Kurt Cobain’s famed 1993 appearance on MTV: Unplugged stands as one of the most iconic sets from the Nirvana singer. The performance was so legendary that people are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain items that used Cobain during it. Just last October, the cardigan Cobain wore during his set, cigarette burn hole and all, was sold for a record-breaking $334,000. Now, the acoustic guitar that the singer used during his stripped-down performance is up for auction with an even more shocking price tag.
Kurt Cobain’s guitar from his MTV: Unplugged set will be a part of an upcoming Music Icons sale at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills. In all, the acoustic guitar has a starting estimate of a whopping $1 million. The massive price includes the guitar, which is is a 1959 Martin D-18E, as well as its original hard-shell that Cobain had embellished with a flyer for the 1990 record Feel the Darkness by the band Poison Idea. Inside the guitar case is a pack of Martin guitar strings, three picks, and a suede pouched adorned with a small silver fork, spoon, and knife.
The president and CEO of the auction house, Darren Julien, said in a statement that the guitar holds a special place in the history of rock and roll. “This important guitar has earned its rightful place in rock and roll history as the instrument played by one of rock’s most influential musicians and icons in one of the greatest and most memorable live performances of all time,” said Julien.
While the guitar is slated for purchase soon, it will first make its last public appearance. According to Rolling Stone, Cobain’s guitar will be displayed at London’s Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus starting May 12 through the end of the month before being shipped to Beverly Hills for the auction.
Episodes seven and eight of The Last Dance featured much of what basketball fans wanted from this project. We got the look into a shockingly vulnerable side of Michael Jordan, we got tons of practice footage, and we got an extended look into his final years with the Chicago Bulls. On the merits of what is good television, night four of the doc might have been the best yet.
Worst: Conspiracy Theories
The first half hour or so of Episode 7 is the heaviest part of The Last Dance thus far, as they delve into the murder of James Jordan and the impact that had on Michael’s decision to retire and play baseball. It’s something they were always going to address, but the question was whether they would discuss two of the most prevalent conspiracy theories about Michael Jordan’s career. They did just that, with Jordan discussing how it “hurt” hearing people in the media and beyond speculate about whether his gambling habit led to his father’s murder. Sam Smith, Bob Costas, and others slammed those who wrote columns they described as “cheap shots” with “no evidence.” There are still some who parrot those theories and it’s clear that bothers Michael — and understandably so, as he likely wouldn’t have addressed it in this format if it didn’t. It is an incredibly serious allegation to assert someone’s gambling led to their father’s death, particularly when there’s nothing beyond blind speculation to put the two together.
The other theory that gets addressed is a more popular one and, in the grand scheme, less salacious, which is the “secret suspension” conspiracy, in which people theorize that Jordan was suspended by the league in 1993. This, they claim, is why he took 18 months off to play baseball. Then-commissioner David Stern addresses that head on, saying it’s false and there is “no basis in fact” for that assumption. The idea that Stern would secretly suspend the league’s biggest draw and best player, devaluing the league he was in charge of, is pretty ridiculous when you think about it critically for too long. If you were to do such a thing, it would make you and the league look much stronger and take a “no player is bigger than the league” stance by making that suspension public knowledge. To do so secretly provides no benefit.
On top of that, Jordan’s trainer, Tim Grover, notes they completely changed his workouts to put his body into baseball condition rather than basketball condition, which he told Jordan would have adverse effects if he tried to return to hoops. If there was an 18-month suspension to be served, it’s hard to imagine Jordan saying yes to that knowing it’d take time to get his body back to hoops shape.
In all, Episode 7 was a tough one for Jordan conspiracy theorists, but it surely won’t stop them.
Best: Cat Chow
Michael Jordan calls Scott Burrell a “ho” on multiple occasions in practice clips, but the most vicious burn he hit Burrell with was after a rough game in the locker room he told that man to go home and feed his sick cat some Purina Cat Chow. Michael Jordan is, without a doubt, my favorite asshole in sports history.
Best: Top Dog Scottie Pippen
Scottie Pippen, during his time with the Bulls, was the most underpaid superstar in NBA history. He was underappreciated, to an extent, in that he legitimately might have been the second-best basketball player in the world on a given evening, with the issue being that the best basketball player in the world was on his team for the entirety of his career up until he retired.
Pippen got his chance to take the Bulls by the horns (sorry) after Jordan retired, and with the chance to lead a team finally in his grasp, he delivered. Chicago won 55 games, Pippen set career-highs in scoring (22 a night) and rebounding (8.7 per game), tied his career-best mark in steals (2.9 a game), and served as a facilitator within the Triangle offense beautifully. His more relaxed style of leadership was apparently a breath of fresh air after Jordan’s more demanding approach.
The Bulls weren’t quite able to win a ring with Pippen at the helm, but it’s a testament to him (and the coaching job Phil Jackson did) that Chicago was still a really, really good basketball team despite Jordan’s retirement.
Best/Worst: Baseball Mike
The best is because Michael Jordan decided to give up on being the best basketball player in the world, at the height of his powers, to play a completely different sport, in part because he thought that was a way to honor his father after he was murdered. There is something about Michael Jordan’s brain that just works differently from everyone else’s (more on this later!), and even before experiencing a level of grief that no human should ever have to experience, the thought came into his mind that it was worth saying “welp, see ya later” to the thing he was better than any other human at to go play baseball because … well, because. He, Michael Jordan, an athletic and cultural icon, was so over playing basketball that he was willing to go kick it in the minors in Birmingham, Alabama.
The worst is, obviously, because Jordan wasn’t a particularly good baseball player, but I do believe that requires some amount of context. Jordan was dropped into AA ball, putting up numbers that were not good on the surface — he hit .202, had an OPS of .556, and struck out 114 times with 88 hits and three homers tucked in there — but it is kind of wild that he just did that after getting sent head-first into a good level of baseball after like 15 years of not playing the game. The comparison that pops up here is Tim Tebow, who performed admirably in AA before struggling in AAA last year, but even Tebow got to go through the Mets system over several years and learn the game. Jordan retired from the NBA in October of 1993 and reported to Spring Training four months later.
So yeah, Jordan wasn’t a good baseball player (yet), but considering the circumstances that led to him putting up bad numbers and not absolutely cataclysmic numbers, things could have been much worse.
Best: Scott Burrell
Finally, after numerous clips in this documentary of Mike dunking on him verbally and literally, we got some redemption for Scott Burrell. It came on a night where we also saw the worst of Jordan torching him on the practice court, but we got it and we should celebrate that. I’m glad that they built the Burrell section around, eventually, showing the highlight of his Bulls tenure, a 23-point outing to help the Bulls win a playoff game against the Nets.
Not only that, but Burrell comes off pretty great when talking about the prodding he took from Jordan, who even seems to really like Scott for taking all that and rolling with it, even if he couldn’t goad Burrell into fighting him “in a good sense,” as he put it. Burrell seems to look back on it with a level understanding few excellent athletes — Burrell was also a highly-rated baseball prospect coming out of UConn — would after being humiliated at times. In the practice footage, we see him trading barbs with Jordan and not backing down from the challenge, even if Jordan would give him hell on the court. In the interview, he talks about how Mike tried to lift guys to his level, even if Jordan didn’t fully understand not that no one else could actually get to that level.
Best: Cigar/Baseball Bat Mike
making up stories just to drop 36 points in the first half on someone pic.twitter.com/bTaien7rn6
— whitney medworth (@its_whitney) May 11, 2020
If it wasn’t already extremely clear from everything we’d seen in the six episodes before this or the books written about him or stories passed down as urban legends or his Hall of Fame speech, these two episodes very clearly outlined how Michael Jordan was, and I mean this in the best way possible, a psychopath. He had a psychotic drive to not just win, but to humiliate anyone that dared doubt him or slight him in any way, shape, or form. He wanted to destroy Clyde Drexler because the media dared put them in the same tier. He wanted to destroy Dan Majerle and Toni Kukoc because Jerry Krause liked them. He still hates Isiah Thomas to this day for the walkoff and [gestures at the existence of the Pistons].
In this episode, B.J. Armstrong, his former teammate and a fairly close friend when they were teammates, dares to celebrate beating the Bulls in a playoff game in which he plays very well. The result is Michael clutching a baseball bat in the locker room the next day, swinging it very calmly while smoking a cigar, and insisting he’s not mad. It’s such an incredible visual and I’m so glad they put it in the documentary. For one, it can’t be overstated how f*cking cool Michael Jordan was. Also, it’s somewhat terrifying how calm he was when he was discussing all of this. Poor Armstrong got the clamps put on him in the next game and for the remainder of the series that the Bulls would go on to dominate.
Worst: Mike’s Pants
These look like a parachute. Not parachute pants, it looked like he fashioned these out of a parachute. ‘90s fashion was wild.
Worst: LaBradford Smith
This is not a new story, but it’s one of my favorite Jordan stories. After LaBradford Smith put up 37 on the Bulls in Chicago, Jordan made up that Smith told him “good game.” On the next night, the Bulls and Bullets met again on a back-to-back. Jordan made it his sole mission to embarrass Smith, scoring 36 in the first half and trying to personally humiliate LaBradford by going at him all night. Again, Jordan was a psychopath, but in I guess the best possible way because he used it to simply try to beat people mercilessly in sports and cards.
Best: The Scottie Shoe Point
It’s one of the most iconic images of the Bulls dynasty, Scottie Pippen wearing a pair of Jordan 10s and pointing to the Jumpman logo and doing the “come back here” finger motion to a camera while on the bench during a game in 1995. If this happened today, it would melt Twitter and Stephen A. Smith’s head would explode on First Take the next day.
Best: Jud Buechler’s outstanding watch/apartment combination
Jud Buechler has a very nice apartment and that is a nice watch.
Best: LeBron James
Hey look it’s LeBron! He decided to live-tweet this week, including this tweet about the Knicks after we saw Jordan’s legendary “Double Nickel” game.
Man Ain’t nothing like Madison Square Garden!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) May 11, 2020
Mike and Bron are connected forever for a number of reasons, No. 1 of them may be the fact that they both take a special kind of joy in tormenting the New York Knicks.
Worst: Nick Anderson, B.J. Armstrong, and everyone else who ever trash talked Michael Jordan during the playoffs
If you were not an elite player and you dared to speak out of turn to Michael during a playoff series, I’m really not sure what you were thinking. As the LaBradford Smith story shows, Jordan could make up motivation all on is own, you didn’t need to make yourself the target of this. The good news for Nick Anderson is that the Magic were the better team in 1995 and were able to beat the Bulls, but in Game 2, after Anderson stole the ball from Jordan to seal Game 1 and said “45 isn’t 23,” Mike broke out the No. 23 and put 38 points on Orlando in a win. I appreciate the gumption and it is an incredible quote, but, like, let Penny and Shaq do the talking you do not need to bring that attention on yourself from Michael Jordan.
Best: Don’t Mean A Thing Without The Ring Merch
Well sure, but it’s not like a team with that many wins could NOT win a ring, right
That would be really amazing pic.twitter.com/XQBRu156S4
— Jason Kirk (@thejasonkirk) May 11, 2020
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) May 11, 2020
It’s extremely badass that the Bulls were wearing this stuff during the playoffs, as they would’ve been laughed at forever if they hadn’t won. Instead, they won the ring against the Sonics (we’ll get to them momentarily) and two decades later it was made even funnier by the fact that the 73-9 Warriors broke their record and then blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. My only wish is that we could have found LeBron that Bulls hat to wear at the Cavs parade. Honestly, Jordan should’ve overnighted him one for the cause.
Worst: George Karl
YOU HAVE GARY PAYTON WHY ARE YOU NOT PUTTING GARY PAYTON ON MICHAEL JORDAN AND ON THAT NOTE WHY ARE YOU PISSING OFF MICHAEL JORDAN AT A RESTAURANT GEORGE KARL COME ON MAN WHAT ARE YOU DOING. I am not even a Sonics fan and for all Sonics fans, I am sorry, but these two moments were particularly infuriating.
Best: Legalize Kemp
An absolutely elite fan sign. Also, extremely on brand for the pacific northwest.
Best: Gary God Damn Payton
Man, Gary Payton is so cool, man. He’s like the one person who can legitimately say “I did a pretty good job checking Michael Jordan,” and his breakdown of how he guarded Jordan was nothing short of enthralling, even if it did cause MJ to laugh a lot. We have had two Gary Payton cameos in this — this and the Rodman episode — and both have included lots of swearing while GP gives legitimately insightful analysis that is caked in his very unique way of breaking things down. We need as much Payton in all things that we possibly can get. Put him on Guy’s Grocery Games or something, I do not care.
Best: Human Michael Jordan
One of the weirdest elements of this entire project — and I want to stress that this is not necessarily a critique, because while Ken Burns is correct when he says it’s not journalism, I don’t think that’s a bad thing — is that everything you see is essentially what Michael Jordan wants you to see. There are obvious upsides to this, namely that Jordan is and was hilarious and his highlights are so good that Kevin Durant literally makes people watch them when they go to his house, but the downside is that the doc does sometimes feel like they’re only getting close to capturing the essence of Jordan before the brakes get pumped. The bar that ESPN set for these monster docuseries projects is its five-part O.J. Simpson series, and The Last Dance just does not explore the space it is given as well as O.J.: Made In America did, which would have been really hard regardless, because that was a masterpiece.
Having said that, Jordan’s armor of immortality cracks every now and then, with two moments from each of these episodes revealing emotions that he seems hesitant to ever let bubble to the surface. The less interesting one — which, to be clear, I adored — was him laughing at Gary Payton like he was Charlie Murphy after Prince suggested going and playing basketball.
— ESPN (@espn) May 11, 2020
We’ve seen this side of Jordan a few times, the basketball assassin who cannot wrap his head around anyone believing they could ever even think about knocking him down a fraction of a peg. His resentment for Isiah Thomas earlier in the show was a good example of this, but I’d argue this was even better — Jordan does not obviously hate Payton like he does Zeke, but the mere suggestion of GP playing good defense against him 24 years ago caused him to yell laugh and make funny faces and scream “THE GLOVE” condescendingly.
One of my big issues with this doc is that, on so many occasions, we can see Jordan’s mask start to slip, only for him to catch it before his internal desire to be the alpha dog to end all alpha dogs completely comes through. The Payton moment, however, represents the rare occasion where Jordan cannot catch the mask, and as a result, we get an absolutely wonderful bit of television and a meme that is on your Twitter timeline right now.
But the far more interesting moment and the purest distillation of Michael Jeffrey Jordan that we get in this entire documentary is the final scene of episode seven, in which Jordan is moved to tears based on the mere suggestion that anyone would not play the game of basketball with the same drive and intensity that he would.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 11, 2020
Jordan doesn’t exist in the world of basketball as much as his spirit looms over it. He is the bar to which everyone is measured, basketball’s one truly immortal player. It inadvertently reminds me of a theory that I have about stand-up comedians: Being told you’re funny and brilliant, over and over again, over the course of decades does something to your brain that most of us cannot comprehend, and the second that you hear someone say you are not funny, you lash out and blame things outside of your control, because you cannot rationalize that a person could think that you lost your fastball. (See: most older comedians who complain about PC culture because college students don’t find weird, vapid jokes that people liked in 1993 funny.)
Jordan’s brain is wired in a similarly weird way. He was a hyper-competitive child, he won at literally every level of basketball he ever played, and even before his first retirement — which came after only playing nine seasons in the NBA — he was already considered the best player ever. It’s caused the mythology surrounding Jordan to grow and grow over however many decades, but the thing is that Jordan hears all of this, too. That is going to do something to a person.
This entire project is based around that idea: Jordan is immortal because he is the greatest basketball player ever, and that legendary drive led to him winning six championships. Everything surrounding that mythology not only shaped Jordan, by now, that is literally who he is. There is no separating Michael Jordan the basketball player from Michael Jordan the person or Michael Jordan the businessman, there is only Michael Jordan, the cutthroat, ruthless icon who transcends any normal definition of what it means to be a human.
As such, everything in this doc has to be viewed through that lens, because this doc is a project Jordan had creative control over, and also, that is just who he is. He lost sense of how to be a human like you or me years ago, because he literally could not be where he is today if he was. It is impossible to understand what it is like to be Jordan, but in this particular moment, we get a glimpse into a portion of Jordan’s soul that we never really see: Michael Jordan, the person whose existence is defined by competition. I’ll leave the deep psychological analysis of him to those who dedicate their lives to psychology, but it should not come as a huge surprise that his most human moment was tied to this. It is who Jordan is, and will be until the day he dies.
But even when that day comes, and he goes to the big basketball court in the sky, the mythology surrounding him has made it so this is who Michael Jordan always will be.
Don’t feed the trolls. It’s the most basic of all the internet rules. This tenet has held true long as chat rooms, discussion forums, message boards, and social networks have existed. There have always been people so hungry for attention, engagement, and, hell, human contact that they will do or say almost anything to get it — including some truly disgusting, heinous, offensive stuff. Yet as long as this has been the case, it’s been almost impossible to convince people to observe that one, simple principle: If you ignore them, they’ll go away.
Tekashi 69 knows this — he probably knows it better than anyone else. It’s the human nature he banked on when he first set out to secure his position in the pantheon of rap superstars before him. NWA, Eminem, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and more all leveraged that same tendency. Controversy sells; 69 just took it to the absolute extreme, blurring the lines between fiction and fact and buying into his own gimmick enough to end up on the wrong side of the law. That’s his genius and the reason why he just won’t go away, no matter what the above-mentioned rap stars, their peers, or their fans say, weathering every career-ending storm to emerge bigger than ever.
To condense the timeline a bit: 20-year-old Danny Hernandez made himself a viral star by choosing an over-the-top look, dubbing himself with a provocative stage name, and picking fight after fight with his rap peers and the enemies of his Nine Trey Bloods backers. In doing so, he built a brand that would prove to be bulletproof. His scream-rap style and rainbow hair drew attention, both negative and positive, as his antics also drew attention — from the federal authorities, who grabbed him and his Nine Trey cohorts in a racketeering case that pitted Tekashi against a potential 47-year prison sentence.
The possibility of serving out the rest of his adult life behind bars was enough to convince the young rapper to turn canary, testifying in a controversial trial that saw his former colleagues in Nine Trey receive long sentences. His own sentence was truncated to accommodate both his cooperation and the eventual COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic (Tekashi is asthmatic, making him more vulnerable to the virus’ effects). Upon his release, he went right back to his trolling ways, joking about being a snitch on Instagram and prepping the release of his first post-incarceration single “Gooba.”
Therein lies the genius of Tekashi 69: He knows that the one thing none of us can ever do is look away from a train wreck — especially now that there’s little else to do but watch those boxcars pile up. Tiger King, The Last Dance, Donald Trump’s daily briefings — we can’t get enough of watching bullies and trolls do what they do. Nor can we keep ourselves from reacting, which only turns the dial on their buzz further and further clockwise (insert Spinal Tap “this one goes up to eleven” quote here). We know we shouldn’t feed the trolls, but we do anyway. They want attention and they know that their provocations can and will garner plenty of it, so long as they are loud enough, boisterous enough, obnoxious enough, and/or wrong enough.
Tekashi 69 is all of those things. He’s “wrong” in the eyes of rap purists for his loud, aggressive, borderline arhythmic rhymes. He’s “wrong” in the eyes of street disciples (and their naive, melanin-deficient suburban acolytes) for breaking “street code.” His colorful presentation is eye-catching and irritating enough to the muted stylistic sensibilities of Westerners to inspire railing rants against it and what they think it represents. He’s also willing to lean all the way into the snitch jokes, inoculating himself against the accusations in much the same way Eminem’s 8 Mile character did against the white jokes that’d be leveraged against him in rap battles.
A record breaking 2 million watched Tekashi go live and he apologizes for snitching pic.twitter.com/tJafMEDnVF
— UPROXX Music (@uproxxmusic) May 8, 2020
“69” or its unusual stylization, “6ix9ine,” nearly always find themselves near the top of Twitter’s trending topics, while Tekashi 69’s first Instagram livestream after his release broke Instagram’s previous reported record with 2 million viewers. It’s a constant feedback loop of commenters giving Tekashi their attention and Tekashi giving them an endless supply of fat to chew on, debate, discuss, or rant about — which only gives him even more attention. As much as fans and Tekashi’s contemporaries say they disapprove, they can’t resist doing exactly what he wants: Keeping his name on the tips of their tongues (or thumbs).
A funny thing I noticed recently is how few comments my posts get these days. Not for nothing, I also noticed that the dropoff seems to correlate with the day I decided to stop entertaining them and let my biggest fans/trolls talk among themselves. It seems they got bored pretty quickly with talking to each other. I guess they don’t like themselves any more than they hate me. When I stopped feeding the trolls, they basically went away, save for a few diehards who seem to hold out hope (hey Deputy Dawg! I see you, boy! Hope your quarantine is going well). However, it’s easy for one person to resist taking the bait; it’s nearly impossible to convince the 2 million people who’d tune into an Instagram Live just to get the tea on a widely publicized legal case to do the same (seriously, nothing Tekashi said during his Live was new information). That’s why Tekashi will be here for a long time and why he’ll always get the last laugh.
Get ready for more of Lil Dicky, Elz, GaTa, and the gang’s comic misadventures in the rap biz — Dave has been renewed for a second season by FX, according to Deadline. The news should come as little surprise after the first season became one of TV’s most talked-about new series (in the same way Donald Glover’s Atlanta did back in 2016), but Deadline‘s report includes some numbers showing just how beloved Lil Dicky’s brainchild became in it’s opening run.
Dave is FX Networks’ most-watched comedy series ever, averaging 5.32 million total viewers (across live viewings, video on demand, and streaming, thanks to FX’s new deal with Hulu) per episode. In comparison, Atlanta, the previous ruler, averaged 5.2 million viewers in its first season. Dave also grew its week-to-week audience by more than a million viewers multiple times during its first 10 episodes — an impressive feat, considering it originally ran on FX’s FXX channel rather than the flagship station.
Dave is based loosely on the life and experiences of the real-life Lil Dicky, Dave Burd, who basically plays himself as he encounters rappers, managers, label execs, and fans while trying to juggle his relationship and his various neuroses about being an atypical, white rapper who sometimes toes the line of taste with his jokes but still wants to be taken seriously.
Watch Dave’s first season now on Hulu.
With all sports (and sports-entertainment) leagues currently hurting for new content to keep audiences engaged, networks are pulling out the big guns: Multi-part documentaries of some of their most iconic athletes. And what The Last Dance is to the NBA, Undertaker: The Last Ride is is to the WWE Universe. This five-part docuseries, whose first episode aired yesterday and will continue to air exclusively on the WWE Network every Sunday for the next four weeks, follows the journey of the Undertaker from the days before his WrestleMania 33 match in 2017 until, presumably, present day.
We at With Spandex will be watching along with the rest of you every Sunday and distilling each episode down in our new recap, Ride Or Die. Here’s what we learned from episode one of The Last Ride.
The Undertaker Is Getting Old
Filming for The Last Ride‘s first episode, The Greatest Fear, started three days before WrestleMania 33, at the personal request of Mark Calaway. The entire undercurrent of this episode is that ostensibly, this is the end for the Undertaker, and that Roman Reigns will be the one to retire him. Calaway is caught on camera joking around with Jim Cornette and Jimmy Hart about being pro wrestling’s version of Santa Claus (because he only comes around once a year), as well as ribbing fellow legends such as Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels at that year’s Hall Of Fame ceremony, before later opening up about the stark reality of his current situation:
“The Streak is what made it okay for me to only work once a year, because I had to defend the Streak. It takes its toll. I had a five-year stretch where my schedule would be, I would prepare for Mania, I would have my Mania match, then I would have some kind of surgery to repair whatever had been bothering me going into that match, then go straight from rehab right into training to be ready to go for Mania again.”
He goes on to admit it’s a huge challenge to only work once a year (a sentiment later reinforced by Triple H) and that he simply can’t work a full schedule anymore.
The Undertaker Is Well-Respected
No big surprise here, right? The Last Ride pulls out the big guns in its first episode with a slew of legendary talking heads, all talking about how important Mark Calaway is to the wrestling business and how much respect they hold for the big man. We hear platitudes from legit WWE Hall Of Famers Mick Foley, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Batista, Edge, Steve Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Mark Henry, Scott Hall, JBL and Jim Ross, plus surefire Hall Of Famers such as Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and the Big Show (and also three-years-ago Chris Jericho, billed as “former WWE Superstar”). Plus Vince McMahon himself shows up — he doesn’t do that for very many of these WWE Network documentary pieces, so you know this one’s important.
The Undertaker’s Confidence Was Shattered Because Of WrestleMania XXX
Taker says his back-to-back WrestleMania matches with Shawn Michaels were challenging, and his match with Triple H at WrestleMania 27 was “brutal,” resulting in him spending two full days in a hotel room afterward just to recover, before eventually having hip surgery. That surgery rolled back his odometer a bit, though, as he says his next two Mania matches, against Triple H and CM Punk respectively, were “pretty good,” but when it comes to his WrestleMania 30 match against Brock Lesnar, that’s where everything gets tough.
This is without a doubt the most intense part of The Last Ride‘s first episode, as we find out more about Taker’s concussion he suffered mid-match and how it was much more severe than anyone had known until now:
“I’m not sure when I got concussed. I don’t know how that match happened. I have no recollection of any of that. My last memory of that day was at about I’d say 3:30 in the afternoon.”
WWE trainer Larry Heck confirms the story of Vince McMahon following the ambulance to the hospital, adding that Brock Lesnar was also with Vince. And even as Taker tried to tell people he was okay, Michelle McCool reveals otherwise:
“He was trying to cheat in the hospital. Nurses would come and go, ‘What’s your name?’ And he would ask me, ‘What’s my name again?’ He was so severely concussed he didn’t know his name, he didn’t know where we were, he didn’t know why we were in New Orleans. He didn’t know his name until 4 a.m.”
Calaway thinks it was a combination of age and ring rust that caught up with him in that Mania match. “One concussion and one match destroyed my confidence,” he comments, echoing a remark made by Steve Austin earlier in the episode: “Ring rust and timing is real. The nervous system, the nerves play into all that.”
Fast-forward to 2015, and WrestleMania 31. Taker’s opponent, Bray Wyatt, says he had no idea the Dead Man was lacking confidence, but it was apparent to Triple H, who approached him backstage and gave him a quick, profane motivational speech: “Show them who the fuck you are. Fuck last year. Kill this thing.”
After the match, Taker is shown joking with Vince about knowing his name, a big change from the aftermath of WrestleMania XXX. His restored confidence led to a more active schedule in the ensuing year, working an additional six matches in 2015, including two more with Lesnar.
The Undertaker Was Not Ready For WrestleMania 33
The final portion of The Last Ride‘s first episode focuses on the day of WrestleMania 33, which is clearly being framed as his final WWE match. You have some perfunctory remarks from Roman Reigns talking about how honored he is to be his dance partner, but more importantly, you have Taker himself reflecting on his own legacy, and his value to WWE.
“If I’m on the card, there’s some young guy that may not be on that card. It’s my duty to make sure it’s worth putting me on the card. No one would probably say anything to my face if I stunk it up, but i would know. That’s one of my biggest fears, is becoming a parody of myself. It would kill me to know that some dad who watched me when he was young has to turn to his son and go ‘yeah he’s moving kinda slow now but you should’ve seen him 10, 15 years ago.”
Fine speech. But the problem is, everyone else around Taker seemed to know he wasn’t in peak shape for this one. Just moments after calling him “the greatest performer that’s ever been in the history of this business,” JBL shoots from the hip and says, “I’d never seen him in worse physical shape than he was before WrestleMania.”
Edge compares Taker ca. 2016 to Brett Favre playing for the Vikings, noting that there will be always be flashes of greatness, but it doesn’t matter how spotty their performance is or what anyone else says, because due to their pedigree, “they have cart blanche to say when it’s time.”
As Taker approaches Camping World Stadium, he remarks, “They say fighters can grow old in one fight. Hopefully this isn’t that fight.” (Little does he know…)
Some of the most fun stuff happens as the cameras follow Taker around the stadium before the show. You get to see a visibly nervous Kofi Kingston shake Taker’s hand (but not before quickly wiping it on his pants), an embrace between the Dead Man and Lesnar (a beautiful acknowledgement of the war they put each other through) as well as the Dead Man and Goldberg (foreshadowing their disastrous match two years later) and the ever-observant Chris Jericho, who quickly puts two and two together when seeing a camera crew following Calaway around, realizing this is the end of his career.
We later see Calaway limping into a trainer’s room, getting a cortisone injection in his knee to “take the edge off it.” This might be the most human we’ve ever seen the Undertaker, emphasized by his remarks:
“The business comes first, first and foremost. Our job is to go out and be first-class professional entertainers and give our fans what they paid their hard-earned money to see.”
Unfortunately, we all know what happens next: A main event match against Roman Reigns that was passable at best, resulting in the Undertaker “going out on [his] shield” before quickly scrambling to his feet and putting his entrance gear back on, just so he can take it off in a dramatic fashion and leave it in the center of the ring.
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) May 11, 2020
Afterward, Taker is met by a similarly fatigued Triple H below the entrance ramp, who embraces him and congratulates him on a “hell of a run.” A little bit later, after he gets the excess fluid in his knee drained, Calaway remarks, “I’m pretty content riding off into the sunset. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
This could have been a standalone episode — and maybe had the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia never came calling, it might have been — but instead, we get four more. And given the iffiness of some of Taker’s post-retirement matches, it looks like The Last Ride is about to pick a whole lot of scabs in the coming weeks.
As students across the world have had to adjust to taking lessons online, Ed Sheeran chose to offer an elementary class some much-needed motivation. The singer surprised a Zoom music class at a South London elementary school to teach the children one of his songs and impart some of his wisdom.
Timothy Spoerer, the music director at Ecclesbourne Primary School, was teaching his music class over Zoom when the kids had a very special surprise visitor. According to The Sun, Ed Sheeran hopped on the call to chat with the kids and teach them some lessons.
Sheeran began by giving the students a tutorial of his hit song “Perfect” on guitar. Afterward, Sheeran held a Q&A session with the kids and answered questions about his schooling and decision to make a career out of music.
Sheeran told the students that because he didn’t do well in school, he thought that meant he wasn’t smart. “I basically wasn’t very smart at school I thought I was an idiot for a very long time,” he said. “I couldn’t do maths, science, and English, and I was told to be successful in life you had to do those things.”
The singer said he received a lot of support from his dad to pursue music: “I loved playing music, that’s what made me happiest. My dad always said to me, ‘If you want to be a musician work really hard at it’. I wanted to make music my job but it was a lot of hard work and struggling; essentially the way I got my income and paid my bills was by playing covers at weddings.”
As for new music, Sheeran told the students that he’s continuing a self-imposed hiatus in order to focus on his family life.
Ed Sheeran is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.
When the Chicago Bulls entered the 1996 NBA Finals against the Seattle SuperSonics they were massive favorites to win their fourth ring in six years. After completing the best regular season in history, going 72-10, there were few that gave Seattle much of a chance, and the first three games seemed to prove those Sonics doubters right as the Bulls ripped their way to a 3-0 series lead.
Seattle would eventually claw their way back into a 3-2 series before getting closed out in Chicago on Father’s Day by an incredibly emotional Michael Jordan. One of the ways the Sonics worked their ways back into the series was by putting Gary Payton on Michael Jordan, unleashing the Defensive Player of the Year on Jordan and making life more difficult on him.
While Jordan laughed, quite heartily in fact, at Payton’s assertion his defense “took a toll” on Jordan, [extreme condescending MJ voice] The Glove did have some success on the defensive end against him and the numbers back it up. One of the reasons Jordan might remember not having trouble with Payton is that he felt he had a mental edge on the feisty guard thanks to a moment after Game 1 of that series, as Ahmad Rashad relayed in a tweet after Sunday’s episodes.
— Ahmad Rashad (@NBATVAhmad) May 11, 2020
Now, with any story about Michael Jordan finding an edge, I would like to have a second source confirm this happened — else we find out this was a LaBradford Smith deal — but if it did indeed happen this way, I can certainly see Jordan seeing this as a moment he knew the Sonics were no match for that year’s Bulls. If Payton, their strongest willed player, was wanting Jordan’s shoes then that’s absolutely the kind of thing that would make Michael believe they as a team were too mentally weak — although you will never find me, personally, speaking ill of The Glove or his will to win.
The ‘Billions’ Stock Watch is a weekly accounting of the action on the Showtime drama. Decisions will be made based on speculation and occasional misinformation and mysterious whims that are never fully explained to the general public. Kind of like the real stock market.
STOCK DOWN — Bobby Axelrod
Good news and bad news for Bobby Axelrod this week.
The bad news is that he got played, bamboozled even, by Mike Prince, at Mike’s own event. The fireside chat, the charity work, all of it. Axe had it all worked out. Prince was playing into his hands and he was going to have the market cornered on medicinal ayahuasca, or pharma-huasca, if you want to talk like some capitalist psycho. What a perfectly Axe move this was going to be, in two distinct, extremely Axe-y ways: One, he was going to commodify an ancient treatment that comes from nature and has been used for centuries in a hunt for enlightenment, and he was going to turn it into a premium weekend brain twister for rich white people in the Hamptons, which is really just classic Bobby Axelrod; two, it revealed that his own experiment with the treatment in the premiere was not part of his own search for meaning as much as it was a business trip to lock in a key partner, because Bobby Axelrod will never change, not once, not ever.
Unfortunately for him, again, the bamboozling, which was revealed to both him and the audience in the final moments of the episode when Prince introduced the shaman and announced his plans to corner the very market Bobby thought he was about to corner. Which brings us to the good news, believe it or not…
The man got to say the sentence “You stole my shaman.” That’s one pretty wild collection of words. I’m not sure anyone has ever said them before in that order. Maybe they have. I don’t know. I’m not fully up on the history of duplicitous shaman maneuvers. I do know that I am absolutely delighted that I got to put the phrase “shaman heist” in this headline, though. I did not expect that to happen today, or any other day for that matter. A great start to the week.
Anyway, I guess Axe is fed up and planning to start his own bank now. We’ve all been there. Kind of.
STOCK UP — Smiling at your enemy while the camera has you framed in front of a crackling fire to reveal you as the devious bastard you truly are
Love Mike Prince. Love him. Love his whole deal, talking about giving back and privilege and his high school hoops glory days. Love how he infuriates Axe in every way, down to Axe’s icy core, with his talk about fairness and community and teamwork. And I especially love that there is very clearly a killer lurking about six inches below the surface of all of that. I did not necessarily see the exact shaman switcheroo coming, but I did know something devious way in play from Mike, and I knew it for two reasons:
- The look on his face in the screenshot at the top of this section, which, when coupled with the fire crackling behind him and the perfect “dramatic music” caption — always watch Billions with captions on — was such a villainous moment that I’m surprised he didn’t fill the room with poison and strap on a gas mask:
- Dude named his big fancy do-gooder conference “The Mike,” which is his first name
Don’t listen to his words. Look into his eyes. Mike Prince is a predator, too. He’s just sneaky about it.
STOCK UP — Lying to yourself
Oh, Chuck. Oh, you sweet delusional man. All this talk of your new code, with various Dexter references and support from Sacker in staying on the right path, with the goal of only using your diabolical powers for good, for society, for justice… you know this is all hooey, right? You know it. You have to. I say this because, in the same episode you started preaching this sermon, you also froze your soon-to-be ex-wife’s assets and steered your alleged friend Judge Adam out of one job he wanted and into the job you wanted him to have, the latter of which involved leaked memos and long games and tough senators. Yes, you protested, the ball had been rolling on this before you announced your code. But you sure did not try to stop it from rolling, not even a little.
It’s sweet that you think you’re in control of “the monster” that you and Bobby both referenced separately, though. Cute, even. I give it three episodes, four tops, before you ruin, like, an elementary school crossing guard to knock down a single domino in your battle with Axe. But good for you.
STOCK DOWN — Waterboarding, generally
Pretty tough for waterboarding to go down from its previous position, given its decades of history. And yet, here we are. Chuck Rhoades said it: if even he didn’t enjoy it, given his own decades of history with various forms of torture, I mean… yeah. Just a rough week for waterboarding as an entire concept.
Also, while I do love Billions very much, I am livid at everyone involved that we were denied the scene where Chuck offered to be waterboarded. Come on. I can see the whole thing in my head: him floating the idea with a twinkle in his eye, everyone kind of smirking, Karl getting all excited about it. Give me this as a web extra. I deserve it. We all do.
STOCK DOWN — MaseCap, Lauren excluded
Taylor had a bad meeting with Oscar, in which he said he doesn’t want his money with Axelrod and will pull it from Taylor because of it
Chuck knows Taylor triple crossed him and told them at a clandestine meeting in some parking lot, threats included, because why even have a clandestine meeting if you’re not issuing threats.
Hammon is getting railroaded by Wendy and doesn’t know her place after the merger and is feeling all sorts of useless and confused and her concerns were not exactly assuaged in the brief meeting she had with Taylor, which was yet another 30-second meeting that took place in person even though it could have easily happened over, like, text, which is just a perfect Billions thing.
But Lauren — Lauren — continues her rise in the business world and the unofficial power rankings I keep in my head, thanks to Wendy’s co-sign and her staggering competence at whatever exactly it is that she does. There’s something devious about her. I can’t put my finger on it. But the way she dunked that teabag while greeting Hammon… I can’t decide if she’s the most menacing character on the show or just the coolest. Maybe both.
STOCK UP — Dollar Bill
See, you’d think Dollar Bill would be a Stock Down situation this week, what with his performance issues and crusts of confidence. It’s a dark time for Dollar Bill, right now, in this moment.
But look at him at the end of the episode, when he turns down a minivan romp with Bonnie and opts for quiet time. He’s on a journey. He’s looking into himself. He knows something went awry and he’s trying to fix it. That’s not nothing. It’s a big step. Dollar Bill is getting himself back on the right track. I’m proud of him.
It won’t be great when he comes out of this with a plan to, like, buy up a chain of daycares and load them up with debt that leads to mass closings and layoffs, but that’s an issue for another week. Baby steps.
STOCK UP — Fancy pasta
Few shows on television make me as consistently hungry as Billions. This week was no exception. Look at that pasta. Look at it. Uggghhh I want it in my face right now. I don’t even know exactly what it is. It looks a little like a fancy cacio e pepe. What’s better than cacio e pepe? Not a lot, buddy, I’ll tell you that. There was probably some schmuck at this conference who was pissed he didn’t get lobster or steak or both. What a doofus. Lobster and steak are great. I’ll eat them for dinner tonight if you’re buying. But I would cut you with your own steak knife for this pasta. I’m a simple man. A simple, apparently violent man.
STOCK DOWN — Wags, but not for that reason
Wags discovered his daughter was stripping at a fancy strip club in the mountains and promptly freaked out, explaining to Axe that he failed the Chris Rock test by not keeping his daughter off the pole. That’s not why his stock went down, though. That happened because:
- He was apparently such an absentee father that he had no clue what his daughter was doing with her life until he saw her dancing to “Cherry Pie”
- He didn’t know where she was living, or he did and he made no effort to see her when he was in the area, instead opting for multiple nights of his patented debauchery
- He yoinked her out of the club and stuck her “in a facility,” which is fine if she has a drug problem, I guess, but maybe what she really needs is a dad who isn’t all Wags-y all the time.
It’s a “chickens coming home to roost” situation. I hope they reconcile and she moves in with him and Wags suddenly has to become a dad. Give me that entire spinoff. Give him three other kids, too. There’s a television show.