WRESTLING REPORT

Solid RAW followed by shaky Smackdown highlights WWE; All Elite makes a move

WWE.com

…And Polyphemus shouted "Nobody kills me!"

As the first complete week of 2019 came to a close for WWE, the other shoe dropped and All Elite Wrestling made itself known.

RAW went over fairly well, the six man tag brought excitement to the opening and while Brock Lesnar and Braun Stroman's stare off wasn't exactly everything advertised it at least happened. Which is an improvement considering usually Brock can't be bothered to come the regularly televised show he is the champion of. It's like a movie star being talked about on a sitcom every episode but only showing up for the premieres and finales; it's exasperating. Hopefully this is something they're going to work on over this year and either book him more or have him drop the title and take some more time off.

Smackdown however ended all possible momentum that one good show could have given them, with the opening four man tag match just being completely botched and the Daniel Bryan angle is still obnoxiously unwatchable. It's one thing for a heel champion to be elitist, it's another for him to criticize American fandom in a fan driven sport; it's cannibalistic in a way. Miz and Shane vs. The Bar for the tag titles is the match no one asked for. Are people asking for more Shane McMahon matches in lieu of actual wrestlers? Where is this coming from? The saving grace is still the women's division, although the hyper insulting Mandy Rose wants to bang an Uso storyline continues. The triple threat match was awesome and surprisingly Carmella came to play and landed some great spots with the big dogs Becky and Charlotte. For god's sake give this division REAL screen time.

Now the elephant in the room: All Elite Wrestling chose Tuesday in Jacksonville, just down the road from the Smackdown taping in Orlando, to announce a bunch of things. For starters, they announced a May event in Vegas, Double or Nothing, building off the homerun that was the first wrestler owned event of this scale - All or Nothing - that ran last year. Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks also announced some new behind the scenes talent and some new in ring talent, WWE pros like Billy Gunn and Chris Jericho are going into the office to help shepherd this thing in the right direction and former WWE cruiserweight champ, Neville, is coming to AEW as PAC and some other top indy guys like Hangman Page also announced signing with the brand. This is the worst possible time for the WWE to have competition, with the Fox Sports deal kicking in later this year and there being clear directional issues internally at WWE. A young upstart with talent, structure and money could steal some thunder from the big brand.

2019 is shaping up to be a rather interesting year for sports entertainment, and how all this plays out is up in the air.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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