79th and Halas EP 99 - Preseason preview ft. Jarrett Payton

For the 99th episode and return to a new season of 79th and Halas, the guys invite WGN Radio's own, CLTV's own, THE U's own and the son of the GOAT Walter Payton, Jarrett Payton, to discuss the upcoming Bears season and predictions for it.

Follow Joe: @Flowsandolini
Follow Scott: @Scott_CEOofSUH
Follow Jarrett Payton: @paytonsun

Ruthless Aggression EP 25 - Hogan Still Sucks
35th & Addison EP 6 - Second Half Preview
What to watch for in MLB's second half

The second half of the MLB season unofficially starts Thursday night with Cubs-Cardinals in primetime at Wrigley. You're probably thinking "baseball started?" Don't worry, you're not alone... the rest of America is too.

While the commissioner is busy blaming players for not being marketable (isn't that your job, chief?) we know you've been busy with the NBA Playoffs, World Cup and tons of better shit to do than watch baseball. But now it's summer, the other sports have died down and baseball is starting to heat up. The MLB is center stage, and it's time for you to get ready for second half action. Here's a few things you should look out for in the final 2 1/2 months of the season.

Dodgers going for broke

 Patrick Smith, Getty Images

Patrick Smith, Getty Images

After a poor start to the season, the Dodgers are back in first in the NL West, holding a half-game lead on the Diamondbacks. They went all in Wednesday, sending five prospects (only one - Yusniel Diaz - is in MLB.com's Top 100) to Baltimore for soon-to-be free agent Manny Machado, to replace the injured Corey Seager at short. It's a sign from Andrew Friedman and the front office that they're looking to quickly put last year's World Series failure behind them and end LA's 30-year championship drought.

The Dodgers are still in the market for relievers to help closer Kenley Jansen, but adding Machado restores LA as likely the most dangerous lineup 1-9 in the National League. Manny has somehow raised his game in 2018, hitting 24 home runs and clubbing a .963 OPS in the first half. Now you plug him into an offense that has averaged a .793 OPS and 5.1 runs per game in the team's 37-17 run since May 17th. The Dodgers are still dealing with the decline of Clayton Kershaw, but its offense is more potent than ever.

The American League playoff race is loaded

 Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The National League has more teams in playoff contention because it's the lesser of the two leagues, but the AL is bringing some firepower among its top teams. The Red Sox, Yankees and Astros are all at 62 wins or above, and feature stacked lineups with some consistent arms at the front end of their rotation.

The Red Sox got off to a great run as they go for a third-straight division crown, but also their first time out of the ALDS since the 2013 World Series team. Mookie Betts is on another MVP tear (.359 BA, 23 HRs, 1.139 OPS), and core guys Andrew Benintendi & Xander Bogaerts have provided strong offense. But the addition of JD Martinez in the offseason (.328 BA, 29 HRs, 80 RBI, 1.037 OPS) has pushed Beantown to the best record in baseball. There's also FOUR 10-game winners in their rotation, with Chris Sale (10-4, 2.23 ERA, 188 Ks) and Eduardo Rodriguez as their anchors. They could afford to tighten up their bullpen behind closer Craig Kimbrel, but all-in-all the Red Sox are best positioned to win the AL Pennant for the first time in five years.

The Bronx Bombers have withstood an underwhelming start from Gary Sanchez, thanks to their big boppers Aaron Judge (25 HRs, .973 OPS) and Giancarlo Stanton (23 HRs, .864 OPS), the emergence of young guns like Gleyber Torres (.294 BA, 15 HRs, .905 OPS) and Miguel Andujar, and the dominance of ace Luis Severino (14-2, 2.31 ERA, 144 Ks) and closer Aroldis Chapman. They're not done adding to their club - they're in the market for more starting pitching and kicked the tires on Manny Machado before the Dodger trade - so to be only 4.5 games back of Boston at this juncture is really good standing. Also, the Yankees have finished the first half 29 games above .500 three times before - 1939, 1953 and 1998. Each year, they went on to win the World Series.

 Bob Levey/Getty Images

Bob Levey/Getty Images

The resurgence of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has taken defending World Series champs off the front pages, but the Houston Astros are still the best team in baseball until they're knocked off their pedestal. They've had to forge through the inconsistencies of their offense (minus Alex Bregman) and Dallas Keuchel, but after a rough 6-7 stretch against the four other top contenders in the AL, the 'Stros have racked off 27-10 in their last 37 before the break. They may be in the market for a closer, with Ken Giles sent down for sucking and arguing with his coaches, but they could very well stand pat and go back to October with the same guns that won it for them last year.

Don't forget about the Indians either. Cleveland is looking for a third-straight AL Central title, and just added lefty reliever Brad Hand to their already lethal group of relievers, including Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Corey Kluber remains the ace of the staff with 12 wins, 132 strikeouts and a 2.76 ERA. The solid work of Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.24 ERA, 175 Ks), Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber gives Cleveland some room to be creative with their rotation, working 11-win righty Carlos Carrasco back from the DL by using him out of the bullpen against the Yankees last weekend. Cleveland sits far behind the other AL powers in the win column, but barring an unlikely surge by the Twins, the Indians will be playing in October, and with strong arms & a top-heavy lineup (Frankie Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, Edwin Encarnacion) whoever they meet in the ALDS better not rest on their laurels.

As far as the second wild card goes, the Seattle Mariners are the favorite to end the longest playoff drought in North American sports, but they've dropped four in a row and are now just 3 games up on the surprising Oakland A's. The Athletics' young offense has been really hot as of late, and the addition of some veteran arms could be key to getting Oakland back into October. For Seattle, Robinson Cano's return from PED suspension on August 14th will be a big boost to a club missing his bat in the everyday lineup, even though they haven't been hurt by it so far. Some pitchers to help Marco Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake and James Paxton should be enough to hold off Oakland and make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Intrigue in the NL Central

 Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The NL Central have undergone a shit ton of maintenance in the last few years. The Astros left for the AL, the Cardinals - once the crown jewel of the division - have fallen off and now need a new manager, and the Cubs - yes, those Cubs - have ascended as the kings of the Central and are looking to go back-to-back-to-back for the first time in team history. But now, those pesky Milwaukee Brewers are hungrier and want to avenge last season's collapse, and even the Pittsburgh Pirates are in range of a wild card spot.

The Cubs usually heat up in August and pull away from the competition in September, and I expect much of the same this season. The Brewers won't go away lightly though - they were loud in their pursuit of Manny Machado, and have the prospects to fill holes at the deadline, likely with Twins infielder Brian Dozier. They lost their last six games before the break, and 8 of their last 10, so if they want to play October baseball, they'll need to move on those trade pieces before they go elsewhere in the NL.

What's next for the Cardinals is interesting to watch as the season closes; they only sit 4 games behind the Braves for the second wild card. The expectation is for them to go after Joe Girardi, who grew up in East Peoria - the dividing line between Cubs and Cards fans in Illinois. Do they mail it in and start moving towards the offseason, or do they make one last push with the guys they have now?

Several teams push for two wild card spots in NL

The introduction of the Wild Card playoff in 2012 opened the door for all those teams on the fringe to make a move at the deadline and push for that final playoff seed. We've seen some crazy races in the last few years, and this year will be no different. The Brewers, despite their recent slide, are in control of the 1st WC slot, while the Braves.- losers of 7 of their last 10 - hold the second by a half-game on the D-Backs. The Braves are mired in a battle with the NL East-leading Phillies and the .500 Washington Nationals, while the D-Backs are fighting with the Rockies - winners of five straight - and Giants for the Dodgers' top spot in the NL West. All while the Cardinals linger, and the Pirates hold out hope.

There'll be lots of movement in the NL before the trade deadline, so expect the NL Wild Card race to come down to the wire once more.

Bryce Harper watch begins... now

 Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals are at even .500, 5 games back of the wild card, & 5.5 games back in the NL East. They're MVP and the biggest star in D.C. sports at the moment (sorry Ovie, sorry John Wall) has a big decision to make at season's end.

All Star week might have been one big love-fest between Bryce Harper and Washington D.C., but there's no love in business. Bryce Harper is a former MVP who will be 26 at the start of next season. The Nationals want to retain him, obviously, but Bryce - a Scott Boras client - hasn't definitely said he will stay, and has openly made his affection for the Cubs (his bestie Kris Bryant is there) and the Yankees known. If the Nationals don't make the playoffs, they can all but kiss their $400 million man goodbye. Hell, it's not a guarantee he'll return even if they play into October, but after years of coming up short in the NLDS, if this is it for the Nationals and the greatest player in franchise history, they need to go for it all in the second half.

Random Acts of Podcast EP 192

On this week's episode of RAOP, Amp & Devin bring back @__QNSx & @KingWilcox912 and chop it up about insecurities in relationships, tell stories of us getting whooped as kids, Kawhi being traded to the Raptors and a ton more other topics.

Also we answer voicemails from the listeners. Remember to send in your listener questions, #TheyNeedTheirAssBeat or #RealNiggaOfTheWeek submissions, email us at MAIL@RAOPodcast.com or call 424-260-RAOP to leave a voicemail.

Follow Amp: @Ampaveli
Follow Devin: @DevinDavinci

The Third Pick EP 12 - Blame Mariano
Nearly Canceled: Power S5E3 - Fancy loves niggas named Jamie

Technical difficulties push us back this week, but Pierce and Scott are back to review episode 3 of Power season 5! Who is playing who? Why did it take five words for Angie to give the new DEA nigga the yams? Why is Ghost comfortable around every single woman who isn't his wife? All questions we ask, PLUS Scott gives his thoughts on the first three seasons of Game of Thrones!

Follow Pierce: @HennyOmega
Follow Scott: @Scott_CEOofSUH

WWE Extreme Rules recap: it was what we thought it would be

The B-Team vs. Deleters of Worlds: This is probably the right call to start the show. I’m pretty firmly of the belief that every PPV should start with a tag match because the faster pace is generally better to get the crowd going, plus no one really cares about this match thanks to the poor build on Raw and general indifference toward Hardy and Wyatt. After about ten minutes of back and forth action, Bo pinned Hardy for the win. Hey, sure! I mean, Hardy and Wyatt were a novelty act. Dallas and Axel used to be, but aren’t anymore. If you’ve followed any of our other recaps that we’ve ever done, you know where I’m hoping this feud goes next.

After the match, Kurt Angle is interviewed backstage and demands Brock Lesnar shows up on Raw tomorrow night.

Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin: Look, Corbin will never be my cup of tea, but he’s been doing pretty good character work with this Constable stuff, including demanding he gets introduced as such whenever he gets in the ring. Corbin dominated most of the match and then lost by a rollup, which was actually pretty excellent storytelling given how they’ve handled this entire feud.

We head backstage to see the Bludgeon Brothers ambushing Team Hell No!

Carmella vs. Asuka: Alright, so this match really wasn’t that good. Especially compared to their Money in the Bank match. HOWEVER, Ellsworth got out of the shark cage, but his foot got stuck and security personnel had to come in and try to save him, but Asuka pushed them all out and starting kicking him. In the meantime, Carmella shoved her face first into the shark cage and pinned her to retain the title! After the match, Ellsworth was still in the ring and Asuka beat him up more.

Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: Alright this should be a fun and long ma- OH MY GOD SHINSUKE HIT JEFF IN THE NUTS WHILE THE REF WAS TAKING THE TITLE OUTSIDE THE RING. IT’S OVER. So Shinsuke finally has a title. Neat!

And now Randy Orton is back. Gross. Absolutely not.

Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens: If they didn’t have the previous match end in a few seconds, I would think this would be 10 minutes of Owens doing comedy and 15 seconds of an actual match with Braun taking him out. As it is, though, it’ll be like 10 minutes of Owens taking crazy bumps and losing. Owens thought he had the upper hand when he handcuffed Braun to the top rope, but Strowman broke out of the handcuffs, climbed to the top of the cage, and chokeslammed Owens from the top of the cage through the announce table. So… Owens won. But, like, he also might be dead.

As a Kevin Owens fan from day 1 (in NXT at least, but I followed him moderately as Kevin Steen), I’m pretty concerned with all the bumps he’s taken this year. I get that he agrees to them, but it’s starting to feel like Mick Foley level stuff.

Team Hell No vs. Bludgeon Brothers: Welp. Let’s see how much the attack earlier affected Team Hell No. Will Kane be able to compete? Will Bryan? How good will they be?

Well. Bryan’s out here. Kane isn’t. Looks like it’ll be a handicap tag title match. Bryan fought valiantly but the numbers game got to be too much… but now Kane’s here! He’s hobbled, but he’s here. Regardless of all of that, the ambush was too much for Team Hell No to handle. The Bludgeon Brothers took care of business to keep the belts.

Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley: Whoa, okay. The common belief was that this was gonna main event the show, so to have it here is certainly a surprise.

It’s hard to follow Roman matches because the crowd is SOOOOO distracting. Anyway, this one started slow but finished hot and Lashley got the win, which was a surprise.

Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax: The Queen is here, everyone! I hope she hits Nia with several foreign objects and then civilly resolves her differences with Ronda Rousey.

It was a bit overbooked but there were good weapon spots, Rousey kicked Mickie’s ass and Alexa avoided her, and Alexa retained with a DDT onto a chair on Nia. Excellent. Onto Summerslam.

They announced a US TItle rematch for Smackdown. Cool! Hopefully Shinsuke doesn’t get bit by a dog.

AJ Styles vs. Rusev: It’s pretty crazy that this match falls on Rusev Day! I wonder if they might pull the trigger on Rusev tonight finally.

It was one of the better world title matches in recent memory, but AJ ultimately won. Rusev is close though. You can feel it.


Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler: Well. It’s time for the main event! After a few minutes of chain wrestling, Seth picked up the first fall five minutes in with a backslide. That’s what you gotta do early in an iron man match, look for a quick fall. He picked up the second fall as well with a Blackout! A 2-0 lead eight minutes in. Don’t blow it, Seth! And now Drew McIntyre is in the ring beating Seth up! 3-0! Uh oh. Ziggler got two quick falls as a result of the interference and it’s suddenly 3-2. And now it’s tied. Six falls in 14 minutes seems a little excessive! And now Ziggler’s up 4-3. Whoa! Seth catapulted Dolph into the turnbuckle with rolled him up. We’re tied with two minutes to go!

OVERTIME!

Drew McIntyre came back out and distracted Rollins and Dolph took advantage and hit a Zig-Zag for the win. That’s it for Extreme Rules.

Final Thoughts

This was a weird show. I really didn't hate it overall because I had tempered by expectations going in, but man, some parts were terrible. The Roman/Lashley match was weird and slow for most of the time, and everything felt pretty inconsequential. A good Rusev/AJ match and a pretty solid Strowman/Owens match stood out, but everything else was average at best.

With that being said, I’m ready for the Road to Summerslam to be underway. I hope Monday’s Raw is used as a reset for some of these stale storylines. C

First Black Champ: Celebrity Hell in a Cell

We're Back and Entertainment Beef is real! Find out who Cam and Bang want to have a Hell In A Cell match or a Chicago Street Fight anytime anywhere! We also talk our Extreme Rules predictions and come up with a FIRE angle for Bobby Lashley moving forward.

You'll get a lot of passion, prediction and we spark the conversation for inclusion for people of color behind the scenes in the world of Professional Wrestling on this week's #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

Follow Cam: @ImCamQuotes
Follow JR Bang: @jrbang

2018 World Cup Final preview: France vs. Croatia
 Photo Credit: AP 

Photo Credit: AP 

We have arrived at the final destination - Moscow, home of the World Cup Final, pitting two teams in France and Croatia who both deserve to be in this position. This past month of soccer madness has flown by with heart-stopping turns at every point. It's been a thrilling tournament and one of the best we have seen so far this century. Plenty of drama, stoppage time goals, underdog stories like home nation Russia and the resurgence of England, and the powers like Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany all bowing out before the semi-finals. Now the world holds its breath in anticipation of who lifts the trophy in 2018.

Croatia

Let’s not beat around the bush here; Croatia is the underdog. When the knockout brackets were first revealed, a Croatian run to the final was something many thought might happen but nobody predicted it in the way that it did. After two back to back penalty shootout wins, Croatia needed extra time again in their semi-final matchup against England, a team with tired legs but the deserved favorites. It usually doesn’t bode well when a team who has played 240 minutes in the past two games has to play catch up, but after England took the early advantage, Croatia slowly but steadily began to inch back into the game with Ivan Perisic's second-half equalizer. England’s back three was solid for much of the tournament but they were prone to mental lapses. While it certainly looked poor on Gareth Southgate’s side to lose focus like that, credit to Croatia for pouncing on them. It sort of felt like the second leg of Juventus vs. Spurs where Tottenham had two defensive lapses and the Italian side punished them. All it took was Kyle Walker to not check who was behind him when trying to defend a cross.

From there the tide shifted as England looked mystified and Croatia was dominating in the midfield, a strategy which always bodes well for them. In extra time again you wondered how Croatia’s legs would feel but they kept pushing on when Mario Mandzukic found the back of the net in the 109th minute for the winner. England's back line lapsed yet again as John Stones didn’t react quick enough to a bouncing ball in the box. It was a bizarre play as everyone on the pitch seemed to stop and watch the ball bounce towards Pickford; everyone except for Mandzukic. It was a nervy final 11 minutes as Croatia hung on to advance to their first World Cup final.

France

France faced a much tougher opponent in Belgium, but like their final opponents, they did much of the same thing they had done throughout the tournament: Grab a goal and hold steady.

France hasn’t looked too flashy in this tournament and outside of the Argentina game, their offense has looked lackluster. But it doesn’t matter to Didier Deschamps men. They just keep getting the job done and have gotten the results necessary to advance. They did the same thing against Belgium. France let Belgium dictate a lot of the possession this game and pick them off on the counter, a strategy Belgium used against Brazil, but it was a lone goal off a set piece from Barcelona center-back Samuel Umtiti that sent them through.

The game turned from there as France hunkered down and absorbed all the Belgian pressure. Belgium had a lot of chances on goal but couldn’t seem to beat Hugo Lloris and the French defense. To France’s credit, it was a tough backline to beat as Umtiti and Raphael Varane held down Romelu Lukaku and N’Golo Kante did a good job breaking up key passes while neutralizing the dangerous Kevin De Bruyne. It wasn’t the most pretty win or the most aesthetically pleasing win but once again, it’s just about getting the job done. Now France finds themselves one win away from winning a major tournament and can finally exercise the demons that haunted them after Euro 2016.

It’s a similar situation with France face as - like Portugal in 2016 - they face an inferior opponent in a final but they should be ready for this one. Losing at home in a European final doesn’t just wash away easily and it shouldn’t. There is a lot of those guys playing now who were there in Paris that day, watching Portugal go crazy as they snatched a cup winning goal without their best player in Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch. One has to be wary about France playing inferior opponents but they should be solid.

The key in this matchup will be the midfield. It’s Modric and Rakitic versus the likely trio of Pogba, Matuidi, and Kante. Simply put, whoever controls the middle wins, but this one is much more crucial for Croatia, especially since their wings will have to defend a lot more with Mbappe and Griezmann able to leak out for counters. Strinic can’t be left alone against Mbappe as we saw what happens when you give the wonderkid any sorts of space. This will force Perisic to track back and at least account for Mbappe presence, so a lot of the offense will come through the middle of the park with the Croatian duo springing passes to unlock the French defense. France has three high motor players of their own with two of them having enough offensive quality to scare Croatia’s backline. If Matuidi and Pogba are able to get up in attack with Giroud being the holdup man and occupying the center-backs, Croatia could be in for a very long night.

Croatia will have to play a lot of defense while somehow making sure that they have enough time to get Rakitic and Modric going. This opens up Mario Mandzukic as a key man for Croatia as he alone will probably be up in attack unless Andrej Kramaric starts as a CAM with the duo in a double pivot behind him. But you could see Rakitic and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic in a pivot with Modric up top. There is a lot of shifting which could go on in the Croatian midfield as manager Zlatko Dalic has a lot of options.

Prediction

Croatia has been fun and like France, they haven’t been flashy but they are effective. This team won’t quit and I see them coming back in this one to equalize some time in the game. But then France is going to get a winner in the second half and hold on. It will be a World Cup to remember for Les Blues.

2-1 France

Random Acts of Podcast EP 191: an hour and 41 minutes of toxic masculinity
2018 FIFA World Cup Semi-final preview: England vs. Croatia
 Photo credit: REUTERS

Photo credit: REUTERS

We are now at the second semi-final of the World Cup, and while we had a clash of powerhouses on one side, on the other there's some surprise teams hoping to make the final. Both England and Croatia needed some luck to get here, but now each faces their toughest test of the knockout rounds in each other. It’s just shows how wild and unpredictable this World Cup has been.

Croatia

After topping Group D, Croatia needed back-to-back penalty shootout wins to advance to the semi-finals. The first one took place against Denmark after a gut-wrenching save on a Luka Modric penalty shot in the dying moments of extra time kept the Danes in it. But Modric and his teammates stepped up and thanks to some poor penalties by Denmark, the stage was set for Ivan Rakitic to win it.

Their next match against Russia was another slogfest as Croatia came back from an early goal to tie the game and eventually take the lead in extra time. However, Russia came back strong and equalized to force penalties. There goalkeeper Danijel Subasic came up with a huge save and two missed spot kicks from the hosts, opening the door for Rakitic yet again to win it and send his country to the next round.

It’s been a stressful journey for Croatia but there are on the doorstep of reaching a semi-final. This wasn’t entirely out of left field considering their runs in Euro 2016 and how the group stage went. It was just how they got to this point which was interesting.

England

England didn't have the same struggle on their end, but they did avoid crisis in the round of 16 against Colombia. A tie at the end of stoppage time meant English fans worst fears: penalty kicks, a heartbreak they're all too familiar with. But this time it was different, as Eric Dier exorcised the demons of World Cup past and lifted the Three Lions to the quarterfinals, where they cruised to an easy 2-0 win over an upstart Sweden team.

The key for England to advance will be the midfield. Can the trio of Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli, and Jesse Lingard somehow slow down the duo of Rakitic and Modric? Both Croatian midfielders do a lot of work and usually set up in a double pivot, each playing a different role with Modric being the controller and Rakitic being the guy who has an insane work rate and can clean up if necessary. Give them enough time and they will run the game with ease, especially Modric, who has a legitimate shot at winning the Golden Ball.

If the Croatian midfielders are able to spring passes forward to the likes of Ivan Perisic on the wing, England’s back three could be in major trouble. It will be up to Henderson to make sure he can make life difficult for Croatia. Lingard will be asked a lot as well but given his role at Manchester United, defending for a lot of the time shouldn’t be a tall task. While Croatia does have holes in their defense, England can’t forget they are facing two high-quality guys who can break them if given the chance. Modric and Rakitic are game changers and control just how well this Croatian team will play. Whichever team controls the middle of the park wins this game. 

Prediction

Both England and Croatia have done well to get here. Granted it wasn’t the strongest opposition but they played with the cards they were given. It’s a tough matchup for both teams and it’s an even one too. I have to go with the stronger side here and it’s Croatia.

2-1 Croatia

2018 FIFA World Cup Semi-final preview: Belgium v France
 Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

Belgium v France can arguably be considered the final of the tournament. Belgium has eliminated Brazil and were resilient in their comeback again Japan. France has been dominant with a solid mix of youth and experienced European club-talented players. How do both teams match-up against each other? Let’s preview their chances and see who has the best chance to move forward

 Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

What makes Belgium dangerous is their ability to win games  They dominated Japan in possession and shots, but needed to come back from down 2-0 to advance. Their resiliency set up a quarterfinal match-up with Brazil. They made changes to their starting XI to counter Brazil, and their strategy paid off in a 2-1 win.

Belgium will have to play a similar style to beat France and advance to Sunday's final. Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba are France’s key threats up top - Belgium needs to keep them at bay and win the battle in the midfield to move on. Belgium also needs to do work offensively. They only had three shots on target against Brazil, although they managed to score twice. The French backline is young and capable of making mistakes; finishing from Lukaku and its other attacking players must be an area of focus.

 Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

France has been waiting for this moment since 2006. It's their first semi-final since finishing as the runner-up in the 2006 tournament. Their generational talent is just as important as Belgium’s, and this won't be the last World Cup we see with this youthful squad together.

Olivier Giroud, Griezmann, Mbappe, and Pogba have been pivotal for the French attack. 19-year-old Mbappe has been the darling of the tournament; just think, he'll be in his peak the next two World Cups. His runs have been nightmare for defenders who can’t seem to deal with his speed. Pogba and Griezmann have also demonstrated their leadership, controlling the tempo of the game. They were the more accurate team in terms of passing against Uruguay last round, controlling a large portion of the ball. They didn't score as frequently against a more disciplined Uruguay team than they did against Argentina, but they did show they can beat you on the ground or in the air, with a nice header from Raphael Varane.

Les Bleus seems confident they can contain Hazard in a similar fashion they did to Lionel Messi. This is not the same squad as Argentina however. Belgium has French legend Thierry Henry on its bench creating an intriguing match-up and is highly disciplined and deadly on counters. France will have to be in top form to beat this Belgium side who will seek to reach their first ever final.

Prediction: France 3 - 1 Belgium

Nearly Canceled: Power s5e2 - Diego is a weirdo mog
Ball Don't Lie Free Agency Special (ft. Al_Patron & @TreyBizzy)

Ball Don't Lie returns for an NBA free agency special! Joe Scott & Pierce welcome Al Patron & Alec on the pod to talk about LeBron's jump to LA, Boogie signing with the Warriors, the Bulls matching Zach Lavine's offer, the Kawhi Leonard saga and their thoughts on Drake's Scorpion!

Follow Joe: @Flowsandolini
Follow Scott: @Scott_CEOofSUH
Follow Pierce: @HennyOmega
Follow Al: @Al_Patron
Follow Alec: @TreyBizzy

This Week in WWE: Top Guys on top and Becky Lynch's hot streak rolls on

Rob and Chris are here to deliver their thoughts on the first Raw and SmackDown episodes of the month of July. 

Robert O’Neill: Roman Reigns is here to open the show! I wonder what’s on his mind.

Chris Novak: Well, he wants to fight “Bob” Lashley. But instead, we get Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. Earlier, we learned Dolph is facing Seth Rollins at Extreme Rules in a 30 Minute Ironman Match, which is a HELL of a thing. Dolph and Drew waste little time in putting the boots to Roman, but here comes Seth for the save!

Robert O’Neill: Hey that was fun! I imagine we’re gonna get a Seth/Roman vs. Drew/Dolph match at some point.  

Chris Novak: Rollins and Reigns run into Kurt Angle backstage, and demand they face Dolph and Drew. Angle, looking dumbfounded, says they’ll face them next week, because Roman and Bob Lashley are facing The Revival. However, Angle just snaps and changes the match to happen this week. What the hell is Kurt’s problem? Why is he so incompetent? Somehow I don’t see how this lasts for the rest of the night.

Robert O’Neill: Years of not taking care of his body. That’s how. Anyway, Matt Hardy is here for a match with Curtis Axel, who, along with Bo Dallas did a fantastic parody of Hardy and Bray Wyatt again before the match.

Chris Novak: At the same time, this feud is just… ice cold. And Bray Wyatt getting hurt (Bless him, and best wishes for a speedy recovery for him) doesn’t help matters here either. This match is fine so far, but Lord, we couldn’t do Bo vs. Matt tonight? I feel like I’m watching a rerun. Anyways the match itself was okay. Axel pinned Matt Hardy (again). That’s what this whole feud has been, so guess what’s going to happen at Extreme Rules?

Anyways, after commercial break, we’re getting our first segment of Bayley in counseling. There are many ways that this could go… hopefully it’s one of the successful ones.

Robert O’Neill: Before that though, we discover we’re getting Roman and Bob vs. The Revival and also Roman and Seth vs. Ziggler and McIntyre. How fun!

Chris Novak: Well, the first Bayley-Sasha counseling segment is in the books and… THAT’S DOCTOR SHELBY!!!

Robert O’Neill: My God, they actually did it.

Chris Novak: AOP are facing Titus Worldwide next. Can you guess what’s going to happen next?Robert O’Neill: Pain was authored.

Chris Novak: That’s correct, Rob.

Robert O’Neill: Time for Roman and Seth vs. Dolph and Drew. I’m ready for it.

Chris Novak: Roman is doing some heavy coughing, which is kinda gross to listen to on the ring mic. Anyways, this match has been outstanding so far. Seth, once again, is proving why he’s #1 in WWE this year and there really isn’t anyone close to him right now. They’re putting together so many unique spots and creative ways to try and set up the Roman hot tag. It’s actually wonderful. AND THAT’S THE REVIVAL!

Robert O’Neill: Well holy crap, they appear to be setting The Revival up for success. That’s excellent. Roman ate a Shatter Machine!

Chris Novak: Rob, remember when you thought… never mind, I won’t even rub it in. They looked spectacular here.

Robert O’Neill: Constable Corbin is in the ring and talking about how things went south with Finn Balor last week. Balor comes out and apologies and then they get into a fight. I guess this will be a match at Extreme Rules. That’s fine!

Chris Novak: Have to say again, I’m digging Corbin’s rebrand. They’ve put him in a role where he can succeed at being a gigantic dickhead.

Robert O’Neill: Liv Morgan is out for a match with Ember Moon. This is a cool usage of the two, as both aren’t near the title hunt, but can still have a match together. It was fun, too! Ember got the win, but Liv looked good.

Chris Novak: Liv has been really impressing lately. She’s improving REALLY quickly and I think there’s a lot of potential in her. Really dig her game, and not just cause I’m biased since she’s from New Jersey.

Robert O’Neill: Oh man. Another counseling segment. This time, Bayley and Sasha pretended to be the other one, and it was hilarious. These are great.

Chris Novak: Can I just say: Bayley’s been showing off a lot of comfort while talking lately, and a lot of personality also? Something that I’ve picked up on. I’m liking it a lot. This was funny, and I’m sure there’ll be people complaining about it, but it did its job.

Robert O’Neill: Liv Morgan is out for a match with Ember Moon. This is a cool usage of the two, as both aren’t near the title hunt, but can still have a match together. It was fun, too! Ember got the win, but Liv looked good.

Chris Novak: Liv has been really impressing lately. She’s improving REALLY quickly and I think there’s a lot of potential in her. Really dig her game, and not just cause I’m biased since she’s from New Jersey.

Robert O’Neill: Oh man. Another counseling segment. This time, Bayley and Sasha pretended to be the other one, and it was hilarious. These are great.

Chris Novak: Can I just say: Bayley’s been showing off a lot of comfort while talking lately, and a lot of personality also? Something that I’ve picked up on. I’m liking it a lot. This was funny, and I’m sure there’ll be people complaining about it, but it did its job.

Robert O’Neill: TOP GUYS WATCH! The Revival are out to face Roman Reigns and Bob Lashley! Let’s see how this plays out.

So the match went on, Roman refused to tag Lashley in throughout the night, he got pissed and came in on his own, but then left as The Revival started beating up Roman to the point where they got disqualified and gave him ANOTHER Shatter Machine. They look damn good tonight.  

Chris Novak: This is as good as they’ve looked on the main roster since they debuted and kicked The New Day off the territory. Hope this leads to something.

Robert O’Neill: Nia (with Natalya) beat Mickie (with Alexa). Whatever.

Chris Novak: Feud’s just kinda cold as ice at this point. Get me to Alexa-Ronda, already, please. Thank you.

Robert O’Neill: It’s time for the main event! Braun Strowman is taking on Kevin Owens, who has been trying to get out of the match all night. We know how this is gonna go.

Chris Novak: Did you expect Braun Strowman to put Kevin Owens into a portapotty and then send it barreling off the stage? That’s how it went!

Robert O’Neill: That was amazing. A lot of people didn’t like it, but I’m here for Braun Strowman essentially being a cartoon character, and Kevin Owens is the perfect foil.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Robert O’Neill: Awful lot of Roman Reigns tonight. I’m fine with it, but it we definitely noticable that Raw wanted to focus highly on the Big Dog. Both tag matches were fine, but there wasn’t much else going on aside from the hilarious visual of Kevin Owens stretchered out covered in toilet water. The Bayley/Sasha stuff was good and I’m excited to see where it goes next, but this Raw felt like a holiday week Raw. C

Chris Novak: Do agree that this definitely felt like a holiday Raw. The two tag matches were pretty well done, with the first obviously being better than the second. But Revival looked really, really strong and I think that's as good of a takeaway as you can get. The Bayley-Sasha stuff was fine and inoffensive. Everything else was just kind of there. C

Smackdown.png

Robert O’Neill: It’s July 3 and there should be some fireworks on Smackdown Live! AJ Styles is facing Aiden English, and Jeff Hardy has a US Title open challenge lined up!

We begin the night with Renee Young in the ring, though. She’s going to be interviewing the newly reunited Team Hell No.

Kane is discussing why he came back to help Daniel Bryan, and Bryan is noting how Kane mistreated him in the past. One of my favorite things WWE does is continuity, because they do it so rarely. So when they’re like “hey remember the reason we stopped teaming up five years ago? It was because you turned on me and tried to end my career! You tried to abduct my wife!” That’s really awesome coming from the company that SWORE the first-ever Triple H/Undertaker WrestleMania match was at WrestleMania 27.

Chris Novak: Found the Team Hell No stuff to be pretty good. I legit laughed at Bryan’s comment about Kane burning his brother. While others think that Bryan’s being wasted right now, I’m quite liking this so far two weeks into it. We’ll see how it shakes out heading into the go-home SmackDown next week.

Robert O’Neill: Now the Usos are out here! And they don’t think Team Hell No should get a title shot at Extreme Rules just because they got back together, which leads to a match later tonight. If The Usos win, they’re added to the match at Extreme Rules.

Chris Novak: This should be a fun bout.

Robert O’Neill: It’s time for Jeff Hardy’s Open Challenge! Let’s see who answers the call. It’s The Miz!

Unsurprisingly, it was an awesome match from two of the ten best workers in the company at the moment. Hardy retained with a Swanton Bomb, but they made it look like Miz was going to win via the ropes but the ref caught him before the three count.

Chris Novak: Miz and Jeff Hardy had a pretty great MITB qualifier and this was a stirring matchup, as well. It’s obvious that these two are among the top workers in the company this year. They just keep performing at a high level each year.

Robert O’Neill: Up next, The New Day is out to celebrate America with pancakes! Well this is fun so fa- OH NO SANITY IS HERE. RUN EVERYONE.

Holy crap. SaniTY demolished them.

Chris Novak: Even with them losing last week, this was a good bounce back for them. I’m absolutely here for six-man warfare between these two teams. I have no doubt that what follows this will be very good.

Robert O’Neill: The much-anticipated James Ellsworth vs. Asuka match ended in a double countout after Ellsworth ran away, Asuka chased him, they came back to the ring, and Carmella took Asuka out. Strength in numbers!

Chris Novak: They protected Ellsworth. Amazing.

Robert O’Neill: Becky Lynch took out Peyton Royce, and it’s suddenly _quite_ apparent that they’re doing something with Becky. I just hope Charlotte doesn’t return and ruin it. Give me Becky vs. Carmella or Asuka at SummerSlam, please.

Chris Novak: That’s six consecutive wins for Becky on SmackDown Live… that’s not being done by accident. Nobody just wins that many matches in a row without there being some kind of method behind the madness. I suspect that Becky’s gonna get the title match at SummerSlam.

Robert O’Neill: Finally, we have Team Hell No vs. The Usos. To no surprise, this was a blast. Team Hell No got the win, and Kane did the YES chant, and all is well with our heroes as Smackdown goes off the air.

Chris Novak: That was a pretty good match, as expected. Good win for Team Hell No to establish themselves again against one of the top tag teams on the brand.

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Ruthless Aggression EP 24 - Still standing

This week the crew reviews RAW 475 & Smackdown 150, featuring the Ladder Match between Jeff Hardy & The Undertaker for the WWE Undisputed Championship, Brock Lesnar v. Ric Flair, & Hulk Hogan winning the tag titles with Edge! Plus our thoughts on ROH: Best in the World, the controversy between Kenny Omega & his CEO show, PCO calling out The Undertaker, the Bayley-Sasha saga and more!

Random Acts of Podcast EP 190: Quan is a male city girl