Saturday, February 18, 2023

WWE Elimination Chamber 2023

By Steve Ward

WWE made their return north of the border tonight for the final pay per view stop on the Road to Wrestlemania as Elimination Chamber emanated from The Bell Center in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. After tonight’s massive card, the landscape for the championship title picture will be clear as the winner of the Women’s Elimination Chamber match will oppose Bianca Belair for the RAW Women’s Championship and the victor of the encounter between Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn will defend the Undisputed Universal Heavyweight Championship against Cody Rhodes at the Showcase of the Immortals. 

Women’s Elimination Chamber
Asuka vs. Carmella vs. Raquel Rodriguez vs. Nikki Cross vs. Natalya vs. Liv
Winner: Asuka

Tonight’s card kicked off with the Women’s Elimination Chamber Match where the winner would punch her ticket to Wtrestlemania for a championship encounter with RAW Women’s Champion, Bianca Belair. Natalya and Liv kicked off the match and another competitor would join the chaos every two minutes. The combatants would be eliminated by pinfall or submission with the last woman standing being crowned the victor. The first participant to be released from her pod was Raquel Rodriguez who immediately used her size and strength advantage to impose her will. The next competitor to be released from her respective pod was Nikki Cross with still no eliminations. With the majority of the competitors already displaying signs of fatigue, Carmella was the next to enter the fray. Moments later, Raquel put Cross through the panel of one of the pods which set her up for an easy pinfall moments later. Asuka then made her way into the match and quickly ran roughshod over the other competitors. Asuka first dispensed of Liv Morgan as she made her pass out in the clutches of the Asuka Lock. Next, Carmella delivered a kick to the head of Natalya who had Asuka trapped in the Sharpshooter which allowed her to eliminate Neidhart. Rodriguez was then the recipient of several kicks to the head from Carmella and Asuka who joined forces to deliver a tandem pinfall on her leaving them as the final competitors standing. Asuka was too much for Carmella as she quickly cinched in the Asuka Lock on Carmella earning the submission and punching her ticket to Wrestlemania.

Bobby Lashley vs. Brock Lesnar
Winner: Bobby Lashley via DQ

This match was to be the decisive third match in a trilogy between these two imposing Superstars. Each man executed their signature moves several times on each other before Lesnar found himself in the Hurt Lock. Ensuring he would not suffer defeat, Lesnar elected for the low blow which prompted referee Chad Patton to call for the disqualification. Lesnar then left a path of carnage behind him as he F5’d the referee multiple times and also delivered an F5 to Lashley for good measure that sent him crashing through the announce table before he left the arena satisfied with his actions.

Mixed Tag Team Match
Edge & Beth Phoenix vs. The Judgement Day (Finn Balor & Rhea Ripley w/ Dominik Mysterio)
Winners: Edge & Beth Phoenix

The bitter rivalry between Edge and Beth Phoenix and the faction he created, The Judgement Day, before his unceremonious expunging, would come to a head tonight as they would seek redemption in a Mixed Tag Team affair. In a match riddled with attempted outside interference by Dominik Mysterio, Edge and Beth finally prevailed. First, Beth dispatched of Ripley with a Glam Slam outside the ring and then she rejoined Edge in the ring as they executed the Shatter Machine on Finn Balor to secure the pinfall victory.

United States Championship Men’s Elimination Chamber Match
Austin Theory (c) vs. Montez Ford vs. Bronson Reed vs. Damian Priest vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Seth Rollins
Winner: Austin Theory

The stakes were high for the Men’s Elimination Chamber Match as the last man standing would walk out the United States Champion. The chaos commenced with Rollins and Gargano going toe to toe. After two minutes elapsed, the next competitor to enter the bout was the defending U.S. Champion, Austin Theory. After Rollins and Gargano took Theory out of the picture temporarily, Damian Priest entered the match and promptly asserted his dominance. With still no pinfalls recorded, Bronson Reed next entered the match to deliver his brutal brand of punishment on the other participants. As Bronson Reed found himself the lone man still on his feet, Montez Ford finally made his way into the contest. Minutes later, Reed would finally be put down by Gargano and Rollins which allowed Ford to ascend to the top turnbuckle from where he executed a frog splash which led to Reed’s exit from the match. The closing moments saw Rollins and Theory as the final two Superstars remaining. With Rollins seemingly poised to reclaim the U.S. title, Jake Paul made his way to the ring, delivered his version of Adam Page’s Deadeye, as well as, Rollins’ own curb stomp. This left Rollins out of sorts and vulnerable as Theory covered him to retain his title.

Undisputed WWE Universal Championship
Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Sami Zayn
Winner: Roman Reigns via pinfall

Following his expulsion from the Bloodline after he came to the aid of his former friend and Roman Reigns’ opponent, Kevin Owens, at the Royal Rumble in addition to the subsequent dissention that manifested within the Bloodline, Sami Zayn found himself in the biggest match of his career against Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. Reigns dominated much of the early part of the match before Sami rallied with everything in his arsenal, including the Helluva Kick and Blue Thunder Bomb. As Roman’s title reign appeared in jeopardy, the referee was knocked out which opened the door for Jimmy Uso to make his way to the ring and shift the match back in favor of Reigns. As Roman appeared poised to finish off Zayn, he missed him with a Superman Punch and took out the second referee of the match. With another window of opportunity open for the Tribal Chief, Paul Heyman obtained a chair from beneath the ring. As Reigns turned to strike Zayn, his cousin Jey Uso was standing in the ring. Roman then handed Jey the chair and directed him to finish off Zayn. Jey hesitated and as Zayn attempted to sneak up on Reigns with a spear, Roman sidestepped him leaving his cousin Jey as the recipient. Roman then proceeded to lay waste to Zayn with the chair and finished him off with the Superman Punch just in time for the first referee to miraculously recover and count the pinfall. 

After the match, Jimmy Uso and Roman Reigns proceeded to beat down Zayn who was rescued by fellow Canadian, Kevin Owens. Owens and Zayn proceeded to gain a measure of revenge on Roman Reigns giving the Canadian crowd some semblance of satisfaction as they stood tall in the end.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Inside the Ringside with Frank Bartolini

By Frank Bartolini

With holiday celebrations behind us and decorations being stored away in attics, I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the first of two shows I attended in January. Boxing began in a big way in D.C.

1/7/23 - Washington, D.C.:

Nearly twenty thousand fight fans filled the seats at the Capitol One Arena to cheer on every punch the World Boxing Association Lightweight King Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Baltimore, MD, threw. Appearing to be a bit distracted at times, Davis, 134 lb., did not seem to be in top condition going into his title defense against Hector Luis Garcia, San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic.

This evening was about the excitement “Tank” creates. Gates opened at 4 pm, and soon afterward, the fighters on the first undercard bout were being called into the ring by announcer Mark Fratto. Seats remained empty as the corridor was packed with revelers until around 9 pm.

Once the semi wind up ended, the house heated up in anticipation to see the tatted Davis throw his gloved fists. An explosive roar rocked the house when Jimmy Lennon, Jr. announcing the boxers' names and particulars.

Both boxers launched their arsenal of punches from a southpaw stance. Bumping up a weight class, Garcia, 134 lbs., won the WBA Super Feather Championship in his last fight. Fighting to the top of his ability, Garcia landed to the head and body. After three rounds of feeling his opponent out, Davis opened up in round four exploding bombs to Garcia’s midsection and head. After the halfway point in the seventh stanza, Davis, 134 lbs., unleashed his fury, smacking punches off of Garcia from the outside. Davis countered well with a straight left to Garcia's chin.

The eighth round proved to be the last one of the fight, but not before drama outside the ropes interrupted and stopped the action. It turned out Gary Russel, Jr. and his brothers Gary Antonio and Gary Antuane got into a verbal scuffle with rapper Meek Mill. Both combatants paused to check out what was going on. Once the action resumed, Davis tore into Garcia. As the bell rang to conclude the session, Garcia returned to his corner complaining he could not see out of his right eye and did not come out for the ninth round.

This was the first loss of Garcia’s career; his record dips to 16- 1, 10 KO’s. By representing himself well in this title challenge, Garcia's stock may rise regardless of this loss. With his skill set, Garcia will find success defending on to his super featherweight belt.

Garcia did a great WWE impersonation after the stoppage of the contest by doing a backflip off the top rope and landing perfectly on his feet as the audience roared. At the young age of twenty-eight years old, Davis has ten years' experience and an impressive resume that includes titles in three different weight classes. Tank’s record stays perfect at 28-0, 26 KO’s.

Immediately in the days following the event, talks between PBC head honcho Al Haymon and Oscar De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boys Promotions, on pairing Davis and Golden Boy promoted Ryan “Kingry” Garcia for a super fight this spring. As of this writing, De La Hoya states he has the contract in hand.

De La Hoya may be trepid as he holds out for a larger percentage of the split. “Tank” has become a legitimate superstar who drew the largest monetary gate for an event in the history of The Capital One Arena. Paid ticket receipts totaled over five million dollars, and it has been reported pay-per-view proceeds added another twenty million dollars to the gross earnings. Another large source of revenue is the celebratory disposition of Davis's fan base transfer into the arena as patrons at the concessions stands. Add a few million bucks more to the proceeds from that revenue. Hence, De La Hoya has few bargaining chips at the table and will try to squeeze PBC for all he can without blowing the deal. April 15th is the projected date for the matchup, but no venue has been selected.

1/20/23 - Bethlehem, PA:

Two weeks later, I found my way to the Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem, PA. Wind chills had the temperature in the teens. Entering the casino portion of the former Bethlehem Steel Mill, I saw a lively night brewing as the gaming house was filled with patrons.

The Wind Creek Event Center was packed with close to fifteen hundred fight fans that came to watch a Kings Promotions fight card that was part of The Showtime Network SHOBOX The New Generation fight series. Kings CEO Marshall Kauffman filled the card with first rate local talent.

Undefeated super middleweights Sean Hemphill, New Orleans, LA, fought David Stevens, Reading, PA, in a scheduled eight round bout, a ho hum affair that was even after six rounds. Midway through round seven, Stevens',165 ¾ lbs., constant forward pressure was squeezing the strength out of Hemphill, 166 lbs. Battling aggressively until the end, Stevens pressed ahead in the last round. Then with seconds left in the fight, Stevens pummeled a cornered Hemphill. After absorbing a pounding, Hemphill slumped to the canvas. Using very questionable judgment, referee Shawn Clark let the action go on. Brutally aspiring to finish off his foe, Stevens assaulted Hemphill with three bombs to the head. As referee Clark stepped in to call a halt at 2:58 seconds while Hemphill collapsed to the ring apron. Stevens' record stays perfect at 12-0, 9 KO’s. Hemphill suffered his first blemish to his record and slides to 14-1, 8 KO’s.