A Few Things I Thought Tonight

Wrestlemania 34 is coming up in six weeks and there is no better time to watch WWE than the three-month build from Royal Rumble to Wrestlemania.

Because that is typically when WWE does their best work, we have a temporary subscription to the WWE Network and I was able to watch their pay-per-view presentation tonight – Elimination Chamber.

Here are a few things I thought tonight as I watched the event.

Women’s wrestling has never been better

That’s probably a little bit hyperbolic because I don’t know what women’s wrestling was like prior to the 1980’s and I am completely unaware about the history of women’s wrestling outside of the United States.

Perhaps a better statement should be that women’s wrestling in the United States has never been better.

As recently as 5-6 years ago, women’s wrestling on television and on pay-per-view was check out time. It was aimed at the kids and the perverts and since I’m neither it typically meant channel-surfing, phone-checking, or bathroom-going.

But in the last few years the WWE has made a concerted effort to not just change perception but actually change the product for the better. Now, women’s wrestling is presented as sport and entertainment on par with the men and they are making the most of every opportunity.

Tonight, the women’s Elimination Chamber match opened the show but last month, the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble was the main event of the pay-per-view. And, in my opinion, the star of both matches was a young lady named Sasha Banks.

Banks is one of the Four Horsewomen (along with Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Bayley) of the last couple of years that have moved women’s wrestling from being an exhibition of scantily clad women destined for the worst spot on the card to the main event.

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From L-R: Charlotte Flair, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch

Banks was in the ring for almost an hour at the Royal Rumble and was the glue in the women’s Elimination Chamber tonight. She is absolutely fantastic.

The only thing I would change about women’s wrestling is that I would make the ring a little smaller. The women’s wrestlers are usually a little shorter than the men and a 20’x20′ ring can sometimes negate just how fast they are moving in the ring.

But that’s nitpick. These women can flat-out go.

Snobby wrestler thought #1

I’m not an MMA guy so I’m out so far on Ronda Rousey.

It is literally nothing against her – I wish her the best. But I would just prefer to see one of those pioneering women being featured in such a prime spot but I understand that WWE is trying to make money and gain some mainstream legitimacy. Featuring Rousey at Wrestlemania will do that.

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But I am a wrestler and I like wrestling. If Rousey can’t work in the ring then people will turn on her. I’ll be the first one to do it. Ten years ago they wouldn’t have turned because people expected less from women’s wrestlers but, as I mentioned before, the women of WWE can work their tails off now so Rousey better get there quick.

They also aren’t helping things by making her first feud against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. I’ve spoken at length that Triple H is not the king-maker he thinks he is and he severely overestimates his ability to “get people over”.

Snobby wrestler thought #2

I don’t like it when a hot comeback has a move in it that is dependent on a reversal. A hot comeback should only contain moves where the wrestler is in full control of the match.  Both Cena and Reigns have moves in their comeback that require a wrestler to reverse them. Those guys are great…a billion times better than me…but I wish they would change that.

Don’t forget the men…

…particularly Finn Balor.

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The women’s revolution has been a breath of fresh air but tonight’s men’s Elimination Chamber was excellent as well. I’ve never really worked a match like it before (never at all actually) but I can imagine it is hard to put it together and pull it off. The men in tonight’s match did it.

The match featured The Miz, Elias, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, John Cena, Braun Strowman, and the aforementioned Balor.

The finish was predictable with Reigns winning to set up a Wrestlemania rematch with Brock Lesnar but I feel like WWE is missing out with Balor.

Every once in a while a guy comes along with a really unique charisma to go along with terrific in-ring ability. Austin had it. Rock obviously had it. Jeff Hardy had it. CM Punk had it. AJ Styles has it. And Finn Balor has it.

The high-flying Irishman has a unique style and look and I think people would go crazy if the WWE just let him loose – whether it be “every night Finn” or Demon Finn.

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An appearance from Demon Finn is rare but it is quite a sight.

The WWE tried by having him win the Universal Title on his first night in the company but he got hurt in the same match and was sidelined for months.

If you’ve been out on WWE since the Attitude Era, give them a shot again. Start with Balor and AJ Styles and go from there.

Acrobatics & Tumbling Talk

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Baylor A&T Coach Felicia Mulkey

Kari, Lane, and I went to go see an Acrobatics & Tumbling meet at Baylor last Sunday and it was terrific.

Lane decided to be 2 1/2 that day so we weren’t able to be as dialed in as we wanted but the entire event was incredibly impressive.

I provided a full review on The John Morris Show when I reported back to the studio the following Monday.

I can’t recommend A&T enough. I was a huge fan…as you’ll hear here.

Two Things I Thought Today

As far as I’m concerned the government officially shutdown the moment The West Wing went off the air.

That’s not one of the things I thought today though it IS something I think every day.

The Big 12 is deep basketball conference

I do believe that there is a fine line between mediocrity and depth and, I guess, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

If you are an Aggie, Paul Finebaum, or live in Alabama then you believe that the SEC is a really deep football conference. In reality it’s a mediocre conference once you get past Georgia and Alabama.

But since we let people assign fictional rankings to these things it appears deep when you look at the standings on paper.

Then there is genuine depth – like we’ve seen in the Big 12 this season.

Before we go on – I’m not touting it as the best because who cares if a conference is best? I’m simply pointing out that the league is really deep and would be appointment viewing if I had the attention span to watch an entire game.

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Oklahoma’s Trae Young has endeared himself to college basketball fans and media thanks to his explosive offense and by saying the Pledge of Allegiance once per game.

There is no clear, distinct separation from top to bottom in the league regardless of ranking. I’m saying that on the floor, when the ball is tipped, the top teams and the bottom teams are showing the same level of talent, effort, and coaching.

Kansas is the class of the league but lost to Texas Tech at home who lost to Iowa State who lost to TCU who lost to Kansas State who lost to Texas Tech.

I can’t believe I am going to link to an ESPN article but Jeff Borzello does a good job making my point here. But please ignore the power rankings. Those are as meaningless as the actual rankings.

HHH is rewriting WWE history

Tonight was the 25th anniversary of WWE Raw.

Don’t act like you don’t know what that is because I know the following things to be true:

  • 99% everyone I know watched Nitro and Raw in the years 1997 and 1998.
  • 78% of people I know have tried to give or take a Stone Cold Stunner into the swimming pool at some point.
  • 50% have done the DX crotch chop in public
  • 50% have wanted to do the DX crotch chop in public.

Most people moved on from wrestling around the year 2000 but I am not one of them. I was around long before Nitro and Raw and I’ll be around long after. I know wrestling history. It’s vividly clear to me.

That’s how I know that HHH is rewriting WWE history.

On tonight’s 25th anniversary broadcast, he put himself and his buddies from Degeneration X (Shawn Michaels, X-Pac, Billy Gunn, Road Dog, and Scott Hall) in something of a main event position and cut a promo intimating that DX was on the forefront of everything that happened on Raw.

He is wrong.

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First, Scott Hall was never in DX so that was just a blatant effort to get your buddy in a good spot on TV.

Second, DX was wildly successful during their initial run from 1997-1999. But they were not at the forefront. If anything, they (and particularly HHH) were drafting off of two other men: Steve Austin, and Vince McMahon.

Raw is what Raw is because of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. Their feud was the most innovative, captivating thing wrestling had going from 1998-2001. People turned on their televisions each week to see what Austin and McMahon would do.

Along the way they discovered The Rock – who was WHITE HOT from 1999-2001 – and fell in love with him as well.

Then, third on the ladder was DX. They were awesome. They were funny. They were great in the ring. But they were not the catalysts or the innovator or at the forefront of anything.

Alas, since HHH is married to a McMahon and is now the COO of the company he gets to tell you differently.

He gets to put Steve Austin and Vince McMahon in the opening segment of Raw 25 while he goes on last. He gets to stiff arm Austin and shrug off any opportunities at “one more match” for Stone Cold so that he can try and play king-maker with young talent.

One adverse response to all of this is that he minimizes the contributions of Shawn Michaels who, in my opinion, is the greatest wrestler of all-time. Michaels was worthy of closing WWE Raw on Monday night – Gunn, Dogg, Hall, and X-Pac were not.

HHH is great in the ring and always has been. He is great on the mic and always has been. He loves wrestling and has brought in the world’s best talent to work for WWE. As a fan, I appreciate what he has done.

But these continued attempts to re-write history and to elevate DX and his buddies from “The Kliq” to the Austin, McMahon, or even Rock level have failed to convince those of us who have been fans and those of us who didn’t drink beer in college so we can clearly remember those Monday nights at Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Essentially, he is “working” young fans and making them believe something that isn’t real. Which is his job as a wrestler.

When it comes to telling a story in the ring, HHH is Mark Twain. But when it comes to telling the story of the WWE, he’s that guy at your reunion who remembers his contributions to the team a whole lot differently than you do.

The Friday Five

Hey how about this?! Two weeks in a row!

Last week’s Friday Five featured the five most humiliating defeats of my life and was low-lighted by a loss to my 26 month old daughter in a game of Memory. I’d like to thank all of you who took time to reach out and offer your regards. It means a lot.

This week’s edition is a musical edition and was born out of a conversation earlier this week when I was telling my wife about the greatness of the new Bruno Mars song “Finesse”.

I don’t know any of the words to “Finesse” and I’m honestly not sure I’ve listened to the entire song all the way through. But from the first notes of the song, I feel transported back to the old skool.

And you’re dang right I just spelled school with a k. 

Isn’t it incredible?

The initial drummy-type sounds (Drummy? Can you tell I don’t know music?) take me back to the late 1980’s when I first heard hip-hop. It has a very upbeat, poppy, 80’s hip-hop and R&B sound like a New Edition song or something.

But, then a beat comes in (Is it a beat? A hook? A melody? I dunno…) and there is a harmony that sounds like 112 or Blackstreet just busted in the door and they’re going to steal the song and my girl.

I enjoy this song with more than my ears. In a strange way, I enjoy this song with my soul and my memories.


A few years back, our pastor was preaching to us and preparing us to take communion. He was talking about the word “remembrance” and relayed that when we remember what Christ has done for us through communion, it is brought to the here and now and it’s visceral. It’s felt.

He likened to remembering his late Mom. He didn’t just remember her with his mind. When he remembered his mom and shared stories, the way he felt as a participant in those stories came rushing back as the narrator of the story.


I’m not here to compare how a song makes me feel to a man remembering his late Mom. And the music I’ve experienced in my life is fairly limited but, like most people, there is a certain soundtrack to my life.

This week’s Friday Five is the Five Songs That Make Me Feel a Memory. 

Real quick though before I start the list I would like to offer two qualifiers. First, I am limiting songs that elicit strong memories from my wife and daughter. There are too many to count.

Second, the Friday Five does not include all the songs elicit a memory. Just a few of the ones that elicit the most vivid and visceral memory.

First up are the Honorable Mention selections.

6 Thoughts on the Gerrit Cole Trade

Right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole is officially a member of the Houston Astros.

The World Series champions traded Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, and  Jason Martin to Pittsburgh to acquire Cole and add to a stacked starting pitching staff.

Next season, Houston will roll out some a rotation that will feature Dallas Keuchel (2015 Cy Young Award winner), Justin Verlander (2011 Cy Young Award winner), Lance McCullers (2017 All-Star), Cole (2011 No. 1 pick, 2015 All Star), Charlie Morton (granted sainthood immediately following Game 7 of the World Series).

Strong. Quite strong.

The general consensus amongst those talking baseball is that Houston dramatically improved, absolutely responded to the moves made by the Yankees and Angels this offseason, and possibly clinched a second straight World Series crown.

Here are a six thoughts I’ve had today since the trade became official – including why this trade in no way, shape, or form locks up a dang thing in 2018.


Breaking up of the band

One thing I never anticipated was how attached I would be to the 2017 Houston Astros and their players.

None of the guys that we traded were Astros Hall of Famers or anything but they were members of the VERY FIRST World Series championship in franchise history. Regardless of their participation or productivity, I will miss them.

I saw a Joe Musgrove start in April against the Rangers. In fact, I saw Michael Feliz pitch twice in that series. Now they are Pirates.

I felt the same way when we didn’t extend an offer to Mike Fiers in December. I held my one-week old daughter and watched him throw a no-hitter in 2015. Now he’s a Tiger.

Even though Feliz and Fiers drove me to drink sometimes, I loved those guys because they were Astros. They were World Series Champion Astros and there ain’t too many of those guys in the world.


The players love it so I do too

The response from current Astros to this trade has been pretty awesome.

So even though I am sad to break up the band, when two Cy Young winners are this jazzed about signing another starter there is no other proper response than to be on board with it.


No Fisher. No Tucker. No Whitley.

Perhaps the reason they love it so much is that this trade didn’t mortgage the future like the decisions of 2006-09 did to the franchise.

Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley are the number one and number two prospects in the Astros system and have been deemed untouchable. Detroit wanted Tucker for Verlander and GM Jeff Luhnow passed. I thought he was crazy at the time.

Derek Fisher was our number 8 prospect in 2017 and is the man who raced around third to score winning run in Game 5 of the World Series and grabbed my heart forever with those orange gloves.

Embed from Getty Images

(I want to cryo-freeze the guys in that photo Han Solo-style and put it out front of Minute Maid Park for my enjoyment.)

As if the Astros front office wasn’t enjoying their victory lap enough this just seems like highway robbery.


What about the closer role?

Ken Giles is still officially the Astros closer even after being removed from the role during the World Series. But will he be the closer on Opening Day?

Does AJ Hinch want him to be?

giles

I love trading for an All-Star starter but our starting pitching wasn’t an issue to begin with. It wasn’t a liability in the playoffs at all save for a couple of shaky Lance McCullers starts.

But the ninth inning is a whole other issue and the front office hasn’t dealt with it yet. Perhaps adding Cole means Peacock goes to the closer role?

Are Peacock and Colin McHugh now potential trade bait to lure a closer at the trade deadline in 2018? Maybe even sooner?

Giles was fine in the regular season and winning a World Series makes you forget a lot of things but the guys who were supposed to close things out did anything but in the 2017 playoffs.


Better Cole than Giancarlo

Last season, Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 home runs, drove in 132 runs, and won the National League MVP award.

Then he was promptly traded to the American League runner-up New York Yankees who hit 241 home runs and scored 858 runs last season.

Still, I’d rather have traded for Cole than Giancarlo.

I’ve pulled for enough Astros teams with offense on top of offense. I love me some starting pitching – especially in October.

No matter what anyone tells you or what outlying season or game you try to use as a reference, the playoffs are about pitching and about big hits not lots of hits. Loading up on sluggers and trying to win 11 games in the playoffs is the quickest way for your franchise to become the mid 2000’s Mets.

Ask the 2001 Mariners who raked their way to 927 runs and 116 regular season wins only to lose to Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and a dominant Andy Pettite in the American League Championship Series that year.

Shoot, you don’t have to go back that far. Ask the homer-happy Dodgers who scored one run in Game 7 against the combination of Lance McCullers, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski, and Cy Young Charlie Morton.

Now, Houston’s offense is a top ten offense meaning it won’t stall out for long over 162 games. And their starting pitching is good enough to mean that even an offensive drought won’t mean a prolonged losing streak over 162 games.

But this trade wasn’t made with the idea of preventing a June swoon. This was a trade made with October in mind. And I’d take this staff over Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, or even Washington ten times out of ten.

Now with that being said…


No one has ever won a World Series in January

aj

Here is AJ Hinch with the World Series trophy in November – when they World Series is played.

First of all, I know they are won in November because I watched the ASTROS WIN THE FREAKING WORLD SERIES IN NOVEMBER AND I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE IT!

In January, the only thing you win or lose is the front page of the newspaper and the good favor of your fans and the Astros won both with this trade.

But in January, there is no reality and the season hasn’t begun to take its toll.

No one is hurt and no one is slumping.

In January you only hope for clubhouse chemistry – you don’t know if you have it.

In January, expectations can be raised sky-high only to be crushed by June. In January, you think your guys are the 1998 Yankees but come October you realize they are the 2001 Mariners.

I know for a fact that Astros are the best team in baseball because I watched the ASTROS WIN THE FREAKING WORLD SERIES IN NOVEMBER AND I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE IT!

And I believe that they still would be the best team even without adding Cole. But now that they have him I believe that they are built for another 101 regular season wins and a legitimate shot at winning another World Series.

But I will absolutely not try to determine what the Cole trade means for the season ahead. I’m content to sit back and – hopefully – enjoy.

Before Houston won the World Series, this Cole trade would have been the kind of thing that would have nearly caused me full on hysteria (Ex: the Justin Verlander Trade). But that was six months ago and now I have actually experienced full-on hysteria. (Ex: Kyle Seagers 4-3 ground out).

I don’t want to rain on the parade. I’m thrilled we added a Cy Young caliber guy but it doesn’t make us back-to-back champs.

Yet.