Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Pro Wrestling--- Tonight, it's WWE Survivor Series on pay-per-view, otherwise known as, "The Son-In-Law Gets To Make It Through Another PPV Without Doing A Job or Dropping the Strap."
It is also a night of needless injury risks. Can anyone tell me why Carlito, one of the most promising young wrestlers on the WWE roster, is going to risk further injury by wrestling with his dislocated shoulder rather than getting the required surgery right away?
On an even more urgent note, can anyone tell me why Kurt Angle is going to risk permanent paralysis yet again by stepping into the ring with the current condition of his neck? As long as he continues to experience the numbness and other symptoms of spinal injury that he has had over the past few weeks, Angle should not be allowed to wrestle until an MRI is done to establish the full extent of the current damage to his neck.
The past few years of wrestling have shown us in general, and with Angle's case in particular, that it is not a valid medical approach to "just keep going" when you know something is wrong with your spine. This continued approach by wrestlers when they suffer neck injuries is going to end up with someone being paralyzed, and the most tragic part of it will be that it could have been prevented.
Friday, November 05, 2004
Mixed Martial Arts--- On Thursday night's episode of "WWE Smackdown" on UPN, the latest segment aired on Tough Enough, which this year includes a contestant named Daniel Puder who claims to be "a former Ultimate Fighter." What they've been doing so far with this edition of Tough Enough is having current WWE wrestlers come out every week and brow-beat the wrestlers for having the opportunity to win a million dollars without having really earned it or paid their dues. Last week it was The Big Show, and this week it was Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle. Angle got in the face of each of the remaining seven contestants as part of the story line and said he could kick all of their asses.
After having an impromptu match with one of the Tough Enough contestants and easily winning in less than ten seconds, Angle asked the other contestants if anyone else wanted a piece of him. Daniel Puder, who had said he was a "former Ultimate Fighter" just a few minutes earlier before Angle had come down to the ring, raised his hand to volunteer, and the crowd in St. Louis, Missouri popped big-time at the thought of seeing Puder and Angle in a "fight." This was still a pro wrestling match in the sense that they were cooperating with each other and not really trying to hurt each other, but they had Puder hold his own with Angle in the clinch for several seconds, prompting the crowd to break out in a brief but loud chant of, "UFC! UFC!" When the match went to the ground, Puder was going for a key-lock from the bottom but both of his shoulders were down and the ref counted to three.
Unlike the live Raw shows, Smackdown is pre-recorded two days in advance and allows WWE to regularly manipulate the audio to add chants they like or remove chants they don't like. This is worth pointing out because WWE could have easily edited out the "UFC" chant if they had really wanted to, but they chose not to. Also, it was very clear that this was not a fake chant added in post-production by the so-called "audio sweetener," as you could actually see fans standing and enthusiastically chanting, "UFC! UFC!"
The only problem with all of this is that despite Daniel Puder's on-air claims, he has never been an "Ultimate Fighter" and has never been associated with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It is common for the mainstream media to refer to anyone who has ever been in an MMA fight as an "Ultimate Fighter," but normally the fighters themselves aren't as openly deceptive as Daniel Puder has been on Tough Enough, implying that he has anything to do with the "Ultimate Fighting Championship" when he has never been in the UFC. As for his experience on smaller MMA shows,both the Sherdog and FCF databases said that Puder's MMA record is 1-0, with that one fight being against a fighter who is 1-1 himself.
Nonetheless, any way you look at it, it's good exposure for the UFC to have the words "Ultimate Fighting Championship" spoken under any circumstances on a WWE telecast and even better exposure to have a crowd chant "UFC" on primetime network television. Smackdown is watched by three to four million people each week on UPN.
On a side note, many people wonder how "tough" Kurt Angle really is, and we'll never really know how tough he is outside of an amateur wrestling background since he never entered mixed martial arts. However, it's worth noting that when Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar were both in WWE one day about two years ago, they decided to have a little contest in the ring during one of the many long afternoons where wrestlers have to sit around waiting for the TV taping to start in the evening.
Both Angle and Lesnar had been championship-winning amateur wrestlers and had become good friends in WWE, and they wanted to see who was the better amateur wrestler. They had several of these unofficial exhibitions in the ring with no cameras present, and amazingly enough, Angle was said to have completely manhandled Lesnar despite the fact that Lesnar is 75-100 pounds heavier and ten years younger. It was just a friendly exhibition with a handful of other wrestlers watching, but both guys were trying their damndest to win, and the exchange was said to have humbled Lesnar a little bit and added to Angle's "tough guy rep" behind the scenes.
By the way, any rumor that you have heard in the past or may hear in the future about Kurt Angle one day entering MMA competition is false. Angle's severely injured neck, which has endured multiple risky surgeries, is one bad landing away from potentially ending his pro wrestling career, much less starting a new career in MMA.
Pro Wrestling--- During last night's episode of WWE Smackdown in the Washington DC television market, an advertisement aired for the November 20th Smackdown house show in DC (at the DC Armory instead of the larger MCI Center). The focal point of the ad was the advertised main event, and I quote, "John Bradshaw Layfield vs. The Big Show for the WWE Title."
This is incredibly sloppy on WWE's part, whether it's giving away the result of the JBL-Booker match at Survivor Series or it's advertising a WWE Title match between JBL and Big Show that isn't going to happen. Also, something tells me that Booker T suddenly being thrust into the main event of a pay-per-view for no apparent reason might mean that he is not too long for this business. It might just be that WWE is giving him a proverbial "gold watch" on his way out for his years in the business, as happened with Jackie Moore and her Cruiserweight Title angle before she was released.
-There is an article about TNA's Sonjay Dutt featured prominently on the front page of today's Style section in the Washington Post, which has a national weekday circulation of over 700,000 issues per day (certainly good publicity for TNA). The article can also be found online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26894-2004Nov4.html. Hilariously, the headline of the article is "Star of the Staged," and the author still feels the need to point out just in case you weren't aware that the winners of pro wrestling matches are pre-determined. Mainstream media people still feel the need to point that out as if it's some kind of revelation despite the fact that it has been openly acknowledged since the 1980's.
-The "Fall Cleaning Spree" continues in World Wrestling Entertainment, as they have released a whopping ten wrestlers this week (and the week isn't even over yet). The Wrestling Observer reports that at least two more cuts are coming, and as you might expect, morale is horrible in both the Raw and Smackdown locker rooms. The following is a list of wrestlers who have been released so far, along with a brief note on why they may have been released:
Billy Gunn: One of WWE's longest-standing employees, he was recently sent to drug rehab after being found passed out in an airport. He has also been disgruntled with his recent lack of push on WWE TV, despite the fact that no one has been given more chances over the years to get over (and failed so horribly each time) than Billy Gunn. His WWE release opens up the door for him to reunite with former tag team partner The Road Dogg, now wrestling in TNA.
Chuck Palumbo: WWE has done absolutely nothing with Palumbo since the whole "gay wedding" publicity stunt they pulled on Smackdown a while back. He was relegated to B-show status on Velocity, and then after being moved to the Raw brand was relegated to B-show status on Heat. Palumbo was actually a decent wrestler in the ring and was never given a real push by WWE.
Nidia: Nothing less than shocking given the fact that the latest Tough Enough competition is currently taking place each week on Smackdown, prompting WWE to make the head-scratching decision to release the co-winner of the first Tough Enough. WWE's not-so-creative Creative Department (headed by Stephanie McMahon) had absolutely no idea what to do with Nidia after her angle with Jamie Noble played out on Smackdown last year, and had recently been pushing her as a "Puerto Rican fire-cracker" with absolutely no explanation or depth behind the character.
Test: This is a little bit surprising given that Test is engaged to Stacy Keibler, and releasing Test could make Stacy want to quit or otherwise make her a disgruntled employee. Test had just recently been given medical clearance to return to the ring after undergoing spinal surgery. Nothing says, "Thank you for putting your body on the line for this company and breaking your neck" like a pink slip. Test is still young and showed a lot of promise throughout his WWE career, despite some occasional attitude problems behind-the-scenes, and one has to chalk up Test as another case of WWE Creative never pushing someone properly before throwing their hands up in the air and releasing the wrestler.
A-Train: Fans were conditioned to ignore A-Train on a consistent basis due to the stop-and-go pushes WWE would give him on the air, in which he would go back and forth from being an unstoppable monster and being someone who was barely on TV for months at a time. No one would say that A-Train was a great in-ring worker, but he was pretty damn good for a big man, and is far better than the countless no-talent, muscle-bound wrestlers that have gotten big pushes in the last year or so (Heidenreich, anyone?).
Rico: This is a surprising release given that Rico was over with live crowds and was essentially playing the "Goldust" character better than Dustin Runnels ever did. It doesn't seem like Rico fit in with the current Charlie Haas-Miss Jackie-Dawn Marie story line, but that is hardly a reason to cut him on the spot. Unless there are other circumstances that I don't know about yet, Rico's release is indicative of WWE's tendency to give up on a wrestler the minute they can't think of any story lines for him.
Johnny Stamboli: He never really got over and was never particularly good in the ring, so I can understand this release. Apparently the WWE's new and ridiculously strict dress code that wrestlers have to follow 24/7 was prompted in part by Stamboli showing up to a TV taping wearing a shirt that had some kind of vulgar saying on it. Management's typical over-reaction led to the current situation where all wrestlers are required to wear a nice suit even if it's 3:00 AM and they're on the way to the hotel in a rental car in the middle of nowhere.
Rodney Mack: He never got a sustained push in WWE, but this release seems a bit heartless given that WWE released Jazz (Mack's real-life wife) on the same day. Husband and wife laid off on the same day... if only that would happen to Stephanie McMahon and Triple H.
Jazz: She was once pushed as a kind of monster heel in the women's division, but her push has been sporadic at best. Her release is surprising if for no other reason because WWE only has about seven women wrestling in Raw's women's division, and they just released three of them.
Gail Kim: She is the third woman released this week, accounting for almost half of the female roster on Raw. Gail Kim was given a big push out of the gate with a Women's Title win during her Raw debut, but since then has suffered a variety of injuries, ranging from a partially broken collarbone to one of her implants leaking and needing to be repaired. Gail Kim has a small frame and the concern was that it would not be able to hold up to injuries under the rigorous WWE schedule of being on the road taking bumps 250+ days a year.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Politics--- It is now Judgment Day for the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John Kerry, with their fate now in the hands of America's voters (and ten to twenty thousand lawyers being flown around the country in chartered jets). The following is an overview of the poll averages from RealClearPolitics.com, followed by my thoughts and analysis.
Please note that these are NOT the actual results of any national or state elections; these are merely the final poll numbers headed into Election Day.
Result: Bush favored by 1.5%
Bush has had the lead in the national poll average to the tune of 1-4 percentage points for the past several weeks, and in the final week it narrowed from the 2.5 range to the final tally of 1.5 percent. Of the 14 final national polls, only two of them are predicting a Kerry victory in the popular vote (Fox News and Marist). Two other polls have it dead-even (Gallup and ARG), while the remaining ten polls all give it to President Bush.
Conventional wisdom for presidential elections is that the incumbent must have a lead of several points in the final national polls in order to overcome the fact that undecided voters usually end up heavily favoring the challenger. The question facing pollsters and America today is whether this is going to be the "typical election" in terms of how the undecided voters break down, or whether this election is unique because of the unusually high percentage of voters who are firmly supporting one candidate or the other.
Swing State Polls
Result: Bush favored by 0.6%
This state is extremely important for the Bush campaign. Its lead of 1.0 in the RCP Average a week ago has gone up and down over the past week before finally settling in on a microscopic 0.6% lead for Bush. If anything, the state has been trending slightly towards Kerry in the past few days' worth of polls, which has to have Republicans worried. If Bush loses Florida, it will be extremely hard for him to come up with the required 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.
Result: Bush favored by 2.1%
This state was exactly tied in the RCP Average one week ago, and since then it developed into a 1-2 point lead for Kerry before swinging strongly in the past few days towards Bush. Of the eight final state polls in Ohio, all but one of them have Bush winning. This has to be particularly troubling for the Kerry campaign because Kerry needs to win Ohio a lot more than Bush does. Bush can actually afford to lose Ohio due to the fact that he appears to be picking up several states that were Gore states in 2000. On the other hand, Kerry absolutely must win Ohio unless he is able to upset Bush in Florida.
Result: Kerry favored by 0.9%
The common line of thinking a few months ago is that Pennsylvania would be a vitally important swing state, and that the presidency would ultimately be won by the candidate who won two out of three in the Florida-Ohio-Pennsylvania trio. That line of thinking has been undermined in the past couple months by a consistent lead for Kerry in the poll averages, at times by as much as three or four points. The last week's worth of polls have been trending towards Bush and have narrowed the deficit to 0.9 percent, but it is still considered unlikely that Bush will win this state. The belief within both the Democratic and Republican camps is that while it might be close, Kerry will win Pennsylvania. An upset here, while unlikely, would change the whole dynamic of the election because Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes could easily be substituted for Ohio's 20 electoral votes in the event that Bush loses Ohio.
Result: Bush favored by 0.9%
If the election is going to come down to any single state other than Florida and Ohio, it is likely to be Wisconsin. The expectation in the last few weeks has been that Bush is more likely than not to win Wisconsin (which went to Gore in 2000), and that is still the expectation despite a narrowing in the last few days' worth of polls. The reason Wisconsin is so important is because if Bush loses Ohio, he will have to pick up either Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Michigan if he wants to win the election, and Wisconsin is easily the most likely of those states to switch over to the Bush column in 2004.
Result: Kerry favored by 3.2%
Up until about a month ago, Minnesota was not really considered a swing state and looked to be an easy victory for Kerry. In the last few weeks of the campaign season, the RCP Average started to narrow to within a few percentage points, then down to one percentage point, and at one point even a one percentage point lead for Bush. However, in the last week polls have shown the state to be swinging back towards Kerry, with four of the six final state polls predicting a Kerry victory. A win here for Bush is considered an achievable but still unlikely upset. Minnesota is extremely important because its ten electoral votes could easily be substituted for Wisconsin's ten electoral votes in the scenario where Bush loses Ohio and needs to pick up one of the northern three states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan).
Result: Kerry favored by 3.5%
Unlike its neighboring states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, Michigan has not stood out as a swing state with polls favoring both of the candidates. Instead, the polls have consistently shown Kerry ahead, although by a much smaller margin than would be required to say that the state is "safely" in Kerry's corner. Out of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, it is clear that Michigan is the least likely to swing in Bush's favor at the last minute.
Result: Bush favored by 0.3%
This is a state that Al Gore narrowly won in 2000, but it has been consistently in the Republicans' column by several points over the past several weeks. Last-minute polls by Zogby and SurveyUSA have considerably narrowed the RCP Average, but it is still expected within both campaigns that Iowa is more likely than not to be won by Bush. The booming economy and social conservatism of Iowa make it fundamentally hard for Kerry to win this state, but he remains within striking distance of doing so. If Bush loses Florida or Ohio, part of the contingency package that Bush would have to pick up would include Iowa.
Result: Kerry favored by 1.0%
Bush narrowly won this state in the 2000 election and is now favored to lose narrowly in this election. Kerry's average lead in the polls has ranged from 1-2 percent in recent weeks, and that pattern has held up in the final week of polling. Nonetheless, New Hampshire is considered easily win-able by either candidate and will be watched very closely because there are a number of scenarios in which the other 49 states could produce electoral ties or near-ties, and it's entirely conceivable that New Hampshire's four electoral votes could end up deciding the presidency.
Result: Bush favored by 1.4%
Al Gore won this state by less than 1,000 votes in the 2000 election, but it has been steadily trending Republican ever since and appears to be a likely victory for Bush. Make no mistake about it, though, New Mexico is one of the final handful of the closest swing states, and its outcome is considered far less certain than the outcomes of states that get more attention like Pennsylvania and Michigan. New Mexico is critical to the Bush contingency plan if Kerry wins Florida. If Kerry wins Florida, a Bush victory in the presidential election would require the very unlikely feat of Bush winning four of the following five states: Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New Mexico. If one of those four states were to be New Mexico, the election would actually be tied at 269 electoral votes apiece, assuming that there were no surprises in the non-swing states. New Mexico only has five electoral votes, so its outcome won't be watched quite as closely as another key swing state in Iowa with its seven electoral votes.
Result: Bush favored by 6.3%
Nevada was a swing state a few months ago and has been incorrectly called a swing state in recent days and weeks by people who haven't been paying attention to the polls, which have sharply favored Bush. I don't expect Nevada to be as much of a blow-out as the RCP Average would suggest, but it would be one of the biggest upsets of Election Day if Kerry were to actually win the state. It's worth noting that Democrats had initially planned to win this election in part by taking over the "Sun Belt States" of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, which don't have a lot of electoral votes individually but do make for a nice electoral package if you can sweep all of them. That plan has fallen apart in recent months, as Arizona and Utah aren't even remotely close, Nevada is strongly leaning Bush, and only New Mexico is still a toss-up.
Result: Bush favored by 5.2%
Colorado was considered to be right next to the Democrats' Sun Belt strategy of making inroads in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, but like all of those states except for New Mexico, it has become a solid Bush state in recent weeks and months. Colorado is still worth keeping an eye on if for no other reason because it appears to be Grand Central Station for election fraud in this campaign season. Statistics show that there are significantly more people registered to vote in Colorado than there are people actually living in Colorado. Nonetheless, a minimal amount of legal effort to challenge fraudulent votes has been focused on Colorado because it's expected to be a win for Bush regardless of the apparent "Vote Early, Vote Often" tendencies.
Result: Bush favored by 0.9%
Hawaii is the wild card of the 2004 election. This is a state that Al Gore won by a whopping 18 percentage points in 2000, which is what made is so shocking in mid-October when two Hawaii polls not only showed a close election, but Bush actually holding a narrow lead. There are reasons for Hawaii to be trending Republican, given that in 2002 it elected its first Republican governor in decades. In an election that could come down to a few electoral votes, the Republicans recognized the importance of Hawaii's four electoral votes by staging a rally earlier this week attended by Dick Cheney, and the Democrats were concerned enough to counter by sending Al Gore to have a pro-Kerry rally. That is significant and shows that internal Democratic polling may also show a very tight race in Hawaii; otherwise they wouldn't have sent Al Gore half-way across the Pacific Ocean when there are lots of other places they could be sending him. Despite all of this, it's still considered slightly more likely than not that Kerry will win Hawaii due to the fact that there have only been two state polls in recent months, and they were both 2-3 weeks ago, and it's just not conceivable in many people's minds that a state could go from an 18-point lead for one party in a presidential election to a win for the other party in the very next election. If the election in the continental United States is deadlocked, it's going to be a very long night because of the time-zone difference and the fact that Hawaii's polls don't close until 1:00 AM Eastern Standard Time.
Former Swing States
The following states were once considered swing states, but are now considered to be firmly behind one of the candidates. It's possible but unlikely that we will see an upset in one or more of these states (heavily-favored candidate in parenthesis).
Arkansas (Bush), Maine (Kerry), Missouri (Bush), New Jersey (Kerry), Oregon (Kerry), Washington (Kerry), West Virginia (Bush)
The following states are not expected to be close at all, and it would be a huge surprise if there were an upset in any of these states. However, only in looking at the final results of the states below will we be able to identify the swing states of tomorrow. For example, if a particular party won a state in 2000 by eight or more percentage points and is heavily favored to do so again, but they end up only winning the state by 2-4 points, that state is likely to be a 2008 swing state.
A perfect example of this would be Ohio, which was considered to be an easy victory for the Republicans in 2000. When Bush only won Ohio by 3.5 percentage points in 2000, it sent chills down the spines of the Republicans and represented a new hope for Democrats. Sure enough, here we are four years later and Ohio is almost dead-even and could very well decide who will be the next president of the United States.
So, don't expect any upsets in the following states, but do expect some of them to become crucial swing states in the 2008 presidential election.
Firmly Behind Kerry: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, District of Columbia
Firmly Behind Bush: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming
Combined Electoral Count and Analysis
The closest estimate we can get to the final predicted Electoral Count in this election is to assume that the RCP Average leaders are going to win each state, whether it's a landslide like California or a tightly contested state like Florida. Using that math (and giving Hawaii to Kerry), the average of all polls favors Bush to win in the electoral college, 295 to 259.
That might seem like a wide margin for Bush at first glance, but it's really not. If the RCP Averages hold true except Bush loses Florida, Kerry wins the election. If the RCP Averages hold true except Bush loses Ohio, Kerry wins the election. Those are the two most likely scenarios in which Bush could lose, so let's take a look at what would happen in both of them.
Bush is extremely unlikely to win the election if he loses Florida. If Bush loses Florida and all of other states vote as expected, a Bush victory would require Bush to win Ohio and also win three of the following four states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and New Mexico. It is extremely unlikely that Bush is going to win three of those four states, so it is absolutely vital for him to win Florida.
If Bush loses Ohio and all of the other states vote as expected, a Bush victory would require Bush to win Florida and also win two of the following three states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. It's considered about 50-50 whether Bush would be able to win three of those three states, given that polls show him narrowly ahead in Wisconsin and Iowa, and narrowly behind in Minnesota.
So, there you have it. The RCP Averages suggest that Bush is going to win in the electoral college, 295 to 259, but either candidate could easily end up with 300 or more electoral votes. There are also several highly possible scenarios in which the electoral college could also end up being 276 to 262 in favor of one candidate, or 272 to 266, or 270 to 268, or even (God forbid) 269 to 269. The only truly safe prediction is that anything can happen and you should expect the unexpected.
Politics--- I would like to take a moment to discuss the importance of the electoral college. Contrary to the views of many pundits who do not understand it, the electoral college is vital to having "fair" elections. If it weren't for the electoral college, the candidates could focus their entire campaigns on eight or nine heavily populated states that hold more than half of America's population, and completely ignore the other 40+ states. The founding fathers of this country created the electoral college for that very reason--- so that candidates couldn't just go into heavily-populated areas and "buy votes" by exclusively catering to those areas. Even as it is with the electoral college, it is heavily weighted with the more heavily populated states getting a lot more electoral votes (California's 55 electoral votes are more than double the amount of any other state).
People who do not understand the importance of the electoral college also justify their positions by saying, "The candidates are spending all of their time in ten states anyway!" That is true, but it is also missing the entire point. With a nationwide popular vote instead of the electoral college, candidates could focus exclusively on the eight or nine most heavily-populated states in the country, and they could focus on those same states every single election. With the electoral college, the candidates have to appease all 50 states but spend most of their final campaigning time in 10-15 "swing states."
This is the way it has always been and is perfectly fair because what constitutes a "swing state" has nothing to do with a state's population... instead, the swing states are the states where the polls are the closest, the states where the citizens are the most divided on who they should vote for, and therefore the states where the candidates' visits and words are all the more important in helping the public make up its collective mind.
Also, as states become increasingly more conservative or liberal over time, the list of swing states is always going to be different in any given election. A swing state this year might not be a swing state in 2008 if the public sways strongly in the direction of one party or the other, and there are plenty of non-swing states this year that could very well be swing states in 2008 (including my state of Maryland).
It's a reality of politics that 10-15 states are going to get most of the candidates' attention in the final weeks of a presidential campaign. Doesn't it make more sense for those states to be largely different in every election and determined by which states are the most closely contested, rather than the same in every election and determined solely by which states are the most heavily populated?