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Receiving yards for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper during Sunday’s 29-23 win over Eagles

Is linebacker Casey Matthews among those in danger of being cut? With Tuesday (4 p.m.) being the first deadline for mandatory cuts, Gordon Glantz examines the Eagles’ roster and predicts who will be cut Tuesday — or in the next round of cuts.

With the Grateful Dead celebrating their 50th anniversary with concerts featuring all four surviving core members playing together on the same stage for the final time, Eric Fisher puts together a set list featuring Dead songs with a Philly sports theme.

With the death of Roddy Piper, we present a Top 10 list — all right, it’s a Top 15 — of the best and most memorable editions of Piper’s Pit. Feel free to add your own favorites to the list.

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Heel Turns: 2300 Arena a Philly treasure

Posted by Achilles Heel On December - 8 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Philadelphia is known for its sports venues. The Palestra is revered for its atmosphere, with seats close to the action and its Big Five tradition. The Spectrum was known as one of the premier sports and concert facilities in the country, hosting a lengthy list of historic events. Veterans Stadium, with its rowdy crowds, rock-hard turf and on-site courtroom, has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most notorious NFL stadiums.

For wrestling fans, 2300 Arena belongs in that conversation. The former warehouse at Swanson and Ritner streets in South Philadelphia has become a wrestling institution during the past 25 years. Operating in the shadow of I-95, 2300 Arena has developed a worldwide reputation as a home for independent wrestling.

The arena rose to prominence with the rise of Extreme Championship Wrestling during the 1990s. Known as ECW Arena, the building’s reputation grew as rumors of the insane atmosphere during ECW tapings spread around the world. When ECW programming became more available, wrestling fans saw that the atmosphere in ECW Arena lived up to its reputation.

As is the case with the Spectrum and Veterans Stadium, the building’s reputation is mostly built upon its fans. The ECW Arena was a bare bones, concrete block with no amenities. There were folding chairs instead of seats, and fans were packed into every nook and cranny of the building. Even on a freezing winter night, the ECW Arena was hot, literally and figuratively, when ECW was in town.

The arena, previously known as Viking Hall, underwent several name changes after ECW, having been replaced on cable network TNN by WWE’s RAW and unable to secure a new national television deal, folded in 2001. It was called XPW Arena, Alhambra Arena, The Arena and Asylum Arena before becoming simply 2300 Arena, referring to its Swanson Street address, in 2013. In addition to numerous wrestling organizations holding events there, including a house show by the WWE’s version of ECW on June 24, 2006, there have been boxing and mixed-martial arts events at the arena.

But 2300 Arena’s reputation isn’t built solely upon its past. House of Hardcore has a show there tonight (Saturday). Combat Zone Wrestling hosts Cage of Death XX at 2300 Arena on Sunday. On Sat., Dec. 15, Ring of Honor will host Final Battle Fallout, an international television taping and its final event of 2018, at 2300 Arena.

The next 10 days will be a busy time at 2300 Arena, Philadelphia’s professional wrestling treasure. If you haven’t been there before, do yourself a favor and check it out. If you’ve been there before, you know why you have to go back.

*****

PHILLY IS HARDCORE: In the spirit of 2300 Arena, the Greek God of Wrestling is going to continue this edition of Heel Turns with some independent wrestling items. Tommy Dreamer, who is an integral part of the history of 2300 Arena, brings House of Hardcore 52 to that arena tonight (Saturday) at 8 p.m. As of Saturday morning, there are tickets remaining in all except the VIP sections.

In the main event, Nick Aldis will defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Brian Cage. Dreamer will face PCO (Neville in WWE), Willie Mack will battle Shane Strickland and David Arquette teams with RJ City to meet Tyrus and Robert Strauss. There also will be a women’s match between Angelina Love and Britt Baker. Bully Ray, Rich Swann, the former Big Cass and Ethan Page are also scheduled to appear.

*****

CAGE OF DEATH: Combat Zone Wrestling will crown a new champion Sunday night (8 p.m.) during Cage of Death XX at 2300 Arena. Maxwell Jacob Friedman was stripped of the CZW World Championship because he is sidelined by a fractured elbow. Rickey Shane Page and Mance Warner will compete for the vacant title Sunday inside of a the “cage of death.”

Other matches include CZW legend Masada teaming with DJ Hyde to face Atsushi Onita and Matt Tremont; BLK Out defending the CZW Tag Team Championship against The Rep; Jordan Oliver defending the CZW Wired Championship against KC Navarro; and Rich Swann, Shane Strickland and John Silver squaring off in a triple threat match.

CZW is also hosting “Afternoon Extravaganza” during the day. There will be a meet and greet with Atsushi Onita. Fans can also watch the Eagles-Cowboys game with CZW wrestlers. Wrestlers from CZW’s Dojo Wars will provide the halftime entertainment. There will be autograph sessions and photo opportunities ($20 if you take your own picture, $30 for a professionally taken 8×10 photo). Admission is just $5 or a Toy for Tots.

*****

HONOR IN PHILLY: Three matches have been announced for Ring of Honor’s Final Battle Fallout on Sat., Dec. 15 at 2300 Arena. Zack Sabre Jr. will battle Tracy Williams, Juice Robinson will meet PJ Black (the former Justin Gabriel in WWE), and Luchasauras will face Ring of Honor World Television champion Jeff Cobb. If Luchasaurus lasts 15 minutes against Cobb, he will earn a World Television Championship match. Ring of Honor world champion Jay Lethal, Cody Rhodes, The Young Bucks, The Briscoes, Ring of Honor Tag Team champions Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky among those scheduled to appear. These could be the final Ring of Honor appearances for Rhodes and The Young Bucks, whose contracts are expiring.

*****

FINAL BATTLE: One night before Ring of Honor comes to Philly, it presents its Final Battle pay-per-view at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. The main event features Jay Lethal defending the Ring of Honor World Championship against Cody Rhodes. The Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship is also on the line, with champions Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky defending against Mark and Jay Briscoe and the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson).

Zack Sabre Jr. comes to Ring of Honor to answer Jonathan Gresham’s open challenge; Matt Taven meets Dalton Castle; Jeff Cobb defends the Ring of Honor Television Championship against Hangman Page; Bully Ray battles Flip Gordon in an “I Quit” match; Marty Scurll faces Christopher Daniels and Sumie Sakai defends the Women of Honor World Championship against Madison Rayne, Karen Q and Kelly Klein.

*****

INVISIBLE CHIKARA: CHIKARA wraps up its year today (Sat., Dec. 8) with “Let’s Get Invisible” (3 p.m.) at the The Wrestle Factory. In the main event, Dasher Hatfield defends the CHIKARA Grand Championship against Ophidian. The Whisper and Princess KimberLee, who won the La Loteria Letal, take on CHIKARA tag team champions Sloan Caprice and Rick Roland. Other matches include Boomer Hatfield vs. Hallowicked, Green Ant vs. former Grand champion Juan Francisco de Coronado, and Solo Darling vs. Travis Huckabee in an inter-gender match. There also will be a six-man tag team, an eight-man tag team match, a four-way tag team match and another inter-gender match.

*****

DYNAMITE DIES: Tom Billington, better known by wrestling fans as Dynamite Kid, died at age 60. Billington, who has been in a wheelchair for the past two decades, was one of the most innovative wrestlers of the 1980s and ‘90s. A combination of high-flying maneuvers and compact power, Billington was an exciting wrestler and a success wherever he went.

Billington and a young Bret Hart had an amazing ladder match for Stampede Wrestling prior to Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon introducing ladder matches to a wider North American audience at WrestleMania X. Billington delivered the first superplex off the top turnbuckle that Achilles Heel remembers seeing during the Wrestling Classic tournament from the Rosemont Horizon in 1985.

Billington achieved his greatest fame as one half of the British Bulldogs, teaming with Davey Boy Smith. They won the WWF Tag Team Championship from Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake at WrestleMania II, with the match also taking place at Rosemont Horizo. The Greek God of Wrestling offers his condolence to Billington’s family and friends.

*****

HENNIG DIES AT 82: Larry Hennig, a star in his own right before becoming known as the father of “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, died Thursday age 82. Larry Hennig was a state wrestling champion for Robbindale High School in Minneapolis. His greatest fame came in the Midwest-based AWA, teaming for many years with Harley Race. Later, he also teamed with Dusty Rhodes.

Hennig, the grandfather of WWE’s Curtis Axel, also had a run as a powerhouse heel in WWWF, receiving world title opportunities against both Pedro Morales and Bruno Sammartino. He returned to AWA, where he became a fan favorite. He even had the opportunity to team with his son, Curt, in AWA. The Greek God of Wrestling extends his condolence to the Hennig family and all of the friends and colleagues of Larry “The Axe” Hennig.

*****

TLC TAKES SHAPE: WWE’s TLC (Tables, Ladders and Chairs), which takes place on Sun., Dec. 16, is shaping up as a terrific event. Daniel Bryan defends the WWE Championship against AJ Styles in what should be a fantastic match. Seth Rollins defends the Intercontinental Championship against Dean Ambrose in what also should be an amazing match.

Speaking of terrific matches, perhaps the most highly anticipated match at TLC is the first-even women’s tables, ladders and chairs match, with Becky Lynch defending the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair and Asuka. Women will play a large role at TLC. Ronda Rousey defends the Raw Women’s Championship against Nia Jax, and Natalya battles Ruby Riott in a tables match.

A tables, ladders and chairs match between Braun Strowman and interim Raw general manager Baron Corbin may not take place because Strowman underwent elbow surgery. There is a triple threat match for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship, with Sheamus and Cesaro defending against The New Day and Jimmy and Jey Uso. In singles matches, Finn Balor takes on Drew McIntyre, and Elias meets Bobby Lashley.

*****

SURVIVOR SERIES DELIVERS: Survivor Series was a strong show, with the top of the card delivering terrific matches. Universal champion Brock Lesnar defeated WWE champion Daniel Bryan in an interesting match. Lesnar dominated Bryan until the underdog-turned-heel delivered a low blow, which transformed the match into an even affair that had fans believing Bryan would pull off the upset.

The most memorable match from Survivor Series, however, may have been Ronda Rousey’s disqualification victory over Charlotte Flair. The match was very good, drawing a “This is awesome!” chant, but it will be remembered for the brutal post-match beatdown Flair applied to Rousey. Fans hadn’t seen Rousey destroyed in that manner. Achilles Heel believes this will build toward a triple threat match with Flair, Rousey and Becky Lynch at WrestleMania. Could it even be the main event?

The victory for Team Raw, with Braun Strowman, Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley surviving, in the Team Raw vs. Team Smackdown traditional Survivor  Series 5-on-5 elimination match was very good. The same is true of Seth Rollins’ victory over Shinsuke Nakamura in a champion vs. champion match and WWE Cruiserweight champion Buddy Murphy’s victory over Mustafa Ali.

*****

RAW DOMINATION: The Greek God of Wrestling has no idea why Raw won every Raw vs. Smackdown match at Survivor Series. The only exception was the traditional Survivor Series 5-on-5 elimination tag team match, which took place during the pre-show. Unless it becomes part of a story line, with Smackdown seeking revenge, having one brand dominate the other makes no sense.

*****

WWE COMES TO TOWN: Tickets went on sale Friday for an episode of Raw at Wells Fargo Center on March 4, which places it firmly on the road to WrestleMania. Tickets also went on sale Friday for a Smackdown house show at PPL Arena in Allentown on Mon., March 25, just two weeks before WrestleMania.

                               *****                               

XFL CITIES: Philadelphia is not among the cities selected for franchise for the revived XFL, which begins play on Feb. 8-9, 2020. The markets selected were New York (East Rutherford, N.J.), Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles (Carson, Calif.), Tampa Bay, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.

*****

MLW COMES TO 2300: Achilles Heel is going to finish this edition of Heel Turns the same way he started it – with an item about 2300 Arena. Major League Wrestling (MLW) will conduct a television taping for MLW: Fusion on Sat., Feb. 2 (6 p.m.) at 2300 Arena. Perhaps MLW will add to the legend and reputation of 2300 Arena by holding events there on a regular basis.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 5 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Despite a season of ups and downs, with the scale seemingly tipped in favor of “downs,” the Eagles find themselves in control of their own destiny with one-fourth of the season remaining.

Monday’s 28-13 victory over the Redskins improved the Eagles’ record to 6-6, [pulling them within one game of the first-place Cowboys (7-5). The Eagles, who have won two straight games for the first time this season, can gain a share of first place by stretching that winning streak to three games Sunday (4:25 p.m.) against the Cowboys.

Not only would a road win over the Cowboys elevate the Eagles into a first-place tie in the NFC East, but it would give the Eagles the edge over the Cowboys against NFC East opponents. With the Eagles and Cowboys splitting their two games against each other, an edge in the second tiebreaker, which the Eagles could wrap up by beating the Redskins in their season finale, is extremely important.

A victory over the Cowboys, however, shouldn’t be equated with a division-clinching triumph. The following week the Eagles hit the road to take on the Rams, who have the best record in the NFL and have already clinched the NFC West title. The Eagles return home on Dec. 23 to battle the AFC South-leading Texans, who have won nine straight games since starting the season 0-3. In other words, even if the Eagles win Sunday, they would still have a difficult road to travel to capture the NFC East.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys face the Colts (6-6), Buccaneers (5-7) and Giants (4-8) after hosting the Eagles. That’s a much more favorable schedule than what the Eagles have in front of them. And while the Redskins (6-6) seem to be sliding toward oblivion, especially with Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback, their schedule (Giants, Jaguars, Titans) before finishing the regular season against the Eagles, isn’t overly difficult.

The Eagles also are back in the wild card hunt, but there are too many variables there beyond their control. By contrast, the Eagles can control their fate in the NFC East.

And, although a victory Sunday doesn’t come close to guaranteeing a division crown, an NFC East title is nearly impossible without a win over the Cowboys this Sunday.

*****

MAJOR MOVE: The Phillies made a major move by trading for Mariners shortstop Jean Segura. The two-time all-star is a contact hitter, which the Phillies desperately need in their strikeout-heavy lineup.

In addition to acquiring Segura, the Phillies rid themselves of Carlos Santan’s contract, which had two more years at $20 million per season remaining. If he had returned, Santana would have either continued to block Rhys Hoskins at first base, which was unlikely, or been a defensive liability at third base. The other possibility is that Santana would have become an extremely expensive bench player.

Accompanying Santana to Seattle is shortstop J.P. Crawford, who couldn’t seem to stay healthy or hit with consistency. Now we have to wait to see if the Phillies can land a big fish – Manny Machado or Bryce Harper – in free agency.

The acquisition of Segura should convince free agents that the Phillies are committed to winning. However, Machado prefers to play shortstop over third base, so it’s possible that Segura’s presence makes the Phillies a less appealing destination for Machado.

*****

FORMER EAGLES: This was a bad week for former Eagles quarterbacks. After Colt McCoy broke the fibula in his right leg, Mark Sanchez, signed a few weeks earlier when starter Alex Smith broke his leg, was pressed into action, his first appearance since the final week of the 2016 season, when he started for the Cowboys against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Sanchez completed a respectable 13 of 21 passes for 100 yards, but he threw one interception and nearly threw another one while looking skittish against the Eagles’ pass rush.

Another former Eagles quarterback, Chase Daniel struggled during a 30-27 overtime loss to the Giants. One week after completing 27 of 37 passes, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, during a 23-16 win over the Lions, Daniel threw two interceptions while completing 26 of 39 passes against the Giants. The Bears expect quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to return from injury this week, so, unlike Sanchez, Daniel’s return to the spotlight may already be over.

*****

BARKLEY’S MAGIC: If anyone is still questioning Saquon Barkley’s value, they need to watch his play before halftime of Sunday’s Giants-Bears game. Trailing 14-7 and facing thrd-and-23 with time running out in the first half, the Giants decided to hand the ball to Barkley for a run up the middle, forcing the Bears to use their final timeout. But Barkley had other ideas.

The Giants had given up on the first half, but the rookie from Penn State had not given up. Barkley changed direction several times, juking his way in and out of blockers and defenders until he picked up 22 yards. The Giants then changed strategies, throwing a complete 9-yard pass on fourth down to set up a field goal as time expired in the first half. They then used that momentum to defeat the Bears in overtime, 30-27. But it never would have happened if not for Barkley’s remarkable 22-yard run. The Giants had give

*****

OWLS OVERCOME ADVERSITY: When Temple opened the season with losses to Villanova and Buffalo, few would have believed that the Owls would be headed to a bowl game. Even after five games, following a loss at Boston College, the Owls’ postseason hopes looked slim. But the Owls overcame their poor start to post an 8-4 record, with one of their remaining losses coming against undefeated Central Florida, to earn a bowl berth for the fourth straight season.

Temple will take on Duke (7-5) in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27 (1:30 p.m.) in Shreveport, La. The Owls could be hindered in that game. Quarterback Anthony Russo had a cast on his hand while sitting out the regular-season finale against Connecticut. Running back Ryquell Armstead left the UConn game with an injury. The status of each player for the Independence Bowl is uncertain, but, even if the team’s top running back and quarterback can’t play, nobody should count out the Owls.

*****

LIONS’ PRIDE: Penn State isn’t going to one of the top bowls, but the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions (9-3) should be pleased that they’re going to be playing on New Year’s Day. Penn State will meet 14th-ranked Kentucky on Jan. 1 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

If not for narrow losses at home to Ohio State and Michigan State in back-to-back games, the Nittany Lions would have gone to a higher profile game, and may even have qualified for the national championship playoffs, but Penn State should be satisfied with a New Year’s sendoff for quarterback and team leader Trace McSorley.

*****

IT HURTS SO GOOD: Hollywood can’t improve upon real life. That’s the only way to explain what happened in the SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia. This was a rematch of last season’s national championship game. In that game, Alabama head coach replaced starter Jalen Hurts with Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Crimson Tide to the national championship.

Instead of transferring, Hurts remained at Alabama instead of transferring. Hurts played the good soldier all season while Tagovailoa led the Tited to an undefeated record. But when Taovailoa was injured in the SEC Championship Game, Hurts came off the bench  to help Alabama overcome a 14-point deficit. Hurts provided the winning score with a 15-yard run with 1:04 remaining to boost ‘Bama to a 35-28 triumph. You couldn’t write a better ending to this story – unless it happens again in this season’s national championship game.

*****

TRADITION: The Army-Navy game, one of the best rivalries in college football, takes place Saturday (3 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field. This wonderful tradition is always one of the highlights of the college football season.

*****

WING BOWL: The Philadelphia Wings, the new lacrosse franchise whose name evokes memories of the old lacrosse franchise, opens its season on Sat., Dec. 15 (1 p.m.) against Buffalo at Wells Fargo Center.

                                 *****                               

WINTER SPORT? Yes, they’re still playing soccer. Portland and Atlanta square off for the MLS Cup on Saturday (8 p.m.). Can you imagine a soccer game at night this weekend in Philadelphia, New York, Boston or Chicago? The MLS season is much too long.

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for 30 years, actually feels bad for the Redskins after watching them lose to the Eagles with a third-string quarterback and a pair of third-string guards.

Butler game-winner vs. Nets