Sharapova should restart at the bottom

Today’s Daily Telegraph features an interview with a female tennis player who served a ban for a positive drug test and made her comeback at the indoor clay event in Stuttgart. No it’s not the one you’re thinking of (I’ll get to her later…).

The player I’m talking about is Barbora Strycova the World number 20 from the Czech Republic. Strycova is a member of the successful Czech Fed Cup team who have won the Fed Cup in five of the last six years. Not as famous as her compatriots Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova she was still an important part of the team and in the last two years she played in the final decisive doubles rubber which clinched the title for the Czechs. 

But she wasn’t always as highly regarded. In 2012 she tested positive for the banned stimulant sibultramine as a result of consuming a dubious weight-loss supplement called Acai Berry Thin. On April 22 2013 she made her comeback in the first qualifying round of Stuttgart (I’ve emphasised​ qualifying quite deliberately) losing to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. After Stuttgart she played in a humble $25,000 ITF tournament in Wiesbaden Germany which is the lowest level of the women’s professional game. She lost in her first match. She had to qualify for all the Grand Slams – two of them successfully – and play more ITF tournaments. She was given no favours which having served a drug ban she should not have been. But to her credit she grafted and at the end of 2013 she had got back into the World’s top 100.

Four years later, on April 26 2017 another female tennis player will make her comeback from a drugs ban – a fifteen month drugs ban. This is of course Maria Sharapova. Sharapova like Strycova will make her comeback in Stuttgart. But that is where the similarity ends. First of all the tournament starts on April 24 but Sharapova’s ban ends on the 26th. But shamefully Sharapova will be allowed to play in Stuttgart despite this and she will be given the right to start on the 26th – a Wednesday – while players like Strycova who will be playing for the Czech Republic in the USA the week before – have to start on Monday or Tuesday. 

Even worse Sharapova has been given a wildcard straight into the first round of Stuttgart. And not only Stuttgart. She has also been given wildcards into the first round of the Madrid Open and the Rome Masters. Remember Strycova had to start in the qualifying of Stuttgart and play humble ITF events. Why shouldn’t​ Sharapova?  After all she failed a drug test too and her ban was longer than Strycova’s. 

I should stress I’m not blaming the tournaments in question as Sharapova is a draw and the tournaments are out for their own interests. I am blaming the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). This gutless spineless excuse for a governing body should make sure all players are treated equally. If Strycova had to start in the qualifying round of big tournaments and in humble ITF events so should Sharapova. So should anyone who fails a drug test. Now if a player is a victim of a stabbing (like poor Petra Kvitova was before Christmas) or if a player falls pregnant and has a child (as Victoria Azarenka did last year) they are fully entitled to wildcards and having their ranking protected. But a player who failed a drugs test should not be given preferential treatment either to clean players or to other players who failed drug tests. 

Hopefully the Grand Slams behave differently. Sharapova will definitely either have to qualify for the French Open or rely on a wild card. She might have to do likewise for Wimbledon if she has not accumulated around 600 ranking points by May 22. The French Open and Wimbledon must NOT reward a player who failed a drug test. Sharapova is entitled to attempt a comeback. But the French Open and Wimbledon must do what the WTA did not have the guts to do. They must not give her a wildcard. Sharapova and all other drug test failures should be told they must restart at the bottom. Just like Barbora Strycova had to…

How I would book Wrestlemania 33 (Part 2) 

In my previous post I listed the matches I would have booked for Wrestlemania 33. Now I will explain why I booked them and who should win. 

If you read my previous post you will have noticed that only one match on the real card is unaltered – Triple H v Seth Rollins (Assuming that Rollins knee is all right and he can compete). Hopefully Rollins goes over in this match as it fits into a storyline that I would start at Wrestlemania. 

Kevin Owens v Chris Jericho and Goldberg v Brock Lesnar would both still take place if I were booking but Owens v Jericho NOT Goldberg v Lesnar would be for the Universal Title. This is because in my mind Goldberg v Lesnar is one of those matches (like Rock v Hogan and the first Rock v Cena match) that is big enough not to need the title. Plus Owens and Jericho deserve the title slot for carrying RAW through the winter. Lesnar and Goldberg would not be the main event either. It would be in the middle of the card, lasting ten minutes at the very most with Brock getting revenge for his humiliation at Survivor Series. As for Owens v Jericho I’ll mention the winner later as it reveals the new storyline I mentioned earlier. 

So if Jericho and Owens are not fighting for the US title who would be? I don’t understand why they took the US title off Roman Reigns if the plan was not to give him the Universal title (it wasn’t). I’d have kept the US title on Reigns and have him defend it against Braun Strowman – a match that WWE in their infinite (lack of) wisdom wasted at Fastlane. And I would have Strowman win. To my mind the mid card titles should be used to promote new stars and Strowman should be one of them. Plus for his improvement in the last year he deserves a title. 

On the Smackdown side two matches I would get rid of – at once – would be AJ Styles v Shane McMahon and the awful mixed tag between John Cena and Nikki Bella and the Miz and Maryse. Mixed tags and Shane McMahon have no place at Wrestlemania. Instead John Cena would face the Undertaker – a match everybody but Vince McMahon wants it seems – with Taker winning. AJ Styles meanwhile would be added to the real life Randy Orton v Bray Wyatt title match. I would have booked this triple threat this way. Bray Wyatt wins the Royal Rumble, AJ Styles loses the title to Randy Orton at Elimination Chamber and Styles uses his rematch clause to get a title shot at Wrestlemania. Bray Wyatt would get his title winning moment at Wrestlemania but Styles would get his title match at Wrestlemania which he deserves for the matches he has provided in the last year. As for the Miz he should get an Intercontinental title match having made that title relevant again. A disappointing feature of Wrestlemania this year is the lack of a multi man ladder match so I would have had champion Dean Ambrose, the Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, Kalisto and Luke Harper in an intercontinental ladder match which Corbin would win (I suspect he will win the Intercontinental title for real at Wrestlemania).

Next the women’s titles. Amazingly there has not been a women’s singles match at Wrestlemania since Wrestlemania 23 (the one Donald Trump was in) and there won’t be one this year as there have been two clusterfuck matches announced for both women’s titles. That’s not how I would have booked it. Instead for the RAW women’s title it would be heel Sasha Banks (she would have turned heel at Hell in A Cell last year by defending her title with help from Nia Max and Stephanie McMahon and her and Jax would have formed a female version of the Austin/Triple H two man power trip of 2001) against Bayley in a no disqualification match. Jax and Stephanie would try to interfere but Bayley would overcome the odds to gain a fairytale win and win the title at Wrestlemania (NOT on a random episode of RAW for god sake). 

But what about Charlotte? Well if I’d been booking the Sasha v Charlotte Hell In a Cell match back in October would have been a loser leaves RAW match. Therefore Charlotte having lost the match would be on Smackdown and she would be challenging Becky Lynch (I would not have taken the title off her) for the Smackdown women’s title. Charlotte would win and make history as the first woman to hold both the RAW and Smackdown women’s titles.  

As for the other women they would be put into a pre show Battle Royal – but unlike past women’s Battle Royals at Wrestlemania this one would mean something. The winner would be the number one contender for her brand’s women’s title. I would give the win to Mickie James who has just turned face. Mickie v Charlotte is a potentially good fantasy match we have not seen yet.

That leaves the Cruiserweights the tag teams and the rest. The Cruiserweight title match would be Neville v Jack Gallagher – which again WWE wasted at Fastlane. I’m biased but I want to see two UK wrestlers fight each other at Wrestlemania. Neville would retain. Sadly one of the tag team title matches probably has to go on the preshow – probably the Smackdown title as it has barely featured even on Smackdown (assuming both titles are on the show). The RAW title match would be the same as at Wrestlemania except I would add the New Day to make it a fatal four way (Why the New Day are hosting Wrestlemania instead of wrestling in it I don’t know). I would book Champions American Alpha v the Usos for the Smackdown titles. Both champions would retain. The rest of the male wrestlers would go into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal which I would have Sami Zayn win last eliminating Samoa Joe. 

That leaves the Owens v Jericho match. Owens would win – but not cleanly. Owens would distract the referee and while that is going on Triple H, Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns would attack Jericho. When that is finished Owens hits Jericho with the pop up powerbomb wins – and then Owens, Triple H, Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns celebrate over the prone Jericho. It has been long rumoured that Triple H is planning a new version of Evolution with Owens Joe and others. I reckon it should (a) start at Wrestlemania and (b) be the vehicle for the long overdue Roman Reigns heel turn.

I’m convinced that this Wrestlemania card would be far better than the one we will get on April 2nd. It would still have the part timers but it would also push new champions Strowman, Corbin and Bray Wyatt. It would have no rubbish mixed tags and no Shane McMahon match. I’m convinced it would be a successful show. But let’s hope Wrestlemania 33 is better in the ring than it looks on paper….

How I would book Wrestlemania 33 (Part 1) 

On Sunday April 2nd the WWE’s annual showpiece Wrestlemania will take place in Orlando….And to be honest it does not look good. There are at least three matches on the card that no one wants namely AJ Styles v Shane McMahon, Roman Reigns v the Undertaker and the appalling mixed tag between John Cena and Nikki Bella and the Miz and Maryse. Add to that the fact that Goldberg v Brock Lesnar is for the Universal Title thus ensuring that there will be a part time Universal Champion after WrestleMania. While there are good matches on the card – Kevin Owens v Chris Jericho, Bray Wyatt v Randy Orton and Triple H v Seth Rollins – assuming that Rollins is fit – the show could be another flop like last year’s Wrestlemania without the appalling injury list which was a big excuse for the average (at best) Wrestlemania last year. The card this year – with hardly any injuries – does not look good. And I can do it better!

First of all here is the card that I would have booked and then in my next post I’ll explain why I’ve booked it this way and how I’d have win.

WWE Universal Championship : Kevin Owens (c) v Chris Jericho

WWE Championship : Randy Orton (c) v AJ Styles v Bray Wyatt (Triple Threat).

John Cena v The Undertaker

Brock Lesnar v Goldberg

Triple H v Seth Rollins

United States Championship : Roman Reigns (c) v Braun Strowman.

Intercontinental Championship Six Man Ladder Match : Dean Ambrose (c) v the Miz v Dolph Ziggler v Baron Corbin v Kalisto v Luke Harper.

RAW Women’s Championship : Sasha Banks (c) v Bayley.

Smackdown Women’s Championship : Becky Lynch (c) v Charlotte.

Cruiserweight Championship : Neville (c) v Jack Gallagher.

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Women’s Battle Royal (Winner to get a title shot against the champion of her choice).

RAW tag team Championship :  The Club (c) v Sheamus and Cesaro v Enzo and Cass .v The New Day.

Smackdown tag team Championship : American Alpha (c) v the Usos.

(c) = the champion(s) I would have before Wrestlemania.

So there is my card. My reasons for it (plus my winners) in my next post…