Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

The Greek God of Wrestling examines the rapid rise of Jinder Mahal, who will challenge Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at Backlash. Achilles Heel also recaps Ring of Honor’s War of the Worlds (and previews the show at 2300 Arena), tells you which Ring of Honor star may be headed for WWE, and tells you when you can see the United Kingdom show on WWE Network.

Bill O’Brien deserves some credit, but his success at Penn State has been overstated. The Nittany Lions will be better off with a head coach fully committed to the program and university.

The Flyers promoted Ron Hextall to general manager, with former GM Paul Holmgren becoming team president. Hextall said that developing young players within the organization was the key to winning a championship.

Archive for July, 2018

Heel Turns: Evolution sign of Revolution

Posted by Achilles Heel On July - 30 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

For the Greek God of Wrestling, Evolution will always be the superb heel coalition featuring Ric Flair, Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista. But “Evolution” is an appropriate name for WWE’s all-women pay-per-view, which will take place Oct. 28 at Nassau Coliseum.

Women’s wrestling, particularly in the United States, has changed dramatically in recent years. We’re not that far removed from pillow fights and lingerie matches. There were some exceptions who could put together exciting matches – Trish Stratus, Lita and Beth Phoenix come immediately to mind – but the list of Divas who were capable wrestlers was a short one.

Now, the women’s division in WWE is brimming with talent. There are enough women wrestlers to have separate groups on Raw and Smackdown, not to mention the women in NXT. And WWE is once again bringing in women from around the world for the second Mae Young Classic. And, with Evolution, WWE has decided there are enough talented women to put on a all-women’s pay-per-view.

The idea of an all-women’s pay-per-view would have seemed absurd five years ago. How could you fill three hours with bathing suit contests, food fights and backstage skits? Even when the women wrestled, they were placed, at best, in the middle of the card. When Trish and Lita wrestled in the main event of Raw, it was a huge deal. But women in the main event of a pay-per-view? No way!

One change is star power. Ronda Rousey is, arguably, one of the biggest starts in WWE. Charlotte Flair is also one of the company’s most recognizable stars. Throw in Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch and you have a deep roster of women with strong fan followings. Even Smackdown general manager Paige is a bit of a star. If Brie and Nikki Bella participate in Evolution, that will add to the star power. The Bellas have their own television show, a spin-off from Total Divas, another show that increases the star power of female wrestlers.

The other obvious change is in ability. Natalya, Charlotte and Mickie James are no longer alone in being able to put together a good match. In addition to the names listed above, Asuka, Naomi, Nia Jax, Ember Moon and newcomers such as Ruby Riott know how to put together a good match.

WWE should be commended for bringing in talent from around the world, but much of the improvement can be attributed to the training at WWE’s Performance Center. NXT assistant head coach Sara Ann Amato, who wrestled as Sara Del Rey, is perhaps the unsung hero of the women’s division. It’s not a coincidence that the quality and depth of WWE’s women’s division has improved every year since 2012, when Amato signed with WWE. It would be fitting if Amato received some sort of public recognition at Evolution.

We don’t know too much about Evolution yet. We know there will stars of the past mixed with stars of the present, as there were at the first women’s Royal Rumble this past January in Philadelphia. We know the finals of the Mae Young Classic will take place at Evolution. But right now the details aren’t important.

All that matters right now is that women have attained a level of popularity that would have seemed impossible a few years ago.


MAKING AN IMPACT: Slammiversary was about as successful as Impact Wrestling could have hoped. Most of the matches delivered, and you couldn’t have asked for much more than the wrestlers delivered.

In the context of low expectations for offering from Impact Wrestling, some observers have become carried away while raving about Slammiversary. The show was good, but it wasn’t, by any stretch, one of the best pay-per-views of the year.

The show suffered from too many violent gimmick matches. All of them were good, but, as the Greek God of Wrestling warned, there can be too much of a good thing. Having a House of Hardcore rules match (Tommy Dreamer vs. Eddie Edwards), a street fight (Santana and Ortiz vs. Homicide and Hernandez) and a hair vs. mask (Sami Callihan vs. Pentagon Jr.) on the same card is overkill, but it’s a far cry from the pay-per-views when every match was held inside of a steel cage.

The main event, as it should be, was the best match on the card. Austin Aries definitely made the right career move by leaving WWE and going to Impact Wrestling. Aries has had the opportunity to play a leading role in Impact Wrestling, and he has taken advantage of it. He retained the Impact Wrestling World Championship at Slammiversary in a terrific match with Moose.

In other title matches, Brian Cage defeated Matt Sydal to win the X Division Championships, and Su Young beat Madison Rayne to retain the Knockouts title. In terms of quality, the Callihan-Pentagon Jr. match and the show opener, with Johnny Impact prevailing in a four-way match with Taiji Ishimori, Fenix and Petey Williams (replacing the concussed Rich Swann) were the best matches after the main event.

The bottom line is that Slammiversary was a positive step for Impact Wrestling. Let’s see if the company can continue the momentum moving forward.


SUMMERSLAM TAKES SHAPE: The SummerSlam card is coming together. Roman Reigns defeated Bobby Lashley to earn the right to challenge WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar once again at SummerSlam, which will take place Aug. 19 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Samoa Joe announced himself as the challenger for the WWE Championship by choking out AJ Styles.

We also know both women’s title matches. Ronda Rousey challenges Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship. Becky Lynch challenges Carmella for the Smackdown Women’s Championship after defeating her in a non-title match.

Two other Raw brand matches have been announced for SummerSlam. Seth Rollins will try to regain the Intercontinental Championship from Dolph Ziggler. Kevin Owens will battle Braun Strowman, with Strowman’s Money in the Bank championship opportunity on the line.


SUMMERSLAM PREVIEW: Fans in Hershey received a preview of a major SummerSlam match this past weekend when AJ Styles defeated Samoa Joe to retain the WWE Championship.


FAREWELL TO VOLKOFF: There was a trio of deaths of former wrestlers this past weekend, with the best known being Nikolai Volkoff. Volkoff, whose real name was Josip Nikolai Peruzovic, died at age 70.

Volkoff was best known for winning the tag team championship with The Iron Sheik on two occasions as WWE’s (then WWF) popularity exploded during the 1980s. Volkoff would send the crowd into a frenzy by singing the Soviet national anthem before each match. Prior to his success with the Iron Sheik, Volkoff, who first came into WWE (then WWWF) as Bepo Mongol, was a prime challenger for the WWWF Championship during Bruno Sammartino’s second reign as champion. Achilles Heel sends his condolences to Volkoff’s family and friends.


FAREWELL TO CHRISTOPHER: Any death provokes sadness, but the impact seems to be worse when the person is young. It adds to the pain when the person takes his own life, as Brian Christopher did this past weekend while in jail in Tennessee. According to The Wrestling Observer, Christopher had been in jail since July 7 on a DUI charge.

Christopher, whose real name is Brian Christopher Lawler, is the son of Jerry “The King” Lawler. He reached his greatest fame during WWE’s “Attitude era” as part of “Too Cool” with Scotty 2 Hotty and Rikishi. Achilles Heel sends his condolence to “The King,” his family and all of Christopher’s friends.


FAREWELL TO BROWN: The first of this past weekend’s wrestling deaths was the passing of Brickhouse Brown at age 57 after a battle with cancer. Brown, who was always in fantastic physical condition during his wrestling days, attained his greatest success in Tennessee, where he had a main-event feud with Jerry Lawler. Achilles Heel sends his condolences to Brown’s family and friends.


CIAMPA CAPTURES CROWN: Tommaso Ciampa, who has been one of the most reviled wrestlers during this past year due to his feud with Johnny Gargano, captured the NXT Championship from Aleister Black (the match took place at NXT’s television tapings, but the Greek God of Wrestling detests spoilers, so he didn’t reveal the outcome until the match was broadcast on WWE Network). Ciampa won the title when Gargano’s interference inadvertently cost Black the title. Expect to see Ciampa, Black and Gargano in a triple threat match for the NXT Championship the night before SummerSlam.


RIDDLE TO WWE? There are numerous rumors about Matt Riddle heading to WWE (most likely to NXT). However, Riddle, who appeared at Combat Zone Wrestling’s New Heights this past Saturday, will be at 2300 Arena on Saturday to defend the EVOLVE Championship against Shane Strickland in a hardcore rules match. EVOLVE has confirmed that Riddle will appear at all four scheduled EVOLVE dates. Riddle has canceled some advance dates, which fueled the WWE rumors.

Other matches scheduled for EVOLVE’s card Saturday, which is part of a doubleheader with PROGRESS at 2300 Arena, include WWN champion Joey Janela faces AR Fox in a non-title match, Darby Allin vs. Austin Theory and a four-way match between JD Drake, Jon Davis, Josh Briggs and Odinson. Among those scheduled to appear at the PROGRESS section of the doubleheader (7:30 p.m.) are Progress world champion Travis Banks, WWE United Kingdom champion Pete Dunne, Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven and Tyler Bate), Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster.


CHIKARA’S SECRET: CHIKARA returns to The Wrestle Factory on Sat. Aug. 11 (3 p.m.) for Chikarasaurus Rex – A Deadly Secret. The early card appears to be loaded, with “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti challenging Juan Francisco de Coronado for the CHIKARA Grand Championship. Achilles Heel smells a potential title change. Dasher Hatfield, Angelosetti’s former tag team partner, will team with his son, Boomer Hatfield, who is making his debut, against Hallowicked and Frightmare. Danjerhawk will face Sage Philips in a Young Lions Cup match.


CZW’S BUSINESS: Like CHIKARA, Combat Zone Wrestling will hold events two weeks apart. CZW returns to The Colossal Sports Academy at The Coliseum in Voorhees on Sat., Aug. 11 (7 p.m.) for “Business as Usual.” It’s uncertain if Maxwell Jacob Friedman, who did not wrestle at New Heights due to a knee injury, will be able to defend the CZW World Championship.


RING OF HONOR IN PHILLY: With Ring of Honor presenting a United Kingdom tour in mid-August, the only chance to see Ring of Honor in the United States before Labor Day will be at Philadelphia Excellence, a television taping at 2300 Arena on Aug. 25.


NXT SPLIT: At the start of this edition of Heel Turns, the Greek God of Wrestling marveled at the growth of WWE’s women’s division. He has a similar feeling about NXT, which is running two tours at the same time. When NXT began, nobody thought of NXT as a touring company, let alone one with the quality and depth to run two simultaneous tours.

Three of a kind

Posted by Eric Fisher On July - 27 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Professional athletes have a bad reputation. Far too often the reputation is deserved. But many times it is not.

Although it’s more substantial than a few bad apples spoiling the whole barrel, there are plenty of good people on the rosters of professional sports teams.

And then there are the special athletes. The ones who combine exceptional ability with work ethic, desire and admirable personal characteristics. The fans cherish these players, and relish their connection with them.

We are in the midst of a two-week stretch celebrating three of these cherished players. Chase Utley. Brian Dawkins. Jim Thome.

Utley just completed a farewell series – barring a Phillies-Dodgers playoff confrontation – at Citizens Bank Park. Utley announced he is retiring after this season in time for Phillies fans to bid farewell. That gesture says a lot about Utley’s character. The fans demonstrated their appreciation by showering him with repeated standing ovations.

Dawkins will feel the love from Eagles fans one week from Saturday when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thome doesn’t have the same long-term relationship with Philadelphia fans as Dawkins or Utley, but the big man made a lasting impression during his short time with the Phillies. He will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

The connection with the fans is about more than talent. Terrell Owens, who also will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the same day as Dawkins (although he won’t be present for the ceremony), was a fantastic player. He helped the Eagles reach their second Super Bowl and, memorably, returned from a serious foot injury to play in the Super Bowl. Eagles fans loved T.O. They even wrote songs about him.

But Owens’ bizarre behavior prevented him from establishing the special bond of an Utley, Dawkins or Thome. After reaching the Super Bowl, he tore the team apart with his contract demands and the insults, , even invoking the incendiary “Uncle Tom” label, he directed toward quarterback Donovan McNabb. T.O. had the city in the palm of his hand, but he threw it all away.

By contrast, Utley never uttered a disparaging word. Phillies beat writers probably wished he would have uttered a few more words – Utley kept his emotions close to the vest – but there were never any questions about Utley’s attitude. He let his actions speak for themselves. His hustle and knack for making big plays at big moments endeared Utley to Phillies fans.

Dawkins was more than a great player. He was the heart and soul of the Eagles. In contrast to Utley, Dawkins wore his emotions on his sleeves – and his chest, his helmet and his entire body. When the Eagles allowed Dawkins to become a free agent in 2009, leading to his signing with the Broncos, it brought Dawkins and Eagles fans to tears.

Dawkins and Utley both played 13 seasons in Philadelphia. Thome played just two full seasons, and portions of two others, with the Phillies, yet he also is fondly remembered by Phillies fans.

Thome’s arrival as a coveted free agent in 2003, which also happened to be Utley’s first season, signaled that the Phillies were on the rise. In addition to his prodigious power, Thome earned the fans’ love with his down-to-earth attitude. Despite his short time here, Thome established connections with the community. On one occasion, Thome left a check for a significant amount at a charity event at which he was appearing – and didn’t tell anyone. His generosity was only discovered when organizers were going through the checks.

Thome, Utley and Dawkins are the genuine article. They are the real deal.

They were beloved for their commitment to winning and their team-first attitude, which earned them the respect of their teammates and fans. By contrast, there was always the impression that T.O. was out for himself, a perspective confirmed by his decision to celebrate his induction to the Hall of Fame at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga instead of Canton, Ohio.

Dawkins and Thome are headed to their respective sports’ hall of fames during the next 10 days. Will Utley join them by becoming a Hall of Famer one day? Maybe. But, along with Dawkins and Thome, he’s unquestionably a Philadelphia Hall of Famer in the hearts and minds of the tough Philly sports fans, an honor that values attitude and character more than gaudy statistics.

We were blessed to have had this trio of fantastic players, and wonderful people, playing in Philadelphia at the same time.

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie