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Scoreless minutes for Trail Blazers at start of Wednesday’s loss to Sixers

The hiring of Sam Hinkie as 76ers president and general manager brings the analytics craze to Philadelphia. Eric Fisher questions whether the numbers will add up to success.

The Flyers traded veteran defenseman Mark Streit to the Lightning, who promptly traded him to the Penguins. The Flyers receive veteran center Valtteri Filppula, 2 draft picks.

Watching the Phillies this season has been excruciatingly painful. They lose night after night, frequently repeating the same mistakes game after game.

Archive for the ‘Wrestling’ Category

Heel Turns: Illness shakes up WWE’s TLC

Posted by Achilles Heel On October - 21 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelMedical issues have shaken up the top two matches at WWE’s TLC this Sunday (8 p.m., WWE Network). The Shield Reunion won’t be happening, nor will the match between “The Demon” and “Sister Abigail.” But WWE has addressed the subtractions with two major additions: a battle between former Bullet Club leaders A.J. Styles and Finn Balor and the in-ring return of Kurt Angle.

Angle, who hasn’t wrestled in a WWE ring in 11 years, will replace Roman Reigns in the main event, teaming with Raw Tag Team champions Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to battle Intercontinental champion The Miz, Cesaro, Sheamus, Braun Strowman and Kane in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. Reigns is being pulled from the show due to a viral infection.

The infection also has sidelined Bray Wyatt, who was scheduled to have his “Sister Abigail” persona make its in-ring debut against Balor’s “Demon” character. Bo Dallas, a member of the Miztourage and Wyatt’s real-life brother, was not on Raw this week due to the viral infection.

To compensate for Wyatt’s absence, WWE is bringing A.J. Styles, who recently re-entered the WWE Championship picture, over from Smackdown to face Wyatt. The Greek God of Wrestling isn’t sure how many of WWE’s fans are aware that Styles and Balor are former leaders of The Bullet Club, but they should draw in the crowd with what should be a tremendous match.

With two wrestlers being pulled from its top two matches at TLC, WWE was put into a bind. There isn’t another match on the relatively mediocre TLC card that could be elevated to a higher status. The rest of the show is built around cruiserweights and the women’s division. With no offense to any of the performers, none of the other matches is worthy of being one of the top matches on the show.

There are three women’s matches at TLC. Sasha Banks faces Alicia Fox during the preshow, Asuka makes her debut on WWE’s main roster against Emma, and Alexa Bliss defends the Raw Women’s Championship against Mickie James. These aren’t even the marquee matches for the Raw women’s roster. Nobody expects Emma to hang with Asuka for more than 10 minutes. Banks and Fox shouldn’t go more than 10 minutes, and the only way the Bliss-James match can go for any length of time is if they are able to convince the crowd that James could win the title.

The rest of the card is filled out by the cruiserweights. Drew Gulak will present what should be an entertaining PowerPoint presentation during the preshow. In the ring, Kalisto defends the Cruiserweight Championship against former champion Enzo Amore, and Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann team up to face Brian Kendrick and Gentleman Jack Gallagher. Achilles Heel would love to see the cruiserweight tag team match get 15-20 minutes to kick off TLC with fast-paced action, but those four aren’t over enough with the crowd to be higher up on the card. The cruiserweight title match also isn’t worthy of being higher up on the card.

The TLC undercard consists of alternating cruiserweight and women’s matches. As I said earlier, the women’s matches aren’t even the most-anticipated matchups in that division. That left WWE without much choice other than to add big stars to the top two matches.

Unfortunately, that required WWE to rescue TLC by wasting two big moves. Styles, arguably the best performer in WWE during the past 18 months, coming over from Smackdown to face Balor is a short-term fix, although that match could have been built-up for a future big event. Maybe we’ll see WWE take advantage of the circumstance by having Styles and Balor captain competing Survivor Series teams in a Raw vs. Smackdown match.

The in-ring return of Kurt Angle, however, is something that deserved more of a buildup. The Greek God of Wrestling always thought Angle’s return to the ring would somehow be related to the Jason Jordan storyline. The Miz was probably part of that storyline, so the angle, if you’ll pardon the expression, isn’t completely wasted, but Angle’s return to the ring should have been promoted for weeks. Instead, circumstances required WWE to waste this major move to help rescue TLC’s main event.

*****

LITTLE DEPTH: Raw has more of the major stars, with Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman and the members of The Shield, but the viral infection forcing a major change in plans for TLC, highlights the lack of quality depth on Raw. With Lesnar off the show and the Intercontinental and tag team champions already in the main event, there was nobody to step into the spots vacated by Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt.

If Jeff Hardy were healthy, he might be a replacement acceptable to the fans. But the fans wouldn’t accept Jason Jordan in Reigns’ role or Elias in Wyatt’s role. Despite their history together, Luke Gallows or Karl Anderson haven’t been prominent enough in WWE to step in to face Finn Balor, their former Bullet Club teammate in Japan.

By contrast, Smackdown has Bobby Roode, Dolph Ziggler, Rusev and Sami Zayn, just to name a few, operating outside the main event picture.

*****

NO SPOILERS: Achilles Heel detests spoilers, so he is not posting any of the results from Ring of Honor’s television taping Friday night at 2300 Arena.

*****

TERRELL KNOCKED OUT: One of the more interesting developments in Global Force Wrestling during the past few months was the rekindling of the feud between Taryn Terrell and Gail Kim. However, Terrell and GFW have parted ways, with Terrell being removed from the Knockouts Championship match at Bound for Glory (Nov. 5) that included Kim, Sienna and Allie.

*****

THE PAIN IS BACK: The Authors of Pain, whom many believed were headed for WWE’s main roster after dropping the NXT Tag Team Championship to SAnitY, interfered in NXT’s main event between SAnitY (Eric Young, Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe) and The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Bobby Fish) during this past Wednesday’s NXT show.

Akam and Rezar caused the match to go to a no-contest. This is part of the buildup to the three-way War Games match at NXT Takeover: War Games the night before Survivor Series. Meanwhile, Cole, O’Reilly and Fish continue to make overtures to Roderick Strong.

*****

CHIKARA IN CHICAGO: CHIKARA presents a doubleheader in Chicago next Saturday (Oct. 28) at Logan Square Auditorium, with “Deep Breath” at 3 p.m. and “A Good Man Goes to War” at 7 p.m. Dasher Hatfield vs. Moose, who has gained fame in Ring of Honor and GFW, headlines the afternoon card.

The evening card appears more stacked, with Juan Francisco de Coronado defending the Grand Championship against Fire Ant in the main event. Other matches include Rory Gulak vs. Icarus, Hype Rockwell vs. Race Jaxon, “Mr. Touchdown” Mark Angelosetti vs. the Proletariat Boar of Moldova, and an inter-gender match between Hallowicked and Solo Darling.

*****

JACOBS RETURNS: Combat Zone Wrestling announced that Jimmy Jacobs, recently fired as a WWE writer for posing for a picture with his friends from Ring of Honor at an “invasion” of WWE, will be appearing at Night of Infamy on Nov. 11. Night of Infamy is headlined by Shane Strickland defending the CZW World Championship against Joe Gacy.

*****

OH BROTHER! The Greek God of Wrestling isn’t sure whether The Bludgeon Brothers, the reunification of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, is going to work. Although it will be great to see Harper back on television, it’s a shame that WWE didn’t continue to give Harper, who is excellent in the ring, a bigger push as a singles wrestler.

Heel Turns: Ring of Honor clearly No. 2

Posted by Achilles Heel On October - 17 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelThe Bullet Club generated a lot of publicity by taking shots at WWE during Ring of Honor’s Global Wars tour.

The goal may be to get under WWE’s skin – Roman Reigns responded to a tweet from Cody Rhodes – but, unless WWE is secretly cooperating with Ring of Honor to promote a feud between Ring of Honor and NXT, the comparisons are sort of ridiculous. WWE is the No. 1 wrestling organization. And it’s not even close.

But the comparisons between WWE and Ring of Honor obscure the important point: Ring of Honor is clearly the No. 2 wrestling promotion in North America.

Although Global Force Wrestling has a national television contract (on POP TV), Ring or Honor, which is syndicated nationally, has passed GFW by every other measure.

Compare the champions. GFW’s world champion is Eli Drake. Ring of Honor’s world champion is Cody Rhodes. With no offense intended toward Drake, he could walk through Wells Fargo Center in his wrestling gear and with the GFW World Championship belt and few people would know his name. Rhodes would probably draw a crowd – even in civilian clothes.

Similarly, Jake and Dave Crist, whom I praised in Heel Turns for becoming GFW tag team champions, probably wouldn’t even be in the championship picture in Ring of Honor. The Motor City Machine Guns (Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley) are the Ring of Honor Tag Team champions. Contenders include War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe), The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian.

Most importantly, Ring of Honor is able to attract a crowd. Coming off the successful Global Wars tour, Ring of Honor will return to Philadelphia on Friday before a sellout crowd at 2300 Arena. By contrast, GFW’s attempts to take its show on the road have resulted in failure. One summer show was canceled and the others weren’t well-attended.

The Greek God of Wrestling isn’t from the school that believes everything Ring of Honor does is awesome, but its matches are generally better than the matches in GFW. There aren’t many matches in GFW that can set a crowd on fire. Ring of Honor can do that several times a night.

The only real challenger to Ring of Honor’s status as the No. 2 wrestling organization in North America is NXT. Whether to consider NXT, which is owned and operated by WWE, as a separate organization is a question we don’t need to answer right now.

We can simply agree that Ring of Honor is the top non-WWE wrestling organization in North America.

And it’s not even a close call.

*****

HONOR IN PHILLY: Ring of Honor has added a meet-and-greet autograph session before Friday’s sold-out Philly Excellence television taping at 2300 Arena. Schedule to appear at the autograph signing (6 p.m.) are Ring of Honor World champion Cody Rhodes; Ring of Honor Six-Man Tag Team champions Adam Page and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson); Ring of Honor World TV champion Kenny King; Will Ospreay; Jon Gresham; Silas Young and Mandy Leon. For $20, you get an autograph and a posed photo. The rate is $30 for a tag team (The Young Bucks).

The Ring of Honor Tag Team Championship will be on the line, with The Motor City Machine Guns (Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley) defending the titles against War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe). In another announced match, Punishment Martinez will battle Josh Woods.

*****

FAREWELL FOR BULLY RAY? Based on what he did during the Global Wars tour, expect Bully Ray to give an emotional speech Friday during Ring of Honor’s television taping at 2300 Arena, the building in which Bully Ray (then Bubba Ray Dudley) rose to fame in ECW.

*****

TLC MAIN EVENT: WWE has created a blockbuster main event for TLC on Sunday. The Shield is reuniting to take on The Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus in a 5-on-3 Tables, Ladders and Chairs handicap match. The Shield reuniting, with Raw Tag Team champions Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose teaming with Roman Reigns, is enough of a reason to watch this match. But the 5-on-3 stipulation, with Strowman as the fourth member of the opposing team, and then Kane added as the fifth member on Raw, casts doubt about whether The Shield’s reunion will be successful.

At this point, TLC looks like a one-match card. The only other compelling match is Finn “the Demon” Balor vs. Bray “Sister Abigail” Wyatt. It will be exciting to see Asuka make her main roster debut against Emma, and Alexa Bliss’ defense of the Raw Women’s Championship against Mickie James and Kalisto’s defense of the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against former champion Enzo Amore might be decent matches, but few people are clamoring to see those particular matchups. The same goes for the cruiserweight tag team match between the team of Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann and the duo of Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher. Watch for my full TLC preview later this week.

*****

HEAVEN AND HELL: Hell in a Cell lived up to its potential, making it the best Smackdown pay-per-view since the brand split. The main card was bookended by two Hell in a Cell matches.

In the first Hell in a Cell match, Jimmy and Jey Uso defeated The New Day (Big E and Xavier Woods were the participants) in an outstanding match featuring numerous weapons.

The final match featured an insane leap by Shane McMahon off the top of the steel structure. Unfortunately for McMahon, Kevin Owens was pulled off the broadcast table by Sami Zayn, causing McMahon to crash through the table. Owens and McMahon told a terrific story, and the Zayn heel turn was a nice twist.

There weren’t any bad matches on the show. A.J. Styles was – of course – phenomenal while losing the United States Championship to Baron Corbin in a triple-threat match that also included Tye Dillinger. Randy Orton and Rusev deserve a lot of credit for producing a solid match that drew the crowd into it despite following the crazy tag team Hell in a Cell match. Orton won with an RKO in a clever sequence that saw Rusev nearly put Orton in the accolade.

In other matches, Jinder Mahal retained the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura, Natalya retained the Smackdown Women’s Championship because she was disqualified for applying a beatdown to Charlotte Flair with a steel chair, and Bobby Roode beat Dolph Ziggler in his WWE pay-per-view debut. In the kickoff match, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin defeated Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley.

*****

MAKING SENSE: Sami Zayn’s explanation for why he helped Kevin Owens defeat Shane McMahon at Hell in a Cell made perfect sense. You don’t have to agree with it. But, as Mick Foley once clearly explained, you have to believe that the heel believes it. There was no doubt that Zayn believed that McMahon didn’t care about him and his career. Zayn and Owens, who have a long history together, should be an interesting pairing.

*****

STRICKLAND RETURNS: Shane Strickland successfully defended his Combat Zone Wrestling World Champion against Ethan Page, who was making his return to CZW, on Saturday at The Wolf of Wrestling. Strickland’s next challenger will be Joe Gacy at Night of Infamy on Nov. 11.

*****

MAKING AN IMPACT: Johnny Impact, the former John Morrison, defeated Garza Jr. on Impact Wrestling to earn a shot at Eli Drake and the Global Force Wrestling World Championship at Bound for Glory on Nov. 5.

*****

NEVILLE LEAVES: Neville has apparently left WWE, just a few weeks after losing the Cruiserweight Championship to Enzo Amore. Neville reportedly walked out before last week’s Raw.

*****

CHAMPION VS. CHAMPION: Survivor Series will reportedly feature a match between WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar and WWE champion Jinder Mahal. This indicates a Raw vs. Smackdown them for Survivor Series.

*****

HARDCORE LIVE: Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore will stream events live, starting with House of Hardcore 35 on Sat., Nov. 18 at 2300 Arena. The main event will be a first blood match between Tommy Dreamer and Joey Mercury.

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