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Barry Ashbee Awards won by Kimmo Timonen, who was traded to Blackhawks

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the NCAA Frozen Four, DeSean Jackson’s ill-timed vacation and UConn’s basketball success.

The Kings rallied from behind in the third period once again before winning the Stanley Cup on Alec Martinez’s dramatic goal in the second overtime of Game 5, capturing their second Stanley Cup in the past three seasons.

The news that Kimmo Timonen’s career is probably over inspires Eric Fisher to look back with appreciation at the quietly effective career of one of the best, and classiest, Flyers in franchise history.

Archive for the ‘Wrestling’ Category

Remembering the ‘forgotten’ Royal Rumble

Posted by Achilles Heel On January - 21 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelIt’s the forgotten Royal Rumble.

Eleven years ago, Philadelphia hosted one of the best Royal Rumbles in WWE history, but it’s largely ignored because of who won.

As Philadelphia prepares to host the Royal Rumble at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, exactly 11 years since Philly’s first Royal Rumble, let’s look back at the 2004 Royal Rumble match. (If you forgot who won, Achilles Heel won’t spoil this recap by telling you who won before the end.)

One difference between the two Royal Rumbles is that in 2004 the building was called Wachovia Center. But one similarity between the two events is that Brock Lesnar is the reigning champion. At the 2004 Rumble, he successfully defended the WWE Championship against Hardcore Holly, who was looking for revenge after Lesnar broke his neck (for real), causing him to be sidelined for a year. This Sunday, Lesnar is defending the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena and Seth Rollins.

Speaking of Rollins, Jamie Noble, now part of J&J Security, which accompanies Rollins almost everywhere he goes, challenged Rey Mysterio for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship at the 2004 Royal Rumble. Mysterio prevailed to retain the title.

Also on the undercard at the 2004 Royal Rumble, Evolution’s Ric Flair and Batista successfully defended the tag team championship against the Dudley Boyz (D-Von and Bubba Ray) in a tables match, Eddie Guerrero beat Chavo Guerrero – Eddie would defeat Lesnar for the WWE Championship three weeks later at “No Way Out” – and Triple H and Shawn Michaels battled to a no-contest in a brutal and bloody Last Man Standing match for the World Heavyweight Championship. It’s noteworthy that all four members of Evolution (Triple H, Flair, Batista and Intercontinental champion Randy Orton) held titles.

A major difference between 2004 and 2015 is that Cena was still in his vintage jersey and backward-hat wearing, borderline-swearing, word-life rapper phase. For his interview early in the show, Cena wore a Tug McGraw jersey from Mitchell & Ness. McGraw, the quirky relief pitcher who nailed down the Phillies’ first World Series title in 1980, died from brain cancer three weeks before the Rumble.

As for the Royal Rumble match, a major focus before the match was the split between RAW and Smackdown. There were 15 participants from RAW and 15 from Smackdown. Even the broadcast team, with RAW’s Jim Ross and Smackdown’s Tazz, was divided. Before the match, RAW general manager Eric Bischoff delivered an in-ring promo running down Smackdown and its general manager, Paul Heyman. Heyman came to the ring to deliver a verbal retort to Bischoff, but got involved in a physical confrontation. Steve Austin then came out and delivered Stone Cold stunners to Bischoff and Heyman.

Pre-match intrigue

In an unusual twist, fans knew before the match that Chris Benoit was the first entrant into the Royal Rumble and Bill Goldberg had the coveted No. 30 entry position.

One of the interesting elements of this Rumble is there were more than the usual number of potential winners. In addition to Benoit and Goldberg, Kurt Angle, Big Show and Randy Orton were legitimate threats to win. Angle had guaranteed victory, saying he would dedicate his victory to those serving in the American military. Chris Jericho and Rob Van Dam, playing off his popularity in Philly due to ECW, were also potential winners, with RVD being a long shot.

Let’s get to the match.

Rumble begins

Orton drew No. 2. After Benoit and Orton exchanged shots for 90 seconds, Mark Henry, Tajiri and then JBL – in that order – entered the ring. After flattening Orton, Henry and Tajiri with vicious clotheslines, JBL was eliminated by Benoit.

Rhino was next at No. 6. His gore missed Benoit and hit Henry, which knocked Tajiri off the apron to the floor. Benoit then threw out Henry, who had been blinded by Tajiri’s green mist (the camera missed it the first time) just before the gore by Rhino. Matt Hardy entered at No. 7, Scott Steiner at No. 8, Matt Morgan at No. 9, and The Hurricane at No. 10. The Hurricane was quickly eliminated by Morgan, who threw him over the top rope like a lawn dart.

Booker T, entering at No. 11, eliminated Steiner just as Kane reached the ring as No. 12. Then the Undertaker’s music hits. Kane, looking up the entrance ramp, seems transfixed by the gongs. (Kane had “buried alive” the Undertaker at Survivor Series.) Booker T throws the distracted Kane over the top rope. Spike Dudley comes toward the ring, but Kane intercepts him and choke slams him on the metal entrance ramp. No. 13 was definitely unlucky for Spike Dudley.

Benoit eliminates Rhino just as Rikishi arrives to the ring at No. 14. Rene Dupree enters at No. 15 and dropkicks Hardy off the apron. But Dupree celebrates with a dance, and then turns around and eats a superkick from Rikishi, eliminating him from the match.

A-Train (Tensai) comes in at No. 16. Benoit then eliminates Morgan, and Orton eliminates Rikishi and Booker T in short order. Shelton Benjamin (one half of The World’s Greatest Tag Team) comes in at No. 17. Benoit eliminates A-Train. Orton eliminates Benjamin.

In a nice touch, this brings the Rumble back to the Orton-Benoit pairing that started the match. Benoit and Orton go one-on-one for a little while until their heads collide, knocking both men to the mat. Ernest “The Cat” Miller comes out with sidekick Lamont) at No. 18 and dances to “Somebody Better Call My Momma.” Benoit throws out Lamont and Orton throws out “The Cat,” much to the crowd’s delight. Then Orton and Benoit return to knocking the crap out of each other.

Business picks up with Angle in at No. 19. Orton rests in the corner while Angle and Benoit battle each other. Rico comes in at No. 20, but doesn’t stick around too long. Orton RKOs Rico, and then dumps him over the top rope.

Foley makes surprise appearance

Test’s music plays, but he doesn’t come out at No. 21. Meanwhile, Orton hits Angle with an RKO and kicks at a prone Benoit. On the video board, Test is shown knocked out in the hallway. Austin, who was billed as the sheriff of WWE, orders someone off-camera to go to the ring as No. 21.

Mick Foley comes out! The frenzied fans are on their feet. The storyline was that Orton had spit on Foley and called him a coward. Before the match, Tazz and Ross focus on an empty chair supposedly reserved for Foley. Tazz forces Ross to admit that Foley is a coward for not showing up at the Rumble.

A running clothesline to Orton by Foley takes both men out of the Rumble. But Foley’s not there to win. He’s there to beat the hell out of Orton. Angle and Benoit battle inside ring while Foley, wearing a “Have a Nice Day” Mankind t-shirt and his trademark red-checked flannel shirt, beats on Orton outside the ring. Foley slams Orton’s head on the metal ring steps, chokes him with a wire and slams him into a ringside barrier. While this is going on, Christian enters the Rumble at No. 22.

Foley picks up the steel steps to hit Orton, but pauses to hit Finley, who was among the agents coming to stop Foley, with the steps instead. That temporary distraction allows Orton to deliver two hellacious chair shots to Foley’s head. Ross exclaims, “Good God almighty! Stop it!” Ross’ genuine emotion elevates the action – in this case selling the viciousness of Orton’s chair shots. Orton slams Foley back-first on the metal entrance ramp, but Foley rallies and clotheslines Orton. Foley pulls out Mr. Socko, but then applies the mandible claw to Nunzio, who enters at No. 23. Orton uses this opportunity to hit Foley with a low blow and then scramble up the ramp to the back.

This segment with Orton and Foley was one of the highlights of the match. It’s difficult to overstate the awesomeness of this segment, which the live crowd loved.

By the way, Nunzio recovers and smartly sits by the ringside barricade rather than enter the ring.

Final entrants

Big Show (with hair) enters at No. 24. He towers over Christian and Benoit. Jericho (with long hair) enters at No. 25, and goes after Angle. Charlie Haas (the other half of The World’s Greatest Tag Team) enters at No. 26. Christian double-crosses Jericho, but Jericho backflips him out of the ring, with Ross informing us that Jericho has eliminated Christian for the second straight year. (Ross’ great attention to detail helps develop a feud that leads to the vastly underrated match between Christian and Jericho at WrestleMania XX).

Billy Gunn enters at No. 27. Cena (still wearing the McGraw jersey) enters at No. 28. Cena throws Nunzio into the ring. RVD receives a big Philly reception when he enters at No. 29.

Goldberg, entering at No. 30, hits the ring like a tornado. He immediately spears Big Show and Gunn. He punches the other participants.  Then Goldberg power slams Haas and throws him out. He spears Nunzio. He clotheslines Gunn out of the ring. He picks Nunzio overhead and throws him out.

Goldberg is about to try to suplex Big Show, but Lesnar, after exchanging words with Goldberg in a face-to-face locker room interview after his title defense, races to the ring and hits Goldberg with an F-5. The crowd was hot for Goldberg and Lesnar, which makes one wonder how great a feud this could have been if they both hadn’t left the company after their infamous match at WrestleMania XX. Angle then dumps Goldberg over top rope.

And the winner is …

There are six participants left: Big Show, Cena, RVD, Angle, Jericho and Benoit. They all try to throw out Big Show. He overpowers all of them. They try again. Angle takes out Big Show’s leg. Jericho hits a Lionsault. RVD hits a frog splash off the top rope. Cena hits a 5-knuckle shuffle. Benoit delivers a head butt off the top rope. But they struggle to pick Big Show off the mat and throw him out.

Show breaks loose again. He throws out Cena and RVD and tries to throw out Jericho, but Jericho “skins the cat.” Jericho again lands on the ring apron when Big Show tries to throw him out.  He nails Big Show with a bulldog off the top rope and then applies the Walls of Jericho. Big Show eventually picks Jericho up for a choke slam and throws him over the top rope.

Angle puts Big Show in an ankle lock, but Big Show “throws out” Angle with his legs.

Benoit has been presented as a great wrestler who could never win the big one, including by Flair as Evolution (minus Triple H) interrupts a Benoit interview earlier in the show. Tazz talks about how it’s always “close, but no cigar” for Benoit.

Benoit applies a front face lock to Big Show. Big Show easily lifts Benoit and places him over top rope, but Benoit hangs on to the front face lock. Benoit drops to the apron, using leverage to pull Show over the top rope and down to the floor. The crowd erupts as the underdog finally earns a shot at the World Championship!

Summary

This was a tremendous Royal Rumble. There was legitimate drama about who would win and there was great attention to detail. The Mick Foley-Randy Orton feud caught fire (the feud culminates in an incredible hardcore match for the Intercontinental Championship at “Backlash”), the Brock Lesnar-Goldberg spark was lit, and there was a subtle step taken toward the Christian-Chris Jericho match at WrestleMania.

The underdog story of Chris Benoit was also well told. That feel-good story, of course, is ruined today by the knowledge that Benoit murdered his family and committed suicide. At the time, however, the elevation of Benoit (and Guerrero) into the main event picture was a huge development. Benoit won the World Heavyweight Championship in an amazing triple threat match with Triple H and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XX, another terrific moment largely ignored by WWE because of the tragedy perpetrated by Benoit in 2007.

Like the main event at WrestleMania XX, the 2004 Royal Rumble has been allowed to fade into history. There’s a good reason not to celebrate this match, but it’s a shame that one of the best Royal Rumbles in history has largely been forgotten.

 

Heel Turns: Rumble isn’t only show in town

Posted by Achilles Heel On January - 17 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelNext weekend will be a busy time for wrestling fans in South Philadelphia. Sunday’s Royal Rumble is the headliner, but it’s far from the only show in town.

Ring of Honor kicks off the festivities Saturday (7 p.m.) with an event at 2300 Arena (formerly the ECW Arena). CHIKARA runs an event at the same venue on Sunday (2 p.m.). Also on Sunday, there will be a debate involving Chris Jericho, Bruce Prichard and Eric Bischoff at Dave and Buster’s on Columbus Boulevard.

Ring of Honor event features a pair of six-person tag team matches, at 2300 Arena. The Bullet Club (A.J. Styles and the Young Bucks) battle ACH, Matt Sydal and Cedric Alexander in which should be an action-packed match. In an inter-gender match, Ring of Honor World champion Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe and ODB square off with Michael Bennett, Matt Taven and Maria Kanellis.

Other bouts include Michael Elgin vs. Moose, and Jimmy Jacobs vs. Tommaso Ciampa. The semifinals and finals of the Top Prospect Tournament will also take place at this event.

The big Philadelphia wrestling weekend continues Sunday with CHIKARA’s “A New Start,” its 2015 kickoff event. Icarus defends the Grand Championship of CHIKARA against Chuck Taylor in the main event.

Former grand champion Eddie Kingston squares off with Kevin Condron, formerly known as Kid Cyclone. In a tag team bout, The Batiri battle Hallowicked and Frightmare. In a six-man tag team match, The Colony (Fire Ant, Silver Ant and Worker Ant) face Jakob Hammermeier, Pinkie Sanchez and Soldier Ant.

Another tag team match pits Missile Ant and Arctic Rescue Ant against Race Jaxon and Hype Rockwell. UltraMantis Black takes on Juan Francisco de Coronado, and Ophidian face Nokken.

CHIKARA is clearly hoping that some fans choose to check out its event in the afternoon before eating dinner and watching the Royal Rumble, either at home or on WWE Network.

Another afternoon option Sunday is the event at Dave and Buster’s. There will be a one-hour VIP meet and greet during which fans will be able to get pictures and autographs with Prichard and Bischoff. Following the meet-and-greet session, Jericho will moderate a debate between Prichard and Bischoff about the Monday Night Wars between RAW and WCW’s Monday Nitro. (WWE Network has been running a series of shows on the Monday Night Wars.)

VIP Tickets, which include one autograph and photo opportunity with Bischoff and Prichard, VIP seating and food and beverage, are $60. General admission to the debate is $30.

It should be an amazing 27 hours for wrestling fans in South Philadelphia.

*****

ADDITIONS TO RUMBLE: Jimmy and Jey Uso will defend the tag team titles against former champions The Miz and Damien Mizdow at the Royal Rumble. Expect at least one other match to be added to the card.

Big Show, Kane, Goldust and Stardust have been added to the Royal Rumble. The previously announced participants were Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, Rusev, Wade Barrett, Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt. Ten participants have been revealed for the Rumble – and this assumes that Bryan won’t lose his spot on Smackdown this week when he face Kanes. Although several spots are always reserved for surprise entrants (Chris Jericho? Sting?), the Greek God of Wrestling would prefer that more than 10 of the spots be filled entering the final week before the Rumble.

*****

ROLLINS IN VOORHEES: Before what Seth Rollins hopes will be the biggest night of his career – he is involved in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match with Brock Lesnar and John Cena at the Royal Rumble – he will appear at Adventureland Store in the Voorhees Town Center in Voorhees, N.J., from 10 a.m.-noon. Tickets are required for autograph and photo opportunities.

*****

OH YEEEAAAAHHHH!!! “Macho Man” Randy Savage was the first inductee announced for this year’s WWE Hall of Fame class. It goes without saying that Savage, who died in 2011 at 58 years old, deserved to be inducted. In fact, his induction is overdue. The Hall of Fame ceremony will take place March 28, the day before WrestleMania 31, in San Jose.

*****

TITLE CHANGE: Austin Aries’ reign as X-Division champion turned out to be a short one. After beating Low Ki for the title on Impact Wrestling’s debut on Destination America, Aries lost the title to Low Ki in a rematch. Low Ki is now part of the top heel faction, consisting of MVP, Samoa Joe, Kenny King, Low Ki and (maybe) Eric Young. As if often the case with TNA storylines, it’s not clear if Young is part of the “Beat Down Clan.”

The heels ruled during this week’s edition of Impact Wrestling. Samoa Joe made Kurt Angle submit, Young beat Bobby Roode and the Beat Down Clan beat down TNA World Heavyweight champion Bobby Lashley, who completed his babyface turn. Almost lost was the Hardy Boyz’ victory over The Wolves (Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards).

*****

WINGING IT: Mick Foley will compete in Wing Bowl, WIP Radio’s annual wing-eating extravaganza, at Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 30. The Greek God of Wrestling would have preferred to see Big Show or Mark Henry enter. Unlike Foley, they’d be serious contenders to win.

*****

BRYAN IS BACK: It sure seemed as if the fans were thrilled to see Daniel Bryan back in action on Smackdown. It’s terrific to have the talented Bryan back in action after missing eight months with a neck injury.

*****

RING OF HONOR SEMINAR: Ring of Honor will host an advanced training class on Sun., Feb. 15 from 4-9 p.m. at the Ring of Honor Dojo in Bristol, Pa. Instructors include Ring of Honor head trainer Delirious and former Ring of Honor world champion Adam Cole. Applicants must have at least one year of professional wrestling experience. Enrollment is limited to 20 applicants.

*****

RUMBLE PREVIEW: Royal Rumble week will be a good week for you because Achilles Heel will have two stories the week before the Royal Rumble. A preview of this year’s Rumble will be the lead item in the next Heel Turns. But the Greek God of Wrestling will grace you with a second article, a look back at the 2004 Royal Rumble in Philadelphia.

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