Everybody loves an underdog. Whether it’s the USA hockey team winning Gold at the 1980 Winter Olympics, the 1969 “Miracle” Mets, or that time Bobby Boucher turned up at half-time and the Mud Dogs won the Bourbon Bowl – everybody loves an underdog.
In HOW, underdog stories are rare. The quality of talent on the roster at any given time makes the possibility of such an occurrence a near-impossibility. Whether it’s the twisted Arthur Pleasant or the blessed Xander Azula, to everybody in between, the roster is always stacked from A to… Well, X, in this case, and anybody can beat anybody else on their day.
It takes an exceptional circumstance, or a wrestler on an unbelievable run of poor form, to even think about such a thing happening. So, on the rare occasion when an underdog story appears, it’s important to celebrate it. With that said, let’s talk about Refueled.
Darin. Freakin’. Zion! Six. That’s how many matches Darin Zion had lost in a row, before pulling off his superb win against the Best Alliance on Saturday night. He had not won a match since February 13th against Jason Cashe and he was taking on the World Champion, a Hall of Famer and a man later inducted into the Hall of Fame (congratulations to Steve Solex.) He was +1000 with the oddsmakers. We stopped taking bets on a BA win here at HOG. Darin Zion was not supposed to win.
What he did at Refueled has to be one of the all-time great victories in HOW and I couldn’t be happier for him. Sure, he annoyed the hell out of me pre-match by trying to circumvent the rules to bet on himself, but putting that aside, I was so pleased to see him finally break his losing streak – and in such a stunning way.
I’ve never been a Darin Zion fan and I still think he’s an annoying pain in the you-know-what, but anybody not aligned with the Best Alliance will have had a smile on their face after this match. The key now, of course, is to keep it going. Darin, if you’re reading this, please don’t let it go to your head. Settle down, focus, and get yourself on a War Games team. It’s only one win, there is still a long way to go.
A Pleasant surprise? Lindsay Troy asked Arthur Pleasant to prove himself. I wanted to see Arthur Pleasant prove himself. Arthur Pleasant didn’t think he needed to prove himself – or that High Flyer would provide enough of a challenge to do so. He was wrong on both counts. High Flyer came to fight and he absolutely caught Pleasant off guard. He almost beat The Provocateur and provided another tough challenge for the newcomer, but ultimately could not pick up the win.
Has Arthur done enough to get the 214’s attention? Teddy Palmer’s actions seems to suggest not, but they say the mark of a champion is finding a way to win, even when they’re not at their best. That’s exactly what Pleasant did on Saturday night and Lindsay and the rest of the Local Grapplers should keep that in mind when they assess Arthur’s suitability for their War Games team – don’t lose a shoe for the want of a nail.
The Tag Team Championship has meaning again: After being passed around between the 214 and the Best Alliance on an almost weekly basis – with two team members winning them and two different members losing them – Steve Harrison and the COOLest man in HOW seem to be focused on making sure that trend comes to a screeching halt. They made it very clear that they are the champions, not the Best Alliance, and they intend to keep it that way.
Shortly after that, John Sektor and Jatt Starr paraded around the ring, claiming the titles for themselves, which is only going to serve to anger Jiles and Harrison. They will inevitably come to blows, which is bad news for the Best Alliance, but will make for great viewing for everyone else.
As a three-time Tag Team Champion myself (humble brag), it’s great to see these titles taken seriously again. Multiple HOW World Champions have held the Tag belts at some point in their careers (including our current World Champ) and it’s great to see some respect for that legacy. Long may it continue.
Teddy Palmer vs Clay Byrd is the next marquee feud in HOW: What a match. Both men gave it everything they had and captured the fans’ attention. The way this match ended, and the buzz around HOW since then makes it inevitable that these two will meet again soon. Depending on what happens at War Games, it could even be for the HOW World Championship, because on their current form, both men have a legitimate shot at walking away with the top prize. Whatever happens, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine we will be talking about Teddy Palmer vs Clay Byrd in a year’s time in the same breath as Darkwing vs Jatt Starr or Shane Reynolds vs Max Kael.
We will release our War Games odds a little closer to the event itself, but it won’t come as a surprise that both of these men will be among the favorites.
Speaking of High Octane Gambling, let’s take a look at this week’s matchups.
Lindsay Troy, Conor Fuse & Zeb Martin (+225) vs Mike Best, Cancer Jiles & Jace Parker Davidson (-185)
Two things are clear when you look at the stats for this match.
One: I mentioned at the top of this article that anybody can beat anybody and you need look no further than our World Champion’s record for proof of that. Cancer Jiles is 3-3-1 for the year, with a win percentage of just .429. But he is not the only one – the competing 214 team combined have an 8-10 record for 2021 and all three have losing records during the War Games period.
Two: “Anybody can beat anybody else” does not apply to Mike Best. 9-1-1 for 2021, he is the outlier in this match and Mike (-133) is the favorite to pick up the winning pinfall or submission.
Jiles and Davidson had an embarrassing night on Saturday and one would think that they are out to prove themselves this week. Lee Best will certainly expect more from the stable bearing his name and they had better deliver. “Card subject to change” was the tweet on Saturday afternoon. Sure, that was seemingly pointing to the postponement of Lethal Lottery, but don’t ever think it’s too late for Lee Best to change his War Games line-up. If they don’t produce for a second successive week, I wouldn’t bet against another change.
$100 on the Local Grapplers will net you a profit of $225 should they win, while a Best Alliance victory – thanks mainly to Mike Best’s presence – would net a $54 profit.
Dan Ryan (-154) vs John Sektor (+180)
You might look at John Sektor’s record (3-5 in 2021; 1-2 for the War Games period) and wonder why we have been so tight with his odds. Well, for one thing, he won last time out (albeit against Lester Moregrimes) and for another, he’s John freakin’ Sektor. Multiple time World Champion, Hall of Famer and – most importantly – he’s found his focus.
Dan Ryan (7-2; 2-1) is rightfully the favorite here and if I were to choose this match for Not-the-Best Bet of the Week, that’s where my money would be laid. He lost to Sutler Kael last time out in his first non-HOFC loss of the year so betting against a return to form here could be dangerous. Nevertheless, John Sektor at his best is a match for anybody – it all depends on what version shows up on Saturday night.
$100 on Dan Ryan wins $65, while $100 on a John Sektor victory returns $280.
Steve Harrison (-133) vs Arthur Pleasant (+115)
Both of these men have been on a tear recently. Harrison (7-2; 3-1) and Pleasant (3-1) have identical records for the War Games period and that is reflected in the very close odds. We give Harrison a slight edge because of his year-to-date opponent strength (.666 compared to Pleasant’s .434), but whether he likes it or not, Arthur still hasn’t proven himself to the 214. He dug deep against High Flyer and impressed a lot of people, but there will be concerns – aside from the obvious square peg in a round team – that the 30 year veteran, who has struggled in 2021, was able to come so close to beating him.
I know from experience that you cannot afford to have a liability on your team at War Games and that has to factor into the 214’s decision-making process when it comes to Arthur Pleasant. Yes, he will inevitably turn on them at some stage during the match, but they can plan for that separately. What they cannot afford is for The Provocateur starting slowly and being eliminated early. A win – and a strong showing – against Steve Harrison in what should be a tough, but winnable matchup, could be the difference between the 214’s acquiescence and Arthur Pleasant watching War Games from the sidelines.
There is not a lot between these two, with $100 netting you a $75 profit should Steve Harrison win, or a $115 profit on Arthur Pleasant.
Lester Moregrimes (+400) vs Sean Stevens (-230)
For a man with no prior wrestling experience, Lester Moregrimes has been… Well… overmatched. Granted, Private SRK, John Sektor and Clay Byrd would be a challenge for anybody, but nevertheless it is reasonable to expect Moregrimes’ record (0-3) to continue on trend here against Sean Stevens (2-4; 2-1). Stevens is coming off a loss to Steve Harrison but should have more than enough about him to take care of Lester. “Anybody can beat anybody” doesn’t apply to Mike Best and Lester Moregrimes, but for very different reasons.
$100 on Moregrimes returns $500, while $100 on a Stevens victory nets you a $43.50 profit.
Brian Hollywood (+200) vs Cecilworth Farthington (-175)
Any time a returning star faces off against another veteran, it is difficult to calculate the odds. Especially so when you consider that Cecilworth hardly faced any competition at all in his sole victory so far, against a lackluster Bobby Dean. Having said that, Brian Hollywood’s record for the year gives us a better indication of how this one could go. 1-5 on the year and 0-2 for the War Games period, there is nothing about Hollywood’s form to suggest that Farthington’s quest to climb the HOFC ladder will be derailed here. He made quick work of Bobby Dean and while Brian will be a tougher challenge, we here at HOG cannot foresee anything other than a win for the pompous Brit.
$100 on Brian Hollywood would net you $200 in profit should he upset the apple cart. $100 on Cecilworth returns a $57 profit.
NOT-THE-BEST BET OF THE WEEK
Last week, I predicted that Cecilworth Farthington would overcome the challenge of Bobby Dean and when the money hit my account, I cannot deny that I had a wry smile at Lee Best’s expense. This week, he will want to claw the money back – even though it barely registers on his account. So, where am I putting my money this week?
I could back Cecilworth Farthington again in a match I believe he will win fairly convincingly, or I could take the easy route and bet on Sean Stevens. But something tells me that Arthur Pleasant will outlast Steve Harrison and plant his flag firmly on the War Games battleground. $500 says The Provocateur wins a close match against Steve Harrison – and I move on to $1000.
Join me again next week for a round-up of what should be an explosive go-home show, and a look ahead to one of my favorite nights of the year: War Games.