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Chronicles of Ape - The Full Compilation

2020.10.21 19:40 apehasreturned Chronicles of Ape - The Full Compilation

CHAPTER ONE
COA Part One: Dear Mr Fantasy (Booking)
In Part One, Ape has just finished working SummerFest, and starting to get ready for preparing BTE, the biggest show of the FBE calendar. MGT is nowhere to be found, Ape is getting swamped, and he's finally hit with a message saying he can't have the match that he wanted to at the show he's running. It's at this point that a deflated Ape vows to make BTE the most kick-ass show of all time, and decides to get to work once more.
COA Part Two: No Longer Chained
Part Two sees Ape have his famed Three Stages of Hell Match with OWD at BTE. An injured and exhausted Ape pulls out the win in front of an electric crowd before collapsing backstage. The doctor tells him that he can't compete for six months, and his personal advice is to hang up the boots. Ape refuses to quit until MGT returns, but once it's confirmed Ape's co-founder is back from his extended hiatus, Ape hops in his car and leaves.
COA Part Three: Self Expression
In Part Three, after trying, and failing, to say goodbye to MGT, Ape is in Korea, where he obtains a work visa to open KingBooker Academy. Here, we meet the Apeiro-gun Gang - Ujin, Jung, Chiho and Yejun - a group of Ape's most dedicated students. Ape trains his new proteges, even forfeiting his finisher, the Canadian Destroyer, which he'd used all his career, to Ujin. Eventually, the visa officer confirms that Ape can stay in Korea and that KingBooker can become gainful employment, meaning Ape is finally self-sufficient and able to teach for the rest of his life.
COA Part Four: Wild
In Part Four, Apeiro-gun drive to Jeonju for a booze-infested party, with wild antics such as bar fights, motorcycle racing, breaking into a church, and running around town eating Fudgesicles. Ape opens up to his crew on the way down about his past with FBE and the regret he feels for leaving, before accidentally leaving them by accidentally getting on a plane and waking up the next morning in an unfamiliar city.
COA Part Five: Waking Up, Getting Up and Getting Out There
In Part Five, Ape finds himself in Tokyo. He gets into a Persona concert, where he meets Alli, and the two instantly fall for one another. Together, they journey around Tokyo, from the Tokyo Dome to Akihabara to Shibuya. Ape enjoys himself immensely but still misses his friends, calling Ujin and saying he'll be back soon. He invites Alli to come back with him, and she eagerly agrees.
COA Part Six: Full Measure
Part Six sees Ape getting off a plane and into the KingBooker van. Apeiro-gun chat with Alli about Ape's past profession, when all of a sudden Ape gets out of the van and flips out on the side of the highway. He vows to head back to FBE, refusing to fully abandon them as so many had before him. Ape, conflicted because he feels he has to go back but knows he'd be happier being with those he loves in Korea, is ushered back into the van, where his mind is made up for him.
COA Part Seven: Felicidad
Part Seven sees Ape land in Toronto, and go on a road trip with Alli across North America from his home in Toronto to Los Angeles, the site of Highly Suspect. They drive all the way there, stopping in Joshua Tree National Park for an unforgettable night, before arriving at the Staples Centre. Ape marks a smiley face in MGT's timeslot, knowing it's time to start the show.
COA Part Eight: That Man's Not Human
Part Eight signifies COA's turning point - Ape comes out in front of the FBE faithful, and immediately gets a crutch driven into his back by his one-time best friend. MGT, now dubbed Travis Crowley, viciously assaults Ape with a light tube to the horror of the terrified crowd, leaving Ape permanently scarred over his left eye. Ape tries to apologize, but is hit with a Hulkbuster and stretchered away, losing consciousness as he's put into an ambulance.
COA Part Nine: Come In Here, Apey Boy
Part Nine is a flashback sequence in the style of the old COA, where Ape takes on the role of a young boy lost in a sprawling metropolis. He finds himself in a seedy building called FBCompany, where he meets a shady figure and his protege, MGT. Ape works his way up the ranks, but, when he realizes he's about to be screwed over and hung to dry by MGT, the flashback ends and Ape awakens in the hospital, surrounded by Alli and Apeiro-gun.
COA Part Ten: Apeiro-gun
In Part Ten, Apeiro-gun are the stars of the show, and vow to exact vengeance on Travis Crowley for taking their boss out of commission. They take the fight to Crowley in his hotel, but they're no match for the manic psychopath. As Travis is about to permanently injure Ujin with a light fixture, when Ape saves the day, cracking a chair leg over Crowley. The two battle it out until they're dragged apart by a sea of security.
COA Part Eleven: Fight Room
In Part Eleven, Ape heads to Drumheller, Alberta with Ujin to train for Carnage against MGT. Ape is weak and rusty, but, in a reversal of roles, his protege brings him back to his previous standards through a rigorous training camp. However, before leaving for Banff, his next training spot, Ape calls Alli, where she says she can't be with him until he stops being committed to battling with Travis. Ape smashes his phone and keeps training, being dubbed fully prepared for Carnage.
COA Part Twelve: Pray For A Takeover
In Part Twelve, Ape arrives in Los Angeles. He reminisces with Apeiro-gun and goes to the Staples Centre, again marking a smiley face. He goes to his locker room, talks with his friends, and breaks down. He can't go through with this. However, Ujin pep talks him out of it, and Ape prepares to go to war. He chooses out a tape for his theme, disregarding the one he recorded with Alli, and makes his entrance at Carnage, locking eyes with the man that he'd been through everything with.
COA Part Thirteen (Epilogue): Goodbye and Goodnight
Part Thirteen is Chapter One's epilogue. Ape has beaten Travis Crowley, and while the two have reconciled, Crowley still boards a plane with Lydia and doesn't look back. Ape palms an engagement ring for Alli, revealing that in Part 11, he'd intended to propose, before heading down for his New Year's Party. He makes Inferno GM, and alongside his friends and roster, the year is rung in on the roof of a Chick Fil A, like it had been in the aftermath of his last battle with his best friend. Ape smiles, ready for the next chapter, as the chapter comes to a close.

CHAPTER TWO
COA Part Fourteen: Toronto
Picking up right at the end of Part Thirteen, Ape heads home after a long party and flashes back to his battle with Travis Crowley, reflecting on what he had to do to finish the job. He starts having visions of the ending of the match, both men plummeting off of a ladder to the ground below, filling his sleep-deprived mind with doubt and confusion in the aftermath of his breakup. He heads home, and burns a leatherbound book, containing the handwritten notes of Chapter One.
COA Part Fifteen: Los Angeles
In a much shorter entry, Ape has his first job as Commissioner, where Inferno insists that he can take care of things for the Carnage Tour, telling Ape to take some time to himself to get out of his own head.
COA Part Sixteen: Sendai
Throwing as much shade at Conor as possible, Ape embraces the dumb fun side of himself and heads to Japan, embracing the calm serenity of an actual break from FBE. He meets a new girl, Hifumi, and is instantly greeted by news of the return of Travis Crowley, a man he thought he'd essentially banished from the company in the aftermath of their collision at Carnage.
COA Part Seventeen: Tokyo
Soon enough, small town Japan gets a little too dull, so Ape heads to Tokyo with Hifumi, where he coincidentally meets with his old friends, Apeiro-gun, on a tour to promote the brand abroad. They party about Japan, reunited once more, get wasted, have a run-in with Minoru Suzuki (who literally murders poor Chiho), and all agree to stick together on the road to cap off Ape's vacation from Commissionership.
COA Part Eighteen: Kyoto
It's a full dialogue episode, as all the guys settle into a bar and drink themselves half to death alongside their new friend Sae. The guys all pick on a recovered Chiho in a game of Truth or Dare, and they all get to know each other a little better after all their time apart. Soon enough, Chiho is dared to draw Yejun, and the disgrace to art causes a drunk Yejun to lash out, leading to the group getting booted from the bar. They all hop in the van, with Ape needing to head back to the airport, but Ujin seems to know Ape probably isn't coming back. He gives Ape a watch with the two of them on the face, and Ape promises this isn't goodbye forever.
COA Part Nineteen: Athens
Ape arrives early, ending his vacation ahead of time to make it to Athens for Carnage N4. He walks into the Panathenaic Stadium and meets with Travis Crowley, where, to his relief, he hits it off again with his reformed longtime friend. Soon enough, though, shit hits the fan when Inferno assaults British Ambition brothers PJ and Desmond Caid, while thinking Ape was still in Japan. Ape charges into Gorilla and gets into an altercation with his GM, telling Inferno to get in his BMW and drive far. Travis holds him back, and he then goes to check on Desmond and PJ, all while Nate Matthews wins the World Title and Receiver disappears. Finally, Ape is getting a true taste of being the Commissioner.

CHAPTER THREE
COA Part Twenty: At Best
Months after the events of Carnage, Ape has had another match and has a twinging pain. Inferno, no longer his GM, suggests he get it checked out with the doctor backstage, who gives Ape the worst possible news: he's on borrowed time with a serious neck injury, and he recommends he never compete again. Ape angles his way into one final run, as Commissioner, and vows that he's going to put on the very best performances of his career, ending at BTE II.
COA Part Twenty One: List
Following the heartbreaking news he'd have to wrap things up in ring, Ape sits down with Ujin and compiles the most important thing he's ever written - the names of the people he most wants to face, for better or for worse, before leaving FBE. However, Ujin suggests he up the stakes to get some added investment - if he loses any of the matches, he leaves his Commissioner job as well, departing FBE in all capacities.
COA Part Twenty Two: Let Us Start The Show
Having taken a few days to get everything in order, Ape calls a meeting with the entire FBE locker room, finally revealing to the world that he's indeed injured, and looking to wrap things up at BTE II. This gets some... varied reactions, but he asks everyone to leave. He rattles off some names to stick around, telling them they're on the list. They all agree to the matches, except for one mystery - a tag match, pitting Ape and a mystery partner against the Celestial Unknown.
COA Part Twenty Three: Future
FBE is in Texas for WarZone, and Ape is running the show from behind the scenes. There is one thing on his plate, though - he needs to talk to Nate Matthews. He sits down with him, and starts up, only for Nate to cut him off, saying he's happy to still run their scheduled match at Ape's Summer Break. He leaves, but not before delivering a signature Commissioner wink - and leaving Ape knowing that's not what he wanted to talk about. He wanders out into the hall, and gets a smile on his face, aware of just how crazy this summer was going to be.
COA Part Twenty Four: Say His Name
Starting with a flashback, Ape reminisces about the match he had this time last year with Nate Matthews, the two men battling to a draw - the only one of Ape's career. The crowd are on Nate's side as they duel, and it's Ape who needs help leaving... Suddenly, he snaps awake, revealing himself to be at Firestorm 45, just a few days out from stepping in the ring for just the second time that year. He heads out for a promo to get the ball rolling on Firestorm, greeted with a welcome much warmer than the one he received in 2019. Finally, though, he makes a vow - to pin Nate Matthews, dead to rights, in the middle of the ring.

CHAPTER FOUR
COA Part Twenty Five: 0-0-1
Ape arrives at his home away from home, Seoul, and once again links up with Apeiro-gun at Incheon Airport. They drive into Seoul, admiring Ape's first ring gear since the Carnage Tour, and head to the Jamsil Olympic Stadium. The van is met with an uproarious response, and Ape steps out in a suit, meeting fans before heading inside for his match with Nate Matthews. However, after the fireworks, pomp and circumstance, Ape is starting to get nervous. Self-doubt creeps in, but Ujin is there to stop him from spiralling, psyching him back up. Finally, it's time.
COA Part Twenty Six: Best Enemies, Better Friends
Following a win over Nate Matthews in Seoul, Ape is back in the United States, taking on the Celestial Unknown with a mystery partner. After shaking hands with Nate a few nights prior and saying "this is an offer," the world is buzzing at the thought of a team between the two, but Ape meets up with Damien Blade beforehand, Blade offering his aid if Ape needs it against Atlas and Receiver. However, Ape has a wildcard, and when he makes his entrance, the crowd explodes for the unprecedented debut of the hottest tag team never to unite - Highly Suspect.
COA Part Twenty Seven: Lay Down
After dispatching of two thirds of the Celestial Unknown, Ape sets his sights on the third, Desmond Caid, for their third and final showdown. We're live from Homecoming, and the Match of the Year contender is an absolute barnburner, both men beating the hell out of each other to try and get that oh-so-important win to cap off one of the great FBE rivalries. In the end, it's a Myriad Truths that wins the affair, with Desmond Caid and Ape still disliking each other at the end - but a mutual respect perhaps having formed.
COA Part Twenty Eight: Future Tour
From home in Toronto, a battered and bruised Ape is ready to return to the Rogers Centre for Firestorm. His opponent is Damien Blade, recently a member of the Brotherhood, and Ape doesn't take kindly to seeing someone he sees so much in spoil their potential. He goes to his office and cuts a promo, declaring that Blade needs to stop doubting himself, and focus on showing the world just what Ape saw in him later that night.
COA Part Twenty Nine: Wrestling Retiring
Firestorm sees Ape beaten down by the Brotherhood, and he spends Firestorm 49 at home, at the behest of doctors. He reminisces, thinking about attacks by Juniors, by his good friend in STEEZ... and watches some TV. Turning on Community, he reflects, realizing that now he's not the friendly boss, but a target for all the people who want to make a name for themselves at his expense. He ponders this, looking at photos showing all the good memories he had as a friend of the roster, but now... he's an enemy, accused of "wrestling retiring."
COA Part Thirty: 92Cold
Back with a vengeance after dispatching of Receiver, Ape flashes back to STEEZ, his 92Cold brother, assaulting he and Travis Crowley. Turning on his best friend. Furious, Ape rips into his foe, before pushing aside any medical advice. He wants STEEZ in the most brutal match conceivable, at Firestorm 50. He doesn't need the World Title off his shoulder, but he will, most certainly, hand him a loss, in a No Holds Barred Match.
COA Part Thirty One: To The Death
This episode recaps the events of the devastatingly violent Firestorm 50 bout between STEEZ and Ape. STEEZ brings a knife to a fistfight, but Ape brings a bat, and the two men tear each other limb from limb all around Osaka-jo Hall, hitting each other with every conceivable move. Ape is driven into a pile of thumbtacks before being locked in a Muta Lock, his neck being systematically taken apart, but Ape fires back by pulling STEEZ down with him. They battle tooth and nail, before Ape drops STEEZ and debuts the Receive You Special, hitting knee after knee to the back of the head until it's called off. Backstage, he's confronted by Ujin for being too violent, and he looks in the mirror, smiling despite the pain, on the verge of serious injury, and realizes just how much he needs FBE.
COA Part Thirty Two: where do you start, when you know it has to end?
Ape is in his office, putting together his final Firestorm, examining the photos on his desk as he shuts everything off. He hears a knock on the door, greeting Inferno, who asks how he's doing. They talk back and forth, the resentment from Ape towards Inferno for inadvertently starting his medical spiral seeping in, until both men snap. They argue, but in the end, they still care about each other, and Ape breaks down, not ready to leave. Inferno comforts him and gives him an envelope, declaring he knows what he has to do. Ape saves it, opening after the show ends.
COA Part Thirty Three: ALIVESINCEFOREVER
In a flashback, Ape arrives at Ryogoku for Firestorm 51, pulling up with a tripod. He plants it down near the main steps, and, in a short and sweet promo, tells Atlas that as much as he respects him and his attitude, no matter how much talent he may have, this is going to be his big moment of the summer. Out of the main event, this is Atlas' big shot, his big match, and he's going to give a hell of a fight... but in the end, Ape's got him shook.
COA Part Thirty Four: Death Wish
The contents of Inferno's letter have been made public, and the terms accepted - it's going to be Ape vs Inferno II at BTE II, Ape's last match being against the only man who's ever beaten him. He races down Akagi Mountain Pass, making constant reference to the long since past Aedan as he finally addresses the letter. Knowing just what this match means to him, with the seeds being sown over a year prior and the hints dropping since Athens, he says that he loves Inferno, but it won't stop him from pulling out the best match of his entire career - and the biggest win, vowing to be the only man to go 2-0 at BTE.
COA Part Thirty Five: Proud
Following Firestorm 51, Ape greets the press corps to do some final preparations and announcements for the big show, and sign off as Commissioner, handing over the keys to the kingdom in order to work his last match as a straight up in-ring performer. After being asked about his win over Atlas, he introduces the world to the next leader of FBE - Nate Matthews. Nate instantly shows the presence needed in an FBE Commissioner, and Ape, with a huge smile on his face, steps out of the spotlight to let him have his moment. Later on, cleaning out his desk, he's approached by Nate, and gives him the last piece of the puzzle needed to be a true Commissioner: the signature winking snoo.
COA Part Thirty Six: At Least It Was Here
It's the morning of BTE II, the biggest day of Ape's career, and the sun is rising over Tokyo as he enters a cafe in SangenJaya, alongside the rest of Apeiro-gun. They talk over their futures, reminiscing about old times and considering the next steps for expansion, before turning their attention to the event later tonight. Unlike with Nate, though, Ape has his confidence back, and he declares he isn't going to let Inferno make a liar out of him. They all pile into the KB van, heading to the Tokyo Dome, and they arrive at the venue to a sea of fans. Wading his way through, Ape is in awe at the spectacle, and, buzzing with excitement, opens the doors one last time. Once again, it was time to start the show.

CHAPTER FIVE
COA Part Thirty Seven: Reality
In the grand spectacle of a final chapter, we start in the ring, Apeirogone and Inferno going toe to toe for the first time in sixteen months. before throwing everything at one another, the crowd is beyond hot, and the competition starts slow, Inferno not wanting to hurt Ape. Things heat up pretty quickly, though, and Ape isn't holding back, pushing Inferno to unleash hell himself. Every move in the book, every ace in the hole is thrown into play, with Ape kicking out of a Kami No Hono out of pure spite and defiance, only for Inferno to get the shoulder up off a Guillotine Fusion. Somehow, Inferno endures three straight Receive Yous, but, in the end, Ape is able to counter a ridiculously dangerous Ryujin Inferno into a second rope Myriad Truths, notching a victory over the only man he couldn't conquer.
Ape heads backstage, and, as the Junior Division show the world what the future looks like, he greets the faces from his past. Meeting with the likes of Inferno, Desmond Caid, Nate Matthews and even STEEZ, as well as the likes of James Scott, Conor and Thad, he finally steps out to meet his oldest friend, Travis Crowley, sitting on the hood of Ape's new car. They acknowledge each other, and then Ape drives off into the sunset, Ujin driving the Kingbooker van alongside him.
A few days later, Ape arrives at an auction house in Seoul. He walks into the room for real estate, and outbids the rest of the people in the room to re-purchase KingBooker Academy. He picks up the keys to the establishment, ready to detach himself from his past, and heads out the front door, finally, after being in FBE since Day One, starting a new chapter.
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2020.08.06 05:23 pearpressure12 Rebooking Kushida In NXT (Part 1: Breakout and NXT Title Chase)

Kushida, the result of what would happen if Marty McFly was Japanese and knew how to kick your head off, reattach it and kick it off again, a stable of the Junior Heavyweight Division in New-Japan Pro Wrestling, came to NXT in 2019 just before Wrestlemania 35 and was directed to the Black and Gold brand. This was seen as a positive at the start. The dream matches that could be had, the storylines that could’ve been perfect for him, the title reigns that would have been on the same level as his NJPW title reigns. However, it never seemed to start for poor Kushida. His run in NXT isn’t bad but it’s been such a letdown compared to what it could have been. Triple H stated himself he wanted Kushida for quite some time. Well, from how he’s been used, it looks like he wanted Kushida so New-Japan couldn’t have him. So, WWE has had their turn, now I’m having a crack at it.
So, rather than having Kushida debut early after his signing, let’s save it for a little bit. We want him to have a proper breakout. Hint, hint.
26th June 2019 (NXT TV) Kushida is announced as a part of the NXT Breakout Tournament instead of Boa (sorry Boa). Kushida takes on Jordan Myles in the first match of the first round. After a stellar bout with both men proving how good they are (and they are both incredible), Kushida just picks up the victory after applying the Hoverboard Lock and forcing Jordan to submit. Kushida advances to the semi-finals.
24th July 2019 (NXT TV) Kushida faces Angel Garza in the semi-finals of the Breakout Tournament. Both men are smaller, more agile and more technically sound than most others. So, naturally the match these two have is quite a high level bout. Angel shows off his incredible athletic ability between the ropes as Kushida shows off what made him a massive star in Japan in the first place. This match could go either but it goes to the Time Splitter after his hits Angel with the Back To The Future driver. Kushida is going to the finals against the winner of Cameron Grimes and Bronson Reed at NXT Takeover Toronto 2
10th August 2019 (NXT Takeover Toronto 2) Yep, I think this match should take place on Takeover itself. Not just a piece on NXT. It’s something that’s been built for a few months, it deserves a bigger pay off. Kushida V.S Cameron Grimes. Second match of the night and an absolute delight of a bout. These two men put everything out there for this victory. Grime shows what made Trevor Lee a name in the first place but Kushida outsmarts and outpaces Cameron at every step. In the end, after both men has done counter after counter and hold after hold, Kushida locks in the Hoverboard Lock. Grime fights his damned hardest to get out but isn’t able to, eventually submitting to Kushida. Kushida breaks out as the new big star of NXT and getting a guaranteed NXT Title Match for the near future.
21st August 2019 (NXT TV) Kushida comes out and announces the following. “Adam Cole. On September 18th, when NXT goes live on USA, I want that NXT Title. I’ll see you then”. Plan, simply, to the point.
28th August 2019 (NXT TV) Undisputed Era come out with Adam Cole leading. “At Takeover, Johnny Gargano and I went to war. A war that was never in question a sure victory for me. So now I am undisputedly the top guy in NXT, I now must focus on Kushida. First things first, congratulations on winning the Breakout Tournament. I was watching and I was impressed. That being said, it’s stupid that someone as new as you are is already getting an NXT Title match. But fine, I’ll just have to set you back as soon as you walk through the door”.
Later on that night, Kushida takes on Dexter Lumis. The victory is never in question for Kushida but Dexter shows off what he has in this match to near success. Kushida wins with the Hoverboard Lock and is ambushed by O’Reilly, Fish and Strong after the bell sounds. Cole enters the ring and tells the rest of Undisputed Era to set Kushida up for the Last Shot. Coles plans are fulfilled as Kushida is laid out heading into their match on September 18th.
11th September 2019 (NXT TV) Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish are in action against Danny Burch, Oney Lorcan and a mystery partner. After everyone else makes their entrance, it’s revealed to be Kushida, returning after the assault from the Era weeks ago. This match is high paced, high impact and high levels of enjoyment. O’Reilly, Fish, Burch and Lorcan are a great meshing of talent to begin with and adding Strong and Kushida will hopefully be welcome additions. After failed interference from Adam Cole, Kushida taps out O’Reilly with the Hoverboard Lock. Kushida stares down Cole after the bell, eyeing the NXT Championship.
18th September 2019 (NXT TV) Live from Full Sail University, your Main Event of the evening. After winning the Breakout Tournament, Kushida challenges Adam Cole for the NXT Championship. Conspicuous by their absence is the rest of Undisputed Era, but it’ll make more sense later. Anyway, Kushida V.S Cole is a brilliant match while it lasts. Kushida looks like he could get it every turn but Cole shows off why he’s the top of the NXT men’s division. Kushida takes Adam to the limit and vice versa. But finally, as Kushida gets the final bit of advantage he needs, Strong, Fish and O’Reilly show up to disrupt the match, jumping up on the ring apron and yelling at the referee. The ref starts telling Strong to get off the ring apron while ReDragon of UE hits the High-low (or whatever they call it) onto Kushida, followed by Cole propping him up for the Last Shot and nailing it to get the pinfall victory. (Sidenote, yes, I’ve had Kushida lose early in his NXT run, but it does protect Kushida in the loss due to it taking three people to take him out. This is a good thing, I promise).
That’ll do it for part 1. Part 2 and 3 coming soon. But so far, what do you think?
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2020.07.28 17:35 AwesomeMathUse Checking in on Canada's Economic Recovery

Source: TD
Omar Abdelrahman, Economist
Dated July 27th, 2020

Highlights


Chart 1 - Despite Recent Uptick in Cases, Canada's COVID-19 Experience is Substantially Better
In contrast to the U.S., Canada’s near-term outlook appears to be holding intact early in Q3.
We now turn to some of the latest data that are setting the tone for Canada’s performance early in Q3.

Labour Market Momentum and Government Support Programs Setting the Tone...


Chart 2 - Job Postings Point to Ongoing Improvement in Labour Market Conditions

Chart 3 - Internet Search Interest for Income Support and Unemployment Declining in Canada

Chart 4 - Retail Sales are Almost Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels Based on Preliminary Estimates

…Supporting a Strong Rebound in Consumer and Housing Indicators


Chart 5 - Retail & Recreation Mobility Still on an Upward Trajectory, Although at a Slower Rate

Chart 6 - Restaurant Reservations Recovering but Remain Subdued

Chart 7 - Spending May Have Rebounded, but Consumer Confidence Remains Subdued

Slower Recovery in Business Activity Indicators


Chart 8 - Rail Loadings Only Slowly Improving

Rig Counts Barely Responding to Price Improvements

Downside Risks and Bottom Line

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2020.07.27 03:30 __justsayin__ Globe: Tread carefully with Brookfield Property’s 12-per-cent yield

As an owner of real estate including shopping malls, office buildings and hotels, Brookfield Property Partners (BPY.UN) has taken a direct hit from the novel coronavirus. The units have plunged about 37 per cent this year, which has pushed the yield up to about 12 per cent – a level that normally signals substantial risk of a distribution cut.
Given the leverage inherent in real estate and the highly uncertain course of the pandemic, BPY’s units are “only suitable for more risk tolerant investors, in our view,” Neil Downey, an analyst at RBC Dominion Securities, said in a research note published in May.
That said, there’s a case to be made that the dividend may be secure despite the outsized yield, Mr. Downey said.
When BPY released first-quarter results in May, it maintained its quarterly distribution at 33.25 US cents and offered no hint of a potential cut. In a letter to shareholders, chief executive officer Brian Kingston stressed that BPY’s “distribution policy is based on the long-term view of our business, with a healthy respect for the cyclicality of economic and real estate cycles.”
Mr. Kingston added that, “while a prolonged economic contraction would impact cash flow in the longer term, we continue to have more than sufficient resources to pay our stated quarterly dividend.”
There is also some history in the Brookfield family that may add some perspective.
In 2007, before the financial crisis, Brookfield Office Properties (which was privatized by BPY in 2014) traded for more than US$30 a share. By March, 2009, the shares had plummeted to about US$5. Yet the company maintained its dividend throughout the crisis. During that time the yield soared from a low of 2 per cent to a high of 11 per cent, before it eventually fell to 3 per cent at the time of privatization.
Maintaining BPY’s distribution may also be in the best interest of its parent, Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (BAM.A). BAM’s 55-per-cent stake in BPY generates annual cash distributions of about US$700-million, and the parent “places a high value on the optionality of this cash,” which it can deploy into other investments or use to repurchase shares of BPY or BAM, Mr. Downey said.
Moreover, if BPY were to cut its payout, BAM would potentially lose up to US$57-million of “incentive distributions,” which BAM is entitled to receive when BPY’s distribution is above certain levels.
Maintaining the distribution is manageable, other analysts said. In a May note, CIBC World Markets analyst Dean Wilkinson projected that, assuming no change in the distribution, BPY’s payout ratio will soar to 132 per cent in 2020 and 104 per cent in 2021. But that would not be cause for panic, he said.
“We believe it is important to note BPY has ample liquidity to cover these shortfalls in the near term, and the elevated payout ratio should come down quickly over the next two years as the recovery progresses,” Mr. Wilkinson said.
Both Mr. Downey and Mr. Wilkinson have “outperform” ratings on BPY units. At the time of his report, Mr. Wilkinson estimated that BPY’s units were trading at an “overly punitive” discount of 64 per cent to the estimated net asset value of its properties.
Even as the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated, BPY’s unit price has gained about 28 per cent over the past three months. This may signal that some investors are starting to look past the pandemic, perhaps encouraged by news about potential vaccines. BPY’s announcement on July 2 that it intends to repurchase up to 74.2 million units for US$12 each may have also helped. BPY closed Friday at US$11.05 on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange and $14.81 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Buying assets when they are out of favour can be a profitable investing strategy. But the long-term consequences for malls, offices and hotels are highly uncertain given the unpredictable nature and duration of the pandemic. Keep these risks in mind before you take the plunge with BPY’s 12-per-cent yield.
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/investing/education/article-tread-carefully-with-brookfield-propertys-12-per-cent-yield/
submitted by __justsayin__ to CanadianInvestor [link] [comments]


2020.07.22 00:36 poormansnormal My family story - it’s a ride y’all

Oooohhhh where to start. This is gonna take a while, so go pee, get a cold drink, get comfy.
Okay. So. My grandmother Irene was adopted by the family she grew up in. She had been fostered out of the Children’s Aid in Toronto when she was very very small, in around 1915-16. She knew nothing whatsoever of her parents, not even their names. Irene never knew where she was born, or even her own middle name. Her foster parents the Richardsons may have told her that she was born in England because she always held on to that, and they kept her surname, Soden, as a middle name, and her birthday was May 7.
When Irene was a young woman, she was introduced by her beau to his companion, named Victor Baker, at a dance. As they talked, they happened to notice that much of their history was similar. The more they talked, they realized they were siblings - full brother and sister. They remained fairly close for the decades after. Through the years she perhaps fantasized that she and Vic had been brought over as British Home Children; two of the tens of thousands of English children sent across the Pond between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries.
As life does tend to go on, Irene married and had 5 children of her own, four sons and a daughter who became my mom. Victor married and had a girl child of his own. Irene worked as a cook in a restaurant, a hard working, hard eyed, farm woman with an alcoholic husband, and now lung cancer. Irene passed away at the age of 56 in early February 1971, when I was in diapers, and the year before my baby sister was born. I have her name as my middle name.
Fast forward to 2007. Her eldest son Jim does business with a man who happens to do genealogical research in his spare time. Jim asks the man, “What kinds of things do you find? Where would I look if I wanted to find out about my mother?” The man tells Jim to give him everything he has, everything he knows about Mom, even if it’s nothing more than family lore.
In November 2009 it all came back, just in time for Christmas. Their parents’ names. Charles John Soden b. 1888 and Madeline Minnie Matthews Soden, also b. 1888. Their marriage certificate for December 10, 1910, in Croydon, Surrey, England. THEIR parent’s names! And THEIR parents before that!
Victor and Irene’s birth and baptismal certificates. Victor Wilson Soden, born September 1911 in Newton Abbot, Devonshire, England.
Irene Grace Wilson Soden, born 23 August 1912, in Frome, Somersetshire, England, just a stone’s throw from ancient Bath. She was fully half a year older than she ever knew! Her children have had a new grave marker made for her, with her full name and proper birthdate. I have added her name Grace to my middle names, and to my daughter’s name. Our family went from knowing nothing about our history to having histories tracing back to beyond the 17th century.
The Story~~~
Charles was employed as a Draper - a tailor of fine men’s suits; Frome is an ancient town known for an equally ancient textile mill. He and Madeline and the two babies emigrated to Canada aboard the RMS Victorian, 3rd class, in mid August 1913 with $50 in their pocket. Not a full year later, in July of 1914, Madeline died in Toronto of appendicitis. Charles suddenly found himself widowed with two tiny children, in a new and foreign country. The children were surrendered to Children’s Aid, and Charles..... vanished from history. There was no further reliable record of Charles anywhere. A WW1 military record with names reversed, a passenger manifest from the 20s that didn’t match either.
Further searching where these records left off have uncovered quite the history of our Charles!
He enlisted with the Canadian military, twice! Records show he enlisted in late January 1915, claiming a “guardian” as a next of kin - likely the children’s guardian, and previous military service in England - a flat out lie. Records also show he was discharged as “Undesirable” barely 2 weeks later on 9 February. Another record shows a second attempted enlistment under an alias name, and then discharge due to having been sentenced to prison in a civil court! Charles also remarried in January 1915.... and then abandoned her. The dear woman went on to remarry happily a few years later.
He was eventually deported back to England in 1927, after further legal trouble in Toronto. Court records and news items before and after living in Canada trace a history of arrests and even a 5 month imprisonment for theft just before leaving for Canada! Also noted is a history of being “discharged from several situations owing to repeated patterns of dishonesty” - he couldn’t keep a job. He died in England in 1941, only 53 years old, to our best knowledge so far never having married again.
I laugh so hard at the Ancestry.com ads hinting at what thrilling stories you could uncover - we uncovered a shiftless petty thief! Now, my partner’s family on the other hand.... Well, that’s a whole other story.
submitted by poormansnormal to Ancestry [link] [comments]


2020.07.17 21:14 ustanik New beer releases this week

👋 Hi folks! Inspired by this post which suggested posting weekly beer releases, I thought I'd take a shot at this.
I run the website Brewed Today which tracks new beer releases from Ontarian breweries. Currently it's tracking breweries shipping Ontario-wide, but I'm working on getting all local delivery ones in.
I'm not from Toronto, so if I put a brewery in that doesn't belong or I missed any, please let me know. If this post gets enough interest I'll make this a weekly thing. Feedback welcome!
Amsterdam Brewery
Oat Pale Ale
With a cloudy yellow appearance this oat pale ale has aromas of ripe mango, citrus zest and pineapple. A soft mouthfeel turns into a refreshing bitterness.
Bandit Brewery
Bookmark
We are very happy to announce that we're partnering with our longtime friends Parkdale Project Read, whose remarkable work providing adult literacy services in the Parkdale community is as necessary as ever. We've built a great partnership with PPR over the past few years and we hope to make Bookmark a yearly release in their support.
Hive
This golden and hazy double IPA leads with delicate aromas of honey and wildflowers, with a hint of tropical fruit juice and freshly cut grass. Clementine and other sweet citrus flavours are enhanced by the smooth mouthfeel and balanced by a lightly bitter finish, With subtle notes of honey throughout from the addition of 37kg to the boil, Hive features the colour, aromas, and flavours of a sunny summer day.
Solstice
Inspired by a Berliner Weisse, one of our brewers’ favorite beer styles, this raw sour beer was double dry hopped with Citra and Cryo Citra to accentuate the already distinctive citrus flavors brought by the Escarpment Labs Lactobacillus blend. With intense flavours of lime, lemon, as well as touch of sour candy sweetness, this sour beer is complex, flavorful and incredibly refreshing!
Bellwoods Brewery
Vines (No.2)
Version 2 is a blend of wild, golden ales that we barrel aged, then refermented on 2019 de-stemmed Riesling grapes, to showcase notes of zippy lemon, tart green apple, and light minerality.
Black Lab
Underdog Oat
Brewed with a ridiculous 30% oats, this beer is rich and full bodied with an aggressive hopping schedule. Generously hopped with Cascade, El Dorado and Simcoe then fermented with our house ale yeast this beer bursts with flavours of dank pine and mango.
Blood Brothers Brewing
WHITE LIES w/ RIESLING
This version of White Lies features Riesling grapes and an El Dorado dry hop. Expect funky, fruit-forward notes reminiscent of tropical and orchard fruits.
Halo Brewery
Lemon Shapeshifter++
A nose of fresh lemon zest mingled with rich vanilla. Mouth puckering upfront citrus eases into smooth and sweet vanilla notes, reminiscent of lemon meringue pie.
Muddy York Brewing
Fox Hunter
When planning a country excursion, gentlefolk ought to think seriously about their choice of beverage. That’s why we brewed our Fox Hunter Dry-hopped Sour. It has that clean tang you crave, and a delightful hop character from Cashmere and Mosaic hops. At 4.8% ABV and 5 IBU its floral aroma and tart flavour profile will be the perfect companion for all of your activities - be they sport or leisure.
Tiger Eye
Tiger Eye Mango IPA is a super luscious fruited IPA. It has an incredibly silky and soft mouthfeel, roaring with ripe mango and the bright citrusy notes of Centennial hops. Its golden-yellow hue glimmers like a precious gemstone and could be the lucky talisman you’ve been looking for.
People’s Pint Brewing
The Little Sipper
We used 5 amazing American "C" hops; Chinook, Citra, Cascade, Copper and Centennial, to make this session IPA. The result is an easy drinking beer that is full of pine and grapefruit aromas and the balanced bitterness and malt character you'd expect from a much bigger beer.
Rorschach Brewing
Collective Unconscious - Sweet Cherry
Fermented exclusively with our house culture of wild yeast and bacteria which was developed over the several years leading up to opening our brewery. Fermented and conditioned in our solera tank for over a year and then bottle conditioned for over 4 months. Conditioned on a hundred pounds of sweet cherry puree in our burgundy wine barrels for over 3 months.
Malevolent Benevolence - Peanut Butter & Jelly
Brewed with chocolate, coffee, caramel malts and a handful of other roasted and toasted malts. A hint of lactose for an added silky texture. Conditioned on blackberry puree, peanut flour, vanilla beans, and cocoa nibs. Notes of rich chocolate, jammy deep fruit, roasted peanut, toffee and dark fruits. Full bodied with an extremely smooth texture and balanced sweetness.
Rainhard Brewing
Space Tank
We took our fan fave Armed ’N Citra and swapped out the hop for Galaxy, and Australian hop bursting with fresh citrus, peach and pineapple notes. Around the brewery, we always affectionately refer to this beer as “Space Tank”, so we changed the name to reflect this fact.
Saulter Street
After Hours Series: Raspberry
Raspberry Sour! It's a rare opportunity to get a sour beer out of Saulter Street so here's your chance.(cause you wont see it for another year) Brewed with bitterness, a little resentment with a stunner pink hue... ITS A SOUR!
Shacklands
Hot Chocolate Coffy
Brewed with tdotdrinks and craftbeerphoenix. Dark chocolate, roast, and dark fruit take turns on the palate with a touch of lingering scotch bonnet heat in the finish. Full proceeds to Black Lives Matter TO. Donation to be made first week of August.
Raspbretty Bates
A Belgian golden ale fermented with fresh raspberry purée, this is a showcase for how our house brettanomyces yeast plays with fruit. In this case, it has developed a distinct cherry pie character and a touch of funk to accompany the luxurious raspberry bouquet. Pouring a beautiful warm garnet with pink cotton candy foam, this is one of our best-selling beers in house.
Steady Eddy's
The following breweries were scanned but didn't release anything new this past week:
Edit: Added Rainhard release to list (it came out late Friday after initial posting)
submitted by ustanik to torontocraftbeer [link] [comments]


2020.07.14 18:39 johnhammondsexpenses Get to know our owners

Some people are familiar with the Irvings who basically own the province of New Brunswick as a private coporation, but our other owners are more keen on the diversification route and own all of us rather than just part of us and they also do so in publicly traded corporations. If you have ever wondered what the Oligarch Index would look like, have no fear, I'll show you.
The one you might be most familiar with is the Weston's who own Loblaws. However the Weston's don't actually own a majority of it, rather they own 63% of a publicly traded corporation called George Weston which itself owns 47% of Loblaws. Keeping to the strategy of creating russian nesting dolls of companies to basically retain control over companies you effectively only really own a quarter of they have also split off the real estate of the grocery stores into Choice Properties REIT, which is majority owned by Loblaws. Thus the Weston family controls this REIT despite really only owning an eighth of it.
George Weston TSE:WN Loblaws Companies Limited TSE:L Choice Properties TSE:CHP.UN
On the other side of the Pond, the Weston's also have another Top Order shell called Wittington Investments, which is 80% owned by Garfield Weston Foundation, which is a charity (or "charity" for tax avoidance if you feel it more appropriate). The other 20% is owned by individual members of the Weston family. The main holding of Wittington Investments is Associated British Foods at 54.5%, and some department stores in the UK and Ireland. Associated British Foods is a component of the British Stock Exchange Index the FTSE100, much like Loblaws they also own clothing brand/stores, and they also have a monopsony (a situation where there is one buyer rather than a monopoly where there is one seller) where they process the entire Sugar Beet crop of the UK with British Sugar which is responsible for about half of the UK's sugar consumption.
Associated British Foods LSE:ABF
Next lets move on to the richest man in Canada. Again guess? Hint he is literally a British Lord.
Okay all guesses? It is David Kenneth Roy Thomson, 3rd Baron Thomson of Fleet. The descendants of the late Baron of Fleet own the Woodbridge Corporation which is itself the majority owner of 62.35% Thomson Reuters. The Thomson portion is difficult to explain, as they provide "business services", but it seems like the consist in providing information for legal and tax matters. Might be kind of like the Bloomberg of Canada who knows. Reuters was a British media company before it was acquired. How this particular guy became the richest person in Canada is because he actually doesn't even like having to run the family business and instead has started an independent real estate empire. Pinning down exactly what that entails is difficult, but his investment activities are run by a Toronto Hedge Fund Morgan Bay Capital, and the real estate empire is called Osmington Incorporated. Osmington has sold some of its properties to the Canada Pension Plan, and seems to have intersts in "precision agriculture" at FarmersEdge whatever that means, and it is a partner in the group that owns the Winnipeg Jets. He is not the richest man in Canada entirely because of Thomson Reuters, but it certainly contributes to it, and what billionaire doesn't own a media conglomerate or two?
Thomson Reuters TSE:TRI
Now Galen Weston is the 3rd richest Canadian, and David Thomson is the 1st, so who is on second? Tsai's on second. Joseph Tsai. Taiwanese born co-founder and Executive Vice-Chairman of Alibaba. At 13 he was sent to a prep school in New Jersey, and eventually went to his father's alma mater at Yale. He started his career as a tax associate at a New York lawfirm and eventually became an attorney following in his father's footsteeps. From there however he eventually left for Hong Kong and became involved in Asian private equity, which resulted in him eventually meeting Jack Ma, where he was so impressed that he quit his investment firm to join in the founding of Alibaba as the only western-educated founder where he was COO and CFO as he was vital due to the cross-pacific nature of Alibaba's business model and being the only one with experience in venture capital and law. He is the second largest individual shareholder of Alibaba behind only Jack Ma. Beyond that he also bought the Brooklyn Nets off a Russian billionaire, as well as being the owner of several other sports team like football and including Lacrosse which he was the avid player while in prep school and at Yale.
Alibaba NYSE:BABA
He is a dual Hong Kong and Canadian citizen. You would think it would be American given most of the time he spent in the west was in America but when you are rich obtaining Canadian citizenship is easy and it provides most of the same benefits as American citizenship. Controversial when on the question of the NBA and Hong Kong, we weighed in stating that many Chinese were angry over tweets in support of Hong Kong because they sounded like support for separatism which is a no go for China.
Taiwanese politics is a bit complex, the KMT the right-wing on the island believes in a United China, its just that this united One China ought to be under the KMT, strong, free, and independent, but ultimately friendly with the West, in the vein of Sun Yat-Sen who was also western educated. It is generally the left-wing DPP which is both more independent of the Taiwanese business community and also thinks of itself as independent from China. Taiwan's biggest trade partner is China, and the KMT sees no issue with this as they see it as business being done from a province of china that is free doing business with other provinces of china which are just temporarily under Communist Party of China occupation.
The business community loves the One Country Two Systems because it lets them have their cake and eat it too, but if it came down to it since Chinese business is the most important trade partner for the Hong Kong and Taiwan and they are torn when it comes to the CCP power grabbing the two systems into one system. For the business community being one country is more important for the bottom line than the two systems, so while they are against the power grab, they are also against seperatism. This is difficult to understand but many chinese still see a United China as being in a protracted civil war that has just been on pause for decades, the same way people in Korea see the Korean War as a protracted civil war that never ended rather than a war between countries. They want their freedom, but they also want their country to remain united. Ultimately this is not too dissimilar from the powerful Quebec Federalist business families which are generally the historical owners of the Liberal Party who oppose Quebec sovereignty and want a united Canada even if they support francophone rights within Canada
Which brings as to the Desmarais. Paul Desmarais was the fourth wealthiest person in Canada before he died in 2013, and his family is considered the seventh on the list currently. The Desmarais Family Residual Trust controls Pansolo which itself owns about 80% of the voting shares of the Power Corporation of Canada, but 60% of those votes come from owner almost all of the preferred voting shares which give 10 votes, while they own 11% of the regular shares which translates to another 20% of the voting power. Power Corp is itself a fan of complicated ownership structures as I basically wouldn't even be able to explain all the things they own. The largest holding is 67% of Great West Life and 62% of IGM financial, both of which also have subsidiaries who operate in the United States. The also have a Partnership ownership of Group Brussels Lambert with Frere Bougeois who was the richest man in Belgium while he was alive. As a result of complicated ownership structures, with Frere Bourgeois they actually control a French Materials company called Imerys, and also own minority stakes in Adidas and Pernod Ricard. Overall the European holdings are quite diversified, and its North American holdings in Wealth/Retirement Management and Life Companies functions as a diversified asset pool due to the nature of how life insurance companies use the premiums to invest so they can eventually cover the payouts. They also own wealth management companies in China which makes it globally diversified and sector diversified. Through the complicated ownership structure it owns WealthSimple in part via Power Corp itself, but also through their majority stake in IGM financial. They also have a renewable energy division where they live up to the "Power" name, and beyond renewable energy they also have a 60% stake in Lumenpulse an LED manufacturer, and a 44% stake in Lion Electric and electric school bus manufacturer.
Power Corp TSE:POW
Great West Life TSE:GWO
IGM Financial TSE:IGM
Group Brussels Lambert EBR:GBLB
I own Power Corp shares because I couldn't believe it was trading as low as it was and for so long, as it has a 9% yield it has since gone up almost immediately after I bought it so I got in at the right time but still has a 7% yield. Power Corp is likely the closest you will get to the concept of the revolving door of politicians in business which you can read up yourself, but safe to say all our Francophone prime ministers have been involved, mostly Liberal leaders like Chretien, Martin, and Pierre Trudeau, but also Brain Mulroney, and many Premiers of Ontario and Quebec as well. If there was ever a company that made the concept of "the Laurentian Elite" that run Canada clear, it is Power Corp. In regards to my politics, I'm actually in favour of the concept of seperatism as a general idea so I'm sort of inverting my politics in my investments, but despite me supporting seperatism generally, the only victory for the concept in decades has been Brexit and even then that was not really the same thing. I'm politically infavour of renewable power so I found Power Corp attractive for its investments in Power Energy. Seems as if a good investment strategy would be to inverse your political positions which have never had victories like ever and go long on your political positions which seem to be where the political headwinds are going. Power Corp seems to get its way in politics regardless if I am in support of it lol, might as well own the company that controls everything I guess.
The guy who owns Rogers is next on our line of Oligarchs. Rogers is similar to Power Corp in that they attempt to have voting shares and non-voting shares so the family can control the company while not actually owning the whole thing.
Rogers TSE: RCI.A prefered voting shares Rogers TSE: RCI.B non-voting shares for us plebs
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadians_by_net_worth
You can look at the full list here but I'm going to stop as Saputo as they are the dreaded Milk Cartel of the Bernier's nightmares
Saputo TSE:SAP
Rapid Fire Round
Garret Camp NYSE:UBER
Irvings (Private, Oil, New Brunswick)
Richardson (Private, Agricultural and Food Production)
Jim Pattison (Private, British Columbia Conglomerate, fun fact owns Guinness World Records)
Jeffery Skoll (NASDAQ:EBAY, Participant a privately owned film production studio)
Richard Li (Hong Kong Telecom, SEHK:8)
Azireli Family (Israeli Real Estate, TLV:AZRG, fun fact the Azireli Towers used to be the tallest buildings in Israel)
Carlo Fidani (Mississauga based real estate)
Bernard Sherman (Privately held Pharmaceutical company Apotex)
McCain family (Beyond McCain foods, Wallace McCain after being ousted from McCain by his brother Harrison purchased Maple Leaf Foods together with the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan ... somehow lets not question it. TSE:MFI)
David Cheriton (Google NASDAQ:GOOG, and Arista some computer networking company NYSE:ANET, a S&P500 component)
Alain Bouchard (Alimentation Couchetard, TSE:ATD.B for us plebs)
Daryl Katz (privately onwed real estate company, owns the Edmonton Oilers)
Michael Lee-Chin (NCB Financial Group, a Jamaica based Caribbean conglomerate, JSE:NCBFG)
Tom Gaglardi (Owns the Dallas Stars and a privately held real estate company Northland Properties)
There are some people who are so mysterious they don't even have wikipedia articles the Zekelman and Apostolopoulous families
Marc Scheinberg (Pokerstars, The Stars Group used to be publicly traded but it has been delisted)
submitted by johnhammondsexpenses to CanadianInvestor [link] [comments]


2020.07.01 21:33 DarbTev Hamilton's problem with vehicle noise (modified muffler/exhaust)

**EDITED*\*
(edit notes at the top, for visibility)
EDIT 1: It's been brought to my attention that this post reflects a relatively privileged perspective (given the more serious problems so many people are facing), and that some of the language used is immature and unhelpful. I'd like to acknowledge that both of these are true. In the case of the language, I believe (hope) that it reflects temporary frustration more than actual immaturity. So while I stand behind the tone and general content of the post, I am somewhat ashamed of some of the wording choices.
EDIT 2: Regarding "car culture" — I have no problem with it, and in certain ways it's quite interesting. I will admit to not properly understanding it. But my view is that we shouldn't need to. Most of us don't understand knitting culture or beekeeping culture or skydiving culture either, but this lack of understanding isn't problematic, as none of these cultures are nonconsensually injected into our daily lives. Car culture is a bit different in that sense. So the argument is not against car culture, or even against the simple existence of modified vehicles; it's against selfish behaviour, and it's about the impact of this behaviour. (For this reason as well, whether an exhaust system is 'legal' or not has no bearing on the discussion.) And the post speculates (perhaps misguidedly; Hanlon's Razor likely applies here), about the reasons for the behaviour.

-----
Oh, this may go a bit long. (TL;DR at the end.) Apologies for length, but I have so many thoughts & questions about the vehicle noise problem in this city. (And an unreasonable amount of free time today.)
The proposed initiative by city council to target drivers with modified mufflers/exhaust systems is long overdue. It's a step in the right direction. But the actual problem starts long before a vehicle's exhaust is actually modified, and this is what I hope to end up discussing here, along with whether or not it's a real problem for Hamilton. (Although the adult discussion follows a bit of a rant, if you'll entertain it...)

Example: HDB
In our neighbourhood, there is one guy a few of us have come to refer to as the Head Dbag (HDB), if you'll forgive the salty (while perfectly fitting) nomenclature. In my mind, at least, when all the DBs gather, HDB brings the meeting to order, collects DB dues, proposes key motions, reprimands lower-tier DBs for being too quiet or too thoughtful, and so on. Frankly, I don't envy the responsibility. Anyway, he is dubbed the HDB because his car is the loudest car. Excluding official vehicles with sirens and various commercial aircraft and those rock crushers used in diamond mining pits (though, to be fair, at this point we're toe-ing the 'vehicle' line pretty liberally), it is easily the loudest vehicle I have ever heard. The volume is almost magnificent in its ridiculousness. He wins. HDB completely wins.
If you live around here, you know him. You've heard him. He drives a Mustang (because of course), which he paints seasonally, likely whenever he feels his personality has gone stale. Currently bright orange, though in the past it's been bright blue, black/white, camouflage (because of course; war is cool), other colours. Not only will you know when he's in your neighbourhood, you'll know when he's on the nearest highway. And he gets that sweet puppy from 0 to ~90 (my guess) on the residential streets around here within about 4-5 seconds. Every single time. Really, every single time. Because true morons have this wonderful superpower — they're capable of being entertained endlessly by the exact same thing. I can only imagine he plays a solitary Michael Bay movie on infinite repeat at home. Anyway, I have no idea where he goes, but I know he is needed there fast. I imagine either Taco Bell coupons are expiring faster and faster these days, or the courthouse closes early a lot.
Hamilton cops of reddit: If you want to bag (or re-bag) a prime DB trophy for your mantle, sit near the intersection of Mt. Albion Rd & Greenhill Ave on any weekday between 7:30 & 8am. I can guarantee a speeding violation, and likely a number of other violations as well. Listen for the sound of an angry, coked-up lawnmower. When you hear it, you'll have at least 3 minutes to compose yourself, prep the radar gun, stretch your ticket-writing hand, and so forth. Then be on the lookout for a bright orange prosthetic ween in the shape of a Mustang. You're welcome. (And then return the next morning to repeat, please.) This guy doesn't strike me as the fast-learnin' sort, but once we get up into double-digit demerit point level, the light may start to dawn.
Anyway, I digress. This isn't really about HDB. He's one of hundreds of such dimwits in the city. So it's about the problem in general. And in fairness, I suppose we should assign these people a better acronym. Perhaps not all of them are true, card-carrying DBs? We'll use the less judgmental GwMM ("Guys with Modified Mufflers").

Are you a GwMM? So many questions...
(if you're not a GwMM, scroll way down below for the adult discussion)
Let's turn the tables for a moment. A genuine curiosity: GwMM, if you lived next door, and I consistently practised my yodeller's rendition of Mongolian throat-singing at 180dB, outside every morning at 3am, what would you do? What would you want me to do?
Really, try to imagine it: You've just polished off the last Coors. You've flipped off the TV after watching the evening's top-rated MMA fight. You're all caught up on your Fox News feed. Your tracksuit and gold chains have been removed and set aside for the night. You're exhausted. You finally drift off to sleep, and are mid-dream (you know, the one where you're being interviewed on E! for your world-renowned pickup artistry skills), and then BAM! — I interrupt you at 180dBs. Every f-ing night. Sincerely — what's your move? What would you do? Who would you talk to about it the next day? Which authorities would you involve? Something must be done, right? It can't go on!
If you're one of these people, a GwMM, do you... almost get it? Kinda-sorta?

(Yes, I know most of the actual GwMMs won't read any of this, or will read it but won't be able to absorb it. But maybe it reaches just one GwMM, a guy who's modified his exhaust but is otherwise on the fence between being a normal adult and a flagrant purveyor of doucheism. Maybe just one person.)

GwMMs, you should understand something — the impression you think you're creating, and the one you're actually delivering, are vastly different. As you drive by, here is what most of us think about you (a non-exhaustive list):

And again: These impressions created with your loud 'performance' exhaust would otherwise be fine, not so bad at all, in fact, if you weren't trying so goddamned hard to create impressions painfully opposite to most of these. So you're wasting your time, energy, and money. Sad.

GwMMs — more to consider:


You see the difference, right?
You're a moron.
But that's not even the core problem. The core problem is one of focus: Most of the thoughts above are about solving a problem, making a contribution, being an adult member of society. Your tiny-brained thoughts are mainly about yourself, about getting yourself noticed. They're low-level thoughts.
You probably drove past people today in your screaming micropenis-mobile who were thinking thoughts just like those above. You didn't notice them, though — in part because your brain was occupied with whether they were noticing you — but more to the point, because many of them were driving practical, nondescript, quiet cars. But why? Why would they do this? How could they make this mistake? Don't they know they should drive the best, fastest, loudest phuckin' ride they can get their hands on?? They must not be able to afford one, right?! Er, no. It's because they don't source their self-esteem from their vehicle. You didn't notice them because they don't need you to notice them. They're not as weak as you are. And they have adult brains, which allow them to focus on others at least as much as on themselves. Hopefully you'll get there someday.

(Alright. At this point if you're a GwMM and you're still pretty sure of yourself, and aren't convinced that you are indeed a low-functioning twat, I beg you, look up the Dunning-Kruger Effect.)

Non-GwMMs:
Why should the rest of us care, beyond the temporary bouts of noise? Is this a real problem for Hamilton?
I think it is. The Y-Combinator venture capitalist and essayist Paul Graham has an interesting piece about the "message" a city sends. For example, New York, by its collective actions and values and signals, 'tells' you that you should be richer; Los Angeles tells you that you should be in better shape; San Francisco tells you that you should be healthier and/or in tech; Cambridge (MA) tells you that you should be smarter. And so on. Part of the impact of these messages is that citizens will naturally tend toward the mean of that message over time — and so a city as a whole continually becomes "more like itself".
I've lived in a fair number of cities, in Canada and abroad; some sophisticated, some less so. I had so hoped Hamilton would be "the one". But it can't be, at least not for me. Hamilton's ADBpM (Audible Dbag per Minute rate) is comparably quite high — I'd peg it at somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5, in most areas of the city. In other words, the sound of an obnoxious, low-grade human, usually a GwMM, enters my auditory field roughly twice per minute. At this rate, it becomes a 'constant', something reliable; a perpetual reminder of the type of people I'm surrounded by. And so at least for those attuned to it, Hamilton's tone is largely 'off', at least for the city it claims to want to become. The message it sends, as Paul Graham might put it, through its ADBpM and a few other factors, is to be tougher, louder, more aggressive. The GwMMs embody and reinforce that message.
Now, some of you may be proud of that. (Though I'm guessing anyone who's read this far is likely not.) I've noticed a trend here, a collective defense mechanism really, of referring to the city as "gritty", or "down-to-earth", or (my favourite so far) as "keeping it real". None of these are proper synonyms for the aggressive dudebro culture incubated and enabled here. The proper term would be 'dumb', or better, 'underdeveloped'. The feel is of being in a cognitively adolescent place. It's obviously nothing to be proud of. The cities that prize blatant aggression are those in which no developed person wants to live. Fort McMurray and Gary (IN) come to mind — teeming jockstraps of aggression, with predictable results — higher rates of alcohol & drug abuse, domestic violence, and violent crime in general. Any thinking person wants their city to have the opposite of these phenomena.
The GwMMs don't, of course, have these effects directly. But they do reinforce the vibe. And if aggression and/or general doucheyness is the (or a) pervasive vibe in Hamilton, this is a giant turn-off for all sorts of people who might otherwise move here and make a contribution. So, intelligent, progressive contributors will leave, or will avoid the city. Not all, but certainly some. Possibly many. And the Troglodytes will stay, because they feel at home, especially as their behaviour goes unchecked. The city may thereby, over time, become more like itself.
Of course, Hamilton is in many other ways a wonderful place. But in any "on the cusp" or "on the way up" or "improving" city (do we agree that's what it is?), there is always a sort of invisible balance between civility and rampant douchebaggery that could tip in either direction. And the tipping factors aren't always perfectly obvious. Large, dramatic factors like affordable housing and business grants and infrastructure get most of the attention, as rightly they should. But resolving a mishmash of seemingly small other factors, of which I think the GwMM issue is one, can have a large impact as well.
All of this to pose a serious question: As mature, intelligent Hamiltonians (non-GwMMs/DBs), what should we actually do about the problem? Do you think Council's initiative will make a difference? If not, what would you propose? A coordinated social-shaming effort? Vigilante action? Nothing?Something else?

** GwMM HELP SECTION *\*
Are you a GwMM enraged or offended by this post? Allow me to assist. To save you time, I've taken the liberty of crafting several predictable answers, and translating them into the dudebro vernacular. Modify or copy & paste directly, as you prefer:

Okay, this did go a tad long.
TL:DR - When you modify your muffleexhaust to be louder than the original, you reveal to most of us that you're weak, sad, likely mini-penis'd, un- or under-educated, emotionally underdeveloped, lack a personality, and are generally a selfish asshole. Of course, if this is the impression you're going for, by all means, continue.
TL;DR, polite version - We really do have a problem with vehicle noise pollution in this city. What should we do about it?
TL;DR, honest version - I have a recurring dream wherein I learn that all of the clinically retarded philistines in this city have somehow passed away, all at the same time, each by crashing their [Mustang/Ram1500/InfinitiG35*/CivicTypeetc.] into a separate lamp post. If your catruck/SUV/etc is purposely extra loud, you are a certifiable Grade-A douche, and you should be aware that you are among the lowest-functioning members of society.

- - - - -
Footnotes I'll later regret:

  1. Motorcycles — In my head somehow, the motorcycles are a separate issue, despite often being even louder than the modified cars & trucks. It's an old, embedded culture, with the choppeHarley-type bikes typically being ridden by diabetic old men. That fight is lost. That group is largely beyond change, so it's a waiting game (for a traffic accident or lung cancer or cirrhosis or the elegant cascade of symptoms that comprise metabolic syndrome, or a nursing home; whichever). This, and I suspect many cops are (reasonably?) fearful of pulling these guys over.
  2. The "police crackdown on yahoos" — Another reason I'm less than optimistic about this working is because I suspect a Venn diagram of cops and GwMMs may be narrower than we'd like. Dudebro culture in both camps.
  3. The gender thing... <giant sigh> It appears that a few people in earlier discussions have managed to contort their thinking enough to view this issue through a 'gender-equality' lens, as they no doubt view virtually every issue these days. It's not that this isn't adorable; it most certainly is. But it distracts, and threatens to prevent us from getting to the root of the problem. The 'data' aren't hidden, in this case — just look in the cars, and use your counting skills. This is overwhelmingly a guy thing. These are mostly males (or if you prefer, individuals who would appear to be of the sort that traditionally possess a penis) and are usually on the younger side. As humans we are pattern-spotters; we are hard-wired to spot patterns in our environment, in order to make sense of it, and to reduce cognitive load. We can't help it. So yes, most of us will notice that the loudest, fastest cars are driven by traditional males. If you claim not to have noticed this, I have a polygraph machine here and $10,000 with your name on it, should you hardly move the needle when I ask whether you've noticed it. You've noticed it. And (traditionally-)male insecurity leading to aggression is a well-known, well-studied problem. But, reasonably enough, you may point out that male vs. female isn't really the issue. And I would agree. Masculinity, specifically toxic masculinity, as one of our councillors pointed out, is more to the point. I would agree with that as well. But it so happens that most toxic masculine behaviour is exhibited by those who are traditionally male. Is this really a controversial statement?? Will knowing it (under the decidedly safe assumption that it is true) help with vehicle volume enforcement? No, and nor should it. Let's target the behaviour, not the driver, when the behaviour happens. But might knowing (acknowledging) the heavy male-masculine correlation help in getting to the root causes of the aggressive, asocial behaviour, possibly before that behaviour occurs? I think it might, as it hints at who may require help/treatment/intervention/education/etc. We have neither the time nor the resources to address the problem entirely at random, in the name of political correctness.
submitted by DarbTev to Hamilton [link] [comments]


2020.06.20 19:15 InfernoAA Booking 2020’s NXT Takeovers Part 2 - NXT Takeover: Tampa Bay

Part 1 - NXT Takeover: Portland

NXT Takeover: Tampa Bay – April 4th 2020 – Amalie Arena

The Build

NXT Championship #1 Contender Ladder Match

The landscape of NXT takes a major turn once UE’s iron grip over the main event scene is removed by the new NXT Champion, Finn Balor, causing a plethora of new challengers to stake their claims to the gold, the now King of NXT watching the chaos from his throne. Though he’s scheduled to defend his title at Portland against an already confirmed opponent, NXT GM William Regal decides that since numerous individuals have came to him to request a title shot, believing themselves worthy enough, why not put them all in one match and see who truly has the potential to the climb to the top, the only feasible way to find the answer being a Ladder match! Assent rings through the locker room, 7 men ready to put their bodies on the line for a shot to break out and achieve greatness.

The first of those men is the Bruiserweight, Pete Dunne, having been featured in the main event for at Portland for the top title, though not being pinned in the Triple Threat match, believing himself to be the most deserving. Next is the Messiah of the Backbreaker, Roderick Strong, looking to appease the UE Leader by earning the stable a rebound opportunity to win back the gold, whilst also having his own personal issues with Dunne stemming back a couple of years. The third competitor is the returning Dreamster, Velveteen Dream, having been taken out with an injury at the hands of UE back in October, also having some unfinished business with Strong after losing his NA Title to him, using the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. The fourth member of the match is the Archer of Infamy, Damian Priest, who’s been making rounds recently with huge victories on his hunt for superstardom, this Ladder match quite possibly being his biggest hunt yet. Fifth up is Drew Gulak, who, after losing the NXT Cruiserweight Championship, stuck around on Wednesday Nights, feeling he’ll be able to receive better opportunities by wrestling with some of the best talents in the world. Number 6 is the Prodigy, Austin Theory, who boasts a near year run with the EVOLVE Championship at only 22 years of age, looking to replicate that success with the NXT Championship. Finally, rounding off the competitors is one of the hottest free agents who was recently signed and sighted in the crowd back in Portland, Timothy Thatcher! Making his debut on the massive Takeover stage, Thatcher is a hot favourite for the people, expecting only greatness from the British Messiah.

Pete Dunne vs Roderick Strong vs Velveteen Dream vs Damian Priest vs Drew Gulak vs Austin Theory vs Timothy Thatcher – NXT Championship #1 Contender Ladder Match

NXT Women’s Championship

Off of the heels of a retention at Takeover: Portland, the reigning NXT Women’s Champion, Rhea Ripley, turns her sights to the following Takeover, already owning two successful title defences against two formidable opponents. After Shotzi Blackheart’s impressive run in the Battle Royal back in January, Ripley offers her a non-title match, Blackheart putting on another strong performance, though coming up short once again, Ripley planting her with the Riptide to win. She continues to amass more victories here and there, making the most of her title reign by quickly establishing herself as a dominant champion.

Through all her victories though, there still remains one woman who’s been chomping at the bit to win the title for over a year now, having been denied success in her past three opportunities, though yet to face Ripley 1-on-1 for the first time. That woman is the Evil in the Sky, Io Shirai, who underwent a drastic change in personality following her third loss, opting for a darker and more menacing look, whilst wrestling with no remorse. Since June, she’s defeated the likes of Candice LeRae, Mia Yim and Bianca Belair, whilst also being one of the survivors alongside Ripley at Survivor Series for the NXT Women’s Team, a clear favourite to challenge for the top prize next.

Thus, during a promo segment from Ripley, inviting her next challenger to make themselves known, Io Shirai appears on the titanton, pictured in a dark room. She runs her hands through her hair repeatedly in a soothing fashion, before suddenly snapping, yelling that she should be the Women’s Champion, not Ripley. Ripley calls herself the ‘Nightmare’, but she doesn’t know a thing about darkness, instead surrounding herself in the bright spotlight, leaving Shirai to walk the cold and empty road, parched of gold. Unlike Ripley though, she actually enjoys the life in the shadows as opposed to being the bright and weak person she was a year ago. Even then, she was the best women’s wrestler in the world, and now, she’s far more sadistic, having the killer instinct it takes to beat anyone in the locker room. Both of them have left a trail of broken bodies in their wake, but only one of them can hold the top prize. She warns Ripley that she’s on borrowed time with the gold because Shirai’s been starving for over a year, craving the NXT Women’s Championship to satiate that hunger, and when she’s deprived of what she so desperately wants, she’ll resort to any means necessary to obtain it. If that means breaking Ripley, she’ll do just that, so, she challenges Ripley for a shot at Tampa Bay.

Ripley smirks at the comments made, claiming that for all Shirai’s strengths, it’d help if she took a moment to realise just who she’s making those claims against. Ripley ended Baszler’s reign when no one else could, including Shirai. Ripley beat Shirai’s side at WarGames, and she carried the NXT Women’s Team to victory at Survivor Series, Shirai instead taking some time off to rest in the back and taking credit after all the hard work had been done. For all she’s concerned, she’s already proven that she’s better than Shirai. However, she’s not one to turn down a challenge, especially if it’s from the alleged ‘best wrestler in the world’, so she accepts, promising to teach Shirai what it truly means to be the Nightmare, just like she taught Toni Storm and Dakota Kai when they stepped to her. Whilst Shirai dons her ‘scary mask’ and wallows in the depths of the abyss, Ripley’s the one who haunts her in said darkness, the reality of Shirai not being able to win the big one clawing away at her daily and pushing her further down into the black hole of nothingness. Whilst she may have changed her look since last challenging for the title, she shouldn’t expect any different result because inside, she’s still the same Shirai. Though she respects her for all her accolades, she’s just going to be another name on Ripley’s long list of dominance.

With that, the match is made official for Takeover, pitting the Nightmare against the Evil of the Sky with the Women’s Title on the line! Will Ripley prove her words to be true, continuing her 100+ day reign as Champion, or will Shirai finally win the title she’s been after for so long, her recent win streak giving her the strength and confidence required to succeed?

Rhea Ripley (c) vs Io Shirai – NXT Women’s Championship

NXT North American Championship

Following his successful title defence against Kevin Owens, Dominik Dijakovic continues to establish his name as a permanent fixture on the black­-and-gold brand, racking up a couple of decisive victories to add to his title reign. With Takeover rapidly approaching, Dijakovic is in search of a new challenger that’s able to give him the level of challenge he was given by Owens. Therefore, a Fatal Four-Way #1 Contender match takes place, pitting Matt Riddle, Killian Dain, Cameron Grimes and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott against each other.

Riddle is determined to make up for being pinned in the Dusty Cup Finals, wanting to earn his second shot at the gold, one year on from competing for it back at Takeover: New York. Dain was featured in the Ladder match to crown the inaugural champion two years ago, now returning to the hunt. Grimes has been on a rise ever since his loss in the Finals of the Breakout Tournament, using cheap tactics and a brutal Double Stomp finisher to crush the competition and earn his first title shot. Swerve has become a fan favourite as of late, dividing his time between NXT and 205 Live to allow his starpower to grow, now perhaps on the cusp of a title shot, having previously faced Dijakovic in the past. All four men work their socks off for the breakout opportunity, wanting their first piece of gold in NXT, but it is Riddle that gets the victory after countering a Cave In from Grimes into a Final Flash, setting himself up for a date with Dijakovic!

Coming out of the #1 Contender’s match, Dijakovic vs Riddle is touted as an important match for both men, needing it to rise to the next level on NXT, but other than that, it seems like a simple, friendly match. That wouldn’t be the case though, as Dijakovic quickly makes things personal. He wanted the best possible challenger for his title, and he’s gotten it, but he has no respect for his opponent. He harkens back to WarGames, where Riddle promised to join Team Ciampa and help them against UE, only for Riddle to go back on his word and challenge Balor instead. Whilst Team Ciampa ended up winning, in spite of having to suffer some extra wounds due to the time taken by Owens to arrive, which wouldn’t have happened had Riddle been there for them, the King of Bros lost his match earlier in the night, proving him almost putting Team Ciampa in jeopardy a waste.

On top of that, he had the balls to show up the next episode of NXT, celebrating with Team Ciampa after all the hard work had been done, taking credit as if he actually contributed something. The others may have forgotten about what Riddle did, Lee acting all buddy-buddy with him as they teamed up in the Dusty Cup, a match where Riddle cost his team the win, whilst Dijakovic was left to fight it alone against UE until Owens showed up again to get the job done that others failed to, he hasn’t forgotten about WG, and so, this match means much more to him that just retaining his title. Not only is he going to make a name at Riddle’s expense, who’s received far more big opportunities that him, but also, he’s going to get the satisfaction of beating Riddle and settling a long overdue score.

Riddle retorts that he did what he had to do after Balor questioned his manhood, and though he may have came up short, he proved that you don’t get away easily after poking the bear. Unfortunately for Dijakovic, he’s just poked the bear by questioning his manhood much like Balor, so now, instead of going into Tampa Bay to fight against a bro, he’s going into Tampa Bay to fight against a foe. He claims that whilst jealousy clouds Dijakovic’s mind, Riddle’s going to smoke him and prove that all his success in NXT is warranted, whilst Dijakovic’s only relevant because Lee gave him that chance.

Dominik Dijakovic (c) vs Matt Riddle – NXT North American Championship

Best Friends, Worst Enemies

Portland saw the return of Tegan Nox during Dakota Kai’s NXT Women’s Championship match, gaining a modicum of revenge as she cost Kai the match via causing a distraction that would see Ripley put Kai away to retain the title. The story goes back to Takeover: WarGames, where Kai would shockingly betray her friend via assaulting her in the cage on the stage, tearing their friendship to pieces as she maliciously slamming the cage door into Nox’s surgically repaired knee over and over, Nox’s heart-breaking wails ringing through the arena. The turn would see Kai become almost unrecognisable in her demeanour, once a cheerful underdog who scratched and clawed, now not even hesitating to taking cheap shots and brutalise her opponents. However, with Nox costing Kai the gold, they’re on somewhat even terms now, both women wanting nothing more than to get their hands on one another and beat each other bloody.

On the NXT after Portland, Nox storms down to the ring and demands for Kai to come out, wanting to face her in a match, Kai’s music hitting almost immediately. The Kiwi marches down to the ring with Nox’s knee brace in hand, drawing the ire of the Girl with the Shiniest Wizard… only to stop, walking back up the ramp to the stage, keeping her emotions in check. She states that she knows just how much Nox wants to get her hands on Kai, and trust her, she wants the same after Nox cost her the win a few nights ago… but she’s not going to satisfy Nox’s demands. This happens on Kai’s terms, and only on Kai’s terms. Clearly unsatisfied, Nox exclaims that if Kai won’t give her a match right now, she’ll just have to force one out of her, proceeding to make a beeline for Kai, who races off to the back, Nox giving Kai chase. They end up getting into a brawl that ends with Kai blasting Nox in the head with a flower pot, knocking her out cold! She doesn’t have the usual malevolent glint in her eyes though, instead staring at Nox’s felled body, stoic, memories of old flooding through her head, only for her to shake them off and walk away, the knee brace dragging behind.

Still determined to get her hands on Kai, Nox storms the ring a couple weeks later, once again demanding a match with Kai, who this time appears on the titantron, not even bothering to come out and look Nox in the eyes. Kai calls Nox pathetic, spitting that she thinks she can always get what she wants, believing herself to be special. The reality though, is that Kai is better than her in every way possible. A few months back, she would’ve gladly stood by Nox’s side, still under her friend’s trance, blinded about the reality of what Nox truly is; selfish. When Kai wasn’t given a spot in the WarGames match, what did Nox do? Nothing. She just stood by and watched her friend be robbed of the opportunity she so truly deserved. When they fought for the tag titles, Kai was forced to carry the weight of the team, Nox being nowhere to be seen when Kai got sprayed with mist and pinned. When both were on the shelf, it was always ‘When’s Nox coming back?’, no one giving a damn about Kai, so now, she doesn’t give a damn about any of them either. And now, is Nox that naïve that she thinks her selfishness is going to get her yet another thing she wants, in the form of a match against Kai? She blows her off, reiterating that Nox will never be as great as her, and that should she not tread carefully moving forward, she’ll be due another injury very soon, leaving an irate Nox on her own in the ring.

Realising she won’t get a match out of Kai anytime soon, Nox instead decides to chase the title that’s been on her mind since getting injured; the NXT Women’s Championship. She finds herself in a match against Deonna Purrazzo, the Virtuosa looking to make an impact and rise up the ranks too. The two put on a solid bout that ends when Nox gets Purrazzo in position for the Shining Wizard, only for Kai to run out from the back and appear on the apron much like Nox did a Portland, allowing Purrazzo to roll Nox up from behind for the victory! Nox is fuming, whilst Kai simply smirks from the ramp, holding the knee brace above her head like a prize.

The following week, Nox takes a trip to Regal’s office, demanding a match with Kai. Before he can respond though, speaking of the devil, Kai ambushes Nox from behind, slamming the knee brace in the back of her head! She yanks Nox out of the office, before beating her to a pulp with fists as Nox attempts to cover up from the incoming onslaught, whilst Regal yells at Kai to stop as he summons security, Kai not letting up. Before she can be dragged away by security, she rams the knee brace into Nox’s knee, before putting Nox’s leg in the doorway to Regal’s office, slamming the door shut on it! Nox wails in agony, the immense pain shooting through her leg, whilst Kai yells to be let go as security drag her away from the scene, leaving Regal calling for the medical team to help Nox. It’s announced that Nox has been taken to the nearest medical facility, with her potentially being injured yet again.

The assault on Nox leads to Kai being suspended for a few weeks, with no sign of Nox returning in the coming weeks. On Kai’s first show back, she gloats about injuring Nox yet again, stating that she warned Nox but she payed no heed to the warning, and now, they won’t have to worry about her anymore. The crowd hail down on Kai with immense boos, prompting King Kota to head out of the ring and yell at the fans up close, tearing up signs and telling them that they should worship her. As she’s walking past the crowd, one of the fans in a hoodie jumps the barricade and begins beating her down! They remove the hood to reveal themselves to be… TEGAN NOX! Releasing months’ worth of pent-up frustration, Nox lays into Kai with all her fury, limping her way about the arena to beat her former best friend all over. Kai shows some fight herself, sending Nox into the steel steps knee-first before getting in some licks of her own! Security manage to intervene though, pulling both women apart and takes them to the back as a disappointed Regal looks on.

A restraining order is placed on Nox and Kai, preventing them from engaging in further brawls, yet they remain adamant to get their hands on one another, begging Regal for a match. Regal reminds Nox that she isn’t cleared to wrestle, but she doesn’t care, blinded by anger and hatred. Sighing, he gives in, stating that they’ll receive their opportunity to face off with one another at Takeover… in an UNSANCTIONED MATCH! He claims that whilst NXT aren’t allowed to clear Nox, this is the only way that the two can get their match, making sure to note that should Nox’s injuries worsen, she can’t hold NXT accountable. Nox agrees to the terms, with Kai also signing a contract to make the bout official. Best friends make the worst of enemies, but which of them will walk out victorious?

Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai – Unsanctioned

NXT Tag Team Championships

Takeover: Tampa Bay sees the end of a story that’s been running for an entire year, as #DIY finally settle their issues with Undisputed Era in one last match, #DIY winning the Dusty Classic to earn a shot at the Tag Titles, whilst UE defeated Revival to retain the gold. One year ago, the saga began with Gargano defeating Cole in a 2-out-of-3 Falls match to become the new NXT Champion and first NXT Triple Crown Winner, after Ciampa was forced to vacate the title due to injury. Gargano would go on to lose the title to Cole the following Takeover, before suffering another loss to him in a 3 Stages of Hell match in Toronto. The tide would change with Ciampa’s return, the two former best friends looking to put their past behind them to take down UE, only for Gargano to get injured, leaving Ciampa to build a team of his own to lead into WarGames, where Team Ciampa would prevail over UE. Ciampa received a shot at Cole’s NXT Title on the final episode of NXT of 2019, coming up short, before turning to Gargano in both men’s time of need, reuniting #DIY to enter the Dusty Classic and do what they had never done to that point; win the tournament.

Success in Portland meant they booked their tickets to Tampa Bay to face UE for the gold, with the match being hyped up over the following weeks. #DIY bring up how they beat UE in 2019’s Dusty Classic, claiming that they’ll do the same in the Tag Title match to win the gold they haven’t held in 3 years. However, to their surprise, Cole steps forward and announces that #DIY actually won’t be facing Fish & KOR at Takeover… they’ll be facing Cole & KOR! The former Future Shock duo that won the Dusty Classic for UE in 2018 team up once again, defending the Tag Titles against the biggest thorns in UE’s side! Though thrown off by the announcement, Gargano & Ciampa state that they wouldn’t want it any other way, receiving a chance to finally exact their revenge on Cole, whilst taking the Tag Titles at the same time. KOR steps forward and reminds them that he’s in the match too, asserting that he is the most successful Tag Team Champ in NXT history, so there’s no doubt in his mind that #DIY will become another statistic in UE’s list of felled opponents.

The Undisputed ERA (Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly) vs #DIY – NXT Tag Team Championships

NXT Championship

Takeover: Portland saw the end of Cole’s dominant reign and the birth of a new reign, courtesy of Finn Balor. The new NXT Champion cuts a promo about how he did what he said he’d do, and that’s make his future his past. In just 4-5 months of him returning, he’s already NXT Champion again, proving himself to truly be the greatest NXT Champion of all time, his records speaking for themselves. He brings up the question on everyone’s mind: What’s next for Finn Balor? He made his future his past by winning the top title, but what’s next on his bucket list? He recalls the night he lost the title. He was in the ring with Samoa Joe, a man that he’d defeated multiple times beforehand, yet on that night, he slipped up, with Joe getting the better of him, defeating him to win the gold. They had a rematch not long after, where once again, Balor failed to defeat Joe. He failed to defeat the rising ‘monster’ of the black-and-gold brand. So, he wishes to avenge that loss by defeating a man that’s proven himself to be much like Joe. A man that’s been making rounds all over the news, sometimes even in the headlines instead of Balor, which pisses him off. He wants to face… Keith Lee!

Out comes the Limitless One, honoured that Balor would choose him as his opponent, before showing appreciation for the praise sent his way. However, he also adds that whilst Balor compares him to Joe, he feels he’s much more than just a clone of one of Balor’s past demons. Over the past few months, he’s proven just that with his appearance on SmackDown, making it to the Final 2 at Survivor Series opposite Roman Reigns, stepping up to Brock Lesnar in the Rumble, etc. He’s constantly making rounds because he’s Limitless, and if people felt all of that was impressive, then they’ve got another thing coming for them when Lee returns from his match with Balor, gold around his waist. He thanks Balor for being a pivotal member in building NXT, but he isn’t going to lay down for him and let him take an easy win. He fully intends on walking out with the NXT Championship, so he warns Balor to bring his all.

Balor & Lee gear up for their match at Takeover through competing in smaller TV bouts, picking up victories to keep up their momentum and ensure themselves the victory on the big stage. This is the make or break moment for Lee, getting a chance to swim with the sharks in the main event of Takeover. Will he bring an abrupt end to Balor’s reign, or will Balor silence another of his demons?

Finn Balor (c) vs Keith Lee – NXT Championship


The Show

It’s WrestleMania Weekend, as Takeover comes to you live from jam-packed Amalie Arena! The fans are treated to a live performance of the #NXTLoud theme for the night to kick things off hot, as The Signal Fire by Killswitch Engage plays, whilst a hype package is displayed on the titantron to prepare the crowd for a night to remember!

Pete Dunne vs Roderick Strong vs Velveteen Dream vs Damian Priest vs Drew Gulak vs Austin Theory vs Timothy Thatcher – NXT Championship #1 Contender Ladder Match

Opening in the best way possible, the breakout Ladder match sets Takeover off on the right foot as the participants make their respective entrances, prepared to tear the house down! Much like the Ladder match at NOLA, this is a train wreck of a bout, with bodies flying all over the place, whether they’re going down through Ladders, or up the rungs towards a briefcase suspended above with the contract inside. Each competitor gets a chance to show off their moves, with the action branching off into feuds as well as Dunne and Dream find themselves targeting Strong, whilst Priest gets some licks in on the Bruiserweight, looking to settle their score from last year. Theory opportunistically races up the Ladder whenever no one is looking, though to no avail as he’s spotted just in time to save the match, at one point being sent THROUGH a Ladder Bridge by Timothy Thatcher via a Butterfly Suplex in the spot of the night! Gulak is forced to do the thing that he hates the most and takes to the skies in order to inch closer to winning the briefcase, getting close on multiple occasions. Eventually, the match boils down to Dunne and Strong fighting at the top of the Ladder, only for Dream to tip it over and send them crashing to the canvas, allowing him to unhook the briefcase and become #1 Contender!

Velveteen Dream def. Pete Dunne, Roderick Strong, Velveteen Dream, Damian Priest, Drew Gulak, Austin Theory and Timothy Thatcher to win and become #1 Contender (26:38)

Dream celebrates his victory, clutching the briefcase close to his chest as he heads to the back, a successful Takeover return for the Dreamster having missed the past two, now right back on track on his path to become NXT Champion.

Rhea Ripley (c) vs Io Shirai – NXT Women’s Championship

Next up is the match for Ripley’s Women’s Championship, Shirai receiving one more chance to claim the gold she’s been after for over a year. In the early goings, Ripley puts up a surprisingly dominant performance, using her power to leave Shirai reeling, who hasn’t been in such a big match in quite a while. Nonetheless, she manages to capitalise when she notices Ripley’s guard down, the less experienced star believing that Shirai doesn’t have long before she’ll give up. Thus, the Evil in the Sky rebounds with Strong Style strikes, leaving Ripley sore all over, before living up to her moniker by using the ropes to deliver a Thunder Splash and a Moonsault Double Foot Stomp! Ripley clutches at her ribs, forcing herself to endure the punishment from the challenger, who continues to become increasingly vicious, showing the killer instinct that she failed to in her previous challenges for the gold, sending Ripley back-and-forth between steel and barricades on the outside. She almost soars right into the clutches of defeat as Ripley catches a Moonsault attempt of hers on the steel ramp, proceeding to slam her right down back-first! Ripley returns Shirai to the ring, locking in the PRISM TRAP, the power discrepancy allowing her flail Shirai about in mid-air! Shirai eventually breaks free, managing to roll Ripley up for a close count, before rallying with strikes to the chest, followed by a Spinning Backfist that sends a tooth flying! She nails a TORNADO DDT before scaling to the top, looking to end things with her patented Moonsault, only for Ripley to meet her on the top rope, trying for an Avalanche Riptide! Shirai delivers a series of back elbows though that force Ripley to crash back down to the mat, followed by a MOONSAULT! 1…2…3! IO SHIRAI IS THE NEW NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPION!

Io Shirai def. Rhea Ripley to win the NXT Women’s Championship (15:02)

The arena erupts as they witness Shirai achieve her dream of becoming Women’s Champion, a heartfelt moment despite the villainous ways of Io, the Evil in the Sky finally ascending to the top!

Dominik Dijakovic (c) vs Matt Riddle – NXT North American Championship

Following that is a personal bout disguised as a title match, as not only do Dijakovic and Riddle fight tonight for gold, but also pride and honour. Riddle opts to open the bout with a striking affair, wanting to rope Dijakovic into his territory and beat him that way. Despite knowing Riddle’s agenda, Dijakovic steps up to the challenge, unfazed by the vast MMA background of the King of Bros, instead doing his best to keep up with the lightning chops and kicks of his opponent. A Rolling Elbow knocks Riddle right down to the mat though, Dijakovic only needing one of his heavy blows to connect. Riddle changes up his strategy on the fly, instead surprising Dijakovic with a German Suplex attempt, only to eat another devastating elbow that knocks him right back down. Dijakovic gets some time to display his signature brand of offense, tossing Riddle about the ring with a Deadlift Suplex and a Chokeslam, before even landing a Springboard Elbow Drop! Riddle gets ticked off at how effortlessly Dijakovic is hauling him around, inspiring him to spark a comeback and land a DEADLIFT GUTWRENCH SUPLEX! Riddle lands a couple more to stun Dijakovic, before heading up top to land the FLOWING BRO, proving that the NA Champ isn’t the only one with the cool, aerial assaults! The finish comes when Riddle gets Dijakovic trapped in a Seated Abdominal Stretch, before laying in sharp elbows to Dijakovic’s chest, looking to knock him out! Somehow, someway, Dijakovic powers through the punishment, returning to his feet to land a CHOKEBOMB, followed by the FEAST YOUR EYES! 1…2…3!

Dominik Dijakovic (c) def. Matt Riddle to retain the NXT North American Championship (17:41)

Forced to put on one of his most spirited efforts to date, Dijakovic fells another challenger to retain his title, and in the process, gains respect for the King of Bros, sharing a fist-bump with him after the match. Under the layers of Riddle’s calm attitude, a hint of concern can be noted as he questions himself whether his destiny is to just put others over.

Tegan Nox vs Dakota Kai – Unsanctioned

4 months in the making, the intensely emotional feud between former tag team partners comes to a head in an Unsanctioned match, as Nox and Kai put their health aside for the chance to take out all their anger on one another. They don’t even wait for the opening bell as Kai jumps Nox during her entrance, bringing the knee brace with her as a reminder for how this all began. They don’t rely too much on weapon-based spots, instead taking their time to beat the ever-loving hell out of each other, whether that be through rough kicks or brutal submissions, they torture each other. Kai gets under Nox’s skin by using a Chokeslam on her, turning one of her idol’s moves against her, causing Nox to spike her with a WELSH DESTROYER! Slowly, Nox begins losing her moral compass as she just continually batters Kai, only pausing to realise what she’s doing when a trickle of blood appears on the canvas. Kai pounces on the opportunity like a tiger though, using Nox’s emotions against her by remorselessly targeting the injured knee of her former best friend, tearing away Nox’s new knee brace and using the old one to bludgeon her knee over and over! Nox wails in agony just like she did at the MYC 2018, replicating the horrifying scene, Kai revelling in the beating she delivers to Nox. No longer able to defend herself, Nox is easy pickings as Kai lands the SHINIEST WIZARD on her, before finishing her off the KAI-ROPRACTOR! 1…2…3!

Dakota Kai def. Tegan Nox (22:31)

A pindrop silence hangs in the arena as Kai’s hand is raised, the fans unable to scream their insults at Kai any longer, instead forced to watch Nox being helped to the back, tears streaming down her face.

The Undisputed ERA (c) vs #DIY – NXT Tag Team Championships

Second to last on the card is Cole & KOR vs Gargano & Ciampa, the match kicking off with O’Reilly taking on Gargano in a technical duel, in which Kyle gets the better of Johnny, attempting an early ARMageddon, only for Gargano to get to the ropes and tag in Ciampa, who tees off on KOR with knees. Ciampa demands to fight Cole, the Panama City Playboy getting right in his face and performing his taunt condescendingly, causing Ciampa to snap and immediately unload with strikes to the skull, Cole rebounding with shots of his own! The action breaks down, with UE running the classic ‘cut the ring in half’ trope, isolating Gargano from Ciampa as they feast on him like jackals, the Blackheart impatiently pacing about the apron, reaching out desperately to tag himself in. Gargano sparks a fiery babyface comeback, sending Superkicks for everyone, before tagging in Ciampa, who has his own hot tag portion where he goes nuts. After fighting for a good 20 minutes, #DIY look to put UE away, sizing up Cole for the Meeting in the Middle… KOR SACRIFICES HIMSELF! Throwing himself in the crossfire, O’Reilly takes the brunt of the finisher, allowing the legal Cole to send Gargano out of the ring and get a nail-biting near-fall off of a PANAMA SUNRISE to Ciampa! As he pulls down the knee pad, looking to put Ciampa away with the Last Shot, Tommy Entertainment counters into an AIR RAID CRASH, before transitioning smoothly into the MEETING IN THE MIDDLE with Gargano! 1…2…3! #DIY ARE THE NEW NXT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS!

#DIY def. The Undisputed ERA (c) to become the new NXT Tag Team Champions (20:35)

3 years have passed since Gargano & Ciampa last held the Tag straps together, now finally after going through hell and back alongside and against each other, they vanquish one of their toughest rivals in UE, becoming 2-time Champs in the process!

Finn Balor (c) vs Keith Lee – NXT Championship

Now time for the long-awaited main event, featuring the longest-reigning NXT Champion of all time defending his title against the Breakout Star of 2019! Lee receives his biggest exposure to date, WrestleMania Weekend sure to bring new eyes to the Limitless One, especially when taking into consideration that he’s going to toe-to-toe with the man that built the brand. He doesn’t disappoint one bit, channelling every ounce of strength and determination in his body to put up the fight of his life. Having stepped away from using the Demon persona, Balor isn’t as bulletproof, though he’s still competent between the ropes, unleashing a plethora of kicks and stomps as he picks apart the arms and legs of Lee, wanting to make sure he loses his power advantage. Nonetheless, Lee is still able to send Balor flying across the ring, countering a Coup de Grace to the back of the head with a POUNCE! He lays in the Grizzly Magnum, before getting a near-fall off of a DOOMSAULT! Balor drills Lee with a Pele Kick, before getting a close count of his own off of a BLOODY SUNDAY! Starting to get concerned that Lee isn’t staying down, Balor brings back a classic from the past in the PRINCE’S THRONE, yet Lee kicks out at 1! Balor goes for the Coup de Grace, yet Lee still won’t stay down! Another Bloody Sunday attempt fails him, as Lee reverses his momentum into a BIG BANG CATASTROPHE! Looking to put the final nail in the coffin, Lee slams Balor into the mat with the SPIRIT BOMB! COULD THIS BE IT?! 1…2…3! KEITH LEE IS THE NEW NXT CHAMPION!

Keith Lee def. Finn Balor (c) to win the NXT Championship (21:00)

Just like that, Lee has brought Balor’s reign to a screeching halt, winning the NXT Championship! Confetti and tickertape hails down as the Limitless One basks in his victory, rounding off the show with a gargantuan victory! Just before the show fades to black though… KILLER KROSS can be seen in the audience, eyes locked on the title, with Scarlett Bordeaux by his side!
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2020.06.10 08:17 youto2 House Party 06/08/2020 - Part Three

Baker looks shocked for a moment, but immediately shoves Harrison out of the ring and lifts West up for a powerbomb instead! West manages to shift his weight, though, and catches Baker with the Billy Kidman Special! Baker hits the mat face-first, and West scrambles for the tag! He’s inches away from it -
Paisner: West looking for the tag! He’s almost there! Ironblood is HYPED to come into this match!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOO!
-when Harrison comes out of nowhere and scythes the feet out from under Ironblood, leaving West to fend for himself! West desperately gets back to vertical, but is obviously feeling the effects of the slams from earlier! Baker looks to take advantage of this with a corner clothesline, but West stops him with a corner-assisted big boot! Baker staggers back, and West pushes himself out of the corner, and follows up with some strong-style chops that send Baker to the mat!
Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAY!
On the outside of the ring, it’s big boy central as Harrison and Ironblood just fucking punch each other in the mouth repeatedly! Harrison isn’t damaged, per-se, but he’s definitely more tired from throwing 180 pounds of Cam’Ron around, and Ironblood lays him out with a running shoulder tackle! Cam’Ron sees this, and he goes to Ironblood for the tag! Ironblood comes into the ring right as Baker starts to get up!
Paisner: If I was Jim Baker, I wouldn’t get up right now, but I don’t think he’s aware of the trouble he’s in!
Woodbridge: Ironblood is directing traffic, and it looks like Baker is about to have a really bad time!
West gets a running start and hits the ropes right as Baker stands up. Baker’s eyes widen as he sees a Ironblood train chugging at him, but he doesn’t have time to react before both West and Ironblood turn him inside out with DUAL burning lariats! Baker is absolutely nonexistent after the crash, and West charges forward, catching the rising Hank with a baseball slide through the ropes as Hugo goes for the cover!
1!
2!
3!
DING DING DING
Javier: And your winner, at a time of 9:56.... The team of Cam’Ron West and Hugo Ironblood!
Paisner: Ironblood came in like a freight train, and perhaps shaved a few years off Baker’s life with that dual lariat, but we already knew Ironblood was dangerous.
Woodbridge: Yeah, what we didn’t know was how much of an unbridled beating Cam’Ron West could take and still keep on fighting!
Hugo and Cam’Ron raise each others’ arms in celebration, before walking to the back, leaving an absolutely unconscious Baker and a frustrated Harrison behind them!
We open to a new scene, as we see Stephen Romero and backstage hands continuing to set up the pride party. We now see 4 boxes of rainbow cookies set up on a table, the cookies being in the style of those very sweet lofthouse frosted cookies. With both the base cookies and the frosting being rainbow designed. We see Romero and backstage hands painting the table set ups rainbow. Romero just completing the center table where the cake will later be set. He takes off the painters apron he was wearing for the purpose, putting it into a basket to be took away later. As he then begins to speak.
Romero: Alright, that’ll set by the time we open up. I swear man, pride month actually does make me gayer. Since like, I wanna say february, i’ve been having a noticeable preference for feminine people. I tend to have preferences, but it’s not consistent, it operates in cycles. A bi-cycle if you will. And this preference for feminine people lasted quite a lot longer than my preferences usually last. But you know what happens as soon as it turns June? I start really liking masculine people again. I re-downloaded grindr for god sakes! I don’t even do that everytime I have a preference for men, so you know i’m fuckin’ desperate right now! Now, I haven’t actually checked my notifications in a moment, lets see what I have…
Romero then brings out his phone, checking through his grindr messages.
Romero: Alright, I got like 12 messages in just like, an hour or so. When you’re tall and you work out I swear it’s so fuckin’ easy. I never have to be the one to make the first move when it comes to dating other men. Alright, lets see what these say…...we got one message fetishizing my penis because i’m black……..we got a second message fetishizing my penis because i’m black………..a third message fetishizing my penis because i’m black………..a fourth message fetishizing my penis because i’m black…...Oh hey! We actually just got a normal message saying hi! I’ll actually respond to this one, alrigh-oh nevermind, followed it with an unsolicited dick pic, nevermind. Blocked. Alright, lets see the next message……………..a fifth message fetishizing my penis because i’m black. Jesus christ, do white dudes think i’ll like that? Hell, why are they even messaging me about my penis? It clearly states in my bio i’m a bo-
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES
We come back from the brief interruption, where we see Romero now decorating the cupcakes with frosting, we see that he had already frosted two cupcakes with the pink, purple, and blue design of the bisexual flag, and one cupcake with the orange stripe lesbian flag, as he seems to be working on frosting the other two lesbian cupcakes.
Romero: Got these out not too long ago, frost ‘em while they won’t burn me when I work with them, but still warm enough for the frosting to adhere…
Romero continues to apply the frosting to the cupcakes, as we see backstage hands bring in extra refreshments. Two different two-liters of generic brand cola, three bottles of vodka, and of course, two gallons of milk. Romero finishes making the lesbian cupcakes, as he moves on to making a pansexual cupcake, as we hear the cameraman converse with him.
Cameraman: Now, sorry if this is rude, but I was kinda wondering, with your previous history of being in a tag team with Robert Warlock-
Romero: Hey! I know what you’re gonna ask you know, just because i’m a man who can be attracted to other men does not mean I cannot have strong relationships with other men that are simply platonic! To answer, he did know, he was one of the first people I told, and he was very supportive……..and true he was very kind…..and I did find him very handsome…….but he was straight as hell! Even if that’s what I wanted, it couldn’t have happened.
Cameraman: Did you ever ask him? Or was that just an assumption?
Romero: …..uh…….um…….well it’s been years okay! I kept in contact for a bit after he retired, but it fizzled out, he was just very solidly done with the wrestler’s life. He got very busy with his new professions, I was struggling with how to adapt to being a singles wrestler and all the mental health shit that came with it. Then we never got back in touch following that. Even if i’m wrong, it’s bygones by now. I like….open up our text convos and begin to type sometimes, I always end up erasing it though, it’s just at this point-
We then hear Romero’s phone buzzing again to interrupt this. Which he quickly whips out of his pocket, a quick mood shift coming alongside it, as he answers.
Romero: Hello?.....Oh shit the cake’s here?! Wonderful! I’ll be out there to get it in a moment! Thank you so much!
Romero then turns to three idling backstage hands, conversing amongst themselves as most of the prep work is done, leaving them with little to do.
Romero: Hey lads, you able to help me with somethin’?
The backstage crew all nod, as Romero motions them to come over.
Romero: Well, we got a big ass cake being delivered, I could probably lift the weight myself, but not way i’d be able to balance it, y’all mind helping me with that?
The crew all respond saying they wouldn’t mind, as Romero and the crew head out to retrieve the cake.
We then return to the ring, where we yet again see Jaiver standing in the middle, ready to make some more announcements.
Babaganoush: The following contest is scheduled for ONE FALL, with a 30-minute time limit! Refereeing is Harry Undersach!
Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! WE’RE WILD ABOUT HARRY! WE’RE WILD ABOUT HARRY!
Babaganoush: Introducing first…
“Prisoner of Society” plays and Dick Dover walks out as the music begins to intensify, laughing off the boos and gives Fat Fan with Beer an earful when he notices he’s in the audience! When he hits the ring, he stands in the center and pulls on his wrist tape, and pretends it’s a winch that is lifting his middle finger into the bird. Naturally, everyone boos much harder at this.
Babaganoush: From Toronto, Ontario, weighing in at 220 pounds - DICK! DOVER!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! FUCK YOU DOVER! FUCK YOU DOVER!
Paisner: Dick Dover has all but threatened to use his patented, metal detector-proof ceramic knuckles tonight. Let’s see if Undersach finds anything suspicious on him during the pre-match.
Babaganoush: And his opponent…
Rain’s cover of “Enter Sandman” plays, already causing a reflexive reaction of cheers from the WiR crowd, and Tony Stevens, The Son of the Milkman, comes out accompanied by two dirndl-clad and rather male Bavarian milkmaids. They show him off like he’s the prize on The Price is Right as he stomps to the ring, pounding a bottle of milk as he does so and spilling the remainder all over himself, then stripping off his tearaway pants and suspendies to reveal milk-white tights. And now he is ready for battle.
Babaganoush: ...from Aberdeen, Scotland, weighing in at 12 stone and 13… TONY… EL HIJO DEL MILKMAN… STEVENS!
Crowd: MILK! MILK! MILK! MILK! MILK!
Woodbridge: Well, you can say one thing - ain’t nobody quite like El Hijo del Milkman.
Paisner: You mean except for when Ty--
Woodbridge: Shut it, Pais, all due respect.
Dick Dover does not look impressed with the Milkman and snickers and points as if to say “would you fuckin’ look at THIS goof,” but Stevens stares death at him. Harry Undersach pats down both men for weapons and finds… something on Dover! He reluctantly takes out the knucks and gives them up to the timekeeper, who pockets them.
Crowd: WOOOOOOOOOOO!
Paisner: And nothing slipping past Harry Undersach! Now that the weapon is out of play, we should be getting a solid technical bout from these two workhorses.
Woodbridge: You don’t think Dover will find SOME bullshit to pull? Bit naive of you, Big Al.
DING DING DING!
The match begins with the two men circling and eyeing each other up, and they go in for a pretty intense lockup, practically clawing at each other as they get into the folkstyle collar-and-elbow clinch! It’s Milkman who gets the advantage first and puts on a front facelock, looking perhaps for an early vertical suplex, but Dover counters out by kicking Stevens’s legs out from under him! Stevens kips up right away and retorts by whipping Dover into the corner - he charges in with an uppercut, but Dover ducks and gets to the side. As Stevens steps back out of the corner the crouching Dover reaches up between his legs and rolls him backwards into a schoolboy clutch
1!
2!
NO!
Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
Woodbridge: Dover wanting to make this a fast one…
Paisner: Stevens too fast for that to happen, though.
Stevens kicks out but Dover immediately slaps on a side headlock and raises Stevens’s neck, intending to turn this into some kind of neckbreaker - Stevens shakes out and gives Dover a big forehand slap to the chest just to let him know what he thinks of that! Dover puts up his dukes and the two get to punching! Both men are throwing wild jabs until Dover sneaks a body hook that winds Stevens and pounds him into the corner!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Dover won’t let up on Stevens and Harry goes to count…
1!
2!
3!
4!
5!
At the last moment Dover steps away and physically pulls Stevens out of the corner. “I BROKE ON FIVE, YOU SAW IT!” he loudly says to Harry, who isn’t amused, but has to concede that. Stevens staggers but shakes himself out, rubbing his chest and neck as Dover has his moment with the ref. Stevens moves to grab Dover, who responds with another flurry of punches!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Woodbridge: Dover’s strategy right now - and I’m not saying it ain’t a tried and true, working one - is to turn Stevens into chicken scallopini.
Indeed, Dover grabs Stevens by the back of the head and pulls him in and down, aiming short knee strikes into the smaller man’s forehead - in trying to have a clear path for his strikes, though, Dover isn’t holding Stevens very strongly, who ducks in and gives Dover a single-leg takedown! It’s enough to grab onto Dover for a cross press!
1!
2!
NO!
Crowd: AWWWWWWWWWWWWW...
Paisner: A really crisp double leg by Stevens there, fighting through those short-range but VERY high knees!
Woodbridge: I think both of these men may have to be worried about surprise pins this whole match.
Dover pops out of the pin and scrambles to his feet just as Stevens does the same - a knee to the gut from Dover forces Stevens to hunch over for just a second, and Dover then gutwrenches Stevens! He flips him over for a suplex and holds on for the pin!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Paisner: Oh, and there’s a more FORCEFUL one!
1!
2!
NO!
Crowd: YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! STEVENS! STEVENS! STEVENS!
Paisner: Stevens out of Dover’s snap gutwrench suplex at 2.5, and the crowd are trying to get Hijo del Milkman to rally!
Tony Stevens struggles to his feet and dares Dover to come at him again! The grinning Dover lunges for him once again - Stevens sidesteps and puts on a headlock! Quick as a flash he repositions Dover and gives him an Irish whip, and as Dover runs back off the ropes Stevens knocks him over with a shoulder tackle! It merely knocks Dover off his feet, not really damaging him, but that’s all Stevens needs - He gets down, wincing as he strains his somewhat damaged neck, and tries his best to turn Dover onto his belly!
Crowd: YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Woodbridge: HE’S TRYIN’ FOR THE FULL CHURN!
Dover, however, is not having it - but before Dover can get back to his feet Stevens catches one of his legs in the crook of his arm and pulls it to his chest, then secures it near the ankle with the other arm as he moves his first arm further up the trapped leg, settling for a kneeling kneebar of sorts as he shuffles into the position that’ll let him pull the joint into full hyperextension.
Woodbridge: Oh, he ain’t getting it, but look at Stevens improvise!
Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! TAP DOVER TAP! TAP DOVER TAP!
Dover struggles mightily in the hold and eventually his flailing takes Stevens off-balance and Dover can rock himself towards the ropes, enough so that he can get his hand on the bottom rope. Stevens obligingly releases him from the hold.
Crowd: AWWWWWWWWWW…
Paisner: Dick Dover should be thanking his lucky stars he got the ropes when he did.
Woodbridge: Too damn right. Just a little bit longer and he would have either had to tap, or have something real important get torn in half.
Dick Dover gets back up with the aid of the ropes and Stevens nods at him and gives him the come-at-me again, waiting for him to be back in a legal part of the ring - Dover nods back but then suddenly leaps out and elbows Stevens in the neck! Stevens stumbles backwards into the opposite ropes and when he comes running back Dover catches and lifts him, looking for his jawbreaker - Stevens blocks by getting his feet under him in time! They begin to trade blows once again, Dover favoring one leg, but this time Stevens has the advantage, and he tries a wild haymaker to Dover’s head - Dover ducks under it and suddenly lifts Stevens straight upwards parallel to his own body! He slams him down into a sitout spinebuster!
Crowd: OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! / BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Woodbridge: JESUS DOVER WITH THE SKY HIGH!
Paisner: And it could be over! The sitout pin is in, even if Dover looks like he wants to collapse!
1!
2!
3 - NO!
Crowd: YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Tony Stevens lifts his shoulder up just in time, and is still in it - but Dick Dover falls onto his back, clearly not able to sit up yet! Stevens himself remains somewhat limp on the mat, and Harry Undersach begins the standing 10-count - Dover beats it, although he falls to one knee after putting weight on his damaged leg, and then soon afterwards Stevens does as well, although he falls back onto his ass again and has to will himself back to his feet a second time!
Crowd: STEVENS! STEVENS! STEVENS! STEVENS!
Paisner: Just listen to the people chant for El Hijo del Milkman!
Woodbridge: He has calcium in his bones but more importantly, their love in his heart!
Dover makes another lunge to strike hard at Stevens’s neck, but it’s Stevens who dodges just in time, and he gets down to the ground to try to sweep up Dover in a schoolboy of his own, but instead of pinning he gets into a side grapevine leglock, hoping to make Dick submit!
Woodbridge: OH SHIT A SCHOOLBOY TAKEDOWN AND STEVENS TWISTS THE LEG!
Crowd: YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP! TAP!
Harry Undersach hits the deck to look for a submission and a panicking, practically screaming Dick Dover reaches for the ropes as best he can as he flails, and does eventually get them! Dover now counts the DQ as Stevens keeps holding on…
1!
2!
3!
4!
5!
Stevens lets go right away before he can be disqualified and Dover gasps from pain, but immediately begins berating the ref as he pulls himself back to his feet!
Dover: HE DIDN’T BREAK BEFORE FIVE! DISQUALIFY THAT PIECE OF SHIT!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
As Dover rants at Harry, the referee yells at him back, but unintentionally physically separates the two wrestlers!
Woodbridge: Lookit Dover buying recovery time with the ref in the way, that snake!
Dover: AND ANOTHER THING…
Feeling more confident and getting the adrenaline from arguing to ignore the pain in his leg, Dover leaps at Stevens and positions his jaw over Dover’s shoulder… Stevens falls on him as if in a crossbody! He puts enough weight on Dover’s legs to make Dover collapse onto his back - and then he turns him over!
Crowd: YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Paisner: OH THAT REVERSAL!
Woodbridge: AND HE’S LOCKIN’ THE FULL CHURN!
Indeed, Stevens hooks one of Dover’s legs while he’s face-down and puts the ankle into his armpit, grabbing the calf and cranking the hip joint up, down, and around as he rotates the knee!
Crowd: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
Woodbridge: FULL CHURN! FULL CHURN! LOOKIT THE TORQUE!
An agonized Dover has absolutely no choice but to tap!
DING DING DING!
Crowd: YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Babaganoush: Here is your winner, by submission, at a time of 9 minutes 12 seconds… TONY! STEVENS!
Woodbridge: Milk DOES do a body good!
Paisner: Dover pulling out all sorts of technically legal chicanery, but it was Stevens’s heart and devastating hold that prevailed today. Still… it’s just a matter of time before Dick screws someone like he’s used to doing.
“Enter SandMilkman” plays yet again and Stevens smiles broadly after dropping Dover’s leg; he now knows he’ll be on the road to better opportunities in WiR! He takes a celebratory milk drink and slaps hands as he leaves; Dover, meanwhile, has an obvious and very painful limp as he sourly recovers his knux from the timekeeper and heads sullenly to the back.
We fade to the scene of Big Money Maverick, finishing up a phone call, sitting in a private room in the arena. It looks as if it's a storage room, as there are many event tables and chair racks in the room, as well as different event posters and other miscellaneous items.
Big Money Mav(on the phone): Yes sir….pleasure doing business with you…….take care.
Mav hangs up the phone, as we hear a knock on the door of the room.
Big Money Mav: What in the goddamn?
Suddenly none other than Chad Hammocks steps in through the door, as Maverick looks flabbergasted, popping up out of his seat.
Big Money Mav: What the- How the- I should kick your fuckin ass, how did you find me?!
Chad Hammocks: Well, I checked every other room in the place before I found you in this one.
Big Money Mav: Yeah, the whole point of me being in the last place you'd look was that you WOULDN'T find me. I guess I shouldn't have underestimated how long you'd look for me….
Chad Hammocks: Well, I like my job, and I was told to keep following you to try and get some info from you.
Mav throws his hands up in an act of frustration.
Big Money Mav: Well, a guy just can't get any privacy it seems….just like how staying private and safe online is an ever growing difficulty. At any moment you could be exploited by hackers. NordVPN allows you to change your IP address, making you harder to track, securing your privacy.
Chad facepalms and sighs.
Hammocks:...Just get it out of your system…..
Mav smiles as he turns to the camera.
Big Money Maverick: Millions of people get hacked from using a public network. You don't have to be part of it. NordVPN offers you the fastest VPN experience with more than 5200 servers in 59 countries. On a personal level, I have used NordVPN and have found it extremely useful through my endeavors. Don't be exploited by hackers, get a 77% discount for a 3 year plan by visiting nordvpn.com/BIGMONEYMAV.
Mav turns to Hammocks, who waits more patiently than he probably should at this point.
Chad Hammocks: Are you done now?.....
Mav walks over to Chad, and puts his arm around him.
Big Money Maverick: You know, Chad. You may be a cretin, and a nincompoop, and a slapnut, but you're not too bad.
Hammock stands there not knowing whether that was a compliment or an insult.
Big Money Maverick: The world's been waiting, and I know you've been waiting, so here it is. My Announcement…….is that I've officially been signed on for in-ring action next week!
Hammock's eyes widen as he listens.
Hammocks:.......
Big Money Mav:......
Hammocks:.....go on……
Big Money Mav:.....come again?....
Hammocks:....so…..who are you in action against?
Big Money Mav: Slow down, partner, one big announcement at a time! All I know is that it's gonna be teaming with 2 others, and we're gonna beat the crap out of 3 other pissants in a 6-Man Tag.
Mav pats Hammocks on the shoulder.
Big Money Mav: There you go Hammocks, you got what you wanted. Now, if you'd like to stick around I'd love to talk to you about how easy it is to listen to Audiobooks with Audible.
Hammocks quickly yells.
Hammocks: BACK TO YOU AT RINGSIDE-
Big Money Mav: Audible.com is a great, easy to-
Right in the middle of Mav's speech, we cut directly to Paisner and Woodbridge at the broadcast booth.
Woodbridge: Thank god we cut him off there.
Paisner: So Mav has declared that next week he's in a 6 man tag team bout! We don't know his allies, we don't know his enemies, but Big Money Mav will be there, and if he's to be believed, it'll be must-see!
We cut to ringside, as Javier now enters the ring, microphone in hand as he prepares to announce the match-up.
Javier: The following matchup is to one fall, and has a 30 minute time limit, refereed by Ivan Itchicock.
GFY by Amyl and the Sniffers plays and the blunt vocals kick in as Kaitlyn Casey Jones saunters out to the ring, and raises one arm to the sky, showing off a Black Lives Matter armband.
Paisner: A show of solidarity by KCJ for BLM.
Javier: Making her way to the ring, from Cardiff, Wales, weighing 200 pounds, Kaaaitlyn Caasey Jones!!!
Crowd: WOOOOOO! K-C-J! K-C-J!
Before entering the ring, Jones takes a knee next to the apron, then gets to her feet and hops on the apron and slides into the ring.
Paisner: She does seem to be less lethargic, I guess KCJ is feeling motivated today by recent events!
Woodbridge: She better be ready for her opponent, because he hasn’t been slowed down by a streak of indifference at any point in his career.
Death to the Hypocrite plays now as Alex Perilmorde now makes his way towards the ring with his eyes set on the ring and on Kaitlyn.
Javier: Now making his way to the ring, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, weighing 213 pounds, Alllexx Perrilllmorde!!
Crowd: WOOO!!!
Peril slides into the ring and is face to face with an unflinching Kaitlyn, and the two don’t budge an inch before Ivan the referee gets in between them and moves them to their respective corners. Now that both competitors have entered the ring and are ready to compete, Javier exits the ring and the ref calls for the bell.
DING DING DING
Perilmorde and Kaitlyn approach each other, Perilmorde with caution, and Kaitlyn without caution as she calmly walks up and the two engage in a lockup that Peril quickly transitions into a wristlock, but Kaitlyn twists the arm and goes behind Peril, now gaining control by wrenching Peril’s arm behind his back. Kaitlyn maintains a grip on Peril’s arm and turns him around while pushing him away, and before pulling him back and throwing him into the air for a Pop Up Spinebuster but Peril manages to leapfrog Kaitlyn and he retreats to the corner stunned!
Paisner: Kaitlyn almost got him with the G.I.A Spinebuster! That would have PLANTED Peril with the sudden elevation he got but somehow he was able to avoid a sudden end by landing behind Kait.
Woodbridge: Peril looks stunned that she pulled that out of nowhere, I’m sure a 10 second victory is what the recently underachieving Kaitlyn was hoping to get but she has a lot to go before she can put down her dangerous opponent.
Perilmorde has regained focus after a moment of recollection against the ropes, and now approaches Kait again as Kait now follows suit with her nonchalant approach before Peril now aggressively lunges and wraps his arms from behind Kait and is able to throw her with a German Suplex that folds her in half!
Crowd: OHHH!!!
Kait now tries to back up into the opposite corner to recollect herself but Perilmorde doesn’t let up and charges with a shoulder block to the gut into the corner! Peril launches a LOUD chop to the chest of Kaitlyn!
Crowd: WOO!!
And another!
Crowd: WOOOO!!
And ANOTHER!
Crowd: WOOOOOOO!!
But Kaitlyn blocks the next chop, grabs the arm, and pulls in Perilmorde with a Short-Arm Lariat! The crowd winces but then begins to stir and get loud as Kaitlyn climbs up to the top rope! She puts up a metal salute, and the crowd gets loud as she now balances herself, focuses on the grounded Perilmorde, and leaps forward but launches the rest of her body backwards into a Shooting Star Press! BUT PERIL GOT HIS KNEES UP!
Crowd: OOOHHHHH!!!
Peril now is up and grabs the legs of Kaitlyn but not to pin, as instead he flips Kaitlyn over and puts her in a Boston crab! Kaitlyn yells out in immediate pain from the submission being wrenched in! But she notices the nearby ropes and attempts to reach out, just within fingertips reach, and can’t quite extend her arm enough! Peril quickly tries to drag Kaitlyn to the middle of the ring while holding onto the legs, but Kaitlyn is able to power her legs and tuck her head under her body and reverse the hold so Perilmorde falls back onto his back and is now pinned by Kait’s legs! The ref drops down!
1!
2!
NO! Kickout!
Peril and Kaitlyn both roll away from each other and then are up to their feet, and Kaitlyn now dashes towards Perilmorde and swings with a wild lariat, but Perilmorde ducks it and is able to, in a one swift motion, hook Kaitlyn’s arm around his shoulders, and lift her legs attempting to drop her back into a suplex but when she is lifted she flips back and lands on her feet! Kaitlyn now backs up into the ropes and picks up speed, now coming off the ropes and Peril leapfrogs the charging Kait, who comes off the opposite ropes now and is almost met with a lifting knee, but Kait slides under the lifted leg of Peril, and speedily jumps up on the shoulders of Peril with a reverse hurricanrana position, but Peril grabs Kait’s legs and swings her around into a powerbomb position!
Perilmorde: KYRIE!...
Paisner: Alex Perilmorde has Kaitlyn in the position for a Kyrie Bomb! Dangerous place to be for Kaitlyn!
Perilmorde gets a running start, but Kait punches Perilmorde and pushes off the shoulders of Peril, lands on her feet, and as Peril turns around he is nailed with a spear!!!
Crowd: OHHHHHH!!!
Woodbridge: OUTTA NOWHERE!
Paisner: Kaitlyn charged with so much quickness but it took a lot out of her to muster that strength, as she now is on the ground next to Peril instead of going for the cover!
Kaitlyn is slowly making it to her feet, and she now sees the grounded Perilmorde and scrambles for the top of the rope again! She declines any theatrics as she comes off the ropes with a shooting star press through the air, but lands on her feet correctly anticipating the knees up again from Perilmorde and now kicks the side of Perilmorde repeatedly! Perilmorde is reeling on the canvass and eventually is against the ropes as Kaitlyn now picks him up by the head and picks him up to his feet! Kaitlyn kicks the midsection again of Perilmorde, but one more kick without her guard up and Peril grabs the leg and dragon whips Kaitlyn through the ropes and out of the ring!
Crowd: OHHH!
Woodbridge Kaitlyn landing on the ground on the outside with a thump! Perilmorde takes a moment to recover in the ring as the referee begins the count. Kaitlyn is also recovering on the outside from the sudden bump and is pulling herself up on the outside of the ring as the count reaches 8. By the time she has lifted herself up to the apron the count is 12 and Perilmorde now attempts to get out of the ring and grab her to bring her back in the ring. But Kaitlyn throws a right hand at Perilmorde! And another, before Peril launches a palm to the face of Kaitlyn! Kaitlyn launches a chop now to Perilmorde, and Perilmorde replies with a chop right back! Kaitlyn chops him back as the ref’s reset count reaches 6 and Peril spins and goes for a discus chop but Kaitlyn ducks and pushes Perilmorde up into the air and delivers a BRUTAL spinebuster on the outside of the ring!
Crowd OOOOHHHHHHHH! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!
Kaitlyn looks exhausted leaning against the ring, but Perilmorde is motionless in the ring as now the count of the referee reaches 11! Kait musters all shes got to roll under the ropes and get in the ring, and a count now reaches 13. It escalates to 14, 15, 16 and Perilmorde is still on the ground, but at 17 he finally moves a muscle but only in his right arm as he clutches at his head.The count reaches 18 now, and the crowd is getting louder and yelling at Perilmorde to get up to his feet but Perilmorde only is able to turn onto his stomach!
Woodbridge: He doesn’t have a clue where he is right now! Give It All from Kaitlyn left him absolutely flattened on the outside!
Perilmorde isn’t able to even get to his hands and knees by the count of 19 and the count reaches 20 as the ref rings for the bell.
DING DING DING
Crowd AWWWWW!
Javier: Your winner, at a time of 6:45, Kaitlyn Casey Jones!
The crowd cheers for Kaitlyn but is disappointed in the ending of the match, but Kaitlyn raises one arm into the air and the crowd cheers for her victory more decisively now.
Woodbridge: It wasn’t the longest match, but it was a swift display from two dangerous individuals of how strong and how capable of punishment the competitors of WiR are.
Paisner: Kaitlyn came fast and hard, and her desire to end the match paid off as she was able to incapacitate Perilmorde for the 20 count on the outside.
Perilmorde has finally came to but is visibly shaken from the impact of the spinebuster. He looks on at Kaitlyn, arm raised in victory, and runs his hands through his hair as he leans against the apron and catches his breath.
Paisner: Kaitlyn ends a recent streak of underachievement here, and Perilmorde unfortunately suffers another loss after his coming up short at Pyramid of Blood against Eddie Skelter. It has yet to be seen how the recently turned good Perilmorde will bounce back.
Woodbridge: There’s no doubt he will, but Kaitlyn came out tonight more determined and headstrong than we’ve seen in a minute. We’ll be back soon, folks.
COMMERCIAL
We return from break, as “Young Cardinals” by Alexisonfire loudly echoes throughout the McMorran Place and boos immediately follow in even louder volume.
Paisner: And there’s the sounds that signal the arrival of some of the most notorious troublemakers in the business. They failed to bring home any gold as a group at Pyramid of Blood, Joey failing his triple threat match for the Independent Championship and Alpha and Nova failing their tag team championship match.
Woodbridge: They definitely did not leave the night without making an impact however, as the WiR Championship Match was heavily interfered with near the end by damn near the entire roster it seemed, including The Young Cards.
Miles Alpha bursts out into the venue with vigor as he hand motions for the crowd to bring on the boos and the crowd obliges and boos them even louder. Alpha turns around only to notice Nova isn’t behind him, and a few seconds pass by before Dalidus Nova walks into the venue holding a half-empty box of local pizza in his hands as he nonchalantly saunters past Miles, looking around at the raucously booing crowd as if it were just another Monday. He begins walking to the ring, followed by Alpha.
Woodbridge: Well, he just doesn’t really seem to give a shit, huh?
Paisner: Not at all.
Alpha eventually outspeeds Nova’s walking pace and Miles jumps to the apron and jumps over the ropes, and he reaches over the opposite ropes and tells a ringside crew to give him 2 mics. Nova now reaches the apron and slowly rolls under, taking great care to keep the box of pizza off the ground as he now rises to his feet. Miles hands Nova a Mic in his free hand and Miles brings his own mic up to his mouth.
Miles: First of all, Joey is banged up right now, so unfortunately, we cannot bless you with his presence in this moment.
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! FUCK THE CARDS! FUCK THE CARDS!
Miles: I know, I know, you hate the card this week because there’s no Miles or Nova in action. I do too, guys.
Crowd: BOOOOOO!!!!!
Miles: But I figured we owe y’all an explanation as to why The Young Cardinals would interfere in the world title match and come to the aid of Kyle and The Red Army.
Crowd: BBBOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Nova now speaks up on the microphone, a mouthful of pizza obstructing his speech.
Nova: FFK U GFYS TFOO!!
Miles: Here’s the deal. As you can clearly tell, we weren’t the only group to form after our previous shows… incident. But what I can tell you is that we are the only group formed who stands for something true, something righteous and worthy.
Nova: THEF FFCKIN WORFKINF FCLAFSS, FBIFTCHES!!!!
Miles: The Working Class is damn right. We, perhaps better than anyone else in this company, understand the plight of the average man-
Crowd: BOOOOOOO! NO YOU DON’T! NO YOU DON’T! NO YOU DON’T!
Miles: And maybe the people would be more sympathetic if they understood what exactly we were able to get done at Pyramid of Blood. Thanks to us, us Working People have a champion that truly represents our struggle, our pain, and our hard hard work!
Nova: swallowing another bite of pizza Yea, Our Hard Work!!!
Crowd: BOOOOO!
Miles: Well, leave it up to Michigan to boo hard work.
Crowd: BBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Dalidus hands the box over to Miles, who looks at the overly-greasy pizza with a hint of disgust. Nova finishes chewing, before raising the microphone.
Nova: Listen up, fucksticks, and look around you! Everywhere in this company, the authorities go out of their way to make life harder for people like Miles and I!
Crowd: BOOOOOOOOO!
Nova: It’s true! It’s true! We deserved a championship rematch against The Stargazers. Team against team, plain and simple. Y’know what we got?
Crowd: WHAT?
Nova: We got SCREWED! Paisner, this disgusting little freak who sees himself as the almighty god of pro wrestling, decided to put Fat Boy and Mason Suckers in our match! And you know what happened?
Crowd: WHAT?
Paisner: Jesus Christ…
Nova: THEY GOT PINNED! We lost our rightful chance at the titles because they lost! We would be the tag team champions right now if it weren’t for Paisner at the rest of the shitty shareholders in this equally shitty company!
Dalidus takes his pizza box back from Miles, as his compatriot begins to speak.
Miles: But it’s not just us! Kyle almost got screwed the exact same way! Why do you think Tyler Dylan, that insufferable little prick, got a shot at the world title? Because Paisner realized that Kyle is a threat to his authority, and decided that anyone, anyone would be a better little lapdog! He’s scared of us, plain and simple. And he SHOULD be, because he knows that we’re going to -
However, before Miles can finish his emphatic statement, Freaky Black Greetings hits the soundsystem!
Woodbridge: Is that…?
Paisner: It is. And for once, I couldn’t be happier.
Buster Braggadocio has arrived in a white suit with red accents, a pick in his hair and a microphone in hand, and a marker tucked behind his ear.
Buster: Would you Young Caucasians shut the HELL up?
Crowd: YEAAAA!!!!
Buster: Oh, you whiteys aren’t off the hook either, believe me. But let’s keep our eye on the prize.
Buster is now making his way towards the ring.
Buster: This company was ROBBED of a non-white champion at Pyramid of Blood! Robbed of our first Brown world champion in this White Supremacist company, because yet again, the fucking hWhite man had to colonialize, pillage, and SCREW over a BoC! That’s a Brotha of Colour, for those clueless white folx at home.
Buster now reaches the apron and hops onto it, turns to the crowd and puts up a black power fist, before turning back to the ring and entering through the second and third rope.
Nova: Woah, woah woah, maybe you didn’t understand what I just said, maybe you’re being an obtuse dickwad on purpose, but the Young Cardinals are the ones being screw-
Buster slaps the pizza box out of Nova’s hand and sends it flying into the crowd!
Crowd: OHHHH!!
submitted by youto2 to wrestlingisreddit [link] [comments]


2020.05.08 15:10 AwesomeMathUse Canada Labour Force Survey April 2020

Source: Statistics Canada
Dated May 8th, 2020

Exceptional times continue in the labour market

Measuring the labour market during this unprecedented period: new indicators introduced


Infographic 1 - Highlights Part 1

Infographic 2 - Highlights Part 2

COVID-19 economic shutdown continues to significantly impact the labour market

Continuing employment losses

Drop in employment is unprecedented


Infographic 3 - Employment changes indexed from beginning of notable downturns, Canada

Large increase in unemployment


Infographic 4 - Unemployment rate increases during economic downturns, Canada, 1976 to 2020

Increase in unemployment driven by temporary layoffs


Infographic 5 - Unemployment inflows and outflows, Canada, six-month moving average, seasonally adjusted

All provinces have been hard-hit


Chart 1 - Employment change by province, February to April 2020

Canada's largest cities face large COVID-19 labour market impacts

Number of solo self-employed little changed, but large drop in hours worked

Most of those who were absent from work were not paid

Summary: more than one-third of the potential labour force underutilized in April

Impact of COVID-19 economic shutdown spreads to the goods-producing sector

Employment losses in goods-producing sector


Chart 2 - Employment variation from February to April 2020, Canada, selected sectors

Employment decreases in both goods and services surpass previous labour market downturns


Chart 3 - Larger employment declines since February 2020 than during any of the last three notable recessions

Employment losses spread to construction and manufacturing

Small businesses facing significant COVID-19 impacts

Continued impact on total hours worked


Chart 4 - Hours worked variation (%), by industry, Canada, February to April 2020, seasonally adjusted

Chart 5 - Hours worked variation (%), by province, February to April 2020, seasonally adjusted

Disruption and adaptation: Changes in work location

An additional 3.3 million Canadians worked from home in April


Infographic 6 - Employment losses have been greater in industries where close physical contact is required and where working from home is less common

Diverse labour market impacts

Vulnerable workers continue to see greatest losses


Chart 6 - Employment change among paid employees by employment characteristic, Canada, February to April 2020, not adjusted for seasonality

Increase in average wages as lower-paid jobs disappear


Chart 7 - Hourly wage distribution shifting as a result of larger employment declines in relatively low-paying industries, Canada, February to April 2020

More people living in families where no one is employed

Just over one in five Canadians live in households reporting difficulty meeting financial obligations

An initial profile of applicants to economic benefit programs

Employment declines the fastest among youth

Employment losses more evenly split between men and women in April


Chart 8 - Employment change by age group and sex, Canada, February to April 2020

Very recent immigrants hit harder by labour market impacts of COVID-19

Few differences observed between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians

Looking ahead: The future of the Canadian labour market

Canadians fear future employment losses

Ongoing job attachment may ease economic recovery

submitted by AwesomeMathUse to econmonitor [link] [comments]


2020.04.20 18:06 daprice82 Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Mar. 18, 2002

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
PREVIOUSLY:
1-7-2002 1-14-2002 1-21-2002 1-28-2002
2-4-2002 2-11-2002 2-18-2002 2-25-2002
3-4-2002 3-11-2002
  • Going into Wrestlemania 18, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the WWF. While the return of the NWO managed to spike a big buyrate for No Way Out and Rock/Hogan is probably gonna be huge for WM buyrates, it hasn't really affected TV ratings in any meaningful way. And this is the big part of the year. That doesn't bode well for the usual decline in business that always comes after Wrestlemania. From here, Dave just spends paragraphs talking about how bad booking over the last year has tanked the company from the peak they were at the previous year and what they should be doing different. And he's not wrong. In retrospect, with 18 years hindsight, pretty much all of this is right on the money. Way back as far as late '97, Dave was pointing out all the cracks starting to form in WCW and was trying to sound the alarm. Here in 2002, he's trying to do the same with WWF and sure enough, he ends up being right. The next two decades have been one continuous slow decline in popularity, for pretty much all the reasons Dave is warning about here. It's all really interesting, but it's not news. It's just business analysis.
  • Which brings us to next week's Wrestlemania. Dave says there's never in the past been a Wrestlemania where the world title match had so little buzz going into it. Jericho as the WWF champion has been rendered completely secondary to the Triple H/Stephanie feud. But as of now, that match is still expected to go on last, even though all the advertising and mainstream publicity for the show is built around the Rock/Hogan match. Even Steve Austin, the biggest PPV draw in company history for the last 4 years, isn't being heavily featured in the promotion of the show (and boy, was he salty about it as it turned out). The NWO angle has pretty much been seen internally as a flop and there's not much further for them to go as a group after the show. After Mania is the brand split, which in theory should freshen things up and lead to some developmental stars being called up. But Austin and Rock are supposed to anchor each show respectively and Rock is expected to take a few months off this summer to film another movie (The Rundown) so that's gonna hurt the star power on whatever show he ends up on.
  • More worrisome is that there have been pay cuts. Several wrestlers were approached this week and asked to take cuts to their downside guarantees. Dave talks about how Vince never wanted to pay anyone guarantees in the first place and only started doing so in 1996 when WCW forced his hand. So far, all the wrestlers asked were developmental stars or former WCW/ECW Alliance members who haven't been used on TV since the Invasion angle ended at Survivor Series. But it's expected more pay cuts are coming, especially for anyone who's contracts are coming due because obviously, no one has any negotiating leverage anymore. Chris Jericho is probably the biggest star who's deal is up for renewal soon and obviously, he's not exactly in a prime spot to play hardball. He's a much bigger star now than he was 3 years ago, so he'll probably still get a raise. But it won't be nearly would he could get if WCW still existed. (For this reason alone, I can't comprehend why anyone would want AEW to fail if you're a wrestling fan. And yet.)
  • The pay cuts seem to be about $25K-per-year each. So for instance, the guys making $125K per year are being cut down to $100K. Then $100K guys down to $75K. Or in the case of the lowest paid guys, the $75K guys are being cut to $52K. WWF tried to soften the blow by saying that if/when these guys start working on TV and working regular house shows, then they start getting merch money and house show cuts and so they'll probably make more than their downside anyway. But anyone who's ever gotten a pay cut knows that's some corporate doublespeak bullshit. With nowhere else to make a living in wrestling, most of these guys are pretty much forced to smile and take it, but needless to say, they aren't happy. These people aren't rich and a $25K-per-year pay cut makes quite a bit a difference. And it's not like WWF needs to do this. They're still very profitable and they just offered the NWO guys monstrously huge contracts. This is just what happens when you have a monopoly on the industry and you don't have to pay your employees fairly. You could. But fuck them, right? (Man, this sure feels prescient in a world where a company light years more profitable now than at any time in its history just fired a bunch of people when they didn't have to.)
  • Oh yeah, back to Wrestlemania preview. Dave runs down all the matches and what we know. Rock, Hogan, and Pat Patterson spent all day together at a gym in Florida last week choreographing their match. Apparently during his comeback house show match with Rikishi in Tampa last week, Hogan broke a rib and tried to keep it secret from everyone, but they found out. He's still expected to work Wrestlemania (he wouldn't miss it under any circumstances) but they're concerned about how much he'll be able to do. Also, because this is Toronto and he's so beloved there, WWF is expecting Hogan to get a huge reaction from the crowd (yeah, that's putting it mildly). Jericho/Triple H on paper should be a great match (they've had some classics together in the past) but the build-up has killed Jericho and the result is a foregone conclusion. Austin/Hall should be fine. UndertakeFlair has had the best build and for storyline reasons, Flair should win. But Dave ain't holding his breath. So on and so forth.
  • Yup, this is definitely a slow news week. Now Dave writes a huge piece on the history of major shows in wrestling and how that led to the birth of Wrestlemania. How Vince gambled everything on the first WM and how closed circuit was such a vital part of the success. Talks about the history of closed circuit with wrestling, with the first national pro wrestling-ish event being broadcast nationally on CCTV was the Inoki/Muhammad Ali match, which featured other wrestling matches on the undercard. The inclusion of Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper were critical to the success of the first Wrestlemania and Roddy Piper's racist promos to Mr. T turned him into an mainstream celebrity along with Hogan. And then WM2 and WM3 and oh god, I'm just realizing as I type this that Dave has written multiple paragraphs about each Wrestlemania. This is fascinating stuff to read as a history buff and I seriously can't recommend it enough if you're subscribed to go read this. But I ain't recapping all that haha.
  • More news on Jerry Jarrett's planned promotion, with the idea of doing $9.95 weekly PPV shows. Jerry and his son Jeff are now both fully involved with this, with the idea that they would be co-owners. Despite rumors, Jerry has denied that Vince Russo is involved in the company, but others are saying he'll be writing for them secretly (as mentioned last week, Time Warner execs only agreed to represent him in his lawsuit with Hulk Hogan if he doesn't work for any other wrestling company, so he can't openly be working with the company). The idea seems to be to pay the wrestlers $1,000 to $2,500 per show and run about 26 shows per year. In the meantime, the wrestlers would be allowed to work any other indies but wouldn't be allowed to work PPV or TV for anyone else. The problem here is the WWA promotion is still trying to gain a foothold in America and they want to use a lot of the same talent and Jeff Jarrett has involvement in both companies. Jeff is reportedly trying to work out an agreement where they can all share stars and get along but Dave says that's problematic when you have two companies using the same guys and trying to book different storylines and run separate PPVs. Jarrett's new company is looking to sign a core group of names to build around and Dave says you damn well better have them signed, because WWF will pluck away anyone who starts to gain any success. Jarrett is said to be interested in signing Scott Steiner, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Mysterio for the new company. Anyway, Dave crunches the numbers and being very conservative, this new company would need to make at least $125,000 per week on PPV just to break even. And that's being optimistic. Once you take out the PPV company's cut, Dave estimates they would need to pull 31,000 buys at least to even think of breaking even. And again, that's being extremely conservative and assuming this company runs an extremely low-cost production. To have something with good production values that can be taken seriously as competition, you'd probably have to do double that. And even with national television, WCW and ECW weren't doing that many PPV buys by the end. So Dave is skeptical that this Jarrett promotion is gonna manage it without any TV. Not to mention, where are they gonna tape? Multiple cities? Gotta promote them and draw crowds. Dave thinks you'd have to heavily paper the crowd. And it takes months for PPV money to come in, which means Jarrett is gonna have to eat all these costs at the start. Basically, this idea is gonna be difficult to pull off (yup. If Panda Energy hadn't bailed them out, they were gonna be dead within the first 6 months under this plan).
  • Big story about how the Vitor Belfort vs. Chuck Liddell fight has been cancelled. Why? Well, Belfort's lawyers sent a letter to UFC officials claiming that the fighter was sick with a malaria-like disease (ended up being dengue fever) and due to the medication he was on, he wasn't able to train properly. Sounds reasonable enough, yeah? Well....turns out Belfort isn't too sick to collect a paycheck in other ways. Belfort is the newest cast member of a Brazilian reality show called "Casa dor Artistas 2" which is basically exactly like Big Brother, in which a bunch of people are locked in this house with no contact to the outside world and are on camera 24/7 online, with daily edited versions airing on TV. So Belfort has now committed to being locked in this house for the next 90 days for a TV show, which means he couldn't make the fight with Liddell, scheduled for May. The winner of that fight was expected to face Tito Ortiz later this year, and Belfort vs. Ortiz is the big fight everyone has been clamoring for, and has already been postponed or canceled two other times (don't end up getting Belfort/Ortiz until 2005, and it ends up being a controversial split decision win for Ortiz).
  • Former Memphis area wrestler The Dream Machine passed away of a heart attack at age 47. Dave says he was possibly the greatest talker of the last 25 years who never made it big nationally. Dave recaps his career in the 70s and 80s, with lots of quotes from Jim Cornette and Jimmy Hart. I pulled up a promo just outta curiosity.
WATCH: Dream Machine cuts a promo on Dutch Mantel from 1981
  • All Japan Women held its first ever show on PPV this week, while facing an uncertain future. AJW is the 3rd longest-running promotion in the world (behind CMLL and WWF) but they've been struggling financially for years. And at the end of this month, they're losing their TV deal with Fuji Network, which has aired their show for 25 years. Anyway, the PPV was fine but something was missing. Manami Toyota, unquestionably the greatest female wrestler to ever live, stole the show in an excellent match, but otherwise, nothing memorable.
  • Kiyoshi Sagawa passed away at age 79 this week. You probably don't know Sagawa's name, but he was the largest shareholder of NJPW and was the founder of Sagawa Kyubin, which is basically Japan's version of FedEx. Sagawa was a billionaire and owned the largest percentage of NJPW stock. He alone owned 40% of the company. It's believed Sagawa's shares will be bequeathed to Antonio Inoki, who currently holds 15%. This would give him Inoki a 55% stake in the company. But Dave doesn't expect much to change because Sagawa always backed Inoki anyway, so it's not like day-to-day is going to be any different.
  • Eddie Guerrero debuted on the latest NJPW tour, teaming with Minoru Tanaka and Black Tiger. It's interesting because several years ago, Guerrero portrayed the role of Black Tiger. This time, it was played by Silver King. During the match, Guerrero and Black Tiger turned heel on their partner and joined their opponents in a 5-on-1 beatdown of Minoru Tanaka. Word is Guerrero looked really good on this tour so far (yeah, he was on fire during this time. Guerrero only works about 10 shows for NJPW on this tour and then WWF re-hires him and the rest is history).
  • Hayabusa is said to have regained feeling in much of his body and can move his left arm somewhat, after suffering the career-ending injury back in October that left him paralyzed.
  • Speaking of, Atsushi Onita and former FMW star Kodo Fuyuki are working an angle together over the dead FMW promotion. At an indie show, Onita came out and accused Fuyuki and FMW general manager Sakichi Nakamura of mismanaging FMW and using the company's money to make themselves rich while allowing the promotion to die. Onita also talked about how they stopped paying Hayabusa's hospital bills and used the money to enrich themselves. This is all leading up to Onita vs. Fuyuki soon, and of course Onita is using Hayabusa's injury as part of his angle. Because Onita is the carniest carny to ever carny.
  • A made-for-TV movie about the life of Nobuhiko Takada and his marriage to TV personality Aki Mukai aired in Japan this week and was a huge ratings hit. Takada of course is a former pro wrestler turned MMA fighter who, frankly, should have stuck to worked fights because his reputation as a shoot fighter has been destroyed time and again in real shoots. He married Mukai, who is the host of a popular morning TV show (she's basically Japan's Katie Couric, Dave says) and she has been battling cancer recently. The movie was a tearjerker story about their inability to have children due to her cancer. The couple is looking to adopt a kid in the U.S. because adoption is apparently extremely difficult in Japan.
  • Dan Severn regained the NWA title from Shinya Hashimoto at a Zero-One show in Japan this week. NWA president Jim Miller was there and a NWA Jersey (and American) referee officiated the match. The match ended with a screwjob finish, with the American ref fast-counting Hashimoto to give Severn the victory, which the fans haaaaaated and Dave thinks pretty well tarnishes whatever legacy the NWA title still has, in the one country where fans still sorta respect that belt. Dave says the idea here is Hashimoto is such a bigger star than Severn that he couldn't feasibly do a clean job to him in his own promotion. But Hashimoto doesn't want to go to America and defend the NWA title on a bunch of tiny indie shows for 100 people either, so he agreed to drop it back to Severn this way.
  • Remember that Matrats promotion Eric Bischoff was involved in that sorta disappeared off the radar? It's not dead! Yet. Bischoff, who hates dirt sheets, thinks they're all lies, and has never confided in Dave Meltzer, did an interview with the Wrestling Observer website this week and talked about the plans for the company. It has been renamed Next Generation Wrestling and Bischoff talked as if they still plan to go into production for a TV series later this summer, but he admitted everything isn't yet finalized. Bischoff said the matches won't have pinfalls or submissions but will instead of have ringside judges awarding points for creativity and execution. Dave doesn't seem to be super on board with this concept (yeah, it goes nowhere).
  • WWA promoter Andrew McManus claimed after the PPV disaster in Las Vegas that he would never again advertise anyone for a show that he doesn't have signed to a contract. So needless to say, the upcoming tour in Australia has names like Sid Vicious, Jeff Jarrett, Road Dogg, Buff Bagwell, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Scott Steiner, Sabu, Juventud Guerrera, and others being promoted. Needless to say, almost none of them have contracts with this company (most of them end up working the shows, but several do not). Speaking of WWA, after claiming they didn't get paid for their appearances at the Vegas show, both Terry Taylor and Larry Zbyszko have now been paid.
  • Sid Vicious is in a commercial for an Alabama chain of restaurants called Jack's Hamburgers. The commercial shows a guy golfing when Sid comes in and slams him. Then it says "some things don't mix, like golf and wrestling" but then it says some things like the new Jack's bacon and cheddar do mix. The commercial ends with the golfer choking Sid with his golf club. I can't find this commercial, so I'm counting on you Wreddit. FIND THIS VIDEO! I need this in my life.
  • Remember the story last week about the confrontation at the WWA show between Bischoff and Juventud Guerrera about a petition in WCW that Guerrera signed to have Bischoff fired? Well Dave has more details. The petition wasn't actually to get Bischoff fired, necessarily. After the incident at Bash at the Beach 2000 with Hogan, naturally, Bischoff took Hogan's side and it led to a big blow-up argument between he and Vince Russo. As a result, Bischoff pretty much walked out and said, "Here, let Russo run it and watch him hang himself." Which, of course, he inevitably did. But the point is, when Bischoff walked out, it looked as if there was going to be yet another power-change in WCW. Several of the wrestlers were fed up with their bosses changing on a monthly basis and never knowing who was in charge. So they put together a petition to give to Brad Siegel, basically asking him to give Russo a fair chance to succeed on his own and to let him remain in power in the wake of the Bischoff/Russo split. Bischoff wasn't even mentioned in the petition, it was mostly just a "don't fire Russo yet" petition. Of course, in siding with Russo to be the one in charge, that meant they were siding against Bischoff being in charge, even if that wasn't explicitly spelled out in the petition. Anyway, it apparently worked. Russo got to remain in power while Bischoff went home again. And then Russo spent the next few months booking himself to be WCW champion and screwing up everything else and within a few months, all those same guys were wishing Bischoff would come back. Anyway, a lot of people at the WWA show thought it was funny that Bischoff lashed out at Guerrera over it, because several other WCW wrestlers at the time, including Scott Steiner, also signed it.
  • XWF's planned house shows for later this month in Michigan and Ohio have been cancelled. Everyone has pretty much been told to sit tight for now until September and have been given hints that a TV deal is imminent. But people have been saying that since this promotion launched (yeah, this obviously never happens. Unbeknownst to anyone, XWF is already dead at this point, they never ran another show).
  • The plan for now (and it could always change again) is that the brand split will finally take place on the 3/25 Raw the week after Wrestlemania. It was originally supposed to be the very next night but they once again pushed it back a week, so that's where we stand for now. Promotional material for the Backlash PPV is already out and references Vince owning Raw and Flair owning Smackdown (and funny enough, it ends up going the other way) and split house shows are already scheduled for April. Dave still hates the draft idea because when guys (like Hurricane, for example) get drafted 28th, that immediately establishes them in the fans eyes as lower-card nobodies. The idea of a brand split is that it will force them to push new people and create new stars, but they've spent so long telling fans that only 3 or 4 guys matter and everyone else is minor talent. Doing a draft where guys get picked way down near the bottom just hurts them more and makes it harder to rebuild them as major players.
  • Notes from Smackdown: Flair had a brawl with Undertaker and during the fight, there was a "fan" played by indie wrestler Paul London who got punched. London also worked a dark match against Perry Saturn at the show. Rock returned, with not a scratch on him after being murderdeathkilled in an ambulance by the NWO a couple weeks ago. Rock challenged Hogan to face him right then and there, but of course that didn't happen because c'mon. Vince isn't crazy enough to take Hogan's first televised WWF match in 8 years and just give it away on free TV less than a week before Wrestlemania, right?
WATCH: Perry Saturn vs. Paul London - 2002
  • Notes from Raw: Dave calls it Raw Is Dog Shit. Oh, this should be fun. Turns out it was literally dog shit. The show was built around Triple H and Stephanie fighting for custody of their dog Lucy and at one point, it pooped on the floor. Stephanie ordered Jericho to walk the dog, because ya know, gotta build up the world champion for his Wrestlemania main event next week. The rest of the show was built around Vince and Flair in a boardroom arguing over ownership of the company with the board of directors. Jericho (while running another errand for Stephanie) accidentally runs over the dog. Riveting television here. They said the dog had a broken leg, which leads Dave to point out that Rock got practically murdered by the NWO a few weeks ago and we never got a medical update on his condition (he just sorta returned and was fine), but we found out about the dog's medical condition just minutes after it happened. As a result, Triple H came out and started attacking Stephanie, pretty much committing spousal abuse while the crowd cheered wildly, leading to Jericho attacking Triple H's quad with a sledgehammer, which would have been a fine angle if it hadn't been proceeded by weeks of making Jericho into Stephanie's whipping boy. And the main event was the 3-on-2 of the NWO vs. Austin & Rock. So yes, turns out Vince is crazy enough to book Hogan's comeback WWF match on a throwaway Raw 6 days before the biggest show of the year on PPV with no buildup whatsoever. It's the first time ever that Hogan and Austin have ever squared off against each other in a match (and it never happened again). Crowd was way into Hogan and Nash as well, since they were in his hometown.
  • There's a Divas special airing on UPN this week and if it does strong ratings, UPN is interested in doing a whole Divas series. Dave suspects that won't hold up long in the ratings. But for what it's worth, the original idea for Smackdown waaaaay back when it was originally conceived was for it to be an all-women's show based around Sable (who was drawing monster ratings for her segments at the time). They even held auditions for new women before scrapping the idea and making it a second show like Raw.
  • WWF's recent show in Japan was supposed to air on the TV-Tokyo network but it got canceled and then the network announced it was cancelling all WWF programming on the station. Turns out there was a big misunderstanding. The entire show was filmed by the network and they planned to broadcast it (with Keiji Muto doing commentary). WWF was under the impression that the show was being filmed only so they could air highlights of it as part of a sports recap show or highlight package (basically just a quick few minutes of clips on the news). WWF didn't approve for this show (a house show without all the bells and whistles) to be aired on TV in full, and when they found out, they contacted the network and said.....hey, uh, no. The network was pissed and in response, they canceled ALL WWF programming, effective immediately. This was the channel that aired Raw and Smackdown and this cancellation completely eliminates WWF's only television exposure in Japan.
  • Speaking of that show, before the event, Antonio Inoki told the media that he hated what WWF had become and expected the show to be a flop. He specifically talked about the Vince McMahon kiss-my-ass club angle, with Jim Ross and William Regal kissing Vince's ass and said that sort of product would never get over in Japan and thus the show would be a failure. As we learned last week, it was actually a HUGE success. In response, Inoki has admitted he was wrong and says that he has lessons he needs to learn from WWF and maybe he shouldn't have been so dismissive of their style. Dave is flabbergasted. He talks about when AAA came to the U.S. in 1993 and outdrew both WWF and WCW by a huge margin for several shows. Can you imagine if Vince McMahon had looked at that and admitted that maybe he could have learned something from it rather than ignoring it? ECW and WCW sure learned from it, and those Lucha Libre stars became a huge part of their success in later years, while WWF still hasn't learned anything from it 9 years later.
  • Nash and Hall are pushing hard for X-Pac to be included in the NWO and most people in the company figure it's inevitable that it will happen because Nash is pretty much undefeated in backstage political battles. He always gets what he wants somehow. Last Dave heard, X-Pac was expected to interfere at Wrestlemania in some fashion and then join the group the next night on Raw (didn't quite happen like that, but close). Lots of people in the locker room aren't happy about it because, for starters, it proves that Nash is still there to politic for his friends. And also, prior to his injury, X-Pac had fallen to a lower-card nobody status. So there's a lot of people not happy that he's expected to return and leap-frog the entire locker room and be put in the main event faction ahead of everyone else because of who his friends are.
  • Mick Foley signed a book deal to publish his first fiction novel, which will be titled "Tietam Brown." It's expected to be out in early 2003 and it's not about wrestling. That's all Dave seems to know so far. Foley is also now the full-time host of TNN's Robot Wars show. Foley was also involved in a TV project that was being shopped around in which he would play a former pro wrestler adjusting to real life now that he's retired. Barry Blaustein, who directed Beyond The Mat, was involved and ABC was interested, but they eventually passed and the idea seems to have died (this is basically what that new Big Show show is on Netflix. The Observer Rewind Curious Timing Effect™ strikes again.).
  • An idea that was pitched for Wrestlemania was for Stephanie to reveal she had been cheating on Triple H with Chris Jericho. Of course, that didn't happen. Dave talks about the Triple H/Kurt Angle storyline from a couple years ago where that almost happened but Triple H nixed it because it wouldn't be "believable" that Stephanie would cheat on him with Kurt Angle....a goddamn Olympic hero and the most legitimately bad ass athlete in the entire company. So of course, it wouldn't make sense for her to cheat on him with Jericho either. Sure, why not?
  • On OVW television, they hinted that Ric Flair will be coming in soon to team with his son David against Prototype and Sean O'Haire. Looks to be scheduled for next month (indeed, this does happen but for the life of me, I can't find video of it).
  • Another note from Eric Bischoff's interview with the Observer website, a dirt sheet website ran by a guy who he definitely never would talk to. Bischoff seems to be angling for a WWF job, saying contrary to popular belief, he wouldn't even ask for that much money to do it. He just wants to do something fun. He said they made him an offer last year, right when the Invasion angle was starting, but said he turned it down because he wasn't in good shape and didn't want to appear on TV. That's the story now. At the time, a year ago, Bischoff denied that he was ever given an offer and said he would never consider working for WWF. Dave says, in Eric's defense, the storyline they pitched last year was horrible and Bischoff was right to turn it down (they wanted him to come in and work a match with Vince at the Invasion PPV, get his ass beat, lose, and then that would be it). Adding Bischoff to the NWO angle now would be the obvious idea, but Dave says "invasion" angles never work in WWF because Vince McMahon doesn't commit to them, so adding Bischoff would likely just be another disappointment added to an already disappointing NWO return.
  • WWF confiscated a "Nash is horrible" sign at the TV tapings this week. Dave doesn't get it. In the past, WWF used to criticize WCW like crazy for "censoring" fans and violating their freedom of expression and all that shit. But then they started doing it too. At first, it was anti-Rock signs that were being taken away, which Dave can kinda understand because he's a top babyface. But Nash is a heel. Don't you want people bringing signs trashing them?
  • Scott Steiner's WWF physical showed several health issues that still need to be addressed before they sign him. The deal isn't dead yet and Steiner could still come in eventually, but that's the situation right now.
  • WWF has reached out to both Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio and talked to them about coming in for the new cruiserweight division. Eddie has been busting his ass on the indies in hopes of getting re-hired while Rey has been working in Puerto Rico as of late.
WEDNESDAY: Fallout from Wrestlemania 18, the Hogan/Rock match, Steve Austin walks out (the first time), Vince McMahon talks about failed plan to bring Bret Hart in for Wrestlemania, and more...
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2020.04.17 16:03 derApfel44 [Hiring] Director, Engineering - Mobility - Sidewalk Labs · New York, NY

Who are we?
Sidewalk Labs is an Alphabet company with a mission to radically improve urban life. We aim to create inclusive, large-scale communities by bringing together an innovative planning approach, products and services designed to address urban challenges, and capital for real estate and advanced infrastructure.
Since our founding in 2015, we've grown into an organization of over 100 employees based primarily in New York and Toronto. Our cross-disciplinary team consists of experts from real estate, urban planning, government, finance, technology, and engineering, among other backgrounds.
To date, we've incubated and invested in multiple companies focused on solving city problems, and we've launched the Sidewalk Toronto project, which aims to create a community along Toronto's waterfront that achieves new standards of sustainability, affordability, and economic opportunity for all.
With the potential to catalyze and scale new models for inclusive growth, our work is both highly exciting and complex. We are working to achieve something unprecedented — help us build it!
What is the role?
In your role as a Director of Engineering, you will be a key leader of Sidewalk Labs’ Engineering team, working to build the products, services, and solutions that can radically improve the lives of city residents and visitors, while protecting user privacy and security. This will involve solving complex computational problems, dealing with messy sources of data, and building systems that scale.
If you’ve ever mused over the origins of a stop-and-start traffic jam, puzzled about how to make a local train run faster, or wondered how a single traffic light can be tuned to help traffic flow freely miles down the road, you might be right for the Sidewalk Labs mobility team.
Mobility technology involves working across software, firmware and custom hardware (though you needn’t be an expert in all three, and we have a hardware team), and developing deep partnerships with our designers, product managers, mobility experts and city partners to deliver products that change the way we move around. This is not a standard software engineering position.
This is a large discipline. Challenges could involve simulating new approaches to make mobility networks run efficiently, building novel sensors that protect the privacy of users, or using the latest in machine learning to extract signals from large data sets while removing all hints of personal information.
This is an ideal position for either a rising leader looking to take the next step up in their career, or a current manager looking to get back to being more hands-on. The role will involve growing and managing a team of engineers and setting technical direction to take early stage ideas to market.
Learn more about this role and apply here
submitted by derApfel44 to NYCjobs [link] [comments]


2020.04.04 22:01 W1ZARD_NARWHAL How to: get the Suns in the playoffs next year, an in-depth analysis

Hey all, there is a good chance you haven't seen my name around here often, I am not on Reddit too often, mostly on Twitter. But anyway, my name is Sean, and today I wanted to take some free time and do an in-depth analysis of the options for the Suns this offseason and what I think would be the best to get them up and over the hump and back into the playoffs next year.
So, get comfy, get some popcorn or something, cause this will be long and (hopefully) interesting.
If you are not up for player analysis, there will be a line with some asterisks to notify where the player analysis ends and team plans begin. Also, I will have dashed lines to break up each of the smaller sections, like each position if you are interested in only a few spots. Though this piece is best appreciated in its entirety in my opinion, get the best context for every move. Do whatever you will enjoy!
To start, I am going to referring to cap and contracts and all sorts of stuff fairly often, so here is a link to the pages where I am getting those numbers:
https://www.basketball-reference.com/contracts/PHO.html
https://www.spotrac.com/nba/contracts/
Now to actually get into it. I plan on breaking down every position and player (excluding two-way and G-League), their contracts, and best available FAs that could fit. Oh, and ones to consider trades for. I will get into full team dynamics and breakdown of a full team picture at the end, when it comes time to add up everything.
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Starting off is the point guards:
Who we have: Ricky Rubio, Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter, Ty Jerome
Who is best available: Fred VanVleet, D.J. Augustin
Ones to consider trading for: Spencer Dinwiddie
Breakdown of who we have:
Ricky Rubio
Contract Info:
20-21: $17m
21-22: $17.8m
Ricky was definitely a huge pickup who made a massive difference this season. He put up averages of 13.1 ppg, 8.9 ast, and 4.6 reb through this shortened season. He played in 55 games as well, and every single one of his major stats this season surpassed his career averages. It was a very good season for him. He brought some much-needed facilitating that Booker needed as well as just being our first seriously serviceable point guard since Bledsoe or Dragic. His only major weakness is his rather subpar shooting averages, especially from long range. Overall, very happy with him and he should be very important for us for the next couple of years.
Elie Okobo
Contract Info:
20-21: $1.66m
21-22: $1.8m (team opt)
Elie, to me, was the most frustrating person on this roster to watch this season. He was the most experienced PG behind Rubio (of a whopping 2 years) and thus earned most of the backup minutes. His numbers were mostly up from his rookie year, excluding points, which can be credited to Rubio and the other PGs taking some of his minutes. But, his stats were still pretty abysmal. He shot under 40% from the field and just barely 35% from three. He lacked a lot of the things you would want in your main backup guard, hence why this position is one of two keys for next season.
Jevon Carter
Contract Info:
None
Jevon was one of my favorite role players to watch whenever he made it on the floor. He averaged just over 15 mpg in 50 games played, which felt like it was too little because he seemed to always bring the most hustle on the court. Though not a talented scorer by any means (4.6 ppg on 51%eFG), he was constantly dogging whoever he was guarding on defense, and posted a 107.2 DEFrtg. I think he does have a spot on the team going forward as the third PG/SG with potential to move up to second one day. He is one piece I hope the teams retains in free agency if it makes financial sense.
Ty Jerome
Contract Info:
20-21: $2.3m
21-22: $2.4m (team opt)
22-23: $4.2m (team opt)
Ty was a somewhat odd case this year. He struggled to get his feet under him, bouncing around between NAZ and PHX a few times. He played well at Virginia, but it seems he is just taking some time to adjust. He was mediocre at best on defense and struggled to get the ball through the basket on the other end (34.9 FG%, 27.7 FG3%). His biggest bright spot seemed to be off the ball. He did a good job helping to space the floor when he was out there. He is a case of just needing time to adjust before you can really make a judgement.
Who is best available:
Fred VanVleet
Previous Contract:
18-19: $9m
19-20: $9m
VanVleet proved himself to be a very, very strong backup to Lowry in TOR, and was important in their Finals win last year. This year, posting 17.6 ppg, 3.8 reb, and 6.6 ast, he has played yet again a crucial role in the Raptor's surprising season. Here is why I think the Suns should make a big push for him: he has proven that he can bring a punch off of the bench and right now, that is probably the Suns' biggest need, as the bench was lackluster on the offensive end at its best. He would bring that punch and spacing that would work great with a reserve lineup (potentially) of Jevon, Mikal, Dario, and Baynes. He also would bring playoff experience and mentality to a budding playoff team. The biggest drawback is the money that would have to be invested, which we will get into later with the second part.
D.J. Augustin
Previous Contract :
16-17: $7.25m
17-18: $7.25m
18-19: $7.25m
19-20: $7.25m
Augustin to me is a very similar player to VanVleet. He has the ability to bring an offensive punch off of the bench. The biggest differences between them at this point is experience and volume. Augustin has the advantage in the experience department, having played since 2008, and could show himself to be somewhat of a mentor to Ty Jerome or Jaylen Lecque. His disadvantage compared to VanVleet though is volume. Augustin has seen slightly decreasing volume the past few years as he is now on the older end of the spectrum for an NBA player. Overall, I think he would be a good, cheaper substitute to VanVleet for that off the bench role.
Ones to consider trading for:
Spencer Dinwiddie
Contract Info:
20-21: $11.4m
21-22: $12.3m (player opt)
Spencer Dinwiddie is someone on a lot of teams' radars at the moment. He is a very good scorer with the ability to get the ball around as well (35.6 AST% as well as 20.6 ppg this season). He would absolutely be the team's sixth man and bring that punch off the bench that I keep mentioning. He would be almost perfect for the position that is needed. The only problem? Have to trade for him. And considering the Nets are in win-now mode, it will likely cost the Suns a core player the likes of Oubre, which would be a stiff price. We will discuss the potential trade scenarios and their worth later.
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Now, after a hefty list at point guard comes a rather sparse position: shooting guard.
Who we have: Devin Booker
Who is best available: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Denzel Valentine
Ones to consider trading for: None
Alright, who we have:
Devin Booker
Contract Info:
20-21: $29.4m
21-22: $31.6m
22-23: $33.8m
23-24: $35.9m
I feel like if you are a Suns fan at all, or even just a fairly tuned in NBA fan, it is not hard to sum up Devin Booker. He is the piece that the team has invested the most in for the future, and is locked in for four years after this season, clearly the cornerstone. At 26.1 ppg and shooting his most efficient numbers of his career, along with 6.6 ast, he is playing his best ball and only getting better as he gets a true supporting cast forming around him, which is why this offseason is so important. He is one of the two or three untouchables on this team.
Who is best available:
Bogdan Bogdanovic
Previous Contract:
17-18: $9.47m
18-19: $9m
19-20: $8.53m
20-21: $10.7m (Qualifying)
So, Bogdan Bogdanovic is the first RFA I am taking a look at. He is a fairly simple player to look at, he is a very pure shooter. Right now, he is shooting 36% on 7.2 3pt attempts per game, bringing him to 14.5 pts along with 3.2 reb and 3.2 ast per game on the season. He takes just shy of 60% of his shots from behind the arc, and would be a nice deep threat for the Suns to pull off the bench, which as I mentioned earlier, the current bench is in severe need for shooting. The two problems I find with him are that he carries a fairly hefty $10.7m qualifying offer, which would chew up a large portion of the Suns' open cap room. The other problem for him right now is his defense, where he is in the negatives. Though he has been trending upward in all of the advanced statistics categories, and would be worth a look if the Suns miss out on some of the other primary targets.
Denzel Valentine
Previous Contract:
16-17: $2.09m
17-18: $2.19m
18-19: $2.28m
19-20: $3.38m
20-21: $4.69 (qualifying offer)
Valentine is an interesting player who saw a bit of decrease in volume this year thanks to a hamstring injury. He also conflicted with head coach Jim Boylen, like numerous other players on the squad. But nonetheless, he has the ability to heat up quick, and though he isn't the greatest shooter, he can score when you need him to. A career 36.6% 3pt shooter, he is capable at both ends of the floor, and at around $4.7m, could be a steal for the Suns. He would fit well with alongside Mikal Bridges, able to bring both defense and offense off the bench.
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After a brief look at the shooting guards, let's move on to the small forwards, possibly the most interesting position for the Suns going into the future.
Who we have: Kelly Oubre, Mikal Bridges
Who is best available: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Derrick Jones Jr., Josh Jackson (just kidding)
Ones to consider trading for: None
Who we have:
Kelly Oubre
Contract Info:
20-21: $14.4m
Oubre has quickly grown to be one of the most loved players in Phoenix with his contagious energy, pushups, headbanging, and more. He is the heart and soul of the Suns right now, which is just as, if not more powerful than anything he can do on the court, which is what makes him so valuable to PHX right now. Looking at his game, he is the most explosive player on the court at almost all times, and averages 18.7 ppg, 6.4 reb and 1.5 ast. An honest candidate for Most Improved Player before being sidelined with a meniscus injury just before the suspension, Oubre is an excellent piece.
Mikal Bridges
Contract Info:
20-21: $4.36m
21-22: $5.56m (team opt)
Mikal is another one of the four core pieces of Phoenix right now. Underrated by just about everyone else, Bridges is a serious defensive threat at all times against any position. (If someone is up for extra credit, I would love to see that clip where he defended four or five different players in one possession and still shut it down) Looking at his averages, he is developing into a dangerous shooter as well after a rough start to the season. Including his rough start, he averages 8.7 ppg, 4 reb, and 1.4 ast on 51% FG and 35.2% 3PT. Also, he averages 1.4 steals a game, 18th in the league (Ricky Rubio is up above him at 13th with 1.5). I could gush about Bridges for a while, but any Suns fan understands, and any non-Suns fans reading this, keep an eye on this kid.
Who is best available:
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Previous Contract:
19-20: $2.5m
Hollis-Jefferson is an intriguing case. He was playing solid minutes in Brooklyn before switching over to Toronto this season on a 1 year deal, where he has averaged 7.2 ppg, 4.9 reb and 1.7 ast in around 19 minutes per game. He is a solid two point shooter, averaging over 47%, but a horrendous three point shooter, at under 12%. But, his upside is that he is a solid defender and has the ability to be the Suns backup in the case that the Suns go with some Oubre-Mikal starting lineups. He is an alright role player who comes with a small price tag, and would be a good pickup if the Suns have room, though by no means a high priority target.
Derrick Jones Jr.
Previous Contract:
18-19: $1.51m
19-20: $1.65m
Derrick Jones Jr. is one that fans will remember if they were around during the dark times of 16-17 and 17-18. He is the last guy who represented Phoenix at a dunk contest. Jones was one player that I have wondered on a couple occasions why the Suns let go, as he is very explosive and packed with power. Well, after a few years of developing in Miami under Spoelstra, Jones has become much more efficient, shooting over 51% from from the field, and 67% on 2s. He is a capable defender, able to use his speed and length against opponents. He could be worth putting a small contract towards, as his price is low right now and could pay off as a nice third SF behind Oubre and Bridges.
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Power forward is the other important spot that the Suns really need to find a way to fill this offseason.
Who we have: Dario Saric, Cam Johnson
Who is best available: Jerami Grant, Christian Wood, Davis Bertans, Kostas Antetokounmpo (hear me out)
Ones to consider trading for: Lauri Markkanen
Who we have:
Dario Saric
Contract info:
None
Dario was a nice pickup from the Sixers last year, and produced well in his starting role. My biggest issue with him was the unbelievable amounts of layups he missed, and often with very poor timing. Other than that, he filled his role as best as he could. Overall, he produced a little less than he did in Philly or Minnesota, but still put up 10.1 ppg, 5.9 reb and 1.9 ast. He could be worth bringing back next year at the right price, and only if the team fails to get another significant PF.
Cam Johnson
Contract Info:
20-21: $4.24m
21-22: $4.44m (team opt)
22-23: $5.89m (team opt)
Cam had himself a nice rookie year after having to deal with injury issues that kept him out a handful of games in the winter, shooting 39.7% from three. That is mostly what he is for now, a three point shooter. He has plenty of time to develop, and could become a serious offensive threat with some time and training, so he could be very valuable soon. He does need to work on his defense and speed, because he is a liability on that end at this point, but again, he has time to work on that.
Who is best available:
Jerami Grant
Previous Contract:
18-19: $8.65m
19-20: $9.35m
20-21: $9.35m (player opt)
Grant is one of my two ideal players for this spot and top three overall targets for the Suns in my opinion. He has been playing well in Denver, putting up 11.6 ppg, 3.5 reb and 1.2 ast while backing up Paul Millsap, along with shooting 40% from three. He is a versatile player who plays both solid offense and capable defense. I think he could slide right into the Suns' offense alongside Ayton, or in the second rotation if the Suns go with the Oubre-Bridges lineup I mentioned earlier. Absolutely worth going out of the way forward, he looks to have solid potential on this team.
Christian Wood
Previous Contract:
18-19: $1.51m
19-20: $1.65m
Wood has garnered himself quite the fanbase in Detroit in his just one year of play there, similar to that of Bridges it seems, and for good reason. He maintained a lot of his much improved numbers he acquired playing for New Orleans year before last, even with much more competition for the ball with Drummond and Griffin. Wood averaged 13.1 ppg, 6.3 reb and 1 ast this year and posting a 3.5 Offensive Box Plus/Minus, which is higher than even Devin Booker's 3.1 for context. He has a great deal of potential and All-Star aspirations, and is the other PF that is in my top three targets for the Suns this offseason.
Davis Bertans
Previous Contract:
18-19: $7m
19-20: $7m
Bertans has turned into the player that I hope and believe Cam Johnson can become. A high volume 3pt shooter, at 42.4% on the year on 8.7 attempts a game. This led him to 15.4 ppg along with 4.5 reb and 1.7 ast. He was the Wizards' second deadliest shooter behind Beal, and would work wonders for the Suns with his ability to force defenders to either leave the interior unguarded or sacrifice the three, which would open up countless opportunities for Ayton in the paint. While third on the list for PFs (side note: the players were not ordered by need, just the order I thought of them in, the PFs just happen to work out that way kind of), he would absolutely be a good pickup for the Suns. And honestly, if the Suns go with Wood, who would carrier a smaller contract than Grant, they could sacrifice a backup PG to really flesh out the PF, but I will get into those scenarios further on.
Kostas Antetokounmpo
Previous Contract:
19-20: $79,568
Kostas has not had time to develop as a player much yet, and garnered next to no stats in the league this year for the Lakers, as he was on a two way contract that had him in the G-League most of his time. But, there is one major plus in picking him up. If you haven’t gotten it yet, here is a hint: his name starts with Gi and ends in nnis. If you haven't split your sides laughing at the ridiculity of this idea, just hear me out. Any possible attempt to lure the Greek Freak to the Valley is absolutely worth our time, almost no matter the cost. And acquiring a brother of his is a small, but powerful, chip to hold. One of my biggest goals for the Suns next season is to not only make the playoffs, but do good enough to at least get Giannis at the table to talk. It may seem like trying to throw a Hail Mary in the midst of a hurricane, but if there is a chance here, take it. #Giannis2PHX
Ones to consider trading for:
Lauri Markkanen
Contract Info:
17-18: $3.82m
18-19: $4.54m
19-20: $5.3m
20-21: $6.73m
21-22: $9.03 (qualifying offer)
Lauri Markkanen is another Bull who had some issues with Coach Boylen and the front office this year, and there is rumors that Chicago could look to shop him around soon. He is a 7 footer who can shoot the lights out when he needs to, he shot 34.4% from the arc this year. Some optimistic scouts have said he looks like he could be a Dirk-like player, and though it is unlikely he will reach that ceiling, that seems to be a risk worth taking. As to what it would take to get him to the valley of the sun, it is likely Chicago would want something along the lines of at least Cam Johnson and a pick, maybe a fairly protected first.
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On to the final position before we get into the final analysis, the centers.
Who we have: Aron Baynes, Frank Kaminsky, Deandre Ayton, Cheick Diallo
Who is best available: Javale McGee, Nerlens Noel
Ones to consider trading for: None
Who we have:
Aron Baynes
Contract Info:
None
Aron Baynes, the man, the myth, the legend. He has proved to be a very good pickup this year, even though he had a long stretch in the winter, he started the season fantastic in the absence of Ayton and has various explosive spurts like he did against the Blazers a few weeks ago with 37 pts, 16 reb and 9 3pt. He also has shown himself to be valuable as a teacher for the team, with the whole of the defense seeming tougher with him around, especially Deandre Ayton. I think if he agrees to a team friendly deal, he would be worth keeping around for sure. Also want to keep him for the memes. (Small flex here lol: UABFC follows me)
Frank Kaminsky
Contract Info:
20-21: $5m (team opt)
Frank Kaminsky, though frustrating at times with both him and Dario missing layups, ultimately served a important role before his stress fracture that sidelined him indefinitely. He filled that starting role during the Ayton suspension and injury when Baynes was also hurt and put up 11 pts, 4.9 reb, and 2.2 ast. If Baynes departs, his role will expand again and will be very important next year, but if healthy, can step up to the plate.
Deandre Ayton
Contract Info:
20-21: $10m
21-22: $12.6m
Deandre Ayton, despite his suspension to open the season and ankle issues, played fantastic. He is becoming the player Suns fans were hoping to get before our eyes. Last year, it was clear that he got his offensive game into gear, but had lots of work to do on defense. He accomplished that this year, while also improving on offense as well. He is the final piece of the untouchables for the future because the big man has the potential to be one of, if not the best big man in the league at his peak. Posting 19 ppg, 12 reb, and 1.7 ast, along with 1.7 blocks, Ayton continues to improve and will be key in the franchise far into the future.
Cheick Diallo
Contract Info:
20-21: $1.82m (team opt)
Diallo was only given a limited sample size this year. Given that he had three other guys ahead of him on the depth chart, that is to be expected, but he still made his time worth it. He shot over 65% from the field and posted a higher than average efficiency rating of 16.3. He was a serviceable backup whenever the team was having issues at the center (often) , and if it makes sense monetarily, would be worth keeping in the absence of either Baynes or Kaminsky.
Who is best available:
Javale McGee
Previous Contract:
19-20: $4m
20-21: $4.2m (player option)
The 2x champ has shown how valuable he can be to good teams, both this year on the Lakers and during his term with Golden State. McGee has averaged 6.8 ppg, 5.8 reb and 1.5 blocks in his 61 starts this season, which was lower than some of his career numbers, but that can easily be factored out to his corresponding twin tower, Anthony Davis. His length and strength make him a force in the paint and would be a good fit alongside Deandre Ayton in the absence of Aron Baynes this upcoming season. He would be able to continue to provide a veteran presence that clearly showed its payoff this season.
Nerlens Noel
Previous Contract:
19-20: $2.03m
Noel had a rather rocky start to his career, couldn't hold up to expectations during The Process in Philly (#6 pick in 2013) and had some injury issues, but has flown under the radar and is underrated now. This year, has saw a massive jump in his efficiency numbers while serving as Stephen Adams' backup in OKC. He shot over 68% (!) from the field as well as putting up 68.7% eFG. He made the most of his minutes on the court, and should be worth a look from the Suns depending on how this position shifts in the offseason, which we will start getting into next.
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Potential Trades:
Alright, now that we have glanced over all current players and potential targets, we can get into the actual plan of everything. You will have noticed that I suggested only a couple of potential trades, and that was for a reason. Phoenix has a really great core four players in Booker, Bridges, Oubre and Ayton. All of them played fantastic this year and look to be the team's future going forward. With that, other teams have taken notice, and Oubre or Bridges are likely to garner a lot of trade interest this upcoming offseason and season. So, the reason I did not bring up a lot of trades is that many are likely to want one of the four core pieces that are vital going forward.
Trade 1: Spencer Dinwiddie
Like I mentioned a moment ago, the team needs to try to keep their four core pieces together and this trade is the significantly harder of the two to do that. The Nets are obviously focused on getting a trophy right now with Kyrie, Durant and Jordan as their main pieces at the moment, so with rumors beginning to swirl around Dinwiddie, they are looking around. For Phoenix, this means a great opportunity to pick up an excellent backup for Rubio that would shore up most of the Suns' bench needs. For the Nets though, they could be losing two of their SG/SFs in Wilson Chandler and Joe Harris this offseason, which would mean there is one player on the Suns roster that would fix that for them and fit well in their win now mentality: Kelly Oubre. Now this goes against keeping the core, but if anyone is to move in the core, I would think it to be Kelly Oubre. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of this trade though.
Pros: Suns fill major bench needs and gain a very valuable scorer, Dinwiddie also come with a $3m discount over Oubre, opening up space for potential other FAs.
Cons: Oubre is the heart and soul of the Suns, as I said, and his attitude and swagger are irreplaceable. On top of that, it would leave the team with only Bridges at SF with very limited options at both SG and PF to fill in.
Overall, the only reason Phoenix should make a trade like is if they completely strike out this offseason, missing on other key player like VanVleet or D.J. Augustin.
Trade 2: Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen and the trade scenarios around him are interesting. There is two ways I could see the trade going: with just Markkanen coming alone, and paired with a PG. This trade was something that James Jones could have looked harder at around the trade deadline, as the Bulls seem like nearly perfect trade partners to fill the Suns' holes at backup PG and PF.
The first of two situations for Phoenix: Lauri Markkanen on his own. My proposition for this trade: Cam Johnson and the 2020 1st round pick. I think this works for both sides because Phoenix gets to bring in an established 7 foot shooter to fill the starting PF role for at least a couple of years at a good price, and Chicago gets to get rid of one of the players that the front office has been conflicting with and bring in an easygoing shooter that can step right into their offense and take over a good deal of the shooting that they would miss with Markkanen. And on top of that, they will get a late lottery pick in the draft (10th most likely) in a rather shallow draft that I do not think the Suns will worry about too much if they can fill this. Before you get mad at me in the comments, I do think this is a bit of a steep price for the Suns that could be talked down to possibly two seconds, but no less than that. It would solve one of the two needs, and possibly long term, so it could be worth it. But this is definitely up for negotiation.
The second of the two options is more involved and actively goes after both of the Suns need. The trade: Lauri Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky for Cam Johnson, Ty Jerome, Frank Kaminsky, and a 2020 second round pick (Pistons). This trade would fill in the blanks for the Suns while also compensating the Bulls with two young talents and a veteran in Kaminsky for a year, along with a high second round pick, all while opening up cap for them as well. This would add a net of around $6m to the Suns books, which would still leave room to resign or sign a few role players while giving a serviceable guard and the forward that I've talked about. I think Chicago may want more out of this potentially, so this could, and probably would be worked up some, maybe the Suns take on some cap like Christian Felicio ($7.5m). However it works out, this trade could work to a major benefit for the Suns.
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The Plan
Alright, after 4900 words of setup, we reach the climax of this essay: the actual plan itself. If you have kept up with me all the way to this point, thank you. I want to start this section with the absolutely ideal version of this plan. The hardest part of this all is going to be the estimations of what the FAs will command, an unknown, so I will be doing my best with what I can find and come up with.
But first, we have to take a quick look at the books to figure out exactly how much room the Suns have going into the future. For this upcoming offseason, the projected cap is at $115m, and the Suns have $91.7m locked in with three FAs coming out: Carter, Baynes and Saric. So, that leaves $23m to work with, which is a good deal of room. So, what exactly is the plan then?
What is ideal:
Resignings:
The Suns had a good season, and worked together much better than they had in past years. I think keeping a large part of the roster the same going into next year would be beneficial, with one possible exception: Dario Saric. Though I enjoyed how he played and think he could be valuable, I think the price tag that he earned ( will be too much for the Suns to realistically take and still be able to achieve.
Baynes, as said, was a valuable veteran presence that, when healthy, made a sizeable difference on the court. Coming off a $5.4m year, the 33 year old will likely maintain, if not slightly upgrade his salary thanks to his good season. If I am James Jones, I would think about a 2-year, $10.4m deal for the big man, $5.4m in 20-21, and $5.0m in 21-22. With that deal, the Suns are left with $18.17m
For Jevon Carter, a small upgrade and a short term deal make sense. I would suggest a 2 year, $4.7m deal with a team option on the second year. $2.3m the first year, $2.4m the second. This could be an undercut as to what he could earn elsewhere possibly, but it is worth putting out there. If he takes this deal, that leaves the Suns with $15.87m.
Now for the team options, Frank Kaminsky and Cheick Diallo. Barring Baynes departs, the Suns do not have a particularly high need for either of these guys, and Frank's $5m tag seems high. I think, to be safe, it is a good idea to pick up Diallo's, but for the sake of the cap for next season, to let Frank go in favor of some other FAs. So, with Frank out, that puts PHX's cap space before outside FAs at $20.87m.
Free Agents:
Fred VanVleet is the toughest of the group to go for. He is also the best. So, he will obviously command the most money in this situation. Looking at projections, he is likely to ask for something similar to Malcolm Brogdon, who signed a four year, $85m deal with Indiana. So that would be a little over $21m a year, which instantly wipes away all of the available cap room. So sadly, I don't think this would work out without a lot of complications or going well over the cap in order to fill other spots. This point guard spot is looking to be something that is covered in the draft, which I will get to.
Denzel Valentine is someone who I think could be a useful backup to Booker. He does not bring the pure scoring power, but has the ability to play well at both ends of the floor. Valentine is a RFA, with a qualifying offer of $4.69m, could turn out to be an underrated grab in my opinion, and if the Suns do indeed pull him in, would leave the team with $16.18m for the remaining three positions.
Power forward becomes the most important spot to fill with the departure of Saric in this scenario. This should be where a large chunk of the budget that remains should go to two players: Christian Wood and Jerami Grant. Grant, who has a player option for next season, will be able to pull in more than the $9.35m available if he goes into free agency. An offer to put out there for him would be 3 years, $37.5m, with the first year at $11.5m, the second at $12.5m and the final year a player option with $13.5m. After this deal, the team would have $4.68m for our last player on the list, Christian Wood.
Wood would (haha) be a great player to take the final spot for the Suns and round out the roster. This is where the Suns go over the cap though, because Detroit, his current team, has the ability to offer $9.7m with his Early Bird rights, and this is where I had to begin digging deep into NBA "capology" to figure this out, because if it is done, I am confident Phoenix will be in the playoffs in 2021. So as someone who is not super familiar with how going above the caps work, and am still a little bit confused, please feel free to correct me as needed. For Wood, the team could use their mid-level exception on him, allowing for a salary of $9.7m in 20-21, and 5% increases in salary over the next two seasons. That would put the final cap total at -$5.02m for next season.
Draft:
Just a quick section about drafts before closing out. With the Suns projected around pick 10, it would be best for them to look at point guards like Tyrese Haliburtion of Iowa State, Cole Anthony of UNC, and Killian Hayes of France since, as I talked about, our best available options, like VanVleet, will be out of the reasonable price range.
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Conclusion:
So, with everyone listed out and the money worked out, here is the final roster:
PG: Rubio, Haliburton/Hayes/Cole, Jerome, Carter, Okobo
SG: Booker, Valentine
SF: Oubre, Bridges
PF: Grant, Wood, Johnson
C: Ayton, Baynes, Diallo
I think, if healthy, this team fully has the capability to make the playoffs. I think most positions get an upgrade or at the least stay around the same as this year, with the biggest improvement at PF.
If you think there is anything you would do differently, if I got anything wrong that I need to correct, critiques, or just whatever, I am glad to talk about it in the comments or through messaging. This is the first time I have ever written something even close to this size, and I really hope it was at least interesting even if you don't agree with all the choices I made. I would really appreciate if you share it, if you feel like. Thanks for reading!
submitted by W1ZARD_NARWHAL to nba [link] [comments]


2020.04.04 21:59 W1ZARD_NARWHAL How to: get the Suns in the playoffs next year, a in-depth analysis

Hey all, there is a good chance you haven't seen my name around here often, I am not on Reddit too often, mostly on Twitter. But anyway, my name is Sean, and today I wanted to take some free time and do an in-depth analysis of the options for the Suns this offseason and what I think would be the best to get them up and over the hump and back into the playoffs next year.
So, get comfy, get some popcorn or something, cause this will be long and (hopefully) interesting.
If you are not up for player analysis, there will be a line with some asterisks to notify where the player analysis ends and team plans begin. Also, I will have dashed lines to break up each of the smaller sections, like each position if you are interested in only a few spots. Though this piece is best appreciated in its entirety in my opinion, get the best context for every move. Do whatever you will enjoy!
To start, I am going to referring to cap and contracts and all sorts of stuff fairly often, so here is a link to the pages where I am getting those numbers:
https://www.basketball-reference.com/contracts/PHO.html
https://www.spotrac.com/nba/contracts/
Now to actually get into it. I plan on breaking down every position and player (excluding two-way and G-League), their contracts, and best available FAs that could fit. Oh, and ones to consider trades for. I will get into full team dynamics and breakdown of a full team picture at the end, when it comes time to add up everything.
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Starting off is the point guards:
Who we have: Ricky Rubio, Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter, Ty Jerome
Who is best available: Fred VanVleet, D.J. Augustin
Ones to consider trading for: Spencer Dinwiddie
Breakdown of who we have:
Ricky Rubio
Contract Info:
20-21: $17m
21-22: $17.8m
Ricky was definitely a huge pickup who made a massive difference this season. He put up averages of 13.1 ppg, 8.9 ast, and 4.6 reb through this shortened season. He played in 55 games as well, and every single one of his major stats this season surpassed his career averages. It was a very good season for him. He brought some much-needed facilitating that Booker needed as well as just being our first seriously serviceable point guard since Bledsoe or Dragic. His only major weakness is his rather subpar shooting averages, especially from long range. Overall, very happy with him and he should be very important for us for the next couple of years.
Elie Okobo
Contract Info:
20-21: $1.66m
21-22: $1.8m (team opt)
Elie, to me, was the most frustrating person on this roster to watch this season. He was the most experienced PG behind Rubio (of a whopping 2 years) and thus earned most of the backup minutes. His numbers were mostly up from his rookie year, excluding points, which can be credited to Rubio and the other PGs taking some of his minutes. But, his stats were still pretty abysmal. He shot under 40% from the field and just barely 35% from three. He lacked a lot of the things you would want in your main backup guard, hence why this position is one of two keys for next season.
Jevon Carter
Contract Info:
None
Jevon was one of my favorite role players to watch whenever he made it on the floor. He averaged just over 15 mpg in 50 games played, which felt like it was too little because he seemed to always bring the most hustle on the court. Though not a talented scorer by any means (4.6 ppg on 51%eFG), he was constantly dogging whoever he was guarding on defense, and posted a 107.2 DEFrtg. I think he does have a spot on the team going forward as the third PG/SG with potential to move up to second one day. He is one piece I hope the teams retains in free agency if it makes financial sense.
Ty Jerome
Contract Info:
20-21: $2.3m
21-22: $2.4m (team opt)
22-23: $4.2m (team opt)
Ty was a somewhat odd case this year. He struggled to get his feet under him, bouncing around between NAZ and PHX a few times. He played well at Virginia, but it seems he is just taking some time to adjust. He was mediocre at best on defense and struggled to get the ball through the basket on the other end (34.9 FG%, 27.7 FG3%). His biggest bright spot seemed to be off the ball. He did a good job helping to space the floor when he was out there. He is a case of just needing time to adjust before you can really make a judgement.
Who is best available:
Fred VanVleet
Previous Contract:
18-19: $9m
19-20: $9m
VanVleet proved himself to be a very, very strong backup to Lowry in TOR, and was important in their Finals win last year. This year, posting 17.6 ppg, 3.8 reb, and 6.6 ast, he has played yet again a crucial role in the Raptor's surprising season. Here is why I think the Suns should make a big push for him: he has proven that he can bring a punch off of the bench and right now, that is probably the Suns' biggest need, as the bench was lackluster on the offensive end at its best. He would bring that punch and spacing that would work great with a reserve lineup (potentially) of Jevon, Mikal, Dario, and Baynes. He also would bring playoff experience and mentality to a budding playoff team. The biggest drawback is the money that would have to be invested, which we will get into later with the second part.
D.J. Augustin
Previous Contract :
16-17: $7.25m
17-18: $7.25m
18-19: $7.25m
19-20: $7.25m
Augustin to me is a very similar player to VanVleet. He has the ability to bring an offensive punch off of the bench. The biggest differences between them at this point is experience and volume. Augustin has the advantage in the experience department, having played since 2008, and could show himself to be somewhat of a mentor to Ty Jerome or Jaylen Lecque. His disadvantage compared to VanVleet though is volume. Augustin has seen slightly decreasing volume the past few years as he is now on the older end of the spectrum for an NBA player. Overall, I think he would be a good, cheaper substitute to VanVleet for that off the bench role.
Ones to consider trading for:
Spencer Dinwiddie
Contract Info:
20-21: $11.4m
21-22: $12.3m (player opt)
Spencer Dinwiddie is someone on a lot of teams' radars at the moment. He is a very good scorer with the ability to get the ball around as well (35.6 AST% as well as 20.6 ppg this season). He would absolutely be the team's sixth man and bring that punch off the bench that I keep mentioning. He would be almost perfect for the position that is needed. The only problem? Have to trade for him. And considering the Nets are in win-now mode, it will likely cost the Suns a core player the likes of Oubre, which would be a stiff price. We will discuss the potential trade scenarios and their worth later.
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Now, after a hefty list at point guard comes a rather sparse position: shooting guard.
Who we have: Devin Booker
Who is best available: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Denzel Valentine
Ones to consider trading for: None

Alright, who we have:
Devin Booker
Contract Info:
20-21: $29.4m
21-22: $31.6m
22-23: $33.8m
23-24: $35.9m
I feel like if you are a Suns fan at all, or even just a fairly tuned in NBA fan, it is not hard to sum up Devin Booker. He is the piece that the team has invested the most in for the future, and is locked in for four years after this season, clearly the cornerstone. At 26.1 ppg and shooting his most efficient numbers of his career, along with 6.6 ast, he is playing his best ball and only getting better as he gets a true supporting cast forming around him, which is why this offseason is so important. He is one of the two or three untouchables on this team.
Who is best available:
Bogdan Bogdanovic
Previous Contract:
17-18: $9.47m
18-19: $9m
19-20: $8.53m
20-21: $10.7m (Qualifying)
So, Bogdan Bogdanovic is the first RFA I am taking a look at. He is a fairly simple player to look at, he is a very pure shooter. Right now, he is shooting 36% on 7.2 3pt attempts per game, bringing him to 14.5 pts along with 3.2 reb and 3.2 ast per game on the season. He takes just shy of 60% of his shots from behind the arc, and would be a nice deep threat for the Suns to pull off the bench, which as I mentioned earlier, the current bench is in severe need for shooting. The two problems I find with him are that he carries a fairly hefty $10.7m qualifying offer, which would chew up a large portion of the Suns' open cap room. The other problem for him right now is his defense, where he is in the negatives. Though he has been trending upward in all of the advanced statistics categories, and would be worth a look if the Suns miss out on some of the other primary targets.
Denzel Valentine
Previous Contract:
16-17: $2.09m
17-18: $2.19m
18-19: $2.28m
19-20: $3.38m
20-21: $4.69 (qualifying offer)
Valentine is an interesting player who saw a bit of decrease in volume this year thanks to a hamstring injury. He also conflicted with head coach Jim Boylen, like numerous other players on the squad. But nonetheless, he has the ability to heat up quick, and though he isn't the greatest shooter, he can score when you need him to. A career 36.6% 3pt shooter, he is capable at both ends of the floor, and at around $4.7m, could be a steal for the Suns. He would fit well with alongside Mikal Bridges, able to bring both defense and offense off the bench.
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After a brief look at the shooting guards, let's move on to the small forwards, possibly the most interesting position for the Suns going into the future.
Who we have: Kelly Oubre, Mikal Bridges
Who is best available: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Derrick Jones Jr., Josh Jackson (just kidding)
Ones to consider trading for: None

Who we have:
Kelly Oubre
Contract Info:
20-21: $14.4m
Oubre has quickly grown to be one of the most loved players in Phoenix with his contagious energy, pushups, headbanging, and more. He is the heart and soul of the Suns right now, which is just as, if not more powerful than anything he can do on the court, which is what makes him so valuable to PHX right now. Looking at his game, he is the most explosive player on the court at almost all times, and averages 18.7 ppg, 6.4 reb and 1.5 ast. An honest candidate for Most Improved Player before being sidelined with a meniscus injury just before the suspension, Oubre is an excellent piece.
Mikal Bridges
Contract Info:
20-21: $4.36m
21-22: $5.56m (team opt)
Mikal is another one of the four core pieces of Phoenix right now. Underrated by just about everyone else, Bridges is a serious defensive threat at all times against any position. (If someone is up for extra credit, I would love to see that clip where he defended four or five different players in one possession and still shut it down) Looking at his averages, he is developing into a dangerous shooter as well after a rough start to the season. Including his rough start, he averages 8.7 ppg, 4 reb, and 1.4 ast on 51% FG and 35.2% 3PT. Also, he averages 1.4 steals a game, 18th in the league (Ricky Rubio is up above him at 13th with 1.5). I could gush about Bridges for a while, but any Suns fan understands, and any non-Suns fans reading this, keep an eye on this kid.
Who is best available:
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Previous Contract:
19-20: $2.5m
Hollis-Jefferson is an intriguing case. He was playing solid minutes in Brooklyn before switching over to Toronto this season on a 1 year deal, where he has averaged 7.2 ppg, 4.9 reb and 1.7 ast in around 19 minutes per game. He is a solid two point shooter, averaging over 47%, but a horrendous three point shooter, at under 12%. But, his upside is that he is a solid defender and has the ability to be the Suns backup in the case that the Suns go with some Oubre-Mikal starting lineups. He is an alright role player who comes with a small price tag, and would be a good pickup if the Suns have room, though by no means a high priority target.
Derrick Jones Jr.
Previous Contract:
18-19: $1.51m
19-20: $1.65m
Derrick Jones Jr. is one that fans will remember if they were around during the dark times of 16-17 and 17-18. He is the last guy who represented Phoenix at a dunk contest. Jones was one player that I have wondered on a couple occasions why the Suns let go, as he is very explosive and packed with power. Well, after a few years of developing in Miami under Spoelstra, Jones has become much more efficient, shooting over 51% from from the field, and 67% on 2s. He is a capable defender, able to use his speed and length against opponents. He could be worth putting a small contract towards, as his price is low right now and could pay off as a nice third SF behind Oubre and Bridges.
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Power forward is the other important spot that the Suns really need to find a way to fill this offseason.
Who we have: Dario Saric, Cam Johnson
Who is best available: Jerami Grant, Christian Wood, Davis Bertans, Kostas Antetokounmpo (hear me out)
Ones to consider trading for: Lauri Markkanen

Who we have:
Dario Saric
Contract info:
None
Dario was a nice pickup from the Sixers last year, and produced well in his starting role. My biggest issue with him was the unbelievable amounts of layups he missed, and often with very poor timing. Other than that, he filled his role as best as he could. Overall, he produced a little less than he did in Philly or Minnesota, but still put up 10.1 ppg, 5.9 reb and 1.9 ast. He could be worth bringing back next year at the right price, and only if the team fails to get another significant PF.
Cam Johnson
Contract Info:
20-21: $4.24m
21-22: $4.44m (team opt)
22-23: $5.89m (team opt)
Cam had himself a nice rookie year after having to deal with injury issues that kept him out a handful of games in the winter, shooting 39.7% from three. That is mostly what he is for now, a three point shooter. He has plenty of time to develop, and could become a serious offensive threat with some time and training, so he could be very valuable soon. He does need to work on his defense and speed, because he is a liability on that end at this point, but again, he has time to work on that.
Who is best available:
Jerami Grant
Previous Contract:
18-19: $8.65m
19-20: $9.35m
20-21: $9.35m (player opt)
Grant is one of my two ideal players for this spot and top three overall targets for the Suns in my opinion. He has been playing well in Denver, putting up 11.6 ppg, 3.5 reb and 1.2 ast while backing up Paul Millsap, along with shooting 40% from three. He is a versatile player who plays both solid offense and capable defense. I think he could slide right into the Suns' offense alongside Ayton, or in the second rotation if the Suns go with the Oubre-Bridges lineup I mentioned earlier. Absolutely worth going out of the way forward, he looks to have solid potential on this team.
Christian Wood
Previous Contract:
18-19: $1.51m
19-20: $1.65m
Wood has garnered himself quite the fanbase in Detroit in his just one year of play there, similar to that of Bridges it seems, and for good reason. He maintained a lot of his much improved numbers he acquired playing for New Orleans year before last, even with much more competition for the ball with Drummond and Griffin. Wood averaged 13.1 ppg, 6.3 reb and 1 ast this year and posting a 3.5 Offensive Box Plus/Minus, which is higher than even Devin Booker's 3.1 for context. He has a great deal of potential and All-Star aspirations, and is the other PF that is in my top three targets for the Suns this offseason.
Davis Bertans
Previous Contract:
18-19: $7m
19-20: $7m
Bertans has turned into the player that I hope and believe Cam Johnson can become. A high volume 3pt shooter, at 42.4% on the year on 8.7 attempts a game. This led him to 15.4 ppg along with 4.5 reb and 1.7 ast. He was the Wizards' second deadliest shooter behind Beal, and would work wonders for the Suns with his ability to force defenders to either leave the interior unguarded or sacrifice the three, which would open up countless opportunities for Ayton in the paint. While third on the list for PFs (side note: the players were not ordered by need, just the order I thought of them in, the PFs just happen to work out that way kind of), he would absolutely be a good pickup for the Suns. And honestly, if the Suns go with Wood, who would carrier a smaller contract than Grant, they could sacrifice a backup PG to really flesh out the PF, but I will get into those scenarios further on.
Kostas Antetokounmpo
Previous Contract:
19-20: $79,568
Kostas has not had time to develop as a player much yet, and garnered next to no stats in the league this year for the Lakers, as he was on a two way contract that had him in the G-League most of his time. But, there is one major plus in picking him up. If you haven’t gotten it yet, here is a hint: his name starts with Gi and ends in nnis. If you haven't split your sides laughing at the ridiculity of this idea, just hear me out. Any possible attempt to lure the Greek Freak to the Valley is absolutely worth our time, almost no matter the cost. And acquiring a brother of his is a small, but powerful, chip to hold. One of my biggest goals for the Suns next season is to not only make the playoffs, but do good enough to at least get Giannis at the table to talk. It may seem like trying to throw a Hail Mary in the midst of a hurricane, but if there is a chance here, take it. #Giannis2PHX
Ones to consider trading for:
Lauri Markkanen
Contract Info:
17-18: $3.82m
18-19: $4.54m
19-20: $5.3m
20-21: $6.73m
21-22: $9.03 (qualifying offer)
Lauri Markkanen is another Bull who had some issues with Coach Boylen and the front office this year, and there is rumors that Chicago could look to shop him around soon. He is a 7 footer who can shoot the lights out when he needs to, he shot 34.4% from the arc this year. Some optimistic scouts have said he looks like he could be a Dirk-like player, and though it is unlikely he will reach that ceiling, that seems to be a risk worth taking. As to what it would take to get him to the valley of the sun, it is likely Chicago would want something along the lines of at least Cam Johnson and a pick, maybe a fairly protected first.
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On to the final position before we get into the final analysis, the centers.
Who we have: Aron Baynes, Frank Kaminsky, Deandre Ayton, Cheick Diallo
Who is best available: Javale McGee, Nerlens Noel
Ones to consider trading for: None

Who we have:
Aron Baynes
Contract Info:
None
Aron Baynes, the man, the myth, the legend. He has proved to be a very good pickup this year, even though he had a long stretch in the winter, he started the season fantastic in the absence of Ayton and has various explosive spurts like he did against the Blazers a few weeks ago with 37 pts, 16 reb and 9 3pt. He also has shown himself to be valuable as a teacher for the team, with the whole of the defense seeming tougher with him around, especially Deandre Ayton. I think if he agrees to a team friendly deal, he would be worth keeping around for sure. Also want to keep him for the memes. (Small flex here lol: UABFC follows me)
Frank Kaminsky
Contract Info:
20-21: $5m (team opt)
Frank Kaminsky, though frustrating at times with both him and Dario missing layups, ultimately served a important role before his stress fracture that sidelined him indefinitely. He filled that starting role during the Ayton suspension and injury when Baynes was also hurt and put up 11 pts, 4.9 reb, and 2.2 ast. If Baynes departs, his role will expand again and will be very important next year, but if healthy, can step up to the plate.
Deandre Ayton
Contract Info:
20-21: $10m
21-22: $12.6m
Deandre Ayton, despite his suspension to open the season and ankle issues, played fantastic. He is becoming the player Suns fans were hoping to get before our eyes. Last year, it was clear that he got his offensive game into gear, but had lots of work to do on defense. He accomplished that this year, while also improving on offense as well. He is the final piece of the untouchables for the future because the big man has the potential to be one of, if not the best big man in the league at his peak. Posting 19 ppg, 12 reb, and 1.7 ast, along with 1.7 blocks, Ayton continues to improve and will be key in the franchise far into the future.
Cheick Diallo
Contract Info:
20-21: $1.82m (team opt)
Diallo was only given a limited sample size this year. Given that he had three other guys ahead of him on the depth chart, that is to be expected, but he still made his time worth it. He shot over 65% from the field and posted a higher than average efficiency rating of 16.3. He was a serviceable backup whenever the team was having issues at the center (often) , and if it makes sense monetarily, would be worth keeping in the absence of either Baynes or Kaminsky.
Who is best available:
Javale McGee
Previous Contract:
19-20: $4m
20-21: $4.2m (player option)
The 2x champ has shown how valuable he can be to good teams, both this year on the Lakers and during his term with Golden State. McGee has averaged 6.8 ppg, 5.8 reb and 1.5 blocks in his 61 starts this season, which was lower than some of his career numbers, but that can easily be factored out to his corresponding twin tower, Anthony Davis. His length and strength make him a force in the paint and would be a good fit alongside Deandre Ayton in the absence of Aron Baynes this upcoming season. He would be able to continue to provide a veteran presence that clearly showed its payoff this season.
Nerlens Noel
Previous Contract:
19-20: $2.03m
Noel had a rather rocky start to his career, couldn't hold up to expectations during The Process in Philly (#6 pick in 2013) and had some injury issues, but has flown under the radar and is underrated now. This year, has saw a massive jump in his efficiency numbers while serving as Stephen Adams' backup in OKC. He shot over 68% (!) from the field as well as putting up 68.7% eFG. He made the most of his minutes on the court, and should be worth a look from the Suns depending on how this position shifts in the offseason, which we will start getting into next.
*************************************************************************************
Potential Trades:
Alright, now that we have glanced over all current players and potential targets, we can get into the actual plan of everything. You will have noticed that I suggested only a couple of potential trades, and that was for a reason. Phoenix has a really great core four players in Booker, Bridges, Oubre and Ayton. All of them played fantastic this year and look to be the team's future going forward. With that, other teams have taken notice, and Oubre or Bridges are likely to garner a lot of trade interest this upcoming offseason and season. So, the reason I did not bring up a lot of trades is that many are likely to want one of the four core pieces that are vital going forward.

Trade 1: Spencer Dinwiddie
Like I mentioned a moment ago, the team needs to try to keep their four core pieces together and this trade is the significantly harder of the two to do that. The Nets are obviously focused on getting a trophy right now with Kyrie, Durant and Jordan as their main pieces at the moment, so with rumors beginning to swirl around Dinwiddie, they are looking around. For Phoenix, this means a great opportunity to pick up an excellent backup for Rubio that would shore up most of the Suns' bench needs. For the Nets though, they could be losing two of their SG/SFs in Wilson Chandler and Joe Harris this offseason, which would mean there is one player on the Suns roster that would fix that for them and fit well in their win now mentality: Kelly Oubre. Now this goes against keeping the core, but if anyone is to move in the core, I would think it to be Kelly Oubre. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of this trade though.
Pros: Suns fill major bench needs and gain a very valuable scorer, Dinwiddie also come with a $3m discount over Oubre, opening up space for potential other FAs.
Cons: Oubre is the heart and soul of the Suns, as I said, and his attitude and swagger are irreplaceable. On top of that, it would leave the team with only Bridges at SF with very limited options at both SG and PF to fill in.
Overall, the only reason Phoenix should make a trade like is if they completely strike out this offseason, missing on other key player like VanVleet or D.J. Augustin.

Trade 2: Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen and the trade scenarios around him are interesting. There is two ways I could see the trade going: with just Markkanen coming alone, and paired with a PG. This trade was something that James Jones could have looked harder at around the trade deadline, as the Bulls seem like nearly perfect trade partners to fill the Suns' holes at backup PG and PF.
The first of two situations for Phoenix: Lauri Markkanen on his own. My proposition for this trade: Cam Johnson and the 2020 1st round pick. I think this works for both sides because Phoenix gets to bring in an established 7 foot shooter to fill the starting PF role for at least a couple of years at a good price, and Chicago gets to get rid of one of the players that the front office has been conflicting with and bring in an easygoing shooter that can step right into their offense and take over a good deal of the shooting that they would miss with Markkanen. And on top of that, they will get a late lottery pick in the draft (10th most likely) in a rather shallow draft that I do not think the Suns will worry about too much if they can fill this. Before you get mad at me in the comments, I do think this is a bit of a steep price for the Suns that could be talked down to possibly two seconds, but no less than that. It would solve one of the two needs, and possibly long term, so it could be worth it. But this is definitely up for negotiation.
The second of the two options is more involved and actively goes after both of the Suns need. The trade: Lauri Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky for Cam Johnson, Ty Jerome, Frank Kaminsky, and a 2020 second round pick (Pistons). This trade would fill in the blanks for the Suns while also compensating the Bulls with two young talents and a veteran in Kaminsky for a year, along with a high second round pick, all while opening up cap for them as well. This would add a net of around $6m to the Suns books, which would still leave room to resign or sign a few role players while giving a serviceable guard and the forward that I've talked about. I think Chicago may want more out of this potentially, so this could, and probably would be worked up some, maybe the Suns take on some cap like Christian Felicio ($7.5m). However it works out, this trade could work to a major benefit for the Suns.
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The Plan
Alright, after 4900 words of setup, we reach the climax of this essay: the actual plan itself. If you have kept up with me all the way to this point, thank you. I want to start this section with the absolutely ideal version of this plan. The hardest part of this all is going to be the estimations of what the FAs will command, an unknown, so I will be doing my best with what I can find and come up with.
But first, we have to take a quick look at the books to figure out exactly how much room the Suns have going into the future. For this upcoming offseason, the projected cap is at $115m, and the Suns have $91.7m locked in with three FAs coming out: Carter, Baynes and Saric. So, that leaves $23m to work with, which is a good deal of room. So, what exactly is the plan then?
What is ideal:
Resignings:
The Suns had a good season, and worked together much better than they had in past years. I think keeping a large part of the roster the same going into next year would be beneficial, with one possible exception: Dario Saric. Though I enjoyed how he played and think he could be valuable, I think the price tag that he earned ( will be too much for the Suns to realistically take and still be able to achieve.
Baynes, as said, was a valuable veteran presence that, when healthy, made a sizeable difference on the court. Coming off a $5.4m year, the 33 year old will likely maintain, if not slightly upgrade his salary thanks to his good season. If I am James Jones, I would think about a 2-year, $10.4m deal for the big man, $5.4m in 20-21, and $5.0m in 21-22. With that deal, the Suns are left with $18.17m
For Jevon Carter, a small upgrade and a short term deal make sense. I would suggest a 2 year, $4.7m deal with a team option on the second year. $2.3m the first year, $2.4m the second. This could be an undercut as to what he could earn elsewhere possibly, but it is worth putting out there. If he takes this deal, that leaves the Suns with $15.87m.
Now for the team options, Frank Kaminsky and Cheick Diallo. Barring Baynes departs, the Suns do not have a particularly high need for either of these guys, and Frank's $5m tag seems high. I think, to be safe, it is a good idea to pick up Diallo's, but for the sake of the cap for next season, to let Frank go in favor of some other FAs. So, with Frank out, that puts PHX's cap space before outside FAs at $20.87m.

Free Agents:
Fred VanVleet is the toughest of the group to go for. He is also the best. So, he will obviously command the most money in this situation. Looking at projections, he is likely to ask for something similar to Malcolm Brogdon, who signed a four year, $85m deal with Indiana. So that would be a little over $21m a year, which instantly wipes away all of the available cap room. So sadly, I don't think this would work out without a lot of complications or going well over the cap in order to fill other spots. This point guard spot is looking to be something that is covered in the draft, which I will get to.
Denzel Valentine is someone who I think could be a useful backup to Booker. He does not bring the pure scoring power, but has the ability to play well at both ends of the floor. Valentine is a RFA, with a qualifying offer of $4.69m, could turn out to be an underrated grab in my opinion, and if the Suns do indeed pull him in, would leave the team with $16.18m for the remaining three positions.
Power forward becomes the most important spot to fill with the departure of Saric in this scenario. This should be where a large chunk of the budget that remains should go to two players: Christian Wood and Jerami Grant. Grant, who has a player option for next season, will be able to pull in more than the $9.35m available if he goes into free agency. An offer to put out there for him would be 3 years, $37.5m, with the first year at $11.5m, the second at $12.5m and the final year a player option with $13.5m. After this deal, the team would have $4.68m for our last player on the list, Christian Wood.
Wood would (haha) be a great player to take the final spot for the Suns and round out the roster. This is where the Suns go over the cap though, because Detroit, his current team, has the ability to offer $9.7m with his Early Bird rights, and this is where I had to begin digging deep into NBA "capology" to figure this out, because if it is done, I am confident Phoenix will be in the playoffs in 2021. So as someone who is not super familiar with how going above the caps work, and am still a little bit confused, please feel free to correct me as needed. For Wood, the team could use their mid-level exception on him, allowing for a salary of $9.7m in 20-21, and 5% increases in salary over the next two seasons. That would put the final cap total at -$5.02m for next season.
Draft:
Just a quick section about drafts before closing out. With the Suns projected around pick 10, it would be best for them to look at point guards like Tyrese Haliburtion of Iowa State, Cole Anthony of UNC, and Killian Hayes of France since, as I talked about, our best available options, like VanVleet, will be out of the reasonable price range.
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Conclusion:
So, with everyone listed out and the money worked out, here is the final roster:
PG: Rubio, Haliburton/Hayes/Cole, Jerome, Carter, Okobo
SG: Booker, Valentine
SF: Oubre, Bridges
PF: Grant, Wood, Johnson
C: Ayton, Baynes, Diallo
I think, if healthy, this team fully has the capability to make the playoffs. I think most positions get an upgrade or at the least stay around the same as this year, with the biggest improvement at PF.
If you think there is anything you would do differently, if I got anything wrong that I need to correct, critiques, or just whatever, I am glad to talk about it in the comments or through messaging. This is the first time I have ever written something even close to this size or scale, and I really hope it was at least interesting even if you don't agree with all the choices I made. I would really appreciate if you share it, if you feel like. Thanks for reading!
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2020.04.04 17:52 InfernoAA Athena Part 1: Goddess of War

Ember Moon suffered a ruptured Achilles injury on the September 24th edition of SmackDown last year, suspending her from in-ring for an indefinite period of time. Having previously found success in the WWE as NXT Women’s Champion in 2017/18, she hasn’t done anything of note since arriving on the main roster. Due to the timing of her injury, she was left undrafted in the WWE Draft 2019, her future in the company uncertain. This booking will follow her return to the ring and her subsequent year competing, and will begin on the black-and-gold brand, NXT.

It is currently August, and the landscape of the women’s division has shifted considerably in the past few months. At the Takeover scheduled to take place in June, Rhea Ripley lost her NXT Women’s Championship to Io Shirai. The Kabuki Warriors ran into some complications with their title reign, but ultimately recaptured the Women’s Tag Team Championships and have held tightly onto the belts ever since. Toni Storm became a permanent member of the NXT USA brand, slowly becoming more and more desperate to capture the one title on Wednesday Nights that has alluded her. Meanwhile, Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai shifted over to the NXT UK brand, their rivalry continuing across the pond, quickly headed on a collision course over the brand’s top title.

NXT Takeover: Boston TD Garden August 22nd, 2020
In an epic rematch from their match one year ago in Toronto, Io Shirai defends her NXT Women’s Championship against Candice LeRae, once again coming out on top, as LeRae loses only her second title match since signing with the company in 2018. The Joshi Judas celebrates in the centre of the ring, title dangling from her arms, a sick smile of elation painted on her face as she flashes 3 fingers for the crowd to see, signalling the fact that she’s gone 3 straight against LeRae in singles action without taking a loss. As the audience lament over what has just transpired, a masked figure sporting a hoodie and jeans races through the crowd, causing attention to shift to the lone individual, murmurs spurring them on. They jump the barricade and pounce onto the top turnbuckle to the chagrin of the security, who bolt to stop the stranger, but they are too late as the figure stands poised to strike. Shirai is too busy rejoicing to notice the difference in the atmosphere, and so, from out of nowhere, she feels two hands grasp her head and yank it down against a shoulder blade, before experiencing herself flying through the air and crashing back down onto the mat, taking a rough bump, whilst her title clatters against the mat. The figure reaches down, slowly picking up something which they haven’t in over 2 years, eyes fixated on the glimmering gold. They pull down their hold and rip off their mask to reveal… EMBER MOON!

Almost one year since getting injured, the Shenom is standing inside a WWE ring, title clasped in her grasp, as if having taken a trip in a time machine to return herself to the glory days of her title reign. She looks much different since the last time she was seen on TV though, red locks replaced by chrome and noir strands, yet still has that same blood red hue in her irises, not straying from her roots. The crowd shower her with adulation, but she doesn’t respond, perhaps caught up in her memories of gold. From the corner of her eye, she notices someone struggling to stand up, supported by the ropes. She smirks to herself, nodding, and tosses the title to the side, turning to face Candice LeRae. Without a single moment of hesitation, she lashes out at LeRae, dropping her with a Roundhouse Kick, echoes of surprise sounding in the arena as a stoic Moon returns to pick the title back up, holding it above her head, forming her signature hand gesture with her free hand, but not with the usual inviting smile.

NXT August 26th, 2020
On the Takeover fallout show, a backstage interviewer is seen outside of GM William Regal’s office, a muffled conversation taking place inside. As silence settles in, Ember Moon emerges from inside, immediately throwing up a hand at the camera, snapping ‘Save it’, a cold demeanour radiating from the War Goddess as she continues on her transect off into the distance.

Later in the show, she is seen warming up backstage, performing stretches. However, she isn’t the only one there, the camera angle picking up someone watching in the corner, resting against the wall. “Ember Moon”, they call out, prompting Moon to spin around to identify who’s called her name. “So you’re the former NXT Women’s Champion everyone’s been buzzing about since Saturday… The name’s Toni Storm, pleasure to meet you.” Storm approaches Moon, extending a hand, but Moon backs away, responding, “I don’t do those.”, as she pushes Storm’s hand away. “Aye, best of luck on your match tonight, I’ll be watching,” responds Storm, grinning. Moon shakes her head muttering under her breath something inaudible, before walking out through the curtain into the bright lights of Full Sail University for the first time in over 2 years.

Despite the attack on Saturday, there are still resounding cheers for The Shenom as she makes her way to the ring, the crowd excited to have her back in the black-and-gold brand, overlooking what she did at Takeover. Moon, however, expresses no such mutual response back, strutting to the ring with purpose. She heads to her corner, staring across the ring at her opponent for the night, Jessi Kamea. As soon as the bell rings, she bolts out of her corner, dropping Jessi with a Dropkick, knocking her into the corner, before handspringing in for a Stinger Splash. She sweeps out Jessi’s legs from underneath her, crushing her against the turnbuckle with a Running Corner Meteora. She tosses her into the centre of the ring with a Butterfly Suplex, before flattening her with a Senton. Grabbing her by the hair, she yanks her back up to her feet, scaling the turnbuckles to finish off her dazed foe… Moon pauses, instead returning to the canvas to the confusion of all in attendance. Flashing a grim expression, she drops Jessi with a Scoop Slam, before turning her over, front pinned against the canvas as Moon grabs both wrists and rests a foot on Jessi’s back. In one, clean motion, she stomps her against the mat, following up by locking in a Rings of Saturn! Jessi immediately taps out, as Mauro Ranallo reveals that Moon has dubbed this new submission finisher ‘Blood Moon’, showing unease in his words, seeing a clear change in the Moon he used to know, a much more remorseless approach displayed in this match.

As Moon stands tall in the ring, the cameras cut backstage to show Storm standing by a TV, smiling as she watches Moon pose on the top turnbuckle, before walking away, seemingly satisfied.

NXT September 2nd, 2020
Moon is seen backstage once again, stretching out her muscles, until she’s interrupted by the same backstage interviewer from last week, requesting for a moment to talk. Moon rolls her eyes, nodding to allow the interview to ensue. “Ember Moon, first of all, welcome back to NXT! Last week, we saw… a different side to you as you wrestled with much more aggression, debuting a new finisher, Blood Moon. Why have you chosen to return to-”.

“Let me cut you off right there… different side? No, this is the real Ember Moon, always has been, always will be. And before you continue with your predictable question, let me put everyone on notice… I’m not here to pander to the fans and walk out with a smile every night, being the ‘team player’. I’ve done that for far too long on RAW and SmackDown… I’m here to wrestle and win, and I’ll do so how ever I please. Now… what was your question? Why am I here? Why are you here? You don’t even deserve to work here! Everyone here has become so entitled ever since moving to Live TV… Whether we’re on USA or not, this is my division! I’m the Goddess here, and if anyone has a problem with that… prepare for war. Io… don’t even kiss that title goodbye, I want it back clean.”

As Moon begins walking away, Storm appears from around the corner with a smile, catching up to Moon as the Shenom tries to get away. “Hey Ember, congrats on the win last week! Quite the performance, I must say… Anyway, you should pay attention to my match tonight. Maybe the former NXT Women’s Champions can learn a couple tricks from the former NXT UK Women’s Champion …”.

Moon shrugs her off, heading to the locker room to gather her stuff and leave, not scheduled for anything for the night. She is seen later in the night, about to exit the building, suitcase trundling along, only to pause as she hears the TV above her, tilting her head up to catch Storm hitting Aliyah with a Storm Zero for the win. Her expression doesn’t change in the slightest as she continues on her way, unbothered by Storm’s victory.

NXT September 9th, 2020
Moon has her second in-ring showcase since returning, this time facing off against Kacy Catanzaro. Once again, it is an academic dismantling, as Moon cuts Catanzaro down to size, Kacy putting up somewhat of a fight through her athletic prowess, only to fall victim to Blood Moon, Moon getting the victory.

As she’s shown gathering her belongings and leaving the building like last week, not staying any longer than she’s required, she pauses, before calling out, “What do you want?”, spinning around to lock eyes with Storm, who’s leaning against the same wall. She stands up straight, asking Moon, “So, did you watch my match last week? (*Moon glares at her*) Okay, no need to be so moody 24/7. You know what I want. My eyes are locked on the same prize as you. We’ve both been winning dominantly; we should team up and take out the rest of the competition. Maybe even become Women’s Tag Team Champs! What do you say?”. Storm prepares to extend her hand, but remembers Moon leaving her hanging last time, and holds herself back. Moon responds with a tone of cold disdain, becoming more irritated by the week, retorting, “No.”, before continuing on her way out. The cameras cut to Storm, who’s smirking slyly, whispering to herself, “Oh, don’t you worry Ember, it isn’t up to you to decide…”.

NXT September 16th, 2020
Regal is pacing about inside his office, thoughts disrupted by a firm knocking on the door, followed by Ember Moon entering the room. “When’s my title match?”. Regal responds, stating, “Look Ember, I’m truly happy having you back in NXT, but you of all people should know that attacking the champion doesn’t earn you anything. You’re a former Women’s Champion, and you got there by earning a shot, so there will be no handouts from me.”

“First off, excuse me? You of all people should know I’m nothing like any of the girls in the locker room… I’m the War Goddess! I deserve to have my title back. After all, why else would I have returned? RAW and SmackDown are beyond saving. You told me I’m welcome back in NXT whenever I want, that NXT is my family! Well clearly, a bunch of jokes have taken over my house, and I want it back! If you’re not going to give me the title shot I deserve, then give me someone who’s worthy of stepping into the ring me.”

As Regal opens his mouth to speak, he’s interrupted once again, this time by Candice LeRae, returning for the first time since her defeat at Takeover. “Give me Ember,” she requests through gritted teeth, wanting revenge for the humiliation in Boston. Moon gives LeRae a cold stare, before pushing past her on her way out of the office. Regal confirms the match for next week as Moon walks off, Storm displayed in the background eavesdropping on the conversation, smirking.

NXT September 23rd, 2020
Prior to the match, Storm is seen begging Moon to let her accompany her to ringside, promising to make sure Candice doesn’t cheat. Moon pushes past her too, instead heading out for her match, squaring off against LeRae for the first time since their indie days. 10 minutes into the bout, as they enter the closing moments, Storm walks out from the back, watching the action pan out from the ramp. As Moon prepared for a Springboard manoeuvre, she came to a halt, landing back down in the ring, yelling at Storm to leave her alone, before turning around into a Swinging Neckbreaker for a near fall. LeRae goes for a Quebrada, only for Moon to come in from behind and send her crashing onto the apron on her neck, which was injured in her match against Shirai. Moon capitalises on the opportunity, glaring at Storm as she takes LeRae back into the ring, locking in the Blood Moon for the tapout victory, fuming post-match at how she almost lost because of Storm distracting her.

NXT September 30th, 2020
Moon is seen talking to Regal once again, pointing out how she beat LeRae, the former #1 Contender for the title, believing that she deserves to get her shot now. Instead, Regal announces a #1 Contender 4-Way for the night’s main event, with the winner facing Shirai the following week, consisting of Moon, Shotzi Blackheart, Deonna Purrazzo, and… Just as he’s about to announce the final name, Storm bursts into the office, begging Regal to be put into the match, promising not to disappoint, thus, Regal confirms her as the final participant, Storm winking at Moon as she leaves.

The four women vie for the title opportunity set to take place on NXT’s Anniversary on the USA Network next week. Moon sets herself far above her opponents, taking the fight to each and every one of them… except Storm, hinting at a potential relationship between them, or perhaps just Moon wanting to stay away from Storm after being stalking by her for weeks. Storm offers to team up with Moon on multiple occasions, Moon dodging her each time, focused solely on winning the match. However, Storm continues to break up Moon’s pinfall attempts, realising that if Moon isn’t going to help her, she’ll just have to do it on her own. In the end, as Moon prepares to put the knees to Purrazzo, Blackheart is perched on the top rope, trying to take out Moon from behind with a surprise Diving Senton, only for Storm to push Moon out of the way, taking it for herself. Moon is taken aback for a moment, only to be tossed out of the ring along with Storm by Blackheart, leaving Shotzi to finish off The Virtuosa with a Tiger Suplex, winning the title shot, as Moon looks at Storm furiously, the Kiwi returning an apologetic shrug.

NXT October 7th, 2020
Moon is pacing about with ire outside of Regal’s office, seemingly a common place for her to be seen at now. Storm casually enters the scene, reaching out to put a hand on Moon’s shoulder, able to empathise with her pain of losing the shot. Suddenly, Moon snaps, grabbing Storm’s hand and yelling, “I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU!”, tossing her into Regal’s door, before raining down lefts and rights as Storm hopelessly tries to cover up. Regal storms out of his office, fuming, “WHAT IS ALL THE COMMOTION ABOUT?!”. As he notices Moon walking away from the scene, the War Goddess acting as if nothing happened, he exclaims, “What has gotten into you?! Do you want a suspension?!”. Weakly, Storm croaks, “Give her to me next week in the ring.”. “If you’re even cleared for then… Move along now Ember, you’ve done enough.”, Regal affirms. Moon brushes it off, leaving behind Storm being tended to by the medical team, checking up on her status, with Regal burying his face in his hands, disappointed in Moon. Later in the night, Shirai retains her title.

NXT October 14th, 2020
Not wasting any time, Moon and Storm kick off the show in the ring, Storm’s shoulder still slightly compromised after the assault, the week of rest not fully healing her pain. Moon capitalises on the target early, firing off with clubbing forearms and sharp elbows. She backs Storm into the corner, performing a Handspring, presumably setting up an elbow or splash, Storm tensing up as she braces herself for impact… only for Moon to land on her feet and uncork a vicious slap across Storm’s face upon her removing her guard. Moon continues to act condescendingly towards her foe, shoving and kicking her, proving her dominance. However, Storm isn’t out of it yet, connecting with a sickening Headbutt, before flooring Moon with a German Suplex, tanking the pain in her shoulder upon impact with the canvas. She goes for the cover, but Moon kicks out. Realising that there’s not much she can do with her advantage, too battered to get Moon up for any more big moves, Storm gives Moon a chance to recover, whilst trying to fill her head with thoughts of how great a team they could be. Moon isn’t buying it though, rearing up to strike, only to collapse back down to the mat upon feeling cold steel connect with the back of her head.

Io Shirai struck Moon in the back of her head with the NXT Women’s Championship! Not done though, she prepares to inflict further punishment on Moon in order to get revenge from Boston. As she prepares to strike though, Storm leaps in defence of Moon, ducking under a title aimed for her head, tossing Shirai with a German Suplex too, her shoulder feeling as if it’s on fire. Shirai high-tails from the ring with her gold, clutching it close to her chest as Storm tends to Moon, making sure she’s fine. Storm returns Moon to seated position whilst Shirai poses on the ramp with the belt, but as the champ leaves, Moon pushes Storm away, not wanting her help, instead opting to stagger backstage, collapsing on the ramp once, only to get back up and continue, a concerned Storm watching on from the ring.

NXT October 21st, 2020
Shirai cuts a promo on Moon, mostly ranting in Japanese about Moon attacking her in a cowardly fashion in Boston, before closing off in English stating that she wants her revenge against Moon in the ring, no title on the line though since Moon hasn’t done anything to earn it. Moon comes out to accept, only for Storm to also make her way out to interrupt the proceedings, mic in hand. “Hold on, hold on. Before Moon gets to accept your challenge… we never got to finish our match last week because of you, so you’re not one to talk about cowardly attacks. Now we’ll never know who the better performer is… but what we do know is that I still had a chance to win that match… so perhaps it is me after all. Maybe it should be me facing the champion instead… After all, I’ve already beaten her in the Mae Young Classic Finals… (*Moon rage begins to bubble above the surface of her skin*) Hey, don’t take your anger out on me. If you’re not going to work together with me, chasing that title, then I’ll just have to take it myself. (*Storm continues into the ring, mic still in hand*) Ya know… the offer is still on. There’s two of us, 1 of her… what’d ya say we double-team her?”.

Shirai bursts out into laughter, only to quickly realise that the two women facing her aren’t laughing with her, but rather, hungry to tear her apart. Frantically, she backs into the ropes, fumbling around her mic, responding, “Hey! No double-team… I have a better idea…”. Shirai gives them with a devilish grin as they look at her confused. Out from the back run out… The Kabuki Warriors! The Tag Champs deck Moon and Storm from behind, the three champs now laying into them, Sane flooring Storm with an Interceptor, whilst Asuka comes face-to-face with Moon, the Shenom trying to defend herself, knowing just how dangerous Asuka is from experience, but Shirai cracks Moon from behind again with the title, followed by Asuka preparing to knock her cold with a Buzzsaw Kick… A figure takes out Asuka from behind, before going after Shirai and Sane, tossing them out of the ring. IT’S MERCEDES MARTINEZ! She jaw-jacks with the champs, who swiftly slide in and out to grab their titles, retreating up the ramp as they clutch themselves in pain. Martinez turns to Moon and Storm, first helping up the Kiwi, who appreciatively accepts, before going for Moon, who begins to back away, not wanting to help. Martinez chuckles at her arrogance, grabbing her by the arm and yanking her up regardless, Moon shooting her a glare.

Martinez grabs a mic, leaning in the ropes at the front of the ring, an intimidating expression on her face. “Well well well… Look at who we have here! 3 of Japan’s best female wrestlers, all with titles in their hands! But that’s not all! It’s three of the best running away from a fight! You know how that makes me feel? Sick. I’ve travelled the globe as the best, not just in Japan. And when there are three women like you, champions, but still cowards… it’s my duty to put you back in your places and teach you respect! Moon, Storm, I’ve been in the ring with them before, and I sure as hell know what they’re about… so, how about it? Next week, the three of us versus the three of you! And when we beat you… we can decide who takes which title… but until then, you best be ready, because you aren’t running from this fight!”.

Martinez tosses the mic away as her music hits, turning to face Moon and Storm, reaching out for fist-bumps, showing her respect to two women who’ve taken her to the limit before and beaten her. Storm eagerly accepts the alliance, anything to get her closer to the gold, whilst Moon refuses to bump-fists, not turning down the offer for the match as it means she can wrestle the champions, but not wanting to embrace Martinez as an ally, only someone she can use as a stepping stone.

NXT October 28th, 2020
In the night’s main event, the team of Moon, Storm & Martinez make their respective entrances first, entering separately though, Martinez first, Storm second, and Moon rounding out the bunch last. As Martinez and Storm pose on the turnbuckles, taking in the cheers, Moon stands in the centre of the ring, calm, but slightly irked, nonetheless reminding herself to focus on the task at hand, not her partners. The champions enter next, but as a group, coming out to Shirai’s theme, doing their usual extravagant antics on the way to the ring. They hand their gold to the referee, preparing for action, staring across at the ring at their foes with their devilish smiles.

As the bell rings, the action ensues, the story of the match being Moon refusing to tag out, wanting to run through the champions on her own, slowly irking her partners more and more over the course of the match as they yell to her to tag them in. Moon fares well in the early goings, until things go south as she gets triple-teamed by her foes in their corner, consistent tags in and out keeping each woman fresh as they cycle through their arsenals, laying in strikes and submissions. However, a miscue between Shirai and Asuka, the least experienced duo out of the three, gives Moon some space to work with, reaching a dilemma though, as she could take some time to rest by tagging out, or she could continue fighting on her own. Realising she doesn’t have long, she begins crawling towards her corner to the elation of Storm and Martinez, reaching out for a tag… only to pull away! She wags her finger at them, screaming ‘They’re mine!’, but the Latina Sensation doesn’t take too kindly to it, jumping out of her corner and dragging Moon back by her hair, before tagging herself in, an incensed Moon left to stand with Storm on the apron, who offers her a cheeky smile. Martinez goes to work on her foes, unloading with the Three Amigas on each woman, before dropping Sane with a Tower of London, sending her out of the ring. As she goes for Shirai, Asuka steps in the way, leading to an epic confrontation between the two, as they rain down on each other with vicious strikes.

Storm enters the fray to neutralise Shirai, the referee now unable to control the chaos as all hell breaks loose between the four women in the ring. A dazed Sane returns to the ring, trying to help out Asuka, only to eat a Big Boot from Martinez. Throughout all this though, Moon begins walking off to the back, furious that her plans were interfered with. Martinez notices this, rolling her eyes as she continues going to work on Asuka. However, the momentary distraction was enough to get caught with a Buzzsaw Kick from Asuka, allowing the Kabuki Warriors to sick Martinez. Storm also gets caught out of nowhere with a closed fist to the face by Shirai, who stomps a mudhole into Storm. Hearing the screams of her supposed partners, Moon pauses, slowly turning around to face the ring again to a pop of anticipation. She teases continuing on her way, ignoring the action in the ring… only to dash down to the ring! She levels the advantage by offering her help, delivering a Springboard Dropkick to take out Shirai, followed by a Capture Suplex to Sane, and a Spinebuster to Asuka! Martinez grins as Storm offers a content look of her own, the two women proud of Moon seemingly coming to her senses. We have a 3-on-3 standoff between the two teams, unwilling to leave the ring all members of the other side are out for the count, the referees unable to do anything to stop them.

Things only get worse as the rest of the NXT Women’s Locker Room spill out, wanting to get their own licks in on the champions! As Shirai tries to scramble free from the crowd, she lashes out left, right and centre, but in the heat of the moment, accidentally decks Bianca Belair! The EST returns to her feet, fuming, using her power to toss wrestlers all over the place. LeRae and Ripley are seen helping out, having their own personal issues with Shirai, leading there to be only 9 women left in the ring. Moon, Storm, and Martinez stand on one side of the ring. Belair, LeRae and Ripley stand on the other. As for the champions? They’re right in the centre of both warring sides. Just as they prepare to strike though, a figure storms out to the stage… IT’S WILLIAM REGAL! “THAT’S ENOUGH! If you 9 ladies want an opportunity to tear each other apart… then I have a very simply solution to your requests… WARGAMES! As for the rest of you… if you want to face the champion that much… then next week, we will have a #1 Contender’s Battle Royal, with the winner facing Io Shirai at Survivor Series!”. The battlefield is set, and the lines have been drawn! At NXT Takeover: WarGames IV, Moon, Storm & Martinez will take on Belair, LeRae and Ripley, along with Shirai, Asuka & Sane, in a 3-on-3-on-3 WarGames match! Not only that, but Shirai will have to defend her title the very next night on PPV against the winner of a Battle Royal! Who will get this opportunity? We’ll see…

NXT November 4th, 2020
Tensions for WarGames simmer throughout the night, as all three teams are shown in separate behind-the-scenes footage, training for the upcoming bout. Moon’s Team enter the structure with no experience, but Moon assures them that she’s the War Goddess, so this match is made for her. She warns them not to mess with her plans again though, or that flicker of compassion she showed last week, it ceases. As much as she hates to admit it, she knows just how good Storm and Martinez are, the former a winner of the MYC and a champion in NXT UK, the latter a world-travelled veteran who she’s faced numerous times on the indies and even in NXT. They all have the same goal, so naturally, alliances must be formed in warfare. The three of them should have no problem taking down their foes, only if they follow Moon’s command though…

As for the team of Belair, LeRae and Ripley… one year ago they stepped into the first-ever Women’s WarGames, Belair on the team opposing LeRae and Ripley. These three women easily have the most experience out of the 9 inside the steel structure… the only problem now though is working out chemistry together. They may respect each other, but still have their problems with each other. Nevertheless, if Ripley and LeRae could win 2-on-4, winning with Belair shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Finally, the team dripping in gold, Shirai, Asuka and Sane, are the final 3 in the match. Shirai has experience from last year, even busting out a memorable Moonsault from the top, ultimately on the losing end though. This year, the stakes are even higher than last as Shirai enters with a greater target on her back, but has Asuka and Sane by her side, who, whilst they may have not been in WarGames before, are former NXT Women’s Champions, so they understand the gravity of the situation. Asuka has been in a Last Woman Standing match in NXT before, whilst Sane has her own brand of experience in big match situations like these, so the trio are confident they can pull away with the victory.

The Battle Royal takes place later that night, ending with Mia Yim, Deonna Purrazzo and Santana Garrett in the Final 3. Garrett pulls off an upset by eliminating Yim, only to be caught from behind by The Virtuosa, who makes up for getting pinned in the Fatal Four-Way last month, cashing in her title shot to face Shirai at Survivor Series.

NXT November 11th, 2020
On the penultimate show leading into Takeover, an Elimination Triple Threat takes place, with the winner’s team getting the advantage, whilst the runner-up gets the second place for entries. Moon prepares to step forth for her team, only for Storm to beg to represent them, believing she can get the job done. Martinez agrees, claiming that Moon should be well-rested if she wishes to execute her ‘plan’ at WarGames. Moon acquiesces, allowing Storm to head forth. Storm tries to give Moon a hug out of excitement, only to notice Moon pulling back with disgust, Storm comically transitioning into dusting her hands off, pretending it never happened.

Storm faces off against Sane and Ripley, the three former champions putting in the work for the opportunity to enter with the numbers advantage. Storm and Ripley renew their hostilities from NXT UK and Worlds Collide, making matters quickly personal, whilst Sane uses her charisma to remain a factor in the match. As Sane attempts to interfere with the action, the two women take her out, before focusing their attention back on each other. The first fall comes when Storm hooks Ripley for a Storm Zero, only to be caught with an Interceptor by Sane, a Riptide following up for the elimination! It is now just Sane vs Ripley. An interesting, never-seen-before dynamic pans out, as Sane and Ripley go head-to-head. Ripley wants revenge for losing her title to Shirai, and the only viable way to do so is by first going through one of Shirai’s partners. However, she becomes too caught up in the emotion, unable to go two-straight as a pair of InSane Elbows put Ripley down for the count, meaning the champions will have all members entering first, whilst Ripley’s team enters second, and Moon’s set to enter last.

As Storm returns backstage, she prepares to get an earful from Moon, only for The Shenom to acknowledge Storm’s efforts, telling her not to worry as they will come out on top, one way or another. Surprised, but satisfied, Storm gives the cameras a wink.
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2020.02.26 15:28 r3d_d3vil11 Countdown to Kickoff 2020: Real Salt Lake

Welcome to the Real Salt Lake entry in the Countdown to Kickoff.

Basic info:
Full club Name: Real Salt Lake
Nicknames: RSL, The Claret and Cobalt
City: Sandy, Utah – suburb just South of Salt Lake City
Stadium: Rio Tinto Stadium (Capacity: 21,363) nickname ‘The RioT’ (also umbrella nickname for all supporters’ groups). As mentioned in prior years’ posts - home to some of the greatest mountain and sunset views in the league.
Owner: Dell Loy Hansen
General Manager: Elliott Fall
Head Coach: Freddy Juarez – 1st full season, (8-5-2, interim coach in 2019)
Competitive Rival: Sporting Kansas City (no cup affiliation, animosity began with 2011 preseason brawl instigated by Roger Espinoza against Javier Morales, peaked with 2013 MLS Cup Final, matchups still marked with aggressive and chippy play. Considered major rival due to history of both teams’ success and playoff matchups). MLS write-up here.
Geographical Rival: Colorado Rapids. Cup affiliation: Rocky Mountain Cup. Early years dominated by Colorado, then momentum flipped and has never returned. Rocky Mountain Cup scoreboard: RSL 11, Colorado 3, Tie 1 (Colorado retained cup due to tiebreaker)
Captain: Kyle Beckerman
USL Championship Affiliate: Real Monarchs SLC
NWSL Sister Club: Utah Royals FC
Official Mascot: Leo the Lion

Uniforms:

• Primary: Topographical – newly released for 2020
• Secondary: Glitch Kit – released 2019

2019 in Review

Final Standings: 16-13-5 (W-L-D), 53 pts, +5 GD, 3rd in the West
2019 definitely had a “Good, Bad, and Ugly” theme for Real Salt Lake. Fresh off thrilling 2018 playoff victory against LAFC and narrow loss to Sporting Kansas City in the Western semifinal the mood was optimistic coming into the 2019 preseason. Fans were ready to send off club legend Nick Rimando with glory as he announced the season would be his last and for the young guns that made up the majority of the roster to continue their upward progression.
The first month of the season, however, got off to a very bad start. RSL would end up with just 4 points from their first 5 games – including a spectacularly embarrassing loss at D.C. United that saw two players ejected with red cards. The team would make a slight rebound, thereafter, determined to make feast or famine of each game while going 6-6-1 over the next 3 months. Then came that fateful month of July.
RSL began the month winning 2 of their first 3 games, consistent with past seasons when they’d try to salvage their season for a playoff push. After a draw with Minnesota, the MLS regular season was interrupted by the newly created Leagues Cup, a competition between clubs from Liga MX and MLS. RSL drew Tigres and were dispatched with relative ease by the Mexican visitors. Then this happened. In what could only be described as the ugliest PR nightmare the club has faced, Coach Mike Petke was subsequently terminated 2 weeks later after a fan video leaked of owner Dell Loy Hansen criticizing the coach’s behavior and hinting at his firing.
Credit to interim coach Freddy Juarez and the squad, the team rallied instead of shrinking in the chaos and picked up 13 out of the next 18 available points, rocketing up the Western Conference standings. Two weeks after Petke’s firing, GM Craig Waibel and the club “mutually parted ways” in more fallout after texts revealed in Petke’s lawsuit found the former GM critical of the owner.
The emotion tank then appeared to empty in September as the team was only able to win one more game before the final 2 weeks of the season. Due to an incredibly competitive Western Conference, RSL was in danger of losing the playoff spot they had held onto for most of the second half of the season. The team dug deep and won both remaining games, at home against Houston and away against Vancouver (only their second-ever victory at BC Place), securing the 3rd seed in the Western Conference for the MLS Playoffs.
In the opening round, Real Salt Lake faced Portland, a team that had handed them 4 straight losses in the past 2 regular seasons. Letting the past be the past, RSL came out firing on all cylinders – only to be thwarted by Portland Goalkeeper Steve Clark for most of the first half (including this potential GOTY from DEFENDER Aaron Herrera). In a tough fought match, Jefferson Savarino found the game-winner in exhilarating fashion for RSL in the 87th minute.
For all the excitement on display in the first round against Portland, glory was not to be found in the quarterfinals away against the eventual champion Seattle Sounders. Probably the most notable event of the final game was Everton Luiz’s red card dismissal and off-field exit.

Pre-season Moves

Interim no more – New-ish Coach, GM, Assistant GM

Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen went “All-in” on the “Building from within” concept when he announced the removal of interim tags for General Manager Elliott Fall and Head Coach Freddy Juarez. In a not-totally-unexpected move, newly retired defender, and long-time club stalwart, Tony Beltran was also introduced as Assistant General Manager. More on them later…

Players In

Guiseppe Rossi (F) – Former Team: Free Agent in 2019, Genoa (ITA) in 2018: American-born Italian International. Yes, THAT Guisseppe Rossi - the New Jersey kid that spurned the USMNT to play for Italy. In the early stages of his career the sky was the limit as he broke onto the world stage with Manchester United back in 2004. Since then, injuries have been unkind to him on stops at Villareal, Fiorentina, and Genoa. He has been with the team for the entire preseason and played in every game. He still oozes class all over the field, and if he can stay healthy, he has potential to be a transformational figure for RSL’s attack.
Justin Meram (LW/CAM) – Former Team: Atlanta United: American-born Iraqi International. Was class of the league player for Columbus from 2016-17. Trade to Orlando in 2018 brought that form to a screeching halt (like most talented players that have gone there recently, RIP Dom Dwyer). He was traded back to Columbus at the beginning of last year. After being unable to rejuvenate himself to prior levels of greatness, he was then traded again to Atlanta. He had a bit of resurgence with Atlanta with 4 goals in 14 appearances. Meram will add solid MLS experience and potential to make the left-wing starting role solely his.
Zac (with no ‘H’) MacMath (GK) – Former Team: Vancouver Whitecaps: MLS Journeyman who hasn’t been consistent starter since 2016 for the Colorado Rapids. Was a solid starter in Colorado before being benched when USMNT Legend Tim Howard returned to MLS. Minimal minutes with Vancouver Whitecaps last year.
Jeizon Ramirez (RW) – Former Team: Deportivo Tachira (VEN): 18-year-old Young Designated Player. Venezuelan International. Brought in to replace Savarino. Loads of potential but unfinished product on the wing. Likely eventual starter but will need to break into team.
Alvin Jones (RB) – Former Team: Oklahoma Energy (USL Championship): Trinidad and Tobago International. Most famous moment: Scoring THE goal that kept USMNT from going to 2018 World Cup. Depth signing to spell Aaron Herrera at RB for a few games this year.
Ashtone Morgan (LB) – Former Team: Toronto FC: Canadian International. Free Agent signing. Toronto FC Homegrown who had inconsistent playing time with the former MLS Cup champs (2 seasons with 18+ apps, 3 with <10 apps). Signed for experience and depth.
Milan Iloski (ATT) – Former Team: UCLA (NCAA): Homegrown signing. Recently graduated from UCLA. Utility man. Can play any position in attack. Rotational type player. Would not be surprised if he spends more time with Real Monarchs than RSL.
Christopher Garcia (F) – Former Team: RSL Academy: Homegrown signing. The 17-year-old had flashes of great potential and energy in preseason, more likely will spend season with Real Monarchs. He will be one to keep an eye on in the future. May break into gameday roster sooner rather than later.
Mikael Chang (ATT) – Former Team: Real Monarchs SLC (USL Championship): Rewarded for his consistent contributions from the wing with the USL champions. Not sure if he has enough talent to rise above a rotational depth player with the first team.
Re-signed: Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland, Marcelo Silva, Donny Toia
Extended: Corey Baird
Loan made Permanent: Everton Luiz

Players Out

Nick Rimando (GK) – Retired: Club Legend. MLS record holder for career clean sheets, wins, saves, and appearances, MLS Cup winner x2 (2004, D.C. United; 2009, Real Salt Lake) and All-Star x5 (2011-2015)
Tony Beltran (RB) – Retired: Unable to return from knee injury (Badji is a monster), now RSL Assistant GM. MLS Cup winner (2009. Real Salt Lake)
Jordan Allen (F) – Retired: Unable to return from multiple injuries. RSL Homegrown.
Jefferson Savarino (RW) – Transferred to Atletico Mineiro (BRA): ~$2 million fee (club record)
Joao Plata (LW) – Contract not renewed: Unsigned Free Agent
Brooks Lennon (RW) – Traded to Atlanta United. RSL Homegrown.
Sebastian Saucedo (LW) – Contract not renewed, free transfer to Pumas (MEX): RSL Homegrown. Sad he couldn’t get more minutes last year. Is killing it so far in LigaMX.
Alex Horwath (GK) – Retired: Career-ending ACL injury, now part of RSL FO.
Danilo Acosta (LB) – Contract not renewed after loan to Orlando City: Signed by LA Galaxy (tore ACL few weeks ago ☹, get well soon Danny). RSL Homegrown.

The Front Office/Coach

Head Coach: Freddy Juarez
While Freddy Juarez’s hire wasn’t particularly flashy for outsiders, those within the organization have known the coach and abilities for quite a while. Originally hired as a youth coach at the Casa Grande campus in Arizona in 2010, he doggedly worked his way up to residential administrator prior to the academy moving to Herriman, Utah. Earning a reputation as an insatiable learner and groomer of talent, in 2015 he was selected as the first head coach for RSL’s USL affiliate the Real Monarchs. Within 2 years of starting that post, he was brought on as assistant coach with the RSL first team under Jeff Cassar. After Cassar’s firing later that year, his expertise was noticed, and he was kept on staff by new coach Mike Petke. Valued for his tactical acumen, Freddy filled in superbly after Petke’s suspension and dismissal, compiling an 8-5-2 record while achieving 3rd place in the Western Conference and a playoff quarterfinal showdown with the Sounders. Freddy knows this roster inside and out, a fact that gave him a step up on any outside candidate. Hopefully he can turn that knowledge into success as he has done at every other stop on the coaching career pyramid.
General Manager: Elliott Fall
At the ripe old age of 34 Elliott Fall has now become the youngest general manager in MLS. Don’t let his age deceive you, he has been working inside the organization for even longer than Freddy Juarez, getting his start as a front office intern in 2007. By 2013 he worked his way up to assistant GM under Craig Waibel. In this new role, he specialized in being the salary cap guru, mastering the intricate details of the league’s complicated salary cap structure and ‘-AM’ exceptions. Remarkably, despite a small market budget, Waibel and Fall consistently were able to find valuable budget pieces that allowed the team to punch above its weight. After the fallout of the Petke firing and Waibel’s ‘mutual decision’ to step away, Fall was handed the mantel to continue to build the team. In interviews, Fall’s enthusiasm shines when he talks about his love for his time within the organization. “It’s a huge job," Fall said. "It’s a lot of responsibility. This is a club that I’ve grown up in, a club that I’ve been a fan of and a club that I’ve worked my entire career in. I’m really excited to get going and start building a winner.” Early moves this offseason have been promising. A big criticism of the prior GM was losing many academy products for free to Europe or allowing players with value to run out their contracts and leave on free transfers. Fall appears to be learning from past mistakes and has already traded Brooks Lennon and transferred Jefferson Savarino for more money than we’ve made in the past… I can’t even remember how long. And we’ve started signing homegrowns at the age of 16 and 17. If he can continue to navigate the steep learning curve now that he is the man in-charge, RSL may have talent that is willing to stay for a long time.

The Roster:

Best Guess Gameday 18
Freddy Juarez seems committed to Petke’s 4-2-3-1 but has stated he will have 1-2 formations he routinely uses as the season goes on based on personnel (3 in the back perhaps?). It also needs to be stated this is the Starting XI out of the gate. I expect to see evolution by the end of the season. Petke was constantly criticized for playing players out of their natural positions with middling-to-poor results (Brooks Lennon RW to RB; Pablo Ruiz W to CDM, LB; Nick Besler CDM to CB). If the preseason is any indication, Freddy may have had a hand in that and may try similar tricks this year (Preseason: Herrera RB to RW; Glad CB to RB). To start the season, however, I expect Freddy to start the “tried-and-true” players he is familiar with.
 Damir Kreilach 
Justin Meram -- Albert Rusnak –- Corey Baird
 Everton Luiz -- Kyle Beckerman© 
Donny Toia -- Justen Glad -- Nedum Onuoha –- Aaron Herrera
 Zach MacMath 
Bench: Jeizon Ramirez, Sam Johnson, Nick Besler, Alvin Jones, Marcelo Silva, Guiseppi Rossi, Andrew Putna

The Starters

• F – Damir Kreilach – After a stellar 2018, Kreilach had a less productive 2019. A box-to-box midfielder by trade he has been the stable Center Forward option for the club due to lack of bodies and quality. Sam Johnson was meant to allow him to pair with Everton Luiz in midfield but that dream has yet to materialize.
• LW – Justin Meram – Journeyman whose past glories discussed above. May end up taking over as a starter on LW if Baird is ineffective, could also slot into backup CAM role. Playing well in preseason per reports. RSL seems to offer him a system (like Atlanta) that better plays to his strengths compared to previous teams. His preseason form has been influential which is why I think we find him on the field. As a result, Corey Baird moves to the right wing.
• CAM - Albert Rusnak – RSL’s all-time highest paid player has yet to live up to those lofty expectations. While he was the 2019 RSL Goldenboot winner with 10 goals, most of his goals came from the penalty spot. When fed the ball in the CAM role he is a dynamic force in making RSL’s offense click. The problem is that in years past the flow of the offense by-passes him for the wings or boom-balls. It will be interesting to see if he is tried on the wing this year (where he plays with the Slovakian national team) but for now he is used exclusively as a kind of ‘False 9’ duo with Kreilach in the middle of the park. If the team can return to feeding him the ball, he may yet reach MLS-best status. Time to earn that paycheck.
• RW – Corey Baird – Lightning quick, the 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year had a solid but bit less spectacular sophomore run. The coaches love his stamina as he keeps his legs deep into games. Often deployed on the left, he can also rotate as the central forward from time-to-time. With Meram playing so well on the left during preseason, I think he may be moved to the right-wing in an attempt to keep his speed on the field. He’s an outside USMNT team participant. If he can take his game to the next level and remain consistent, I’m excited to see where his legs carry him. UPDATE: Pulled hamstring in preseason. Out for few weeks.
• CDM – Everton Luiz – Was the MVP for the team for large portions of the season last year with some dominating performances. The aggressive ball-winner will once again be called upon to destroy and disrupt in the middle of the park. A yellow (or red) card is never far away with his high-energy style. Hopefully he can be pared with a true box-to-box partner to revitalize the midfield (Kreilach please!!!). UPDATE: Suspended for opening game vs Orlando
• CDM – Kyle Beckerman – Our Captain, and longest serving player on the team. Old Man Dreadlocks is more ‘old’ than ‘dreadlocked’ these days, but he can still put in a quality shift when rested. At 37 and with thousands of miles on those tires, the question over the past few years is how much he has left in the tank. Despite concerns with fatigue late in the season, Mike Petke (and Freddy Juarez during his interim stint) saw no issue riding him 90+ mins every game, even as his effectiveness waned. Everton Luiz has a similar skillset to younger-Kyle, yet the coaching staff loves to play them together. Whether rotating Kyle and trying someone with complementing talent would be more successful we will never know… for now, we bask in the Legend that is Captain Beckerman and hope to give him the ovation he deserves when he decides to hang them up. UPDATE: Injured in preseason, severity unknown, likely will miss game vs Orlando
• LB – Donny Toia – RSL’s first ever Homegrown player had a respectable return to the team last year. Originally signed to compete for the LB he quickly locked it down and was a stable presence on the defense. Something 2018 RSL was sorely lacking. While offensively limited from the wing that still doesn’t stop him from attempting an occasional 40-yard rocket. I had him locked in again this year at LB but his preseason thus far has been atrocious in the few streamed exhibition games. Hopefully whatever issues he’s having are left in Arizona.
• CB – Justen Glad – It’s incredible that at the age of 22 Justen is entering his 7th season with the first team. While there were fears of stalled potential a few years ago last year was a happy return to showcasing exactly what has landed him on the radar of the USMNT. He quick pace and ability to recover allows RSL’s midfield to push forward with the attack, knowing he can chase down all but the speediest of forwards around the league. Always battling with Marcelo Silva for the second CB spot, is this the year he claims it for good?
• CB – Nedum Onuoha – One of the most fascinating members of the team, Nedum’s deep experience with various levels of English soccer immediately played dividends in stabilizing a shaky RSL backline. No matter who he is paired with at centerback, he seems to bring out the best in them. In addition, he is a quality and deep dude, offering his own podcast where he brings on current and former teammates along with pop culture friends he’s met during his career. He’s promised more set piece goals for himself this year, I’m hoping that pans out.
• RB – Aaron Herrera – The young RB has been a revelation and was quick to step into the position long-held by club veteran Tony Beltran. It has been exciting to see him not only lock down the right side defensively but also be able to recover quickly enough when pressing with the attack. If he continues on his current trajectory, I would not be surprised to see his name on future USMNT lineups. You go A-a-ron.
• GK – Zach MacMath – As discussed earlier, having not played consistently since 2016 we don’t truly know what we have with MacMath. Judging by the lineups seen this preseason he seems to be Keeper #1 going into the season. With that said, he hasn’t inspired confidence with a few shaky outings thus far. It is preseason, and he never appeared to play with his first-choice defense, but if he can’t clean it up, he may lose the starter’s job quickly with Putna and Ochoa in the wings.

The Bench

ATTACKERS:
• F - Sam Johnson – The “Blessed Boy” made many RSL fans eager for more as he got off to a hot start as a “super sub” last year, scoring every time he came on the pitch. Picked up and injury and was never able to settle with the team as starting center forward. Appears to have come into preseason with poor conditioning which won’t win him any favors with the coaching staff. We may not see true form until May/June. Interesting fact: Sam has 2 twin Gold Chrome Chevy Camaros - one in SLC and the other at his home in his native Liberia. UPDATE Sam had knee injury in offseason, did not participate in any preseason games. Coaching hoping he'd be farther along.
• RW – Jeizon Ramirez – The young South American may end up being the answer on the right wing, but like his predecessor he may need some time to become any kind of a game changer. UPDATE: Due to visa issues, just arrived in SLC on Feb 28
• F/W - Tate Schmitt – Second-year attacker has shown promise but was unable to secure significant minutes with the first team. He did have success with Monarchs which is where he will likely get his playing time again this year.
• CAM/F/W – Milan Iloski – Newcomer discussed above. I expect him to see some minutes with RSL largely in Open Cup games or garbage time. Will likely see more time and development at Monarchs.
• F – Douglas Martinez – Former NYRB academy player took the USL by storm with the Monarchs in the first half of the season last year. This led to a full first team contract. Unfortunately, he had limited time and was never able to link up well with the other members of RSL’s attack. With a full preseason to work on chemistry, Martinez is hoping to show MLS exactly why he was brought up.
• W – Mikael Chang – Discussed above. Another Monarchs stalwart and USL Champion. Chang was signed to a first team contract this offseason. I anticipate he likely will see spotty minutes with RSL.
• F – Luis Arriaga – 19-year-old homegrown player was originally signed in 2018. Most of his playing time thus far has been with Real Monarchs. I expect that to continue this year.
• F – Julian Vasquez – 18-year-old homegrown player. Mexican Youth International. Julian signed at a young age understanding that most of his playing time would be with Real Monarchs so he could cut his professional teeth. Future is still bright, but I doubt he will have a huge impact this year.
• F – Christopher Garcia – Discussed above. 17-year-old homegrown. Instantly drew eyes with his time on the field during preseason. Another one likely spending development time with Real Monarchs.
• F – Guiseppe Rossi – Preseason reports have been glowing with praise for the veteran, especially with the partnership he has found with fellow new addition Justin Meram. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up starting as a False 9 once he gains more fitness. I see him filling the role Sam Johnson was meant to do (allowing Kreilach to go back to midfield).
MIDFIELDERS:
• M/W - Pablo Ruiz – Young Argentine winger was poorly used at a variety of positions (CDM, LB) prior to his loan last season to FC Pinzgau Saalfelden of the Austrian 3rd division (interesting American-owned club deserving a look - The Athletic article). He thrived on loan in more attacking positions against competition there (9 goals in 15 appearances). Should he be allowed to play a similar role at RSL, he may yet prove to be the asset RSL saw glimpses of when first-signed from Argentina.
• CDM - Nick Besler – Appears to be heir-apparent to share minutes at CDM as Kyle Beckerman transitions out. Was coming into his own as a very capable midfielder before getting injury for second half of last year. No, he is not a centerback like his more well-known brother, no matter what Mike Petke believes…
• CDM – Luke Mulholland – I am surprised as anyone to see this name on the roster. 2019 began on the injured list for Luke as he dealt with chronic back issues. He eventually returned to the team to play a grand total of 19 minutes. He was sent down to the Real Monarchs where he had a pivotal role in leading the team to its first USL Championship Championship (not a misprint). If anything, as he was rarely used by RSL I imagined him being signed to an exclusive Monarchs contract. I was wrong. I still see little opportunity for him with RSL so more than likely he will be effectively a Monarchs player as they look to repeat.
• M – Justin Portillo – Another fringe first team player. Had 4 appearances with RSL in 2019, one of them for a matter of minutes after he was awarded a red card versus LAFC. Played in 16 games for Real Monarchs with 2 goals. Has been matched up with Kyle Beckerman in central midfield during preseason games with disastrous results. Doesn’t appear to be a player that will stay at the MLS level for much longer.
DEFENDERS:
• CB - Marcelo Silva – Silva’s return was never a sure thing this offseason. His re-signing (and pay cut) gives the defense an unspectacular but proven veteran who already pairs well with the other two starters Glad and Onuoha. He seems to fit better with Onuoha which is why Glad often rotates the starting spot with him.
• CB - Eric Holt – Second-year homegrown player. Spotty minutes last year. I expect to see minutes increase this year. Has been praised by teammates for his work ethic and quirky personality. Was solid member of Monarchs defense last year.
• RB - Alvin Jones – Discussed above. Depth signing to offer competition and rotation options at RB. Had so-so showing thus far in preseason.
• LB - Ashtone Morgan – Discussed above. See entry for Alvin Jones except on the left. Has not looked good thus far. Willing to give him time to gel with team before final verdict. With Toia not impressing thus far, LB position may be open if he can put it together.
GOALKEEPERS:
• GK - Andrew Putna – Backup keeper behind Nick Rimando last year. Did a decent to good job in the games he was called upon. I expect MacMath to have a short leash and ultimately, I can see the starters spot falling to Putna.
• GK – David Ochoa – 19-year-old homegrown. Rotated starting keeper duties with Real Monarchs during the regular season before locking down the position for the USL playoff run. Has a healthy competitive fire that spills into his play (and conversation with opponents). He looks to be long-term answer in goal for RSL, question is does he claim it this year or farther down the road?
• ________________________________________

5 Unanswered Questions for the Season

  1. Who is going to score?
  2. Who will finally end up as starter in goal?
  3. Will Rusnak live up to his potential?
  4. Will Ramirez develop quickly enough to replace Savarino’s production?
  5. Will Beckerman’s role change this season?
  6. We have the cap space/GAM/TAM. Who is coming in the Summer? ________________________________________

Season Prognostication

Best Case Scenario

New additions and last year’s signings come good and give RSL a potent and versatile attacking group. A strength of prior years was no one player was responsible for the majority of RSL’s scoring, making it hard for defenses to focus on any one player. This trend continues and the FO bolsters it by using our luscious cap space to sign a bonafide attacker (likely center forward) in the summer who loves to score. Rusnak makes good on becoming a maestro in the middle. Defense remains stout and MacMath or Putna or Ochoa prove fill in quite well for departed Nick Rimando. RSL remains competitive and surprises everyone by finishing second in the West.

Worst Case Scenario

Well, besides having Round 2 of Mike Petke’s 2019, I’d say if preseason is any indication it’s that Freddy Juarez gets cute, plays multiple players out-of-position causing chaos (not the good kind) in the final third and dooming RSL’s attack to ineptitude. By the time experimentation is done and he reverts to playing people at their strongest positions RSL is too far out of the playoff picture for it to matter. Of course, he could still play players in their preferred position and the offense could struggle. Especially if we fail to sign additional offensive talent in the summer. Throw in that MacMath has looked terrible between the posts in the preseason and we may be at the bottom of the table looking up. We will see.

Realistic Scenario

I think we will see experimentation by Freddy, but like last year, RSL has the talent to stay competitive over the long run. We finished 3rd in the West in 2019 with largely the same roster up the spine. Staying dangerous from the wings will make or break the year IMO. I anticipate further offensive signings in the summer. Probably a winger, because with RSL, it’s always a winger. I think RSL struggles on offense, does well enough on defense once goalkeeper is settled (which I think will end up being Putna), and somehow backs into one of the final playoff spots in the West. We take a step back and lose in the first round of the playoffs.

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2020.02.23 17:54 NewRCTID22 Countdown to Kickoff 2020: Portland Timbers

Countdown to Kickoff 2020: Portland Timbers

Basic Info:

Club Name: Portland Timbers
Location: Portland, Oregon
Stadium: Providence Park. Beautiful timelapse of the recent renovations.
Head Coach: Giovanni Savarese (3rd year)
Captain: Diego Valeri
CEO/Majority Owner: Merritt Paulson
USL Affiliate: Timbers 2
Kits:

2019 in Review

Final Standings: 14-13-7 (W-L-D), 49 pts, +3 GD, 6th in the West
In one word, the 2019 Portland Timbers season was draining. It was an endurance test for the players. It was an endurance test for even the most ardent supporters. And it was certainly an endurance test for a Front Office that invested serious capital into organizational infrastructure. Bookended by snowy affairs in the Rocky Mountains, a year filled with tantalizing potential melted away, leaving a passionate (some might say capricious) fanbase searching for explanations. So, what went wrong?
Well, it was always going to be an uphill battle from the opening kick. Starting with the coldest game in MLS history in Colorado, the Timbers faced a daunting 12-match road trip to accommodate the impressive renovations to Providence Park’s East stand. After accumulating 1 pt from the first six matches, including blow out losses to both FC Cincinnati (!) and then-winless San Jose, the fanbase collectively smashed the panic button entering a match against ex-coach Caleb Porter and his Columbus Crew. However, for the next few months, we witnessed a different team and a different mentality. Three consecutive quality victories against Columbus, Toronto, and RSL brought the team back from the abyss. And a subsequent win against upstart Philadelphia saw Portland finish its road marathon at a respectable 14 points.
Suddenly, the narrative flipped. Pundits consistently listed the Timbers at the top of their power rankings, and with 17 of the final 22 matches at one of the best home-field advantages in MLS, it seemed the positive momentum would prevail indefinitely. More importantly though, the Timbers had found their final piece to the puzzle: an elite, ruthless, and fiery DP striker in Brian Fernandez. Fresh off an impressive campaign with Necaxa in Liga MX, the Argentine became the first player in history to score in five consecutive regular-season games to open an MLS career. His clinicality and intensity raised the level of the squad, leading Steve Clark to don the classic Michael Myers mask from Halloween, declaring Providence Park as a “House of Horrors” for the opponent.
But as it turned out, the team never truly reacclimated to the friendly confines of its home pitch. After four months (incl. preseason) away from home, the squad’s lethal counter-attacking style was far more suited for road matches which provided no impetus to play attractive soccer. Away victories at elite opponents including NYCFC, Seattle, and LAFC provided a stark contrast to disheartening home performances against the likes of Colorado, Orlando, and 10-man Chicago. And soon, the atmosphere off-the-field began to match the team’s sudden struggles on the pitch.
Political viewpoints aside, the Iron Front protests and Diego Valeri’s contract impasse ignited an already contentious relationship between the Timbers Army and FO. Meanwhile, as the squad racked up disappointing home results due to uninspired offensive play, home attendance began to waver more so than years past. While the home sell-out streak remains to this day, the increased number of empty seats in Providence Park was a pretty blunt indication of increased apathy towards the organization.
And then, there was the cherry on top. After missing consecutive matches due to a reported “stomach bug,” it became pretty clear Brian Fernandez was not the same player he was in the early summer. With a complicated and somber family history, Fernandez had struggled with substance abuse issues in the past but seemed to be on the path to full recovery during recent years. However, in October, Fernandez entered the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, and just as his story arc in green-and-gold faded to black, the Timbers season finished with a whimper. Jefferson Savarino’s 87th-minute goal in snowy Utah knocked the Timbers out of Cup contention. Eleven months following an exciting run to MLS Cup, Portland entered the 2020 offseason weary, drained, and searching for a new beginning.

The Coach

Giovanni Savarese
I expected 2019 to provide more clarity on Giovanni Savarese’s coaching aptitude, but as I sit here one year later, I’m still left with more questions than answers. Gio’s passion and fervor was a refreshing juxtaposition to Caleb Porter’s often smug demeanor, but his far more conservative style still ruffles the feathers of fans who yearn for the days of “Porterball.” While Savarese implemented a high-pressing, dynamic, and open style during his time at the Cosmos, he has yet to find similar success doing so in the Rose City. The past two seasons have exhibited nearly the same progression: start the season trying to play pressing-style soccer, get beat badly, and then resort to a conservative, counter-attacking approach.
The truth of the matter is the conservative style fits the Portland Timbers. When the defense is solid, Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco are talented enough to win the game on the counter by themselves. However, this tactical inflexibility is essentially the sole on-field contributor for why the team struggled so mightily down the stretch. When teams packed it in and eliminated the possibility of counter-attacks, Portland could not break down the opposition, resorted to launching an MLS record number of crosses, and got scorched on counters going the other way. A taste of their own medicine if you will.
In 2020, Savarese has no excuse. There’s no road trip to start the season, he has a loaded arsenal of complimentary attacking weapons, and now it’s abundantly clear the Timbers must learn how to control games from the front foot. An identity is useful, but flexibility is a requirement to be great. The club wants to (has to) win now, and they’ve invested significantly into personnel and infrastructure to do so. Now, it’s up to Savarese to lead the team to silverware.

Departures

Brian Fernandez (ST): This one hurts. There are no two ways about it. Fernandez truly convinced GM Gavin Wilkinson and TD Ned Grabavoy that he was past his struggles, but unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be the case. As Wilkinson stated in The Athletic, “if we could go back and do it again, we wouldn’t have done it,” adding “what I will say is the word fraud exists for a reason.” Rumors suggest Necaxa covered up a failed drug test, and MLS is currently launching a lawsuit to help the club recoup the transfer fee. While Wilkinson suggests Fernandez was a bust, the truth is he scored 15 goals in ~25 games in all comps, showing a ruthlessness in front of goal that rivaled the Martinez’s and Ruidiaz’s of the league. As people who have met him can attest, he’s a vibrant and kind individual regardless of the fact he continues to face difficult obstacles off the field. It's just such a disappointment that it didn’t all come together, and I pray for his health and safety.
Zarek Valentin (RB): This one hurts too. Zarek was a staple of the community, someone who embraced Portland as his home, and was as approachable as any professional athlete. With initiatives like wearing a rainbow ribbon in his hair to fundraise for homeless LGBT+ youth, Zarek was an ideal steward for the club and community. With our lack of fullback depth, leaving him unprotected in the expansion draft was far from a popular decision - one that strained an already frayed relationship between the Front Office and some fans. That said, as amazing as Zarek is, his lack of athleticism was starting to catch up to him. He even admitted some struggles down the stretch, and as more talented/athletic wingers enter the league, his minutes might soon reflect it. Zarek’s versatility, eccentricity, and civic involvement will certainly be missed though. Houston, you’ve got a great dude.
Claude Dielna (CB): The most puzzling move of 2019, it didn’t take an acute observer to recognize that Dielna struggled in MLS. Wilkinson and Grabavoy took a one-year flier on Dielna to be the 4th-stringer, and the outcome was fairly predictable. He possesses a silky left foot which allows him to pick sharp passes out of the back, but he can’t run, can’t jump, and can’t defend 1v1. All of those attributes are pretty essential requirements for playing CB in any league, so it’s no surprise to see the organization not renew his contract. In the end, I wouldn’t suggest Dielna self-immolated like many horrific Timbers CBs of yesteryear (see McKenzie, Raushawn), but I highly doubt anyone will be pining for his return.
Foster Langsdorf (ST): Langsdorf may be used as an example of a Homegrown the Timbers failed to move through the ranks, but letting him go makes sense (unfortunately.) In a 2019 season essential for his development, he failed to make any significant impact at the USL level, and at 24, he would’ve entered the 2020 campaign in the exact spot he did the previous two seasons. Despite some clever finishes in the 2018 USL season, he’s not a legitimate option for the first team in this day in age - especially when similarly-aged strikers Felipe Mora, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, and Jeremy Ebobisse boast far more developed skillsets.
Modou Jadama (CB/RB): Jadama made two total appearances for the first team over two seasons, including one start at RB at Montreal in 2019. To be frank, he didn’t particularly shine as an MLS-caliber player during that time, so his opportunity to cement himself in the organization’s plans came and went. Now at Atlanta United 2, I think he’ll be a good fit for a full-time USL position, although we probably could have used CB depth with Bill Tuiloma’s injury.
Kendall McIntosh (GK): McIntosh was an undersized goalkeeper whose frame and athleticism is reminiscent of the likes of Nick Rimando. For the most part, he was a career T2 netminder that was far too raw in some areas to mount a challenge against experienced keepers like Jeff Attinella and Steve Clark. Now a member of the Red Bulls via the Re-Entry Draft, I doubt McIntosh finds many more minutes outside of the USL, but he seemed like a good dude and we all wish him the best.

2020 Outlook:

So, where does that leave us for the 2020 season? Well, pretty close to the same spot we found ourselves last year. In the preceding two seasons, it was clear the Timbers possessed enough talent to capture silverware, yet surpassing the final hurdle proved to be too much. As a result, continuity in terms of roster management remains among the league’s most stable. Ultimately, Portland took the field March 3 in Colorado with 10 of the 11 starters from MLS Cup the previous December, and this season, the only departure considered a surefire starter was Brian Fernandez.
However, the main difference in 2020 comes down to the acquisitions. The Timbers FO utilized the abnormally long break to load up with an arsenal of talent, providing a stark divergence from the quiet transfer window in 2019. As much as I want to compliment the FO for its hard work this offseason, acquiring fresh blood was essential. Key pieces of the core including Larrys Mabiala, Diego Chara, Sebastian Blanco, and Diego Valeri are all exiting their prime window, and the Timbers must capitalize before that window slams shut. Consequently, four of the five names you’ll see listed in the acquisitions section below were brought in to have an immediate impact and elevate an already talented squad.
As a result, in terms of pure on-paper talent, this is a Top 5 caliber MLS team. Whether Savarese can coalesce that talent into a functioning, dynamic, and successful unit is an entirely different story however. It honestly feels like a boom-or-bust type season, and I’m worried about how they’ll navigate the natural roller-coaster swings that MLS’s parity generates. So, I’ll leave you with this: if the Timbers figure out how to maintain defensive structure without resorting to a conservative shell, they’ll be one of the best teams in the league. If not, all bets are off.

Acquisitions:

Jarosław Niezgoda (ST): The Polish DP doesn’t have to single-handedly replace Brian Fernandez’s goal contributions, but make no mistake about it, the Timbers brought Niezgoda in to make an immediate and profound impact on the scoresheet. At only 24, Jarek arrives with a high pedigree having notched double-digit goals in multiple seasons for one of Poland’s powerhouses in Legia Warsaw. Ultimately, it makes sense European clubs like Bordeaux and Torino were sniffing around the striker, as he’s quite mobile for his size, can finish well with both feet, and is clever with his movements inside the box. And say what you will about the Ekstraklasa, it has a strange knack for producing efficient goalscorers, including Niezgoda’s Legia predecessor Nemanja Nikolic.
However, there is a massive catch: Niezgoda has struggled with injuries throughout his career. In a league famous for physical play, and on a team that has experienced its fair share of injury-riddled seasons, Jarek’s fitness is a legitimate concern. While his congenital heart issues seem to be held in check, Legia fans are quick to mention “he's made of glass, and it's hard to keep him in shape for the whole season.” The Timbers’ physio staff will have their work cut out for them to keep Niezgoda on the pitch and scoring goals.
Note: Niezgoda has yet to feature in preseason due to the recovery timeline from a heart ablation procedure during his medical. We likely won’t see him in the XI for the first few weeks of 2020.
Felipe Mora (ST): Niezgoda’s injury-checkered past is an important factor for why Mora’s arrival is such a critical addition. The 26-year-old Chilean seemingly fell into the Timbers lap in a series of fortuitous circumstances, as they acquired him on a TAM loan deal from Pumas in Liga MX. Normally, Mora would be a DP caliber acquisition, and in fact, he was considered a serious target for the final DP slot last year before the club opted for Fernandez. However, after falling out of favor, Pumas were willing to let him go in a manner that accommodated Portland’s limited remaining budget space. Mora provides a divergent style from Niezgoda’s channel-running and Ebobisse’s hold-up ability. He operates on a true poacher’s instinct, and his industrious approach will provide a complementary presence to any of the other strikers.
Dario Župarić (CB): If there’s one offseason acquisition that is more critical to the team's success than the others, Dario Župarić is that guy. Throughout the Timbers MLS history, CB has easily been their most troublesome spot, and they’ve yet to replace Liam Ridgewell’s contributions since his departure last year. Say what you will about Liam’s off-the-field persona: his magnetism, leadership, organizational skills, and distribution were undoubtedly influential to the club’s performance.
Župarić, for lack of a better statement, is essentially the true Ridgewell replacement. At 27-years-old, the Croatian arrives with 90+ matches under his belt at Pescara in Italy and Rijeka in Croatia, a club that has already produced productive MLS players like Héber and Damir Kreilach. Early reports in training regard him as “smooth and confident,” and even if that confidence has gotten the better of him occasionally, those characteristics exemplify why Gio had never received “more messages from friends saying you’ve brought in a very good player.” In the end though, the pressure is on Dario to perform on the pitch. MLS athleticism poses a unique challenge, and there’s little flexibility to compensate for any struggles. His adjustment to MLS must be quick.
Yimmi Chara (RM): Recognize the last name? In a courtship that has lasted as long as the Timbers MLS era itself, Wilkinson finally brought the youngest Chara brother to the Rose City. Acquired as a DP from Atletico Mineiro, there is concern about whether Yimmi’s G+A output will justify the reported $6 million transfer fee. Throughout his career, he’s never been the type of player to light up the scoresheet, but it’s difficult to dispossess him and he provides lightning-quick pace that this roster lacks. With multiple attacking options, I honestly don’t anticipate much pressure to fill the stat sheet, and his familial connection to the organization should facilitate a more seamless transition. Plus, it’s difficult enough for the opposition to face one Chara - it’ll certainly be a pain in the ass to confront two.
Blake Bodily (LM): The HG left-footer is a fairly highly-regarded prospect coming out of the Pac-12, and he showed flashes of quality during his time at T2 a few years ago. With the depth on the wings, I can’t imagine he’ll see much of any first-team minutes. I could be wrong, especially if things go south for any reason, but let’s revisit this signing a year or two from now.

A word on everyone else:

Goalkeepers:
Steve Clark (GK): Without a doubt, Clark was the surprise player of 2019. Boasting the highest save percentage and second-lowest GAA in the league, Clark made numerous highlight-reel saves after taking over for Jeff Attinella in late April. While the occasional mental lapse defined much of his career up to this point, the 33-year-old was nearly flawless in all phases of play last season. However, there’s legitimate concern that this outstanding form is not replicable throughout the next campaign. After Attinella’s regression to the mean following a career year, one can understand why the Front Office might have been apprehensive to give him a sizable pay raise - even if his performances warranted it. That said, Clark’s got the new deal in his pocket and will certainly be the starter opening day vs Minnesota.
Jeff Attinella (GK): As highlighted above, few Timbers had a more ill-fated 2019 campaign than Jeff Attinella. After a torrid 2018 season, Attinella’s performances were marred by poor decision after poor decision until his year concluded with season-ending shoulder surgery. You have to feel for the guy too, as for the first time in his career, he entered an MLS regular season as the unquestioned starter. We’ll see how he recovers from the shoulder injury, but if Clark’s consistency remains and Aljaž Ivačič shows promise, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Timbers move him while he still has some value.
Aljaž Ivačič (GK): If there’s a Timber who had a more disastrous 2019 than Jeff Attinella though, it’s probably Aljaž Ivačič. The 26-year-old Slovenian was acquired last offseason to be the goalkeeper of the future, but a significant leg surgery last February took him out of team activities for most of the year. When he did return with T2 in late summer, things did not look great to say the least. It is undoubtedly difficult to adapt to a new country, but Ivačič’s struggles were worryingly apparent. Most of his goals conceded for T2 looked similar to this, where he was either in the wrong position, extremely hesitant to come off his line, or strikingly late to react to the opponent. These are fundamental issues that can hopefully be chalked up to rust and then addressed with a full preseason. If not, Aljaž might go down as one of the worst signings in club history.
Defenders:
Jorge Moreira (RB): Moreira possesses the talent to be the best RB in the league, but sporadically found himself a liability last season. After years spent with Argentine powerhouse River Plate, the 30-year-old Paraguayan was naturally inclined to push up the pitch since his teams had often dominated the game’s flow. As a result, the Timbers’ conservative style and league’s athleticism caught him off guard, as he had an unfortunate propensity to be out of position early in 2019. However, he mostly adjusted over the course of the year, and his power, crossing ability, and dynamism are crucial to the team.Even with the occasional poor clearance, Moreira is a lockdown starter and few RBs in MLS have his offensive weaponry and pedigree. His loan only lasts until June 30 however, though I’d fully expect the Front Office to lock him down on a permanent deal.
Update: the Timbers right-side defense has been tragic this preseason, and much of that has to do with Moreira’s play. He’ll have to re-adjust or else he’ll revert back to being a liability again
Larrys Mabiala (CB): With his pearly-white smile, cool demeanor, and commanding aerial ability, the big French-Congolese CB is one of the most respected players in the Timbers’ locker room. In a position that is a perennial revolving door of underperforming wreckage, Mabiala has been the one “written-in-ink” starter since mid-2017, and his veteran savvy is integral to the squad’s success. But at age 32, Larrys’ value is not embodied by his individual qualities but more so the partnership he forms with Župarić. His physical presence will always be vital to an otherwise undersized team, however, he lacks the turn of pace and distribution ability that would place him among the elite CBs in MLS. As a result, Larrys and Dario must discover how to paper over each other’s weaknesses by performing to their unique capabilities: Župarić covers ground well and can initiate attacking movements while Mabiala handles physical strikers and cleans up loose balls in the 18. In the end, his consistency will be as influential as any player on the roster. If for any reason he performs below the norm, there is simply not enough quality depth behind him to overcome it.
Bill Tuiloma (CB): Tuiloma is not spectacular by any means, but he’s an ideal player to provide sporadic minutes. The 24-year-old Kiwi is cheap, versatile, and possesses enough technical quality to score the odd banger. It’s a shame a calf injury will rule him out for the next few weeks, as the team could use his flexibility for spot duty at CB, RB, and even defensive midfield. If he recovers fully and Župarić struggles to adapt to the league’s athleticism, expect him to mount a challenge for starting minutes.
Julio Cascante (CB): The Costa Rican CB is best described as a high-ceiling, low-floor player whose ceiling continues to lower year after year. As far as backup CBs go, he’s probably adequate, but the guy went from a fringe national-teamer to virtually off-the-radar since his arrival in Portland. Though his height and build forge a formidable aerial presence, he’s yet to resolve occasional mental lapses and improve his subpar distribution. But Julio’s most maddening characteristic is his inconsistency. Perhaps the best thing you can say about a Cascante performance is that you didn’t notice him. Unfortunately, he tends to stick out for all the wrong reasons. Maybe a little more familiarity with the league will help the 26-year-old raise his level in 2020. I’m not exceedingly hopeful though.
Jorge Villafaña (LB): El Sueño hasn’t been the same player since his departure to Santos Laguna after MLS Cup 2015. Still an excellent crosser, Villafaña really struggled with pacey wingers towards the beginning of the season, although there are some whispers he was often gutting through minor knocks. Even with an uptick of form over the course of the campaign, there is legitimate concern he’s lost a step and will be a liability in the backline. I love the man as much as the next guy, but I’d say the uneasiness is valid. Let’s hope he proves us all wrong.
Marco Farfan (LB): The lack of confidence in Villafaña would be less of an issue if Zarek Valentin were still suiting up in the green-and-gold because Marco Farfan is as fragile as a potato chip. The HG LB is not the most athletic individual, but his technical quality is probably proficient enough to play at this level. Farfan still has to evolve as a 1v1 defender, though he’ll certainly get looks this year if he can manage to stay healthy.
Note: We still need a backup RB. It could be former NYRB, IMFC, and Dynamo player Chris Duvall. 20-year-old Venezuelan Pablo Bonilla is another option, but he’s at T2 for the meantime.
Midfielders:
Diego Valeri (CAM): When all is said and done, I hope MLS fans and media take a moment to appreciate just how good Diego Valeri was. Since 2015, we’ve witnessed impressive names take home the Landon Donovan MVP award including Giovinco, Villa, Josef, and Vela. Sandwiched in between those names you’ll find Diego Valeri. Only the ninth MLS player to reach the elusive 70G, 70A Club, Valeri took the Timbers from a hapless expansion side to a perennial playoff contender. And from my admittedly biased perspective, I don’t think he gets enough credit for doing so. But don’t take it from me, take it from Albert Rusnak, who accurately captures the true essence of the Maestro in this interview. For the miracles performed on the pitch, his importance and presence in the community are just as admirable.
However, times are changing for Valeri, and it’s best exemplified by the fact we almost lost him over a contract dispute this offseason. By taking a TAM deal, Diego not only affirmed his commitment to the organization but allowed them to make moves to best ensure he doesn’t retire with only a single major MLS title to his name. I’d expect the Timbers staff to exercise more load management with him this campaign, but by no means does that change his status as a pillar of the club and community. Build the statue.
Sebastian Blanco (LM/RM): Sebastian Blanco is one of those guys who never seems to score a bad goal. The fiery Argentine may not be the face of the franchise off the pitch, but the decision to extend his DP contract over Valeri is a hint towards Blanco’s importance on the field. After posting his second consecutive double-digit assist campaign, Blanco’s quality across all attacking midfield positions is unquestioned. That said, 2020 is a pivotal season for the Timbers’ oldest Designated Player. Soon to be 32, the clock is ticking on Blanco’s heyday, and he’ll certainly aspire to outperform 2019’s underwhelming tally of six goals from 106 shot attempts. Now surrounded by a wealth of complimentary attacking pieces though, I’d expect a rejuvenated Seba come March. Bet the over on six goals.
Diego Chara (CDM): If there’s anyone who can conquer the inevitability of fathertime, Diego Chara is the guy. Soon to be 34-years-old, Chara’s performance metrics — involving areas such as speed and distance covered — reached all-time highs last year. His importance to the club over the past decade cannot be overstated, and we were all ecstatic to see him finally partake in an MLS All Star Game last season. The Colombian possesses a pillowy first touch, an immense soccer IQ, and a fearless presence in the middle of the park, and there simply will be no replacing him when he finally does choose to retire. But to be honest with you, I think he’s still got a few more Best XI caliber seasons in him. He just ages like a fine wine.
Andrés Flores (CM): Hell, I’m just gonna copy and paste exactly what I wrote last year because it’s still just as applicable. Andres Flores is like a Toyota Camry - solid if unspectacular. He doesn't have the sexy style that will garner all the attention, but when push comes to shove and you need to get from point A to point B, he’ll do the job (at a very low price too!). Look for him to assist in spot-duty once he returns from injury, but his most important contributions will likely be found in the little things off the pitch.
Cristhian Paredes (CM): At only 21 years of age, the full Paraguayan international started over 30 matches the past two seasons and has also emerged as the surefire midfield partner to Diego Chara. After a 2018 campaign that saw a significant adjustment period, Paredes looked far more composed in 2019, adding late-runs into the box into his arsenal midway through last season. However, no longer on loan from Club America, Paredes will face more organizational pressure to be a day-in, day-out starter this campaign. His ranginess and ability to break up play are unquestioned, but he needs to become a bit cleaner on the ball and more confident playing out of tight spaces. That said, there’s a reason the club has invested more capital into the promising midfielder: he has the potential to be a significant contributor for years to come.
Marvin Loría (LM/RM): In the next few seasons, I’d wager Marvin Loría will become the poster child for the Timbers youth development structure. With a comparatively underdeveloped and shallow Homegrown talent pool, Portland picks up guys like Loría out of foreign youth programs to develop through the Timbers pipeline. The 22-year-old Costa Rican international showed significant promise last season, and he can play a true inverted winger role - a unique style in terms of this roster. While he may see time at LM and CAM, I love him cutting in from the right, as he can deliver bangers like this and allow Jorge Moreira to bulldoze forward. At a league minimum salary, Loría provides the cheap and talented depth which makes this attack’s outlook so promising. I can’t wait to see what strides he makes this season (once he returns from an underpublicized/undisclosed injury).
Andy Polo (RM): Not many people in the Timbers fanbase understand why Andy Polo is still on the roster, let alone competing for starting minutes. In 2,860 MLS minutes, the Peruvian winger has only managed a dismal one goal and three assists - a statline that is considerably worse than ineffective wingers of the past including Kalif Alhassan, Sal Zizzo, and Franck Songo’o. He’s not an outright liability, and occasionally puts in a shift defensively, but he essentially exists solely to occupy space. Now entering his third season, Polo’s best string of matches came as the third CM in a 4-3-2-1 just before the 2018 World Cup. He’s since gathered looks in preseason as a #8 in a 4-3-2-1 and showed flashes but is still incomplete. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Tomas Conechny (CF/LM/RM): The 21-year-old Argentine enters the 2020 campaign a relative unknown, and though the club thought enough of him to exercise his full-time purchase option from San Lorenzo, his fit on the squad has yet to be fully discerned. Rumored to be one of the better headers-of-the-ball on the team, he showed occasional creative sparks in late-game situational appearances but has yet to prove he deserves starting minutes. We hear quotes akin to “he doesn’t yet know how good he can be,” but it still isn’t obvious that a particular position suits him well or if he even possesses a skillset that allows him to be a difference-maker at this level. For all intents and purposes, he’s likely to end up Diego Valeri’s understudy even if Conechny has yet to show the same precision and danger at a playmaking second-forward role. As a result, it remains to be seen if the high-rated prospect grows into a significant piece of the puzzle or if his lack of positional clarity ultimately hampers his development.
Dairon Asprilla (RM): Dairon Asprilla plays at an all-star caliber level if one of two things are true: the Timbers are on the verge of postseason elimination or he’s playing on T2. If neither of those two things are true, he’s often more useless than a turn signal on a BMW. Some wonder if he possesses compromising pictures of Wilkinson or MP, otherwise there’s very little to explain why he’s one of the longest-tenured Timbers - especially considering he’s been in-and-out of the doghouse almost every year. Word out of training suggests he’s been one of the best players in camp, but we’ve been down this road before - if it’s not Oct. or Nov., Asprilla often looks lost on the pitch.
Sidenote: 99% of Dairon’s shot attempts get thwarted due to his foolishly long windup, but when he does get a hold of one, they stay hit.
Eryk Williamson (CM): The HG midfielder (by way of D.C.) found starting minutes in spot appearances last fall, and he looked competent if unremarkable. For T2, Williamson often occupied more advanced positions, but I think he projects best as a ball-shuttling #8 in this squad. In particular, I can see him fitting into Andy Polo’s old role as a CM next to Chara and/or Paredes in a 4-3-2-1, as his passing and combination play provide a diverse look from the other two. Overall, Williamson finds himself in a decent situation to get game action this year, and I’m interested to see how he develops and grows in confidence in 2020.
Renzo Zambrano (CDM): Another international brought through the T2 pipeline, Zambrano is essentially Diego Chara’s backup at the #6. Since George Fochive left following the 2015 season, the Timbers have struggled to find a suitable defensive backup in the central midfield. Renzo is now that guy. The 25-year-old Venezuelan appeared in 10 matches last season and struggled immensely in fixtures against Colorado and Atlanta, but showed flashes of positivity in thrashings of Houston and Vancouver. 2020 will require more consistency from Zambrano who doesn’t possess the same physicality or power as Chara - but then again, few do. As a result, if I were Savarese, I’d try to mold Zambrano into a fulcrum/anchor type midfielder in the form of a Uri Rosell or Scott Caldwell. He’s a capable passer, and if he simplifies his game to shield the backline, he’ll be an asset to the team. If not, he’ll likely over-extend himself, and his midfield partner will be forced to work more tirelessly to maintain solid defensive shape. Renzo is likely the first option off the bench whenever Chara or Paredes are unavailable, so his growth is critical to the team’s success this year.
Forwards:
Jeremy Ebobisse (ST): Since Niezgoda and Mora’s arrival, some fans and media have denounced the organization for burying the 23-year-old American on the depth chart and hindering his development. Here’s why I think that’s an overly-sensationalized viewpoint:
  1. As Wilkinson has correctly identified, Ebobisse will miss a good chunk of the early season for Olympic qualification, and with Niezgoda’s injury history, there needs to be other legitimate options to start upfront (i.e. not Dairon Asprilla).
  2. In 2018, Ebobisse entered the season ‘stuck’ behind two DP-type strikers in Fanendo Adi and Samuel Armenteros. Guess who emerged on top? Ebobisse. There will be multiple competitions, two-striker formations, and rotations that allow him to earn quality minutes.
  3. This idea that the organization is almost trying to sabotage his development is an outrageous claim. Ebobisse was the only player on the squad to play in every match last season and only finished behind Chara, Blanco, and Valeri in terms of total minutes played. Granted, he played a fair few matches at LW (not ideal, but he wasn’t outright terrible), but the team did have its best stretch of success with him and Fernandez on the pitch together.
But the one factor people must acknowledge is this: Ebobisse still hasn’t developed the it factor that other MLS strikers have - at least not yet. When Fernandez arrived, his ruthlessness was a stark contrast to Ebobisse’s often less-goal-hungry runs and occasional lack of clarity in the final third. Jeremy is a decent finisher, even with a few missed sitters, but he’s still not consistent enough with the direct runs off the shoulder that separate good from great. He’ll hopefully continue to develop a wider range of skills, but he’s not yet the guy to put this team over the top.
Predicted Starting XI:
Primarily: 4-2-3-1
Other likely options: 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-2
Best Case Scenario:
A top playoff seed and a challenge for either the Supporter’s Shield or MLS Cup. Savarese effectively implements tactical flexibility, Niezgoda and Mora combine for 20+ goals, and Cristhian Paredes takes the next step forward in his development. While Župarić locks down the defense, one of Valeri or Blanco mounts a Best XI campaign, and Diego Chara makes a second consecutive All-Star Game appearance. Sprinkle in a Cascadia Cup alongside a harmonious relationship between the Front Office and Timbers Army, and you have a damn successful year.
Worst Case Scenario:
Pretty much the opposite of what you see above. Niezgoda can’t stay healthy while the core pieces’ form collectively falls off a cliff. Those in the Army who hold a personal vendetta against Merritt Paulson blow a trivial issue out of proportion causing a full-on revolt from the supporter’s group. Savarese proves to be an average coach with exploitable flaws, and the team fails to qualify for the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference. Significant spending, no tangible results. A wasted year.
Realistic Scenario:
Well, either of those two scenarios could qualify as realistic. But like all Timbers seasons, it’s most realistic to be somewhere in between. There’ll be stretches of outright panic, and there’ll be other times where we all convince ourselves the Timbers will win MLS Cup. Some of the signings hit: let’s go with Župarić - while other signings underwhelm due to extenuating circumstances: probably Niezgoda (and his glass skeleton). The team finishes in the middle of the pack - a team that no one wants to face in October - but one that is equally liable to beat themselves.
Prediction:
Even for someone as pessimistic as I am, I won’t predict the worst-case scenario. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the discouraging feeling that the Timbers will squander its immense talent again. A disappointing 6th or 7th place finish is in store after another taxing roller-coaster season. However, I’ll go out on a limb to say Portland does win a Cascadia Cup or USOC - some sort of silverware that convinces everybody the obvious flaws can be overcome in 2021. Blanco has a great 2020 season. The other pieces show flashes brilliance, yet can’t quite string together enough consistency to let the attack fire on all cylinders. Savarese will keep his job but enters the 2021 campaign on the hotseat. It’ll be another case of “close, but not close enough.”

Online Resources

Official Links: Website Twitter
Local Coverage: Oregon Live Stumptown Footy
Best Twitter follow: Chris Rifer
Best Read: Jamie Goldberg’s article on Fernandez didn’t age well, but it’s extremely important to understand his tragic life story.
Subreddit: timbers

#RCTID

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2020.02.11 23:40 OneWingedDevil28 Booking a Kenny Omega Run in NXT (Part Two: The Elite)

Booking a Kenny Omega Run in NXT (Part Two: The Elite)
“WELL DONE KENNY! WELL DONE!” Omega has just survived a gruelling five man gauntlet, in his path to glory he defeated Kushida, Kassius Ohno, Keith Lee and finally Pete Dunne in what will go down in NXT history. Kenny Omega delivers his concluding speech of the night, and he poses with the Young Bucks in the middle of the ring, before he is interrupted by Adam Cole, bellowing appraisal to Omega.
“Kenny Omega ladies and gentlemen. The Cleaner! The Face of NXT!” Omega looks visibly disgusted, what does Cole want with him now?! “Y’know, Kenny, I was actually rooting for you backstage tonight, because you now get to face Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover 25 for the NXT Championship, I think that deserves a round of applause, right guys?” Omega nods, however there is a blatant scent of sarcasm oozing from Cole’s voice. “I was cheering for you, because, when you signed that contract two weeks before our meeting at NXT Takeover: New York, that contract had a little notice at the bottom of the paper.” Everyone watches on in conclusion.
“Whenever Kenny Omega next challenges for the NXT Championship, Adam Cole gets to participate in the match as well.” The Florida crowd boo as Cole chuckles hysterically. “Genius, right? You kept on convincing yourself that I wasn’t getting to your head, but you were filled with so much hatred and desperation when you signed that contract, that you couldn’t even read the damn thing!” Cole continues to chuckle as Omega realises his mistake.
“So, on June 2nd, the 25th edition of NXT Takeover… For the NXT title, it will be Johnny Gargano, facing Kenny Omega…. Facing Adam Cole, for the NXT Championship! Now, I hope you’ve learnt your lesson now, Mr Omega. There is no such thing of getting rid of the Undisputed Era. And at Takeover 25, I will win the NXT Championship, and I won’t even need to pin you.” Cole drops the mic and does the Undisputed Era hand gesture alongside the rest of the faction to end the show, and the screening.

NXT – 22nd May 2019
NXT Champion Johnny Gargano opens the show by coming out and claiming that he doesn’t deserve to defend his newly-won NXT Title in a triple threat match, and that Adam Cole should be stripped of his number one contendership. Gargano wants a clean match with Omega one-on-one, a dream match for that matter to celebrate a history of great NXT Takeover events.
Omega comes out and agrees with Gargano, they appeal to William Regal who rejects it, saying a contract is a contract. Gargano, in a change of heart, blames Omega for not reading the contract in the first place. While the two argue in the ring, and tensions rise, Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish come out and circle Gargano and Omega, who are forced to fight side by side to take them out.
Cole then comes rushing down to the ring while Gargano and Omega are cleaning out the Undisputed Era. Gargano and Omega take out Cole. Afterwards, Gargano goes to superkick Omega, but he is one step ahead as Omega moves away from his opponent for the title, creating a fascinating dynamic between the two.

NXT – 29th May 2019
The final NXT show before Takeover, there is a tag match arranged by William Regal – Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly versus the unlikely pairing of Kenny Omega and Johnny Gargano. How will their relationship fare out after last week’s events?
The Undisputed Era duo make their entrance first, followed by Kenny Omega then the NXT Champion Johnny Gargano. The bell rings and we are underway.

The Undisputed Era vs Kenny Omega and Johnny Gargano
Omega starts in the ring against O’Reilly, Omega establishes a significant advantage, however Fish and O’Reilly use tandem offense and sneaky tactics to take control of the match – Fish and O’Reilly have one thing over their opponents, and that’s synergy. Fish lays into Omega, he goes for a Flying Fishhook but Omega hits a sudden V-Trigger and a frankensteiner. Omega gets the hot tag on NXT Champion Gargano and the wheels are rolling.
Gargano connects a flurry of offense, showing off to Kenny Omega the technical skill of the NXT Champion, and what he’s in for on Saturday. Fish gets Gargano in the Tree of Woe, he tags in O’Reilly and they both punish Gargano, Omega does not help out his tag team partner, however, standing smug on the apron.
After an exchange of offense, O’Reilly connects the Heel Hook. Gargano seems to be about to tap, but Omega then intervenes and hits a 450 SPLASH ON O’REILLY. GREAT SPOT! Gargano is on his feet, ready to put the match away, but Omega tags himself in all of a sudden. O’Reilly and Fish overwhelm Omega, but he fights back into it, he gets Fish in a position for a One Winged Angel but O’Reilly dropkicks Omega.
Fish connects the Heel Hook himself, Omega stretches to tag in Gargano, but Gargano shakes his head and walks up the ramp, grabbing his NXT Title along the way. Outnumbered, Fish and O’Reilly connect the Chasing the Dragon and goes for the pin, 1…2….3.

The Undisputed Era def. Kenny Omega and Johnny Gargano (9 minutes)
Obvious friction has emerged between Omega and Gargano, and now surely there will be bad blood going into Saturday’s clash between the two megastars, including Adam Cole as it is a highly anticipated triple threat match. After the match, O’Reilly and Fish attack Omega, The Young Bucks come down to assist Omega, then, out of the blue, the War Raiders appear, the team that are facing The Young Bucks on Saturday. In all of the chaos, Gargano comes out and strikes Omega with the NXT Championship belt.
https://imgur.com/a/S8VGDxD

NXT Takeover: 25
Here is the card for the 25th edition of NXT Takeover!
- Matt Riddle vs Roderick Strong
- Undisputed Era vs Street Profits vs The Young Bucks vs The War Raiders © in a Ladder Match for the NXT Tag Team Championship
- Tyler Breeze vs Velveteen Dream © for the NXT North American Championship
- Io Shirai vs Shayna Baszler © for the NXT Women’s Championship
- Kenny Omega vs Adam Cole vs Johnny Gargano © for the NXT Championship
In the ladder match, The Young Bucks win their first piece of NXT gold as they capture the Tag Team Championship in a fantastic bout! Could Omega capitalize and also win gold, completing the Elite’s Gold Rush?
There is an extravagant promo for the triple threat match, showing how Cole snuck his way into the scene, and the ever escalating tension between Kenny Omega and NXT Champion Johnny Gargano. All men have an equal chance of walking away with the gold tonight, who will be walking away of NXT Takeover 25 as NXT Champion?
Adam Cole is the first out, rapped to the ring by extremely talented Josiah Williams. Cole looks prepared, constantly making hints that he will indeed be champion by the end of the night. Ranallo explains the situation to the audience, Cole shouldn’t be in this match, but the naïve nature of Omega caused this scenario.
Kenny Omega is next to the ring, sporting gold-and-black gear, also teasing him capturing the gold tonight. Finally, Gargano comes out in all of his vibrancy and excitement, wearing Captain Marvel gear with the NXT Championship held around his waist. All men stand in a separate corner of the ring, the lights dim and we are underway. Cole, Omega, Gargano. NXT Title.

Adam Cole vs Kenny Omega vs Johnny Gargano© for the NXT Championship
The three men stand in the ring, rallying the crowd. All men postured up, eyes on the prize for the conclusion for what has been a great event. There is a sense of intensity, unexpectancy. Liveliness in the Webster Bank Arena. Cole begins talking trash to Omega, however in a swift turn of pace, GARGANO SUPERKICKS COLE. Cole is disposed of, there is a sharp tone to the fans cheer before that excitement turns to shock.
Gargano and Omega circle eachother, both with grins on their faces. They can now face eachother without the distraction of Adam Cole. They enter a quick tie up, Gargano flooring Omega, who quickly counters getting into a headlock of his own, they embark in a fast-paced, smooth-flowing chain wrestling sequence which ultimately ends in deadlock.
They enter another sequence, Omega goes for a quick V-Trigger but Gargano slides under it and irish whips Omega, Gargano leapfrogs over his opponent, Omega falls into a clubbing forearm from Adam Cole, who is back into the match! Cole rams Gargano into the ring post, gets Omega and goes for an early Panama Sunrise, he leaps onto him, but Omega tosses him overhead!
Cole and Omega enter an exchange, both men rebound against the ropes, reminiscent of a sequence of their last encounter. However, this time, Omega stops himself on the ropes while Cole invests in the Superkick, connecting with nothing but air. Omega connects a Dragon Suplex, sending Cole out of the ring. Omega rebounds off the ropes, but before he can hit the Tope Con Hilo, Gargano lunges through the middle rope and takes out Omega!
In one quick motion, he tosses the Cleaner out in the same direction as Cole, Gargano rebounds off the ropes and connects a suicide dive on both men! What an explosive start to the match! Back inside of the ring, Gargano and Cole have a duel of strength and agility, Gargano gets the upper hand over the opportunist and goes for an early Garga-No escape, he slightly connects it but in panic, Cole sprawls around and gets to the ropes in mere seconds.
Gargano goes for a suplex, but Cole knees Gargano mid motion then hits an echoing superkick to the back of Gargano’s head. He takes Gargano to the top turnbuckle, goes for a Superplex but Omega re-enters the fray, powerbombing Cole in an excellent Tower of Doom spot! All men are wiped out clean!
The action spills back to the outside of the ring, all three men on equal pegging. Gargano lunges from the steel steps and connects a flying DDT on Omega, Cole finds an opportunity to lay the NXT Champion out on the apron and leap from the top turnbuckle, connecting a knee on Gargano! Cole takes the padding off the announce table as the fans raise their voices in warning.
Cole gets Gargano on top of the announce table and lifts him for a powerbomb, however Gargano at the last second falls out of it and both men clothesline eachother, both laid out on top of the announce table. At this point, Omega is back to his feet, he goes to the top turnbuckle, don’t do this Omega says Percy Watson. OMEGA, NO EMOTION IN HIS FACE, LEAPS FROM THE TOP TURNBUCKLE TO THE ANNOUNCE TABLE, CONNECTING A MOONSAULT AND BREAKING THE TABLE! OH MY GOD! “MAMMA MIA!” yells Mauro Ranallo!
They spend minutes recovering and all men are back inside of the ring, all exhausted and exchanging physical strikes. Omega hits a Sit Out Powerbomb on Cole, and Cole is on his knees! Gargano in one side of the ring, Omega in the other, they exchange a look. Gargano undoes his knee brace. Omega points the finger gun at Cole. Gargano and Omega both go towards Cole, Gargano hitting the Meeting In The Middle while Omega hits a V-TRIGGER, OH MY GOD WHAT A SPOT!
Omega and Gargano have an exchange of strikes, suddenly Omega gets Gargano in the Garga-No Escape! Omega steals Gargano’s move, Gargano is able to get to the ropes, he then lifts Omega and connects a One Winged Angel on Omega! 1….2.. Cole breaks up the pin, back in the match! Cole hits a Panama Sunrise on Omega, sending him out of the match, Cole is stealing the opportunity, Cole hits a Last Shot on Gargano, he goes for the cover, no way, 1…2….3!

Adam Cole def. Johnny Gargano © vs Kenny Omega (24 minutes)
Adam Cole is your new NXT Champion. Adam Cole has done it. He snuck his way into the match and he has pinned the NXT Champion, Johnny Gargano. Adam Cole has won the NXT Championship. He celebrates, he had an opportunity at the end of the match, Omega and Gargano were too focused on eachother and forgot about the third man.
In these past few weeks, Cole has been able to get into the match, drive a wedge between Gargano and Omega, and picked a perfect time to strike, and we have a new NXT Champion. Cole celebrates as the new NXT Champion, Gargano gets medical attention while Omega sits on the outside of the ring, gutted. Cole celebrates with the Undisputed Era to close out the show.

NXT – June 19th 2019
Two weeks removed from the classic NXT Takeover: 25, Adam Cole’s first NXT Title defence comes in the form of Kenny Omega, who was so close to victory in Connecticut before Cole took his opportunity and claimed Gargano’s NXT Championship. Tonight, Omega has a golden chance to finish what he started many weeks ago and become NXT Champion.
Omega makes his entrance, followed by Cole who sways his title around clumsily, with a hint of blatant arrogance. Omega doesn’t move his eyes away from the devious figure. Cole leaps up to the apron, goes to taunt to the crowd however he is met with a forearm from Omega!

Kenny Omega vs Adam Cole © for the NXT Championship
Omega rebounds off the ropes and connects a suicide dive to Cole outside of the ring, he tosses the new champion inside of the ring and the match begins, Omega connects a german suplex before urging Cole up, trying to put him away early, giving him no time to breathe. Cole, dazed, exits the ring and approaches the title belt which is perched gloriously on a stand. Cole begins to stumble up the ramp, attempting to draw a count-out victory.
Frustrated, Omega goes for Cole, however, instead of getting him back in the ring, he plants Cole with a head-rattling package piledriver on the ramp! What a spot! He gets Cole back in the ring before the count can reach 10, and mere seconds into the match and Omega is already riding off momentum.
He goes for an Ushi-Gerushi but Cole outstretches a knee, striking Omega in the head, and running against the ropes, attempting to floor his powerhouse opponent. Omega telegraphs Cole, clotheslining him over the top rope. Cole stands on the apron, he enziguris and unexpecting Omega and finds an opportunity to go to the top rope, leap down on a crouched Omega, Cole flips, attempting the Panama Sunrise, BUT OMEGA LANDS ON HIS TWO FEET, AND HE V TRIGGERS COLE!
No matter what Cole has tried to do today, Omega has had his number, and that’s what Omega does, he telegraphs his opponents and wins matches by using variety in his offense. The Cleaner is closing in on victory, he connects a Reverse Frankensteiner and goes for the pin, 1..2… Cole kicks out in an intense near fall! Cole has great endurance, the Full Sail crowd are rallying Omega on as he inches closer to victory.
Omega decides to finish the match, he picks Cole up, going for the One Winged Angel. He puts him in the electric chair, however Cole pushes him and his opponent forwards, Omega spilling over the top rope. Cole stands on the apron, and when Omega is to his feet, Cole leaps from the apron, PANAMA SUNRISE TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE RING!
When Cole goes to get Omega inside the ring and guarantee victory, Cole’s leg gives in, and it takes him a few seconds to recalibrate and get Omega in the ring, then he goes for the pin, 1…2… Kickout from Omega! What a rematch! The two exchange strikes, Omega getting the upper hand. Omega connects a Moonsault from the top rope and Cole is perched against the ropes, in prime position for a fatal V-Trigger.
Omega bounces off the ropes, a spring in his step, he sprints towards Cole, but PETE DUNNE SLIDES IN THE RING AND CLUBS OMEGA WITH A CLOTHESLINE! The ref rings the bell, signalling a Disqualification Win for Kenny Omega, as the Full Sail fans gasp in shock! Pete Dunne has just sabotaged the NXT Title Bout between Adam Cole and Kenny Omega. Dunne looks up to the camera, a demonic, enrapturing scent on his face.
He aggressively picks up Omega and plants him with a Bitter End. Cole watches on in shock, however he smiles knowing he gets to be NXT Champion another day. He grabs the title after being dead-eyed by Dunne, and leaves. Meanwhile, Dunne gets the wary Omega to the outside of the ring, where he plants him with a vicious powerbomb to the apron. William Regal forces Dunne to leave the ring, bellowing the words “You’re suspended!” while doing so. Omega is distraught, another shot at the NXT Title, gone.

NXT – June 26th 2019
“Why did I attack Kenny Omega?” Dunne questions himself through the mic, receiving choruses of boos from the bittersweet Florida crowd. “Y’know, ever since The Elite have came to NXT, all they have done is disrespect the product of wrestling and have belittled the entire locker room with their arrogance. Of course, you all won’t understand, because you worship these people. Buy all of their merch, cheer them on as they compete in high-stakes matches, which, for the most part, they lose. But that’s besides the point. If you all knew how many wrestlers in the back the Elite have condescended upon, prioritised themselves over, then I doubt you’d still be cheering them week in week out.” “Everybody was asking the question, what faction is better? The Undisputed Era or The Elite? But nobody took British Strong Style into consideration. Because while The Elite were partaking in spot-fest, artificial wrestling matches, I was putting on Match of the Night at Takeover New York! I am here to challenge Kenny Omega to a singles match, come and get your revenge, Kenny! Ever since I lost to you in the gauntlet, and you became Number One Contender for the NXT Championship, I became obsessed with you, and I promised to myself that no matter the cost, Kenny Omega will NEVER be the face of this brand.”
Dunne’s words only infuriate the crowd even more. “So, I have set my terms. Omega/Dunne. Anytime. Anyplace. You’ll see that proper wrestling will always reign supreme over the theatrical approach. I didn’t beat you last time, but this time, I’ll BREAK YOU.” Dunne drops the mic and exits the arena. Omega unable to meet Dunne face to face due to injury.
The camera follows Dunne to the car park of Full Sail, where he sees that his car has been destroyed and battered. His face of confidence turns to anguish as he looks at his destroyed car, knowing pretty well who was responsible for it.
NXT – July 3rd 2019
Kenny Omega comes out on crutches, still recovering from being powerbombed on the apron by Pete Dunne weeks earlier. He is wearing casual clothing, glancing around Full Sail disappointingly. He enters the ring. “Peter Dunne! I must say, I was a fan of your work for many years, in fact, I’d always see videos of you and I think ‘One day, I’d love to face that guy’ but I never intended for there to be any bad blood between you and I. Y’know, I like what you mentioned about the factions, and I think you’re being fair there, it was always a conversation about the Elite and the Undisputed Era, and never about British… Strict- no…. Strong… Ermmmm….. Style! That’s the one. People never considered British Strong Style, and probably for good reason.”
“So, I’ll counteroffer you. Pete, you of all people should know that I’m a high roller, and here, I’m going all in… No, not that All In!” the fans laugh at the subtle reference. “It will be a six man tag.” Omega’s soft voice turns to a hiss “The Elite. Versus.” There is a raging intensity in the arena. “British S- oh I forgot the name again!” that tension is lifted. “The Elite versus British Strong Style. And if you win, then you’ll get all the publicity, all of the praise, because we’re DOING IT AT TAKEOVER, BABY!” the fans cheer and applaud the announcement.
Omega rallies the fans, still frozen in the ring, on crutches. Pete Dunne appears on the stage. He looks around for a minute as Omega quietens the crowd, awaiting a reply from the Bruiserweight. “At Takeover, we’ll show you British Strong Style. I accept. The only question is, will you be able to compete at Takeover, Kenny? After I powerbombed you the other week. I know you want to do the same to me, but it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere in those crutches.” Omega applauds Dunne for his words. “Oh trust me, I want to break every bone in your body” Omega bitterly replies “And I cannot wait to do so.” Omega slowly begins to lift one of his crutches. “So I’m going to stop waiting.” OMEGA DROPS THE CRUTCH, GOES TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE RING, DUNNE APPROACHES OMEGA AND A BRAWL BREAKS OUT AS FULL SAIL GO WILD FOR THESE TWO NXT STARS!
Omega takes the upper hand, filled with rage, as he lifts Dunne, trying to powerbomb him on the apron, but Dunne slips out and jumps over the barricade as Tyler Bate and Trent Seven join him. Dunne has a smirk on his face, the Young Bucks comfort Omega.

NXT – July 17th 2019
Kenny Omega returns to action tonight as we get a teaser of the bout that will shake the NXT Universe in just a few weeks as the Cleaner goes up against the first ever NXT UK Champion and member of British Strong Style, Tyler Bate. A match that is guaranteed to turn eyes on the upcoming six man tag taking place at NXT Takeover: Toronto.
The match takes place halfway through the packed show. Tyler Bate makes his entrance first accompanied by Pete Dunne and Trent Seven. Kenny Omega makes his entrance, however he is without the Young Bucks. Omega enters the ring and the bell rings.

Kenny Omega vs Tyler Bate
In an unexpected move, Bate moves towards Omega and offers a handshake. Omega contemplates for seconds, wondering if Bate is pulling off a psychological trick. Omega shakes Bate’s hand for a few seconds as the Florida crowd applaud the gesture from both men. They hold the handshake for seconds before Bate tries to clothesline Omega, who anticipates it and dodges under it, they engage in a collar and elbow tie up, Bate somehow getting the upper hand.
In the opening phases of the match, Bate is actually able to read Omega well, keeping a good match with him as it is an even duel. Bate is able to connect a Crossface on Omega, who shows overwhelming strength as he is able to break up the submission. Omega attempts to throw Bate over the top rope, but Bate pulls off the smooth Rebound Lariat in a great spot!
Basking in the heat of the moment, Bate goes for a Tyler Driver but Omega hits a hurricanrana mid air in a great spot. Omega goes to the top rope as the intensity rises, Omega goes for a moonsault but Bate gets his knees up and Omega has a harsh landing! Bate goes for the pin, 1…2… Kickout from Omega!
The match nears its conclusion with both men putting on a great match showing off the star power of the faction. Omega lunges from the middle turnbuckle, trying to hit a DDT, however Bate shows off his strength and keeps Omega up, putting him in a Firemans Carry and planting Omega down. He waits for Omega to get to his feet, Bate goes for a forearm but Omega catches it and hits a sudden V-Trigger, Bate shows the true heart of a British wrestler and screams in Omega’s face!
Omega knocks Bate down with a clubbing forearm and connects a V-Trigger which rattles around Full Sail, Omega lifts Bate and connects the One Winged Angel. 1…2…3.

Kenny Omega def. Tyler Bate (8 minutes)
A clean match between the two concludes with Kenny Omega coming away with a clean win. Omega celebrates in the ring as Dunne and Seven rise up to the apron and circle Omega, who is grinning despite the concerning predicament. We see why, he was steps ahead. The Young Bucks come from out of the apron, and sweep Seven and Dunne off the apron and superkick them both in great synchronisation. All of British Strong Style retreat while The Young Bucks and Omega celebrate the win in the ring, a great match back for the Cleaner, setting them up well for the Takeover bout.

NXT – July 24th 2019
The Young Bucks reveal that they were responsible for battering Pete Dunne’s car. The Elite and British Strong Style finally reach boiling point as they all brawl around Full Sail arena, it concludes with Pete Dunne hitting a Bitter End on Kenny Omega on top of the announce table as British Strong Style make a statement, getting one over the Elite.

NXT – August 7th 2019
To better understand the conflict between Kenny Omega and Pete Dunne, and to add variety to their feud, William Regal arranges a face-to-face interview hosted by Mauro Ranallo where both men will explain their grudges to eachother as we look forward to NXT Takeover: Toronto on Saturday.
In a segment that takes up ten minutes of the runtime, Omega and Dunne sit opposite eachother, Dunne decked out in a charcoal suit, chocolate brown boots and tied up hair. Omega, meanwhile, is in a tracksuit, hair down, posture slacked, a contrast to Dunne who is sitting back straight. Omega is merely making eye contact with anyone, Dunne has his eyes locked on Omega.
Ranallo invites both men to start the interview. The first question is directed towards Pete Dunne. “Pete, you were the one to initiate this rivalry with the man sitting across the room to you – you clearly stated why you attacked Kenny Omega a few weeks ago, and you gave many reasons. Out of those, which, to you, was the most significant reason?”
“Let it be known that I dislike Kenny Omega. As you said, Mauro, this is the case for many reasons. The biggest reason? The way he dramatizes the art of wrestling. It’s all flippant with Omega. Leaps, lunges and whatnot. He makes wrestling look like a ballet dance, and he will have a reality shock on Saturday when I show him real wrestling.” Ranallo nods his head, Omega letting off a little chuckle. There is a tense, but empty atmosphere in the room as Ranallo turns to Omega. “Kenny, I’d now like to ask you – if you win on Saturday, what would be the reason that you were able to pin Pete Dunne, or even submit him?” Omega is silent for a few seconds, staring deeply at the floor.
“Because I’m the better wrestler.” Dunne shakes his head while chuckling, bemused by the shallow answer Omega gave. “Oh, you find that funny?” Omega exclaims, raising his voice. Dunne nods as Omega continues. “Because you wanna know how I see this, Pete. I see this as an emotionless mid-carder who cannot connect with the crowd, looking for relevance and pushing other people down the ladder to get there, you-“ Ranallo cuts off Omega and moves over to Dunne for his next question,
“Pete, we are all aware that this will be a six man tag team match this Saturday, so do you think your men have what it takes to go after one of the most acclaimed and decorated tag teams in the history of pro wrestling in the Young Bucks?”
“I have faith in Tyler and Trent that they’ll come through. Not just for me, for us. This is our opportunity to assert ourselves as the faction to beat. Trent and Tyler have been tagging together for years, and the chemistry we share in the ring as a trio is enough to knock off anyone and everyone.” Ranallo nods, pleased with the informative answer that Dunne gave. Omega is cheekily shaking his head. “Kenny, this is your final question, is Pete Dunne the biggest threat you have had in your NXT career thus far?”
Omega livens up, he’s fast to answer. “Not at all, Mauro. I’ve already come across Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano, and I respect Gargano, Cole, not so much. But both men have gave me a better fight then Pete Dunne will on Saturday and that’s a fact”. Mauro asks Dunne his last question, concluding the interview. “Pete, you mentioned earlier the thing you dislike the most about Kenny Omega. To you, what is the thing you most like about Kenny Omega?” Dunne has to take a moment to think of an answer. “His influence on the pro wrestling scene.” Omega’s face turns to surprise as he begins to listen in to Dunne’s words. “If anyone has put wrestling back into the mainstream, it’s this man. Anywhere he’s been, he’s been the top star. It’s just, for all this time, the fans have been looking up to the wrong guy.”
“You’re irrelevant, Dunne.” Kenny interrupts.
“Let me finish!” an argument breaks out between the two as Ranallo has to calm the scene yet again. He concludes the interview and before the cameras fade, Dunne outstretches a hand for Omega to shake. Omega looks at it for seconds and in a contrast to his handshake with Tyler Bate, Kenny Omega refuses and walks away. “See you Saturday.”

10th August 2019 – NXT Takeover: Toronto
We have reached NXT Takeover: Toronto, and it promises to be one of the best nights on the pro wrestling calendar! Let’s have a look at the matches lined up for this fateful night in Canada –
NXT Tag Team Championship – The Undisputed Era vs Street Profits ©
Io Shirai vs Candice LeRae
The Elite vs British Strong Style
NXT Women’s Championship – Rhea Ripley vs Shayna Baszler ©
Hell in a Cell Match for the NXT Championship – Johnny Gargano vs Adam Cole ©
We get through the first two matches and we reach the six man tag that everyone has been waiting for. Kenny Omega and Pete Dunne finally put their differences to rest, British Strong Style has everything to prove, the Elite have everything to lose as they come across eachother in what is going to be a classic.
There is a promo package showing the intense build up of the match, how Pete Dunne stopped Kenny Omega from winning the NXT Championship, injured him, and how Omega has failed to realise Pete Dunne and British Strong Style as a viable threat. Will it come back to bite him? British Strong Style make their entrance first, coming out to Pete Dunne’s gritty theme.
The Elite are out next, coming out to Kenny Omega’s theme. British Strong Style stand in the ring, arms widened, encouraging the Elite to come get it and bring the fight. Both teams make their entrances, Omega and Dunne starting in the ring. The bell rings and we are underway.

The Elite vs British Strong Style
‘British Strong Style!’ ‘THE ELITE!’ chants flood Scotiabank Arena. Kenny Omega and Pete Dunne circle the ring and enter a tie up, Omega winning the first encounter between the two as he shoves Dunne away, shrugging. Dunne slaps himself in the face to try and stimulate himself as he moves towards Omega with fists up, vying for a fist fight.
Omega plays the psychological game with Dunne, he goes to have a fist fight with him before moving away and tagging in Nick Jackson of the Young Bucks. Nick enters the ring and he is easily bested by Pete Dunne, who tags in Trent Seven and they co-operate using tandem offense. Nick and Trent have a duel, the fight spilling to the outside of the ring. A crowd of Elite members pile up outside of the ring, British Strong Style do a collective suicide dive to the outside of the ring, taking out the Elite and shifting the momentum greatly!
Back inside of the ring, Nick tags in Matt and they are able to show off their tag team skills as they take out Trent, who scurries to tag in Tyler, however the Bucks were one step ahead as Nick rushes over to Bate and knocks him off the apron. Frustrated, Dunne enters the ring, being held back by the referee.
The Elite control the match for a short period of time until Tyler Bate pulls off a miraculous comeback. Nick tags in Omega, Nick and Bate have a duel ending in Bate going for the Rebound Lariat, he goes off the ropes but he is met with a TAKEOVER V-TRIGGERRRRRR! Omega lifts Bate for a One Winged Angel, but Dunne enters the ring and clubs Omega with a forearm. He hits a Bitter End on Omega, who stumbles around before falling out of the ring. While Omega was stumbling, Nick Jackson tagged himself in.
Dunne, Bate and Seven go for the grounded Omega outside of the ring, unaware of the tag. The Young Bucks take advantage of the distraction, as Nick Jackson trickles up to the top rope, being launched off by Matt Jackson into the crowd, who follows it up with a suicide dive of his own.
Back inside of the ring, Matt and Nick hit a More Bang For Your Buck on Pete Dunne, they go for the cover, 1….2.. Trent Seven breaks up the pin! Seven shows himself as the wild card of the match as he fends off Matt and Nick Jackson, allowing for Dunne to get a hot tag on Bate, who comes into the match in a blaze of adrenaline, and all of a sudden we get an amazing Young Bucks vs Moustache Mountain duel!
The latter take the upper hand, Tyler Bate goes for a Tyler Driver on Nick, during the move he is superkicked by Matt Jackson! The Young Bucks take control, they get Bate in a position for a Meltzer Driver, Nick flings himself from the ropes, but he is took out by Trent Seven just in time! Suddenly, Matt Jackson is ountnumbered as Tyler Bate and Trent Seven gang up on him, Seven hits the 7 Star Lariat, Matt falls into a Tyler Driver! 1…2… Omega flings himself from the top turnbuckle and lands on Bate, breaking up the pin!
Dunne gets back into the match, he goes for a Bitter End on Omega, but Omega reverses it and they both headbutt eachother, and all of a sudden EVERYONE IS DOWN! EVERYONE IS DOWN! THE CROWD GO CRAZY! The Toronto crowd go ballistic as both teams slowly get to their feet and approach eachother.
The action re-emerges as it spills to the outside of the ring, Bate drives Nick Jackson into a barricade, Seven goes to spear Nick through the barricade but Matt takes the bullet instead, putting Seven through! Back inside of the ring, Omega and Dunne are telegraphing eachother, Omega takes the upper hand with a thunderous V-Trigger, he goes to the top rope, but Bate pushes him down and connects the Flying Headbutt!
Omega tags in Nick, but he is without his partner so he struggles! Dunne and Bate outnumber Nick, Bate hits a Tyler Driver, Dunne hits a Bitter End, Bate goes for the pin, 1… Omega gets in the ring, 2… But he is stopped by Dunne!!! 3!

British Strong Style def. The Elite (30 minutes)
Insane. Ridiculous. The only viable terms to define a match of this magnitude. British Strong Style have just defeated Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks. They pulled themselves together and worked as a tag team and took out one of the most dominant factions in pro wrestling. Trent Seven was the dark horse. Tyler Bate was full of energy. Pete Dunne was the star. But as a team, they were unstoppable.
Omega aids Matt and Nick while British Strong Style get their celebratory moment. While The Elite leave the arena, Omega gives Dunne a nod of recognition who gives one back, a mutual moment for two men who have put their bodies on the line tonight.
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2020.02.03 17:59 ThatParanoidPenguin Over the last year, I’ve been curating a list (with a lengthy description of each track) of the most overlooked, underrated, and slept on tracks. Here’s 50 Pop Songs You Missed in 2019.

Here’s the Spotify playlist!
You may remember this from the last few years (here’s 2018’s post), and each year I spend some time taking note of songs that I feel don’t get enough attention on here. I try to curate a healthy variety of different types of pop tracks, and this year, I’ve ended up with what I consider to be the most diverse list of tracks I’ve done yet.
If you’re looking for music you haven’t heard yet, look no further - I’ve even provided a similar artist for each track, so if you just want to find music that sounds like your favorite artist, you can do just that.
Hope you enjoy the list, and hopefully I’ll have the time to do this in 2020! Thanks for reading!
Without further ado, here’s the music:
Sharon Van Etten - Seventeen
  • for fans of Angel Olsen
Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow isn’t the best album in 2019 to feature a disheveled bedroom on the cover (Weyes Blood takes that crown, who knows how long it will take to pump the water out of that room), and Seventeen is the star of the album. A powerhouse indie pop track with a ton of pulsating uncertainty, Seventeen is a love letter to New York City. It’s a city that changes constantly, and it’s hard to remain the same when everything around you isn’t. It erupts into a burst of emotion, a rallying cry, a pleading to a past self, and it’s easily one of the best songs of the year.
Little SIMZ - Selfish (feat. Cleo Sol)
  • for fans of Noname
It’s been a great year for UK hip hop, with great releases from Slowthai, Dave, Loyle Carner, and more, but Little Simz may have the crown, as there’s a myriad of cuts on Grey Area that shine above the rest. Most of Little Simz’ stellar record Grey Area is hip hop, but on Selfish she dabbles in a sultry poppy R&B jam. It’s smooth, hazy, and most of all, packed with emotion as Little Simz admits her wrongdoing.
Nilüfer Yanya - In Your Head
  • for fans of Big Thief
British singer Nilüfer Yanya made a bold statement with In Your Head, the lead single to 2019’s wonderful Miss Universe. It’s a brash, bombastic ode to internal monologues and anxious cacophony. It’s a rough track with some raw delivery, and while the chorus is as rock as it gets, it’s perpetually infectious, echoing and blossoming with character.
ALMA - When I Die
  • for fans of Tove Lo
Ironically enough, I started this list before ALMA and Tove Lo collaborated on Worst Behaviour, which is also a pretty enjoyable pop track. However, earlier in 2019, ALMA released this versatile banger that wavers back and forth between a dreamy pop track and a club rager, a perfect fit for an artist who has a fair share of both.
Anna of the North - Leaning On Myself
  • for fans of Shura
Anna of the North is an artist who really should’ve been an internet darling - she excels at chill, ethereal pop music, and Leaning On Myself is one of her best, a daze of self-acceptance that doesn’t reinvent her formula but instead caters to her spacey, airy delivery. It’s a bit druggy, a bit dreamy, and has a lot of self-love.
Mahalia - Do Not Disturb
  • for fans of Kehlani
Mahalia deserves to be in the conversation with the likes of artists like Kehlani, SZA, Ella Mai, and all the R&B pop girls, because her 2019 album Love And Compromise is one of the most cohesive and consistent records of the year. On Do Not Disturb, she makes a chant out of her decision to shut herself out digitally. It’s a catchy track, as are most of the songs on the album, and she pleads over a lush and beautiful instrumental, carefully navigating off rhymes that sound perfect together.
Claud - Easy
  • for fans of Clairo
Non-binary Brooklyn-based bedroom pop singer Claud is the newest in a series of twinkly, lovely DIY pop artists, and Easy is one of the best examples of the genre. Drum machines lace a catchy melody, and their delivery is pale yet lush. It’s got a hint of Frankie Cosmos, a bit of Clairo, and a lot of heart.
Uffie - Nathaniel
  • for fans of Poppy
Yes, it’s that Uffie! Her first album in 9 years may be a bit hit or miss, but the outro, Nathaniel, is a certified banger. It’s loaded with dilating, winding synths, and her vocals echo and bounce around the track, cutting and crushing over the jangly instrumental. It’s a light, sunny track, and exactly the type of comeback I would want Uffie to make in 2019.
Hatchie - Without A Blush
  • for fans of Allie X
Hatchie sounds ripped straight out of the 80s on Without A Blush, complete with a bell-esque synth that dings and drones on. It’s a smoky synthpop track that feels born out of a world with Sky Ferreira and Allie X, and yet, Hatchie makes it her own. She’s definitely been an artist the sub has been sleeping on, and Without A Blush is just another example of her exemplary songwriting that deserves to be recognized.
Stella Donnelly - Die
  • for fans of Kero Kero Bonito
With a pinch of distortion and the twinge of the song title, Stella Donnelly grapples with duality of a happy song with depressing lyrics. Exploring a failing relationship, she pleads to her partner to simply tell the truth. It’s an upbeat, infectious anthem that serves as a great example of Stella Donnelly’s signature quirkiness.
SASAMI - I Was A Window (feat. Dustin Payseur)
  • for fans of Mitski
It’s hard to stand out in the crowded, ever changing genre of dark, DIY bedroom indie rock. Where SASAMI succeeds in the wake of others’ shortcomings is her haunting delivery over rough, distorted guitars that feel part Beach House, part Mitski, and all revealing. It’s a track about taking out self-revelations and insecurities on those you love, and the title is equally intriguing and powerful, becoming a chant in the song’s gripping echo of an outro.
Jamila Woods - Eartha
  • for fans of Solange
Jamila Woods’ Legacy! Legacy! is a stunning record, one forgotten in the throes of early 2019’s pop releases. However, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to enjoy one of the year’s best records, and what better way to start than checking out this poppy, sultry, honest-to-god jam. Pushy percussion and Jamila’s lovely vocals bring this song so much life, and lush synths give this song a cool funk that feels very her, light and summery.
Elise Hayes - Giving Up
  • for fans of Tessa Violet
Definitely one of the smaller artists on this list, Elise Hayes is an artist I stumbled upon on Spotify who has a very cute, very colorful sound - think Sigrid meets Tessa Violet, and I’m into it. There’s a sticky hook, a twang of acoustic guitar, some killer synths and sounds, and a whole lot of charisma.
Lolo Zouaï - Ride
  • for fans of Banks
Lolo Zouaï’s title track on High Highs To Low Lows may have become her biggest hit to date, but Ride is a hell of a track, a bad bitch anthem that proudly asks you to “watch [her] fuck it up.” It’s bustling with energy and intrigue as Lolo taunts and teases with a bass-heavy rhythmic chorus laced with croons and calls that would make a siren jealous.
Maude Latour - Superfruit
  • for fans of Lorde
There’s more to the Lorde comparisons than both artists’ mention of orange juice and dismissal of small talk. Instantly, you hear a bit of the New Zealand singer’s whispery delivery and youthful lyricism in Maude Latour’s Superfruit, a poppy, pensive track that bounces between joyful and abated. “And this is real life, by the poolside/Have I told you that I’m really fucking scared to die” really sums it up.
Burns - Energy (with A$AP Rocky & Sabrina Claudio)
  • for fans of Mura Masa
It’s surprising that Burns hasn’t garnered more attention with this track - A$AP Rocky and Sabrina Claudio are surprisingly fitting on here, and while Rocky is no stranger to a dance beat (his song with Mura Masa is quite great), he sounds so comfortable alongside Sabrina, who gives a mellow yet tender performance over the jazzy and warm instrumental.
SG Lewis - Flames (feat. Ruel)
  • for fans of 5 Seconds of Summer
SG Lewis and Ruel team up for a synthwave banger that would make The Weeknd blush. While Ruel’s vocals are more akin to songs on his discography, the two flood the track with sounds that could go toe to toe with Stranger Things’ signature synths. It’s an instrumental-focused track, but Ruel is more than welcome to bring the instrumental some life.
Ingrid Michaelson - Missing You
  • for fans of Betty Who
Ingrid Michaelson is making music popheads would adore if they actually heard it. Much like Carly’s seminal release of Emotion, Stranger Songs is Ingrid’s slice of 80’s bliss. Missing You is a wistful, simmering pop bop full of passion and regret. Sure, the missing/kissing rhyme has been done many times before, but never quite as good as it’s done here.
Yuna - Blank Marquee (feat. G-Eazy)
  • for fans of Mark Ronson
I think if you listen to one song on this list, maybe consider making it this one. Before you’re scared of the G-Eazy feature, just know that not only does he fit on this song, he actually enhances the narrative - his brief appearance adds another layer to the back and forth of the hook. And Yuna, she absolutely murders this song. Her whispery, sassy disposition sells the shit out of this song, and the spiteful chorus is literally perfect, a funky, punchy display of dominance and independence that makes for one of my favorite hooks of the year. It’s a total jam, and it’s beyond infectious. I can’t help but dance to this one.
Kiana Ledé - Bouncin (feat. Offset)
  • for fans of Summer Walker
In a post-Girls Need Love world, you would think a poppy rap track with an Offset feature (that wasn’t from Tinashe) would be a surefire hit, but despite this song being catchy as hell, Kiana Ledé hasn’t been that lucky. However, this song has it all - charisma, a sticky hook, and a solid rap feature that should have it blasting out of every BMW in Brooklyn, but here we are. When this girl blows up, at least you can say you heard her first.
Shygirl - Uckers
  • for fans of Azealia Banks
The main hook of this track is a looping, unfurling bloodcurdling screech that makes for one of the most interesting beats of 2019. It’s like Cupcakke meets Clipping. and it’s every bit as jarring and magical as it sounds, somehow managing to sound both sexy and disturbing.
Vagabon - Flood
  • for fans of Chromatics
Vagabon is a New York indie rock artist entirely writing and producing her music. 2019’s self-titled release was one of the most underrated albums of the year, lush with ominous instrumentation and haunting delivery. Flood is the wistful lead single, a plead to a lost soul backed by stoning guitars and menacing synths.
Michael Kiwanuka & Tom Misch - Money
  • for fans of Leon Bridges
This funky, soulful jam is a UK dream collaboration from singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka and producer Tom Misch. It’s nostalgic and retro, but doesn’t feel dated, as cinematic strings and sorrowful background synths back Kiwanuka’s pleads to understand the devilish intent of greed. If you’re into disco and disco-influenced pop, look no further.
dvsn - Miss Me?
  • for fans of Miguel
OVO’s R&B act dvsn may be the label’s best kept secret. Miss Me? is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the duo’s brief hiatus while also asking their love “do you miss me?” It’s a sweet, downtempo Toronto trap tune, and like their contemporaries PARTYNEXTDOOR and The Weeknd, there’s just something about a sad, pitch-shifted love song that hits way harder than it should.
VÉRITÉ - Youth
  • for fans of Sigrid
VÉRITÉ has gotten some attention on Popheads, but not nearly enough. It was a toss-up to feature this wobbly electronic track or the damning, vengeful anthem Think Of Me. In the end, though, I had to go with the bombastic drop of Youth. “I waste my youth on you,” she exclaims, and you are forced to believe her. Armed with a fiery instrumental that sounds like drowning as well as a revenge-addled chorus, Youth is one of the most vulnerable tracks to release in 2019.
Miquela - Money
  • for fans of Rina Sawayama
You may know Miquela as the sentient robot/fashion model/cyborg influencer that’s been making the waves on Instagram. The B-side to this double single, Sleeping In, was produced by none other than PC Music’s Danny L Harle, but this A-side, Money, is a sugary, sassy pop bop. It’s quite odd to realize this is the result of an inorganic character, but with a hook this strong, it’s hard not to dance along.
Kitten - Memphis
  • for fans of The Japanese House
You may know Kitten’s front woman, Chloe Chaidez, as the guitarist in Charli XCX’s favorite girl band, Nasty Cherry. In Kitten, Chloe channels the weirdest of modern electronic mashed with late 90s punk pop. Oh, and the instrumental in the chorus literally samples the sounds of a dying DSL modem. And the craziest part? It works. Chloe’s nonchalant sing-talk delivery fits the wild instrumentation quite well, and as a result, Memphis is one of the most interesting, experimental pop tracks of the year.
Emotional Oranges - Just Like You
  • For fans of The 1975
Emotional Oranges’ aesthetic is as simple as it looks - they like oranges and they’re emotional. More seriously, the California pop duo has exploded in the last year, releasing two exceptional records stacked with simmering, sexy songs that bounce between sultry R&B and uptempo pop. Just Like You is a downright sensual synthpop single, sounding like if Oh Wonder and The 1975 had a baby, and that baby listening to Terror Jr. growing up. A lustful slow burn, the track dances around with innuendos and references to “navels,” a clever nod to the duo’s dedication to the fruit, while also keeping that steamy feeling of missing someone’s body as much as you miss them.
Deb Never - Swimming
  • for fans of Dominic Fike
Deb Never, alongside 100 Gecs, Dominic Fike, Slowthai, and JPEGMAFIA completes the spectrum of weird indie pop/rap artists to open for Brockhampton. However, as talented and incredible as all of these musicians are, Deb Never may be the most underrated and exciting. The angsty singer-songwriter has a very eclectic and visceral style, blending raw trap elements with alternative rock guitars on Swimming, a dark and brooding single that may be her best yet.
Wafia - Hurts (feat. Louis The Child & Whethan)
  • for fans of Zara Larsson
Wafia is best known for her contribution on Louis The Child’s hit single Better Not, and on Hurts, she enlists the DJ duo along with rising producer Whethan to create a slick, futuristic bop with sliding synths and solid vocals. It’s a bit of a vibe, and for a song with so many people producing and writing and singing, things can fall apart, but Hurts never feels like it has too many cooks in the kitchen - it seems like it has just enough.
Roy Blair - I Don’t Know About Him
  • for fans of Kevin Abstract
Roy Blair was Brockhampton frontman Kevin Abstract’s background singer when he was simply a small internet solo act. Roy’s got music of his own, and 2017’s Cat Heaven is a rather slept on indie pop release with some great songs. He graced 2019 with a 3 song EP called Graffiti, where he he delves in a more experimental route, following in the footsteps of other alternative pop artists. The result is a somber, expressive collection of tracks that impress and surprise. I Don’t Know About Him is the first of the three, and perhaps the best. Rife with pitch-adjusted vocal samples, a chant of a chorus, and punchy production, this may be one of the most alluring indie pop tracks you’ll hear all year.
HOLYCHILD - Over You
  • for fans of Broods
HOLYCHILD recently announced they’re going on an indefinite hiatus, but not before dropping a damn solid sendoff of an album. The pulsating, explosive intro, Over You, is a gorgeous synthpop smash - its instrumental marches on and on, providing ample background for anthemic vocals to do their thing.
REI AMI - Snowcone
  • for fans of Doja Cat
REI AMI is my personal favorite new artist of 2019. She only has 3 singles out, but has carved a unique space for herself, with a love for beat switches that halve her tracks. The first half of Snowcone is a certified bad bitch anthem, with quippy and sassy lyrics, cutesy yet menacing delivery, and a raw beat with some clever moments in production. The second half couldn’t be any more different, as she finds herself vulnerable and alone, “a thrift store sweater with the holes.” There’s a nice duality to this one that is shocking in a first listen but seems almost necessary every time after that.
Bermuda - Under The Bridge (Only Pretty People Can Hear This Song)
  • for fans of Kim Petras
This bizarre track is the debut from Lil Miquela’s “hacker.” And just like the digital influencer, Bermuda is a computer-generated personality. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a poppy, autotuned cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers song. On its own, it may not be an interesting piece of music. It’s not quite as abrasive or absent garde as an 100 Gecs track, nor is it as polished as Miquela’s PC music-friendly tracks, but it’s a relic of the zeitgeist. It’s a catchy, infectious clout chasing debut from an artist who doesn’t exist, one that might even be birthed from Miquela’s creators. Why would you make a debut single a pop cover of an early 90s rock track? Who knows. Maybe things aren’t that complicated. Maybe this is just a synthy, self-aware bop.
Tei Shi - Even If It Hurts (feat. Blood Orange)
  • for fans of Empress Of
Tei Shi has mostly been slept on in the pop/R&B spectrum despite releasing quite a few stunning singles across her two solid releases. Even If It Hurts is a smoky collaboration with Blood Orange in the vein of his 2018 album Negro Swan (of which they had a song together called Hope), and fit the most part, it shares a lot of qualities with the record: the dreamy, lush synths that lose you in a daze, the percussion that punches and drags like chains across pavement, and the whispery echoes of vocals that sound both in your face and distant at the same time. It’s easily one of the best songs of the year, and perhaps one of the best in Tei Shi’s career.
Deaton Chris Anthony - Racecar (feat. Clairo, Coco & Clair Clair)
  • for fans of Yaeji
For as small of an artist as Deaton Chris Anthony may be, he seems to have already caused quite the buzz online. In the last few months, he’s met up with Charli XCX, got Tony Hawk to star in a music video, and had this alt pop crew cut named one of the best tracks of the year by Gorilla vs. Bear (think Pitchfork but better). And this Clairo-featuring track is exactly that, a 3 minute rollercoaster ride that swerves and evades any sense of cliche as it dances around vaporwave, brat pop, sassy rap, and everywhere in between. It’s a lot to unpack, but luckily, you’ll be dying to hit replay to figure it all out.
Chelsea Cutler - You Are Losing Me
  • for fans of Sasha Sloan
This soft, Spotify-core vocal chop pop tune is a certified jam, a tried-and-true playful act of resistance. It’s got a really great drop, which bounces and shines in contrast to Chelsea’s hazy, hurtful delivery. It’s a testament to honesty and vulnerability, and while there’s a lot of tracks out there that sound like this, they’re often sterile, whereas You Are Losing Me almost feels unstable, ready to burst at any moment.
Chromatics - Whispers In The Hall
  • for fans of Beach House
For those unfamiliar with the synthpop group Chromatics, they’re one of the most influential modern dream pop groups out there, taking heavy inspiration from film scores and Italian disco. Their music has always skated on the line of horror and suspense, but on 2019’s Closer To Gray, they finally lean right into the spooky side of electronic music, with a downright menacing baseline, a Carpenter-esque melody, and a chaotic hell of an outro. It’s every bit as scary as the cover and title would suggest, and it’s every bit glorious as well.
FLUXX.WORLD - Sit W Me
  • for fans of 100 gecs
Probably the smallest group in this list, FLUXX.WORLD only has a handful of tracks to their name, but released one of my favorite tracks of the year with Sit W Me. It’s a winding, dizzying hyperpop song with a repetitive drawl, an immaculate chorus, and production that would make Charli XCX blush. It’s a fever dream, the closest thing 2019 has gotten to drone pop, and I love it. Definitely check this one out.
Poliça - Trash In Bed
  • for fans of Robyn
Minneapolis synthpop band Poliça has gone under the radar even in indie circles despite releasing some pretty great albums over the last decade, and if Trash In Bed is any indication, they’re going to continue that streak. This dark, brooding pop track oozes mystique, an omen to a past lover. It’s bleak, but enjoyable.
LIZ - Laguna Nights
  • for fans of Slayyyter
LIZ has gotten some traction here, but not quite as much as the other PC Music affiliates. Laguna Nights may be the most pure pop track on the record, but it’s a great one. Britney vibes are abound, and so are references to mood rings as well as the TV show of which the song shares a similar name. Endlessly catchy, poppy, and glittery. What more could you ask for?
Kilo Kish - Bite Me
  • for fans of Grimes
Vicious. That’s the one word I would use to describe Kilo Kish and her brand of industrial pop. Bite Me is every bit as visceral as it sounds, complete with pouncing drums, primal screams, and other various background sounds that make this such a scary, intriguing track. It all accumulated into a rush of an outro, as it feels like the entire song is packed into a 15 second snippet that erupts with increasing intensity.
Perfume Genius - Pop Song
  • for fans of Caroline Polachek
If you don’t listen to Perfume Genius, you’re going to fix that today. One of the best indie pop musicians currently in the game, Perfume Genius is always finding new ways to express himself through lovely and lush compositions. The smugly named Pop Song May be one of his best, a foray into an atmospheric garden of ambient noises and gentle vocals. Don’t let that fool you, though, as this song is grim, violent, and mellow underneath the otherwise gorgeous sheen of instruments that grace this song’s exterior. It’s a five minute song with one single hook repeated twice but it never outstays its welcome, and by the time you’re finished, you would like to play it again.
Låpsley - My Love Was Like The Rain
  • for fans of James Blake
Låpsley is one of the most underrated English songwriters out there. She wrote and produced every track on her bedroom pop debut album Long Way Home, which was brimming with deep, ocean-like downtempo pop tracks. She returns after a hiatus to bring us even more warm synths and haunting vocals on My Love Was Like The Rain. It’s a bit Billie Eilish meets Jamie xx with Adele at the helm, but it’s all full of feeling.
Banoffee - Tennis Fan (feat. Empress Of)
  • for fans of King Princess
Banoffee is still an unknown for many fans of Charli XCX or SOPHIE, but the LA songwriter will be making waves in 2020 with her eclectic delivery and lighthearted lyrical metaphors. Tennis Fan is downright infectious, coupling dancey production with bouncy vocals reminiscent of something from MØ. Top it off with a fire Empress Of feature, and you have a recipe for pop perfection.
EDEN - Projector
  • for fans of Jon Bellion
EDEN makes sad, electronic heavy pop music that’s very similar in vein to someone like James Blake, but his demeanor is far more deadpan, and his production is rather hazy and shoegazey. Projector is full of sorrowful beeps and bloops, downright depressing delivery, and an ominous fog that surrounds the entire track.
Flo Milli - In The Party
  • for fans of Doja Cat
Flo Milli may be the rapper to watch in 2020. Charisma and personality is a huge part of success in hip hop, and the Alabama rapper has it in spades. With a rapid fire, sassy flow like Rico Nasty and raw, hard beats, she has carved out a hell of a lane for herself, and already secured a Tok Tok hit with her debut single Beef FloMix. In The Party is a poppier, more audacious single, with Flo Milli serving various bad bitch aphorisms over a blunt, bodacious beat. It’s a cheerleader anthem for homewreckers and it’s as much of a banger as it sounds like it is.
Eluera - Good When We Fight
  • for fans of Tove Styrke
Eluera is an Australian lo-fi pop artist with a whispery, downtempo songwriting style that’s downright alluring. Paired with a punchy instrumental on her new single, Good When We Fight, she’s making moves. It’s got a damn nice chorus, a hint of vulnerability, and a lot of character. Definitely a must-listen for fans of the light, post-Lorde pop singers.
Torres - Good Scare
  • for fans of Marina
Torres is that one artist who has come so close to releasing that one album to put her on the map. After three great albums (all of which have managed to score an exact 8.0 on Pitchfork), Torres may finally have found her record. Good Scare, the lead single, is an indie pop bombshell, the type of slow burn that is electrifying, revealing, and unyielding. Hopefully the rest of the album can follow.
Teyana Taylor - We Got Love
  • for fans of Tinashe
Teyana Taylor is an artist with quite the crazy career - a debut that should’ve been massive but was anything but, an album infinitely delayed and finally retooled by Kanye West as part of his Wyoming sessions, a smattering of singles reworked and released over the course of 2019, and being so coveted as an opener on Jeremih’s tour she literally kicked out the main act from his own tour. So for all intents and purposes, We Got Love feels like a victory lap. It was meant to be on her last album, K.T.S.E., then intended for Kanye West’s own scrapped record Yandhi, but was shelved and shelved again, and here it is. And it’s great. A soulful Kanye production, We Got Love is a holy, beautiful rap with an endearing hook and ton of positivity and love. It sounds like a classic, nostalgic track hook release, and it’s easily up there with Teyana’s best tracks, with short quips that have West’s lyrical stamp, an organ that feels oh so churchlike, and a background choir sample that elevates this track to another level. Definitely one of my favorite songs of the year.
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2020.01.24 20:45 Aswiec The Neon Skyline - Editors Notes

Pulled this from Apple Music. Thought it was a good read -

EDITORS’ NOTES

The elevator pitch for Andy Shauf’s fourth proper album sounds like the opening line to some hack comedian’s routine: A guy walks into a bar. But from that simple premise, the Toronto-via-Saskatchewan indie-rock raconteur welcomes us into a richly detailed universe centered around a sad-sack barfly drinking away the bittersweet memories of an ex at his local...until she just happens to turn up. The term “concept album” often implies grandeur and excess, but The Neon Skyline presents a compact 11-track song cycle that exudes the breezy bonhomie of early-'70s Paul Simon, and where the only instrumental indulgence is the occasional sax honk or clarinet solo. The album is named for the tavern in which the story is set (an alternate-universe version of the Skyline diner in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood), and throughout the record, Shauf’s quizzical first-person observations routinely blur the line between autobiographical fact and embellished fiction. “I always start out writing things that I think are pretty far off from real life,” he tells Apple Music. "But then I take another look and it's pretty obvious what I'm writing about: me.” The plot of The Neon Skyline transpires over the course of a single night, each track stuffed with seemingly innocuous conversations and random reminiscences that add up to a profound, poignant meditation on unrequited desire and existential crises. Here, Shauf pulls up a barstool as he guides us through the story, chapter by chapter.
Neon Skyline
“This was one that I wrote pretty early in the batch. I have always listened to a lot of Paul Simon—I just like the way he phrases things, so I was kind of trying to learn from that a little. This song kind of gave me the idea for what I was going to do with the record. There was a point halfway through where I thought I was going to scrap the whole Skyline story, and I started to just write about this character Judy. So I wrote a different song that was going to be the theme song for the record, but ultimately, it came back to this one.”
Where Are You Judy
“Judy is like that ex that was super fun, but you can point to a lot of things that happened that were little red flags or hints of what was going to happen. She's someone that you kind of never got over.”
Clove Cigarette
“Honestly, I wanted to stop writing about smoking because I feel like it's clichéd. But then, you know, you're standing outside of a bar and someone's smoking a clove and you're like, 'Oooh, what is that cinammony smell!' For me, smelling a clove cigarette always takes me back to a really specific time in my life when I was living in Regina [Saskatchewan] and trying to quit cigarettes by smoking clove cigarettes—which were delicious, and really bad for you.”
Thirteen Hours
“It's kind of based on the idea that traveling with a partner is hell, though I've never really traveled with a partner. But I remember this one time I had like a fancy hotel for some reason with a friend, and I saw this poster for a contest that was like, ‘Get three days free at this hotel!' And I was like, 'Oh, my god, that would be hell—just imagine the fights! It would be three days of fighting!' I do realize that's not everyone's experience, but I tried to write about that."
Things I Do
“This one is pretty much based on my real life-ish. In the song, Judy wants a little bit of time apart, and then buddy just shows up at the same place, so it's awkward. I've been there before. You walk away wondering why you did that.”
Living Room
“At this point in the album, we meet the character Claire, and we’re not even sure if [the narrator] even knows her, but she walks up to the bar and tells this super personal story, so he’s caught a little off guard.”
Dust Kids
“I ended up down some internet vortex at some point and wound up buying this book about kids who could remember their past lives when they were really young. The kids would point to old pictures of people and be like, 'That's me and that's my friend Bob.' And then they would look it up and figure out who the people were and it actually was someone named Bob. I found that really interesting, and every time I would start drinking, I would tell everyone about this book, probably really obnoxiously! So I wrote a song about it.”
The Moon & Try Again
“I wrote these at the same time. At this point [the narrator]’s not really having fun at the bar. He’s invited his friend Charlie out to have a drink, and he’s pretty much just sitting there thinking the whole time. It's kind of a turning point in the album where Judy shows up and he's hopeful. But he reaches for her hand at the end and she's like, ‘No, it can't be like that anymore.'”
Fire Truck
“I wrote this one just because my studio is right by a fire station and every cigarette break I had, there was a fire truck that kept going by. It’s a very morbid song. But, you know, bad things that happen to you can be good for you in a way—they force you to change.”
Changer
“This one's kind of loose, lyrically. I think different people could interpret it in different ways. But I kind of took it as [the narrator] remembering times before, when everything was fine and normal, and then this whole story comes along and it's a reminder that you don't have to keep repeating the same actions and falling into the same habits. You can change and move on.”
submitted by Aswiec to andyshauf [link] [comments]


2019.11.25 05:27 Chili1220 "Basilisco", Part One

Part 1: The Case of Sandra LaRoche
If one were to travel down the Caribbean coast of Panama, down to the farthest regions of the Isthmus near to the border with Colombia, they will find themselves in a region of singular and majestic isolation. So far from the glitz and grime of the cosmopolitan world, it is entirely possible to forget what decade, even what century one lives in, so ageless it seems with so few (if any) monuments to mankind's progress infiltrating it. Since time immemorial, the cool, clear waters of the Caribbean have gently lapped the pale sands of its many beaches, calm shores that stretch for miles in both directions but are narrow and coarse, with only a short stretch of space between the edge of the water to the brilliant green wall of foliage a short ways inland, marking the stark transition from calm and flat ocean to dense and wild jungle. Standing at the edge of the water and looking in through the stand of looming palm trees that form the boundary, the chorus of jungle wildlife can be faintly heard even over the steady gurgling of ocean waves, giving off an astounding and even somewhat ominous impression. The palms in particular reinforce this powerful and forbidding impression, with the way they stand tall and even at the perimeter of the forest, almost like posts of a great fence or the ramparts of a castle that has simply sprouted from the jungle itself, only occasionally punctuated along its length by the various murky streams that work their way out of the foliage.
But even in such a remote and seemingly isolated region such as this, pockets of human civilization persist in small and easily hidden villages, often situated in small clearings in the jungle hidden from the beach, or tucked cozily in the curve of short peninsulas that form small harbors. Here in the Guna Yala province of Panama dwell the descendants of the Guna people, a native culture that has lived upon these verdant shores for centuries and whose modern relatives pursue their lives in a quite similar fashion. In these small fishing villages the residents still largely subsist on the bounty of the ocean, supplemented by small agricultural plots and earning an extra living on their handicrafts and entertaining the occasional tourist who stumbles upon their rustic corner of the world. By sweat and toil they have hammered out an existence that, though far from glamorous, is simple and independent and largely provided by the land itself. With few exceptions their self-reliant way of life has always sustained their basic needs, in spite of occasional misfortunes and the vagaries of nature, be they hurricanes, crop failures, disease, poor fishing, and the general encroachment of an uncooperative and often hostile world. However painful such misfortunes may be for them to bear, the people still persist undeterred, firmly believing that, with enough hard work, the land shall always provide.
Yet as far these people are from urban civilization, they are hardly the ignorant, provincial peasants that one might assume them to be. They are well aware of the conveniences and comforts of a more urban and upscale way of life, and how their own hand-to-mouth existence must seem paltry by comparison. Indeed, many villagers, especially the young, have opted to try their luck among their more cosmopolitan fellows, leaving their homes behind with sincere well-wishes from their families who intend to stay. Many residents maintain close family connections with relatives living in the city, connections that have acted as a conduit for modernity to work its way into their remote communities. But however distant from civilization they may be, elements of modernity have steadily infiltrated their way of life over the course of many generations, and even some quite obscure and random trinkets of cosmopolitan life can be found in their midst. One man wears an athletic tank top with an Adidas label prominently displayed. One child wears a faded red San Francisco Giants baseball cap. A fishing boat owned by a family is powered by a motor that still bears a faded logo that says “Honda” on the side. Houses of wood, plaster, cinder blocks and corrugated sheet metal are erected alongside straw huts that seem to be from another century.
The twin villages of Bahia de Paz and Playa Sola are no different in this regard, having selectively allowed elements of modern living in unique ways. Bahia de Paz, or the Bay of Peace, is a fishing village tucked into a corner on the north side of a short peninsula that forms a natural harbor known for its calm waters, populated by many aging piers and fishing boats. A short distance north, in a small coastal clearing and connected by an unpaved road, is its immediate neighboring village named Playa Sola, or the Lonely Beach. In addition to their close proximity, the two villages are very closely connected in both trade and family relations; in fact, the leaders of the two communities, who traditionally refer to themselves as the cacique in the indigenous fashion, are actually cousins whose families have resided there for decades. In reflection of these close ties, both Bahia de Paz and Playa Sola are collectively referred to by locals as Las Aldeas Hermanas, or The Sister Villages, and what change occurs in one village is often closely followed by the other, for good or ill. Together they have weathered many storms and willingly shared in their hardships, and bolstered by their family ties and strong communitarian values, have recovered from many disasters and persisted in the face of considerable adversity.
Quite often the resilience of a population is better explained by their ability to recover from disaster as opposed to simply withstanding the damage it causes. Rodrigo Olmos de la Vargas, the cacique of Bahia de Paz, an intelligent and philosophical man with a great knack for creating his own proverbs, describes it as thus: “They can cut us down, but they will never pull us up by the root.” At first glance, one might wonder how many disasters he may have possibly survived; despite his seniority in the village, he is a relatively young man, not much older than forty, and not the wizened patriarch one might expect in a place such as this. Indeed, a keen observer may notice upon exploring the two villages that many of the inhabitants are relatively young, typically under thirty years of age, with quite few middle-aged individuals and only a handful of people who could be described as elderly. However proudly Rodrigo or his cousin in Playa Sola may proclaim their strength and pride, one can easily tell that the subject of past disasters is a very sore one, and no amount of pride or bravado can conceal it. On one particularly painful subject, this bravado may diminish entirely, eliciting only hushed and fearful replies. Indeed, asking any one of the village inhabitants old enough to remember the events of the summer of 1991 about the events of that time will leave them stricken with fear, their eyes betraying a look of great trauma and emotional pain. If they can collect themselves for long enough, they may tell, in hushed whispers and trembling voices, what they remembered. They will tell the story of the two Canadian doctors who visited their village, and offer what they know of the curious case of Sandra LaRoche.
Sandra Helena LaRoche was twenty-seven years old when she arrived in the Twin Villages in the summer of 1991. A native of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, she was a recent graduate of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine who volunteered for OxFam shortly after completing her program. During her time in medical school, she befriended another young woman in the program named Emily Brady, who hailed from Kitchener, Ontario and who volunteered along with Sandra to be an aid worker, hoping to bring her skills and medical knowledge to impoverished nations. Both were general practitioners whose goals included offering inoculations, instructing in hygienic practices, and rendering general medical services in underdeveloped regions with limited access to health services. With OxFam, they chose to be assigned to a location in Panama, which was only recently reopened to foreign aid workers, who before were not considered welcome by the military junta of Manuel Noriega. Following Noriega's ousting from power in early 1990, locations in Panama were once again open to foreign aid workers, and so Sandra LaRoche and her friend Emily Brady were sent to the twin villages of Bahia de Paz and Playa Sola.
They flew into Panama City on the 29th of May of 1991, and a few days later arrived in Bahia de Paz, where they were welcomed by the town cacique but were greeted with some coldness and skepticism by the villagers. Such treatment of outsiders was not necessarily unusual for the people of the villages, who were generally suspicious of new faces and tended to keep to themselves whenever the two women were around. Though this attitude would eventually soften, it was a very slow process that was never quite completed. Increasing numbers of people began to appreciate the services the doctors had to offer, but earning the trust of the older residents of the village proved to be far more difficult. Despite having two knowledgeable and well-equipped physicians at their disposal, many villagers still made an effort to avoid visiting them, sticking with folk remedies and even ignoring medical conditions for as long as possible to avoid soliciting medical services. The inoculation program, intended to vaccinate children and young people for measles and whooping cough, was greatly delayed as many families resisted allowing their children to receive the inoculations. In one case, an elderly man died from serious complications from an abdominal hernia, which he refused to see the doctors about; even though Dr. LaRoche and Dr. Brady could not have performed the lifesaving operation, they could have easily referred him to a hospital in Panama City, but the man instead withheld it until he eventually died.
Few of the villagers could really name any reason for their suspicion of the two doctors, even though they outwardly had no real reason to fear them. Some would say that it was the elder residents of the villages who warned off the others, distrusting the unfamiliar modern medicine brought by LaRoche and Brady. Such suspicions grew when rumors circulated that the two doctors were actually agents of the American government who were conducting human experiments. Though such rumors were entirely unfounded, they nonetheless confounded efforts for delivering medical services to those in need. Others would claim that they simply saw no need for modern medicine, being content with their folk remedies or generally discounting the practical need advanced medicine when they had subsisted quite well on their own. At face value, it would seem easy to dismiss their suspicions as the product of provincial ignorance, and write off the villagers as superstitious and irrational, content with their backwards ways and resistant to change. But when prodded further, the people of the twin villages will, in a secretive and conspiratorial manner, voice another fear they simply overpowers all reason. They may attempt to mention it in passing, with a thinly-veiled attempt at disinterest or dismissal, but one cannot ignore that distinct look in their eyes when they say, “Basilisco”.
Basilisco translates to “Basilisk” in English, a creature of ancient legend with similar origins to tales of dragons and other mythical animals. It is said to be a snake with the head of a rooster, though historical tales tend to differ widely on the exact description. One trait commonly ascribed in all tales is that it is claimed that a basilisk is so incredibly venomous that it leaves a trailing cloud of poison in its wake, and its venom is so powerful staring it in the eyes will kill a man on the spot. Such is how historical legends describe it, though obviously it is only a mythical creature, but it begs the question: what could they be describing using a reference to a somewhat obscure mythical creature? What exists in nature that would resemble such an unusual descriptive comparison? However much the villagers were willing to disclose before, they will have nothing to say about what they mean by the term “basilisco”. Whatever they mean when they say it, it is clear that they firmly believe in the threat that it poses, and they fear it enough that they were willing to turn away potentially lifesaving medical care rather than take their chances with it.
What is known is that legend of this “Basilisco” is inextricably tied to events of 1991 and case of what became of Sandra LaRoche. For many years afterward, the precise circumstances of what transpired were largely unknown. The entire event was largely clouded by obscurity due to its unclear circumstances and mostly indeterminate consequences. Reports exist of an “unspecified ecological event” that occurred in the region at this time, coinciding with the point where any official documentation of the event ends and where the story of the villagers begins. In May of 1991 Sandra LaRoche and Emily Brady, two Canadian doctors on an aid mission, applied for and were granted visas to enter the country, which they did on the 29th of May. On September 8th, Emily Brady would make a sudden and unannounced return to Canada alone without her friend and partner Sandra LaRoche, under circumstances she was mostly unwilling to explain. She would resign her position with OxFam within the week, eventually fading into general obscurity. When Sandra was officially classified as a missing person, Canadian authorities initiated their own investigation, with Emily Brady being labeled as a person of interest and was thought to have the best overall idea of what became of her former partner. Presumably the authorities interviewed Brady, though to no apparent effect, as little would be uncovered over the years following Sandra's disappearance. With no actionable information gathered from Emily Brady, the case effectively went cold and to this day, Sandra Helena LaRoche is still classified as a missing person, and presumed dead.
The case of Sandra LaRoche attracted moderate media attention at the time, but public attention quickly faded as the investigation stalled and no substantive leads would be uncovered. It ultimately faded into the realm of urban legend, becoming yet another unsolved mystery surrounded by extensive speculation, though every new theory only seemed to add more questions. Popular suspicion largely focuses on Emily Brady and the circumstances of her abrupt departure from Panama without her friend and partner, suspicions seemingly justified by her attempts to avoid official attention upon her return to Canada. Accusations of various kinds of foul play on her part would follow Emily Brady throughout much of her life, compelling her to take various measures to avoid public scrutiny and persistent harassment. In the twenty-eight years since the event, she has settled in various places in her native Canada, and with public attention fading, she might finally be able to find a peaceful obscurity in which to live out her life.
In spite of her nearly three decades of self-imposed silence, Emily Brady does indeed know the truth of just what happened during her time in Panama, a truth defies virtually every theory previously put forth by amateur investigators the world over. Her account of the events, however unbelievable they may seem, are corroborated by the accounts offered by the villagers of Bahia de Paz and Playa Sola. With so many individual accounts concurring in so many specific ways, one can only conclude that it was indeed the truth of the matter, however much we may desire that such hideous things did not happen in this world. It would seem that with this testimony, the case of Sandra LaRoche has been solved, though like every explanation before it, it only raises a series of even more disturbing questions. One might even ask what good could possibly come of knowing these terrible things at all. Do we truly believe that asking the right questions will bring us closer the truth? Those who serve the truth do so for its own sake. They do so even knowing they will not like the answers they will find. They do so even if it means not only knowing the truth of Sandra LaRoche, but knowing the truth of Basilisco. Part 2: Dr. Emily Brady, M.D.
It's hard to describe my first impression of Panama when I first laid eyes on it from the window seat of our flight into Panama City. I slept through most of the second leg of our journey after transferring in Dallas when Sandra roused me from my nap to feast our eyes on country that would be our home for the next six months. Looking out the window I could see what at first looked like any other stretch of land, but as I squinted I could see a vast inland lake connected to the ocean by a narrow channel that looked too perfect to be a natural river. It was then that I realized that I was seeing the Panama Canal, one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world, and if I looked hard enough I could just see all the way to the Pacific side of the country. Between the sprawling jungle, the ocean and the clear sky, the whole country seemed to shine with such rich blues and greens that I had never seen before or since. As you get lower during the approach into Panama City, you can see whole convoys of ships crossing Gatún Lake, giant freighters that seemed minuscule compared to the lake itself. Landing in Panama City we feasted our eyes on the impressive skyline that rivaled anything we had seen before back in Canada or the States.
Actually getting off the plane, out of the airport, and standing on the streets of Panama City itself was a rather... different experience. I suppose Sandra and I had expected something akin to a lush, relaxed tropical paradise much like what we had seen in brochures and from the airplane, but as it turns out, the hustle and bustle of the big city is more or less the same wherever you go. Granted, Panama City did have a distinctly more relaxed vibe than most others I've seen, but the fleet of angry cabbies all jockeying for fares right outside the airport entrance instantly reminded me of Downtown Toronto, a place I had been hoping to get a break from. Thankfully the further out we got, the more relaxed it became. We arrived in country a few days early in the hopes of getting some free time to do all the tourist things in the City before our main assignment; seeing the Panama Canal (up close this time!), visiting the Teatro Nacional, and generally hitting all the main tourist spots. Those were some of the best days of my life, days full of promise, when we still thought we could only come out of this as stronger and more complete people.
My enthusiasm dropped off a fair bit when the holiday phase of our trip came to an end and we were due to ship off to the remote fishing village we had been assigned to help. It's not that I was unwilling to help; I was excited to meet new people, experience another side of life, and do some real good for humanity, especially since Panama had only recently become welcome to foreign aid workers. But at heart, I was still just the same suburban Canadian girl used to the plethora of modern conveniences I had grown up with, and I was still not quite sure how well I could do without them. Sandra on the other hand was one of those people who can seemingly adapt to anything and get comfortable anywhere, something I always envied about her, especially at times when I was petrified of the idea of having to take a crap anywhere but a flush toilet. But of course, I didn't plan to give up over something like that. With somebody like Sandra, I felt like even a comparative ninny like me could take on the world with better than even chances of succeeding. In a way, I suppose I did.
Things got uncomfortable for me as we set out for the village we were assigned to help. It started with a rather long, bumpy, and crowded bus ride from the city to the Caribbean coast, where we would then take a boat down the coast to the villages. I have to say that the transition from the city to the actual Panamanian countryside was a quite jarring experience. It was almost like we had entered an entirely different country, one so far removed from the cosmopolitan delights of the city that I could practically feel my heart dropping and resting on my stomach. Sandra of course was unfazed. The boat ride, which lasted for nearly an entire day, wasn't much more comfortable. At first I was glad to be away from the crowded interior of the bus, until the combination of diesel fumes, sea air, and ocean waves aboard the boat began to make me sick, which continued until the trip ended. And there they were at last, the villages of Bahia de Paz and Playa Sola, which we would call home for the next several months. The coast in this section of the country was spectacular, just about the spitting image of what I had originally expected to see here, except that instead of a pleasant seaside bungalow was a sleepy fishing village populated by an assortment of shacks. I was pleasantly surprised that these shacks and houses were more modern-looking than the miserable Mad Max style hovels that I had expected- but still, it was something of a comedown for me.
We were greeted as soon as we stepped onto the dock by the leader of the village, his wife, and his four children. The village leader, a man named Florencio, seemed genuinely excited to meet us, though his family, while reasonably friendly, were somewhat more subdued. If his family was rather subdued, then the rest of the villagers were to all appearances quite wary of us. As we followed Florencio up the hill to his house, we could see that many villagers had turned out to observe us as surreptitiously as they could. Some continued about their business while others watched from afar, but noticeably refrained from engaging with us. I would make eye contact with an old woman or a child watching us and offer a smile or a friendly wave, but the locals never reciprocated and would only continue staring at us with curiosity or even suspicion. Obviously this wasn't the sort of reception I was expecting after hearing stories from other aid workers of being treated almost like royalty by the people they were helping, and this rather cold welcome diminished my spirits even further.
That night we had dinner at Florencio's home with his family as well as his cousin and great uncle, who is the leader of the neighboring village Playa Sola. His cousin Dario, like Florencio, was quite enthused by our presence, but his great uncle Sebastiano was about as cold and skeptical as all the others in the village had been. Their wives had prepared a tremendous meal of several courses that took up most of the evening, and all the while Florencio and Dario bombarded us with questions about life in America, which prompted us to explain that we were actually Canadian. Florencio and Dario both spoke pretty good English (better than my Spanish, at least), and Sandra, who actually spoke quite good Spanish managed to exchange some words with Sebastiano, who spoke no English at all. They had grand plans for all the services we would provide, how he hoped to one day build a permanent hospital to serve both villages, and about how he wanted us to start with inoculations and health exams as soon as possible. Lofty as his ambitions were, I still couldn't help but admire his dedication and willingness to do his best for his family and neighbors. We told him we would do our level best to make these ambitions a reality, but of course we had to start off small and go from there. Dario translated our assurances to Sebastiano, who of course did not seem terribly impressed and replied with a grunt of what I assume was skepticism.
That night I went to sleep in Florencio's guest room, exhausted after a day of travel and feeling sluggish after eating what must have been two pounds of fried fish at dinner. I'm not quite sure how I managed to fall asleep while fighting off a mild panic attack. I know shouldn't really have felt that way; Florencio had been so kind and gracious, opening his home to us and trusting our good intentions. But even so, I still felt like I was way outside my comfort zone, living in a poor and undeveloped village in a foreign land so far from home, especially when I felt that I wasn't particularly welcome among all the others in the village. My only comfort was knowing that I had a strong person like Sandra at my side to help me through this transition. The next morning I was glad to see that Sandra was still in good spirits, and her steady confidence helped bring me at ease. That day was spent with Florencio and Dario giving us a guided tour of the two villages, an event that managed to bring out a few more people than when we first arrived. As before they kept their distance, with some even bringing out their children to see the visitors who the village leaders had claimed were here to help them. I took that as a somewhat good omen that perhaps the villagers would eventually open up to us.
Bahia de Paz was a pretty typical fishing village, where most of the local goings-on occurred around the docks and what passed for a waterfront in a place like this. Like the all the rest, the fishermen spared only a few curious glances at us as they went about their labors. We strolled along the edge of the water, with Florencio pointing out a sizable rectangular building at the edge of the village, a sort of common space used by the village for certain events, which he claimed we were to use as our 'clinic' during our time here. Obviously we would have preferred someplace with running water, but that wasn't really an option out here, so it would have to do. We traveled out of the village down a jungle path for a ways until we suddenly emerged into a clearing that contained another village we didn't even know was there from only a few meters back in the jungle. This was Playa Sola, where great uncle Sebastiano was in charge, though the atmosphere was much the same as Bahia de Paz. At the edge of the village nearer to the jungle was a small field where what I assume was sugar cane was being cultivated, while on the road wandered a few chickens. Playa Sola was more given to traditional agriculture than Bahia de Paz, though stacks of wooden canoes arranged near the beach attested to there being a some fishing going on as well. The villagers here weren't much more friendly than before, which I expected, but when a young girl tentatively approached us, she was ushered back by a sharp command from who I assume was her mother. This honestly felt more like hostile suspicion that the disinterest or idle curiosity we had seen previously.
I could tell that Florencio and Dario were starting to get rather displeased with the unfriendliness of the villagers, which they must have taken as a personal affront. When they brought this up in passing, Sandra tried to reassure them that we weren't offended and that we would be patient and earn their trust, but Florencio was still terribly annoyed. With my mediocre Spanish I couldn't quite follow his brief rant, but I got the gist that he felt the people were ungrateful and should have been happy to have us. He switched to English and explained that the recent mood in the villages had turned sour, that they had only just recovered from what I gather were some quite difficult times. According to Dario, the people here were generally wary of strangers and visitors, especially after periods of hardship and loss, which I could quite understand, though I still wasn't comfortable with it. Yet when we asked about these hard times, neither Florencio nor Dario would clearly explain just what happened, only hinting that could have involved sickness or hunger resulting from crop failures or poor fishing.
“These people, when things are bad, they get scared. They don't trust others. It is hard to find help when it is like this,” said Florencio morosely.
“I think we understand that. But I think if we really help, the people will come around,” Sandra replied.
Tal vez. Maybe. It is mostly from peasant legends. Superstitions, you know. Some think strangers are bad luck. Or they are afraid of... I don't know, Basilisco or something,” he said without much enthusiasm.
Basilisco? I had never heard about something like that, and neither had Sandra, apparently. When she asked them what they meant, they quickly dismissed as nothing important, just “peasant superstitions”, not something that educated people like us should even worry about. At his suggestion, I just put it out of my mind as we continued our tour of the village. At some point in the early afternoon we went back to Florencio's home, where we had lunch and spent the rest of the day planning out our service program for the villagers. I was finally starting to get used to the idea of living in this place for the next few months, and I was glad that Florencio and Dario had validated my concerns about the rather frigid reception we received when we got here. Sandra on the other hand now seemed less comfortable, the first time on this trip I had seen her spirits lower at all. As we had a look around the building we would use as our “clinic”, she seemed rather distracted. I still wasn't feeling great about this whole adventure, but I thought confiding in her might put us both at ease. To my surprise, when I asked her about what was on her mind, she told me that all she could think about was this “Basilico” that Florencio had mentioned in passing during the tour. At this point I had almost forgotten about what he said, so the fact that Sandra was still concerned now had me on edge.
Basilisco. That's Spanish for basilisk. What does even mean?” she said with thoughtful curiosity.
“Basilisk... isn't something about snakes or lizards or something...?” I offered. “Something like that. It's a mythical creature, like some kind of snake. Supposedly it kills people by looking them in the eyes,” she said.
“So, they're scared of a mythical snake wandering around the jungle? That sounds like a superstition to me,” I said, scoffing.
“Who knows. I don't even know why they brought it up. But Florencio doesn't seem too worried about it, so... maybe I shouldn't, either,” she said dismissively.
With that, subject was dropped. Sandra's reasoning was sound to me. Florencio and Dario weren't too worried, perhaps I shouldn't be either. She and I went back to work setting up our future workspace, a place I wouldn't have chosen for something like this since it didn't have hot running water, only a gravity-fed water tank that supplied a few spouts. The building itself was mostly made of what I think were cinder blocks that had been aggressively painted over or had colored tiles grouted on, and over all wasn't very well lit, but this could have been managed. Overall, I wasn't excited about having to practice general medicine in a facility like this, but this was all we could manage. But this is why we're here, I thought to myself. It's about helping the less fortunate. If they had more, they wouldn't need our help. It's strange how youthful naivete can make one forget basic things like that. Whatever our circumstances, Sandra and I were still determined to make the best of things and do as much as humanly possible to make the lives of the less fortunate just a bit better. Even if we didn't have a perfectly sterile environment, we still had our basic medical tools and a small amount of supplies, and you'd be surprised to see how much can be done with only these resources.
The next day- our “opening day”, so to speak- we were officially open for business. Earlier in the day, a boat arrived carrying packages of our promised medical supplies- gauze, sutures, sterilizing agents, spare tools, vials of basic antibiotics, and most valuable, a shipment of vaccines adequate to inoculate dozens of people. It wasn't quite enough vaccines to cover the population of two whole villages, but we had decided to prioritize children and young people, which would stretch the available supply for quite some time. Our plan was to begin with inoculating children and infants for the basic stuff like MMR, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough. For that day, our first day of service, we had a grand total of... six people receiving vaccinations. Just six. The entire day. As far as we knew, Florencio and Dario did their part to spread the word about our services, encouraging people to take their children in vaccination, but all we had all day was just six patients. A few families had brought their children in, but it seemed that the rest of the villagers had no real interest in our services. Sandra and I had expected most everybody to show up, with lines running out the door, the usual case from what I had heard from other aid workers I knew, but we instead spent much of the day trying to stay busy by constantly doing inventory in between the infrequent visits. Needless to say, this was a very discouraging turnout, and it really hit home that these people still didn't trust us. Granted, we had been there for only three days, but I would have hoped that receiving a good word from Florencio and Dario might have swayed them to take us more seriously.
Florencio and his teenage son Rodrigo came in around four o'clock to see how we were doing, and he was almost livid to hear that so few people had showed up. We tried to tell him that we didn't take it too personally, that we would be patient and wait for them to come around, but he was still greatly displeased by what he considered to be an utter lack of respect not only for us, but for him as well. Within minutes, he brought in his two younger children along with Dario's young daughter and infant son to receive their vaccines. I was glad to see that he at least was taking this seriously; he and Dario were just about the only advocates we had in the villages. He promised that both men would go out again do some further prodding, hoping that we would get a better turnout the next day. Well, the next day came, and it proved to be little improvement over the first. They had managed to persuade a few more families to come in to receive vaccines, and fortunately these recipients were in the exact age range we wanted to inoculate: infants and toddlers. Overall, those two days were quite a disappointment for both of us. Sandra was something of an optimist- a cautious optimist, but still an optimist- and seemed confident that things would improve, pointing out that we shouldn't judge our results after only two days, that every person we helped was a step forward, that we still had the firm support of Florencio and Dario, and for all we knew it was only a matter of time before we had patients flocking to us. That was pretty good consolation for me, but the thought that nobody would trust us still stuck in my head no matter how much I tried to be positive.
Over the next several weeks, Sandra and I settled into decent routine, taking patients at our clinic from nine o'clock in the morning to seven o'clock at night and taking the occasional call during the night. The number of patients we had increased only very gradually, seeming at times that our progress was stagnating, while at others we might get more takers than usual. Either Florencio, Dario, or Florencio's son Rodrigo would come around every day to see how we were doing, bring us our meals, ask how many patients we saw, and usually vow to encourage others to take their medical complaints to us. Occasionally it worked. We would see patients for all sorts of maladies, maybe vaccinate a few children, and passing our time with inventory work; at least we didn't run short of basic supplies, since we always had time to request more shipments. We treated a lot of injured fishermen, one man who sliced his hand open with a fishing hook, another getting a nasty chemical burn after spilling gasoline on his hands working on a motor, those sorts of things. Eventually we got a few elderly patients, which Sandra took as a good sign seeing as the old folks in town were the most suspicious and obstinate. Every night we go back to Florencio's home, have dinner, spend a relatively relaxing evening, and wake up to do it all over again the next day.
Discouraging as those early days were, I like to think that they did make me grow as a person. Within a week or so of living there, I managed to get over most of my first-world hang-ups and adapt to this new lifestyle. I got used to the idea of mostly living on seafood. I could stomach the water, and I quickly found out that taking a crap in a ramshackle outhouse isn't quite as terrifying as I thought. On slower days when we found ourselves largely unoccupied, we could steal off to the beach for a swim, and it turns out bathing in the ocean is a decent alternative to showering where you don't have hot running water. When the house got too stifling to sleep comfortably, I could always go out and sleep on the hammock in the patio, drifting off to the sound of gentle waves from the bay. It turns out that sometimes, its better to make the transition the hard way, because half of what makes it hard in the first place is just ultimately meaningless stuff that you quickly find out isn't worth worrying about. I think at that time I was starting to understand a bit about why these people didn't always take us seriously. After all, only a few weeks before I was still a middle-class college girl who could barely fathom that life was possible without hot showers and toilet paper as much as modern medicine, but here I was, doing both. So you can imagine that if people who have lived in this their whole lives, they might naturally think that doctors like us were a luxury, not a need. I started to understand why they might be content with things like midwives and home remedies and the occasional prayer. Not that I was doubting our mission or anything, but I did get it into my head that maybe I shouldn't just write these people off for being ignorant peasants, that cultures and attitudes don't just change overnight. But still, as much as I had adjusted, even this relative comfort wouldn't last.
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