Brock Lesnar is somehow an underdog at SummerSlam

WWE’s Universal Champion might be a terrifying man-monster, but his opponents and outside circumstance have changed everything.

If you’ve ever seen Brock Lesnar in the ring at SummerSlam, chances are you’ve seen him dominate whichever opponent he’s facing in the ring that night. He decimated John Cena in 2014 when he made him look like a rag doll via German suplexes and became champion in one of the most lopsided victories in recent history.

If you see Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam this year, you might not see that. In fact, you might just see him leave.

That’s because if Lesnar loses the Fatal Four Way main event and the Universal Championship, he will leave WWE. And some signs point to that actually happening instead of just being a story line bluff. Minutes after defeating Daniel Cormier at UFC 214, Jon Jones got a mic and turned his attention to Lesnar, who was last seen in the UFC in 2016.:

“Brock Lesnar, if you wanna know what it feels like to get your ass kicked by a guy who weighs 40 pounds less than you, meet me in the octagon.”

Two days later, WWE capitalized on that hype. Paul Heyman went out to paint the champ as the ultimate underdog, one whose challenges may be so difficult that he doesn’t actually overcome them. He blamed it on the odds of winning the Fatal Four Way title match. With Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe, and Braun Strowman making up three -quarters of the large adult wrestling sons match, defeating them seems like a lofty goal from the start.

Heyman expanded a bit more and blamed the match’s existence on who Kurt Angle answers to, implying that its less of a story motive and one commanded by WWE’s real-life bosses. “Why don’t we just rename this SummerSlam 2017: Brock Loses the Universal Title. Because sir, respectfully, you’ve been told to make Brock Lesnar pay the ultimate price haven’t you?” If the nod to UFC wasn’t enough Heyman spelled out what fighting fans wanted to hear. If Brock loses the Universal Title at SummerSlam, he leaves WWE.

Just a week before, reports came out that Lesnar would not sign an extension with WWE, so this makes perfect sense. Would Lesnar leave WWE early to un-retire from the UFC? Not necessarily, although this is may be the best way to inject a sense of doubt in spite of Brock’s victorious performances at SummerSlams past.

Taking a look at his opponents, one would have to wonder if Lesnar could legitimately lose. The competition has never been more prepared to topple Brock.

Lesnar and Roman Reigns faced off in the main event of WrestleMania 31. Both competitors were spent as the match wound down, giving Seth Rollins his chance to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and snatch the WWE Championship from Brock. Had the one-on-one match continued, Reigns could have beaten Lesnar — that’s not something many Lesnar opponents get to even entertain.

Most recently, Samoa Joe got his chance at the Universal strap. Joe got the best of him with enough sleeper holds to make Lesnar look like the ripest tomato in the garden. But thanks to a quick escape via F5, Lesnar was able to scratch out the win. The moral victory that Joe got from having an entertaining match with Lesnar despite losing may have been worth more than the actual match’s victory. Joe should have beaten Lesnar, but it was last gasp vs. last gasp, and Brock’s won out.

Then you have Braun Strowman, the comparative novice in the match, who removes a certain characteristic from most Lesnar matches — the size advantage. Lesnar must look up at his opponent and cower (well, the Lesnar eqvivalent of cowering) at the sight of WWE’s monster among men. Their singular confrontation was teased, however, during last Monday’s edition of RAW. Surrounded by rows of security guards (and after Roman and Joe were taken out) Lesnar and Strowman had an intense staredown that escalated into a fight, much to the chagrin of the men with their tucked in black tees and then the entire WWE locker room.

 WWE.com

Looking back, you could see this as a pivotal moment within the super heavyweight portion of the WWE roster. Strowman winning at SummerSlam could be a changing of the guard, officially certifying him as WWE’s top beast.

Unlike most of his other SummerSlam appearances, Brock doesn’t have to be pinned to lose in this multi-man match — that’s how he ended up dropping the title to Rollins back at Mania 31, as Seth pinned Roman instead of Lesnar. Brock Lesnar’s beast incarnate persona would not suffer as a result, which would come in handy upon Lesnar’s next quarterly set of appearances. With WWE on hold, he could take that time for a UFC fight.

With a wrestler as dominant as Brock Lesnar in the venue he’s most dominant in, it’s hard to convince fans he has a legitimate chance of losing. But thanks to his large competition, and the possibility of fighting in the octagon again, WWE has done just that.

Still, it’s feasible to see Lesnar win at SummerSlam and fight in the UFC: He did it just last year. Something about this time feels just different enough, though.

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Michael Bennett says blackballing of Colin Kaepernick keeps other players from speaking out

Bennett is going to keep fighting for equality.

Colin Kaepernick is still a free agent because he kneeled during the national athem last season to protest oppression and racial inequality. On Wednesday, Michael Bennett said that Kaepernick’s lingering unemployment will keep some players from joining that movement.

“He had to sacrifice. He spoke up and dealt with a lot of things that were going on — from death threats, people not wanting him in the stadium, people hating him,” Bennett said on ESPN Wednesday. “I think a lot of players were scared of that. Then on top of that, players feeling like he was being blackballed, people were eventually scared.”

But Bennett doesn’t want anyone to lose sight of the bigger picture.

“But now, just because he’s out of the league, we didn’t want to lose that message, pushing for liberty and equality for everybody,” Bennett said. “We just wanted to keep that message alive.”

Bennett also thinks that white players could change the narrative around the protests if they joined their black teammates.

“Because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it … it would change the whole conversation,” Bennett said on ESPN Wednesday. “Because when you bring somebody who doesn’t have to be a part of [the] conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump.”

Last weekend, protests over a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent as white nationalists clashed with people who want to remove this monument to a man who fought to preserve slavery. Bennett said that he had been considering protesting the national anthem for a while, but seeing the repercussions of hate in Charlottesville spurred him to action.

“Over the weekend, so much violence, so much hate,” Bennett said. “I just wanted to remember why we were American citizens, remember the freedom, the liberty and the equality, make sure we never forget that.

“I really wanted to honor that, the founding principles of what we’re all supposed to be. Charlottesville was so crazy, so much going on in the world now, it just made sense.”

Some people believe that kneeling during the national anthem shows contempt toward the military. The Seahawks welcomed members of the military to practice this week, and Bennett said they were supportive.

“People make this divide, like I’m trying to disrespect the military. And they come to me and say this is what they’re fighting for,” Bennett said. “It just touched my heart.”

Bennett also called upon players to inspire kids to work toward making the world a better place.

“Instead of just inspiring them to be athletes,” he said, “we can inspire them to be change-makers.”

This is a difficult situation for players, because the repercussions for Kaepernick have been so harsh. San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch is the latest general manager to criticize the protests, calling them “divisive.”

“And I think this game brings people together. So I think personally when I see that, I think that’s divisive,” Lynch said via ESPN’s Nick Wagoner. “And I understand guys see things and they’re not happy. They have that right. And I think we’ll always respect people’s rights. That doesn’t mean I believe that.”

The backlash against kneeling or raising a fist during the national anthem isn’t going away. But that’s not going to stop Bennett from keeping this movement going.

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Mavericks embrace a youth movement. That’s a sentence we didn’t expect to type

The Mavericks are taking a new approach, and their fans find it refreshing even if the team may not make the playoffs.

This is the eighth of Limited Upside’s 30 team previews leading up to next season. We’re bringing together representatives from all 30 SB Nation team sites and other team-specific experts from the SB Nation/Limited Upside community to gauge the temperature of the fanbase heading into the season. Check ‘em all out here.

The Mavericks have quietly embraced an on-the-fly youth movement and are in a position where expectations are relatively low. That’s a new world for Mavs fans, and they’re embracing it. SBNation.com’s Tim Cato and Mavs Moneyball’sKirk Henderson join Mike to discuss the following topics:

  • The Mavs have an actual future now! Maybe not like a future title winner, but a fun youngish core nonetheless.
  • Are we getting too far ahead of ourselves with Dennis Smith Jr., or should we shut up and just enjoy him? (The latter).
  • What’s going on with Nerlens Noel? Why hasn’t he re-signed yet? Are fans worried?
  • How good is Harrison Barnes, exactly?
  • Has management done enough to regain the trust of the fanbase after Plan Powder kinda fell flat year after year?
  • Oh yeah, let’s talk about Dirk. Suppose you put Dirk at his absolute best (whenever that is) on this Mavs team. How high would they be in the West?
  • What will Dirk’s next job title be once he retires?
  • If Mavs fans had a chance to do it all over, would they have preferred keeping the 2011 championship team together or breaking it up like they did?
  • Which three Mavs would you want on your banana boat? (Dirk and Steve Nash should be shoo-ins, but who else joins them?)

Plus, predictions, best/worst case, making fun of Tim being super young, and way more.

PREVIOUSLY: Nets | Lakers | Suns | 76ers | Knicks | Magic | Kings

NEXT UP: Timberwolves


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NHL’s best players under age 25 for 2017: Follow the complete list

Over the next month, we’ll be breaking down the best young players in hockey. Keep track of the complete rankings here.

The SB Nation NHL Top 25 Players Under Age 25

No. 25: Alex Galchenyuk, Canadiens center
No. 24: Jonathan Drouin, Canadiens winger
No. 23: Sean Monahan, Flames center
No. 22: Brandon Saad, Blackhawks winger
No. 21: Hampus Lindholm, Ducks defenseman
No. 20: Colton Parayko, Blues defenseman
No. 19: Nikolaj Ehlers, Jets winger
No. 18: Seth Jones, Blue Jackets defenseman
No. 17: Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs winger
No. 16: William Nylander, Maple Leafs winger
No. 15: Aleksander Barkov, Panthers center
No. 14: Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche center
No. 13: Aaron Ekblad, Panthers defenseman
No. 12: Filip Forsberg, Predators winger
No. 11: Zach Werenski, Blue Jackets defenseman
No. 10: Matt Murray, Penguins goaltender
No. 9: Johnny Gaudreau, Flames winger
No. 8: Jack Eichel, Sabres center
No. 7: Leon Draisaitl, Oilers center
No. 6: Coming August 18.

Honorable Mentions: Dougie Hamilton, Flames defenseman; Viktor Arvidsson, Predators winger; Oscar Klefbom, Oilers defenseman; Jacob Trouba, Jets defenseman; Jaccob Slavin, Hurricanes defenseman; Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers winger; John Klingberg, Stars defenseman; John Gibson, Ducks goaltender; Jake Guentzel, Penguins winger; Rickard Rakell, Ducks winger


The NHL, for all of its growing pains in becoming a multi-billion dollar business, still has a very bright future. There’s no greater reason for that than a generation of young players entering the league who will usher in a new era of speed and skill on the ice.

Connor McDavid is the marquee name there, having already won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP at age 20 after entering the league with as much hype as any player since Sidney Crosby. Now he’s already challenging Crosby for the title of NHL’s best player, and he’s got the contract to reflect that.

McDavid is a blazing-fast microcosm of where the NHL is going, but he’s not the only young player who’s turning the league on its head. It’s becoming clear that hockey is a young man’s game, Jaromir Jagrs of the world withstanding. Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, and others will join McDavid in taking over the league sooner than later.

With that in mind, here at SB Nation we decided it was a good idea to try to sort out the best of this next generation. Our team blogs rank their respective organizations’ best young players each year, so we’re going to do the same for the entire NHL.

Over the next month, we’ll be ranking the top 25 players under age 25 in the entire league. There will be one post per day for each player, and we’ll be keeping track of the complete rankings here. As you’ll realize by the quality of players left off the list, the future of the NHL is loaded with amazing talent.

Who was eligible for the rankings?

Players needed to be age 24 or younger by Aug. 1, 2017 in order to be eligible for the rankings. If a player turned 25 before that date, he’s out (Sorry, Ryan Johansen). The rankings are also limited to players who are under contract with an NHL team, or have their rights held by an NHL team.

How the voting worked

The rankings were determined by ballots submitted from 21 different SB Nation NHL team blog writers, plus national writers Satchel Price and Mary Clarke. Each one submitted their own list of the top 25 players under 25, then the rankings were broken down into points — 25 points for No. 1, 24 points for No. 2, 23 points for No. 3, and so on. We took those point totals and added them up to get the combined list you’ll be reading over the next several weeks.

Should I get mad that my favorite player is missing?

You could, but it’s worth remembering that this list includes perspectives from a lot of different people. In total, 64 different players received at least one point, including some names you probably wouldn’t expect. So a lot of great players are missing from the list, and that’s more a reflection of the incredible amount of young talent in the NHL than anything.

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LeBron James is getting more political. Does that mean he’s leaving the Cavaliers?

Good morning. We have that and more in Thursday’s NBA newsletter.

After tweeting about the President’s comments about Nazi violence in Charlottesville over the weekend, LeBron James delved more deeply into the matter while speaking at his foundation’s dinner Tuesday night. LeBron openly supported and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the fall, so it’s not exactly a surprise he opposes the President. (Most Americans do.)

The twist is that the man who cuts LeBron’s checks, Dan Gilbert, is a Trump supporter. Gilbert’s Quicken Loans gave $750,000 to the President’s inauguration committee. Gilbert tagged along with the Cubs when they made their White House visit in June.

There are already rampant rumors that LeBron intends to leave the Cavaliers again next summer due to tumult within the franchise. James wasn’t happy with David Griffin’s dismissal, he’s upset Cleveland hasn’t pulled a single major move this summer after being run out by the Warriors. Would Gilbert’s support of Trump play into it?

I don’t buy it. Consider again what LeBron was doing on Tuesday: talking to kids at his annual foundation dinner. Consider again what LeBron focused on in his announcement he was returning to Cleveland. What he and his wife Savannah are doing in their hometown is, in a way, a direct response to what Trump and people of his ilk say and believe and do.

Watching Gilbert suffer with another terrible team would be satisfying, perhaps. But more satisfying that seeing the thousands of kids LeBron’s foundation helps climb out of generational poverty and hopelessness? No chance in Ohio.

Make sure you read Adrian Wojnarowski on how fear of losing LeBron is guiding the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving considerations.

Meet Hoodie Melo, our new favorite Melo (edging out Olympic Melo).

The most obsessive, thorough, unified schedule breakdown you’ll find, courtesy of (who else?) Matt Moore.

It looks like the Bulls may try to buy out Dwyane Wade’s contract after all. I feel as though Wade would be a lock to join LeBron in Cleveland in such a circumstance, unless Chris Paul (his other BFF) could convince him to help slay the Warriors from Houston. What a bidding war that’d be!

Checking in with G League players who will represent USA Basketball in upcoming qualifiers.

Video game talk time. Kofie Yeboah had 41 thoughts while discovering that NBA Live 18 might actually be good. Here are eight reasons the NBA 2K18 trailer has us hyped.

Kobe is very into taking his daughter to WNBA games.

Tom Haberstroh on the smart scheduling moves the NBA made to protect the concept of rest.

Ricky O’Donnell is very excited about the top of the 2018 NBA Draft. Marvin Bagley’s decision this week to join that group really screws over the Nets, who don’t have their own pick until 2019.

There is at least one marquee star project for 2019, though: Canadian legend in the making R.J. Barrett.

The New Orleans Saints fired two doctors who failed to diagnose a fractured leg. These doctors also do work for the Pelicans. Uh oh.

Pretty good schedule reveal by the Magic.

Jonathan Tjarks on three point guards who explain the positional revolution.

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Top daily fantasy football plays for Thursday’s Week 2 preseason games

With three games on the Thursday schedule, we break down the best options for your daily fantasy lineups.

SB Nation will be bringing you the top options on virtually all preseason slates through the end of August. There are only three games on the Thursday schedule, so the options are a bit more limited for DraftKings and FanDuel slates. As is always the case, keep an eye on Twitter throughout the day on game days, as injury and lineup news is always coming in prior to kickoff, turning popular plays into fades and lifting obscure plays into tournament-winning position.

Quarterbacks

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Winston looked pretty good in a quarter of work last week, and he’s expected to go the full first half against a weak Jacksonville defense. Winston to Mike Evans might be the QB-WR combo play of the season in DFS, and there’s no time like the present to get that party started. Ownership should be high, but that should not dissuade you at all in tournaments.

Chad Henne, Jaguars vs. Buccaneers

The Blake Bortles Era in Jacksonville is hanging by a thread these days and Henne is the man poised to overtake Bortles as the starter. Henne looked good against the Patriots last week, including a 97-yard TD pass that certainly helped the overall stat line. But he did complete 5 of 6 passes, and he could get a long look against the Bucs as the Jags find themselves at a crossroads.

Nathan Peterman, Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles

Peterman is expected to be the first man off the bench to replace Tyrod Taylor. The rookie completed 13-of-25 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown and ran for 26 yards last week and should have plenty of opportunity to improve on those numbers, making him a nice sleeper pick.

Running Backs

Corey Grant, Jaguars vs Buccaneers

Leonard Fournette’s debut was the headline for the Jaguars last week, but it was Grant that stole the show with 120 yards on eight carries, including a 79-yard touchdown run. Grant also excelled in the final regular season game of 2016 and is definitely in the mix for a roster spot. But the biggest news this week is that Fournette has already been ruled out with an injury. Grant may never get a better chance to cement his place on the team.

Damien Williams, Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens

Jay Ajayi is expected to get the starter treatment, which means one or two series. Kenyan Drake is in the concussion protocol, so he’s out. That leaves Williams to soak up considerable playing time in his bid to secure the backup role.

Donnel Pumphrey, Corey Clement, Eagles vs. Bills

Pumphrey was pretty underwhelming last week against the Packers, but the Eagles as a whole were underwhelming, so I’m giving my favorite Aztec another chance here. Wendell Smallwood might not play, which could lead to a longer look for Pumphrey and Clement. Both are solid plays this week.

Taquan Mizzell, Ravens at Dolphins

Terence West and Danny Woodhead are expected to play in this one, but for how long is anyone’s guess. Assuming it’s not more than a quarter, Mizzell should get another chance to impress the coaching staff and secure the No. 3 running back slot. He carried 15 times last week for 51 yards and was targeted twice in the passing game.

Wide Receivers

Mike Evans, Buccaneers at Jaguars

The starters played about a quarter last week and it was enough for Evans to light up the stat sheet. This week, the starters could go the entire first half. This is an easy call.

Anquan Boldin, Bills at Eagles

The starters are scheduled to play 1 ½ quarters in this one, which can always become a full two depending on game flow. This is Boldin’s debut and he has already moved to the head of the line among Bills receivers since being acquired last week. He and Tyrod Taylor are developing good chemistry, and now they need to see it on the field. With Jordan Matthews out with an injury, Boldin should be heavily targeted in this one.

Quincy Adeboyejo, Ravens at Dolphins

Breshad Perriman will not play in this game, giving Adeboyejo another chance to establish himself as the big wide receiver the Ravens can trust. He was targeted four times last week and caught two passes for 24 yards.

Bryce Treggs, Eagles vs. Bills

Treggs was targeted eight times last week against the Packers, catching seven for 91 yards. When someone is that involved on a team with an unsettled receiving corps, you have to like his chances to be active again in Week 2.

Tight Ends

Trey Burton, Eagles vs. Bills

Burton was a preseason hero in 2016 and his three catches for 19 yards, while not earth-shattering, was still pretty good for a position that struggles to produce preseason points. Don’t be afraid to ride the Trey Train again.

Thomas Duarte, Dolphins vs. Ravens

Duarte was targeted four times and made three catches for 19 yards. Works for me.

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