Q&A: A Sopranos Head Coach for Rutgers; Best IC Champs

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HBO grew into the hub for critically acclaimed, mature TV it is today thanks to one series: The Sopranos.

With all due respect to OZ — or Dream On or Spawn, if those were your sorta thing — The Sopranos was the first series that made HBO must-subscribe television.

This week’s edition of CFB Huddle Q&A borrows from the popularity of the gangland crime drama to inject life into Rutgers football ahead of its third season of Big Ten membership.

The obvious answer here here is Tony Soprano, played brilliantly by the late James Gandolfini. Gandolfini was a Rutgers alum and very public supporter of the Scarlet Knights football program, appearing on the sidelines and in commercials for season tickets.

As patriarch of the DiMeo/Soprano Crime Family, Tony Soprano has the experience overseeing an intricate outfit with many moving parts, and sometimes unpredictable personalities. If that doesn’t describe the work of a college football head coach, I don’t know what does.

A head coach is only as good as his support staff, so let’s go into the Sopranos universe for assistants, shall we?

The mad man of the Sopranos syndicate, Paulie Walnut’s demonstrated ability to adapt and contribute no matter the circumstances make him an ideal defensive coordinator. His quirks manifest in a scheme that functions just as well against the traditional offense employed at Michigan State as the unconventional, uptempo style Kevin Wilson favors for Indiana.

Though he rose through the ranks of the Family quickly, Paulie never showed the capacity nor the desire to be the boss. His loyalty to Tony throughout the series’ run means Rutgers won’t have to rebuild around a new coordinator.

Before his coma in the final season, Silvio Dante served as The Sopranos‘ primary muscle. His no-nonsense approach and aggressive nature manifest here in a hard-hitting, old-school offensive scheme that would play well in the Big Ten.

Tony’s more at risk of losing Silvio to a head gig than he is Paulie Walnuts. Silvio’s more grounded and better suited to life as a boss. However, he’d retain a connection with his former employer in much the same way current Rutgers head coach Chris Ash and former colleague Urban Meyer are teaming up with a satellite camp to combat Jim Harbaugh’s arrival in New Jersey this summer.

5. HONKY TONK MAN

Ricky “The Dragon” won the Intercontinental Championship in the most celebrated match of the title’s history. The man to whom he lost it — the Honky Tonk Man — dropped the belt in one of most infamous title losses in wrestling history.

Despite getting squashed in seconds by the Ultimate Warrior, the Honky Tonk Man ranks as one of the best IC champions ever for the red-hot heel heat he generated as champion. He bragged of being “the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all-time” despite lacking the in-ring prowess of predecessors Greg Valentine, Tito Santana, Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat. He cheated at every turn, and he somehow made an Elvis impersonator gimmick work.

4. CHRIS JERICHO

Chris Jericho deserves inclusion if for no other reason than he’s held the IC belt a record nine times. Only Jeff Jarrett and Rob Van Dam at six a piece come close.

Number of reigns aside, Jericho had plenty of memorable moments with the belt. His match against William Regal kicked off WrestleMania X7, setting the tone for what is unanimously considered the greatest WrestleMania of all-time, and his series of matches with Chris Benoit that same year ranked among WWF’s best.

3. RANDY SAVAGE

Randysavage

Think of Randy Savage’s WWF tenure like Elvis’ run atop the music industry — and not the Honky Tonk Man, but the actual King. Elvis is known in two distinct looks: the young Elvis in a velvet jacket with perfectly quaffed hair, and the older, jumpsuit-wearing Elvis.

Older Randy Savage is remembered for his tassel-armed jackets, complementing either a psychedelic-colored cowboy hat or crown. The classic version Randy Savage rocked a headband, tights with three stars, a long, flowing robe…and the Intercontinental Championship.

2. BRET HART

Bret Hart’s perhaps better known for becoming the first 5-time champion in WWE history, but many of The Hitman’s best matches came during his reign as Intercontinental Champion.

Summerslam ’91 vs. Mr. Perfect


SummerSlam 1991 – Bret Hart Vs. Curt Hennig by WWFNetwork

WrestleMania VIII vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper

Summerslam ’92 vs. The British Bulldog


011. The British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart… by ccu150

These aren’t just three of the best matches in Hart’s career; they’re three of the best matches in the history of the IC title.

1. RAZOR RAMON

If you grew up with WWF in the early-to-mid 1990s as I did, Razor Ramon is synonymous with the Intercontinental Championship. Go figure, I hadn’t seen Scarface when I was 10 years old — one thing Vince McMahon and I had in common during Razor’s run — so the character seemed so fascinatingly unique to me.

On that element alone, Razor Ramon stood out compared to other holders of the IC belt back then. That championship had primarily been reserved for guys like Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, British Bulldog; tremendous wrestlers but not necessarily the most colorful personalities.

Razor had that totally different persona, but could go in the ring. His ladder match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania X is widely praised as one of the best IC matches ever, but he also had great bouts against Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart.


Razor Ramon vs Owen Hart (RAW 01.09.95) by rasslemania

To give this list a college football spin, the following former IC champions also played college football:

Tito Santana: West Texas A&M

Ahmed Johnson: Tennessee

The Rock: Miami

Stone Cold Steve Austin: North Texas

D’Lo Brown: Maine

Albert: Pitt

Ric Flair: Minnesota

John Bradshaw Layfield: North Texas Abilene Christian

Big E.: Iowa