We’ve all become accustomed to Schmoedown live events having a shock moment towards the end, but San Diego’s live event may have given us the most amazing (pun fully intended) shock to date.
Having won the Innergeekdom Title back from Rachel Cushing, Mike Kalinowski took his chance to call out Jason Inman for a match. The crowd went wild as a former Innergeekdom emerged onto the stage… but instead of Inman, it was Mara Knopic, appearing for the first time since Spectacular III!
When Kalinowski took advantage of his power over Thadd Williams to earn a title shot without having to go through any qualifying matches, it was announced that Mara would be awarded a rematch if she lost the title in that match. Kalinowski won the title in Sudden Death, but the rematch never materialised as Mara stepped away from the league.
Now the Brown Dwarf Star is back and looking to settle a score with “The Killer”.
Will she get the chance, though? Kalinowski refused to commit to the match onstage, and current Overlord Robert Meyer Burnett recently changed the rules surrounding former champions getting an automatic rematch. So it may be that he will refuse to recognise Mara’s right to a rematch and instead make her earn the title shot. Kevin Smets has just taken down Adam Hlavac in the San Diego undercard and despite the pair being arguably 2 of the top 4 active in the Division (along with Kalinowski and Rachel), the match was not a #1 Contender, so Mara could be forced to take on Smets for a shot at the title – or perhaps even face Rachel in a rematch of their 2018 tournament thriller!
Regardless of whether she gets her immediate rematch or is forced to work her way to Mike, the question will be “can she win the title back?” While she may not have the statistical dominance that we see from many of the other recent champions, she has consistently done exactly everything she needed to (including playing through physical discomfort) in order to get the win, to the tune of 5 wins (2 by TKO). More than that, she has the distinction of being the only Schmoedown Pro to have defeated Jason Inman, Mike Kalinowski and Rachel Cushing in Innergeekdom. Her only loss has come to Mike, in a rematch, and even that went into Sudden Death!
This is someone that you rule out at your peril.
Beyond the immediate future, competing in the Innergeekdom again, it is also worth looking at the wider impact Mara Knopic’s return could have on the league and the factions. It’s hard to believe that KOrruption or The Dungeon would try to bring her in as each faction already has two Innergeekdom competitors (Mike and Chance for KOrruption, Smets and Zipper for The Dungeon).
Meanwhile, Roxy has set herself up against both these factions, with her beef against Kalinowski going back to him leaving The League and her new rivalry with Kaiser as they compete for Manager of the Year. At the moment she is only managing just Marc Andreyko and Jeff Sneider, so bringing in a former Innergeekdom Champion would give her a chance to be competitive in another division.
The obvious faction to look at here would be the Horsemen (Horsepeople? Horsepersons?), as they have established themselves as a stable of champions (it’s just a matter of time, Ben) and have been missing a representative in the Innergeekdom Division ever since Inman stepped away. So bringing in the person who took his title from him would be a statement of intent from a stable that has just lost the Singles Title.
Both The Family and Time Machine are also without an Innergeekdom representative and can never be ruled out – especially if Burnett says Mara can only have her title rematch if she joins The Family – but of the two, I think that Time Machine would be more likely given Jay’s recent change in attitude, while Mara probably wouldn’t want to join Andrew Ghai in a faction given the bad blood surrounding Ghai’s win over Dan Murrell.
Or, we could see Mara stay away from the factions and remain on her own. It didn’t appear to hinder her on her 5-0 run to the Innergeekdom Title last year, while she has already shown that she is able to hold her own against the heels and cut a promo with her own special brand of entertainment.
Regardless how things go, it’s great to see the Innergeekdom Division getting deeper again with the arrival of Pros like Chance and Brandon Hanna and the return of a former champion in Mara. We’re in for an amazing ride!