January 18, 2016 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: NJPW strips Nakamura, Sting to HOF

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 January 18, 2016


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Based on phone calls and e-mails to the Observer as of Tuesday, 1/12.

New Japan Pro Wrestling announced on 1/12 that they were stripping Shinsuke Nakamura of his IC title, rather than having him lose it in the ring to Kenny Omega.

It’s unclear what led to the decision, as Nakamura will be working with the promotion through 1/30 and in theory, since the angle had already been shot, could and should have lost it to Omega at the Korakuen Hall show on the last night.

One can argue that because the word is already out, as Nakamura did an interview last week with Tokyo Sports noting he was leaving for WWE after his contract expires at the end of this month, that it served no purpose to book a lame duck title match because people would “know” the outcome.

But that argument falls apart due to the nature of the situation. If it was an established star it would be one thing, but Omega is a former junior heavyweight who has never been booked as a top singles star. Now, because of the departures of both A.J. Styles and Karl Anderson, Omega is being pushed as an emergency measure to be the top singles star of The Bullet Club and top foreigner. He’s got no credibility for that position, but a pin on Nakamura would be instant credibility. Plus, with Anderson & Gallows, who are also leaving, they are being booked in a tag team title rematch with Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe on the 2/14 New Beginnings in Niigata PPV, where the same logic would tell you the lame duck wrestlers are losing on their last night in.

Nakamura, who at press time is on vacation in Sri Lanka, will be holding a press conference on 1/25, to discuss his departure. He is expected in the U.S. in February and to report to Orlando at that point.

There is no indication of WWE involvement in the title not changing hands in the ring, even though the situation is similar to that of Alberto Del Rio. Del Rio was the AAA Mega Heavyweight champion when he signed with WWE, and never returned to drop the title. In his situation, at first AAA thought he would return and drop the title, but it was made clear immediately that even if he did return (which it ended up that he never did), that WWE would not allow him to lose. The difference is Del Rio had won the U.S. title, so in old school mentality, WWE wouldn’t let one of their champions job on somebody else’s show for their title. Another difference is Del Rio’s contract with AAA had expired a month earlier and he actually had signed with WWE, while Nakamura’s contract didn’t expire until 1/31 and he has not actually signed a WWE deal and couldn’t legally do so until after his New Japan deal ends.

From a WWE standpoint, this is different because Nakamura doesn’t hold a WWE title, and may not even be using the same name. With Prince Devitt, there were no issues with his booking, nor has there been with other WWE talent that hadn’t officially signed but everyone knew they were leaving (Kevin Steen) and them losing some matches on he way out, even on high profile indie shows.

The belief is that Nakamura not losing to Omega in a singles match was a New Japan decision, as opposed to a decision forced on New Japan, based on Nakamura or WWE refusing to allow a singles match title loss.

This changed plans since the Nakamura vs. Omega match was to headline the 2/14 show in Niigata, and Nakamura was not staying two extra weeks.

It’s a questionable decision. If Omega had already been established as a top tier main eventer, an Omega vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi match (which is presumably the match that headlines the Niigata show) would be taken as a viable title match. But that isn’t the case. A clean win over Nakamura would not be just another match, but would be gigantic for Omega’s career, whether some fans would know in advance, or even if most fans would know in advance. Guys leaving and a portion, or in the case of promotions that have an exclusively insider fan base, most knowing ahead of time they are on the way out and losing has been a part of wrestling forever. Nakamura leaving did get mainstream coverage in Japan.

After the Fantastica Mania tour from 1/17 to 1/24, Nakamura will have two shows left, a 1/29 show in Tokorozawa, headlined by Nakamura & Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo vs. Tanahashi & Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata & Ryusuke Taguchi, and Nakamura’s farewell show the next day at Korakuen Hell, featuring the All-Star trios match with Tanahashi & Gogo & Shibata vs. Nakamura & Okada & Ishii. Logical booking would have Nakamura lose to Tanahashi, and then announce Tanahashi as his “replacement” in the IC title match with Omega on 2/14. But it hurts the title that Nakamura really took from a mid-card belt that really didn’t matter, to a title that headlined PPVs and even headlined the 2014 Tokyo Dome show, as well as hurts Omega, although whatever hurt to Omega would be automatically rectified if he beats Tanahashi and has a great match. Either way, because Omega is in the Styles’ position, the onus is strong on him being able to have a great match and not be seen as a weak replacement.

The Korakuen Hall show on 1/30 (5:30 a.m. Eastern time) has David Finlay vs. Kawato Hirai, Jay White vs. Kanemitsu Teruaki (Hirai and Teruaki are getting the spots that Yohei Komatsu and Sho Tanaka, whose final matches before going to Mexico are on 1/24, have had), Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Jushin Liger vs. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask, Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi, Kushida & Ryusuke Taguchi & Captain New Japan vs. Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Bushi, Makabe & Honma & Michael Elgin & Juice Robinson vs. Omega & Anderson & Gallows & Cody Hall, and the all-star six man main event.

For the two PPV shows in February, the New Beginnings in Osaka on 2/11 (which starts at 4 a.m. on a Thursday morning U.S. time) and the New Beginnings in Niigata on 2/14 (which starts at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning U.S. time), all that has been announced are the title matches.

The Osaka show has Okada vs. Goto for the IWGP heavyweight title, The Young Bucks defend the IWGP jr. tag titles against Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly and Matt Sydal & Ricochet, Shibata defends the Never Open weight title in a return match with Ishii, and Mark & Jay Briscoe & Toru Yano defend the Never trios titles against Fale & Tonga & Takahashi.

Niigata has announced Omega vs. X for the IC title, Makabe & Honma vs. Gallows & Anderson for the IWGP tag team titles and Kushida vs. Bushi for the IWGP jr. title.

The IC title situation is the most interesting. The original idea was to put Tanahashi & Elgin as a regular team, to allow Tanahashi to heal up until he’s needed for big singles main events later this year. But he looks to be the only logical guy who can face Omega, both for the prestige of the title, but also for Omega to beat to elevate him. The problem is that would make two losses in a row for Tanahashi, and maybe three, because the next thing is the New Japan Cup, a single elimination tournament, where either Tanahashi wins the tournament or suffers another singles loss. If Tanahashi is to win the New Japan Cup, that goes right back to Okada vs. Tanahashi in April at Invasion Attack. That’s one of the few viable Sumo Hall main events they have. But it also feels like overkill for the company’s two biggest stars to headline again. But there’s no great idea that can avoid some kind of booking issue or another due to the departures.

It’s not the right time for an Omega loss at all. But Tanahashi being strong on top is now more important than ever. Plus, it’s not just Omega as champion, but he and Tanahashi probably have to go back-and-forth to re-establish the belt because of a total lack of viable IC contenders now, with only Goto and Elgin there, neither of which are PPV headliners with Omega, since Ishii, Makabe and Okada are with other titles and Kota Ibushi is still injured.

The Nick Diaz camp and Nevada Athletic Commission confirmed an out-of-court settlement that would allow Diaz to return to fight in August.

The settlement was agreed upon by the commission as a result of a lawsuit filed and very negative public backlash toward the original suspension of Diaz for five years and a $165,000 fine after his third marijuana test positive in the state, as well as lying on his medical form where he was to list all drugs he had been using and not listing marijuana.

The agreed upon settlement was an 18 month suspension, which, since it would go into effect on February 1, 2015, would make him eligible to fight in any commission jurisdiction on August 1, 2016, as well as the fine being reduced to $100,000.

The settlement would have been a more rational punishment, even though there were a number of extenuating circumstances. The key is that Diaz took three tests the day of his fight with Anderson Silva, a decision loss on January 31 in Las Vegas. In two of the tests, while they showed him having used marijuana, it was at a lower level than would be considered a positive by the state’s new bylaws (similar to the relatively new Olympic standards). It would be enough to be considered a positive in a number of states. The third test saw his numbers through the roof. With two negative tests, as far as negative legally, and one positive, all taken the day of the fight, it becomes a question as to how one interprets if he did or didn’t violate rules. But even so, the lying on his medical form would be enough for sanctions, because all three tests showed marijuana use and he clearly did not state it. This could be explained by confusion, except Diaz has been in this position regarding the forms in both California and Nevada in the past, which ask for the names of all drugs, whether legal or illegal, that one has taken within 30 days of the fight.

The controversy is that Diaz’s opponent, Silva, had tested positive for a number of banned substances, including steroids Drostanolone and Androstane in a 1/9 test, 22 days before the fight, but was allowed to fight because the commission didn’t get the results back in time. He also tested positive for Drostanolone, as well as anti-anxiety and sleep aids on the day of the fight. Silva was suspended for one year and fined $380,000.

The rulings were simplified to the idea that one guy failed for steroids, far worse than marijuana, and got one year while the guy who failed for marijuana, and arguably, may have legitimately been under the current allowable threshold based on two tests, got five years. But that was forgetting it was a third positive for the same drug in the same state. Diaz also had a career filled with issues, both marijuana-related and otherwise.

On his first positive, on a test taken after his February 24, 2007, win over Takanori Gomi, he promised the same commission at his hearing that he would never smoke marijuana again. Then, on his second positive, on a February 4, 2012 loss to Carlos Condit, when the commission asked when he went back on that promise, he said, as soon as he landed back home after the first hearing.

More recently, he claimed he knew the drug testing was flawed in his March 16, 2013, fight with Georges St-Pierre, which St-Pierre won in a show that was a huge box office success. His argument that he believed St-Pierre was dirty but the testing was flawed was admitting that there was no way he could have passed a test on that day, because at the time he thought it would be his last fight so he didn’t care.

The commission felt history showed Diaz would never change and they were tired of disciplining him, so suspended him for five years. But five years was excessive given the disputed test result and the drug involved, which led to a public outrage against the commission, which included an online White House petition that garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

Dana White, on Twitter, pushed the idea of a Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler title fight in 2016. It’s amazing. Diaz can draw, but he hasn’t won a fight since October 29, 2011. Think about that. He was gifted one title fight already with Georges St-Pierre. There are at least three people, Carlos Condit, Tyron Woodley and Johny Hendricks, who deserve title shots right now. A fourth, Rory MacDonald, is the ranked as the No. 1 contender and shouldn’t be far from a rematch. Another, Demian Maia, isn’t far from deserving a shot. Diaz has done nothing for four years and three months except lose fights, get suspended twice on drug test violations, and make hilarious quotes. He did beat Robbie Lawler 12 years ago, but Diaz should not be mentioned for a title shot at this point unless he at least wins a fight over someone of note. Plus, the hard fact on Diaz is that he will never change, and every time he’s booked, you run a great risk for him to fail a drug test and get suspended.

A hearing on an out of court settlement on a lawsuit filed on behalf of Wanderlei Silva, who got a lifetime suspension for running away from a drug test in May 2014, was postponed until February. In May, the lifetime suspension was overturned in Nevada District Court as being “arbitrary and capricious,” given there was no precedent for such a ruling. The two sides were involved in settlement talks, but there were commission members who were not willing to approve of the settlement and a new hearing is scheduled.

The UFC’s first blockbuster event of the year has been announced for 3/5 in Las Vegas, with Rafael dos Anjos vs. Conor McGregor for the lightweight title and Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate for the women’s bantamweight title.

But in doing so, this puts the plans for the biggest UFC show in history at risk, because the only way the show would be able to hit record numbers is for McGregor to headline now that Ronda Rousey is not going to be fighting on the show due to delays in production of the movie “Road House.”

Dana White told Kevin Iole that Rousey won’t be on UFC 200 due to the filming of the movie being pushed back.

“She could do both, but the question is, should she do both?” said White. “The filming is in a time frame where she’d finish before 200, but it would be cutting it too close.”

The way things look, given the movie schedule and that Rousey needs time to train unencumbered for such a big fight, that Rousey’s title shot is more likely for the fall, which also means she’s only fighting once in 2016.

The scheduling would be such that the hope would be that McGregor could headline UFC 200 on 7/9 in Las Vegas, with the debut event at the new 20,000 seat T Mobile Arena, with the idea of it being the biggest event in UFC history.

However, putting McGregor (who would theoretically face Frankie Edgar) on a show in March does greatly risk UFC 200, which needs either McGregor or Rousey, preferably both, to be the show they are hoping for it to be.

With the company’s No. 3 draw, Jon Jones, expected to fight Daniel Cormier in April, they could either move him back to July, or it would be too quick a turnaround to get the light heavyweight champion on UFC 200. The April show is planned for Madison Square Garden, and they’d want a loaded show there as well, and that date would make perfect sense also for a Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman fight if that’s the direction. But New York would have to legalize MMA quickly for the MSG date to take place, and there are backup locations for that date.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his new budget, has called for the legalization of professional MMA in New York, but the law has to pass in time for it to go into effect, and realistically, by mid-February one would think at the latest, or else they would have to start making plans for one of the backup locations for that show. Las Vegas and Anaheim have been mentioned and there is a hold on the Honda Center for that night. Las Vegas is always possible but it feels like they are already running too frequently in the home base in 2016.

The Combat Channel in Brazil reported that UFC was going to announce the show on 1/10, at halftime of the Washington Redskins vs. Green Bay Packers game, but that no announcement was made because McGregor had not agreed to the money terms for the fight. Multiple sources say that McGregor was on board and it was dos Anjos that was the holdup, and Dana White later said McGregor was never the issue. There was certainly talk all week among insiders of the big coup it appeared UFC had pulled in getting the announcement of the card during halftime of an NFL playoff game. The belief is that they had to finalize the deal with dos Anjos before they could make it official. The actual deal was with dos Anjos was believed to have been finalized on 1/11, missing their window of opportunity for their announcement in front of 39 million people, mostly adult male sports fans.

A page for ticket sales was put up at that point even though the show was not officially announced that day. The top ticket price listed was $1,450 which is the highest scaled price ever for a UFC ringside seat, with other ticket priced at $950, $650, $450, $300 and $200, making it the highest scaled UFC live vents in history.

We’ll see what happens. Given they just did the $10,132,000 gate in December, and will be going for a bigger number in July, the idea of attempting to break $10 million again in March may be pushing it. The feeling is that McGregor draws a traveling audience from Ireland which is free spending, and once you figure how much you’re spending to come, you’ll pay several hundred for tickets. This show will test both how often that audience is willing to come to Nevada, because they’re looking at four shows between July and July, and just how free spending that audience will be. They had no trouble at the $10 million scale in selling out in December, and my guess is if everything fell into place, UFC 200 would be similar (although there is also a big difference between 15,000 and 20,000 seats when you’re dealing with a traveling from Ireland audience). But this will be an interesting experiment,.

McGregor could headline UFC 200 if he does this fight, as long as he doesn’t get injured. Win or lose, the expectation is that McGregor’s next fight after UFC 197 would be a featherweight title defense.

The dos Anjos vs. McGregor booking made the most sense first, because the storyline is McGregor attempting to become the first UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight classes at the same time. It would be the first time the champion in one division would face the champion in another in more than seven years, since the battle between welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and lightweight champion B.J. Penn. Randy Couture held five titles during his career, three as a heavyweight and two as a light heavyweight, but never at the same time. Dan Henderson held Pride titles in two weight classes at the same time.

Holm vs. Tate is a more interesting booking, particularly since when Holm’s people asked for that fight, they were at first rebuffed and Dana White said they should have their license as promoters revoked if they didn’t make Holm vs. Rousey next, since that would be the biggest fight in company history.

Whether UFC made the decision because Rousey wouldn’t be ready for UFC 200 and there was no point having Holm sit out, or because they figured it was worth the risk, is unclear. Rousey vs. Holm will draw no matter what and when. But now the idea of presenting the biggest fight in UFC history at UFC 200, the planned biggest show in history, is out.

A Tate win does open up more business. Rousey challenging Tate for the title, if Tate were to beat Holm, will blow past 1 million buys with no undercard. And after that, whether Rousey wins or loses, the Rousey vs. Holm fight is there. If Holm wins, Rousey vs. Holm is there as well.

The two losers here would look to be the 2/6 show, headlined by Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title, and Cris Cyborg. In her case, it’s self inflicted.

With such a big show on 3/5, and in Las Vegas, both the PPV buyers and the Las Vegas clientele may choose to skip 2/6. That show would mark the third straight month and fifth show during a run of six shows in fourth months for UFC in Las Vegas. While UFC can charge the most money for tickets and has a cushion because there will be casino buys, that’s a lot for one market. The reason for moving March to Las Vegas, instead of other cities rumored and talked about, is because they don’t want to waste a McGregor fight anywhere else. The McGregor Irish fan base will come to Las Vegas easier than other cities, and that’s great for the Las Vegas economy and strengthens UFC in its home market. The New Year’s show and day before the Super Bowl show are traditional Las Vegas dates, since the holiday period is a good date and Las Vegas gets tons of tourists over Super Bowl weekend. Although Super Bowl weekend has been hit-and-miss business wise, and may not be a great weekend for PPV because of the difficulty of getting any kind of mainstream sports coverage that week, which is more valuable than ever in selling a big fight.

Cyborg had decided against cutting to 135 pounds, which would be difficult ever since her walk-around weight moved from 160 to 175 pounds for reasons nobody can figure out. But had she gotten down to 135, she could have gotten the shot at Holm and finally been in a big PPV event. But her mentality that people will come to her weight class has cost her dearly as she gets older.

Tom Lawlor revealed on his podcast with Bryan Alvarez that he had verbally agreed to face former TUF winner Corey Anderson on the 3/5 show.

With one week of television left, WWE has largely built the 1/24 Royal Rumble show in Orlando up as Roman Reigns against everyone for the WWE title.

As far as other matches go, the only other thing announced is a Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens last man standing match for the IC title. Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto have traded the U.S. title back-and-forth in one week. It didn’t make much sense to do the match twice already to set up a Rumble match. But who knows. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch has been done a few times, but only once for the title and they are building for a return. On Raw, they had the Usos beat The New Day, so that should set up a tag title match. But it also appears the New Day will be in the Rumble as well, particularly since “The Kofi Kingston spot” is not part of the annual event.

The Rumble goes head-to-head with the NFC Championship game on FOX, although with the push of it as a free event for new viewers to the network, and more viewers streaming, that isn’t going to hurt as bad as if most viewers were paying the old prices for pay-per-view.

Still, the build for the Rumble has been weak, but it often is until the final week. Almost nobody is even talking about winning. The story isn’t who wins, but is Reigns winning or not. This could make it a difficult match to lay out when the crowd’s interest may be limited to thinking so few have a shot at winning.

There were 31 wrestlers on stage (or as part of the Wyatt Family) at the start of Raw with the idea they were in the Rumble. It should be noted that Chris Jericho was advertised in the Rumble, Reigns is in the Rumble, Big Show wasn’t there on stage, and with Lesnar, that makes 35. If HHH is going to be in the match as the No. 30 guy, that’s another spot. If he could come in as No. 31 as more of a swerve if that’s a direction. Plus, you have to have a few usual surprise spots.

There were those on stage that nobody would miss if they weren’t in, like The Ascension, Damien Sandow, Fandango, R-Truth, Stardust, Adam Rose, Heath Slater, Bo Dallas (Curtis Axel was announced as in based on last year’s gag of not being eliminated) and Darren Young. Barrett was on stage but they have avoided any physical contact involving him of late due to neck issues. All the wrestlers who are likely in non-Rumble matches were also on stage, including Ambrose and Owens, so some may not work twice.

Those on stage were the New Day, Sandow, The Ascension, Fandango, Owens, R-Truth, Del Rio, The Dudleys, Mark Henry, The Usos, Titus O’Neil, Goldust, Ambrose, Stardust, Kalisto, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Rose, Slater, Axel, Dallas, Rusev, Sheamus, Darren Young and Barrett.

The WWE announced that Sting (Steve Borden, 56), is the first inductee and likely the “main eventer” of the company’s 2016 Hall of Fame ceremony which takes place on 4/2 at the America Airlines Center in Dallas.

Sting is scheduled to be inducted at this point by Ric Flair, his career rival, who put Sting on the map as a star in their March 27, 1988, main event at the first Clash of the Champions in Greensboro. Sting at the time was a mid-card babyface who got a world title shot, which ended up as a 45 minute draw that won match of the year honors on what was the biggest day for wrestling that year.

The promotional war with Jim Crockett Promotions and WWF was at a peak. Crockett was reeling badly after McMahon sabotaged his first two PPV shows. After a deal for national clearance for Starrcade 1987, McMahon, coming off the success of WrestleMania III, pulled off a power play, by inventing the Survivor Series and scheduled it for Thanksgiving night. Crockett worked a deal with the cable companies to move his show to the afternoon, which was considered very bad on Thanksgiving with it being the time of family dinners.

But McMahon came back and said that any company that carries Crockett’s show would not only lose the right to carry his show, but would also not be able to carry WrestleMania IV. With McMahon having the established record and Crockett never having done a PPV, all but five major systems in the U.S. canceled carrying the Crockett show. Of those systems, four were in the Carolinas, where the Crockett show would have been expected to do more business. The other was in San Jose, where the local company actually didn’t back down to WWF based on a moral stand. Of course it was a bluff since all five companies carried the next WrestleMania. In January, when Crockett scheduled his second PPV, McMahon put on a free special, the first Royal Rumble, on the USA Network, which did an 8.2 rating head-to-head and killed the PPV business.

TBS, which carried Crockett, then gave them the revenge by booking a show called Clash of Champions head-to-head with WrestleMania. The result was a huge decrease in WrestleMania while the free Crockett show delivered a 5.8 rating. The idea in those days was since it was television, you didn’t give away a major arena bout. So booker Dusty Rhodes went with Sting as the challenger for Flair. Because Sting was a good athlete and Flair was at his prime of being able to carry people far worse to good matches, the match was a huge success. Some felt a 45 minute match was a risk on television, thinking the average viewer would be bored. The match itself averaged a 7.1 rating, and peaked in the final 15 minutes at a 7.8, even opposing WrestleMania. Those types of numbers were never reached again for wrestling until the Monday Night Wars.

Sting suddenly became the hot young star of the business, and very shortly was considered the heir apparent to Flair and Dusty Rhodes as the top star of the company.

The induction makes sense, given that Borden lives in the Dallas area and his career appears to be over, since he needs neck surgery due to spinal stenosis and injuries related from his 9/20 match in Houston at last year’s Night of Champions with Seth Rollins. It was one of only two singles matches he would have in WWE and his lone WWE title match.

Sting had been the biggest U.S. star of the modern era to have never wrestled in a WWE ring until WrestleMania this year. He actually only worked for a few promotions as a regular during the course of his career.

Borden knew nothing about wrestling growing up, never having watched it on television. He has said in many interviews that when he grew up, wrestling wasn’t on television. Given that he grew up in the Los Angeles area, that would hardly be the case.

He was working at a Gold’s Gym when Rick Bassman was looking for big, good-looking bodybuilders in 1985. Bassman, who ended up being a name behind the scenes in both pro wrestling and MMA years later, at the time was trying to develop a marketing concept, Power Team USA, with the idea of them feuding with the Road Warriors, who at the time were the hottest tag team act in wrestling.

Borden at first had no interest, but was talked into trying. Bassman set up a camp for Borden, Jim Hellwig, who became the Ultimate Warrior, Dave Sheldon, who became the Angel of Death, Steve DiSalvo, and several others who never went anywhere in wrestling. Another person in the camp, Magic Schwartz, a bodybuilder/magician, was at the time married to a female bodybuilder at the time named Reggie Schwartz. She became Reggie Bennett, who later became a star wrestler in Japan.

Red Bastien was hired as the head coach, while Billy Anderson (William Laster) worked with the bodybuilders inside the ring.

Borden and Hellwig showed up, and managed to get the addresses of all the major promoters. They sent 8x10s and resumes out, and only one promoter responded, Jerry Jarrett. Jarrett wanted them to start. They had only had a few weeks of training and were far from ready to be in even the Memphis circuit. Borden started in late 1985 as Steve “Flash” Borden, with Jim “Justice” Hellwig, as The Freedom Fighters, first as babyfaces, and then as heels. At the time, Borden was probably about 275 pounds, with monstrous shoulders, almost as big as Hellwig, who was probably around 285 at the time. They were in the territory for about ten weeks, and were let go, which was entirely due to Hellwig.

About a month later, Bill Watts hired the two, which was very controversial. Their hiring led to a falling out between Watts and one of his top stars, Dick Murdoch. Watts, in opening up a spot for them, fired Kelly Kiniski, the son of Gene Kiniski. Kelly Kiniski was a very good athlete, who was very popular among the wrestlers since he was a West Texas State football player. Much of the crew at the time had college football backgrounds. Kiniski was a solid worker, but totally lacked charisma. And a lot of the football players and street fighter types weren’t enamored with untalented pretty boy steroid boys. But Hulk Hogan had already become wrestling’s biggest star. Watts saw the two as projects who, if they clicked, had more of a potential upside.

They started in the UWF in March, 1986, as Blade Runner Rock & Blade Runner Sting. Watts and Hellwig didn’t get along, as Hellwig would complain about having to sell for Watts, then 47 and certainly fat compared to the standards of Hellwig. Given fans bought Watts as a tough guy because of his history, that didn’t set well. There were a number of other issues, but he quit and went to World Class Championship Wrestling, where the crowds were a high percentage of young girls due to the Von Erichs. As Dingo Warrior, he was able to get over even with his limited wrestling, because of his looks and body.

Blade Runner Sting remained, and just became Sting, a heel who was part of Eddie Gilbert’s Hot Stuff Inc., with Rick Steiner. Gilbert really deserves the credit as the guy who had the vision of Sting as a major star first. I believe it was at his Halloween party in 1986 when he first told me that Sting was going to be one of the biggest babyfaces of the era. He was still a heel at the team, teaming with Gilbert and/or Steiner against The Fantastics, Tommy Rogers & Bobby Fulton. Sting held the UWF tag team titles with both during that era, and when Watts sold the UWF to Crockett in early 1987, Sting & Rick Steiner were the heel tag team champions.

Gilbert set up the babyface turn for Sting, and he was getting big crowd reactions. I was at a show in Houston in 1987, right after Sting turned, and when Sting came out, the small crowd popped far bigger for an undercard face with essentially no big name than you would have expected. By this time, Rhodes was in charge and Sting also lost that night to Black Bart.

The politics of that era were not unique. Crockett purchased the UWF because it had a strong syndicated television network. At the time, there were debates going around about which company had the best wrestling in the U.S., between Crockett and Watts. There was the natural rivalry between the groups in 1986 when they joint promoted the Crockett Cup at the Superdome in New Orleans.

While both groups were past their peak by 1987, Watts had lost his top star, Jim Duggan. His best performer, Ted DiBiase decided against going to Crockett and instead was pitched the Million Dollar Man idea and went to WWF.

The UWF talent wasn’t going to be pushed. Some were fired. Some were starved out and left. Sting was given a $52,000 a year contract, which was a minor surprise because it was a better deal than some bigger UWF stars got. He was just kind of there, a young guy with a good look on the undercard, until the first Clash.

The Flair-Sting Greensboro match led to rematches all over the country. While not the top face, Sting was in the mix with the top faces, which at the time were Rhodes, Lex Luger, The Road Warriors and Nikita Koloff. By early 1989, Sting was probably the most popular singles wrestler until Flair made a babyface turn. He ended up in one of his best remembered programs, with the Great Muta, underneath Flair’s matches with Terry Funk.

By late 1989, the wheels were in motion for Sting to beat Flair to win the NWA world title on February 25, 1990, on Flair’s 41st birthday, in Greensboro, the site of the original match, on PPV. But Sting suffered a torn ACL in shooting an angle with the Four Horseman 19 days before the match. So his ascension to the top was delayed until the summer.

Sting was supposed to be the star to carry the company. Even with the long push of Sting coming back to get at Flair, the Baltimore show failed to sell out, as compared to the record setting business Flair and Funk did for the same show a year earlier. Still, those at WCW figured that when Sting showed up as champion at the Omni, the home base, that they’d start doing the big business again. But it never happened.

There were a lot of reasons, and it got so bad that the company felt it had to make the move it had vowed a year earlier would never happen, and go back to Flair as champion in early 1991. That ended up as a disaster as Flair and Jim Herd had a falling out and Flair was fired before he was to drop the title to, first Luger, and then Barry Windham.

Sting was the lead face in WCW through the arrival of Hulk Hogan in 1994. Later, when Hogan turned heel, Sting was back as the lead face. In 1997, when the company was strong, Sting never wrestled, but was positioned as the top guy in a year-long build to a Hogan vs. Sting match.

That was the biggest match in WCW history, but it was sabotaged, evidently by Hogan. The build was enough for the show to top 600,000 buys on PPV, the biggest PPV in wrestling history that wasn’t promoted by WWF. Sting was on fire, until minutes into the match, which fell flat. Perhaps Sting didn’t show up in good enough shape. Perhaps the storyline of Hogan dominating the match killed his superhero aura, but Sting wasn’t getting the people behind him with the long selling. The match wasn’t any good. The key spot, where Nick Patrick was to give Sting a super-fast count on a Hogan leg drop ended up being a normal count. At the time Patrick claimed he thought it was a fast count, but years later admitted Hogan told him not to do the fast count. That killed Sting, even though the match was restarted due to the fast count that wasn’t there, and Sting won at the end. But Sting was never the same.

WCW folded and Sting, with a great contract, was able to sit back and collect money while no longer wrestling. Mentally, he figured he had retired. There were talks with WWF, but they never came to fruition.

Sting had done a few matches with TNA in 2003 when they were based in Nashville, as much as a favor to Jarrett, who gave him his first job. He also made an appearance in 2004.

In late 2005, when Spike TV picked up TNA as a replacement for WWE, which left Spike for the USA Network (technically, Spike canceled WWE and killed its bargaining power when WWE was trying to create a Spike vs. USA bidding war).

Doug Herzog, who oversaw Spike, greenlit the idea of helping subsidize bringing Sting in to give TNA a shot in the arm. Sting got a $500,000 one year guarantee and was TNA’s top star in 2006 as a Superman who wasn’t a full-timer, but showed up from time-to-time, similar to his 1997 WCW peak.

Every year, Sting went with the idea that it would be his last year. Every year, Dixie Carter would offer him another half million for limited dates. His one year deal stretched until January, 2014. After Spike had canceled TNA, they could no longer afford Sting’s salary and it opened the door for a WWE run.

Realistically, the run could have been much better. The fans reacted huge to Sting in WWE for the first time. He lost his first match to HHH. Even though Sting himself on his promo talked about the storyline of Sting being there to avenge the death of WCW, which happened in 2001, being silly on television, in the commentary, it was like the real-life version of a bad TV movie where a group of 40-year-olds would get back together to play football against the team that beat them in their high school playoffs.

Sting had no issues losing. He hadn’t for years. While heavily criticized in 1989, when WCW wanted Sting to put over Terry Funk to set up Funk’s feud with Flair and he refused, Sting had stopped making waves earlier. He’d show up, do whatever was asked, and not care one way or the other. In TNA, he was known for offering no ideas, but he remained pretty athletic for his age, and his promo work in TNA blew away anything he did in WCW.

In fact, he talked that he thought he had to lose. He figured his WrestleMania match was his last match, and he didn’t want to do anything but lose his last match, feeling that was the right thing for business. But the idea of Undertaker vs. Sting at Texas Stadium seemed logical, and given that, he should have won. Even usual apologists for WWE conceded that result was pure ego, not so much for HHH to beat Sting, but for WWE to beat WCW, which made it even more pathetic since that war was long over.

It was even sillier when, a few months later, Sting was brought back to headline a PPV against Seth Rollins. And he clearly had drawing power, since Night of Champions did more domestic buys on PPV than any show of 2015 except the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania and SummerSlam, and for total buys, finished behind only the big three and Battleground.

But it was a mess in many ways. Rollins had just lost to John Cena in a U.S. title match directly before the Sting match. Rollins was then was laid out by Cena after the match, and left for dead, for Sting to come in and win. Sting still lost. Worse, he took two power bombs into the turnbuckles. He was hurt on the first one. On the second, he lost his legs momentarily, but finished the match, only to find out that he had neck problems that required surgery.

The most notable thing about Sting’s career is that unlike many, it grew bigger in time. The key is his longevity, a star from 1988 to 2015, a remarkably long tenure. But it was TNA that gave him that longevity, as he was promoted and used as a superhero in a promotion that was trying, and failing to cultivate the old WCW audience. And even though he had more value to WWE as a nostalgic figure in a business where the past was really so much bigger than the present, he was used the way he was because he represented the arch-rival WCW.

Either way, Sting made a lot of money for a long period of time, while wrestling minimal matches over the last 20 years of his career.

The WWE Hall of Fame class this year is expected to include the Fabulous Freebirds, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts and possibly Jimmy Garvin, who were the lead heels during the 1983-84 boom period of wrestling in the Dallas area.

A lot of other names have been batted around, with John Layfield, who grew up in Texas and is a company legend as a weekly voice on Raw, being a strong possibility.

Sometimes they go with historical figures, but it’s tough with Texas since the key ones are not alive, and two of the Freebirds passed away young so it’ll be tough to get Vince McMahon to agree to someone else who isn’t alive.

For Dallas area history, probably the biggest names of the somewhat modern era besides the Von Erichs, already in, would be Bruiser Brody and Gary Hart, but neither of the two is still alive.

Dana White all but confirmed that Mickey Gall, the fighter introduced on his “Dana White: Looking for a Fight,” YouTube show that aired on 1/11, was in line to be the opponent of C.M. Punk for his debut.

Gall, 23, made his pro debut on an 11/21 fight in Philadelphia where he defeated Ron Templeton in 2:53 with a rear naked choke on a show put on by the local Dead Serious MMA promotion. Gall then cut a promo challenging Punk to a fight, while White, Matt Serra and Nick the Tooth, who star in White’s star, were at ringside.

Gall, who fights at 170 pounds, had a 2-0 amateur record while Templeton had a 2-2 record.

The show is built around the idea of the three going to different cities, eating food, joking around, sight seeing and going to fights to find new stars. The first episode was to build the introduction of Sage Northcutt.

On 1/13, White announced on TSN’s Off the Record that Gall would debut on the 2/6 UFC show in Las Vegas, on a Fight Pass fight, facing UFC newcomer Michael Jackson. He also said that Punk would be at ringside watching and that if Gall wins, he would face Punk in Punk’s debut fight.

The plan right now is to debut Punk on 7/9 at UFC 200.

TNA finished five nights of tapings in Bethlehem (or as they spelled it on the graphic on the first minute of their first show, Bethleham, PA), including a very curious live PPV match on 1/8.

TNA has long ago decided, since it had stopped doing any business on PPV, that the big matches were going to be put on television for free and the PPV show, even though you pay for it to in theory it should be better, would actually be secondary to television.

The ultimate example was that on 1/8, right before the live PPV, they taped a title change for the 1/19 episode of Impact where Matt Hardy, with help of Tyrus, captured the TNA title from Ethan Carter III in a last man standing match that was also a double turn. This was never acknowledged on the PPV.

Matt’s wife Reby ends up as part of the heel group. It ended up leading to a Matt vs. Jeff feud, although the match pushed never happens when a group of heels, that also includes Eric Young and Bram, injure Jeff and put him out of action.

This could be the injury for him to take care of his knee, which was thought to need major surgery. After Jeff had been told he needed major surgery, which would put him out for most of the year, apparently he’s seen other doctors who have given different opinions and that he may only need minor surgery, or can work with a brace. He did some wrestling this past week, and because the next six weeks of television after these tapings will be done in the U.K., where Jeff isn’t allowed in due to a drug trafficking felony conviction, they always need an angle to take him out.

In the case of Matt, whose contract expires in less than two months, the fact they put the belt on him and turned him heel seems to indicate he’s looking at staying. It makes no sense to turn him, put he, his wife and Tyrus together in a stable, and then have him leave so soon. Then again, if you think back at the last weeks of A.J. Styles and Hulk Hogan, this promotion isn’t exactly the best and creating situations where top stars leaving aren’t abrupt.

Jeff had told friends he was looking at trying to go back to WWE, and said as much in an interview with Ric Flair. But he hadn’t made a decision to not renew. There looks to be a program set up with Matt, and that couldn’t take place until after his current contract expires.

The Matt vs. Jeff program was tried a couple of times in WWE, always with Matt as the heel, and it never worked. The first time people didn’t buy it because brother vs. brother programs historically are tough and only work if one brother is such an awesome heel that fans can buy that even his brother hates him (Robert Fuller and Ole Anderson made it work, but very few others ever did). The second time they went to great extremes to get Matt over as a heel, but it got so over the top when they tried to have Matt take credit for setting Jeff’s house on fire, which in real life killed his dog, which again was something so ridiculous and the feud ended up nixed pretty quickly when fans didn’t respond well to it. Still, wrestling has changed greatly even in the few years since then, in the sense nobody buys any of it to the emotional degree of suspending disbelief even a few years ago.

Plus, it’s TNA, where no angles have any emotional connection with the audience and it’s just wrestling product thrown out. It’s not going to be any worse or any less plausible than anything else they do.

It was awkward because they taped a title rematch for an upcoming PPV, with Matt Hardy vs. EC 3 the night before the title change, and in that match, Hardy was working as the heel and EC 3 as the face, which sort of telegraphed that both would be turning. But since it’s TNA and nobody really cares, it didn’t appear that anyone caught on.

Also on the day of the PPV, Davey Richards on Twitter wrote that he’s not taking any indie bookings after 5/1. His current TNA contract, which allows indie bookings (as long as they aren’t ROH, Lucha Underground or WWE), expires on 4/30.

The only place one would go that doesn’t allow indie bookings would either be a full-time ROH deal, and he left ROH with a lot of heat over the nature of his departure, or a WWE deal. While he obviously can’t sign with WWE until after his TNA deal expires, given the type of performer Paul Levesque is trying to get for NXT, Richards fits the bill and a number of sources are all but saying he made that clear on the belief that’s where he’s headed. There is no word right now on Eddie Edwards, whose contract with TNA also expires on 4/30.

He and Edwards had some NXT tryout matches that aired before they signed with TNA. WWE decided against signing them before the tryout was over after a match with The Ascension didn’t go well (even though it was a much better match than the majority of NXT matches at the time). It was at that point they went to TNA.

That was a completely different era of mentality when it came to what types of people WWE wanted in developmental and before they were looking at NXT as the touring brand with all the top indie style workers. There has been interest from WWE in both he and Edwards, and like with so many, both have lost a lot of their “buzz” during their period in TNA even though they have continued to have good matches.

Richards & Edwards left the tapings still as champions, in a program with Crazzy Steve & Abyss, who have a manager, a female clown, who may be Christina Von Eerie.

The other title change this week saw Trevor Lee win the X title from Tigre Uno on 1/9. Both on the PPV, and later at the tapings, and this actually started at Bound for Glory, Gregory Shane Helms (who is an agent for TNA) issued challenges to Uno. Finally, when the match was supposed to happen, Helms said he was never challenging for himself, but for Lee. Lee had first started with TNA as a wrestler for Global Force Wrestling, where he also works, and they’ve acknowledged that he was from there but is now working for TNA, since the GFW storyline is over.

TNA’s promotion of the PPV itself was strange. It had one TV to promote the show, and only mentioned two matches, the Beer Money reunion and a three-way tag team match. The tag team titles being at stake in that match was never mentioned on television. The belts were never even brought up. The next day on the web site it was listed as a tag title match. The singles champion, who had just won the title, Carter III, was listed in ads for the PPV. But he was never listed for a match.

Carter’s role in the show consisted of appearing in one taped interview, a good promo that sort of teased an eventual face turn.

The PPV just came across as filler programming except for two matches. Clearly the main event was the tag title match, but it went on seventh out of nine matches, leaving Bobby Lashley vs. Tyrus to follow.

Granted, nobody saw it. The response on the front page speaks volumes for a company with national television presenting its first PPV in months. But you have to start building somewhere instead of just using the “big show” format that for the most part drives the business and storylines in every other major promotion and barely promote it and use it a just time filler. While the cheap price obviously doesn’t help in getting people to buy (whether it hurts psychologically is a tough one, although there is a correlation in PPV that the higher the price, the more buys the show gets and for the most part that’s also been pretty consistent when it comes to live wrestling tickets, past a once a year Fan Appreciation type gimmick), they could have even pushed that on television that it was priced much lower than a standard show and pushed it as TNA’s present for its audience getting a PPV for $14.95. But they did nothing. I’d have almost thought at least if they were keeping it a secret, it would be one thing. But they did mention it, and did do angles to push it. But they only mentioned two matches on TV. They never pushed the price, and never pushed the title matches. Then TNA delivered a show that was okay in spots, but really bad in other spots.

The quality control of matches wasn’t there in the least. Most matches, on paper, looked bad. The two title matches were both multiple person matches, plus the women’s match was also a Rumble style match. Unless there is a TV storyline that ties things together or it’s a well built up specialty match, the general rule is multiple person matches just thrown together don’t work. At best they are just high spot matches, which is okay once.

In this case, the X title match was that high spot match and it was at least well executed high spots but had no story. The women’s match was awful, at the level of a worst match of the year. The tag title match was very good, but Kurt Angle & Drew Galloway just challenging The Wolves for the title could have been a classic. It was pretty clear Jessie Godderz & Eli Drake were added just to have an easy out for the finish, but it watered down the match itself.

The show drew a papered sellout of 650 fans at the Sands Casino.

A. In a match taped for Impact, Matt Hardy won the TNA title from Ethan Carter III.

1. Tigre Uno retained the X division title in a four-way elimination match over DJ Zema Ion, Crazzy Steve and Mandrews in 10:19. This was one spot after another. In the wonders of TNA, fans saw Tigre Uno mess up his shoulder live on Bound for Glory. Then they saw months of television where he was fine (taped before Bound for Glory). Now, he shows up with this big brace on his left shoulder. Everything was well executed but the constant high spots with characters people have no emotional investment in are going to yield limited reaction. Mandrews is great, a guy TNA really could do something with. There were a lot of dives. The best move is Mandrews, who does the Johnny Ace gimmick of coming out with a skateboard (the difference is he actually can ride a skateboard), rode down the ramp jumped off and gave Ion a huracanrana and Ion flipped right on top of Steve on the floor. Then Uno gave them all a flip dive off the top rope to the floor. The crowd wanted Steve to win. Steve had Uno in a chicken wing and was underneath Uno with the hold. Mandrews came off the top with a shooting star press onto Uno, which also crushed Steve. Mandrews pinned Steve to eliminate him in 6:21. Steve attacked Uno after and threw him into the steps. He put the chicken wing on Uno again and Uno sold it like he was injured. Mandrews pinned Ion in 8:16 with a schoolboy. This left Mandrews vs. Uno, with Uno getting the win after a Spanish fly off the top rope. Shane Helms came out after, which led to a chant of “Three Count.” Josh Matthews then said that Helms was “the greatest cruiserweight champion in the history of pro wrestling.” You always want TNA to somehow turn the corner, and saying things like that and putting on shows like that make it so clear they are incapable of learning anything. Helms pointed at his watch, with the explanation that it is only a matter of time before he wins the title. **3/4

2. Rockstar Spud pinned Aiden O’Shea in 7:00. This was advertised as O’Shea vs. Mahabali Shera. Even though the match ended up really bad, it had to be 1,000 times better than what it would have been had Shera been in it. The explanation is that Shera wasn’t there because somebody let the air out of his tires. That was a cool excuse in the days when guys drove long distances and people didn’t have cell phones and taxis weren’t prevalent except in major cities. They don’t realize how lame that sounds today. O’Shea played bully and made fun of Spud’s size. The crowd got behind Spud. O’Shea told him to save himself some embarrassment and take a walk and lose via count out. He looked despondent and teased doing it, but flipped O’Shea off. O’Shea then beat him down for several minutes while doing commentary. Spud did some comebacks including a running flip dive. Spud made the Lawler comeback, took off his tie, and hit the bulldog, which is called the Underdog, for the win. This dragged a lot. *

3. Mike Bennett pinned Robbie E in 7:02. Bennett was given a major league ring entrance. But instead of making Bennett look like a major star, they did a so-so back-and-forth even match. It went too long if the goal was to get Bennett over as a big deal. Robbie did a crossbody off the top to the floor. Bennett won with an Ace crusher, a knockout punch and a falcon arrow, which they are calling Divine intervention. After the match he was pushing a catch phrase of “Yes we do.” *1/2

4. Awesome Kong won a women’s gauntlet (Royal Rumble rules) match for a title shot over Madison Rayne, Jade, Rebel, Chelsea (Green), Marti Bell, Deonna Purrazzo, Awesome Kong and Velvet Sky in 16:03. This was the worst major promotion match in recent memory. If people actually saw it, it would easily win worst match of the year. The worst part is that the winner was to get a title shot at Gail Kim on Impact (it makes no sense to ask your audience to pay for a match to determine who gets into a televised match on TV, but that explains TNA’s winning and innovative PPV formula). They had already taped the Kim vs. Kong match in Bethlehem, PA, so for a lot of the fans, it wasn’t hard to figure out who was winning. Rayne and Jade started and they were brutally bad together. The rules were a new person in every two minutes, but they were shaving time, which was for the best. Rebel was next in. Rebel has an incredible body for any age, let alone 37, and is clearly athletic, but she is very green and her selling needs so much work, made worse by the people she was in with having such bad looking offense. They twice referenced Holly Holm in commentary and for some reason started laughing. Chelsea Green from Tough Enough was next in. She was Daniel Bryan’s physical therapist on Raw that Stephanie McMahon paid to say she was having an affair with him during Stephanie’s feud with Brie Bella, and was trained by Lance Storm. The former was never said but the latter was said a lot. Marti Bell was next in. The match kept getting worse. Just one botched spot after another. Deonna Purrazzo was next in. She was the best in the match so far but some of the stuff with Rebel and Chelsea was really bad. Chelsea eliminated Rebel, who barely got over the top in 8:33. Kong was next in. She threw out Purrazzo in 10:27, and threw out Chelsea in 10:32. Sky was the last person in. Bell was holding the ropes with one arm, for seemingly forever before Rayne knocked her hand off the rope and she fell to the floor in 11:59. Jade threw out Sky in 12:02. This left Kong, Rayne and Jade. Rayne speared Jade out in 14:15. This left Kong vs. Rayne in a regular match. Rayne got some offense but Kong used a spinning backfist that missed, but was supposed to hit, and the implant buster for the pin. -**½ (that’s negative **½)

5. Trevor Lee pinned Pepper Parks in 7:56. Parks suplexed Lee into the buckles and did a running flip dive. The crowd had no interest until the very end of the match. Lee won with a curb stomp into a double foot stomp, followed by a fisherman buster. Lee didn’t look nearly as good as he does in PWG. *1/4

Pope was in the ring and called out Grado. Pope handed him a candy bar, and he ate it. Pope told Grado that he was a joke and that all the fans see him as nothing but a joke. The fans were chanting “No” at that point, even though it’s kind of true. Grado then dropped his Irish accent and began talking like he was Dick Murdoch, which was hilarious. He does this great Texas accent. This set up Grado vs. Abyss next in a Monster’s Ball match.

6. Abyss beat Grado in 9:11 of a Monster’s Ball match. This match just made wrestling look like a joke and freak show with guys taking bumps on barbed wire and thumbtacks while the fans just sit there and watch. They did pop a little for the barbed wire stuff. Grado used a cheese grater to the groin. Abyss threw a garbage can at Grado who fell off the apron and through a table. Abyss took a bump on one barbed wire board. Grado put a second barbed wire board on top of Abyss, making him the meat in a barbed wire board sandwich. Grado then came off the top with a splash, but Abyss kicked out of this. Abyss was then supposed to get up and win, but his pants got caught in the barbed wire board, so he was walking around with his leg hooked up to the board. He choke slammed Grado on thumb tacks for the pin. DUD

7. Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards retained the TNA tag titles in a three-way over Kurt Angle & Drew Galloway and Jessie Godderz & Eli Drake in 10:22. Real good. Angle was German suplexing people like crazy, including a spot where he gave German suplexes to Edwards & Richards at the same time. Edwards and Galloway were chopping everyone hard and then started chopping each other. The finishing sequence saw Angle give a German suplex to Drake, Godderz gave Angle a low blow, Edwards & Richards did the Chasing the Dragon spot on Drake. Edwards put Drake in the ankle lock for the win while at the same time Richards had Godderz in a half crab. Angle then got in Edwards’ face for stealing his finisher, but then Angle hugged Edwards. Angle, Galloway, Edwards and Richards all hugged while Godderz and Drake disappeared. ***½

8. Bobby Lashley pinned Tyrus in 9:31. Not much to this. Lashley sold most of the match after Tyrus pulled the padding off the turnbuckle and threw Lashley into the exposed metal. There was a ref bump by Earl Hebner. Lashley made a comeback and rammed Tyrus’ head into the exposed metal turnbuckle 11 times before getting the pin with a spear. *

9. Bobby Roode & James Storm beat Eric Young & Bram in 15:03. Good match. Beer Money came out with matching trunks. They gave the impression they are going to be a team for a while. It never got the crowd up like the Angle match. They did all their big regular moves. Storm gave Young a superkick and Roode slingshotted Young into Storm’s DDT. Young rolled out of the ring. Roode & Storm then did a double suplex on Bram, followed by their double-team DWI. After the match, Roode & Storm was pushing that they wanted to challenge the Wolves for a tag title match. ***

Yoel Romero, who was in line for a shot at UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, is under investigation for a potential doping policy violation.

The UFC reported on 1/12 that on that day, USADA informed them of a potential violation by Romero stemming from an out-of-competition sample collected.

In the UFC release, they stated, “USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case involving Romero. Additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.”

That wording would seem to indicate a drug found in the A sample. Romero, who had also just been contacted by USADA, has the choice to ask for his B sample to be tested, or to give an explanation. Once those steps are taken, it is up to USADA to render a decision. Unless the B sample comes in clean, which rarely happens with a dirty A sample, or there is a viable explanation, at that point the exact violation will be reported and any punishment would be meted out by USADA.

If the failure was for a performance enhancing substance, which carries with it a two year suspension for a first time offense, given that Romero is 38, this could end his career, and even if he does come back, it would be very difficult for him to get back to his current level as a title contender.

The test puts Chris Weidman in the driver seat as the first contender for Rockhold’s championship. Rockhold had been told by UFC that his first opponent would be either Romero or Weidman. Rockhold had asked for Vitor Belfort, to get revenge for Belfort’s win over him, but UFC officials had told him Belfort needed at least one more win before they would consider giving him a title fight. There was also a feeling that since Belfort had turned down the fight with Anderson Silva, it’s hard to rationalize then rewarding him with an immediate title match.

Romero had won a No. 1 contender fight over Ronaldo Jacare Souza on 12/12, the same night Rockhold beat Weidman. But the decision was very controversial. Most had Souza winning the second and third rounds, although some, including myself, had the first round 10-8 for Romero and scored it a draw. It was listed as the sixth most disputed decision of 2015, as only 12 percent of the media (two of 17, with three, including myself calling it a draw and 12 scoring for Souza), and 17 percent of the fans agreed with it. So Romero had no momentum for a title shot coming off the fight, which opened the door for Weidman to get a rematch even before this potential violation. In addition, the media voted Weidman as the No.1 contender and Romero was the No. 2 contender.

Romero may have been the most freakishly muscular fighter in some ways in UFC. Some of that is what he was born with, with round muscle bellies, wide shoulders and a ridiculously tiny waist for a guy who probably walked around at probably 210 pounds. But the level of the muscularity, particularly considering his age, was unique, almost like that of a bodybuilder in the 70s or 80s. But he had always looked like that, dating back decades to his days as a world class wrestler from Cuba.

Romero has an 11-1 record, with his only loss coming in 2011, and is coming off wins over Tim Kennedy, Lyoto Machida and Souza.

He came from wrestling where he captured the silver medal at 185 pounds in the 2000 Olympics, as well as a bronze medal in 2004 (where he defeated, among others, pro wrestler Jeff “Matanza Cueto” Cobb). He also won a bronze medal in the 1998 world championships, a gold medal in 1999, won bronze in 2001 and won silver in 2005, and had multiple wins over Cael Sanderson.

Souza’s camp felt he won the fight with Romero and thus deserved the title shot. The date of this failure is key. If the failure came out of competition before the fight (and if so, it just coming out now would have issues), then the fight result should be overturned to a no contest. If it came from a test after the fight, even though that test would probably have been very shortly after the fight, the decision won’t be overturned. Souza’s camp is trying to use the failure and the bad decision for him to get the next shot, and there is a valid argument to this.

But when it comes down to Souza or Weidman, each coming off losses, Weidman would have the edge based on name value. The only other viable option would be if they delay any decision until after 2/27, and wait for the Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping fight. Then, provided Silva has an impressive win, go for Rockhold vs. Silva and perhaps look at that for UFC 200, since of all possible names, Silva would be the biggest draw against Rockhold.

Tim Kennedy, a strong anti-PEDs guy, who lost to Romero in a crazy fight that saw Romero saved by the bell, and then circumstances dictated he had extra time to recuperate between rounds and then he came back and finished Kennedy, wrote upon this news breaking: “Grabbing the fence, kicks to the groin, long breaks between rounds, PEDs, not sure if there are any ways left for you to cheat. Bummer you weren’t tested for our fight. Is that why you needed the stool? FYI Gay Jesus isn’t okay with PEDs.”

Kennedy, Michael Bisping, Rockhold and Weidman have all been in the top level of the division and have all vocally complained about cheating from others in the division for a long time, the first three in particular.

Bisping wrote: “So Yoel tests positive, not surprised at all. Roider of God (Romero’s nickname is “Soldier of God) is a cheating, scumbag.”

Brian Stann, who used to fight in that division and was to a lesser degree vocal on the subject both during and after his career, was encouraging both to talk about it more.

The AAA Mega heavyweight title has been vacant since October, when Alberto El Patron (Del Rio) returned to WWE and wasn’t allowed to return to drop the title.

Well, he says he was but that AAA screwed up the dates. But Del Rio told AAA he wasn’t allowed to drop the title weeks even before the original date of Guerra de Titanes was canceled. WWE said he told them he had no more dates left anywhere when he signed.

The title will be start to be decided in the main event of the 1/22 remake of the Guerra de Titanes show.

Guerra de Titanes is the traditional year-end show, which was originally to take place on 12/4 in Tampico. At the time, Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Johnny Mundo was scheduled for a singles match for the vacant title.

However, neither are booked on 1/22 at Juan de la Barrera Gym in Mexico City.

Instead, it’s being advertised as a tag team match with Dr. Wagner Jr. & Psycho Clown facing Mesias & El Texano Jr. The winners of the match will then have a singles match to determine the new champion in March at the Rey de Reyes show.

Also announced is a match for the vacant AAA trios championship. The champions had been Cibernetico & Chessman & Averno. Rather than let Chessman & Averno pick a new partner, a match was announced with Electroshock & Garza Jr. & La Parka vs. Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria & Zorro vs. El Hijo de Pirata Morgan & El Hijo del Fantasma & Taurus for the titles.

Another three-way was announced for the top contender for the AAA tag team titles, currently held by Jack Evans & Angelico. The belts aren’t being defended on this show due to Angelico’s injury. The three teams vying for the shot are Fenix & Aero Star, Mascara Ano 2000 Jr. & Villano IV and Chessman & Averno.

The rest of the show has Jack Evans & Australian Suicide and a mystery partner face Daga & Parka Negra & Super Fly, Fabi Apache & Goya Kong & Maravilla vs. Lady Shani & Sexy Star & Taya in a lumberjack strap match, and a man, transvestite and mini mixed match with Nino Hamburguesa & Pimpinela Escarlata & Dinastia facing Apache & Mamba & Mini Charly Manson.

Drago and Pentagon Jr. are missing the show because they are booked that weekend in Europe.

Raw on 1/11 did better than expected given the competition, doing a 2.36 rating and an average of 3,320,000 viewers (1.47 viewers per home) going head-to-head with the Alabama vs. Clemson college football national championship game, that did 25,667,000 viewers. The number for the football game was 15 percent down from last year’s record setter, but the number it did was almost exactly as predicted going in (25 million).

Raw did right at what was its fall average against the NFL, even though the college championship game drew far more viewers than any NFL game this season.

As compared to the prior week, with no football competition, Raw did a 1.00 among teenagers (down 10 percent), 1.12 in 18-34 (essentially even), 1.24 in 35-49 (down 7 percent) and 1.31 in 50+ (down 4 percent). The men/women split was 65/35 in the 18-49 demo.

The other good news is that they actually gained viewers in hour three, so whether it was the lure of Brock Lesnar (the only person advertised and he was pushed hard, acknowledged he was there, but never appeared until the final segment) or the McMahons push of everyone vs. Reigns in the main event, the third hour held up even against a close and exciting game.

The 8 p.m. hour did 3,536,000 viewers; the 9 p.m. hour did 3,206,000 viewers and the 10 p.m. hour did 3,228,000 viewers.

The debut of Smackdown on the USA Network on 1/7 did a 1.93 rating and 2,757,000 viewers (1.49 viewers per home), finishing second for the night on cable behind The O’Reilly Factor. It was the highest rated episode of the show since April. For a comparison, the November average, not including Thanksgiving, was a 1.59 rating and 2,210,000 viewers, so the network change gave the show a 25 percent boost. A huge difference with Syfy is that far more watched live, as the breakdown was 93.4% live and 6.6% delayed, as compared with Raw three days earlier being a 90.8% and 9.2% split.

The show handily beat the NBA on TNT (Celtics vs. Bulls at 1,393,000 viewers) and College basketball on ESPN (North Carolina State vs. Louisville at 647,000 viewers).

The show did a higher than usual female skew, with 59% of the viewers being male. The show did a 0.81 among teenagers, 0.75 in 18-34, 0.95 in 35-49 and 1.14 in 50+.

UFC Tonight on 1/6 did 58,000 viewers, much lower than usual.

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1/5 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Angelito & Mini Fantasy b Nitrito & Universito 2000, Akuma & Artillero & Espanto Jr. b Flyer & Robin & Star Jr., Amapola & Seductora & Zeuxis b Estrellita & Princesa Sugei & Vaquerita, Guerrero Maya Jr. b Sagrado, Puma King won Block A of the Copa Juniors over Blue Panther Jr., El Hijo del Signo, Magnus, Cuatrero, Oro Jr., Escandalo and Hombre Bala Jr., Kraneo & Niebla Roja & Ripper b Marco Corleone & Maximo Sexy & Stuka Jr.

1/6 Bethlehem, PA (TNA Impact TV tapings - 300): Rockstar Spud & Grado b Mahabali Shera & Aiden O’Shea, Jeff Hardy b Shynron, Street fight: Awesome Kong & Jade b Velvet Sky & Madison Rayne, King of the Mountain title: Eric Young b Bobby Roode, Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards & Tigre Uno b Jessie Godderz & DJ Zema Ion & Eli Drake, Kurt Angle b Drew Galloway, Mike Bennett b Mandrews, Eric Young b Chris Melendez, Jessie Godderz b Robbie E, Ken Anderson b Bram

1/7 Winter Park, FL (WWE NXT TV tapings - 400 sellout): Becky Lynch b Natalya, Big Show b Heath Slater, Tommaso Ciampa b Danny Burch, Non-title: Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder b The Ascension, Elias Sampson b Corey Hollis, Carmella won Battle Royal, Sami Zayn b Adam Rose, Apollo Crews b Tye Dillinger, Baron Corbin b Rich Swann, Carmella & Bayley b Emma & Alexa Bliss, Samoa Joe b Johnny Gargano, Chad Gable & Jason Jordan b Blake & Murphy, Nia Jax b Liv Morgan, Alex Riley b Bull Dempsey, Elias Sampson b John Skyler, Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe co-won three-way over Baron Corbin, Aiden English & Simon Gotch b Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder, Carmella b Emma, Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady b ?, Asuka b Santana Garrett, Non-title: Finn Balor b Apollo Crews

1/7 Bethlehem, PA (TNA Impact TV tapings - 300): Jade b Chelsea, Jeff Hardy b Tyrus-DQ, Knockouts title: Gail Kim b Awesome Kong, Bobby Roode & James Storm b Eli Drake & Jessie Godderz, Mike Bennett b Pepper Parks, King of the Mountain title: Ken Anderson b Eric Young-DQ, Velvet Sky & Madison Rayne b Marti Belle & Jade, Ethan Carter III DCOR Matt Hardy, Drew Galloway b Eli Drake, Bobby Lashley b Mahabali Shera, Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards b Abyss & Crazzy Steve, Eric Young & Bram b Trevor Lee & DJ Zema Ion, Mandrews & Tigre Uno b Robbie E & Jessie Godderz

1/8 Houston (WWE - 7,000): Chris Jericho b Alberto Del Rio, Titus O’Neil b Stardust, Ryback b Rusev, R-Truth b Heath Slater, Kalisto & Torito b Los Matadores, Brock Lesnar b Sheamus, Summer Rae ref: Brie Bella b Tamina, Dolph Ziggler b Tyler Breeze, Street fight for IC title: Dean Ambrose b Kevin Owens

1/8 Tampa (WWE NXT - 550 sellout): Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder b Marcus Louis & Sawyer Fulton, Elias Samson b Rich Swann, Eva Marie & Alexa Bliss & Peyton Royce b Liv Morgan & Aliyah & Adrienne Reese, Manny Andrade b Riddick Moss, Jason Jordan & Chad Gable & Apollo Crews b Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder & Angelo Dawkins, Baron Corbin b Alex Riley, Asuka b Billie Kay, Finn Balor & Bull Dempsey b Tye Dillinger & Tino Sabatelli

1/8 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 4,500): Camorra & Espiritu Negro b Bengala & Leono, Canelo Casas & Okumura & Virus b Esfinge & Pegasso & Stigma, Dallys b Silueta, La Mascara & Marco Corleone & Maximo Sexy b Kamaitachi & Mr. Niebla & Negro Casas, Dragon Rojo Jr. & Polvora & Thunder b Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia, Cibernetico & Volador Jr. b Rush & Caristico

1/9 Montgomery, AL (WWE - 2,800): Luke Harper & Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman b Dudleys & Tommy Dreamer, Goldust & Fandango b The Ascension, Divas title: Charlotte b Becky Lynch, Kane b Bray Wyatt, Neville b Bo Dallas, Jack Swagger b Bo Dallas, Tag titles: Big E & Xavier Woods b Usos, WWE title: Roman Reigns b Sheamus

1/9 Bossier City, LA (WWE - 3,500): Chris Jericho b Alberto Del Rio, Titus O’Neil b Stardust, R-Truth b Heath Slater, Kalisto & Torito b Los Matadores, Dolph Ziggler b Tyler Breeze, Summer Rae ref: Brie Bella b Tamina, Ryback b Rusev, IC title: Dean Ambrose b Kevin Owens

1/9 Concord, NC (ROH TV tapings - 800): Brian Fury b Shaheem Ali, Cedric Alexander b Cheeseburger, Jonathan Gresham b Cedric Alexander-DQ, Jay Briscoe won three-way over Michael Elgin and Moose, TV title: Roderick Strong b Masada, Punisher Martinez b Colby Corino, Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly b Jay Lethal & Adam Cole, Alex Shelley b Frankie Kazarian, Dalton Castle b Joey Daddiego, Ben Ortiz b Leon St. Giovanni, Tag titles: Rhett Titus & Kenny King b Ray Rowe & Hanson-DQ, Lio Rush b Jason Kincaid, Caprice Coleman & Will Ferrara b Silas Young & Beer City Bruiser, Mark Briscoe b Tim Hughes, Matt Sydal & ACH b Young Bucks

1/9 Bethlehem, PA (TNA Impact TV tapings - 250): X title: Tigre Uno won three-way over Mandrews and D.J. Zema Ion, Grado, Drew Galloway, Eli Drake and James Storm won briefcases in Feast or Fired Battle Royal, Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards NC Crazzy Steve & Abyss, Awesome Kong b Velvet Sky, Bobby Lashley b Aiden O’Shea, X title: Trevor Lee b Tigre Uno to win title, Drew Galloway NC Tyrus, Hardcore match: Abyss & Crazzy Steve & Eric Young & Bram b Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards, TNA title: Matt Hardy b Kurt Angle

1/9 Citrus Springs, FL (WWE NXT - 250): Rich Swann b Chris Gerard, Elias Samson b Steve Cutler, Emma & Eva Marie & Billie Kay b Liv Morgan & Adrien Reese & Carmella, Tye Dillinger b Levis Valenzuela Jr., Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder won three-way over Blake & Murphy and Tucker Knight & Hugo Knox, Apollo Crews b Alex Riley, Womens’ title: Bayley b Peyton Royce, Finn Balor & Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady b Tino Sabatelli & Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder

1/9 Kyoto (Dragon Gate - 850 sellout): Yosuke Santa Maria b Kzy, Gamma & Lindaman & Takehiro Yamamura b Cima & Eita & Kaito Ishida, Don Fujii b Mondai Ryu, Dragon Kid b Punch Tominaga, Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kanda b Cyber Kong & Naoki Tanizaki, Ryo Saito & Genki Horiguchi b Masaaki Mochizuki & Big R Shimizu, Shingo Takagi & Naruki Doi & Yamato & Kotoka b Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk & Shachihoko Boy, Shingo Takagi & Naruki Doi & Yamato & Kotoka b Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk & Shachihoko Boy

1/9 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,384): Akitoshi Saito & Genba Hirayanagi b Quiet Storm & Kaito Kiyomia, Kenou & Hajime Ohara & Mitsuhiro Kitamiya b Taiji Ishimori & Yoshinari Ogawa & Hitoshi Kumano, Daisuke Harada b Taka Michinoku, Taichi b Atsushi Kotoge, Mohammed Yone & Katsuhiko Nakajima & Yoshihiro Takayama b Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Takashi Iizuka, Go Shiozaki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru b Shelton Benjamin & Desperado, Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Sugiura b Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi

1/9 Ina (All Japan - 590): Ramenman & Yosshi & Yarukikki b Super Crazy & Ninjiyaribanban & Yotchan, Garyo Kid & Jigokudani Ponta b Ittetsu Ganko & Shinshu Beef Orya, Yohei Nakajima & Nobuichi Nakano b Masa Fuchi & Keiichi Sato, Zeus won three-way over Takao Omori and Sushi, Jake Lee b Naoya Nomura, Kento Miyahara b Hikaru Sato, Suwama & Atsushi Aoki b Jun Akiyama & Yuma Aoyagi

1/9 Bayamon, PR (WWC): Jr. Title: Tommy Diablo b Peter the Bad Romance to win title, Tag titles: La Revolucion #2 & #3 won over Thunder & Lightning and Sons of Samoa (Afa Jr/Manu & L.A. Smooth), Sensacional Carlitos b Chicano, Chain match: Black Pain b Mighty Ursus, Street fight: Ray Gonzalez b El Hijo de Dos Caras, Universal title TLC match: Mr. 450 Hammet b Sensacional Carlitos

1/10 Mobile, AL (WWE - 2,000): Luke Harper & Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman b Dudleys & Tommy Dreamer, Jack Swagger b Bo Dallas, Fandango & Goldust b The Ascension, Divas title: Charlotte b Becky Lynch, Kane b Bray Wyatt, Neville b Adam Rose, Tag titles: Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods b Usos, WWE title: Roman Reigns b Sheamus

1/10 Monroe, LA (WWE - 3,000): Chris Jericho b Alberto Del Rio, Titus O’Neil b Stardust, R-Truth b Heath Slater, Ryback b Heath Slater, Dolph Ziggler b Tyler Breeze, Summer Rae ref: Brie Bella b Tamina, Kalisto & Torito b Los Matadores, IC title: Dean Ambrose b Kevin Owens

1/10 Mexico City Arena Mexico (Lucha Libre Elite): Lluvia & Silueta b Seductora & Tiffany, Fuego & Pegasso b Eterno & Fresero Jr., Guerrero Maya Jr. & Rey Cometa b Argos & Dr. Karonte Jr.-DQ, Blue Panther & Valiente b Damian 666 & Bestia 666, Angel de Oro & Golden Magic & Super Crazy b Felino & Tiger & Puma King,. Canek & Octagon & Caristico b Volador Jr. & Cibernetico & Fuerza Guerrera

1/10 Kyoto (Dragon Gate - 850 sellout): Yosuke Santa Maria b U-T, Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy Kanda b Takehiro Yamamura & Kaito Ishida, Don Fujii b Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa, T-Hawk b Lindaman, Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa b Cima & Eita, Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito b Gamma & Punch Tominaga, Shingo Takagi & Naruki Doi & Yamato & Kotoka b Masaaki Mochizuki & Dragon Kid & Kzy & Big R Shimizu

1/10 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Wrestle 1 - 1,119): Shuji Kondo b Daiki Inaba, Ryota Hama & Hideyoshi Kamitani b Masayuki Kono & Toshiyuki Sakuda, Minoru Tanaka & Tajiri & Kaz Hayashi b Jiro Kuroshio & Yasufumi Nakanoue & Yuya Susumu, AKIRA & Jun Kasai & Kumagoro b Kai & Shota & Masayuki Mitomi, Cruiserweight title: Hiroshi Yamato b Andy Wu to win title, Keiji Muto & Akebono & Seiya Sanada b Kazma Sakamoto & Nosawa & Mazada, Wrestle-1 title: Yuji Hino b Manabu Soya to win title

1/10 Kawaguchi (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 211 sellout): Akitoshi Saito b Kaito Kiyomiya, Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge b Yoshinari Ogawa & Genba Hirayanagi, Kenou & Hajime Ohara b Taiji Ishimori & Hitoshi Kumano, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Desperado b Mohammed Yone & Katsuhiko Nakajima & Quiet Storm, Minoru Suzuki & Taichi b Go Shiozaki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Takashi Sugiura & Takashi Iizuka & Shelton Benjamin b Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi & Mitsuhiro Kitamiya

1/10 Yodogawa (All Japan - 650 ): Shigehiro Irie b Keiichi Sato, Takao Omori won three-way over Yohei Nakajima and Masa Fuchi, Super Strong Fuji d Strong Juason, Naoya Nomura & Codename G b Sushi & Kushinbo Kamen, Kento Miyahara & Jake Lee b Jun Akiyama & Yuma Aoyagi, Zeus & The Bodyguard & Billyken Kid b Suwama & Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato

1/11 New Orleans (WWE Raw/Superstars TV tapings - 9,000): Dudleys b The Ascension, Jack Swagger b Tyler Breeze, Sheamus DCOR Dolph Ziggler, Titus O’Neil b Stardust, Non-title: Usos b Big E & Kofi Kingston, Bray Wyatt & Braun Strowman & Luke Harper & Erick Rowan NC Heath Slater & Curtis Axel & Adam Rose & & Bo Dallas, U.S. title: Kalisto b Alberto Del Rio to win title, Non-title: Roman Reigns NC Kevin Owens

1/11 Tuxtla Gutierrez (AAA - 7,000): Mini Drago & Mini Psycho Clown b Mini Abismo Negro & Mini Psicosis, Nino Hamburguesa & Pimpinela Escarlata b Gran Apache & Polvo de Estrellas, Super Chente won Copa San Andres 2016 over Australian Suicide, Bengala and El Hijo de Pirata Morgan, Dr. Wagner Jr. & Psycho Clown & Villano IV b Averno & Chessman & Parka Negra

1/11 Kobe (Dragon Gate - 1,000 sellout): Mondai Ryu b Shachihoko Boy, Cima & Gamma & Takehiro Yamamura b Masaaki Mochizuki & Dragon Kid & U-T, Naoki Tanizaki b Lindaman, Don Fujii & Yosuke Santa Maria b Eita & Kaito Ishida, Akira Tozawa b Punch Tominaga, Masato Yoshino & T-Hawk b Kzy & Big R Shimizu, Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito & Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy Kanda b Shingo Takagi & Naruki Doi & Yamato & Kotoka

1/11 Toyohashi (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 168): Hitoshi Kumano b Kaito Kiyomiya, Yoshinari Ogawa b Quiet Storm, Kenou & Hajime Ohara & Akitoshi Saito b Taiji Ishimori & Genba Hirayanagi & Captain NOAH, Maybach Taniguchi & Atsushi Kotoge b Takashi Iizuka & Desperado, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Shelton Benjamin b Mohammed Yone & Katsuhiko Nakajima & Mitsuhiro Kitamiya, Go Shiozaki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru b Minoru Suzuki & Taka Michinoku, Takashi Sugiura & Taichi b Naomichi Marufuji & Daisuke Harada

1/12 Lafayette, LA (WWE Smackdown/Main Event TV tapings): Los Matadores b Luke Hawx & Matt Lancie, Stardust b Fandango, Alicia Fox b Tamina, Mark Henry & Jack Swagger b The Ascension, Tables match: Dudleys b Erick Rowan & Luke Harper, Curtis Axel & Adam Rose & Bo Dallas & Heath Slater b Zack Ryder & Jack Swagger & Goldust & Damien Sandow, U.S. title: Alberto Del Rio b Kalisto to win title, Becky Lynch b Brie Bella, Dean Ambrose & Neville NC Sheamus & Kevin Owens


There was a bomb threat on 1/8 at Arena Mexico, which caused the building to be evacuated and searched, and traffic not allowed near the building. After finding no bomb, people were allowed back in.

As far as the show that night, before about 4,500 fans, they had a main event that only went 6:35, with Cibernetico & Volador Jr. beating Rush & Caristico in two straight falls when Rush turned on Caristico and laid him out with his Rush driver. As soon as the match started, Rush never helped out Caristico rather than turned on him after doing a match together. The way they did it makes a lot more sense. Both Cibernetico and Caristico issued challenges for singles matches with Rush afterwards. Originally, the 1/15 card was announced as Rush vs. Cibernetico in a first-time-ever meeting, but Cibernetico had already been booked that night on a show in Texas, so instead it’ll be the first Rush vs. Caristico match as the main event. The other big match on 1/8 saw Dragon Rojo Jr. & Polvora (replacing Rey Escorpion, who is living in the U.S. and hasn’t returned) & Thunder beating Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia. They are turning the heat back up on Ultimo vs. Thunder, as Thunder knocked him out with Brass Knux, and then gave Euforia a low blow for the pin. Ultimo went out on a stretcher, since he’s going to Japan. Euforia challenged Thunder to a singles match. The semi on 1/15 is Rojo Jr. & Polvora & Thunder vs. Gran Guerrero & Euforia & Niebla Roja, as Ultimo, and a lot of the top guys, are headed to Japan for Fantastica Mania.

Ultimo Guerrero said that there are still plans for him to do a hair vs. mask with Thunder. That was first talked about for September, and then for 1/1, but the promotion dropped the plans both times.

The return of Canek to Arena Mexico on the 1/10 LLE show was Canek & Caristico & Octagon win the main event over Volador Jr. & Cibernetico & Fuerza Guerrera when Canek pinned Cibernetico after a senton. I know the faces have to go over and the show was built around Canek’s return, but he’s 63, and he’s pinning a regular main eventer who is on most of the Sunday shows. Unlike the big crowd drawn by the Rayo de Jalisco Jr. 40th anniversary match (which also included the return of Cien Caras, Mascara Ano 2000 and Universo 2000), this show didn’t draw well, with less than 4,000 fans. You can’t expect to draw with weekly nostalgia, and Canek works all the time on small shows in the area. Those who were there gave him a big reaction. He was moving every slow but he stayed out of the ring most of the match. There is at least talk of doing the 80s dream team of Canek & Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras one last time.

Puma King won the A block in the Copa Juniors, the tournament for second generation wrestlers), beating Blue Panther Jr., in the finals on the 1/5 show at Arena Mexico. The others in the block were El Hijo del Signo, Magnus, Cuatrero, Oro Jr., Escandalo and Hombre Bala Jr.

It’s notable the very different reaction to La Sombra’s NXT debut this past week and when Sin Cara started. Lots of wrestlers sent him congratulations messages. Everyone is hoping he does well. Most of the wrestlers here didn’t seem to care if Sin Cara succeeded or not. Sombra is a lot better liked, but there is also the hope that if he does well, it’ll open the doors to WWE bringing in more Mexican stars who are good wrestlers. From the WWE standpoint, Sombra is working hard at English, something the first Sin Cara never did.


Hugo Savinovich did an interview saying he had just finished doing a pilot of an English language television show with ESPN Chicago anchor and boxing and MMA broadcaster Ray Flores. We’re told it wasn’t a pilot, but a screen test for a proposed show that was talked about in last week’s issue. But Savinovich and Konnan were given screen tests working with Flores. Savinovich said the name of the show would be AAA World Wide and would be a weekly show. At this point the show hasn’t been sold, although we’re told there have been positive talks.

Business was good this past week as they had a big crowd on 1/6 in Chilpancingo for a show they sold to the local government, which then let locals in free, and did a sellout in a 3,000 seat building on 1/8 in Tehuacan and a nearly sellout of 2,500 the next night at Arena Neza, as well as 7,000 fans at the baseball stadium in Tuxtla Gutierrez on 1/11.

Psycho Clown’s wife is about to give birth which would unite two of the most famous families in modern pro wrestling history. Psycho Clown is the son of Brazo de Plata from the gigantic Alvarado (Brazos) wrestling family that includes La Mascara (his cousin), Maximo (his brother) and Goya Kong (his sister). Psycho’s wife is the daughter of Negro Casas, so their child will be the grandson and a member of the Casas family, which includes Puma, Tiger, Felino and Heavy Metal.

Chris Masters sent out a Tweet regarding an injury he suffered while working here in November. “Thanks to Lucha Libre AAA for help with my MRI, surgery and now rehab. World Class organization. Your silence speaks volumes.”


They had their first Korakuen Hall show of the year on 1/10 and drew 1,119 fans based on a trios match where Keiji Muto & Akebono & Seiya Sanada beat Kazma Sakamoto & Mazada & Nosawa. Muto, in a rare appearance (he was down to 15 matches in Japan last year and the one TNA match), pinned Nosawa with the shining wizard. The storyline is that Muto was trying to bring Sanada back to Wrestle-1, since the original idea was to send Sanada to TNA, have him protected and booked as a star, and then to return here and be the company’s top star. Things didn’t work out so well in TNA and as the TNA/Wrestle-1 relationship started to crumble, Sanada was fired. Sanada said that he wanted to continue as a free agent. They had two title changes, as Yuji Hino won the heavyweight title from Manabu Soya and Hiroshi Yamato won the cruiserweight title from Andy Wu. Minoru Tanaka will get the next heavyweight title shot. In a surprise, Kotaro Suzuki, who had left All Japan due to their financial problems, showed up here and challenged Yamato for the cruiserweight belt.


The new year opened with sold out shows no 1/9 and 1/10 in Kyoto before 850 fans at KBS Hall. The main event was Verserk vs. Monster Express with Shingo Takagi & Naruki Doi & Yamato & Kotoka beating Masato Yoshino & Akira Tozawa & T-Hawk & Shachihoko Boy in 3:41 when Takagi pinned Boy. With such a short main event, they issued challenges and had an immediate match which the same team won in 12:15. A notable undercard result saw rookie Takehiro Yamamura in a six-man tag get a clean pin over Cima.


Just one week after winning the Triple Crown, Suwama suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon, which is an injury that has a long recuperation time, perhaps as much as a year (six months to nine months is the usual time out with that injury, although unlike football players where explosive speed is necessary and this can end an effective career, most wrestlers can make full comebacks from this injury), so he’ll have to vacate the title. Kento Miyahara will face Zeus on 2/12 at Korakuen Hall to determine the next champion.

Atsushi Aoki was named the President of Talent Relations for the promotion and Takao Omori was appointed to the Board of Directors.

One of Aoki’s first moves is to work more closely with Big Japan. Aoki and Big Japan president Eiji Tosaka announced a regular series of joint shows to showcase younger wrestlers from both groups against each other. The plan is to do these shows about every other month, with the first show on 1/18 in Shinkiba in Tokyo, which will also include Seiya Sanada (a free agent) and Yasufumi Nakanoue (of Wrestle-1).


The first show of the year was on 1/9 at Korakuen Hall, featuring Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Sugiura forming a heel tag team for the first time, beating Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi in the main event when Sugiura pinned Taniguchi in 19:14. After the match, Go Shiozaki came out and confronted Sugiura for joining Suzuki-gun. Yoshinobu Kanemaru returned to the promotion teaming with Shiozaki to beat Shelton Benjamin & Desperado when Kanemaru pinned Desperado after a brainbuster. The other big match saw Mohammed Yone & Katsuhiko Nakajima, who are going after the GHC tag titles, team with Yoshihiro Takayama to beat Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Takashi Iizuka when Nakajima pinned Archer after a huracanrana.

The first major show is 1/31 at the Yokohama Bunka Gym has Marufuji vs. Sugiura for the GHC title, Suzuki vs. Shiozaki, Smith Jr. & Archer defending the GHC tag titles against Yone & Nakajima, Taiji Ishimori vs. Kenou for the GHC jr. title, Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge defend the GHC jr. tag titles against Taka Michinoku & Taichi, Taniguchi vs. Iizuka, Benjamin vs. Mitsuhiro Kitamiya, Desperado vs. Kanemaru, and Yoshihiro Takayama & Quiet Storm & Hajime Ohara & Genba Hirayanagi vs. Yoshinari Ogawa & Akitoshi Saito & Hitoshi Kumano & Kaito Kiyomiya.


Rocky Romero decided to stay with New Japan. It’s been reported that he signed a two-year contract. The direct word we got is only that he has committed to stay two at least two more years. He had been at least up for a job as a player/coach at NXT. Bad Luck Fale has signed a new contract as well. Tama Tonga was claiming at press time that he was still a free agent. Fale likes living in New Zealand, which wouldn’t be possible working for WWE, but is, working for New Japan.

Fale wrote about his decision: “There has been a lot of speculation about my future. I have had offers from all corners, and a lot of people telling me what to do. But as always, I’ve always blocked out outside voices and stayed true to myself. I am someone who stays true to myself. I believe in integrity, honesty and loyalty. And it’s those principles that have swayed my decision. I will stay with NJPW because they believed in me when I was nobody. That means more than anything materialistic. I look forward to the future and appreciate the opportunity I have v had and that I have been given.”

More than one wrestler who worked the Tokyo Dome show commented to us (or through others) that they thought the Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada match was the best live match they’d ever seen. Matt Striker on the broadcast the next day said that he’s been watching wrestling since the age of seven, and said it was one of the ten best matches he’d ever seen, live or on tape. I never got the feeling it was the greatest match I’d ever seen in my life, but there was not even a slight doubt in my mind it was a ***** match. I wasn’t even sure it was better than the Tanahashi vs. Nakamura G-1 final match, although it was in the same league.

A correction from the Tokyo Dome report from last week: The Young Bucks were playing the theme from “The Terminator” on the garbage can during the Kenny Omega vs. Kushida match because the Terminator series is huge in Japan.


Atsushi Sawada suffered a bad left orbital bone fracture from a kick by Kazuyuki Fujita in their New Year’s Eve singles match at the IGF show at Sumo Hall.

Yoshiko, the former Stardom star who was fired after shooting on Act Yasukawa and damaging her already bad eye, which led to Yasukawa having to retire, had her first match since being fired on 1/11 for the SeadLinning promotion. SeadLinning (Pronounced Seed Ring) is run by former All Japan women wrestler Nanae Takahashi, who originally trained Yoshiko, and was a founder of Stardom until she left the company last year over internal disagreements and started her new group. Meiko Satomura, who headlined the first SeadLinning show, was publicly furious when this news got out and has suggested a boycott of the promotion, which has gotten mainstream press in Japan.


A.J. Styles did one of his last U.S. indie shows, at least as things stand, on 1/9 in Barnesville, GA for Doc Gallows’ WrestleMerica promotion, before 700 fans, a number much larger than usual. Styles was to face Jimmy Rave in the main event. The match only went 3:58 before Sal Rinauro interfered. This led to Gallows making the save. Gallows had beaten Rinauro via DQ earlier when Rave interfered. This turned into a tag match with Styles & Gallows beating Rave & Rinauro. They brawled all over the building for 11:56 when Gallows used the Gallows pole (tree slam) on Rinauro and Styles used a Styles clash off the ropes for the pin. The last few minutes were real good. At one point Rinauro landed badly on Styles’ neck. The show was a TV taping for TV in Barnesville and Columbus, GA. Former WCW voice Scott Hudson and his Steven Prazak worked as announcers.

Styles has shows between 1/13 and 1/16 in England with singles matches with Rey Mysterio Jr., Zack Sabre Jr., Jay Lethal and Johnny Mundo, which on paper sounds tougher than a G-1 week.

PWG will be doing a double shot on 3/4 and 3/5. Once again they are going head-to-head with a UFC show in Las Vegas, but only on the second night, but it’s also a Conor McGregor weekend.

Willie Farkus, better known as Wolfman Willie Farkas, passed away on 1/10 at his home in Toronto. He was 80. According to an article by Greg Oliver, Farkus lived next door to what used to be Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, where he performed for years as a mid-card wrestler. Billed from “The Wilds of the Yukon,” The Wolfman with his long wild hair and beard, trying to look like a Caveman, was at times billed as a guy who lived in the wilderness as a child and was raised by wolves. He was actually from Hungary, and fled the country in 1956 to escape communism, and ended up in Toronto. He ended up taking a job in Calgary, where he got into a bar fight and spent 18 months in jail, and spent the time training like crazy. He then met Stu Hart, who wanted to start him in wrestling, but he ended up moving back to Toronto. In Toronto, he met Mike Scicluna, better known as Baron Mikel Scicluna, and started training wrestling with him. He trained at the start with Wally Seiber, who became Waldo Von Erich, and Dave McKigney, who became the Bearman. He wrestled in Canada starting around 1964, and came to the WWWF in 1970 and 1971 where he got some shots with Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF title. He had a 1975 run as a mid-card heel managed by Fred Blassie and worked a lot in Toronto as a regular as McKigney’s independent shows through the mid-80s.

We’re told that the National Wrestling Hall of Fame induction ceremony that was scheduled for 7/16 in Waterloo, IA, will have a date change. That’s the Hall of Fame ceremony that has announced myself getting the Jim Melby Award and Chael Sonnen getting the George Tragos award for this year. The new date is not official, but is likely for another Saturday in July.

Smoke DZA and Wale have released a new single called “Absolutely Perfect,” which was a tribute to Curt Hennig.

Global Force Wrestling announced lineups for its two January cards. They are running on their own on 1/22 in Poughkeepsie, NY at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, maybe the best building in the country for indies to be able to draw, with Nick Aldis vs. Bobby Roode for the GFW title, Sonjay Dutt vs. Jigsaw for the Nex Gen title, Christina Von Eerie defending the women’s title against Mickie James, Kimber Lee and Deonna Purrazzo, Jeff Jarrett (who is now wrestling on his own shows) vs. Colt Cabana, Kevin Matthews & Pat Buck & Amazing Red vs. Trevor Lee & Andrew Everett & Brian Myers and a few others. The next night they are in Rahway, NJ at the Rec Center built around Pro Wrestling Syndicate, the promotion that usually runs the building, against GFW. Aldis facing PWS champion Mike MacIntosh in the main event, Dutt faces Fallah Bahh, Dan Maff faces Roode and Raven will be on the show. Aldis is coming back quickly, maybe rushing things after surgery to repair a biceps brachialis tear. Jarrett also announced shows on 3/2 in Exeter, England at the Exeter Corn Exchange, 3/3 in London at Epic, Dalston and 3/4 in Coventry at the Sports Connexion.

Nikita Koloff, 56, who was born Scott Simpson but legally changed his name decades ago, was married for a third time on 1/9 to Shelly Wood, a realtor who lives in Arroyo Grande, CA.

I’m not sure what this means, but last week Twitter alerted me that I’ve not broken into the top 20 (at No. 18) for most Twitter followers for an individual who resides in San Jose. What makes that notable is that of the 17 ahead, I know at least three of them (Mike Swick, who lives in Thailand, It’s Bayley, who lives in Florida and Cain Velasquez, who lives in Morgan Hill) don’t even live in San Jose. To show how pro wrestling and MMA are so over represented on Twitter compared to not just sports but real life at large, six of the top 18 in San Jose (Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, It’s Bayley, Ruslan Magomedov, Swick and me) come from either MMA or pro wrestling. MMA is far from that big of a deal here compared to business, other forms of entertainment, and it pales in interest in comparison to sports like football (49ers play just outside city limits), baseball, basketball and hockey.

Paragon Pro Wrestling from Las Vegas, which lost its spot on Pop TV when they signed up with TNA, will start on MSG Cable on 1/16 in a Saturday at 5 a.m. Eastern time slot. The company had previously announced starting on MARKT, a Dish Network exclusive channel, but that deal fell through.

Tammy Sytch, 43, entered into a plea bargain related to a DUI arrest on 5/30 in Mahoning Township in , Pennsylvania, as well as a 6/1 arrest and an arrest stemming from a 6/20 car crash. Her sentencing date is 1/29.

There is a major Crockett nostalgia show scheduled for 2/27 in Spartanburg at the Memorial Auditorium, a regular stop as well as a TV taping location. Top matches are the Rock & Roll Express vs. Warlord & Barbarian, managed by Jim Cornette, ina cage match, plus Cornette vs. Baby Doll in a rematch of their 1986 Great American Bash series, plus Scott Steiner, Road Warrior Animal, Matt Hardy, Lex Luger and Billy Gunn appearing.

WWC ran its Euphoria show on 1/9 in Bayamon. Sensacional Carlitos beat Chicano earlier in the show to become the top contender for the Universal title. Mr. 450 Hammet then retained the title in a TLC match over Carlitos. Hammet suffered a legit knee injury during the match. El Hijo de Dos Caras (Guillermo Rodriguez), the younger brother of Alberto Del Rio, lost a street fight to Ray Gonzalez.

Blaine Anderson, a 170-pound junior defensive back on the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide football team, who was on the scout team but did suit up for the national championship game, is the grandson of Gene Anderson and the son of former pro wrestler Brad Anderson (who also wrestled as Agent Steel and Zan Panzer as a Crockett/WCW prelim guy from 1987 to 1994 and did some matches here and there through at least 2009 in the Carolinas).


They signed a TV deal for Canada for season two with TLN, the Telelatino Network, which will air the English language version of the show on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. Eastern. This would be the show that airs the prior Wednesday on El Rey, so the debut in Canada is 1/31 after the 1/27 start of the season.

At this point they still haven’t announced Unimas or any Spanish language broadcast partner. As noted in the early tapings, there was no Spanish announcing team doing live commentary as there was in season one.

They are doing a three-show taping, which I believe will be the second Ultima Lucha, on 1/31 in Boyle Heights, and the end of season two.

A lot of the talent has been posting or making inquiries about weekend booking dates in both February and March, which indicates no tapings during those months. February was always expected like that but originally the word was season three would start filming in March. The only dates after the end of January confirmed are the first weekend in April house show or shows in Texas.

They taped on both 1/9 and 1/10. We don’t have a lot of details on what happened but Matanza Cueto (Jeff Cobb) did wrestle as champion after suffering a partial MCL tear at the last set of tapings. He defended his title in a casket match, which I believe was called a Grave Consequences match, with Mil Muertes. The only thing we heard is that Muertes bled like crazy in the match.

Prince Puma (Ricochet) & Rey Mysterio Jr. & Dragon Azteca Jr. (Rey Horus) captured the trios titles from Ivelisse & Son of Havoc & Johnny Mundo (who replaced the injured Angelico in the match). One report had them winning it just like that but I believe it was a four-team match and one of the other two teams was PJ Black & Jack Evans & Fenix.

On 1/9, they also taped a Fenix vs. Evans singles match that was said to be really good and will be an “Internet exclusive” match.

Among the names debuting at the taping were Paul London, Sami Callihan, Flamita and Tessa Blanchard. London was helping people lay out matches as an agent and didn’t wrestle. Callihan did a tryout match, a three-way, that involved Flamita (using his AAA name Fireball, and this was his first match ever in the U.S.) and King Cuerno. It was said that Callihan didn’t show his best because he wasn’t used to working with Luchadores. Blanchard also had a tryout dark match with Ivelisse, which didn’t go well, and then she was injured, with preliminary indications it was either a broken collarbone or a broken arm, on 1/9. She had her arm in a sling and didn’t wrestle the second night. I’m still surprised she wasn’t signed by WWE given her status, that she’s kind of a natural given her ability considering how long she’s been doing it, and is young and very pretty and they are very aware of her (she did some Rose Bud work last year).

A 1/9 Aero Star vs. Drago match for a medallion was taped and will be inserted into a previously taped show to fill time because the Matanza Cueto match at the last taping with Mil Muertes ended early due to Matanza’s legit injury and also it appears they are dropping the Vinny Massaro/Trina Michaels act, where Massaro worked under the name Vincent Kennedy Massaro.

MVP was also backstage but just visiting.

The company was advertising in casting agencies for an 8-to-14 year-old Spanish speaking girl to play a role in the upcoming season.


At the TV tapings on 1/9 in Concord, NC, they set up the top matches for the 2/26 14th anniversary show in Las Vegas at Sam’s Town, as Jay Lethal vs. Kyle O’Reilly vs. Adam Cole for the ROH title, Ray Rowe & Hanson vs. Kenny King & Rhett Titus for the tag team title, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin vs. Mark & Jay Briscoe and Kazuchika Okada vs. Moose. Christopher Daniels vs. Alex Shelley is on the current lineup. It has not been announced and I was told it could change. The original plan was Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dalton Castle, which was to be a major match for Castle. He could have had a super spectacle of a match with Nakamura. Even though he’d almost surely lose, he could come out of it with people taking him as a top guy instead of a very entertaining underneath guy.

The main event finish may still be dependent on contracts being signed. As of early this week, neither O’Reilly nor Fish had signed a new deal, although it is most likely that they are staying for the combination of ROH & New Japan (an alliance that is helping ROH a lot when it comes to keeping talent).

There will be two new additions to be announced shortly from New Japan to make up for Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows being off the show. I believe one of them will be Hirooki Goto.

I was told pretty much the entire show had to be redone due to the three not being there.

Tomohiro Ishii’s U.S. debut will be on the show. At one point they were looking at Ishii vs. Elgin in a rematch of their great G-1 match.

WWE was very specific that they didn’t want A.J. Styles, Nakamura, Anderson or Gallows to work for ROH going forward, although didn’t go so far as to tell Anderson & Gallows to stiff ROH on the January dates already announced. It had not been announced yet that Anderson & Gallows were scheduled for the Anniversary PPV and TV tapings as part of the New Japan contingent, although Nakamura had been advertised. Styles had already asked off future ROH dates before going to Japan and giving notice.

Matt Taven’s knee injury from Final Battle ended up being worse than was let on. He had surgery on his left knee on 1/12 for as torn ACL, a ruptured lateral meniscus and a torn medial meniscus. We had first heard, and this was also confirmed by ROH, that he was going to at first have a surgery for the torn MCL, and then need the ACL surgery after he recovered from the first surgery. Dr. Andreas Gomoil, who did the surgery, was able to repair both together in a four-and-a-half hour operation and said, “I have never seen a meniscus rupture this bad in my medical career. It’s totally befuddling to me that he was able to continue the match.” Gomoil targeted nine months to one year before Taven would be able to return. Taven was injured coming off the middle rope to the floor in delivering a spike piledriver to Ray Rowe at Final Battle on 12/18 in Philadelphia.

Anderson & Gallows will be working the main event on 1/15 in Indianapolis in a Bullet Club (Anderson & Gallows & Young Bucks) vs. champions (heavyweight champ Jay Lethal, TV champ Roderick Strong and tag champs War Machine) match. Roderick Strong defends the TV title against Curry Man (Christopher Daniels under a mask using his Japanese gimmick), plus they also have Alex Shelley vs. Cole, Frankie Kazarian & Chris Sabin vs. Fish & O’Reilly, Moose vs. Silas Young and Will Ferrara vs. Castle. They also run 1/16 in Collinsville, IL, just outside St. Louis, with ACH & Shelley vs. Young Bucks, Moose vs. Cole, Briscoes vs. Young & Beer City Bruiser, Delirious vs. Castle, Titus & King vs. Fish & O’Reilly, Rowe & Hanson vs. Kazarian & Sabin non-title, Elgin vs. Adam Page and Strong defending the TV title against a mystery opponent.

For 1/22 in Fletcher, NC (Asheville area) they have Bucks & Anderson & Gallows vs. Lethal & Strong & Rowe & Hanson, plus Briscoes vs. Shelley & Sydal and Veda Scott vs. Amber Gallows.

Announced for 1/23 in Duluth, GA (Atlanta) is Lethal vs. Matt-o Jackson for the ROH title, Hanson & Rowe defending the tag titles against Anderson & Gallows, Roderick Strong vs. Nick Jackson for the TV title and Stevie Richards returns to face Cole.

The Top Prospect tournament continues at the 2/6 tapings in Nashville.

Here are notes from the first show of the year, the 1/9 TV tapings in Concord, NC, with angles to set up the PPV. The show drew a full house of 800 fans. They taped four weeks of television. The first week opened with a Top Prospect tournament match, where Brain Fury pinned Shaheem Ali. Cedric Alexander pinned Cheeseburger. Jonathan Gresham beat Alexander via DQ. Nigel McGuinness came out to announce the three-way PPV main event. First hour main was a three-way with Jay Briscoe winning over Moose and Elgin. Elgin then announced he was bringing in Tanahashi, his regular partner, to face the Briscoes on the PPV. The second show opened with Roderick Strong keeping the TV title over Masada. Another Top Prospect tournament match saw Punisher Martinez beat Colby Corino. The TV main saw Fish & O’Reilly beat Lethal & Cole. Lethal accidentally hit Cole with Lethal injection and this caused Cole to get pinned. The third show opened with Shelley pinning Frankie Kazarian, who had Chris Sabin in his corner. Castle pinned Joey Daddiego. In another Top Prospect tournament first round match, Ben “Action” Ortiz beat Leon St. Giovanni. Stokley Hathaway came out for an interview and said that Moose wanted a shot at Okada. The main event saw King & Titus beat Rowe & Hanson via DQ, in a tag title match, which leads to the rematch on the PPV. The final show opened with Lio Rush in the last first round match of the tournament, pinning Jason Kincaid. Caprice Coleman & Will Ferrara beat Silas Young & Beer City Bruiser. Mark Briscoe pinned Tim Hughes. The final main event saw Matt Sydal & ACH beat The Young Bucks.


Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that James Storm came back because he was offered a two year deal at 250 percent more than WWE offered him. No actual numbers were given past the point that the WWE deal offered was less than $100,000 per year.

TNA is starting to increase money on talent spending and is making offers to talent again as well as looking at resigning talent and upgrading merchandise. We do know that WWE has had contact with some TNA talent whose contracts have expired, but WWE isn’t offering anything money wise. The Storm situation is not unique to Storm but also to others where deals are due coming due and talent would be considering leaving because TNA has the feel of being dead, but TNA’s offers are considerably higher than WWE’s.

Bad news for TNA is that Pop TV was taken off the regular tier by Comcast and moved to a Digital Preferred tier which would require paying extra to get the station.

There have been changes when it comes to production. Previously, TNA hired production people, and were constantly late on paying them, which led to some embarrassing situations when it got public and some excuses as to why that were borderline ridiculous. Now TNA has hired a company, owned by former wrestlers Ron & Don Harris, and they will hire the production people and thus, be required to pay them. There were production people still owed money from TNA before the changeover.

TNA is doing a poll for fans to decide which of three wrestlers they should add to the next set of tapings on 1/29 to 1/31 in the U.K. The choices are Will Ospreay (who should be with WWE or New Japan right now), Jimmy Havoc or Big Damo.

Manik (T.J. Perkins, 31) was let go this past week. He’s been with the company since 2013, coming in as a remake of the Suicide masked character that Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian had both been in the past. Later he changed his name to Manik.

Vince Russo told a story about his TNA run. He blamed Eric Bischoff for his being dumped by TNA years ago. He claimed Bischoff buried him to the Spike executives. What I do know is that the Spike top brass were not fans of Russo. He said that after Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett left TNA, he called Dixie Carter, who put him in touch with John Gaburick. They reached a deal where Russo would be a consultant for creative, but everyone had to swear to not tell anyone and they actually told Russo he had to lie if asked. Russo said he was getting paid $2,000 a month for the gig. Russo said he would suggest things, but since he never went to the shows, a lot of times they didn’t get done. Russo also said that Gaburick didn’t like being challenged. Russo claimed that when he accidentally sent the e-mail to Mike Johnson that was supposed to be to Mike Tenay, which revealed to Johnson that Russo was working for TNA (which many people knew but there was no actual proof and TNA could deny it but at this point they could no longer deny it), that Gaburick saw this as his chance to fire him. Russo claimed Gaburick told him that Scott Fishman of Spike was told he was working for him, so he denied that it being found out was a surprise to Spike. So here is exactly what happened. When Gaburick found out about Mike Johnson getting the e-mail, he panicked and called Russo and was furious because Spike didn’t know and that they were afraid this could cost them Spike. Everyone has denied it, but that is exactly what happened and it was within a week or two that Spike canceled them, which Dixie Carter admitted to a few people in the inner circle even though publicly they denied it to talent and everyone else and acted like they were just doing contract negotiations. Now, Spike very well may have canceled them anyway. The real reason is the show was on the downslide and they were looking at adding programming that would appeal more to women, but it was made very clear to me if TNA’s ratings were what they had been a few years earlier, even with everything that happened, they probably wouldn’t have been canceled. What Gaburick thought of Russo, I don’t know, but after what he did led to that mess, Dixie Carter did tell Gaburick that he could fire him, but if he didn’t do it within 24 hours, then he couldn’t fire him, so I guess he rushed to fire him at that point.

TNA released a video that a new character “Raquel,” is coming in, who is believed to be Gabi Castrovinci from the last season of Tough Enough. Her instragram handle was also just changed 'raqueltna'. At least with WWE when they bring in bikini models, they train them and put them in developmental before getting ready to put them on the main roster. In 2016, what is more behind the curve than hot women who can’t wrestle put in wrestling matches that don’t get over? That era ended years ago. It’s not about signing her, as if they had a developmental program and were doing developmental I can see giving her a try because she has a look and is an athlete. But this is doing vignettes to heavily promote a debut of someone who has zero pro matches for the main roster on a televised show.

Ken Anderson was doing voice over work for a top secret squirrel video game.

Notes from the 1/6 tapings (for the 1/12 Impact show): The second Impact on Pop was a show with a lot of talking, but had a clear storyline building the “last-chance” for Matt Hardy against EC 3 and the small seeds of the double turn. The problems here were the women crew they have right now need so much work, as when Gail Kim isn’t in a match, it falls apart, and the loss of people like Brooke and Taryn Terrell is far more noticeable than a lot of us would have given credit. But the big issue is the location. The show has a feel of minor league with the small and mostly dead crowd, which hurt some well wrestled matches.

The show opened with EC 3 and Tyrus out. EC 3 was at first nice to Tyrus, saying how they are friends, how he thanked Tyrus for taking bullets for him and told him that he knows Tyrus has earned a shot at the title and said he could get it whenever he wanted it. He thanked Tyrus for leaving ringside last week in the Matt Hardy match so he could prove to everyone that he could do it himself. Tyrus said he left because he never doubted EC 3 could win. Jeff Hardy came out and praised EC 3, saying last week was a fair one-on-one match and EC 3 is the world champion, so he’s the best wrestler of the Planet Earth. Jeff handed him a doctor’s letter which said Jeff had been cleared to wrestle. He wanted a title shot. EC 3 said that he dreamed of wrestling Jeff Hardy on the big stage for years but then said, “denied.” He told Jeff he needed to start at the bottom like everyone else. He told Bob Ryder to send out a young guy who wants work. Shynron came out, saying he was the “Master of Motion.” Jeff beat him in 2:18 with a twist of fate. Jeff didn’t do much in the match.

The Doll House did a promo with Awesome Kong saying she wanted a shot at Gail Kim. Velvet Sky & Madison Rayne called them the Dog House again. Then they started a terrible looking brawl. This turned into a street fight with Jade & Kong beating Sky & Rayne in 6:03. Rebel and Marti Bell interfered freely since it was a street fight. Bad match that seemed like it went forever. Jade pinned Rayne with a package piledriver.

Next was the Beer Money Beer Bash. Fans were chanting “Welcome back” at Storm and Roode said, “It’s good to be back,” with the perfect subtle delivery. Roode and Storm both apologized to each other for turning on each other in the past. They apologized for on screen thing and then Roode said he apologized for puking in Storm’s cowboy hat and blaming it on his dog. Eric Young and Bram came out. Young wanted a shot at the King of the Mountain title and Roode accepted.

Young pinned Roode to win the title in 7:42. The wrestling was solid but the crowd was dead. Roode used the Roode bomb but Bram pulled ref Brian Hebner out of the ring before he could count three. With the ref distracted, Storm spit beer in Bram’s face and then Beer Money gave Bram a double suplex. But Young gave Roode a low blow and pinned him after a piledriver. The way the finish was done didn’t put heel on Young as much as made Roode look stupid for turning his back on Young.

There was a backstage segment with EC 3, Maria and Mike Bennett. Bennett congratulated EC 3 for beating Matt Hardy. EC 3 basically blew him off like he was a nobody. Bennett got mad and said how the belt looks good on you, “for now.” Bennett thus far is not coming across like the star they are trying to hype him to be. Ken Anderson came out for a new interview segment called “Huh.” I think the idea is to get the crowd t chant “Huh” like they used to chant “What” at Austin. Luckily that won’t catch on past TNA, because the “What” thing ended up doing more harm than good long-term. Anderson came out to what sounded like 40s swing music. Matt Hardy came out as guest, with his wife and son. Matt is so smart here because he grew up when Ricky Steamboat was a face against Ric Flair and he’d use his wife and son and it got him heat among a lot of the fan base. Anderson was nice to Matt but told Matt he choked in the match. Matt brought up how he went unbeaten in the tournament and he was the only one who did that and Matt said the only reason he lost was because earlier in the night, Young gave him a piledriver on the concrete. Anderson said it just sounds like an excuse. Matt said he was going to give EC 3 an offer he couldn’t refuse and needed one more match. They left. The key here is that right before she went to the back, Reby gave Anderson this super dirty look. I think the idea here is that Reby is the manipulative bitch who causes Matt to go heel.

Drew Galloway did an interview saying that ever since he was 15 years old, he dreamed of wrestling Angle and guaranteed a spectacle tonight and to be the best he has to beat the best.

Bram & Young were backstage and vowed to make Beer Money extinct.

Tigre Uno & Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards beat Eli Drake & DJ Z & Jessie Godderz in 6:50. The wrestling was good but it was hurt bad by the crowd. DJ Z in particular stood out. It appeared the idea was to start a face turn for him, so he worked like a face doing cool wrestling. Early on when he wanted to tag out, Godderz & Drake wouldn’t tag in. Eventually Godderz did. Josh Matthews & The Pope started arguing about Rocky. Usually this stuff is silly but it actually was funny here. Matthews was saying how Drake is one of those guys who walks around backstage with no shirt on, trying to make him that real life guy with the good body who people hate. Matthews noted it was 20 degrees out and he did that and how he trained like that. Pope then talked about the movie Rocky, and how Rocky used to train in cold weather like that. Matthews then said Rocky was in the late 70s and early 80s and Rocky trained in a heavy sweatshirt when he trained in the cold weather. Pope then asked Josh if he knew that Rocky was a fake movie. Anyway, Ion got the last laugh after they wouldn’t help him, by superkicking Godderz and Richards & Edwards did the double team suplex and kick combination for the pin.

Matt & Jeff Hardy were backstage. Matt told Jeff he was making EC 3 an offer he can’t refuse. Reby then dragged Matt away from Jeff.

EC 3 came out for yet another in-ring interview. Matt came out again. Matt pointed out how he grew up with nothing while EC 3 was a trust fund baby who had easy access to get into wrestling because his last name was Carter. EC 3 noted that he kicked out of the twist of fate in their match. Matt asked for one last match, and if he loses, he’ll leave Impact wrestling forever. EC 3 said he doesn’t respect Mat, his family or his legacy, he’s beaten him time-an-time again and Matt can’t beat him. EC 3 said next week would be a last man standing match.

Angle pinned Galloway in 14:58 of the main event. The actual work in the match was about what you’d expect it to be. But the dead crowd really hurt it. They had the crowd a little at the end. Galloway took an overhead belly-to-belly and because he’s so tall, and when thrown, his head is much closer in the turnover spot to the ground, it looked scary with his last second tuck. Angle also gave him a belly-to-belly into the guard rail. Angle twice kicked out of Galloway’s Clayborg kick and Galloway kicked out of all of Angle’s suplexes and Olympic slams. The finish was Angle pinning him with an Olympic slam off the top rope. The only way I see this making sense is if in Angle’s last match, in the U.K., they do a rematch and Galloway wins.

Besides the Impact stuff, also taped was Rockstar Spud & Grado beating Mahabali Shera & Aiden O’Shea. O’Shea and Shera didn’t get along. This looks like it was done just for the fans in Bethlehem to set up their PPV match. Shera got tired of O’Shea ordering him around and punched him and set up Spud, who then pinned O’Shea.

For Xplosion, Mike Bennett pinned Mandrews.

Tapings for a future One Night Only show opened with Young pinning Chris Melendez. Even though Young had just won the King of the Mountain title, he didn’t come out with the belt, so that may be that they’re actually planned in advance that he’s losing it before this airs. Young once again took off Melendez’s prosthetic leg. Melendez kept fighting on one leg but Young hit the piledriver for the pin. Godderz pinned Robbie E. Ken Anderson pinned Bram after a mic check through a table.

Notes from the 1/7 tapings for Impact and PPV. It opened with Jade pinning Chelsea in a match taped for Xplosion.

Next was a taping for the 1/19 Impact TV show. Jeff Hardy came out for an interview. He talked about how he’s got a career vs. title match coming up with Carter III. Matt Hardy was confident in him winning. Tyrus issued a challenge to Jeff to open the show. Jeff beat Tyrus via DQ. Jeff was selling a leg injury to go into his match with EC 3.

Kim pinned Kong to retain the Knockouts title. Jade’s interference backfired. Both the Beautiful People and the Dollhouse were involved in the finish.

Storm & Roode did an interview and challenged Bram & Young to a rematch (while taped before, this aired after their PPV match). Instead, Drake & Godderz came out and wanted the match. Storm & Roode won a relatively quick mach.

Bennett pinned Pepper Parks in a squash match.

Angle came out and talked more about his farewell tour. Lashley came out and mentioned that they had a great match last year, which Angle won, so he’d like a rematch before Angle retires. Angle accepted.

Young issued a challenge for a King of the Mountain title match. He said he’d face anyone but Roode or Storm. Anderson came out. Anderson was on the verge of winning the title when Bram interfered for the DQ. Bram & Young beat down Anderson until Roode & Storm made the save.

The rest of the matches were taped for upcoming One Night Only shows. It seemed like they were taping two different shows here. Velvet Sky & Madison Rayne beat Marti Bell & Jade. EC III went to a double count out with Matt Hardy. What was notable is that EC III worked as the face and Hardy worked as the heel. Most of the crowd, even though the Hardy turn wasn’t taped until the next night, was able to be worked to cheer for EC III. The kids in the crowd still cheered Hardy. Galloway pinned Drake. Lashley pinned Mahabali Shera with a spear.

The next three matches were likely for a Joker’s Wild tag team PPV, which is blind draw partners, which ended up funny since you had regular teams who apparently just by luck drew each other. Edwards & Richards beat Abyss & Crazzy Steve. Young & Bram beat Trevor Lee & DJ Zema Ion when Bram hit Lee with a low blow and Young pinned him after a piledriver. Tigre Uno & Mandrews beat Godderz & Robbie E, when Godderz & Robbie couldn’t get along and fought to the back after losing.

Notes from the 1/9 tapings, which would be the final episodes of Impact before the U.K. shows. Originally this was advertised as a PPV taping but ended up being the end of one Impact show and a complete second show, so it’s probably 1/19 and 1/26, or 1/26 and 2/2. Even with the papering, they only had 250 fans for this show.

In a match taped for the prior week as everything else, Tigre Uno retained the X title in a three-way over Mandrews and DJ Zema ion in another good match. Gregory Shane Helms came out once more to challenge Uno for the title “next week.” Uno must be really small because Helms looks like he’s Ernie Ladd when he stands next to him.

The full show opened with a Jeff Hardy promo, mad at how low Matt resorted in winning the title from EC 3. He wanted a match with Matt “tonight.”

They opened with the annual Feast or Fired Battle Royal for the title. Those in the match were Roode, Storm, Grado, Spud, Godderz, Melendez, Drake, Robbie E, Bram, O’Shea, Young, Bram and Galloway. The guys who got the briefcases were Galloway, Grado, Drake and Storm. In what may be a storyline, Roode allowed Storm to get the briefcase that he could have gotten. One of the four will be fired, and the other three will get shots at either the heavyweight title, the X title or the tag title. The reveals are likely being taped in secret and would be revealed on one of the TVs from the U.K.

Lashley did an interview in front of the crowd and a woman came up to Lashley. They are starting a program where there is this mystery woman hitting on Lashley.

Backstage, Crazzy Steve & Abyss went heel, with the help of a female clown (who may have been Christina Von Eerie), they beat down Edwards & Richards and stole their belts. This led to a match that Edwards & Richards won via DQ when Steve blew mist in Richards’ face.

The Matt vs. Jeff title match was scheduled next. Matt came out with Tyrus and Reby. Young & Bram then attacked Jeff. Roode & Storm ran in. Abyss & Crazzy Steve were next in attacking Beer Money. Angle then came in. Tyrus attacked Angle. Matt laid out Angle with a belt shot. Young then piledrove Jeff off the apron and through a table. Jeff went out on a stretcher.

Kong pinned Sky with the implant buster. After the match, Kong continued to beat down Sky until Madison Rayne came in. Jade laid out Rayne with a package piledriver and Kong came off the middle rope with a splash on Sky.

Lashley pinned O’Shea with a spear. Lashley’s stalker woman hit the ring and tried to hit on him in the ring.

Matt Hardy, Reby Hardy and Tyrus were in the ring celebrating. Young & Bram came out. Young wanted a title shot since he was the one who took out Jeff. Angle came out and he also wanted a title shot. Somehow this led to Angle getting the shot in the main event.

Uno came out for his match with Helms. Helms then came out in his clothes and said that he didn’t ask for a title shot for himself, but for Trevor Lee. Lee then pinned Uno to take the title.

Galloway vs. Tyrus had no winner. The lights went out and Bennett was in the ring and knocked out Galloway with his own feast-of-fired briefcase, so that looks to be a new program.

Next was a match billed as Hardcore War. It was an eight-person match with Richards & Edwards & Beer Money vs. Steve & Abyss & Young & Bram. Lots of brawling and the crowd was into it. Steve pinned Richards so that continues the Richards & Edwards vs. Steve & Abyss program.

Maria Kanellis was out and said that women’s wrestling lacks direction and needs a new leader and she’s the person for it. Gail Kim came out. The two argued and started going at it before Kanellis backed off. So they are going to use Maria as a wrestler to work with Kim. That feels like so out of touch thinking.

In the main event, Matt Hardy retained the title over Angle. Reby Hardy grabbed Angle’s leg as he went to the top rope. This allowed Matt to deliver the twist of fate off the top rope and he pinned Angle in less than 10:00. Angle German suplexed Hardy to death before te finish.


UFC did not make the deal to get the new 20,000 seat MGM Arena in Las Vegas, which will host UFC 200, and have it called the UFC Arena. They had considered putting in a naming rights bid if it made sense. It was definitely something they were interested in doing but the decision went to T Mobile.

Dana White, who had been negative on the subject of a Georges St-Pierre return, was on “Off the Record” on 1/13 and when the subject of UFC 200 was brought up, mentioned St-Pierre vs Robbie Lawler or St-Pierre vs. Anderson Silva as two fights that could be on that show.

This week’s show is the start of what they look to make a tradition, which is the FS 1 show right after the NFL playoffs. Last year’s show, which was promoted during the playoff games, headlined by Conor McGregor vs. Dennis Siver, was the most-watched FS 1 telecast in its history with 2,750,000 viewers, blowing away all expectations. A lot of that was McGregor, but with a showing like that, your network is going to want you to do it again. The show is likely to be promoted on the FOX early game (Seahawks vs. Panthers), and the late game (Steelers vs. Broncos) should end right about the time the prelims on FS 1 start, but long before the main card. The show starts with Fight Pass fights at 6 p.m., with Francimar Barroso vs. Elvis Mutapcic, Rob Font vs. Joey Gomez, Augusto Mendes vs. Charles Rosa, Ilir Latifi vs. Sean O’Connell and Daron Cruickshank vs. Paul Felder (a good Fight Pass main event). It’s notable that they are cutting the TV from five hours to four hours and adding an hour to Fight Pass as part of UFC’s goal of ramping up Fight Pass subscriptions. FS 1 starts at 8 p.m., and is looking at going until midnight or a little later, or ending about an hour earlier than usual, which also may be because it’s on Sunday instead of Saturday. The TV fights are Maximo Blanco vs. Luke Sanders, Tim Boetsch vs. Ed Herman, Mehdi Baghdad vs Chris Wade, Patrick Cote vs. Ben Saunders, Ross Pearson vs. Francisco Trinaldo, Travis Browne vs. Matt Mitrione, Eddie Alvarez vs. Anthony Pettis and TJ Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title in what is the biggest bantamweight fight in years. Mendes is a late replacement for Jimy Hettes, while Mutapcic is a late replacement for Abdul-Kerin Edilov.

The big question regarding the main event is Cruz’s layoff in the battle of a champion who has looked very impressive and a challenger who has only lost once, back in 2007 when he was just starting out, and that was to a prime Urijah Faber, a loss he avenged years later. Due to repeated injuries, Cruz has only fought one time in the last four plus years, but he did look great in that one fight, but that was back on September 27, 2014. Even though some deny it, ring rust is very real. Because of that, Dillashaw was the favorite with numbers ranging from -132 to -150 at press time.

There is also an Invicta show on Fight Pass on 1/16 from Costa Mesa, CA, headlined by two title fights, with Cris Cyborg Justino defending her featherweight title against Daria Ibragmiova and Livia Renata Souza defending her strawweight title against DeAnna Bennett, plus Raquel Pa’aluhi vs Colleen Schneider.

UFC officially announced the 5/8 show in Rotterdam, Holland, its debut in the country, that we reported last week. Because in a country like Holland where neither is mainstream and they draw from the same audience, it’s considered a WWE vs. UFC head-to-head battle as WWE is running 4/15 in Amsterdam. Both the Rotterdam show and another show announced for 4/10 in Zagreb, Croatia’s Zagreb Arena, will air on FS 1.

B.J. Penn made an Instagram post from the Greg Jackson-Mike Winkeljohn Gym in Albuquerque which teased coming out of retirement, and the next day issued a challenge to Nik Lentz for a fight on 3/5 in Las Vegas. The two went back-and-forth on social media in October and then it died down. Penn said he was mad about a poem Lentz wrote that made fun of him.

Mark Hunt vs. Frank Mir has been signed for a 3/20 show in Brisbane, Australia.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk placed seventh in the balloting for the 2015 Athlete of the Year in Poland.

The UFC fined three fighters for rule infractions regarding not wearing Reebok gear, or wearing non-Reebok gear in public during fight week. 12 others have gotten warnings for violation of the Athlete Outfitting Policy. The names of those fined were not revealed, although Donald Cerrone, Rafael dos Anjos and Nate Diaz appear to be the three names. Cerrone and Diaz have admitted they were fined and those close to dos Anjos say he was fined a significant amount. Cerrone said the fine was very steep. “Let’s just say a lot. Think of a number, then double it,” he wrote on Twitter, and later said the fine was in excess of $5,000. Dos Anjos’ fine was reported by MMA Fighting to be $10,000, so it’s likely all three fines were that amount. He said it was from wearing a patch from his old trunks from his Muay Thai days that he wears to honor his grandmother, who raised him and is ill. Diaz wore jeans instead of Reebok gear to weigh-ins for his 12/19 fight in Orlando and dos Anjos wore an Evolve MMA shirt instead of a Reebok shirt. Evolve is a gym in Singapore that dos Anjos sometimes trains at.

The PPV plan is UFC 197 on 3/5, 198 on 4/23 (Jones vs. Cormier), 199 at some point in June (the traditional Memorial Day event in Las Vegas is not planned for this year) and 200 on 7/9.

Rousey has had her role in the movie “Mile 22" cut back. Originally she and Iko Uwais were to be the stars and carry the movie. Director Peter Berg had pitched the idea that the movie would become “the new wave of combat cinema” and pushed Rousey as the star for that project. But STX chairman Adam Fogelson was concerned about Rousey as an actress, and wanted an established star for a third lead role and the movie was rewritten due to his concern over Rousey being able to carry acting scenes. According to a story in The New Yorker, Berg wanted to introduce Fogelson to Rousey, figuring she’d impress him enough to alleviate his concerns. But the meeting never took place and Mark Wahlberg was hired with a script rewritten to where he is the primary movie babyface and Rousey will be more of sidekick who does less talking and mostly fighting. The story is the movie will have the same amount of action scenes with Rousey as original, but her actual acting scenes were cutback in favor of Wahlberg. Rousey’s schedule is to also film the “Road House” remake which she will be the lead in, playing a female version of the role Patrick Swayze made famous as a bouncer, as well as film “Mile 22" this spring. “Mile 22,” is the movie being filmed in Indonesia where filming was scheduled at the same time as this year’s WrestleMania.

The swimsuit version of the body paint that Ronda Rousey had put on for her latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue modeling gig, taken from a line from the Australian label “We are Handsome,” reported a 300 percent increase in sales of the swimsuit from when the first photo was released last week.

Jose Aldo is now saying that he won’t accept any fights from UFC unless the title is on the line. There had been talk of Aldo first facing Max Holloway, and then McGregor defending against Frankie Edgar, with Aldo getting the shot if he beat Holloway. Aldo told Portal do Vale Tudo in Brazil, “Right after the fight, Dana walked in the locker room and told me my next fight would be a title eliminator against Frankie Edgar because Conor was moving up to lightweight as he was struggling to make weight. Of course, I want a rematch with him, since there was no fight. None of us fought, he just connected one good punch and that was it. Cool, congratulations, but that wasn’t what people expected. I live for tomorrow, though. If it’s a rematch or a title fight, it doesn’t matter. I know we will fight again and I know I will win. I know I’m capable. For my next step, I don’t see another fight and I also won’t accept a fight that isn’t for the title.

Diego Sanchez has said that he’s moving back up the lightweight after trying featherweight in a losing effort to Ricardo Lamas. The problem with Sanchez is that after all the wars he’s had, he doesn’t have the speed he once had, and without it, can’t compete at the top level anymore. It’s the reason the heavyweights last longer, because it’s a power division and fighters maintain their power longer, but reflexes and speed, the keys to the smaller divisions, that goes earlier.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, in his last words before leading his team onto the field for the national championship win, said, “We didn’t come her to take part. We came here to take over,” which is a McGregor catch phrase.

Joseph Benavidez vs. Zach Makovsky, Erick Silva vs. Nordine Taleb and Ray Borg vs Justin Scoggins have been added to the 2/6 UFC 196 show in Las Vegas.

Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Dennis Bermudez has been added to the 2/21 show in Pittsburgh.


Royce Gracie, who headlines Bellator’s 2/19 show in Houston against Ken Shamrock, is being investigated by the IRS related to a Swiss bank account and taxes between the years 2007 and 2011. Bloodyelbow.com ran a story claiming more than $3 million was sent to Royce Gracie and his wife between 2007 and 2011 into their U.S. bank account, which paid for renovations to their vacation property, credit card debt, and purchase of a home in Palos Verdes, CA, while at the same time the couple claimed minimal taxable income and having filed for earned income credit which goes to low-income working families as a tax credit. That may have waved a flag since his wife is a practicing podiatrist and he has his own business interests. The Gracies claimed taxable income of $38,000 in 2007 and numbers ranging from $66,000 to $204,000 over the next few years and paid less than $4,000 in income tax each year. The government is looking for $640,175 in owed back taxes and well as penalties for fraud of $509,774, or a total of $1.15 million.

With the injury to Josh Koscheck, who was scheduled to headline the next Bellator show on 1/29 in Fresno, a new fight has been added to the TV card with Ryan Couture vs. Patricky Pitbull Freire.


In reference to what we wrote last week about Bibiano Fernandes, he was pretty upset about the rules where he couldn’t dehydrate to get to 135 to defend his bantamweight title on the 1/23 show in Singapore against Kevin Belingon. Fernandes said that he walks around at 145 or 146 but has to make 135 without cutting water by dieting and training off ten points from peak condition weight in a few weeks, which is going to be extremely difficult. That’s why I said what should have been an obvious move when they made the weight cutting move that Fernandes’ new weight should have been 145 to 150 and he should have been ruled champion at that weight, because by keeping his title weight at 135, it forces him to do exactly what they’re trying to avoid. Ben Askren, champion at 170, already said he’ll be fighting at 185, so in theory, because they didn’t make the switch, he’s going to have to vacate the title, which is also silly to have to do that to abide by the company’s new rules.


We have gotten an update that as of now, Dwayne Johnson is not wrestling at WrestleMania over the same insurance issues regarding the “Baywatch” movie that we’d written about. That still hasn’t changed at this point. This isn’t to say it won’t be worked through but right now they have a card and he is not wrestling on that card, although he is a key part of the show in some form. As of right now, the WrestleMania main event is scheduled as Reigns vs. HHH, so perhaps Johnson will be involved to counteract the McMahons in some form. Apart from that, Jericho’s return timing looks great. Undertaker and Lesnar are likely the other two main events, not against each other, with each needing an opponent, so you can go down your list of heels and plug them in for those two opponents, whether you have Sheamus, Strowman, Rusev, Del Rio or Owens in the slots. I suppose it’s possible for Lesnar to go against another face, but it’s not going to be Reigns or Undertaker. If Cena comes back early, and he seems to always do that with his mutant healing powers, then Cena vs. Undertaker can always be done. After Rollins went down, taking the HHH vs. Rollins match away, the Cena vs. Reigns match was changed to Reigns vs. HHH. Cena vs. Undertaker, pushed as The Battle of Legends was absolutely on the books when Cena went down. Because nobody expected a Cena injury, there were no thoughts to a backup plan for Undertaker. At the Brooklyn Raw, they did do a Reigns vs. Cena tease that was dark, so there was still an idea for that at some point.

Owens has thrown his name into the hat as far as Undertaker goes. “WrestleMania is synonymous with the Undertaker. Regardless of what’s happening with the streak, I’d like to throw my name in the hat and see if he’s still the phenom that he claims to be.”

We did hear that as of last week, Owens was not ever suggested when it comes to a Lesnar opponent.

Shinsuke Nakamura has been thinking about going to WWE for some time now. This wasn’t a sudden decision. With the other three, the talks and decisions were far more recent. One of the things people don’t know is that Nakamura both understands and speaks English fairly well. I was told that if people think Nakamura’s charisma shows up only in his entrances and in the ring, it actually also continues with his promos. Of course that doesn’t always translate into a new language, but he’s not going to have to learn English at all.

The current word we’re getting is that Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson will debut on NXT at television in early March.

Regarding ownership of names, New Japan owns the name Bullet Club. Drew Hankinson (Doc Gallows) owns the rights to the name Biz Cliz. WWE just filed for a trademark on the name Balor Club.

Cena’s surgery, for a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, under Dr. Jeffrey Dugas in Birmingham, AL, on 1/7, was said to be successful. Dugas spoke to the WWE web site and said, “He (Cena) had a complete tear of a small portion of the rear rotator cuff tendon, the infraspinatus–toward the top-back of the shoulder–which I repaired. And there was also a large piece of loose tissue in his shoulder that needed to be removed.” He also said Cena had some deterioration in the AC joint.

Rusev suffered what we’re told was a minor knee injury on the 1/9 show in Bossier City, LA, which is why he missed Raw and Smackdown this week. It’s not serious enough that he’ll need surgery and he’ll be back relatively soon, perhaps as early as this week, or if not, possibly next week for the Royal Rumble.

Orton did an Instagram post saying that he doesn’t need neck surgery, went off on our report, specifically mentioning me, and said his recovery from his shoulder surgery is ahead of schedule. The report on his needing neck surgery was from November, at which time that was the case and it’s been out there for months and given his profile in the company, something inaccurate on a star of his level would have been brought to our attention immediately had it not been accurate and we were given pretty solid details from an excellent source. Plus, the story had been reported everywhere in November, including one of Orton’s mentors, Ric Flair, had noted on his podcast that Orton needed neck surgery. Orton said that he doesn’t pay much attention to news and had just found out it was reported this past week. What we were told is that in the last few weeks (we don’t have an exact time frame other than it was fairly recent but prior to the first weekend of the year) Orton got word that he may not need to have neck surgery, which is good news. He had his shoulder surgery in early December, and it’s a four-to-six month window before he can return, so March and WrestleMania is possible and March to May would seem like the time frame but that all depends on how well everything goes. With Cena’s situation being questionable and Rollins being out, an early Orton recovery would be good news. The funny thing about Orton ripping on me about our report was him saying to go to wwe.com if you want the real story, when wwe.com’s story was that he was injured when the Wyatt Family jumped him prior to the tour in Mexico.

Banks’ injury has been reported in a number of places, likely originally by PW Insider, as an MCL injury stemming from her match with Lynch on the 12/28 Raw in Brooklyn. We’ve only been able to confirm a lower body injury, but not the specific injury. For reasons I can’t ascertain, even though she’s been off the last two weeks and the injury has been confirmed by multiple people in the company, she’s gone on social media claiming it wasn’t true. Actually, she’s gone on social media doing plays on words about it not being true without actually ever denying that it isn’t true. Rusev said his knee injury wasn’t true and he’s going to India this week for the tour. I do know there is a ton of paranoia right now regarding public acknowledgment of injuries and I’m not exactly sure why other than multiple people have confirmed it being the case.

Paige is out of action due to a concussion suffered on the 12/28 house show in Allentown. Unlike the others, Paige and Natalya this past week both did publicly reveal they are (Paige) and were (Natalya) injured.

Cena on Twitter on his recovery wrote, “Day six post operation. Movement is very good but because a giant chunk of cartilage is missing, this one may take a bit.”

Paul Levesque was at Lemmy’s funeral this past week.

The debut of Smackdown on USA with the new announcing team of Mauro Ranallo, Jerry Lawler and Byron Saxton aired on 1/7. What was notable is that the move from Syfy to USA led to a 25 percent increase in viewership over the November average. Now, part of that was also the November average was against football. In 2005, when Raw left Spike, which was a similar level network as Syfy, to USA, a far stronger network, the ratings didn’t increase at all, so based on that, a rise of that level was surprising. Based on the Raw drop of 12.5%, probably half the rise was the end of football season and most of the rest would be the network change. In my circles, there was a ton of interest in Ranallo. A lot of people are suggesting Ranallo curiosity as the reason but I just can’t see that as being enough people to make a statistical difference and think the increase is a combination of no football game and all the promotion by USA and WWE for the first show on the new network. The show came across with a completely different vibe than Raw, which was a good thing. Lawler was more motivated than he’s been in years, but it’s weird that at 66, he’s going back to the heel Lawler character in mostly contradicting Ranallo. He seemed more into it, which was a plus, but I also had the feeling that instead of being Jerry Lawler, he was playing a bad guy announcer character, which of course he was. There was a spot early where he talked about how he used to work with a JR and so he’s going to call Ranallo “MR,” which he did several times. Because of the generational differences, that seemed to go over everyone’s head because nobody picked up on it. When I was a kid, “MR” was a schoolboy taunt like a gay slur, as it was short for “mental retard.” It was also the set-up for Lawler making a joke about of Byron Saxton’s initials. I will say that not one person anywhere seemed to pick up on that and I’m guessing that term went away a long time ago as a schoolyard taunt. Ranallo’s strengths really shined in the Charlotte vs. Lynch title match, which was the best Divas title match on WWE television since they pushed the Divas Revolution. Charlotte is now a total Ric Flair copy when it comes to full-fledged heel and 70s and 80s psychology (this is not to say she’s Ric Flair, just what she’s doing the past few weeks is more and more a copy of Flair than previously). They had a very good match, with Lynch getting her in the disarmer (Fujiwara armbar) and Ric put Charlotte’s leg on the ropes while Charlotte tapped. So the match continued and Charlotte immediately won with both feet on the middle ropes with the ref not seeing it. The Ambrose vs. Owens IC title match, which ended in a double count out, was also presented like a serious championship match. The presentation is so different from Raw, and also so far superior. It’s probably for the best to have two different presentations, but in comparison, it only makes the Raw presentation feel like people have lost their way. The show opened with a Cena/Del Rio talking segment that led to the Del Rio match with Kalisto. Kalisto won partially due to Cena’s distraction, as Cena stayed at ringside to cheer him on. Since Del Rio needs a new opponent, I’d have not involved Cena in that finish as it was more Cena caused Del Rio to be embarrassed than Kalisto beating the champion and making himself a strong contender. With Cena out, the latter needed to be the focal point of the story. The Cena/Del Rio talking segment was great. Del Rio being gone, and his returning with that bad idea of a mix with Colter, and then put in the League of Nations where he’s just one of four guys with Sheamus pushed as the star of the group, is you forget what a great heel promo Del Rio is. He’s had two television segments going back-and-forth with Cena and he came off like a superstar on the mic in both of them.

Inside MMA had a very important report on UFC fighter Al Iaquinta, head trauma and brain testing. Iaquinta noted that he took a lot of punishment in his controversial win over Jorge Masvidal on April 4. He hasn’t fought since more due to knee problems than anything else, but after he won, and the fans booed, he went off on the fans in his post-match interview. He said that wasn’t him and recognized he may have suffered head trauma. However, the symptoms cleared and he was ready to go back and spar. He was cleared by doctors. However, Iaquinta is training at the Weidman/Longo gym which is one of the first gyms to have the new machines by Evoke Neuroscience which we talked about after I saw a demonstration of them in Las Vegas. While these are new, and not peer reviewed at this point, they hook up a scanning device that can detect different parts of the brain as well as reaction time. Dr. James Thompson, one of the key people behind this, noted that when you have an injury to a part of the brain, the healthy parts of the brain overcompensate and in time you will feel fine, and you will pass the current testing, but the injury will not have recovered and for brain injuries to recover, they need time, as in no sparring or contact. Hopefully in time, and whether this is even possible, who knows, but there may be medicines developed for different specific parts of the brain that are injured. But besides MMA gyms and UFC, as well as boxing, kickboxing and football, WWE needs to also look into this new technology because it appears to be far more advanced than the testing in place. I keep thinking of Bryan Danielson, where there is a debate regarding whether he should be cleared and this would give a better reading than anything else. The key, with Danielson, is that he had noted that his reactions and brain were tested and his cognitive ability is ahead of the norm for his age. That’s a key thing, because I was specifically told that really smart people because of their intelligence can more easily pass the current methods of testing because the healthy parts of their brain can overcompensate. Now, this is not a doctor’s evaluation, obviously, but on the New Year’s Dash show, Kevin Kelly mentioned in a discussion that many years ago, all the ROH talent underwent IQ testing. Danielson finished the highest of anyone on the roster (he also noted that Nigel McGuinness was second, which is probably no surprise if you’ve ever talked with him) and Mark Briscoe was third, which probably is a surprise if you consider his gimmick. But it’s also been nine months since Danielson’s latest concussion, which was his tenth documented concussion and there are likely several others undocumented.

The thing is, if you watch “Concussion” you’d get the impression that because of all the blows, that anyone who has a long NFL career, when they get to their 50s, are going to be prisoners of brain trauma, lose their families and the suicide rate will be high, even though that is far from the truth. The reality is, the best analogy of this is smoking and lung cancer. Smoking leads to lung cancer, but there are people who smoke their entire lives who never experience any major problems from it, and some who smoke very little who do. NFL players, as a group, live longer based on race stats, and also have a lower suicide rate. However, there are football players who do have these issues and they probably are brain injury related. It’s like the question about Chris Benoit that people ask, because there are guys who took far more head trauma or the same amount in their careers and nobody else did what he did.

Bryan wrote, “Can WWE clear me already,” which some believe to be in response to the news that Shinsuke Nakamura was coming. My impression is it’s more an overriding thing of just wanting to wrestle after being off for so long. Bryan has talked about dream matches in his own mind including possible matches with Lesnar and Nakamura. Regarding his situation, what we know is that as of today there are no plans for him to make a secret return at the Rumble or Mania and it’s not like they are holding him off until a certain date. It’s all an issue of being cleared by Dr. Joseph Maroon, who is WWE’s head of medical and that hasn’t happened yet, and then it being okayed by Vince McMahon. While obviously the issues are a lot more complicated, at the end of the day, that’s where it stands today. If Maroon gives the okay, Vince McMahon likely would as well but the idea is that there’s some hidden story that they are either punishing him, or afraid to use him because he’ll get over more than Roman Reigns, right now neither is true. Right now it is unlikeably for him to be cleared at this point, but the door is not shut on it happening. But this is no conspiracy theory on this one.

WWE filed a trademark for the term “No way Jose,” which is believed to have to do with the introduction of Levis Valenzuela Jr. as an NXT television character.

The next NXT tapings are 1/22 in Orlando at the University of Central Florida Gym, two days before the Royal Rumble. The key matches are Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe with the winner getting a title shot at Finn Balor (Balor vs. Zayn is expected to headline the 4/1 Takeover show in Dallas) and Bayley vs. Carmella for the women’s title. It also appears they are building Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson to defend the tag titles against Jason Jordan & Chad Gable, now called America Alpha, on the Dallas show.

It’s confirmed that Lesnar will be doing another house show on 3/11 in Montreal (his first time in the city since 2003), and will be on the 3/12 show in Toronto which is a live WWE Network special leading to WrestleMania.

There are several new camps scheduled. There is a February camp in Orlando. They are doing a March camp in Columbus, OH for guys without much experience, and there will also be a March camp where the plan is to bring in top indie guys.

The new season of Total Divas debuts on 1/19, and will go head-to-head with one of the hours of Impact. One of these shows will suffer due to that and it won’t be Total Divas.

There is more talk as of late about the introduction of a Sister Abigail character. It’s been talked about forever but apparently the talk has gotten more serious about doing it.

Even though the show is supposed to be PG and Maddox was fired for using the word “pricks” in a promo, Vince McMahon on the 1/4 Raw show flipped off the fans who were booing him. There will always be a different set of standards for the ruling class.

A correction from last week saying the Kalisto win over Del Rio was his first pinfall loss since returning. It was actually his second, because Reigns beat him in the world title tournament on PPV.

WWE sent out a survey this past week regarding what personalities they’d be most interested in for a WWE Network reality show. The names listed as possibilities were Reigns, Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, Ryder, Edge, Booker T, Jericho, Rollins, Sheamus, Ryback, Big E, R-Truth, Ambrose, Beth Phoenix, Lita, Paige, Heyman, Charlotte, Show, Trish Stratus, Ziggler, Miz, Foley, Usos or Woods.

Linda McMahon announced she was heading a startup company called Womens’ Leadership Live (WLL), based on promoting business leadership opportunities for women. The company, which will be based in Texas, will sponsor events featuring women speakers, panel discussions regarding promoting business opportunities for women as well as workshops.

Reigns will be sent on the India tour this week (1/15 and 1/16, both shows in New Delhi) as a headliner to replace the injured Cena.

This week is the first week where they are running two NXT shows per night. The main tour running the larger buildings runs 1/14 in Milwaukee, 1/15 in Green Bay and two shows on 1/16 in Chicago, using Balor, Samoa Joe, Bayley, Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews as the headliner. There will also be shows 1/14 in Winter Haven, FL, 1/15 in Cocoa Beach, FL and 1/16 in Fort Pierce in the usual smaller buildings with Ryder, Mojo Rawley, The Vaudevillains, Emma and Asuka as the headliners.

We had some responses from people regarding what we wrote last week and before about questioning the heavy Olympic lifting programs for wrestlers given the number of shoulder surgeries that have resulted from those doing those programs in the past year. One trainer who spent a career in both wrestling and weight training felt that it was spot on about the link between the type of weight training being done and all the shoulder injuries. However, one performer, who had suffered a shoulder injury during a match, remarked to someone I know that they felt the nature of the weight training being done at the Performance Center allowed him to continue to wrestle when otherwise he’d have to sit it out, although that person eventually did need shoulder surgery.

It was noted the silliness of the Dana Brooke injury story. Brooke has another of those non-disclosed injuries, although she’s been working as a second on a lot of shows (and yes, there is a lot of heat because she’s getting to keep all her bookings including the trip to Europe but she’s a star on NXT TV, while others injured haven’t been able to, but that’s the breaks of being someone they see as a future star). They did a skit to cover the injury on Breaking Ground. The silliness is that Asuka used the butt bump (rear view) to Brooke’s right side. She then started selling an injury to her left side, as did the trainer after. Another funny thing was them showing a conversation with Corbin and Tino Sabatelli where Corbin talked about how they are real athletes compared to the rest because they played in the NFL. I guess people who saw that noted that Corbin played in exactly 0 NFL regular reason games. Corbin was a legit college player at Northwest Missouri State who in 2008 was an all-league offensive guard at the small college level. He wasn’t drafted, but was in the Indianapolis Colts camp in 2009 and a late cut. In 2010, he was in the Arizona Cardinals camp and made he practice squad for that season, before being a late cut before the 2011 season. Dean Muhtadi (Mojo Rawley) was on the Cardinals that same pre-season and was injured before the season started and was on injured reserve that season. Muhtadi was more of a fan. Both got some press in camp because Muhtadi was the strongest guy on the team and Tom Pestock (Corbin) was considered the maybe the toughest because he was so big (legit 6-foot-6) and had a boxing and Jiu Jitsu background. Sabatelli was a legit college star, a 2006 all-Pac 10 defensive back who was a second round draft choice of the Tampa Bay Bucs and played five NFL seasons, as a sometimes starter in 2008 and regular starter in 2009. Even though he hasn’t gotten a push on TV, he’s been featured on Breaking Ground and he worked some main events of late on the house shows, so you can see they are high on him.

The show also featured the big sendoff for Breeze, which was really nice, but by the time it aired, look how it looks now, going from featured star to having really good matches on the main roster and it meaning little so far. We’re told Paul Levesque legitimately wanted him protected and saw him as a heel on the level of Ziggler, which is why he started with Ziggler. Vince started him at that level, but then wasn’t convinced on him and thus his push ended immediately, they stopped putting his entrance on television and they’ve split him up from Summer Rae for apparently no reason since neither have anything new going on, nor was the split built up and a program emerging from it.

The stock has bounced down and up this past week, finishing at press time at $16.78 per share, giving the company a $1.27 billion market value.

The new movies Cena is in at the theaters these days were No. 3 and No. 5 this past weekend, behind Star Wars and The Revenant. “Daddy’s Home,” which he’s really barely in, was No. 3 at $15,015,465 and has topped $116 million after three weeks. “Sisters,” where he has a larger role, was No. 5, at $7,189,455 and is at $75 million after four weeks.

Shock Entertainment, who has worked with WWE for 15 years on DVD releases in Australia and New Zealand, is ending their relationship with the company. The last new release was Survivor Series, which was released last week. They will continue to sell all catalogue items until 3/31 and will be offering great discounts to clean out the stock.

Lesnar & Heyman are back for the 1/18 Raw in Columbus, OH.

Anyone know why Byron Saxton is an announcer on two shows?

Notes on the 1/11 Raw tapings in New Orleans. Felt like a typical show built around Reigns vs. The Authority with a lot of the rest coming across as filler. The negative is usually it takes about an hour for the live crowd to lose interest, but on this show, the crowd wasn’t even reacting much to Sheamus, the guy pushed as the top heel, against Ambrose, the No. 2 face given all the injuries, in doing a long Raw opener. Drew Brees was at the show and WWE even sent out a press release for him being there. He was there with his family and they left at about 9 p.m. The two trainers in the backstage segment were Wild Card J Spade and Luke Hawx, who run the local Wildkat Sports promotion. The show drew 9,000 fans and was dead most of the night, confirmed from a live report which said the only real pop was for Lesnar at the end.

For Superstars, The Dudleys beat The Ascension with the 3-D, and Swagger beat Breeze with the Patriot lock.

The show opened with much of the roster on stage. I think the only people spared having to be the kids in assembly were Jericho, Lesnar, the Wyatt Family (although they showed up in this segment), Show, Kane and Reigns (well, Reigns couldn’t be there given the angle). Vince and Stephanie came out and said that one of you could be the man if you throw Reigns over the top in the Rumble. They pointed out Ziggler, Owens and New Day in particular, that this could be “your time.” The Wyatt Family came out and Bray repeated his “Anyone but you Roman” line from their feud. Vince said that it could be Lesnar who ends up as the man. Reigns came out. Stephanie asked him if he’d like to beat up her father again. Reigns just asked both of them, “What happens if I win?” Stephanie started laughing loudly and said, “You’re delusional.” Vince said it was a possibility but the odds are astronomical. Vince then said he had an idea and it was to book everyone against Lesnar in the main event. He then noted that Reigns’ buddy, Ambrose who was on stage, would be in the first match of the show. Sheamus, standing behind Ambrose, then attacked him from behind and Vince ordered the match to start.

Sheamus and Ambrose went to a double count out in 14:04. The announcers pushed that last week’s Smackdown was “record setting,” without giving any idea of what record is set. I guess it was the highest rated episode of Smackdown in 2016. Sheamus missed a Brogue kick and flew over the top rope and Ambrose hit him with a tope. They were showing Twitter stuff on the scrawl including someone who congratulated Sting for being in the Hall of Fame, which jumped their own announcement of that later in the show. No way that happens in the 1980s on a Vince McMahon television show. They did their trademark stuff. The match was fine but the crowd wasn’t that into it, but it almost dragged, but not really. Both were outside the ring and the ref did the slowest ten count in history. Ambrose threw Sheamus into the post and into the steps and Sheamus was bleeding badly. He needed stitches, but they kept going without breaking it up even with the blood. Owens then attacked Ambrose and beat him down.

Backstage, Renee Young interviewed Ambrose who said he was alive, and that’s bad news for Owens.

Backstage, Vince & Stephanie and Paul Heyman got together. Heyman was kissing their asses and suggested the best box office move would be to have the company’s biggest box office star, Lesnar, face whoever is the world champion. Vince said he wanted Lesnar in the Rumble. Vince got mad and said he didn’t like Heyman’s idea and was tired of people trying to change his mind on things. Stephanie said they should discuss this behind closed doors. So when they did, behind closed doors a few segments later, it was still in front of cameras.

O’Neil pinned Stardust in 3:23 with Clash of the Titus. Stardust came out to honor David Bowie. Ziggy Stardust was the inspiration for Dusty Rhodes to nickname himself Stardust in the late 70s, which was the inspiration of Cody using the Stardust name. Nobody cares about Stardust though. It’s a gimmick that should have been buried a long time ago. And these guys wrestled twice on TV in singles matches last week, both ending with Clash of the Titus, as did this. But the feud is continuing since Stardust gave O’Neil a chop block after the match and threw him into the barricade twice.

Jericho came out and talked about a domino effect of Star Wars being No. 1, Guns n Roses getting back together and him returning to save the WWE. The New Day came out and told Jericho that they needed to save his show from himself. They went back-and-forth until the Usos came out, who had to come out with their tag team of the year trophies. Kingston called Jimmy Uso “Jim” and Jericho called Kingston “dumbass.” This set up Usos vs. Big E & Kingston with Jericho and Woods in the corners. The Usos won the non-title match in 15:20. JBL was talking about how Kingston always does something spectacular to avoid elimination in the Rumble, and noted one year he played Bob Beamon. Bob Beamon was the gold medalist in the long jump in the 1968 Olympics, who set a record that wasn’t broken until 1991. Jericho chased Woods to the back once, but they came back from the break and both were still there. Jericho ended up breaking the trombone while Woods cried and screamed “Why, Why,” imitating 1994 Nancy Kerrigan in our second Olympic history moment of the match. Jey pinned Kingston with a schoolboy to set up the new title program. The program had been with the Lucha Dragons, but with Sin Cara hurt and Kalisto moved to singles, it opened the spot up for the Usos.

Backstage, Stephanie was with Heyman. Stephanie said Vince wasn’t there because he was mad at Heyman. Heyman said that Lesnar wants to face the winner of the Rumble in the main event at Mania for the title, and Lesnar is the biggest draw so that’s what he wants. Stephanie yelled at Heyman and said that Vince McMahon is the Chairman of WWE, and that he owns Lesnar’s contract and that Lesnar will compete in the Royal rumble and then told Heyman “do not ever get this close to me again.”

JBL came out to introduce Sting for the Hall of Fame. They showed a video of him, basically the Crockett & WCW years and a few clips from WWE. They don’t own the rights to TNA footage. In their world, TNA never existed, Sting retired in 2001 and didn’t wrestle for the next 14 years. That was hilarious when Flair was on one of those panels and they said that and Flair corrected them and said Sting had been wrestling the whole time. Layfield said it was good it was announced here because this was where he started. He started training in Los Angeles and he started his career in Memphis. New Orleans was a city in his second career territory.

The Wyatts were out. Slater & Rose & Dallas & Axel came out as the Social Outcasts, with Dallas saying they were the four musketeers. Wyatt was in the ring laughing at them. No acknowledgment of Wyatt and Dallas as brothers. This set up an eight-man. The match consisted of all the Outcasts pounding on Strowman, who no sold and rag dolled them for 1:00 until Ryback ran in. Ryback cleaned house on everyone and it was over.

Kalisto did an interview comparing himself to Eddy Guerrero.

Kalisto beat Del Rio to win the U.S. title in 15:12. Good match with a surprise finish. I thought the finish was cool but to give a babyface the title on a Monday and take it from him on a Tuesday is a way elevating him is almost guaranteed not to work. Kalisto went for a tope and Del Rio sidestepped him and Kalisto crashed. There were lots of near falls. Del Rio missed the double foot stomp. The finish was a Del Rio German suplex attempt turned into a front rolling cradle. The surprise title change got over pretty well.

Charlotte and Ric Flair were talking. Charlotte said that she can’t understand why people thing she’s the bad guy and that Lynch is the villain and she’s the victim in this story.

Charlotte vs. Brie Bella was announced. Brie Bella has the most awful ring music. Lynch attacked Charlotte before the match. The crowd was into this. Ric Flair was on the mic and then said that because Lynch attacked Charlotte there would be no match. He was out there playing heel Flair. This storyline is getting Lynch over, which is something everything up to this point had failed to do. Lynch did a promo talking about how she and Charlotte started together and vowed that no matter what, nothing would come between their friendship, but Charlotte betrayed her, and Charlotte had always promised that she’d never use her father as protection. Lynch talked about how she made Charlotte tap out on Smackdown. Good promo.

Reigns came out and a whole bunch of heels came out. They never exactly explained what one against all was. It turned out to be a long singles match with Reigns vs. Owens. They went 17:00, with some of the longest chinlock spots of the decade. Reigns would get comebacks and Owens would put on a chinlock. Vince and Stephanie were at ringside. Finally Vince tired of all this and told all the heels to attack Reigns. At first, Reigns destroyed a bunch of low-level heels. He gave both Ascension members Superman punches at the same time, and then gave Stardust a Samoan drop. He gave Breeze a one-arm power bomb. You could see who they see as the lowest ranked heels. Reigns clotheslined Stardust over the top rope and hit a spear on Breeze. Eventually everyone beat up on Reigns. The guys not in prelim patrol who were allowed offense on him were The New Day, Sheamus, Del Rio and Owens. No Rusev because he was injured in Bossier City. Fans were chanting “We Want Brock,” since time was running out and Lesnar still hadn’t appeared. Reigns was held and Sheamus nailed him with a Brogue kick. Lesnar than showed up and suplexed everyone to death and ran off the entire babyface contingent by himself. Reigns was down and Lesnar looked at him, and then gave Reigns an F-5. So if Reigns vs. HHH at Mania isn’t for the title, then Lesnar is probably challenging for it at Mania. If Reigns does win the Rumble, looks like Reigns vs. Lesnar at Fast Lane.

After Raw ended, everyone left except The New Day. They continued to beat on Reigns. Reigns made a comeback and laid out all three members to end the show.

Notes from the 1/12 tapings in Lafayette, LA. The show opened with a dark match with Los Matadores beating area wrestlers Luke Hawx & Matt Lancie.

Main event opened with Henry cutting a promo talking about the Royal Rumble. The Ascension attacked him and were beating him down until Swagger made the save, so that set up the main event on the show. They then did the exact same angle an hour later on Smackdown. Stardust pinned Fandango. Fox beat Tamina. Tamina then jumped Fox after the match and laid her out. Swagger & Henry beat The Ascension when Henry used the world’s strongest slam on Viktor to get the win.

Smackdown reads like the usual show, but so did last week and Mauro Ranallo took it up a notch. Ambrose came out and challenged Owens to a last man standing match at the Rumble. Sheamus came out first and they went at it. Owens came out and accepted the challenge, and both of them beat down Ambrose. Neville came out to make the save and we had every first segment of Smackdown to lead into the TV main event.

Dudleys beat Luke Harper & Erick Rowan in a tables match. Match was said to be not good. After the match, Strowman destroyed both Dudleys, putting Bubba through two tables and Devon through another.

Kalisto did an interview and talked about how he’s going to be like Rey Mysterio and Eddy Guerrero and how he’ll keep proving himself in the land of the giants.

Slater & Axel & Rose & Dallas beat Swagger & Ryder & Goldust & Sandow when Dallas pinned Ryder after the bulldog. When Dallas kicked off, he ended up kicking Slater and knocking him off the apron.

Del Rio regained the U.S. title over Kalisto with the armbar. Kalisto was distracted by Barrett prior to the finish.

Lynch beat Brie Bella via submission with the disarmer.

In the main event, Neville & Ambrose went to a no contest with Owens & Sheamus as they brawled all around ringside. Sheamus bailed and Ambrose hit the Dirty Deeds and Neville hit the red arrow on Owens, although it’s possible that happened after the Smackdown segment itself ended.

Notes from the 1/7 NXT tapings. They taped four weeks of television plus started off taping two matches for a proposed WWE Kids television show. They did four weeks because they want to get all the TV done through March at the next two tapings, and I think they will do a taping in Columbus, OH, in early March which will be the shows building the next Takeover special. That’s the show we wrote about months ago, and I saw the original pilot of. It was Corey Graves announcing with a ten year old boy and girl, and they’d make these off the wall comments on the talent while knowing nothing about them. For a 30 minute show it was campy, not something an adult would watch more than once. As far as a kid, I thought it felt like they were dumbing down for young kids not realizing that young kids don’t want to be dumbed down to. It wasn’t bad, but it very much felt like it was something an adult who doesn’t have young kids would think would appeal to kids today, when most kids today, if they do watch wrestling, and they don’t seem to an anywhere near the level of previous generations, are going to watch a show with big stars, big arenas and production values as opposed to somebody’s idea of a pandering to them show. Izzy, the famed front row at NXT Bayley fan, was one of the two ring announcers and interviewers. Lynch pinned Natalya with a roll-up in quick match. Show pinned Slater in another quick match with a leg drop. I guess they wanted to avoid the knockout punch on the kids show. Izzy interviewed Show asking him questions like how much does he eat.

The 1/13 episode of NXT opened with Regal announcing there would be a Battle Royal to determine the top contender for the women’s title. He also called out Zayn. Zayn said his goal is to become the first two-time NXT champion. Joe came out and they started arguing. Corbin was next out and they all fought and this led to an announcement of a three-way match “next week” for the No. 1 contender. Tommaso Ciampa beat Danny Burch (Martin Stone) with an armbar. Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson, in a non-title match, beat The Ascension. Elias Sampson pinned Corey Hollis. Carmella won the Battle Royal. The story of the Battle Royal was Eva Marie playing heel and hiding outside the ring. She ended up coming in and seemingly winning, not realizing Carmella hadn’t been thrown out. Carmella threw her out to win. Others in were Deonna Purrazzo of ROH, Aliyah, Cameron, Peyton Royce, Alexa Bliss, Billie Kay, Liv Morgan (formerly Gionna Daddio and some other names), Asuka and Emma.

The 1/20 episode opened with Zayn beating Rose. Apollo Crews pinned Tye Dillinger. Crews then issued a challenge to Balor and said that it doesn’t have to be a title match. Corbin pinned Rich Swann. Fans popped big for Swann but they squashed him with the big guy. The size difference must have been enormous here. Bayley & Carmella beat Emma & Bliss when Carmella made Bliss tap out. Dana Brooke was in the corner of Emma & Bliss. They were pushing that Bayley and Carmella were best friends, which, in real life, they are. Usually the heavy push of a champion and challenger as best friends leads to a turn. Joe beat Johnny Gargano with a choke.

The 1/27 show opens with Jordan & Gable over Blake & Murphy with their double-team back suplex finisher. Nia Jax pinned Liv Morgan in a squash. Alex Riley returned and beat Bull Dempsey. Elias Sampson pinned John Skyler. The three-way with Zayn vs. Corbin vs. Joe ended with Zayn putting Corbin in the sharpshooter while Joe then put Corbin in the crossface. Corbin tapped out, but the dispute was that they couldn’t determine which move he tapped out to, which sets up the Zayn vs. Joe match for the top contender. 1/27 sounds weird, because you’d think this would air on 1/20, right before the next taping, as opposed to after.

The 2/3 show saw The Vaudevillains beat Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder. The Vaudevillians are back as heels. Carmella pinned Emma. Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady beat two guys who never got a ring introduction. Asuka pinned former TNA wrestler Santana Garrett. Balor pinned Crews with a double foot stomp and Bloody Sunday DDT in their non-title match.

The 1/22 tapings at the University of Central Florida Gym will be for shows 2/10 to 3/2, and then they tape again on 1/28 for shows from 3/9 to either 3/23 or 3/30, but the 1/28 show will be the final build for the 4/1 Takeover show in Dallas so at least the top matches will be official at that point, with Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn the most likely main event.

Very clearly the relationship with WWN (Evolve) and WWE is strong since WWE allowed WWN to pass out flyers at the NXT tapings for its shows over Royal Rumble weekend in Orlando. In addition, William Regal will be appearing at the Evolve show the day before the Rumble in Orlando and Jordan & Gable will be signing autographs at the show.

NXT on 11/8 ran a house show in Tampa before a sellout of 550 fans, the biggest crowd they’ve ever done in that city. They’ve added some bleachers to get more fans in as they used to sell out at 350 fans. Mojo Rawley & Ryder beat Marcus Louis & Sawyer Fulton with the Hype Ryder on Louis. Elias Samson pinned Rich Swann with a neckbreaker. The crowd was into Swann. Eva Marie & Alexa Bliss & Peyton Royce beat Liv Morgan & Aliyah & Adrienne Reese (who was Athena on the Indies) when Eva pinned Aliyah. The crowd hated Eva. Manny Andrade, the former La Sombra, made his debut and pinned Riddick Moss. Fans were chanting “White pants” at him, having no idea who he is. His winning move was a running knee to the face while Moss was laying with his head on the bottom turnbuckle. Jordan & Gable & Crews beat Dash & Dawson & Angelo Dawkins. There was a lot of good wrestling in ths one. Corbin pinned Riley with the End of Days. Asuka beat Billie Kay with the Asuka lock. Main event saw Balor & Dempsey beat Dillinger & Tino Sabatelli. Tells you they’ve got big plans for Sabatelli if they put him in a house show main event this early. Dempsey mostly did opening match comedy.

The other NXT show was 1/9 in Citrus Springs before 250 fans. Swann pinned Chris Gerard, who is better known as Biff Busick, with a standing 450. Gerard is his real name. Both looked good. Samson pinned Steve Cuter. Eva Marie & Emma & Billie Kay beat Liv Morgan & Reese & Carmella when Eva Marie pinned Reese holding trunks. Fans hated Eva. Dana Brooke and Sylvester Lefort both worked as heel managers. Brooke is still on the injured list. Dillinger pinned Levis Valenzuela Jr. Rawley & Ryder beat Blake & Murphy and Tucker Knight (who has slimmed down a lot over the past few weeks) & Hugo Knox in a three-way. Crowd was into Knight & Knox as a team. Crews pinned Riley with a slam. Bayley pinned Royce with the Bayley to Belly. The crowd was super hot for Bayley, even more so than at Full Sail, singing songs and such. Balor & Amore & Cassady beat Sabatelli & Dawson & Wilder in the main event.

Some attendance figures from the NXT tour of the U.K. The 12/14 show in Nottingham drew 2,518 paying $160,982. The 12/12 show in Sheffield drew 3,493 paying $216,507. The 12/11 show in Glasgow drew 4,717 paying $268,048. Here are some more attendances from the November WWE tour of Europe. The two events in Germany in November were 11/13 in Leipzig which drew a sellout 7,145 paying $584,732 and 11/14 in Stuttgart which drew a sellout 5,816 paying $460,086. 11/12 in Newcastle drew a sellout 7,801 paying $443,424. WWE on 11/11 in Brighton drew a sellout 3,730 paying $294,176. WWE Smackdown on 11/10 in Manchester drew 7,213 paying $608,011. WWE Raw on 11/9 in Manchester drew a sellout 13,687 paying $1,016,892. WWE on 11/10 in Belfast drew a sellout 7,000 paying $419,056. 11/8 in Birmingham drew 10,907 (just shy of a sellout) paying $650,545. 11/7 in Leeds drew 8,364 (700 shy of a sellout) paying $555,822.

The Cena tour, minus Cena, opened on 1/8 in Houston drawing 7,000. 1/9 in Bossier City, LA, drew 3,500. 1/10 in Monroe, LA, drew 3,000.

The Reigns crew opened on 1/9 in Montgomery, AL, drawing 2,800. 1/10 in Mobile, AL, drew 2,000.

With Cena not there, they opened in Houston with the announcement that you can get a refund for Cena not being there, and then immediately Del Rio came out to interrupt and shoot the angle for a match with Jericho which is protocol to shoot an angle and open with a hot match so nobody gets refunds. Del Rio started talking and then Jericho, who wasn’t advertised for the show until the last few days, came out. Jericho cut a promo about the legacy of Houston wrestling. Jericho challenged Del Rio to a match. Del Rio went to walk off, but of course they did the match, giving the crowd the hot open so people wouldn’t leave. Jericho won after Del Rio missed the double foot stomp and Jericho won with the codebreaker. Good opener. O’Neil pinned Stardust with Clash of the Titus in what was said to be a boring match. Ryback pinned Rusev with the shell shock. Rusev had Lana with him. Rusev & Lana cut a promo before the match insulting local Houston sports teams. R-Truth pinned Slater with a roll-up. Kalisto & Torito (subbing for the injured Sin Cara) beat Los Matadores. Kalisto pinned one of them with Salida del Sol. Torito did some cool suplexes and the crowd was very into Kalisto. Lesnar pinned Sheamus. Heyman was there and did the intro for Lesnar. Lesnar got a big reaction. Sheamus hit the Brogue kick but Lesnar kicked out and won with a series of suplexes and an F-5. Brie Bella pinned Tamina in a match with Summer Rae as referee. Match was said to be pretty bad. Summer Rae slapped Tamina leading to a roll-up finish by Brie. Crowd was dead and fans didn’t care at all about Tamina, and given her TV role, you could see why. Ziggler pinned Breeze after a superkick. A funny moment early was Breeze during his intro took a photo with a selfie stick which is then shown on the big screens, but the screens froze and then there was an error message on the screen saying there was a poor connection. Match was very good and Ziggler was cheered a lot. Main event saw Ambrose pin Owens in a street fight to retain the IC title. They used all the usual WWE street fight weapons. Ambrose won with Dirty Deeds on a table for the pin. Both were over like main eventers and they had a strong match.

In Bossier City, it was mostly the same show. The only differences were no Lesnar vs. Sheamus, as Lesnar didn’t work the rest of the tour, and Sheamus moved over to the other tour to headline against Reigns, and the Ambrose vs. Owens title match wasn’t a street fight. They did the same open with the announcement of Cena no being there and refunds offered, and the Del Rio and Jericho came out to set up their opener. Jericho and Del Rio had a strong opener. Lots of “Cody” chants in the Stardust match with O’Neil. Crowd was dead for Los Matadores vs. Kalisto & Torito. Ambrose once again pinned Owens with Dirty Deeds to keep the IC title.

Monroe was the same show other than no Rusev, so they did the deal with Ryback, where after R-Truth beat Slater, Slater refused to leave and dared anyone in the back to face him, and that’s where Ryback was used, winning via shell shock quickly.

In Montgomery, the opener saw Harper & Rowan & Strowman beat Dudleys & Dreamer when Harper pinned Dreamer with a discus lariat. Goldust & Fandango beat The Ascension. Charlotte beat Lynch to retain the Divas title. Kane pinned Wyatt. This match featured interference from the Wyatt family and a save by Dreamer & Dudleys. Neville pinned Dallas with a 450. Dallas then issued a challenge to anyone in the back. Swagger came out and beat Dallas quickly with the ankle lock. Big E & Woods retained the tag titles over the Usos. Reigns pinned Sheamus in the main event to retain the title with a spear. They were sold out of the New Day unicorn gimmicks so people are buying the stuff. A lot of the Anoa’i family that lives in Pensacola came to this show to see Reigns and Usos as the headliners.

Mobile was mostly the same show. Rose joined the tour and wrestled Neville, who pinned him with the Red Arrow. So Dallas only worked one regular match instead of two quick matches, losing to Swagger’s ankle lock. The New Day teaming beating the Usos to retain the tag title was Kingston & Woods. Charlotte retaining the title over Lynch by holding the trunks using a roll-up was the best match on the show.