I said in my last blog post that March signals the start of three things:
1. WrestleMania season
2. High school girls tennis season
3. March Madness
So what better way to celebrate those seasons than to merge some of them together. And being a high school tennis coach, I didn't think comparing my players to various professional wrestlers or divas would go over very well so I decided to just merge March Madness with a little bit of WrestleMania. So we are going to go region by region and break down their top five seeds. I'm going to give you the wrestler on the current WWE roster (that's healthy) that they most resemble and why. It's March Madness, WWE style.
Kansas is a perennial powerhouse. They are always good and they have the pedigree of a champion. But like HHH at WrestleManias, the Jayhawks often choke in the Big Dance. But they are the #1 seed in the tourney and HHH is the current WWE champion. They gotta be the favorites until someone beats 'em.
Villanova is the overlooked star of the tournament. They’ve been good for many years but until they actually win the big one, people aren’t going to take them seriously. It’s now or never for Villanova and Dolph Ziggler. Time to put up, or shut up.
I’m excited to what the Hurricanes can do on the big stage and under the bright lights. Like AJ Styles coming to prove himself in the WWE, it’s time for Miami to prove their worth. A big loss at WrestleMania would cripple Styles’ momentum, and the same could be said for Coach Larranaga and the ‘Canes. They have a high seed and the ability to make a run in the tourney. They’ve only made the NCAA Tournament two times in the past thirteen years. And when they were a 2 seed in 2013 they only made it to the Sweet 16. There is some pressure here.
Like California, Del Rio had a lot of hype entering the year. He came back and defeated John Cena for the US title in his first match returning to WWE. But then, he couldn’t go any higher and just sorta fizzled out. Same story with Cal. They were hyped at the beginning of the year but just sorta plateaued during the season. They both look the part but something is missing. Still a scary draw for anyone trying to defeat these guys though.
Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. That’s all these guys are. All I ever hear from these guys is how good they are but they have rarely lived up to their own hype. Miz main-evented a WrestleMania….but hasn’t done much since. Maryland was a preseason favorite to win not only the Big Ten but also possibly the National Championship….but they haven’t done much since then. I’ll believe it when I see it from these guys.
Oregon is a team you probably don’t know much about (playing on the West Coast), they look the part of a number one seed (#2 in the country in RPI and SOS) but deep down you just know they aren’t a true #1 seed. Same with Bray Wyatt. He looks like a main-eventer, sounds like a main-eventer, but he has lost so much it’s hard to take him seriously as a main-eventer. I wouldn’t want to play/wrestle either of these guys but I wouldn’t be overly scared of them if I had to.
Buddy Hield and Oklahoma seem to be the new crowd favorite this year, just like Dean Ambrose has emerged to be. It’s so much fun when these guys get on your TV and the crowds just eat them up. Both had to fight out of the shadows of their “Big Brother” in Kansas and Roman Reigns but have done so and are looking to make a name for themselves on the big stage now.
Texas A&M has done a respectable job of stepping out of its bigger brother’s shadow (Texas) but its really hard to get too excited about them. They moved conferences to get away from big brother and even had success there, tying for a share of the SEC title this year. But is anyone outside of Texas going to be real excited when an Aggies game comes on the TV in the next couple of weeks? Same with Kane. He’s separated from his bigger brother The Undertaker over the past decade and had some success. But after his pyro hits and the fire dies down, are you really excited to watch a Kane match in 2016? It’s probably going to be a good match but its also not going to be something you can’t miss either. No one is probably picking Kane to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania this year and no one is probably picking A&M to win their bracket either.
The old veterans. Seems like they’ve both been around forever and still are stars in their respective fields. But they’ve both lost a step, too. Maybe just a half a step, but they aren’t where they once were. Jericho is the master of wrestling psychology and storytelling in 2016 but you know he isn’t going to win the title in 2016 either. But, if he was placed in a title match tomorrow you’d at least still have to respect him and it would give credibility to the match. Same with Duke. Granted, the NCAA and their officiating gave them a title last season (#StillBitter) but they are the defending champs and are undoubtedly one of the best college basketball programs in NCAA history. But they aren’t the same team in 2016 as they were in 2015 or previous years. And they aren’t a threat to win the title this year. They’ll add credibility to the tournament and name recognition to their region, but don’t count on them cutting down any nets this season.
Baylor is a team that is always just hanging around and probably never gets the credit they deserve, similar to Kofi Kingston. Neither is on the “elite” level yet but have both been really good for quite the extended period of time now. Baylor has reached the Elite Eight twice, the Sweet Sixteen three times, and won the NIT once since 2010. Kingston, on the other hand, has been on the WWE main roster since 2008 and won four Intercontinental Championships, three United States Championships, and a five time Tag Team Champion. But Kofi is now part of The New Day, which is the most “over” thing going in the WWE right now. He seems to be in position to be as popular as he’s ever been. Could the Bears follow suit?
The Golden Boys. If the NCAA/WWE had their choice of who would be standing triumphant at the end of the Final Four/WrestleMania I'd guess it would be these guys. UNC hasn't won, or even participated in, a Final Four since 2009. That's quite the drought for one of their premier programs. A National Championship would help ease that drought a little bit and possibly overshadow that academic scandal hanging over their heads. And the WWE would love to hear cheers directed towards Roman Reigns at the end of WrestleMania as he raises his newly won WWE Championship belt, instead of the boos and jeers he gets on most nights. The WWE would give anything right now to make Reigns into their next John Cena.
The Musketeers are a team you may not know much about because of the league they play in but you better get to know them quick. They are a 2 seed that can hang 85-90 points on somebody before they know what’s hit ‘em. And unless you are watching NXT, you may not know much about Samoa Joe but that guy can knock you out before that third bell even rings to start the match. If you take that guy lightly, you could be tapping out to the Coquina Clutch before the first commercial break. Take these guys lightly, and you could be going home quickly.
As the great Jim Ross would say, these guys are both bowling shoe ugly. They don’t fit the mold of what you think an elite team or a WWE superstar should be but I’ll be damned if they aren’t both great at what they do. “Press Virginia” forces you to play at a tempo you probably aren’t comfortable with and make the game a grind to watch sometimes. But its effective and they are in a position to make a deep run in March because of it. Owens doesn’t “look the part” but he could be the best thing going in the WWE today. He’s not chiseled from stone or winning any Crossfit competitions but he’s gold on the mic and in the ring, and also looking to make quite the impact at WrestleMania this year.
A lot of potential here. Just like The Ryback, Kentucky has bullied their way through weak competition to make their way into the tournament. They both look really scary and intimidating but I’m just not sure what I’ve got in either of these guys. In case you guys weren’t aware of this yet, the SEC isn’t exactly the same type of powerhouse conference in basketball as it is in football. So there have been times when the Wildcats have looked impressive, but just like The Ryback getting wins over Adam Rose, Curtis Axel, and Sin Cara, I’m not really that impressed yet. Go get some big wins in the NCAA Tournament and WrestleMania. And they’ve both done it before so you know it can be done.
Like Kalisto, the Hoosiers are the champion that nobody is giving credit to and overlooking in their bracket. And possibly justifiably so. Indiana won the Big Ten regular season this year but that was largely due to the Big Ten’s unbalanced schedule and the easy slate of game the Hoosiers were given in conference. So sure they are champions but what does that really mean with the weird schedule? And sure Kalisto is the U.S. Champion but what’s that really mean if it’s significantly beneath the World Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships? And he never really wrestles anyone good either. Prove me wrong Indiana/Kalisto.
I’m going old school wrestling here but Virginia reminds me a lot of Bret “The Hitman” Hart. The Cavaliers aren’t flashy, they aren’t flamboyant, but they are really, really good at what they do. They could be “The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.” They are going to grind you down, execute better than anyone in the tournament, and make you play their style of basketball. Just like The Hitman.
These are the guys that nobody wants to face. They are both mean, tough, nasty, physical, and are going to make you go through hell and back to beat them. And they both have their hype men to do all their talking. Brock Lesnar has his advocate Paul Heyman to tell everyone how great he is. And the Spartans have everybody in the media telling people how great of a team they are in March. I mean its like clockwork, when mid-February rolls around the members of the media are going to start talking about how much of a threat Michigan State will be in the tournament. The media lost their minds when Sparty was given a 2 seed this year instead of a 1 seed. They love their Spartans, and this year though they may be correct.
I’m getting lazy on this comparison but since Utah’s best player Jakob Poeltl is foreign, he’s going to get the Rusev comparison here. Rusev is a very skilled big man who probably doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. Same story with Poeltl. He’s a 7-foot big that you probably haven’t seen a whole lot this year since he plays in Pac-12. But these guys are the cornerstones of their teams and I'm expecting Poeltl to have a big tournament. As big as Rusev's rookie year in the WWE where he went undefeated and faced John Cena at WrestleMania? Time will tell.
The Cyclones are exciting and play up-tempo basketball. Like a Sami Zayn match they are fun to watch and can get the crowd into the action more than anyone else in the country. Zayn is a veteran who’s competed in squared circles all over the world. Georges Niang, a senior leader looking for one last shot, leads the Cyclones. But both have battle injuries in the past, which could lead to their downfall. Zayn’s shoulder is one bump away from another trip to the disabled list. And the Cyclones already lost Niang in one NCAA Tournament and have played without Naz Mitrou-Long most of the season. Still could be a feisty underdog.
The Boilermakers are just big and nasty. With Hammons and Haas down low it’s going to be tough for anyone in the tournament to match up with their size. Like the Big Show, they are just huge. You are going to have to out-quick them or out-shoot them. You aren’t going to be able to match their size and power. Watching their games/matches might not always be enjoyable but it is impressive.