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Old 05-04-2017, 02:45 AM
DKW is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Hawaii
Posts: 2,963
Before I begin, a bit about winning the first round being such a huge advantage that Iseman continually insists on. Yes, the whole point is to reward the winner by placing them against a weaker team. And that works just fine if being weaker was the reason those teams lost. That, as you may have noticed, is often not the case. Sometimes a team doesn’t have a good feel for the course the first time around, sometimes they’re not fully warmed up, sometimes they need to work out nerves, and sometimes they just get unlucky. And guess what, some athletes handle elimination pressure better than others! Which makes dominating the first match and coming up short in the second not at all unusual, and vice versa. Bottom line is, anyone who thinks that having a “weaker team” in the second round is all it's going to take to avoid fluke winners, bizarre turnarounds, and screams of foul is severely misguided.

Something to keep in mind for today’s barn-burner of an episode...


Average Jo Jo’s: Jimmy Bogle Jr., Kirsti Pratt, JoJo Bynum
Still not quite sure 1. what’s so “average” about these guys, or 2. how being “average” is supposed to be a good thing. The preview has Bynum deliver the biggest howler I’ve heard in a while, regarding Pratt: “Jessie Graff, Meagan Martin, I put her right there on that level.” Uh, sure, whatever it takes to get you through this.

G-Force: Jesse La Flair, Jessie Graff, Nicholas Coolridge
Last year I thought they were better than the record indicated; a couple more breaks and they could’ve easily made the Relay Showdown. Coolridge is coming off an amazing clutch performance at the second all-star event’s team competition; look for him to parlay that triumph in to a better all-around effort and make his team the one to beat. Graff is a superstar now, easily the face of the competition, and you can bet that more than a few NBC higher-ups will be rooting strongly for her.

Think Tank: Noah Kaufman, Asya Grechka, Matt Wilder
Last year they romped a hopelessly out of it Wild Bunch, caught a break when Karson Voiles was forced to be a hero one too many times, then proceeded to quietly fade away in the Relay Showdown. Now they’re hoping that a strategic swap will...reset their energy. Or something. Hey, no dumber than any other sports superstition!

Superhero Squad: Sean Darling-Hammond, Rachel Goldstein, Jamie Rahn
Rahn had a forgettable outing last time; in fact were it not for The Decision Far Stupider Than Anything Lebron James Ever Did, I probably would’ve forgotten it altogether. He’s a force no matter what, but will his new sidekicks step it up?

Fifth obstacle: Bar Hop - A fixed horizontal bar, a free bar nestled in a pair of cradles that has to be jumped to another pair of cradles, then the same again. The first of each pair is blocked off at the front, the second at the back.

= 1st match: Average Jo Jo’s vs. G-Force =
__L: Bogle Jr. vs. La Flair - La Flair is known for his speed and doesn’t waste a moment taking the early lead on Sonic Swing. He practically flies past the first gap on Ring of Fire, then hits the second, but he has so much forward momentum that he simply dismounts from there and makes it easily. Now Bogle Jr. has to...regroup, as he loses the handle the instant he hits the second gap. La Flair is charging so hard that he’s past Swing Jump before he realizes his opponent’s fate. La Flair/distance
__W: Pratt vs. Graff - Make your own woman’s-heat-hopeless-mismatch snark; I’m all out. Pratt shows remarkable speed and is the first to Ring of Fire. She gets caught in the first gap but gets out quickly and evades the second. Graff gets caught in the second but gets out quickly...and needs a couple more swings to dismount! Pratt maintains a fast pace through Swing Jump, but Graff is right behind...and she’s too low and her feet hit the water! (Having established beyond any shadow of doubt that, yes, there are disadvantages to Tarzan Style, this is the last time I will mention it. You’re welcome. ) Pratt has no trouble with Floating Tiles; Graff needs to be a little tentative due to her wet feet and now has a major deficit. Pratt is now on the third pair of cradles, and she’s thinking of going for the dismount, while Graff is still at the second fixed bar...and she goes for the dismount! And MAKES IT! (Having established this as The Move of the day, I’ll only mention it again if someone doesn’t do it.) Pratt knows she has to hustle, goes for the dismount, and makes it as well. Graff is the first to the wall but has to take time to wipe her shoes. Pratt is first up...just short! Graff is about to make her first run, but she stops short; still not enough traction. They both go at the same time, Pratt’s second, Graff’s first. Graff comes up short! up! YES! SOMETHING THE SOMETHING SOMETHING BEATS THE SUPERSTAR SOMETHING SOMETHING! I’M NOT UP ON ALL THESE NICKNAMES, SUE ME! (Gbajabiamila: “Check out Pratt, on her first time to the wall, she nails it!” You moronic...un-freaking...I don’t even... ) Pratt/finish
__A: Bynum vs. Coolridge - Another choice Bynum quote: “All love in fair and war.” Mike Tyson couldn’t have said it better. Coolridge gets off to a blazing start. He avoids the first Ring of Fire gap, hits the second, goes right for the dismount...and he’s in the water!...but he got his hands on the landing area and pulled himself means he can continue? Apparently it does, as Bynum continues undeterred. Coolridge recovers quickly, eschew the bar at Swing Jump like everyone else...and his hands slip and he’s in the water again! He somehow managed to get a grip on the bar so he’s not out yet, but now Bynum is running unopposed. Bynum looks clumsy near the end of Floating Tiles but stays up. Now Bar Hop, and with a huge lead he just has to execute; no need for fancy moves or heroics. He’s up, he’s on the first pair of cradles...he completely screws up the first jump and splashes down! Meanwhile Coolridge has somehow managed to extricate himself from doom. He needs to complete Bar Hop to win, but now has all the time in the world. Okay, transition to the net...Iseman notes that he’s not using his forearms for some reason, a bad sign. On to Floating Tiles, problem; heck, he looked better than Bynum! So now it’s one obstacle to decide it all, an unforgiving upper-body challenge. He’s at the second fixed bar, goes for The Move...and...yes! Back from the dead twice to rise to triumph! Oh, and to add insult to injury, he takes off his shoes and goes up the wall, something else Bynum couldn’t do. Coolridge/distance

Man, what a wild opener. Seriously, this isn’t like College Madness at all.

= 2nd match: Think Tank vs. Superhero Squad =
__L: Kaufman vs. Darling-Hammond - Kaufman runs to an early lead, which grows when he’s able to quickly get out of the first Ring of Fire Gap while Darling-Hammond gets caught in both gaps. Darling-Hammond isn’t especially powerful and is playing catch-up the entire way, and despite his best efforts it looks like he doesn’t have a chance. Kaufman is the first to the wall, and even on final, desperate dash from...Kaufman comes up short! Kaufman comes up short! And Darling-Hammond makes good on his first attempt! Man, I did not see that coming! Darling-Hammond/finish
__W: Grechka vs. Goldstein - Grechka gets off to a pretty good start, which turns into an absolute debacle when she finds the second Ring of Fire gap. It takes her no fewer than eight attempts to free herself, by which time Goldstein is nearly done with Swing Jump. Goldstein looks awkward on Floating Tiles but remains clean. Which would be plenty enough, as Grechka misfoots the third step and splashes down. Goldstein/distance
__A: Wilder vs. Rahn - Last season Rahn faced an 0-2 hole in his first match. The view from the other end certainly looks much nicer, but can he do his part and close the deal? Both men are dead even through the first to obstacles. They hit the net at the same time; Wilder is more agile and is the first to Floating Tiles. And then...he...just...gets...faster. And faster. Rahn is helpless as his foe breezes...breezes, I tell you!...through Bar Hop, then nonchalantly tears up the wall. Wilder/finish

Not envying Superhero Squad right now. They’re in a fix we’ve seen a few times, where the other side’s top guy is SO dominant, SO powerful, SO superhuman, that it makes little difference who you throw up against him. The smart thing to do would be to give it to Darling-Hammond, even though he pretty much doesn’t have a prayer; give him more practice time, avoid wearing out the star, and hope it pays off in the money round. Heck, Rahn was the one who took out Karson Voiles, so he knows the consequences of going to the well too many times.

__T: Wilder vs. Darling-Hammond - Yep, yep, and yep. And predictably, the 37-year-old Wilder shows not the tiniest hint of fatigue whatsoever and casually blows the doors off of his pitiful foe. I’m tempted to break out the old “I’m sorry, who’s the captain again?” line, but in this case I think “I’m sorry, who’s the superhero again?” would be more appropriate. Wilder/finish

In three matches so far, Wilder is now 5-0 in heats. If he ever gets on a good team, look out!

= 3rd match: Superhero Squad vs. G-Force=
__L: Darling-Hammond vs. La Flair - La Flair is a little wild on the Ring of Fire dismount but is quickly back up, while Darling-Hammond hits both gaps and is struggling. Darling-Hammond, desperate to catch up, rushes the Swing Jump transition and his feet make a big splash. La Flair maintains a slim lead through the next two obstacles and both do The Move successfully, so it comes down to a shootout at the wall. They go up...and Darling-Hammond’s wet feet betray him and he goes down, while La Flair conquers easily. Man, it’s been a while since Warped Wall has been such a factor! La Flair/finish
__W: Goldstein vs. Graff - It looks like the pressure is just too much for Goldstein. She’s sloppy on Sonic Swing, taking a fair amount of water on the second rope, and any hope for a decent contest dies when she gets sideways on Ring of Fire and misses the landing area completely. Graff/distance
__A: Coolridge vs. Rahn - A day that started out with such promise for Rahn has made a turn for the catastrophic, and now it looks like he’ll literally have to be a superhero to avoid a second untimely exit. Both men charge out of the gate, have no trouble with Ring of Fire, and are on to Swing Jump. through several seconds sooner than Coolridge and is now bounding through Floating Tiles! Coolridge catches up on Bar Hop, the both pull The Move, and it’s another shootout at the’s going to be’s Rahn by under a second! Rahn/finish

So Rahn finds himself in the exact same predicament as last time. Of course he’s not going to try another Cook-Venuti stunt (I will go to my damn grave without ever getting an explanation for that), especially against a powerhouse like Graff, which means that he has to be the man. He’s seen opponents who’ve had to carry the team on their backs, but he’s never had to do it himself. And of course G-Force is going to put in La Flair, so he also has to overcome a fresher opponent. So this is it, folks. Now we see how good Captain NBC really is. And as you may have surmised by me taking time out just for this, yeah, I’ve been waiting a DAMN long time for this!

__T: La Flair vs. Rahn - Rahn gets off to a blazingly fast start...and is clean through the Ring of Fire again! He’s the first person so far who’s hacked it twice in a row. And he just kicks it up a notch from there, tearing through the rest of the course in what I must assume is record time, while La Flair can do nothing but watch. Rahn/finish

Wowza. He stared humiliating defeat right in the eye and proceeded to run rings around it. Which means that both top women in the competition have been treated to early exits. Sure as heck hope USA doesn’t write these things too far in advance, if you know what I mean.

= 4th match: Think Tank vs. Average Jo Jo’s =
__L: Kaufman vs. Bogle Jr. - Kaufman is a little slow out of the gate but quickly powers to an early lead. Bogle Jr. hits both gaps and is losing ground. But Kaufman looks hesitant for some reason, and his foe remains in striking distance. Bogle Jr. steadily works his way through Floating Tiles...and falls! I couldn’t even see where he went wrong, he just plan flubbed it. Kaufman completes Bar Hop, looks back, and decides enough is enough. Kaufman/distance
__W: Grechka vs. Pratt - Pratt needs a couple extra swings but doesn’t have trouble with Ring of Fire, while Grechka is stymied by the first gap. Pratt misses the first transition on Swing Jump but makes good on the second. Grechka finally is past the ring but has a little trouble getting off the net. Pratt easily handles Floating Tiles and has a decent lead going into Bar Hop, but it looks like she’s slowing down a bit. Grechka is on Bar Hop, while Pratt takes a long time to make the first hop. She makes it to the second fixed bar, briefly considers The Move, then thinks better of it and grabs the second moving bar. Grechka grabs for the second moving bar...and whiffs! Pratt finally completes the obstacle, and with her fate now completely in her hands, she makes good on the first crack this time and completes a very satisfying day. Definitely looking forward to seeing her in the regular contest! (Hey, that’s another one! ) Pratt/finish
__A: Wilder vs. Bynum - Three times Bynum came up inches short, but he can erase all that disappointment with a crunch-time win here. Can he do it? He looks good early, he’s the first through Ring of Fire, he’s setting a fast, no. He gets to Floating Tiles just ahead of Wilder, then...stops. Seriously, he stands there and lets his opponent go first, not even trying to challenge him. Of course Wilder’s not going to waste a golden opportunity like that, and he pretty much laughs his way to victory. Wilder/finish

Hate to say it, but Bynum looked below average today, especially given the level of competition we’ve seen so far. I’d be surprised if we saw him in TNW again; I can’t imagine who’d want to be saddled with an anchor like him.

= Final: Think Tank (Grechka, Kaufman, Wilder) vs. Superhero Squad (Goldstein, Darling-Hammond, Rahn) ==
Goldstein is clumsier through Ring of Fire and Swing Jump, and Kaufman gets the tag several seconds ahead. He maintains a small lead through Floating Tiles and is soon onto the first moving bar in Bar Hop. Darling-Hammond gets on Bar Hop just as Kaufman reaches the second fixed bar. Darling-Hammond reaches for the first moving bar...and...pulls it off the cradle! Now he has no choice but to try to leap all the way to the second fixed bar, which of course is doomed to fail. So now Kaufman needs to do to give Wilder a 10-second lead and all but ice...

...HE MESSED UP THE MOVE! HE MESSED UP THE MOVE! His feet were on the landing area, but his center of gravity was too far back and he fell in the water! Meanwhile, Darling-Hammond finally commits, doesn’t come close, and splashes down.

And just like that, the exciting, freewheeling, nerves-constantly-on-edge Relay Showdown...has ground to a complete halt. Seriously, about half a minute passes while everyone tries to remember how they’re supposed to handle this. Okay...we have something? We’re good to go? All right. What happens is that both third-leggers restart at the same time; as there’s no tag, the restart will be decided by a 5-second countdown. Wow. I mean, you knew in your heart that this would come down to Wilder vs. Rahn, but I don’t think anyone anticipated it would be that in the most literal way possible.

All right, time out over! Let’s end this! Rahn handles the Salmon Ladder better, but Wilder has a better handle on the globes and...Rahn is slowing down! Wilder gets right on the ladder, he’s setting a good pace, and for crying out loud, does this guy EVER get tired??

MVP picks: Wilder, Wilder, Wilder. And Wilder. Also Wilder. Oh, almost forgot, Wilder. Did I mention Wilder?

Huh? Oh, right, I’m supposed I have to? Well, actually, I don’t, since this is my thing and all, but I’m nothing if not accommodating. Huuuuuhhhhh...[deep, deep sigh]. La Flair and Pratt. There you go. Hey, my second 3-way split in a row, wasn’t expecting that.


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