backstage vignettes in particular, because he’s a much better actor than Catrina and has his sadistic douchebag character down pat.
On this episode of TV or GTFO, Gary and Sachin review the 1994 Hulk Hogan vanity project, Thunder In Paradise! Is Hulk Hogan that kid’s real dad? How big is that boat, anyway? Why is so much of this show echoed in Hulk’s recent real-life Gawker controversy? Will he ever take off that bandana? Find out this week on TV OR GTFO!