Alternate Wrestling Realities #2

Would the World Wrestling Federation ever build around Mr. Perfect

1987 Survivor Series

– Skip Young def. Dino Bravo
– Demolition def. Young Stallions – Ax severely injured, hip strained and is out for 5 months
– Fabulous Moolah def. Judy Martin for WWF Women’s Championship – Martin suffered a hip strain, is out for 2 months
– The Ultimate Warrior, Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, Tito Santana and Rick Martel def. The Iron Sheik, Nikola Volkoff, Greg Valentine, King Kong Bundy and Adrian Adonis
– Magnificent Muraco, Jim Neidhart, The Honky Tonk Man, Bret Hart and Bob Orton Jr. def. Tony Atlas, Brutus Beefcake, Bruno Sammartino, Kevin Von Erich and Junkyard Dog
– Harley Race, Paul Orndorff, Andre the Giant, Randy Savage and Ted DiBiase def. Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Kerry Von Erich and Curt Hennig

WWF December Star Wars

– British Bulldogs def. The Wild Samoans
– Desiree Peterson def. The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women’s Championship
– Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff def. Skip Young & Tony Atlas to win the WWF Tag Titles
– The Honky Tonk Man def. Rick Martel
– Junkyard Dog def. Bob Orton Jr.
– Jake Roberts def. Bret Hart
– Andre The Giant def. Ricky Steamboat
– Paul Orndorff def. Roddy Piper in a street fight for the I.C Title
– Harley Race def. Curt Hennig to retain WWF Championship

Royal Rumble:
– Paul Orndorff def. Dynamite Kid to retain I.C Title
– Curt Hennig def. Harley Race in non-title match
– Andre The Giant def. Roddy Piper
– Kerry Von Erich def. Randy Savage
– Dino Bravo def. Skip Young
– Jake Roberts def. Ricky Steamboat
– Curt Hennig wins the Royal Rumble, accumulating nine eliminations

WrestleMania IV
– The Iron Sheik, Greg Valentine and King – Kong Bundy def. The Ultimate Warrior, Brutus Beefcake and Tito Santana
– Randy Savage def. Junkyard Dog
– Jake Roberts def. Paul Orndorff
– Noriyo Tateno def. Madusa Micelli for the WWF Women’s Championship
– The Hart Foundation def. Can-Am Connection for the tag titles
– The Wild Samoans def. Skip Young & Tony Atlas
– Honky Tonk Man def. Kevin Von Erich
– Roddy Piper def. Ted DiBiase
– British Bulldogs def. Bob Orton Jr., and Don Muraco
– Curt Hennig def. Harley Race for the WWF Championship
Harley Race’s reign lasts for 12 months and ends at the hands of Mr. Perfect

Alternate Realities of Wrestling #1

What-If Harley Race was WWF Champion?

During a show weeks before WrestleMania III, Jimmy Snuka and WWF Champion Hulk Hogan faced off in a house show title match in East Lansing, New Jersey. Snuka goes to the top rope, expecting Hogan to move he comes down with full force. When Hogan didn’t move his collar bone broke and suddenly the monolith that is the World Wrestling Federation was venerable. 
Vince McMahon hastily readies a still anticipated pay-per-view and make a living without his meal ticket. 
Not all is bleak for the WWF. They bolster a roster of strong individuals, up and comers and legends still with lots left in the tank. 
These are the subsequent cards from the monthly big events from a parallel universe. 
(From March to October of 1987)

– Kerry Von Erich def. Paul Orndorff
– Can-Am Connection def. Demolition
– The Hart Foundation def. British Bulldogs to retain the tag team titles
– André The Giant def. The Crusher
– Jake Roberts def. Bob Orton Jr
– Ricky Steamboat def. Randy Savage for the I.C Title
– Harley Race def. Bruno Sammartino in semi-final of championship tournament
– Roddy Piper def. Magnificent Muraco in semi-final of championship tournament
– Harley Race def. Roddy Piper for vacant WWF Heavyweight Championship
During the match Piper dislocated his shoulder and is out for 2 to 4 months

WWF April Supercard

– The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff def. British Bulldogs
– Bret Hart def. Jake Roberts
– Bruno Sammartino def. Paul Orndorff
– André The Giant def. Jim Neidhart
– Ricky Steamboat def. Randy Savage to retain I.C Title
– Harley Race def. Kerry Von Erich to retain WWF Heavyweight Championship

WWF May Supercard

– The Fabulous Moolah def. Desiree Peterson to retain WWF Women’s Championship; Moolah suffered torn tricep and is out for 5-months. The title is vacated.
– The Hart Foundation def. The Killer Bees to retain the tag championships
– British Bulldogs def. The Iron Sheik and Nikola Volkoff
– Magnificent Muraco def. Ricky Steamboat for the I.C Title
– André The Giant def. Special Delivery Jones
– Junkyard Dog def. Bob Orton Jr.
– Kerry Von Erich def. Butch Reed
– Paul Orndorff def. Bruno Sammartino
– Harley Race def. Brutus Beefcake to retain WWF Championship

King Of The Ring

– Ricky Steamboat def. Magnificent Muraco in a ladder match to regain the I.C Title
– Velvet Macintyre def. Judy Martin to retain WWF Women’s Title
– British Bulldogs def. The Wild Samoans
Skip Young & Tony Atlas def. The Hart Foundation for the tag titles
– Harley Race def. Roddy Piper to retain WWF Championship
– Kerry Von Erich def. Butch Reed
– Randy Savage def. The Iron Sheik In KOTR semi-final
– Jake Roberts def. Paul Orndorff in KOTR semi-final
– Jake Roberts def. Randy Savage in KOTR Championship Match

WWF July Supercard

– Velvet Macintyre def. Judy Martin to retain the WWF Women’s Championship
– Iron Sheik & Nikola Volkoff def. British Bulldogs
– Honky Tonk Man def. Ricky Steamboat for the I.C Title
– Kerry Von Erich def. Randy Savage
– Harley Race def. Jake Roberts to retain WWF Heavyweight Championship


– Jake Roberts & Junkyard Dog def. Paul Orndorff & Adrian Adonis
– Judy Martin def. Velvet Macintyre
– Young stallions def. Orton & Muraco
– Honky Tonk Man def. Ricky Steamboat to retain I.C title
– Hart Foundation def. Can-Am Connection
Skip Young & Tony Atlas def. British Bulldogs to retain tag titles
– André The Giant def. Kevin Von Erich
– Harley Race def. Kerry Von Erich to retain WWF Championship

WWF September SuperCard

– Jake Roberts def. The Iron Sheik
– Roddy Piper def. Honky Tonk Man for the I.C Title
– Brutish Beefcake def. Paul Orndorff
– Bob Orton & Don Muraco def. British Bulldogs to win WWF Tag Titles
– Randy Savage def. Ricky Steamboat
– Bret Hart vs The Ultimate Warrior ends in time-limit draw
– Judy Martin def. Velvet Macintyre to retain WWF Women’s Championship
– Kerry Von Erich def. Harley Race in non-title submission match

WWF Cotton Bowl Extravaganza
– Jim Niedhart def. Kevin Von Erich
– King Kong Bundy def. Junkyard Dog
– André The Giant def. Ivan Putski
– Jake Roberts def. Honky Tonk Man
– Ricky Steamboat def. Randy Savage
– Paul Orndorff def. Roddy Piper to win the I.C title
– Skip Young & Tony Atlas def. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff, British Bulldogs, and Bob Orton and Don Muraco to win the tag titles
– Bret Hart def. The Ultimate Warrior in a submission match
– Harley Race escapes the cage to retain the WWF Championship vs Kerry Von Erich

Celtics Win, Avoid Highway Robbery with Refs

Game 7s in this league are won not by three-point shooting, but how you score inside the paint and rebound. The Celtics averaged 105 points per game, their offense only throwing up one real stinker and that was mostly due to Jaylen Brown having his lone bad playoff game out of eleven. Meanwhile, Toronto averaged a mere 99 points 7. This series shouldn’t have gone seven. A recurring event of critical shots and assistance from the zebra striped menaces infecting games with their personal stamp stretched this should’ve been one sided affair to the fifteenth round. 

This series could have ended in five, if the referees called a defensive violation on Kyle Lowry in the last seconds of game three. Lowry stood in the paint far beyond the three-second limit. The rules said a technician foul should have been issued against the Raptors, and the Celtics head to the free throw line for one shot and the ball. Assuming whomever takes that shot makes it, the Raptors would have to foul. Maybe the OG Anunoby miracle shot still goes in, but it only sends the game to overtime. Kemba Walker had his best outing in game three. I’m confident the C’s wouldn’t have been shaken.
This series could have ended in six. Kemba drives to the rim in the last seconds of regulation, game tied 98 all. Old friend Anunoby hacks Walker and infuriatingly the refs swallowed their whistles yet again. Instead of free throws and an assured series win, the Raptors again are given life. 
Luckily, none of that matters now. Well, not really. Fatigue is a lingering issue. While the Celtics are younger than Miami, their series vs Toronto was more intense than the Heats deconstruction of title favorites Milwaukee. What we saw these last two weeks was the two best eastern conference teams dueling until the very bitter end. Miami stands to benefit from their second round opponent seemingly committing seppuku. 
The entire Celtics staff gave it their all, risking their bodies. Brown sprained his groin. Smart took so many hip checks he’s basically a hockey player. Tatum hasn’t had a good whistle since Nick Nurse bitched to the media after game two. A rare occurrence where complaining about how the officials are managing the games warrants you getting a better whistle. 
Toronto defended their crown with honor and a resiliency I did not expect. How I hate them and am glad Lowry, Fred Van Vleet, Serge Ibaka and OG are out of my life forever. Only player I’ll miss is Pascal Siakam and his spin move creating no separation as the rookie Grant Williams locked him up. For all the admiration Nurse received these past two seasons he surely made two stupid decisions that fundamentally ruined his team. Not playing Matt Thomas after he made his first three-point attempt. He was fresh legs and the C’s didn’t have a prayer in chasing him down. And running isolation after isolation for the pedestrian Siakam because a rookie was guarding him.
Unlike Toronto, the Celtics didn’t have three-point marksmen that could cut a deficit in a lightning strike. The Celtics had to rely on their drive and kick game, which generated open shots – as they always do, but couldn’t knock them down. Brown had an awesome game, scoring 21 on 17 shots, but hit just one of his 7 three-point attempts. Kemba was harasses yet again and Stevens could never free him. Kemba made a couple crucial buckets when it mattered most and all we needed from him was 14. 
Tatum soared to the occasion, notching 29 points and 12 rebounds. He’s a star. And perhaps in the next two weeks we’ll be crowning in the best player in his conference as he stands opposite LeBron or Kawhi Leonard in a finals that’ll surely make us forget society is crumbling all around us. 
Of course, this is the NBA. Unless you have LeBron there is no guarantee you are to get to the final dance. Shit happens. While the East is better than when LeBron was here, it’s become more egalitarian. Last year Milwaukee and Toronto were the final two when everyone had Boston. A year later, nobody had Boston and Miami as the final two standing. Milwaukee and Toronto meeting their ends in the second round. 
Maybe Jimmy Butler is too much for the Celtics. Maybe Erik Spoelstra is a superior tactician than Brad Stevens. Maybe Jae Crowder and Iguodala lock up Tatum and Brown. Whatever happens, this season was a success. Be happy. Enjoy it. 
That being said, the Celtics are either jumping out to a 2-0 series lead or faltering to an 0-2 deficit. There is no middle ground. 

The Best, Worst, and the Most Mediocre Royal Rumble Winners

Best Royal Rumble Winners

1992: Ric Flair
Why: Historic win, did a tremendous job making a short title reign seem longer than it actually was. Flair’s mini-invasion of the then World Wrestling Federation was the closest we’ll over get to Vince McMahon letting amazing outsider gain the upper hand inside his company. 
1994: Lex Luger & Bret Hart
Why: Hokey as hell. Perhaps it would’ve been better to just have Bret win straight up. Luger’s time was SummerSlam, but WWE wussed out. Nonetheless, it set the stage for a unique WrestleMania with two world title matches and Bret to complete his redemption arc 
1997: Steve Austin
Why: It wasn’t the Austin 3:16 promo that initially got the Texas Rattlesnake over. All it did was pigeonhole him in a match against the over the hill Yokozuna at SummerSlam. It was his 1997 run and feud with Bret Hart that shot him into the stratosphere. Initially, Bret was slated to win the rumble, but not to set-up his rematch vs Michaels for the world title he loss the previous year. The ensuing chaotic months leading up to WrestleMania was supposed to culminate in a Sycho Sid vs Undertaker title match – like in real life; and Bret facing HBK in a non-title match. Austin was slated to square off against The British Bulldog. 
The unknowing catalyst for Austin’s victory was none other than Vince Russo. No, Russo didn’t push for Austin to win the rumble. On a WWE Tv show “LiveWire” Russo made it abundantly clear to the audience Bret was going to win the rumble, thus giving away the finish and enraging Vince McMahon. 
So Russo’s flippant remark showing his distain for the ultimate straight-man once again winning the rumble inadvertently set up the hottest wrestler we’ll ever see. Without it there would be no Austin vs Bret feud. The historic submission match never occur and Austin doesn’t turn face. We don’t get, arguably, Bret’s strongest run in the WWE as a heel. 
1998: Steve Austin
Why: It was Austin’s time to shine. His arrival. Nothing more to say. 
2000: The Rock
Why: Same goes for Rock. Though WWE fucked it all up by not putting him over at WrestleMania over The Game. WrestleMania is where stories meet their climax. Never treat the Grand Daddy of them all like a B-list PPV. 
2001: Steve Austin
Why: It’s Austin
2003: Brock Lesnar
Why: 2003 was an odd year for Lesnar. The year prior he took the belt from Rock, was supposed to feud with Triple H, but instead went over on Undertaker twice. Turned face after Paul Heyman betrayed him and aligned himself with Big Show. While his ill-fated face turn didn’t work, Lesnar remained incredibly over with fans and his matches vs Kurt Angle stands on its own. If anyone could have saved WWE from the fall from grace it’s suffered over the last two decades it was Brock. 
2004: [REDACTED]
Why: Nobody won the Royal Rumble in 2004. Curious. 
2005: Batista
Why: Simple enough. Batista languished as Triple H’s muscle long enough and was ready to take on the world as a singles competitor. Imagine how stronger his career would have been if he wasn’t transferred to the weaker brand, or at least remained a heel? 
2020: Drew McIntyre
Why: Hard worker. Salvaged his career at ICW, Evolve and numerous independent promotions until Vince brought him back. McIntyre is a stoic champion carrying himself with a quiet poise and dignity. Like the olden days. 
Worst Royal Rumble Winners; Who Should Have Won: 
2019: Seth Rollins – Kofi Kingston
Why: Rollins as a face was never going to work. He is too whiny and once he embraced his arch nemesis Triple H the night after ‘Mania he lost all credibility to me. Faces rebel against authority, not cozy up to it. Kofi had the momentum. Kofi was more over. His match with Bryan was the best on the card. He needed that win more than the established singles star Rollins. 
2017: Randy Orton – Roman Reigns
Why: An absolute star studded rumble. All the stars align and WWE gets everyone they could have possibly asked for. And they pick the lukewarm, champion one too many times Orton as the winner. Bullshit. Roman vs Goldberg or Bray Wyatt was the way to go. Even that so-so match vs Undertaker could have been salvaged if it was a title match. 
2016: Triple H – Dean Ambrose
Why: Dean was the guy. Roman wasn’t the guy. Dean and Roman should have switched places at ‘Mania. Roman winning the I.C championship and Ambrose conquering Brock Lesnar at ‘Mania.
Or, have Chris Jericho win the rumble and do the same exact thing you did only with Y2J in HHH’s place. Trips puts down talent, Jericho elevates them. 
2015: Roman Reigns – Daniel Bryan
Why: Again, Roman wasn’t the guy. Daniel Bryan never lost the title and deserved another go. Or at least book it as a triple-threat match. Instead, Bryan played ball, did the J.O.B for Roman and all he received was a lousy eighty-day run as Intercontinental Champion. 
2013: John Cena – Brock Lesnar 
Why: In “The Worst Year of John Cena’s Life” he wins the Royal Rumble because bullshit. Fuck it. You had The Rock as champions. C.M Punk still super over. Your franchise in Cena. And a returning star in Lesnar. These four forces should have collided at ‘Mania. 
2012: Shaemus – Chris Jericho
Why: Fuck Shaemus. He sucks. 
2011: Alberto Del Rio – Jerry Lawler 
Why: Fuck Alberto Del Rio. He sucks. 2011 was a solid year for Lawler. Had awesome matches vs The Miz and a title program with Lawler as champion vs Cena as the main event at ‘Mania would have been more enthralling than Miz – as much as I respect him. 
2010: Edge – Shawn Michaels
Why: Edge isn’t a face. Edge is an opportunistic son-of-a-bitch. This was Michaels last rumble and he needed to win to set up the ‘Taker match that should have been for the title. No matter what you did, HBK’s final match was going to relegate that year’s ‘Mania to a one match show.
2009: Randy Orton – Edge
Why: In the “Age of Orton” Randy should have never lost the title he retained in the triple-threat at ‘Mania XXIV until ‘Mania XXV. Either Edge or Rey Mysterio should’ve won. No Triple H. No John Cena. 
2008: John Cena – Randy Orton
Why: Nobody cares Cena was injured and relinquished the title. 
2002: Triple H – Hulk Hogan
Why: Nobody was having Triple H as a face. Case and point the cold crowd for the ‘Mania main event vs Jericho. That wasn’t Y2J’s fault. The invading NWO should have helped Hogan win the rumble and then the title. 
1995: Shawn Michaels – Diesel
Why: Diesel was the man Vince wanted to push. Perhaps Nash was too inexperienced and not talented enough to have a successful title run. But WWE opting for the slow burn would have helped. 
Nondescript Royal Rumble Winners:
1993: Yokozuna
Why: It was okay. Yokozuna had a solid 1993/94. Would have preferred Randy Savage winning the rumble – and then the world title from Bret. 
2014: Batista 
Why: Yeah, it served its purpose – albeit unintentionally. In a perfect world Batista and Brock main event ‘Mania XXX. 

Celtics Win, Sixers Don’t

No. I can’t tell you how Enes Kanter and Brad Wanamaker jump started a malignant Celtics offense. The two maligned backups miraculously stepped up early when the Celtics failed to put their best foot forward in game two’s evisceration of Philadelphia (128-101). 

Embiid started off and remained hot, showing the needed aggression he lacked in game one. Upping his attempts from 15 to 21. His 34 points and and 10 rebounds weren’t enough though. As the Sixers supporting cast found themselves unable to past muster. Tobias Harris was 4-15 scoring 13. Mattise Thybulle scored only two. While offense isn’t Thybulle’s calling card the Sixers cannot survive in this series expecting him to start games. 
Not to be forgotten, but Al Horford continues to simply not fit in Philadelphia and the existential rot of having just been in Philly continues. His pitiful four points is enough to make even a fan of the winner feel sorrowful. Thankfully Horford secured enough capital to ensure the safety and security for himself and loved ones for how many more days we have left on this miserable husk of a planet. 
I hate to say it because it sounds so simple and the observation could be made by anyone, but the Sixers offense moves like a bunch of guys who have never played together before.
(It’s not often you see a pick-and-roll and a post-up set in the same possession)
They tend to move on their own accord, sort of hapless. The team is broken and in need of dire repairs. Perhaps Brett Brown isn’t to blame. This is hardly a roster that can maximize what ever scheme he wishes to utilize. Horford is on the team solely so the Sixers wouldn’t have to worry about him guarding Embiid. Meanwhile Josh Richardson, a talented two way guard, is pigeonholed as the teams point guard to make up for the fact they do not have one. 
No matter who is coaching the Sixers simply do not have the personnel to limit Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Kemba Walker is quoted showing his astonishment for the space Philadelphia is giving him to work with. To put it bluntly, I think the Sixers want to go home now. I don’t say this to be malicious. I say this trying to detach myself from my Celtics fandom. 
I believe the Sixers want to go home. Their body language reminds me of the Celtics last season when it became evident there was no switch to flip and their over bloated roster rotted to a carcass. 
Yes, Philadelphia did not have Ben Simmons. It is likely if they did they’d win. Certainly with Gordon Hayward sidelined for a month with a Grade III ankle sprain putting him on ice for a month. Perhaps if Simmons was playing the role as the creator Embiid wouldn’t be slowed down by Kanter when guarded in the post. With no reliable personnel to orchestrate pick-and-rolls, Kanter finds himself in his comfort zone guarding Embiid in post-up isolations.
But that doesn’t change the fact the team needs to reshuffle its deck. Sadly, this isn’t two years ago where they have picks from previous shrewd trades, budding stars, and role-players on team-friendly contacts to entice other teams to the bargaining table. Horford is an albatross and so is Harris.
As for Boston, as their opponent plunges into the dark depths of uncertainty, their path to the final dance becomes clear. Should they arrive there, it is thanks in large part to Brad Stevens triangulating around his weakness at the center position, squeezing production out of Enes Kanter of all people, and molding Daniel Theis into a poor man’s Horford.
But let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. There are still two games to be won against Philly. And Hayward will not be back until game 5 of the Toronto series should it last that long.
They are firing on all cylinders. Once Stevens gave up on Semi Ojeleye and played rookies Grant Williams and Romeo Langford the contest shifted into Boston’s favor. Williams set tremendous screens, and Langford was more active than Ojeleye on defense. 
Is this series over? Last I checked a team must win four games to advance to the next round. But Philly certainly didn’t look willing to lace up their shoes and come back to the same bubble, same atmosphere (only different stickers) for a do-or-die game 3. 

Random Celtics Thoughts

Watching the five bubble games the Celtics played is a wild roller coaster ride of emotions. Less than a week ago the Celtics were a pack of frauds, showing lackadaisical effort closing out on shooters and coached by a nimrod who’ll rather play Enes Kanter and Semi Ojeleye over the more competent personnel on the bench. 

Squandering a game versus Milwaukee where the referees gifted the Celts 29 free throws, blowing a 25-point lead versus Portland, and losing to Miami despite them not having Jimmy Butler. The final loss I blame solely on Brad Stevens love affair playing Brad Wanamaker over Tremont Waters, Semi Ojeleye over Romeo Langford, and Enes Kanter over Grant Williams. Stevens is a lot like Doc Rivers where he doesn’t trust anyone under the age of 26. Which explains why Wanamaker is allowed to fuck up to the extent he routinely has and face little to no consequence. How I loath them both and want them both ejected from the bubble. 
Suddenly Stevens decided to shorten his rotation versus the Raptors, limiting Kanter’s minutes to a mere zero and (surprise, surprise!) the Celtics beat the doors off them. Defensively they played the best ball they have all season. Holding Toronto to 14 in the first quarter. Could we attribute the decisive performance on the defensive front solely to the Celtics not playing Kanter? Yes. Yes we can.
The lone anomaly is Wanamaker not killing us. Six-for-eight, and 15 points. That’s never happening again. But I’ve given up on Stevens having a revelation Wanamaker is beyond useless. 
But regardless, the landscape is vastly different than what it looked like 72 hours ago. After the loss to Miami, the Celts regrouped and cleansed their pallets with these last two wins. Their likely first round opponent Philadelphia lost Ben Simmons for the season to injury. Depending when they despatch of the Sixers, the Celtics could look at Hayward departing the bubble to witness the birth of his fourth child as inconsequential. The Celtics should be able to handle Toronto without Hayward. And the Heat in the second round versus Milwaukee could very well end in an early Giannis departure. 
The loss of Simmons isn’t crippling for Philadelphia, at least versus Boston. Josh Richardson and Shake Milton are killers. While Simmons kicked our ass this season, the Sixers are hardly without alternatives. But in the games Boston played vs Philadelphia they put our wings in the torture chamber mostly attributed to Simmons defensive skills. With him out of the picture it leaves open the option of at least one of our wings kicking ass and that’ll make a world a difference for us.
The route to the finals for Boston is clear. It’s possible. Will it happen? Only time will tell. 

Another “What-If Len Bias Lived?” Column

Alternate history articles are tricky. All of it is built off assumptions from the bias standpoint of whomever is writing them. I am no different. My perspective comes directly from being a Celtics fan. While extremely jaded the team still has a soft spot in my cold, black heart.

While Len Bias’ tragic demise was eleven years before my birth, like the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees you didn’t have to be there to understand the gravity of the event and how it sent a premier franchise into the dark ages. 
In June of 1986 the Celtics were the masterclass of The Association. Sixteen titles since 1957, countless Hall of Famers and showing no signs of slowing down. Much like the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982, coming off a world title and thanks to shortsighted general managing captured the second pick in the draft. The Lakers picked forward James Worthy. An overqualified third guy who could have been a glorified second banana anywhere else. 
Four years later Red Auerbach selected the Maryland forward second overall. Rarely does a rookie generate such excitement among his established teammates. Larry Bird was a three-time MVP and champion and when he learned the Celtics were picking Bias he made his intention known to attend rookie camp. 
1986-87: Len Bias finds himself beginning his pro career on the bench behind Fred Roberts and Darren Daye. While showing more potential than either, K.C Jones favored his veterans and would be hard pressed to trust a rookie especially when he didn’t have to. On March 11th that all changes when Kevin McHale breaks his foot against the Phoenix Suns. Roberts proves to be a insufficient replacement and Jones is forced to give the rookie a run. 
Under the tutelage of Bird, Bias soars and the Celtics win one more game than they did in our timeline giving them a total of sixty. The fourth straight year the Celtics won sixty or more in a season. The Celtics are able to despatch of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Detroit Pistons in one less game than it took them in OTL. 
Because he was well rested, McHale was able to block Magic Johnson’s baby skyhook attempt and seal a game 4 victory over the Lakers to tie the series. In game 7, the forgotten Celtic Bill Walton plays ten-minutes and his spark plug inspires the beaten down C’s to win another championship. It is Boston’s second straight. They are the first team to repeat since the 1968 and 1969 Celtics of the Bill Russell era. Bird wins his third Finals MVP and fourth overall title. And it won’t be his last. 
1987-88: Looking to three-peat, Red finds a diamond in the rough picking last in the first round he selects Northeastern guard/forward hybrid Reggie Lewis. But unlike with Bias, the Celtics core remains healthy and block the rookie Lewis from playing more than just garbage time. 
Bias wins Sixth Man of the Year and help the Celtics become the first team to win sixty-games for five consecutive seasons. The Pistons are once again held down and for the fourth time since 1984 the Celtics and Lakers clash in the Summer Classic. This time it is the Lakers taking the Celtics down in seven games.
1987-88 is dominated by the emergence of Bias writers are drawing similarities to the 1983 team. An embarrassment of riches on a roster that is too talented for its own good. McHale is slowing down, as is Dennis Johnson. Bias is causing a bit of a stir quietly intimating he should be he starting forward next to Bird. Having enough of the backstage politics, Jones vacates his role as head coach. 
1988-89: During a meeting during the 1988-89 season guard Danny Ainge said to Auerbach point blank, with Bird, McHale and Parish in the same room, that if he were the general manager of the team he’d trade “us.” 
The Celtics do defeat the Pistons despite their injuries, but fall to Jordan and the Bulls in the second round. 
Later Red looks at his projected roster for the upcoming season. D.J is dependable, but old. Ainge can take over for Johnson at the point guard spot. Lewis is emerging as a starter. Bird has suffered a bone spur injury that’ll sideline him for the entire ‘88-89 campaign. The Celtics need bodies to contend with the Patrick Ewing, Bill Laimbeer, and Charles Barkley’s of the world. Five years ago, McHale could eat their lunches and not break a sweat. But five straight 100-game seasons has quicken his physical decline. 
The Dallas Mavericks offer stretch big forward Sam Perkins, and sixth man Detlef Schrempf. Red accepts and break the news to McHale. Heartbroken, McHale lambastes Celtics ownership for having no loyalty especially for someone who gave up so much for them. 
1989-90: Bird is back. Although you can tell he isn’t the same. But Lewis and Bias are ready to pick up the slack. Perkins fits right in next to Parish, and Schrempf wins Sixth Man of the Year. The Celtics do not blow a two games to none lead against the Knicks, they defeat the Pistons and beat down Jordan and the Bulls en route to the finals where they embarrass the Trailblazers in a sweep.
1990-91: Boston and Los Angeles meet one more time and the Celtics usher an end to the Magic era to capture their nineteenth overall title. Bird wins his sixth championship. We are no longer talking about LeBron vs Michael. We are comparing James to the Hick from French Lick. 
1991-92: While Boston is picked to three-peat before the season Bird’s back simply gives out and while they are able to repeat as Eastern conference champs the Trailblazers overcome the final hurdle and win the title. Bird retires shortly after. 
1992-93: Nothing is different besides Schrempf contract is nearly up and the Celtics will flip him to Seattle after the season for Derrick McKey like the Indiana Pacers did in OTL. Perhaps the Celtics could have won the title if Lewis didn’t tragically pass. Despite his heroic efforts, Bias is unable to get Boston to the third round. Bias did upset Jordan in the first round and the Knicks make it to the finals versus Phoenix. Of which the Suns win t all. 
Epilogue: Four extra finals appearances. Three extra titles for Larry Bird. The lynchpin to the Celtics entering the dark ages is Lewis’ passing, not Bias. 
But the biggest loser in all of this is Jordan. Three championships wiped from his plate he isn’t considered the greatest since he kept running into the brick wall known as Larry Bird. We never stop to consider how unfair it is Bird was given a blue chip like Bias to bolster his last five seasons. Maybe David Stern suspends him for the season when he is busted for gambling. The correlation can be drawn between M.J and Shoeless Joe Jackson as they’re both Chicago legends whose stars fallen. 
Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley (or Patrick Ewing), Orlando Shaq & Penny, Karl Malone and John Stockton are the biggest benefactors. Without the loom specter of Jordan they are able to achieve success. 
The Bad Boys Pistons are considered the bizzaro version of Run TMC. A fun team that ultimately couldn’t win the big one because of an inherit flaw in their philosophy. 
So to recap:
1987 Finals: Celtics def. Lakers in seven games; MVP: Larry Bird
1988 Finals: Lakers def. Celtics in seven games; MVP: James Worthy
1989 Finals: Bulls def. Lakers in four games; MVP: Michael Jordan
1990 Finals: Celtics def. Trailblazers in six games; MVP: Len Bias (Also the season MVP)
1991 Finals: Celtics def. Lakers in six games; MVP: Larry Bird. Season MVP: Len Bias
1992 Finals: Trailblazers def. Celtics in six games; MVP: Clyde Drexler 
1993 Finals: Suns def. Knicks in seven games; MVP: Charles Barkley 
(No Changes in 1994 or 1995)
1996: Orlando Magic def. Seattle SuperSonics in six; MVP: Shaquille O’Neal
1997: Utah Jazz def. Miami Heat in five games; MVP: Karl Malone
1998: Utah Jazz def. Indiana Pacers in seven games; MVP: Karl Malone

Basketball, Coronavirus and the Heartlessness of Late-Capitalism

I’m unable to come to grips with the reality the real winners of the NBA Playoffs is heartless, murderous capitalism. The owners greed is well documented and to be expected. To them, the players are overpriced cattle and while they’ll feign concern over the wellness of the game and it’s players, stressing the measures they have taken to make the bubble in a Covid hotspot to make the environment safe from the debilitating disease, you and I both know they aren’t going anywhere near the building or Florida for that matter. They’ll be in their homes far away from any concern. 

On the opposite side, the players appear more than happy to sign their death warrant. It is either a lie they are being fed that they’ll be safe, or they are not above the corporate greed that is taking place. Perhaps the players believe they are young and healthy, or feel they are the protagonist of reality and nothing can harm them. Either way, they should be ashamed of themselves. They sold their fellow worker out. Rather than the NBAPA using their immense resources to fight for the players salaries they have decided to work hand and hand with the owners to convert an old Summer League arena into a “bubble” with lax regulations in order to play a game while society crumbles all around us. To make matters worse, the NBA will pay cringeworthy lip-service to Black Lives Matter as they provide a distraction from the protests they say to support. 
It is clear the players who want to go along with this the most are hellbent on protecting the gains they’ve made during the “player empowerment” era. LeBron and Chris Paul made a lot of money turning the CBA into their own playground usually reserved for the owners. Now they are in the club and don’t want to return to being with the rift raft. If the season does not resume the CBA will be ripped up and player empowerment will become undone. While I believe this’ll be a good thing, as their empowerment is merely a means to playing wherever one chooses and not about helping your lesser fortunate fellow man, you can see why this idea would scare LeBron. 
If anything positive occurred during all of this, the crisis has completely pulled the veil from the “progressive” NBA to show it was all a facade. Even the symbolic gestures are pre-approved corporate boardroom junk not one player should take part in. It is a beyond neutered gesture when it’s been established protests built off solely raising awareness are ineffective. 
People like Greg Popovich or LeBron earn brownie points for running down Donald Trump, rightfully accusing him of racism and dividing the nation. But they don’t care about the issues that produced a Donald Trump in the first place. Rising wealth inequality. The dismantling of the American Dream. Couples are unable to have kids, and people are dying in the streets from no health insurance. When Trump is defeated by Joe Biden in November, the championship team will visit the genocidal maniac president because they prefer one who is kind with his words and not uncouth. Does anyone care Biden is a segregationist?
Even Adam Silver echoed Trump’s cruel belief “we’ll just have to live with it” as he forces the players into the meat grinders, surely to eventual death. 
Will we care?
No sir. The first player to die from this will not be for a couple of years. By then we’ll have forgotten about this era as we have returned to normalcy. That, or NBA fans will say “he knew what he was getting into” and turn away. 
The NBA is just a cabal of evil billionaires pandering to their increasingly liberal fan base, and to a world where an athlete or two can rise to their financial status.
What is even the point covering basketball at this point? You know players are still catching the Coronavirus and we haven’t even entered the bubble yet. Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon are the most recent players to become infected. With no cure, or knowledge of its long term effects and if you can come down with this virus after previously having it, how can we not expect this disease to be transmitted the moment these sweaty bodies start banging off one another?
How is it going to look if Brad Wanamaker is suddenly the Celtics starting point guard because Kemba Walker caught the virus? Or when Dwight Howard is the new Lakers starting center because Anthony Davis is infected? Why should we even expect this playoffs to come to a definitive conclusion? The XFL tried to have their contact driven sport without fans and had to stop after one slate of games. The PGA tour returned as it is not a contact driven sport, and does not need fan attendance. But golfers and caddies still fall prey to the virus. Brooks Koepka withdraw from the Travelers Championship after his caddie tested positive for Covid-19. 
This is a cynical cash grab on the part of Disney. Their media conglomerate is silencing any dissonance and have manufactured a landscape where if you do not what the players to resume the season you are an evil dimwit. 
Well, I may be both of those things. But at least I care about humanity. The blood will be on their hands. But I doubt they care. 
The death tolls await us. 

What-If Hulk Hogan never Went To WCW?

If John Cena is a “wrestling cancer” then what does that make Hulk Hogan? Both kept down talent, whilst making bank for themselves and the business. Now that Cena is gone from WWE we are left with the gaping void the industry seemingly refuses to fill. No matter how lengthy their pushes and/or title reigns may be, you never get the feeling you’re watching The Guy WWE is building up for the next generation. The champions are now placeholders. 

Even in the post-Hogan era of WWE, you felt them try so hard to get Diesel over, and later Shawn Michaels to varying results. Nowadays, WWE is quick to jettison on talent like Roman Reigns, too hesitant to pull the trigger on Shinsuke Nakamura or Shayna Baszler. The only time I can recall WWE doing this in the past is with Lex Luger. And he was still one of the top draws in the company, despite the skittish booking after they balked at giving him the belt at the ‘93 SummerSlam. 
It used to be that if you subtract the most powerful force something else surely would have replaced them. If the British never conquered the world, the French would’ve. If Hulk Hogan didn’t explode in popularity, Randy Savage or Kerry Von Erich or Ric Flair would’ve. If Cena flamed out, WWE is a company dominated by Triple H and Batista. But what happens when the power vacuum remains vacant? If everyone is on relative similar standing and WWE is willing to try almost anyone out as champ before running back into the arms of Brock Lesnar?
That’s the world we live in now. No head honcho. No top dog. This time last year WWE Champion Kofi Kingston was feuding with Dolph Ziggler, the latter being booked as a cheap imitation of Chris Jericho. Current champ, Drew McIntyre, is feuding with *Squints* Ziggler. Son of a bitch. Ironically, what’s waiting in the pipeline for McIntyre is Randy Orton who was Kofi’s next feud after Ziggler. 
The cycle goes:
  • A new champion is crowned amidst fanfare
  • Solid start with solidified star, or fan favorite
  • They work their way down with lukewarm wrestlers
  • Their reception becomes lukewarm
  • They lose the title because they flamed out

Only difference is while Kofi will likely never get a title shot again, when McIntyre gets beaten he’ll get a another crack at the gold. But my point still stands: when WWE decides virtually everyone is on equal footing it dilutes the product.

The 1980s in the WWE was all about Hulk Hogan. The rest of the roster was either monsters designed for Hogan to beat or to make up the Intercontinental Championship level. Hogan leaves, WWE becomes all about Bret Hart, Diesel, and Shawn Michaels until Steve Austin takes the ball in 1998, and so on.

Which brings me to the scenario I want to game out for today… what-if Hulk Hogan simply vanished from wrestling after 1993 and never resurfaced in World Championship Wrestling?

Upon Hogan’s entry, WCW was losing to WWE. Starrcade 1993 had a returning Ric Flair facing against the monster heel Big Van Vader at the height of his powers. A genuine Cinderella story. Ric’s run in the WWE can’t to an abrupt end after two title reigns, when Vince told him to put over the new guy Razor Ramon and informing Ric he was to move down the card to get younger talent over. Upon returning to his old stomping grounds, Flair wasn’t positioned in the main event of Starrcade. It was Sid Vicious who was tapped to go over Vader. But a violent confrontation in England involving Sid and Flair’s best friend, Arn Anderson, lead to his firing. Ric went from scheduled to tag team with rival Steamboat versus The Nasties. The event he made famous entering its 10th anniversary and in his hometown, Flair was positioned third from the top originally.

The greatest wrestler, the face of the NWA and WCW promotions putting his career on the line against someone virtually unstoppable and it made less money than the god awful WrestleMania IX. Taking place that year the PPV drew a 2.3 buy rate. A higher mark than the subsequent four WrestleMainas. Meanwhile, Starrcade did a pitiful 0.55 buy rate. While Starrcade had Steve Austin, Cactus Jack, Road Warrior Hawk & Animal, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat people chose to watch Giant Gonzalez versus The Undertaker.

Despite being mired in scandal and their top star leaving the promotion, WWE was in the green. The live gate and attendance was slightly up from the year before, while WCW live gate and attendance was down a staggering 69% from the previous year.

Entering 1994, WCW appeared to be on their last legs where they lost a speculated $23 million. If Ted Turner wasn’t such a big wrestling fan the plug on WCW likely wouldn’t have been pulled. To make matters worse, Steamboat and Rick Rude suffered career ending injuries roughly the same time when WCW was lacking top guys besides Flair.

WCW was in dire straights and signing Hulk Hogan was the ultimate move of a desperate company aware they are on thin ice even with a friendly boss like Ted Turner. Still, Hogan failed to move the needle. And to make matters worse, the excessive contract they signed Hogan too meant stagnant numbers lead to the company still losing money.

From Dave Meltzer of the Observer, July (before Bash at the Beach), 1994:

two weeks before the Bash at the Beach PPV, early buys seem to be tracking at the usual rate of all other WCW PPVs, which has some in WCW quietly panicking. If this PPV does the same weak buyrate as all other WCW PPVs, it would be a financial disaster for the company given all the money they’ve spent on Hogan and advertising. And they still have the rest of the year and 2 other PPVs Hogan is scheduled to work, so if they can’t do huge business for Hogan’s first match, it’s unlikely that it’ll get any better the rest of the year. They’ve already called in all the favors they can for this one (Shaq and Mr. T appearing, Ted Turner doing the press conference, George Foreman promos, etc.). So basically, if this fails, it could prove devastating for WCW. All their eggs are in one basket on this one.
Doesn’t sound good. How about after Bash at the Beach? 
Dave says it was a huge success and drew an estimated 1.02 buyrate, which is exactly what WCW was hoping for and makes it the biggest WCW buyrate since 1991… Hulk Hogan alone is expected to pull in $680,000 which ain’t bad for one night’s work. It outdrew King of the Ring by more than 30%, which is the first time a WCW PPV has ever outdrawn a WWF PPV in the same time period.

Even as Hogan’s star cooled, with the launch of WCW Nitro to counter WWE’s Monday Night Raw’s programming, Eric Bischoff was able to get neck-and-neck against McMahon. The two would trade wins until the nWo formed and blah blah blah. You get the picture. The rest is history. 
Bottom line is if Hogan didn’t show up Turner probably pulls them plug on WCW as it was losing too much money for him to ignore. He tried everything to keep his passion project afloat. While he wasn’t heavily involved in the programming, he wasn’t afraid to write a big fat check. 
If WCW could remain afloat, Vader doesn’t fall out of the title picture and likely reclaims the belt at some point in the near future. At forty-five, Flair was still a draw and as the booker he knew what’s to be done. When Hogan came in, Flair had all the power to bury the Hulkster, but did what’s right for business. Not many in his position and of his stature would do that. Certainly Hogan would never repay Flair for his kindness. 
In the end, WCW couldn’t have survived without the very person who would help kill them. If Eric Bischoff had his ducks in a row, after the ‘97 Starrcade he rebuilds around the cruiserweight division and pays Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall (maybe they’re not even there to begin with) to stay home. The boom period for WCW was ending no matter what, but just like the WWE in 2001, the capitalist society we live in demands the red line always go up. 

What-If Their Was No Draft Lottery (2008 Edition)

I’ll be blunt: The NBA Draft Lottery system is idiotic and shouldn’t exist. It’s done more damage to fledgling teams and has only encouraged tanking. But we can’t get rid of it because people like it. It’s become a must-see event. Sort of like when the WWE reshuffles the Smackdown and Raw rosters every year. Only difference is WWE fans know it’s all unnecessary bullshit. NBA fans haven’t gotten the memo the lottery is needless pomp and circumstance.

Take the 2009 draft for instance. The Miami Heat won a mere 15-games after forgoing their pride benching D-Wade for half the season. Entering the lottery, Miami had the best odds to attain the first overall selection and Memphis star Derrick Rose. People salivated at the prospect of a Rose-Wade backcourt. Except, the Chicago Bulls, who were most likely to select at nine jumped eight spots took the hometown hero. 
Did the NBA prioritize sending Rose to Chicago and rig the lottery? Of course! This is sports. Absolutely nothing is on the up and up. It’s the only business you can legally rig something. 
But imagine Rose in Miami. Immediately Rose’s ACL injury in 2012 butterflies away and we’re given more years of his prime and less him being a shell of his former MVP self. 
If the NBA Draft order went by worst record and the order of players taken remained the same, the league is probably in a better place:
First: Miami – Rose  
Second: Seattle – Beasley
Third: Memphis – O.J Mayo
Fourth: Minnesota – Russell Westbrook
Fifth: New York – Kevin Love
Sixth: Los Angeles – Danilo Gallinari
Seventh: Milwaukee – Eric Gordon
Seventeenth: Toronto – Roy Hibbert
Nineteenth: Cleveland – George Hill
Twenty-Third: Utah – Serge Ibaka
Twenty-Fourth: Seattle – DeAndre Jordan
The future OKC Thunder core of Durant-Westbrook-Harden-Ibaka turns into KD-Beasley-Harden-DJ real quick. Maybe they’re better off for it long term. Maybe they don’t trade Harden because ownership doesn’t have to worry about paying three stars and Harden is a better running buddy for KD than Westbrook?
Perhaps Westbrook is a rich man’s Stephon Marbury in Minnesota and drags them to 45-wins every year, while getting shellacked in the first round routinely. Russ paired with Big Al is probably a better learning the ropes period for Russ as he’s allowed to toile away with little expectations he’ll often exceed. More fruitful than the Kevin Love era.
Speaking of Kevin Love, how does he fit into D’Antoni’s seven-seconds or less system? Not at all. D’Antoni never had someone like Love before be the vocal point of the offense. Love and Stoudimire aren’t the same by any stretch, beyond the fact they share a position. 
Long story short, Knicks probably trade him like they did Gallo to Denver for Carmelo in ‘11. 
Perhaps Gallo is a better partner than Blake Griffin for Chris Paul? I mean… the entire construction of Lob City was a logistical nightmare. Even before the Pace ‘N Space era, how is one to achieve working space with an old school close to the basket frontcourt? 
George Hill was probably the most ready NBA player in the draft. The most ideal point guard to play alongside LeBron. He doesn’t need the ball. Can camp out in the corner and make spot-up shots. Hill on those ‘09 and 2010 Cavs teams maybe sneak into the finals. Those teams weren’t missing a star. Just another role-player. A modest upgrade from Delonte West. 
Lastly, how many rings does Rose-Wade-Bron-Bosh win together? Over/Under is five. LeBron probably stays a little longer. And don’t tell me it couldn’t have happened. Rose was on his rookie deal when Bron skipped town to South Beach. 
Pat Riley’s greatest mistake upon getting screwed was adhering to the big board for his second pick, rather than entertaining Westbrook, Gallo or Love.