Tonight, two Original Six rivals battle for the final time as division/conference foes in a game 7 matchup for the ages to determine who will face the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals.

What a fitting end to one of the greatest rivalries in the NHL.

Thanks to the Atlanta Thrashers relocating in 2012 to Winnipeg and the revival of the Jets franchise, conference realignment will take place next season, and the Red Wings will finally get what they want – a move to the Eastern Conference. While this means that the Wings will no longer have to travel west frequently for match-ups out of their time zone, it will put a halt on one of the NHL’s fiercest and greatest rivalries. This will presumably be the final postseason game between the Hawks and Wings, barring an epic clash in a future Stanley Cup final.

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings have played more regular season games than any two franchises in history – only the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins have played more head-to-head contests overall. The Red Wings once went 40+ years without a championship, but since 1997, they have won four Stanley Cups. With 11 championships in total, they are the second-most successful team in the NHL. As dominant as they have been in recent years, including making the postseason in 23 consecutive seasons, the Blackhawks have revived their franchise and fan base since the death of greedy owner Bill Wirtz in 2007. With a new front office committed to winning, key free agent signings, the growth of home-grown talent in Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith, and two star draft picks in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Hawks have become one of the most popular franchises in hockey, erasing a 49-year drought and winning the Stanley Cup in 2010.

They’ve met in 15 postseason series before this season, with Chicago holding an 8-7 advantage. Twice before has there been a Game 7 between the Hawks and Wings – both during the Original Six era, when the winner went to the Stanley Cup Finals. The teams were once owned by James Norris, whose name not only bears the trophy awarded to the league’s top defenseman, but was once the name of the legendary division these two teams once shared. Many players have donned both iconic sweaters, to much success. Chicagoan Chris Chelios was a beloved captain in the 1990s for the Blackhawks before accepting a trade to the rival Red Wings and winning two Stanley Cups. After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals to Detroit as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Marian Hossa traded his black for red and white and signed with Detroit for the 2008-09 season, only to lose in the Finals to his former team. That offseason, he signed with the Blackhawks, and won the Stanley Cup in 2010.

It’s your typical Chicago-Detroit rivalry. Two cities, separated by 283 miles, with two rabid fan bases, who flood  the opposing arena with pride and passion for their hockey team. Chants of “Detroit Sucks” roared inside the old Chicago Stadium and have since found its way to the new Madhouse on Madison across the street. Meanwhile, octopuses have been flung onto the ice at the Joe in Detroit, as it was in The Old Red Barn. As heated of a rivalry as it is for the players, it’s just as much, if not more, of a rivalry to its great fans.

This season has been, in essence, The Chicago Blackhawks Show. In a shortened 48-game season due to the player lockout, the Hawks went the first half of the season without a loss in regulation. The record of 21-0-3 was one that fans all over the NHL could be captivated with, and caught the eye of the similar-streaking Miami Heat. Chicago cruised through the regular season and finished with the best record in the league and won the Presidents Trophy. Detroit, on the other hand, had to fight to keep their playoff hopes alive. After the retirement of defenseman Niklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings struggled, but were able to win key games down the stretch to earn 57 points and the 7th seed in the playoffs.

The Blackhawks went against an underachieving 8th seed in the Minnesota Wild in the 1st round, and caught a huge break when goalie Niklas Backstrom went down with an injury in game one. After a thrilling overtime win in game one, the Hawks seemed to be in cruise control all series, defeating the Wild in 5. Despite the play of key players in Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, as well as role players like Bryan Bickell stepping up, Chicago failed to get a goal from their two stars – Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Detroit had a much tougher task in the 2nd seeded Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks and Wings traded the first 6 games of the season. 4 of those games went into overtime, with Detroit winning 3 of them. Then in Game 7, the Ducks were anything but mighty as the Red Wings got the stops they needed from Jimmy Howard and advanced to the conference semifinals.

It was as if it was scripted. The final playoff matchup for the foreseeable future between the Hawks and Wings. A dominant young club going up against a team of grizzled veterans. Two future hall-of-fame coaches in Joel Quennville and Mike Babcock, both the leaders in career postseason wins. Despite the great play of the Blackhawks, it was a foregone conclusion that this would be no easy series. The Hawks did sweep the Wings in the regular season 4-0, but 3 of those games went into overtime. Detroit was a squad filled with playoff experience, and although Chicago has had their playoff success, they knew Detroit wouldn’t go down without a fight.

Game 1 wouldn’t be decided until the 3rd period, when Johnny Oduya broke a tie game to rev up the United Center and charge the Blackhawks to a 4-1 win. Game 2, however, was where the tide turned. After Patrick Kane got his first goal of the season in the 1st period, it seemed as if the Hawks were easing their way towards a series victory. However, the Red Wings found their legs, and dominated the 2nd and 3rd periods en route to a 4-1 victory. Back at the Joe, it got no easier for Chicago as the Wings took a 2-0 lead going into the 3rd period. Patrick Kane earned another goal in the 3rd, but after what appeared to be a game-tying goal by Andrew Shaw was nulled due to goalie interference (which replay shows was a bad call), the Wings came back and put the game away for a 3-1 win. Game 4 was much of the same. Jonathan Toews, who had been frustrated by Red Wings centers Henrik Zetterburg and Pavel Datsyuk for 3 games straight, picked up 3 consecutive penalties, as his frustration finally boiled over. A Detroit 2-0 shutout victory put the Hawks on edge, and down 1-3.

With the Hawks playing at their worst, not many gave Chicago a chance to battle back into this series. Detroit was playing as if they were the dominant team all regular season, and the Blackhawks, for the first time all season, faced adversity. However, game 5 in the United Center gave the Hawks hope. In a 1-1 tie in the 2nd period, Andrew Shaw got it past Jimmy Howard to give the Hawks the lead. Then, finally, Jonathan Toews, who had been harassed all series by Zetterburg and Datsyuk, finally found the back of the net, putting it off of Howard’s helmet and into the back of the net. The Hawks won 4-1, and although there was still 2 more games to win, the Hawks had their swagger back.

That swagger was almost lost in game 6. After Marian Hossa found the net early in the 1st period, goalie Corey Crawford let in two Wings goals, the second a knuckler off the stick of Joakim Andersson. Down 2-1 going into the 3rd, the Hawks needed a glimmer of hope. They earned it less than a minute into the period with a goal from Michal Handzus. Then, 5 minutes later, Hossa and Toews were able to find linemate Bryan Bickell for the go-ahead goal. Not too long later, Michael Frolik knocked in a beautiful backhanded wrister on a penalty shot for the game-winning goal. Chicago won 4-3 and forced what seemed to be the unthinkable following game 4 – a game 7 back in Chicago.

So it comes down to 60 minutes of hockey. A game 7 on West Madison Street in Chicago. The revived franchise against the proven veterans. A matchup for the ages. A rivalry that needs a fitting end to an illustrious chapter. This isn’t the end to the Blackhawks/Red Wings rivalry tonight. The teams will meet twice a year and could face each other in a Stanley Cup final in the near future. This is, however, the culmination of a decorated period between the two teams. Blackhawks. Red Wings. There can only be one.

Why?

Because it’s the Cup.

Dictated. Not Read.

The Management.

(All photos courtesy of Timeout Chicago)

5 years ago, I was introduced to a band called Paramore. I remember it so vividly, I can tell you the exact date: Friday, February 15th, 2008. I sat at home sick when I saw a music video on The N (Teenick now) for Paramore’s “crushcrushcrush”. I dug it. It was poppy, the drums were incredible, and the gorgeous melody of that skinny redhead just couldn’t leave my memory.

The following week, I sat at lunch with the people I truly credit for putting me on this band: Verenice and Aaron. From then on, I listened to “Riot!” religiously, then went back and listened to their first album “All We Know is Falling”. I fell in love with Paramore. They were everything the casual fan could love in a band and everything a heavy metal head would hate, but they were so good and their rhythm meshed so well with the lyrics flowing out of Hayley Williams’ sweet, melodic voice. They hit a rough patch, but fixed it (for the meantime) to finish their third album, “brand new eyes”. One year later, guitarist Josh Farro, and his brother, drummer Zac, left the band. The breakup was well documented, but the three remaining members (Hayley, guitarist Taylor York, and bassist Jeremy Davis) stuck together to validate the motto they’ve had all along: Paramore is STILL a band.

I took final exams early so I can return home to Chicago in time for their stop at the world-famous Chicago Theater right in the heart of downtown. I couldn’t miss this show. I mean, how could I after I passed up many opportunities to see them before? In 2008, I missed the Final Riot tour because of football camp. As it turns out, that show was recorded for the live DVD/CD. In 2009, I passed up seeing them once again, to take my then-girlfriend to her homecoming dance. Sure, we broke up 5 months later, but we’re still tight friends right? They haven’t hit Chicago since the Honda Civic Tour in 2010 (which I missed due to leaving very early the next morning to start my freshman year), so it’s been 3 long years since they’ve made their way to the city of Chicago. When they announced the tour in January, I saw that it coincided with finals week for me. If anyone thought finals were gonna win over Paramore, you lost that bet.

Side note: bless the rock God’s for Stubhub. What would’ve been a $60 ticket in January turned into a $28 total charge after fees the day of the show. I’ve never whipped out my 4-year-old Paramore wallet any quicker.

dcff6f54b91211e293e422000a1fbe78_7The opening act for their U.S. leg of the tour is Los Angeles-band Kitten. I showed up late so I missed the start of their set, and I haven’t learned much about them so far, but let’s say that’s gonna change. Kitten is sort-of a beautiful hybrid of other female-fronted bands, like Paramore & the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, complete with an 1980s Eurythmics-like flair. Lead singer Chloë Chaidez is only 18, which spurns the comparisons to Hayley Williams & the lead singer of The Pretty Reckless, Taylor Momsen. She’s just as energetic on the stage as Hayley, if not more, with the voice of a Lacey Mosley and the backing band of something out of a vintage 1986 movie.

Their single, “Cut It Out”, off their EP of the same name, stole their set with Chaidez bouncing throughout the entire auditorium. Their performance of “G#”, a song which helped get the band more exposure after being featured on FIFA 13, allowed Chaidez to showcase her vocal range before transition into a short but really good cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”. Chaidez was all over the place: singing atop a high speaker on the side of the stage, running up the middle of the crowd, even playfully putting her heel on top of a security guard and not missing a note. You can tell this is a band relishing in the moment. After 3 years of hard work and playing in front of small crowds at bars, they finally made it to a big stage, opening for a big band, and they are fully aware that this may be their big break. They were on Time Magazine’s 11 albums to look out for in 2013 list, and with a deal with Elektra Records, a full-length album due out later in the year, and a co-sign from one of the top bands of today, Kitten is on the rise and will be reaching stardom in no time.

After a 25-minute intermission, the band finally took the stage as Taylor strummed the heart-torn strings of “Moving On” on his ukulele while Williams acoustically poured her soul out as amazingly as she does in the studio.  The band, along with their touring members, then ripped into the fan-favorite “Misery Business”, once the band’s epic finale, now the show’s opener, and a sign of reflection on their great, albeit shaky, past as they forge on to an even brighter future. The band’s front-woman, rocking a gray sports bra and tight black leggings (I’m holding back my thirst while writing this) twirled around stage in all her head-banging glory as Davis and York sprinted across stage (many times I might add) not missing a beat, as clear when they executed an over-the-back flip during their first album hit “Pressure” (I hear Jeremy actually broke his foot on the spot and kept playing. No confirmation). The rock-ish riffs and thunderous percussions blended perfectly with the dynamic presence of Hayley Williams, who, at times, didn’t need to sing as she let the energetic sold-out crowd lead the way through their standout “Whoa” and “Ain’t It Fun”, which they dubbed their favorite off the new album.

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Hayley Williams is a gem of an artist. Performance-wise? She’s everything live what I imagined her to be: bouncy, sexy, sweet, and animated. Her voice at times shows that it isn’t perfect, as a few notes on one of her vocal masterpieces “The Only Exception” didn’t hit as they should have. Nonetheless, her voice is still damn near extraordinary. In the standout track from Paramore’s self-titled album “Still Into You”, Williams pours her heart out through her boisterous pipes as if she’s one of the teenaged girls in the audience singing into their hairbrush rocking PJ’s and jumping around her room. Vivid description I know. But it is songs like “Still Into You” that allow Williams to show off that range and stay as bubbly and exuberant as possible. She let some fans up on stage to help sing the two-minute angst-heavy “Anklebiters”, roared through the show’s new finale, “Brick By Boring Brick”, and was met with long, deafening applause after the band’s performance of the new album’s lead single, “Now”, which the audience sang back as if it was the song of a generation.

Paramore.Music15“We’ve had our ups and downs. Maybe you know about it and maybe you don’t,” was the only reference to the band’s highly publicized split from the Farro Brothers all night, before segway-ing into the head-thrashing “Ignorance”. Just like the move of “Misery Business” to the show’s opening song, this was an ode (and a bit of a subliminal shot) to their past and how they’ve put their past (and the Farro’s) behind them. The same sentiments could be felt throughout their crowd-jumping performance of “Looking Up”, and while it was released while the Farro’s were still members of Paramore, the lyrics “I can’t believe we almost hung it up. We’re just getting started” rings more true today than it did in 2009. Hayley referenced how their first show in Chicago was at the Beat Kitchen, a small music venue in Roscoe Village where they played back in 2006. Seven years later, they were headlining and selling out the infamous Chicago Theater. Hayley did her best Drake impression in saying “Started from the Beat Kitchen, now we’re here.” But it’s true. Paramore has come a long way from playing in smaller venues, and even from playing in open venues, to now playing in theaters. They’ve had their good times and they’ve shaken off a near breakup (twice) and, after their first number one album, are on top of the world. The Farro’s may be gone, but the growth in the music of this now-trio is impeccable. No longer do they straddle the line between pop, punk, and emo. The split and subsequent time to regroup allowed the band to take a risk, delve into different sounds, and find their niche, only to realize their newfound strength is in the diversity of their music. Paramore is no longer pop, punk, or emo. They are everything you’d want in a rock band, and for a band that was on the verge of extinction close to three years ago, this is a beautiful, fulfilling thing.

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5 years later, I feel great to say that I’m still in love with this band like I was when I was in high school.

Dictated, Not Read.

The Management.

Side-note: continue to check in with TooChillHipHop.com for ALL of my articles involving urban music, and keep that internet radio dial tuned to 88.3 The Dog, live at 883thedog.com.

We’re on the Road to WrestleMania XXIX, and with a month and until the superstars of WWE appear on the grandest stage of them all, we’ll count down the XXIX (since it’s WrestleMania, we’ll use roman numerals) greatest matches in WrestleMania history.

These matches aren’t solely decided on by the in-ring action, but the spots, the heat from the crowd, the moments, the build-up, and the long-lasting legacy these matches have left on sports-entertainment. Earlier, we named Rock/Austin III as the 26th greatest WrestleMania match of all time. The match at number 25 is a battle of superpowers, when the two biggest stars in the WWE in the late 1980s collided head-to-head. Number 25 in the XXIX for XXIX series is when the Mega Powers exploded.

25. Hulk Hogan vs. Macho Man Randy Savage
WWE Championship
WrestleMania V (1989)

The Background

The seeds for Hogan vs. Savage at WrestleMania V for planted one year earlier at the same venue, Trump Plaza, during WrestleMania IV. Before Mania, Hogan lost his WWE Championship after a 4-year reign in a WrestleMania III rematch with André The Giant. André then sold the title to the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase. DiBiase’s reign is not in the record books, however, as President Jack Tunney declared that the WWE Championship cannot be bought, sold, or procured. Therefore, the title went vacant, and a championship tournament was held at WrestleMania to declare the Undisputed champion. Although Hogan and André fought to a draw, both the Million Dollar Man and Macho Man Randy Savage made their way to the finals. With both André and Hulk at ringside, the Macho Man became the Undisputed WWE Champion.

From then on, Hogan and Savage formed a tag team called “The Mega Powers”. They would infamously defeat the tag team of André and DiBiase at the inaugural Summerslam in 1988. Savage began to get jealous of how increasingly close Hulk was getting to his manager, Miss Elizabeth. It finally came to a head at Saturday Night’s Main Event, when Hogan left a tag team match to carry an injured Elizabeth backstage and tend to her. Savage came backstage and viciously attacked Hogan, turning him heel and setting up this championship main event.

The Match

If you’re a wrestling fan, you’re well aware of both Hogan and Savage’s wrestling styles. Hogan is a power guy. He’s not a good in-ring wrestler, but he thrives off spots, the moment, and the energy of the crowd. Macho Man is a technician. One of the better technicians of the 80s. Not to mention he was one of the revolutionary high flyers in WWE. Savage has had to work a match and make his opponent look great on many occasions. This was one.

Savage took advantage early, attempting to wear down Hogan with his speed, off the top rope attacks, and ground attacks. It seemed to do a good job before Hulk flung the Macho Man out of the ring by his tights while caught in a head lock. Hogan begins to beat down on Savage, with several punches and clotheslines, before Savage once again counters an irish whip and hits Hulk with a clothesline, cutting him open. Back to the ground holds he goes. Great pacing of the match around 10 minutes in as Hogan, nearly worn down, breaks out of the hold and hits Savage with an atomic drop. Macho Man avoids an elbow drop, drives Hogan head first into the turnbuckle, and cradles Hulk for a two-count. Once again, Savage is on the attack, targeting the cut above the Hulkster’s eye.

 

While Macho panders to the crowd, he slaps Hogan, wasting time and allowing him to Hulk up. Hogan shows a pure feat of strength by body slamming the Macho Man to the outside of the ring. Elizabeth goes over to help her man, but Savage fends her away and pulls Hogan out of the ring. Savage rakes the eyes of Hogan, but Hogan gets back on the offensive quick. As he’s going to ram Macho Man into the ring post, Elizabeth stands in his way, enabling Savage to reverse it and send Hogan into the post, almost hitting Elizabeth. She then tends to Hogan before Savage throws her off of him and shoves her up the ramp while Earl Hebner throws her out. The amazing story of this, somewhat, “love triangle” shines in this match. Elizabeth is torn between the two. She wants to help both men, and Savage’s jealousy is on display perfectly in the match.

Savage continues to take down Hulk with a forearm off the top rope to the outside. Savage attacks the throat of Hulk, elbowing the esophagus of the Hulkster and choking him with his wrist tape. Savage goes up top and hits the elbow, but Hogan kicks out! In typical Hulk fashion, he hulks up, knocks Savage with three to the head, catches him with a big boot, and then hits the leg drop to get the 1-2-3 and become a 2-time WWE Champion.

The Aftermath

Hulk Hogan would hold the WWE Championship for another year before dropping it to the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI. He would continue feuding with Savage for the better part of a year, most notably at the 1989 Summerslam when he teamed with Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, “The Mega-Maniacs” as they would be called, to take on Randy Savage and his partner, Zeus (Deebo from the Friday series). Miss Elizabeth would be in the corner of Hulk’s team for the match.

Savage would become King of the Ring in September of 1989 and become the Macho King. Elizabeth was replaced as his manager by Sensational Sherri, and  Savage would beet Hogan once more on The Main Event, a month before WrestleMania VI, where he lost a WWE Championship match and was punched out by then-boxing champion Buster Douglas. He would meet Miss Elizabeth on several occasions while being managed by Sherri. During a tag team match against Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire, The American Dream brought out the first lady of the WWE to be in his corner. He then feuded with the Ultimate Warrior, who defeated him in a Career Threatening match at WrestleMania VII. Afterwards, Sherri began to kick the Macho Man while he was down, forcing Miss Elizabeth to jump from her seat into the crowd and stop the madness, bringing the pair back together once again and leading to their on-screen marraige at Summerslam in 1991.

Hogan and Savage have a rich history. From the Mega Powers to their championship bouts, from the NWO days to personal differences. You can’t bring up one without bringing up the other. In fact, of the Macho Man’s 4 championship reigns (2 WWE, 2 WCW), he has twice lost the championship to Hogan (WrestleMania V, as well as once in WCW). They have produced one of the greatest, best-told rivalries in wrestling, and whether they were on good terms upon Savage’s untimely death in 2011 or not, the duo always made for entertaining television.