Advice from the fantasy doctor
NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling Columnist
Between trying to digest all of the happenings in the world of wrestling every week, making sure my "real job" gets the attention it needs and wondering if everything is ready for the upcoming birth of my first child, there isn't too much unused time in my schedule or capacity in my poor brain. For years, though, I've managed to squeeze in some room for fantasy sports.
I've always had trouble saying no whenever a friend or co-worker asked me to join a fantasy league, no matter what sport might be involved. This time of year is especially difficult, with fantasy football in full swing, and it's not unusual for me to end up in two or three more leagues than I expected. Fortunately, help is always as close as my internet connection or the local newsstand, where right now, Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson is getting more face time than the McMahon family sees on an average episode of Raw.
One thing I haven't seen too much of out there -- come to think of it, I've never seen it -- is something to help everyone getting ready for their fantasy wrestling drafts. That could be due to the lack of fantasy wrestling leagues on the market, but given the popularity of fantasy anything, there's no reason aside from licensing concerns that wrestling should be left out of the fun. If fantasy golf can work, where, let's face it, Tiger Woods is a pretty good bet to win when he has his A-plus game going, then the fact that wrestling outcomes are predetermined shouldn't be too much of an obstacle.
Before anyone asks, yes, I realize that the WWE does have its own fantasy league through the company website. But for our hypothetical league, we don't want to play favorites, so we're including TNA and ECW wrestlers as well. Our scoring system subscribes to the KISS philosophy (Keep It Simple Stupid), awarding points for wins, subtracting a point for losses and awarding bonus points for hitting your finishing move, winning a title, showing up on a pay-per-view in any capacity and cutting a promo that lasts for more than five minutes.
With tongue firmly in cheek and without further ado, I proudly present the first ever Walkin' That Aisle Fantasy Wrestling Draft Guide. Enjoy!
This sounds like a section from Playgirl magazine, but we're actually talking about the no-brainer picks for your fantasy wrestling roster, the men and women you just can't do without if you can help it. If you're lucky enough to have one of the first picks in your draft, you can secure the services of one of these wrestlers, then sit back and reap the rewards.
Even though he's been doing it for less than a year, Umaga is fantasy wrestling's version of Larry Johnson. He literally never loses, drops a ton of people with the Samoan Spike and is a safe bet to show up on every pay-per-view until his gimmick runs its course. Did I mention he never loses? The only weakness in his game is a lack of intelligible promos, unless your league counts mic time for manager Armando Alejandro Estrada.
Not far behind the Samoan Bulldozer is Samoa Joe, who might not be undefeated any more but still racks up wins and figures to capture more gold as a TNA mainstay. If you aren't drafting high enough to get one of the Samoans, Triple H and Jeff Jarrett make good building blocks for your team, simply because their connections keep them constant fixtures at the top of their respective cards.
It's worth mentioning that as long as you can rotate him out of your lineup except for WrestleMania and SummerSlam, the Immortal Hulk Hogan is still a fantasy stud even though he's 20 years past his prime. No one can remember the last time he lost a match, and when he hits the unstoppable Atomic Leg Drop finisher, it's over, brother.
John Cena might be a constant in the WWE championship picture right now, but he is long overdue for the drop down the card that usually follows an extended push for any superstar not named Triple H. Let your opponents pick him based on his recent title runs and ongoing love-hate crowd reactions, then taunt them when he's facing off with the Great Khali on Smackdown in December. It's also probably wise to avoid Rob Van Dam, who might be an ECW fan favorite but is headed for your bench as soon as he commits his next, ahem, traffic violation.
And don't forget that being the most powerful man in wrestling doesn't make you a top performer in fantasy wrestling. That means staying away from Vince McMahon, who may rack up the promo and PPV points but usually ends up on the wrong end of his actual in-ring feuds. He also doesn't have a finishing move, unless we're taking the idea to its logical extreme and counting finishing careers with the words "You're fired!"
Rising Stars and Sleepers
He may have been relegated to a dark match Sunday at SummerSlam, but Carlito is set to be a breakout star. Title belts are almost certainly in his future, fans dig his gimmick and Trish Stratus just seems to dig him, period. And that is definitely cool.
Speaking of Trish Stratus, don't discriminate against female wrestlers when taking part in your fantasy draft. The Canadian bombshell is always in the mix for the WWE Women's title, helped in large part by the fact that the division usually only runs about three or four deep. Fellow countryman Petey Williams is also worth a mid-round pick, if for no other reason than the enjoyment you'll get from adding the points up every time he executes the ever popular Canadian Destroyer.
There's also a returning WWE superstar by the name of Jeff Hardy who's worth keeping an eye on. Don't be afraid to try to get your league to vote on adding scoring categories like "Times Jumped Off a Really Tall Ladder" or "Times Wrestler Got Tired of Wrestling" if you take a flyer on Hardy. You'll be glad you did.
Following the tips above won't assure you of winning your wrestling fantasy league, since injuries and writing teams can rear their ugly heads at any time. But they will give you a fighting chance to come out on top. Just don't forget who helped you get there if you do.
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Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998, and his column, Walkin' That Aisle with Nick Tylwalk, appears most Mondays. Comments, compliments and complaints can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to see a response to your question or comment in a future column, please include your full name and hometown in your e-mail.