LEGENDARY DEFENDERS: An Interview with The Shirewolves!

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One of the most anticipated matches at the Spectacular is the final culmination of the Anarchy tournament, with the Shirewolves defending their well-earned belt against Tom Dagnino’s Who’s the Boss team. The match promises plenty of drama, with former teammates going against each other for the first time, and the first female team has at defending their belt.

For those of you who aren’t quite aware, Shirewolves, made up of teammates Rachel Cushing and Clarke Wolfe, were the only team not broken apart due to Mike Kalinowski and the Anarchy tournament. As such, this match will be the first time Clarke Wolfe will go up against her former teammate in Mark Reilly after he famously retired from the Schmoedown, only to return less then a season later, enticed by the idea of being apart of the Five Horsemen.

I spoke with Clarke and Rachel about their upcoming match against the devilish team!

TriviaSD: Clarke, you’re going up against your former teammate in Mark Reilly, tell us a little bit about how that feels?

Clarke Wolfe: I believe it worked out for the best, I love playing with Rachel, we’re better matched and can kinda fill in each other’s blanks. Reilly and I were maybe a little too close on some things. That said when he retired it kinda left me without a partner and so seeing him back, is weird. I don’t appreciate it.

Do you feel a little betrayed by Reilly?

CW: I mean kind of yeah, but the good news is again, I think everything happens for a reason and I love playing with Rachel and I don’t want to go back in time, clearly. We won the belts and now we’re trying to defend them but I do feel a little betrayed.

Rachel, you had a stellar year. Both of you have. Being one of the few competitors to fight in all three major leagues, how are you feeling going into this title match?

Rachel Cushing: Playing in three leagues is something of a double-edged sword. It’s a boost to my confidence to know that I can, and I enjoy playing in them, but no one person can really sustain that. As much as we all love the Schmoedown, it is not the only thing in our lives. I have a full time job and other things and I’ve always had to try and find the best way to juggle it. I’ve succeeded at times and I have not succeeded at times. That’s why I chose not to be in the singles tournament this year. It was just a little too overwhelming for me and I want to concentrate on the defending our team belts and that was the focus. In the future, who knows, but it does feel good to represent in all three leagues.

You both hold a lot of important role in the Schmoedown as the first female competitors to win a belt. How important is it for you to defend that belt?

CW: Very.

RC: Yeah. Winning the belt is something we’re incredibly proud of. We earned that. We fought really hard for that. We honestly played a textbook match in our belt win, but most people like to say it doesn’t matter until you defend it. Circumstances and who you play, stuff with the retiring, we kinda got a lot thrown at us with people thinking we “didn’t deserve the belt.” We have learned to block them out. They are a minority and our fans really do appreciate the hard work, the effort and [our] knowledge but I think defending the belt would shut the others up, to put it lightly. And also I’ve gotten better at looking at it from a different point of view which is [it’s] not about them, it’s about us. As Clarke said, we are a team. We are bound to each other, not just in our knowledge but in our focus and in our points of view and in the way we approach things. She settles me, I’ve said this so many times before, I play nervously a lot of the time but when she’s up there beside me with Emma and Marc in the audience, I feel that. That makes a difference in my game. This team means the world to me and defending the belts means a lot to me personally but I think also to the larger point of showing that woman are an integral part of this league.

CW: I think it validates as well. Every now and again we all are susceptible to trolling or criticism and we all try to block it out, of course. This is part of the deal. With that said, I think we know that we played a great game in our first title match and I think it validates if we are to win against Who’s the Boss, in front of a live audience, in the midst of chaotic day.

RC: And against a team who is established and really top of the line players. I hate that people said negative things about Brianne, who has proved herself in the league, and Brian, and the other teams we beat. It’s kinda of ludicrous the kind of the things that was said. Like I said, we’re blocking those out and we’re focusing on this match. Like Clarke just said, it would be a validation to beat this team under these circumstances.

CW: At this point, if we do win today, I’m done looking at the internet.

RC: Because they’ll find a way to hate on us anyway

CW: I’m like 98% there already. If we win today, I’m done with the nonsense.

RC: Actually win or lose, I’m a little bit done. Like I said, I’ve tried to come to the point of it’s about them and they’re going to hate no matter what, and it’s focusing on the people who do root for us and understand what we’re playing for and the tweets that we get that are encouraging of us, win or lose. They appreciate the effort, the teamwork, that we care so much, that we try so hard, win or lose we’ll know that we put our heart and soul into it

CW: You asked a big question.

RC: Yes you did. Sorry, obviously we had a lot to say about this.

Clarke, you are the third competitor in history to have two matches at a Spectacular event. How do you feel going into your match against Dan?

CW: The good news is that I feel… so I’ve been playing a lot lately, so I feel as though I’m warm. I feel like I’m warmed up. I feel like I’m really comfortable with the game. Like that first year or two where you’re in your head and you’re just like, “Oh, I should have got that” or “Oh, that was a dumb move,” but at this point I feel like I know how to play and am less easily rattled so, it is going to be what it is going to be. I’ve accepted at this point that sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. Honestly, most of the time it’s not a commentary on how good of a player you are. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it a million times: as much as skill is a factor in this game, luck is a big part of it, so I feel good. I’m not going to lie, as much as I don’t want to do two five rounders in a single day, as exhausting as that sounds, I’m excited to play Dan. Dan is a great competitor and the only time we faced off was so early in my career and I’ve learnt so much since then. The game has changed so much since then, for the better I would say. I feel really confident in the speed round, so I’m ready. If I win, great. I would love to play for the singles belt again. If I don’t, great. I would love not to go to New York in January.

One last question for the both of you. This season we’ve seen a lot of new faces, in particular female competitors. Who are you most excited about next season?

RC: Someone who I’ve got my eye on is Haleigh Foutch. I think that Scream Queens came onto the scene late in the year, they won two matches I believe, so they certainly show they’re capable. Haleigh did amazingly in the horror match for the Patreon viewers who saw that. She’s quiet but I think she could be a very formidable opponent. We’re clearly both big fans of Mara Knopic and what she has accomplished. We’re shoulder to shoulder with all the women who want to give this a try because it is not easy to go out there, in front of lights and camera and put yourself on the line and open yourself up to the criticism and have to work so hard to get the approval of the fans and everyone else. We applaud everyone who stands up and we’re behind them and we’re excited to see some new faces.

CW: I think Haleigh especially, she’s a personal friend and I’m so glad she’s in the league. Her partner in Scream Queens, Kalyn [Corrigan], is a personal friend. Mara is just so good and she’s cool, she’s such a cool customer. Honestly, I’m just so glad to see different types of people playing and honeslty, more of that is what we want to see.

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