Monday, October 27, 2014

ANATOMY OF: WWE Hell in a Cell 2014 - A FJMing of TJR

If you don’t know what a FJMing is, wow have you failed at life for never having gone to this site.  Anyway, I will be using John Canton’s always wonderful results and commentary column as my basis for this FJMing.  Here's an example of how it will go. I know nothing about last night's PPV - second straight PPV I had a migraine the night of that prevented me from watching - so this should be informative, fun and in no way infuriating.  We will be using typical FJMing formatting, which is to say that John Canton’s words will be in bold.  Mine will be in not bold.  Let’s go!

There's a sold out crowd in Dallas, so that's good. The set is basically the same as the Raw and Smackdown set although there's no ramp. Blame it on budget cuts, folks.
There's not even a ramp now?!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  They couldn't at least get a cheap one and put down monthly payments of $9.99 for 6 months?!?!?

The first match is Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro, so they're going to start it off with a match that could be a classic.
Good strategy.  Let's hope they keep it going with the rest of the card's order! (that means put Ambrose/Rollins on last)

Intercontinental Title 2/3 Falls: Dolph Ziggler vs. Cesaro
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN - Greatest 2/3 Falls match since Three Stages of Hell.  Cesaro wins and holds the belt until he drops it to enter the World title picture.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN - The first two falls happen within the first 10 minutes because of course it makes sense for each guy to get pinned in the space of 10 minutes at a PPV match.  Ziggler wins the third fall and both stay in purgatory.

They worked a slow pace early with Cesaro grabbing a headlock. Cesaro shaved his head for this one. Usually he keeps some hair on top. 
He does?!  I had no idea.

Cesaro teased a Cesaro Swing, Ziggler fought out of it, but then Cesaro applied the Cesaro Swing. It drew a pop from the crowd as well as a two count. Ziggler grabbed an inside cradle and got the first fall after four minutes.

Winner of first fall: Dolph Ziggler
To recap: swinging a guy around over and over until throwing him down isn't enough to get a pinfall but an inside cradle is.  I haven't run the numbers on this but I'm pretty sure WWE does inside cradle finishes 70% more than it should (and 95% more than it should in Divas matches.)
There was a 30 second rest period 
After four minutes?!
The announcers talked about how hard it is to put Ziggler away even though he has lost a few non-title matches in the last month. 
This is supposed to be trolling, right?
Cesaro had Ziggler in a cradle in his arms, then climbed up the turnbuckle and hit a superplex. Wow. That was incredible. That description doesn't do it justice.  
I'm sure it was but I've got this sinking feeling that Cesaro is Kofi Kingston, every match he wrestles is the Rumble and he's there just to do his super neat spot.
Fans chanted "this is awesome" as we hit the ten minute mark
Since I'm in the mood for analogies, here's another - What the fans have done to "this is awesome" is akin to what WWE did with Fandango'ing.
Cesaro caught Ziggler, tossed him up and hit a huge uppercut for a two count. That got him a win on Raw in a non-title match. Cesaro backbreaker for two. Ziggler with an arm wringer, a Superkick and a Zig Zag for the victory after 13 minutes.
Winner of second fall: Dolph Ziggler
Winner by 2 Falls to 0: Dolph Ziggler
Post match, Ziggler celebrated with the IC Title and the fans were very happy about it.
I'm sure they were thrilled they didn't get a 3rd fall in a 2/3 falls match.  What was the point of the stipulation?  I can't even believe I'm bitching about stipulations and we're not even at a Cell match yet.
Analysis: ***1/2 That was really good as expected. Any time these two wrestle it's going to be a great match, but I was hoping for a longer match. Maybe I'm being greedy in saying that. It's just that when you have a 2/3 Falls Match it usually means the wrestlers will get more time than what we were used to seeing. Instead, they got 13 minutes. That's fine, but it would have been better if they had 18-20 minutes and got a chance to really deliver a classic. That's what WWE needs to do a better job of with the IC Title. It would be more of a showcase for the title and the champion if they got more time. That finish was good because it was emphatic. Ziggler hit three moves in succession to put Cesaro away. I expected Ziggler to win and I don't mind the 2-0 win either. It puts him over huge. Cesaro won't really be hurt by it.
Agree until the end.  Cesaro won't really be hurt by the ignominy of being the first dude to ever lose a 2/3 falls match in 2 falls?  He lost the first fall on an inside cradle and was dominated to lose the second - which is really bad since his whole deal is being a superman.  How is he not buried by this?  Because of one really nice move that popped the crowd?  He's Kofi Kingston.  Take it from a still diehard Kofi Kingston fan.  I hope I'm wrong but I know I'm not.
There was a commercial for WWE Network, which is what I'm watching on. The announcers basically insulted the people that watched it on PPV telling them they paid too much money for it.
About damn time they mentioned the elephant in the room - them streams.
The Authority was backstage talking about things with Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Kane having a small talk moment. Randy Orton wanted to know where Seth Rollins was. He wanted to tell Rollins to stay out of his business. Steph told him to focus on Cena. Hunter said to put himself in Rollins shoes and that Rollins attacked Orton before Orton could attack Rollins. Hunter said Orton needs to focus on beating Cena. Orton says he'll do it their way, but if they don't deal with Rollins then he will.
I thought that it would've been pretty cool that if The Authority made Orton and Rollins each pick someone to wrestle for them on the pre-show and the winner got the main event.  It would've worked too since they were both posturing to be in the main event on TV in recent weeks and the seeds of their breakup have been planted and growing for weeks now.  But I'm just a dude running a blog he barely updates and nobody reads.
Nikki Bella vs. Brie Bella
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN - Kharma returns, destroys both and we get the one No Contest we can all believe in.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN - Nikki wins and POOR POOR BRIE BELLA has to be a slave for a month or whatever.
How am I supposed to tell the difference between them? Oh right, Nikki's business investments on her chest.  
I'm pretty sure Brie's got the better ass too but they haven't exactly sexualized her since this whole storyline began back in April.
Brie made a comeback with a Bella Buster facebuster for a two count. That's her finisher, yet Nikki kicked out of it three minutes into the match. 
Oh please, I'm sure SOMEBODY kicked out of an X Factor 3 minutes in to a match once.  Don't be such a drama queen.
Brie applied the Yes Lock
I don't even wanna know what this looked like.  On the other hand, I've seen literally hundreds of John Cena STF's so I'm probably desensitized.
but Nikki got her foot on the rope. Brie got in close, so Nikki nailed her with another forearm shot. Nikki hit the Rack Attack again and that was enough for the pinfall after seven minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Nikki Bella
Nikki did some mock "yes" chants to taunt her sister. That means that Brie has to be the assistant of Nikki.
What does Nikki Bella even need an assistant for?  Especially considering she's in the good graces of the people who run the show.
Analysis: *3/4 They worked hard and had some creative nearfalls in there, so that's good. It was surprising to see them kicking out of finishers in a seven minute match like that although it made it more competitive. Nikki was my pick because whenever they do these stipulations the heel usually wins. It's a way to make the babyface more sympathetic so that when they get their big win it means they overcame the odds. In other words, there will be more Bella Twins matches soon.
(seriously blows my mind that he's an analyst for ESPN now)
Tag Team Titles: Goldust & Stardust vs. The Usos
You know what, I'm not doing this anymore.  Skip to the finish, not that I care either way.
Jey hit a superplex on Goldust and Jimmy hit one on Stardust. It's a superplex kind of night. Jey hit a top rope splash on Goldust, but Stardust broke up the pin. With Jimmy running into the ring, Stardust kicked Jey in the back of the knee (the ref was trying to keep Jimmy away) and Goldust hit the Final Cut for the pinfall win after 11 minutes.
Winners by pinfall: Goldust & Stardust
Good.  Have them keep the titles until The Ascension comes up and beats their asses, turning them face.  Or, you know, do anything whatsoever that turns them face.
Up next is John Cena vs. Randy Orton in a Hell in a Cell match. That means Rollins vs. Ambrose is going on last. Good call, WWE.
You know what?  WWE is so hilariously tone deaf to the fans so often that it's almost a disappointment when they manage to get it right.  But good for them.
There was a video package about rivalries and how "greatness always finds greatness." There were clips of Hogan/Piper, Austin/Rock and others, even mentioning sports rivalries like Brady/Manning in the NFL. It was really good although Cena/Orton really haven't produced the kind of memorable moments to make it as epic as WWE makes it out to be.
I can't name a single memorable Cena/Orton match other than the Royal Rumble and THAT was only memorable because of the all time shocker moment of the Wyatt blerp.
Randy Orton entered first followed by John Cena. The winner of this match gets a future WWE Title shot at Brock Lesnar.
There's NO WAY they actually try a face Orton against Lesnar, is there?
Hell In A Cell Match: Randy Orton vs. John Cena
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN - Crowd craps on this like Lesnar/Goldberg, Cena wins if only to keep the remote possibility of Rollins winning in play.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN - Spoilers Cena wins, whatever
Orton hit him in the back and Cena went face first into the cage as the fans chanted "RKO" in support for Orton.
Jesus.  They've GOT to turn Cena heel sooner or later, right?  I mean, smarks chanting for RANDY ORTON is just another level.  Also, that was the first thing I felt like commenting on in the match report.  Thrilling match between the two greatest of the generation you guys!
Cena whipped Orton into the cage three times in a row. Cena brought a table into the ring. Orton came back with a dropkick and then tossed Cena into the wedged chair with each move earning a nearfall. Orton stacked the table in the corner. Cena hit a shoulder block. He went for another one, but Orton hit a RKO out of nowhere. Wow that was cool! Great spot right there. Orton covered for two and then he was shocked that Cena kicked out. It was great because Cena jumped into it, so it looked even better on the replay.
Diamond Dallas Page must feel like a proud papa that his move has found new life in 2014 simply from opponents jumping in to it.
Orton sent Cena through the table for a two count.
#RememberWhen going through a table used to mean something.  The Dudleyz must feel like not so proud papas.
Orton brought the steel steps into the ring. Orton took a long time to set Cena up, so Cena hit a spinning suplex onto the steps. Cena hit the Five Knuckle Shuffle as Orton was dazed. Orton slipped out of the Attitude Adjustment and hit a low blow. Great heel move. Orton set up for the Punt, but Cena moved and he applied the STF on Orton. The move was locked in for about 30 seconds when Orton got to the rope and then crawled to the floor because getting to the rope didn't cause a break in this match. They passed the 20 minute mark.
This all sounds somewhat interesting.
Cena picked up the steel steps and tried to throw them at Orton, but Orton moved. 
Stop there.  They should've busted through the side of the cage and allowed for Authority interference.  Instead?
Cena brought another table into the ring. Cena placed Orton on the table. He went up top for a leg drop, but Orton tripped him up on the top rope. Some fans were chanting RKO. Orton set him up for it off the top rope, but Cena held onto the ropes. Cena was on the middle ropes. He put Orton on his shoulders and gave him the Attitude Adjustment through the table. Cena covered for the pinfall win after 26 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: John Cena
What's the percentage of hardcore matches Cena has ended by AAing someone through something since, say, the Edge feud?  75%?  Higher?

Analysis: **** That was a long match and they did a really good job of making it competitive the whole way through. Sometimes when you get 26 minutes it could be too boring, but they really built things up well. They kicked out of their biggest moves in order to have some believable nearfalls. You could tell the crowd took their time warming up to the match, but once they got into the last 10-15 minutes they had won the crowd over. This wasn't like the Royal Rumble where the crowd hated them. This crowd appreciated their work. They have a lot of haters, but give them a lot of credit for putting on a great match inside the Cell. Orton kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment twice, so it's not like he looked bad in the match. They told the story that the guy that hit their finisher in a major way was going to win and that's what happened when Cena hit the AA through the table for the win.

It DID sound like it got considerably better in the second half of the match.  And they set the bar high for Rollins/Ambrose so that's good.

Big Show was in the locker room getting ready for his match. His buddy Mark Henry walked in to support him. Show said he's going to beat Rusev for everybody and his country. When he said he would beat him for Henry, Mark had a puzzled look on his face.
Analysis: The rumor is that Henry is going heel soon. That face he made is a sign that it's coming soon.
It's US Title time. During the Kickoff Show, Sheamus hit a Brogue Kick into camera as a message to Miz and Mizdow.
LOL at that and LOL at this going on right after Cena/Orton (it's almost like they're trying to kill Sandow heat!)
United States Title: Sheamus vs. The Miz (w/Damien Mizdow)
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN - Sandow gets the pin
WHAT WILL HAPPEN - Sheamus gets the pin
The announcers were talking about voodoo for this match because they don't seem to understand what a stunt double is. 
A friend did a review of an old This Tuesday in Texas (the one with Roberts/Savage) and noted a bunch of the great lines that Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan said on commentary.  I actually have never hated Cole and I still mostly like JBL but man, we've fallen far.
Miz hit his backbreaker/neckbreaker combo for two. Miz DDT for two as the crowd laughed at Mizdow acting outside the ring and they chanted "Mizdow's awesome." Sheamus came back with a Powerslam. Mizdow jumped on the apron. Miz got a rollup. Sheamus rolled through, but the ref wasn't there to count. More Mizdow distraction, so Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale for two. Miz hit a corner clothesline. Miz went to the top rope, he tried the double axehandle and Sheamus countered with the Brogue Kick for the win after nine minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Sheamus
That paragraph came in with some happiness and went out with crippling depression.
Post match, Mizdow laid down beside Miz. Sheamus held up the arm of Miz, then sat him up and kicked him down. Mizdow mimicked everything. The crowd laughed. Sheamus picked up Miz, shook him around, put his arms in the air and did the YMCA motions with his hands. Sheamus gave Miz another Brogue Kick. Mizdow also collapsed. Sheamus left.
For once, their booking of Sheamus as a goofster is paying off.  Damian Sandow is magical.
Analysis: ** It was an average match done for the jokes more than anything. The Mizdow gimmick is more over than Miz, so it will probably lead to Sandow turning face in the near future.
I shouldn't be worried about this but I'm worried about Sandow as a face.  Especially since he'll be getting zero help from Heel Miz in that feud.
Post match, Brie Bella was shown loading bags into a car. Nikki wondered if Brie made her dinner reservation and wanted her smoothie, so Brie gave it to her. Nikki poured the smoothie on Brie. She told her to make her smoothie the same way and bring it to her hotel room. Nikki left in the car while Brie was all sad.
Analysis: That's the follow up to the "personal assistance" angle. I guess we'll be getting skits like that for the next month.
Hopefully Nikki doesn't plan on drinking that smoothie because it's gonna have some nasty stuff in it.  Also, I kind of hope there's one RAW (maybe tonight's!) where they're just stalling for Monday Night Football halftime and fill the time entirely with these skits.
Rusev entered first along with the ravishing Russian Lana, who was wearing pink. 
I'm almost positive she hasn't worn pink before.  Might have to "fact check" that one though.
Lana did a promo saying two superpowers will collide for the supremacy of the world.
Big Show vs. Rusev (w/Lana)
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN - Mark Henry heel turn
WHAT WILL HAPPEN - Mark Henry heel turn.  Hey, I agree with what will happen for once!  Now it's not going to happen :(
Rusev tried the Accolade. It didn't work because Show turned it into a submission where he bent Rusev back and held his legs. Never seen Show use that move before. 
Yeah no crap nobody's ever been able to put DE BEEG SHOW in a camel clutch before.
Mark Henry walked down the aisle to cheer on Show.
Telegraph it more, please!
Show rolled Rusev back into the ring. He slowly went back in the ring as if to tell Henry he had this and Rusev nailed him with a Superkick. Henry was on the apron, so Rusev hit a Superkick on him. Rusev hit a Superkick on Show and then another one to Show. Accolade submission by Rusev. It was tough for him to apply it, but Rusev got it on him.  Show tried to fight it. He couldn't. Show tapped out, so Rusev won via submission after eight minutes.
Winner by submission: Rusev
Post match, the Russian flag was above the ring. Henry tried to help his buddy Big Show. Rusev celebrated with Lana. What a lucky guy. Meanwhile, JBL mentioned that Show was just another superstar that embarrassed their country.  
Okay, nevermind.  So Henry being out there was completely pointless as usual?  Right.
Analysis: *3/4 In the preview I wrote that they should have a match that is done in under ten minutes. They went about eight minutes, so they made the right call on it. Another thing I liked about it was that Show lost clean. It was a decisive win for Rusev, who had to slow Show down by hitting multiple Superkicks to stun him. They brought Mark Henry out there to potentially tease a heel turn by him, but he didn't get involved at all. It's better for Rusev to win clean. It's been a predictable show so far since I've gone 6-0 in my predictions at this point.
Yeah, it's true the clean win is better.  The heel turn just seemed obvious - maybe it's coming tonight.  No more large jobbers for Rusev.  It's BEEN time for Rusev/Cena.  Hell they should've done that instead of pooping up Ambrose/Rollins with him but whatever.
Dean Ambrose did a promo backstage where he basically said he was going to destroy Seth Rollins. He told Rollins he's going to pay for his actions as they both burn in hell.
This late in the show before either one of them makes an appearance?
Divas Title: AJ Lee vs. Paige (w/Alicia Fox)
Another one I care not at all about because it has made zero progress in three months like it's one of my college semesters.  Also Paige (and her valet!) is going to Total Divas so R.I.P. her career.
Alicia rolled Paige into the ring and AJ applied the Black Widow. Paige tapped out to give AJ the submission win after 7 minutes. At least that drew a mild reaction.
Winner by submission: AJ Lee
Post match, Paige slapped Alicia in the face and left the ring saying it was it her fault. Paige said "I hate you" as she walked up the aisle.
Nothing worth commenting on here so I'm opening another discussion: Iggy Azalea is sexier as the waitress in the "Black Widow" video than anywhere else you'll see her, right? Seriously.
There was a commercial for a WWE Rivalries show that premieres on WWE Network following Raw on Monday. That's a great idea for a show. Looking forward to it. I'm assuming that Chavo Guerrero vs. Hornswoggle isn't on it. Just a hunch.
Kerwin White is featured or we riot.
Alright, I'm actually gonna watch Ambrose/Rollins and that'll get its own post later.  Hopefully I'll be writing about the Match of the Year!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ranking The English Premier League Grounds: 20-16 - Relegation Fodder

One of my favorite aspects of sports since I was a little kid is the stadiums. I'm not an architecture buff - although like all children I would assume, I wanted to become one as soon as I learned that word - but I just love stadiums. Their size, their shape, their roles as modern day cathedrals in our sports crazed society. Unfortunately a lot of American stadiums have become increasingly corporatized, santized and vanilla. Luckily, the English Premier League has caught on in America and its stadiums (known as "grounds") are filled with the history, tradition and pageantry that almost all of our stadiums lost a long time ago. Here's a ranking of the grounds, 20-1, in groups of 5 over the next four blog posts.  

Chiming in with his elitist Princeton opinions on each is Blake C Thomsen - a very generous man who took time out of his paid contributions for his much-more-successful-than-mine startup sports website to help me out for free. He is a good man who came up with the as-of-this-moment greatest name for a dorm room in the history of humankind, which also doubles over as # 1 on this list, INCREASING THE DRAMA as we go through the list, bottom to top. Thanks, Blake.


NAME/HISTORY (10 POINTS) - Generally, the older and less corporate the better.  Corporate names lose points unless they sound cool as shit aka KING POWER STADIUM. You're absolutely right that's an English Premier League ground.

AGE/SIZE (10 POINTS) - Big time clubs play in big timey grounds - most old, some new.  Tin pot clubs play in tin pot grounds - most old, some new.  Old Trafford gets a 10.  Anything built after World War 2 with under 15,000 fans gets a 1.  Everything else is in between.  Attendance numbers are from here:

CLOSENESS OF FANS (10 POINTS) - This is where stadiums in many other countries in Europe lose points.  Many Spanish and Italian stadiums, among others, have fans far away from the field due to a track around the pitch or what have you.  A lot of the English stadiums have fans right on top of you.  This is where smaller grounds can make up points on bigger grounds.  Specific supporter sections (Kop, Stretford End, et al.) are also factored in here.

SHAPE/ARCHITECTURE (10 POINTS) - A good litmus test here: if I’m flipping on the television, can I IMMEDIATELY tell where the match is being played?  Uniqueness is key here.  Obviously most stadiums are in the shape of a box or whatever but is it a UNIQUE looking box?

ATTENDANCE/ATMOSPHERE (10 POINTS) - Are the fans filling the place or are there plenty of visible empty seats every week?  Is it a white hot atmosphere or are things tepid and Wiganesque?


Hull City

KC Stadium

N/H - 5.  Perfect corporate name.  Absolutely no history.

A/S - 1.  2002; 25,400 (17th in EPL.)  Tinpot ground built in this millennium is an auto 1.

COF - 4.  They’re kind of close on one end….I think?  God, this is such a basic stadium.

S/A - 3.  It’s probably not a good thing when I go on your Wiki, see that you’re known as “the circle” and supposed to have a circular shape…...and I am completely befuddled by this.  At least they tried?

A/A - 8.  About the highest I can go, honestly.  Always going to be empty seats but that’s because they’re on an island - NO other club is remotely close to Kingston upon Hull.  There’s not a single gate they can rely on to pack the house and yet they still do relatively well.  Brownie points for this paragraph from the Wiki: The stadium hosted Premier League football in the 2008–09 and 2009–10 seasons, with all 20,500 available season tickets selling out shortly after Hull City's Championship play-off victory at Wembley Stadium.[

BT says: As far as teams go, they don’t come much more anonymous than Hull in the Premier League. And it must be said, their stadium is perhaps even more anonymous than their players, of which the notable lads include Nikica Jelavic and Curtis Davies.

^^^ Hull had a ridiculous first ever season in the Prem back in 2008-2009.  Won at Arsenal, were 2-0 up and drew at Anfield and were top of the table in the fall….before an EPIC collapse that nearly saw them relegated but they escaped on the final day.  Hung around for a few more seasons before going down but have struck gold with Steve Bruce and rebuilt properly in the second division despite the natural restrictions that come from being a northern coastal outpost.  And my man Blake is seriously shortchanging the work Bruce did on transfer deadline day but that’s okay, Abel Hernandez will just have to keep banging them in to shut all the haters up.

TOTAL - 21/50


Swansea City

Liberty Stadium

N/H - 7.  I will give England (and in this case Wales) this - they do their corporate names right.  No Smoothie King Centers or Arena’s or any of that crap.  No history here yet other than this game really - although if we’re speaking candidly THE JONJO SHELVEY GAME was history in and of itself - but it’s already seen European football so that’s something.

A/S - 1.  2005; 20,750 (19th in EPL.)  No age, no size….I WAS gonna give them some dap for wanting to expand the size because it clearly needs it in light of Swansea’s Premier League success….and then I read this: Plans for a new McDonald's fast food restaurant to be opened near the stadium threw expansion plans into doubt.[8]

COF - 3.  Everyone just looks so far away on TV.  It’s not as bad when you look at pictures online but man, every time I watch a Swansea match it just sticks out to me the lack of intimacy.

A/S - 9.  I’ll be nice here.  It’s unique looking compared to everything else in the Prem.  That divide between the first 10 rows or so and the rest of the lower bowl has something to do with that.  It’s kind of like Loftus Road in that it’s small and it knows it so it embraces its coziness.  Plus, the cool loving cover over the stands earns it a point or two.

A/A - 9.  If Stoke’s the toughest fortress from a newly promoted tinpot club in recent Premier League history, Swansea’s a close second.  Though in the Swansea case, the football may have a bit more to do with it than the fans - we know that’s not the case with Stoke :)

BT says: Swansea supporters are generally excellent, and they make for a pretty good atmosphere every time out. My personal bonus point here: The Liberty hosted one of the low-key greatest moments in recent English football history. What am I talking about? Eden Hazard KICKING A BALLBOY, of course. One of the league’s best players kicking a child in a stomach to retrieve a ball… What a time to be alive 2012 was!

^^^ YES!!!  I HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT THAT!!!  Oh man.  If that’s not on Youtube, it’s time to scrap the internet and start over.  Here we go!  That was right before the end of the match too so it essentially functioned as a stalling tactic.  The only thing that would’ve made that better is if Mourinho was the manager.  Could you imagine Jose Mourinho defending his own player kicking a ball boy?  Frankly, there’s still time.  Swansea fans are hardcore as you say and I’m sure they’ll probably always have an inferiority complex with all the English clubs that comes out in the vitriol and makes the Liberty an even more difficult place to play.  We need more Welsh derbies in the top flight.  Get your stuff back together Cardiff.

TOTAL - 29/50



St Mary's Stadium

N/H - 7.  St. Mary’s is pretty cool.  It’s a lot cooler than, “The Friends Provident St. Mary’s Stadium” so I’m glad the supporters got that changed after 2006 and kept my “no joke coporate names in England” argument alive.  The ground it replaced - THE DELL - had arguably the coolest name in England so I’m giving a bonus point here for that.  No real history yet but the way this club is going, that should change very soon.

A/S - 7.  2001; 32,589 (12th in EPL.)  THIS is the size you make a new ground.  Not almost 50,000 like SOME PEOPLE SLIGHTLY HIGHER ON THIS LIST but a reasonable, just over 30K ground.  Hell, you could even argue north of 30K is ambitious for a South Coast side that will never fill it out because of no away fans….but they were a power in the 1980’s and before so unlike SOME PEOPLE SLIGHTLY HIGHER ON THIS LIST they had legit reason to believe they could rise again (and look at that, it looks like they have!)

COF - 6.  Two of the ends are pretty close, the other two are not so close.  It’s a newer ground.  You know the deal here by now.

S/A - 2.  Yes, a 2.  It’s a one level bowl, all the seats are red (I actually kind of like this - that’s why this isn’t a 1) and all of the stands are of the exact same height.  This is the missionary position of English football grounds.

A/A - 7.  You have to remember Southampton’s on the South Coast.  Especially with Portsmouth all the way down in League TWO, they’re not gonna have anything resembling a local rival for a long damn time.  Pretty much any home game that isn’t against a London club is gonna have an almost completely barren away section (so OF COURSE they put the away section on one of the ends where the TV camera catches it all the time, smh) but their fans do well for themselves.  Their attendances were in the 20K range when the club was bankrupt and in League One.  That’s pretty impressive.  Than a Swiss businessman bought them and they’ve been upwardly mobile ever since.

BT says: St. Mary’s isn’t a particularly inspiring ground for any reason, but it’s average to above average in just about every category, so that’s something. As Andy mentioned, it’s a shame that that empty away section is always on TV. The home fans are pretty good, and the current Southampton side gives them an awful lot to cheer about.

^^^ Southampton home matches are probably my least favorite in all of the Prem to watch.  All those empty seats are just so depressing.  But at least the side are living up to their fun, flair filled history.  Maybe if they can get in to Europe and get some home games against big sides that will travel we could see those stands filled up?  Man.  It continues to blow my mind how they formatted that ground.  SO MANY places have the away fans way from the pitch/cameras/everything but not these clowns.  It’s like they watched a Europa match in Serbia/Greece/Turkey/Russia and saw the empty arenas due to the fans chanting racist stuff and thought, “THAT’S the look we want for our stadium!”  Oh well.  Guess we’re doomed for a lifetime of facepalming every other week when a Southampton home match comes on Match of the Day....

TOTAL - 29/50


Stoke City

Britannia Stadium

N/H - 7.  Meh.  “Britannia” is kind of cool, kind of generic and kind of reminds me of an encyclopedia.  Giving a history brownie point or two here because this place was a legitimate fortress like none I have ever seen for a newly promoted club in the Premier League when Stoke came up a handful of years ago.

A/S - 6.  1997; 27,740.  Another meh.  Maybe this is just a meh stadium for me but 1997 isn’t super old and 27,740 isn’t super big.  Of course, this thing could’ve been built in 1967 and nobody would know because of how freaking irrelevant Stoke were before their promotion.

COF - 7.  They’re pretty close here and I especially like how close the away fans are.  Hugo Rodallaga running the short distance to his supporters after heading in the gol that kept Wigan up in 2011 was a moment I’ll never forget.  Mostly because about 10 minutes later, Stephen Hunt kept MY club up with one of the greatest gols in our history.  But still.

S/A - 2.  See St. Mary’s.  It’s basically the exact same thing.

A/A - 9.  I’m taking a point off because the Britannia isn’t the fortress that it used to be and because I hate Stoke City and their fans and how their tinpot club has completely stabilized in the Premier League….but they’re good, passionate, proper West Midlands fans.

BT says: It’s hard not to get romantic about the Britannia in the halcyon days four or five years back. The weather is awful, the fans are as loud as they come, and Rory Delap is absolutely hucking long throw-ins into the mixer. And the results came. Nowadays, Mark Hughes has made Stoke into a better footballing side, but the Fortress Britannia lives no more (see 1-0 home loss to Norwich last year and Leicester this year).

^^^ The Premier League just isn’t the same without Rory Delap’s long throws.  Also, you just wrote the words, “Nowadays, Mark Hughes has made Stoke in to a better footballing side,” which might mean it’s time to hand in your resignation.  That is a truly terrifying sentence.  And yet, it actually might be true just because of the (largely successful) style Tony Pulis had them playing (and now has Palace playing.)  Like we both noted, it’s not nearly as difficult to win there as it used to be but the fact remains that it’s never gonna be easy to play there particularly on, say, a Tuesday or Wednesday night when it’s cold and rainy?  Even Messi would struggle.

TOTAL - 31/50



Stadium of Light

N/H - 7.  The name gets a perfect and the history gets a 2.  Literally 2 memorable games in the stadium’s history: one and two.

A/S - 6.  1997; 48,707 (4th in EPL.)  Twenty years old in a few years, it’s not a spring chicken of a stadium anymore.  Still one of the newest in the country but I won’t dock it like I would one built in the 2000’s.  But they built a 42,000 seat stadium in 1997 for a club that had been in the Third Division a decade prior and that most DEFINITELY deserves some point dockage.

COF - 6.  I guess you could say this ground is 6’s and 7’s.

S/A - 9.  Here we go.  Defining, single deck box shape.  Per Wiki, the design was purposefully simple for potential future expansion to 66,000.  Don’t think that will be happening anytime soon, though.

A/A - 5.  I’m actually gonna be generous with them because they’re REALLY loud.  They don’t fill the place but it’s not their fault the creators installed too many seats.  Sunderland have proper fans who are as loud and rowdy as their North East neighbors.  They’re just the Auburn to Newcastle’s Alabama and forever will be so they’re unable to get 50K on a weekly basis (yes that’s an awful comparison since Auburn and Bama both get 90-100K on a weekly basis I DON’T CARE.)

BT says: It’s a decent stadium for a decent club, and, like the squad, is generally nondescript. That doesn’t mean the atmosphere isn’t pretty great, though, so much love to it in that department. Aside from that, Andy nailed it. It’s just a little too big.

^^^ I have to harp on this again - the name is truly fantastic.  Again, from Wiki: According to Sir Bob Murray then chairman of Sunderland F.C. the name Stadium of Light "was chosen for 2 main reasons; namely as an ever-lasting tribute to the region’s mine-workers and proud industrial heritage and in the expectation that the stadium would be a guiding light in the future. The name is very much a symbolic link to the thousands of miners and Sunderland supporters that emerged from the darkness and into the light every day when they returned to the surface after working in the mine."[4] A Davy lamp monument stands at the entrance to reflect the coal mining industry that brought prosperity to the town.[5]  Well it hasn’t quite guided any light to the future - maybe if it could produce a striker out of coal it’d make some progress to that end - but the rest is awesome, especially that lamp.  That lamp should be shown EVERY TIME Sunderland has a home match on TV.  Alas.

TOTAL - 33/50