Faction Rundown: The League

Faction Rundown: The League

Welcome to my Faction Rundown series. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be looking at each of the factions in the Schmoedown to see how things are going for them in Season 5 of the Schmoedown. I will be looking at the titles they hold, the chances they have coming up and the general strength of each faction. At the end I will also be giving my personal ranking of the faction based on how the season is going and the potential I see going forward. The 4 main factions have now all been covered but there are a couple of other factions who have featured this season, though it would appear some of these factions may have reached their end, for now at least. Next up is The League

Members: Roxy Striar (manager), Adam Gertler, Jonny Loquasto

Current titles: None

unite
The League unites ahead of Mike’s Innergeekdom Fatal Fiveway

History: Mike “The Killer” Kalinowki was already a part of the league from Season 3 but in June 2017 made his Innergeekdom debut in a Fatal Fiveway match. As he prepared for the match, he was joined backstage by Roxy, Jonny and Gertler, who all wished him luck and joined together with him to form The League. Kalinowski lost that match in the final round to “Crazy” Coy Jandreau and also lost a later lost a 1v1 match in the division to Rachel Cushing, but both matches showed his potential in the Innergeekdom Division. In the singles Division, The Killer built on his 1-0 record from Season 1, finishing 2017 with a new nickname, “KO”, and a 4-2 all-time record which included 2 wins against Brianne Chandler and a run to the semi-final of the Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament, where he lost to JTE. Gertler joined up with Kalinowski in the Teams Division as DC Movie News and they started off well with wins against CinemaBlend and a KO in the Ultimate Schmoedown over Six Degrees, however they lost in the next round via TKO to Above The Line and were then TKO’d again by Top That, a loss that really seemed to disappoint Kalinowski, who was last seen at the end of 2017 in the company of Brianne Chandler, fresh from her decision to leave the Missfits.

Season 5 so far: It’s been a quiet season for The League as a whole. It was Brianne who accompanied KO out for his Number 1 Contender match against JTE and Rachel Cushing, a match which saw him KO’d by the Crusher. Free 4 All II saw Kalinowski joined by Loquasto – making his Schmoedown debut. Loquasto went 3/10 at the table and went out after 2 rounds, whereas KO was unlucky to go out in his first round after getting 4/5 correct answers. It looked like maybe The League were back, but Striar and company were absent again when the poster boy of The League faced Clarke Wolfe in her Number 1 Contender match, something that clearly upset Kalinowski.

byemikeAnd then things got crazy. With Andrew Ghai back in the league and a live match against the Shirewolves coming up, Team Action challenged DC Movie News to a match. Suddenly, with the team involved, everyone was back for the match, something that Kalinowski clearly noticed ahead of the match. He was clearly fired up for the competition and if you need to see any more evidence just watch his reaction when Gertler spun James Bond for them in Round 2! Unfortunately for Kalinowski and Gertler, their decision – on the advice of manager Roxy Striar – to give Team Action Fantasy/Sci-Fi backfired as Ben and Drew scored 8 points while only allowing a 1 point steal to leave the score at 21-21, before going on to win with the final question in Round 3. Gertler looked distressed and Kalinowski looked absolutely fuming. With my previous speculation that KO would be one of the new Horsemen, seeing his mood in the post-match interview made me think that something was about to go down, but even I wasn’t expecting what happened next. After seething through Roxy and Jonny’s responses, Kalinowski stole the mic and went on a furious tirade against the rest of The League, eventually announcing that he was done and walking out on the faction, leaving everyone in a state of shock.

JLoq
It may be a while before we see another intense promo from Jonny Loquasto

Future Prospects: I hate to say it, but I think The League is dead, at least for now. Jonny is a wonderful mouthpiece and I would love to see him compete more, while I also enjoy Gertler as “The Silent Assassin” as part of DC Movie News. However, Jonny’s 2 rounds at this year’s Free 4 All is all the experience he has at the table, while Gertler has never appeared solo and has often be the weaker half of DC Movie News, while Roxy hasn’t competed at all, so I don’t know how well they would do either in the Singles League or as a new roster for DC Movie News in the Teams Division. With the Innergeekdom Tournament well underway and the Singles and Teams Tournaments coming up after Collision, I don’t see where they would be able to fit in the schedule in any significant way until next season. Would Gertler even want to compete again anytime soon after the most recent match? As if the loss to Team Action wasn’t bad enough, Kalinowsi leaving appeared to hit him hard.

IFeelLikeIJustBrokeMikeKalinowski
“I feel like I just broke Mike Kalinowski” – Adam Gertler

Perhaps they will come back to help the league deal with Kalinowski as he takes control of the Schmoedown through his puppet Thadd. Only time will tell, but I don’t expect to see much of The League as a faction anytime soon.

Season 5 record (across all divisions): 0-1          With Kalinowski gone, Gertler’s part in DC Movie News’ loss to Action is the only match remaining on The League’s record this year

jonnyhang
Jonny summing up the state of The League

Mid-season ranking: 7th          The faction appears dead for now, while there is no experienced representation left in the faction now Kalinowski is gone. I’ll be shocked if we see much more of them this year

Picking a XV: 2018 Summer Tests

Picking a XV: 2018 Summer Tests

The June Tests are over for another year (sob!) and now rugby fans in the Northern Hemisphere are left to endure a summer without rugby until their club’s preseason matches start, while fans below the Equator can get back to watching Super Rugby and looking forward to the Rugby Championship. With an ever-decreasing number of matches remaining before the World Cup, it is getting important now for coaches to begin thinking about the players they want to take to Japan.

With this in mind, I have decided to have a look at my picks for the team of the summer. This is not counting England’s match against the Barbarians, only the capped Tests. I will also apologise in advance to Italy and Japan if I missed anyone deserving of a spot, but I was unable to see any of their matches.

1 – Tendai Mtawawira: Called “The Beast” for a reason, he continues to put in fine performances to keep Steven Kitshoff on the bench. In the 3-Test series against England, he caused Kyle Sinckler problems at the scrum and his barnstorming run from the back of a ruck on his 100th Tests set up Duane Vermeulen was one of the highlights of the 2nd Test

2 – George Turner: The Glasgow hooker may not have been up against the strongest of opponents this summer, but he took his chances. He came off the bench against Canada to score a rare hattrick for a hooker (granted they were team efforts from driving mauls but they required accurate lineouts to set up) and then scored another try against the USA a week later. He may have strong competition in front of him in the form of Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally, but if he continues to take his chances a run in the squad is surely not far away

3 – Tadhg Furlong: Arguably the best tight-head in the world at the moment, Furlong continues to show himself as a strong scrummager who is also a beast in the loose. His strength will always help him get through a weak tackle but he also has good enough pace and handling skills to take advantage of it. This Ireland squad looks so much stronger when he’s on the pitch

4 – RG Snyman: I couldn’t believe it when I heard that Snyman was only 23 years old and making his Test debut this summer, that’s how assured he looked in the series against England. He took full advantage of the space left by the missing Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager and played a big part in a pack that physically dominated the English for much of the series. Like Turner, he may not get the starts when everyone is available, but Rassie Erasmus will love the depth that is developing in the second row

5 – Scott Barrett: Made history along with brothers Beauden and Jordie in the 1st Test by becoming the first family to have 3 brothers in the same All Blacks starting line-up and in my opinion outshone his flashier brothers over the full series. Was a deserved Man of the Match in the 3rd Test against France and looked very impressive in every match. He’ll struggle to beat out Brodie Retallick or Sam Whitelock when they are fully fit but it’s doesn’t appear there would be much drop in quality if he was to come into the XV long-term

6 – David Pocock: An openside by trade but played at 6 and 8 for the majority of the series to accommodate Michael Hooper. It was so great to see Pocock back in the Australia squad following his sabbatical and the “Pooper” pairing was as good as ever. His performance at the breakdown was immense and even though he was often targeted by the Irish support men he still had a devastating effect on the breakdown

7 – Siya Kolisi: Made history by becoming the first black captain of the Springboks and led his team to a 2-1 series victory over England to hint at an improved future for the team. Under heavy pressure, Kolisi led by example and was aprt of a pack that generally outperformed England over the 3 Tests

8 – Duane Vermeulen: He’s just announced a short-term deal with Kubot Spears, but when that comes to an end I’m sure plenty of clubs will be chasing his signature off the back of his performances in the 2nd and 3rd Tests. In the 2nd Test especially, the former Toulon number 8 bullied the England forwards and was fully deserving of his try

9 – Faf de Klerk: Probably South Africa’s best player over the whole series, the Sale halfback was almost unplayable in the 1st Test against England. While he may not have been as much of a standout in the other matches, he still quietly went about his business while having a few wonderful moments like pushing Nathan Hughes back 5 metres in a 1-on-1 tackle in the 3rd Test

10 – AJ MacGinty: Probably not many people’s pick here after Johnny Sexton’s part in Ireland’s series victory Down Under, but I went for former Connacht outside half MacGinty. I was shocked that he didn’t get the Man of the Match award in the USA’s historic win over Scotland, but he did a week later against Canada and finished the summer with 38 points over 3 matches. A good fly half is vital in Test rugby and the American is exactly what the Eagles need as they look to build on their success

11 – Mike Brown: I’m not a fan of Mike Brown on the wing and still don’t understand why he wasn’t given a summer off by Eddie Jones, but Brown had a good tour on the whole. He scored and assisted tries in attack and in defence covered well when South Africa broke through the middle, while also helping Daly cover fullback. I do however think South Africa missed a trick by not trying to isolate him as much in the 2nd and 3rd Tests

12- Hadleigh Parkes: Came on in the first half of their opener against South Africa and gave the team much more balance, then starred in the 1st Test against Argentina despite suffering a compound fracture of his finger in the opening minutes. Parkes has been a revelation since becoming eligible for Wales and must surely be one of the first names on the team sheet

13 – Scott Williams: Williams was so reliable for Wales this summer and formed a strong partnership with his (now former) teammate Parkes. Jonathan Davies is arguably still the ideal partner for Parkes but Williams’ ability to play 12 or 13 will likely see him as the immediate backup in the squad

14 – Jonny May: A try in each match and assists in the first 2 Tests, May was arguably the player of the series for England. He may not have been tested too much in defence but in attack the flashes of skill are gone and we now have a reliable winger who makes chances out of nothing and has the pace to terrify defenders. Nobody else on the pitch was getting to Cipriani’s kick! This tournament has surely pushed him up the pecking order and he may even be Eddie’s number 1 winger now

15 – Willie le Roux: Making his first appearance for the Springboks since November 2016, le Roux carried on from his form this season with Wasps and looks back to his best. He caused England so many problems around the 13 channel in the series opener and this led to many of South Africa’s best chances in that match. Hopefully he will become a regular in the South Africa squad again now Rassie Erasmus is in charge

What do you think of my selections? Let me know in the comments who you would have picked, I’d be interested to see how many players we have in common.

2018 Summer Tests Week 3: A Rugby Ramble

2018 Summer Tests Week 3: A Rugby Ramble

The official verdict

There is a problem in international rugby that got far too much attention over the last couple of weeks: the standard of officiating. Right now there just don’t seem enough referees good enough for the importance for the matches. As I said the other week, I think Luke Pearce is a very good referee and on the whole had a good game on his Tier 1 debut, but should have probably gone to the TMO for the French yellow card and should have had much more support from the TMO for the Grosso incident and the final try. Last week, I was full supportive of Angus Gardner’s red card for Benjamin Fall, but World Rugby decided to rescind the card, appearing to go against every decision in recent months.

This week, the refereeing in some of the matches was, to put it nicely, dire! Not a single one of the New Zealand v France Tests could go without controversy, as this time John Lacey awarded a try to Damian McKenzie just before half time after clearly blocking Baptiste Serin from making an attempt to tackle the All Blacks fly half. With just 1 look at the replay, Lacey and TMO George Ayoub agreed that Lacey had not impeded Serin and allowed the try, despite evidence clearly to the contrary. An offensive line in the NFL would be proud of that block! I understand that it is not always easy for a referee to position himself, but in the first attacking channel, exactly where a defending scrum half will run, is definitely not the right place and this was not even the only time his positioning was off as he ran into the passing lane from the back of a ruck earlier in the half as the scrum half was playing the ball away.

Unbelievable as it may seem, the 3rd Test between Australia and Ireland may have been even worse in terms of officiating. Israel Folau was shown a yellow card after 30 minutes after playing Peter O’Mahony in the air, resulting in the Irish captain landing awkwardly on his back and having to leave the pitch. While I can’t argue with this decision – it was a fair contest for the ball but Folau then grabbed him in the air – this was not the first time he had done this to O’Mahony in the game, with an earlier challenge where the flanker landed on his head a shoulders (a straight red according to the laws) going unpunished. Folau should consider himself lucky to have made it to half time without a red, but he definitely should have seen one for a second yellow card late in the game as he was judged to deliberately knock on an Irish pass when they had a 2-man overlap. They may not have been in a scoring position but it was a professional foul with a chance of a break on and fully deserving of a second yellow. It wasn’t just Pascal Gauzere’s reluctance to send off Folau that could have cost Ireland the win, as they were also disallowed what looked like 2 certain penalty tries in the second half. With the ball at the back of a ruck on the Australian line, Conor Murray dived for the post with the ball in an attempt to score by placing the ball against the base of the post. Gauzere consulted the TMO and they agreed that he had been unable to make contact with the post, but theat he had been stopped by a player in an offside position. Sekope Kepu was still on the floor trying to (slowly) extricate himself from the last ruck, but moved his body to protect the post, while Adam Coleman’s low stance clearly saw him with hands on the ball ahead of the post rather than behind the try line. 2 players illegally stopping a chance to score, how that wasn’t a penalty try – or even a yellow card – is beyond me! Then not long later an Irish maul was advancing over the try line and clearly collapsed by the Australian pack. Gauzere awarded a penalty, but with the maul clearly moving forward and in the process of crossing the line, a penalty try appeared the only option to me

I hope this doesn’t sound like a piece blasting officials as it is not intended as such, rather it is highlighting the need for an improved and more consistent quality of refereeing. Rugby is a professional sport and while these matches were not in a tournament they could have affected the rankings. Players need to know what they will and won’t be penalised for and until we have players and officials singing off the same hymn sheet, how are fans expected to not react to what they feel t be a clear injustice? With the World Cup just over a year away, either the quality of the officials has to improve dramatically, or we need to find a way to clone Wayne Barnes and Nigel Owens soon.

The American dream

The USA finished off their fixtures this summer with a 42-17 win over Canada. This win leaves the Eagles undefeated in 2018 and 15th in the World Rankings. Argentina meanwhile slumped to an embarrassing 15-44 loss to an understrength Scotland. Despite the Pumas being ranked 10th in the world, if they were to play the USA this weekend I would not be surprised to see the Eagles emerge victorious.

The Eagles are on a wonderful run and their success will only push them on and make them even more successful as more people become interested in the sport. I would expect Argentina to begin improving in the near future under new leadership, but I can’t see them getting a single win against New Zealand, Australia or South Africa as things stand and it is quite possible that when we see these 2 teams meet in Pool C of the World Cup, the winner could be looking at becoming the top-ranked American team. What a moment that would be!

80 minute performance

New Zealand may have come away from the Summer Tests with a 3-0 series victory, but they looked anything but unbeatable. Over the 3 tests, the combined first half scores were 50-33 in favour of the Kiwis, but the second half saw them comfortably ahead 77-7. The French played very well in parts but were unable to put in the full 80 minute performances. Granted the yellow card to Paul Gabrillagues in the 1st Test won’t have helped in that match – they conceded 3 tries while he was off the pitch – but once the All Blacks got the momentum hey ran away with the 1st and 3rd Tests. The only one you could argue the French put in the full 80 minute performance was the 2nd Test, where they played the majority of the match a man down.

The All Blacks are beatable and I’m not sold on McKenzie as an international 10 when Beauden Barrett isn’t available, but you need to be at the top of your game to beat them and need to keep the performance going from the first whistle to the last.

Faction Rundown: The School of the Elite

Faction Rundown: The School of the Elite

Welcome to my Faction Rundown series. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be looking at each of the factions in the Schmoedown to see how things are going for them in Season 5 of the Schmoedown. I will be looking at the titles they hold, the chances they have coming up and the general strength of each faction. At the end I will also be giving my personal ranking of the faction based on how the season is going and the potential I see going forward. The 4 main factions have now all been covered but there are a couple of other factions who have featured this season, though it would appear some of these factions may have reached their end, for now at least. Next up is The School of the Elite

Members: Lon Harris, Cody Hall

Current titles: None

History: “The Professor” Lon Harris made his debut in the Schmoedown late in Season 4 with a 15-16 victory over Marc Bernardin. After the victory, many were expecting him to challenge another big brain in the league like William Bibbiani, but instead he shocked everyone by calling out Cody Hall, whose only previous match was an 11-0 KO at the hands of Kristian Harloff in 2014. We saw him shadowing Cody throughout Schmoedown Spectacular II and apparently trying to educate and improve him. The much-anticipated match was the 3rd of the season and was not the one-sided bloodbath everyone expecting, with Cody getting a perfect Round 1 including the bonus question to take a 5-9 lead, however he could not keep the good start going and eventually lost 16-15 on the first question of Sudden Death. After the game, Cody apparently seemed willing to learn from the Professor and the School of the Elite had formed.

schoolsin
The moment Cody Hall signed up to the School of the Elite

Season 5 so far: “The Web Slinger” has not been seen competing since his match against Harris, but the Professor has appeared in 2 other matches. After beating Cody he called out Cobbster, but Commissioner Thadd Williams overruled this, stating the Cobbster was not a competitor and that Harris would instead face someone closer to his level: Ethan Erwin. This match kicked off a run of fantastic matches and saw each competitor answer 14/16 questions asked to them, resulting in a 20-24 win for “Big Time”, who currently looks the favourite for Rookie of the Year. Harris also appeared at Free 4 All II, being the 4th competitor drawn but lasting an impressive 11 rounds (level with McWeeny and behind only Erwin and Bibbiani) while accruing a whopping 41 points (4th behind the same 3 competitors).

Future Prospects: The Professor’s 2-1 record in the Singles Division sees him just holding onto a spot in the top 10, though Murrell and Reilly will likely leapfrog him when they begin to compete again. I would expect to see him in the Singles Tournament when that comes around and I would not be surprised to see him make a run for the belt at some point, though I don’t know if he currently has the overall game to win a title. It will be interesting to see if he continues to challenge competitors on his level now or if he goes back to challenging supposedly easy victories. At 0-2, I don’t see Cody becoming a regular in the division anytime soon as the competition is getting so strong. He could potentially feature in the Teams Division alongside Harris as he showed that maybe his movie trivia is better than it used to be, but Harris could still cover a number of his blind spots.

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Ethan Erwin is the only competitor to have defeated The Professor, could he become a fellow faculty member in the School of the Elite?

And as for the faction itself… Who knows what is happening? With Cobbster avoiding Harris, it does not look like he will be joining the faction anytime soon and I get the feeling that Lon’s loss to Erwin has slowed the growth of the faction. If this faction is to grow, I see it doing so in on of 3 ways, though admittedly the 3rd is a combination of the first 2. The Professor could choose to look for other younger and less prestigious competitors to join Cody as fellow students. Or he could go the other way and try to recruit fellow intellects like Erwin and WcWeeny to improve the teaching faculty. It wouldn’t surprise me if both options are looked at, with both “teachers” and “students” joining the roster at some point. With so many debutantes this season, there are certainly options available.

Season 5 record (across all divisions): 1-1          As founder of the School of the Elite, I have counted Lon’s win over Cody here, however as Cody was not part of the faction until after the match, I have not counted his loss. If we look at the full record for the two of them over the season, the record becomes 1-2

Mid-season ranking: 6th          Though they may not be taking a break as Critically Acclaimed announced, the School of the Elite are not as active in the league at the moment or as close to a title. Harris especially can certainly cause problems for a number of ranked competitors but until they recruit more competitors, they will not be rising far up this list

Faction Rundown: The Growling Commandos

Faction Rundown: The Growling Commandos

Welcome to my Faction Rundown series. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be looking at each of the factions in the Schmoedown to see how things are going for them in Season 5 of the Schmoedown. I will be looking at the titles they hold, the chances they have coming up and the general strength of each faction. At the end I will also be giving my personal ranking of the faction based on how the season is going and the potential I see going forward. The 4 main factions have now all been covered but there are a couple of other factions who have featured this season, though it would appear some of these factions may have reached their end, for now at least. First up is the Growling Commandos

WARNING: This will contain spoilers for Critically Acclaimed v Modok

Members: William Bibbiani, Witney Seibold

Titles: None

ibetrayyou
“I BETRAY YOU!!”

History: In the build-up to the 2017 Collider Collision, Ricky Hayberg had returned to the Schmoedown and was sneaking around with what appeared to be a cunning plan. His plan was revealed as following Rocha’s loss to Murrell, Bibbiani turned against the 4 Horsemen and allied himself with Hayberg to form the Growling Commandos. Of course every Beast needs their Beauty and the faction soon unveiled their third member: Witney Seibold, who combined with “The Beast” to form the team Critically Acclaimed. They also tried to make a power play by recruiting Matt Knost but he chose to sick with Rocha and the Horsemen as everything fell apart around them. Season 4 post-Collision was underwhelming for the faction: Bibbiani beat Scott Mantz but was knocked out in the first round of the 2017 Ultimate Schmoedown by eventual winner Samm Levine, Critically Acclaimed’s debut ended in a TKO victory over Only Stupid Answers, however they were on the wrong side of the upset of the season as Late to the Party beat them in the first round of the Ultimate Schmoedown, while Ricky’s only match was in the Manager Bowl, where he was the first contestant eliminated.

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Critically Acclaimed are 3-1 (3 KO’s) following their victory over Modok

Season 5 so far: It’s been a relatively quiet 2018 for the Growling Commandos so far. Witney is yet to make his Singles debut and Bibbiani’s only match in the division was a loss to Drew McWeeny back in March. Critically Acclaimed have TKO victories over Superhero News and Modok to their name but lost manager Ricky Hayberg, who decided that they were being too nice, ahead of their match against Superhero News. The most notable appearances for both Bibbs and Witney (other than The Beast’s wonderful cameos at the announcers’ desk) came at the 2018 Free 4 All, where Witney lasted 6 rounds, scoring 22 points (only 5 competitors scored more) and Bibbiani lasted longer than anyone, only to lose in the final round to Brianne Chandler.

Future Prospects: The big match on the faction’s radar will be the prize for Bibbiani’s starring role at the Free 4 All. By lasting the most rounds, Bibbiani earned himself a Number 1 Contender match, which he (or Future Bibbs) decided to use in the Singles Division, challenging Jeff “The Insneider” Sneider. The Beast’s 3-4 record clearly doesn’t accurately reflect his ability in the league and it is hard to pick a winner from that match. “The Beauty” will hopefully make his solo debut before the end of the season – he recently hinted there is something in the pipeline – and if his Free 4 All and Critically Acclaimed performances are anything to go by, his inclusion will just be increasing the strength within the Singles Division. As a team, they are now 2-0 for the season (3-1 overall) and all of their victories have been by TKO, so another win will probably set them up for a Number 1 Contender match. Every other team to beat Modok have held the Team title, so that’s got to be a positive sign for them!

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Growl Growl!

But with Ricky gone, where does this faction stand? Though he made waves by beginning the demise of the 4 Horsemen, there was very little else Ricky did to bring success for the Growling Commandos. In an interview with Take 3’s Chris Clark, Bibbs and Witney announced that as things stand, the Growling Commandos are no more, but they were not ruling out a return in the future. If they were to return and have Bibbiani manage the faction, his knowledge of the game and the league could help him bring some quality talent into the faction, while also potentially becoming the favourite in future Manager Bowls. Both Bibbs and Witney have both made note of how smart they are compared to their rivals in the past and perhaps the new nice guys mentality will help them pull in competitors like Ethan Erwin or Above The Line, creating another super-faction. Only time will tell…

Season 5 record (across all divisions): 2-1          This does not take into account Witney’s win in the Celebrity match with the cast of Ash v Evil Dead

Mid-season Ranking: 5th          They may be done as a faction for now, but they still look set to be regulars in the league for the rest of the season. The quality that both Bibbs and Witney have shown in the league, combined with The Beast’s upcoming Number 1 Contender match, is enough for me to put them above the factions that I still have to mention. If they return as a faction and recruit wisely, they have the potential to quickly rise up the faction rankings

Faction Rundown: The Viper Squad

Faction Rundown: The Viper Squad

Welcome to my Faction Rundown series. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be looking at each of the factions in the Schmoedown to see how things are going for them in Season 5 of the Schmoedown. I will be looking at the titles they hold, the chances they have coming up and the general strength of each faction. At the end I will also be giving my personal ranking of the team based on how the season is going and the potential I see going forward. Today I be looking at The Viper Squad

WARNING: This will included details from a cutscene before Carlson v Zipper

Members: Jay Washington (manager), Stacy Howard, Jeannine LC, Markeia McCarty

Current titles: None

History: Originally, there were 2 sweet girls: “Miss Movies” Brianne Chandler and “Sassy” Stacy Howard, who made up the team Six Degrees. But as they became more used to the league, the sweetness disappeared and Jay Washington became their manager, forming The Missfits. The Missfits had mixed success in Season 4: Stacy defeating Jonathan Voyko and Mark Ellis, but losing heavily to Rachel Cushing in the second round of the 2017 Ultimate Schmoedown, Brianne beat Perri Nemiroff and Clarke Wolfe but lost twice to her rival Mike Kalinowski, including in the second round of the Ultimate Schmoedown. As a team, they lost to the Wolves of Steel, defeated Tuff Beats (causing them to break up) but then lost to Kalinowski (again) and his DC Movie News teammate Adam Gertler in the Ultimate Schmoedown.

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Brianne left the Missfits at Schmoedown Spectacular II and disappeared in a car with the faction’s nemesis Mike Kalinowski

Following her second loss to Kalinowski, Miss Movies announced that she was stepping back from competing, but she still continued to support her faction until Schmoedown Spectacular II where she missed Jay’s loss in the Manager Bowl before announcing that she was leaving them and getting in a car with none other than Kalinowski. The Missfits were left with just Jay and Stacy, their attempts to recruit Rachel Cushing and Clarke Wolfe both failing. Ahead of Season 5, they rebranded themselves as the Viper Squad – something that Jay had often discussed as his plan when trying to compete the future Shirewolves – and added Jeannine “The Machine” and “Marvelous” Markeia McCarty to their ranks.

marvellous
Markeia was the latest to make their debit for the Viper Squad this season, but Rachel Cushing proved too much for her

Season 5 so far: Fortunes have been mixed for the Viper Squad this season. Jay Washington has only had one match outside the Free 4 All, a first round match in Kalinowski’s Innergeekdom tournament against Emma Fyffe where he was unable to stick with her after she was able to get questions in her ideal category Harry Potter in Round 2. The current star of the faction, Stacy has wins against RB3 and Josh Macuga to leave her 4th in the Singles Division rankings with a 4-1 record. “The Machine” is also 2-0 for the season with wins over Bonnie Somerville and Emma Fyffe to go 9th in the Singles rankings. Markeia made her debut in the Innergeekdom tournament recently against Rachel Cushing – part of the Viper Squad’s vendetta against the Fyffe Club – but “The Crusher” proved too strong from her  and she lost by KO.

stacyandjeannine
Both Jeannine (2-0) and Stacy (4-1) find themselves 1 win away from a Number 1 Contender match against Ethan Erwin

Future Prospects: The vendetta against the Fyffe Club was set to continue with Jeannine having challenged Andreyko to a match, but their previous goading of Mike Kalinowski has worked against them as his power over Thadd has seen that match become a Triple Threat match at Collision, with Stacy Howard being added to the match and the prize being a Number 1 Contender match against Ethan Erwin. While this does mean the Viper Squad have 2 chances of victory, it does mean that at least 1 of Stacy or Jeannine will come away with a loss, or perhaps both as Andreyko is a dangerous competitor. Regardless, I can’t currently see any of these 3 winning against Erwin, who looks a good shout for Rookie of the Year. With both Jay and Markeia out of the Innergeekdom tournament and with the way the schedule is being scheduled this year, it may be a while before we see either of these two competing again. Currently there is no representation in the Teams Division, but it would not surprise me if Jeannine and Stacy were to team up or if Jay were to convince someone else to join the faction.

But before “The Urban Gladiator” looks at strengthening, he may need to focus on keeping harmony amongst the current members as it looked like neither Stacy nor Jeannine felt the other should be involved against Andreyko at Collision. Could we see Stacy choose to follow Brianne out of the Viper Squad and perhaps even reform Six Degrees? Brianne still holds the title challenge she earned at this year’s Free 4 All and that could be a very good lure for a competitor with a strong record who has struggled to get matches against her fellow ranked contenders.

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Could Kalinowski’s control of the Schmoedown cause a rift in the Viper Squad

Record this season (all divisions): 4-2

Mid-season Ranking: 4th          2 competitors in the top 10 of the Singles Division is nothing to be sniffed at, even if Stacy and Jeannine’s wins have not come against the strongest of opponents. Compared to the factions ranked ahead of them, they have limited experience in the league with half their faction debuting this season, while the lack of an established team or a competitor in the Star Wars Division hurts heir ranking. That said, with a Number 1 Contender match just a win away and an experienced manager like Jay, they still rank higher than some other factions, assuming they stay together

Faction Rundown: The Lion’s Den

Faction Rundown: The Lion’s Den

Welcome to my Faction Rundown series. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be looking at each of the factions in the Schmoedown to see how things are going for them in Season 5 of the Schmoedown. I will be looking at the titles they hold, the chances they have coming up and the general strength of each faction. At the end I will also be giving my personal ranking of the team based on how the season is going and the potential I see going forward. Today I be looking at the faction you either love or hate: The Lion’s Den

Warning: This will make mention of the cutscene at the end of Carlson v Zipper

Members: Tom Dagnino (manager), JTE, Jeff Sneider, Ken Napzok, Mark Donica, Grace Hancock(?)

Current titles: None

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Dagnino turned the league on its head when he announced Ken as the newest member of the Lion’s Den

History: Formed at the end of Season 3, the Lion’s Den was originally made up of Finstock, his former teammate JTE, JTE’s new teammate Jeff Sneider and Marc Andreyko. They had some success at Schmoedown Spectacular, with the Patriots winning the Team title and the group pulling off a coup by bringing in Singles Champion “Dangerous” Dan Murrell. Season 4 saw the Den’s lineup chop and change as Murrell eft the faction following his title loss to John Rocha, while Finstock was banned from the league for a year following “his” loss to Josh Macuga, leading to the beginning of the Tom Dagnino era. Under Dagnino, the Den poached Robert Meyer Burnett away from the 4 Horsemen after Collider Collision and also brought in Grace Hancock as a non-competing member for the Den. And then, as we came close to Schmoedown Spectacular II, Dagnino made his move to turn the league on its head, convincing Star Wars Champion Ken Napzok to betray his Nerd’s Watch teammate Rachel Cushing and bring another belt to the Den. However things did not go as planned at Schmoedown Spectacular II, with Dagnino losing the Manager Bowl to Emma Fyffe, who revealed Andreyko as her first competitor, Burnett was deemed surplus to requirements and let go, while Ken Napzok lost his title to Sam Witwer in a thrilling match, leaving The Patriots as the only current Champions in the faction.

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Dagnino was named Manager of the Year in December, but it’s not looking likely that he’ll win the award again this season

Season 5 so far: At the start of the year, it was safe to say The Lion’s Den were the strongest faction in the league, but Season 5 has not been going their way so far. Napzok’s attempt to win his Star Wars title back came to a premature end after he was TKO’d by Alex Damon at the recent live event during their Triple Threat Number 1 Contender match with Joseph Scrimshaw. The Patriots’ unbeaten run finally came to an end with their loss to Above The Line and while they have an automatic replay, there is no guarantee that they will emerge from their Iron Man match victorious. In singles, JTE missed out on a title shot after losing to Rachel Cushing in their match against Mike Kalinowski and such is the strength in the league, he is not currently even ranked in the top 10, his awful record in Season 3 counting against him. Jeff Sneider however is back on the up and has a Number 1 Contender match lined up against William Bibbiani. “Bobby Gucci” is yet to appear in singles this year, with his early exit at this year’s Free 4 All and his match as part of the Dream Crushers along with “The Pitboss” – who only has a loss to Matt Knost and a quick Free 4 All appearance to his name this season – against the Shirewolves, where they put in a better than expected showing but could not get the win. The final active member of the faction is Mark Donica, who joined earlier this season to give the Den a presence in the Innergeekdom ahead of his match against Jared Haibon and earned a title shot in that Division, playing well but being outclassed by Jason Inman. Grace Hancock has not been present this season (maybe she was their good luck charm?) due to other commitments and at this point it is not clear whether she is still part of the Den or has fallen by the wayside.

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Victory in the ongoing Innergeekdom tournament would see Donica get a chance of revenge against Jason Inman

Future Prospects: Looking forward, I would argue that the best shot of a title soon is The Patriots, but Above The Line are going to be difficult opponents and given the recent Round 1 performances and Samm Levine’s speed in the in the buzzer round, the Iron Man format could give the new champions an advantage. Mark Donica appears to be one of the stronger Innergeekdom players and I expect the enforcer to get the victory over Robert Meyer Burnett (a former member of the Den) in the opening round of the Innergeekdom tournament, but such is the format and strength of opposition, he will eventually come up against stronger opposition like Rachel Cushing and that may be a step too far for “The Enforcer” this season. With the amount of quality in the league now, I can see Ken and Tom doing well against the lower echelons of the competition, especially when joined as a team, but I do not see them breaking into the higher rankings anytime soon. Looking at the rankings, “The Insneider” has to be the favourite in his match with Bibbiani, but if “The Beast” can get a good spin in Round 2 and sort out his issues with Round 3, anything is possible. Meanwhile, JTE’s record does not do him justice, but such is the depth in the Singles Division right now, his best chance of another shot at the Singles title is probably a tournament victory – though I would say that will be infinitely harder than his run to the Ultimate Schmoedown Final last season. Ken will always be in with a shot in Star Wars matches, but matches are few and far between and recent outings have shown quotes to be a weakness that could be exploited. If the Den want a second challenger for Witwer’s belt, then Donica could join the division, but like Rocha and Reilly I haven’t yet seen enough to think he would be able to beat the competitors that were at the live event.

The question then becomes “what happens next?” This is the first time The Lion’s Den haven’t had a belt since the early days before The Patriots won at Schmoedown Spectacular. Now that they have reached a less successful period and found themselves against stronger factions than ever before, will cracks begin to show between the competitors? Will The Pitboss continue to serve under Tom Dagnino if the competitors start dropping down the rankings, or will he mutiny and try to take control of the group, or even branch off and form his own faction? Or will their shared hatred of “The System” see them continue to work together? After Carlson v Zipper, Ken received a letter that appeared to rile him up, could this be the start of his defection?

finstock
What impact will Finstock’s return to the league have on the Den?

The big wildcard could be Finstock. Following his year-long exile courtesy of his loss to Josh Macuga, the masked menace made his return during this year’s Free 4 All – with limited success – but has not been seen since. The founder of the Den and a former teammate of JTE, if he comes back with an agenda different to that of the Lion’s Den, could that see loyalties tested and civil war within the Den?

Record this season (all divisions): 4-7            This only takes into account matches played as a member of the Lion’s Den, therefore Donica’s debut is not counted, if we look at the full 2018 record for all competitors the record becomes 5-7

Mid-season Ranking: 3rd          They may have a losing record this season and not currently hold any belts, but the Den still contains the most successful team in the league, credible threats in the Innergeekdom (Donica) and Star Wars (Ken) Divisions and 2 competitor in Sneider and JTE that have the ability to win the singles title on their day. They may be going through a rough patch and be facing the strongest competition so far from other factions, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them challenging on multiple fronts through the rest of the season