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Consecutive wins for Saints, who host Eagles on Sunday

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on Fletcher Cox and Marcus Smith missing OTAs, why we should be concerned about Tiger Woods, and the awesome writing of the late, great Frank DeFord.

The Greek God of Wrestling explains how A.J. Styles capturing the WWE Championship enhances Survivor Series. Achilles Heel also updates the Raw and Smackdown teams for Survivor Series, previews the San Antonio showdown between Ring of Honor and NXT, reflects on Bound for Glory, and tells you when and where Chris Jericho will return to action in this information-packed edition of Heel Turns.

The Greek God of Wrestling highlights the big names expected at Raw on Monday night in Philadelphia. Achilles Heel also explains what the Usos winning the Smackdown Tag Team Championship could mean for WrestleMania, tells you how you can watch Supercard of Honor XI, and runs through the lineups for numerous cards in Florida preceding WrestleMania 33 in Orlando.

Archive for September, 2018

Hawaiian Punch

Posted by Eric Fisher On September - 30 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

As Super Bowl champions, the Eagles seem to have a target on their backs. Every team is motivated to give its best against the champs. Every one of the Eagles’ games has come down to the final possession, although the Eagles had to go 90 yards in 10 seconds at the end of their loss to the Buccaneers.

Sunday’s loss to the Titans was more of the same. The Eagles, who squandered a 14-point second-half lead, needed a field goal with 16 seconds remaining to force overtime. After striking first during overtime with a field goal, the Eagles watched Marcus Mariota lead the Titans on a 75-yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis with 11 seconds remaining in overtime.

“We’re not quite where we want to be,” quarterback Carson Wentz said of the 2-2 Eagles, “but there’s still a long way to go.”

The Eagles are thrilled to have Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but they may also have been pleased if, as rumored at the time, they had acquired Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Mariota completed 30 of 43 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. He also ran for 46 yards and a touchdown. On the game-winning drive in overtime, Mariota converted three times on fourth down to keep the drive alive.

Fourth-down issues

“We get off the field on fourth down, we win the game,” cornerback Jalen Mills said.

On the first fourth down of the overtime drive, the Titans dug themselves a deeper hole with a false start penalty, leaving them with fourth-and-15. But Mariota found Taywan Taylor along the left sideline for a fairly easy 19-yard gain against soft coverage.

“We were just a little out of position,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

On fourth-and-4, cornerback Sidney Jones was flagged for a pass interference penalty, giving the Titans a first down at the Eagles 40-yard line. On fourth-and-2 at the 32, instead of attempting a game-tying field goal, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel decided to go for it. Mariota threw the ball to running back Dion Lewis in the right flat. Lewis made cornerback Ronald Darby miss at tackle, and then raced down to the 15.

A defensive holding penalty on safety Malcolm Jenkins moved the ball to the 10. After an errant throw to an open Tajae Sharpe against rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox in the center of the end zone on first down, the Titans came back to Maddox. Mariota lobbed the ball up to the much taller Davis, who came down with the winning catch after Maddox stumbled.

If it sounds as if many members of the Eagles secondary were victimized, you would be correct. And I haven’t mentioned Mills, who was burned several times, including a 51-yard pass to Davis, and committed a crucial pass interference penalty. Jenkins played a terrific game, but the rest of the secondary seemed to struggle. Perhaps the ripple effect of starter Rodney McLeod’s knee injury were felt right away. Graham didn’t seem to take the correct angle on the fourth-and-15 throw in overtime, and perhaps Maddox doesn’t have to cover receivers one-on-one at the end of the game if McLeod were healthy.

“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” Pederson said. “We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to get back to work.”

The Eagles were actually fortunate that Darius Jennings and Davis dropped long passes. There were several other key drops for the Titans, but Mariota repeatedly overcame them.

Happy returns

The Eagles seemed to have the game under control when they started the second half with a touchdown drive that ate up 7 minutes, 24 seconds. The drive ended with Wentz finding Alshon Jeffery for a 16-yard touchdown pass in the right side of the end zone.

In his season debut after undergoing rotator cuff surgery, Jeffery caught eight passes for 105 yards. He made a “back shoulder” catch and made several tough catches.

“It’s great to have Alshon back out there, a guy that can make contested catches” said Wentz, who completed 33 of 50 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns.

It was a nice day of returns for Eagles receivers. In addition to Jeffery, Jordan Matthews, in his second game since rejoining the Eagles, caught a 56-yard touchdown pass during the second quarter to cap the Eagles’ first scoring drive. DeAndre Carter, activated on Friday when the Eagles put McLeod on injured reserve, returned a punt 41 yards to give the Eagles possession at the Titans 39 with 1:41 remaining.

Missed opportunities and costly mistakes

But the Eagles couldn’t turn the excellent field position into a touchdown, even after Jeffery caught a 15-yard pass to move the ball to the 19. They settled for a field goal, just as they did after an interception by Maddox gave them the ball at the 17 with 26 seconds remaining.

The missed opportunities certainly contributed to the Eagles’ demise. A lost fumble by Wentz early in the fourth quarter enabled the Titans to kick a field goal to pull within 17-13. There were too many dropped passes (several by Nelson Agholor) and penalties – the Eagles committed eight for 77 yards – were once again a problem. During their touchdown drive to start the third quarter, the Eagles overcame three separate holding penalties.

“Something negative happens, and it gets us out of our rhythm,” Pederson said.

Self-inflicted wounds was the theme after the Eagles lost to the Bucs. If it happens again, it would be fair to characterize the mistakes as a trend.

“Those little things can kind of creep up and bit you,” Wentz said, “and I think that’s what happened today.”

Heel Turns: WWE going global

Posted by Achilles Heel On September - 29 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

WWE Super Showdown, which will air on WWE Network next Saturday (5 a.m. EST), is the latest example of WWE’s increasingly global profile.

In November, WWE will return to Saudi Arabia for its second major stadium show this year. Next Saturday it’s Australia’s turn to host a major stadium show, with WWE coming to the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

These major cards across the world enable WWE to become a presence in these countries. Once the WWE is established there, it can increase the number of subscribers to WWE Network and, of course, sell more merchandise.

With perhaps only marginal gains to be made in the United States, WWE is increasing its revenue through its global growth. Perhaps this is one reason that its stock has soared to all-time highs, going beyond $90 in value.

From an in-ring standpoint, WWE has lined up a card that’s almost WrestleMania worthy. The main event is Undertaker vs. Triple H. This match is billed as the final meeting in a legendary rivalry. It would be expecting too much to see Undertaker and Triple H, both of whom are semi-retired as in-ring performers, put on a five-star classic. Or even a 4-star classic. There should be a lot of interference and gimmicks – think Triple H vs. Sting at WrestleMania 31 – to give the combatants time to recover at various moments during their match. Unless there is a rematch planned, Undertaker should win in what could be a great spectacle, but not a great match.

One match that should pay off in the ring is the WWE Championship match between Samoa Joe and AJ Styles. Their Hell in a Cell match ended in controversial fashion, with Styles, out of the referees sight, appearing to tap out before Joe’s shoulders were down for a 3-count. This has been an intense rivalry. Expect another hard-hitting excellent match on Saturday.

Another heated rivalry that could boil over during a title match is Smackdown Women’s champion Becky Lynch defending the title against former champion Charlotte. A third Smackdown title match features The New Day defending the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against Sheamus and Cesaro.

Although three of Smackdown’s titles are on the line at WWE Super Showdown, none of the Raw championship will be defended. That doesn’t mean, however, that the champions won’t be featured in major matches. WWE Universal champion Seth Rollins and Intercontinental champion Seth Rollins join Dean Ambrose in reforming The Shield. Their opponents are Braun Strowman and Raw tag team champions Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. After watching McIntyre, Ziggler, Rollins and Ambrose burn the house down during a tag team title match at Hell in a Cell, the Greek God of Wrestling is confident in predicting this should be one hell of a match.

Instead of defending her title, Raw Women’s champion Ronda Rousey will team up with Nikki and Brie Bella to face The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan). In another women’s match, Asuka and Naomi will battle The Iconics (Billie Kay, Peyton Royce) on their home turf.

Daniel Bryan and The Miz continue their long-time rivalry at Super Showdown. In addition, John Cena returns to action for the first time since the “Greatest Royal Rumble” in Saudi Arabia, team with Bobby Lashley against Kevin Owens and Elias, and Cedric Alexander defends the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Buddy Murphy.

You’ll have to get up early to see this loaded card live. But the intended audience stretches far beyond the shores of the United States.

*****

DISHONOR IN VEGAS: In the main event of Friday’s Death Before Dishonor in Las Vegas, Jay Lethal retained the Ring of Honor World Championship by defeating Will Ospreay, who is definitely one of the rising stars on the international scene. The end of the match seemed destined to create new challengers for Lethal, most notably Matt Taven.

In what was sort of the co-main event, Cody Rhodes, Marty Schurll, Adam Page and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) defeated Kazuchika Okada, Tomohior Ishii, Chucke T, Baretta and Romero. Jay and Mark Briscoe defeated Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian to retain the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship, and Sumie Sakai retained the Women of Honor Championship by defeating Tenille Dashwood.

*****

NWA NEWS: Former NWA champion Nick Aldis was doing commentary at Death Before Dishonor. He proposed – and Cody Rhodes later accepted – making the NWA World Championship match at NWA’s 70th Anniversary show on Oct. 21 a best-two-out-of-three falls match.

*****

HEAVEN AND HELL: It’s been nearly two weeks since WWE’s Hell in a Cell, but the Greek God of Wrestling didn’t want to miss his opportunity to praise this event. As Achilles Heel suggested, having fewer matches allowed for longer and better matches.

The event got off on the right foot in the opening match (not counting the preshow match) between Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy. Orton was at his sadistic best, even inserting a screwdriver in the hole in Hardy’s ear and twisting it, causing fans to cringe and turn their heads away to avoid seeing the sickening moment. As I predicted, Hardy tried a daredevil maneuver while hanging from the top of the cage. He went through a table face-first, leading to an injury angle that appears as if it will keep Hardy out of action for a while. This was a terrific match.

The Greek God of Wrestling won’t recount every match – and I’ve already praised the WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe and the outstanding Raw Tag Teach Championship match in which Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler retained the titles against Seth Rollins and Drew Ambrose. But the main event can’t go without mention.

The Hell in a Cell match main event between WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman ended with Brock Lesnar making a surprising return. Lesnar broke down the door of the cage and then proceeded to attack Reigns and Strowman, who already were laid out due to the punishment they inflicted upon each other. It will be interesting to see how much Lesnar is involved as this storyline progresses.

In other matches at Hell in a Cell, Raw Women’s champion Ronda Rousey defeated Alexa Bliss in a match that was much more competitive than their SummerSlam bout, The Miz and Maryse beat Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella (Maryse pinned Brie) and, in the preshow, The New Day defeated Rusev and Aiden English to retain the Smackdown Tag Team Championship.

*****

IN SEARCH OF GLORY: Impact Wrestling will present Bound for Glory on Sun., Oct. 14 at the Melrose Ballroom in New York City. The main event features Johnny Impact challenging Austin Aries for the Impact Wrestling World Championship.

Moose will battle Eddie Edwards, and Tessa Blanchard will defend the Impact Wrestling Knockouts title against Taya Valkyrie. There also will be a six-man tag team match, with X-Division champion Brian Cage teaming with Pentagon Jr. and Fenix to face Sami Callihan and oVe (Dave and Jake Crist).

Bound for Glory is sold out, but tickets remain for the television tapings the following two nights.

                              *****                               

REVIVAL’S REVIVAL: It was nice to see the resurrection of The Revival this past week on Raw. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder, who hadn’t been seen since Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler assaulted them in order to get their shot at the Raw Tag Team Championship, challenged McIntyre and Ziggler for the titles. Although they lost, Dawson and Wilder were impressive.

*****

EVOLUTION REUNION: Evolution, one of the greatest groups in wrestling history, will reunited for Smackdown’s 1,000th episode on Oct. 16 in Washington, D.C. Evolution featured Ric Flair as the legend, serving as mentor to the already established main eventer in Triple H, and rising stars Randy Orton and Bautista. Orton is the only member of Evolution who is a full-time wrestler.

*****

BEST IS YET TO COME? Maxwell Jacob Friedman will defend the Combat Zone Wrestling Heavyweight Championship against David Starr at “Better than our Best” on Sat., Oct. 13 at the Colossal Sports Academy in Voorhees. In another title match, Blackwater will defend his recently won CZW Wired Television Championship against Jordan Oliver.

*****

HATFIELD DEFENDS TITLE: Dasher Hatfield, who became interim Grand Champion after Mark Angelosetti, his partner in The Throwbacks, broke his fibula during a first-round match King of Trios, made a successful title defense against Travis Huckabee last Saturday at “It Came From Beneath the Sink.”

Boomer Hatfield, Dasher’s son, will be in action on Sun., Oct. 7 at Hour of Power at the Wrestle Factory. Boomer will face Sloan Caprice. In other announced matches, Thief Ang will battle Volgar, and Officer Warren Barksdale faces Frantik. Six days later, CHIKARA returns to The Wrestle Factory for the wonderfully titled “Piano Lessons Can be Murder.”

*****                               

RAW IN PHILLY: Don’t forget that Raw is coming to Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 15. If you’re looking for a double-shot of WWE, the Raw crew will be at PPL Center in Allentown the previous night.

Maurice Cheeks enters Hall of Fame