Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Draft

There are two things that I spend more time thinking about than is probably normal. One is reading about and studying how successful companies are run, and the other is making up pretend wrestling matches in my head, so I figured, if I'm going to spend time thinking about this stuff, I might as well turn it into the latest edition of Knockout Shots.

One of my favourite books is "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis, which focuses on the story of Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane's attempts to construct a baseball roster that will not only win games but has the potential to go all the way to the World Series. The only problem is, Beane has to do it on a budget of almost nothing. The act of roster building has always fascinated me in all types of sports, including wrestling, so for this edition of Knockout Shots, I'm combining the art of roster building with my interest in wrestling fantasy warfare.

Like a lot of wrestling fans, I find it fun to imagine what would happen if certain members of different promotions could face off in matches or even better, what would an ultimate wrestling roster look like if you could hand pick from different organisations? Whilst I'm not going to do a whole roster here, I thought it would be fun to look at drafting a fantasy women's division—and just like Billy Beane was restricted to using players he could afford, I'm restricting myself to only being able to draft women from the current rosters of WWE and TNA. That means no girls from the indies, NXT or overseas.

What follows is the nine women (my starting team if you will) that I would draft to make up my fantasy Knockouts roster. Just like a GM would, I take into consideration age, physical tools, history, productivity and projected future value to determine if they warrant a spot on my team. Without further ado, this is The Draft. Jason Blade is on the clock...

Paige: My number one pick might surprise a few people but when you factor in age, ability and pedigree, no one even comes close to the second generation star from Norwich, England. Already an established Diva and one of the best female wrestlers WWE has, at only 22 years old, it's astonishing to think how good Paige can be when she hits her prime a decade from now. For that alone, she's the first one off the board in my draft.

Gail Kim: No matter how young you want to build your roster, there always needs to be a veteran presence to mentor the youth, to set the standard and to lead the way. For that purpose, there's no one better than Gail Kim on either roster right now. As good and as motivated as she has ever been, Gail seems to be improving as she reaches 40 and although she is on the downhill part of her career, Gail will still be able to tear the house down with the right opponents for several years to come.

Awesome Kong: Think of Kong as David Ortiz. This is not a multi-functional draft choice; this is the designated hitter. Just like the Red Sox didn't choose Ortiz so he could run and field, I don't pick Kong so she can do hurricanranas and 450 splashes. I pick her because what she does, she does very well (like Ortiz) and that is play the monster. If you want one word for my roster, it would be diversity. I want different women of different personalities, looks and talents—and Awesome Kong is very different in all senses. This is not a draft pick that I expect to get long term value from, but in the short term, she can help the division massively.

AJ Lee: I contemplated taking Lee lower down because I think there are better wrestlers still on the board, but her connection with the audience cannot be denied. Spunky and good on the microphone, AJ rises above many women in the personality department and even when she' not wrestling, can contribute in other situations. Her physical conditioning is also impressive, as is her knowledge of wrestling history. Being under 30 years old means she can be a long term investment and take over the veteran role from Gail Kim when Gail decides to hang up the boots.

Natalya: Undervalued by WWE, I firmly believe that we have never got to fully see what Nattie Neidhart has to offer. One of the few third generation women in the business, the pedigree of this Canadian cannot be doubted and if allowed to unleash some of those skills she honed in her grandfather's dungeon in Calgary, Natalya has the chance to be the MVP (no, not the BDC guy) of any women's roster. Maybe the strongest of all the women in the draft, she seems to have worked on her conditioning lately which could help her keep up with smaller members of the roster.

Havok: Perhaps a controversial choice to be taken so high in the draft, I'll concede that Havok still needs some big game experience, but her upside far outweighs any negatives that she has shown. As I've said, at 37, Awesome Kong will not be a long term answer to play the role of the monster and the 28-year-old Havok definitely has the physical tools to be the future of that spot. Perhaps forming some sort of platoon with Kong to learn from the veteran is the way to go in the development of the younger Havok. Either way, her unique appearance and style earns her a spot on my team.

Naomi: At 27 years old, Naomi is perhaps the best pure athlete available to draft and with the legendary Anoa'i family behind her, the former Funkadactyl has the potential to learn from some of the best and really up her game. Definitely one to watch out for as most improved player, I expect big things from Naomi over the next year, and she is worth the investment of a number 7 draft pick.

Taryn Terrell: A risky draft move and one that I'm still not totally committed to. In earlier mock drafts I actually didn't pick Taryn at all; however, there is just something about the current Knockouts Champion that makes her an attractive choice and I'm not just talking about her looks. Taryn actually has strong high school and college sporting credentials and although she's not ranked highly as an in-ring performer, the heart of the Louisiana native ensures that she will never give up, which is exactly the kind of team player you want when you reach the last inning.

Angelina Love: Whilst I'm tempted to give the last spot to Mickie James, her inactivity over the past few years coupled with her outside interests made me opt for Angelina Love with the final pick of the draft. Although her best days are probably behind her, in the right situation Angelina can still contribute, and let's not forget that she is still at least responsible for some of the highest rated Knockouts segments in TNA history. Smooth and confident in the ring, Love really cares about TNA and the Knockouts legacy she has helped to build—and that is something you can't teach. A late round draft choice, Angelina is worth the pick.

So there you have it, folks. As baseball season nears, those are the women I'd have bat for me in my fantasy Knockouts roster. Of course, if I was to incorporate women from elsewhere, it would look very different but for a fun little taste of where my preferences lie in TNA and WWE, I'd say it's a pretty good indicator. I'd love to hear who you guys would draft for your Knockouts roster so please, leave your comments below. Until next time, keep swinging.