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July 10, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: NJPW in Long Beach reviewed, TNA becomes GFW, tons of news

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 July 10, 2017

 

NEW JAPAN G-1 SPECIAL DAY ONE

Thumbs up 407 (84.6%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 74 (15.4%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin 362

Kazuchika Okada vs. Cody 50

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito 28

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Tanahashi vs. Gunn eight-man 188

Jay Lethal vs. Hangman Page 110

LIJ vs. Volador & Lee & Liger & Titan 34

 

NEW JAPAN G-1 SPECIAL DAY TWO

Thumbs up 282 (99.6%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 1 (00.4%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii 237

Young Bucks vs. Romero & Baretta 20

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr. 19

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Billy Gunn 161

Team Liger vs. Team Tatsu 39

Bullet Club vs. Chaos 8 man 14

 

TNA SLAMMIVERSARY POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 60 (84.5%)

Thumbs down 11 (15.5%)

In the middle 0 (00.0%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Tag title four-way 24

Alberto El Patron vs. Bobby Lashley 14

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Sienna vs. Rosemary 25

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 7/4.

 

New Japan Pro Wrestling made its official U.S. debut on its own with shows that answered a few questions, but left the biggest questions unanswered.

The 7/1 and 7/2 shows sold out the 2,600-seats at the Long Beach Convention Center basically as soon as the tickets were put on sale. The paid ticket numbers were 2,370 the first night and 2,305 the second night.

It was obvious in seconds of when tickets went on sale, with no advertising whatsoever, not even on its own television show, that they greatly underestimated the demand. But with about 80 percent of the attendees coming from outside Southern California, including 38 states and several foreign countries, it really didn’t answer the question as to what type of following or what kind of potential the company has in the U.S. as far as putting on regular shows that won’t be filled with fly-in fans from all over North America.

There are positive signs. Even with the warning ahead of time for New Japan to bring truckloads of merchandise, they sold out almost all of what they brought the first night and had very little left the second night. The lines for merchandise in the arena were ridiculously long, 90 minutes or more at times, but the problem is they had too few merchandise stands in the building. That and the sight lines, with no elevated seating, were the biggest complaints live.

As far as the shows went, they were a huge success unless you came in spoiled by Dominion and expected shows of that caliber. The multiple-person underneath matches that some didn’t like are simply what the New Japan product is. With the U.S. title tournament, there were more singles matches than at anything but the biggest shows of the year.

There were complaints about using Billy Gunn, Yoshitatsu and Cody Rhodes, with the idea they weren’t New Japan top guys and the belief they were brought in as former WWE names. The argument was that Gunn was a top star nearly two decades ago, Rhodes was a prelim guy in WWE that wasn’t being used much before he left, and Yoshitatsu didn’t do much on the main roster and finally quit. All three were heavily booed, although, for Rhodes, it fit into his character and the negativity turned into a positive in his match with Kazuchika Okada. Both AXS and market research did seem to indicate Rhodes and Gunn were positives when it came to interest in the show, although Gunn should not have been featured with Hiroshi Tanahashi in an IC title match.

Okada vs. Cody continued Okada’s streak of having incredible IWGP title matches. It was possibly the best match of Cody’s career, and at the very least was easily his best singles match ever on a national stage.

The Gunn thing was a miscalculation. He really didn’t look bad, but was just okay on shows where people’s expectations were for far beyond okay.

The U.S. title tournament looked good on paper and was even better in actuality. It blew away any single elimination tournaments in recent years. Six of the seven matches exceeded ***3/4 and two matches, Kenny Omega’s bouts with Michael Elgin and his championship win over Tomohiro Ishii, were among the best matches of the year.

While New Japan has too many titles, it is the man who makes the belt today, and if that’s the case, the title is already a big deal even with its lack of history. The plan is for the title to be defended in both New Japan and ROH (tentatively Omega’s first title defense in ROH will be in October, likely against an opponent who he can have a match of the year showcase type of bout). Perhaps even bigger news is the confirmation that Omega is likely staying in New Japan through the early 2019. He pretty much said when people had asked and said he wasn’t going anywhere, and company officials who had expected this would be his last year with the company were expecting him to stay. Right now, unless something unforeseen happens, like he gets an offer so huge from WWE that he can’t turn it down, or something happens with the company, he’s planning on staying. It’s also notable that the end of 2018 will also coincide with the Young Bucks contracts with ROH and New Japan expiring. After winning the title, Omega talked about how the Never title has never really made it as a major title, how the IC title was nothing in its early years(it wasn’t until Shinsuke Nakamura got it that it really became a big deal), while the U.S. title because of the quality of the matches, is starting out as a significant title. He made it clear he still was after Okada and the IWGP title, and said that his goal was to face Kota Ibushi at the G-1 finals. The idea seems to be in 2018, when New Japan starts running more U.S. shows, that the U.S. title will be the main belt.

Obviously, they undershot far too conservatively as far as building size on these shows, but now have the experience to know better. The plan right now is to open an office in Los Angeles by the end of the year, to open a Dojo in Los Angeles right around the same time, and to schedule a tour late in the first quarter of 2018 to eventually lead to running a Los Angeles-based promotion. Omega pushed the idea of booking a 20,000 seat arena in 2018, which may be ambitious, although one would think they’d have easily sold out a 6,000-seat arena both nights and arena officials based on the volume of orders so quickly believed that they could have sold out all 13,000 seats of the larger arena.

Still, even with the strong feedback, when it comes to entering a new market that already has a dominant promotion, it’s usually the first show that does the best, even if that show is excellent. Granted, this is a different time and place, but whether it was WCW going into strong WWF markets, JCP going into strong WWF markets or even when World Class went into Boston in the 80s, the first shows usually drew well, and were usually great shows since those companies were loaded with talent. But in many cases, follow-up shows struggled even though you’d think if the first show was great that wouldn’t be the case. World Class in Boston is an interesting analogy because they had TV in the 80s that went head-to-head with WWF, and because they had the far superior show, both production, and atmosphere, they drew bigger ratings. But Boston was a WWF stronghold. They were already past their peak of popularity when they came to Boston, and the first show did 8,000 fans, about what WWF would do at the time. By all accounts (including from WWF employees), the first show was excellent, far better than a WWF show at the time. Still, WWF continued to draw while the second time World Class came in they only sold 3,500 tickets and soon after were gone from the market.

New Japan has been looking into locations for running over WrestleMania weekend in 2018 in New Orleans. ROH has booked a 5,000-seat building and one would think a New Japan show with the top names over Mania weekend should be able to sell that out.

That’s a surprise to me because they are usually building up to one of their biggest events, the April show at Sumo Hall, during that time period. By 2018, they may be running split crews anyway because they really have too much talent for one crew, which is one of the reasons there are so many multiple-person matches.

Okada and Omega came across as the two biggest stars. It’s clear that Okada is now a much bigger star than he was a year ago to the U.S. fan base, stemming from all of his great matches this year. Omega obviously is much bigger as well, but with both of them, it’s still hard too quantify how big, past reports that Omega, Young Bucks, and all New Japan shirts had ridiculously high sales at Hot Topic mainstream mall outlets of late.

There are no numbers available right now for the live 7/1 show on AXS. The expectations based on Twitter were strong, but we’ve seen trending on Twitter is not necessarily be reflective of anything. Still, New Japan was No. 1 topic on Twitter in the U.S. during most of Saturday night, and top ten in the world. However, it did not hit 20,000 searches on Google, the number that is usually needed to crack the top 20, on either Saturday or Sunday.

Over the past week, there was still four times the interest in New Japan in Japan than the U.S., and seven times that of the U.K. But usually, the figure is about 35 times the interest and for 2017, Japan was nine times the U.S. interest.

AXS does not subscribe to Neilsen so actual ratings won’t be available past that a normal Friday night does just over 200,000 viewers. Based on Google searches, on 6/30, the night the Dominion show aired on AXS with the Omega vs. Okada 60:00 draw, the interest level was double that of 6/23 (Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale; Omega vs. Ishii) but only 11 percent above 6/16 (Okada vs. Katsuyori Shibata). The interest level for 7/1 was five times greater than 6/30, and for 7/2, it was 2.5 times greater. Interestingly, even with no television, the Dominion show when it took place on 6/11 drew half the interest level of 7/1 and almost identical to 7/2, although both Dominion and 7/2 were both New Japan World exclusives live. The Tokyo Dome Wrestle Kingdom show had 33 percent more interest than either Dominion or the second Long Beach show in the U.S., so the first night in Long Beach was substantially above the Tokyo Dome show.

Interest peaked at both 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on 7/1 and it was bigger in small markets in Kentucky and West Virginia, while the largest major markets were Los Angeles (as expected), Buffalo, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Providence, Philadelphia, Memphis, New York and Baltimore. The interest level on Saturday was 20 percent of what WWE interest was on the following Monday for a comparison, when usually the gap in the U.S. is so gigantic there is no comparison at all. Unlike with UFC or WWE, where the headliners are the topics most searched, for this show, it was the product, as most of the top searches were New Japan name related.

As far as the names went, on search topics related to the show in the U.S., Omega was only No. 8, Okada was No. 9, Rhodes was No. 13, Naito was No. 15 and, believe it or not, War Machine (who defeated Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa to win the IWGP tag team titles in the only change of an existing title) was No. 23. The worldwide order of interest, which would be heavily Japan-skewed, was Okada, Omega, Naito, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Rhodes, Gunn and Ishii in that order.

The big subplot of the weekend, largely built around The Bullet Club, was the slow tease of Omega vs. Rhodes. At Dominion, Rhodes went to throw in the towel when things looked desperate for Omega in his title match with Okada, but Omega came back from the dead. On the first night, Omega came out with the towel and tried to get Brandi Rhodes, Cody’s wife, to throw it in while once again The Young Bucks pleaded with her not to, saying Cody made it clear he didn’t want the towel thrown in.

Okada ended up pinning Cody with the rainmaker in 27:12 to retain the IWGP heavyweight title in the first battle of significant world champions since the 2005 Satoshi Kojima vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan matches, and the first in the U.S. since HHH vs. Taz when WWE set out to make the ECW title look secondary. More than any other match, this had a strong face vs. heel dynamic. While Okada was clearly the better wrestler, any questions about Cody not being able to deliver a top match were answered and Omega vs. Cody is likely to be a significant program down the line.

When Omega beat Ishii in the finals to win the U.S. title tournament, Cody came out and pulled the belt away from him. The entire weekend there was a tease as to whether Cody or Omega was the leader of the Bullet Club. However, Cody then put the belt around Omega’s waist and hugged him. Omega, in his interview after the match backstage, said that everything was settled between the two of them, but while everyone else from the Bullet Club was there with him, Cody was conspicuously not there.

What ended up being a major topic of discussion was the announcing. It was a very weird political situation. New Japan considers the Kevin Kelly/Don Callis team as their announcers. AXS considers the Jim Ross/Josh Barnett team as their announcers. Both Kelly and Callis were brought to Long Beach, but neither announced, even for the second show that aired first on New Japan World, because the idea it was going to air as it was taped with no post-editing the next Friday on AXS.

It created some weird dynamics. Ross and Barnett are familiar with the top guys, like Omega, Okada, Tanahashi, Naito, Kushida, Takahashi and the headliners who are featured on the Friday night shows, but not with the roster as a whole, or the ROH and CMLL talent. Kelly and Callis, because they do complete shows, are familiar with just about everyone. There were issues on the first night as both Ross and Barnett mixed up Mark Briscoe with Jay Briscoe. There were no producers, as if that mistake was made on a normal broadcast, they’d be alerted immediately and correct their error. Instead, it went unchecked the entire match and it wasn’t until the next night that they apologized. In addition, in the Jay Lethal vs. Hangman Page, it was clear they didn’t know the Lethal combination and Lethal injection moves when Lethal did them, although it was also clear the next night that they learned them.

Ross did a lot of pun type commentary and banter, like a WWE type of banter, while the hardcore New Japan fans wanted a more serious approach, which he did deliver strongly in the top singles matches. With New Japan, because so many hardcores grew up on the Japanese language announcers, who are really big on all the names of the moves, but with so many guys on the show who were unfamiliar to the announcers and the language barrier and communication issues, there didn’t appear to be much direction.

Steve Corino did a lot of comedy when he was doing the New Japan World announcing so it’s not like that was something different. There were also issues with the lack of background info and direction on where the angles were going from the New Japan side. It’s one thing to announce a show and not know the finishes, which can be good because you react better that way (although there is a strong argument against that) but there’s no argument about not knowing the direction things are headed so you can tease that stuff in the commentary and you could tell there was none of that here. Part of storytelling is hinting what is next and it was clear they didn’t know (and in fact, they didn’t). Without it, you’re really just calling moves and trying to figure out the story being told, and perhaps filling in the down time with history.

There were issues with New Japan wanting their team and the idea that Jim Ross was with WWE. As it was, Ross put over the product huge, although, given the quality of the talent and matches, he pretty much had to. Still, he constantly referenced Omega and Okada in particular as the hottest wrestler in the business with the former, and the best wrestler of 2017 in the latter, which was farther than I expected him to go given he works for WWE. You would think he was walking a political tightrope in how much he could put people over, but he ignored that tightrope. You could say the hottest wrestler in New Japan without any controversy, but when you call someone in New Japan the hottest wrestler in the genre, whether accurate or not, that’s inherently putting them above the top WWE stars. Perhaps when he signed with WWE while still having the existing contract with AXS, it was made clear he had to do the right job with the other company he had the previous contract with. It’s really an unheard of situation in pro wrestling for something exactly like this, and it was only because of the ITV deal in the U.K. that they badly didn’t want Ross doing, that WWE didn’t do what they’d normally do, and sign Ross when his current deal expired.

He was strong in getting over the top guys as legit top guys to new viewers, and the top matches as being epic matches. But it was still a WWE announcer who nobody in New Japan expects to be with the product long-term, so you can see where New Japan would want their guys in the slot since they are trying to build for the future. AXS felt that they had the Pat Summerall of wrestling announcers and the idea he’s back with WWE only made it more of a coup to have him as the lead guy on their most ambitious wrestling broadcast to date.

On the second night, Matt Jackson in the middle of his tag title match, even made a reference to Barnett burying them on commentary which came across awkward. Barnett, since they are heels and also are not the style Barnett likes (Barnett is a huge fan of a believable fight style like a Minoru Suzuki or Katsuyori Shibata, and his pro wrestling idol and one of his MMA mentors was Billy Robinson). He has in the past kind of joked about them in ways in commentary. Of late, probably since he’s been going to PWG shows regularly, his take has been different. I spoke to Barnett after a show a few months ago and he noted that while his favorite style of pro wrestling was different, how could you possibly knock guys who work so hard and give the audience a great show, or knock the show, even if the moves aren’t realistic shoot moves, in reference to the Bucks and the some of the more high spot oriented matches on those shows.

There were some production errors on the first night, as AXS had never done live pro wrestling. The idea of treating it like a sports event being covered live as opposed to an entertainment event allowed them to do long matches with no commercial breaks during the match. They did no interviews like on a wrestling broadcast, with only the in-ring stuff like it would be done on a New Japan show and they did air the backstage press conference after the main event concluded the first night.

Steve Austin was at the show the first night. He came to the locker room and a lot of the talent were blown away by him being there and Austin specifically went to talk with Tanahashi.

Most felt that second night was better than the first, but I didn’t think the gap was that big as the main matches the first night were all great. Omega’s matches with Michael Elgin the first night and Ishii the second were generally viewed as the two best. Both bouts were, to me, similar in quality.

AXS was thrilled with the show and the response. The decision was made to do another eight-hour block on 7/7, with a replay of the 7/1 show airing from 4-8 p.m., and then premiering the 7/2 show from 8 p.m. to midnight.

 

JULY 1 - LONG BEACH CONVENTION CENTER - 2,370 SELLOUT

 

1. Rocky Romero & Baretta & Will Ospreay & Mark & Jay Briscoe beat Young Bucks & Marty Scurll & Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale in 9:21. Crowd was hot with all this talent. Of course with so many guys and so little time it was everything rushing in and doing their stuff. Ospreay vs. Scurll doing old European style was an early highlight. The crowd popped for all the early superkicks. The Bucks both hit tope’s on the Briscoes. Ospreay then did a springboard shooting star press on everyone. Scurll did the broken fingers on Mark. Fale did the Bad Luck fall on Baretta over the top rope onto everyone. The finish saw the Bucks set up the Meltzer driver, but Ospreay pulled Nick off the apron and Romero cradled Matt. Matt, after losing, said that his T-shirts are in every Hot Topic store in the U.S. so he’s not supposed to lose. ***1/4

2. Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi beat Jushin Liger & Volador Jr. & Titan & Dragon Lee in 6:44. This was even more rushed. Takahashi now has a stuffed animal named Darryl that he brings to the ring. So they brought out Darryl to California but left Pieter in Japan even thought the other Takahashi was on the tour. I don’t think they realized how much merchandise Pieter would be able to sell to the U.S. audience. The place went nuts for Takahashi vs. Lee and they loved Liger. Volador and Titan both did running flip dies at the same time. Takahashi distracted the ref and Evil did the baseball bat swing of the chair into the chair around the neck of Titan. Takahashi then pinned Titan with the Time bomb. **½

3. Jay Lethal pinned Hangman Page in the first round of the U.S. title tournament in 8:30. Page attacked him at the bell. Lethal’s ribs were all taped up from the splash off the top rope to the floor through a table that Beer City Bruiser gave Lethal eight days earlier on the ROH show. Page did his shooting star shoulder block off the apron. Lethal went for the Lethal injection, but Page used the octopus. Lethal sold the ribs most of the way, but came back to win with three high kicks and the Lethal injection. **3/4

4. Zack Sabre Jr. beat Juice Robinson in the first round of the U.S. title tournament in 10:04. At one point early, Sabre used a cravat on Robinson’s dreadlocks. Sabre used a lot of submissions like a Kimura with a body scissors, that Robinson turned into a vertical suplex. Sabre did a great reversal of pulp fiction (killswitch) into his bridging cradle pin for a near fall. Sabre used an armbar and triangle combination and Robinson tore the house down by picking him up from that position with a one arm power bomb. Robinson went for pulp fiction and Sabre turned it into the octopus. Robinson tried to reach for the ropes but Sabre tied up one arm, and then the other, while still holding the octopus. This was an incredible looking submission and Robinson tapped from it. Robinson was really over with this crowd and it is so clear the greatest decision he ever made in his life was to come to New Japan as a young boy. ***3/4

5. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kushida & Jay White & David Finlay beat Billy Gunn & Yoshitatsu & Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka in 9:40. Finlay, Komatsu, Tanaka, White and Kushida looked great. Fans didn’t like Gunn or Yoshitatsu and loved Tanahashi. Tanahashi did a cross body off the top and Gunn was supposed to catch him and give him a fallaway slam. But he dropped him and had to pick him up again to do the move. White was really over. The finish saw Tanahashi, Kushida and Finlay all do planchas to the floor, while in the ring White pinned Yoshitatsu with a flatliner. **3/4

6. War Machine (Ray Rowe & Hanson) beat Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa in 11:06 to retain the IWGP tag team titles. Tonga & Roa had won the titles at Dominion on 6/11. Before the match, Rowe asked for the match to be a no DQ match, since Tonga & Roa had used a chair to beat them. Tonga was about to answer, but instead hit Rowe in the head with the mic. So it became a weapons match. Roa hit Rowe in the head with a garbage can lid. Hanson went for a tope but Tonga hit him in the head with a garbage can and gave him another shot to the body with the can. Hanson did his forever clothesline spot. Roa did a diving head-butt on Rowe, followed by Tonga doing a frog splash on Rowe, but Rowe kicked out. Rowe threw Tonga in the air and Hanson caught him and powerslammed him. Chase Owens then came out and hit Hanson with a chair. chair. Roa power bombed Rowe through two chairs, but he kicked out. Owens threw in a table. They weren’t using the authentic thick Japanese tables this weekend. Hanson did a tope onto Owens and Tonga. Rowe did a jumping knee on Roa, who no sold it. He did a German suplex on Roa, who got back up, and then another knee, and this time Roa collapsed. The finish saw War Machine use fallout (Rowe picking up Roa and Hanson coming off the top rope with a leg drop) on Roa and Rowe pinned him. ***1/4

7. Tomohiro Ishii pinned Tetsuya Naito in 15:51 in a U.S. title tournament match. Both guys were really over. It was nicely paced. Naito hit a great missile dropkick. Naito was bleeding from the mouth early. Naito reversed a brainbuster into a DDT. Naito used a German suplex and a Frankensteiner off the top rope for near falls. Naito spit the blood into Ishii’s face. Ishii got a near fall with a power bomb and folding press. They went back-and-forth with near falls. Naito used a missile dropkick to the back of the head and a dragon suplex for a near fall. He went for Destino, but Ishii clotheslined him. He got another near fall with a hard clothesline before Ishii hit the brainbuster for the pin. ****1/4

8. Kenny Omega pinned Michael Elgin in 22:31 in a U.S. title tournament match. They did some sick chops early. Elgin did a 17 second vertical suplex. Omega did a moonsault off the apron. He bulldogged Elgin on the ramp and slammed him into the ring frame but Elgin beat the 20 count. Omega did the forward fireman’s carry into a middle rope moonsault but Elgin got his knees up. Elgin used a delayed German suplex and a second one. Elgin also slingshotted Omega into the ring and caught and powerslammed him. Elgin blocked a huracanrana, but Omega then hit the snap dragon suplex and followed with his Terminator dive. Then he used a missile dropkick to the back of the head. Elgin did some sick clotheslines and blocked a reverse huracanrana attempt on the apron and gave Omega a German suplex on the apron. Elgin used a die hard (Razor’s Edge) off the middle rope for a great near fall. Omega ended up using three running V trigger knees, a reverse huracanrana, two more V triggers, and reverse Styles clash, another V trigger and the One Winged Angel for the pin. ****3/4

9. Kazuchika Okada pinned Cody in 27:12 to retain the IWGP title. Cody stalled early including twice kissing his wife at ringside, to set up her for the spot later in the match. Okada did a running crossbody on the floor over the barricade into the second row. Cody kept touching his injured right shoulder, which had kiniseo tape on it. It’s clearly hurt and he was checking on it, because the shoulder never played into the match. Cody used a springboard dropkick, and spit on ref Red Shoes Unno. Cody backdropped Okada on the floor, and went for a draping DDT, but Okada reversed and used the draping DDT off the apron. Cody used an armdrag off the top rope and a disaster kick for a near fall. Whenever some fans would start to chant for Cody, the rest of the crowd tried to boo any cheers and chants out. Okada did a great elbow off the top rope and went for a rainmaker, but Cody ducked down and dropped into a calf slicer and Okada struggled to make the ropes. Okada used a dropkick to the back. Okada hit the tombstone, and then set up the rainmaker, but Cody spit in his face. Okada nailed him with the rainmaker. Omega ran in with the towel, and told Brandi Rhodes to throw it in. This could be taken two ways. One that is was Omega getting revenge for what Cody tried to do. The other is that it distracted Okada when Cody was ready to be pinned. The Bucks were arguing with Omega. Fans were chanting at Brandi, “Throw in the towel” because they didn’t want Cody to win. Okada then hit the dropkick, but Cody recovered and hit a rainmaker out of nowhere. Cody took the towel, wiped his ass with it and threw it in Omega’s face. He went for crossroads, but Omega nailed him with a knee and hit crossroads on Cody for a near fall. Cody tried for the One Winged Angel, but Okada escaped. Okada finally used a spinning tombstone piledriver and got the pin with the rainmaker. Brandi and Omega were arguing after the match. Omega then did a promo and said he was jealous of Okada tonight because Okada got to main event this show in front of all these great fans. ****½

 

JULY 2 - LONG BEACH CONVENTION CENTER - 2,305 SELLOUT

 

1. Jushin Liger & Kushida & David Finlay beat Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu & Yoshitatsu in 8:52. The crowd once again was really into Liger. Kushida did a running flip dive onto Tanaka and Komatsu. Tanaka used a Bruno Sammartino backbreaker on Kushida with an assisted slam b7y Komatsu. Kushida rebounded off the ropes into a German suplex by Tanaka. Yoshitatsu did a great missile dropkick but fans booed him anyway, as well as a quick powerslam. He set up the pedigree, but Finlay reversed it into a backbreaker for a near fall. The finish saw Liger use the Rito Romero special on Komatsu, Kushida get Tanaka in the hoverboard lock, and Finlay get Yoshitatsu in the stretch muffler. Finlay and Yoshitatsu were the legal guys and Yoshitatsu submitted. ***1/4

2. Kenny Omega beat Jay Lethal in the semifinals of the U.S. title tournament in 12:56. Omega shocked the crowd with a hard push kick to the chest right away. He rammed Lethal’s ribs into the guard rail and the ring apron. He used a front suplex on the apron. Omega missed a crossbody and Lethal used a superkick and the Lethal injection, but Omega rolled outside the ring. Fans cheered Omega rolling outside the ring because they knew that was Lethal’s finisher and didn’t want him advancing. Lethal then hit three straight tope’s. He used a Randy Savage elbow for a near fall. Then he went for the figure four. Lethal went for the Lethal injection but Omega used the back stabber and went for a famouser, but Lethal turned it into a Blue Thunder bomb. Omega used a snap dragon suplex and landed a number of knees for near falls. Omega used a doctor bomb, a running knee, and went for the One Winged Angel. Lethal tried to turn that into a huracanrana, but Omega blocked it and hit the One Winged Angel to get the pin. ***3/4

3. Tomohiro Ishii beat Zack Sabre Jr. in the semifinals of the U.S. title tournament in 11:42. Ishii hit a superplex early for a near fall. Sabre used a Northern Lights suplex into a razor lock. They went back and forth. The key part of the match was Sabre getting an armbar while hooking Ishii’s leg and keeping him from making the ropes. Ishii did the greatest sell job of the year and Sabre did one of the greatest submission spots of the year before Ishii finally made the ropes. Every aspiring wrestler needs to watch this match just to see how well worked that spot was. It was one of the greatest rope break spots I’ve ever seen. Sabre hit a penalty kick, but Ishii came back with a hard lariat and hit the brainbuster for the pin. ****

4. Dragon Lee & Titan & Volador Jr. & Juice Robinson & Jay White beat Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Bushi & Seiya Sanada & Hiromu Takahashi in 12:28. Really good stuff here with a surprise ending. Volador did his same Asai moonsault spot he does most Friday’s which always looks so well set up. Volador also worked the match with his mask on even though he lost the mask years ago and worked without the mask the night before. Sanada tied up both Robinson and Titan into pretzels and dropkicked both from behind. Robinson used running cannonballs into the corner on Sanada and Naito. Lee and Takahashi then chopped the hell out of each other and their interaction was among the best of the night. After a never ending chop sequence, Takahashi gave Lee a wheelbarrow German suplex and Lee came back with a German suplex and a jumping knee. Takahashi used a belly to belly into the turnbuckles. Everyone fought on the floor. Titan did a top rope Asai moonsault on Takahashi. Volador used a back stabber on Bushi and White followed with a uranage. The finish saw White pin Bushi after a flatliner. So White got pins in two straight nights which tells you how much Gedo thinks of him and that he’ll be pushed as a major star when he comes back. Robinson’s eye was busted open in this match. ***3/4

5. Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa & Hangman Page beat War Machine & Michael Elgin in 11:17. Haku came out with Tonga & Roa & Page wearing a Bullet Club T-shirt. War Machine went for fallout on Page but Roa broke it up. Page got the surprise pin with a lariat and the Rites of Passage (Omori driver) on Rowe. Page grabbed the tag title belt and said that he deserves a shot at the title. That’ll likely come on 8/13 at Sumo Hall, but they didn’t indicate who his partner would be. **½

6. Young Bucks retained the IWGP tag team titles over Rocky Romero & Baretta in 22:41. This match was just insane. The story of this match was that The Young Bucks had gone on Twitter after finding out that my dad died and promised the greatest Meltzer driver ever. So the story of the match is that they kept trying to deliver on the promise but never could get the move done. Nick did a top rope Asai moonsault on both of them. Matt gave Baretta a running power bomb on the ramp, so for several minutes, Romero had to go at it alone. Nick did a swanton off the apron on an elevated Romero. They did the first Meltzer driver tease but Romero used a huracanrana on Nick into Matt. Romero tried to tag out but Baretta was still on the floor selling. Baretta finally recovered and did a hot tag. Baretta used a tornado DDT on Matt. Baretta went to the top rope but Matt scooped his leg and Baretta took a bad fall. Matt whipped Baretta into the turnbuckles and he did the Ray Stevens/Ric Flair flip into a superkick by Matt. Romero did his double huracanrana spot but then the Bucks hit a double superkick on Romero and a double superkick on Baretta. They did more bang for your buck, a 450 by Nick followed by a moonsault by Matt on Baretta for a near fall. Nick had the sharpshooter no Baretta and Romero saved with a springboard missile dropkick on Nick. They teased a Meltzer driver on the apron but Romero threw Matt into Nick. Romero & Baretta went for a doomsday device on Matt on the floor but Romero used a high knee instead of a clothesline. Baretta gave Nick a piledriver on the apron. Baretta then used a Gotch piledriver on Nick, who kicked out at the last second. The crowd booed thinking the ref held up the count. Romero & Baretta did Strong Zero on Nick but Matt saved. Romero went for a tope on Matt, who caught him and picked him up in a tombstone position on the floor. Nick climbed the ropes and did a flip off the top and spiked Romero, and really barely got him. The place went nuts, Matt said that was for Herbert Meltzer and prayed. The crowd was chanting “Meltzer” as they seemed to all be waiting for the spot. Baretta spit at Nick. They gave Baretta a double superkick followed by another Meltzer driver on Romero. Nick then put Romero in the sharpshooter while Matt put Baretta in the sharpshooter for the submission. The double sharpshooter was for Bret Hart because Smith Hart had just passed away that day. After the match, Ricochet showed up. He did a running flip dive taking out both Young Bucks, while still keeping his glasses on. Ricochet then cut a promo saying that he and Ryusuke Taguchi wanted a shot at the Young Bucks (most likely this will be on 8/13 at Sumo Hall). He called their team the Funky Future, which means they are likely to be a regular tag team in Japan as opposed to just a one-shot thing. He channeled The Rock saying “Finally Ricochet has come back to Long Beach.” Some weren’t thrilled with that line or him talking about how he wanted to wrestle on these shows and “a certain Underground fighting company are being pricks right now.” Lucha Underground wouldn’t allow him to work the shows because even though he’s been done with the company for more than one year, his contract is exclusive for U.S. taped television shows until six months after the last episode of the third season ends. The Young Bucks accepted the challenge. After that, Romero & Baretta took the mic and they said how they won the IWGP jr. tag titles together three times, and their goal was also to win the Super Junior tag team tournament, and they won that last year. They said they had made a deal that if they couldn’t win this match, that they would break up their team and Baretta would move to the heavyweight division. Romero told him to move up and you have my blessing and they hugged. Last year they kept building up a split, but then stopped doing so this year and got the one last push as champions. ****1/4

7. Cody & Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale & Marty Scurll beat Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay & Mark & Jay Briscoe in 16:00. Lots of stalling early as the Bullet Club team would keep stalling by tagging each other with nobody locking up. Cody got super heat. The crowd chanted “We Want Fale,” so Fale was tagged in, and then he immediately tagged out without touching anyone. The place exploded when Okada tagged in but nobody would face him. They stalled for more than 5:00, but once they got going, the match was great. Cody armdragged Ospreay off the top. All four Bullet Club members did the Rick Rude hip gyrations. Ospreay did his dropkick where he lands on his feet. There was a big pop as they built up Okada bodyslamming Fale. Ospreay countered a suplex into a stunner. Everyone hit big moves including Okada with a dropkick on Fale. Ospreay did a double Pele kick and a space flying Tiger drop, followed by a Robinson kick. He went for the Oscutter, but Cody jumped off the ropes and landed a knee and hit crossroads for the pin. ***3/4

8. Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Billy Gunn in 14:26 to retain the IC title. Gunn worked on Tanahashi’s right arm. Fans were chanting “Red Shoes” at the ref to keep themselves entertained. There was a “Go Ace” chant. Tanahashi came off the ropes into a punch by Gunn. Tanahashi pulled down Gunn’s trunks. Gunn then pulled down Tanahashi’s trunks. Gunn turned a sling blade into a cobra slam. Fans popped as Tanahashi kicked out. Tanahashi used a twist and shout but missed the high fly flow. Gunn used the famouser for a near fall and people did react to it. Gunn told Tanahashi to suck his dick. Tanahashi decided against doing that. Instead he hit a sling blade and the high fly flow and it was over. **½

9. Kenny Omega pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 31:20 to become the first IWGP U.S. champion. This was a fantastic match. Ishii sold his right arm throughout the match because of the damage from the great armbar spot earlier against Sabre. Ishii went for a German suplex on the floor, but Omega landed on his feet and gave Ishii the German suplex on the floor. He teased the Terminator dive but Ishii jumped in the ring and ran him over. They traded hard chops until Omega hit the forward fireman’s carry slam and a middle rope moonsault for a near fall. Omega did the Terminator dive and started selling his left knee. The ref was checking on him so behind the refs back, the Young Bucks set up a table on the floor. Omega used a missile dropkick on Ishii to the back of the head. Omega was throwing elbows but Ishii was acting like they were nothing and moving forward until Omega hit a huracanrana out of nowhere. Ishii tried to suplex Omega off the apron and through the table. Omega blocked it and tried to German suplex Ishii off the apron and through the table.. Ishii blocked it. Omega struggled to get the full nelson and do the dragon suplex off the apron through the table but Ishii, since his hands were tied up, bit down on the ropes to block the throw. That was so awesome. But eventually, Omega hit the dragon suplex and both went through the table. That was insane. Ishii barely beat the 20 count. Omega threw two V triggers but on the third, Ishii caught the knee and started a comeback. But Omega came back with more V triggers and went for the One Winged Angel, but Ishii countered into a DDT. Ishii did a top rope superplex. They traded a V trigger by Omega and a hard lariat by Ishii for a near fall. Ishii was throwing elbows but Omega knocked him down with a palm strike. Ishii hit the One Winged Angel on Omega for a near fall. Omega used a snap dragon suplex and a running knee but Ishii kicked out at one. Omega hit the reverse huracanrana and another running knee, and finally hit the One Winged Angel for the pin. ****3/4


Impact Wrestling did another round of rebranding this week, as at television, the new graphics read “GFW Impact! Wrestling.”

So the promotion’s call letters are GFW, for Global Force Wrestling, the name of the promotion Jeff Jarrett attempted to start and ran 13 weeks of television tapings in Las Vegas in 2015, but was unable to sell the show in the U.S. or the U.K. The GFW tapes were acquired by Anthem as part of the deal where Jeff Jarrett became a stakeholder in the new company, and will be used for some of the commitments to “One Night Only” specials in India that will air on PPV in the U.S.

Just about everyone on all sides felt the TNA name had too much negative baggage. When Billy Corgan attempted to purchase the company, he noted one of his earliest moves would be to change the name.

Slammiversary on 7/2 from Orlando was the first show under the new banner, which included unification of the Impact, formerly TNA, and GFW titles with GFW champion Alberto El Patron beating Impact champion Bobby Lashley in the main event, and GFW women’s champion Sienna beating Impact champion Rosemary. The titles are now called GFW titles although the women’s division will be called Knockouts rather than women.

Slammiversary was generally well received, although it likely did very little business. The negatives are that the Orlando crowd is just so dead and gives the show a tired feeling, and the booking seems out of date in the sense every match seemingly had to have gimmicked finishes rather than what is in vogue in the company’s that are growing around the world, which is winners and losers using finishing moves. It feels like those in charge are trying to replicate the wrestling finish and booking style that used to be, because American wrestling was filled with that, but that fan base was dwindling, as opposed to being up on current trends in the business. It felt watching like if it 1990 when the Japanese business changed, and All Japan and New Japan had to follow UWF which went to all clean finishes, that if All Japan and New Japan, the bigger groups, just ignored it and still did all the double count outs. Instead, the clean finishes, while being more difficult to protect the top guys from never losing, ended up leading to a business turnaround because people were tired of buying big matches with old type of finishes.

Those at GFW claim the PPV number tripled that of last year’s show although it’s not like last year’s show did any significant business. But that’s still a positive as far as the TV audience isn’t significantly different, so the build and hype for the show beat that of the year before soundly.

Another issue with this group is that as compared to WWE, ROH and New Japan, the quality of wrestling isn’t that strong. They are getting better and the new hires include some solid wrestlers. That wouldn’t matter so much if they were on Spike and drawing big television numbers and their storylines were working. But they are doing small television numbers and it’s an audience where the bullshit fake pro wrestling stories don’t resonate.

The promotion was trying to push its international connections, and opened the show with Alejandro Morez of The Crash, Yusuke Fuma of NOAH, Dorian Roldan of AAA and Ed Nordholm of Impact/GFW on the stage. Jeff Jarrett has been good with a certain cutting through of politics, because not only did they have someone from The Crash and AAA on the same stage, but also had teams from each promotion in the same match. From a Mexico standpoint, this was like a show in Mexico where you’d have Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman together on the same stage and with ECW and WCW talent in the same tag team match against each other.

They tried to replicate Final Deletion with the Jeremy Borash & Joseph Park vs. Scott Steiner & Josh Matthews match, where much of the match was pre-taped with a ton of gimmicks. But in the end, the decision was made not to change the announcers so the threesome will be Borash & Matthews & The Pope, so the entire reason the feud existed from the start was shelved, likely because Jarrett probably liked Matthews as a heel announcer.

The biggest mainstream story coming out of the show was DeAngelo Williams, a former All-American and NFL Pro Bowl running back with the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers, doing a pro wrestling match, teaming with Moose against Chris Adonis (Masters) & Eli Drake.

To say Williams looked impressive would be the understatement of the year. He had only three days of training with his opponents and Scott D’Amore. Even though his spots were obviously choreographed and the table didn’t break right on the finish, he was significantly better than even guys like Kurt Angle were in their first match. I’ve never seen a guy in his first match close to as good. At 34, he would be old to start, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that if he wanted to be, he’d quickly become one of the best wrestlers in the business. Lots of guys have great athletic ability, but he had a sense of timing that it usually takes guys more than a year of training to get and sold like a guy with several years experience. There are guys in NXT who have been there daily for three years who aren’t as advanced as he is.

But it’s a moot point, as Williams, a longtime fan, only wanted to do it once. Because the current style of pro wrestling is so physically demanding at the top level, unlike in years past when ex-NFL stars would go into pro wrestling, now, for the most part, if you’re an NFL star, by the time you’re out of the game, you’re body is thrashed. With Williams, you’re talking about a running back with 2,699 carries between college and pro football. Like Kevin Greene, who also had great natural aptitude for pro wrestling, when he got out of football, he wasn’t interested in beating up his body more. With Williams, who is now a free agent, he’s still interested in playing football this coming season.

With Borash and Matthews wrestling on the show, Robert Flores, who is a big fan, did the announcing with Don West. West did a good job in putting over the excitement of the matches and I have no idea why they have The Pope and Matthews announcing and not West.

1. Santana & Ortiz won a four-way over Garza Jr. & Laredo Kid, Taiji Ishimori & Naomichi Marufuji and Drago & El Hijo del Fantasma in 15:10 to retain the GFW tag team titles. Santana & Ortiz, or LAX, held both the GFW and old TNA titles so there was no need to unify. They billed this as stars from three different companies, The Crash, NOAH and AAA as challengers. This was all kinds of moves back-and-forth. Marufuji seemed a little off in the six-sided ring. Drago & Fantasma looked good. Diamante at ringside tripped Fantasma the first time he tried his best tope in wrestling. Drago at one point slipped and fell off the top rope. There was a triple moonsault to the floor spot. Marufuji did a flip dive on Santana. Ishimori did a dove on Drago. Fantasma did his tope on Marufuji. Homicide interfered and hit the Gringo killer on Garza when the ref was distracted. Drago did a tornillo dive on Ishimori. Laredo Kid did a Spanish fly on Santana for a great near fall. LAX did a double-team blockbuster on Laredo Kid for the pin. Konnan, after the match, vowed that there would be a new member of LAX coming. ***

2. Moose & DeAngelo Williams beat Eli Drake & Chris Adonis in 10:34. Gary Barnidge, an NFL player and Austin Dillon, a NASCAR driver who won this year’s Coca Cola 600, were in Moose & Williams’ corner. Moose & Williams came out with cheerleaders, which included local independent wrestlers Amanda Keiner and Mila Naniki. Robert Flores kept calling Adonis by his old name Chris Masters. Drake tried a springboard move and slipped off in a real big botch. Williams tagged in and hit a Samoan drop and a standing moonsault on Drake. Moose did a crossbody off the middle rope to the floor on Adonis & Drake. Adonis & Drake set up a table And Adonis put Moose on the table. Drake went to the top rope but Williams shoved him off. Moose put Adonis on the table and Williams splashed off the top, but actually overshot so the table didn’t break. Williams pinned Masters. The announcers pushed that Williams did better than Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone or Jay Leno. I mean, come on. Moose called an audible since the table didn’t break, and brought Drake back to the ring and power bombed him through the table. **3/4

3. Ethan Carter III beat James Storm in 10:37 in a strap match. The angle that set this up was Carter whipping Storm 31 times, so Storm immediately whipped Carter over and over. EC 3 came back choking Storm with the strap and whipping him. EC 3 pulled Storm off the top rope and pulled out handcuffs. EC 3 tried to handcuff Storm to the ropes, but Storm managed to handcuff EC 3 to the ropes. So Storm whipped EC 3 32 times. Brian Hebner came out to unlock EC 3. Storm used EC 3's one percenter for a near fall. EC 3 pulled on the strap and Storm’s head went into the post. EC 3 hit the one percenter but Storm kicked out. Don West pushed that he’d never seen anyone kick out of the one percenter when EC 3 just had a few seconds earlier. Storm hit a superkick, but then collapsed. The idea was it was a delayed reaction from the ringpost spot. EC 3 gave him a pedigree and pinned him. They had medical personnel all around Storm. ***

4. Joseph Park & Jeremy Borash beat Scott Steiner & Josh Matthews in a no DQ match in 10:51. Matthews was billed as the company’s Vice President of Digital Media. Steiner wore a shirt. His arms aren’t nearly as big as they used to be, but he’s still 53 and pretty big. When Borash wanted Matthews, Matthews tagged Steiner. Matthews did a plancha on Park but bounced off him. They all went backstage and then they cut to a pre-taped segment. Steiner & Matthews were chasing Park & Borash, who were on foot, in a cart. Borash & Park sprayed Steiner & Matthews with a fire extinguisher. Later, Steiner threw a guy who was in one of the Hardys videos driving a truck, out of his truck and they took that over. They ended up with Matthews and Borash in a swimming pool. Borash backdropped Matthews into the pool. Steiner and Matthews were beating up Borash in the pool when Shark Boy showed up and bit Matthews in the ass. James Mitchell showed up and gave Park the Abyss mask. They ended up showing back up in the arena, where Chef Robert Irvine (Gail Kim’s husband) shoved down Matthews. Borash speared Matthews but Steiner attacked Borash. Matthews used the Steiner recliner on Borash. Mitchell and Abyss showed up. Mitchell gave Abyss a bag of thumbtacks and he gave Matthews a black hole slam into the thumbtacks. Borash used a frog splash on Matthews and in landing, thumbtacks cut up Borash’s hands something fierce and Abyss got the pin. This was entertaining for what it was.

5. Eddie & Alisha Edwards beat Davey Richards & Angelina Love in a Full Metal Mayhem match in 8:35. A lot of spots here. The stuff with the women didn’t look good at all. Alisha did a crossbody off the top onto everyone. Love hit Alisha with a garbage can. Edwards & Alisha used garbage can lid shots o both of them. They put a garbage can over the head of Richards & Love and started nailing the garbage can with a kendo stick. Edwards power bombed Alisha on Richards for a near fall. Richards gave Edwards a brainbuster on a chair for a near fall. Love brought out thumbtacks for the second straight match. Richards put thumbtacks in Edwards’ mouth and Richards kicked him in the mouth but Alisha saved. Love was bleeding from the bridge of the nose. Alisha power bombed Love off a ladder and through a table. Richards and Edwards were both near the top of the ladder when Edwards gave him a sunset flip over the top of the ladder into a power bomb through a table and got the pin. *1/2

6. Sonjay Dutt won 2/3 falls to retain the X Division title over Low Ki in 18:14. Low Ki worked the match in a suit and tie, as he has at times of late. He did that at a Tokyo Dome show and New Japan people were furious and have claimed they would never use him again. Low Ki won the first fall when Dutt did a springboard huracanrana, but Low Kid turned it into a sunset flip and then used a double foot stomp at the 7:28 mark. In the second fall, Low Ki tried a double foot stomp but Dutt cradled him at 5:11. The third fall was at 3:35. Dutt kicked out of a Ki Krusher. Low Ki dropped him on the top turnbuckle and went for the Del Rio double foot stomp, but Dutt grabbed him by the tie and threw Low Ki off he top rope. Dutt then used a moonsault double foot stomp on Low Ki for the pin. This was a good match, but it was marred by the quiet crowd and trying to do a wrestling match after two straight matches with tons of weapons. ***

7. Sienna beat Rosemary to unify the GFW and Impact Knockouts titles in 10:32. Gail Kim came out before the match. Rosemary came out with some weird looking women, who were played by local indie wrestlers Kaci Lennox, Raegan Fire and Shaniah Arlynna. They tried to make it look like Rosemary was a star with the entrance. It was tough putting the women in this position as the crowd was dead. Plus, the wrestling itself was bad. KM (the former Kevin Matthews, but not using the name because of Josh Matthews) and Laurel Van Ness came out at the start of the match but Sienna told them to go to the back. Rosemary did a plancha off the top to the floor. Sienna used the silencer, which used to be called the pounce period by Monty Brown, for a near fall. When

Rosemary kicked out, they said nobody had ever kicked out of it. Rosemary used the red wedding. Van Ness came back out and pulled referee Earl Hebner out of the ring to stop the count. Van Ness was hitting on Hebner. Allie came out with a kendo stick to chase Van Ness to the back. They were both sprinting. Sienna used a belt shot but Rosemary kicked out. The kicking out of the belt shot got a good easy pop. Rosemary went for the mist, but Sienna put her hand over Rosemary’s mouth. The idea was that Rosemary blew it and it burned Sienna’s hand. Sienna then put her hand with the mist in Rosemary’s eyes and put her in a guillotine. The finish was clever as far as old finishes went, but just came across as out-of-date. *1/4

Jeff Jarrett came out and talked about his family being with him, and told the fans they were his wrestling family and how his family has been in the business for 70 years. It was Jarrett doing his charming politician speech thanking the audience. They were lukewarm as far as reacting. He told Bobby Lashley and Alberto El Patron that they’d better bring their

A game after what had already happened.

8. Alberto El Patron beat Bobby Lashley in 18:07 to retain the GFW title and win the Impact title. Alberto came out with his father, Dos Caras, and his brother, El Hijo de Dos Caras. Lashley came out with King Mo Lawal, Dan Lambert, the owner of American Top Team (Lashley’s manager and the gym that he trains at), as well as several ATT fighters including Jeff Monson and Marcus

“Conan” Silveira. Once the match started, everyone left ringside except Dos Caras and Mo. Alberto tried a dive but Lashley hit him with an uppercut. Mo slammed Caras’ head into a table. Caras chopped Mo, who sold it like a pro. Lashley powerslammed Alberto on the steps. Lashley missed a charge into the post. Alberto used a superplex off the top rope. Lashley did a power bomb for a near fall. The crowd was dead for this. Alberto used a back stabber for a near fall. Alberto missed a tope and crashed on the floor. Alberto used an armbar but Lashley did a one arm power bomb to get out of it. Lashley used a Death Valley bomb off the middle rope for a near fall. Alberto got a near fall with a double foot stomp. Lashley finally hit the spear but Alberto kicked out. Alberto tackled Lashley through the ropes. Mo was after Dos Caras, but in Mexican tradition, Dos Caras nailed Mo with a low blow. Lashley shoved and slapped Dos Caras. Alberto posted Lashley and pinned him after a double foot stomp. After the match, Jarrett, Scott D’Amore, Ed Nordholm, Marufuji and El Hijo del Fantasma gave both a hand, but the crowd just wasn’t with hit at all. ***1/4


Jim Breaks, 80, one of the greatest technical wrestlers of the last 40 years, was arrested on suspicion of homicide in the death of ex-girlfriend Donna Cowley, 47.

Breaks, one of the top stars of U.K. television wrestling for three decades and a Hall of Fame candidate, was living in the Spain owned Canary Islands near Puerto Rico.

Crowley was found in serious condition and later passed away in the hospital. Breaks was brought back from prison to the ocean-view property and got into an altercation with two officers and was screaming at press and TV crews covering the case saying “Will you help me” as he appeared confused.

Crowley, of Yorkshire, England, had called police just after midnight on 6/30. Police arrived and found Breaks watching television on the sofa and Crowley tending to wounds in the bathroom, fully conscious. She was found by police heavily bleeding, believed to be from punches to the head, and died after suffering from cardiac arrest in the hospital that morning. She died just as they were getting ready to X-ray her to find out the extent of her injuries.

The two had been together for about 20 years, after meeting when she started working at a pub he owned in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England.

Breaks has not been charged, as the Canary Islands, under Spanish law, will not issue formal charges until just before a trial. Breaks was originally arrested for undermining the authority of the law and actively resisting arrest.

The two were believed to have been a couple, but government officials in talking about the case referred to her as his former partner. There were media reports calling her his ex-wife as well. The two moved from Bradford, England to the Canary Islands more than 20 years ago after she split up from her husband and left her two children in the care of her parents. Over that period, Cowley and Breaks have had an on-again off-again relationship.

Suzie Wong, a friend of Cowley’s claimed that she was only living with Breaks at this time, since the two had split up as a couple, because she had no money and had nowhere else to say.

He struggled with two officers as they were taking him away after he was brought back to the apartment to talk with the investigative team about what happened. He was almost lifted off his feet by the officers as he tried to break free before being grabbed by his shirt and forced into the police car. During the struggle, Breaks pants fell down.

Breaks was a major star in British pro wrestling. He was an amateur star who was known early in his career as Crybaby Jim Breaks, for arguing with the referees and crowds and throwing frequent tantrums. Crowds sometimes threw pacifiers in the crowd at him during and after his matches. His big moves, the Jim Breaks special, is an invented armlock, twisting his opponent’s arm, which is used by a number of wrestlers today.

He was arguably the best smaller wrestler in the U.K. for much of his career. He wrestled mostly as a lightweight and some as a welterweight, about 5-foot-5 and wrestling mostly at 154 pounds.

He started wrestling in 1954 and was a perennial champion from 1963 through 1990.

During his career, he held the European lightweight title approximately 15 times, the British welterweight title approximately nine times and the British welterweight title approximately eight times.


Just as we were going to press we got the word that Vic Faulkner, who was part of the Royal Brothers tag team in the 60s and70s, passed away at the age of 72.

Faulkner was the son of Lewis Faulkner, a pro wrestler from 1935 to 1963. Vic started in pro wrestling in 1961, at the age of 17 and worked all over Europe and Africa through the 1980s. He was one of the biggest stars in the U.K. from the mid-60s through the late 70s, known for socializing with some of the country’s biggest celebrities of that era, including The Beatles.

Faulkner was an innovative high flyer during his heyday and a former Wrestler of the Year in the U.K. He and brother Bert, who was 13 years older than he was and wrestled as Bert Royal (real name Herbert Faulkner), were known as The Flying Faulkners as well as The Royal Brothers and were among the best tag teams in the U.K. during the 60s and 70s.

Faulkner was European middleweight champion twice, first beating Jose Rodriguez Questra on November 28, 1966, in Nottingham, before losing to the legendary Mick McManus in the summer of 1968. He defeated McManus to win it back on September 23, 1968, and held it until losing to McManus on April 26, 1971.

At that time he dropped to welterweight and won the British welterweight title that had been vacated when Brian Maxine moved weight classes, beating Adrian Street in the tournament final in Croydon on July 20, 1971. He held the title until losing to Jim Breaks on May 31, 1976, in Bradford, and then won it a second time from Breaks on August 28, 1976 in Manchester, before losing it on March 9, 1977, in Buxton. On July 5, 1977, Faulkner beat Breaks to win the title in Leicester, but the title wound up being held up because of the interference of Bert Royal, and Breaks won the rematch in London.

After wrestling, Vic owned a pub in Euxton, Chorley and later was the District Sales Manager for Thwaites Brewery.


John Cena returned to WWE television on 7/4 to set up a flag match with Rusev on the 7/23 Battleground PPV show.

The show was notable because a return of Cena in theory should spike ratings, but having the return on 7/4 was tough, because historically, no holiday hurts ratings for WWE programming more than 7/4. As it turned out, given the night, the rating was amazing, which spoke volumes for the value of pushing Cena’s comeback, and that it probably would have done an easy 3 million viewers the next week. Not only was Smackdown the most-watched show on cable, but as far as prime time went, it was by almost 800,000 viewers.

WWE’s Great Balls of Fire show takes place on 7/9 in Dallas, and what’s notable was that there was heavy betting on Thursday this week. Usually the big money smart bets come in during the last few hours before the show, but in recent months, it’s come in as early as Friday. Based on the volume and the odds, because the odds people know who always gets the stuff correct, the big shift on Thursday was indicative that at least as of this point in time, these are the people scheduled to get their hands raised. As noted many times, Vince McMahon does change his mind often, sometimes as late as the last minute. But in the majority of cases, the finishes are planned in advance.

A surprise of sorts is that Braun Strowman was at press time an 18-to-1 favorite over Roman Reigns. Strowman was always scheduled to win the Ambulance match, since he was to get the title shot at Lesnar first. But when that was changed, it would make sense for Reigns to win for momentum. But Reigns also does need challengers, since he’s beaten both Finn Balor and Seth Rollins on television. The key is that Reigns hasn’t beaten Samoa Joe yet, and if Strowman wins, he’d also be set up for a title shot, provided Reigns does go over at SummerSlam.

Brock Lesnar is a 33-to-1 favorite to retain his title over Samoa Joe. Seth Rollins is a 7-to-1 favorite over Bray Wyatt. Sheamus & Cesaro are 25-to-1 favorites to retain over the Hardys in the 30:00 Iron man match. Alexa Bliss is an 18-to-1 favorite to retain the women’s title over Sasha Banks. Big Cass is a 14-to-1 favorite over Enzo Amore. There was no line given on the cruiserweight title match with Neville vs. Akira Tozawa, which is currently scheduled as the per-show match.

The key when it comes to betting on WWE if numbers come in that early, is the odds often shorten because people will bet on the heavy underdogs. Since Vince McMahon is known to change his mind often, all you need is one mind change on a result over a four-day period, which is hardly unusual, and if you bet all underdogs, the odds are so long that one change means you’ll make your money back and then some.

While both Finn Balor vs. Elias Samson and R-Truth vs. Goldust matches have been built up this entire promotional period, at press time, neither match is on the show. With the tag title match having to go 30:00, and one would think Lesnar vs. Joe, Strowman vs. Reigns and Wyatt vs. Rollins would all be given time, that doesn’t leave time for other matches. But if there is room, one of those bouts could be added late.

The 7/23 show has Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison match, Cena vs. Rusev in a flag match, Kevin Owens vs. A.J. styles for the U.S title and the Usos vs. New Day for the tag titles. Also being teased are Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin and Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis. The women’s title program seems to involve Naomi in some form with Tamina, although Lana is also involved.


Smith Stewart Hart, the oldest son of Stu Hart, passed away on 7/2 at the age of 68 after a battle with prostate cancer.

Smith was named after his grandfather, Harry Smith, who represented the U.S. in the 1912 Olympics in the marathon, and as a trivia note, was at one time the roommate of Jim Thorpe, who was easily the greatest athlete in the world at the time. Harry Smith was the father of Helen Hart, born Helen Smith. After Helen Hart suffered a severe auto accident, Smith was raised for a few years by his grandparents in New York before returning to his parents in Calgary. He was the only son born in Long Beach, NY, where Stu and Helen Hart first met on the beach after being introduced by Paul Boesch, before Stu purchased the wrestling promotion in Calgary and the family moved.

Smith was a character. You could nicely call him mischievous. He wrestled, mostly for Stampede Wrestling, some in Europe, Puerto Rico and Japan from 1973 to 1978, and sporadically after that, including a final match in 2013. Unlike younger brothers Bruce and Keith, who were the first Harts to wrestle, he was never a local star in wrestling, before several other family members including Bret, Owen, Dean, Ross and Wayne got into pro wrestling. He did hold the Caribbean tag team title with younger brother Bret in 1978, beating Fidel & Rauol Castillo. Bret & Smith formed a Hart Brothers tag team that year in Germany as well.

He had a few appearances on WWF television. He was brought in to be part of the Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart cage match as part of the family in 1994. He was also in the audience somewhat mocking Bret during the family split after the death of Owen, where he sided with the WWF against Bret & Martha in a bitter lawsuit. He attended a television taping in the first row and was shown with a sign pretty much making fun of Bret, who felt, because the lawsuit was still outstanding, that the family shouldn’t attend the show and be shown on camera.

As the oldest son, Stu actually groomed Smith to be the guy to take over the promotion some day. He followed wrestling from his childhood and started taking tickets at the door and working on the ring crew.

When he started wrestling in 1973, his wild behavior on the road trips, problems with the law, issues with speeding and unsafe driving and other issues saw him fall out of favor with Stu and essentially Stu instead started grooming his next two brothers, Bruce and Keith.

Stu sent him to Japan to work for the old IWE promotion in 1974, hoping that being away from Calgary and in Japan would instill a level of Japanese discipline in him. He briefly held that company’s junior heavyweight title.

Over the years he sometimes was the writer of “Body Press,” the company’s program, and promoted spot shows. He also did outside businesses that often didn’t do well and one summer endeavor led to the wrestling company being temporarily shut down in the 60s. He did set up Stampede Wrestling tours of Antigua after the promotion’s tapes played there and got a phenomenal following.

In 2014, he tried to garner publicity by presenting David Benoit’s pro wrestling debut. David was the oldest son of Chris. It turned into a situation because Chris Jericho was close with David, who had not been trained and Jericho felt Smith was using David. He relocated to Cambridge, ONT, and ran a Hart Brothers Wrestling School there. Two of his sons, Michael and Matthew, have done some independent wrestling, with Matthew showing some promise.

In 2003, he garnered headlines after the famed Hart House in Calgary was sold after Stu and Helen had both passed away. He refused to move out. He used to make money to renting out rooms in the house after most of the family had moved out. Even when the house was barricaded after being sold, he would find a way in until police finally removed him.

Smith’s death came on Bret’s 60th birthday. While the two had issues throughout life, particularly in the wake of the death of Owen Hart, there was a brotherly closeness at the end when both were diagnosed with prostate cancer at about the same time.

Bret’s was in the early stages and was taken care of by surgery, and he didn’t even need chemotherapy. Bret had told me that Smith, on the other hand, also had the same disease and it had spread to the point he was likely to pass away from it.

“It is with a heavy heart that I write my final goodbye to my eldest brother Smith,” wrote Bret Hart. “I know that the gates of heaven will open up and welcome one of the most unique and original characters ever. One can only stand in admiration as how Smith stayed true to himself, always proudly dancing to his own tune. No one was more proud of being a Hart.”

Smith went public on January 21, 2016, saying he had prostate and bone cancer, just two weeks before Bret went public with his cancer. On 6/5, Smith announced he was entering Hospice care and at that time it was just a matter of weeks.

“Smith was such a funny guy,” said Harry “Davey Boy Smith Jr.” Smith. “He had a really great sense of humor and (was) an extremely intelligent man. He had tons of insights about almost everything. He will be deeply missed and I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend some time with him before he passed away. I could see he was in so much pain at the very end. We really bonded quite a bit, especially in my Grandfather’s kitchen.”


I know that everyone reads this newsletter for wrestling news, and it’s not about me. I also know that a lot of readers would appreciate this and others wouldn’t.

Over the years, I had thought that if something happened to my parents, I’d write a few sentences at most here. It was in my mind, this was just not the place for it. Plus, I’d written about it all week on the Internet, and last week’s issue. It is really the only thing I can think about right now, so I’m doing exactly what I said I’d never do. For those of you who think it’s the wrong decision, I apologize in advance.


My father, Herb Meltzer, passed away at about 7:25 a.m. on 7/2. He was 90 years old.

If you read last week’s issue you would know that it was inevitable. At the time, I was told it would be weeks, but it was two days later when he was no longer responsive. He told me that he lived a wonderful long life and of all the lucky breaks I’ve had in my life, and I’ve had many including having some of the most incredible friends, none are close to having the parents that I had.

He passed away due to kidney failure, the result of advanced pancreatic cancer, something he had no clue about until two weeks ago. I was with my parents at her assisted living center and he looked yellowish. A nurse saw it and confirmed my thoughts and I wanted to take him to the hospital right there. Instead, he called and they arranged tests for him a few days later. When the first test results came back, some of the readings spelled serious trouble.

My father was absolutely brilliant. When he was in school, his nickname was Einstein. In 1957, he was part of the team that developed the original computer language Fortran for IBM and worked there as a computer programmer. If he was going somewhere on business for more than a few times and it wasn’t the school year, he’d bring us with him and that enabled me to travel and see sports events and wrestling in different places. If you’re looking for the catalyst of this newsletter or at least my interest in wrestling, it was the fascination of going to different places and seeing how the wrestling was different and how the stars went from place-to-place. Everywhere we went, there would be new top wrestlers, and many familiar wrestles who had passed through Northern California and left and now I could see them again, often doing well, in other places.

He took an early retirement package in 1984 and from that point on, did exactly what he wanted to do for 33 years.

Until the past few months, my parents traveled everywhere in the world. They would do volunteer work, mostly at the San Jose Airport at the information desk as they loved interacting with people, and working as ushers at theaters in San Francisco and Berkeley most weekends. My father was my role model growing up. He worked hard, but was an excellent father.

In my entire life, he and my mother never lied to me once. They never fought in front of me until I was old enough to realize that it wasn’t serious. Even when I went against his advice, such as quitting a regular newspaper job with the idea of doing this newsletter full-time in 1987, and he was dead set against that, he was fully supportive of me once I made that decision and never brought it up again once I made the call. Nobody knows the future and I was very lucky it turned out to be the right call.

His death is something that almost everyone goes through during their lives and I’ve been so much more fortunate than most to see my parents, who met 72 years ago as teenagers, have a 66 year close to idyllic marriage. My closest cousin always remarked how they were our role models as a marriage and parents and how frustrating it was to us that we could never come close to living up to the standard they set.

They were inseparable. It’s been tough since 10/24, when my mother had a serious stroke that I didn’t expect her to survive. Every day, my father would get up, walk to the assisted living facility where my mother has to stay, and spend all afternoon with her. It was very trying because my mother was the athlete in the family and the idea she could no longer get in the pool every day and swim was difficult and the frustration of being wheelchair bound and barely able to move her left side, even mentally working to exhaustion in her two-a-day therapy classes was tough.

My father wasn’t a wrestling fan, nor a sports fan. But he would take me and my brother to Yankees and Mets games growing up. For some reason, it was important to him that I got to see people like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron play live. I think they could see that I was going to grow up a sports fan and that while at the time, I was too young to fully comprehend seeing Bill Russell play live, or Gordie Howe or Bobby Hull, that in time it would be something I would understand and with hindsight those are some of my greatest memories with him in that part of life.

We saw Warriors games regularly but for whatever reason, my most vivid memories were going out of town and seeing the Lakers at the Forum, or being on family vacations in so many places after I became a wrestling fan and if there was a show in the area on a night he was free, he’d always take us. I have memories of the Honolulu Civic Auditorium and Curtis Iaukea, The Sheik, Giant Baba, Gene Kiniski and Sammy Steamboat; The Miami Beach Convention Hall with Jack Brisco, Johnny Valentine, Dusty Rhodes and the Olympic in Los Angeles of Dory Funk Jr., Fred Blassie and Mil Mascaras before having friends who were old enough to drive. We’d to go the Monday night Roller Derby in San Jose all the time, and if there was a big show at the Cow Palace, whether it was someone like Kareem Abdul Jabber or Wilt Chamberlain, Bruno Sammartino or Danny Hodge, or the Founders Cup or Roller Derby World championships, or the Battle Royal, until I could get a ride with someone else, it was a family outing. On the flip side I had to go to the theater and see the plays and musicals with them.

Both of my parents loved meeting and talking to Observer readers. There were a few that my mom talked to, and they made her so happy. Last year when I was being honored at the Thesz/Tragos Hall of Fame in Waterloo, IA, it was so wonderful to see just how happy they were there. Because of that, that weekend meant so much more to me than I ever expected it would. I’ve said before but again want to thank Kyle Klingman and Gerald Brisco for making that decision and Larry Matysik, who spurred them on to doing it. For my mom, in particular, riding in the car from the airport and spending the weekend talking with Charlie Thesz, the widow of Lou, was such as a big thing.

I’m so glad it happened last year, because this year’s ceremony is only a few weeks away. If I had waited another year to go, or if they had waited another two years to ask, it would have been too late. Unfortunately, literally starting with the day of that ceremony, this has been a horrible year. I don’t say that to complain because I’m not. I really have no right to complain because I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family, great friends, and a job, that while difficult, is also wonderful in so many ways. In some ways, this has been a wonderful year because of my kids. But in other ways it’s been a bad year, due to situations involving some of the closest people to me, both those who have made me laugh for decades, or been with me through my tough times and were nothing but unselfish about it.

Anyone around this business as it was a decade ago, in theory, has to learn to deal with death all the time.

Life always changes. There are so many different points in life and periods that you wish would last forever. They don’t. It’s the cycle of life. There are wonderful periods and savor them and remember them and you can’t be bitter or unhappy that things have changed, because people close to you that feel like a part of you are at some point not going to be there, but others will come. There are hard periods, and when they come, remember that they are also only temporary. I was so happy at the end of 2016, as for some reason, I thought that terrible last five-and-a-half months, not at all business related, was over. But it wasn’t. One day I woke up and Scott Williams was gone, out of nowhere. Not any kind of warning past he told me a few months earlier in passing that his blood pressure was very high. My cousin, who is like a twin sister to me, told me about her pancreatic cancer as soon as I got back from Waterloo, telling me she wanted to surprise me by showing up. It was funny because when I got there I told her that even though I never asked her to come, that I realized she should have been there. But she was undergoing chemo treatments and after very difficult and invasive surgery, thankfully appears to be cancer free today. Literally minutes after sending the text to my cousin, I found out another close family member had been airlifted to the hospital in ICU. The folks in Waterloo had put on the Hall of Fame banquet and Lex Luger had blown it off because he had an autograph signing and Chael Sonnen canceled when his college wrestling coach passed away and the funeral was on the same day, and I know Sonnen felt terrible about it. There were no flights out until the next morning so I had no choice to make, but unfortunately, I was not fully able to enjoy that weekend the way my parents were able to.

This year between Dave Korner and Frank Deford, you are talking people so instrumental in how my life turned out. And I don’t want to not mention Jan Ross, because just the suddenness of her death and the nature of it hit me hard. With Dave Korner, we knew about his brain operations and he flat out told me he’s fine with it and was happy with his life. Still, there wasn’t a second that I processed that it was going to happen, and it wasn’t until I didn’t get an e-mail from him on WrestleMania morning asking who was coming and what sandwiches to bring that it hit me. Similarly, I was not close with Buddy Wayne. I had met him, but he was like a mentor to Bryan Alvarez, so that makes it hit home with me.

After the stroke, My mother was still alive and I was so grateful for that, but I thought the mother I knew my whole life mentally was not the same and I had thought that person was never coming back. This past week, for whatever reason, and obviously it has to do with the reality of my father, she did come back after eight months, almost completely, from a personality standpoint. But it took the fact that the man she first dated at 16 and married at 21 was going to die and then, I don’t know if it was miraculously or what, she was back. Unfortunately, she was back to get nothing but bad news.

I was called on 6/28 to go to the hospital, at the time I would normally be finishing up the issue. Even with going to the hospital more than an hour away almost every day to see my dad, I was ahead on the issue, probably because I knew I had to be. I was told that the family had to make some important decisions. I had been given the scenario, that he’d live a few months, and then at the end, he would move into the same place as my mom, and they would spend his remaining last days together living in the same room once again. My mom, because of her condition, has only recently been able to leave the facility she’s been living in. She’s been healthy enough that they were able to take her to have dinner with my dad in recent weeks. When I got to the hospital where my father was at, which was about 20 miles away from her place, she was there, and seeing her there shocked me even though when you get that call that you have to come and make some important decisions, you kind of know.

We were all together when we were told the situation.

The next day, she was called and told that one of her best friends, dating back more than 50 years, passed away. But her friend had been battling cancer for more than ten years and we were told she only had months left back then.

I was supposed to die in 1993. I was packed and ready to drive to the airport and fly to Japan, and would have died from peritonitis on that flight, no ifs ands or buts. I was in the hospital getting all kinds of medical treatment and my fever hit 106.5 that night.

My parents talked me out of leaving on the flight that day.

It was touch-and-go if I was going to make it through that ordeal. The irony is that decades later, I would fight with them about going on trips to dangerous places at their age, and they never listened to me.

In life, you say goodbye to many people you are at one time close to. A parent, especially one as close as my parents, were constants from every one of those periods in life. There are a lot of people who help you along and shape you, but they were so much more than that. In the case of my father, it was his time. I was so fortunate, not cheated at all. I think my mom really wanted those last few months she thought she had left with him. At first, I did. But I could see in his face at the end and he all but told me that he was not happy about this, and while accepting he lived 90 days and had a wonderful life, he very much didn’t want to go. Even last week when he was first admitted to the hospital, he told me not to stay and not to get into trouble at work.

It was his time. Many aren’t so lucky. Logically, it should make this easier. But logic has little to do with this.

He told me he was in no pain at all as late as Thursday night, and this was before he was taking any significant pain meds. I don’t really believe it was true at that point, but he did never lie to me, and if he suffered at all, it was maybe one day and then he went to sleep. Once he went to sleep, the hospice people and my sister-in-law took great care of him and he was not in pain when he went out. I really thought that I was prepared for it. But this was a different level of bond and closeness and the person who did more for me and sacrificed more for me than any other and at such a different level.

One of the things about writing about wrestling is that, unfortunately, you get remembered more for obituaries, because unique individuals either live fascinating lives, or die before their time, and often both. Because of that, I always told my parents, every year on their birthdays, and other times just when it would pop into my head, how much I appreciated them and how great they were as parents. I had been telling them that regularly for 15 years or more, so that they knew. I did it so often that my mom would tell me that I don’t have to say it anymore, but I still would.

When I was growing up, I didn’t fully comprehend the sacrifice of his flying every weekend from San Jose to New York and then driving upstate to Wappingers Falls, which is another two hour drive in each direction, just to see our family for a day before he had to be back to work in San Jose. He did this for more than a year before we moved to San Jose. It’s funny because if I was old enough to understand, I’d have told him that he didn’t have to do it and not to do it. But being in his position, there was probably no choice in the matter to make. It wasn’t about him, or being exhausted, it was about doing the right thing in his mind.

Once I got older, than it was about him, and he deserved it to be. I’d fight with them at their age about going to places like India and the jungles of Brazil while both were in their late 80s. They wouldn’t listen and would tell me that if something happens, that was the life they wanted to live. Really, for probably 15 years or more, I had mentally prepared for this, or at least thought I had. One day they would go on a trip and the trip would never end.

Sometimes these perspectives also make you realize some sad things. I had a grandfather die when I was seven. I do remember him, but not well. My daughter is seven. My father and mother would light up every time they saw her. My mother still does, even when she was at her foggiest coming off the stroke, she would always light up seeing her and my daughter would light up seeing her as well. My daughter does drawings for them and my mom has them on the bulletin board in her room at the assisted living center. She was there and didn’t understand why he wasn’t able to wake up and see her this week. For me, the saddest part is that I saw vividly just how much he loved her, and while I’ll always tell her, she is only going to have very limited memories of this period of life. Still, I vividly remember Mickey Mantle at bat at Yankee Stadium from, when I was her age and the day I got my first cat, and my first day of school when I was younger than she was. Hopefully her memories will select more wisely than mine.

I want to thank everyone for all the support in the past week, both people I work with who have really done all they could and then some, the people at the MMA Fighting web site, because I know better than anyone that they are an all-star team of professionals, and everyone at Wrestling Observer including Bryan Alvarez who was such a tremendous friend and brother to me not just this week but the past year or so when he’s been willing to record shows on some nights so late so that I could go out with my family at least one night every weekend before watching the Saturday or Sunday shows. My parents made the decision to move away and enjoy the rest of their life at a retirement village. It was to be the final chapter of their life together. That chapter never happened. My mother suffered the stroke in the process of the move. Perhaps if she hadn’t, I would have found reasons to skip a week, and a week turns into two or three, and not see them since they were no longer coming to see my like they did when they still lived here. I went to dinner with him most weekends, and to the movies often. If it was Sunday, he knew the pattern. At 9 p.m., I’d get my phone call from John Pollock and Jason Agnew like clockwork to do an interview. Sometimes we were at the movies. Sometimes I was driving him home and at five minutes to, we’d take an exit and find an empty parking lot. The scenario on those nights is to find a convenience store and he’d go in for ten minutes, do some reading and bring me some drinks. Every time I dropped him off really late, he would tell me what a wonderful time he had with the kids. He was still doing his crossword puzzles, on the computer, square dancing a few nights a week, and doing whatever he wanted until 6/25. Lots of people get no warning. I got a warning. That night when he was in the hospital he told me I should go home because he didn’t want me getting behind on work. The last time he could talk at all was on 6/29, he told me to go home because it was hard for him to talk and if we couldn’t have a meaningful conversation, I shouldn’t be wasting my time. At this point there was no choice. A few times in life you’ll have those moments. I’ve only had a few but there is a voice telling you that you pray this moment will last forever, knowing full well it won’t.

He felt guilty about me and my son not going to Long Beach this past weekend when we were told he had maybe weeks left. But as much fun as I would have had, there was obviously no choice. If the situation was reversed, he’s not even thinking about going to Long Beach. I didn’t either. Not for a second. My son didn’t either.

I want to thank everyone from all over the world who reached out this week, from every company. Some did so publicly, many privately, and a few both. Just as important, and I mean every bit, are the readers who reached out and I know that I didn’t get back to everyone and couldn’t possibly, because there were perhaps more than 1,000 just on e-mail and not to mention twitter, texting and other ways. I appreciate those of you who told me your own stories with your own families. You all made me realize how lucky I was. Not everyone is able to get so much emotional support from people all over the world, from wrestling to MMA to boxing to journalism to the rap, rock and movie world,

Obviously, I, and my family will never forget Matt & Nick Massie. Life is about flukes. Just so people know, I didn’t know them at all when they decided on a name for one of their finishing moves, but through that fluke of an idea they came up with, and all the jokes about it, that really meant a lot on what was not the fun weekend we’d envisioned.

I want to say something about both of them and it goes for a lot more than just then. For whatever you may or may not think of their style or matches or their YouTube show, the key thing is that they are two guys who, if they were in Japan and were next going to be in Australia, if it means getting one day in between with their kids, they will fly from Japan to California and then take off the next day to Australia rather then go from Japan to Australia so they can get a modicum of decent sleep.

I just want them to know that their kids, as young as they are, may not fully comprehend it right now, and may not understand why they aren’t there. And really, this goes for every wrestler who has kids and whose job takes them on the road. But I can tell you from personal experience, there will come a time when they will grow up and they will understand, and later, it’ll be one of the things they remember most.


Smackdown on 7/4 did 2,329,000 viewers, which is an amazing number for July 4th and down only 11 percent from the prior week.

The last time Raw was on 7/4, which was last year, the number dropped 15 percent. In other years, the number has dropped as much as 40 percent. The lesser drop than usual also indicates far less of a casual audience and them being down more to the hardcores than at any time in history.

The second most-watched show on cable that night, a Tucker Carlson special on Fox News, did 1,536,000 viewers.

The audience was way down under the age of 35, but it wasn’t down much at all among viewers older than 35. Interesting because you’d think of the Cena audience as being stronger under 35, but it’s the under 35 audience more apt to not be home on July 4th watching television.

The show did a 0.55 in 12-17 (down 20.3 percent), 0.55 in 18-34 (down 17.9 percent), 0.95 in 35-49 (down 4.0 percent) and 0.96 in 50+ (down 4.0 percent).

The audience was 59.3 percent male in 18-49 and 67.9 percent male in 12-17.

Raw on 7/3 for the go-home show for Great Balls of Fire did 2,836,000 viewers, a drop of five percent from the previous week. That’s understandable given the holiday weekend.

Raw was the most-watched show for the night on cable.

The first hour did 2,825,000 viewers. The second hour did 2,912,000 viewers. The third hour did 2,780,000 viewers.

An interesting note is that males across the board started late, with a low first hour meaning they were likely doing other things, but then they stuck with the third hour. Women, on the other hand, got there on time and watched the first two hours, but the entire third hour decline was women.

Like with Smackdown, the audience was way down with viewers under 35, but not down much with viewers over 35.

The show did a 0.70 in 12-17 (down 15.7 percent from the previous week), 0.66 in 18-34 (down 24.1 percent), 1.18 in 35-49 (down 2.5 percent) and 1.14 in 50+ (up 0.0 percent).

The audience was 58.9 percent males in 18-34 an 60.9 percent males in 12-17.

The debut of the Pro Fighters League on 6/30, the former World Series of Fighting, which started about 90 minutes earlier than originally scheduled, NBC Sports Network, did 291,000 viewers. The show aired from 9:03 p.m. to 11:26 p.m.

Impact had a huge drop on 6/29, doing 268,000 viewers, down 22 percent from the previous week with no good explanation,.

Ultimate Fighter on 6/28 fell to 369,000 viewers, a 19 percent drop after the 14-month high of 456,000 the previous week.

TUF Talk, which followed, did 121,000 viewers.

Lucha Underground is on a definite upswing as the 6/28 show did 112,000 viewers for the first airing and 77,000 for the replay. The combined 189,000 viewers was the best total for the show since the episode that Johnny Mundo beat Sexy Star to win the title.

The 6/21 Impact did 457,000 that night and anther 248,000 via DVR usage for 705,000.


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RESULTS

 

X6/30 Tokyo Sumo Hall (WWE - 6,069): Chris Jericho b Hideo Itami, Titus O’Neil b Bo Dallas, Three-way for cruiserweight title: Neville won over Austin Aries and Akira Tozawa, Tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro b Heath Slater & Rhyno, Asuka & Bayley & Sasha Banks b Emma & Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss, Finn Balor b Karl Anderson, Roman Reigns b Bray Wyatt

6/30 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Cuatrero & Forastero & Sanson b Drone & Pegasso & The Panther, Guerrero Maya Jr. & Rey Cometa & Titan b Polvora & Ripper & Virus, Dragon Rojo Jr. & Mephisto & Sam Adonis b Atlantis & Blue Panther & Soberano Jr., Rey Bucanero & El Terrible & Vangellys b Misterioso Jr & Pierroth & Rush, Universal title A block tournament: Shocker b Valiente, Volador Jr. b Hechicero, Negro Casas b Angel de Oro, Dragon Lee b Luciferno, Volador Jr. b Shocker, Negro Casas b Dragon Lee, Volador Jr. b Negro Casas

6/30 Fort Pierce, FL (WWE NXT - 400 sellout): Demetrius Bronson b Marcel Barthel, Sage Miller & Victoria Gonzalez b Julia Ho & Lacey Evans, Babatunde Aiyegbusi b Sawyer Fulton, Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford b Gabriel & Uriel Ealy, Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight b Chad Lail & Fabian Aichner, No Way Jose b Kona Reeves, Bianca BelAir b Dakota Kai, Aleister Black b Wesley Blake

7/1 Tokyo Sumo Hall (WWE Raw - 8,318): Finn Balor b Chris Jericho, Heath Slater & Rhyno b Bo Dallas & Titus O’Neil, Hideo Itami NC Enzo Amore, Three-way for cruiserweight title: Neville own over Akira Tozawa and Austin Aries, Seth Rollins b Bray Wyatt, Bayley & Sasha Banks & Asuka b Alexa Bliss & Emma & Nia jax, Tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro b Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose b Samoa Joe & The Miz

7/1 Odessa, TX (WWE Smackdown - 2,400): Jason Jordan & Chad Gable & Tyler Breeze & Fandango b The Ascension & Erick Rowan & Epico, Luke Harper b Aiden English, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Big E & Kofi Kingston and Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder, Three-way for U.S. title: Kevin Owens won over Sami Zayn and A.J. Styles, Naomi & Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch b Natalya & Carmella & Tamina, Rusev b Tye Dillinger, Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura b Jinder Mahal & Baron Corbin

7/2 Hobbs, NM (WWE Smackdown - 1,500): Tyler Breeze & Fandango & Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder b The Ascension & Erick Rowan & Epico, Tye Dillinger b Aiden English, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods and Jason Jordan & Chad Gable, Three-way for U.S. title: Kevin Owens won over Sami Zayn and A.J. Styles, Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch & Naomi b Natalya & Tamina & Carmella, Rusev b Luke Harper, Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura b Jinder Mahal & Baron Corbin

7/3 Phoenix (WWE Raw/Main Event TV tapings - 9,600): Kalisto b Scott Dawson, Rich Swann Ariya Daivari, Sasha Banks & Bayley b Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss, Cedric Alexander b Noam Dar, IC title: The Miz b Heath Slater, Seth Rollins b Curt Hawkins, Non-title: Neville b Mustafa Ali, Finn Balor b Cesaro, Braun Strowman b Apollo Crews, Seth Rollins b Bray Wyatt

7/3 Amarillo (WWE Smackdown): Jason Jordan & Chad Gable & Tyler Breeze & Fandango b The Ascension & Erick Rowan & Epico, Luke Harper b Aiden English, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Xavier Woods& Kofi Kingston and Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder, Three-way for U.S. title: Kevin Owens won over Sami Zayn and A.J. Styles, Naomi & Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch b Natalya & Carmella & Tamina, Rusev b Tye Dillinger, Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura b Jinder Mahal & Baron Corbin

7/3 Orlando (Impact TV tapings): Matt Sydal b Braxton Sutter, Women’s title: Sienna b Rebel, Drago & Taiji Ishimori b Davey Richards & Sammy Guevara, Octagoncito b Demus 3:16, Eddie Edwards & Wilcox & Mayweather & Grado b Eli Drake & Chris Adonis & Fallah Bahh & Mario Bokara, X title: Sonjay Dutt b Caleb Konley, Dezmond Xavier b Idris Abraham, ACH b Andrew Everett, Impact title: Bobby Lashley b Alberto El Patron-DQ

7/4 Phoenix (WWE Smackdown/205 Live - 8,000): Charlotte Flair b Natalya, A.J. Styles b Chad Gable, Women’s title: Naomi b Lana, Aiden English b Randy Orton-DQ, A.J. Styles won Battle Royal, Non-title: Neville b Lince Dorado, Jack Gallagher b Tony Nese, Rich Swann b TJP, John Cena & Shinsuke Nakamura b Baron Corbin & Rusev

7/4 Orlando (Impact TV tapings): Tyrus b Caleb Konley, Taiji Ishimori b Andrew Everett, Grand championship: Moose NC Naomichi Marufuji, Trevor Lee b William Weeks, Laurel Van Ness b Ava Storie, Non-title: Bobby Lashley & Alberto El Patron b Santana & Ortiz, Drago b Sammy Guevara, Non-title: Sienna b Amber Nova, Garza Jr. & Laredo Kid & Octagoncito b Trevor Lee & Idris Abraham & Demus 3:16, Matt Sydal won three-way over Low Ki and El Hijo del Fantasma, Eli Drake won four-way over Eddie Edwards, Moose and Ethan Carter III

CMLL: The 6/30 show at Arena Mexico was built around the A block of the Universal Champion of Champions tournament. In the first round, Shocker pinned Valiente in 3:52 using the ropes. So last year’s winner lost the first match of this year’s tournament in nothing fashion. Volador Jr. pinned Hechicero in 6:58. Negro Casas pinned Angel de Oro in 2:21. Dragon Lee pinned Luciferno in 5:51. This led to semifinals with Volador beating Shocker in 4:28 and Casas pinned Lee in 3:55. Volador pinned Casas to win the block in 5:54. So Volador meets the 7/7 winner on 7/14. The other top match was Rey Bucanero & El Terrible & Vangellys beating Misterioso Jr. & Rush & Pierroth. A mystery man showed up, dressed like La Sombra. The match went two starlight falls with the Rush trio DQ’d in the first fall, and then Vangellys pinned Pierroth in the second fall with a low blow

The 7/7 show has the B block with Mistico, Ultimo Guerrero, Mephisto, Marco Corleone, Niebla Roja, Soberano Jr. and Ephesto. There is one spot open as Atlantis was originally scheduled in but he suffered a right knee injury and is out of action. The most amazing thing about Atlantis is his durability, as he’s been wrestling for 34 years and this was said to be the first time he’s had an injury in his entire career that has kept him out of action for more than a few weeks. Keep in mind Atlantis in the 80s was the most revolutionary high flyer in Mexico of his era and he is still a solid main eventer and semi-main eventer and pretty much he and Negro Casas are the two CMLL legends. The other top match is Ripper & Rush & Pierroth facing Shocker & Vangellys & Terrible

One of the biggest things over the weekend which is actually a non-story, is that a masked man wearing a La Sombra costume came out with Rush on both the 6/30 Arena Mexico show and the 7/3 Puebla show. It was two different guys under the mask and neither of them was the original Sombra. However, not only was the man known as Andrade Cien Almas at Arena Mexico on 6/30, but he tweeted that he was there, which is probably nothing WWE would look to kindly on. But he wasn’t the guy who came out under the mask, as that would be in direct violation of his WWE contract, while just being backstage at the show wouldn’t be

Atlantis will be out of action for a few weeks due to a knee injury.

AAA: It is official that TripleMania is going to stay on 8/26, meaning the same night as Mayweather vs. McGregor. Dorian Roldan at a press conference said they were looking to get the fight on PPV in Mexico, and have it air on tape delay on television in the U.S. AAA hasn’t had any U.S. television exposure in six years

There is something weird going on as Taya was stripped of her Reina de Reinas title on 6/30 with nothing but the most ridiculous explanation. She said that nobody even called her regarding it. The storyline is that when Taya won the title from Ayako Hamada, it was via choke, and since the title can only change hands via pinfall or submission, and she never submitted, that she never fairly won the title and they were taking it from her. Is that seriously the most lame thing ever? A choke, when the person passes out from it, is inherently a successful submission move. Plus it was in a street fight match. They also ruled that in the match that took place months ago. She was listed to defend the title on 7/21 in Tijuana in a three-way against Hamada and Faby Apache. Taya had missed the 6/19 tapings citing she was recovering from an auto accident. Taya responded on social media saying she was never told ahead of time has no idea why this was announced and is talking about going to The Crash

Her fiancé, Johnny Mundo, was at the 6/30 tapings in Puebla and retained his AAA Mega heavyweight title over El Texano Jr., thanks to the help of El Hijo del Fantasma. The show was advertised around two TripleMania rematches from the past, and actually, the entire top half of the advertised show did take place. A Psycho Clown vs. Pagano match had no finish when Dr. Wagner Jr. and Mesias both got involved. Earlier, Wagner Jr. had beaten Mesias when Pagano’s music played, which distracted Mesias. There was a match for the title shot briefcase where Mascara de Bronce retained his briefcase over Kevin Kross and Hernandez. Before the match, Mundo came out and asked Kross, his bodyguard, while he’s in a match trying to get a title shot against him. Averno & Chessman & Super Fly beat Argenis & La Parka & Lanzeloth when Ricky Marvin returned and went after the Averno trio. But in doing so, it cost them the match. They also started a best-of-five series for the trios titles where Aerostar & Drago & Raptor won over Carta Brava Jr. & Mocho Cota Jr. & Soul Rocker in the first match of the series

Gilbert Cosme, 42, best known as Mesias and Mil Muertes, has accused his cleaning lady of robbing him of $8,000. According to the news reporters, he came home on 6/28 at 1 p.m., to find an envelope with $8,000 in cash missing and his cleaning lady has since disappeared.

THE CRASH: They announced a show on 8/4 in Mexicali with Penta 0M & Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Brian Cage & Carlito as the main event plus Black Taurus & Daga & Zorro vs. Garza Jr. & La Mascara & Rey Escorpion, Extreme Tiger & Jack Evans vs. Bestia 666 & El Hijo de Pirata Morgan and Rey Horus vs. Lio Rush vs. Willie Mack vs. Flamita.

DRAGON GATE: Shingo Takagi & Takashi Yoshida & Lindaman captured the Open the Triangle Gate titles from Naruki Doi & Big R Shimizu & Ben K in 22:33 on the 7/1 show in Osaka at the smaller Edion Arena. After the match, the Jimmys team of Jimmy Susumu & Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito, as well as BxB Hulk & Kzy & Yosuke Santa Maria, and Gamma & Eita & Takehiro Yamamura all came out. This wound up with a match on the 7/23 Kobe World Festival show, which is usually the company’s biggest show of the year. There will be a four-team tournament with Susumu & Horiguchi & Saito, Hulk & Kzy & Santa Maria, Gamma & Eita & Yamamura and Kotoka & Shimizu & Ben K, with the winner of the tournament later facing Takagi & Yoshida & Lindaman for the title on that show. Also announced for the Kobe World Festival is Yamato vs. King of Gate winner T-Hawk for the Open the Dream Gate title, Cima & Dragon Kid defend the Twin Gate title against Doi & Masato Yoshino and Jimmy Kagetora defends the Open the Brave Gate title against Flamita.

ALL JAPAN: The Hikaru Sato vs. Minoru Tanaka jr. title match was announced for the 7/17 show at Korakuen Hall. That show Shuji Ishikawa vs. Suwama for the Triple Crown, Zeus & The Bodyguard defending the tag titles against Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura, and a singles match with Kento Miyahara vs. Joe Doering. Sato at a press conference said that if he retains the title, he wants to defend against partner Atsushi Aoki on the 8/27 show at Sumo Hall

Ultimo Dragon, for his 30th anniversary show on 8/18 at Korakuen Hell, has announced Caristico, Sam Adonis and Diamante. What’s notable is Caristico also talked about appearing on 8/27 at Sumo Hall, which is weird for a top CMLL star going to Japan and not for New Japan. With Adonis, that’s the same thing

Hi69 signed a contract with the promotion. He had been working here regularly on a freelance basis. His real name is Hiroki Tanahabe, 35, and has wrestled for almost 17 years. He and Taiji Ishimori are the current jr. tag team champions.

NEW JAPAN: The opening night of G-1 on 7/17 in Sapporo, with Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr., and Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi as the top matches, will be available free for non-subscribers on New Japan World

Saw the AXS version of the Dominion show, which was a two-hour special with the Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito match and the Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega draw with Jim Ross and Jim Barnett on commentary. To say it was an incredible show would be an understatement. Ross & Barnett give you a completely different flavor on the Omega vs Okada rematch and the other advantage was the English translation of the Okada & Gedo interviews, particularly when Okada was putting over Omega and how hard the match was and then closed the interview by saying it was the greatest 60 minutes of his life. The match came across as something really epic, even more so than the first viewing of it

There was a Lion’s Gate show on 7/4, headlined by Yuji Nagata pinning Go Asakawa of the K-Dojo promotion with the bridging back suplex in 12:21. Asakawa was a late replacement for Ayato Yoshida, who suffered a broken jaw in the match recently. Nagata, after the show, talked about all the talent there was coming up and proposed a Young Lions Cup tournament. A lot of people have brought up that idea of late. The Young Lions Cup was a regular thing from 1985 to 2005. There were 13 such tournaments over that 21 year period, but since 2005, they haven’t done one. Hirooki Goto won the 2005 version and others who have won the tournament in the past have included Keiichi Yamada (Jushin Liger), Masahiro Chono, Hiroyoshi Yamamoto (Hiroyoshi Tenzan), Satoshi Kojima, Manabu Nakanishi and Ryusuke Taguchi

Ren Narita, the latest newcomer, made his debut on the 7/4 show in the opener, going to a draw with Shota Umino

There were publicity photos out of Jushin Liger, in his ring costume upper body outfit, but without the pants, wearing a miniskirt because he’s appearing on a wacky Japanese game show where a variety of celebrities compete in track and field events while wearing miniskirts

Taka Michinoku & Taichi will be promoting a show on 8/28 at Shinjuku Face in Tokyo where they’ll headline against Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi in a 2/3 fall match.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Real Japan Pro Wrestling on 6/29 at Korakuen Hall drew a sellout 1,563 fans for a show headlined by Masakatsu Funaki winning the Legends title from Shinjiro Otani.

HERE AND THERE: Matt Cappotelli, 37, had brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as doctors were able to get this past week. Cappotelli wrote, “To give everyone the best update I can, here we go. The doctors said my surgery was very successful and they were able to accomplish exactly what they set out to do. From start-to-finish, the surgery took nine to ten hours. I can’t tell you how much respect and love I have for the staff at Norton Brownsboro Hospital. You are truly amazing people. As I stated before, there is still an inoperable portion of tumor in my brain stem that will have to be dealt with at a later time. The game plan for now is for me to get as healthy and rested as possible and wait on the pathology results to come back. Once we have the pathology report in a few weeks, we will know what type of tumor we’re dealing with, and how to attack the portion in my brain stem with the most effective treatment protocol. The fight will continue. This is just the next step.

Whenever you hear about cord cutting, and it is real and cable homes did drop one percent in the past year, it should also be noted that there are two million more homes right now connected to cable or satellite than in 2007, and 19 million more than in 2000

The Toronto-based Smash Wrestling promotion has gotten weekly national television in Canada on The Fight Network. The show will air every Thursday night at 10 p.m., right after Impact. The show will feature several of the Ontario-based Impact wrestlers

Dezmond Xavier, Rey Fenix, Flash Morgan Webster, Trevor Lee, Jeff Cobb and Donovan Dijak have been added to this year’s Battle of Los Angeles tournament

Jamie Szantyr, 36, better known as Velvet Sky of TNA, said that she’s now retired and is now finishing up college at Post University in Connecticut as well as teaching at a wrestling school. She’s looking to become a personal trainer. She’s still the girlfriend of Bully Ray

Tammy Sytch, 44, was hospitalized over the weekend claiming that she passed out and fell, and posted photos of her with her bruised up and with dried blood in her hair saying the hospital wouldn’t let her shower because she wasn’t steady. Sytch had made a post on 6/28 that her heart was broken and on 6/30 saying that nobody cares about her

While this has been said before in an interview, Nick Patrick was a guest on Dave Penzer’s podcast talking about the famous 1997 Hulk Hogan vs. Sting match where there was supposed to be a fast count, but wasn’t, when Hogan pinned Sting, and the Bret Hart would debut, say that he wouldn’t let Sting get screwed and restart the match. The problem was, Patrick didn’t count fast, making Sting look bad because he lost clean on a night he simply couldn’t afford to lose, and making Hart look bad because he came across as a guy who wasn’t a babyface when the idea was to build to babyface Hart vs. Hogan at the next Starrcade. At the time, Patrick claimed he couldn’t understand the controversy and did the planned fast count, even though he didn’t. Years later he revealed, as everyone pretty much knew, that Hogan told him not to fast count and he went with Hogan since he thought Hogan had the power. “What happened was two people, Sting and Hulk, they were the two franchise guys and the two franchise guys were butting heads at that point in time. One guy came up to me and told me to fast count it to get some heat and give him an out and the other guy said, ‘Don’t fast count it. Keep it nice and slow.’ And the person who was in charge evidently didn’t want to make a call, didn’t want to pick a side, and made themselves scarce all night long to where I couldn’t find them to ask them, `Hey, what do you want me to do?’” That doesn’t add up because in previous tellings of the story, it was that Bischoff wanted the fast count (it was either his angle or someone else’s but Bischoff had pitched and told me the angle weeks before it happened with the fast count deal) and Hogan didn’t and Patrick figured that even though Bischoff was the boss, politically it would be a better call for him to listen to Hogan, thinking Hogan had the real power. Anyone with any wrestling instinct on that night could easily tell that the storyline the way it was laid out called for a fast count or would make no sense and kill Sting. And Sting was as hot as he ever was by a huge amount going into that show, and came out cold

Matt Riddle, in an interview with Metro in the U.K., on comparing wrestling with MMA, said that a lot of fighters think wrestling is easier, and he said it isn’t like the training is harder or you have to cut weight, but you have to connect with the audience. He said he’d like to get to WWE, but likes that he can do his own stuff and use his own ideas and tell his stories his way. He said if he was to go to NXT, he’d want to be fighting for the title right away. He said he was really happy he’s no longer in UFC. He said after UFC cut him (for failing pot tests, not for losing fights as he was winning his fights but had some decisions overturned for test failures) that rather than continue working in smaller promotions, where the goal would be to get back to UFC, why would he want to work so hard to end up back in a place that he hated. He said that it’s gotten worse since he left and called Dana White the biggest dickhead ever. Riddle said that White called him a f***ing loser and said he didn’t know how he could take care of his kids. “Yeah, I’m such a loser that I went from one sport where I was ranked top ten in the world and went to another sport where I’m one of the best in the world. That’s what losers usually do, Dana.

Jason Jordan, Chad Gable and Sabu have been added as guests for the Tragos/Thesz National Wrestling Hall of Fame induction ceremony on 7/22. Others announced as appearing include Jim Ross, Gerald Brisco, Dan Gable, Shelton Benjamin, J.J. Dillon, Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Baron Von Raschke, Larry Hennig, Penta 0M, Magnum T.A., Paul Orndorff, Stan Hansen, Shane Strickland, ACH, Chuck Taylor, Wade Keller, Bruce Hart, Jason Sanderson, Mike Van Arsdale and Charlie Thesz. Those awarded will be Orndorff, Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A., Hansen, Van Arsdale and Scott Williams (with the Jim Melby Award). I was planning on attending this but circumstances made it impossible

Evolve on 7/8 in Charlotte has Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Timothy Thatcher in a no holds barred match for the Evolve title, Chris Dickinson & Jake vs. Anthony Henry & James Drake, Ethan Page vs Keith Lee, Trent Baretta vs. Fred Yehi, ACH vs. Austin Theory and Jason Kincaid vs. Caleb Konley. On 7/9 in Marietta, GA, Sabre defends against Yehi along with Baretta vs. Theory, Lee vs Tracy Williams, ACH vs. Page, Kincaid vs. Jon Davis and Henry vs Drake

Northeast Wrestling announced Cory Rhodes vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. as the main event for the NEW title for its annual Wrestling Under the Stars show in Wappingers Falls, NY, at Dutchess Stadium on 8/27. That show usually draws more than 3,000 fans and is in most years the biggest independent pro wrestling crowd of the year. Hanson vs. Keith Lee was also announced for the show

They also announced an 8/25 show in Pittsfield, MA at Wahconah Park with Rhodes defending the title against Jerry Lawler in the first-ever meeting between the two. Rhodes had always wanted to wrestle Lawler and Terry Funk, and there were attempts to put a match together with Funk this year, but Funk has had serious health issues that don’t allow him to wrestle

Santino Marella, who hasn’t wrestled in three years, due to neck problems which required surgery, will return on 8/27 in a tag team match teaming with Alberto El Patron on 8/27 in Toronto.

EUROPE: Chris Raaber is doing a late August/early September tour of Austria with himself, Alberto El Patron, Rey Mysterio Jr., Apolo from Puerto Rico and Alofa the Samoan.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: Dulce Garcia/Sexy Star has a boxing match scheduled for 8/5 in Mexico. She claims she’s not retiring from wrestling, but right now is concentrating on boxing.

ROH: When War Machine lost to the Motor City Machine Guns at the 6/24 TV tapings, they were hugging everyone and it did come across like it could be their farewell. That would indicate the probability of WWE where they were headed earlier in the year before WWE pulled all offers from ROH talent for the time being based on legal threats. But them winning the IWGP tag titles this weekend would seem to indicate that is all up in the air. As noted last week, right now they aren’t under contract with anyone.

GFW: Gail Kim, 40, who is recovering from back surgery, announced at the 7/3 TV tapings that she would retire at the end of 2017

Grado as noted here before was back at TV’s this week because his new working visa came through. They ended up turning that into a storyline as the new story is that Grado’s visa ran out and the only way he could stay in the country was to get married, so the storyline was that he was trying to marry Laurel Van Ness. Rockstar Spud wasn’t at TV because his visa hadn’t come through

Jeff Jarrett said on Busted Open radio that they were looking at getting AAA and NOAH talent on the August house shows in New York, and said they were also looking at running a series of September shows in Ontario and the Midwest

The only title change thus far at the TV tapings was Ethan Carter III beating Moose on 7/5 to win the Grand championship via split decision when Bruce Prichard gave the third round do EC 3

They are doing an almost live show on 8/17, which will be when they do the next sets of tapings. The show will be called Destination X. Alberto will defend his title against either Bobby Lashley or Matt Sydal, or both. Sonjay Dutt will face Trevor Lee in a ladder match with the X Division belt that Lee stole but that Dutt still is champion of will be hung from the rafters. They will also on that show announce the Impact Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee to be honored at Bound for Glory on that night

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer was at the 7/5 tapings wearing an Impact Wrestling T-shirt with Tony Marrero a survivor from the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando last summer which was a national news story. Marrero had been honored at the 7/3 tapings. Dyer declared it Impact Wrestling day and said that Impact Wrestling was the best sports entertainment in Orlando. I’m not sure he knew what he was saying, but that is a knock on NXT. Dyer also did the ring announcing for one of the matches

Sammy Guevara and ACH debuted as regulars at the TV this week

Notes from the 7/3 tapings. The key to this show was to build up a Lashley vs. Alberto title rematch. In the match, Lashley had the match won. LAX attacked him for the DQ. Konnan then announced Alberto as the new captain of LAX. So the storyline is whether Alberto has joined LAX or Konnan just announced that he has since he was out cold at this point

They started the World X Cup tournament. The participants will be the debuting ACH and Sammy Guevara, along with NOAH’s Taiji Ishimori, Lucha Underground’s Drago, plus Andrew Everett, Dezmond Xavier, Idris Abraham and Davey Richards from TNA. On 7/3 they taped Xavier over Abraham and ACH over Everett. The idea is to bolster up the X Division with the good workers and try and replicate what has been working on the indie scene in the U.S. and growing of late

It also looks like they are building up an X title program with Sonjay Dutt and Trevor Lee. Lee laid out Dutt after Dutt had beaten Caleb Konley and then stole the title belt

A couple of bodybuilders called the Swole Mates were brought in to do some sort of a posedown angle with Chris Adonis. The Swole Mates have a TV special on Pop on 7/20 so they will be doing this angle for a few weeks to help build up their special

Eddie Edwards & The Veterans of War (Mayweather/Crimson & Wilcox/Jax Dane) beat Eli Drake & Adonis & Fallah Bahh & Mario Bokara. There is some kind of an angle coming where Joseph Park came out after the match and told Grado that he had to leave, so maybe they are playing off Grado’s visa situation

Mexican minis Octagoncito and Demus 3:16 were brought in and Octagoncito beat him at the 7/3 tapings

Rebel was also back losing to champion Sienna while other results included Matt Sydal over Braxton Sutter and Drago & Taiji Ishimori over Richards & Guevara

Notes from the 7/4 tapings. Tyrus pinned Caleb Konley for Xplosion. Taiji Ishimori pinned Andrew Everett for Xplosion. For Impact, Konnan and LAX came out. Konnan then introduced the new member of LAX, Alberto El Patron. Alberto came out and asked Konnan what he was doing. Alberto said that the two of them have been friends for a long time, but he said what Konnan did was BS because he’s not joining LAX. Konnan then asked him to join, and to not forget what the other American companies have done to him. He told him that when in the U.S., you need to have people watching your back and providing protection. Alberto said that this company is different (why do I think in two years or less this line will be looked back on with great humor) and they are doing great things and that “Carlos” (the first name Konnan often goes by) has gotten bitter in time and that he doesn’t mind being a loner by himself. Konnan said that if they work together, they can create a Latin Revolution. Does that mean that they’ll have the daughter of the owner emasculate them and bully them at every turn and then brag about how it was due to her vision that Latin wrestlers have been allowed to become stars? Well, he turned them down and LAX all attacked Alberto until Lashley made the save and he cleaned house. A Grand championship match with Moose defending against Naomichi Marufuji ended when EC 3 hit the ring and went to hit Moose with a belt shot. Moose ducked out of the way and EC 3 instead hit Marufuji. The match at that point ended with no winner announced. Marufuji was bleeding pretty badly from the stiff belt shot. Trevor Lee came out with the X Division belt that he stole from Sonjay Dutt. He defeated William Weeks. Lee worked the match while wearing the belt. Dutt ran in after the match, but Lee ran off. Laurel Van Ness pinned Ava Storie. Grado & Joseph Park came out. Grado had flowers and champagne and was hitting on her, saying she was the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Does this mean we’re going to get a Grado vs. Zack Ryder feud? Grado asked her if she wanted to go out, eat some food, get some drinks and watch some movies. Kongo Kong, came out, so I guess he’s the jealous boyfriend. The world was just waiting for a Kongo Kong vs. Grado feud. Lashley & Alberto beat Santana & Ortiz of LAX in a non-title match. Alberto then told Lashley that they make a damn good team. All of LAX then attacked Alberto. This time Lashley just walked off and let him get beat up. Drago pinned Sammy Guevara in a World X cup match. Sienna beat Amber Nova in a non-title match. Sienna cut a promo and talked about how she beat Rosemary for the title. Karen Jarrett came out. Sienna told Karen Jarrett that she wants her to admit that she is the best Knockouts champion of all-time. Of course, that would lead to a match with Gail Kim at some point. Allie came out with a kendo stick and started chasing Sienna. Laurel Van Ness came out to attack Allie and Rosemary made the save. Kim the came out. Kim made the save. Karen Jarrett announced that “next week” it would be Sienna vs. Rosemary for the title in a Last Knockouts Standing match. Garza Jr. & Laredo Kid & Octagoncito beat Trevor Lee & Idris Abraham & Demus 3:16 when Octagoncito pinned Abraham to win the match. Matt Sydal won a three-way over Low Ki and El Hijo del Fantasma. Sydal was doing a promo and he wanted a title shot at Alberto and asked for Bruce Prichard to come out. Prichard said he was sick and tired of people asking for title shots. Lashley then came out. Lashley said he’s the only one who deserves a title shot. They seemed to be building up a Lashley vs. Sydal No. 1 contenders match. Lashley speared Sydal out of the ring and said that’s just te start. He told Prichard he deserves the shot. Drake & Adonis were in the ring when The Swole Mates attacked them. Drake then won a four-way over Eddie Edwards, Moose and EC 3. Drake got the pin on Edwards after Moose and EC 3 were fighting. The last segment of the show saw LAX attack both Dos Caras Sr. & El Hijo de Dos Caras. Konnan said he was going to unmask Dos Caras, who has never shown his face in public in a 45 year career. Alberto came out for the save. He told “Carlos” to stop this nonsense. Konnan asked him if he was ready to join LAX, because if not, Dos Caras was getting unmasked. This would work a lot better is the back story of Dos Caras and the mask was told, and maybe it will be on TV leading to this. Konnan said he will let his brother and father go if Alberto agrees to join him. Alberto agreed but Konnan let his father and brother go. But Alberto told Carlos he would join them but they are no longer friends. They all raised their hands together but Alberto very visibly wasn’t happy about it. Alberto put on an LAX T-shirt, but then he attacked LAX and said that he wasn’t joining the group. After the filming was over, Alberto was in the ring and told the crowd how great they were tonight and then said that Josh Matthews “F***ing sucks.

Notes from the 7/5 tapings. The show opened with Mayor Buddy Dyer and Tony Marrero out. Jeremy Borash before they taped the show announced a change in the storyline. Before it was Grado wanting to ask Laurel Van Ness out on a date. Now the story is that Grado’s visa has expired (playing off the fact his visa actually had expired) and couldn’t stay in the U.S. unless he gets married to someone in the country. So the idea is he wants to marry Van Ness to staying the country and be able to work for GFW. They retaped the angle with Grado and Van Ness from the night before. EC 3 & Adonis & Drake beat Marufuji & Edwards & Moose when EC 3 pinned Moose. Dyer then posed in the ring with a lot of the company babyfaces. They retaped the Sienna vs. Amber Nova match from the previous day as well, as well as the promo from the day before to build up the Sienna vs. Rosemary last Knockouts standing match. Ishimori pinned Richards to advance in the X Division World Cup. They announced the next round was Ishimori vs. ACH, and pushed that they are regular tag team partners. They have teamed before in Japan, for both New Japan and NOAH. Lashley did a promo wanting a title shot on 8/17 at Destination X. He called out Prichard. Prichard told him the same thing he said the week before. Sydal came out and he also wanted a title shot. Lashley blew him off. Lashley then went to spear him like the night before, but this time Sydal nailed him with a knee to the face as he came in and hit the shooting star press. Sienna beat Rosemary to retain the Knockouts title in the Last Knockouts standing match. Trevor Lee came out wearing Dutt’s X title and claimed he was a fighting champion willing to defend against anyone. He said he found the top contender to face, and brought out Octagoncito. Octagoncito won the match via count out when Dutt came out and chased Lee to the back. They said that time was running out on Grado having to leave the country. Borash told the crowd that they needed to convince Van Ness to marry him. This was prepping the crowd to react to where it would sound like the crowd was really wanting Van Ness to accept the proposal. Grado proposed to her. Braxton Sutter and Allie came out, and then Kongo Kong came out and he wasn’t happy about this. Kong chased both Grado and Joseph Park away and Van Ness calmed Kong down. So the idea is Kong is a monster who is in love with Van Ness. In a match taped for Xplosion, El Hijo de Dos Caras pinned Mario Bokara. In a semifinal of the X Division World Cup, Dezmond Xavier beat Drago. So Xavier will face the Ishimori vs. ACH winner in the final. To try and heat up the crowd, Borash said that Trevor Lee has asked the crowd for proper respect, and if he doesn’t get it, he will leave Orlando and never come back. Lee then faced The Mumbai Cat. The Mumbai Cat was the name of an enhancement guy on the India tapings. So this time, the Mumbai Cat pinned Lee and unmasked, revealing Dutt. This set up the ladder match challenge. Drake vs. Edwards was scheduled next, but Kong came out and destroyed Edwards. EC 3 won the Grand championship over Moose via the split decision. The main event was a gauntlet match with Alberto facing each member of LAX. Alberto first pinned Homicide in seconds. Alberto then pinned Cruz. The final saw Alberto beat Santana via DQ when all of LAX jumped Alberto. El Hijo de Dos Caras, Mayweather and Wilcox ran in for the save. Alberto was funny on the post-match promo. He said he knows people are looking forward to him saying something stupid and his lawyers telling him what are you thinking. Then they started playing his music really loud but he said that loud music won’t stop him from talking but he just thanked everyone for coming.

UFC: The expected price for Mayweather vs. McGregor on PPV is $89.95 standard and $99.95 High Definition, which is the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao price range. If they really do five million North American buys, that’s a gross on North American PPV alone of close to $500 million, since the vast majority of buys are going to be HD. If you figure in U.K. revenue, sports bar/restaurant/club revenue, TV rights from all over th world, live gate and sponsorships, the event, if it really does close to that five million buy mark, will gross more revenue than either UFC or WWE has ever done over any 365 day period in either’s existence

Nick Diaz, 33, became the first fighter to be automatically suspended for not being available and having his whereabouts unknown for three different drug tests over a calendar year. All UFC fighters have to let USADA know where they are so that they can be tested, which, while very invasive, is completely necessary for the drug policy to be effective. And while nothing is 100 percent, there is also little argument that things have changed greatly when it comes to PED usage in UFC. Not in all cases, but in most cases, the guys everyone assumed were on stuff have had their physiques change rapidly and their results change as well. There are some who have even been vindicated in the sense they haven’t changed and have remained top guys. Many have just had a little bit of a physical difference, that most fans won’t notice, but is clear to those trained in the eye test, but also have only had slight changes in their careers, meaning they probably did stuff, but not to a large degree. The sad part of all this is that I’m pretty sure Nick Diaz doesn’t do steroids or GH. I can’t prove it or course, and he obviously does copious amounts of marijuana. He wouldn’t deny it, it’s arguably badly hurt his career, and more than once, coincidence would have it that I stayed in a hotel room on a UFC weekend next to the folks in Stockton. They didn’t complain about me being on the phone all night. I had no problem with them being up all night and the marijuana scent coming through the walls like I was at a rock concert in the 80s. But you still need to inform USADA of where you are. When they come testing off season, they don’t care about marijuana so that’s not the issue. But for a guy who regularly no-shows interviews, the idea that he’s not compliant in letting drug testers know where he is, well, that’s not a surprise. The policy rules are for a suspension of six months to two years. It probably doesn’t matter. Diaz has only fought once–on January 31, 2015, against Anderson Silva, since his huge payday and loss to Georges St-Pierre where his unique mic skill led to a 950,000 buy PPV show, which was more than four years ago, and he’s been offered fights all the time and is never interested. The thing about the Diaz Brothers is that the public perception is that these are two gang banger types who just love to fight and will fight at the drop of the hat. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. They do love to train but they fought because it was the only way they knew to support themselves. Because of the GSP fight for Nick and the Conor McGregor fights for Nate, their story may have a happy ending. They don’t need a ton of money to live and they made a ton of money. Whether this will be the case for life, I don’t know their finances and Nick has had his issues with taxes and that’s never a good thing, but both could make a ton of money fighting and choose not to, so they no longer need to fight

Matt Hughes has shown small improvements in the past week. His sister, Beth Ulrici wrote on 7/4 that “Matt is off the ventilator and showing small signs of improvement

Dana White said that the Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia on 7/29 winner would next defend the title against Georges St-Pierre. That does make sense because even though GSP vs. Michael Bisping would be the stronger draw, it makes no sense as if GSP wins, does he really defend against Robert Whittaker or Yoel Romero? However, St-Pierre said that he still wants Bisping, and Bisping still wants St-Pierre. The plan seems to be for St-Pierre to headline the November show in Madison Square Garden

White also claimed that Conor McGregor has told him he’ll fight Khabib Nurmagomedov after Floyd Mayweather, and even do it in Russia. UFC is looking at opening up Russia

The Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone fight scheduled for 7/8 in Las Vegas was moved to the 7/29 PPV from Anaheim, so that is turning into a loaded show with that fight, three title fights (Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones, Woodley vs. Maia and Cris Cyborg Justino vs. Tony Evinger), as well as Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir. I don’t think there’ any doubt this will be the biggest PPV number for a UFC show this year and could double any number so far this year

Michelle Waterson is not only featured in the new ESPN Body issue but she is either the cover model or her full cover is one of a few different covers they are producing

True story. If you are one of the few media outlets right now that are allowed to interview Ronda Rousey, you have to agree not to bring up fighting at all or there is no interview

Rousey and Travis Browne’s home in Venice, CA was robbed in April. Rousey was on with Kelly Ripa and said that two thieves, one with a skateboard, came in and stole her Olympic ring, jewelry and headphones among other things. They checked the surveillance camera in their house and saw the two people who came in, a man and a woman, and saw one had a skateboard. She had Browne went to the skateboard park, saw guy, and then called police and they were arrested

This coming weekend is International Fight Week with two shows at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, plus the Hall of Fame ceremony on 7/6 with the inductions of Urijah Faber, Joe Silva, Maurice Smith and Kazushi Sakuraba

The 7/7 show is mostly on FS 1 with the finals of the current season of The Ultimate Fighter which pits Dhiego Lima, the brother of Bellator welterweight champion Douglas (12-4), going against Jesse Taylor (30-15). That will be the semifinal on the show. It opens with Fight Pass bouts starting at 6 p.m. Eastern with Juliana Lima (9-3) vs. Tecia Torres (8-1) and Teruto Ishihara (9-3-2) vs. Gray Maynard (12-6-1). The FS 1 broadcast starts at 7 p.m. with Jessica Eye (11-6) vs. Aspen Ladd (5-0), C.B. Dollaway (15-8) vs. Ed Herman (23-12), and Angela Hill (6-3) vs. Ashley Yoder (5-2). The main card follows with Marcel Fortuna (8-1) vs. Jordan Johnson (7-0), Brad Tavares (14-4) vs. Elias Theodorou (13-1), Nick Roehrick (7-0) vs. Jared Cannonier (9-2), Marc Diakiese (12-0) vs. Drakker Klose (7-0-1) and a main event of Michael Johnson (17-11) vs. Justin Gaethje (17-0)

UFC 213 PPV on 7/8. It starts at 6:30 p.m. with Fight Pass bouts of James Bochnovic (8-1) vs. Trevin Giles (9-0), Cody Stamann (13-1) vs. Terrion Ware (17-5), and Rob Font (13-2) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade (24-1). FS 1 at 8 p.m. has Jordan Mein (29-11) vs. Belal Muhammad (11-2), Gerald Meerschaert (26-8) vs. Thiago Santos (14-5), Brian Camozzi (7-3) vs. Chad Laprise (11-2) and Travis Browne (18-6-1) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (51-10-1). The PPV at 10 p.m. has Jim Miller (28-9) vs. Anthony Pettis (19-6), Curtis Blaydes (7-1) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (19-6-1), Alistair Overeem (42-15) vs. Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1), Yoel Romero (12-1) vs. Robert Whittaker (18-4) for the interim middleweight title, and Amanda Nunes (14-4) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (14-2) for the women’s bantamweight title

Rohrick took the fight with Cannonier on 7/4, just three days before the fight, when Steve Bosse pulled out

Michael Chiesa has appealed his loss to Kevin Lee to the Oklahoma Athletic Commission, saying that he never stopped defending the choke and that the result should be overturned to a no contest. I do think that instant replays should be used for officials to look at controversies leading to a finish, but you also shouldn’t overturn a referee’s judgment call on a submission. I guess the key would be if Mario Yamasaki were to say that he did err, but politically when you admit that (if he even believes that), it would work against you. Occasional bad calls happen to every referee and for the most part, they’re forgotten unless it’s a ref who continually makes them. But a public admission of a bad call will be remembered and brought up forever. But Lee really did have the fight just about won. A commission overturning a referee’s call on a fight that ends with an eye poke leading to a finish or in illegal knee leading to a finish is one thing (and those haven’t been overturned historically either) but to second guess a referee’s call, even if wrong, on a near submission, opens up a bad can of worms

There will be two different announce teams for Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders show on Fight Pass, which starts 7/11. There will be a regular UFC announce team, and a secondary team, which will be Snoop Dogg with Urijah Faber

There was an issue going on right now with the UFC and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations regarding Cortney Casey. Casey tested positive in a test taken after her 5/13 fight in Dallas where she scored the biggest win of her career over Jessica Aguilar. USADA tested Casey extensively after the fight and determined that the test result was in error and lifted her suspension. However, Texas has refused to reverse its decision. Dana White even texted, “The Texas Commission needs to get their shit together for the protection of our athletes.” Casey tested at 5-1 on her testosterone-epitestosterone ratio, when 4-1 is the usual limit. In cases that are close, the protocol is to follow with CIR testing, which is more expensive but is more effective in determining if there is any artificial testosterone in the system. Casey’s test showed there was none, and the ratio issue is likely because for whatever reason, her body was producing a low amount of epitestosterone, which would not be evidence of steroid use (the funny one is that a low T:E Ratio, like 0.25-1 actually can be evidence of past steroid use or of recently getting off a cycle, and there have been fighters who most believe use that have tested under that number, but right now nobody acts on the super low number). Jeff Novitzky, who heads up the UFC’s drug testing program, went so far as to say that it was “sickening how Cortney has been treated by the Texas commission throughout this.” But on 6/30, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations informed Casey that her suspension had been lifted and that her win over Aguilar had been restored and was no longer a no contest

Leon Edwards vs. Bryan Barbarena has been added to the 9/2 show in Rotterdam, Holland

Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez, with Melendez moving to featherweight, was announced for 9/9 in Edmonton

Albert Morales vs. Brett Johns will be on the 7/16 show in Glasgow. Morales replaces Mitch Gagnon, who pulled out this past week.

BELLATOR: Regarding the planned grudge match between Michael Venom Page and Paul Daley, Scott Coker was on the MMA Hour and said they are looking at doing the fight in London in early 2018. Coker said that he asked Daley if he wanted the fight in September, and Daley said he would rather do the fight early next year. Coker said that they’ve made a deal with a local boxing promotion (likely Frank Warren’s group) for Page to do a boxing match in the interim

A correction from last week. In the story on Heather Hardy and Alice Yauger match, I wrote both were making their Bellator debut. Yauger actually had fought once before in Bellator, losing to Jessica Middleton in an off-television fight.

OTHER MMA: Two-time Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison is expected to make her debut with the PFL in February

There was a press conference in Tokyo on 7/5 where it was announced that Gabi Garcia would face Oksana Gagloeva, a Russian boxer making her MMA debut, on the 7/30 Rizin show at the Saitama Super Arena. The claim is that Gagloeva is 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds. The two were together and Gagloeva may be close to 5-foot-10, but she looked more like a very pretty model and is nowhere close to 200 pounds

Aaron Rajman, 25, West Boca, FL, based MMA fighter who is part of American Top Team, was killed on 7/3 at his home when several men came into his home and he was shot. According to police reports, several men came into his home, an argument started, one of the men shot him and they drove away. At this point, the Sheriff’s Office said it has no motive for the shooting. Rajman had been training with ATT since the age of 16. Rajman had a 2-2 pro record and had won several amateur championships.

WWE: Stephanie McMahon and Paul Levesque were at the Cannes Lions advertising festival last month with the goal of educating advertisers on what WWE is. Levesque pushed that there is enormous growth potential in WWE because 70 percent of its fan base is outside the U.S., but less than 30 percent of its revenue comes from outside the U.S. They also pushed the rebranding of women from Divas to Superstars

Maria Menounos, the television host and huge wrestling fan, went public this past week that she underwent surgery to remove a golf ball sized meningioma brain tumor. The surgeon was able to remove almost all of the tumor in a seven-hour operation. Menounos, 39, will be taking time off from her hosting duties on E! Menounos began feeling lightheaded at times on the set and suffered from headaches and slurred speech dating back to February. She was appearing at the time on “Dancing with the Stars,” while at the same time her mother was battling brain cancer. Menounos has made a number of WWE appearances, both hosting at the Hall of Fame, appearing on shows including wrestling four matches with WWE, two on television one at an Axxess event and also worked at the 2012 WrestleMania at SunLife Stadium in Miami teaming with Kelly Kelly to beat Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres. A number of people who had worked for her Afterbuzz show had also gone on with the connections to get WWE deals including Cathy Kelly and Daria Berenato (Sonya Deville)

Angle did an interview where he said that he hasn’t taken a physical yet and doesn’t expect to do so until they have a reason for him to wrestle. He said it is more than likely that he will wrestle and he said he’s not sure whether that has to do with his current storyline, but he said he’s sure he will wrestle eventually. Put it this way, if the planned storyline is supposed to lead to him wrestling, they are too deep in the storyline to not know if he can wrestle. He also said he’s like Goldberg in the sense he’s motivated to wrestle because he has three sons, 6, 4 and a 7 month old, who have never seen him wrestle in the WWE

Matt Hardy on Twitter teased the idea that there would be a settlement soon in the Broken gimmick ownership case. The case right now is still pending. Those at GFW indicate it’s not close to being settled

Kazuchika Okada was backstage at Raw and Smackdown in Phoenix. I doubt there’s anything to read into that because whenever he’s in the U.S., he tries to go to the WWE tapings since he knows a lot of the guys like Balor, Nakamura, Styles, Anderson, Gallows and others

There was a security breach reported by Forbes where there was unprotected information in a database with more than 3 million names WWE had collected open to anyone who knew the web address, including home and e-mail addresses, birthdates, the age of fans children and genders on an amazon Web Service S3 server. The WWE responded to the story saying, “Although no credit card or password information was included, and therefore not at risk, WWE is investigating a vulnerability of a database housed on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which has now been secured. WWE utilizes leading cybersecurity firms Smartronix and Praetorian to manage data infrastructure and cybersecurity and to conduct regular security audits on AWS. We are currently working with Amazon Web Services, Smartronix and Praetorian to ensure the ongoing security of our customer information.

The latest lineup for the 7/7 show in Madison Square Garden is Reigns vs. Wyatt, Joe vs. Rollins, Nakamura vs. Ziggler, Owens vs. Styles for the U.S. title, Miz vs. Ambrose for the U.S. title, Balor vs. Anderson, Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Hardys for the Raw tag titles, Bayley & Banks & James vs. Bliss & Jax & Fox, Neville vs. Aries for the cruiserweight title and Goldust vs. R-Truth. They are pushing this show around being the MSG debuts of Joe, Nakamura, Balor and Bayley and the first time the Hardys have worked the building in eight years

There has been at least talk of doing a women’s Royal Rumble match in January. Another thing talked about is next summer doing a tag team tournament on the network similar to the Dusty Rhodes tag team classic they did. . Angle was announced this week as the star from the past featured in the new WWE 2K 18 game. That was pretty much expected and he probably would have been (well, he would have been the guy suggested by 2K for the spot but it’s always pending Vince McMahon’s approval, but after Vince approved Ultimate Warrior and especially Bill Goldberg, I believe right now the only person he wouldn’t approve of for that spot is Punk, and I couldn’t even say that with certainty, and in time he’d approve him). In the case of the last few years, the return of Sting at the level he returned was 100 percent due to the crowd reaction when 2K promoted him, opening the eyes of WWE officials who didn’t expect his level of popularity with their fan base. Now, there is a chance Sting would have returned either way, but not with the same level of fanfare or push. With Warrior and Goldberg, there is zero chance either would have returned had they not signed with 2K first, which opened the door on both sides for negotiations for their return. With Angle, that wasn’t the case, but it had never been a deep personal issue since Angle had never been an enemy of the company as much there was the fear of something happening with Angle under their watch. When that fear was gone, he was brought back

WWE is apparently looking at doing another non-wrestling television show with the Bellas. They have applied for a trademark for the term “Bella Appetit,” which would be for a television show about cooking, food, recipes, restaurants, bars, travel, travel, health, fitness and nutrition

Chris Harrington tabulated the 2017 results as of the end of June. The leader for this year’s Iron Man Award is Zayn, who has done 83 matches in the first six months of the year. The top guys are seemingly doing less matches because that’s far from the pace of the usual 200 matches a year that it takes to be on top. After that are Owens with 80, Ambrose with 79, Mahal with 78, Jax, Banks, Cesaro, Charlotte, Styles and Anderson all with 77 and Breeze, Fandango and Sheamus with 76. Two wrestlers haven’t lost this year, Asuka (52 wins, two no contests) and Lesnar (five wins). R-Truth is 49-1-1, Nakamura is 63-3 and Bate is 19-1. Hawkins is 0-63, while English is 1-66, Konnor is 1-55, Viktor is 1-54 ad Rowan is 1-33. Nese has the most TV matches with 31. Because the cruiserweights have their own show and also work Raw, they get more TV matches as Gallagher has had 30, Dar 29 and Ali 27 before Zayn’s 26

An interesting note is that you think of WWE wrestlers working more dates than those in Japan, at least these days, but there are a lot of New Japan regulars who have worked 75 or more dates this year

WWE announced Kairi Hojo, 28, as having signed with WWE and for the Mae Young Classic, and also gave her a new name, Kairi Sane. WWE made the announcement of Hojo, as Kairi Sane, signing at the 6/30 show at Sumo Hall with a video at the show, which got a good reaction. She is now likely to be allowed to use the elbow drop after all since the WWE press release announcing her signing specifically brought up that some people believe her to have the most beautiful elbow drop in wrestling. Also announced was Piper Niven of Scotland, real name Kimberly Benson, 25. She was the 210-pound Viper in the U.K. independents and had been signed by ITV to basically be the remake of Klondyke Kate, the top woman star in England of the 80s. She had already been reported here as getting out of her ITV deal. With no plans on the horizon for ITV wrestling right now, they’ve been letting the guys out of their deals if they ask. Also announced was Cheree Crowley, 29, best known as Evie, a New Zealand based wrestler, who signed a developmental deal in December and just debuted at a house show over the weekend. She’ll be using the name Dakota Kai, which is her new WWE name. Also in is the former Mary Kate (real name MaryKate Glidewell, 32), now using the name Sage Beckett. She was first called Sage Miller last week. Then somebody figured out they had a Nick Miller, so she needed a last name change. The other announced entrant is Demi Bennett, 20, from Australia, is now Rhea Ripley. There’s a believe it or not joke just crying to come out. She was signed in March after doing a tryout in Australia at the end of last year

 

Paige and Alberto got back together on 6/28 after breaking up the prior weekend. In fact, Paige was at ringside at the Slammiversary PPV show. Seriously, she was wearing a Dos Caras mask to hide her identity. In fact, the only reason people knew it was her was because someone was able to get a screen shot that showed her special guest pass which read Saraya Bevis, her real name

Orton will be off for a few weeks as he’s going to Thailand to have a role in the movie “Changeland,” that Seth Green is directing. He’s scheduled to return on 7/18 in Birmingham for the Go-home Smackdown for Battleground

Lesnar will be defending the Universal title on the Smackdown shows that he appears on. Lesnar vs. Corbin in a first-time ever meeting was announced for 7/29 in Detroit, on a show that is also advertising Mahal vs. Orton for the WWE title and Owens vs Zayn vs. Styles for the U.S. title. It’s the final pro wrestling event ever at the Joe Louis Arena. Cena will also be on the show, likely against Rusev

There are stories going around that the Owens DVD is a super hot seller. At this point, there is no confirmation of that. Where the story got started is that it came out this week and it’s been difficult to find at stores and that Best Buy and Amazon have sent out e-mails to people who have ordered it saying that they don’t have any copies and won’t for several weeks. That could mean they under-ordered or even that the DVDs were behind the time being sent to Best Buy and Amazon, or that they ordered a usual amount but demand was surprisingly high and now they have to wait for a new shipment. But there are no concrete numbers available

Nico Gendron, a rare female WWE writer who was on the staff for a short time in 2015, briefly wrote about her experience there in birthmoviesdeath.com “I was hired at WWE in the summer of 2015, right after they introduced `The Divas Revolution.’ In a male-dominated writers room, a female perspective was needed as WWE’s women wrestlers were expected to rise above their traditional role of full-time arm candy and part-time wrestlers to share consistent (though limited) air time with their male, Superstar counterparts. I learned quickly that this wrestling dynasty hadn’t caught up to the main cultural dialogue around feminism and female empowerment that was electric outside WWE. With a great deal of ground to cover, I realized I would have to embrace the little victories, like storylines that do not hinge on a disagreement over a male love interest, avoiding dialogue where male Superstars reduce female wrestlers by telling them to shut up, or by positioning them as getting in the way of their own success.

More info on the role Ashley Fliehr (Charlotte Flair) is playing in the new “Psych: The Movie,” that she filmed several weeks back, from TVGuide.com Fliehr will play the character of Heather Rocknear, a sidekick of The White Duke. The two-hour movie debuts on USA Network in December

The top ten most-watched shows on the WWE Network this past week, with almost no new programming except for the wrestling shows, was: 1. NXT from 6/28; 2. Ride Along with Jericho & Owens; 3. Talking Smack from 6/27; 4. Money in the Ban PPV; 5. Kevin Owens DVD preview; 6. 205 Live form 6/27; 7. NXT from 6/21; 8. WrestleMania; 9. Ride Along with Anderson, Gallows, R-Truth & Goldust; 10. Reborn by Fate: Hardys interview

The stock closed at press time at $20.49 per share, giving the company a market value of $1.57 billion

Notes from the first of the two-night Phoenix tapings. It was the go-home show for Great Balls of Fire. The highlight was once again Joe vs. Lesnar, this being an interview with them in separate studios, with the idea taken from the Jones vs. Cormier first match build. Even though this was scripted and had more latitude to be better, and both Joe and Lesnar were strong, they couldn’t come close to match the original. What was notable is that Joe was almost portrayed as the babyface in the sense he wanted the fight, looked all over, found Lesnar and everyone held Joe back while Lesnar laughed at him. I think the mentality in Lesnar matches are that there’s no face and heel anyway. They did a standard Reigns vs. Strowman ambulance match where Strowman told people all night that Reigns wasn’t there, only for an ambulance to show up and Reigns be the driver, ending when Reign speared Strowman off the stage and through a crash pad set up of a table and lots of cardboard boxes. The gimmick is that even after that, Strowman got back up. The show drew 9,600 fans. Kalisto pinned Dawson in the opener with a roll-up. Can you believe The Revival is ready to go, and they’re already beating them on Main Event with nobodies. Swann pinned Daivari with a Phoenix splash. Raw opened with Enzo out. He talked about all the times he’s been beaten up, and all the angles from the hotel room beating, his real life concussion when he was whiplashed by the ring ropes in that tag match against The Vaudevillains on PPV, and all of his other beatings and said that all of those times were when Cass had his back. He said that for five years Cass was with him and stood behind him and watched his back but he never really had his back. He said Cass was always there because he had a silver-tongued little body who is the toughest son of a bitch but with a heart of gold. He then brought up Conor McGregor, so obviously they want to get McGregor on to do something with Enzo with the idea they can help promote McGregor vs. Mayweather on Raw. He said the worst McGregor could do and Cass could do was knock him out, but that’s been done before. He then talked about how grateful he was for anyone who has purchased his merchandise and that’s why every time he gets knocked down, he gets back up. He said he’s climbed out of holes that were a lot taller than seven feet. He said that while people say Cass was the money, that Cass is nothing more than a seven foot catch phrase that he wrote. The promo was very good but I expected more of a crowd response to it, but you could say that about almost everything on this show. He brought up the idea that Cass was money saying that when Cass’ next merchandise check comes, it will have zero dimes, unless he starts wearing a shirt that reads “Casshole.” He said that Cass splitting up with him led to part of him dying, but when Cass kicked him in the face, that was like CPR and breathed new life into him. When it was over, there were some fans giving him a standing ovation for the promo but most of the audience didn’t respond anything all that special considering how good the promo was. Cass was backstage and said that he’s never heard someone talk so much and say nothing. Evidently he never watches Wyatt interviews or the weekly opening segment no Raw. Cass said that he was the star of the team and he’s where the money is. Enzo then jumped him from behind and the two of them were pulled apart. Banks & Bayley beat Jax & Bliss in 10:09. Jax played monster with Bayley, not selling anything for her while destroying her. Jax gave Bayley a running knee into the barricade outside the ring. Bayley didn’t get much of a reaction coming out and whether they are overtly or covertly doing it, they are burying her something fierce. So Banks, on her own, beat Bliss with the Bank statement to build up the PPV match. Jax and Bliss argued after the match as the big match they are teasing is those two and Banks is just to get past this month. Angle was on the phone and he still has a problem. Strowman came out and said Reigns isn’t here tonight and he won’t be at the PPV Sunday so he wants a new opponent for Sunday and an opponent for tonight. Angle said that Reigns will be there on Sunday but all of the superstars in the locker room are already booked tonight. That sure buried Crews, Balor, O’Neil, Miz, Ambrose, Slater, and whoever else were clearly there and at that moment not booked in a match. They did a video package to build up Joe vs. Lesnar which was well done. Alexander pinned Dar in 2:09. Fox distracted Alexander again, but this time after Dar went for the schoolboy, Alexander rolled with it and hit the lumbar check. Once again Alexander said he was finished with Dar and Fox after this match, which in WWE means they’ve got no ideas for either guy past this one and it’s not ending now. Next was Miz TV. The Mizterouge of Maryse, Axel and Dallas came out with him. Miz was wearing a white suit which was once referenced as a Good Humor Man suit. Good Humor man? I haven’t seen a Good Humor man in like 40 years, at least say a Conor McGregor copying Ric Flair suit. He talked about how the Ball family was overexposed, overhyped and soon to be forgotten. Given they were in Phoenix, the crowd cheered that. He said Lonzo Ball would be the biggest bust in NBA history, which got a cheer, even ore than Steve Nash. That booing was much weaker than I expected for the usually easy heat remark. He said that Ambrose was a guy who everyone thought was going to be the breakout star of The Shield, he had toughness in the ring, unorthodox charisma, and was going to be the next Roddy Piper. Actually everyone said he’d be the next Terry Funk, and nobody ever said he’d be the next Roddy Piper, but Terry Funk was a guy who got two-and-a-half minutes for his Hall of Fame speech so how big a star could he have ever been. Miz said that everyone was wrong, that instead we go Wacky Dean Ambrose, a comedy figure who can’t handle success. He saved Ambrose caved under pressure while he revels under pressure. He said that Ambrose can’t be a top guy like him and can’t make the IC title relevant. Ambrose came out and talked about Miz having a personal little goon squad. Ambrose said that everything Miz said about him was true and Miz had him all figured out. Slater & Rhyno then came out. Slater said that he was the last guy to beat Miz so he deserved an IC title shot. Slater claimed that in his entire time in WWE, he had never received a singles title shot. Ambrose told Slater to wait his turn because he wants his rematch for the title tonight. Miz told Ambrose he’d get his rematch when he says so. Miz then made fun of people in West Virginia, saying they watch TV by adjusting their rabbit ears on a black and white TV. Inherently, you can’t watch Raw with rabbit ears. Anyway, Miz said that his entire crew is flying to Los Angeles for a midnight 4th of July party. Angle came out. Miz told Angle that he needed to talk to Graves about his personal problems. Miz asked Angle which one he would have to defend against. Angle said both, he would have to defend against Ambrose on the PPV and Slater next. This match was actually completely silly. So you have a match for an IC title that you want people to take seriously. The match takes place and Miz doesn’t even have the time to change from his suit into gear. Does anyone realize how much of a clown show inherently that makes the title and the title match? And even better, Miz split his pants and there is nothing more ridiculous than a guy with pants split being taken seriously defending a title. Ambrose on commentary said that Slater doesn’t want to be an errand boy, he wants to be an Assassin. That was a line Dusty Rhodes said for a match against the Great Kabuki at the Omni about 35 years ago. Graves then called Miz one of the greatest pure strikers in sports entertainment while Miz delivered those horrible looking kicks. Actually, the work in this match was developmental level. Not sure if Slater just isn’t that good or Miz was having a terrible match or they had problems working together. The crowd was dead as well. Rhyno was at ringside hitting the mat to get the crowd back into it. Slater used a powerslam off the middle rope. Rhyno was chasing Dallas and Axel but held up when Maryse got in his way. Dallas and Axel attacked Rhyno from behind and threw him into the post. Slater was distracted by that and Miz hit the Skull crushing finale for the pin in 12:46. Axel and Dallas beat down Slater after the match. Ambrose ran to the ring to make the save. He went for Dirty Deeds on Miz, but Miz escaped and ran off. Axel then attacked Ambrose from behind and Axel & Dallas used a double-team back suplex and neckbreaker spot. Miz then laid out Ambrose with the skull crushing finale. Crews and O’Neil were backstage. They were pushing Titus Worldwide as the name of the company and no longer the Titus Brand, since that sounds too much like a copy of Big Baller Brand. Well, that’s because it was a copy of Big Baller Brand. O’Neil wanted Crews to face Strowman. Crews wasn’t hot on that idea. He noted he just had a daughter. O’Neil said that facing Strowman is his big chance because Strowman made a big star out of Kalisto. Crews didn’t even laugh when he said that. O’Neil told Crews to use his freak daddy strength and said “Apollo Crews can’t lose.” So Crews was down with that. I don’t know, if somebody was my manager and told me to copy Kalisto’s moves to become a star like Kalisto, man, I don’t know. Goldust came out. He showed clips of his beating down R-Truth from last week while Beethoven’s Fifth symphony played in the background. When they came back from the video, R-Truth was behind Goldust with popcorn in his hand like he was at the movie theater. Except there were no seats. He attacked Goldust and threw Goldust’s shoulder into the post. Cesaro & Sheamus were backstage and wanted to know what Angle was going to do about the PPV. Angle suggested a 30:00 Iron man match with the Hardys. They were down with that, saying the Hardys come out fast but that they were in better shape and an Iron man match is about conditioning. Cesaro said he wanted a match. Angle suggested Strowman. Cesaro then said he wanted Balor and Angel agreed to that one. Hawkins was in the ring. He said he was the guy who should be facing Strowman. He asked fans if they thought he’d lost to Rollins and they all cheered like he would. Rollins came out to the biggest pop so far on a lukewarm night. Rollins did quick promo and pinned Hawkins in :08 with the jumping knee. Cole called it the Sudden strike. Rollins cut a promo on Wyatt. There was a fan at ringside with a “Dusty sucks eggs” T-shirt. Those were first made in 1976. There was the Joe-Lesnar thing in separate studios like the Jones-Cormier interviews. Joe did a good job. Lesnar laughed at him. Joe then left his room and was looking for Lesnar and eventually found him. Neville beat Ali in 6:23 with the Rings of Saturn. The crowd was dead for this match. There was a nice pop when Ali hit a DDT off a back superplex spot. Wyatt was in the desert cutting a promo and saying nothing. Charly Caruso interviewed Bliss and brought up that Banks made her tap. Bliss said that she let Banks win to give her a false sense of security. Did she just tell us that match results are meaningless and she lost on purpose? Bliss said it was strategy and it was smart. Caruso couldn’t believe such a thing. Bliss said that nobody cares what she thinks, and that’s why she’s holding a mic and she’s holding a championship and will still hold it after Sunday. Balor pinned Cesaro in 15:05. The Hardys and Sheamus were at ringside. Samson came out as well. Samson tripped Balor. The Hardys attacked Samson and Sheamus. Balor did a running flip dive onto everyone. Then everyone started hitting big moves. Well, except Samson, because he doesn’t have any. Balor won after a Woo dropkick and the coup de gras. Strowman then came out for the final segment. He said there were few things in this world he liked more than hurting Reigns. He said Reigns is too stupid to stay down so he keeps knocking him down. He said that last week we put him in an ambulance. He wanted competition and O’Neil and Crews came out. O’Neil said that Crews had a fire in his belly from having a baby. Strowman destroyed Crews in 4:30. Crews got a brief comeback, but Strowman powerslammed him twice, and picked him up at two both times, before pinning him on the third one. He picked Crews up again and O’Neil got on the apron. O’Neil got in Strowman’s face but Strowman powerslammed him. He carried Crews to the back and put Crews in the back of the ambulance. So I guess that makes Crews as big a star as Kalisto, so mission accomplished. However, the ambulance wouldn’t drive off. Strowman twice wanted the ambulance to drive off. So he went to the drivers’ door and opened it up. Of course, Reigns came out. Reigns attacked him and the crowd booed. Strowman made a comeback and was beating on Reigns on the ramp. Reigns then came back and speared Strowman off the ramp and Strowman fell off through a crash pad of a table and lots of cardboard boxes. Strowman was down, and Reigns looked like the victor, but before the show went off the air, Strowman was back up, so the idea was that even that couldn’t keep Strowman down. After Raw was over, Rollins pinned Wyatt in 5:00 with the sudden impact, which is the name of the jumping knee, the save move Omega uses as the V trigger. As a trivia note, Sudden Impact was the name of the tag team of Chris Jericho & Lance Storm in Manitoba and Japan about 25 years ago

Notes from the 7/4 Smackdown tapings in Phoenix. Because they knew 7/4 would be a hard night to draw because they aren’t big in local culture (when wrestling is big in local culture, 7/4 is actually a good night to draw), they were selling package tickets. If you bought a Raw ticket, you would get a free Smackdown ticket. They also booked the same building so they could do that and not have to try and sell individual tickets to a show this night. So it was a two-for-one-deal, which from a deal aspect probably helped the Raw attendance as well. Of the 9,600 Raw ticket buyers, about 8,000 were in attendance here so it looked good on TV. Charlotte beat Natalya with the figure eight in the opening dark match. Said to be just a normal match. Lilian Garcia was brought in to sing either the national anthem or America the Beautiful but it was only for the live crowd. The show opened with Cena out. He said this country was founded on the idea that anyone or any race, creed, color, or sex, with hard work, could achieve greatness. I’m really not sure in the 1770s when this country was founded that was the case. I’m sure it’s not the case with WWE today. Cena then said how the other wrestlers have said that he’s sold out, gone Hollywood, lost his edge and he’s nothing more than a part-time mascot. He said that he’s not a part-timer, he’s an all-timer. There is a movement as Cena is 40 and he wrestles less-and-less, to portray him as the all-time greatest since of people they can say that about, Cena is the one who can still come back for programs and big shows. He then challenged Nakamura, Styles, Owens, Orton, Mahal, Rollins, Joe, Lesnar and Reigns. The idea is that Cena is the one guy who is working both brands as a free agent. As noted before, the decision for Cena as a free agent came at the same time that Reigns vs. Lesnar was moved from WrestleMania to SummerSlam, so Cena vs. Reigns make sense for Mania given the moves made. That doesn’t mean that’s the plan. Cena was mostly cheered, but he was also doing a patriotic promo on July 4th. Rusev came out and said that he also worked hard, and he worked so hard that he got hurt. He said that for two months on television, they’ve been pushing Cena’s return on July 4th. He said he was working as hard as he could on his comeback but he got no comeback commercials. He said America was a joke. This led to Cena challenging him to a flag match on this show and getting the crowd to chant “USA.” Rusev said he wouldn’t do the match on this show, but would do it on the PPV. Backstage, Bryan was on the phone. Gable came in, as did Styles. Bryan said that Owens was trying to keep both of them out of the Battle Royal because Owens said he’d already beaten both of them. Bryan said that the winner would get in the Battle Royal. Styles pinned Gable in 8:12 with the phenomenal forearm. The match was very good while it lasted. Gable did a great escape from a calf crusher. They traded near falls until the finish. Ryder & Rawley were backstage. Rawley was depressed about the way they lost the match to the Usos last week. Ryder told him that he got both of them in the Battle Royal so Rawley was happy. Carmella & Ellsworth came out. They were going to have a Carmellabration. Naomi came out with her now glow belt and called Ellsworth “Ellsworthless.” Bryan came out and said because Ellsworth came back after being kicked out of the arena, and interfered in the Money in the Bank match, that he was banning him from the arena again tonight. Ellsworth laughed about that, since he was banned last week and snuck back in. Bryan then said he was fining him $10,000, and suspending him for 30 days. Bryan said that if Ellsworth doesn’t leave right now, or if he breaks any of these rules, that Carmella will be stripped of her briefcase. Well, except he couldn’t stay briefcase. Carmella then started screaming at him to leave right now. Naomi retained the women’s title beating Lana in :10. Naomi immediately did a sunset flip and transitioned into her stretch submission. Lana started sulking about losing again. The story is that during last week’s quick win that Lana’s shoulder was up so it was a ref screw-up and they were doing a rematch. Tamina came out and told Lana to get up. They are putting Tamina & Lana together. When Lana was in developmental, they were doing a deal with Mary Kate (now Sage Beckett) was linked with her. The idea seems to be she’s got a big woman as a bodyguard or second type. Nakamura was doing an interview. Corbin attacked him with his briefcase. Nakamura got up and started throwing forearms at him until the two of them were pulled apart. Next was a rap battle with Wale as the guest host. Both the Usos and New Day had entourages with them. They went back-and-forth verbally. The New Day claimed that they were the ones who put the spotlight back on tag teams and before they came around the Usos were doing nothing but dark matches. The Usos made reference to Woods’ rated R material (the sex tape/footage with Paige that got out). Kingston made fun of the Usos for having bad looking bodies and having to wear T-shirts, and also made a remark about the size of their father’s ass and Kingston talked about his own abs. The Usos noted that their father made millions with his ass. Kingston said the Usos had a first trimester pooch. He used a phrase called weeny do saying that their guts hang out more than their weenies do. They made fun of Kingston formerly being Jamaican and saying he was Ja Faking. Woods said that Jimmy Uso was absolutely nothing in WWE until his wife got him on Total Dias. Then the New Day made fun of both of them because they used to carry bags for their cousin Roman. It then turned into a brawl and a pull-apart. Wale disqualified the Usos for starting the fight. The segment was a lot of fun with the idea they were broaching topics and doing promos not like what is usual for WWE programming. English came out to sing. Orton came out right away. English attacked Orton with a mic shot and threw him into the steps. English beat Orton via DQ in 4:50 when Orton hit him with the ring steps. Orton gave him an RKO after the match. Mahal then came out for an interview. He said the USA is the home of prejudice and the land of ignorance. He said that the ignorance of the Americans makes them disrespect him only because of the way he talks and the color of his skin. Orton came back on him and said that people don’t like Mahal not because of where he’s from or how he speaks but because he’s a jackass, and vowed to beat him in the Punjabi Prison match. Breeze, dressed up like a woman with the blond wig, claiming his name was Tenay Young, was interviewing Dillinger, while Fandango was lurking behind them in a bad disguise with the worst fake mustache ever. Renee Young interviewed Mike & Maria. They were about to kiss when there were all kinds of clanging noises. Zayn, who claimed he was stretching to warm up for the Battle Royal, apologized for knocking some things over. Zayn was acting like a total geek. Then Zayn got his cue to go to the ring. Mike wanted to kiss Maria, but she was so mad he missed his moment. Styles won the Battle Royal to become the top contender for the U.S. title in 11:16. Breeze was still in his outfit dressed like a woman. There was a spot where Rowan knocked Breeze off the apron, but he was caught in the arms of Fandango, so his feet never hit the floor, and thrown back in. But Rowan then threw him over immediately anyway. Jordan was in the Battle Royal although didn’t do much. Rawley threw out Ryder as it appears they are breaking them up. Rawley was almost apologetic but said it was every man for himself. Zayn then used a helluva kick on Rawley, knocking him over. It came down to Zayn, Styles and Dillinger. Dillinger did his tye-breaker on both of them, but Zayn backflipped Dillinger over the top. Zayn was on the apron and Styles used the Pele kick and Zayn fell to the floor to end the match. After the match, Owens, who was on commentary, started yelling at Styles and went to the ring. Styles hit the Pele kick and went for the Styles clash, but Owens escaped and ran off. 205 Live opened with O’Neil backstage supposedly on the phone with Tozawa. He told him that after he beats Neville to win the title, he’ll be getting paid so much that Stephen Curry will be asking him for a loan. O’Neil also bumped into Daivari backstage. That didn’t lead to anything past O’Neil asking if Daivari’s shirt was Swelvet, which is silk and velvet. He then bumped into Ali and told him that if he keeps winning they may call him Muhammad Ali. O’Neil is really good in this new role. O’Neil was working hard to get that “Hah” thing Tozawa does over. O’Neil then came out for an in-ring interview. Neville came out and said that all of this is a fantasy. He noted that O’Neil’s last client (Crews) just had a baby and O’Neil fed him to the monster. Fans started chanting “You’re not Strowman” at Neville. And Thank God for that. But at least they reacted. Neville beat Lince Dorado in 3:55 with the Rings of Saturn. The crowd wasn’t completely dead, but they were mostly silent in this match. Backstage, TJP and Swann were messing with each other. They were acting like they were long-time best friends. So the last few months simply never happened. Swann asked TJP why he wanted a match with him. TJP just said it was a friendly competition and both vowed not to take it easy on the other. Gallagher pinned Nese in 5:59. This was well wrestled, but of course the crowd was dead. Nese went for a moonsault and Gallagher moved. Nese landed on his feet and started selling his knee. This was the same thing as their last match. But this time, Gallagher wasn’t fooled. The ref was. When Nese tried to take advantage and attack Gallagher, this time Gallagher was ready. Gallagher head-butted im and pinned him after a dropkick into the corner. Kendrick then was dressed up like he was George Washington or somebody else out of the 1700s, in a library looking place. He did a segment called “The Truth of No-so-Great Britain.” He basically gave dates of U.S. victories in the Revolutionary war in Lexington, Concord, Saratoga and the British surrender in Yorktown. Kendrick said the same thing will play out and he won’t rest until he rids 205 Live of Gallagher. And in a similar vein, Dar and Fox were backstage. Dar apparently has a bad neck in storyline as he was in pain as they adjusted his neck. Dar told Fox that his plan is to go after the title, that Neville and Tozawa would tear each other up and he’d challenge the weakened winner. Fox then asked him “What about Cedric.” Dar said the stuff with Cedric was finished. Fox told him it wasn’t finished and it won’t be finished until Cedric quits 205 Live. Swann pinned TJP in 12:10 of the main event. This was worked as a face vs. face match. They played it up early like they were friends who were good-naturedly one-upping each other. There was a spot where both threw a high kick at the same time and knocked each other out, basically copying the Fedor vs. Mitrione spot, which Graves referenced. Then they went to near falls and after a series of cradles where you’re conditioned to believe nobody is getting pinned, Swann actually got a three count and TJP just kept wrestling with the idea he didn’t know it was the pin. These guys are both very good wrestles. But the crowd was a problem as even working this good match, it felt like it was dragging in the middle due to the lack of reaction. That said, when it was over, the fans cheered both of them. For the story they are trying to tell, this match was as close to a perfect match as far as what the story and reactions the two were trying to tell. The story wasn’t about a great match, it was about two friends who both think they are slightly better than the other and TJP played it up so great when he was surprised that he lost. What they did was perfect, unfortunately the dead crowd weakened the presentation. The dark match main event saw Cena & Nakamura beat Rusev & Corbin in a really good match. Cena sold most of the way. Nakamura tagged in. Nakamura got the biggest reaction of anyone on the show, including Cena. The finish was Cena with the Attitude Adjustment on Rusev and Nakamura with the Kinshasa on Corbin with Nakamura getting the pin

Notes from the 6/28 NXT TV show. This was the first show of the new tapings and built around the Asuka vs. Nikki Cross last woman standing title match. Velveteen Dream pinned HoHo Lun in 1:53 with an elbow drop off the top rope after a jackhammer. Not much to this. Dream has an act that can make it. They showed Asuka arriving in the building and Cross jumped on the windshield of the car and tried to attack her. Security pulled Cross away while Asuka yelled at her in Japanese. Regal was backstage with the Authors of Pain, Paul Ellering and Heavy Machinery to set up a tag title match. In the presentation of Hideo Itami and Oney Lorcan, they ended up using the spot where Lorcan busted him up. So they did a first match and Lorcan ran in with an uppercut to the face, which bloodied up Itami’s nose. The doctors came in and the match was stopped at 1:20. Shouldn’t that be a win for Lorcan if a legal move caused an injury to stop the match? Then, even though this was some time later that night, on TV it was edited to just a few minutes later with Itami coming back out with cotton stuffed up his nose and they did another match. Lorcan has a unique aggressive style. If they learn how it works and play him up the same way, he can be an American Ishii because Ishii was really just a job guy who was super aggressive and sold great and the crowd in time got into him and willed him to become a star. In this match, Lorcan’s knee went out as a work and Itami gave him the GTS for the pin in 4:40. The idea is that Itami took advantage of an injured opponent. Itami called out Kassius Ohno. Before they could have their discussion, Cross came out and started screaming at both. This distraction allowed Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe to attack Itami and Ohno. It ended with them giving Ohno a double-team power bomb, to set up a tag team match next week. Asuka beat Cross in 20:20. The work was really strong as far as the stunts and such and getting up. The crowd popped big a few times but was quiet most of the way. Mauro Ranallo called it like the match was a classic even with the quiet crowd and it really showed the value of an announcer because the reaction was that it was a classic. I’d go **** for it even with the sporadic crowd reactions because the work was really good and the finish was great. Highlights were the fans chanting ECW even though weapons matches with women date back to a decade prior to ECW. Asuka put a garbage can over her head and kicked the hell out of the garbage can and even gave it a missile dropkick. Cross used a reverse DDT on the apron. Asuka slammed Cross off the top rope by the hair ont a bunch of chairs. Cross then gave Asuka a back suplex onto chairs. Cross used four of her finishing fisherman neckbreakers, but Asuka beat the ten count. Cross tried a belt shot but Asuka kicked “the championship” into her face. Cross power bombed Asuka off the apron onto chairs but Asuka beat the count. Cross was freaking out at that point. The crowd did react big to that one. Asuka used a hip attack off the ramp to the floor. Asuka went for a kick and Cross moved, so Asuka kicked the ring lights and started selling the right ankle. Cross did a fisherman neckbreaker on the floor, but Asuka came back with a spinning backfist. Cross hit Asuka in the stomach with a ladder. It ended up with Asuka superplexing Cross off a ladder and into the announcers table. Both sold big, but Asuka got up at nine and Cross didn’t, for the finish

The first NXT weekend show on 6/29 in St. Petersburg, which drew a sellout of 350 fans. No Way Jose pinned Chad Lail, making his debut, with the wind up punch. Lail was Gunner in TNA and has been talked about as coming to WWE for years. Liv Morgan pinned Vanessa Bourne, the former Danielle Kamela. Morgan used an STO as her finisher. Heavy Machinery beat the Ealy Twins when Knight & Dozovic did their double-team splash. Roderick Strong & Fabian Aichner beat Kona Reeves & Cezar Bononi. Adrian Jaoude beat Marcel Barthel (Axel Dieter Jr., whose real name is Marcel Barthel) with an armbar. Ruby Riot & Lacey Evans & Dakota Kai beat Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville & Taynara Conti. Kai and Conti were making their debuts, to get them ready for the Mae Young Classic. Riot pinned Rose. Main event saw Drew McIntyre pin Steve Cutler with the Claymore kick

They had an even weaker star power show on 6/30 in Fort Pierce, FL, before a sellout of 400 fans. Demetrius Bronson pinned Marcel Barthel, which is clearly a pay your dues with us kind of thing since Bronson has only a few matches and Barthel was a star in Germany. Sage Miller, the former Mary Kate, teamed with Victor Gonzalez as a huge woman’s tag team beating Julia Ho, a former model, and Lacey Evans. Babatunde Aiyegbusi, the 6-foot-9, 370 pound former football prospect, beat Sawyer Fulton, who is a monster himself but appears to have no direction since being injured and replaced in Sanity. The Street Prophets, who are Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins, beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy. Heavy Machinery beat Chad Lail & Fabian Aichner. Jose pinned Reeves. Bianca BelAir beat Dakota Kai. Main event saw Aleister Black pin Wesley Blake with black mass

The Raw crew this week ran two weekend shows at Sumo Hall in Tokyo. The 6/30 show drew 6,069 and the 7/1 show drew 8,318. Those numbers are about what they did last year for the tour and above most recent years

Smackdown opened on 7/1 in Odessa, TX, before 2,400. 7/2 in Hobbs, NM drew 1,500. We didn’t get the crowd for the 7/3 show in Amarillo

Regarding Japan, one thing noted is both how much Itami has lost his fire and some of that may also be how he was booked on the tour. He lost in the opener on the first night to Jericho. Usually when Jericho goes on tour, his role is to have good matches and put over the younger talent, plus the usual rule on tours is babyface goes over if at all possible. Yet they had Jericho pin him the first night. Not only that, but Jericho, even in playing heel, got more cheers than Itami as they apparently see Itami as a superstar who went there and didn’t make it. The second night he was just used as a backdrop for the Enzo vs Cass feud. Jericho was on his 50th trip to Japan and tries to do the tour even when he’s not around. Jericho after working with Balor on the second night and losing, talked about how both of them had started their careers in Japan and put over the fan base. Balor then did a promo in perfect Japanese and in Japanese told the fans that Jericho was somebody that he always looked up to and they hugged. That all got over really well. Wyatt, Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose were treated by the fans as major superstars and everyone did the I-phone Wyatt entrance. Wyatt’s matches with Reigns and Rollins were almost exactly the same, move for move as their TV matches. On the first night, 20 minutes before the start of the show, they did a video announcing Kairi Hojo coming in as Kairi Sane in the Mae Young Classic. That got a good reaction. Jericho beat Itami in 11:10 with the Walls of Jericho. The crowd was 60% pro-Jericho. Itami didn’t play heel at all. The match was good, but not as good as you’d expect with the notes that Itami just didn’t seem to have it. Jericho then said that KENTA, using that name and not Itami, is one of the best Japanese wrestlers in the world and should be NXT champion soon and the two hugged. O’Neil pinned Dallas in 1:21 with the Clash of the Titus. O’Neil worked as the face. The match was advertised as O’Neil & Dallas vs. Enzo & Cass. Neville won a three-way over Tozawa and Aries (first match back since the PPV) in 9:53 when Tozawa used the senton on Aries but Neville threw Tozawa out of the ring and stole the pin. The crowd was strongly behind Tozawa. Cesaro & Sheamus retained over Slater & Rhyno when Sheamus pinned Rhyno after the Brogue kick. Enzo then came out for a promo. He was attacked by Cass and they brawled for a host period of time before Cass laid him out and Enzo needed to be helped to the back. Rollins & Ambrose beat Joe & Miz in 18:03 when Ambrose pinned Miz after Dirty Deeds. Ambrose and Rollins got the best reaction of the night. Asuka & Bayley & Banks beat Jax & Bliss & Emma in 11:37 when Asuka beat Emma with the Asuka lock. Lots of comedy built around all three babyfaces using the stink face on Bliss. Match was okay. After the match, Bayley and Banks teased like they were trying to steal Asuka’s belt, but it was done as pure comedy. Balor pinned Anderson in 14:00 with the coup de grace. This was the best match on the show. Crowd reacted big to Anderson hitting the gun stun for a near fall. Anderson teased the One winged angel, but Balor slipped out, hit the sling blade and coup de grace. Reigns pinned Wyatt in 14:11 with a spear. The crowd wasn’t as into this one as the other big matches

The 7/1 show at Sumo Hall opened with Balor pinning Jericho in 14:57 After the match, Jericho put Tokyo on the list. Slater & Rhyno beat Dallas & O’Neil in 9:47 when Rhyno pinned O’Neil after the gore. Itami vs. Enzo went a few minutes and Cass came out and destroyed Enzo. The match was ruled a no contest. Itami just disappeared out of the ring while all this was going on. Rollins pinned Wyatt in 15:18. Bayley & Banks & Asuka beat Jax & Emma & Bliss when Banks beat Bliss with the bank statement in 10:20. Sheamus & Cesaro retained the tag titles over Anderson & Gallows in 16:37 . Reigns & Ambrose beat Joe & Miz in the main event in 22:17 when Ambrose pinned Miz again with Dirty Deeds

In Odessa, they opened with Jordan & Gable & Breeze & Fandango over The Ascension & Rowan & Epico when Gable pinned Viktor after Grand Amplitude. Harper pinned English. English got good heat from the singing. Fans were behind Harper more than usual including constant chants for him. Harper won with the discus clothesline. Usos won a three-way to keep the tag titles over Rawley & Ryder and Kingston & Big E. Owens won a three-way Usos to keep the U.S. title over Zayn and Styles in the best match on the show. The crowd wasn’t into Zayn and there were even boos. Owens got some cheers and Styles was the most popular of the three. Styles hit the Styles clash on Zayn and then Owens threw Styles out of the ring and got the pin. After the match, Zayn gave Owens the Helluva kick and Styles followed with the phenomenal forearm. Naomi & Charlotte & Lynch beat Natalya & Carmella & Tamina when Naomi pinned Natalya after the rear view. There were more lights added to the title belt. Ellsworth got a big reaction and the crowd was into the match. Lynch in particular got a good reaction. Rusev beat Dillinger with the accolade. Dillinger wasn’t that over. Some chants for Lana here. Main event saw Orton & Nakamura over Mahal & Corbin. Fans really hated Mahal. Orton pinned Corbin clean with the RKO. Orton wasn’t in the ads for the show until the final few days

Hobbs had the same crew but they changed around the matches. In the opener, it was Breeze & Fandango & Ryder & Rawley over Ascension & Rowan & Epico. Dillinger pinned English with the tye-breaker. In the tag title three-way, it was Jordan & Gable in it instead of Ryder & Rawley. Gable ended up being pinned via trunks. The crowd was way behind Usos. Owens won over Styles & Zayn agin with the same finish and same post-match. The women’s trios match was also the same. Rusev beat Harper with the accolade. Main event was the same Orton & Nakamura over Mahal & Corbin with Orton pinning Corbin after the RKO

Amarillo was the same show as Odessa two night earlier, except Woods & Kingston were the New Day team in the three-way tag title match.