This Week in WWE: Becky's coronation and more chaos runs amok on Raw

In the aftermath of HIAC, we now build towards WWE Super Show-Down, Crown Jewel and Evolution. Rob and Chris dissect the happenings of Raw and SmackDown Live right here!

Raw.png

Chris Novak: After HIAC last night, it’s back to business. We’re on the road to Super Show-Down AND Evolution, as well as another Saudi show in late October. So it will be intriguing to see how we build toward all these events. Whatever the case, it’s time for another episode of Raw. And Raw is beginning with Roman Reigns! Roman wants a piece of Brock Lesnar… but instead, he gets BRAUN, who ain’t too pleased about all this, either.

Yep, figured this was coming. Braun, Brock and Roman are facing off at the next Saudi show. Which, evidently, is called “WWE Crown Jewel.” I feel as though we can do better than that name. But, hey. The expected outcome is expected. Braun is NOT thrilled, though. He says he thinks the idea sucks, that Corbin sucks, that Roman sucks and that the whole situation sucks and the entire arena sucks.

Aaaaaaand that leads to ol’ Paul Heyman, who’s come out with the door to the HIAC cage. Heyman crows about Lesnar being ‘the crown jewel’ of WWE, talking him up as the reason for their soaring stock and why they got the TV deals, etc. After Strowman goes after Heyman, Corbin informs Reigns that he’s going to face… HIM for the Universal Championship. Well then.

Robert O’Neill: Hey that was a good opening segment! Crown Jewel is a very dumb name, but the people who run Jewel-Osco would be foolish not to get some sponsorship ties in. That’s local humor for my Chicago people. I am to please.

Anyway, Heyman coming out was cool, Braun being mad makes sense, Corbin/Roman will be fun. All of that.

Chris Novak: The in-ring portion of the program begins with Dean Ambrose vs. Drew McIntyre. Hey… I’ll take it. Wound up being a pretty stellar match. Ambrose was nearly counted out, but walked into a Claymore by Drew Mac which led to the 1-2-3. Solid stuff there.

Robert O’Neill: Drew Mac is the guy. Get him away from Dolph and let him prosper.

Chris Novak: Backstage, Mac meets up with Dolph, and then Corbin shows up. Corbin tells Dolph that he should invoke his IC Title rematch. While Dolph is banged up, Corbin reminds him that Seth is too, and isn’t even here. So… he could wind up forfeiting the title. Some good ‘heel strategy’ on display here.

Apparently we’re getting a Women’s Championship Open Challenge. I’m sure many fanbases will work themselves into a shoot here.

Robert O’Neill: It would be so amazing and hilarious if it’s Sasha Banks.

Chris Novak: Chad Gable defeated Viktor in what was a banger of a match. That is one of the more unexpected outcomes I could have foreseen happening tonight. But it happened! Chad Gable is way too good, man. Way too good.

Robert O’Neill: I know we’ve been VERY pro-Chad Gable on here but yeah I never expected him to get a good match out of Viktor. That was ridiculous.

Chris Novak: Honestly though!

Robert O’Neill: The Undertaker is here to talk about why you shouldn’t wear Nik-

His match with Triple H at Super Show-Down.

Anyway, since Shawn Michaels will be in Triple H’s corner, Kane will be in Undertaker’s. Cool.

Chris Novak: Bayley beat Dana Brooke in a short but effective match. Bayley’s running knee is rather strong. I desire more, but honestly, I’m not gonna complain about that match.

Robert O’Neill: Yup that was fine. Onward.

Chris Novak: Pain was authored. NEXT.

Robert O’Neill: You won’t believe this, but Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler had an awesome match. Rollins got the win with the Blackout, and it’s cool that the Intercontinental Title is still the workhorse belt.

Chris Novak: Yeah, I really dug that match a lot honestly. The two meshed well again. All in another day’s work.

Robert O’Neill: Here’s Ronda for her open challenge. This should be interesting.

Chris Novak: Well, Natalya WAS set to answer the bell… BUT, The Riott Squad got to her first! It looked like Ruby was going to answer, but it turned into a 3-on-1 attack. That led to The Bellas arriving as the cavalry! The odds were evened and we’ve got ourselves some build to Super Show-Down!

Braun basically warned Corbin backstage, and said he knows he could kill him. Words that were uttered. Basically verbatim.

Elias came out and commanded the crowd as he is to do.

Robert O’Neill: And then Lio Rush came out on behalf of Bob Lashley and was far more entertaining and charismatic than Lashley has ever been. This is a great pairing.

Chris Novak: Lio is SO entertaining. Oh my goodness. That was really great, honestly. All of it. I’m all the way here for this pairing. Tandem. Duo. Whatever you want to call it.

Robert O’Neill: Alicia Fox and Mickie James are in the ring with Alexa Bliss in their corner and they’re set to battle Ember Moon and a mystery partner. Aaaaaand… it’s Nia Jax! That’s pretty neat. Alexa’s face was priceless. The faces got the victory, to no surprise.

Chris Novak: Pretty enjoyable contest here. Nia looked good in her first match in two months. You have to wonder if all these tag teams aligning together is less of a coincidence at this point.

So then we get our main event of the evening. Roman defeated Baron Corbin to retain the Universal Championship. This was quite a bit overbooked, but it was fun too! Unlike last night’s ???? stuff, this actually was effective. Especially since it was on TV. Corbin initially lost, but like the smarmy heel he is, he restarted and made it a No DQ match. That set the stage for Braun, Dolph, Drew Mac, Seth and Dean to all get involved before Reigns hit the Spear on Baron. Pretty fun main event.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah, I mean, it was kind of overbooked and I made a Nitro joke on Twitter, but it’s fine. Nitro did it every week. WWE did it every week in 1999-2000. For Raw to do it once in a while is fine. It got the job done, plus all seven of the guys are in the most important story going on right now, so it’s fine.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: I’ll be completely frank. That was the best Raw in quite a few weeks. From top to bottom the show was really, really fun. I love the Lio & Lashley combo; Gable looked great in his match with Viktor; every woman got TV time; the main event was fun and we had some good rebound from HIAC. I’ll give this episode of Raw a very solid B.

Robert O’Neill:  That was an excellent Raw. They answered some lingering questions after Hell in a Cell while building to Super Show-Down, Evolution and (ugh, this name) Crown Jewel. Everything worked for me on this show, and the matches were all very good and not just filler! More of this going forward would be ideal. A-

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Chris Novak: Big night ahead of us. Almas-Styles, Nak-Rusev for the US Title, Becky’s title coronation and a special episode of MizTV. It’s the latter that’s about to start the show off. Miz reminds us all that he’s facing Daniel Bryan at Super Show-Down for the right to face whomever the WWE Champion is at a later date. Miz says he’s superior to Bryan and WILL beat him at SSD. Miz then introduces HIS VERY SPECIAL GUEST…

MARYSE!! Hey, any time they play “POURQUOI” is a good time for me.

Robert O’Neill: Well that was to be expected! Anyway, they talk about how they’re great and Bryan and Brie aren’t. Then Bryan comes out and goes to attack Miz but inadvertently hits Maryse, who is stretchered out. Whoa.

Chris Novak: It was a trap! Maryse wasn’t actually hurt at all. HOWEVER… the tide was turned anyway. Miz nearly ran into Maryse and was promptly clotheslined over the top rope for his troubles.

Robert O’Neill: This is quite a good feud.

Chris Novak: It’s straight out of Memphis.

Robert O’Neill: The New Day is here! And dressed like The Crocodile Hunter. Sheamus and Cesaro aren’t amused with their antics.

Chris Novak: Cesaro won with a Neutralizer. There’s no surprise here, but the match was quite good. QUITE good. These two used to have some damn good singles matches a few years ago and they definitely produced one tonight.

Robert O’Neill: Rusev blames Aiden English for losing the match on Sunday and tells him not to come to the ring later. As Rusev and Lana walk off, Aiden vents to a producer about how Lana sucks, and guess who was right behind him?!? Lana. And she’s going to tell Rusev.

Meanwhile, Randy Orton is in the production truck being a weirdo to a production assistant. Go figure.

Chris Novak: This proved to be a high-quality match. Although this wasn’t really surprising. Nak and Rusev have some pretty strong chemistry. Nakamura won with a rollup after Aiden goofed. But, Aiden had a little more in the tank for Rusev, as it turned out. He walloped him after the match and repeatedly struck him with the mic. It would appear that, for once, Rusev is the babyface in a feud.

Robert O’Neill: That was a much better way to go about things than having Lana tell Rusev what Aiden said. It’s a bit of a shame they never got a tag title run but this feud should be good.

Chris Novak: It’s Styles-Almas time!  

Robert O’Neill: It’s pretty wild that Andrade “Cien” Almas has become a major player on Smackdown in such a short time. Kinda kills the whole “every NXT guy immediately gets killed on the main roster” narrative.

Chris Novak: People only like to say that when it’s convenient for them to. Anyways, that was the best TV match I’ve seen in a while. That and KO-Rollins were both bangers. It’s not surprising since Andrade is amazing at wrestling as is Styles. Put ‘em together and this is what you get.

Robert O’Neill: That was so good. I wouldn’t mind a long-term feud between these two at some point.

Chris Novak: So we ended the show with Becky’s championship coronation. Lynch called Charlotte out and kept faking her out with things she wanted to do (raise her hand, strap the title around her waist) and also said she wanted to call her queen… bitch. The two then scrapped, and Lynch got the upper-hand and left her lying in the ring after a Bexploder.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: As usual, tops effort from SmackDown Live. A few really good matches, with Almas-Styles being the obvious highlight. I can’t stress enough just how good this show is right now. A lot of what made it tops two years ago was because of the writing but it’s really just a lot of great in-ring work mixed with solid writing. Going to give this a hearty A- here. Really great week of TV.

Robert O’Neill: This really was an excellent episode top to bottom. Everything is working, and it doesn’t look like that will be changing any time soon. I loved that they saved the Becky and Charlotte stuff for the end, because it deserves to feel important, and it sure does now. A.

Ball Don't Lie - "Starting Nick Foles Is Like Trying Coke Once"

Ball Don't Lie returns to recap week 2 of the NFL season! What's going on in Pittsburgh with Mike Tomlin and Antonio Brown? How long will Fitzmagic last in Tampa? Are the Eagles rushing Carson Wentz? Is Patrick Mahomes the real deal or should we wait it out? Can Blake Bortles be consistent enough for the Jaguars to make a real run at the Super Bowl? We'll also talk about the Packers/Vikings tie, Josh Gordon to the Pats, and Vontae Davis quitting the Bills at halftime. PLUS D-Wade's last season, Kanye’s fufu-ass apology tour and the Captain Marvel trailer!

Follow Pierce: @HennyOmega
Follow Scott: @Scott_CEOofSUH
Follow Joe: @Flowsandolini

Insecure S3E6 - Sorry To Call You Like This

Episode six of this season’s Insecure, Ready Like, continues to explore the monumental shifts experienced by many during early adulthood. Last week’s episode of Insecure had viewers shook as Lawrence (Jay Ellis), Issa’s (Issa Rae) ex-boyfriend weaseled his way back on the screen.  Just as Issa seemed to be moving on, Lawrence somehow magically appears. Bouncing back from a SUPER LIT weekend at Coachella, the girl gang calms it down and prepares for Tiffany’s (Amanda Seales) baby shower. This episode focuses on many aspects of life changes as adulthood really sets in.  

Beginning where last week’s cliffhanger left off, Issa and Lawrence cross paths at the 7-Eleven and briefly catch up. While Issa has experienced a few hardships, Lawrence has been working hard professionally and at home. Viewers learn that since their breakup, Lawrence put his good looks to use to sleep with just about every woman who crosses his path.

When season one of Insecure kicked off, a portion of viewers questioned the lack of protection all of the intimate black and sexy scenes and it looks like “Lawrence Hive” gets to learn the lesson. A very real result of his casual sex spree: chlamydia. We then see Lawrence go through his phone and call all of his sexual partners and inform them to get tested, an applaudable move for someone who clearly makes questionable decisions.

During these dozens of phone calls, Lawrence even calls a woman who he has not yet slept with. He literally cannot keep up with who he has sex with. The chlamydia seems to be sort of a wake-up call for Lawrence as he realizes “it’s gotta be more to my life than goin’ to work and fuckin.”

Lawrence claims he wouldn’t take Issa back after cheating but he’s frozen when he sees her at the baby shower. Issa breaks the tension or builds it by speaking first. They catch up and he offers to help with her block party business plan because he’s trying to get back in her life.

Run sis.

Just because he has community dick does not mean he can help with Issa’s community event. As the ex-lovers mix and mingle, they look happy. (I hate to admit that they look good together)

Although Issa and Lawrence may look like Blavity Barbie and Ken, Issa’s new man Nathan (Kendrick Sampson) still fits perfectly in her awkward puzzle. While working on planning her block party and launching a business, Issa questions if she is in over her head. Being discouraged from Inglewood desk clerk, the support from Nathan comes immediately. His ability to comfort Issa puts a smile on her face. Laying in bed, the two have a moment where they both say “I really like you” to each other. Initially shocked by hearing those words, Issa realizes she is allowed to vocalize her feelings, a huge step in her love life.  

Everything with Nathan is seemingly going but there is one catch to the mystery man: Issa texts and calls Nathan, often with no response. The fight in the party Lyft from episode one leads to an open investigation through the ride-share company. After calling Issa and leaving a message to get her side of the story, the Lyft associate eventually gets in contact with Nathan, even though Issa has not heard from “her man” in two days.

If communication is lacking with Nathan, Issa can depend on Molly (Yvonne Orji) and Kelli (Natasha Rothwell) to deliver their honest and loving opinions. During their Coachella adventure, Molly left her jacket with Andrew (Alexander Hodge), Nathan’s Asian friend who wants to get to know her more.

Why can’t I be Orthodox black?
— Molly




Molly claims to not want to give Andrew a chance because she wants to marry a Black man, however there are underlying nerves keeping her from trying something new. With encouragement to venture out and date from Issa and Kelli, Molly finally texts Andrew after a tense interaction with Dro (Sarunas Jackson), her married lover, and an internal realization during Tiffany and Derek’s (Wade Allain-Marcus) baby shower.

Team KelliMollyIssaTiffany

This week, I am on the team of all the women, not in regards to their relationships, but the glue holding together their girl gang. Issa and Molly have each other, so Kelli - realizing she’s losing her best friend to a baby - is overwhelmed with emotion at the semi-glam baby shower after Tiffany left her out of the planning process. It would seem that Tiffany would have her best bitches' plan her event but she reveals that none of them stepped up and offered. Tiffany admits she waited till last minute to let Blair (Briana Henry) do it yet Kelli steps up, sharing that she did offer to plan.

Tiffany says she went with Blair as the head of her “crazy crew” shower because she’s a mother and it changes the entire dynamic. Tiffany, the only wife of the group, is soon to be the only mother as well. Watching friends hit life milestones and realizing that relationships change is real AF and it is easy to feel left out and left behind.

We’re always gon’ have life shit!
— Tiffany



Overall, the importance of sisterhood through friendship - made evident in all three seasons of Insecure - shines through in this episode, and while the ladies may be branching out, they’ll hopefully always have common roots. The next episode gets into Molly and Andrew (who I lowkey ship) and hopefully we get the 411 on Nathan.

79th and Halas EP 104
WWE Hell in a Cell 2018: Recap, reactions and analysis

Hell in a Cell went down on Sunday night in San Antonio! Rob and Chris react to what was a great show… until a confounding ending turned up.

New Day vs. Rusev Day - SDL Tag Team Championships

Chris Novak: Okay, hot out of the gate, this PPV is. This match was on the Kickoff Show but they proved they could have easily main carded this. I really enjoyed the pace of this down the stretch. Aiden busted out some great offense that included his own version of The Accolade. It ALMOST looked like they were going to get it, when Rusev hit a Machka Kick on Big E, who was trying to break it up. BUT, nevertheless, New Day prevailed and New Day retained. Going to give this a hearty ***¾. Did the right team win? Who’s to say?

Robert O’Neill: I feel like the tag team match to open any WWE PPV never disappointed. It’s the perfect way to get things going and get the crowd into it, and there’s a reason they always make sure to have tag matches lead off.

Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton - Hell in a Cell

Chris Novak: Okay! So. That was nasty… violent… everything in between. Orton got real nasty when he used A DAMN SCREWDRIVER THROUGH HARDY’S EAR WHY DID THAT HAPPEN???? Both guys pulled off some ridiculous spots and Orton was left pretty cut up to say the least. I’m not even sure how to rate this match but it was easily the most violent HIAC match in years.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah we need to talk about that screwdriver spot. It was gross. But yeah Orton was cut up on his leg and back and then Jeff tried to do a crossbody thing from hanging on the top of the cell through a table and Orton rolled off the table. It was pretty brutal.

Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch - SmackDown Live Women’s Championship

Chris Novak: THEY DID THE DAMN THING! Becky became the new SmackDown Live Women’s Champion. She did so by countering a Spear and quickly slapped on the Dis-Arm-Her, and thus won clean as a sheet. This was a pretty terrific bout, if you’re really into limb work and psychology. And no surprise, I am just that kind of fan! I will give this **** and it’s both of these ladies’ best matches in quite a while.

Robert O’Neill: I’m kind of shocked they did this. I thought they would have Charlotte win by DQ and have Becky beat her down, but WWE deserves credit for knowing what they had (organically) and not screwing it up. It was pretty much Daniel Bryan in 2014 all over again.

Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre vs. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins - Raw Tag Team Championships

Chris Novak: OKAY THIS MATCH WAS ALSO VERY GOOD!!! Not that it’s surprising when you consider who was in it, but wow. The finish was terrific. Seth did his Superplex off the top rope, and went to transition to a Falcon Arrow, but Drew snuck in and hit the Claymore on him. Dolph flopped down on Seth like a fish and got the 1-2-3. I’m going ****½ on here. Loved how they let this match build up and loved all of the fun tag-style psychology that they had in this match. They did some different things in this match and they all really worked.

Robert O’Neill: What a shock, Seth Rollins had another great match! Credit to all four of these guys, though. This was probably the best tag match on WWE television this year, as far as the main roster goes.

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe - WWE Championship

Chris Novak: This match whipped ass pretty much. It was a little bit slow-paced but was incredibly hard-hitting. It appears they’re doing some kind of controversial finish, where Joe made Styles tap out, but had that happen AWAY from the camera angle. SO, Joe doesn’t have the belt. They’re gonna likely run this again at Super Show-Down. I will give this ****¼ as well. These two absolutely, ABSOLUTELY crushed it. I don’t know if I was expecting that tonight, honestly, but they showed OUT.

Robert O’Neill: I would like if these blood feuds would start with brawling for once instead of chain wrestling and headlocks, but beggars can’t be choosers. Aside from that, the match was good. Joe teasing the muscle buster was a nice touch and the finish leaves for intrigue for Smackdown this week.

The Miz & Maryse vs. Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella - Mixed Tag Match

Chris Novak: That match was… funbad! Some sloppiness involved, but that was probably more expected than anything. Still, the crowd was engaged and everyone played their part. Maryse won with a (sloppy) roll-up. Like I said, maybe some parts were sloppy but I had a ball watching that match. ***¼ for me.

Robert O’Neill: Maryse is the smartest worker in the company. Her only offense was the pinfall. The match was bad and their match at Evolution will be bad but whatever. It keeps the feud going.

Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss - Raw Women’s Championship

Chris Novak: Alright, that was pretty okay. Rousey’s selling was tremendous and Alexa worked well enough for this match to get the job done. They did go longer than anticipated but when you have such a small card, these matches have to go long to fill time. Maybe next time they can add some more matches. Nevertheless, I’m not going to hold that against the performers here. They did their jobs and did it well. I will go with ***¼ for that one.

Robert O’Neill: That was good! It went a bit too long, but the card is short, it happens. I think Alexa being out of the title picture now will be pretty good for her, and I’m interested to see where Ronda goes next. I think they should probably start having her matches be quicker, but that can be a slippery slope.

Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman - Hell in a Cell for Universal Championship

Chris Novak: Alright, I don’t know if I have much positive to say about this. Brock Lesnar came back, wrecked shop, and the match ended in a no contest. A HIAC match… ended in a no contest. I’m guessing this is building toward the Saudi show, because both Braun and Roman are booked for Super Show-Down. Whatever. The match itself was fine but felt like it was lacking something. This really felt like it was planned in the last minute. I’ll give it a generous *** but to be honest with you I probably could’ve gone lower. An otherwise great show ends with a loud dud.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah, I mean, I’m one of the only Brock Lesnar fans left in 2018 and it was cool to see him show up and kick the door off the cell and then use the door as a ramp, but he really shouldn’t be the one we’re talking about after a Hell in a Cell match he wasn’t in. The Lesnar stuff and the Pack/Shield fighting and Rollins/Ziggler doing the same spot Rollins did with Ambrose a couple years ago where both went off the cell through a table seemed dangerous and unnecessary. Strictly speaking about Braun and Roman’s parts of the match, it was wholly unmemorable. Mick Foley being involved makes even less sense now, and he 100% accidentally did a three count early in the match when Braun was covering Roman. They have a lot of work to do tomorrow on Raw to fix this.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: The majority of this show was good! The first four matches were excellent. Is that enough to make the entire show good? Sure. They could have made the Ronda/Alexa match shorter and done a lot different with the Braun/Roman match, but all in all this was a good way to spend four hours. B

Chris Novak: Let’s run through the star ratings again.

New Day/Rusev Day - ***3/4
Hardy/Orton - ****
Charlotte/Becky - ****
Ziggler & Mac/Ambrose & Rollins - ****1/2
AJ/Joe - ****1/4
Miz & Maryse/Brie & Bryan - ***1/4
Rousey/Bliss - ***1/4
Roman/Braun - ***

From the outside this looks like a marvelous show. And to be honest, it was! That is until the ending. I can’t really get over how mismanaged Braun-Roman was. But at the same time, it wasn’t an all-time bad ending or anything. Just a stupid one. So I’ll give HIAC a solid B+.

First Black Champ - Put The Title On Honky?!?!
2018 Emmy Predictions: The Handmaid's & Westeros Face Off
 by Darius Gordon

by Darius Gordon

It's that time of the year again friends and I couldn't be thirstier: it's award SZN! The 70th annual Primetime Emmy Awards is tonight, and I'm coming at with that same energy we had for this year's Oscars. Last year, one of the best dramas to ever touch the small screen, The Handmaid's Tale, came through and dominated the Emmy’s, becoming the first streaming series to win Best Drama. If you aren't watching, get in tune.

Donald Glover also became the first African-American to win Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series when he took home the award for Atlanta, while Chicago's own Lena Waithe became the first African-American woman to win Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series alongside Aziz Ansari for Master of None and Issa Rae gave us the iconic quote that stands true to this day…

image 1.gif

Both Atlanta and Handmaid's Tale have notched an impressive eight nominations, as did Saturday Night Live, but the biggest threat this year is the returning Game of Thrones and FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, both leading all shows with nine nominations. Netflix leads the networks with an impressive 36 nominations, HBO with 35, and FX with 24.

A quick shout out to some winners from the Creative Arts Emmys this past week: Samira Wiley for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama series (Handmaid's Tale), Katt Williams for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Atlanta), and Tiffany Haddish for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (SNL).

Anyway, let's get to my predictions the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards.

(winners in bold)

Outstanding Drama Series

  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

  • Game of Thrones (HBO)

  • This Is Us (NBC)

  • The Crown (Netflix)

  • The Americans (FX)

  • Stranger Things (Netflix)

  • Westworld (HBO)

The big face-off this year is between The Handmaid's Tale and Game of Thrones. Thrones usually dominates the Emmy's with 38 wins to date, last year’s break gave The Handmaid's Tale a pretty easy path to the finish line. While the seventh season of Game of Thrones was by far some of the best television I've ever seen, Handmaid's Tale was that much better.

 via FX

via FX

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • Atlanta (FX)

  • Barry (HBO)

  • Black-ish (ABC)

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

  • GLOW (Netflix)

  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

  • Silicon Valley (HBO)

  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

Outstanding Limited Series

  • The Alienist (TNT)

  • The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)

  • Genius: Picasso (Nat Geo)

  • Godless (Netflix)

  • Patrick Melrose (Showtime)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Jason Bateman (“Ozark”)

  • Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”)

  • Ed Harris (“Westworld”)

  • Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”)

  • Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”)

  • Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”)

This category will be a tight one. Naturally, I'm rooting for Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown, but out of the two, Wright delivered such a compelling performance in this year's season of Westworld. However, Jason Bateman was spectacular and calculated in every scene of Ozark. There's a good chance that Brown could go for back-to-back wins after snagging his second Emmy win in last year.

 via Hulu

via Hulu

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Claire Foy (“The Crown”)

  • Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”)

  • Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

  • Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”)

  • Keri Russell (“The Americans”)

  • Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”)

Sandra Oh is the first Asian woman nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. She’s locked in a battle with the favorite and last year's winner, Elisabeth Moss. As happy as I am for Oh, Moss really commanded every single scene she had in season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (they won this and best directing last yr)

  • Donald Glover (“Atlanta”)

  • Bill Hader (“Barry”)

  • Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)

  • William H. Macy (“Shameless”)

  • Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”)

  • Ted Danson (“The Good Place”)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Pamela Adlon (“Better Things”)

  • Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)

  • Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”)

  • Allison Janney (“Mom”)

  • Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”)

  • Issa Rae (“Insecure”)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

  • Antonio Banderas (“Genius: Picasso”)

  • Darren Criss (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”)

  • Benedict Cumberbatch (“Patrick Melrose”)

  • Jeff Daniels (“The Looming Tower”)

  • John Legend (“Jesus Christ Superstar”)

  • Jesse Plemons (“USS Callister”/Black Mirror)

 via Netflix

via Netflix

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

  • Laura Dern (“The Tale”)

  • Jessica Biel (“The Sinner”)

  • Michelle Dockery (“Godless”)

  • Edie Falco (“The Menendez Murders”)

  • Regina King (“Seven Seconds”)

  • Sarah Paulson (“American Horror Story: Cult”)

I might be a Sarah Paulson stan, and her work in American Horror Story: Cult was incredible (the arc of her character was unlike anything we've seen from her), but miss Regina King had me damn near crying, screaming and cursing the TV out with her performance in Netflix's Seven Seconds.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (“Game of Thrones”)

  • Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”)

  • Joseph Fiennes (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

  • David Harbour (“Stranger Things”)

  • Mandy Patinkin (“Homeland”)

  • Matt Smith (“The Crown”)

 via Hulu

via Hulu

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

  • Alexis Bledel (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

  • Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”)

  • Ann Dowd (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

  • Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”)

  • Vanessa Kirby (“The Crown”)

  • Thandie Newton (“Westworld”)

  • Yvonne Strahovski (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

This is probably the tightest race in any category this year. Thandie is by far my favorite actress on this list and her role in Westworld's second season was phenomenal, but in terms of performance, Yvonne Strahovski went crazy in this season of The Handmaid's Tale. She'll be going against last year's winner, Ann Dowd, and the biggest threat on this list in Lena Headey. It's a close one, but Strahovski's performance was compelling in every single scene.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Louie Anderson (“Baskets”)

  • Alec Baldwin (“Saturday Night Live”)

  • Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”)

  • Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”)

  • Tony Shalhoub (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)

  • Kenan Thompson (“Saturday Night Live”)

  • Henry Winkler (“Barry”)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Zazie Beetz (“Atlanta”)

  • Alex Borstein (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”)

  • Aidy Bryant (“Saturday Night Live”)

  • Betty Gilpin (“GLOW”)

  • Leslie Jones (“Saturday Night Live”)

  • Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”)

  • Laurie Metcalf (“Roseanne”)

  • Megan Mullally (“Will & Grace”)

 via FX

via FX

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

  • Jeff Daniels (“Godless”)

  • Brandon Victor Dixon (“Jesus Christ Superstar”)

  • John Leguizamo (“Waco”)

  • Ricky Martin (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”)

  • Edgar Ramirez (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”)

  • Michael Stuhlbarg (“The Looming Tower”)

  • Finn Wittrock (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

  • Sara Bareilles (“Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert”)

  • Penelope Cruz (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”)

  • Judith Light (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”)

  • Adina Porter (“American Horror Story: Cult”)

  • Merritt Wever (“Godless”)

  • Letitia Wright (“Black Museum” (Black Mirror))

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

  • F. Murray Abraham (“Homeland”)

  • Cameron Britton (“Mindhunter”)

  • Matthew Goode (“The Crown”)

  • Ron Cephas Jones (“This Is Us”)

  • Gerald McRaney (“This Is Us”)

  • Jimmi Simpson (“Westworld”)

Outstanding Reality Competition Program

  • “The Amazing Race” (CBS)

  • “American Ninja Warrior” (NBC)

  • “Project Runway” (Lifetime)

  • “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (VH1)

  • “Top Chef” (Bravo)

  • “The Voice” (NBC)

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

  • At Home with Amy Sedaris (truTV)

  • Drunk History (Comedy Central)

  • I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman (Hulu)

  • Portlandia (IFC)

  • Saturday Night Live (NBC)

  • Tracey Ullman's Show (HBO)

Outstanding Variety Talk Show Series

  • The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)

  • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)

  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)

  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

  • The Late Late Show with James Corden (CBS)

  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS)

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

  • Atlanta (Episode: "FUBU"), directed by Donald Glover (FX)

  • Atlanta (Episode: "Teddy Perkins"), directed by Hiro Murai (FX)

  • Barry (Episode: "Chapter One: Make Your Mark"), directed by Bill Hader (HBO)

  • The Big Bang Theory (Episode: "The Bow Tie Asymmetry"), directed by Mark Cendrowski (CBS)

  • GLOW (Episode: "Pilot"), directed by Jesse Peretz (Netflix)

  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Episode: "Pilot"), directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Amazon)

  • Silicon Valley (Episode: "Initial Coin Offering"), directed by Mike Judge(HBO)

While "FUBU" was an incredible episode of Atlanta, "Teddy Perkins" delivered on all fronts; the acting, score, cinematography, and overall tone of the episode was on point.

ice-dragon-1-970.jpg

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

  • The Crown (Episode: "Paterfamilias"), directed by Stephen Daldry (Netflix)

  • Game of Thrones (Episode: "Beyond the Wall"), directed by Alan Taylor(HBO)

  • Game of Thrones (Episode: "The Dragon and the Wolf"), directed by Jeremy Podeswa (HBO)

  • The Handmaid's Tale (Episode: "After"), directed by Kari Skogland(Hulu)

  • Ozark (Episode: "The Toll"), directed by Jason Bateman (Netflix)

  • Ozark (Episode: "Tonight We Improvise"), directed by Daniel Sackheim(Netflix)

  • Stranger Things (Episode: "Chapter Nine: The Gate"), directed by the Duffer Brothers (Netflix)

Here Game of Thrones finally bests The Handmaid's Tale. "The Dragon and the Wolf" was the season finale and man oh man, the moment that ice dragon melted the wall is when the Emmy win was secured here. The episode kept you on the edge of your seat the entire time; Podeswa's work does not go unnoticed here.

Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special

  • The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Episode: "The Man Who Would Be Vogue"), directed by Ryan Murphy (FX)

  • Godless, directed by Scott Frank (Netflix)

  • Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, directed by David Leveaux and Alex Rudzinski (NBC)

  • The Looming Tower (Episode: "9/11"), directed by Craig Zisk (Hulu)

  • Paterno, directed by Barry Levinson (HBO)

  • Patrick Melrose, directed by Edward Berger (Showtime)

  • Twin Peaks, directed by David Lynch (Showtime)

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

  • Atlanta (Episode: "Alligator Man"), written by Donald Glover (FX)

  • Atlanta (Episode: "Barbershop"), written by Stefani Robinson (FX)

  • Barry (Episode: "Chapter One: Make Your Mark"), written by Alec Bergand Bill Hader (HBO)

  • Barry (Episode: "Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast and Keep Going"), written by Liz Sarnoff (HBO)

  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Episode: "Pilot"), written by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Amazon)

  • Silicon Valley (Episode: "Fifty-One Percent"), written by Alec Berg (HBO)

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

  • The Americans (Episode: "START"), written by Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg (FX)

  • The Crown (Episode: "Mystery Man"), written by Peter Morgan (Netflix)

  • Game of Thrones (Episode: "The Dragon and the Wolf"), written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss (HBO)

  • The Handmaid's Tale (Episode: "June"), written by Bruce Miller (Hulu)

  • Killing Eve (Episode: "Nice Face"), written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge(BBC America)

  • Stranger Things (Episode: "Chapter Nine: The Gate"), written by the Duffer Brothers (Netflix)

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special

  • American Vandal (Episode: "Clean Up"), written by Kevin McManus and Matthew McManus (Netflix)

  • The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Episode: "House by the Lake"), written by Tom Rob Smith (FX)

  • Black Mirror: USS Callister, written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker (Netflix)

  • Godless, written by Scott Frank (Netflix)

  • Patrick Melrose, written by David Nicholls (Showtime)

  • Twin Peaks, written by Mark Frost and David Lynch (Showtime)

Tune into the Emmys on Monday, September 17th and join me for a recap.  Check out more of my work here & shoutout to the homie, Darius Gordon, yet again for the dope thumbnail.

Looking Glass #10: "Marvel movies are post-nut clarity"
Ruthless Aggression EP 33 - HLA & Billy & Chuck's wedding
This Week in WWE: Reigns/Strowman, Orton/Hardy brawl before Hell in a Cell, while Samoa Joe reads AJ Styles a bedtime story

Robert O’Neill: Well, it’s Monday! Time for another week of Monday Night Raw! This week is pretty exciting because Renee Young got a full-time seat at the commentary table AND it’s the Hell in a Cell go-home show, so it should be a fun night.

Chris Novak: I, for one, welcome our new commentating overlord, Renee Young. Congrats to her on a well-deserved promotion to the commentator booth.

Robert O’Neill: The Pack (I guess that’s their name, that’s what Michael Cole called them last week) are in the ring to open the show, and they’re replaying what they did to The Shield last week. After the video ends, the heel locker room is surrounding the ring being praised by The Pack. Something tells me another pull apart brawl is coming.

Here come The Shield through the crowd, and they head right for the ring! They find some axe handles and go to work, and clear out everyone except The Pack, who retreat on their own. That was good.

Chris Novak: Fine with it. No real qualms thee. Nikki vs. Ruby will be a thing after a pre-recorded segment saw The Bellas see their locker room turned upside down. That should be fun, if nothing else. And hey, it starts the in-ring portion of the show.

Robert O’Neill: Yes this should be a good match, as it’s the best Bella against the best Riott Squad member.

Chris Novak: So, that turned out fine, as expected. It’s obvious that they’re trying to heat Nikki up for what’s going down next month at Evolution. Sucks that The Riott Squad have to be fodder for them, but given the composition of the roster… who else is going to take the L’s? Someone’s got to.

Robert O’Neill: Well, yeah. It’s not gonna be Bayley or Sasha and everyone else is tied up with stuff. It is what it is. The match was very good though.

Chris Novak: Agree.

Robert O’Neill: Big Show came out and then spent quite a bit honoring pediatric cancer patients for Connor’s Cure. That was nice. There was a video and all the kids were there.

Chris Novak: I’m such a sucker for that stuff. It was heartwarming, honestly.

Robert O’Neill: AOP squashed some local guys. One was named Ronny Ace, which is incredible.

Chris Novak: Ronny Ace had me LOLing, honestly.

You know what isn’t having me LOLing? This Triple H-Undertaker stuff. Trips is out for a promo. Let me phase myself out here.

Robert O’Neill: It’s weird because in a vacuum this stuff is all fine, but it’s 2018! We don’t need this!

Chris Novak: We don’t… we don’t at all.

Robert O’Neill: B-Team got their tag titles rematch against Ziggler and McIntyre and it… didn’t go well! The new champions retained, but got jumped by Ambrose and Rollins after!

Chris Novak: Now wait a minute they said… Anyhow, that match lasted longer than I thought it would. For the second straight week. That match was better than last week’s.

Robert O’Neill: Did you know Mick Foley and The Undertaker once had a Hell in a Cell match? If you didn’t know, they showed video of it on Raw! Foley will be around later to talk about the match.

Chris Novak: They used old footage for that segment. God.

Robert O’Neill: Kevin Owens is in action against… Tyler Breeze! But the match never actually gets underway because Owens beats Breeze down and hits an apron powerbomb on him, then says he’s going after Bob Lashley because Lashley took Sami Zayn out. I like the logic!

Chris Novak: You called it, Rob. You called it. I am absolutely here for this version of Kevin Owens. It’s the best version, so keep it coming.

Robert O’Neill: The newfound team of Bob Roode and Chad Gable AKA American Bobpha AKA North American Alpha AKA Ready Willing and Glorious are here for a match against The Ascension. And after a quick back and forth, Bob and Chad get the win! Not too shabby.

Chris Novak: Really still like this team and hoping they stick it out for a little while until the eventual turn happens.

Robert O’Neill: Time for Alexa and Mickie against Ronda and Natalya. This should be a good one.

Chris Novak: Some very good stuff here. Alexa and Mickie worked over Ronda’s ribs for much of the match. Rousey wound up winning after getting the armbar in. Now, granted, Alexa isn’t going to win. But, this is a good angle to go into the PPV with. It makes it SEEM like Bliss could win back the strap with Rousey not being 100%.

Robert O’Neill: Elias came out and got some good old fashioned heel heat by saying New Orleans is bad and so is Drew Brees. But Mick Foley comes out and talks about the Hell in a Cell match (he was in one, you know) and says he’s the special referee in the Braun/Roman match. Alright then. He also says Stephanie McMahon let him make a match for old times sake, and now Elias is facing Finn Balor.

And Balor got the victory after a solid match. He’s still in a weird holding pattern, though.

Chris Novak: Weird is one word for it, for sure. Anyways, here comes Strowman, who’s bent on finding Roman Reigns, this after Seth and Dean showed up before.

Robert O’Neill: Well, he found Reigns! And they brawled on the stage, and Braun threw him into the LED screens but Roman fought back and Samoan Drop’d Braun through the stage to end the show. Wow!

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: I really don’t think this was a bad Raw, but it also wasn’t exactly good. It was just kind of… weird. A lot of the stuff didn’t really feel important, especially leading up to the PPV. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe The Shield/Pack stuff and Alexa/Ronda SHOULD feel like the most important things going forward. Either way, C.

Chris Novak: This Raw was so-so to me. There was very little to write home about but nothing super inoffensive either. Fell right in the middle to me so I’ll give it a C as well.

Smackdown.png

Robert O’Neill: Smackdown opens with an 11-bell salute in remembrance of the victims of September 11.

Chris Novak: Afterwards, Jeff Hardy is here to talk about his HIAC match with Randy Orton. After a relatively quick promo, it’s on to his match against Shinsuke Nakamura! You may remember he exists, and you MAY also remember that he holds the US Championship.

Robert O’Neill: He doesn’t have a match on Sunday, which seems weird.

Chris Novak: I’m not necessarily opposed because not every title has to be defended all the time, to be honest. Anyways, this match turned out to be a hoot until Orton showed up to throw Hardy off the top rope!

Robert O’Neill: Well that figures! Orton beat him down after the match. Sunday should be a lot of fun.

Chris Novak: I’m digging this build and I’m digging the possibility that this match opens up.

Robert O’Neill: AJ Styles cut an empty arena promo about Samoa Joe. They’ve been doing the empty arena promos lately and frankly, I enjoy them.

Chris Novak: I really like them also. There’s a different vibe and whatnot to them.

Robert O’Neill: Charlotte is in action against Sonya Deville. I wonder if we’ll see Becky Lynch!

Chris Novak: Match was fine but… as it has been lately, Charlotte got sloppy toward the match’s conclusion. Didn’t seem to be connected with Sonya. But again… that’s par for the course lately. Aaaaaaand THERE’S Becky! She was in a disguise the whole time!

Robert O’Neill: That was really well done. I hope she wins on Sunday.

Samoa Joe was on the titantron and read a story called AJ Goes Night Night. It was entertaining, but this feud is just about done for me. But the match will be good.

Chris Novak: That segment was incredibly entertaining, honestly.

Robert O’Neill: Rusev Day vs. The Bar time! The winner moves on to face The New Day at Hell in a Cell. Should be great.

Chris Novak: Turns out it WAS great! Went for a good amount. Rusev Day won after Aiden English took the ‘bullet’ or in this case, the Brogue Kick,’ which led to Rusev hitting the Machka Kick on Sheamus for the 1-2-3. That is some strong booking honestly, and furthers the narrative that Aiden is doing everything he can for Rusev to redeem himself.

Robert O’Neill: R-Truth vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas is the match I never knew I needed, but it was a real blast. Almas got the victory, but Truth looked good and we had some good banter between Zelina and Carmella.

Chris Novak: Short, simplistic stuff here. Glad they didn’t have Almas lose here as I don’t think he can afford to do such a thing. Nevertheless, the beat goes on.

Robert O’Neill: And now it’s time for the main event. Brie Bella vs. Maryse… in 2018.

But, look, the match is gonna be what it is. Neither one is the best wrestler. They’ll make it work.

Chris Novak: And so they did! This was more of a dog-and-pony show and that’s fine with me, to be honest. I mean… sure beats the alternative… nevertheless, Brie won by DQ after Miz got involved in the matchup. A lengthy-ish brawl ensued after that eventually saw Miz get punched in the face and sent over the top rope. They’ve done a real great job with this feud. Tuesday night was another step in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Smackdown was better than Raw, but I think that’s to be expected at this point. While I’m not as high on the Joe/AJ feud at this point (very TNA-esque), the match will be good. That’s where I’m at for everything going into Hell in a Cell in general. Go home shows are hard for me because I’m generally always interested and excited about the PPV anyway, so I’m not really the intended audience for the go-home show. The tag match and Hardy/Nakamura were both good enough to make this show a B+.

Chris Novak: Loving this Bryan-Miz feud as always and it was the highlight. The Joe-AJ stuff served its purpose and was done really well this week, too. The Becky-Charlotte stuff also excelled, and the tag match was very, very good. I’m going to give this a solid B+ too, but I thought about a higher grade too. SmackDown is so much better right now, it’s not debatable.

Ball Don't Lie EP 21 - Season 2 Premiere
2018-19 UEFA Champions League Preview: Group Stage Edition
 Photo Credit:  Reuters Photo

Photo Credit: Reuters Photo

We are inching ever so close to having Champions League football back in our lives. The draw a few weeks ago helped us take one giant step towards us hearing “The Champions” blaring across our TV screens. The results turned out to be quite interesting. Sure some of the groups are real cakewalks (looking at you, Manchester City and Bayern Munich) but the rest of the teams surely have their work cut out for them.

There are some amazing matchups we are going to get during the group stages. Let’s take a look at the narratives in each of the eight groups along with who will make it to the Round of 16.

Group A

This is a good group if you want to watch two clubs with some young talent on display. Monaco and Borussia Dortmund both are well known for developing some of the world's best young players and selling them for mass profit. Atletico Madrid got younger too with the signings of Thomas Lemar and Rodri in the midfield. Lemar will have a reunion game as he faces his former club when Atletico and Monaco collide on Matchday 1.

Both Dortmund and Atleti will be looking to bounce back in the Champions League after crashing out in the group stage last year. It didn’t turn out so bad for them in Europe as Dortmund reached the knockout stages of the Europa League while Diego Simeone’s team lifted the trophy when it was all said and done. Atletico looked stronger than ever in the UEL final and in the UEFA Super Cup, beating Real Madrid 4-2. Dortmund had a huge win against RB Leipzig last week then followed it up with a 0-0 dud against Hannover. Lucien Favre has this team playing better than last year but they need to step it up a notch if they want to impress in Europe.

Club Brugge are the team from Pot 4 in this group. The good news for the Belgian side is that they have basically two weeks off before their first matchday and the only game in between is against Lokren, who are 14th in the Belgian Pro League. Then things get a bit tough as they have to play in all three competitions right after. Dortmund in the UCL, Gent in league play, and a Round of 32 cup clash against Deinzel all come in quick succession. They will fight hard in group play to snatch points against the big guns. Their best bet is nabbing some against Monaco.

Madrid and Dortmund are the favorites and rightly so, they are the two most talented squads. Monaco should be expected to finish around third with Brugge coming in the final spot.

Atletico Madrid and Dortmund advance

Group B

After impressing in the group stages last season (remember that 3-0 scoreline against Real Madrid?) Tottenham will be looking to do the same in this group. A summer with no transfers gave a lot of worry as to the squad depth of Spurs but they have started out the season in top form. We will truly get a sense of how much their lack of activity in the summer costs them as they try to advance deeper into cup tournaments along with fighting for a top 4 spot in the Champions League.

After getting a come from behind win against Lazio to get into the UCL, Inter Milan was rewarded by getting into a group with two of the top clubs in Europe. Inter have gotten a lot better in the transfer market, picking up additions such as Radja Nainggolan, Stefan De Vrij, and Keita Balde Diao. With Mauro Icardi up top and Ivan Perisic on the wings, Inter has solid threats in front of goal. They will be a much tougher out than many think and are certainly capable of an upset result in the group stages, especially at home in the San Siro.

PSV Eindhoven has a great young player in Chucky Lozano and he will be someone to watch for in the group stage. Lozano and Steven Bergwijn both possess talent on the wings. Even with PSV likely to finish last in the group, they should provide some highlights.

It’s not hard to determine who the best team in this group will be and it’s Barcelona. The Catalans are ready for a deep Champions League run, especially after the collapse they had against Roma. One of the topics Leo Messi talked about in his captain's speech to the fans was about winning the Champions League. It’s clear they want the Champions League title and should be favorites. With a summer of bringing in talent to solidify the bench, Barca is a deep team. It also helps that young starlet Ousmane Dembele has gotten off to a fast start this season. He scored the game-winning goal in the Spanish Super Cup and has been a menace on the wings every time he has featured for the Catalans thus far. He looks a lot more confident and could show those promising steps in development many Barcelona fans hoped for when he first signed with the club.

This will be a tough road for the top three teams but Barcelona will make it out of the group as winners. The Catalans should get enough points early to see their way through. Inter Milan will put up a fight but ultimately Tottenham should finish second. We will get to see some drama in the later matchdays of this group, including the final one where Barcelona will play Spurs. This could possibly decide who finishes first in the group.

Barcelona and Tottenham advance

Group C

This features a group with three strong attacking teams so look for some really high score lines on their given matchdays. We all know about Liverpool and their potent attack. With Sadio Mane and Mo Salah on the wings, they are a constant threat to burn your back line on counter attacks. Roberto Firmino does a good job as the central striker and his pressing defensively helps make Jurgen Klopp’s system run more smoothly. Liverpool also ramped up their midfield with the arrivals of Naby Keita and Fabinho. Keita will be instrumental in their success against Europe’s elite. They shocked the world by reaching the Champions League final before running into the buzzsaw which is Real Madrid. While back to back appearances to the final is highly unlikely, they can make some noise. Their defense has seemed stable so far in Premier League but they will be facing two teams with explosive attacks of their own. Both Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli can punch a couple of goals into the back of the Liverpool net if they are not careful.

PSG have had a great start to the Ligue 1 season as they look to dominate the French league once again. Like Liverpool, they have a big three of their own in Neymar, Edinson Cavani, and Kylian Mbappe. It will be a nightmare for the rest of the three to try and stop Paris. They cruised in group play last season despite having giants such as Bayern Munich in their group. The real goal for Paris however, will be in the knockout stages. They will be pushed in this group stage as there are three legit teams who all have a shot at advancing. Questions are going to be asked about their defense as well as their depth in the middle of the park. They still haven’t totally gotten over the loss of Blaise Matuidi and need a real box to box player to solidify things. While the Parisians should be favorites to win the group, as they have the best side, it’s not certain.

Napoli had their share of losses too this summer with Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho heading to Chelsea. It doesn’t mean they have taken numerous steps back, however. Carlo Ancelotti still inherits a very talented squad and despite crashing out of the group stage last year, they have a puncher's chance to advance. It was clear from the onset last season they were more focused on the league and decided not to pursue any other trophies because of it. We will see this season how Ancelotti rotates the squad in Europe. At the very least they are slotted at a solid third. Red Star Belgrade will be a tough place to play and the atmosphere will be great. Against these three teams, however, it’s hard not seeing them finish anywhere other than last.

Liverpool and PSG have the most offensive firepower while their defenses seem more stable than Napoli’s at the moment. The Partenopei will be right with them step for step, though. If either of them slips up, Napoli will be waiting to pounce at a chance of reaching the knockout rounds.

PSG and Liverpool advance

Group D

Out of all the groups in the Champions League, this is the one which is a toss-up. This is actually a pretty crazy group when you think about it as it’s not often you see four teams all with a shot at advancing. There aren’t any European giants or any real minnows in group D. It looks to be an all-out slugfest.

The four teams will be Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray, and Lokomotiv Moscow. If anything, it will be a group which requires a ton of traveling as both Porto and Lokomotiv will have to travel across Europe to play each other. None of these teams are particularly overpowering over the other so it will be hard to tell who is the favorite heading into the first matchday. Both Porto and Schalke have experience in the knockout rounds. Galatasaray and Moscow are tough away fixtures. If both are able to churn out a result or two on the road, it will go a long way in their hopes of finishing in the top two or even the Europa League spot. The team to watch out will be Schalke. They have gotten off to a shaky start in Bundesliga play with two losses to begin the season. Things could get even worse with a fixture against Borussia Monchengladbach awaiting them. A good start to their European season would calm down some of the voices of worry but you have to wonder if they will be able to handle both Champions League and Bundesliga simultaneously.

Out of all the teams in the group, Porto is the ones who are the most likely to advance given their pedigree in Europe. Hector Herrera still runs the midfield and Vincent Aboubakar will poach some goals in this group. Second place is honestly a toss up but in the end, talent tops all. Schalke should have enough to barely scrape by for second place. Lokomotiv will surely be in the battle for second too and are a dark horse to watch in this group. After making the Round of 16 in Europa League last year, it will be a big jump in talent for the Russian side. If there is a group where they can raise some eyebrows, this is the one.

Porto and Schalke advance

Group E

Now we enter the first of the two cakewalk groups. It’s a common joke to say the Bundesliga is essentially Bayern Munich and everyone else. It applies to Group E as well.

It’s clear the Bavarians are through and out the heavy favorites to win this group. Even after looking like they took a step back quality wise in the Champions League, Bayern still has enough depth in the middle of the field to keep things chugging along. Their 5-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt should ease concerns too. This will be the first real test for Niko Kovac, Bayern Munich’s new manager. Carlo Ancelotti was immediately sacked after their blowout loss to PSG so it shows you how seriously they view their form in Europe. Luckily for Kovac, there isn’t an opponent of the Parisians quality in their group. Bayern should comfortably finish first.

The battle for the second place spot probably won’t be a drama-filled one either. Despite both having to play in the playoff rounds to reach the group stages, there is a gap of quality between Benfica and Ajax. Like Bayern, this should be an easy group for the Portuguese side to navigate. Finishing second won’t be a hard task for Benfica.

This now leaves the third place spot between Ajax and AEK. The Greek side barely scraped by in the play-off round as well and Ajax fought in a tough two-legged battle against Dynamo Kiev. There are gaps in quality between everyone in Group E. The battle for third place is no different. Ajax is the better side and should make their way into the Europa League.

Bayern and Benfica advance

Group F

All you need to do for Group F is take one look at the teams lined up and know who will top it. Manchester City is far and above the best team and should have it all wrapped halfway through the group stage. Even with the injury to Kevin De Bruyne, the Man City machine keeps plugging along. Pep Guardiola’s side has played stellar and has done so despite the likes of Leroy Sane getting off to tough starts. With the addition of Riyad Mahrez and a healthy Benjamin Mendy, Man City have so much firepower to work with. Bernardo Silva looking more comfortable in the system is a boost too. Last year they got bamboozled by Liverpool in the quarterfinals and looked pedestrian during the tie. Guardiola should have this side motivated and ready to go from the start. They are favorites to not only win the league but are in the mix of teams who can win the entire competition.

Now for who will finish behind Manchester City in the second spot is another open-ended question. Shakhtar, Lyon, and Hoffenheim all have what it takes to rally a couple of strong results together and stumble into second. At the same time, there are numerous questions surrounding the consistency of the last two in the group in Lyon and Hoffenheim. You don’t know which versions of these teams will show up on a given matchday. Lyon, for example, has a very underrated attack with Memphis DePay at the helm but they can’t seem to find the back of the net often. A lot of times for Lyon it’s been a lot of low-quality chances from outside the box and on the counter. Hoffenheim have started their season on an ok note but the jury is still out on how they will stack up against tougher competition in Europe. Shakhtar Donetsk should be the leader of the pack in this race for second. Like Porto, Shakhtar has done well in Europe as of late. While they won’t necessarily trouble Manchester City, they should be favorites to finish second.

Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk advance

Group G

Last season was a magical Champions League campaign for both Roma and Real Madrid. It often illustrates the difference in the level of expectations for teams in Europe. While for Roma supporters it would have been grand to see them win the Champions League, just reaching the semi-finals was an amazing achievement. It was even sweeter considering how they reached there, on the heels of one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history. After being thrashed 4-1 in the first leg, Roma staged an epic comeback back home in the return leg. They beat the Catalans 3-0 and advanced thanks to an away goals tie-breaker. It was one of the best comebacks in a Champions League tie the soccer world has ever seen. Now Roma has to play another Spanish giant as it draws defending winners Real Madrid in their group. Apart from their numerous pre-season matches in the summer, 2016 was the last time these two teams played in a competitive game. It was the Round of 16 in the UCL and Real Madrid dominated the tie, earning back to back 2-0 victories to see off the Italian side.

After winning three straight Champions League titles, this will be a completely different Champions League campaign for Real Madrid and we all know why. The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus this summer shocked the club and not splashing the cash for a superstar to replace him was perplexing as well. While they almost certainly will try to land a top ten player in the world next summer, it looks like Real Madrid are making Gareth Bale the star of this team. The Welshman is now the star and will be looked upon to bag more goals for Los Blancos. Bale does have the talent to be a star for Real Madrid. His blistering pace causes so many problems for defenders and will open up spaces in the defense for others. Guys like Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio will have more goal scoring opportunities because of it. The midfield and the defense will still be the same as Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in the middle of the park. Raphael Varane, who had an exceptional season for both club and country, will lineup along Sergio Ramos. With the loss of Zinedine Zidane factored in as well, it will be a tall mountain to climb for Madrid if they want to win the UCL for the fourth time in a row. They might not make it back to the final but a quarterfinal appearance isn’t an unreasonable expectation.

The two other teams in this group are CSKA Moscow and FC Viktoria Plzn. These two teams will battle for the third place spot of this group with the Russian side being the favorites. They are currently 6th in the Russian Premier League as Zenit and Spartak Moskova have gotten off to great starts domestically. Plzn are huge underdogs and despite being in the thick of things in the Czech league, it will be difficult for them to get results in this group. Their best shot comes on matchday one when they face off against CSKA.

It’s clear who the two best teams are in this group in Real Madrid and Roma. They’ll be the ones who advance to the knockout stages. Expect Madrid to finish at the top despite the transition to a life without Ronaldo.

Real Madrid and Roma advance

Group H

To say it’s been a turbulent season so far for Manchester United is an understatement. Between the comments made by Jose Mourinho and the two losses to start the season, the pressure is on in Old Trafford. Despite finishing second in the league last season, it was still defined as an “ok”. Losing to Sevilla in the Champions League Round of 16 didn’t help either. This is a big year for Mourinho as he enters in the heavily talked about "Year 3 Mou". It's usually around the time things implode and the Portuguese manager is let go. It will be an uphill battle in the league as both Manchester City and Liverpool are favorites to lift the trophy. The Champions League draw did no favors for the Red Devils either. Manchester United can’t afford to have performances like they did against Brighton if they want to do well in this group. They have made some upgrades and depth signings this summer, especially in the midfield with the addition of Fred from Shakhtar. Mourinho still has a lot of questions left to answer about this squad. Who will start on the wings is the first question. Defense is in question as well with Eric Bailly in and out of the lineup constantly. There is a lot of shuffling in those two areas for Manchester United and it shows on match days.

United’s biggest problem will be Juventus. The Italian champions had a fantastic summer picking up Emre Can, Joao Cancelo, Leonardo Bonucci, and some guy named Cristiano Ronaldo. Last season’s UCL campaign ended in infamy as a fantastic comeback in Bernabeu was canceled out by a late penalty awarded against the Old Lady. Juventus are bringing back a lot of their old squad but have replaced Gonzalo Higuain with Ronaldo, an obvious upgrade. The only real question for this squad will be the goalkeeping situation with Gigi Buffon now gone. The adjustment of Ronaldo on this Juventus team has gotten off to a rocky start but expect him to start scoring goals soon. Now it’s up to Max Allegri to see how he can field the best starting XI. Juventus will be very hard to stop in the Champions League this season.

Valencia is a sneaky underdog in this group. They have some young talent in attack with Michy Batshuayi and Goncalo Guedes, who made his move from Paris permanent this summer. They can catch teams on the counter with the pace on the wings too. After finishing 3rd in a group with Gent, Lyon, and Zenit last season they will be itching to make it back to the Round of 16. They certainly have the talent to make this happen.

Valencia has a chance to finish second in this group, especially if Manchester United slips up. However, Manchester United should have just enough to squeak into second. This is setting up to be a group to pay attention to.

Juventus and Manchester United advance

Nearly Canceled: Power - The Finale
Three Man Rush - Week Two
The Bear truth: how will Chicago overcome the week 1 Tragedy

Yeah....that shit happened.....

The heart of Bears fans were ripped out of their chest by the one legged Aaron Rodgers who rallied the Green Bay Packers from a 20-point deficit to a win over the Chicago Bears. If you watched this game, you witnessed a historic NFL Films moment. This was by far the most amazing thing that football Jesus, aka Aaron Rodgers, has ever done.

 But enough of praising that cheesehead, let’s talk about these dam Bears.....

What in the entire fuck happened after halftime? Did everyone forget that this was a road game at Lambeau Field? Did they really think a 20-point lead was all that it took to beat one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time!?

There’s so much to be said about Sunday’s loss, but the real question is how can the Bears bounce back from this L?

Game Management

In the end, it all starts from the top. As a new head coach, Matt Nagy has to learn how to effectively manage the game from a coaching perspective. The Bears ran a underwhelming total of 21 designed rushing plays throughout the entire game. In which, six of these runs came in the the third quarter after the Packers were only down by one score.

That’s so fucking unacceptable. Why wait until it’s a one score game to burn the clock out? Especially when you have one of the most effective running backs in the NFL....

Execution

It’s the first game of the season and many players are still shaking off the rust from a long offseason. It’s still not an excuse to play beneath your full potential. The Bears defense played beyond expectation in the first half (Khalil Mack...say less, Sheesh....)

The second half, not so much....Granted, there wasn’t much that the defense could do on certain plays (I.e. that gorgeous fucking pass from Rodgers to Geronimo Allison could not be defended.)

But a dropped interception by Kyle Fuller that could have sealed the game is unacceptable. Giving an injured, immobile Aaron Rodgers nearly six seconds in the pocket to expose the blown man coverage by Prince Amukamara that led to a 75-yard Touchdown by Randall Cobb is UNACCEPTABLE!

Offensively, Mitchell Trubisky has to play better. He looked like a franchise quarterback in the first half, passing 18 for 21 with one rushing touchdown. In the second half, he looked like a rookie, blindly running around the pocket and overlooking a WIDE OPEN Trey Burton. Running into your own offensive linemen and causing your own fumble is UNACCEPTABLE. I understand that this was probably the biggest game of Trubisky’s short career, but you have to develop nerves of steel  and maintain your elite level of play. Step that shit up Mitch.

Perseverance

In the words of the late Dennis Green, the Bears are who we thought they were. They’re young and make rookie mistakes, but they are very fucking good. The defense is a force to be reckoned with, and once the offense begins to truly click, score boards will light up like Christmas trees. You don’t just walk into Lambeau and dominate the Packers with shear dumb luck.

They can’t allow this loss to destroy their season. Learn from the past mistakes and perfect the craft of winning, Chicago. Green Bay is in the past. Seattle is next.

A Letter to Bears Fans: Pick Ya Head Up

Over the course of the offseason, the Chicago Bears looked like a team that was ready to make some moves toward the future. Naturally, I was a little more invested in watching a Bears season opener than I would have been in previous years.

Unfortunately, this ended up being a game that will likely end up being mentioned in Aaron Rodgers’ Hall of Fame speech.

I’m here to tell you, Bears fans: better days are right around the corner.

I previously wrote about Chicago’s playoff hopes and how the rest of the NFC is so stacked. However, the rest of the NFC didn’t show up in week one. The Cowboys, 49ers, Saints, Giants, Seahawks, Cardinals, and Lions all lost. The Panthers and Eagles showed up on defense as expected, but the door was open for both teams to score a lot more. Neither team even cracked 20 points.

The bad news is that Kirk Cousins already looks acclimated with the division rival, Minnesota Vikings. The good news is that everyone else in the NFC looked so poor that the NFC North has a chance to send three teams to the playoffs. The Detroit Lions are not one of them.

Let’s talk about the positives from Sunday’s game. Every new offensive weapon in Chicago already showed some flash of potential. Allen Robinson still has vice grips for hands and Taylor Gabriel is still as quick as ever. Trey Burton only had one catch but was targeted six times. That connection will improve with time. Anthony Miller also chipped in with two catches in his NFL debut.

The run game looked absolutely fantastic. Jordan Howard averaged 5.5 yards per carry and was more involved in the passing game than I expected. Tarik Cohen added another 5.0 YPC with three catches of his own. They were the perfect compliment to each other. Mitchell Trubisky left a little to be desired in his accuracy and decision-making, but showed the ability to move in the pocket and a willingness to run.

I don’t even need to say much about Khalil Mack. Although this game ended in a loss, I’m sure every Bears fan is looking forward to the next few seasons with him coming off the edge. Roquan Smith wasn’t on the field as much as fans hoped but his first play alongside Mack ended in a sack.

Yes, Aaron Rodgers immortalized himself to an even greater extent in this game, but I didn’t see it as an indication of the lack of talent on the Bears. Aaron Rodgers is capable of doing this to every team. The Bears just so happened to be in his way on this particular week.

Even before the Aaron Rodgers injury, Chicago was getting stops and pressures on the Packers offense. The Randall Cobb touchdown to put Green Bay ahead was just a perfect example of a quarterback knowing his receiver after years of playing together. If you look across the NFL, you wont find chemistry between a QB and receiver like Rodgers & Cobb unless you’re talking about Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowksi or Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.

The one piece of advice I’ll give to fans: the Bears were up 20-17 with 2:47 left in the game. It was 3rd &1 and the Packers had no timeouts left. Jordan Howard had just ran for 12 yards on the previous play in an incredible effort. With all of that apparent, the Bears still decided to pass the ball for some reason. It ended up being incomplete, which stopped the clock. The Packers scored the game-winner soon after.

I’m still trying to figure out why they couldn’t trust their best offensive player to get a single yard. Even if he doesn’t pick up the first down, you still give less time to the Packers to work with. If they can identify what went wrong on that specific play, the Chicago Bears should be able to compete with anybody this year.

Even if they finish this season around 7-9 or 8-8, their games will remain close. All of the new additions mean it will take a little extra time for everyone to gel together. As deflating as the outcome was, there was more to be optimistic in that Sunday night game than not. Be patient.

79th and Halas EP 103 - Fuck 12
Keep Swimming. How "Easy Mac with the cheesy raps" evolved into more than just another frat rapper
 Twitter: @Thundercat

Twitter: @Thundercat

This is not meant to be a direct comparison...it's just a parallel. I never really understood why my mom cried for days after Michael Jackson died. I knew the seriousness of the event and the gravity of it; Mike was arguably THE greatest and brightest star in history. If it wasn't Motown, Prince, gospel music or church hymns, Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad were permanent fixtures in my family. MJ has been in my life since before I gained consciousness (I'm sure my mother played "Wanna Be Starting Somethin'" hundreds of times while she carried me.) He was magnanimous and ubiquitous; a mere mortal in actuality, but a deity to millions of people globally.

Because of that, in my head at the time he was still present, yet he seemed like a lifetime away. It was a complete shock to the world to learn about Michael's death, and I was hit with a sadness that felt like losing a distant uncle who I admired greatly. But why was my mom inconsolable? It never registered in my jaded and selfish 16-year-old brain that the connection was much deeper than the music itself. I never considered the place in her mind that instantly teleports back to the dancehalls in Ghana as a youth, awkwardly groovin' to "Rock with You" among friends.

The powerful sensation of nostalgia must have thrown her emotions an unexpected curveball. Also, the reminder of her own mortality reared its ugly head. My 17th birthday was that September; needless to say, my invincibility complex was through the fucking roof. I had no real perspective on life itself. To my mother, she was more than twice my age and had experienced and lost much more than I could even comprehend at that time. She was 44. Michael was 50. This was 2009.

"You was Easy Mac with the cheesy raps...who the fuck is Mac Miller?"

A confrontational statement from the battle rap legend Loaded Lux at the end of "Red Dot Music echoed the sentiments of many Black hip-hop fans about this goofy white kid from Pittsburgh named Mac Miller, including my own. I didn't need another frat rapper like Sammy Adams and Chris Webby anywhere near my rotation, a feeling that was slightly unfair but not completely off base. The upbeat Knock Knock and thudding 808s of Donald Trump rang off at every dorm room and every party during my first couple years of college. "His music belongs in that space," I thought. "My iPod only has 8gbs, anyway."

The acronym K.I.D.S. - Kickin' Incredibly Dope Shit - made me cringe. I ignored the Taylor Gang co-sign, the notable features on Best Day Ever, and let both mixtapes remain on DatPiff unplayed. Although he accomplished a tremendous feat for independent artists, the 1.0 rating for Blue Slide Park was the official third strike. Macadelic didn't stand a chance (a foolish foresight on my part).

From 2011-2013, there was just too much good music coming out to pay him any mind. My attention was consumed by acts like TDE, A$AP Mob, Pro Era, Odd Future, etc. Drill music became popular. Watch the Throne dropped. Just exactly "who the fuck is Mac Miller?" Someone who grew to become a respected and universally loved figure in the music community, and another light that went out far too soon...

Mac Miller, born Malcolm James McCormick died of an apparent overdose last week at the young age of 26. Exactly one week before my 26th birthday. One of my favorite musicians from the past five years, who's worked with damn near all my favorite artists from this decade, was unexpectedly gone, just like that.

Permanence. That ugly reminder of mortality. It struck a chord on many untuned levels. I'm not ashamed to admit that I teared up several times this weekend after hearing the tragic news. It's tough to even write this now. Unlike Mike, he was metaphorically within arm's reach to his audience because of how honest and inviting he was into his complex and troubled world, using lyrics as a conduit. On the surface, however, he seemed like a regular, approachable person with an unrelenting smile. A personal friend.

From the excellent profile by Craig Jenkins, published on September 6th, 2018:

A steady trickle of excited rap fans stop him to say hello. The few that linger to talk longer all seem to want something; one wanted a feature for his mixtape, and another asked the rapper to check out his SoundCloud page, graciously sparing us the spectacle of a street cipher. Mac is cordial and patient with people even when he appears to smell a pitch coming. The most striking fan interaction happened when two deaf girls asked for autographs outside the hotel. Mac was quietly floored by this.

I've lost close friends - figuratively and literally - to drug addiction and accidental overdoses. Spectators that apathetically say addiction is not a disease or "they didn't try their best to get sober" don't truly understand the nature of this beast. He was trying to get better.

From Rembert Brown's Grantland feature of Mac in 2015:

In the summer of 2014, Mac hit a low point, which also became a personal breakthrough. “So I’m fucked up in Europe one day, and I drunk-dialed Rick Rubin,” Mac says while scarfing down Mexican food at a restaurant blocks from his new home. “I was like, ‘Rick, dude, I’m fucked up, will you help me?’ So I went and kicked it with him for the summer in Malibu. And got clean.”

Mac Miller was extremely transparent about his trials and tribulations since the start of his Second Act, which unofficially commenced with Macadelic. After Blue Slide Park was critically panned, he became deeply hurt and dove into the turbulent and murky waters of depression, using substances as a buoy. The music reflected a darker time in his life, a strong contrast from his "frat rap" days, but it exhibited a growing development of Mac as an artist. The tides started to turn in 2013 when Watching Movies with the Sound Off dropped on the same day as Yeezus and Born Sinner.

Odd Future and TDE features? A guest verse from the fabled Jay Electronica?? Production from Pharrell, The Alchemist, and Flying Lotus??? In 1 hour, my stance on Mac had done a complete 180. I no longer saw him as "Easy Mac with the cheesy raps." For the first time, I saw him as Mac Miller: the troubled, yet enthusiastic and optimistic kid whose appreciation for the genre was deep-rooted and authentic. I was hooked; reeled in by the quality and left reeling from the content.

This ebb trended upwards with the set of releases over the next couple years; the creation of the SoundCloud-prolific Larry Fisherman, his producer alter-ego; the darkly-manic Faces, which many consider to be his best rap project; and, GO:OD AM, a title that could be interpreted differently depending on what track you listened to. Each loosie and full project displayed his maturity not only as a rapper but as an artist and more importantly, a person.

Evident with his fanbase growing during this time, Mac's self-awareness and open honesty about his struggles connected with many people experiencing similar such as addiction and depression. Balancing light and dark, always with a hopeful attitude. That's important to remember. Going forward, it will also be incredibly difficult to revisit because of the written content.

A large chunk of listeners started to really dive into his music during the Third Act with The Divine Feminine, and Swimming, the most technically well-rounded albums in Mac's catalog. The sound was intimate, warm, and a different type of personal. Both were jazzy, groovy, concise, and orchestral. For The Divine Feminine, love was the primary topic. For Swimming, Self Care ruled the subject matter; he acknowledged his problems but displayed them in a grown and controlled manner. The Third Act signified the growth of an angsty teen into a functional adult who is still trying to figure everything out, just like everyone in their mid-20s. According to the same Jenkins feature above, there were misconceptions about the complete inspiration for both projects as some of the initial ideas pre-dated the final product. These thoughts of evolving and improving himself have been around for a while. Unfortunately, tragically, the waters were muddied before he reached his goal.

I’ve seen a lot of different takes on what the music is. And that’s what I like. I like different responses. You know?

Swimming, in my opinion, represented more than just staying afloat in a current of bullshit we all have to deal with; it meant actively moving away from the bullshit towards something greater. Attaining our goals by actively looking forward instead of looking back at past mistakes while you're in it...whatever "it" may be. It's sad that we can't see the continuation of his progression because he was poised to become something really special. Mac already was one of a kind, but if his NPR TinyDesk was any indication, his next contributions were going to be very special. What he left behind in terms of actual content and influence will be heard and felt for many generations to come.

Mac Miller, Larry Fisherman, Malcolm - whatever you wanna call him - had an appreciation for hip-hop and its culture that was genuine and authentic. Instead of swooping in and gentrifying the neighborhood (I'm looking at the rappers that think multisyllabicbarswithouttakingabreath equates to "being dope"), he studied the game, gradually moved in, and only sought to co-exist.

A product of the historic blog era, Mac will sorely be missed in the hip-hop community and the music world at large. I have been scrolling social media for the few days and have yet to see an ill word said about him. Instead, I've read incredible stories about his generosity and kindness that a famous recording artist didn't need to exhibit. Let's remember him his funny moments like the ones he shared with Q and let's focus on the positives. He'll live forever through his music. In a short amount of time, inside the booth and out, he became a legend. And he "did it all without a Drake feature."

First Black Champ - #FIRSTBLACKCHAMPBEKNOWIN

This week is all about Hell In A Cell and what we expect to happen. But before we get into that, we had to let Bang get his ish off and tell you that HE TOLD YOU what was going down with The Shield.

After we give predictions, we talk HIAC Dream matches and ask the question "What is the most overrated specialty match in wrestling history?"

It's the #FirstBlackChampPodcast and we sounding better than ever! Just had to throw that out there.

Follow JR Bang: @jrbang
Follow Cam Quotes: @ImCamQuotes