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Week (at least) that Joel Embiid is expected to miss due to left knee soreness

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Sixers’ unusual roster problem, the Flyers’ signing of goalie Brian Elliott and the focus this week on the future stars for the Flyers and Sixers.

Phillies fans demonstrated their appreciation for Ryan Howard’s career by giving the Big Piece a well-deserved emotional farewell during his final days as a Phillie.

With B.J. Johnson and Pookie Powell at his disposal, La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini (pictured) might have the weapons to make a run at postseason success. Eric Fisher also examines the improvement of Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, Penn’s scoring depth and the Saint Joseph’s injury bug.

Archive for the ‘Sports+’ Category

Heel Turns: Process of Elimination

Posted by Achilles Heel On February - 16 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The success of WWE’s Elimination Chamber event Sunday (WWE Network, 7 p.m., kickoff show at 5 p.m.) depends on the two elimination chamber matches. Everything else plays a supporting role.

The WWE Championship match inside an elimination chamber should be terrific. With Daniel Bryan defending the title against AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston, there isn’t a weak link in the entire match. Everyone can more than carry their weight.

This match received a wonderful buildup with a gauntlet match on Smackdown. The star of the match was Kofi Kingston, who is replacing Mustafa Ali in the elimination chamber because Ali sustained a concussion. Kingston lasted 60 minutes before being eliminated by Styles. Orton, who was in the match for about 5 seconds, hit on RKO on Styles for the pin, meaning he will be the final entrant in the elimination chamber. There should be some tremendous action, with innovative moves possible from Kingston, Hardy and Styles and innovative brutality possible from Orton and Joe, but the Greek God of Wrestling predicts that Bryan will emerge victorious.

The elimination chamber match to determine the first WWE Women’s Tag Team champions is less of a “sure thing.” There is a question about whether fans care enough about the teams participating to stay with a match that is guaranteed (based on teams entering every five minutes) to last 30 minutes. (On a side note, unless larger pods are created, it could get claustrophobic inside the pods, particularly for Nia Jax and Tamina.)

Bayley and Sasha Banks will start the match against Corey Graves’ favorite team, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. The starting teams lost triple threat matches on Raw and Smackdown, respectively. The other entrants are The Riott Squad’s Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, the team of Jax and Tamina, The Iconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce) and Carmella and Naomi.

The best part about the women’s elimination chamber match is the outcome is wide open. Bayley and Banks would be the most popular champions. Jax and Tamina would get heat as physically dominant champions, although Achilles Heel still believes Jax is going to wrestle a male at WrestleMania. Carmella and Naomi would dance a lot as popular champions. The other three teams would all receive a boost from being champions. The Greek God of Wrestling doesn’t like his pick, but he fears that the Iconics are going to win.

The Raw Women’s Championship will be on the line when Ronda Rousey defends the title against Ruby Riott. The intrigue in this match is that Charlotte Flair, who was chosen by WWE chairman Vince McMahon to replace the suspended Becky Lynch in the WrestleMania match against Rousey, will be ringside for this match. Remember, Flair delivered a hellacious beating to Rousey at Survivors Series. There’s also the possibility of Lynch showing up. For Riott, the goal will be to look good against Rousey. Achilles Heel could see Riott becoming women’s champion down the road, but Rousey will retain the title Sunday.

The Miz and Shane McMahon will defend the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against Jimmy and Jey Uso. It’s too soon for Miz and McMahon to drop the belts, so they will retain. Bobby Lashley should also retain the Intercontinental Championship in a unique match in which Lashley and Lio Rush face challenger Finn Balor.

Braun Strowman seeks revenge on Baron Corbin a no-disqualification match. The only way in which this is competitive is if Drew McIntyre gets involved. But that should bring out Kurt Angle to help Strowman emerge victorious.

On the kickoff show, Buddy Murphy defends the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Akira Tozawa. This match should get Elimination Chamber off to a good start. But the success of this event will be determined by the two elimination chamber matches.

*****

MORALES DIES AT 78: Pedro Morales, WWE’s first triple crown winner, died at age 78. Morales defeated Ivan Koloff in Madison Square Garden on Feb. 8, 1971, to win the WWWF World Championship, which Koloff had won by ending Bruno Sammartino’s eight-year reign as champion.

Morales also won the WWF World Tag Team Championships with Bob Backlund, although they relinquished the titles because Backlund was the WWF world champion. Morales then won the Intercontinental Championship from Ken Patera and, after losing it to the Magnificent Muraco, regained it from Muraco.

Morales was incredibly popular among the Latino population in the Northeast, particularly in the New York/North Jersey region. Morales held the world championship until December of 1973, when he lost to Stan “The Man” Stasiak in Philadelphia.

The Greek God of Wrestling extends his condolences to Morales’ family and friends.

*****

THORNTON DIES AT 74: Les Thornton, a well-respected British wrestler and ring technician, died earlier this month at age 84. Thornton held both the NBA and WWWF versions of the World Junior Heavyweight championship. The Greek God of Wrestling extends his condolences to Thornton’s family and friends.

*****

RESURRECTION OF REVIVAL: Congratulations to Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder, together known as The Revival, for winning the Raw Tag Team Championship from Bobby Roode and Chad Gable last Monday on Raw. Regular readers of Heel Turns know that Achilles Heel is a big fan of Dawson and Wilder.

There have been rumors that Dawson and Wilder have been unhappy with their recent direction, with some stories even saying they had asked for their release. Whatever percentage of truth there was in those rumors, instead of going through the motions, The Revival responded by tearing it up with Roode and Gable at house shows. Their reward was a well-deserved run as champions.

*****

YOU SOLD OUT! All Elite Wrestling (AEW) sold out its debut Double or Nothing show in Las Vegas nearly immediately. The show will take place on May 25 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The main event features Kenny Omega battling Chris Jericho.

*****

IMPACT RETAINS: Johnny Impact retained the Impact Wrestling World Championship during a fatal four-way match with Brian Cage, Killer Kross and Moose at “Impact uncaged!” At the same event Taya Valkyrie retained her Knockouts Championship in a street fight with Tessa Blanchard.

*****

TAVEN CHALLENGES LETHAL: Matt Taven will get a shot at the Ring of Honor World Championship when he challenges Jay Lethal at Ring of Honor’s 17th Annivesary show on March 15 (9 p.m.) at Sam’s Town Live in Las Vegas. The Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship will also be on the line, with Mark and Jay Briscoe defending against Brody King and PCO.

*****

ASUKA LEFT OUT: You have to feel a little bit sorry for Asuka. After winning the Smackdown Women’s Championship in a memorable match with Becky Lynch and Charlotte at TLC and then defeating Lynch in an excellent opener at The Royal Rumble, Asuka seems like the forgotten woman as Lynch and Charlotte set their sights on Ronda Rousey. Asuka is not defending her title at Elimination Chamber on Sunday and wasn’t even on Smackdown last week.

*****

HOUSTON HAS IT MAID: With Elimination Chamber taking place in Houston on Sunday, WWE announced that next year’s Royal Rumble will take place at Minute Maid Park in Houston. This will be the second straight year the Royal Rumble will take place at a baseball stadium. Last month’s Royal Rumble took place at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Heel Turns: How Lynch became ‘The Man’

Posted by Achilles Heel On February - 3 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The hottest star in WWE right now is Becky Lynch. This isn’t intended as a reference to her attractiveness, although the Greek God of Wrestling certainly wouldn’t disparage Lynch’s looks. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that Lynch is the biggest draw in WWE. But right now Lynch is drawing the hottest reaction from WWE fans.

Lynch was the brightest star at the Royal Rumble. The fans were into her match with Asuka for the Smackdown Women’s Championship, which opened the main card. When Lynch came out to replace the injured Lana in the Women’s Royal Rumble, the crowd erupted. The crowd got even louder when she eliminated Charlotte to win the Women’s Royal Rumble. The next night on Raw the crowd went banana – as Pat Patterson used to say – when Lynch came out to confront Ronda Rousey and challenged her for the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania.

As has been mentioned on WWE shows during the past week or two, Lynch was involved in the kickoff show at last year’s WrestleMania as part of the kickoff show. This year she could be in the main event.

The big women’s match at WrestleMania 34 was Charlotte vs. Asuka for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Rousey also had a high-profile role, making her in-ring debut with Kurt Angle against the team of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Nix Jax defeating Alexa Bliss to capture the Raw Women’s Championship also was part of WrestleMania. Lynch didn’t even have a major role in the battle royal on the kickoff show.

How did Lynch go from the WrestleMania kickoff show last year to possibly being in the main event this year? In other words, how did Becky Lynch become “The Man?”

Lynch didn’t come out of nowhere to reach the top. She was the first woman drafted by Smackdown during the WWE draft in July 2016. She became the first Smackdown Women’s champion two months later. But, after losing the title to Alexa Bliss in December of that year, Lynch wasn’t able to regain the belt.

Fast forward to last summer. Lynch goes on a winning streak that includes a non-title victory over Smackdown Women’s champion Carmella. Lynch’s reward was a title shot at SummerSlam, but Charlotte Flair was later added to the match. Flair pinned Lynch in the triple threat match at SummerSlam, causing a frustrated Lynch to attack Flair after the match.

Lynch’s vicious attack was intended to turn her heel, but, as she complained about being denied opportunities that were instead given to Flair, the fans got behind her. When discussing the psychology of being a heel, Mick Foley once said that it’s important that the heel believe what he (or she) is saying so his or her actions are justified. But when the fans believe that the heel is justified in what he or she is saying, a different dynamic takes place. The fans support the heel.

The best example of this dynamic is probably when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin became a hero in 1997. Austin kept saying the same things and acting the same way. The difference is the fans got behind him.

When Lynch complained about being denied opportunities, with a focus on Flair repeatedly getting those opportunities instead of her, the fans agreed. She continued to build momentum during a series of matches with Flair, winning the Women’s Smackdown Championship at Hell in a Cell and successfully defending the title several times, including during a Last Woman Standing match at Evolution, the all-women’s pay-per-view.

Lynch was scheduled to face Rousey in a matchup of champions at Survivor Series, but Lynch suffered a broken nose when punched by Jax during a brawl at the end of a Smackdown invasion of Raw. In hindsight, perhaps it was good that Rousey and Lynch didn’t face each other at Survivor Series. Not having that match adds to the anticipation for the Rousey-Lynch match at WrestleMania.

Asuka won the Smackdown Women’s title from Lynch in December during a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match that also involved Flair. But, as was evident at the Royal Rumble, that didn’t do anything to slow down Lynch’s momentum.

Like Austin, Lynch is embracing a lone wolf mentality. When she encounters Stephanie McMahon on Raw this week, she will likely reject any notion that she work with McMahon to take down Rousey.

Becky Lynch is her own woman. And that’s how she became “The Man.”

*****

HALFTIME HEAT: If you are reading this on Sunday and don’t want to watch the bloated Super Bowl halftime show, check out WWE Network for Halftime Heat. WWE will present a six-man tag team match featuring NXT wrestlers. Expect plenty of action when Aleister Black, Velveteen Dream and Ricochet battle NXT champion Tommaso Ciampa, NXT North American champion Johnny Gargano and Adam Cole.

This match harkens back to 1999, when WWE countered the Super Bowl halftime show with an “empty arena” match betwee The Rock and Mankind, with Mankind winning the WWE Championship in a pretaped match with no fans in the crowd.

*****

RUMBLE FALLOUT: The men’s and women’s Royal Rumbles were almost both won by surprise entrants. The Women’s Royal Rumble, as explained in the first item, was won by Becky Lynch, who lobbied for inclusion in the match after Lana was unable to compete due to an ankle injury sustained during the kickoff show. Braun Strowman replaced an injured John Cena and almost won the men’s match, but he was the final man eliminated by Seth Rollins, who won the match. (Strowman and Charlotte Flair, Achilles Heel’s predictions to win, were both runners-up in the Royal Rumble matches, although it should be pointed out that I said Rollins was “the most likely winner” of the announced participants.

Brock Lesnar successfully defended the WWE Universal Championship in a fast-paced match with Finn Balor. Daniel Bryan, with some help from Erick Rowan, successfully defended the WWE Championship against AJ Styles. As noted earlier, Asuka retained the Smackdown Women’s Championship by forcing Lynch to submit in an excellent match. Ronda Rousey beat Sasha Banks to retain the Raw Women’s Championship.

The only title to change hands during the main card was the Smackdown Tag Team Championship, with Shane McMahon and The Miz capturing the titles from Sheamus and Cesaro. On the kickoff show, Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rusev to win the Intercontinental Championship, only to lose it on Smackdown to R-Truth. Buddy Murphy retained the WWE Cruiserweight Championship in an entertaining fatal four-way match with Akira Tozawa, Hideo Itami and Kalisto,

*****

NXT DELIVERS: As always, NXT delivered with its Takeover show. Johnny Gargano’s victory over Ricochet to capture the NXT North American Championship is worth going out of your way to watch. Tomasso Ciampa retained the NXT Championship against Aleister Black in another excellent match. The War Raiders (Hanson and Rowe) won the NXT Tag Team Championship from The Undisputed Era’s Rodney Strong and Kyle O’Reilly in another terrific match.

Shayna Baszler beat Bianca Beliar to retain the NXT Women’s Championship and Matt Riddle defeated Kassius Ohno in matches that couldn’t match the other three matches, but were still good matches worthy of being on NXT: Takeover.

*****

AMBROSE LEAVING: Dean Ambrose is leaving WWE when his contract expires in April. Ambrose has been a huge part of WWE the past six years as part of The Shield and in a feud with former Shield teammate Seth Rollins. Ambrose, who has won the WWE, Intercontinental, United States and Raw Tag Team championships, returned from a triceps injury at SummerSlam to help Rollins win the Intercontinental Championship. Ambrose turned on Rollins after winning the Raw Tag Team Championship on the Raw on which former Shield teammate Roman Reigns announced he was taking a leave of absence because his leukemia had returned.

Ambrose is finishing up his WWE dates, but it will be interesting to see where he goes. Could he join All Elite Wrestling? That’s certainly a possibility. Could he make an appearance or two for Combat Zone Wrestling, where he twice won the CZW World Heavyweight Championship? That’s doubtful, but what a coup that would be for CZW.

*****

TITLE CHANGE: “Filthy” Tom Lawlor defeated Low Ki to win the Major League Wrestling (MLW) World Heavyweight Championship during MLW Superfight, a Fusion television taping Saturday. The Hart Foundation, Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Teddy Hart, captured the MLW World Tag Team Championship from Pentagon Jr. and Fenix, who were publicly “invited” to join All Elite Wrestling (AEW) by The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson).

*****

TICKET ANNOUNCEMENT: Don’t forget that All Elite Wrestling (AEW) will host a ticket announcement party Thursday at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. It is expected that the announcement will be for the Double or Nothing debut event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 25. Speculation continues to grow that Kenny Omega may be present at the announcement.

*****

TWENTY-TWENTY VISION: Combat Zone Wrestling will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Saturday (8 p.m.) with CZW Twenty at Colossal Sports Academy at The Coliseum on Saturday in Voorhees. In the main event Mance Warner defends the CZW World Heavyweight Championship against Jimmy Lloyd, Dan O’Hare and Conor Claxton. Being inducted into the CZW Hall of Fame will be Sonjay Dutt, Messiah, Adam Flash, B-Boy and Lufisto.

*****

PRO WRESTLING DAY: CHIKARA will take part in National Pro Wrestling Day on next Sunday (2 p.m.) at Tellus360 in Lancaster. Admission is free, but a minimum $10 dontation is suggested, with proceeds benefitting Arch Street Center, an organization that provides meals, bathroom facilities and social, moral and material support to adults living with mental illness. Matches include Hallowicked vs. Officer Barksdale, and Missile Assault Man vs. Juan Francisco de Coronado.

*****

END OF THE LINE? Kurt Angle will address his future with WWE on Raw. It was terrific to see Angle return to WWE as general manager two years ago, but it’s a bit painful to watch him in the ring. One of the all-time greats in the ring, Angle has slowed down considerably. He even had difficulty executing suplexes against Baron Corbin during a loss last week. It’s time for Angle to retire as an active wrestler.

*****

JAX VS. MAN: Nia Jax’s entry into the Men’s Royal Rumble, beating up R-Truth in order to take his place at No. 30, and her confrontation with Dean Ambrose on Raw, seem to indicate that Jax will become the latest woman to battle male opponents. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if Jax faces a man at WrestleMania.

*****

SUSTAINABLE TITLE: Achilles Heel gives a big thumbs up to Daniel Bryan’s new “sustainable” championship belt. It’s perfectly consistent with the “new” Daniel Bryan’s character.

*****

BRAIN BREAK: The Greek God of Wrestling couldn’t help but laughing this past week when Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon (pronounced Heenan) was indicted as part of a federal investigation into Local 98, a politically powerful electricians union. Somewhere in heaven, “The Brain” is chuckling.

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal