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Consecutive playoff series won by Penguins

With a month to go until WrestleMania, the plans for many wrestlers are still unclear. The Greek God of Wrestling also tells you who won the EVOLVE title, why Diamond Dallas Page is an excellent choice for the Hall of Fame, and who will challenge for the TNA World Championship this week on Impact Wrestling.

The Flyers 50th anniversary season is the franchise’s first without founding father Ed Snider. Without Snider’s passion and commitment to excellence, will the long-term direction of the franchise be affected?

The start of Eagles training camp brings with it an onslaught of media coverage that won’t subside until January. Rather than fight against the tide, Eric Fisher suggests fans go with the flow and ride the Eagles wave.

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 21 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

There is much less excitement over this year’s NFL Draft than last year’s draft. Why? Let us count the ways.

The first reason is that last year’s draft was held in Philadelphia. The excitement was evident by the record-breaking crowds that flooded the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This year’s draft – and it was a mistake not to return to Philadelphia – is in Dallas. The only real anticipation is waiting to hear the Eagles announced as Super Bowl champions in the Cowboys’ backyard.

A second reason for less excitement is the Eagles won the Super Bowl. We had a parade and weeks of championship euphoria. The draft is no longer the football highlight of the first seven months of the year.

The Eagles also don’t have many picks in this year’s draft. They have the final (32nd) selection in the first round on Thursday night, and then don’t pick again until Saturday. The Eagles have the 30th (130 overall) and 32nd (132) picks in the fourth round and the final pick in rounds five (169), six (206) and seven (250).

Another reason there doesn’t seem to be as much excitement over the NFL Draft this year is that, unlike last season, the Sixers and Flyers are in the playoffs and the Phillies are playing well. The Wells Fargo Center was dark last season and the Phillies got off to a terrible start. We didn’t have much else to root for except for the Eagles to enjoy success in the draft.

With so few draft picks, it will be a challenge for the Eagles to improve themselves this week. Don’t be surprised if the Eagles trade out of the first round in order to pick up an additional pick. Would the Eagles trade out of the first round in exchange for a high second-round pick and a third-round pick? I think they would.

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SCHEDULE THOUGHTS: The Eagles have a balanced 2018 schedule. They alternate home and away games until after Thanksgiving. Their bye week comes exactly halfway through the schedule, with the bye coming after an Oct. 28 game against the Jaguars in London.

Predicting a record at this point is a ridiculous exercise, so … What? You really want a prediction? No, it’s ridiculous. We know so little about what the teams will be by the time the Eagles play them, that … what? OK, OK. 11-5.

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REWARDING FOLES: The Eagles reworked Nick Foles’ contract. The new deal includes a $2 million signing bonus and an option for the 2019 season. Foles’ contract had been scheduled to expire after next season. There reportedly are incentives in case Foles has to return to a starting role if Carson Wentz’s injuries don’t heal quickly enough for him to be ready at the start of the season. There won’t be any objections form Eagles fans for rewarding Foles. That’s how it is when you lead your team to its first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

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UNHAPPY HOMECOMING: Daryl Worley’s homecoming didn’t go as planned. The cornerback and Philadelphia native, acquired from the Panthers in exchange for receiver Torrey Smith, was arrested after allegedly being combative with police officers who came to the scene after Worley was found asleep in his car at the intersection of Broad St. and Pattison Ave., near the Eagles’ practice facility. Police reportedly had to use a taser to subdue Worley, and a gun was allegedly found at the scene.

There is room for sympathy for Worley. I’m not certain of the circumstances preceding his arrest. I also am not sure that a higher-profile player, such as defensive end Michael Bennett would have been released for the same offense.

Let’s hope that Worley gets his act together and earns another chance in the NFL, whether it’s with his hometown Eagles or another team.

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IN-STATE RIVALS: The Pirates are engaged in a four-game series with the Phillies at the same time that the Flyers are facing the Penguins during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Both series will be in Philadelphia on Sunday, with the Phillies hosting the Pirates at Citizens Bank Ballpark (1:30 p.m.) and the Flyers hosting the Penguins in Game 6 (3 p.m.) at Wells Fargo Center.

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OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE: How many more years can the Soul reign atop the Arena Football League? The question isn’t about the Soul as much as it’s about the future of the AFL. There are only four teams in the AFL this season: the Soul, Baltimore, Washington and Albany. The Washington team is two years old; the Baltimore team, owned by Washington owner Ted Leonsis, joined the AFL in 2017. Albany is a new franchise.

After last season, Tampa Bay suspended operations. The Cleveland Gladiators went on a two-year hiatus because of scheduled upgrades for their arena, which also is the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

If the AFL doesn’t add more teams and achieve stability, it’s difficult to imagine it surviving much longer.

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RELAYS TIME: The Penn Relays, one of the premier events in track and field each year, takes place from Thursday through Saturday, with the action centering around Franklin Field. The Penn Relays Carnival has a little bit of everything, from throwing to distance throws to the celebrated relays. Athletes range from middle school to world class athletes.

In a bittersweet moment, I remember how much Bill Cosby, currently on trial for sexual assault, loved the Penn Relays. It wasn’t unusual to see Cosby walking around the infield at Franklin Field. On one occasion, he helped up a high school runner and consoled him after a disappointing result. The runner didn’t know it was Cosby who helped him up until he saw the picture in the next day’s newspaper.

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TROUBLE REACHING GOAL: Entering Saturday night’s game at FC Dallas, the Union (1-2-2) have only scored three goals in five games this season. They have only scored one goal since their 2-0 victory over New England during the season opener. Their offensive production will have to rise in order for the Union to improve this season. And, if it doesn’t, head coach Jim Curtin may receive the blame.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 29 years, did not score a goal during his one-year high school varsity soccer career.

Heel Turns: WrestleMania card nearly final

Posted by Achilles Heel On April - 2 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

One week before WrestleMania 34, the card seems nearly complete. There are 13 scheduled matches, with the likely addition of John Cena vs. Undertaker to round out the event.

Additions last week included Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, with Owens and Zayn being rehired if they emerge victorious. Bryan fired Owens and Zayn two weeks ago, which led to a vicious attack on Bryan at the end of Smackdown.

Sheamus and Cesaro will defend the Raw Tag Team Championship against Braun Strowman and a partner of his choosing. The Greek God of Wrestling envisions Strowman ending up taking on Sheamus and Cesaro by himself.

The United States Championship match was tweaked, with Rusev added to the match. The triple threat match now becomes a fatal four-way match, with Randy Orton defending against Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal and Rusev. The final of the WWE Cruiserweight Championship Tournament is also set, with Cedric Alexander battling Mustafa Ali.

Achilles Heel will return later this week with a complete preview of WrestleMania 34.

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HALL OF A NIGHT: The WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place Friday night in New Orleans. The headliner is Goldberg, who will be inducted by Paul Heyman. Other inductees, with the person introducing them in parentheses, are: the Dudley Boyz (Edge and Christian); Jeff Jarrett (Road Dogg Jesse James); Ivory (Molly Holly); Hillbilly Jim (Jimmy Hart) and Mark Henry. Jarrius “JJ” Robertson will receive the Warrior Award, and Kid Rock will be inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.

The Greek God of Wrestling is most looking forward to the induction of the Dudley Boyz, both because Edge and Christian are so awesome and you never know what Bubba Ray is going to say. Mark Henry’s induction could be very emotional. The wild card is Jeff Jarrett, who may speak about his substance abuse issues.

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SUPER CARD: Without space in the WrestleMania 34 preview for every promotion’s event, Achilles Heel will highlight some of the other non-WWE events taking place in New Orleans during WrestleMania weekend.

Let’s begin with Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor XII, which takes place on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) at the UNO Lakefront Arena. The show is headlined by a double main event: Cody Rhodes vs. Kenny Omega and a Ring of Honor World Championship match, with Dalton Castle defending against Marty Scurll.

Other matches for this card include Mark and Jay Briscoe defending the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship against Jay Lethal and Hiroshi Tanahashi; SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio sky defending the Ring of Honor Six-Man Tag Team Championships against the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and Flip Gordon in a ladder match; Kenny King defending the Ring of Honor World Television Championship against Silas Young in a last man standing match; Adam Page vs. Kota Ibushi; and Punishment Martinez vs. Tomohiro Ishii. The semifinals and final of the Woman of Honor Championship Tournament will also be crowned at Supercard of Honor.

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TRIPLE THREAT: EVOLVE is hosting shows in the New Orleans area on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The action kicks off Thursday in Kenner, La., with EVOLVE 102. Zack Sabre Jr. defends the EVOLVE Championship against Matt Riddle in what should be a classic match. The card also includes Daisuke Sekimoto and Munenori Sawa vs. Timothy Thatcher and WALTER, WWN champion Keith Lee vs. Darby Allin in a non-title match, and AR Fox vs. Will Ospreay (although Osrpeay’s appearance is in doubt due to a neck injury suffered in Japan).

Friday’s EVOLVE 103 has an EVOLVE vs. The World theme. Riddle squares off with Sekimoto in the main event. .

The action culminates with Saturday’s WWN Supershow: Mercury Rising 2018. Lee defends the WWN Championship against Sekimoto. In the co-main event, Sabre, if he’s still champion, defends the EVOLVE Championship against Sawa. Chris Dickinson and Jaka will defend the EVOLVE Tag Team Championship against WALTER and Timothy Thatcher. If Ospreay is healthy enough to wrestle, he will face Riddle in a dream match.

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WELCOME TO CZW: Combat Zone Wrestling will also have a big event in New Orleans during WrestleMania weekend. CZW will present “Welcome to the Combat Zone on Saturday (3 p.m.) at the Sugar Mill. In the main event, Rickey Shane Page will defend the CZW World Championship against Ethan Page. There has been some shuffling of the card. David and Jake Crist will face Bandido and Flamita; Joey Ryan and Laura James will meet Joey Janela and Penelope Ford; Jeff Cobb battles Joe Gacy, and David Starr squares off with Juice Robinson. In a match that could steal the show if Will Ospreay is healthy, Ospreay squares off with Dezmond Xavier.

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HUGE CONVENTION: The WrestleCon Convention also takes place in New Orleans this week. As part of the events, which include tons of wrestling celebrities, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, there will be a “Super Show” Thursday (9:30 p.m.) at the Sugar Mill. Matches include Jeff Cobb vs. Romohiro Ishii and Joey Janela vs. Penta Om. Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi are among the others advertised for this show.

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REVOLUTION: RevPro wrestling will present an event Friday (4 p.m.) from the Sugar Mill. The featured bout is a six-man tag team match pitting Kota Ibushi, Flip Gordon and Shane Strickland against Will Ospreay (if he’s cleared to compete), Rocky Romero and Chuckie T.

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OKADA FOILS SABRE: Kazuchika Okada successfully defended the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Zack Sabre Jr. on Sunday at Sakura Genesis. It appears that Okada’s next challenger will be Hiroshi Tanahashi, who lost to Sabre in the finals of the New Japan Cup.

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OFF THE CASE: Not surprisingly, Ethan Carter III was revealed as having grabbed the “fired” case on Impact Wrestling. Carter made his official debut on NXT the previous night.

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NXT IN NEW ORLEANS: The NXT event on Saturday (8 p.m., WWE Network) is shaping up as a terrific card. The main event features Andrade “Cien” Almas defending the NXT Championship against Aleister Black.

In perhaps the most-anticipated match, Johnny Gargano will battle Tommaso Ciampa in an unsanctioned match. If Gargano wins, he is reinstated to NXT. If Ciampa wins, Gargano is banished forever. (If it’s an unsanctioned match, how can there be stipulations about reinstatement?)

There will also be a six-man ladder match to determine the first NXT North American champion, a singles title that will be a secondary title to the NXT Championship. The competitors will be Adam Cole, Ricochet, EC3 (Ethan Carter III), Velveteen Dream, Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan.

Two other title matches round out the card. Ember Moon defends the NXT Women’s Championship against Shayna Baszler, and The Undisputed Era defend the NXT Tag Teacm Championship against the winners of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. The finals of the Rhodes Classic pit The Authors of Pain against Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne. But there is also uncertainty about the match because Bobby Fish suffered a knee injury, believed to be a torn ACL, at a house show match. Cole would be the natural choice to fill in alongside Undisputed Era teammate Kyle O’Reilly, but Cole is already scheduled to be in the ladder match for the NXT North American Championship.

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GREATEST RUMBLE RUMBLINGS: The first five entrants for the 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble match in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, have been announced. Daniel Bryan, Big Show, Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt and Kane will be in the match, which will take place on Fri., April 27 at King Abdulla Sports City Stadium.

All seven men’s titles will be defended during the event. There won’t be any women’s wrestlers on the card, but what did you expect in a country that is going to allow womenen to drive for the first time this year?

The Miz, if he’s still champion, will defend the Intercontinental Championship against Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe in a ladder match. Matt and Jeff Hardy will challenge Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Team Championship. John Cena is slated to battle Triple H. Expect Mustafa Ali to either defend or win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.

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MIXED TAG FINAL: With Becky Lynch filling in for Charlotte Flair, who had dental surgery, Bobby Roode and Lynch defeated Sasha Banks and Finn Balor in the semifinals of the Mixed Tag Challenge, a Facebook-only tournament. They will face Asuka and Miz in the finals.

This means that Flair and Asuka would face each other five days before they meet for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 34. What if Asuka pinned Flair five days before WrestleMania? What if Flair pinned the undefeated Asuka five days before WrestleMania? Both possibilities would add intrigue to WrestleMania.

Couturier scores Game 5 game-winner