In the 2008 film Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Captain Rex says to Ahsoka Tano “In my book, experience outranks everything”. That doesn’t apply to just fighting a war in a galaxy far far away, but also to title matches in the Movie Trivia Schmoedown. The most recent title matches in the Singles League and Innergeekdom League both saw competitors taking part in their first ever title match (Rachel Cushing and Mark Donica respectively) only to lose to the defending champions. In both cases, the matches were effectively decided by the dominant performances of Samm Levine and Jason Inman in Round 4.
For those less familiar with the Schmoedown, the title matches have the following rounds:
- General Knowledge Round – as in regular matches
- Wheel Round – as in regular matches
- Betting Round – the leader/higher ranked competitor spins the wheel once to select a category. Both competitors choose to bet 1-3 points on their answer and are then given the same question. Competitors gain or lose the number of points they bet depending on whether they get the answer right
- Speed Round – Both competitors are asked the same questions and have to buzz in, whoever buzzes in first has 2 seconds to give the correct answer. A correct answer gets them a point, an incorrect answer/taking to long loses a point
- Final Round – as in regular matches
The specific format of some rounds may have changed slightly but the general title format has remained the same through the Collider era
While the betting round can cause a 6-point swing, it is the speed round that often seems to be the turning point for title match rookies and get controversy. Watching Cushing v Levine and Inman v Donica, I couldn’t help but feel that the experience of the champions in title matches proved the deciding factor in these matches and it made me wonder if this had been the case over recent seasons. So, let’s have a look back through the history of the title matches.
At the time that The Schmoedown came onto Collider, Mark “Yodi” Reilly was the defending champion having defeated Josh Macuga in October 2014, however this title format was different to what was mentioned above. Reilly’s first match under the new format was against JTE, where successfully defended his title, only to lose it to Dan Murrell who was making his title debut.
Murrell defended the belt twice against Clarke Wolfe and Mark Ellis, but it was third time unlucky as he lost to John Rocha. The Outlaw may have been making his Singles title match debut, but by this point he had played in 2 Team title matches as a part of Top 10. The next couple of matches all featured former champions as Yodi won the title back from Rocha, before losing it to Murrell in a Triple Threat match also containing rota.
Murrell then cemented his GOAT status by defeating “The Inglorious One” Samm Levine immediately after winning the Triple Threat. Murrell’s run soon came to an end though as he lost in his next outing to the true Commissioner Kristian Harloff. Much like Rocha before him, this may have been Harloff’s first time in a Singles title match, but he had played for Team Schmoes in 2 Team title matches. Harloff was unable to defend his belt at Schmoedown Spectacular II however, losing to The Inglorious One, who by this point had added to his earlier experience of this format by featuring in 2 5-round matches with Above The Line (2017 Ultimate Schmoedown Final & Schmoedown Spectacular II Team title match). And that brings us up to Levine’s first successful defence against Rachel Cushing.
The first Team Title match was played early in the Collider era between Team Schmoes and Team B.O.B. Team Schmoes won to become the first ever Team Champions, but they lost their first title defence to Top 10 (Rocha & Matt Knost), who were making their debuts in any title format. Top 10 were also unable to defend their title as they lost to The Patriots at Schmoedown Spectacular. Though this may have been their first title match as a team, JTE came into this match as the competitor with the most title match experience, having lost in Singles to Reilly and also been part of Team B.O.B. in the inaugural Team title match.
Since then, The Patriots have defeated all comers, regardless of their prior experience. Wolves of Steel, Team Trek, Modok and Above The Line have all failed to wrest the title from The Patriots’ hands, while Top 10 have now been blocked from challenging the current champions again following 2 unsuccessful attempts to win the title back. Often in these matches we have seen JTE coming to the fore in the speed round, while Matt Atchity was too busy trying to keep his Russian spy persona intact to pay attention to the Round 4 rules and cost Modok the match.
Having debuted at Schmoedown Spectacular, the Innergeekdom League is still in its relative infancy. The first title match was the Fatal Fiveway at Schmoedown Spectacular, where the first 2 rounds both followed the Round 1 format and the lowest-scoring competitor being eliminated after each round (the scores were reset at the end of each round). Round 3 was the Wheel Round then Round 4 was the Speed Round, with the first competitor to 5 points being awarded the title. Robert Meyer Burnett emerged the winner, but then lost the title to Hector Navarro in the first regular-format title match. “The Nightmare” successfully defended his belt against Jeremy Jahns at Collider Collision but then lost at Schmoedown Spectacular II to Jason “Justice” Inman. Inman had never featured in a Singles or Innergeekdom title match before, having been denied the chance to make the Burnett v Navarro match a Triple Threat match. However, like Harloff and Rocha in the Singles League, Inman had experience of the title match format from Team Trek’s loss to the Patriots. So that brings up to date with the Innergeekdom League and Inman’s TKO of Mark Donica.
We have had different champions over the Singles and Innergeekdom Leagues and so far, Dan Murrell’s defeat of Mark Reilly is the only time a Number 1 Contender with no previous experience of the title match format has defeated a champion that has experience of the format. In the Teams League, The Patriots’ dominance has made it harder to know if the same pattern exists. To make this decision, the matches must be looked at a little deeper. JTE is arguably one of the best in the Schmoedown at the Speed Round, while as mentioned above, Modok would have beat The Patriots were it not for Atchity’s mistakes in Round 4. I would argue that having a teammate to cover an individual’s knowledge gaps somewhat negates the importance of experience, but having at least one member of the team is an advantage.
“I definitely think that having touched those buzzers before you do get a sense of them, but I… The biggest lesson I learned the last time I was in Speed Round is ‘Try to figure out what the question is before they finish it and beat your opponent'”
Jason “Justice” Inman speaking after defending his title against Mark “The Enforcer” Donica
So now the question becomes “should Number 1 Contender matches follow the title match format?” In my opinion, the answer is no. The champions have worked hard and earned their belts, their role deserves some advantages and other than being able to decide if the Wheel includes Spinners Choice and Opponents Choice, the experience in the extra rounds is the clear benefit for a champion. Contenders can practice the Speed Round outside of competition if they want to improve their chances in a title match, and this is where a faction will often come in handy. Having a faction will not just give you other competitors to practice with, but it may also give a title match rookie the chance to get tips from a former champion/number 1 contender.
Edit: Apologies to Samm Levine for doing him a disservice when looking at his experience in the 4-Round format. Thank you to Michael Campbell on the Movie Trivia Schmoedown Facebook group for reminding me that Samm competed in both the Singles and Teams finals of the 2017 Ultimate Schmoedown, so he had actually competed in the 5-Round format 4 times in total before facing Harloff.
Do you think that title match experience helps? Does it apply to 1v1 matches only rather than Team matches? Do you think that Number 1 Contender matches should follow the 5 round format? Sound off in the comments.