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Career goals for Flyers captain Claude Giroux

As Sam Ficken celebrated the game-winning kick in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, he symbolized the perseverance and dedication necessary to overcome incredible odds, both for himself and for Penn State’s football program.

The Greek God of Wrestling details the transformation of The Miz from an awful and obnoxious newcomer to a top star. Achilles Heel also takes Impact Wrestling to task for focusing on broadcasters, takes a quick look at WWE’s Payback and warns you not to wait any longer to get tickets for the War of the Worlds Tour at 2300 Arena.

Jimmy Rollins, the best shortstop in Phillies history, deserves our gratitude for all the wonderful moments he produced on the field — including an instrumental role in the Phillies winning a World Series title — and his contributions to the community off the field.

Archive for the ‘Sports+’ Category

Heel Turns: Looking back at Royal Rumble

Posted by Achilles Heel On February - 7 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Your favorite wrestling columnist is back!

I would apologize for my prolonged absence – if it were my fault. While you were pining for the Greek God of Wrestling’s impression of the Royal Rumble, Heel Turns was placed on the shelf because Eric Fisher didn’t want to detract from the Super Bowl coverage with professional wrestling.

Well, that’s not exactly how Fisher put it. He said that he was afraid Heel Turns would get lost amidst the Super Bowl coverage. Achilles Heel admits that PhillyPhanatics.com’s Super Bowl coverage was pretty good, but the idea that somehow it would overshadow my column is ludicrous.

The Greek God of Wrestling has wasted enough time on Fisher. Let’s get to the Royal Rumble. When it comes to Heel Turns, the old adage that “late is better than never” certainly rings true.

Both the men’s Royal Rumble and the first women’s Royal Rumble in history delivered. They were well-paced matches that never seemed to drag.

The Final Four shouldn’t have been a surprise to those who read the Greek God of Wrestling’s Royal Rumble preview. I explained that the four most likely winners were Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Roman Reigns and John Cena. Of course, those were the final four wrestlers left in the ring. Although my pick to win was Reigns, that was based on the winner facing Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship. Achilles Heel wrote that a Nakamura win would make sense if he were to challenge AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.

The biggest surprise in the Royal Rumble was Rey Mysterio, who entered at No. 27. Although it’s not a traditional match, Mysterio looked terrific in his return. Two other surprises were NXT champion Andrade “Cien” Almas, who had a tremendous match with Johnny Gargano the previous night at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, and NXT’s Adam Cole, one night after a physical extreme rules match against Aleister Black.

The first women’s Royal Rumble in history featured numerous surprises. Former WWE wrestlers who participated in the women’s Rumble included Lita, Trish Stratus, Beth Phoenix, Torrie Wilson, Kelly Kelly, Molly Holly, Jaqueline, Michelle McCool and Nikki and Brie Bella. Phoenix had a staredown and power confrontation with Nia Jax. Lita made quite an impression early in the match. Trish Stratus was in excellent form.

In the end, the Bellas were left with Asuka. But, with Asuka down, Nikki turned on her sister and eliminated Brie. That turned out to be a mistake because Asuka bested Nikki to win the Rumble. Asuka was joined in the ring by Smackdown Women’s champion Charlotte and Raw Women’s champion Alexa Bliss. But, before she could say which champion she wanted to face at WrestleMania, Ronda Rousey, the night’s biggest surprise, came down the ramp, providing a big finish to the show.

Styles defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a handicapped match to retain the WWE Championship. However, Styles didn’t pin the legal man so that feud is continuing. Lesnar retained the WWE Universal Championship in a triple-threat match against Kane and Braun Strowman.

A title that changed hands was the Raw Tag Team Championship. Cesaro and Sheamus defeated Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan to regain the titles. Jordan wasn’t able to wrestle because of a legitimate neck injury, leaving Rollins to fend for himself. In the Smackdown Tag Team Championship match, Jimmy and Jey Uso defeated Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable in straight falls in a best-out-of-three match. During the preshow, Bobby Roode retained the United States Championship against Mojo Rawley, The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) beat Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and the team of Kalisto, Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado defeated Drew Gulak, T.J. Perkins and Jack Gallagher.

With the two Royal Rumble matches being the best matches, the Royal Rumble was a terrific pay-per-view (or whatever WWE is calling these premier events these days).

*****

ROUSEY’S FUTURE: Ronda Rousey reportedly has signed a deal to be with WWE on a full-time basis. There is speculation that she will debut in a tag team match at WrestleMania against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. This would be the culmination of a storyline that started at WrestleMania XXXI in Santa Clara, Calif., with The Rock bringing Rousey into the ring to confront McMahon and Triple H.

The problem with that potential match is the availability of The Rock, who had to delay a movie after requiring abdominal surgery following a WrestleMania match against John Cena. If the Rock isn’t available, Cena is a possible replacement.

*****

PHILY FANS: As you can tell by the start of this edition of Heel Turns, Eric Fisher and the Greek God of Wrestling often don’t see eye to eye. One topic on which we agree, though, is the awesomeness of Philly fans. As Edge and Christian used to say, Philly fans reeked of awesomeness during WWE’s four-day stint at Wells Fargo Center.

Their enthusiasm was tremendous, although they seemed to tire out a bit by the fourth night. The fans helped make NXT Takeover: Philadelphia a huge hit. Their reactions, particularly during the NXT Championship match between Andrade “Cien” Almas and challenger Johnny Gargano, enhanced the event.

Philly fans were terrific again during the Royal Rumble. They were on their feet for the latter stages of both the men’s and women’s Royal Rumble. It was humorous to hear the knowledgeable Philly fans react to some of the participants in the women’s Royal Rumble by referencing their husbands. Michelle McCool drew an “Undertaker!” chant. Nikki Bella was greeted by a “John Cena sucks!” chant. The fans also loved to chant “Rusev Day!,” even doing so during the kickoff show.

*****

NXT TAKES OVER: The main event for NXT Takeover: Philadelphia was a classic. Johnny Gargano came so close to defeating Andrade “Cien” Almas for the NXT Championship that the Philly fans could feel it in their bones. But Almas escaped with a victory in a fantastic match. The post-match included Tommaso Ciampa, Gargano’s former tag team partner, crunching him from behind with a crutch. Achilles Heel thought Ciampa might get involved in the finish of the match, which is what I hinted at in the pre-Royal Rumble Heel Turns.

The extreme rules match between Aleister Black and Adam Cole, which was won by Black, was also terrific. Ember Moon retained the NXT Women’s Championship in a physical match against Shayne Baszler, and The Undisputed Era (bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) defeated The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) in an interesting match. Velveteen started the card off with a victory over Kassius Ohno.

*****

NEW NXT FACES: Some of the news made at NXT was made outside the ring. Seated ringside during NXT Takeover: Philly were Trevor “Ricochet” Mann, Ethan Carter III (EC3), War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) and Candice LeRae, the wife of Johnny Gargano. LeRae got involved in the main event, chasing Zelina Vega, the manager for Andrade “Cien” Almas away from ringside after Vega interfered in the match several times.

*****

ARIES MAKES IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Austin Aries stepped right to the forefront with Impact Wrestling, defeating Eli Drake to become the Impact Wrestling champion. This is a wonderful opportunity for Aries. The company was already struggling mightily when he became champion, so he can’t be blamed if the organization continues to spiral downhill.

*****

19th ANNIVERSARY: Combat Zone Wrestling presents its 19th anniversary show Saturday (8 p.m.) at the Colossal Sports Academy at the Coliseum. CZW World Heavyweight Rickey Shane Page teams up with Rey Fenix and Penta El Zero M to face Sami Callihan and Jake and Dave Crist. There also will be a CZW Rumble, with the winner getting a future title shot against the NXT World champion.

In other matches, MJF defends the CZW Wired Championship against Alex Colon, Greg Excellent squares off against Ace Romero in an ultraviolent Dog Collar match, and Joe Janela battles Brandon Kirk.

*****

A FLAIR FOR WINGS: Ric Flair appeared at WIP’s Wing Bowl for the second consecutive year. If ever an event were made for the Nature Boy, it’s Wing Bowl. When Flair saw all of the Wingettes, he must have thought he really died last summer and went to heaven.

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CELEBRATING WRESTLING: CHIKARA will host a show on National Pro Wrestling Day at Sat., Feb. 17 (3 p.m.) at The Wrestle Factory. In one of the matches, Los Ice Creams will defend the tag team titles against the Closers (Rick Roland and Sloan Caprice).

*****

IMPERFECT 10: When Smackdown general manager Daniel Bryan revealed the inaugural Smackdown Top 10 list, Achilles Heel had the exact same reaction as WWE broadcaster Corey Graves. Orton is only No. 9? Where’s Rusev? And how are The New Day rated above Jimmy and Jey Uso, who are the Smackdown Tag Team champions? No wonder the Greek God of Wrestling thinks so highly of Graves.

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BROADCAST NEWS: One person who apparently doesn’t share the Greek God of Wrestling’s admiration for Corey Graves is Booker T. Judging by Booker T’s harsh words regarding Graves after he was replaced on Raw’s broadcasting team by Jonathan Coachman, the banter between Booker T and Graves wasn’t as good-natured as it appeared. Graves often called attention to Booker T’s gaffes, but both men usually laughed it off. With Booker T demoted, apparently it doesn’t seem so funny anymore.

Heel Turns: Ready to Rumble

Posted by Achilles Heel On January - 27 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

The Greek God of Wrestling has been waiting for WWE to announce more participants in the Royal Rumble before doing his preview. His patience was rewarded with Roman Reigns officially being added to the Royal Rumble match, but that still leaves one-third of the 30-man field yet to be revealed.

The Royal Rumble, of course, takes place Sunday (7 p.m., WWE Network) at Wells Fargo Center. Rather than start with the Rumble match, Achilles Heel is going to save that for last in hopes more participants will be revealed as I’m writing.

Instead, let’s begin with the other Royal Rumble match. History will be made in Philadelphia on Sunday as WWE presents the first women’s Royal Rumble. One similarity with the men’s match is that the winner will receive a title shot at WrestleMania. Another similarity is that only 18 participants have been announced. Basically, everyone woman on the WWE roster, with the exception of champions Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss and the injured Paige (career-threatening neck injury), have been announced for the match. The field will probably be filled out with NXT wrestlers and surprises (Trish Stratus? Lita? Beth Phoenix?). Ronda Rousey says she won’t be at the Royal Rumble.

The top contenders to win the women’s Rumble match are Asuka, Nia Jax, Natalya, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Naomi. A long shot to win is Ruby Riott. If healthy, Paige may have been the Greek God of Wrestling’s choice to win this match. Having Lynch challenge Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania could be a terrific match, so Achilles Heel is picking Lynch to win.

Brock Lesnar will defend the WWE Universal Championship in a triple threat match involving Kane and Braun Strowman. Don’t expect this one to live up to the magnificent triple threat match from the 2015 Royal Rumble in Philadelphia, with Lesnar successfully defending the WWE Championship against John Cena and Seth Rollins, but the display of power in this match should be impressive. Expect Lesnar to emerge from the match with his championship.

A match in which a championship is more likely to change hands is the WWE Championship match. There are also three men involved in this title match, but it’s not a triple threat match. AJ Styles is defending the WWE Championship in a handicapped match against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Owens and Zayn have said they will be “co-chapions) if they defeat Styles. The Greek God of Wrestling envisions Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan getting involved in this match, possibly with McMahon saving Styles’ title.

Both tag team championships will be on the line. It seems too early to take the titles off Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan, so they should retain the Raw Tag Team Championship against former champions Sheamus and Cesaro. However, the Greek God of Wrestling has a feeling tht Jordan will walk out on Rollins, leading to a title change. Jimmy and Jey Uso defend the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin in a two-out-of-three falls match. A title change is also possible in this match, although there may not be enough time for a prolonged best-of-three match.

The kickoff show (5 p.m.) includes yet another title match, with Bobby Roode defending his recently won United States Championship in an open challenge. Could Jinder Mahal, who lost the tournament final to Roode, be the challenger? Another possibility would be Dolph Ziggler, who relinquished the title after winning it. In other kickoffshow  matches, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson battle The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) and there will be a six-man cruiserweight tag team match, featuring Kalisto, Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik against the team of Jack Gallagher, T.J. Perkins and Drew Gulak.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any new Rumble entrants. Among the entrants, here’s a list of people who have no shot of winning. Matt Hardy, Bray Wyatt, Aiden English, Titus O’Neil, Apollo Crews, Tye Dillinger, Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. Baron Corbin probably should be on that list as well, but he has an outside shot. Elias has also been predicted to win by some WWE wrestlers, although I don’t see that happening. Rusev has an outside shot, but he doesn’t have a high enough profile to main event WrestleMania.

Randy Orton, last year’s winner, probably won’t win a second straight year. The Miz is the Intercontinental champion, and it makes no sense for him to face Lesnar or Styles, so he probably won’t win. That leaves John Cena and Roman Reigns of the old guard, and two members of the newer superstars, Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura.

Balor was the first WWE Universal champion, but had to relinquish the title due to a shoulder injury sustained during the match in which he won the title. That would set up a terrific storyline if he were to face Lesnar at WrestleMania. Nakamura would be an interesting challenger for Styles, assuming Styles escapes Sunday with the title.

Cena is a huge draw, but he seems to be involved in programs to elevate other wrestlers rather than in line for a main event title match. Does WWE risk the reaction if Reigns wins again in Philadelphia? At the 2015 Royal Rumble, the fans booed vociferously when Reigns won the Rumble. Not even a “rub” from celebrating with the Rock after the match could salvage the moment.

On the other hand, Reigns seems more deserving of a title push now than he did in 2015. His matches have provided some of the highlights of Raw during the past year. There is the possibility of an unannounced participant winning the Rumble. Some fans’ wet dream would be for Bryan to enter the Rumble and – three years after his exit midway through the Royal Rumble caused Philly fans to turn on the match – earn a title shot at WrestleMania. Could Big Show final win a Royal Rumble? Ziggler is another possibility, as is Strowman if he doesn’t beat Lesnar in the triple-threat match.

The Greek God of Wrestling is picking Reigns, with Strowman also a top choice if he enters.

*****

NXT IN PHILLY: On Saturday, the night before the Royal Rumble, NXT invades Wells Fargo Center for NXT Takeover: Philadelphia (8 p.m., WWE Network). In the main event, Johnny Gargano challenges Andrade “Cien” Almas for the NXT Championship. Achilles Heel believes there will be a twist in this match – I refuse to give away any secrets – that will prevent Gargano from winning the title in front of what should be a rabidly pro-“Johnny Wrestling” crowd.

There also will be an NXT Tag Team Championship match, with The Undisputed Era (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) defending the titles against The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar). Ember Moon will defend her title against Shayna Baszler, who comes to NXT after an MMA career. Neither title is likely to change, although keep an eye on Baszler.

Aleister Black battles Adam Cole in an extreme rules match that has the potential to steal the show. Kassius Oho square off with Velveteen Dream.

*****

TICKETS AVAILABLE: The Royal Rumble is sold out, but, as of Saturday morning, there are still tickets available for NXT Takeover: Philadelphia, Raw and Smackdown.

*****

ENZO NO-MORE: One match that won’t be taking place at the Royal Rumble is the WWE Cruiserweight Championship match between Enzo Amore and challenger Cedric Alexander. Amore has been released by WWE after allegations that he raped a woman while working for WWE. Amore, through his legal representation, maintains he’s not guilty.

In other cruiserweight crime news, charges won’t be filed against Rich Swann for a domestic incident that resulted in his suspension. Ironically, Swann was scheduled to challenge Amore for the cruiserweight title when that incident occurred.

*****

WWE APPEARANCES: In addition to local appearances by NXT’s Ember Moon and Aleister Black, RAW Women’s champion Alexa Bills and Jimmy and Jey Uso, which the Greek God of Wrestling informed you of in Heel Turns earlier this week, there will be an appearance by broadcasting legend Jim Ross on Sunday (noon) at the Diamond Club at Citizens Bank Park, with Ross doing a talk show and question-and-answer session with Impact Wrestling’s Jeremy Borash.

*****

CHIKARA’S SNOWMAN: CHIKARA provides a warmup of sorts for the Royal Rumble when it presents “Beware of Snowman” on Sunday (2 p.m.). In the main event Juan Francisco Coronado defends the CHIKARA Grand Championship against Hype Rockwell.

*****

XFL IS BACK! Vince McMahon is getting back into football. McMahon announced this week that he is bring back the XFL, although the new league won’t resemble the old league. According to McMahon, the new football league, which will begin play in 2020, will have eight franchises, all of which will be owned by the league. There isn’t supposed to be any crossover with WWE, although Achilles Heel will believe that when he sees it.

*****

GOLDBERG TO HALL: Bill Goldberg, who returned to WWE for a main event run with Brock Lesnar, finishing with a match at last year’s WrestleMania, is the first inductee announced for this year’s WWE Hall of Fame. He will be inducted during a ceremony during WrestleMania weekend.

*****

ANNIVERSARY FUN: The 25th Anniversary of Raw show was entertaining. The show featured the proper mix of nostalgia and current storylines. The highlight was the appearance of Stone Cold Steve Austin during the opening segment. Austin delivered Stone Cold stunners to both Vince and Shane McMahon.

Chris Long, Lane Johnson lead E-A-G-L-E-S chant