Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What CST thinks about the Indians in 2016


Cleveland Indians 2016 Season
April 4 (whoops, now the 5th) , 2016 



Record: 85-77, 2nd in AL Central, no playoffs

The read on the Indians, for the second straight year, is all over the place. Conventional wisdom seems to be that they would be in a good position if they get to the playoffs, because their rotation is so damn solid. The issue is, of course, scoring enough runs to get there. (And stopping enough runs, but Francisco Lindor's full season should be enough to help.) Can they do it? Could we possibly see a torture series between the Cubs and Indians? Let's just hope so.

                                            



Record: 83-79, 2nd in AL Central, no playoffs

Pitching keeps the Indians in the hunt throughout most of the season. However, the offense will not generate enough runs to keep us in the games where the pitching falters. It's a long season though, and you never know what can happen.


Record: 86-76, 2nd in AL Central, no playoffs

The Tribe's pitching will keep them in the playoff race, but question marks and injuries at several positions make it difficult to consider them a serious contender.



Record: 87-75, 2nd in AL Central, Wild Card


Our baseball club is finally free of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and the dead weight and bad karma that accompanied their silly attitudes and contracts. Also gone is Spin Dr. Shapiro, who became famous for his silence when the club was struggling, and his opportunistic tweets after the mildest success. Feeling fresh and frisky all season, the Indians manufacture a spot in the one-game playoff.

Record: 90-72, 2nd in AL Central, Wild Card

They will have the same success as Donald Trump, which is to say a glorious rise to prominence, like a golden eagle soaring through a bright and hopeful sky of magnificence.

Record: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

The pitching staff and Lindor's energy puts this team in first place. The presence of Bill Selby at Opening Day also probably has something to do with it. I do, however predict a loss in the ALCS, but am hopeful it leads to many good years ahead.












Record: 83-79, 2nd in AL Central, no playoffs
The Tribe will tread water all summer and miss the playoffs... again.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Indians open season with a lost opportunity to rid itself of an antiquated, racist symbol.

Look, people can disagree on this. In fact, many Indians fans probably disagree with what I am about to write. And what I'm about to write isn't new, or groundbreaking, or if we want to be honest, even very controversial.


Except for those Cleveland Indians fans to whom it is.

What I want to say is, I can't believe the Indians are still using Chief Wahoo, a blatently racist logo, at all, here in 2016.  I know I'm just one voice adding to the choir. The choir that includes the Plain Dealer from 2014, the Sporting News, Fansided, and, most importantly, in a piece I've thought about a lot over the years, from Peter Pattakos from Cleveland Frowns in Scene Magazine . More on that article later. Or this quote, which sums it up perfectly, and is 45 years old, from Russell Means of the Cleveland American Indian Center : 
How long do you think the stadium would stand if it (the team) were called the Cleveland Negroes with a caricature of Aunt Jemima or Little Black Sambo?
From Scene Magazine
When I was a lad, yes, I loved the Chief Wahoo logo. The first years of my life were spent with a boring old "C" on the hat, with Chief Wahoo a secondary logo, and when Chief Wahoo showed up on caps again in 1986, I remember my elementary school self being very excited about it. Shoot, to this day I can easily draw Chief Wahoo from memory, as I have only practiced it a million times. (Just like Jason Lukehart at LetsGoTribe apparently!)

But opinions (and people) can mature, and context can be gained. And that maturation and context has led me to conclude what I see as obvious--in no way is a cartoon image of a red-faced, hook-nosed, ghoulishly grinning Native American appropriate in America, let alone for a professional sports franchise. In fact, it is the only logo in all of professional sports that characterizes a race of people with such a caricature. Yes, other teams have issues with their names, chants, or songs. But even "Washington Redskins" is not as racist as the cartoon logo of the Cleveland Indians.

This is not a new opinion. The very first pitch at Jacobs Field was thrown out by President Clinton 22 years ago, and he sure as hell wasn't going to have that on his hat. I remember some people being annoyed by that. (Then again, some people are annoyed by anything a Democratic president does.) As mentioned, every thoughtpiece for ten years has reached the same conclusion: that Chief Wahoo is racist. Period. 

Certainly nearly every Indians fan who wears a Chief Wahoo logo isn't trying to communicate some passive-aggressive racist message, nor has anything remotely close in their heart, but that is completely irrelevant. At some point in the past 15 years, many people have shared the same realization; that it's not acceptable to wear this cartoon on your person. The Indians know this as well, but for some reason refuse to completely get rid of it. For years it's being less and less a major part of the uniform, the stadium, and the digital presence, but never completely removed. Even this year, when they "officially demoted" Chief Wahoo to secondary status (e.g. not the primary logo, although still on all sleeves and home caps.) Turns out this is just a half-measure, and nowhere near enough.

Again, let's go back to Peter Pattakos' piece from Scene Magazine.  If you haven't read it yet, I implore you to read it now.  In it, he expresses a (mostly) truism: 
For the duration of Chief Wahoo's tenure with the Indians in the post-Civil Rights era, the city's teams have unequivocally sucked. Not just the Indians, but all of the major professional teams, including the Browns and Cavaliers.
Regardless of the absolute truth of that, we all know how long it has been since we've seen a championship, and for all Clevelanders under 51 years old, that means our eternity. 

So if we can take a stab at doing the right thing, and maybe changing our collective karma at the same time, why can't the Dolans just do that for us? Any straw man business argument can be knocked down immediately. This team that isn't selling any merchandise or drawing fans to the ballpark isn't going to see its wonderful success immediately plummet. They can hardly draw less attendance than last year. 

It's not too late. Order some new hats, cut the cartoon off the sleeve. And Go Tribe. I'll proudly wear my team gear. Just not Chief Wahoo.

(And whether that "Go Tribe" expression, or yeah, the name "Indians" for a team, is racist as well, is another discussion. But regardless of that, let's not ignore the bigger immediate issue. The one that's literally staring us right in the face.)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

WrestleMania Live Blog and Comments



Thanks for joining CST for its first live blog of WrestleMania. Renee Young, Booker T., and Lita on the preshow kickoff. Lita looking good and has a surprise for us in hour two.

Kickoff matches:

United States Championship: Kalisto (C) vs. Ryback:
Kalisto makes his way to the ring in a new mask over his normal mask that looks like the Denver Broncos logo, although I'm sure it's a dragon. Ryback follows. Ryback spikes Kalisto and throws him over the top rope with one arm. Jerry Lawler is embracing his new heel persona. Kalisto over the top rope with knees but Ryback comes back and slams Kalisto onto the floor and barricade. Goldberg chants from the crowd and Ryback throws Kalisto like a rag doll as Jerry Lawler says. Commercial break? I guess we need to take a breath from the furious action in the ring. Back at it. Ryback still dominating. Kalisto with kicks but Ryback thwarts all offensive attempts from the luchadore. Lawler calls him the Mexican Mosquito. How good is heel Lawler?  The more this goes, the more I think Kalisto is winning this as Ryback dominates and toys with Kalisto. Lawler continues to rag on Kalisto's small size. Delayed superplex reversed by Kalisto for a two count. Comeback by Ryback again. Kalisto reverses something into a DDT. Corkscrew torpedo thingee off the ropes by Kalisto. Ryback with a spinebuster. Network freezing damn it. Turnbuckle becomes exposed. Kalisto drop toe hold to Ryback on the exposed turnbuckle followed by the Solida del Sol for the three count. That exposed turnbuckle is deadly I tell ya.
Winner: Kalisto

Total Divas vs. Team B.A.D. and Blonde:
Total Divas out first. Daniel Bryan is a lucky man. The heels are out next. Lana's first match along with Emma repackaged from NXT. Alicia Fox and Summer Rae start out. Alicia's pretty good. Tamina Snuka tags in and now all ten divas are in. Commercial break as we settle things down in the ring. Back with Eva Marie and Emma. Eva Marie booed and then gets a nice pop with a nice move I can't spell.  Eva Marie hard tag to Natalya for no reason. Natalya and Naomi . Natalya tags in Paige to a big pop. Hart Foundation closeline by Natalya and Paige. Naomi flying press into the ropes. Emma comes in and takes control. Quite a difference from when she was dancing with Santino a couple years ago. Lana in to a big pop and taunts Brie. Tamina for the pin attempt on Paige. Tamina is a giant compared to the other women. You'd think Tamina would've made a bigger impact in her career. Chaos on the turnbuckle. Paige with a flying cross body to the outside on the heels. Emma back in. Paige tags in Brie. Yes kicks and the crowd pops. Lana saves the pin. All ten women taking turns hitting moves.  Brie mode blocked by Naomi.  Lana throws Brie off top turnbuckle but Brie reverses Naomi with a damn nice move into the Yes Lock for the win. Nikki Bella in neck brace comes out to celebrate with Team Total Divas.
Winners: Team Total Divas

Lita in the ring now with some kind of unveiling, putting over past Divas. Lita seems more comfortable on the mic than in her wrestling days. Lita putting over the triple threat divas title match. Lita unveils the first ever WWE Women's Championship belt, which looks like the WWE Heavyweight Championship belt but red and white. Nice looking belt and it looks like the Diva Era is over in the WWE (about time... a bit of a degrading name if you ask me).

Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz:
Usos out with their dance and chant. Rikishi's sons got themselves over the past few years. The Dudleys out now. Good to see the Dudleys back in the WWE, although I did like the Bully Ray gimmick in TNA. Dudleys take control off the bat. Bubba yells something about Rikishi. Bubba's got some good mic skills. Bubba continues to trash talk. He really improved in TNA. One of the Usos tags in the other and the Usos are in control now. What's Up dive to the nether region from the Dudleys. Superkick by the Usos. Dudley Death Drop and kickout from one of the Usos. Usos win with a superkick in a pretty lame match. Dudleys attack after the match and out comes the table. Network freeze again.  Usos reverse with superkicks, which seems to be their new complete move set. Double dive by the Usos through the tables BY GODDDD!
Winners: The Usos

And now for the Main Card...

Waiting on the main card to begin, with a vignette about Roman Reigns's title hopes. Roman has been heavily booed by smart mark types who didn't enjoy Vince McMahon writing horrible promos about Jack and the Beanstalk and Bugs Bunny. Vince is a great heel and hilarious in ring, but he's tone deaf when it comes to natural conversation.

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: 
Two Clevelanders get called out first for the opening event of the main card: Dolph Ziggler and Miz, followed by NXT phenom Sami Zayn. Next is Stardust, wearing polka-dotted attire in homage to his father, the late Dusty Rhodes. Next is Sin Cara, who's been pretty much buried but should be good for a high-spot or two. Kevin Owens rounds out the card. He looks like a guy who plays a lot of softball and yells at the umpires. We're experiencing technical difficulties folks, so please bear with us.

***The WWE Network crapped out on Amazon TV at the home front reducing two 40-something dudes to huddle in front of a laptop for 5 hours, which, unfortunately made it near impossible to continue the riveting, live coverage you fine folks deserve. We at CST apologize... Amazon and WWE will be getting a strongly worded letter.

As to not disappoint our fans, we will continue this post from this point in the card as a review of the show. Buckle up... it's about to get "bumpy"...****

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match (continued): 
There was a lot of furious action in this match, one of the best of the night. The true stars, in my opinion, were Sin Cara and Sami Zayn, both delivering incredible spots. Sin Cara got pushed off a ladder and managed to spring off the top rope onto a pile of competitors. Later, he fell of a ladder onto Stardust, who was draped across another ladder that was draped from the ring apron to a table I believe. You had to see it. The ladder and Stardust bent in half upon impact. Zayn's spot, although a bit less daring, featured a dive through the ladder, over the top rope and onto the others. It looked really cool. In the surprise of the night, Zack Ryder won the belt taking advantage of the Miz's showboating. That's a life lesson for you all.
Winner: Zack Ryder

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
In my WrestleMania 32 Preview, I said that I would boycott WWE if Styles lost to Jericho here. I've been known to make bold "I will never" statements in regards to my sports teams and I may have been a bit dramatic in that statement, however, I was NOT happy about this finish. Why? It made Styles look like an idiot in my opinion, playing to the crowd which ultimately cost him the match when Jericho caught him with a Code Breaker amidst a Phenomenal Forearm. Memo to WWE... Styles isn't a rookie. Sting losing to Triple H and now this...
Winner: Chris Jericho

The New Day vs. The League of Nations
No titles on the line here. Just a pointless 3 on 4 matchup. New Day's cereal box entrance was okay, other than that, nothing to really talk about here.
Winners: League of Nations

After the match WWE Hall of Famers/Legends Mick Foley, HBK, and Stone Cold Steve Austin came to the ring and took out The League. Rousev sold a stunner amazingly... best since The Rock. New Day came back in the ring to dance with the legends. Xavier Woods received a hellacious Stunner and the legends celebrated with beer.

Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose (No Holds Barred Street Fight):
How a match between Lesnar and Ambrose was boring is beyond me, much less a no holds barred street fight. In case we didn't know, Brock is a beast. Ambrose got suplexed a gazillion times as to be expected. Suplex City still receives a huge pop, but it's getting old in my humble opinion. Not much of no holds barred here either... a kendo stick, a chain saw that didn't work, and a barbed wire baseball bat that missed... crazy I tell ya. Eventually, Ambrose succumbed to an F5 on a pile of steel chairs.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

WWE Women's Championship Triple Threat Match: Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks:
Sasha came out with cousin Snoop Dogg and some chick singing her entrance song. Cool moment as Snoop Dogg dropped some rhymes on the way to the ring. Loved the match. Hated the ending. Charlotte hit an insane moonsault from the top turnbuckle to Sasha and Becky on the floor. You never saw her dad do that. Why did I hate the ending? Because I hate what they did with Becky. Not only did she eventually tap out (somewhat) cleanly  to the Figure Eight (Ric Flair held Sahsa back from making the save), she got put in no less than 3 Bank Statements. Becky deserves more than to be the punching bag. I really hope she gets a run with the title someday.
Winner: Charlotte

Hell in a Cell: Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker:
Undertaker pretty much dominated this one, as he probably should have. We got treated to insane Shane, when he leapt from the top of the cage to (try to) deliver a Macho Man elbow to Taker on a table below. This was scary folks. Shane missed. Taker tombstoned. Game. Set. Match.
Winner: Undertaker

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal:
Almost forgot about this one. Not in the review, but during the event. Once slated for the kickoff show, this match FOLLOWED the Hell in a Cell match. Some nice surprises... DDP and Tatanka... and SHAQ! Wow Shaq is humungous. He towers over the Big Show. Shaq and Big Show eliminated a bunch of jobber/midcarders in some cute little spots before being eliminated together. NXT's Baron Corbin eliminated Kane to win this otherwise uneventful time sucker.
Winner: Baron Corbin

The Rock came out next with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and what looked like a T-shirt gun but turned out to be a blow torch. Yes, a blow torch. He lit up his name in flames for some reason. After announcing a new attendance record, the Wyatt Family hit the ring to confront The Rock. Apparently, The Rock knew this was going to happen, because he was dressed in full wrestling gear under his clothes. Suddenly, we're treated to an impromptu Rock match at Mania.

The Rock vs. Erik Rowen:
Stare down, Rock Bottom, new record. 6 second match. The Wyatt family surrounded The Rock and suddenly John Cena's music hit. Say what you will about Cena, this was a pretty cool moment. Cena and Rock fended off the Wyatts and the two former enemies celebrated.
Winner: The Rock

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns:
Stephanie started with some weird speech dressed in a nice dominatrix outfit. Trips then came out in his traditional over-the-top WrestleMania entrance. Good ol' Triple H... always putting himself over somehow. Reigns followed to a mix of boos and cheers. After beating the crap out of each other for the last month, the two started with.... a collar and elbow lockup. This one was boring and the crowd let them know it. At one point, we thought Triple H had part of his forehead ripped off, but it turned out to be confetti. Seriously, that was the most intriguing part of the match next to Stephanie taking a pretty big bump from a spear. After some shenanigans with the sledgehammer, Reigns won the title clean with a spear.
Winner: Roman Reigns

The show ended blandly with Reigns celebrating his victory.

Overall the show was okay. The matches were good, entertaining matches but as a whole this WrestleMania was pretty lackluster.

---
Second opinions from the DawgCatcha (Includes April 4 Raw results):

--Zack Ryder winning the IC title was a nice surprise. I'm not a huge fan of Ryder's broski shtick, but the way he's built his online fanbase has a certain DIY charm, and I'm glad he got his Wrestlemania moment. A short-lived moment it was, however, as Ryder dropped the strap on Monday's Raw during a match against The Miz, an affair that included Miz's real-life wife Maryse slapping Ryder's over-muscled father right in his tanned face. A longer-term feud among these parties could provide some entertainment value.

--Though Styles will eventually win his war against Jericho, WWE not putting him over on the biggest show of the year is a mistake. These two have already wrestled four times. Their 'Mania match-up could have been a No. 1 Contender bout for the next off-month PPV main event. The fact that Styles won such a match Monday - this one of the four-way-dance variety - does little to alleviate the problem of jobbing him out to a 45-year-old part-timer currently cruising along in "cool dad" mode.

--Ambrose vs. Lesnar may have been the night's biggest disappointment. The chainsaw spot was at least funny, if for nothing else Paul Heyman's horrified schoolmarm reaction when Ambrose tried to rev the thing up. The match's relative restraint made sense for the TV-PG era, I suppose. No blood allowed means no chainsaws, working or otherwise, and no barbed wire bats used for anything else but stage dressing. Which begs the question of why a "no holds barred street fight" was scheduled at all. A simple no-DQ contest would have tamped down expectations and made the match's rather abrupt steel chair coup de grĂ¢ce more palatable.

--The women's contest was my match of the night. Fast paced with some good psychology behind it. The new women's championship belt looks very cool, too. Still, I'd like to see the family aspect of Charlotte's title reign get fazed out. Let Charlotte stand on her own with her old man interfering or otherwise 'woo-ing' up the spotlight.

--The men's championship match was decent enough, and I have no problem with Triple H losing cleanly to Reigns. The  rise of the "Roman Empire" was inevitable, even if smark fans hate it. The trial balloon had to go up some time, and that time is now. However, WWE still has a Reigns problem, if Monday night's Wrestlemania fallout show was any indication.

Reigns was unmercifully booed by what the commentators spin-doctoringly deemed a "passionate" crowd. For WWE, boos are better than apathy, but it's going to be difficult for the Fed to pass along Reigns as a face after the way they've mishandled the character for the last year plus. Fans don't like being told who to like - I'm guessing they see Reigns as WWE's houseboy even as he's spent the last months fighting against the on-screen version of corporate avarice.

The way Reigns was booked Monday night may point to the company's plans moving forward. Reigns responded to the cascade of boos with a smirk and a short statement: "I'm not a bad guy. I'm not a good guy. I'm the guy." He then challenged the entire roster to a match before tossing the mic aside, and was answered by Jericho, Styles, Owens and Zayn. As the foursome fought, Reigns picked up his title and left. This segment accomplished two things: It kept Reigns off the stick, where he's nothing more than mediocre, and established a kind of "I'm the best, so screw the rest" attitude that could work even for a babyface. We shall see. 

WrestleMania32 Preview



There is really only one thing that could bring this missing CST contributor out of hiding. A shocking return rivaling that of Shane McMahon's. Like Sting repelling from the rafters, I'm back to give to you, loyal CST readers, predictions for the superbowl of sports entertainment–WrestleMania. Tonight from Dallas, the Road to WrestleMania culminates in one the weakest buildups to the event that I can remember. (I can't comment on the pre-attitude era, as I was on my hiatus from professional wrestling during that dark time). This Mania has the potential to be a disaster. The PPV Roadblock was aptly named as it served as just that... all but killing the momentum and heat developing for Mania, resulting in confusing story lines, rushed and underdeveloped feuds. The WWE , however, always seems to find a way to bounce back and overcome the odds so I'm sure they have a few tricks up their sleeve (The Rock has been confirmed to appear, as well as rumored appearances by Stone Cold Steve Austin and HBK Sean Michaels). Without further adieu, I give to you the most compelling article ever written on this site (yeah I know, I just buried my fellow CST contributors to put myself over). Please enjoy...


Kickoff Matches


United States Championship Match: Kalisto (C) vs. Ryback:
The poor man's Rey Mysterio (Kalisto) battles Goldberg-with-less-it-factor, Ryback in this classic David vs. Goliath match that nobody cares about. (Thanks WWE for some compelling story telling). I like Kalisto - he has some talent. I used to like Ryback but he's gotten stale. I'm sure Donald Trump is rooting for Ryback (see what I did there?) and I think his wishes may come true unfortunately.
Winner: Goldber...er Ryback (New Champion)

Team Total Divas vs. Team B.A.D. and Blonde:
Poor Paige and Natalya - they deserve so much more and should be on the main card. They must of pissed someone off because they're way too talented for their current pushes into oblivion. Unlike just about everyone in the Universe, I'm actually looking forward to this. As I said, I like Paige and Natalya, and enjoy Brie Bella's work. In what seems like a typical WWE non-sensical booking move, Eva Marie (one of the most hated heel divas in NXT) has joined Team Divas (the faces). I actually see the logic in this angle considering Eva Marie has been part of the Total Divas show on the USA Network for a few years now. I could easily see Eva Marie costing her team... either by turning on them or just getting beat... but I have to think the Total Divas are going over here, in what could be Brie's retirement match. Please reserve partying too much after this one... we have a lot of show to go.
Winners: Total Divas

The Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz:
I'd love them to introduce TNA veteran Velvet Sky, Mark LoMancao's (a.k.a Bubba Ray Dudley) real life girlfriend into the mix. Google her and you won't be disappointed. Her TNA contract expired (or is expiring) so one can dream. I have no idea who should or will win this. I'll go with the Dudleys.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz, using a table (which they claim to have sworn off, those tricky bastards)


Main Card Matches

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho:
I'd care about this match a lot more if the WWE didn't already have 3 matches between the two. Bad booking, but WWE is going to milk these two top talents for all it's worth.  Nonetheless, I'm sure it will be a good match. If they screw this up and give Jericho the win, I may boycott WWE, much like my infamous wrestling hiatus of 1990 - 1996 . There is no point in de-pushing Styles in favor of the part time veteran Jericho, although there was no point in Triple H going over Sting at last year's Mania either. For God's sake, Jericho put Fandango over at WrestleMania a couple years ago.
Winner: AJ Styles

The New Day (tag team champions) vs. The League of Nations:
The Unfunny New Day vs. The League of Boredom. I still have no idea if this is a title match, a 3 on 4 handicap match, or what.... and I don't really care to be honest. I want to like The New Day, but their schtick is just over-the-top and not funny. Kofi Kingston has a lot of talent (find videos of some of his Royal Rumble spots on the internet), but like Dolph Ziggler and Caesaro, can't seem to catch a break in WWE for whatever reason. Years ago it seemed he was getting a singles main event push in a feud with Randy Orton, but that was put to an abrupt halt. I never liked The League of Nations. Sheamus has always been boring, but Vince and Triple H love the big "monsters". Alberto Del Rio has always made me want to turn the channel. Wade Barrett has always been overrated in my opinion–whether as the leader of Nexus, Bad News Barrett, or King Barrett. Then there's Rusev–I liked Rusev (with Lana), but they've screwed him up, potentially beyond repair. Perhaps a surprise 4th teammate for New Day appears? (God please don't make this The Rock's Mania moment).
Winners: (If it's a title match) The New Day; (If it's non-title) The League of Nations

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Kevin Owens (C) vs. Sami Zayn vs. The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler, vs. Stardust vs. Zack Ryder vs. Sin Cara:
In the words of good ol' JR, "WHAT IN THE HELL IS THIS ALL ABOUT?!"  I get that Neville's broken ankle probably threw a wrench in the original plans for this match, but this is what the WWE creative team came up with?  Borderline mid-carders/jobbers-to-the-stars? Zack frickin' Ryder? In a WrestleMania title match? I'll give Zack credit - he got himself over - years ago - for about 5 minutes. Why they didn't just focus on the Owens/Zayn (a.k.a El Generico) years-long rivalry I have no idea, other than them not thinking Sami is ready for the spotlight in a one on one match. If they had eyes, they would see that Zayn vs. Owens could potentially steal the show, however, the WWE machine can be a stubborn bastard. I'm sure the match will be exciting because, well, it's a ladder match. And please... for the sake of us and Cody Rhodes... let this be the sendoff of the Stardust gimmick!
Winner: Kevin Owens (retains)

Divas Championship Triple Threat Match: Charlotte (C) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
The match featuring the daughter of Ric Flair, the cousin of Snoop Dogg, and Becky Lynch, I'm actually looking forward to this match a lot - possibly the most or second most on the card. I seriously think the Divas are the best thing going in WWE right now. Becky Lynch, to me, is REALLY good in the ring and I hope the WWE rewards her with the title. They just don't seem to be as high on her and she does the job a lot to put others over. Charlotte and Sasha are also really good and I could see any of the three winning. My gut tells me Sasha, but I'll go with my heart in a bit of a surprise.
Winner: Becky Lynch (new champion)

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal:
A nice way for the WWE to get most of its talent on the WrestleMania card, problem is it's a bunch of guys nobody really cares about. It was conventional wisdom that Braun Strowman was a lock to win this as there were big plans for the behemoth strong man, including a feud with Brock Lesnar. Thank the Lord that someone successfully got in Vince's ear and put a stop to that potential train wreck. Braun is stiffer than an adolescent during the Attitude Era and really shouldn't even be on the main roster. They've been focusing on the Social Outcast, Big Show, and Kane on Raw but I think this is a tease, or swerve if you will. There's a guy on the roster who was getting a nice little push for a while, who seems to have been all but forgotten the last few weeks. Like Strowman, a feud with Brock Lesnar seemed like a sure thing. From battling the Undertaker at WrestleMania last year, to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal the next... so is life in the WWE.
Winner: Bray Wyatt

No Holds Barred Street Fight: Dean Ambrose vs. Brock Lesnar:
I hate what they've done with Ambrose. Just getting his ass kicked week after week got repetitive and boring. Jobbing clean to Triple H at Roadblock was worthless. They needed to validate Ambrose, not Trips there. I see Brock dominating this match, but in a shocker, Ambrose prevails when Bray Wyatt interferes, setting up the Wyatt/Lesnar feud that they abandoned after Royal Rumble.
Winner: Dean Ambrose

Hell in a Cell Match for control of Monday Night Raw: Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker
Definitely the most compelling match of the card, this one could go a number of ways. With the way the angle has been written, I personally have no idea how either man loses. Is the 21-1 at Mania Undertaker really going to lose to a non-wrestler? But how does the WWE (through Shane) tell us Raw (their product) sucks and then not have Shane go over to fix the problem. I pray they don't go conservative here (I mean in story telling... I'm sure Shane and Taker will go all out... Shane's insane). There has to be some kind of swerve here... you can't tell everyone your product sucks and by the way nothing is going to change, so by that, I'm going with Shane. Although this is the WWE and Vince McMahon, the smartest people on earth, who never really think their product sucks so who knows. By the way, I'll just say Shane received one of the most insane pops I've ever heard when he returned to Raw. (Aside: The three biggest pops I can recall off the top of my head - Hulk Hogan saves Eugene from Muhammad Hassan at WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan basically anytime, Shane McMahon returning to Raw earlier this year).
Winner: Shane McMahon

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Triple H (C) vs. Roman Reigns
Oy vey what the WWE did to poor Roman Reigns. The man was SO over as a member of The Shield... the muscle of the group just beating people's asses, the crowd ate it up. At his runner-up finish at the Royal Rumble where he eliminated a record amount of combatants, the crowd was chanting for the then heel to win the damn match. Now that could have been because of their hatred for Batista, but there's no denying, with the right writing, Reigns could've been loved. Fast forward a few years, including an inexplicable decision to not have Daniel Bryan in the Royal Rumble which caused the fans to take out their disappointment and frustration on Reigns, and he's a booed babyface, pushed down the fans' throats like John Cena. I feel bad for the guy because he has talent. His matches are pretty good. WWE Creative failed him and a change in character is needed. But like I said before the WWE/Vince McMahon is one stubborn bastard. I can easily see Reigns winning clean to the oblivious delight of Vince. I've heard the pundits hope and plead for a swerve, perhaps a Reigns heel turn on The Rock, but I don't see it happening... at least not here at Mania.
Winner: Roman Reigns (new champion) 

And there it is. Tune into the WWE Network (just $9.99 per month, first month free including WrestleMania) tonight to see if I'm as good as CST resident handicapper, SamVox and his Lox or just a jobber destined for smoky bingo halls and empty high school gymnasiums. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Vox Super L Pick

Super Bowl XXXVI was the first time I bet a significant amount of um, units, on a sporting event. I wasn't northeast Ohio's premier handicapper then; just a 27-year old young professional, living in a dingy apartment, with a hunch that two touchdowns were too much to lay in any championship game. To this day, it remains my favorite SB: U2 took the halftime show to church with a post-9/11 performance that will never be duplicated. And Adam Vinatieri's kick won my money-line wager as well, lifting the disrespected Patriots over the Greatest Show on Turf.

I can't recall more than a few plays from that game since I was playing poker with friends, but I do remember thinking that Super Bowl Sunday should be an official American holiday called Gambling Day. Considering all of the dollars wagered on squares and the point spread, the government might as well take your action on the game. The United States could probably pay our debt to China with the vig, not to mention the other benefits of legalizing gambling for even one day a year. This is likely to happen after Trump wins and makes us great again. I kid, I kid...but you can scroll down and collect my two-dime lock on the Republican nomination.

Before I share my much-coveted selection, let's look back on my well-documented history in handicapping the SuperBowl:

2008 (XLII): 2-dime winner on the Giants covering against the undefeated Patriots. This was my first public release, on Time Warner's The Daily Dose. Yes, I know it was a cable access show and a More Sports & Les Levine-spinoff, but the tape has to be floating out there somewhere.

2009 (XLIII): 1-dime winner. I nearly predicted the exact final score. Vox Pix is born, soon to become Vox Lox.

2010 (XLIV): No action for personal reasons. But instead you can read a poem I wrote over eight years, culminating in the Saints' game-winning pick off Peyton Manning.

2011 (XLV): 10-dime winner. The biggest play of my career; an anomalous Alex Hamilton on the Pack over Pittspuke. Fergalicious, def. 

2012 (XLVI): 2-dime loser. But CST brought sexy back.

2013 (XLVII): 1-dime winner. Correctly predicted the game was too close to call and abstained from betting, but recommended that my readers take the Ratbirds.

2014 (XLVIII): 2-dime winner on the underdog Seahawks. Broke up with the Cavs.

2015 (XLIX): 4-dime winner. My column was an ode to Tom Brady, but it was Pete Carroll's gaffe that brought down your book.

Vox SB Total: 6-1, +18 Dimes

----

Denver (+5.5) over Panthers, 3 Dimes
Carolina 26 Denver 21

Championship Sunday: 1-1, +2 Dimes
Season: 4-8, -3 Dimes
Career: 152-125-14, +42 Dimes

Bonus Plays:
Tottenham Hotspur FC to win the English Premier League, 2 Dimes
Marco Rubio to win the Republican Nomination, 2 Dimes
Coldplay Setlist: Viva La Vida/ Yellow/ Clocks