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ESPN anchor draws ire over network’s soft WWE coverage, drops pro wrestling SportsCenter segment

Pro wrestling fans and writers had questioned World Wrestling Entertainment for several weeks after the disappearance of one of its lead announcers from television, Mauro Ranallo, who was suffering from depression.

Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer said Ranallo may have been the victim of WWE’s bullying culture, particularly John Layfield, his color commentator who made disparaging remarks about Ranallo following his absence on TV and during an out-of-character segment on the company’s streaming network.

The allegations became more rampant after the release of “Best Seat in The House,” a book by former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts. Roberts alleged Layfield bullied him and others regularly, particularly announcers. This behavior and culture was not only tolerated but encouraged by WWE owner Vince McMahon.

ESPN started covering WWE regularly last year, launching its own pro wrestling section on its website, and with a weekly SportsCenter segment by ESPN anchor Jonathan Coachman, a former WWE announcer himself.

ESPN has been questioned for its involvement with WWE, especially its reluctance to cover negative news about the company, almost to the point of sticking to storyline-esque interviews on its programming. The questioning began heating up over the weekend when the story bullying story began to go viral. When asked in a tweet if ESPN would cover the controversy, wrestling journalist Meltzer replied expressing doubt in strong language. 

Coachman wasn’t involved in the discussion, but entered the fray anyway with a shot at Meltzer.

In the middle of his argument, Coachman announced he was dropping the weekly WWE segment from SportsCenter. He deleted the Tweet later, then said he had been planning on dropping it for several weeks because of other projects, but his timing seemed suspect. He pointed fans toward ESPN’s vertical for pro wrestling and WWE coverage.

ESPN has drawn ire for its news coverage, often for its abundance of debate shows during the morning hours and conflict of interest of having TV deals with the companies it covers. The network dropped a planned fictional show based on a pro football team after criticism from the NFL, then later dropped support of a PBS Frontline documentary on accusations the NFL had covered up concussion issues. 

John Cena meets 12-year-old fan with cerebral palsy

WrestleMania 33 is Sunday night, and fans will pack the Amway Arena in Orlando or watch the matches live on the WWE Network. John Cena will be one of the headliners in pro wrestling’s biggest showcase.

>> Read more trending news 

Fans all have their favorites, and John Cena certainly ranks high among WWE fans. Recently, Cena made a 12-year-old fan’s dream come true.

At a WWE card in Johnson City, Tennessee, Cena spotted Payton Marion, who has cerebral palsy, and tossed him a T-shirt and wristband, WVLT reported. After the matches, Cena met with Payton and his father, Justin Marion.

“Payton is super excited about all that, all his friends have been aggravating him, calling him a superstar,” Justin Marion told WVLT. “The fact that my son was able to meet one of his heroes, my heart melts, and it was just crazy.”

Justin Marion explained on Reddit that WWE wrestler AJ Styles set up the meeting between Cena and his son.

“He saw us standing around, and asked if we wanted a picture,” Jason Marion said. “Of course we said ‘yes.’ Then he asked if we got to see everyone.”

When Justin Marion said Payton saw everyone but Cena — his favorite wrestler — Styles invited father and son backstage to the locker room.

Cena arrived and chatted with Payton, capping an exciting night for the boy.

Payton Marion said he uses Cena as motivation during his physical therapy.

Cena is one of pro wrestling’s biggest ambassadors, granting more than 500 requests in the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

U.S. wrestlers banned from competition in Iran

Iran on Friday banned U.S. wrestlers from participating in the Freestyle World Cup competition this month in response to President Donald Trump's executive order forbidding visas for Iranians, the IRNA news agency reported.

>> Read more trending news

Iran foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told IRNA that a special committee reviewed the case and "eventually the visit by the U.S. freestyle wrestling team was opposed."

The decision is the first action taken by Iran in response to Trump's executive order banning visas for seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, The Associated Press reported. Iran said earlier this week that it would take retaliatory action.

The competition in Kermanshah is Feb. 16-17.

U.S. freestyle wrestlers have competed in Iran since 1998 after an absence of nearly 20 years. Since then, Americans have attended wrestling competitions hosted by Iran 15 times. Iranians have made 16 visits to the U.S. as guests of USA Wrestling since the 1990s.

Coach strips to underwear to protest Olympic wrestling match

It's common for emotions to run high during the final seconds of any Olympic event. Sometimes, outcomes are contested.

But one man undressed Sunday afternoon as he contested the final scoring of a wrestling match.

In the 65kg freestyle wrestling bronze medal match, Uzbekistan’s Ikhtiyor Navaruzov beat Mongolia’s Mandakhnaran Ganzorig 8-7 in a match that ended in controversy and two Mongolian coaches taking off their clothes at the Olympic venue.

In the final seconds of the match, Ganzorig led by one and began dancing to celebrate his imminent medal. That celebration didn't last long.

According to The Associated Press, Uzbekistan challenged the scoring. Officials awarded Navaruzov a penalty point, which also gave him the bronze medal because tie matches are decided by the wrestler who last scored a point. 

Then began the unlikely turn of events.

Two Mongolian coaches stormed the mat in protest and began angrily shedding their clothes, with one getting all the way down to his blue briefs while the crowd chanted "Mongolia! Mongolia!"

That led to match officials awarding yet another penalty point.

Police eventually escorted the coaches from the mat.

See video here.

WATCH: Jon Stewart smashes chair into John Cena at WWE SummerSlam

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Has Jon Stewart found a new career path?

On Sunday, the "Daily Show" alum hosted WWE's SummerSlam and even showed off his wrestling chops, entering the ring to help out Seth Rollins by smashing a chair into John Cena. Rollins ended up winning the U.S. title.

>> PHOTOS: Jon Stewart enters ring, turns heel at WWE SummerSlam

SB Nation called the move "a serious heel turn for Stewart, who feuded with Rollins in the past."

>> Click here to watch the viral video

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Wrestlers pay tribute to 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper

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Wrestling legend "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, whose birth name was Roderick Toombs, died Thursday.

Piper is regarded as the first true great villain in professional wrestling, a role that earned him as much praise as it did criticism and made him truly unique among wrestling superstars. He highlighted the first WrestleMania, as well, taking part in a match Mr. T and Hulk Hogan.

Wrestling superstars paid tribute to Piper on social media Thursday, and Ronda Rousey, who was given permission by Piper himself to use the nickname "Rowdy," dedicated Saturday's fight to the WWE Hall of Famer.

<iframe src="//;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//;border=false"></script>[View the story "Wrestlers pay tribute to Roddy Piper" on Storify]

A confirmed cause of death was not immediately available. Initial reports said Piper died in his sleep from cardiac arrest. He was 61 years old.

All Hail to the Pigskin Gods

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In the south, football is not just a pastime, it’s a religion.  Just like any religion it comes complete with colorful pageantry, deep rooted rituals, annual pilgrimages and, in the final minutes of a close game, plenty of praying!  Anyone who’s trekked to the annual Georgia Florida game knows what I’m talking about.    But no matter what team you are cheering for we, can all agree that the best part of this pastime is tailgating.  Here are the “10 Commandments” of good tailgating and a couple of recipes that you’ll want to add to you pre-game ritual.

  1. Thou Shall Arrive Early-  History has proven that it  ALWAYS takes longer to get to the game than you think it will.  I can’t tell you how many of my early tailgating parties were spent stressed out in gridlock trying to get to a parking space!  As a good rule of thumb it’s best to arrive 4 hours early and prepare to eat 2 hours before the game
  2. Then there was Fire….And it was good-  Is it me, or does the grill just make a tailgate? The grill harkens back to our tribal instincts….  All dressed up in our colors, sitting around a fire, and getting ready for battle!  The key to a good grilling tailgate is to prep early.  Pre make patties of hamburgers and store them with a sheet of wax paper between rows in plastic container.  Pre cut the “fixins’ like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cheese.  If your tailgate is a little more high-falutin, think about marinating steak and chicken skewers the night before. Since the fire’s hot, why not grill some crowd pleasing sides too like Mexican corn or Cajun vegetable.  Get recipes here. 
  3. Thou shall stock a cooler for everyone- Just like any watering hole, good times just seem to be centered around the cooler.  Try to have something for everyone in your crew AND for those  long lost friends that will inevitably stop by!  The college roommate that always ate the last cookie and left the bag will be the first friend to stop by your tailgate looking for a beer!  Try to think of the kids too and have plenty of water.  Now, a well packed cooler is a science and here are some tips and a helpful diagram- Start with a clean cooler.  Put bottles and cans on the bottom and cover with a layer of ice.  Pack foods in individual contains and cover with ice.  Any loose bags go on top.  Pack the cooler full so no warm air gets in.    With your well packed cooler, you have enough room for drinks to make everyone happy.    
  4.  Thou shall honor the team colors-  Oh yes, this is the glue that holds your entire tailgate together!   No matter what goofy side dish your mother in law brought, if it’s placed on a platter of your favorite team’s color or logo, you can bet the folks will dig in.  There are some really fun ways to sport your team colors that will have everyone cheering.   Download one of these FREE college football printables!  They are super cute, and come complete with invitations, banners, cupcake wrappers & toppers.  And did I tell you they were FREE??   Top your table off with Jello Shots and a cake in the exact color of your team.  Download icing formulas here so your UGA red doesn’t come out a crimson tide    Don’t have the creative itch?  Not to worry- pick up an inexpensive team party pack.  You’ll find everything you need from your car magnet to team tumblers here and they can be shipped to your door before game time!  
  5. Thou shall mark your territory-  Make it easy for friends to find you by attaching a unique flag or large balloon to  your car or tent.  This will make your tailgate stand out in the sea of team colored tents !
  6. Thou Shall expect the unexpected-  Whatever can happen will.  Wouldn’t hurt to throw a couple of ponchos and umbrellas in the car along with a first aid kit and some extra ice
  7. Thou shall be entertained-  Bring yard games like corn hole and ladder toss!  This is a great way to keep kids large and small happy.  Of course don’t forget the TV so you can watch all the pre-game action.  Here’s a list of dozens of fun games-  many don’t even need equipment 
  8. Thou shall be courteous and make friends-    A friend of my team is a friend indeed!  Nothing better than bonding over your team and sharing fond memories!  Be considerate of your neighbors….Who knows, you might need to borrow a cup of ice before the party’s over.
  9. Thou shall be clean- Consider packing medium plastic bins with all the plates utensils and food.  It’s an easy way to keep organize and tidy.  Bring lots of garbage bags too.  One quick clean up idea is to turn a case of beer into a cooler-  Remove the beer from the box.  Place a large garbage bag inside the box fill with bottles of beer and cover with ice.  Once the beer is gone, toss the box in the garbage. Done!
  10. Thou shall Stay late-  Ifyou did your tailgate right, you won’t want the party to end.  Whether you are celebrating a team win or mourning heartbreaking loss, why not keep the party going and wait for the crowds to leave.  If you packed enough ice there’s no reason for the party to be over.  And hey, that’s more time to practice #8, make new friends!     
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