Even if you’re new to the Schmoedown, you’ll probably recognize John Rocha. With his trademark Guy Fawkes mask and cowboy hat, “The Outlaw” has been a regular competitor in the Schmoedown since Season 2, trying to make his goal of “All the belts, all the records” a reality.
Rocha’s career in the Schmoedown has been a story of highs and lows, so as he approaches a Triple Threat match that could earn him another shot at the Singles Title, let’s look back through The Outlaw’s journey through the Schmoedown!
Rocha arrived as part of the 2015 Ultimate Schmoedown. Unlike its debut year, the 2015 season was a team tournament, so Rocha’s debut came alongside Matt Knost as one half of the team Top 10. Taking on Screen Junkies (Hal Rudnick and Nick Mundy), Rocha went 2/3 to help the team to an early 5-3 lead. Rocha stepped up in Round 2 in the category of Mob Movies, going 4/4 for 6 points, while Mundy’s struggles in 80s Movies allowed Rocha and Knost to steal 3 answers for 4 points, ending the match after just 2 rounds with a 15-5 scoreline – the first time that season a match didn’t go to Round 3!
Next up for Top 10 was a quarterfinal against Team Champs (Movie Fights Champion Dan Murrell and Schmoedown Singles Champion Mark Reilly). Team Champs took an early 6-4 lead but 3 points from 2 steals and 5 points in the category of DiCaprio put Rocha and Knost ahead. In Round 3, Team Champs bet all of their 9 points and got the answer right, some quick mental maths from Matt Knost worked out that betting 7 points was enough to secure the win if both teams had the same answer and the pair were also correct, securing a 19-18 victory – the closest winning margin of the season.
This set up a semifinal against B.O.B. with a final against either the Schmoes or Rotten Tomatoes on the line. The first 2 rounds saw Top 10 take an 18-15 lead, which left Knost doing some more clever maths to give them a chance of winning in the Jeopardy round. B.O.B had turned up to the match dressed as priests and perhaps there was some divine influence at play as they hit the correct answer, while Top 10 missed to give B.O.B a 2-30 victory.
Enter the Singles Division
During Top 10’s run in 2015, “The Mantzman” Scott Mantz had called out Rocha for a 1v1 match after they developed a rivalry on Movie Fights. The Schmoedown’s move to a league format for Season 3 saw Mantz vs. Rocha scheduled for the second match of the season.
After plenty of very vocal trash talk, Mantz took a 2-3 lead in Round 1 but a perfect Round 2 and a 1-point steal in Round 2 gave Rocha an 11-9 lead heading into the final round. Mantz hit his 3- and 5-pointers and Rocha his 1- and 3-pointers, leaving him needing to hit his 5-pointer to win. With the category of his final question being Star Wars, it looked like victory for Rocha – who hosted a Star Wars podcast – would win.
Asked to name the 3 planet settings in The Empire Strikes Back, Rocha managed to name “Hoth” and “Dagobah” but was unable to remember “Bespin” and as a result fell to a 15-17 loss. That moment of infamy is still remembered years later as you hear other competitors talk about their “Bespin moment” when they blank and miss an answer in their wheelhouse that they should have known.
Rocha was soon back to avenge his loss, taking on Josh Macuga, who he defeated 17-16. This led to a rematch against Mantz and from the moment he entered, it was clear that this was a more focused, serious Rocha who was going to do anything to win. The pair could not be separated over the opening 2 rounds, entering Round 3 with a 9-9 score, but Rocha was able to pull away in the final round and win 13-10, earning himself a place in the 2016 Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament.
The Rise of the Four Horsemen
In his post-match interview following his victory over Mantz, Rocha teased that there was something coming, showing a 4-fingered symbol but saying nothing further.
Rocha took on Kristian Harloff in the first round of the tournament and – using a blindfold to cut out the Commissioner’s distracting antics – he defeated the creator of the league 21-19, the highest scoring Singles match in the history of the Schmoedown at the time.
Next up for Rocha was a return to the Teams Division with a #1 Contender Match against Rotten Tomatoes. In a close match, Top 10 came away with the 23-21 victory to set up a title shot against The Schmoes.
Before taking on The Schmoes, Rocha had the rest of the Singles Tournament to focus on. Taking on Mark “Yodi” Reilly in the semifinal, Rocha took the lead in Round 1 and steadily extended his advantage in Rounds 2 and 3 to emerge victorious 18-14. This set up a final against Mark Ellis that would also work as a #1 Contender Match to face Dan Murrell at Spectacular. In Rocha’s first match in the 5-round format, there was little between them over the first 2 rounds. The betting round saw Ellis open up a lead as Rocha lost 2 points and Ellis gained 2, while he extended this lead to 9-13 by the end of Round 4. Rocha fought hard in the final round but could not overcome the deficit and “Baby Carrots” came away with a 13-18 victory.
Rocha only had to wait a couple of days before he could try to get revenge on Ellis. Taking on The Schmoes in his first Championship Match, Rocha and Knost took an early 14-9 lead over the first 2 rounds. A correct answer for Top 10 and a wrong answer for The Schmoes saw the lead stretch to 17-6 and the buzzer round saw each competitor answer a question right for Top 10 to take an unassailable 19-8 lead and earn a KO victory. The Outlaw had won his first title and was in a strong position to compete for the Singles Title too.
Following an impressive debut against Marc Andreyko, William “The Beast” Bibbiani had his post-match interview interrupted by Rocha, who announced that he was forming a faction, the Four Horsemen. He and Knost were the first 2 Horsemen and The Beast was brought on as the 3rd member. Schmoedown Spectacular kicked off with Robert Meyer Burnett winning the inaugural Innergeekdom Title match and following his victory, “The Captain” was invited to become the 4th member. As a counter to the Horsemen, Top 10’s opponents The Patriots combined with Tom Dagnino and Marc Andreyko to form their own faction, The Lion’s Den.
The third match of Spectacular saw Top 10 look to defend their title against The Patriots. The challengers opened a 2-point lead over the first 3 rounds and the buzzer round extended this to 11-13. 6 points for Top 10 in the final round and misses for Sneider and JTE left The Patriots having to hit their 5-pointer for victory, which they managed to do, leading to them taking the titles and beginning the longest title run in Schmoedown history (so far).
Rocha did not have much time to focus on this loss as he was involved in the very next match, a Singles #1 Contender Match against Mark Reilly. “Yodi” led through the first 2 rounds but Rocha got the maximum 9 points in Round 3 and Reilly was unable to hit his 5-pointer, earning Rocha his first shot at the Singles Title.
This Championship match came early in Season 4. Dan Murrell came into this match with a 5-0 record in Singles and 2 title defences under his belt, but he had a challenge on his hands in the form of the Outlaw. The pair could not be separated in Round 1 and while Murrell managed to open a 1-point lead during the wheel round, Rocha had brought things back level going into the final round. Rocha missed his 1-pointer and Murrell hit his, Rocha missed his 3-pointer but hit his 5-pointer to reach 21 points.
Murrell hit his 3-pointer but missed his final question and with a scream of delight, The Outlaw celebrated winning the Singles Title and becoming the first competitor to have held belts in multiple divisions.
The Fall of the Horsemen
By the time Rocha won the Singles Title, Burnett had lost his Innergeekdom title to Hector Navarro and Bibbiani had lost to JTE – his first Singles victory since 2014. It was up to the Outlaw and Top 10 at this point to lead the Horsemen. Top 10 took on the Schmoes for a second time and came out with a 26-24 victory, which marked the last time to date that the Schmoes competed together outside of exhibition matches.
The first Free 4 All saw Rocha emerge as the 16th competitor out of 35 and last 8 rounds (the 3rd highest of everyone involved) and score 28 points (joint-2nd with John Humphrey) before being eliminated as part of the famous XX5XX moment.
Rocha’s next match was his first title defence and 3rd Singles match against Mark Reilly, who had defeated teammate Clarke Wolfe to earn a shot at winning back his title. After an opening round that saw the pair matched at 7-7, Reilly spun Opponent’s Choice and was surprisingly given Scores & Soundtracks, in which he earned 5 points and gave away a 1-point steal. Rocha spun Spinner’s Choice and picked Westerns, earning 7 points to take a 15-12 lead. Both lost 2 points in the betting round and the scores were still the same following a buzzer round that saw Reilly have what he would probably consider one of the biggest misses of his career (blanking on “Scream” and instead saying “The Sandlot”). Rocha could only hit his 3-point question in Round 5 and Reilly hit his 3- and 5-pointers to take his title back with a 16-18 victory and become the first 2-time Champion.
Top 10’s victory over The Schmoes saw them take on The Patriots for the second time, but a perfect Round 1 from Jeff Sneider (who missed the bonus question) saw The Patriots take an early 9-14 lead, which Top 10 were unable to overcome, eventually losing via TKO 20-27.
Dan Murrell was set to face Mark Reilly for the Singles Title at Collision, but Rocha got himself involved and managed to make the match a Triple Threat. In the main event, things were close after Round1, but Reilly fell 5 points behind during the wheel round (Murrell and Rocha remained level on points). Murrell took the lead in the buzzer round and Reilly was eliminated after missing his 2- and 3-pointers. Rocha missed his 2- and 3-pointers too (including the infamous “Fruit of the Loom” incident that appeared to rattle him) but hit his 5-pointer to throw it back to Murrell, who scored 7 points to win back the title.
Following this match, the discontent amongst the Four Horsemen reached a head and William Bibbiani betrayed Rocha, leaving the Horsemen to form the Growling Commandos with Ricky Hayberg and Witney Seibold. Burnett quickly followed suit, joining the Lion’s Den. The Horsemen were over, and it was back to just Rocha and Knost, who refused to leave his partner.
It was time for Top 10 to reset and the 2017 Ultimate Schmoedown was the perfect chance to do this. Up until now, Rocha had been one of the biggest heels in the league, but he mellowed somewhat, giving his competitors the respect they were due but not being afraid to go toe-to-toe with anyone who got in his way.
Top 10’s opening match in the tournament was against the Reel Rejects and a strong performance by Rocha (7/8 in Round 1, 8 points working with Knost in Biopics during Round 2, and successfully answering his Round 3 3-pointer) helped push them towards a 26-25 victory, which set up a quarterfinal against the Lion’s Den’s second team, Blofeld’s Cat (Burnett and Andreyko).
Against Blofeld’s Cat, Rocha earned a perfect round in Round 1 but missed the bonus, which helped set Top 10 up for a 34-29 victory – a new points record in the Division. Following this match, Rocha took a quick break to compete in a Celebrity Match, where he and Brett Davern defeated Jeff Sneider and Beau Mirchoff 27-25.
After that it was back to the tournament and their next opponents were the new heels on the block, Team Action, who had been making a name of themselves with their impressive performances and complete lack of respect. Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai took a 10-12 Round 1 lead and things got even worse for Top 10 in Round 2 as the dreaded Spinner’s Choice & Opponent’s Choice combo went against them, leaving them 13-20 down. Rocha and Knost earned the full 10 points in Round 3, but Ghai hit the 2-pointer and Bateman the 3-pointer to take the victory 23-25 and end Top 10’s run in the tournament.
Rocha was also competing in the Singles Tournament and after taking out 16th seed Jason Inman via TKO 11-10, it was time to take on Samm Levine. At this point, Levine was 4-4 in Singles, but his new partnership with Drew McWeeny was making waves in the Teams Tournament and set to face Action in the final. Levine had made some comments against Rocha in a post-match interview and Rocha kept a recording of this on his phone for motivation.
Rocha was in a strong position in this match, down by just 3 points halfway through Round 2, but a controversial call against John Rocha (saying “Lena Headley” rather than “Lena Headey”) resulted in a 2-point steal for Levine to level the scores going into Round 3, where “The Inglorious One” came out with a 17-19 victory.
With Action losing to Above The Line, Top 10 challenged the young upstarts to a rematch, which they initially refused. New Commissioner Thadd Williams put some stipulations in place that made it impossible for them to resist: A Top 10 victory would win them a #1 Contender Match; an Action victory would win them a Title Match and Top 10 would split for a year. The match took place at Spectacular 2 and a poor Round 2 for Action gave Top 10 a 10-point lead. Ghai missed his 2-point question and Top 10 had the TKO victory 12-22.
Then Things Got Crazy
As Rocha began to celebrate that victory, an enraged Andrew Ghai snapped and tackled the Outlaw to the floor, being pulled away by Bateman and Thadd and earning himself a 3-month ban. Rocha luckily sustained minimal injuries and with the season ending, he had time to recuperate before having to play again.
Ten vs. Den
With The Patriots still holding the Teams Title one year on, Top 10 hoped that they would be the ones to finally end their run of success. Their #1 Contender match was arranged against Top That (Eric Goldman and Jim Vejvoda), who at 3-1 were going to be a dangerous opponent. Round 1 could not have gone any better for Top 10 as both Rocha and Knost hit perfect rounds and the bonus questions to take an 18-13 lead. Top 10 spun Opponent’s Choice but were let off by Top That’s lack of knowledge about the game as they gave Rocha and Knost Biopics, a category that Rocha had never missed a question in. Top 10 earned 10 points on this spin, but Top That scored 10 points after spinning Comic Book Movies, a strength, for 10 points. Both teams scored 7 points in the final round and Top 10 came away with the 35-30 victory and the chance of a third match against The Patriots.
The opening two rounds saw Sneider and JTE take a 19-23 lead before the controversy of Round 3. After spinning Westerns, The Patriots lost 1 point and Top 10 scored 3, to level the scores at 22-22, with Rocha having got the answer in the last second and scribbled the answer – Jane Fonda – on the corner of the board rather than use a JTE rule. Sneider challenged the ruling and it was decided that as the answer was not legibly written on the board the points could not be allowed. Shockingly though, Sneider’s suggestion of a re-spin was also accepted and in the category of Will Smith, The Patriots scored 3 points and Top 10 lost 3. The decision clearly got in the heads of Rocha and Knost and Round 4 ended with Top 10 being KO’d 15-28.
At this point, JTE was able to boast that John Rocha had never beat him, but The Outlaw had the chance to do so mere days later at the first live event at the El Portal Theatre. With the crowd going wild, Things were level going into Round 2, where JTE spun once of his strengths in Sly & Arnie. Things did not go Little Evil’s way though as a couple of bad errors – including one of the more forgotten JTE-isms “Elisha Dooku” – Rocha stole more points (4) than JTE earned (2). Rocha spun Westerns and earned 7 more points, while JTE missed his 2-pointer in Westerns to hand Rocha a 17-10 TKO victory. After this match, Rocha announced that he was coming for the Lion’s Den and hinted that he may be looking for some new support to join him and Knost.
Next up for Rocha was the second Free 4 All, where he was the 33rd competitor out of 48. He lasted 4 rounds, spending time at the table with rivals Bibbiani, Burnett and Bateman, eventually getting eliminated by Bateman after scoring 11 points.
With the chance of a direct title shot gone for another season, it was back to taking on the Lion’s Den and with JTE down, it was time to battle his Patriots teammate Jeff Sneider. Sneider took a lead in Round 1 and while the score remained close throughout, Rocha was unable to pull a 5-pointer in the category Horror/Thriller and he fell to the Insneider 17-20.
The Horsemen Return
While The Outlaw had been focusing on the Lion’s Den, it did not mean his rivalry with Team Action was over. Andrew Ghai returned from his suspension worse than ever, stealing Dan Murrell’s spot in the Free 4 All and going on to brag to everyone that he had beat the GOAT. Following Action’s loss to the Shirewolves at the second EL Portal live event, Ghai pulled a stunt of calling Murrell out only for “Murrell” (Bateman dressed as Murrell) to appear as a target for ridicule. Suddenly music started to cut them off, the lights went out and when they came back up, four hooded figures stood on stage showing the symbol of the Four Horsemen.
One by one the figures revealed themselves: Knost… Rocha… Jason Inman… and Mark Reilly, coming out of retirement! As the crowd went wild, the symbol of the 4 changed to a 5 and the lights went out again, coming back up to reveal a 5th figure. Rocha pulled off the hood of the new figure to reveal a fifth Horseman: “Dangerous” Dan Murrell!
The three great rivals from the early days of the league had joined forces along with former Teams Champion Matt Knost and then-Innergeekdom Champion Jason Inman to create what was on paper arguably one of the strongest factions in Schmoedown history. Murrell decided to shut Ghai up by challenging him to a Singles match at Collision.
Unfortunately for the Horsemen, that didn’t go to plan as Murrell was TKO’d on his return to competition. Reilly challenged Ghai next, while Rocha – who by this point had beaten Alex Wolff in a 1v1 Celebrity Match, 19-18 – took on Bateman, with the winners of these matches set to face each other in a #1 Contender match for a chance to take on new Champion William Bibbiani. Reilly fell to Ghai but in a tight match, Bateman missed a tough 5-pointer to hand Rocha the victory 18-16.
Before Rocha could take on Ghai, it was time to enter the Ultimate Schmoedown Teams Tournament. Mike Kalinowski’s influence on the league had put a twist in this season’s tournament: Anarchy. Every existing team other than the Champions (The Shirewolves) were split up and new teams were formed for the tournament. Knost was paired with Bibbiani but Rocha and new stablemate Dan Murrell were paired to form the Founding Fathers. Their team debut came at the third El Portal live event, where they took on Wait, I Know This (Stacy Howard and Winston Marshall). Despite a strong performance from Stacy Howard, The Founding Fathers were just too strong and came out with the 20-17 TKO victory. It wasn’t all good news for the Horsemen at the event though, as Jason Inman lost his title to Mara Knopic in the other match.
Rocha took on Ghai for a shot at Bibbiani and Ghai was unable to make it 3 from 3 as Rocha took a 2-point lead in Round 1 and took advantage of spinning Westerns in Round 2 to win via TKO, 13-12. Before taking on Bibbiani, it was a return to Anarchy, where the Founding Fathers were taking on KOrruption (Kalinowski and rookie Chance Ellison). In an incredibly tight match, the scores went 12-12 in Round 1, 23-23 in Round 2 and a last second pull from John Rocha after using the last JTE rule to get the 5-pointer saw the scores level after 3 rounds, 30-30.
The tie went to Sudden Death and on the first question, Dan Murrell fell afoul of what could be considered the “Jane Fonda Rule,” Ellison got the point despite writing “David O’Russell” rather than “David O. Russell,” and Rocha and Kalinowski both got it right, giving KOrruption the 31-32 win. Rocha challenged the call against Dan and in favour of Chance, but this was overruled and the result stood, leading to a highly emotional post-match interview that included Rocha wondering if he would compete in his upcoming Championship Match.
Thankfully, he got himself back on track and took on his old nemesis William Bibbiani for the Singles Title. Bibbiani’s run of success had started with the decision to stand at Free 4 All 2 and he had not sat down for a match ever since. In this match, Rocha decided to take a leaf out of The Beast’s book and stand. In another great contest Bibbiani took a 12-14 lead after 2 rounds, only for the betting round to flip that score. A strong performance on the buzzer put Bibbiani a point ahead, but he could only hit his 2-point question in the final round and Rocha scored his 3- and 5-pointers to win and become the third 2-time Singles Champion.
This title victory meant that Rocha would become the only competitor to have played a match in all the first 3 Spectaculars, as he took on 2018 Ultimate Schmoedown Singles Tournament winner Ethan Erwin. Both were level after Round 1, but Erwin took the lead in Round 2, finishing Round 4 with a 15-20 lead, though either competitor could have had an extra point in the buzzer round if they had been brave enough to guess that it was Samm Levine who played PFC Hirschberg in Inglorious Basterds. Rocha hit his 2-pointer but missed his last 2 questions and the Singles title moved to Ethan Erwin, the first rookie to win the title (if you don’t count Reilly in the inaugural year).
With the season coming to an end, Top 10 also came to an end as a team as Matt Knost announced that he would be retiring from the league. Inman also stepped away indefinitely and Reilly’s success as part of Anarchy team Who’s The Boss led to him sticking with Ben Bateman in the Teams Division, which meant that The Founding Fathers would remain as a team going forward.
With Dan Murrell winning his third Singles Title in New York, the next set of competitors to make a run for the title were decided: Rocha would take on Marc Andreyko and William Bibbiani would play Lon Harris. The winners would feature against each other and Ethan Erwin in a Triple Threat #1 Contender Match. Against “The Android”, Rocha hit a perfect Round 1 but missed the bonus, taking a 1-point lead. The lead was extended to 2 points by the end of Round 2. Both hit their 2-and 3-point questions in the final round, but Andreyko challenged and for once, Rocha was on the right end of a decision and the points stood. This left Rocha with a 19-17 lead and Andreyko missed his final question to give Rocha the place in the Triple Threat Match.
Rocha’s last competitive appearance to date was this year’s Free 4 All, where he emerged as competitor number 24/40. He scored 12 points in 4 rounds before being eliminated following (you guessed it!) an unsuccessful challenge on the merits of jewels rather than diamonds.
What Next for The Outlaw?
This is an interesting moment for John Rocha. While Bibbiani and Erwin are going to be tough competition, a focused John Rocha has the ability to win this and set up a title shot against his teammate. The Founding Fathers also have 2 matches scheduled, taking on the Wildberries on April 25th and Double Toasted at the Houston live event. 2 wins here would put them close to a #1 Contender Match but with Dan Murrell having won the Free 4 All and now having a title shot to use when he wants, they could easily set up a Championship Match in the Teams Division. There have also been discussions about Rocha moving into the Star Wars Division later in the season, making him the first competitor to have won a belt and then move into this division.
Along with the talk about Rocha’s personal future, the Horsemen’s future must also be considered. Mark Reilly and Dan Murrell have been suggesting Ben Bateman as a potential recruit, but neither he nor Rocha seem sold on the suggestion so far. There are plenty of quality competitors out there that could join the faction, or Rocha could decide to stick to just the 3 original Singles Champions. Only time will tell.
Hall of Fame…?
With his longevity in the league and his success over both Teams and Singles (and potentially also Star Wars in the future), his name may not come up in conversation as often as some competitors, but I think that he is in the mix when discussing who the GOAT is and another title would really help that.
Regardless, Rocha has been one of the key parts of the Schmoedown’s early success. From being the first real heel of the show, it could be argued that he set the foundation that has allowed more recent heels like Team Action to take things to the level they have. His success and drive to keep coming back for more has kept him as a big name in the league even when other big names like Reilly, Murrell, Harloff, Ellis and Levine have stepped away from competing for periods of time. While he has been on the wrong end of several controversial moments, these have also helped improve the league by helping clarify the rules, which will only help the league go.
If the Schmoedown creates a Hall of Fame, my vote is firmly on John Rocha.
“Horsemen! Let’s mount up, it’s time to ride!”