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August 7, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: WWE second quarter earnings, UFC 214, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 August 7, 2017

 

UFC 214 POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 174 (100.0%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 0 (00.0%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier 57

Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone 50

Brian Ortega vs. Renato Moicano 46

Alexandra Albu vs. Kailin Curran 11

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia 157

Cris Cyborg vs. Tonya Evinger 11

 

NEW JAPAN G-1 IN NAGOYA

Thumbs up 64 (98.5%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 1 (01.5%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito 56

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Tonga & Yujiro vs. Suzuki & Taichi 16

Kojima & Tenzan vs. Owens & Omega 9

Togi Makabe vs. Yuji Nagata 9

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 8/1

 

We’ll have the complete WWE business rundown in next week’s issue but the second quarter saw the company set a record for revenue with $214,586,000 and finish the quarter with $5,085,000 in profits.

The same WrestleMania quarter last year did $198,994,000 in revenue and $862,000 in profits.

The profit couldn’t cover the dividend of $9,174,500.

Wall Street didn’t react strongly either way to the news, as at press time the company stock price was at $21.05 per share, giving the company a $1.61 billion market value, roughly the same level it’s been at for months.

The company’s biggest growth and profit center is television rights fees, which accounted for $31,824,000 in profits this quarter while the network segment, which includes PPV, accounted for $2,997,000. House shows, which included everything associated with WrestleMania week, were $21,606,000. The network had actually lost $5,656,000 during the second quarter of last year and house show profits as well as merchandise profits were higher last year due to WrestleMania being in a larger stadium. Television profits for the second quarter of last year were $27,204,000.

Overall the company is healthy. The TV business continues to generate more money based on the last set of contracts. And that will continue through 2019, and predicting the television business as well as the landscape for sports and entertainment content even two years in advance right now is a fool’s game. It could be more valuable than ever, but if cable television falters, the situation could be different. There is no sign yet of the sports bubble bursting and people have been predicting the numbers can’t continue to increase for decades, but they always do. Still, the decline in television viewership among younger viewers is very real, and eventually that will take its toll.

Regarding the lead story last week and talks of rights fees coming from non-television sources that would help bid UFC and WWE rights fees up when contracts are due over the next two years, some quotes and an article in Bloomberg Businessweek were very much negative on that idea.

Most notably, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, said that they were not interested in that type of a relationship.

“The long-term goal is actually not to be paying for specific content like that, but doing a revenue share model,” he said to stock analysts in May.

Considering television advertising revenue doesn’t come close to covering sports rights fees these days, a revenue share based on the far lower advertising rates on the Internet isn’t going to come close to the type of deals WWE, UFC and other sports are used to getting.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings indicated they aren’t interested either.

“It is hard to transform sports through the Internet,” he said. “You carry it over the Internet, but it doesn’t add much value to the sports experience.”

The U.K., one of the WWE’s leading markets, is also interesting because the ratings decline there are far stronger than in the U.S.

The live airing of Raw, which starts at 1 a.m. late Monday there, but with DVR viewership, used to always top 100,000 viewers, and now is almost always less than 50,000. Week-to-week declines from two years during the same week have often been more than 60 percent according to figures in an article by Will Cooling in Fighting Spirit Magazine. The post-WrestleMania Raw this year, the biggest Raw of the year, was down 78 percent from the number in 2014. Sky’s final year of its contract, in 2019, will pay WWE $33 million for rapidly declining numbers.

However, the positive for WWE is the war between Sky and BT Sports for key properties. Even with its declines, WWE is a Sky institution, dating back to the 80s, and would be a coup for BT to land. But with Sky losing subscribers and revenue, the lower ratings, and the decline of the pound against the dollar, the question becomes what kind of money WWE can get from the U.K. market. But the reality is, WWE will get a deal in that market and with the competition, probably a good deal, and while $33 million is significant, the U.S. television market, paying about four times as much, is still the most important revenue stream going forward.

The big surprise was the WWE Network number. While the WrestleMania number of 1,661,000 paid subscribers, broken down as 1,237,000 in the United States and 424,000 outside the U.S., was considered a good sign, the number as of June 30 was not.

The number was 1,568,000 total subscribers, broken down as 1,158,000 in the U.S. and 410,000 outside the U.S. It is still up, but not by much, from last year, which on the same day had 1,511,000 total subscribers, which was 1,130,000 in the U.S. and 381,000 outside the U.S.

There were also 65,000 people who were getting free subscriptions on 6/30. The WWE network picked up 87,000 paid and 165,000 free subscribers on the day before and day of WrestleMania. The belief was that the free subscribers would become paid subscribers at a rate of 70 percent.

In actuality, over the last three months, the network picked up 598,000 new paid subscribers, a little less than the 625,000 during the second quarter last year, but the big difference is during the second quarter of last year, there were 471,000 people who canceled, while this year there were 604,000 people who canceled.

The idea of pushing the three free months before WrestleMania is to load up on free subscribers and then have big growth in the second quarter when most of them convert to paying. Last year it worked to a degree, as the net growth in quarter two was 154,000 subscribers. This year, with the high number of cancellations (and these are paid subscribers who canceled, free subscribers don’t factor into this), there was a net loss of 6,000. Last year’s third and fourth quarters both showed losses as well, as the rule of the network has been growth the first six months, declines over the next six, but overall year-to-year growth.

If that pattern repeats, and WWE in its guidance did predict a lower number on 9/30, the year-to-year number on that day could show little if any annual growth.

As far as the Mania season, and because of the nature of free subscribers converting, we use the growth period of 12/31 to 6/1, the 2016 growth with the push of WrestleMania free was 294,000 net new subscribers. This year, pushing three free months, the net gain was 165,000.

Last year’s last half of the year decline was 108,000. So the key would be to keep this year’s decline number at around the same level, or improve on it, which would change the trend over the last three months. If the difference is like the last quarter, there would be a year-to-year-decline by December which would not look good.

WWE is doing major cost cutting right now in an attempt to increase the profit margin over the next six months. Expenses in many facets have been cut. Most aren’t noticeable to the public. The keys are cutting way back in expenses on WWE Network programming, in particular new content. There are less new original series’ being planned, The Edge & Christian show isn’t being renewed and Talking Smack was cut back from weekly to only after PPV shows. An R-Truth game show that was planned for this year has been canceled. Lots of travel expenses have been cut back. The other noticeable change is the elimination of pyro, with the feeling it was a significant cost that doesn’t really make a big difference in adding revenue.

Live attendance in North America stayed relatively equal, which is a good sign since they are doing more shows. Technically it’s down, but if you factor out that WrestleMania was in a smaller stadium this year, it’s pretty much even. Factoring out WrestleMania, the North American events averaged 5,500 paid per show out of 65 shows. Last year the average was 5,400 in 61 shows.

The growth is that the Tuesday night Smackdown tapings are drawing better, and with more PPV shows, that also helps the average. That offsets the decline in average attendance at the regular house shows.

Based on information released, the actual attendance for WrestleMania in Orlando on 4/2 was 64,900 paid. The most it could have been was 71,819 and the least it could have been was 58,491.

Actual PPV revenue hasn’t declined much, as last year for the WrestleMania quarter it was $5.9 million and this year it is $5.8 million, but that’s also with one more PPV show in the quarter.


In the entertainment business, you could go from cold to hot with almost the snap of the fingers.

UFC, since Ronda Rousey’s loss to Amanda Nunes, has been ice cold. TV ratings are mostly down. PPV numbers collapsed. Only a few weeks ago, the International Fight Week was a disaster, with what is traditionally one of the biggest PPVs of the year having one main event after another fall apart and the show ended up doing only 130,000 buys on PPV.

But it was simply an illusion. UFC was hardly down for the count, it was just that people are picking and choosing their PPV shows to buy nowadays.

The last few weeks were about trying to rebuild Jon Jones, the fighter on the roster with the most ability and seemingly the most potential to at least come close to fill the open spot on the roster as the strong No. 2 draw that was seemingly vacated by Rousey.

On the plus side, the company set the stage in portraying Jones, arguably the best fighter in the sport’s history, as someone whose legacy will be viewed one of a few ways. Either he will become a waste of enormous potential and someone who let fame go to his head and destroy his career, or someone who will become remembered as one of, if not, the greatest fighter of his generation.

On the flip side was his biggest rival, Daniel Cormier, the UFC light heavyweight champion who was defending against Jones in the main event of UFC 214 on 7/29 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Cormier was aging, and really, this fight was even bigger for him, because Jones has years to make his mark and this may have been Cormier’s last chance to do the one thing he’s never been able to do–truly be the best at the sport he was in. Cormier has been a world class athlete for 22 years, starting when, at the age of 16, he placed third in the world Greco-Roman wrestling championships in his age group. He was among the best in the world at two different sports. Ten years ago, he placed third in the world championships in freestyle wrestling, but his hopes to medal in the 2008 Olympics fell short. As the team captain and a genuine medal contender, his kidneys picked the wrong time to give out. Or perhaps his discipline. Walking around at 248 when the weight class was 211.5 led to his body turning on him the day before he was to start Olympic competition due to the attempted weight cut. In MMA, given his wins over Alexander Gustafsson and two wins over Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, he was very clearly one of the two best fighters in the world in the light heavyweight division.

He won plenty of big ones, three state titles in high school, two junior college national titles, six senior national titles, won major world class tournaments in both wrestling and MMA and was even the Real Pro Wrestling champion, and finally, even won the UFC light heavyweight title. But there was always somebody better than him and he never won the truly big one. He never could beat Cael Sanderson in wrestling. He never could beat Aleriza Heidan on the world stage. He never won the world championship. The best he came in the World Cup was second. He was fourth in the 2004 Olympics. And he was an undefeated MMA fighter, among the best in the world in two weight divisions, and he even won a world championship.

But he fell short against Jon Jones, the only person who had ever beaten him in MMA. In the first fight, it became an emotional battle. The grudge aspect got to him and he made a lot of mistakes. He thought he was ready for a rematch, but injuries to him, injuries to Jones, and a couple of suspensions delayed that fight until 7/29 in Anaheim.

When Jones was out of action, he won the world championship. In a sense, he was actually maligned for it, people didn’t like him taking credit for being the champion that he hadn’t earned, because they viewed Jones, and rightly so, as the real best in the world. Had Jones lost to Cormier, he had time on his side to get another chance. For Cormier, a loss here could very well be the end, not of his fight career, but would finish the book on his career sports story. Among the best in the world at two different sports and the biggest collegiate rival of arguably the greatest college wrestler of all-time, and the biggest pro rival of arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all-time. He was close enough to be almost the best. But he was never really the best.

The fight, in its own way, was epic. Immediately, it was clear that the so-called five inch height advantage and one foot reach advantage Jones had was misleading. Jones was every bit of seven inches taller. He was quicker and more versatile. He landed punches and kicks from every direction and every angle from the start, and it at first looked like it would be humiliation for Cormier. Then Cormier knocked Jones’ mouthpiece right out of his mouth. Jones’ strategy was clear, kick the body to try and take away Cormier’s wind for later in the fight, and kick his knee, since Cormier’s knees are thrashed from decades of high level sports competition.

Then, perhaps Cormier realized he wasn’t hurt, and that Jones was tiring. He fired back, landing the best punches of the round. The round was close enough to be debatable. All three judges gave it to Jones, but many felt Cormier had won due to landing the more damaging strikes, and Jones only had a 34-31 edge in strikes landing in the round.

The second round opened the same as the first. Jones was too long, too fast, and attacked from too many angles. At first, it appeared the Cormier flurry at the end of the first round was a fluke. Then, after a Jones head-butt, Cormier was bleeding. So, like every pro wrestling babyface he saw growing up that was bleeding, he fired up, making motions that Jones’ punches and kicks had no effect and firing back with harder punches. Jones would hit Cormier, Cormier would act like it had no effect, fire back punches and the sweat would fly off Jones. Most had Cormier winning that round and it was even. More importantly, when the second round was over, it was clear this was a real fight.

Jones and his team had scouted a certain tendency. Cormier on occasion would lean to one side, making him a sitting duck for a high kick. They waited, and suddenly, Jones saw the spot they had been drilling, saying he had waited for three rounds for Cormier to dip his head. He then landed the high kick, and for all real purposes, the fight was over.

For Cormier, as bad as the first fight was, losing to someone he hated, that fight went the distance and he just couldn’t win. This fight, had he not made the one mistake, was heading to be a dog fight. Jones and Cormier both had one real dog fight, each with Alexander Gustafsson. Both had won. It was clear at the end of the rounds, when Jones had gotten tired, that Cormier could hurt him, which he never could do in the first fight.

But there was finality in the win.

Jones, when it was over, did a complete 180. After spending years taunting Cormier, he praised him, saying that he aspired to be the person Cormier is, the role model, the captain, and the person who pushed him to be at his best. And then he made a comment about Brock Lesnar and wanting a fight.

“Listen, if you want to find out what it’s like to get your ass kicked by a guy who weighs 40 pounds less than you, meet me here.”

Lesnar responded, “Be careful what you wish for, young man.”

Jones’ real weight before cutting was 215 for the Cormier fight, and he’s usually fought at 215-220. He’d probably fight at closer to 230 against Lesnar, who usually cuts from between 277 and 280 to make the 265 limit.

When it was over, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d seen it all before. It was in Newark, NJ, at the Prudential Center, all the way on the other side of the country. Jon Jones was 23 at the time. He had just dominated Mauricio Shogun Rua to become the youngest champion in UFC history. As the story went, hours before the fight, he was meditating at a park in Paterson, NJ, and saw a man steal the purse of an older woman. He sprinted down, tackled the guy and retrieved the purse.

He was targeted as the man who would replace Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre as the best fighter in the sport. And he was that.

The Jones that night was engaging, funny, went on a few talk shows and was charming. He wasn’t a blowhard like Conor McGregor, but not everyone has to be.

I also remember being told very quickly by people in the UFC who were far more mixed about this turn of events, that despite how he came across, Jones had some bad friends and serious demons, and now that he will have money and success, he could go one of two ways, and it probably would be the wrong one. Those words were prophetic.

In time, Jones showed, between DUIs, hit-and-runs, car wrecks, drug test failures, arrogant faking rehab stints while in the public eye, that as funny and charming as he could be, he was in many ways living a lie, and in time, that became no secret.

Of course, he became bitter and felt the world was against him. That’s the natural reaction.

After the fight, Jones thanked those who stood behind him, and thanked those who didn’t, saying both motivated him to be a better person. He said he couldn’t promise it, that’s he’s a wildman, but that every day he would try.

Like when he was 23, and not 30, time will prove if this was just another facade, or it will prove that the redemption story that the public wanted to see could actually be real.

Either way, Jones scored the most important win of his career, and handled it perfectly. He, at least today, is the star that UFC wanted him to be. If he fights Lesnar, and that’s not going to happen for a long time, but most likely will happen at some point, it could be the biggest PPV in company history.

Jones explained the fight, saying his team felt it was a winnable fight and the chance to make the most money possible. When the idea of facing Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title was brought up, Jones nixed that, nearly admitting that he couldn’t beat Miocic, saying Miocic is on a roll and the fight wouldn’t have the same appeal. He talked about wanting to expand UFC’s audience, and that a fight with Lesnar would do so.

It’s a smart strategy. In some ways, there are a lot of similarities between Jones and Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather was a prodigy in boxing who won his first world championship at 21. But as great as he was, he was doing 300,000 to 350,000 buy fights until the age of 30, when he had his fight with Oscar de la Hoya. It was the right opponent, the right dynamic, and the best promoted fight of its era, and did 2.45 million buys, blowing away previous records by about 450,000. From that point on, his star power was at a different level, and most of his fights were doing 1 million or so buys, and he topped 2 million for Canelo Alvarez did 4.6 million for Manny Pacquiao.

According to UFC officials, due to the combination of the drug test failure, and the retirement, it would be six months before Lesnar could fight again, putting that at mid-January. But with the WWE season being what it is, with the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania as the year’s two big shows, WWE would not allow him to fight during that period.

Those close to the situation at WWE said, “Brock is 100 percent at Mania. Not even a discussion any other way. 100 percent.”

Lesnar would need a minimum of a two month camp, which moves the earliest date possible to probably mid-June, and what would seem most likely is next year’s International Fight Week show in early July.

It should be noted that as of press time, there is no agreement in place for such a fight right now, but Jones and Lesnar both want it. It’s a great fight for Jones to expand his fan base and make the most money possible. For Lesnar, it’s a strong shot at the biggest payoff of his career, and he’ll be nearly 41 at the time so there’s not a lot of time left for those kind of payoffs. For UFC it makes sense. And with Lesnar’s WWE contract expiring in April, it means WWE would have no say-so in whether he could do it or not unless they signed him to a new deal. And if they do, it’s a lock he wouldn’t sign without the ability to do the fight, since he would make far more for this one fight (at 1.5 million buys, Lesnar would likely end up with close to $7.5 million to$8.5 million, or perhaps more given he has a lot of leverage in this situation), than a year in WWE. Barring an injury and something unforeseen, the fight is expected to happen by both sides.

The question for Jones is what to do next. UFC would almost certainly want to make Jones vs. Gustafsson or Jones vs. Rumble Johnson next. Both fights have some risk. Gustafsson gave Jones the toughest fight of his career and is a better fighter now than he was then. But Jones also took beating Gustafsson for granted, partied hard before the fight and didn’t train hard. It was one of his wake-up calls, and he was good enough to survive it and still win. Still, it was viewed as the greatest light heavyweight championship fight in UFC history, and it’s been four years and the time is right for a rematch.

Johnson went from insisting he would never fight again, to watching the Cormier fight and thinking that if he had landed the shots on Jones that Cormier did, that Jones would have been knocked out. On 7/31, on the MMA Hour, he said that the right offer could get him back. While Jones is the better fighter, particularly under adversity as Johnson is a clear frontrunner as a fighter, which is why he lost both fights, particularly the second one, to Cormier, Johnson is also the most dangerous fighter in the world early because of his knockout power.

So for Jones, the question is does he sit out another year and wait for the biggest money fight, and be yet another champion putting the rest of the division on ice, or does he defend the title, and perhaps risk the Lesnar fight, although that fight would draw even if Jones was coming off a loss.

Should Jones win a fight with Lesnar, and he’d be favored to do so, that would be his de la Hoya win. He’d be bigger than ever, as a star, and have more money than ever.

Of course that same thing happened when he was 23, and that wasn’t a good thing.

UFC 214 was easily the company’s biggest show of the year, and best PPV show of the year. The show had four great fights, a Fight Pass fight with Alexandra Albu beat Kailin Curran, the fight of the night winner where Brian Ortega came from behind with a third round submission win over Renato Moicano, the Jones vs. Cormier main event, and what everyone expected to be a great fight, and delivered, where Robbie Lawler won a close decision over Donald Cerrone.

It also had one of the worst fights of the year where Tyron Woodley retained the welterweight title over Demian Maia. Woodley spent five rounds largely defending takedowns. Officially, it was listed that Maia went 0-for-21 on his takedowns. Woodley did enough on offense with limited striking to win the decision. He later revealed he suffered a torn labrum and was hoping not to need surgery.

The crowd hated the fight. Dana White at the press conference said that Woodley would no longer face Georges St-Pierre next, and that Michael Bisping would instead face St-Pierre. White claimed he made that decision late in the fight because of how badly the crowd turned on Woodley. Sources close to the situation insist that St-Pierre vs. Bisping for the middleweight title was going to happen on 11/4 in Madison Square Garden all along, but for whatever reason, White had said that the Woodley vs. Maia winner would face GSP, and that Bisping would face Robert Whittaker, the interim champion who just beat Yoel Romero.

After the show, White said that people don’t want to see Woodley fight and that Bisping at least goes out to fight. He said that Whittaker has a knee injury, so the plan is Bisping vs. St-Pierre, with Whittaker getting at the winner.

He ripped on Woodley’s performance, saying Maia had one eye nearly shut early on and he should have tried to finish him rather than be content in out pointing him while the crowd hated the fight.

The level of crowd hatred of the fight was as vehement as any. The crowd booed both men heavily, more as it went on. At one point they did a wave because they were paying no attention to the fight. At another point, the crowd started lighting up their cell phones like for a Bray Wyatt entrance.

The reality is this. If the goal of fighting is to be a champion and win with the least amount of risk and punishment, than Woodley fought a great fight. In theory, that is the best strategy for longevity, as well as for success as far as playing the percentage game as champion.

But unless you’re someone with super charisma, and Woodley is far from that person, that strategy also means people aren’t going to want to watch you fight. And ultimately, the paycheck depends on fans wanting to see your fights, not your win-loss record. It was Woodley’s second straight stinker, which didn’t help matters.

White ripped on him badly, and while he was expressing the opinion of the audience, he’s still a promoter, Woodley is still a champion, and that means White has to promote his matches to the public, and ripping on him the level which he did was counterproductive.

Woodley then said he was demanding an apology or he would leak some secrets of White. Then, the next day, after some private conversations, Woodley said everything was fine, that they had agreed to disagree, he shouldn’t have said he would leak something, but he did think he deserved an apology but didn’t expect to get it.

White indicated that Lawler, having beaten Cerrone, deserved the next shot. Woodley was trying to get St-Pierre, trying to make the claim that if St-Pierre doesn’t fight him, then St-Pierre is abdicating his crown as the greatest welterweight of all-time to him. I’m not sure anyone else agreed with that.

Woodley, who is likely out of action for months due to his injury, also made it clear he doesn’t think Lawler deserves a shot.

“Why do I fight Lawler?” he said on the MMA Hour. “What has he done in the last year besides crawl up in a ball and hide? That’s what Ronda Rousey did. He didn’t do that when he knocked out everybody else. I didn’t do that when I got knocked out. I came back. I shook myself off. I got myself back up. I just don’t feel like someone’s that’s taken a year off, as much as I know Dana loves Robbie and the fans love Robbie, I love Robbie, Robbie’s a dope fighter, we were friends before that fight. I feel that we haven’t really communicated since then, but I don’t feel as if a fighter who I knocked out in 46 seconds takes a year off, comes back and wins a fight kinda close, and jumps right back into the title picture. So, there’s no clear contenders right now.”

Lawler, when asked if he wanted a title shot, since he’s the likely contender, downplayed it, saying that he needed to improve more before thinking about a title fight.

Lawler vs. Cerrone had some controversy. The judges scored it 29-28 across the board, with Lawler taking rounds one and three. It was a clear consensus that Lawler won the first, and Cerrone won the second round stronger, and the third was the swing round.

Cerrone outlanded Lawler 38-31 in the third. However, 71 percent of reporters had Lawler winning the fight. But the live crowd was shocked when Lawler was announced the winner, and booed it vociferously.

Cris Cyborg, after years of waiting, finally became the UFC’s women’s featherweight champion with a third round stoppage of an overmatched Tonya Evinger. Evinger, who usually fights at 135, and wasn’t even in the UFC at that weight, even though she’s been around the sport forever. She hung in tough, but was clearly overmatched. She was much smaller, and also in bulking up, looked out of shape at the new weight. There’s no denying Cyborg is a great fighter, but she has no opponents. Dana White was talking about matching her up next with Holly Holm. Cyborg vs. Holm is probably the biggest woman’s money fight that could be done, but it’s still another bantamweight moving up a division to face someone who will be much heavier in the cage.

California did work hard to rectify this issue. All fighters were told that if they weighed more than ten percent above their weigh-in weight in the cage, that they would be mandated to move to the next weight class. So Cyborg did have a limit of 159.5 pounds that he could gain back to if she wanted to continue fighting at 145, and she made the second weight.

Only one fighter went into the cage substantially larger than their opponent, Drew Dober, in the opener, was 183 pounds, after weighing in at 155. His opponent, Josh Burkman was 170 or less. Dober was told he needed to move up to a new weight class, but that’s not a hard and fast rule as he can get doctor’s permission, which isn’t that hard, to say he can cut in a healthy manner and make 155, then he can petition to stay there.

From a business standpoint, the question is how did the show do. Predictions going in ranged from 500,000 to 700,000 buys. Dana White, after the show, claimed it was tracking to do 1 million buys, but he’s said stuff like that before which didn’t end up being accurate.

At this point, it’s too early to get an accurate number but the first signs were very strong. Based on the usual correlation of Internet buys, a number UFC has right away, the prediction was more than 900,000. But that figure isn’t as accurate a predictor as you would think. It depends on the fighter and the fight. Someone like Conor McGregor, who draws from one type of audience, his final numbers are usually 20 percent or more lower than Internet buys would predict them, while Ronda Rousey’s numbers were usually more accurate, which makes sense as she drew more from a casual audience that would watch on TV and be viewed by groups of people rather than a single individual who would be more likely to stream a show.

But the early cable indicators are that the show should be well above most predictions, there is not enough info to predict a number at this point. There were 2.8 million searches on Google related to UFC 214, by far the most for any subject in the U.S. over the weekend, and more than five times what the shows this year have been getting.

The TV ratings aren’t a good predictor as the prelims aired on FXX, an unfamiliar station that has never aired UFC before. The show did 886,000 viewers, only the third biggest of the year, and peaked at 1,072,000 viewers for the Aljamain Sterling vs. Renan Barao fight.

That number was 67 percent above what FXX did in the same time slot last year. It was the most-watched television show of 2017 in FXX in the overall 25-54 demo, as well as in males 18-49 and males 25-54, and second most watched show of the year on the station overall. Also, other than replays of The Simpsons, it was the most-watched weekend show in the male 18-34 demo in the history of the station. The audience was 77.2 percent male in 18-49, which is a higher skew than usual for UFC which is usually 67 to 73 percent.

The prefight show did 307,000 viewers on FXX. The postfight show did 267,000 viewers on FS 1.

The weigh-ins on FS 1 did 245,000 viewers, the fifth highest in the history of FS 1. In addition, a 10 p.m. replay of the weigh-ins did another 142,000 viewers on FS 1.

The show drew a sellout to the Honda Center of 16,610 fans and a gate of $2,448,870.

1. Drew Dober (18-8, 1 no contest) beat Joshua Burkman (28-16, 1 no contest) in 3:04 of a lightweight fight. Dober went for takedowns early and Burkman defended well and landed leg kicks, but Dober connected on a left hook which knocked Burkman out. Dober got $44,000 for the win and Burkman got $54,000 for the loss.

2. Jarred Brooks (13-0) beat Eric Shelton (10-4) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a flyweight fight. Brooks took him down and held him there in the first round, and worked for a guillotine. Shelton got back up but Brooks took him down again and got his back, and was working for a guillotine when the round ended. The second round started dull as Brooks couldn’t get the takedown. Shelton got a takedown but Brooks went for a guillotine. Shelton landed some punches but Brooks took him down. This round was close and ended up deciding it. Shelton won the third round, dropping Brooks at the start of the round with a right. Brooks was dancing away. Fans were booing Brooks. Shelton went for a jumping knee but Brooks took him down off it. Shelton went for a guillotine late. Brooks got $24,000 for the win and Shelton got $10,000 for the loss.

3. Alexandra Albu (7-0) beat Kailin Curran (4-5) on straight 29-28 scores in a women’s strawweight fight. The crowd loved this fight, and Curran in particular. It was clear Albu was the better fighter but Curran fought tough, stayed in it and won the third round. Even though Albu clearly won the fight, the crowd booed the decision because they were so into Curran. The problem is that as good as this fight was, and as much as Curran was over to the crowd, she’s also now 1-5 in her UFC career. Curran got a takedown and landed hard punches on the ground. Albu got up and landed good punches. Curran tried another takedown, but Albu landed on top. Albu used a headlock for another takedown and dropped punches and elbows on the ground. Curran used an ankle pick to get back up. Both got a lot of cheers at the end of the round. Both started landing in the second round and the crowd reacted to every punch. Albu got a takedown. Curran kicked her off and started punching. Albu took her down again. Curran landed an illegal up kick that bloodied Albu’s nose. They traded punches. More trading in the third round with loud “USA” chants since Albu is Russian. Albu landed hard shots and Curran took her down. Curran got side control and landed punches from the top. The crowd was going crazy at the end. Albu took her down and landed punches. Curran then took Albu down and landed punches to end the fight. Albu got $20,000 for the win and Curran got $20,000 for the loss. On most shows, they’d have gotten the best fight bonus.

4. Calvin Kattar (17-2) beat Andre Fili (16-5) on straight 30-27 scores in a featherweight fight. Kattar, who took the fight late, made a very impressive debut. Fili landed more early but Kattar won the round with a late takedown and hard punches on the ground. Fili again was landing in the second round but Kattar started landing overhand rights and hurt Fili late in the round. Kattar also landed more in the third round and also got a takedown. Kattar got $24,000 for the win and Fili got $24,000 for the loss.

5. Brian Ortega (12-0) beat Renato Moicano (11-1-1) at 2:59 of the third round in a featherweight fight. Ortega, from Los Angeles, got a huge reaction and was the big favorite here. Both traded big punches the entire first round. Moicano came on stronger later but it was a close round that Ortega probably won. Moicano did better it the second round, and started to take over, but Ortega came back. Both landed big shots and Moicano got a late takedown. It was probably even going into the third round. Moicano was landing all kinds of punches. Ortega faked a takedown attempt and landed a head kick. Both were landing big punches. Moicano took him down again but Ortega immediately clamped on a guillotine for the submission. This was Ortega’s fourth straight third round win, and all four of the fights he was in danger of losing when he got the finish. Both fighters came across as people to watch. Ortega got $102,000 for the win with his best fight bonus. Moicano got $73,000 for the loss with his best fight bonus.

6. Aljamain Sterling (14-2) beat Renan Barao (36-5, 1 no contest) on scores of 29-28, 29-27 and 30-26 in a 140 pound catch weight fight. This was supposed to be at bantamweight, but because Barao had issues making that weight before in California, the commission mandated this be fought at 140. Sterling threw a kick and Barao took him down. Barao was on top but not a lot was happening. Sterling went for some submissions from the bottom and Barao landed short shots from the top. Sterling looked at ref Herb Dean like he wanted a standup, which is a bad idea, because if a ref sees you asking for a standup, he’s unlikely to stand you up. Barao took him down to start the second round but Sterling got up and started landing. Sterling took Barao down and got his back. He went for a kneebar. The crowd booed this after the three previous hot fights. Sterling dominated on the ground. Barao went for an armbar but Sterling defended. Sterling landed knees to the body and landed a lot of punches as the round ended. I had this as a 10-8 round for Sterling, as did two of the judges. In the third round, Sterling got the better of the standup. Barao took him down and got his back, but it was too late to win the round. Sterling got $66,000 for the win and Barao got $53,000 for the loss.

7. Ricardo Lamas (18-5) beat Jason Knight (20-3) at 4:34 in a featherweight fight. This was supposed to be the best to see how good Knight is, since he had looked great against lesser opponents. What we learned is that he can take a shot like nobody’s business, but he made a mistake and Lamas took advantage of it. Lamas got a takedown and was on top in side control. Lamas landed punches on the ground. When Knight got up, Lamas saw the opening and started landing big punches. Knight was taking hard shots and didn’t go down, went for a desperation takedown, but he had nothing left. Lamas landed big shots and finally Knight went down and it was stopped. Lamas got $106,000 for the win and Knight got $31,000 for the loss.

8. Volkan Oezdemir (15-1) beat Jimi Manuwa (17-3) in :42 in a light heavyweight fight. Oezdemir came out fast with punches and a big left dropped him, and he was knocked out cold with punches on the ground. Oezdemir got $160,000 for the win, including a $50,000 performance bonus. Manuwa got $120,000 for the loss.

9. Robbie Lawler (28-11, 1 no contest) beat Donald Cerrone (32-9, 1 no contest) by straight 29-28 scores in a welterweight fight. The crowd was more into this fight than anything but the main event, particularly Cerrone who got a superstar reaction. Before the show in the building, this was the fight people were buzzing about. As usual, Cerrone started slow and Lawler was taking him apart. They went back-and-forth but Lawler, who was noticeably bigger, landed punches and elbows from close range. They also traded a lot of knees. Cerrone then got a takedown and landed body and head shots on the ground. He moved to side control but Lawler got back up. Cerrone landed a punch and a good head kick and Lawler didn’t go down. Cerrone made it close, but it was Lawler’s round. In the second round, Cerrone was landing punches and head kicks early. They went back-and-forth but it was clearly Cerrone’s round. It came down to the third round. Both were active in landing punches and kicks. Cerrone landed more but Lawler got two good head kicks in late. The crowd gave both men a big standing ovation when it was over. Cerrone, after losing, left with a big smile on his face saying that he loved being in this fight. Lawler got $300,000 for the win and Cerrone got $155,000 for the loss.

10. Cris Cyborg Justino (18-1, 1 no contest) beat Tonya Evinger (19-6, 1 no contest) at 1:56 of the third round to win the vacant women’s featherweight title. In the ring introductions, they billed Justino as a former Strikeforce champion, but not a former Invicta champion. They also didn’t mention Evinger being the Invicta bantamweight champion. Justino hurt her with punches right away. Evinger tried a takedown but Justino landed on top and let her back up. Evinger actually got a momentary takedown off a kick, but it was mostly Justino landing punches, kicks and knees and I had it a 10-8 round. Justino controlled the second round as well as Evinger couldn’t do much but survive. In the third round, Justino hurt her with a right, put her down with a punch. When she got up, Justino used a spin kick and landed knees until it was stopped. Justino got $200,000 for the win and Evinger got $100,000 for the loss. Basically, it took $100,000 guarantee, way more money than anyone in their first UFC fight would usually get, title or not, to get Justino a non-UFC opponent for this fight.

11. Tyron Woodley (18-3) beat Demian Maia (25-7) on scores of 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46 to retain the welterweight title. Maia went for a ton of takedowns in the first round. Woodley caught him with a punch and Maia’s left eye swelled up badly. Woodley twice grabbed the cage, and once it made a difference in the takedown and he got warned. Maia tripped Woodley down but Woodley got right up. Woodley landed more punches. The crowd started turning on the fight already. In the second round, Woodley dropped Maia with a right, although it may have been Maia just dropping trying to bait Woodley to jump on him on the ground. Woodley’s entire strategy was to avoid the ground, where Maia is one of the best, figuring that as long as it’s standing, his percentages of winning were very high. Woodley landed more punches and Maia failed on more takedowns. By the third round the booing got mad. They saw Woodley fighting the safe fight and felt he should take more chances. They mostly avoided action, but Woodley landed more and Maia failed on more takedowns. The fourth round was more of the same. They were booing like crazy in that one. In the fifth, Maia kept shooting for takedowns and Woodley kept defending them. The crowd starting using their phones to light up the place and were chanting “bullshit.” They were booing like crazy, as in rarely do you get a reaction like this. Woodley got $500,000 for the win and may have gotten a cut of the PPV as a champion, which would be substantial. Maia got $110,000 for the loss.

12. Jon Jones (23-1) beat Daniel Cormier (19-2) at 3:01 of the third round to win the UFC light heavyweight title. Both fighters had their fans but Jones was the more popular of the two at the start. Both also got some boos. Jones came out with punches and kicks. Cormier landed a right that knocked Jones’ mouthpiece out. Jones landed kicks to the knee and body and got a takedown momentarily but Cormier was back up. Jones was kicking the knee and body but Cormier came back with punches. Cormier landed a hard right that was the best punch of the round. In the second round, Jones used a front kick and a knee to the body. Jones did an eye poke and a head-butt. Cormier was bleeding from the side of the right eye. Cormier got fired up and started landing hard shots. He motioned that Jones couldn’t hurt him and waved him in, and landed good punches as the round ended. In the third round, Jones went back kicking the knee. Jones landed body shots while Cormier moved forward. Jones then caught him with a left high kick that was the key blow of the fight. Cormier was hurt and Jones landed a body kick that put Cormier down. Jones was like a shark with punches and elbows on the ground. John McCarthy gave Cormier every chance to recover before stopping it. Cormier was furious at the stoppage, but it was clearly the right call. He got really emotional in the cage which led to another controversy. After Joe Rogan interviewed Jones, he went to interview Cormier, saying that he doesn’t like to interview fighters after they’ve been knocked out. Cormier didn’t really know what to say, only that after Jones called him his greatest rival, Cormier said that if you go 0-2, it’s not a great rivalry. Jones got $550,000 for the win, which includes a performance bonus, as well as a PPV cut that will likely be worth anywhere from $1 million to $3 million. Cormier got $1 million in base pay plus his own likely similar PPV cut.


With the G-1 Climax tournament now two-thirds completed as far as the round-robin goes, there some key stories starting to play out.

The A block remains a close race as eight of the ten wrestlers are within two points of each other.

The B block is dominated by IWGP champion Kazuchika Okada, who has gone 6-0, and the person considered his leading rival, Kenny Omega, is 5-1. The two don’t meet until the 8/12 show at Sumo Hall, which many had pegged as the match that would decide who advances to the finals.

On the A block side, both favorites, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito, are 4-2, as are Tomohiro Ishii and Zack Sabre Jr.

Yuji Nagata in the A block and Satoshi Kojima, Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin, Tama Tonga and Toru Yano in the B block are mathematically eliminated. However, Elgin, with his win over Omega, could be in line for a U.S. title match.

Others in line for possible title matches in the fall and winter based on matches here are Kota Ibushi and Sabre Jr. with wins over IC champion Tanahashi, and Evil with a win over Never champion Minoru Suzuki.

Not including 8/2 in Fukuoka, which had a Kenny Omega vs Evil match that has been talked about as being one of the best in the tournament, there have been 23 **** or better matches.

Nagata, in his last G-1, even though he’s lost every match so far, has been one of the standouts with, at the age of 49, doing five **** or better matches out of six, making it inside the ring, his best G-1 of his career and at this stage of the game, one of the best of anyone in G-1 history. He probably won’t end up as MVP, because the top stars have the big matches on the last few nights that will stand out and he’s likely only in it for a spoiler win at best. Besides Nagata, the standouts have included Ishii, Ibushi, Omega, Okada and Elgin at the top of the list, and guys like Tanahashi, Naito, Sabre, and Sanada right with them.

Business is now up 19.6 percent from the same period last year, which is even more impressive because many of the shows last year sold out, and in those buildings, you can’t improve attendance on a sellout. The crowd heat in the smaller cities is also way up and the depth of good matches is the strongest it has ever been.

The standings going into the 8/4 show in Ehime were:

A BLOCK: 1. Tanahashi, Naito, Ishii and Sabre Jr., 4-2; 5. Bad Luck Fale, Togi Makabe, Hirooki Goto and Ibushi 3-3; 9. Yoshi-Hashi 2-4; 10. Nagata 0-6.

B BLOCK: 1. Okada 6-0; 2. Omega 5-1; 3. Evil, Suzuki and Seiya Sanada 4-2; 6. Elgin, Tonga and Yano 2-4; 9. Robinson 1-5; 10. Kojima 0-6.

Everyone on the roster is nursing their way through various injuries right now. This past week is usually the toughest one because the first few days you’re relatively unscathed, and the last few days you know the end is in sight and will have time to heal up, plus they are the big shows. It’s the middle shows that are often the hardest, but the quality has remained high.

Perhaps the biggest matches of the upcoming week are Tanahashi vs. Ishii on 8/6 in Hamamatsu and Omega vs. Sanada and Okada vs. Suzuki on 8/8 in Yokohama. However, Osaka historically, because of the crowd and because it’s the second biggest city in the country, often has the best overall show of the tour.

The schedule this week is:

8/4 in Ehime (A block) at 6 a.m. Eastern time: Elgin & Tiger Mask & Hirai Kawato vs. Suzuki & Taichi & Desperado; Yano & Jado vs. Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi; Kojima & Tenzan vs. Sanada & Bushi; Robinson & David Finlay vs. Omega & Chase Owens; Okada & Gedo vs. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi, Nagata vs. Ibushi; Ishii vs. Fale; Goto vs. Yoshi-Hashi; Naito vs. Sabre; Tanahashi vs. Makabe.

8/5 in Osaka at the Edion Arena (B Block) at 4 a.m. Eastern time: Katsuya Kitamura vs. Owens, Nagata & Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino vs. Sabre & Taichi & Desperado; Makabe & Tiger Mask & Kawato vs. Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi; Goto & Jado vs. Fale & Yujiro Takahashi; Tanahashi & Ibushi & Finlay vs. Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi & Gedo; Yano vs. Tonga; Kojima vs. Sanada; Suzuki vs. Elgin; Omega vs. Robinson; Okada vs. Evil.

8/6 in Hamamatsu (A Block) at 3 a.m Eastern time: Elgin & Kawato vs. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi; Kojima & Tenzan vs. Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi; Robinson & Finlay vs. Yano & Jado; Omega & Owens vs. Sanada & Bushi, Okada & Gedo vs. Suzuki & Desperado; Nagata vs. Sabre; Ibushi vs. Yoshi-Hashi; Goto vs. Fale; Naito vs. Makabe; Tanahashi vs. Ishii.

8/8 in Yokohama (B block) at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time: Oka vs. Owens; Nagata & Kitamura vs. Fale & Yujiro Takahashi; Makabe & Ibushi & Kawato vs. Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Gedo, Ishii & Jado vs. Sabre & Desperado; Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi & Finlay vs. Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi; Kojima vs. Tonga; Robinson vs. Yano; Elgin vs. Evil; Omega vs Sanada; Okada vs Suzuki.

Quick star ratings for the 7/26 show in Sendai. The Tomohiro Ishii win over Yoshi-Hashi I had at ***3/4; Zack Sabre Jr. over Bad Luck Fale at **½, Togi Makabe over Kota Ibushi at ****, Tetsuya Naito over Yuji Nagata at ****, and Hiroshi Tanahashi over Hirooki Goto at ***1/4.

 

JULY 27 - NAGAOKA AORE NAGAOKA ARENA (B BLOCK) - 2,821

 

1. Zack Sabre Jr. & Desperado beat Shota Umino & Ren Narita in 6:11 when Desperado pinned Narita.

2. Togi Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi beat Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato in 6:51 when Taguchi used the ankle lock submission on Kawato while Makabe and Nagata were going at it.

3. Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens beat Kota Ibushi & Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura in 7:14 when Owens pinned Oka after a package piledriver.

4. Tetsuya Naito & Bushi beat Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo in 6:22 when Bushi pinned Gedo.

5. Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi beat Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay in 7:18 when Goto pinned Finlay after a Goto Revolution (GTR).

6. Tama Tonga pinned Juice Robinson in 10:36. Tonga spent much of the match working on Robinson’s left knee. He used a Stinger splash to the left knee twice and a Tongan twist. Tonga also went for his gun stun finish and said “Bye, Bye Kissy Boy,” which may be in reference to the fact Robinson is so popular with women in Japan. They kept going for the gun stun and pulp fiction back-and-forth, and a good spot was Robinson went for his big punch, but Tonga turned it into a DDT. Tonga finally hit his gun stun for the pin. **3/4

7. Seiya Sanada beat Toru Yano via count out in 4:33. This match was super entertaining. Sanada jumped him before the match but Yano put his robe over Sanada’s face and schoolboyed him for a near fall. Yano undid the turnbuckle padding but Sanada got it and hit Yano with it. Sanada poured water all over Yano, but Yano got some in his mouth and spit it in Sanada’s face and got another great near fall. Yano went from under the ring and got the tape, but Sanada got it from him and threw the tape into the upper deck of the arena. Among everything else, the guy has a great arm. Yano was doing his RVD pose and Sanada tried to put the skull end on him from behind, but Yano cradled him again for a near fall. Yano got more tape and tried to tie Sanada’s boots together (playing off the Omega vs. Yano match). Sanada escaped and hit a plancha. They ended up fighting on the entrance ramp and Sanada put Yano in the paradise lock and used the tape to help tie him up. So Yano was in the hold, tied up and unable to move. Sanada then walked into the ring and the ref counted Yano out. As silly as this all reads, it fit with the Yano character, it was silly but done with the intent to win and the crowd loved it. Yano was still tied up on the ramp when Sanada left the ring and he just walked past him. Finally, the younger wrestlers cut the tape off and undid Yano being tied up. ***

8. Evil upset Minoru Suzuki in 8:38. They brawled in the crowd early. Once back in the ring, Desperado distracted the ref and Suzuki used a pen to the forehead. The problem with jabbing a pen into the forehead is the no blading policy. In a great spot, Evil went for the throat slash and Suzuki grabbed his thumb to do a thumb submission on him. There was a ref bump and interference by Desperado. Bushi attacked Desperado for the save and dropkicked him out of the ring. Taichi then came in and hit Evil with a chair. He jabbed it at the head so it wasn’t dangerous. Hiromu Takahashi did the next run in and flipped Taichi out of the ring with a huracanrana. Suzuki used the chair, but ref Red Shoes Unno took the chair from Suzuki. They did a series of reversals until Evil got out of the choke and hit the STO and got the clean pin. The match had great heat. Some wouldn’t like this with all the refs bumps and interference, but the crowd was into it big, and it’s not like the tournament was filled with matches like this, plus the upset finish made it big. ***½

9. Kazuchika Okada pinned Satoshi Kojima in 15:26. This was another example of how great Okada is. The crowd was behind Kojima. He’s the aging legend who hasn’t won a match and they hoped for the big upset. So Okada sensed this and played heel right away. Okada used a draping DDT on the floor and then attacked Hiroyoshi Tenzan at ringside, which basically gave Kojima the time to sell the move and Kojima barely beat the 20 count. Okada did the Savage elbow and went for the rainmaker. The crowd booed the rainmaker really hard. Kojima came back with moves like the Koji cutter off the middle rope and a brainbuster for near fall. Kojima got another great near fall with a left handed lariat. Okada did a super dropkick spot and there was a great finishing sequence, ending with Okada finally hitting the lariat for the pin. Very entertaining and super worked match. ****1/4

10. Michael Elgin pinned Kenny Omega in 24:39. This puts Elgin ahead 3-2 in their career series in New Japan. The difference between Okada and Omega as the top guy is that Okada works very hard, and does some risks, but Omega and Elgin were out to do anything they could think or with no regard to their own physical safety. I’d rate this as the best match of the tournament, although there were many you could categorize as the best. But this was slightly better than their Long Beach match (although they were close) and this was the only tournament match so far where five stars came into my head in the closing minutes. Omega did a springboard off the guard rail, but Elgin caught him and turned it into a belly-to-belly suplex on the floor. Omega came off the top and Elgin caught him with a spinning sidewalk slam. Omega did his snap dragon and Terminator dive as well as a missile dropkick to the back of the head. Elgin did his power moves and hard clotheslines. There was a great sequence where Elgin hit the buckle bomb, went for the buckle bomb, Omega escaped, went for the One Winged Angel, but Elgin escaped from that position with a reverse Frankensteiner which is just nuts at his size. Elgin got a near fall using the Splash Mountain (Bad Luck Fall). Omega used a V trigger on the apron and undid the mats. Omega tried a Frankensteiner off the apron but Elgin caught him and power bombed him on the apron. Elgin went for a Die Hard (Splash Mountain off the top rope) but Omega reversed in mid-air with a Frankensteiner off the top. Omega used a double-arm piledriver for a near fall. Omega also used a reverse Frankensteiner for a great near fall. Elgin then gave Omega two dangerous back suplexes, the kind they used to do in All Japan in the 90s that pretty much everyone stopped because of the neck damage. Omega landed pretty much on his head on the second one, but kicked out. Omega’s neck took some legit damage from that. Elgin then picked Omega up and pinned him with a burning hammer bomb. ****3/4

 

JULY 29 - NAGOYA AIICHI KEN GYM (A BLOCK)- 6,327

 

1. Seiya Sanada & Bushi beat Michael Elgin & David Finlay in 5:14 when Sanada beat Finlay via submission with the skull end.

2. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi beat Katsuya Kitamura & Hirai Kawato in 5:09 when Takahashi made Kawato submit to the Boston crab.

3. Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi beat Minoru Suzuki & Taichi in 5:24 when Takahashi pinned Taichi after Pimp Juice. Tonga and Suzuki did a post-match pull-apart.

4. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan beat Kenny Omega & Chase Owens in 7:25 when Kojima pinned Owens after a lariat.

5. Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi & Tomoyuki Oka beat Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano & Gedo in 8:25 when Yano pinned Oka after a schoolboy.

6. Togi Makabe pinned Yuji Nagata in 10:45. Nagata’s back at this point is all cupped up, which means it’s thrashed. The miracle of working all these great hard matches at 49 is hard to keep up for three weeks, although even being more careful here, he was really good. Nagata used a lot of hard kicks to the back and chest, as well as elbows from the mount. He got near falls with a brainbuster and back suplex. Nagata was also bleeding from the head, but not sure where that came from. Makabe did Rikidozan chops when Nagata was up for giving him a superplex. Makabe jumped off the ropes with a flying knee, hit a clothesline for a near fall and the King Kong kneedrop off the top rope. ***½

7. Bad Luck Fale pinned Kota Ibushi in 11:37. Fale gave the announcer a leg sweep and he went down hard. Fale worked over Ibushi’s right knee, wrapping it around the post and the ropes. He went for the grenade, but Ibushi did a standing backflip to escape. The story was that Ibushi kept going for the German suplex and finally was able to get it. Ibushi also did a moonsault block off the balcony of the upper deck. The crowd loved that. Fale barely beat the 20 count. The great thing about doing the two count out finishes so far is that now people are buying these near count outs even more. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a bad finish (although the Sanada-Yano count out was not a bad finish) for the long-term education aspect. Ibushi got a lot of near falls. He went for the last ride power bomb, but Fale was too big, overpowered him and hit the Samoan drop. Fale won with a splash, the grande and the Bad Luck fall. ***½

8. Hirooki Goto pinned Zack Sabre Jr. in 10:10. Goto, since he was winning, gave Sabre almost the entire match. It was a great submission clinic, with Goto in trouble almost the entire match, and very different from any other tournament match to date. Goto kicked out of both the Japanese and European clutch finishes. Goto came back to win with a clothesline, penalty kick (in tribute to Katsuyori Shibata, who he was best friends with dating back to high school) and won with the GTR (Goto Revolution) and pin. ***½

9. Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Yoshi-Hashi in 13:34. The good and bad of Tanahashi is that he sells well enough, he’s over enough and is smart enough from a psychology standpoint to always have a good-to-very good match even with one arm. But he’s going from the guy who for a few years was probably the best wrestler in the world, and still in the conversation last year, to a really smart worker who is over. Some of the change was inevitable at 40 and with all the mileage he has, but as this tournament goes on, it is clearly his weakest G-1 in recent memory and more and more I see signs of him being like Keiji Muto and Shinya Hashimoto where they kept pushing themselves through the injuries and in the long-term had to rely on their brains because they never allowed their bodies to fully recover. Tanahashi did a plancha and a skin-the-cat, with the bad arm. He used moves like an Indian deathlock and Texas cloverleaf to work over Yoshi-Hashi’s legs. Yoshi-Hashi did a shoulder breaker on the bad arm and double knees for a near fall. He went for a sling blade but Yoshi-Hashi gave him a superkick. Yoshi-Hashi did all his moves like the lariat, power bomb with a folding press, swanton and back stabber. Tanahashi won with the sling blade and high fly flow. ***3/4

10. Tomohiro Ishii pinned Tetsuya Naito in 20:40. Naito stalled early. The two traded hard chops. Naito also used a long crooked head scissors. It turned into one of the better matches so far. Naito spit in his face and Ishii fired up. Naito used a hangman’s neckbreaker off the middle rope and a German suplex for a near fall as well as a dragon suplex. They traded big moves. Ishii had a bloody mouth. Naito hit a Destino but Ishii kicked out. When he went for a second one, Ishii blocked and hit a sliding lariat. He tried a brainbuster, but Naito, while in mid-air, gave him a knee to the top of the head. Ishii used a lariat that spun Naito inside out, and followed with a brainbuster for the pin. ****½

 

JULY 30 - GIFU INDUSTRIAL HALL (B BLOCK) - 2,452 SELLOUT

 

1. Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens beat David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura & Tetsuhiro Yagi in 5:45 when Owens pinned Yagi after a package piledriver.

2. Zack Sabre Jr. & Desperado beat Togi Makabe & Shota Umino in 7:23 when Desperado pinned Umino. Sabre and Makabe brawled after the match to setup their singles bout.

4. Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi beat Yuji Nagata & Tomoyuki Oka in 7:04 when Yoshi-Hashi made Oka submit to the butterfly lock.

4. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi beat Kota Ibushi & Hirai Kawato in 8:55 when Taguchi used the ankle lock on Kawato. They did spots to set up Tanahashi vs. Ibushi.

5. Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi beat Hirooki Goto & Gedo in 8:24 when Takahashi used a triangle choke on Gedo.

6. Evil pinned Toru Yano in 1:33. Yano kicked Evil low, but before going down, Evil hit a desperation the STO and got the pin. Then Evil sold the low blow. ½*

7. Minoru Suzuki pinned Tama Tonga in 10:29. The first 6:45 or so was brawling in the stands. This really shows the difference in eras. In the 80s, this would be considered a fantastic brawl. It’s what Bruiser Brody and Abdullah the Butcher and The Sheik and Terry Funk would do. But they didn’t get the kind of fear or exhilaration and thrills the crowd would get with Brody and Abdullah. It’s just a different era and this fan expects wrestling moves in the ring rather than brawling on the floor. But this was different from every match in the tournament. They were out there for several minutes and the ref never started a count. Suzuki choked him with a chair and bounced a chair off his back. Tonga used the bell hammer. He hit Suzuki with it and then rang the bell. Tonga was on top outside the ring throwing punches like it was a street fight and Suzuki grabbed a heel hook. Tonga broke it with kicks. This turned into a great brawl. Finally, the ref got tired of this and started his count, and both jumped into the ring just as he hit 20. Tonga took out the ref with a Stinger splash when Suzuki moved. Okay, we’ve now had too many of those. Tonga hit the gunstun but no ref to count the pin. He tried a second one, but Suzuki reversed into a choke, and then hit the Gotch piledriver for the pin. ***½

8. Seiya Sanada pinned Michael Elgin in 15:06. Great match that turned into a hard hitting fight. Sanada did his double leapfrog spot, but when he went for a dropkick, Elgin caught him and power bombed him. Elgin used a German suplex on the apron and a power super falcon arrow into the ring for near falls. Sanada went for the skull end, but Elgin cradled him for a near fall. Sanada went for it again, and then followed with a moonsault for the pin. ****

9. Kenny Omega pinned Satoshi Kojima in 16:42. This was a weird one. Omega was telling a story based on his own game. Everyone knows that there is the Omega who wears his house show tights and wrestles in a T-shirt, who will sometimes give you a good match and sometimes joke through the match. And then there’s the Best Bout Machine guy out there trying for the best match of the year. So here, he was all comedy for 6:00, telling people this was a spot show and joking about Kojima not being at the top level. Kojima then tore Omega’s T-shirt off and started hitting the machine gun chops in the corner and Omega was doing the old Shawn Michaels mock selling spot. But as Kojima got more offense, Omega got the look like the match was harder than he thought and he turned into Omega with lots of big unique moves. Omega did a unique superplex spot. Kojima did a DDT dropping him on the top of his head. Kojima was nailing Omega with hard elbows. Omega went for the One Winged angel but Kojima turned it into a brainbuster for a near fall. After a V trigger knee, Omega went for a second one but ran right into a lariat. Kojima used the Kojima crush for a near fall. Omega then finished with a V trigger, the snap dragon suplex, another V trigger and the One Winged Angel. ***½

10. Kazuchika Okada pinned Juice Robinson in 20:29. It was tough here as the crowd was pretty quiet. I don’t think they bought Robinson as the main event or that he had a chance to win. Robinson tried a piledriver on the apron but Okada backdropped him on the apron and Robinson barely beat the 20 count. Both hit nice dropkicks. Okada reversed out of pulp fiction and hit a tombstone piledriver, but then collapsed. Robinson got a near fall with a power bomb. He tired pulp fiction but Okada hit the rainmaker. Okada hit a second one. He went for a third one when Robinson hit a knockout punch. He went for pulp fiction, but Okada reversed out of it and hit a German suplex and another rainmaker to win it. I can’t say the crowd was ever convinced Robinson would win, but the last several minutes were very good. ***½

 

AUGUST 1 - KAGOSHIMA ARENA (A BLOCK) - 3,418 SELLOUT

 

1. Michael Elgin & Jushin Liger beat Katsuya Kitamura & Shota Umino in 7:08 when Elgin pinned Kitamura after a Liger bomb.

2. Minoru Suzuki & Taichi & Desperado beat Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hirai Kawato in 6:53 when Desperado beat Kawato with the Pinche loco.

3. Seiya Sanada & Bushi beat Juice Robinson & David Finlay in 4:35 when Sanada beat Finlay via submission with the Skull end.

4. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi beat Kenny Omega & Chase Owens in 5:20 when Evil pinned Owens with the STO, or as it’s also called, “Everything is Evil.” Omega then attacked both Evil and Takahashi after the match to build their singles match.

5. Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano beat Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi in 6:47 when Yano pinned Takahashi after a schoolboy.

6. Yoshi-Hashi pinned Bad Luck Fale in 10:21. Fale threw him threw the ringside chairs into row three. Then he met him in row three and threw him through three more rows until row six. The match story was that Yoshi-Hashi kept going for the butterfly lock and Fale kept powering out. Yoshi-Hashi caught Fale with a guillotine and then let it go and immediately pinned him for the upset with an inside cradle. ***

7. Zack Sabre Jr. beat Togi Makabe in 9:30. Desperado got involved early but Makabe threw him into the guard rail. This match really didn’t click like most in the tournament, but they were beating hard on each other and it did come across like a fight. Makabe missed the King Kong kneedrop and Sabre used the octopus, and then switched it into a heel hook and got the tap. **3/4

8. Tomohiro Ishii pinned Yuji Nagata in 13:51. Just a super match. Nagata kicked him in the chest and back like he was a soccer ball. Ishii came back treating Nagata like he was a soccer ball. Nagata did all his trademark stuff like the eye rolling armbar. Ishii laid in sick elbows. Ishii used a superplex. Nagata used a middle rope exploder. It turned into a fight and the crowd loved it. Ishii hit the German suplex and Nagata popped up and hit an exploder and Ishii came back with a lariat. Nagata got a near fall with a brainbuster. They went back-and-forth with big moves until Ishii hit a sliding lariat and a brainbuster and got the pin. ****½

9. Tetsuya Naito pinned Hirooki Goto in 13:30. They had a hot open. Naito spit on Goto a few times. Naito used a hangman’s neckbreaker on the apron. It was a hot match and they did all their big spots. Goto went for the GTR, but Naito escaped and using a neckbreaker, followed by a running destino that Gogo kicked out of. Naito hit a second destino for the pin. ****

10. Kota Ibushi pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in 20:40. This was a classic. Tanahashi played subtle heel since Ibushi has to be a babyface. He worked on Ibushi’s left leg, using an Indian deathlock. Ibushi came back with a standing moonsault, a Frankensteiner out of nowhere which sent Tanahashi out of the ring and then Ibushi did the moonsault off the middle rope to the floor. Tanahashi came back with a high fly flow to the floor. He got up and was selling his right arm, but used a dragon screw over the ropes and dropkick to the knee to set up a Texas cloverleaf. Ibushi made the ropes. Ibushi hit a German suplex. Tanahashi ducked Ibushi’s big lariat and hit a German suplex. Then in a great spot, Tanahashi went for a dropkick to the knee and Ibushi jumped in the air to avoid it and when Tanahashi was down from the dropkick, landed on him with a double foot stomp. Ibushi tried the lawn dart, but Tanahashi escaped and used a sling blade. Tanahashi went to the top but Ibushi got up in superplex position. The two fought while standing on the middle rope until Tanahashi head-butted Ibushi, who fell off the ropes. But before Tanahashi could hit a move, Ibushi used a Pele kick. He then picked Tanahashi up and used the lawn dart, but thankfully Tanahashi landed on his face and missed the bottom turnbuckle given the last time he took that move he got a neck injury out of it. Ibushi used a power German suplex. He went for a last ride power bomb but Tanahashi escaped and hit the twist and shout. Tanahashi used a cross arm German suplex for a near fall followed by a sling blade. Tanahashi went to the top for a crossbody, and then went for the high fly flow. Ibushi got his knees up. Ibushi went for his MMA knee strike finish but Tanahashi blocked it. They traded strikes until Ibushi knocked him out with a high kick. Ibushi went for the last ride, but Tanahashi kicked out just before the three. Ibushi then nailed him with the knee strike and got the pin. This was a contender for match of the tournament, especially with Ibushi winning so clean and Tanahashi selling it like he’d been knocked out. ****3/4

 

AUGUST 2 - FUKUOKA CITY GYMNASIUM (B BLOCK) - 3,184

 

1. Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino beat Katsuya Kitamura & Ren Narita in 5:33 when Oka beat Narita with the Boston crab.

2. Kota Ibushi & Tiger Mask beat Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato in 7:49 when Tiger Mask pinned Kawato after a double arm suplex.

3. Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi beat Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens in 7:44 when Yoshi-Hashi made Owens submit to the butterfly lock.

4. Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi & Desperado beat Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi in 6:10 when Taichi pinned Bushi with the Gedo clutch and then unmasked him after the match.

5. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jushin Liger beat Togi Makabe & David Finlay in 6:36 when Tanahashi pinned Finlay with the high fly flow.

6. Seiya Sanada pinned Juice Robinson in 13:48 after a moonsault.

7. Toru Yano beat Michael Elgin via DQ when Yano did the Lucha Libre fake low blow that the ref missed, and the ref believed him and called for the DQ. This should lead to a program since this eliminated Elgin from competition.

8. Minoru Suzuki pinned Satoshi Kojima in 10:13 after a Gotch piledriver.

9. Kazuchika Okada pinned Tama Tonga in 11:22 with the rainmaker

10. Kenny Omega pinned Evil in 23:33 with the One Winged Angel.


The 8/20 SummerSlam lineup looks to have pretty much the entire top of the card either finalized or strongly hinted at.

The main event has Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman vs. Samoa Joe for the Universal title. The story behind they are playing with the idea that if Lesnar loses the title, then both he and Paul Heyman are quitting WWE. The idea is that Lesnar would then go to UFC, even though he really can’t until next year, and the story for “insiders” is they are doing the four-way to get the title from Lesnar without him having to do a job or that he’ll do the job because he’s leaving and they need to put the belt on somebody else. And there is the argument to get the belt on someone else so the champion could be on TV more regularly, but also to use the equity of all these years of Lesnar being put over to finally give Roman Reigns that big win to establish him as the long-term No.1 guy in the promotion.

As far as the finish goes, the attempt is very strong to keep this one under wraps, so it’ll be interesting the last day or two when it comes to the odds. The story as it is said right now is that nobody on the writing team, no producers, and no participants except Lesnar (whose deal is that he knows everything well in advance) will be given the finish until the last minute. Between Vince McMahon and Heyman, they try to play the realism and brutality game in Lesnar’s matches at times, like the first John Cena match or the Randy Orton match where Lesnar hit them up with dangerous elbows to bleed, or when Lesnar would hard way himself on purpose to get blood as well, which would not be allowed for anyone else.

The only thing we know is that Lesnar and Heyman are with the company at least through April, no matter what the outcome and storyline that follows the match.

On the other side, Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura is the WWE title match. There is a lot of speculation, and certainly what has transpired would have this make some sense, that Nakamura wins and then gets screwed by a Baron Corbin cash-in.

What we do know is that Corbin was being groomed for the title later this year. However, that was before the decision to go with Mahal on top for the Indian market. For all the reasons, whether good or bad, that they went with Mahal, it makes absolutely zero sense to switch from him to go with Corbin. It’s not a matter of who is better, as Mahal is the better promo and has the stronger facial expressions, but Corbin has little going for him past he’s tall and can be pushed as a bully, but doesn’t have main event promos or charisma. And even though people probably don’t realize it, Mahal (31) is actually the younger of the two (32). The point is if the goal is to grow India, why take the title from Mahal? If that isn’t working, and ratings are up, and not down (although that’s more due to Cena being back full-time, but Mahal at least can’t be said has led to any migration of audience away), Corbin is everything Mahal is except he has no strong babyface appeal in a foreign land that they are targeting.

Neither SummerSlam nor NXT Takeover are sold out, although SummerSlam has very few tickets left, and none priced at less than $555. The secondary market price for entry is $142.

For Takeover, which has Bobby Roode vs. Drew McIntyre for the NXT title, Asuka vs. Ember Moon for the women’s title, Authors of Pain vs. Sanity for the tag titles, Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade Cien Almas and probably Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black, there are plenty of tickets available. The first time in Brooklyn for Takeover in 2015, there was a huge demand due to the Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens and Sasha Banks vs. Bayley matches. Last year sold out because so many people, notably scalpers, saw what happened the prior year and wanted to sell at a premium, only to find the demand wasn’t there. So this year they didn’t buy the tickets. We don’t have an advance, but there are tons of tickets at $25 available right now at the box office.

SummerSlam is likely to be a five-and-a-half hour show, which always ends up with complaints but that’s how they do it. Plus, they have a ton of people they try to get on the show. Other matches announced are A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens for the U.S. title with Shane McMahon as referee, Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley for the Raw women’s title, Naomi vs. Natalya for the Smackdown women’s title, Randy Orton vs. Rusev, New Day vs. Usos for the Smackdown tag titles and Neville vs. Akira Tozawa for the cruiserweight title.

Bliss vs. Bayley could be up in the air. On the 7/31 Raw show in Pittsburgh, Bayley suffered a right shoulder injury in a match with Nia Jax. Jax threw Bayley down hard and she appeared to jam her shoulder early in the match. The camera panned away as the referee asked her if she was okay. She rolled out of the ring and it appeared she was just doing a great selling job. The announcers called it like it was part of the sell of the match, including a minute later when Jax used a double chicken wing and threw her down. Instead of landing face and chest first on that bump, she was at a bad angle and landed right on her shoulder again.

She was evaluated after the match, but due to the amount of swelling, no diagnosis was made. She will likely be off all the house shows this weekend, as she was told to rest, and that they hope the swelling will go down and they can evaluate the status of the shoulder later this week.

“We’ve determined the injury is shoulder-related,” said Dr. Chris Amann. “And she will be going under further diagnostic testing later this week to determine the extent of the injury and also established a timetable for recovery.”

Other matches and programs being teased include Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt, Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose for the Raw tag team titles, Cena vs. Corbin, a three-way for the Raw top contender position with the Hardys vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Revival, all of which appear to be locks for the show at this point.

That’s 12 matches right there, which is plenty. There are other programs including possibly The Miz vs. Jason Jordan for the IC title (we are told that is the direction for Miz at some point soon, but the feeling is that it would be rushing things for Jordan to do the match there and the show is already loaded as it is, so it’s not happening at SummerSlam, at least as of this week’s plans), Big Show vs. Big Cass, Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis, and the reveal of who is attacking Tyler Breeze & Fandango and a follow-up. But there is only so much time and some of these bouts are likely to wind up on the cutting room floor with final decisions not being made until the week of the show when they time everything out.


Even with the week long push for a John Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura first-time-ever match, Smackdown’s numbers were pretty much identical with the previous two weeks.

The 8/1 show did 2,569,000 viewers, up 34,000 from the prior week, and 21,000 from the week before.

Smackdown was third for the night on cable, behind Tucker Carlson (2,643,000) and Rachel Maddow (2,571,000) and just ahead of Hannity (2,545,000). It also beat the rerun block on ABC and first run shows on FOX.

The show did a 0.48 in 12-17 (down 4.0 percent), 0.62 in 18-34 (up 5.1 percent), 0.90 in 35-49 (down 5.3 percent) and 1.06 in 50+ (up 1.0 percent).

The audience in 18-49 was 64.1 percent male, which is well above usual, while in 12-17 it was 61.3 percent male, which is not above usual.

But the WWE’s ratings overall continue to be on the upswing as the 7/31 Raw did 3,156,000 viewers, up three percent, from last week, and the most viewers for any WWE television show since the 4/17 Superstar shakeup Raw episode did 3,333,000 viewers.

Raw was not only the most-watched show on cable, but beat the FOX network in prime time, which is impressive when you consider how many more homes FOX is available in than USA.

There was a third hour drop, but it still remained at more than three million viewers. The show was built up for one week around the three-way with Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns, and makes the second time in three weeks that shows built around Joe and Reigns did well above usual numbers. The surprise was putting that match on at 10 p.m., and putting Big Show vs. Big Cass in the main event position. There were some who figured that people would tune out after the three-way because the key match was over. Without quarter hours, we don’t know if that happened, but we’re told that Enzo Amore does very well in the quarter hours so they were confident in ending the show with a segment built around him. The flip side is if he is so good with the quarter hours, why is he portrayed the way he is.

The first hour did 3,194,000 viewers. The second hour did 3,275,000 viewers. The third hour did 3,021,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.80 in 12-17 (up 8.1 percent from last week), 0.77 in 18-34 (down 3.8 percent), 1.29 in 35-49 (up 5.7 percent) and 1.20 in 50+ (down 1.6 percent).

An interesting comparison is that the Smackdown audience among 12-17 this past week was only 60 percent that of Raw the day before, while in 18-34 it was 81 percent, in 35-49 it was 70 percent and in 50+ it as 88%. Part of that was Cena vs. Nakamura seemed to hit 18-34 males more than any other demo, but the general rule is that the WWE viewership, the older the viewers are, the more likely they are to watch both shows, while the younger they are, the less likely they are to watch Smackdown, which is why Smackdown skews so much older than Raw.

The audience was 60.0 percent males in 18-49 and 61.0 percent males in 12-17.

“American Grit” on FOX starring John Cena, on 7/30 did 1,150,000 viewers, making it again the lowest rated show on network TV prime time for the night, with the head-to-head competition ranging from 2.4 million to 3.9 million. It was just barely up from the prior week

“Ballers” on 7/30 on HBO did 2,584,000 viewers, which was up four percent from the prior week. The show benefits greatly from the “Game of Thrones” lead in which at 9,245,000 viewers with as limited a penetration as HBO gets, is an absolute television monster.

Bellator on 7/28 played a replay of its PPV show on 6/24 from Madison Square Garden, with Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva and Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Mitrione, plus Brent Primus’ lightweight title win over Michael Chandler and Douglas Lima’s welterweight title defense over Lorenz Larkin, and did 539,000 viewers. That’s what the lower level live shows have been doing. I was somewhat surprised that DVR viewership was only 61,000 more after three days as I figured a one month old show would have a lower percentage of people watching it live on a Friday night. The Emelianenko vs. Mitrione fight was the peak, doing 735,000 viewers on Friday night and 199,000 more over the next three days via DVR viewership.

It’s lower than I expected, and does show the interest level in a one-month old show being put on television, even if it was the biggest show in Bellator history, isn’t going to spike big numbers. There was a time, when UFC wasn’t so overexposed on television, that they’d air months old PPV shows on Spike and do big numbers for them. One note is that the male/female percentage was much different from UFC. For the UFC show on FXX the next night, there were 77.2 percent male viewers while Bellator had 63.9 percent. The UFC was also strongest across the board in both 18-34 and 35-49, while Bellator was strongest in 50+. This Bellator show did identical to the live UFC show the next night in 50+, plus in 35-49, the UFC live show did about double and in 18-34, the UFC show did about quadruple.

Impact on 7/27 did 286,000 viewers, a drop of 11 percent from the 322,000 the week before.

Lucha Underground on 7/26 dropped another ten percent from the prior week, doing 80,000 viewers for the first run episode at 8 p.m. and 32,000 for the 9 p.m. airing.


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CMLL: The 7/28 Arena Mexico show was said to be fun, with another big and hot crowd of 8,000 fans. Mistico & Caristico & Niebla Roja won the main event over Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Mephisto, which was more building Roja and Gran Guerrero. The Roja vs. Ultimo feud seems to have transferred to Gran, which may be because they could do a mask vs. mask match at the end, and they are looking for an Anniversary show main event for 9/16. Roja vs. Gran mask vs. mask would come across to me as okay for a semi, but really weak for a main. Roja has never gotten over as a face, partially because he’s not a standout in a company filled with them, nor does he have the reputation as a star, and also because of the booking of his turn. After losing, Gran pulled off Roja’s mask. They also did the final angles for the 8/4 Blue Panther vs. Sam Adonis hair vs. hair match. It was Panther & Diamante Azul & Valiante vs. Adonis & Pierroth & Rush. They did a short three fall match where Adonis was DQ’d in the first fall for brutality on Panther and shoving down the ref, then Panther was DQ’d in the second fall for retribution, and shoving down the referee. Panther submitted him to win the third fall and then both cut promos to build this week’s match. Adonis is super over as a heel right now doing his pro-Trump gimmick. People were raving about an undercard as one of the best of the year, in particular, the match where Cuatrero & Forastero & Sanson beat Drone & Titan & Soberano Jr.

The 8/4 show, besides Panther vs. Adonis, has Caristico & Niebla Roja & Volador Jr. vs. Ultimo & Gran Guerrero & Euforia, and is actually pretty loaded with Angel de Oro & Diamante Azul & Marco Corleone vs. Pierroth & Rush & Hechicero, a match that could be great with Rey Cometa & Soberano Jr. & The Panther vs. Cuatrero & Forastero & Sanson, plus the return of the micro stars, Gallito & Microman vs. Mije & Perico Zakarias. This would be the first time the micros have worked a Friday night show

Marco Corleone makes his first CMLL heavyweight title defense on 8/5 at Arena Coliseo against Vangellys

CMLL is crowning a new CMLL Reina International champion, a belt that will be defended in both Mexico and Japan (for the Reina promotion, which is a very small woman’s group to the point nobody talks about it) on 8/6 at Arena Mexico in a 10 woman elimination match. It’s the usual women, Marcela, Princesa Sugehit, Silueta, Angel Maravilla, Skadi, Dallys, Zeuxis, Amapola, Comandante and Seductora

51-year old Nitro has changed his name and debuted this past weekend as El Consejo. Everyone knows it’s him. With the new name, he’s gone from rudo to tecnico. Consejo is what CMLL is often known as, as CMLL stands for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, and like WWE is often called “The Fed,” CMLL is often called “Consejo.” Nitro is the head of the wrestlers union, at least until November, so it’s kind of an inside rib

Canelo Casas beat Cholo in a hair vs. hair match on 7/30 at Arena Mexico.

AAA: The final TV taping to air before TripleMania on 8/26, took place on 7/27 in Aguascalientes. Bengala earned a spot in the 30 man Copa TripleMania by winning a Battle Royal. In a tag match, El Hijo del Fantasma & El Texano Jr. beat Johnny Mundo & Kevin Kross when Fantasma pinned Mundo after putting him through a table. Mundo and Vampiro continued turning their original issues into an angle here. Mundo said that he just wants to give up the belts and Vampiro told him that would be disrespectful to Lucha Libre and he must come to TripleMania and that Vampiro promised that either Fantasma or Texano would beat him for those titles. Local wrestlers had a mask vs. hair match where Discovery kept his mask and X-treme-X lost his hair. In the match to determine who Sexy Star defends her Reina de Reinas title at TripleMania, Lady Shani won a four-way over Big Mami, Goya Kong and Hiedra. In the best-of-five series, Carta Brava Jr. & Mocho Cota Jr. & Soul Rocker beat Aerostar & Drago & Raptor in about one minute. Raptor was injured and was taken to the hospital (angle) and Drago was quickly double-teamed and pinned. The main event saw Psycho Clown & Pagano over Dr. Wagner Jr. & Mesias. Psycho pinned Wagner to win, but Wagner pulled off Psycho’s mask after the bout.

DRAGON GATE: The next thing on the schedule is called the Five Unit Survival Race tournament which starts 8/5 in Kyoto and will go until 9/16 in Osaka. The five major factions, which are the Jimmyz, Verserk, The Over Generation, Tribe Vanguard and MaxiMuM, will have a series of matches, singles, tags, trios. The two units with the least amount of points after 9/16, will have a singles match on the 9/18 Dangerous Gate PPV with the losing unit having to disband. Most of the upcoming shows will have two to four tournament matches.

ALL JAPAN: I was told the 7/17 Shuji Ishikawa Triple Crown title defense win over Suwama was a ****½ match. All Japan has really been killing it this year, particularly in the main event scene, and the result has been a major increase in business

They had a bigger than usual show on 7/28 in Nagoya before a sellout of 620 fans. Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura scored their second straight win in a world tag title match beating former champions Zeus & The Bodyguard in 15:36 when Nomura pinned Zeus. However, Lee suffered a torn ACL and an MCL injury as well as a bone contusion and will be out of action for some time. The titles are now vacant and Nomura will pick a new partner and they will face Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi for the titles on the 8/27 show at Sumo Hall. They also had a match billed as a bout to honor the 45th anniversary of the founding of All Japan Pro Wrestling, with Jun Akiyama & Suwama & Kento Miyahara beating Triple Crown champion Shuji Ishikawa & Yuji Okabayashi & Joe Doering when Miyahara pinned the champ for the second time during the week in a tag match with a German suplex. In addition, Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato retained the All-Asia tag titles over Atsushi Maruyama & Masashi Takeda

The other big show of the week was 7/30 in Osaka before 580 fans at the smaller Edion Arena. Tajiri won the World jr. title pinning Sato in 13:24 after a buzzsaw kick. This led to Ultimo Dragon coming out and they are doing Tajiri defending the title against Dragon on the 8/27 show at Sumo Hall. In another 45th anniversary match, Ishikawa got his revenge teaming with Doering & The Bodyguard to beat Suwama & Miyahara & Zeus when Ishikawa pinned Miyahara after Splash Mountain in 18:04. Doering turned heel in the match, breaking away from long-time partner Suwama, and also laying out Evolutions, the group that also included Atsushi Aoki.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: The 7/27 show at Korakuen Hall drew 965 fans for the heavily pushed match where Katsuhiko Nakajima retained the GHC heavyweight title over Brian Cage, pinning him in 22:14 after a brainbuster. Hayata & Yo-Hey won the junior heavyweight tag team tournament, beating GHC jr. tag champions Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 in 13:31 when Yo-Hey pinned Hi69. So that sets up a title match. Maybach Taniguchi fought to a double knockout with Go Shiozaki in a match where both men had to be carried out of the ring on a stretcher. Eddie Edwards pinned Masa Kitamiya with the Boston knee party to set him up for the next shot at Nakajima. Daisuke Ikeda showed up during the show and asked to be able to return to the promotion

Also coming in is Leona, the son of Tatsumi Fujinami, as a new regular, at least for the time being. An Australian who has been training at their dojo, Ashley Istria, 29, will debut on 8/12

The next major show is 8/26 at Korakuen Hall with Nakajima vs. Edwards for the GHC title, Naomichi Marufuji & Taniguchi defend the GHC tag titles against Shiozaki & Atsushi Kotoge, the jr. tag title match set up by the tournament, Leona vs. Kenou and Quiet Storm vs. Cody Hall.

NEW JAPAN: This is a legit amazing thing, considering what it takes in, including the entire WWE product line and all the legendary rock bands and pop culture figures, but for last week at Hot Topic, top selling T-shirt was Rick & Morty Portal (characters on Adult Swim), but No. 2 was the Young Bucks Bullet Club shirt and No. 3 was the Cody Bullet Club shirt. This would be from figures gathered from stores nationwide and would be out of literally thousands of T-shirt designs carried

AXS ran a rerun of the Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada G-1 Climax match from 2016 on the 7/28 show and on 8/4 will air another rerun of the Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega G-1 Climax match. I don’t have this confirmed, but I believe the Omega vs. Hirooki Goto finals will air on 8/11. This is to build up the G-1 stuff for this year by airing the two best matches from last year’s tournament. The current plan is for the G-1 coverage on AXS to start on 8/18 with Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi from the 7/17 show in Sapporo. 8/25 will air the 7/20 show with Juice Robinson vs. Satoshi Kojima (edited), Evil vs. Seiya Sanada and Omega vs. Minoru Suzuki. 9/1 will air the 7/21 show with Ibushi vs. Sabre (edited), Tanahashi vs. Fale and Naito vs. Yoshi-Hashi. That’s too bad in a sense because Hirooki Goto vs. Yuji Nagata and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe and Ibushi vs. Sabre were killer matches but one is edited and two aren’t on it, while Tanahashi vs. Fale wasn’t a killer match. Naito vs. Yoshi-Hashi was great, but it was only the fourth best match on that show. 9/8 will air the 7/22 show with Suzuki vs. Sanada (edited), Omega vs. Tonga and Okada vs. Michael Elgin

Jado is out of action with a knee injury.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: After ten years, Karl Gotch finally had his funeral. Gotch, who passed away on July 28, 2007, at the age of 82, was known in Japan as “The God of Wrestling.” He was actually the second person with that moniker, as Lou Thesz was the first person called that. A lot of the Japanese in-ring style, which, through cross-pollination and tape studying, has come to the U.S. and Mexico, stems from Gotch, in particular, the bridging German suplex finisher that he made famous in the 60s and used to beat Antonio Inoki on the first New Japan card in 1972. Gotch was a legit shooter from Wigan. Whether true or not, in Japan the wrestlers and reporters believed he was the toughest man in the world. He wrestled for Austria as Charles Istaz in the 1948 Olympics, but didn’t medal, and learned about the game of submission wrestling and its home in Wigan, England and went there after the Olympics. He stayed for years. Billy Robinson, who was a teenager and around when Gotch was in his heyday, said that while Gotch was very good, he was never the best in Wigan. He left England for the U.S. to be a pro wrestler, first as Karl Krauser and while in Ohio, was given the name Karl Gotch, after Frank Gotch, the first American wrestling legend. In 1960, while still being Karl Krauser, he went to Japan. He was not particularly flashy or colorful, but was well respected. Rikidozan never had a big singles match with him, but he got his rep with insiders when Rikidozan, who almost never lost, told the press that he could never beat Karl Krauser, that’s how good he was. He was hired to train wrestlers to shoot and work a believable style, and not only did the New Japan generation of Tatsumi Fujinami, Riki Choshu, Satoru Sayama, Yoshiaki Fujiwara (said to be along with Jody Simon as his two best students), Dynamite Kid, Jushin Liger, Keiji Muto, Shinya Hashimoto and others come from his lineage, but the UWF and UWFI guys like Akira Maeda, Nobuhiko Takada and early MMA stars like Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Minoru Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki came from that line of training. Jody Simon (Joe Malenko), who called Gotch his second father (he trained with him daily from the age of 14) had saved some of his ashes and brought them to Japan for a ceremony this past week in Tokyo, with a funeral and tombstone provided by Inoki. A lot of mainstream media outlets came for the ceremony. Simon noted that even though Gotch lived in the Tampa area for 30 years, when he died, almost nobody knew him, but in Japan, he was a God. I do remember in 1984, the first time I ever went to Japan, me and a friend of mine who came together on the first night there, and we had no signs we were wrestling fans, we were just two Americans, and one of the hotel workers came up to us and said, you’ll never believe who stayed in this room–Karl Gotch. My friend (who is also the guy who gave Junkyard Dog the nickname Junkfood Dog), who knew who Karl Gotch was, started laughing because the guy who so proud he saw an American tourist to tell them this huge celebrity had stayed in the room, not realizing that almost no Americans even knew who he was, but in Japan it was like some world leader and philosopher like Mahatma Gandhi has stayed in that room

Regarding the situation written about last week with Tsukushi and Kagetsu, the reports were that Tsukushi tried to come after Kagetsu with a knife. We’re not sure why. Kagetsu was able to grab the knife with her hands to stop her. Kagetsu wrestled the next day, so she wasn’t hurt in the skirmish, but her right hand was taped up. The incident took place after a show in Kawaguchi, Saitama at a private gathering

Kyoko Kimura, a retired woman pro wrestler, and her husband, Isao Kobayashi, an MMA fighter, are doing a food truck business and they go to various pro wrestling shows and sell outside the buildings and do very well

Stardom’s Five Star women’s tournament, which will include Io Shirai (see WWE section), begins on 8/19 in Tokyo and the participants are scheduled to be announced this week. This would be the women’s version of G-1

Masato Tanaka pinned Yusuke Obata in 30:10 after a sliding D to win the 2017 Fire Festival, which is Zero-One’s annual tournament modeled after the G-1 Climax. Usually, the tournament is to create a top contender for their world title, but Tanaka was the champion. After winning, Kenou from NOAH came out and challenged Tanaka for a title match which will take place on 8/31 at Korakuen Hall. That show will also have Kotaro Suzuki defending their NWA (not related to the Billy Corgan NWA and this group is called New Wrestling Alliance, although the initials are there to fool Japanese fans) & Int. Jr. Title against Sugi.

HERE AND THERE: PWG Battle of Los Angeles tickets for all three nights went on sale on 7/27, and sold out immediately, with tickets at $85 and $110, which was expected. Apparently the demand for the second night, because of the main event of Young Bucks & Kenny Omega vs. Penta 0M & Flamita & Rey Fenix, plus Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs. Zack Sabre Jr. & Marty Scurll, was off the charts. It actually caused a crash to the site immediately for that day. It’s still weird because I’ve got to think they could sell thousands of tickets, and nobody knows how many thousand, if they had a building that could hold that many, but they refuse to change buildings because of the atmosphere and history. If they are making a profit and I’m sure they are between all forms of revenue, and it does create a buzz and all, but there were also thousands of fans turned away who would pay for tickets and merch for all three nights. One person noted to me that at the first BOLA, in 2005, he had an extra ticket and was willing to give it away for free and couldn’t find anyone to take it

El Hijo del Santo announced that he would be running a show on 9/23 in Tulancingo. That’s the family’s home town and 9/23 would be El Santo 102nd birthday

Bob Roop, 74, who wrestled professionally from 1969 to 1986 after representing the U.S. in the 1968 Olympics, was inducted into the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame on 7/27. Roop was a football and wrestling star at East Lansing High School, and was the undefeated state heavyweight champion as a senior. He went to Michigan State, but left for a three-year stint in the U.S. Army. In 1964, he placed second at heavyweight in the All-Army Greco-Roman championships, losing to Jim Raschke, better known today as Baron Von Raschke, who had placed third in the 1963 world championships in Greco-Roman. It was Raschke who got him seriously into Greco-Roman wrestling and wrestling overall, as he left the army and went to Southern Illinois University. He didn’t place in the1968 Olympics, but some promoters still billed him as winning a gold medal when he started as a pro wrestler. He had become friends with Larry Heineimi while both were college wrestlers, and Heineimi told him that he should try pro wrestling since Heineimi, then known as Lars Anderson, who doing well at it. Roop had a solid career, usually as a main event level talent, probably best known in Florida, but had a very successful year booking for Roy Shire in San Francisco drawing some of the biggest crowds of the 70s at the Cow Palace against Kevin Sullivan. His career ended after a neck injury suffered in an auto accident, and he also discovered Lex Luger on the golf course and broke him into pro wrestling. Roop was also inducted into the Tragos/Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006

Northeast Wrestling drew a crowd of 2,368 fans on 7/28 at Muzzy Field in Bristol, CT for a Wrestling Under the Stars show. Rey Mysterio Jr. was the big attraction, pinning Caleb Konley in the main event after a 619. Kevin Nash was there but didn’t wrestle. Jerry Lawler was advertised but ended up pulling out and was replaced by Ryback, who also ended up not being there. The only major names wrestling were Jack Swagger, who beat Warbeard Hanson of the War Machine tag team in a hot match, and Jim Duggan, who was really over and worked an underneath six-man tag match

Former pro wrestler Billy Two Rivers has filed suit against singer-songwriter Van Morrison, whose album “Roll with the Punches” on the cover used an old shot of Two Rivers grappling in a match. Two Rivers said the photo was used without his knowledge and consent. Two Rivers, 82, wrestled around North America and the U.K. in a career from 1954 to 1977 and was also formerly a chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, Quebec, where he still lives and played a Mohawk Indian in some minor acting roles including the 1995 movie “Pocahantas: The Legend.” He is suing for a violation of his right to publicity in a suit filed in New York on 7/27

Pro wrestlers Negro Navarro, Solar Jr. And Canek Jr. were having what was billed as their MMA debut fights on 7/28. Given that Navarro is 60, I have a feeling they were pro wrestling matches billed as MMA fights

Tony Hunter is booking nostalgia shows in old Crockett arenas, with a 9/22 show in Raleigh at Dorton Arena headlined by Terry Funk (he’s had some serious health issues and while I’m never surprised at him coming out of retirement, I am surprised to see him take an in-ring booking even in a six-man tag) & Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson vs. Jerry Lawler & Brian Christopher & Doug Gilbert, plus Billy Gunn vs. Gangrel and appearances by Kevin Nash, Sgt. Slaughter, Tommy Rich, Jimmy Valiant and George South. The same crew will be doing a 9/23 show in Spartanburg at the Memorial Auditorium

There must be something that allows MMA fighters the ability to pick up pro wrestling quickly. Not all fighters, but the ones who kind of got it before. Tom Lawlor follows Matt Riddle and Shayna Baszler in this category, although he had done pro wrestling years before (even having a WWE tryout prior to his being on The Ultimate Fighter reality show that got hi into UFC). Lawlor worked for Beyond Wrestling on 7/30 in Worcester, MA, against Bobby Fish and won via spinning guillotine

The Rush vs. L.A. Park program continued for Super Astro’s promotion at Arena Lopez Mateos in Tlalnepantla, Mexico on 7/29 with Park & son El Hijo de L.A. Park faced Rush & brother Dragon Lee in a match filled with low blows and Rush being DQ’d as the finish. Rush pinned Park after a low blow, but the ref then reversed the decision

Fly Warrior of Mexico beat Shane Strickland in a pretty good match on 7/30 in Monterrey as part of the Powerbomb worldwide tournament.

EUROPE: While nothing has happened and it appears dead from everyone, we’re told that ITV is still talking about starting a weekly pro wrestling show at the end of this year

Insane Championship Wrestling announced Rey Mysterio Jr. as the top star for the 11/19 Fear and Loathing show at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow as well as Rob Van Dam vs. Lionheart. The ICW Fear and Loathing show has been the U.K.’s biggest drawing U.K. based promotion show every year, and last year’s crowd of 6,193 paid was the largest for a U.K. based promotion since 1981, and they are hoping to top that this year

The group is clearly working closely with WWE, as on the 7/29 show in Glasgow, Pete Dunne retained his WWE U.K. title over BT Gunn, Trent Seven and Wolfgang in was said to be a **** or more match. In addition, Noam Dar was in the main event teaming with Sha Samuels to beat Joe Coffey & Bram. The show drew a sellout of 1,200 fans and Dar got a huge pop for his return to Scotland. Super Crazy vs. Jody Fleisch was also said to be cool to see. They ran again the next night and drew 1,100 fans, almost a sellout. There was a lot of talk regarding an incident on this show. They tried to copy the Lesnar/Orton thing that got so much attention to get over Bram, with the idea he would hard way Ravie Davie with stiff shots to the face so people would say they were shooting. Davie’s face and eye ended up a mess, all swollen and bruised up as he let Bram fire away on him. In another era, people would take that as a “real fight” and be up for it, but we’re told the crowd was uncomfortable with it and many did believe Bram was unprofessional and there were some articles written about it with the photos of Davie’s face and how he went at it for real. Grado, who had been one of the company’s biggest stars for years, lost a loser leaves town match. .. wXw announced that on 10/5 they are booking Shotgun champion David Starr against Dave Crist in a two hour Iron Man match. I’ve heard of two hour matches before, although they are rare since the 1930s (the Carolinas did at least one series of them at one point for the world tag team titles) but never under Iron Man rules. They are billing this as the longest one-on-one match in wrestling in the last 30 years

Fight Club Pro on 7/28 in Wolverhampton had a main event of British Strong Style of Tyler Bate & Trent Seven & Pete Dunne beating Low Ki & Travis Banks & Jeff Cobb. Bate & Seven & Dunne will be headlining for the group on 9/22 against Masaaki Mochizuki & Cima & Eita from Dragon Gate, and the next night against Sami Callihan & Dave & Jake Crist

Toni Storm beat Candice LeRae to win the Progress women’s title on their 7/30 show in London. Progress is doing U.S. shows on 8/12 in Queens, NY and 8/13 in Boston, the latter of which sold out instantly. The Queens show will feature a match with Pete Dunne vs. Jack Gallagher.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: Skip Chaisson, the Chief Creative Officer for El Rey (also more importantly, also the guy who is in charge of the vignettes on Lucha Underground), told IGN.com at the Television Critics Association conference that it looks good for a fourth season of Lucha Underground. That’s notable because if they were planning for a fourth season, one would think they’d want to negotiate to bring back Rey Mysterio Jr., who is their biggest mainstream star by far, and whose contract expired at the end of last season and is free to start anywhere 90 days after the end of the season and seems to be leaning toward GFW. El Rey would always want the show back as it is the station’s flagship show, although Chaisson did make the remark that they were having discussions about where to place the show on the schedule, which seems to indicate it’s not a lock to remain on Wednesday’s at 8 p.m. The issue is that El Rey doesn’t pay nearly enough to cover the costs of the production and salaries, so they need to get funding. After the first season, there was a question whether they could get the funding, but the owners agreed to put up the money for seasons two and three. While there has been talk of a season four being taped in a few months, nothing is confirmed and a lot of the key talent knows nothing, and you’d think you’d want your talent to know so they would know when to keep their weekends free from independent bookings.

ROH: The Kenny Omega appearance as U.S. champion looks to be a house show on 10/15 in Villa Park, IL (Chicago), at the Odeum Expo Center, a much larger building than they’ve ever run in the market. It can hold 5,000 although it’ll likely to set up for considerably less. Omega’s opponent was not announced although we do know his choice would be Will Ospreay. Then they issued a correction and said that it wasn’t a U.S. title match but that Omega would be on the show. All I know is that when the decision was made for Omega to be champion, he was going to defend it in October on an ROH show. So either that has changed or New Japan is looking at Omega defending the title in September on its big show that month (likely against somebody who beats him in G-1, meaning Michael Elgin is at least in play), and thus doesn’t want the title announcement made until after that show. There will be other New Japan guys on the show, but not the big guns, as the other shows that week have Kushida, Hiromu Takahashi, Yoshi-Hashi, Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer, so that may be the crew

While you hear little about this from wrestling fans, the TV show “The Bachelorette,” which did about 5.7 million viewers on 7/31, has had Kenny King as a featured bachelor all season and he’s had a major rivalry with someone named Lee. The feud is very much talked about among fans of the show. King did get more of a push here at the last tapings as a babyface who worked a tag match with Kushida against Bullet Club members Marty Scurll & Hangman Page, pinning Page. There’s been no evidence that TV reality star fame transfers at all to pro wrestling. TNA tried with people like Jenna Morasca, Jessie Godderz (who I always felt was marketable and clearly a good athlete, but I don’t know that his being on “Big Brother” was ever much of a deal toward increasing TNA’s audience of making him more of a star with wrestling fans than he’d have been without it, although it did open doors to get him in and on the roster) and Johnny Fairplay and it didn’t seem to take, and Fairplay was actually a pretty major star. I’m not sure ROH has the TV penetration or publicity department to where they could get something out if that feud, but it is something that non-fans who watch that show talk about. .. Brandi Rhodes started here over the weekend after getting her release from GFW. She was filming a television show in Atlanta (not wrestling related) but GFW wasn’t cooperative regarding it while ROH was more willing to work with the show

A match added to the 8/19 iPPV show in Liverpool are Bully Ray & Mark & Jay Briscoe vs. Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Bushi and Mistico & Titan vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Bucanero

So far announced for the 8/18 show in York Hall in London, UK is The Bullet Club of Young Bucks & Cody & Marty Scurll & Hangman Page against Los Ingobernables of Naito & Evil & Seiya Sanada & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi), Kushida vs. Titan of CMLL for the TV title, a six-man title match with Dalton Castle & The Boys vs. Mistico & Jushin Liger & Delirious, a four-corners match with Bully Ray vs. Jay Lethal vs. Silas Young vs. Sha Samuels, Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Bucanero, Jay Briscoe vs. Kenny King and Mark Briscoe vs. Ryan Smile (one of the best high-flyers in the U.K.)

So far for 8/20 in Edinburgh, Scotland, is Cody & Scurll vs. Daniels & Kazarian, Castle & Boys vs. Young Bucks & Page for the six-man titles, Lethal vs. Silas Young in a street fight, Guerrero & Bucanero vs. Briscoes and Bully Ray vs. Evil

They taped four hours of television and a number of Internet women’s matches on 7/29 in Concord, NC, before 1,100 fans, which was a good sign of growth for the company since last summer they ran the Best in the World PPV in the same arena and drew 800 fans. There was almost no walk-up as they had sold more than 1,000 tickets in advance. It was their best crowd ever in the market. The TV had a ton of run-ins. Colt Cabana and B.J. Whitmer rotated as announcers with Ian Riccobani. Before the show started, there was an angle where Will Ferrara attacked Cheeseburger while he was signing autographs. The place was loaded with Bullet Club shirts and the Young Bucks & Cody’s line for autographs was so long they had to cut it off to start the show, and then promise everyone they’d have an intermission so everyone would be accommodated, and that’s one of the reasons the show went five hours. The first hour opened with Kazarian doing an interview blaming the fans for Daniels losing the title to Cody. It is kind of funny that ROH and New Japan work together, but at the ROH PPV, Cody was super popular and they were behind him and booed Daniels, who at this stage of his career (older guy in the legend status, company pioneer and link to day one) you wouldn’t think would get booed as a babyface. So now they are the heels. Kazarian said that because of the fans, they were going to ruin everything the fans like about ROH. Punishment Martinez pinned Flip Gordon. Jay White tried to attack Martinez after the match, but was held back. Rhett Titus pinned Cheeseburger due to interference from Ferrara. A Kushida vs. King TV title match ended in a no contest when Scurll and Page attacked both guys. So the TV main event then became Kushida & King as a weird tag team beating Scurll & Page when King pinned Page. For Women of Honor, Karen Q beat Stella Rae. The second hour opened with Trent Baretta & Chuck Taylor beating Leon St-Giovanni & Shaheem Ali. Caprice Coleman came out to announce during this match. Jay Briscoe beat Matt Taven via DQ when the Kingdom attacked Briscoe and laid him out with the old concerto. He was helped to the back. This sets up Briscoes vs. Kingdom and maybe a six-way with Bully Ray involved when TK O’Ryan is back. The TV main event saw Castle & The Boys retain the six-man titles beating Cabana & Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu when Castle pinned Cabana. It was noted to us last week that Tanaka & Komatsu were in the seventh row at the Battleground PPV and almost nobody knew them. In a Women of Honor taped match, Mandy Leon & Jenny Rose beat Sumie Sakai & Brandi Rhodes. The third show taped opened with War Machine beating White & Jonathan Gresham. Josh Woods upset Shane Taylor with a roll-up out of nowhere. QT Marshall came out in a suit and paid off Taylor and he destroyed Woods. Main event for that show was a tag title match with the Young Bucks going to a no contest with Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley. Daniels & Kazarian attacked both teams, so the idea is that they are the cause of the no contest, and the finishes the ROH fans hate. And the fans did hate the finish. In a Women of Honor bout, Kelly Klein pinned Deonna Purrazzo when Karen Q distracted Purrazzo. The final hour opened with Lethal pinning Beer City Bruiser in a no DQ match. They brawled all over. Lethal took out Bruiser’s knee with a chair and made him submit to the figure four. Ferrara pinned someone whose name was never announced quickly with a DDT. Cheeseburger came out and they issued challenges for a future match. The final match saw Cody & Page face Bully Ray & Mark Briscoe. The Kingdom attacked Bully Ray & Briscoe for the DQ. Jay Briscoe made the save and TK O’Ryan was put through a table to end the show.

GFW: Announced for the 8/4 house show in St. James, NY at the Sports Arena is Bobby Lashley & EC 3 & Eli Drake vs. Moose & John Hennigan (Morrison) & James Storm, Allie vs. Sienna vs. Taya, Low Ki vs Eddie Edwards vs. Drago, KM vs. Braxton Sutter, LAX vs. Mario Bokara & Fallah Bah, Sonjay Dutt vs. Trevor Lee and Bryce Donovan & Pat Buck vs. Johnny Clash & Max Caster. What’s notable is no Alberto on the tour. We’re told Ed Nordholm made the call not to remove him from his suspension as GFW is doing their own investigation. With TV on 8/17, and him as the main character on all the TVs as top babyface, they’ll have to completely change around plans if he’s not back by then

Evidently, something happened this past week regarding Alberto and Mil Mascaras. I’ve never heard of him saying anything bad about Mascaras, his uncle, past that Mascaras devoted his life to wrestling while he at some point wanted to retire and not do the same. But he did an interview on 7/30 in Monterrey, Mexico for Mas Lucha and said that his uncle claims to have wrestled in more than 30 countries, but it’s really only ten and that he’s wrestled in more. He also said his uncle holds a title that he hasn’t defended in 90 years (the old IWA title that he won in 1975 and never lost). He also implied he was actually a bigger star than his uncle, which in one sense because of the worldwide power of WWE television he would be, but it’s not something he’d come off well in saying, and in the places Mascaras was big, he was at a different level than Alberto. And saying it in Mexico doesn’t come off well because in Japan and Mexico, Mascaras was a far bigger star. Mascaras is probably the third or fourth biggest star in Mexican wrestling history and is, by far, the biggest star from Mexico in Japan

The 8/5 show in Staten Island, NY, had tickets prices cut this past week so that would indicate a weak advance. Matches announced were Lashley & EC 3 & Low Ki vs. Hennigan & Storm & Edwards, LAX vs. Dutt & Drago for the tag titles, Sienna vs. Taya vs. Allie, Trevor Lee vs Bokara and Sutter vs. Bah vs. KM. They are pushing that LAX, Bokara and KM are all from New York City

The 8/6 show in Bridgeport, CT, was canceled. The reason given was logistical challenges and unforeseen circumstances. Usually that means that the advance ticket sales weren’t good. In this case, the advance wasn’t good, they were having issues dealing with the local baseball team and Northeast Wrestling, which draws huge it the area, was running a show at the same time 20 minutes away with Cody Rhodes defending his title against a Battle Royal winner

Moose said that he has signed a three-year contract extension

Bill Banks, who worked here as a member of the creative team for years, was just hired by CBS Sports Interactive as a Social Media Producer

Although those here claim that Nick “Magnus” Aldis was not offered a new contract, as we reported he was, Aldis was on Pancakes& Powerslams and had the same story. “There was no release. There was nothing like that. A contract was offered to me, which I declined. Anthem offered me a contract. I read the contract. It’s not something that, I’ll say this in the nicest way that I can, it’s not a contract that anyone with any value, any sense of self-value, or self-worth would sign. There’s no point in signing a contract to make you exclusive to one place if you’re not getting anything in return.” He also said the only person there he really wanted to work with was Alberto, and he had already worked with him. He said he wouldn’t sign but would work on a handshake deal, which he did for a number of shows. At that point, they stopped booking him and he said he had been loyal to Jeff Jarrett for a long time and he didn’t find out from Jarrett that they no longer wanted to keep the arrangement where they would book him without a contract. He said there was a lot of negativity and didn’t want to be associated with it, but he still had dates on his calender with them and he was later told by somebody else that they wouldn’t do something with anyone not under contract

The company attempted to trademark the terms Broken Matt, Brother Nero, Broken Brilliance and Vanguard 1. All were turned down. Matt Hardy had already filed for the term Broken Matt. The ruling was that if Broken Matt was a person, they would need that person’s permission to trademark the name. They also turned down Brother Nero for the same reason.

UFC: Variety reported that WME IMG is about to receive a $1.1 billion investment from a Canadian pension fund and a wealth fund from Singapore. The money is being used to, among other things, fund the company so it doesn’t go public, which had been the rumor. Silver Lake Partners, which owns the majority of WME IMG stock, announced the deal on 8/1 to its investors. The deal is expected to close in August. Silver Lake said the new investment will allow WME IMG senior management and investors to take cash out of the company by selling their stock, enable further acquisitions, and also to buy out some minority partners in UFC. While not stated, I would presume that would be Flash Entertainment in Abu Dhabi, as WME IMG did not buy their ten percent of the company in the deal last year, but did intend to at some point. Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta all still own some points in the company as well. I wouldn’t expect they would be buying out White’s percentage

With huge ticket prices, the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight didn’t sell out instantly. That was a surprise to many and there have been stories written about it like this is a failure. About 17,000 tickets were sold at ridiculous prices. There are tickets left, but there is nothing left under $3,500 and Leonard Ellerbee of Mayweather Promotions. That’s more tickets at the same or higher prices than Mayweather-Pacquiao (which was held at the smaller MGM Grand Garden Arena since the T Mobile Arena hadn’t opened). He said it will break the $72 million gate record of that show. There is a key factor that perhaps led to it not selling out instantly, and that it’s become very clear this event is going to be carried by the MMA audience and not the boxing audience, which is funny since the match is all but worked for the boxer to win and it’s a boxing match. The boxing audience paid the ridiculous prices for Mayweather-Pacquiao but that was in their minds a real fight and to boxing fans, who are older, McGregor doesn’t have the same credibility with them. It was clear from the viewing audience of the press conferences that the boxing audience on Showtime’s web site was big for the first day and faded down to nothing as the week went on, while MMA coverage and the viewing on the UFC web site stayed strong. To key to whether or not it’s a soft ticket sale is the secondary market prices. As of the press time, the nosebleeds that were priced at $500 are reselling for no less than $1,939, so the demand is higher for those tickets than even the high price charged, it’s just that there aren’t enough people willing to spend $3,500 for mediocre tickets to sell it out the first week. There’s no way of knowing in advance, but I keep hearing predictions of 5 million buys in North America alone and breaking the all-time record. With the show this weekend out of the way, UFC will be promoting this hard. Even though UFC hasn’t had a banner year, UFC’s cut of this show will more than make up for several 200,000 or less buy PPV shows

Sky Box Office will be airing the fight on PPV, for 19.95 pounds in the U.K. and 24.95 pounds in Ireland ($26 and $33 U.S., far below the $89.95 SD and $99.95 HD price in North America. This creates some interesting political issues. Sky’s major rival, BT Sports, airs all the UFC shows in the U.K. In theory, Sky Sports won’t be able to use any UFC footage of McGregor to push the fight. Sky Sports News generally never acknowledges UFC news on its station because UFC is on the rival station. They have covered the fight usually by putting on former boxers who say McGregor has no chance. I wonder if the tone will change now that they are promoting the fight. In the U.S., it will be in movie theaters around the country with a suggested price of between $40 and $45 per person. Another behind-the-scenes story is that ITV attempted to get into the PPV business with this fight, but Sky, which has had a monopoly on the U.K. PPV business and has always done the big boxing matches, got the rights

Mayweather made a public offer to McGregor that they could fight with eight ounce gloves rather than the ten ounce gloves originally agreed to. McGregor is used to fighting with four ounce gloves and Mayweather with ten ounce gloves. The smaller the gloves, the more power is a factor which in theory helps McGregor, and to a small degree would also help stamina, which in a boxing match would also figure to help McGregor who isn’t used to holding up ten ounce gloves for a 12 round fight, and has gotten very tired in MMA fights with four ounce gloves long before the fifth round

The Wynne Hotel in Las Vegas has reached a deal for McGregor to live there for two years (I’m not sure if it’s full-time or part-time) starting after the Mayweather fight

The schedule from October through December was released this past week. They will have the UFC 216 PPV show on 10/7 in Las Vegas at the T Mobile Arena. T Mobile is usually for big shows. There will be a Fight Night on 10/21 in Gdansk, Poland. I could see them going with Joanna Jedrzejczyk (perhaps against Rose Namajunas) just because it’s Poland. There will be another Fight Night on 10/28 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. UFC 217 will be 11/4 in Madison Square Garden with the target main event being Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre for the middleweight title. 11/11 will be a Fight Night in Norfolk. 11/18 will be a Fight Night in Sydney, Australia. 11/25 will be a Fight Night in Shanghai, China, which will be UFC’s first show in Mainland China. They are running their Mercedes-Benz Arena, which is the same arena WWE ran when they went to China. 12/1 will be the Ultimate Fighter 26 finale, crowning the first UFC women’s 125 pound (flyweight) champion at the Park Theater in Las Vegas. One would expect Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje either on that show or a show right around then, like the next night as they are doing the UFC 218 show at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. There is a 12/9 Fight Night, location to be determined. The only remaining FOX show of he year will be 12/16 from Winnipeg. And the year-end show is 12/30 in Las Vegas at the T Mobile Arena

Less than 1,000 tickets are left for the 9/9 Edmonton PPV show even with a double main of Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg and Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko

While it got some publicity this past week, including from TMZ, we’re told the incident with Arthur Jones, the brother of Jon, and some members of Daniel Cormier’s camp on 7/28 was really much of nothing. A few of Cormier’s camp members were walking by Arthur Jones, a 320–pound NFL star, for the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts, who was recently cut, and one of the camp members said, “Fail another drug test,” and Jones got mad. It lasted 15 seconds and nothing really came of it. Arthur Jones had failed a test for performance enhancing drugs in 2016, the same year Jon failed his test that resulted in his one-year suspension that had just ended. To show the difference between most sports, which have a one to two year suspension for PEDs, the NFL has a four week suspension

This week’s show will be an FS 1 card on 8/5 from Arena Ciudad in Mexico City. This will be really interesting how they draw since they’ve been to the building many times, and they are running a 21,000 seat arena with Brandon Moreno vs. Sergio Pettis as the main event. Given the lineup, I don’t expect much in the way of ratings either. The show starts with Fight Pass bouts at 7 p.m. with Jordan Rinaldi (12-5) vs. Alvaro Herrera (9-4) and Joseph Morales (8-0) vs. Roberto Sanchez (7-0). FS 1 starts at 8 p.m. with Jose Quinonez (5-2) vs. Diego Rivas (7-0), Rani Yahya (23-8) vs. Henry Briones (16-6-1), Dustin Ortiz (16-7) vs. Hector Sandoval (14-3, Bradley Scott (11-4) vs. Jack Hermansson (15-3), Alejandro Perez (17-8-1) vs. Andre Soukhamthath (11-4), Sam Alvey (30-9) vs. Rashad Evans (19-6-1), Humberto Bandenay (13-4) vs. Martin Bravo (11-0), Alan Jouban (15-5) vs. Niko Price, Alexa Grasso (9-1) vs. Randa Markos (7-4) and Sergio Pettis (15-2) vs. Brandon Moreno (14-3). The winner of Pettis vs. Moreno will at least be in talks for a shot at the Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg winner on 9/9. Grasso looked to be a Mexican woman star, but she lost her last fight by to Felice Herrig It’s really sad to see Evans, who was once one of the biggest stars in the company, now fifth from the top on a nothing show in a match not even being pushed

Coach Duke Roufas, in a post about his team, mentioned C.M. Punk vs. TBA in a fight between now and the end of the year

Jessica Andrade vs. Claudia Gadelha, which matches up two of the top contenders at strawweight, has been added to the 9/23 show at the Saitama Super Arena

Seven fights have been announced for a 10/7 PPV date at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. None of them look to be key fights on the show. The bouts announced were Abel Trujillo vs. Lando Vannata, Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham, Will Brooks vs. Nik Lentz, Thales Leites vs. Brad Tavares, John Moraga vs. Magomed Bibulatov, Matt Schnell vs. Marco Beltran and Walt Harris vs. Mark Godbeer.

BELLATOR: Talita Nogueira, 6-0, returns to face Amanda Bell (5-4) at the 8/25 show in Verona, NY. Bell replaces the injured Gabrielle Holloway.

OTHER MMA: Rizin ran on 7/30 at the Saitama Super Arena with three first round matches in its bantamweight tournament that will conclude at the end of the year with the New Year’s Eve show. Kyoji Horiguchi, the former UFC title contender who left the promotion with the idea of being a headliner here, and the favorite in the tournament, beat Hideo Tokoro in just 1:28 via knockout. Takafumi Otsuka advanced beating Anthony Birchak via split decision. And the other bout saw Khalid Tasha beating Keita Ishibashi via knockout in 4:52. We heard less about this show than any Rizin event to date. Gabi Garcia, who is one of their big attractions, went to a no contest with Oksana Gagloeva, a Russian boxer, which only went 16 seconds before Garcia poked Gagloeva in the eye and she couldn’t continue. Garcia had a no contest a few weeks earlier in a Muay Thai fight in Japan using an illegal soccer kick, so this is becoming a bad pattern. King Reina, a woman MMA fighter, continued her pro wrestler hunter gimmick, beating Lei’D Tapa via unanimous decision. Reina has now beaten Shayna Baszler, Jazzy Gabert (who both did well in the Mae Young Classic) and now Tapa (who was an alternate in the tournament) in a row. Miyu Yamamoto, who has remained one of the company’s biggest ratings draws as part of the legendary Yamamoto family, finally got a win, via decision, over Cassie Robb. The weigh-in video of 42-year-old Yamamoto is probably the most amazing footage of the week anywhere. Put it this way, if she lived in the U.S. and could actually still win fights (and starting in MMA past 40 is an impossible task even if you were a great wrestler 20 years earlier), she’d be all over magazine covers and television commercials. That’s also why her matches are usually either the highest drawing or near the highest drawing matches on cards and why she’s booked on every show even though she isn’t much of a fighter. The reality is this Rizin experiment is struggling, although business numbers told two different stories. There were 17,730 fans at the Saitama Super Arena, so it was packed for how it was set up, although there was significant comping involved. The problem with Japan as compared to the U.S., and this is for both MMA and pro wrestling, is the lack of money from the cable/satellite side due to the lack of exposure. In the U.S., while not everyone has cable and the number has lowered in recent years, some cable stations will pay significant money for programming and some of the hottest shows are on cable. In Japan, as a general rule and when it comes to sports, there is only real money and real mainstream exposure on the six network stations. But that means you have to be able to draw a huge audience to maintain that spot. For example, the Rizin show on 7/30 aired from 7-9 p.m., basically in prime time, and did a 6.3 rating, which in Japan would be close to seven million viewers in a country with 127 million people. That’s barely one-third of the U.S. population, and if a WWE or UFC show could to the equivalent, 20 million viewers, well, think about how absurd that is. But in Japan, Rizin was in sixth place among the six networks, even losing to a low budget show called “Junk House,” where the hosts visit homes that are a mess with garbage everywhere. The big talk after the ratings came out was how Rizin couldn’t even beat the garbage show. In addition, for ratings, the reality in Japan is that it’s the freak show element. The show was promoted around the fighting debut of Shinju Nozawa Auclair, who was a former Japanese comedian and punk rocker who was all over television in Japan, and then, suddenly, moved to New York, where nobody knows her, and lives in a tiny apartment on the East side (she then got married and moved to San Francisco) and did jobs like working as a bartender. Her match was the most successful when it came to ratings. The true MMA fans hated that the show was built around her. While the MMA fans were about the bantamweight tournament and Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Hideo Tokoro, Fuji barely covered the tournament and pushed the show around Nozawa, Yamamoto and King Reina, three women, along with Tenshin Nasukawa, who they are pushing as a rising superstar. While Horiguchi was the best fighter on the show, he lacks charisma in Japan and the public has no idea who he is

The first thing announced for the next Rizin show, which is 10/15 in Fukuoka, is a submission rules grappling match with Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Dan Henderson. I guess they feel the need to use Sakuraba’s name to draw, and him fighting again would be criminal. That may end up being the 20th anniversary of Pride show. Rizin has wanted to do a show like that this year, since the first Pride show was on October 11, 1997, at the Tokyo Dome, headlined by Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada. But it’s tough since UFC owns the Pride name, and the fact this show is in Fukuoka and not Tokyo says something. They probably wanted to avoid Saitama since UFC has a show there on 9/23.

WWE: Even though they had to discount tickets the last few weeks in Philadelphia for Battleground, the Royal Rumble on 1/28 at the Wells Fargo Center sold out instantaneously

Cena has gotten his biggest Hollywood break to date. He will have a lead role in the movie, “Bumblebee,” which is a spinoff of the “Transformers” series

Cena is currently for the Raw PPV on 9/24 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and will likely be working the Raw TV’s leading up to the show

A Smackdown brand Hell in a Cell show was announced for 10/8 in Detroit at the Little Caesar’s Arena which is about to open

Reby Hardy did a lengthy interview with The Sheet podcast talking about the Broken Gimmick. She said it got back to them that Jeff Jarrett said that they (Anthem) should keep dragging it out and the Hardys will get tired of spending money on lawyers. “I’m pretty sure they’ve been betting on the fact that we were just going to get bored or going to get tired. But I think everybody is kind of underestimating my level of petty. And my level, my need for vengeance, it’s never been about money. It’s more about the principle of things. And I think on their end, it more about ego. And for me personally, I don’t know about Matt, it’s more about doing the right thing really.” She denied the story that Matt held them up for $100,000 at the last minute regarding the contract. I will just say this much. Matt taped the conversation in question which was the one where he told them he wanted to wait the three days (his contract was coming due) to see what the market had. In that conversation, the numbers he threw out were $400,000 to $500,000 which would be what he told Nordholm what he was looking for. I don’t know what figures they were talking about beforehand, but that was the figure he brought up. She complained about Anthem holding them up over this gimmick while allowing Bobby Roode and A.J. Styles to go to WWE with those names. But that’s really not a valid point, since Roode’s real name is Bobby Roode, and Styles used the name before he worked in TNA (including in WCW, which is owned by WWE), so you can’t stop someone from using a name they established elsewhere. People not Bully Ray using his name in ROH, but Bully Ray, after being burned by WWE not letting him use the Dudley’s name (which was established long before they went to WWE, but WWE had purchased all ECW’s intellectual property and the Dudleys name was established first in ECW and WWE trademarked it), went and trademarked Bully Ray before he used the name in TNA. Reby said, “If the deal was going to happen, I promise it would’ve happened already. And it would’ve been beneficial to them...best for all parties, but they’re the ones that have to deal with the public perception.” She noted that WWE would never agree to a deal where they’d use the gimmick and pay Anthem royalties or a percentage of revenue, that WWE would only use it if WWE owned it or they owned it. She said if they bought the rights from Anthem to use it, then Anthem would at least make money from the purchase price, and right now, nobody is making any money off the gimmick. Then again, from the WWE standpoint, you could argue that if WWE let people buy their WWE gimmicks when leaving and go to Impact with that gimmick, that at least WWE would make the cash from the sale and instead, nobody is making money of the gimmick. I know this case is different because Matt was the brainchild of the idea and also paid for television tapings that got the gimmick over, which would never happen in WWE. But otherwise, this would be like somebody in WWE creating the idea of a gimmick, it being used, and then them trying to take it to GFW, and WWE would never let that happen. This case to me is still similar to Cody Rhodes and the Rhodes name in the sense from a moral standpoint, Cody Rhodes should be allowed to use the Rhodes name that his father made famous decades before joining WWF. But legally, since he never used the name Cody Rhodes anywhere until signing with WWE, he can’t (creating the weird deal where Brandi Rhodes, since she used the name Eden Stiles in WWE, can use the name). From a moral standpoint, this was Matt’s brainchild and he was in charge of the creative that got it over and paid for much of the stuff that got it over. But there are clauses in his contract that seem to indicate Anthem would own the rights to it. Now, they could go to court and argue a contract breach, but that’s a long process and the key is that WWE will not allow them to use the gimmick until the case is resolved. And unless there is a settlement, the legal process could take years. Both sides say that talks are now dead between them. I will say that’s really a shame because it’s rare that an angle changes the course of people’s career like this angle did with both Hardys, and then they don’t get to use it for years, if ever again. I don’t agree with people who say that GFW should hand it over to them because nobody in wrestling would do that and WWE wouldn’t do it if the situations were reversed. Some say that would elevate the image of GFW to the public but I don’t see that. But they should work out a deal since that IP means nothing unless it’s the Hardys with it and they aren’t getting the Hardys back any time soon, if ever. I would have hoped for reasonable terms, but if the situation was reversed, the WWE wouldn’t even negotiate talent being able to buy the rights back to the gimmick

She also spoke to Sports Illustrated (the key to these conversations is she’s not under contract to WWE so she can directly do media while Matt & Jeff are not allowed to without WWE approval). She claimed that two days before Matt’s contract with Impact was up that he was getting drunk texts from Jeff Jarrett. She claimed there were legal questions about the verbiage of the contract and she felt they have a good chance of winning the battle. But she noted the problems in going to court and that Jeff Jarrett said, “Just keep dragging it out, they’ll get tired of spending money.” She said that’s why they want to settle it out of court, but right now that seems impossible and Anthem has no interest in settling and the only company who can make money with the gimmick, WWE, has shown it has no interest in either filing a suit or directly buying it. She once again threatened to take them to court for using footage of Senor Benjamin and Maxel, who had never signed a release to be on television and they technically shouldn’t have been allowed to air his footage. She said that she created, shot, directed and edited much of the footage and she had never gave them a release to use it either. She said that Anthem put in the contracts that they wanted 10 percent of the income from Matt & Jeff’s web site, and noted that Jeff’s site was mostly his paintings and his music and has nothing to do with wrestling and said sliding that into the contract was a shady move. She claimed that Jeff Jarrett’s idea was to give Jeff Hardy a big contract and pay Matt as little as possible, with the belief that Matt couldn’t go to WWE without Jeff. She said she had reservations about Matt going back to WWE, but she forgot all about those reservations and any loyalty to TNA when she found that out

WWE signed an extension of its exclusive merchandise deal with Mattel for its toy licenses. The new deal lasts through 2021. .. They also signed a new deal with Foxtel in Australia, which will continue to air Raw and Smackdown both live at 10 a.m. Australia time on Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as continuing the shows on PPV and making shows available on video on demand

Jericho was in TMZ for an incident on 7/28. Jericho was performing in New York at the Irving Plaza that night in a benefit concert for the late David Z. After he was leaving, he started signing autographs. When he went to leave and said he wouldn’t be signing any longer, someone started getting belligerent on him. There was footage that saw Jericho and the guy exchanging F bombs and Jericho saying to a friend, “These guys are f***ing pussies.” Then he left. Jericho made a statement to TMZ saying, “David Z was a good friend of mine and I was mentally and emotionally shattered after paying tribute to him and essentially saying goodbye to him Friday night. I was not in a good state of mind at that time and instead of ignoring a pushy (aka rude) fan, which is what I would usually do, I snapped. My apologies to all involved and God bless David Z.” TMZ TV on 7/31 ran with it as its lead story on 7/31 and buried Jericho, saying that the fans were complimenting him and he misinterpreted everything to where it got so heated. The impression we have is that one fan was rude about autographs and then it led to an argument when Jericho turned him down, and while arguing the fan did start complimenting Jericho, which showed up in the footage

Jericho is still not advertised for anything going forward so it appears his Smackdown appearances was just a one-shot surprise out of nowhere for a surprise pop and a way for Styles to get back the U.S. title without Owens losing on television. Jericho’s latest book, “No is a Four Letter Word,” is coming out in a few weeks and he’ll be starting a publicity tour for the book at that time. .. Jericho’s band Fozzy’s song “Judas,” was ranked No. 1 on the Sirius rock station Octane for the second week in a row

There was a major screw up at one point on the WWE web site. The original planned finish for Cena vs. Nakamura was for Corbin to interfere and try and attack Nakamura, but it backfiring and he would end up taking out Cena, leading to Nakamura winning. This would lead to the Cena vs. Corbin match. However, plans changed. I’m not sure if it was Cena who wanted to put Nakamura over clean because it was the right away to do it, and then doing the post-match angle the way they did it to lead to the next destination, or Vince McMahon just changing his mind, I don’t know

Regarding the Styles vs. Owens title change at Battleground, we’ve still heard conflicted stories all week. The general belief by most in the company is that the ending was botched, that Styles was supposed to win but he didn’t get the shoulder up. Others have said that during the match the finish was changed for whatever reason. We do know that when Owens won, backstage, the reaction was that the finish was botched and Styles was really unhappy. The referee did appear to do a very slight hesitation on the third count. If the finish was changed during the match itself, which would be weird and something that virtually never happens, the referee would know because he’s the only one with the headpiece to get that info from backstage. But we’ve heard from people who should know with conflicting stories. Either way, the fact they changed the title back immediately would lend credence to the idea it was a botched finish, had not Jericho out of nowhere been involved in the match. While Jericho could come back and say that he lost his U.S. title and get hurt and never got his rematch, and face Styles, the story for that matter was better with Jericho returning trying to take the title from Owens

From multiple versions including another eye witness this week regarding the Karen Jarrett thing with Braun Strowman that was mentioned in last week’s issue, when Jarrett asked Strowman for an autograph for her son, Strowman shot back nastily, “F*** your son,” and that’s when it all got started. So Strowman was out of line, although he did immediately apologize, and begged for the apology and for her not to tell Kurt Angle. Her point was that he should have never said that to a woman no matter who is the father of her children. They were both drinking at the club. There were so many people there and I was shocked that nobody claimed the story was false, because that’s how these things are usually handled, but there’s still time for that. Karen tried to downplay it on the GFW conference call saying it was blown out of proportion and they were just having fun, which was then denied to me by two people right there, although we thought she’d deny it ever happened publicly. At Raw after the story got out, there was some ribbing of Jordan with the idea Karen was asking for an autograph for him

Styles on Edge & Christian’s podcast said it was a direct call by Vince McMahon to do the U.S. title change in Madison Square Garden. Well, ultimately, it always is. It had to do with surprising people. I like the idea of occasional house show title changes, and would like to see them do either that or an occasional angle from a house show that gets filmed and put on Raw or Smackdown just so people have the idea house shows aren’t meaningless exhibitions where nothing really counts. Styles also said he’d like to work programs with Rusev, Rollins, Balor and Nakamura

In a big surprise, at the 7/30 Stardom show in Shinkiba, Io Shirai returned. Shirai who many considered the top woman wrestler in Japan, had done her farewell there and was to start here. There was an issue with a neck injury when WWE did their testing of her several months back, which led to her announce she was taking time off for the neck injury and that was the reason she gave for leaving Stardom. WWE hadn’t finalized the deal, and wrestlers are not allowed to say they publicly they are going to WWE until the company announces it first (hence Adam Cole disappearing off the face of the Earth and I have no evidence he’s working these days as an astronaut nor that he was actually poisoned to death as the Young Bucks have implied on “Being the Elite”) so she couldn’t say at the time she was leaving for the U.S. even though most knew it. After a three-way main event, Shirai hit the ring and attacked Oedo Tai and asked Viper (who was in the Mae Young Classic) to join her as a tag team in the Queen’s Quest group. Viper agreed. Shirai announced her return on 8/13 at Korakuen Hall, and that she would also be in the upcoming Five Star Grand Prix tournament (which is their version of G-1, and Jim Cornette should be proud of that name). She also issued a challenge to Team Jungle for the Artist of Stardom championship. This is because she’s not coming to WWE after all. She contacted Rossy Ogawa and Stardom on 7/28 and said that she was ready to return full-time. Nobody has publicly said WWE changed their minds at bringing her in, but obviously that is what happened. The phraseology being used for Japan is that she got some bad news and told Ogawa she was ready to come back. Nobody has directly said that WWE decided against offering her a contract due to her neck issues that they found in her physicals, but they had stalled on offering her a contract months ago when they found out about the injury while she did her medicals in the U.S. After she did her medicals, WWE wanted her to take time off to rehab her neck. She did that and was just cleared by doctors to return to the ring after her therapy. Then WWE seemingly decided against offering her the deal. While every case is different, WWE has had a general rule of not wanting to bring in new talent that either has concussion issues or neck issues. It also could be that with Kairi Hojo and Asuka they already have two Japanese women and had discovered more women from other nationalities that they wanted to sign from the Mae Young Classic. Even though most would say Shirai was better than Hojo or Asuka, timing is everything in this business

Speaking of Hojo, Kairi Sane, formerly Hojo, was reported by Pro Wrestling Sheet has having suffered a concussion and a neck injury in her matches at the Mae Young Classic. She is currently not training, although the belief is she’ll easily be ready for the finals on 9/12 in Las Vegas against Shayna Baszler

The situation with Amore was discussed on the 7/31 episode of “Bring it to the Table,” where our report from several weeks ago regarding his being kicked off the bus by Reigns due to heat with the locker room was acknowledged. JBL said that a lot of that stuff happened, talked about wrestlers court in the old days (where Kane was the bailiff because of his resemblance to “Bull” in the old TV show “Night Court”) and how he had kicked people off buses and said that it’s difficult when the locker room turns on someone and with the exception of Miz, nobody in that situation every really made it. Graves, who knew the situation well, said that he personally didn’t like Amore, saying that Amore is exactly like his TV persona 24 hours a day and when you’re with him day-after-day, him being loud and abrasive and talking about who he partied with in Los Angeles gets old. Graves said that he does think Amore is valuable to the company, noting that the fans love him, that he does well in quarter hour ratings and he sells a lot of merchandise (hence Amore’s line to Cass when they split up about how Cass’ merchandise check was going down to no times). The incident in question we were told that broke the camel’s back and this happened some time back, was him talking very loudly on his phone to someone and saying things that those who couldn’t help but hear him thought were negative about the business while bragging about how much money he was making from the business to that person. There has been talk of different things that can be done with Amore, since Vince McMahon sees him as a guy who you use to constantly make fun of in booking portrayal, who talks big and then always gets beat up easily, but that heels can get heat from beating up because the fans truly like him. Among ideas we’ve heard include going back to NXT with the idea it’s away from Vince McMahon and he can be a signature superstar on that brand and help sell tickets to road shows, or a move to 205 Live, where he’s a guy fans react to on a show which struggles to get any fan reaction. Graves himself brought up that he thinks Amore should be moved to 205 Live, and he’s hardly the first person to have made that suggestion. Kalisto was also brought up as someone who should move to 205 Live

Michaels filmed another movie last year, a comedy that he believes is coming out in 2018

As of right now the plan is for Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Wolfgang, Pete Dunne and Mark Andrews to be brought to the U.S. in a few weeks. Exactly what role they’ll play is uncertain. It could be appearing on either the NXT Takeover show or on the NXT TV tapings that take place right after SummerSlam. Right now the plans for the U.K. show are still on hold, since the first taping was to be in June, and nothing has been announced

A correction from last week in the item on Bruno Sammartino. As noted, Sammartino went to Pizzoferrato, Italy, this past week, perhaps for the last time given his and his wife’s age and health conditions, as the city is unveiling a statue of him, they are turning the home he grew up in into the Bruno Sammartino museum and they are naming the main at the new hospital being opened the Emelia Sammartino Medical Center. We wrote that a Hollywood film crew was going on the trip to film his for the movie on his life. It is not a Hollywood film crew, but the documentary film crew as over the years there were two different movies that have been in the in the works on him. The documentary will I guess continue from the original form which aired on Mother’s Day a few years back on Pittsburgh television. But they are finishing that up and the producers are just waiting for this footage to finish it up as the final footage. The Scott Rosenfelt Hollywood movie on Sammartino has been stalled for years. There is a script, but it is Sammartino’s insistence that the story told he completely accurate that has held it up as all the studios insist of final creative control, which like virtually every Hollywood movie based on real life, a lot of liberties and outright fantasy with the truth is taken to make for the belief of a better movie

Don’t know if anything will come from this, but there were those internally talking about a social media message from Madusa/Alundra Blayze, who was back as part of the Mae Young Classic doing backstage interviews. Madusa wrote, regarding the controversy over transgenders in the military, “Let’s just get this straight...serving in the military is a privilege not a fucking right. And it’s not a social experiment.” WWE has prided itself in recent years on being open-minded and progressive on such issues, unlike what wrestling often was in the past

Donald Nemeth, 30, the younger brother of Ziggler and another former WWE wrestler, Ryan Nemeth, pleaded guilty on 7/28 to a charge of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the death Joshua Mascol, 34, in what police believe was a drug deal that went bad. Police believed that Nemeth and Jack King, 52, attempted to rob Mascol during a drug deal at the University Hotel and Suites in Cleveland. A fight broke out and Mascol was shot three times in the hallway. Hotel surveillance cameras showed Nemeth and King. Both men will be sentenced on 8/28. The prosecutors had asked the judge to bar any mentions in court of Ziggler since he was irrelevant to the case and mentioning him would distract the jurors from the evidence. The Nemeth and King both pleaded guilty to the lesser involuntary manslaughter charge before the trial that was set to start on 7/31

WWE went to trademark the term Taboo Tuesday. So I could see them bringing that concept back for an episode of Smackdown

A Table for Three episode with Sting, Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair, will debut after the 8/14 Raw show

Goldberg will have a guest appearance on the ABC TV show “The Goldbergs,” which has done several pro wrestling related episodes in its run. The show is set in the 80s in Philadelphia and Goldberg’s role is more tongue in cheek, with the idea of Goldberg on the Goldbergs, playing a high school P.E. teacher. The show was created by Adam Goldberg, no relation, who grew up as a big wrestling fan

The WWE Fan Council had a survey asking fans who their favorite wrestlers not on the WWE roster was, listing choices of Will Ospreay, Kushida, Kenny King, Mil Muertes, Jushin Liger, The Briscoes, Adam Page, El Texano, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ortiz (I’ll bet 95% of the people think they mean Tito), Killshot, Tiger Mask, Sienna, Young Bucks, Angelina Love, Tetsuya Naito, Son of Havoc, Bobby Lashley, War Machine, Marty Scurll, The Mack, Pentagon Dark, Fenix, Dante Fox, Taya, Kazuchika Okada, Kelly Klein, Deonna Purrazzo, Ethan Carter, Santana (I’ll bet 90% are thinking Tito and another five percent think Carlos), Kenny Omega and Zack Sabre Jr

WWE also sent out a survey this past week asking fans what they thought about Battleground. Usually when you do this, it’s because you are trying to get information to prove the idea that even though the show was reviewed so badly, the worst of any WWE show this year, that their most hardcore audience still liked the show

Regarding the Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen stuff, while this doesn’t confirm anything, Jessamyn Duke this past week was training in a class run by Rocky Romero at the Santino Brothers pro wrestling school in Southern California. Then again, all four of them have at least dabbled in working with wrestlers like Natalya in the past. That’s the same school WWE send Eva Marie to train at while she was also working in Hollywood (under Brian Kendrick) and where WWE sent Daria Berenato (Sonya Deville) to train before she came to the Performance Center. Duke is best friends with Shayna Baszler, who is in the finals of the Mae Young tournament

The “Smacking Talk” spoof on “Talking Smack” that Bryan, Renee Young and Gable did was just a one-time thing

TV this week is Raw on 8/7 and Smackdown on 8/8, both at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. They haven’t promoted as much as in previous weeks. For the second night, they’ve announced Naomi vs. Carmella and TJP vs. Swann

The ten most-watched shows of the week on the WWE Network were: 1. Battleground PPV; 2. Bring it to the Table on 7/31 talking Brock Lesnar’s future; 3. NXT from 7/26; 4. WrestleMania; 5. Kurt Angle: The Essential Collection; 6. SummerSlam 1994; 7. Great Balls of Fire PPV; 8. Table for 3 with Renee Young, Lita and Corey Graves; 9. Royal Rumble 2017; 10. WWE 24: Kurt Angle. 205 Live was 12th for the week

Notes from the 7/31 Raw tapings in Pittsburgh. The show was okay, but faded in the third hour. They drew 8,500 fans. Pittsburgh is known for being the hardest crowd in WWE, but that wasn’t the case here as they were fine until the third hour when, according to those live, the Elias match killed the crowd. Main Event opened with Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado beat Gulak & Kendrick in a good match. Metalik & Dorado both did simultaneous moonsaults off the top rope to the floor. Metalik pinned Gulak to take the fall. Emma pinned Mickie James with a roll-up. Raw opened with Angle out. He got a big reaction being they were in Pittsburgh, but they sure didn’t buy it when he was talking about his son. It’s almost seeming right now like they sacrificed Jordan long-term to have a payoff for a story and draw a few weeks of ratings. He noted that this was the 21st anniversary of the day he won the gold medal with a broken freaking neck. Angle did his speech and left, but then Lesnar & Heyman came out. Heyman said that he saw Angle’s scam. Without outright saying it, Heyman played up to people who read the reports that Lesnar would lose the title at SummerSlam and leave for a fight with Jon Jones this year, even though it’s not happening. He noted that Angle went to the board of directors and came up with an idea to get the title off Lesnar because they all think they have to. He noted that Lesnar can now lose the title without being pinned or submitting and that with Joe, Reigns and Strowman, this is the most stacked heavyweight division in WWE history. Everyone else uses WWE-speak and he’s out there doing Dana White-speak. He said that maybe they should just name the PPV “Brock Lesnar loses the Universal title.” He said that Angle was told to make Lesnar pay the “Ultimate” price and said that if Lesnar loses the match, he and Lesnar are both leaving WWE. But then he said with all of that, that Lesnar isn’t losing. Matt & Jeff Hardy beat Gallows & Anderson in 9:04 when Jeff broke up the magic killer attempt on Matt, Matt hit the twist of fate on Gallows and Jeff used the swanton for the pin. The Revival was on commentary and noted that they’ve beaten both the Hardys and Gallows & Anderson and should be the No. 1 contenders. After the match, the Hardys and Revival went at it. Anderson & Gallows got involved as well to set up a three-way. The Hardys knocked Anderson off the ramp and both hit a twist of fate on Dawson. Then Jeff jumped off Matt’s back with a clothesline off the stage to the floor on Wilder and Anderson. Renee Young was with Ambrose. He said that last week was like old times, that he and Rollins were a machine together. But he said as far as them getting back together as a team, he’s out. Rollins came out and said it was special and it was real. Ambrose told him he didn’t trust him and he had eyes in the back of his head the entire match. He said that as much as the WWE Universe may want it, he got burned once and it won’t happen again. After that, Rollins was walking backstage and bumped into Sheamus & Cesaro. They were laughing at him. They noted that when they started as a team, they couldn’t stand each other but now they’re best of friends because they trust each other. They said that nobody trusts Rollins or wants to be with him, and that they can do a WWE Network show with him called “Ride Alone.” That was pretty funny. Rollins challenged either one to a fight. Sheamus accepted. Swann & Alexander & Tozawa beat TJP & Nese & Daivari in 8:46. Tozawa’s shoulder was all taped up and he was getting it worked over. O’Neil wanted him to give up and save his shoulder for the match with Daivari the next night for the title shot. Tozawa once again refused to quit. Alexander did a running flip dive at the same time Swann did a middle rope Phoenix splash to the floor, and finally Tozawa used a tope on Daivari. Tozawa then started selling like he hurt his shoulder again. However, Swann hit the spin kick on TJP and Tozawa pinned TJP with a senton off the top rope. Miz and the Mizterouge were out and they called out Jordan. Jordan didn’t get much of a reaction but he wasn’t booed. Evidently they expected him to get booed because they scripted this segment around the idea he was booed. Instead of reading the audience response and calling an audible, they went with the original script which got the segment off on a bad foot. Miz asked Jordan how it feels to have the crowd boo him. Jordan said they’re going to do whatever they want, so he was scripted to react like Cena. Miz then wanted to guide his career. Miz was great at carrying this segment. He wanted Jordan in the Mizterouge. Jordan turned him down. Miz told him not to be short-sighted as this place will chew him up and spit him out. He said he’d rather be chewed up and spit out than having success with somebody like him. Miz then told Jordan that his father was a washed up jock who only got a job in WWE out of pity, and his father is now in over his head making bad decision after bad decision after throwing away the best years of his career. He said Angle is a lot like this town, sad, broken down and pining for glory days that are never coming back. Jordan said that he could insult him, but he couldn’t insult Kurt. He went to leave. Miz went to jump him and Jordan caught him in an overhead belly-to-belly and threw him onto Dallas and Axel who went down, and Jordan left. The segment was as good as it was going to be to attempt to get Jordan over, but they’ve got a lot of work to do and thus far the fan base is clearly rejecting it in the worst way, they don’t boo it or react to it. There was a taped Reigns promo saying that he’s the only one of the three who can beat Lesnar. Rollins pinned Sheamus in 8:27. Rollins took out Cesaro and then pinned Sheamus with a roll-up in a solid match. Cesaro jumped Rollins after the match. Sheamus joined in and they were double-teaming Rollins. Fans were chanting for Ambrose. It was notable on the air how fans had turned their heads from the beatdown and to the back to see the Ambrose run-in. But it never happened and Rollins was laid out. Sheamus & Cesaro left. But then they turned around and got back in the ring and were beating down Rollins again, laying him out with a double-team white noise. Ambrose finally tried to make the save. They pulled Ambrose’s shirt over his head and beat him down and Cesaro laid out Ambrose with the neutralizer. Cesaro continued to beat down Ambrose and Sheamus gave Ambrose white noise to lay him out. Joe did a promo and vowed that somebody is going to sleep tonight. I kind of thought we all were. Wyatt did an interview. He ran down Pittsburgh, saying the place was pitiful. He talked about Balor. Balor then got in the ring and turned his back on Wyatt and dared him to attack. Wyatt laughed at him, and went to attack, but Balor hit him with a Pele kick and followed with a sliding kick and a Woo dropkick over the rail. Reigns won the three-way over Strowman and Joe in 14:20. Strowman was killing everyone at first until Joe choked him out. Joe and Reigns went at it for several minutes until Strowman hit a Superman punch off the steps on Joe and ran at Strowman, only to be kicked in the face. Strowman threw Reigns into the steps. Joe hit a senton on Strowman on the floor and another one on Reigns in the ring. Joe had Reigns in the choke but Strowman saved. Strowman powerslammed Joe and Reigns saved. Fans chanted “This is awesome.” Strowman came in with the steps but Reigns hit him with the Superman punch and knocked Strowman out of the ring. Reigns then speared Joe for the pin. So Joe’s unbeaten streak against Reigns is now over, but I guess they can still say Reigns has never beaten him in a singles match. Enzo and Show were backstage. Enzo apologized to Show for getting him in this mess with Cass. Show said that he doesn’t mind, that Cass needs a lesson in respect and he’s the guy who can teach him that. Elias did an interview and talked about growing up in Pittsburgh before turning on the city. Elias pinned Kalisto in 8:15. Vince McMahon this past week for whatever reason decided that Elias’ no longer has a last name. This made for an awkward broadcast because evidently they forget to tell Booker T. So Booker is calling him Samson and Cole is painfully calling him Elias. Then, after the commercial break, Booker started calling him Elias. This is where the crowd fell out of the show live. Given Kalisto has no booking credibility and Elias is average at best, in a promotion filled with mostly guys above average, and they went longer than fans wanted from this match, it kind of died. There was even a C.M. Punk chant that got fairly loud. Elias won with a spinning neckbreaker, called drift away, which is funny because he’s no longer called the Drifter but they are using the name he has dropped as the name of his finisher. Charly Caruso was backstage with Bliss. So she’s facing Bayley at SummerSlam, the biggest PPV of the second half of the year. So the entire promo was Bliss talking about Banks. There was some inside stuff there because in real life, Bliss and Banks don’t get along, or at least at one point didn’t and are playing on it now. But Banks is not in the match, at least not now. Bliss basically made Banks seem like the star and said she wanted Bayley to win because she was the weaker of the two and made fun of Banks not being able to beat Bayley. She noted that she beat Bayley in Bayley’s hometown to win the title and then beat her again because Bayley doesn’t have an extreme bone in her body. Man, bringing up memories of that horrible kendo stick match does nobody any favors. When this promo was over, I had no interest in Bliss vs. Bayley and a modicum of Bliss vs. Banks. Unless they add Banks to the match, this made little sense. Although Banks being involved in the match in some form would be expected. Backstage, Rollins thanked Ambrose for trying to help him out. Ambrose said that he never came out to help Rollins. He said that Rollins, by picking a fight with three guys, put him in a position where he’d look bad if he didn’t help him. He said he’d have looked like a jerk because everyone expected him to come out. He told Rollins that next time he picks a fight, pick a fight he can win because he’s not helping him anymore. Bayley beat Jax via count out in 8:39. The match was boring and the crowd was dead. There was a spot where Jax put her hair in a side ponytail like Bayley. It was mostly Jax ragdolling Bayley, which made all the sense in the world given Bayley isn’t that over right now and she’s the one getting the title shot. Bliss came out to watch. Bayley left the match with Jax to beatdown Bliss. Jax then jumped out of the ring and threw Bayley into the barricade. Jax charged after Bayley, who moved, and she ran into the ring steps and was counted out. That’s hardly the kind of win you’d want a weak contender to get leading into a title match with a champion who has beaten them multiple times. Bliss then chased after Bayley, who jumped out of the ring, but did hit Bliss with a punch. The segment was dead. Cass did an interview and said Show will see what a lesson in respect looks like when Show is left in a heap. Enzo then came out before the main event and did an interview. He said Cass was a fraud, and that Show is going to bring his checkbook and give Cass a reality check. Cass beat Show via DQ in 5:06. Cass has new music again. Hopefully it grows on people because there was a lot of negativity to it. Show attacked him right away. The match wasn’t good. Show went for a choke slam but Cass kicked Show’s knee and speared his knee. Cass hit the big boot. He went to the middle rope and jumped off but got hit with a chop by Show. But Cass laid out Show with another big boot. Enzo then jumped on Cass for the DQ. Cass then threw him off and gave Enzo one kick, and as usual, knocked him out. Cass then ran to attack Show, but Show hit Cass with the knockout punch as the show ended. During the match, there was a line by Graves about Enzo not being a big tipper. This came from a complaint by a stripper in Los Angeles (where he lives wh said that Enzo wasn’t a big tipper). After Raw ended, Enzo attacked Cass once again. Once again Cass was beating up Enzo when Show came out and held Cass so Enzo could get some punches in, and Show choke slammed Cass to end the show

Notes from the 8/1 Smackdown tapings in Cleveland. This was a better than usual show, paced by Styles vs. Owens and Cena vs. Nakamura. The show drew 7,700 fans. There was no Jericho on the show, nor any mention of him, nor is he advertised anywhere going forward, so it looks like that was just a one-time thing. In the opening dark match, Harper pinned Konnor with the discus lariat. They opened Smackdown with Styles pinning Owens to keep the U.S. title in 16:37. They had strong match with the gimmick on the finish to set up their SummerSlam rematch. Styles did a plancha over the top into a phenomenal forearm on Owens on the floor that looked great, and even better in slow-mo. Styles kept working for the calf crusher and Owens would struggle to make the ropes. Owens accidentally punched ref Mike Choida when Styles moved. Owens then went for the pop up power bomb, but Styles countered into a front rolling cradle and Chioda, who was dazed, counted the pin even though Owens’ shoulder was clearly up. This was a ***½ match and the gimmicked finish was fine in isolation because it’s part of the long story and led to the next destination. The gimmick of the ref not seeing the shoulder up and blowing the call is okay on very, very rare occasions. But they’re using it as too much of a regular crutch of late and really should have a moratorium to avoid this finish for a long time at this point. Styles was bleeding. Backstage, Bryan and Shane McMahon both noted that Owens’ shoulder was up. Chioda was backstage selling the eye injury from the punch and Shane told him he made a bad call and should have called for a backup referee when he went down. Owens then showed up and threw a fit and shoved Chioda hard into some furniture. Bryan then announced there would be a rematch at SummerSlam and Shane would be the referee. Owens threw a hit saying Shane was the most incompetent person there, but Shane got in his fade and said he’d do it. The Usos behind the scenes did the Big E catchphrase and came out for an interview. They’re very good at this new character. There was another Fashion Police vignette spoofing the TV show “Twin Peaks.” In this one, Breeze was looking for Fandango and then Fandango showed up with the Ascension and they acted like they were aliens, but Breeze then woke up and realized it was a dream. But Fandango is now missing. Some fans cheered this segment. English pinned Zayn in 1:57 with a schoolboy. English was doing his singing before the match. Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis isn’t over as after the match, Mike & Maria came out and said that they loved that Zayn lost. So they are trying to give English credibility and Zayn is slotted at an even lower level than even I expected. Lynch & Naomi beat Natalya & Carmella in 4:50. There was a good rope break spot where Natalya had Naomi in the sharpshooter, but overall, even though Naomi vs. Natalya is the SummerSlam match, it was Naomi vs. Carmella for building next week that was the focal point. Carmella tagged in herself, which got Natalya mad. Carmella went for her cone of silence triangle on Naomi, but Naomi reversed it into her own wacky Lucha submission which Carmella tapped out to. Renee Young interviewed Mahal. He did what was essentially a babyface interview for India talking about how every time he walks the streets in the U.S., he sees xenophobia, but seeing that only makes him more proud of his heritage. Rusev beat Gable in 9:15. Actually I thought this was better than either Styles vs. Owens with the wacky finish and Cena vs. Nakamura since Cena works like his body has stiffened up so much. This was really good although they did a really long bearhug spot during the commercial break. Gable has been slotted as the great working enhancement guy who they give a lot of offense to. He did two overhead belly-to-belly suplexes on Rusev but Rusev fought his way out of a third one. Gable also did a German suplex. Gable escaped the accolade and got the ankle lock in the middle, but Rusev kicked him out of the ring. Rusev then won with a superkick and the accolade. This was at the level of a mid-tier G-1 match. Nakamura pinned Cena in 13:19 to earn the title shot at Mahal at SummerSlam. They showed Mahal and the Singh Brothers (still all taped up from their punishment in the Punjabi Prison match) watching from one of the sky boxes. Both worked as faces and they had a ***½ level very good match as well. Nakamura worked for an armbar and a triangle. He went for the Kinshasa but Cena turned it into the STF. Nakamura kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment. He tried a second one but Nakamura reversed into a guillotine with a body scissors. Cena powered out with another Attitude Adjustment. Cena went for a third one, but Nakamura reversed out of it with a reverse powerslam with Cena landing at a bad angle on his neck and the back of his head. You could see Nakamura tell Cena he was sorry right away, and Cena saying he’s okay. Nakamura then pinned him with the Kinshasa. The two shook hands after the match. As far as the finish went, they did the right thing given they put the guy challenging for the title over strong and clean. Cena’s star power is established and locked and losing matches on occasion when it’s needed doesn’t hurt him. After the show went off the air, they continued on the WWE Network and Corbin attacked Nakamura and laid him out with the briefcase. Cena ran back to make the save. Corbin was getting the better of him and set up the ring steps near the table, but Cena recovered and came back on Corbin, and laid him out with an Attitude Adjustment through the table. 205 Live opened with a Kendrick interview. He said that Gallagher was a clown and he’s going to rid 205 Live of Gallagher and send him back to the circus. Kendrick beat Gallagher via DQ in 1:22. Gallagher came out aggressive after Kendrick while the crowd was dead. Gallagher wouldn’t stop putting the boots to Kendrick on he ropes and was disqualified. Gallagher continued on him after the match and threw Kendrick into the barricade. The whole idea is they are trying to get Gallagher out of the idea he’s a unique prelim character for entertainment like a Santino or an Enzo that nobody takes seriously as a fighter, and push his legit fighting background (under his real name, Jack Claffey, he was 2-0 in amateur MMA fights, both wins via first round submission). Ali and Swann were backstage playing video games. Ali mentioned that his feud with Gulak is now over. TJP showed up and they did their friendly rivals bit and Swann said he knew it was eating him up inside that last week in the tag match his team won. This set up a match between the two for next week, but first they were going to play video games against each other. Nese beat Gran Metalik in 6:28 . Nese is getting more of a push, with his character built around his physique. He got some heat for a promo saying how Metalik covers his face and body up because he looks just like the fans and not like a premier athlete. Metalik did a top rope Asai moonsault too the floor, a post to the top rope springboard crossbody, a ropewalk dropkick and a ropewalk elbow drop. Still, people don’t know him or his moves and in WWE, it’s about star power and not what actually happens in the ring so they were not into this match. Nese won with running knees into the corner. Dasha Fuentes interviewed Neville. Neville said he didn’t care who won the Tozawa vs. Daivari main event for a title shot. He said that whoever wins, at SummerSlam, all that awaits them is defeat and humiliation. His interview delivery for his current character is great. He’s really one of the best performers all-around right now in the company. Daivari did an interview and dedicated the match to Rasoul Khadem, a two-time world champion and 1996 gold medalist at 198 pounds in the Olympics (the same Olympics that Angle won gold at 220). He said that Tozawa and Neville fight for themselves, but he’s fighting the pride of an entire nation. I guess the same guy that scripts Daivari is the guy scripting Mahal, but having them both do it on the same night? Tozawa pinned Daivari in 11:17. This was a well worked good match but it’s 205 Live so it was a struggle to get the crowd. No O’Neil. Daivari threw Tozawa’s shoulder into the post and worked it over most of the way. There was a count out tease and Daivari used a cobra clutch as well as got a near fall with a frog splash. Tozawa came back with a tope, and followed with a high senton off the top rope for the pin. In the dark match at the end, it was scheduled as Mahal vs. Orton for the title. To get heat, Mahal said he wasn’t going to be defending the title. They went 10:00 with the crowd into it most of the way. Orton finally hit the RKO and the Singh Brothers jumped in for the DQ. Orton then laid out both Singh Brothers with RKO’s after the match

The NXT Midwest tour opened on 7/27 in Milwaukee before a sellout 900 fans at Turners Hall, which is the same building ROH plays in and of late also usually packs. Roderick Strong pinned Velveteen Dream in a strong opener. The two tore down the house and got the best reaction of the night, even more than the main event. Dream wore a Cubs jersey to get heat. Liv Morgan & Ruby Riot beat Bianca Belair & Sonya Deville. Crowd was into Riot but not so much the others. Riot pinned Belair. Johnny Gargano pinned Killian Dain. Tame but good match. Aleister Black pinned andrade Cien Almas. Lots of hard striking. Crowd was quieter than for some of the other bouts but did react big to Black’s moonsault. Black won with Black Mass. Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young beat Tucker Knight & Otis Dozovic. Heavy Machinery was very over and fans were chanting “We Want Bearhugs.” They should have chanted that in the Nakamura vs. Corbin match. Young pinned Knight and the fans gave Machinery a big pop after the match. Ember Moon beat Mandy Rose via submission. Moon was really over. Rose wasn’t, but she’s never put on television for some reason. Good match. Drew McIntyre & Kassius Ohno beat Bobby Roode & Hideo Itami in the main event. Roode got the biggest reaction of the show. Crowd was into Itami’s offense on Ohno. Crowd very into this. Ohno pinned Roode. Roode then said it was a fluke and challenged Ohno to a title match in Green Bay. Shawn Michaels was there as a producer but never came out in front of the crowd

The Green Bay show on 7/28 drew 2,400, one of the stronger NXT crowds in a long time. Gargano beat Velveteen Dream. Match was said to be great and while Dream was booed at first, the crowd ended up cheering both guys. Gargano won with the Gargano escape. Riot pinned Rose. Rose got a good reaction. Riot won with a Pele kick out of nowhere. Strong pinned Itami in a great Japanese style match. Strong got a strong face reaction but the crowd didn’t boo Itami much. Black & McIntyre beat Almas & Cezar Bononi. Crowd was into Black & McIntyre, but Almas got little reaction and Bononi got no reaction. Almas kept refusing to work with Bononi. McIntyre gave Black a back drop over the top rope and he flipped doing to the floor on Almas. McIntyre pinned Bononi with the Claymore kick. McIntyre got a great reaction. Moon pinned Deville. Little crowd reaction Deville looked green. Young & Wolfe beat Knight & Dozovic. Knight & Dozovic kept using bearhugs, which got over. Fans even started chanting “Bearhug city.” Young ave Knight a low blow. Dain tried to run in but Dozovic got rid of him. Dozovic was about to power bomb Wolfe, but Yang tripped Dozovic’s foot and his head hit the exposed metal turnbuckle and Wolfe pinned Dozovic. Roode pinned Ohno to retain the NXT title. There was a ref bump and Ohno hit his spinning elbow but no ref to count the pin. Another ref came out. He was trying to help the first ref and missed it when Roode hit Ohno with a low blow. Roode then used the implant DDT. Ohno then cut a promo saying that when he was fired three years ago, he never gave up on himself and said that he pinned Roode in the tag match the night before in Milwaukee, and he almost beat him for the title here. He said he won’t quit until he wins the title

The final show of the tour was 7/29 in St. Paul before 1,200 fans. Gargano pinned Dain with a surprise crucifix pin. Morgan & Riot beat Belair & Deville. Fans chanted “Welcome back” at Morgan, not realizing she never left. Itami pinned Ohno after the GTS. Itami was the one cheered in his match even though he played heel. Eventually Ohno won the crowd over. Black & McIntyre beat Dream & Almas when McIntyre pinned Dream with the Claymore kick. Crowd didn’t react much to Almas here either. Dream got a lot of cheers, given he does a Prince gimmick and they were in St. Paul. Moon pinned Rose with the eclipse. Crowd was into this match and Rose looked much improved. Wolfe & Young beat Heavy Machinery again. The first nearly ten minutes were bearhugs by Machinery. The crowd once again cheered the bearhug spots, unlike in most matches when bearhugs aren’t a part of the gimmick (see Nakamura vs. Corbin), they bore people. Dain distracted the ref and Wolfe pulled Dozovic off the turnbuckle and pinned him. Roode pinned Strong to retain the title in the main event. Great match. The crowd was way into this with the same ref bump and low blow and DDT by Roode for the finish. McIntyre then came out and cut a promo on Roode

The NXT Florida tour opened on 7/28 in Crystal River, FL, before 250 fans. Oney Lorcan pinned Adrian Jaoude. Chad Lail pinned Jeet Rama. Billie Kay & Peyton Royce beat Sage Beckett & Reina Gonzalez. In a surprise, Marcel Barthel pinned Nick Miller of the TM 61 tag team. Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford beat Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler.; No Way Jose pinned Kona Reeves. Raul Mendoza & Fabian Aichner beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy. In a very rare woman’s match that was a house show main event, Asuka pinned Nikki Cross to keep her title

The other show was 7/29 in Fort Pierce, FL, before 300 fans. Lorcan pinned Aichner. Lars Sullivan pinned Mendoza and destroyed him after. Taynara Conti & Reina Gonzalez beat Vanessa Borne & Aliyah. Miller pinned Sawyer Fulton, whose injury was just a killer because he lost his spot in Sanity due to needing surgery, and how that he’s back, he’s doing nothing. Jose pinned Marcel Barthel. Reeves pinned Jaoude. Lacey Evans pinned Sarah Logan. Main event saw Asuka & Ford & Dawkins over Beckett & Moss & Sabbatelli. .. The Raw crew opened on 7/28 in Buffalo before 5,500. 7/29 in Erie, PA drew 1,650. 7/30 in Youngstown, OH, drew 2,800

The Smackdown crew opened on 7/29 in Detroit for the WWE event at the Joe Louis Arena before 5,000 fans (which was very disappointing when you had Lesnar, Cena and Styles all on the show). 7/30 in Saginaw drew 2,800. 7/31 in Fort Wayne they moved from the usual building to the smaller Expo Center

The Raw crew in Buffalo opened with R-Truth & Crews & O’Neil & Jordan beating Goldust & Anderson & Gallows & Hawkins in 7:00 when Jordan pinned Hawkins after a back suplex into a neckbreaker. Neville beat Tozawa to retain the cruiserweight title with the Rings of Saturn in 8:00. The match was pretty good and Tozawa’s chant was over. Balor pinned Samson in 8:00 with the coup de gras. Balor sold most of the way. Next was a fight with Enzo and Cass. There was no match. Enzo cut an interview and then Cass came out and destroyed him quickly with a big boot. Enzo was laid out for a while. In a 2 on 3 handicap match, Ambrose & Rollins beat Miz & Axel & Dallas in 17:00 when Ambrose pinned Miz after Dirty Deeds. Sheamus & Cesaro kept the tag titles over Slater & Rhyno in 9:00 when Cesaro pinned Slater after a roll-up. Slater & Rhyno tried to get the crowd to chant ECW. But it didn’t work as the fans wanted to cheer Cesaro. Wyatt pinned Kalisto in a 5:00 squash match with Sister Abigail. Bayley & Banks beat Jax & Bliss in 7:00 when Bayley pinned Bliss after the belly-to-belly. Reigns

beat Strowman via DQ in 10:30 in the same match they’ve been doing for weeks. The crowd was hot and split 50/50. Fans wanted Joe but he wasn’t on the show. Strowman hurt Reigns with the ring steps for the DQ. Strowman powerslammed Reigns after the match and set up a table in the corner. He went to powerslam Reigns through the table, but Reigns slipped out, hit the Superman punch and then speared Strowman through the table. They were in Buffalo in March for a house show and did the exact same match with the exact same finish

Erie was the lowest crowd anyone can remember in the building. The show was similar to Buffalo but a few changes. Kalisto and Crews traded place in the opener so it was Jordan & Kalisto & O’Neil & R-Truth beating Anderson & Gallows & Hawkins & Goldust when Jordan pinned Hawkins. In the tag title match with Sheamus & Cesaro over Slater & Rhyno, the finish was Sheamus pinning Rhyno with the Brogue kick. The did the same thing with Enzo and Cass. Crowd was hot during Ambrose & Rollins vs. Miz & Axel & Dallas. Same women’s tag match as the night before. Wyatt pinned Crews in 6:00 with Sister Abigail. Same Reigns vs. Strowman match again with a 50/50 crowd

. Youngstown was the same show as Erie. Reigns was over huge as a babyface on this show, and the women were also over. Rollins & Ambrose showed no signs of their TV issues and were high-fiving each other after their win

The Smackdown crew opened for what was, with the exception of maybe an MSG show, the most built up house show with the most star power of the year. While the crowd was said to be 5,000, I got some photos and the place looked empty in such a large building and looked considerably smaller than that. Styles pinned Owens with the phenomenal forearm to retain the U.S. title in a good match. Dillinger & Sin Cara beat English & Rowan when Dillinger pinned Rowan. English sang a song about Detroit before the match. Rowan then refused to leave and called out anyone in the back. Harper came out and pinned Rowan with the discus clothesline in about five seconds. Corbin pinned Zayn with the End of Days in a good match. In the tag title match, Big E & Kingston beat Usos and Fashion Police in a three-way. Kingston pinned Jey Uso with the double-team Midnight Hour. Lesnar retained the Universal title pinning Joe after an F-5. Similar to their PPV match. Short and action packed. Lesnar got the biggest reaction on the show but Joe was also cheered. Naomi & Charlotte & Lynch beat Carmella & Tamina & Natalya when Naomi pinned Carmella after the rear view. Charlotte got the biggest reaction. The Singh Brothers came out all bandaged up. Mahal got big-time heat for his promo. Ziggler then came out to no reaction. Orton & Nakamura beat Mahal & Ziggler when Orton pinned Ziggler after the RKO. Nakamura laid out Mahal with the Kinshasa and Orton had given the Singh Brothers the double draping DDT; The final match saw Cena over Rusev in a street fight with a pin after the Attitude Adjustment through the table. Cena also got a huge reaction. Cena then cut a promo and said that his first PPV match ever was at the Joe Louis Arena and it was an honor to have the last match in the building. Cena’s first PPV would have been on the July 21, 2002, Vengeance show at the Joe, where he beat Jericho in a short match. This would have been right before they gave up on him. WWE had run the building regularly for 33 years, with the first show in 1984 headlined by Sgt. Slaughter over Nikolai Volkoff

Saginaw was mostly the same stuff. The only difference was no Lesnar. So the underneath tag match saw Harper & Sin Cara beat Rowan & English. Fans started chanting “USA” at English. I guess they thought with that last name, he was English. He told the fans, “I’m an American you idiots.” Zayn got little offense in losing to Corbin. Harper pinned Rowan with the Discus clothesline. Dillinger was taken out of the match as he wrestled Joe, who did the Smackdown tour. Was told Orton & Nakamura over Mahal & Ziggler was really hot, and went 20:00. Joe got a huge reaction because he was never advertised to be there. Joe won with the choke, but they went around 15:00. In the New Day match it was E & Woods who worked it. Lots of comedy including E and Fandango doing the hip gyration together. Cena vs. Rusev had great heat in a short main event. This wasn’t a street fight like the night before and Cena won clean with the Attitude Adjustment. Was told the match was disappointing. They did a fake ankle injury spot at the 5:00 mark, even with the doctor coming in, until Rusev used it t attack Cena with a kick. Same ref bump spot as in their other matches

Fort Wayne was similar. Owens and Styles were moved into the tag match in place of Nakamura and Ziggler. So they opened with Nakamura pinning Ziggler in 15:00 of a good match with the Kinshasa. With Joe on Raw, they moved Dillinger back to team with Sin Cara to beat Rowan & English. After the match, Rowan refused to leave the ring and challenged anyone in the back, to set up Harper beating him in seconds. Styles & Orton beat Mahal & Owens when Orton pinned Owens after an RKO. Lots of interference from Singh Brothers, who Orton laid out with a double draping DDT. Kingston & Woods worked as the New Day here in the same tag title three-way. Cena beat Rusev in the main event with the Attitude Adjustment.