The Forgotten Moments of the Schmoedown

The Forgotten Moments of the Schmoedown

The Movie Trivia Schmoedown continues to go strong despite the current pandemic bringing an end to live and studio matches and forcing the league online. Given the unavoidable circumstances, Season 7 is well on its way to being a resounding success.

Each season, we so many wonderful moments – either story beats moments within a match. Some will live on forever, like the XX5XX moment from the inaugural Free 4 All, the reveal of the 5 Horsemen at the LA Live event and The Tackle, but there will also be many moments that are also worth celebrating and remembering that seem to fade out of conversation after a year or 2 due to the people involved no longer competing or the storyline it was involved in having come to an end. Today I want to give some love to those forgotten moments.

The breaking of the 4 Horsemen

mts collision four horsemen break-up i betray you john rocha matt knost william bibbiani ricky hayberg
“I BETRAY YOU!!”

Season 3 saw the beginning of factions within the Schmoedown, as John Rocha put together the 4 Horsemen: Rocha, Matt Knost, William Bibbiani and Robert Meyer Burnett, while Tom Dagnino put together the Lion’s Den to counter them. It’s safe to say that the Lion’s Den had the greater success, while the 4 Horsemen came to an end at Collision of Season 4.

Despite a starring debut, William Bibbiani was struggling to get over with the fans, but his yell of “I BETRAY YOU!” as he left the Horsemen to form the Growling Commandos with Ricky Hayberg and Witney Seibold was a big step in helping “The Beast” truly come into his own and set up a rivalry with Rocha. Likewise, after being the top heel of the league, this betrayal gave Rocha the chance to turn away from this and become a more respectful character, leaving a space at the top of the heel tree for Team Action to swagger into.

The “perfect” game

When someone talks about playing the perfect game, thoughts immediately go to William Bibbiani, Dan Murrell, Robert Parker and Kevin Smets. One name that is often forgotten, though, is that of Mark Ellis.

mts mark ellis jteWay back in Season 1, Mark Ellis was pitching a perfect game going into the final round of his quarterfinal against JTE. Now back in those days, the final round was a Jeopardy round, similar to the current betting round in title matches but with Schmoedown Pros able to be as many points as they had.

Both Ellis and JTE got the question right, but “Baby Carrots” had taken the risk of expecting JTE to miss and not bet enough points, losing 11-14. While this match does live on in infamy due to it leading to the Trial of JTE, Ellis’ perfect game is a moment that gets forgotten when we look back at the match.

Reilly’s greatest flub

Back in season 3, John Rocha (who hosted a Star Wars podcast) forgot that Bespin was featured in The Empire Strikes Back and has never been allowed to forget it. Over time, many of the top competitors have had their own “Bespin moments” that they have never been able to fully live down: Mike Kalinowski’s “Pudding” and “Flash”, Kevin Smets’ “Don’t tell Peter” and Ben Bateman’s “Giancarlo Stanton”. One man who always seems to get away with it, though, is Mark Reilly.

mts john rocha mark reilly“Then I hit Opponents Choice. I could have let that bad luck beat me. But I kept going and had fun. Then I had the Sandlot moment – and kept going. Who cares. Answer the questions as they come. There were no nerves, just trivia. I kept smiling and knowing that if it was meant to be, it was meant to be.” ~ Mark Reilly

During the Speed Round of Reilly’s Championship Match against John Rocha, the pair were asked “Which film features the following characters: Billy, Gale, Sidney, Dewey, Tatum, Cotton, Ghostface?” When horror-buff Reilly buzzed in, everyone was certain the he would be giving the correct answer of Scream, but instead he guessed The Sandlot and lost the point. Reilly’s reaction when the correct answer is revealed is priceless, but somehow (probably because he still managed to win the match) this great flub is often forgotten by all but Reilly.

2 in a row

feat mts collision triple threat singles championship dan murrell mark reilly john rochaEverybody remembers Ben Bateman’s recent feat of winning 2 matches in 1 night at Spectacular, where he TKO’d William Bibbiani in the Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament final and then later KO’d Paul Oyama to win the title. While Impressive, it is not even the first time a Schmoedown Pro has won 2 5-round matches in a day.

That feat was achieved by “Dangerous” Dan Murrell at Season 4’s Collision. With Mark Reilly holding the Singles title, Murrell defeated both him and John Rocha in a Triple Threat to win the belt back, then had to immediately defend it as Samm Levine crashed his post-match interview to cash in his Free 4 All prize and challenge Murrell for the title.

Now Levine’s logic makes sense, that Murrell would be tired after such a big match and not be able to hit the heights again right after, but the GOAT earned his first Perfect Round 1 in the 8 question format (though he did miss the bonus question) on his way to a 26-23 defence.

The great JTE-isms

mts japeto jteJTE will always hold a special place in our heart and it is a shame that we do not get to see him compete as much anymore. While he played the heel so well, you could never bring yourself to truly hate him as you were always looking forward to his JTE-isms.

Now some have lived on better than others. His “Jew Bear” from last year’s Free 4 All remains in peoples minds due to the recency and the famous “Tricenatorustops” from the first ever Schmoedown against Cobbster is too good to ever forget! But there were also plenty of others from the littlest of evils over the years, from “The jungle rules the kingdom” to the classic answers of “Gwelmo del Toro” and my personal favourite from his Singles match against teammate Jeff Sneider “Japeto”.

The other table clear

mts free 4 all samm levine hector navarro marc andreyko robert meyer burnett dennis tzengWhen we think of table clears at the inaugural Free 4 All, our minds understandably go to XX5XX, but there was actually another one later in the event that could have massively changed the Schmoedown.

The penultimate entrant was Samm Levine, who came to the table and with a score of 3-2-2-2-2 eliminated Robert Meyer Burnett, Dennis Tzeng, Marc Andreyko and Hector Navarro. This meant that the fight for the prize would be between Levine and none other than Tom Dagnino, Leader of the Lion’s Den. Now thankfully Levine won the final round 3-1, but just imagine an alternate universe where Dagnino had won the Free 4 All and had a title shot guaranteed for one of his faction. The second half of Season 4 could have looked very different.

The Force is with Sam Witwer

As the voice and likeness of Galen Marek/Starkiller in the The Force Unleashed games and the voice of Maul, Emperor Palpatine and The Son in the current Star Wars canon, it looks like Sam Witwer may have picked up some real-life knowledge of using the Force.

When most people think of Witwer competing in the Schmoedown, they think of his last gasp victory over Ken Napzok to win the Star Wars title at Spectacular II, there were some other moments that really shouldn’t be forgotten.

Season 3’s match between The Council (Ken Napzok and John Campea) and the Force Bros (Witwer and Freddie Prinze Jr) is probably best remembered for Freddie getting a point in Round 1 that he shouldn’t leading to the rule now that answers must be spoken and written on the whiteboard, but that led us to Sudden Death and a great moment. Sudden Death was different back then: A question on the buzzer, if the Schmoedown Pro buzzed in and got the answer right, they had the chance to answer the next question for the win. Now by this pin in the match, Witwer has shown that knowledge isn’t really his problem, but he is not fast on the buzzer. So trying to get the win, he jumps in midway through the question, not realising that this would stop the question being completed. With the question standing at “Who is surrounded by droids…” Witwer somehow correctly guesses Obi-Wan Kenobi, before answering the next question correctly to win the game.

mts sam witwer captain needa 2Witwer’s next appearance was at Celebration in a Fatal Fiveway for the first ever Star Wars title. After missing his 3-pointer in the final round (though I would challenge the wording of the question), Sam seemed off his game and when asked “In The Empire Strikes Back” who barked the order “Shields up!” just before the Falcon buzzed the Star Destroyer’s bridge?” he was unable to pull the correct answer of Captain Needa. This miss meant that Napzok and Campea would go to Sudden Death, which Napzok won. Witwer made his return to the Schmoedown in another Fatal Fiveway #1 Contender Match just ahead of Spectacular and found himself in similar circumstances. If he hit his 5-pointer he would win, a miss would see Alex Damon and Joseph Scrimshaw go t Sudden Death. As the question “In The Empire Strikes Back who said “Get a shuttle ready. I shall assume full responsibility for losing them and apologise to Lord Vader.” was read out, Sam’s face was shocked as he realised the correct answer was none other than Captain Needa, earning him redemption and a shot at the title (as well as handing Damon his only loss to date).

As George Lucas famously said: “It’s like poetry, they rhyme.”

Macuga v Finstock

mts finstock marc andreyko tom dagnino josh macugaThe Wildberries became so beloved, it’s hard to remember that they were not always a team. But before that, Josh Macuga had been teamed with Finstock, a pairing that did not end amicably. This led to a moment in Season 4 where Josh Macuga and Finstock were set to play a match against each other, with the loser being banned from the league.

The day of the match came, Macuga made his way to the table and then the impossible happened: Tom Dagnino walked out alongside “Finstock” – clearly Marc Andreyko in the Finstock attire (still to date the only other person we have seen don the mask). Somehow the idea that Finstock could be anyone meant that the match continued, and in a complete shock, Josh Macuga somehow managed to come away with the victory over “Findreyko”, leading to Dagnino being (briefly) ejected from the league.

Actin v DC Movie News

So this is one that I have to include in its entirety as I absolutely love it. Action were at their heelish best with Andrew Ghai back from suspension and their constant goading of DC Movie News led to a match. Kalinowski had recently found himself without support during his #1 Contender Match against Clarke Wolfe and clearly wasn’t happy in the pre-match promos. The match was hard-fought with DC Movie News running through James Bond in Round 2 but gifting Action a strong category of Sci-Fi/Fantasy after they hit Opponent’s Choice. Action got the win and then in the post-match interviews things went crazy as Mike Kalinowski severed ties with The League and went off on his own after reducing Adam Gertler to tears.

And this then led to…

Thadd Williams v Mike Kalinowski

mts thadd williams tells mike kalinowski no

Following Kalinowski’s break from the league, we were treated to about half a year full of scenes showing Kalinowski taking over control of the Schmoedown by bribing Commissioner Thadd Williams. As well as leading to huge impacts on the league – such as the first ever Innergeekdom Tournament, the debut and rise of Mara Knopic and the Anarchy Tournament – these scenes were also great viewing and deserve remembering as we watch Thadd get further and further out of his depth.

The other Odd Couple

One of the teams to form during Anarchy was that of William Bibbiani and Matt Knost. Not even taking into account their history as former members of the Horsemen, Knost’s focus on the game and Bibbiani’s love of theatrics never felt a good mix and it was no surprise to hear Bibbiani state on the Finstock Exchange Podcast recently that the first thing they managed to agree on was making their team name “The Odd Couple”, only to find that Andreyko and Sneider had beat them to it.

Knost’s humour is something many fans have missed since his retirement and one of the best examples was during one of the Cinemaniacs’ entrances, where Bibbiani and manager Emma Fyffe came out dancing and playing with a beach ball while Knost trudged out sulkily alongside them, only for him to catch the beach ball and stat to smile and dance as he slowly deflated it.

Please come back Knost!

 

What other great moments can you think of that seem to have been forgotten over time?

Bracket Breakdown: Schmoedown Innergeekdom Tournament 2020

Bracket Breakdown: Schmoedown Innergeekdom Tournament 2020

The Star Wars tournament is underway on Twitch and in just a week’s time, the Innergeekdom tournament will also be underway. 18 players preparing to go on a (hopefully) long run to victory… all starting Monday 1ˢᵗ June (or Thursday 4ᵗʰ for the general public.

mts kevin smets innergeekdom beltAt the moment, it is not confirmed whether the winner of the tournament will earn a title shot (though with current Champion Kevin Smets and #1 Contenders Mara Knopic & Chandru Dhanadapani not involved, it would make sense), but with things tight at the top of the faction standings, this could be the moment for a faction to take control of the league, while someone struggling like KOrruption could suddenly find themselves back in contention.

I recently tried to predict how the Star Wars tournament would play out and was proved wrong straight away with Andres Cabrera’s play in match victory over Josh Quevedo, so now I’m hoping that I can go a little better.

MTS innergeekdom tournament bracket

Play in games

mts kate mulligan ben goddard grace hancockJim Vejvoda v Ben Goddard: Kate Mulligan’s call to give Saul the guaranteed place in the tournament may have backfired as Ben Goddard now finds himself in one of the play in matches, against Jim Vejvoda. This is an interesting call from Roxy Striar as Vejvoda’s IG knowledge has never really been seen in the Division, so he could be a dark horse, but this will be his first match competing on his own, going up against a student of the game who knows Middle Earth back to front and has frequently shown to have a good all-round knowledge. Right now, I see Goddard qualifying for the main tournament and furthering his campaign for Rookie of the Year.

Greg Alba v Warfather: With Mara Knopic currently deactivated, I was shocked that Coy Jandreau did not look to add at least one Innergeekdom specialist. This has led to him entering the Reel Rejects as his representatives for the tournament. Now Greg Elba Alba looks like he knows his stuff when it comes to IG categories, but there will be questions about his ability to get the deeper cuts that you expect in the division, while this will also be his first match outside the Teams Division. The Warfather, by comparison, comes with 2 matches to his name, both competing alone and one in the IG Division. As far as debuts go, the Warfather looked good, so I think that experience could give him a strategic advantage. As much as I hate to see Robert Meyer Burnett celebrating a victory, I have Warfather earning the final spot in the 16-man bracket.

Round 1

The Barbarian v Adam Hlavac: The Barbarian has been one of the most impressive rookies so far this season and is already looking an absolute steal as a 6ᵗʰ Round pick, with superb performances in his Singles debut and the Jurassic Park Exhibition leading to talk that he wants to be the first person to hold all 4 belts. He faces a tough opponent in the experienced Adam Hlavac, his confidence makes me feel that he is able to hang with even the best. Is Hlavac one of the best though? He may be one of the more seasoned Schmoedown Pros in the division and will make some categories look easy, but he has some gaps in his knowledge that he has so far failed to cover and I can see these leading to an early exit. I have The Barbarian advancing to the next round.

Jeannine “The Machine” v John Humphrey: This is an interesting match-up between 2 veterans of the league who are both going to be making their IG debut. I get the feeling that John Humphrey has good knowledge of the IG categories, but I do question his competitiveness, especially going up against Jeannine, who will be looking to get her career back on track after losing her last 3 Singles matches against tough opposition (Mike Kalinowski x2, Mark Reilly). I have The Machine pulling out an important win here.

mts paul oyama chance ellisonChance Ellison v Paul Oyama: The first 2 Schmoedown Pros promoted from the fan leagues will meet for the second time in the Schmoedown in what I predict could be one the closest matches in the round. Oyama got the win in Singles on the way to winning the title, and will now be making his Innergeekdom debut. Chance Ellison may be 0-1 in the division, but he put in a super-impressive performance in that loss and has the benefit of having 2-time Innergeekdom Champion Mike Kalinowski as his study partner. I’d have picked Oyama over a handful of other winners that I will be picking in this round, but in this match-up, I have to give Ellison the advantage.

Robert Parker v Ben Goddard: “The Bandit”‘s prize for winning his play-in match is to be thrown into “The Spider”‘s web. I like the look of Goddard and his performance in the Middle Earth Exhibition against Parker, Alex Damon and Kevin Smets left me confident that he has a good career ahead of him in the division. However, Parker showed in his debut that he is just on another level, not missing a single question, which will put Goddard under heavy pressure to keep up. I think Goddard can force his opponent to answer in Round 3, but I have Parker winning this one.

Brandon Hanna v Saul: The match that most of us are currently looking forward to, it was clear this would happen the moment Kate Mulligan included Saul in the tournament over Hanna. Fresh off a trade to The Burning Droogs, Hanna has been on a quest to become the most hated person in the league, taking shots at Mulligan, Call To Action and even the darling of the league Brett Sheridan. What do we know about Saul? Saul can cut a good promo, but he is untested at this level and is against an opponent keen to prove that he is “nothing more than a Collider Live phone call that got through the line one too many times.” I have Hanna making it clear to Kate that she made a big mistake leaving him out.

mts alex damon star wars beltAlex Damon v Jen Kempe: Jen Kempe finally gets the chance to make her official debut after a cameo at last year’s Free 4 All and it will be interesting to see how she gets on. I have heard those in the know hold her in high esteem from the fan leagues, but I always got the impression that she was more of a Singles threat than IG. Meanwhile, Alex Damon comes in 1-0 in the division and will have been training since Atlanta in preparation for his next match. We know he knows Star Wars, but he is also a big fan of Indiana Jones and showed in the recent exhibition that he can do well in Middle Earth. Expect the Force to be with Damon in this one.

Emily Rose Jacobson v Eric Zipper: I must admit that I was surprised to see Zipper picked up as The Dungeon’s 3ʳᵈ pick at the Draft (after 2 IG specialists) but his recent loss in Singles impressed me as I could see that he is putting in the effort to succeed and was clearly improving. Now moving back to IG but knowing the fans’ focus will be on other matches, this is a great chance for him to pull off an important victory for The Dungeon. Jacobson showed a big improvement between her first 2 IG matches but looked out of her depth in Atlanta. The virtual format may help her here, but she needs to be more accurate and play a more strategic game. I see Zipper making it to the next round.

Mike Kalinowski v Warfather: Warfather will be coming in with some momentum following a win over Greg Alba, but he will be facing a much harder test in Kalinowski. The former champion had a match to forget when he lost the title to Smets at Spectacular and was taking a break from the division, but the faction’s place in the standings has seen him return to his strongest division to pull KOrruption up the standings. Honestly, I can’t see anything but a Kalinowski win here.

Quarterfinals

mts tale of the tape craig gaynier the barbarian singlesThe Barbarian v Jeannine “The Machine”: This is not an easy pick right now with so little IG-related gametape on the pair, but I have to make a pick here. Jeannine will surely have been benefiting from The Usual Suspects’ close links to former Innergeekdom Champion Rachel Cushing, but The Barbarian‘s knowledge looks insane at this point and right now, I can’t look beyond him for a place in the semis.

Chance Ellison v Robert Parker: Chance Ellison continues to get screwed in brackets. He has lost the opening round of the last 2 Singles tournaments to Ethan Erwin and William Bibbiani, and now after one of the harder opening rounds in this tournament, comes up against Robert Parker. The pair come in with the backing of the best sparring partners in Mike Kalinowski and Kevin Smets to extend the Dungeon v KOrruption IG rivalry even further. Kalinowski has been impressed by Ellison’s knowledge and I think he can push Parker close, but I expect Parker to reach the final 4.

mts brandon hannaBrandon Hanna v Alex Damon: This is where we will see the level Alex Damon can reach in the Innergeekdom Division. Brandon Hanna enters the tournament the 6ᵗʰ most accurate all-time in the division (4ᵗʰ among active Schmoedown Pros), despite having a 2-2 record and I would say that he can beat anyone in the division on his day. Damon looks good but I’m not sure if he has quite the breadth of knowledge as Hanna right now, but if he can hit Star Wars in Round 2 and on his 5-pointer, it will give him a good shot. I think Damon will show that he can hang at this level and be competitive, but I have Hanna progressing.

Eric Zipper v Mike Kalinowski: The second match-up between The Dungeon and KOrruption in this round is one with a bit more history, following KOrruption humiliating him ahead of Kaiser picking him up last season. Zipper will be going into this match with no pressure on him as everyone will expect “The Killer” to win, which could play into his favour, but I think that Kalinowski will have enough to continue on in the tournament.

Semifinals

The Barbarian v Robert Parker: And so the left side of the bracket comes down to a battle between 2 likely contenders for Rookie of the Year. It’s always hard to call this so fa in advance with so little game-tape but I can see this going down to the 5-pointers and right now I need to give the benefit to the Schmoedown Pro I’ve seen more game-tape on: Robert Parker.

Brandon Hanna v Mike Kalinowski: Another match that could easily go either way, both Kalinowski and Hanna have the potential to go near-perfect but also have a bad day and struggle with their accuracy. Hanna will be keen to prove his quality with a win against a big name in the division, but I think he will have to wait for this as I see Kalinowski‘s experience earning him the win here.

Final

Robert Parker v Mike Kalinowski: And so my bracket comes down to the 2 faourites in the final. Mike Kalinowski played a key part in making the Innergeekdom Division what it is, while Parker is part of the new breed looking to take things to a new level. Now if this was a 3-round match, I think I would give Parker the advantage, but with this being a 5-rounder I think that Kalinowski could benefit from his experience of playing the format within the Schmoedown. Add to that, I recently heard Kalinowski talking about how he had changed his study techniques to bring them closer to when he was cutting a swathe through the division. When planning my bracket, I had Parker to win… but in the heat of the moment I’m switching to Kalinowski.

 

So that’s what my bracket looks like, what about yours?

Bracket Breakdown: Schmoedown 2020 Star Wars Tournament

Bracket Breakdown: Schmoedown 2020 Star Wars Tournament

With Free Agency now in the rear-view mirror and the final taped studio match (The Pride v the Reel Rejects) dropping tot he public on Friday, the thoughts of many Schmoedown fans are turning towards the upcoming tournaments, which will see the league continue online as we work through the current COVID-19 pandemic.

mts star wars 2020 tournament entrants napzok dimalanta sullivan cabrera damon witt quevedo kelly scrimshawNext week will see the beginning of the Star Wars tournament with the play in match on May 20ᵗʰ, with the tournament proper starting May 25ᵗʰ. The entire tournament will be broadcast exclusively on the Schmoedown’s Twitch channel, a first for the league. The prize for the winner of the tournament: a Championship Match against Alex “The Demon” Damon, with the current intention that this match will be played once the league can return to studio/live events.

And now, with the official bracket released, there is just one thing left to do… predicting the outcome of the matches!

mts star wars twitch tournament bracket 2020

Play in game

mts trade jte josh quevedoJosh Quevedo v Andres Cabrera: With Alex Damon ineligible due to his status as the Champion, it was a smart move from Roxy Striar to pick up a second Star Wars specialist to give her a chance to earn some much-needed points in the tournament. However, she first needs Josh Quevedo to make it into the tournament proper, and to do that, he will have to take out the former host of Collider Jedi Council, Andres Cabrera. With the pair being the only ones to have never played in the Star Wars Division previously, they were the obvious picks for the play in game. As an untested rookie, Quevedo is something of an unknown quantity, whereas Cabrera has some experience of playing the game and will be looking to prove himself after a disappointing loss to Robert Parker in Innergeekdom. However, Quevedo is a Star Wars specialist and given how previous matches have shown that one wrong answer could be enough to lose a match, I have to feel that Quevedo‘s focus on the division will see him advance to the tournament.

Quarterfinals

Mollie Damon v Adam Witt: Both Witt and Damon come in with 0-1 records and very little game tape, so this is a hard one to call. As one half of the YouTube channel Star Wars Explained and wife (and study-partner) of current champion Alex Damon, Mollie clearly knows her stuff and I personally think that she will benefit from this not being in front of a live crowd. Witt’s 5-point pull against Sean Sullivan showed he has the knowledge, but he made some tactical errors, which you would expect he will have moved beyond by the time of this match. What this could come down to is the state of preparedness for each of these Schmoedown Pros, and for that reason, I give a slight advantage to Witt due to his extra match experience.

mts andrew dimalantaJoseph Scrimshaw v Andrew Dimalanta: Don’t count out Dimalanta because of his 0-2 record, this guy is a legit competitor and a fan of the league, which means that he understands the strategy behind the game as well as knowing the difference between an Ewok and a Wookiee. That said, if you can answer every question correctly then not much strategy is needed, and I would consider Joseph Scrimshaw the most knowledgeable in the tournament. Dimalanta will have a big fight on his hands and I expect him to fall short against Scrimshaw.

Laura Kelly v Sean Sullivan: Sullivan enters the tournament off the back of a debut win against Adam Witt but will face a stern test against KOrruption’s Laura Kelly. Sullivan clearly showed that he knew his stuff, but Laura Kelly has been highly impressive over her first 3 matches and is another I think will benefit from the comfort of playing fro home rather than in front of a crowd. Sullivan’s time will come, but I’ve got this as a much-needed win for KOrruption and Kelly.

Ken Napzok v Josh Quevedo: Josh Quevedo’s prize for winning into the tournament is a match against the inaugural Star Wars Champion. Now Quevedo could be the next Alex Damon, but right now we just don’t know, whereas Ken Napzok has played more matches in the league than anyone else in the tournament, so his experience will be key here (as long as he can stay away from quotes). I have Napzok bringing an end to a losing streak that started at Spectacular II.

Semifinals

Adam Witt v Joseph Scrimshaw: Not gonna lie, it was pretty much a coin flip between Adam Witt and Mollie Damon, both of whom I think could have lost to Dimalanta had the draw gone differently. So considering I have already predicted Scrimshaw beating Dimalanta, there’s only one way I can go here. I get the feeling this could be one of the most entertaining matches in the tournament, ending in a win for Scrimshaw.

mts Movie-Trivia-Schmoedown-Grace-Hancock-Ken-Napzok-KOrruption-1024x576Laura Kelly v Ken Napzok: The old guard takes on the new generation in the second semifinal. Ken Napzok knows more about Star Wars than many people will forget in their lives, but I am 99% certain that he is just going into this tournament with his base knowledge rather than studying, which could prove especially costly if he is forced to deal with quotes – a weakness that has cost him in multiple matches. Laura Kelly, however, is a studier and after coming so close to the title last season, I think she will want to earn another shot at Alex Damon. I have Kelly winning and with more potential rookies entering the Division, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last time we see “The Pitboss” competing in the league.

Final

Joseph Scrimshaw v Laura Kelly: And so we reach the final, to be fought between the 2 active Schmoedown Pros who have come closest to taking down Alex Damon. This is going to be an incredible match and I legitimately feel that whoever drops a point first could prove costly. While Laura Kelly looks a fantastic player judging by last year’s performances, Joseph Scrimshaw has the extra experience of the game and I would consider him one of the 5 best Schmoedown Pros to have never (to date) won a belt. This could be his chance though, as I see Scrimshaw winning the tournament to set up a rematch with Alex Damon.

mts alex damon star wars belt

So that’s what my bracket looks like, what about yours?

4 Takeaways from the Schmoedown Free Agency Deadline

4 Takeaways from the Schmoedown Free Agency Deadline

As far as Free Agency deadline days go, the Schmoedown’s first ever Deadline Day was fantastic. Last week’s announcement of the upcoming Innergeekdom and Star Wars tournaments and the set deadlines to cut Schmoedown Pros and pick up Free Agents suddenly stepped up the action with 3 huge trades, before yesterday’s Free Agency special episode saw 14 Free Agents signed. And then just to finish everything off, Chairman Kristian Harloff has now released the brackets for both of the upcoming tournaments.

With the tournaments coming up soon, keep an eye out for my bracket predictions later in the week. But for now, I’m going to be giving my major takeaways from Deadline Day. If you want my thoughts on the trades, I have already covered them in my last article and the recent events have not largely changed my opinions.

Stepping up to a new level

Season 7 has already seen the Schmoedown step up to a new level with the Draft and faction standings adding more of a sports element and drawing in/drawing back fans and making every match matter. This game was already going to a new level, but 3 Free Agency pick-ups in particular could be about to catapult the Schmoedown even further.

 

Now to give you an idea, I’ve never been deep into wrestling and I wouldn’t consider myself a cinephile by any means, so if I know the names Chris Jericho and Kevin Smith, that shows just how much they are household names! Meanwhile, I’ve already heard a lot of fans talking about how Doug Benson was part of their pathway to finding the Schmoedown in the first place.

These are big names, that automatically generate hype for the league… Just wait until they actually have a match lined up! But it’s not just the hype inside the league, it’s going to go beyond that. The Schmoedown may be huge for us, but the masses still don’t know about it. The upcoming ESPN article will get the name Schmoedown out to people who have never seen it before, but now we will have the name spreading even wider through the social media accounts of big names.

Dan Murrell is widely cited as being peoples entrance into the Schmoedown. At time of writing, he has 73.9k followers on Twitter, while the Schmoedown’s official Twitter account has 66.4k followers and Chairman Kristian Harloff 84.8k followers. In contrast, Doug Benson has 823.3k Twitter followers, Kevin Smith has 3.1m Twitter followers and Chris Jericho 3.6m Twitter followers. The moment these guys mention the Schmoedown on their social media, the will be spreading the league to a far wider audience! Not only that, but they will often be wrestling fans or film fans – 2 of the demographics most likely to be drawn into the league!

The 2020 season has been horribly hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this could be the year that the Schmoedown reaches amazing new heights.

The next Civil War?

mts late to the party robert montano vanessa fitzsimmons

We all remember the heartbreak of seeing Team Action break up at Spectacular III, which led to a wonderful Action Civil War last season. Well now we may have a couple more Civil Wars to look forward to.

Shannon Barney breaking up the Wildberries at the Draft had already set up the likelihood of a match between the former teammates once she’d been able to sufficiently KOrrupt Eliot Dewberry. Now we may have another Civil War coming up with breaking up of Late To The Party.

Robert Montano and Vanessa Fitzsimmons were some of the first fans to enter the league and will always be remembered for their upset victory over Critically Acclaimed. But that all came to an end when Robert agreed to join The Usual Suspects, who only had the one free spot. This led to Vanessa contacting Kate Mulligan and offering herself to the Den, which they agreed.

Now with both of them living out of state, it is likely that when they can finally make it to the studio to compete, they will be coming at the same time, so who better to start their Singles careers against than each other?!

Who would you have winning this match?

Free Agency format

feat mts free agent special

Though there were only a few days between the announcement of the deadlines for cutting existing faction members and signing new Free Agents, I really enjoyed the format of Deadline Day.

What I really enjoyed was the suspense of the Free Agents being able to choose their own destiny by picking which of the factions they wanted to join out of any offers given, as it led to shocks like Sabrina joining The Finstock Exchange and the big names mentioned earlier coming into the league with managers who they already had history with.

This is a format that I really hope is kept for next year,perhaps just with a few tweaks: Have a set deadline for cutting players in place by the start of the season, with the Free Agency deadline coming 1-2 weeks later. Both of these deadlines could have heir own shows, with the Free Agency Deadline show actually having some time to analyse the signings announced while any last minute signings are made, so that the deadline actually passes on the show. Free Agents can be approached earlier in the season, but any approaches must be broadcast to all managers so that they can also approach the Free Agent, then the Free Agent can appear on the next Schmoedown Backstage/Rundown to announce the faction they have selected.

Room to expand

 

When the format for Season 7 was initially announced, we were set to have 10 factions, but Jay Washington had to pull out and was not replaced, dropping us down to 9. While there is always the risk of another faction meaning there are not enough matches to go around, This Free Agency period has highlighted that there is the depth in the league for a tenth (and potentially more) faction in the future.

Some exciting names were cut due to busy schedules, more exciting Free Agents were picked up alongside talented veterans who we have barely seen over the last year. And even then there were big names who missed out, like Mark Donica and Eric Goldman!

Do I think that the league should go to 10 factions next year? Probably not. I think that the pandemic’s impact on the league this season means that the league would benefit from a full season of matches to make sure that the scheduling feels appropriately balanced for the factions. If that goes well, then maybe we could add another faction or two, especially if the league has grown significantly enough to allow for more than just 2 matches a week (we can all hope!).

 

What were your takeaways from the recent events?

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Pick a Squad: 2019/20 Scarlets

Pick a Squad: 2019/20 Scarlets

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, my need for rugby is still struggling to be met, despite recent stories surrounding player movements and Bill Beaumont’s re-election. As if I needed any further proof about how much my life revolves around rugby, I’ve noticed how my WhatsApp chats with one of my close friends Gez have gone from pretty much daily and going on for hours, to a couple of hours per week.

So in search of a reason to keep conversation going, it was time to look at another “Pick a Squad” (not the catchiest of names but I’ve been doing so many of these I needed to think of something!) and take a look at the team he supports: the Scarlets, who have also become my PRO14 team of choice over the last 10 years.

For this, we have looked at this season’s squads and each put together what we think would be our ideal 23-man matchday squads, assuming everyone was fully fit at the same time. I’ll be comparing mine and Gez’s picks (Spoiler: there is a lot of agreement, which is actually rare for us when it comes to Welsh rugby!) so Gez’s selections will be shown in brackets and red.

1: Rob Evans (Rob Evans):- There were 2 clear ways to go at loosehead, with Rob Evans and Wyn Jones both in or around the national team in recent years. Surprisingly, we both went for Evans as the starter and I imagine that a key reason for this is his carrying in the loose, which fits very well in an open attacking team like the Scarlets.

2: Ken Owens (Ken Owens):- Of course “The Sheriff” takes this spot! Owens is one of those players who leads by example and will do what is required of him by the team – I always remember when he had a stint at number 8 during an injury crisis a few seasons ago.

3: Samson Lee (Samson Lee):- He may have fallen out of favour with the national team, but Samson Lee is a unanimous vote here. The tighthead has impressive hands for a prop and car carry well into the defensive line to help the team get on the front foot.

4 & 5: Jake Ball & Sam Lousi (Jake Ball & Sam Lousi):- I get the feeling that Jake Ball was the nailed on pick for both of us here. Though he wouldn’t personally make my Welsh 23 (which may be something I look at if this lockdown continues much longer), he brings physicality to the pack and will carry and tackle hard. Though he needs to watch his discipline, Sam Lousi got the vote from both of us as he is a player who has played at a high level recently for the Hurricanes, while looking very good for Tonga in the Rugby World Cup. At 28, he is just entering his prime and once fully settled could become a key member of the pack.

6: Aaron Shingler (Aaron Shingler):- At times, there were thoughts that he wouldn’t be able to come back from a knee injury suffered in 2018’s PRO14 final, but he is back now and has fully earned his place in the 6 shirt. A dynamic blindside who is also a key operator at the lineout, he provides something different than most Home Nations 6s.

7: James Davies (James Davies):- A favourite of both of us, the fact that “Cubby” has just a handful of caps to his name shows just how deep Wales are at openside. Davies is a highly talented jackal but his key point is his ability to get around the park from his time playing on the World Sevens Series for Wales and in the Olympics for Team GB – I remember one match where he was moved from the pack to wing following a red card in the first half and covered the position better than many specialised wingers would have.

8: Blade Thomson (Blade Thomson):- I did wonder if Thomson’s versatility (he can cover lock, blindside and number 8) would count against him here, but the Scottish international gets the number 8 shirt by unanimous vote. Injuries may have hampered recent seasons, but the former New Zealand U20s and Maori All Blacks back row provides a physical challenge while also being able to open his stride in space to harm a defence. If he can get a period of clean health, fans will get a chance to see his true potential.

9: Gareth Davies (Gareth Davies):- The fact that Davies’ spot in the Wales 23 is now at risk just shows the quality of scrum halves Wayne Pivac has to pick from. Though I am not a fan of Davies in his more combative moments and think that his kicking game needs some work, he is a great attacking threat, but his true value comes in defence, where his tackle numbers are what you’d expect from a back row, while he positions himself and times his runs so well, he gets in his opposite number’s mind and is always good value to pick off a pass from the back of a ruck and take it back to the house.

10: Rhys Patchell (Rhys Patchell):- Another to have had his injury issues in recent years, Patchell is such a talented playmaker who will take the ball to the line to create a gap to put his runners through. A regular in recent Welsh squads when fit, it will be interesting to see where he fits in the national team’s pecking order once Gareth Anscombe returns from injury.

11: Steff Evans (Steff Evans):- He fell down the pecking order a few years ago but has done well to pull himself back up and ends up getting a starting spot in a very deep back 3. Evans is a great attacking talent with the footwork to beat some of the best defenders. At just 25, he still has time to work on the defensive side of his game to get back into international contention.

12: Hadleigh Parkes (Hadleigh Parkes):- Let’s be honest, there were never going to be any surprises in the midfield as things stand, though things could get interesting soon with rumours of a move to Japan. Parkes has not had the best of seasons and the enforced break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is probably what he needed, as he has been one of Wales and the Scarlets’ best players in recent years. Parkes is a strong and willing carrier but the key point here is his defence, where he makes a solid midfield pairing with…

13: Jonathan Davies (Jonathan Davies):- One of the best 13s in World Rugby when fully fit, “Fox” brings solid defence and skilful attack to the midfield, while he also has a cultured left boot to help in the territory game. One of the easiest picks to make.

14: Johnny McNicholl (Johnny McNicholl):- One of the key players for the Scarlets in recent years, McNicholl is a fantastic attacking talent either at wing of fullback. He hasn’t had the best of starts for Wales since becoming eligible, but I think it’s just a matter of time before he begins to shine there too.

15: Liam Williams (Liam Williams):- The lockdown may mean that he hasn’t played for the Scarlets since re-signing as the first stage of Saracens attempts to stop cheating their way to victory, but he is contracted to the region and therefore eligible for selection, taking the 15 shirt ahead of Leigh Halfpenny. Like with Gareth Davies, I’m not the biggest fan of the way he comes across on the pitch, but he is an undeniable talent and a great player for the Scarlets to get back on their books despite already having options in the back 3.

 

16: Ryan Elias (Ryan Elias):- If Elias is getting selected by the national team despite being the understudy at regional level, it shows just how much talent he has. Owens and Elias very much pick themselves in this squad, and it will be interesting to see how long he is willing to remain second fiddle to his captain.

17 & 18: Wyn Jones & Werner Kruger (Dylan Evans & Wyn Jones):- Having just missed out on a stating spot, Jones clearly secures a spot on the bench, bringing international quality to the pitch as the opposition front row begins to tire. One extra benefit of Jones is his ability to play both sides of the scrum, which has led to our first difference in selection as Gez and I pick our other replacement prop. I have chosen to keep Jones on his preferred side of the scrum and partner him with South African tighthead Werner Kruger, who has been a regular for the Scarlets and the Bulls before that, while Gez has preferred to go with experienced loosehead Dylan Evans.

19: Tevita Ratuva (Lewis Rawlings):- Gez and I have gone different routes for the replacement lock position. I have favoured the youthful promise and natural talent of Fijian Ratuva, who has just turned 25, while Gez has gone for the more experienced Rawlings, who also provides some cover at blindside.

20: Uzair Cassiem (Josh Macleod):- I’m not to surprise to see us differ with this pick due to the quality of options available – even I was struggling between 3 picks until the moment I had to finalise my picks. Dan Davis is a talent I really rate, but at 21 he is the future and just misses out. Josh Macleod is a great young pick and I expect to see him fighting for a starting spot over the next couple of years, so I can understand why Gez picked him. I have instead gone for Cassiem, as he is a more experienced option while I also feel that he provides a bit more versatility than the other options (including number 8), increasing the tactical flexibility of the squad.

21: Kieran Hardy (Kieran Hardy):- Hardy has looked a phenomenal talent in the matches that I have seen and showed his quality by making experienced scum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne surplus to requirements. Having the benefit of being able to learn from Gareth Davies and then take the reins during international windows is giving Hardy the perfect chance to succeed and I look forward to seeing how he progresses over the coming seasons.

22: Angus O’Brien (Angus O’Brien):- Dan Jones on form is a quality player but you can’t always guarantee that he’ll be at that level. O’Brien gets the nod from both of us here due to a greater consistency, while he is also able to cover 15, giving extra tactical flexibility.

23: Kieron Fonotia (Leigh Halfpenny):- And finally we reach the position that actually caused the most debate between Gez and I. Gez has understandably gone for Halfpenny due to his years of top level experience and the amount of money going onto his contract. While Halfpenny is a great pick, I felt that he was somewhat redundant technically due to Liam Williams being able to move to the wing and Angus O’Brien covering 15 (while Halfpenny would not be able to take the 22 shirt due to not being a legitimate option at 10), so I have instead looked to provide cover for the midfield in Fonotia, who provides a great experienced option off the bench or if one of the starting centres is unavailable.

 

Who would make your 23?

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Tournaments & Trades: Schmoedown Season 7 Ramps Up!

Tournaments & Trades: Schmoedown Season 7 Ramps Up!

Sport has come to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Movie Trivia Schmoedown has been able to keep going. Though live events have been cancelled, the amount of work done early in the season with pre-taping has allowed the Schmoedown to go down to one match a week, with next week’s Teams Division match between The Pride and the Reel Rejects being the last pre-taped match.

The early success of the exhibition matches through Streamlabs has led to a future for the league during the quarantine, as Chairman Kristian Harloff has announced 2 upcoming tournaments to continue the season: a 16-man Innergeekdom tournament on the YouTube channel and an 8-man Star Wars tournament on the new Twitch channel.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, the Chairman also announced that Friday May 8ᵗʰ would be the deadline for managers to drop Schmoedown Pros from their squads, while Monday May 11ᵗʰ will be the deadline for any Free Agents pick-ups, with trades being the only way to change personnel beyond this point.

At time of writing, we have had the following blockbuster trades go down:

  • The Den traded Brandon Hanna to The Burning Droogs for James White
  • The Usual Suspects traded Jader Paramo, Ken Napzok and a 2021 first-round pick to The Burning Droogs for Ethan Erwin
  • The Roxstars have traded JTE to The Burning Droogs for Josh Quevedo and a 2021 third-round pick

Each Faction will name 2 Schmoedown Pros for the Innergeekdom tournament, nominating one of the players to be locked into the tournament. Of the 9 Schmoedown Pros not locked in, current rankings will come into play to decide the next 5 places. The remaining 4 will compete to fill the final 2 spots. Though the title will not be on the line, I would assume that Champion Kevin Smets and future #1 Contenders Mara Knopic and Chandru Dhandapani will not be in the tournament.

For the Star Wars tournament, I expect that every faction other than the Roxstars (who have current champion Alex Damon) will look to submit a Schmoedown Pro to the tournament, however the Chairman has admitted that a play-in for the 8ᵗʰ spot if Roxy wants to submit someone else to try and earn some extra points for her faction.

Today, I’m going to have a look at what these 2 tournaments could mean for each faction, going down the current (at time of writing – after Howard v Zipper) roster standings. Right now, some factions have named their entrants to the tournament, while others have held off until they have finalised their rosters, so I will look at the confirmed names, other possibilities, and some current Free Agents who could make an impact.

The Finstock Exchange

The Exchange come into the tournaments in a strong position, with Dan Murrell holding the Singles and Teams Titles, while John Rocha, Mark Reilly and “The Barbarian” are on winning runs in the Singles Division (where Ben Bateman should also be in a strong position as a former champion,which should put him high in the pecking order once the Division gets going again). Similarly, Who’s The Boss win over The Odd Couple has put them on the road to a title match, potentially taking on the Founding Fathers if they successfully defend against KOrruption when the Division returns.

mts tale of the tape craig gaynier the barbarian singlesAs of now, The Exchange have only named “The Barbarian” for the IG tournament, while Dan Murrell has ruled himself out of the tournament as setting up his channel has left him without the time to study effectively. It can be assumed then (unless Elvis counts as the second entrant) that Emily Rose Jacobson will be the second representative, looking to get back to winning ways after a loss in Atlanta to Alex Damon.

As for the Star Wars Division, Andrew Dimalanta seems the obvious pick here (as much as Rocha wants to take on Kevin Smets and make a run in the Division). Though 0-2, Dimalanta is a strong competitor, but with other knowledgeable Star Wars fans on the roster, he needs to have some success in the tournament or may find himself on the roster bubble in the future.

However, we all know that Bobby Gucci is anything but predictable, and there is another potential route available here: trading Jacobson and Dimalanta (and perhaps one or 2 of their other late-round picks if required to a team in need of specialists for a potential partner for “The Barbarian”, which would leave the Exchange with 3 top-level teams. With a spot opening up on the roster if more than one Schmoedown Pro is traded, it would be a chance for Dagnino to bring in a former Lion’s Den member who specialises in IG and Star Wars: Mark Donica, who stands to benefit int he short term from the tournaments being over Streamlabs as it means that he becomes available despite not being in LA. Donica is a true talent who possibly earned a title shot too soon, then was unfortunate enough to have a bad day against Kalinowski as the studying required for the Division stepped up, but I feel confident that he could hold his own in the Division as it stands.

If nothing else, the release of BC suggests that something is brewing in the Exchange…

The Den

mts trade brandon hanna james whiteThe Den are in a really strong position when you consider that Kate Mulligan’s first 2 picks have only appeared in one loss in the Teams Division, which makes their trade activity even more surprising. Brandon Hanna’s reputation may have been hurt by consecutive losses to Chandru Dhandapani, but he was still the best IG player on the roster, so it was no shock to see him traded within hours of the announcement that Ben Goddard and Saul would be the Den’s representatives in the tournament.

That is immediately piling the pressure on Ben (who looks good but also missed a few Middle Earth questions in his Singles debut) and untried rookie Saul (who may find himself having to play for one of the final 2 spots just to make it into the tournament, while James White will not be having any immediate impact on the faction. I won’t be surprised to see Hanna being matched up against at least one of Saul/Goddard during the tournament.

As for the Star Wars tournament, Sean Sullivan is the obvious pick here following his win over Adam Witt at short notice and could be the dark horse of the group. If nothing else, his 1-0 record will be a benefit for the seeding when creating the bracket.

S.W.A.G.

So right now, I’m assuming that Chandru Dhandapani will not be included in the tournament due to his impending Championship Match with Kevin Smets once the lockdown is over. However, Winston Marshall still has some super strong options. Paul Oyama is yet to feature in the Division but is listed as an potential IG competitor. His time in the fan leagues means that he is used to this style of competing and I think that he could catch out a competitor who underestimates someone transferring from Singles to IG.

As for the second spot, Andres Cabrera would probably appreciate a chance to shake off the recent loss to Robert Parker, but given the probable strength of the other competitors, I think that Winston will look to Adam Hlavac, who certainly has his weaknesses, but if he gets the right categories can be very dangerous.

mts star wars explained alex damon mollie damonAs for Star Wars, there is no specialist currently on the roster, however it is one of Hlavac’s stronger categories, while Cabrera was one of the hosts of the revamped Collider Jedi Council before its cancellation. Either of these could do a job for S.W.A.G. but if Winston wants a specialist, dropping Ed Greer and Demi Adejuyigbe has created space for a Free Agent to be brought in (Mollie Damon being the obvious option).

The Burning Droogs

mts brandon hanna trade
Brandon Hanna had this to say during the Schmoedown Rundown

The Droogs were somewhat limited in the IG department with just the Warfather, who is certainly a character but has not yet shown himself to be at an elite level. However, the acquisition of Brandon Hanna massively improves the roster’s chances in the tournament, while I’m sure Hanna will be out to prove himself after losing twice to Chandru and being overlooked by Kate Mulligan. Was James White really the man o give up for him, though? Yes, this has been a heavily disrupted season that has harmed White’s chances, but it feels like Burnett was willing to give up on his second-round pick far too easily.

Perhaps even more interesting is the Droogs’ other trade, which has seen former Singles Champion and first-round draft pick Ethan Erwin go to the Usual Suspects. Given Erwin’s position in the hunt for the Singles Title, that seems an odd decision from “The Captain” and it will be putting a lot of pressure on Witney Seibold, Alonso Duralde and new recruit Jader Paramo, who looked to be growing well with the support of his original faction. Even more interesting is the inclusion of former Star Wars Champion in the trade, and the announcement that Napzok would be the Droogs’ representative in the Star Wars tournament. This made Josh Quevedo surplus to requirements, but I’m not sure that Burnett has really taken advantage of the situation, handing the Roxstars Quevedo and a third-round pick for JTE, who is only likely to play with any regularity if the Singles Tournament is also done through Streamlabs. I also feel that an untested rookie in Quevedo is probably more motivated for this tournament than Napzok, who has mentioned on streams his preference to announce matched than play. That said, it looks like the realisation that he is going into the tournament as a target may have just fired up “The Pitboss”. Don’t be surprised to see Napzok and Quevedo facing off when the bracket is announced.

Finally, a note must be taken of the 2021 first-round pick Burnett acquired as part of the trade. This is the first time a future pick has been used as part of a trade and though the loss of Ethan Erwin may hurt this season, but being able to have 2 first-round picks in the 2021 draft puts him in a strong position (assuming all rosters are broken up again rather than just Free Agents or rookies being available). We may not know the real winner of this trade for a long time.

Roxstars

The Roxstars may be mid-table but their season stands on a knife-edge. Jeff Sneider’s recent comments and his reaction to the trade of JTE may be driving a wedge between him, teammate Marc Andreyko and manager Roxy Striar, while the decision to pair Jim Vejvoda with Jared Haibon rather than Stacy Howard resulted in the Roxstars taking another L at the hands of Winston Marshall’s S.W.A.G.

mts trade jte josh quevedoWith the Star Wars Title already in the division, Roxy has pulled off a smart trade by offloading JTE for a second Star Wars competitor Josh Quevedo and a future draft pick, meaning that she still has a chance to earn points in the division even while Alex Damon waits for a match. Best case scenario, Quevedo goes the distance and then Roxy will have a guaranteed 4 points coming her way for a Star Wars title victory when he then faces off with Alex, and the loser can stay in the faction to make a run back for the belt, similar to Kaiser’s plans for Kevin Smets and Robert Parker in IG.

Now he may not be in the Star Wars tournament, but expect Alex Damon to be one of Roxy’s entrants for the Innergeekdom tournament, having won his debut in the division against Emily Rose Jacobson. Jared Haibon has history in the division but the Roxstars need points, so I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Roxy Striar filling the final spot on her roster with an IG specialist – Mark Donica or Sean Gerber could be great pick-ups here.

The Usual Suspects

This is a very interesting time for The Usual Suspects. Losing number 1 draft pick Drew McWeeny was a big loss, but Ethan Erwin was an incredible pick-up who probably provides more in the Singles Division than McWeeny and looks set to form an elite team with Andrew Ghai. Losing Jader Paramo is a hit when Singles and Teams competition returns, but in the short term, it feels worth it to get such a top-class team, while allowing Jeannine and Matt Atchity to create a strong second team. Ken Napzok’s inclusion leaves the Usual Suspects without a Star Wars specialist right now, but I would argue that they are in a strong position.

The reason they’re in a strong place: they currently have a whopping 4 spaces on their roster. With this, they should be able to pick up a couple of strong Free Agents, who will benefit from the tactical nous of Samm Levine. Napzok knows Star Wars well, but I don’t feel that he is studying in the same way many of his rivals are, so picking up a Free Agent like Mollie Damon or Mark Donica could actually be an upgrade on the former champion.

What is interesting to me is how quickly Samm Levine has named Jeannine and Jen Kempe as his entrants to the Innergeekdom Tournament. While I would have thought that Mark Donica would have been the perfect acquisition, Samm’s show of faith in Jeannine and Jen (who I imagine have been in communication with Rachel Cushing) makes me think that he will instead look for a Star Wars specialist (don’t be surprised to see Mollie Damon on their radar) and then look to fill the roster with Schmoedown Pros who he thinks could prove handy in Singles and Teams. With so many open slots, could Scott Mantz or the Cinefanatics finally find a home with the Usual Suspects?

The Dungeon

mts robert parker interview crash atlantaAs with S.W.A.G. I will assume that champion Kevin Smets will not be involved in the Innergeekdom tournament due to currently holding the belt. However, Kaiser is stacked in the Division and Robert Parker arguably goes in as one of the favourites following his debut against Andres Cabrera, especially considering his experience of doing matches from home courtesy of his time in the fan leagues. Expect the second spot to be filled by Eric Zipper, who is coming off an agonising loss to Stacy Howard in Singles but could pick up a couple of victories in the IG tournament if he gets a good spot in the bracket.

As for the Star Wars tournament, Adam Witt was the obvious pick here. He made some mistakes in the loss to Sean Sullivan but showed that the knowledge was there. If he has learned from that experience, he has to fancy his chances. And if anyone chooses not to take part in this tournament, don’t be surprised to see Kaiser trying to get Smets in as a second entrant.

The Quirky Mercs

The Mercs have been seriously hampered by the quarantine, with the only matches for William Bibbiani and Brendan Meyer being the #1 Contender Triple Threat loss to Dan Murrell, while the Reel Rejects have picked up a win and have one match against The Pride still to air, leaving them on 6 points (at best) going into the tournament.

mts Movie-Trivia-Schmoedown-Joseph-ScrimshawThe Star Wars tournament is easily covered by Joseph Scrimshaw and I think that he is currently my favourite going into the tournament, having given Alex Damon the closest competition so far.

Looking at the Innergeekdom tournament, though, I expect some action from Coy Jandreau in the Free Agency market. Mara Knopic is the only recognised Innergeekdom competitor on the roster, but she is currently deactivated for medical reasons (though she also has a title match confirmed when she returns). The Mercs have 2 spaces on the roster so expect to see Coy looking to fill these either through trades or Free Agency. Mark Donica, Sean Gerber, Keetin Marchi and David Moore are all proven competitors, while BC, Ben Bagley and Dan Casey are also available rookies.

These next few days could make or break the Mercs’ season…

KOrruption

mts teams division KOrruption mike kalinowski chance ellisonKOrruption may find themselves bottom of the standings, but expect that to change soon, because the big guns are coming out to play.

It was no surprise to see former two-time Innergeekdom Champion Mike Kalinowksi named as one of the faction’s entrants to the Innergeekdom tournament, while Chance Ellison also really impressed on his IG debut last season. Mike and Chance are KOrruption, they are the backbone of the faction and – with just one Teams match to their name this season, which has set them up for a title match when the Division returns – they will be raring to go. This is where they will take the team on their backs and drag them up the standings. Don’t be surprised if they both make it to the semis.

They will be helped over the coming months by Laura Kelly, who has started her Schmoedown career so well and will probably benefit from not being under the lights during the tournament as she clearly has the knowledge to hold her own against the best in the Division.

 

What are you expecting to see over the coming days? Who do you think will benefit from these tournaments?

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

The Gloucester Rugby XV of my Life

The Gloucester Rugby XV of my Life

Anyone else missing rugby during this pandemic? Yeah, me too!

As you may have seen with my regular posts, I have been keeping my rugby brain working during this lockdown by creating XVs or matchday 23s. Recently I selected my Gloucester 23 for this season, but as I was doing so, I found myself going down memory lane and thinking of some of the brilliant players that have featured for the cherry and whites through the years… and so that is what I am looking at today.

For this, I will be selecting a Gloucester Rugby XV of my favourite players to have represented my beloved Gloucester Rugby since I took an interest. I got into rugby when I went to secondary school, which was just in time for the success of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup triumph and Gloucester’s 2003 Powergen Cup win and loss in the Premiership final. What I have also done is made the decision to pick my favourite players rather than the players I think are the best (although some will be the same!) as the game has changed so much over the years, making it difficult to give a true comparison.

For this article, I also reached out to my friend and occasional contributor Phil for his list, to see the similarities. As we go through, Phil’s selections will be bracketed and in red.

1: Nick Wood (Nick Wood):- This was not an easy pick at all. For ages, I was thinking to the formidable Gloucester pack of my early years and trying to pick between World Cup winner Trevor Woodman and Argentine hero Rodrigo Roncero. Then, a couple of clips on YouTube reminded me of Nick Wood. “The Commander” was an underrated player and a great operator at the scrum. Since retiring, he has gone on to become a referee – how great must it be to a have a ref who knows exactly what is going on in a scrum?!

2: Richard Hibbard (Olivier Azam):- There were 2 clear standouts at hooker and it appears Phil and I were split as to who came top. Ollie Azam was a part of those legendary Gloucester packs and I always remember my cousin once saying that you could tell were he was on the pitch by seeing the opposition players being thrown into the air. Hibbs got my vote here though (potentially in part a recency bias) as he always looked to give 110% on the pitch and always enjoyed the sight of him in either attack or defence looking like a little cherry and white cannonball with flowing blonde locks.

3: Phil Vickey (Phil Vickery):- John Afoa was under consideration here, but recency bias wasn’t enough this time as he lost out to Phil Vickery. The Gloucester and England captain and World Cup winner certainly earned the nickname “The Raging Bull” with his physicality and was a fantastic player whose career was unfortunately hampered by injuries, which eventually led to his release in 2006.

4 & 5: Alex Brown & Jeremy Thrush (Alex Brown & Marco Bortolami):- This was not easy to pick at all and the fact that I probably missed names even in my honourable mentions (Bortolami, Ed Slater, Franco Mostert, Jim Hamilton and Tom Savage) shows just how great our options have been at lock. Bortolami was such a big name for club and country and at the time one of the best locks in the world, but I went for a much more recent (though not as long-serving) player in Jeremy Thrush, who brought his All Blacks quality to a team severely lacking in the pack at the time. Both of us were set on Alex Brown, though, in no small part due to his consistency (a record 87 consecutive starts, despite a series of injuries through his career) and his mastery of the lineout. Though injury forced him to retire in 2012, he continues to work at Gloucester Rugby to this day.

6: Jake Polledri (Jake Polledri):- That both of us picked a young flanker who only came into the squad in the last couple of seasons and probably hasn’t reached his peak yet shows just how highly we rate Jake Polledri. The Italian back rower is a fantastic talent, with the pace to cause trouble in open space, but the power to make ground almost every time he gets the ball. I can see him going on to be one of Italy’s superstars.

7: Akapusi Qera (Akapusi Qera):- The fact that we both picked Akapusi Qera over one-club man Andy Hazell shows just how highly we regard the Fijian. Q was a fantastic back rower for Gloucester and England, combining FIjian flair, physicality and breakdown nous to create one hell of a player. Though he left Gloucester in 2014, he is back as part of the Glaws family as he currently plays for Hartpury College.

8: James Forrester (Luke Narraway):- Luke Narraway was a fantastic player and a great servant to Gloucester Rugby, but my mind could not pass beyond a player who could have gone on to be a superstar were it not for injuries: James Forrester. Forrester had the blend of pace and power and also the ability to produce at the lineout, but his career was cut short by a knee injury aged 27. Despite this, he was a key part of Gloucester’s success in the early 2000s and scored the winning try in extra time of the 2006 European Challenge Cup Final, getting on the end of his own grubber kick through.

9: Dan Robson (Andy Gomarsall):- There have been so many quality 9s at Gloucester even just in the time that I have been watching rugby (Jimmy Cowan, Greig Laidlaw, Rory Lawson, Willi Heinz to name just a few) while I also just missed Dmitri Yachvili’s time at Kingsholm. World Cup winner Gomars quickly became one of my favourite players in my early days and the story of his career post-Gloucester that saw him go from struggling to find a club to being England’s starting scrum half in the 2007 Rugby World Cup is a great tale of not giving up. Having said all that, I was shocked to not find myself picking him, but I instead saw him just beaten out by Dan Robson. Robson was a fantastic player for Gloucester (and has remained so for Wasps) but I always felt that he never got his fair shot at the starting spot with a litany of star names being brought in ahead of him, and it was this defence of him during those seasons that came to mind first when picking my scrum half.

10: Danny Cipriani (Danny Cipriani):- Considering the amount of quality fly halves Gloucester have had since I became a fan (including Ludovic Mercier, the Burns brothers, James Hook and Nicky Robinson), the fact that Danny Cipriani was a unanimous pick says a lot about him. He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen and his golden wrists were key to Gloucester’s success last season. But what has elevated Cips even further is his openness regarding mental health and his #BeKind campaign this year – he’s made mistakes in his life but he is becoming a real role model and I would love him to see out his career at Kingsholm.

11: Jonny May (Lesley Vainikolo):- Big Les was a fantastic attacking player when on form and had an impact similar to that of Taqele Naiyaravoro currently at Northampton. Ollie Thorley has the potential to take this spot if he stays at Kingsholm long-term, but my current pick is Jonny May, who I am thrilled to see returning to the club next season. May is pure pace and I always loved seeing his meandering runs that would result in him finding and exploiting a gap by turning on the afterburners. His try for England against New Zealand will live long in the memory.

12: Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu (Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu):- I was very close to selecting Mark Atkinson, who I believe to be highly underrated, but in the end I found myself agreeing with Phil’s pick of Fuimaono-Sapolu. The Samoan may be a controversial figure, but there were 2 big moments that stuck in my mind making this selection: his intercept try in the dying seconds to salvage a 41-41 draw at Welford Road in 2011 and the craziest of one-handed dummies against Newport.

13: Terry Fanolua (Terry Fanolua):- Had injuries not ruined so much of his career, Henry Trinder had the potential to compete at this spot, but right now it was an easy choice. One of the first overseas players in the Premiership, I still remember to this day hearing the Shed chanting his name. Fanolua was a key player in the successful Gloucester squads of the early 2000s and at the time he left the club, he had more Premiership appearances and tries than any other player in cherry and white.

14: James Simpson-Daniel (James Simpson-Daniel):- Of course this was a unanimous pick! Charlie Sharples deserves a mention and Louis Rees-Zammit has the potential to fight for a spot in the XV in the future, but it would be at the expense of Jonny May, such is the level Sinbad is on! Ask a Gloucester rugby fan who should have received more caps, I doubt many would say someone other than him, such was his quality, but his career was heavily impacted by injuries. As well as scoring a wonderful try for England against the Baabaas that saw him round Jonah Lomu, he also played a key part in one of the greatest tries in Gloucester Rugby history – turning Lawrence Dallaglio inside out right in front of the Shed before feeding James Bailey for the try. He is without a doubt my favourite player in all of rugby.

rugby thinus delport15: Thinus Delport (Tom Marshall):- Very interesting selections here and it’s certainly one I look forward to discussing with Phil much more over a pint when the lockdown is over. Marshall is a fantastic all-round player but never really came into serious contention for me. Jason Woodward is a player I could watch with ball in hand all day, while Olly Morgan is the James Forrester of the backs, but Thinus Delport gets the nod for me. Perhaps a big part of it is the memories of him as the starting 15 during my early years as a fan as Gloucester fund success, but I think a big part of it is remembering my cousin having a massive crush on him. I finally managed to help her get a picture with him a few years back and was immediately cropped out of the image – that’s gratitude for you!

 

Who would make your list?

Until next time!