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Week (at least) that Joel Embiid is expected to miss due to left knee soreness

Hector Neris (pictured) may be the third reliever to try the closer’s role if 39-year-old Joaquin Benoit, who replaced Jeanmar Gomez, can’t get the job done better than he did during Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the Nationals. Eric Fisher also points out that the gamble on Clay Buchholz didn’t pay off, Aaron Nola is off to a good start and several Phillies hitters are off to poor starts.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Soul trying to repeat as Arena Football League champions, the Mayweather-McGregor fight and a ridiculous decision by ESPN.

The Greek God of Wrestling explains why adding Seth Rollins to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship bout at the Royal Rumble makes the match more interesting. Achilles Heel also offers his opinion on TNA’s television return, informs us of broadcast changes that go into effect this week and praises the storytelling on RAW.

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Heel Turns: Process of Elimination

Posted by Achilles Heel On February - 16 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The success of WWE’s Elimination Chamber event Sunday (WWE Network, 7 p.m., kickoff show at 5 p.m.) depends on the two elimination chamber matches. Everything else plays a supporting role.

The WWE Championship match inside an elimination chamber should be terrific. With Daniel Bryan defending the title against AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston, there isn’t a weak link in the entire match. Everyone can more than carry their weight.

This match received a wonderful buildup with a gauntlet match on Smackdown. The star of the match was Kofi Kingston, who is replacing Mustafa Ali in the elimination chamber because Ali sustained a concussion. Kingston lasted 60 minutes before being eliminated by Styles. Orton, who was in the match for about 5 seconds, hit on RKO on Styles for the pin, meaning he will be the final entrant in the elimination chamber. There should be some tremendous action, with innovative moves possible from Kingston, Hardy and Styles and innovative brutality possible from Orton and Joe, but the Greek God of Wrestling predicts that Bryan will emerge victorious.

The elimination chamber match to determine the first WWE Women’s Tag Team champions is less of a “sure thing.” There is a question about whether fans care enough about the teams participating to stay with a match that is guaranteed (based on teams entering every five minutes) to last 30 minutes. (On a side note, unless larger pods are created, it could get claustrophobic inside the pods, particularly for Nia Jax and Tamina.)

Bayley and Sasha Banks will start the match against Corey Graves’ favorite team, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. The starting teams lost triple threat matches on Raw and Smackdown, respectively. The other entrants are The Riott Squad’s Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, the team of Jax and Tamina, The Iconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce) and Carmella and Naomi.

The best part about the women’s elimination chamber match is the outcome is wide open. Bayley and Banks would be the most popular champions. Jax and Tamina would get heat as physically dominant champions, although Achilles Heel still believes Jax is going to wrestle a male at WrestleMania. Carmella and Naomi would dance a lot as popular champions. The other three teams would all receive a boost from being champions. The Greek God of Wrestling doesn’t like his pick, but he fears that the Iconics are going to win.

The Raw Women’s Championship will be on the line when Ronda Rousey defends the title against Ruby Riott. The intrigue in this match is that Charlotte Flair, who was chosen by WWE chairman Vince McMahon to replace the suspended Becky Lynch in the WrestleMania match against Rousey, will be ringside for this match. Remember, Flair delivered a hellacious beating to Rousey at Survivors Series. There’s also the possibility of Lynch showing up. For Riott, the goal will be to look good against Rousey. Achilles Heel could see Riott becoming women’s champion down the road, but Rousey will retain the title Sunday.

The Miz and Shane McMahon will defend the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against Jimmy and Jey Uso. It’s too soon for Miz and McMahon to drop the belts, so they will retain. Bobby Lashley should also retain the Intercontinental Championship in a unique match in which Lashley and Lio Rush face challenger Finn Balor.

Braun Strowman seeks revenge on Baron Corbin a no-disqualification match. The only way in which this is competitive is if Drew McIntyre gets involved. But that should bring out Kurt Angle to help Strowman emerge victorious.

On the kickoff show, Buddy Murphy defends the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Akira Tozawa. This match should get Elimination Chamber off to a good start. But the success of this event will be determined by the two elimination chamber matches.

*****

MORALES DIES AT 78: Pedro Morales, WWE’s first triple crown winner, died at age 78. Morales defeated Ivan Koloff in Madison Square Garden on Feb. 8, 1971, to win the WWWF World Championship, which Koloff had won by ending Bruno Sammartino’s eight-year reign as champion.

Morales also won the WWF World Tag Team Championships with Bob Backlund, although they relinquished the titles because Backlund was the WWF world champion. Morales then won the Intercontinental Championship from Ken Patera and, after losing it to the Magnificent Muraco, regained it from Muraco.

Morales was incredibly popular among the Latino population in the Northeast, particularly in the New York/North Jersey region. Morales held the world championship until December of 1973, when he lost to Stan “The Man” Stasiak in Philadelphia.

The Greek God of Wrestling extends his condolences to Morales’ family and friends.

*****

THORNTON DIES AT 74: Les Thornton, a well-respected British wrestler and ring technician, died earlier this month at age 84. Thornton held both the NBA and WWWF versions of the World Junior Heavyweight championship. The Greek God of Wrestling extends his condolences to Thornton’s family and friends.

*****

RESURRECTION OF REVIVAL: Congratulations to Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder, together known as The Revival, for winning the Raw Tag Team Championship from Bobby Roode and Chad Gable last Monday on Raw. Regular readers of Heel Turns know that Achilles Heel is a big fan of Dawson and Wilder.

There have been rumors that Dawson and Wilder have been unhappy with their recent direction, with some stories even saying they had asked for their release. Whatever percentage of truth there was in those rumors, instead of going through the motions, The Revival responded by tearing it up with Roode and Gable at house shows. Their reward was a well-deserved run as champions.

*****

YOU SOLD OUT! All Elite Wrestling (AEW) sold out its debut Double or Nothing show in Las Vegas nearly immediately. The show will take place on May 25 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The main event features Kenny Omega battling Chris Jericho.

*****

IMPACT RETAINS: Johnny Impact retained the Impact Wrestling World Championship during a fatal four-way match with Brian Cage, Killer Kross and Moose at “Impact uncaged!” At the same event Taya Valkyrie retained her Knockouts Championship in a street fight with Tessa Blanchard.

*****

TAVEN CHALLENGES LETHAL: Matt Taven will get a shot at the Ring of Honor World Championship when he challenges Jay Lethal at Ring of Honor’s 17th Annivesary show on March 15 (9 p.m.) at Sam’s Town Live in Las Vegas. The Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship will also be on the line, with Mark and Jay Briscoe defending against Brody King and PCO.

*****

ASUKA LEFT OUT: You have to feel a little bit sorry for Asuka. After winning the Smackdown Women’s Championship in a memorable match with Becky Lynch and Charlotte at TLC and then defeating Lynch in an excellent opener at The Royal Rumble, Asuka seems like the forgotten woman as Lynch and Charlotte set their sights on Ronda Rousey. Asuka is not defending her title at Elimination Chamber on Sunday and wasn’t even on Smackdown last week.

*****

HOUSTON HAS IT MAID: With Elimination Chamber taking place in Houston on Sunday, WWE announced that next year’s Royal Rumble will take place at Minute Maid Park in Houston. This will be the second straight year the Royal Rumble will take place at a baseball stadium. Last month’s Royal Rumble took place at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Sixers’ future is now

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 6 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

Elton Brand isn’t content to wait for the future.

For the first-year general manager and the 76ers, the future is now.

Brand, who made a major move earlier this season by bringing in Jimmy Butler as a third star, shook up the Sixers and the NBA again late Tuesday night by completing a multi-player deal that brings forward Tobias Harris to the Sixers.

Included in the package the Sixers sent to the Clippers were rookie guard Landry Shamet, whom they selected 26th in the 2018 NBA Draft, two future first-round draft picks and two future second-round draft picks. Meanwhile, Butler and Harris can become unrestricted free agents after this season, as can center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott, who can become unrestricted free agents after this season.

Trading future assets for players who might be gone after one season is the type of move usually made by teams with veteran stars who might not have many more opportunities at a championship. But that’s not the makeup of the Sixers.

The Sixers are built around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, young stars who are still developing their already-impressive games. The fact that Simmons is both an all-star and a participant in the Rising Stars Challenge – and that Embiid achieved the same distinction last season – tells you all you need to know about the combination of youth and talent at the core of the Sixers’ foundation.

Instead of building toward a championship a few years into the future, however, Brand is chasing it now. Butler was the third star the Sixers sought in free agency last summer (and then hoped former No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz would fill that role once the season began). Harris is the reliable shooter the Sixers had hoped to find.

It’s likely that Harris’ scoring average will decline from the 20.9 average he had with the Clippers, but only because the Sixers have more players to share the scoring load. With Harris, JJ Redick and Butler legitimate threats from 3-point range, it should create more space in which Embiid and Simmons can operate. If defenses collapse on Embiid or to cut off Simmons’ driving lanes, the ball can be kicked out to one of the 3-point threats.

There are still questions about the Sixers’ bench. The 7-foot-3-inch, 290-pound Marjanovic could provide Embiid with some relief. Scott may also find a role in the rotation. But the Sixers still don’t have much scoring coming off their bench. On the other hand, the starting five might be the best in the Eastern Conference.

With a starting lineup consisting of Embiid, Simmons, Butler, Harris and Redick, the Sixers are legitimate contenders to reach the NBA Finals. Some might even proclaim them the favorites to reach the finals.

Can the Sixers re-sign both Butler and Harris? That could be difficult. But the offseason isn’t Brand’s primary concern. It’s clear that his chief concern is contending for a championship this season.

Is Brand taking a risk? In some ways, he is. If the Sixers don’t re-sign Butler and Harris, this could be a one-and-done opportunity with this lineup. Redick could also become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

But Brand didn’t give away the farm in a desperate attempt to win this season. Dario Saric and Robert Covington, sent to the Timberwolves in the Butler trade, were valuable players, and the Sixers certainly didn’t want to part with Shamet and the two first-round draft picks. But with Embiid and Simmons as their cornerstones, the Sixers should be contenders for at least the next decade.

While former general manager Sam Hinkie stockpiled assets, it seemed as if the future would never arrive.

With Brand at the helm, it seems as if the future can’t wait – or, more fittingly, the Sixers won’t wait for the future.

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal