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Goals last season for Brayden Schenn, scheduled for arbitration hearing Monday

The whispers have already started after Nick Foles threw two interceptions in the Eagles’ preseason opener. Gordon Glantz says everyone should relax. Foles will be fine.

Darren Sproles leads the way as the Eagles overcome another double-digit halftime deficit with a big second-half comeback, this time scoring 24 of the games final 31 points as they defeat the host Colts, 30-27, to improve to 2-0 this season.

Cole Hamels teams up with relievers Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon to produce the first combined no-hitter in Phillies history, a 7-0 triumph over the host Braves. Hamels pitches six innings. The relievers pitch one inning apiece

Archive for the ‘Wrestling’ Category

Heel Turns: Ali’s wrestling connection

Posted by Achilles Heel On June - 14 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelMuhammad Ali’s legacy includes three stints as world heavyweight champion, social activism in favor of civil rights for African-Americans and against the Vietnam War, and humanitarian efforts on behalf of people all over the world.

Ali’s legacy also includes wrestling.

The bragging and insults that Ali used to promote his fights was influenced by Gorgeous George and Freddie Blassie. Don’t believe the Greek God of Wrestling? Then believe Ali. He said so. And much like those wrestling villains, Ali didn’t care if you rooted against him. All that mattered was that you bought a ticket.

Blassie, hated and feared in Japan, was in Ali’s corner for his infamous match with Antonio Inoki. Achilles Heel will get to the Inoki match, the subject of a new book, in a minute, but if you want to be entertained, I grant you permission to interrupt your reading of Heel Turns to watch this video of Ali and Blassie on the Tonight Show.

Talk shows weren’t the only place Ali promoted high 1976 match with Inoki. He also prepared in the ring. In order to prepare for – and promote – his bout with Inoki, Ali had several matches with wrestlers. He fought a three-round exhibition with Buddy Wolfe of the AWA, with Blassie in his corner, Dick the Bruiser in Wolfe’s corner Verne Gagne as special guest referee. Highlights from that match were shown on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Blassie, Gagne and Dick the Cruiser were also present for Ali’s match with Kenny Jay (Ali won by knockout).

The most famous in-ring promotional moment involved Ali getting in the ring with Gorilla Monsoon in Philadelphia after Monsoon knocked Baron Mikel Scicluna out of the ring. The gargantuan Monsoon picks the heavyweight champion up in an airplane spin. The Greek God of Wrestling suggests you take a few moments to watch this unforgettable moment in WWE (then WWWF) history.

The Ali-Inoki match was important for several reasons. Some view the match as the beginning of mixed martial arts competition. At the very least, it raised the profile of these contests. The fight took place in Tokyo, but was watched on closed circuit locations all over the United States, including in New York’s Shea Stadium, where the WWWF drew more than 30,000 people to an event that also included Andre the Giants vs. Chuck Wepner in another wrestler vs. boxer match.

The match itself was a disaster – in more ways than one. There are many stories about the Ali-Inoki bout. Most agree that the match was supposed to be a work, but Ali refused to do the “job” – even though the finish would be set up so Ali didn’t look bad.

Once the fight became a shoot, Ali’s camp put restrictive rules in place, limiting what Inoki could do. One story says that some of Ali’s inner circle went to watch Inoki train. After watching him tossing opponents around, they decided to change the rules to protect Ali.

With much of his repertoire outlawed, Inoki, instead of standing in front of Ali, where he could be punched, elected to attack from a prone position. Inoki basically crabwalked around the ring, kicking at Ali’s legs.

Inoki’s strategy made for an awful fight – officially, it was a draw (after Inoki was penalized three points) – but he did serious damage to Ali’s legs. Ali had to be hospitalized with blood clots. There have been reports that there was fear Ali would have to have a leg amputated.

Many believe Ali was never the same after the Inoki bout. Others, of course, trace Ali’s decline to the brutal “Thrilla in Manila” with Joe Frazier the previous year.

Ali’s involvement with wrestling didn’t end after his boxing career was finished. He was the special referee outside the ring for the main event of the first WrestleMania, pitting Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.

Ali was better known for his boxing exploits and controversial public positions. But he also was an integral part of a famous moment in wrestling history.

*****

LESNAR RETURNS TO UFC: Speaking of mixed martial arts, Brock Lesnar is making a return to UFC on July 9 against Mark Hunt. The bout at UFC 200 in Las Vegas will be Lesnar’s first MMA fight in nearly five years.

The Greek God of Wrestling is wary of what this fight could mean for Lesnar. If he wins, it would enhance his reputation as “The Beast.” But 38 is fairly old for an MMA fighter. And Hunt is far from a pushover. Lesnar’s aura could be damaged by a lopsided loss to Hunt. WWE would try to use the loss, having opponents refer to it and even by making Lesnar more vulnerable, making the outcome of his bouts less predictable. But a loss could damage one of WWE’s best drawing cards.

The Lesnar bout, which is supposedly a one-match deal, could be part of a larger deal between WWE and UFC to use UFC competitors at WWE events. Ronda Rousey appeared at WrestleMania 31, and there are rumors that Paige VanZant could appear at SummerSlam or another future WWE major event.

Why would Lesnar agree to this fight? It could be ego. He may want to avenge his first-round losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem in his final two UFC fights.

Or Lesnar’s rationale could be similar to Muhammad Ali’s answer when asked why he would agree to fight Antonio Inoki. “Six million dollars, that’s why,” Ali said.

*****

TNA TITLE CHANGES: Congratulations to Bobby Lashley, who won the TNA Heavyweight Championship by choking out Drew Galloway with a submission maneuver at Slammiversary on Sunday. Galloway has been a terrific champion. TNA may not have much quality depth, as was evident during Sunday’s show, but the guys at the top are doing their best to carry the rest of the company on their shoulders.

In other top matches at Slammiversary, Jeff Hardy defeated Matt Hardy in a full metal mayhem match, Ethan Carter III beat Mike Bennett, and Eddie Edwards won the X-Divison Championship from Trevor Lee in a four-way match that also included DJ Zema Ion and Andrew Everett.

*****

HORRIBLE TIMING: Sometimes TNA is fortunate to fly under the radar. If WWE had gone ahead with a pay-per-view in Orlando less than 24 hours after that city experienced the largest mass shooting in United States history, the company would have received a firestorm of criticism. TNA does the same thing and you don’t hear a peep.

*****

MONEY IN THE BANK: Because of all the other major news, WWE’s Money in the Bank, which takes place Sunday on the WWE Network, is taking a bit of a back seat in this edition of Heel Turns. This doesn’t mean, however, that Money in the Bank isn’t a major show. In fact, Money in the Bank has the potential to be a tremendous show.

Let’s start with the main event. Roman Reigns will defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Seth Rollins. There is layer after layer of back story to this match. Reigns and Rollins, of course, broke into WWE as teammates (with Dean Ambrose) in The Shield. Rollins destroyed that team when he turned on Reigns and Ambrose. Add in that Rollins won the title at WrestleMania 31 when, as the Money in the Bank winner, he inserted himself into Reigns’ challenge to Brock Lesnar in the main event, and that Rollins was never defeated for the title – he had to give it up after suffering a major knee injury last year – and you have an equation for an excellent match full of intrigue. If Ambrose wins the Money in the Bank match, that will add another layer of intrigue: will he attempt to cash in against a former Shield teammate?

Another highly anticipated match is John Cena vs. A.J. Styles. A perfectly executed betrayal by Styles against Cena a few weeks ago, along with a subsequent beatdown of Cena by Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, set the stage for this match. Styles and Cena have well-deserved reputations for rising to the occasion in big matches. Sunday’s match should enhance their reputations.

One of the highlights of Money in the Bank is, no kidding, the Money in the Bank ladder match. The winner will receive an opportunity to challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship whenever he wants. Based on the buildup indicates this Sunday’s match should be particularly good.

The first element is there are six good workers – Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Alberto Del Rio, Sami Zayn and Ambrose – in the match. Second, there has been tremendous interplay between the six participants in the weeks leading up to the match. Third, there is a logic to any of them winning, which adds to the intrigue. Some (Owens and Ambrose) are more likely to win than the others, but you could make a case for any of the participants to win.

Two titles are also on the line at Money in the Bank. The New Day defends the WWE Tag Team Championship in a fatal four-way match against Gallows and Anderson, Enzo Amore and Big Cass, and the Vaudevillains (Aiden English, Simon Gotch). Achilles Heel sees a potential title change here, ending the New Day’s long championship reign. But the Greek God of Wrestling envisions Rusev retaining the United States Championship against Titus O’Neil.

WWE Women’s champion Charlotte teams up with Dana Brooke to battle Natalya and Becky Lynch. The kickoff show features two “old guard” vs. “new era” matches, with Sheamus squaring off with Apollo Crews, and Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin continuing their ongoing feud.

Money in the Bank appears to be an extremely promising card. If the top three matches deliver, it could be a fantastic show.

*****

NXT IN EUROPE: Coming off yet another outstanding “Takeover” show, NXT is on tour in Europe. At Takeover, Samoa Joe successfully defended the NXT Championship against Finn Balor in a steel cage match and Asuka retained the NXT Women’s Championship against Nia Jax. The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder), however, regained the NXT Tag Team Championship from American Alpha (Jason Jordan and Chad Gable). In a highly anticipated match, Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Austin Aries.

*****

WALKING A TIGHTROPE: In the main event of CHIKARA’s “Tightrope” last Saturday in Philadelphia, “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti defeated Juan  Francisco De Coronado in a no-disqualification match. In an interesting twist, even though it was a no-disqualification match, Angelosetti refused to break the rules. In another moment of interest, special guest referee Dasher Hatfield, Angelosetti’s former tag team partner, seemed lukewarm about Mr. Touchdown’s victory.

*****

JAY vs. JAY: The main event for Ring of Honor’s Best in the World ’16 on June 24 pits long-time Ring of Honor world champion Jay Lethal against Jay Briscoe. The winner will defend the title the next night against Kyle O’Reilly. Whoever is champion after all of that will defend the title against Colt Cabana in Philadelphia on July 16 at 2300 Arena.

Other matches for Best in the World include the Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin) defending the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship against former champions The Addiction (Christopher Daniels, Frank Kazarian), Bobby Fish defending the Ring of Honor Television Championship against Dalton Castle, and Roderick Strong vs. Mark Briscoe.

*****

TURNING THE PAGE: Rickey Shane Page won Combat Zone Wrestling’s Tournament of Death 15 Saturday in Townsend, Del. Try to follow this sequence. Page defeated Tim Donst in the first round in a fans bring the weapons/falls count anywhere match. In the semifinals, Page beat Conor Claxton, an upset winner over Masada in a first-round barbed wire madness death match, in a rites of passage match. In the main event, Page defeated CZW world champion Matt Tremont in a ring of fire and wire death match. That’s quite an afternoon’s work.

As a reward for winning the tournament, Page will face Tremont again on July 9 in Dayton, Ohio. This time the CZW World Championship will be on the line.

*****

CRUISING: WWE has released a long list of names for its upcoming Cruiserweight Classic tournament. There is a mix of former WWE wrestlers (Tajiri and Brian Kendrick), international stars (Kota Ibushi, Zack Sabre Jr., Akira Tozawa), NXT wrestlers who made their name on the independent scene (Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Rich Swann) and independent stars (Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, TJ Perkins).

The Greek God of Wrestling likes that some of these wrestlers had qualifying matches to earn a spot in the tournament. That makes the Cruiserweight Classic seem more prestigious.

*****

ZIGGING AND ZAGGING: Achilles Heel has enjoyed the work by Kevin Owens and, perhaps more unexpectedly, Dolph Ziggler as guests at the broadcast table in recent weeks. They have different styles and personalities, but both are quick and witty.

Heel Turns: Evaluating WWE brand split

Posted by Achilles Heel On May - 29 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelThe big news in an action-packed week is that the Shane McMahon vs. Stephanie McMahon storyline is going to lead to a brand split in WWE, with RAW and Smackdown having distinct rosters.

WWE split its brands earlier this century. The problem was that fans were disappointed certain stars didn’t appear on shows they attended live or, perhaps more importantly, when top stars didn’t appear on pay-per-views because they were part of the “other” brand.

We don’t know the specifics of the upcoming brand split. We don’t know if WWE is going to alternate brands on “premier events,” with the exception of the WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble. Without fans shelling out money for specific pay-per-views, however, it won’t be as big of a deal if a top star or two isn’t on a specific event because fans will have paid for a WWE Network subscription rather than for one specific event.

The brand split will create more opportunities for more wrestlers to shine. The spotlight will shine upon more face. It will be interesting to see if WWE has enough quality depth to pull off a successful brand split.

As you might imagine, the Greek God of Wrestling has some observations and advice for WWE.

  • Have one world champion. Don’t have a WWE champion and a world champion, with one on Smackdown and one on RAW. Let Roman Reigns, or whoever is the WWE World Heavyweight champion, appear on both shows. This will uphold the prestige of the WWE world title. Have the United States and Intercontinental championships be the top titles on the individual shows. This will elevate the importance of these two titles.
  • Are there enough women wrestlers for two shows? If so, split the roster and let the Women’s champion (currently Charlotte) appear on both shows. But it might be better to have all of the women on one show (RAW or Smackdown). Otherwise, the matchups could get repetitive.
  • The same thought on the women’s division applies to tag teams. Are there enough tag teams to sustain two separate brands (with the WWE Tag Team champions defending the belts on both shows)?
  • Some crossover is OK, particularly with the Stephanie vs. Shane storyline. The crossover could mostly surround the major events (WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Royal Rumble, Survivor Series). For example, there should be a Smackdown vs. RAW traditional Survivor Series 10-man tag team elimination match. Otherwise, keep the brands separate. One problem during the last brand split is there was too much crossover in the end, in effect diluting the talent and making the brand split almost irrelevant.
  • Make the draft a big deal. Achilles Heel loved the old WWE draft shows, with statistics and picks running along the crawl as if it were the NFL Draft. It was a lot of fun.
  • Keep the rosters balanced. There should not be an impression that RAW is the “A” show and Smackdown is the “B” show. Make sure there the biggest stars are divided equally between the brands.
  • It helps that Mauro Ranallo gives Smackdown a credible lead broadcaster on the same level, if not better, than RAW’s Michael Cole. Broadcasters matter. When Jim Ross was around, his presence on RAW was one of the factors that gave the impression that RAW was the more important show.

The Greek God of Wrestling will have more on the brand split as more details become available. But I am intrigued by the idea.

One of the benefits of splitting the brands, particularly if it leads to alternating pay-per-views (premier events), is it will allow for more time to develop storylines. Feuds will be given more time to develop, allowing fans to invest in the stories and care about the outcome of matches.

The brand split also will give fans more incentive to watch both RAW and Smackdown, which, I’m guessing, is the major motivation behind the brand split.

*****

SMACKDOWN SWITCH: Almost lost in the brand split story is that Smackdown will begin airing live on Tuesday nights, starting on July 19. This isn’t a huge logistical change for WWE. Smackdown is already taped on Tuesday nights.

The larger impact, if you’ll pardon the expression, may be for TNA. Impact Wrestling is broadcast on Tuesday night. Going head-to-head with Smackdown would likely have a negative impact on TNA’s ratings.

*****

GOING EXTREME: WWE’s Extreme Rule featured two outstanding matches. Roman Reigns defeated challenger A.J. Styles to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a terrific encounter. That match may have been topped, though, by the action-packed Intercontinental Championship match, which ended with The Miz retaining against Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Cesaro.

The Asylum match (steel cage with weapons) between Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho didn’t rise to the level of the two matches mentioned in the preceding paragraph, but it was good. The same could be said of the Women’s Championship submission match between Charlotte and Natalya, which Charlotte won after a distraction by Dana Brooke (dressed in a Ric Flair robe).

The only title to change hands at Extreme Rules was the United States Championship. Rusev defeated an “injured” Kalisto. It’s nice to see Rusev’s career take a step in the right direction after the League of Nations mess.

In a pair of tag team matches, The New Day (Big E and Xavier Woods) retained the WWE Tag Team Championship by defeat the Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch) and Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson beat Jimmy and Jey Uso. In the preshow match, Baron Corbin used a low blow to beat Dolph Ziggler in a no-disqualification battle.

*****

ROLLINS RETURNS: Extreme Rules marked the return of Seth Rollins, who came to the ring after Roman Reigns defeated A.J. Styles and delivered a pedigree to Reigns. Rollins’ return was cheered by WWE fans, but, as he made clear during interviews on RAW and Smackdown, he’s returning as a heel rather that turning into a fan favorite. Either way, it’s wonderful to have the talented and determined Rollins back in action.

*****

CODY BITES THE DUST: Achilles Heel feels bad placing Cody Rhodes’ departure from WWE this far down in Heel Turns. I always felt that Rhodes was underappreciated and underutilized. Apparently, Rhodes felt the same way.

Frustrated at his inability to convince the lead writers for RAW and Smackdown to allow him to ditch the Stardust character and return to being Cody Rhodes, and with an apparent belief that Vince McMahon and Triple H did not believe that he should have a more prominent role, Rhodes requested – and was granted – his release from WWE.

One of the ironies is that Rhodes may have hurt his chances of putting Stardust to rest by doing such a good job with the character. It’s clear that Rhodes did his best to get the oddball character over with fans. It’s obvious that he worked incredibly hard to make the character work.

Another irony is that the upcoming brand split may have given Rhodes more opportunities. But he apparently felt he was going to remain as a borderline enhancement talent instead of as a potential star.

Rhodes never quite matched the success he had with Randy Orton and Ted DiBiase Jr. in The Legacy. But he always competed hard and competed well, producing the best he could with whatever role he was assigned. The Greek God of Wrestling wishes Cody Rhodes success – and is certain he’ll attain it – in wherever his career takes him next.

*****

MEET WWE STARS IN PHILLY: Do you want to meet Seth Rollins? John Cena?  Rollins and Cena, along with other WWE stars, are coming to the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con at the Pennsylvania Convention Center next week.

Rollins will be signing autographs Thursday at 4 p.m., posing for photos at 5 p.m. and taking part in a Q & A session at 7:30 p.m. Sheamus and Sasha Banks will be appearing on Friday, with Sheamus’ (in order) Q&A, photo and autograph sessions lasting from 3:15-6 p.m., and Banks’ activities (in order: photos, autographs, Q&A) lasting from 4-7 p.m. .

Cena will be at the Convention Center on Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., with photos from 11 a.m.-p.m. and autographs from 1-3 p.m. Cena’s session overlaps with the Bella Twins’ session, which lasts from noon-4 p.m. Brie and Nikki Bella will pose for photos from noon-1:30 p.m., sign autographs from 1:30-3:30 p.m. and take part in a Q&A session from 3:30-4 p.m.

Tickets are required for admission, autographs and photo opportunities. Advanced purchase is strongly suggested. Here is the link for the tickets to see Rollins.

*****

CHIKARA OVERSEAS: CHIKARA is in the midst of a four-night Anniversario run in the United Kingdom. Princess KimberLee is a feature performer on all four cards, including Monday’s defense of the Grand Championship against Hallowicked in Glasgow, Scotland.

On Friday in Manchester, Mike Quackenbush came out of retirement to face 60-year-old Johnny Kidd in his retirement match. In an eight-round match, Quackenbush and Kidd wrestled to a draw in what was likely a technical masterpiece.

CHIKARA will return to Philadelphia on June 11 for “Tightrope” at The Wrestle Factory at 4711 Wingate Street. The announced matches feature “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti vs. Juan Francisco De Coronado, Eddie Kingston vs. Jaka, Missile Assault Man vs. Icarus, and Hallowicked and The Batiri against Fire Ant and N_R_G in a six-man tag team match.

*****

TOURNAMENT OF DEATH: Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) has released the first-round pairings for Tournament of Death 15 at the Ultraviolent Underground in Townsend, Del., on June 11 (2 p.m.). Danny Havoc will battle Alex Colon in a light tubes match, CZW champion Matt Tremont faces Jeff Cannonball in a home run derby match, Rickey Shane Page squares off with Tim Donst in a “Donst’s choice” match, and Masada faces Conor Claxton in a Barbed Wire Madness match.

*****

FAMILY BREAKUP: Charlotte and Ric Flair were awesome during their family breakup Monday during RAW. Flair’s reactions enhanced the impact of Charlotte’s nasty comments as she kicked her dad to the curb, telling him that she didn’t need him and that he should get out of her ring.

*****

HBK LINE: Shawn Michael attended Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Pittsburgh after finding out that the Penguins’ second line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel has been deemed the “HBK line.” The Penguins lost that game, so the Greek God of Wrestling is uncertain if the superstitious hockey players will want Michaels back for their Stanley Cup Finals series against the Sharks.

*****

TAKEOVER ADDITIONS: In addition to the two title rematches – Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship inside a steel cage and American Alpha (Jason Jordan and Chad Gable) defending the tag team championship against The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) – at “NXT Takeover: The End” I told you about in the last Heel Turns, two new matches have been added. Asuka will defend the NXT Women’s Championship against Nixa Jax. In a highly anticipated match, Austin Aries will battle Shinsuke Nakamura.

*****

BANK STATEMENTS: The main event for WWE’s Money in the Bank on June 19 will feature Roman Reigns defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against the returning Seth Rollins, who lost the title due to a severe knee injury. Rollins and Reigns broke into WWE as members of The Shield.

There were qualifying matches on RAW and Smackdown for six of the seven spots in the Money in the Bank ladder match. The qualifiers were Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, Chris Jericho and Alberto Del Rio. There is one spot remaining in this match.

*****

CENA RETURNS: After being sidelined by injury since last year, John Cena will return to WWE on the Memorial Day edition of RAW. WWE could use a ratings boost from Cena’s presence as it goes up against Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals and Game 7 of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals on a holiday.

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