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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Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

UPDATE: With the Angels loss on Friday night, the Astros have secured their playoff berth. They will be part of the MLB postseason for their fourth-straight season.

After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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