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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Apr. 29, 2002
PROGRAMMING NOTE: As I mentioned last week, I haven't been able to keep writing these fast enough to keep with the normal M/W/F schedule. After asking last week, Wednesday seemed to be the popular response. So for the remainder of the 2002 Rewinds, they will be posted every Wednesday at/around noon EST. Hopefully I can keep up with a once-a-week schedule at least. And if I can build up enough cushion, I may go back to M/W/F again before we end it. Who knows, I'm playing this shit by ear. ON WITH THE SHOW!
- WWF's Backlash PPV is in the books and Hulk Hogan's comeback came full circle with him defeating Triple H to win his 6th WWF championship. At 48 years old, Hogan becomes one of the oldest major world champions in wrestling history (Vince McMahon himself is the oldest in WWF, having won the title briefly in 1999 at age 54). Ric Flair was 51 the last time he was WCW champion (back in 2000 when being WCW champion meant less than nothing). AJPW Triple Crown champ Genichiro Tenryu is 52. Lou Thesz was 49 when he last held the NWA title. Terry Funk was ECW champ at 53. Verne Gagne (55) and Nick Bockwinkel (52) were AWA champions at those ages. But that's the league Hogan is in with this win. Anyway, it was obvious the minute Hogan returned to the company that he couldn't be a heel. The fans wouldn't allow it. So they did the babyface turn and have now hot-shotted the title onto him to capitalize on this wave of nostalgia popularity he's riding. Dave expects him to be a short-term champion because obviously, you can't build a company around Hulk Hogan as your top guy in 2002 for any real length of time. That being said, this title victory was a last-minute decision. Up until the day of the show, Triple H was supposed to go over (even though he had been telling people all week that he would gladly do the job for Hogan). On the day of the show, Vince made the call to go with Hogan. Dave is honestly baffled that Vince even had to think about it. Hogan is the hottest star in the business right now. Him winning the title and having a short run is obviously the right decision.
- Long obituary for Wahoo McDaniel, who passed away this week at age 63 from diabetes complications and renal failure. One of the biggest stars of his era, Wahoo was a headliner for more than 25 years everywhere he went. Dave notes that despite his gimmick, Wahoo was only 1/18th Native American, but it was something he took seriously. Prior to his wrestling career, he was a star football player in the AFL for the Houston Oilers, Denver Broncos, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins. He was later traded to the San Diego Chargers, but retired from football to pursue wrestling without playing a game for them (back in those days, he could make more money wrestling). A life of hard partying led to a lot of health problems in the last few years and he died broke. For the last few years, he lived off the tiny pension he got from his football career and often had to borrow money from friends in the business, and continued wrestling at tiny indie shows to make money until 1996 when health issues forced him to retire. Dave recaps some of his career highlights but promises a much longer and more detailed story on Wahoo next week. Oh goodie.
- To nobody's surprise, The Scorpion King set box office records this week, becoming the biggest April opening weekend ever, grossing $36.2 million in the first three days and breaking the record set by The Matrix back in 1999. Starting to look like this Rock kid might have a future in the talkies. With a budget of $60 million, this movie is expected be a major financial success and turn Rock one of the biggest money stars in Hollywood. Because of the success of this movie, it's being reported that Rock will earn $10 million for his next film Helldorado (later renamed The Rundown). Critically, the film got mixed reviews but word of mouth has been strong and Dave expects it to remain #1 next week also (yup). So what does this mean for wrestling? Well, he's probably not going to be around much anymore, but that's actually not a bad thing for WWF. Because they own the name "The Rock" and have him signed to a contract, they're going to get those producer credits on his movies and get a percentage of the money. In fact, WWF will make more money off Rock being in movies than they would having him working house shows 4 days a week like everyone else. Either way, his full-time career in the ring is almost surely coming to an end, but he's still expected to work PPVs regularly, and with his growing star power, that could generate even more money if he can translate that into buyrates. But then there's another problem: as Rock becomes a more bankable movie star, those movie studios aren't going to be happy with him wrestling and risking injuries that could derail production on these multi-million dollar films (exactly what ended up happening years later when Rock got injured in the 2nd Cena match and delayed production of Hercules). Dave says that several years ago, Bruiser Brody was in negotiations for the role as the lead villain in the movie Over The Top but the studio insisted that he stop wrestling for months while they were filming and Brody wouldn't go for it. But that was also a low-budget movie and Brody probably stood to make more in wrestling than he did doing the movie. Rock's situation is obviously different, with much higher budget movies and waaaaay more money to be made. But on the same hand, working a major PPV main event can also earn Rock a pretty nice pay day as well, so he's gonna have some decisions to make. But no matter how you slice it, Rock's days as a full-time wrestler are probably over.
- Oh yeah, the Backlash PPV. I guess Dave just remembered too. Other notes from the show: Dave compares it to a WCW PPV from the good days. Lots of good undercard matches, a couple of stinkers, and major stars in passable main event matches. Despite Hogan's surging popularity, the show only drew a little over 12,000, which was nowhere near a sellout and they had to block a lot of seats off for the cameras. But Dave doesn't blame Hogan for that, he blames the sorry state of the company lately. Also, the show was in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, where Owen Hart died and the city has never really recovered from that. All wrestling shows in that building since Owen's death haven't drawn well. Kidman vs. Tajiri and Angle vs. Edge were the show-stealers. Scott Hall vs. Bradshaw was a horrible match, due entirely to Hall, and was so bad that Jim Ross even broke out his old "bowling shoe ugly" description, which is JR code for "holy shit, this match sucks." Dave hints that the usual Scott Hall reasons are to blame (indeed, Hall is about a week away from getting fired yet again). Brock Lesnar beat Jeff Hardy by referee stoppage and Dave thinks Lesnar looked kinda green and had to sell way too much for a guy they're pushing as a monster. Eddie Guerrero won the IC title from RVD, who worked with a bum knee and didn't look all that great. But Guerrero looked outstanding and worked his ass off. Undertaker beat Steve Austin with special guest referee Ric Flair accidentally costing Austin the match to further that feud. And of course, Hogan beat Triple H in a bad match that didn't have even a fraction of the heat that Hogan/Rock had last month. Undertaker interfered, which likely sets up a Hogan/Taker feud.
- Vince McMahon did another interview a couple weeks ago while he was in Australia that was interesting. For starters, he actually acknowledged the WWA promotion, saying, "I think they're just trying to beat us to where we should have been all along. To be the first in and grab some of that, which is all right." (I guess that's in reference to the Australian market?) Also, Vince said he thinks he's just about done as a TV character who works matches (not quite, ol' man). He also admitted that the wrestling business has been weakened by no longer having any competition: "We are our own competition now. It's not anything we aspired to be. I think competition, generally speaking, is very good--if it's good competition. We always thought there'd be WCW, and I hoped that ECW would continue and, quite frankly, I was supporting financially the ECW organization to a certain extent. No one ever knew, and of course, Paul Heyman would cut his anti-WWF promos so everyone knew the WWF wasn't supporting it." Indeed, that is true. In ECW's bankruptcy filings, it was revealed that they owed the WWF more than half a million dollars in loans.
- Dave has sketchy reports that Invader 1, better known as Jose Gonzalez, and even more better known as the guy who murdered Bruiser Brody and got away with it, has quit the WWC in Puerto Rico, after more than 20 years as one of their top stars (second only to Carlos Colon). The story going around is that there was some disagreement over the booking of Carlos' son Carly Colon (better known to us as Carlito). There's a perception in Puerto Rico that Carly doesn't have a lot of charisma and is only being pushed as such a big star because he's Carlos Colon's son and apparently the issues were serious enough that Gonzalez was removed from the booking team. When he was told, he quit the promotion entirely. For what it's worth, this could also be an angle, Dave admits he isn't entirely sure (best I can tell, not an angle. Gonzalez ends up wrestling in IWA for a couple of years, WWC's biggest competition, but he eventually returns).
- Toshiaki Kawada underwent reconstructive knee surgery this week and the prognosis is that he won't be back until spring 2003. So for the next year, Keiju Muto and Genichiro Tenryu are going to have to carry the load for AJPW.
- Speaking of AJPW, the attendance for the Champion Carnival tournament this year was a whopping 49.4% higher than last year, which shows just how important Muto, Satoshi Kojima, and Kendo Kashin have been for business since they jumped ship from NJPW.
- Shinya Hashimoto & Naoya Ogawa vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Scott Norton has been added to NJPW's big Tokyo Dome show next week. The show is going to be headlined by a Misawa vs. Chono dream match, but because of the issue with the TV networks, that match won't be allowed to air on TV. So they added this tag match to try to drum up some TV ratings, because Ogawa is a proven huge ratings draw. The media is trying to push Hashimoto and Ogawa as a modern day Inoki/Baba-type of tag team, since they have such a well known history together as opponents. Also, as has been mentioned in the past, there's some people who don't particularly want Hashimoto or Ogawa on the card, but Inoki pretty much always gets his way. Elsewhere on the show, Giant Singh is facing Giant Silva in a big battle of the giants match. The plan as of now is to have Chyna as the special referee of that match, which Dave predicts will be one of the worst matches of all time.
- NJPW's hottest young star Hiroshi Tanahashi suffered an apparent broken foot and will be out for a few months, which is a pretty big blow for the company. This means he's off the Tokyo Dome show, where he and Kensuke Sasaki were scheduled to face the Steiner Brothers (Dave must have gotten some bad info here, because Tanahashi does indeed work the Tokyo Dome match and, in fact, never really took any time off at all around this period. Also, this is the match Chyna ended up refereeing because the Singh/Silva match doesn't end up happening).
- Remember the book that was being written about Stu Hart? Well, the big release party for the book took place with an event at the Hart house in Calgary. Much of the family was there, along with the media, some local politicians, and wrestlers like Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart. Dave doesn't know for sure which siblings were and weren't there but he knows Bret wasn't there. Bret wrote a column in the Calgary Sun this week saying he loved the first 2/3 of the book focusing on Stu's life and career, but he hated the last part of the book which covered the downfall of the family over the last several years. Bret was careful not to trash the author because he believes she tried to tell an honest story. But he said she only got one side of the story on why the family has fallen apart. Bret admitted that the author did reach out to him but said he turned it down because his mother Helen had also turned her down and he wasn't going to go against one of his mother's final decisions. So if she wasn't gonna do it, neither was Bret. But the other siblings didn't feel the same, and, well, there ya go.
- Update on Goldberg's latest car-punching related injury: broken ulna bone in his left arm. He's got a cast going from his shoulder all the way to his wrist that he has to wear for 6-8 weeks. For those keeping track, Goldberg is now 0-2 against automobiles, having sliced the shit out of his right arm in 1999 punching a limo window on live TV in WCW.
- Lou Thesz is still in the hospital and is progressing very slowly, but the prognosis is still good (sadly, no. Obituary Pt. 1 next week).
- Lots of wrestling competition in Philadelphia these days. Ring of Honor has a show scheduled there in June and is kicking off a tournament to crown their first ever world champion. Just a couple days later and a couple blocks away, a new promotion called Major League Wrestling, promoted by Court Bauer, has booked the ECW Arena for its debut show (and here we are in 2020 and both companies are still alive. Although, to be fair, MLW closed down for, like, 13 years in between that time and then re-opened. But whatever!)
- There will no longer be a Brian Pillman memorial show taking place this year, as has been done for the last 4 years. There's a few reasons, including Les Thatcher being too busy running WWF developmental and just having trouble pulling it all together. But a big reason was due to last year's show, when Pillman's former wife Melanie showed up with her new husband, which apparently made a lot of wrestlers kind of uncomfortable. Over the years, the shows raised $115,000 for Melanie and Dave also hints that there's more to this story that isn't exactly pleasant, but he doesn't elaborate (I assume this is in reference to all the stuff we've heard in years since about how Melanie was an addict that neglected her kids and blew all the money on drugs).
- Remember the story about XPW promoter Rob Black claiming to have had a stroke? Well they did an angle at the latest show where he came out in a wheelchair, selling the stroke and acting like Larry Flynt. Dave says this would probably win "Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic" in the Observer Awards this year, except this is XPW and this sort of dumb shit is expected from them so no one cares enough to be disgusted.
- Dave is now grouping the WWA news and the news on the Jerry Jarrett promotion into the same section now, since the plan is for them all to work together. WWA will not run any PPVs in the U.S. for the time being, so as to not compete with Jarrett (also, let's be real, because their last PPV was a financial disaster).
- Dave has heard "from so many different sources" that Jeff Jarrett is pushing hard for Vince Russo to write TV for this new promotion. Russo hasn't agreed yet, but he and Jeff are close, although there are questions about how Russo and Jerry Jarrett might co-exist given their wildly different philosophies on what wrestling should be. All of the main people involved in starting this promotion have signed confidentiality agreements, so nobody is saying much about what the plans are. But there have been some things. Word is the smaller wrestlers will be kept separate from the larger wrestlers and pushed as their own division, which may be called middleweight rather than cruiserweight (or how about X-Division? Just a thought).
- The negotiations for Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock for UFC's Sept. PPV are actually pretty serious, to Dave's surprise. It would be Shamrock's first UFC fight in 6 years. The major hold up is that Shamrock won't sign an exclusive deal and he wants a no-rematch clause in the contract. Ortiz is the UFC's biggest star and if he loses, UFC wants to protect itself and make sure they can bring Shamrock back for a big rematch. They don't want to risk him beating Ortiz and then jumping to PRIDE. So if this Shamrock fight doesn't happen, the backup plan is Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell at the Sept. PPV. Dave thinks that would be a tougher fight for Ortiz anyway, although it wouldn't have near the drawing power.
- Notes from Raw: Triple H, fresh off losing his title at Backlash, ran out to attack Undertaker. Please note that it was made explicitly clear a few weeks ago that whenever Triple H lost the title, he would become an exclusive Smackdown star. So it only took 4 weeks into the brand split for them to screw it all up and have Triple H run in and attack someone on Raw. Big Show teamed with Austin to face Hall & X-Pac but Show turned on Austin to join the NWO. With Kevin Nash out for the next little while from bicep surgery, the decision was made to add Big Show because he has history with the group in WCW.
- DDP has some back problems that may be career-threatening. He has bone spurs on both sides of his spine and was in terrible pain at the Smackdown tapings when he wrestled Bob Holly. The next day, he went to see a doctor who told him in no uncertain terms to retire. DDP then went to Birmingham for a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews office and was told to do a couple weeks of physical therapy and if that doesn't help, he may need back surgery that could be career-ending. So that's where he stands right now (indeed, that match with Bob Holly ends up being DDP's final WWF match during that run. In fact, it was his last match at all for 2 years. He eventually came back, did some indies, made some special WWE appearances, worked a few matches in TNA, etc. But unbeknownst to anyone at the time, that Bob Holly match was the end of his career as a full-time wrestler. And, of course, that back injury is what led to the creation of DDP Yoga).
- Lita's injury while filming the TV show Dark Angel was worse than thought. She herniated a disc and had several cracks in her vertebrae when she went to the hospital. She's going to get surgery this week and will likely be out anywhere from 6-9 months (ends up being out of the ring for almost a year and a half). The injury occurred when she was rehearsing a fight scene with a stunt double. Even after the injury, Lita went ahead and filmed her scenes for the show, although she was said to be in noticeable pain.
- WWF has had negotiations with Goldberg regarding buying out his Turner contract and signing him, but Dave doesn't know how serious they are. The two sides have talked off and on for the past year, but so far, WWF hasn't come through with enough money to convince him to do it. Dave mentions that before the NWO signed, Hogan was negotiating with WWF and was pushing to bring himself and Goldberg in together at the same time instead of Hall and Nash, but that obviously didn't happen for the same reason (WWF didn't wanna pay Goldberg what he was asking). Anyway, we're still about a year away from that happening.
- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (who Dave says is a wrestling fan) did a cameo in OVW with Kenny Bolin and Prototype (this is great and I can't believe I've never seen it before).
- During a recent interview, Rock mentioned that he has received some jealousy from people in the WWF locker room over his movie career, and in particular singled out a "top" wrestler he felt was going behind his back sometimes to try to hurt his career. Although Rock didn't name names, several sources have confirmed to Dave that he was referring to Triple H, who he's sometimes had a shaky relationship with. In the same interview, he said it's hard to keep friends in the wrestling business but named Jericho and Austin as two people he considers to be close friends.
- Dave recaps the latest episode of Tough Enough, which was pretty much built around Jackie Gayda (one of the eventual winners) cheating on her boyfriend with fellow contestant Pete in the hot tub and then getting dumped by her boyfriend over the phone after she sorta confessed to it (though even in her confession, she still lied and didn't come close to fully admitting everything she did, much of which was shown on camera). Full blown soap opera drama. They eventually got back together, but Dave thinks Jackie's boyfriend probably wasn't too thrilled when he saw this episode and suspects they're probably broken up again now.
- Random notes: MTV's show The Osbournes did a big 5.2 rating this week, becoming the first weekly TV series on cable to beat Raw in a long time. Chris Benoit is taking harder and harder bumps in preparation for his comeback, probably in the next 4-6 weeks. He may end up being paired with Arn Anderson as his manager and may end up on Raw even though he was originally drafted to Smackdown. Rock's second time hosting SNL is believed to have been the highest rated episode this season. Hogan is claiming that one of his ribs is broken but he's working through it because he's champion now.
- The brand split has led to some benefits for the wrestlers. TV tapings are usually long, hard days. But now everyone is only doing 1 TV taping per week instead of two, so that's one less grind of a day. Plus there's minor things like less cramped dressing rooms and shorter lines at catering. Not really a big deal, but when you've been traveling all day, anything that makes life a tiny bit easier is nice.
- After Raw in St. Louis, they tested the waters for a Hogan vs. Austin feud. After the show went off the air, Austin was getting beat down by Big Show, X-Pac, and Hall. Hogan did a run-in to save him and they cleared the ring together. Afterward, Austin hit Hogan with a stunner and drank beer. The stunner got a mixed response from the crowd since both guys are hugely popular right now. After the stunner, Hogan recovered and got back in Austin's face again and they did a stare down. But then Austin ended up showing respect and they drank beer together to send the fans home happy. Hogan even did a leg drop on a beer can. (Sounds like the mixed reaction may have caused them to second guess this? Anyway, here's two videos. The first is a 4 second clip of Austin giving Hogan this stunner, which is the only time that ever happened and the footage is rare. And the second is after Hogan got up, the beer bash celebration afterward).
- Paul Bearer recently wrote an article on WWF.com out of character where he discussed his wife's battle with cancer. Dave notes that even though Bearer hasn't been on the road for a long time, WWF recently renewed his contract for another year anyway. Dave gives Vince credit here and says that there are a lot of things, both good and bad, you can say about Vince McMahon, but when it comes to situations like this, he has always gone above and beyond to take care of his employees in a way that most other bosses (especially wrestling promoters) would never do, and he deserves praise for that.
- Scotty 2 Hotty has had some neck issues for awhile and he's been saying that eventually, it will force him to retire. Well, he was taken off the road this week and has surgery scheduled for next week. He has damage to more of the vertebrae in his neck than Austin, Benoit, or Rhyno had so even after the surgery, there's no guarantee he'll be able to return (he was out for a year and a half but eventually returned in Oct. 2003).
- The company is making a conscious effort not to rush too many new stars on TV at once, so that everyone has time to shine and don't get lost in the shuffle. Brock Lesnar was the first one up, debuting the night after Wrestlemania. And from spoilers Dave has for the upcoming Smackdown, Randy Orton will be next up, debuting this week.
- Rock was scheduled to be on the cover of this week's new issue of Rolling Stone but he got pulled at the last minute. The day-to-day operations of the magazine was just taken over by Jann Wenner, the CEO of Wenner Media, and he was upset of the direction the magazine has taken. One of the first decisions he made was taking Rock off the cover and replacing him with the Osbournes, feeling like that was a better cover story and is what their readers would be more interested in.
- Larry Zbyszko has filed 3 separate lawsuits, one each against Vince McMahon, WWF, and Chris Jericho, over the use of the term "Living Legend" when describing Jericho. Apparently, Zbyszko has the term trademarked for wrestling use and he sent WWF a cease & desist letter about it several weeks ago. WWF ignored the letter and kept using the phrase on TV. It's funny because back in the 80s, WWF actually trademarked that term for Bruno Sammartino to use. When Sammartino quit the company in 1988, Linda McMahon told him he could no longer use that nickname. Sammartino pretty much ignored her and kept doing it and WWF never bothered to try to sue him or anything over it. And I guess at some point, the trademark lapsed and Zybszko snatched it up.
- The wrestlers attending WWF's latest try-out camp this week are Josh Matthews (who cancelled his XWF bookings to be there), a Canadian wrestler named Bobby Rude, and a couple of other names you've never heard of that never became anybody.
- Remember the story a couple of weeks ago about Vince McMahon trying to get an exclusivity deal on the Molson Center arena in Montreal when he found out Bret Hart was going to appear at Jacques Rougeau's next show there? At the time, it was reported Vince's effort failed. Turns out....it didn't! The Molson Center originally refused, but WWF raised their offer and paid out the ass for it and then Molson Center agreed. So WWF now has exclusivity there. The arena then went back to Rougeau and told him he could still do his show, but he would have to put up a $150,000 advance first, which needless to say, he can't afford to do. Last year, Rougeau drew nearly 10,000 people to that arena for a show but this year, he's having to find a new building now. Vince strikes again!
GSL Code S 2020 S2 | Ro16 | Group D | Rundown
- Living Legends with 4 Code S Trophies between them: Zest, Rogue, Stats
- Dark Horse looking to build on his offline success from the previous Season: Cure
In the aftermath the PvZ decider would still end up determining who got out 2nd with Rogue coming out on top quite comfortably in the context of the player matchup and the current state of the matchup itself.
Cure [ 0 : 2 ] Stats | ★★☆☆☆ | The Shield Of Aiur
- Ever Dream | As the Terran was setting up his early Marine Hellion drop assault, the Protoss was just chilling defensively without a care in the world. The dive into the main came around 04:00 and it failed so incredibly hard as Stats just used some Shield Batteries and basic control to clean things up in no time at all. The crippled followup Liberator, CC and Tanks all looked extremely doomed against the simple Blink play from the Protoss, so when Cure decided to move out with a desperate push and got all his siege equipment confiscated instantly it was time to move on.
- Eternal Empire | The proxy Stargate from Stats felt like a nice change of pace for the macro-first player, even if he didn't go too crazy with it beyond that point, and damage got traded after that back and forth between the respective Oracle and Mine harassment. Cure looked a lot better here with the faster third CC although the Protoss fleet did get to earn a lot of value from the Terran's continued insistence to put on pressure regardless, especially with the meat of Cure's army being Bio with Mines as the splash of choice at the start. Stats kept taking expansions more conservatively while teching up, so it felt strange to watch him facilitate the base race that started around 11:30 which he would still ultimately win out on as he got to utilize Disruptors defensively and came out one base ahead by the point both players decided it was time to go home. From there quite a lot of finesse was required as Stats worked to maintain and extend his econ lead to ridiculous lengths, utilizing everything from Blink DTs to multi pronged attacks to take out bases and SCVs at will, finally wrapping things up at 23:30 as Cure looked forced into a last stand as there was just no way to compete with the Protoss economy at that point.
M2 | Rogue [ 2 : 1 ]
Zest | ★★☆☆☆ | Fiesta
- Golden Wall | The single Oracle from Zest's opening Stargate perfectly masked it would be Glaives o'clock all the same as he took a random third Nexus before fully committing to his assault for maximum confusion. The attack started at roughly 05:25 and fought off Rogue's Queens with tiny Ling Hydra reinforcements until the the Jin Air Zerg fell back down to 35 workers in the process, at which point he decided it was time for the next map.
- Ever Dream | I do feel like we have to commend Zest for not going Glaives here, especially as his Stargate play seemed to do pretty well and the Immortal followup was coming in tight behind it, only for a few Queens marching across the map supporting a slow Roach push to derail any chances of a longer game as the Swarm sneaked just under the radar, hitting around 06:10 and obliterating the unprepared Protoss accordingly.
- Deathaura | All hell broke loose on the last map, with a true snowflake of a game unraveling as the Protoss went for a bizarro Cannon rush while the Zerg proxied a Hatchery inside the enemy base. Rogue definitely proved sOs was his teammate here, navigating through this mess of a game with a lot more grace than anticipated and managing to win out thanks to endless waves of Lings flooding the map to earn him control over it and to turn the Protoss player's lights out quite literally as Zest just couldn't stabilize back at home for long enough to prolong this one.
Rogue [ 1 : 2 ] Stats | ★★☆☆☆ | Carnival
- Deathaura | The light Oracle and Adept harassment with a second Stargate after that really made it feel like we were watching a real matchup for a minute & when the Phoenix fleet eventually flooded the map and picked off every single Queen at 06:30 it looked like Stats had this one in the bag. Rogue dug deep here and started spamming out glorified distraction Nydus Worms as he desperately tried to build up anything resembling a real army, coming pretty close to doing so before the critical multi pronged attack around 10:00 where Stats stretched himself just a little too thin, losing the supply lead by the time he was cleaned up and tapping out not long after the Jin Air Zerg's army was allowed to unload on the opposite side of the map for some payback.
- Ever Dream | The proxy Hatch at the front of the Protoss player's base kicked off the fiesta around 02:45 with Spines, Queens and Lings rushing to end this series with a bop. Rogue got pretty close to denying Warp Gate, then just shy of taking out the Shield Battery empowered Immortals and finally even after getting cleared out due to Stats' solid defense the Zerg had one last chance to win the game with his ridiculous number of Lings as he was up a base, only for the Protoss to pull a classic trick out of the playbook, namely Force Fielding the ramp at 10:20 and punishing his opponent for not respecting that option, at which point Stats had the high ground and picked off way too many units, so this one was all over.
- Eternal Empire | Falling to the dark side, Stats then bet it all on the Glaives with his attack starting around 05:10 and while it didn't do an incredible amount of damage Rogue's Drone count was beyond abysmal already & by the time the shenanigans were mostly dealt with the Swarm economy was the same as the Greek economy. Even though the Jin Air Zerg technically didn't immediately quit from there, the followup Immortal Sentry push that arrived not even 08:20 into the game was just a cakewalk for the Protoss master to close the game out with.
M4 | Zest [ 2 : 0 ]
Cure | ★★☆☆☆ | Nemesis
- Ever Dream | Cure looked to be playing 4D Jenga as he once again went for a full wall while expanding this time instead of rushing tech, only for Zest to take a quick blind Nexus and proxy a Stargate without showing much if any concern for what his opponent was up to. The extremely fast third Nexus then felt like the last straw but by the time Cure realized what had happened and arrived around 06:40 the flimsy Terran army was already outgunned and econ-wise the Protoss had a huge lead. Still, the lack of early splash faciliated an opening or two for Cure as he tried forcing some engagements, most notably at roughly 09:00 as he attempted to delete the fourth Nexus and had to settle for thinning down the Protoss army. Zest then decided to exercise some of his patience, maintaining the econ edge as he rebuilt his forces while kicking off the DT Blink shenanigans, eventually sandwiching his opponent around 12:00 and closing things out with style.
- Deathaura | An early hidden Pylon and Dark Shrine next to it was the setup for a bop by Zest, however Cure showed sufficient defense even without getting to know what was coming his way ahead of schedule. The problem then turned out to be the Terran's own attempt to have an impact on the map, specifically being unable to shut down the third Nexus around 06:15 after which he took more damage from harassment at home and at that point Cure set up two separate mini doom drops he seemingly had no interest in ever triggering, which caused him to stagnate in this game. Zest took complete control of the game from there, grew his econ lead yet again and even after catching some EMPs and Viking shots while doing a weird move-out he had more than enough juice left to wrap things up neatly at 13:40 as he absolutely facerolled to victory while styling with Blink DTs on top of the doomed Terran forces.
M5 | Rogue [ 2 : 0 ]
Zest | ★★☆☆☆ | Circus
- Golden Wall | Zest taking the backdoor expansion and proxying a Stargate before also putting down five Gates in the middle of the map is what you can easily classify as going for style points, however his Glaives shenanigans would run into a bit of a wall here. Rogue decided expanding was for losers, so he hunkered down on two bases with a rushed Lair, got his Nydus up and loaded it exclusively with Swarm Hosts. As the Adepts wept at the front of a fully walled off Zerg base, Zest was being absolutely demolished back at home by the endless waves of Locusts starting circa 06:00 turning the game into a glorified build order loss which would technically go on hopelessly for a painful amount of time beyond that.
- Ever Dream | The attempted DT play got shut down cold, so it was third Nexus time with a spicy double Stargate proxy after that. Unfortunately for the Protoss, some diligent scouting by a hero Ling revealed the Phoenix fleet hiding in the shadows, at which point the writing was on the wall for this one. The arrival of the Swarm at roughly 07:55 was met with a decent force by Zest, however the angle from Rogue was a little too good initially and then it just turned into a numbers game, with the Jin Air Zerg making sure to kill off more than enough workers to guarantee even if he would be cleaned up there could be no competing with his followup Hydras dancing across the map to victory.
- Match of the Night - there were a few good slash interesting individual games, but that's honestly about it. Lets put it another way, if you missed the matches here nothing of value was lost, at best I would say you could go with M1 if you purely enjoy solid defensive Protoss play, admittedly enabled by an opponent's flawed gameplan.
- Stats played the easiest PvT of his life and then survived the PvZ fiesta, there isn't much more to say beyond that. The decision making from the Protoss looked solid and his play was nowhere near as faded as I anticipated, so those were certainly some pleasant surprises to experience. Next up for him it's going to be PvP time against Trap, who he's dominated for the most part in 2020, so a deep run looks to be in the cards for Stats the way the bracket has panned out barring some mirror shenanigans, which feels quite Classic-esque when taking into account this is going to be one of his last runs before the inevitable military departure.
- Rogue only got to play ZvP here and lets leave it at that. Don't get me wrong, I liked some of the weird builds and it definitely helps to go away from his macro-first image, but at the end of the day I don't feel like it means much when it comes to evaluating where the Jin Air Zerg is at & the true tests are still to come. In that regard, it's now Ro8 o'clock for the 8x time Quarterfinalist and you would think a relatively easy opponent he's beat down pretty convincingly over the course of the past two years could make you feel confident about his chances, however to those people I would just say one Code S trophy does not a curse break. Jokes aside, either matchup would have been fine for Rogue here, I just hope he doesn't fall into old habits and instead shows us what he's capable of in the much better matchups next.
- Zest's nemesis status helped him out to beat down the Terran but the historically coinflip relationship with the Jin Air Zerg simply didn't go his way here and there isn't much more to say beyond that. The absolute state of PvZ certainly helps with excusing the loss here for Zest, I don't even think he played particularly bad in any of the games, it just felt like Rogue had his number in that final series. Still feels like an underwhelming finish in the context of who this Protoss Champion is, but sometimes it do be like that.
- Cure went from looking so dominant in the previous Season to losing four straight maps here with next to no fight in him, surreal to think about considering he was the default favorite due to the other players' recent drops in performance. Instead it looked like "old" Cure payed us a visit today with the Terran getting completely manhandled on every level as the Protoss players took turns styling on him. Anyone can have a nightmare of a day like this and it's true against Zest in particular he tends to have some troubles, so I just hope moving forward "S1" Cure decides to come back, because this clearly wasn't remotely close or interesting to watch in comparison.
Catch you on Wednesday for the start of the Playoffs, with INnoVation taking on the renewed DRG and then it's going to be Rogue up against a scary looking Dream; at worst, no more PvZ until the Final, thank goodness.
Thanks as always for reading & see you when I see you! (: