Last Wednesday evening, All Elite Wrestling (AEW), the two-year-old startup, made its New York debut in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium for a two-hour card which was televised nationally on cable’s TNT as part of the AEW’s weekly “Dynamite!” show.
It was clear from the start the AEW wanted to put its best foot forward. There was little doubt AEW CEO Tony Kahn wanted to send a message to his WWE counterpart, Vince McMahon, that he has a formidable competitor for the first tine in at least a generation, by coming to Queens.
To drive that point home, the first match had current AEW champion Kenny Omega taking on former WWE belt holder Bryan Danielson, who was known back then as Daniel Bryan. These guys put on a classic thirty-minute match. It was the kind the WWE has shied away from for at least 40 years. Shortly after that, Dr. Britt Baker, who has a dental practice in Winter Park, Florida, defeated Ruby Soho in another lengthy match to retain her women’s championship title. Both matches would headline a typical WWE pay-per-view card.
Cody Rhodes, who is the son of the late wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, and his wife, Brandi, are the most prominent faces of All Elite Wrestling. They star in a new TNT Wednesday night 10 PM series, “Rhodes to the Top,” which looks at the couple’s private lives. Both are AEW executives in addition to being talent and it’s clear both the former far more seriously. Cody Rhodes had a brief match in which he allowed himself to be annihilated by a villain named Malakay Black (real name: Tom Budgen). The Black character is clearly a knock-off of recently retired WWE star Mark Calaway’s Undertaker. It was Rhodes’ job to sell Malakay Black to the public. The wrestling parlance for this is “put him over.”
Maxwell Jacob Friedman, who grew up twenty miles east of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Plainview, has generated a lot of buzz because of both his great athleticism and rapier wit. Friedman beat Brian Pillman, Jr. in a very physical match which displayed the great stunt work of both men.
Unfortunately, AEW producers did not let Friedman address his hometown fans which was the biggest disappointment of the night. They instead chose to let CM Punk (real name: Phil Brooks) who was a big star in the WWE a decade ago, get the allotted microphone time for the night. Punk became massively popular for his Don Rickles in which he broke down the fourth wall by insulting the WWE corporate culture. CM Punk is still a dynamic speaker, but his role now is to be a cheerleader for the upstart AEW and serve as a mentor to younger grapplers, so his spiels aren’t quite as funny as they once were.
There have been countless documentaries about Muhammad Ali who remains the best-known athlete in that other ring sport, boxing. Ken Burns, who has long been the gold standard with respect to making documentaries, was hired by PBS to examine the life of the man rightfully known as “The Greatest.” “Muhammad Ali” was an eight-hour production which ran over four nights locally on Channel 13 here in New York and is now available on demand at pbs.org.
There is plenty of footage of Ali’s signature bouts with Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Ken Norton, along with his humorous interplay with Howard Cosell which wound up making him a household name as well. Former New York Times sportswriter, and Rego Park native, Robert Lipsyte, offers commentary about interactions with Ali.
New York Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello may not be the warmest guy to be around, but he knows his hockey and he doesn’t tolerate nonsense. I must applaud him for declaring at the start of Islanders training camp that all Islanders players must have their COVID-19 vaccines, or they will not be on the team. Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks needs to take a similar hard line with guard Kyrie Irving who so far has refused to get vaccinated. Irving is an incredibly talented player but his “marching to his own drummer” act is tiring and should not be tolerated for a second when public health is at stake.
Watching the Mets, who were eliminated from postseason contention on Saturday, has been a dreary form of entertainment since mid-July but the pre and postgame SNY studio shows are always worth watching because of the fine work of anchor Gary Apple, former Mets players Todd Zeile and Anthony Recker, and former team general manager Jim Duquette. SNY has been giving a tryout to former Mets reliever Jerry Blevins, who was always very accommodating to the media when he was a player. Blevins is showing the same insight and humor to his TV audience which be did to the press in the Mets clubhouse.
New York Times tennis writer Christopher Clarey has written a 400-page biography of Roger Federer which is properly titled “The Master,” given his dominance of professional tennis when he was in his prime (Twelve Books). Unfortunately, it comes off too often as a lengthy love letter to him. Having spoken to Federer several times over the years during the US Open, I agree with Clarey’s assessment that he is debonair and very engaging. Unlike a lot of professional athletes, he enjoys talking to the media. You don’t need 400 pages, however, to drive home that point. Clarey, also makes sure the reader knows that Federer knows him and his family quite well. It reminds me of the first year of “Saturday Night Live” when Chevy Chase used to say with smug condescension, “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not!”
The arrival of autumn means cooler weather means it’s time to do the cleaning many of us have put off because of the heat and humidity of summer. A new company, MomRemedy (mom-remedy.com), is making non-toxic cleansers and wipes which remove stains, grease, and grime from hydrogen peroxide.
Fall is also a wonderful time for fresh produce and dairy products. Vermont, which is best known for its green mountains and winter skiing, is home to Vermont Creamery (vermontcreamery.com) which since 1984 has been making goat cheese, various aged cheeses, cultured butters, and flavored creams. For years, their products were only in specialty retailers but these days they are available in most name supermarkets.
A pillow company with a funny name, Honeydew Sleep (honeydewsleep.com), has developed a product called the Scrumptious Side Sleeper Pillow for those who do not like to sleep on their backs. The shape of this pillow resembles the Australian continent, and it makes it easier to read in bed because of the support it gives your neck and thus has usefulness even for traditional sleepers. The “Honeydew” in the company name refers to one’s head which they slyly refer to as a “melon.”