Monday, September 26, 2016


When I wrapped up my series of blogs covering the first six Rocky films last year I stated I would return to this franchise again covering the then-unreleased seventh film in the franchise, 2015’s Creed (trailer). I just finished a second viewing of the film on BluRay, so it is now time to see if this contemporary take on the classic line of boxing films lives up to the brand’s pedigree.

In case you missed the premise behind Creed, it takes place in the present several years after Rocky Balboa. Even though that film ended on a high note Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is back to being lonely and down in the dumps. His son moved out to Vancouver, his best friend and brother-in-law Paulie has passed away and his newfound friends from the previous film, Marie and her son Steps are nowhere to be seen with no explanation for their absence in this film which I found beyond baffling.

The focus though is not on Rocky who we do not even see until about 20 minutes into the film. Instead this film is centered on the illegitimate son of Rocky’s former rival/friend, Apollo Creed who goes by Adonis/Donnie Johnson (Michael B. Jordan). After a couple early rough childhood flashbacks, we see Donnie just does not have the heart to stay at his office job in LA while he moonlights in the underground boxing scene in Tijuana. After local trainers blackball him for getting professional training, Donnie decides to move to Philly and convinces Rocky to take him under his wing.

Sylvester Stallone gives up the director’s chair to Ryan Coogler, and it is immediately noticeable the contrast between his version of a Rocky movie and a traditional one. This one has a more gritty/street feel to it, and as much as I love the past films, I especially enjoyed Coogler’s vision for the film as his cinematography changes felt more organic and not forced. Rest assured there are still plenty of vintage Rocky moments like a gratuitous amount of training montages along with the expected trademark Bill Conti songs. I do not want to give too much away, but Creed does not shoehorn the classic songs in throughout the film like some may expect and instead saves them for pivotal scenes in the movie that only amplified the scene when I realized that over half the film went by before they were implemented.

This would not be a Rocky film without a romance angle and Donnie’s love interest in this film is his neighbor Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Their scenes developing their relationship feel both different and similar to how Rocky and Adrian first started seeing each other in the very first film. By the film’s end Bianca proves to be just as instrumental for Donnie’s success as Adrian was for Rocky.

Halfway through the film we are treated to the first of the film’s two big fights where Donnie faces off against Leo Sporino (Gabe Rosado). I have never seen a fight shot like this in a movie to the best of my recollection. The best way I can describe it is like there is a stationary camera between the two fighters and it is constantly spinning around with a new dynamic camera angle on one of the fighters kind of like the camera in the classic game Punch-Out! It is incredibly effective at making me feel like you were right there in the fight, and I can only tip my hat for the filmmakers being so brazen to stick with this unique camera shot throughout the entire fight.

Of course the big draw of the film is Donnie’s headline fight against world champion, “Pretty” Ricky Conlon (Tony Bellew). Creed does a fine job antagonizing him by setting him up as a boxer who has one last fight scheduled before he goes to prison for making a terrible mistake, and he wants to capitalize on Donnie’s name by having one more big payday to set up his family before he gets locked up.

The build up to the headline fight hits all the right notes, and if you have seen past Rocky films then you know what to expect, but this time expect a contemporary take courtesy of Coogler. If you watched the previews, then you know both Donnie and Rocky have challenges they both have to overcome before the big fight night. The film makes sure to deliver plenty of emotional montages that got me all psyched up going into the last fight, and just like in Rocky Balboa they have quite a nice professional broadcast setup thanks to a partnership with HBO Sports. Like most Rocky films, expect a main event fight that goes the distance with a lot of highs and lows for both combatants in the ring complete with nasty gashes, cuts, buckets (literally!) of blood and stunning knockdowns. It is easily a championship fight worthy of the Rocky pedigree.

There are only a few extras on the BluRay. There are 20 minutes of deleted scenes. None are really all that must see, and I can see why they were cut as they mostly were there to help set up the backstory going into the first act of the film. There are two behind-the-scenes features that are both must see however. Becoming Adonis is about the intense year-long training Michael B. Jordan went to transform into Adonis Creed. Know the Past, Own the Future interviews most of the cast and crew about the history of Rocky and how Creed is essentially about passing the Rocky torch to a new generation.

The Rocky films are just as imperative to sports films as they were when the first one hit over 40 years ago. Creed excels in spades, and then some at continuing the Rocky legacy of the ultimate underdog story. My only nitpick is why Rocky’s son is only briefly mentioned in the film when I expected to see him at least make a cameo in the film’s final act and why the new characters introduced in the last film are not even officially recognized here. Minus that gripe, I am thumbs up all the way with Creed. I hope to see Michael B. Jordan carry the Creed torch for at least a couple more films for a new generation of movie-goers.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
The Condemned 2
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Monday, September 12, 2016

RoH Supercard of Honor X Nights 1 & 2

Welcome readers to my annual blog dedicated to the top indie wrestling company in America, Ring of Honor (RoH). I use to buy way too many RoH DVDs, but the last several years I restricted myself to just their Supercard of Honor (SoH) show that usually transpires in the same location and weekend of Wrestlemania each year. 2016 marked the 10th SoH show, and it occurred the same weekend and location as Wrestlemania 32 in Dallas, TX. For the first time in SoH history, it got the “Night 1 & Night 2” treatment that RoH usually reserves for only a few of their marquee events each year. So this blog will be dedicated to covering both night one and two of SoH X.

Starting off with night one of SoH X, the DVD has a bonus preliminary women’s tag match of Mandy Leon & Solo Darling against Amber Gallows & Deonna Purrazzo. Darling is the first wrestling furry I believe to see compete in the ring, and Gallows is part of the white hot Bullet Club faction out of Japan that RoH is allowed to use in their company. Nothing too special out of this bout as the crowd was still filing in and could not get into it, but at least the match did have a pretty impressive double submission finish. I should also mention for both of these shows Kevin Kelly and Mr. Wrestling 3 (Steve Corino under a mask doing as good a job admitting he is not Corino as Owen Hart did admitting he was not the Blue Blazer) are the announcers.

Now let us move on to the main card of night one. The first official match saw Christopher Daniels against Bobby Fish. Been awhile since I saw Daniels and it is astonishing since I saw him on RoH’s first official show in 2002 that it looks like he has not aged a year! I am also digging his new World War I-inspired entrance attire. Bobby Fish delivered a moonsault as good as Daniels! Daniels wound up missing his moonsault though and Fish capitalized with an ankle lock submission for the win in a good opening bout. Next, the RoH star that simply will not leave, Roderick Strong took on Moose. Strong is still as dull as ever, but Moose however has “it” and I was almost instantly won over by him and surprised that he made the Diesel ‘choo choo’ taunt cool again after The Rock made that seemed almost impossible back in 2002. Even though I was on Moose’s side, it was Strong who got the win by doing his only noteworthy feat of the match, which were several brutal consecutive high knee strikes.

Next up was a six man scramble between Don Dijak, Cheeseburger, Adam Page, Kazarian, Dalton Castle and Don Diego. This match suffered with too much hokey comedy due to the nature of Dalton Castle’s character, who wound up getting the win by pinning the lovable underdog, Cheeseburger. I was glad to see Matt Sydal back in action for the first time since he was teaming up with Kofi Kingston as Evan Bourne several years ago. Sydal still is a capable high flyer, but he had a technical focused match here against Kyle ‘o Reilly. We did get to see Sydal perform his trademark Shooting Star Press, but it missed and Reilly got the win with a Kimura submission.

RoH in recent years finally got their own in-house music for wrestlers, or sign contracts with up-and-coming indie bands to perform wrestler’s themes. However, most of them do not match up with the wrestler’s personality at all. WWE is far better at matching the intensity of entrance themes to a wrestler’s character while it seems RoH lets the talent pick their entrance music. I am presuming this results in the RoH talent picking something they like personally, but more often than not sounds like something their character would not walk out to the ring to. One of the few exceptions is for ACH, I am down with his entrance music and it actually helped him get over quicker with me. Unfortunately his music did not lead him to victory as he lost in night one to Adam Cole after a dastardly low blow/neckbreaker combo.

Next up was an eight man tag with the Briscoes & War Machine against All Night Express, Beer City Bruiser & Silas Young. This was my first exposure to the Beer City Bruiser, who looks like a modern day Dick Murdoch but somehow is capable of all kinds of flips that should not be possible for someone of his body type. Glad to see Silas Young back too and that he is still keeping the ‘80s Scott Hall look alive. This bout was enjoyable nonstop chaos with countless flips and dives, but delivered in a more lighthearted fashion to the crowd’s delight due to the nature of the personalities involved. The Briscoes and War Machine went to the pay window after Mark pinned the Bruiser with his Frog Elbow off the top turnbuckle.

The world title was on the line next with Jay Lethal defending against newcomer Lio Rush. Rush won RoH’s annual top prospect tournament and got a world title shot in return. This match told a convincing story of Rush being the rookie underdog who did not stand a chance against longtime champion Lethal, but somehow managed to not go down without a fight. Eventually Rush got pinned after the Lethal Injection. Lethal called out the locker room for a new challenger, and out came Colt Cabana making his RoH return after several years away. Colt delivered a passionate promo detailing why he came back and why he loves RoH. His promo actually threw me off though because I always remembered Colt as being more of a comedy act like Santino Marella, and this kind of mic work just did not sit right with me initially.

The main event saw the Young Bucks against the Motor City Machine Guns. I was actually looking forward to this match since I remember really digging both of these teams’ work in TNA. A year or two back I remember the Young Bucks being badasses from their last RoH work I saw, so I was bummed to see how they now evolved into Bullet Club members who just do ripoff DX and nWo taunts throughout their matches and deliver over a dozen superkicks a match, all while Corino gratingly yells out on commentary the name of the move each time. It got old quick and seemed to be there more for the die-hard RoH fans amusement, but in a turnoff kind of way that the NXT Full Sail fans can be guilty of a lot with their antics at times. Granted, there were a lot of impressive spots in here throughout, but a lot of it suffered with too much being telegraphed, and very little selling at all, and both teams just seeming to be way more into the goofy hijinx that overstayed their welcome. Eventually, the Young Bucks got the win with their finisher, the Meltzer Driver.

That wrapped up night one, which had a couple solid mid-card matches, but the first night definitely felt disappointing with too many matches trying hard for laughs. My two matches of the night went to Letal/Rush and the eight man tag. The DVD bonus preliminary match for night two saw Shane Taylor & Keith Lee beat Shaheem Ali & Ken Phoenix after a nice looking elevation powerbomb for the pin.

Jay Lethal was not advertised for night two, but he opened up the show rebutting Colt’s promo and wanted to prove himself as a worthy champion and so he gave an instant world title shot to…..Cheeseburger. The underdog accepted the match, but he was far less of a challenge than Rush was the night before and Lethal made quick work of him within a couple minutes and pinned him after a Lethal Injection. This did not sit well with Cabana who came out and baited Lethal into another impromptu match, but this one was not for the title. The two wildly brawl all over the arena for just a few minutes until Colt got a surprise roll-up for the win. Colt actually had a really good serious demeanor on him here and the previous night and showed a lot of good fire here that by the time he got the win here actually got me on his side and made me want to see him take on Lethal in an actual title match.

The next bout saw ACH & Matt Sydal defeat the All Night Express after ACH got the pin with his Midnight Splash off the top turnbuckle in a really good, electric tag match that never let up. The show was on a roll so far, but the following match between Will Ferrara against Donovan Dijak dragged it down a couple notches after Dijak had a couple nasty looking botches that took away from the match. Dijak proceeded to botch the finishing sequence and had to redo it all over again so he could walk away with the pin.

RoH must have known of my ‘praise’ for Strong and rewarded me with a two-out-of-three-falls match between him and Bobby Fish. The first two falls saw both Fish and Strong dominating for long stretches of time, only to see the other man catch a lucky break for a surprise pin. I will give both guys credit though for having a convincing final fall that saw Bobby Fish wind up victorious after a heel hook submission. Next up we had RoH star P-Dog trying to recapture the 2003 magic of John Cena’s ‘thuganomics’ era rapping his way down to the ring with his posse, but thankfully Moose let that die down quickly and demolished P-Dog and his entire crew to the crowd’s appreciation.

I was ecstatic to see Silas Young and the Beer City Bruiser challenge for the tag titles against War Machine next. It was an entertaining big man slugfest, with an occasional flip from the Bruiser to keep us on our feet. Unfortunately it was not enough as War Machine retained after their Fallout finisher. BJ Whitmer and Dalton Castle competed next. For what it is worth I am actually kind of enjoying how BJ Whitmer has now evolved into this rugged veteran with a chip on his shoulder. Castle got the win after a roll up from a distracted Whitmer. This match suffered again from Castle overdoing it on his shtick.

The semi-main event was a fatal four way tag match between the Addiction, Briscoes, Motor City Machine Guns and Young Bucks. This match was just all over the place and there were parts I really liked and other parts I despised. There were moments where the teams were on a roll with nonstop awesome spots that had me popping and others that seemed too dumb and telegraphed. There were also random moments where the teams decided to follow tag rules and longer durations where they did not, and the ref did not make a modicum of an effort to enforce the tag rules at all in the match. This actually got me appreciating the WWE refs more because they actually enforce the rules in the matches to give a more sports-like feel so you do not get some of the ludicrous moments this match suffered from. Despite all that, I was relieved to see the Briscoes get the win in this crazy affair after they hit their Doomsday finisher.

The main event for night two saw the end of a longstanding feud between Adam Cole and Kyle ‘o Reilly in a no holds barred match. This match started off with a lot of brawling all over the arena. Night two had the same theme of the first night where it seemed the main event was the only match that allowed actual selling of moves. There were a few creative submissions in here such as Cole getting an ankle lock with a chair in a way I never thought possible and Reilly getting the submission win after using a chain to enhance an armbar. Pretty good main event, but I will give the slight nod to night one having a better closing match. Overall though, I enjoyed night two’s offerings more as the comedy aspects as a whole seemed used more sparingly and effectively here and just a better paced show overall. If you had to get just one Supercard of Honor X DVD, definitely get night two as night one is easily skip-able.

Also props to RoH for maintaining a decent lighting setup in the ring entrance and ring itself. It was only a couple years ago where it looked like RoH were still using the same ancient thrift store spotlights for their lighting when the company started in 2002 and their current setup helps their in ring product stand out exponentially more. They are only a notch or two under TNA/Impact Wrestling lighting quality now, which may not sound like much, but watch a SoH from just a few years ago, and trust me it is a big step up.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Biggest Knuckleheads
Bobby The Brain Heenan
Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes Yes Yes
Dusty Rhodes WWE Network Specials
ECW Unreleased: Vol 1
ECW Unreleased: Vol 2
ECW Unreleased: Vol 3
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Its Good to Be the King: The Jerry Lawler Story
Ladies and Gentlemen My Name is Paul Heyman
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
Macho Man: The Randy Savage Story
Memphis Heat
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
RoH Supercard of Honor VII
RoH Supercard of Honor VIII
RoH Supercard of Honor IX
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Sting: Into the Light
Superstar Collection: Zach Ryder
Top 50 Superstars of All Time
Tough Enough: Million Dollar Season
True Giants
Warrior Week on WWE Network
Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
Wrestlemania 28
Wrestlemania 29
Wrestlemania 30
Wrestlemania 31
The Wrestler (2008)
Wrestling Road Diaries Too
Wrestlings Greatest Factions
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials Second Half 2015
WWE Network Original Specials First Half 2016