The Rumble of The Royal Rumble- 1989

It’s probably important before we move on that I point out that the first Royal Rumble event I ever saw live was the Royal Rumble 1991.  That said, the Royal Rumble 1989 and Royal Rumble 1990 were two shows that I saw about a million times growing up.  Since these shows were some of the few available at my local Blockbuster and some of the few events I didn’t own, I went out of my way to rent these tapes every time I had the chance to do so.  My parents were smart and knew that if we didn’t record the pay per views when we ordered them, I would want to buy the tapes as soon as they came out.  Thus, I owned pretty much every WWF pay per view on VHS cassette from 1991-2005 or until Digital TVs came out and made it tough to record on video cassette.  Thus, every other show that was available at Blockbuster made it’s way to my house every Friday when my father would go down to get us a movie.  It seemed like the videos at Blockbuster only went back to 1989 so in many ways this 1989 Royal Rumble was the beginning of my wrestling fandom, at least wrestling that I could remember.  With that out of the way let’s get into my thoughts of the Royal Rumble 1989.

Royal Rumble 1989- The Summit in Houston, Texas- January 15th, 1989

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Match Results

The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart) and Jim Duggan defeated The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond) and Dino Bravo (with Frenchy Martin and Jimmy Hart) in a Two out of three falls match

Rockin’ Robin (c) defeated Judy Martin for the WWF Women’s Championship

King Haku (with Bobby Heenan) defeated Harley Race

Big John Studd won by last eliminating Ted DiBiase in the Royal Rumble match

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This was the first Royal Rumble to be presented on pay per view and also the first Royal Rumble to feature the, now famous, 30 participants.  Unlike the first Rumble event that we went over last night, the Royal Rumble is the complete focus of this show from start to finish.  There are only three other matches and other than a really fun six man tag opener, the other two matches were largely forgettable.  If you’re in the mood for Royal Rumble nostalgia then this is the show for you.  Right off the bat we’re greeted with the video montage of all of the Royal Rumble participants as Vince McMahon runs down all of the participants before proudly proclaiming “ITS THE ROYYYYYAAAALLLLL RRRUMMMBBBBLLLLLEEEEEE!!!!!”  in classic Vince McMahon announcer voice.  They only continued this for the first few Rumble pay per views but damn I loved these videos.  They got you so excited for the rest of the show and made everyone mean something by having their video features pop up on the screen.  Also, if you weren’t following along at the time, it introduced you to all of the participants.

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From here throughout the night there was a variety of vignettes that ran with a number of the participants choosing there spot in the rumble at random.  These were a lot of fun and got you ready for the match later on that night as they would set up good teasers as to the numbers each guy got based on their reactions to the numbers picked.  The big one I remember here was that The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase went ahead and purchased a more favorable number from Slick, who at the time was managing the Twin Towers.  Then from there this was the debut of the classic Royal Rumble promos that would run throughout then night and feature some of the bigger names standing in front of their logos via green screen.  These always did a lot for me because they set up a number of potential winners for the Rumble.  It was obvious to me that with all of these different pieces that WWE wanted to build up the Rumble as just as important as the other big three pay per views, which had already debuted as annual pay per view traditions.

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As for the Rumble match itself, believe it or not, this one ranks up there as one of the most unpredictable Rumbles of all time to this day.  Remember, at the time, the Royal Rumble was not for the main event spot at Wrestlemania.  Therefore, with no clear reward for the winner, WWE was allowed to take a chance with the winner.  If you look at some of the Royal Rumble participants, it reads like a late 1980s who’s who of talent.  Huge stars like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Curt Hennig, Andre The Giant, Jake Roberts, and The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, to name a few, were all in the Rumble this year and you know what? None of them went on to win this match.  Instead, the winner of the match was Big John Studd who had just returned from a 2 year retirement a few months prior, turning face in the process.  The Studd win came out of nowhere as he didn’t even have a match at Wrestlemania 5 and would be gone from the WWF just six months after this.  While it was really cool to see someone win out of nowhere, looking back it would have been nice to see Ted Dibiase get the win.  He was such a hot heel and always seemed to be right there to get that tip top spot (Wrestlemania 4, 1988 Main Event, the Royal Rumble 1989) but never quite seemed to get over the top for a variety of reasons.

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There were also a couple of Rumble themes that debuted with this show. The first theme of course was that there were no friends and only enemies in the Royal Rumble.  This was no truer than Ax of Demolition drawing number 1 and Smash of Demolition drawing number 2 and then actually wrestling each other until teaming back up when Andre The Giant entered at Number 3.  Speaking of Andre he introduced us to our next theme of everyone in the ring coming together to try and eliminate the big guy in the match.  This always made for a nice visual and never quite worked with Andre who eliminated himself due his fear of snakes after Jake Roberts threw his snake back into the ring.  As stated earlier, there wasn’t anything on the line in the Rumble but that didn’t mean that this Rumble didn’t have major implications on Wrestlemania later that year.  The aforementioned Andre The Giant and Jake The Snake Roberts would go on to have at match at Wrestlemania but we would also see a bit of hype for that year’s Wrestlemania main event.  This was still during the year long build for the Hulk Hogan/ Randy Savage match at Wrestlemania 5 when the two were still teaming as the Mega Powers.  The tension between the two would continue to build throughout the year and nearly reached a climax here as Hogan would accidentally eliminate Savage.  Looking back, why was Savage the heel in this feud?  Hogan was always being the one to screw Savage over!

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Aside from the Rumble, the one thing that I remember most from this show was actually the posedown between Rick Rude and The Ultimate Warrior.  This was one of the silliest segments I can remember, even more hokey than the Dino Bravo bench press from the year prior, but as a kid I watched this segment almost everytime I rented this tape.  This was during the time period where the WWF was at its peak with the larger than life bodybuilder types on the top of the card.  This was still over a year before Vince McMahon would launch the World Bodybuilding Federation but you could tell how passionate he was about Bodybuilding with segments like these.  Jesse Ventura was classic again in this segment really putting over each pose.  Unlike the year before, the Ultimate Warrior was now on the rise in WWE and was likely held out of the Rumble match so that he could be protected and given his own segment.  While it may have been hokey, it was cool to see WWE doing something different and the result of this posedown would be the start of the Ultimate Warrior/ Rick Rude feud that would last over a year and give the Ultimate Warrior some of the best matches of his career.

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Well that’s going to do it for the Royal Rumble 1989, tomorrow we will look back at the Royal Rumble 1990 as Hulkamania runs wild, the Rumble theme song debuts, A familiar voice calls the action  and the Hammer Jammer? Until then, what were some of your favorite memories of the Royal Rumble 1989?!

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The Rumble of the Royal Rumble- 1988

Hello and Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to the new launch of thedailyspotlight.com for the year of 2017.  I appreciate everyone checking us out and promise that while, 2016 was just a really hectic year for me, and honestly a really tough year,  I’m ready to jump back into this website full tilt during 2017 and give this a real go. One of the big things that I plan on doing is the countdown to the Royal Rumble series.  It just so happens that the 30th annual Royal Rumble takes place on January 29th and so that gives us 29 days of January to look back at all of the other Royal Rumble events and present them in as grave detail as I can.  We’ll look back at the events from a historical perspective citing quotes and information from Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter among other sources while also giving you guys full results and thoughts of some of the highlights from the Rumble show itself.  Then as we get deeper into our month long discussion of the Royal Rumble through the years, I’ll give you guys a bit of backstory as to what I remember about the shows, watching as a fan.  We’ll get into some of my personal memories of the shows including 3 different Royal Rumble events that I attended live and some other shows that I came damn close to attending which have some fun backstories attached to those as well.  Of course, I did get this idea from the Lapsed Fan Wrestling Podcast which I have waxed poetic about and cannot recommend enough to any type of wrestling fan that there is.  They have covered every Starrcade and Wrestlemania at length (each podcast generally runs between 4-9 hours and is totally worth checking out) and with Wrestlemania they did one podcast per week about each one of the Wrestlemanias leading up to Wrestlemania 31.  What it did for me that year was really provide an unprecedented trip down memory lane and also provided a ton of great hype for Wrestlemania that year.  That’s what I hope to accomplish here for the Royal Rumble.  Of course, I don’t want this to be this to be all about me, moving forward I’d like you to get involved too.  Go ahead and send me your Royal Rumble feedback over on Twitter @TommyOnTheSpot or in the comment section below.  I’ll update this section of the post each day to let you know the different ways to get involved.

The Rumble has always been my favorite WWE show of the year.  While it may not have some of the glitz and glamour of a Wrestlemania, the Royal Rumble is the reason that I became a wrestling fan.  30 of the top WWE superstars taking turns coming into the ring at evenly timed intervals for usually over an hour long match was just as good as it got.  You never knew who was going to win or, in most cases, who was even going to show up.  I have so many memories of sitting with a group filled with 10+ family and friends crammed into a living room all shouting the “10-9-8…” countdown while anticipation for the next superstar grew with each second.  Without any further ado let’s get this month long celebration started by taking a look back at the Royal Rumble 1988.

Royal Rumble 1988

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January 24th, 1988- Copps Coliseum Hamilton, On

Results

Ricky Steamboat defeated Rick Rude by disqualification

The Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki) defeated The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin and Leilani Kai) (c) (with Jimmy Hart) in a Two out of three falls match for the WWF Women’s Tag Team Championship

Jim Duggan won by last eliminating One Man Gang in the 20-man Royal Rumble match

The Islanders (Haku and Tama) defeated The Young Stallions (Paul Roma and Jim Powers) in a Two out of three falls match

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Before we get started with the actual event.  It’s probably important that we look back at a bit of a history on the Royal Rumble.  For those who don’t know, the Rumble was a concept created by WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson, while there was actually one other Rumble held at a live event in 1987, the Royal Rumble 1988 was the first one to be televised and it wasn’t on pay per view but rather aired live on the USA Network.  The story goes that in November of 1987, the NWA ran Starrcade 1987 live on pay per view.  When Vince McMahon heard this, he decided to present the first ever Survivor Series on the very same night.  Furthermore, McMahon told the pay per view companies that if they aired Starrcade over the Survivor Series, they would not be able to air Wrestlemania 4 the following spring.  This was coming fresh off the heels of the success of Wrestlemania 3 and so many of the pay per view companies didn’t want to lose the rights to air Wrestlemania 4 and so few aired Starrcade.  This did, however, upset many of the pay per view companies and the companies urged both the WWF and the NWA never to air pay per views on the same night again since it would split the audience that the companies were going after to buy pay per views.  Fast forward now 3 months later and the NWA is running the Bunkhouse Stampede 1988 live on pay per view on January 24th, 1988.  Knowing that running a pay per view live on the same night would upset the pay per view companies, the WWF decided to run the first ever Royal Rumble on cable TV up against the Bunkhouse Stampede.  This gave wrestling fans, in essence, a free alternative if they didn’t want to pay for the pay per view.

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As for the Royal Rumble event itself, I mean look up at the results above, the show left a bit to be desired if you’re comparing it to the loaded Rumble show that’s going to air later this month.  This was actually a show that I don’t think was even available for purchase until 2007 when WWE released the Royal Rumble Anthology and so I didn’t even see this show until that set was released (it seems that Coliseum Video did make a VHS of the tape but I never recall seeing this at any Blockbuster Video or Palmer Video, remember Palmer Video?).  The Royal Rumble match only had 20 participants and the match took place before the main event, which was a largely forgettable 2 out of 3 falls tag team match between the Young Stallions and the Islanders.

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The main focus on the show moreso than even the Rumble match, was the contract signing between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant promoting their Wrestlemania 3 rematch that the main event live on NBC some two weeks later.  The rematch was a big deal because at the time Andre had been saying for months that he actually pinned Hogan during their Wrestlemania 3 match on Hogan’s failed bodyslam attempt and there was a good amount of controversy about the finish that was played up on WWE television over the next 9 months.  It sounds crazy to think that a contract signing would be built up as the focal point of a show, with signings taking place so often nowadays and with the signings almost always resulting in a brawl.  That said, at the time, Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan were such big stars and there wasn’t too many big TV shows so a promoted appearances by both men at the same place at the same time was a big deal.  Of course the signing would result in a big melee but this did lead to Andre The Giant winning the title at The Main Event and selling it to Ted Dibiase leading to the tournament for the belt at Wrestlemania 4.  I guess even back in 1988, the Royal Rumble really did lead to the road to Wrestlemania.

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As for the Rumble match the most surprising thing for me the first time I saw the match was that the Ultimate Warrior was in the match.  I had never even realized that the Warrior was in the WWF so early in 1988 and looking back at the match he’s a complete after thought.  Warrior comes in and is quickly disposed in under 4 minutes by The One Man Gang and Dino Bravo.  Since this Rumble did not provide the winner with any actual reward like it does today, via a world title match at Wrestlemania, I’m surprised that the Warrior wasn’t the guy chosen to the win the Rumble as it would have highlighted him in a big way.  The winner of the match ended up being Hacksaw Jim Duggan who won the match when the One Man Gang ended up eliminating himself.  I’d say that Duggan and Jake Roberts were the two guys that people were into the most.  If there’s one takeaway from the match, it was probably that this was first time that Bret Hart was highlighted as a singles talent on WWE television.  He lasted the longest in the match and had the first of many long runs for the guy who drew number 1 that we would see for many years of the Royal Rumble.

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One last thing I really remember from this show was the silly Bench Press Challenge that featured Dino Bravo trying to break the bench press record of 715 pounds.  This was pretty hokey (nothing compared to the bodybuilding posedown at the next year’s Rumble but we’ll get to that tomorrow) but I remember being interested in this because it explained why Bravo was always referred to “Canadian Strongman” Dino Bravo during my first memories of watching in 1990-1991 when Bravo was mostly an enhancement talent.  It was nice to see that they put so much effort into character development back then and the segment really showed Jesse Ventura at his best as a heel commentator in how much he helped to enhance some of the villains.

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Well that’s going to do it for me here today as for the first day of the Rumble of the Royal Rumble…tomorrow we’ll travel back to 1989 where we had the most surprising rumble winner in history.  Until then, what are your favorite memories of the Royal Rumble 1988?

The Spotlight on WWE’s United Kingdom Championship Tournament 

Well the world of WWE never stops, that’s for sure. Following three straight days of programming on the USA Network, touted as “WWE Week” and capped off by the annual “Tribute To The Troops” special last night, WWE held a press conference live in London, England this morning. At that press conference, WWE COO, Paul Levesque (Triple H) announced that WWE would be crowning it’s first ever United Kingdom champion as a two day, 16 man tournament will be taking place between the weekend of January 14th and 15th. The tournament will air live on the WWE Network and take place at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool, England (Home of NXT Commissioner William Regal) and will feature the following 16 competitors Trent Seven, Jack Starz, Pete Dunne, Wolfgang, Roy Johnson, Sam Gradwell, James Drake, Jordan Devlin, Tyler Bate, Joseph Conners, Tyson T. Bone, HC Dyer, Dan Moloney, Chris Tyler, Saxon Huxley, Ringo Ryan, Tiger Ali and Tucker. It would appear that two of these men will be alternatives, though it was not announced who.  
Probably the coolest announcement, at least to me, was that former Ring of Honor Champion Nigel McGuiness would be brought in to co host the tournament and work with Michael Cole on calling the event. For those unfamiliar with Nigel’s story, he was seen as one of Ring Of Honor’s biggest stars having unbelievable matches with Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) from 2005-2009. In September of 2009, it was announced that both McGuiness and Danielson would be leaving Ring of Honor as they had agreed, in principal, to a deal with WWE. The two had one last match against one another at Glory By Honor 8 on September 26th, 2009 before the two left for WWE, a show I attended live and was one of the most emotional shows I ever got to see live. In the end, Danielson would sign his deal with WWE but WWE never did offer the deal to McGuiness due to a biceps injury that came up during his medical pre screening. Thus, for me, it’s really great to see Nigel getting a shot to work for WWE in this capacity.  
No official press release has been released as of this writing as the press conference just ended a few hours ago but you can see video of the press conference including Levesque’s announcement as well as comments by Finn Balor, who attended the conference along with Leveque and William Regal on both WWE’s official facebook page and on their twitter @WWE.  
You have to give WWE credit for always looking for new and unique ways to offer something for everyone, particularly on the WWE Network. Last year the WWE launched the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic which aired on NXT and lead to WWE bringing in independent talent to compete in the tag team tournament, including current NXT Tag Team Champions, DIY! This past year has seen WWE launch the Cruiserweight Classic tournament featuring 32 of the best cruiserweights from around the world. This ended up leading to the return of the cruiserweight division on Raw and a show dedicated to the cruiserweights, 205 Live, that airs on the WWE Network live on Tuesday nights. At the end of the day, wrestling in the UK is a completely different style that really hasn’t ever fully been seen in WWE and so it will be nice to see WWE put a focus on this brand of wrestling and provide the platform for the UK’s wrestling scene through this tournament.  
There is no word as to what the future of the UK champion will be following this tournament but we will update that information as soon as we know anything. 

Birthday Mania Part 1- The Daily Spotlight for 10/28

Well I’m back…and I’m better than ever…

Ok I won’t give you my rendition of Eric Bischoff’s 2003 WWE theme but it really is great to be back with all of you on thedailysptolight.com.  I apologize for the brief hiatus but this has literally been one of the craziest and most fun months of my recent years.  For one, I’m now 30 which is scary as all hell but I will say that my loved ones totally stepped it up and really knocked it out of the park to make my birthday one for the ages.  I’ll be completey honest I was going through a stage where I was walking around with a massive chip on my shoulder, some wouldn’t have even been wrong to say that I had become quite the curmudgeon from time to time over the past year or so.  Thus, when my brithday was approaching this year I really didn’t want to acknowledge it.  Frankly, I contemplated changing my bday date on Facebook just so I wouldn’t need to go through all that trouble of trying to figure out who all of the people were who replied with the “Happy Birthday” formalized comment that facebook allows you to auto enter or “reply 1” to say happy birthday on the facebook app.  This was certainly not the way that I had always been about my birthday as for years I used to set up a week’s worth of different events from a pre party, to a family party to a best friends dinner leading up to a huge drunken blowoff that often ended with my friends and I being asked to leave the beer gardens, sometimes not even asked.  But this year birthday mania ceased to exist.
It all started when my buddy Joe had a 30th birthday party that his girlfriend and mother put together for him back in September.  There was a big barbecue filled with all of his closest friends and family.  He had family members at every turn, 30 year old decorations hung up all over the place, a table full of his closest childhood friends, a table full of his friends he had met through his wife and…me! I’ve always been a huge fan of nostalgia and this party was full of it.  It was also the first time that I ever considered doing something for my 30th.
Over the next week or two I tried to coordinate schedules and put feelers out there to people seeing if they’d come or where I could even have an event.  If I’m being completely honest, it was pretty darn stressful.  I realized pretty quickly that times had changed from the days where you’d be able to plan an event at a moment’s notice and everyone would be ready to party on a Friday afternoon.  Many of my friends and family moved far away and the one’s around here had families now or demanding jobs that just would not allow for them to be able to come hang out, not even for a 30th birthday (the mantra of avoid excuses had been all for naught!).  I eventually gave up figuring that it wasn’t worth it to have the event and understanding fully why joe’s party was planned by his mother and wife.
The week of my birthday I had made a plan with Eri, my mom, sister and Eri’s brother Deej to head on out to Aunt Bella’s for my birthday.  The place has always been a family favorite  it’s always good to get away with the family.  I knew this was going to be a tough year as it was also the first birthday without my father.  Each year I would always look forward to his midnight calls and his reflection about how old he and i were getting as we would both groan.  When the clock struck 12 at midnight, my phone exploded with text messages and phone calls from friends and family the like (many of whom did not even know of the tradition) as my mom and sister brought out a cake.  From there my phone was non stop as I was able to chat with people all day long and catch up with folks who called for my birthday.  Many know I’m an old school guy who appreciates a good phone call and this was just great.  When I got to work my boss was waiting there with a bag of sour patch kids ( my fav) and for the first time ever social media really came through.  I’ve been hard on the Facebook birthday shout out as it’s very impersonal and if someone sent me a birthday shoutout, I’d honestly not even read them all.  I’d even grown tired of the generic “thank you all for the birthday wishes” mandatory post that has to go out at the end of the day. But this year was different.  My buddies Steve, James, LP and, of course, Eri put out just incredible social media tributes and I got a lot of messages from people I had not seen in a long time but always wanted to reconnect with (one of which was a guy I knew in college, Mike, who served our country for many years and I always enjoyed his workout tips that he’d post for years as they really helped me when I dropped some 60 pounds back in 2008.  He left me a message and I was able to thank him for service, something that I felt good doing and it was something I wanted to do for a long time).  Dinner was also outstanding as we know the folks at Aunt Bellas well and they seemed as excited for my bday as I was quickly becoming. We had a great meal where I remember really picking mom’s brain about how much she remembered from giving birth to yours truly some 30 years ago.  When we got back home Mom revealed that for my birthday she had booked a trip for the five of us to go away for a weekend to the camelback lodge in the Poconos which longtime readers know I’ve always been fond of.  It was just an incredible day that reinvigorated my birthday spirit (I feel like Walter Hobbs after a month with Buddy The Elf).  So much so….
That I decided when I woke up Friday morning that, hell, with exactly one day of notice I would try to put together a last-minute birthday party for myself!  This was going to be like old times as I was going to invite all of my buddies and we were going to drink until they sent us home!  Not only that but I was going to ask that all of my friends converge out in Poughkeepsie (about 30 miles from me)! For about a year I had heard about this place called the Brickhouse Brewery and so due to my love of a good craft beer and my disregard for anyone’s convenience, we were on our way!   This was going to be awesome…Birthday Mania was truly running wild brother!  There was nothing that would slow me down baybay!! Well, not exactly…
To be continued tomorrow

The Spotlight NFL Picks Against The Spread-Week 1 Thursday Night Football

Dum Dum Dum Dum! Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum….
No? Alright sorry I was trying to do the football theme. I apologize as I can’t help but feel a little excited as tonight the NFL is back! For those of you who have not heard the big announcement over on the youtube channel earlier this morning, thedailyspotlight.com is going to really become your one stop source for all things NFL. Every week, we are going to bring you The Football Drive, a football car vlog, twice a week every week throughout the NFL season. The Football Drive will be presented every Thursday and Friday right here on thedailysptolight.com and on the official youtube page of the daily spotlight, which you can subscribe to right here. Thursday’s episode will focus on your best advice for an NFL survivor pool. Many people participate in these pools and they are a lot of fun. Then on Friday’s I’ll be back with the Football Drive looking at the top NFL Picks Against The Spread choosing 7 games every single week given to you absolutely free of charge. If you followed along last season you know that I take these very serious and had a pretty good winning percentage agaisnt the spread last year. That’s not all though, every week I’ll also be dropping columns right here on thedailyspotlight.com looking at each one pf the NFL primetime games against the spread, which is probably why you’re all hereright now. Lastly, in honor of NFL kickoff, I’ll be dropping NFL preview columns every day of the weekend predicting every one of the divisions. From who’s going to finish dead last, to your divsiion winners all the way up to the next Superbowl Champions. This is going to be a lot of fun and I want it to be as interactive as possible so if you have any questions related to all things NFL, feel free to drop them in the comments section below or over at Twitter @TommyOnTheSpot. Without any further ado, let’s get right into tonight’s game.
Carolina Panthers (-3) at Denver Broncos
Not everyday you see a team heading to Mile High and walking in as the favorite but that is the case of the reigning NFL MVP, Cam Newton and company tonight. I’ll be honest, when I first heard about Denver’s plan this offseason, to sign Mark Sanchez, I was mildly impressed. Look, these are the defending champs, they have the best defense in the league, they’re coached very well and have great veteran wide receivers to boot. All the Denver really needed was a veteran presence at quarterback and they’d like be right back there competing for a title next year. Then they inexplicably cut Sanchez and decided to go with a guy in Trevor Semian, who only has one NFL kneel to his credit. Now, rather than a game manager at quarterback, the Broncos have an inexperienced quarterback who will likely cost them games.  
On the other side of the ball we have Cam Newton coming off a career year and the Carolina Panthers who are out for revenge. The Panthers, admittedly are goign to struggle in their secondary without Josh Norman but their front seven is going to be coming for Semian all night long and will knock him off his game, especially early. The Panthers also get back their number one wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin who they were able to go 15-1 without him last year and his return should take a little bit of the pressure off Cam Newton to feel like he has to do it all.  
The Panthers won’t go 15-1 again this year, but they’ll get off to a good start tonight, take the Panthers and swallow the points.  
THE PICK: The Panthers (-3)