OHHHHH we’re back baby. The NBA season is in full swing, and coincidentally or not, the road to Wrestlemania starts this Sunday with the Royal Rumble in St. Louis, Missouri. For those of you that are just catching on, I started writing the WWE for a NBA Fan at the very bottom of my lockout doldrums. With no basketball to keep my mind sane, I started drawing parallels between various NBA fan bases and the WWE stars I thought they would most identify with. Even as a deal was struck and real ball was played again, the WWE for a NBA Fan series has soldiered on. Presented here is part 5 of 6, the Northwest Division.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Cody Rhodes
For the Wolves and the great (and long-suffering) fans of Minnesota, I had to think of a guy who would carry the requisite features of the greatest sports stars of the state. I was trying to think of a salt of the earth type guy, someone who looks like he could grow up next door to you. Someone who would succeed with a blue-collar work ethic. Someone like a Joe Mauer, Jack Morris, Kirby Puckett, Kevin Love or Kevin Garnett. So I came up with John Cena.
But that’s obviously not who we’re going with. He’s too much of a larger than life person, too much of a transcendent pop-culture figure. I need a guy a little understated, a little more demure.
But then I realized that for Minnesota, that hasn’t touched gold since 1991 with the Twins and hasn’t seen a championship round in any sport since then, they needed a guy to follow with a certain amount of swagger contrary to what they’ve always worshiped. They need a guy who’s got a little bit of an edge to him, with a little more confidence than smarts. They need all this, but also for him to look like he could have been your buddy in high school.
Enter Cody Rhodes. Son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes, Cody looks like a normal guy (albeit, a extremely jakked normal guy…and maybe a little douchey). He’s come up through the ranks of the WWE with various tag teams and playing different characters, paying his dues at the bottom of the card. He’s had to earn his way to his spot, even though he emerged through the door his father undoubtedly opened for him. He’s improved as a wrestler every year since his introduction to the company. But even more impressive than his physical work ethic, is how he’s worked on the extracurricular features of his game. When he first came into the company, Cody was lifeless and uncharismatic. He was the skinny son of the larger than life personality (and human) Dusty Rhodes. Cody couldn’t speak, and even when he did, he had a noticeable speech impediment. However, several years later, you have to struggle to hear hints of it when he cuts weekly killer promos running down his latest opponent.
He’s moved his way up the corporate ladder the right way, the way a Timberwolves fan could identify with. But he’s also got that championship swagger that they long to feel.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler is the stupidest name in the WWE. The Thunder have the logo and colors of an amateur basketball squad. This comparison is already bearing fruit.
Beyond the simple facade of names and colors, these two entities have far more in common. Ziggler is one of the WWE’s shining young stars. He has limitless talent and a comparable amount of potential. In his current gimmick, Ziggler brags about being a so-called “show-off”. He claims that every single night, his match will be the one you remember most. He thinks he has the most dynamic move set, complimented best by his extraordinary athleticism and creativity. With his bleached blond hair, chiseled jaw line and cold blue eyes, Ziggler looks every bit the star he claims himself to be. He craves the respect and attention that he feels is long overdue for him. Ziggler looks like a star, carries himself like a star and spouts incessantly about how he will be the next star.
Now most guys like this are all sizzle and no steak – Ziggler is not most guys. For all the bravado he has on the microphone and all the showboat-zip he puts on his moves, he has the fundamentals to back them up completely. Though his repertoire includes top rope splashes and five-foot vertical leaps, Ziggler can also get down to the mat and use his NCAA championship amateur wrestling background. It’s extremely rare that a guy so young with a relative lack of experience can have so much so soon. As much as I don’t think I may be ready to perceive him as a champion, I think it might be the case sooner than later.
Did anything I just write not remind you of the Oklahoma City Thunder? Durant, Ibaka, Harden and Westbrook are all explosive offensive players, with dazzling crossover moves a-plenty and Sportscenter dunks to spare. They can light it up against any team in the league – I’d argue that there’s not a faster, more athletic team playing right now.
But just because they have a spectacular offensive acumen, doesn’t mean this team can’t do the fundamentals right. They in large part take care of the ball, take smart shots (for them – they can make just about any shot on the floor), rebound and defend with as much energy as they use to score. Like Ziggler, for as good as they look with the ball in their hands, they’re just as good with the dirty work that few appreciate. You’re looking at two future champions.
Utah Jazz: Christian
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Fear not Salt Lake City, Christian knows how you feel.
Christian is now a two-time World Champion. After 14 years of traveling the world, fighting in ladder matches and languishing at the middle of the WWE card, Jay Reso finally was recognized for his long history of unappreciated greatness. I always knew that year after year, Christian would come onto every show and give me a great interview of an even better match. I came to rely upon him for a underrated excellence that was always great, but never great enough.
The Jazz have just come from under a 20 year coaching regime of Jerry Sloan, and 6 years before that, a similar run from Hall of Famers, but never champions, John Stockton and Karl Malone. Jazz fans know what it’s like to be unappreciated for their near-greatness but never quite realized ascent. I want Utah to follow a guy who has the story of the Jazz, but an ending more suitable to the difficulty of the journey. Enjoy Jazz fans.
Oh, and he’s a white blond guy named Christian. Let’s just call a spade a spade here.
Check out the other parts of the WWE for an NBA Fan series: