Sunday, April 22, 2018

Comic Review: 'The Infinity Gauntlet' (1991)

Just in time for the much ballyhooed Avengers movie, The Internet Is In America reflects on one of the most important crossover events in comic book history

By: Jimbo X

In just a few days Infinity War is going to be released, and odds are it'll shatter all-time Hollywood box office records. Indeed, the over/under right now is actually plus a good $100-$200 million that it will break the all-time record for highest-grossing film in Hollywood history. Indeed, if the movie doesn't hit at least $2 billion in global ticket sales it would be considered a huge surprise.

You don't need me to add any more fuel to the conflagration of hype. By now, we all know the story of how the suits at Disney brilliantly turned their standalone movies into one gigantic, interconnected uber-franchise the likes of which filmdom has never seen before, and for better or for worse, Infinity War represents the endpoint of what started ten years ago with Iron Man. This is the carefully laid out culmination of ten years' worth of behind-the-scenes planning and you better believe Disney is throwing out everything they've got on this one. They've probably spent a billion dollars making and marketing this motherfucker, and they fully expect to recoup their investments and then some. Everything Justice League wasn't, this sumbitch is going to be — needless to say, it's going to be a long time before we see a Hollywood production with THIS much hullabaloo heading into its release.

Now, while the movie is called Infinity War, from what I've gathered the flick isn't really based upon the comic of the same name, but its predecessor from 1991, The Infinity Gauntlet, which even now remains one of the most revered and celebrated crossover spectacles in comic book history.

Now THAT is how you make a
crossover feel like a truly special
And for good reason. While Marvel characters had teamed up many teams before in earlier comics (The Secret Wars being perhaps the most noteworthy example), The Infinity Gauntlet upped the ante by increasing the scale to cosmological levels. This wasn't just Spider-Man and Thor teaming up to fight Dr. Doom, this was goddamn everybody in the Marvel Universe coming together to take on a dude who had godlike powers and was on a suicide mission to literally kill every living thing in the universe. Not only did you have heavies like Dr. Strange, The Hulk and Galactus getting in on the action, you even had the rarely seen Celestial characters like Eternity and The Living Tribunal entering the fray to mix shit up. Nobody had really tried doing a crossover event that big before, and to be frank, I don't think anybody has done it as well ever since.

Written by Jim Starlin (the guy who pretty much single-handedly created the "space opera" side of the Marvel universe through his work on Silver Silver and Captain Marvel) and drawn by George (The New motherfuckin' Teen Titans, ya'll) Perez — with utterly fantastic inking from Josef Rubinstein and Tom Christopher — there's no denying Infinity Gauntlet is a worthwhile read, if just for the trippy-as-fuck, hyper-colorful artwork.

But in case you haven't read the thing before heading into the big Avengers movie ... and for some stupid ass-reason you can't find the fucker online ... old Jimbo is here for you to fill in the blanks. Grab yourselves a nice, cold cola and prop up your legs, folks — here's the Internet Is In America-approved CliffsNotes version of the epic mini-series.

Alright, issue one. Mephisto (that's Marvel's pseudo-family-safe way of saying "Satan") is sucking up to Thanos. To pay tribute to his divine powers, Mephisto makes a giant space rock statue saying "God" — which Thanos immediately crumbles into dust using his Infinity Gauntlet powers.

We cut to Doctor Strange, who detects someone is trying to break into his mansion. As it turns out, it's a half-dead Silver Surfer who just crashed through his roof, warning him of Thanos' plans to take over Earth. Surfer gives us the backstory on Thanos; the living embodiment of Death was a little miffed that there were more people alive than who had ever died on the planet, so she decided to resurrect Thanos from the dead and give him godlike powers to "balance out the equation."

Then we cut to a trio of hoods (Jake Miller, Ralph Bunker and Bambi Long) knocking off a liquor store, killing the clerk and accidentally driving their car off a cliff and killing themselves. Huh. That seems like a really, really random thing to include. Surely, we won't be revisiting this seeming aside a little later in the series, will we?

Surfer continues to recount his ass kicking from Thanos to Strange. He says he and Drax the Destroyer LITERALLY had their souls stolen by Thanos and banished to "the metaphysical world of the soul gem." Apparently, Adam Warlock is the President of Soul-World and returned Surfer and the Destroyer to their corporeal existences. Surfer also implies that Mephisto TOLD him that Thanos was coming, which I guess makes him a turncoat. Anyhoo, Thanos goes to Death-World and asks Lady Death if she's forgiven him for stealing the Infinity Gems and she just walks off and he looks all forlorn and Mephisto says he doesn't deserve to be treated any such a way.

OK, back to some guy smoking a cigar talking about the car crash from earlier. Well, SOME kind of celestial intervention resurrected the trio from the dead, and that Jake guy apparently has the ability to control matter now. That Ralph guy is all mutated and burned up like that one dude in Robocop, while that one chick is literally turning green.

Meanwhile, Mephisto keeps sucking up to Thanos and it seems like he's cooking up some plan to cajole him out of his powers at some point. Meanwhile, Thanos is still severely pussy-whipped over Death, who doesn't love him back even though he's the supreme being of the universe. As one of Death's servants so eloquently puts it: "you love is bondage," to which Thanos retorts "my love is worship!" So Thanos builds this giant crystal space temple and asks Death to be his co-pilot in dealing destruction throughout the cosmos, but she still rejects him. Then Mephisto gets in his ear and tells him if he REALLY wants to impress her, he's got to REALLY up the body count. And, of course, he is MORE than willing to oblige. But first, he tries to impress her by showing the zombified remains of his granddaughter, Nebula, whom Thanos describes as a "tribute to the blasphemy of life and the glorious promise of death." That STILL doesn't impress Death, though, so Thanos gets pissed and causes one of her servants to explode. Then Thanos remembers "hey, wait a minute, the whole reason she brought me back was to kill half the universe, so I better get to killing half the universe then." To which Mephisto replies: "He's really going to do it" with a GREAT "oh shit" look on his face.

Hmm ... two black people, being rescued while one of Trump's hotels gets decimated in a tidal wave. I wonder if Starlin and Perez knew what kind of connotation the future political landscape in America would give this one in hindsight?

Thanos snaps his fingers and we cut to Spider-Man looking down on Times Square. All of a sudden, half the people on the city streets vanish, just like the biblical Rapture, and everybody starts freaking out. Then Spider-Man starts freaking out thinking about Mary Jane, and that's our cue to take a tour of the expanded Marvel Universe, and we get to see frenzied reaction shots from Captain America, Nick Fury (back when he was still white) and The Incredible Hulk, among others. We also learn that half the animal life on the planet has disappeared, too, which I guess would wreak havoc on the going rate for prime rib. But I digress, and wildly.

Then we cut to the Titans (and no, not the ones from Tennessee, either), who fittingly enough, live on Saturn's moon, Titan. For those not in the know, they're kind of like an Outer Space Thanos-monitoring service. And, uh, they're watching ALF, for whatever reason. We learn that mysterious disappearances are happening on alien worlds too, and then that one fat dude who got killed in a car wreck and resurrected walks into his partner's hotel room and now he's in a giant beehive. Uh ... the fuck. Naturally, that's our cliffhanger transition to issue two.

Thor, She-Hulk and the Vision are trying to keep planes from falling out of the sky and Quasar is ... umm, doing whatever Quasar is supposed to do, I guess. Meanwhile, the Skrulls think the Krees are responsible for the disappearances, so they're both gearing up for a huge outer space war. Meanwhile, Adam Warlock tries to take over Doctor Strange's soul, and Dr. Doom is all shades of pissed that somebody is actually outdoing him in the whole giga-death thing.

Then Thanos abducts his brother Eros and makes his mouth disappear, just because he can. 

Captain America gives us an update on the disappearing heroes, and the list includes such five-star F-listers as Makkari, Marvel Boy, Night Thrasher and Windshear. Meanwhile, Thor kvetches about the rest of the group finding out he's not the "real" Thor, but I have no idea what the fuck he's talking about there. Meanwhile, Odin calls a council of "the Sky Fathers" — including Osiris, Zeus and Nuada — and they all decide to join forces to resist Thanos' invasion.
Fuck, man, can't we get Perez to draw
everything Marvel related from now on?

Quasar is still flying around the cosmos looking for something, and we learn that short, fat cigar-smoking dude from earlier is actually Pip the Troll and, what do you know, he's watching ALF, too. Goodness gracious, what was it with Jim Starlin and ALF, anyway?

Dr. Doom breaks into Strange's house and subdues the owner before blasting the Surfer. Then ADAM WARLOCK shows up and that gets everybody's attention and then we cut back to Thanos in his outer space death ship. Eros thinks aloud that maybe all of that limitless power has driven Thanos insane, thus earning him the "No Shit, Sherlock" award of all-time ever in history.

Adam Warlock proposes he, Doom, Strange and the Surfer form an alliance as "the forces of reason" and Thanos gets so pissed Death won't smile at him that he makes a fucking red giant explode. Which kind of pisses off Galactus because he was about to eat it, but even *he* knows not to fuck with Thanos when he's this powerful. 

We cut to Cloak bemoaning how lost he is without Dagger by his side (by the way, I strongly encourage you to listen to while reading this ... the mood it establishes is almost too perfect.) Elsewhere, Wolverine saves a woman from being crushed by a falling building and Iron Man watches the ENTIRE West Coast of the U.S. crumble into the ocean.

Then Namorita saves a young black couple in Atlantic City from a mile high tsunami, and of course, one of Trump's hotels gets swept away in the tidal wave. And Thor flies over what remains of Japan ... which is fucking nothing whatsoever. The "Fantastic Four" of Strange, Doom, Surfer and Warlock step outside and the entire neighborhood is destroyed. Pip says something must have really tee'd off the gods and Warlock responds by saying something to the effect of "exactly." 

Issue three begins. Thanos STILL isn't getting no Death pussy and a scientist tells Fury that the Earth has been knocked off its orbit and is slowly drifting away from the sun. Then Warlock and company teleport into Avengers' headquarters and starts assembling a superhero mega-team to go toe-to-toe with Thanos. We've got 'em all joining the fray: Wolverine, Drax the Destroyer (who, instead of being autistic like he is in the movies, is just canonically stupid), Firelord, Spider-Man and ... Nova. One of these, clearly, is not like the other.

If you don't want this is a four-foot-wide poster in your bedroom, you are the definition of soy.

We cut to Moon Night, of all fucking people, watching the Brooklyn Bridge burning to the ground. Then Surfer and Warlock head out into the vastness of the cosmos to assemble the rest of their team, which includes the Watcher, the Stranger, the physical embodiment of Love and Hate, Galactus and even The Living Tribunal himself, who is canonically the most powerful being in the Marvel universe, to the point he pretty much could be considered the "God" of Marvel-dom. Alas, the Tribunal, Eternity and the Watcher all tell Warlock they're not going to participate in the big battle, and Galactus tries to zap Warlock but he no-sells it.

Meanwhile Iron Man almost gets into it with Dr. Doom but Captain America breaks up the scuffle, then the Watcher just hoovers over Thanos' compound staring at him in what WOULD'VE been one of the greatest scenes in movie history had the MCU taken a more direct approach to its cinematic source material. 

Warlock tells Hulk and Wolverine to "sanction" Thanos because all of the other superheroes are too pussy to try to kill him, then Thanos summons Terraxia the Terrible to make out with him in front of Death to make her jealous, but she doesn't even bat an eye and that makes Thanos even more furious than ever.

Then the siege on Thanos' compound begins and Warlock tells Surfer he KNOWS they're all going to die but he led them into their demises on purpose so it would buy him a distraction. 

Cue issue four (which features a great cover of Thanos standing in the middle of the emptiness of space, saying "Come and Get Me!" like he has the biggest damn dick in the universe.)

BTW, Ron Lim is doing some pencils on this one. 
I honestly have no clue what's
supposed to be going on, but man,
does it look awesome.

"What good is godhood if you have no audience to flaunt it before," Eros describes Thanos' mentality. Then Mephisto gets in Thanos' ear and tells him to use his godlike abilities to allow the heroes a .05 percent chance of victory to make himself look braver in Death's eyes. So basically, he's still all-powerful, but he doesn't know his enemies' next attack for the big battle.

Hulk and Drax double team Thanos and send him reeling with a sneak attack (this part HAS to be in the movie.)

Thanos kills Namor and She-Hulk with some sort of outer space fungus cocoon. Then Thanos liquifies Wolverine's bones with a bear hug. Scarlet Witch gets vaporized. He suffocates Cyclops by making a giant glass box materialize over his head and he yanks the circuitry right out of The Vision's chest. And Thor reverts back to human form and suffocates in the cold, blackness of the universe. Oh, by the way, the heroes have 60 minutes to finish off Thanos or else they'll lose their ability to breathe in space. So, the clock, it doth continue to tick.

Cloak sucks Thanos into the nightmare dimension in his chest, but he quickly explodes his way out. Meanwile, Terraxia yanks Iron Man's head off. Thanos sends Firelord and Drax back to the prehistoric ages through a time portal and Thor finally gets his hammer back, thus resurrecting him. Alas, before he can land the death blow, Thanos turns him into glass, Spider-Man calls Terraxia a bimbo and Nova gets turned into a pile of Lego (no, for real.) Then Thanos shatters Thor and makes Quasar's hands explode. That leaves Captain America as the sole survivor against Thanos. Right before Thanos delivers the death strike, Silver Surfer and Warlock rush in to make the save.

Unfortunately, the Surfer misses yanking off Thanos' gauntlet by >>>this much<<< and Thanos drops Cap dead with one mighty bitch slap. And that's when Warlock calls in the infantry — a whole fucking cadre of Celestials, including Eternity and Galactus!

Time for issue five. Ron Lim has taken over full penciling details from George Perez, by the way.

Personally, I always liked Drax the Destroyer when he looked like the Green Goblin on HGH instead of Kratos' autistic nephew.

So Doctor Strange is playing armchair general in some far away galaxy while Annihilus invades an iced over Earth. Meanwhile, Death saves Eros from getting sucked into a black hole and the Surfer and Warlock have to outrun the universe literally collapsing. Chronos tries to bury Thanos UNDER time, but since one of his gems gives him mastery of time itself, the narrator (The Watcher?) says "it be like striving to drown an ocean."

Then Lord Order and Master Chaos try to rip Thanos in two. Then Mistress Love and Sire Hate tag team him, and Mephisto FINALLY takes the initiative and tries to steal the Gauntlet from Thanos, but he's saved by Mistress Death at the last second. Then Thanos and Eternity get into it and when they start scrapping a fucking white light takes over half the universe. Warlock and Surfer teleport back to Strange's stronghold, and The Watcher waxes philosophical on tyrants: "The nature of energy is to disperse. The nature of despots is to contain. Conflicting tendencies."

Then Thanos BEATS Eternity in battle and traps all the other Celestials in a giant outer space snow globe. Per The Watcher, Thanos is now "the center of all reality in this sphere."

And then, out of nowhere, fucking Nebula yanks off Thanos' gauntlet and makes Terraxia explode. She quickly reverts back into non-zombie form and tells Thanos the one thing she wants more than anything in this universe — REVENGE on his big purple ass.

So Warlock teleports Thanos into Strange's living room and Surfer immediately goes in for the kill so Strange has to call in Hulk, Thor, Dr. Doom, Drax and Firelord to break up the scuffle.

Then Warlock tells Thanos he will help him defeat Nebula, and he has no choice because he was inside the Soul Gem while Thanos wore it and he knows everything that lurks inside his heart, and he KNOWS that Thanos feels himself unworthy and allowed himself to lose the Cosmic Cube to Captain Marvel and that he even subconsciously allowed Nebula to steal one of the Gauntlets, so he agrees to team with Warlock to retrieve the other one.
One of about 20 or so panels in the series that
should be laminated and hung in the
National Archives one day.

Anyway, Nebula traps Doom and company in this weird kind of crystal trap. Then the unlikely trifecta of Thanos, Surfer and Warlock show up, and it's time for the FINAL CONFRONTATION, motherfuckers.

Issue six. Nebula users her gauntlet powers to bring everyone back to life and she keeps Thanos trapped inside a crystal barricade. Then right when Nebula is going in for the kill shot, the cosmic beings return and literally fracture her out of reality. 

Warlock and Surfer wake up in Soul World. Galactus and the rest of the Celestials pretty much gang bang Nebula with all of their power concentrated at once. Then Warlock takes command of the universe itself and freaks Nebula out so she drops the gauntlet, then everybody makes a mad scramble for the Gauntlets, with EVERYBODY trying to make sure Thanos doesn't slip it back on. Adam Warlock winds up possessing it, and he promises to wield it responsibly and everybody just kind of looks at him like "you know, I think I'll trust this motherfucker for some reason."

To thwart being defeated, Thanos detonates a nuclear bomb timer on his belt and Thor grand slams that motherfucker halfway across the galaxy like he was Marth in that one baseball event in Super Smash Bros. Melee. So Surfer and pals question Warlock's intentions, and he says something about why are they more terrified of an orderly universe than the celestial chaos they've been living under, and then he blinks himself, Gamora and Pip the Elf off to some faraway planet, where Thanos now lives on a small farm with his old costume set up as a scarecrow in front of a field. Pip asks Warlock why he doesn't just destroy Thanos right then and there and he says something to the effect of the universal mosaic requires every piece, and as much as thy may hate it, Thanos certainly serves an important part in the grand order.

And the whole shindig concludes with Thanos lamenting his newfound status as a dirt farmer in the asshole end of the universe, reflecting on the irony that the dude who wanted NO power whatsoever ended up with the most powerful weapon in the universe. And he concludes the saga with the absolutely PERFECT set-up for a sequel  —it's a single panel shot of Thanos smirking, saying he KNOWS he got the better end of the deal than Warlock did.

Yep. At one point, comic book writers actually knew how to do subtle sequel hooks.

Which allows us to circle back to Infinity War, the movie, for a moment. You know, for a character who has been built up as fucking death incarnate for ten years, the MCU really hasn't done a lot to explain who or what Thanos is. We'll just have to wait and see how the movies present him and lay out his modus operandi, but in this particular comic, they give him one of the most ingenious origin stories of any villain I've seen.

Thanos isn't some power-hungry space Pol Pot; instead, he's a dude who is literally out to kill the whole universe because he can't get out of the friend zone. To me, that makes way more sense than some guy trying to take over the universe to satiate his ego, or bring some sort of purity to the natural order. He's just a dude who loved this one bitch so much that he was willing to become the most powerful being in the universe to impress her, but even that couldn't win her heart. So what the fuck else do you expect a heartbroken dude with no hope and godlike powers to eventually end up doing? Shit, I am convinced that's the exact same thing that happened to Hitler and Stalin. One day, they realized some broad would never love them as much as they loved her, and so, all of that emotional hurt manifest itself in an outward need to wreak as much havoc as (in)humanly possible. That's such a better M.O. than just saying the asshole is pure-D evil and wants to control everything because of a God complex; we'll see if the MCU goes that route for the big movie (probably, with Hela as a substitute for Miss Grim Reaper), but personally, I'm doubting it.

Whether or not Infinity War winds up a colossal disappointment (although it's almost certainly going to be a financial dynamo), at least we've got this outstanding six-part epic to give us what we truly want as crossover-craving comic book fans. It's long enough to give the characters plenty of pathos and room to develop, but it's not lengthy enough to drag on too long and introduce too many plot twists and deus ex machina components just to keep the thing chugging along. People tend to sleep on just how solid early 1990s Marvel was, and if you haven't caught this one before, definitely do your damnedest to give it a glance before you check out the new movie; not only will it give you a pretty good taste of what to expect in the de facto live-action adaptation, Jim Starlin's zeitgeist-defying, decidedly un-cucked approach to the space opera formula will probably be about 50 times better than whatever form the movie ultimately resembles.

And if for that reason alone, you NEED to read this motherfucker, at some point in your comic book-ing sojourns.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Comic Review: The Infamous "Leaves of Grass" Batman Story Arc!

What better way to celebrate 4/20 than a special three-part series in which Batman beats the shit out of drug dealers and the Floronic Man tries to take over the world by getting the entire planet hooked on super-weed?

By: Jimbo X

It's 4/20, ya'll, which means it's my proud obligation to highlight Hitler's birthday

No, wait, that's not it. What's the motif I capitalize/exploit around this time each year? Oh yeah, that's right — Columbine.

No, damn it, that's not right, either. Oh, OK, I recall now. It's 4/20, which is basically an unofficial holiday dedicated to marijuana users, who — as we all know by now — are pretty
much my LEAST favorite kind of people on the planet

Considering how much stupid shit "weed culture" has given us (Sublime, Seth Rogen's entire filmography, the entire existence of Kevin Smith), pretty much the ONLY positive thing I can say about weed is that it, by default, gave us a ton of great anti-marijuana propaganda over the years, running the gamut from Reefer Madness to The Goddamn Motherfuckin' Flintstones Kids bringing in Michael Jackson to tell the young 'uns not to puff on the sticky green.

And the medium of comic books is no different. Just take a gander at "Leaves of Grass," a special, three-issue run of Batman: Shadow of the Bat from late 1996, which tried to toe a very fine line between being anti-weed agitprop and stealth pro-weed propaganda. Of course, with Warner Bros. telling the writers that they couldn't have Batman just come out and say "yeah, I don't give a fuck if you smoke pot," they kinda' had to sneak in the pro-legalization snark, all while hammering out the official D.C. party line that "drugs = fucking bad" as bluntly as possible. 

So, yeah, you had a bunch of C-tier writers and artists given three issues to impossibly churn out sequential art agitprop anchored around two diametrically opposed perspectives. Oh, you better believe this shit is all kinds of awkward right here — in short, making it absolutely perfect reading for both decent human beings and shameful, irredeemable cannabis-junkies alike. 

Issue one starts off innocuously enough, with this one drug dealer peddling super-weed to a high schooler. Of course, Batman shows up to bemoan Gotham's "drug war," monologuing about how some new supplier is flooding the street with GENETICALLY MODIFIED chiba that's twice as potent as regular pot but available at only half the street value. 

Naturally, the decrease in ratweed revenue is causing Gotham's normal old drug dealers to turn on one anther, leading to a scene where these two identical blonde bimbos in ridiculously impractical leather costumes show up and beat the shit out of some Dagos while they call them "wacko dames" and "witches" as family-friendly acceptable euphemisms for "cunts" and "bitches." Oh, and the best part is their names are Holly and ... wait for it... EVA GREEN. Holy shit, ya'll ... predictive programming totally IS a thing, after all!

I wouldn't mind seeing *her* twin peaks, if
you catch my drift (and if you don't, I mean her
exposed, bare breasts.)
Next scene, some psychologist brings Poison Ivy some flowers and she kinda sorta makes some sort of sexual advance towards him, then she starts saying she can "read" a secret message in the bouquet, so — in a rare example of professional competence in a comic book — the psychologist REFUSES to hand the flowers over the Ivy and confiscates them instead.

Now we travel to Gotham High, and Tim Drake catches a couple of kids smoking some sticky green so he admonishes them. One dude with a mullet says tobacco, booze and guns are legal and cause way more death and destruction than marijuana, so why SHOULDN'T he be allowed to puff on some Mary Jane whenever he wanted? Cue the character immediately taking a Three Stooges pratfall and calling Tim a "fascist" for not sparking a fatty with him.

Drake talks to Bruce about the incident and he tells them to report the whole lot of them to the school administrators. Robin doesn't want them to get expelled, and says that none of them are technically bad kids. But Batman being Batman, he flat-out tells his understudy he doesn't give a shit what happens to them, rule-breakers of all varieties must be punished, god-damn-it.

Meanwhile, those leather-clad bimbos from earlier break into Arkham while an unseen narrator gives us the quick and dirty Poison Ivy origin story, complete with a great paragraph about Dr. Woodrue's experiments turning Ivy into a woman with a "deep, never-satisfied need to dominate men." 

Then Batman beats up a couple of more Wops and he fucking KILLS two weed dealers by ramming the Batmobile into them while in remote control mode and Commissioner Gordon wonders aloud if maybe it would just be easier to LEGALIZE the weed rather than keep going after all these damned old drug dealers.

The two bimbos spring Ivy from Arkham, they take her to a secret bunker to show her "their boss" and Ivy tries to poison them through the pores on her arm, but before she can drop those skanks dead, a whole bunch of vines grab her, she says "you!" and ... comic's over. Well, how about that.

Alright, issue two. The splash page reveals the person who "rescued" Ivy is none other than Jason Woodrue, who is literally just an old man's head on a tree trunk with what appears to be wooden titties. 

Harvey Bullock and this other investigator scour Arkham for clues and even though there's a giant fucking vine popping out of the ground, they both lament a lack of "leads." Which has to be sarcastic, right? Meanwhile, Batman collects some grass clippings and we cut back to Floronic Man showing Ivy his secret basement lair. Woodrue promises Ivy $10 million for her help, and then he goes on a LONG tirade about how he had to stop Swamp Thing from killing every living thing on Earth and how he was forced to guard Swamp Thing's daughter and fucked that up so they put his head on a platter and this one fat black dude kept blowing weed smoke in his face, which apparently turned him into a weed-addicted megalomaniac.

So he shows Ivy his secret lab, where's he growing a literal FOREST of weed. "Unlike most villains, I don't want to rule the world," he says. "I only want to get it stoned!" He says he's hired a bunch of mole-men to harvest the crops so that's reduced unemployment, and because the weed is so cheap it's stopped organized crime from getting their hands in it, so technically, he's doing Gotham a social service. Oh, and he also said he wants to get Ivy pregnant. More on that in just a bit.

Back to Gotham High, where that one guy with the mullet is STILL talking about how great weed is. Meanwhile Batman analyzes some bat crap from the crime scene and Robin deduces it probably came from the abandoned subway system, which, as it turns out, is EXACTLY where Woodrue's keeping his weed forest. Batman goes to investigate, while Robin decides to call it a night "for personal reasons."

So Woodrue is drawing Ivy's blood, which he plans on using to create an army of Ivies ... or some shit like that, it's hard to remember, really.

Batman goes into the tunnel, and as Batman oft does, he beats the shit out of poor people who have turned to illegal activities as the only means of keeping themselves financially solvent. Then, one of Robin's dorky friends tries weed for the first time, and for some mysterious reason, it makes him go CRAZY as a motherfucker.
Villain tries to take over world by making
everybody relaxed through chemical means;
therefore, Batman must electrocute the
motherfucker and cut his fucking head
off three pages later.

Cut back to Woodrue and Ivy. Floronic Man says that with his army of Ivies, "hemp will rule the world," and that's when the two leather broads drag in a DEFEATED Batman ... which, of course, is our cue to end the issue.

Time for the third and final installment of the story. Tim's buddy is having a super-dope freakout and thinks an alien/dinosaur hybrid is going to eat him, while Floronic Man gives Batman the old overly-long villainy lecture about how his weed is going to save the world (complete with the unseen narrator giving us a whole bunch of Wikipedia-like quick facts on the chemistry behind and the historical cultivation of marijuana) and then Poison Ivy kisses Batman and she turns on Woodrue and apparently Batman is under Ivy's control and she commands him to beat the shit out of Floronic Man, because she's good at three-dimensional chess like that.

Except Batman isn't really under Ivy's spell, he's beating the fuck out of Woodrue just because he wants to, ultimately deep frying him on an open electrical grid and DECAPITATING the motherfucker. All the while, the narrator keeps droning on and on about how Ben Franklin grew weed and the "tabloid press" rallied to make hemp illegal, ultimately concluding with a quip about how 400,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana possession - which to me sounds like some Ava DuVarney quality shit, but I'm too lazy to do the fact checking on recreational drug stats presented by a 25 year old comic book.

Then Tim goes to check on his friend at the hospital and the doctor, for no reason whatsoever, tells him that marijuana DOES have medical use for treating M.S., but good luck getting funding for it when all those punk teens like him are smoking it while watching Rick and Morty.

Then Batman gets into a fight with those two blonde dominatrixes from earlier and he KNOCKS THEM THE FUCK OUT with one punch each and it's fucking great. Then Ivy makes off with Woodrue's loot, and Batman can't do shit because apparently Ivy hocked a time-release poison into Bat's mouth when she snogged him earlier and now he's paralyzed for about an hour.

Afterwards, Batman runs into Commissioner Gordon, who says that while Floro's weed was on the streets, muggings and armed robberies were down but mental hospital visits spiked 20 percent. Then Tim gets his opportunity to lecture the class on the ills of weed addiction and everybody in the class claps for him after he says "I want my mind in the best possible condition - the way it's meant to be" — complete with a downright goofy final panel showing Tim with his head down while a ghostly silhouette of Robin flutters behind him, with the caption "Sometimes being a hero just isn't enough." Yeah, a pretty shitty way to end the arc, TBH. But on the plus side? Apparently, the next issue had The Ventriloquist in it, and come on, who doesn't fucking love The Ventriloquist?

Not since Viva Knievel have I seen an anti-drug speech so moving and eloquent...

In case you were wondering (and fuck it, I know none of you were wondering), the writer of the arc is a dude named Alan Grant, which I'm pretty sure is also the name of Sam Neil's character in Jurassic Park, which I guess is kinda' funny. The penciler was David Taylor and the inker was Stan Woch, and if you give a damn that David Taylor and/or Stan Woch worked on this series, congratulations on being either David Taylor and/or Stan Woch and absolutely nobody else in the universe.

All in all, I thought it wasn't a bad little arc, to be honest with you, fam. Yes, it was cheesy and corny and felt compromised as all fuck, but the writing was mostly solid and the thing was just tongue-in-cheek enough to avoid the holier-than-thou pitfalls of most anti-drug propaganda from the epoch. They at least tried to approach the issue of marijuana use from both sides, with Tim Drake representing our conflicted Hegelian synthesis, so to speak. I guess you could argue that all of the other characters came off as painfully one-dimensional, but eh, it's a mid-90s D.C. comic that wasn't published under the Vertigo banner and wasn't called "Hitman" or "Major Bummer" — what da fuq did ya expect?

Of course, outside of the incredibly iffy attempt to "delicately" tackle what was then a very polarizing social issue, there's not a whole lot to say about the "Leaves of Grass" arc. It's not bad, it's not good, it's just a weird, clumsy attempt to get as much mileage out of a hot button social issue as possible without ruffling the feathers of anybody on either side of debate. You can certainly go an entire lifetime never reading it and being 100 percent satisfied with your life choices, but if you squander an hour or so churning through it over your next couple of shits, it's no big loss, either.

I hate to use such a base term, but this series truly is what it is. You know exactly what to expect heading into it, and you get EXACTLY what you'd expect to get out of it.

Still, you gotta' give D.C. a little credit here — they certainly handled the perils of substance abuse angle a lot better than Marvel did when they turned Captain America into a fucking meth addict for a single issue. That's for damned sure.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What WrestleRama Means to Me

In  a special guest article, "Cannonball" Alex Steele tells you why you SHOULD be beyond pumped for this Sunday's WrestleRama spectacular. Never heard of it? Well, read on to find out what you've been missing out on ...

By: "Cannonball" Alex Steele

Howdy ho, folks. It's your friendly neighborhood Jimbo here, welcoming you to yet another SPECIAL EDITION GUEST COLUMN. This time around, we'll be puttin' the spotlight on the work of longtime IIIA reader and ally "Cannonball" Alex Steele, who is here today to talk about this one indie 'rasslin federation in Michigan that's about to have some kind of super-show that's 104 percent guaranteed to blow your freakin' mind on Sunday. But yeah, he knows more about what he's talking about than I do, so how about we turn this website over to him just a 'lil bit and let him have his say, why don't we? [Jimbo, momentarily out.]

The biggest show of the year. The "Granddaddy of them All." Our Super Bowl, our Stanley Cup; each of these phrases denotes the centerpiece event, date, or otherwise centrally focused object of a company, a sports team and in today’s case, wrestling promotions.

Professional wrestling (or, as it’s called these days, “sports entertainment," a term I personally detest but ultimately recognize as the proper term) has been an art form that is now, and has always been, near and dear to my heart. I didn’t grow up in the '80s with the rest of the Hulkamaniacs, I didn’t grow up with the birth and early days of Monday Night Raw, and I didn’t grow up with the the millions (AND MILLIONS!) of The Rock’s fans in the late '90s; my first experiences in the world of pro wrestling took place in the 2000s, at the very tail end of the Monday Night Wars and the Attitude Era. And the one era that I was able to take to heart and truly admire and adore was the Ruthless Aggression Era ... the era where one John Cena dared to answer the challenge of a newly bald Kurt Angle on SmackDown. The era where Chris Benoit (may God damn his soul) won the World Heavyweight Championship and took part in my still-to-this-day-all-time-favorite moment when he embraced his great friend, Eddie Guerrero (may God bless and rest his soul). The era where I fully believed that hard work would eventually pay off. The era where the matches were far more competitive and more sport-like than the Crash TV, puppies and garbage wrestling, Springer-esque content of the Attitude Era.

So, yeah, I’m a Ruthless Aggression fan. It’s what I grew up with; deal with it.

One thing I did have in common with my older peers that grew up in the '80s and '90s, however, was that WrestleMania was THE biggest show of the year, hands down. Sure, there was Starrcade, but the WWF had most of my attention. I didn’t even know WCW truly existed until right before it went out of business (and then I read the great book “The Death of WCW” by Bryan Alvarez and R.D. Reynolds to get caught up on what I’d missed.)

WrestleMania XX had my favorite line of all time:

“Where it all begins. Again.”

Now, I know you’re looking at the title of this essay and you’re thinking “waitaminute, buddy, ya spelled WrestleMania wrong, ya jerk!” And my response is “hey, pipe down, grasshopper.”

Because WWE has WrestleMania. WCW had Starrcade. ECW had Barely Legal [Jimbo exercising editorial authority here — I'd argue November 2 Remember was ECW's annual marquee show, but what the hell ever — THNX, MGMT.] TNA/Impact Wrestling has Bound for Glory. ROH has Final Battle. New Japan has the Tokyo Dome show on January 4.

The way indie rasslin' ought to be, by Job.

The Michigan Wrestling Organization has WrestleRama.

For those of you not in the know (most likely ALL of you), the Michigan Wrestling Organization is a local promotion based out of Southeast Michigan, serving the Flint, Fenton and Burton areas for over 20 years. We’ve also had shows out in Battle Creek and the suburban Detroit area. It is a promotion that is very near and dear to my heart, and not just because it is one of only two promotions with which I currently participate in the art and the sport of pro wrestling. This promotion runs things very differently than other indie feds in the area, (dare I say, even the country); in the MWO, we are one big family.

Like any family, we have disagreements and drama every once in a while. But for every one of those moments, there are tons more moments where everyone is on the same page, and everyone has the same goal in mind: put on a PPV-quality show. And WrestleRama is our biggest show of the year, where story lines culminate, new stars are made and existing stars are transitioned to legendary status.

Whether it was the Blue Bomber (no, he didn’t have a Mega Buster on his arm) winning the MWO Heavyweight Championship and then unmasking to reveal Pure Fury Jeff Clouse, or Skullz returning to answer the challenge of the monster known as Blackwell or guys like “The Flatliner” Scotty Fraytown and “Old School” Ric Caurdiea tearing the house down with a match for the ages, the fact remains that WrestleRama has more than its fair share of (kayfabe) drama and action to captivate fans of all ages and all types.

Every year, when WrestleRama season approaches, I get excited. The anticipation is palpable. I get excited for my comrades as they get to live out stories they’ve planned out for months and months. I get excited for the fans that know — ABSOLUTELY know — they’re getting the best show of the year.

As of this writing, WrestleMania has come and gone, and many have gone on to say it was one of the best 'Manias in recent history (and scores of other indie nerds have taken the company to task for its perplexing booking). Go ahead and relive it on the WWE Network, or take time to indulge in its rich history via the WWE Network or tapes you have lying around at home.

On Sunday, April 22, 2018, at the Richfield Road Church in Flint, Mich., the men and women of the Michigan Wrestling Organization will be putting in the work to make OUR show the best damn show it can possibly be. And if you’re in the area, come check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here, dreaming my dreams and planning for my WrestleRama moment, whatever it may be, in hopes that, one day, it will come. And I hope that, when it does, it will be because I earned it.

Here are some links in case you’re interested:

I have no idea who these two people are, but I already like both of them more than Roman Reigns.

Alright, Jimbo back in the pilot seat here. For the record, no, Michigan Wrestling Organization did not pay for this article to run, but if they would like to promote their fine, outstanding product on this website that gets in excess of 100,000 views a month from all over the world [HINT, HINT] I would totally be cool with giving them some online advertising space for a nominal fee. Just an idea, I'm throwing out guys. A really, really sound, financially-beneficially idea.

Once again, we here at The Internet Is In America would like to remind our readers that we are continuing to accept articles under our OFFICIAL IIIA Writer Apprenticeship Program (WAP.) Whether you're a professional writer or some fledgling scribe, if you want your work circulated to a (considerably) wider audience, by all means feel free to send your submissions on over right here. As long as your stuff is good, reasonably written and devoid of anything too bat-shit biased, odds are we'll run it. Hell, Old Jimbo might even give you a pointer or two on the craft while he's at it, or maybe even a job recommendation, if you play your cards right.

Oh, and I'll host your advertisements, too. Did I mention that earlier? Because I totally mean it.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Revisiting WCW Spring Stampede 1994!

Taking a look back at one of the greatest pro wrestling pay-per-views of all-time - from Cactus Jack getting concussed with a snow shovel to Flair and Steamboat putting on an unsung classic to AARON GODDAMN NEVILLE, this show has it all!

By: Jimbo X

Well, it's WrestleMania week, which means Internet Law requires me to publish at least one rasslin' related article. Sure, it would be extremely easy (and lazy as a motherfucker) to just pick a random WM from years gone by and give it the old play-by-play treatment, but that's way too predictable. In fact, we being the supreme outside-the-box-thinkers we are, we here at The Internet Is In America has decided to celebrate the biggest WWE spectacle of the year by turning our attention to their old arch-rival ... and what may very well be the single greatest pay-per-view event they ever produced.

Mid-1993 to mid-1994 WCW has always been "peak WCW" in my eyes. Indeed, the run from Beach Blast '93 to Bash at the Beach '94 might just be the best one year run any North American rasslin' promotion had in the 1990s, if we're talking about sheer in-ring product. From the time Ric Flair returned to the company to the moment Hulk Hogan entered the fray, just about every WCW PPV was AAA material, and for my money, no WCW PPV represents the greatness of the epoch more than Spring Stampede '94.

Simply put, this shindig from the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago-Town has it goddamn all. We've got Brian Pillman and Steve Regal putting on an awesome-as-usual TV title technical showcase. We've got Dustin Rhodes and some dude who looks like a child molester making each other bleed buckets in a Bunkhouse Brawl. We've got Cactus Jack, Man Mountain Rock and the fuckin' Nasty Boys putting on one of the single greatest garbage matches in the history of any promotion ever. We've got Big Van Vader and the Big Boss Man just fucking whaling on each other in an outstanding flab-fest. And for the main course? Oh, nothing major ... just Ric Flair taking on mother-fuckin' god-damn RICKY STEAMBOAT in a 30-minute-plus war of attrition for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Yeah ... you don't need me to tell you this thing's going to be great, do you? Well, how about we cut out the jibber-jabber, fire up our old Turner Home Video copy of the show and take a trip down memory lane, why don't we?

We begin the program with Mean Gene Okerlund saying the Chicago crowd is "hanging from the rafters," which is probably untrue because that's almost assuredly a safety code violation. Here to sing the national anthem (of the U.S., duh) is AARON GODDAMN NEVILLE, who is rocking a leopard print vest, a ton of gold, a giant assed birthmark over his right eye and some fucking HUGE beefy biceps, thus looking more like an actual wrestler than 95 percent of the current WWE roster.

Pulling commentary duties tonight is Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan. Proving Chicago, once and for all, is a collection of classless assholes, these motherfuckers have the audacity to boo The Brain. Well, fuck them.

Our first match of the evening is Johnny B. Badd (dressed like Cowboy Curtis from Pee Wee's Playhouse, for some reason) taking on Diamond Dallas Page, back when he was more fat than muscle and still couldn't read. You know, Johnny B. Badd has to be the single blackest-looking white dude in the history of melanin. DDP gets clotheslined out of the ring early. DDP hits his foe with a great looking back body suplex and locks in a crossface. Badd counters it into a wristlock. DDP escapes but Badd hits him with a series of arm drags and you can audibily hear Page say "god damn it" on camera. DDP locks in a guillotine, but Badd bridges out of it and hits a fucking BOSS looking modified Ace Crusher, but it's only good for a two count. DDP with elbows in the corner, followed by a belly-to-back suplex. DDP with a gutwrench suplex into a gutbuster. Man, Page had some pretty good looking suplexes back in the day. Page tries to crush Badd's head with a neck wrench.  Man, Kimberly Page sure was flatter than I remember. Badd rolls out of the way and drops DDP with an inverted drop and a clotheslines. There's a back body drop and a pair of flying headscissors. A discus punch sends Page reeling to the outside - where Badd splashes him with, of all things, a fucking' plancha. Badd goes up top and lands a sunset flip on the follow-through for the fairly anticlimactic three-count.  

Well, all in all, that wasn't too bad. Both guys showed off some pretty inventive moves, and the fact that WCW actually had Badd coming out to a ripoff of  The Dukes of Hazzard theme song for a while makes me all kinds of happy. Not great by any stretch, but still a decent enough  [** 1/2] opener. (Oh, and a reminder - unlike that closeted homosexual Dave Meltzer, we here at The Internet Is In America actually has a scientific rubric to explain our star ratings, which you can evaluate anytime you want right here.)

Mean Gene Okerlun is with Jesse "The Body" Ventura, and goddamn, does he look ridiculous with that chrome dome and ponytail. Holy shit, I totally forgot that even back in 1994 WCW had Michael Buffer doing announcement gigs. Anyhoo, up next, we've got Lord Steven Regal (with Sir William) taking on Brian Pillman in a TV Championship match. Fuck, how long DID Regal have the TV title? It seems like everytime I watch a WCW PPV from 1993 to 1995, he's the perma-television-title holder. Anyway, we've got a 15-minute time limit to work with here, so be ready to pace yourself. Pillman goes after Regal early, and Pillman slaps the taste out of the Limey's mouth and we all cheer. Regal reels to the outside following an arm drag. When Pillman pursues him on the outside, Regal Pearl Harbors  ... uh, Boston Massacres him, I guess would be the better historical analogy? Back in the ring and Pillman takes Regal down with an armdrag. Then he starts slamming his arm against the metal ring post a couple of times. Pillman with some NASTY chops in the corner, to which Regal responds with an equally nasty looking European uppercut. Regal wrenches the arm and Pillman keeps slapping him. Pillman goes for a Lou Thesz press and Regal counters it with a NASTY bridging suplex.  Man, Regal is getting all kinds of heat from this Chicago audience. Regal looks like he's going for a powerbomb, of all things, but Pillman uses the ring ropes to counter it into a school boy. Regal kicks out and does a leg whip into a SICK STF variation. Regal with more European uppercuts. Pillman goes for a backslide, but Regal counters it into a muffler/crossbow stretch. Shit, that looks painful. Pillman escapes and breaks out the slaps again. Regal goes for a gutwrench powerbomb, but Pullman counters it with a hurrancanranna (but not before he conks HIMSELF on the top of the head in the process.) Regal does his patented "Regal roll" into an abdominal stretch on the ground. Now Regal's working a modified crossbow submission. Goddamn this stuff is great. Pillman gets out by absolutely CLOBBERING Regal with stiff punches, then Regal says "fuck you" and locks Brian in a single leg crab. And there's the Indian death lock. Shit, Steven Regal fucking rules. Five minutes to go until the bell sounds. Pillman back to his feet, and he drops Regal with a knife-edge chop. Regal uses a half nelson to keep Pillman grounded. More Pillman slaps. Regal fires back with some vicious elbows and a "desperation headbutt." Heenan advises Regal "pull Pillman's hair until it's straight." Pillman lands a dropkick and both men take a while to get back to their feet. Regal looks for a Boston crab but Pillman flips him over. And there's Pillman with the enziguri. Pillman goes for a monkey flip, Regal misses the fist drop and Pillman drop kicks him with a minute left. Pillman with a backbody drop and punches in bunches in the corner. Regal catches Pillman in a bear hug, they tumble over the top rope, Sir William takes a swing at Brian, and both men make it back into the ring right at zero. So yep - that means we've got ourselves a good old fashioned 15-minute draw, kiddos. 

Yeah, the ending was kinda' bullshitty and there were some botches here and there, but for the most part, that shit was entertaining as fuck. You really wouldn't expect the styles of Pillman and Regal to gel so well, but they actually put together a solid little, ground-based technical showcase there, complete with some of the stiffest striking you'll probably see in WCW outside of a Vader match. World-changing, it might not be, but I still had a hoot with this one. Let's give it a very, very solid [*** 1/2] and carry on our merry way, why don't we?

Of course, allowing another dude to smash him in the face for real with a snow shovel isn't even in the top ten list of stupid/dangerous/awesome things Mick Foley has let people do to him for money...

Up next, we've got a falls-count-anywhere "Chicago streetfight" between The Nasty Boys and the team of Cactus Jack and Maxx Payne (a.k.a., fuckin' Man Mountain Rock.) OK, I vividly remember this one from like three or four different compilation DVDs. LOL at Payne hailing "from a State of Euphoria" and Cactus literally wearing a tee-shirt reading "Superdad" to the brawl. Unsurprisingly, the Nastys go after Cactus and Payne before they even make it down the entrance ramp, and the carnage, it is ON. Payne spine busts Jerry Sags while Brian Knobbs goes after Cactus with a sawed-off pool cue. Oh shit, now Cactus has it and its time for Knobbs to chew lumber. Jack sends Knobbs over the top rope with the fattest clothesline you've ever seen in your life. Meanwhile, Sags beats the shit out of Payne with a metal folding chair. Fuck, this feels so comfy. Now Cactus has the chair and he's whaling on Knobbs. Payne hits an elbow drop on Sags. Repeatedly. Knobbs clotheslines Cactus INTO the ring. He's still bonking him with the pool cue. Sags does a one foot plancha off the guardrail onto Payne. Heenan makes a joke about Aaron Neville, which FINALLY makes sense in context now. Cactus and Sags are still going at it. Payne throws Knobbs into a souvenir stand and Knobbs clobbers him with a plastic garbage can and throws a table on top of him. We go split-screen so we can watch Cactus bite Jerry's face in the ring. Cactus goddamn WAFFLES Sags with a chair and Heenan makes ANOTHER joke about Aaron Neville. Payne grabs Knobbs and body slams him through a whole bunch of WCW merchandise. Then he tries to cram a Sting tee-shirt down Knobbs' throats, because goddamn it, back in the '90s the wrestling business knew how to do violence RIGHT. Now Knobbs is using the metal fragments of the table to beat up Payne, as Cactus gets launched over the guardrail like a 300-pound cruise missile that votes Democrat. The merchandise stand is absolutely destroyed at this point. Now Sags is bashing Payne OVER THE HEAD with a table and it makes the most satisfying "PLONK!" sound every time the balsa wood connects with skull. Cactus see-saws a table on top of Sags before setting it up on the ramp way. But LOL, here comes Knobbs with a fucking snow shovel to El Kabong him. Now Payne grabs it and fucking wrecks him with it. Then Cactus tries to piledrive Knobbs on the table but since combined they weigh about 600 pounds physics says "nah, fuck this shit" and the thing disintegrates underneath them. Knobbs back body drops Cactus off the ramp (that's a good six or seven foot fall, by the way) and Knobbs picks up the snow shovel and literally launches it at Cactus' carcass like a lawn dart. And to capstone all this mayhem, Knobbs picks up the snow shovel like the Sword of Damocles and fucking SMASHES Cactus in the face with it one more time before scooping up the 1,2,3. And because this match isn't awesome enough already, Sacks picks up the broken table, gets a running start and El Kabongs Payne ONE more time after the bell, just 'cause.

Shit, that match was INCREDIBLE. That has to be the most insane pre-ECW brawling the Big Two put on in the 1990s, and even now it's one of the greatest PLANNED train wrecks in the history of 'rasslin. The whole thing barely went ten minutes and these four fuckers didn't waste a second cramming as much over-the-top violence in there as the could. This stuff was super-entertaining in 1994, just as awe-inspiring in 2004, every bit as fun in 2014 and I'm pretty sure it's going to STILL hold up come 2024, 2034 and 2044, too. Yeah, it's hardly anything more than a glorified garbage bout, but it's easily one of the greatest garbage bouts ever. Call me crazy, but I think this is - from start to finish, every nanosecond in-between accounted for - one of the best WCW matches of the 1990s. Hell, maybe even top ten, pending I ever get around to rewatching a whole bunch of shit from the early '90s someday. I'd feel VERY comfortable giving that last one a stellar [**** 3/4] rating, and I'm not even being ironic about it, either.

Next up, we've got a bout with the United States title on the line. Out first is the challenger, THE GREAT MUTA, who comes out wearing  gaudy red sequin robe. And his adversary is the reigning, defending champion, STUNNING STEVE AUSTIN, accompanied to the ring by Col. Rob Parker (get it, because Elvis' manager was named Col. TOM Parker?) Shit, Austin's music was awesome. Of course, he still has hair at this point. LOL at Bobby Heenan talking shit about the Japanese owning Radio City Music Hall and "three quarters" of the rest of the country. Muta does some spin kicks and The Brain is gobsmacked by how big the Japanese grappler is. Muta with a headlock takedown. And there's the clean break. Austin with some hard right hands and a leap frog, but Muta counters with an abdominal stretch. The fans keep chanting for "Muta," which is pretty rare for a WCW crowd in the mid 1990s. I mean, shit, shouldn't they be screaming "U-S-A!" at the top of their lungs by now? Muta with a suplex and another headlock takedown. Austin with a backdrop and Muta counters it into a suplex. Now Bobby is saying Aaron Neville lip-synched the national anthem. Muta still has Austin in a side headlock. Muta with a shoulderblock, Austin leapfrogs and Muta hits him with a dropkick. Austin counters with a headscissors submission - which looks for all the tea in China that he's making Muta suck his dick on live television. Austin breaks the hold and rolls to the outside, where Col. Rob fans him with his slave owner hat. He grabs the tights on a school boy (I didn't know Steve was Catholic!) but Muta counters with a wristlock. Now Aaron Neville is sitting beside Bobby the Brain. Heenan, of course, acts like he's the best singer in history now that he's within earshot. Parker takes a couple of free shots at Muta after Austin dumps him to the outside. It looks like Muta's face is busted up, but since he's wearing red face paint, it's really hard to tell. Austin with a running elbow off the apron, then he makes Muta eat guardrail. LOL at Tony S. bringing up "winning Battle Bowl" as one of Muta's greatest accomplishments. Schiavone says the owner of the Blackhawks is in the house tonight. That's our cue for an extended abdominal stretch sequence. Heenan says the move doesn't look too impressive on TV, but he assures the audience it still hurts like the dickens IRL. Muta finally gets a rope break, but he whiffs on a dropkick. There's Austin with a fist drop off the middle turnbuckle. Then he chokes Muta on the ropes with his boot. Heenan makes a crack about Hillary Clinton as Muta drops Austin with a spin kick. Muta with a suplex and a standing dropkick. He goes up top and, of course, Austin dodges the attack. Austin goes for "The Hollywood and Vine," this really shitty look toe-hold, which Muta easily escapes from. Then Muta STUN GUNS Austin! Steve scrambles to a neutral corner and Muta hits him with his famous cartwheel elbow smash. Muta puts Austin on the top rope and almost breaks his own neck sticking the hurrancanrana. The crowd goes wild after Muta slugs Parker, but OOPS! He accidentally back body drops Austin over the top rope, so Muta gets disqualified. Still, that doesn't stop him from hitting a slingshot plancha on both of 'em just for the hell of it immediately after the DQ verdict is announced.

Well, that was a bit of a letdown. The hot crowd kept it interesting, buy by and large it just felt like both Austin and Muta were going through the motions. Far from being a bad match, I'd just say it was rather unremarkable, all things considered - let's give it [** 1/4] and keep chugging along.

The "International World Title" is on the line as Sting does battle with Rick Rude. Obviously, "The Man Called Sting" gets a huge pop from the crowd. And Rude gets booed, but goddamn, how anybody could boo entrance music THIS tremendous is simply beyond me. Of course, Rude immediately demands his music be cut so he can make fun of the crowd for being fat white trash, but he's interrupted by Harley Race. He says he's here on behalf of Vader and it doesn't matter who wins, his man's gonna' kick his ass regardless. This leads to Sting - rather unheroically - clobbering Race out of the blue and back body dropping Rude over the top rope. Rude begs for mercy and Sting - in these bad ass black and white pants - mercilessly pummels him anyway. Sting gets a two on a suplex. Nick Bockwinkel joins the announce team, even though he literally doesn't say a goddamn word. Sting with a headlock from the north-south position. Sting with a standing scoop slam and an elbow drop on the rebound. Two of them, actually. OK, make it three, just 'cause he's a fuckin' showboat. Sting goes back to the north-south choke. LOL at Heenan saying Sting has a Bart Simpson hairdo, because it's literally fuckin' true. Sting still working the neck crank. Rude crotches Sting on the top rope and clothelines him to the floor before. But it's not a disqualification, because like WCW ever gave a fuck about providing a logically consistent product. Rude slams Sting's head on the ramp and tosses him back into the ring. Fuck, Rude had some great punches. And his hairy, ripped abs are just so manly - not that I'm gay or anything like that. Uh, no homo. Now Rude is shaking is dick at the audience, because that's what real men do, damn it. Rude works a camel clutch. Sting goes for an electric chair drop and Rude counters it into a roll, but then Sting counters THAT into a roll, but he only gets two. Rude back on the offensive. Now he has Sting in a standing sleeper. The ref starts doing the old "I'm going to raise your arm three times" chestnut but Rude actually breaks the hold before the third drop. Apparently, he wants to beat Sting standing. He feeds Sting a couple of forearm shots but then Sting starts to, uh, Sting up? Sting lands an inverted atomic drop, then he botches a regular atomic drop. Clothelines galore. Rude lands really iffy on his leg on a backbody drop, and an errant Stinger Splash wipes out the ref. Still, the official being incapicated doesn't prevent the Stinger from locking Rude in the Scorpion Death Lock. Harley Race tries to interfere but Sting whups his ass. Then Vader comes out and Sting kicks his ass, but it allows Rude to clip Sting's knee like a no-good sonofabitch and then Race comes in with a chair and accidentally El Kabongs Rude, allowing Sting to pick up an easy 1,2,3 to win the International Title. 

Not the best match these two have had, but it was pretty entertaining for what it was ... and wasn't. The screwball finish took forever to come to fruition, though, so I reckon that's worth detracting a quarter star. Still, it's better than average fare - let's give it an admirable [** 3/4] and keep chugging along.

Shit ... with guns like those, Aaron Neville would be one of the most swoll wrestlers in the WWE today.

Now it's time for Dustin Rhodes vs. Bunkhouse Bunk in a Bunkhouse Match - which I suppose makes more sense than having them fight in a "Dustin Rhodes Match." Bunkhouse Buck, by the way, is Jimmy Golden, and to his credit, he literally looks like a dirty scummy chi-mo IRL, so props to him for playing the gimmick to its fullest. Also, because he's managed by Col. Rob Parker, the keep showing this one guy in the audience holding a bucket of KFC chicken and  - surprise - he's actually white. Dustin Rhodes makes a bee line for Bunk, literally flying over the top rope to give that motherfucker a clothesline before the bell even sounds. Now it's time for some heavy duty punches. Both guys are wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots, by the way. Also - I have no goddamn clue what a "bunkhouse" is, so don't even bother asking. Oh, and they also have their fists taped and one coal-miner's glove on the hand of their choosing. LOL at Rhodes wearing a tee-shirt that just says "Texas." Rhodes pokes Bunk in the eyes but he crashes and burns on a flying crossbody. Col. Rob chokes him on the outside, then Bunk clobbers his ass with one-by-two, which is a lot like a two-by-four, except, uh, only half as much. Rhodes does a full 360 rotation on a Buck clothesline. Then he chokes that honky motherfucker like a motherfucker. Rhodes takes a wild swing and falls down, allowing Buck to stomp the dog shit out of Rhodes with his cowboy boots. Oh shit, Rhodes is bleeding buckets. Huh - the more I look at Buck, the more he kinda' reminds me of Kenny Omega. Shit, he COULD be his dad, for all we know. Rhodes kicks Buck in the face a few times and falls back down. He reaches into his britches and pulls out a white piece of paper. Heenan wonders if it's his will. Nope, it's that good old fashioned "white powder," because apparently it's impossible to make "baby powder" sound threatening as a weapon. Buck pulls off his belt and starts lashing Rhodes like a runaway slave and Bobby makes a funny about how if Dusty had beat the shit out of his kid when he was younger, he probably wouldn't be in this mess. And there's Bunk with the old "kick to the cojones" chestnut. Man, this stuff is just grimy as fuck. Buck punts Dustin in the stomach. Repeatedly. Buck gets stuck on the top turnbuckle and that's our cue for Dustin to punt the shit out of that asshole. And there's the elbow smash to the noggin. Rhodes pulls off his belt and he clobbers Buck something wicked. Rhodes takes his cowboy boot off, climbs the top rope and hits Buck right in the middle of the forehead with it. Uh, wouldn't it have been easier ... and more effective ... to just jump on his head like Low-Ki or something? Rhodes rips Buck's shirt off and starts whipping Buck like Kunta Kinte. And there's another clothesline over the top rope. Now Buck is bleeding like a stuck pig. Heenan keeps talking about how much he likes "this brand of wrestling." Buck has a foreign object of some kind. He misses swinging it and Rhodes climbs the turnbuckle and elbows Buck in the head ten times, shakes his dick in his face, clotheslines him in the adjacent corner and bulldogs that fucker right out of his shoes. Parker interferes and Rhodes suplexes him into the ring and starts whipping him. Buck sneaks up behind Dustin for a schoolboy (just like Michael Jackson would!) but he only gets a two. Rhodes and Buck have a GREAT brawl in the middle of the ring and Dustin puts Buck down with another elbow smash. Parker gives Dustin a pair of brass knuckles, and of course, he clocks Rhodes right on the kisser to score the easy pinfall.

Well, that was some glorious sleaze right there, wasn't it? There are better all out brawls to be found from WCW - hell, including the Jack/Payne vs. Nastys donnybrook from earlier in the show - but this is still an immensely fun little bloodbath. It's *probably* one of the top 20 matches of Rhodes career and easily the best one of Bunkhouse Buck's career. Hell, come to think of it, I'm not sure I've seen *any* other Bunkhouse Buck match, the more I think about it. Let's call it a solid [****] and soldier forth.

Jesse Ventura is in the locker room with Rick Rude and he still looks goddamn ridiculous with that skullet-ponytail combination. Rude and Vader get into a shoving match and the Nastys have to break it up and we come THIS close to seeing Jerry Sags' testicles on live television. 

Up next, it's THE BOSS vs. VADER. And yes, "The Boss" is indeed THE BIG BOSS MAN. I'm pretty sure this is close to being the last match he wrestled under with that moniker, since the WWF was REALLY anxious to file copyright infringement suits back then. Anyhoo, this is billed as a "Gigantic Grudge Match," because why not? Vader, of course, fucking rules as always, so I've nothing to add to that, I suppose. Harley Race holds up the Boss and Vader goes to splash him on the ramp and, of course, the Boss ducks and Vader creams his own manager. The Boss (in a snazzy all black uniform) clotheslines Vader into the ring and he big  boots Vader back OUT of the ring because this is all about getting as much man meat and flubber flying around as possible. They brawl on the ramp some more and Vader drops the Boss with a hard jab. Then he slams Boss back into the ring. He takes a running start, jumps over the top rope and the Boss gets his knees up on the attempted splash. The Boss lands a couple of elbow drops and he clotheslines Vader to the outside again. Vader takes a WILD bump over the guardrail into the front row of fans. Then the Boss drops Vader on the rail, throat first. Man, WCW NEVER let anybody fuck up Vader this bad. It's hard to believe the company wanted to push the Boss Man THAT much, huh? The Boss with a headbutt, then he slings Vader into the turnbuckle post. Boss goes for a body slam and he gets it. LOL at Tony S. saying Vader weighs 450 pounds. Then they have an AWESOME slug fest. Goddamn, Vader had some brutal looking punches. The Boss takes a fucked up backdrop to the outside. Vader is bleeding heavily from his eye. God damn it, Schiavone is STILL talking about Aaron Neville. Vader suplexes the Boss back into the ring. VADER SPLASH, YOU MOTHER OF FUCKERS. Vader with more clubbing blows in the corner. Good, his jabs were the tits. Boss starts punching back and he connects on a sidewalk slam. The Boss lands a clothesline and Vader gets a boot to the face, followed by a fucking GRISLY lariat. Vader's eye looks like something out of a horror movie at this point. Boss launches Vader off the top rope and goes for a superplex. He botches it into a DDT then he climbs up the top rope hisself. He tries to clothesline him but he hooks it into a weird, shitty looking DDT at the very end. He goes up top again and this time Vader converts it into a power slam. Fuck, this match rules. VADER SPLASH, BUT THE BOSS KICKS OUT. Vader goes to the well again. AND THEN HE HITS A GODDAMN TEN OUT OF TEN MOONSAULT FOR THE 1, 2, 3. God damn it, that thing almost brought a tear to my eye it was so awesome. In the post-fight, the Boss grabs a nightstick and goes Rodney King on Harley Race, resulting in Nick Bockwinkel chastising him for excessive force. Meanwhile, Vader's bloody, flabby ass celebrates in the ring with all of his fat rolls jiggling and it's still freakin' awesome. In the locker room, Bockwinkel chews out the Boss for being a bad sport and LITERALLY takes his name away from him.

Yep. Nothing says "I'm an accomplished adult male" quite like holding up a KFC bucket and flipping off people pretending to hurt each other for a living.

Now that's the kind of wrestling that just don't exist no more. None of this flashy, soyboy, hippity-flippity bullshit, just two big old boys smacking the tar out of each other and bleeding buckets for the LOVE OF THE ART. Vader goddamn rules no matter what and when the Boss was allowed to go, he could flat out GO. A match of the year it may not be, but there's no denying this one was a fun as shit [*** 3/4] caliber match.

Time for the main event. Ricky Steamboat comes out to his awesome WCW music even though he's still wearing that stupid WWF "The Dragon" costume with the lizard wings and the whole fire-breathing shtick. And in the most '90s thing that has ever happened ever, the camera pans to a guy with a disposable camera taking a picture next to a guy holding a sign featuring Beavis and Butt-head calling Ricky Steamboat cool. Another guy has a sign that reads "This steamboat will run over nature," which, uh doesn't make any damn sense. And of course, Flair comes out to the theme song from "2001," or, as it is more commonly called, "fucking Ric Flair's music, motherfucker." Michael Buffer tells the crowd now is the appropriate time to rumble and pre-N.W.O. Nick Patrick is the referee. Buffer brings up Steamboat beating Flair at the Chi-Town Rumble five years earlier. He gets a surprisingly mixed reaction from the audience. Yeah, this is DEFINITELY a Ric Flair crowd here tonight. I love Heenan calling Flair Red Grange, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Wayne Gretzky and Hugh Hefner rolled into one human being. And to his credit, Tony S. does an admirable job recapping the famous Flair/Steamboat rivalry without coming off as too marky (New Japan announcers, take fucking note.) We get some solid arm drags and pseudo-chain wrestling to begin. Flair with a front face-lock and a quick breather against the ropes. "This people in Chicago would boo the Easter Bunny," Heenan says. "They'd *mug* the Easter Bunny." Another collar and elbow tie-up. Steamboat with a shoulder-block takedown. More good ground grappling, with both men working some great headlocks and scissor takedowns. And holy shit, Steamboat just slapped THE TASTE out of Flair's mouth, and Ric sells the shit out of it the way only he can. A ton of leapfrogs from Ricky and then we get a power slam. He hits Flair with two funky headscissors and two beautiful dropkicks, completing the combo with a flying karate chop off the top rope. You know, I never understood why it was illegal to back bodydrop a motherfucker over the top rope in WCW, but clotheslining a sumbitch over the top rope was perfectly legal. Flair with an armlock and he keeps throwing Steamboat to the mat. And now, it's time for CHOPS. God, this is fuckin' terrific. Flair momentarily exits the ring and re-enters the fray. Steamboat with a side headlock takedown and a ring rope assisted bulldog. Heenan drops a reference to People's Court, for some inexplicable reason. Steamboat with a shoulderblock and another side headlock. Now THIS is a technical showcase, kids. I LOVE how Steamboat slaps Flair's face while he has him in a headlock. Steamboat keeps spamming the headscissors. Shit, Flair used to have some DEADLY sounding chops back in the day. Steamboat still working a neck crank. More shoulder blocks from Steamboat and Ricky skins the cat ... that sick bastard. Ricky only gets a two-count on the attempted schoolboy. You know, this match has been about 50 percent nothing but headlocks but its still better than 95 percent of what the WWF put out in the 1990s. Steamboat STILL has that headlock/neck crank submission locked in. Flair tries for an atomic drop but Steamboat blocks it. Steamboat with a drop toe hold and he goes right back to the headlock. Heenan wonders why Flair's opponents never try to take his legs out, which come to think of it, is a really great kayfabe observation. Flair with shoulder charges in the corner. Ricky whiffs on a dropkick and Flair chops the SHIT out of that motherfucker in the corner. God, this is so comfy. Flair hits a knee drop. "I can smell pineapple juice," Heenan hilariously comments. Flair with chops galore and another knee drop. Just a two count. Flair keeps trying to go for a pinfall, but Steamboat kicks out like 17 times in a row. Flair with a NICE spinning elbow off the ropes. Steamboat retaliates with some HARD knife edge chops, and Steamboat is MORE than willing to return the favor. Flair ducks a chop and sends Steamboat and himself reeling to the outside on a crossbody. Flair goes for a piledriver on the outside and Steamboat flips him over. Ricky goes for a flying clothesline but he (ironically enough) winds up clotheslining himself on the metal guard rail. Flair throws him back into the ring. Flair goes up top, so of course Steamboat pursues him and superplexes that motherfucker. Naturally, it's only good for a two count. Flair does his patented turnbuckle bump and Steamboat chops his ass off the canvas. And there's flying karate chop to the outside for good measure. Flair begs Steamboat for mercy and Ricky punches Ric ten times in the corner, per the wrestling constitution. FLAIR FLOP TIME! But Flair gets his foot on the rope on the pin attempt. Steamboat gets dumped to the outside and Ric goes for a sunset flip - but Ric counters by punching him right in the goddamn face and it is glorious. Ric goes for a knee drop and Steamboat COUNTERS IT INTO A FIGURE FOUR! Flair keeps trying to get a rope break, and when he can't get it, he just pokes Steamboat in the eyes. Flair is hobbling around the ring. He tries to suplex Steamboat back into the ring but Ricky reverses it into a fallaway pin attempt. After that we have about a dozen near-fall counters with reversals, backslides and headlocks galore and it is goddamn amazing. Steamboat with a small package and Flair begs for his life once more. Steamboat backs Flair into a corner and Ric chops him good. Steamboat shoves the ref out of the way and starts throwing a million billion backhand chops. Flair flops his way through the ropes onto the ramp. Steamboat goes for a suplex. Flair counters it, then Steamboat counters the counter and chops Flair back into the ring. Ric takes another wacky turnbuckle bump and Flair gets his foot up on a flying karate chop attempt. This is an OUTSTANDING match. This one black kid in the crowd rubs Stemboat's shoulders and its really, really funny looking. Flair lands some chops, Steamboat fires back with some chops of his own. Steamboat hits a flying crossbody off the top rope but Flair kicks out. Flair chops Steamboat again and lands a snapmare. He goes up top and Steamboat launches his ass halfway across the ring. Ricky goes up top for another splash but Flair rolls out of the way. FIGURE FOUR TIME MOTHERFUCKER! Steamboat tries to block it, but he can't prevent Ric from fully sinking that fucker in. Steamboat, however, eventually makes it to the ropes. Ric immediately starts kicking Ricky's knees and goes for the Figure Four again. Steamboat rolls up Ric, but it is only good for a two count. Steamboat with a backslide - just a two. Steamboat goes for a superplex, but first he's got to punch Ric fifteen times in the face. And he sticks the 'plex. Both men are splayed out on the canvas as the ref administers a ten count. Ricky makes a cover, and Flair KICKS OUT! The ref gets bumped to the outside, but Flair esacpes the pin attempt anyway. Steamboat has an awesome bearhug/chicken wing submission locked in and he falls down, allowing Ricky to chalk up the three count? Except wait a minute, both men's shoulders were down for the count? Here comes Nick Bockwinkel to render an official verdict. LOL, he says Flair won because, technically, he was on top of Steamboat at the time of the pinfall. Some piddly looking fireworks go off and the fans boo the bullshit finish. Bockwinkel tries to explain how Flair won the match, but his explanation makes zero sense whatsoever. Well, even when WCW was awesome, they STILL had to find ways to fuck things up, didn't they?

The goddamn 1990s defined in one picture.

Anyhoo, that was a SUPERB main event, even with the screwy finish. Granted, it wasn't as good as their 1989 trilogy, but there's no denying it was some of the best pure, no-bullshit-need-apply mat wrestling of the decade. I'd EASILY consider this one of the best WCW PPV main events ever, and an easy [**** 3/4] classic that, for some reason, doesn't get anywhere near as much love from the smarks as you'd imagine. BTW, Flair and Steamboat had a follow-up bout on the ensuing week's edition of WCW Saturday Night, which was also pretty fucking great (and with a far more conclusive finish.) If you haven't, definitely go out of your way to check that one out, too - it's one of the best TV 'rasslin bouts you'll ever see, regardless of the decade.

Needless to say, with one of the best all-out brawls of the decade and one of the decade's best scientific clinics ... plus a great man-meat festival with Vader/Boss Man, a scummy Hepatitis-C-spreading blood bath between pre-Goldust and some registered sex offender looking fucker, not to mention a way better than it had any right to be "throwaway" Pillman/Regal time filler ... on the same show, this is EASILY one of the best WCW PPVs of the 1990s, if not the company's absolute best ever

WrestleMania 34 might be really, really good, and it might not. Who knows with the product in this day and age. What we know for sure, however, is that this particular PPV is all kinds of awesome, and if you're in dire need of some good, old-fashioned, Southern-style, lights-out, hide-the-women-and-children pro RASSLIN' the way God intended, this is pretty much the most reliable pick-me-up I can think of.

This is a show WELL worth going out of your ways to experience, folks. If for whatever stupid-ass reason you never saw it back in the day, by all means, hit up the Vimeo or the DailyMotions or the Pornhubs or whatever you kids are using nowadays and see if this tape is still making the rounds.

Trust me; you won't regret investing the time to find - and enjoy watching every second of - this all-time mat masterpiece.