MIKEY THREE-BELTS?! – How Mike Kalinowski Could Become the First Triple-Champion

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Paul Oyama’s recent victory over Dan Murrell brought the number of Schmoedown Pros who have held a title up to 24. Of those 24 Pros, only four have managed to hold two different titles during their Schmoedown career. Narrowing things down even further, only Samm Levine (Singles and Teams) and Rachel Cushing (Teams and Innergeekdom) have the distinction of holding multiple belts at the same time.

Right now though, there is one man on a path to go one step further, and become the first person to hold three belts at the same time. And his name is Mike Kalinowski.

“The Killer” won his first title by defeating Mara Knopic in Spectacular III’s Innergeekdom Championship Match, and after losing it to Rachel Cushing in the inaugural Schmoedown Throwdown, he began his quest to become Champion again. But not just in the Innergeekdom, but in Singles and Teams as well.

As such, he can consider July 2019 a resounding success, after he TKO’d Jeannine “The Machine” in the Singles Division and won a Teams #1 Contender Match with KOrruption against the Founding Fathers, right before capping things off by winning the Innergeekdom belt back from Rachel Cushing in front of a live crowd in San Diego.

So what is next for him in his quest to become “Mikey Three-Belts”?

Let’s start with the Teams Division, where KOrruption’s win over the Founding Fathers means that they will take on the Shirewolves in the near future in a Championship Match. The Shirewolves will likely go in as favourites, but KOrruption should never be ruled out. Even though Chance hasn’t experienced the 5-round format in the league, Mike has now competed in four 5-round matches (three Innergeekdom Title Matches and the final of 2018’s Innergeekdom Tournament) so they’re not lacking in Championship match experience. Both Mike and Chance have a good breadth of knowledge and you can almost guarantee that James Bond will be on the wheel given Mike’s recent successes there, while they will probably look towards one of Chance’s strengths – possibly Disney or Pixar – instead of Comic Book Movies, given the danger of Rachel running through the category if the Shirewolves were to hit the slice.

While some may suggest that Mike’s recent Innergeekdom run means that his focus hasn’t been on the wider categories, he made it to a #1 Contender match with his performances in the 2017 Ultimate Schmoedown Tournament and he has still performed strongly in his recent Singles and Team matches, to the point that I feel this won’t be as much of an issue as people think. Clarke is famed for being quick on the buzzer, but Mike has proved himself to be equally capable there, so don’t be too shocked if this comes down to the final question.

In the Singles Division he still has a way to go, but Mike’s path is clearly laid out before him. A face-off with Ben “The Boss” Bateman will see the winner take on Jeff “The Insneider” Sneider in a #1 Contender Match. The prize? A chance to take on Paul Oyama for the title live in New York.

The match with Bateman is an interesting one. With Andreyko having now won the Teams Title, Ben Bateman is arguably the best competitor to have not yet won a belt, and he is keen to bring that title drought to an end. Bateman consistently earns 6+ points in Round 1, so I expect things will be close there. Going into Round 2, I think that this could be the key round. Bateman’s go-to slice is Movie Release Dates, which he can run through similar to Mike in James Bond, while he is also especially strong in Oscars. While Bond will likely be on the wheel for Mike, there is always the risk that Bateman will know this and take the chance to study the category enough that he feels confident if he lands on the slice.

Beyond that, some of Mike’s other obvious strengths – Comic Book Movies and Tom Cruise – may also be dangerous picks given Ben is very competent in these categories. It will be a difficult match, but with the run Mike is on, he can never be ruled out.

Moving onto a #1 Contender Match against Sneider, should he get that far, one of the keys to victory for Kalinowski will be keeping his head. Sneider is always looking for ways to put his opponent off and is very good at getting under his opponent’s skin, while he is also very good at challenging on the slightest of technicalities, whereas Mike has at times appeared to be put out of rhythm by challenges in the past. Since the low point of his KO loss to Bibbiani, Sneider has been on a roll in Teams and Singles and may also be fresher given the number of matches Mike will have been playing in recent months.

Sneider has proved in the past that he does have weaknesses, so a poor spin in Round 2 could easily lead to another collapse like against Bibbiani. However given the positive impact that Roxy has had on him, it may be that her rivalry with Kalinowski – a result of him leaving The League when he felt she, Adam and Jonny weren’t supporting him – has led to Sneider upping his game to make it third time lucky in a Singles #1 Contender Match.

Assuming Kalinowski makes it through the gauntlet of Bateman and Sneider, it is time for a trip to New York to take on Paul Oyama in front of a live audience. This is much harder match to judge right now as Oyama has only competed in six Schmoedown matches and the Free 4 All to date, which means that there is less gametape for Mike to look at when studying his opponent. However, this is where he will likely benefit from his faction. Chance was a fellow competitor in the fan leagues before stepping up to become a Pro, so he will be able to help prepare for Oyama with extra information about his strengths and weaknesses.

Over five Rounds, it is hard to imagine there will be much separating them since Oyama has a great breadth of knowledge and looked quick on the buzzer against Murrell, similar to what Mike has demonstrated in Innergeekdom. What could b the difference is the impact of a live audience, as Paul will already be feeling the pressure of a first title defence, and the addition of a live audience will no doubt heighten that pressure. Mike has proved time and again that he thrives in front of a live audience. This would be the fifth live event that he would have been onstage for (he crashed the stage at the 3rd 2018 LA event, came out with Chance in New York, competed in the live Free 4 All and defeated Rachel in San Diego), so he knows how it feels to be competing with so many eyes on him.

Will we be witnessing history over the coming months with the crowning of “Mikey Three-Belts”? He’s got a hard road ahead of him, but as he has proved plenty of times recently, he is more than happy to be written off by the fan polls… and prove them completely wrong.

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