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
History: Formed at the end of Season 3, the Lion’s Den was originally made up of Finstock, his former teammate JTE, JTE’s new teammate Jeff Sneider and Marc Andreyko.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.
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.
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?
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