What CM Punk’s return means to Wrestling

CM Punk

It had been almost seven years since the last time we saw CM Punk in a wrestling ring. Wrestling fans around the world wanted him back. For many years, we heard CM Punk chants all over wrestling arenas and shows, hoping to see him once again. WWE couldn’t bring him back, it was up to AEW to do that.

I didn’t know what to expect when I saw him on the AEW TV show that particular Friday night. I had almost forgotten how he sounded on the mic. I have to say that It was refreshing to see him back in a wrestling ring. He still looked like the best in the world.

I have said many times that Chicago fans are the best wrestling fans in the world. The last big ‘pop’ that I can remember in the last 10 years was probably from CM punk himself in the WWE Money in the Bank PPV in 2011, also in Chicago.  

The ‘pop’ when he came through the curtains was Stone Cold like, no doubt.  It brought back memories from the attitude era. The return of CM Punk not only provoked that type of reaction at the United Center, it gave fans another reason to watch AEW, and in the process also changed wrestling forever.

It is safe to say that WWE is not on the driving seat anymore. AEW has the talent, the infrastructure and the resources to challenge Vince McMahon and his crew now. The ratings do not reflect just how good AEW could be just yet. However, casual wrestling fans who know CM Punk will tune in to watch and not only see Punk perform, but also get a closer look at other wrestling talent of the company. I anticipate that in the near future more stars will join AEW. We now have Bryan Danielson in the promotion, which was exciting to see as well.

CM Punk is back to fulfill his own personal thirst for the business. He missed the spotlight and performing in front of the fans. He missed the ring. But, make no mistake about it, he is also back to bring down the WWE. I am not sure if indeed that would happen, but AEW and Punk have a real chance to do it, more than any other wrestling promotion since the WCW.

It’s safe to say that it is up to AEW, Khan and the wrestling talent to make the company the best organization in wrestling. I’m sure that we will remember Punk’s return to wrestling as a before and after. Vince and his company aren’t safe anymore. It’s a good thing for us wrestling fans.

Number 44, the President, the fan.

President Obama is a Bulls fan and he's not afraid to show it.
Barack Obama wearing a Chicago Bulls hat during a political campaign rally.

It was October of 2009. Chicago had just been nominated to represent the United States hoping to once again host the summer Olympics in 2016. The last time that the US had hosted such games, was in 1996 in Atlanta.

I remember I was in my car on my way to get coffee and a snack, when I heard then President of the United States himself, Barack Obama giving a speech in favor of hosting the Chicago summer Olympics on live radio. I was impressed, and also proud. A President of the U.S standing there in front of the Olympic organizers speaking in support of his hometown.

As only Obama can do, he eloquently stated why Chicago was the perfect and only city in the world to host the summer Olympics. The audience seemed and sounded captivated and impressed. However, fast forward and as we know, Chicago didn’t host the summer Olympics in 2016, at the end , Rio de Janeiro received the nomination. It was the first time I saw Mr. Obama go all in when it came to sports, and in support of his hometown, but that certainly was not the last.

Chicago is a union town, a very political town. It is believed that one of the reasons why the city was not chosen is because the Olympic committee knew that the majority of Chicago residents were not in support of it. Of course, that is only speculation, and the idea that Chicago was not ready to host the summer games still bothers many Chicagoans and Americans alike.

That was one of the many times that President Obama made headlines when it came sports. He confessed his love for the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox on many occasions. He even spoke in favor of Lebron James leaving Cleveland for his Bulls during a TNT interview in 2010.

During a well documented visit from the Lakers to the White House in 2009, he made a joke about Magic Johnson reminiscing of the 1991 Bulls Championship. He gave exact details of the play, where Michael Jordan famously switch hands in mid air in front of Magic Johnson who was also at the White House. The crowd burst in laughter. It was great to see that an American President knew what he was talking about.

Obama became a regular appearing in NBA games, sporting events and television shows. He was comfortable speaking about sports and interacting with athletes more than any other modern President. During the MLB All Star in 2010, he threw the ceremonial first pitch, to date, one of the loudest ovations for any politician in a baseball game.

After Obama left office we saw a decline in professional teams visiting the White House. Many players refused to meet Mr. Trump, and other teams simply decided not to visit the White House, such as the Golden State Warriors when they won their ring in 2018. Now with Joe Biden in office, we may see a return to the W.H visits from professional teams. However, let’s face it, none of them will be as cool and memorable as when athletes were meeting number 44.

He is definitely missed.

Triple G should stop chasing a third fight with Canelo

Gennady Golovkin Rips Canelo Alvarez, Says a 3rd Fight 'Will Eventually  Happen' | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights
GGG should stop chasing Canelo and focus on extending his own legacy

Many boxing critics believed that Gennady G. Golovkin beat Canelo Alvarez in at least one of their two mega fights. In fact, Golovkin himself is sure that he defeated the Mexican fighter in both of those matchups.

However, the problem with those two bouts is that they were both extremely close to call. It’s difficult for someone to say for certain who won, if none of the fights ended on a knockout. After all, boxing is an appreciation sport. I for example, have both matches a draw, but I’m completely fine when people claim either boxer won. It was simply that close.

It’s well known that for many years Triple G chased the Canelo fight. He wanted his big payday and the big platform. He was the most feared boxer in his division and in the sport, but truth to be told, he was not a money maker, and so he needed a partner to elevate his brand.

Canelo was already an established figure in the sport, having fought the likes of Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather and Amir Khan. In addition, Gennady was convinced that the Canelo fight was gonna be a walk in the park. He felt he was the superior boxer.

Prior to those fights, Triple G was beating all of his opponents convincingly. Often times not going to distance, or even passing the second round. He was ranked at the top of the the pound for pound list by multiple boxing critics and magazines. Even after the first Canelo fight, he was still on the top of the list.

He could have easily gone on with his boxing career without fighting Canelo ever again, without the rematch. People already recognized his talents and boxing skills, and was seen as a Champion. His mistake, was to chase the second fight. After the loss, he became even more obsessed with a third fight and his career took a dramatic turn.

Since 2017, he has fought low competition cherry picking his opponents and taking long breaks in between fights. He fired his boxing trainer Abel Sanchez and several of his coaches.

He is no longer considered a pound for pound fighter and to make matters worse next year he will turn 40, so it’s safe to say that his prime may be behind him. Instead of fighting the top names of the middleweight division, Golovkin seems to be waiting for Canelo and his team to call him for a third ‘mega fight’.

That sort of take on his career has upset many of his boxing fans and the boxing community, labeled him a sellout and and a money chaser, rather than a boxer seeking to fight the best possible fighters. Even after his last fight, when he finally scored a knockout versus Kamil Szeremeta, GGG still mentioned Canelo’s name for potential future bouts after his post fight press conference.

The truth is that Triple G doesn’t seem to be on Canelo’s future plans. In fact, Canelo has stated many times that a fight with Golovkin is not something he is considering in the near future. For Triple G facing the likes of Charlo, Benavidez and even a Spence would generate a buzz and would make great fights for boxing fans.

It’s better for Golovkin to chase other fighters and close his career as a true champion like he once was, winning or losing, but giving boxing fans what they really want. If Triple G decides to do that instead of chasing the third fight with Canelo, he could extend his career and moreover grow his legacy. My sense is that he will continue pushing for the third fight with Canelo, and my prediction is that this time it will not end well for Gennady G. Golovkin.

The Undertaker saved WWE and It all started in 1997

The Undertaker had made his WWE debut in 1990.
The Undertaker

World Championship Wrestling was at the top of their game in 1997. From 1996 until 1998, the WCW/NWO brand was the hottest ticket in the world of sports outside of the NBA Champion Chicago Bulls. There was no doubt that WCW was the top wrestling promotion in the business, with a solid fanbase in America and one growing worldwide.

Many critics believed that at that pace, they were going to drive the WWE out of business sooner rather than later. Nonetheless, Vince McMahon’s company had very talented performers, and a roster that included the likes of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold and the Undertaker. All of them crucial pieces and cornerstones of the company, but none more important then the Deadman himself: The Undertaker.

As we witnessed the last match of his magnificent career, it is important to understand how significant is the Undertaker in the history of the sport, and the crucial part he played in the Monday night wars and the demise of WCW.

The ‘phenom’ made his debut in 1990, during the Survivor Series PPV as Ted Dibiase’s mystery partner, and from day one, he made a tremendous impact. A year later, he defeated the most popular name in the business, Hulk Hogan to win his first WWE championship. However, he quickly lost the belt back to Hogan.

After working with Hogan, the Undertaker continued to be a top name in the company, collaborating with the main heels of the era such as the Yokozunas, the Jake Roberts, the Kamalas, and the Papa Shangos of the world. But, he was never given another shot at the WWE title, neither the opportunity to be the top ‘dog’ of the company. That would change in 1997 at Wrestlemania 13 in Chicago.

Two of my favorite performers of all time Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were given the responsibility of carrying the company alongside a bodyguard made wrestler Kevin Nash. Between the three of them, they traded the WWE world title from 1994 until 1997, all while the Undertaker was among the most popular wrestlers in both the WCW and the WWE. Although, they were outstanding performers, the company was losing in the Monday night ratings, and the money was becoming tight. Bret, HBK and Nash weren’t selling out arenas like the Hulkster, Warrior and Macho Man used to.

But that all changed in 1997. HBK vacated the belt and decided to ‘retire’. Shawn Michaels claimed that he had ‘lost his smile’. Bret Hart was still around, but now he was projecting as a heel, and Nash, well, Nash was enjoying the success of the NWO in WCW. The original plan for the main event at WM13 was the anticipated rematch between Bret and Shawn. WWE was losing badly versus WCW, and Vince was running out of ideas. Vince knew he needing to improvise, and he turned to his best performer and most loyal wrestler. It was the chance that the Undertaker was waiting for.

Wrestling critics believe the genesis of the attitude era actually happened at Wrestlemania 13. They normally point out to the Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin ‘submission match’, as the birth of Austin, the baby face, and hence as the turning point in the Monday night wars. I also think that Austin and later the Rock were the main forces that eventually saved WWE, but they weren’t certainly the first.

What critics usually forget, is that the main event of that PPV included the franchise of the company, the guy that never complained, never ‘lost his smile’. always showed up on time, and the one who according to wrestlers was the leader of the locker room: The Undertaker.

He was facing Sid, and in that match, unlike his first title win versus the Hulkster, he wasn’t the heel, he wasn’t cheating to win. He defeated Sid fair and square via the famous tombstone piledriver. He was finally the WWE champion. What people should understand about this particular title win, is that, although, taker’ had been the most popular wrestler in the WWE, he remained loyal to Vince, he always listened to his boss. Many wrestlers left, he did not. If the Undertaker would have decided to leave the company in 1997, that could have been catastrophic for the WWE. Vince honored him, and Taker delivered.

In 1997, WCW had a popular guy by the name of black and white Sting, and the WWE finally realized that all along they had the their own dark figure in the Undertaker. Vince capitalized. Although, the Undertaker lost the WWE belt versus Bret Hart in that year’s Summer Slam, he closed the year introducing the first ever ‘Hell in the Cell’ match to wrestling fans and feuding with his lost brother Kane that continued until 1998. With and without the belt, he carried the company in 1997. His performances provided WWE with the material needed to compete with WCW.

Bret Hart left for WCW in late 1997. Shawn Michaels created DX and eventually became WWE Champ again, but would retire in 1998. Stone Cold Steve Austin was becoming the most popular wrestler, and eventually became the champion at WM14. The WWE regained control of the Monday night wars, and frankly never looked back. WCW couldn’t stop the WWE tsunami and in 2001 they ended up selling the company to Vince himself.

While most people attribute the success of the Monday Night wars to wrestlers like Stone Cold and the Rock, it was actually the Undertaker who with is popularity, loyalty and performance was able to help WWE defeat WCW. Yes, Austin and the Rock cemented the victory, but it all started that night at the All State Arena when the Undertaker defeated Sid for his second WWE championship.

Anthony Davis: Lebron’s creation

LeBron James and Anthony Davis Lakers
Lebron James and Anthony Davis

“I am taking my talents to south beach”, those were the words that came out of Lebron James during the now infamous ‘The Decision’ segment on ESPN in the summer of 2010. He was leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and was joining the Miami Heat, alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. It was not the first time that a superstar athlete decided to join forces with other superstars on a different team, but the way it was done, certainly was different. It opened the door for more ‘decisions’ in the future.

Many sports journalist, fans and players have gone back to this particular moment in time and agree that there is a before and after in the NBA. Today, superstar players are hoping to play with other star players in the league, and some are unwilling to take on the challenge of becoming the ‘savior’ of a particular franchise and build a contender team from scratch.

The creation of super teams was definitely not Lebron’s idea, but on July 8th, 2010, building a team organically, through the draft by the GM and the coach was severely disrupted. All NBA players past, present and future were watching Lebron’s move, including a young Anthony Davis.

After the Lebron move to the Heat in 2010, we saw many more NBA players leaving and joining other super stars around the league. Chris Paul pushed a trade to leave the Hornets and later joined Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan with the Clippers, Kevin Durant left OKC to play alongside Klay and Steph in Golden State, Steve Nash joined Kobe and Dwight Howard in L.A to challenge Lebron’s Heat, and Carmelo Anthony joined Russell Westbrook and Paul George in OKC among several other moves.

As we were all watching those actions taking place in real time, everything was becoming normal. Kevin Durant left OKC to win a championship in Golden State. In some of those finals he faced Lebron James. Although, some people in the media also criticized KD, he was not demonized for wanting to leave OKC.

For once, it signaled a great time to be an NBA player. It meant that players had more freedom to choose where they wanted to play, and at the same time for them, less individual pressure to deliver wins and a championship for a franchise.

In Cleveland, the pressure was all on Lebron James, as their star player, the media marveled at his play, but also blame him for the losses. In contrast, in Miami the media was on Lebron, but they also were on the rest of team.

The pressure to win a championship was on everyone, including the coach. If they lost, it was because ‘there is only one ball or the three stars’, or ‘ Spoelstra doesn’t know how play three stars’ as many journalist were writing at the time. When teams have multiple stars , the blame is usually on everyone.

The best part about it, was that superstar players would still be making the same money or even better money in their contracts. Playing in the team that you want along superstars players while making a fortune, what is wrong with that?

Fans will always remember that Lebron James took the shortcut. He was unable to deliver a championship on his own in Cleveland. He needed help, not just the help from the GM or owner of the team, but help from other superstar players. People were scratching their heads wondering why such a gifted player like Lebron would want to leave and joined someone else’s team, in that case it was Wade’s Miami Heat. We know what eventually happened, he won a few rings in Miami and went back to Cleveland to finally deliver a ring there.

According to LBJ, beating the Celtics in a Heat uniform was like beating the Pistons for Michael. He is obviously referring to him beating the Celtics, not the Cavaliers, and that is a big difference. At his return to Ohio, It is important to remind you that he won that ring in Cleveland by recruiting star players like Kevin Love and J.R Smith, and playing alongside Kyrie Irving did not hurt either. He seemed to do a Miami in Cleveland all over again.

Lebron James is the best all around player I have ever seen. He is arguably the most gifted player in the history of the game. He is strong, he is fast and he is big. He has also won 4 NBA Championships and appeared in 10 NBA finals, those are tremendous accomplishments. But he is not the GOAT, not even close, and that is not even coming from me. After winning the NBA championship with the Lakers most journalist, fans and even players rank him in the top five.

The debate is whether he is 3 or 4 or 5, or at best 2. Ironically, many people place players like Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Magic Johnson, in the mount Rushmore of the NBA. All of them winning multiple championships with one franchise.

The days of the Jordan’s, Duncan’s or Nowitzki’s may be long gone. Although, very few, players like Damian Lillard, Giannis and Bradley Beal have decided to stay in hopes of delivering a championship to their respective teams and their city, most players are looking to join other star players.

Anthony Davis could have stayed in New Orleans were he was drafted. He could have delivered a championship and become the savior of that franchise ala Michael Jordan in Chicago or Tim Duncan in San Antonio. He decided not to. There were rumors that he was considering signing with the Chicago Bulls, that would have been a legacy move. But, winning a championship in his hometown of Chicago was definitely going to be a lot of pressure.

We know that AD desperately wanted the ‘shield’ Lebron had in Miami. He wanted to play with other superstars. It is true that playing in Los Angeles with Lebron has given him a championship. However, he, like Lebron, and Kevin Durant took the shortcut. It is not his fault though, he is the product of the Lebron James era.

MLS: The league of the future?

Gold Cup 2014, Soldier Field
Chicago Fire’s Soldier Field

It was June 17th, 1994, and the eyes of the world were centered at the United States, specifically at the mythical Soldier Field in Chicago. The new version of the Jules Rimet trophy was finally on American soil. The stadium was packed with ‘real’ soccer fans and with world leaders , entertainers and politicians present observing and watching what was labeled at the time the greatest World Cup in history. People across America were also captivated by the inaugural game of the 1994 World Cup watching it on television, breaking all soccer TV ratings. Yes, for the first time in the history of sports, soccer was making the evening news and more importantly soccer was a topic of conversation. The game featured a young Bolivian squad led by Marco ‘El Diablo’ Etcheverry facing off against a world soccer power and champion Germany. It was popular World Cup, and one that was believed would change how Americans viewed the sport. Fans seemed hungry for a soccer league then. However, almost 30 years since US 94′ and by no means soccer is among the most popular sports leagues in America. The question is: What went wrong? Although, the MLS is not as popular as some may thought, the league still looks promising. In order to be successful, there are important steps that the league needs to take to become a popular sports league. If the MLS adopts them, I can assure you that the league can still become the football league of the future.

The first and most important one is to understand the market and its fanbase. It is almost unreal that it took nearly twenty years for MLS management to figure out who its market was. I have to admit that there been significant progress in terms of understanding who is consuming the league in the last few years. However, that was not the case in the late 90’s and 2000s. America unlike what other foreign fans may think, has ‘real’ soccer fans. By that, I mean that fans are extremely knowledgeable and passionate. They research and are aware of the news across the Football world. They were like that even before the explosion of the internet. The product must be of the best quality in order to be consumed in America. As an example, I remember that the MLS had something called ‘shout outs’ to determine a winner in their early years of the league. Most of the original teams played on American Football stadiums, and that just did not feel right . I remember this was upsetting for many fans in the states and around the world. This sort of underestimation by the MLS of its fanbase and market proved to be a huge mistake. The league has done a better job in understanding the needs and preferences of its fanbase. But the lack of that knowledge prevented the league to become popular in the early 2000’s. The MLS should continue researching and learning more about the American soccer fan.

Another example of how the league underestimated its market, was by introducing the so called ‘franchise’ player in the mid 90’s. This was an attempt to attract casual fans and mainstream fans with name recognition. What it actually did, was to devaluate the league. The competition become weak and that was reflected when MLS teams faced Mexican and Latin American clubs in international competition. Teams wasted most of its budget signing an old ‘washed up’ player from Europe or Latin America, that most often than not, contributed very little to the success of the team. Although, the franchise player status still exists, some teams are now looking into south America and the Mexican league to sign talent. They still pay big bucks for them, but at least this type of moves increases the level of competition around the league. If MLS officials decide to abandon the franchise player tag all together, that would be the one of the best moves the league could make. Teams will be able to sign multiple high level young players for the price of one. It will increase competition and perhaps eventually pay off, by selling them to Europe as many leagues like Mexico and Argentina do. They can potentially have a return for their investment. Fans will see that teams are really trying to win a championship and not to simply make a profit.

Finally, it is crucial to change the whole calendar. This perhaps is the biggest challenge the league faces. It is for many reasons. The television networks still do not trust that people will turn in to watch a soccer game over a baseball game or a basketball game per say. MLS is always given the worse deals and relegated to be on an obscure channel like a ESPN 4 or a CPAN type of sporting channel. In order to get more prime time, the league is forced to come up with a calendar that goes against what the rest of the world does. When most leagues in the world are deep into their championships in late January, the MLS is barely starting their pre-season games. By doing this, the MLS is able to get some prime time slots on channels like Univision and ESPN Deportes, but significantly lowering its competition. The MLS historically has blamed the cold weather in many US states for the late start of its championship. If that was the case, then Germany, Poland or Russia would start their football leagues until the end of March as well. The NFL would start its season in March and end in October. I suspect that by providing its fans a quality product, fans will follow. If TV networks see that stadiums are filling and fans are responding they will give the MLS the time slots it deserves. We are actually seeing some of that television time for new and popular teams such as the Atlanta United and the LAFC. MLS, please give fans the opportunity to see a champion being crown in the summer.

The league still has potential. I can make a bold prediction and say that in 10 to 15 years the MLS will surpass the NHL in popularity and perhaps challenge baseball for TV ratings. In order to do that, they have to provide its fans with a great product. No one expected that the MLS would be this big in 2020. They actually had bigger plans for it. In my estimation is still the football league of the future. However, they must treat fans with respect, follow my recommendations and as an added bonus, please stop bringing more expansion teams. In the United States there is a market for everything, that’s right, we just like things done right.

The future was unknown for the MLS in 1994 as it was for ‘El Diablo’ Etcheverry in the inaugural US 94′ game versus Germany in Chicago. He was given a red card in the first few minutes of that game and was unable to help his team advance to the second round. As a fun fact, It was one of the fastest red cards in World Cup history. If the MLS does not get his stuff together, fans and critics will give the league a red card as well. For now, I give the league a yellow card and a warning, it has survived longer than expected.