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NCAA Tournament appearances by Temple’s Fran Dunphy, tied for most by Big 5 head coach

The Greek God of Wrestling says that Ring of Honor has clearly passed Global Force Wrestling to become the biggest wrestling company in North America besides WWE. Achilles Heel also reminds fans that Ring of Honor will be at 2300 Arena on Friday, looks back at Hell in a Cell and forward to Sunday’s TLC, and tells us who will face Eli Drake for the GFW’s World title at Bound for Glory.

The Union made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2011. Key additions at midfield, striker and center back could determine whether the Union get that elusive first postseason win this year.

The news that Kimmo Timonen’s career is probably over inspires Eric Fisher to look back with appreciation at the quietly effective career of one of the best, and classiest, Flyers in franchise history.

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Heel Turns: Reigns makes remarkable return

Posted by Achilles Heel On March - 2 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

WWE presented one of its all-time best surprises last Monday when Roman Reigns returned to Raw. Even better, Reigns announced that his leukemia is once again in remission.

Reigns announced in October that his leukemia had returned. That was a surprise to wrestling fans, who hadn’t known that Reigns had leukemia when he was 22 years old. Reigns relinquished the WWE Universal Championship that he had pursued for so long. But Reigns’ career wasn’t the most importance concern.

That’s why Monday’s emotional return was so awesome. The fans were happy to see Reigns back in WWE. But they were even happier to see him healthy.

The Greek God of Wrestling doesn’t like spoilers, but, since the match has already been advertised, I’ll tell you that Reigns is returning to the ring in the near future. That match should be set up Monday at Raw at Wells Fargo Center.

That’s right. Reigns will be appearing at Raw in Philly this Monday. Batista is also supposed to be at Raw. Achilles Heel isn’t a shill for WWE, but seeing Reigns should be enough incentive to buy a ticket for Raw.

It will be interesting to see how WWE uses Reigns. It appears they will ease him in with tag team matches. But will he be involved with the WrestleMania storyline between Shield teammate Seth Rollins and WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar? That remains to be seen. All that matters right now is that Roman Reigns is back.

*****

KINGSTON BUMPED: It was a bad week for Kofi Kingston. First, Vince McMahon replaces Kingston with Kevin Owens in the WWE Championship match at Fast Lane. And then Kingston gets bumped out of the lead item in Heel Turns by Roman Reigns.

This edition of Heel Turns was supposed to begin with a tribute to Kingston. After persevering in WWE for 11 years, Kingston earned himself a place in the spotlight with tremendous performances during a gauntlet match on Smackdown and during an Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship. Fans were chanting “Kofi! Kofi!” after he was the last man eliminated in the Elimination Chamber, and they chanted his name two nights later after Shane McMahon announced that Kingston would receive a one-on-one shot at Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship at Fast Lane.

But Vince McMahon took away the shot at the WWE Championship at Fast Lane, and Reigns’ remarkable return knocked Kingston out of the premier spot in Heel Turns.

*****

FAST LANE SHAPING UP: In addition to the WWE Championship match between Daniel Bryan and challenger Kevin Owens, Fast Lane on Sun., March 10 will include Smackdown Women’s champion Asuka will defend her title against Mandy Rose, Jimmy and Jey Uso will defend the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against former champions Shane McMahon and The Miz, and new WWE Women’s Tag Team champions Sasha Banks and Bayley will defend their titles against Nia Jax and Tamina. As Achilles Heel suggested earlier, expect more matches to be added this week on Raw, including one involving Roman Reigns.

*****

ON THE RISE: Four wrestlers have joined WWE after experience a ton of success in NXT. Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Ricochet and Aleister Black have been making an impact on Raw and Smackdown the past two weeks, often teaming together. It will be interesting to see if the success of these four men will carry over from NXT to WWE.

*****

WWE IN ATLANTIC CITY: If you’re reading this on Saturday, you may still have an opportunity to get to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City for tonight’s WWE live event (7:30 p.m.). The two announced matches are Finn Balor defending the Intercontinental Championship against former champion Bobby Lashley, Sasha Banks and Bayley defending the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship in a triple threat match against The Riott Squad and Nia Jax and Tamina, and Braun Strowman battling Baron Corbin in a no-disqualification match. Also scheduled to appear are Dean Ambrose, Drew McIntyre, Raw Tag Team champions The Revival, former Raw Tag Team champions Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, Natalya and Alexa Bliss.

*****

CZW TRIFECTA: Another big event tonight in New Jersey is Combat Zone Wrestling’s Trifecta Elimination at Colossal Sports Academy at The Coliseum in Voorhees. The nine-person tournament consists of three triple-threat matches, with the winners to meet in another three-way match to determine who will join CZW’s “Best of the Best” tournament. There also will be a Tag Team championship match, with The Rep defending against House of Gangone. Jordynne Grace will defend the WSU Spirit Championship against Kris Statlander.

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HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: Jay Lethal will headline Ring of Honor’s 17th Anniversary show on Fri., March 15, by defending 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. Mayu Iwatani will defending the Women of Honor World Championship against Kelly Klein. In non-title matches, Marty Scurll meets Kenny King, and Bandido faces Rush.

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RAYNE BACK TO IMPACT: Madison Rayne has left Ring of Honor in order to return to Impact Wrestling, where she is a multi-time Knockouts champion.

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BATISTA RETURNS: Batista made his return on Raw, attacking Ric Flair before Flair could head out to the ring for his 70th birthday celebration. This is apparently building toward a match between Triple H and Batista at WrestleMania. Batista is a big movie star now, so this match will generate a lot of attention, but the Greek God of Wrestling isn’t enamored with a match between Triple H and Batista, two wrestlers far past their primes.

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McMAHON FEUD? Vince McMahon has made two major changes in championship matches, replacing Kofi Kingston with Kevin Owens in the WWE Championship match at Fast Lane, and replacing Becky Lynch with Charlotte as the challenger in the Raw Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. Could this be leading to Shane and Stephanie McMahon rebelling against their father’s authoritarian ways?

*****

CHIKARA DOUBLEHEADER: CHIKARA’s Young Lions Cup on March 16 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 time, a ticket bought in advance will be good for both shows. Later, tickets will have to be bought separately for each show.

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FAREWELL: We close out Heel Turns with news of releases from WWE. Tye Dillinger and Hideo Itami, whom Achilles Heel told you about previously, were granted their releases. WWE also released T.J. Perkins, who won the WWE Cruiserweight Championship Tournament from 205 Live. A more major loss may be agent Arn Anderson, who was released from WWE. Anderson has a wonderful mind for professional wrestling.

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal