Cautious Optimism for WWE’s New Era (And the Brand Split)

Up until this morning, I was going to title this column, “The Hypocrisy of WWE’s New Era.” What followed was going to be a lengthy tirade about how the “New Era” was nothing more than a shiny paint job covering the same product that WWE has been cranking out for most of the decade: an authority figure running Raw (usually a McMahon),  cliche storylines being favored over quality wrestling matches with stakes and the wrestlers that the smarks preferred constantly being cast aside and buried in favor of the “face” of the company. I had intended on being wonderfully cynical and brutally sardonic.

But then I woke up the other day and heard about the upcoming brand split. Heard how Smackdown is going to be a live show now and will feature its very own roster of superstars. Supposedly, this will help make Smackdown relevant for the first time in years, a move that many fans have clamored for since… well, for a pretty damn long time. It also suggests that maybe WWE isn’t just spewing out empty promises when it refers to the New Era and that it actually plans on capitalizing on its talented and promising roster.

Of course, there’s always the chance that WWE could blow this. They have an uncanny knack for doing just that.

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Are the Nuggets Stuck in Basketball Purgatory?

Since I am living in Cleveland at the moment I decided to make a deal with Jesse. I’m jumping on the Cleveland Cavaliers bandwagon until either A. I move away from Cleveland or B. The Denver Nuggets make the playoffs. Since I’m only planning on staying in Cleveland for 2 years it looks like the former option will come first.

Why such a gloom analysis of a young Nuggets team? It’s simple really, the Nuggets have been stuck in purgatory. No, not the place where everyone hung out in season 6 of LOST (spoilers?) and not the place your Catholic Priest says dead babies go to. No, they are stuck in basketball purgatory which is the worst place to be in the NBA.

You see in basketball, unlike other some other sports, you are only as good as your best player (unless your team is coached by George Karl and your best player is Ty Lawson (!!) and you somehow manage to beat the franchise record for most wins in a season but even then your team decides to clean house and start over because…reasons??) Rarely does a team sustain success without a (or three) star player.

Don’t believe me? Why don’t we turn to the best player in the NBA over the last 13 seasons, LeBron James. For years this dude dragged some terrible basketball teams to the playoffs, one year he even dragged them to the Finals! Eventually he saw the rival Boston Celtics gather three superstars on their way to two Finals appearances. James decided this was a good idea and found himself some superstar teammates in Miami.

If the greatest player since Michael Jordan decides he needs more superstars in order to be successful in the NBA then it stands to reason that is the best path for any team right?

Now this is where it gets tricky. To get a superstar you have three options: hope your team either wins the NBA Draft Lottery, woos a superstar in free agency or trades for one.

And how do you win the Lottery? You play really, really bad and get a little lucky. Don’t want to tank? Well then you better hope you have a superstar on your roster in order to attract that other superstar to your team because he is not signing without one or two. Don’t have a superstar and you don’t want to tank? Well I hope you have accumulated a ton of assets. Even that’s probably not enough. You also need a superstar somewhere in the league that is upset with his current situation (like how Melo was upset that Denver wasn’t New York).

So there you have it. It’s easy right? If you don’t have at least one superstar, get one, and then get some more. And there are many avenues to do that right? It’s so simple. Except it’s not. Sometimes teams get stuck in the middle. They aren’t any good and have no shot at competing for a championship. But they also aren’t incredibly bad either. This middle ground is pretty infuriating as a basketball fan. You want your team to make moves to get better but those moves come with a lot of risk. You feel destined to forever be the team that easily miss the playoffs but not quite bad enough to have a real shot at the lottery. You start feeling jealous of teams that are tanking. You look at their 12 win season and you imagine what it must be like to have hope for your future. It’s a dark place really.

Which leads me to where the Nuggets have been the last few seasons. Purgatory. They haven’t been bad enough to tank a season (and were too stubborn to do so under Brian Shaw). They haven’t had a superstar built in to attract another to sign here. And while they’ve had some attractive assets thanks to the Melo trade there hasn’t been a good opportunity to trade for a superstar.

As we go into the offseason I can’t help but wonder, are the people in charge of the Nuggets ready to take this team to the next level? Or are they happy moving sideways in purgatory?

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Broncos QB’s Will Be Better in 2016 (Seriously)

If you’ve been watching SportsCenter lately, you know that the experts don’t think much of the Broncos’ chances to defend their Super Bowl title. Apparently, the team is about to endure its first losing season since 2010, when some guy named McDaniels was sent by Bill Belichick to ruin the Broncos flaming out as a head coach. The losses of Brent (or is it Brad?) Osweiler, Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan are insurmountable. Never mind the fact that the Broncos had some of the worst quarterback play in the league last season, or that Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and members of the No Fly Zone still spearhead the NFL’s no. 1 defense. The “experts” have spoken and 2016 is going to be a horrible year at Mile High, right?

Well, maybe for Sports Authority, but for the team? Not so much.

I don’t think I have to defend the idea that despite the loss of two starters, the defense will be pretty good again this season. Probably damn good. I also believe that it won’t be overly difficult for the Broncos to improve on their quarterback situation from a year ago, and that is indeed an idea worth exploring. Hit the jump and we’ll take a look.

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The Big Short: A Scary Realization

When I was first hired on as an analyst at a top 20 bank I was buried in nondisclosure agreements, inter-company ethic codes and complicated rules regarding my personal investments. In addition I was drowning in banking terms like leveraged leases, basis points, normalized yields, and derivative swaps.

I felt overwhelmed and exhausted with all this new information and all of these rules and regulations. I couldn’t help but wonder how a seemingly simple idea like banking (a business that holds people’s money and uses it to create loans for other people) could be so…complicated.

As any good employee does, I decided to do some research on my own time. Where did I turn for knowledge on the in’s and out’s of the banking industry? Why Hollywood of course!

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The Jungle Book: Much More than a Bare Necessity

One thing that irks me about Hollywood these days is the overwhelming amount of remakes that are churned out. We have become so inundated by reboots, retellings and retries that we sort of just accept it as the way things are. When a guy like Michael Bay sets out to ruin our childhood by butchering Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we don’t get that upset about it because we expect to be disappointed.

My girlfriend tells me that I’m too cynical when it comes to movies and that is probably true to an extent, but often times these remakes are shameless cash grabs. There’s no effort to honor the spirit of the original story or to enhance it in any way, because they know people will go see it regardless of how much care is taken to produce a quality film. The same could’ve easily been true for The Jungle Book and considering how difficult it must be to create a successful live-action adaptation of a boy hanging out with talking animals, I’d say my skeptical attitude was well-founded.

Which is why it thrills me to admit that The Jungle Book is the rare remake that put all of those fears to rest. There’s no better feeling than to brace yourself for the worst and then receive the best.

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Batman vs Spider-Man

You read that title right. Between Batman V Superman and Civil War, it’s the year of the superhero fight. Naturally we wanted to cash in on this topic and pit Kevin’s favorite superhero (your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man) against Jesse’s favorite superhero (the hero Gotham deserves, Batman).

Just to clarify, we are not going to discuss which superhero would win in a fight because it would totally be the one with ACTUAL superhero powers because that’s mostly impossible to know. Instead we are debating why we believe our superhero to be superior entertainment wise. We can argue about comics, movies, and shitty Adam West TV series or about origin story, abilities and costumes. Whatever we want, just not about an actual battle.

So strap on your utility belt, grab your web slingers and take a jump to see who we crown the ultimate superhero.

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