February 20, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: WWE financials, death of Chavo Guerrero, moreBy Observer Staff | firstname.lastname@example.org | @WONF4W
Wrestling Observer Newsletter
PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 February 20, 2017
WWE ELIMINATION CHAMBER
Thumbs up 123 (59.7%)
Thumbs down 14 (06.8%)
In the middle 69 (33.5%)
BEST MATCH POLL
Elimination Chamber 141
Randy Orton vs. Luke Harper 41
WORST MATCH POLL
Kalisto & Crews vs. Ziggler 96
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya 40
Mojo Rawley vs. Curt Hawkins 32
Tag Team Turmoil 16
Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss 15
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James 8
Thumbs up 4 (02.6%)
Thumbs down 102 (66.2%)
In the middle 48 (31.2%)
BEST MATCH POLL
Dustin Poirier vs. Jim Miller 140
WORST MATCH POLL
Glover Teixeira vs. Jared Cannonier 52
Germaine de Randamie vs. Holly Holm 51
NJPW NEW BEGINNING IN OSAKA
Thumbs up 189 (99.5%)
Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)
In the middle 1 (00.5%)
BEST MATCH POLL
Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin 114
Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee 54
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Will Ospreay 11
WORST MATCH POLL
Kojima & Tenzan vs. Yoshitatsu & Kushida 53
Taka Michinoku vs. Henare 49
Suzuki-gun vs. Chaos six man 14
Based on phone calls and e-mails to the Observer as of Tuesday, 2/14.
More than ever before, the pro wrestling business has become about getting the most money out of a smaller fan base.
There are fewer people watching the product than at any point in at least 22 years, perhaps longer. But there are more hardcore fans, willing to spend far more money than ever before.
It’s both good and bad. The nature of the business is that this will stay this way. It’s become too difficult and time consuming to the old casual fan, who would watch an hour of television every now and then, perhaps attend one or two big blow-off shows per year, to keep up, and perhaps too silly or unimportant to them as well. But for the people who love wrestling, the amount of product is endless, and it’s going to stay that way.
“It’s about super serving our most passionate fans, and one of the things we have learned is they will consume just about everything we throw at them,” said Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios.
While you can look through history and see in other genres, this is not necessarily a good thing long-term, the difference is in those days, most of the money made was selling tickets to as large a group of paying customers as possible on a frequent basis. With the key revenue stream today being television rights fees, it is a very different dynamic.
Wrestling was always able to get a certain-sized cult audience. Unfortunately, to stay popular enough to be on prime time network television, they couldn’t over the long haul retain a large enough audience. But when UHF stations emerged, pro wrestling could get a strong audience for a weak station. Similarly, with the birth of cable, pro wrestling at first became its most popular programming.
It is that cable revolution, which never happened in Japan, which is the reason American pro wrestling was able to thrive when it could no longer deliver network prime time level numbers.
In 2016, WWE generated more revenue than any point in history, although it is still not nearly as profitable as it was for most of the period between 1998 and 2010.
This past year, WWE generated $729,216,000 in revenue and ended the year with $33,725,000 in profits. Both numbers were up from the 2015 totals of $658,768,000 in revenue and $23,927,000 in profits. Both profit numbers are lower than reported elsewhere because there ended up being foreign currency adjustments against the dollar that changed very slightly during the year that slightly decreased profits from the numbers reported.
It was the company’s most profitable year since 2010, which is when they started spending money to launch the WWE Network. The revenues are the largest in the history of the company, beating last year’s mark by 10.7 percent, but with overall subscriptions and guaranteed money from television going to rise each year, the revenue numbers are a lock to go up every year, guaranteed until 2019 and most likely from that point as well unless something bad happens to the U.S. television industry as a whole.
“We are satisfied, I don’t want to say thrilled, we are satisfied with our 2016 performance and obviously, we are focused on achieving our financial objects driving our long-term growth,” Vince McMahon said.
Still, the profits could not cover the annual dividend payment of $37,218,720, roughly 46.5 percent, or $17,306,700, of which went to Vince McMahon. The profits not covering the dividend, meaning the company has had to eat into its cash reserves, has been the case since 2011. Before that, the business, as long as it didn’t collapse creatively, pretty much was lock to cover the dividend once it had been dropped. The change came due to two factors, a formerly heavily money losing movie division, and start-up costs for the network.
The WWE has for years eaten into its cash reserves through high dividend payments, mostly to Vince McMahon, and at the end of the year took out $215 million in new cash offered to bondholders at 3.375 percent interest. This is similar to how the UFC both built the company and lined the pockets of its owners through working on a heavy debt, and even more, how WME IMG was able to buy the company, with heavy debt. This isn’t a bad thing, especially because they were able to get favorable interest rates.
They feel having a larger balance sheet will enable them to work with larger companies, plus they are investing in media and fitting the new facility they just purchased to serve production needs.
While UFC needs something in the neighborhood of $120 million in annual profits just to pay the interest on the debt, which is risky with a business built on big money PPV events which need super attractions, the WWE’s interest on this debt will be about $7,256,250 per year going forward.
With the loans, the WWE finished the year with $267,140,000. At the end of 2015, before the loans, the number was $102,376,000. The plan is to use the new money for growth initiatives. About $205,482,000 of that comes from the recent debt and money used from a revolving credit account.
But WWE projects things to change next year. First, there will be an increase contractually in television rights fees. The second is if Donald Trump gets the business tax down. The WWE paid 36.4 percent tax on profits in 2016. If the tax is dropped to 20 percent, as Trump has proposed, that would have been $8,726,932 in additional profits just by tax savings.
For those reasons, even though the numbers were not surprising, and profits for the quarter were less than most analysts who covered the stock projected, the price went up significantly with the news. It, like the market as a whole, has continued to climb, hitting $22.50 per share at press time, giving the company a market value of $1.72 billion, its best numbers in more than one year.
As far as significant news went at the 2/9 investors call, Vince McMahon talked about running a touring house show promotion in Europe, built off a weekly television show using the talent they have signed to deals. But that was already known. The surprise was hinting of yet another touring promotion with the cruiserweights having their own house shows. Obviously they’d have to run smaller buildings like NXT does, but if that’s the case, on Saturday nights, with a Raw show, a Smackdown show, a 205 Live show and two NXT shows, the WWE could be doing as many as six house shows a night.
“We have created something called 205 Live, which is a show involving our cruiserweights, which is another whole division in which we are starting up now, which will again have its own sources of revenue in terms of live events as well as other things that are all, merchandising, licensing and all of that,” McMahon said.
Now, the company is running smoothly and can’t lose money again. But many of the revenue streams are decreasing. But the key is that television revenue and the profits from producing television give the company a cushion to largely take care of most of that. The expenses of the network are another reason profits have been down the past few years. Even though the network, even with more revenue, was less profitable this year, it’s still something that in the long run will be a steady cushion. Unlike with PPV, where you have to sell people on every show, and they pick and choose, the network viewership is steadier throughout the year. And a key point is the network itself, offering so much product, does create a class of what I call superfans. Those people will pay more for tickets, and will travel in far greater numbers than ever before. In many ways, the big events will become bigger. The significant events, like the Raw shows, should also become bigger, although in reality that hasn’t happened yet as Raw television tapings as local ticket sellers are nowhere close to what they were in the boom period, nor are Smackdowns.
But in the big picture, while merchandise and house shows are still important, this is all about network numbers and television revenue.
Network numbers are a metric that grows in the early part of the year, falls in the latter part of the year, but overall on a year-by-year basis will probably increase slowly. It’s pretty clear it will never get to the three to four million range the company has claimed, and was supposed to be within shooting distance of already. But it has to decline on a year-over-year basis. But we are right now at the point where growth is going to be slower going forward.
The 2015 “Mania season” gained 511,000 net new subscribers, on 795,000 new subscribers and 284,000 canceled subscribers. In 2016, that gain was only 140,000, with 495,000 new subscribers and 358,000 canceled subscribers. That’s actually worse than it sounds worse in one way and better in another. Worse is that a number of new countries got the network for the first time in early 2016, so that should have inflated those numbers, so they are even worse in comparison. But better is that WWE also offered the network free for WrestleMania, with the idea of getting a ton of people to order for free and then they’d either like it and become regular subscribers or simply forget to cancel. In other words, a lot of the Mania gain actually came roughly a month after Mania.
As far as how it worked out for the first six months of the year, and keep in mind they added new markets in 2016, Germany in particular which was a strong market, as well as Japan (which didn’t do well) at that time.
In 2015, with no free gimmick, there were 1,132,000 new subscribers and 792,000 people who canceled. In 2016, that figure was 1,123,000 new subscribers and 827,000 who canceled. But for revenue, because the paid influx came one month earlier, the revenue gain for the first three months of 2015 was $3.3 million and for the second quarter was $12 million, or a Mania/Rumble revenue gain for the network of $15.3 million. In 2016, the gain was $2.16 million in the first quarter and $9 million for the second quarter or Mania/Rumble revenue generator of $11.16 million.
On December 31, 2016, the WWE Network had 1,403,000 paying subscribers and 70,000 people who were getting it free. That was 1,032,600 U.S. subscribers and 370,400 outside the U.S. For those wondering how social media correlates with network numbers, roughly 73.6 percent of network subscribers are in the U.S., and 75 to 80 percent of the social media followers are from places outside the U.S.
On December 31, 2015, the WWE Network had 1,217,100 subscribers, which was 939,900 in the U.S. and 277,200 outside the U.S.
With the Rumble bump, paid subscriptions were 1.5 million on 1/31, broken down as 1.1 million in the U.S. and 400,000 outside the U.S.
Between December 31 and WrestleMania day last year, the network added 169,000 net new subscribers in the U.S. and 68,000 net new subscribers outside the U.S. They also had 370,000 free subscribers.
So, using those figures as benchmarks, the goal for the next network announcement the day after WrestleMania, should be 1,202,000 subscribers in the U.S., and 438,000 outside, for 1,640,000, be at 1,697,000 on 6/30 (with the free Mania subscribers converting paid) and finishing the year at around 1,589,000 subscribers. My gut is it’ll end up in actuality being slightly below that at the end of 2017, but not by much. The company does as well, as Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios said to “expect the level of WWE Network subscribers to continue to increase on a year-over-year basis, albeit at a lower rate.”
While not predicting a WrestleMania day number, the company is projecting that the first quarter average for subscribers will increase to 1,480,000. They have become almost on the nose when it comes to their short-term ability now to predict network numbers, as they estimated 1.4 million three months ago for the end of the year and hit that number on the nose.
The expectation is a big bump will come at the end of March. Some of that will be free, like last year, so it’s late April or early May when the free subscriptions convert that the number will peak, and then decline slowly for the rest of the year.
The key take from all this is that while the network will continue slow annual growth, the three million to four million steady state subscribers they still claim at this point they will be reaching looks like pure fantasy.
As far as the period from September through the end of the year went, there were 341,000 new paid subscribers and 388,000 cancellations, so an overall net loss. Keep in mind that this was with far more expenses, including new programming, five PPVs instead of three, and a far more expensive Survivor Series due to the cost of Bill Goldberg.
Even though Goldberg seemed to stop terribly declining Raw numbers and they stayed steady the rest of football season at well above the prior record lows that they were hitting much of 2016, the adding PPV shows and the stronger Survivor Series still resulted in a decline of 41,000 subscribers over the three months, as compared to a decline of 16,000 over the same period the prior year. Because of that, even with more subscribers, the network profits dropped, also because of another drop in actual PPV, which fell 39 percent for the year.
When asked about offering some former subscribers three free months, which would include both Royal Rumble and WrestleMania free, Barrios said, “I think you will see us try different promotions to encourage folks to come in and experience the WWE Network. So I think the way you describe it, experimentation is a good way to do it. And when you do the math, the 1.5 million that we had on 1/31 includes some of those free to paid conversions.”
Right now the network is almost all in English.
“Over time, we will figure out where we want to invest in the product to localize it more,” said Barrios. “And we are doing more and more localization. Starting last year, we were offering next day of our PPVs in multiple languages. Vince mentioned the U.K. tournament. That’s another example. You will see us do more and more.”
Another promotion talked about was the combined WWE Network and Crunchyroll subscription package, and Barrios said to expect more things like that in 2017.
“We will learn from them on the ones that work well, we will do more like them,” he said. “And the ones that don’t work, we will do less.”
The profits increase the company expects to start in the second quarter, when the free subscribers for WrestleMania convert to paid subscribers.
Currently the network is the fifth largest streaming subscription service in the U.S., behind Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and MLB TV. The network now has more than 7,000 hours of content.
The average network subscriber in 2016 averaged 3.7 hours per week on the network. In 2015, the average subscriber averaged 4.1 hours per week on the network. So even with adding more content and shows, the time spent viewing on average did decline this year.
In looking at profits by division (in millions of dollars) for the last three years, this is where they were.
|Live events(tickets and merch)||$51.6||$46.9||$35.5|
Total live event revenue increased from $124.7 million for the year to $144.4 million.
What’s notable is that live events were more profitable even though attendance was down slightly. The key to the increase were two things, the far larger live gate at AT&T Stadium for WrestleMania, increases in attendance for the NXT brand, more overall shows for Raw and Smackdown and higher ticket prices for the best seats. In addition, with more events, more total merchandise was sold.
Venue merchandise increased from $22.4 million to $24.2 million.
Average attendance at a domestic live event was listed at 5,800, but factoring out WrestleMania, it was 5,300 for Raw & Smackdown shows. Both are slightly down from the 6,000 and 5,500 the year before.
For the year, WWE attendance, not including NXT events, was 2,101,000 on 344 events. In 2015, it was 2,055,000 on 329 events.
North American attendance for the year averaged 5,800 for 280 shows, down from 6,000 on 273 events last year. Both figures include WrestleMania, which greatly inflates the averages, more this year than last year. The average gate this year was $337,502 with $63,162 in merchandise. Taking away WrestleMania the average is $277,419.
Last year the average gate was $319,320 with $63,240 in merchandise, and keep in mind the WrestleMania show alone with its merchandise records changes the average. Realistically, venue merchandise is pretty much at the same level as the year before with the increase a combination of the bigger WrestleMania and running more events. Taking away WrestleMania, last year was $287,390.
So even with higher ticket prices, gates were down domestically factoring out Mania due to a decrease in attendance. The average ticket buyer spent $10.89 for merchandise in 2016, up from $10.54 in 2015, but that difference is probably just related to how much WrestleMania itself factors into the average.
Outside North America, the average was 7,500 paid and $493,875. In 2015, the average was 7,300 paid and $475,230, so a slight increase.
Barrios noted that there will be more events in 2017, as the added Monday Smackdown house shows started later in the year and will be year-round, but felt profits from house shows won’t be up. The key reason is that the biggest part of the profits from last year at live events being up was the added 20,000 tickets sold at high prices and merchandise sales from holding WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium, and those numbers can’t be duplicated in Orlando, which only holds 60,000 with the current set up, which means paid is likely to be 50,000 to 55,000. To alleviate the attendance decline, WrestleMania tickets this year were priced from $160 to $3,000, up from $42 to $2,360 in Dallas, which should make up a great deal of the revenue difference, but not the merchandise difference on that show.
In theory, one would think some of that 25,000 to 30,000 decrease at WrestleMania would be made up by the 21,000 to 26,000 paid increase from holding the Royal Rumble at the Alamodome.
McMahon made a joke of WrestleMania’s attendance saying that they were proud to set their record of “over 100,000, which includes, by the way, ushers and ticket takers and all of that, not 101,000 paid, but nonetheless, it was still a record for us.”
The actual total number in the building, according to stadium sources, including everyone, was 97,769. The number 93,730 would be the figure that would be considered the real attendance, as in people with tickets to the event, both paid and comped. The paid attendance has not been released, bu using math based on WWE reports, the figure would likely be around 79,000 (it was more than 72,000 and less than 85,000).
There were 189 NXT shows which averaged 995 fans paid per event and $37,133. Obviously the Florida shows were much lower than the outside of Florida shows, with the Takeover shows on location greatly increasing the overall average. In 2015, where a far higher percentage of the shows were in Florida, there were 120 events, which averaged 771 paid and $28,297.
NXT events in 2016 generated $6.98 million in revenue. It’s impossible from the material put out to figure out the cost of touring for NXT events but Performance Center expenses, which are believed to include the contracts for NXT talent, was less than $20.4 million (that figure includes all NXT costs plus costs of talent appearances), up from $17.8 million in 2015 and $17.9 million in 2014.
In the OVW days, those expenses, including talent expenses, were about $1.3 million and their list of talent turned out included Batista, John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Beth Phoenix, Dolph Ziggler, John Morrison and Bobby Lashley.
But it’s a different era. From comparing results of how quickly people improve, it appears to me that smaller training classes are superior to improvement, as is the ability to have more actual match time before fans working with more experienced guys. Because there are so many people training there, a lot of guys aren’t getting the match time, and even when they do, in most cases they are working with each other. If you look historically at the places that developed top stars in the territorial days, they were places where everyone worked with everyone, so newcomers would be in the ring with veterans six nights a week in front of crowds. Perhaps the implementation of more satellite territories over the next few years will recreate that type of system. Besides, the company is healthy, and is getting healthier, and in the long run, the training center and increased number of NXT house shows, whether it’s a money loser or not on the corporate bottom line, will be looked at as a huge positive.
The WWE is pushing that fact that 40 percent of the talent signed this past year for developmental has come from outside the U.S., which in theory should lead to more individual market stars. This is strong in theory and the huge advantage WWE has over UFC is that if they get a charismatic person from China or Mexico or Germany or England or India or Australia that they can build a market around, they don’t have to worry about them not being able t handle top competition like in a real sport since they control who gets pushed. One of the reasons UFC is so strong in the U.S. and Brazil, because that’s where most of the real stars come from, and why interest is way up in Ireland and also why Canada has fallen, because a Conor McGregor or the lack of a GSP are huge when it comes to popularity in the market. Simply stated, WWE has the ability to make 19-year-old Tyler Bate into a star and keep him in that spot no matter what if he has the charisma to connect and they don’t kill him with booking, which they control.
UFC’s similar attempts at doing so for a Jake Matthews in Australia, for example, is so much tougher since he’s sputtered once he faced tougher opponents. But the idea of recruiting and training people from all over the world is not just creating main roster superstars, as much for having local stars and being able to run smaller satellite tours in places like Asia, Mexico and obviously first, Europe. In a sense, it’s almost like in a weird way, a new version of the territorial system, except all owned by the same person meaning it can be more easily manipulated for maximum benefit.
They also claim that 80 percent of the current roster originated from their developmental system. Keep in mind in their public filings, the key people mentioned as coming from NXT were Charlotte Flair, who did, and Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, where they did pass through but that’s somewhat misleading.
If you’re looking at the current roster and where they came from, the more realistic percentages are: Independents (36 percent), Significant existing promotions--WCW, ECW, TNA, ROH, Japan, Mexico, etc. (25 percent), Current WWE developmental--NXT & FCW (31 percent) and OVW (8 percent).
The WWE has approximately 870 full-time employees worldwide, not including the performers and other independent contractors.
When “the Goldberg effect” was brought up in a question about momentum leading to WrestleMania, McMahon said, “Let me just say there is no one talent that makes this big wheel keep on turning. And its’ a mixture of combinations and storylines, and the resolution of those storylines at WrestleMania, Royal Rumble or SummerSlam or any other events and you will see some vacillation from one PPV to the next. It’s just the nature of the business. As far as momentum is concerned, I think we have more momentum this year than we did last year. And as you mentioned, fewer individuals are injured. So that always gives us a longer talent pool and more players to deal with and more storylines. So there seems like there is more momentum coming into this year’s WrestleMania.”
Vince also talked about shifting talent from one brand to another.
“If you haven’t seen a Roman Reigns on Smackdown, then what he does, if and when he does come to Smackdown, then that’s a really big thing. So it freshens up talent and give a much longer range in terms of the use of those talents and the IP that goes with them.”
The brand extension has clearly benefitted Smackdown more than it has hurt Raw in the ratings, added more live events and allowed more different talent to be pushed and opened doors for more upward mobility.
“If you have...two shows with the same talent, it’s difficult to create new stars because the tendency is just to keep the new larger talent on top all the time. So it allows other stars to be able to climb the ladder of success.”
The PPV/Network drop is partially because total PPV revenue for the year dropped from $20.6 million to $12.6 million, even with the increase in the number of shows, which meant an increase in costs. The Network revenue was up $29.5 million for the year, but the percentage of the revenue for the network that is profit is substantially lower than PPV. WWE was making about $11 profit per PPV order under the old system, and made roughly $1.71 per network subscriber as profit per PPV event in 2016 (and that number would be saying that every single network subscriber only subscribed to get the PPVs, which would be a fallacy, since UFC’s success shows they’d probably have 500,000 or probably more with no PPVs on the network). UFC made about $21-22 per PPV order in profits last year. For McGregor-Diaz II, the UFC would have made more than $30 million in profits while WWE as far as pure profit from WrestleMania for the month from the network it would have been $2.63 million, which is why, on paper, WrestleMania was listed as a small money loser (even though in reality it is not because of its long-term value to network subscriptions), but it is not the profit maker it once was.
Based on Google search trends, which have been extremely accurate in the past in pinpointing WWE PPV numbers prior to the switch, WWE would have done about $50 million to $51 million in PPV profits from the PPV division if the network didn’t exist, and that doesn’t include network cannibalization of iPPV and home video. So while the network brings in far more revenue than PPV did, because of the higher cost, they are still behind. But this is a marathon not a sprint, and the network is still something that will be a long-term success, just far slower than predictions.
Total money generated by the network and PPV was $180.9 million, but expenses were $137.9 million. The prior year, network and PPV revenue was $159.4 million but expenses were $111.0 million.
Television revenue worldwide increased from $231.1 million to $241.7 million. The increase was a combination of $14.6 million from contractual increases for Raw, Smackdown and other wrestling shows, and $4 million less in revenue, largely because the TV show Total Bellas brought in $4 million less in revenue than the last season of Tough Enough did in 2015.
Home video revenue was down from $13.4 million to $13.1 million, but expenses were also down, so profits were up.
Digital media was up from $21.5 million to $26.9 million in revenue. The increase was due to a $4.9 million increase in revenue from YouTube advertising.
Licensing remained steady at $49.1 million in revenue as compared to $48.9 million last year.
WWE claims the second best selling action figure property in the U.S., trailing only Star Wars.
WWEShop remains a big growth stream due to increasing use of mobile phone orders with $34.6 million in revenue as compared to $27.1 million the prior year. The WWE averaged 2,108 orders per day at WWEShop, with the average order price of $44.61. In 2015, they averaged 1.614 orders per day with an average price of $45.87.
The company spent $6.6 million on movies in 2016, up from $3.8 million last year. However, they are projecting spending between $10 million and $35 million next year, so they are getting very aggressive into the movie business including the recent alliance with Dwayne Johnson for the first time when it came to movies.
They are projecting spending less next year on non-wrestling programming. In 2015, they spent $36.2 million on Total Divas, Tough Enough and new WWE network programming. In 2016, that was cut to $28.0 million and in 2017, they are projecting that number as being $10 million to $25 million.
WWE spends about $1.1 million per episode of Raw and Smackdown.
As of right now, talent contracts for 2017 as far as what is guaranteed, not including any increases over the guarantees based on merchandise, licensing, house show bonuses or PPV bonuses total $30.6 million. Keep in mind that there are guys on $1 million guarantees that will earn in excess of $3 million, and John Cena has been in the $10 million range in recent years, and while I don’t know his guarantee, it’s obviously nowhere close to that. Brock Lesnar’s guarantee is a significant part of that.
For the year, the company, which is 50 percent owner of Tapout, received $2,893,000 in revenues and put $8,477,000 into the company during the year.
They also put $1 million in buying a percentage of a Fantasy Sports Content Provider, $1 million into Flo Sports, $250,000 into a virtual reality platform operator, $400,000 in a software application developer and $515,000 in an unnamed live event touring business.
In the fourth quarter, company revenue was $194.9 million and profits were $8.0 million. Last year’s fourth quarter saw revenue of $166.2 million and losses of $1.2 million.
They are projecting a first quarter with operating income of $16 million to $20 million and to average 1.48 million subscribers in the quarter with the Mania/Rumble bump. The target is $70 million of operating income which would be $45 million to $47 million in profits based on current tax laws, although that could be as high as $56 million if Trump has its way. Either way, they would finally be back to pre-network levels.
In comparing fourth quarter profits with last year, this is the chart.
|Live events (ticket & merch)||$8.3||$9.2|
|Web site (web/UTube/shop)||$4.9||$3.5|
Total television revenue for the quarter was $68.6 million, up from $55.6 million the prior year based on the timing of Total Bellas and Total Divas, which aired 12 episodes in the quarter as opposed to none in 2015. E! pays $733,000 per episode of the shows.
In looking at the profit chart for television and Network, there is a note with last year’s comparison in that there were expenses that were formerly charged to television that are now listed as shared charges and thus for an actual direct comparison year-over-year there is $3.8 million in the quarter that has to be accounted for. So instead of declining in profits as it appears, network profit for the quarter can be argued was really up 17 percent as opposed to down nine percent, and that the TV increase that appears to be up 46 percent would more realistically be up 11 percent.
The home entertainment increase was based on higher digital sales and an increase in price per unit of sales in the quarter.
Live event revenue was up even though profits were down. Revenue was up from $32.9 million to $38.6 million, but costs were up from $25.6 million to $32.4 million because they had 21 more events because of more extensive touring, and the addition of Monday night Smackdown house shows.
An interesting note is that in January, Smackdown house shows outdrew Raw for the month, something that never happened before, and clearly shows the power of John Cena being on the road.
Average attendance dropped from 6,300 to 5,300 paid per show for the quarter. That was mostly a huge drop in December, as September was actually way up.
Domestic house show revenue increased from $18.5 million to $22.8 million because of running more events and an increase in ticket prices. International revenue was up from $14.4 million to $15.8 million due to higher ticket prices and also running more shows. Average attendance for the 28 overseas events in the quarter was 6,700, down from 7,800 in 2015, but ticket prices were up 20 percent, from $57.15 per ticket to $68.65 per ticket.
WWE Shop was up $2.8 million in revenue due to an increase to an average of 3,000 orders per day.
While not getting into any specific numbers, Barrios said that the U.K. tournament appeared to add new subscribers as well as engagement among existing subscribers. The tournament came in January, which showed strong growth. He said the uptick in new subscribers at that time was noticeable in the U.K. and that the viewership of the tournament was good worldwide.
Regarding a U.K. television show, Vince McMahon, who noted plans for both a European and cruiserweight touring component, said, “We could easily morph that into a weekly show. It’s something that we are thinking about, nothing that we have announced yet. Our partners (presumably Sky in the U.K.) are very interested in that.”
This indicates the idea is for the show to air on television and get a rights fee as opposed to the WWE Network, which is why there could be a delay and no target date for it–it makes sense if you are going to build a touring company to have television because the WWE Network has a limited potential audience in the U.K. But NXT is proof the company can create stars and sell tickets all over the U.S. just off network subscribers.
“The tournament and the buzz from the tournament was highly successful in the U.K., and there might be other Europeans that might join in the future. There is a lot here in which the expansion which you are trying to get to and the expansion of that, it can be exponential.”
WORLD WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS HISTORY
|2006 (5/06 to 12/06)||$262,937,000||$31,617,000|
Note: WWE operated on a fiscal year from May 1 to April 30 until changing to January 1 to December 31 in 2006. The 2006 numbers reflect the period from May 1 to December 31, or an eight month total
*Wrestling profits for the year were $84,981,000, but the WWF’s share of the 50% of the XFL losses was $68,994,000. Total XFL losses for 2001, the only season of the league, were $137,988,000, half of which were covered by NBC.
**Wrestling profit for the year was $42,948,000. Also figured in was a tax break of $4,638,000 for shutting down the XFL, offset by losses of $4,903,000 from operation of The World restaurant.
***Wrestling profits were $16,362,000; offset by $35,557,000 in losses due to the operation and closing of The World restaurant.
****Wrestling profits were $37,778,000; also figured in was a tax break of $1,369,000 for shutting down The World restaurant.
*****Includes $16,000,000 in profits from the movies “The Marine” and “See No Evil” and $15,700,000 in losses for the movie “The Condemned
*******Includes $23,400,000 in losses in the movie division and $4,000,000 in start-up costs for the new WWE Network.
********Includes $8,200,000 in start-up costs for new WWE Network and $5,500,000 in losses in the movie division.
*********Includes $12 million in start-up costs for new WWE network and $12,700,000 in losses in the movie division.
Salvador “Chavo” Guerrero III, also known as Chavo Guerrero Sr., and in a WWE run, Chavo Classic, passed away on 2/11 from liver cancer at the age of 68.
The son of Salvador “Gori” Guerrero, one of the biggest stars in the history of Mexican pro wrestling, Chavo Guerrero started pro wrestling in 1970 for his father and had wrestled in Japan as late as the end of November in a legends match on an All Japan show at Sumo Hall in Tokyo.
According to his son, Chavo Guerrero Jr., he just found out about the liver cancer in January.
When he found out about it, he insisted on it being kept quiet. He had known, at least for a few weeks, that he was going to pass away shortly and made it clear to family that nobody was to speak of it, as he didn’t want any sympathy. Even when he had entered hospice care, few were aware of it.
His career was interesting because he started out fast. Once he made the decision to leave his job as a teacher and wrestling coach, he became an instant main eventer and national star. But a few years later, despite that stature and being one of the most talented wrestlers in the world, his career in many ways faded. He had the reputation of being difficult to deal with by promoters in the 80s, as he saw himself as a star at a certain level and was never really pushed to that level again.
It was a combination of a headstrong attitude and timing. Guerrero’s prime came during an era of wrestling where it was difficult for small wrestlers. Guerrero was much smaller than the top stars of his era. When he wrestled at the University of Texas at El Paso, he wrestled in the 118 and 126 pound weight classes.
During his heyday, as the top babyface star in Southern California, he was 5-foot-8 and 205 pounds, billed at 220 to 225, still small based on the type of men chosen to headline. But his combination of legit wrestling and gymnastics ability, plus timing and fire, made him one of the best babyface workers in the business.
Los Angeles had passed its heyday as a wrestling market, but it still probably had more viewers than any other promotion of the time due to its national exposure on the Spanish International Network (now Univision) for matches taped every Wednesday night at the Olympic Auditorium.
Guerrero was a 17-time Americas heavyweight champion between 1975 and 1980, with his biggest rivalry being with a young Roddy Piper. But he worked effectively on top against many of the biggest stars of the era, including Ernie Ladd, Pat Patterson, Superstar Billy Graham, Black Gordman, John Tolos, The Funk Brothers and Harley Race.
Guerrero and Piper were strongly linked together as both came to the territory at about the same time with no national reputation. Guerrero, while the son of a Mexican legend, his father had not been a major star in that part of the country so being Gori’s son really didn’t mean a lot. He had started wrestling 1970 under the name Gori Guerrero Jr., but mainly worked in the El Paso area for his father while holding a school teaching job. During the summer vacation of 1974, he worked in Florida, and while clearly talented, due to his size, and the fact he was staying for only a limited time, he really never got out of opening matches, where he mostly loss. So he came into the territory with no national reputation.
Piper, who was 21, was skinny and also not a star. He was in Texas when Red Bastien, the booker, recommended him to Los Angeles booker Leo Garibaldi. The promotion started pushing the two of them together up the cards. To many, the idea of the AWA job guy and the Florida opening match loser being pushed to the top was the sign of how bad Los Angeles, a hotbed of wrestling until just a few years earlier, had fallen.
But Guerrero’s talent was such that it worked. Wrestling wasn’t booming during that period by any means, but Guerrero’s ability couldn’t be denied, nor the idea that he was good enough in the top spot.
Still, when word got around wrestling that Guerrero had beaten 6-foot-9, 315 pound Ladd, one of the biggest stars in the country both physically and literally, to win the Americas’ title on Halloween night in 1975 at the Olympic Auditorium, the people in charge of other territories talked like it was going to be the death blow of a declining region, with the idea it killed the believability of wrestling because who could ever believe a guy the size of Guerrero could beat a guy the size and with the well-known athletic ability and toughness of Ladd.
Guerrero’s fame from California saw him often booked on out dates in South Texas, where he was a legitimate drawing card, facing both NWA champion Race and AWA champion Nick Bockwinkel in places like Houston and San Antonio. He was brought into Madison Square Garden in 1976 as a guest outside attraction since Wrestling from the Olympic aired in the market, and was used in prelim matches to showcase him.
Still, Guerrero and Piper kept the territory going, and it really declined after Piper left for Oregon, and then Guerrero finally left, and it died shortly after.
His success led to his father and brothers, Mando and Hector, wrestling in California and the three Guerreros were all pushed as top babyface stars. Really, the status of Gori Guerrero as a legend to Mexican fans in California is more because of Chavo’s success leading to Gori coming in and being portrayed uin that way. Mando, who was smaller than Chavo, had similar problems being pushed once the California territories went down. Hector, who was less about ego and got along better, got steady work in wrestling for years, but all three Guerreros would have likely been far bigger stars today than they ever were, since ability in the ring is more important as compared with the emphasis on size during that era, and up until a few years ago.
Chavo would be brought up for runs in Northern California, and while impressive, because he was a Southern California fixture, wasn’t pushed as much as he should have been. He challenged for both the U.S. title and world tag team titles, but never won them.
Guerrero’s fame spread to Japan, where he was one of the key opponents of Tatsumi Fujinami, the WWF world junior heavyweight champion. At the August 9, 1980, Shea Stadium show headlined by the Bruno Sammartino vs. Larry Zbyszko cage match, which legitimately drew 36,295 fans and set the all-time North American gate record at the time of $541,730, it was Fujinami and Guerrero, outsiders, who had easily the best match on the show.
But Guerrero was never booked as a top guy after leaving Los Angeles. It was a battle that plagued him. He was a good babyface promo and a great worker. But the prevailing opinion was he was too much to headline, and difficult to work with for a guy that would be used in the middle and didn’t like losing unless it was to people he saw as top guys at his level. Guerrero was particularly frustrated with the tag that he was too small to draw on top, when he drew on top in both California and Texas and was accepted easily by fans at that level because of his ability. He would come and go from territories quickly, and aside from a quick tag team title reign with brother Hector in Florida, titles in South Texas, and his comedy run with what was a very meaningless WWE cruiserweight title as Chavo Classic, he never held a major championship in the U.S.
Still, he was remembered in Japan, largely as a key opponent of both Fujinami and Atsushi Onita in the late 70s and early 80s, while holding the NWA International junior heavyweight title. One could argue that it was Guerrero’s credibility as a significant American star, and going to Japan to put over Fujinami that helped make the old WWF junior heavyweight championship (essentially what is now the IWGP jr. title) into something of significance and was a key catalyst in the popularity of junior heavyweight wrestling in Japan. Later, after for whatever reason, he stopped working for New Japan, Giant Baba picked Guerrero to be the rival for Onita, who was Baba’s choice to build his new junior heavyweight division around. But his tenure with All Japan also ended in frustration in 1985.
During his heyday, matches in both California and Texas with Mil Mascaras & Guerrero against Black Gordman & Great Goliath were a strong attraction and later the duo feuded with Gino Hernandez & Tully Blanchard. Due to his success in Houston, Paul Boesch used him regularly, which led to his being used in Mid South Wrestling on-and-off for years.
Bill Watts protected him, knew not to ask him to lose and never put him in with people he’d need to lose to. One of Guerrero’s claims to fame was being the first person to regularly use the moonsault block, which was voted move of the year in the 1986 Observer poll.
In the late 80s, the Guerrero Brothers worked for the AWA when they taped out of Las Vegas. Decades later, there was a famous story at the Cauliflower Alley Club where Guerrero, who had been drinking, confronted Verne Gagne about being stiffed on his 1988 Superclash payoff. By that point, Gagne’s mental state was so bad he had no idea who Guerrero was. Danny Hodge intervened in the situation and Guerrero quickly toned himself down.
Most recently, he was used as a character, the head of the Guerrero family, on Lucha Underground, in particular as a heel trying to help his son in a loser leaves the promotion match with Rey Mysterio Jr.
We’ll have a more lengthy story on Chavo Guerrero in a future issue.
Bray Wyatt was born 29 years ago with the name Windham Rotunda. With that name, you’d think it was almost destined he’d be a pro wrestler.
The grandson of Blackjack Mulligan (Robert Windham) and son of Mike Rotunda, he was the Florida state high school heavyweight champion in 2005, and a junior college second All-American offensive guard in 2007 at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA, and later played at Troy University in Troy, AL.
He signed with WWE in 2009, and underwent a number of different gimmick changes before clicking with Bray Wyatt. Word got out late last year that Wyatt, who has been an on-and-off headliner since 2013, would be winning the WWE title at some point in 2017, and later that he’d enter WrestleMania as champion by winning the Elimination Chamber.
That step took place on the 2/12 Chamber PPV show from the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, which drew a nearly full house of 11,000.
It was likely a combination of it being the WrestleMania season and the Chamber gimmick, but this seemed to have the most interest of any Smackdown PPV since they started with split shows. It clicked in at 200,000 searches for the day, still below most Raw shows, but many of the Smackdown shows hadn’t even hit 50,000.
The show was also noteworthy as the main card featured three women’s matches, partially because most of the top guys were in the Chamber. Overall, it was all about the main event, which was an excellent match, where Wyatt and his Sister Abigail finisher were put over strong, as he used it to cleanly beat both John Cena and A.J. Styles. He used it again to pin Cena in a three-way match that included Styles two nights later in Anaheim on Smackdown. And although they are doing a sleight-of-hand storyline and teasing it won’t happen, this is to build for a Wyatt vs. Randy Orton match that will be one of the main events at WrestleMania.
The rest of the show was nothing special. Orton and Luke Harper had a very good match. Naomi captured the Smackdown women’s title from Alexa Bliss, seemingly because she’s from Orlando, the site of WrestleMania. It makes sense having a local woman hold the title for a local news story.
The show also had an angle tease with Nikki Bella and Maryse, as step one in the Cena & Nikki vs. Miz & Maryse WrestleMania program. They also seemed to start the ball rolling on an IC title program with Dean Ambrose and Baron Corbin. Given that Corbin is a handpicked star, he’s likely getting that title as a stepping stone to being moved up to the top of the cards.
This leaves one PPV show until WrestleMania, which is Fast Lane on 3/5 in Milwaukee. The top two bouts are Kevin Owens vs. Bill Goldberg for the Universal title and Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman. It appears Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe, Bayley vs. Charlotte for the Raw women’s title and a three-way Raw tag title program with Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass will be added, and a Neville vs. Jack Gallagher cruiserweight title match has been announced. Zayn takes the spot the injured Seth Rollins would have had. The big intrigue is Reigns vs. Strowman, and what they do with Strowman at Mania, which could be the Battle Royal monster spot.
1. Mojo Rawley pinned Curt Hawkins in 7:58. The crowd was nicely into it and it was a decent basic match, with Rawley pinning after a big punch and a tilt-a-whirl slam. **
2. Becky Lynch pinned Mickie James in 11:34. This was the best of the three women’s matches. It was a nicely worked bout where James spent much of it working on Lynch’s left shoulder. For some reason, they tried a storyline where it was that James had ring rust and hadn’t been in wrestling in seven years, which made no sense since she was at the November Takeover show for the same company. The idea is that they’re supposed to pretend nothing in TNA ever happened. In commentary, JBL then noted that James had been wrestling elsewhere for most of that time. James went for a DDT, Lynch back dropped her way out of it. Lynch went for the Disarmer, James turned it into a roll-up and Lynch reversed that into a folding press for the pin. ***1/4
3. Apollo Crews & Kalisto beat Dolph Ziggler in a handicap match in 7:20. There was nothing wrong with the actual wrestling, but the match was largely a disaster. It absolutely killed Crews & Kalisto as faces, and at a time when the fans at the arenas still haven’t realized Ziggler is a heel, he ended up being cheered wildly based on being the one man against two. To establish him as the heel, Ziggler threw Kalisto into the video wall. Given all the crazy moves that are done where guys get up and continue the match, they had to have Kalisto sell it until the 5:45 mark of the match with the idea he was hurt and couldn’t get up. So it started as a singles match with Crews vs. Ziggler. There were really annoying chants of “ten” when the guys were outside the ring. Finally, Kalisto recovered and came to the ring and made the hot tag. The crowd groaned at that, the absolute opposite reaction you’d want. Kalisto did his cool stuff. Kalisto had tagged Crews. Kalisto’s spin kick knocked Ziggler into Crews’ power bomb for the pin. After the match, Ziggler laid both to waste. The crowd was heavily cheering for Ziggler though all this. He put Crews’ ankle in a chair and stomped on the chair, Pillmanizing the ankle. The crowd then chanted “One more time,” so he did it one more time. Then they chanted “Thank you Ziggler.” Something like that should be saved for a guy scheduled for surgery, as in theory it should snap the leg. Crews was instead wrestling the next night, although at least was selling the ankle in that match. *1/4
4. Jason Jordan & Chad Gable retained the tag titles in a turmoil match over Heath Slater & Rhyno, Tyler Breeze & Fandango, The Usos, The Ascension and The Vaudevillains.
A. Slater & Rhyno beat Breeze & Fandango in 4:35. Breeze & Fandango were dressed like sailor strippers. They chanted “ECW” at Rhyno loud. Rhyno pinned Fandango with a gore. This wasn’t good.
B. Slater & Rhyno beat The Vaudevillains in 1:49. Rhyno gored Simon Gotch and Slater hit the DDT on Aiden English for the pin.
C. Usos beat Slater & Rhyno in 2:07. Slater was cradling Jey, not knowing Jimmy had tagged in, and Jimmy superkicked Slater and pinned him.
D. Jordan & Gable beat Usos in 4:57. Action picked up here. Jey missed seeing Jordan tag out, and when he was cradling Jey and Gable used a Japanese rolling crotch pin on Jey. After the match, the Usos laid out Jordan & Gable. They threw Jordan’s shoulder into the post. They threw Gable into the ring steps. Jimmy splashed Jordan off the top rope.
E. Jordan & Gable beat The Ascension in 3:13. The Ascension came out and Jordan & Gable were left for dead. They immediately hit their Fall of Man finisher on Jordan, but Gable saved. The crowd was dead for this. Finally Jordan hit an overhead suplex on Viktor and Gable pinned him after Grand Amplitude. *3/4
5. Nikki Bella went to a double count out with Natalya in 13:16. The story of the early portion of the match was that Natalya thought Nikki couldn’t wrestle while she was the real wrestler, so Nikki outwrestled her and kept getting her in submissions. Natalya came back. She played to Nikki’s mother Kathy at ringside, who was a featured character on Total Bellas. This turned into a good match, but the crowd crapped on the finish. Natalya got the sharpshooter, but Nikki reversed into the STF. They ended up fighting on the floor and both were counted out. This does make sense from an old-school booking standpoint, doing a double count out to lead to a falls count anywhere match. And its not like the rest of the show wasn’t clean finishes. But people hated the finish. Natalya attacked Nikki after the match and Nikki speared her on the ramp. Nikki was beating on her. Natalya kicked Nikki, and then ran away. **3/4
6. Randy Orton pinned Luke Harper in 17:12. This started slow and turned into a very good match. Orton is so great with pacing, building and being his character. He also made Harper look strong. Harper at one point went for a tope but Orton nailed him with a forearm. Even though Harper was the babyface in the match, and the crowd was behind Orton, is still worked, so opposite of the Ziggler match, in the sense Harper didn’t come out buried at all, and did big things to get over like a tope that sent Orton over the announcing table, a back suplex on the table and a two superkick combo for a strong near fall. The crowd was really into the near falls. Harper went for a discus clothesline, but Orton blocked it and hit the RKO for the pin. ***3/4
Nikki did an interview and Natalya attacked her from behind and threw her into a suitcase. While this brawl was going on, Nikki bumped into Maryse, and in doing so, makeup or powder of something flew everywhere, including all over Maryse. The idea is Maryse then couldn’t go out with Miz for the main event.
7. Naomi pinned Alexa Bliss in 8:17 to win the Smackdown women’s title. Bliss opened up throwing gum at her. Naomi got a near fall with the near view. They went back-and-forth with near falls. There was a weird spot with Naomi was supposed to miss her split-legged moonsault, or Bliss was supposed to get her knees up. It didn’t happen, so Naomi hit the move, but Bliss got up like it was a miss and Naomi sold and Bliss went right to an Oklahoma roll holding the ropes for a near fall, which the ref saw. Bliss went for twisted Bliss and Naomi got her knees up, and then went for the split legged moonsault again. This time instead of landing flat on her, Naomi’s knee hit Bliss and pinned her. Renee Young interviewed Naomi about her title win in the ring. Fans were chanting “You deserve it” and she started to cry. She tried to get over her catch phrase “Can you feel the glow,” and you can see she felt awkward and it didn’t fit the circumstance. **1/4
8. Bray Wyatt won the Elimination Chamber match over John Cena, A.J. Styles, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler and The Miz to take the WWE title in 34:26. This was a new chamber, which had rubber mats on the apron area as opposed to the old steel grating, which seemed to be a lot safer. They opened with Cena vs. Styles and the crowd was hot for it. People were supposed to enter every five minutes, but like the Royal Rumble, they entered whenever. There were dueling chants but the chants for Styles were louder. Ambrose came in at 4:54. Ambrose came off the top of the pod with a standing elbow on Cena. Cena gave Styles and Ambrose back suplexes at the same time. Wyatt entered at 9:07. Some fans tried to sing “He’s got the whole world in his hands” but it didn’t take. Styles and Cena climbed the cage and Cena took a bump from halfway down, so he was selling for a while and out of action. Ambrose came off the cage with his elbow onto Wyatt, but instead Wyatt punched him. There was a tower of doom spot where Wyatt gave Styles a belly-to-belly superplex off the middle rope as Ambrose pulled Wyatt off with a power bomb. Corbin was in at 14:01. Corbin destroyed everyone, including giving Styles and Cena the End of Days. Miz was the final guy in at 18:20. Miz refused to get out of his pod which distracted Corbin and Ambrose pinned Corbin for the first elimination in 18:36. Corbin then destroyed Ambrose, throwing him through the plexiglass in one of the pods which exploded everywhere. He continued to destroy Ambrose, ending with the End of Days. Miz pinned Ambrose at 20:42. Miz would do the Daniel Bryan kicks, which looked awful, with loud chants of both “Yes” and “No” mixed. Miz is a great talker, but he throws the worst kicks in wrestling. He gave Wyatt a skull crushing finale on the mats where the apron is. Cena pinned Miz with the Attitude Adjustment in 23:29. Cena used the Attitude Adjustment on Wyatt. Styles used the Styles Clash on Cena, who kicked out. Cena used the Attitude Adjustment on Styles, who kicked out. Cena did a crossbody off the top of the pods onto Wyatt and Styles. He pulled it off fine but Cena looks so stiff coming off the top rope. Suddenly Wyatt hit Cena with Sister Abigail for the pin in 29:07. Loud “Yes” chants as Cena was eliminated. The Wyatt vs. Styles action for the last five minutes was great. Wyatt did MMA ground and pound and elbows to the back of the head. Styles used the KENTA series, and later a Pele kick and a shining wizard. Styles also used springboard 450 for a near fall. Styles went for the phenomenal forearm, but Wyatt turned it into Sister Abigail for the pin. ****½
The Sun in the U.K. reported that Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor have agreed to terms for a boxing match and that McGregor flew to Las Vegas to finalize the deal.
The story cited a source close to McGregor as saying both sides have agreed to money terms and all the details but a third-party hold-up has prevented a contract from being signed. That could be UFC, since McGregor is under an exclusive contract with the organization.
Those within the industry believe the report is premature at best. It’s not a secret talks are going on, and there’s far too much money involved to say that it won’t happen. The belief is that it’s not as close as the story that was picked up in a lot of places would indicate. It’s also noted that McGregor is always looking for something to keep his name in the news between fights, and teasing this fight accomplishes that.
Mayweather told Stephen A. Smith that things were very, very close, but then posted on social media that there was no deal, he’s retired and happily enjoying life.
McGregor has noted that it would be simpler to get UFC involved in this promotion. There is also the matter of the commission, as it is clearly a ridiculous mismatch to have the greatest boxer of the generation, and among the greatest of all-time, face someone who has never had a boxing match. But the amount of money at stake for all involved is ridiculous.
McGregor pulled out of an appearance in Dublin on 2/17 citing an unavoidable schedule conflict and went to Las Vegas. He went there to do community service work as part of his punishment from the Nevada commission for the bottle throwing incident before the second Nate Diaz fight, and already met with the commission and asked for a new hearing attempting to get a lesser sentence than the $75,000 fine, 50 hours of community service and a public service announcement. McGregor also brought up the idea of getting a boxing license in his meeting with the commission. The commission agreed to a new hearing on 3/22.
There has been talk and teases for such a fight for months. The story of trying to get the fight done will likely be more interesting than the fight itself, which would be far more about the hype than the delivery. If such a fight happens, it will almost surely be among the biggest PPV events of all-time. That fact that there is so much money involved, that from the Mayweather standpoint it should be an easy fight and from a McGregor standpoint, the money would be so far beyond what he’s ever earned for a UFC fight is where it’s easy to see why it would happen.
Brock Lesnar quietly retired from MMA over this past week.
Lesnar’s name was quietly removed from the UFC’s active roster, and MMAFighting.com confirmed through USADA that he asked to be removed from the drug testing program.
Lesnar, 39, who is scheduled to be in one of the headline matches at WrestleMania with Bill Goldberg, was clearly thinking about fighting again, as he remained part of the UFC’s drug testing program, which served him no purpose whatsoever if he wasn’t going to fight. Lesnar was suspended for testing positive for Clomiphene, both before and the day of his UFC 200 fight with Mark Hunt in July. Had he not felt there was a good shot he’d fight again, there was no reason to keep himself open for the inconvenience of having to keep USADA officials appraised of his whereabouts at all times, and being subject to testing at any time.
Lesnar’s retirement also freezes his suspension with just over five months left. If Lesnar was to change his mind and return, he would have to declare himself unretired, and serve out the five remaining months of his suspension while being back in the testing pool. He would have to test clean for that five month period, before he could fight.
He was suspended for one year by both USADA and the Nevada Athletic Commission. He was also fined $250,000, which many were surprised at how low it was since it only represented 10 percent of his announced $2.5 million purse, and Lesnar also earned millions more based on his percentage of the PPV.
The retirement alleviates him from any drug testing, since his WWE deal does not include his being part of the company’s drug testing program based on not being listed as a full-time wrestler.
Lesnar would have been eligible to fight in July.
The UFC 200 show, where Lesnar was considered the biggest draw on one of the company’s all-time most loaded lineups, did 1,009,000 pay-per-view buys. Lesnar, along with Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, was one of the three biggest drawing cards in UFC history during his run with the promotion from 2008 to 2011, where he captured the heavyweight title from Randy Couture, and then dropped it to Cain Velasquez after two successful title defenses. He was the UFC’s biggest draw and the MMA MVP in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He retired at the end of 2011, after a loss to Alistair Overeem.
His decision win over Mark Hunt at UFC 200 was overturned to being a no contest, ending his career with a 5-3 record and 1 no contest. But that record needs to be put into perspective, as aside from his debut win over Min-soo Kim, an Olympic judo silver medalist, all of his were with major MMA stars with far more experience then he had.
He had always stated that for much, if not his entire UFC career, he was weakened by diverticulitis, which nearly killed him in late 2009. When his WWE contract was coming due in 2015, he negotiated with both WWE and UFC, and talked that there was a part of him wanting to prove something because he wasn’t at his physical best during his UFC run. He was offered significantly more by UFC, but took the WWE offer, which, because of the part-time schedule, was both less physically grueling and less dangerous than fighting. But he called UFC in 2016 and made a deal to come back, which was approved by WWE for one fight.
After beating Kim at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 69 seconds, he debuted in UFC with a loss to Frank Mir after controversial officiating by Steve Mazzagatti. He followed with wins over Heath Herring, Couture, Mir and Shane Carwin, before his losses to Velasquez and Alistair Overeem. He retired after the Overeem loss after getting a $5 million per year offer for three years by WWE for limited dates.
Lesnar went in largely armed with his collegiate wrestling, which saw him place second in the 1999 NCAA tournament and win the same tournament in 2000, and some training in other disciplines. He fared better than far more accomplished wrestlers had done, likely due to a combination of freakish athletic abilities when it came to size, speed and power.
Ariel Helwani reported on 2/15 that Georges St-Pierre, 35, was on the verge of signing a new UFC contract.
UFC sources for the past week or two had indicated that they believed a deal would happen, and Dana White had this past weekend confirmed that talks were going on and that “me and GSP got everything straight between us.” Helwani reported that the sides had reached an agreement and that he was expected to fight in the third quarter of this year.
St-Pierre had wanted to return for the 12/10 show in Toronto, but the sides were far apart on money. St-Pierre and Lorenzo Fertitta had been talking about a comeback but when WME IMG took over, the talks stalled and White continued to insist that he knows fighters and St-Pierre didn’t want to fight.
The feeling is that the company realized that the first six months of this year were not going to be strong on the revenue side with no blockbuster PPV shows. While it would seem to be impossible to match last year, the goal was to have a huge second half of the year which meant fights with Conor McGregor, GSP and Jon Jones, although Jones pulled in disappointing numbers for his last comeback fight, but it was with Ovince Saint Preux.
Michael Bisping, on the MMA Hour, said that he was told by one of GSP’s trainers that the deal was close to being finalized and that GSP wants to fight him.
GSP vs. Bisping was a fight talked about for 12/10. For Bisping, the fight makes far more sense because of how well it would likely draw compared with him defending against either Yoel Romero or Ronaldo Jacare Souza, but from a sports standpoint, you have two guys who have long since earned a title shot having to sit and wait again.
GSP, along with Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko and Jon Jones, would have to be considered one of the top four MMA fighters of all-time. He left the sport, and always made it clear he was taking a break and not retiring, after a November 16, 2013 fight with Johny Hendricks. He won a decision but took a beating, and the majority felt he lost the fight.
At 32, He was frustrated about a number of things and also had personal life issues. In reality, his incredible takedown game didn’t seem the same after knee surgery at the end of 2011, but he was still good enough to beat Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz in convincing fashion.
His big issue was that he didn’t feel the company was strong enough on PEDs. In particular, he wanted both he and Hendricks to undergo stringent drug testing before the fight, but Hendricks’ side turned it down and the UFC mocked him for it, saying that the commissions already drug test. Since then, when UFC implemented USADA drug testing in 2015, St-Pierre started considering a return more strongly.
St-Pierre was doing a consistent 600,000 to 800,000 buys for his PPV matches, peaking at about 950,000 for the Diaz fight. Part of it was that he was given a steady stream of good talkers, and his quiet old school babyface demeanor played off of people like Matt Serra, Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes and particularly B.J. Penn and Diaz. Bisping as a talker fits into a similar category. But all of those big GSP fights were championship fights when he was considered one of the two best fighters in the sport and when he was arguably the most popular athlete in Canada, having been voted by Canadian sports fans as the country’s Athlete of the Year in the Sportsnet poll in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
On the one hand, his return after what would likely be nearly four years should be big. If it was a title match against Bisping, it would be bigger because he’d be going for a third world title in a second weight class. But GSP’s appeal was about being GSP, the superstar at the time who was champion that didn’t lose, because his fights weren’t always the most exciting, and his personality wasn’t over the top.
Germaine de Randamie became UFC’s first women’s featherweight champion, and then gave mixed messages on what was next.
UFC 208, held on 2/11 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, got mostly negative reviews. Most of the talk regarded bad judging of the top two matches and a non-call by the referee in the title fight.
De Randamie, who was not even a major contender at 135 pounds, was put in a 145 pound title fight with Holly Holm largely because they had a PPV and none of the “real” champions were going to be ready.
The idea, at first, was that they hoped Ronda Rousey would beat Amanda Nunes for the welterweight title and Holm would beat de Randamie, and they could put together a champion vs. champion fight which would probably be the biggest UFC PPV match in history. Then Rousey lost. So the next idea was for Holm to win and face Cris Cyborg, forgetting that it’s a stupid match for Holm to take, giving up 20 to 30 pounds. Then Holm lost. It was a very controversial decision.
Most felt, as I did, that de Randamie won the first two rounds and Holm the last three. But the rounds were close. Media scores at press time were 63 percent for Holm and 37 percent for de Randamie.
The second controversy is that the most significant and damaging punch of the fight was a late hit, after the horn, in the second round. Ref Todd Anderson shockingly didn’t call a penalty point there. Then, when de Randamie hit Holm after the horn ending the third round, Anderson warned her but again didn’t take away a point.
Judges Sal D’Amato, Chris Lee and Jeff Mullen all scored it 48-47 for de Randamie. One penalty point would have made it a draw, and two would have given Holm the win. The non-call after the second round was very bad. After it happened again in the third round, it was pretty much impossible to understand.
D’Amato and Mullen gave de Randamie rounds one through three. Lee gave her rounds one, four and five. As far as actual punches landed, de Randamie had the edge in rounds two (19-13), four (16-12) and five (17-16). While some called it a robbery, it was a close fight that could have gone either way. The judging wasn’t bad given the nature of the close rounds, just unlucky for Holm. The referee was a different issue.
After the fight, de Randamie, when asked about fighting Cyborg, said she needed surgery on her hand for torn ligaments suffered in a fight in 2015. De Randamie came in at 143 pounds, meaning she probably didn’t even cut weight, since she usually fights at 135. She’s completely too small for Cyborg, who is suspended right now, but there is the feeling USADA is going to drop the suspension. But then, a few days later, frustrated with all the negativity about her win, she said she wanted to fight Holm in a rematch to decide it. The problem with that is the first fight wasn’t very exciting, and while there was no great interest in a first match, there would likely be less for a rematch.
Holm, who is seeking a rematch, has also filed an appeal to the New York State Athletic Commission on the grounds that de Randamie should have been docked at least one point due to the late hits.
A positive is that the title win got de Randamie a lot of mainstream attention in her native Holland, with newspaper coverage and mainstream talk show appearances in the days after the show.
What was a far worse judging issue was in the Anderson Silva vs. Derek Brunson fight. Silva took the decision on scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28. In this case, 84 percent of the media had it for Brunson, with 32 percent of media scores being 30-27 for Brunson and not one mirroring Eric Colon’s 30-27 for Silva. Brunson didn’t win this one going away either, but there was no way he should have lost all three rounds.
Actual strikes were close, pretty much even in rounds two and three, while Brunson had a 20-8 edge in the first round (which two judges gave to Silva).
Dana White even said the show didn’t deliver, and UFC only gave out three bonuses, a performance bonus to Ronaldo Jacare Souza, and a best fight bonus to Dustin Poirier and Jim Miller. Nine of the ten fights went to a decision.
The show drew a sellout announced at 15,626 paying $2,275,100. The gate was the largest for a sports event in the history of the arena, which is impressive given the arena has hosted some high profile events. They were discounting tickets at the end.
The prelims did 874,000 viewers. It peaked at 1,046,000 viewers for Belal Muhammed vs. Randy Brown. Based on 2016 numbers, it would have been ahead of six shows, and behind six shows, so right at the median. What was different is this was an older audience. The show drew a higher rating of those over the age of 50 as of those between 35 and 49, which is the first time I’ve ever seen that be the case. The UFC’s original audience that came from WWE Raw and Ultimate Fighter in 2005 was heavily concentrated in mid-20s and like with the 1998 WWE audiences, has aged consistently since that point but UFC used to have very minimal appeal except, first, from 20-35, then 25-40, and even a few years ago, it was still heavily 25-49 but not much over 50.
The prefight show did 259,000 viewers and postfight show did 207,000.
Early PPV indicators are in the low 200,000s. Based on searches and crowd response, it appeared there was more interest in Silva than the main event.
1. Ryan LaFlare (13-1) beat Roan Carneiro (21-11) on scores of 30-26, 30-27 and 29-28 in a welterweight fight. LaFlare got the better of the striking. He knocked Carneiro down twice in the second round. Carneiro got a third round takedown and was on top most of that round.
2. Rick Glenn (19-4-1) beat Phillipe Nover (12-8-1) on scores of 27-30, 29-28 and 29-28 in a featherweight fight. The first round was close, but no way Glenn didn’t win the second round. The third round was close as Nover had the edge most of the way, but Glenn got a late takedown and landed punches and elbows on the ground. Nover after the fight said that he was going to retire.
3. Islam Makhachev (14-1) beat Nik Lentz (29-8-2, 1 no contest) on scores of 30-25, 30-25 and 30-27. There was a lot of controversy because Douglas Crosby, who is friends with Lentz, was judging this fight. It didn’t end up mattering because of how one-sided it was, but those are the types of things that shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Makhachev got two first round takedowns and dominated top control, but didn’t do a lot of damage. In the second round, Makhachev got another takedown and moved to side control, mount and back position. The third round was similar, as Makhachev threw him down with a hip toss and this time landed hard shots while having Lentz’s back. He got another late takedown. I gave 10-8s in both rounds two and three, but it was a boring spectator fight.
4. Wilson Reis (22-6) beat Ulka Sasaki (19-4-2) on straight 29-28 scores in a flyweight fight. Reis got two first round takedowns to win the round. He got a takedown and back control in the second round. Sasaki swept to the top and landed. After Reis got up, Sasaki tried a takedown and Reis landed on top. He got a body triangle and worked for a choke and a neck crank. Reis got a later takedown. In the third, Sasaki was able to reverse on the ground and got Reis’ back and landed punches and hard elbows on him late in the fight to take the round.
5. Belal Muhammad (11-2) beat Randy Brown (9-2) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in a welterweight fight. Both landed in the first but Muhammad was hurting Brown with low kicks. In the second round, Muhammad took Brown down and got his back, landing hard punches from back position. Muhammad took him down to start the third round, got his back and then the top and landed punches.
6. Dustin Poirier (21-5) beat Jim Miller (28-9, 1 no contest) via majority decision on scores of 28-28, 30-27 and 29-28. The 28-28 score made no sense. Close first round with a good slugfest late. Miller was countering well in the second until Poirier hurt him. They went back-and-forth in the second round and Poirier also got a takedown, but decided to let Miller up since Miller’s Jiu Jitsu game is strong. Miller hurt Poirier with low kicks, and Poirier may have suffered a broken bone in his lower leg as it was swelling and he was having trouble walking. He took Miller down and stayed on top, which may have been the only way he could have lasted the third round. Really the only good fight on the show.
7. Glover Teixeira (26-5) beat Jared Cannonier (9-2) on straight scores of 30-26 in a light heavyweight fight. Teixeira took Cannonier down right away and kept him down most of the first round. Teixeira got another takedown to start the second round. A standup was ordered, which was controversial since while not much was happening, Teixeira was busy on top. In the third round, Teixiera took him down and into side control, got mount and was landing punches. Fans booed the fight.
8. Ronaldo Jacare Souza (24-4, 1 no contest) beat Tim Boetsch (20-11) in 3:41. Souza took Boetsch down off a kick moved to side control and got the Kimura or a submission.
9. Anderson Silva (34-8, 1 no contest) beat Derek Brunson (16-5) on scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 in a middleweight fight. It started slow as neither wanted to commit. Brunson clinched him and landed dirty boxing punches. Silva hurt him. Brunson went for a takedown but landed a punch from close range. At one point in the round, Silva was chasing Brunson and Brunson was running away, and that cost him the round even though he landed far more. Silva landed a spin kick to the head but Brunson landed a lot of good punches and knees late in the round. In the second round, Silva sprawled on a takedown attempt. Brunson took him down off a kick but Silva got back up. Silva landed low kicks and body kicks, as well as punches late in the round and round two was the round most saw for Silva. Brunson got Silva against the cage and landed a lot of uppercuts and later got a takedown and seemed to solidly win the third round.
10. Germaine de Randamie (7-3) beat Holly Holm (10-3) by straight 48-47 scores to become the first UFC women’s featherweight champion. In the first round, de Randamie was landing the better punches and landing rights time after time as counters late in the round. Holm was fighting for takedowns that she couldn’t get. In the second round, de Randamie continued to counter well. She landed more late in the round, but rocked Holm in a way Holm has never been rocked in UFC with the bunch after the horn. It was serious enough that Holm may have been finished by it, enough there was concern about her continuting for the next round the way she was wobbling back to her corner. But she ended up okay after the minute break. The third round saw both land and Holm unable to get the takedown. Holm hurt her twice with high kicks late in the round. In the fourth, Holm had de Randamie in the fence and seemed to win the round close. In the fifth round, De Randamie scored with a right and a hard left. Holm started landing elbows and body punches. It was a close final round. The crowd booed when the scorecards were read pretty loudly, as if they believed Holm had won.
After just six weeks of the year, what is clear is that this looks to be a year that will be filled with great matches.
A lot of that is just the changing face of the business through social media. There is more feedback than ever before on matches. There is a newer generation of performers that grew up watching the business very differently than their predecessors. And the goals, which used to be how much you drew, which these days are largely out of the hands of the performers, have been changed to recognition from those performances.
The good is that there is more entertaining product available to consumers than ever before. The bad is, just being a good worker doesn’t make you stand out, and unfortunately that leads to great risks by some looking to break through.
So that brings us to New Japan’s New Beginning in Osaka on 2/11 at the Edion Arena. The show, which drew an advanced sellout crowd of 5,466 paid, the number not as notable as the fact it went clean so early and with the IC title and Tetsuya Naito on top, ended with two incredible matches.
Hiromu Takahashi and Dragon Lee largely put each other on the map with their matches in Mexico. Takahashi, with his great facial expressions and timing feels like he’s starting to make the IWGP jr. title the strongest it has been in years, and keep in mind this is a title that Kenny Omega and Kushida feuded over in 2015. Takahashi has been compared by many to Dynamite Kid, both because of his ability to get over as the top junior heel in a boom period, and also because of his disregard for his own physical health. The problem was the two guys upped the ante and did so many scary things that at times the emotions switched from what a great match it was, to too much concern that one or both were going to destroy their bodies prematurely.
In the main event, where Tetsuya Naito retained the IC title over Michael Elgin, there was one spot in particular. Keep in mind that overall, this was the second best match I’ve seen this year (behind Okada vs. Omega), I thought a step above both John Cena vs. A.J. Styles at the Rumble and Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki last week in Sapporo, and that’s high company. There are so many great matches in such a short period of time which leads to healthy (and sometimes unhealthy) debates, because the good thing about the four standout matches is all are completely different from the other three. The strengths of Naito vs. Elgin were Elgin’s power moves and selling of the knee, some strong creativity, very hard hitting and Naito’s overall work, which was spectacular. Naito is clearly New Japan’s MVP right now, and has been a great wrestler for years, always praised for his layouts of big matches. Still, even though he and Omega had one of last year’s best matches in G-1, I always felt Naito was just underneath the best in-ring guys. As a babyface he could do it all, but there were reasons he didn’t always connect. As a heel, he’s picked up greatly in the charisma, and whether it’s desire to be at the highest standard, I now see him in that category with the big five or so main event singles workers in the world.
At one point in the match, Elgin gave Naito a power bomb into the guard rail. Perhaps these guys are so good they can do this safely, and part of the magic of pro wrestling is the ability to do things that make you think guys are devastating each other, but are actually safe. The problem is that in the quest to stand out, often safety is forgotten and risks are taken. But Seth Rollins and Finn Balor likely thought the same thing. And unlike WWE, which is a machine that runs no matter what, a serious injury to Naito at this point would probably damage this promotion more than any single wrestler getting hurt right now would hurt any major company.
The show was built around five title matches, with one change, the hot potato Never trios titles which went back to Sanada & Evil & Bushi, who defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi & Manabu Nakanishi. The Ingobernables team made for better champions and it almost felt the Tanahashi team’s win was more a 50th birthday present for Nakanishi. With the five title matches, they rushed through the first part of the show.
There weren’t much in the way of teases for the future on the show. After Naito won, there was nothing clear regarding his next title match, which would likely be on 4/9 at Sumo Hall. They’ve got the New Japan Cup tournament tour to set that up. The only clear next match is Takahashi vs. Taguchi. After Takahashi beat Lee, they did an angle where Taguchi put him in an ankle lock and he tapped out. While Taguchi is mostly a comedy wrestler, he showed last year that when he’s in a serious title match, he’ll deliver, and it’s good for Takahashi to work with someone who will likely reign in the insanity. They are obviously biding time before putting Kushida back in with him. They also teased Hirooki Goto vs. Juice Robinson for the Never Open weight title, a surprise since Goto just pinned him last week to retain.
1. Taka Michinoku pinned Henare in 4:38. Michinoku, like several on this show, was bothered by the flu. It was well wrestled, but had no time to develop. Michinoku won with an eye poke and cradle. *1/2
2. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan beat Yoshitatsu & Kushida in 6:57. Yoshitatsu attacked both at the bell. Kojima did his standard spots. A big pop when Kushida getting the hoverboard lock on Kojima, and Kojima suplexing his way out of it. Kojima pinned Tatsu with a lariat. They are going more in this direction as Yoshitatsu and Kojima had a post-match pull-apart. **1/4
3. Yuji Nagata & Juice Robinson & Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask beat Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Gedo & Jado in 7:51. Just a basic match. There was an eight-way where Tiger Mask finished with a tope and Liger did a flip senton off the apron. In the ring, Robinson pinned Jado with pulp fiction, which in the U.S. would be the killswitch. Robinson challenged Goto to a title rematch. **
4. Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi beat Kazuchika Okada & Rocky Romero & Baretta in 10:27. Suzuki continued to destroy Okada, who was selling the right knee, which was all wrapped up based on all the damage from last week’s match. Okada worked as if he was very much diminished, which meant the repercussions of their classic match weren’t forgotten. Taichi used a hammer, driving it into Baretta’s eye. At one point Suzuki had Okada in a heel hook and Baretta went to make the save. But Suzuki got him in a heel hook with the other arm. Romero broke it up, and Suzuki snatched him in a heel hook while still holding it on Okada. Okada did great selling, especially after he hit the dropkick on Suzuki. The finish saw Suzuki choking out Okada, while Taichi power bombed Romero and Kanemaru pinned Romero after a DDT off the top rope. Taichi & Kanemaru then grabbed the jr. tag titles. Taichi hit Baretta with a belt shot while Okada and Suzuki fought over the IWGP belt until Okada whipped him into the guard rail. ***1/4
5. Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi beat Hiroshi Tanahashi & Manabu Nakanishi & Ryusuke Taguchi to win the Never Open weight trios titles in 12:15. Team Taguchi, as they are called, came out mocking LIJ, as Taguchi came out with a sickle like Evil, Nakanishi wore a mask like Sanada and Tanahashi came out with a baseball bat like Sanada. They all had their faces painted like Evil. So here’s some Nakanishi trivia. He’s known as a super breakfast eater, and apparently at some point this past week at an all you can eat buffet, he had 17 full plates before he gave up. That may be why he moves so slow. He did power stuff like a Northern lights suplex on Sanada & Evil at the same time, and a torture rack on Bushi and threw him over the top rope. Nakanishi even came off the top rope with a crossbody. I don’t know of anyone on the top rope except maybe Big Show, that when they get there, look more like they shouldn’t be up there than Nakanishi. For the finish, Nakanishi had Sanada in the torture rack, Evil distracted the ref and Bushi blew green mist in Nakanishi’s face. Sanada then got Nakanishi in the skull end (dragon sleeper) for the submission. After the match, Evil laid out Tanahashi with an STO, so they may be going to a singles program with the two while Sanada tied up Taguchi. ***½
6. Katsuyori Shibata beat Will Ospreay in 13:51 to retain the British heavyweight title. Since it’s a British title match, they opened doing classic European style. Ospreay then went to the flying including a tope followed by a space flying tiger drop. Shibata did his stiff offense and no sell spots. An Ospreay count out win was teased when he threw Shibata’s shoulder into the post and kicked him in the head, but Ospreay threw Shibata into the ring. Ospreay also teased a rainmaker, but Shibata blocked it. Ospreay used a reverse 450 for a near fall and his corkscrew kick. The finish saw him go for the Oscutter, but Shibata instead caught him off the ropes with a choke. Shibata did a choke suplex, held on to the choke, had him just about out and gave it up to deliver the penalty kick for the pin. When it was over, Shibata offered Ospreay a handshake with the idea that he respected him for giving him a great fight. ****
7. Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii retained the IWGP tag titles in a three-way over Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Takashi Iizuka and Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma in 12:31. Similar to last week but not quite as good. It seems weird to book two consecutive three-ways and do basically the same finish, at least by Gedo. That makes me think the idea was to put Smith & Lance Archer over in this match, but Archer was diagnosed with a herniated disc and underwent surgery. The only choices for a replacement would have been Iizuka or Suzuki, and they wanted to keep the Suzuki-Okada story going for down the line. Aside from Iizuka, who does mostly things like chairs and choking, and Yano, who is mostly comedy, everyone else looked good, particularly Ishii. Honma accidentally bumped the ref. Iizuka got the iron fingers from hell and nailed Makabe. He went to hit Ishii, who moved and nailed Smith. Yano used low blows on both Iizuka and Smith and cradled Smith. ***½
8. Hiromu Takahashi retained the IWGP jr. title over Dragon Lee in 18:23. Putting the jr. title above the tag title and above far better known stars is not usual protocol, which tells you they were expecting something special. They came out sprinting and really never stopped. In the first minute, Takahashi did two spinning huracanranas and both times Lee landed o his feet. Lee then did a huracanrana and a tope. The timing was unreal. Takahashi did a sunset flip power bomb over the top rope, and a running dropkick on the floor. Lee did his trademark move where Takahashi is on the apron and Lee runs across the ring, leaps over the top rope and gives Takahashi a huracanrana to the floor. He followed with a running flip dive. He did two Northern Lights suplexes followed by a vertical suplex for a near fall. Then in a completely sick spot, Lee put Takahashi hanging from the top rope outside the ring. It’s the position for the Del Rio double foot stomp, only to the floor. Lee has done this with Takahashi before. It looked like that’s what they were going to do, but Takahashi essentially did a sit-up from that position and gave Lee a belly to belly suplex over head off the top rope to the floor. That was insane. Then he went for a senton splash off the apron but Lee stepped back and power bombed him on the floor. Both barely beat the 20 count back in. They traded German suplexes with Takahashi dropping Lee almost on his head. Lee then delivered a sick German suplex on Takahashi’s head. Takahashi did a wheelbarrow German. Lee did a Spanish fly. Lee then tried his leap over the top huracanrana spot, and this time Takahashi caught him in mid-air and power bombed him on the apron. Takahashi then did his senton off the top to the floor. Both crashed into the guard rail on that one. Lee did a side camel clutch. The funny thing is the crowd was hotter for the near submission than most of the insane moves. Lee dropkicked ref Red Shoes Unno. They are overdoing the ref bumps. With the ref down, Takahashi unmasked Lee and gave him a Casadora bomb off the middle rope that everyone figured was the finish, but Lee kicked out. Tomoyuki Oka then put Lee’s mask back on him. Lee used a power bomb for a near fall. There was a spot where Takahashi went for a power bomb, Lee turned it into a reverse huracanrana but Takahashi reversed that into a Canadian Destroyer. Takahashi did another Canadian Destroyer for a near fall. Takahashi finally won after a Death Valley bomb into the turnbuckles and the time bomb. After the match, Taguchi came out. Takahashi tried to hit him with a belt shot, but Taguchi ducked and got the ankle lock on Takahashi, who started tapping. Takahashi limped badly, putting over the ankle lock, as he was helped to the back. ****½
9. Tetsuya Naito pinned Michael Elgin in 36:17 to retain the IC title. So they had to follow that. The crowd was super-hot for Naito. Naito spit at Okada, who was doing commentary, so that’s for down the line. Elgin pressed Naito and held him up for a long time before dropping him. Elgin did a flip off the apron. Naito did a tope and Elgin caught him in mid-air and turned it into a delayed vertical suplex on the floor. Naito worked the knee including having Elgin in a kneebar and spitting at him. Elgin was doing ridiculously hard clotheslines. He also gave Naito a German suplex into the buckles, followed by another one. Naito worked the knee. Naito got a super near fall using a reverse Frankensteiner. He went back to the leglock and the crowd was really hot for the rope break. Naito spit in Elgin’s face again. Elgin used the emerald flowsien on the apron, as well as a power superplex into a falcon arrow. Elgin did spinning elbows to the back of the head and the front of the head. Elgin kicked out of the first destino attempt. He tried another destino, but Elgin blocked and used a Death Valley bomb into the turnbuckles, then a power bomb on the apron, and a power bomb on the barricade and threw Naito into the ring. Elgin then did his Elgin bomb in the middle but Naito kicked out. The reaction was incredible. They traded more big moves including Naito getting out of a burning hammer and Elgin kicking out of a reverse DDT, until Naito hit another destino for the pin. *****
A project that Bill Simmons has talked about for years has come to fruition, which is a documentary on the life of Andre the Giant.
Simmons, a lifelong WWE fan who grew up reading this publication, had talked about such a project, which was announced this week as a collaboration between Bill Simmons Media roup, WWE and HBO Sports. There were reports back starting late 2015 about this documentary but it took time to get everything together, most notably the full cooperation of WWE, which was agreed to at least for months since a story on the documentary being a go and Jason Hehir’s involvement was broken by the web site Awful Announcing back in June.
Hehir will direct the project. Hehir has recently done well regarded “30 for 30" pieces with ESPN on The Fab Five and The 1985 Chicago Bears.
Kevin Dunn of WWE and HBO Sports Executive Vice President Peter Nelson will be on board. The movie will cover Andre’s growing up in France, his pro wrestling career and his entertainment career, most notably his role in “The Princess Bride” movie.
Simmons as executive producer noted he had talked about doing this dating back to 2007 and 2008 when he was first involved in the creation of the 30 for 30 series while working for ESPN.
“Andre’s story rode the top of every single sports documentary wish list I ever made,” he said. “We always hear about unicorns these days–Andre was the ultimate unicorn. He’s a true legend. Everyone who ever crossed paths with him has an Andre story–and usually four or five. I’m delighted to join forces with Jason Hehir and WWE so we can capture Andre’s amazing story once and for all.”
There have been three Andre the Giant books, two of them graphic novels, and a 1999 documentary that aired on A&E.
Andre was pro wrestling’s leading worldwide attraction from 1973, when he signed on with Vince McMahon Sr. as his worldwide booker, through the rest of the decade, until the emergence of Hulk Hogan as pro wrestling’s biggest star in the 80s.
The making of the documentary will be tricky, because as noted, everyone has an Andre the Giant story, and many of them are true, but quite a few are embellished to a great degree given the nature of decades later and the pro wrestling world.
There is a great story to be told and he is a fascinating subject, but navigating that 70s pro wrestling business and truth is tricky at best. Most notably, there is the WWE legend of Andre and the truth, and WWE is heavily involved in this one.
Most notable is his size, as pro wrestling legend has him at 7-foot-4, even though he was nowhere close to that. Andre was last measured in England in 1970, at the age of 24, at 208 centimeters, which is a shade under 6-foot-10. When he started wrestling in France, and there is actually a YouTube video of a 19-year-old Andre Roussimoff when he was just starting his career where he said he was 6-foot-10 and 340 pounds. He worked for several years in Europe, billed at 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-11, using the name Jean Ferre, after a mythical French giant.
The stories of his move to North America vary based on who is telling them. Eduardo Carpentier and Frank Valois both claimed to have discovered him while they were wrestling in France. Isao Yoshihara, who promoted for the IWE in Japan, a group that had national television and used European stars, most notably Billy Robinson, introduced him to Japan in 1970 as Monster Roussimoff, and before he was well known in North America, had a number of matches with the likes of Don Leo Jonathan, Shozo Kobayashi, Karl Gotch and Robinson in Japan, including a famous match were Gotch gave him a German suplex (which was later found and is on YouTube, although the legend that Gotch won that match is not true as Andre won, although Andre did lose matches in Japan and Europe at times).
Verne Gagne saw him in Japan and saw dollar signs in him as a heavyweight boxer, ironically the exact same direction that Hulk Hogan decades later tried to take Big Show in.
But Andre didn’t take well to boxing. He ended up in the Montreal territory during the heyday of Grand Prix Wrestling, where he drew big crowds against Jonathan in their battle of the giants matches. Eventually being in the territory for a long period of time, his drawing power waned and he was brought to Vince McMahon Sr., and given the name Andre the Giant.
He was first billed at 7-foot-4 and 385 pounds in Montreal, and he was actually quite athletic. A very interesting Andre match is on New Japan World from 1974 when he wrestled Antonio Inoki in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the two worked it like a true athletic fight. The Andre the Giant babyface that most saw in the 70s in handicap matches and attraction matches in North America relied on standard spots he’d do all the time. In Japan, where his role was to be a monster heel working with main event talent nightly, he was very different. He was tremendous at getting over his character, like no monster-sized athlete before or since. He could work entertaining short cat-and-mouse matches with Tatsumi Fujinami. People who see his most famous singles match with Stan Hansen would be in awe of how great Andre could be when working with a guy in a back-and-forth match. But some are also misled by that match, because Andre was hardly like that every night.
The 7-foot-4, a key part of the Andre mythology, came because Kareem Abdul-Jabber, who was 7-foot-2, was the world’s most famous tall athlete so wrestling promoters felt the need to one-up them. When Andre became famous, Vince McMahon Sr. never wanted him posing for photos with very tall men after a wrestling magazine photo of Andre standing next to a 6-foot-8 fan saw them pretty much the same height.
When a photo of Andre taken with Wilt Chamberlain and Arnold Schwarzenegger made the rounds in 1984, it showed Andre shorter than Wilt and was not taken well in wrestling. Today, a number of photos from that period, since Arnold and Andre were friends, are all over the Internet. People have also told stories about when Manute Bol wanted to meet Andre and get his photo taken with him, and WWF officials rushed Andre out of the building.
There was a shocking photo that made the rounds a few years ago from Japan of Andre and Jonathan, where Andre was barefoot and Jonathan was wearing boots, and they looked to be the same height, and Jonathan was probably 6-foot-6 legit although most photos of the two showed Andre a few inches taller than Jonathan, just as he was only a few inches taller than Hogan, who was a legit 6-foot-5 at the time. While Andre was billed at 7-foot-4 when there was some mainstream sports coverage for his worked match with boxer Chuck Wepner at Shea Stadium in 1976 on the Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki show, and the stories at the time claimed that Andre looked to be 6-foot-9 and 370 pounds, although I believe by then he probably was heavier. He gained a lot of weight as the years went by and was more than 500 pounds at death.
The WWE story said that in 1970, Roussimoff went to Japan, which put him on the radar of Vince McMahon Sr, and that he joined the WWE (WWWF) in 1973, which was when McMahon Sr. booked him similar to how the NWA booked its world champion, touring from territory to territory, never staying too long in any one place to wear himself out as an attraction. Like the NWA champion, Andre was usually supposed to work for ten percent of the gate, although in wrestling in those days, things always varied. From when McMahon signed him, the rule was that Andre could never lose. Andre started out working handicap matches and winning squashes, and a lot of Battle Royals. He would sell for the biggest names.
Andre was always a babyface in North America as the smiling giant, who was scary when enraged, until his turn on Hulk Hogan in 1987. He worked as both a face and heel in Mexico, and was always a heel in Japan during his heyday with his biggest matches against Inoki. I’m not sure the politics behind it, but prior to the Hogan match, Andre did lose via pin to Canek in Mexico and by submission to an armbar to Inoki in Japan.
Andre did lose, not via pinfall but via ten count knockout, after fire was thrown, in matches with The Sheik in Detroit and Toronto. He may have lost once via count out to Jerry Lawler. That was a huge bit of controversy as the Apter-mags wrote a story about Lawler beating Andre via count out, and it’s never been clear if it did happen or was a made up story. But Vince Sr. went ballistic that it went reported at an NWA convention. He was always billed as undefeated leading up to the 1987 WrestleMania III match with Hulk Hogan at the Pontiac Silverdome, which can be argued is the biggest single pro wrestling match ever held in the U.S., where Hogan slammed and leg dropped a crippled Andre for the pin.
Andre worked a few more years with WWF, and I believe only lost to Hogan and Ultimate Warrior, until no longer being booked. At the end of his career he was working in mid-card matches in All Japan, teaming with Giant Baba, and because he was Andre, he was always kept as the highest paid wrestler on the tours.
Andre died on January 27, 1993, at the age of 46, while in France right after the funeral of his father. In around 1971, he was diagnosed with acromegaly, or giantism, which, after he stopped growing in height, led to his hands, feet and head growing to ridiculous proportions. While much shorter, The French Angel (Maurice Tillet), was one of pro wrestling’s biggest drawing cards in the 40s, having the same condition. The French Angel is the real life human being the famous movie character of Shrek was modeled after.
Big Show, Choi-Hong man, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Paulo “Giant” Silva (who facially resembled Andre) and Great Khali are among those who suffered from the same disease. Show had surgery to get it taken care of young, and Bigfoot Silva, Khali and Choi also had that surgery. Andre was offered that surgery when he was in his early 20s, and told if he didn’t have it that we wouldn’t live much past 40. It’s not clear why he declined the surgery.
This could be a fascinating project, but it’s far more difficult than most because Andre is such a huge part of WWE mythology and always portrayed in a positive way. In reality, he was a very moody guy, who loved being around the wrestlers and playing games with them, but wasn’t comfortable in public with people always staring at him. The world is filled with Andre the Giant drinking stories, and he did have a ridiculous capacity for liquor, although being pro wrestling, a lot of the drinking stories are likely exaggerated.
His reputation in Japan was that he could draw money, but he was not considered a nice guy there. It’s going to be tricky for HBO with their reputation, to work with WWE, and not cover the stories such as his racial remark that nearly led to a fight with Badnews Allen (and him later in a match in Mexico doing his sitting squad and shitting all over Allen), or his bizarre match with Akira Maeda, let alone the story of his real height which may be the most tricky compromise that would have to be worked out. Simmons was on his podcast this week talking about it and did bring up the embellished stories and exaggerated size, and for him to say that publicly means he probably won’t do the worked stiff in the doc. The reality is that Andre passed away 24 years ago so it’s not like it hurts WWE at all, and there’s no denying the significance of the character, but when WWE has its history it wants that always to be the history.
I almost wonder if the most fascinating story of this documentary will be the story of making it come to fruition.
What Culture Pro Wrestling held a press conference on 2/12, prior to their iPPV show in Milton Keynes, England, that they would be launching the most ambitious tournament in pro wrestling history.
Jim Ross, who announced the show later that day, hosted the press conference for a 64 man tournament that will be divided up into eight different geographical groups of eight wrestlers each, who will compete in different single elimination tournaments.
Each of the geographical tournaments will come down to two men, and the final 16 will be part of the finals, scheduled for four-shows in the U.K. between 8/23 and 8/26, with the final two days airing live from the Sports Center in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
What Culture, backed by the web site of the same name, has spent big in recent months for imported talent. Some have been critical because they are theoretically running at a huge loss and are able to spend far more for the biggest stars, such as Kurt Angle and Alberto El Patron, making it harder for other popular promotions in the U.K.
The promotion pays so well that Drew Galloway, its champion, missed several days of the most recent TNA tapings so he could work their shows.
The entire tournament will air for free on What Culture’s YouTube channel. Ross pushed the tournament as “an old concept that is new again.”
Ross’ involvement is notable since he was the lead announcer for the ITV World of Sport show, but that show hasn’t been picked up. Ross announced the last What Culture iPPV with Jim Cornette, and announced this show with Matt Striker.
Announced as the English qualifier will be on 3/21 in Nottingham at Havey Haddon Sports Village, with Zack Sabre Jr., Nick Aldis, Rampage Brown, Zack Gibson, Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay, Martin Kirby and Jimmy Havoc. Brown and Gibson were part of the ITV show. Scurll and Ospreay are under contract to ROH, but their contracts only cover the U.S. and Canada, and they are free to book themselves anywhere else.
A Scotland qualifier is 3/23 as a joint show with the Scottish Wrestling Alliance will be at the Motherwell Concert Hall in Mothwell, Scotland. Announced for that tournament are Galloway, Joe Coffey, Lewis Girvan, Kenny Williams, Joe Hendry, Mark Coffey, BT Gunn and Liam Thomson.
A Canadian tournament will be done in Toronto at the Phoenix Concert Hall. No date was announced, nor were the competitors announced. Smash Wrestling will be the local promotion of the event.
A Mexico tournament will take place in–get this–Coventry, England, at the Sky Dome on 4/30. The names announced are interesting for political reasons, as they have Rey Mysterio Jr., Alberto El Patron, Caristico, Penta El 0M, Rey Fenix, El Hijo de Dos Caras, Drago and El Ligero (who is actually a British wrestler for the promotion who does a gimmick that he’s from Mexico).
Politically, that’s very interesting. Penta and Fenix are Konnan Crash wrestlers, who are also under contract to Lucha Underground. AAA has told its wrestlers that they can’t work with them, but can appear on shows with them. Drago is from AAA. Caristico is from CMLL, and those wrestlers never appear on the same shows as AAA wrestlers, even in the U.S. Another note regards the date. 4/30 is Kids Day in Mexico, which is traditionally the biggest wrestling day of the year in the culture, with more shows than any other day. This keeps some of the major stars in Mexico out of the country on that date.
A German qualifier was announced as 7/2 in Berlin. It will be hosted by the German Wrestling Federation. Names announced were wXw’s Bad Bones John Klinger and Axel Dieter Jr., as well as GWF wrestlers Crazy Sexy Mike, Cash Money Erkan, Lucky Kid, Tarkan Aslan and Pascal Spalter, and Juvenile X, a protégé of Alex Wright.
The other three tournaments are said to be a U.S. tournament, a Japan tournament and a rest of the world tournament. Nothing was announced regarding those shows.
Regarding their iPPV show, billed as Kurt Angle’s last match ever in the U.K., it took place on 2/12 in Milton Keynes, England and drew approximately 1,500 fans.
1. Prince Ameen pinned Drake in a dark match.
2. Bad Bones John Klinger pinned Doug Williams with double knees into the corner. This was a pre-show match that aired on Youtube.
3. Ricochet pinned Will Ospreay. The two had a great match, but the big story was that the top rope broke early in the match. They were forced to improvise and got high marks for still having a great match even though they had to change everything on the fly. They did all kinds of moves off the middle rope, which became the top rope. They did comedy and more striking, including a spot where the top rope had been taken out of the ring and put on the floor, and Ospreay stepped on the top rope and flipped onto Ricochet on the floor. They were able to fix the rope after the match and it was never a factor the rest of the show.
4. Rampage Brown beat Primate in an I Quit match. They are in the middle of a best-of-seven series between the two and this put Brown up 3-2. The match dragged and reportedly sucked the life out of the crowd because they were on the floor and much of the crowd couldn’t see them. Plus, look at who they were following. Brown taped Primate to the ropes and started choking him with a chair, so Primate’s manager, James R. Kennedy, said I Quit for him and threw in the towel.
5. Drago pinned El Hijo de Dos Caras in a terrible match. They announced hours before the show that a personal situation kept Pentagon, who was set to face Drago, from appearing. I don’t know if this had anything to do with it, but do know U.S. promoters that have had Drago vs. Pentagon have been forced to change because AAA won’t let Drago work against Pentagon and it has cost Drago bookings. Pentagon himself hinted about blockages and bickering for his reason for not being here. Drago won with a splash off the top rope.
6. Zack Sabre Jr. beat Travis Banks in a great technical match. Not that exciting but the crowd reacted well to the various stretching and submission moves. Said to be technically very good.
7. A tag team ladder match for the WCPW titles, saw Ospreay, working a second time, team with Scott Wainright to beat champions Johnny Moss & William Slater, El Ligero & Gabriel Kidd and the team of Prospect, which was Alex Gracie & Lucas Archer. This was announced as Moss & Slater putting up their titles in an open challenge, so there was a big pop when Ospreay came out as a surprise. The crowd was hot for the match. Ospreay didn’t do a ton, but what he did was crazy, considering he flew from Osaka after a brutal match with Shibata, and then just did a crazy match with Ricochet and was wrestling again. Drake turned on the team of Prospect and Ospreay & Wainwright, known as the Swords of Essex, won the match.
8. Nixon Newell beat Bea Priestley to win the WCPW women’s title. This was scheduled as Priestley (girlfriend of Ospreay in real life) vs. Tessa Blanchard (girlfriend of Ricochet). Blanchard pulled out at the last minute when she got a role in the movie on Paige that shot this weekend. Newell had been the champion but lost it since she’s headed to WWE and NXT. Priestley made an open challenge as a heel and Newell got a big reaction since she had been gone since she dropped the title to Priestley. Nixon won with a belt shot.
9. Drew Galloway beat Joe Hendry to keep the WCPW title. Martin Kirby, who plays GM, was the referee. They had been doing a program where Hendry kept coming close to winning the title and this was billed as his last shot. Galloway won with the Future shock DDT. Said to be decent, but it was hurt because the ladder match was so crazy and people were waiting for Angle.
10. Kurt Angle beat Alberto El Patron. This was billed as their first (and probably last) match ever. Angle was super over. Alberto is usually a face here but worked subtle heel since they had pushed this as Angle’s last match ever on British soil. Angle got a bloody nose from a kick. Alberto threw his shirt in the crowd and is a funny spot, Paige, who was there, caught it. Alberto came off the top rope with a double stomp into an ankle lock for the submission. Good match in the sense they worked like pros and got a super reaction, which they were going to get no matter what they did, and just did a basic solid match. After Angle won, the two shook hands and hugged. Alberto got on one knee for respect. Angle then got down on one knee for Patron. Hendry, who is the big local babyface, came out, since he worked with Angle at the last show. He did mic work thanking Angle for everything he’s done for wrestling and talked about how much he looked up to Angle. Hendry started using the ankle lock after Angle beat him with the move. Hendry then turned on Angle and gave him a low blow with the idea that this will make Hendry the top heel. The show went off the air like this, but after the show ended, Alberto made the save and Angle ended the show with a speech putting over Alberto and the promotion.
Smackdown on 2/14 drew 2,626,000 viewers, almost identical to the 2,627,000 the week before. I’d have thought there would be a small increase coming off the Chamber PPV and with John Cena challenging Bray Wyatt for the title being advertised.
Smackdown was 8th for the night on cable, although based on WWE bumpers on Raw, they’ll claim it was No. 1. It was No. 1 in Males 18-49, overall 18-34 and Males 12-34 (actually by a huge margin in this demo).
The show did a 0.64 in 12-17 (down 8.6 percent from last week), 0.72 in 18-34 (down 14.3 percent), 1.02 in 35-49 (up 4.1 percent) and 1.04 in 50+ (identical).
The audience was 62.3 percent male in 18-49 and 65.1 percent male in 12-17.
Raw on 2/13 fell slightly to a 2.15 rating and 3,073,000 viewers (1.56 viewers per home), making it the lowest Raw mark that didn’t go against a major sports event dating back to 1997.
As far as shows that didn’t go against football, it would be the fourth lowest, behind the two shows last year that went against the Olympics and one show during the NBA playoffs. It was down 11 percent from the same week one year ago.
The number was down one percent from last week, with the story being that Raw started with fewer viewers than last week, but with it being a better show, they maintained the viewers better. Raw was third for the night on cable, trailing only O’Reilly and Tucker Carlson on Fox News.
Going with a big women’s title match on top paid big dividends on 11/28, when Sasha Banks beat Charlotte for the title, on a show that did 3,107,000 viewers, the second best number of football season, and going against a highly rated NFL game. The lone positive is that the start-to-finish drop was far better than last week.
Raw’s first hour did 3,199,000 viewers; the second hour did 3,153,000 viewers and the third hour did 2,909,000 viewers.
Even with the women on top, the first-to-third hour drop in 18-49 women was 14 percent and men was three percent, as compared to 22 percent and two percent last week. However, the teenage girl drop was 38 percent from hour one to three this week, as compared to 14 percent last week, and teenage girls in theory should be Bayley’s audience. In fact, whatever the reason, the teenage girl audience for the show as a whole, not just the drop, was shockingly far below normal standards. What that says is that no matter what her merch numbers are or the numbers of girls who dress like her on camera, the teenage girls as far as the masses went were not invested in that story.
The show did a 0.77 in 12-17 (down 4.9 percent from last week), 0.91 in 18-34 (down 8.1 percent), 1.31 in 35-49 (up 1.6 percent) and 1.20 in 50+ (up 5.3 percent).
The audience was 63.3 percent male in 18-49 and 78.1 percent in 12-17.
Impact on 2/9 did 252,000 viewers, a drop of 16 percent from the 299,000 the week before. This puts Impact probably in the same range as some of the recent New Japan shows even though Pop is in 78 million homes and AXS is in 44 million homes.
This is the first issue of the current set. If you’ve got a (1) on your address label, your subscription will expire in two weeks with a single and a double issue.
Renewal rates for the printed Observer in the United States are $12 for four issues (which includes $4 for postage and handling), $22 for eight, $31 for 12, $40 for 16, $60 for 24, $80 for 32, $100 for 40, $130 for 52 up through $160 for 64 issues.
For Canada and Mexico, the rates are $13.50 for four issues (which includes $6 for postage and handling), $24 for eight, $34 for 12, $44 for 16, $66 or 24, $88 for 32, $110 for 40 issues, $143 for 52 and $176 for 64.
For Europe, you can get the fastest delivery and best rates by sending to Moonsault, P.O. Box 3075, Barnet, Herts EN4 9YR, England, or by sending e-mail orders to email@example.com. Rates are £9 per set of four issues. U.K. readers ordering at least six sets can get them for £8.50 per set.
For the rest of the world, the rates are $15.50 for four issues (which includes $9 for postage and handling), $30 for eight, $43 for 12, $56 for 16, $70 for 20, $84 for 24, $98 for 28, $140 for 40 issues and $182 for 52 issues.
You can also get the Observer on the web at www.wrestlingobserver.com for $10.99 per month for a premium membership that includes daily audio updates, Figure Four Weekly, special articles and a message board. If you are a premium member and still want hard copies of the Observer, you can get them for $8 per set in the U.S., $9 per set in Canada and $11.50 per set for the rest of the world.
All subscription renewals should be sent to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, P.O. Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228. You can also renew via Visa or MasterCard by sending your name, address, phone number, Visa or MasterCard number (and include the three or four digit security code on the card) and expiration date to Dave@wrestlingobserver.com or by fax to (408)244-3402. You can also renew at www.paypal.com using firstname.lastname@example.org as the pay to address. For all credit card or paypal orders, please add a $1 processing fee. If there are any subscription problems, you can contact us and we will attempt to rectify them immediately, but please include with your name a full address as well a phone number you can be contacted at.
All letters to the editor, reports from live shows and any other correspondence pertaining to this publication should also be sent to the above address.
We also have copies of our latest book, "Tributes II," a 293-page hardcover full color book which features biographies right out of the pages of the Observer. Those featured are Wahoo McDaniel, Lou Thesz, Miss Elizabeth, Freddie Blassie, Road Warrior Hawk, Andre the Giant, Curt Hennig, Johnny Valentine, Davey Boy Smith, Terry Gordy, Owen Hart, Stu Hart, Gorilla Monsoon, The Sheik and Tim Woods. The book is available for $12.95 plus $3.50 for postage and handling in the U.S., $20 for postage and handling in Canada and $25 for postage and handling for the rest of the world.
This publication is copyright material and no portion of the Observer may be reprinted without the expressed consent of publisher/writer Dave Meltzer. The Observer is also produced by Derek Sabato.
Fax messages can be sent to the Observer 24 hours a day at (408) 244-3402. Phone messages can be left 24 hours a day at (408) 244-2455. E-mails can be sent to Dave@wrestlingobserver.com
CMLL: Sam Adonis (Sam Polinsky, 27, the younger brother of Corey Graves), who works here as a heel, has gotten a lot of pub in newspapers around the country as well as in GQ Magazine as a heel in Mexico City who waves a U.S. flag with a photo of Donald Trump. Like with the R.J. Brewer stories that ran everywhere a few years ago, they are exaggerated regarding his stature, claiming he’s the top heel in CMLL and such. It’s also notable he got the pub when AAA had been doing the Team Trump heel group for a long time, although they’ve dropped it of late due to economic cutbacks to where they aren’t flying in Americans much. .. The 2/10 show was built around the first block of the Parejas increibles (Incredible partners) tournament where teams are composed of wrestlers feuding with each other. The tournament continues on 2/17, with the winner of that tournament facing the 2/10 winners, Volador Jr. & Cavernario, on 2/24. Volador Jr. & Cavernario beat Mephisto & Caristico in the finals at Arena Mexico before 5,000 fans. Caristico suffered an elbow injury when he did a dive into the crowd and the elbow got caught between the seats as he landed. He finished the match, but hasn’t worked since. Volador Jr. & Cavernario first beat Puma & Rey Cometa and then beat Mascara Ano 2000 & Maximo Sexy. Several of the teams fought each other, most notably Diamante Azul and Pierroth, who are building a mask vs. mask match that may take place in March. Rey Bucanero turned on Angel de Oro. Of course Mascara Ano 2000 & Maximo Sexy had issues
The 2/17 tournament has Mistico & Negro Casas, Rush & El Terrible, Ultimo Guerrero & Valiente, Dragon Lee & La Mascara, Atlantis & Euforia, Dragon Rojo Jr. & Guerrero Maya Jr., Hechicero & Stuka Jr. and Titan & Ripper. Rush & Terrible are interesting because both are heels but are from different groups. The other top match is Diamante Azul & Marco Corleone & Volador Jr. vs. Yoshitatsu & Pierroth & Kraneo in Yoshitatsu’s debut
Espiritu Maligno, who will be in an elimination match tournament to fill the vacant CMLL minis title, which starts on 2/19 at Arena Mexico, will be working his first match at Arena Mexico since 2005. Astral was champion but he was moved out of the minis division into the regular division. On the 2/10 show, he debuted out of the minis division, teaming with another ex-minis division wrestler Principe Diamante against rudos Cancerbero & Raziel. Those guys have for not being cooperative so they just ate up the former midgets, giving them nothing in the first fall, and then quickly won the second fall.
PRO WRESTLING NOAH: The card hasn’t been announced for 3/12 at Yokohama Bunka Gym aside from the main event of Katsuhiko Nakajima defending the GHC title against Go Shiozaki and Hajime Ohara defending the jr. title against Hitoshi Kumano. But names announced for the who are Keiji Muto, Eddie Edwards, Moose and James Storm, the latter three from the new working deal with TNA. Muto was at the 2/14 show at Korakuen Hall and announced he would be doing a tag team match with Naomichi Marufuji as his partner. They are calling this The Genius tag team since both are considered by the wrestlers and Japanese insiders as geniuses when it comes to when to do what inside the ring. When it comes just down to when to do what, Marufuji to me is incredible. The Korakuen Hall show only drew 625 fans, so as bad as they were doing with Suzuki-gun, crowds have fallen greatly since they left. The main event was Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya beating Shiozaki & Maybach Taniguchi in 25:23 when Nakajima pinned Taniguchi with the brainbuster. Atsushi Kotoge & Daisuke Harada, who had been a long-time junior heavyweight team, have broken up. Kotoge pinned Harada and told Harada that his focus is the heavyweight division and could no longer team with Harada if he stays a junior heavyweight.
NEW JAPAN: Lance Archer’s injury ended up being diagnosed as a herniated disc in the lower back, which required surgery. He’ll be out of action for several months. He had been hurting for some time as he had stopped sitting down on the killer bomb back in the NOAH days. But the pain must have gotten worse and he was in rough shape on the 2/7 Korakuen Hall show and got examined. The timing couldn’t have been worse since he was just making his return to the promotion and I’m thinking he and Davey Boy Smith Jr., were getting the tag team titles in Osaka
Kazuchika Okada’s call-out of Tiger Mask W (Kota Ibushi) was designed to build two matches in Tokyo. On 3/1 at Korakuen Hall, Okada & Hirooki Goto will wrestle Tiger Mask & Tiger Mask W. On the New Japan 45th anniversary show at the Ota Ward Gym, Okada vs. Tiger Mask W in a non-title match will headline. Okada vs. Ibushi is on paper one of the best possible matchups that could be done in pro wrestling, but Ibushi has yet to have a good match wearing that awkward Tiger Mask W headpiece and doesn’t connect well with the crowd with it either. He does the character because they want a great worker with the gimmick to help support the TV-Asahi series which includes a number of New Japan wrestlers as characters
The 2/21 Korakuen Hall show will be a celebration of Togi Makabe’s 20 years as a pro wrestler. Makabe, 44, debuted on February 15, 1997, losing to Shinjiro Otani on a spot show after competing in judo at the college level. That’s the next show on New Japan World starting at 4:30 a.m. Eastern time. Makabe & Tomoaki Honma headline in a non-title match against IWGP tag champs Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii, which figures to set up a regular tag title match after the two three-way matches. The other top bouts are Okada & Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. the third generation of Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson & Kushida & Ryusuke Taguchi & David Finlay (returning to action so he didn’t have surgery for his torn labrum and is back in only a few weeks which doesn’t sound on paper like a good idea) vs. Tetsuya Naito & Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, plus Katsuyori Shibata & Yuji Nagata & Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi
So Desperado is also already scheduled back in action after being out this past week with a knee injury
Dragon Lee is expected to work here more frequently this year. At the New Beginning show in Sapporo on 2/5, Lee actually forgot his boots before the trip and ended up wrestling in Shibata’s boots as they were the only ones that fit him.
HERE AND THERE: Penta el 0M did a podcast over the weekend and said that he not only has no problems with Lucha Underground, but it is the best company he’s ever worked for and he’ll do whatever they want, has no problems with them now, and said he was 100 percent sure that he’ll remain with the promotion even though he quit AAA. He said that AAA gave him his first break, but he was the one who made the most of that break, and that he represented AAA well wherever he went, but they didn’t do the same for him. He said that 70 percent of the promoters he’s talked with said they don’t like working with AAA. He said he was going to register his name and his mask and that Garza Jr. has already registered the name La Rebelion for the group. He claimed he only told two people he was coming to Tijuana, his wife and the Crash promoter. He said he hasn’t talked to WWE, but if he went there, he’d want to go right to the main roster. I will only say for him, because of the style difference, as the style he works in indies in the U.S. is not a WWE style, that he’d be far better off going to NXT first. He said he feel she’s too old to spend time in NXT
Dave Bautista has signed to star in a movie called “Hotel Artemis” with Jodie Foster. In a movie based in the future, Foster is a nurse who runs a secret hospital for the most sinister criminals in Los Angeles and finds out that one of her patients is there to kill another. Bautista has a lot of big movies lined up including “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” “ Blade Runner 2049" and “Avengers 3.
The ring truck owned by Jesse Hernandez of the Southern California-based Empire Wrestling Federation caught fire after a 2/10 show in Covina, CA. It burned the trunk, destroyed the ring, the sound system and lighting equipment that are used by several area promotions including PWG, which has a show on 2/18. The EWF company insurance won’t be covering the accident. Hernandez owns a second ring but not backup of the other equipment.
LUCHA UNDERGROUND: AAA announced that Lucha Underground seasons one and two would be available on Netflix between March and May, so it wasn’t put up on 2/15, which was the original target date we’d been told
Matt Cross just found out this past week that he broke his leg on 1/13. Cross was working a show for Defy Wrestling in Seattle and two minutes into the match, he landed badly on a moonsault. He knew he was hurt, but worked another eight or so minutes and finished the match. He was in more pain as the night went on but was able to walk around on it. He waited for it to improve. He noted the leg never turned black & blue and was never swollen, and he was able to walk around on it, but it wasn’t getting better fast enough and he was having to cancel all his bookings. Finally, last week, he went to get it checked on, and the X-rays showed a broken leg.
ROH: The lineups have been announced for the two Korakuen Hall shows on 2/26 and 2/27, both of which will air live on New Japan World at 4:30 a.m. The lineups are weird in the sense there is nothing where you go that’s a big title match or anything that feels special, but the matches are unique and will probably have a lot of action. The first night has Kushida & Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Silas Young & Gedo & Jado, Sanada & Evil & Bushi defend the Never trios titles against Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask & Delirious, Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Will Ospreay vs. Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa, Young Bucks vs. War Machine in a non-title match (they had match over the weekend in Columbus, OH that tore down the house), Hiroshi Tanahashi & Dalton Castle & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Damien Martinez (who is getting a big push on this tour and based on usual booking patterns is likely to score the winning pin in this match), Katsuyori Shibata & Jay Lethal vs. Cody & Hangman Page (Cody has been wanting to wrestle Shibata as a bucket list thing ever since he left the WWE) and headlined by Mark & Jay Briscoe vs. Kenny Omega & Adam Cole in Omega’s first match back in Japan
The 2/27 show has Kushida & Finlay & Henare vs. Young & Gedo & Jado, Delirious & Castle & Liger & Tiger Mask & Taguchi vs. Naito & Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, War Machine vs. Tonga & Roa, Lethal & Tanahashi & Robinson vs. Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Page, Goto vs. Martinez for the Never Open weight title, Cole vs. Yoshi-Hashi for the ROH title (Yoshi-Hashi pinned Cole on 1/5 in a tag match at New Year’s Dash at Korakuen Hall to set this title match up) and Briscoes & Okada & Ospreay vs. Young Bucks & Omega & Cody. If this match was in the U.S., I’d think it would be totally insane. In Japan, it may be a little more subdued but it is Okada and Omega in against each other for the first time since the Tokyo Dome
Added to the 3/4 show in Manhattan, NY, is Marty Scurll vs. Sonjay Dutt for the TV title. It’s interesting, with Dutt just working for WWE last week, and being closely aligned for years with Jeff Jarrett, that he’s working for ROH
There has been surprisingly very little hype for the 3/10 show in Las Vegas. Even at the TV tapings in Pittsburgh on 2/11, it felt again like more focus was on the 4/1 show in Lakeland, FL. The only matches set for the 3/10 show in Las Vegas are Adam Cole vs. Christopher Daniels for the ROH title, Young Bucks vs. Rocky Romero & Baretta in a street fight for the tag titles (storyline behind this is that Romero & Baretta beat The Bucks at the Tokyo Dome for the IWGP jr. tag titles so they are using a match in New Japan as the set-up for their PPV match), Bobby Fish vs. Jay Lethal and Marty Scurll vs. Lio Rush for the TV title (coming off Rush’s non-title win on 2/12 in Columbus, OH). .. At the TV tapings on 2/11 in Pittsburgh, the biggest angle was Frankie Kazarian turning on Christopher Daniels and joining the Bullet Club. The deal with Bullet Club is that it is owned by New Japan, so Gedo has to approve of all members. Usually when people in ROH join Bullet Club, it’s because Gedo requests it. Here, it was Hunter Johnston’s idea which New Japan cleared, I guess as a way to heat up Kazarian after splitting him from Daniels
Both the weekend shows filled small buildings, with 800 in Pittsburgh and 750 in Columbus, OH. All the seats were filled and there was standing room sold in both buildings
The Kingdom defending the trios belts against Beer City Bruiser & Silas Young & a mystery partner has been added to the 4/1 show
Ian Riccaboni was the new announcer and once again used a rotating crew of color guys including at different times, Silas Young, Mark Briscoe, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels, Bobby Fish and Brutal Bob Evans. Evans did the color during all the Top Prospect tournament matches. They taped four hours of television. The first hour started with Christopher Daniels doing a promo for his title match with Adam Cole. Cole and Hangman Page came out, which led to a tag match where Cole & Page beat Daniels & Frankie Kazarian when Cole pinned Daniels. John Skyler pinned Sean Carr in the Top Prospect tournament first round. There was supposed to be a match with Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley vs. Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu. It never happened as Sabin & Shelley never came out. The story was that Sabin & Shelley & Jay White were all attacked backstage. In the TV main event, Marty Scurll retained the TV title over Donovan Dijak. Said to be a great match in Dijak’s farewell to the company. Dijak later thanked the company for giving him a shot when he was a nobody two years ago but said this was his final match with the company for the foreseeable future. As noted before, he is expected to be WWE-developmental bound, but right now he’s more in a holding pattern. Given his size and athletic ability, it was considered a lock that WWE would be interested. After the match, Lio Rush challenged Scurll. Caprice Coleman, Rhett Titus and Kenny King attacked Rush and then Sabin & Shelley & White made the save. So the idea is that it was The Rebellion who attacked Sabin & Shelley & White backstage. The second show opened with The Kingdom, Matt Taven & TK O’Ryan & Vinnie Marseglia, retaining the trios titles over King & Titus & Coleman. Titus had a knee injury. Not sure if it’s storyline or legit. He was replaced in the group by Shane Taylor, who needed something to happen since his tag team partner, Keith Lee, left. Rush ran out and attacked the Kingdom members, and then attacked King as well. Brian Milonas beat Raphael King in the Top Prospect tournament. The TV main event saw Jay Briscoe pinning Jay White, which ended White’s undefeated streak as a single. Said to be a great match. Briscoe refused to shake hands and worked as a heel, putting White through a table and pinning him after a clothesline. The third hour opened with the Young Bucks beating a tag team called Coast to Coast. Rush did an interview to set up a match with King. In another Top Prospect tournament match, Curt Stallion beat Preston Quinn, managed by Andy Vineberg. Preston Quinn is a weird choice for a Top Prospect tournament, considering he’s about 40 and been doing indies for about 21 years. Cody came out and issued a promo on Lethal for a bullrope match on the 4/1 show. He said that Page was giving him his hangman’s rope, and he was going to get the same cowbell that has been in the family for 40 years, the same cowbell that Dusty Rhodes used to beat Superstar Billy Graham in Madison Square Garden with in their bullrope match (1978). Castle beat Jonathan Gresham. The main for that saw B.J. Whitmer & Damien Martinez beat War Machine in a no DQ match when Martinez, getting a big push now, put Hanson through a table. Martinez then turned on Whitmer and choke slammed him and left him laying. The final hour saw Silas Young & Beer City Bruiser beat Will Ferrara & Cheeseburger. Josh Woods, a college wrestler and MMA fighter who was in WWE developmental, defeat Chris LeRusso in a Top Prospect tournament doing an MMA ref stoppage finish from ground-and-pound. LeRusso got a huge reaction since he’s from Pittsburgh. King pinned Rush when Taylor came out and looked to be helping Rush since King was getting help from Coleman, but then he turned on Rush. The final show main event saw The Bullet Club of Young Bucks & Cody & Cole beating Lethal & Fish & Briscoes in what was said to be a great match. Fish and Lethal ended up not getting along and fought each other, leaving the Briscoes against all four and eventually Jay was pinned. Daniels was doing commentary and confronted Cole. Apparently they teased something where Daniels was going to shave Cole’s head. Kazarian came out, but he turned on Daniels and took off his shirt and had a Bullet Club shirt underneath
The 2/12 show in Columbus, OH saw Coast-to-Coast beat The Carnies with both men on the winning team doing Coast-to-Coast dropkicks. Briscoes beat the Tempura Boyz when Mark pinned Komatsu after the elbow off the top. King & Coleman beat White & Sabin. Titus was with King & Coleman in a wheelchair. Taylor interfered to give them the win. Young Bucks beat War Machine in a tag title match. People were going crazy about how great this match was. The Bucks won after a million superkicks. One correspondent said that the mood when the match was over in the crowd was that people were saying it was the best match they’d ever seen live and multiple reports raved about it. Cody pinned Castle with crossroads. Cole and Page attacked one of The Boyz which distracted Castle and led to the finish. They also beat down Castle after the match. Lethal & Fish made the save, and they immediately had a falls count anywhere match where Lethal & Fish beat Cole & Page in a brawl all over the building including in the upstairs balcony. Lethal won using Lethal injections on both men. Kelly Klein beat Scarlett Bordeaux. Martinez won a six-way over David Starr, Gresham, Ferrara, Taylor and Beer City Bruiser. Rush beat Scurll in a 2/3 fall non-title match, which sets up the title match. Main event saw a fans pick opponents match where The Kingdom retained the trios titles over Jay Briscoe & Sabin & Cheeseburger. Not sure how they were picked. Said to be a good main event.
TNA: Jeff Jarrett and officials from Anthem Entertainment are meeting with ITV in the U.K. on 2/16 regarding the proposed World of Sport wrestling show. .. Although it has been known, TNA this week officially announced the 3/2 to 3/5 dates for tapings in Orlando. They are moving back to the original Impact Zone that they used for years. For the last few years they’ve been using a different building
There’s nothing new on Drew Galloway or the Hardys as far as contracts go, but all three are expected at the tapings. This will be the first tapings of the new regime headed by Jarrett, and using Dutch Mantell and Scott D’Amore on creative
There was a funny situation involving Josh Matthews this past week. TNA released a video interview of him where he said that he believed he was the best play-by-play announcer in the world and that there’s nobody who can touch what he does. When I heard that first I just figured he was trying to get a heel reaction from people, even though the lead play-by-play voice for a company shouldn’t be a heel. According to someone close to the situation, he actually was serious, but those in the company just saw it as an innocent statement, but the reaction saw people go nuts on him for it. I can’t see any wrestling announcer saying that and it not looking bad, but Matthews isn’t even that highly regarded in most places as an announcer. Anyway, once that caused all kinds of reaction, it appeared Matthews did turn it into a gimmick, which led to the comedy of EC III, in public, saying, “I stand by Josh Matthews’ claims on his play-by-play ability. It’s a difficult job to call some of the crap we’ve put on TV.”
UFC: Dana White told ESPN that it looks like Cris Cyborg Justino will be granted a retroactive TUE for Spironolactone, the substance she tested positive for in an out-of-competition test on 12/5. The usual protocol is that you have to list any substances you are taking on a form before you get tested, and Justino didn’t list that substance. But USADA can grant retroactive TUE’s, as they did for Floyd Mayweather when he used an IV after weighing in at a recent fight. Retroactive TUE’s is a very uncomfortable call for obvious reasons. If she gets the TUE, she’ll be free and clear with the temporary suspension dropped
Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway for the featherweight title will headline a 6/3 PPV show from Rio de Janeiro. With upcoming main events of Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson, Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson, Stipe Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos and Aldo vs. Holloway, we’re now looking at July at the earliest for a show to top 400,000, and maybe even 325,000
Ben Rothwell vs. Fabricio Werdum was added to the 5/13 show in Dallas, which is headlined by Stipe Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos for the UFC heavyweight title. What is good about that is it means they’ve got two potential back-ups if one of the main events gets injured
A Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz fight, which would likely determine a new top title contender for the winner of the expected 5/13 Dallas fight with Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade for the strawweight title. Gadelha told Combate in Brazil that would be her next opponent. Jedrzejczyk vs. Andrade will be the semi on the card underneath Miocic vs. Dos Santos
Conor McGregor got a cover story in GQ magazine
TJ. Dillashaw in talking about rival coach and former teammate Cody Garbrandt during the filming of Ultimate Fighter on Submission Radio: “Off camera, not on interviews, things are fine. Things are perfectly fine. We’re in rooms together and things are nothing. But as soon as the camera’s on and we’re doing interviews, he’s the tough guy because he wants to look cool. For him, it’s all about looking cool and getting his social media followers up. It’s a lot of petty stuff. He’s getting his hair lined up and his eyebrows waxed and looking as cool as he possibly can, but really, I think it makes him look just kinda dumb, you know, to buy into all that. He really doesn’t have the wits behind him. He can talk, but really it’s just him getting angry. You saw with Cruz, as well, he just kinda gets angry and loses it. He really doesn’t have any valid points.
David Branch (20-3), 35, who just vacated both the World Series of Fighting light heavyweight and middleweight titles when he said he was leaving the promotion, has signed a UFC contract according to MMA Fighting. The story targeted May for his debut. Branch has won ten fights in a row, dating back to a 2012 loss via decision to Anthony Johnson when neither were in UFC. He fought in UFC in 2010 and 2011 and compiled a 2-2 record
A ton of new fights were announced over the weekend by UFC. For the 4/8 PPV show in Buffalo, they announced Will Brooks vs. Charles Oliveira, who moves up to 155 pounds after missing weight at 145 four different times. For the 4/15 FOX show in Kansas City, they announced Rose Namajunas vs. Michelle Waterson. Also announced were Louis Smolka vs. Tim Elliott, Devin Clark vs. Jake Collier and Anthony Smith vs. Andrew Sanchez. There was talk of Doo Ho Choi vs. Renan Barao on this show but that wasn’t announced. For the 4/22 show in Nashville, they announced a weird main event of Cub Swanson vs. Artem Lobov. Swanson is coming off the win over Choi in one of the best fights in recent years, while Lobov has a 13-12-1, 1 no contest record. Lobov is a good stand-up fighter who usually loses to guys who take him down, but you’d think after such a big win, Swanson would face someone more at the level of Chan Sung Jung. Also announced was the return of Al Iaquinta vs. Diego Sanchez, which is an action fight, Thales Leites vs. Sam Alvey, Devin Clark vs. Jake Collier and Anthony Smith vs. Andrew Sanchez
Gunnar Nelson vs. Alan Jouban has been added to the 3/18 Fight Pass show in London. It’ll be the No. 2 bout behind the Jimi Manuwa vs. Corey Anderson main event
This week’s show is a Sunday card on 2/19 from Halifax, with a one hour earlier than usual start time. It opens at 6:30 p.m. Eastern with Ryan Janes (9-1) vs. Gerald Meerschaert (25-8). The rest of the show is on FS 1 with Jack Marshman (21-5) vs. Thiago Santos (13-5), Reginaldo Vieira (13-4) vs. Alemann Zahabi (6-0, debuting in UFC), former strawweight champion Carla Esparza (11-3) vs. Randa Markos (6-4) in a grudge match off TUF from a few years back, Santiago Ponzinibbio (21-3) vs. Nordine Taleb (12-3), Paul Felder (12-3) vs. Alessandro Ricci (10-4), Gina Mazany (4-0, debuting in UFC) vs. Sara McMann (10-3), Cezar Ferreira (11-5) vs. Elias Theodorou (12-1), Sam Sicilia (15-7) vs. Gavin Tucker (9-0, debuting in UFC), Johny Hendricks (17-6) vs. Hector Lombard (34-6-1) and Derrick Lewis (17-4) vs. Travis Browne (18-5-1). Hendricks is moving to middleweight after his issues making 170. He’s said that if he doesn’t do well in this fight that he’ll retire
Brandon Gibson, a coach, noted on Twitter that he just got an e-mail from UFC saying the company would no longer be providing tapes to fighters and coaches as had been custom. They were told to instead use Fight Pass. Gibson said that Fight Pass isn’t a good way to study, because it doesn’t have a slow-motion feature and it’s a pain to rewind. In the past, the UFC would provide zip links to downloads
James Moontasri, 28, announced his retirement. Moontasri went 2-4 in UFC and 9-5 overall, and is coming off losses to Alex Oliveira and most recently Alex Morono on the 12/17 show in Sacramento
Rani Yahya vs. Joe Soto has been added to 3/11 in Fortaleza, Brazil.
WWE: In what was essentially a formality, Linda McMahon was confirmed by an 81-19 vote in the U.S. Senate to be the head of the Small Business Administration in Donald Trump’s cabinet. There was not expected to be any significant opposition to her after her nomination passed through committee by an 18-1 vote a few weeks ago. The entire McMahon family was at the White House meeting with President Trump on 2/14 so none of them were at the Smackdown tapings in Anaheim. Vince wasn’t at any of the TV tapings this week nor at the Elimination Chamber show. .. The top WWE executives got their stock bonuses on 2/13 for the company meeting its performance expectations in 2016. Chief Revenue and Marketing Office Michelle Wilson got 232,157 shares (worth $5,260,678) and her total WWE stock is now worth $12.85 million. Stephanie McMahon Levesque got 38,507 shares (worth $872,569), and her total stock worth is now worth $44,894,626. WWE Studios head Michael Luisi got 30,805 shares (worth $698,041). Paul Levesque got 38,507 shares ($872,569) and his total is 130,654 (his total stock is worth $2,960,620). Kevin Dunn got 239,233 shares (worth $5,421,020) and his total stock worth is $14.29 million. Dunn then sold enough of his stock to pull out with $2,281,530 in new cash. George Barrios got 231,780 shares (worth $5,252,135) and his total stock is worth $17.37 million
I don’t know when or how extensively at this point, but the plan right now is that Angle will be doing at least some wrestling in WWE. He would have to pass a physical, and obviously at best it would be very limited
Whether it’s for a movie role or something else, because Cena has a lot of stuff planned for this year, Cena is off all the advertising for the Smackdown brand shows starting the week after WrestleMania, including for Money in the Bank, which is a Smackdown only PPV scheduled for 6/18 in St. Louis
The company reached a deal with Contenders Clothing for WWE inspired boxers and briefs called the WWE Contenders Collection that will be available starting on 2/21 at Magic in Las Vegas. They will be producing boxer briefs of Cena, Reigns, Styles, Ambrose, Randy Savage, Ric Flair and Steve Austin. They also have a deal with Dwayne Johnson, and had done similar boxer briefs based on the Rocky and Creed characters in the “Creed” movie
Dwayne Johnson was publicly critical of Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour, a brand that he’s got a shoe line with, for Plank’s support of Donald Trump. Plank had said about Trump in a CNBC interview “To have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset for the country.” This got some who have sponsorship deals with Under Armour upset. Stephen Curry was the most notable, saying, Trump was, “an asset, but only if you remove the `et.’” Misty Copeland, a ballerina who was a line there, said she called Plank directly to voice her issues with what he said. Johnson wrote that Plank’s comments “were divisive and lacking in perspective.
MGM has put in a bid that could be as high as $17.5 million according to Deadline for the worldwide distribution rights to “Fighting With My Family,” the Seven Bucks Productions movie about the Bevis family in England. Misher Films, WWE Studios and Film 4 are also involved. Nick Frost will play Paige’s father, Lena Headey will play the mother, Florence Pugh will play Paige and Jack Lowden will play brother Zak. Dwayne Johnson will have a role in the movie playing The Rock. Vince Vaughn has a role in the movie although his part hasn’t been announced. That’s a shockingly good cast. The movie has already started filming. I was told it was not a movie about Paige, but a movie about a crazy pro wrestling family with Paige as one of the family members. Both Tessa Blanchard (who plays the stunt double for Paige in the wrestling scenes) and Thea Trinidad were in Los Angeles filming the movie, which will be filmed in both Los Angeles and London. Not sure what roles the two will have, but these were late calls since Blanchard pulled out of the WCPW iPPV show late for the spot
Johnson also won the Entertainer of the Year award at the NAACP Image Awards on 2/12
The Alberto Rodriguez (Del Rio) and Paige wedding is tentatively scheduled for May, schedule permitting
Teddy Long was announced for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony
Rosa Mendes, who hasn’t wrestled since finding out she was pregnant in the spring of 2015, officially announced her retirement on her daughter’s first birthday
Legends with JBL on the WWE Network is being canceled after the next episode with Jimmy Hart. I really liked the recent show he did with Stan Hansen
Goldberg has been added to the 2/27 Raw in Green Bay and the 3/6 Raw in Chicago. He’s not scheduled until the go-home show on 2/27 even though he’s main eventing the 3/5 Fast Lane show in Milwaukee. Lesnar is scheduled for every Raw from this point forward until WrestleMania, although as we saw last week, for whatever reason, he was on the show, scheduled, and only used in a dark segment
Shane McMahon was added to the 3/13 Madison Square Garden show in the role of commissioner of Smackdown. By that point he’ll be in the middle of whatever WrestleMania plan there is for him, if there is one. At last word, it was still McMahon vs. A.J. Styles. It’s also notable that Styles is not booked for a match at MSG but is scheduled to make a special appearances
The Miz will be co-hosting ESPN Sports Nation on both 3/2 and 3/16
Darren Young had his elbow surgery on 2/9 in Birmingham. He’s expected to be out of action for about six months
Mick Foley will be releasing a book “Saint Mick,” by Polish Books in October, talking about his fascination with Christmas and the secret Santa subculture (he did a movie on that) as well
Swann returned to action this past weekend at house shows after his ankle injury. Nese also returned after his heel injury, only missing a week
The next NXT tapings are 2/22 at the University of Central Florida Gym, using the smaller gym that will be set up for about 2,000. Roode vs. Kassius Ohno for the title was announced as the main event, plus they are pushing the return of Nakamura, even though Nakamura has been wrestling regularly, but he didn’t appear on the last tapings selling the knee injury from Takeover
The Ascension and Slater’s rental car was broken into while he was at the 2/13 show in Oakland
Kelly Kelly was backstage at Raw in Las Vegas. She’s one of the women who they called several weeks back regarding an idea for WrestleMania. Lisa Varon (Victoria) just teased something on Snapchat and since we were told they were calling the women stars of the past for an idea, she would fit in that category. .. The top ten most watched shows on WWE Network this week were: 1. Elimination Chamber; 2. Elimination Chamber Talking Smack; 3. Elimination Chamber pre-show; 4. Royal Rumble; 5. NXT on 2/8; 6. Talking Smack on 2/7; 7. Holy Foley episode 8; 8. Holy Foley episode 10; 9. Holy Foley episode 9; 10. WWE 24 covering WrestleMania. 205 Live was 14th for the week
Show vs. Strowman was announced for the 2/20 Raw in Los Angeles. For the 2/21 Smackdown tapings in Ontario, CA, they announced a Battle Royal supposedly to see who faces Wyatt for the WWE title at WrestleMania, Naomi vs. Bliss for the women’s title and Nikki vs. Natalya falls count anywhere
Jericho advertised for the weekend house shows. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything but more often than not they pull people off the advertising if they aren’t going to be there. He is still being advertised for Raw in Los Angeles as well. I would think with the injury angle it makes the most sense to keep him out of action until the PPV, at least from a television standpoint, but that’s being kept quiet
Lesnar will be working the 2/17 house show in Dallas
Jim Ross wrote that he’s been hearing that Angle will be inducted into the Hall of Fame by Cena
The WWE will be taping television in Kentucky for the first time in many years on 4/18, with a Smackdown taping in Louisville. There had been a law in place in Kentucky that the athletic commission was to stop pro wrestling matches if there was blood. The law was put in place in response to blading, which to people not in wrestling comes across as pretty barbaric. It actually stemmed from when WWE still did blading, ran a PPV, had blood, and after the fact just paid a fine,. This led to indie promotions in the area claiming a double standard. So the commission then put into place a law that if there was blood, the match would be stopped immediately. WWE then pulled out of doing TV and PPVs, because even if they no longer allowed blading, if someone accidentally bled, they didn’t want a match stopped, which from their perspective was understandable. They continued running house shows in the state. The Louisville and Lexington arenas complained that it was costing them PPVs and TV tapings, which draw more money, so the law was recently overturned
Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that the Emmalina idea was dropped because WWE producers after rehearsals felt she couldn’t pull off the character, which was supposed to be a throwback to Sable or The Kat, which is notable given that’s the exact opposite direction it appeared the division was going. You could argue it’s a step backwards in time that doesn’t fit, or it’s WWE trying to use women to not just appeal to the fan base into women’s wrestling but the fan base into selling sex. The reason for the long delay before her debut is they really wanted her to do the character so kept giving her more time to get it down, before finally giving up on it with the claim she wasn’t committing hard enough to the role and they just decided to let her be the heel Emma character she had been doing before she had back surgery. The word we get is the story is accurate
Notes from the 2/13 Raw tapings in Las Vegas. The show ended up being great, largely due to the Jericho-Owens angle as they finally did their split, and the Charlotte vs. Bayley main event with Bayley winning the title. Everyone knew Jericho and Owens were going to split, at some point, but it was so great because it came at a point in time where nobody was ready for it to happen. It felt in hindsight like it’ll come out as a master manipulation of HHH, since he was there, called Owens out to talk with him while blowing off Jericho, and there was a scene of him talking to Owens backstage during the show. There were segments of Jericho and Owens as best friends all through the show, to lead to the Festival of Friendship, which was so light hearted and goofy, and the only thing people were expecting was Goldberg to come out and destroy the set. Then Gillberg made it even goofier so the last thing people were mentally thinking was a serious angle was about to happen. I think the title switch to Bayley came too early. The crowd went crazy for the last few minutes of the match and it was an excellent finish where everyone thought the returning Brooke was going to screw Bayley out of winning, when Banks helped her win. I sense Banks then screwing her out of it in some form by turning on her and Bayley vs. Banks. The thing is after such a big win, it kind of makes it less memorable and meaningful if she loses it in a few weeks, and it feels like that’ll happen because I don’t see the Charlotte PPV winning streak ending in Fast Lane with her second loss in a row. Mania was really the place to do it and make it stick, because it’s not as big the second time. The show drew 7,000 fans with the entire upper half of the T-Mobile Arena tarped off. They started with two matches for Main Event. Alexander & Mustafa Ali beat Nese & Gulak. Mahal pinned Sin Cara. After a graphic for Chavo Guerrero Sr., they opened pushing the Festival of Friendship, with video packages throughout the show. Stephanie came out and said Foley was so tired and overworked and embarrassed himself so badly (this was meant as a work because he wasn’t enthused about signing Joe) that she gave him a week off. She said when he returns, he better get his priorities in order. Reigns came out and wanted Strowman. Stephanie asked the crowd if they wanted the match. I can’t believe they fell for it because she does that every time. So they were yelling and screaming and chanting “Yes” and just said that the people don’t care for Reigns, and how he was beaten up last week and she knows he’s not 100 percent, but they don’t care about him and she does. The idea was to use that to get the crowd to cheer for Reigns. She then pushed Strowman vs. Henry. Reigns said that maybe he’d watch, but she said if you interfere maybe I’ll take away your match at Fast Lane and take away any shot you have at Mania. Anderson & Gallows came out and challenged Reigns to a handicap match and Stephanie made the match. Reigns beat Anderson & Gallows via DQ in 3:09 for double-teaming. Nobody helped Reigns. They set up the magic killer but Reigns made his own comeback and hit Gallows with a Superman punch. Anderson went for a chair shot but Reigns kicked Anderson and he dropped the chair. Reigns picked it up and they both crawled away. There were a couple of segments on the show with Miz & Maryse taking to Ice Cube about his new movie “Fist Fight.” It was actually quite the cool segment. They plugged the Andre the Giant documentary. They said that Woods backstage had to wear a Patriots jersey because he lost a bet to Kingston on the Super Bowl, since Woods is from Georgia and Kingston is from Boston. The New Day came out pushing the idea of an ice cream machine with supposed plans. Dallas tore up the plans. Kingston pinned Dallas with the SOS in 2:14. Kingston made a joke about Dallas being a social outcast, from his old forgettable gimmick. After the win, they poured Booty O’s all over Dallas as well as down his throat. Neville did an interview. It was notable that he talked about Gallagher not being in his league but also said that Perkins was more of a threat than Gallagher. Gallagher came out. Neville told him he was just a boy and not on his level. Gallagher insulted him back. Gallagher pinned Dar in 3:13 with a running dropkick into the corner. Aries was pushing his return by saying that the cruiserweights were all “A” level but he’s “A double” level, a level above everyone else. Emmalina finally showed up after five months of videos. She you won’t be seeing Emmalina, only Emma. To say this was weird was an understatement. Bayley did an interview saying that she’s in the main event tonight, just like it was when Lita beat Stephanie McMahon to win the women’s title for the first time, and she’s achieving her dream tonight. Owens and Jericho were talking. HHH came out and called them over, but when Jericho came, he said he only wanted to talk to Owens. Strowman pinned Henry in 4:49 with a powerslam. They pushed that Strowman used to do strongman contests and Henry was a legend in that world. This wasn’t good, but it was simple and what it was supposed to be. Henry went to slam him but Strowman collapsed on him, which they said was because Henry had been given a beating. Strowman did a dropkick, which they put over big, and Strowman won with the stampede. Reigns came out and hit a Superman punch. Strowman was stunned but didn’t go down. He hit a second one, and Strowman went down to a knee. The crowd was booing Reigns through all this. He tried a third Superman punch and Strowman instead picked him up and laid him out with the Stampede. He then told Reigns, “You can’t win.” I thought it was a very effective segment. Cesaro, Sheamus & Bayley were backstage. Enzo & Cass were there as well. This led to Enzo & Cass and Cesaro & Sheamus exchanging pleasantries, with Cesaro & Sheamus mad that Enzo & Cass cost them the tag titles last week. Cass talked about how he always has his partners back while they don’t and dared them to do something. Enzo looked like he was mouthing off and hiding behind Cass, which is a heel trait. Enzo is so over because of his talking that it won’t matter, but he really came across like the little punk in school who has the big best friend and he mouths off and hides behind. Cole interviewed Joe. Joe talked about how he’s been beating people up for 18 years and they were afraid to sign him for what he might do. He put over how HHH has given opportunities to more people than anyone in history. When talking about Rollins, he said, “Redesign, rebuild, re-injure.” He said that Rollins couldn’t last two minutes. He also said Rollins would miss WrestleMania for the second straight year, but Cole said Rollins said he would be there. He said in two weeks, he beat up Rollins and beat Reigns and Reigns was another example. He said he’s not just Sami Zayn, a guy happy to be on Raw, which is the new program. Cole said that history shows that Michaels, Batista, Orton and Rollins were all guys HHH was close with and in every case it went sour and they were left in his wake. Joe said the difference was they needed to have their hand held and he doesn’t need HHH’s help. He said for once HHH has somebody he can rely on and people will see why The Creator (HHH’s new nickname) unleashed The Destroyer. I got the hint from the interview that in the case that Rollins doesn’t make it back for Mania, there’s a tease they could put Joe in there. But it also feels like if things go as planned, HHH is creating a stable with Owens and Joe. Joe can be the hit man and save Owens like Jericho used to. Zayn pinned Rusev with the helluva kick in 10:59. Rusev is still wearing a nose protector. It came off during the match and he had to put it back on. Good match. Rusev pulled off a great dropkick. Zayn did a running flip dive. Zayn did an interview saying he has a lot of momentum now but losing to Jericho sucked and how Owens cost him the match. Joe then came from the side and laid out Zayn and choked him out. Tozawa pinned Ariya Daivari in 3:11 with a fast German suplex. Kendrick was on commentary. He claimed that he paved the way for independent wrestlers getting in the WWE. He claimed he was the first indie darling signed, and if he had flopped, they would have closed the door for Bryan, Zayn, Owens and Aries. Tozawa’s quickness is really eye catching here. Next was the Festival of Friendship. It was a long segment. Jericho had all these presents for Owens that he spent a ton of money on. Owens acted like he thought Jericho was stupid for paying $7,000 for one of them but tried to be nice. Jericho brought out a musician who made a rose out of fire. Owens said he has a nine-year-old with a magic kit who can do the same thing. Jericho started yelling at the magician. He told the magician that “You just made the list,” and the crowd went crazy. By this point you could sense that fans were expecting Goldberg to destroy the set. Jericho then called out Goldberg, but Gillberg came out. Owens beat up Gillberg. Owens was furious saying he thought the entire segment was to lead to Goldberg coming out so they could double-team him and injure him before the PPV. The whole thing put people in the mood of pure silliness and then Jericho switched it to the idea of reality, saying that he’s had such a great time working with Owens. He said this was one of his favorite years of his career and a lot of that was due to teaming with Owens. He said he’s had a lot of partners, but he hasn’t had the chemistry with any of them like with Owens. Jericho told him he’s got his back, will always have his back, and guarantees Owens will beat Goldberg . He said Owens was his best friend, his brother and he loves him. Owens said he loves him as well. Owens then said that Jericho spent all that money for presents and he only got a small present but hopes Jericho understands it’s from the heart. Jericho opened it up. He was a new list. Jericho asked why his name was on it and on the back it read “The list of KO.” Owens then attacked him, destroyed all the gifts and hit Jericho with the list. Owens power bombed Jericho on the apron, and threw him into a framed photo with supposed glass flying. After the break, they took Jericho out on a stretcher. Enzo & Cass came out. Enzo said that sometimes Cesaro comes out like he’s the Swiss Superman, then he’s James Bond and then he rips away his pants and he looks like a Baywatch lifeguard. Then he called Cesaro “Swiss miss” because he chokes a lot. Well, Enzo did do his beat in this match to make it Swiss miss. Cesaro beat Enzo in 2:32 by throwing him in the air and hitting him with the uppercut. This match was not Enzo’s finest hour. I give Cesaro credit, because he kept it together because a lot of guys would have pouted in front of people with all the botches here. Cesaro went to throw Enzo over the top, but he didn’t get over. Then, realizing he didn’t get over and the laid out match (that’s the danger of laying out move for move) called from him to do spots on the floor, he jumped over the top for no reason. It was just weird. Another time Cesaro went to pick him up, and Enzo’s timing of helping was off and he couldn’t get him, and then had to horse him up. What was bad is that Cesaro’s gimmick is his strength and he struggled getting little Enzo up, which wasn’t his fault. Cesaro never panicked and finished him. Charlotte was backstage and had words with Banks. Bayley pinned Charlotte in 17:59 to win the women’s title in a ****1/4 match. Bayley did a spot where Charlotte rammed her into the turnbuckle and she didn’t sell it, kind of like Hogan. Charlotte did a neckbreaker and a Ric Flair kneedrop. Charlotte did a moonsault block off the barricade. They went back and forth with near falls and really got the crowd going. Charlotte did the Flair flip into the turnbuckles. Bayley got a great near fall with an elbow drop off the top and a Frankensteiner off the top. Bayley got Charlotte in the figure four. Brooke came down and distracted Bayley and raked her eyes. Charlotte got Bayley I the figure eight when Banks came out and hit Charlotte in the chest with her crutch to break it up. Bayley then hit the belly-to-belly for the pin, and they went off the air with Bayley celebrating. The crowd loved this. It couldn’t have worked better, although I think it was too soon to do this. I guess if they’re going to do the storyline that Banks goes heel and screws her out of the title at the PPV so Charlotte keeps her streak alive, then it does make sense. But if Bayley loses it back at the PPV, then for significance, they got a pop but it won’t be this memory of a major moment in wrestling. Granted, she can always win it at Mania, and it’s the stadium pop, and that’s fine, but it would be better if Bayley chased longer before getting it the first time and the first time led to a long reign. After the show ended, the crowd was expecting and Owens vs. Reigns title match since it had been advertised. Even weirder is they played Reigns’ music after the show, but then he didn’t come out. Bayley then took another curtain call and they ended the show
Notes from the 2/14 tapings in Anaheim. They drew 8,000 fans for the show, and while a smaller crowd, it was a much louder crowd than usual, well, through the Smackdown main event. Then it quieted down and the place emptied out after that match. Rhyno & Slater beat Breeze & Fandango when Rhyno pinned Breeze with a gore. Smackdown opened with Wyatt out. The “You deserve it” chants were loud and he held up the belt and said that he had the whole world in his hands. The people popped for that. This turned into the twilight zone segment as Cena got out and insulted the crowd while still playing babyface. He said that Wyatt has some supporters and he’s done a good job of brainwashing them. The fans booed that. He then mocked the fans for the “You deserve it” chant, and they responded by chanting it again. Cena wanted his rematch tonight. Styles came out and he wanted his one-on-one rematch tonight. Bryan came out and announced they would do a Triple Threat match. Ambrose showed up and said that he wanted Corbin. Jordan & Gable beat The Ascension in 9:57 when Gable pinned Viktor after Grand Amplitude. The Usos were on the screen challenging Jordan & Gable for the titles, so they are going back to that program. Ellsworth and Carmella were backstage. He was again looking for action from her but she told him they needed to keep things professional and take it slow. Ambrose showed up and wanted Corbin. He then told Ellsworth that she’s just using him and he should be check out online dating. Carmella got mad and wanted Ellsworth to tell off Ambrose. Bryan came out and ended up making a match between the two. Ambrose & Carmella were in the ring. But Corbin was beating down Ambrose at the entrance. Ambrose made a comeback but Corbin gave Ambrose the Deep six into some equipment. A spark went off and they did a big injury angle. Kind of weird to do a big injury angle with Jericho on Monday and Ambrose on Tuesday. Nikki and Natalya were arguing. Nikki blamed Natalya for Team Smackdown losing at Survivor Series. They went at it and security had to pull them off and Bryan announced a falls count anywhere match with them for next week. Corbin did a promo and blamed Ambrose for costing him the WWE title at Elimination Chamber. Ziggler did an interview. He said that all the young guys that come up think they are going to replace him. He said he was just getting start and he’s a long way from being done, and if he has to take out an entire generation, that’s what he’ll do. Then they did a fact on screen that Smackdown was the No. 1 show on cable for the last five weeks in a row. Actually it was 10th the week before and ninth the week before that. Mickie James pinned Lynch in 12:30. They had a solid match. James took a bump out of the ring and started selling a right shoulder injury. The ref held Lynch back and this gave James a chance to hit a spin kick as Lynch wasn’t ready and got the pin. Naomi came out to another “You deserve it” chant. She had a brace on her left knee from an injury that likely happened the night before. Bliss came out and the segment was dying. They gave Bliss some awful lines, which didn’t help things. This set up a title rematch for next week. Wyatt retained over Cena and Styles in 14:03. Before the match started, Harper appeared and attacked Wyatt. Harper superkicked him and then he left. The match was very good and the crowd was hot most of the way, and for all three. It was mostly trading finishing moves. They were doing finishers on each other from the 5:00 mark. What was notable in the commentary, especially pushed by JBL (keep in mind Vince wasn’t there so he wasn’t being fed this or directed) that after the decision was made to downplay Cena’s 16th title win and the Flair record being tied, he was pushing that if Cena regained the title it would be like when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record that people thought would never be broken and up other sports records like Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak and how this could be major history. Styles kicked out of an Attitude Adjustment. Wyatt used Sister Abigail on Cena but Styles saved. Styles came off the barricade with a splash onto Wyatt, who was on the announcers table. The table didn’t break. Fans started chanting “One more time,” so Styles went to the top of the barricade, but this time came off with a senton and the table broke. Cena hit another Attitude Adjustment on Styles, and then went for another one but Styles reversed into a calf crusher. Cena reversed out of that into an STF. Wyatt made the save. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment on Wyatt, but he kicked out. Styles hit the Styles clash on Cena, and he kicked out. Wyatt hit Sister Abigail on Cena for the second time and got the pin. Orton then came out. Orton talked about how he won the Royal Rumble and it gives him a shot at the title, but now that Wyatt is champion, he refused the title match and told Orton he was pledging his undying allegiance to him. Wyatt was laughing about the idea Orton was turning down his match with him at Mania. Orton got on his knees in front of Wyatt, who eventually got on his knees. It appears that Orton is playing major mind games with Wyatt here and the idea is that deep down we’re all supposed to know it but he’s so good at it we can believe that Wyatt actually believes in Orton. For 205 live, Swann pinned Dar in 7:57with a Phoenix splash off the middle rope. Neville and Perkins did a split screen interview. Neville said that by the end of the night, Perkins will regret what he said. Gran Metalik returned and pinned Gulak after a Metalik driver in 5:26. Metalik slipped off the ropes on his first spot. Can you imagine, he’s worked for years doing high risk spots and this was the first time I ever saw him slipping on the ropes and it’s his first rope move on the show. The crowd reacted to his flying moves. He was very toned down, as he did less rope work than usual and did only one dive, the former brillo Dorada, now brillo Metalik, where he springboards off the middle rope, goes over the top and flips. Backstage, Kendrick came up to Tozawa. He told Tozawa that he was going to make him his protégé. Tozawa turned him down. Kendrick then started talking about how he knows there is a language issue and pitched again being his mentor. Tozawa said, “I understand. I don’t like you.” Main event saw Neville beat Perkins in a non-title match in 12:25. Good match. I think it’s by design, but if not, it should be switched to, but Perkins is getting subtle heel reactions from the crowd, even in Southern California where he’s from. He did a flying armbar which Neville power bombed out of. Neville then won with a double armbar submission. After the match, Gallagher ran in and Neville attacked him. Neville grabbed the umbrella and did a javelin throw with it to the stage. Gallagher made a comeback and landed the head-butt. They are doing a deal which turns Gallagher into undercard comedy where he always does the head-butt, and then sells it himself in a goofy way. But Neville then backed off and the show ended. The dark match saw Ambrose beat Miz in 9:00 to keep the IC title with Dirty Deeds after Maryse was kicked out. Most of this was comedy with Miz singing “In the name of love” to Maryse as a Valentine’s Day present and Ambrose kept interrupting his singing
The NXT tour opened on 2/9 in Upper Darby, PA, before 1,200 fans. It was the smallest crowd they’ve done in the market to date. Kassius Onno pinned Patrick Clark. The crowd was chanting “Hero” at him. Clark came out with a total Prince outfit and then took off his shirt to reveal a Patriots T-shirt for easy heat. Fans chanted “You can’t wrestle/He’s still learning” at Clark. Daria Berenato pinned Mandy Rose. Fans chanted “We Want Eva” at Rose. No heat for this match. Some fans heckled Berenato badly and she was visibly upset. The Philadelphia area crowd had no patience for women learning. Aleister Black pinned Andrade Cien Almas. Black looked great. Lots of “Tommy End” chants. Good match. Oney Lorcan beat Steve Cutler with a Kimura. Asuka won a three-way over Nikki Cross and Ember Moon to keep the title . This match woke up the crowd. Asuka pinned Cross after a spinning heel kick. Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain beat Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford. Ford got a huge reaction and chants of “Red Shoes,” since he was wearing red shoes. Maybe they thought he should have been a referee. Even after the match fans were chanting for Red Shoes. Eric Young was the first guy to do mic work and he got easy heat insulting the city. Dillinger ten came out, and it turned into a six-way brawl. Dillinger then beat Young in a singles match. Dillinger was way over for his entrance but not so much the match. Similar to their Takeover match so it was good. Main event saw Shinsuke Nakamura (even though he’s supposed to be injured and out of action both on television and the Internet) & Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano beat Bobby Roode & Authors of Pain when Nakamura pinned one of the writers with a Kinshasa. Authors of Pain got very little reaction, not even booed much. No Paul Ellering on the tour. Lots of “ECW” chants and none of these guys have anything to do with ECW, so it was just nostalgia chants. Most of the chants had nothing to do with the guys or the match. Fans were chanting for a lot of wrestlers who weren’t there including No Way Jose
2/10 in Asbury Park, NJ, drew 1,000 fans. Black pinned Cutler . Cutler, who is actually from New Jersey but demanded to be billed from Orlando, went for the cheap heat early saying “I thought Hurricane Sandy would have taken care of this place already.” Black won quickly with a spinning heel kick. Moon pinned Berenato with the eclipse (stunner off the top). The crowd liked both women and Berenato looked good and the crowd took to her. Young pinned Lorcan. The crowd loved Nikki Cross and wanted to see her wrestle. Maybe the best match on the show and they even got “This is awesome” chants. Lorcan even gave Young a German superplex off the top with Young flipping over in mid-air and landing on his face. Young won with his wheelbarrow neckbreaker. Authors of Pain retained the tag titles over Gargano & Ciampa. The AOP won with their Russian leg sweep clothesline combo finish. So-so at best. Dillinger pinned Clark. Clark once again had a Tom Brady T-shirt on. Dillinger won with the Tye-beaker. Dain & Wolfe beat Ford & Dawkins when Dain pinned Dawkins. There was one spot botched where Dain was supposed to take a bump over the top, didn’t get over the top, so then basically delayed and threw himself over which looked bad and fans booed it. Hint, in that situation when you don’t get over. Have the guy clothesline you and try again. Don’t ever just throw yourself over the top because you’re supposed to end up on the floor. Asuka beat Rose to keep the women’s title with a spin kick. Nakamura & Ohno beat Roode & Almas in the main event. Good action and second best match on the show. Nakamura pinned Almas with the Kinshasa
The final show of the tour was 2/11 in Albany, NY, before 1,500 fans. Ohno pinned Clark with a kick. Ohno sold most of the way and made a comeback. Mandy Rose pinned Berenato using the ropes. Both looked green and didn’t have the crowd’s interest, and the match was hurt because a fan passed out during the match which took the focus away from the bout. Cutler beat Lorcan. Cutler was bleeding. And used a backbreaker followed by a Boston crab for the win. Black pinned Almas. Much of the crowd didn’t know Black but he got himself over, particularly doing a moonsault to the floor. Almas went for the running knees in the corner but Black got up and caught him with a jumping knee for the pin. Asuka won a three-way over Moon and Cross. Crowd cheered all three. Asuka used a Tower of doom spot on both and then pinned Cross with a spinning kick. Dain & Wolfe beat Ford & Dawkins. Fans were very into Ford & Dawkins chanting “Red
Shoes” and “White Shoes” at them. Young’s distraction gave Sanity the win. They continued to beat down Dawkins & Ford after the match and Young grabbed the mic and said there was nobody in the building who could beat him. This brought out Dillinger. Dain & Wolfe attacked Dillinger but Dawkins & Ford made the save and chased them to the back. This led to Dillinger pinning Young in a singles match. Young brought a chair into the ring but Dillinger beat him to the punch with a superkick and won with the Tye breaker. Nakamura & Ciampa & Gargano beat Authors of Pain & Roode in the main event. Fans were singing both Nakamura & Roode’s entrance music. Nakamura got a hot tag and pinned one of the Authors
The Florida run opened on 2/10 in Venice, CA before 300 fans. Morgan pinned Kimberly Frankele (Kimber Lee) in a decent opener. Crowd was into Morgan. Tian Bing pinned Wesley Blake with a brainbuster. Brennan Williams did a promo. They announced him as a former member of the New England Patriots. That’s probably as much of a stretch as anything. Williams was signed at one point by the Patriots for their practice squad, and then cut two days later. When people started booing him for the Patriots reference, he said, “Hey, they cut me, I hate them too.” which got a babyface pop. And then he continued on with his heel promo. Adrian Jaoude beat Chris Atkins. Atkins looked green. Jaoude, an amateur star from Brazil, did some amateur wrestling and won with a guillotine submission. Roderick Strong pinned Elias Samson. Macey Estrella beat Dori Prange (Heidi Lovelace) with an armbar. Crowd was dead as they didn’t know either woman and it was late on the show. Prange sold well. Gallagher & Alexander & Mustafa Ali beat Ariya Daivari & Gulak & Dar in the main event. A mix of high flying and comedy, much better than their stuff on 205 Live. Gallagher was the most over guy on the show, and he pinned Daivari after a dropkick into the corner after Alexander and Ali took out the other two with dives
The 2/11 show in Gainesville, FL, drew 200 fans. Blake pinned Cezar Bononi holding the tights. Prange pinned Lee. This was said to be the best match on the show and also got the best reaction. Neither of these women has been on television but they’ve got more experience than everyone on the show except Strong. Buddy Murphy pinned Dan Matha. Dozovic & Knight beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. No Way Jose pinned Kona Reeves with his baseball pitcher punch. In a surprise, Macey Estrella beat Morgan via submission. Strong pinned Samson in the main event with the sick kick
The Raw crew ran in Alaska this weekend with two shows. It was the first time WWE had run Alaska in four years. The 2/11 show in Anchorage drew 5,000. With Rollins out and with Lesnar and Goldberg as part-timers, there is a real weakness on the face side as they don’t seem to want to put Cass as a singles main eventer so they’ve only got Zayn, who isn’t pushed at main event level on TV, and Reigns. They also ran 2/12 in Fairbanks but we heard nothing about that show. The Smackdown crew opened on 2/11 in Las Cruces, NM before 7,000 fans. 2/13 in Oakland drew 2,500
In Anchorage, they opened with Enzo & Cass over Rusev & Mahal. Strowman pinned Sin Cara quickly. R-Truth & Goldust & Axel beat Primo & Epico & Dallas. Neville pinned Swann to retain the cruiserweight title. Gallows & Anderson retained the tag titles in a three-way over Big E & Woods and Sheamus & Cesaro. Bayley & Banks beat Charlotte & Jax. Zayn beat Jericho via DQ in a U.S. title match when Owens interfered. This led to Reigns & Zayn beating Owens & Jericho in the main event when Reigns pinned Jericho after a spear
In Las Cruces, it opened with a four-way for the tag titles with Jordan & Gable retaining over Usos, Breeze & Fandango and Slater & Rhyno. Fans cheered Usos more than the other three teams. Kalisto pinned Hawkins with the Salida del Sol. Bliss retained the women’s title in a five-way over Lynch, Natalya, Naomi and Carmella. Natalya and Lynch were the most popular even though Natalya is a heel on television. It’s very difficult for her because people have seen her on Total Divas and think they know her, so the idea is she’s a very nice woman who is playing bad guy, and that makes it hard to get heat when people think you’re playing bad guy. Naomi had Carmella pinned when Bliss threw Naomi out of the ring and stole the pin. Wyatt pinned Harper. Fans cheered Wyatt a lot, which ended up being the theme for the night. Wyatt worked enough as a heel to get Harper cheered by about half the crowd. They apparently had a great match with Wyatt winning with Sister Abigail. Rawley pinned Viktor after a series of clotheslines. Ambrose retained the IC title winning a three-way over Styles and Corbin. Ambrose pinned Corbin with Dirty Deeds. Main event saw Cena retain the WWE title over Orton. There was a ref bump and Orton used a chair shot, but Cena kicked out of the pin. Orton went for a second chair shot, but Cena ducked it and hit the Attitude Adjustment for the pin
Oakland opened with the same four-way for the tag titles. It was a good opener. Rawley pinned Konnor in a match that didn’t get over. Crews pinned Hawkins. Crews was selling the ankle injury from the night before. Ambrose won a four-way to keep the IC title over Styles, Miz and Corbin. Miz got the easy heat by talking about how his Cavaliers came from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors. Styles was the standout and they had the best bout on the show. Lynch & Nikki beat Natalya & Carmella & Bliss. Ziggler came out wearing a Cavaliers jersey for easy heat, so he did get booed a lot. He pinned Kalisto. Main event saw Cena & Harper over Orton & Wyatt.