THE BEST OF THE BESTIES

Ken Hoffman goes head-to-head with WWE's Trish Stratus and Amy 'Lita' Dumas

Photo courtesy of Comicpalooza

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Trish Stratus and Amy "Lita" Dumas are best friends for sure. They're both retired WWE superstars, both pioneers of today's style of women's wrestling, both successful entrepreneurs outside of the ring. Stratus inducted Lita into the WWE Hall of Fame. Lita is godmother to Stratus' son.


Stratus and Lita were celebrity guests at Comicpalooza in Houston on May 11. They were the featured stars of a panel discussion called "Team Besties." I was the panel moderator. I thought my first question was a good one, to get the ball rolling.

"What do you find in each other that makes you best friends?" Stratus looked at me, paused a moment, and said, "I'm going to let you answer that question. Why do you think we're best friends?"

So that's how it's going to be? Look, I've got 20 questions ready for you and Lita, you expect me to answer them for you? Isn't this what got Lori Loughlin in trouble?

Dog steals the show
I knew it was going to be a bumpy ride when I introduced Lita and she brought a small tote bag with her onstage, unzipped it and out popped her dog, McKenzie, a 16-year-old Yorkie. McKenzie gave me a good sniff and a couple of licks. I got into journalism with dreams of being a serious journalist, making a difference, keeping politicians honest. Now I'm hosting a panel discussion at Comicpalooza, in front of grownups dressed like Marvel Comics characters, interviewing two women wrestlers while I'm wrestling with a Yorkie. I wanted to be Woodward and Bernstein — wound up Barnum and Bailey.

Comicpalooza is the biggest comic book, sci-fi, anime, gaming, and pop culture event in Texas. Some 50,000 people attended over three days at the George R. Brown Convention Center. A hundred celebrities, cartoonists, voice actors, writers, astronauts, and professional video game players met their fans, posed for photos, signed autographs and held panel discussions and question-and-answer sessions. There were quidditch lessons on the third floor. The biggest draw of Comicpalooza was actress Emilia Clark, the Mother of Dragons in Game of Thrones. Not bad timing, huh?

The "Team Bestie" panel was held in the 1,000-seat general assembly room at the George R. Brown. I met Stratus and Lita backstage and, as directed, asked them if any topic was off-limits. They said, don't worry, if anybody or anything gets out of hand, we'll handle it. I had no doubts about that. Stratus insisted on sitting on the far right of the panel table. Lita sat to her left. Then the dog. Then me.

I'm a fan of Stratus and Lita. Out of respect for them and pro wrestling, I took moderating this panel discussion seriously. I wanted it to informative and interesting, like a Sunday morning news program.

The best of The Besties
I asked Stratus and Lita, "We all have best friends, but generally speaking, we don't smash their heads into a turnbuckle every night across America and around the world like you did. Did that ever get in the way of your friendship?

Lita said, "No, we knew each other's moves so well, we knew what to expect."

When you were on the road, what did you do when you were so sore you couldn't get out of bed? Both chimed, "We got out of bed."

When you retired from wrestling fulltime, did you let go and eat everything that was on your no-no list?

Stratus waved her hand, "I did! I went to McDonald's and held my head down in my car so people wouldn't see me."

I had never met Stratus or Lita, so I didn't know what to expect. Turned out they were charming and high energy. They were funny, too. At least Lita thought it was funny when she fed dried seaweed to her dog and saw me scrunch my face. She broke off a piece and insisted that I try some. It may have been the most disgusting thing I've ever eaten. It was crunchy and reeked and tasted like rotten fish. (Just for the record, Senator Mitch McConnell has never made Chuck Todd eat seaweed on Meet the Press.)

Lita is a devoted dog person. She adopted McKenzie from a shelter, and runs the animal charity Amy Dumas Operation Rescue and Education (ADORE). That impressed me so much that I tried my hardest not to gag on the seaweed. I ducked under the table so the audience didn't see me spit it out.

Stratus owns a yoga studio in her native Canada, where she's a film actress, reality TV star, and commercial spokesperson. Both wore their WWE Hall of Fame rings. Stratus was inducted in 2013, Lita the following year.

This was the first time that I've moderated a panel discussion. My goal was to make sure only one person spoke at a time. I can't watch CNN anymore because the hosts, especially Chris Cuomo, let arguing guests shout each other down. It's annoying and unproductive and unwatchable.

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about Ken Hoffman moderating the panel discussion and the talking stick.

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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