4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

WrestleMania 36 for beginners, because what else is on - Part 1

Royal Rumble in January is the beginning of the road to WrestleMania. Photo By Paul Muth

You are witnessing the definition of a "captive audience."

The sports world has been eighty-six-ed for the foreseeable future, and if you want to keep watching what has become 8 separate ESPN Classic channels, don't let me get in the way.

There is one athletic event, however, that has endured against all odds. That is the sport of professional wrestling.

Due to COVID-19-related bans on large gatherings, The WWE has been forced to perform "The Showcase of the Immortals" behind closed doors, and without a live audience. The show, however, will still go on.

So if you've run out of Tiger Kings and NBA Playoff reruns to watch, allow me to suggest the aforementioned: WRESTLEMANIA 36

Look, if you're not a wrestling fan I know what you're thinking. But I don't care, because we could all use a little escapism at this point. So just quit being a Negative Nancy, grab a beer with a socially distant bro (or bro-dette), and watch the absurdity unfold for a few hours this weekend.

The following is a guide intended for anyone tuning into WrestleMania this weekend, since it's basically the only sport(ish) event that's been on for some time.

Vitals

WHAT: WrestleMania 36

WHEN: Saturday at 6 pm, central; Sunday at 6 pm

HOW TO WATCH: Pay-Per-View or WWE Network. If you're a new subscriber, it's free for a week or something. No excuses.

Matches (with appropriate GIF representation)

WWE Championship Match: Brock Lesnar (Champ)

vs Drew McIntyre

The skinny

Drew McIntyre's got a Scottish thing going on, he's like 6'5", and his signature move is a flying front kick to the face. He won the Royal Rumble back in January, which gave him the right to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. Lesnar is a big dude that WWE has spent the past year building up as basically unstoppable. These guys are both brick houses so it should be a pretty awesome match

Who should I root for?

McIntyre, for sure. It's a good redemption story if anything, since he was fired from WWE and basically out on the street some years back. Now he's headlining WrestleMania, and that's cool. Plus he's funny.

Prediction

McIntyre wins because Lesnar maintaining would be a pretty boring storyline.

WWE Universal Championship Match: Goldberg (Champ)

vs....someone?

The skinny

Goldberg won the belt in a boring match out in Saudi Arabia right before WrestleMania for some reason. The old guy was supposed to take on Roman Reigns, but Reigns is an immunocompromised Leukemia survivor and it made absolutely no sense for him to take any chances right now. SO! We have no idea who Goldberg is fighting.

Who should I root for?

The other guy. Goldberg's old.

Prediction

The other guy, why not.

WWE Raw Women's Championship: Becky Lynch (Champ)

vs Shayna Baszler

The skinny

Becky Lynch is basically the face of WWE at the moment. Shayna Baszler is a former UFC fighter that recently got the call up from NXT, which is basically WWE's minor league farm system (don't @ me wrestling bro, this is for casual fans). Baszler cut through the competition in an Elimination Chamber match to earn the right to challenge Lynch and they've been ambushing each other in the weeks since. Should be a good match.

Who should I root for?

Eh, depends. Baszler is supposed to be the bad guy, but she's the better performer. Lynch has all the swagger though. I think Baszler winning would open up more storylines later on, so that's my call.

Prediction

Lynch catches a beatdown but defends successfully

WWE Smackdown Women's Championship Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match: Bayley (Champ)

vs Lacey Evans

vs Naomi

vs Sasha Banks

vs Tamina

The skinny

Bayley has been the champ for some time now. This time last year Bayley was one half of the women's tag team championship with the whole "heart of gold, girl next door" angle. Since then she's turned heel and adopted the "I'd like to speak to your manager" hairstyle. Basically everyone in this match is a B-lister or an up and comer, with the exception of the other half of that previously mentioned tag team -- Sasha Banks. Banks was a surprise add, forcing the two buddies to throw down.

Who should I root for?

Naomi. She's a lot of fun, and her shoes light up.

Prediction

It's obviously going to come down to Bayley vs Banks at the end. I say let's give the belt to Sasha for awhile.

NXT Women's Championship: Rhea Ripley (Champ)

vs Charlotte Flair

The skinny

Rhea Ripley was the NXT champ successor once Shayna Baszler got the call up. Charlotte Flair won the Women's Royal Rumble, which gave her the right to challenge for any belt. For some reason, they thought a good storyline would be for Flair to punch down and have Ripley antagonize her into challenging for the Women's NXT title. Weird premise, but whatever. They're both big and strong, so it should be a great match.

Who to root for

Ripley is the up and comer from NXT, and she's got a cool Australian accent. Flair is already a WWE hall of famer. I'd root for Flair, I guess.

Prediction

This one's tough. I'll say Ripley wins because it would be weird for Flair to reign as what is basically WWE's minor league (again, don't @ me).

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Sami Zayn (champ)

vs Daniel Bryan

The skinny

Sami Zayn hasn't had the belt for too long at all. Daniel Bryan got his shot after his buddy beat up Zayn's buddy. There hasn't really been a lot of build up to this match, but they're both good wrestlers so it should be a decent match.

Who should I root for?

Zayn's the heel, but he's great at it. I vote Zayn.

Prediction

Zayn is going to have like three dudes roaming the ringside. I see a lot of cheap shots and Zayn keeping the title.

Singles Match: Otis

vs Dolph Ziggler

The skinny

There's no gold on the line here. Country bumpkin and fan favorite Otis believes that Dolph Ziggler ruined his shot at love with Mandy Rose and now they're throwing down in a grudge match. It's the kind of high quality storytelling we've all come to respect from WWE.

Who to root for

Otis, duh. Look at the guy. He's like 300 pounds and he can do the worm.

Prediction

Otis flattens Ziggler and everyone feels good.

Boneyard Match: Undertaker

vs AJ Styles

The Skinny

AJ Styles was in the midst of rigging a match with his cronies at Super Showdown, but since the match was in Saudi Arabia The Undertaker was all but guaranteed to make an appearance (they love that old dude over there). Undertaker arrived, took more time to walk to the ring than he did in the actual ring, chokeslammed Styles and won the match. Now Styles wants revenge. It seems like a hastily scrapped together justification to get Undertaker on the card, but whatever. Also, there's been no information on what exactly a "boneyard match" is. Sounds like something they'll be doing to spice up the card since they aren't bound to a fixed setting this year.

Who should I root for?

Undertaker. He may be 400 years old, but I'm pretty sure AJ Styles gets a hair blowout before every show. Plus Styles wears football receiver gloves. I'm not a glove guy. Can't root for glove guys.

Prediction

Undertaker doesn't lose at WrestleMania. Undertaker wins.

This was just the first half of the matches slated. Part II can be found here.

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4th and a mile with Paul Muth

The Rockets may be the smartest guys in the room. Or the cheapest

The Rockets have their new head coach. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Rockets' coaching search had come to an end finally. The front office tabbed Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas as the successor to Mike D'Antoni, beating out former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and current Rockets assistant John Lucas.

Knee jerk reaction?

I'm not mad at it. I expected Jeff Van Gundy to be the next hire, but maybe that was just nostalgia clouding my judgment. Either way, the Silas hire should be viewed optimistically. He's been highly regarded for some time around the league as an inventive mind that comes from basketball pedigree and has worked with big-name guards in prior stops around the league. If the Rockets didn't grab him, it was only a matter of time before another team gave him a shot.

Now there are two very distinct ways to look at this hire:

The first is that the Rockets, in spite of being one of the last teams to fill their coaching vacancy, are the smartest kids in the room. Every team is looking for the next version of what the Celtics found in their current head coach, Brad Stevens; a young brilliant coach that just needed a team to give him a shot. Hired at 37 from the college ranks, Stevens endured one losing season (his first) and has since guided the Celtics to six playoff appearances, to include three conference finals appearances. Not bad, considering he was up against LeBron James for most of those.

That is what it looks like the Rockets are trying to go for. Now at 47, Silas probably won't be mistaken for a wunderkind, but compared to 69-year-old D'Antoni, he might as well be announcing his hire on Tik Tok. If it works out, the Rockets will have once again been one step ahead of the league with the hiring of their innovative new coach.

The other way to look at the Silas hire is a little less rosy.

While Silas is only 47, he's also been an assistant in the league since he was 27. The positive spin on his resume is that he's worked with star players the likes of Kemba Walker, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The reality is that he worked with them while they were very young in their careers, and worked on teams like the Cavaliers, Bobcats/Hornets, Wizards, and Warriors (when they were bad). Until the last two seasons working with Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, there hasn't been a lot of success following Silas. That's not necessarily an indictment since he was an assistant, but it's not exactly a sparkling pedigree.

So while this could be a brilliant hire, at the moment, it has all of the markings of the cheaper hire. As I've mentioned before, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been quite vocal about the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on his portfolio. Clips and quotes moaning and groaning about losing money are not typically precursors to an owner gearing up to make a big financial investment in the front office of a sports team that he can't sell tickets for anyone to come see. If in fact, money factored in more than fit, it would make sense that the Rockets would forego a coach like Van Gundy, whose previous head coaching experience would automatically command a higher starting price. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what the actual contract figures are once released.

It could be one. It could be the other. It could be both. Hopefully it translates into wins either way.

One thing that's for certain though is that Silas needs to take some pointers from Russell Westbrook and James Harden before he steps out courtside in any more of those TJ Maxx suits, circa 2000. Big boy job means big boy suits.

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