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Old 05-11-2017, 02:48 AM
DKW is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Hawaii
Posts: 2,963

Well, this day was certainly...interesting. Thatís really the best word I can use to describe it. Much explanation forthcoming.

Team Grit: Lance Pekus, Maggi Thorne, Kevin Bull
The Expendabulls were one of the best teams last year but were simply outclassed by Lab Rats. Itís debatable whether this squad is stronger or weaker, and itíll depend a lot on whether Lance Pekus has learned from his past mistakes. Kevin Bull is always entertaining, and there will be plenty of fans rooting for a repeat trip to the semis.

Phoenix Force: Dan Galiczynski, Cassie Craig, Najee Richardson
Ummmm...uhhhhhhhhhhhhh...okay, seriously, I got nuthiní. Sometimes shut up and watch is just shut up and watch, yíknow?

Iron Grip: Nate Burkhalter, Barclay Stockett, Daniel Gil
Daniel Gil was a terror last time, dealing the Lab Rats their only two losses en route to the final, but the complete lack of support from his supporting cast sunk him. He claims that he fixed that glaring mistake and is sure to win now that heís no longer saddled with a couple of useless, pathetic, goldbricking deadweight bums. Not his exact words, of course.

Lab Rats: Chris Wilczewski, Michelle Warnky, Brian Wilczewski
Last year they had the best overall record (11-2) but ultimately got left in the dust by Brian Arnold in the second semis. The question is, were they really that good or just the beneficiary of fortuitous matchups? Today, against what certainly looks like tougher competition, weíre going to find out.
Oh, uh, Chris is the ďcaptainĒ. Whatever.

Fifth obstacle: Pole Grasper - Numerous poles hanging vertically downward.

= 1st match: Team Grit vs. Phoenix Force =
__L: Pekus vs. Galiczynski - Both men are even through Sonic Swing. Pekus hits only the first gap in Ring of Fire while Galiczynski finds both. Pekus maintains a steady pace through Swing Jump or Floating Tiles, clearing both easily, and is the first of the day to Pole Grasper. But Galiczynski is quicker on his feet and soon closes the, that was fast. Just on the second pole, his grip completely gives out and he slides straight down. Pekus has the win no matter what, but heís nice enough to get through the poles and hit the buzzer. [b]Pekus/distance[b]
__W: Thorne vs. Craig - Thorne has a slim lead through Sonic Swing. She fights her way through Ring of Fire...and...dang, that looked bad. She gets an incredibly clumsy swing on the dismount, hangs onto the hoop with her left hand for too long, and briefly gets a foot on the landing area before the rest of her body goes the wrong way. Craig has a lot of trouble with the obstacle but eventually makes good. Craig/distance
__A: Bull vs. Richardson - Both men come out charging, getting through Ring of Fire cleanly; Bull looks dangerously close to wiping out but stays dry. On to Swing Jump, where Bull misses the transition...and Richardson makes it, but his feet hit the water. His wet feet donít bother him on Floating Tiles, and itís on to Pole Grasper...and...holy crap, Bull is still on Swing Jump? One of the most clutch competitors weíve ever seen has been hung out to dry! Richardson takes a while to clear the poles, but he has all the time in the world, and itís a relaxing jaunt up the wall to triumph. Richardson/finish

A bit of a surprise in the opener, with Pekus staying cool as a cucumber and Bull flubbing a simple task. Just goes to show that you can never assume anything in this contest.

= 2nd match: Iron Grip vs. Lab Rats =
__L: Burkhalter vs. C.Wilczewski - Chez-1 gets off to a rough start, taking water on Sonic Swing and allowing Burkhalter to pass him. He retakes the lead after going from the dismount from the second Ring of Fire gap. (This requires perfect timing and a lot of forward momentum, so it doesnít qualify as The Move, but itís certainly something Iím starting to see more of.) Chez-1 easily powers through Swing Jump, and it looks like a real struggle for Burkhalter to keep up. His fate is sealed soon after, completely missing the second pair on Floating Tiles, stepping on the cable, and tumbling to defeat. C.Wilczewski/distance

Uh-oh...itís never a good sign when someoneís post-victory smack talk is ďOn my run, I definitely pulled something.Ē The rerun shows Chez-1 getting off the poles and not looking too happy.

__W: Stockett vs. Warnky - Warnkyís a perfect 4-0 going into this event. While not in the same class as Jessie Graff or Meagan Martin, sheís definitely a tough matchup for anyone. She leads early, then they both get tied up on Ring of Fire. Stockett is a little less awkward and takes the lead. Sheís not quite as fast through Swing Jump but still has the lead. On to Floating Tiles...and she effortlessly bounces through there like a cartoon character! Warnky manages to catch up on the poles, whereupon they get so close that they not only share a pole, but Stockett ends up stepping on Warnkyís thigh. (Given her expression, Warnky seems to be taking it in good humor.) Stockett seems to have found an extra gear, and sheís pushes ahead! Could The Streak (which is infinitely more impressive than The Undertakerís due to TNW not being scripted) be over? Stockett is on the last pole. Sheís the first one out! SHE GOES UP THE WALL! SHE!! HITS!! THE!!...

...wall. Her right hand comes up short by about a foot, and Warnky promptly shows her how itís done. Sigh. Warnky/finish

__A: Gil vs. B.Wilczewski - Gil takes off. Gil roars to the lead. Gil never gives his pitiful foe a chance. Gil conquers. Gil dominates. Gil destroys. Seriously, what were you expecting?? Gil/finish

So the Lab Rats find themselves in the exact same predicament as last year, and if they had reason to be worried then, they should be mortally terrified now with Chez-1 in no shape to do the tiebreaker. Iím reminded of that passage in Romance of the Three Kingdoms where Lu Xun wails to the heavens, ďAfter you made me, why did you have to make Zhuge Liang?Ē Come to think of it, I could totally imagine Iseman or Gbajabiamila as Yuan Shao.

Well, we all know whatís coming. May as well get it over with.

__T: Gil vs. B.Wilczewski - Gil is off to the races, and...holy cow, Chez-2 pulled off a second-gap dismount! Completely smooth, too, like he planned it all along! Gil is in a big hole, but weíve seen him close the gap so many...

Did that just happen???? Gil, in the second gap, goes for the dismount, gets both feet on the landing pad...and the pad freaking rolls backwards and drops Gil in the water! It looked like something out of a Goofy cartoon! B.Wilczewski/distance

For three matches Gil has had to be everything, do everything, conquer everything, and it looked like the constant burden finally caught up to him. Now heís in a bind, needing to pull off a comeback with very little rest time just to get another crack at the Relay Showdown. Oh-yoo-flippiní-see-aich. (Hey, I donít care if thatís not a meme! I make up my own stupid crap! )

= 3rd match: Iron Grip vs. Phoenix Force =
__L: Burkhalter vs. Galiczynski - Itís effectively ended at Ring of Fire, with Burkhalter going for a second gap dismount, looking iffy for an instant, but staying dry, while Galiczynski struggles through both gaps. He makes a tiny push on Pole Grasper but never has any real chance. Burkhalter/finish

All right, itís been way too long since we had some good old fashioned messing with the system. Hereís whatís going on now: The women and anchors will switch their order for the last two runs. This means that the womenís run will be scored like an anchor run, and vice versa. Which, apparently, is yet another thing that itís permissible to do here. I canít really think of any strategic advantage to Gil doing this, so Iím going to assume that itís spite; heís tired of bailing out his useless teammates every damn time and is putting someone else in the crosshairs. As for Richardson, he most likely saw the likelihood that heíd have to run the tiebreaker if it came to that (especially given how ineffectual Galiczynski has been), and all the better to gave a little rest time beforehand.

__ďWĒ: Gil vs. Richardson - Richardson dooms himself early, taking water on Sonic Swing. Gil pulls off a successful second-gap dismount this time, and Richardson being unable to use his wet legs on Pole Grasper is the nail in the coffin. Gil/finish
__ďAĒ: Stockett vs. Craig - Craig falls behind early, and it gets worse when sheís too upright on Sonic Swing and her feet hit the water. She then gets tied up in Ring of Fire; Stockett, despite needing two attempts on Swing Jump, maintains a sizable lead. Craig misses one transition on Swing Jump, then two, and now sheís in a huge hole...and thatíll do it, desperation, leap of faith, canít hang on, splash. Stockett, either unknowing or uncaring of her quick victory, continues right past Pole Grasper to...her nemesis. Hey, how long has it been since weíve had a beeh daah waww chant in TNW? She gets it this time, and our longish USA Network nightmare is over. Stockett/distance

How about that. Gilís compatriots, laid low and facing a humiliating exit, come roaring back with a sweep. I have the feeling weíre going to see a much different outcome in the final.

The bad news is finally confirmed: Chez-1 is out of the competition due to his shoulder injury. Someone named Arnold Hernandez (I nearly put ďAaronĒ a couple times) will be stepping in for leadoff. Geez, the one time we actually could USE a preview...

= 4th match: True Grit vs. Lab Rats =
__L: Pekus vs. Hernandez - Itís nearly even through the first two obstacles. Hernandez is first out of Ring of Fire but lands clumsily, almost flat on his back, and Pekus is the first to Swing Jump. Pekus maintains a small lead...and his feet hit the water! A common occurrence, but this is why you shouldnít wear long pants on the course, as now theyíre soaked, which means slipperiness and extra weight. Hernandez charges through Floating Tiles, while Pekus attempts to jump across; his compromised jeans promptly give out and he belly flops on the second solo tile. Incredibly, he avoids going down and is able to continue. Hernandez is having trouble with Pole Grasper, allowing Pekus to make it a contest. Hernandez is through and goes up the wall...short! And Pekus is past the poles! And...thatís as close as heíd ever get, as Hernandez easily makes good on his second attempt, while Pekus slides all the way down. That was an impressive skidmark he left on the wall! Hernandez/finish
__W: Thorne vs. Warnky - Thorne doesnít make any obvious blunders but just canít match Warnkyís strength or speed. A cakewalk victory for the unlikely invincible juggernaut. Thorne then goes up the wall, hits the buzzer, and hugs Warnky for some reason. Warnky/finish
__A: Bull vs. B.Wilczewski - This is the fourth time that Bullís underlings have put him in a 0-2 deficit, and faced with an opponent as fierce as Chez-2, the road back to the semis must seem a Super Salmon Ladder high. Both men are almost completely clean through the first two obstacles, with Chez-2 taking a small lead. Theyíre on the swings...and...are you bleediní kidding me?? Bull gets hopelessly tied up on the swing AGAIN! (Seriously, use the bar! Thereís no shame in ďNot Tarzan StyleĒ! Thereís a reason everyone starts with it!) Bull, incredibly, makes a tremendous comeback, practically flying through the bars (which Chez-2 has trouble with), but itís just not enough, as Chez-2 seals the deal by seconds. Bull hangs his head at the top of the wall, clearly wondering why he bothered to get out of bed today. B.Wilczewski/finish

So itís going to be a repeat of last seasonís 5th prelim final, but the story is much different this time (not to mention the competitors).

= Final: Iron Grip (Stockett, Burkhalter, Gil) vs. Lab Rats (Hernandez, Warnky, B.Wilczewski) ==
So the first two legs are woman against leadoff? Thatís what it looks like. Well, as it turns out...thatís exactly what it is. Huh. This has been tried before, with...mixed results. Not sure what to think now.

Hernandez, predictably, takes the early lead. Stockettís feet hit the water but she maintains the pace. Hernandez pulls off a very nice second gap dismount, and just like that...Stockett is keeping up! Theyíre through Swing Jump, and Hernandez makes the tag, but only about five seconds ahead (and he needed a pretty risky move just for that much!) Warnky wastes no time bounding through Floating Tiles. Burkhalter does his best to catch up but heís no speed demon, and Warnky is almost halfway across the poles by the time he gets there. Of course, now Burkhalter can use his obvious upper-body superiority to...what the hell is he waiting for?? Seriously, he just stands there watching for about six seconds! Youíre up against Michelle Warnky, for crying out loud, not Caitlin Shukwit! You canít treat her like a lady! He finally rediscovers his motivation and gets on the poles, and promptly has all kinds of trouble with them. Warnky easily gets up the wall first. Chez-2 knows from far, far too much painful experience that he canít match Gil in anything, but damned if he will go down without a fight. Gil finally gets the tag and pounds his way up the ladder. Theyíre nearly dead even through Globe Graspers, but Gil skips two globes on the end and is the first one out. He sprints for Invisible Ladder...

...time out. Yeah, have to pull out the rulebook again. If both final-leggers go out on the same obstacle, the winner is the one who got further on it, not necessarily the one who got there first. Yeah. Thatís about to come into play pretty soon.

Where were Gil is on Invisible Ladder, and heís well underway by the time Chez-2 begins. This is it. If heís going to slay the beast, tame the bully, defeat the monster once and for all, itís going to have to be here. Itís going to be a duel for the ages! Itís going to be a photo finish! Itís going to be...

...a huge anticlimax, as Chez-2ís tank is nearly empty, and he completely gives out at the 20í mark. Gil, already well ahead, makes it all the way to 34í before succumbing.

Gilís teammates proved their worth when it mattered, but heís shown that he is not invincible and itís possible to wear him down. The biggest concern for Iron Grip right now is if Gil can complete Invisible Ladder in the semis; if not, the other anchors could very well have his number. There have now been 3 steals in 4 weeks; at this pace weíre going to easily shatter the first seasonís mark and put the supposed advantage of winning in the first half in jeopardy. With Michelle Warnky out, the top three women have now been eliminated, and itís questionable whether the female slot will even matter in crunch time. Lance Pekusí fate really drove home the kind of skills that are required in this event, and that just being an ANW stalwart isnít enough. In all, quite a revealing day. Looks like the fun stuffís finally started!

MVP picks: Warnky, Gil. This is the first time ever I was completely unimpressed by all the leadoff men. I was a tiny bit in favor of Burkhalter, but that got stomped flat after his bizarre capitulation on Pole Grasper. Hernandez looked pretty good, but I ainít giviní props to an alternate. So that leaves nobody. It feels weird. I hope it doesnít happen again.