Season 4 of the Schmoedown was full of memorable matches as the show began to ramp up into the extravaganza that it is today. Just one look at the contenders for Match of the Year at the end of season awards gives an idea of how great the season was: Witwer vs. Napzok, McWeeny vs. JTE, Patriots vs. Above The Line, Rocha vs. Murrell, Harloff vs. Sneider, Murrell vs. Reilly vs. Rocha… the list goes on!
There is one match, though, that didn’t make the shortlist for the award and I think gets underappreciated when we look back at older matches: John Rocha vs. Mark Reilly III.
As I was looking back at this match to write this piece, I reached out to Reilly to ask if he had any memories from this match, which I will include his thoughts as we go through.
In April of 2017 John Rocha was firmly in his heel persona that gave the heels of today a platform from which to build. Reilly was the hero… the original champion. Having defeated Dan Murrell, Rocha had finally won the Singles Belt and his first defence would come against his old rival, who had defeated Samm Levine and Clarke Wolfe to earn a shot to win his title back. These were two titans of the game, who would be facing off for a 4th time, Rocha holding a 2-0 record in Singles and a 1-0 record in Teams from when Top 10 defeated Team Champs in Season 2.
“Rocha was on fire after beating Murrell and I wanted my title back. But I realized the only way to do that was to have fun. Embrace the game and put some faith in the Schmoedown Gods that I would know the answers needed to win.” ~ Mark Reilly
After two great promos that heightened the hero versus villain aspect and the rivalry between the two, it came down to the entrances, and it looked like the match may be over before it even began as word went out that Mark Reilly had been hurt and would be unable to compete, which would lead to Rocha defending his title by default. Just as the situation seemed darkest, Reilly’s Wolves of Steel teammate Clarke Wolfe ran out to the desk with an announcement that instantly perked up the crowd: “Mark Reilly’s gonna fight!”
Yodi emerged with a limp and wearing a Karate Gi and as the music began, it became clear that he was paying homage to The Karate Kid as he channelled his inner Daniel LaRusso with the “Crane” stance and front kick. From Reilly’s entrance we went to the champion and “The Outlaw” was on form. Suited up for the occasion and with his trademark cowboy hat and mask, with the Singles Belt over his shoulder. Such was the importance of this match, he even requested his Horsemen not escort him out for the match, this was just about him and Reilly.
“I loosened up. I decided to have fun and let the match play out naturally. Win or lose, I was going to go in there and play my best, have fun, and answer one question at a time.” ~ Mark Reilly
The match began and it lived up to the hype that came before. Round 1 saw the pair each go 7/8, with the crowd going wild as Rocha became the first to drop a point and remaining much quieter when he immediately drew level – it was clear who they were supporting in this match!
Round 2 saw Rocha defer to Reilly and things looked to be going in The Outlaw’s favour as Reilly’s first spin landed on Opponent’s Choice. While this could have been devastating, in a decision that may have in hindsight lost Rocha the match, he gave Reilly the category Scores & Soundtracks, something that most would look to avoid, but Reilly counts among his strengths. While Rocha did get a point through steals, Reilly still managed a respectable 5 points. Rocha’s luck with the Wheel in this match continued as he spun Spinner’s Choice and selected his specialty of Westerns, going 4/4 for 7 points.
“Then I hit Opponents Choice. I could have let that bad luck beat me. But I kept going and had fun. Then I had the Sandlot moment – and kept going. Who cares. Answer the questions as they come. There were no nerves, just trivia. I kept smiling and knowing that if it was meant to be, it was meant to be.” ~ Mark Reilly
While Rounds 3 and 4 saw neither competitor able to change the points difference, the buzzer round gave a wonderful moment that Reilly still brings up to this day as one of the biggest brain-farts of his Schmoedown career as he guessed “The Sandlot” instead of “Scream,” despite Ghostface being among the characters named in the question!
Rocha went into the final round with a 3-point lead and after both missed their 2-pointers but hit their 3-pointers, Reilly took advantage of the JTE Rule on his 5-pointer to take a 16-18 lead. In a mirror to Rocha’s win over Murrell, the champion was left having to answer their final question correctly to defend their title, but like Murrell before him, Rocha was unable to answer correctly, and the title passed back to Mark Reilly.
“When Rocha missed his five pointer and I was champ again, I knew I would never doubt myself again – win or lose.” ~ Mark Reilly
What is there to love about this match? So much! This was a perfect balance of trivia and kayfabe and really showed the best of what the Schmoedown had to offer. It was this match’s appearance on Collider’s Behind the Scenes & Bloopers series that helped convince me to give the main competition a look and not just the occasional Star Wars matches. This was also a historic match, as Reilly became the first two-time champion.
Not only that, but it added more fuel to the rivalry between Rocha and Reilly – who would have thought that within 18 months the pair would be in the same faction?! – while Rocha losing the title and his insistence on a rematch helped set up the Battle of the Champions as Reilly, Rocha and Murrell all faced off in a Triple Threat at Collision.