Weekend's Best Bets -- Final Four and Wrestlemania 28
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When I was a kid, there were only a small handful of sporting events to which you set your calendar/watch, events that owned certain weekends or weeks of the calendar year. They were the biggies: Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals.
But with the advent of a million different television channels, a 24/7 news cycle and pay-per-view, the land rush for shaping our viewing habits via occupation of the open dates on the year-round calendar has been fast and furious in the last decade.
Hence, the first weekend of April(ish) has morphed into a three-day extravaganza that sees the men's basketball Final Four sandwiched around WWE's own Super Bowl, Wrestlemania.
This might be my favorite weekend of the year.
And I'm not afraid to say that, despite a Final Four with marquee value out the wazoo and despite my being one of approximately twenty Americans who unconditionally love college basketball any time of year, I am ten times more fired up for Wrestlemania. Call me a dork, call me a loser, get in line.
And an added bonus to this year's Wrestlemania experience? You can actually wager online on the results! And yes before you get all uppity with me, I know the results are predetermined, so you can save the "How is this any different than wagering on whether or not Dwight keeps his job at Dunder Mifflin?" Both involve scripts. I get it.
To me, the most intriguing thing about wagering on Wrestlemania is that every "smart" wrestling fan thinks they know who is going to "win" all of the matches on Sunday. Our collective knowledge of the inner workings of the business side of WWE are baked into a slew of money lines on these matches, most of which are skewed heavily toward one side or the other. (The only match that is even close to a 50/50 wager is the Intercontinental title match between Cody Rhodes and the 500-pound Big Show.)
People who scoff at professional wrestling and its millions (and MILLIONS) of fans, the naysayers who condescendingly try and point out that "You do know the outcome is predetermined, right?", they don't realize that the actual outcome of each match is fairly far down on the list of reasons we watch. It's the ring entrances, the music, the stories, and the psychological roller coaster on which each match puts you. Those are the draw. Who wins matters, but not really. If that makes sense.
So in a way, these wagering odds for Wrestlemania 28 are validation of that. The numbers indicate a slew of one-sided outcomes. That couldn't be further from the truth. We may know who is going to win, but how compelling the journey of getting to a pin or submission in each match -- that's why we plunk down our hard-earned money. (Or in my case, have a Wrestlemania party at Nick's Place!)
Okay, now let me hop off my soapbox and give you my predictions (Odds for each side are in parentheses after their names; quick wagering primer -- the minus number indicates the favorite and how much you'd have to risk to WIN $100; the plus number indicates the underdog and how much you would win by risking $100. And if that doesn't make sense, you probably don't care enough to read my stuff on here anyway):
Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos (-350) vs WWE Divas Champion Beth Phoenix & Eve (+225) This match is WWE's attempt to get some crossover star power onto the card as Menounos, who has been in a WWE ring before, teams up with Kelly Kelly, who has somehow managed to become a mainstream media darling despite having the personality of a potted plant. They take on the Divas champ Beth Phoenix (affectionately known as "The Glamazon") and Eve, who in the last six weeks has become the definition of a "jezebel." Just trust me. Anyway, this little moment took place on Extra:
If Menounos were an actual wrestler, ironically I'd take Phoenix and Eve exacting some revenge on her, but there's no way WWE let's the token celeb on the card (Menounos) skulk off with an "L." Pick: Menounos and Double K
Randy Orton (-500) vs Kane (+300) Every single match on this card has some sort of backstory, flimsy as some of them may be, except this one. In this match, I'm pretty sure the participants don't even know why they hate each other. Best part of this match will be Orton's entrance and the inevitable point during the match where Orton tries to rip off Kane's mask (a required token spot for any match involving a masked wrestler), even though Kane has wrestled maskless for the better part of the last decade and we know exactly what he looks like. With all these heavy favorites on the card, there will be at least one upset. Let's roll the dice with the big red machine +300! Pick: Kane Intercontinental Title: Champion Cody Rhodes (-120) vs The Big Show (-120) The focus of this match has been Cody Rhodes' (the younger son of wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes) constant hounding of the 500-pound Big Show (I'm pretty sure "500-pound" is Show's first name, as much as they like to point it out on WWE television.) about his horrific record at Wrestlemania:
Basically, if the Big Show were a football team he'd be the early `90's Bills wrapped inside the late `80's Broncos with a sprinkle of Bud Grant's Vikings. Bottom line is that Cody Rhodes has actually made the Intercontinental title interesting in a Honky Tonk Man circa 1987 kind of way. The Big Show's raison d'être is not to have a mid-level title, it's to be a 500-pound blob. He will always be that, win or lose. Pick: Cody Rhodes, but be leery of Rhodes doing the heel thing where he gets himself disqualified and the title stays with him (Title can't change hands on a DQ. Don't ask.) That technically would count as a win for Show.
12-Man Tag Match: Team Teddy (+550) vs Team Johnny (-1,000) This is the token "let's get everyone who doesn't have a match on the biggest card of the year and put them all in one big clusterfuck match so they can get a pay day." It's actually somewhat noble on Vince McMahon's part. Anyway, the storyline here is that the two WWE brand general managers (John Laurinaitis for RAW and Teddy Long for Smackdown) are in a power struggle to take over ALL of WWE programming! And how best to decide this? Well, in most businesses, it would come down to which one has a better business acumen and ability to lead. In WWE, it's which one can choose the six wrestlers who can whoop the asses of the other guy's six wrestlers. Honestly, more businesses should decide promoting from within this way. Pick: Team Laurinaitis, with fingers crossed for a breakout performance from Dolph Ziggler.
World Title: Champion Daniel Bryan (+225) vs Sheamus (-350) Sheamus won the right to a title match at Wrestlemania by emerging victorious in January's Royal Rumble pay per view, and he will take on the surprisingly hatable Bryan, who in the last two months has come into his own as an annoying weasel. At a comparative pint size compared to the rest of the upper tier of the WWE roster (and not being named Mysterio), Bryan's run with the big dogs is probably living on borrowed time, and clearly WWE has plans for Sheamus (whose name by the way, should be Beef O'Brady, just saying'). Pick: Beef O'Brady WWE Title: Champion C.M. Punk (-250) vs Chris Jericho (+170) The WWE title has turned into a backdrop prop in a war of words (actually all of the top matches on this card are wars of words more than anything) between two of the best talkers in the business, a war of words that started out compelling, became personal, and then just became weird as Jericho started dragging all of the "straight edge" Punk's drug and alcohol-addled relatives into the conversation. Things we've learned along the way: Punk can play the "angry good guy" as well as anybody (ask Christian), Jericho can get people to hate him by saying nothing (He literally said nothing for a month when he came back from hiatus.), and I want to party with Punk's sister. Pick: Punk, and we've only just begun this feud
Hell In A Cell: Undertaker (-1,500) vs Triple H (+800) w/ Shawn Michaels as guest referee The Undertaker has never lost at Wrestlemania, and if you need the definitive anthology on all of his wins up to last year, you know where to find it. The difference with last year's win is that Triple H beat him "within an inch of his life," forcing the first stretcher exit of the 'Taker's career. So now here we have the rematch with the added bonus of Triple H's best friend and two-time Undertaker streak victim Shawn Michaels as the guest referee. The buildup for this has been scrumptious. If you need a Cliffs Notes YouTube clip to get you ready, here you go:
Pick: You'll go broke picking against the 'Taker at 'Mania time, and still +800 on Trips is tempting. Really tempting when you factor in that he is the most powerful man in the company not named McMahon. Still, um, TAKER.
Main Event: John Cena (-270) vs The Rock (+210) A match that has been booked for a year now, and if you need catching up on the backdrop for this match, just know that these two seem to legitimately hate each other -- Cena hates Rock for leaving wrestling to go make millions in Hollywood, and Rock hates Cena because...well, because everyone with a penis hates Cena. Still, if you're scoring the buildup promos at home (and right now that's all there is to score since the two haven't laid hands on each other), Cena has a decided advantage. Rock has been at times rusty and a tad awkward, garnering a solid B to B+ on the mic instead of his usual A++.
This ironically feels a lot like ten years ago when Rock was the guy taking on Hulk Hogan who was in a Babe Ruth "nostalgia" mode at that point; just put Cena in the "the guy" slot and Rock in the "retro rewind" slot. In that Rock-Hogan match, the crowd in Toronto turned on Rock quickly and began cheering a then-heel Hogan. With this match in Rock's de facto hometown of Miami, I'd expect the crowd to back the self professed "Great One." In that Rock-Hogan match, the current cash cow and younger guy (Rock) also won the match. I'd expect the current cash cow and younger guy to win again. Pick: Cena
And finally, in the "Oh yeah, that's right, they're playing basketball this weekend, too!" category:
Kentucky -8 1/2 over Louisville This is a terrible matchup for Kentucky that could spiral out of control quickly if Louisville doesn't make shots. Louisville likes to press all 94 feet of the floor. There's only one problem -- they're a bad offensive team. Missed shots equals no press equals long rebounds equals transition baskets for Kentucky. Kentucky will drop a 14-2 run on Louisville at some point; they do it to everyone. I just don't think the Cardinals have an answer for them. Pick: Kentucky, and Pitino goes back to Louisville and takes out his frustration in a 30-second sex romp on the floor of Porcini's, or as Pitino likes to call it "a marathon."
Ohio State -2 1/2 over Kansas The more even of the two matchups, I think the difference here will be Buckeye point guard Aaron Craft's ability to frustrate and force Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor into bad turnovers and poor shots. The front court is a stand off, but Craft and the elevated game of Deshaun Thomas carry Ohio State to a Monday date with destiny. Pick: Ohio State
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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