Logic suggests that we are supposed to cheer for underdogs. It is a storyline that goes beyond sports. We want the high school dork who is the main character in a movie to get the girl in the end. Fans cheer for an undersized fighter to defeat a bigger foe. Truth be told, millions upon millions of people watch professional wrestling for this very reason. Viewers tune in and fans pay money to attend shows that feature characters overcome certain odds to defeat a villain who theoretically should beat up on a babyface. This formula has generated money for promotions for decades, and it is one that legitimate organizations such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator have adopted as their own.
There have, however, been all kinds of underdogs we did not want to win for one reason for another. Sometimes, it is because that underdog winning would present a situation that fans do not want to see. In other case, we did not want the underdog to win because the favorite was more beloved and more of a babyface in the eyes of fans. Regardless of why people did not cheer on these entities, the majority of the underdogs featured in this piece prevailed against a favorite. That includes an individual who was involved in a worked fight that played out at a football stadium. It turns out that you can put money on just about anything, including on a match that is predetermined before the two combatants enter the ring.
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15 Brock Lesnar Beats The Streak
It is easy to forget that wagering services from around the world listed The Undertaker as the heavy favorite to defeat Brock Lesnar before WrestleMania XXX. The Undertaker, after all, held an undefeated streak as it pertained to his WrestleMania record, and there was no big clue ahead of time that Lesnar would be responsible for ending Undertaker’s run at the “Showcase of the Immortals.”
We did not want the underdog to win this scenario because the thought of The Undertaker retiring with a blemish on his WrestleMania record was foreign to so many wrestling fans. That is why so many fans in attendance had shocked looks on their faces when Lesnar earned the clean pinfall in the middle of the ring. That result led to Lesnar becoming the biggest draw in World Wrestling Entertainment, and thus Lesnar winning was, to steal a phrase often used by “The Authority, was indeed "best for business."
14 2001 New York Yankees
The United States and also the world was forever changed by the terrorist attacks that rocked different portions of the US on September 11th, 2001. Roughly a month after that fateful day, the New York Yankees entered the Major League Baseball postseason. Unlike in previous years, the Seattle Mariners and not the Yankees were the best team in the American League.
While the Yankees were an emotional favorite for obvious and understandable reasons, rooting against the “Evil Empire” was, for some baseball fans, a way to return to normalcy. The Yankees completed a memorable run through the American League Championship Series and to the World Series, but New York was ultimately downed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Baseball fans not located in or near the Big Apple may not have loved that Yankees team, but all had to respect how that team lifted the spirits of New Yorkers, even if we did not want the Bronx Bombers to win.
13 Michael Bisping Versus Luke Rockhold
A lot can change in one night and after only a couple of minutes of fighting. In the months and even years leading up to UFC 199, Michael Bisping was perceived to be one of the top heels and villains in mixed martial arts. Bisping also had a history for never winning the big one and thus he was a massive underdog heading into his championship fight against Luke Rockhold on June 4th, 2016.
Fights are fought inside of cages and not on paper, though, and Bisping shocked the UFC world and fans when he defeated Rockhold via knockout in the opening round of that encounter. Regardless of whatever happens in the future, Bisping will forever go down in history as a UFC Champion. For what it’s worth, defeating Rockhold made Bisping a babyface in the eyes of many who watched Bisping achieve his dream. We’ll cheer for Mr. Bisping on the next time he is an underdog.
12 Roberta Vinci Versus Serena Williams
Serena Williams, the greatest women’s tennis player in history and one of the greatest singles competitors of the modern era, entered the 2015 U.S. Open as a favorite to win that competition and complete her pursuit of a Grand Slam. There was barely a thought, at the time, that a relatively unknown player named Roberta Vinci would slow Williams down in the semifinal round, let alone defeat Williams.
Vinci gave Williams more than we expected, however, and the underdog achieved what may be the greatest upset in the history of women’s tennis. We did not have anything against Vinci. We merely wanted to see Williams finish off the Grand Slam and add another title to her already-filled trophy case. Fans may not have rooted for Vinci on that day, but we had to tip our cap to her for doing what seemed to be impossible when the two players first stepped onto the court.
11 New England Patriots Versus Seattle Seahawks: Super Bowl XLIX
Does it really need to be explained why National Football League fans did not cheer on the underdog New England Patriots when the Patriots faced off with the Seattle Seahawks at Super Bowl? For about the past decade or so, the Patriots have been the New York Yankees of the NFL and the league’s most-successful franchise. There have also been numerous allegations of the Patriots bending the rules over the years.
New England was an underdog at the start of Super Bowl XLIX and it appeared that the Patriots were going to lose to the Seahawks in the final minute of that game. Then, the Seahawks decided to call a pass play from the New England one-yard line rather than hand the football to Marshawn Lynch. You know how the story ends. Arguably the least-likeable underdogs in the history of the Super Bowl went on to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Yuck.
10 Miesha Tate Versus Holly Holm
Following the massive upset that occurred at UFC 193 (more on that later), Holly Holm was the favorite to defeat Miesha Tate and retain her UFC Bantamweight Championship at UFC 196. Tate served as a babyface and as a loveable underdog throughout portions of her fighting career, but we did not want her to win on this occasion for one specific reason: we wanted to see Holm retain her title because that would result in the UFC hopefully setting up a rematch between Holm and Ronda Rousey.
Fans hoping for that outcome did not get their wish, however, as Tate submitted Holm in the fifth round with a choke that put Holm out cold after she refused to tap. Tate became a champion, but her run at the top of the division would not last for long. She lost her championship to Amanda Nunes at UFC 200. Perhaps Tate was too focused on a future match with Rousey leading up to that encounter.
9 Florida Marlins Versus Cleveland Indians: 1997 World Series
Unless you are a fan of a rival club or there is history on the line (as will be the case with a future example), you have to root for Cleveland. Cleveland is often the ultimate underdog in professional sports and also in real life. Thus, baseball fans in northeast Ohio and elsewhere around the country found it easy to root on the Cleveland Indians during the 1997 World Series, even though the Tribe was favorite to defeat the Florida Marlins.
The Marlins did not care about emotions, however, and Florida rallied back from behind in game seven to defeat the Indians and win the franchise’s first ever World Series. To this day, the Indians have not won a World Series since 1948 and the city of Cleveland went roughly 52 years before ending its professional sports drought. Even then, however, some basketball fans were rooting against an underdog Cleveland team because of what was on the line in the spring of 2016.
8 Middle Tennessee State Versus Michigan State 2016
Thanks for nothing, Michigan State. That was the reaction had by thousands upon thousands of college basketball fans who filled brackets out for the 2016 NCAA Tournament upon watching Middle Tennessee State defeat Michigan State in the opening round of that competition. The Spartans were a sexy pick among experts to make a run all the way to the Final Four and people responded to that by penciling Michigan State in on multiple portions of their brackets.
Middle Tennessee pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament to the chagrin of betters and of fantasy sports players. Unless you were one of the lucky few who picked Middle Tennessee State to pull this upset off, you likely did not want the underdog to win in this scenario. The NCAA Tournament is becoming more and more unpredictable with each year, and it seems as if it will be only a matter of time before a No. 16 seed makes history and wins a game.
7 New York Jets Versus Baltimore Colts: Super Bowl III
Revisionist history has taught us that the New York Jets were lovable underdogs among all casual football fans leading up to their Super Bowl III showdown with the Baltimore Colts. That, as diehard followers of the sport know, is not entirely accurate. Some football fans in the United States wanted the Colts to defeat the Jets because they were not fans of Joe Namath. Others simply wanted to see a New York team lose.
Gang Green nevertheless made history, as the New York defense dominated the Baltimore offense for the majority of the contest en route to guiding the Jets to the franchise’s greatest single victory. The Jets still have not won a Super Bowl since the days of Joe Namath, and the club does not seem to be all that close to winning a title at any point in the foreseeable future. You’ll always have those memories of Broadway Joe, Jets fans.
6 Holly Holm Versus Ronda Rousey
We had nothing personal against Holly Holm leading up to her UFC Bantamweight Championship match against Ronda Rousey at UFC 193. Rousey, the champion at the time, was merely the top babyface and one of the top draws in all of mixed martial arts, and it was unthinkable in November 2015 that anybody in the division could give her much a contest.
Holm did more than give Rousey a contest, as the underdog dominated Rousey throughout the opening round of the fight. Those five minutes proved to be no fluke, as Holm finished Rousey off with a kick to the head and then a couple of hammer-fists before the referee stopped the bout in round two. Rousey has not made a return to the cage since November 2015, as of the posting of this piece. Odds are that fight fans will not cheer on the underdog when Rousey decides that she is ready for her next UFC fight.
5 New York Mets Versus Chicago Cubs: 2015 NLCS
Throughout the team’s existence, the New York Mets have served as likeable underdogs. That was not the case during the 2015 National League Championship Series, however, because of who the Mets were facing at the time. The Chicago Cubs, favorites to beat the Mets during the 2015 NLCS, are America’s ultimate “loveable losers,” a team that has not won a championship in over a century and a club that seemingly goes out of their way to dash the hopes and dreams of fans.
Those who have rooted on the Cubs for years and even for decades probably were not surprised that the Cubs lost to the Mets. With that said, it may have shocked those individuals that the Cubs were swept right out of the NLCS by the hot Mets. We’ll never know what could have been had the Cubs and not the Mets made it to the 2015 World Series, but the Cubs are back at it in the summer of 2016. Maybe this year is next year for the Cubs.
4 Cleveland Cavaliers Versus Golden State Warriors: 2016 NBA Finals
Pockets of sports fans around the country found themselves rooting against the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers at the start of the 2016 NBA Finals. That had little, if anything, to do with LeBron James playing for the Cavaliers. The Golden State Warriors made history by winning a record-high 73 regular season games and the Cavaliers were the last hurdle standing in the way of the Warriors making history and cementing their status as, statistically speaking, the greatest team in NBA history.
James and the Cavaliers instead made history of their own, becoming the first team in the history of the league to rally back from a 3-1 series deficit to win an NBA Finals. That victory resulted in Kevin Durant making a move from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Warriors during the summer. Golden State may again pursue and even make history during the 2016-17 NBA regular season.
3 Buster Douglas Versus Mike Tyson
There is a question boxing fans have wondered for decades and likely will ponder so long as the sport exists: What would have happened if Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield met inside of the ring in 1991? We’ll never know, in part because Buster Douglas shocked the boxing world and knocked Mike Tyson out for what is often regarded as the biggest upset to ever happen inside of a ring and one of the biggest overall upsets in the history of modern sports.
Fans did not want the underdog to win in this scenario because such a result removed the possibility of what we hoped to be a superfight involving the two best boxers in the business. We now know, thanks to the benefit of hindsight, that Tyson’s career likely would have forever changed even if he never lost to Douglas because of sexual assault allegations that landed the former champion behind bars.
2 New York Giants Versus New England Patriots: Super Bowl XLII
Go ahead and admit it: Unless you were a fan of the New York Giants or you did not/do not like the New England Patriots, you were rooting for the Patriots to defeat the underdog Giants at Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots won all 16 games during the 2007 regular season, and a victory over the Giants in February 2008 would have made New England the first ever team to go a perfect 19-0.
New York, who lost to the Patriots at the end of the regular season, rallied back from behind in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl thanks to multiple memorable plays made by quarterback Eli Manning and a famous catch completed by David Tyree. Tom Brady and Randy Moss came close to hooking up for a late completion that could have gone down as a historic play, but it was not meant to be for Brady and company on that famous night. As things stand today, no NFL team has ever gone 19-0 during a season.
1 Leicester City
The truth of the matter is that Leicester City did not have a massive worldwide fan base, when compared with those who cheer on the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United, at the start of the 2015-16 Premier League campaign. When it seemed as if the Premier League title was up for grabs among multiple clubs, those who are not Leicester supporters began to root against the underdog and wait for Leicester to slide down the league table.
Such a slide never occurred, however, as Leicester remained atop the table up through May. A draw between Chelsea and Tottenham in early May guaranteed that the underdogs would win the league title, and Leicester fans have been partying ever since. Non-Leicester supporters may not be thrilled that their favorite teams couldn’t topple Leicester, but we have to admire what the Foxes achieved. Leicester gave hope to clubs everywhere.
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