Saturday, December 3, 2011

WWE for a NBA Fan - Southeast Division (Part 2)

In my despondency regarding the NBA Lockout, I devised a series of posts detailing how a typical NBA fan could survive a basketball-less winter with the help of well-placed WWE Superstar replacement suggestions. While it seemed far-fetched on the surface, I actually came up with some similarities between the two "sports", and more importantly, it gave me an excuse to write about professional wrestling.

Then Friday happened. To my amazement and surprise, the NBA season seemed as if it would proceed with a 66-game schedule. My abject joy aside, I realized that my massive 6-parter titled "WWE for an NBA Fan - How to Survive the NBA Lockout with the WWE" was now pretty bunk. Easily the worst part of the lockout ending.

However, seeing as half of it is already done and I enjoyed writing it so much, I will soldier on with the WWE for an NBA Fan series. While the NBA might be back, remember that the WWE never turned its back on you. These suggestions still bear weight, and perhaps, just perhaps, it will bring more eyes to the WWE. So I won't be alone. Sad and alone.

(Check back here for Part 1)

Atlanta Hawks: Kofi Kingston

As far as I can tell, the Hawks, who in their time in Atlanta have only gone so far as the conference finals twice (not since the 1969-70 season) and their fan base are not really concerned with winning and excellence so much as they are with playing hard and entertaining the crowd. Kofi Kingston is a fantastically entertaining wrestler, whose aerial moves and wrestling maneuvers are all highlighted by his extraordinary flexibility and agility. He's gone so far as to win the Intercontinental title, but truthfully, is no real threat to a world title any time soon. He's an entertainer, he works hard and he went to the best undergraduate college in the land.

Orlando Magic: Kane

I feel awful for Orlando. I really really do. In their brief 20 year history, they've made two finals (two more than Atlanta, Charlotte and Washington combined), had Shaquille O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill and Dwight Howard and reaped no titles. Their consistency towards winning regular season games is to be recognized and respected, and yet, they never have quite enough to get them over the top. In fact, this team is has been cursed nearly as much as the Los Angeles Lakers have been blessed. Tracy McGrady was dropping 30 points a game while his team lost 60+ every year. Grant Hill, on a surefire Hall of Famer course after his brilliant college career at Duke and unbelievable play in Detroit, came to Orlando on a massive 7-year deal and only played in a staggering 34% of their games. Shaquille O'Neal, the best center of his generation, left the Magic and went on to win 4 titles with the Lakers and Heat. Dwight Howard, the best center of his generation, could very well do the same in 10 months time.

My point here is, the Magic's tortured fan base (one of the most underrated in all of sports) needs a superstar with consistency. They need to know year-in and year-out what they're getting. They need a wrestler to match the toughness and physicality of player they're used to seeing, with none of the disappointment.

Kane has been in the WWE in his current incarnation as the hideously burned brother of the Undertaker since 1997. His work in the ring is more than adequate, but less than excellent. He is a compelling character, a physical specimen and yet, not entirely fascinating enough for the company to completely invest itself in. His best description? A steady hand. Kane is good enough to be considered for the main event, but that consideration should always stop before thinking about putting the championship around his waist. And everyone knows that; the fans know it, the company knows it and Kane knows it. I know what I'm going to get from Kane in 2012. Magic fans could use more of the same knowledge.

Washington Wizards: Alex Riley

Another easy call. In 2012, all I really want for Wiz fans is to not have to deal with guys shooting themselves in the leg, threatening to shoot each other in the locker room or pretend shooting each other in pregame warmups. I want the focus in Washington to be on the actual court. The District is a fantastic basketball hot bed, with dedicated fans that aren't just crazy about hoops, but know what they're talking about. They have a young team that won't contend for a couple of seasons, but surely will be fun watching them make it there.

Alex Riley is the perfect WWE Superstar for fans of the Wiz to follow during this lockout. He looks like the type of douchebag you'd see in the local college bar, or perhaps you'd just call him a tremendous blowhard, but certainly not one that's going to bring a gun into the locker room. After all, he's a nice looking dude who went to a fantastic undergraduate university (yes, that's really him). He's not going to create any type of locker drama and get himself fired any time soon. But similarly, I wouldn't expect him in the main event in that same time frame. Be patient Washington. And in the meantime, enjoy a guy that's not going to be packing.

Miami Heat: John Morrison

Obligatory Miami Heat cheap shot

(BTW - John Morrison had his WWE contract expire THIS WEEK. Yes, yet another untimely development for the rantings on MAMBINO. However, I will keep this comparison as is just because it's so perfect)

The Heat lost the NBA Finals. Even without a traditional offseason and June being a distant memory being lost amongst the falling leaves and snow storms of the seasons, writing that sentence still brings me an immense amount of satisfaction.

However, regardless of the cowardice of LeBron or the stupidity of Dwyane Wade, there is much to be made of the style in which the Heat played their first season. They took the court every game like it was their last, playing with such reckless abandon simply as a survival tool; after all, every single team played against them like it was a playoff game. The other 29 squads had a bullseye on the self-proclaimed future 7 time champions. To their credit, the Heat took every single criticism to heart, and let their game dictate their anger and frustration. They rode this all the way until the Finals, where the Mavericks showed that the Heat were so much less than they thought they were. For all their posturing and supposed greatness, Dallas proved the Heat to be no more than the facade of a champion rather than the genuine article. They had the look and swagger of titlist, and yet when it came down to crunch time, all the production and fanfare behind their play wasn't enough to hide the massive holes on their squad. They only appeared to be the best. They could only ride what got them to the Finals to two wins short of the trophy. They were not who they seemed at first glance.

This is John Morrison. He is an unbelievable athlete whose body is conditioned to the utmost perfection. His career started rather dubiously, as Morrison won a WWE reality series titled "Tough Enough" to garner a WWE contract. He and co-winner Matt Capotelli (whose career was cut short due to a brain tumor) were given immediate, though brief, exposure on WWE television. Throughout Tough Enough and his ensuing appearances on WWE's weekly episodic shows, the wrestling audience got to see all the potential that made him into legitimate prospect emerging almost inexplicably from a television show that seemed to produce no real talent. Though his improvisational skills on the microphone were to be desired and his personality was somewhat less than enthralling, Morrison none the less impressed everyone, including those here at MAMBINO, with his extraordinary athleticism and natural feel for professional wrestling. His coordination surpassed his lack of in-ring experience and he seemed truly driven to be great.

Years later, I still see those same qualities on screen. If I were to see Morrison for the first time today, I would think that Morrison was headed straight for the main event. He moves around the ring with what looks like foolish abandon, but in reality is a carefully laid plan for attack. Named "John Morrison" for his striking resemblance to dead rocker Jim Morrison, John has all the looks of a bonifide WWE superstar; chiseled, tall and good looking.

The truly unfortunate feature here is, that for all of Morrison's tools and potential, his evolution as a professional wrestler has been stunted by a lack of imagination. Every quality of John's arsenal I just mentioned is simply an extension of every ability he already had. As the years have passed and his peers have added newer weapons and skills to the entirety of their professional wrestling arsenal, Morrison has only stepped on the gas pedal rather than change gears. On the surface, he looks fantastic. He is entertaining and his move set is astonishing to the untrained eye. I've been watching John Morrison for 8 years now. He hasn't evolved enough to where I'd call him a champion.

The Miami Heat crowd are front-runners. Don't try to argue otherwise. They want to be entertained, taken on a good ride and hopefully some winning will be attached to the end result. The accessory emotion that lies with their sports fanaticism is hope, rather than fate. Whatever happens, win or lose, life will go on. The beach will still be there, the weather will be wonderful and there's no reason to dwell on sports as if they control your fate. That's why for all the bitter disappointment towards the end of the Heat season, South Beach didn't melt down in the same way that Boston, New York or hell, even Vancouver did. The accomplishment was the journey in Miami. The goal was important, but only in speech rather than in feeling. This is perfect crowd for John Morrison.

There you have it MAMBINO followers. Check back next week when we take a look at the Central division.

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