The wrestling, or “sports entertainment” brand, WWE, is the most mainstream of its kind, followed by millions of fans across the globe. Now sipping Diet Coke instead of downing beers in its PG-era, WWE has nevertheless dreamed up some ridiculous storylines down the years that would put most soap operas to shame. From live sex shows and crucifixions, to kayfabe deaths and attempted murder, many of the stories company owner Vince McMahon has sanctioned have been ludicrously entertaining and glaringly controversial, but there is no doubt that they entertain a wide audience. The clichéd “you couldn’t make it up” line rolled out during actual, unscripted sporting events like football is difficult to take seriously with comparison to some of WWE’s wacky plots.
So what if, in some distant alternate reality, football became scripted just the same as wrestling? If Vince McMahon and his creative team took over a major football ‘brand’ like the Premier League, how could they write in their squared circle stars to the 2015/16 season? Here, I’ll take a look at which superstars, past or present, could star in a WWE invasion of England’s top flight, and what might happen during the ensuing campaign…
The story starts this summer. Chelsea are Premier League champions and, along with Manchester City, once again favourites to challenge for the 2015/16 Premier League. That is, until Vince McMahon takes over the ‘franchise’ as he insists on calling the English top flight, and demands that his newly formed club – WWE FC – is included in the table. Instantly asserting himself as the great pantomime villain, McMahon’s second order of business is to insist WWE FC takes Bournemouth’s spot, as “there can only be one debuting team to keep the franchise prestigious”. The Cherries are naturally not happy at all about this and, just like any wrestling feud, their differences are to be settled in a match; whoever wins takes the 20th spot in the Premier League.
This match with Bournemouth debuts WWE FC’s superstars. In charge is none other than WWE’s best manager, Paul Heyman, a man known, just like Sir Alex Ferguson, for getting the very best out of his players. A genius with the media too, Heyman talks up his as yet unknown team, insisting they will crush Bournemouth’s highflyers and usher in a new Premier League era of dominance.
The match takes place at a packed Wembley Stadium the day before the Community Shield. Heyman’s WWE FC line up with a 4-2-3-1 formation, and to everyone’s surprise, they immediately operate like a well-oiled machine against Eddie Howe’s Championship winners.
Despite Callum Wilson’s best efforts, he cannot score past WWE FC’s behemoth goalkeeper Big Show, whose enormous frame fills a large percentage of the goal and allows him to effortlessly pluck crosses from the air with giant hands. The centre backs are equally adept and physically intimidating. Kane is another seven foot monster whose power and strength are near unparalleled – plus his ability to spout fire from the corner flags before every match derails even the steeliest opponents. John Cena plays alongside him; the gritty, determined, captain fantastic, who can’t help but annoy people despite his wealth of talent – basically, this team’s John Terry. At right back is the quietly dependable Christian; technically sound, a good reader of the game, boring but dependable. On the left however, rampaging up and down the line with seemingly infinite reserves, is Booker T, whose athletic frame is perfectly suited to the rigours of his role – plus his ‘Spinaroonie’ goal celebration is always a crowd pleaser, no matter what they think of the team as a whole.
The central midfield is made up of the enforcer and the box-to-box engine. The former is none other than WWE’s most celebrated badass, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Rumoured to fill his water bottles with beer and to turn up to training whenever he feels like it, the Texan Rattlesnake is a brawler in the middle of the pitch, bullying opponents with his Vinny Jones style and giving a short pass to the nearest, more technically gifted, teammate. Beside him is the powerhouse Brock Lesnar; Heyman’s hand-picked favourite, the Beast is WWE FC’s driving force, contributing to every play front and back. A near unstoppable machine, Lesnar is the all-rounder: vision, pace, power, tactical nous and relentless stamina.
On the right of the attacking midfield trio is Chris Jericho. Although not standout in any of his attributes, Y2J is another all-rounder and big-match player, like the WWE FC equivalent of Park Ji-Sung or Dirk Kuyt – if there is a job in need of doing, Jericho will carry it out unquestionably and keeps going until the final whistle. His opening goal against Bournemouth shows, too, his penchant for grabbing important goals. On the left is Shawn Michaels; honestly, how could this man, so famous for his super-kick, be left out of this team? WWE FC’s most technically gifted player, Michaels is the go-to playmaker, unlocking defences with acute passes and devastating crosses. His free-kick goal against the Cherries highlights his set-piece prowess, and along with three assists, contributed to his Man of the Match performance. In the middle of the midfield trio, playing just behind the striker is The Undertaker; again, how can ‘the best pure striker in WWE’ be left out of this side? A long range specialist, no one can strike the ball cleaner than the Deadman, as Artur Boruc can testify, yet despite his size and strength he shows guile and a first-touch ability any classic number ten would be proud of. In honour of his famous Wrestlemania streak, Taker dons the number 21, however.
The lone striker can be none other than Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. An international superstar, The Rock is the typical flashy centre forward, known as much for his image as his undoubted ability. Likened to Thierry Henry with his grace and poise on the ball, a coolly dispatched goal in this opening match is tantamount to the comparison.
The bench is equally adept: CM Punk is a worthy central midfield replacement with his combination of technical ability and tough-guy attitude; Jeff Hardy is the agile and undoubtedly talented winger, but his off-field problems often get the better of him; and Randy Orton is the ideal sub striker, with his ability to, of course, get a goal out of nowhere.
The match with Bournemouth sends a message out to the rest of the country: WWE FC is here to win the Premier League, and they aren’t out to make friends, having denied a favourite of the neutrals their first taste of the top flight. Their opponents are completely bullied during the match, with plenty of sly digs behind the officials’ backs, and a lot of rough fouls the referee seems too intimidated to properly punish. Jericho opens the scoring after twenty minutes, latching on to Michaels’ scooped pass over the defence with a diving header at the back post. The Rock then makes it 2-0 just before the break, collecting another Michaels pass before dribbling his way into the penalty area and passing the ball through Boruc’s sprawled legs as the Pole rushes out. The match is over by the hour, when Undertaker collects the loose ball following a 50/50 (or 99/1) challenge between Lesnar and Matt Ritchie, and effortlessly drives home a powerful strike from 25 yards. Taker and Lesnar begrudgingly acknowledge one another’s contribution before their teammates join the celebrations. Michaels curls in the fourth from a free-kick, which saw The Rock go down amazingly easy under a Tommy Elphick challenge, despite the half-foot and hundred pounds difference in stature. The 5-0 rout is completed with a couple of minutes to go when, off the bench for Johnson, Orton bullets a header into the bottom corner from Michaels’ cross.
Bournemouth’s players, humiliated and defeated, at least try to congratulate their opponents when the match is over, but WWE FC’s superstars are having none of it. Led by Austin, they ignore any attempts to shake hands and swaggers off the pitch and down the tunnel, one by one, not once acknowledging the crowd, as if their existence doesn’t matter. The boos, naturally, are deafening, but not one of them bats an eyelid.
At the post-match news conference, Paul Heyman laughs and jokes about his team’s dominance – and at Bournemouth’s expense – before reiterating that his team will win the Premier League, League Cup and FA Cup treble. Their first match, coincidentally, is against England’s most successful team, Manchester United, in a season opener at the Theatre of Dreams. With their first test brushed aside with such ease, football fans no longer know what to expect of WWE FC…
Any WWE fans out there, which superstars would you have in your WWE FC line-up? Let us know in the comments.
Featured image: all rights reserved by Miguel Discart[separator type=”thin”]
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£43m for Toby Alderweireld would be great business for Tottenham Hotspur
It seems that the Belgian defender is definitely on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur.
It seems as though Toby Alderweireld is on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur.
It is being reported by Het Laatse Nieuws today that the Belgian’s contract talks with Spurs have been halted.
With the Belgian out of contract in the summer of 2019, Spurs will attempt to cash in on Alderweireld now.
A fee of £43 million has been mentioned for the player, who reportedly wanted a wage to match that of Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool.
Tottenham’s stance of not paying out big wages to their top players has often been criticised. But on this occasion, the Lilywhites are doing the right thing.
On his day and when fit, Alderweireld might be the best centre-back in the Premier League. However, it has been a long time since the Belgian had such a day.
Most of this season has seen Alderweireld on the treatment table. When he has played, it has always seemed a precursor to his next injury.
Given his age and contract situation, the injury record gives Alderweireld three strikes. At £43 million, Tottenham would be getting a fantastic deal for their defender.
The report from HLN claimed that Alderweireld wanted a wage in the region of €180,000-a-week (£160,000-a-week). Such a sum is vast for a player with his current issues.
The fact Spurs were reportedly willing to go as high as €120,000 (£105,000) per week shows that Daniel Levy tried to keep the Belgian, even doubling his current wage, but Alderweireld is on his way.
It will be a shame for Spurs but breaking the wage structure at the club for an injury prone defender would not have been a wise move.
Eventually, Tottenham might have to be more lenient with their wages, but that should be saved for the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli or Christian Eriksen.
Tottenham should take £43 million for Alderweireld and persevere with the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth.
Alderweireld’s next club will hope they can keep the Belgian fit long enough to reap the rewards of his potential signature.
Ronald Koeman admits he wanted Memphis Depay at Everton
But would Everton have benefited from his arrival?
Ronald Koeman is about to kickstart his managerial career with the Dutch national team. It is his first role since getting sacked by Everton and his first foray into international management. Speaking about his new role he discussed the former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay.
Speaking to the press, as reported by Football Oranje, Koeman revealed that he had tried to convince Depay to join Everton whilst he was manager at Goodison Park:
“I invited him to my home last year, when I wanted to get him to Everton. That did not work, he went to Lyon.”
Depay was with Manchester United at the time, where he had struggled to live up to his potential. Instead of joining Everton he headed to Lyon in France in a deal reported by the Telegraph to be worth £16 million.
So have Everton missed out?
Depay’s struggles to settle in English football are well known. Since his move to France things have certainly improved. Depay has scored 18 goals since his move to France. However, considering he scored 28 goals in his final season at PSV prior to his United switch it is still not a massive amount.
In the time he has been in France those 18 goals have come from 61 games. His form has been good at Lyon but certainly not to the standard many expected of him when he made the move to Manchester United.
That said, £16 million today in today’s market is not a lot of money. Looking at Everton’s team, having Depay playing from the left side would have been a massive bonus for Koeman, and now for Sam Allardyce.
Depay still has plenty to improve upon and hopefully Koeman can get the best out of him during his time as the Netherlands boss.
As for Everton, they did not get their man and paid a lot more for the man he would be battling for first-team football Yannick Bolasie – who has not yet been a hit at Goodison Park.
So, all things considered, Everton probably should wish Koeman had managed to convince Depay into a Merseyside switch last January.
Victor Fernandez furthers Newcastle United first-team claims on Spain tour
The 19-year-old impressed as he featured against Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp.
Newcastle United recently travelled to Spain for a training camp as they attempted to deal with three weeks without a competitive fixture.
Rafa Benitez is an experienced manager and he will have realised the danger that such a gap could pose for his team, especially when it came to the fitness of the squad.
He arranged a training camp in his homeland, which culminated in a unique 135-minute match against Belgian side Royal Antwerp.
It consisted of three periods of 45-minutes, which allowed the manager to give playing time to the fringe players in his squad ahead of the run-in.
Although it gave the opportunity to experiment, only two youth players made the trip to Spain.
Nathan Harker was the back-up goalkeeper as both Rob Elliot and Karl Darlow were struggling with injuries.
The other, Victor Fernandez, caught the eye of Newcastle supporters watching.
Fernandez will be encouraged about further involvement with the first-team, as he was the only young outfield player to feature against Royal Antwerp.
That is a sign that Benitez considers the 19-year-old as one of the best prospects currently with the club.
The Spaniard joined the club just over a year ago from UE Cornella.
The signing went under the radar, but Benitez has an extensive scouting network and he obviously saw something in Fernandez.
Although he is predominantly a winger, he can play anywhere across the front-line is required.
Soon after joining the club, he spoke of not wanting to aim for too much too early when talking to the Newcastle United official club website:
“My purpose was not to make an impact really quickly, because I’m new and I have to get used to English football – it’s really different from Spain. I hope, little by little, I can keep doing good things here.”
Considering this was very quickly after his move to a new country, Fernandez’s words show maturity and show a glimpse into his character.
Benitez is a thorough manager who likes to know everything about the players that he brings to a football club.
There must have been something about the Spanish winger that made the Newcastle manager believe that he could adapt to English football.
There are no guarantees in football when it comes to young players fulfilling their potential.
However, the fact that Fernandez was taken on the mid-season tour to Spain suggests that he is on the right path.
He would have been offered guarantees about a route to the first-team squad and his involvement against Royal Antwerp will have been a reward for his progression since moving to St James’ Park.
He came on for the final 45-minutes and showed flashes of his ability.
There was some nice interplay with Dwight Gayle that resulted in the teenager having a shot on goal.
His trickery and direct style caused problems for his marker and he continued to excite those watching when the ball was his feet.
There is more developing for him to do before he is ready for the first-team in competitive action, but his performance against Antwerp was a positive one.
There is clearly talent there and he will be a player to follow over the coming seasons.
Newcastle are at the early stage of their development under Rafa Benitez and that will mean opportunities are there for young players.
Fernandez could have the ability to take his.
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