Friday, June 17, 2022

Carlos Ortiz, the Last of a Breed

By Gene Pantalone, NJBHOF (Class of 2022) Writer/Historian

For me, the death of Carlos Ortiz on June 13, 2022, represents the end of an era. An era when many boxers trained with other boxers in remote training camps. Carlos Ortiz was the last in a long line of champions that trained at a boxing camp in the small, idyllic town of Chatham Township, New Jersey. It was a camp that was started by a woman, Madame Bey, in 1923, and continued by Ehsan Karadag after her death in 1942. There is no telling how many champions passed through this camp; however, we do know that there were no fewer than 14 heavyweight champions and 80 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees that came to this camp from 1923 to 1969.

When Ortiz first came to the camp, he was following in the footsteps of a pantheon of great boxers. From the first to train here in 1923, middleweight world champion Johnny Wilson, to the last, Carlos Ortiz. Others in the forty-seven-year history that trained here were Gene Tunney, Max Schmeling, Mickey Walker, Henry Armstrong, Lou Ambers, Tony Canzoneri, Floyd Patterson (the last heavyweight champion to train here in 1959), and many other world champions. Other greats that had retired just came to the camp to watch their successors. Greats like Rocky Marciano, James J. Corbett, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Benny Leonard, James Braddock, were among them. Along with the fighters, many great trainers, managers, and promoters accompanied them, like Cus D’Amato, Ray Arcel, Whitey Bimstein, Chris Dundee, Joe Jacobs, Mike Jacobs, Jimmy Jacobs (Mike Tyson’s co-manager), etc.

In 1966 and 1967, the last world champion came to use Ehsan’s camp as a base for his training. Like Freddie Welsh, who had brought boxing to Chatham Township in 1917, he held the world lightweight championship. His name was Carlos Ortiz, born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on September 9, 1936. He came to mainland America in 1947. Ortiz had eyes that lit his face, even white teeth, tightly curling brown hair, and thick eyebrows dominating his tiny features. His face remained unmarked after eighteen years of fighting as an amateur and professional. 

Ortiz held the world junior welterweight championship from 1959 to 1962, followed by two reigns as the world lightweight champion, from 1962 to 1965 and from 1965 to 1968. Most champions were training elsewhere. Some were in hotels like those in the Catskill Mountains. Muhammad Ali, world heavyweight champion, preferred to do his work in a midtown gymnasium, where the “people can come to see me,” thought later is his career he, too, would train in a remote camp in Pennsylvania.

“The Garden wanted to put me up there somewhere, too,” Ortiz said, “but there’s too many people there. I don’t like to be bothered when I’m training.” 

Ortiz was to defend his world lightweight title against Gabriel “Flash” Elorde from the Philippines at Madison Square Garden. It would be the first lightweight title bout at the Garden in almost thirteen years—since Paddy DeMarco, the Brooklyn Billy Goat, dethroned Jimmy Carter on March 5, 1954. 

The camp owner, Ehsan, was seventy-seven years old. He used to have many fighters training, sometimes over thirty, but now he was lucky to have three—Ortiz and two sparring partners. Ortiz also spent a few weeks at Ehsan’s earlier that year prior to his title bouts with Sugar Ramos and Johnny Bizzarro. Other than that, Ehsan’s Camp had been quiet.

The white, clapboard farmhouse at the camp that had housed a great many champions was weather-beaten. Inside, you could find Carlos Ortiz playing cards, which had been a tradition through the years. It was time to relax and forget about boxing for a while. Their game of choice that day was Hearts.

“Carlos is leading,” said Teddy Bentham, his trainer, looking up from the score pad.

“You've got to lead the spades to me,” Roger Gerson, a friend of Ortiz, said across the table to Willie Munoz, one of the sparring partners. “Then I can lead the spades to Carlos, and he can’t get off the hook.”

“I'm a good counter puncher,” Ortiz said, seriously, referring to the card game and not his boxing skills.

“Carlos wins a ten-dollar,” Bentham said, after the game concluded.

“Another big purse,” Carlos said, smiling.

At the conclusion of the game, Ortiz’s manager reminded him it was time to get back to work.

“I love this place,” Ortiz said. “I don’t want to train at those resorts. Too many people. That’s like going to Coney Island.”

Ortiz dominated the fight against Elorde at the Garden on November 28, 1966. He scored a knockout at two minutes, one second in round fourteen of fifteen. All scorecards showed Ortiz ahead before the knockout. Referee Jimmy Devlin eleven to two, Judge Joe Armstrong thirteen to zero, and Judge Artie Aidala twelve to one. The unofficial Associated Press scorecard was twelve to one, and the unofficial United Press International scorecard was eleven to zero with two even.

Arriving back at Ehsan’s in 1967, Ortiz came to prepare for another lightweight title defense. He would defend against the tall Panamanian, Ismael Laguna, a future lightweight champion.

“When I was a kid,” Carlos Ortiz said, “I promised myself I would make this title worth more money than it ever was worth before.”

With this fight, Ortiz would be able to fulfill his promise to himself. He was to fight for a guarantee of $83,000. When added to his lifetime earnings, it would eclipse by $500 the record for money earned by a lightweight, still held by Lou Ambers, who frequently used the camp to train for his fights thirty years before.

“But the money hasn’t changed Ortiz, said journalist Dave Anderson who was at the camp. “He trains the way champions used to, in seclusion and in simplicity. Other champions like their luxury these days.”

When asked what he would do with his purse, Ortiz said he would buy Ehsan’s Camp, and appeared serious.

“… I got to like it. I enjoy walking around here and the little town down the road, New Providence, is a nice place.”

On August 16th, Ortiz won a unanimous fifteen-round decision over Laguna at Shea Stadium in New York City, retaining his world lightweight title.

Ortiz would lose his title in his next fight against Carlos Teo Cruz in a fifteen-round split decision. He did not train at Ehsan’s for it. It took place on June 28, 1968, in Estadio Quisqueya, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Ortiz would go on to win his next ten fights after that loss. In 1972, he was scheduled to fight Roberto Duran, who was the lightweight champion, but Duran withdrew ten days before the fight. Ortiz fought Ken Buchanan instead.

“I had trained for a completely different fighter and was very frustrated. I felt I had nothing to gain and everything to lose,” Ortiz said.

On September 20, 1972, thirty-five-year-old Ortiz fought Buchanan at Madison Square Garden. Ortiz did not get up from his stool after the sixth round. He lost by a technical knockout. For the first time in his career, he did not finish a fight.

“I knew this was going to be my last fight,” Ortiz said. 

It would be his last fight. One month later, Ehsan Karadag died at the age of eighty-two. 

Carlos Ortiz finished his career with a record of 61-7-1 and one no contest. Ortiz is considered among the best Puerto Rican boxers of all time by sports journalists and analysts. He holds the record for the most wins in unified lightweight title bouts in boxing history at ten. In 1991, Ortiz was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2002, Ortiz was voted by The Ring magazine as the 60th greatest fighter of the last 80 years. He held 21st place in BoxRec ranking of the greatest pound-for-pound boxers of all time.

In 1969, Willie Ratner, the journalist who coaxed Madame Bey into assuming Freddie Welsh’s business forty-six years before, came to visit the camp. Where the sign that used to hang for a passerby to read “Training To-Day” was a new sign— “For Sale.” 

During its existence, the camp was the best known in the world. Time, economics, suburban sprawl, and a changed world of boxing took their toll. Its past popularity was undeniable. The once sparsely populated farmland was now surrounded by suburban homes and a large apartment complex down the street.

In 1972, the farmhouse on the grounds was razed, and the gymnasium was remodeled into a ranch-style house to blend with the surroundings. The extraordinary events that occurred at the camp live on because of fighters and sportswriters of the past, like Carlos Ortiz.

Gene Pantalone and his three brothers visited the historic camp in the mid-60s to see the likes of boxers Carlos Ortiz, Rubin Hurricane Carter, Jose Torres, Benny Kid Paret (he trained for his fatal fight there), Issac Logart, and Doug Jones. His books include Madame Bey’s: Home to Boxing Legends and From Boxing Ring to Battlefield: The Life off War Hero Lew Jenkins.

Gene Pantalone has compiled the following alphabetical list of known boxers, trainers, managers, promoters, and celebrities that attended the camp based on photograph and newspaper archival evidence. The following is an alphabetic list of people associated with boxing that were in Chatham Township, New Jersey, where Madame Bey's camp resided:

Georgie Abrams, Lou Ambers, Fred Apostoli, Red Applegate, Ray Arcel, Freddie Archer, Henry Armstrong, Buddy Baer, Max Baer, Joe Baksi, Sam Baroudi, Billy Beauhuld, Tommy Bell, Steve Belloise, Paul Berlenbach, Melio Bettina, Carmine Bilotti, Whitey Bimstein, Jimmy Bivins, James Braddock, Jorge Brescia, Jack Britton, Freddy Brown, Al Buck, Red Burman, Mushy Callahan, Victor Campolo, Tony Canzoneri, Primo Carnera, Georges Carpentier, Jimmy Carter, Rubin Carter, Ezzard Charles, Kid Chocolate, Gil Clancy, Freddie Cochrane, Jimmy Carrollo, James J. Corbett, Lulu Costantino, Cus D’Amato, Jack Delaney, Al Davis, Red Top Davis, James P. Dawson, Jack Dempsey, Gus Dorazio, Carl Duane, Chris Dundee, Johnny Dundee, Vince Dundee, Sixto Escobar, Tommy Farr, Abe Feldman, Freddie Fiducia, Jackie Fields, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Billy Fox, Humbert Fugazy, Charley Fusari , Tony Galento, Kid Gavilán, Frankie Genaro, Billy Gibson, Joey Giardello, George Godfrey, Arturo Godoy, Charley Goldman, Ruby Goldstein, Bud Gorman, Billy Graham, Frank Graham, Rocky Graziano, Abe Greene, Gus Greenlee, Emile Griffith, Babe Herman, Steve Hostak, Ace Hudkins, Herbert Hype Igoe, Beau Jack, Tommy Hurricane Jackson, Jimmy Jacobs, Joe Jacobs, Mike Jacobs, Joe Jeanette, Ben Jeby, Lew Jenkins, Jack Johnson, James Johnston, Doug Jones, Ralph Tiger Jones, Phil Kaplan, Jack Kearns, Frankie Klick, Johnny Kilbane, Solly Krieger, Jake LaMotta, Tippy Larkin, Benny Leonard, Gus Lesnevich, King Levinsky, John Henry Lewis, Isaac Logart, Tommy Loughran, Joe Louis, Joe Lynch, Eddie Mader, Nathan Mann, Rocky Marciano, Lloyd Marshall, Eddie Martin, Bat Masterson, Joey Maxim, Jimmy McLarnin, Mike McTigue, Jack Miley, Bob Montgomery, Archie Moore, Tod Morgan, Dan Morgan, Walter Neusel, Kid Norfolk, Lou Nova, Jack O’Brien, Bob Olin, Lee Oma, Carlos Ortiz, Ken Overlin, Benny Kid Paret, Floyd Patterson, Willie Pep, Billy Petrolle, Willie Ratner, Grantland Rice, Gilbert Rogin, Maxie Rosenbloom, Al Roth, Andre Routis, Irving Rudd, Bobby Ruffin, Damon Runyon, Sandy Saddler, Lou Salica, Johnny Saxton, Max Schmeling, Flashy Sebastian, Marty Servo, Jack Sharkey, Battling Siki, Eric Seelig, Freddie Steele, Allie Stolz, Young Stribling, Herman Taylor, Lew Tendler, Sid Terris, Young Terry, Jack Thompson, Jose Torres, Gene Tunney, Pancho Villa, Mickey Walker, Max Waxman, Al Weill, Charlie Weinert, Freddie Welsh, Harry Wills, Charley White, Johnny Wilson, Chalky Wright, Paulino Uzcudun, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ike Williams, Teddy Yarosz.


Anderson, Dave. Ortiz Prefers Simple and Secluded Training. New York Times. November 27, 1966.

Hissner, Ken. Carlos Ortiz the Hall of Fame Junior Welterweight and Lightweight Champion! Doghouse Boxing. April 28, 2009.

Ratner, Willie. Ehsan’s Training Camp on the Ropes. Newark Evening News. April 23, 1969.

Norton, Mark. Letter to the Summit Historical Society. Summit: 2008.

Smith, Red. Carlos Comes High. Binghamton Press. August 11, 1967.

Monday, June 6, 2022

WWE Hell In A Cell 2022

By Steve Ward

WWE Hell In A Cell emanated from the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois and would have a lot to live up to after AEW put forth an incredible show in Las Vegas last weekend with Double Or Nothing. This evening’s card featured only two title bouts and was headlined by Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins waging war inside the visceral Hell In A Cell, however, it was notable that many major names were not present on the card including, Roman Reigns, Drew McIntyre, Charlotte Flair, Ronda Rousey, and The Usos - to name a few.

RAW Women’s Championship Triple Threat Match

Asuka vs. Becky Lynch vs. Bianca Belair (c)

Winner: Bianca Belair via pinfall

Bianca Belair found herself in the crosshairs of not only the woman whose title she took at Wrestlemania, Becky Lynch, but also the returning Asuka. Belair was originally set to square of with the Empress of Tomorrow one on one until Lynch pinned Asuka recently on Monday Night RAW to insert herself into the bout. In a surprisingly fast-paced and entertaining opening contest, the closing moments saw Lynch execute the Manhandle Slam seemingly leaving her poised to win the title. Belair then reemerged from the arena floor and dragged Lynch from the ring stealing the pinfall on the stunned Asuka to retain her title.

2-on-1 Handicap Match

Bobby Lashley vs. Omos & MVP

Winner: Bobby Lashley via submission

Tonight offered a continuation in the ongoing rivalry between Lashley and Omos that began at Wrestlemania and was further ignited as MVP betrayed Lashley upon his return from injury.  In the closing moments of the contest, Cedric Alexander provided just enough of a distraction to allow Lashley to spear Omos leaving MVP alone with The Almighty who cinched in the Hurt Lock to earn the submission victory.

Ezekiel vs. Kevin Owens

Winner: Kevin Owens via pinfall

Since the night following Wrestlemania, the wrestler once know as Elias,  has been monopolizing his time with convincing Kevin Owens that he is Elias’ younger brother Ezekiel - even though it’s clearly the same wrestler with no beard, no guitar, a haircut, and different ring attire. Ezekiel showed some flashes of offense early but a cannonball delivered to a vulnerable Ezekiel followed by the Stunner was too much for him to overcome as Owens easily pinned him for the three count.

A.J. Styles, Finn Balor, & Liv Morgan vs. The Judgement Day (Edge, Damian Priest, & Rhea Ripley)

Winners: The Judgement Day via pinfall

This bout held several underlying plot lines heading into this evening. Edge and Styles have had their ongoing rivalry since prior to Wrestlemania, Morgan and Ripley were former tag team partners, and Styles and Balor are both Bullet Club alumni from their time in New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring of Honor which brings us to the tag team affair tonight. In the final moments of the bout, Edge appeared to be in dire straits as Balor ascended to the top rope to attempt the Coup de Grace. Ripley then stood in his way thwarting the attempt and as Balor came back down to the canvas, he was greeted with a devastating spear from Edge to seal the victory for The Judgement Day.

No Hold Barred Match

Happy Corbin vs. Madcap Moss

Winner: Madcap Moss via pinfall

The rivalry between Moss and Corbin, one time friends turned bitter enemies, that was sparked out of jealousy following Moss’ win in the Andre The Giant Battle Royal and Corbin’s loss on The Showcase of the Immortals, continued this evening in a No Holds Barred match. In what essentially evolved into a watered down hardcore match, Moss finally earned a measure of revenge on Corbin as he wrapped a steel chair around his head and dropped the steel ring stairs on him before covering Happy for the pinfall

United States Championship

Austin Theory (c) vs. Mustafa Ali

Winner: Austin Theory via pinfall

The youngest United States Champion in history stood toe to toe with Chicago’s own Mustafa Ali with his championship gold on the line in a match that came to fruition on Monday night. Mr. McMahon had Adam Pearce establish the bout after Theory gave Ali a “title shot” following his match with Ciampa in the interest of fairness. Late in the match, Ali missed a 450 attempt that allowed Theory to capitalize and retain his title after he put Ali away with the A-Town Down.

Hell In A Cell Match

Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins

Winner: Cody Rhodes via pinfall

Seth Rollins obsession over his loss to Cody Rhodes at Wrestlemania has continued to linger while seemingly plunging him deeper into self-manifested madness. Tonight could be the final chapter in this rivalry as the two stepped into the ominous Hell In A Cell. Prior to the match, it was reported that Cody had sustained a torn pectoral muscle while training earlier in the week and needless to say, it was accurate. After Cody removed his ring jacket, the crowd was left in utter silence as his right pectoral and bicep were grotesquely black and blue. To add to the drama of this encounter, Rollins elected to don black ring attire with yellow polka dots - a jab at Cody’s father, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Give Cody Rhodes a lot of credit as he was clearly limited in his arsenal tonight yet still managed to put forth the best match of the evening with Seth Rollins. In the closing moments, Rhodes executed multiple Cross Rhodes before he put Rollins down with a sledgehammer shot to the head.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Bernadin Annihilates Robles on Top of Kings Promotions Card

By Frank BartoliniRingside

Marshall Kauffman's Kings Promotions staged a four-bout card on Friday night at South Philly's the 2300 Arena. In the feature bout, James Bernadin of Lancaster annihilated Kenny Robles of Staten Island, to obtain a unanimous 8-round decision. Approximately 750 fans came to watch fights that showed how quality, instead of quantity, will always send the consumer home satisfied.

The main event showcased Bernadin, an undefeated fighter with less than ten fights and Robles, a ticket-selling prospect. Robles, 138.8 lbs., started fast and took it to Bernadin in the first two minutes of round one. However, from that point on, the fight was all Bernadin. A dedicated body puncher, Bernadin, 138.9 lbs., continuously landed blows to the pit of Robles' stomach while mixing in strikes to the sides of his foe's torso.

During the contest, Bernadin was warned for low blows, but this did not deter his commitment to attacking Robles' midsection. Able, to stay in the pocket and deflect punches, a confident Bernadin gained momentum by initiating his offense from that position.

Although Robles was taking a shellacking, he never stopped trying to change the tide of the fight. In the last three sessions, Bernadin began stalking Robles, landing heavy wallops with both hands to the head. Finishing strong, Bernadin stunned and rocked Robles, scoring bombs off his cranium. Floundering all around the ring, Robles did all he could to finish the match on his feet - which he did.

All three judges had Bernadin ahead by a large margin, 79-73 by two judges and 78-74 by the third. Bernadin improved his record to 7-0-1, 4 KOs. At 32 years old, Robles, 9-2, 3 KOs, must decide his next course of action.

After witnessing Bernadin fight several times on the club circuit in Eastern Pennsylvania, this scribe sees a boxer who gets wild at times, but with some fine tuning, can advance in the junior welterweight ranks. Unbeknownst to most of the boxing community, Bernadin is one of the hottest professional prospects in PA.

DiBella Sports and Entertainment-promoted lightweight southpaw, Victor Padilla, Williamstown, NJ, improved to 10-0, 9 KOs by stopping tough journeyman, Jesus Perez of Culiacan, Mexico, at 1:53 of round three. Padilla, 136 lbs., dropped Perez, 136 lbs., in the second and third stanzas. Unable to rise after the second knockdown, referee Eric Dali counted out the defeated battler. Perez' record fell below .500 to 13-14-1, 7 KOs.

Two very skilled welterweights slugged it out in one of the best four-round scraps a fan could ask for. Thanjhae Teasley, Allentown, PA, 144.8 lbs., squeezed out a four-round majority decision over Jetter Burgos, Bronx, NY, 145.8 lbs. Teasley took two of the official scores, 39-37, while the third judge had it 38-38. Burgos, 1-1, lost for the first time. Teasley improved to 3-0, 2 KOs.

Light-hitting Philadelphia native James Martin, 156.5 lbs., nearly pitched a shutout against Lukasz Barabasz, of Mikolow, Poland, to commence the evening. Winning by scores of 39-37 and 40-36 twice, Martin improved to 8-3. He is scheduled to fight again on June 4th in Houston. Barabasz, 157.5 lbs., slid to 1-4, 1 KO. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

WWE Wrestlemania Backlash

By Steve Ward

WWE returned for their first pay-per-view (sorry, “Premium Live Event” as they are labeled on Peacock) since Wrestlemania as Wrestlemania Backlash emanated from the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. This evening’s card boasted only six matches with a mere one title contested and was headlined by a six-man tag team match which pit The Bloodline against the collective of Drew McIntyre and RK-Bro.

Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins

Winner: Cody Rhodes via pinfall

This evening’s card opened with a grudge match following their encounter at Wrestlemania last month. Since Cody was introduced at the last minute as Seth Rollins’ mystery opponent, Rollins has cried foul ever since claiming his loss was a fluke because he had no time to prepare. Despite my thoughts of Cody departing from AEW, the company he helped to build to return to the company where he was once bestowed with the gimmick of Stardust, Cody still put forth a solid effort against Seth Rollins in this match. In a classic back and forth battle, both competitors unleashed several of their signature moves - Rollins the frog splash and Falcon Arrow, Rhodes the Cody Cutter and Cross Rhodes, however, this match would be decided as Cody reversed a rollup pin attempt by Rollins and grabbed Rollins tights to secure the pinfall.

Bobby Lashley vs. Omos w/ MVP

Winner: Omos via pinfall

After Lashley was victorious over Omos at Wrestlemania, MVP would return the following night on RAW only to turn his back on Lashley and align himself with the aforementioned Nigerian Giant. Under MVP’s guidance, Omos segued his way into a rematch this evening at Backlash. Bobby Lashley dominated Omos for the duration of the match showcasing his unearthly power as he manhandled seven foot three inch giant. Unfortunately for Lashley, MVP would prove to be the x-factor late in the contest. As the referee was distracted, MVP struck Lashley in the head with his cane which allowed Omos to capitalize with a two-handed choke slam for the victory.

AJ Styles vs. Edge

Winner: Edge via submission

In another rematch from Wrestlemania where Edge was able to pull out a victory after the shocking appearance of his new cohort, Damian Priest, he found himself toe to toe with The Phenomenal AJ Styles again tonight. The difference this time would be Priest being banned from ringside following his loss to Styles this past Monday on RAW. Late in the contest, Styles appeared to have Edge in dire straits after he executed the Styles Clash and dealt further damage with the calf crusher submission. Damian Priest would make his way down the aisle stopping just short of ringside as Styles stood on the top turnbuckle. As Priest and Styles jawed back and forth, Finn Balor would attack Priest from behind to neutralize the threat. With the referee distracted, a hooded figure would emerge to shove Styles off the top turnbuckle which opened the door for Edge to cinch in a crossface submission for the victory. Following the match, the unknown assailant would enter the ring and reveal herself as Rhea Ripley.

Smackdown Women’s Championship “I Quit” Match

Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ronda Rousey

Winner: Ronda Rousey

In another return match from Wrestlemania, Charlotte Flair once again put her Smackdown Women’s Championship on the line against “The Baddest Woman on the Planet.” This time around things would be more interesting as Rousey pushed for an “I Quit” Match where one must make their opponent actually mutter the words “I Quit” in order to claim victory. These women beat each other with kendo sticks and steel chairs and attempted to make each other utter the words “I Quit” several times throughout the contest. In the closing moments, Flair introduced a chair once again which would prove to be her downfall. Rousey would turn the tide on Flair and drag her arm through the chair as she cinched in an armbar and finally made Flair exclaim “I quit” crowning herself as the new champion.

Madcap Moss vs. Happy Corbin

Winner: Madcap Moss via pinfall

Following Moss’ win in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal the night before Wrestlemania and Corbin’s loss at Wrestlemania, the duo of Moss and Corbin finally had a falling out on RAW several weeks ago which brings us to their encounter tonight. Late in the match, Corbin executed the Deep Six but was unable to put away Moss. This would prove to be costly as moments later, Moss would propel himself over Corbin with a Sunset Flip as he stunned Happy with a pinfall.

Roman Reigns w/ Paul Heyman & The Usos vs. Drew McIntyre and RK-Bro (Randy Orton & Riddle)

Winners: Roman Reigns & The Usos via pinfall

The Usos were originally set to square off with RK-Bro tonight in a title unification bout until Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre inserted themselves into the equation and expanded this match into a six-man tag team affair. The main event locked in at a feverish pace for the duration of the bout. In the closing moments, Riddle thought he had victory at his fingertips after he executed a top rope RKO on Jey Uso, however, Reigns had initiated a blind tag before Uso was propelled across the ring. As Riddle returned to his feet, The Tribal Chief met him with a rib-breaking spear which allowed him to easily secure the pinfall for The Bloodline.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

WWE Wrestlemania 38 Night Two

By Steve Ward

WWE returned this evening to AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX with night number two of Wrestlemania. Last night’s edition was entertaining for the second half of the show and was excessively littered with ads hyping tonight (so many that the tag team match featuring Sheamus and Ridge Holland taking on The New Day was cut). I will admit that last night’s show would not have been nearly as entertaining if not for Stone Cold Steve Austin’s first match in 19 years to close out the evening. Even the “surprise” return of Cody Rhodes seemed to fall flat initially as the WWE Universe was either disinterested, in shock, or felt the same way they did about him in the final months of his AEW run. This evening’s show was promoted with the ability to surpass last night. The card featured eight matches (originally, however, it ended up as nine) with three titles contested and of course the main event would feature WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, versus Universal Champion, Roman Reigns - winner takes all.

The show kicked off in electric fashion as Triple H made his way to the ring to a deafening ovation. Triple H simply welcomed everyone to Wrestlemania and left his wrestling boots in the ring as a final gesture of his previously announced retirement from in-ring competition.

RAW Tag Team Championship

RK-Bro (Randy Orton & Riddle) (c) vs. The Street Profits vs. The Alpha Academy (Chad Gable & Otis)

Winners: RK-Bro via pinfall

The unlikely duo of Orton and Riddle kicked off Wrestlemania Sunday with a defense of their RAW Tag Team Championship against stiff competition in the form of The Alpha Academy and The Street Profits. The conclusion of the bout saw Riddle deliver an RKO to Montez Ford off the top rope and moments later Orton hit the RKO Out Of Nowhere on Gable as he attempted a dive off the top turnbuckle in The Viper’s direction. Orton then easily covered Gable to retain the titles for RK-Bro.

Bobby Lashley vs. Omos

Winner: Bobby Lashley via pinfall

Following months of domination over every man in his path, Omos’ challenge was answered this past Monday night by Bobby Lashley who made his return from injury for the first time since Elimination Chamber. As the their verbal exchange erupted into an all out brawl Monday, Lashley also became the first individual to take the seven footer off his feet. After being thrown around like a rag doll for much of the bout tonight by the 7-foot, 400 lb Omos, Lashley rallied late and executed a suplex on his much larger opponent and finished him off with a devastating spear for the win.

Johnny Knoxville vs. Sami Zayn

Winner: Johnny Knoxville via pinall

After months of one upsmanship games with each other, including Zayn crashing the premier of Jackass Forever and Knoxville costing Zayn the Intercontinental Championship, their rivalry culminated with a meeting tonight in Dallas. The encounter quickly evolved into a hardcore match involving much of the Jackass crew coming to the aid of Knoxville. The closing moments saw Zayn laid out on a giant mouse trap which Knoxville triggered to close on Sami allowing him to secure the pinfall.

Women’s Tag Team Championship

Naomi & Sasha Banks vs. Liv Morgan & Rhea Ripley vs. Shayna Baszler & Natalya vs. Queen Zelina & Carmella (c)

Winners: Naomi & Sasha Banks via pinfall

In the WWE’s way of packing the majority of the women’s division who did not compete yesterday into one segment, a fatal four way for the Women’s Tag Team Championship was booked for the reigning champs, Queen Zelina and Carmella, to attemp to retain their titles. The conclusion of this match arrived as Carmella fell victim to a tandem version of X-Pac’s finisher, the X-Factor, at the hands of Banks and Naomi which allowed Sasha to cover for the victory.

Edge vs. A.J. Styles

Winner: Edge via pinfall

Edge made his way to the ring on RAW several weeks ago soliciting for an opponent at Wrestlemania with his challenge being answered by “The Phenomenal” A.J. Styles. Edge proceeded to go into full-on heel mode as he kicked Styles between the uprights and delivered a one-man con-chair-to sparking a bitter rivalry heading into this weekend. Edge withstood all of Styles’ offense just long enough for his window of opportunity to open in the form of Damian Priest. In the closing moments, Priest emerged at ringside and distracted A.J.’s delivery of the Phenomenal Forearm long enough for Edge to return to his feet and deliver a body breaking spear to Styles in mid flight which allowed him to secure the pinfall.

Sheamus & Ridge Holland w/ Butch vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods)

Winners: Sheamus & Ridge Holland via pinfall

This match was supposed to take place last night, however, WWE aired too many promos for tonight’s show and ran out of time. This match didn’t last long as Butch created enough of a distraction at ringside to allow Holland to hit the Northern Grit on Xavier Woods sealing the victory for his team.

Pat McAfee vs. Austin Theory

Winner: Pat McAfee via pinfall

During his recent appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, Mr. McMahon granted the former NFL punter and current Smackdown commentator a match at the Showcase of the Immortals against his protégé, Austin Theory. McAfee who trained as a professional wrestler following his NFL retirement showed proficient wrestling acumen during the match and in the end found his way off of Theory’s shoulders for a rollup pinfall. 

Mr. McMahon vs. Pat McAfee

Winner: Mr. McMahon

After Theory’s loss, Mr. McMahon took exception to McAfee’s celebration, removed his tie and dress shirt, entered the ring, and challenged McAfee to an impromptu match. The capacity crowd went insane as a jacked and tanned 76 year old Mr. McMahon began strutting around the ring and threw a few clotheslines at McAfee. With a few distractions and cheap shots from Austin Theory at ringside, Mr. McMahon finally took a football and punted it into McAfee’s ribs before he covered him for a pinfall victory.

As McMahon and Theory celebrated, the sound of glass shattering echoed throughout AT&T Field as Stone Cold Steve Austin made his way to the ring! First, Austin delivered a Stunner to Theory. Next, Austin lulled Mr. McMahon into a beer celebration that ended in a Stunner for Mr. McMahon. Finally, Pat McAfee was invited into the ring for another beer celebration and received a Stunner himself.

Champion vs. Champion - Winner Takes All

Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns w/ Paul Heyman

Winner: Roman Reigns via pinfall

The main event of Wrestlemania’s stakes could not be any higher as Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, and WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, put their respective titles on the line in a winner takes all affair. This hard hitting encounter was shockingly stopped dead in it’s tracks as Brock Lesnar seemed to be in total control. Lesnar cinched in the kimura, however, Paul Heyman pushed the bottom rope within The Tribal Chief’s grasp to break the hold. Lesnar then hoisted Roman up for the F5, however, Reigns was able to escape and propel Brock towards the ropes setting him up for a spear and subsequent pinfall to become undisputed champion.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Wrestlemania 38 Night One

By Steve Ward

WWE kicked off the “Showcase of the Immortals” with night one of a two night extravaganza from AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. Some may say two is better than one or that they had grown weary of how long Wrestlemania had become each year prior to COVID, however, the event which for over 30 years has equated itself to the Super Bowl of professional wrestling now feels as if it’s lost some of it’s luster. No longer is it the one day of the year that die-hard and casual fans alike would mark on their calendars but instead an opportunity for WWE to capitalize on two days of massive ticket gates and merchandise sales with an overproduced product. Nonetheless, that’s what we have and can only hope that two days worth of shows can produce one equivalent in entertainment value to AEW Revolution last month. Night one’s card featured seven matches with three titles contested and the main event segment would highlight the return of the legendary Stone Cold Steve Austin as the guest of Kevin Owens on the KO Show.

Smackdown Tag Team Championship

Shinsuke Nakamura & Rick Boogs vs. The Usos (c)

Winners: The Usos via pinfall

The night opened as The Usos put their 257-day title reign on the line against the duo of Nakamura and Boogs (who has replaced Elias as WWE’s resident guitar player - although I still wonder if he’s actually playing at times). As Nakamura and Boogs seemed to have all the momentum midway through the match, Boogs knee gave out as he attempted to carry both Usos on his shoulders effectively removing him from the match. The numbers game was too much for Nakamura as he finally succumbed to the 1D (The Usos version of the Dudley Death Drop) allowing Jimmy and Jey to retain their titles.

Drew McIntyre vs. Happy Corbin w/ Madcap Moss

Winner: Drew McIntyre via pinfall

In a rivalry that has seemingly been carried out for way too long, not only because of a lack of creative ideas but also to ensure both men had a spot on the Wrestlemania card, McIntyre and Corbin’s months long rivalry hopefully reach it’s conclusion tonight. In what should be the final chapter of this long running program between the two, McIntyre withstood Corbin’s End of Days in order to execute the Claymore Kick moments later to seal the victory.

Rey & Dominic Mysterio vs. The Miz & Logan Paul

Winners: The Miz & Logan Paul via pinfall

This bout came to fruition after The Miz ridiculed Dominic Mysterio for having a contract only because of his father (which is not completely false) and later introduced YouTuber and “boxer” Logan Paul as his tag team partner. It appeared that The Mysterios were poised for victory as The Miz was seemingly out of the picture. Logan Paul fell victim to a dual 619 and then back to back frog splashes. As Rey went for the pinfall attempt, Miz reemerged and dropped Dominic on top of Rey. Miz then executed the Skull Crushing Finale and pinned the elder Mysterio for the win. As The Miz and Logan Paul celebrated, Miz back-stabbed Paul and delivered another Skull Crushing Finale to his tag team partner to ensure he was the only one in the spotlight as the dust settled.

RAW Women’s Championship

Becky Lynch (c) vs. Bianca Belair

Winner: Bianca Belair via pinfall

Following the shocking return back at Summerslam by Becky Lynch where she took Belair’s title in 26 seconds, Belair finally finally found her way into a rematch with “Big Time” Becky Lynch on the grandest stage of them all. This match would have been significantly more entertaining if it was about five minutes shorter as it just seemed to drag on and on between a few highlights such as Lynch delivering a senton-like heel kick from the top rope and Belair executing a 450 splash from the middle rope. The conclusion arrived after Belair executed the KOD for the win as a new champion was crowned.

Seth Rollins vs. An Opponent of Mr. McMahon’s Choosing (Cody Rhodes)

Winner: Cody Rhodes via pinfall

After Seth Rollins missed out on every opportunity for securing a match at Wrestlemania, Mr. McMahon told him this past Monday night on RAW that he would indeed have a match - against an opponent of his choosing. This caused speculation to run wild…would it be Cody Rhodes? Shane McMahon? Or my guess Corey Graves? Seth would not know until he made his way to the ring. After a few minutes of suspense, Cody Rhodes was revealed as Rollins’ mystery opponent. Interestingly enough, Cody made his way to the ring with his identical AEW entrance theme song and a near identical entrance through the floor of the entrance stage. This was enough to make me wonder for a split second if Vince McMahon had opened the “forbidden door” again after he allowed Impact Knockouts Champion Mickie James to compete in this year’s Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Seth Rollins seemed in prime position to spoil the return of Cody, however, he  was stopped dead in his tracks before attempting the curb stomp. Rhodes then countered with consecutive Cross Rhodes, The Bionic Elbow, and one final Cross Rhodes as he put away Seth Rollins in his return following a six year absence from the company.

Smackdown Women’s Championship

Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ronda Rousey

Winner: Charlotte Flair via pinfall

Ronda Rousey not only made her shocking return to the WWE at the Royal Rumble but also won the match. Following her victory, she decided to challenge The Queen for her coveted title at Wrestlemania. Late in the match Ronda Rousey first executed the Piper’s Pit, however, Charlotte got her foot on the rope to break the pinfall attempt. Next, Rousey cinched in the armbar causing Charlotte to tap, however, referee Charles Robinson had been knocked out moments earlier. As Rousey attempted to stir him, Flair rolled up Ronda for the pinfall to retain her title.

Night one concluded with Kevin Owens hosting the KO Show with special guest, Stone Cold Steve Austin! After Austin made his way to the ring to the loudest pop of the entire show, Kevin Owens told Austin he didn’t bring him out to talk but rather to challenge him to a no holds barred match. Austin called for a referee and the fight was on!

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kevin Owens

Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin via pinfall

Steve Austin looked like he never left a WWE ring as he beat Kevin Owens all over the stadium. In the closing moments, Owens was unable to capitalize on a Stunner he delivered to Austin as the Texas Rattlesnake rallied to deliver the real Stunner and pinned KO for the victory. This match was by and large the absolute highlight of the evening and arguably the most entertaining thing I’ve seen on WWE programming in years. If this was the last hurrah, it was fitting for one of, if not the, greatest of all time. Not only did Austin score the victory in his home state, but also had an epic beer celebration in the ring that featured a Stunner delivered to Byron Saxton and a beer shared with his brother.