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Hits by Phillies in 3 of their last 4 games

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on an awful sports Monday, the NFC and AFC championship games and the impact of the Nationals signing Max Scherzer.

The 76ers (0-16) are two losses away from tying the NBA record for worst start to a season. On the horizon is the record for most consecutive losses. Eric Fisher also tells us about MCW’s best game this season, how K.J. Daniels’ is rewarding his mom’s faith and which ex-Sixer is making a major impact for a first-place team.

The Greek god of wrestling explains the how WWE’s strategy for increasing international demand for its programming is similar to the strategy it used during the 1980s while expanding its national profile. Achilles Heel also offers his impressions from NXT’s Takeover, informs us of two terrific matches added to Night of Champions and reveals the matchups for CHIKARA’s King of Trios.

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Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On May - 22 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The Fish ‘n Chips column is sponsored by Legal Sea Foods – Gourmet Gift Division … so much more than Fish ‘n Chips … “If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal!”)

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Sports fans in the Delaware Valley seem to have become more provincial. That’s not a criticism. It’s simply an observation.

Fans of Philly sports teams seem to care increasingly more about their teams, particularly in the four major professional sports leagues, than they do about national sporting events.

There was an exciting finish to the Preakness on Saturday, with 13-1 shot Cloud Computing coming from behind down the stretch to barely edge Classic Empire. But that Triple Crown race was barely a blip on the local sports radar.

Joel Embiid and Dario Saric being named finalists for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award seemed to be bigger news than the NBA conference finals. The French Open will start this weekend with little fanfare – at least in Philadelphia.

My guess is that before the Rockies arrived for a four-game series this week, most Phillies fans didn’t know that they were in first place. Let’s try an experiment – just between you and me. How many division leaders in Major League Baseball can you name?

Unless they play fantasy sports, most Phillies fans probably couldn’t name a starting infield or pitching rotation for more than two other teams in the majors (not counting people who are big fans of teams from other cities).

Flyers fans used to have a better knowledge of the entire NHL. Now we’re fortunate if fans know all of the Flyers.

The NFL is a different animal because of its incredible popularity, but an Eagle getting a jaywalking ticket is still bigger news than almost anything that happens in another NFL city. As college football, unless there is some local connection, it seems to have become a secondary sport.

The irony is that there is more information available than ever before. Maybe, however, that’s part of the cause of the change. Perhaps there’s simply so much information that it all blends into the background. There are too many teams with too many players with too many televised games for fans to know everything. It’s easier simply to follow your hometown team than to undertake the monumental task of trying to stay informed about the entire league.

Philly fans have clearly placed Philly first. It’s not as if nothing else matters, but everything else certainly seems to matter less.

*****

GLIMPSE OF EAGLES: As if to confirm the previous item, compare the coverage of the Eagles’ OTA (organized team activities) this week to the Stanley Cup conference finals or the NBA conference finals. My educated guess is that the space devoted to the NBA and NHL playoffs combined won’t equal the space devoted to the Eagles’ OTA in local newspapers and Web sites.

*****

NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP: Do you think there are people around the NBA wondering how the Sixers could have two rookie of the year finalists, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid, yet still only win 28 games?

*****

CLEAN SWEEP: When Moses Malone uttered his famous “Fo, fo, fo” in 1983, predicting a sweep by the Sixers in each round of the playoffs, it was considered a bold prediction. Today, it might not appear to be so bold.

If the Warriors defeat the Spurs tonight (Monday) in Game 4, they will sweep their third straight series. That’s fo, fo, fo. And people seem surprised that the Cavaliers won’t have an opportunity at their third straight sweep, having been upset by the Celtics in Game 3.

*****

BAD BREAKS: The path to a return engagement for the Cavaliers and Warriors in the NBA Finals became a little smoother after their opponents’ top scorers sustained serious injuries. The Celtics lost leading scorer Isaiah Thomas for the remainder of the playoffs with a hip injury. The Spurs lost leading scorer Kawhi Leonard, who re-aggravated an ankle injury, during Game 1 and hasn’t played since then. Amazingly, the Celtics rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Cavaliers in Game 3 without their leading scorer.

*****

BAD BREAKS II: The Celtics and Spurs weren’t the only playoff teams to lose their leading scorer. The Predators lost leading scorer Ryan Johansen due to emergency thigh surgery. Like the Celtics, though, the Predators responded with a win over the Ducks in Game 5, bringing them to within one victory of the franchise’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

*****

KONECNY ASSISTS CANADA: Flyers forward Travis Konecny opened some eyes by leading Team Canada with eight assists during the IIHF World Championships. Konecny didn’t score a goal, but his eight assists helped Canada reach the gold-medal game, where it lost to Sweden in a shootout. Even with Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol serving as assistant coach, none of the five Flyers in the lineup was chosen to take a penalty shot during the shootout.

*****

PENGUINS ARE MURRAY: After falling behind the Senators, 2-1, in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Penguins turned to goalie Matt Murray. Marc-Andre Fleury stepped in and did a terrific job after Murray got hurt during warmups before the opening playoff game. But he gave up four goals in fewer than 13 minutes against the Senators in Game 3, leading to Murray starting, and winning, the next two games as the Penguins took a 3-2 series lead.

*****

UNION KEEP ROLLING: The Union’s shutout streak ended, but their 2-1 comeback win over the Rapids on Saturday extended the Union’s winning streak to four games. The four wins come after a 16-game winless streak dating back to last August.

*****

NASCAR COUNTRY: After Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR will make stops in Dover and Pocono the following two weeks. The AAA 400 Drive for Autism will be held on Sun., June 4 (1 p.m.) at Dover International Speedway. The following Sunday (June 11) at Pocono Raceway. These are prime opportunities for local NASCAR fans to see NASCAR up close and at least semi-personal.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 28 years, is rooting for anyone except the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs..

 

Heel Turns: Backlash could be excellent

Posted by Achilles Heel On May - 20 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelIf you’ve been on the fence about watching WWE single-brand pay-per-views, take the Greek God of Wrestling’s advice and watch Backlash. There are some “can’t miss” matches and the potential is there for Backlash to be a tremendous event.

Instead of starting with the WWE Championship match, let’s begin with the two most-anticipated matches for Sunday’s show (8 p.m., WWE Network): A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens, and Shinsuke Nakamura’s first televised match since being brought up from NXT.

Nakamura, billed as The Artist known as Nakamura, should receive an off-the-charts superstar reception from the Chicago crowd. His opponent, Dolph Ziggler, is a terrific wrestler in his own right. Although there is the possibility of an upset for Ziggler, which would prolong this feud, expect WWE to make the crowd happy with a big victory for Nakamura in what should be an entertaining match.

How can the United States Championship match between Owens and Styles be anything less than entertaining? Two of the best independent wrestlers in recent years, Owens and Styles have been among the company’s best – Styles was WWE’s best wrestler in 2016 – since arriving in WWE. Owens just regained the U.S. title from Chris Jericho, so it’s too soon for a title change. Expect Owens to retain the U.S. Championship.

The WWE Championship will be on the line, with Randy Orton defending against Jinder Mahal. Although WWE has been building up Mahal during the past two months (see last week’s Heel Turns), Achilles Heel isn’t certain that the fans are buying Mahal, who had always been relegated to the mid-card or a comedy act, as a top contender. Hopefully, the Chicago crowd doesn’t demonstrated its disdain for Mahal by ruining this match with irrelevant chants (i.e. C.M. Punk!). There is the possibility of a title change, with the “Maharajah” taking the title back to India, a country in which WWE is trying to make a concerted push. But the way Mahal has gotten the better of Orton almost every week indicates that Orton will prevail Sunday.

The Smackdown Tag Team Championship is also on the line, with Jimmy and Jey Uso defending the titles against Breezango (Fandango and Tyler Breeze). It’s not clear if Breezango is a heel team or face team, so the crowd dynamic will be interesting. The Greek God of Wrestling is pleased to see Breeze, who was terrific in NXT, get a higher profile, but the Usos should retain their titles.

A potential sleeper match – and Achilles Heel means that in the most positive way possible – is the six-woman tag team match pitting the team consisting of Smackdown Women’s champion Naomi, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch against the Welcoming Committee (Natalya, Carmella, Tamina). Natalya will have to carry most of the action for the heel faction, but this has the potential to be an excellent match. The “good girls” should win, but there is potential for dissension, which could lead to a victory for the heels. How well Naomi, Charlotte and Becky work together should be as interesting as the rivalry between the two teams.

The other matches feature Sami Zayn taking on Baron Corbin and a battle between former Wyatt Family members Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Zayn almost never has a bad match. The potential for a Zayn upset is there, although Corbin should be the favorite. Harper is extremely talented and woefully underutilized. If he can pull a good match out of Rowan, it will be a huge accomplishment. The kickoff show (7 p.m.) pits “The Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger against former Vaudevillains member Aiden English. Dillinger almost certainly will emerge victorious.

With two matches – Styles vs. Owens and Nakamura vs. Ziggler – almost guaranteed to be excellent, and with several other matches with the potential to be very good, Backlash has the potential to be extremely entertaining. The Greek God of Wrestling recommends that you don’t miss it.

*****

SWEET HOME, CHICAGO: On Saturday night (8 p.m.), one night before Backlash, NXT presents NXT Takeover: Chicago. Hideo Itami, one of NXT’s huge international signings, challenges Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship in the main event. Itami, who has had his NXT career hindered by injuries, has an opportunity at gold, but the Greek God of Wrestling expects Roode’s “glorious” championship reign to continue.

Asuka defends the NXT Women’s Championship against Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross in a triple threat match. Asuka should prevail as Riot and Cross take each other out. There seems to be no way that Riot and Cross can work together for very long against Asuka.

The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) are scheduled to defend the NXT Tag Team Championship against Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in a ladder match, but Ciampa injured his ankle this week at a house show in Kentucky. If Ciampa works the match, you would expect that he would be limited.

Tyler Bate defends the WWE United Kingdom Championship against Pete Dunne. If you’ve never seen either of these wrestlers, you’re in for a treat. The card is rounded out by what should be a terrific match between Roderick Strong and Eric Young.

*****

OK IN THE U.K.: Pete Dunne earned the opportunity to face Tyler Bate for the WWE United Kingdom Championship on Saturday be defeating Trent Seven in a No. 1 contenders match that was part of the United Kingdom special shown Friday night on WWE Network. Bate successfully defended the title against Mark Andrews on the show, which was another interesting and entertaining show on WWE Network.

*****

TANAHASHI INJURED: Hiroshi Tanahashi sustained a biceps injury during last Sunday’s Ring of Honor television tapings at 2300 Arena. If the injury requires surgery, Tanahashi could be sidelined for six months or more.

*****

SEMI-SPOILER: As you probably know, the Greek God of Wrestling detests spoilers, so he won’t be providing a rundown of angles and matches from the Ring of Honor tapings at 2300 Arena. He will, however, tell you that Adam Cole delivered a speech that appears to confirm the item in last week’s Heel Turns stating that it appears Cole is leaving Ring of Honor, likely for NXT or WWE.

*****

SAY IT AIN’T SO: Achilles Heel’s fears appear to be justified. It appears that the Josh Matthews-Jeremy Borash feud on Impact Wrestling is going to lead to a tag team match involving both men at Slammiversary.

*****

OH, WHAT A RUSH! Lio Rush defeated Joe Gacy last Saturday at Combat Zone Wrestling’s “Sacrifices” to become the new CZW world champion. In other matches, Father Matt Tremont defeated Joey Janela in a steel cage match, Zack Sabre Jr. beat David Starr, Maxwell Jacob Feinstein topped Johnny Yuma to become the CZW Wired champion, and Shane Strickland defeated Sami Callihan. There were a bunch of run-ins at the end of the Callihan-Strickland match, including MASADA, who announced that he will enter CZW’s Tournament of Death on June 10 in Townsend, Del.

*****

SOMERS DIES: Many of today’s fans may never have heard of Doug Somers, but he was part of an entertaining tag team with Playboy Buddy Rose in the AWA during the 1980s. Somers, who passed away this past week at age 65, and Rose engaged in a terrific feud with The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty).

*****

GOING TO HELL-ERTOWN: CHIKARA goes to Hellertown, Pa., next Saturday for Aniversario: School Reunion. The main event is a 10-man tag team match.

*****

JAPANESE INVASION: Io Shirai, a big star in Japan, is coming to WWE, according to Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer. Kairi Hojo, another major star for the Stardom promotion, already announced she was leaving the company, presumably for WWE.

*****

STROWMAN SIDELINED: Braun Strowman’s monster push, if you’ll pardon the expression, has been delayed. Strowman, who was being built up to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship, had elbow surgery. The surgery could sideline Strowman for months. In the televised storyline, Roman Reigns shattered Strowman’s elbow with a series of chair shots.

*****

GOING EXTREME: With Braun Strowman out of the picture, Raw general manager Kurt Angle announced an Extreme Rules fatal five-way match to determine the No. 1 contender for the WWE Universal Championship. The match, which will take place June 4 at Extreme Rules, will feature Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt.

Other matches at Extreme Rules include Dean Ambrose defending the Intercontinental Championship against The Miz, with Ambrose able to lose the title by disqualification; Alexa defending the Raw Women’s Championship against former champion Bayley in a kendo stick on a pole match; Matt and Jeff Hardy defending the Raw Tag Team Championship against Sheamus and Cesaro; and Austin Aries trying for a third time to wrest the Cruiserweight Championship away from Neville.

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