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by Pat Barker

When the dust settled after
our bizarre Roast Battle title match last Tuesday, Alex Hooper emerged with his
championship status in tact. His strategy changed a great deal, but Hooper
walking out with a win is pretty much business as usual. His second title reign
has lasted even longer than his first, a run that hit eight months on Monday
and figures to carry into next year. Now that I’m out of the way, let’s take a
look at what deserving candidates might be next in line for a shot at the belt.

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Earl Skakel. The
case against Earl is pretty solid – he’s by no means a “regular”
roaster. His 8-2-1 record was accumulated primarily during special events, and
all 11 fights took place in one-round battles. A title match must be three
rounds, so how can you justify putting someone in there who’s never done it
before? Simple. Earl runs the Belly Room. He’s run it for years from the
Hater’s Table. If there was a Roast Battle Mount Rushmore, his enormous
bespectacled head would undoubtedly be one of the four on there. He’s the Final
Boss, and the fact that he wants the title in the first place speaks volumes.
The guy beat Jimmy Carr and earned “third in the world” status, and
now all he wants is the belt. If that’s not an indication that the title is a
big deal, nothing is. And if none of those reasons is good enough for you, you
have to admit that Alex’s newfound theatrical approach would mesh perfectly
with Earl’s, making for the most stylistically appropriate battle possible.

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Toby Muresianu. We
at Verbal Violence remain committed to not posting any spoilers for the Comedy
Central taping, but I think I can say this without it being a surprise to
anyone: Toby was great. It’s not surprising because he’s been great for a LONG
time now – his last (confirmed) loss was back in August of 2015. Since then
he’s rattled off five wins, all in main events, and all against top
competitors. If Earl’s frantic energy would mesh perfectly with Alex, Toby’s
robotic approach would provide one of the most drastic style clashes any main event
could ever offer. Toby has quickly gained a reputation as possibly the hardest
person to roast, and I for one would love to see what creative approaches Alex
could find to center his attack around.

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Connor McSpadden.
Again, no CC spoilers here. But before his Road to Roast Battle clash, Connor
had run off a record tying six consecutive wins. That streak was snapped by
Jerron Horton at the Hammer Museum pop-up show, but he hasn’t lost a battle in
the Belly Room since falling to Keith Carey in the 2015 Battle of the Year
almost two full years ago. Connor’s track record is impeccable, and his
proclivity for writing some of the meanest jokes possible would make for an
interesting fight against someone who usually gets hit with more surface-level
material. Connor is also remarkably quick, meaning any surprise attacks Alex
has up his sleeves could potentially be countered with some freestyled
material.

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Omid Singh. Omid’s
got the resume to back up this selection (11-4 record outside of the Road to
Roast Battle show), but an inconsistent 2016 could ultimately leave him in the
cold. The most important argument for Omid, however, is that he already beat
Alex handily once before. While I generally shy away from suggesting rematches,
their first clash was in last year’s tournament and was only a one-round fight.
A proper main event would allow both battlers to revamp their strategy, but
Omid probably wouldn’t change much. He beat Alex at his own game the first time
around with brilliant absurdist humor, and seeing how Hooper would adjust for
the sequel is very intriguing to me.

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Anna Valenzuela.
This is definitely more of a wild card selection, as everyone above has at
least ten battles under their belt. But Anna, at 5-1 and with a very
strong Comedy Central fight with Keith Carey to her credit, could be in line
for a title shot sooner rather than later. She’s not more deserving than Toby
or Connor based on track record, but she would probably stand similar odds of
winning. Her joke writing and stage presence have improved each time out, and
while she may not be next in line, it wouldn’t shock me to see her going for
the belt at some point in 2017.

Other competitors can
certainly stake a claim at this spot – Doug Fager, Kim Congdon, and Dan Nolan
are all deserving, to name a few – but the aforementioned five have the right
combination of factors to earn a shot. They’re all riding amazing hot streaks,
boast fantastic records, and, in one case, hold a win over the reigning champ.
Where Alex chooses to go from here remains to be seen, but if I were playing
matchmaker, this is where I’d start.

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