Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

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.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on expectations for the Eagles’ rookies, the fatal auto racing incident and Rickie Fowler making golf history.

With Steve Mason (pictured) likely not returning, the Flyers will once again enter next season with questions about their goaltending. Eric Fisher also takes an early look at next season’s potential roster, recaps the Flyers’ award winners and remembers the impact of Ed Snider.

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Heel Turns: Fast Lane part of journey

Posted by Eric Fisher On March - 10 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The problem with WWE’s Fast Lane, which takes place Sunday night (WWE Network, 7 p.m., kickoff show at 5 p.m.) is that it’s just a step toward WrestleMania.

Fast Lane is headlined by Daniel Bryan defending the WWE Championship against Kevin Owens. The main angle of this match is that Owens, who just returned from a lengthy absence due to injury, is replacing Kofi Kingston as the challenger.

The purpose of this match, like most of Fast Lane, seems to be to set up matches for WrestleMania. That means that the significance of most of what happens at Fast Lane will be how it builds toward WrestleMania rather than the outcomes of Sunday night’s matches.

Fast Lane is part of the journey. WrestleMania is the destination.

That doesn’t mean Fast Lane can’t be a good show. The journey is half the fun.

Expect Kofi Kingston to get involved in the match between Bryan and Owens. The Greek God of Wrestling isn’t sold on Owens being a fan favorite. Somehow this match will have to lead to a championship opportunity for Kingston at WrestleMania

The top women’s match, pitting Charlotte Flair against Becky Lynch, also is part of the build toward WrestleMania. If Lynch defeats Flair, she will be added to the WrestleMania match between Ronda Rousey and Flair for the Raw Women’s Championship. Lynch, of course, already earned the right to be in this match with her Royal Rumble victory, but she’s being forced to qualify a second time after Vince McMahon, as he did with Kingston, replaced her in the WrestleMania match. Rousey may get involved in the finish, but it’s difficult to believe that Lynch won’t emerge victorious.

One match that’s could be more of a conclusion than a means to an end is the Shield reunion. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, who is leaving WWE when his contract expires, are reuniting for what is billed as the final time as they battle Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley and Baron Corbin. With Rollins slated to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania, this could be a “feel good” final reunion for The Shield.

There are four other championship matches at Fast Lane. Asuka should successfully defend the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Mandy Rose. Achilles Heel hopes Rose makes a good showing in defeat, but the key is how this match will build to Asuka’s title defense at WrestleMania. The same is true for Bayley and Sasha Banks defending the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship against Tamina and Nia Jax. It’s too early for Banks and Bayley to lose the titles, so this has to lead to a development, possibly involving Jax in an inter-gender match, for WrestleMania.

Jimmy and Jey Uso defend the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against The Miz and Shane McMahon. The Usos should prevail, which would be a step toward the inevitable Miz-McMahon split. The Raw Tag Team Championship will also be on the line, with the Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) defending the titles in a triple threat match against Aleister Black and Ricochet and former championship Bobby Roode and Chad Gable. If given enough time, this match could be tremendous.

The kickoff show contains two matches with a lot of potential. Rey Mysterio meets Andrade in a rematch of a terrific match that took place on Smackdown. Another Smackdown match on the kickoff show pits The New Day (Big E and Xavier Woods) against Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev.

Fast Lane could be a terrific event. Every match, with the possible exception of Asuka vs. Rose, has the potential to be terrific. It should be a fun show to watch as the build to WrestleMania heats up.


HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: A plethora of titles will be on the line Friday during Ring of Honor’s 17th Anniversary show in Las Vegas. In the main event, Jay Lethal will defend the Ring of Honor World Championship against Matt Taven.

Jay and Mark Briscoe will defending the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship against Brody King and PCO of Villain Enterprises. Jeff Cobb will defend the Ring of Honor World Television Championship against Shane Taylor. Mayu Iwatani will defend the Women of Honor World Championship against Kelly Klein.

In non-title matches, Marty Scurll meets Kenny King, Bandido faces Rush, Silas Young battles Jonathan Gresham, and The Kingdom’s Vinny Marseglia and TK O’Ryan square off with Lifeblood’s Mark Haskins and Tracy Williams.

It will be interesting to see the fans’ reaction. This is Ring of Honor’s first major show without some of the stars – Cody Rhodes, Matt and Nick Jackson – from the past few years. The anniversary show should feature exciting action in the ring, but the star power is definitely reduced.


JOE CHAMPION: Not that he is seeking my approval, but the Greek God of Wrestling congratulates Samoa Joe for winning the United States Championship from R-Truth in a fatal four-way match on Smackdown that also involved Rey Myterio and Andrade. This is Joe’s first title in WWE. He has traveled a long journey before capturing his first WWE title, and it probably will be difficult to take that title away from Joe.


JOURNEY INTERRUPTED: Like Samoa Joe, Tommaso Ciampa has taken a long road to get to WWE. Unfortunately, shortly after his arrival in WWE, Ciampa has been sidelined indefinitely by a neck injury that required neck fusion surgery. Ciampa returned from reconstructive knee surgery to become, arguably, NXT’s best performer last year. Achilles Heel wishes Ciampa a similar recovery and outcome after his latest surgery.

It will be interesting to see how NXT handles the now-vacant NXT Championship. It will also be interesting to see how WWE handles Johnny Gargano, who entered WWE aligned with Ciampa.


IMPACT DEFENSE: Johnny Impact is scheduled to defend the Impact Wrestling World Championship against Brian Cage next Friday. The Greek God of Wrestling detests spoilers, so he won’t say any more about this match.


FAREWELL TO BUNDY: King Kong Bundy, a huge star, literally and figuratively, during the 1980s and ‘90s, died at age 61. Bundy (Christopher Pallies), who was from Atlantic City and learned the ropes at The Monster Factory in Paulsboro, N.J., headlined WrestleMania 2 by challenging Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship in a steel cage match.

Described as a walking condominium by Gorilla Monsoon, Bundy was a main event-level star as WWE developed into the world’s biggest wrestling promotion. The Greek God of Wrestling remembers first seeing Bundy wrestle – with hair – as Chris Canyon.

If there weren’t so much news this week, more space would be devoted to Bundy’s career. Achilles Heel sends his condolences to Bundy’s family and friends.


FAREWELL TO DESTROYER: Dick Beyer, better known as “The Destroyer,” died last week at age 88. Beyer achieved his greatest fame wrestling under a mask as “The Destroyer.” In addition to being a big name during wrestling’s territory days, especially on the West Coast, Beyer was a huge star in Japan. Achilles Heel sends his condolences to Beyer’s family and friends.


COMBAT READY: Mance Warner became Combat Zone Wrestling world heavyweight champion at Cage of Death 20 when Maxwell Jacob Friedman vacated the title. Friedman (MJF) returns to tried to regain the title from Warner on April 13 at Best of the Best 18, which also features (of course) the Best of the Best tournament.


CHIKARA DOUBLEHEADER: CHIKARA’s Young Lions Cup XV on Saturday is going to be a doubleheader, with one show at 3 p.m. and a second show at 7 p.m. In the first stage, Mr. Touchdown Mark Angelosetti will battle Chris Dickinson, Lucas Calhoun will meet Volgar, and Missile Assault Man faces Rory Gulak. For a limited time, a ticket bought in advance will be good for both shows. Later, tickets will have to be bought separately for each show.


ROSS LEAVING WWE: Jim Ross, the greatest broadcaster in professional wrestling history, is leaving WWE at the end of the month. All Elite Wrestling would add to its credibility if it could sign Ross to be its top broadcaster.

By the way, AEW has announced that its second event – Double or Noting on May 25 is its first – will be Fight for the Fallen on July 13 in Jacksonville, Fla. The Khan family, AEW’s chief financial backer, owns the Jacksonville Jaguars.


HARPER RETURNS: Luke Harper wrestled for the first time since having wrist surgery last fall. Harper defeated Mojo Rawley at a house show in Rochester, N.Y. Achilles Heel has been a long-time fan of Harper. With Erick Rowan, how former Wyatt Family and Bludgeon Brother teammate, serving as Daniel Bryan’s enforcer, the Greek God of Wrestling hopes that Harper gets his long-deserved push as a singles wrestler.

Fish ‘n Chips

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

Bryce Harper has yet to play in a spring training game. But he’s making lots of news.

Bryce Harper’s plane lands. Bryce Harper waves. Bryce Harper talks. Bryce Harper takes batting practice. Bryce Harper speaks with Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel! Bryce Harper talks about recruiting Mike Trout to become a Phillie! Bryce Harper eats dinner. Bryce Harper sneezes. Oh no! Is he sick?

Most of the items mentioned in the preceding paragraph were real stories reported on credible Web sites. Philly definitely has Bryce Harper fever.

Ticket sales and jersey sales have gone through the roof since Harper signed with the Phillies. The Phillies are off to a fast start in recouping the $330 million they’ve committed to Harper.

Harper is big news. The news that Harper will play his first spring training game on Saturday has been at the top of the “first-and-10” feature on the left side of PhillyPhanatics.com all week. Harper’s spring training debut has ranked above the Sixers and Flyers, both of whom are actually playing games, and even the Eagles’ offseason moves.

Can you imagine what it will be like when Harper actually plays a regular-season game at Citizens Bank Park?

Don’t misinterpret my sarcasm at the top of this item. I’m not complaining. It’s fun to be this excited about the Phillies again.

The excitement alone might have been worth the $330 million the Phillies are paying Harper. Then again, it’s not my money.


LINE DANCE: As we count down to the NFL free agency period, which begins next Wednesday, the Eagles have been busy making adjustments along their offensive and defensive lines.

Along the offensive line, the adjustments have been financial. They signed center Jason Kelce to a one-year extension. They signed Isaac Seumalo to a three-year extension. Right tackle Lane Johnson reportedly reworked his contract to help create room under the salary cap. It wouldn’t be a shock to see left tackle Jason Peters agree to adjust his contract.

There appears to be more turnover on the defensive line. Defensive end Brandon Braham, who was slated to become a free agent, signed a three-year contract worth $40 million. But the Eagles decided not to pick up the option for defensive tackle Tim Jernigan’s contract. There also are reports that the Eagles are trying to trade defensive end Michael Bennett.

All of this shuffling of contracts indicates that the Eagles are going to be active in free agency. It will be interesting to see which direction executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman will go when free agency begins.


FOLES ON THE MOVE: The Eagles’ decision to let quarterback Nick Foles go rather than apply the franchise tag wasn’t a surprise. The Eagles can’t afford to tie up $25 million in a backup quarterback. They would have almost no maneuverability under the salary cap if they placed the franchise tag on Foles.

It’s also not surprising that, according to reports, Foles will sign with the Jaguars when free agency begins. The Jaguars are clearly looking for an improvement over Blake Bortles. Furthermore, they hired John DeFilippo, who was the Eagles’ quarterback coach, as their offensive coordinator. Foles’ familiarity with DeFilippo should enhance Jacksonville’s pitch to Foles.


REMEMBERING A LEGEND: Al Shrier is a legend at Temple, where he worked for 65 years. Yes, 65 years. Shrier, who died Monday morning at age 88, started working at Temple after he graduated in 1953, and he didn’t retire until June 2018.

I have fond memories of meeting Mr. Shrier while I was sports editor at Metro newspaper. Mr. Shrier couldn’t have been more welcoming to the new paper in town. One of my treasured memories from my years at Metro was being seated next to Mr. Shrier during the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Spectrum. I don’t remember what we spoke about besides basketball, but I remember that he was always a gentleman.

A long list of halls of fame to which Mr. Shrier has been inducted and awards he received would take up a lot of space. A simpler way of explaining how important he was at Temple is to point out that not only is the media room in the Liacouras Center named after Shrier, but there is a banner in the rafters, featuring his trademark briefcase, which he carried seemingly everywhere. How many non-athletes have a banner hanging from the rafters?

I send my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Shrier. And I can add with complete confidence that this beloved man’s impact will live on for decades at his beloved alma mater.


TOUGH START: The enthusiasm built up during the Union’s offseason didn’t last too long. The Union lost their season opener to Toronto FC, 3-1. At least midfielder Marco Fabian, the Union’s major offseason addition, scored on a penalty shot in his first game.


END OF AN ERROR: Tight end Jason Witten is coming out of retirement to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys. This will end the misery of listening to Witten on Monday Night Football.

I won’t recount all of Witten’s mistakes. Let’s simply say that he was brutally bad.

To be fair, a lot of the blame should go to ESPN for putting Witten in that position. He jumped right to the major leagues without any training, and it showed. If Witten makes the Cowboys better, however, I reserve the right to request that he return to the broadcast booth.


FIGHT NIGHT: UFC is coming to Wells Fargo Center on March 30 for an event that will be broadcast on ESPN2. The main event features lightweights Edson Barboza (20-6) and Justin Gaethje (19-2). In the co-main event, David Branch (22-5) meets Jack Hermansson (18-4) in a battle of middleweights. In a women’s strawweight battle, Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-3) faces Michelle Waterson (16-6).

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for more than 30 years, will remain a Nick Foles fan even though he no longer will be wearing Eagles green.

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie