The Shirewolves have been a powerhouse team since their inception, leading them to become The Schmoedown’s current Team Champions. Combined with Emma Fyffe’s skill as a manager, “Classy” Clarke Wolfe and Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing seemed to show perfection in their game play. However, their career in the Schmoedown hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. They have faced loss, betrayal, and adversity to forge them into champions.
On April 15, 2016, Clarke Wolfe debuted in the Schmoedown, facing Josh Macuga. Everyone saw first-hand how strong Clarke was by having a three-point lead in Round One. Round Two was even more impressive as she was forced to take the “Pauly Shore” category and still gained six points. Macuga landed on “Sandra Bullock” and gained only five points while Wolfe stole a two-point question and maintained the lead. Josh worked his magic to stay alive in Round Three, but Clarke won the match with a final score of 17 to 15.
Sometime after the Team Schmoes vs Team B.O.B. match, JTE decided he needed an upgrade from Finstock and asked Clarke Wolfe to be his new partner. On May 27, 2016, Clarke made her decision to be Mark Reilly’s new partner, and The Wolves of Steel were born. Simultaneously, Finstock teamed up with Josh Macuga to form The Megapowers and JTE joined Jeff Sneider to become The Patriots.
Clarke continued to win her matches against Finstock and Samm Levine, making her the No. 1 Contender for a title match. Some guessed she might be a rookie champion, but she would have to face “Dangerous” Dan Murrell to achieve it. At the end of Round Three, Clarke was behind with a score 10 to 5, and her inexperience was exposed in the Speed Round. She either buzzed-in too late or too early, losing two points from her score and having Dan scored one point to his. Clarke suffered a knock out by missing her three-point question in Round Five. In spite of losing the Championship Match, she was awarded Rookie of the Year at the end of 2016, but The Wolfe still hungered for a belt.
After winning his match with Samm Levine on January 27, 2017, Mark Reilly was asked about his upcoming match with JTE. Clarke interrupted her partner before he could answer, challenging JTE before fighting Mark. He accepted her challenge but lost the match, with a score of 14 to 12. Spectators expected the Wolves of Steel to fight each other for a chance at the belt. Instead, they competed with one goal in mind: it didn’t matter who won, so long as one of them took the belt away from John Rocha. Ultimately, Reilly won with a score 14 to 13, and went on to become a two-time champion.
At the Collider Collision 2017, Reilly lost the belt to Dan Murrell in a Championship Triple Threat Match. He announced he was taking a break from the Schmoedown in his post-match interview, but Clarke Wolfe convinced him to enter the 2017 Team Tournament to take away the belts away from The Patriots. The Wolves of Steel advanced to the Semifinals, knocking out both Wildberries and Late to the Party. However, Above the Line was able to stop them from advancing any further in the tournament, and Mark Reilly officially “retired” from the Schmoedown, leaving Clarke Wolfe alone in the Schmoedown.
Losing the Wolves of Steel wasn’t the only story in 2017. On March 3, Ken Napzok introduced Schmoedown fans to Rachel Cushing in their team, Nerd’s Watch. They competed against Tuff Beats, with Perri Nemiroff and Jonathan Voytko. Rachel proved her nickname, “The Crusher,” when she scored ten points in the “Oscar Movies” category. While they received an additional nine points in Round Two, Tuff Beats could not avoid being knocked out in Round Three with a final score of 20 to 18.
Rachel went on to continue to play in Innergeekdom, the 2017 Free4All, Teams Tournament, and Singles Tournament, going all the way to the semifinals and losing to Samm Levine. Things appeared to being going well until the Star Wars Fatal Five-Way Match on December 8, 2017. Ken Napzok joined The Lion’s Den made up of Tom Dagnino, Jeff Sneider, JTE, Robert Meyer Burnett, Marc Andreyko, and Grace Hancock. Rachel insisted Ken leave them and come back with her to take on Burnett and Andreyko, aka Blofeld’s Cat. He agreed to help her with a devious smile and an insincere hug.
On December 12, 2017, Ken failed to show up at the match, forcing Rachel to face Blofeld’s Cat on her own. Despite being handicapped, she was only three points behind her opponents in Round One. Rachel spun first in Round Two, resulting in her landing on “Spinner’s Choice” and choosing “Oscar Movies.” She took the lead 11 to 9 with Blofeld’s Cat spinning “New Releases.” While they retook the lead with eight points, Rachel was able to steal two points away from them. She was able to answer her two and three-point questions but not the five and got knocked out with a final score 19 to 18. Ken treacherously appeared at the end of the match to congratulate Blofeld’s Cat.
Ten days after the Lion’s Den maliciously sabotaged Rachel, the Schmoedown Spectacular II commenced with the first Manager’s Bowl between Tom Dagnino, Ricky Hayberg, and Jay Washington. Emma Fyffe was able to recruit an unknown competitor, which allowed her a spot in the match. The prize: a No. 1 Contender’s Match for any belt to any person within the winner’s faction. Ricky and Jay got eliminated in Round Three while Emma fought Tom to her last question, answering it correctly and winning the match. It was then revealed Marc Andreyko left The Lion’s Den to become Emma’s mysterious competitor. When Tom confronted him about why he joined Emma, Andreyko stated it was immoral for The Lion’s Den to force Rachel into playing alone and no longer wanted to be associated with them.
Later on at the Spectacular Rachel confronted Ken Napzok before his Ironman Match, challenging him and his manager, Tom Dagnino, to a team match with her and another player. He confidently agreed to it as he left to defend his Star Wars Belt against Sam Witwer. Sam won the match by one point at the last second and was named Star Wars Champion of the Schmoedown. Dagnino convinced Ken that “the system was against them.” Rachel approached them to express her condolences and to remind them of their team match. Both Ken and Tom mocked her because they thought she didn’t have a partner, but Rachel threatened them, claiming she already had a partner without revealing who she recruited to her side.
After the Spectacular II, The 2017 Schmoedown Awards presented the players with awards from twenty categories. While Rachel and her former team, Nerd’s Watch, were nominated in eight categories, she won Best Singles Entrance of the Year for her Lord of the Rings entrance in Innergeekdom, Baby Face of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. Clarke Wolfe and Wolves of Steel were also nominated in four categories but managed to win Best Team Entrance of the Year for their IT entrance against the Wildberries.
At the Season Five Premiere, Rachel Cushing began 2018 with a bang in the No. 1 Contender Triple Threat Match, knocking out both JTE and Mike Kalinowski. It was at the end of this match that Clarke Wolfe became Rachel’s new partner, and The Shirewolves were born. As the weeks went by, Rachel and Clarke joined Emma Fyffe and Marc Andreyko to become The Fyffe Club.
On March 6, 2018, Rachel Cushing walked out from behind the curtain with the entire Fyffe Club faction to take on the Champion Samm Levine. The difference in scores between both competitors in the first three rounds was just a single point, because Rachel bet two points while Samm bet three in the Betting Round. But, like Clarke Wolfe in her first Title Match against Dan Murrell, the Speed Round proved to be a weakness for The Crusher. Samm managed to get all five points, making their scores 22 to 16. Catching up to the Champion was too much for Rachel as she failed to answer her five-point question with a final score of 22 to 21.
Two weeks later, The Shirewolves made their team debut against The Lion’s Den with Ken Napzok and Tom Dagnino. Rachel and Clarke enjoyed a three-point lead at the end of Round Two but controversy struck in Round Three. When the asked “What Cameron Diaz film features both Bruce Willis and his ex, Demi Moore,” Dagnino answered “Charlie’s Angels,” at first, but changed it to “Charlies Angels: Full Throttle.” Clarke challenged it because “Charlie’s Angels” was his answer and it was incorrect. As a result, Dagnino was given a different question to answer. The Shirewolves went on to defeat The Lion’s Den with a final score 25 to 22, on their three-point question.
After Emma offered her the No. 1 Contender prize, Clarke Wolfe suggested the Shirewolves should use Emma’s prize for the Team Belts. Rachel assured her they would get there on their own and supported her to take the No. 1 Contender Match. Emma reached out to Mike Kalinowski, asking if he would be willing to play as Clarke’s opponent. With a huge smile on his face, he agreed to the match. The competitors fought hard into Sudden Death, but Clarke Wolfe won with a final score 21 to 20. Clarke would face Samm Levine for the Champion Belt but lost in Sudden Death, with a score of 19 to 18.
In their first match back from Andrew Ghai’s suspension, Team Action defeated DC Movie News 29 to 26, causing Mike Kalinowski to begin his “Korruption” crusade. Their next match would be against The Shirewolves at the El Portal Theatre on June 2, 2018, but Ghai was not worried about “The First Wives Club.” He claimed to be “The Man Who Beat Dan Murrell” and gloated about it in everyone’s face. The Shirewolves won the match 24 to 23, and afterwards Dan Murrell returned with Mark Reilly, Jason Inman, John Rocha, and Matt Knost to become The Horsemen. He challenged Ghai to a match at the 2018 Collision, in which Ghai defeated him.
Phase one of Mike Kalinoski’s “Korruption” crusade started within the Innergeekdom. Originally, Commissioner Thadd Williams planned for a Fatal Five-Way No. 1 Contender Match for the Innergeekdom Belt, but Mike persuaded him to change it into a tournament. With the support of the entire Fyffe Club, Rachel Cushing competed for the chance to take on Innergeekdom Champion Jason Inman. She knocked out her first two opponents Markeia McCarty and Eric Zipper. However, a new star rose in the tournament, “The Brown Dwarf Star” Mara Knopic.
Mara also knocked out her two opponents, Coy Jandreau and Rachel’s manager, Emma Fyffe, and would face Rachel in the semifinals. It was clear from the start that both competitors were not feeling their best, but despite being groggy, they put on a hell of a match. It ended with the match going into Sudden Death, and the players answering eleven questions before Mara Knopic won. She went on to defeat Mike Kalinowski and Jason Inman to become the Innergeekdom Champion.
After the Collider Collision, Samm Levine, the reigning Singles and Team Champion, announced his retirement from competing in the Schmoedown. He achieved his dream to simultaneously defend both Singles and Teams Belts and explained there was nothing left to accomplish for him. With the Team Belts unoccupied, Brianne Chandler used her Free4All prize to challenge The Shirewolves to a Title Match after defeating World’s Finest. Rachel and Clarke accepted her challenge, but the losing team would suffer phase two of Korruption.
Commissioner Thadd Williams announced that the Teams Tournament theme was “Anarchy,” where competing team members would be split apart. All competitors’ names would be thrown into a hat and be paired up when their names were drawn. If The Shirewolves won the Title Match against Brianne Chandler and her new partner, Clarke and Rachel would defend their belts against the winner of the Anarchy Teams Tournament. If they lost, they would be forced to be split apart in the Anarchy Tournament.
On August 24, 2018, Brianne Chandler introduced Bryan Bishop to the Schmoedown as the team Sick in the Head. Shirewolves took the lead in Round One and never slowed down. The match ended in Round Four when Sick in the Head was knocked out with final score of 29 to 18. Despite losing, Brianne and Bryan showed an amazing performance in their debut match. It just wasn’t enough to defeat the Shirewolves. Clarke was holding back the tears of joy, and Rachel was in disbelief in their post-match interview.
After many years and many chances, The Shirewolves became the Team Champions of the Schmoedown. But one team began to rise: Who’s The Boss. Mark Reilly, two-time Singles Champion and Clarke Wolfe’s former partner, and Ben “The Boss” Bateman united with Tom Dagnino, aka Finstock, as their manager, destroying every team they faced in the Anarchy Tournament.
On December 21, 2018, both teams were ready to face each other for the belts. It was a close match at the end of Round Three with their scores at 22 to 22. In the Speed Round, Reilly lost a point after failing to answer the question in time while The Shirewolves gained two points. The match went to the last question where The Shirewolves succeeded in defending their belts.
At the end of the year, The Comedy Store hosted the 2018 Schmoedown Awards, and it wasn’t a surprise that Clarke and Rachel were nominated in ten categories, including Moment of the Year, Player of the Year, and Match of the Year. The Shirewolves won Team Entrance of the Year for their “Thor: Ragnarok” entrance, Babyface Team of the Year, Rookie Team of the Year, and Team of the Year. Clarke managed to secure the Babyface of the Year award while Rachel accepted the Match of the Year award for her match with Mara Knopic.
After winning their many awards, The Shirewolves would face a new challenge: continuing on without their manager. Emma Fyffe won the first Commissioner’s Bowl, which allowed her to be a Commissioner, but she had to give up The Fyffe Club. Her faction was behind her decision, but there were doubts The Shirewolves could retain the belts without Emma.
Because their next title defense was months away, Rachel faced Adam Hlavac in an Innergeekdom No. 1 Contender Match. In Round One, Rachel took the lead with eight points. Adam landed on one of his strengths, Star Wars, but scored only five points and allowed two point to be stolen. Rachel was forced to take Movie Release Dates after spinning Opponent’s Choice and gained seven more points. Adam was knocked out in Round Three after failing to answer his five-point question.
On February 23, 2019, The Schmoedown Throwdown featured the third time Rachel Cushing and Mike Kalinowski opposed each other. The Crusher started off strong in the first two rounds, scoring twenty-three points. Mike fought back to tie both their scores all the way to the end of the fifth round. Everyone started to settle in their seats as they prepared for a long battle in Overtime.
The first question asked to the competitors was “what was the name of the ship that Vice Admiral Holdo commanded in The Last Jedi?” Mike answered “Ninko” while Rachel answered “Ninka.” The Crusher was crowned a double-belted champion in Teams and Innergeekdom. Mike vowed to reclaim the belt from her, but she welcomed to beat him a fourth time with a smile.
The Shirewolves would defend their titles again against Critically Acclaimed. William Bibbiani scored a Perfect Round One, causing Witney Seibold and him to be in the lead. However in Round Two, The Shirewolves took a six-point lead and maintained it at the end of The Speed Round. Even though Critically Acclaimed scored all ten points in Round Five, The Shirewolves won after answering their first two questions.
In the Free For All, Rachel Cushing came out as the fifth competitor, carrying the Teams and Innergeekdom Belts on her shoulders. It appeared William Bibbiani, Brenden Meyer, and she were going to be on the stage for a while, but after eight rounds, she was eliminated by both competitors. Fans still cheered her on as she left the stage with both belts.
Meanwhile after Emma disbanded her faction, Marc Andreyko teamed back up with his Anarchy partner, Jeff Sneider, and manager, Roxy Striar. The Odd Couple were back together and determined to get the Teams Belts from The Shirewolves. Who’s The Boss were as equally eager to play a rematch against the Team Champions, but they would have to face each other in Chicago for it.
Despite Jeff Sneider missing The Blues Brothers question, The Odd Couple had a three-point lead at the end of Round One. In Round Two, Who’s The Boss answered all their questions in the Movie Release Dates category. The Odd Couple landed on Cate Blanchett and retook the lead with one point. They ended up winning the match after Ben Bateman forgotten they used up all their JTEs in Round Three.
The Shirewolves’ third title defense against The Odd Couple aired May 31, 2019. Both teams came to win as they kept on tying their scores round after round. Rachel managed to pull the lead with her two-point question in Round Five. The Odd Couple failed to score their two or three-pointer but correctly answered their five-pointer. The Shirewolves tried to take the win but were unsuccessful and had their first lost as a team.
All was not lost though as they had a rematch with The Odd Couple at Collision III. Clarke started off rocky, but Rachel was able to keep them alive in Round One. In Round Two, The Shirewolves was able to close their three-point deficit to one. The Speed Round was the turning point they needed as both teams had a score of twenty-five points. The Odd Couple fought hard to retain their belts, but The Shirewolves gained three points and recovered their titles.
After defeating Kevin Smets at Collision III, Mike Kalinowski fulfilled his promise to try and take back his Innergeekdom Belt at The San Diego Live Event. Rachel had the lead with a score eighteen to fifteen. Mike managed to switch those scores in the Betting Round where both competitors gambled three points on a DC Movies question. He continued to gain three points in the Speed Round while Rachel broke even on two questions. Despite answering all her Round Five questions, Rachel lost the match and gave Mike the belt back to him.
On August 13, 2019, Kristian Harloff interviewed The Shirewolves. They discussed the hardships in being “The Best” in the league. Clarke talked about how there was an expectation to win the belts when she was partnered with Mark Reilly, but with Rachel there was a balance between both of them. Rachel mentioned about her having sleepless nights and anxiety before a live event. They announced their Schmoedown match with KOrruption, win or lose, would be their last match.
The match was streamed live, and began with one last appearance of the Fyffe Club, reunited. The first round ended 13-14, with only Chance Ellison scoring a perfect round, and increasing KOrruption’s lead to two points after nailing the bonus question. The match would continue to go in KOrruption’s favor as they spun Mike Kalinowski’s strength, while the Shirewolves – in their last wheel spin ever – spun Drama, and again
The second Schmoedown Throwdown premiered August 22, 2019 with KOrruption taking a two point lead over the Shirewolves and Chance Ellison receiving a perfect round. They also had a near-perfect Round Two gaining eleven points with James Bond as their category.
The Shirewolves would not go down without a fight as they scored ten points in the category of Dramas. KOrruption continued to gain momentum at the end of the Speed Round with a score thirty-one to twenty-seven. Clarke and Rachel managed to avoid the knockout after answering their two-point and three-point questions. Hope returned to Shirewolves’ fans as KOrruption only scored their five-point question.
The score was thirty-six to thirty-two with KOrruption leading and Shirewolves still had their five-point question. Kristian read the final question, “In Twelve Moneys, who plays Dr. Peters who is behind the viral outbreak?” Fans were screaming at their screens, “DAVID MORSE! DAVID MORSE!” The Shirewolves took their time and used all three JTE repeats to collaborate on an answer. Rachel answered “James Cromwell,” and KOrruption won the titles.
After the match, a tribute was played to honor The Shirewolves. Emma Fyffe described Clarke as someone that proved herself to be a future champion like Mark Reilly or Dan Murrell. Jeannine the Machine was inspired that Rachel was able to compete in The Schmoedown despite not having a theater background. Chandru Dhandapani stated that he saw his first Innergeekdom match with Rachel Cushing and wanted to join The Schmoedown. Fans even expressed their gratitude for being a great inspiration to people of different ages, races, genders, and cultures.
The most touching words came from several top tiered competitors. John Rocha came out first to tell them they belong on The Schmoedown Rushmore and that they had an amazing run. He vowed that if he won the Single Title again, he would challenge Clarke to a match saying he wouldn’t be complete until he faced her in the ring.
Mark Reilly came out next to say losing them is hard because the league wouldn’t exist as it is without them. Despite losing the match at Spectacular III, he applauded them for defending the belt since it settled the debate about them being true champions. Reilly finished his speech by saying, “Even though Shirewolves [are] best team ever, a special place in my heart . . . Wolves of Steel.”
Mike Kalinowski was the third person to recount all the past encounters outside The Schmoedown. Whether it was at Halloween Horror Nights or San Diego Comic Con, he met Clarke and Rachel and figured they would be dancing around the belts forever. Mike was a wave of emotion as he said good-bye to his dear friends.
To finish out the tribute was Emma Fyffe and Marc Andreyko, who were fighting back tears. Marc stated you never expect to make great friends as you get older, but Clarke and Rachel have become more than great friends, they became family. Emma admitted she was mediocre at movie trivia but was excited to manage both female competitors in a male dominated game.
The last message to The Shirewolves was from Samm Levine via text message. Kristian Harloff read it out aloud, saying that their team will never be replicated or understated. Samm called them trailblazers with legacies to motivate others to participate and watch The Schmoedown.
The Shirewolves may have lost the belts, but they will always be the champions. Clarke and Rachel have united the fans of all background, motivating us to keep on pursing our dreams. They are the league, they deserve to be on The Schmoedown Rushmore, and they will be seen again outside of competing. Despite this tale of two incredible women ending, their story will never be forgotten. #LongMayTheyReign
On a Personal Note, from the Author:
To Clarke: I can honestly say you have changed my life. My first match was your first match against Josh Macuga, and now, I’m writing for TriviaSD, having my thoughts and ideas being shared in The Schmoedown community, and being noticed from it. I literally wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.
To Rachel: I see myself in you and the person I want to become. As someone who struggled with public speaking and self-conscious about it, I was always quiet and recluse from doing things while the world pass on by. To see you get on stage despite the anxiety you feel encourages me to push myself harder in my life. I have embraced my Innergeekdom self and not let anyone put me down for it.