Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Meditations on a CM Punk Promo

Yeah, I know. Everybody is going to be talking about the CM Punk promo from last night. Any why shouldn’t we? I can count on my hand the number of times wrestling has gotten “real.” Montreal Screw Job was one. Bash at the Beach (Russo’s promo) was at best what we still think was one. Edge’s retirement promo was one. And last night on Raw was a real moment. Or at least we think it was.

It was reminiscent of Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network” (which if you have never seen, is one of the best movies of ALL TIME). Another scene it reminded me of was the opening scene on the short-lived show “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” which had Judd Hirsch cutting a very Punk-like promo on the state of his television show.

Was it a work or a shoot? I still can’t decide. My Twitter timeline was filled with person after person calling this the greatest promo ever, the greatest moment in the history of Raw, CM Punk is a god, etc. Stone Cold Steve Austin called the promo one of the best he’s ever seen. My wife (who is usually asleep by 8:15 central time) was on the edge of her seat asking “What is going on?” She asked me to update her tomorrow morning. She made us go talk to my sister-in-law (who is temporarily living with us) to try to describe it to her. I LOST SLEEP thinking about this because I was so excited! Do you know the last time pro wrestling made me lose sleep?

I’ve watched wrestling since 1996. It’s hard for me to believe that anything that happens on WWE’s television isn’t a work. First of all, if Punk grabbed the mic and they didn’t want him to talk, it would have never turned on. And if he veered off the topic, he would have been cut off the moment he mentioned the fourth wall. Random stuff DOES NOT come on the WWE’s television. Second of all, notice that when he was cut off, he was talking about Vince McMahon. Now the only question is did Vince McMahon suspend Punk or did Mr. McMahon suspend Punk? Third, they mentioned New Japan and Ring of Honor and Colt Cabana. This is not the first time Ring of Honor has been mentioned on WWE TV (Matt Hardy, anyone?). And what money is the WWE going to lose by New Japan being mentioned? Notice he didn’t say anything about TNA? (And yes, I know. He was already there once and they didn’t know what to do with him. I doubt he will be going back there.)

Have we seen something new here? Is Triple-H (who we have heard is beginning to run things) trying something that will work? Did Trips give him the microphone and say “Shoot. I’ll cut you off when you start talking about Vince and Bullying”? For the first time in a LONG time, I am on the edge of my seat. Raw is must-see, can’t-miss. I have one million questions and reasons to turn into Raw. Whomever let this happen, I give you full credit. This is the best thing I’ve seen on Raw in a long time and possibly, ever.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

UFC Live on Versus-4

UFC has not given us the names on this card. But I think they have given us a card filled with really evenly-matched fights. This will not be a night of "squash matches" to borrow a term from the pro wrestling world.
Welterweight bout: Nate Marquardt (31-10-2) vs. Rick Story (13-3)
I learned my lesson with my first UFC preview. Never go against Marquardt. But he's 3 of his last 5. Story hasn't lost since '08. He's coming off a win over Thiago Alves (<-------------huge). Everything within me says not to go against Nate, but Story is on a tear. And I think he tears through Nate.
Winner: Story
Under different circumstances, Charlie Brenneman has replaced Nate Marquardt. I still say Story has the momentum.
Heavyweight bout: Cheick Kongo (15-6-2) vs. Pat Barry (6-2)
Cheick Kongo is a big boy. So is Barry. This should be akin to Clash of the Titans. The only thing to be decided is WHO will release the Kracken. Both seem to be riding the same momentum wave. There's one thing that makes me choose Kongo. Barry has never won a submission victory. Kongo has 3 (20% of his victories). That makes Kongo the choice for me.
Winner: Kongo
Welterweight bout: Matt Brown (11-10) vs. John Howard (14-6)
This is going to be an interesting fight here. Brown is coming off a 3-fight losing streak, while Howard is looking at two. Both look equally hungry, and both need this win really bad. Howard gets the momentum edge. Brown has never won a decision. Both of these fighters are really evenly-matched. I like Brown, but in what could most likely be described as a "Loser Leaves Town" match, I think Howard will most likely take a victory.
Winner: Howard
Heavyweight bout: Matt Mitrione (4-0) vs. Christian Morecraft (7-1)
I still haven't figured out what Matt Mitrione does or why he's good. I also have no idea what to expect from him. Ever. Mitrione's ground game is still unproven, as he has never submitted somebody professionally. Morecraft is pretty much down the line with 3 TKO's and 4 submissions. I'm going with Morecraft for the win.
Winner: Morecraft
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Meditations on Strikeforce Experience

I guess I should explain what I'm doing. I won't really do a linear recap. You'll be able to find many great recaps. These are just my meditations and reflections of the weekend that was.

-First and most important lesson. Do NOT ever do a weigh-in outside in North Texas on June 17th. It had to be 108 degrees out there. You could tell that most people there were hungry for MMA, but then there were some blood-thirsty fame-seekers, too.

-Shirts not to wear at an MMA weigh-in: this or this.

-One of the most popular personalities there by far was Jacob Stitch Duran. The man was treated like a god, and many people wanted their picture taken with him. He was just out in the crowd, standing with the people.

-When you are speaking to a fighter or an MMA personality, show some respect. If you are trying to get somebody's attention, start with their nickname. And if they don't respond, start with their last name. Especially if they are as old as Stitch.

-After the weigh-in my dad and I were walking to the car, we saw, walking the other direction, Renato "Babalu" Sobral (who was cornering Marco Almeida). After having a minor freak-out moment, a group of guys behind us spotted him, too. They asked him for a picture. He didn't have much time but took one anyway. I thought that was classy.

-The actual event was fun even though the fights pretty much blew. There was a tool who went apes*** over the fact they didn't open the door at 5:59:30. He got the officer to open the door to tell him to shut up (we think).

-We had floor seats and they were very well-guarded so there weren't any scrubs paying $12 and then finding a floor seat. I really hate it when that happens.

-There were some fight sponsors giving out their t-shirts for free. I felt they needed a plug.  http://www.feartappingout.com/

-Those of us on the floor were kind of like a double-decker tour bus taking a Hollywood tour of homes. Every new body that came out, it was like "Who is that?" We found Bas Rutten and Michael Schiavello pretty early in the night. When he was able to, Bas took pictures with whomever he could. I was shocked how little Mauro Ranallo and Jimmy Lennon Jr. were bothered. Miesha Tate was spotted in the crowd, as was Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. Herschel Walker and Michael Irvin were also in the crowd. Miesha and Bigfoot were very accessible and took a lot of pictures with whomever they could.

-I had a 13-year-old girl Justin Bieber moment when I first saw Miesha Tate. I squeed like a girl when I saw her. I gave her a new nickname that night-"Gina who?" I tweeted, "Just saw @MieshaTate in person. Or as I call her, 'Gina who?' Camera does not do her justice." I was actually responded to by her. "@justinruff Lol thanks! I don't think Im very photogenic lol". I've been tweeted by some celebrities before. I think that was one of the biggest for me.

-The first fight was Brian Melancon vs. Isaac Valle-Flagg. This was the first of the bulls*** decisions from the judges. Melancon looked great in the cage, and I hope he gets several opportunities. Nothing against Isaac (who had Keith Jardine in his corner), but it was 29-27 Melancon at best.

-During the first fight, we had the ring girls stand ringside. At first the one in front of us looked hot and athletic and stuff. And then I realized. The poor thing has never eaten. The great Sir Mix-a-Lot could not have said, "Red beans and rice didn't miss her." I again tweeted "Somebody get the ring girl some food. Give me @Mieshatate any day." I was responded with a "Hahaha lmao" from the lovely Ms. Tate herself.

-Nah-shon Burrell was great in his fight, and even though Joe Ray tried to put him under every submission imaginable, Burrell fought back. I wrote that Burrell does not feel pain.

-Conor Heun took on Marco Almeida. While I am happy that Heun got the win, I started out the fight as a fan of Heun and ended up a fan of both by the time it was over. There was no way Heun got that decision.

-Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante is a man who cannot catch a break. His last fight was a decision that even the winner said "There's no way that was 30-27." And then an accidental eye poke. Love JZ. Wish him lots of luck, because the guy has no good luck at all.

-Chad Griggs looked great against Valentijn Overeem. The crowd was definitely "Team Overeem." I was just glad to see a finish.

-Apparently they forgot to tell Jeff Monson he could hit too. It was a pretty disappointing fight.

-KJ Noons-Jorge Masvidal was my fight of the night choice. What was so surreal was that I was watching the moment where Masvidal punched Noons and the cut happened. That this fight lasted a round was a small miracle. I have to say that after this round, Stitch is the greatest miracle worker in humanity.

-Josh Barnett had a great submission victory against Bret Rogers.

-You'll hear 30,000 different opinions on Overeem-Werdum. It was just such a styles clash. To compare, it was like AJ Styles having a pro wrestling match against Mad Man Pondo. Or the Dallas Mavericks playing the Green Bay Packers in baseball. I think that Werdum is going to get a lot of flack. All he wanted to do was fight his style. It was a pretty awful main event. I'm just glad Overeem won.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Why I’m Hopping Mad

I have thousands of reasons to celebrate. It’s my daughter’s second birthday. (Love you, Baby Girl!) Father’s Day is a week away. We’re taking my father-in-law someplace special (that I’ve never eaten at before, too). My anniversary is two weeks away. (5 years! I love you, Beautiful!)

As a sports fan, I have plenty of reasons to celebrate. UFC 131 was a great Pay-Per-View, according to the chatter I heard. Junior Dos Santos won (who is quickly becoming one of my favorites). Strikeforce is going to be live in Dallas this weekend. I have floor seats (thanks to my dad). Overeem vs. Werdum should be a freaking awesome fight. Derek Jeter (whom I despise, yet respect) is 7 hits away from being the 28 baseball player in history to hit his 3000th hit. Not that he will be the last to do that. Ivan Rodriguez, A-Hole and Omar Vizquel are all within 250. (And since Vizquel has that picture up in his attic that ages while doesn’t, he just might make it happen.) My Phillies went 3-1 to win their series against the Cubs. My native Panama beat the USA in soccer this weekend. There’s a 3-hour Raw tonight. For me, this should be sports Nirvana/Valhalla/Eden/Heaven/Whatever-You-Call-Paradise.

But yet with all this, I’m still hopping mad. You see, last night, something historic happened. The Dallas Mavericks won their first title. Originally, I wanted to do this beautiful, well-written emotional blog about how it was finally the Mavericks’ time, much like I did for the Rangers when they won the AL Pennant. But I’m going to be honest. I don’t have the same attachment I have for the Mavs. In my life, there’s baseball and then there’s the other sports.

But I do have some great memories of the Mavs. I’ve only been to one Mavericks game my entire life. (Greatest Christmas present ever! Love you, Beautiful!) I wanted to go see the Hawks because they had just drafted Acie Law IV from Texas A&M. I wore my Hawks jersey (Yeah, I’m that tool who always wears the opposing team’s uniform.), and I was pretty much ignored the whole night (Not like the long walk to Texas Stadium with my Brian Dawkins Eagles jersey). My wife had gotten freakin’ awesome tickets for me. I really wanted to go see this game badly, but she convinced me that I wasn’t going to be able to go because we had been to see a Cowboys/Eagles game. And then on Christmas morning, I opened up a package with an envelope from StubHub that said, “Yes, you’re going!” I opened up and there were tickets to go see the Hawks-Mavericks. And the seats were great. When we went to the game, there was this really beautiful woman sitting two rows ahead of us with about 5 girls, all beautiful young girls. Come to find out, this was the lovely Mrs. Terry. Yeah, we were two rows behind Mrs. Jet. What makes that more impressive is that my wife hates basketball and was willing to sit through it with me.

I remember there were some years you wouldn’t watch the Mavs with somebody else’s eyes. And then Mark Cuban and Don Nelson and Steve Nash and Dirk and Michael Finley happened. And then they started to win. And then you would watch them and support them until they made the playoffs. Then it was just a matter of time before they were eliminated by the Spurs or the Suns or the Lakers. We loved our Mavericks. We were just numb to them in the postseason.

Then we did it. The people of Dallas got their first major title since the Stars brought home the Stanley Cup. I didn’t quite cry like I did when the Rangers won their first pennant. I was still overwhelmed with emotion. There were my Mavs: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, JJ Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion. Mark Cuban let the old Mavericks owner be the first to hoist his trophy. Dirk won the MVP (though I think Jet or Barea could have won it and I’d be happy). It was a beautiful experience. But there was one problem…

Last night’s victory was not about the Mavs winning. It was about the Heat losing. As we should have been watching the people of Dallas celebrating and the Mavs celebrating on the court like they had just won the championship (which they had), we got to watch LeBron James and Dwayne Wade walk to the back, a “walk of shame,” if you will. There was no celebration on the court we got to experience. We got to see two basketball players doing their walk of shame.

This was the Mavericks’ moment. This was a moment for all the players, the owners, the executives, the Mavs dancers, the ManiAAC’s, the drum corps, everybody from Mark Cuban to the security guard who tells you to turn your flash on. They won this title. And most importantly, this was a moment for the people of Dallas. We had seen so many collapses. The ’06 Finals, losing to the Warriors in the first round, watching the Spurs continually spank us til we bleed, seasons we should have worn paper bags on our heads, where you couldn’t get us to buy a Popeye Jones jersey. We stuck with our team. This was our moment. And instead, we got to watch LeBron & D-Wade walk to the locker room.

Not that it wasn’t satisfying watching that, but that was our moment. And now we’re forced to suffer through ESPN Talking Heads talk about LeBron choking, rather than the successes of two NBA legends finally getting their rings (Nowitzki and Jason Kidd), Jason Terry, JJ Barea and the rest of the bench stepping up.

And stop it. All you Talking Heads, just stop it. LeBron James will never be Michael Jordan. They are different players, played in different eras, and they are different people. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West. Those are all great players, and while it’s fun to talk about who was better, can we just give it a rest for a moment? Just a little bit? Can we save this discussion for the drunk guys in the bar?

Congratulations, Mavs, on your first title. And many happy returns.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Who's Next?-UFC Edition

The following is simply my opinion. I welcome any comment below.
Recently, in my opinion, the world of MMA has hit an impasse. They have hit an area of stagnation with their stars. For a long time, we were very lucky in the MMA world. We had some huge names at the top of our list for a long time: Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Rich Franklin, Matt Hughes, Ken Shamrock, BJ Penn. Now the landscape of MMA is changing. Chuck Liddell has the job where he is like VP of Party Planning and photo ops at big events. Couture has a great gig in the direct-to-video, low-budget action film market. He will be comfortably living the life of luxury until Expendables Part 25. Ortiz hasn’t won since ’06, and with the domestic issues a year ago, is about as marketable as Michael Jordan with a Hitler mustache. Rich Franklin is trying to follow Couture’s path with Kelly Kapowski (Saved By the Bell reference). While still a name, it doesn’t have the luster it once did. Matt Hughes was a great name, but nobody would see him on the street and go, “Oh, hey, there’s Matt Hughes.” Ken Shamrock tested positive for steroids in ’09, so he has a scarlet letter on his chest. And BJ Penn has his book and was last seen taking down a Fox News guy. Time is marching on.
Who are we left with now?
Rampage “My really cool role in A-Team that I beat out some big name stars was gay” Jackson?
Humble Georges St. Pierre? A great fighter, but he’s not going to be starring in movies where he has dialogue.
Anderson Silva? While he is the greatest fighter in the world, at times, he has the likability of Tiger Woods, post-car accident.
Shogun Rua? Lyoto Machida? Don’t ask me to pick them out of a line-up.
Rashad Evans? Makes Anderson Silva likable.
Jose Aldo? Great athlete. But what do I know about him?
Matt Hamill? He was in a main event and the MMA community treated it like it was the worst moment event in MMA history.
Chael “All Talk, No Walk” Sonnen? Not after testing positive for PED’s.
Ryan Bader? My wife likes him, as does my preschool teacher.
Forrest Griffin? Maybe. But what ball have they given him?
Michael Bisping? Everybody loves (to see) a villain (get their a** beat).
Court McGee? Great story, but what have they done with him recently?
Diego Sanchez? Maybe. (I’m not going to tell him he’s not.)
Clay Guida? Of course, but what have they done to build him?
Amir Sadollah? Definitely has great crossover appeal. Already hosts an online show about Ultimate Fighter.
Jonathan Brookins? Definitely a future superstar if they let him be.
Roy Nelson? See “Michael Bisping.”
“Mayhem” Miller? Good recognition with the youths of today because of his history on “Bully Beatdown.”
“Bones” Jones? The guy radiates money. But does UFC know he does?
UFC has been holding onto their old stars for far too long. It’s time to give some of the younger stars a chance. It looks like they’re starting to with Brian Stann and Jon “Bones” Jones. And maybe the answer isn’t in the usual UFC box. Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum and Tyron Woodley are all huge names they have yet to utilize from the Strikeforce purchase. And of course, there’s the women of Strikeforce: Gina Carano, Sarah Kaufman, Cyborg Santos, Miesha Tate, Marloes Coenen, an untapped market on the cusp of explosion.
Not that any of those would bring millions to the UFC’s pocketbooks, but think for a moment on who is going to be the next star. Who will hold onto the reins now?
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