Hey guys! First of all,sorry for the delay in writing this, I’ve been away in Ireland for a wedding so even though I was able to see both semi-finals before I went away I wasn’t able to actually write about them until now. I’m hoping that my write-up of the final will be up within a few days of the match.
After Jason Inman defeated Mark Donica in their Innergeekdom Title Match back in April, the defending champion spoke about how he wanted his next title defence to be a worthy competitor who had got there by defeating some of the best competitors in the division. It looked like he may get his wish as it was announced that there would be 5 1v1 matches leading to a Fatal Fiveway Number 1 Contender Match for the chance to face him.
And then Kalinowski got involved.
“The Killer”, fresh from his split with The League, approached Commissioner Thadd Williams and through questionable methods arranged a new format for the next run for a title shot: a tournament containing 16 competitors. We were treated to some fantastic matches in Rounds 1 and 2 and while both matches had an overwhelming favourite, we’d seen enough to know that an upset was certainly possible.
“Amazing” Mara Knopic 24-23 Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing
Arguably the best match in the Innergeekdom Division, surely one of the matches of the year and perhaps even one of the best Schmoedown matches ever, the match started slow but will live long in the memory. Rachel Cushing was most people’s favourite for the tournament following her demolition of Markeia McCarty and second consecutive perfect Round 1 against Eric Zipper at Collider Collision II, however she was under the weather on the day of the match, which became increasingly clear as the match wore on. The Brown Dwarf Star was also struggling as she was in pain following a recent car accident, so before we even start going into detail on this match, I want to give massive respect to both of them for agreeing to go ahead with the match. If you have read my articles on the previous rounds, you will know that I usually take a look at where the competitors have struggled, but given the circumstances I will not be getting into this so much for this match as I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to focus and concentrate when clearly struggling.
The Crusher’s run of perfect Round 1s came to an end as she missed question 6, finishing a run of 27 consecutive correct answers in Round 1 during this tournament, eventually finishing with 8 of a possible 10 points. Mara did not have such a good start and found herself 8-5 down going into Round 2, at which point I imagine the Schmoeville bookies were getting ready to pay out on a Cushing victory.
Going into Round 2 and Cushing was up first, initially spinning Mixed Bag but spinning away to Heroes & Villains. She started strongly with 3 consecutive 2-pointers but missed on her last 2 despite checking down to multiple choice, Mara stealing a point on the final question. It was then Knopic’s turn to spin and she also chose to spin away from Mixed Bag, eventually landing on Marvel. She missed on her first question – Rachel missing with the steal opportunity – but improved to 4/5 for 6 points, leaving her just 2 behind going into Round 3.
Both competitors hit their 2-point questions, Mara missed on her 3-pointer but hit her final question, while Rachel landed her 3-pointer. And so it came down to Rachel’s 5 pointer. A correct answer would see her into the final; a wrong answer would give us the first ever Overtime in an Innergeekdom 1v1 match – Coy’s Fatal Fiveway victory (remembered as the “Pudding” match) being the only other match in the division to enter Overtime. The category Who Said It? is always going to be tricky and while many fans have commented that it was obvious, Rachel was unable to pull the answer and the match continued.
Both competitors hit their first 2 answers in Sudden Death before missing the next 3, though it was so nearly over on question 5 as Cushing was off by a letter, going with San Frantokyo rather than San Fransokyo, and at that point I think people realised that we could really be in for a long haul. Both competitors were clearly struggling to keep going at this point, as they both answered question 6 correctly before missing 3 in a row – going so far as to both guess the same wrong answer (Tex) on question 9 before both hitting question 10. And finally, as I was beginning to think Sudden Death may take on a more literal meaning in the match, another Who Said It? question came up. Mara was able to correctly answer but Rachel Cushing then shocked the world by missing, completing a match that by the end had so many of us on the edge of our seats.
As I mentioned above, I will not go into where competitors struggled in this match as I think both competitors would have done better had they been at full health. And that in itself shows just how strong they both are, as 19 points over 3 rounds is a very respectable score. Rachel Cushing has mentioned that this is the division where she feels most comfortable and though she may not have made the final, a title shot is clearly a matter of when not if! One thing’s for certain: Cushing v Knopic II will be one of the most anticipated matches ever when it happens down the line and if both are at their best it really could be one of the best ever matches.
Mike “Killer” Kalinowski 23-21 Adam “The Haymaker” Hlavac
“Win or lose, I’ve changed the game”
With the first spot in the final decided, it was between Kalinowski and Hlavac for the chance to face Mara Knopic. After the last round, I was expecting a Kalinowski victory and it looked like we’d be getting that pretty quickly as Adam struggled to just 3 points in Round 1, while Kalinowski – who just missed a perfect Round 1 against Donica – got the perfect round he’d been craving and the bonus to take a 11-3 lead.
Adam was up first in Round 2 and initially spun Star Trek but took the risk and spun again, landing on DCEU where he went 5/5 for 8 points. Kalinowski spun Harry Potter – a previous weakness that he listed for this match as a strength following a 5/5 Round 2 performance for 8/10 points in his last round – but chose to spin again and landed on MCU, going 4/5 for 7 points while Hlavac was unable to take advantage of his steal opportunity.
Going into Round 3 with a 7 point deficit was always going to be difficult for Adam to overcome, but he gave it his best shot by correctly answering all 3 of his questions, forcing The Killer to have to answer in Round 3 for the first time in the tournament. Missing the opportunity of a third consecutive KO/TKO did not phase him though as he correctly answered his 2 and 3-pointers to win the match and book his place in the final.
Though poor categories in Rounds 2 and 3 are often seen as the deciders, this match shows the importance of Round 1. Even if we assume Kalinowski would have correctly answered his 5-pointer, that would have still left him with a point less than Hlavac if we only looked at the final 2 rounds. Though we know from previous matches that Adam has weaknesses (Middle Earth being the most obvious) he generally has a good breadth of knowledge in the Innergeekdom Division, so it was a surprise to see him struggle in this match. He even admitted in his post-match interview that he did know some of the answers but just could not pull it in the moment. From the highs of dominating Keetin Marchi in Round 1 to now being dominated himself, this is a stark reminder of just how easy it is to have a bad day at the table. His later Rounds however are a reminder of just how dangerous he can be and though I probably wouldn’t currently put him in the very top tier of Innergeekdom competitors, I don’t think he is far off and feel that on his day he could beat anyone.
And so the final is set: Kalinowski v Knopic. Mara was not even part of the original plan of 5 1v1s and a Fatal Fiveway, but now she is 1 win away from a title match. Kalinowski described this match as Frankenstein v Frankenstein’s monster, which I found interesting considering the monster destroys everything its creator held dear and survived where Dr Frankenstein did not, but Kalinowski clarified this when speaking to Take 3 Productions by saying that KOrruption is changing everything we know.
“I don’t have weaknesses, I have varying degrees of strength”
Who will get the win? Some things to consider:
- Per Frank Janisch, Mara has 60% accuracy and has averaged 18.3 points per game through the tournament
- Again per Frank Janisch, Mike has 91% accuracy and has averaged 21 points per game throughout the tournament, despite this being the only time he has had to answer in Round 3
- The final will be a 5 Round match, neither competitor has played in one of these, so the buzzer and betting rounds will be new to them
- Depending how soon after the semis the final was taped, Mara may still be struggling following her accident
Though I think Mara can certainly win, the work Kalinowski has done to improve himself within the division and the way he studies his competitors makes me give him the edge. He has turned weaknesses into strengths so it is very difficult to know how to react if Mike spins Opponent’s Choice. Mara has not shown herself to be especially weak in any category either, but there has not been the same degree of strength across the board. It would not surprise me if this comes down to the speed round and it will be interesting to see how each competitor does here, as Mike especially frequently takes his time to think though his answer.
So, putting my neck on the line, like a good sheep I predict a Kalinowski v Inman match at the September live event. But it’s safe to say that whoever wins the final will have completely earned their title shot!
What did you think of the matches? Who do you think will be facing the champion at the El Portal? Let me know below.