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Rebounds in season opener by Ben Simmons, who also scores 19 points

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topic. This week Eric serves up opinions on why the draft lottery has become such a big deal in Philadelphia, the meaning of the Eagles’ signing of LeGarrette Blount, and other ways to honor former Flyers chairman Ed Snider.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Find out by taking the Philly fans quiz.

The Greek God of Wrestling reviews the Royal Rumble and where the storylines, including Randy Orton’s Rumble victory, may go as we move toward WrestleMania. Achilles Heel also tells you why Seth Rollins had an awful 8 days, where you can see new NXT champion Bobby Roode this week, and why Wing Bowl was a perfect event for Ric Flair.

Archive for the ‘Sports+’ Category

Heel Turns: Busy times in Philly

Posted by Achilles Heel On October - 14 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

 With no Eagles game this weekend, professional wrestling takes center stage in Philadelphia, with Ring of Honor and WWE hosting events in the city.

Ring of Honor is hosting “Glory by Honor,” a set of television tapings Sunday at 2300 Arena. WWE comes to town on Monday for Raw at Wells Fargo Center.

Ring of Honor will hold a meet-and-greet session at 4 p.m. The tapings officially get underway at 6 p.m.

The main event is a triple-threat match for the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship. The match features three of Ring of Honor’s most highly decorated teams. Mark and Jay Briscoe defended the titles against The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian).

The other announced matches include a pair of non-title matches, with NWA World Heavyweight champion Cody Rhodes facing Kenny King, and Ring of Honor Television champion Jeff Cobb battling Shane Taylor. Ring of Honor World champion Jay Lethal will team up with Jonathan Gresham and a mystery partner to face The Kingdom (Matt Taven, TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia). There also will be a seven-woman tag team match, with Women of Honor World champion Sumie Sakai teaming Madison Rayne and Jenny Rose to face Kelly Klein, Dr. Britt Baker, DMD and Karen Q. Shane “Hurricane” Helms, Adam Page and Marty Scurll are also scheduled to appear.

There only match announced for Raw on Monday is a six-man tag team match pitting The Shield (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose) against Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, but that match only being promoted locally, so it could be a dark match – or it might not happen at all. WWE is teasing that Undertaker and Kane will respond to the challenge from Triple H and Shawn Michaels for a tag team match at WWE’s Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 2. Other storylines to watch include Nikki and Brie Bella turning on Ronda Rousey, as well as Dean Ambrose feeling uncomfortable as a member of The Shield. There also should be qualifying matches for the World Cup Tournament at Crown Jewel. WWE is simultaneously building toward Crown Jewel and Evolution, the all-women’s event that will take place on Oct. 28.

As always, if you spot the Greek God of Wrestling at one of these events, please do not approach me for autographs and don’t touch me. In fact, don’t even speak to me. Basking in the glory of my presence should be enough of a reward for you.

*****

GLORY DAYS: Bound for Glory, which takes place Monday at the sold-out Melrose Ballroom in Manhattan, doesn’t seem like an overly impressive card. The lack of depth on the Impact Wrestling roster is brought to the forefront at major events. On the other hand, Impact Wrestling overcame the same situation to put on an impressive event at Slammiversary earlier this year, so we shouldn’t prejudge the quality of Bound for Glory.

The main event, which features Austin Aries defending the Impact Wrestling World Championship against Johnny Impact, should be terrific. Aries made the right move by leaving WWE for Impact Wrestling, where his talent is at center stage. Impact (the former Johnny Morrison) has always been good in the ring, so expect a fast-moving match. Achilles Heel has a feeling that Impact may capture the title.

The match that received the main event slot Thursday on the final Impact Wrestling show before Bound for Glory was the LAX vs. OGz match, which is now going to be a Concrete Jungle match, which supposedly means it will be held on concrete, with no ropes or ring. Perhaps Impact Wrestling put them in the Thursday’s main event slot because the television tapings were in Mexico, but this old and tired feud doesn’t feel like main event material.

The six-man tag team match between Brian Cage, Fenix and Pentagon Jr. against Sami Callihan and Dave and Jake Crist feels much fresher. So does the matchup between Eddie Edwards and Moose and the Knockouts Championship match between Tessa Blanchard and challenger Taya Valkyrie. There also will be a tag team match pitting Matt Sydal and Ethan Page against Rich Swann and Willie Mack.

Impact Wrestling will also be doing television tapings at Melrose Ballroom on Monday and Tuesday.

*****

TIME CHANGE: Beginning Oct. 25, Impact Wrestling will move from 8 p.m. to the 10 p.m.-midnight slot on Pop TV.

*****

WWE COMES TO ALLENTOWN: For those of you closer to the Lehigh Valley than Philadelphia, or if you prefer WWE to Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling, WWE will present a house show at PPL Arena in Allentown on Sunday (7 p.m.).

*****

GRAND NIGHT FOR SMACKDOWN: This busy week of wrestling continues Tuesday with WWE presenting the 1,000th episode of Smackdown. WWE is bringing in some big names for the grand celebration. Edge will be hosting a Cutting Edge Segment, Evolution (Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Bautista) will reunite and the Undertaker is scheduled to appear.

Rey Mysterio will make his return on Tuesday, wrestling Shinsuke Nakamura for a berth in WWE’s World Cup Tournament, which is scheduled to take place on Nov. 2 as part of Crown Jewel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Orton and Jeff Hardy have already secured two of the four Smackdown spots in the World Cup Tournament.

*****

JONATHAN DIES AT 87: Don Leo Jonathan, one of professional wrestling’s greatest giants, died Saturday at age 87. Jonathan, who stood 6-foot-6-inches tall and weighed in the vicinity of 300 pounds, had incredible athletic ability.

A star in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Jonathan was actually past his prime by the time the Greek God of Wrestling first saw him, but even then he was an amazing talent. Despite his size, Johnson could pull off incredibly athletic maneuvers. Jonathan had a terrific feud with Andre the Giant and won several versions of the world title.

Jonathan would have been a star in any era. Achilles Heel extends his condolences to Jonathan’s friends and family.

*****

BIG CHANGES DOWN UNDER: The big news coming out of WWE’s Super-Showdown in Melbourne, Australia was Undertaker and Kane turning on Triple H and Shawn Michaels after Triple H defeated Undertaker in the main event. The four wrestlers were celebrating afterward, with all four raising their arms in the air, when the attack occurred.

This angle set up the tag team match scheduled to take place at Crown Jewel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Nov. 2. The reformation of Degeneration X, with Shawn Michaels coming out of retirement, is the biggest surprise. It should be noted that Kane tore his Achilles tendon earlier this year.

The Triple H-Undertaker match was as good as can be expected from two stars well past their primes. In fact, it was a good match by any standard. The best matches were AJ Styles successfully defending the WWE Championship against Samoa Joe and the six-man match in which The Shield (Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins) defeated Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre.

The other big news from Australia was Buddy Murphy winning the WWE Cruiserweight Championship from Cedric Alexander. The Australian crowd was loudly behind Murphy, who is from Melbourne.

Other than the Cruiserweight match, the six-man tag team match, the main event and Ronda Rousey’s appearance in a six-woman match, the crowd was fairly quiet. It even took time for the crowd to warm up to the excellent Styles-Joe match. As we saw at the card earlier this year in Saudi Arabia, it seems as if foreign crowds react differently than American crowds.

*****

JEWEL IN JEOPARDY? The “Crown Jewel” event, part of a long-term deal between WWE and Saudi Arabia, is in jeopardy due to controversy surrounding the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist in Turkey. There are reports that Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey. WWE released a statement saying it is monitoring the situation, but there is already pressure on WWE to cancel the event.

*****

NXT UK READY TO ROLL: The long-awaited debut of NXT UK will take place on WWE Network beginning this Wednesday (3 p.m.). This is part of WWE’s extension as a global brand. The legendary Johnny Saint will serve as the on-air general manager.

*****

NEW JAPAN WATCH: If you have AXS on your cable or dish package, it’s worth checking out New Japan Wrestling. Jim Ross handles the play-by-play. The show features IWGP champion Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Kazuchika Okada and many more.

*****

CRAZY FOR CONQUISTADORS: Continuing our international theme (sort of), the Conquistador won the Worldwide Battle Royal on Raw. Set up by Raw interim general manager Baron Corbin to secure himself a spot in the World Cup Tournament, the battle royal ended in surprise when the Conquistador – after hiding outside the ring for most of this very short battle royal – re-entered the ring to deliver several textbook suplexes and an Angle slam on Corbin before throwing him over the top rope. The Conquistador then removed his mask to reveal himself as Kurt Angle.

The Greek God of Wrestling admits to having a soft spot for Conquistadors. He liked the original team, loved it when Edge and Christian wrestled as The Conquistadors (and then did commentary the following week while The Conquistadors wrestled to prove that they weren’t The Conquistadors), and enjoyed Angle’s Conquistador portrayal last week on Raw.

*****

EVOLUTION NEWS: Two matches were added to WWE’s Evolution, the all-women’s pay-per-view on Oct. 28. After Nikki and Brie Bella turned on Ronda Rousey on aw following their victory over the Riott Squad on Raw, it was announced that Nikki Bella will challenge Rousey for the Raw Women’s Championship at Evolution.

The following night, after a double countout in their match on Smackdown, it was announced that Becky Lynch will defend the Smackdown Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair at Evolution in a last woman standing match.

As if that weren’t enough, Trish Stratus and Lita will team up to face Alexa Bliss and Mickie James instead of what was expected to be a singles match between Bliss and Stratus.

Johnson feeling left out at Dover

Posted by Eric Fisher On October - 6 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

With 11 victories, Jimmie Johnson has won more times at Dover International Speedway than any other driver. But if he earns win No. 12 Sunday at the Gander Outdoors 400, it won’t matter very much.

A victory would snap Johnson’s 33-race winless streak, which dates back to the 2017 spring race at Dover. But it affect his standing in NASCAR’s playoffs.

Sunday’s race at the Monster Mile (2 p.m.) begins the second stage of NASCAR’s playoffs. Four drivers are eliminated after each stage, and one of the four eliminated last Sunday was Johnson.

Johnson sort of eliminated himself last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was in second place during the final lap. If he had played it safe, he would have advanced to the second stage. But Johnson went for the win, trying to pass leader Martin Truex Jr. on the final turn. Johnson collided with Truex. He was able to get his car restarted and finished in 14th place.

Finishing 14th left Johnson tied in the standings with Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson, with Larson only earning a tie because Jeffrey Earnhardt crashed with sight of the finish line and couldn’t get his car restarted. Johnson lost the tiebreaker, so Almirola and Larson advanced to the second stage while Johnson joined Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones in the first group of drivers eliminated.

Nobody can match Johnson’s victory total, but there are drivers still alive in the playoffs who have a history of success at Dover. Kevin Harvick, who is in second place, has won three of his past seven races at Dover. Brad Keselowski, in fourth place and with wins in three of his last five races, has two wins and six Top 10 finishes in his last nine Dover races. Truex, in third place, has a win and eight Top 10 finishes in his last nine Dover races.

Kyle Busch, who is in first place, has trip to Victory Lane and four Top 10 finishes in his last eight Dover races. Busch will start from the pole position Sunday because qualifying was wiped out by rain.

If you’re looking for a driver besides Johnson and the top four who could win at Dover, consider Chase Elliott, Johnson’s young teammate at Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott, in ninth place in the standings, has raced at Dover five times while on NASCAR’s top circuit. He had never finished outside of the top five until finishing 12th in the spring.

Elliott, Larson, Almirola and Alex Bowman are in the final four positions entering the second stage. But, with the standings closely bunched after the top four drives, they are all within 15 points of fifth-place Clint Bowyer. Even if they don’t win, those bottom four drivers want to do as well as possible at Dover to move out of the elimination positions entering the final two races of the second stage.

There is a lot at stake for a lot of drivers at Dover on Sunday – even if Jimmie Johnson isn’t one of them.

Maurice Cheeks enters Hall of Fame