April 24, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Jinder Mahal made #1 contender, Rosey passes away, moreBy Observer Staff | email@example.com | @WONF4W
Wrestling Observer Newsletter
PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 April 24, 2017
One of the most surprising PPV main events in years looks to be the 5/21 Backlash show in Chicago where Randy Orton will defend the WWE title against Jinder “Traps Don’t Lie” Mahal.
Mahal and his freakazoid traps, which look like they need their own zip code, won a six-way on Smackdown over Mojo Rawley, Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan and the title match was announced for the winner of the Orton vs. Bray Wyatt. Since Wyatt is being programmed on Raw for Finn Balor and Orton confronted Mahal after winning, that result seems obvious.
So the question becomes why someone who was brought back as enhancement talent on Raw, basically with the same role Curt Hawkins had on Smackdown at first, until being put in a brief tag team with Rusev which enabled them to figure Enzo Amore into the Rusev vs. Big Cass program, is now positioned as lead heel on Smackdown.
Part of it is clear. Vince McMahon clearly feels the company was missing the traditional Anti-American foreigner. Perhaps he’s put in the position because Rusev, who had played that role for the past few years, is injured. Smackdown is weak on the heel side to begin with, with Baron Corbin and Kevin Owens as the only major pushed heels on the brand. Corbin’s title program is being saved for later in the year when the bigger shows take place, so they needed somebody.
In looking at the six guys, Mahal would have probably been the least likely, but none were strong since Smackdown really only had Orton, A.J. Styles, Owens, Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura as top singles stars. Any questions regarding who they saw as the key star on the brand is has been answered since Nakamura has been the key babyface in the dark match every week at the tapings, the old position of John Cena. The guy in that spot is the one who the company believes would be the best at keeping the crowd from leaving during 205 Live. They haven’t yet mastered the part about keeping the crowd that is staying to still react during that show.
With Owens as U.S. champion, likely a decently long reign with his “Face of America” gimmick being pushed, he’s out of the WWE title picture. Mahal has dropped 20 pounds to 218 pounds, and is the most ripped wrestler on the roster, and he’s probably about 6-foot-3, which is important when the owner is a guy who traditionally always chose talent based on size and physique. While times and tastes have changed, as half the people on the current roster wouldn’t have even gotten a smidgen of a look in another era, he still frequently reverts back to what he knows and likes. It appears they are introducing an Indian heel group with Mahal as the singles star and The Bollywood Boys, Harv & Girv Sihra, as a focal point of the Smackdown side. This coming out of nowhere could also be as simple as the timing of the Jim Ross return and looking at the international landscape. Impact and Sony Six are working on a partnership for a regular television show and live event promotion using local talent. WWE is still the biggest promotion in India, a country with a gigantic population, but have no current native stars. They don’t want to let anyone in the backdoor as the main brand in a country where their television revenue is third only behind the U.S. and U.K.
Because they are WWE, particularly for India, anyone who they push with any significance will probably become a major star because it’s a native in the big leagues who made it to a starring role. Even if they are actually Canadian, they have the heritage and are billed from India.
Of course the minute you judge talent based on physique, in the sense you push someone who didn’t get over first and doesn’t stand out in the ring with a great physique above people who have gotten over stronger with the audience and are better in the ring but don’t have a great physique, then you are encouraging what you are also banning. This is hardly the only time in wrestling, the only place in wrestling, or elsewhere in the world, that the same contradiction is in place.
The other key is with the network and the current business model with the lack of true superstars and the brand being the draw, with John Cena as the only proven exception and he’s not around, then it really doesn’t matter about things like booking and talent selection. The entire Roman Reigns controversy, since the fans who boo Reigns the most are believed to be the first people who buy tickets to see WWE, pretty much exemplifies the change. It means the company has little to no economic incentive to play to its audience, or listen to its audience. If its audience makes it clear they like or dislike someone, the company can look at its business numbers, see no declines, or rationalize the declines that do occur (like in TV ratings) as metrics that don’t mean anything anymore, then exactly what is the incentive of listening to the fans who buy tickets first if they keep buying tickets no matter what?
They can then come to the conclusion that the noise of the crowd and who they want or don’t want on TV doesn’t reflect the feelings of the majority of the fans. If they do internal polls and they indicate fans wanting something different than they are pushing, they can rationalize that on them being “Internet fans,” with the idea that’s a small percentage of the audience that isn’t indicative of the masses and thus not worth listening to. And in fairness, when people reacting a certain way are still buying tickets and network subscriptions, there is a strong argument that viewpoint isn’t wrong. Indeed, the entire concept of booking, manipulating the audience into wanting to see something and increase business, and bad booking then hurts business, is antiquated in WWE. Both have almost no effect on business other than occasional hot-shotting of bringing back a name from the past or changing around talent can lead to short-term minor changes in ratings. Ironically, that’s only the case with WWE, as those things do make a difference with other wrestling companies, and when it comes to Bellator and UFC, they seem too make as much if not more of a difference now than ever before.
With the roster transition period ongoing, WWE’s next PPV show is 4/30 in San Jose, headlined by Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman and Orton vs. Wyatt for the WWE title in a House of Horrors match. Other official matches on the show are Owens vs. Chris Jericho for the U.S. title, Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss for the women’s title, Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe, Matt & Jeff Hardy vs. Sheamus & Cesaro for the tag titles and Neville vs. Austin Aries for the cruiserweight title. The only other match strongly teased would be Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz for the IC title.
Payback is on track to be sold out by the weekend, which would be a week in advance, which is impressive considering how high the tickets were scaled.
Matthew Anoa’i, best known as Rosey, or in Japan Ro-Z, passed away on 4/17 at the age of 47.
Anoa’i was known to be suffering from congestive heart failure although no cause of death had been reported. Family friends said his health wasn’t good, but his passing was sudden and a great shock.
He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation in January 2014. He had talked about undergoing kidney dialysis last year. His weight had yo-yo’d over the years but was said to be around 450 pounds of late.
Anoa’i was the older brother of Roman Reigns (real name Leati Joe Anoa’i) and the son of Leati “Sika” Anoa’i, 72, part of a brother combination with Afa that were one of the top tag teams in pro wrestling in the 70s and 80s. The brothers were big wrestling fans of Peter Maivia, when they were in San Francisco in the late 1960s, including being involved in some famous near riots at the Cow Palace as fans. Because of their size, they were trained to become wrestlers and went on the road at that point, and held tag team titles all over the world, including being WWE tag team champions and Hall of Fame legends.
“The Anoa’i family is mourning the loss of Sika’s son, Matt aka Rosey, due to an untimely death.
We want to let his fans know that he loved them and the wrestling world so much. In his passing, he left three beautiful young children and a heartbroken family. Please respect the privacy of his children and family as they mourn the loss of this kind, loving, gentle man, who was a father, son, brother and a superhero to us all.
Our family appreciates your prayers and continued support during this very difficult time.”
In recent years, he was running a Florida-based wrestling promotion, Epic Championship Wrestling, with his father and while living in Cincinnati before moving back to Florida, had run a restaurant called Island Boi BBQ.
Even though there was a 16-year age difference between Matt and his brother, they were very close and when he was in wrestling was always talking about how well his brother was doing in football and their hopes that he would play in the NFL.
Matt Anoa’i was born on April 7, 1970. He was a high school teammate of Emmitt Smith at Escambia High School in Pensacola, where the family ended up settling after his father left San Francisco. He played college football at Mississippi Delta Junior College and went to the University of Hawaii but a leg injury ended his football career. He graduated with a degree in Graphic Design.
In 1990, he won a $100 first prize at the World Catfish Festival is Mississippi by eating two pounds and 12 ounces of catfish in ten minutes.
He worked at various night clubs in New Orleans before his cousin, Eddie (who later became a major star as Umaga), and he started training at the Wild Samoan wrestling school run by Afa. They worked some of Afa’s shows together, and he began his career in 1995 working for the WWC in Puerto Rico as Prince Kuhio, to honor the King Curtis Iaukea, who worked as Prince Kuhio in some territories in the early 60s.
Matt & Samu, Afa’s son, went as a tag team to ECW in 1996. Matt was given the name Mack Daddy Kane and Big Matty Smalls while in ECW as the tag team the Samoan Gangsta Party. He wrestled for the next few years in Puerto Rico and in Japan for FMW (using the name Matty Samu).
“I knew Matt very well,” said John Raad, who was part of this publication for years but at the time was working for Fed-Ex. “He lived in a rented house on my Fed-Ex route back in the 90s. He was the kindest, sweetest and most at-peace giant I’ve ever known. Breaks my heart.”
He and cousin Eddie held the FMW tag team titles in 2001 and then signed a developmental contract with WWE that year. They were assigned to Cincinnati and Les Thatcher’s Heartland Wrestling Association, where they were pushed as headlining tag team The Island Boyz, Kimo (Matt) & Ekmo (Eddie, whose nickname was Eki).
They were brought to the main roster in 2002 as Three Minute Warning, as Matt was now Rosey and Eddie was now Jamal. The name Rosey was because of his size, as he was hovering around 400 pounds and was named after Rosey Grier, a star pro football player in the 50s and 60s who was one of the first star 300-pound players in the league.
Their original role was as big hit men for Eric Bischoff, who was a heel General Manager, who would look at his watch and they’d come out to destroy people with splashes.
The most memorable Three Minute Warning attacks was when they’d splash older wrestlers like Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young, or a non-wrestler like Lilian Garcia, and perhaps the most remembered was in an attempt to break out of a ratings slump WWE brought in two women who were part of the UPW promotion in Southern California and had them make out and promoted it heavily as Hot Lesbian Action, with the segment ending when Three Minute Warning splashed them both.
“I vividly remember picking Eki and Matty up from JFK on a Sunday as WWE was doing Monday Night Raw at Madison Square Garden,” noted Court Bauer, a longtime family friend of the Anoa’i family. “Over the weekend, Jimmy Snuka had agreed to let them put him through a table as part of building heat for Eric Bischoff. This was a big moment as they, like all of the island family, looked upon Jimmy as a legend. Jimmy was kind of their version of Bruno.
“Anyway, they stayed that Sunday night at my house in Westchester. They were like two kids, just in awe that they were going to do such a big angle and get to do it with Jimmy at Madison Square Garden. It was there things wrapped into one, plus it was a sign that the office continued to have immense faith in them.”
Bauer remembered that both wanted to buy new suits to go to the show in, but Mens’ Warehouse had nothing for their size.
“They were simply euphoric over the whole night,” he said. “I remember Adam Geller (who later worked in production for UFC and a number of other sports and was a huge wrestling fan), another dear friend, was at the venue as he was doing production for WWE remotes.”
After Eddie was released, Rosey turned into a comedy babyface figure as the tag team partner of The Hurricane, Shane Helms. He was dubbed Roosevelt, the Super Hero In Training, with the comedy initials as SHIT. Hurricane would teach him to help old women across the street and kind of play a good-hearted but bumbling giant attempting to be a superhero. They were mostly used as comedy, but did get a run as world tag team champions, beating La Resistance on May 1, 2015. For a time, they were joined by Stacy Keibler as Super Stacy. They lost the titles on September 5, 2005, to Trevor Murdoch & Lance Cade.
Helms then turned heel on Rosey. Eddie was rehired in 2006 and they teased a return of Three Minute Warning as a team, but the decision was made to give Jamal the big push as Umaga, and Matt Anoa’i was released on March 21, 2006.
“He was a really, really great guy,” said Helms. “He was genuine, and he was a loyal friend. I’ve been heartbroken ever since I heard the news. He meant a lot to me, more than my introverted nature could properly express. I’m going to miss my friend.”
“Rosey was a gentle, kind man, who was always great to be around and who leaves three young children without their dad,” wrote Jim Ross, who first signed him in WWE. “RIP big fella. My condolences to the entire Anoa’i family for their loss.”
After Eddie was signed to return, the two did one dark match with the Three Minute Warning name, and he was to get a renewed push with the team back together. But Eddie had improved greatly during his time away, working for All Japan, where he’d advanced into being a main event heel.
As soon as the match was over, Vince McMahon said, “We’re signing him, but not for Three Minute Warning. We have ourselves a main event heel in the makings.”
Eddie, repackaged as Umaga, may have been the most physically talented worker in the entire Anoa’i/Fatu clan. He ended up as a major star, and played a big part in getting inadvertently Jeff Hardy from being a popular high mid-card babyface to the most popular wrestler at the time in the company. But issues with drugs prematurely ended his career as a top heel, and WWE let him go after he failed a drug test and refused to go to rehab.
Matt never had another shot, although Bauer said he pushed for him in a role of a Samoan San Francisco gang banger, but the idea was never accepted.
He moved to All Japan Pro Wrestling, as Ro-Z, to get around the WWE’s ownership of the name Rosey, working there in 2006 and 2007. In the World’s Strongest Tag League at the end of 2006, Ro-Z & Suwama lost in the finals to Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima. He also appeared as part of an All Japan vs. New Japan match at the January 4, 2007, Tokyo Dome show, teaming with Giant Bernard & Taru & Suwama to beat Riki Choshu & Manabu Nakanishi & Takashi Iizuka & Naofumi Yamamoto (Yoshitatsu).
In 2007, he was part of a reality television show called “Fat March,” on ABC. The show was 12 overweight people walk about 570 miles across nine states to attempt to get fit and lose weight. The story used on the show is that he was doing the show because weight issues made it no longer safe for him to compete as a pro wrestler and he needed to lose weight to return. But his knees couldn’t hold up to the walking and he quit the show after the fifth episode.
There was a push to bring him back after being on a national television, because he had dropped a lot of weight before quitting the show. However, Vince McMahon decided against it.
Matt actually wrestled fairly often on the independent scene until 2012, and did matches as late as last year even though his medical condition was well known.
“He struggled with his weight, yo-yoing a lot in later years after doing Fat March,” said Bauer. “He ended up gaining it all back and then some. He leaves behind three beautiful children and a lot of friends and family who loved him. You won’t find anyone that will speak badly of Matty. He was the definition of chill, just an easy-going island boy.”
Matt was hoping to attend WaleMania before WrestleMania, but canceled, saying he was too weak to come.
“His health was clearly fading,” said Bauer. “He had a lot of struggles with his heart in2014 and hadn’t lost weight over the past three years. In spite of his deteriorating health, he always had such a great upbeat, positive outlook. He was like a big kid with the enthusiasm for life that he showed.”
The Anoa’i family has had more than their share of tragedies. Matt’s partner, Eddie/Umaga passed away on December 4, 2009 at the age of 36, from a heart attack attributed to a drug overdose. Another cousin, Rodney, who wrestled as Yokozuna, a WWF main event performer in his youth, also passed away young, at the age of 34, also having battled against health problems due to weight issues. Gary Albright, who married into the family, passed away from a heart attack at 36 during a match in Hazelton, PA.
In a cruel irony of fate, it now appears likely that the match designed to bring Katsuyori Shibata into a top tier position with New Japan Pro Wrestling may be the last match he’ll ever wrestle.
Shibata, 37, who remains hospitalized after his 4/9 IWGP title match with Kazuchika Okada at Tokyo Sumo Hall, is said by friends of his to be unlikely to ever be cleared to wrestle again after surgery due to a subdural hematoma from a sick skull-on-skull head-butt spot as a counter to being hit with the rainmaker.
The combination of the length of the match, dehydration and the trauma from the head-butt led to doctors advising New Japan that they would likely never be able to clear him to wrestle in good conscience.
New Japan has not announced this publicly, nor has anything been said publicly about Shibata’s situation after some brief statements in the days after the match.
Shibata collapsed backstage and was rushed to the hospital in a situation where nobody knew what was and wasn’t real, because Japan does have a history in keeping the lid on its most protected angles and making them seem legitimate.
But while there was a lot of questions last week, almost everyone at this point is going with the idea the injury and situation is exactly as it was described last week.
Dr. Shunji Asamoto, who performed the surgery, noted that he would need a strict examination before being cleared to wrestle and that he’s not optimistic at all.
One of the reasons why the company and its doctors are so cautious in this situation has to do with an incident 17 years earlier that also involved Shibata when he was breaking in.
Masakazu Fukuda captured the national high school wrestling championship in 1990 in Japan under coach Yamato Oshino at Ashikaga Kogyo High School. He was the third national champion that Oshino had coached, with the first two being Mitsuharu Misawa in 1980 and Toshiaki Kawada in 1981, who had gone on to become two of the greatest wrestlers in history. Fukuda went on to place second in the nation in freestyle wrestling in 1994 at 180 pounds, and was a 1996 Olympic hopeful. But he left amateur wrestling before the Olympic qualifying tournament to turn professional with the RINGS promotion. But he quit in camp and instead started working independent shows. He was brought into New Japan as an outsider for the 1998 Best of the Super Juniors tournament and impressed officials to where he was signed to a full-time contract in January 1999.
On October 17, 1999, in a match with Shinya Makabe (Togi Makabe) in Kobe, Fukuda suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, which required brain surgery. He got extensive testing but was given a clean bill of health and returned to action in February of 2000.
On April 14, 2000, he wrestled Shibata in Kesenuma, Japan in the Young Lions Cup. Fukuda was scheduled to win the match and do well in the tournament, and be moved into the heavyweight division and be put into a shooters group with Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi and Yutaka Yoshie. Shibata delivered a routine elbow drop barely six minutes into the match and Fukuda was supposed to kick out. Instead, he began snoring in the ring and was rushed to the hospital where he underwent emergency brain surgery, and passed away five days later at the age of 27.
The only word we’ve received on Shibata is that he’s awake and alert, can carry on a conversation and has memories of the match with Okada. At first, he had some right side paralysis, but that has gotten better.
Shibata lost to Okada in an incredible match which boosted both men’s stock because they sold out Sumo Hall in advance with more paid attendance than any non-G-1 show the company has run in the building in more than a decade. It was done with Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito and Kenny Omega working undercard tag team matches, so it showed that Okada had become a legitimate top drawing champion on his own, and that the crowd saw Shibata as a strong challenger who they were behind in his quest to win the IWGP title as opposed to it being just another main event match. The match was given no special angle and established Shibata as one of the big five stars of the company.
Shibata, the son of 1970s New Japan wrestler Katsuhisa Shibata, went to Kuwama Kogyo High School where he was a national high school wrestling champion in 1997. He was best friends and teammates with Hirooki Goto and the two started together in the New Japan camp.
He was groomed for stardom in New Japan. The company, in a declining phase, chose Shibata, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi to build around. But Shibata quit the company in 2005 when one of the New Japan promoters left and started a new promotion where Shibata was to be the top star. During the period he was in New Japan, they were putting some of their wrestlers with strong legitimate backgrounds in shoots. Shibata did one professional kickboxing match, which he lost via second round stoppage from a body blow, and one MMA fight in Brazil, which he won in 52 seconds.
He left pro wrestling and spent five years doing MMA. Shibata, who fought as a middleweight, was a huge name in the MMA world but not a great fighter. Because of his fame, he had matches with some of the top middleweights who fought in Japan during that period, with losses to the likes of Ralek Gracie, Kazushi Sakuraba, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Hayato Sakurai and the much larger judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii. He was knocked out five times as an MMA fighter, and compiled a career record of 4-11-1.
He returned to New Japan with Sakuraba in 2012 and was a heat machine. He played the role of an outsider doing a shooter gimmick, no selling traditional wrestling spots and working matches to look legitimate with hard strikes and working a match to make it appear there was no cooperation.
Owner Takaaki Kidani, a big MMA fan, particularly of Sakuraba, brought them in at a time when most of the roster didn’t want them around, remembering how previous overuse of MMA fighters had greatly hurt the popularity of the promotion.
But Sakuraba & Shibata were a big success as outsiders. In time, Sakuraba’s injuries and age caught up with him, but Shibata only became a bigger star, having strong matches in particular with Tomohiro Ishii and his big feud with Goto. He and Goto later became a tag team and won the IWGP heavyweight tag team titles from Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows on January 4, 2015. That fulfilled a teenage dream that he and Goto had of winning the titles together at the Tokyo Dome.
He also held the Never championship three times. While he got wins over most of the top stars, he was always booked at the level just underneath the top guys. The Sumo Hall show was his first chance to carry a major show in a championship match on his own, and many thought he would win the title. Evidently, the idea is to keep the title on Okada and build up Omega as the big challenge, but Shibata was scheduled to be in the top mix going fo rward.
There are ways to safely do head-butts in pro wrestling, but the legitimate skull-on-skull type that Shibata did with Okada, and also did with Katsuhiko Nakajima last year in a feud that never got out of the blocks, should be banned by all pro wrestling companies.
The situation with Mauro Ranallo and WWE hasn’t changed as representatives from both sides were working out a settlement regarding the remainder of his contract.
It is expected that a non-disclosure agreement regarding everything that happened would be part of the settlement.
The story is tough because many people will openly talk about it, but few will go on the record because most are either in the company and aren’t allowed nor would want to publicly talk about it, and those who will mostly talk about the period of a decade or longer ago, where there is no debate about what was going on, since person-after-person has gone on record about it and enough stories have been told confirming things.
Ranallo’s return to broadcasting came a week earlier than expected. He was to start back on 4.22 doing the Shawn Porter vs. Andre Berto boxing match on Showtime, but instead returned on 4/16 doing the iPPV of the Rizin Fighting Federation show with Frank Shamrock.
The two were last minute replacements. Earlier in the week, there was a falling out between Rizin head Nobuyuki Sakakibara and Jerry Millen. Millen had gotten rid of Ranallo as the lead announcer for Pride after he had taken over more than a decade ago, and also had problems with Bas Rutten, who quit. After Millen was gone, meaning his announcing team was out, Sakakibara at the last minute contacted Ranallo and Shamrock, which led to Ranallo tweeting “Karma is real. Just ask the dude who wasn’t in Japan this weekend.”
Layfield returned to the company in 2012 as a color commentator after Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack. He moved to Smackdown in the summer of 2016, replacing Jerry Lawler in working with Ranallo.
Lawler and Ranallo had made a good pairing, in the sense that Lawler been revitalized on Smackdown and was doing his best work in many years. But the plan had always been to phase Lawler out, since Vince McMahon has always had a thing about announcers being old. Lawler’s move to Smackdown was step one, and then from there, he was to be replaced a few months later, no matter how well the team worked.
There was an issue early. Lawler, used to calling Jim Ross “J.R.,” started calling Ranallo “M.R.,” likely an inside rib since decades earlier, when Lawler and McMahon were growing up, the term “M.R.” was considered one of the worst playground slurs, similar to gay slurs in their generation, as it was short for “mental retard.” Of course few would know that since the term went away probably by the 70s. But after a few weeks, it was dropped.
Ranallo started with Smackdown at the start of 2016, as a change for the show moving to the USA Network from Syfy. When he was first contacted by Michael Cole and Paul Levesque, he had come off announcing the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight for Showtime and was getting strong reviews as the lead announcer of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS.
He was told at the time that they wanted him to be himself, because they wanted Smackdown to have a different feel from Raw and come across more like a sport. Of course, there was the usual stuff of banned words and phrases. For a few months, everything seemed fine, until Vince McMahon wanted him to be more like Michael Cole, essentially the exact opposite thing he was hired to be.
At that point, things started to go sour. The description from those there was that Ranallo, being different, made him the butt of jokes. One person described it as the smart guys being intimidated because they usually could get away with being the smartest in the room, but Ranallo had this insane memory of knowledge of certain subjects that either left people in awe or threatened. He was tabbed as weird and the production room was filled with a lot of people who were emotionally still in high school. Ranallo was in the position of being the weird kid in school. Plus, Ranallo was outwardly bipolar, so that environment in the long-term was going to be trouble.
The way he interacted with people on social media so heavily was almost inherently going to be an issue, but it’s unknown whether it was ever discussed with him. Layfield brought it up on the air during Smackdown a few times, but that came across as acting in character but it being fiction with elements of reality.
Later during the “Bring It To The Table,” episode on the WWE Network that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was noted to us that the subject matter of burying Ranallo was part of that episode and not Layfield going off on his own, and discussed ahead of time as to what should and shouldn’t be said. Even though that was all talked about ahead of time, Layfield’s limited response to everything was to claim everything he said about Ranallo was because he was playing the role of heel on television, which was not the case in that segment. And even if Vince McMahon wouldn’t have been part of those discussions, Kevin Dunn was. More importantly, even after the realization of what happened and how it caused a breakdown, Vince McMahon by this point should have either edited the segment off the replays of the show or just taken the show out of its rotation of the network, rather than continued to promote it.
Another person noted to us that there would be the jibes about appearance and such, very much like a high school situation, and it was far more than just Layfield. Others said that the cool kids were always doing that with the ring announcers and some of the other commentators who weren’t wrestlers first and weren’t seen as real tough guys, or even Byron Saxton, who started as a wrestler but was never a star. It was noted that if Saxton had been Ranallo, that the feeling is by holding it in for so long, he’d probably explode in a bad way, but Saxton was taught early on to no sell everything no matter what. It didn’t make it go away, but he just understood the game and how to survive, as did others. The descriptions of Justin Roberts in his book about Layfield always telling him things like “I hope you kill yourself” from years back, continued with Tony Chimel, who one person recounted Layfield said to him constantly. There was the description that Layfield before the shows, holds court berating people instead of working with his broadcast partners to make the show better.
There was also an incident involving another non-wrestler who was well known to have a close family member dying, and had missed two weeks due to a minor operation. Layfield went off on missing the shows, harassing the person and saying how he didn’t miss any shows after hernia surgery. The person noted that this wasn’t the week to do this, and he didn’t stop until the person was in tears.
There are different interpretations of this. Most point the finger at the people in charge of the company, who they felt encouraged it, and that over the past few weeks, Layfield was the scapegoat for people like Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn.
One wrestler noted, “He (Layfield) F***ed with lots of new guys simply because he could. I don’t know if JBL is tough, but all these guys were scared to stand up to him in fear of getting fired.”
Don Callis, who managed Layfield at one point, noted that he never had problems with Layfield to his face, as they spoke on the phone several times and purported to be friends. He has said he confronted Layfield once because there were stories that Layfield was burying him and Layfield denied all. He said after he was fired, that they talked again and Layfield acted sympathetically to him. Later Al Snow told him that after Callis was gone, Layfield was bragging about how he got Callis fired.
Callis also noted on his podcast this week that he had never previously heard the story about Layfield having the pet nickname “Monkey Boy” for him behind his back, or telling the Hardys to use toothpicks and break them off into the keyhole of his rental car, to keep him from unlocking the doors and being able to drive it. He said that it never actually happened so either the Hardys decided not to do it, or if they did, as many would do to fit in, they would have done it to the wrong car.
Callis also was unhappy about one aspect of the coverage here saying it was too sympathetic to Layfield to dismiss his role as being just carrying out orders from above, because most others would have never done it, and that Layfield took great delight in doing it.
While the story of Joey Styles punching Layfield on an overseas tour has been told to death, it was noted about how bad it must have been for Styles to finally retaliate, noting that whatever people think of Styles personally, he hardly has a history of losing his cool in public or punching people. Nobody at the time was negative about Styles, noting that Layfield had insulted his family members and that was considered a no-no.
“Everything (he) did, he would drink and just terrorize people,” said Mike Bucci (Simon Dean) in an interview regarding that trip. “It was horrible. I was just like, `What does he get out of this?’ There were overseas trips, just all night on the bus, yelling at people and treating them like shit because he would sleep all afternoon. In the daytime, he could sleep on the bus because nobody could say anything. They were all afraid. But at night time, he’s yelling at ‘em.”
Justin Roberts, whose book that coincidentally came out right after Ranallo’s situation started to go public, noted that while he had stories about Layfield, he didn’t want him fired, and made it clear it’s the people above him, McMahon and Paul Levesque, who fostered the culture and Layfield was not the root of the problem. However, he also brought up the treatment of Saxton and Chimel, which others have noted to us.
Booker T, on his podcast, discussed the subject and blew it off saying that once you are out of high school, you’re a grown up and there’s no such thing as bullying.
Others, in a weird twist, felt that it was the fans who were bullying the company, with at one point 500 Tweets per hour with Fire JBL hashtags. But anyone who has been around bullying will tell you that the bullies are often the first ones to complain that they are the ones being bullied.
Still others questioned why this was such a big story now, given it’s been well-known for two decades and there wasn’t a similar outcry when the lawsuit filed by former WCW referee Billy Silverman came out or when Amy Weber and Brian Mailhot (Palmer Cannon) quit the company over similar harassment. The reality is the incidents with Silverman and the 2005 incident where Brian Heffron were significant stories at the time. And a key to the Silverman story is he did complain to management and was told to just get along by doing what they say. He later filed a suit.
Heffron (Blue Meanie) was legitimately punched out, and needed 12 stitches and was left bloody, by Layfield during an ECW vs. WWE televised brawl, before people like Al Snow and Tracy Smothers were able to maneuver Layfield away from him. This was reportedly because Heffron had previously said that Layfield was a backstage bully who preys on younger talent with ribs and outright abuse because he can.
Because that incident led to a significant amount of coverage, Layfield was punished for it. It was turned into an angle on the July 5, 2005, Smackdown show, because it was public and everyone saw what happened. The punishment was that Layfield would have to take a ridiculously hard chair shot to the head in retaliation. Layfield was legitimately busted open by the chair shot. Meanie was given a win over Layfield as well, but it was largely meaningless as he kicked out of the chair shot and the moonsault and it was Batista giving him a spinebuster that led to Meanie getting the win. This was before WWE had any protocol about protecting the head from damage.
When it came to Ranallo, McMahon was said to be frustrated at him for his announcing style and adding Tom Phillips to the Smackdown announce team as the fourth member was the first public sign of it. Those following the show who had worked there or knew the situation noted that his hip-hop references, or using names of moves like ushigoroshi or referencing Kazuchika Okada when somebody would do a great dropkick, were clearly not going to earn him any favors. Still, it’s doubtful anyone actually told him that because if they had, he’d have likely changed given what he was told, like using the WWE lingo, he did change.
Because of the nature of the negotiations right now, neither WWE nor anyone close to Ranallo has discussed the issue, past Ranallo’s former broadcast partners Bas Rutten and Pat Miletich saying they’d like to meet up with Layfield. Rutten, when asked on Twitter to elaborate, said that due to non-disclosure clauses, he can’t do so right now.
Privately, several people from the company, including wrestlers, had contacted Ranallo. Some wrestlers noted that like with Jim Ross, they always wanted him to call their matches because he would get the match itself and the performers over better than the other announcers.
Another announcer noted that Cole had put together a list of rules for announcers and that the heel color guy can do a lot of things, but you are not allowed to publicly emasculate the lead announcer, with the idea that the credibility of the lead announcer is important in selling the product. He noted that the rules never applied to Layfield.
On Under the Mat radio, Rich Bocchini, better known as Rich Brennan, noted “JBL was difficult to work with as a broadcast partner. It’s nothing you can do about it because that’s Vince’s guy. With this whole thing going on, I don’t know, but it seems like he’s entranced there. He basically violates all rules when it comes to broadcast announcers in how we are trained to be announcers, because he can. Difficult to work with. Part of this is his heel personal and some of that is if he doesn’t like you or respect, you, then it’s dialed up a little bit. At times I felt like he really didn’t work to make the product better. He was just there to get himself over. Backstage he was okay to me. Can I see him giving Mauro a hard time? Absolutely, I can.”
While there was a lot of fan unrest regarding Layfield and chants for Ranallo at the 4/11 Smackdown tapings in Boston, by the 4/18 show in Louisville, it had blown over. Layfield’s character flipped into a babyface persona starting on 4/11.
Dwayne Johnson has always prided himself on setting box office records in both pro wrestling and the movies. He added a big one this past weekend as “The Fate of the Furious,” which Johnson co-starred with Vin Diesel, did $532 million worldwide in its first weekend of release, the largest movie opening in history.
That broke the record of $529 million of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was released in December 2015.
A huge part of that record has to do with China, where the movie opened at $190 million. In the U.S. the opening weekend gross ended up at $98,786,705, which was actually on the lower end of predictions, which ranged going in from $95 million to $125 million. In the U.S., it was in 29th place for the largest first day and only 44th place for the largest opening weekend, and third place for the largest April open in history. But outside the U.S., it blew away all records including setting them in at least 17 different countries.
The open in the U.S. was way down from Fast Seven, which did $147,178,040 in its first weekend, although all predictions were for a significant drop from that figure. Fast Seven, released in 2015, was the sixth highest grossing movie worldwide of all time, at $1,516,748,684. It was still the second best opening weekend of the Fast and Furious franchise. There are already plans in place for a ninth version to be released in 2019 and the tenth version in 2021, with Johnson and Diesel as the likely key characters.
Aside from China and the U.S., the biggest markets for the movie were Mexico ($17.8 million), U.K./Ireland ($17.0 million) and Russia ($14.1 million).
Besides China, the movie set all-time national records for highest-grossing first weekend in Argentina, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Middle East, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Portugal, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Vietnam.
The first weekend international gross of $433,200,000, destroyed the old record of $316,700,000 set by Jurassic World.
U.S. audience notes were that the movie did 58 percent male ticket buyers, 50 percent were under the age of 25, and the breakdown ethnically was 41 percent Caucasian, 26 percent Hispanic, 19 percent African-American and 11 percent Asian according to Box Office Mojo. As far as moviegoers reactions, the reaction was extremely positive
Johnson has several key pro wrestling records including being the only wrestler ever to headline 100 shows during a calendar year that did more than 10,000 paid attendance in 2000; as well as the 2012 WrestleMania, in his first match with John Cena, which grossed more PPV revenue (it was the second most purchased pro wrestling PPV with 1,217,000 orders, but the price was higher than the Donald Trump record of 1,250,000 orders set in 2007), and generated more overall revenue than any pro wrestling event of all-time.
Johnson is listed with a number of Guinness World Records, including most money earned for any film actor in 2016, and most money earned by an actor in his first starring role in 2007.
Demetrious Johnson may be technically the best all-around fighter in MMA history. And he’s also living proof that in this era, that doesn’t matter much to the average person.
Johnson’s quest to tie Anderson Silva’s record with 10 consecutive championship defenses drew the second lowest rating in the history of UFC on FOX live events. In fact, even that should have an asterisk, because the only show it beat was one that was pre-empted in 15 key markets when the local stations instead aired NFL preseason football last August.
Johnson tapped out Wilson Reis with an armbar at 4:49 of the third round in a fight he pretty well completely dominated. He was too quick for Reis to hit, and too quick for Reis to block. Then, which is the key, his stamina is just off the charts. While everyone else gets tired as the fight goes on, he stays the same. Reis, a former world champion in BJJ, was simply so tired from the pace and the beating he had taken that he was armbarred, losing on the ground, where he was supposed to be a master.
The show did a 1.22 rating and 1,996,000 viewers, peaking with 2,874,000 viewers for the main event. The 8/27 show headlined by Demian Maia vs. Carlos Condit did 1,983,000 viewers on FOX, but that isn’t really a fair comparison due to the preemptions. But a few things are significant. First, this is the second straight UFC show on FOX to do low numbers, as the 1/28 show, headlined by Valentina Shevchenko’s win over Julianna Pena, did a 1.31 rating and 2,189,000 viewers. This came after three of the previous four FOX shows in 2016 did some of the best numbers in years.
The main competition was an NHL playoff game on NBC with the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators that did 1,675,000 viewers, and an NBA playoff game on ESPN with the San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies that did 3,156,000 viewers.
UFC is currently down 19 percent from the same period last year on FOX. The postfight show did 125,000 viewers.
The number was a surprise. Johnson’s three prior title defenses on FOX drew 4,220,000 viewers (vs. John Dodson, although Rampage Jackson being on the show helped that greatly), 2,380,000 (vs. John Moraga) and 2,800,000 (vs. Joseph Benavidez). In addition, Michelle Waterson was in the No. 2 bout, and she was coming off main eventing a December show, where she ran through Paige VanZant, which did 3,178,000 viewers, the best numbers for the show since January 2014.
What the number says is that as Johnson continues to win and dominate, to the public, he hasn’t increased in popularity and marketability, something that would usually be the case for a dominant champion. Perhaps he’s even declined significantly. Reis didn’t help as an opponent, but the show had a strong undercard.
All week long, UFC was pushing Johnson as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Brain Stann, who noted that he watches more tape than anyone and would argue this point with anybody, said that Johnson was the single best fighter in the history of the sport. As far as not having weaknesses, you could make that argument, as well as an argument for him being the best ever among the top guys when it comes to speed, skill and conditioning . The problem with Johnson is that flyweight simply doesn’t have the talent depth of other divisions.
Johnson’s victims’ list can’t even touch the level of fighters that Jon Jones, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre beat. But in his four-and-a-half years as world champion, John Dodson is the only guy who even came close to beating him, and that was in their first meeting. In their rematch, it wasn’t even competitive.
The show was the UFC’s first event ever in the state of Missouri, held at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The show drew 12,171 fans and set a building gate record for any sporting event with $1,081,193.
The $50,000 bonuses went to Johnson and Robert Whittaker for performance bonuses and to Tim Elliott vs. Louis Smolka for best fight.
One of Johnson’s problems is the lack of a strong rival opponent. His next fight, going for the record, would figure to be against either Ray Borg, who has no real name value, or Joseph Benavidez, who has been the second best fighter in the division since its inception, but who Johnson has already beaten twice, the last time in 2013 by first round knockout.
Two other divisions championship picture was changed on the show.
In the women’s strawweight division, Rose Namajunas finished Waterson with a choke. Namajunas looks to be the most likely next contender for the winner of the 7/8 fight between champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and challenger Jessica Andrade.
In the middleweight division, Robert Whittaker scored a major upset over Ronaldo Jacare Souza. He immediately challenged Michael Bisping for a title shot. Bisping, who faces Georges St-Pierre next, said that he feels Whittaker is more deserving than Yoel Romero, who Bisping claims is a steroid cheat. The fight does put Souza out of the running for a title fight, and should put Whittaker against either Luke Rockhold or Gegard Mousasi for an eventual shot.
1. Ketlen Veiera (8-0) beat Ashlee Evans-Smith (5-2) via scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 in a women’s bantamweight fight. Veiera landed more punches in the first two rounds and got a takedown and back control in the second round. Evans dropped Veiera in the third round, and also landed knees to the hamstring and stomped on the does. Veiera landed some good punches late. Good start to the show.
2. Zak Cummings (21-5) beat Nathan Coy (15-7) at 4:21 in a welterweight fight. Cummings landed the better punches. Coy went for a takedown, but Cummings sprawled, landed some punches and got a guillotine and Coy went out and the fight was stopped.
3. Anthony Smith (27-12) beat Andrew Sanchez (9-3) at 3:52 of the third round in a middleweight fight. Sanchez got a takedown into side control in the first round, but Smith got the better of the stand-up in the first round. In the second round, Sanchez took him down and got back position, landing punches. Sanchez moved to the top and continued to land. In the third round, Sanchez hurt smith with punches, but Smith landed a head kick that changed the fight, and followed with punches and it was stopped.
4. Devin Clark (8-1) beat Jake Collier (10-4) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26 in a light heavyweight fight. Clark got a takedown and landed knees to the body ad punches from the top to win the round. Clark got two more takedowns in the second round. Clark got another takedown in the third, got back and mount position and kept landing. He worked for a choke, but couldn’t finish. He got another takedown late to easily win the decision.
5. Aljamain Sterling (13-2) beat August Mendes (6-2) on scores of 29-28 across the board in a bantamweight fight. Sterling got two takedowns in the first round but Mendes hurt him with a punch and went for an armbar. In the second round, Sterling got a takedown and landed hammer fists. Sterling landed good punches late in the third round, hurting Mendes right before the finish.
6. Tim Elliott (15-7-1) beat Louis Smolka (11-4) on straight 30-27 scores in a flyweight fight. The crowd was really hot for this one, as Elliott is from Lee’s Summit, MO. This was a great fight, similar to the back-and-forth grappling matches Japanese smaller fighters used to have during the hot MMA period with it going back-and-forth. Elliott got a takedown and into side control. Smolka got up and took Elliott down and got his back. Elliott got another takedown and worked the body, and then got a third takedown. Smolka used a guillotine to reverse to the top. Elliott got two more takedowns and cut Smolka above the right eye with an elbow. Smolka then reversed and got on top of Elliott and then had his back. This was all just in the first round. Smolka started to land in the second round but Elliott took him down. Smolka reversed to the top immediately. Elliott got three more takedowns to win the second round. Elliott got a takedown into side control to start round three. He got two more takedowns and moved into the mount with a body triangle. Smolka reversed and worked for a D’arce choke. Smolka used a back suplex go get back on top, but Elliott got another takedown. Smolka finished with a takedown and went for another choke near the finish.
7. Rashid Magomedov (20-2) beat Bobby Green (23-8) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a lightweight bout. Magomedov punched Green in the shoulder and he slipped and went down. Green spent the first round trying to get Magomedov down but couldn’t. Green punched Magomedov in the eye and it was stopped as ref Mario Yamasaki thought it was an eye poke. The replay showed differently. Magomedov got the better of the strikes in the second round and also got a takedown. Magomedov outlanded him in the third round as well.
8. Tom Duquesnoy (15-1, 1 no contest) beat Patrick Williams (8-5) at :28 of the second round in a bantamweight fight. Duquesnoy came in with a lot of hype as the best fighter from France. He fought for BAMMA in the U.K. where he won both the featherweight and bantamweight titles before signing here. Williams got two early takedowns but Duquesnoy dropped him twice late in the round. In the second round, Duquesnoy dropped him one more time with an elbow to the temple and it was stopped.
9. Alexander Volkov (28-6) beat Roy Nelson (23-14) on straight 30-27 scores in a heavyweight fight. Nelson got a big reaction, but at 40, he was just giving away far too much reach and speed against the 6-foot-7 former Bellator heavyweight champion. Nelson got a takedown, but did little with it and a standup was ordered. Volkov was landing all kinds of punches and knees in a very good first round. The second round saw Volkov work the body with punches and kicks. Nelson went for a takedown in the third round, but Volkov landed elbows and knees and a number of kicks and punches. He used his reach to continue to land with body kicks just as time ran out.
10. Renato Moicano (11-0-1) beat Jeremy Stephens (25-14) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a featherweight fight. Moicano kept landing low kicks in the first round and got a takedown. Stephens went for a takedown in the second round but Moicano blocked and landed a hard right. Stephens came back with good punches. Moicano also landed and both were throwing hard late. In the third round, both continued to land. Moicano took him down. Stephens got some good blows in and at the end both were landing good shots.
11. Robert Whittaker (19-4) beat Ronaldo Jacare Souza (24-5, 1 no contest) at 3:28 of the second round in a middleweight fight. Souza got a first-round takedown, but Whittaker got back up. Souza took him down and got his back. Whittaker escaped again. Whittaker threw him down and started landing good punches late in the round. In the second round, Whittaker dropped him and let him up. Whittaker hurt Souza with an uppercut. Whittaker kept landing punches as Souza seemed tired and desperate. Whittaker landed elbows and punches and it was stopped. Souza was working his way out of trouble when it was stopped, and he was mad about the stoppage. But he was taking solid punches and like he was just about done.
12. Rose Namajunas (7-3) beat Michelle Waterson (14-5) at 2:47 of the second round in a women’s strawweight fight. Waterson landed a nice kick and used a headlock takeover. Namajunas slipped behind her and moved to the top, landing elbows and punches. Namajunas got a takedown late in the round. In the second round, Namajunas landed a beautiful head kick and punches. Namajunas got on top in side control, was landing punches and then got a choke for the tap.
13. Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1) beat Wilson Reis (22-7) at 4:49 of the third round in a flyweight fight. Johnson was landing a lot of kicks and some punches to dominate the round. Reis got a momentary takedown in the round but Johnson got right back up. In the second round, Johnson used punches and body kicks. Johnson was punching him on the ground at the end of the round. Johnson kept landing in the third round while stopping Reis from getting any takedowns. Johnson got a takedown, moved to side control, then mount, and threw punch after punch until Reis was all bloody. At that point, Johnson spun into an armbar for the submission.
The World Series of Fighting, the third largest MMA group in the U.S., which airs on NBC Sports Network in the U.S., TSN in Canada as well as stations in Latin America, Brazil and the Caribbean, was announced as being sold to a new organization called the Professional Fighters League.
The promotion, whose top stars were Justin Gaethje, Jon Fitch, Jake Shields, two-time Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison and Blagoi Ivanov, was announced as being sold to a new group that will open in January with a massive tournament format.
The WSOF recently lost champions David Branch and Marlon Moraes to UFC, while Gaethje is currently a free agent.
In their press release, the new promotion claimed they are open to all fighters worldwide, and that the structure will be seven weight classes (at least one of those weight classes will be for women as Harrison was announced as part of the promotion) with a schedule of fights during a regular season, which will run from January through October. All the fighters in the league will have three scheduled fights.
At the end of the season, the fighters with the best win-loss records in each of the seven weight classes will be put into a single elimination tournament, called the playoffs, similar to a pro sports league. Each champion will reportedly receive $1 million. Another $3 million has been earmarked for the rest of the fighters in the promotion.
Ray Sefo, who had been the public face of the WSOF, will continue as the President of Fighting Operations, and Carlos Silva, the WSOF CEO, will be President of Event Productions and Business Operations for the PFL.
Ariel Helwani reported that the WSOF will still go on with already planned shows this year on 6/30, 9/30, 10/30 and 11/4. The television deal with NBC and NBC Sports Network expires at the end of this year, and the new promotion does not have a television deal in place.
The Washington Post reported that the money behind the project comes from Russ Ramsey, an investment banker and hedge fund manager who headed Washington D.C.’s failed attempt to get the 2024 Olympics, venture capitalists Mark Leschley (who will be the executive chairman) and Donn Davis. Other names listed as investors for the group that will make Washington, D.C. its home base are Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Mystics (WNBA) and Washington Wizards (NBA), members of the Lerner family, who own baseball’s Washington Nationals eSports Riot Games founder Brandon Beck and Los Angeles Dodgers CFO Tucker Kain. There are reports that the company has raised approximately $25 million from these different sources.
The story listed that shows will be run at the St. Elizabeth East campus in Washington, D.C., and in Baltimore at the planned Under Armour campus.
Approximately 100 fighters were sent an e-mail on 4/19 telling them that a new ownership group had purchased the company a few months ago, noted the name and format change. Fighters were told that every fighter on the roster will get at least three fights starting in 2018, and that every fighter on the roster will get a regular monthly paycheck. They pushed that the new format will enable every fighter on the roster to get a fair shot at winning the championship in 2018.
The first known police investigation of a potential fixed UFC fight surfaced this past week.
Several publications in South Korea have reported about an unnamed South Korean fighter accepting a payment to throw a fight against an American on the November 28, 2015, show in Seoul.
The media reports list the South Korean fighter being paid $88,000 to lose the match. He also placed a bet of $44,000 on his opponent to win. The strangest part of the story is that the South Korean fighter ended up winning the fight. The stories note that the investigation concluded this was done independently by the fighter and the people who contacted him and UFC had no knowledge of the situation.
The local stories noted the huge betting odds swing the day before the fight and that UFC officials were concerned by the swing and questioned the fighter about it. The story said that when UFC confronted the fighter, he made the decision to attempt to win the fight. According to the stories in South Korea, the fighter allegedly received threats on his safety after winning, and after the threats, contacted authorities, which led to the investigation.
While the fight itself was never mentioned in any South Korean report, the story points to a fight with Tae Hyun Bang vs. Leo Kuntz. That fight drew a lot of attention in the gambling world with the idea that Bang, who had been the favorite, had suddenly become a huge underdog with a tremendous amount gambled at the last minute on him losing starting the day before the fight. The speculation was that either the fight had been fixed, or that gamblers had found out that Bang had a secret injury that hadn’t been disclosed. But when Bang won the exciting fight via split decision, that killed the speculation the fight had been fixed.
In the Observer issue covering the fight, it was noted that Bang had gone from a 2-to-1 favorite to Kuntz being a 4-to-1 favorite the day before the show. It was noted in the story that there was significant talk of the fight being fixed, but that given how exciting the fight was, and that Bang won, it was clear the outcome was not fixed. It was noted that this fight had made mainstream news in Las Vegas because of the odds shift. The Las Vegas Review-Journal noted that one property reported that the amount bet on this obscure fight was about the same as a typical NFL game and noted in one place alone, there were three bets of more than $100,000 on Kuntz. As it turned out, it was a huge winner for Las Vegas because 79 percent of the money bet was on Kuntz.
The website B.J. Penn.com reported that a source with knowledge of the investigation listed the fight as Bang vs. Kuntz, and that South Korean gangsters convinced Bang to throw the fight. The gamblers allegedly offered him $88,000 to lose, which he accepted. They placed $176,000 in bets on Kuntz to win, and the word got out in the gambling world which led to an estimated $2 million bet in the last day on Kuntz. They also reported Bang bet $44,000 on Kuntz to win.
The Penn site said that in the investigation, after Bang was confronted before the fight by UFC officials, he felt that he was screwed either way and thus, decided he would try to win the fight. Bang knocked him down immediately and nearly finished him in the first round. However the decision was extremely close, and I had Kuntz winning the second and third rounds. The Penn site said Bang had reportedly received multiple death threats and went to the authorities.
UFC had not released a statement at press time but this would be the first time there has been a police investigation that has gone public regarding an attempt to fix a UFC fight.
Aside from the situation involving Mauro Ranallo, Jerry Millen and Frank Shamrock, the 4/16 Rizin show at the Yokohama Arena really just showed the sad reality of MMA in Japan right now.
The show didn’t draw well, although that was expected given the lack of the legends from the past. As far as mainstream names were concerned, the biggest was Satoshi Ishii, the 2008 Olympic judo gold medalist, but this was his 22nd MMA fight and the novelty has long since worn off for him, and he never had the charisma to connect with the public. Tatsuya Kawajiri was one of the top lightweight stars in the Pride and Dream era, headlined against Anthony Birchak. But he’s 38, and is coming off a choke loss to Kron Gracie, and Birchak is an unknown.
Since the return of Rizin, it’s been the women, notably Rena Kubota and Miyu Yamamoto, who have been the big draws.
Because of that, the decision has been made to feature them. The show aired in edited form from 7-9 p.m., so a prime time airing on the Fuji Network, which did a 5.4 rating, which would mean about 5.5 million to 6 million viewers. While that sounds good, it really wasn’t, as the show was given a strong lead-in of the show “Sazae-san” which is a Sunday night institution on the network. That show, which did an 11.5 rating, is believed to be the longest-running non-soap opera scripted television show in history anywhere in the world. The show has aired weekly on Sunday nights in Japan since 1969 with about 7,350 new episodes, a cultural equivalent but bigger than The Simpsons would be in the U.S. The viewing audience declined throughout the show, which is not a good sign for a sports event in prime time.
The network idea was that the big audience watching that show would be more apt to stay and see women fights, based on the women being bigger draws than even well known male fighters like Mirko Cro Cop and Fedor Emelianenko.
They opened with Kanna Asakura vs. Aleksandra Toncheva, which did about eight million viewers. But the audience declined from there. They next did a gimmick match with King (not Queen) Reina (Reina Miura), who is coming off a win over Shayna Baszler, in a freak show fight with Jazzy Gabert (Marie Gabert).
Reina, who is 20 and has only had a few fights, is 5-foot-2 and weighed 162 pounds. Gabert, the German pro wrestler Alpha Female, was listed at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds. The original idea was for Gabert to face Gabi Garcia, but Garcia didn’t agree to the fight on this date. They kept showing woman pro wrestling stars Yumiko Hotta and Shinobu Kandori at ringside, and I sensed the idea was to build Gabert vs. Kandori. But with Gabert being taken down a few times by Reina and beaten with an armbar at 4:45 of the second round, that may change the plans.
They followed airing Kubota’s win over Dora Perjes, which came via body punch in 2:49.
They also showed Kizaemon Saiga, at one time a young star in K-1, who lost in the opener to Seiichiro Ito, largely because of constant crowd shots of wife, Yu Abiru, who is a famous actress and model, building to them kissing after the loss.
Hardcore fans were very mad because Kawajiri’s main event, as well as arguably Japan’s best active current fighter, Kyoji Horiguchi, both had their fights only air in highlight form.
Horiguchi let his UFC contract expire after going 7-1 in the organization with his only loss to Demetrious Johnson (that was the fight where Johnson won via armbar at 4:59 of the fifth round in the latest finish of a fight in UFC history). He’d won three straight since then, but got a better money offer for Japan.
The bad part is the television side looking for ratings and not building the future.
Rizin’s schedule for the rest of the year is a 7/30 show, then an October show, as well as 12/29 and 12/31 shows at the Saitama Super Arena.
The October show will be presented as the 20th anniversary of the Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada Tokyo Dome fight that was the first Pride show. Rizin, is being presented as the extension and return of Pride, with the same type of special effects and music, although a very different product mix since Pride never used women fighters.
The major plans are two tournaments.
There will be a 16 man bantamweight tournament. There will be four fights on 7/30 and four more first round fights in October. The eight winners will meet in the second round on 12/29. The final four will have both semifinals and finals on the New Year’s Eve show. It’s crazy to fight three fights so close together but Rizin has been doing that the past two years. Horiguchi will move up to bantamweight for the tournament and it’ll be built around him, which shows the dichotomy of his fight being shown in highlight fashion as an afterthought this weekend.
There will also be a women’s tournament at 105 pounds, built around Kubota. The first round will take place in the October show, and both the semifinals and finals will be on the New Year’s Eve show.
Kawajiri (36-11) defeated Birchak (13-4), another former UFC fighter, via decision in the main event. Amir Aliakbari (6-1) of Iran, who won the world championship in Greco-Roman wrestling in 2010, but is now banned from the sport, defeated Geronimo Dos Santos (6-1) in 3:34 with punches on the ground. Aliakbari was banned after two PED test failures, the first which kept him out of the 2012 Olympics, and the second came in a test taken after he had won the 2013 world championship at 264 pounds.
Horiguchi (19-2) beat Yuki Motoya (18-5) via solid decision in a fight where the outcome was really never in jeopardy. Another project, 18-year-old Tenshin Nasukawa (3-0) defeated the debuting Franceso Ghigliotti in 1:07.
Ishii (15-7) beat former Pride star Heath Herring (28-16) via decision in a fight that was mostly takedowns and ground control. Herring had retired from fighting back in 2008, after a UFC loss to Brock Lesnar. He returned for the New Year’s Eve heavyweight tournament, where he lost in his first fight back to Aliakbari.
Chad “Akebono” Rowan, 47, who is almost surely the most famous active pro wrestler within Japan, was hospitalized after doing a show on 4/11 for the DDT promotion in Omuta, and while details are sparse, Japanese pro wrestling and sumo reports and other Japanese news reports through the week categorized his situation as life threatening, being in a medically induced coma over the weekend. Others in Japan believed his career could be over.
On 4/18, the Oudou promotion released a statement saying that Akebono was currently under treatment for cellulitis and an infection in his right leg, and announced he had been pulled from all future wrestling dates. They claimed that Akebono was recuperating and aiming to return to the ring, and that Japanese media articles on the subject were inaccurate, although they did not address anything specific that was inaccurate. Other reports said that his condition was not critical.
Rowan was reported over the weekend as being in a medically induced coma and was expected to be hospitalized for at least another week. His family was brought to the hospital.
While this was reported in Japan about him going to the hospital, it is surprising how little has been said about it in public past that. Akebono had worked two shows on 4/11, an afternoon charity show for Earthquake victims in the town of Mashiki, before going to Omuta, about an hour away, for the DDT show that evening. On the morning of 4/12, he was taken to a Fukuoka hospital. His wife and children were rushed to Fukuoka and stayed until 4/17.
From a name standpoint, Akebono, who was one of the biggest stars in the history of sumo, would be more famous mainstream in Japan than any living pro wrestler with the exception of probably Antonio Inoki.
Born in Waimanola, Hawaii, Akbeono, who was 6-foot-8 and 480 to 520 pounds in sumo, was the first foreigner ever to be awarded a position of Yokozuna, or Grand Champion in sumo. In the early 90s, his matches with the famous brothers Takanohana and Wakanohana drew tremendous ratings and led to a comeback in the popularity of the sport. He retired in 2001 and then in 2003, left the sumo industry to sign with K-1 as a freak attraction.
His first fight, under kickboxing rules, with Bob Sapp, which he lost via first round knockout, had 54 million viewers watching live on December 31, 2003, and he remained a big ratings draw even though he was a terrible fighter.
His weight varied from 420 to 510 pounds as an MMA fighter and later as a pro wrestler. In an attempt to help the PPV in Japan, he briefly appeared in WWE in 2005, wrestling one television match, building to a sumo match at that year’s WrestleMania, where he defeated Big Show. Later that year, in a match in Japan, Akebono & Show teamed up to beat Matt Morgan & Carlito on a WWE card.
He started as a regular pro wrestler in Japan after that point, in August, 2005, and has worked for promotions large and small, as an independent attraction. He worked for New Japan in 2006 and 2007, including once challenging Brock Lesnar for the IWGP heavyweight championship. There was an issue with management as they wanted Lesnar to win with the F-5, thinking it would get Lesnar over doing it to such a large and famous man. Lesnar instead won with a belt shot to the head, with the story being that Lesnar thought with Akebono’s size and name value there was money in a longer program, although they never worked again and Lesnar didn’t last much longer with the promotion. In fact, their match at Sumo Hall on March 19, 2006, only drew 4,500 fans, one of the company’s worst houses in the building in its history.
Akebono was a huge television draw for his real fights, but the novelty wore off by the time he got into pro wrestling. He was with All Japan from 2009 to 2015, before leaving to form his own promotion called Oudou.
Akebono started in sumo in 1988 and won his first tournament in 1992. His peak was in 1993 where he won four of the six major tournaments. He remained top level in the sport until the last major tournament in 2000, where he won it after going 14-1. But injuries led to his retirement in early 2001. He went 1-9 as a kickboxer, and his only win won over Nobuaki Kakuda, a referee who worked for the promotion and it’s largely believed lost the fight to try and breathe some life into him after he’d lost his first five fights. He was often put in freak show fights including his two losses to Sapp and three more against 7-foot-2, 330-pound Hong-man Choi. He went 0-4 in MMA, with losses to Royce Gracie, comedian Bobby Ologun, Don Frye and Giant Silva.
He was expected to fight with Rizin when they announced starting up the promotion, but hasn’t done so. Because of his weight, he had a number of health related problems in recent years.
Smackdown on 4/18 did a huge decline from Superstar shake-up week, falling 18 percent from the second best week of the new format.
There was going to be a drop no matter what, but the 2,544,000 viewers were below the 2.7 to 2.8 million the show had been doing.
The show placed sixth for the night on cable, with the Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics NBA playoff game on TNT doing 3,368,000 viewers head-to-head.
The show did a 0.64 in 12-17 (down 15.8 percent), 0.70 in 18-34 (down 18.6 percent), 0.92 in 35-49 (down 25.8 percent) and 0.95 in 50+ (down 22.1 percent).
Raw on 4/17 did a healthy 3,333,000 viewers, down three percent from last week, but considering this was a regular show and not a show built around roster movement, plus had NBA playoff competition, that minor drop has to be considered good news.
Until football season, for any regular episode of Raw, a figure of 3.2 million or greater should be considered successful. And even numbers less than 3.2 million as they get deeper into the NBA playoffs, would be good.
The first hour did 3,405,000 viewers. The second hour did 3,469,000 viewers. The third hour, built around Braun Strowman vs. Big Show, did 3,165,000 viewers. The first Strowman vs. Show match did a comparatively great job of holding viewers in the third hour, but this was back to normal patterns.
The third hour drop was mostly women, as the second to third hour decline was nine percent overall, but in 18-49, it was seven percent among women and one percent among men. The third hour decline was ten percent in the 50+ age group.
The show did a 0.90 in 12-17 (down 4.3 percent from last week), 1.04 in 18-34 (down 3.7 percent), 1.34 in 35-49 (down 5.6 percent) and 1.24 in 50+ (up 0.8 percent).
The audience was 62.2 percent male in 18-49 and 59.4 percent male in 12-17.
The first half of the show went against the Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers game on TNT that did 3,582,000 viewers, which was the only show on cable that beat Raw. With Bill O’Reilly on Fox News out of action and likely down for the count, Raw is likely to be the highest rated show most Mondays other than weeks with key sporting events. The second half of Raw went against a Memphis Grizzles vs. San Antonio Spurs game that did 3,174,000 viewers.
Bellator on 4/14 in a taped show from Budapest, Hungary, headlined by Eduardo Dantas vs. Leandro Higo, did 522,000 viewers (595,000 including +3 DVR viewers), with the main event peaking at 859,000 viewers. The number was above the 438,000 the prior week for a Saturday afternoon live show from Italy, so taped in prime time still beats live out of prime time. The Bellator kickboxing show that followed from 11:15 to 1:30 a.m. did 295,000 viewers (321,000 including +3 DVR viewers).
Bellator was the second-most watched sporting event of the night trailing a New York Rangers vs. Montreal Canadiens game on the USA Network that did 610,000 viewers.
Impact on 4/13 did 302,000 viewers, so the audience remains steady at its same basic range.
The second episode of the new season of Total Divas on 4/12 did 593,000 viewers, down from 669,000 the week before. It was the sixth lowest rating in the history of the series.
Smackdown on 4/11, the second day of the superstar shakeup, did a 2.14 rating and 3,105,000 viewers (1.58 viewers per home).
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Ultimo Guerrero retained the NWA historic middleweight title over Atlantis in 19:00 with the Guerrero special, a reverse powerslam off the top rope in a very heated match. Guerrero vs. Atlantis drew the two biggest gates in company history a few years ago and bringing this back in a title match drew about 12,000 fans, the best for a non-special show without a major return of a legend in a long time. The big crowd was because of the holiday weekend and they had a deal where kids under eight could get in free with a paying adult, as well as the main event itself. It was clear it was the main event that drew the crowd because from the start with both guys coming out it had that special event feel even though it was just two legends doing a match with a one week build. It was a basic good by the numbers match that was made much better because the crowd was so into both guys. The third fall was the big moves and near falls, and Atlantis did well and Guerrero is always good in a singles match, but this wasn’t going to be at the level of most of the big singles title matches this year as far as moves go. Atlantis got him up for the torture rack, but Guerrero grabbed the ropes to break it. The semi had Dragon Lee & Caristico & Mistico over Euforia & Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja. On paper, this match sounded great, and the third fall was really good, but most of the match was about Roja not getting along with his partners and that was the story, so it wasn’t the night for the face team to take the spotlight. Diamante Azul & Stuka Jr. & Valiente beat Mephisto & Negro Casas & Sam Adonis. Adonis got a lot of heat playing the American heel with the Donald Trump flag. The crowd was very much into this match. Azul pinned Casas in the third fall with a one arm press slam dropped into a falcon arrow. Then they did an angle after the match where Ultimo Guerrero came out and pushed that on 4/30, which is kids day, there will be a special minis match with the mascots, introducing Micro Man & Guapito vs. Mije & Zacarias (the parrot). They had a bad brawl. The expectation is this show will draw a big crowd because, in Mexico, 4/30 is traditionally the biggest day of the year for wrestling. There is also talk of loading up the 4/28 show since that will be airing in Japan. Angel de Oro continued his push beating Hechicero in a match that seemed off. The other key match was Block A in the Copa Juniors which was the Soberano Jr. show. They went more than 30:00 and it started slowly. Soberano did the most spectacular stuff, came across as the star of the match, and pinned Cuatrero at the end. The most amazing spot was a corkscrew plancha to the floor where he spun five rotations. The order of elimination was El Hijo del Signo, Oro Jr., Espanto Jr., The Panther, Canelo Casas, Drone and then Cuatrero.
The 4/21 show has Dragon Lee & Volador Jr. & Caristico vs. Cavernario Barbaro & La Mascara & Casas, Azul & Stuka Jr. & Valiente vs. Mr. Niebla & Pierroth & Adonis, plus the B Block of Copa Juniors with Blue Panther Jr., Esfinge, Magnus, Stigma, Star Jr., Sanson, Forastero and Artillero.
This is Niebla’s first Friday night appearance since August. They’ll never get rid of him, but he’s suspended all the time, including twice since August. Part of his punishment was that until this week, he wouldn’t be booked on Friday, which is the best paying CMLL show of the week. While he used to deny he had any personal issues, he’s now taken a different tact and thanked CMLL for supporting him for all those years. He also sent a message to fans on social media who say he’s not as good as he used to be, and does too much comedy, telling them if they want to see him when he was good, they should watch his matches from years ago on YouTube.
Dragon Lee beat Cavernario Barbaro on 4/16 at Arena Mexico to retain the CMLL super lightweight title in a hard-hitting Japanese style match that looked tremendous based on edited highlights. Lee won the third fall with the Del Rio double foot stomp.
Maximo Sexy retained the CMLL heavyweight title over El Terrible in the main event of the 4/18 Arena Mexico show.
Okumura underwent neck surgery on 4/18.
The feeling I’ve got from people who know the background and politics is that the death of Joaquin Roldan won’t have a gigantic effect on everything going forward. It will probably change the philosophy, but that philosophy had been changing with Vampiro picking up power and Chris DeJoseph writing the TV. It’ll be more angle driven and wackier, and time will tell if that’s for the better. Roldan was not a student of wrestling and was all about pushing the veterans who were the most over, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but there is a balance and you have to make new stars, and they were very conservative when it came to that. It was noted that he followed no other wrestling company so had no idea of changing trends in the business, although that’s not all that unusual for the head of a wrestling company. But most had more of a background in the business than he did before ending up in charge.
The company announced a three-show tour of Bogota, Colombia from 8/9 to 8/11 and claimed they would be returning to Japan in October.
They did a TV taping on 4/12 in San Luis Potosi, and honored Joaquin Roldan and Fishman. The show opened with the Roldan family in the ring and Marisela Pena Roldan talked about her husband. Marisela apparently will now be bringing two urns with her when she sits ringside at the shows, one with the ashes of Antonio Pena and the other with the ashes of Joaquin. Mesias & Pagano won a three-way over Drago & Australian Suicide and Aerostar & Bengala to become the top contenders for the tag team titles. But Mesias & Pagano also teased problems with each other. Johnny Mundo & Kevin Kross & Taya beat Argenis & El Hijo del Fantasma & Ayako Hamada in a no DQ match when Taya pinned Hamada after a chair shot. Vampiro then announced that Taya would defend her Reina de Reinas title against Hamada in a street fight and then ordered Mundo to defend the AAA Mega heavyweight title, the cruiserweight title and the Latin American heavyweight title against Fantasma. Both matches are scheduled for 4/21 in Tijuana. So they are loading up a show for Tijuana, going into Crash’s hottest market. The entire advertised card was changed, so they now have the WWE mentality that they can announce anything and it doesn’t matter. The main event was supposed to be Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Psycho Clown, which is their top singles match. Instead, it was Carta Brava Jr. & Soul Rocker vs. Wagner & Psycho in a tag team match. Brava & Rocker attacked Wagner & Psycho before their main event started so Vampiro came out and announced the tag match. Mocho Cota Jr. interfered and helped Brava & Rocker get the win, and they were pushing Brava & Rocker vs. Wagner & Psycho with hair and mask stipulations coming up. Given that everything has been built for Wagner vs. Psycho’s mask match, it’s not like it’s possible they can lose their masks beforehand.
The Mexico City show on 4/5 did about 3,300 fans. The feeling from here is that Wednesday was a bad night and when they return it’ll be on a weekend night. AAA ran on a Wednesday, 4/12, in San Luis Potosi, and drew well, but that was with lower ticket prices and there are different market dynamics given that Mexico City is flooded with shows and Friday and Sunday are the wrestling nights. The original idea was to run Wednesday because they’d have more access to top talent than on a weekend night. They were able to get Rey Mysterio Jr., Brian Cage, Jeff Cobb, Penta 0M, Rey Fenix and Cody Rhodes who are all, with the exception of Mysterio, people who are all booked well in advance on weekend dates, which means they’d have to plan far in advance. The original idea was that a midweek date would enable them to use the Hardys, but they went back to WWE, and The Young Bucks, but they had a family thing that day.
The lineup for the 5/5 show at the Auditorio in Tijuana has top matches of Young Bucks vs. Penta 0M & Rey Fenix, Daga vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Ricochet & Flip Gordon vs. Mr. 450 & Sammy Guevara and Garza Jr. & Ultimo Ninja & Jack Evans vs. El Hijo del Pirata Morgan & Bestia 666 & Jeff Cobb.
They have a show on 4/23 in Fukuoka at Hakata Star Lanes with all the challengers in the Dead of Alive title match in a tag main event with Naruki Doi & BxB Hulk vs. Shingo Takagi & Cyber Kong. They also have an Open the Twin Gate title match with Cima & Dragon Kid vs. Jimmy K-Ness & Jimmy Kanda.
The tournament opened on 4/16 at Korakuen Hall before a sellout of 1,588 fans. In a B block match, Daichi Hashimoto pinned Naoya Nomura in 5:08 with the shining wizard. In another B block match, The Bodyguard pinned Kengo Mashimo in 7:48 with a right high kick. In an A block match, Kai pinned Zeus in 9:23. In an A block match, Kento Miyahara pinned Jake Lee with a German suplex in 13:55. In an A block match, Joe Doering pinned Daisuke Sekimoto in 6:42 with a revolution power bomb. And in a B block match and the main event, Suwama pinned Shuji Ishikawa in 13:48 with a back suplex. This was also pushed at the 55th anniversary of pro wrestling at Korakuen Hall.
The second show was 4/18 in Fukushima before a sellout 514 fans. Kai moved to 2-0 in the A block beating Ryoji Sai in 9:55. Hashimoto went to 2-0 in the B block beating Bodyguard with a DDT in 5:22. After the match, Hashimoto said that he and partner Hideyoshi Kamitani want a shot at Zeus & Bodyguard’s world tag team titles. In a B block match, Takao Omori went to a 30:00 draw with Mashimo. In an A block match, Zeus pinned Doering in 10:36 with a jackhammer.
Referee Kyohei Wada returned on the 4/16 show after being out of action since January due to a broken right foot.
Jun Akiyama, who is not in the tournament, will defend his TV title against Mitsuya Nagai on 5/21 in Tokyo.
PRO WRESTLING NOAH:
Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi won the GHC tag titles just prior to the start of the annual tag team tournament. Marufuji & Taniguchi beat Takashi Sugiura & Kenou on 4/14 at Korakuen Hall before 824 fans. The finish came at 27:39 when Taniguchi pinned Kenou after a Maybach bomb. There were also two singles matches that may build a new GHC title challenger for Katsuhiko Nakajima. In one, Go Shiozaki pinned Cody Hall with a lariat in 11:36, and in the other, Atsushi Kotoge pinned Masa Kitamiya.
The tournament begins on 4/22 in Niigata with Mohammed Yone & Akitoshi Saito vs. Kaito Kiyomiya & Takuya Nomura, Sugiura & Kenou vs. Hall & Randy Reign, Shiozaki & Kotoge vs. Robbie E & Bram and Nakajima & Kitamiya vs. Marufuji & Taniguchi.
Yone is likely to be the next GHC title challenger as on 4/16 in Kawagoe, Yone used a muscle buster on the floor in a trios match to take out champion Nakajima.
For those interested in traveling or just knowing when the big shows will be to watch, the key dates for G-1 this year are opening night is 7/17 in Sapporo (which will have English commentary on New Japan World), and then there are four straight days in Tokyo with Korakuen Hall shows on 7/20, 7/21 and 7/22, and a Machida Gym show in Tokyo on 7/23, the Nagoya Aiichi Gym show is 7/29, the Fukuoka show is 8/2, the Osaka Edion Arena show is 8/5, and Yokohama Bunka Gym show is 8/8 and the A block finals are 8/11 at Sumo Hall, the B block finals are 8/12 at Sumo Hall and the final match is 8/13 at Sumo Hall.
Regarding ticket sales to the Long Beach show, to no surprise, this was a fly-in crowd, but the surprise is probably just how much of a fly-in crowd it is. In a sense, while the quick sellouts are a strong sign, you can’t really read a lot into it because in the long run, the success has to come from shows that draw in the local market, because not every series of shows will be first time ever and unless the market is run once a year, it’s not like that many people are going to fly across the country multiple times a year to see New Japan. There were tickets purchased in 37 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. There were more ticket sales in California than any other state, but not significantly more, which is notable since more people live in California than any other state and that’s where the shows are taking place in. The reality is that was an Internet fan base super hardcore buy, and it does show interest in New Japan in that world was higher than expected, but if I’d have heard that 1,500 tickets were sold each night in the Los Angeles area along, it would give me a lot better feel on the long-term prospects. The quick sellout was a great sign, but we didn’t learn as much about the size of the potential audience for a well promoted show as far as the local basis goes because there’s not even a clue what the local market potential is or how many tickets the Japanese community and hardcore wrestling community as well as fans who sometimes watch on AXS that would attend a live show is. One note is that you’d probably have to go back to when WCW was still doing well to have a non-WWE show in the U.S. sell that many tickets and sell out so quickly, so as far as initial interest goes, this would have more than any non-WWE produced show in the country in decades.
News Hub in New Zealand ran a story on Bad Luck Fale, real name Toks Fale, 35, pushing his upcoming title shot against Kazuchika Okada. One thing notable is that Fale grew up one block away from Mark Hunt, and that the two are friends.
OTHER JAPAN NOTES:
Kairi Hojo, who has a history of concussions, was rushed to the emergency room on 4/15 after her match in Yokohama after complaining of pain in the back of her head after the show. She had teamed with Hiromi Mimura & Konami vs. Hana Kimura & Rosa Negra (who is Kobra Moon in Lucha Underground) & Kagetsu and she was laid out for two or three minutes after the match, which was a first-round match in a four-team trios title tournament. Hojo was X-rayed and diagnosed as not having a concussion and cleared to wrestle. Stardom has yet another loss as Kagetsu said she would be taking a leave of absence after her match on 4/23. As far as what could be a hint on Io Shirai’s future, they had a match to determine the trios champions, called the Artist of Stardom championship tournament, and Shirai & HZK & AZM beat Hiroyo Matsumoto & Jungle Kyona & Natsuko Tora in the semis and then beat Kagetsu & Kimura & Rosa Negra in the finals when Shirai pinned Negra with a moonsault.
Keiji Muto and Kenta Kobashi did an in-ring interview together as a highlight of a Wrestle-1 big show on 4/16 in Kobe before 771 fans.
Ultimo Dragon and Kendo Kashin both will appear for the first time ever on a Big Japan show on the 5/15 card in Shizuoka.
HERE AND THERE:
Charlie Haas, 45, who hasn’t been wrestling much in recent years, may have to retire as he was expected to undergo neck surgery this week. Haas was the champion of the Odessa, TX-based Old School Wrestling promotion. The promotion announced this at their 4/15 house show and it was described as possibly career-ending. Haas has had neck problems for many years. He was apparently dropped on his head in a match over the past few weeks, and had inflamed nerves and ended up with numbness in both arms. He had a procedure done on 4/13 but there hasn’t been any word about how he is doing afterwards past he’ll be out of action for a while. Haas, who has been married to former WWE woman performer Jackie Gayda for 12 years, was best known for two different runs in WWE, from 2002 to 2005 and again from 2006 to 2009, and for the World’s Greatest Tag Team with Shelton Benjamin. The pair also held the ROH tag team titles in 2011. Haas had retired in 2013 due to neck injuries but came back after doing a light indie schedule.
Shelton Benjamin, 41, has started taking indie bookings. He had never signed with WWE. He was about to sign in July and vignettes for him starting airing on Smackdown when they discovered he had been working with a torn rotator cuff that both he and they weren’t aware of. He underwent surgery and was just cleared to return. At this point WWE hasn’t given any indication of bringing him back so he’s taking indie dates. He had been a regular in Pro Wrestling NOAH as part of Suzuki-gun, but they were all called back to New Japan. New Japan is overloaded right now with foreign talent and we haven’t heard his name mentioned, but he did give notice there when he got the WWE call.
For something to watch for years in the future, the 2020 NCAA Division I wrestling tournament will take place at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, a domed stadium that holds 66,000 fans. Because the NCAA’s have routinely sold out arenas for six sessions over three days, there had been talk of doing a stadium event. I’m guessing they’ll probably set it up for a lot less than 66,000, as that sounds awfully ambitious, but it’s also a probability that all attendance records will be broken that year. Aside from that, the NCAA announced the Division I tournament in 2019 will be in Pittsburgh, 2021 in St. Louis and 2022 in Detroit at the new Little Caesar’s Arena.
Promotions, such as What Culture Pro Wrestling, who relied on the YouTube royalties as a main revenue source, as well as others who felt that was the future, took a big hit because YouTube has put pro wrestling in the restricted mode, and because of advertiser issues with restricted mode things, it’s cut ad revenue down to nothing. WWE would be hurt the most in theory, since they have by far the most content. But they also may have a special deal. Even if they are hurt, YouTube revenue was a tiny, tiny part of their financial picture and other streams more than make up for it. One person with full knowledge of the situation, because they handle the YouTube accounts for their company, noted to us that this started on 3/25. He also noted that the revenue isn’t that large that we’re talking about, estimating a company will get about $400 per every one million views. That number would drop to about $60 for the same number of views under the new system, so about 15 percent. But the feeling is that if WWE had the same deal, they wouldn’t be putting stuff on YouTube, where they make considerably less money, immediately after it airs on live television, since that particularly undercuts the entire West Coast where you can get the YouTube highlights of the show before it even airs.
The Squared Circle restaurant in Chicago, owned by Lisa Marie Varon and husband Lee, closed up on 4/10 after four years. The place was a hotbed on pro wrestling nights and UFC nights. But when Lisa Varon moved from Chicago back to Southern California, the biggest drawing card was gone and Lee had talked of a possible murky future of the place for a few years.
A correction from an item we had several weeks ago regarding MKW getting a broadcast television deal in China starting this coming summer. As one person close to the situation said, the arrangement was always murky and as it turns out, the deal isn’t happening and really was never more than a possibility as opposed to a done deal.
The Young Bucks & Kenny Omega tour of the U.K. opened on 4/12 in Edinburgh, Scotland, before a sellout of 750 fans, beating Joe Coffey & BT Gunn & Lewis Girvan with a double Meltzer driver in 15:00. The crowd went crazy every time Omega tagged in. It was said to be a great match.
On 4/13 in London for Revolution Pro, they drew a sellout of 1,100 fans. The show opened with Chris Brookes & Travis Banks keeping the tag titles over Sami Callihan & Martin Stone. Callihan turned on Stone after the match. Banks looked great and the last few minutes were strong. Jay White beat Angelico with a Boston Crab in a good match, but not a lot of heat. The wrestling was said to be great but White, as solid as he is in everything he does, doesn’t connect with the crowd. Hirooki Goto beat Zack Gibson. Gibson is a heel who garnered chants of “Where’s my car stereo,” which has to do with crime in Liverpool. He gets that chant a lot, and was ready, because late in the match, he went under the ring and pulled out a car stereo. His heat was compared with Vickie Guerrero when he tried to talk. He went to hit Goto with it but Will Ospreay took it away and Goto won with the GTR. Hiromu Takahashi beat Marty Scurll with the time bomb. Scurll hit Takahashi with a wicked umbrella shot. Said to be great but not off the charts great. Josh Bodom beat Will Ospreay in a super match with his Bliss buster. Ospreay was the Revolution Pro cruiserweight champion and Bodom is the interim champion, so this was to unify the titles. The crowd was going nuts for this match. Ospreay was hurting as his back was all taped up and did less flying than usual. Sha Samuels beat James Castle in a no DQ match. It awa a short brawl. Zack Sabre Jr. retained the British heavyweight title over Kushida in an excellent match. Great mat wrestling throughout. The main event was Young Bucks & Omega beating Lio Rush (who subbed on the tour for Ricochet, who is really banged up and wanted to rest up for his next Japan tour and his title match with Hiromu Takahashi) & Shane Strickland & Ryan Smile. The crowd was all about seeing the Bucks & Omega team, particularly when they were in with Rush who stole she show. The match ended with a double Meltzer driver. Omega & The Young Bucks then put over the crowd, he venue, the country and their opponents and said they’d come back. Matt then claimed that they had just broken their all-time personal records for merchandise sold that day at York Hall.
4/14 was The Fight Club Pro show in Wolverhampton, before a sellout of 1,100. Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis (a school teacher who wrestles on the weekends) beat Jack Evans & Angelico in a crazy match. Evans did a moonsault off his partners’ shoulders to the outside. Angelico and Andrews both dove off the side of the building which was 10-15 feet high. Next was Callihan over Strickland and Rush in a three-way that was apparently a match of the year contender. Rush was again the crowd favorite here. Banks beat Ospreay to retain the Fight club Pro title. Ospreay worked somewhat as a heel and hit the rainmaker at one point. Banks then did the Shibata no sell of it. Banks won via submission. Jim & Lee Hunter beat Scurll & Sabre Jr. The Hunter brothers are one of the better U.K. teams but the crowd was burned out after the two prior matches. Penta 0M beat Fenix in a battle of the brothers. This had the second most heat on the show. Fenix did a reverse huracanrana, then spin around Penta’s body and turned it into a Canadian Destroyer, but Penta used a package piledriver on the apron and a running package piledriver in the ring for the finish and fans threw money in when it was over. Main was Omega & Bucks over Pete Dunne & Trent Seven & Tyler Bate in 30 minutes of what was said to be an incredible match. This wasn’t allowed to be taped because it involved WWE talent.
The final Young Bucks & Omega show was 4/15 in Dublin in the biggest show ever by The Over The Top Promotion, drawing a sellout 2,200 fans at National Stadium and aired live on Flo Slam. There was a huge reaction to the women’s match with Session Moth Martina & Nixon Newell (who they announced at the show that this was her farewell as she’s headed to NXT) & Alex Windsor’s entrance, with the crowd filling up with glow sticks. They announced a return date to the stadium on 8/5 with Mick Foley as commissioner (Foley is back on the independent scene as he never signed a long-term contract with WWE), plus Matt Sydal and Joey Ryan were announced. Marty Scurll beat Jay White in the best technical wrestling match on the show. Young Bucks & Omega beat Rush & Smile & Ospreay in 33:34 of something that was amazing to see. Really, the whole thing from start to finish went just over one hour. The ring introductions went more than ten minutes as Rush & Smile & Ospreay, dressed alike in colorful trunks as the Uptown Funkers, kept dancing to “Uptown Funk,” (so funny that the artist who performs that song was legitimately named after Bruno Sammartino) forever. That was the same deal as in the ten-man tag in Orlando that all three of them were in. The match was heavy on the comedy but the crowd was eating this match up like few matches you’ll ever see. One correspondent said that with the exception of when Conor McGregor fought I Dublin, that it was the hottest crowd they’d ever seen.
They teased Omega’s first tag in until 6:30 into the match and the place exploded. They really just played to the crowd and did comedy for about ten minutes. Then they did more comedy. Matt put Smile in the sharpshooter and then grabbed the mic while holding it and started cutting a promo. He asked the crowd what they thought of the match while Nick was filming for their YouTube series. If you are into taking matches seriously, you would hate this. Essentially this match was one that people who hate the way indie wrestling has evolved would hate with a passion and those who go to wrestling to see cool moves and just a ton of inside irony, would absolutely love. To say it worked with the audience they were playing for would be an understatement. It felt like everyone was just out there enjoying themselves on the last day of a tour that had to be hard physically. The crowd felt like no matter what happened, they were going to love this as the Young Bucks & Omega just came across as giant stars and Omega had the aura of being the biggest star in the business in the sense it was a Hulk Hogan/Dusty Rhodes kind of reaction. Matt, while still holding the sharpshooter started talking about how Bret Hart was one of his all-time favorite wrestlers, and then plugged the Being the Elite YouTube series and all the different ways to buy T-shirts. Because they went so long, there was plenty of time after for the great athletic spots. There was a spot where they spoofed Japanese announcers screaming “brainbuster” as they all kept teasing doing brainbusters (Smile & Ospreay & Rush actually reversed the triple brainbuster). Both teams did triple topes. In the middle of the match, Rush and Smile started arguing and Rush took off his colorful trunks and had his regular trunks underneath and teased that he was joining The Bullet Club. Ospreay teased doing the rainmaker (since he’s aligned with Okada).
The one thing amazing watching this is how much wrestling has changed. Omega tagged in and used the mic and did a deal where he did play-by-play of his own match like The Rock used to do in his heyday. There is very much the mentality of trying to prolong their careers with the idea they can come in and do a live entertainment variety show and tone down on the punishment and dangerous moves, while giving enough of them to where you have your cool flying moments in the match. Smile did a running flip dive over the past and Ospreay did a corkscrew. The Ospreay team did a triple double foot stomp off the top. The fans had a Superkick counter during the match. There were 26 of them. The finish saw Omega go for the One winged angel on Ospreay, but he escaped with a reverse huracanrana. But the Bucks did an Indy-taker on Ospreay mentioning it as a tribute to Undertaker, and then Omega used the One winged angel on him. After the match, Omega noted that there were no Meltzer drivers so he told them to give one to the referee, and then said he was kidding since the ref was the best one in Ireland, but Omega changed his mind and they did it anyway. Then the Bucks & Omega did a post-match promo with Omega in the Tanahashi show closer role and nobody was leaving. Omega said that Ospreay was the best high flyer in wrestling except for Ricochet, that Rush was the best midget wrestler in the world and that he never heard of Smile before this week but Smile is the real deal. Then they did more dancing to “Uptown Funk,” and a bunch of women came out to dance with them and people who worked on the show and then a lot of the wrestlers on the undercard. Then, Omega & The Young Bucks superkicked everyone to end the show. Matt said, “This tour was one of the greatest experiences of my career, Edinburgh, London, Wolverhampton and Dublin, we can’t thank you enough.” They destroyed the London mark they had just set for merchandise on this show. Ospreay said he never had so much fun doing a match. The thing about that match is that it got a super reaction and wasn’t at physically taxing as the matches these guys usually do. But it was very much not a worked fight or battle, but a variety show within the walls of a pro wrestling match, a lot more Lucha Va Voom with super talented performers than New Japan style or even anything anyone in WWE would be allowed to do unless it was The Rock.
Insane Championship Wrestling ran one of its biggest shows of the year on 4/16 at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow, Scotland before about 1,800 fans. One special guest was War Machine, who beat Polo Promotions (Jackie Polo & Mark Coffey). It was also the farewell of Drew Galloway, who is finishing up his commitments everywhere over the next week or two. Galloway beat Jack Jester in a barbed wire match and then gave an emotional speech saying farewell to the promotion. Grado, who had been the company’s top babyface during its entire build to being a cult favorite promotion and really the strongest drawing of all the U.K.-based companies, turned heel after losing a match to Wolfgang. Grado turned on the fans and announced he was joining with heel co-owner Red Lightning. In the main event, Joe Coffey won the ICW title beating Trent Seven.
The What Culture World Cup show in Canada was announced for 5/14 in Toronto at the Phoenix Concert Theater. The Canadian one-night tournament has Michael Elgin, Kyle O’Reilly, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Rene Dupree, Tyson Dux, Brent Banks, Tarik and Franky the Mobster.
The Five Star Promotion, which ran the first live prime time television special in the U.K. in decades, and announced they were doing a 128 man tournament, appears to be dead. There has been no announcement of another show or anything since the show they did on television. There was no ratings involved. Spike in the U.K., which is was one of their key broadcast partners, instead will start airing Impact this week. And the guy they were building around and was scheduled to win the tournament was Galloway.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla runs on 4/21 in Reseda, CA with another loaded up show with Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Dick Togo in a non-title match in the main event, Chuck Taylor vs. Marty Scurll in a street fight, Young Bucks vs. War Machine, Michael Elgin vs. Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole vs. Matt Riddle, Jeff Cobb vs.. Keith Lee and Rey Fenix vs. Lio Rush.
The big Flo Sports events over the weekend are Evolve on 4/22 in Queens, NY at LaBoom and 4/23 in Brooklyn, NY at the St. Finbar Catholic Church Gym. It’ll be the farewell shows for Galloway. Queens has Riddle vs. Timothy Thatcher for the WWN title, Sabre Jr. vs. Galloway, Darby Allin vs. Ethan Page in a last man standing match, Fred Yehi & Tracy Williams vs. Chris Dickinson & Jaka for the tag titles, Lee vs. Kyle O’Reilly and ACH vs. Austin Theory. Brooklyn has Sabre Jr. vs. Lio Rush for the Evolve title, Riddle vs. Galloway in an I Quit match, Yehi vs. O’Reilly, Lee vs. Allin, ACH vs. Jaka and Page vs. Theory.
Alberto Rodriguez and Saraya Jade-Bevis (Paige) are purchasing a new home together.
State of Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill into law on 4/17 which allows wrestling schools to run live events with less burdensome regulations. Washington had been tough for independent shows because of laws requiring ambulances, six percent tax to the commission and $1 per ticket added tax plus all wrestlers had to be licensed, and you needed an ambulance on stand-by and paramedics at shows which right there could cost more than $1,000, so this will make it more financially viable to run gym shows in the state, but the bill doesn’t change the tax rate or the situation for a traditional independent show. The new law allows for what is designated as Theatrical Wrestling Schools to be able to put on a limited number of public performances every year as long as there are provisions for emergency aide in the case of injury at the events. The new bill puts pro wrestling schools under the same licensing framework as MMA and boxing gyms. The bill was called the Lucha bill since a Lucha Libre school called Lucha Libre Volcanica in Renton, WA was behind it. People who train at the school of wrestle on the school shows don’t have to be licensed.
Marek Brave, who co-owns a wrestling school with Seth Rollins in Davenport, IA, announced his retirement after almost 14 years due to neck injuries. He said that his doctor told him that his health and safety were in severe danger if he continued to wrestle. “I have two boys to think about in this situation, and while I would love to be able to continue entertaining the fans the way I have for nearly 14 years, it would be incredibly selfish of me to do so. My sons need their father and they need him in good (decent, passable?) health.”
The South Wales Argus ran a story about a documentary being done on Adrian Street, who came from Wales. The film, “Adrian,” recently filmed a segment with Mick Foley. Foley had contacted the people doing the documentary and asked to be part of it.
When A.J. Lee was promoting her book, Chuck Carroll of CBS Radio asked her if she would never wrestle again. “I never would say that because I’ve personally said never to things before and done them. But I am so happy where I am right now and I feel like I had such a picture perfect career that I would be nervous about tarnishing that. I feel like it’s kind of full-circle and perfect for exactly what I wanted. But who knows?
Regarding the three-way dance stuff, we have some more details and corrections. We still haven’t found any three-way match prior to the June 1965 Arena Mexico match with Rey Mendoza vs. Karloff Lagarde vs. Benny Parent. What is believed to have been the first three-way match in the U.S. on April 19, 1966, in Fort Worth, was not a three-way bout as Texas historian Gary Gibson said that Fritz Von Erich vs. Killer Karl Kox vs. Billy Red Lyons match was actually a handicap match. Kox and Lyons had wrestled several times for a shot at Von Erich and had never had a winner, so Von Erich said he was tired of them not being able to beat each other and said he would beat both of them in one hour. However, Fort Worth does appear to have been the U.S. birthplace of the three-way match, but is was months later, on the December 26, 1966, card. It was a gimmick show with three different three-way matches, building to a four-way elimination match. The matches were Benny Matta over Skandor Akbar and Ronnie Etchison, Nick Kozak over Jack Daniels and Ken Hollis, Waldo Von Erich over Darrell Cochran and Danny Plechas (who was the booker of the show and replaced no-showing Duke Ramos in the match), and Karl Von Brauner over Stu Gibson and Joe Blanchard. Waldo Von Erich won the four-way. Then in the late 70s came the 3-3-3 matches in Los Angeles, which were held fairly often for a short period of time. We had a date wrong as the SMW Christmas shows were at the end of 1993. Jim Ross contacted Cornette about how they did them which led to WWF implementing them. This was before the Terry Funk vs. Sabu vs. Shane Douglas ECW match, which was early 1994.
A match you’d think you’d never see with Negro Navarro, the master technical wrestler of the 80s in the Los Misioners de la Muerte trio, facing Zack Sabre Jr., takes place on 4/28 in Naucalpan, Mexico.
A new promotion called Division Pro Wrestling is trying to mix MMA with pro wrestling for an iPPV show on 5/12 in Orlando from Venue 578. Owner J. Brian Miles said he was tired of the stale and predictable formula of modern pro wrestling and will be doing pro wrestling with weight classes of under 175, under 225 and unlimited, while women will compete in an open weight division. The first show will have a press conference prior to them matches, same-day weigh-ins and then the card with Brian Cage vs. Moose, Tom Lawlor vs. Kyle O’Reilly (Lawlor managed O’Reilly & Bobby Fish once on an ROH PPV show), Sami Callihan vs. Mr. 450, Lio Rush vs. Corey Hollis and Shayna Baszler vs. Lana Austin.
Debbie Killian, 46, who was better known as Debbie Malenko, did a multiple person woman’s match on 4/15 in St. Peterburg for Legends Pro Wrestling, a group promoted by Frankie Reyes and Fred (Shockmaster/Typhoon) Ottman. Debbie wrestled from 1990-93 and from 1991-93 was with All Japan Women where she was a regular who turned into a very good wrestler including holding both the Japanese women’s title and Japanese tag team title with Sakie Hasegawa. She was a star there until suffering a nasty broken leg in a match in 1993. To the best of my knowledge, she only wrestled once match since then, a Japanese match in 2001. I know she’d at least given some thought to doing some wrestling many years ago but this would have been her second match in 24 years. Besides Killian, the main event was a tag team match with Bob Cook, 53, the 80s enhancement talent known for being a good worker with one of the best working punches of his era, teaming with Joe Malenko, Dean’s older brother and a former star in Japan. Malenko, 61, hasn’t wrestled regularly since 1996 but has done a few matches here and there since. He was one of Karl Gotch’s best students. He and Dean are both sons of Boris Malenko, while Debbie is no relation, but was trained by the Malenkos.
Penta 0M had a meeting with Vampiro and Eric Van Wagenen over the issue where he’s working for Crash but under contract to them. He was offered a new contract with the promise that he would be pushed as the top guy in the company and make $1,500 per match, but the contract itself specified that he wouldn’t be able to work for CMLL, Impact, The Crash or any promotion associated with Charles Ashenoff (Konnan), so that could be the way the situation will be handled with the other Lucha Underground pushed talent that works with The Crash like Fenix, Sexy Star, Jeff Cobb, Brian Cage, Melissa Santos and others who are under contract to Lucha Underground.
Van Wagenen did a recent podcast interview where he said how everyone who quit AAA like Penta 0M, Fenix and Sexy Star are welcome back for season four (which still has no taping dates announced although at best it was going to be the end of this year) provided they don’t appear on any other U.S. wrestling television show. At the same time, Dorian Roldan was pushing that Lucha Underground talent could appear on Impact.
The pro boxing debut of Dulce Garcia (Sexy Star) will be against Yaneli Hernandez, who has a 6-16 boxing record.
There was talk of a limited house show tour this year but virtually all talks of it have fallen through.
There’s still very little regarding the May shows, and we’re cutting it close. Tetsuya Naito, Evil, Hirooki Goto and Kushida are the only New Japan names announced thus far for the four May shows (5/7 in Toronto, 5/10 in Dearborn, MI, 5/12 in New York and 5/14 in Philadelphia). The 5/12 show will be a PPV from the Hammerstein Ballroom, which is almost sold out. No other matches have been announced and the last TV tapings didn’t directly announce matches. People will be disappointed if Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi aren’t there, as they’ve been on the May tour every year so far. There has been a tease for a Christopher Daniels vs. Cody title match. Daniels vs. Matt Taven for the title will headline the 5/10 show in Dearborn, MI.
Ken Anderson debuts on the 4/28 show in Hopkins, MN, facing Marty Scurll for the TV title. Anderson lives in the area and runs a wrestling school with Shawn Daivari there.
4/28 in Milwaukee has Young Bucks vs. Daniels & Frankie Kazarian, War Machine vs. Kenny King & Rhett Titus, Mark & Jay Briscoe vs. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley, Taven vs. Adam Cole, Bully Ray vs. Silas Young, Jay Lethal vs. Beer City Bruiser and Jay White vs. Punishment Martinez.
Ian Riccaboni signed a contract as the new lead announcer. He’d been with the company for a few years and had been doing the Women of Honor shows on YouTube before Kevin Kelly took the full-time gig as New Japan announcer (Kelly still does big shows here when it doesn’t conflict with New Japan, but Riccaboni is the new lead announcer). Riccaboni is a huge baseball fan and even wrote a book about the 100 greatest players in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise.
Jeff Jarrett went to Mexico for the TripleMania press conference on 4/18. Jarrett went to Mexico this week for the TripleMania press conference, and he, Karen Jarrett and EC 3 are going to also be going to the U.K. to promote the launch of Impact at Spike U.K., which debuts on 4/22. It was announced that AAA talent would be appearing on the 7/2 Slammiversary PPV in Orlando and that Impact talent, including Bobby Lashley, Moose, Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards would be appearing at TripleMania on 8/26 in Mexico City at Arena Ciudad. What’s even more interesting as they announced a combination live show tour in the fall, stating they would work together in North America (this is interesting because Lucha Underground had blocked any AAA talent working for any North American television promotion but things are changing regarding Lucha Underground with no future dates announced and them no longer being as hardcore about their contracted wrestlers only working for them on television in the U.S. market). They also talked about doing joint shows in Japan and Colombia. Ricochet and Sami Callihan were in particular upset because Lucha Underground was blocking them from appearing in ROH. Ricochet isn’t even with Lucha Underground, because Lucha Underground had rights to television exclusivity of contracted talent until several months after the last episode airs that they are on, but now they are going to be letting Impact have talent that is featured on TV. It got to the point where there was legal action on that involving Hernandez, who TNA stopped using after Lucha Underground legal threats and had to erase already taped matches and angles because of it. Dorian Roldan’s new explanation is that Impact isn’t competition to Lucha Underground because Lucha Underground is a television show, not a promotion and a different product.
However, Lucha Underground is claiming the talent can work for Impact, but can’t use their Lucha Underground gimmicks. In a sense, that would limit the value of many of them for Impact if they are marketable stars past whatever value their actual working ability would be for the product. But that would still get a lot of the talent unhappy, because many Lucha Underground stars feel hamstrung about not being able to work for ROH, even, like with Jeff Cobb, when the name and gimmick they would be using would be completely different from their Lucha Underground character. And we’re not far removed from Lucha Underground forcing Impact to digitize a referee in a segment taped on a Crash show because he was under contract to Lucha Underground. It’s going to be quite the juggling act with Impact working so closely with AAA as well as The Crash, considering those two companies hate each other. But both of those companies are in need of allies that can provide them with any help in any way, whether it’s help in getting television, help in getting talent work, or anything else, in their battles to, among other things, take talent from each other and run head-to-head shows. The idea is that the wrestlers from each promotion will be kept apart, although would appear at the same show at times. Up to this point that had been a no-no to the point previously booked wrestlers had been pulled from indie shows because the other side, which was providing more talent, insisted on it. Lashley appearing at TripleMania is notable because he was booked on the last Crash show in Tijuana and pulled at the last minute by Impact saying something came up and he couldn’t attend, and then James Storm took his place. Crash had pushed the idea of Garza Jr. doing a match for the title with Lashley. How the decision of Impact to do a co-branded tour with AAA will affect the Crash relationship is a question. Konnan, who is the key guy in The Crash, manages the Impact tag team champions and has supplied talent to Impact. Garza Jr., however, has signed with Impact so now he’s their guy and not a guy Crash sends. Dorian Roldan said that Impact and The Fight Network would help get AAA new international television deals and AAA would help Impact get television distribution in Latin and South America.
They have an almost live show airing on 4/20, the first day of next week’s four days of tapings. Bobby Lashley vs. James Storm for the title will headline. They did an angle where they claimed to have had a fan vote over who would get the title shot. Of course, there was no fan vote since it would have been impossible since the show was taped more than a month ago. But the idea is that Storm won the vote and it appeared from television that it’ll lead to EC 3 going heel because the fans didn’t back him.
Even though Team Jeremy Borash beat Team Josh Matthews in the match that aired on the 4/13 Impact to determine which announcer stays, apparently that angle is scheduled to continue until at least 7/2, which is the date of Slammiversary which was the original date of the blow-off, and as of a few days ago, still the date. The question becomes what happens then, as Borash was scheduled to end up as the lead announcer, but no word on what role Matthews will take at that point. There is expected to be some sort of lawyers involved excuse or some reason where Matthews will be back at TV this week even though his team lost clean, unless they change the writing this week. Impact has announced Borash & The Pope as a two-man announce team for the show this week, but that was the plan with the idea Matthews comes in and they do the lawyers deal or something like that to keep the feud going.
I could see Matthews and EC 3 ending up together when all is said and done as a heel unit that hates the Jarretts since EC 3 in storyline is a Carter and Matthews was the lead announcer under Carter. Nobody has told me this is happening, it’s just two movable parts that I could see ending up together.
Anthem has settled the lawsuit filed by Audience of One Productions regarding the previous ownership’s non-payment of money for television production. The lawsuit was settled as Anthem agreed to pay $336,602 for non-payment of production fees for shows in 2015. Audience of One had stated they were owed $223,000 in the lawsuit and the larger figure includes court costs and interest. Anthem has put a lot of money in between this and the much larger settlement with Billy Corgan.
There was some funny interplay on the 4/13 show when Borash said that he got a text from Alberto and Matthews said, “Are you’re sure it’s not a periscope” (regarding Alberto’s periscope promo running down the guy in Stamford with the big nose).
After his ruptured colon suffered in Mexico, DJZ is still in Mexico as of this writing, but is out of the hospital and hopeful of being back in the ring by June. He was in the front row at the Arena Mexico show on 4/14. He was probably there because he knows Sam Adonis (the younger brother of Corey Graves). DJZ was actually supposed to spend some time in Mexico before this week’s tapins when the injury took place.
Lashley has been announced for 5/25 and 5/26 World of Sport tapings in the U.K. at Preston Guild Hall. They are taping ten weeks, and then some of the wrestlers will go to India where TNA is taping shows on 5/30 and 5/31, which would be for all of the Impact television shows that air in June.
Alberto El Patron has signed a deal with the company. Details aren’t announced regarding how this affects his international and independent dates. He did pull out of all of his bookings for this coming weekend at the last minute since TNA had him booked for Orlando tapings.
Adam Thornstowe of the Reno Scum tag team underwent surgery due to a torn biceps. That injury usually keeps one out of action six to eight months, and he and Luster were just starting to get their first career break.
Other people they have their eyes on are Matt Sydal (who just returned to ROH and generally speaking, unless your name is Cody Rhodes, you can’t work in both places at the same time) and Flip Gordon as potential X Division wrestlers and there was talk of bringing in Mascarita Sagrada (Torito in WWE) and reprise his feud from WWE with Swoggle.
There was an attempt to bring in Lio Rush but that didn’t work out.
The tenuous relationship with this group with working relationships with both Crash and AAA became an issue on 4/9 as AAA tried to get Impact talent to work in Monterrey against Crash, but Impact didn’t send anyone and AAA ended up not even running a show that night.
Dana White told ESPN that the plan right now is for Daniel Cormier to fight on the 7/29 show in Anaheim. If that’s the case, he’ll probably have to postpone his honeymoon since he’s getting married on 5/27. White said that Jon Jones would be offered the title fight on that date, but if Jones turns it down and wants one tune-up fight, he can do that and get the following shot, in which case they’ll try to headline Cormier vs. Jimi Manuwa on 7/29, which will be from the Honda Center in Anaheim. One of the reasons they may want this on 7/29 is that if McGregor vs. Mayweather is in September, that’s probably going to hurt every PPV from August through maybe early November. Cormier vs. Jones and Bisping vs. St-Pierre are the two fights you’d want to avoid in that window. Right now the UFC is trying to put together a double title match main event for the show, with Germaine de Randamie vs. Cris Cyborg for the featherweight title as the other match, which also is not official at this point.
Dana White was on The Herd on FS 1 on 4/19 and said he expected to hammer out a deal with McGregor for the Mayweather fight, and then would get with negotiating with Mayweather. When asked how much both guys would make, White said if it does as well as projections, that Mayweather would make just over $100 million and McGregor would make $75 million. “I wanted to get McGregor locked in first, because McGregor is under contract with me. And at the end of the day, does this fight make a ton of sense for me? It really doesn’t. But Conor wants this thing really bad and I’ve said it many times, the kid’s stepped up and saved some big fights for me, so I’m in..
UFC Holdings is taking out another $100 million in loans. The money is being used for payments to the Fertitta Brothers and Flash Entertainment (which apparently means WME IMG purchased Flash’s stock in UFC which was expected but never announced). The company has claimed its EBITDA (essentially profit margins before taxes) would be $275 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year and $350 million the following year. The key to success with the nearly $4 billion purchase by WME IMG is the American television rights fees, which are currently in the neighborhood of $150 million per year. While publicly at the time of the purchase, WME IMG was throwing around a $400 million figure for the next deal, which would go into effect in 2019, meaning next year would be the negotiation year, company officials are actually hoping for an increase closer to $250 million to $300 million annually.
In something expected once McGregor had his punishment greatly decreased for the bottle throwing incident in August, Nate Diaz’s punishment was also dropped. His $50,000 fine was cut to $15,000 and his 50 hours of community service was cut to 15 hours.
Dana White this past week said that he and Ronda Rousey talk about once a week and she’s never brought up anything about a comeback. There was some rumors when Rousey hired Dan Garner as a strength and nutrition coach that maybe it was a prelude to a return.
Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones were going back-and-forth on Twitter with Cormier accusing Jones of doing steroids, Jones denying and Cormier talking about how Jones has always done steroids and claimed he hid from USADA once when they came to test him.
This coming week’s show is 4/22 in Nashville in a show split between Fight Pass, FS 2 and FS 1. Looking at the show it looks like some good action fights on the FS 1 version in particular. The Fight Pass fights starting at 6:30 p.m. have Hector Sandoval (13-3) vs. Matt Schnell (9-3), Cindy Dandois (8-2) vs Alexis Davis (17-7) and Bryan Barbarena (12-4) vs. Joe Proctor (11-4). FS 2 starts at 8 p.m. with Jessica Penne (12-4) vs. Danielle Taylor (8-2), Scott Holtzman (9-2) vs. Michael McBride (8-2), Brandon Moreno (13-3) vs. Dustin Ortiz (16-6) and Sam Alvey (30-8) vs. Thales Leites (26-7). The FS 1 fights at 10 p.m. have Jake Ellenberger (31-12) vs. Mike Perry (9-1), Joe Lauzon (27-12) vs. Stevie Ray (20-6), John Dodson (18-8) vs. Eddie Wineland (23-11-1), Marcus Rogerio de Lima (15-4-1) vs. Ovince Saint Preux (19-10), Al Iaquinta (12-3-1) vs. Diego Sanchez (27-9) and the strange main event of Cub Swanson (24-7) vs. Artem Lobov (13-12-1). Why Lobov would be in a main event with his record against a title contender like Swanson is that Lobov is a good kickboxer so as far as a match-up goes, it does look entertaining, and also Lobov being a teammate of Conor McGregor can’t hurt.
Michael Graves has been released from his contract on 4/17. He had been suspended since UFC got word about his 10/1 arrest for misdemeanor battery when his fiancee told police that he punched and elbowed her in the face. Graves was part of Season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter and as 2-0-1 in UFC since. UFC announced that “In November 2016, welterweight Michael Graves was removed from his UFC bout following his arrest in Fulton County, Florida. As a potential violation of the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy, the UFC organization temporarily barred Graves from competition pending the completion of a third-party investigation. Based on the findings of this thorough review and investigation, UFC has advised Graves that he has been released from his contract, effective immediately.
The 5/13 prelims before UFC 211 will be on FX, not FS 1.
Former WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes, who was champion when his contract ran out and he signed here, will be debuting in UFC on the 6/3 show in Rio de Janeiro against Raphael Assuncao, who is the current No. 4 contender, so he’ll get a chance to prove something quickly. Also added to the Rio show is Viviane Pereira, who is 12-0, in her second UFC fight against Jamie Moyle.
Gray Maynard vs. Teruto Ishikawa has been added to the 7/7 show, which is a Friday night FS 1 card the night before the PPV.
Gian Villante vs. Patrick Cummins has been added to the 7/22 show at the Nassau Coliseum.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Daniel Omielanczyuk is being looked at for the 7/8 show in Las Vegas.
Former WSOF champion, Jessica Aguilar, is now officially meeting Cortney Casey on the 5/13 show in Dallas. We had reported that fight last week. Also added is Jared Gordon’s debut against Michel Quinones. Gordon was the latest fighter introduced on Dana White’s web series “Lookin for a Fight.”
There is another show on 4/21 from Uncasville, CT headlined by the fourth meeting between Daniel Straus vs. Patricio Pitbull Freire for the featherweight title. Freire won the first meeting on May 21, 2011 which was a tournament final. Freire won the second meeting on January 16, 2015, to retain the featherweight title via late choke in a fight Straus was well ahead on before the submission. Straus won the last meeting on November 6, 2015, to win the title. The show also has Ilima MacFarlane vs. Jessica Middleton, Dominic Mazzotta vs. A.J. McKee (this is a fight to pay attention to since both are two of the company’s best new fighters), Saad Awad vs. Ryan Quinn, plus former NCAA champion Ed Ruth, in his third right, faces Aaron Goodwine, and another top amateur wrestler, heavyweight Tyrell Fortune, faces Branko Busick.
The 4/14 show in Budapest, Hungary saw Adam Borics (7-0) defeat Anthony Taylor (1-4) via guillotine at 4:12; Lena Ovchynnikova (13-4) beat Helen Harper (4-3) via doctors stoppage at the end of the second round as Harper was bleeding and exhausted; Daniel Weichel (40-9) over John Teixeira (21-3-2) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 and bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas (20-4) beat Leandro Higo (17-3) in a non-title fight via split decision on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 28-29. It was originally to be a title fight but Higo missed weight.
As of right now, the plans are that the old rosters will remain in effect, meaning Owens, Zayn and Charlotte on Raw and Miz, Ambrose, Wyatt and Bliss on Smackdown, through this coming weekend. This past weekend the Raw shows on Friday, Saturday & Sunday had the old crew. On Monday, they did the switch with the Smackdown tour guys who switched moving to the Raw crew while the Raw guys who switched did the Smackdown house show. What that means is for this past week and this coming week, the guys like Miz, Ambrose and Wyatt are doing three shows a week (Saturday through Monday) while Owens, Zayn and Charlotte will be doing five shows (Friday through Tuesday). 4/23 will be the last date the old rosters are in effect.
Also, in a surprise considering how heavy they went with the angle, Reigns did appear on all the Raw house shows. They had continued to advertise him for all the shows even after the angle although he was kept off TV. But since he was already announced for the PPV, it’s almost a lock he’ll be on the 4/24 Raw show. He is advertised for all the Raw shows this weekend, but we don’t know how the death of his brother may impact those plans. At the shows, they announced Reigns wasn’t cleared to compete and Strowman did an interview and does a heel promo about how he finished Reigns, giving the impression it was the explanation for Reigns not being there. Then Reigns’ music played . He was all taped up and they brawled for a while, with the bell never sounding. The brawl ended every night with Reigns putting Strowman through a table.
The biggest surprise of the brand switches was Wyatt, as the believe it was a late decision to move him instead of Styles. The plan at first was for Orton vs. Wyatt to continue their program as the key title match on Smackdown, and now Orton doesn’t have a singles opponent. Styles is working with Owens, so Styles will be a face there. But Orton vs. Styles seems the obvious program and that’s one where the crowd will cheer both guys. The face vs. heel dynamic isn’t as important today anyway, and it’s not like face vs. face diminishes drawing power as people come to see stars. There was an era where the reason you only did face vs. face main events on rare occasions is that if it was done, the crowds would go down unless there was a major overriding reason for it.
The European tour lineups have been changed to reflect the brand split, and these are all the programs going forward and likely for May U.S. house shows as well. The Raw tour will have Reigns vs. Strowman, Rollins vs. Joe, Balor vs. Wyatt, Ambrose vs. Miz for the IC title, Hardys vs. Enzo & Cass vs. Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Gallows & Anderson for the tag titles, Bayley vs. James vs. Banks vs. Jax vs. Emma vs. Bliss for the women’s title and Aries vs. Neville for the cruiserweight title. On the shows that Aleister Black is on, he’ll be doing three-ways with Aries and Neville in the cruiserweight title picture.
The Smackdown tour will have Orton vs. Styles for the WWE title, Owens vs. Zayn for the U.S. title, Usos vs. Jordan & Gable vs. Colons for the tag team titles, Naomi vs. Lynch vs. Charlotte vs. Natalya vs. Carmella for the women’s title, Nakamura vs. Ziggler and Harper vs. Rowan.
Right now the idea is to keep The New Day off television until Kingston is ready to return. Most likely that would wind up with New Day vs. Usos as the key tag team program on Smackdown, with Jordan & Gable vs. Colons as a secondary tag program.. . Regarding the Hardys, right now the plan is for them to go to the Broken gimmick with the idea that it’ll be a major merchandise mover. WWE is attempting to make a deal with Anthem so everything is on hold when it comes to that until the sides come to an agreement. When Matt did his interview on Raw, he was speaking like the old Matt Hardy but did a very quick tease of the accent of the character and they legally can’t stop a guy talking with an accent. So the idea is teases until they have the rights to do it. On social media, Matt is using the phrase “Torn Matt Hardy” instead of “Broken Matt Hardy,” as well as calling himself “Brother Moore,” since Anthem has no claimed ownership of Brother Moore, only Brother Nero.
A clarification on last week’s WWE lawsuit and BitTorrent. WWE isn’t suing BitTorrent, but suing people who distributed their content on BitTorrent. WWE used forensic software to identify IP addresses of the people who put their content up.
Goldberg’s contract has expired but they have a longer period of agreement allowing them to sell merchandise. Since there is nowhere else he’s going to wrestle at, because nobody else can pay him anywhere close to what he made on his WWE run, and WWE has no immediate plans for him, there’s no rush to make a new deal. The one thing is that in his last program, Lesnar was his angel in the sense that Lesnar always went to bat for him to have things done to make him strong because in the end Lesnar was winning the Mania match and wanted Goldberg as strong as possible for the match. The navigation may not be as easy with another opponent, because then the writing crew and creative could get involved in the ideas and direction. Because Goldberg trusted the long-term and Lesnar, there wasn’t the issues in worrying about creative. But in another program , you’re not going to have the power of Lesnar, who pretty much is going to get what he wants because he’s Lesnar and has options to make millions elsewhere in one night should he want to, which ended up making sure Goldberg came across like the old Goldberg.
Balor missed the weekend with a concussion. He was evaluated before the 4/17 show in Columbus, OH, passed the Impact testing and cleared to appear on Raw. His match was held to 36 seconds and he didn’t do much at all, but the way it was set up with Hawkins issuing the open challenge is how WWE sets up sub-one minute matches so the show was likely written to where if he was cleared, they’d do that, and if not, there wasn’t much time to fill. The concussion came from the elbow in the back of the head in their 4/10 match at the Nassau Coliseum that knocked him silly during the match.
The Revival had similar bad luck as Balor did when he started, as they were finishing up in NXT this weekend after debuting on Raw. Wilder suffered a broken jaw on the 4/14 NXT show in Spartanburg, SC. He’s expected out of action for two months. The injury was while working with Itami in a tag match with Nakamura & Itami vs. The Revival, apparently from a punch by Itami. “On Friday night, following an in-ring injury to the ride side of the jaw, we sent (him) to the ER for a CAT scan,” said Dr. Jeff Westerfield in an article on the WWE website. “The test came back showing a jaw fracture. As a result, he will be getting his jaw wired and we are looking forward to him back on the main roster in about eight weeks.” “Is this frustrating? Of course it is,” said Wilder (Daniel Wheeler, 29). “But it’s not going to stop The Revival. This is nothing. I’ve had worse than this and didn’t even bat an eye.
Otunga will be off television for six weeks after being cast as the lead in a movie called “Katrina.” Otunga will play a DEA agent set in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Booker T started in his spot on Raw. Talk about transparent. To me, if one of the announcers is off for six weeks and you needed a replacement, I’d think Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler or Nigel McGuinness, depending on what you want. The problem with Ross is people like him more than Cole and will then get mad when they replace him back for Otunga. And even Lawler you could argue that would be the case. McGuinness, it wouldn’t be that way right away, but after three weeks of him, he may get entrenched. But doesn’t that speak of Otunga not being the right guy in the first place if anyone decent you put in the spot will do better than him? Their choices to replace him were either Booker T or Percy Watson.
WWE has had a change in television in The Philippines this past week. Fox Network Groups Asia sent out a release stating that “despite both parties’ best efforts, Fox Network Groups Asia and World Wrestling Entertainment were unable to reach an agreement on the renewal of all WWE programming on Fox and Fox Sports. We apologize to our viewers for the sudden and abrupt announcement and request for their patients in this matter, as we have attempted to negotiate up to the very last minute.” They noted all WWE programming will be off effective immediately. The next day, TV 5 announced picking up the coverage starting on 4/30. WWE had been on TV 5 in the past and the move is upward, as they go from cable to over–the-air television, although it hasn’t been made clear whether the deal will include the PPVs (which aired on the cable station) and whether Raw and Smackdown would remain live.
Jerry McDevitt filed a motion seeking a summary judgment to dismiss the concussion lawsuits of Vito LoGrasso and Evan Singleton, noting that previous cases involving William Haynes, Ryan Sakoda, Russ McCullough and Matt Wiese have been thrown out.
Paige is not figured into any plans going forward after her neck recovers from surgery unless things change. Everything that’s happened is the reason. The only thing that could save her is the Dwayne Johnson movie. And nobody knows if she wants to come back anyway, since it’ll be tough on her relationship being constantly back on the road.
The Ambrose/Renee Young move to different brands came right after it came out about them being married. I don’t know that it’s like Del Rio/Paige when you know what the situation is. The rule of thumb is to try and keep the married couples on the same brand. It’s not as much a deal since Young doesn’t go on the road except for PPV Sundays and every Tuesday. But it is still going to be tough on their relationship. The last I heard they were living in Las Vegas. That means he’ll have to leave on a lot of Thursdays to get to the Friday house show on time, and then goes home on Tuesday mornings from the tour. She doesn’t get home until Wednesday, and he’s leaving a day later.
The WWE has confirmed these three new PPV dates, a 9/24 show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, a 10/8 show at the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit (which for a first PPV at the new building should draw a sellout which would be about 15,000, one of their bigger U.S. crowds of the year), and 10/22 in Minneapolis at the Target Center.
A correction from last week’s issue. It was Gotch, and not English, who was pinned in the 4/4 Smackdown match in Orlando against Jordan & Gable, the day before Gotch was released. The information we were given wasn’t correct. So at least that made sense based no usual protocol that they may have known by that time what they were doing with Gotch.
It’s a well-known story that the song “Glorious” was not written for Roode, and that it was written for another wrestler, who turned it down. So it was sitting there and Roode was given it and it’s really made his career. The identity of the wrestler who turned it down hadn’t come out, but it was Nakamura. Nakamura was hands on when it came to his music, felt the song didn’t fit him, and was a big part of putting together the song “The Rising Son” which is the most played of all the current WWE themes. As it turned out, fate was good because, and maybe this is because we’ve seen it, but the song fits Roode better and Nakamura may not fit the song. In both cases, the music they ended up with have helped both tremendously, making them both superstars and allowing them to get over toning down their in-ring work with both nearing 40.
One of the people who has filed to run against Glenn Jacobs for mayor of Knox County is Bob Thomas, an actor who was in the “Friday Night Lights” movie and is also a DJ who had a show in Knoxville for 25 years, and whose son, Jake, played Matt McGuire, the brother of Lizzy McGuire on the Disney show. Thomas is currently the County Commissioner and is running as a Republican, like Jacobs.
Regarding James Laurinaitis, the son of Road Warrior Animal, who just retired last week from the NFL and coming into pro wrestling, his father seemed negative on that subject in an interview with Hannibal TV. Laurinaitis had been told a long time back he had an open door if he ever wanted to do pro wrestling, but his body took a thrashing in eight years in the NFL. He’s expected to take a commentary job with ESPN U and possibly go into football coaching. His father noted that he’s financially secure and doesn’t need wrestling at this point.
One of the plans coming out of the roster split is for Corbin to be pushed as the lead heel on Smackdown and to be built up as the big opponent for Orton down the line. They are looking at ways of changing him up with new music and talking over other changes.
Jim Cornette did an interview with The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling and seems to have mended fences with the promotion in the wake of his appearing at the WWE Hall of Fame event. Regarding Eric Bischoff, who he filmed a Table for 3 WWE Network show with (Michael Hayes was the third person), he said, “Eric did not remember why we had only spoken once in 24 years. At the top of the Table for 3, I reminded him of that and we did a little jousting back-and-forth and then we got onto other topics and Michael was an excellent moderator. We talked for an hour-and-a-half and I understand that the program goes about half of that time so I don’t know if it is going to be a two-parter or I don’t know if it is going to be cut up or what and I really don’t know when it is going to air. There was some tension, but at the end Eric and I managed to bond over our mutual hatred for the biggest idiot in the history of wrestling, Vince Russo. So the enemy of my enemy is my friend and Eric and I were able to come to an agreement regardless of what we thought of each other in the past.” He said there are plans for him to be involved in other WWE Network programming. He also changed his tune on HHH: “I didn’t like HHH for 15 years because of the curtain call. I thought he was a piece of shit for exposing the business along with his butt-buddies. He was the junior member at the time and Michaels and Nash were the ring leaders sand Ramon, but by the same token now, HHH, and remember when I said the enemy of my enemy is my friend, HHH is now responsible or NXT, which is the most pro wrestling like, pro wrestling promotion on a big budget level in the world today, so people can change and things change. I would be a stubborn prick, which, of course, I am, but I’d be a stubborn prick if I didn’t say, well, he may have done some bullshit before but now guys like The Revival wouldn’t have a chance. The Revival is the best tag team in wrestling and I love the Briscoes in Ring of Honor and I was huge fans of Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli when they were The Kings of Wrestling. I thought they were the modern version of the Midnight Express, but right now The Revival is the best tag team in wrestling and NXT has the best pro wrestling presentation of big budget wrestling, Ring of Honor being a close second, in the business.
Regarding the last time a WWE title was defended on a non-title show, prior to Tyler Bate’s title defense against Mark Andrews in Orlando on the Progress show, looks to have been in 1999 when Gillberg defended the WWF light heavyweight title a few times outside of WWE. Shawn Michaels vs. Buddy Landel for the IC title happened on a Smoky Mountain show in 1995.
A correction from the WrestleMania issue. Tom Savini, who along with Jason Baker and Jason Adams, designed the mask that Kalisto wore coming to the Battle Royal at WrestleMania, is not affiliated with the TV show “The Walking Dead,” as was listed. His protégé, Greg Nicotero is with the show.
For those interested in this kind of trivia, as of the weekend, Asuka as of this past weekend had won 163 consecutive matches in WWE. The shoot number for Goldberg in WCW was 155 even though they use a higher worked number. It’s funny because since it’s not a storyline, it means nothing compared to Goldberg’s streak or Undertaker’s streak. In the 50s, Lou Thesz had a streak pushed as 936 consecutive matches without a loss (there were plenty of draws there) until his 1955 match with Leo Nomellini that he lost via DQ. I’m not sure if that number is legitimate or not (he was asked and he wasn’t sure either and actually one would think the real number could be higher than that), but as NWA champion in an era where they didn’t use the title can’t change hands via DQ or count out rule nor did the champion lose non-title matches in that era, he likely didn’t lose any matches from at least 1948 to 1955 while always appearing in main events against the biggest names in the industry.
Lana has been trying out her new dancing gimmick on the NXT Florida shows. She’s wearing Nikki Bella like shorts and dances her way to the ring. This role is one that would theoretically be an eventual babyface, and they are breaking up the act with Rusev. The act seemed like it needed a lot of work. I’m guessing with Eva Marie gone and Emma not working out in the new role that they feel they need someone with the super hot girl for marketing role as opposed to the pretty but athletic athlete types that are now in vogue. You want a variety of types and there are enough quality women wrestlers on both brands that there’s a spot for that role.
Mike Mooneyham wrote a story about the birth of The Undertaker character. Bruce Prichard claimed that he first pushed the idea of signing Mark Calaway when he was in WCW as part of a tag team called The Skyscrapers, both with Sid Vicious and later Dan Spivey. McMahon first said he saw nothing in the guy and that he looked like a tall, red-haired basketball player. Prichard claimed he sold McMahon on the idea of a character named Cain, that he would manage as Brother Love. McMahon okayed it and it went to the creative department, which came up with a sketch of an all-black costume similar to what The Undertaker would end up looking like. Bill Trash of Charleston, SC helped design the costume. “It’s kind of my claim to fame, since almost everyone has heard of The Undertaker, even if they’re not a wrestling fan,” Thrash said in a 2013 interview. Thrash was at the meeting with a number of people, including McMahon, Prichard, J.J. Dillon and Pat Patterson. The name came from the role John Carradine played of an Old West undertaker in the movie, “The Shootist.” Thrash, at the meeting, came up with the name The Undertaker. Nobody would say anything, for fear if they liked it and Vince didn’t, they’d be on the wrong side of the tracks. Finally, Vince said, “That’s it. That’ll do it.” The costume was for a black trenchcoat, a silver and black Ascot, an Amish-style hat, gloves, high boots and Zombie make-up, with ripped up sleeves. Prichard still pushed for the name Cain, and eventually, the name was agreed to as Cain The Undertaker. But after two weeks, the name Cain was dropped.
Austin said that the reason he wasn’t at WrestleMania was because he was in the process of selling the former Broken Skull Ranch in Tilden, TX. On his podcast, he said that he sold his 2,100-acre ranch. He said any rumors that he’s at odds with WWE are false and said he didn’t come to WrestleMania because of the process of selling the branch and other schedule and workload related issues. He said that the traveling between his home in Marina del Rey and his ranch in Texas was too much, but he would be interested in buying a ranch in California. He noted that he retained the rights to the name Broken Skull Ranch in the sale, since he uses that for marketing.
There was a newspaper report in India saying that Kavita Dalal may be part of the upcoming women’s tournament. Dalal trained at Great Khali’s school and is a former weightlifter who has been on the national team in that sport in international competitions. She has worked on Khali’s big shows in India in the past.
They changed the names for two of the women characters in NXT. Daria Berenato is now Sonya Deville, and Macey Estrella is now Lacey Evans.
The stock closed at press time at $20.87 per share giving the company a $1.60 billion market value.
The ten most-watched shows on the WWE Network this past week were: 1. WrestleMania 33; 2. NXT on 4/12; 3. Ride Along with Swann, Kendrick, Perkins and Gallagher; 4. Ride Along with Miz, Maryse, Carmella and Bliss; 5. Talking Smack on 4/11; 6. 205 Live on 4/11; 7. Payback 2015; 8. NXT Takeover Orlando; 9. This Week in the WWE; 10. 2017 Royal Rumble.
Notes from the 4/17 Raw in Columbus, OH. After several weeks of special shows, this was back to normal, aside from the show close with the ring collapsing as Strowman gave Show a superplex which is always a great visual and the crowd loved it. There was someone on Twitter (Atif Fazil) who called the spot early in the show, noting they used the old-style ringposts and ring aprons instead of the new style. This was the third time they’ve done the ring collapse after a giant superplex spot, as they did it for a Lesnar vs. Show match on television and a Lesnar vs. Henry match on PPV. The show drew 8,000 fans, so it feels like we’re back to the usual levels. O’Neil pinned Axel with the Clash of the Titus in the first match for Main Event. The other Main Event bout saw Nese & Daivari beat Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado when Daivari pinned Dorado.
Raw opened with Strowman out. He said that last week he broke Reigns in half, said Reigns has a separated shoulder and cracked ribs and won’t be there tonight. Usually that’s a code that he’s running in later in the show, but he actually never did that. There were some cheers when they announced Reigns wouldn’t be there. Reigns was advertised as late as the afternoon of the show. There were also “yes” chants for that one. Angle came out. Strowman told Angle there would be more to come. Angle announced Reigns vs. Strowman at Payback. Strowman wanted competition tonight or else. Angle called his bluff and got in his face, and Strowman backed off. Joe beat Jericho in 9:04 via tap out with the choke. Nobody expected Jericho to tap when he did. It’s not like one loss kills you dead, or in this day and age, when you’re someone like Jericho, you’re kind of immune to being hurt, but I still wouldn’t book a U.S. title challenger babyface like that two weeks before the title match. There are other ways to get a win and even a DQ and choke out after gets Joe over and protects Jericho a little. This was the best match on the show. Joe did an interview.
So Rollins’ new nickname is the Kingslayer, which they shoved down everyone’s throat pretty hard. Joe brought up the sound of Rollins’s knee ligaments and joints popping when he fell to the ground with his injury. Joe said he hurt Rollins the first time for business, but for what he did to HHH & Stephanie at WrestleMania, now it’s personal. Rollins said that Joe nearly cost him his career and Payback is a bitch. They announced Anderson & Gallows vs. R-Truth & Goldust. R-Truth & Goldust were backstage about to come out. The Drifter Elias Samson was in the background playing guitar. Strowman then destroyed R-Truth & Goldust, throwing Goldust through a cage. Jamie Noble, Fit Finlay and Adam Pearce made the save. A referee told Strowman he had the night off and he should leave, but Strowman said he would leave when he wanted to. Anderson & Gallows did an interview. Anderson said that Strowman gave R-Truth the United Airliners treatment. Anderson said that they left Japan for two reasons, to be mean and to make green. Gallows wanted some nerds from the locker room to come out.
Enzo & Cass came out and they had a match. Enzo mostly sold for the first 10:00. Cass made the hot tag and gave Gallows a running kick over the top rope, which actually missed but was sold anyway. Enzo was on the top rope but Anderson shoved him and he bounced crotch first on the top, fell into the ring and Anderson pinned him in 10:53.
Miz & Maryse were about for a Miz TV segment with Ambrose. The whole idea of shifting around rosters was to freshen up the matchups, but these two just finished a program in Smackdown two months ago and now they have a new program. Ambrose noted that Miz is from Cleveland and he’s from Cincinnati, and the show is in Columbus. He did some Ohio cheerleading and seemed happy it worked. Miz made fun of what Ambrose was wearing saying guys like Ambrose make them look like “rasslers,” the dirty word. Miz said Ambrose might as well have a fanny pack and be wearing “Zumbaz.” It’s Zubaz, but he was close. Then Ambrose made a reference to Zumbaz and then I realized it’s might simply be scripted like that and Miz and Ambrose didn’t know better. Miz said the reason Ambrose can’t break through the glass ceiling isn’t because he’s not talented enough, but because he’s lazy and complacent. Things like that aren’t said on WWE interviews unless there’s a reason but then they can just say that’s it’s a wrestling promo and doesn’t mean anything. Ambrose made fun of what Miz was dressed in, said that he doesn’t care about branding and doesn’t even know what that means. He said he doesn’t care about doing movies and talk shows, but he loves black eyes and making people cough up their teeth and blood. Maryse called Ambrose a street rat. Miz talked about how he made the IC title relevant and the most honorable title in the company. Ambrose went after Miz but Maryse hit him with a mic. Ambrose no-sold that. Ambrose went for Dirty Deeds but Miz backed off.
Strowman kidnapped Kalisto and picked him up and threw him into a garbage bin. So Kalisto is playing the some role here to get over the big guy than he did with Corbin on Smackdown. Show came out and tackled Strowman into a garage door at the arena and told him to pick on someone his own size. They then announced they’d be meeting later in the show. Perkins beat Gallagher in 9:56. Neville and Aries were both at ringside. Aries was again eating a banana. Crowd wasn’t much into it but the Mary Poppins Thesz press is going to get over every time. Neville and Aries got up and Aries was on the apron but Neville scooped his leg. Gallagher was distracted and Perkins won with the Detonation gimmick. Tozawa was backstage talking with Crews about how happy he is to be on Raw. O’Neil showed up and told Tozawa to leave. Tozawa left. O’Neil congratulated Crews on becoming a father. He said now that he’s got a family he needs to link up with the Titus brand. O’Neil talked about his marketing ideas such as having a wrestling fans vacation on a boat called Apollo Cruise, a singing idea called Apollo Blues and a legal firm called Apollo Sues. Crews didn’t seem interested but O’Neil told him that diapers aren’t cheap.
The Hardys were out for an interview. Matt was mostly being the old Matt Hardy but this was a brief spot of Matt out of nowhere saying maybe one sentence with the accent. Sheamus talked about growing up and watching WrestleMania 17 and the Hardys vs. Dudleys vs. Edge & Christian ladder match. Well, he didn’t mention the other four guys, but talked about how that was an example of breaking through the glass ceiling. Well, that’s not exactly right. It was a way to get noticed, but the only ones of the bunch who ever broke through the glass ceiling were Jeff Hardy and Edge and that wasn’t until years later. Sheamus said that the match would be without ladders but it would be an honor to beat the Hardys and win back the tag titles. Bliss won a four-way to become the top contender for the Raw women’s title beating Jax, Banks and James in 13:45. They probably let this go long since Bliss is from Columbus and thus people would care a lot. But instead, the match dragged. Jax played the monster. Banks did a tope on Jax and James. The match wasn’t good. Really, none of the four were working well with each other. There were winning moves done where a third person would break up the pin. It ended with Jax doing a Samoan drop on Banks, but then Bliss stole the pin. The crowd did erupt for the finish since Bliss won kind of out of nowhere.
Hawkins did an interview. He said that last week he called out Show and this week Show is in the Raw main event. He deduced from that that if you want to be a main event superstar, you have to step in the ring with him. Needless to say that logic made no sense. He challenged anyone in the back. Balor showed up and pinned him after a sling blade, a dropkick and the coup de gras in :36. In the commentary, they were pushing the idea of Balor vs. Wyatt down the line. That is the post-Payback program. Jericho did an interview and said that Joe is a tremendous competitor and losing to him is nothing to be ashamed of. He said he’s kind of gotten sidetracked by Owens because he’s focused completely on Owens. Mike Rome was interviewing him, and since Rome somewhat resembles Tom Phillips, Jericho kept calling him Tom. He kept saying his name is Mike. They did a comedy bit where Jericho called him Tom, he said he was Mike, until Jericho crossed him up and called him Mike and he said he was Tom. Jericho was going to put him on the list for not knowing his own name. The Drifter showed up at this point and he instead put the Drifter on the list for walking into the shot and interrupting his promo. So it looks like maybe Drifter will get the Fandango win over Jericho before Jericho leaves, although time is running out for that.
Wyatt did a taped promo. They didn’t say what a House of Horrors match was. Wyatt did an interview with photos of skeletons and fire and with him talking about where he was. We’re supposed to think Wyatt is underground and hanging out in hell, and maybe that has something to do with the House of Horrors. Fox and Brooke were together backstage. Fox was playing the hot looking but totally nuts woman role that is one of the WWE regular roles for women. Think of how many women over the last ten years have been scripted to be totally bonkers. She was going off on the powder getting all over her on 205 Live last week. Brooke was sympathetic to her. Fox said everything would be taken care of the next day. Emma showed up and told Fox that Brooke has been showing that video to everyone all week over and over and making fun of her. Brooke said that Emma was lying. Fox believed her and told Brooke that she didn’t want to be her friend anyone. Brooke insisted it was a lie. Fox stormed off. Emma than pretty much admitted she made it up and told Brooke that “You wanted to stand on your own two feet. Let’s see how good your balance is.”
Jeff Hardy pinned Cesaro in 13:03. The crowd was really tired by this point. The match was okay, but you can see Jeff’s injuries have taken their toll. Jeff used a crossbody off the apron to the floor. Hardy backdropped his way out of a Gotch neutralizer (which Gotch actually never used to neutralize anyone) and hit the twist of fate and swanton for the clean win. Since WWE has always pushed Jeff as the bigger star than Matt, and Sheamus as the bigger star than Cesaro (which is weird since Cesaro always gets so much of a better reaction), this probably will lead to Sheamus beating Matt at some point, maybe next week, since the champions beating the challengers before the title match only makes sense if you’re going to even it out. All four shook hands and hugged after, so the idea is that both teams are going into the title match as faces. Backstage they showed Slater & Rhyno. Rhyno was back to eating cheese wiz and Slater talked about how in the last draft (apparently the reason they had a Superstar shakeup and not a draft last week is because Vince was against the idea of using the word draft for a roster change even though it was essentially meant as the same thing) he wasn’t even drafted but now he’s on Raw.
Strowman was walking the aisle before his match and they were both scared, but he didn’t attack them. Show no contest Strowman in the main event in 12:44. The crowd got into some of the spots in this match. It wasn’t nearly as good as their first match, nor did it get nearly the reaction, although the near falls got over and the finish tore the house down. Strowman did a very low dropkick that wasn’t supposed to be low, but he is probably 350 or more pounds. Strowman delivered two of the worst looking armdrags ever. One of them shook up Show in landing, as they had to wait for Show to shake it off. They did the spot where neither could lift the other. Show finally slammed him. Strowman used a vertical suplex on Show. The crowd started getting into it at 6:00. Show got a near fall with a choke slam. Strowman hit his powerslam but Show kicked out. Strowman came off the top rope into a knockout punch, but Strowman kicked out. Finally, in a spot they were building the entire match, Strowman superplexed Show and the ring collapsed. Referee John Cone took this amazing bump. The match just ended. Eventually Strowman got up while Show remained motionless on the ground so it was like a moral win for him, which it should have been since he’s in the PPV main event and Show isn’t on the show. After the show was over, when Show got up and recovered, fans were chanting “Thank you Big Show.
Notes from the 4/18 tapings in Louisville. This was noteworthy because WWE hadn’t done any TV tapings or PPVs in Kentucky in years due to a state regulation that matches had to be stopped if a competitor was bleeding. WWE was okay in doing house shows with that proviso, but not live television. The company worked with the major arenas in the state to get that legislation overturned, and the first big show in the state got a lot of local publicity. The show drew 8,000 fans, a strong showing for a Tuesday night card. The biggest news coming out of the show was the surprise of Mahal facing Orton in the Backlash main event coming off the first Smackdown match. Breeze & Fandango, as total babyfaces, won a dark match over The Ascension when Fandango pinned Viktor after a falcon arrow.
Smackdown opened with a Matt Anoa’i graphic, and then Charlotte came out. They gave her some of the worst verbiage ever, trying to work in a cultural reference to Fate of the Furious that didn’t work at all. She wanted a title match with Naomi. Naomi came out and agreed to it and attacked her and dropkicked her out of the ring. Shane came out to a big pop and said she would have to earn her opportunity, so announced a non-title match this week (not using those words because “non-title” is a banned term by Vince McMahon as it “title shot” so Shane had to work around saying if Charlotte won a non-title match this week she’d get a title shot without using either of those terms). The title shot, which is happening, is on the 4/25 show is in Des Moines. After that was agreed to, Charlotte threw Naomi out of the ring and Naomi came back and threw Charlotte out of the ring. Backstage, Natalya was mad at Shane for giving Charlotte a title shot just for asking. Natalya said she’s been there longer and deserves the shot (okay “an opportunity” it the allowable phrase). Carmella and Ellsworth complained about Charlotte getting the shot. Tamina showed up, so she’s a heel, and she wasn’t happy either. The three women are now linked together and trying to come up with a plan, which based on the rest of the show, was that they would stand backstage together and sulk.
Mahal won the six-way over Ziggler, Rawley, Zayn, Rowan and Harper to earn a title shot on the 5/21 PPV show. The match was very good. Harper and Zayn stood out and Ziggler did well. Harper did a superplex on Rowan, a tope on Mahal, another tope on Rawley & Zayn. Rowan then power bombed Zayn over the top rope onto everyone. After a number of near falls, The Bollywood Boys, Harv & Gurv Sihra, debuted and held Zayn by the legs and allowed Mahal to take control and pin him after a cobra clutch slam in 18:36 of a ***½ match. Mahal got a lot of heat for his post-match promo. He’s now been remade as a wealthy, highly educated, Anti-American heel, something of a Mohammad Hassan remake. Orton then came out to confront him, which looked awkward since instead of getting face-to-face, Orton looked into the hard camera while this new heel just stood there. He told Mahal that he just won the jackpot, but he’ll never win the prize, and then started cutting a promo on Wyatt. Wyatt did a taped pro saying Orton would never walk out of the House of Horrors match. The gimmick of the House of Horrors match now is that nobody knows what it is. Styles was backstage noting he was getting a U.S. title match and he doesn’t care if it’s with Owens or Jericho, because either way, he’s got the home field advantage since Smackdown is The House that A.J. Styles built. Corbin showed up, looking nine feet stall the way they shot him standing next to Styles. Styles is now clearly a face as they set up a match.
Tamina, Natalya and Carmella all confronted Charlotte before her match. Charlotte beat Naomi in 12:52 when she kicked her in the back as Naomi went for “she calls it the rear view.” JBL was putting Charlotte over huge in commentary, clearly a directive since he said about 15 times how Charlotte was the biggest star that Smackdown picked up in the draft. Charlotte won after Natural selection. Charlotte has super ring presence but the match dragged in the latter stages. Charlotte was again confronted by Tamina, Natalya and Carmella. Primo & Epico, now pushed as The Colons, and not The Shining Stars (although their trunks still say Shining Stars) beat Jordan & Gable in a quick match when Epico pinned Gable after Primo kicked him in the head. Primo & Epico are being pushed into a tag title contender position. Dillinger did an interview where they were really pushing the crowd to chant “Ten” for him as the new “Yes.” They kept showing clips of crowds doing that chant. Owens pinned a guy called Gary Gandy of Louisville in :29 with the power bomb. Owens did his own ring introduction. It looks like he’s going to be doing the gimmick where he squashes guys every week. The usual protocol of this is to lead to a payoff where you introduce a new guy or a masked guy who pins Owens in his own challenge.
Styles beat Corbin via count out in 13:02. The match was fine, but weak by Styles standards and the finish didn’t go over well. A DQ or count out isn’t going to play well with a live audience, but on TV, there are times where there is a good reason to do it. Here, the idea seemed to be that they wanted to get Corbin over by having a great match since he’s being groomed for big things. But Styles is getting a title shot next so he needed to go over, and they wanted it in a way that protected Corbin. Corbin used a choke slam into a backbreaker. Styles went for a Styles clash on the floor, but Corbin backdropped him into Owens at ringside. Styles then came off the apron with the phenomenal forearm which knocked Corbin over the barricade, where was counted out.
205 Live had the same issues as every week, with good wrestling and a dead crowd. Tozawa pinned Nese in 5:48. Kendrick came to ringside. Nese did a suplex, holding Tozawa in the air, then holding him with one arm and dropped him on the top rope. Tozawa did his tope. Kendrick tried to interfere, but in the confusion, Tozawa got the win with a sunset flip. Kendrick told Nese he was sorry. Nese then attacked Kendrick from behind. Tozawa then said, “Lesson No. 3, you need to have eyes in the back of your head.” Then he did his chant. Swann came out and quickly Dar came out to confront him. Dar complained about Swann trying to break him up with Fox. Fox came out and said she got with Dar because he’s young, charismatic and she thought she could hook up with him and he was going to be the top star of 205 Live. But she said he was immature, his cologne stuck, his cooking sucks, there was the obligatory sex reference with a little guy that they are going to throw in and Fox said she’s been using him, that she’s a jerk and never really cared about him and hated the way he said Alicia Fox. She then dumped him and he left. She then thanked Swann for all the gifts. Swann then pulled a swerve, saying that he was friends with Cedric Alexander, and how Fox broke Cedric’s heart and left him for a Eurotrash pervert. He said his gift was to show her what she really was. This made no sense, particularly since when the storyline was going on before Alexander got hurt, he was the one who dumped her because she was nuts, showed no remorse about his decision and she was the one wanting to get back with him and him having none of it. Fox started talking and just had this meltdown while fans were chanting “What,” which actually got more reaction than anything on the show.
Daivari pinned Ali in 6:48. They are remaking Daivari into a rich, arrogant, playboy foreigner type, or essentially almost the same gimmick that they just gave Mahal two hours earlier. This was a very good match which the crowd was dead for. Gulak came out with a “No Fly Zone” picket sign and a siren to distract Ali. Daivari then won using the rainmaker as his finisher. Of course it wasn’t given that name. Gulak said after the break that there’s no place for reckless high flying here and that he was going to create a better 205 Live with no high flying. Aries beat Perkins in 11:40 of a very good match. As far as a technical match where everything looked good and built well, this was the best thing of the night. It was good enough with the near falls that at times the crowd even reacted. Aries did the elbow suicida. He went for a 450, but Perkins moved and Aries landed on his feet and sold the right knee. Perkins went for the kneebar. Later Aries came back and hit the 450 but Perkins got his foot on the ropes. Aries went for the Last Chancery, but the announcers sold it hard how Aries knee was weakened so he couldn’t get full pressure on and Perkins made the ropes. The finish saw Aries get out of the Detonation kick, and hit the discus fivearm. Even though that’s Aries finisher, it’s feels wrong to use the 450, which got as big a reaction as he’s going to get, as a set up near fall spot and the forearm as the finisher, although I guess you can argue doing the forearm every night doesn’t bang up the knees as much.
After the match, Neville came out. Neville and Aries went at it. Aries put Neville in the last chancery. Evidently his knee miraculously recovered since now it was a killer move. Perkins made the save and Perkins & Neville beat down Aries. Perkins gave him the Detonation kick and Neville used the Rings of Saturn on him. Aries had a small cut on the bridge of his nose as well as a bruise over his left eye. Most of the crowd stayed to see the dark main event, which was Nakamura pinning Ziggler in about 8:00 with the Kinshasa.
Notes from the 4/12 NXT TV show. This was the first hour of the most recent Full Sail tapings. This was the best Full Sail/UCF crowd in a couple of months which helped the show a lot. It opened with Aleister Black’s cool ring entrance. He was to face Corey Hollis. Black’s gimmick is the cool, calm assassin type. The bell rang. Black stood there stoically. Then he threw the spin kick out of nowhere for the knockout in :27. It felt like the beginning of a Magnum T.A. push and he’ll get over big doing that. Dillinger did an interview. He talked about leaving for Smackdown but said he had unfinished business here and wanted a cage match next week with Eric Young. Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa beat Michael Blaze & Dylan Miley in 2:57. Miley has a unique look. He’s not quite as tall, the sort of resembles Bigfoot Silva, and looks to be about 300 pounds of muscle. His features and overall thickness stand out and if he could work, he could be something. Nigel McGuinness compared him to Louie Tillet, the French Angel (he meant Maurice Tillet, Louis was a 70s wrestler who looked nothing like him, Maurice was actually the prototype for Shrek). They pinned Blaze and then Miley attacked Blaze after the match and laid him out with two iron claw slams, a backbreaker and a powerslam. It’s pretty clear they want to get him off and running.
Moon did a promo with sad music in the arena in Orlando after the show and her loss to Asuka. They are selling she’s super disappointed and was confident she’d win. They appear to be building her for an eventual first win over Asuka and maker her a super babyface and try to get Asuka to be a heel. Ruby Riot beat Kimberly Frankele in 2:18 with a kick to the head. Nikki Cross was out watching the match. They did a deal where they were backstage and Billie Kay & Peyton Royce were out there just being heels. They saw Aliyah & Liv Morgan and started insulting them. Morgan shoved Kay into the ice bath and she started selling it big. TV main event saw Drew McIntyre pin Oney Lorcan in 5:06. This was a hard hitting match, really nothing like what you’d normally see in WWE and more a short version of an Evolve type of match. Lorcan used hard forearms and a running flip dive. He also did a crossbody off the top rope to the floor, but McIntyre caught him and slammed him on the apron. McIntyre was put in position for the Del Rio style double foot stomp. Lorcan went to the top for McIntyre did a situp from that position and threw Lorcan with an overhead superplex. McIntyre won with his Claymore kick. The crowd was more into this than any match they’ve had in a while. Part of it was because it was so different from the usual style. That’s tricky because the last thing they want is evidence that the style that isn’t their style can get over with their audience.
The show ended with Nakamura out for his goodbye. He said that he was already a champion in Japan before coming here but wanted to be a world superstar. He said he learned from the NXT superstars, the NXT coaches and the NXT fans. He said that NXT was something new and different and talked about how the fans created the atmosphere and how they would sing his song. It was really an NXT cheerleading session. Most of the wrestlers came out on the stage to cheer for him. It was funny watching a lot of the wrestlers singing his entrance song with the fans, particularly Kay & Royce, which totally doesn’t fit their character. The show ended with Balor out congratulating him.
The first night of the weekend NXT house show tour was 4/13 at Center Stage in Atlanta, which drew a sellout of 780 fans. Kassius Ohno pinned Dan Matha with the spinning elbow. Ruby Riot & Kimberly Frankele beat Daria Berenato & Mandy Rose when Riot pinned Rose after an enzuigiri. Aleister Black pinned Kona Reeves with a spin kick, called Black mass. Tye Dillinger pinned Patrick Clark with the tye-breaker. The Authors of Pain kept the tag titles in a three-way over The Revival and Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano. Dawson was the one pinned after the last chapter. After the match, they set up the crowd to cheer for Revival for their goodbyes and Ciampa & Gargano hugged them to end the program. Asuka retained the women’s title over Ember Moon. Moon came off the top rope with a crossbody and Asuka rolled through and held the tights doing a heel move for the pin. She’s been playing heel for weeks but not sure people have figured it out. This was said to be the best match on the show. Main event saw Nakamura & Itami beating Roode & Almas when Itami laid out Roode with the GTS and Nakamura pinned Almas after the Kinshasa. The crowd gave Nakamura a big farewell when the match was over.
The second night of the tour on 4/14 in Spartanburg, SC, drew 1,040 fans. Ohno pinned Reeves in a match that featured a lot of stalling by Reeves. Almas beat Matha and a hammerlock DDT in an okay match. The fans cheered Almas who worked as the face. People weren’t into the match. Matha dominated with power moves. Moon & Riot beat Rose & Frankele. Rose was really over because of her looks even though she’s rarely been used on TV. When Frankele was in, it was good. It slowed down when Rose was in, but she’s a lot less experienced. Moon won with the eclipse. Black pinned Clark in a quick match ending with a spin kick. Black was really over. Clark cut a heel promo saying he was in Charlotte when he was in Spartanburg. The crowd was chanting “Delete” at him and he said that he said that Spartanburg should be deleted. Nakamura & Itami beat The Revival in a good match with great crowd reactions. Most of the match was Itami being beaten down. Nakamura made the hot tag and pinned Dawson with the Kinshasa while Itami gave Wilder the GTS. Itami got his mouth busted open but it was nothing serious. Authors of Pain retained the titles over Gargano & Ciampa in a decent match. Crowd didn’t get up for this after seeing Nakamura and the Revival in the prior match. Gargano was pinned after the Last Chapter. No Paul Ellering on this tour. Asuka retained her title over Berenato in an okay match. Asuka won with a kick in a match where Berenato got a lot of offense.
Roode pinned Dillinger to retain the title in the main event. Dillinger hit the Tye-breaker when the Authors of Pain came out to save the title. They distracted Dillinger which led to Roode hitting a low blow followed by the DDT for the pin. After the match, the AOP beat down Dillinger until Nakamura made the save. Roode and the AOP beat down Nakamura until The Revival came out. The idea is everyone figured they would join in, but instead they attacked AOP and gave the shatter machine to Rezar. Roode didn’t see this and went to shake hands with Dawson, and then the revival and Roode all beat up Roode. Dawson used a Dusty Rhodes bionic elbow on Roode. Roode then took the delayed Ric Flair face first bump which got a big pop. Roode got up groggy and Nakamura laid him out with the Kinshasa. Nakamura, Dillinger and The Revival did a promo at the end of the show. They talked about how NXT has all kinds of stars coming up even though they are all moving on. Dawson then said how this was the building where the Rock & Roll Express beat The Russian to win the NWA world tag team championship and he couldn’t be happier. Actually that match took place in Shelby, NC, but it was 32 years ago so I don’t too many in attendance would know that.
The final weekend show was 4/15 in Concord, NC, before 1,500 fans. Ohno pinned Reeves with the spinning elbow in the opener. Reeves then refused to leave the ring and challenged anyone in the back. Matha came out and picked him up for a choke slam into a backbreaker. Nobody knew who he was. There was a backstage segment showing The Revival coming out of Roode’s locker room with the idea that one of them would team with Roode against Nakamura & Dillinger in the main event. Riot & Frankele beat Rose & Berenato in a sloppy match when Riot pinned Berenato after a Pele kick. Black pinned Almas after a spin kick in a solid match. Itami pinned Clark in a short but fun match. At one point Clark wanted to sumo wrestle with Itami. Itami won with the GTS. Authors of Pain beat Gargano & Ciampa to retain the tag titles in a great match. Asuka beat Moon to keep the women’s title with the same roll through on a cross body and holding the tights finisher. Stiff match with good action. Nakamura & Dillinger beat Roode & Scott Dawson. A lot of comedy. It ended with Nakamura pinning Dawson after the Kinshasa. After them match, Roode blamed Dawson for the loss. Roode then started insulting Dawson’s family, who were in the front row. Dawson went after him but Roode bailed out. Nakamura & Dillinger threw Roode back in the ring. Dawson and Dillinger each gave Roode stunners and then Nakamura laid out Roode with the Kinshasa. After the match, the whole locker room (Almas and Black were the exceptions) came out and cheer once again for Nakamura, Dillinger and The Revival. I think these things are cool in a sense, but today, when you do it on TV and at every house show, it loses meaning. Dillinger thanked the crowd for always chanting “ten,” because that’s what got him to the main roster. That’s the truth. Nakamura thanked the crowd for supporting him over the last year. Wilder gave a big speech and then told Dawson, since it was his home area, to close it out. Dawson ended with the “top guys out” phrase and then led the crowd in singing “Friends in Low Places,” and Dawson gave Roode another stunner to end the show.
The local NXT crew opened on 4/14 in St. Augustine, FL, before 250 fans. Roderick Strong pinned Cezar Bononi. Billie Kay & Peyton Royce beat Macey Evans & Victoria Gonzalez. Buddy Murphy pinned Adrian Jaoude. Dylan Miley pinned Steve Cutler. They are making Cutler & Wesley Blake into a team as Blake was in his corner. No Way Jose pinned Riddick Moss, who had Tino Sabbatelli in his corner. Liv Morgan pinned Bianca Blair. Akira Tozawa pinned Tony Nese. The main event saw Sanity of Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe & Nikki Cross beating Heavy Machinery of Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight & Sarah Bridges.
The 4/15 show in Gainesville, FL drew 200 fans. Morgan pinned Mary Kate in the opener. Mary Kate is much bigger so Morgan mostly sold and came back to win. Heavy Machinery & HoHo Lun beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy & Kishin Raftaar. Lun jumped on Knight’s back and Knight splashed on Raftaar for the pin. The Bollywood Boys did a promo, Harv & Girv Sihra. They said they were 410, which means they are twice as good as anyone on 205 Live. Lorcan pinned Chris Atkins with a running blockbuster. They had a good match. Atkins is a big muscled up guy like the type who would be pushed big in another generation. Miley beat Cutler via DQ when Blake interfered. Even though Miley was a heel on TV this week, he was a face here. Dain pinned Montez Ford with the One winged angel. After the match, Cross and Bridges went at it and Dawkins ran in as well. Murphy pinned Brennan Williams. Once again, with the size difference, Williams took most of the match. Williams spent the match saying that Murphy couldn’t slam him, building to the spot at the end where Murphy slammed him. The crowd was into Murphy as a babyface. Cross pinned Bridges with a fisherman neckbreaker. Jose & Strong beat Moss & Sabbatelli in the main event. The main event was much better than anything else.
This was the first weekend with post-WrestleMania house shows. For the most part, crowds were down across the
board, although running Easter Sunday with anything less than a major show was going to be a tough draw. The Raw crew opened on 4/14 in Providence, RI, before 6,000 fans. 4/15 in Champaign, IL drew 3,500. 4/16 in Cincinnati drew 4,000.
The Smackdown crew opened on 4/15 in Springfield, MO, before 3,000 fans. 4/16 in Cape Girardeau, MO, drew 1,500 for an Easter Sunday show. 4/17 in Bowling Green, KY drew 3,300. That is already a notable drop in the crowds for the Smackdown brand on the first weekend since Cena left.
Providence opened with the Hardys over Enzo & Cass, Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro to keep the tag titles. The Hardys worked as the old Hardy Boys, but Matt did acknowledge some of the “delete” chants. Mahal pinned Axel. Neville beat Aries with the Rings of Saturn to keep the cruiserweight title. Second best match of the night. Next was the Reigns-Strowman brawl. When Strowman came out and did his heel promo about how he put over Reigns, the crowd cheered heavily for him. That’s telling, because usually the house show crowds cheered Cena and Reigns. Even with Reigns positioned as a babyface, coming out after being announced he wasn’t cleared, and all taped up, he was booed a lot. Even when he put Strowman through the table he was booed. Bayley won a four-way to keep the women’s title over Charlotte, Banks and Jax. Short match, mostly Bayley vs. Charlotte. Show pinned O’Neil quickly. Main event saw Zayn & Rollins beat Owens & Joe in a long match. Rollins pinned Owens to take the match.
Champaign was mostly the same, with the main change having to do with Jericho being added to the card and switching a few things around. Matt was going in-and-out of his gimmick at the house shows. Not certain what the rules are as he’s not doing it on TV, but when they are on the road, it is what the fans want to he does tease it. Zayn, moved out of the main event, beat Axel in a long match. Aries got a big pop against Neville. They did the same Reigns-Strowman brawl and same four-way for the women’s title. Show pinned Mahal in a long match. Mahal got more offense than you’d expect and even slammed him. Show came back to win via choke slam. After the match, O’Neil came out and cut a promo on Show, and Show knocked him out. Jericho & Rollins beat Owens & Joe when Jericho pinned Owens with the codebreaker. Jericho then closed the show with a promo putting over the city and put them on the list.
Cincinnati was the same show except that instead of Show pinning Mahal and then knockout out O’Neil, they did a handicap match where Show beat both Mahal and O’Neil.
Smackdown in Springfield, MO, opened with Slater & Rhyno over Breeze & Fandango when Rhyno pinned Breeze after a spear. Hawkins came out and said that he is going to become the biggest star ever on Raw. He challenged anyone in the back. Crews came and out pinned him in 30 seconds. Rawley pinned Ziggler. Ziggler got a big face reaction. He worked as the heel but the crowd refused to boo him. They did a lot of comedy. Rawley won with his running punch into the corner. Harper pinned Rowan. Harper also got a big reaction. Rowan came out as almost an evil clown, with a clown variation of the sheep mask. He also came out with balloons and went to give them to kids, but popped them first. Harper won clean with the discus lariat. Ambrose pinned Corbin with Dirty Deeds to keep the IC title. Naomi won a six-way over Natalya, Carmella, Tamina, Lynch and James to keep the women’s title. Naomi beat Natalya via the stretch submission to win the fall. Usos beat Jordan & Gable to keep the tag titles when Jimmy pinned Gable with a roll-up. Main event saw Orton keep the WWE title over Styles and Wyatt when Orton pinned Wyatt after the RKO.
Cape Girardeau was the same show.
Bowling Green was the first show with the new roster in place. It opened with Breeze & Fandango & Rawley over The Ascension & Mahal. Breeze & Fandango had to be faces because of the numbers game. Rawley pinned Viktor with the running punch. Harper pinned Rowan with a superkick and discus clothesline. Harper got a great reaction. Owens pinned Zayn with a power bomb to keep the U.S. title. Owens got a mixed reaction. They had a good match. Owens cut a promo after the match getting over his “Face of America” deal. Nakamura pinned Ziggler with the Kinshasa. Nakamura sold most of the way. Nakamura got a big reaction but nothing like television. There were some people singing his theme. Naomi retained the women’s title over Lynch, Natalya, Tamina, Carmella and Charlotte. Charlotte was cheered far more than anyone else, and was the one who came across like a superstar. They kept doing finishing moves until Naomi used the rear view on Ellsworth and Carmella and then pinned Carmella. Usos beat Jordan & Gable again to keep the a tag title. The crowd treated the Usos as faces and didn’t really react or even seem to know who Jordan & Gable were. It made the match tough since Gable was selling, but they weren’t getting behind him. Jey pinned Gable with a roll-up. Main event saw Orton win a three-way over Corbin and Styles. Styles and Orton were cheered but Orton was cheered significantly more than anyone on the show. The finish saw Corbin escape from the forearm but then was hit with the RKO by Orton for the pin.