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Stone Cold Steve Austin helps WWE break out the nostalgia

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The WWE can make a throwback work when it wants to

Screenshot: Screenshot: WWE

There might not be a promise I’ve broken more than saying I won’t mention AEW when discussing WWE, and vice versa. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten it right. It’s not so easy when that’s the main narrative of the wrestling industry these days. And it’s also hard to avoid when WWE, on their biggest night, is doing stuff like this:

So it’s clear that WWE felt the need to needle their new competitors, even if they’ll never admit that they’re competitors. I’ll get to Cody himself tomorrow, but WrestleMania is supposed to be the grandest exhibition of what WWE has over the rest of the business. The scale, the bombast, the sheer enormity of everything around and in Mania is simply not anything anyone could dream of matching. The pop Cody got when entering last night could only be found in one place, which is a big reason he came back to New York.

The match of the night belonged to Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair, as it was always going to. If WWE was trying to showcase what it has that no one else does, the kinds of stars that they’ve made Lynch and Belair into is a good place to start. Their handling of the women’s division only is better than AEW’s because sometimes they pay attention to it rather than almost never, and only at the top, but the level of anticipation and then delivery from those two last night certainly proves that when WWE wants to they can get it gloriously right.

But what WWE has over everyone, and by an amount that’s simply incomprehensible, is its history. What makes Mania “MANIA” is what’s come before. What it’s been built for over 38 years. It’s not just the biggest event on the calendar for wrestling fans. It’s the show where Macho Man and Steamboat redefined the term “classic.” Or Stone Cold and Bret Hart. Undertaker and Michaels. The Rock and Stone Cold. Hulk and Warrior. When you attend or watch Mania, the echoes of those matches and so many others are sitting next to you.

So while the cynical can, rightly, point to Steve Austin’s return last night as just a ploy to sell tickets in Dallas when sales were flagging, WWE can get away with it because of what Austin’s return means. They can call on that. There may come a time when AEW can do the same, 10 or 15 years down the line. For now they just try and wring memories of ROH and NJPW and other companies around the world that aren’t nostalgia so much as just inside-baseball winking. And that works for their audience.

It’s that base of history that made Austin’s match with Kevin Owens so good for everyone. It wasn’t just Austin’s return or that he was more ambulatory than a cadaver holding out a collection plate for Vince like Undertaker was in his last couple years, or Goldberg and his malfunctioning forklift way of doing everything. It was more than Owens working his ass off to make Austin look good and credible, though that had a lot to do with it.

It was the fact that through the build, through his role as playing the taunter and asshole, baiting the entire state of Texas into this through Austin, Owens didn’t do much to hide that this was the ultimate dream come true for him. Every fan was living through Owens, who probably never believed he would get to work a match with Stone Cold until it was upon him. We all got to experience it. Through Owens’s work we could feel his utter joy.

Which is what makes Owens by far the best candidate to lead Austin through a match like this. Owens’s appeal is multifaceted. He’s perhaps the best talker in the company. Despite his bouncer-like physique he’s among the best workers too. But it’s his reverence for wrestling as a whole, its many approaches to telling a story and its history and its tropes, that always shines through the most. It’s why he’s not afraid to call upon his encyclopedic knowledge of wrestling’s past to influence a match, whether it is his history or someone else’s. KO just loves it so much that we can’t help but do so along with him. He must wonder how he is going to top last night.

It’s easy to scoff at WWE going through the storage facility to pull out some aged star when it needs more tickets bought or eyeballs on Peacock. And it has gone wrong in so many cases. The difference between when it goes right and when it goes wrong is when it’s merely just tossing some very sore and very achy guys in their 50s out to the ring for no reason, and when it’s actually building on its history. Austin at Mania still means something, in a way that Goldberg and Undertaker in Saudi Arabia can’t. Sure, Owens and Austin hit all the notes you’d have expected. But so do the Rolling Stones when they play “Jumping Jack Flash.” Doesn’t make it any less fulfilling.

That doesn’t mean WWE should be pulling out some legend for every PPV or every other Raw. This is the time and place for it, because Mania is a celebration of WWE’s history as much as anything else, a history only they have. And they’re likely to be the only ones to ever have such a thing. And the buzz they’ll get from last night’s main event will last weeks, even when they eventually (and disappointingly) squander it. It’s the trigger they, and only they, can pull. And when they get it right, they remind you why they have it.



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No mention of Flores’ lawsuit in Goodell Super Bowl presser

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LVII at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023, in Phoenix.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LVII at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023, in Phoenix.
Image: Getty Images

Every year at the Super Bowl, journalists get a chance to ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the questions that need to be answered on live television as the world watches. This year, the inquiries and subject matters ranged from two Black quarterbacks making history, Damar Hamlin, officiating, and the potential ways that the league will broadcast upcoming games. But, the Black cloud — no pun intended — that’s been hovering over the NFL for over a year wasn’t mentioned once on Wednesday. And it’s proof that the NFL is loving the fact that people seem to have forgotten that Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton have an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the league for its alleged racist hiring practices.

Distractions are part of the game

It’s been over a year since the former Miami Dolphins head coach — and current defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings — dropped a bomb on the sports world when he decided that legal action was the only way to make people thoroughly understand just how rigged the game is for Black coaches in the NFL.

“It’s hard to speak out…but this is bigger than football. This is bigger than coaching,” said Flores.

Days later, Goodell was on stage answering questions at the Super Bowl about that, and more.

“I think I’d start with the basis that racism or any form of discrimination is against our values. And really something that we will not tolerate,” he said at last year’s press conference.

Same as it ever was

On Wednesday, it was more of the same. “I do, but I still feel like there’s better work, and more work ahead of us,” Goodell said about the “meaningful progress” that’s taken place with diversity amongst head coaches. “I think that there is progress, and we’re pleased to see progress. But it’s never enough.”

A lot has happened since Goodell took the stage last year in Los Angeles and when he returned to it in Arizona. For instance, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton joined Flores’ lawsuit. Flores spent last season as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he’s now with the Vikings — as an assistant, again. Wilks was the interim head coach of the Carolina Panthers, but due to the history of the men who carry that title with his skin color, he never had a chance of permanently landing the job — no matter if Panthers owner David Tepper is claiming to be trying to eradicate the league’s “old boys network.” Horton is coaching in the USFL. And you can still count the number of African-American head coaches in the league on one hand and have some fingers left to spare, as Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), DeMeco Ryans (Houston), and Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay) are the melanated trinity.

I thought Goodell said progress was taking place. Does it look like it to you? Maybe my eyesight is bad.

Last fall, the plaintiffs’ lawyers were alleging racial bias against the NFL as the league wanted things to move to arbitration — where nobody can see. In court documents, the lawyers wrote that “arbitration would allow ‘unconscionably biased one-sided ‘kangaroo courts’ to determine the outcome. If arbitration is where things land, it means that Goodell will be the arbitrator — which is in the best interest of the teams that are being sued, and the league. The latest development occurred last week when it was reported that the judge presiding over the case has requested that more written briefings about arbitration be submitted later in the month.

What does that mean?

That this thing is still in limbo, as we’re waiting to see if this will play out in court or behind closed doors.

But, even if this arbitration decision does go the way of Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton, we have no idea when the dust will finally settle — which is a win for the league. Because while the league might wind up losing this case, they have a winning strategy. Which is to ignore it, as everyone else did on a Wednesday afternoon in Glendale, Arizona.



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Man United 2-2 Leeds LIVE! Sancho goal – Premier League result, match stream and latest updates today

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S

ubstitute Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September earned Manchester United a thrilling 2-2 draw with Leeds United in the Premier League on Wednesday as the hosts came back from two goals down to salvage a point.

Leeds flew out of the traps and stunned Old Trafford into silence after 55 seconds when Wilfried Gnonto arrowed the visitors in front from the edge of the penalty area.

The home side wasted a host of chances to level in the first half, before Leeds looked to have stormed into a match-winning position early in the second period as Raphael Varane put through his own net to double the visitors’ advantage.

However, in-form Marcus Rashford headed the hosts back into the match in the 62nd minute and Sancho stepped off the bench to rescue his side a point eight minutes later, squeezing the ball past goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

Old Trafford sensed another rousing comeback would be completed with a late winner, but their side ran out of steam, failing to win at home for the first time in 14 matches in all competitions.

United stayed third in the standings, three points ahead of Newcastle United in fourth, having played one game more.

Managerless Leeds climbed one place to 16th, one point clear of the relegation zone.

United had beaten their Roses rivals Leeds by a scoreline of 11-3 in their previous two clashes at Old Trafford, and the visitors were on a seven-game Premier League winless streak which led to manager Jesse Marsch being sacked this week.

Their form made it all the more surprising when Leeds raced into an early lead, Gnonto netting the second-earliest goal scored by an away player at Old Trafford in the Premier League, after Edin Dzeko’s strike in 2014 for Manchester City.

After De Gea denied Leeds a second with a smart stop at his near post, United twice went close to levelling as debutant Marcel Sabitzer volleyed over before Garnacho drilled just wide.

The chances kept coming for the home side, with Garnacho rounding Meslier before seeing an effort blocked and Sabitzer denied by a brilliant save.

The hosts’ profligacy looked to have proved costly as Leeds appeared to be on course to secure a first win in 18 trips to Old Trafford after Varane was powerless to prevent Crysencio Summerville’s cross rolling into his own net.

Rashford, however, had another ideas, steering a header home to become the first Manchester United player to score in six consecutive appearances at Old Trafford in the Premier League since Wayne Rooney in 2012.

Brenden Aaronson hit the post from a Leeds free kick, a let- off Manchester United capitalised on as Sancho, back in the squad after a lengthy absence due to physical and mental wellbeing issues, grabbed the equaliser with a calm finish.

Live updates

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Thank you

Thank you for joining Standard Sport’s LIVE coverage of Manchester United’s draw with Leeds.

Find our report and reaction below.

Good night!

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Ten Hag sends exciting Sancho message after key Man United goal

Erik ten Hag hailed the “magnificent” Jadon Sancho after the Manchester United forward scored his first goal since September in Wednesday’s thrilling draw with Leeds.

The England international only recently made his return to the United set-up after training on his own following what ten Hag said to be “physical and mental issues”.

Sancho’s strike won a point for the home side after Marcus Rashford had first pulled one back following Leeds’ quick-fire start in both halves.

Read Ten Hag’s message in full here!

AFP via Getty Images
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Full match report: Sancho steps up to save Man United but worrying signs without Casemiro

Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September rescued a point for Manchester United in a thrilling draw with rivals Leeds.

Wilfried Gnonto had put the visitors ahead in less than a minute, catching a United side missing the midfield control of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen cold.

Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September rescued a point for Manchester United in a thrilling draw with rivals Leeds.

Wilfried Gnonto had put the visitors ahead in less than a minute, catching a United side missing the midfield control of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen cold.

The home side wasted a host of chances to level in the first half, before Leeds looked to have stormed into a match-winning position early in the second period as Raphael Varane put through his own net to double the visitors’ advantage.

Read our full match report here!

Manchester United via Getty Images
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FT: Man United 2-2 Leeds

A thrilling draw at Old Trafford.

Just a reminder, these two teams play again on Sunday!

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FIVE MINUTES ADDED ON!

90 mins: Are we in for a winner?

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All Man United now

83 mins: Dangerous game for Leeds.

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CHANCE FOR MAN UNITED!

79 mins: Varane heads over the bar!

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Brilliant game

73 mins: Both teams still going for it! Surely there’s going to be a winner.

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GOAL! Man United 2-2 Leeds | Jadon Sancho ‘69

69 mins: MAN UNITED LEVEL!

Sancho squeezes one in from close range!



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Martin Bakole will look to enforce shot at Daniel Dubois | ‘He’s possibly the most avoided heavyweight out there’ | Boxing News

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Martin Bakole will look to force a shot at Daniel Dubois and the WBA ‘regular’ title that the London heavyweight holds.

Bakole’s last outing was an impressive, conclusive win over French Olympic champion Tony Yoka from the away corner.

Born in Congo and now based in Scotland, Bakole has only lost once in his 19-bout professional career.

Martin Bakole
Image:
Martin Bakole is willing to take on anyone in the heavyweight division

He is now rated at number two in the WBA’s heavyweight world rankings and has signed to join new promoter BOXXER.

BOXXER’s Ben Shalom told Sky Sports that Bakole intends to enforce a shot at Dubois.

“I think they’re about to order a mandatory for Daniel, Martin wants that title. Martin is top of the tree in the WBA now,” Shalom said.

“With his win against Tony Yoka, he was so impressive to go out and do that in Paris against a former Olympic champion. On the circuit he’s possibly the most avoided heavyweight out there. Delighted to have him. I think he could challenge for world titles very soon.”

Martin Bakole, Billy Nelson
Image:
Martin Bakole with trainer Billy Nelson

Oleksandr Usyk is the WBA’s full world champion, but Dubois holds a secondary or ‘regular’ belt with that sanctioning body.

The Londoner is recovering from an injury he sustained in his last fight, a scare against Kevin Lerena. That though is the fight Bakole is gunning for.

“Martin backs himself in any fight in the heavyweight division. Daniel Dubois is on his list and Billy Nelson [Bakole’s trainer] has been talking about him for a long time and they’re ready to go,” Shalom said.

“It’s definitely that title that we have our eyes on. Obviously Daniel’s injured at the moment. But luckily with Martin he will fight anyone. They could pick any name for him to fight for that title and he would take it.

“So we’ve got a very, very good heavyweight that’s willing to fight anyone. That’s a perfect mix.”



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