– According to the Wrestling Observer, fueling rumors that WWE may part ways with Randy Orton as a result of his second violation of the Talent Wellness Program, former WCW announcer Mark Madden stated Thursday on Twitter,
“WWE wants to get rid of Orton PERMANENTLY. Character and popularity have plateaued, and he’s a pain to deal with.”
In response to his statement, a Twitter user asked Madden whether Vince McMahon has suddenly stopped liking money. Madden responded,
“Vince thinks everybody is a WWE creation, and therefore disposable, to be replaced by another WWE creation. And you’re overrating Orton.”
The Wrestling Observer reported Wednesday that there is a ‘small, vocal pocket’ within WWE lobbying for his termination. McMahon is reportedly contemplating the move, but many employees believe he will ultimately retain the nine-time world champion due to the lack of roster depth. The Observer added that there are people within WWE saying Orton’s hiatus ‘isn’t going to be that big a problem.’ For the first time, employees are openly categorizing CM Punk as the second-ranked babyface rather than Punk and Orton being on the same level. Many also feel SmackDown’s babyface side will be adequate with Sheamus, Christian, Sin Cara, Rey Mysterio returning soon from suspension and the option to turn Daniel Bryan at a moment’s notice.
– Former WWE star Carlito is the latest wrestling name to take aim at Brooke Hogan. He posted a message on Twitter Friday mocking her role as on-screen authority figure and backstage consultant to the TNA Knockouts.
“Brooke hogan in TNA is a blessing for @MickieJames! Brooke will help her improve her wrestling skills and teach her how to be a star!”
“I just received sad news! Apparently @MickieJames is not speaking to me anymore. I have no idea what I said or did for her to feel this way!”
– WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross is back with another blog update, which you can read in its entirety at JRsBarBQ.com. Here are some highlights of what JR wrote about last night’s final Florida Championship Wrestling television tapings:
“The atmosphere Thursday night at the last FCW TV taping was intimate and exciting from the sell out, turn away crowd .. I had a blast blast broadcasting w/ WWE HOFer Dusty Rhodes as you will hear if you are able to assess the show which many watch on You Tube.”
“Lots of kids stood out. Rollins, Steamboat, Cesaro, Ohno, Bo Dallas, Bray Wyatt, Brad Maddox, Ascension, Big E Langston, Jason Jordan, Paige, and several others.”
“Loved the @thedeanambrose vs @realkingregal bout that had a shockingly, real, physical conclusion. That match was on hour three and will likely air in July but I’m not sure of any of the air dates. When FCW’s TV show runs its course on the Brighthouse Network in Florida, FCW will be replaced by NXT. I’m unaware if the rebranded NXT will air on WWE.com ( doubtful) but will air outside the USA where NXT is currently airing.”
– Grizzlies’ owner Michael Heisley said that his team is “not looking to trade F Rudy Gay.” Gay’s name has been brought up as a trade piece, but Heisley insists that Gay is a part of the team’s core. “We’re not shopping him around. period. Right now, Rudy is part of the future of this team.” The “right now” could mean that Gay is available for trade, just not right now.
– Heat’ head coach Erik Spoelstra said he is going to wait until Saturday to announce if F Chris Bosh (abdominal) will start Game 7 against the Celtics. Given that it’s a Game 7 on Saturday night, Bosh will likely start.
– The attorney for a former Warriors employee who accused former star G Monta Ellis of sexual harassment says a settlement has been reached in her lawsuit against the team. Burt Boltuch, the attorney for Erika Smith, told The Associated Press on Friday that he is not allowed to discuss specifics of the settlement, which was reached last month. Boltuch said discussions with the Warriors’ attorneys began shortly after Ellis was traded from the Warriors to the Milwaukee Bucks in March. Erika Smith worked as community relations director for the Warriors. She accused Ellis of sending her unwanted text messages that included a photo of his genitals and said the team’s owners attempted to cover up his actions. Team spokesman Ray Rider said all of Smith’s claims have now been dismissed in their entirety.
– An ESPN report indicates that Raptors’ GM Bryan Colangelo has begun talks with multiple teams in order to find a trading partner for his No. 8 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Sources say G Jose Calderon and his expiring contract, along with F Ed Davis may be two extra pieces being moved out. Colangelo indicated at the end of the season that he was willing to explore different avenues in order to make the team better, but wouldn’t say specifically if that meant shopping his top-ten pick for a more established scorer. Colangelo is entering the final year of his contract and indicated that in order to help his coaching staff move forward, it may be time to unload some of his younger assets for more proven talent. Recent moves have allowed the Raptors to free up about $10M in cap space heading into the off-season and Colangelo indicated the cap room has enabled the team to explore multiple roster options.
– Check out this video comparing the entrances between the Heat and Celtics:
– Devils’ F Zach Parise (ankle) admitted that he twisted his ankle “a little bit” during Game 4, but says he’s fine. The incident occurred in the third period when Parise awkwardly fell into the boards. “My brother watched it and he said, ‘I don’t know how you didn’t break it,’” Parise said. Parise didn’t miss a shift in the game.
– Glendale’s City Council has OK’d a plan to pay roughly $300M over 20 years for prospective Coyotes owner Greg Jamison to manage the Jobing.com arena. Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “We’ve been doing this a long time. We believe this team, the Coyotes, can be here with a new ownership in place and should be here.” Approval of the lease agreement should clear the way for Jamison’s group to buy the team, ending a three-year odyssey that’s included bankruptcy, failed deals with other prospective owners and the team playing under financial restraints while being operated by the league. Jamison still needs to work out a final deal with the NHL and gain approval from the league’s board of governors, but this was considered the last major obstacle to finally bringing an owner in and keeping the team from leaving the Valley of the Sun.
– Flyers’ F Ian Laperriere, who hasn’t played since June 9, 2010 because of a head injury, reportedly plans to retire after the conclusion of the 2012 Stanley Cup finals. Had Laperriere retired earlier, his annual cap hit would have counted against the Flyers–however, since he held off on his announcement, Philly was able to keep him on the long-term injured reserve list. He had 336 points and 1,956 penalty minutes in 1,083 career NHL games with the St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and Flyers.
– According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Blue Jays are expected to target Padres’ OF Carlos Quentin. Quentin is batting .481 with a 1.734 OPS in eight games since returning from the DL and should draw interest from around the league. The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31.
– Yankees’ RHP David Robertson (oblique) has been cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment. Robertson will likely make two appearances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before rejoining the bullpen. He’s expected to set up for new closer Rafael Soriano initially but could see save opportunities down the road.
– Red Sox’ OF Carl Crawford (elbow, wrist) played catch from 60 feet on Friday. It’s the official resumption of his throwing program, which was stalled for a while due to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in Crawford’s left elbow. He’s on track to return sometime in July, barring setbacks.
– Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that the Cubs, Yankees, Braves and Dodgers have been the most aggressive in bidding on Cuban OF Jorge Soler. The first round of bids for the Cuban defector were submitted earlier this week, and the second round of bids are due this weekend. Soler is expected to receive at least $25M and should make a decision before long. The Red Sox, Pirates, Orioles, Phillies, and White Sox have also been mentioned as possible landing spots.
– Braves’ legend John Smoltz had his No. 29 jersey retired on Friday night. ”I’m glad that’s over. That’s a doubleheader I just pitched…Honestly, I thought I was going to lose it when I started talking about playing for the jersey. That’s something I hope more people can take pride in, wearing a jersey. For some people it’s just a jersey. For me it was my life.” Smoltz helped the Braves win 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005, and the 1995 World Series. Smoltz was the only player to be a part of each division championship. Smoltz’s credentials include a 213-155 record with 154 saves and a 3.33 ERA. Smoltz is the fourth Braves player to have his number retired in the last four years, following Cox (6) last season, Glavine (47) in 2010 and Maddux (31) in 2009. Smoltz, an eight-time All-Star, won the National League Cy Young Award in 1996. He is the only pitcher in major league history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves.
– Phillies’ 3B Placido Polanco (finger) will be out of the starting lineup for at least another five days. Polanco suffered a laceration on his left index finger Tuesday and also has a torn tendon in his wrist. He’s batting just .289/.318/.374 in 51 games this season.
– Yankees’ RHP Joba Chamberlain (ankle surgery) threw off a mound Friday for the first time since his injury in March. Chamberlain made 25 throws in a batting cage at the Yankees’ minor league complex.He had been throwing off a half-height mound to help regain his form. ”It felt good. Another step forward. That’s all you can do.” Chamberlain, who dislocated his right ankle bouncing on a trampoline with his son on March 22, has also resumed running sprints in the outfield.
– The two men accused of beating a Giants’ fan after last season’s opening day game at Dodger Stadium were ordered to stand trial Friday on charges stemming from the brutal attack. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli made the ruling after a five-day preliminary hearing against Louie Sanchez, 30, and Marvin Norwood, 31. The pair are accused of mayhem and assault and battery in the attack on Bryan Stow, a paramedic from Northern California who attended the game at Dodger Stadium. Stow suffered brain damage and is permanently disabled.
– Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson confirmed Friday that RHP Tyler Clippard will be used as the team’s closer until RHP Drew Storen (elbow) is activated from the DL. Clippard, 27, has a 2.55 ERA and 1.01 WHIP across 24 2/3 innings this season.
– Jim Callis of Baseball America reports that the Blue Jays will sign 3rd-round OF Anthony Alford and allow him to play football at Southern Mississippi. Alford was believed to be unsignable due to his football commitment. Callis reports that his signing bonus may be close to double the $424,400 value slotted for the 112th overall pick. Alford is a raw speedster with plus power potential.
– The Mets have agreed to terms with 1st-round draft pick SS Gavin Cecchini for a $2.3M signing bonus. The 18-year-old was taken 12th overall by the Mets in the amateur draft on Monday night. His bonus was $250,000 less than what is slotted for that pick under the new collective bargaining agreement.
– The Brewers have agreed to contracts with their two 1st-round draft picks, C Clint Coulter and OF Victor Rouche. Coulter was taken 27th with the pick Milwaukee gained from Detroit after losing 1B Prince Fielder in free agency, and Rouche was selected 28th. The 18-year-old Coulter hit .405 with three homers, 14 RBIs and 18 steals as a senior at Union High School in Camas, Wash. The 20-year-old Rouche missed the majority of the season at Georgia Southern because of a broken left wrist, an injury sustained diving for a ball in February. He batted .412 with two home runs and five RBIs in six games. Coulter was assigned to Milwaukee’s rookie team in Phoenix. Brewers officials said they were still determining whether to send Rouche to Phoenix to rehabilitate his wrist or to a location closer to his home in Michigan.
– The Chargers have signed RB Ronnie Brown to a 1-year contract. Brown, 31, has managed 437 yards on his last 141 carries (3.099 YPC), over his last 24 games, including 42 touches in Philly all of last season. He’ll act as insurance behind RB Ryan Mathews.
– The Ravens have agreed to terms with OG Bobbie Williams on a 2-year contract. Williams started nine games for Cincinnati last season. The 35-year-old was coming off ankle surgery.
– Lions’ DT Nick Fairley publicly apologized Friday for his recent arrests in Alabama, saying his actions were inexcusable and did not meet the standards expected of a pro athlete.
“I want to personally apologize to my fans, teammates and the Detroit Lions organization for bringing this unwanted attention to our team,” Fairley said on Facebook. “I recognize my actions were inexcusable and I personally need to uphold the expected standard of behaviour of a professional athlete. I do not take for granted this opportunity and feel blessed every day to play in the NFL.”
– Ravens’ LB Terrell Suggs (torn Achilles tendon) will get his entire $4.9M salary in 2012 regardless of how he tore his Achilles tendon, team owner Steve Bisciotti said Friday. Suggs sustained the injury in April. He insists it happened while he was running through a conditioning drill, but several witnesses say he was hurt playing basketball in Arizona. Bisciotti said,
“I would be more upset if he hurt himself sleeping on the couch all off-season. If our players are engaged in activities that get them in shape, then I’m proud of them for doing it. I don’t know if I would be working out in April the way these guys do what they do. I’m proud of Terrell. It gets pretty boring in the weight room. He wasn’t kite boarding. If he’s playing basketball, that’s great.”
Suggs immediately underwent surgery and hopes to be playing again sometime this season. Under the NFL collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens could have chosen to not pay Suggs entirely or reduce his salary because it was a non-football injury. But Bisciotti said cutting Suggs’ salary would not be good for team morale.
– A second arbitrator ruled Friday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to discipline Saints players for their roles in a bounty program. The players’ union claimed Goodell is prohibited from punishing players for any conduct before the CBA was signed last August. The union also sought to have player appeals heard by Art Shell and Ted Cottrell, who are jointly appointed by the league and union to review discipline handed out for on-field conduct. But arbitrator Shyam Das ruled Friday that Goodell is entitled to hand out the punishment and hear any appeals in the matter. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled the same way Monday in a different grievance claim brought by the NFLPA, and the union said it would appeal.
– The Giants paid their Super Bowl visit to U.S. President Barack Obama today, with both sides sharing the same goal–getting back to the White House next year. Obama said, ”They ended up winning with a circus catch in the fourth quarter, MVP performance by Eli Manning … a come-from-behind win over the Patriots. So this is all starting to sound kind of like deja vu all over again.” In his speech, Coughlin injected some political references for a president in the heart of a re-election campaign, telling his team and guests on the South Lawn that he hoped coming back to the White House “was not a twice-in-a-lifetime experience.” ”We both have a goal to get back here next year. We have a lot of work to do,” Coughlin said. Coughlin noted that his team overcame a 7-7 start to win their final two regular-season games and win the NFC East. The Giants won four post-season games, capped by a 21-17 Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
– The Raiders have signed 4th-round draft pick LB Miles Burris. Burris, a two-time All-Mountain West Conference first-team selection out of San Diego State, led the Aztecs in tackles as a senior last season with 78, including 46 solo tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss. He also had eight sacks and three fumble recoveries.
– The Colts have signed CB Justin King. King was the Rams’ fourth-round draft pick in 2008 and played the past four seasons in St. Louis. He started 19 games and recorded 131 tackles with the Rams.
– Former WWE star Chris Masters competed in a dark match prior to Thursday’s live Impact Wrestling taping in Orlando, Florida, losing to Robbie E. Following the appearance, he tweeted, “#MTI went down tonight.And a once uncertain future is looking up.” He then said he would love to accept Crimson’s Open Challenge this Sunday at Slammiversary.
– UFC fighter Nick Ring helped break up an attack on two teenagers in south Calgary on Wednesday evening. The 33-year-old, who is on the card of UFC 149 in Calgary on July 21, was driving when he saw a group of teenagers attacking two others near MacLeod Trail.
“They were assaulting them. One of the attacker girls was kneeing the victim girl in the face. They beat the tar out of them. These poor kids had cuts all over their face from the strikes they’d taken.”
Ring says when he jumped out of his car, he was joined by another bystander. After checking on the victims, he and the bystander gave chase and caught one male. Ring followed the others while he called the police.
“They had no idea who I was. They were running away like scared little rats. The cops caught up with them. As as I was pointing them out, one of them challenged me to a one-on-one match. He said that he would take me.”
A Calgary Police Service spokesperson said the victims were a male and female, both 17. One was treated for minor injuries.
“Their faces were bloody and cut open. It was a really sad thing to see. They didn’t deserve what they got. They were outnumbered. I had to even out the playing field.”
Ring believed the female attacker stole the female victim’s backpack, but police said a backpack wasn’t involved and called the incident “an altercation.” A 16-year-old male, a 17-year-old male and a 15-year-old female, who were among the group accosting the victims, have been charged with assault.
– The Whitecaps have suspended striker Long Tan indefinitely Friday after he complained about his lack of playing time on Twitter. Coach Martin Rennie said, ”We just sent him home today because it’s pretty clear we don’t criticize the club or other people publicly. We would never do that. We (in management) never criticize players. We don’t expect players to do that.” Tan, a 24-year-old native of Dalian, China, is the first Chinese player to suit up for an MLS team. He has struggled to get into the lineup since joining the Whitecaps at the start of their 2011 expansion campaign via trade from Tampa.
– Race-car champion Jacques Villeneuve has apparently received threats since he blasted Quebec’s student movement in a memorable five-minute diatribe. Villeneuve would not provide details, but said Friday he had received some “dangerous” emails since the previous evening. People were reacting to his lengthy criticism of the student protests which he characterized as, among other things, an international embarrassment. Villeneuve was instantly catapulted into a starring role in a four-month dispute that has made international news. With Quebec celebrities mainly remaining silent or lining up behind the protesters, the race-car driver was suddenly the movement’s most famous, most virulent critic.
“We received a pack of injurious and insulting emails, even some that were dangerous. For people who say they stand for freedom of expression, I find it a bit ridiculous that we’re not allowed to say what we’re thinking.