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Strikeouts for Phillies pitchers during Monday’s 6-5 win over Cardinals

Gordon Glantz reviews the Eagles’ extensive history of underdogs, and then lists five players, including running back Corey Clement (pictured), who could have starring roles in underdog stories at this year’s training camp.

The Greek God of Wrestling previews WWE’s Backlash, which he expects to be an entertaining event. Achilles Heel also previews NXT Takeover: Chicago, tells you which big stars sustained serious arm injuries and which rising star captured the CZW World Championship.

The Greek God of Wrestling delivers a qualified endorsement of No Mercy. Achilles Heel also tells you who Brock Lesnar’s Survivor Series opponent is likely to be, expresses disappointment at TNA’s Bound for Glory and criticizes its world title booking, and tells you which former WWE champion was stabbed.

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Heel Turns: Banking on top of card

Posted by Achilles Heel On June - 16 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

I know you missed me. I don’t know how you survived a month without me.

Where was I? None of your business. The Greek God of Wrestling doesn’t owe you an explanation. After years of providing insight and wisdom on nearly a weekly basis, I’m not going to apologize for taking a little time off.

Consider yourself luck that Achilles Heel is back and ready to share his knowledge with the unwashed masses.

And we start with Money in the Bank. First, don’t forget that WWE has moved up its start times an hour to 7 p.m. (pre-show begins at 6 p.m.). This change is the result of main events running far past 11 p.m.

Money in the Bank (Sunday, WWE Network) has a nearly guaranteed exciting top of the card. There are men’s and women’s Money in the Bank ladder matches, as well as AJ Styles defending the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura in a Last Man Standing match. The question is whether the rest of the card will live up to expectations.

Styles and Nakamura have had a terrific feud. The question is whether this is the blowoff of the feud or will Nakamura win the title. It doesn’t make sense for Nakamura to continue to be the challenger. If Styles wins, it will be difficult to maintain the momentum of this feud until SummerSlam.

The last-man-standing stipulation opens this match up to numerous possibilities. There could be outside interference, which would cost Styles the match. Another possibility is for the winner of the Money in the Bank match – depending on where that match takes place on the card – cashing in the opportunity immediately after Styles and Nakamura beat the snot out of each other. If Nakamura wins the title, another possibility is for the feud to continue, only this time with Styles trying to regain the championship. Achilles Heel likes this last possibility, although anything is possible.

The men’s Money in the Bank ladder match is intriguing because there are many potential winners. The participants include Braun Strowman, Bobby Roode, Kevin Owens and Finn Balor from Raw, and The Miz, Rusev, Samoa Joe and a member of the New Day from Smackdown.

A case could be made for any of the participants to win. I don’t see Kofi Kingston or Xavier Woods winning Money in the Bank, but Big E could win it. This would set up an interesting dynamic with the New Day because Big E would have an eye on individual success rather than the team’s success. The fans would love to see Rusev with the Money in the Bank contract, and would explode whenever he cashes it in. Having the Money in the Bank opportunity would add relevance to Roode, whose early momentum in WWE has faded.

The idea of Braun Strowman possessing Money in the Bank would be frightening for any champions, but Strowman doesn’t need the Money in the Bank opportunity to be a No. 1 contender. The Miz and Kevin Owens have already successfully cashed in a Money in the Bank opportunity. Could they be the first wrestlers to have the contract for the second time?

The Greek God of Wrestling would have Finn Balor or Samoa Joe win Money in the Bank. Balor never lost the WWE Universal Championship, so it would make sense if he gained a title shot at the time of his choosing. But having Joe with the Money in the Bank briefcase, along with his attitude, makes him Achilles Heel’s choice to win Money in the Bank.

The women’s Money in the Bank ladder match also has numerous potential winners. Although Charlotte would be a worthy winner, and there would be the threat of turning the tables on Smackdown Women’s champion Carmella, Charlotte doesn’t need the Money in the Bank contract. Becky Lynch and Naomi are potential winners, but it doesn’t make much sense for either of them to have the Money in the Bank contract. The same is true of Ember Moon.

Having the Money in the Bank contract would fit Alexa Bliss’ personality. It would also fit the perception of Sasha Banks, as pushed by broadcaster Corey Graves, as someone out for herself.

The Greek God of Wrestling just thought of this: having Rusev and Lana as Mr. and Mrs. Money in the Bank would be tremendous! Imagine their discussions about when to cash in. Should they cash in on the same night? What if one cashes in before the other, or if one cashes in successfully and the other does not? Would there be jealousy?

Having said all that, the Achilles Heel is picking Natalya. With Ronda Rousey seemingly destined to become champion, having her storyline good friend as the Money in the Bank winner would create an interesting relationship, both before and after Rousey becomes champion.

Having said that, it seems too soon for Rousey to become Raw Women’s champion, so Nia Jax will find some way to hang on to her title on Sunday. Carmella is terrible in the ring, so Asuka should defeat her for the Smackdown Women’s Championship, but the Greek God of Wrestling, unfortunately, believes that Carmella will get disqualified to retain her title.

Seth Rollins should successfully defend the Intercontinental Championship against Elias – unless Rollins is going to immediately be moved into a program with WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar. Roman Reigns should defeat Jinder Mahal. Does Big Cass need a win over Daniel Bryan to keep that feud alive? Achilles Heel thinks so. And Sami Zayn will do all he can do to make Bobby Lashley look good, including losing to him at Money in the Bank. In the preshow match, there’s no reading to have Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson beat the Bludgeon Brothers (Erick Rowan and Luke Harper) for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship.

The top three matches should deliver. But will the rest of the matches keep the Chicago crowd’s attention.

                                                                    *****                               

NXT TAKES OVER: Perhaps no organization has delivered more consistently at big events than NXT. That track record should continue Saturday (8 p.m.) at NXT Takeover: Chicago.

The featured match is a Chicago Street Fight between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. This feud, which has been the best of the best year, started in Chicago on May 20, 2017. After a loss to the Authors of Pain at NXT Takeover: Chicago, Ciampa turned on Gargano, touching off a bitter feud that has included Ciampa interfering in Philadelphia in January to prevent Gargano from capturing the NXT Championship and a a match of the year candidate in New Orleans during WrestleMania weekend.

In the co-main event, Aleister Black defends the NXT Championship against Lars Sullivan. In other title matches, Shayna Baszler defends the NXT Women’s Championship against Nikki Cross and the Undisputed ERA (Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly) defend the NXT Tag Team Championship against Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch. Achilles Heel doesn’t envision any of the titles changing hands.

In a non-title match that, if it weren’t for the Gargano-Ciampa match, could steal the show, Ricochet battles Velveteen Dream.

*****

ALL IN FOR ALL IN: During my absence, “All In” was announced for Sears Center Arena outside Chicago on Sept. 1. Without any matches announced, the event, which is being put on by Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), sold out.

The only match announced is that Cody Rhodes will challenge for the NWA Heavyweight Championship. The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and, in the latest news, Kota Ibushi have been confirmed for “All In.”

*****

BEST IN WORLD: Ring of Honor will present “Best in the World” on Fri., June 29 (9 p.m.) at the UMBC Event Center in Baltimore. In the main event, Dalton Castle, who has been sidelined by an injury for a significant portion of time this spring, will defend the Ring of Honor World Championships against Cody Rhodes and Marty Scurll. If Rhodes wins the title, it will set up a title vs. title match at “All In.”

In a Ring of Honor dream match of sorts, Mark and Jay Briscoe will defend the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship against the Young Bucks. The Kingdom (Matt Taven, T.K. O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia) will defend the Ring of Honor Six-Man Tag Team Championship against Bushi, Evil and Sanada. In other matches Adam Page battles Punishment Martinez, and Bully Ray takes on Flip Gordon.

*****

CAGE SUFFERS LOSS: X-Division champion Matt Sydal handed Brian Cage his first loss since joining Impact Wrestling when he beat him by countout, with the help of outside interference. Also on Thursday’s Impact Wrestling, Moose beat Eli Drake, earning a shot at Austin Aries and the Impact Wrestling World Championship at Slammiversary.

*****

XAVIER CHALLENGES FOR TITLE: Combat Zone Wrestling presents “Dark City” on Fri., June 29 at House of Independents in Asbury Park, N.J. In the main event, MJF (Maxwell Jacob Friedman) defends the CZW World Championship against Dezmond Xavier. There will also be a four-way match for the CZW Tag Team Championships and a six-person tag team match.

*****

UNEARTHING WORMS: CHIKARA returns to action next Saturday (June 23) at The Wrestle Factory (3 p.m.). Among the announced matches are Mr. Touchdown Mark Angelosetti meets Matt Riddele, Dasher Hatfield faces Fire Ant, Johnny Kidd Invitational winner Travis Huckabee teams up with Icarus to battle Xyberhawx2000.

*****

ORTON SIDELINED: In case you’re wondering why Randy Orton isn’t involved in Money in the Bank, the Viper took time off to get surgery on an injured knee.

*****

WWE OVERSEAS I: The WWE Universal Kingdom Championship Tournament will be held on Monday at London’s Royal Albert Hall, with the winner to receive a title shot against WWE United Kingdom champion Pete Dunne on Tuesday. The event will be broadcast on WWE Network on June 25-26.

The tournament has already started, with first-round matches held in different locales. The quarterfinal matchups are: Zach Gibson vs. Gentleman Jack Gallagher, Flash Morgan Webster vs. Jordan Devlin, Joe Coffey vs. Dave Mastiff, and Travis Banks vs. Ashton Smith.In addition to tournament matches on Monday, Dunne will team with Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven and Tyler Bate, the original WWE U.K. champion) to face the Undisputed Era (NXT North American champion Adam Cole and NXT Tag Team champions Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly).

*****

WWE OVERSEAS II: WWE has officially announced that it will be going to Melbourne, Australia, to present WWE Super Show-Down on Oct. 6 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The only announced match thus far is Undertaker vs. Triple H, which is billed as their final match against each other.

            *****

REBEL TRAGEDY: Charles Williams, who starred with the Philadelphia-based Tri-State Wrestling Alliance in the early 1990s, killed his wife and them committed suicide at their West Chester home, according to the West Goshen Township Police Department. Wrestling as the Rockin’ Rebel, Williams was the first Tri-State Wrestling Alliance champion. The organization was reborn in 1992 as Eastern Championship Wrestling, which then became Extreme Championship Wrestling under the leadership of Paul Heyman. Williams later appeared in other promotions, including Combat Zone Wrestling.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On June - 15 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

The fortunes of the Flyers and Sixers could be dramatically affected during the next few weeks. Both teams have a pair of first-round picks in their league’s respective drafts, and both have an opportunity to improve through free agency.

The Sixers have the 10th and 26th overall picks in the NBA Draft, which takes place next Thursday. They also have four second-round selections. It’s possible that the Sixers could package their two first-round picks to move up further in the Top 10 if there’s a player available that they really like. Trading up later in the round by packaging the 26th pick and a second-round pick is also a possibility.

If they don’t trade up in the draft, the Sixers should get a good player at No. 10. Two players who could be available and would be nice fit would by Vlllanova’s Mikal Bridges and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, both of whom are swingmen who seem to fit the Sixers’ system.

But the draft is just the preliminary bout before the main event. Free agency begins on July 1. As you might have heard, LeBron James is expected to utilize the player option in his contract to become a free agent. The Sixers, with a talented young nucleus and plenty of room under the salary cap, are considered top contenders for James’ services. A backup plan could be to sign Paul George, who also is expected to utilize his player option to become a free agent.

The Flyers are unlikely to make free-agent moves as dramatic as the Sixers. Unless they trade a top line player such as Claude Giroux or Jakub Voracek, the Flyers won’t be in the hunt for center John Tavares, considered the top free agent available, when free agency commences on July 1. But the Flyers could improve through free agency by signing center Paul Stastny or left wing Evander Kane – if the price is right. A lower-priced option such as center Riley Nash or right wing Michael Grabner, a player I touted the last time he was a free agent, seems more likely.

The Flyers are more likely to make a splash in the draft, which begins next Friday. In recent years, general manager Ron Hextall has demonstrated a willingness to trade up into the back end of the first round to get a second first-round pick, which he used to select forward Travis Konecny and center Morgan Frost. This year the Flyers enter the draft with two first-round selections, the 14th and 19th overall picks. It’s possible that Hextall could package those picks if a player the Flyers really like, such as right-handed defenseman Evan Bouchard of London (Ontario Hockey League) or Noah Dobson of Acadie-Bathurst (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), slip past the top five picks.

Hextall has made it clear that the draft is the key to the Flyers’ plan to build from within in order to make steady progress. Quick fixes through the signing of big-name veteran free agents don’t seem to be part of the plan.

On the other hand, the Sixers are searching for ways to immediately make the jump from a team on the rise to a championship contender.

Although the methodology is different, the Sixers and Flyers both could have their fortunes affected by their actions during the next several weeks.

*****

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS: Has there ever been less real news out of a mini-camp than the Eagles’ mini-camp this week? Carson Wentz participated in 7-on-7 drills, cornerback Sidney Jones and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata didn’t participate due to injuries – and that was about the extent of the real news.

And that’s a good thing. Nobody sustained a serious injury. Nobody refused to attend. Nobody complained about their contract. There weren’t even any fights.

Although it might not be what media members want, when it relates to mini-camp, no news is good news.

*****

PICKING UP THE PIECES: The Bryan Colangelo mess leaves the Sixers in a bit of a bind. Head coach Brett Brown will be in charge of the draft, which is fine. Brown certainly has the knowledge to draft players, but will he have the final say on making trades during the draft? That’s something he hasn’t done before.

Brown is certainly better able to attract free agents than Colangelo. Although Colangelo’s connections throughout the NBA were supposed to make him adept at attracting fee agents, the Twitter disaster certainly would have made free agents hesitate before signing with a team whose president appears to be connected to Twitter accounts on which players were criticized, which is one reason why Colangelo lost his job. But, unless the Sixers hire a general manager before July 1, there is still an unknown for free agents because it’s unlikely that Brown will continue to wear both hats as coach and GM.

*****

SUPER NOVA: As many as four players from Villanova’s national championship team could be drafted during the first round of the NBA Draft. One of the ironies, however, is that guard Jalen Brunson, who won several national player of the year honors, could be the fourth Wildcat selected.

Mikal Bridges, the 6-foot-7 swingman, is likely a top 10 pick. Remember, the Sixers have the 10th selection. The next Wildcat likely to be drafted is guard Donte DiVincenzo, who was named the most outstanding player in the Final Four. He likely won’t last until the Sixers pick at No. 26, but forward Omari Spellman and Brunson could both be available at that spot. There’s a possibility that Spellman (6-foot-9, 255 pounds), with his raw power and talent, could be selected ahead of Brunson, which highlights the difference between the NBA and college games.

*****

STEWART LEAVES UNION: Although it obviously didn’t generate the same headlines as Bryan Colangelo’s dramatic departure from the 76ers, the departure of sporting director Earnie Stewart may have a more dramatic impact on the Union. Stewart left to become the general manager of the United States National Team, which failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup.

Stewart leaves behind a mixed legacy during his 2½ years with the Union. His signings have produced mixed results, but he has been given credit for improving the Union’s player development. Most importantly, he seemed to give the Union direction. With Stewart gone, it’s unclear who will provide that direction in the future.

*****

CUP TO PHILLY? The 2026 World Cup has been awarded to North America, with games to be held in the United States, Mexico and Canada. Lincoln Financial Field has been mentioned as a potential site for games. Local soccer fans should be excited about the possibility of Philadelphia hosting a World Cup match.

*****

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS: Although the NBA Finals had the marquee matchup, I preferred seeing the Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin win their first Stanley Cup to seeing the Warriors win for the third time in four years. Each event had its merits, but I liked the fresh matchup of Las Vegas, in its inaugural season, trying to making history against the Capitals, who were also chasing their first Stanley Cup, to seeing the same two teams in the finals for the fourth straight year.

*****

HEART AND SOUL: The good news for the Soul is that every team in the shrinking Arena Football League makes the playoffs. The bad news is that the defending-champion Soul have slipped to 4-4, including a 49-48 home loss last weekend to Washington, which had yet to win a game. The Soul have lost four of their past five games.

The biggest difference is that quarterback Dan Raudabaugh, who finished last year’s ArenaBowl victory despite a torn ACL, is on injured reserve after tearing his labrum. Raudabaugh is eligible to return on July 14, which would be just in time for the start of the Arena League playoffs. But will he recover in time to save the season?

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 29 years, had nothing to do with the Eric Jr. Twitter account reportedly linked to Bryan Colangelo.

Justify captures Triple Crown