Categories
Entrepreneurs Grind

How Michael Mayer, Co-Founder of Windmill, Is Changing Air Conditioning

This week’s edition of The Tartare Project hosted by Phil Toronto features Michael Mayer, the co-founder of Windmill. A consumer electronics company, Windmill is a small business headquartered in New York that focuses on building eco-friendly products that help keep the air clean. The brand’s most notable product is their personalized Windmill Air Conditioning unit that targets better airflow and smoother cooling while keeping away outside air.

Prior to co-founding Windmill in 2018, Mayer had a resume full of business experience, including being the co-founder of smartphone gadget Lookalu, and a three-year stint at Betterment For Advisors in which he served in various different roles.

Toronto and Mayer sat down for a 45-minute interview in which they discussed his career trajectory. Toronto began the conversation by asking Mayer about the decision to start Windmill. “Before Windmill there was no brand association or loyalty when it came to air conditioning. You know the big-name companies, but they haven’t been able to connect with the customer. For that very reason, this is an opportunity for innovation and experience.”

Growing up in Orlando, Florida with Disney World as his ‘backyard,’ education was a huge part of Mayer’s upbringing, attending college at the University of Pennsylvania, where he eventually received a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. “I actually wanted to be an English major because I loved 18th Century Poetry in high school, “ he tells Toronto before going into the decision to go down the finance lane. “I went from an English major to finance. I spent the rest of those three years doing international currency finance and accounting. I felt the air just get sucked out of me. I wasn’t myself, and I wasn’t vibing on the stuff that I was learning. I ultimately graduated and realized that it wasn’t who I was.”

Windmill

Like many young adults, Mayer had to discover himself and find his own path in life. That journey was a spiritual one that included lots of meditation and therapy. “I’m a big fan of mental health. Even if you think you don’t need therapy, it’s helpful to dig into your past to figure out why you are the way you are—especially with starting a business. It’s very helpful!”

As the conversation continues, Toronto and Mayer cover his decision to leave banking, trusting your ability to live in uncertainty, and his early career experiences. Naturally, the conversation gets back to Windmill, and how the company values their customer’s experience. “LG, GE, Frigidaire—they aren’t thinking about how to word their installation manual in a way that you would understand it—they have third-party companies doing their manuals,” he says before detailing Windmill’s game plan for the future. Ultimately the vision of Windmill is to expand outside of air conditioning and to think about air care more broadly—especially with Covid and the wildfires out west. Air care is becoming more important.”

For more on Mayer and his business Windmill be sure to listen to the full interview above. You can also check Windmill’s official website here.

Categories
Gaming NFT

What is Blockchain Gaming?

Blockchain gaming is gaming that utilizes true item ownership from the same technology that lies at the core of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. It is an earth-shattering innovation for players who have previously accepted that their items will be forever stuck in games. Normally, players are accustomed to wall gardens that prevent players from moving assets freely in and out. So blockchain operates more like a battering ram or the kool-aid man to players who have been staring up at these Attack On Titan-sized walls waiting for something to shake up their world. 

These new systems bring exciting developments, minus the titans. Blockchain gaming is letting players verify that their items are rare and letting them send anything to anyone. This new capability exists without having to jump through hoops or sell your entire account to move just one measly item the buyer wants. This enables a new player-driven economy where games don’t have to worry about new releases or shady DLCs, and can instead make new content that is tradable and retains players. Players are so used to game-hopping to scratch an itch that they routinely buy new games every other month trying to chase the trends and the hype. If they can add hours of gameplay to their favorite games while spending more money in-game, everybody wins. This becomes especially beneficial for gamers when systems like Enjin allow creators to add transfer fees to monetize the trading done in and out of the game.

NFT peeps have started to flock to blockchain gaming/NFT gaming because they can do something gamers have wanted to do for decades: they can move and sell items. They’re not looking to do this because to make a quick buck, but because they love their hobby and don’t want to make it feel like a toxic codependent relationship with these games. It can be frustrating to throw buckets of money, time, and energy into your favorite game only to feel like there are not enough things to do, the server goes down, the game is no longer live, etc. Some gamers also find themself backed into a corner, competing against people who simply spend more money than them in-game, and therefore they’ll never be able to beat them.

Take it from me, NFTs and blockchain gaming are a fun, exciting topic. While there is work to be done in earning these items, there is also money to be found. This comes not from the desperation of people who have too much money to spend, but from people who see the value from the time put into gaming.

Before you know it, your next big purchase could be supported by something you sold from a video game. Imagine what you could pay for if you could monetize the time you play video games. Check out this video of Simon from Enjin using money he made from Lost Relics to buy his groceries:

I myself have just paid for my wedding this Wednesday by selling NFTs. There are different strains of NFTs and blockchain gaming so stay tuned for the second volume of this series. 

If you want to see how NFTs can be used by content creators or want to join the content creation team that’s being built, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Categories
Culture Trading Cards

The Top 10 USWNT Soccer Cards to Look Out For

With the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are finally set to kick-off on July 23, 2021, putting the world’s top athletes on the grandest stage.

For me, the Olympics are such a fascinating event because sports that I would never normally watch get to be front-and-center, turning medal-winners into household names throughout the world. When I think of athletes like Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Simone Biles, Carl Lewis, and Michael Phelps, I can remember where I was when I watched them dominate in their events. I also remember the sense of patriotism and pride I had watching as they stood on the podium to receive their medals alongside the American flag.

In the sports card hobby, an event like this presents an interesting opportunity. I always like to talk about “relevancy” when discussing which cards I typically invest in. A good example was in January, when I was at the Dallas Card Show and saw a tweet from Adam Schefter that Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was about to be traded. I immediately bought up every Matthew Stafford rookie card that I could find, knowing that once the trade went down, Stafford would be in the public spotlight, likely sending the value of his cards soaring. Sure enough, he was traded that night and within a week I sold all of the Stafford cards I purchased, tripling my money.

Soccer is the most popular sport throughout the world, and while the United States men’s national team (USMNT) failed to qualify this year (for the third consecutive time), the women’s team (USWNT) is absolutely dominant, winning the gold medal in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012 before losing in the quarterfinals to Sweden in 2016.

After the game, there was a lot of tough talk from USWNT goalie Hope Solo calling the Swedish team “cowards” because of their style of play and saying the the “better team lost.” Amazingly, they won’t have to wait long for payback, as they drew Sweden in the first game of this year’s Olympics.

Megan Rapinoe

“We have very high standards for the team, which is championship or total failure, so we felt like total failures. It definitely left, I wouldn’t say a bad taste. I think it left a fire under people to never let that happen again.”

Needless to say, there will be a lot of juice behind the USWNT’s attempt to recapture the gold medal, and in my opinion, that attention will have collectors in full buying mode.

This list of 12 cards includes some USWNT current players, as well as former players whose legacies will be discussed at length in the coming months.

1. Mia Hamm Sports 1992 Illustrated for Kids PSA 9 ($3749)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/402753865718?hash=item5dc60047f6%3Ag%3AUAgAAOSw-MpgUmAi&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

With only (1) PSA 10, (25) PSA 9s and (25) PSA 8s in the population, it comes as no surprise that this Mia Hamm Sports Illustrated for Kids card is the “Holy Grail” of women’s soccer cards. Simply put, Mia Hamm is the greatest women’s soccer player in the history of the sport, and this is her most coveted card.

Obviously with a card this rare, they will not be easy to come by. It will be interesting to see what happens to the value of the ones that are already graded as the stories of her greatness are told repeatedly during the games, reminding the world just how dominant she was.

If you head over to eBay, there are plenty of raw examples for sale, but these cards are perforated and torn off of a full sheet, making them very difficult to grade.

2. Mia Hamm 1994 Upper Deck World Cup PSA 10 ($1000)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/333940158291?hash=item4dc0626f53%3Ag%3AhukAAOSwCbBgYy-L&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

There are actually two versions of this card in the 1994 Upper Deck World Cup set, the standard one and the English/Spanish variation. There are only (35) PSA 10’s of the standard card in the population, with only (8) of the English/Spanish one receiving PSA’s top grade. If you can’t find a 10, PSA 9s might be the play here, as there are only (66) in the population and sell for around $200. I really like the combination on this card of relevance, rarity and GOAT status.

3. Alex Morgan 2011 Upper Deck MLS PSA 10 ($721.08)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/393245071038?hash=item5b8f3b96be%3Ag%3AVq8AAOSwwCpgddsO&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

Alex Morgan is the first current player to hit this list, and for good reason. She is the most mainstream, with endorsement deals ranging from Nike, Panasonic, AT&T, McDonalds, P&G, Mondelez Int’l and Coca-Cola. She was on one of three covers of the 2019 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the other two being models Tyra Banks and Camille Kostek. Needless to say, she will be a huge star in this upcoming Olympics, and the value of her cards should see a nice bump because of it.

This particular card came as a part of the 2011 Upper Deck MLS set, which mixed in women’s soccer stars. There are 220 of these cards graded by PSA with (157) of them receiving a PSA 10. With such a low number of the face of the team’s rookie card, this could be an absolute steal. If you want to gamble, you can buy the card raw and send it off to be graded, or even get a box of the sealed wax and have some fun ripping open the packs!

4. Alex Morgan 2011 Panini Women’s W/C Sticker ($149)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/143998965098?hash=item218701d56a%3Ag%3AUSYAAOSwcJxgaxRG&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

This set is absolutely fascinating. Panini has been printing soccer stickers for over 50 years, but this 2011 World Cup set was the first time they ever produced Women’s World Cup soccer stickers. Operating under the assumption that there would be little interest in the product, they only released it in the host country of Germany in small quantities.

Because of the rarity of this set, there are only 10 graded examples (4) PSA 10s and (4) PSA 9s of Alex Morgan’s true rookie sticker. Finding a sealed box (or packs) is near impossible, and while raw examples do pop up on eBay, they typically come from Europe.

One of the PSA 9s recently sold for $800, and I can’t stress enough how good I feel about the idea of getting these stickers any time they come up for sale, especially if you can grade them in time for the Olympics. This is my favorite play on this list, considering the rarity and cost-of-entry, and you will be seeing it again on this list shortly!

5. Abby Wambach 2010 Upper Deck ($100)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/373454973375?hash=item56f3a6a9bf%3Ag%3AjB8AAOSwu2dgI02a&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

Only seven of these cards have ever been graded with six of them receiving a PSA 10, so this is another card that won’t be easy to find. Wambach ranks as the highest all-time goal scorer as a forward for the USWNT, so much like Mia Hamm, we will likely be seeing and hearing a lot about her dominance on the pitch in the coming months.

6. Megan Rapinoe 2011 Panini Women’s W/C Sticker ($97)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/294135423836?hash=item447bd6635c%3Ag%3AAtgAAOSwLRdggDg%7E&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

As the USWNT’s outspoken leader, you can be sure that you will be seeing a lot of Megan Rapinoe in the mainstream media, not just because of her fantastic play on the pitch, but also because of her ongoing battle for equal pay.

In a recent trip to the White House, Rapinoe (while on stage with President Biden) declared, “I have been devalued, I’ve been disrespected and dismissed because I am a woman,” going on to say, “Despite all of the wins, I am still paid less than men who do the same job that I do. For each trophy— of which there are many—for each win, each tie and for each time that we play, it’s less.”

This will certainly be a storyline throughout the Olympics. If Rapinoe can help the USWNT recapture the gold, the focus of the world will be on her. I already spoke about the rarity of these 2011 Panini World Cup stickers, but that set also includes Rapinoe’s rookie sticker with a PSA 10 population of just two and only (7) PSA 9s backing it up.

There are a few of these available raw on eBay but you better move fast if you want one.

7. Hope Solo 2012 Topps USA Olympics Silver PSA 10 ($97)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/402753873347?hash=item5dc60065c3%3Ag%3AhjMAAOSwx1dgUmFt&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

How often did we hear about Hope Solo’s post-game comments about the Swedish National Team after the 2016 loss? Will Sweden use it as motivation to prove that 2016 was no fluke? Will the USWNT prove that Solo was correct in her assertion that the “better team lost” on that day?

Either way, Solo is considered one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time, with two gold medals, a World Cup and was named U.S. Female Athlete of the Year in 2009. It doesn’t necessarily have to be this particular card, there are some really cool Hope Solo numbered autos on eBay, and she is also in the 2011 Panini World Cup sticker set that I love so much.

8. Carli Lloyd 2011 Panini Women’s W/C Stickers ($90)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/294090437929?hash=item447927f529%3Ag%3AIFQAAOSwkAFgYPRm&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

Lloyd will be suiting back up for the USWNT in the Olympics at 38 years-old and is most well-known for scoring a hat-trick in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final against Japan, the first woman to ever pull off that feat in a final game.

You can pretty much copy everything I keep saying about this 2011 Panini World Cup sticker set and paste it in here. In order to avoid being redundant, I will also point out that Carli Lloyd has some other rare and fun cards on eBay. I especially like the 2019-20 Panini Gold Standard cards of hers, as well as the 2019-20 Panini Obsidians.

9. Kristine Lilly 1994 Upper Deck World Cup ($80)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/313389160898?hash=item48f77319c2%3Ag%3AlfgAAOSw1V9gCO14&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557 
eBay

Lilly played for the USWNT for 23 years (1987-2010) and is third on their list of all-time goals scored (130) behind Mia Hamm (158) and Abby Wambach (184). She has two Olympic gold medals (1996 & 2004), one World Cup (1999) and was inducted in to the US Soccer Hall of Fame in 2015.

Her rookie card can be found in the same 1994 Upper Deck World Cup set as the Mia Hamm rookie, presenting nice consolation prize potential to somebody who buys a few packs searching for the Mia Hamm card.

10. Rose Lavelle 2020 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Auto ($80)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/154415628172?hash=item23f3e37f8c%3Ag%3AaSAAAOSwPLlgd5Vd&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

At just 25 years-old, Rose Lavelle is one of the up-and-coming stars on this year’s Olympic squad. This is her first Olympics with the USWNT, but she played on the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, the qualifying tournament for the 2019 World Cup, scoring three goals in five games and helping the team to their second straight CONCACAF championship.

She started all six games in the 2019 World Cup in France, scoring three goals and was awarded the Bronze Ball as the third best player in the tournament.

I like this 2020 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions card because it has beautiful eye-appeal, and she doesn’t have many autos out there currently. I also love her 2019 Panini World Cup stickers, especially due to the cost-of-entry on some raw ones.

There is a very good chance that Lavelle becomes the new face of the USWNT, and if she does, what do you think will happen to the value of her cards? I’m a buyer on all things Rose Lavelle.

Others to Look Out For
Crystal Dunn 2017-18 Select Signatures Auto ($25)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/313042316673?hash=item48e2c6ad81%3Ag%3ApQsAAOSwOHhf41XO&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

To shop for more Crystal Dunn cards, click here

Samantha Mewis 2017-18 Select ($15)
https://www.ebay.com/itm/133713828242?hash=item1f21f71992%3Ag%3AJzYAAOSwUkVgaNmL&nma=true&si=OWfOuQCW6Pv3GW9EaIeyD3IyFZw%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
eBay

To shop for more Samantha Mewis cards, click here

Categories
eSports Gaming

Rocket League Championship Series NA Power Rankings for May 2021

You already know what time it is. After examining which Rocket League teams were on the bubble in April, we decided to revisit our list. Here’s our list of the 16 best teams in the game right now.

16. Susquehanna Soniqs

The Soniqs did the impossible this past weekend and had one of the biggest upsets in the Regional, taking down number 1 seed NRG 4-1 in their Quarter-Finals match.

The Soniqs looked super convincing until they got swept by KCP in the Semi-Finals. Was it a fluke on NRGs part? Or are the Soniqs onto something? Only time will tell.

15. Pittsburgh Knights

PK can be a solid squad, but after these past couple of performances, they’ve looked shaky. I think it’s the issue of their playstyle and the lack of diversity. If PK can get over this road bump, they aren’t far from Worlds qualification with only 700 points behind the top 6 spots.

14. XSET

Consisting of AlphaKep, Jpow, and Hockser. XSET consistently places well in tournaments, and has been applying a little more coordination within their team, XSET is a Top 10 team in North America. After placing 9-12th in the recent Spring Regional, I’m convinced that XSET is on a trend upwards.

13. Ghost Gaming

Ghost Gaming is built solid, with LionBlaze (one of the best singles players in the world). There’s no reason Ghost Gaming shouldn’t be able to compete at the top level.

12. EUNITED

eUnited, after dropping WondaMike back in February, they have recently acquired RLCS PRO ‘Dappur’ This team is looking solid after their first performance in the RLCS: Spring Split, placing 13-16th, which is higher than some top 10s like Alpine, and Pittsburgh Knights.

11. Charlotte Phoenix

Charlotte Phoenix being on the scene since late 2019, after recently shaking up their entire roster, could be on the move upward. they’ve needed to secure a spot at worlds as they now 11th on this month’s Power Ranking as they were 13th last month.

10. FaZe Clan

I really believed after being acquired by FaZe that we would’ve seen a more upbeat pace from them as they were 5th on last month’s Ranking. With that being said I think all they need to do is make some micro-adjustments before they start dominating again.

9. Alpine

Alpine is one of the most consistent teams in the RLCS, placing high in rankings in every event, and have one of the most coordinated rosters in the league. However, during this past Regional, Alpine got knocked out early in Group Stages. It will be interesting to see how Alpine comes back in the upcoming TheGrid: Overtime event.

8. Oxygen

After acquiring the up-and-coming roster “Jamal Jabary” consisting of Toastie, LJ, and Kraziks, Oxygen has entered the North American RLCS, previously performing in the EU. Currently holding 680 points in the RLCS places them within the Top 16.

In order for Oxygen to qualify for Worlds they’ll have to keep this current streak going we’ve seen with the team and whether they can really dominate over the Spring Split.

7. Version1

My favorite team as of right now goes from being 12 on our Power Ranking last month to now being number 7, which shows you that if they keep making adjustments, we might see them become a Top 4 contender.

6. Shopify Rebellion

You may not recognize this team. The Shopify Rebels consists of the old KCP roster. As of last week, the Pioneers sold their RLCS roster to the Starcraft team ‘Shopify Rebellion’ With billions of dollars behind The Rebels, it’s interesting to see Rocket League as their first title to dump money into, and almost solidifies my thought that Rocket League is a Tier 1 eSport.

5. Rogue

Ever since dropping RLCS PRO and community loved, ‘Kranovi’ Rogue has been doing nothing but greatness; however, it is super surprising to see Rogue this low on this list because I see them as a super dominant team.

4. G2 Esports

With the announcement of RLCS PRO ‘Rizzo’ retiring. G2 acquired 15-year-old Andres “dreaz” and since then has been a HUGE asset in G2’s success. Taking down the ranks of NRG in the most recent Regional 3.

3. Spacestation Gaming

SSG is one of the most dominant offensive teams in the game. With a majority of their series being high scoring, it’s hard for any defense to keep up with it. It takes a roster with speed and solid coordination. This is why SSG is one of the best teams in the league.

2. NRG

With the overbearing success and dominance of NRG’s playstyle, they have lost to teams such as The Soniqs/ G2/ and SSG. Is this a hint that other teams are getting better? Or is NRG’s playstyle becoming outdated and easy to read?

1. ENVY

After winning 4 Regional Titles this season, this roster has been dominant since their formation of Atomic, Mist, and Turbopolsa. No doubt this team is #1 NA. Maybe even the world.

Categories
Consoles Gaming

‘Apex Legends’ Season 9: New Legend, Map Updates, and So Much More

Look at the tweet posted above – it’s a clear indication of just how fervent the Apex Legends player base is due to the release of an entirely new season of content. The latest batch of updates that have been thrown into Respawn Entertainment’s mega-popular battle royale shooter are beyond major – Season 9 (which is also referred to as “Legacy”) has expanded the game even more via a new mode, a new legend, a new weapon, and so much more. To say that the current Apex Legends hype is real would be a severe understatement.

Players have become so used to going to war alongside their two crewmates against 19 other competing three-person squads. With the addition of the new mode called “Arenas,” players who want to get into explosive skirmishes on a much smaller scale have something made especially for them. Arenas pits two teams of three against each other across multiple rounds. This mode is essentially about emerging alongside your teammates as the last team standing – the road to victory entails using the materials acquired during previous rounds to upgrade your weapons so you’re better equipped to body the competition during the next one. Winning three rounds and being ahead of the enemy team by two points is the name of the game, so be prepared to go extra hard or go home now that Arenas has gone live.

Along with a new mode comes a new Legend with ties to an integral Titanfall 2 character. Say hello to Kairi Imahara aka “Valkyrie.” She just so happens to be the daughter of a villain you came across in Titanfall 2 known as Viper, which connects Valkyrie to the game’s expanded universe. The “Winged Avenger” is quite the force to be reckoned with thanks to her ability set – she can send out a swarm on mini-rockets to disrupt her foes, use a jetpack to go airborne, and utilize an ultimate ability that allows her to launch into the air for a skydive that can even bring her allies along for the ride. You can look forward to beasting with Valkyrie and mastering the game’s new Bocek Bow in tandem thanks to Apex Legends’ Season 9 update.

So far, we’ve taken a look at this update’s delivery of a new mode, legend, and weapon. But thankfully, that’s not all. The map of Olympus sees a few changes of its own that include new drop locations, changed lines of sight for gameplay, and an unknown parasitic plant that will surely make its presence felt. As for Ranked mode, World’s Edge will be included as the first included map while Olympus will step in to take its place afterward. And just like every season before it, Season 9 offers a batch of worthwhile rewards via a new Battle Pass. There’s a ton of unlockables to nab, such as Music Packs, Skydive Emotes, and skins like the Crafty Kitsune Rampart and Legendary Demon’s Whisper Wraith. The biggest reward of all comes to players that hit level 100 of the new Battle Pass, which is the Legendary Reactive Bound in Bone Devotion skins. Season 9 of Apex Legends has pretty much changed the landscape of the game as a whole and looks to be maintaining the strong sense of player relevancy it’s held onto since 2019.

Categories
Sports Strength

2021 Champions League Breakdown: Chelsea Hosts Real Madrid

Manchester City punched its ticket into the UEFA Champions League final Tuesday for the first time in club history, and now Chelsea and Real Madrid will battle it out to decide which side will face Pep Guardiola’s crew later this month.

These two clubs are no stranger to the latter stages of the Champions League, particularly Madrid, who have won the competition a record 13 times. That’s six more than any other club.

Zinedine Zidane’s group have captured four of the last seven UCL titles, most recently three years ago when Madrid knocked off Premier League side Liverpool in the final.

Interestingly enough, a Premier League side has only beaten a Spanish club in the final once in the competition’s history. Liverpool did it in 1980/81 by defeating Real Madrid in the final, but Man City will have to wait to see whether they can try to be the second team to accomplish the feat or if they’ll be in store for an all-Premier League tie.

Thomas Tuchel’s men have rallied all season after the sacking of Frank Lampard so in a way it’s fitting they’ve come this far under the German manager’s tutelage. After earning a positive result in Spain last week, Chelsea’s away goal would have them through to the final if Wednesday’s match ends scoreless.

Let’s take a closer look at Chelsea and Real Madrid as they prepare for their semi final matchup.

CHELSEA VS. REAL MADRID

TOP GOALSCORERS (UCL)

Chelsea: Olivier Giroud – 6

Real Madrid: Karim Benzema – 6

KEY INJURIES/SUSPENSIONS

Chelsea: Mateo Kovacic (thigh)

Real Madrid: Dani Carvajal (hamstring), Lucas Vasquez (knee), Raphael Varane (abductor)

HISTORY

Real Madrid and Chelsea surprisingly haven’t met many times throughout their respective histories, and Wednesday marks the second time they’ve played one another in the Champions League. 

In four previous meetings, Chelsea won two and drew two more against Los Blancos, so Zinedine Zidane’s men will be looking to capture its first win against the London-based side and progress to yet another UCL final.

BREAKDOWN

Chelsea’s biggest letdown during leg 1 of the semi finals was Timo Werner’s massive miss inside the penalty area, and now the Blues will need to find a way to be more clinical in the final third on Wednesday.

Tuchel’s side will likely remain relatively unchanged with Mateo Kovacic ruled out once more with a thigh injury. 

The German manager will have to decide if he starts Werner once again up front, especially with Olivier Giroud’s success in UCL this season. Giroud leads the Blues this season in goals with six.

Madrid receives a huge boost with Sergio Ramos back in the fold defensively, so Zidane’s group will certainly benefit from their captain’s presence. 

Real’s also likely to have Eden Hazard from the start after coming on in the second half of the opening leg for the Spanish giants. Hazard will have the chance to make an impact against his former club after missing much of the season due to injury.

Prediction: 1-1 Draw (Real Madrid on PKs)

Categories
Sports Strength

The Wrestling Classic’s Most Unforgettable Celebrity Appearances in Wrestling

Hey everyone! It’s “The Wrestling Classic” Justin here with another article for On37PM. This time I won’t be doing a traditional ranking; this one will be about some of the most memorable celebrity appearances in professional wrestling. There have been a plethora of celebrity appearances throughout the last four decades so I may forget to mention some memorable names, but I did my best to cover the ones that came to my mind first. My goal was to bring up the appearances that really made an impact or those that got physical by getting in the ring and actually competing.

Celebrity appearances like Regis Philbin, Bob Uecker, Kim Kardashian and others who just appeared for their celebrity presence to be felt on the show won’t be mentioned, along with musical artists who performed on wrestling shows but did not get physical or make a direct impact when it came to on-going storylines.

I also won’t be bringing up all the celebrities that appeared during the Raw Guest Host era that ran from 2009-2016 or the celebrities that have won the 24/7 Championship these past few years as those could both be their own lists respectively. Therefore, names like Bob Barker, Kevin Hart, Cedric the Entertainer, Betty White, The Muppets, Gronk, Rob Stone, Enes Kanter, Marshmello and many others won’t be mentioned. There will be some crossovers though, as many celebrities who appeared as Raw Guest Hosts did more in wrestling either before or after that stint. Also big names such as Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Ronda Rousey, and Cain Velasquez, who made their name outside of wrestling but ended up signing legitimate contracts with the company they chose to work for as talent won’t be mentioned either. People who made the official crossover from another career to full-time wrestling is a list of its own. Now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s go down memory lane.

Muhammad Ali
WWE

In 1976, Muhammed Ali was one the most well known boxers around the world and he was set to have an unprecedented fight against Japanese wrestling star Antonio Inoki. Ali was a reigning champion fresh off a knockout victory and Inoki was having an open challenge against champions of other martial arts to prove that wrestling was the best form of fighting. However, just weeks before the fight, he appeared at a WWWF event in the Philadelphia Arena where he confronted Gorilla Monsoon only to be picked up for an airplane spin before being dumped on the mat. He then went to have this controversial fight with Antonio Inoki in Japan where Inoki spent the entire fight on his back throwing kicks at Ali’s legs. The fight didn’t go as anyone expected, but will forever live on in infamy. Ali also appeared as a special guest referee for the main event of the inaugural Wrestlemania and was the guest of honor for the record breaking “Collision in Korea” event, headlined by Ric Flair and Antonio Inoki in North Korea.

Andy Kaufman
WWE

Andy Kaufman was a comedian and performing artist popularized by his role in the hit television series “Taxi.” He was one of the first people from show business who wanted to get involved in the world of professional wrestling in the early 80s. He started calling himself the “Intergender Wrestling Champion of the World” while having his own wrestling matches against women. Eventually he got involved in the Memphis Wrestling scene, feuding with the legendary Jerry “The King” Lawler. This was followed up by the infamous segment on “Late Night with David Letterman,” where Lawler slapped Kaufman out of his chair, leading the actor to go on a furious tirade, which created a buzz in both the wrestling and entertainment world. It really seemed as if the Letterman segment was an authentic non-scripted moment, but decades later we found out that Kaufman planned the entire thing.

Cyndi Lauper
WWE

There would not be a “Rock N Wrestling” era if it wasn’t for Cyndi Lauper. Cyndi Lauper was one of the most popular pop-rock stars of the 80s. Her award-winning music video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” featured professional wrestling’s Captain Lou Albano playing the role of her father. Cyndi’s then boyfriend and manager Dave Wolf grew up a wrestling fan and helped foster her relationship with the sport. Lauper appeared many times in the squared circle in some capacity following this music video dropping, thus creating the Rock N Wrestling connection.

Lauper played a huge role in the feud between Hulk Hogan and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, which led to the “War to Settle the Score” event that aired on MTV and concluded at the inaugural Wrestlemania. Lauper would also be in the corner of Wendi Rechter at that first Wrestlemania. Lauper wouldn’t appear again in the WWE for 27 years, but did make appearances to help promote Raw’s 1000 episode and served as celebrity guest host, where she made peace with former rival “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

Mr. T
WWE

As the “Rock N Wrestling” era and the Hogan-Piper feud continued on, so did the trend of involving those from the entertainment world in the world of wrestling. Mr. T was the next major 80s star to get in the squared circle and the first one to be involved in a major way. Mr. T rose to fame with his roles in Rocky III as Clubber Lang and his role in the television series the “A-Team” as Sergeant BA. He entered the WWE aiding Hulk Hogan in his feud against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Cowboy” Bob Orton and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orondorff. It all came to a head in the main event of the first ever Wrestlemania, when Hogan and Mr. T defeated Piper and Orondorff.

Mr. T didn’t get embraced by everyone in the locker room as much as celebrities today, as a lot of the wrestlers—including Roddy Piper—believed in protecting the business and that T hadn’t paid his dues like the rest of them. Regardless, Mr. T returned the following year for Wrestlemania 2 where he would box Roddy Piper. He made many more appearances in both the WWE and WCW, whether it was to make an appearance, play an enforcer role or to be inducted in the Hall of Fame where he gave an unforgettable speech about his momma.

Tiny Lister
WWE

Tiny Lister was an actor mainly remembered as “Deebo” from the movie “Friday,” who got involved in professional wrestling in 1989 after co-starring in a WWE produced film “No Holds Barred.” He had two major stints in the world of wrestling. The first run was in the WWF in 1989, when he came in as his “No Holds Barred” character Zeus to feud with Hulk Hogan to promote the movie. This led to them headlining Summerslam in a tag match where Zeus teamed up with “Macho Man” Randy Savage to face off against Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake.

He stuck around after the event, working various other matches and the feud with Hogan concluded in a rematch from Summerslam, but this time in a cage in which he was on the losing side again. In 1996, he showed up in WCW as Z-Gangsta and continued his feud with Hogan as part of the “Alliance to End Hulkamania” which gave us the infamous Triple Cage match. That was the last we saw of Lister in the world of wrestling.

Buster Douglas
WWE

In 1990, James “Buster” Douglas shocked the world by knocking out Mike Tyson to win the championship. Everyone thought it was going to be another win for Tyson before he moved on to face Evander Holyfield. Mike Tyson was also scheduled to be the guest enforcer for the WWE Championship match between then champion Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage on the third edition of the prime time NBC special event “The Main Event.” However, after losing his fight, Mike Tyson backed out but the WWE was able to secure the man who knocked him out a week earlier in Buster Douglas. The fact that Douglas had so recently defeated the seemingly unstoppable Mike Tyson was a big deal for the WWE. The interaction between Savage and Douglas after the match was entertaining as well. Considering all the circumstances surrounding this celebrity appearance, this one is hard to forget.

Lawrence Taylor
WWE

The relationship between professional football and professional wrestling has always been strong. There are a ton of wrestlers who have backgrounds in professional football prior to becoming wrestlers. That being said, it never surprises me when an NFL player gets involved in the wrestling world. Therefore, when decorated NFL legend Lawrence Taylor and Bam Bam Bigelow had a confrontation at the Royal Rumble in 1995, there was no doubt it was leading to a match. It did.

Bam Bam and Lawerence Taylor would main event Wrestlemania 11, even going on after the WWE Championship match between  Shawn Michaels and Diesel. This garnered a ton of mainstream media coverage and was the last time a celebrity competed in the main event of Wrestlemania. However, it was one of the many times someone from the world of football stepped into the squared circle in the 90s.

Kevin Greene
WWE

I can’t talk about decorated NFL superstars crossing over to professional wrestling without thinking about Kevin Greene. I feel like growing up watching World Championship Wrestling, he was constantly showing up. He first appeared in 1996, accompanying Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage at Clash of the Champions XXXII in their match against Ric Flair and The Giant. Later that year, he teamed up with fellow NFL Alumni who had signed a full time contract with WCW in Steve “Mongo” McMichael to face Four Horsemen members Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. In 1997, Kevin Greene teamed up with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to face off against the Outsiders (Nash/Hall/Syxx) of the NWO. Greene would follow this by wrestling his former friends Mongo and the Giant two times in 1998. However, the NFL contracts that he signed following his stints in wrestling prohibited wrestling, thus ending his career in the ring.

Shaquille O’Neal
WWE

Shaquille O’ Neal is one of the most popular NBA players of all-time, but also a life-long professional wrestling fan. Shaq has been making appearances in professional wrestling since 1994 when he first appeared in World Championship Wrestling at “Bash at the Beach” to award the winner of the World Championship match between Hogan and Flair. He then made a guest appearance on Raw as a guest host in 2009 and had a backstage segment with Hogan on Impact Wrestling.

However, Shaq wanted to get in the ring and for a couple of years there were rumors of a Shaq-Big Show match. At 2016’s Wrestlemania, Shaq participated in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal and confronted the Big Show during the match for a memorable moment before they both got eliminated. They never could get the singles match to work around Shaq’s schedule, but O’Neal finally got to have his long awaited headline match. It would be in the newly founded All Elite Wrestling, where he teamed with Jade Cargill to face off against Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet on a 2021 edition of Dynamite.

Pamela Anderson
WWE

Listen, I know what you’re thinking with me mentioning Pamela Anderson. What makes her appearance more impactful than Regis Philbin, Jonathan Taylor Thomas or others? Well it was because, at the time, she was considered one of the hottest women in the world and she appeared all Wrestlemania season. Anderson first appeared at the Royal Rumble during a period when the business was down. Anderson promised to accompany the winner of the Royal Rumble to the ring at Wrestlemania, but instead she chose to accompany the WWE Champion Diesel to add even more fuel to the fire in the feud between the former friends. Plus, she was Pamela Anderson from Baywatch on WWE television in her prime. If you spent any time in the 90s, you’d understand.

Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone
WWE

In 1997, World Championship Wrestling was winning the ratings war due to the popularity of the New World Order and the reality based wrestling program that Nitro was providing over WWE’s product the years prior. They also had some major stars that many celebrities had grown up watching, such as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Therefore, when popular Chicago Bulls player and NBA legend Dennis Rodman showed up as a friend of “Hollywood” Hogan and a celebrity member of the New World Order, it was pretty damn cool. Rodman showed up helping the heel faction a few times in early 1997. However, when Rodman got in the ring to compete like he did at “Bash at the Beach” 1997, teaming with Hollywood Hogan to face The Giant and Lex Luger, that was surprising.

In 1998, the WCW was able to secure Utah Jazz player and another NBA legend to appear in WCW in “The Mailman” Karl Malone. Malone’s team was actually in the NBA Championship Finals against Rodman’s team the Chicago Bulls, which made it pretty awesome that they were able to have them feud on WCW television too. They got a ton of mainstream coverage due to the circumstances. Rodman even missed practices to make WCW appearances as we learned in “The Last Dance” documentary that Netflix released last year. At “Bash at the Beach” 1998, Hogan and Rodman were to defeat Diamond Dallas Page and Malone in a tag match. Malone wouldn’t appear in the ring or in storylines again, whereas Rodman came back for one more run in WCW in 1999 to feud with Randy Savage. Fun times.

Jay Leno
WWE

In 1998, the wrestling world was at its peak and a huge part of pop-culture to the extent that Tonight Show host Jay Leno wanted to get involved. When Leno’s people reached out to WCW President Eric Bischoff about Leno’s interest in getting involved with wrestling in early July, Bischoff was adamant about making it happen. He also had to come up with an angle that would conclude in just weeks at their August 8th “Road Wild” event. Eric decided that Jay Leno would get booted off of his own late night show by Hollywood Hogan and Bischoff. They would take over the iconic “Tonight Show,” which had never been done before. This led to a match at “Road Wild” where Diamond Dallas Page and Jay Leno defeated Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff. This got a plethora of mainstream attention.

Pete Rose
WWE

It was a one-off celebrity appearance that became a three year tradition. MLB Legend Pete Rose first appeared at Wrestlemania 14 in 1998 as a special guest ring announcer for the long-awaited Undertaker versus Kane match. What appeared to be another instance of a celebrity appearing just for their presence on the show turned out to be much more as Kane hit Pete Rose with a Tombstone prior to the match. He would have made this list just for that, but then he returned again for Wrestlemania in 1999, this time dressed in a San Diego Chicken mascot-like costume, seeking revenge on Kane only to catch another Tombstone piledriver. Pete Rose decided to come back again for Wrestlemania 2000 only to be caught with another Tombstone piledriver and a stink face from Rikishi. Rose made an appearance in the “No Mercy” 2002 commercial, where he was once again confronted by Kane and then he was also confronted by Kane when he was a Raw Guest Host in March of 2010. This earned him a spot in the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.

Mike Tyson
WWE

People always say that the Mike Tyson appearance in 1998 was when we first knew that the tide was changing in the Monday Night Wars in WWE’s favour. At this point, Mike Tyson was one of the most globally recognizable people in the world for his actions inside and outside of the boxing ring. Tyson did not earn the name “The Baddest Man in the Planet” for no reason and remained controversial his entire career.

WWE brought Mike Tyson in to be the special enforcer for the WWE Championship match between “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at Wrestlemania. Initially, he was confronted by Steve Austin in his first appearance with the company, leading to a brawl after Austin gave Tyson the middle fingers and Tyson seemingly aligned himself with D-Generation X stable. At Wrestlemania, Tyson knocked out Michaels and counted the pinfall that led to Stone Cold winning the WWE Championship. Tyson returned in 2010 to be a guest host, where he would again be involved with DX as he teamed up with Chris Jericho to face them, only to turn on Jericho to reunite with DX. He has also made three appearances in AEW these past couple of years to present the TNT Championship to the first champion and having a rocky relationship with Chris Jericho. I’m sure it’s not the last time we have seen Tyson involved with wrestling.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
WWE

As a fan watching at the time, I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger showing up on Smackdown was a bit random. Regardless, he is a bona fide global icon, a box-office attraction, one of the first celebrity bodybuilders and a former Governor of California, so it was a big deal. Arnold came through the WWE to hype up his upcoming movie End of Days and was also awarded a replica belt just for being Arnold. He befriended fan favorite stars such as Stone Cold and The Rock as you would expect, and then was at ringside for the main event.

When Schwarzenegger assisted Stone Cold in overcoming the odds against Triple H and Test, it did not sit well with The Game. Triple H confronted The Terminator only to get beat up himself, leaving us with a memorable moment in the early days of Smackdown. Arnold would return to Raw with Sabotage co-star Joe Manganiello in 2014 in a segment with Hulk Hogan and The Miz. He was later inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Donald Trump
WWE

The former President of the United States is a known friend of Vince McMahon. Their relationship goes back to when WWE hosted Wrestlemania 4 and 5 at Trump Plaza in the late 80s. He would appear ringside in the front row at these events and attended the press conferences. At Wrestlemania 20 in 2004, he sat ringside again when he was interviewed by Jesse “The Body” Ventura about Wrestlemania, Vince McMahon and even politics.

Heading into Wrestlemania 23 in 2007, Trump got into a feud with Vince McMahon, which led to them picking representatives to wrestle for them in the “Battle of the Billionaires,” where the billionaire on the losing end would get their head shaved. Stone Cold Steve Austin was the special referee. Trump’s representative Bobby Lashley defeated McMahon’s representative Umaga, thus leading to Vince McMahon getting his head shaved. Trump would return in 2009 in an angle where he purchased Monday Night Raw. Donald aired a commercial free episode of Raw and refunded the tickets for the fans live in attendance until Mr. McMahon purchased it back. Trump was later inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Snoop Dogg
WWE

Snoop Dogg is another one of those larger than life celebrities that grew up a professional wrestling fan. The rapper made several appearances in the WWE over the years. The first time was when he was the master of ceremonies for the women’s tag match at Wrestlemania 24 in 2008. It ended with him locking lips with Maria Kanellis. He also returned to the WWE in 2009 to be Raw Guest Host, where he ended up spearing Chavo Guerrero by the end of the night. In 2015 he returned to Raw again, only to be interrupted by Curtis Axel who was working his AxelMania gimmick. This led to Snoop introducing Hulk Hogan as he came down to the ring. They worked together to get rid of Curtis Axel prior to Snoop ripping his shirt to reveal his Hulkamania tee and the segment ended with the two pop culture icons posting together.

Snoop was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, but also made an appearance at Wrestlemania to rap over his cousin Sasha Banks’ theme song before walking her down the ramp. Most recently, Snoop Dogg appeared on AEW Dynamite to be in the corner of Cody Rhodes and even hit an infamous Snoopy Splash on Serpentico after the match. Snoop is the man!

Floyd Mayweather
WWE

Floyd “Money” Mayweather was recognized as the best boxer of his generation, so it was a huge deal when the rumors started swirling that he would be part of Wrestlemania. Big Show made his return at No Way Out 2008 and threatened Rey Mysterio in his return promo. The WBC Welterweight Champion Floyd Mayweather, who was in attendance, jumped the barricade to come to the aid of his friend Mysterio by confronting the Big Show. Big Show dropped to his knees and Mayweather bloodied him up with a series of punches, breaking Show’s nose.

This led to an exhibition fight between Mayweather and Big Show at Wrestlemania. At Wrestlemania, Mayweather defeated Big Show by knockout with the assist of brass knuckles to keep his undefeated record intact. Mayweather would appear again in the summer of 2009 to be a guest host for Raw, where he got involved in Big Show’s match again and had a funny backstage segment with Carlito, Vince McMahon and DX. It was a big deal to have Mayweather involved and I wonder if we’ll ever see him again.

Snooki
WWE

Snooki will always be a memorable celebrity appearance because the majority of the fans were not interested in seeing one of the girls from MTV’s hit reality show Jersey Shore enter their world. Regardless how the wrestling fans felt about it, Snooki was popular as hell in 2011 and it made complete sense to bring her in while the reality show was at its peak of popularity.

The whole thing started when Snooki was brought in as a Raw Guest Host. Snooki got involved after the match between Trish Stratus and Vickie Guerrero by brawling with LayCool to aid Stratus. This led to a six person tag match where Snooki teamed up with Trish Stratus and John Morrison to face off against Laycool and Dolph Ziggler. They picked up the victory when Snooki pinned Michelle McCool and that was that. It led to the end of Laycool. We can thank Snooki for that.

Maria Menounos
WWE

Maria Menounos is an actress, journalist, interviewer, television presenter and life-long fan of Sports Entertainment. I am sure you have seen Maria pop up on WWE television a ton of times over the past decade for backstage interviews, hosting the Hall of Fame Red Carpet shows or sitting in the front row for major events. The thing that makes this Greek Goddess stand out is the fact that she was never afraid to mix it up in the ring herself. The night she was the Raw Guest Host in 2009 along with Access Hollywood co-host Nancy O’Deil, Menounos ended up in a match where she teamed with Gail Kim and Kelly Kelly to defeat Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes and Beth Phoenix.

Menounos returned for the “Tribute to the Troops” show in 2011 where she competed in an eight woman tag match in which her team was victorious against a team featuring Phoenix. When Maria was interviewing Kelly Kelly on Extra in 2012, Phoenix and Eve Torres crashed the interview. This led to a match at Wrestlemania where Kelly and Menounos defeated Phoenix and Torres. Menounos pinned Phoenix for the victory. Maria had suffered two cracked ribs while rehearsing Dancing with the Stars prior to the match, but still went through with it which shows you her love for this business. Unless we ever see her wrestle again, she remains undefeated.

Stephen Amell
WWE

Stephen Amell is a Canadian actor mostly known for his role in Arrow as Oliver Queen, but he was also a major wrestling fan. Rumors started swirling that Amell would be facing Stardust (aka Cody Rhodes) at Summerslam in 2015, but it seemed as if plans were going to fall through due to the unfortunate death of Dust Rhodes. However, Stardust attacked Amell, who was sitting in the crowd during an episode of Raw, and its was announced that Amell and Neville would team up against Stardust and Wade Barrett.

Neville and Amell would come out victorious but Amell would become good friends with Cody in real-life. Due to that friendship, Amell appeared in Ring of Honor, joining the Bullet Club which was a faction that included Cody Rhodes. He competed in five on four tag matches in ROH where the Bullet Club was victorious. Amell had a memorable performance again at the special “All In” event hosted by The Elite, where he had his first ever singles match against Christopher Danials. Amell has appeared in AEW accompanying his friend Cody to the ring for his match against MJF. I doubt that will be the only time we see Amell in AEW and I don’t think we have seen the last of him in the ring.

Machine Gun Kelly
WWE

I know I said I was going to stay away from celebrities who just appeared for musical performances—whether it was to promote an album, perform the entrance theme for a superstar or sing the theme song for a show like he did at Wrestlemania 28—but the Machine Gun Kelly appearance ended up being a memorable moment. The singer, rapper, songwriter and actor showed up on Raw to perform a couple of his songs in front of his hometown crowd in Cleveland. It was all good until Kevin Owens appeared out of nowhere, seemingly showing admiration for MGK, only to powerbomb MGK through the stage.

This was definitely a memorable Raw moment and I always appreciate it when a celebrity takes a bump to help legitimize professional wrestling. I would love to see him come back, especially if he brings Megan Fox with him…

Jon Stewart
WWE

Jon Stewart is a comedian and television host who hosted the popular Daily Show from 1999 to 2015. Throughout the beginning of 2015, Stewart had this on-going feud with Seth Rollins that started with Rollins taking jabs at Stewart, claiming he could be the new host of the show. Seth would crash the Daily Show while Stewart even showed up on Raw to be a guest on Rollins’ own version of a Daily Show.

In the end, they made peace during the final episodes of Stewart hosting the Daily Show, when Seth presented Jon with his own belt. In the summer of 2015, Stewart was scheduled to be the official host of Summerslam. He ended up playing a bigger role in one of the headlining matches that I don’t think anyone expected. Seth Rollins and John Cena faced each other in a Winner Takes All match for both the WWE Championship and the United States Championship. I remember personally fearing that this was the end of Rollins WWE Championship reign and that Cena was not only going to win both belts, but beat Ric Flair’s championship record.

Instead, Stewart interfered by hitting Cena with a chair and helped Rollins win, to everyone’s surprise. Jon didn’t want Flair’s record to be beaten and took the matter into his own hands. He was confronted by Flair the following night and ate an Attitude Adjustment from John Cena. Stewart would return at the following year’s Summerslam in the corner of the New Day, but nothing would ever top him being the reason Cena didn’t win the year prior. Thank you Jon Stewart.

Tyson Fury
WWE

The Saudi Shows were offering a lot of money to the WWE to host shows over there, so it was inevitable that the WWE would put some of that money towards the celebrity appearance budget. That being said, when we saw the decorated British professional boxer Tyson Fury ringside on the Smackdown 20th Anniversary Show in 2019 and had a confrontation with Braun Strowman, the writing was on the wall.

It wasn’t long after this that Strowman versus Fury was made official for the Crown Jewel event in Riyadh. Tyson Fury had one of the most memorable entrances in recent memory as it was so over the top. Fury ended up winning the match by count-out after a hard punch knocked Strowman off the top turnbuckle. Following the match, Strowman still hit Fury with a running powerslam. I’m not sure if this will be the last time we see Fury in a wrestling ring, but if we learned anything from this list, anything is possible.

Pat McAfee
WWE

When Pat McAfee retired from the NFL in 2017, he moved on to a career of being a sports and wrestling analyst. In 2018, McAfee started appearing on WWE television primarily on the pre-shows for the NXT events. He eventually signed a multi-year contract in 2019 with the company, so technically he shouldn’t be on this list. However, he seemed to have signed a broadcasting contract as we saw him in non competitive on-screen roles that included hosting and commentary. Although there was speculation that he would get into the ring, it was never confirmed.

Pat then got into a personal feud with Adam Cole in 2020. McAfee would call out Cole for his small size and they had tension whenever they crossed paths. The rivalry really kicked off when the video of Cole snapping towards Pat on McAfee’s podcast went viral. This all led to a match at NXT Takeover 30, in which McAfee’s performance was highly praised even though he lost. Many fans consider it to be the best celebrity match ever. This wasn’t the end of the McAfee-Cole feud as Pat ended up putting a faction together with Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch to help him fight the Undisputed Era. Pat’s faction would end up having a “War Games” match against the Undisputed Era which they lost. McAfee played a great heel though the entire run and cut memorable promos. McAfee is officially on the Smackdown commentary team now, but we’re all curious if we’ll see him in the ring anytime soon. I’m sure we will.

Logan Paul
WWE

Logan Paul is undoubtedly one of the biggest yet most polarizing YouTube stars of all time. It’s undeniable that he has the attention of a specific age demographic right now. Although I can even admit there have been some questionable things he’s done in the past, I won’t deny that him being involved with the WWE and especially Wrestlemania brought more eyes to the product. Sami Zayn had a film crew following him around for months as they were putting a documentary together to expose the conspiracies against him orchestrated by the WWE. Zayn tried getting his old friend Kevin Owens involved in the cause, which he refused, calling Zayn delusional. Zayn took offense to this and attacked Owens, starting a feud where Owens ended up challenging Zayn to a match at Wrestlemania. At the same time, Zayn was able to get the attention of Paul over Twitter; Paul was responsive, playing along with Zayn’s craziness.

Logan was invited to Smackdown for the “Red Carpet Premiere” of Zayn’s documentary, where he also suggested that Zayn might just be delusional. Owens wanted nothing to do with Paul and this was even more obvious when he hit Logan Paul with a stunner after defeating Zayn at Wrestlemania. Paul was just trying to raise Owens’ arm in victory, but that didn’t sit right with KO. Logan Paul will be boxing Floyd Mayweather later this year, but I wonder if we’ll ever see him return to the world of wrestling.

Bad Bunny
WWE

Bad Bunny is one of the most popular musical artist in the world today, with an audience that crosses many different demographics and cultures. The Puerto Rican musician is also a life-long wrestling fan. Prior to 2021, he was spotted wearing vintage wrestling merchandise regularly (shoutout to @wrestling4sale on instagram) and even featured wrestling legends such as Ric Flair in his music videos.

In 2021, Bad Bunny got more involved with the WWE by first appearing at the Royal Rumble to perform his new song “Booker T” while Booker T himself was in attendance. Backstage that same night, The Miz offered to take Bad Bunny under his wing, which Bunny rejected. The Miz ended up destroying Bad Bunny’s DJ setup as he made his way out for the Royal Rumble. This did not sit well with Bad Bunny and he came out during the Royal Rumble match to confront The Miz. It ended with Bad Buddy hitting a flying splash on Miz and Morrison. Bunny continued to appear on Raw regularly after this, continuing his feud with The Miz, befriending Damian Priest and even winning the 24/7 Championship, which he held for 28 days before trading it to R-Truth in exchange for Stone Cold merchandise.

The Bunny-Miz feud reached a climax when Miz and Morrison vandalized Bunny’s Bugatti. This all led to a tag team match between Bad Bunny and Damian Priest against Miz and Morrison at Wrestlemania 37. Bad Bunny exceeded expectations with his unforgettable performance, and even earned the respect from most of the people who weren’t fans of his beforehand. I think I can speak on behalf of a lot of us when I say that we hope to see Bad Bunny again in the WWE. 

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Culture Movies/TV

The 20 Best Scary Movies On Hulu to Watch Right Now

Although Netflix was at one point the dominating force in streaming for all genres, their horror selection as of late has been a bit lackluster. Services like Shudder have filled in some gaps with an overwhelming selection of indie and foreign films, while HBO Max has a substantial list of classics. Hulu’s selection is pretty varied: the streaming service has a collection of under-appreciated arthouse movies alongside Oscar-winning thrillers.

Just ‘cause it’s almost summer doesn’t mean the spirit of Halloween is waning for real horror junkies, so we’ve curated a list of the 20 best scary movies we could find on Hulu. From sci-fi dystopias to home invasion to postmodern thrillers, here are 20 films that’ll keep your blood curdled.

20. ’28 Days Later’

Although needlessly gritty revampings of previously campy genres have become so totally overdone, Danny Boyle’s reinvention of the zombie sub-genre in 28 Days Later is absolutely astounding. Shockingly artistic and with breathtaking cinematography, this film is one of the best zombie movies ever made. Don’t expect slapstick humor or silly misadventures a la Return of the Living Dead, the Oscar-winning director’s clever take on post-apocalyptic terror remains a dark standout in a genre otherwise beaten to death.   

19. ’28 Weeks Later’

Danny Boyle did not return for the sequel to 28 Days Later, but director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo did a fantastic job of holding up the previous film’s aesthetic and tone. 28 Weeks Later is a post-post-apocalypse — it tells the story of what happens months after the world ends, and how humanity’s last survivors have since reshaped a rudimentary form of society. It’s equally as gritty and artistic as its predecessor, and about as violent. There are a few clever twists on the zombie mythos in here too.

18. ‘Blair Witch’ (2016)

At least one reviewer had described Blair Witch as “the worst of any 2016 release.” It’s definitely not — and figuring out why there’s such antipathy for this film is difficult. Perhaps critics are still angry they were duped by the avant-garde viral marketing of the original Blair Witch? In this reboot of the franchise which began in 1999, there are some pretty clever plot devices introduced to the Blair Witch cinematic universe: apparently, the entity commonly known as The Blair Witch can manipulate time! Either way, Blair Witch (2016) certainly doesn’t measure up to the pure terror of the first movie, but it’s a clever twist on the now-infamous urban legend nonetheless.

17. ‘Bug’ (2006)

Bug flopped big at box offices upon its release in 2006, partially because it was advertised as a traditional horror movie instead of what it actually is: an artsy and melancholic thriller about severe mental illness. But even though Bug is lacking in obvious scares, it’s one of the most frightening — and emotionally devastating — movies ever made. Based on the play by Tracy Letts and directed by horror master William Friedkin (best known for helming the original Exorcist film in 1973), Bug tells the story of two depressed drug addicts whose utter loneliness draws them into mutual madness and shared delusions of government conspiracies. It’s oddly prescient in the age of QAnon, and the human story — about a mother’s loss and longing — is extremely touching. Excellent acting from Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon would make this an Oscar-worthy film — if the Oscars weren’t so averse to anything resembling horror. (Note: there’s another, entirely unrelated horror movie also titled Bug on Hulu that is absolutely not worth watching.)

16. ‘Cabin in the Woods’

A post-modern love letter to the horror genre, Cabin in the Woods is a Scream-adjacent deconstruction of obvious horror tropes. Like Scream, the movie has a pretty good sense of humor that doesn’t take away from the more serious scares. We won’t get too much into the plot — there are too many twists and turns to reveal — but it also means that re-watches are equally as rewarding as first-time viewings. Writer Drew Goddard, who was behind some of the best episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, provides excellently witty dialogue throughout. 

15. ‘Children of the Corn’ (1984)

A24’s Midsommar was hailed as a highly original horror masterpiece shortly before the pandemic, but more casual moviegoers might not be aware there’s an entire sub-genre of harvest horror. An early example of this is Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, an occultic tale of rural terror. The movie itself is appropriately unnerving — lots of creepy children worshipping a mysterious agricultural deity — but the bombastic finale is pure silliness. 

14. ‘The Descent’

It’s hard to imagine straight-up monster movies could still be scary in the new millennium, but director Neil Marshall’s claustrophobic nightmare actually delivers. In The Descent, an all-female crew of cave explorers encounters a cannibalistic species of underground humanoids, as they’re picked off by the creatures one by one. It sounds pretty corny, but the amazing acting and use of darkness and shadow help this movie transcend its pretty simplistic concept. There’s also a shocking amount of emotional depth to the movie, too.

13. ‘The Haunting’ (1999)

The Haunting (1999) is based on the iconic horror film of the same name from 1963, which itself is based on the 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson (confusingly, none of these are actually related to The House on Haunted Hill movies). This Y2K era movie has a star-studded cast and shockingly good special effects considering the year it was released. The acting is all absurdly over-the-top — as is the violence — but it’s a supernatural joyride filled with campy pleasures. Like a carnival ride in Hell.

12. ‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’

Although the sequel to Hellraiser is pretty incomprehensible without knowledge of the first film (which, itself, is pretty incomprehensible without reading the Clive Barker novel on which both are based), the special effects and insane character design of the perverse world of the Cenobites is undeniably enthralling. In Hellraiser, demonic entities who pursue pleasure and pain to their absolute limits enter our dimension to find new victims. An extended metaphor for forbidden, queer desires, Hellraiser 2’s surreal and gruesome imagery is hard to forget.

11. ‘The Host’ (2006)

Casual cinema-goers finally recognized the immense talent of director Boon Joon-ho when he won a much-deserved Oscar in 2020. Horror fans have been aware of him for a while, partially thanks to his beloved monster movie, The Host. Laden with social commentary about the hyper-competitiveness of post-war South Korean capitalism, this movie is a sympathetic story of survival, featuring much more three-dimensional characters than you normally see in Western cinema.

10. ‘Hollow Man’

Director Paul Verhoeven is known for both ultra-violent social commentary in movies like Robocop and Starship Troopers — and for sleazy sensuality, as in Showgirls. Hollow Man was a particularly salacious and sexually nasty movie, especially for the year 2000. In it, rogue scientists discover a chemical that can turn people invisible. But when the lead researcher realizes he can’t return himself back to normal, he begins going insane. The special effects are impressive to this day, and the story’s damning statement on masculinity’s corruptibility is starkly pessimistic.

9. ‘Little Joe’

Little Joe is a slow-paced, psychological sci-fi/horror film about scientists who genetically modify a plant so that its scent cures depression — but everyone who smells the flower starts acting really strange. Are they being driven to propagate the plant through its olfactory mind control, or are the protagonists becoming increasingly paranoid? Think Little Shop of Horrors, but taken totally seriously. Ben Wishaw and Emily Beecham star as the lead researchers in this Jessica Hausner-directed slow burn.

8. ‘My Friend Dahmer’

Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Derf Backderf, this film adaptation explores the childhood and adolescence of the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Backderf was, in real life, a classmate of Dahmer’s and had a unique insight into his lonely life. Although the film depicts no actual violence whatsoever, the build-up to Dahmer taking his first victim is intense — and quite emotionally complex. My Friend Dahmer was criticized for glamorizing serial killers, but perhaps the film is a test of our capacity for empathy more than anything else. 

7. ‘The Omen’

Often put in a pantheon of classic horror alongside Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, The Omen is a Hitchcockian suspense movie about a creepy child who may or may not be the Antichrist. The devil is afoot as a diplomat and his wife try to solve some unexplained deaths in the area — and begin to fear their own child is to blame. It’s all for you, Damien!

6. ‘Pandorum’

In this extremely well made 2009, German/British, sci-fi/horror movie, humanity has built an interstellar ark to carry 60,000 people on a 123-year trip to colonize an inhabitable plane. Some time into the mission, flight crew members awaken from their hypersleep chambers, leaving them with partial amnesia, while possibly suffering from Pandorum — a space-related sickness that causes psychosis when under emotional duress. With seemingly no one else on board, and no memory of their mission, it quickly becomes clear that they’re not alone. While searching the massive ship, the space cadets encounter an alien race of hunters, as well as other crew members who’d thawed from their sleep too soon. But have they encountered a terrible future or are they all going totally insane?

5. ‘Parasite’

Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite was so good that even the Academy had to overcome their statistically-proven racism to give it proper accolades. Although it’s not as conventionally scary as most of the films on this list, the movie’s chilling commentary on the cruelty of capitalism — and some actually stunningly violent twists in the film — make it far more impactful than your standard horror fare. 

4. ‘Possessor’

Although it’s probably unfair to compare Brandon Cronenberg to his father, David Cronenberg, the pair’s movies — at least so far — have a lot of thematic similarities. Exploring body horror, psychedelia, postmodernism, and the implications of technology on identity, Possessor tells the story of a near-future spy agency that can insert an agent’s consciousness into another person’s mind. It’s a deliriously deranged movie with a devastatingly original aesthetic.

3. ‘Predators’

Adrien Brody plays an unexpectedly buff action hero in this reboot of the classic sci-fi franchise which began in 1987. Although Predator is often remembered for its stylized 80’s aesthetic and iconically excessive performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger — this reimagining is deadly serious. The action scenes are well choreographed and the plot is pretty engaging considering the not-so-sophisticated subject matter.

2. ‘XX’

Horror movies directed by women are rare gems, thanks to the misogyny of Hollywood — and they’re are usually considerably better than the mediocrity produced by most men. Celebrating horror from a female perspective, this collection of four short films is hyper-stylized and varying in subject matter and brutality. “The Box,” directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, is the most disturbing of the tetralogy and deals with trauma and anorexia — but Annie Clark (better known as Saint Vincent) also showcases a dark quirkiness with her entry, “The Birthday Party.” 

1. ‘You’re Next’

It’s unclear what was happening in pop culture around 2010 such that home invasion horror had such a moment, but You’re Next is one of the standout entries in the sub-genre that became oddly popular at that time. The movie is deeply nihilistic — it’s never exactly revealed why the murderous masked individuals are so bloodthirsty — but the clever violence throughout is darkly humorous while still staying pretty scary. There’s a story of family dysfunction buried under a thick layer of blood.

Categories
Culture Music

Lil Polo Tee Is A Unique Artist Building Buzz

This week’s Monday to Monday episode hosted by Mike Boyd welcomes rapper Lil Polo Tee aka Polo Perks. A unique artist with a speciality for rapping over indie samples, Polo has been steadily building buzz over these past couple months as he continues to gain followers and build his fan base. On the heels of releasing the music video for his latest single ‘YeahYeahYeah,’ the artist is having a pretty good 2021 so far, and tapped in with Boyd to talk about Surf Gang (a group of New York based rappers and producers), his approach to music, and what he has been up to recently. 

Boyd and Polo started their interview discussing the New York music scene, and how Polo is carving a lane for himself in that space. “Everything is going pretty well right now! Places are opening back up in the city, and Surf Gang is taking over everyday. Most of us are based out of New York, but we are really all over the place when you think about it. We just got back from doing a sold out show in L.A., which was crazy. There were about 600 to 700 people, and it was my first show there, so that was dope to experience.”

Pivoting the conversation, Boyd asks Polo about his EP Punk Goes Drill, and what it took behind the scenes to craft the project. “You know it’s funny because I listened to Punk and Drill music growing up, and it’s cool to see people’s reactions,” he tells Boyd. “That type of music is easily forgotten about a lot of times, and not a lot of people appreciate it. I was really just trying to make a drip project that was in the sound of Drill, but still something to set me apart from the rest. I wasn’t influenced by any of the old school samples—these are all up-to-date 2000s samples. Everything is from the early 2000s, and it’s really for the people of my time.”

Ben Oleynik
Lil Polo Tee

As their convo continues, Boyd and Polo talk about Polo’s favorite tracks on the project, working with his go-to producer Goner, and his growing influence in the skating community, which in turn leads Boyd to ask what song Polo would recommend new fans listen to for an introduction to his music “I feel like there isn’t really a song—I’m one of the most organic people doing this,” he says before listeners a rundown of his artistry. “Before you tap in and listen—you can really listen to any song you want to, you just have to know that my sound is going to be my sound. My flow is going to be my flow. So you have to get comfortable with it!”

For more on Polo, be sure to check out the full interview above. You can also keep up with the artist and his future releases on both Instagram and Twitter.

Categories
Art NFT

IKONICK Launches Inaugural NFT Collection and Collaboration Contest

LA-based art brand IKONICK has announced their inaugural NFT collection. The genesis of what is now the fastest growing digital art company in the world can be traced back to 2016, when digital artists Jeff Cole and Mark Mastrandrea first founded the brand, which would eventually come to be backed by GaryVee and Scooter Braun. Their mission: “We are dedicated to producing affordable high-quality canvas art that’s guaranteed to make you sit up straight, put your head down and go follow your passion.”

The goal of the brand’s NFT project is blurring the worlds of physical, hold-it-in-your-hands art and the exploding digital art space. “We believe NFTs are going to be as big as social media or the internet,” IKONICK co-founder Mark Mastrandrea said. “We’ve spent a lot of time studying this fast changing market and ultimately believe that providing tangible value is the most important element to any offer. Any consumer that purchases our Inaugural NFT will have the ability to unlock exclusive canvas, exclusive NFT’s and new products in the future.” 


The brand has a few NFTs prepared to drop in their Eternal Contest, with each token accompanied by some physical assets. The first to drop is the Dreams Weigh More Than Excuses NFT, inspired by one of the brand’s most successful canvas art pieces to date. You can find the link to the auction here.

Each NFT drop will include two editions. Both editions will only be available for 48 hours and will be minted on the blockchain, then never sold again.

  • The “Eternal Set” Edition; comes free with a purchase of a $500 Gift card to Ikonick.com 
  • A rare 1 of 1 “Eternal Auction” Edition; auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder via Open Sea, comes with a physical Infinite Object.

They’ve also incorporated a super unique mechanic into the drop; each release will spark a unique consumer contest, designed to return something to a member of the IKONICK community. According to the brand’s press release, “The first contest winner will work directly with the Ikonick in-house creative team to create a custom art piece that will be listed and sold next to some of the most iconic brands and entrepreneurs of our time including: Daymond John, Gary Vaynerchuck, Monopoly, Smiley, Popeye, Peanuts, Marilyn Monroe, NBA and more. As a collaboration partner, the winner will also receive monthly royalty payments against sales volume, serving a passive income stream, in perpetuity.”

This is an amazing example of the ways that brands and creators can create more interesting drops mechanically than a one time purchase. By incorporating this element of the drop, the contest winner will be getting mass awareness/distribution through IKONICK’s multi-millions of followers on social, email and text subscribers. It would be huge for any artist looking to build up their brand.

IKONICK is in the NFT game for the long haul; this drop is clearly intended to build community. “Offering limited edition NFTs with gift card purchases and unique collaboration opportunities to our fans is our way of educating and inviting more people to join and drive forward this industry movement. This is the future, we’re excited to build it and bring our community on the journey with us,” said Jeff Cole, co-founder of IKONICK in the brand’s press release. 

Keep your eye on the auction here and make sure to follow @ikonick on Instagram for updates on what’s to come.