Tuesday, March 30, 2021

'Australian' Jim Kelly: New Jersey's adopted bareknuckle boxer son

Our very own Matt Ward has teamed up with our friends at MaxBoxing.com to bring you another great boxing history article from the Jersey Shore! 

No photo description available.
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Monday, March 22, 2021

WWE Fastlane 2021

By Steve Ward

This evening marked the final pay per view on the Road to Wrestlemania, as well as, the first pay per view on the Peacock Network and the final one on the WWE Network in the U.S. The event emanated from the Thunderdome at Tropicana Field and should mark the final pay per view in the Quarantine Era as each day of Wrestlemania is expected to host a significant number of fans. This evening’s card featured seven matches with titles defended including Roman Reigns squaring off with Daniel Bryan for the Universal Championship.

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Bianca Belair & Sasha Banks vs. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax (c)
Winners: Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax via pinfall

The opening contest of the evening presented an interesting dynamic as Wrestlemania opponents became partners for one evening as Belair and WWE Smackdown Women’s Champion, Sasha Banks, teamed up to challenge for the Women’s Tag Team Titles. As expected, this match closed with a meltdown between Banks and Belair. After Belair allowed herself to be shoved into Banks as she had the Bank Statement cinched in on Baszler, Sasha blamed Belair for preventing the submission. While the two were distracted, Baszler rolled up Banks for the pinfall.

WWE Intercontinental Championship
Big E (c) vs. Apollo Crews
Winner: Big E via pinfall

Big E’s power was on full display for much of the early part of this match as he dismantled Crews while delivering a pair of brutal splashes out on the ring apron. Crews was able to build some late momentum but could not capitalize as a series of inside cradle reversals finally settled in favor of Big E. Following the match, Crews proceeded to assault Big E until he was beaten senseless so it would appear this rivalry has not concluded quite yet.

Elias w/ Jaxson Ryker vs. Braun Strowman
Winner: Braun Strowman via pinfall

This bout was originally supposed to feature Shane McMahon going toe to toe with Strowman, however, he suffered a training injury to his knee early in the day. Following a conversation backstage between Elias and Shane regarding his Wrestlemania involvement, Elias found himself as the substitute for this match. Strowman essentially mauled Elias like a bear attacking it’s prey until he mercifully finished him off with the running power slam.

Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Winner: Seth Rollins via pinfall

As Rollins continues to find his footing following paternity leave, he has lately been on a mission demanding respect. This match came to fruition on Friday Night Smackdown after Nakamura delivered a kick to Rollins’ face creating a contest between two top tier stars who WWE creative have no clue what to do with. Nakamura appeared in prime position to overcome Rollins late in the match, however, a failed Kinshasa attempt was the only opening Seth needed. Rollins unleashed an offensive onslaught that included a well executed Falcon Arrow before he finished off Nakamura with the Curb Stomp.

No Holds Barred Match
Sheamus vs. Drew McIntyre
Winner: Drew McIntyre via pinfall

After Sheamus turned his back on his longtime friend several weeks ago, the two have become embroiled in a bitter feud that would culminate this evening in a No Holds Barred Match. Sheamus appeared to be in dire straits early in the match as he was thrown through a bay of the dystopian fan screens which ignited in sparks, however, he did turn the tables to give McIntyre all he could handle - most notably a White Noise through the announce table. In what ended up being a surprisingly brutal match, McIntyre finally persevered in the end as he put the Celtic Warrior down with a Claymore Kick.

Randy Orton vs. Alexa Bliss
Winner: Alexa Bliss

After Orton “burned” The Fiend alive three months ago, he has found himself repeatedly confronted by Wyatt’s sidekick Alexa Bliss in encounters that are just flat out weird. This brings us to tonight where the two were scheduled to square off. The first few moments of the “match” saw Orton stalking Bliss around the ring dodging things such as falling scaffolding and fire. Once they returned to the ring, a hand punched through the ring and grabbed Orton by the ankle. After flames shot up through the ring, The Fiend emerged sporting attire that appeared to have been singed in the spirit of Jason Voorhees after he was sent to hell. The Fiend proceeded to deliver the Sister Abigail to Orton which allowed Alexa Bliss to pin The Legend Killer.

WWE Universal Championship
Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Daniel Bryan
Winner: Roman Reigns via pinfall

After Daniel Bryan overcame the odds by surviving a grueling match against five other men at Elimination Chamber last month, he was immediately thrown into his title opportunity with Roman Reigns that of course became an impossible task. Bryan then found his way into a rematch which Edge took exception to and subsequently lead to his position as the special ringside enforcer for this contest. Late in the bout, Bryan continued to bring his A submission game as he repeatedly tied up Roman Reigns. Bryan then attempted the running knee but Reigns ducked out of the way leaving the referee to take the full blow. Edge then stepped in for the referee and failed to count the pinfall on Reigns first attempt to cover Bryan. Next, Jey Uso made his way to the ring and delivered a super kick to the face of Edge and then Bryan.

Uso then introduced a chair into the ring which ended up backfiring on him as he was quickly disposed of. Daniel Bryan proceeded to grab the chair and attempted to take out Reigns who again ducked and left Edge to take the shot this time. Bryan then took out Reigns and trapped him in another Yes Lock. As Edge recovered, he cracked Bryan in the back with the steel chair while Reigns was tapping out. Edge continued to lay waste to both men before storming out of the Thunderdome. Another referee made his way to the ring just in time for Reigns to roll over and cover Bryan to retain his title. 

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Boxer Who Defeated Ali to Sign Autographs this Saturday

Larry Holmes will be on hand this Saturday, March 13th from 1 PM to 4 PM to sign autographs at Carl's Cards and Collectibles in Havertown.

HAVERTOWN, PA — This Saturday, March 13th from 1 PM to 4 PM, former World Heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes will make his autograph signing debut at Carl's Cards and Collectibles in Havertown. Autographs are $49 for flats up to 16x20 and $69 for premium items (i.e. gloves, trunks, and larger flats). Inscriptions cost an additional $15 for short inscriptions and $25 for longer inscriptions.

“As a local living legend from the Lehigh Valley and an International Boxing Hall of Famer, we thought Larry would be the perfect autograph guest. Larry not only had one of the best left jabs in boxing history, but was also one of only five men to defeat Muhammad Ali,” said Lauren Henderson the PR and Marketing Director of Carl’s Cards and Collectibles.

Holmes' professional boxing career spanned four decades, compiling an impressive record of 69 wins (44 by way of knockout) and six losses between 1973 and 2002. His legendary career included victories over a "who's who" list of boxing superstars in the heavyweight division. Holmes’ 1980 victory over Ali was the only time the boxing legend was stopped in a professional fight. This fight ended when Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee, having seen enough of the one-sided affair, stopped the fight after the tenth round.

Considered by boxing analysts and insiders as one of the all-time greatest heavyweight boxers, "The Easton Assassin" was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York in 2008.

When asked what Larry Holmes means to her as a sports fan, Lauren Henderson told Patch, “Larry has so many amazing boxing accomplishments, from winning his first 48 bouts to being inducted into both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and World Boxing Hall of Fame; but when I think of Larry Holmes I think of all of the great things he’s done for his community in the Lehigh Valley and specifically Easton.”

Following his long boxing career, Holmes invested his winnings from the ring in the Lehigh Valley by starting businesses in the region that employed hundreds of people. He is so beloved in his hometown that a statue was erected in 2015 to honor him.

Henderson told Patch, “He’s more than just an athlete. When I think of Larry, I think of a great community representative of our area.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, selfies and photos with Larry Holmes will not be allowed. All customers are required to wear masks inside of the store.

Carl's Cards and Collectibles is located at 22 W. Eagle Road in Havertown, Pennsylvania. For more information on this weekend's autograph signing, please visit the Carl's Cards and Collectibles website, or call the store at (610) 789-4996.

This story also appeared on Patch.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

AEW Revolution 2021

By Steve Ward

All Elite Wrestling returned to pay per view this evening with a star studded show from a sold out (or as sold out as they were permitted) Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida. I can safely say that I haven’t watched a pay per view from this company that I haven’t enjoyed and this one was poised to continue this trend. Some of the most anticipated matches headed into this event included the icon Sting’s return to the ring, as well as, one of the most notoriously violent matches in the history of pro wrestling - an exploding barbed wire deathmatch - for the AEW World Title.

The Buy-In Pre-Show

Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. w/ Rebel & Maki Itoh vs. Thunder Rosa & Riho
Winners: Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D & Maki Itoh via pinfall

The Buy-In certainly amped up the crowd by featuring some of the most talented women in AEW. This highly entertaining bout came to an abrupt end as Rebel cracked Thunder Rosa over the head with a crutch while referee Paul Turner was distracted allowing Dr. Baker to roll her up for the pinfall.

Main Card

AEW Tag Team Championship
Chris Jericho & MJF w/ Wardlow vs. The Young Bucks (c)
Winners: The Young Bucks via pinfall

The main portion of the card wasted no time getting off the ground as “Le Champion” Chris Jericho teamed with his Inner Circle cohort Maxwell Jacob Friedman to challenge The Young Bucks for the tag team titles. The ageless wonder Chris Jericho, a 30-year ring veteran, put forth a phenomenal effort, however, it wasn’t quite enough as Le Champion succumbed to the Meltzer Driver at the hands of the Young Bucks to secure the pinfall for the defending champs.

Casino Tag Team Battle Royale
Winners: Death Triangle - PAC and Rey Fenix

AEW put a unique spin on their traditional Casino Battle Royale by introducing a tag team incarnation. The rules stated a new team would enter every 90 seconds and a team would only be eliminated when both members were eliminated by being thrown over the top rope. If that weren’t enough, the winners would earn a shot at the AEW tag team titles. The competitors (in their order of entry) included The Natural Nightmares, Dark Order members 5 and 10, Santana and Ortiz, Matt and Mike Sydal, Dark Order’s Evil Uno and Stu Grayson, The Gunn Club, “Pretty” Peter Avalon and Cezar Bononi, The Varsity Blondes (Brian Pillman Jr. and Griff Garrison), Bear Country, Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus), Butcher and the Blade, Private Party, SCU (“The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian), Death Triangle’s PAC and Rey Fenix, and Dark Order’s John Silver and Alex Reynolds. The final four in the ring were John Silver, “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry, PAC, and Rey Fenix - leaving the Death Triangle members as the only intact team remaining. Jon Silver was the first eliminated by Fenix who walked the ropes and delivered a kick to his jaw as he hung on for dear life from the ring apron. PAC was the next to go as Jungle Boy ducked and pulled down the top rope down allowing the charging PAC’s momentum to propel him from the ring. Finally, in a blazing fury of action, Jungle Boy’s momentum was halted by a stiff kick in the face that allowed Fenix to clothesline him over the top rope to earn the victory.

AEW Women’s Championship
Hikaru Shida (c) vs. Ryo Mizunami
Winner: Hikaru Shida via pinfall

This match came to fruition after Ryo Mizunami shocked the pro wrestling world by surviving the Women’s Title Eliminator tournament and overcoming Nyla Rose in the finals this past week on Dynamite. Ryo gave Shida all she could handle and withstood multiple Falcon Arrows before she finally fell victim to a brutal kick to the head that allowed the champ to retain her title. Following the bout, a brief melee ensued as Nyla Rose, Dr. Britt Baker, and Rebel jumped Shida and Mizunami until Thunder Rosa came to the rescue and cleared the ring.

Miro and Kip Sabian w/ Penelope Ford vs. Chuck Taylor and Orange Cassidy
Winners: Kip Sabian and Miro via submission

Before this match could even begin, Cassidy and Taylor were ambushed by their opponents backstage. After Miro used Taylor’s head and forearm to break a glass window, he dragged him to the ring where the contest began as a handicap match until Cassidy stumbled out to the ring several minutes later to even the odds. The closing moments saw Miro assert himself as an unstoppable force as he finally finished Taylor off with The Game Over for the submission victory.

Big Money Match
Matt Hardy vs. “Hangman” Adam Page
Winner: “Hangman” Adam Page

Following Hardy’s failed attempt to persuade a drunk Page to sign a contract with him that would financially benefit Matt, an interesting stipulation arose for this match as the winner would collect all of his opponent’s income from the first quarter of 2021. In the closing moments of this bout, Hardy’s associates, Private Party, made their way to ringside to serve as a distraction. It appeared their efforts would prove to be the deciding factor as Hardy executed the Side Effect and Twist of Fate, however, it wasn’t enough. The reinforcements for Adam Page then made their way to the ring in the form of The Dark Order. Adam Page shortly thereafter hit the Buckshot Lariat to put Hardy away.

Face Of The Revolution Ladder Match
“Platinum” Max Caster vs. Lance Archer w/ Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Scorpio Sky vs. Penta El Zero Miedo vs. Cody Rhodes w/ Arn Anderson vs. “All Ego” Ethan Page
Winner: Scorpio Sky

This contest had five of the six competitors designated prior to this evening with the final surprise entrant revealed as former two-time Impact Tag Team Champion, as one half of The North, Ethan Page. The winner of this match would be crowned after ascending to the top of the ladder and retrieving the literal brass ring suspended above the ring earning him a shot at Darby Allin for the TNT Championship. The closing moments saw Cody and Sky face-to-face at the top of the ladder trading blows. Cody and his battered left shoulder could only hang on for so long as he was dropped to the canvas allowing Scorpio Sky to retrieve the brass ring setting up a title opportunity this Wednesday.

The next segment revealed the “hall of fame worthy” wrestler who would be signing a long term deal with AEW, as alluded to by Paul Wight this past Wednesday. After a countdown on the screen, he was revealed as none other than Christian Cage! Cage made his way to the ring with a contract in hand where he signed it, left it in the center of the ring, and departed.

Street Fight
Sting and Darby Allin vs. Brian Cage and Ricky Starks
Winners: Sting and Darby Allin via pinfall

Darby Allin had found himself with a target on his back for the past several months following his rejection of the invitation to join Team Taz until he found some backup in the form of the icon Sting. Their rivalry finally came to a head this evening in the form of a street fight at an undisclosed location. The fact this was a “cinematic match” made perfect sense being positioned just before the main event as it allowed the ring crew to set the stage for the Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match. As far as cinematic matches go, this ended up being one of the better efforts I’ve seen. Sting and Allin overcame the numbers game when Powerhouse Hobbs and Hook came to the aid of Cage and Starks as the great equalizers proved to be the signature baseball bat and then a shovel in the hands of Sting. The match reached it’s conclusion as Sting executed the Scorpion Death Drop on Ricky Starks to earn the pinfall.

AEW World Heavyweight Championship Expolding Barbed Wire Death Match
Kenny Omega (c) w/ Don Callis vs. Jon Moxley
Winner: Kenny Omega via pinfall

The main event of the evening saw Jon Moxley attempt to regain his title from Kenny Omega in an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match. In this match the ring ropes were covered with barbed wire rigged with explosives that would be triggered on contact on three sides of the ring and if that weren’t enough, the ring would “explode” if the match reached 30 minutes. Additionally, the referee for the bout was dressed in a flame retardant hazmat suit with a face shield to add to the narrative for the gravity of the situation. This was a bloody, visceral affair that sadly saw its conclusion come with the interference of The Good Brothers who allowed Kenny Omega to gain the upper hand. Omega used this advantage and proceeded to execute a One Winged Angel that broke Moxley’s body over a chair allowing him to secure the pinfall retention of his title. Following the match, Omega, Gallows, and Anderson left Moxley handcuffed in the ring as the timer was displayed in the arena counting down to the detonation of all the remaining explosives. 

As Omega and The Good Brothers exited with Don Callis, Eddie Kingston made his way to the ring to rescue Moxley. In what ended up being a truly comedic moment, that drew an onslaught of boos from the crowd, Kingston covered Moxley (as if to protect him from the imminent explosion) only for sparklers to fire from the ring posts and firecrackers to go off on the ropes - but give credit AEW for putting forth their best effort to sell it as Kingston remained on top of Moxley seemingly rendered unconscious from the “devastating” explosion, the commentary team responded with shock and terror, and the medical team swarmed the ring. Despite this development, it was a solid and entertaining main event to conclude the show minus this blunder.

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Monday, February 22, 2021

WWE Elimination Chamber 2021

By Steve Ward

Despite the remainder of Florida essentially being completely open, WWE continues to utilize their virtual Thunderdome at Tropicana Field in what I’ve again rebranded the WWE Dystopian Era. Perhaps a blessing in disguise will be that the WWE will need to locate a new home following MLB Spring Training as the Rays will be taking over the facility - perhaps they have secured an outdoor venue where they will allow limited attendance since they are already believed to be allowing fans to attend Wrestlemania. On another significant note, this evening would also mark the final WWE pay per view on the WWE Network for those residing in North America as all of the WWE library and future pay per views will be exclusively streamed on Peacock beginning in March following a multi-billion dollar deal that was agreed upon recently. Nonetheless, we continue on the Road to Wrestlemania with the first to last pay per view stop in the form of Elimination Chamber. This event should solidify the world title picture for The Showcase of the Immortals, Wrestlemania, as both world championships were on the line among the five scheduled bouts on the card - including two elimination chamber contests.

Smackdown Elimination Chamber Match
Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. King Corbin vs. Jey Uso vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Cesaro
Winner: Daniel Bryan

The opening contest of the main card delivered the first chamber match of the evening and would determine Roman Reigns opponent for his Universal Championship later in the show. The bout commenced with arguably the two most talented combatants, Daniel Bryan and Cesaro. After trading some vicious blows for several minutes, the men were finally joined by King Corbin who was the first to be released from his pod. Corbin managed to gain the upper hand on the two competitors using his size advantage to manhandle Bryan and Cesaro until the fourth Superstar entered the fray in the form of Sami Zayn. The first elimination of the match was delivered by Cesaro as he cinched in the Sharpshooter on King Corbin to secure the submission. Just after Corbin’s departure from the match Kevin Owens entered the fray and introduced Sami Zayn’s skull to the chamber door before delivering his patented cannonball to each of the three men in the chamber.

With Owens in control of the contest, the final competitor, Roman Reigns’ cousin Jey Uso, entered the match. Owens continued to dominate the bout as he delivered a moonsault from the top of one of the pods that left the other four competitors in a pile of visceral carnage. Owens then delivered a slew of Stunners including one to Zayn who he subsequently pinned. As Zayn left the chamber, Uso achieved the upper hand on Owens from behind and immediately capitalized with a Frog Splash for another quick elimination. As Cesaro seemed poised to attain his second submission elimination of the evening as he cinched Bryan in the Sharpshooter, he was unceremoniously greeted with a super kick to the jaw from Jey Uso who immediately scaled the turnbuckles to deliver another Frog Splash to solidify the pinfall. Uso quickly attempted another Frog Splash, this time from the top of one of the pods, to Daniel Bryan, however, he was met with a pair of knees to the stomach. Daniel Bryan promptly delivered the running knee to punch his ticket into the Universal Championship Match with Roman Reigns.

Universal Championship Match
Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman
Winner: Roman Reigns via submission

A bruised and battered Daniel Bryan had no opportunity to recover as the chamber immediately ascended to the rafters and Roman Reigns music echoed through the Thunderdome marking the beginning of the Universal Championship Match. Roman attempted to spear Bryan at the opening bell, however, Bryan sidestepped him and cinched in the Yes Lock. Bryan just didn’t have enough left in the tank to maintain the hold as Reigns broke out and pummeled him unmercifully before he finally choked him out for the submission victory. As Reigns celebrated in the ring, Edge emerged to deliver a spear to the champion and proclaimed that he would be challenging him for his title at Wrestlemania.

United States Championship Triple Threat Match
Bobby Lashley (c) w/ MVP vs. Matt Riddle vs. John Morrison
Winner: Matt Riddle via pinfall

Keith Lee was originally supposed to be a participant in this match, however, he suffered an injury on Monday Night RAW and needed to be replaced. John Morrison fought his way in as he emerged victorious over Ricochet, Mustafa Ali, and Elias in a Fatal Four Way bout on the Kickoff Show. Bobby Lashley absolutely dominated this entire contest and was seemingly poised to earn a submission victory as he had John Morrison trapped in the Hurt Lock until Riddle procured MVP’s crutch and shattered it over Lashley’s back before tossing him from the ring. This opened the door for Riddle to take advantage of Morrison as he executed the Bro Derek allowing him to earn the pinfall crowning a new champion.

Women’s Tag Team Championship
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax (c) vs. Bianca Belair & Sasha Banks
Winners: Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax via pinfall

Following the events of Friday Night Smackdown, Belair found herself teaming up with one of her potential Wrestlemania opponents with the women’s tag team gold on the line. In another “exhilarating” Sasha Banks match, the conclusion came shortly after Reginald made his way to ringside with a bottle of celebratory champagne. Reginald passed the bottle to Sasha with the intention of her using it on Nia Jax. As Sasha lashed out at Reginald for such a suggestion, Jax seized the opportunity to hoist Banks up in the Samoan Drop to retain the tag team titles.

RAW Elimination Chamber WWE Championship Match
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. A.J. Styles w/ Omos vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Sheamus vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton
Winner: Drew McIntyre

Unlike the Smackdown Elimination Chamber match, the stakes were even greater for this one as Drew McIntyre was one of the participants with his WWE Championship on the line. One last minute change occurred for the lineup in this match as The Miz removed himself on Monday night and was subsequently replaced by Kofi Kingston. 

The first two men pitted against each other were ring veterans Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy. Jeff Hardy surprisingly brought the fight to the Viper and controlled much of the opening of the match until the champion, Drew McIntyre, entered the fray and immediately asserted himself. Kingston entered the match next and quickly trapped Orton in a surprise pinfall. Before departing the chamber, Orton delivered a pair of RKOs to Kingston and Hardy. Seeing a window of opportunity, Styles directed the towering Omos to rip the outer wall of his pod off so that he could prematurely enter the match with hopes of stealing a pinfall on one of the incapacitated participants. Unfortunately for Styles, his plan did not go as he intended and WWE officials removed his muscle, Omos, from ringside. The defending champ then proceeded to reestablish his dominance as he laid waste to all of the other participants. With bodies scattered around McIntyre, Sheamus made his way into the match as the final entrant released from his pod. 

Shortly thereafter, Kingston seemed to be in prime position for at least one elimination as he took out the other four competitors with a dive from the top of one of the pods until his head was blasted with a Brogue Kick from Sheamus for the elimination. Jeff Hardy was the next victim of the match as he was met with a Claymore Kick from McIntyre who was able to easily pin him leaving us with three participants. The next elimination arrived after Sheamus leveled McIntyre with a Brogue Kick only to be surprised with a Phenomenal Forearm that lead to his swift exit from the match. Styles then attempted another Phenomenal Forearm on the champion but this time found himself on the receiving end of a Claymore Kick which allowed McIntyre to retain his title.

After the chamber was lifted from the ring, Drew McIntyre was ambushed by Bobby Lashley who cleaned the arena up with him in a vicious assault. With an apparent deal in place between The Miz and The Hurt Business, Miz promptly made his way to ringside with his Money In The Bank briefcase in tow.

WWE Championship Match
Drew McIntyre (c) vs. The Miz
Winner: The Miz via pinfall

As soon as the bell rang, The Miz pounced on the champion and immediately delivered a DDT followed by a failed pinfall attempt. With his hopes of winning the title appearing to be in dire straits, The Miz unrelentingly followed up with a Skullcrushing Finale to shock the WWE Universe and walk out of the pay per view as the newly crowned WWE Champion!

WWE Elimination Chamber Results 2/21/2021

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Monday, February 1, 2021

WWE Royal Rumble 2021

Despite relocating the Thunderdome from Orlando’s Amway Center to the significantly larger Tropicana Field, despite the state of Florida exhibiting some of the lowest COVID infection rates in the country, despite AEW continuing to host fans for the past several months, and despite several NHL and NFL teams welcoming back fans, the WWE continues to utilize the dystopian setting of virtual fans. All ranting aside, the 34th annual Royal Rumble and official beginning of the Road to Wrestlemania emanated from the aforementioned Thunderdome at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida. This evening’s card featured five matches including the men’s and women’s Royal Rumble matches with the respective winners securing championship opportunities at Wrestlemania.

WWE Championship
Goldberg vs. Drew McIntyre (c)
Winner: Drew McIntyre via pinfall
This match came to fruition several weeks ago when Monday Night RAW hosted Legends Night. After McIntyre defeated Keith Lee in the main event of the evening, Goldberg confronted the champion in the ring and told him the one thing he didn’t have was the respect of the other wrestlers as he proceeded to challenge him for his coveted belt. In my opinion, this was WWE’s answer to the recent AEW signing of the legendary Sting - but I digress. This contest started with a bang as McIntyre speared Goldberg propelling him from the ring. Goldberg quickly turned the tables first Irish-whipping him into the steel ring stairs and then delivering his own spear putting the champ through the ringside barrier. Goldberg withstood the first Claymore Kick from McIntyre and answered with a pair of spears followed by his patented Jackhammer. This was not enough as McIntyre kicked out of Goldberg’s pinfall attempt. McIntyre then dodged a subsequent spear attempt by Goldberg and answered with another Claymore kick to secure the pinfall and retain his title.

Smackdown Women’s Championship
Carmella w/ Reginald vs. Sasha Banks (c)
Winner: Sasha Banks via submission
The most entertaining part of this match occurred when Sasha Banks delivered a hurricanrana to Reginald that subsequently lead to his ejection from ringside by the referee. The merciful conclusion of this bout arrived when Banks withstood a kick to the jaw by Carmella and answered with the Bank Statement for the submission victory.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Winner: Bianca Belair
Bayley and Naomi found themselves as the unlucky recipients of numbers one and two. While the two women made solid 30+ minute showings for themselves, neither made it to the final four. This match was rather short on surpises with only three in the form of Jillian Hall, Victoria, and Torrie Wilson while the field was supplemented with NXT stars to compliment those from RAW and Smackdown. The final four contestants were Bianca Belair, Natalya, Rhea Ripley, and Charlotte Flair. As Natalya taunted Ripley instead of finishing off the elimination, Belair dumped Neidhart over the top rope. Flair was then muscled over the top rope by Ripley and subsequently knocked off the ring apron by Belair and Ripley. This left Belair and Ripley as the final two combatants. Belair then punched her ticket to Wrestlemania as she clotheslined Ripley over the top rope.

Here is the complete list of the entrants:

1 Bayley
2 Naomi
3 Bianca Belair
4 Billie Kay
5 Shotzi Blackheart
6 Shayna Baszler
7 Toni Storm
8 Jillian Hall
9 Ruby Riott
10 Victoria
11 Peyton Royce
12 Santana Garrett
13 Liv Morgan
14 Rhea Ripley
15 Charlotte Flair
16 Dana Brooke
17 Torrie Wilson
18 Lacey Evans
19 Mickie James
20 Nikki Cross
21 Alicia Fox
22 Mandy Rose
23 Dakota Kai
24 Carmella
25 Tamina
26 Lana
27 Alexa Bliss
28 Ember Moon
29 Nia Jax
30 Nataly

WWE Universal Championship Last Man Standing Match
Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Kevin Owens
Winner: Roman Reigns
The next chapter in the ongoing rivalry between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens was written this evening as the two men stood toe to toe again with championship gold on the line under Last Man Standing rules. For those in need of a refresher, this means that the winner would be decided after beating his opponent to the point where he would be unable to answer the referee’s 10-count. Roman Reigns faced a close call late in the match when he was handcuffed to a portion of the entrance scaffolding that left him in a seated position unable to get his feet beneath him. As the referee reached the count of nine, Reigns grabbed him by the collar and launched him headfirst into another part of the scaffolding knocking him out in the process. Owens then sought to capitalize on the situation but was met with a shot between the pipes. Paul Heyman then came to the rescue with a handcuff key and as Roman was freed, he proceeded to put Owens in a guillotine choke leaving him lifeless as the referee completed his 10 count.

Men’s Royal Rumble Match
Winner: Edge 
After suffering a torn triceps in a match with Orton that put him out of action for seven months, Edge found himself face to face with the Viper as they drew numbers one and two to start the match. The two combatants broke out into a brutal confrontation that eventually saw Edge seemingly take Orton out of the match after he laid waste to his knee with a steel chair. Unlike the women’s match, the men’s featured some great surprises including Kane, Christian, Carlito, and The Hurricane, as well as, the return of Seth Rollins from paternity leave. The closing moments of the match was a vicious flurry of action. First, Braun Strowman and Christian were knocked off the ring apron and eliminated by Seth Rollins. Edge then quickly avenged Christian as he tossed Rollins over the top rope. At this moment Orton returned from the trainer’s table and stunned Edge with an RKO Outta Nowhere but Edge reversed his attempt to throw him out and launched the Viper from the ring to punch his ticket to the main event at Wrestlemania!!! 

Here is the complete list of entrants:

1 Edge
2 Randy Orton
3 Sami Zayn
4 Mustafa Ali
5 Jeff Hardy
6 Dolph Ziggler
7 Shinsuke Nakamura
8 Carlito
9 Xavier Woods
10 Big E
11 John Morrison
12 Ricochet
13 Elias
14 Damian Priest
15 The Miz
16 Matt Riddle
17 Daniel Bryan
18 Kane
19 King Corbin
20 Otis
21 Dominik Mysterio
22 Bobby Lashley
23 The Hurricane
24 Christian
25 AJ Styles
26 Rey Mysterio
27 Sheamus
28 Cesaro
29 Seth Rollins
30 Braun Strowman

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Monday, December 21, 2020

WWE TLC 2020

By Steve Ward

WWE’s new home for the Thunderdome, Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, Florida, was the site for this evening’s final Quarantine Era pay per view of 2020 - Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. One would have to wonder if WWE would step their game up amidst a continued decline in their RAW and Smackdown viewership, losses in the ratings by NXT for several Wednesdays to AEW Dynamite, and after AEW also unleashed a bombshell earlier this month in the signing of the legendary Sting. Nonetheless, this evening’s card featured six matches with five titles contested and featured two Tables, Ladders, and Chairs matches.

WWE Championship TLC Match  
AJ Styles w/ Omos vs. Drew McIntyre (c)  
Winner: Drew McIntyre
The main card wasted no time getting off the ground this evening as “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles found himself in the middle of the title picture as he scored a shot at champion, Drew McIntyre. McIntyre has been riding a monumental wave of momentum for the duration of the year including a win in the Royal Rumble and two world title reigns. Halfway through the bout, McIntyre launched Styles out of the ring and through a table on the arena floor. As McIntyre ascended the ladder, an opening was created for The Miz as he made his way to the ring with John Morrison and cracked Drew in the back with a chair. The Miz proceeded to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase turning the bout into a triple threat match and then scaled the ladder, however, he was stopped by Omos who carried Miz to the edge of the ring and dropped him through a table set up on the floor. Morrison tried to avenge The Miz by striking Omos with a chair, however, the chair shattered leaving only it’s legs in Morrison’s hands. Omos proceeded to chase Morrison out of the arena leaving McIntyre, Styles, and now The Miz to vie for the title. In the closing moments, McIntyre shoved the The Miz and Styles off of the ladder as they battled each other to retrieve the title. Styles was propelled out of the ring and The Miz was soon eliminated from the picture as the recipient of a Claymore Kick. An easy opening manifested that allowed McIntyre to scale the ladder to retrieve and retain his title.

Smackdown Women’s Championship
Carmella w/ Reginald vs. Sasha Banks (c)
Winner: Sasha Banks via submission

Following a hiatus from television, Smackdown color commentator Corey Graves’ real life mistress Carmella made her return and found herself quickly in line for a title shot that culminated this evening. Sadly the time off didn’t improve Carmella’s wrestling skills much but luckily the WWE Universe wasn’t subjected to an excessively long match as Banks halted her title hopes with the Bank Statement to retain her title.

RAW Tag Team Championship
The Hurt Business (Shelton Benjamin & Cedric Alexander) w/ MVP vs. The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods)
Winners: The Hurt Business via pinfall

MVP’s Hurt Business sought to add more gold to their ranks this evening as Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander challenged for the RAW Tag Team Championship. Following a frenetically paced match, Shelton Benjamin had Kofi squared up when Alexander blind-tagged his way into the match much to the displeasure of The Gold Standard. Alexander proceeded to execute the Lumbar Check on Kingston to earn the pinfall and crown new tag team champions. Another note of significance was this marked Benjamin’s first tag team title reign in 17 years since he last held the tag team gold with Charlie Haas as one half of The World’s Greatest Tag Team.

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax vs. Asuka & Charlotte Flair
Winners: Asuka & Charlotte Flair via pinfall

Asuka was originally scheduled to tag with Lana until she was brutalized at the hands of the tag team champs on Monday Night RAW leaving the Empress of Tomorrow in search of a new partner. The virtual WWE Universe was stunned as Asuka’s mystery partner was revealed to be “The Queen” Charlotte Flair. A  much leaner Flair showed no signs of any ring rust as her full arsenal was on display - most notably a beautifully executed moonsault she delivered from the top turnbuckle to the arena floor. In the closing moments, Flair hit the Natural Selection on Baszler allowing her to capture the pinfall victory and crown new tag team champions.

Universal Championship TLC Match
Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Kevin Owens
Winner: Roman Reigns

Following an extended period of title picture irrelevancy, Kevin Owens was put in a prime spot this evening as he challenged Roman Reigns in a sadistic TLC match for the Universal Championship. KO was able to get the jump on Reigns early as he emerged out of nowhere while Roman watched his title hoisted to the rafters. Owens was then able to dispose of Jey Uso who came to his cousin’s aid allowing him to maintain some early momentum. Owens momentum was short-lived as Uso returned again later in the match to distract KO’s attention away from Reigns. This advantage was seized by Reigns as me maintained control until the closing moments of the match. Roman attempted to spear KO on the arena floor, however, Owens moved at that last moment as Reigns launched himself through the ringside barrier. Owens again seemed in a prime position to become the new champion as he scaled the ladder in the ring only to be met again by Jey Uso. After Owens disposed of Uso yet again, Roman recovered and made his way up the ladder where he unceremoniously delivered a low blow to KO which created the opportunity for him to cinch in a guillotine choke. Reigns did not release the hold until Owens body went limp and fell to the canvas. Reigns then slowly removed the title from it’s hook above the ring to complete his retention. 

Firefly Inferno Match
“The Fiend” Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
Winner: Randy Orton

This match marked the rekindling (pun intended) of the previous rivalry between these two combatants that stemmed back to Bray’s time at the head of the Wyatt Family. One may ask, what’s a Firefly Inferno Match? It’s simply an Inferno Match involving Bray Wyatt so the winner would be declared when one man sets any part of the other’s body on fire. In the closing moments of this match, which received a very negative response from the virtual crowd, The Fiend attacked Orton with the Mandible Claw. Orton was able to push Wyatt into the flames at ringside while his fingers were still shoved down his throat and then rolled him into the ring where he delivered an RKO. Orton then decided to douse The Fiend in gasoline and  dropped a lit match leaving Wyatt engulfed in flames to close the show (note it was rather evident that they swapped The Fiend out for a dummy).

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