Before the billionaires and oligarchs, the unlikely story of football’s first foreign owner

Way before international money flooded in, the first American owner in English soccer came to the rescue of a dying club.

Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers.

This international spending spree started when Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC in 2003, but the largely forgotten first step toward today’s globalized era occurred way back in 1984. Football clubs were traditionally owned by local businessmen until California lawyer Bruce Osterman bought Tranmere Rovers, a proud but impoverished team in the unemployment-lashed north of England. It was the beginning of a new era — but you wouldn’t have known it at the time.

“The game as a whole was at its nadir,” remembers Mark Palios, a former footballer turned businessman who played for Tranmere in those dark days of the 1980s. “Gates were low, there was hooliganism, there was a complete lack of investment. It was a sick industry.”

What followed is more than a quirky footnote in sporting history — it’s a story of conflict between passion and business that any fan of any team in any country will recognize. Palios played an unexpected secret role in the ensuing drama, only to face a horribly familiar crisis threatening the club three decades later.

Mark Palios played for Tranmere in the 1970s and 1980s, taking an unexpected role in the drama behind the scenes — before returning to the club 30 years later.

Former Tranmere player Ken Bracewell was coaching a professional team in San Francisco in the early 1980s when he was approached by attorney and keen amateur goalkeeper Bruce Osterman. The glamour had faded from The National American Soccer League’s 1970s heyday, so Bracewell was surprised when Osterman wanted more than a chat about soccer teams — he wanted to buy one.

Why would a Californian lawyer want to invest in an impoverished sports team on the far side of the Atlantic?

“I was young and it seemed like a good idea,” says Osterman, now in his late 70s. “I had some extra money as I’d done well in my law practice,” he remembers in his unhurried California drawl over the phone from his home near San Francisco. “Tranmere was in real trouble so it was a number to purchase the team that I could afford.”

Tranmere chairman Bruce Osterman filmed at Prenton Park for a TV documentary.

Tranmere’s stadium Prenton Park is only a brief ferry ride away from footballing titans Liverpool and Everton, but in 1984 it might as well have been on a different planet. Barely clinging to professional status at the wrong end of the English leagues, with no money and plummeting attendances, Tranmere had special permission to hold matches on Friday evenings instead of Saturday afternoons so locals wouldn’t disappear to watch the team’s more glamorous neighbors.

“Tranmere will never compete with Liverpool and Everton,” one of the club’s managers later said. “They’re big liners like the Queen Mary, but I see Tranmere as a deadly submarine.”

In 1984 Tranmere was about to emulate a submarine in the worst possible way: by going under.

Osterman took advantage of the strife and a disastrously weak pound to buy the club, installing Ken Bracewell in charge. “I relied on Kenny for the day-to-day things,” Osterman recalls, “because frankly what the hell did I know?”

Bruce Osterman (crouching third from left, wearing glasses), lines up with a team of sports journalists playing a friendly at Prenton Park in August 1986. Eagle-eyed fans might recognize the chap on the far left: popular TV and radio pundit Ray Stubbs, who played and worked at Tranmere.

Today’s game is full of players, managers and owners from other countries. In the 1980s it was more insular. English clubs were banned from European competition throughout the second half of the 1980s, foreign players like Tottenham’s Argentine duo Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa were still a novelty, and there wouldn’t be a foreign manager until Jozef Vengloš arrived from Czechoslovakia to join Aston Villa in 1990.

Having staved off the club’s short-term woes, Bruce Osterman showed up at Tranmere for a few weeks at a time, a few times a year. There was occasionally a language barrier with the distinctive Merseyside accent. “I used to go to sportsman’s dinners for people who had shares in the club, and I was usually the brunt of the after-dinner comedian,” Osterman remembers. “I know he was speaking English but I couldn’t understand a word!” Osterman’s family came too, although his wife found herself excluded from men-only areas such as the boardroom and team coach. “She tolerated my doing this, but it wasn’t a pleasant time for her,” Osterman admits.

Journalists were delighted by the sight of the bespectacled 43-year-old chairman diving around in the training field mud, while players mischievously blasted balls at him. This was all highly unusual, but still — Tranmere were saved.

In the days before television revenue, a lesser club’s main income was ticket sales. Larger-than-life characters attracted paying fans through the turnstiles, so Osterman made the unexpected choice to appoint Frank Worthington as the team’s player-manager.

Worthington, who died in March 2021, had two decades of experience on the field but had never managed a team. The mulleted Elvis fan was certainly an entertainer, a prodigious goalscorer and even more prodigious playboy. His autobiography, suggestively titled “One Hump Or Two,” lists more nightclubs than football clubs. Worthington joked that when he took charge at Tranmere the players thought they’d be in trouble if they got home before 2 a.m.

Larger-than-life character Frank Worthington playing for England.

In his first game before the Prenton Park faithful the dashing player-manager bagged three goals in a 6-2 victory, and he ended up scoring 20 that season. He also made shrewd use of Osterman’s limited budget — one of Worthington’s acquisitions, Ian Muir, remains the club’s all-time top goalscorer. But defence was poor and Tranmere couldn’t afford new blood.

“We didn’t have the players or the money,” Osterman admits. “I had no idea of the difficulty of handling a team even in the fourth division.”

One player understood the economics of Osterman’s situation more than most. Tenacious midfielder Mark Palios was a local lad in his second stint at Tranmere when Osterman arrived. Unlike most footballers, who typically spend their time between matches wasting money, Palios worked a unique parallel career managing money as he trained to be an accountant.

Mark Palios playing for Tranmere the night they beat Arsenal in 1973.

One day Tranmere’s directors walked into Palios’ office looking for advice. They wanted to push Osterman out. The surprised player found himself in the awkward situation of offering advice on the club’s financial future mere hours before pulling on his team shirt and running onto the pitch.

Tranmere’s cash flow crisis came to a head when the well-intentioned but overstretched Osterman tried to sell Prenton Park to make way for a supermarket. Fans, directors and local authorities turned against him.

The American dream had soured.

Thirty years later, in 2015, history repeated for Tranmere Rovers — and for Mark Palios. The club was again in dire straits on and off the field. And just like in the 1980s, a new owner stepped in. But this time, it was Palios who bought the club.

After combining his playing days with a successful accounting career, Palios had been CEO of the Football Association. A specialist in turning around failing businesses, he and his wife Nicola now tackled Tranmere’s turmoil.

Palios began a three-step process he’d applied to many dying companies: Find cash for breathing space. Use that breathing space to fix the business. And finally, bring in new investment.

Most important, the club had to break the cycle of lurching from savior to savior. Palios compares football clubs to gamblers gifted more chips who continue betting on the same old numbers. To really fix the ailing business, Mark and Nicola had to make new bets.

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios and vice chair Nicola Palios took charge in 2014.

Back in 1985, Palios quit Tranmere and distanced himself from the boardroom shenanigans to avoid a conflict of interest. Ultimately the directors exploited changes to insolvency legislation to get rid of Osterman, Bracewell and Worthington, earning Tranmere another dubious distinction as the first football club to go into administration under the new laws.

In 1987, a new buyer offered less than Osterman paid for the club. Luckily for the American, a strengthened pound took the sting out of the loss.

A new owner and manager took over, but Tranmere’s troubles weren’t over. To ensure survival they had to beat Exeter City on the last day of the season or be disastrously dumped out of the professional league.

Kickoff was delayed as 7,000 fans crammed into one of Prenton Park’s signature Friday night matches on May 8, 1987. Mark Palios was there, although in another bizarre twist he could have been on the field — for either side. Exeter previously tried to sign him, while injury-plagued Tranmere desperately searched for Palios to see if he could help out in the crucial match. “We didn’t have mobile phones in those days,” Palios jokes. “[Tranmere] should have asked the administrators — they knew where I was…”

As the sky darkened above the floodlights neither side could break the deadlock — until six minutes from time, when Ian Muir’s pinpoint cross was headed home by defender Gary Williams. At the final whistle, the delirious crowd poured onto the pitch.

After this fairytale escape, new manager John King — another former Tranmere player, who coined the “deadly submarine” nickname — kicked off a resurgence in the 1990s. The team went to multiple finals at Wembley, rising through the divisions and almost surfacing alongside Liverpool and Everton in the Premier League.

Ian Muir (right), signed by Frank Worthington and still Tranmere’s top scorer, celebrates the first of Tranmere’s many trips to the hallowed Wembley Stadium in the 1990s.

Sadly the golden era didn’t last, and in 2015 a run-down Tranmere sank out of the professional league entirely. Under different leadership that could have destroyed the club, but Mark and Nicola Palios had a plan to stay afloat. They developed new revenue streams which didn’t rely on a benefactor’s deep pockets, earned money from the stadium not just on matchdays, and built on the club’s standing in the community with training schemes for vulnerable youth. “The business model I’ve tried to produce is football-agnostic,” Palios explains. “So if I go, the business stays.”

The club is into phase three of the Palios plan: tempting investors. Palios contemplates leveraging the local area’s rich footballing heritage for projects such as a hotel, and perhaps even leaving Prenton Park (an idea that backfired for Osterman). Palios has his eye on building a new stadium at the £4.5 billion Wirral Waters dockland regeneration scheme, one of the largest development projects in Europe.

Tranmere returned to Wembley in 2017, 2018 and again in 2019, when Connor Jennings scored another last-gasp goal to secure Tranmere a second successive promotion.

Palios notes these long-term plans are “embryonic” and depend on factors like promotion to higher leagues, millions added to the bottom line, and major investors.

“It’s a way off,” Palios says of his potential vision for the future, “but if somebody comes in with serious money, you have to have a business plan. And the one thing I won’t do is limit ambition.”

To bring things full circle in terms of foreign backers, the Palios’ have shared photos of themselves courting international investment since this interview. This time Tranmere’s seeking funding from soccer-mad Indonesian businessman Simon Nainggolan, also known as Simon N.

The chaos at Bury and Bolton Wanderers in 2019 shows how precarious the football business can be even with TV money and global investment. At Tranmere, smart commercial decisions and dedicated supporters kept the club alive. To fans’ delight, under manager Micky Mellon — yet another former player — the team won promotion in 2018 and again in 2019 (only to be summarily relegated again when the Covid pandemic ended the next season early).

Devoted Tranmere Rovers fans celebrate.

Bruce Osterman still practices law, although he stopped playing soccer at 60. “If I had to do it all again I would,” he says of his experience with Tranmere. “No foreigner had ever done this before, and I met a lot of great people. It was an adventure for me.”

For today’s US-based investment consortiums, owning a sports team is all about profit. For Bruce Osterman, it was an adventure. And for Mark Palios, sport offers a unique combination of both business and passion. When fans tell him they’re proud of the club, he says, “that’s the reward.”

Eddie Huang’s Boogie is the ‘Taiwanese-Chinese NY Rocky’

On CNET’s I’m So Obsessed podcast, the talented Huang opens up about making his feature film directorial debut and his love for writing.

Eddie Huang (center) sits between two of the actors in his debut film Boogie: the late rapper and songwriter Pop Smoke (left), who plays Monk, and Taylor Takahashi (right), who plays Alfred “Boogie” Chin.

“It’s not about basketball, right? He [Boogie] plays basketball. But it’s the Taiwanese-Chinese New York Rocky. Rocky is not about boxing, it’s an Italian American coming-of-age story,” said an energized Huang. “That’s what Boogie does with the Asian American immigrant experience. And then it also intersects with the Black experience.”

Boogie stars Taylor Takahashi in the titular role and the late rapper and songwriter Pop Smoke as rival Monk. In February 2020, Pop Smoke was killed when four men broke into and robbed a house he was renting. Along with Boogie being the only movie he was in, Pop Smoke has original music on the film’s soundtrack.

When I watched Boogie, I was taken aback by its smart and raw storytelling. This is an independent film that is both contemporary and old-school. Huang is incredibly gifted when it comes to dialogue, and Boogie reminds me of the satisfaction I get from the dialogue in a film penned by Quentin Tarantino or Diablo Cody.

During our conversation, Huang discussed the challenges of directing his first feature film, how he absolutely loves writing and how Chinese Americans to this day are still hurt by the myth that MSG is harmful.

You can listen to my entire conversation with Huang on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can currently see his film Boogie in theaters. Also, you can subscribe to I’m So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo and I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about their work, career and current obsessions.

NFL 2021: How to watch Packers vs. Ravens, Saints vs. Buccaneers, RedZone and Week 15 on Sunday

The NFL action continues on Sunday.

Here’s how to watch Sunday’s games, as well as the rest of the NFL season, with or without cable.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on Sunday Night Football tonight.

Major streaming providers such as YouTube TV, Hulu Plus Live TV, FuboTV and DirecTV Stream offer nearly all the major channels you will need for football. This includes CBS, NBC and Fox, as well as ESPN, which is needed for Monday Night Football.

Sling TV offers NBC and Fox in some markets with its Blue package, but it lacks CBS. It’s also worth noting that to get ESPN you will either need to switch to its Orange package or go for its Blue and Orange bundle.

Those who are fine with watching on phones or tablets, meanwhile, can also use the Yahoo Sports app to stream the games that are broadcast on your local stations for free.

All of those services above, with the exception of DirecTV Stream, offer the option to get RedZone and the NFL Network. RedZone will usually require you to spend another $10 or $11 per month as an add-on.

If RedZone is all you care about, the cheapest option is getting Sling TV Blue for $35 a month and adding the $11-per-month Sports Extra add-on. This gets you all the football channels with the exception of ESPN and CBS.

If you do have cable or satellite, here is where you can find the NFL Network on a few of the bigger providers. Note: The exact channel numbers may change depending on your area, so for best results check your channel guide.

Most Thursday Night Football games will be broadcast on Fox, NFL Network and Amazon Prime Video. Check out the full Thursday Night Football schedule here and our recommendations for the best ways to watch NFL without cable throughout the season.

Paramount Plus offers live CBS feeds with its Premium tier for $10 a month. Depending on where you live, however, your local CBS station (and those NFL games) might not be available. CBS offers livestreaming services in many markets; you can check if your area has live CBS streaming here.

All of NBC’s regular-season NFL games will be available to stream on its Peacock streaming service, so long as you pay for one of its Premium subscriptions.

There are two of these tiers, a $5-a-month Premium option that has ads (when watching nonlive content) and a $10-per-month Premium Plus option that will stream nonlive content ad-free (and let you download some content to watch offline).

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes all the major football channels, with RedZone available for an extra $11 a month. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks are available in your area.

Note that YouTube TV is offering a $15 discount, bringing the price down to $50 per month, during its contract dispute with Disney.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and includes all the major football channels, with RedZone available for an extra $10 a month. Click the “View channels in your area” link on its welcome page to see which local channels are offered in your ZIP code.

Read our Hulu with Live TV review.

FuboTV costs $65 a month and has all the major NFL channels with RedZone available as an $11-per-month add-on. Click here to see which local channels you get.

Read our FuboTV review.

Sling TV’s $35-a-month Blue plan includes NBC, Fox and the NFL Network. Enter your address here to see which local channels are available where you live.

Note: This version of Sling TV does not include ESPN. For that, you’ll need to switch to the similarly priced Orange plan or go for the combined $50-per-month Orange and Blue bundle. RedZone is also available for an extra $11 a month.

Read our Sling TV review.

Formerly AT&T TV, DirecTV Stream’s basic $70-a-month package includes nearly all the major channels for football with the notable exceptions of RedZone and the NFL Network. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels are available where you live.

Read our DirecTV Stream review.

Those looking for CBS games will be able to stream them on Paramount Plus with its $10 per month Premium tier. You can check for yourself if your area has live CBS streaming here.

Peacock will show NBC’s full slate of Sunday Night Football games. You will, however, need one of the service’s Premium plans to watch Sunday Night Football live and full-game replays, though highlights are available on the free tier.

The ad-supported Premium plan costs $5 a month, and the ad-free Premium Plus plan costs $10 a month.

Read our Peacock review.

Most Thursday Night games will be available on Amazon Prime Video. For millions of Amazon Prime subscribers, the Prime Video channel is already included at no extra cost. But if you’re not a subscriber, it might be worth it to shell out the $9 a month for the stand-alone TV service fee.

All of the live TV streaming services above offer free trials (except Peacock, which just has a free tier that doesn’t stream live NFL games), allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live-TV streaming services guide.

AEW Full Gear 2021: Results, new AEW Champion, full recap and analysis

Hangman Adam Page won the AEW Championship to finish an excellent pay-per-view.

All Elite Wrestling has a new top man. “Hangman” Adam Page pinned Kenny Omega in the middle of the ring to win the AEW Championship in the main event of Full Gear 2021. It was the culmination of AEW’s longest-running storyline, and the end to one of AEW’s best pay-per-view events.

While the main event produced a new champion, perhaps the best match of the night was that between CM Punk and Eddie Kingston. They had a gruff fight that stood out from the rest of the card, and it’s arguably what the crowd was most into on the show. Other highlights include the opening bout between MJF and Darby Allin, Bryan Danielson defeating Miro to become the number one contender for Page’s AEW Championship and the AEW Tag Team Championship bout between The Lucha Brothers and FTR.

Scroll below for a full recap and match analysis for Full Gear 2021.

The fourth ever AEW Champion has been crowned. Hangman Adam Page pinned Kenny Omega in the main event of Full Gear to win the AEW Championship.

The crowd was alive as the bell rang, moreso than anything else on the show with the exception of Punk versus Kingston. Omega got the advantage with the help of Don Callis, who tripped Page and later attacked multiple times when the ref’s back was turned.

There were many big spots, including a sick springboard Liger Bomb that Omega planted Page with when Page was perched on the top rope. Mostly, though, this was a back-and-forth action match with little in the way of psychology until the final minutes.

We got a ref bump about 16 minutes into the match, with Page attempting a Buckshot Lariat but Omega pulling the referee into the clash instead. Callis tried to smash Page with the AEW Championship belt, but Hangman knocked him out. Omega then took a swing with the belt, but Hangman countered and hit his Deadeye signature move. A new referee slid in and we got our first great nearfall of the match.

After another exchange between Page and Omega, which saw Omega land many V-Triggers and Page counter with a huge clothesline, The Young Bucks limped to the ring.

Page attempted a Buckshot Lariat but Omega countered with a huge V-Trigger. Omega attempted a One Winged Angel but Page reversed it into a One Winged Angel of his own for a two count. Page then barraged Omega with two Buckshot Lariats — one from behind and a second from the front — to win the match. The Bucks didn’t interfere, but rather nodded in approvement as Page struck his winning blow.

After the match, The Dark Order came to the ring to celebrate with the new champ.

Rating: 4 stars. A good main event with a great final few minutes.

Before the main event, we got news that former Ring of Honor champion has joined All Elite Wrestling. He issued a challenge to Sammy Guevara for the TNT Championship, which Guevara accepted.

The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana and Ortiz) were victorious in their Minneapolis Street Fight against Men of the Year (Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page) and American Top Team (Junior dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski and Dan Lambert).

The culmination of the match was Jericho landing a Frog Splash on Dan Lambert, in a tribute to Eddie Guerrero, who died on Nov. 13 in 2005,  to win the match for his team.

It’s hard to fairly appraise this Street Fight. If you watch it in isolation, it would be a bunch of fun. The problem is that it was another car-crash match, similar in spirit to the Young Bucks falls count anywhere bout earlier in the night. That problem recurred with the ending. Jericho and Guerrero were great friends, but we saw Guerrero tribute spots in multiple matches tonight, so Jericho’s Frog Splash felt less special than it should have.

Still, there were many crazy spots to keep you entertained — the craziest of which was Guevara chanelling Jeff Hardy with a Swanton off the top of a huge ladder.

Rating: 3 stars.

This. Was. Awesome.

Eddie Kingston and CM Punk beat the hell out of each other. This felt completely different from anything else on the show. At 11 minutes, it was shorter than the other marquee matches. There wasn’t any flips or acrobatics. It was gritty, and it felt like a fight.

The crowd was split, and mega, mega into this. It began with Eddie Kingston surprising Punk with a spinning backfist before the match started. The crowd popped huge, cheering for Eddie, but as Punks stirred we got defeaning duelling chants. Throughout the bout the crowd was 65-35 in Eddie’s favor, which was surprising.

Kingston threw Eddie into the turnbuckle on the outside early, which cut Punk open — he bled profusely. The dynamic of the match was that Punk was the big star, and Kingston was the scrappy underdog. In essence, a reversal of Punk’s famous match against John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011. That was best exemplified when Punk did Cena’s shoulder blocks and teased doing a “You can’t see me” taunt, which got heat from the crowd.

At the end of the match, Kingston taunted Punk with the “Go to sleep” sign Punk does. Punk surprised Kingston with a GTS, but Punk was too beaten down to capitalize. Both men got back to their feet, Kingston attempted a wild spinning backfist but Punk ducked and hit a second GTS for the win.

Rating: 4.5 stars. Best thing on the show.

Britt Baker.

Britt Baker defeated Tai Conti with a cradle pin to retain her AEW Women’s Championship.

These women were put in a tough spot. They were on late in the show, and the audience has seen several amazing matches. Further, Britt Baker is a heel, but she’s one of the most popular stars on the roster. That puts Tai Conti in a hard spot — she’s meant to be the hero, but she’s going up against a bigger and more popular performer.

With that said, this ended up above average. The crowd was largely not interested until about 8 or 9 minutes in, when Britt Baker landed an Air Raid Crash to Conti on the apron. After Conti kicked out, she managed to turn the tide by planting Baker with a Gotch Piledriver. That caused the hitherto apathetic crowd to get into a duelling chant, one side for Baker and one side for Conti.

Jaimie Hayter and Rebel ran interference for Baker, but Conti took them out with a huge moonsault. Back in the ring, Conti hit a DDTay for a two count. She attempted another, but Baker countered into a Lockjaw attempted. Conti turned that into a cradle, but Baker reversed that into a cradle of her own for the win.

Rating: 3.25 stars.

Cody Rhodes and Pac managed to team together and not implode for long enough to defeat Malakai Black and Andrade El Idolo. The victory came when Pac landed a Black Arrow on Andrade.

It was a bit of a sloppy match, with some noticeable awkwardness, but these four are so talented that even on their worst day they’d put on a solid performance. The story going into it was that Cody and Pac distrusted each other, which shone through when Pac would repeatedly tag himself in, to Cody’s frustration.

Early into the bout, on one such occassion, Cody was distracted by Pac’s tag for long enough for Malakai Black to surprise Cody with a Black Mass kick. That put Cody out, and allowed Black and Andrade to work over Pac. Eventually he was able to tag Cody back in. Cody ran wild, which annoyed the notably anti-Cody crowd, and eventually Pac and Andrade were the legal men.

Black and Cody brawled to the outside, with Black kicking Cody over the barricades, which left Andrade and Pac to decide the match. Pac hit his Black Arrow for the win.

Rating: 3 stars. It was good, but was disadvantaged by following the car-crash match that came before. It also had essentially no stakes, which is an issue at this stage of the show.

This was just bananas. It reminded me in a lot of ways of the TLC matches that made Christian Cage — alongside Edge, The Hardys and The Dudleys — so famous. Not because there were crazy ladder spots, but because it was just a nonstop car crash.

It would be pointless for me to try and recap everything that happened. Here are a few snippets:

After much chaos, the end began when The Young Bucks stuffed thumbtacks inside Jungle Boy’s mouth then clocked him with a double superkick as Adam Cole held him in a Camel Clutch. Christian interrupted the pin to save the match.

A creative sequence followed, where Matt Jackson aggrevated Luchasaurus with a superkick, leading to Luchasaurus chasing Matt up the rampway. Matt was cutoff by a recovered Jungle Boy on the ramp, where Jungle Boy put him in a Snare Trap. The six men then exchanged big moves up by the entranceway. It culminated with Cole and the Bucks putting thumbtack-studded straps around their knees to hit a three-way BTE Trigger on Luchasaurus. Jungle Boy broke up the pin, and then his team fought back against the SuperKliq.

After Luchasaurus chokelammed Adam Cole off the ramp onto Nick Jackson and stooge Brandon Cutler, he took them all out for good with an impressive Shooting Star Press. Jungle Boy landed a Conchairto on Matt Jackson for the win.

Rating: 3.75 stars. A lot of chaos and excitement, but with some ridiculousness too. The thumbtack spots were unbelievable and really broke the suspension of disbelief — stuffing thumbtacks in someone’s mouth and kicking them twice led to no bleeding, and Luchasaurus popped up fine mere moments after getting triple BTE Triggered with thumbtack kneepads. Still, it was undoubtedly crazy.

In what was guaranteed to be a strong match, Bryan Danielson beat Miro in… a strong match. Danielson and Miro played their parts perfectly: Miro is a beast of a man, and Danielson is the plucky wrestler that fights from below.

After the opening minutes where Danielson hit Miro with some stiff-looking uppercuts and kicks, there was a great sequence where Danielson stacked Miro for a pin attempt. Miro kicked out and Danielson transitioned into a nice kneebar. After a dramatic few moments in the submission, Miro rolled onto his side and muscled Danielson with a gutwrench throw. This essentially exemplified the dynamic: Danielson is technically proficient, and Miro is the brute that repeatedly knocked him back.

Miro would get a solid submission in of his own when he locked Danielson into the Game Over, his version of the Camel Clutch. Danielson got to the ropes, and when Miro tried to put it on again, Danielson countered into a Labelle Lock. Danielson’s integration of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into his wrestling style is fantastic. Miro managed to break Danielson’s hold, then Danielson transitioned into a Triangle Choke, a throwback to how he beat Eddie Kingston a few weeks ago, but Miro was able to break out again.

After a strike exchange where Miro absorbed all of Danielson’s kicks, the two found themselves atop the turnbuckle. Danielson landed a top-rope DDT and then locked on a guillotine choke. Miro passed out.

Rating: 4.25 stars. Snug strikes, believable wrestling. Great stuff.

The Lucha Brothers won the AEW Tag Team Championships at All Out.

In the second match of the night, The Lucha Brothers defeated FTR in an unsurprisingly exciting bout. Like the opener though, there was some unnecessary funny business towards the end.

Watching The Lucha Brothers wrestle is just so fun. Their offense is so explosive and acrobatic. I can’t do it justice via description, so here are some examples.

The flow of the match was essentially that Fenix and Penta would do crazy fun stuff, but then Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood would cut them off, often with underhanded tactics. It’s a great dynamic, one familiar to FTR matches, that lets both teams shine. Lucha Brothers got to look like superheroes, FTR looked shrewd and expert in tag team tactics.

There was a great nearfall where Fenix was running wild but was cut off by Cash, who hit him with one of the AAA Tag Title belts when the ref wasn’t looking. Fenix kicked out at two, but the crowd bought it as a finish.

Dax got megaheat moments later when he mimicked Eddie Guerrero’s taunt and attempted the Three Amigos. Penta countered at number three and did his own Three Amigos, which got a huge applause from the crowd. Fenix then landed a Frogsplash, which lit the crowd alight with “Eddie!” chants and got another awesome nearfall.

The finish brought the bout down a bit. FTR put on their Lucha masks, which they’ve taken to doing to mock the Lucha Bros, and Cash Wheeler tried to cheat a victory by rolling up Penta and putting his legs on the rope. The ref stopped caught him, then Penta hit him with a superkick and Lucha Brothers planted him with their Magic Killer tandem finish. The whole mask spot slowed the pace down, and felt completely superfluous.

Rating: 4.25 stars. Like the opening match, this featured excellent action and an overbooked finish.

The clash between two of AEW’s biggest stars of tomorrow kicked off the main show. After a terrific bout, MJF hit Allin with brass knucks and then pinned him with a side headlock, as he said he would. It was a so-so- finish to an outstanding match.

It began as a wrestling contest, with Allin and MJF trying to prove who the better professional wrestler is. As noted, the story going into the contest was that MJF said he could beat Allin with a side headlock. Though it grew into a dynamic match with wild moves, the two started out with chain wrestling and fun athletics. MJF would tweak his knee early on, and would sell said knee throughout after Allin exacerbated the injury with a chop block and a brief Figure Four.

The Minnesota crowd was very into this match. MJF is a dastardly villain but, as often happens with charismatic bad guys, a lot of the audience loved him. The match opened to an even split, with dueling chants for Darby and MJF. Towards the end we got a “fight forever!” chant.

As you’d expect with a Darby Allin match, there were several wince-inducing moments. Early on, with MJF splayed across the apron, Allin attempted a Coffin Drop. MJF moved, and Allin crashed his spine into the apron. It was brutal. Later, MJF caught Allin in midair and did a modifed Atomic Drop: Imagine a Powerbomb into MJF’s knees. Maybe the most gnarly one was MJF’s Tombstone Piledriver onto the apron. It was a great spot, as MJF did huge damage to Allin but couldn’t capitalize due to his knee issues.

The match was looking like an instant classic, but then we got to the finish.

Wardlow and Shawn Spears tried to come interfere on MJF’s behalf, but Sting made the save. In the middle of it all,  MJF brought Allin’s skateboard into the ring and dared Allin to hit him with it. The announcer’s played it up as mindgames, that MJF was trying to get Allin disqualified. Allin was tempted, but gently gave the ref the skateboard. While the ref was distracted, MJF pulled brass knucks out of his tights, clocked Allin with them and then pinned him with a side headlock takedown.

Rating: 4 stars. The ending was a bit silly and contrived, which was disappointing because these two did such a great job at making this feel like a serious athletic contest. Still, the action leading up to it was stellar. The future is bright.

PGA Championship 2021: TV schedule today, how to watch and more

Golf’s second major starts Thursday at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. You can watch all of the action, no cable required.

Rory McIlroy is the favorite heading into the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, where he won this tournament in 2012.

Here’s what you need to know to watch the golf this week.

ESPN has the early round coverage on Thursday and Friday before giving way to CBS for weekend coverage for the final two rounds.

Here’s the TV schedule:

Round 1: Thursday, May 20
ESPN: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET

Round 2: Friday, May 21
ESPN: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET

Round 3: Saturday, May 22
ESPN: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET
CBS: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET

Round 4: Sunday, May 23
ESPN: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET
CBS: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET

If you don’t have a cable or satellite TV subscription, you can watch the tournament with a live TV streaming service. Four of the five major ones (all but Sling TV) offer CBS, and all five include ESPN. The catch is that not every service carries every local network, so check each one using the links below to make sure it carries CBS in your area.

You can also watch portions of the tournament on Paramount Plus and ESPN Plus. Paramount Plus will have a simulcast of CBS’s TV coverage over the weekend, while ESPN Plus will simulcast ESPN’s TV coverage each day of the tournament as well as additional coverage including featured holes and groups.

If you live in an area with good reception, you can watch the final round on CBS for free on over-the-air broadcast channels just by attaching an affordable (under $30) indoor antenna to nearly any TV.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes CBS and ESPN. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks are available in your area.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and includes CBS and ESPN. Click the “View channels in your area” link on its welcome page to see which local channels are offered in your ZIP code.

Read our Hulu with Live TV review.

FuboTV’s Standard plan costs $65 a month and includes CBS and ESPN. Click here to see which local channels you get.

Read our FuboTV review.

AT&T TV’s basic $70-a-month package includes CBS and ESPN. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels are available where you live.

Read our AT&T TV Now review.

Sling TV’s $35-a-month Orange plan includes ESPN. Neither the Orange nor the Blue plan includes CBS.

Read our Sling TV review.

You can watch the last two rounds of the PGA Championship on CBS’s online streaming service. Paramount Plus costs $6 a month with ads or $10 a month without ads.

ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service costs $6 a month or $60 a year and will show ESPN’s coverage for the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday and early coverage at the start of the last two rounds on Saturday and Sunday. It will also show featured holes (15, 16 and 17) and will follow featured groups each day.

All of the live TV streaming services above except ESPN Plus offer free trials, allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our massive streaming services guide.

If you live in an area with good reception, you can watch the afternoon action on Saturday and Sunday on CBS for free on over-the-air broadcast channels just by attaching an affordable (under $30) indoor antenna to nearly any TV.

NHL in 2021: How to watch and stream hockey without cable

The season may be young, but some of the goals have already been highlight-worthy. Pull on your team’s sweater and we’ll show you how to stream all the action.

Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano of the Anaheim Ducks celebrate their astonishing goal.

TNT will broadcast 50 NHL games, including the outdoor Winter Classic, Stadium Series and Heritage Classic. TNT will also air half of the Stanley Cup playoffs. ESPN or ABC will air 25 games along with half of the playoffs and all of the Stanley Cup Finals, while ESPN Plus and Hulu will stream 75 exclusive matchups. The NHL’s out-of-market streaming service, formerly known as NHL.TV, moves to ESPN Plus for no extra charge.

So what does all this mean for hockey fans desperately looking to stream their team’s games? The good news is that you don’t need cable to watch hockey this year, but it still might be the easiest and cheapest choice depending on where you live.

Read more: NFL 2021: How to watch and stream football, RedZone this season without cable

Die-hard sports fans are beholden to regional sports networks, or RSNs, that carry the majority of the games for their local team. These RSNs are usually included in local cable packages, so most cable subscribers never have to worry about gaining access to the broadcasts on these channels: They can simply turn on the TV and watch the game.

Cord-cutting hockey fans have a tougher path. Because of rights agreements, most live TV streaming services like YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV don’t carry many RSNs. DirecTV Stream is the exception. It has nearly every RSN, particularly the Bally Sports channels (formerly Fox Sports) offered by Sinclair, but you’ll need to spring for its $85-a-month plan.

Read more: DirecTV Stream review: Expensive, but the best option for streaming NBA and NHL

Ultimately, depending on location, getting a cable subscription that includes ESPN, TNT and the local RSN might actually be cheaper and easier for you than streaming — especially if it’s bundled with the home internet you’ll likely be getting anyway.

Whether or not you have cable, ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service is great for casual fans and is a must-have accessory for the zealots. It costs $7 a month or $70 a year and shows all out-of-market games along with up to 75 exclusive ESPN-produced telecasts per year. The catch is that your local team’s games are blacked out when they appear on ESPN Plus. Nevertheless, this is a huge savings for long-time NHL.TV users, as the all-access package used to cost subscribers $145 a year.

Even better for hockey fans, ESPN Plus just reached a deal to show 130 Kontinental Hockey League games — Russia’s top hockey league — including the playoffs and the Gagarin Cup finals. This is on top of ESPN’s NCAA college hockey coverage. That’s a lot of hockey for a little more than half the price of the old NHL.TV package.

Disney is also planning to show exclusive games on Hulu, so the $14-a-month Disney bundle might end up being an even better buy for hockey fans who also love TV and Disney/Marvel/Star Wars.

Those looking to just get ESPN Plus to watch their local team’s games will be out of luck, however. Most fans are in-market, meaning they follow the local team, and RSNs have broadcast exclusivity in the region that they cover. That means local NHL games are blacked out on ESPN Plus.

If you’re living in Philadelphia for example, you won’t be able to watch Flyers games on ESPN Plus. The same goes for Rangers fans in New York, Bruins fans in Boston and so on. The only way to watch most of those home team games in your home market is to get a service that has the local RSN, respectively NBC Sports Philadelphia, MSG or NESN.

Services like ESPN Plus use IP addresses to block out games in viewers’ regions — you’ll just get a black screen if you try to watch those games. That’s why ESPN Plus is ideal for casual fans who just love a good game, or superfans who want to follow one or more of the teams based in cities other than their own, aka out-of-market teams, but is less useful for fans of the local team.

Read our full review of ESPN Plus.

For those determined to watch their local hockey team without a cable or satellite TV subscription, a live TV streaming service is the best bet. While it is pricey, DirecTV Stream is the best option for most people, particularly those where the local games air on Bally Sports networks.

Below is a chart of all of the NHL teams in the United States and their corresponding RSNs.

Note: None of the US-based services carries the RSNs for the Canadian hockey teams. That means fans of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks need to use ESPN Plus to watch all the games that are not either on your local RSN or on a US national broadcast.

Some key takeaways:

One other note: If you don’t recognize the name of some of these channels, don’t worry. The Fox Sports RSNs have been rebranded as Bally Sports, because the channels are no longer owned by Fox but Sinclair, which has since partnered with casino group Bally’s and renamed them.

The NHL Network, run by the league, is still available as a stand-alone station. This season the network will air 90 games that will be considered national for those out-of-market. This means that you will still be able to watch your local team play on your RSN, but viewers around the country will need the NHL Network in order to watch the game as it will be blacked out on ESPN Plus. Fans might be able to save some money if they’re willing to miss out on the handful of games on the NHL Network.

The NHL Network is not included in many basic streaming services or cable packages and is not available at all on Hulu Plus Live TV and YouTube TV. If you want it, chances are you are going to pay extra for it.

Many cable and streaming services group NHL Network into a multinetwork sports bundle. For example, Sling’s Sports Extra bundle costs $11 per month on top of a Sling Orange package and includes the NHL Network along with 13 other sports channels like NFL RedZone.

FuboTV includes the NHL Network in its $8-per-month Fubo Extra package. This can be purchased alongside any of Fubo’s subscription offerings, though Fubo Extra is included in the $80-a-month Elite streaming tier.

Lastly, Direct TV Stream users can only get the NHL Network if they subscribe to the $95-per-month Ultimate or the $140-a-month Premier package.

DirecTV Stream is expensive. It’s the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, ABC, TNT and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $85-a-month Choice plan to get any available RSN. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area. The NHL Network is available starting at the $95-a-month Ultimate package.

Aside from DirecTV Stream, the odds are long that a live TV streaming service carries the RSN for your local team’s games, which makes the other four services better bets for watching nationally televised games.

FuboTV costs $65 per month and offers 12 RSNs for hockey. It also includes ESPN, but not TBS — which might be a problem for some hockey fans. But you can add the NHL Network for an extra $7 a month with the Fubo Extra Package or pay for the $80-a-month Elite streaming tier that includes Fubo Extra. Check out which local networks and RSNs FuboTV offers here.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers four RSNs for hockey, along with all of the national broadcasts. However, it lacks the option to get the NHL Network. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.

Hulu Plus Live TV costs $65 a month and carries four RSNs for hockey along with ESPN, ABC,TBS and TNT, but not NHL Network. Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.

Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN to watch hockey. You can, however, use Sling to watch some national broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN and both plans offer TBS, but none of them gives you access to ABC. The NHL Network is available as part of the Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan or $15 for the combined Orange-and-Blue plan. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange-and-Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Each live TV streaming service offers a free trial, allows you to cancel anytime and requires a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live TV streaming services guide.

Oh, Canadians, we know you love hockey and so does the NHL. But that means that you’re unable to participate in the league’s new deal with ESPN Plus. Instead, you’ll have to continue to pay more for a subscription to NHL Live for all of your out-of-market games. The service was offering early-bird pricing of CA$180, but that price jumped to CA$200 once the season started.

NHL Live has a nifty tool that will help you figure out exactly what games are available in your region with your subscription.

Cord-cutters in Canada might also need Sportsnet NOW at CA$15 per month and TSN Direct at CA$20 per month to get their local games.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate adds FIFA 21, completing the sports gamer’s dream

If you want to play a sports game on your Xbox, Game Pass is increasingly looking like the way to go.

FIFA 21 is hitting Game Pass Ultimate on Thursday.

FIFA 21, which is part of EA Play, which Microsoft bundled into its Game Pass Ultimate service last year, will follow the lead of titles like Madden 21 and MLB The Show 21 with versions available for the Xbox One as well as next-gen optimized editions for those with an Xbox Series X or Series S.

The inclusion of a next-gen version of FIFA 21 is a nice win for owners of Microsoft’s latest consoles, something not all publishers have done. 2K’s NBA 2K21, for example, has made the Xbox One version of its basketball game available as part of Game Pass but not the next-gen upgrade. Instead, those looking for that edition will still need to buy their own copy (currently $40 at a host of retailers after being $70 at launch).

And while the addition of more major titles is always welcome, to be truly perfect Microsoft still has work to do in adding games closer to their release dates. The company was surprisingly able to get Sony’s MLB The Show on its service in time for its launch in April, but FIFA’s arrival comes seven months after the title was first made available last October.

It makes sense that publishers will want to keep titles available for purchase at launch to get money from diehard fans, using services like Game Pass as a way to boost the tail end of a life cycle and hold interest until the next iteration. The good news for sports gamers who aren’t in a rush to play the latest season, however, is that Game Pass is increasingly becoming a better option for getting all the action.

US Open 2021: TV schedule today, how to watch and more

See your streaming options for watching the toughest test in golf, no cable required.

Here’s what you need to know to watch the golf this week.

Phil Mickelson will look to make it two straight Majors at the US Open starting Thursday at Torrey Pines.

Golf Channel has the early round coverage on Thursday and Friday before giving way to NBC for weekend coverage for the final two rounds.

Here’s the TV schedule (all times ET):

For $5 a month, you can watch Golf Channel’s coverage on Peacock. In addition, Peacock will have exclusive live coverage at the start of the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday from 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET. Peacock will also show live coverage all four days of the tournament of feature groups and featured holes (11, 12 and 13).

If you’re streaming on a PC, phone or tablet you can watch on NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app, but you will need to prove you have a pay TV subscription.

If you don’t have a cable or satellite TV subscription, you can watch the tournament with a live TV streaming service. All five major services offer NBC and Golf Channel. The catch is that not every service carries every local network, so check each one using the links below to make sure it carries NBC in your area.

Sling TV’s $35-a-month Blue plan includes NBC. You can add Golf Channel as part of the Sports Extra package for an additional $11 per month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Read our Sling TV review.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes NBC and Golf Channel. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks are available in your area.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and includes NBC and Golf Channel. Click the “View channels in your area” link on its welcome page to see which local channels are offered in your ZIP code.

Read our Hulu with Live TV review.

FuboTV’s Standard plan costs $65 a month and includes NBC and Golf Channel. Click here to see which local channels you get.

Read our FuboTV review.

AT&T TV’s basic $70-a-month package includes NBC, but you’ll need to spring for the $95-a-month plan to get the Golf Channel. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels are available where you live.

Read our AT&T TV review.

Peacock offers three tiers: a limited free plan and two Premium plans. The ad-supported Premium plan costs $5 a month, and the ad-free Premium plan costs $10 a month. You need one of the Premium plans to watch the US Open. Peacock will show Golf Channel’s coverage of the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday along with exclusive live coverage at the start of rounds 1 and 2 from 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET. You can watch feature groups and featured holes (11, 12 and 13) all four days of the tournament.

Read our Peacock review.

All of the live TV streaming services above except ESPN Plus offer free trials, allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our massive streaming services guide.

If you live in an area with good reception, you can watch the afternoon action on Saturday and Sunday on NBC for free on over-the-air broadcast channels just by attaching an affordable (under $30) indoor antenna to nearly any TV.

Max Verstappen wins F1 championship in season closer, Mercedes launches appeal

A winner has been crowned at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s Verstappen won the Abu Dhabi GP.

Hamilton held an 11-second lead over Verstappen prior to a safety car due to a crash by Williams driver Nicholas Latifi with five laps to go. Verstappen pitted during the safety car, with a controversial decision by the FIA then allowing all lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to pass before the race restarted. The FIA’s decision put Verstappen directly behind Hamilton on fresh tires when the race restarted on the final lap.

Mercedes has launched a protest against the decision, arguing it was a breach of regulations. The FIA dismissed the protest late Sunday, with Mercedes now appealing that decision.

Verstappen finished the season on 395.5 points, while Hamilton finished on 387.5. Both rivals started the race with 369.5 points. Coming in third for the championship was Hamilton’s current Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished the season with 226 points. Rounding out the top five were Perez on 190 and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on 164.5 points.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas won the 2021 constructors’ championship, with both of its drivers in the top three.

Verstappen broke his rival’s winning streak, but Hamilton and Michael Schumacher hold the record for most championship titles, at seven. Hamilton, who is also spearheading an initiative to push greater diversity and inclusion in motorsports, won the F1 championship in 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The drivers get just three months off now, with the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship kicking off on March 20 in Sakir with the Bahrain Grand Prix. Hamilton will continue racing for Mercedes with new teammate George Russell, while Verstappen remains at Red Bull with current teammate Sergio Perez.

Season four of F1 Drive To Survive will be coming to Netflix in 2022 to recap this year’s dramatic and controversial racing championship.

Triller wants anyone who illegally streamed Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren to pay up

“It is no different than walking into a store and stealing a video game off the shelf,” said Triller’s head of piracy Matt St. Claire.

Jake Paul defeated Ben Askren in one of the biggest combat sports events of the year.

According to Triller, if those payments are not made, the company will pursue the full $150,000 fine for anyone they can prove streamed the content illegally.

“VPNs all have to comply and turn over the actual IP addresses of each person who stole the fight in discovery,” Triller’s head of piracy Matt St. Claire told Reuters.

“We will be able to identify each and every person, VPN or not, as each stream has a unique fingerprint embedded in the content.”

The request is connected to a lawsuit filed by Triller against the owners of the H3Podcast website among others, who it accused of streaming the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren event. Triller believe upwards of 2 million people watched the fight illegally. News regarding the suit was first broken by Kevin Iole. Triller believes it lost $100 million as a result of illegal streams.

“We are taking this position because it is outright theft,” St. Claire said. “It is no different than walking into a store and stealing a video game off the shelf.”

Regardless of the piracy, the Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren was huge success by most metrics. Analysts believe the event sold somewhere between 1.2 and 1.6 million PPVs, which is a massive number compared to most recent boxing or MMA live events. The fight itself, however, ended somewhat anti-climatically, after Jake Paul knocked out Ben Askren in the first round.

His brother, Logan Paul, is set to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. in June this year.