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Phillie (Ryan Howard) remaining from 2008 World Series title team

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the Phillies finally admitting they need to rebuild, the awful officiating during the Penn State-Ohio State game and the PGA taking political correctness to ridiculous levels.

The Greek god of wrestling previews Saturday’s card for Tommy Dreamer’s “House of Hardcore VII,” which signals a return to the old ECW Arena. Achilles Heel also tells you why you should go out of your way to watch Impact Wrestling next week, why Ring of Honor’s tag team tournament and when WrestleMania tickets will go on sale.

Dez Bryant catches three touchdown passes as the Cowboys take sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a 38-27 victory over the Eagles, who now need help from other teams to qualify for the playoffs.

Archive for the ‘Wrestling’ Category

Heel Turns: Draft hits right notes

Posted by Achilles Heel On July - 23 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelThe draft has shaken up WWE. But all the implications of last week’s draft are not clear.

Not surprisingly, the draft program, which, not coincidentally, coincided with the first edition “Smackdown Live!” on Tuesday nights, was entertaining. WWE always does a terrific job with these shows. The emphasis was on the draft rather than wrestling, with the notable exception of the main event between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, but the entertainment value was high.

The following are some draft observations from the Greek God of Wrestling.

  • The reactions from the RAW management team of Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley and the Smackdown management team of Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, added to the drama. There were expressions of surprise and, on occasion, regret, making it seem as if the other side drafted someone they were about to pick. This made it feel like a real draft.
  • The run on tag teams was a nice touch. This often happens during drafts, with one pick triggering a run on players at that position. After Enzo and Big Cass were selected 20th overall (tag teams counted as one pick), Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson and the NXT team of American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan) were the next two picks.
  • Achilles Heel also liked the strategic picks. After RAW, which already had WWE Women’s champion Charlotte, selected Sasha Banks at No. 13, Smackdown countered at No. 14 with Becky Lynch. When RAW selected United States champion Rusev at No. 16, Smackdown countered with Intercontinental champion The Miz at No. 17, making sure RAW doesn’t have both the U.S. and Intercontinental titles.
  • The reactions of Kevin Owens and Cesaro at sliding down the draft board were a nice touch. Owens, undrafted at the time, berated both management teams when he came down the ramp for his match. He eventually was selected 18th by RAW. Cesaro, who slipped all the way to 28th, said he should have been drafted higher and expressed displeasure at going to RAW instead of Smackdown. Perhaps a trade could be in the works down the road?
  • The star power seems relatively balanced, with RAW securing Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and The New Day, and Smackdown drafting John Cena, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose and A.J. Styles.
  • Health Slater not getting drafted provides a good storyline. Rather than being a punishment or humiliation at being the only eligible wrestler not drafted, the decision to leave Slater undrafted sets up a storyline in which he’s a free agent. Instead of being a hot free agent, as “Macho Man” Randy Savage was when he came to the WWF and triggered a bidding war among managers, my instinct is that Slater will lose repeatedly as he tries to prove his worth to both RAW and Smackdown management teams.
  • The Greek God of Wrestling has concerns that there isn’t enough quality depth in the women’s division for two shows. There are seven women (not counting Lana) on RAW and six (not counting Maryse) on Smackdown. That may lead to repetitive matchups. It also could lead to the burial of the underutilized Paige, who appears to be positioned to put over Nia Jax, Charlotte and possibly Dana Brooke on RAW. Even a rumored return by Nikki Bella may not make enough of a difference in the quality depth of each show.
  • Achilles Heel also isn’t comfortable with the new broadcast teams. The RAW team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton will have to keep fans interested for three hours. Graves and Saxton will have to step up their games. JBL was moved to Smackdown, with the excellent Mauro Ranallo and David Otunga, who replaces Jerry “The King” Lawler.
  • Other than Finn Balor, selected fifth overall, the only other individual male wrestler selected from NXT was Mojo Rawley. Granted, he wasn’t selected until 57th overall, but Rawley is the only other one selected? Really?
  • Even though RAW received three picks for every two made by Smackdown – because RAW has an extra hour – once the draft moved to WWE Network after Smackdown went off the air, the two brands received the same amount of picks, alternating back and forth.
  • The Cruiserweight Classic is obviously a success. There will be a cruiserweight division on RAW.

There are still some unanswered questions. Will the brands have separate pay-per-views or will both RAW and Smackdown have matches on the same pay-per-view, as you would expect would be the case at WrestleMania, Summer Slam, the Royal Rumble and Survivor Series?

Another question revolves around the championships. For example, if RAW’s Darren Young defeats The Miz on Sunday at Battleground or Smackdown’s Zack Ryder defeats Rusev, will the Intercontinental and United States titles switch brands? In terms of the tag team and women’s titles, which both are currently on RAW, would Smackdown wrestlers battle to become the No. 1 contender and then face the champion at a pay-per-view? This could make wins and losses – as well as the titles – seem more meaningful.

Will matches such as Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam be promoted as RAW (Lesnar) vs. Smackdown (Orton) or will the feud stand on its own?

The draft has succeeded thus far in creating interest. But there are many questions that still need to be answered.

*****

BASK IN MY GLORY: Even though the rules of the draft, such as tag teams counting as one pick and RAW getting three picks for every two for Smackdown, before I did the mock draft for last week’s Heel Turns, the Greek God of Wrestling was incredibly accurate in predicting which show would draft which wrestlers.

The first eight picks of WWE’s draft went to the shows which I predicted. It wasn’t until Randy Orton went to Smackdown with the ninth pick that Achilles Heel got one wrong. That’s much better than so-called draft guru Gordon Glantz has done with the NFL Draft or NHL Draft.

*****

TITLE CONTROVERSY: Achilles Heel just noticed the change within the week before the draft, but WWE started referring to the title held by Dean Ambrose as the WWE Championship instead of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. That indicates that there likely will be two top titles, one on Smackdown and one on RAW. Furthering that belief was the disputed “double-pin” finish to the main event match between Ambrose and Seth Rollins at the end of RAW.

Rollins and Ambrose deserve credit for putting together two very good – and very different – matches on back-to-back nights. That’s more difficult than it may seem. It also was a smart move by WWE to feature the top two picks in the draft in the main events on consecutive nights.

*****

REIGNS RETURNS: Roman Reigns will join Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in the main event of Sunday’s Battleground. Reigns, coming off a 30-day suspension for a first violation of WWE’s performance-enhancing drug policy, returned Friday night at a house show in Newark, Del., following a match between Ambrose and Rollins (video here).

*****

BATTLEGROUND BATTLES: The Greek God of Wrestling predicted success for the members of The Shield from the beginning. He also thought they would succeed individually following their breakup. Well, all three of them are in the main event at Battleground, with Dean Ambrose defending the WWE Championship against Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns in a triple threat match.

This could go in several directions. With Reigns and Rollins both on RAW, it may make sense for one of them to cost the other the title, allowing Ambrose to escape with the championship. It could also make sense to have Rollins cost Reigns the title while winning it himself, creating a rivalry for the title on RAW. Achilles Heel predicts an Ambrose victory, with Stephanie McMahon declaring Rollins the rightful champion because of the disputed finish during the Ambrose-Rollins match on RAW.

The brand split could have an influence throughout Battleground. Will WWE highlight the brand split by having Zack Ryder upset Rusev for the United States Championship and Darren Young defeating The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship, thereby switching the titles between RAW and Smackdown? It seemed time for the Wyatt Family to gain a victory over The New Day, but, with New Day staying intact on RAW while Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan go to Smackdown, leaving Braun Strowman on RAW, does that make a New Day victory in Sunday’s six-man match more likely?

I have no idea how the brand split could affect the six-man match pitting John Cena, Enzo Amore and Big Cass against A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Cena and Styles are going to Smackdown while the other four go to RAW. The match between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens was supposed to be the end of their rivalry, but they’ve both been drafted to RAW, so their feud could continue.

With all of the announced participants going to RAW, could Sasha Banks’ mystery partner against Charlotte and Dana Brooke be Nia Jax? Could it be Nikki Bella? Becky and Natalya, the top two women on Smackdown, square off in their budding rivalry, which makes more sense after the brand split.

Randy Orton makes his return at Battleground as a guest on Chris Jericho’s “Highlight Reel.” It will be interesting to hear what Orton, who has been out of action since last fall due to a shoulder injury, will say about Brock Lesnar. The Usos and Breezango (Tyler Breeze, Fandango) will begin the action with a Smackdown tag team during the Battleground kickoff show.

*****

LESNAR DILEMMA: WWE is in a bit of a predicament with Brock Lesnar due to his positive tests for a performance-enhancing drug. The problem is that Lesnar apparently hasn’t failed a WWE drug test, but failed two, one on June 28 and one on July 9, the night he defeated Mark Hunt at UFC 200.

Judging by WWE’s statement in the wake of Lesnar’s first positive drug test, my educated guess is that WWE will point out that Lesnar hadn’t competed for WWE since just after WrestleMania 32. He passed at least three drug tests while training for UFC 200 before the failed test on June 28, so WWE can claim he was drug-free when he started training, implying that he didn’t start to use performance-enhancing drugs until some point during his UFC training.

From a wrestling perspective, it will be interesting if WWE uses the drug tests in storylines building up to SummerSlam. The danger of having Randy Orton accuse Lesnar of being a being juiced up is that Orton has been suspended in the past by WWE for violating its drug policy.

*****

NEW RECORD FOR NEW DAY: Congratulations to Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods, the members of New Day, for breaking the record for holding the WWE Tag Team Championship’s longest title reign. The previous record of 333 days was held by Brian Kendrick and Paul London.

*****

REIGNS RETURNS: Brian Kendrick, who held the record for most consecutive days as WWE tag team champion, will be featured in this coming Wednesday’s edition of the Cruiserweight Classic on WWE Network. Kendrick takes on Raul Mendoza in a first-round match. The winner will face the winner of the bout between Anthony Bennett and Tony Nese, which also will be part of Wednesday’s program.

For those who haven’t seen British sensation Zack Sabre Jr., you should be in for a treat Wednesday when he faces Tyson Dux. The winner will face the winner of Wednesday’s bout between Drew Gulak and Harv Sihra. Followers of the independent wrestling scene are likely salivating over the possibility of a second-round matchup between Gulak and Sabre.

This past week’s Cruiserweight Classic show once again featured fun and competitive matches. Lince Dorado and Mustafa Ali performed some insane moves, including a reverse hurricanrana into a sort of spike piledriver by Dorado, in the show’s best match (won by Dorado). Tajiri made a successful return with victory over Damian Slater, who looked good in defeat. Tajiri will face Gran Metalik in the second round. In other matches, T.J. Perkins beat Da Mack by submission in a fun match, and Akira Tozawa defeated Ken Johnson.

*****

WWE DOMINATES: The Greek God of Wrestling realizes this has been an all-WWE column, but, as they say in the news business – or at least they used to say – I comment on the news; I don’t make it. With the draft, Battleground, Roman Reigns’ return and Lesnar’s drug tests, WWE has dominated this news cycle.

Besides, nobody should be complaining after benefiting from all of the wisdom Achilles Heel shares with you each and every week. You should all be very grateful that the best wrestling columnist in the world appears right here on PhillyPhanatics.com.

Heel Turns: RAW-Smackdown mock draft

Posted by Achilles Heel On July - 15 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelThe big event next week is the WWE Draft, which will take place Tuesday night during “Smackdown Live!” The emphasis on “live” is because Smackdown will air live on USA Network, just as RAW does, on Tuesday nights.

The draft is an effective way to get viewers to make the switch to Tuesdays. There will also be a pre-draft show that evening (7 p.m.) on WWE Network. I’m sure there will be post-draft analysis of the rosters as well. WWE knows how to produce these type of events.

The Greek God of Wrestling is going to take his shot at the draft, making the top 20 picks for each brand. These picks are made without regard for the commissioner or general manager of each show. The participants in the Cruiserweight Classic are not included because they have not signed WWE contracts. On the other hand, NXT competitors are included on this list.

I haven’t included managers, advocates, etc. We’ll just assume that where Brock Lesnar goes, Paul Heyman also goes. If you want a more visually appealing image, where the Miz goes, Maryse will go.

It’s also not clear if all the Divas will be on one show or be split up between RAW and Smackdown. For our purposes, I allowed them to be split up, although you’ll see that one brand corners the market.

In terms of draft strategy, do you take an established star near the end of his career (Undertaker, Big Show, Kane) or a young guy with higher long-term upside (Apollo Crews, some of the NXT competitors)? That choice might depend on how long the brand split lasts. Let’s assume that, although it may not last forever, the brand split will last at least a few years.

Here is how Achilles Heel would make the selections.

Raw: Seth Rollins An amazingly talented wrestler. A star capable of producing tremendous championship-quality matches.

Smackdown: John Cena Still the big star in WWE. Still capable of igniting a crowd. Still has at least a few years remaining at an elite level.

Raw: Brock Lesnar You might only have him for a limited time each year, but he’s worth the money – and the high draft pick. If he were full-time, Lesnar would be the top overall pick.

Smackdown: Kevin Owens He has “it.” Owens can talk and he can wrestle. He doesn’t have a classic wrestling body, but he can be your prime antagonist for years to come.

Raw: Randy Orton This is one of those draft situations where the general manager says “I can’t believe this guy is available at this spot” – and truly means it.

Smackdown: Dean Ambrose He isn’t pretty, but he is a unique wrestler who connects with the fans.

Raw: Cesaro He can put together a good match with just about anyone. Cesaro is a valuable addition to the RAW roster, which also could use a pure babyface.

Smackdown: A.J. Styles The impact Styles has made in a short time in WWE is evidence that his success in TNA and on the independent circuit translates to WWE.

Raw: Roman Reigns This former WWE champion adds to the immense star power on the RAW roster. The only hesitation with taking Reigns this high is his recent drug suspension.

Smackdown: Sami Zayn He has good matches with just about everybody – and great matches with some opponents.

Raw: Charlotte The standard-bearer for the women’s division is a wise pick at this point.

Smackdown: Chris Jericho You need a straw to stir the drink – or to stir up trouble. Jericho is your man.

Raw: Finn Balor After excelling on NXT, Balor comes to RAW.

Smackdown: Alberto Del Rio The man can wrestle. Period. Always a legitimate championship threat.

Raw: Rusev A powerful force, Rusev’s best days may be ahead of him.

Smackdown: Luke Harper An underrated wrestler. Harper moves extremely well for a man his size, although he’s recovering from an ACL injury.

Raw: Sasha Banks The foil to Charlotte, Banks has a wonderful connection with the fans.

Smackdown: Shinsuke Nakamura Nakamura’s NXT debut against Sami Zayn earlier this year is a match-of-the-year candidate. They can have a repeat performance now that they’re both on Smackdown.

Raw: Bray Wyatt Wyatt’s unorthodox style sets him apart from most of the other wrestlers. He’s unique. He’s different. And he can wrestle.

Smackdown: Dolph Ziggler He’s so good at making other wrestlers look good. And there’s still a championship run in his future.

Raw: Kofi Kingston The assembling of the New Day begins.

Smackdown: Luke Gallows Smackdown also goes down the tag team road. Besides, A.J. Styles is already on board, so this pick makes sense.

Raw: Big E Now the top two wrestlers in New Day are together.

Smackdown: Karl Anderson Now The Club is back together again.

Raw: Xavier Woods Now New Day is complete.

Smackdown: Undertaker Even if he only appears between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, Undertaker is a tremendous value this deep into the draft.

Raw: Sheamus The big Irishman has been on a losing streak lately, but he’s a solid worker, and there’s still plenty of potential there.

Smackdown: Chad Gable Have you seen this guy yet in NXT? On the small side, but he’s incredibly smooth in the ring.

Raw: Neville He has some amazing moves. Will his ankle injury cut down on his high flying?

Smackdown: Jason Jordan Gable and Jordan form a phenomenal tag team.

Raw: Paige She’s been underutilized lately. Paige is still young, but has a veteran’s presence in the ring.

Smackdown: Apollo Crews He has loads of potential. It’s simply a matter of Crews continuing to learn and the promotion finding the right role for him.

Raw: The Miz The Intercontinental champion will be furious to be drafted this low. But there’s always a big name who drops on draft day. This could be a compelling story throughout the draft.

Smackdown: Bobby Roode He was a wonderful champion in TNA. Roode is a veteran who would be a terrific heel.

Raw: Big Cass He’s 7 feet tall (not quite) – and you can’t teach that.

Smackdown: Scott Dawson The first half of the Revival, the NXT tag team champions.

Raw: Enzo Amore The Greek God of Wrestling admits that he doesn’t understand Amore’s appeal, but there’s no denying that the fans love him. Plus, he joins Big Cass.

Smackdown: Dash Wilder Unlike the Ascension and the Vaudevillains, Wilder and Dawson don’t rely on a gimmick. These guys are the masters of old school tag team wrestling.

Raw: Natalya A tough choice between Natalya and Becky Lynch, but whichever one isn’t picked would likely sign with RAW as a free agent because of all the talented women there.

Smackdown: Kalisto This diminutive competitor has displayed his worth as both an individual and tag team wrestler.

If WWE wants to add another layer to the brand split, they should have competition between RAW and Smackdown to sign the undrafted free agents. Shane and Stephanie McMahon could court the remaining free agents, much like the managers tried to sign Randy Savage when he first appeared in WWF.

Based on this draft, the free agents would include Kane; Big Show; Baron Corbin; Darren Young; Becky Lynch; Naomi; Nikki Bella; Summer Rae; Alicia Fox; Jimmy and Jey Uso; Bubba and D-Von Dudley; Titus O’Neil; Samoa Joe; Austin Aries; Sin Cara; Hideo Itami; Braun Strowman and Erick Rowan (although you assume Bray Wyatt will “instruct” them to sign with RAW); Jack Swagger; Curtis Axel; Zack Ryder; Mark Henry; Simon Gotch; Aiden English; Tyler Breeze; Tyson Kid; Fandango; Goldust; R-Truth; Epico; Primo; Heath Slater; Bo Dallas; Viktor; and Konnor.

*****

SEATS OF HONOR: As of Friday morning, there are still seats available for Ring of Honor’s national television taping on Saturday (pre-show begins at 5:45 p.m.) at 2300 Arena. In the main event, Jay Lethal defends the Ring of Honor World Championship against Colt Cabana.

The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian) will defend the Ring of Honor World Tag Teach Championship against the Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin) and War Machine (Raymond Rowe, Hanson) in triple threat match. In another tag team bout, Mark and Jay Briscoe will battle Silas Young and the Beer City Bruiser. Singles matches will include Donovan Dijak vs. Lio Rush, Will Ferrara vs. Jay White, and Stuka Jr. vs. Kamaitachi.

There will be also be a meet-and-great session featuring Lethal, Cabana, Ring of Honor Television Champion Bobby Fish, Dalton Castle and Women of Honor star Taeler Hendrix. Cost is $20 for each wrestler, which will include one posed photograph and one signed personal item or Ring of Honor-supplied photo.

*****

X MARKS THE SPOT: Give TNA credit for some excellent programs this month. The intriguing “Final Deletion” match between Matt and Jeff Hardy was followed up by a terrific Destination X event during the final Tuesday edition of Impact Wrestling. (With Smackdown moving to Tuesday next week, Impact moves to Thursday at 8 p.m.).

The main event in which Bobby Lashley defeated Eddie Edwards to add the X-Division title to his TNA World Heavyweight Championship was excellent, as was the fight between Drew Galloway and Ethan Carter III. At the end of the main event, Mike Bennett and Moose, making his TNA debut, beat down Lashley.

Without pay-per-view or live events aside from television tapings, TNA gets to put its best foot forward on Impact. Lately, that has translated into top-notch programming.

*****

CLASSIC BEGINNING: The Greek God of Wrestling enjoyed the first episode of the Cruiserweight Classic. It was interesting to match all of the different styles.

Two of the victorious stars were Kota Ibushi and Cedric Alexander. The athletic and energetic Alexander looked like a star against the hard-hitting and polished Clement Petiot. Ibushi was fantastic against the upset-minded Sean Maluta, who certainly turned some heads with his excellent performance.

The first-round losers on the opening show deserve a lot of credit. In addition to Petiot and Maluta, Ariya Daivari seemed to carry the match with the victorious HoHo Lun. Alejandro Saez looked a little green, but he executed some impressive moves while giving the victorious Gran Metalik a competitive match. Achilles Heel can’t wait for the next four first-round matches this Wednesday.

*****

MARQUEE MATCHUP: As a lead-in to the first episode of the Cruiserweight Classic, NXT featured a match between Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura. Not surprisingly, they put together an outstanding match, with Nakamura emerging triumphant.

*****

CENA HOSTS ESPY’S: Because the Greek God of Wrestling was watching WWE Network on Wednesday, he didn’t see much of John Cena hosting the ESPY’s. However, after watching the monologue, I’d give Cena rave reviews. He was personable, outgoing and funny. For a non-comedian, he was remarkable while doing a nearly 10-minute opening monologue.

*****

BATTLEGROUND CARD: It appears that WWE has completed its card for Battleground, which will take place July 24 in Washington, D.C.

The main event features the three former Shield members – Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns – in a triple threat match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Ambrose is scheduled to defend the title against Rollins on RAW, so it’s uncertain who will be champion entering Battleground.

John Cena teams up with Enzo Amore and Big Cass to battle The Club (A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson). Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens continue their personal feud, and Becky Lynch seeks revenge against Natalya.

Matches added to Battleground this past week are The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) against The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, Braun Strowman); The Miz defending the Intercontinental Championship against Darren Young; Rusev defending the United States Championship against Zack Ryder; and Charlotte and Dana Brooke taking on Sasha Banks and a partner to be named. There also will be an episode of Chris Jericho’s “Highlight Reel” with special guest Randy Orton, who will be returning at SummerSlam to battle Brock Lesnar.

The next Heel Turns will feature a complete preview of Battleground.

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