April 4, 2016 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Wrestlemania 32 preview, Jon Jones arrested,By Observer Staff | email@example.com | @WONF4W
WrestleMania 32 on 4/3 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas is far from the strongest WrestleMania lineup in history, and is likely not to be remembered as the biggest, but it caps off what looks to be the biggest weekend of shows in one location in history.
At press time, WrestleMania had 85,000 tickets out for $13.5 million, both records. There have been virtually no primary outlet sales in the last week because almost no tickets are left. There may be some seats released at the last minute after production is moved in and seats are opened, but the real attendance figure won’t be much above this figure.
At press time on Stubhub, you can get a standing room party pass for $21 and the cheapest actual seat would be $175.
Stadium officials have noted that as far as local promotion goes, not even the Super Bowl was as well promoted on a local basis. All the WWE events as well as many of the other promotion events are sold out.
Other lowest secondary market prices for sold out shows are $73 for the 4/1 ROH show, $305 for the 4/1 NXT show, $200 for the NXT TV tapings at Fan Axxess on the afternoon of 4/2, $37 for the 4/2 Hall of Fame ceremony (interest level in the Hall of Fame ceremony is at the lowest level in years), $155 for the Wrestle Con show on 4/2, $175 for the ROH show on 4/2, and $84 for the Raw at the American Airlines Center on 4/4.
WrestleMania is being billed as a seven-hour show on the WWE Network, with a combination of an exclusive WWE Network hour, a USA Network, YouTube and WWE Network simulcast hour, the WWE Network and PPV show for four hours plus, and a WWE Network post-game show.
The show will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern time (4 p.m. local time) with an exclusive WWE Network hour featuring the show’s opening match, which will be Kalisto vs. Ryback for the U.S. title.
The second hour, broadcast live on USA, YouTube, WWE.com and the WWE app, similar to UFC PPV prelims, from 6-7 p.m. Eastern, will have a ten-woman tag team match with Team Total Divas (Natalya & Paige & Brie Bella & Alicia Fox & Eva Marie) vs. Team BAD & Blond (Naomi & Tamina & Summer Rae & Lana & Emma) and The Usos vs. Dudleys in a tag match.
The schedule is subject to change, but this was the schedule at press time. The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which had been advertised for the USA Network, has at this point been moved to the main show, from 7 p.m. and ending somewhere between 11 p.m. and 11:20 p.m., as PPV providers have been alerted the show may last longer than the planned four hours.
With all the advertising done, the company never once on television promoted Steve Austin being there. Austin, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels were scheduled for cameos on the original scripting of the show. John Cena was expected on it. Dwayne Johnson has been advertised for the show, but his role has been kept quiet. Due to insurance reasons regarding the filming of “Baywatch,” he was not allowed to wrestle on the show, although one would expect a promo and a people’s elbow.
There may be surprise cameos. Nothing has been said regarding Ronda Rousey, who appeared last year and the company was hopeful would be in a headline role this year. Dana White had said last year was a one-time thing, and UFC, which has Rousey under contract, would have to approve of her appearing. At first she couldn’t be there due to filming a movie, but the filming was pushed back to May, so now it’s a matter of whether UFC would allow her to appear.
The WrestleMania PPV has these matches:
1) Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon in a Hell in a Cell match where if McMahon wins, he gets control of Raw, but if Undertaker loses, he can never wrestle at WrestleMania again. The crowd reactions will be interesting because people want Shane to win with the idea he would change the company, but they don’t want Undertaker to lose.
2) HHH vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE title. Reigns is expected to win, and that’s not really the issue. The question is will Reigns turn heel either on the show or at Raw the next day as champion. To go heel would undo years of planning, but would make the live audience happy, which otherwise will boo him out of the building every night. As noted, Reigns has more potential opponents as a heel, but the company’s previous plans for him after WrestleMania were as a face.
3) Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose in a no holds barred street fight. The story here is they are promising Ambrose to use all kinds of weapons, from the usual kendo sticks and tables of WWE no rules matches, to a fire extinguisher, barbed wire baseball bat, tire iron and chainsaw. Ambrose getting his ass handed to him at every turn in the buildup, as well as losing clean to HHH in Toronto, would seem to indicate he has to go over or he’s a midcarder. The Wyatt Family is expected to be involved in the finish, as Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt is planned for down the line.
4) Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Sin Cara vs. Stardust vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Zack Ryder vs. The Miz for the IC title in a ladder match. A key here is Owens and Zayn are from the generation where WrestleMania is the be all and end all, and this is their first WrestleMania. In a ladder match, they have a ton of leeway and they’ll be attempting to steal the show, and the standards are high when it comes to a WrestleMania ladder match.
5) New Day vs. League of Nations in a 3-on-4 handicap match with no tag team titles at stake
6) A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho. This will be notable because these two are going to try and steal the show. Granted, everyone is to a degree, but Styles has been in the top tier when it comes to big match wrestlers of the last several years, and he should be a major favorite with this crowd, and as big as the Tokyo Dome and Sumo Hall were, this is by far the biggest stage he’s ever performed on. Jericho has tons of experience in working with wrestlers who have similarities with Styles, and is a creative thinker with some of the best timing of when to do when in the business. As far as pre-show hype, it doesn’t have it compared to the others but has been a pushed storyline.
7) Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch for the Divas /Women’s title. This is the first WrestleMania for all three and by far the biggest match and biggest stage they’ve ever performed on. The winner of this match is expected to be awarded the rebranded WWE women’s title, dropping the current silly looking belt with a belt looking more similar to the WWE title belt except with different colors. Charlotte had done media asking for the change, and most likely, given how management hates being second guessed by wrestlers in the media, she probably wouldn’t have said it if she didn’t know that was the planned direction. Both changes were long overdue.
8) Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Those expected based on television this past week are Big Show, Kane, Heath Slater, Curtis Axel, Adam Rose, Bo Dallas, Damien Sandow, Darren Young, Fandango, Jack Swagger, The Ascension, Tyler Breeze, Goldust, R-Truth and Mark Henry. The Wyatt Family has not been pushed for this match, although at one point they were scheduled and Braun Strowman was going to win it. There was talk this past week of Cesaro in as a surprise, as he’s just about ready to return. About the only other people on the main roster who aren’t injured that aren’t booked on this show are Los Matadores.
With eight matches and four plus hours, everyone should have time, although last year Rock’s surprise angle with Ronda Rousey went about a half hour all by itself. The bad thing is that is you’re talking about close to a six hour show and that’s a long day. The good is that because of their placement, the matches you’d expect to get screwed on time are before the PPV and they should get their ten minutes or so, and that’s really what they should get given their push and placement in the big picture.
Betting odds when it comes to WWE mean little until an hour before the show, when the smart money which knows the finishes from the production meeting starts coming in.
However, Reigns is a 7-to-1 favorite in the WWE title match. Undertaker (-130) is a slight favorite in Hell in a Cell. Lesnar (-150) is favored over Ambrose. Owens (+200) and Zayn (+225) are the two favorites in the ladder match with everyone else a major longshot. New Day (-160) is favored. Kalisto (-150) is also favored. Strowman (+125) is the major favorite in the Battle Royal with the next three being Wyatt (not even advertised in the match), Henry, Randy Orton (not advertised) and everyone else a longshot. Banks (-300) is a strong favorite to win the Divas title, in fact the second biggest favorite on the show.
The Hulk Hogan case remained in the news this past week both due to the size of the award and to Hogan, Gawker’s Nick Denton and even some of the jurors talking about the case.
Hogan claimed he had gotten a huge settlement offer but he claimed he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself had he not gone all the way with the case. On “The View.” He said that sleeping with Heather Cole was the worst mistake he ever made, and claimed he was never attracted to her and she was his best friend’s wife. While Bubba claimed Hogan would badger him to sleep with his wife, Hogan claimed he was talked into it.
Hogan claimed when photos emerged from the video, that he contacted Bubba, who blamed it all on Heather. Hogan’s lawyer, David Houston, said this was not a first amendment issue, but a crime, a tape filmed without Hogan’s knowledge and distributed without his approval.
The six jurors appeared together on “Good Morning America” on ABC, and they were all strongly sympathetic to Hogan.
“If we were all in the same circumstance, how would we feel about it?” said Paula Eastman. “And emotionally, we would have all been pretty devastated.”
It was clear that even if Gawker was able to introduce other evidence, the outcome may not have been different.
“Even if he knew he was being recorded, there’s still no right to put it out there if he doesn’t want it put out,” said Kevin Kennedy.
Regarding Gawker, Kennedy said, “It’s like they have no heart, no soul; it’s all about the almighty dollar to them.”
Denton tried to claim on the show that Gawker put the story first.
“We actually didn’t have any advertising running on this story,” he said. “We didn’t make any money out of it at all. You know what it’s like as a journalist. If you were feeling every single thing that a subject was feeling as a story came out, frankly there would be no news, no story would get written. And we do put the story first and I’m unapologetic about it.”
He also said if the same type of story came to him again, he’d act the same way, and said he doesn’t believe it’s credible when Hogan said he didn’t know he was being taped. The argument against that is Bubba and Heather being on the tape after Hogan and Heather had sex, saying that tape could be their retirement. While not proof, that would seem to indicate Hogan didn’t know.
Denton said that a private person having sex in their own home, in their own bedroom, he said he couldn’t possibly see justifying that as a story unless there was a crime committed or something newsworthy like that. He said Hogan was different because he was a celebrity who made his sex like a part of his character in the media like on Howard Stern.
A few time line notes on the case. The story that Hogan was despondent about Nick’s accident holds no water here. Two of the three videos were dated from July of 2007, and the accident involving John Graziano was on August 26, 2007.
The leaks to the web site “The Dirty” and the tape sent to Gawker were sent before the extortion attempt on Hogan. They evidently sent the tapes to prove they would do it but not send the most damaging tape, with Hogan using the N word.
Denton can be confident because prior to this jury trial, judges prior to this case had sided with Gawker, but there are no guarantees this will happen next.
It should also be noted that the racial remarks can be construed as far worse than they appear. Hogan’s remarks were directed at Cecile Barker, who thought he was one of Hogan’s best friends and who helped bankroll Brooke Hogan’s singing career and Big Show’s attempt to become a pro boxer. His son was Brooke’s boyfriend at the time. During the rant Hogan talked about Barker as being somebody he thought he could get to back him on anything he wanted.
Bubba himself talked somewhat this past week on the subject, although he wouldn’t answer most of the questions when asked by Howard Stern on 3/28. He wouldn’t answer what was and wasn’t taped (based on FBI records, it appears that Hogan and Heather had sex four times and three of them were taped and one wasn’t), he said he wasn’t watching them when they had sex, and refused to answer when Stern asked him why he taped him. He did say that when he and his wife were separated, that he moved the tapes to his office and forgot about them. He said that one of his employees who was losing his job, Spice Boy, then allegedly stole them. He said he never watched the tapes after they were made and claimed he taped no other celebrities with his wife, which contradicts other stories. He said that he can’t reach out to Hogan based on legal issues but would still like for Hogan to be his friend and said he considered himself to be a great friend of Hogan’s and he’s happy Hogan won the case. He said that if he was forced to testify in the case that “many lives would be destroyed.”
Just weeks before he is scheduled to headline UFC 197, Jon Jones was arrested on 3/29 in Albuquerque on a probation violation.
Jones was taken into custody and remained in jail at press time and wasn’t going to see a judge and have bond set on him until 3/31.
The arrest stemmed from being pulled over while driving his white Corvette and given five tickets by a local police officer which led to verbal barbs back-and-forth between he and the officer which ended up being caught by the officers’ camera and posted on the Internet. In short, the officer accused Jones of drag racing and Jones said he thought that was ridiculous, and then offered some words for the officer which led to almost a comedy routine where Jones would insult the officer and he’d make a quick-witted comeback. Some felt the officer was mocking Jones with his comebacks and others thought Jones was being completely disrespectful to the officer.
Jones did tell Ariel Helwani that, “I definitely wasn’t drag racing. I got emotional and said some things that I probably shouldn’t have said to a police officer,” and regretted them.
Jones’ defense is that he had only gone a few feet from the red light and noted that his not being given a speeding ticket in a 35 MPH zone is proof that he wasn’t drag racing.
Jones was on probation for an April 2015 felony hit-and-run where he ran a red light and crashed into a vehicle driven by a pregnant woman. He pleaded guilty and was given 18 months probation and 72 community service appearances and if he completed the program without a incident, the felony would be erased from his record.
Due to the felony charges against him, the UFC took Jones off the active roster and stripped him of his light heavyweight title. Daniel Cormier, who Jones defeated via decision in his last fight on January 3, 2015, won the title by submitting Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and retained it in one of the best fights of last year with a decision win over Alexander Gustafsson. Cormier vs. Jones for the title is still scheduled to headline the 4/23 show in Las Vegas, which is UFC’s next PPV date.
Jones had gotten a ticket for driving without a license, registration and proof of insurance in January, but that was taken care of last week in a court appearance where he produced evidence he had all three, but not on him at the time he was pulled over. He was immediately told those tickets would not affect his probation and he was cleared on the proviso he stayed out of trouble for the next 90 days.
Jones said that he was coming home from dinner on 3/24 and pulled up at a red light. He said some fans saw him driving his Corvette and he didn’t want to talk with them, so he revved his engine at the red light. He said when the light turned green, he had “barely gone ten yards from the stoplight” when he was pulled over.
The officer wrote out five tickets, one each for drag racing, breaking an ordinance regarding modified exhaust for revving his engine, having an illegible license plate, exhibition driving and for being unable to maintain a traffic lane.
Since the key in this case is the probation violation, Jones can’t be charged with a probation violation for something like a speeding ticket or improperly displayed license plate. He can only be cited for a probation violation on a charge that could give him jail time. Of those charges, the only two that fit are exhibition driving and drag racing.
Exhibition driving is defined as driving a vehicle in such a manner that it creates or causes unnecessary or excessive engine noise, tire squeal, skid or slide upon acceleration, braking or stopping.
After the officer told Jones he was drag racing, he called the officer an “absolute f***ing liar.” The officer told Jones that he was lucky he wasn’t arresting him right now for reckless driving.
The two went back-and-forth with Jones saying, “How do you sleep at night?” and the officer responding, “On my left side.”
Jones has a 4/5 court date on the charges.
Jones was arrested on 3/29 by the Probation & Parole department after a judge issued a warrant claiming he had violated his probation, and taken to the local detention center.
UFC issued a statement on 3/29 saying: “UFC is aware that Jon Jones turned himself into the Albuquerque Police Department this morning for a potential probation violation stemming from a traffic spot last week. UFC has been in touch with Jones’ legal team and will have no further comment until the organization has had appropriate time to gather necessary information.”
EAG Sports, which represents Jones, stated to TMZ, “Jon and his team are taking this very seriously and we will let the legal process play out. We are confident he will be released once he has an opportunity to explain to the judge the facts in this case.”
The show that had formerly been promoted as Daniel Bryan Appreciation Night in Madison Square Garden, the first of several shows in the U.S. and Europe promoted with that tag which ended up being changed, drew a nearly full house of 13,500, one of the company’s better house show attendances of the past year.
Bryan pulled out of all the shows with no explanation past that he had asked for time off. Clearly missing those shows, as well as WrestleMania and the European tour, the reasons would have to be significant, combined with the fact they are being kept secret. Almost nobody seems to know the issue involved with why Bryan pulled out, and the few that do know aren’t talking. Pro Wrestling Sheet reported it as a health issue, and also reported that his wife will be finishing up with the company with next week’s Raw.
Brie Bella (Brianna Danielson) was reported to be retiring effective with next week’s Raw show. We had known for a long time and had reported her retiring sometime after WrestleMania, but didn’t know the specific date other than a generic date some time shortly after WrestleMania. The story said the date was moved up due to Bryan’s issue. Her retirement decision for sometime shortly after WrestleMania was decided on well before Bryan retired, so the actual retirement itself is not related to that issue, as it was even noted in the WWE 24 special on Bryan Danielson’s retirement that the plan was that she was going to go home and start a family while he remained on the road.
She will continue to be with the company. Several months back she had signed an “Ambassador” contract which is different from a legends contract, in the sense she’d still represent the company at various functions and continue to be a cast member of “Total Divas.”
While we can’t confirm that story, or what the issue is, my belief is that if it wasn’t accurate regarding the health issue aspect, we’d have heard about it. Bryan Danielson was training Jiu Jitsu with UFC fighter Bryan Barbarena on 3/29 at The MMA Lab in Glendale, AZ.
The special on Danielson that aired after Raw on the WWE Network was a well done piece largely built around the 2/8 in Seattle, the night of his retirement.
The piece was pretty open because of certain information that had been kept quiet previously, the first being that it was Vince McMahon’s decision, not his, to do the retirement speech, which came shortly after he told McMahon about the New York test result. He said he told Vince he wasn’t ready. He said he then talked to his wife, and her opinion was that he should do it now, because, as coincidence would have it, Raw was in Seattle that week and that it would not have the same effect if he was to do the speech in Chicago, Brooklyn or Atlanta, so he called Vince back and agreed to do it.
There were a lot of quotes from different performers, but the key was from announcer Corey Graves, because ultimately, his career ended in identical fashion, being told by the company they would no longer allow him to wrestle after he had suffered multiple concussions.
“I was heartbroken because I know how that feels,” said Graves.
The second was him mentioning that it was in Texas, and not Dublin, Ireland, which he had stated later in several interviews as to where he got his final concussion. The match in question was from the Smackdown tapings in Dallas on April 7, 2015, where Daniel Bryan & Roman Reigns & Dolph Ziggler wrestled Bad News Barrett & Sheamus & Big Show in the main event, came before the European tour that he went on.
What’s notable is that the company very clearly did not want him saying it was a concussion and had specifically stated that it wasn’t a concussion, making people think it was a neck injury that had put him on the shelf. It wasn’t until months later when he did an interview while touring public relations work overseas where he said it was a concussion and gave the location as Dublin.
Bryan had been banged up several days earlier, two nights after last year’s WrestleMania, in a singles match with Sheamus. We had heard about it that night, just hours after the show.
This is a very key point because clearly there was an issue because the actual concussion spot in the main event of the Smackdown show was edited off television. The only people who saw it were the fans in the arena, and a handful of others who did see it.
According to one person who actually saw the incident and has full knowledge of the subject, Danielson was draped on the second rope facing the outside of the ring. The spot looked like nothing. Sheamus was in the corner, on the apron, and kicked Bryan hard in the temple. The description was, “Time stood still. It was clear something was just not right. The legal man, Wade Barrett, went over to pick Bryan up, but Bryan was hurt. Everyone knew something was wrong. But, the thoroughbred horse continued the match and took bumps. Obviously Bryan said he was fine. Anyone who noticed what happened knew he was far from fine. Maybe it was because of Bryan’s reaction to HHH stopping his earlier match with Randy Orton on Raw, but nothing was done.”
The thoroughbred horse line came from Paul Levesque’s quote on the special: “When you are in that moment and you are the athlete, you need somebody to pull the reins, the thoroughbred horse will run itself into the ground. Someone needs to pull the reins and stop it.”
In the piece, Danielson brought up being mad about the Orton match being stopped, specifically bringing up that HHH continued in his 2001 match in San Jose where he torn his quad on a live Raw (in the Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho win over HHH & Steve Austin which is still among the greatest matches in the history of the show), but still continued, including having his torn leg bent back in the Walls of Jericho, playing the match out to its planned conclusion. That has been used countless times to cement HHH’s legacy for mental toughness, and used to put him over. But on the show, perhaps for the first time, HHH said that it may not have been the wisest idea.
There was concern in Dallas about him going on the flight from Fresno to Dublin immediately after the show, but there is no evidence to believe any of that concern came from Danielson, and he did go on the trip.
As noted before, there was an issue and while the piece put over the WWE medical crew, there was clearly an issue here with him wrestling seven matches in six days after suffering the concussion. In all prior interviews, even in his autobiography, he had previously claimed the concussion came two nights later, on the first night of the tour, while wrestling in Dublin, Ireland.
Based on our reports, Danielson did a normal match in Dublin, teaming with Erick Rowan & Dolph Ziggler to beat Barrett & Sheamus & Bray Wyatt when he used the running knee to pin Barrett. As the week went on, he was protected but continued to work, only coming in for the finish, working the final 30 seconds and switched from using the Yes lock instead of the running knee for the finish. The running knee means that you are taking a bump while with the yes lock you aren’t.
So some people knew something was wrong in Dallas. It was even more well known in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 10, because he only worked 30 seconds in that match, and the next four nights (he worked twice on April 12, an afternoon show in Leeds and an evening show in Manchester).
The WWE 24 show said that his wife knew something was wrong at Raw in London, which was April 13. Brie was on the other tour, so she left the U.S. a day earlier, before Smackdown, and didn’t see him again until London. He claimed to be okay and she wasn’t buying it, saying she could tell by their conversations that he wasn’t himself.
She said that she believed at that point that was probably it, and she wanted him to retire. Later, after he was cleared by the doctors at UCLA, she was supportive of him returning to the ring.
He didn’t wrestle on Raw itself, but did work about one minute in a six-man tag team dark match, again using the Yes lock. But even so, he wrestled again the next night, also in London, in the Smackdown main event, teaming with John Cena to beat Cesaro & Tyson Kidd. There are reports that Bryan was aware he was being sent home after the match, and that the match was with Cesaro & Kidd because they were considered two of the company’s best workers who were trusted to be able to take care of him in a two segment television main event match. Cena worked almost the entire match. Bryan didn’t take one bump. The match ended with Bryan using the Yes lock on Kidd. He never wrestled again.
He was sent home the next morning. We reported it as being due to a concussion the next day, which is what the WWE talent knew. WWE contacted us, said it was not due to a concussion but due to an injury that was not disclosed. The belief was that was due to the multiple concussion lawsuits out against the company at the time.
According to the special, and what Danielson has since said on interviews, he had suffered seizures (four in all, the most recent being in early 2012), the last one of which his future wife saw when they were dating but before it was public that they were a couple. He told her to keep quiet on it, for fear that if he admitted it, it could affect his career. They had a deal that if he suffered one more concussion, he would tell the WWE that he had seizures.
When he was diagnosed with the concussion, he told Dr. Joseph Maroon about the seizures. Maroon said that he couldn’t in good conscience clear him. He asked for a second opinion, a neurologist in Arizona who gave him a series of tests, found nothing wrong, and cleared him. Maroon then refused to clear him again.
“Maroon said, `I don’t care what the tests say, with your history, I don’t feel comfortable clearing you.’”
They agreed that he would go to concussion specialists at UCLA, where this subject was their specialty, and several doctors gave him a battery of tests and fully cleared him for any athletic endeavor. But Maroon still wouldn’t clear him.
He felt fine and believed that whatever was the problem, he was fine.
In January he found out about the new testing from Evoke Neuroscience, got tested on 1/21 in New York, and was disappointed when he got the results a few days later.
He new testing showed he had a small subacute or chronic lesion in his temporal parietal region of the brain, which is also the answer that none of the other testing was able to find about why he had the seizures, as seizures come from that part of the brain. It should be noted that the doctor who discovered those results did not give an opinion that he should retire, only that he should undergo further regular monthly testing to see if that healed before making a decision whether or not to return to the ring. When he called Vince McMahon with the results, McMahon, who had backed Maroon and had largely already told him he wasn’t being cleared, now had more evidence. At that point, he realized there was no chance he was going to get cleared by WWE, and also, that most likely he could no longer say to himself it was a wrong decision.
“The hardest thing for me was knowing that my friend had to give up what he loved and he really didn’t have a choice in the matter,” said Seth Rollins on the special, noting that he was sad that he wasn’t in Seattle that night due to his own injury.
Danielson also revealed that he was told he would need surgery at some point after an injury when he missed a dive and crashed into the barricade in the Orton match that Levesque made the call to stop.
He noted that if he had surgery earlier than he did, he may have recovered from that injury sooner. But if he had that surgery, he never would have had his WrestleMania main event, so there are two ways of looking at that.
It’s pretty clear from the special that he was going to go through a rough time. He noted that he had been offered different jobs within the company and had turned them down, feeling he wasn’t ready. He compared his situation to being in love with a girl, having her break up with you, and then she gets married to someone else, but she still wants to be friends with you.
The special noted that his father, Donald “Buddy” Danielson, who passed suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 57 on April 21, 2014, 15 days after his WWE title win a the Mercedes Benz Superdome at WrestleMania 30, was his best friend, which led to mixed feelings because he always thought that after his career was over, he would come back and make up for all the last time with him.
“I think my dad would be really sad, but happy that I’m getting out now,” he said the day of his retirement speech.
WWE still makes Madison Square Garden special, with more loaded up shows. It was the first WWE house show in Madison Square Garden since February 25, 2005, that didn’t have John Cena on it, although they had done a 2010 Smackdown taping where Cena didn’t wrestle on the show.
The show lasted three hours and 30 minutes, about an hour longer than a typical show, and also brought in special attractions like HHH, who hasn’t worked a match at a house show in years, and Ric Flair, who only works the major shows in Charlotte’s corner. It was noted that the crowd did tire out in the last two matches, but they still got good reactions. They also announced a return date of 7/16.
1. Dolph Ziggler pinned The Miz with a superkick in a back-and-forth opener in about 17:00.
2. Kalisto pinned Rusev in 10:00 to retain the U.S. title using the Salida del Sol. Lana cut a promo before the match talking about her upcoming marriage and also burying the Knicks. They did a similar finish as what Kalisto has been doing with Alberto Del Rio (who also had this weekend off due to his limited date schedule as well as back issues that have been bothering him since January). Rusev had undone the padding on the top turnbuckle in a corner and went to throw Kalisto into it, but he jumped on the ropes and used his finisher from there.
Ryback attacked Kalisto after the match and then Sin Cara came out to make the save. Ryback then did mic work and said that both Kalisto and Sin Cara have to realize that a good big man beats a good little man every time, and then challenged Sin Cara to a match.
3. Ryback pinned Sin Cara after the shell shock in less than 3:00. This was a one-sided squash match with Ryback selling nothing.
4. Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch beat Naomi & Tamina in 10:00 when Banks beat Naomi after a back stabber and the Banks statement.
5. Big Show & Kane beat Bray Wyatt & Erick Rowan when Kane pinned Rowan after a choke slam. Yes, this made no sense given that Kane had turned on Show at Raw earlier in the week. Show had knocked out Rowan to set up the Kane win. Braun Strowman was at ringside and interfered several times. After the match, Kane & Show gave Strowman a double choke slam. Fans were into the match and really behind Show & Kane, even in New York.
6. Charlotte, who had Ric Flair in her corner (Ric doesn’t work the house show tours usually) beat Natalya in what was billed as a non-title match, although it makes little sense why, given Charlotte won. Charlotte got a bloody lip. Ric distracted Natalya and Charlotte rolled her up using the ropes. Crowd was really behind Natalya by the finish.
ESPN’s Jonathan Coachman, who got a big reaction, came out and said that if he was going to come back to WWE, he wanted to do it in Madison Square Garden. He claimed Shane McMahon asked him to return for one night and he said he wanted it to be in MSG for an easy pop. He said that he wanted to introduce his friends, the Dudleys. The Dudleys came out and he interviewed them. This was to set up a spot where Coachman asked about tables, and Bubba turned heel on Coachman and threatened him and then turned on the New York fans. The Usos then ran to the ring to protect Coachman.
7. The New Day, this being Big E & Xavier Woods, retained the tag titles in a three-way over the Usos and Dudleys. Woods came off the top rope to pin Devon in a long but good match. Coachman then jumped in the ring, took off his shirt, and had a New Day shirt on and he danced with them.
8. Kevin Owens retained the IC title pinning A.J. Styles. The crowd was into the match, but it was really late by this time so it wasn’t as hot as it could have been. This was said to be the best match on the show. Owens won with the pop up power bomb. Owens went to beat him up after the match, but Styles turned things around and cleaned house using the springboard forearm. Styles than talked about how it was his first match ever in Madison Square Garden and that the atmosphere was everything that he’d always heard it was.
9. Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose beat HHH & Sheamus when Reigns pinned Sheamus after a spear. Reigns got a split reaction, a little more cheers than boos. Once, they popped for his hot tag but then started booing his offense heavily, even against Sheamus. HHH and Ambrose were both completely cheered. The match story was that HHH never wanted to be in with Reigns, but would tag in to attack him when he was down. One would think that given it was a tag that Reigns should pin HHH, but you know how that goes. In fact, HHH hit the pedigree on Reigns and Ambrose saved. Ambrose hit a tope on Sheamus.
Joe Garagiola was a self-professed mediocre major league baseball player during a major league career that spanned from 1946 to 1954, but he ended up being one of the most famous players in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise.
When he passed away at the age of 90 on 3/23, to very significant mainstream media attention, something few today knew, but something he never forgot, was his role in what was, to borrow a misleading phrase, the beginnings of one of the longest running weekly episodic television shows in American television history.
Garagiola was the first host of “Wrestling at the Chase,” which ran weekly from 1959 to 1983 produced by the St. Louis Wrestling Club, a tenure Monday Night Raw won’t reach until May 2017 at the earliest, longer if you include the period WWE ran using the same name.
The show was such a local institution that when Vince McMahon purchased the time slot at the end of 1983, he continued to use the name “Wrestling at the Chase” as the name of the television show in St. Louis.
McMahon originally made a deal with station General Manager Ted Koplar that he and Larry Matysik would be partners in promoting the arena events and doing the television in St. Louis, a deal that McMahon immediately reneged on.
It was on McMahon’s very first episode of “Wrestling at the Chase,” on December 27, 1983, actually taped at the famed Khorassan Room at the Chase Hotel, the first time in 11 years that building had housed wrestling, that he introduced Hulk Hogan, David Shults, Gene Okerlund and Roddy Piper (the first three who no-showed Verne Gagne’s annual sold out Christmas show in St. Paul two nights earlier before 18,000 fans). It was essentially the official declaration of war on the NWA and AWA, and McMahon did it in what was considered the home market of the NWA, and against a promotion that at the time was owned 25 percent by Verne Gagne.
Not only that, but for a few years after that, even though the show was called “Superstars of Wrestling” (a term Howard Finkel came up with in a discussion with Matysik on names for the show to pitch to Vince McMahon, and later, “WWF Superstars” nationally when George Cannon sued over the fact he had prior usage of Superstars of Wrestling) , and had long since moved from the Chase Hotel, and later even from St. Louis (the syndicated show for a time in 1984 was taped in St. Louis), it was the only city where McMahon retained the well-known local name for his wrestling show. It was done because Koplar insisted on it. At one point, when ratings were falling, McMahon actually for a time had Matysik announce the syndicated show just for KPLR-TV, the only market he used the local announcer associated with wrestling instead of his own announcers. But that didn’t save the show, as even though they were getting paid $2,100 per week for the time, the station canceled WWF wrestling due to the declining ratings.
“Wrestling at the Chase,” from its onset drew nearly 200,000 viewers per week on average even though it aired on only one medium-sized market independent television station, in a metropolitan area of barely two million people, at the time the show debuted on May 23, 1959.
The show was unique in wrestling history, at first broadcast from the opulent Khorassan Room of the Chase Park Plaza Hotel, the premier hotel in the city. The 800-seat ballroom was filled with mostly older adults, men in suits and ties, and women in evening gowns. It looked more like a crowd going to the opera. The upscale audience looked foreign to most of the wrestlers who appeared in the building for the first time and thought they must have taken the wrong drive from a different planet.
“The role of Joe Garagiola as the original announcer on Wrestling at the Chase cannot be minimized,” wrote Matysik in his book, “Glory Days: The St. Louis Record Book.” “He was the right guy in the right place at the right time. Joe added even more legitimacy to the product, which already had the boost of being in the prestigious Chase Hotel. But Joe was a hometown hero, a baseball star eventually slowed by injury, who was then broadcasting the Cardinal games with Harry Caray (as well as Jack Buck) on powerful radio station KMOX. In addition, Garagiola was funny. He cracked jokes, but not at the expense of the esteem Joe showed for what the wrestlers did inside the ring. Joe found the balance between humor and serious. When Joe heckled bad guys like Rip Hawk and Gene Kiniski, and they barked back at Joe, the audience was enthralled. It was like the bench jockeys at a baseball game in that era of modern trash-talking. Joe’s interviews with the likes of Pat O’Connor and Lou Thesz were always serious and respectful. It hit just the right tone and helped wrestling carve a spot in the culture of St. Louis.”
St. Louis had been a major wrestling city as far back as anyone can remember. One of the biggest matches in wrestling history, the title unification match with Joe Stecher vs. Strangler Lewis, the two world champions of warring promotions, who had avoided each other for years, took place in the city in 1928, under promoter Tom Packs. In 1932, after the St. Louis Times newspaper he worked for as a sportswriter went out of business, Sam Muchnick, a writer known for his ability to make friend s (among them being Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean and Al Capone) took a job working as the head of public relations for Packs. He quickly became the No. 2 man in the promotion, sometimes traveling with the world champion, and handling booking and finances.
But Muchnick and Packs had a falling out. Muchnick handled the publicity in building a sold out heavyweight boxing championship bout in St. Louis between Joe Louis and Tony Musto in 1941. Packs gave him a $200 bonus for his work. Muchnick felt insulted, quit, and started opposition to perhaps the most powerful promoter in the U.S.
During the 40s, St. Louis very clearly was the wrestling capital in North America. One could argue that as the case from 1937, and it remained a top wrestling city through the late 50s, but had a rough few years from 1957 to mid-1959.
In the 40s, it was the home base of the era’s biggest drawing card, and the most unheralded major attraction in U.S. pro wrestling history, Wild Bill Longson, and his rivalries with the likes of Lou Thesz, Sandor Szabo, Ray Steele, Yvon Robert, Warren Bockwinkel (Nick’s father), The Swedish Angel, Earl McCready, Iron Talun (a 6-foot-8, 320 pound giant who was a major draw in that era), Strangler Lewis, Paul Boesch, Buddy Rogers, Bobby Managoff and a big drawing boxer vs. wrestler feud with former heavyweight boxer George “K.O.” Koverly (who actually was not even a name in boxing, only having had few boxing matches we can find, but was a well-known tough guy who became a major heel of the era), who became a pro wrestler. Even though television had yet to be invented, there may have only been a few wrestlers in history who ever had the consistent drawing power for years that Longson had who averaged just under 10,000 paid at Kiel Auditorium every two or three weeks for several years in a row, some against some of the biggest legends in wrestling history, but he also sold out against guys nobody ever remembers like Barto Hill.
From 1941 to 1946, Longson, with St. Louis being his key city, drew more than double the number of 10,000-plus crowds of anyone in wrestling every single year. He remained No. 1 in 1947, was No. 2 behind Gorgeous George in 1948 and remained at the top tier through 1951.
After Packs suffered gambling losses and he needed quick cash, he sold the existing promotion to a combine led by his top star, Thesz. Because the idea of the world champion also owning the promotion would be looked upon with skepticism, to the public, the head of the promotion was Martin Thesz, Lou’s father. Muchnick struggled running opposition, and didn’t fare that well, drawing about 2,000 fans per show, relying on past their prime but legendary shooters like Lewis, Dick Shikat, Ray Steele and John Pesek, and amateur champions like Ed Virag, Ruffy Silverstein, Roy Dunn and Cliff Gustafson. Still, Muchnick was ahead of his time as he booked Gorgeous George as a main eventer the year before he exploded on television, and George drew well for him.
But in the late 40s, Muchnick became one of the key players in forming the National Wrestling Alliance. While the National Wrestling Alliance name had been used in the 40s for a promotion in Kansas City and Iowa, the famous version was born in a hotel room in 1948 in Waterloo when a number of promoters decided to work together and trade talent. Thesz and Muchnick were at war with Thesz’s side winning at first, until Muchnick, through his NWA relationship was able to broker a deal with Jack Pfefer of Toledo to get Buddy Rogers in regularly. Rogers was such an attraction that the gap closed. Thesz said that between wrestling full-time as world champion of the rival National Wrestling Association and trying promoting, he was having no time for things like sleep, and called Muchnick for a truce. At first, the public believed the two promotions were still operating independently, but now trading talent. In actuality, the two different promotions in town were actually the same, with Muchnick owning 51 percent, and handling the promotion so Thesz could tour as world champion.
Muchnick quickly became the NWA’s voice and president as the group became the lead sanctioning body of the sport. Muchnick was arguably the most powerful figure in the industry from 1950 to 1975, and booked the NWA world champion, the most recognized champion in the industry. Thesz remained its touring world champion, with one short interlude in 1956, until asking out in 1957 because he felt the NWA didn’t see the big picture with the rise of Japan.
In the early 50s, pro wrestling was booming due to the network coverage of the sport, but in most places, it struggled in the late 50s, until making a comeback with the rise of UHF stations looking for something that would draw an audience, something that well promoted wrestling was usually quite good at.
St. Louis had no televised wrestling for several years and business was tough. Jim Barnett noted that Muchnick survived the lean times better than most because he had great relationships with the local sportswriters, so he got more newspaper coverage than most promoters. Even more important to his success, he had thousands of local subscribers to his newsletter, which doubled as the program for the shows, that he’d mail out to subscribers well in advance of the shows to hype his upcoming card. St. Louis was known for having the best written programs of the era, and the newsletter was a key and unique part of the promotion into the 80s.
Still, in the switch from Thesz to Dick Hutton as world champion, even the world title matches were doing 4,500 to 5,500 fans, and the regular cards were doing even worse.
Still, Muchnick paid well, turned a profit every year, and noted that while they were not getting rich running wrestling in the late 50s, they were doing better than average person at the time.
KPLR was a fledgling independent television station that was trying to fill time with local programming, anything that would get them an audience. Harold Koplar, the station president (whose son was running the station when the deal with McMahon and Matysik was made), happened to be sitting next to Muchnick on a flight and they talked about the potential for wrestling on the station. The two worked out a business agreement on a piece of paper on the flight, and decided on The Chase Hotel, the most well-known and high class hotel in the city, which Koplar also owned, as the location. KPLR would pay for production, set aside money for the talent working the show, and provide Muchnick with spots to promote his arena shows, where the money was made. Muchnick would pay KPLR a percentage of the gate of the house shows. They both estimated what those numbers would entail and figured that the production costs and money paid to talent would balance out with their percentage of the house.
“I thought, what a concept,” said Garagiola. “This is so different. Wrestling at the Khorassan Room. But I tell you, it turned out to be an event.”
From 1959 to the end of 1981, when Muchnick retired, they worked on the terms of the agreement made on the piece of paper on the plane. The two shook hands, and as crazy as this is to believe, they never had a formal contract, and never even talked about signing one, such was the level of respect and trust both had for the other.
Almost immediately, crowds at the 11,000-seat Kiel Auditorium were usually topping 9,000, using headliners like Thesz, at that point the former champion, world champion Pat O’Connor, former champions Hutton, Longson, and Whipper Billy Watson, along with the three men Garagiola credited for the show’s initial success, top heels Gene Kiniski and Rip Hawk and colorful big drawing babyface Cowboy Bob Ellis (who Garagiola nicknamed “The Women’s Delight” because he drew so many women to the matches).
Other top regulars on “Wrestling at the Chase” during the Garagiola era included Johnny Valentine, Fritz Von Erich, Kinji Shibuya, Johnny Weaver, John Paul Henning, Pepper Gomez, Stan Stasiak, Duke Keomuka, Taro Myake, Wilbur Snyder, Rogers, Killer Kowalski and the local tag team of Guy Brunetti & Joe Tangaro.
Garagiola was no wrestling expert. But he was glib, charming and self-deprecating. A few years later, after NBC made him one of their key personalities, he was considered one of the funniest men on television. He worked in the role because the audience liked him and trusted him. He came across like your neighbor you’d go out for beers with who would keep you in stitches all night, which is why he had so much success in virtually every broadcasting endeavor he tried.
“All I do is kid it along and try to act funny,” Garagiola said in a 1960 article when the Pittsburgh Press covered the former baseball player as a wrestling announcer (Pie Traynor, one of the Pirates all-time greatest players later announced wrestling in Pittsburgh). “Everyone seems to like it. The sponsors like it and the fans like it.”
While he joked around through the matches, it wasn’t at the expense of the talent. He’d argue back and forth with the heels, and exude great respect for the babyfaces. As the voice of the Cardinals, the cities primary sports franchise, and a former local star athlete himself, in his mid-30s and not far removed from being big leaguer, if he’d put over Thesz or O’Connor as great skilled top tier athletes, the audience believed they must be. If he put over how women loved Ellis, with all the dressed up women in the audience, well, it must be true and was true.
In an early angle, Gorgeous George was on the show and began plugging a record album he had just done. Hawk, who was going to wrestle George, suddenly came up with the idea he’d break it over George’s head, figuring that George would know what he was doing and Garagiola, who didn’t know, would freak out, which would make it come across as real. Then, when he did it, the record didn’t break. He tried to hit George with it over-and-over, Garagiola started calling him a madman, and he started yelling at Garagiola calling him a Spaghetti eater.
Garagiola learned that his role worked best when he’d argue back-and-forth with the heels, because that’s when everyone in town would talk about it and the ratings would increase. Sometimes they did so in a manner that not only fooled the public, but even Muchnick. Even Muchnick thought Hawk (who would call Garagiola a “Spaghetti Bender” and Garagiola would call Hawk “Barney Rubble”) and Kiniski and Garagiola didn’t get along and grudgingly put up with each other for business. He later found out they would sneak out after the shows and eat in the back room of Stan Musial’s Steakhouse.
Garagiola said Hawk’s head looked like a soccer ball that his friends (he grew up with some of the best youth soccer players in the country) would kick around and would say after a Kiniski interview that “Canada’s greatest athlete” sounded like he gargled with razor blades.
Once, Hawk and Kiniski lost their cool and started chasing Garagiola around the studio. Muchnick, backstage, was furious at his wrestlers, for being unprofessional around his personal friend who he had recruited into wrestling, and embarrassing the wrestling promotion and its reputation.
The wrestlers took it without saying a word. Later that night, Muchnick went to the local bowling alley for dinner and he heard Hawk and Kiniski being the centers of attention, yelling and laughing while bowling. Muchnick went to talk with them, and saw Garagiola with them, and they were all joking around. Garagiola admitted that they set the whole thing on the air up. But it wasn’t what Muchnick wanted, as he wanted his announcers and referees to be left with full credibility at all times, and no announcer was ever allowed to be involved in a staged angle of that sort again.
Another time, Hawk and Garagiola went out for a drink with Muchnick, August Busch (the owner of one of the country’ largest beer companies as well as of the Cardinals), Longson, booker Bobby Bruns and Koplar. One of the wrestlers came back with a girl he was dating and after she left, Garagiola said, “Oh, God, she looks like her face was made up with Bon Ami.” Bon Ami was the fluid you’d use to clean toilets in that era. Muchnick was furious at him for saying it, but Busch and Koplar thought it was the funniest thing they ever heard and were laughing like hell. Garagiola would tell the story years later when he was broadcasting baseball games.
“Harold was fighting for his life (with the station), and when they came up with the idea, it quickly got popular based on word-of-mouth,” said Garagiola.
Very quickly, the first run show on Saturday night was the third highest rated locally produced program in the market, trailing the most popular evening newscast and St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
”We had a hit show on our hands,” said Garagiola in a 1999 documentary on “Wrestling at the Chase.”
Newspaper stories from the era would note that Sunday replays of the show from the night before would match the ratings of the live network National Football League games.
The show debuted on May 23, 1959, airing on Saturday nights from 9-10 p.m. They had three matches. The first main event saw Watson, Canada’s biggest wrestling star, face Bob Orton, the grandfather of Randy Orton, in a two out of three fall match. Watson won the first fall when television time ran out. Garagiola opened the second show with the announcement that Watson had also won the second fall to take last week’s main event.
The show would tape every other week, usually on Monday nights, sometimes on Wednesday nights, with them taping two shows, starting at 7 p.m.
“The Chase Hotel, when I was growing up, we used to drive by there and wish we won a contest where we’d have enough money to go to the Chase Hotel,” said Garagiola.
Garagiola used to talk to Muchnick about syndicating the show, feeling it would draw big ratings everywhere. But as the President of the NWA, Muchnick didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes.
In 1960, Garagiola wrote the book “Baseball is a Funny Game,” filled with humorous stories about the game and his career as a player and radio announcer. It became a national best seller. The success of the book led NBC to hire him as television baseball announcer.
In 1961, Garagiola began doing the Major League Baseball Game of the Week on NBC with Bob Wolff. He continued to do wrestling, since the games were only on weekends and the Chase tapings were during the week, but did miss some tapings if they coincided with his Cardinals broadcast job.
On December 29, 1962, Garagiola announced that due to his expanding roles with NBC, he was moving to New York, and this would be his last wrestling broadcast. Don Cunningham took over, although he passed away a year later and was replaced by George Abel. When that final show aired on Saturday night, the tape broke and they had to end the show early. The Hawk vs. Red Bastien main event didn’t air until the replay showing the next Wednesday night.
“Joe had no bones about wrestling,” Matysik said to Slam! Wrestling. “He said it was one of the most enjoyable, entertaining times he had. He recognized what it meant to the community.”
“Sam was just a thorough professional, which is the highest accolade I can give,” said Garagiola, who always praised Muchnick for giving him a key career break in television.
When he left, Muchnick gave him one tape, the March 17, 1962 episode of the show, headlined by a great technical match between O’Connor and Lorenzo Parente. In 1999, when KLPR did a special on the 40th anniversary of the first show, even though Garagiola had gone on to great fame, he never forgot or pretended that part of his life never existed. He remained lifelong friends with Kiniski. His younger brother, Mickey, became a fixture as the longtime ring announcer for the show.
He was not only happy to do an interview for the show, but in the discussion it came up that after 37 years, through numerous moves, he had always saved the tape of that one 90 minute episode. It remains the only tape that has survived from the Khorassan Room era.
The tape showed, as legend had it, men in suits and ties, women in evening gowns, sitting at fancy tables with tablecloths sipping champagne and with fine dining while they watched the matches. There were stories of the fans loving it when Dick the Bruiser would brawl outside the ring and jump on the various tables.
The show continued to be taped at the Khorassan Room until November 4, 1967, when the show changed from being taped in black and white and moved to color, and began taping at the KPLR TV Studios on Sunday mornings.
There were some shows taped at the Khorassan Room in 1972, the year Matysik became the lead announcer, and Ted Koplar, Harold’s son, was the director of some of the shows. It then went permanently to the KPLR studios in the Chase Hotel complex. McMahon taped the one final episode at the Khorassan Room in 1983, but by that time they were drawing more of a typical modern wrestling audience.
In 2009, there was talk of doing a 50th anniversary show, a legends event as a one-time thing. The belief is that he would be an easy sellout.
Garagiola had already agreed if such a show would take place, that he would come in personally, and tie it in with some of his St. Louis charity work. Bob Costas had agreed to come in as the host, along with bringing back people like Jack Brisco, The Funk Brothers, Harley Race and others.
“Funny, the two who should have charged the most, Costas and Garagiola, would have done it for free,” noted Matysik, who was behind the idea.
But times had changed greatly, as had the perception of wrestling in the market. The hotel, long since sold by the Koplar family, had no interest in having pro wrestling within its walls.
The move out of the Khorassan Room came because of a number of logistic issues. To save money, they ended up doing tapings usually after the big arena shows, which were on Friday nights. The problem was that talent would work Friday and then have to be brought back, and in the case of the top talent, flown back, for Monday nights. If they taped on Sunday afternoon, there were issues with some guys flying back for Saturday night dates and returning, but most guys just stayed in St. Louis and took Saturday night off or worked a show for the Kansas City circuit. There were also issues with the Khorassan Room being booked on Mondays and at times they had to tape on Wednesdays, which meant everyone had to leave and come back. So it just made economic sense to run studio tapes, where they’d tape three shows at once, starting at 12:30 p.m. Sundays.
In the 1999 award winning special, Matysik noted that “Wrestling at the Chase” never died, that the ratings were strong and the arenas were sold out. And that certainly was the case under Muchnick, who was doing his best business ever over his last few years as promoter. Muchnick was known for always protecting older legends, who had more longevity as main event draws in St. Louis than almost anywhere else, as Bruiser and Kiniski were still drawing big crowds when Flair was world champion.
Muchnick’s last few years saw a mix of his headliners being the established stars of the 60s and 70s like Bruiser, O’Connor, Kiniski, Rocky Johnson, Von Raschke (who was never Baron Von Raschke in St. Louis because Muchnick when the subject would be brought up to him, would respond, “He’s not really a Baron”), The Funks, Jack Brisco, Harley Race, Dick Murdoch and Rufus Jones mixed with a new crop of stars like Flair, King Kong Brody (who was never called Bruiser Brody out of deference with Dick the Bruiser), Ted DiBiase, Bruce Reed, Ken Patera, Sgt. Bob Slaughter and The Von Erich Brothers.
Flair during his early tenure was the greatest drawing world champion since Longson, who used to note that St. Louis was his best city, where the visibility of the wrestlers was the highest he’d seen anywhere, and would call it wrestling run the way it should be run. He’d reminisce about his level of celebrityhood in the city, noting that he’d spend a weekend there and make $5,000 and spend $10,000.
Muchnick retired after a show on January 1, 1982, Mayor Vincent Schoemehl declared it Sam Muchnick Day in St. Louis. They set the city’s all-time record with 19,819 fans at The Arena, headlined by Flair beating Dusty Rhodes to retain the NWA title. The show sold out in advance, and could have easily drawn thousands more. Garagiola, one of the biggest names in television, was the M.C. at the party after the show, not because he was paid to be, but because it was something he wanted to be associated with.
The ratings remained strong through the year and into 1983 with Matysik as General Manager and booker. Shortly after a Flair vs. Brody match where Matysik felt Bob Geigel had cheated both on the payoff (even though it was the largest payoff of that era in St. Louis, with the record gate, both should have earned $7,300 instead of just under $6,000), Matysik quit the promotion to start an opposition group, ironically the same thing Muchnick did when he had his falling out with Packs. Everything changed immediately regarding the presentation.
Two weeks after he was off television, KPLR General Manager Hal Protter called Matysik noting the ratings had collapsed, that he needed to come back and that they simply couldn’t communicate with Geigel and O’Connor. Matysik instead put an opposition wrestling show on a rival station. Less than six months later, with ratings getting worse, the station decided to end its tenure with the St. Louis Wrestling Club. They had meetings with McMahon, who heard about the station’s problems with the local promotion and had already started on his plans to expand nationally, although that was still a secret at the time. They also had independent meetings with Matysik, who had started his own promotion built around Brody and Murdoch, which led to the station urging the two to work together, and both agreeing to do so at a subsequent meeting.
It’s difficult to say how many episodes of the show were done. Do you consider the show ending when it was pulled from the NWA at the end of 1983? Or did it end when the name was dropped by WWF a few years later? Or did it end when KPLR finally canceled wrestling a few years after that? Also, in some years, Muchnick took a few months off from taping, during baseball season, to have something of an off-season. They would promote a final show of the season, and months later, a season opener, like a baseball franchise would do. He would get tapes from other promotions, Florida, Georgia, Texas, etc., which proved valuable because they would gauge fan mail and buzz in town on the wrestlers that appeared on the off-season shows. The ones people were talking about would be brought in during the new season.
Still, nearly 57 years after the debut of “Wrestling at the Chase” and 34 years since the end of the Muchnick era, St. Louis, after a weak post-Muchnick period in the late 80s when people still had an idea of what they wanted from wrestling based on what it was when they started watching, and felt the product from both Crockett and WWF couldn’t match it, crowds and ratings plummeted, St. Louis rebounded to become a strong market once again.
Outside of Atlanta and one show in Houston, the largest crowd in WCW history was at the TWA Dome in St. Louis, drawing 29,000 fans and $914,389, the second largest gate in the history of that company. Even today, WWE runs PPVs more regularly at the Savvis Center than almost any arena in the world.
In 2000, the building, which is on the same grounds as the old Kiel Auditorium, the same site as some of the ashes of Thesz were spread after his death, hosted the NCAA tournament for the first time, and drew over six sessions 97,321 fans to see Cael Sanderson win the second of his four NCAA titles, destroying the all-time attendance record for that sport. Because of that, the Savvis Center and St. Louis has become the unofficial home for the tournament, hosting it six more times, including setting the attendance record of 109,450 in 2012, and breaking it with 113,013 in 2015.
Because of his sense of humor, known among the members of the team and to the public because of his testimony at a congressional hearing, and because he was a popular local star, Garagiola got a job doing the radio broadcasts of Cardinals games starting in 1955, the first season after his career as a player ended.
On a national basis, he was best known from 1967 to 1973 working with Hugh Downs, Barbara Walters and Frank McGee on “The Today Show.” He became on a national basis what he was to St. Louis baseball and wrestling fans, the former athlete who would joke about how he wasn’t that good, and was easy to like while he talked news, politics, but mostly sports. During that era, he testified for Major League Baseball in court when Curt Flood challenged the Reserve Clause, which he later called one of his biggest regrets.
His popularity from the show led him, in 1973, to a broadcasting lineup that included network shows, “Joe Garagiola’s Memory Game,” “Sale of the Century” and “The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola,” which made it impossible to also continue his early morning work daily on “The Today Show.”’
He was also a regular guest host of “The Tonight Show” in that era when Johnny Carson would take a night off.
He had a second run on “The Today Show” from 1990 to 1992, working with Bryant Gumble and Katie Couric. After stepping down as host, he remained doing sports and human interest stories for the show for several more years. He was part of the announcing team for NBC’s Game of the Week from from 1961 to 1964, and again from 1974 to 1988. During that period, he was the announcer for the World Series and The All-Star game every other season, when NBC had the rights to the games. He returned to baseball announcing in 1990 with the California Angels, before coming out of retirement to work for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1998 to 2012, where his son was the General Manager. He announced his retirement as a broadcaster after his 87th birthday.
Garagiola hosted the “Tonight Show” the only time Paul McCartney and John Lennon appeared together on the show, on May 14, 1968. It’s one of the few tapes of the show from that era that exists, because one Beatles fan captured two minutes of the video on their 8mm home movie camera focused on their television set. Another Beatles fan put their old tape recorder next to the TV and never erased the cassette. The poor quality video and audio were later synchronized.
In his 1980 book “Backstage at the Tonight Show,” Craig Tennis, who conducted the pre-interview with McCartney and Lennon before the show, wrote, “When they finally joined Joe, disaster struck. Joe started by saying one or two really silly questions and they went downhill from there. He just sat there saying like, `Gee, I hope my kids see this,” and `Boy, am I going to be popular in my neighborhood.’ It was so insane that the Beatles became visibly uncomfortable and Joe had to actually let them leave. The Beatles believed they had been sloughed off by this guy and in a way I guess they had been.”
Actually the segment, remembered as an embarrassment, started out in trouble, when Garagiola asked how they got to the studio from the hotel with all the fans that were crazy for them, and Lennon’s response was, “A car.” Lennon then said, “Well, how are you Johnny (for Carson)?” McCartney then said, “Where’s Johnny.”
It went downhill from there. Garagiola had already interviewed Talulah Bankhead, a famous actress from that era, who was clearly drunk and she started talking with The Beatles. After short answers to Garagiola’s questions, McCartney went out of the blue to Garagiola and said, “So tell us a joke.” Garagiola said, “I don’t really have that many jokes, you tell me a joke.” Lennon said, “We don’t know any.” Garagiola asked Lennon if he ever wanted to be a comedian, and his one word response was, “No.”
Garagiola was all over television in the 60s and 70s not even related to baseball. He hosted numerous network television game shows, and was a panelist on network game shows. He would host the Orange Bowl parade every New Year’s Eve from Miami, and was the host of the Westminster Dog show on the USA Network from 1994 to 2002. He did television ads with Gerald Ford for his 1976 presidential campaign and the two became close friends, with him being invited to the White House several times, including being with Ford the night of the 1976 election that Ford lost. Every year he visited major league teams in spring training to warn players against using chewing tobacco. He was known for his charity work, including helping found the Baseball Assistance Team.
Garagiola grew up in an Italian neighborhood in St. Louis called “The Hill.” One of his best friends growing up lived across the street, Yogi Berra. It was a not well off neighborhood, Joe’s father was an immigrant from Italy who worked at a brickyard and his mother knew no English. Joe and Yogi played baseball together from childhood. They both became catchers because as young children from poor families, their parents pooled the money for the two to share a glove. They purchased a catcher’s mitt. They later worked together as waiters as teenagers at an Italian Restaurant. Garagiola was the better player of the two while growing up and playing in the different age group baseball leagues. By the time they were teenagers, the locals believed both of them were going to make it big.
“The Hill” is now called “Hall of Fame Place,” because Garagiola, Berra, and four soccer Hall of Famers grew up there within a year or two of each other. Frank Borghi, the goalkeeper for the 1950 U.S. soccer team that won the World Cup, making several remarkable saves in a 1-0 win over England in the finals in one of that sport’s biggest upsets in history, was also a baseball star as a teenager who played with the two while growing up.
When Garagiola and Berra were 16, they, along with a star from another part of the area, 19-year-old Albert “Red” Schoendiest, were brought to Forest Park in Cardinal General Manager Branch Rickey’s Lincoln Continental, for a tryout. Garagiola was immediately signed. They passed on Berra and Schoendiest. But the Cardinals chief scout went to bat for Schoendiest, who then got a small dollar contract.
Berra was signed the next year by the New York Yankees and went on to become a sports icon in his own right, one of the greatest catchers in Major League history, and a colorful figure known for his nonsensical quotes. One of the most enduring American cartoon characters, Yogi Bear, was named after him, even if the creators of the character in 1958, William Hannah and Joseph Barbera, claimed in court the similarity was pure coincidence.
Garagiola would frequently tell jokes about quotes Berra would say, even as late as a few years ago when, as both men were living in retirement communities, he called up Berra and asked how’s it going, and he claimed Berra said, “It’s all right, but geez, they’ve got a of old people here.”
Garagiola’s two favorite subjects for comedy would be making fun of how bad he was as a major league player, greatly exaggerated, and jokes about his childhood friend and what later became known as “Yogi-isms,” comedic quotes attributed to Berra, which he may or may not have actually said.
“One time a woman came up to him and said, `Yogi, you look cool in that outfit.’ Yogi smiled and said, `Thanks, you don’t look so hot yourself.’”
“I’d ask him (Yogi), `What time is it,?’ Yogi’ll say, “Now.”
In the 1960 World Series, former president Herbert Hoover and Indian Prime Minister Jawahartal Nehru were introduced before the game, as was Berra, as the Yankees starting catcher. Garagiola told Berra it was amazing, that he got more of a fan reaction than anyone that day.
“Yogi, you’ve become such a world figure that you draw more applause than either a prime minister or a former president, how can you explain it?” He claimed Berra said back, “Certainly, I’m a better hitter.”
“Each year I don’t play I get better.” Garagiola said about his own career. “The first year on the banquet trail, I was a former ballplayer. The second year I was a baseball great. The third year I was one of baseball’s biggest stars. Just last year I was introduced as one of baseball’s immortals. The older I get, the more I realize that the worst break I had was playing.”
Schoendiest also ended up as a baseball Hall of Famer and is considered one of the greatest players in the history of the Cardinals. He made ten All-Star teams as one of the best second basemen of that era. He later had a long run as the manager of the Cardinals.
Now 93, Schoendiest and Garagiola were the last living members of the 1946 Cardinal team that won the World Series.
Garagiola was only 17 when he reached AAA ball and hit .293 for the Columbus Clippers, the youngest player in the history of that franchise. He would have made the major league roster the next year, except he was called to serve in World War II in 1944. He was discharged in 1946, and immediately brought to the major league roster.
As a 20-year-old rookie catcher, he was remembered for going four-for-five and drive in three runs to lead the Cardinals to the game four win in the series where they beat the Ted Williams-led Boston Red Sox in seven games. His four RBI’s in that series is the second most in major league history (behind Andruw Jones of the Atlanta Braves in 1996) for someone under the age of 21.
In actuality, many believe it was a separated shoulder suffered the next year that led to him not achieving the heights expected in baseball. He was hitting .347 when he was injured, but when he came back, his swing was never the same, and it hampered his throwing arm. But you’d never know that talking with him because it wouldn’t fit his self-proclaimed narrative that he wasn’t a very good baseball player.
But unlike the other two in Rickey’s Lincoln that afternoon, the one of the three thought to be a can’t miss prospect in baseball, didn’t last long. He was a career .257 hitter, who was out of baseball at the age of 28.
In 1952, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the worst team in the league, which had a horrendous 42-112 record.
“We lost eight of our first nine games, and then we went into a slump.”
“Once we had a rain out and we staged a victory party.”
“You can’t imagine the thrill every day it was to walk into a clubhouse and wonder if your uniform is still there.”
It was in his final season, with the Chicago Cubs, that he was brought before a U.S. Senate Committee as Senator Edwin Johnson of Colorado sponsored a bill that would make corporate ownership of baseball teams illegal, targeting the Cardinals, owned by the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Johnson accused the Cardinals of tampering with him to get his from the Cubs.
Garagiola responded, “Senator, how can you tamper with a .250 hitter?”
His testimony in making people laugh led to the Cardinals hiring him as an announcer a year later.
One of Garagiola’s famous lines was that, “Not only was I not the best catcher in the major leagues, but I wasn’t even the best catcher on my street.”
“It’s not a record, but being traded four times (he was actually traded three times) when there are only eight teams in the league tells you something. I thought I was modeling uniforms for the National League.”
Matysik felt that on a local basis, Garagiola, would be considered one of the four most famous players ever on the Cardinals with Stan Musial, Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, and that locally among older fans, Musial and Garagiola would be neck-and-neck. While the other three, as well as Albert Pujols, would be definitely better known among sports fans, Matysik felt that on a national basis, due to his entertainment work, Garagiola and Musial, who were best friends in real life and the godfather to the others’ children, would be the most famous Cardinal players in history.
Garagiola’s lifetime honors were wide and varied, a Peabody Award winner for broadcasting for his television show “The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola,” the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, the Ford Frick award for broadcasting broadcasters wing of the baseball Hall of Fame, the Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, the St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame, The Sportscasters Humanitarian Award in 1995, the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement award from the Baseball Hall of Fame (one of only three people so honored), and numerous awards for charity work.
Announcements were made this past week regarding two more promotions that will be working with WWE and holding qualifying matches for the Global cruiserweight tournament.
Progress Wrestling out of London announced they will be holding two qualifying matches, which are expected to take place on their 4/24 show.
Revolution Pro Wrestling, which is based out of Portsmouth, England, and headed by Andy Quildan, and promotes in the Southeastern part of England with big shows in London, announced they also had a deal with WWE. They are expected to have a qualifying match shortly, although the date and place as well as participants have not been announced.
The 32-man tournament that will air on Wednesday nights, starting 7/13, on the WWE Network at 9 p.m., right after NXT, is expected to be filmed in its entirely from 6/20 to 6/24 at Full Sail University in Orlando. They will be taping two episodes per night over the five nights, with the finals airing on 9/14. The plan is to make this the first of what would be an annual tradition with the company.
At this point the qualifying matches are all to be taped, but probably not air in their entirety on the WWE Network as at this point production is of the belief that no WWE production people will be involved in shooting the qualifiers and they will just use the footage that the promotion itself would be filming.
What’s noted is that Revolution Pro does have a relationship with both New Japan and ROH, and that’s where things can get sticky. Revolution Pro has brought the biggest New Japan stars to the U.K. and were instrumental in Will Ospreay getting his New Japan deal, as Ospreay is geared for a push there due to his being introduced by Kazuchika Okada and being added to the Chaos stable.
It will be interesting how politics play out since ROH is obviously looked at as a competitor to NXT and it’s pretty much inherent that New Japan and WWE are going to be major competitors in the Japanese market going forward, not to mention WWE stripped New Japan of four major stars in January.
For the WWE’s 2016 Hall of Fame ceremony on 4/2 at the American Airlines Center, the names we had reported as probables for the final two inductees were announced on 3/28, with Snoop Dogg as the celebrity inductee and Joan Lunden as the recipient of the Warrior Award, which as noted, is entirely different from what Warrior himself had suggested two years ago when he gave his Hall of Fame speech and brought up the award.
Warrior wanted it to be called the Jimmy Miranda Award, or that Miranda himself should be inducted into the Hall of Fame and for the company to honor people who dedicated their lives behind the scenes to help put on the shows but that fans otherwise wouldn’t know, the unsung heroes of the company.
Miranda was in charge of the merchandise at the arena events during Warrior’s heyday. He died on July 12, 2002, at the age of 39 after more than a year of health problems. A native of Providence, RI, he had started with the WWF, working in the merchandise department in 1981, when he had just gotten out of high school and the company was still a Northeast regional operation.
Lunden was the longtime host of “Good Morning America” who made very public her battle with breast cancer in 2014.
Snoop Dogg has appeared on WWE programming several times throughout the years and is related to Sasha Banks.
At this point all the inductees for the regular Hall of Famers have been announced. Big Bossman will be inducted by Ken Johnson, who was his manager, Slick, during his first heel run in the late 80s. The others are Ric Flair for Sting, which is a good choice; Vader for Stan Hansen, which is a weird choice (Ted DiBiase or John Laurinaitis are closer to the company and would be better, but Vader they may see as a bigger name); New Day for the Freebirds, John Layfield and Ron Simmons for Charles Wright and The Dudleys for Jacqueline Moore. The Dudleys make sense because she and the Dudleys were tight in TNA.
Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State, who captured his third NCAA championship on 3/20 in Madison Square Garden, was announced as the winner of the 2016 Dan Hodge Trophy as the collegiate wrestler of the year.
Dieringer, a senior, who wrestled at 165 pounds, finished 33-0 this season with 12 pins, seven tech falls, and eight major decisions, meaning he dominated foes and picked up bonus points in 27 of his 33 wins. Dieringer’s 6-2 win in the finals over Isaac Jordan of Wisconsin. Jordan is from the famous Jordan wrestling family. He is the son of Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, who captured the NCAA title in both 1985 (when he beat John Smith, generally considered the greatest U.S. wrestler of all-time) and 1986. In one of the big stories of the tournament, Isaac Jordan and Bo Jordan, his first cousin, from Ohio State, came in seeded second and third respectively. They met in the semifinals, with Isaac going to 29-0 for the season with a 5-4 win.
Besides Isaac, Bo and James, his uncle, Jeff was a two-time All-
American at Wisconsin and his brother Ben was a 2012 All-American at Wisconsin.
Dieringer received 27 of the 46 first place votes in what came down to a two-man race with Zain Retherford, the 149 pound champion from Penn State, who went 34-0 with 15 pins, seven tech falls and seven majority decisions.
Kyle Snyder, the heavyweight champion, who won what was called the biggest heavyweight championship match in history over Nick Gwiazdowski in the finals, got three votes, but really had no shot at winning because he just came out for wrestling at the end of the season and only had 11 matches.
Dieringer’s win over Jordan was his 82nd in a row. He had gone 33-0 last year in winning the NCAA title at 165 pounds, after winning it in 2014 at 157 pounds. His career record was 133-4, one of the best in the history of Oklahoma State wrestling.
The Hodge Trophy is named after Danny Hodge, who was one of the greatest college wrestlers of all-time, a three-time champion with the highest pin percentage in history, and later became a pro wrestling legend as the long-time world junior heavyweight champion in the 60s and 70s. Because of Hodge’s reputation, no junior heavyweight champion in history, and this includes Jushin Liger, ever carried the worldwide reputation that Hodge did within the business. He was billed as world junior heavyweight champion both in the NWA territories worldwide, but also in the AWA, so was billed as the most widely recognized champion in the world at the time. Hodge was best known for his amazing grip strength and his ability to squeeze and snap the strongest pliers made, he was for years the focal point and top star in his territory, which later became the Mid South area. He was considered one of the top contenders for the heavyweight title from the beginning of his career until his career ended in 1975 (while he was champion), due to a broken neck suffered in an automobile accident.
The NCAA tournament sold out Madison Square Garden six times, two sellouts for afternoon and evening sessions on 3/18, 3/19 and 3/20. It was the first time Madison Square Garden hosted the tournament.
The total attendance of 110,631 was the second largest in tournament history, trailing the 113,013 record set in 2015 at the Savvis Center in St. Louis.
The Thursday afternoon session drew 17,761. The Thursday night session drew 17,805. The Friday afternoon sessions drew 17,899. The Friday night session, the semifinals, which aired live on ESPN, drew 18,309. The Saturday afternoon session, which were the consolation round finals, drew 19,147. The finals, headlined by Snyder’s win over Gwiazdowski, drew 19,270 fans, the third largest crowd in college wrestling history.
Next up are the Olympic trials which will air on 4/9 at 7 p.m. and 4/10 at 10:30 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network.
. AAA had scheduled its Rey de Reyes show as an iPPV, although the official announcement of it being an iPPV wasn’t made until the day before the show. Then, on the day of the show, it was announced as being canceled.
Still, the promotion drew a sellout of 7,000 fans to the outdoor Plaza de Toros Monumental El Paseo in San Luis Potosi to see, after nearly five months of not having a singles heavyweight champion, El Texano Jr. beat Mesias (Mil Muertes) to win the AAA Mega championship for the second time. Texano has previously held the title from December 2, 2012 to December 7, 2014, when he lost the title to Alberto El Patron. Alberto was champion when he signed with WWE in October, and told the promotion that WWE wouldn’t let him lose a match. Originally the idea was to have a match with Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Johnny Mundo to make a new champion, but financial issues led to AAA no longer using high-priced foreign talent, and it ended up taking them five months to fill the vacant title.
Jack Evans missed the show due to food poisoning and Blue Demon Jr. also missed the show, meaning the Rey De Reyes tournament, after four qualifying tournaments, ended up a three way with Pentagon Jr. getting his biggest Mexican career win over Villano IV and La Parka. Because of so many issues with wrestlers leaving, Evans, who lives in Mexico as opposed to being a fly-in (Demon lives in Florida and is a fly-in), had to specifically state that he was sick and not leaving the company.
The show opened with a tribute to Perro Aguayo Jr., the week of the first anniversary of his death. This was used to set up an angle, which one could argue was in pretty bad taste, although lord knows we’ve seen a lot worse in the U.S. The angle is two groups fighting over the Perros Del Mal name. A lot of wrestlers were against even keeping the name going last year after Aguayo died, but now there are the Perros that had been in AAA, and a new Perros group to feud with them of Halloween, Damian 666 and Nicho, who were part of the original group, and independent brawler Pagano. After Pentagon won Rey de Reyes, they jumped him and claimed that were the real Perros del Mal and the AAA group were fakes.
1. Octagon Jr. (Formerly Flamita & Fireball) & Fabi Apache & Mascarita Sagrada & Pimpinela Escarlata beat Taurus & Taya & Mini Psycho Clown & Mamba. The typical AAA big show opener with a male, female, mini and exotico on each team. Mini Psycho Clown replaced Mini Charly Manson, who left the promotion. Octagon Jr. pinned Mamba with a 450.
2. Zorro & Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria retained the AAA trios titles beating Aerostar & Fenix & Drago when Zorro pinned Fenix after a Canadian Destroyer.
3. Chessman & Averno retained the AAA tag titles in a three-way TLC match over Daga & Joe Lider and Argenis & Australian Suicide. Argenis replaced Evans.
4. Pentagon Jr. won Rey de Reyes over La Parka and Villano IV. Parka first pinned Villano and then Pentagon beat Parka. This led to the attack from the original Perros group.
5. Dr. Wagner Jr. defeated Latin American champion Psycho Clown in a non-title bloodbath. Wagner won and wanted a title shot.
6. El Texano Jr. beat Mesias to win the vacant AAA Mega heavyweight title, winning via pinfall after a power bomb.
The Raw-before-WrestleMania show on 3/28 did a 2.65 rating and 3,761,000 viewers (1.48 viewers per home).
For comparisons, the go-home show for WrestleMania in 2015 did a 3.03 rating and 4.19 million viewers. In 2014 the number was a 3.13 rating and 4.38 million viewers.
The first hour did 3,818,000 viewers. The second hour was the highest, doing 3,845,000 viewers. The third hour did 3,629,000 viewers.
The show was easily the most-watched on cable, beating the second place O’Reilly Factor by more than 1 million viewers.
The show did a 1.17 in 12-17 (up 5.4 percent from last week), 1.23 in 18-34 (up 15.0 percent), 1.47 in 35-49 (up 12.2 percent) and 1.38 in 50+ (up 4.5 percent), so the increase the week before Mania came largely in the 18-49 demo.
The show did 61.9 percent male viewers in 18-49 and 63.5 percent male from 12-17, so a lot of the big increase, by percentage, came from women because Raw’s male skew is usually higher.
The leading competition, Dancing With the Stars featuring UFC’s Paige VanZant, did 11,971,000 viewers, making it the most-watched program on television.
Smackdown on 3/24 with the advertised appearance of Brock Lesnar was up slightly with a 1.75 rating and 2,501,000 viewers (1.49 viewers per home).
The show was fourth for the night on cable behind two NCAA tournament basketball games on TBS (Duke vs. Oergon led with 4,029,000 viewers) and The O’Reilly Factor on FOX News.
The show did 59.3 percent males in 18-49 and 61.7 percent males in 12-17.
The show did a 0.54 in 12-17 (down 5.3 percent), 0.60 in 18-34 (up 5.3 percent), 0.90 in 35-49 (up 13.9 percent) and 1.18 in 50+ (up 15.7 percent).
Lucha Underground on 3/23 set its all-time record with 163,000 viewers for Aztec Warfare and the debut of Rey Mysterio, although that show should have set the record. The immediate replay did 69,000 viewers. Those numbers were up 69 percent on the first airing and 38 percent on the second airing. It will be interesting if this holds up because the show was the type that should have created more curiosity and interest in the product. The average viewer was 46 and the audience was 81 percent male.
The 3/22 episode of Total Divas did 663,000 viewers, which is a low number for the show, but above what they had done the previous three weeks. It was the fourth lowest number in the history of the show.
The 3/22 episode of Impact did 331,000 viewers, its second best number on Pop TV, behind only the 1/26 show. That’s notable because it was not a live show, and was up eight percent from the live show. The midnight replay did 59,000, its second lowest, and down 52 percent from the week before. The combined number of 390,000 was the fifth best of the year.
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The 3/25 Arena Mexico crowd was unusually strong, with 8,000 fans, credited to the angle with it being a holiday weekend in Mexico (Semana Santa) and the first Ultimo Guerrero and Cibernetico match. They show the angle for the match when they had the Dos Leyendas crowd of 13,400. They are two of Mexico’s biggest stars of the last 15 years, but Guerrero was always a CMLL fixture and Cibernetico was always one of the top stars in AAA. Notable was that the match wasn’t good, no surprise, and even though it clearly drew the house, it didn’t get the crowd reaction of the match before it. The crowd booed Cibernetico in the battle of rudos, which is no surprise since Arena Mexico fans are going to be strong behind their own rudos like Guerrero and Casas against someone perceived as an AAA star. Guerrero gave Cibernetico a low blow for the third fall DQ. They then rushed through a main event in about 8:00 with Atlantis & Mascara Dorada & Volador Jr. beating Casas & Mr. Niebla & Cavernario in two straight falls, the first being via DQ. The other top match saw Pierroth (Rush and Dragon Lee’s father) look completely out of place as the new member of Los Ingobernables, teaming with Rush & La Mascara to beat Caristico & Marco Corleone & Brazo de Plata
The 4/1 show has Caristico & Corleone & Volador Jr. vs. Cibernetico & Casas & Rush, plus Dragon Lee & Mascara Dorada & Stuka Jr. vs. Mephisto & Luciferno & Ephesto
Caristico this week talked about doing a mask vs. mask match with La Mascara at the anniversary show in September
Dragon Lee retained his CMLL lightweight title over Cavernario on 3/22 in Guadalajara with fans throwing money into the ring when it was over
Because of the holiday weekend, the 3/27 show at Arena Mexico did nearly 5,000 fans, even though there was nothing special booked on the show. The main event was Mephisto & Niebla & Rey Escorpion over Mascara Dorada & Mistico & Volador Jr. when Mephisto pinned Volador Jr. in the third fall and then challenged him for a shot at this NWA Historic welterweight title. Cuatrero & Forastero & Sanson, the second generation Dinamita family have formed an undercard trio called La Familia Dinamita. As noted last week, Cuatrero & Sanson are the sons of Cien Caras while Forastero is their cousin, the son of one of Cien’s sisters
Mascara Dorada retained the CMLL welterweight title over Cavernario on 3/28 in Puebla before 4,000 fans. Dorada did some incredible things in this match including a tope where he flew in the aisle, hit Cavernario who was standing between the front row of ringside and they both flew and landed four or five rows deep. The live crowd loved it and threw money in when it was over
They are doing a 73rd anniversary show of the first card at Arena Coliseo in Mexico City on 4/2, headlined by Rey Bucanero defending the NWA light heavyweight title against Valiente.
They announced a show for 4/8 at Juan de la Barrera Gym in Mexico City with Psycho Clown defending the Latin American heavyweight title against Dr. Wagner Jr. In the main event, plus Garza Jr. & La Parka & Octagon Jr. (Flamita) vs. Mesias & El Texano Jr. & a mystery partner. An interesting underneath match has Bengala teaming with Dragon & Elegido (a stripper type who was a big star many years back but was sparingly used when Konnan was involved in booking) vs. Ricky Marvin & Averno & Chessman. The key where is that Bengala had been Marvin under the mask. The photo on the poster was of Marvin as Bengala.
Joe Doering, 33, who had been at times the company’s top foreigner and a former Triple Crown champion, was diagnosed last month with a brain tumor. It had been kept quiet until this week. Doering, who hadn’t been here since July as the promotion is not in good shape financially, was set to return on 4/9 for the Champion Carnival tour. Doering said that he was diagnosed with cancer on 2/25 and had surgery to remove it on 3/4. He begins both chemotherapy and radiation treatment next week, and will have six weeks of treatment. He said that he expects he will be able to return to the ring. Doering trained under Scott D’Amore and begin his career in 2004. He worked for TNA and WWC before starting with All Japan as a regular with a push in 2007. Because of his size, they booked him to be like their new Stan Hansen. He left the company in 2010 for WWE, where he worked developmental as Drake Brewer, but was cut eight months later and returned to All Japan at the end of 2010. On July 27, 2014, Doering became only the sixth foreigner to win the Triple Crown (the others being Terry Gordy, Stan Hansen, Steve Williams, Vader and Taiyo Kea), beating Suwama. He lost the title on January 3, 2015, to Go Shiozaki
Zeus & The Bodyguard retained the world tag titles beating Shuji Ishikawa & Hoshitango on the 3/27 show in Nagaoka.
Even though New Japan has been struggling some at the gate this year, the 4/10 Invasion Attack is almost sold out with only a few 5,500 yen seats left. The 4/23 Korakuen Hall show is sold and 4/24 is almost sold out
What is likely the reason Steve Corino is replacing Matt Striker on commentary for Invasion Attack is because Lucha Underground will be taping that weekend
The AXS show that aired on 3/25 that featured the 2015 Best of the Super Juniors final, with Kushida beating Kyle O’Reilly was the best one hour wrestling show I’ve seen this year. The match itself was one of those where the more you watch it, the more you realize just how great it was because there are so many little things you watch. A note in that match is that about three minutes from the finish, Kushida was knocked out and O’Reilly had to guide him through the rest of the match, and he doesn’t remember anything from the end of the match. Also, Jim Ross is the best at making a great match feel epic, and because Ross isn’t the New Japan expert that Mauro Ranallo was, it has enabled Josh Barnett to step up and play a larger role, and he’s now easily the best color man in wrestling end of the business. One thing Ross did that was clever was when O’Reilly was audibly calling spots (when Kushida had gotten lost due to being knocked out), Ross said how O’Reilly was trash talking in his ear, which is the best save for that I’ve ever heard, in fact, I’ve never heard a save for that before. The bout got honorable mention in last year’s Match of the Year voting, and came across even better on this show. The show is going to pick up greatly starting in a few weeks because they’ll be doing the 7/5 Dominion show (one of last year’s best cards), followed by the G-1 Climax and the killer main events the last three nights of Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kazuchika Okada, and Tanahashi vs. Nakamura
The big show of the week was 3/27 at Korakuen Hall, which drew a sellout of 1,741 fans for a best-of-five series with New Japan vs. Bullet Club. Michael Elgin pinned Cody Hall in 7:09 with a power bomb in a *1/2 match. Kenny Omega pinned Jay White in 10:25 with a running knee. Omega was very animated here and at the end, said he hates it when the Bucks aren’t around because he’s all blown up. Before the match he made fun of White saying he didn’t think they did jobber matches in New Japan and went to Tiger Hattori to say “What has this company turned into?” He gave White a lot of offense and it was a good match. Tanahashi pinned Yujiro Takahashi with the high fly flow in 8:55. Bad Luck Fale pinned Tomoaki Honma in 9:45 with the Bad Luck fall. So it came down to Togi Makabe beating Tama Tonga via DQ in 8:56 to give New Japan the win, when Tanga Roa (Camacho/Micah), the brother of Tonga, attacked Makabe and beat him down to build for the Makabe & Honma IWGP tag title match with Tonga & Roa. Main event saw Tetsuya Naito & Bushi & Evil beat Okada & Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi when Naito pinned Yoshi-Hashi, and then Los Ingobernables destroyed them after the match with Naito laying out Okada with the Destino to build the 4/10 Okada vs. Naito IWGP title match.
HERE AND THERE:
Mark Young, who wrestled from 1984 to 1993 and was the son of the famed Chief Jay Strongbow, passed away back on 2/25 at the age of 49. Born Joe Scarpa Jr., he worked first as Mark Young when he started at the age of 18 as an enhancement wrestler for Jim Crockett Promotions. He’d use the name Mark Young as a WWE enhancement wrestler and Mark Scarpa in Stampede Wrestling. He also briefly was Private Mark Pyle (as a tag team partner with Sgt. Bob Carter, a play off Sgt. Carter and Private Pyle on the TV show “Gomer Pyle USMC,” when Eddie Gilbert booked Continental Championship Wrestling. He and I looked alike in those days to the point I would at times get asked if I was wrestling as Mark Young. He also used the name Todd Overbow in Texas and later Vince Young in WCW. For whatever reason, they never publicly acknowledged him as Strongbow’s son (a wrestler who had used the name Chief Jay Strongbow Jr. in the 80s was no relation to the original Jay Strongbow). He had health issues that ended his career at a young age
One of the most interesting independent matches of the year, Kurt Angle vs. Zack Sabre Jr., will take place on 6/12 for Revolution Pro Wrestling, in London at York Hall. This would be their first-ever meeting
Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay for the Progress title was added to the 4/2 Wrestlecon show in Dallas. That show is already sold out
A new match added to the 4/1 Evolve show in Dallas is a tag team title match with Johnny Gargano & Drew Galloway putting up the titles against Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley. If Nese & Konley lose, they can never team up in Evolve. For the 4/2 show, they’ve added Chris Hero vs. Fred Yehi and Sami Callihan vs. Anthony Nese
At the sold out 4/2 Wrestlecon show at the Hyatt Regency at 8 p.m., Fenix (out with a really badly broken nose suffered on 3/26 at the Lucha Underground tapings) is out, so the six-man tag has been mixed up and will now be Aerostar & Drago & Flamita vs. Jack Evans & Bestia 666 & Tigre Uno. Andrew Everett was in that match and pulled out to replace Mike Bailey spot in a Monster’s Ball match with Jeff Hardy, Abyss, Trevor Lee and AR Fox. Fenix will come to Wrestlecon if he can get a ride from Los Angeles to Dallas. He’s stuck in Los Angeles because his injury is so bad he’s not able to fly. .. As far as shows in Dallas where there are still tickets left at press time, those are the NWA Parade of Champions at the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth on 3/31 at 7 p.m., Evolve at 4 p.m. on 4/1 at Eddie Deen’s Ranch, CZW on 4/1 at 8 p.m. at Eddie Deen’s Ranch, Kaiju Big Battel with Kota Ibushi on 4/1 at midnight at Eddie Deen’s Ranch, Evolve at Noon on Saturday at Eddie Dean’s Ranch, Shimmer on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Eddie Deen’s Ranch and WWN Mercury Rising with Kota Ibushi headlining at 8 p.m. at Eddie Deen’s Ranch as well as VIP Wrestling at St. Jude’s Hall in Arlington, TX at 11 p.m. Sunday night. Jim Cornette has a talk show on Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth. Mickie James has a concert on Thursday at 8 p.m. at the House of Blues in Dallas. Jim Ross has three talk shows at the House of Blues, running Saturday at 2 p.m., before the Hall of Fame, Saturday at 11 p.m. after the Hall of Fame and Monday at 11 p.m. after Raw. There is also a party at 10 p.m. on Saturday night hosted by the Nasty Boys at Bucks Wild in Dallas. Terry Funk will host a barbecue tailgate party at 11 a.m. before WrestleMania on Sunday at the Collins Entertainment Center, with both a dinner served and a meet and greet, as well as live wrestling. The dinner is $25 and the meet and greet with Funk is $30.
Here are some notes regarding the business behind the scenes. Regarding the iTunes deal, iTunes is pretty standard that the producers of the show get a 70/30 cut of the revenue, so if someone orders a season pass for the first season of the show for $44.99, Lucha Underground would make $31.50. But there also could be middle men taking 10 to 20 percent out of the Lucha Underground side
There were two major investors that put up the majority of the money for seasons two and three, which were not AAA but were people brought to the table by AAA
Regarding Netflix, the money Netflix pays for programs are very small licensing fees unless it’s their own original content. There are a lot of shows on Netflix that get paid in the low thousands or hundreds, even those with multiple seasons of taping. As noted, they are in talks with Netflix, but it was noted that once season one is on Netflix for free, that would badly hurt or kill the idea of spending $44.99 for it on iTunes. But neither of these deals are the game changing ones like a Televisa or Univision deal would have been
The talent situation is going to get very interesting as noted last week. The contracts for talent are they are exclusive on U.S. television to Lucha Underground (which is why AAA hasn’t been able to syndicate in the U.S., because if they did, they couldn’t use anyone from Lucha Underground on the shows), for a time frame, depending on the contract, of between six and 12 months after the final episode of the season airs. Where this is going to be an issue is that the talent will be paid through the end of this season, which tapes through mid-May, but with the season not airing until early 2017, the contract would stipulate that it would be somewhere between October 2017 and April 2018 before talent could appear on another U.S. television show. So what happens in, say September, if no season four has been announced and WWE is calling guys who haven’t been paid by Lucha Underground in months? Running live event tours would keep the talent being paid and it’s untested but the Austin show selling out (granted that was special circumstances and free to convention goers) could indicate it’s worth a try, although touring is tough these days. It should be noted that while they say they are a television show and not a wrestling promotion, the end game has always been about using television to create characters to do movies and video games, with the idea that would be where all the tens of millions put in will eventually pay off. But with 150,000 viewers per week, that isn’t going to be enough for a major studio to think they’ve got the following necessary to pull that off. However, film financing is easier to come by in Hollywood than financing for a television season. But the period between now and the end of the year is clearly critical. In this case, the series will likely never be canceled by El Rey, but having a fourth season will depend on the investors from Mexico once again putting up the money for hope of the big money score from movies or international syndication, or them being able to get rights fees from a major television network, like Univision or Televisa
Talks with Univision have stalled once again
The situation with King Cuerno is up in the air right now. What we know is that he was offered a spot in the WWE’s Global cruiserweight tournament and wanted to go, but neither AAA nor LU would allow it. That explains his cryptic tweets from a week or two back. He has the seven season deal. He hasn’t worked for AAA since 3/4 and wasn’t at the tapings for season three
Prince Puma lost a Grave Consequences match to Mil Muertes on the 3/27 tapings. This is notable because Grave Consequences in storyline is supposed to mean death. Mil Muertes lost the first one and they said he died, but then he was brought back to life by Catrina. Konnan was put on the casket the second time and he was then announced as being dead. Puma was this time. It could be temporary, since he’s off the next set of tapings on 4/9 and 4/10 because he’s on the New Japan Invasion Attack show. But it’s been hinted that it could be more than that
Sami Callihan, A.R. Fox and Bestia 666 all debuted at the tapings over the weekend. Callihan is likely to be given the name Jeremiah. Fox is RJ Fox. The Fox debut is actually a storyline that starts any week now in season two when Killshot reveals he had a best friend who died in combat and Fox will play the best friend
. Rolling Stone did an article on Teddy Hart and in it, it was noted that Fenix and Pentagon Jr. were brothers and that Hart trained both of them when he was living in Mexico City
Fenix got what was described as an ugly broken nose at the 3/26 tapings, and he will be out of action this week at the WrestleMania shows for WrestleCon and another Lucha show that he was booked on
Akebono’s Oudou promtion, which debuts on 4/20 at Korakuen Hall, announced a Lucha Underground match on the show with Pentagon Jr. making his Japan debut against Fenix, who hasn’t been to Japan in about three years, before he was a star. .. Dragon Azteca Jr. hasn’t been on the tapings because he, as Rey Horus, was injured in a match in Mexico a few weeks ago against Dragon Lee. They were trying to book him for the WrestleCon show this weekend at WrestleMania but he still wasn’t ready
Ivelisse re-injured the ankle injury that plagued her for much of season one at the 3/27 tapings. She had to also pull out of her WrestleMania weekend event
. Notes from the 3/23 TV show. This was the Aztec Warfare show which was one of the key shows from the second season. It featured the debuts of Rey Mysterio Jr. and Dragon Azteca Jr. in the ring, the return of Dario Cueto and introduced Matanza Cueto. As far as the match itself went, I can break it down into three parts. The first 9:00 were incredible, as they loaded up on workers like Mysterio, Fenix, Prince Puma, King Cuerno, Johnny Mundo and Jack Evans. Then it went to the clown stuff which took the edge of things and made it feel like the bad spectacle with Mascarita Sagrada and Taya. The third part was Dario Cueto returning and Matanza just destroying everyone en route to winning the Lucha Underground title. It was ballsy booking just having Matanza kill everyone, sell nobody’s finishers, sell nothing for anyone but Mysterio, and have him cleanly beat Mysterio in Mysterio’s debut. Time will tell how it works out. Matanza, played by Jeff Cobb, is really athletic. He’s 5-foot-9, but because most of the guys in this promotion are really short, you don’t get that feel, and he is really thick and has freaky power in his hips, legs and lower back, which allows him to do some unique power moves working with the smaller wrestlers here. It was like The Undertaker’s debut, although Mil Muertes is kind of a ripoff of Undertaker. It was also smart as they had three monsters in the match, Cage, Muertes and Matanza, and kept them all from each other. Overall it made for an outstanding TV show, one of the best episodes they’ve done and probably the best TV show of this year from anyone. The show opened with Fenix and Pentagon Jr. backstage teasing a match down the line. Pentagon Jr. speaks no English and is one of the most effective promo guys in the business. He has superstar written all over him. Catrina then said Pentagon Jr. would not be allowed in Aztec Warfare because he put his hands on her. Pentagon Jr. said he only listens to one person, The Master, who presumably is Vampiro. The match opened with Fenix vs. Mysterio. Mysterio got the expected gigantic reaction. Aztec Warfare is a Royal Rumble, except eliminations aren’t from over the top rope, but by pin or submission. Like last year, because of the quality of talent and ability to do near falls and big moves for pins, this blew away the WWE’s Royal Rumble in every way but one. This had better talent, 20 man instead of 30, but guys were coming in faster so it felt like more talented guys working fast-forward. Because it went 34:53 instead of an hour, it didn’t build as much drama as the Rumble, especially because the last few minutes were just a squash instead of back-and-forth, and back-and-forth is usually a lot better once you’re going past two or three minutes. They said entrances were every 90 seconds, but they were more like 70 or 80 seconds. King Cuerno was in third and did his best tope in the world. Mysterio did a sliding splash to the floor. Argenis was in next. The crowd was great in the sense they popped for Argenis getting a near fall on Mysterio even though they had to know there was no way possible that was going to be a finish. Mysterio pinned Argenis in 3:53 with a frog splash, which led to chants of “Eddy.” Fenix did a springboard twisting splash outside the ring. Mundo was next in. Mundo did a standing shooting star press on Fenix and then they traded cradles. Joey Ryan was to be next in, but he came out with handcuffs and handcuffed himself to the guard rail. The idea was that nobody could do anything to do him, and since he was on the floor, he couldn’t get pinned. Cuerno then superkicked him, which was funny. As he was laid out, Famous B came out and handed him his card. B is also a great character. Puma was next in. He did a springboard shooting star press onto everyone on the floor. Jack Evans was next in. Mysterio made Cuerno tap out to an armbar in 8:11. Taya was next in. She got a big pop coming out. Puma was selling a knee injury taking a bump over the top. Cage was next in and also got a big pop. Mundo threw Cage through the window of Dario Cueto’s office. Mascarita Sagrada was next in. He did some cool spinning moves, but once he started selling it killed the match. Mascarita went for a tope on Mundo, but Mundo caught him and was doing curls with him. Cage then got up, bleeding a little, and totally no selling going through the window. He killed Mundo with a clothesline and gave him Weapon X on the floor. Puma then pinned Mundo in 12:57 with a standing shooting star press. Cage then gave Taya a back suplex on the apron. Marty the Moth was next in. They did spots with Marty and Mascarita which took all the edge off the match. Evans gave Marty an enzuigiri and Marty no-sold it, which was weird. Drago was next in and the first thing he did was blow mist in Ryan’s face which was hilarious. Mysterio did a splash off the top and he and Mascarita together pinned Marty in 15:39. Drago tossed Evans off the risers and over the guard rail to the floor. The Mack came in and immediately hit the stunner on Marty and another stunner on Cage, who did sell it. Chavo Guerrero was next in. Drago power bombed Evans while brawling in the bleachers. He took the power bomb on a bench. Guerrero made Mascarita submit to la caballo, which is a camel clutch, although as Vampiro noted, his grandfather invented the move and called it la caballo, in 18:06. Mundo broke a cinderblock over Cage’s head and Taya pinned him in 18:32. Fenix pinned Taya in 18:44 with a German suplex. P.J. Black was next in. Drago gave Evans a backdrop on the floor. Evans was bleeding. Aerostar was next in. Aero Star gave Evans a power bomb and Black pinned him in 20:57. Dragon Azteca Jr. was next in. They gave him spots to shine big at first, like he’d be a key character, but he also ended up getting pinned first night in. He did a plancha into a huracanrana on The Mack. He also did a crazy running dive over the post like Ricochet often does. El Texano Jr. was next in. The first thing he did was a running flip dive onto everyone. Texano pinned Black in 23:09 with a power bomb. Muertes was the final entrant in theory, since this was a 20 man match. But Pentagon Jr. showed up and hit Muertes with chair shot after chair shot. Mysterio then came off the top rope with a splash to pin Muertes in 24:32. Catrina was furious at how this went down, and blamed this on Vampiro. She did the Stephanie McMahon deal where she went to kick him out of the building and slapped him in the face. Then the lights went out and Dario Cueto returned. The place went nuts. The entire match stopped as everyone just stood there watching him. He then introduced Matanza as the last entrant. Matanza then went on a rampage. He did a twisting powerslam, which looks to be his finisher, on Fenix and pinned him at 27:10. The fans booed that one as Fenix was one of their favorites and it was like it was too easy. Mack hit him with a stunner and he no sold that and gave Mack a German suplex for the pin in 27:31. Yes, we have a monster who eats people doing German suplexes. Fans booed that as well. Then he pinned Aerostar with a German suplex in 27:48. No pop for that. Texano grabbed his bullrope and started choking Matanza. Matanza flipped him over and pinned Texano using Texano’s own power bomb on him in 28:13. Then Matanza went after Ryan. With his super powers, Matanza pulled Ryan so hard he broke the handcuffs off the guard railing and threw Ryan in the ring. He gave Ryan three Karelin lifts, yes now the man eating monster is doing Greco-Roman Olympic moves, and pinned Ryan in 29:16. Somebody needs to get the old tapes of Cobb in the Olympics and somehow put the mask on his face in post production and make that as part of his back story as opposed to him murdering his mom. He blocked Azteca’s huracanrana and pinned him after a uranage in 30:31. Chavo Guerrero then tried to make friends with Dario and Matanza, but that didn’t work and Matanza pinned Guerrero with a standing shooting star press in 31:11. He then destroyed and pinned Puma in 32:20. This left Matanza and Mysterio. Mysterio started throwing low kicks and that was the first Matanza sold at all. He finally hit the 619 and went for a huracanrana, but Matanza blocked it, threw him high in the air, and turned it into a twisting powerslam for the pin in 34:53. ****1/4
Notes from the 3/26 tapings. Once again it should be noted that they are taping out of order and none of this will air until 2017. I’ve got to think some of this talent will be in WWE by 2017 and the whole idea of the contracts is that doesn’t happen because I can’t see someone who hasn’t gotten paid since May not being able to work for another company until late 2017 if they try and challenge the contracts. Matanza retained his title pinning Killshot with the Tour of the Islands. Good match. It was announced at the start of the show that Aztec Warfare will be in three weeks (people in the building were told Aztec Warfare 3 would be taped on 4/9). Dario said the title would be at stake, and by the time that airs, Matanza would in TV time be champion for about one year so this way they can beat him in a Battle Royal setting as opposed to a singles match. He also said that Matanza would be entering No. 1, which makes no sense to stack all the odds against his brother, unless they are doing some backstage stuff to where they had a problem, although Matanza’s next match would indicate that’s not the case. Good match. After the match, the debuting AR Fox came out. The presumption live is that AR Fox was an old military buddy of Killshot who Killshot thought was dead (Kane/Undertaker story). Killshot is thrilled to see him and went to hug him, only to have Fox turn on him with a jumping knee, beat him down and then pulled off Killshot’s military dog tags and threw them out of the ring. There was a three-way for a shot to enter Aztec Warfare. I believe Drago won over Aerostar and Fenix. Fenix for sure lost. This is where Fenix got hurt and Aerostar was also hurt, hitting his head at one point. I was told that this match will either be heavily edited or not air because of the problems, but I’m thinking since it leads to Aztec Warfare it’ll have to air. They couldn’t tape it again because of Fenix being injured. Famous B and Dr. Wagner Jr. did a promo. Famous B talked about how Mascarita Sagrada and Son of Havoc can’t match up to Wagner. Mascarita & Havoc came out and they knocked Wagner & B out of the ring. Mysterio Jr. beat Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Pentagon Dark in a three-way. Marty the Moth beat Ivelisse. Marty and Mariposa were beating her up after the match when Callihan debuted making the save. Callihan is either Ivelisse’s new boyfriend or ex-boyfriend returning to get her, but I thought Son of Havok was the ex-boyfriend, not that she can’t have more than one ex-boyfriend. Texano beat Cage in match No. 3 of the best-of-five, so Cage is up 2-1. Puma pinned Muertes with a 630. This was said to be not as good as their match at Ultima Lucha, but still really exciting. The highlight was Puma doing a crossbody off the top of the bleachers to the floor. I hope the guy realizes that he may end up making a lot of money in this business and this isn’t the time to be doing moves that could potentially result in a bad injury
For 3/27, they had a dark match with Aerostar & Drago beating Bestia 666 and a partner. The partner was Steve Pain under a mask. Kobra Moon managed the two. The partner wore a dark green body suit and a frog mask. The crowd was into Bestia 666 with lots of chants. Bestia cut a promo after the match. Pentagon then came out and gave Bestia a package piledriver and broke his arm. I’m not sure that a broken arm counts when it’s done in a dark match. Matanza beat Cortez Castro for the LU title. If you remember Castro had his arm broken by Pentagon at last week’s tapings. Dario picked Castro as the partner and he sold he had to wrestle with a broken arm. He came out with a bandaged arm and lost in about 5:00. After the match, Dario & Matanza stood over Castro and Dario said, “Stay out of my temple, rat.” So apparently Dario found out that Castro was an undercover police officer masquerading as a bad wrestler who was there to arrest Dario for some crime. The other officer, Joey Ryan, didn’t appear. PJ Black & Mundo came out with the Easter Bunny. Since this was taped Easter Sunday, this was almost surely for the live crowd, unless it’s for an Easter week episode next year. It was all an inside rib as Black said how he hates bunnies. Black played the Bunny in the Adam Rose angle in WWE. Black attacked the bunny and unmasked him, and he turned out to be Jack Evans, who was over his food poisoning from midweek. Evans said he just wanted to make the fans happy on Sunday and Black ruined it. Son of Havoc pinned Wagner Jr. Wagner Jr. hates doing jobs in Mexico to main eventers on house shows, but here he’s doing one for a prelim guy on television. The winner got to pick the stipulation in next week’s match between Famous B and Mascarita Sagrada. Havoc picked a Believers Backlash match. Puma did a promo, so he is no longer a mute. I hope they taught him enough to where he sounds Hispanic. He talked about his feud with Muertes and mentioned the death of Konnan in the first season’s Grave Consequences (casket) match. He wanted a Grave Consequences match. Muertes and Catrina accepted the challenge. Mysterio Jr. beat Chavo Jr. in a loser leaves Lucha Underground match. So either this builds Chavo to return under a mask or he’ll be strictly a backstage producer. The original Chavo Guerrero was sitting in the front row and fans were chanting “Lucha Legend” at him. Chavo Classic attacked Mysterio from behind and gave his son a chair, which he hit Mysterio with over the head, which I guess was a DQ. Dario Cueto came out and said that fans deserve a clean finish so he restarted the match and made it no DQ. Mysterio pinned him quickly. The fans then started chanting “Thank You Chavo” and Mysterio hugged Chavo Jr. and left. Chavo Sr. & Jr. then cut a promo talking about how the Guerreros came to Los Angeles more than 40 years ago and used to wrestle at the old Olympic Auditorium and how it’s come full circle with Lucha Underground. They vowed that this was not the end of the Guerrero name in wrestling. I wonder if that means there’s a fourth generation Guerrero coming. Next was the Believer’s Backlash match where Mascarita pinned Famous B. Instead of like the first time where fans were given belts, this time they were handing out kendo sticks, brooms, shovels, meal cups, a football uniform, shoulder pads, a San Diego State football helmet, and the dreaded giant bag of popcorn weapon that Owen Hart and Mick Foley used and sold like it was a steel chair to try and get a negative star rating from me during a match in San Jose (this really happened and Foley talked about it in his first book). They also had some street signs. Vampiro gave the fans a pep talk telling them not to “F*** this shit up,” and said that if one of the wrestlers asks them for a weapon, they have to give it to him. Vampiro told the fans that if they screwed up the match they would never see another Believer’s Backlash match. The match ended up being entertaining and Wagner and then Son of Havoc both came out. Son of Havoc then presented Mascarita with his own leather biker jacket when it was over. This all got over really big to the live crowd. Marty the Moth & Mariposa & The Mack & Ivelisse & Callihan beat Fox & Killshot & Cage & Texano & Argenis. This was a qualifying match to determine who does and doesn’t get into Aztec Warfare. Texano and Cage were arguing with each other on the floor leaving their team shorthanded. In an on-line exclusive match, Mundo & Evans & Black won a squash over three local guys. One of the guys was Downtown Andy Brown and the other two we don’t know. None of the three were announced to the crowd which made it hard for the audience to do chants for them. The final match was Muertes beating Puma in the Grave Consequences match. This was said to not be as good as their first one but still a hell of a match and the best match of the weekend. They brawled all over the building. There were far too many big spots to keep track of. Muertes choke slammed Puma off the top rope outside the ring through two tables. Then he gave him the flatliner and put him in the casket and closed the lid.
In a surprise of sorts, since they had already announced a 5/8 PPV show with the New Japan crew, that ROH will do another PPV, “Best in the World” on 6/24, a Friday night at 9 p.m. from the Cabarrus Arena in Concord, NC. They will also be doing a TV taping from the same arena the next night.
There are very serious talks regarding a new investor coming in. Right now a key point in the negotiations is the new company wants to purchase 55% of the company while Dixie Carter is trying to keep negotiate it to 49%, so she would still have controlling power. The problem is TNA is in a money crunch and very much living hand-to-mouth and the investor may already be involved in a limited fashion. One of the reasons the last set of tapings weren’t announced until the last minute and flights weren’t booked until late was that aspect as they apparently can’t announce dates officially at Universal until Universal gets a deposit. That may be why the tapings that the talent has been told will start on 4/19, only a few weeks away, still haven’t been announced. We’ve heard a lot more regarding late pay and while nobody wants to put that out publicly, there are those still there as well as those who recently left who were way behind either at times or even still currently. A key part of this is the revenue sharing on ad revenue as part of the Pop TV deal has been bleak, given the numbers that the show is pulling and that it has been very difficult to sell the TNA-specific ads that were part of the revenue sharing deal given it’s wrestling and that the show isn’t doing anywhere near the kind of numbers station President Brad Schwartz was talking about (he was throwing around numbers like 1.3 million viewers) when the deal was made
TNA and The Fight Network out of Toronto have reached a deal where TNA will produce digital content for The Fight Network app starting in the second quarter, and the two sides will partner in cross promotion and joint sales efforts worldwide
Angelina Love (Lauren Williams Richards) is no longer with the promotion. Her contract expired while she was pregnant and it wasn’t renewed. She’s looking at going back to wrestling on the indie scene in June
Velvet Sky (Jamie Szantyr, 34), may follow her as her contract expires in April and they’ve phased her out of storylines of late. She and Love both started in 2007 and were the cornerstones of The Beautiful People, a very successful act that often drew the highest quarter hour ratings on the show. She’s the girlfriend of Bubba Ray Dudley. There had been at least feelers sent to WWE on her, although WWE is going more for women who are great wrestlers for the women’s side now, so unless it’s a manager role of some sort, she really wouldn’t fit. You knew things weren’t good from her side when she publicly said that she wished they would bring Vince Russo back
Steven Fludder, who runs Preston City Wrestling in England, went public with a statement regarding TNA pulling Ethan Carter III (Michael Hutter) from their 4/3 show. Fludder said that when he asked TNA what the story was that they said, “Unfortunately nothing can be done. This is a network commitment and something he had no control over.” Obviously TNA was not taping on 4/3 and those in the promotion either didn’t know in some cases or didn’t answer in others as to what the story was behind this past they needed EC 3 and James Storm on those dates. EC 3 was also pulled from a 4/2 show in Stevenage, England for Southside Wrestling. Given the show was the same day as WrestleMania, the hardest weekend of the year to book talent since almost everyone in the world is booked there including TNA’s top stars like the Hardys or Drew Galloway who could be viable subs, TNA didn’t offer a replacement. I believe Bobby Lashley would have been available as I haven’t seen his name listed for anything this coming weekend past a 3/30 show in Mexico City. According to sources at TNA, and confirmed elsewhere, the booking in this case was made between Fludder, as well as Southside Wrestling, and Hutter, and was not done through TNA. They also claimed that the promoter had not yet purchased flight tickets for Hutter nor paid him his deposit for the date as of 3/23, although later Hutter and Fludder said that Hutter had never asked for a deposit to begin with, so that was a moot point. TNA then had something that came up that caused them to have to pull EC 3 and James Storm for TNA promotional work. Hutter called it a “previously unforeseen opportunity to continue building a rapport between TNA Wrestling and one of our television network partners.” He said he would take all the blame for the incident, and said that neither TNA, Southside Wrestling nor Preston City Wrestling were at fault. “A set of circumstances arose and I had to make a decision, so blame me.” Storm had already been booked by Wrestlecon, which made the booking through TNA. They also noted that the Wrestlecon promoters had paid Storm everything required in advance and also booked his flights to Dallas. When TNA contacted the promotion, and pulled him, they said the two sides reached an agreeable solution. They also said that Hutter, after TNA had pulled him from the date, had offered to make things up to Fludder
Jeff Hardy was limping badly this weekend at a Big Time Wrestling indie show after doing all that wrestling last week. He’s trying to work on his torn PCL by using a brace on the knee because if he has the surgery that he probably needs, he’ll be out six to nine months
Ken Anderson said his “F*** TNA” comment that was shown all over the place was taken out of context. He said he was working an all-adult show in Scotland for Insane Championship Wrestling (the group with Grado and Drew Galloway as top stars) and the crowd started chanting, “F*** TNA.” He said he was working heel, so he said, “Well, I don’t work for them anymore, so yeah, F*** TNA.” He said what was left out of the video, he said was him saying, “But your opinion means squat to me, so f*** each and every one of you too.” He said he was just giving them a pop and taking it away as per his heel role
The promotion announced five new signings this past week, who were Jesse Guilmette (Pepper Parks) and Laura Dennis (better known as Cherry Bomb), who are real-life husband-and-wife, plus Marshe Rockett, a long-time Chicago-based independent wrestler along with Thomas LaRuffa (formerly Sylvester Lefort in NXT) and Mikael Vierge (who worked at the last tapings as Pierre Marceau and was Marcus Louis in NXT).
On Ariel Helwani being let go by FS 1, Helwani didn’t give specifics other than saying the information is out there, as to what happened. It’s pretty clear this wasn’t part of the budget cutting at FS 1 that happened a few weeks ago, but in being reporter on UFC Tonight on FS 1, and also his main job with MMA Fighting and conflicts regarding his reporting on stories. As far as information out there, the only two things “out there” are his story on Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor as the UFC 200 main event before UFC released it, and an interview he did with Rory MacDonald where the subject of free agency was talked about since MacDonald’s next fight is the last on his contract and he’s talked about testing the waters. But he’s had other fighters on his show that have been in the last fight of their contracts and has discussed that story before. To me, FS 1 looks bad because Helwani is the best known MMA reporter and most popular, given his Reporter of the Year honors that he wins every year. It comes across like they got rid of a reporter because they were doing their job, which doesn’t reflect well when you are a station that purports to cover sports news and that the flagship show is supposed to be about MMA news. And UFC Tonight has covered topics like the lawsuit against UFC in the past
Renzo Gracie on the MMA Hour this week said that he’s been training Georges St-Pierre, that St-Pierre is definitely coming back, sooner than later, and would make an announcement soon. He indicated St-Pierre was coming back to get the welterweight title. There are different ways of looking at this. If he wants the title shot, with his drawing power, he probably could get it right away. It’s probably smarter with three years off to do a tune-up fight first. If he wants to return at the end of the year, then I could see him facing the Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz winner, because that would be a huge money tune-up fight and if St-Pierre is close to his best, he should beat either of them. Or he could just jump into Robbie Lawler, which stylistically is a tough fight for him, because Lawler is a lot like Johny Hendricks, who gave St-Pierre his toughest fight in years
Nate Diaz was on Chael Sonnen’s podcast and said he heard the plan was for McGregor to beat him and then challenge St-Pierre, which is why St-Pierre was at ringside for their fight. That was certainly the prevailing story backstage, even though Dana White denied it. “Yeah I heard, but I put a big old hole in that shit. What did they think, that I’m some game they can play? I can’t be f***ed with. I’ve been in the game too long. They wanted to have this big old GSP vs. McGregor bullshit, with Georges in the front row at UFC 196. I don’t even wanna hear about that shit
I pissed off Conor McGregor. I pissed off GSP. But most of all I pissed of the UFC. Well guess what? LOLO, motherf***ers. Georges is full of shit. He’s a bully. He was going to fight this little Irish featherweight guy. He would have held him down. That’s a freak show fight.
UFC officially announced Cris Cyborg Justino vs. Leslie Smith for its 5/14 PPV show at the 42,000-seat Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil. The fight will be at a 140 pound catch weight. This will be Justino’s debut with the promotion, even though she had signed with them a long time back. Justino is from Curitiba, and with such a large soccer stadium to fill, it made sense for her debut to be on the show. Smith (8-6-1), is coming off a win over Rin Nakai on the 3/20 show in Brisbane, Australia (3/19 U.S.), and looks to be a sacrificial lamb here. Justino is 15-1, 1 no contest (the no contest being a win in seconds overturned due to a drug suspension), with 13 of those wins coming by knockout, and is best known for her August 15, 2009, win over Gina Carano, winning the Strikeforce featherweight title, in a show that set the all-time ratings record on Showtime (which was since broken) and drew 13,976 fans, the largest crowd in company history for a show not headlined by Frank Shamrock or Cung Le. It was really the success of that fight which proved women could draw in a main event position, and that, along with the potential of Ronda Rousey as a star, led to UFC reversing its prior position of never using women. The holdup with Cyborg and UFC has always been about weight, as UFC did not want to put on fights outside its weigh classes, the heaviest for women being 135. Cyborg had gone back and forth over the years, talking about getting down to 135, and other times claiming it was impossible. She had been offered a fight with Rousey for Rousey’s UFC debut in 2013, but refused to sign the eight-fight contract UFC offered claiming that she was a champion, just like Rousey, and should have gotten similar terms. At the time of the talks, the weight issue never came up. Later, attempts to make the fight always stalled because Rousey and UFC had insisted they wanted it as a title fight, and wanted her to prove she could make 135 once before booking the fight. Every time it seemed to be in place, things happened and Cyborg had yet to fight at 140, let alone 135. Although she was overjoyed when Rousey, who she had knocked for years, lost to Holly Holm, she didn’t realize that the biggest loser was herself, because she was no longer Rousey’s dream opponent and Holm became the match that would do the most business. After Rousey lost, Cyborg announced that she would never fight at 135. Cyborg had signed with UFC, but continued to fight in Invicta, where she is featherweight champion. UFC didn’t want to use her outside of their weight classes, but if they didn’t sign her, Bellator would have and would have built a 145 pound division around her, and it would have killed any hope for the giant PPV that a Rousey vs. Cyborg fight would have done. The UFC 198 main card looks strong, particularly for those in Curitiba with locals Curitiba-locals Cyborg, Anderson Silva and Shogun Rua as top stars. The match order for the five-fight PPV card as of right now has Anderson Silva vs. Uriah Hall opening the show, followed by Rua vs. Corey Anderson, Cyborg vs. Smith, Ronaldo Jacare Souza vs. Vitor Belfort to determine the probable next middleweight title contender, and the Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic heavyweight title main event. This is notable as far as how it does because Werdum vs. Miocic is a fight that I would figure on about 250,000 buys, but the undercard is really strong and Anderson Silva is a major draw, so it’ll be interesting to see how a name loaded card at a soccer stadium but with a weak marquee main event does. As of right now, the Fight Pass fights are Renato Carniero vs. Zubaira Tukhugov, Sergio Moraes vs. Kamaru Usman, Francisco Trinaldo vs. Yancy Medeiros and Warlley Alves vs. Bryan Barbarena. The FS 1 fights are Thiago Santos vs. Nate Marquardt, John Lineker vs. Rob Font, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Patrick Cummins and Demian Maia vs. Matt Brown, which is very strong for FS 1 prelims
Carla Esparza, the first strawweight champion, who hasn’t fought since her title loss to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, returns on the 4/23 show in Las Vegas to face Julianna Lima. Esparza replaces Jessica Aguilar, who pulled out after suffering a torn ACL
Cat Zingano, who had been rumored to be facing Cyborg, will be coming back this summer for what she said was a major fight. Zingano was on Inside MMA and said her return (her last fight was a loss to Rousey on February 28, 2015, and between the suicide of her husband and two knee surgeries, she’s only fought twice in the last nearly three years) would be around her birthday. She turns 33 on 7/1. She also said her return would not be against either Cyborg or Miesha Tate, who she beat in a 2013 fight
Yoel Romero has filed an appeal for his suspension due to a drug test failure. Romero claimed that his December test failure was due to taking a supplement that was tainted. Romero’s side claims that they have proof that was what caused the positive test
Paige VanZant scored a 24 on Dancing with the Stars on 3/28, to tie with Wayna Morris (of Boyz II Men) for first place. Her partner, Mark Ballas, blew out his back lifting her the day before while in training. So she had a new partner and had maybe two hours of practice with, Alan Bersten, but she pretty much killed it with the judges saying she had the best dance of the season. Her family owned a dance studio so she is something of a ringer on the show, but she’s representing UFC really well so far
UFC announced nine fights for a 6/18 show in Ottawa on FS 1. They had already announced Stephen Thompson vs. Rory MacDonald (MacDonald’s final fight on his contract) with a welterweight title shot likely going to the winner, and Patrick Cote vs. Donald Cerrone. Other fights announced are area favorite Steve Bosse vs. Sean O’Connell, Elias Theodorou of Toronto vs. Smilin Sam Alvey (Alvey in the past had challenged Theodorou to a hair vs. hair match), Jason Saggo vs. Leandro Silva, Misha Cirkunov vs. Ion Cutelaba (debuting from Moldova), Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Thibault Gouti, Tamdan McCrory vs. Krzysztof Jotko and Alex Garcia vs. Colby Covington
Dan Henderson’s contract expires with his 4/16 fight with Lyoto Machida. He’s lost six of his last weight, is now 45, and really shouldn’t be fighting. If UFC doesn’t offer him a new deal, I think he’s got a home in Bellator
Johny Hendricks vs. Kelvin Gastelum is being talked about for UFC 200 on 7/9 according to MMA Fighting. Diego Sanchez said he’s fighting at UFC 200 and the opponent at this point looks to be Joe Lauzon
C.M. Punk, who is recovering from back surgery, said on the MMA Hour it was at best a 10 percent chance he’d be able to fight Mickey Gall by UFC 200 and doesn’t want to give a date yet on when the fight would happen. He had surgery six weeks ago for a herniated disc in his lower back, and hasn’t started back training, but hopes to be cleared soon. He made a point to use this to illustrate a difference between Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White and Vince McMahon. He said when he was diagnosed and was with Fertitta and White, he said that maybe he could take a cortisone shot and train through the injury and fight and they told him not to, that there were PPVs every month and they wanted to him to get the surgery and get fixed up, noting that there are PPV shows every month. “It was just a relief to finally have a boss who was like, `No, no, just get it fixed, we want you 100 percent, we want you to be healthy,’ and not interested in throwing a band-aid on a bullet would just to parade me out in front of people.
Rafael Feijao Cavalcante and Daniel Sarafian were recent cuts. Feijao was a pretty significant star, having beaten King Mo Lawal via third round knockout to win the Strikeforce light heavyweight title on August 21, 2010, in Houston. He lost it in his first defense on March 5, 2011, in Columbus, OH, to Dan Henderson. His other major career win was over Yoel Romero in 2011. He tested positive for stanazolol, a steroid, after beating Mike Kyle in 2012 in Strikeforce. His physique changed greatly, as did his performance, going 1-4 in UFC from 2012 until his 2/6 loss to Ovince Saint Preux, who beat him even though Saint Preux had sprained his ankle in the first round and was immobile for parts of the fight
Tom Breese vs. Sean Strickland in a battle of rising welterweights has been added to the 6/4 show in Los Angeles
After his loss to Neil Magny on the 3/20 show in Brisbane, Australia, Hector Lombard announced that he was moving up to 185 pounds. While he had success in that weight class previously, times have changed and he’s probably too short to compete at the top level with the size of the guys they have there now. .. When Cat Zingano was interviewed on Inside MMA this weekend, she sad she had a big fight on the horizon that she couldn’t talk about until UFC makes the announcement first, but off the air said it was not with Cris Cyborg, another fight that had been talked about
John Lineker vs. Rob Font at bantamweight has been added to the 5/14 PPV show from Curitiba, Brazil
Sara McMann vs. Jessica Eye has been added to the 5/29 show in Las Vegas.
Jason “Mayhem” Miller had his bond dropped from $1 million to $200,000 and he paid it and was released on 3/20. He is scheduled to fight former UFC fighter Luke Barnatt on 5/21 in Milan, Italy for an indie group
Rizin announced six new matches for its 4/17 show in Nagoya. Daron Cruickshank, just cut by UFC, will face Shinji Sasaki; a heavyweight fight with Chris Barnett vs. Kiril Sidelnikov; a woman’s fight at heavyweight with Gabi Garcia facing Anna Malyukova (a Russian basketball star who turned to MMA); a second women’s fight at 116 pounds with Kanako Murata, 22, the No. 2 woman wrestler in her weight class in Japan behind Saori Yoshida (the best woman wrestler of all-time), making her MMA debut against Natalya Denisova (2-1) of Russia, who beat a man in an intergender fight in Russia; Teodoras Aukstuolis vs. Jaideep Singh (who is coming off a loss to Fedor Emelianenko; and Vadim Nemkov vs. Karl Albrektsson
Campbell McLaren’s Combate Americas promotion debuts weekly, as we noted before, on 4/18, but it will air at midnight. It will be tryout for a weekly series over a month plus.
SummerSlam tickets for 8/21 were put on sale with a password with the announcement made during Raw, since SummerSlam is at the Barclays Center. They put very few tickets up for sale I was told (the number I was given was less than 1,000) but they were gone within minutes. There was a second presale with a password BKSLAM scheduled for 3/30 to 4/1 at 10 p.m., but I presume that allotment will be gone immediately as well, and then the last group of tickets will be put on sale to the general public, and will be gone immediately given there are only 12,500 tickets available
From the unsealed FBI transcripts in the Hogan case, another story came out as reported by David Bixenspan in Death and Texas Mag. In one of the sex tapes Hogan told a story to Heather about beating up four Coast Guard guys that he had a confrontation with at a strip club (Oz Gentleman’s Club in Clearwater, FL) and how police covered up a possible crime and that one of the guys put a lit cigarette in his gas cap, Oz pulled video footage, the police arrested the guys and they kept it out of the media. There was a police report taken on the incident that took place on July 9, 2007, a few days before Hogan talked about it to Heather on one of the sex tapes. The police report had it that two members of the U.S. Coast Guard, one 18, and a friend, whose name was expunged from the public record, approached Hogan and went to buy him a shot. Hogan turned them down or blew them off. They got mad and called Hogan an “asshole,” and one said, “Who does he think he is, blowing me off.” A bartender got mad about them making a scene, and they left the club. They found Hogan’s yellow Dodge Charger, kicked it, urinated on it and stick a lit cigarette and Snickers bar in the gas tank. There was no police record or witnesses who claimed there was a physical fight, and the two men involved did have two friends with them, although the two friends were said in the police report to have not been involved. When Hogan was driving away, he noticed a knocking noise, stopped, and saw his gas can hanging open. When he went to close it, he saw the cigarette and Snickers bar, threw them on the ground and called Sheriff’s office. They went to the club and got security footage from the parking lot. The police found the cab number that took the Coast Guard members back to the their station in St. Petersburg and the cab driver said they had told him everything that they had done as he drove them back. The cab driver said one of them said he hoped Hogan’s car blew up. Police found the two men, and claimed one told a less than credible story but the other admitted putting the lit cigarette in the gas tank. When asked why, Andrew Marks, 18, told the deputy that “He said he knows it was stupid and he did not realize how serious it would be.” Marks was arrested on attempted arson charges and his friend was arrested as an accessory. The charges were then dropped two months later
John Laurinaitis, 50, was married on 3/25 to Kathy Colace, 51, the mother of Nikki & Brie Bella. The two were engaged in early September and had been a couple for some time. Laurinaitis was replaced years back from his role as head of talent relations, as he was a Vince McMahon/Jim Ross hire and it became Paul Levesque’s division so he put his own people in. He came to the company as part of the WCW buyout in 2001 after having a career as a solid star with All Japan Pro Wrestling. He’s also the brother of Road Warrior Animal, which means Animal and Bryan Danielson, as well as potentially John Cena, could end up in the same family. She founded a business development company called JBN & Associates (the initials coming from the names of her three children, a son named J.J. who is not involved in pro wrestling, as well as Brianna and Nicole) and is part of the board of directors of Phoenix Suns Charities. She’s appeared in several episodes of Total Divas
Cena was a guest host on “The Today Show” 3/28 and 3/29. Cena was noticeably smaller than on his previous appearances, which makes sense for someone recovering from a torn rotator cuff. He recently posted something of him doing heavy squats, which is a lower body exercise that wouldn’t involve heavy lifting regarding the upper body. You pretty much can’t do almost anything upper body wise heavy after rotator cuff surgery because every upper body movement in some way involves the shoulder, unless he did one arm movements with his good arm
Cena was backstage at the TV tapings in Brooklyn but wasn’t used on the show since the focus was on what was being promoted for Mania
Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that Nikki Bella’s career as a full-time wrestler is over as she got bad news from her doctor this past week. She was scheduled to appear on Raw this week but her doctor ordered her to stay away from the ring. Even though she wasn’t booked to do anything physical, but was to be at ringside for an angle, that any kind of accident could severely set her recovery back. Her next important appointment will be in July where she will find out how well the bone in her neck fused after surgery. She was told that even the best news, she shouldn’t return to wrestle full-time, but may be able to wrestle on a lighter schedule in a few months
Harper is believed to have suffered a torn ACL. For whatever reason, his injury is being kept secret but that is the story going around and that he will be out of action for about six months. This is not confirmed, but I believe he has already had his knee surgery which, for whatever reason, maybe because of the nature of his character, has not been reported
Richard Dietsch of Sports Illustrated wrote about ESPN covering WWE. ESPN will be covering WWE with interviews with talent all week long and WrestleMania will be heavily pushed the last few days with regular puff piece segments with Coachman. The reason for the coverage is that Glenn “I’m not Kane” Jacobs, the senior coordinating producer of ESPN’s New and Net Group, the company’s research group, found that ESPN viewers are very interested in WWE, noting that among SportsCenter’s Twitter followers, in looking at hashtags and key words, WWE content often draws more interest on Monday night than any sports topic. And while I believe that would be the case, given WWE draws so many more viewers than any sports on Monday night outside of football season, or baseball or basketball playoffs, making those decisions looking at hashtags is kind of silly because of how much the WWE encourages hashtag uses as compared to how much it’s pushed on other sports shows. Using that metric, Raw has been a top five talked about topic among their Twitter followers for the past five weeks over the course of the week. Ratings alone would tell you that people care about the subject. Jacobs noted that the interview they did with Bryan after his retirement (the best piece by far they’ve done) did 396,000 video views. They noted that the coverage of SummerSlam was a success and that Lesnar has crossover appeal. The story noted that NBC Sports Net, FS 1 and CBS Sports Net haven’t touched WWE, although Dietsch felt FS 1 probably should because the Fox Sports web site covers wrestling significantly. The same story, ironically, was critical of FS 1 and Fox for letting Ariel Helwani go, listing a tweet by fighter Rory MacDonald that Helwani was let go “because he talks about the real issues on our sport of MMA/UFC and isn’t a sheep.” It noted Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Wagenheim (who it should be noted does a weekly Internet show with Helwani) wrote, “I think fans of the sport, and of journalism, know why.” Dietsch did later write me when I was critical of the idea he explained why ESPN would cover WWE but didn’t mention how bad the coverage was, running away from every real story, at the same time being critical of FS 1 dropping Helwani, and he responded that was a fair point and that if ESPN is going to cover WWE, they should cover it like everything else and not just do puff pieces
There have been second thoughts regarding Strowman, particularly given the reaction to his match with Ambrose in Philadelphia. At this point he is no longer a lock to win the Battle Royal, which he had been. They were open to other ideas this week. He still may win. But the plan for him to win the Battle Royal and face Lesnar at SummerSlam is no longer a sure thing
Reigns did a lengthy interview with the Kingston Whig-Standard with his fan reaction brought up. “It’s a tough one because there is no one answer. There is no one reason why someone would want to boo me. Maybe they don’t like what I ear, how I sound, maybe I did something to offend them, but for me, it’s hard because I’m under the microscope and I’m dealing with a lot of different things and there’s a lot of things flying my way. For me, I can only continue to stay within myself and worry about the things I can control and the things I can control are, Am I healthy?; Am I showing up to where I need to be on time?; Am I here to perform and do my job?: If I do that, then our fans, they can cheer me, they can boo me, as long as we all show up to the arena, everything will be fine. We’ll be able to create that awesome experience, create that energy.” He noted he had a ton of supporters, and that he felt life is better as champion, claiming that his brief periods of being WWE champion that day-to-day life was cooler and more fun. “I know it’s a TV show, but there is something very real life about it (holding the title) and that’s why I haven’t been fulfilled yet.
In an Orlando Sentinel interview, he said, about being booed, “I think there’s a few different reasons why. You could name a bunch of them. I don’t think we could actually put a ringer on one and say this is the reason why. Typically, if you hear the boos, it generally is grown men my age and I’m not really in this business for the grown men. I’m in this business for the families. That’s what we are. We’re a PG product. We’re a family-based product. We’re here to entertain families and give them enjoyment. If you’re a 30-year-old man and you want to flip me off at a kids show, then hey, like I said, you paid your money, but just be careful because you could get kicked out.
So weird that they all talk about families and such and the largest part of their TV audience is men over the age of 50 that likely became fans 30 to 40 years ago, and for whatever the reason, unlike all the other sports, that’s the audience they have the most difficulty in getting to support them live
Reigns confirmed his recent surgery was for a deviated septum. We just knew he had nasal surgery but believed that was the case because there were aspects of the treatment that were consistent with recovering from that surgery. One of his nostrils was smaller than the other and with all the travel, he was getting allergies that made his nose swell up and couldn’t breathe out of the smaller nostril so he had to get that fixed. The other reason for the surgery was to fix his nose, which had been crooked from all the damage over the past six months and they straightened it out
I saw the results of a marketability study regarding the top WWE characters and it’s probably one of the reasons they are strong on Reigns. And this was a current fan-based study and not a general public study, which saw Reigns as the fourth highest ranking wrestler on the roster, trailing Cena (who scored much higher than anyone else), Undertaker and Lesnar. Others faring strongly among the active wrestlers were Orton, HHH and Styles, the latter of which probably surprised people. Ambrose also did well, but was far behind the guys mentioned and Owens didn’t fare well at all. That may be why they are reluctant to listen to crowd reactions and think they should push someone else
One major retailer noted that, in order, the top five selling T-shirts at their national chain for 2015 were Cena, Bryan, Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose, in that order
Lesnar was on SportsCenter on 3/28 and said he never thinks about accomplishments, and unlike most wrestlers, he has no idea where his title belts are from either WWE or UFC, nor where his NCAA plaque for being champion is. “But I do know one thing, how much money is in my bank account.
WWE announced the hiring of Pamela J. Murrin as the new Senior Vice President of Data Strategy. Murrin came from Time Warner Cable where she had worked for 15 years, and was Group Vice President of Marketing Analytics and Insights. Prior to that she had worked in marketing analysis with HBO and American Express. She will work under Tandy O’Donoghue, the Executive Vice President of Strategy and Analytics. She will be responsible for analyzing data and providing insights from that data across all lines of business, and oversee metadata management initiatives
Karl Anderson and Shinsuke Nakamura both arrived over this past weekend in Orlando. Anderson & Doc Gallows are expected to debut imminently
Regarding the last minute smart money odds shifting story that comes up at most, but not all PPVs, you can only presume what happens, but I can tell you a direct story that with TNA, one ex-wrestler who was at the production meeting, as soon as the meeting was over and all the finishes were laid out, he’d start placing bets (there were agencies doing TNA odds although the maximum bet would be limited). For WrestleMania, there are agencies taking bigger money maximum bets than ever before
Dwayne Johnson made some news this past week when he teased on Twitter the idea of running for President. Johnson is friends with Barack Obama but it sounded like a story being made out of little
HHH is on the cover of the current issue of Muscle & Fitness and Banks did a cover photo shoot for an upcoming issue of Muscle & Fitness Hers magazine. The McMahons and WWE have a business relationship with that magazine brand
The company officially announced the signing of the tag team of TMDK (The Mighty Don’t Kneel), which was the top foreign tag team for Pro Wrestling NOAH for the past several years. They are Michael Nicholls (Mikey Nicholls, 30) and Shane Veryzer (Shane Haste, 30), both from Perth, Western Australia. The two actually made the deal nearly a year ago, but Veryzer ended up needing knee surgery stemming from a match early last year when they were feuding with Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. We’d known and reported that they had gotten an offer and were leaving NOAH, but due to injury recuperation, it took forever. NOAH had announced them not renewing their contract and later had brought them back a few weeks ago for a farewell tour. The two worked years ago with ROH, but had been regulars since March 2011 with NOAH. Their quick double-team moves led them to win the 2013 Tag Team of the Year award in Japan. They held the GHC tag team titles twice and had an unbelievable match with Masato Tanaka & Takashi Sugiura, as well as other good matches with them and Archer & Smith Jr. They also worked an undercard match at Wrestle Kingdom 9 on January 4, 2015, the PPV from the Tokyo Dome, teamed with Toru Yano & Naomichi Marufuji to beat Smith & Archer & Shelton Benjamin & Takashi Iizuka in a match that built the move of Suzuki-gun to NOAH
The WWE Network is going to have a multi-language feed for WrestleMania. Former WWE wrestler Sho Funaki will be announcing Japanese
Money in the Bank is confirmed for 6/19 at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It means they are beating the UFC into the new MGM Arena by a few weeks, and also because it’ll be one of the first events at the arena, means they’re almost guaranteed a big crowd and you can charge more in Las Vegas then anywhere
Some May touring NXT house show dates are 5/5 in Salina, KS, 5/6 in Oklahoma City, 5/7 in Tulsa, 5/12 in Seattle, 5/13 in Spokane and 5/14 in Portland, OR
Seth Petruzelli, the former MMA fighter who is the striking coach at the Performance Center, was contacted by Bellator to be the next opponent of Kimbo Slice. Petruzelli, a light heavyweight, was best known for replacing Ken Shamrock a few hours before fight time on a CBS live special on October 4, 2008, and knocking out Slice in 14 seconds. So obviously there is a back story to that fight. He retired in 2013 after being knocked out by King Mo Lawal. But with Slice testing positive for Nandrolone in his bout with Dada 5000, that fight is at least temporarily out the window. Petruzelli was also at one point talked about or scripted to be involved in some form in the HHH vs. Reigns match, but don’t know how that would fit and at press time that wasn’t confirmed
Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have deals in place with the company described as similar to the original deal they had signed Samoa Joe for. Basically they work NXT but don’t train at the performance center, and can work indies on their own on their off days. I don’t know if there are limitations as to where they can work. With Samoa Joe, the issue on why they changed the deal on him is he was going to work ROH television and they didn’t want that
Andrea Ocampo, a reporter for the NHL’s Florida Panthers, was hired as a ring announcer and will use the name Andria DeMarco (there was a well known 60s and 70s wrestler named Paul DeMarco)
Babatunde Aiyegbusi, a Polish giant who had never played college football but got a lot of publicity for trying out with the Minnesota Vikings last season, was at the Performance Center. He was a legit 6-foot-9 and 331 pound
. Johnny Saint, 74, a protégé of Billy Robinson, who was one of the greatest technical wrestlers ever, a solid Hall of Fame candidate, was brought in this past week to each his holds and counterholds style
Superstar Billy Graham, 72, who had to miss WrestleMania in Dallas due to an injury in training, will be getting another surgery on his left hip in a few weeks
After the 4/1 show, the next NXT Takeover show is set for 6/8 in Orlando
WWE stock closed at $18.34, up from the past several weeks, giving the company a $1.39 billion market value. There is likely to be a run up this week over enthusiasm based on the announcement on 4/4 of the network subscription number. Then there will likely be either an upswing or downswing next week based on that number
Notes from the 3/28 show in Brooklyn which was the final taping before WrestleMania. It was a very loud and rowdy crowd, a legit sellout of 12,600, very adult oriented, with lots of chants. At first, it made the product seem super hot leading into the big show. As the show went on, the crowd kind of turned on the product because they were adamant about not liking Reigns and the harder they were trying to be manipulated toward him, the more they rejected him. There were some notes off TV.
In the main event, a six man with Owens & Miz & Stardust vs. Zayn & Sin Cara & Ziggler, during the commercial breaks, Owens and Miz both went on the mic trying to get the crowd into their match instead of doing chants that had nothing to do with the match. At one point, after Ziggler encouraged the fans to do the wave while on a commercial break, Owens told the crowd to “Do the Wave if you like Michael Cole.” That stopped everyone from doing the wave and everyone laughed. Among the chants were “Derek Jeter,” “Chris Benoit (which must have made the company feel just wonderful),” “C.M. Punk” (super loud, everyone on TV heard it), “Take it home,” “RVD,” “This is booty,” “New Day Rocks,”“Yankees,” and more.
The crowd hated Eva Marie more than anyone. For whatever reason, the crowd had convinced themselves that either Bayley or Asuka were coming out to even the odds when Eva Marie came out. As almost impossible as this is to believe, I can tell you for sure that the office thought Eva was going to get a babyface push like this returning hot girl, thinking the NXT reaction was just the hardcores, not realizing this was the same type of audience. They did play up that Paige didn’t like her which may play into a WrestleMania match storyline. They taped a Swagger over Breeze match with Swagger winning with the Swagger bomb for Main Event. That tells you what they think of Breeze as far as pushing him since Swagger’s contract expires relatively soon and he hasn’t signed a new deal. For Main Event, the only match taped was Ryback over Fandango with the shell shock. For Smackdown, Styles pinned Slater with the springboard forearm. Styles was really over as you’d expect with this crowd. Devon Dudley pinned Jey Uso with a spinebuster in a clean win. In the Smackdown main event, Ambrose pinned Rowan with Dirty Deeds. They advertised a massive eight man tag with all the top stars after, but it didn’t happen, but the show was four hours and 40 minutes long by that point.
Raw opened with Undertaker coming out and the announcers calling him the greatest wrestler of all-time, which is something of a stretch. The crowd was hot and chanting loudly here. He said that this was not going to be his last WrestleMania. That led to loud “Yes” chants. The gigantic reaction to him made things seem weird since Shane is clearly the babyface in the match, although the babyface/heel dichotomy and fan reaction is screwed up in the top three matches on the show. He said Shane would fight to his last breath but WrestleMania is his yard, Hell in a Cell is his house and Shane would rest in peace. Shane came out and he got loud chants as well. He said, “I’m fighting to win and you’re fighting not to lose.” The two are only five years apart, as Shane is 46 and Undertaker is 51 but Undertaker looked 20 years older. Shane said he would be the instrument of change in WWE that’s been needed for a long time. This led to more “Yes” chants. Undertaker told him that “You need to watch your mouth, rich boy.” Shane came to the ring and the fans were chanting “Holy shit” and “this is awesome” just for him getting in the ring. Anyone who thinks the crowd doesn’t buy Shane as an opponent for Undertaker, as silly as it may seem to do so, isn’t listening because the place was going nuts and they didn’t even do anything. Shane said “Your legacy died at WrestleMania two years ago.” Undertaker wasn’t happy with that one and said, “From the day you were born, you’ve been your daddy’s bitch.” Shane went on the attack but Undertaker threw hi over the top rope and into the barricade twice. But Shane escaped from the last ride and came back. He hit Undertaker with the monitor and threw some punches. His bad looking punches ended up opening Undertaker up both right above the left eye and to the side of it. If he was going to throw stiff shots, the least he could do is stay away from the eye, although if Undertaker asked him to get hard way juice, you do aim for the eyebrow. It finished with Shane coming off the top rope with an elbow to the table. He almost didn’t make it, but it looked spectacular and the table broke. Fans chanted “You still got it.” That level of a high risk move should have been saved for WrestleMania, as even though people went crazy, had he gotten hurt, it would have killed the entire build for the show, and he easily could have gotten hurt on that one. Undertaker sat up when it was over.
Jericho and Ryder were shown regarding a confrontation on the preshow. Jericho told Ryder he was a hell of a performer, but doesn’t have what it takes to be champion. He also said he wouldn’t wrestle Styles at WrestleMania because he refused to give him his chance to shine with him. He said he’d rather sit in the stands and surround himself with idiots than give Styles a WrestleMania moment. Ryder pinned Jericho in 1:54. Styles came out and got a really loud “A.J. Styles” chant. Styles then got on the mic and was incredulous Jericho said he would rather sit out WrestleMania than face him. Well, it was incredulous. Styles said he wasn’t leaving until he got the match he wanted at WrestleMania. Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho and Styles started a “Y2 Jackass” chant. Jericho was distracted. Ryder pinned him with a small package but Jericho immediately laid out Ryder with a codebreaker. Jericho threw a fit over losing, and then agreed to face Styles. He noted this was his 12th WrestleMania, and he’s won championships and spilled blood at WrestleMania, but Styles wouldn’t know anything about it because he’s a rookie. He said this would be Styles’ first WrestleMania and he guarantees it will also be his last. Another good segment.
Charlotte pinned Lynch in 6:31. They were running around and Ric Flair grabbed Lynch by the leg and Charlotte leveled her with a high kick and natural selection. Renee Young was backstage with Vince. Vince looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. Then again, Vince never sleeps. Vince said that Shane would do anything to get control of the company so he’s not surprised by anything that happened. But he said that Shane had angered Undertaker and he wants an angry Undertaker to represent him at Hell in a Cell. Shane showed up. Vince told him he should be halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge by now. Shane said he’s watched Vince discard people like human waste, and that Vince thinks nobody can run the company better than him, but on Sunday, on the stage Vince created, he’s taking 40 years of pent up aggression, mental anguish and physical anguish because he’s going to be controlling Raw. He said the difference is that Vince stole the company from his father but he’s taking it from Vince.
Show & Kane beat Axel & Dallas via DQ in :29. Yes, Kane turned on Show last week on Raw and this week they were a tag team working together like friends. Maybe they forgot last week’s turn. I know I wish I could have. They noted that today would have been Curt Hennig’s birthday (he’d have turned 58) and Axel did a Happy Birthday Dad on camera. The entire Social Outcast group interfered for the DQ. Then everyone from Goldust to Sandow, Swagger, R-Truth, Breeze, Fandango, Henry, Darren Young and others all hit the ring. This was a preview for all the people in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. Show & Kane then gave Henry a double choke slam. Show then choke slammed Dallas and Axel at the same time while Kane did the same to Slater and Rose.
HHH and Stephanie came out. HHH talked about how he was going to be defending his title before the largest crowd in history. Well, except for North Korea. He said the dream of everyone is to hold the WWE title and everyone has the fantasy of holding the title at WrestleMania. But almost nobody can. He put over Reigns, saying he was a one in a million athlete. The fans booed every time he said something nice about Reigns. Well, they used to boo Rock and Flair when they’d say nice things about Cena. But he said Reigns was only champion for five minutes and 15 seconds. I guess he forgot the other reign. He said this was his 20th time at WrestleMania and his ninth world title match at WrestleMania, and the latter is more than anyone else in history. He said the difference is he’s obsessed with wrestling and that obsession led to him becoming the most successful WWE superstar in history. He then said he was the greatest in history. Like an hour earlier Undertaker was. And HHH always said it was Flair and there’s not even an argument, except when he said it was Shawn. He said it was okay him wearing a suit but when Reigns beat him up it fueled his obsession once again. He said he didn’t know if he felt disrespected or maybe people forgot who he is, but his obsession means the end of Reigns’ dreams. Stephanie said WrestleMania is not about marching bands, unicorn horns, street fights or ladder matches. Reigns then came out. The crowd booed him of course. HHH bailed.
The New Day came out. The crowd was really into them. Fans were into saying “Booty-o’s.” Kingston pinned Del Rio in 7:35 with a schoolboy as Del Rio went for the armbar. The League of Nations all had new T-shirts. Del Rio’s read “Pride of Mexico,” which will probably sell really well. Rusev’s said “Bulgarian Brute,” which probably won’t. After the match, Jonathan Coachman came out and talked about how SportsCenter would be covering WrestleMania all day long on Sunday. He plugged Booty o’s and danced. They announced Joan Lunden for the Warrior Award. That was all well and good. But Cole said that three days before Warrior died he gave a speech about this award and totally made up what Warrior said.
Renee Young was interviewing Reigns when Bubba Ray Dudley challenged him to a fight. Reigns went after him when Devon showed up. Reigns attacked both but HHH then attacked him and beat on him as the Dudleys held him. Bubba threw Reigns into a wall and HHH beat him down after. The fans cheered all this. They were hating Reigns no matter what tricks to get them to cheer were being thrown out. Bubba was really good here. In a company that desperately needs good top heels, he’s really underutilized. Kalisto pinned Konnor after a sliding dropkick on Viktor and the Salida del Sol on Konnor in 1:41. Layfield went on-and-on about how a good big man always beats a good little man, bringing up Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor. The way he kept saying it reminded me of 1989 when Ricky Steamboat was getting ready to wrestle Lex Luger in the Great American Bash and Luger, the heel, kept saying how a good big man always beats a good little man. The next guy out for an interview was Flair, who was a babyface at the time, and said, in a crazy delivery, “Luger. Whoever told you that you were a good big man?” Kalisto gave Viktor a tornado DDT after.
Heyman & Lesnar came out to a “Suplex City” chant. Heyman talked about Lesnar as being not a once in a lifetime fighter, but a once ever athlete, basically stealing Joe Rogan’s line about Ronda Rousey. He said Lesnar was at his peak and can perform at a level not one single member of the locker room can hope to achieve. But he said there’s always one lunatic who believes they can take the fight to him. Heyman then talked about how Ambrose was bringing weapons, and then started laughing because he said that weapons is one of those words he’s not supposed to say, and Lesnar started laughing. Heyman said that weapons are not only legal but encouraged in this match. He said Lesnar would give Ambrose the defining WrestleMania moment not of this year, not of this generation, but of a lifetime when Dr. Brock Lesnar takes all of the politically incorrect weapons and performs a public colonoscopy on Ambrose in the middle of the ring. He said that he said this two years ago, and ti’s the same thing, this is not a prediction, it’s a spoiler. Ambrose came out with a red wagon. He started putting weapons in the wagon like a barbed wire bat, a tire iron, a chainsaw, the ring steps and nunchakus. Then he pulled the wagon up the ramp and to the back.
Emma pinned Paige in 2:52. Tamina, Naomi, Lana and Summer Rae were in one corner, and Brie Bella, Fox and Natalya were in the other. Tamina distracted the ref. Emma used a jawbreaker on Paige and Lana kicked Paige and Emma got the pin. Emma attacked Paige after. Everyone started fighting. The heels got the advantage when they did this big spotlight for Eva Marie to come out as the final person. The crowd booed that like crazy. The funniest part of all this, the ultimate tone deaf, is that the company expected Eva was going to be cheered since she was being set up to be the final babyface members of the team. Paige was mad at Eva so they’re looking like they’re doing a team doesn’t get along with her deal, but all the Team Total Divas members raised their hands together.
R-Truth and Goldust talked about how in a Battle Royal, everyone was for themselves. Goldust said that they weren’t a team anyway. R-Truth grabbed a T-shirt Goldust had and was crying because Goldust said he didn’t want to be his partner again, and blew his nose. He said, “You think it’s funny but it’s not.” This was meant as an inside play on words because it’s not was supposed to be it snot, because he blew his nose. Ziggler & Zayn & Sin Cara beat Owens & Stardust & Mix in 21:18. The match was fine but the crowd didn’t care and started doing nonstop chants for things having nothing to do with the match. The match story is that Owens never wanted to tag in, and especially not with Zayn. Zayn did a great running flip dive onto Owens. They went to a ton of near falls. Finally, when Zayn was beaten down, Owens wanted to tag in. He went for the power bomb, but Zayn escaped and dropkicked him. Owens went to tag out. Miz and Stardust refused to let him tag out. Layfield said this was like if Bart Starr stopped listening to Vince Lombardi in the frozen tundra. That was in reference to a famous football game on New Year’s Eve in 1967. Zayn pinned Owens after a tornado DDT and the Helluva kick. It was a good win that he needed right now.
The show ended with HHH & Stephanie out again. They were back talking about how all the fans live their lives just like Reigns, based on hopes and dreams that will never come true. HHH said when he would attack people from behind or run away that it’s strategy, not cowardice. He said this isn’t a game, as millions of dollars are at stake and fans can shove their morality. Reigns came out. They started brawling in the aisle. Reigns sold his nose. Reigns got the upper hand and Stephanie called for all the heels to come out, so the League of Nations, Miz, Stardust and the Dudleys came out. They were all beating on Reigns until the Usos and other faces came out. Reigns did a running dive over the top on everyone. Even that wouldn’t save him as fans chanted “You still suck.” Ten years from now they’ll be chanting “You still got it.” People almost cheered for the dive. HHH crawled to the back
Notes on the 3/23 NXT show. This was another basic show. It opened with Johnny Gargano pinning Elias Samson in 2:18. The fans were super behind Gargano, even though he’s mostly used as a job guy and Samson is the one pushed that nobody cares about. They did the fluke pin deal where Samson missed a knee and Gargano pinned him with a schoolboy. But after the match, Samson laid Gargano out with his swinging neckbreaker finisher and kept beating on him including giving him a jumping knee and throwing him into the post. Apollo Crews made the save and Samson backed off. Samson has a real good look, tall, good size, good body, but nothing he does seems very interesting nor stands out. Today, you need a lot more than cosmetics to break through. Finn Balor pinned Rich Swann in 5:20 with a double foot stomp and the Bloody Sunday DDT. Swann looked tremendous here. He was the best guy on the show this week. Very good for the time they were given. Emma & Dana Brooke did an interview. Brooke said she’d been injured and blamed it on Asuka. Alexa Bliss pinned Sarah Dobson (Crazy Mary Dobson) in 4:12. Pretty bad, probably even worse to the live crowd having to follow the previous match. This was as bad or worse than some of the TNA women’s matches. Dobson did a crossbody off the top where they had a miscue and her knee hit Bliss in the nose. Bliss was checking on her already previously broken hose. Bliss then went to the finish using a backflip into a kneedrop and the sparkle splash. Samoa Joe was to do an interview, but walked off without saying a word. Bull Dempsey came to the ring and Joe jumped him and put him out with the choke. Joe then choked out Danny Burch (Martin Stone), who was to be Dempsey’s opponent. That was supposed to be a heel attack on the popular Dempsey but instead fans were chanting “Thank you Joe.” They did a feature on Jason Jordan & Chad Gable. Really well done, as this was building for their tag title match. The story was that Jordan was around and never really caught on but when they were put together everything clicked. They noted that they had similar backgrounds, both being huge pro wrestling fans and starting amateur wrestling as young children. Jordan noted that he signed up for wrestling as a kid thinking it was pro wrestling, but fell in love with amateur wrestling. They showed lots of video clips and photos of them competing in wrestling from kids wrestling to the NCAA’s to the Olympics in the case of Gable. The story is that both did well as amateurs but failed when it counted. Jordan’s goal was the NCAA title and he said he was unbeaten going into the NCAA tournament but then flopped. In 2010, as a senior, Nathan Everhart of Indiana was undefeated in the regular season and ranked No. 2 in the nation at one point. He ended up placing second in the Big 10 tournament so he was ranked No. 6 going into the NCAA tournament, but ended up losing twice and was one win away from placing top eight. Gable made the Olympic team in 2012 at 185 pounds in Greco-Roman, but said the Olympics were the worst day of his life because he didn’t win the gold (he won one and lost one and ended up in ninth place). There was a video pushing the debut of No Way Jose, so Levis Valenzuela will be on TV probably at the next tapings. The main event saw Asuka beat Emma in 13:42 with the Asuka lock. This was a disappointment. It was a perfectly okay professional match, but the crowd was dead. Emma had most of the offense and one of the things I’ve noticed is Asuka has a Goldberg thing about her in the sense that when she sells, it doesn’t get sympathy, it just makes people think it’s fake and they shut down. At this point normal psychology backfires. The match was also nowhere near as good as their Takeover match
The NXT weekend tour opened on 3/24 before a sellout 300 fans in Largo, FL. Carmella & Liv Morgan beat Emma & Billie Kay and Carmella used the triangle on Kay. Riddick Moss pinned Alex Riley with a roll-up with his feet on the ropes. Riley’s TV character is clearly a heel but he lost to a heel finish. Jason Jordan & Chad Gable beat Sawyer Fulton & Alexander Wolfe with the double team back suplex finisher. Dylan Miley pinned Patrick Clark in a squash, using a diving head-butt off the top rope as his finisher. Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley beat The Vaudevillains. Bayley pinned Aliyah in a good match with the Bayley-to-Belly. The former Levis Valenzuela came out to new music with the new name No Way Jose. He still used a knockout punch to beat Manny Andrade. Enzo & Cass & Apollo Crews beat Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder & Baron Corbin in the main event using the rocket launcher
On 3/25 in Venice, FL, they opened with Josh Woods over Alexander Wolfe in a basic match. King Constantine, the 6-foot-9 former amateur wrestler, beat Blake in a comedy match. Constantine no-sold almost everything. Alexa Bliss has been used less-and-less with Blake & Murphy and wasn’t used here. Constantine used a choke slam into a backbreaker for the pin. Patrick Clark teamed with tall former basketball player Dallas Harper to beat twin 300 pound brothers Gabriel and Uriel Ealy. Alex Riley got a rare win, working as a face now, beating Elias Samson. Not much to this match. Carmella beat Emma. Said to be okay. Apollo Crews beat Riddick Moss in a match where Moss was mostly stalling and yelling at the crowd. Crews won with a power bomb. Asuka beat Billie Kay with the Asuka lock. Asuka was great here. Balor & Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder beat Vaudevillains & Tye Dillinger. Real good main event
The 3/26 show in Orlando drew 350 fans with the theme of newcomers getting title shots. Asuka & Aliyah beat Kay & Daria when Asuka beat Daria with the Asuka lock. ZZ made his WWE debut beating Christopher Girard with a roll-up. Bayley did a promo and said that since this is the final show before Dallas, she wants to give someone new a title opportunity. This led to Bayley beating Mandy Rose (Amanda from Tough Enough) with the Bayley-to-Belly. It was kept very simple. Andrade pinned Dillinger in a great match with running knees in the corner. Jordan & Gable beat Blake & Murphy with the double team German suplex. Dawson & Wilder came out and said they wanted to give a new team a title shot. Blake & Murphy came out but Dawson & Wilder blew them off. Jordan & Gable came out and they blew them off as well. They said they wanted to face a team that would rival the Road Warriors, and called out Patrick Clark & Kenneth Crawford. The match was mostly comedy. They pinned Crawford to win, then beat down Clark until Jordan & Gable made the save. Main event saw Balor pin Moss with the Bloody Sunday DDT. Joe attacked Balor after the match. Was told match quality aside from Andrade and Jordan & Gable was average to really bad, particularly ZZ was very bad in his debut and both women’s matches were not good because the good wrestlers were working with people very green
The Reigns tour opened on 3/25 in Madison Square Garden before 13,500. On 3/26 in Richmond, VA, they drew 6,300. 3/27 in Washington, DC drew 6,500. The tour headed by Show & Kane opened on 3/26 in Trenton and drew 3,300
Richmond was a similar show to Madison Square Garden. Styles pinned Breeze with the forearm. Rawley & Ryder beat The Ascension with the Hype Ryder. Rawley is from Alexandria, VA, about 90 minutes away, and got a big reaction. Miz beat Swagger with an eye poke and skull crushing finale. Banks & Lynch beat Naomi & Tamina with the Banks statement and disarmer double submission finish. Crowd was into this match, Lynch the most over. The New Day, being Woods & Kingston, won the three-way tag title match over Usos and Dudleys when one of the Usos hit the top rope splash on Devon and Kingston stole the pin. Charlotte beat Natalya in a non-title match. Ric Flair worked the weekend and Natalya slapped Ric and Charlotte used a roll-up for the pin. Big reaction to Natalya, especially after the match. Zayn beat Owens via DQ in an IC title match in 10:00. This was their first main roster singles match. Best match on the show. They did the Ambrose style match where Owens got the cheap DQ for refusing to stop kicking Zayn with the ref counting five. Owens attacked Zayn after, went for the power bomb, but Zayn escaped, hit a dropkick and the Helluva kick. The match was advertised as Owens vs. Ambrose in a street fight. Main was Reigns & Ambrose beating Sheamus & Barrett. Crowd was completely behind Reigns here. Reigns ducked the bull hammer and pinned Barrett after a spear
Washington, DC, had Goldust pinning Rose with a sunset flip. The Social Outcasts attacked Goldust after and R-Truth made the save. Lynch & Banks beat Naomi & Tamina with the double submission finish in a match where Natalya worked as referee. Kalisto pinned Rusev in the same U.S. title match they did all weekend, with the same angle leading to Ryback pinning Sin Cara. New Day, being E & Kingston, won over Dudleys and Usos when Kingston pinned Devon. Show & Kane beat Wyatt & Rowan in the same match, with the same double choke slam on Strowman finish at the end. Miz pinned Swagger after the skull crushing finale. Owens retained the IC title in a three-way over Zayn and Styles. Styles used the springboard forearm to take out Zayn. Owens then threw Styles out of the ring and pinned Zayn. The match was said to be the best one on the show, but shorter than expected compared to other matches. Reigns & Ambrose beat Sheamus & Barrett once again when Reigns pinned Barrett after a spear. Reigns got the loudest reaction, but it was mixed
The other tour, which only ran Trenton, was really weak as far as star power went. Sin Cara pinned Stardust. Strowman beat Henry with the standing head-and-arm choke. Not much to this one. Goldust pinned Dallas. The other three Social Outcasts joined Dallas in beating down Goldust until R-Truth made the save. They cleaned house and then R-Truth asked the fans if they should become a team. The crowd was very loud for that. He than asked what the team should be called and fans chanted “Golden Truth.” R-Truth and Goldust then danced together. Kalisto pinned Rusev to keep the U.S. title. Lana sang a song to Rusev before the match. Kalisto got a big reaction. They did the same exposed turnbuckle and Salida del Sol finish they’ve been doing. This match got the most reaction of the night. Fox pinned Summer Rae with a surprise roll-up in a match that took less time than the ring entrances. Ryback pinned Fandango. Ryback worked as both the face and the heel in this match, dominating like a bully heel but still doing face spots. He won with the shell shock. Show & Kane beat Wyatt & Rowan in the main event. Average match with the crowd mostly silent except when Show would work as a cheerleader to get the crowd going. Show pinned Rowan after a choke slam. Strowman hit the ring to attack Kane and Show, but they beat him down and gave him a double choke slam.