The Schmoedown had its first PPV-style event of the 2018 season recently and the world went nuts. Fans arranged gatherings from Arizona to London and everyone came together for the joy of watching 48 competitors battle it to win Free 4 All II and earn a title shot. Last year, “The Inglorious One” Samm Levine came out late in the event and after clearing the table won a 1v1 against Tom Dagnino to earn a title shot that he cashed in at Collider Collision against Dan Murrell. This year, as well as the main prize, there was also a prize announced for the competitor who lasted the most rounds: a Number 1 Contender match.

There was so much to take in from the 2 videos I would be here forever if I tried to discuss everything, so I have decided to stick to the points that have stuck with me most. Obviously it goes without saying, there will be spoilers for the Free 4 All and also references to scenes in Scream Queens v Gardenhosers and Marc Andreyko v Ben Bateman as some storylines have been continued in these matches.

And your winner…!

Congratulations to “Miss Movies” Brianne Chandler on her victory. Coming out at number 44 is always going to give you a good shot but with William Bibbiani and Ethan Erwin at the table it will still take something special to win. In the 4 rounds she competed in, she averaged 4.75/5, the highest average of any competitor at the event. We have always known Brianne was a strong competitor and she proved it in this event.

f4awinHaving taken a step back from competing following her loss to Mike Kalinowski in the 2017 Ultimate Schmoedown, it was great to see Brianne back at the table (and coming in with another great entrance), even if it was just for an exhibition match and not regular competition. She has been doing a great job looking after the Schmoedown’s Patreon and doing the interviews for the Patreon matches, so I am hoping this will lead to more time back in front of the camera. Even if she isn’t ready to compete regularly get her on the desk!

Now thoughts turn to what Brianne will do with the title shot. I would love to see her go for it if she feels comfortable, as I think she really could challenge for the Singles title. Or, following her split from the Missfits, she could create a new team (Kalinowski, anyone?) and go for the Teams title, though I don’t know if they would be able to take down The Patriots. Another option open to her would be to give the title shot to someone else. Ahead of Scream Queens v Gardenhosers, we saw Kalinowski suggesting using it for him to get a shot at the Innergeekdom belt. We’ve since seen Ken Napzok trying to convince Brianne to give him the title shot as insurance if he fails to win his live match against Joseph Scrimshaw and Alex Damon and regain the title he (wrongly) feels he was cheated out of. Perhaps these are the start of a series of competitors pushing their cases and trying to join up with Brianne to start a new faction or get her to join theirs. Who else will we see trying to get Brianne to pick them over the next couple of weeks? Top 10? Team Action? Drew McWeeny? I’ll be interested to see what happens with this title shot.

Beasting it

William “The Beast” Bibbiani has had an up-and-down ride in the Schmoedown. He is clearly a knowledgeable competitor but has had some awful luck in Rounds 2 & 3, leaving him with a 3-4 singles record. Since leaving the 4 Horsemen to create the Growling Commandos, he has joined up with Witney “The Beauty” Seibold to compete in the team league as Critically Acclaimed, however their results have also been mixed as they beat Only Stupid Answers on their debut but lost in the first round of the 2017 Ultimate Schmoedown to Late to the Party (2017’s Upset of the Year) to leave them with a 1-1 record. If anyone needed a good showing in the Free 4 All it was Bibbs, and boy did he have a good showing!

beast
Growl Growl!

Coming in at number 20 was always going to make it hard for the Beast to win the event, but he put in an MVP performance that will be difficult to beat in future events. His 21 rounds competed in smashed Dan Murrell’s record from 2017 and he wasn’t just scraping through these rounds. His average score per round of 4.14 was bettered by only Marc Andreyko (4.40 from 5 rounds) and the winner Brianne Chandler (4.75 from 4 rounds), while his tally of 9 perfect rounds smashed Andreyko and Murrell’s joint record of 3 in 2017. Speaking on the Schmoedown Rundown, Bibbs discussed how for his Baby Driver-themed entrance he picked up a pair of non-prescription sunglasses which made it difficult to see the audience or the score, so he was just focusing on the questions. That, compared with a format more reminiscent of Round 1 (where Bibbs generally has more fortune) definitely seemed to benefit The Beast and I think he should have a word with Commissioner Thadd Williams about making his future matches into Iron Man matches.

And now to the future: by lasting the most rounds of any competitor, Bibbiani has earned a Number 1 Contender match. I’m not quite sure of the full conditions (whether he gets to choose his opponent) but he can decide which league he uses it in. So will he go singles or teams? Witney had a good showing in the Free 4 All but is still relatively inexperienced in the Schmoedown, so a Number 1 Contender’s match may be too early for Critically Acclaimed. A 3-4 record leaves The Beast a long way from a naturally earning a chance to compete for the singles title so I can see him cashing in for a chance to make it to a singles title match. Would he win? If he finally gets some luck in Rounds 2&3, he could certainly find himself with a belt around his waist.

While on the subject of Bibbiani, I just want to state how much I am enjoying him this season. Though he is clearly competitive, it was his lightheartedness that initially stood out to me when watching the match (until I realised just how long he was lasting). I have also really enjoyed his interviews with the Schmoedown Rundown and his appearances on the announcer desk, while his Patreon newsletter talking about how he plans his entrances was a great read – almost as good as his actual entrances! Coming into the Schmoedown midway through the 2017 season I was not a real fan of him, but his appearances this year have left me wanting more.

finstock“Poof!”

Looks like things are about to get interesting in the Schmoedown. After last year coming out as the final competitor in the 2017 Free 4 All, Tom Dagnino was not so lucky this year. The manager of the Lion’s Den was the second competitor out and, though he lasted longer than expected, he was still out relatively quickly in the event. That wasn’t it for Tricky Tom though as competitor number 39 was revealed to be his alter-ego Finstock, ironically coming out right after his former Mega Powers teammate Josh Macuga. Again, he didn’t last long at the table, but the possibilities of what Dagnino and his multiple personalities will get up to moving forward – Finstock stated that he is not part of the Lion’s Den – is frightening!

But that wasn’t all for the Dagnino news at the Free 4 All as Brianne was seen to trick Thadd into signing a contract with a clause stating that at 2100 patrons, Dagnino will be named Commissioner for a week. With it only being a week I can’t imagine that he will be able to get up to much trouble in that time, but it will certainly be an interesting shakeup to the league. One of the benefits of the delay to posting this is that I have seen Kristian tweet a screenshot of a text from Dagnino:

“You better hope these numbskulls don’t make me commissioner for that week cos I’m looking to start a civil war. At 2500 patrons, you’re playing ya buddy Ellis. Deal with it.”

I can hear the masses signing up already…

Though I am very much aligned against the Lion’s Den, I can’t help but agree that Dagnino makes things interesting. I look forward to seeing what happens with Dagnino and Finstock over the coming months.

Prison does strange things to you

“And their next opponent…” I wonder who’s next, there’s so many veterans we haven’t seen yet. *Jaws music begins* No way! “Representing… Screen Junkies…” YES! “Ladies and gentlemen… “Dangerous” Dan Murrell!” OH MY GOD!! *Andrew Ghai walks out* Oh for **** sake!

I’m sure my mind wasn’t the only one with similar thoughts as we witnessed the biggest shock of the 2018 Free 4 All. I do enjoy watching Team Action on the Schmoedown even though I would consider myself more of a Top 10 fan, but this entrance from Andrew Ghai on his return to the league following his ban for The Tackle was immense. In his absence, we have heard his teammate Ben “The Boss” Bateman saying that he’s been in prison, something Ghai confirmed in the post-match interviews when discussing his early exit:

“There’s no movies in jail, OK, so I couldn’t study. I just drank and shanked people”

Whether it was his time in jail or losing to his ‘dad’ John Rocha before that, something in Ghai’s mind has snapped. Coming out at the Free 4 All, Ghai claimed that he had killed Dan Murrell and hidden the body 6 feet under. Since then, we have seen him have a number of shirts released, including “I’m the Ghai that beat the GOAT” – a claim Ghai has been making loudly since the Free All – and a mockery of the new Murrell order nMo design. We’ve also seen him drinking heavily and being even louder and more foul-mouthed than usual, as well as using Bateman’s post-match interview as a chance to invite Clarke Wolfe out for something that sounded nothing like a match.

ghai4wolfeRight now, Ghai is the biggest heel in the league by a mile and it will be very interesting to see where things go from here. Will his antics get too much for “The Boss” as he starts pushing for a singles belt, forming a rift within the team? Will his claims of beating Murrell bring the GOAT out of his retirement, even for just a one-off match to put him back in place? Or will he just get himself banned and thrown back in jail again?

As an aside: going back to Ghai’s entrance and it is interesting that Thadd appeared to go behind Kristian’s back and pull a fast one on him by putting Murrell’s name in the order rather than Ghai’s. Team Action have certainly had some help from the Commissioner and I wonder if he is trying to get them onside for a possible power battle with Kristian Harloff.

What’s up with K.O.?

Mike Kalinowski currently seems to be at a crossroads as to his future in the Schmoedown. He has not been seen with The League this season following a disappointing loss for DC Movie News against Top That at the end of last season. We haven’t seen much of K.O. this season – his only match so far was the Triple Threat Number 1 Contender match where he was thoroughly outplayed by JTE and Rachel Cushing – but when we have, it has generally been on his own. It looked like his time with The League was over and his future was down one of 3 paths:

thornbush
If The League does disband, it looks like Roxy has her next faction

I was shocked then to see Kalinowski introduced as representing The League at the Free 4 All. Is he sticking with the guys who supported him during his rise up the rankings last season? I get the feeling we’ll get some answers following his match with Wolfe.

If he does walk away from The League, what is next for his old faction? Other than Kalinowski, they have not been that active in the competition. Jonny Loquasto is a great mouthpiece, but his competitive debut at the Free 4 All resulted in 3 points over 2 rounds, though it must be remembered that he came to the table during a period where we were seeing some of the strongest tables of the entire event. The only other member of The League to compete has been K.O.’s DC Movie News teammate Adam Gertler, who has so far stuck to the teams league. Losing Kalinowski could see the end of The League as a faction.

New faces and welcome returns

It is a real measure of the growth of the Schmoedown that the Free 4 All was able to expand from 35 competitors in 2017 to 48 in 2018. Not only were we treated to the regular contenders, but we also had a couple of players making their debut (such as Wendy Lee Szany), plenty of competitors who have debuted this season and so far made just a couple of appearances (ranging from Dale the Dude and Taylor Robinson to Ethan Erwin). Looking at the more established names, we had a number of competitors making only their first or second appearance of the season, but were also treated to a number of players who were making grand returns to the Schmoedown table after extended absences, like Brianne and Mark “Yodi” Reilly, which made Ghai’s Murrell tease even more believable. It was great seeing them competing again, even if it was just for an exhibition match.

Yodi back
Yodi’s return to the table was one of the best surprises in the match

What really shows the strength of the Schmoedown in the list of players who did not feature at this year’s event. Current Champions Jeff Sneider, Jason Inman and Sam Witwer, former Champions Matt Knost and Hector Navarro and other veterans like Clarke Wolfe and Scott Mantz were all absent from the competition, while former Commissioner Kristian Harloff was at the desk and current Commissioner Thadd Williams appeared only in the scenes before and after the event.

With so many competitors, it allows such a great variety of matches. With the live shows and the Patreon, we are already seeing more matches that will have no bearing on the title picture this year and it is making the league even more enjoyable.

And while we’re on the subject of new faces, how good was it to finally see Jenn Sterger announcing a match?! Fans have been begging for it for so long and she proved us right by doing a great job. The Schmoedown is doing a great job of rotating the announcers this season, hopefully this will mean we are not left waiting too long before we see Jenn at the desk again.

 

What were your thoughts on Free 4 All II? Who impressed you the most? Who was your favourite competitor? What are you looking forward to moving forward? Did you attend one of the viewing parties? Let me know in the comments.

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