WRESTLING REPORT

Smackdown and Raw find a rhythm as Wrestlemania comes into focus

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Born with a comic book in one hand and a remote control in the other, Cory DLG is the talent of Conroe's very own Nerd Thug Radio, Sports and Wrestling. Check out the podcast replay of the FM radio shows www.nerdthugradio.com!

Wrestlemania begins to come into focus as the card fills out this week.

This week's Raw had a fairly strong showing with what felt like a limited roster of available talent with No Way Jose even getting television time against Elias. The Ronda heel turn continues to be a mixed bag with a second squash match against Dana Brooke ended with an arm bar this time but still was incredibly underwhelming, even though WWE went the extra mile and injected Ronda's real life husband Travis Browne into the storyline. It's obvious they're laying the ground work to put the title on someone else and give Ronda some shelf time after a year of domination in the women's division but how it all ends will determine if the juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak.

Ricochet, still sporting an NXT logo next to his name, got a single's match against rarely seen Jinder Mahal and Baron Corbin had a match against equally forgotten Apollo Crews. With the announcement of Beth Phoenix coming back for a Wrestlemania women's tag match against the champs Sasha and Bayley, the farewell match with Kurt Angle and the Triple H vs Bautista match the nostalgia factor has been upped to an almost impossible margin for this year's Wrestlemania.

All of that being said, the card is shaping up to feel a little underwhelming, with Kurt Angle's farewell match coming about six months too late, and the second title defense of the women's tag titles against only one current women athlete it feels like there's a lot of underutilization of the talented roster that WWE is boasting these days. When a guy like Braun Stroman goes from regularly main eventing WWE events to being in the Andre the Giant memorial battle royal, it leaves fans wondering.

Smackdown managed to squeeze a fair amount of action into their two hours this week with Sasha and Bailey having a tag match against the Iconics, while giving screentime to Kevin Owens, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, The Miz and Rey Mysterio Jr. This kind of balance and pacing is something Smackdown has been struggling with focusing too much on their core roster of aged veterans Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Randy Orton and R Truth and not getting enough quality matches into the program. The Gauntlet match was everything it was expected to be with Kofi Kingston putting in a solid hour of work against each member of The Bar individually, Samoa Joe, Randy Orton and Rowan before losing to Daniel Bryan. The build up of Kofi Kingston into legendary status for this inevitable Wrestlemania match against Daniel Bryan in the main event is the kind of storytelling that works when WWE is focused. There have been so many starts and stops in various storylines over the past few months that the programming had started to feel rudderless but this one they're getting right and when things work and the payoff hits home like this Kofi story has, it reminds people why the WWE has ruled the wrestling world for so long. What happens next week is now must see television.

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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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