The annual Big O, a three-day flat-track roller derby invitational held in Eugene, Oregon that features both women’s and men’s battles, has historically been beneficial for St. Louis-based franchises Arch Rival Roller Derby (ARCH) and GateKeepers Roller Derby (GKRD).
In fact, the 2016 chapter held last May resulted in three-game sweeps for both and provided glimpses of future greatness. For Arch Rival, they would inevitably make a second straight appearance at the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) international championships in November and claim their first-ever victory in the global tourney.
Meanwhile for the GateKeepers, the 2016 Big O set the narrative for St. Louis eventually claiming their second straight title in the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) last October.
Both teams will again return to the Lane County Events Center this Friday to participate at the event’s sixth installment that has 52 games held on three tracks and features leagues from all over the world.
Arch Rival, currently ranked eighth internationally by the WFTDA, has Big O contests slated against top-ranked Victorian, #5 Angel City and #16 Crime City while the defending two-time MRDA champion GateKeepers face #3 Bridgetown, #5 Puget Sound and unranked Wheels of Mayhem.
In addition to Arch Rival’s primary travel squad, the league’s B-team, the Saint Lunachix, also makes a Big O tallyho with meetings against Victorian’s Queen Bees and Rose City’s Axles of Annihilation.
All three Gateway City teams look forward to making initial splashes for 2017 success this weekend.
“We were incredibly proud of our finish last season and are ready to carry that momentum into the Big O,” said Arch Rival All-Stars co-captain Bricktator. “We are itching to get the 2017 season underway.”
“We want to use everything we have learned, with all the time and hard work we have put into play, to have the three best possible games we can play, regardless of outcome,” added GateKeepers co-captain Percy Controll. “As long as we accomplish that goal, then the tournament will be a success and it shows that our training is being applied as we intended and we can only go up from there.”
“Everyone on this team has worked their tail off for this first set of games and we are very eager to bring it to the track,” stated ARCH Saint Lunachix co-captain JJ of her b-teamers. “Our goals are to leave it all on the track, to give everything that we have built up in our tanks and push our limits. These two games are about solidifying our confidence and pushing beyond what we even expect of ourselves.”
The docket is extremely demanding for the Arch Rival All-Stars, who finished last season 12-2, as they face for the first-time historically the top-ranked league within the governing body alongside a perennial WFTDA Champs entrant and a hard-charging Swedish Division 1 squad. Helping the ARCH cause is the fact that a majority of last year’s line-up is back in the fold.
“We are fortunate this season to have the majority of our players from last year on our charter this year,” said ARCH’s Bricktator. “There is already an established chemistry to build from which puts us in a great starting place. We continue to set a high bar for our team in the hopes of being the strongest Arch Rival All-Stars team yet.”
Alongside the co-captain, jamming is projected to be handled by returning A-teamers Harmony Killerbruise and Annie Swanson, who claimed MVP honors at last year’s WFTDA playoff round held in Madison, Wisconsin. Included in the jamming fold are perennials CupQuake and Kayla Woodward and full-time newcomers Bolt Action and Psychokid D’Freakout.
ARCH’s much-touted blocking schema contains numerous veterans that competed at last year’s international playoffs, including Cloak N’ DragHer, Jamheiser Bush, Party Foul, Shear-Ra Powers, Shimmy Hoffa, Smarty McFly, Krista Grant and Salty. Blocker Rhino, who returns after a year’s sabbatical, is back in the charter and A-team additions Cruella Belle-ville, Fletch-A-Sketch, Nox, Pegasass will also travel to Eugene.
ARCH’s Friday opponent, fifth-ranked Angel City, finished last season 8-5 and reached the second round of the WFTDA Championships. The Los Angeles, California-based Hollywood Scarlets (0-0 in sanctioned play) are an extremely physical team and recorded a non-sanctioned 462-46 thumping of #30 Arizona two weekends ago.
Saturday’s meeting with top-ranked Melbourne, Australia-based Victorian is a monumental in scope. Since calculated rankings were first tabulated in February 2013, St. Louis has never faced the governing body’s mathematical matriarchs. Victorian posted a 16-1 record in 2016 and collected bronze at last year’s WFTDA International Championships. With their strength of schedule figured in, the Aussies currently hold the top spot globally and already have an exhibition game in hand, a 258-138 topper over Team Australia Men held in March.
“One of the best things about sports is that any outcome is possible,” assessed Bricktator of her team’s clash with the WFTDA’s top-ranked team. “VRDL is an incredibly talented team but if we stay focused and capitalize on their mistakes, we could surprise some Aussies.”
Sunday’s inaugural meeting with Malmo, Sweden’s Crime City is another first-time affair. Sixteenth-ranked CCR-A finished last season 11-2 and snared fifth place at the WFTDA Division playoff round held in Columbia, South Carolina last September. Capitalizing on that success, the Swedes already have been active this season by competing in the “Anarchy in the UK” invitational held in mid-April where they finished 2-1 with tight triumphs over #20 Rainy City and #22 Helsinki while holding steady in a 61-point setback to #4 London which is considered a huge success considering the calculated rankings’ complexion.
Bricktator wisely looks at the Big O docket with a trained eye and knows what it will take for a potential three-game sweep.
“The whole weekend will require efficient transitions from offense to defense, smart lines by the jammers, and controlled play until the last whistle of each game,” she said. “We have shown time and again that we don’t stop working until the end of the last jam. “
On the men’s side, if one looks at early projections on paper, a Big O “three-peat” is not out of the realm for GateKeepers Roller Derby due to the returning line-up that hoisted MRDA hardware last October and this weekend’s display will certainly provide some insight.
Even though the league just recently concluded their three-team local season, preparation was still necessary for the primary travel squad. As a primer, the GateKeepers thumped #24 Race City Rebels, 467-16, at its South St. Louis City practice facility in early-April and the result extended their MRDA-sanctioned winning streak to 22 games.
“Having taken a really light ‘off-season’ and working hard through our local season, it felt really great to play against another team, and to see some of our new strategies and our hard work put to the test,” said GKRD co-captain Percy Controll of the sanctioned win. “Plus, we love those guys, so it’s always a fun game!”
Jamming will be paced by returning veterans Magnum P.I.M.P., ScreechAround, Shane Bower, David Metcalfe and Corey Porter, who claimed Most Valuable Player honors at last year’s MRDA Championships.
On the blocking end, returnees Controll, Spin Diesel, Bled Zeppelin, Double Excel, The Saint, Monster Jam, Inquadable Hulk, Wrecking Bill, Fruit Wall-Up, The Doc and Sir Nixalot are ready to provide openings. Additions to the GKRD A-team charter include Last Rites, HEYNONGMAN and Thrillhouse.
GKRD’s Friday opposition, Baja California, Mexico-based Wheels of Mayhem is newly-classified as a MRDA-sanctioned team. The spunky squad is 0-2 following losses to #23 Dive-By City and unranked Skaters Grim.
“We love that we are getting the opportunity to play an International team that we’ve never played before,” said Controll of the Big O opener. “We rarely get that opportunity, so we are looking to have fun in that game, get our feet wet, and set the tone for the rest of the tournament.”
Saturday afternoon’s opponent, the fifth-ranked Puget Sound Outcasts, finished last season 4-5 while making its sixth consecutive appearance at the MRDA trophy finale. They launched their 2017 season last month with a 182-130 road setback to #6 Vancouver.
“Puget is always a fun team to play against because they are so physical, and really push us to test our limits,” assessed Controll. “We have a long history with all of those guys, and we’re excited to write another page!”
The true test for GKRD is the Sunday afternoon match-up against third-ranked Bridgetown Menace. The Portland, Oregon-based faction finished 5-4 last season and recorded a newly-claimed fourth-place finish in MRDA Champs play. The Menace (1-0) already scored a 534-point triumph over #29 Lane County (567-33) in March. Bridgetown will be the highest-ranked opponent the GateKeepers will face during their MRDA-sanctioned regular season.
“Playing Bridgetown is always a battle,” said Controll. “They are a solid team, with a similar style to GK, and we expect a full on, grinding, race to the finish. We can’t wait!”
On the Arch Rival developmental side, the league’s Saint Lunachix B-team finished last season 7-3 and netted a new historical WFTDA high point with their seventh-place finish last October at the governing body’s B-team finale, “Sting of the Hill.” That certainly provided motivation for the team’s two-game Big O docket that launches their 2017 campaign.
“Competing at B-Champs was an incredibly fun yet challenging experience for us that really set the bar high for this season,” said Chix co-captain JJ. “The excitement the team felt coming into this season carried over because we ended on such a high note.”
Alongside co-captain Psychokid D’Freakout, jamming is projected to be supplemented by charter members Aggie Wartooth, Flash, Bloody Gaga and Violet Opposition. Blocking will be provided by the aforementioned JJ as well as Ginger, Hakuna Renata, Snotface, Carmina Piranha, Rock Slobster, Trigger Happy Jackie, Warpath O’ Jen, Sue Bob Fight, Birdsong and SheKill O’Neal. There is also the likelihood of non-rostered Arch Rival A-teamers also being added to the Lunachix mix.
Their Friday opponent, Rose City’s Axles of Annihilation, finished last season 7-1 and claimed the WFTDA B-team title with a three-game sweep at the aforementioned “Sting” tournament. Friday’s meeting with St. Louis marks their first game of the year. Meanwhile, the Chix Sunday foe – the Victorian Queen Bees – also finished last season 7-1 against cross-continent opposition and already sports a 214-140 March victory over the Sydney Assassins this year.
The oppositions’ cache might seem intimidating from the onset, but JJ feels that the Lunachix will be able to compete on the exact same level come first whistle.
“Rose and Victoria are two of the best B teams in the world, but honestly, we don’t think about that when we take the track,” she said. “They are skaters with lives just like us. Their tenacity and reputation just make us work and grind even harder. For many of us, we are getting to play against our role models and show them what we are made of and that’s pretty dang cool!”
What will especially be pretty dang cool at Big O is for St. Louis derby to finish collectively 8-0 by weekend’s end.
For more information on Arch Rival Roller Derby, go to their official website.
For more information on GateKeepers Roller Derby, go to their official website.
The event will have live, free stream coverage throughout the weekend. By clicking on this page, one can view games from one of three tracks.
ST. LOUIS DERBY AT BIG O INVITATIONAL (Times listed are converted to Central)
12:30 PM – B-TEAM: ARCH ST. LUNACHIX VS. ROSE CITY (Track 2)
4:30 PM – ARCH RIVAL VS. ANGEL CITY (Track 2)
8:30 PM – STL GATEKEEPERS VS. WHEELS OF MAYHEM (Track 2)
4 PM – ARCH RIVAL VS. VICTORIAN (Track 1)
8 PM – STL GATEKEEPERS VS. PUGET SOUND (Track 3)
12 PM – B-TEAM: ARCH ST. LUNACHIX VS. VICTORIAN (Track 3)
4 PM – STL GATEKEEPERS VS. BRIDGETOWN MENACE (Track 3)
6:30 PM – ARCH RIVAL VS. CRIME CITY (Track 2)
Arch City Sports will have a full recap posted on Monday.