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. 

Rebooking Every WWE Champion from 1990 to 2020

The Ultimate Warrior – 4/1/90 to 3/24/91

First change I’d make if I could alter the booking of all WWE Champions from 1990 to present day is let The Ultimate Warrior retain his title until WrestleMania so he could clash with the Immortal One Hulk Hogan in a rematch for the ages. Taking the belt off Warrior to kick off a U.S.A vs Iraq storyline was tasteless, foolish and cost the company revenue. ‘Till this day, Vince McMahon and the company brass refuse to acknowledge their poor decision making as the cause for WrestleMania VII moving from 93,000 seated L.A Memorial Coliseum and to the 16,000 seated Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Stating threats of a terrorist attack as reason for the venue change. You don’t have to be a scientist to detect the whiff of bullshit there.

Why WWE gleefully shot themselves in the foot for a desperate attempt to drum up controversy is beyond me. But it isn’t uncommon for the wrestling business to flip out when a boon period comes to a close and the brass are trying desperately to keep the boat afloat. 
Hell. If they did Warrior/Hogan 2 they probably run the coliseum. 
WrestleMania VII Card:
Hulk Hogan def. The Ultimate Warrior
Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart def. Randy Savage and Sgt. Slaughter For the tag titles
Hulk Hogan – 3/24/91 to 11/27/91
The matches Hogan had with Undertaker aren’t pretty. ‘Taker is greener than grass and stiff as a board. Hogan wasn’t a good partner for the deadman either. Still, at Survivor Series Hogan was dethroned from his perch thanks to shenanigans from Paul Bearer and Ric Flair. This was the first time the championship was defended at the pay-per-view, as Survivor Series was basically a tag team extravaganza between teams of babyfaces and heels. 
In times of financial downturn, McMahon figured giving the belt back to Hogan would right the ship. It hadn’t. The era of Rock ‘n Roll Wrestling which catapulted the WWE into the stratosphere had ended. Hulkamania had in fact died. Only it’s death was quiet.
The Undertaker – 11/27/91 to 1/16/92
When the time is right Hogan will job. His greatest talent is knowing when the exit stage left so he can come back to the top spot at a later date. Him putting the rookie ‘Taker over and relinquishing the title in the process, isn’t unlike when Bill Goldberg won the title on Nitro in 1998. When it was time to impress the suits in the network offices Hogan knew what to do.
Which isn’t a bad thing. I’m just aware of when someone so paranoid about their spot in the food chain does something wildly out of character in the form of generosity that they’re ulterior motives. 
Hogan would win the title back from “This Tuesday In Texas” a week later. Culminating in a screwy finish that’s genuinely hilarious to look back on. Ric Flair tries to cheat to help ‘Taker, and spite Hogan. His attempt fails. Bearer tried to hit Hogan with the urn, misses and waffles ‘Taker. Hogan takes the ashes from the urn and throws them in ‘Taker’s eyes. Flair revives a knockdown Jack Tunney (Hogan hit Flair with a chair, inadvertently knocking Tunney out) so he could see Hogan cheating. Hogan wins and is later stripped of the title. Setting the stage for the Royal Rumble PPV. The winner being champion.
You get all of that? I know I make it all sound contrived and nonsensical, but this was brilliant work by the WWE. Excellent use of Flair. A wonderful way for Mark Calloway to cut his teeth. Beautifully set up Flair’s historic win at the rumble. Only problem was it didn’t lead to a Hogan-Flair program for WrestleMania. Instead we got Randy Savage vs Flair, and Sid Justice vs Hogan as the main event. 
I’d probably alter the booking a bit because my style of writing is blunt and simple. ‘Taker retains via bullshit. Tunney forces the deadman to defend his belt at the rumble, he’ll come in at whatever number and be eliminated by either Hogan, Flair, or maybe Jake Roberts in the process. ‘Taker feuded with Roberts for WrestleMania VIII anyway. Might as well set the stage for their match. In this era of black and white, cartoony wrestling one of them turns Babyface in the process. Since Roberts is leaving after ‘Mania, ‘Taker turns to the light. 
Ric Flair – 1/16/92 to 11/25/92
Nobody has had the WWE Championship and made such a strong impact while having the title for a short period of time. Flair held the belt until WrestleMania, a little under three months and didn’t defend it after the Royal Rumble. While I move Randy Savage and could see myself yelling at my friends that he was better than Hogan, Savage was a better chaser than a champion. His first stint with the belt gave him a legitimacy the WWE threw away all too quick. Once Hogan knocked off the Macho Man at ‘Mania IV all his power vanished. Forever casted as the second banana. What could have fixed that was letting him retain and holding off the title change until SummerSlam. 
Flair came to the WWE after a contract dispute with WCW (while champion) lead him to walk out with the company’s most prized possession and at the urging of McMahon, the Nature Boy parades the blurred out Big Gold belt, calling himself “The Real Worlds’ Champion.” It as an insanely hot angle that needed to keep going. 
Flair ruling the WWE at this time would have made complete sense. Hogan was gone due to the WWE entering a dark period as the steroid trial was underway. With no big dog in the yard it should have been Flair’s territory until Survivor Series when young Bret Hart shocks the world and restores order in the WWE. 
Imagine how much better Bret’s first reign would have been if the following was done.
  1. Bret defeats Flair on PPV. Not at some House Show in Butt Fuck, Nowhere.
  2. Bret defends his belt versus Jake Roberts and The Ultimate Warrior.
  3. Has the match of the century versus Randy Savage at WrestleMania IX. A show begging for any sort of spark
Bret Hart – 11/25/92 to 8/30/93
Poor Bret. The Daniel Bryan of his day. Always overlooked because he didn’t look like a ‘roided up freak of nature. Hart would have never been given a chance if WWE was so desperate to squash the notion they are a company filled with aforementioned ‘roided up freaks of nature. 
That all being said, he did fine as champion. Having great matches against Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels. He defended his title with pride and honor. People give Bret shit for actually believing there is some legitimacy to wrestling titles, but it’s his conviction which garners a genuine reaction from the fans and their embrace.
Where I won’t side with Bret is him bemoaning the fact he had to lose to Yokozuna at ‘Mania. Would I have booked Yokozuna to win the Royal Rumble in the first place? No. I would have let Savage win. Whomever wins is no skin off my back. They’ll tear the house down one way or another.
I’d give the title to Yokozuna at SummerSlam. Smashing Bret into a zillion pieces.
Yokozuna – 8/30/93 to 3/20/94
Outside of the blatant and shameful bigotry lobbied against Asians, the WWE did a fine job portraying samoan born Yokozuna as an unstoppable monster. 
Aboard the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier, on the date of July 4th. WWE presented fans with the hokey “Bodyslam Challenge.” One by one the Babyfaces came and were sent packing. Rick & Scott Steiner, Crush, and even the Macho Man. Professional athletes weren’t spared either. Paul Taglianetti of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Scott Burrell of the Charlotte Hornets, Keith Sims of the Miami Dolphins, Gary Baldinger of the Buffalo Bills, and Bill Frallic of the Detroit Lions failed to bodyslam the more than 500-pound monster. 
Then came America’s blond savior from the sky in the form of Lex Luger. Gone was “The Narcissist” character he debuted as on WWE television. With the slamming of Yokozuna a new Luger took shape. He was now Mr. American. Driving around the country in a tour dubbed “The Lex Express” as if he was running for president. 
Heading into SummerSlam it was expected the WWE found their next Hulk Hogan in Luger. He was going to restore American pride. The balloons were set in the rafters. The Babyfaces were ready to rush the ring in celebration.
And Lex won!!!!!!
Via count-out.
Yup. They got cold feet. 
Which leads me too…
Lex Luger – 3/20/94 to 8/29/94
It’s jarring when WWE is scared of their own shadow at times they absolutely can not afford to show hesitation. They rode through the many bumps of the Cena-era when they have an embarrassment of riches on the roster. Then when time came to build around Roman Reigns they decided to relegate him as a glorified chaser whose constantly down on his luck. 
What did WWE have to lose with going all-in on Luger? The only other wrestler on the roster that was worthy of the prestigious title was Bret and they made it abundantly clear at WrestleMania IX he was an interim champion and nothing more. Kind of like Kofi Kingston. 
In my head, I’d book 1993 and 1994 like this:
  • Bret wins the title from Ric Flair
  • Bret defends until SummerSlam where Yokozuna absolutely destroys him. Bret is out of commission.
  • When he returns he is plugged into a feud with his brother.
  • Owen beats Bret at ‘Mania.
  • Lex wins the Royal Rumble; no screwy finish involving two winners.
  • Lex defeats Yokozuna at ‘Mania in the show-closer.
  • At SummerSlam, Owen takes down Luger setting up a program between the two brothers that would last until the 1995’s Royal Rumble where Bret would win and the rubber match would take place at ‘Mania, in a triple-threat involving HBK.

Owen Hart – 8/29/94 to 1/22/95
The little brother takes him big gold. With that tennis racket holding doofus Jim Cornett in his corner, Owen wins the championship at SummerSlam. 
I always liked Owen a lot more than Bret. Owen could tell the difference between himself and his character. He knew nothing in this business was worth dying over. 
He’s one of the many stars never given a fair shake in the WWE. Often overlook, sometimes with malice. 
Bret Hart – 1/22/95 to 4/2/95
It was before my time, but I’m willing to bet the 1995 Royal Rumble will be the worst one I ever watched. An absolute shit show of a roster. The best heels (Bob Backlund and the aforementioned Owen) are beaten to a pulp by Bret before they could even make their way into the ring. Forcing us to watch HBK and British Bulldog fend off Crush, Fatu, Dick Murdoch and Steven Dunn. Those names ring any bells? Well they shouldn’t. 
Having Michaels win the rumble as the wild card between two warring brothers is dynamite. Imagine if Diesel remained HBK’s bodyguard/partner and was his enforcer at ringside next to Cornett during the main event at ‘Mania. Be better than Diesel trying to make a babyface comeback against Michaels.
Shawn Michaels – 4/2/95 to 3/31/96
HBK as a bad ass heel in this era reigning as champion works ten times better than pigeonholing him as a champion as a babyface. 
It’s perplexing WWE made a big deal of Michaels going the distance in the rumble when it wasn’t even 40-minutes and he was a bad guy at the time. Bulldog went exactly the same amount of time and didn’t get anything for his troubles. 
You can have Michaels turn babyface by having Diesel turn on him at some point. Begin a feud with them for a year and never have Michaels relinquish the strap in the process. 
I’m torn between whether to make the Bret vs Owen vs HBK triple-threat a ladder match or not? Michaels and Bret didn’t hate each other yet. Either Bret or Owen would have a problem doing the job. Just don’t expect The Heart Break Kid to return the favor. 
WrestleMania XII Card:
HBK def. Bret Hart
The Undertaker def. Diesel
Sid Justice def. King Kong Bundy
Big Van Vader – 3/31/96 to 8/18/96
It’s baffling the WWE didn’t push Vader. From 1992 to until Hogan showed up at World Championship Wrestling. WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling knew how to bill Vader. As the unstoppable, 440 pound monster. Managed by Harley Race for a time, the legend did so well in the role I’m surprised WWE didn’t try to sign Race when they signed Vader just to have a certified talker. 
After abruptly leaving WCW in 1995 when the  parties involved in a Vader vs Hogan program couldn’t come to terms over a clear finish, WWE swooped in and snagged the competitions strongest heel. His debut at the Royal Rumble was electric. In his eleven-minutes Vader eliminated four combatants before the eventual winner, Shawn Michaels, threw him over the top rope.
In my opinion, they should have shoved the rocket up Vader’s ass and light it up. Have him win the rumble, destroy Michaels on the main event and go on a tear at least until SummerSlam. 
It’s borderline injustice how the WWE gleefully squandered Vader’s potential. They chose to not have him in the title picture until SummerSlam. Michaels threw a fit backstage when he found out he’s jobbing and Vader eats shit for the rest of his tenure. He went from a bad ass monster to calling himself a “Fat Piece of Shit” real quick. That’s what the WWE will do to you. Sometimes purposefully they’ll sabotage you for whatever idiotic reason. 
The WrestleMania XII Card:
Big Van Vader def. HBK 
The Undertaker def. Bret Hart 
The Ultimate Warrior def. Diesel
Triple H def. Steve Austin (w/ Ted DiBiase)
Shawn Michaels – 8/18/96 to 3/23/97
Just like Bret Hart with Yokozuna, the beaten down bastardized former champion reclaims his crown from the Goliath who knocked him off his perch. Michaels is a full fledged babyface now. As Diesel and Razor Ramon have skipped town, The Kliq is no more. HBK is a clean cut white hat. Defending his championship from off the wall challengers like Mankind, Sycho Sid, and Steve Austin. 
If I had the ability of 20/20 hindsight, fully aware HBK would blow a gasket if he had to job to Bret I’d either never give him back the title in the first place or simply never float out the possibility of those two ever squaring off. 
What’s curious is Michaels likely didn’t even balk at the idea of dropping the title to Bret. Vince was convinced the main event needed to be The Undertaker vs Sycho Sid. The HBK vs Bret match was going to be non-title. So Michaels just didn’t want to put over Bret. 
So if HBK never loses his smile – and Bret isn’t slotted to face him at ‘Mania then who is The Showstopper facing? 
The Undertaker… Twelve years before they actually lock up on the grandest stage of them all. (Personally, I’d just have Austin vs Michaels at ‘Mania a year sooner. Their match at King of the Ring, before Michaels’ back injury, was far superior to their showing at ‘Mania XIV.) 
Would Michaels flip-out if he had to drop the title to Undertaker, or did he have respect for Mark Calloway? The two didn’t like each other very much back then. Prior to ‘Mania 14 Michaels threw another fit about having to lose to Austin. Calloway taped his hands and threatened to beat him to a pulp if he didn’t do what was right for business. Sounds like a friend to me!
The Undertaker – 3/23/97 to 6/8/97
It isn’t talked about enough how nice it was to see ‘Taker win the title after years of poor booking, main eventing WrestleMania in his old grey and tattered mortician getup. 
While lost in the shuffle of a drama filled ‘Mania, ‘Taker vs Sid was serviceable as the show closer. 
That all being said, imagine how electric the reception would have been if it was ‘Taker vs Michaels. Or Bret. Or Austin….
You might be wondering why I have Undertaker’s title reign ending well before SummerSlam. Reason being, I don’t see him as a long term champion at this time. I also didn’t care for Michaels turning heel because perhaps he meant to deck ‘Taker with a chair during his match against Bret. 
  1. Why would HBK care about ‘Taker. His beef is with Bret.
  2. This was a clear misunderstanding that could have been cleared up with Michaels explaining himself the next night on Raw, and ‘Taker choke-slamming him through a table.
  3. I would have preferred it if it was Hart Foundation feuding with ‘Taker, and Owen interfering on Bret’s behalf every single time. Either leading to Bret retaining via D.Q or dirty pin-falls.
Bret Hart – 6/8/97 to 3/29/98
So here I am butterflying the formation of D-Generation X and altering the Montreal Screwjob to be a purposeful act done by WWE creative as a way to debut the Mr. McMahon heel persona. Instead of Bret getting screwed, it’s the babyface HBK. 
Bret’s longest title reign coincides with Owen winning the Intercontinental Championship, Bulldog holding the European championship,  and Jim Niedhart and Owen sharing the Tag Titles. Along the way, the Hart Foundation feuds with ‘Taker, Steve Austin, and Ken Shamrock. Austin and HBK form an unlikely alliance and feud with the Hart Foundation for months. Their alliance ending when Austin stuns HBK at the Royal Rumble; of which Austin wins – like in our timeline.
So the ‘Mania XIV card looks like this:
Shawn Michaels and Triple H vs The British Bulldog and Jim Niedhart (c), for the Tag Titles
Owen Hart (c) vs The Rock vs Ken Shamrock, for the Intercontinental Championship 
Bret Hart (c) vs Steve Austin, for the WWF Championship 
HBK, Triple H, Chyna and Rick Rude aren’t known as DX. They are merely the second generation of The Kliq. 
Hart’s nearly 300 day reign as the champion, sowing chaos and division in the WWE finally comes to an end when the Rattlesnake stuns the motherfucker out of the WWE. 
The New Generation is dead. Long live The Attitude Era!!!
Steve Austin – 3/29/98 to 5/31/98
The night after his victory over The Hitman, Austin is wearing a suit on Raw. This is a clear reference to how in the past the WWE would take a character fans rallied around because of their edge, give them the title and drain them of what made them so beloved.
Diesel initially got over as a bad ass bodyguard for Shawn Michaels. He beat Bob Backlund for the belt in ten-seconds. Not a moment after thoroughly demolishing the hall of famer, Diesel is shooting commercials with kids, and singing Christmas Carols on Raw. 
Same goes for HBK. Once on top of the wrestling world, WWE saddled him with his mentor José Lothario every single match – including PPV. It was vexing and contradictory to have someone so provocative and promiscuous as Michaels (he plays a male-stripper!) to have such a wholesome partnership with his real life mentor. It makes absolutely zero sense.
But Austin made it clear that night “that this was going to be the last time you see Stone Cold wearing a suit” until his Hall of Fame induction.
Only difference here is, I’d have Austin lose to Dude Love via shenanigans from Mr. McMahon and his cronies. I really enjoyed Mick as the hippie spinoff of the Heartbreak Kid. 
In reality, Austin foiled McMahon’s plot and retained. Losing to Kane at the King of the Ring PPV in a first blood match. I have no problems with this. I love Kane. I think he’s cool. I’m just altering the booking because I feel like it. Austin wins the strap back the next night on Raw.
Dude Love – 5/31/98 to 6/1/98
Mick climbs the mountain, even if it’s for little under a whole day. 
Steve Austin – 6/1/98 to 11/15/98
Austin beats the hell out of Dude Love, Kane, Undertaker, and whoever else Mr. McMahon has to throw at him en route to Survivor Series. 
In this scenario, the world title isn’t stripped from Austin due to a screwy finish during the Austin vs Undertaker vs Kane triple-threat that basically was a handicap match as the only way someone could win the title was pinning Austin. 
We enter Survivor Series in November. McMahon is beaten down and reluctantly accepts Austin as the champion. Even going as far to take himself off TV. The Raw before the PPV, Mr. McMahon announces his intentions to vacate his position as chairman of the WWE and taps his underling, Jack Briscoe, as his successor. 
The Rock defeats Ken Shamrock for a number one contenders spot for the PPV against Austin. The two babyfaces are set to do battle. Rock has come into his own since joining The Nation of Domination, and his stock increased once he turned on them. 
Rock and Austin main event the show, with the two going back-and-forth. Austin gaining the upper-hand. The audiences eyeballs are turned to the ramp way as Mr. McMahon makes his way down and tosses Rock a chair, after blindsiding Austin. McMahon props Austin up so Rock can ram the cold steel into the Rattlesnakes skull. Austin still kicks out. Angered, Rock buries the hilt of the chair into Austin’s gut not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, not eight, not nine, not ten, but ELEVEN times to secure the pin-fall, the win and the world title.
“The Rock has sold his soul to the corporation! My god what the hell is this?!” A distraught J.R calls the action, while his partner Jerry Lawler is elated. 
“You don’t get anywhere in this world by playing nice. Austin of all people should know.”
The Rock – 11/15/98 to 3/28/99
Yes. In my infinite well of original content, I have Vince reduplicating the Montreal Screwjob – for the third time in a year. Simply astonishing. 
Why aren’t I have The Rock and Mankind playing tug-a-war with the title from Survivor Series until the week before WrestleMania? It was a classic feud, excellently booked and shot both combatants into the stratosphere. Well, because I don’t feel like it. Let The Rock turn away babyface challengers while Austin makes his climb up the mountain. 
During the Royal Rumble, Mr. McMahon saddles Austin with the misfortune as entering the event at number one. For sixty-minutes, Austin throws challengers over the top rope until it is just him and McMahon’s crony Mankind. Back and forth they go, Austin nearly eliminated the overweight masked man numerous times. McMahon strolls down the ramp way goading Austin into chasing after him. The Rock shows up too. Both of them barking at Steve causing him to lose his concentration. Mankind throws him over the top rope and secured the win. As McMahon comes in the ring to celebrate, Mankind applies there mandible-claw on the chairman. 
The next night on Raw, Austin earns his way into the main event by defeating The Rock and Mr. McMahon in a handicap match. 
The main event of ‘Mania XV is a ladder match between the corporations puppet,The Rock, the ultimate rebel, Austin, and recently turned babyface Mankind. 
Mankind – 3/28/99 to 4/25/99
It’s a bit of a gamble not giving the title to the most over wrestler in the history of sports entertainment, but fuck it. This is my universe. I can do what I want! Mankind was supposed to main event WrestleMania XV with Austin and Rock. Unfortunately, for him, Michaels convinced McMahon the main event had to be a singles.
Not only did this screw over Mick Foley. This ruined WrestleMania 2000. The main event of a babyface Rock vs the fully realized heel Triple H would have been sufficient enough. Except McMahon was convinced people tuned into to watch Raw because of the family dynamic and there wasn’t enough fan interest in either of the wrestlers. So that’s how Big Show and Mick Foley were inserted into the main event.
Having Mick win here basically butterflies his participation in WrestleMania 2000 as the only reason he came back was to main event the biggest PPV in wrestling history. Since Austin was out with a neck injury, McMahon inserted the fan favorite as a way to drum up more interest. This could have been iconic if Vince simply let Foley win the title and retire the next night.
But as we learned, when The Game is involved, chances are The Game is going over. Hard. 
Steve Austin – 4/25/99 to 8/22/99
In a fatal-four-way elimination featuring Rock, Mankind, and Ken Shamrock, Austin eliminates all combatants and wins the title despite interference from McMahon’s newest crony “Big Show” (I’d rather bill him as Paul Wright). 
Big Show debuts as “Paul Wright” and since I like that name better, I’ll be referring to him by his real name from now on.
Wright debuts on Raw the night after Backlash. We only see him on TV as McMahon’s muscle. He never speaks. Rarely gets physical with anybody. So we’re basically casting him as 1994 Diesel.  
The night after Austin reclaims the title, McMahon strolls out to interrupt a defiant Austin. “You are one tough son of a bitch, I’ll admit!” McMahon says. “I’ve done everything to get you out of my life. I’ve been the guest referee. I’ve enlisted the best wrestlers in the world. Yet, here you are with my belt.” He stares at his most prized possession which Austin had just flung to the side of the ring. 
“But Stone Cold, people like me don’t give up easily. I have all the money in the world. I can do this until we’re both in the ground. You think you’ve won? Let me introduce you to my gigantic ace in the hole!”
Wright lays absolute waste to the competition. Every week on Raw he’s winning matches in under a minute. When Austin and him connect, Wright no sells everything. Austin retains. Barley. Only through D.Q. Their final match is in a steel cage. Austin winning via escaping the cage, after delivering two consecutive stunners to Wright.
Then, came SummerSlam…
Triple H – 8/22/99 to 4/1/00 
The reign of Triple H begins. His relationship with the chairman’s daughter is in full effect. At SummerSlam, in a triple-threat featuring Wright, Triple H pedigrees Austin to win his first world title. Less than three months later, Triple H runs Austin over with a car – because I said so. 
(I’m well aware I probably would have booked Austin into the ground. You don’t have to remind me of my ineptitude)
To be honest, I liked the McMahon-Helmsley alliance between Trips and Stephenie. It gave us a chance to see Vince casted unnaturally as a babyface. It was unique and he did a convincing job. On the Raw prior to WrestleMania 2000, Show and Shane are absolutely fucking the Rock over during the main event. If Rock loses he’ll not only not go to ‘Mania – he’ll have to retire. Out comes Vince and the crowd absolutely goes ballistic. Knocks his son out, dawns the referee stripped shirt and evens the playing field for Rock. The Great One pins Show and punches his ticket to ‘Mania. 
Of course Vince fucks this up by helping Triple H retain his title versus Rock by joining the McMahon-Helmsley stable. Dirty secret about Vince, he loves being on TV. Only justification of his presence on the screen beyond ‘Mania was him turning back to the dark side.
As for Triple H. It’s a sign of how Vince really did have the midas touch around this time. Crowd absolutely wasn’t digging HHH as a heel. This despite Hunter escaping the shadow as being just HBK’s goon. D-Generation X turned babyface shortly after ‘Mania XIV and rounded into form as a chaotic good the night of January 4th, 1999 by helping Mankind capture his first WWE Championship by beating back The Corporation lead by McMahon and Ken Shamrock. 
Trips succumbed to the hate, turning on Chyna and X-Pac, and drugging Stephenie to kidnap her (DIFFERENT TIME). Later revealing the the world the two share mutual affection and are an item. The most powerful item in wrestling pushed Vince out of his company and fired Mick Foley. 
His reign of terror was no joke. But it should have ended at ‘Mania. This was the perfect time to cement Rock as the top babyface until Stone Cold returned. For all his accolades, the WWE didn’t give Rock the one thing that alluded him: his WrestleMania moment. Unlike Austin, HBK, ‘Taker, Hogan, Savage, Bret, Rock never won the title at WrestleMania. This was the perfect time to pull the trigger. 
Damn shame…
Needless change: The Big Show wins the tag titles by himself. His gimmick for the next few months is he’ll defend his titles by plucking a random audience member every week as a makeshift partner. 
The Rock – 4/1/00 to 5/21/00
The Rock loses the title in an iron man match against HHH, 6 falls to 5. Michaels is the guest referee and superkicks Rock just as he’s about to capture the critical final fall with a People’s Elbow. 
HHH crawls for the cover, HBK performs a fast count for the victory as the clock hits double zero. Biker ‘Taker debuts and wrecks havoc on Triple H and Michaels, setting the stage for the next big show down.
Triple H – 5/21/00 to 8/27/00
Triple H manages to beat ‘Taker, and turn away The Rock one more time. Entering SummerSlam, the unchallenged Triple H sees a potential usurper not to his champion but to his seat next to Stephenie. 
Kurt Angle inadvertently elbows his way into the title picture by getting friendly with Stephenie. Steph and Hunter have hit the skids as of late, despite having the title on all the power. Vince put all his eggs in the Biker ‘Taker basket winning the strap at King of the Ring and when that didn’t pan out, McMahon was taken off of TV and knocked off his perch as Chairman of the WWE. His daughter taking over. 
Looking to add insult to injury, Triple H orders his wife to handover his sledgehammer so he can pummel an already beaten Chris Jericho. But Y2J isn’t down and out, making a last ditch charge at The Game. The champ sidesteps, but Jericho rams his shoulder into Stephenie knocking her off the apron. 
Angle runs out and picks up McMahon like a bride and rushes to the backstage, laying her gently on a couch. The two share a tender moment in front of the audience while Triple H is busy brawling with Jericho. Thus kicking off a love triangle angle between The Cerebral Assassin and an oaf.
Kurt Angle – 8/27/00 to 9/24/00
Angle vanquishes Triple H and wins the heart of Stephenie, altering the balance of power. The Game is fired and isn’t seen for a month. For as long as Angle is champion, Triple H is out of a job. Just like when we saw Austin raising hell in the corporate boardroom when he was CEO, Angle is seated at the head of the table. Except he’s an overmatched dimwit. 
“You can’t tell me what to do!” He would occasionally bark at someone mildly critiquing him. “I won a gold medal!” 
The Rock – 9/24/00 to 4/1/01
The Rock is back on top. Like in our timeline he loses the belt at WrestleMania, but in this timeline he holds it for longer than just little over a month. Killing time until then, he feuds with X-Pac, Paul Wright, Undertaker, Kane, and despite taking the belt from him, Angle persists he is the champion so Rock also battles the corporate heads of WWE – minus Vince. 
Steve Austin – 4/1/01 to 6/24/01
Ah, the end of the Attitude Era. Nobody what people want to say about the ill-fated Austin heel turn, the end of the golden era in wrestling was coming after WrestleMania X-7. The Rock was departing to film movies, the purchase of WCW meant the end of the era where WWE felt they had to push themselves to create greater content. As a result, things became stale real fast. 
Perhaps Austin knew this and this served as the reason he pestered Vince about turning heel. The original plans for WrestleMania were for Austin to go over The Rock clean, and for Triple H to defeat the Undertaker, and start a feud with Austin. This makes sense considering Triple H was the one who hit Austin with a car way back in November of 2000 and defeated him in a three-stages of hell match at No Mercy. 
When the plan shifted for Austin to turn heel, WWE decided to try and make Hunter a babyface and challenge Austin by losing to The Undertaker. Both Austin and Hunter decided they wanted to work together as opposed to feud so the “Two-Man Power Trip” stable was formed. 
It was all Austin’s idea. All of it. He even could have called an audible in that very moment he is shaking hands with Mr. McMahon, delivered a stunner and remained a face. Nobody in the company – not even Vince – would have minded the abrupt change. The crowd in Houston had no clue and didn’t give a fuck when McMahon started helping Austin. Austin could have killed a dog in the center of the ring that night and the rabid fans would still hoot and holler for their hometown hero. 
If the turn happened in Rock’s hometown of Miami, you likely get the desired outcome.
With nobody credible for Austin to feud with, the WWE was forced to give undercard talents like the Hardy’s and the tag team of Chris Benoit and Y2J shots are the brass ring. While Jeff Hardy got royally fucked by Hunter during their feud, Benoit and Jericho benefited greatly from their program with Austin and laid the groundwork for their runs as champion in the near future. 
Chris Jericho – 6/24/01 to 11/3/01
And here we go. The invasion angle. God how it sucked. But what-if… what-if the invading WCW faction wasn’t booked to look like some overpaid jobbers? 
Simple: have Jericho win the title, make him and his partner Benoit the leaders of the invading force. This makes sense considering they began their professional careers in WCW. You can say the same for Austin, except that was stupid. Since April of 2001, Austin’s psyche deteriorated to the point where it didn’t matter which side he was on. He could have been anywhere. 
The underlying subplot of the triple-threat at King of the Ring, was it was rumored Benoit was a turncoat for WCW and was going to defect from the WWE the next night. This is a better way to kick off the invasion angle, and set the tone that anyone in the WWE locker room could be a turncoat.
Inadvertently, this time Vince face, and more importantly Austin. Perhaps this’ll butterfly Hunter tearing his squads as this raps up the Power Trips’ feud with Jericho and Benoit. 
Benoit and Jericho hold on to the tag titles until Survivor Series. Booker T holds on to the WCW Championship. Diamond Dallas Page captures the Intercontinental Championship from Triple H – if we could convince him to job. 
All roads point to a payoff at Survivor Series…
Benoit & Jericho def. The Rock & Jeff Hardy (Tag Titles)
Edge def. DDP (I.C Title)
Booker T def. Steve Austin via DQ (WCW Title)
The Rock def. Chris Jericho (WWE Title)
The Rock def. Booker T (Title Unification)
The Rock – 11/3/01 to 3/17/02
The Rock and Austin save the WWE’s bacon, a program takes place a month later where the two face off where the two titles will be merged into the Undisputed Championship. 
At Vengeance, Austin repays Rock for putting him over at ‘Manias fifteen and seventeen by putting the People’s Champ over clean as whistle.
On the next month’s PPV, Rock defends his title versus Jericho and out comes the New World Order and proceed to lay waste to everyone. Spraying NwO on their unconscious backs, and on the WWE Title. 
Which leads us too…
Hollywood Hulk Hogan – 3/17/02 to 3/30/03
Kevin Nash and Scott Hall (or X-Pac if Hall still relapses), rule the tag title scene, as Hogan defeats The Rock thanks to interference from former NwO members Paul Wright, Curt Hennig, and their newest toy Brock Lesnar. 
There’s no reason why Hogan shouldn’t have won at ‘Mania and gone on one last run as heel. The NwO grew stale in WCW, but in the WWE it was the freshest coat of paint giving them more avenues to go down and people to plug into programs.
Like how Batista turned on Triple H and destroyed Evolution, Brock does the same to Hogan and buries the NwO at WrestleMania XIX.
WrestleMania XIX Card:
Brock Lesnar def. Hulk Hogan
The Undertaker def. Kurt Angle
The Rock def. Steve Austin
Triple H vs Kevin Nash
Eddie Guerrero def. Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels (I.C Title)
Brock Lesnar – 3/30/03 to 8/24/03
The Next Big Thing arrives on the scene dispatching Hogan in his WrestleMania swan song. 
Only difference here is Lesnar is still a Paul Heyman client. The injury he suffered a Survivor Series doesn’t lead to a brief run as a babyface as he isn’t champion. Lesnar shreds through the NwO starting in January making his way to Hollywood Hogan in the main event of ‘Mania. 
Kurt Angle – 8/24/03 to 1/25/04
After suffering a neck injury where his career was in jeopardy, it seemed the seeds were planted for Angle to hang it up. But Angle not only keeps his wrestling career alive, he maintains main event status and defeats Brock Lesnar in the process. 
Angle drops the belt to Guerrero at No Way Out, and wrestles Undertaker at WrestleMania (bumping out Kane) and Lesnar, in his last match in the WWE until 2013 puts Latino Heat over. 
Eddie Guerrero – 1/25/04 to 8/15/04
Why couldn’t Triple H just go to Smackdown? “Didn’t want to work Tuesdays!” Heyman responds. Right. But you think how WWE maneuvered the chess pieces the night after WrestleMania XXI, moving Cena to Raw and Batista to Smackdown, elevating one of their new stars and devaluing the other. They knew where their bread was buttered.
Why couldn’t Hunter go and feud with Eddie when Smackdown was clearly bleeding for top heels? Raw could perfectly set up Randy Orton to become World Heavyweight Champion, have him and Batista main event back when neither of them main eventing ‘Mania made everyone wanted to howl in frustration. 
I would have rather had Guerrero have a two month feud with Undertaker than John Layfield.
Fantasy ‘Mania XX card:
The Undertaker def John Cena (W/ Nas)
Eddie Guerrero def. Brock Lesnar
Kurt Angle def. Goldberg
Chris Benoit def. HBK, HHH
The Undertaker – 8/15/04 to 1/30/05

Do yourself a favor, go watch The Undertaker vs Kurt Angle at 2006 No Way Out. Easily one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. It makes me lust for a collision at WrestleMania. ‘Taker was in the sweet spot of his career where he knew his way around the ring and his body hadn’t yet betrayed him. 

Kurt was at his apex. A complete badass. So much so, he didn’t want a count out victory over ‘Taker in their matchup. He rather face the deadman and take his chances.

Kurt Angle 1/30/05 to 4/3/05

Angle keeps the strap warm for Cena at WrestleMania. Which leaves us with the question, who does Shawn Michaels wrestle? Either Shelton Benjamin if WWE felt daring. Or Eddie Guerrero. Man… I would have loved it if Eddie and HBK locked up.

Put Rey in the Money in the Bank ladder match or put him versus Flair. They only met once in the ring in 1999 while at WCW.

WrestleMania XXI Card:
The Undertaker def. Randy Orton
John Cena def. Kurt Angle
Shelton Benjamin def. Shawn Michaels
Chris Benoit wins MITB, cashes in on Batista in June at Vengeance 

John Cena – 4/3/05 to 4/2/06

Ah, we made it to the Cena era. Damnit. Imma bout to give this dude the belt so many times it’ll seem redundant.

While the Cena feud vs JBL was excellent; all the grief I’ll give JBL for being an asshole in real life and being the beneficiary of WWE taking the belt off a charismatic champion for no reason other than they were bored, he did his job well. It was a bummer to see Cena lose his rebellious rapper gimmick which suited the nature of the feud better than Cena being a cooker cutter babyface.

I just wish Angle christened him as the champion. I want a five-star classic in my ‘Mania matches. I want Cena put through the ringer and to come out bruised on the opposite side.

A fun change I’d make is book Rickey Steamboat vs Ric Flair. A much Steamboat lobbied to Vince to have. But McMahon believed nobody cared about those old farts so he turned it down.

Triple H – 4/2/06 to 6/11/06

Yeah, Triple H defeats Cena at ‘Mania 22. The Chicago crowd wanted the champs blood that night (a running theme). So much they begged Triple H to end his reign. Amazing. 

And you know what else, they should have pulled the trigger. One loss on the big stage would have made the fans happy. Either versus Triple H, HBK, Undertaker, ANYONE could beat Cena and take a huge weight off his shoulders. Fans probably calm down and are happy Cena isn’t an indestructible, bland babyface champion. It’s the same problem with Roman Reigns. Actually, there’s a lot of problems with Reigns…

So Triple H takes him down and drops the belt to RVD at One Night Stand. You may disagree with me saying Triple H needed to go over at ‘Mania, but there’s no way you can tell me having Van Dam beat Triple H isn’t now satisfying than him beating Cena.

Rob Van Dam – 6/11/06 to 8/20/06

RVD cashes in his MITB briefcase for a match versus the champion Triple H at One Night Stand, in the grand Hammerstein Ballroom. My favorite venue for wrestling.

I say the word “poor” a lot referring to someone I believe wasn’t given a proper shake. That applies to RVD too. He was caught smoking weed by the police during his title run and vacated the strap soon after. Never getting close to another run.
Edge – 8/20/06 to 1/7/07
Edge is more than ready for a long title reign. He battled through countless injuries and returned to form every time. WWE never took him seriously. Sure, he’d cash-in on Cena, but in two-weeks that belt was returned to its rightful owner. You can do more when your champion is a heel and have the babyfaces chase him, as opposed to the other way around.

John Cena – 1/7/07 to 4/1/07

Cena reclaims the strap after being without it for seven-months. For the third straight WrestleMania he is entering the champion.

Minor change: Shawn Michaels wins the Royal Rumble, last eliminating Undertaker. The winner of the Royal Rumble should always main event WrestleMania no matter how stale and cold.

I wouldn’t have minded ‘Taker main eventing with Batista. That was probably ‘Taker’s best match up until that point. Very underrated.

Shawn Michaels – 4/1/07 to 4/22/07

Michaels connects with Sweet Chin Music on a distracted Cena and clinches his fifth WWE Championship (counting his lone World Heavyweight Championship win in 2002).

“Way to build up your new star. Every year you have him job to legends on the biggest stage.” You say. I mean, yeah. But why not? It be fun to see Michaels get one more WrestleMania moment. Where’s the harm in that in regards to Cena? He’ll reclaim the belt in three weeks.

John Cena – 4/22/07 to 3/30/08

In the sixty-minute classic in London, Cena reclaims the strap from HBK on an episode of Raw to set up a four-way bout between himself, Michaels, Edge and Orton (honestly, should have been the ‘Mania main event) – which Cena will retain.

Cena vs Michaels at WrestleMania 23, and their marathon showing on Raw are one of my favorite matches. It’s the perfect blend of new blood and old. It’s a formula I wish current day WWE could utilize, but all the legends are now all gone.

WrestleMania XXIV Card:

Ric Flair def. John Cena
Batista def. Edge for World Heavyweight Championship
The Undertaker def. Rey Mysterio
Floyd Mayweather, Big Show and Randy Orton def. HBK and Triple H

Ric Flair – 3/30/08 to 3/31/08

A retiring Ric Flair asks for one more shot the gold. While Cena is all for giving the Nature Boy his match at WrestleMania, Vince McMahon tells Flair he’ll have to win it at the Royal Rumble as the number one entrant.
Pushing sixty-years old, Flair survives a grueling royal rumble and earns himself the sendoff he’s lusted after.

I prefer this booking because Flair never wrestled Cena. I figure it be another excellent clashing of young and old. Who better to face than the face of the company?

The main event is a ten-minute affair, solid in its own right ending in Flair getting Cena to fall unconscious in the figure-four leglock (like how Flair beat Savage for the title in ‘92).

On the Raw after ‘Mania, Flair relinquished his title and gave a proud, tearful goodbye address to the faithful not wanting to let him go off into that night. A battle royal is announced to take place that night, and to everyone’s chagrin, Randy Orton is the winner. Triple H comes down to the ring and tells Flair not to give the title to Orton, knowing The Viper will gladly beat the old man to a pulp. But Flair isn’t scared and hands Orton his belt. Orton RKO’s Flair on the belt and the “Age of Orton” has begun.

Randy Orton – 3/31/08 to 4/5/09

The Age of Orton, as it should have been. A year long running through it the roster. A decimation of faces and heels alike. Triple H, Shawn Michaels, JBL, Cena, Jericho, all turned away by The Viper.

The most crucial years of Orton that shaped his legacy are 2005, 2008 and 2009. Three years where he was shafted by Triple H and screwed out of a spot at the main event of WrestleMania. Orton was a transition champ from fan-favorite Benoit and treated as such. In ‘08, despite winning the title from Trips, Orton would lose the title to him the next month at Backlash, rendering the whole Age of Orton storyline mute. In ‘09, when a psychotic valve in Orton’s mind had been released, again Triple H was their to put him down like a sick puppy.

Orton was on a tear despite the horrid booking. He demolished the McMahon family, attacked an elder Vince, his son Shane, and made out with an unconscious Stephenie in front of a handcuffed Triple H. In retaliation, Hunter broke into Orton’s home and almost killed him. The feud between the two was hot. The finishes were not. WrestleMania 25’s main event will go down as the blandest, if not the worst in WWE’s history. The crowd was so dead and apathetic towards both combatants because they knew Orton was basically neutered. A no d.q match to end a feud that’s supposed to be this confrontational made no sense.

While I believe 2005 Orton wasn’t ready for the task of carrying the company, the Orton of 2008-9 certainly was. This was supposed to be his banner year.

WrestleMania XXV Card:
HBK def. Ricky Steamboat
The Undertaker def. John Cena
C.M Punk def. Jeff Hardy, and Matt Hardy in Triple-threat for The World Heavyweight Championship
Edge def. Triple H
Big Show def. JBL for I.C Title

So who beats Orton?…

Rey Mysterio – 4/5/09 to 11/22/09

Yup. I’m picking ole, Rey-Rey.

The little engine that could musters up enough gumption to bring the curtain down on the Age of Orton and bring the WWE Universe back from the darkness.

Shawn Michaels – 11/22/09 to 3/28/10

One last run for the Heartbreak Kid. As it should have always been. Why Vince treats the title like a piece of tin on a regular basis, but doesn’t allow wrestlers to go on a farewell tour as champion is beyond me.

Michaels captures the title at Survivor Series, defends for a month or two before he goads Undertaker into a match at ‘Mania. Initially pitching it as a title unification. When the deadman declines, HBK doesn’t want to relinquish his title so he can enter the Royal Rumble as Undertaker is the Heavyweight Champion. Instead, Michaels crashes ‘Taker’s Elimination Chamber match and superkicks him, inadvertently delivering his nemesis Jericho the win and title. The next night, Michaels offers Undertaker his chance at revenge and the gold in a winner-takes-all proposition. ‘Taker accepts, only if it’ll mean if Michaels loses his career is over. HBK agrees.

It’s so easy… so why didn’t WWE do it?!

The Undertaker – 3/28/10 to 4/25/10

You’re probably wondering, if HBK vs ‘Taker is the championship match, then what’s Cena vs Batista? WrestleMania 26 was sort of a goodbye to The Animal also. One last run before he transitioned to part-time status shortly after ‘Mania. The match in this timeline still happens, except it’s a number one contenders’ stipulation for the next PPV.

Undertaker’s body is betraying him. He isn’t a long term champion anymore. This is his send off just as much as it is Michaels’. ‘Taker falling pray to his rival Batista less than a mont after capturing the WWE Championship.

Batista – 4/25/10 to 5/23/10

One last cheap run for Batista. Eventually, Cena knocks him off and walks off into the sunset… crying like a little bitch in an “I Quit” match.

John Cena – 5/23/10 to 8/15/10

A brief two-in-half month reign for Cena in the doldrums of WWE. The legends are gone or on part-time schedules.

Randy Orton – 8/15/10 to 10/24/10

Orton wins the title from Cena at SummerSlam. The Nexus invades and lays waste to the WWE roster. Leader Wade Barrett defeats Cena to forcibly enlist him into the Nexus ranks and referees a title bout versus Orton to his favor to win the title, granting Cena his freedom.

Wade Barrett – 10/24/10 to 2/20/11

King Barrett rules Monday Night Raw with an iron fist. A depleted WWE roster searches high and low for a hero and find him… from the commentary desk.

Jerry Lawler – 2/20/11 to 4/3/11

The King dethrones King Barrett and secures himself a place at WrestleMania against John Cena.

There wasn’t a reason to try out Lawler as champion. Is a Lawler vs Cena main event worse than Miz vs Cena???

Punk was ready for a run, but they WWE had their heads in the sand.

John Cena – 4/3/11 to 5/22/11

Cena defeats Lawler for the title, they shake hands and go on their separate ways.

The Miz – 4/11/11 to 6/19/11

The Miz cashes in his Money In The Bank briefcase and goes on a two-month reign alongside his running buddy Alex Riley.

Miz was a fine champion. When booked seriously, Miz was a formidable talent.

R-Truth – 6/19/11 to 7/3/11

R-Truth’s “Little Jimmy” gimmick wins him a chance at the gold. Truth becomes WWE’s fourth weird, out of place champion since October.

John Cena – 7/3/11 to 7/11/11

Cena recaptures the title solely to lose it to C.M Punk.

C.M Punk – 7/11/11 to 7/12/11

Why did WWE bring Punk back so soon? Of course you could expect they had nothing to fill in the time he was gone. As I’ve said before, their roster was so underwhelming. But to have Punk return just eight days after his monumental and historic win over John Cena at Money In The Bank significantly deflates the impact of his accomplishment.

It’s even worse when you realize the initial plan for Punk upon his return was for Triple H to deck Punk out cold and Alberto Del Rio to cash-in his MITB contract and main event SummerSlam vs Cena in a one-on-one.

The WWE should have scrubbed Punk’s name from the record books and scarcely mention his name on commentary. The very utterance of his name causing the nearest WWE authority figure to spazz out.

But we will soon learn WWE cannot move on. Even if it’s for the sake of a storyline and if the separation isn’t forever.

Rey Mysterio – 7/18/11 to 8/14/11

Why… oh why, couldn’t WWE let Rey main event SummerSlam and be the champion – let alone let him keep the title for more than an hour. Cena is a real douche bag for taking advantage of Mysterio who came off a grueling tournament, culminating in a victory of The Miz, forcing the crowd favorited to defend his newly won title that very night.

It’s idiotic WWE did this from a money perspective also. Rey and Cena only locked up once way back in 2003. Eight-years prior to their most recent and final clash. Why give away this sneaky seldom seen match on free TV and not hype and use it for PPV? Because we have to rush Punk back so we can crown Del Rio. Ugh.

John Cena – 8/14/11 to 8/14/1

Anyways, Cena is your champion… again. Del Rio cashes in on a vulnerable Cena after Triple H pedigrees him.

Alberto Del Rio – 8/14/11 to 11/20/11

Del Rio sucks. Hard. I hate him.
C.M Punk – (7/11/11) 11/20/11 to 4/7/13
Punk comes back to reclaim the throne he’s never lost, on the same night Rock wrestles since 2004. How poetic. Survivor Series sets off story WWE would be telling for nearly two-years. 
It’s a bummer Cena’s “worst year” wasn’t even close to being as described. It was his best year. He main events PPVs despite not having the gold, won the Royal Rumble and rarely losing. The story began promising enough. The night after losing to The Rock at ‘Mania, a good sportsman, Cena offered Rock to come out and shake his hand. What he receives is Brock Lesnar making his eagerly awaited return and emasculating an already downtrodden Cena. What should have followed is Lesnar beating Cena within an inch of his life. We shouldn’t see Cena for months when Brock is done with him.
What we got is Cena winning and cutting a promo in the ring shortly after. This began the clunky, of not vindictive booking if Lesnar. Smitten by the fact Brock spurred him in 2004, Vince wanted to add a couple of loses to Lesnar’s record. His first match back, he jobs to Cena. Second loss coming at the hands of Triple H at WrestleMania. 
In my eyes, Lesnar should have beaten Cena. Retired Triple H at SummerSlam and be well on his way to elbowing his way back into the title picture. 
In the Royal Rumble, Lesnar is laying waste to all entrants, showing little signs of letting you. Nobody can stop him. Then “IF YOU SMELL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKING” and out comes the Brahma Bull. Rock and Lesnar go back-and-forth, The Rock ultimately eliminating Lesnar. 
But that’s not the only curveball… Cena is back. Him and Rock are the only ones still standing in the ring. Cena performed an Attitude Adjustment and paralyzed The Rock long enough to throw him over the top rope. Cena is going to WrestleMania. 
Meanwhile, Punk retains his title versus Randy Orton and is on his way to entering WrestleMania the champion for the second straight year. 
At Elimination Chamber, The Rock enters versus Orton, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Lesnar and Rey Mysterio. 
Rock pins Lesnar last and wins a title shot at ‘Mania, making the main event a triple-threat. 
Furious, Lesnar demands a title shot versus Punk on the go-home edition of Raw. Ever the more arrogant, Punk agrees to a match. But not to a title, but for spot at WrestleMania. Punk’s cornerman Paul Heyman betrays him and assists his former client in securing the win. 
WrestleMania XXIX Card:
C.M Punk vs Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman) vs John Cena vs The Rock
The Undertaker def. Ryback
Daniel Bryan def. Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship
Brock Lesnar – 4/7/13 to 4/6/14
In the fatale-four elimination match the casualty goes as the following…
The Rock eliminates C.M Punk
John Cena eliminates The Rock
Brock Lesnar eliminates John Cena
Lesnar’s reign of terror commences…
Daniel Bryan – 4/6/14 to 6/9/14
Everything remains the same, except Orton is bumped out of the main event. The title match  is still a triple-threat with Batista. Only with Lesnar involved. Bryan wins by making Lesnar submit to the “Yes Lock” and transitions to a feud with Batista, until he has to relinquish the title due to a legit neck injury. 
Who wrestles The Undertaker? Roman Reigns. Does he conquer The Steak? 
The WWE insisted on shoving Roman down our throats, but whenever they get to the finish line there’s some bullshit preventing them from going all-in. Whether it’s pulling the parachute at WrestleMania 31, or the maligned Shaemus successfully cashing on him, or his long, uninspiring feud with Lesnar. WWE wasn’t gonna turn themselves off to Roman, but they were never gonna get the whole thing over with.
They turned what should have been their next John Cena into Mike Conley. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Except Conley is cool because what he does is real. His shortcomings are more understandable. 
Lastly, I believe it’s appropriate to have a three-man tag match with Kane and The New Aged Outlaws vs Rollins, Ambrose, Orton.
Roman Reigns – 6/29/14 to 2/22/15
Why not go the unorthodox route and anoint Reigns the leader of the next generation by christening him at Money in the Bank in a ladder match featuring the face of the outgoing generation?
Daniel Bryan – 2/22/15 to 3/31/15
Upon his return Bryan was giving voice to the fact he never lost his championship, giving fans ideas of a possible triple-threat between Reigns and Bryan challenging for Lesnar’s title. Except sadly, Roman beat Bryan fairly and ended any dreams of redemption. Bryan was shoehorned into the intercontinental championship ladder match as a consolation prize. 
Why so much apathy towards Bryan and the fans he brings in? Is it that Vince can’t see himself as a thin, liberal vegan? Probably. Vince’s decision making process is insanely simplistic and superficial. You can’t put it past him to think this way. He and Donald Trump are cut from the cloth in many ways. 
Bryan versus Brock Lesnar in a rematch of last year’s main event. Roman Reigns is facing Triple H in the penultimate event, once victorious, The Authority is done with for good. 
Lesnar comes out and demolishes Bryan to start. A team of medics rush down the alleyway with a stretcher, but Bryan was waves them off. At some point, the champion reverses the momentum and proceeds to deconstruct the behemoth and compromise his balance. Lesnar’s right leg crumbling like a tower of cards. Just as Bryan is about to put the finishing touches on his masterpiece, “Burn it Down!” blares over the loudspeakers and Seth Rollins, holding a stainless silver Money in the Bank briefcase rushes down the ramp way as if trying to save a small child. 
Lesnar takes advantage of the momentary confusion and hits Bryan with an F-5. It cost Lesnar his balance, as he doubled over making him perfect prey for Rollins’ curbstomp on the back of The Beasts’ neck. One. Two. No! Lesnar kicks out. Panicking. Rollins is worried Lesnar will get up. Hastily, he hooks Bryan’s legs, Rollins using his feet for leverage on the ropes. One. Two. Three. 
“Seth Rollins has stolen the WWE Championship!”
Seth Rollins – 3/31/15 to 10/25/15
Rollins defends versus Bryan, Lesnar, Wyatt, and even Cena. 
The only person who could have stopped Rollins is the stupidest person imaginable…
Kane – 10/25/15 to 11/22/15
Don’t judge me…
Roman Reigns – 11/22/15 to 1/24/16
“All right, lets get this over with.” Roman punches Mayor Kane in the face. He went “ow.”
Chris Jericho – 1/24/16 to 4/3/16
Triple H doesn’t win the Royal Rumble. Which is a shame. His frantic crotch-chops after eliminating Reigns is worthy of Hall of Fame status when you see it in a gif. 
Jericho makes stars and was constantly overlooked in WWE. Triple H puts down his opponents to the point where it doesn’t matter even if he puts them over. 
Dean Ambrose wins a number one contenders match versus Lesnar, and Reigns is challenged by The Undertaker in a rematch of WrestleMania XXX. 
WrestleMania 32 Card:
Chris Jericho vs Dean Ambrose
Brock Lesnar def. Bray Wyatt
The Rock and John Cena def. Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman
A.J Styles def. Kevin Owens for I.C Title
The Undertaker def. Roman Reigns
Shane McMahon def. Kane (For Control of Raw; Shane debuts the Universal Championship the next night)
Sasha Banks def. Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch for the Inaugural Women’s Title
Brock vs Bray. Monster vs Beast. Sure to be a Dave Meltzer one-star match. But fun nonetheless. It’s one of those matches you are sure will be ugly upon viewing. Nonetheless, you have to see it. 
A.J Styles was about to challenge Reigns OTL. Having him lose to Jericho before his title match made no sense. Here, he wins the I.C belt and chases Ambrose. 
Shane should have won control of Raw. It would have made more sense because the brands would be split once again shortly after ‘Mania. Either the brand re-split was haphazard or planned ahead of time. If the latter, WWE’s booking makes zero sense to have Shane lose. Just goes to show you, Vince really hates his actual son. Hey, I’d hate Shane too if I was him.
Undertaker gets his revenge on Roman. Setting up the rubber match for WrestleMania XXXIII…
It’s a damn shame Sasha didn’t go over in her ‘Mania match. The women’s triple-threat was the second best match on the card (first being Styles-Jericho). Flair was already a star. Not saying she could have jobbed every now and then. But tonight was the night to capitalize on the skyrocketing popularity of a new talent. The night was set beautifully for Banks. Snoop Dogg is in her corner. The fans love her. Banks is paying tribute to Eddie Guerrero wearing Latino Heat tights and performing the FrogSplash. Having Flair retain/win the new title made zero sense. Let Sasha go on a six-month run, then rip her heart out in her hometown of Boston at Hell in a Cell. 
Dean Ambrose – 4/3/16 to 2/12/17
All three members of The Shield have carried WWE gold around their waist and enjoyed long, heavily consequential reigns. 
Why WWE never believed Ambrose was worthy a main event push is, once again, beyond me. Fans responded the best to him out of all Shield members. He was the one most prepared to be pushed as a babyface. Ambrose is basically a more athletic Mick Foley. 
Roman Reigns – 2/12/17 to 5/21/17
And he gets his ass kicked by Roman Reigns. I mean.. we gotta set up that rubber match between him and ‘Taker. Makes sense in my opinion. 
The Undertaker wins the Royal Rumble and while the match isn’t pretty, ‘Taker is given one last shot at the gold in his WrestleMania swan song. 
A.J Styles – 5/21/17 to 4/8/18
A.J wins the title on the same day he did OTL. Only it’s over Reigns and not Jinder Mahal. 
Shinsuke Nakamura – 4/8/18 to 4/7/19
With Roman moving to Raw and now chasing the Universal Championship, Nakamura is the number one contender for the WWE Championship after winning the Royal Rumble like in OTL.
The more you think about how Styles’ reign abruptly ends on the go-home edition of Smackdown before Survivor Series, you understand how WWE simply pulled the trigger out of random impulse. “He has to lose because he’s been champ for too long, dammit!” 
Nakamura had heat. Was making a big impact and fans wanted him to win the title. Nakamura should have won. 
Kofi Kingston – 4/7/19 to 11/24/19
Kofi wins the Royal Rumble, and Kurt challenges Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship as his own swan song. Daniel Bryan puts Bobby Lashley over in his match for the Intercontinental Championship and Finn Balor is shoved into the Battle Royal. 
It’s a bummer Kofi’s reign couldn’t have ended on PPV. Even at this past rumble he received the biggest pop. But to WWE, Kingston is a big nerd and tells us repeatedly to not take him seriously. Just like with Bryan. 
Brock Lesnar – 11/24/19 to 4/3/20
Brock decimates Kofi. 
I wouldn’t have minded giving Rey one more title program except they didn’t have him go over. If you’re not going to have Rey go over, what’s the point of giving him a shot at the gold? 
Drew McIntyre – 4/4-5/20 to present day…
Ironic. McIntyre and Dean Ambrose (now Jon Moxley) are in the midst of their most important pushes of their respected career in a time where there is no fan participation. And these are two guys worth their salt.
Imagine what wrestling could have gotten away with having no fans ever? Hulk Hogan never turns heel because nobody would be able to show how disgusted they were with the same act. Certainly his ill-fated face turn in ‘99 goes on unabated if no one is around to boo him out the building. 
How much does Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Undertaker, Steve Austin, and all the other greats suffer without a crowd to play to? For wrestlers, playing to them is almost second nature. Talent still can’t help themselves but to play to people who aren’t in attendance. It’s ingrained in their psyches to milk the cheers, maximize the impact of high spots and hot tags. 
That all being said, give me an empty arena over NXT people (who aren’t allowed to wear masks because Vince McMahon is the devil) following the orders given to them, cheering the good guys, booing the bad ones,  because if they don’t, they’ll get fired. 
Don’t you just love wrestling, kids??

Three Rule Changes That’ll Fix NBA Free Agency

A lot of things are wrong with the NBA – and professional sports in general. The seasons are too long. The owners are obscenely wealthy and yet hold cities hostage for new stadiums. College players are used in what basically is legalized slavery. 

A lighter issue with the NBA is the topic of superstars changing teams every year. A trend kicked off with LeBron in 2010. He set the precedent that a player of his status could leave a team without giving them any form of compensation. Kicking off the era we are in now, which has been defined as “Player Empowerment” which is pretty appropriate. 
First it was Bron. Then Kevin Durant in 2016 – and again in 2019. Players of a lesser status followed suit. What he did was justified and ought to have been done decades ago. While I wish to have lived in an era where superstars resides on one team for their entire careers, absorbing the city and its culture I understand I view this time with rose pedal glasses. Perhaps Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would have left their teams if they felt they had the power to pull the strings. We know Magic wanted to be traded as soon as 1982. 
Kobe Bryant is Mr. Laker, but he demanded trades lots of times and nearly left Los Angeles in free agency too. 
Free agency has become an annual holiday for fans. Due to the the length of contracts only being four to five years, this gives players and teams windows of opportunity to strategize for the faithful date of July 1st. 
Like the NBA lottery, it is somewhat idiotic to have something people in high positions constantly wring their hands out and do nothing to fix the situation. The league enjoys owning a significant chunk of the summer calendar. It’s a drug they cannot kick. Oh, sure. There were outcries when the Clippers brass took DeAndre Jordan as a willing hostage in 2015. And again when the Warriors formed their super team in 2016. But nothing was done to prevent this from happening again. These events create narratives and sensually drive interest in the product up. If the ratings took an actual dip that hurt the league’s overall wallet, then you’d see even the NBA Players Association help the league reform the system because their money is tied into this also. 
But LeBron and Durant weren’t the first big time superstars to take full advantage free agency. Bill Walton signed with the Clippers (then of San Diego) and the Trail Blazers were given starters Kevin Kunnert, Kermit Washington and the first round pick as compensation. To use an example for modern times: this is like when the Celtics signed Kemba Walker, and had to give the Charlotte Hornets Daniel Theis, Bradley Wanamaker and a 2020 first round pick. Suddenly losing a Star wasn’t such a big deal. Walton was always injured to begin with. But at the time of the signing people believed he was going to turn the franchise around.
How would this work today? When Durant signed with Golden State does that mean they throw Draymond Green to the Thunder? (Oh, the irony!) 
Perhaps. Would it beat the current system we have where it’s winner-take-all? Yeah. 
The NBA needs to establish rules for free agency. Here are some I have come up with.
  1. The team signing the star must provide the team losing the star with adequate compensation of at least one quality player and a first (or if possible, two second) round picks.
The NBA will have to define the worth of their players into categories. LeBron and Durant are five stars, so when team A loses them is given a little more compensation. But if the star spent only four years on their team, then they get no compensation. 
If a player is a four star talent (Al Horford, Kemba Walker), Team A is given one quality player and a pick whenever Team A decided to; if they wish to use Team B’s pick near or on draft day they will have to swapped picks. 
If a player is a three star quality or lower (Joe Ingles, Kyle Korver, Derrick Favors) then Team B isn’t required to give Team A any compensation. It isn’t the end of the world if the Thunder lose Steven Adams. 

2. Lengthen the years a contract can be signed too and also incentivize signing longer term… with cash if you’re not catching my drift.

You can’t incentivize players to stay with their original teams with the super max the NBA concocted in the wake of Durant’s departure from OKC. Superstars are extremely rich and if healthy do not need the financial security. Players who have signed the contract (Russell Westbrook and John Wall) either ended up traded within three-years or proved to be damage goods, thereby becoming albatrosses around the teams’ necks. 
In order to access this compensation system, your superstar must’ve spent at least five years with you. LeBron spent four years in Miami and his second stint in Cleveland, respectively. So they won’t access any compensation. 
  1. Move free agency to before the draft.
This’ll give teams – and players a better idea of what the landscape for the next season will be and perhaps play a role in who they’ll sign with. And if a team is anticipating a rebuild they can better plan for the new era. 
So that’s it. If you’re still reading let me know what think you of this.


What-If The Celtics Won The 2010 NBA Finals?

You’ll never find a more pessimistic person than 2010 me. I’ve been labeled a “doomer” more than once in the recent weeks. But I’ll tell you now, I was a grade A quitter entering my teenage years. 

When the Red Sox fell down by one run at any point of the game I’d turn the TV off and assume they lost. Whenever I watched the Celtics, I knew the Big Three was on borrowed time. And by “knew” I mean, believed. I thought 2010 was their final stand. Little did I know they’d stick around and nearly crash the finals in 2012 against even higher odds. 
I never knew how injured Garnett was until later one. I wasn’t connected to the endless sports news cycle like I am today. To the average twelve-year old, Garnett hurt his knee, missed the entire 2009 playoffs and came back. If he looked a step slower, I attributed it to age. Sure, that also plays a role. But suffering physical setback like he did drastically reduced his statistical output. For nearly 19 points a game to a hair above 14 per night. 2010 was the beginning of Garnett entering a phase of his career where he couldn’t rely on his athleticism and needed to shift gears to a savvier kind of player. 
In 2008, the Celtics formed their super team at the right time. LeBron was a mere Youngling. Dwight Howard was just a really good center in Orlando. The Pistons struggled to fill the void Ben Wallace left for a second straight season. Even though the Lakers had Pau Gasol, he wasn’t ready for the intensity a deep playoff run would bring. 
In 2010, the landscape of the league changed on the now graying Celtics. Rajon Rondo elbowed his way into the groups core after a breakout series vs Chicago in the 2009 playoffs and capitalizing on that to make the Big Three into the Big Four. For Rondo, his ascension came in the waning days in the era when it didn’t matter your point guard couldn’t shoot. Rondo blossomed into poor man’s Derrick Rose. Playing with equal reckless abandon. 
2010 is the Celtics masterpiece. LeBron is entering his apex. Howard is off a shocking finals run the previous season – plus he’s beaten this team in the past. Down 2-1 to the vaunted Cavaliers, having been routed by them in game 3 the Celtics responded and survived an abysmal Paul Pierce game thanks to Rondo exploding for 29 and added 18 boards and 13 assists. Playing like a little kid on a sugar high, Rondo’s powers were at their peak in 2010 as the Celtics core could still bring their A-games more than half the time. 
Pushed to the brink, the Celtics ran the Cavaliers off the floor and LeBron out of Cleveland. The next series, they dominated Orlando on their home floor en route to a six-game series win for a date with the Lakers. They denied Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard of what many believed to be rightfully there’s. Now it was time to do the same to Kobe Bryant. 
But, of course they didn’t. The series was back and forth and the Celtics didn’t have rebounding big man Kendrick Perkins for game seven and rode Rasheed Wallace into the ground. The Celtics lost by four. Kobe got his revenge. 
But what-if the final sequence of game seven went like this?
Pau Gasol tips in a contested lay-up with Garnett and Wallace draping him. Lakers lead by six. C’s come down on the other end, Lamar Odom ditches Wallace who floats out to the corner for the three-pointer to cut the deficit in half. Instead of Paul Pierce daring Metta World Peace to take the three (which was the correct call), he Ds up and pressures him. Disrupting the rhythm and it misses right, Garnett gets the board. C’s come down again and Allen gets free because either Kobe tripped or Wallace set a hard pick (biases aside, I cannot tell what the fuck happened) and knots the contest up at 76 a piece. Fifty-one seconds remain. 
Electing to let the game play out, Phil Jackson in his last game coaching watches Kobe heave a hopeless three in attempt to answer the Celtics recent barrage of bombs. No dice. But as luck would have it, Pau gets the board and dishes it back to the Black Mamba and drives to the basket, draws contact on Sheed for the two shots at the charity stripe. Wallace bows out and Glen Davis relieves him. 
Kobe goes two for two at the line. It’ll be the last of his twenty-four points of the night. Lakers up, 78-76 with 25 ticks left in regulation. Looking for thunder to strike twice, Allen’s three front rims, but Rondo charges head first into the purple and gold occupying the paint and dribbles to the corner for the turnaround three. Swish. Celtics lead! Timeout Lakers. 
Jackson looks at his players. The last time he’ll be in the huddle drawing up plays. Looking directly at Kobe he gives him one order. “Give it to D-Fish.” He came up big numerous times in the past for L.A during the last ten-years. “They’re expecting you to shoot it. Fisher will be open.” Phil promises. 
How could he say something like this during the biggest game of Kobe’s life? The play is drawn like a typical isolation. Kobe accepts the inbounds from the half court mark. Ray is giving Kobe the respect he deserves. One dribble. Two dribbles. Three dribbles. His eyes quickly dart to Fisher. Tony Allen who checked in for Davis is hugging Fisher, but he wrestlers himself free for a mere moment. The clock is dwindling and Kobe didn’t come this far to watch somebody else control his destiny. He steps back and launches a nineteen-footer. CLANK. Celtics win, 79-78. 
Ah. That was fun. 
So who’s the MVP? It’s between Rondo and Pierce to be honest. Rondo made the game-winning shot. But Pierce chipped a more than solid 18 points in an epic rock fight. Unlike Rondo, Pierce played defense. Good defense. 
If Pierce received the honors, Celtics great Bill Russell would hand the trophy bearing his namesake to The Captain. 18 points, five rebounds, three assists. It’s his second Finals MVP. The last true forward to win two Finals MVPs before 2012: Larry Bird.
How would history treat the Big 3 Celtics vs the Big 3 Heat? Well, the Celtics as overachievers and the Heat as underachievers. Miami had three stars in their primes. Boston got theirs at the tail end when injures would become a recurring issue.
As for Kobe. Game seven was his worst characteristics coming to light. He was selfish and couldn’t learn to make that extra pass. When it really mattered, how Kobe was wired was his ultimate downfall. In the infancy of internet memes, there’s still bold texts captions on Kobe pictures where he’s bricking Ill-advised shots. 
Perhaps the internet would give the Celtics the respect they deserve for battling and squeaking TWO championships out of an aging core with Wade, LeBron, Howard, and Kobe in their primes. Effectively, the Big Three era Celtics will have been responsible for sending three franchises to the dark ages in one playoffs’. Only Cleveland escaping thanks to a returning King. Everyone expects the 66-win Celtics to win it all. Nobody thought – or even wanted the 50-win squad to do it.

Everyone now think of Pierce as a hot take artist. From all sides of the political spectrum they come together to shit on him because they love taking the bait of a skilled troll. Maybe they’ll shut up since two rings are louder than one?

Nah! The median age of basketball Twitter is twenty-one. They only seen Pierce play five or six games, and they all involved their god leader LeBron. 

What-If Ray Allen Missed?

Nobody was as anti-LeBron than I was in the year 2013. Thank God I wasn’t on Twitter. I already have tons of opinions I’m sure I’ll be ashamed of once somebody reminds me of what I said. 

“How dare LeBron leave the poor people of Cleveland behind?” spurns my unbridled hatred for an athlete with little to no control over why the world is shit. I felt I’ve reached the mountain top when Dirk Nowitzki overcame the odds and the Mavericks topped the stacked Miami Heat in 2011. I wanted the Durant-led Thunder to do the same. For a while, it looked like they would. The young Thunder charged back from down 13 in the fourth to cut the deficit to four with little over five-minutes left. James Harden nailed a critical three, only for Miami to answer with veteran guard Shane Battier to come right back with a long distance drain of his own. 
While there was a lot of time left in the contest, I knew that was the end of the Thunder right then and there. Outside of Wade, LeBron and Bosh, Miami couldn’t count on production. Them being unable to keep Battier in check gave Miami enough to escape Oklahoma City with the win and avoid a 2-0 series deficit. Also, it put the young Thunder on their heels. Games 3 and 4 played out the same way. The extremely feisty Thunder falling short because of poor late game execution. LeBron’s history of shortcomings in these situations made him a better player in the long run. Durant and his trio had a lot to learn. 
So, here we are in 2013. My hate still strong for LeBron, and my love for the San Antonio Spurs growing since the Boston Celtics are no longer serious contenders. In my mind, the Spurs are the Celtics of the East. Tim Duncan is their grizzled Kevin Garnett. Manu Ginobili is Paul Pierce. And Kawhi Leonard is the bridge to the next generation, which was in my mind Rajon Rondo.
Heading into 2013, this was the first championship series San Antonio was involved in that wasn’t expected to be a dud. Nobody liked the ‘99 series versus the Knicks. Or the ‘03 series vs New Jersey. Though the Pistons series in ‘05 went seven-games, nobody liked either of those teams and the games often ended in epic rock fights. Had San Antonio not dropped four straight versus Oklahoma City in 2012, they’d meet the Heat as the likely favorites. Having perfected team basketball right before the three-point revolution. Late career stage Duncan was still a top guy. Manu still had his fast ball. Tony Parker was one of, if not the best floor general on the league despite being thirty. 
The league in 2013 found the perfect balance between prioritizing size, pace and pace before ultimately jettisoning size entirely. Castoffs like Boris Diaw found new life in a spurs uniform, as did DeJuan Blair, each averaging five points and three rebounds in their bit roles backing up Duncan and Tiago Splitter. 28-year old Gary Neal became a sharp shooter from three-point distance. Neal came alive in San Antonio’s game three 36-point demolishing of Miami, where Neal torched them for 24. Neal went undrafted and debuted in the NBA at 26. Only San Antonio can find talent in the scrap heap. 
Heading into game six, up 3-2 all the talk focused on LeBron. “What does it mean for his legacy if he blows it?” nobody cared about Duncan on the cusp of his fifth title and doing it against the second greatest player ever having the greatest individual season since Shaq in 2001 or M.J in ‘96. The only question making the rounds on the hot take circuits was a tongue and cheek “should Popovich rest his starters for game seven?” an obviously reference to when Pop rested a prime time game in Miami back in November. Duncan, Parker, Manu and Danny Green were DNP’d, which made David Stern publicly shame Popovich in interviews a day or so after. 
The Spurs that day became rebels. Successors to the legacy of Allen Iverson. In Stern’s last season as the commissioner, I wanted to see his disgruntled body hand Popovich the trophy as the last thing he’ll ever do as head of the NBA. 
For a while, it looked to be an all certainty the Spurs were about to complete my wet dream. They lead by thirteen in the third, but even i knew you can’t count the great players out. LeBron tossed away his headband and I knew what we were about to see was an aggressiveness never before unleashed by him. Damn it all to Hell, he bombed off shots and some actually went in. The bricks were hard ones off the backboard. But the Spurs fumbled rebounds and allowed Miami shooters to leak out and recover. Miami struck back hard. But dispute Manu and Kawhi missing two of their four late situation free throws, all the Spurs needed for the biggest win in their franchise history was one rebound.
Duncan was hot as fire. 13-21, 30 points and sixteen boards. The “Big Fundamental” wanted to kill the LeBron vs Jordan discussion that night in the American Airlines Arena. Like like an old gunslinger going against the new hot shot in town, Timmy had nothing left but his stubborn bravery in the face of uncertainty. Up 95-92, Mike Miller just fouled Kawhi who would go one of two from the charity stripe. Popovich subbed out his would be Finals MVP for Diaw in a brain cramp for the ages. This is like when Bill Belichick benched Malcolm Butler for the Super Bowl. Except, Belichick was right to take such a hasty gamble whereas Popovich was dead wrong.
A desperate LeBron fires a furious off a three that misses. All his anger amounts to nothing. He is at the end of his line. The ball is in the air, all the Spurs need to do to subject LeBron to another summer of people calling him “LeChoke” is grab the ball. Except, their best rebounder wasn’t in the game. Diaw didn’t get it either. Chris Bosh, the unheralded member of the “Heatles” snags it, kicks it to Ray Allen in the corner for a shot I knew was going in the moment it left his fingertips. “BANG!” Mike Breen says. 

Bosh blocks Danny Green to force overtime and the trophy is rushed back to the locker room. The champagne and plastic covers are taken from the Spurs locker room.

From that point on, I knew Karma wasn’t real. Fans of the Heat who prematurely left rather than serenade their amazing squad with vocals ‘till the bitter end, rushed back to the arena. Some not gaining re-entry because they walked out the doors. This was to be the perfect encapsulation of everything wrong with Miami’s big 3. All flash. No substance. No heart. Only entitlement (I was fifteen, give me a break). 
Instead, the Basketball Gods rewarded them and from that point on, I knew Miami was winning. I didn’t watch the overtime. I didn’t watch game 7. I knew what was going to happen. LeBron was going to win. Those poor people in Cleveland were about to get hurt again. Duncan’s miraculous turn back the clock performance was to be swept under the rug. The NBA was now LeBron’s domain. Hell, if Covid doesn’t cancel the 2020 postseason, it might very well still be his. 
Allen’s three didn’t hurt me as a Celtics fan. It hurt me as a nihilist. I knew when he left Boston he was going to make a big shot like that. For some reason, I fixated on the fact Allen was wearing thirty four. No. Not Paul Pierce’s number. David Ortiz’! How dare he?! And to help our number one enemy to boot. I felt sick. This is before I knew sports is a cold, idiotic business. A complex ballet where destiny is in the hands of those in the field, court or ice. Not quite cinema, but close as you’re going to get. 
So what if Duncan wasn’t subbed out? No way in God’s green earth was Allen missing that corner shot. It was his sweet spot. 
Simple: Duncan wins Finals MVP, gets a week of publicity out of his triumph before ESPN shifts focus to the Little League World Series or something irrelevant. But NBA Heads know what Timmy accomplished. He beat the greatest team of the last decade. LeBron’s best squad. In six! Pure dominance and bravery. He didn’t quiver.

They steamroll Miami the next season for Duncan’s sixth title and the Spurs do something they’ve never done: repeat. To this day, I say Duncan is superior to LeBron because of rings and the fact TD got the best of Bron in their three finals matchup. Six versus two. 
But this wasn’t the series Duncan even met his greatest match. The Pistons with Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace taking full advantage of the laxer defensive rules, beat Duncan senseless. His counting stats look amazing, but you could tell by watching him Duncan wasn’t in his zone. The Pistons should have won. But Sheed had a brain cramp of his own. 
What’s lost in why San Antonio couldn’t close the deal is how errant Manu was. Everyone spent the summer giving 21-year old Kawhi shit for missing his free throws when Manu wasn’t any better at the line and turned the ball over a bunch (22 times!). Kawhi played lock down defense on the league’s best player and nobody gave a damn until after the fact. Just goes to show you, the NBA media is incredibly stupid and narrow minded. 
Kawhi would have defeated LeBron twice on the grandest stage and brought a title to a place dubbed “LeBronto” when the King emasculated an entire country on national television the year before. Hell. Maybe I’d be saying he’s the GOAT. 
How is LeBron’s legacy affected? Well, a reasonable person would tell you there’s no difference between losing six finals versus seven. Internet culture will have you believe loses in non-championship rounds don’t count as much against someone’s legacy. If Tom Brady loss the AFC Championship Game in 2007, 2011 and 2017 he’d be a perfect 6-0 in the big game. Just like Jordan. This is of course a loser mentality. 
In the eyes of people like Skip Bayless, this solidifies LeBron as a frontrunner. A pretender to M.J’s crown. He needs to bow at the feet of Kobe and now Duncan. The real winners of the league. Perhaps we could rule him out as he GOAT since this would be the second time he had the better team in the finals and came up short. Add this to the list of LeBron failures of the 2010s. The Celtics running him out in Cleveland. J.J Barea giving him the business. Duncan emasculating him on his home floor, then Kawhi doing the same the next year until he is “forced” to run back to Cleveland. Failure. Failure. Failure. 
Bron needed that ring to set him apart from the Kevin Garnett’s and Moses Malone’s of the world. Winners only after they flamed out of their original destination. Game six, 2013 was LeBron’s masterpiece under supreme unrest. Game seven was another classic from the standpoint of the outcome being a foregone conclusion. Unlike the Celtics of 2012, the Spurs had the stamina to hang with Bron in contested games six and seven. They gave him everything, but he and Miami hung tough to squeaked out a nail biter for the ages. Capping off a landmark season for LeBron. Every superstar needs a season where they owned the narrative, bagged the MVP and subsequently the championship. M.J had ‘96. Shaq had 2000. Bird had ‘86. And so on.
In 2013, the wrong team won. And just like the Lakers stealing a title from the Pistons in ‘88, the next year would prove to rectify the mistake as the defending champions were curb-stomped into oblivion. 
The wrong team won. But the wrong decision was made. This was a LeBron haters worst day. At least the Spurs got revenge by turning off the air conditioning in game one making him cramp up. That was hilarious.

[Simulator] What-If Reggie Lewis Didn’t Die

The Celtics were the class of the NBA for thirty-years. Going to the NBA Finals nineteen times between 1956-1957 and 1986-1987, winning sixteen titles. To quote Michael Rappaport “They [the Celtics] were the NBA!”

In 1984, coming off their historic championship run in 1984, general manager Red Auerbach was offered a insane, outright damning trade from the middling Seattle SuperSonics. Bench scoring guard Gerald Henderson for an unprotected first round pick in the 1986 draft. Seattle believed they’d be a good team by then, so the consequences would be minor. Needless to say, they were mistaken. 
The Sonics finished 31-51. Fifth worse in the NBA for the ‘85-86 season. Typically, this would mean the lottery pick would land somewhere near the end. Perhaps outside of the top-10. Except in this era, the lottery odds were more egalitarian and showed little favoritism to teams who lost more games. If you just missed making the playoffs, you’re chances of landing the number one choice was almost as good as a team who didn’t even come close.
Good fortune smiled upon the Celtics as they landed the second pick in a stacked draft class featuring Brad Daughtery, Chuck Persons and Ron Harper. But another star ripe for the picking. Len Bias was a superstar forward from the University of Maryland. Upon his selection, Larry Bird was so excited he expressed a desire to attend rookie camp to work with Bias. A day after his ascension to the pros, Bias died of a cocaine overdose and the Celtics franchise was forever altered. 
The battered and bruised 1986-87 Celtics heroically defended their crown until the bitter end. Falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in six-games that could have easily gone seven if either Bill Walton, Jerry Sitching were healthy, or if Kevin McHale hadn’t broken his left foot earlier in the season. A healthy McHale is blocking Magic Johnson’s baby skyhook and winning game four for the Celts. 
Back to the drawing board, the Celtics found a diamond in the rough. Stuck with the 23rd pick, perhaps as a way to make it up for the tragedy of losing Bias, Reggie Lewis fell in Boston’s lap and while veteran reliant head coach K.C Jones played Lewis under five-minutes per game, the guard-forward hybrid would grow into a stable of the last few Bird seasons in the early-nineties. When “The Legend” retired Lewis was expected to take the reins and carry Boston into the next generation. 
Coming off his first all-star season in ‘92, the Celtics still had McHale and Robert Parish together for one more season. Athletic dunker Dee Brown, and young Rick Fox rounding out the bench, the Celts balancing youth and experience won 48-games. And while his points, rebounds and assist per game numbers were nearly identical to his all-star campaign, he was snubbed probably due to the high expectations fans and media placed on him prior to the season. 
Perhaps Lewis wasn’t a leading man and couldn’t be expected to act as the savior. You never find players like that picking 23rd in the draft. But underneath Lewis’ soft-spoken composure was a vicious dog waiting to be unleashed. Thirteen-minutes into game one versus the Charlotte Hornets, Lewis came out with his hair on fire. Hitting seven of his eleven shots, notching 17 points before collapsing to the floor and having to leave the game. The energy was unnaturally high for a middling Celtics team entering the first round of the playoffs. But Lewis looked like the worthy successor to Bird in that brief stint.
Lewis died on July 27, 1993. His premature death attributed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a structural heart defect that is most common cause of death in young athletes. 
Lewis’ death was sudden and confusing to many. Far be it for me to play armchair doctor to diagnose what the hell really happened. Growing up, far removed from the tragedies of Bias and Lewis, they came across to me as characters out of Greek mythology. Destined for greatness, only for the cruel nature of the world to strike them down before they can achieve it. The Kingdom of the Celtics crumbled soon after Lewis was put to rest. Red was getting old and losing his fastball. The Celtics were no longer a prime destination for veterans looking for a ring; because there were no stars to suggest they had a chance of winning anything. By 1997, the franchise and its fans are clinging on to rattling ping pong balls like a high school dropout would a lottery ticket. 
So what-if Lewis didn’t die in the summer of 1993? I ran a simulation to watch his career unfold. On the website I used, however, I had to start at 1992-93 because that’s the last season Lewis was alive and still active. The 1993 campaign was a disastrous one for the C’s. Going 29-53 and kicking out with the forth pick on the draft. Picking Kentucky big forward Jamal Mashburn. 
In 1994, the Celtics say goodbye to either the second of third greatest power forward ever in Kevin McHale, and cling on to Parish for one more run. Newcomers Mashburn and Allan Houston stroll into town. Mashburn instantly becoming the next big thing, and Houston fitting in as the seventh man on a loaded C’s team. 
Reggie Lewis – Jamal Mashburn (R) – Kevin Gamble – Robert Parish – Rick Fox – Xavier McDaniel – Sherman Douglas – Allan Houston (R) – Ed Pinckney (42-40)
Beat Chicago (3-2)
Beat Atlanta (4-3)
Lost Indiana (4-1)

‘94-95 Lewis: 37.1 mpg – 21.6 pts – 4.9 trb – 2.4 ast – 22.4 per (All-Star – 3rd)
Playoffs: 21-5-2 (3rd Team All-League)
Mashburn takes home Rookie of the year. Lewis improves and helps the Celtics squeak into the playoffs and upset Michael Jordan and the Bulls (for some reason), then ‘Nique and the Hawks before falling to Reggie Miller and the Pacers. Indiana would then go on to beat Vlade Divac and Nick Van Exel of the Lakers in seven-games. 
The simulator is quite random, if you can’t tell. 
Lewis is able to notch his first All-NBA birth, beating out Gary Payton and Mark Price – who were the guards on the third team in our timeline. 
Payton: 16.5 pts – 3.3 trb – 6.0 ast – 2.3 stl – 14.1 FGA – 50.4 fg% – 3.4 FTA – 59.5 ft% – 9.3 wins shares – 17.8 per  

Price: 17.3 pts – 3 trb – 7.8 ast – 1.4 stl – 13.2 FGA – 47.8 fg% – 3.5 FTA – 88.8 ft% – 10 WS , 22.7 per

Lewis: 21.6 pts – 4.9 trb – 2.4 ast – 1.7 stl – 15.6 FGA – 52 fg% – 5.2 FTA – 89.3 ft% – 11 WS – 22.4 per

Lewis’ sixty-percent true shooting is also a noticeable mark. And with free agency looming, and the Celtics have money to spend the franchise is ready to capitalize on a surprise deep playoff run.

Same exact roster, except I drafted guards Tony Dumas and Howard Eisley (45-37)
Lost 1st round to Washington (3-1)
Lewis: 35 mpg – 22.1 pts – 5.7 trb – 2.2 ast – 25.3 per (All-Star 4th) 2nd Team All-Defensive  and first team All-League
Playoffs: 23.8 pts – 5.3 trb – 2 ast 
Transactions: Traded forward Xavier McDaniels for guard Scott Skiles; traded Kevin Gamble and Ed Pinckney for Sam Perkins 
A career year for Reginald! Sadly, they didn’t fare better in the playoffs falling to Chris Webber and Juwan Howard and the Wizards in five-games. 
It’s weird Lewis made first team here, as his statistical output matches Reggie Miller, who made the third team. Penny Hardaway made the first team averaging 21 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists for a Magic team that ended up conference champions. So take this with a grain of salt. 
Also, the Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers for some reason. 
Off-Season: drafted Arvydas Sabonis (31) and Travis Best
Signed Hakeem Olajuwon and Dana Baros in free agency

Lewis – Hakeem – Dee – Mashburn – Baros —- S. Perkins – Sabonis – Fox – Douglas – Parish – T. Best (49-33)

Beat Orlando (3-0)
Beat Milwaukee (4-3)
Beat Philadelphia (4-1)
Beat Minnesota (4-2)

WOLRD CHAMPIONS (Mashburn FMVP: 27.8 pts – 7.3 trb – 4.5 ast

Transaction: Traded Dee Brown to Philly for Derrick McKey and a ‘96 1st from Milwaukee 
Lewis: 36.8 mpg – 19.8 pts – 4.5 trb – 4 ast -24.7 per (All-Star 5th) 2nd Team All-League; 3rd team all defensive 
Playoffs: 20 pts – 4 trb – 3.8 ast 

Mashburn: 25.8 pts/7.4 trb/5.2 ast/30.1 per
Lewis: 19.8 pts/4.5 trb/ 4 ast/24.7 per
McKey: 11.9 pts/3.9 trb/1.8 ast/18.9 per
Olajuwon: 13 pts/3.9 trb/1.8 ast/18.9 per
Baros: 11 pts/1.6 trb/4 ast/14.5 per
Fox: 6.0 pts/2.7 trb/1.2 ast/10.1 per
Sabonis: 9.9 pts/8.1 trb/0.8 ast/15.3 per
Perkins: 4.2 pts/2.5 trb/0.6 ast/9.4 per
Dumas: 6.2 pts/1.8 trb/0.7 ast/4.3 per
Lewis is showing some signs of age, as his points per game dips a shade below 20. The C’s land Hakeem in free agency. In this reality, Houston never gets over the hump and “The Dream” grows dissatisfied in Houston and teams up with Lewis in Beantown. Ironically, in 1992 a rumor swirled around of a swap between the two. 

The season started off slow. I was fortunate to be able to swing Brown for McKey and a pick  that (which became Steve Nash). I took the thirty-one year old Arvydas Sabonis who helped probably would have been the best backup big in the league despite his advanced age. Hell, he killed in OTL. Becoming the best player on the Trail Blazers from the jump. For some reason, the simulator doesn’t like him very much. He’s barely averaging 10 points and eight rebounds.

Draft: Steve Nash, Ben Wallace, Bruce Bowen
Mashburn – Hakeem – Lewis – McKey – Baros (Fox, Nash, Sabonis, Wallace, Perkins, Best, Bowen) (59-23)
Beat PHI (3-0)
Beat ORL (4-1)
Lost to MIL (4-3)
Milwaukee beat Utah for the championship 
Lewis: 31.7 mpg – 14.8 ppg – 3.6 trb – 2.2 ast – 19.3 per
Reggie Lewis tore his ACL, will miss 153 games
The defending champions were poised to repeat, but in the last game of the season Lewis tore his ACL and would miss the following season. Boston’s valiant bunch would fall to the eventual champion Bucks in seven in the East Finals. Lewis would never be the same again. Calling it a career in 1999. Just for fun, I simulated two more seasons to see if he could have recovered from his traumatic injury. 
Drafted Austin Croshere, Kevin Ollie; Signed Jalen Rose in free agency 
Mashburn – Hakeem- Nash – Fox – Baros (same team minus Perk, Douglas and Best) 37-45)
Sabonis retired after the season (7-6-1) best season, rookie was a 10 and 8
Drafted Dirk Nowitzki 10th; signed KG in free agency (48-34)
Lose to New Orleans (3-1)
Kind of sad to leave this team behind. Dirk and Garnett on the same team! How? 
Anyways, here’s Lewis’ career summary:

  • Eleven seasons
  • Six All-Star appearances (1991 thru 1996)
  • Third Team All-NBA (1994)
  • First Team All-NBA (1995)
  • Second Team All-NBA (1996)
  • Two 2nd All-Team Defense (‘95 & ‘96)
  • NBA Champion (1996)

Averages pre-1992:
16.9 points – 4.3 rebounds – 2.3 assists – 3.8 fta – 81.3 ft% – 13.9 FGA – 49.3 ft% – 0.2 3PA – 17.3 3P% – 23.2 USG% – 30.6 WS – 112 ORtg –
17.1 per

Averages post-1992:
19.8 points – 4.7 rebounds – 2.6 assists – 4.4 FTA – 91.1 ft% – 14.7 FGA – 50.7 fg% – 2.7 3PA – 37.5 3P% – 22.7 USG% – 63.8 WS – 118.8 ORtg – 20.8 per

1987-88 to 1998-99
879 Games (80 per season) – 18.3 points – 4.5 rebounds – 2.4 assists – 94.4 WS

Trying to find a career comp for Lewis, I looked no further than the ghosts of Celtics past and brought up Sam Jones. Played the same position. Went to one fewer All-Star games than Lewis. Made the same amount of All-NBA teams. Only logged one more season than Lewis and averaged nearly 18 points, 5 rebounds and almost 3 assists a a game. He averaged 15.8 attempts to Lewis 14.3. His wins shares mark of 87.4 pales to Lewis’ 94.4.

In this reality, Lewis took the torch from Bird, proceeded to carry his team to deep playoff runs and ultimately had his career cut short before he was about to lead them to becoming a dynasty.

So yes, he’s probably a Hall of Famer.

Lewis and Bias are two people who have never met and are forever linked for their connections to the Celtics, what they represented and what their deaths meant to the franchise and basketball in general.

At least Bias served as a cautionary tale and potentially scared off many impressionable people from trying cocaine. But what did Lewis’ passing do? What’s his silver lining? There isn’t one. Life is unfair. The people you love the most are likely to die young and the people you despise are likelier to outlive you and your loved ones. That’s how it is.