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July 17, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: McGregor/Mayweather press conferences, Paige and Alberto El Patron situation, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 July 17, 2017

 

WWE GREAT BALLS OF FIRE POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 142 (46.9%)

Thumbs down 50 (16.5%)

In the middle 111 (36.6%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe 99

Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns 87

Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Hardys 77

Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss 18

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Big Cass vs. Enzo Amore 143

The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose 42

Heath Slater vs. Curt Hawkins 40

Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss 18

Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Hardys 17

Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins 15

 

UFC 213 POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 33 (22.0%)

Thumbs down 31 (20.7%)

In the middle 88 (58.7%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero 111

Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller 19

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Curtis Blaydes vs. Daniel Omielanczuk 104

Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum 26

Based on phone calls and e-mails to the Observer as of Tuesday, 7/11.

 

The major kickoff for the promotion of the Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather boxing match started this past week with a series of major press conferences.

It is now official as was reported here last week that the PPV price will be $89.95 for SD and $99.95 for HD, the same as for the Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight. While at first when this fight was being broached, people were talking about 2.4 million buys as a conservative estimate, now there is an expectation of being the all-time record setting biggest total revenue haul for a combat sports event. You can get great odds if you want to gamble that the show will do less than 5 million buys in the U.S.

For what this is worth, the promotion, in selling sponsorships, is telling potential sponsors that the show will do 7 million PPV buys in the U.S. alone and another 1.4 million in the U.K. Keep in mind that’s far more than what WWE did during the height of the Steve Austin era for an entire year and more than even UFC did last year when it set the single company record for most buys in a calendar year. Given that the all-time record for PPV in North America is the 4.6 million for Mayweather-Pacquiao, the idea of beating that record by more than two million buys sounds ridiculous on the surface.

They claimed that Mayweather vs. Pacquiao did $25 million in sponsorships. They claimed the 4.4 million U.S. buys (meaning 200,000 in Canada) and 700,000 in the U.K. resulted in 15.2 million total viewers.

In promotional materials for the fight, the promoters involved are listed as Mayweather Promotions, McGregor Sports & Entertainment, the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and Showtime PPV. So UFC was not listed involved in the promotion, although Dana White was at the press conferences and is heavily promoting the fight.

The belief is that UFC, as the owners of McGregor’s contract, will be making a percentage (based no numbers reported in the sports business world, the percentage would be 33% of McGregor’s final take. Mayweather is getting the highest percentage since they needed him, to the point he’s making the most money and getting all the rules in his favor. McGregor thanked the UFC for helping make the fight possible. White said that the ability to put the fight together as easily as it was, and how long it took to put together Mayweather vs. Pacquiao proved what an asshole Bob Arum (Pacquiao’s promoter) was.

The press tour opened on 7/11 in Los Angeles before a packed house of about 11,000 fans at the Staples Center. Tickets were free, but tickets sold out instantly even though this took place at 2 p.m. on a Monday afternoon. Just the number of fans there made it feel like a huge event.

The promos back-and-forth were nothing special. You could tell that McGregor was a lot more nervous, whether it was the magnitude of the event or that maybe he wasn’t nearly as confident in winning since the odds are strongly against him. Mayweather pushed that they could do this in the Octagon, which is ridiculous since he’d never do that, and talked about doing it with four ounce gloves, which he also would never agree to. McGregor called him on both, saying Mayweather wouldn’t last a round in the Octagon, but Mayweather ignored it. Later, when pressed, Mayweather backpedaled about agreeing to fight with four-ounce gloves. The commission wouldn’t allow a boxing match without regulation boxing gloves to begin with.

Mayweather made fun of McGregor fighting for $3 million in his last fight (he made far more than that, as most have it that he’s been averaging $13 million his last few fights) and how for him, that’s training camp money.

The crowd there was far more of an MMA crowd, and they treated McGregor as both the babyface and the biggest star. They booed all the corporate types and all the boxing people, and heavily cheered Dana White. It was said to be close to 95 percent pro-McGregor and UFC even though it was clearly a boxing press conference.

They also cut off McGregor’s mic when he was responding to Mayweather which made no sense at all. Showtime the next day claimed they never cut his mic, but that it was the people from the arena who cut the mic, saying that they wanted the back-and-forth talk to promote the fight. McGregor didn’t buy that at all, as the next day he went after Showtime and Stephen Espinosa claiming they cut his mic and were trying to make him look bad, since Mayweather is Showtime’s fighter.

Mayweather said that he was not the fighter he was 20 years ago, or even two years ago, but still had enough to beat McGregor. McGregor predicted a knockout within four rounds.

On 7/12 in Toronto, before about 15,000 fans, the response, if anything, was even more pro-McGregor. The crowd hated Espinosa and everyone related to Mayweather’s side.

McGregor, knowing he wasn’t at this best the night before, came out blazing. The crowd was more like an independent pro wrestling crowd, as when Mayweather came out, they chanted “Pay your taxes” at him.

Mayweather told McGregor that if he had real confidence he’d bet his entire purse on the outcome. McGregor agreed to do so. That’s as believable as Mayweather saying he’d fight McGregor in an Octagon.

An interesting note is that for the first time, White said that if this does well, that McGregor may never fight again. Before he had been insistent that McGregor would fight again and defend his title before the end of the year. McGregor, on the other hand, after the press conference, said he was looking forward to real fighting as soon as he gets past this fight.

He noted in his speech that boxing is not real fighting, it’s only a fraction of fighting.

McGregor said this past week that he thought the PPV price should have been $120.

Live tickets for the show at the T-Mobile Arena are priced from $10,000 down to $500 (of which there are very few), with really the lowest price being $1,500. Mayweather-Pacquiao did $72 million at the MGM Grand Garden Arena (4,000 seats smaller) with tickets priced from $7,500 down to $1,500, so it appears they are scaling this to break that all-time record gate. No matter what the tickets are priced at, they will go immediately to the casinos and people buying for secondary market reselling.

A back story at the same time was that Mayweather Jr. just petitioned the tax court on 7/5 and asking him for a reprieve to pay his back taxes until after the McGregor fight. He claimed that while he has a lot of assets, they weren’t liquid. He supposedly owes $22.2 million, but then showed up at the press conference with a check made out to him for $100 million. The IRS said McGregor had the ability to pay his back taxes, from 2015, and that it shouldn’t have to wait because he could either sell property or take out a loan.

UFC pressured Showtime Sports to keep Ariel Helwani off the broadcast team for the Mayweather-McGregor fight. He was supposed to be covering the promotional tour this week as part of the Showtime crew. Helwani said he was told it was 100 percent Dana White who pressured Showtime, and even though UFC isn’t even on Showtime, they acquiesced to the demand.

UFC didn’t attempt to ban him from covering the tour for MMA Fighting or keep him from getting credentialed for the event. The UFC got really bad press when they banned Helwani from being credentialed for UFC events and kicked him, Esther Lin (an MMA Fighting photographer) and Casey Leydon (an MMA Fighting videographer) out of the arena at a show in Anaheim last year when Helwani broke the Brock Lesnar return story hours before the UFC’s announcement. At the time the story was it was Lorenzo Fertitta’s call, but Fertitta isn’t even with the promotion anymore.

Days later, White said that Helwani would never be credentialed at a UFC event again, but after UFC got so much bad publicity, hours later UFC rescinded the ban.

Once again, the company is getting hammered by media for this move, which is just another example of them stepping on their own feet because carrying out that grudge only makes them look petty to the public at a time when they should be working on improving how they are looked at by the public.

It does show that UFC wields significant power when it comes to the event, but also made Showtime look bad publicly as well for agreeing to the change.

This isn’t 2016 when they were riding high. This is 2017 when popularity is down and they now need to not come across in this way. The fact that new management with interest down is playing games like this is not the brightest move because of how badly the organization looks to the public in a sport that is inherently controversial to begin.

Mauro Ranallo, who will be the lead announcer for the fight, was also the lead in covering the press conference in Los Angeles for Showtime. Because of Ranallo’s previous commitments to NXT tapings on 7/12, Helwani was to be the lead announcer for the New York and Toronto press conferences and was listed that way in a release sent out by Showtime just a few hours before the show started.

Helwani had flown in that day and he wasn’t told he was pulled from the broadcast until about 11:15 a.m. Pacific time, or less than three hours before the broadcast began.

WWE is attempting to get Mayweather and McGregor on Raw to promote their fight. It would be a good audience to promote the fight in front of because of the worldwide reach of Raw.


The latest in the weekly saga of incidents revolving around new GFW champion Alberto El Patron, aka Jose Alberto Rodriguez, was an alleged domestic violence incident at about 3 p.m. on 7/9 at the Orlando Airport as Alberto and fiancé Saraya Jade-Bevis (Paige) were flying to El Paso for an independent show.

Witnesses said that Rodriguez roughed up his female companion after the two were arguing in the terminal while waiting for their flight. Rodriguez was no arrested and no charges have been filed.

Orlando police made a statement saying, “There was an incident at the Orlando International Airport at about 3 p.m. Sunday involving Jose Rodriguez (DOB 5/25/1977). The reported incident was a domestic violence battery, and is still under investigation. No arrests have been made as of this time, but the case remains open. That is all the information we have for release at this time.”

TMZ was able to get a clip of audio of the two of them where Alberto told her to call the cops, seemingly because she threatened to do that to him. She responded back, “Just stay out of my life. Leave me the f*** alone. I’m trying to get away from you.”

Alberto then told the person who was recording this audio that he wants the police to come and arrest her, saying that she assaulted him and needs to be arrested after the two of them got into a fight earlier in the evening at a restaurant.

Bevis then wrote on Twitter with an obviously contrived explanation, “We got the cops involved. I’m crying cuz I found out bad fam news and a lady tries to take a pic. She gets angry, throws a drink on (Alberto). Please leave us alone. That’s it.”

Bevis then wrote that she had an uncle, Stanley, who was hospitalized over the weekend, and posted a photo of him in a hospital bed.

The woman, whose name was not revealed, that allegedly threw a drink at Alberto, contacted the web site Heavy.com and said that story was completely false.

She described herself as a super wrestling fan, and said Rodriguez reeked of alcohol when he was chasing Bevis during an argument at the terminal. She claimed that Bevis screamed in the argument about Rodriguez doing coke for two days straight and that she called him abusive.

“They were arguing back-and-forth, screaming at each other,” said the woman. She said Bevis screamed, “You’re so abusive to me.”

The woman said she first saw Bevis at a restaurant near the terminal and that she looked upset while talking on her phone, with tears in her eyes. The woman said she tried to take a photo of her as she talked on the phone and Bevis saw her and walked back into the restaurant.

Then she came back out of the restaurant crying and yelling. Rodriguez, who was covered in a liquid, as if someone threw and poured a drink over his head, chased after her and she jumped onto the tram. He jumped in the tram, as did the woman, as they continued to argue.

She was allegedly screaming, “You’re such an abusive husband. I hate you. You’ve ruined my life. You’ve ruined my career.”

Rodriguez shot back while on the tram car saying, “Check her bag. She’s got all the coke in it. It’s all hers.” The woman said at that point she turned on her cell phone and recorded the portion of the argument that ended up being sent to TMZ.

The woman said that it appeared the argument started when Rodriguez said something inflammatory about one of her family members, saying something like “I hope your f***ing uncle dies tomorrow,” and then grabbed her wrist because she was on the phone so long. She got upset and threw water all over him and ran out.

Bevis then wrote a new version of the story, saying, “Alberto didn’t want me to say (the) full story because he didn’t want people to know and I didn’t want people to know that I threw a drink on him. But the full story is I had a phone call saying my uncle is in a bad way. I’m crying outside the restaurant. I go in, Alberto is hugging me. I’m a little sensitive and we start bickering about something so small. I say I’m leaving and he says something that I won’t write on here, but it wasn’t nice, and I, even though I shouldn’t have done it, I threw a drink in his face because I was so angry. Again. Shouldn’t have done it. It was in front of a lot of people. I walk out. He follows me a few seconds later and gets the cops and security and a crazy lady decides to leave whatever she’s doing to follow us and invade our privacy in the completely low way only lowlife people would do. Anyway, it was me who was being held for battery charges because I threw a drink on him. No. He never touched me and no, I never hit him with a glass three times like the Internet in all their glory is making out. It’s completely ridiculous how one story can spiral out of control. Oh, and guess what Internet, he smelt like beer because I threw a beer on him. Nothing more. Nothing less. No one got arrested. There’ s no mug shots. There’s no charges. Nothing. The horrible, disgusting human being of (a) lady decided she wanted to make money out of our misfortune. I wish, wish people would give us the privacy we deserve. I know we won’t get it but I wish that would happen.”

The fact is at least some of this story isn’t true, because it was Rodriguez, not Bevis, who was under investigation for the domestic violence battery charge.

Alberto was also looking to get his story out by doing an interview.

GFW first released a statement saying, “Global Force Wrestling takes all legal matters very seriously and is looking into this matter. GFW is a privately-held company and will thoroughly investigate this incident and fully cooperate with law enforcement.”

On 7/12, after the interview with the witness had been published as well as statements from Bevis’ family had come out, GFW made a second statement announcing his suspension.

“Global Force Wrestling has indefinitely suspended Alberto El Patron, effective immediately, until the investigation is resolved following a recent incident in Orlando, Florida.”

There were mixed feelings in GFW and Anthem regarding how to handle the situation, but a suspension right now was the way to do it because an outright firing would look bad if charges were dropped. The company has a history of not doing much to stars under the Dixie Carter regime, such as no punishment for drug test failures (and they did drug test and there were many who fit into that category), and never punishing Kurt Angle for one DUI after another until finally after so many, they agreed to have him go to rehab. Some wanted him gone, since that would be the reaction from the corporate side, but realized until the case is settled that probably wouldn’t be the best option.

Others on the wrestling side, where the old school history is to back stars and cover up or overlook indiscretions in the past (the modern world makes that tougher) wanted to keep him, believing him to be a big deal, with the idea he may help them sell tickets to events or improve their television deal status both domestically and internationally with the idea of selling his star power based on Twitter followers and Hispanic media reach. There was also the thought that when Bevis’ contract with WWE expires, that she may come here and they see her as a potential major star. But even from that side, it was clear right now he had to be suspended.

Jeff Jarrett did a conference call and said he couldn’t say much past they aren’t editing him off television, which given the nature of the shows taped, would be next to impossible. When asked about stripping him of the title, Jarrett said, “It’s far from what’s important.”

WWE at press time had issued no comments when asked about the status of Bevis with the company and the incident. WWE had put the two of them on separate brands during the brand split, which was for an obvious reason. The end result was that he quit the promotion and she had suffered a neck injury that required surgery, and hasn’t been around, although both failed WWE drug tests and were suspended for a time, with her failing twice.

And as of 7/12, they two were back together, happy, and wondering why so much of a fuss has been made regarding them.

It’s almost impossible to keep score of incidents involving the two in recent months. They had broken up two weeks earlier, but got back together days later. Others say this wasn’t the only time in the past few weeks they’ve appeared to have broken up, and now it’s to the point that even if Alberto tells friends they are broken up, that everyone just assumes they’ll be back together imminently.

Alberto, besides being the champion of GFW, is the figurehead president of Combate Americas, which is a very lucrative financial deal for him to where he doesn’t have to do any pro wrestling if he doesn’t want to. The A promotion that airs on ESPN 3 in the U.S., Azteca America in the U.S., and has a weekly Friday night time slot on TV Azteca in Mexico, which is a great time slot.

GFW was playing with fire when they built so much around Alberto with his track record of the past few years, and this time they were the ones caught in the flames. They have the next several weeks of television built around him, his family, teases of him being forced to join LAX and feuding with LAX. He was the main focus and in the main event segment of almost every show taped over the past week.

“Impossible to pull his stuff at this point,” said one key person in GFW. “He’s in the main thread of all six weeks. This is a disaster.”

If this was WWE or UFC, even such an allegation would lead to a suspension until the investigations were completed. With tapings and storylines in play, it would be extremely difficult for GFW to edit him out of shows. He was involved in shows that would lead to his facing Low Ki for the GFW title on the 8/17 television show.

Campbell McLaren, who heads Combate Americas, has been defensive of Alberto through almost every incident. His only comment about the incident was to say that Alberto was “set up.”

It’s not exactly a secret that Paige’s family hasn’t been happy with the relationship for some time. Paige’s father publicly said he wasn’t happy about the engagement and then said that was all he was going to say about it.

Her old brother, Roy Bevis, who wrestles as Roy Knight, said, “Well, now it’s out there, the answer to all your questions I keep getting asked is there. My sis won’t be going (back to) WWE cause he won’t let her. He trying (to) get her the sack by keep running on about them. So many people in the wrestling world hate him but are scared to say it. Why?”

He also wrote, “We got pics from the last 6 months of her beating (s),. I’m glad she’s finally sticking up for yourself, the reason there (sic) fighting is cause my uncle on his last legs in hospital and he wished him dead.”

Zak Bevis, who wrestles as Zak Knight, wrote, “I’ve got to say I’m very worried about my sister. Please keep an eye no her. She had one prick known as Brad Maddox who took advantage of an 18-year-old girl, physically and mentally abused her. And now she’s with a control freak who thinks he’s a tough guy because he beats my sister and has money to cover his tracks. I love my sister. She will end up like Whitney Houston or Amy Winehouse. Please share this. I want the world to know that I care about my lil sister. Everyone keep an eye on her. You’ll be angry at me but I love you. I’m writing this on behalf of all the Knights.”

Alberto was scheduled to wrestle on 7/9 for Delgado Promotions in El Paso. He didn’t make the show due to the incident. The promotion claimed at the show that there were travel issues.

Alberto has been a marketable star, especially coming across as a major superstar when he was in AAA and Lucha Underground. He quit Lucha Underground, left AAA (as the heavyweight champion without dropping the title) to go to WWE, and then quit WWE. He’s not working for The Crash even though he and Konnan, the booker, had been friends for years, and had a falling out with AAA as well, although he is scheduled right now to return for

TripleMania on 8/26.

Bevis is still under contract with WWE and Dwayne Johnson’s Seven Bucks Entertainment and WWE are doing a movie based on her and her family. She had been with Alberto during the week at the Impact tapings, including being at ringside, while wearing a Dos Caras mask to hide her identity, when Alberto beat Bobby Lashley in the main event of the 7/2 Slammiverary show.

Given all the incidents involving Alberto in recent months, it was a risk by GFW to put the title on him. Just days earlier, Alberto had issued a grandstand fight challenge to Paul Levesque and other WWE competitors when they were to come to San Antonio for the Smackdown tapings, largely challenging them to come to his restaurant.

“Tuesday next week (meaning 7/11) a bunch of pussies will be there in San Antonio,” he wrote. “The man with the big nose and no balls but also the pussies from the rap battle will be too, also with no balls. I’ll be in my restaurant starting at 10 p.m. I’ll be waiting for you there. And after I beat the shit out of you, I’ll buy you a drink, just because I’m a good man.”

Most nights after the GFW tapings had ended, Alberto would cut a promo for the live audience running down WWE.

Beyond all the finger pointing, wrestling and life has a track record of people in this type of a situation and the endings are often very bad. As much as anything else, hopefully, something happens now before this turns into one of those tragic situations where there is no coming back from.


After one of the best WWE match build-ups in some time, Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe did a good brawl, but still came across as more the afterthought to a Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman angle at the 7/9 Great Balls of Fire show.

Strowman beat Reigns in an ambulance match when Reigns missed a spear and flew into the back of the ambulance, since the back door was open. After the match, Reigns came back out of the back of the ambulance and speared Strowman. He then rammed the back door of the ambulance into Strowman’s bad elbow over-and-over. Reigns put Strowman in the back of the ambulance, threw the ambulance driver out and jumped in and drove it off. When he was backstage, he supposedly put it in reverse and drove as fast as he could (there was a very clear jump cut in the editing) and smashed the back of the ambulance into a semi-trailer with the idea Strowman was caught in the back.

Reigns then left the drivers seat while Strowman was supposedly stuck in the back. They used the jaws of life to pry open the door. Strowman got out, with blood on his elbow and head, but limped off and refused medical attention. While some saw this as a double-turn, and Strowman was very clearly acting like a wounded monster, which is a babyface position, Reigns was the same Reigns the next night on Raw.

Lesnar retained his title in a main event that went only 6:25 and was well worked but anti-climactic. There was a brawl before the match, and the match itself was very believable with hard knees and shoulders, as well as a head-butt, multiple choke attempts and multiple German suplexes. Joe had the choke on in the middle of the ring, and Lesnar was turning purple. Lesnar then broke the hold, hoisted Joe up on his shoulders, and pinned him after an F-5.

The match was good. Lesnar had done short explosive matches with Bill Goldberg and they worked because it shocked people the first time and they didn’t want more the second time. But this felt too quick, and Joe was pinned after one F-5, which made him just another challenger in the loss. I would have thought they’d have kept Joe more special by doing less of a conclusive finish and allowing him to kick out of the F-5.

Joe really came across as a challenger who was put there just to fill a PPV while they were getting ready for a big match, when Lesnar vs. Joe was the big match. The angle on Raw the next night, where Paul Heyman, Lesnar, Joe and Reigns were in the ring, and both Reigns and Joe were wanting the SummerSlam title shot, ended up with Paul Heyman agreeing to let Lesnar face Reigns, but said that Joe would never get another title shot, which meant he had to at some point get another match. Joe’s mic work was superior to Reigns and when it was over, it felt that there was more interest in a Joe rematch. And if the idea was to lead you to wanting that match more, the finish the night before made even less sense.

Officially, it was announced that on the 7/17 Raw show in Nashville, Joe will face Reigns, and the winner faces Lesnar at SummerSlam in Brooklyn on 8/20.

The plan as of before the PPV was Lesnar vs. Reigns. It may still end up that way, but it feels like there would be more interest in a three-way with Joe. However, the match to determine the next contender and nobody winning and turning into a three-way has been done to death. You could also include Strowman in the match since Strowman vs. Reigns obviously needs to continue. Strowman could also cost Reigns the match and they could still do Lesnar vs. Reigns at WrestleMania, but usually WrestleMania is a fresh match and not a rematch. Plus, the John Cena free agent thing started as soon as the plans were changed from Lesnar vs. Strowman for the title to Lesnar vs. Reigns, with the idea Cena could challenge for the Raw title if need by at WrestleMania.

While multiple-person matches are way overdone, there is more intrigue and different ways to book by making the SummerSlam Universal title match into a multiple person bout. Plus, Reigns beating Joe ends a good story of how Reigns has never beaten Joe, which is key because if and when Reigns wins the title, they are going to need heels ready who can challenge for the title. Strowman won the Ambulance match and can always be one of those guys, but it’s also a program that has been done for months. Bray Wyatt beat Seth Rollins twice this past week, and he can be another contender, but it’s also not a fresh program. Reigns vs. Joe has been done twice on Raw, but it’s fresher than the other two.

You could also put the belt on Joe, which means you’d have the champion at TVs and house shows, and have him lose it back to Lesnar at the Rumble. Lesnar works most Mondays in the Rumble-to-Mania season anyway, so it’s not an issue with the champion not on TV at that point. That also enables the originally planned Lesnar vs. Reigns title change at Mania. Of course, the Reigns coronation is planned constantly for Mania, and then has been backed off on with the idea Reigns was going to be booed out of the place.

The plan has been to make SummerSlam huge this year. The storyline with Kurt Angle, which will also be revealed next week, should lead to something. A.J. Styles and John Cena are teasing a U.S. title match. Big Cass and Big Show have started a program. The Hardys are teasing the Broken gimmick and it has come out that the Hardys and Anthem were very close to a settlement last week on those rights. They are also teasing a Shield reunion with Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins as a team, likely with Miz and either Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas in a 2-on-3, or Miz with another partner. Right now the story going around is the women’s title on Raw will be a four-way with Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Sasha Banks and Bayley (which explains Bayley pinning Bliss in the tag match on Raw) , but that wasn’t etched in stone.

On the Smackdown side, things are dependent on the 7/23 Battleground show from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

The updated show is Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton in a Punjabi Prison match, Cena vs. Rusev in a flag match, new U.S. champion Styles vs. Kevin Owens, tag champs Usos vs. New Day, Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin and a five-way women’s match with Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Tamina, Lana and Natalya, with the winner facing Naomi at SummerSlam. Other teased stuff is Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis and Tyler Breeze & Fandango against the mystery team that keeps attacking them and thrashing their office.

As for Great Balls of Fire, it was a heel-dominated show, with heels winning six of eight matches. The only face wins were Banks’ count out win over Bliss, which was a change in plans just hours before the show, and it wasn’t much of a win since Bliss retained the title, and Lesnar beating Joe.

There were two late results changes, as Vince McMahon changed on having Wyatt beat Rollins the day before the show. It’s possible that with that result changed, which does make sense as they would need heels ready for Reigns as that was the direction at least at the time, then Wyatt one could argue should have gotten that win. So just so it wasn’t almost all heels, the Bliss result was changed.

The one thing about the odds, is that when the finishes are first done and the long odds come in, if you bet on several underdogs (knowing the direction and avoiding the ones where Vince McMahon isn’t going to possibly change the finish), you can miss on five but if you get even one right betting on his changing his mind, let alone two, because the odds are so long, you can make money just playing underdogs. Of course, it’s rare when he changes two finishes, but it’s not rare to change one.

The reaction to the show was mixed. A lot depends on whether you like the car crash backstage type of action. If you don’t like the silliness and fakeness of that type of stuff, then you probably would have mixed or negative feelings on the show. If you do like that sort of thing, that angle was outrageous and the rest of the show was good enough. The special effects stuff in wrestling like what was done in Reigns vs. Strowman usually works for the masses, unless it’s overdone, and it probably played a part in the ratings being healthy the next night even with strong competition.

If you were someone who was only interested in the main event because of how well it was built up, you could be somewhat disappointed as while the action was good, it was short and the finish was flat, too abrupt and too easy that early. Joe isn’t Bill Goldberg where there really wasn’t interest in them doing a long fight, and you just wanted to see Goldberg’s big moves and have it short and explosive. With Joe, a lot of people wanted a great world title fight, and you got a good fight, but it was a short fight and had intense action but lacked the big fight drama.

Most of the matches were fine. With so many heel wins, as you could expect, some of the finishes weren’t good, particularly the walk-out count out loss to Bliss, which just feels 30 years out of date and completely ridiculous from a logic standpoint. But they still rely on it. If you want great matches out of your PPV shows, this match didn’t have that at all. Aside from Enzo vs. Cass, match quality was fine most of the way, and good in several matches, but nothing was great.

The show drew a legitimate sellout of 14,000 fans to the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

1. Neville pinned Akira Tozawa in 11:34 to retain the cruiserweight title. This had more reaction than most pre-show matches and cruiserweight matches. But it still fell way short of what these two have the potential to do. The Tozawa chant was really over. Tozawa did two tope’s. Tozawa turned a fireman’s carry into the octopus. Tozawa did a lot of fast moves. Neville missed a middle rope Phoenix splash. Tozawa went up for the senton but Neville rolled to the floor. Neville won by crotching Tozawa on the top rope, then kicking the ropes while he was still straddling the ropes. Tozawa fell into the ring and Neville pinned him after a spin kick to the stomach. ***1/4

2. Bray Wyatt pinned Seth Rollins in 12:04. Wyatt has noticeably gained weight of late. He looked very heavy, but can still move. Rollins went for a tope, but got punched. Wyatt used a DDT on the floor. Rollins hit a tope and a blockbuster. Rollins went to the top rope, go crotched and Wyatt gave him a jawbreaker off the ropes for a near fall. Wyatt also used a uranage for a near fall. The finish saw Wyatt poke Rollins in the eyes and his Sister Abigail. This was just a basic normal match and well below a usual Rollins PPV bout. **3/4

3. Big Cass pinned Enzo Amore in 5:20. Enzo did a long promo before the match, talking about how he and Cass made their main roster debut in Dallas. He mostly talked about Frank Sinatra’s song “That’s Life,” and said it reminds him of his own life. He said he doesn’t sleep because his real life is better than his dreams. Last I heard he was dating Liv Morgan. Enzo said that he was a star and Cass is 7-feet tall and nothing else and that he was the one who was going to be larger than life. Then the match started, and it was just a total one-sided squash. Booker opened the match saying Enzo doesn’t stand a chance. And they worked the match telling that story. The positive is the crowd really hated Cass for breaking up the team. He was booed a lot. Cass pressed Enzo overhead and dropped him over the top rope to the floor. Enzo struggled to beat the ten count, but got kicked in the face and pinned. *

4. Sheamus & Cesaro beat Matt & Jeff Hardy four falls to three in a 30:00 Iron Man match for the Raw tag team titles. The positive is the match was never dull and it was well laid out, with the faces behind and chasing. But it never got great. Sheamus pinned Matt in :16 with a Brogue kick to win the first fall. Cesaro acted like he was legal and ran past Matt, distracting him for the Brogue kick. It was slow early. There were “Brother Nero” chants. Sheamus pinned Jeff to win the second fall in 9:46 after a double-team white noise. Jeff pinned Cesaro in the third fall as 12:52 after a twist of fate. Jeff jumped off Matt’s back with a flip dive on both Cesaro & Sheamus on the floor. Cesaro rammed Matt’s head into the post and he was counted out at 16:44, giving Sheamus & Cesaro at 3-1 lead. Matt was worked on for several minutes. Jeff saved him when Cesaro had the sharpshooter on. Jeff pinned Cesaro at 22:55 using a cradle with his legs. They tried the assisted white noise on Jeff, but Matt threw Cesaro out. Matt used a moonsault but Cesaro saved Sheamus. Cesaro was late in making the ave. Matt pinned Sheamus to tie it at 3-3 with a twist of fate off the middle rope at 27:04. Jeff did a plancha on Sheamus & Cesaro. Matt & Jeff did a double splash off the top rope on Sheamus, but Cesaro made the save. Matt busted his head open and was bleeding heavily near the right eye as when he splashed, his head his Sheamus’ head. Cesaro tagged in and Jeff didn’t see it. Jeff hit the swanton on Sheamus, but as he landed, Cesaro covered Jeff for the pin at 29:30 to go ahead 4-3. Cesaro tried to stall the last 30 seconds. They hit the time cue perfect as Jeff hit the twist of fate on Sheamus and covered him for the pin, and the two count was at the real 30:00 mark so they didn’t have to manipulate the time to get the two count near fall when the bell rang. The announcers tried to put it over as the greatest Iron Man match ever, and that was embarrassing because it was on the low end of Iron Man matches. Plus they pushed that it was the first tag team Iron Man match, and it wasn’t that either. ***1/4

5. Sasha Banks beat Alexa Bliss via count out so Bliss retained the women’s title in 11:46. Bliss did the spot where she dislocated her elbow (she’s double jointed) to freak everyone out and every paused so Bliss then nailed Banks and made fun of everyone for falling for it. She did that once before in WWE so they had to play dumb on the idea it was done already. Banks used the back stabber and bank statement but Bliss made the ropes. Bliss used twisted bliss, but Banks got her knees up. Banks got the bank statement in the middle of the ring and Bliss struggled for a long time in a great rope break spot. But then the finish was Banks throwing Bliss into the barricade and Bliss sitting there and smiling outside the ring and getting counted out to save the title. Because the finish was so bad, they tried to make you forget it by doing a big post-match brawl. They were fighting near the announcers table. Banks knocked Bliss off the table to the floor. Banks was supposed to do the double knees to Bliss off the table to the floor, and that’s what they announcers called it even though her knees were nowhere near there. Instead, she did a Thesz press off the table and nailed Bliss hard enough that she ended up with a bloody nose. The match was just standard until the good rope break spot. **3/4

6. The Miz pinned Dean Ambrose to retain the IC title in 11:13. Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas were out with their new costumes. Axel dressed up in a suit and tie like he’s a businessman. Dallas dressed like he’s the One Man Gang from the 80s except six inches and 170 pounds lighter. Ambrose threw Dallas into the ring steps but Axel distracted him and Miz took control. Miz worked over the knees to set up the figure four. Miz did his God awful kicks. Ambrose did his elbow off the top. Ambrose came off the top rope to the floor with the elbow onto everyone, but sold that his knee went out. Ambrose finally hit Dirty Deeds, but Maryse put Miz’s leg on the ropes. Ambrose then hit a tope on Miz. Ambrose flipped Axel into the ring. Maryse distracted the ref and Dallas hit Ambrose with a foreign object and Miz got the pin after the Skull crushing finale. Ambrose’s mouth was busted open during the match making three straight matches with hard way blood. **½

7. Braun Strowman beat Roman Reigns in 16:40 in the ambulance match. This was Strowman playing monster and running into the post whenever it was Reigns’ time for offense. Strowman hit the powerslam, but then realized pins didn’t count. After Strowman missed yet another charge into the post, Reigns started hitting his bad elbow with a chair. Reigns hit Strowman with chair shots to the back but Strowman did no-sell spots. Strowman took the chair away from Reigns and threw him into the barricade twice. He threw Reigns into the screens on the stage. He threw him across the stage. Then Strowman missed a charge and ran into the screens. Reigns then threw Strowman through the screens. That led to the first and only “This is awesome” chant of the show. Strowman threw Reigns of the stage again. Reigns hit Strowman with a lighting grid and went for the spear, but missed and flew into the ambulance. Strowman shut the door to win. Reigns came out of the ambulance and speared Strowman and started slamming the ambulance back door into his elbow over-and-over. Reigns threw Strowman in the back of the ambulance. Reigns threw the ambulance driver out and drove the ambulance backstage and into the parking lot. He then put it in reverse and drove as fast as he could backwards with the back of the ambulance hitting a semi-trailer. This led to the long scene of Kurt Angle panicking. A local company that uses actors and a fake fire truck was called in to do the skit (they didn’t use real city firefighters) where they pried open the door and Strowman stumbled out, limped away and refused medical attention. ***3/4

8. Heath Slater pinned Curt Hawkins in 2:27. For some reason they put this match in the ring as a stand-by match while they finished the prior skit. They cut away from match and the bell rang. Slater was announced as the winner. The announcers never brought the match up, nor did they show, replay or talk about the finish.

9. Brock Lesnar retained the Universal title over Samoa Joe in 6:25. Joe attacked Lesnar from behind before the match started. Joe threw him into the barricade and gave him a uranage through a table. Lesnar got in the ring and was smiling from the beating. Joe started with an enzuigiri and head-butts. Lesnar came back with hard knees. Joe used shoulderblocks and punches. Lesnar took him down and used shoulders and knees. Joe used another head-butt. Joe got the choke, but Lesnar escaped and hit a German suplex. Lesnar used a second German suplex hard on the shoulder and a third one. Joe distracted the ref and kicked Lesnar low. Joe used another uranage for a near fall. Joe went back to the choke. Lesnar picked Joe up while being choked and gave him a side slam. Lesnar missed a charge and went into the post. Lesnar came back and hit three more German suplexes. He went for the F-5, but Joe got behind him and put the choke on again. Lesnar backed Joe into the corner, but Joe held onto the choke. Shouldn’t that have been called a rope break? Joe had the choke on in the middle when Lesnar picked him up, hit the F- 5 and got the pin. ***½


In something of a surprise, WWE announced on 7/7 that Austin Aries (Daniel Solwold Jr., 39) was released from the company.

Not a lot of details are available on it. Both sides were unhappy with the relationship with Aries writing “It’s a beautiful day” when the announcement was made.

While this is not officially the reason, it is known that Aries had expressed frustration with losing over-and-over to Neville in their program, which started at WrestleMania. He had asked to be moved out of the cruiserweight division since he felt there was no real future for him in it after he had gotten his run with Neville. Unlike some of the others in the division, who are happy to have a job and some exposure, for those who want more and have confidence in their ability to get over (something Aries hardly lacks), the division is something of a dead end with a low ceiling. Aries had done a great job on commentary, and when he transitioned into being a wrestler, it was a big deal. Wrestling in that division was tough because fans have been conditioned not to care about it.

He also made it public he wasn’t happy, understandably so, that his match with Neville at WrestleMania was not put on the commercial DVD of the show, which also cut him out of revenue from the release.

Several different people in the company reported that Aries was not particularly well liked by the writers and by at least some of the talent, particularly in the cruiserweight division. Aries has had a reputation going in of not being happy unless he’s being used well and pushed to the level he perceives his ability is at, and that wasn’t happening here. It was noted that the cruiserweights were not unhappy to see him gone, nor were the writers.

WWE officials said that it was their call, while others have said it was Aries’ call, as far as him being gone. The terms of the release are consistent with a WWE-decided release, as he has a 90-day non-compete period, which ends on 10/5, where he will be getting paid his downside guarantee, and after that point, he will be a free agent. Because he has years of prior use of his name, he can take the name. During the next three months, he will be allowed to work some dates if he chooses but WWE has to approve any date he wants to work, so he won’t be able to work for a promotion they don’t want him working for until that time.

If he had quit on his own, the company would have at least attempted to enforce the remainder of his contract. Aries started with the company in early 2016 and the standard first contract is three years, which means he’d be under contract until about January of 2019, give or take a few months, so if he quit without it being mutual, WWE could keep him working for what they consider a rival promotion until that time.

Aries in the past had considered giving up wrestling, once due to frustration that WWE wasn’t interested in him. He had worked for TNA from 2011 until the summer of 2015, and left with the company in financial trouble. He had done some work with ROH before signing with WWE. With GFW on a stronger financial footing and Jeff Jarrett in charge, and his history there, one would think they’d be open to bringing him in if he wanted to continue his career.

Aries was brought into NXT in January 2016 and worked as one of the group’s major stars until 10/27, when he suffered a broken orbital bone at a show in Fresno in a match with Shinsuke Nakamura. In December he returned as an announcer for the cruiserweight matches on Raw with Michael Cole and Corey Graves and on 205 Live with Graves and Mauro Ranallo. The idea was to put him in that spot to get him over while healing from a broken orbital bone, and then have him return for a WrestleMania title program with Neville.

The decision was made to go with him for three straight major shows as a challenger, while not winning the title. He was also suffering from neck issues. Aries did work three-ways last week in Japan against Neville and Akira Tozawa, and had been scheduled on the Raw house shows this weekend against Neville.

His girlfriend, Thea Trinidad, has just started with the company in an NXT storyline where she’s involved in some form with Andrade Cien Almas.


If it didn’t feel like International Fight Week to you, well, you weren’t alone.

Aside from an intriguing Michael Johnson vs. Justin Gaethje main event, largely with the question of how Gaethje, the undefeated former top star of the World Series of Fighting would do against solid UFC competition, and the TUF finals with Dhiego Lima vs. Jesse Taylor, there wasn’t much on the Friday night show.

The Saturday night show, at first hoped to be headlined by Michael Bisping vs. George St-Pierre, and then Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw. After both fell through, this left Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko, which was never supposed to headline, as the main event. There was a strong hardcore fan bout with Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone, but that fell through due to Cerrone having a blood infection and it was moved to 7/29. They did add Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker, a very solid middleweight bout that should have been for the top contender position, but, in the further effort to water down the championships, it was made an interim title match.

Luckily that was the case, with the benefit of hindsight, because the day of the show, Nunes pulled out of the fight, and was then thrown under the bus by Dana White.

The feeling is that a combination of the sweltering Las Vegas July heat, combined with weight cutting, brought on a bad case of sinusitis to Nunes, the UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

White said that Nunes had been medically cleared to fight, but she and her team decided against fighting, and he called it 90 percent mental. He said that doctors checked her out and couldn’t find anything wrong with her.

Nunes said the next day, “I have chronic sinusitis. I have fought with it before, but this time it didn’t work out. During the weight cut, I was unable to breathe and felt off balance from the pressure in my sinuses. I was not feeling well enough to risk getting punched in the head with such pressure. I was taken to the hospital after weigh-ins, and they only checked my blood and dehydration, so cleared me based on that. The next day I went back, and they did a CT scan and found a buildup and I was prescribed antibiotics and referred to a specialist. I have never pulled out of a fight before. I am sorry to all my fans that came out to see me. I’ll make it up to you the next time I step in the cage.”

White later said that Nunes vs. Shevchenko would probably take place at UFC 215 on 9/9 in Edmonton. At press time, both fighters have agreed to the date and the deal was said to be just about done, to the point Nunes had already tweeted about it. Shevchenko said that she didn’t believe Nunes’ explanation, saying that she seemed fine all week. Others had noted to us that Nunes did seem sick the last few days, and the reality is, she was hospitalized on both the evening of 7/7 and the morning of 7/8.

White also said that he would never headline a show with Nunes again. Of course, a year ago he said the same thing about Jon Jones. And Nunes is obviously not a major PPV draw and was never meant to be a PPV headliner on her own. She did headline twice before, but the first time, at UFC 200, it was after Jones was flagged and they made her vs. Miesha Tate the main event even though everyone knew the real main events with Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt and Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva. She did headline against Ronda Rousey and did more than 1.1 million buys, but that was Rousey who drew that number.

The numbers for the weekend weren’t good. The 7/7 show at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas drew a crowd announced at 6,308 paying $432,495. That compares with 8,115 fans and $736,408 for the Fight Week Friday night show last year, but that’s with tons more people in town due to it being UFC 200 weekend.

The show did 724,000 viewers for the main card, but the highest rated demo was 50+, skewing much older than usual. In addition, women viewers were down. Granted, Friday is an unfamiliar night and there was a big show the next day, but it was down 33.3 percent from the same show last year.

It was the least-watched UFC prime time show on FS 1 since the 609,000 viewers of a Wednesday night show on July 13, 2016, headlined by Michael McDonald vs. John Lineker.

The prelims that night did 453,000 viewers, down 29 percent from the same show last year. The lowest marks of 2017 had been 745,000 for the main card and 696,000 for the prelims.

It was second for the night in sports, trailing an NBA Summer League basketball game on ESPN that did 879,000 viewers.

The pre-fight show did 130,000 viewers and post-fight show did 230,000 viewers.

For UFC 213 on 7/8, they announced 12,834 fans for a gate of $2.4 million. At the entrance way, they told all fans that the main event wasn’t taking place due to Nunes’ illness and offered refunds.

The prelims, headlined by Travis Browne vs. Aleksei Oleinik, did 657,000 viewers. That was not only the lowest of the year, but the lowest prelim audience since October 25, 2014, when the prelims for a show from Brazil, headlined by Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes, did 536,000 viewers. The previous low for 2017 was 723,000 for the prelims before Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson on 4/8.

The peak was 732,000 viewers for Browne vs. Oleinik.

The pre-fight show did 219,000 viewers and post-fight show did 206,000 viewers.

As far as PPV numbers go, we haven’t heard an estimate at press time. The reality is that people make plans with friends to watch shows together, and even with the last minute change, those plans were already made. Google searches were up from UFC 212, but in this case, that’s probably misleading because there were probably a ton of searches during the day from people curious as to what the situation with Nunes was and to find out throughout the day if she was fighting. The low number for the prelims isn’t a good sign at all, but that’s not a perfect correlation.

The weekend highlight was Gaethje vs. Johnson, a back-and-forth brawl that saw each man nearly finished a few times before Gaethje hurt Johnson and finished him in the second round to move his record to 18-0. The general reaction was that it was the best UFC fight of the year, and Joe Rogan was talking it up as one of the best fights he’d ever seen.

The verdict, if there is one, on Gaethje, is that he came across like a star and he had similarly great brawls in WSOF as champion. The flip side of having such a wide-open entertaining style, built around the fact he can take great punishment, is that these type of fights eventually wear your chin out and suddenly you can’t take that punishment and you’ve developed a style built around it. The UFC lightweight division is filled with stylistically interesting and exciting match-ups for him from Eddie Alvarez (who seems to be the favorite to face him next), Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson, Edson Barboza, Anthony Pettis, Kevin Lee, Al Iaquinta, Charles Oliveira and even the big names like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor. Even with the depth, the combination of his style and unbeaten record could get him to a title shot in 2018 if he continues to win. And if McGregor is still fighting, that’s a superstar-making position.

The Friday show also featured a redemption story. Jesse Taylor reached the finals of the seventh season of the Ultimate Fighter in 2008, only to go on a rampage one night in Las Vegas, frightened some women and had issues with security while bragging about being a UFC star and causing problems at a hotel owned by Lorenzo Fertitta. He was kicked out of the finals. After apologizing, he was given one fight in UFC against C.B. Dollaway, lost, and was cut. He’s spent years in the sport living off the name from that season, with mixed results. Now 33, he was brought back for a season pitting former TUF competitors of the past who are now older and looking for a shot back. He won three fights in a row, including submissions on James Krause and Hayder Hassan, to reach the finals against Dhiego Lima. He dominated that fight and won it, collecting a $290,000 check in the process and apparently revitalizing his career.

The Saturday show saw Whittaker beat Romero by straight 48-47 scores to win the interim title and likely face Michael Bisping later this year to unify the belts. Romero took the first two rounds on all three judges scorecards and Whittaker took the last three. The first round was close, but the next four were pretty clear who won so there was no controversy. Whittaker, who is younger and faster than Bisping, will go into that title fight as the favorite. The fight saved what was a disappointing main card, even though Anthony Pettis’ win over Jim Miller was also a strong fight.

The controversial fight was Fabricio Werdum vs. Alistair Overeem in a battle of top ranked heavyweights, who both were among the first round victims of champion Stipe Miocic.

Nothing much happened in the first round, to where it could have gone either way. Overeem won the second round. Werdum dominated the third round. As far as the fight as a whole, Werdum won easily. But based on the scoring, it depended on who you picked in the first round, which you could have gone either way with. Werdum landed more, but Overeem had the stronger blows. The judges all went with Overeem, who won a majority decision on scores of 29-28, 28-28 (Judge Derek Cleary gave Werdum a 10-8 third round) and 29-28. Media scores were 59 percent for Overeem, 29 percent for Werdum and 12 percent had it a draw.

The most important lesson of this fight is to never assume. Werdum thought he had won the first round, and when he hurt Overeem in the third with punches and could have finished him, he instead decided to take Overeem down and control him with the idea that it would lock up the third round and with Overeem on his back, he’d be in no danger. But he was down two rounds going into the third and needed a finish. Overeem doesn’t have a great chin and he was almost gone. Werdum had a great shot at a finish had he kept punching, and that takedown likely cost him a fight that at his age he couldn’t afford to lose.

 

Friday night results

1. Gray Maynard (13-6-1, 1 no contest) beat Teruto Ishihara (9-4-2) via scores straight scores of 30-26 in a featherweight fight. Maynard controlled the first round with three takedowns. Maynard got three more takedowns in the second round. The third round saw Maynard get the takedown and work for a Kimura and a guillotine and he dominated the fight. Maynard got $102,000 for the win and Ishihara got $21,000 for the loss.

2. Tecia Torres (9-1) beat Juliana Lima (9-4) at :53 of the second round in a women’s strawweight fight. Lima won the first round scoring a takedown and blocking Torres’ attempts at takedowns. In the second round, Lima shot for a takedown, Torres got behind her and got a choke submission. Torres noted this was her first finish in the UFC. Torres got $110,000 for the win which included a performance bonus of $50,000. Lima got $17,000 for the loss.

3. C.B. Dollaway (17-9) beat Ed Herman (24-13, 1 no contest) on scores of 29-28, 29-27 and 29-27 in a light heavyweight bout. Dollaway was moving up a division. Dollaway threw knees to the body and got a takedown into side control and landed punches from the top. He got his back and landed punches, and worked for a Kimura. In the second round, Dollaway landed a head kick. Herman got a quick knockdown but Dollaway was back up. Dollaway worked for a heel hook but couldn’t get it. Herman was landing punches from the top at the end of the round. So it was even going into the third. Dollaway took him down and just beat him up with elbows and punches the entire round, to get a 10-8 on two of the judges cards. Dollaway got $86,000 for the win and Herman got $54,000 for the loss.

4. James Krause (24-8) beat Tom Gallicchio (19-11) on straight 30-27 scores in a welterweight fight. These two were training partners and teammates during the last season of Ultimate Fighter. Krause threw a kick and Gallicchio took him down and went for a choke. Krause got back up and landed a couple of head kicks and punches to win the round. In the second round, Krause landed punches which led to Gallicchio bleeding from the nose. He also landed punches and knees. In the third round Krause dominated again getting a takedown and landing punches from the top. Krause got $48,000 for the win and Gallicchio got $10,000 for the loss.

5. Angela Hill (7-3) beat Ashley Yoder (5-3) on straight 30-27 scores in a women’s strawweight fight. Hill got the better of the standup in the first round but Yoder did get a takedown. In the second round, Yoder got another takedown but Hill got on top and landed kicks and punches to take the round. Hill got a takedown in the third and also was quicker and landed far more. Hill got $36,000 for the win and Yoder got $12,000 for the loss.

6. Jordan Johnson (8-0) beat Marcel Fortuna (9-2) on straight 29-28 scores in a light heavyweight bout. Johnson scored a quick knockdown and also got a takedown. Fortuna came back late in the round. Fortuna won the second round landing more punches even though Johnson got a late takedown. So it came down to round three. Johnson landed punches. Fortune landed a high kick but Johnson landed more to take the fight. Johnson got $24,000 for the win and Fortuna got $14,000 for the loss.

7. Brad Tavares (15-5) beat Elias Theodorou (14-2) on straight 29-28 scores in a middleweight fight. Tavares got a takedown and controlled Theodorou against the fence to take the first round. Tavares missed a kick in the second round and got taken down. Both landed punches but Theodorou took him down a second time and also landed more blows. So once again, it was even going into the third round. Theodorou got the first takedown. Tavares got back up and Theodorou took him down again. But Tavares got Theodorou’s back and was working for an armbar and kept back position for most of the round to take it. Tavares got $68,000 for the win and Theodorou got $24,000 for the loss.

8. Jared Cannonier (10-2) beat Nick Roehrick (7-1) at 2:08 of the third round in a light heavyweight fight. Roehrick took the fight on late notice. Cannonier dominated the fight and landed hard punches, but Roehrick stayed in the fight because he can take punches. Cannonier would have put a lot of guys away quicker with his hard punches. In the third round, Cannonier took him down and kept landing elbows on the ground until John McCarthy stopped it. Cannonier got $100,000 for the win and Roehrick got $12,000 for the loss. Cannonier then challenged Gokhan Saki, a kickboxer that UFC has recently signed.

9. Drakker Klose (8-0-1) beat Marc Diakiese (12-1) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28. I’m not sure how Diakiese could have possibly won the first or second rounds. In the first round, Klose was landing low kicks and took him down. Klose was foot stomping, and when he went for a stomp on Diakiese’s foot, Diakiese saw him unbalanced and took him down. Diakiese did an awesome choke suplex. Klose landed low kicks that took Diakiese off his feet and he went down. Klose got another takedown as well. In the second round, Klose was landing knees to the thigh and low kicks and Diakiese’s left leg was giving out. In the third round, Diakiese landed a jumping kick. Klose took him down but Diakiese got up and landed more to take the round. Klose got $24,000 for the win and Diakiese got $24,000 for the loss.

10. Jesse Taylor (33-15) beat Dhiego Lima (14-6) at :43 of the second round in the Ultimate Fighter championship match in the welterweight division. This was a one-sided bout dominated by Taylor’s grappling. He took Lima down twice and dominated him on the ground, working for a choke. I had that as a 10-8 round. When the second round started, Lima landed a counter left hook that put Taylor down, but Taylor immediately reversed on the ground, got his back and choked him out. Taylor got a $290,000 check which was $40,000 for the fight and $250,000 for winning the tournament. Lima got $15,000 for the loss.

11. Justin Gaethje (18-0) beat Michael Johnson (18-12) at 4:48 of the second round in a lightweight fight. This was pure fireworks from the start. Johnson came out landing big punches and body kicks. Gaethje was back with punches and knees. Johnson then landed hard punches and Gaethje used low kicks and punches. Gaethje buckled Johnson’s knees with a left and had him in trouble. They were trading knees. Johnson then buckled Gaethje’s knees with a right hook, landed a hard knee that put him on the ground. Johnson was landing knees and punches on the ground as the round ended. In the second round, Johnson landed a hard punch and some knees, and elbows. Gaethje came back and hurt Johnson with an uppercut and hard punches. Gaethje dropped him with an elbow. Johnson got up and was in trouble and Gaethje landed a hard right and a jumping knee and more blows before it was stopped. Gaethje always does a backflip off the top of the cage when he wins. He went to climb the cage and slipped off it twice. The fact he was slipping climbing the cage may have been a warning not to try the backflip. But on the third try, he got to the top of the cage, went for the backflip and hit it perfectly. He cut a promo asking for someone to prove that they were his equal. Gaethje got $300,000 for the win, which was $200,000 plus $100,000 in bonus money for both the fight and the stoppage. Johnson got $97,000 for the loss plus a $50,000 best fight bonus.

 

Saturday night results

 

1. Trevin Giles (10-0) beat James Bochnovic (8-2) at 2:54 of the second round in a light heavyweight bout. Giles got a takedown and landed elbows. After Bochnovic got up, Giles suplexed him down and landed more punches on the ground until the round ended. In the second round, Giles got another takedown and moved into side control, and then got his back. Giles got another takedown and moved to mount, and then got his back again landing punches. He landed more punches from the mount and Bochnovic went out. Giles got $24,000 for the win and Bochnovic got $12,000 for the loss.

2. Cody Stamann (15-1) beat Terrion Ware (17-6) via scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in a featherweight fight. Stamann won the first round with two takedowns and landed punches from the top as well. Stamann got another three takedowns in the second round. Stamann landed shots in the third, and got a brief takedown. Stamann got a second takedown, moved to mount and landed punches. Ware got up and they traded punches late. Stamann got $20,000 for the win and Ware got $10,000 for the loss.

3. Belal Muhammad (12-2) beat Jordan Mein (29-12) on scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 in a welterweight fight. The first round was close as Muhammad landed some good punches but Mein threw him down and landed some good kicks. In the second round, Muhammad got a brief takedown. He then slammed Mein and landed elbows from the top to clearly win the round. It came down to the third round and Muhammad took him down, got his back and clamped on a body triangle. He landed a lot of body punches until Mein got up. Muhammad used knees to the head and Mein tried for a Kimura and didn’t come close. Muhammad got $40,000 for the win and Mein got $25,000 for the loss.

4. Thiago Santos (15-5) beat Gerald Meerschaert (26-9) at 2:04 of the second round in a middleweight fight. Meerschaert got two takedowns but when he went for a third, Santos landed on top and started punching on the ground. Santos took over from there. In the second round, Meerschaert shot in, and Santos sprawled and started landing punches on the ground until it was stopped. Santos then challenged Gegard Mousasi, wanting to avenge an earlier loss. Oh well. Santos got $68,000 for the win and Meerschaert got $14,000 for the loss.

5. Chad Laprise (13-2) beat Brian Camozzi (7-4) at 1:27 of the third round in a welterweight fight. Laprise was quicker and dominated the standup for the first two rounds. In the third round, Laprise landed a liver shot and Camozzi went down and couldn’t defend himself and Laprise finished him off with punches on the ground. Laprise got $98,000 for the win, which included a performance bonus. Camozzi got $10,000 for the loss.

6. Aleksei Oleinik (52-10-1) beat Travis Browne (18-7-1) at 3:44 of the second round in a heavyweight fight. Browne came out fast landing a lot of kicks, punches and knees. Then he started getting sloppy and Oleinik dropped him. Browne was tired and Oleinik took over, took him down and moved to side control. In the second round, both were tired. Oleinik landed b0dy punches and Browne landed a knee and head kick. Browne got a takedown into side control. Oleinik reversed to the top, got Browne’s back and was throwing punches and finished Browne with a head-and-arm choke. Oleinik got $54,000 for the win and Browne got $120,000 for the loss. After the fight, Dana White said that Browne should retire.

7. Rob Font (14-2) beat Douglas Silva de Andrade (24-2, 1 no contest) at 4:36 of the second round in a bantamweight fight. Font took him down and went for a guillotine. Font did an accidental eye poke. Andrade got a late first round takedown. In the second round, both were landing until Font took control and got the takedown. Font got a guillotine. Andrade slammed him but Font held on for the submission. Font for $89,000 for the win, including a $50,000 performance bonus. Andrade got $18,000 for the loss.

8. Anthony Pettis (20-6) beat Jim Miller (28-10, 1 no contest) on straight 30-27 scores in a lightweight fight. Pettis looked the best he’s looked in several fights. This was an entertaining fight. Both were landing in the first round but Pettis landed more punches, body kicks and even a spinning elbow. In the second round, Pettis cut Miller up. Miller got a takedown and was landing punches and got his back. Pettis got up and ended up on top and landed elbows and moved to side position. Pettis got another takedown with a trip late in the second round. In the third round, Pettis was landing high kicks. Miller went for a takedown, but Pettis blocked it. Both were in clinch. Miller landed some lefts and Pettis landed a jumping kick. Pettis got $180,000 for the win and Miller got $71,000 for the loss.

9. Curtis Blaydes (7-1, 1 no contest) beat Daniel Omelianczuk (19-8-1, 1 no contest) on straight 30-27 scores in a heavyweight fight. Not much here. Blaydes pushed him into the fence but couldn’t get the takedown. He landed some punches and knees from the clinch but little happened. In the second round, it was more of a clinch and Blaydes landing more, but he couldn’t get the takedowns and little happened. In the third round, it as more of the same. Fans booed the fight. Blaydes was 0-for-9 on his takedown attempts but still did enough to win all three rounds. Still, with UFC weak in the heavyweight division and Blaydes being a former JC national champion, there was hope he’d look impressive here and that didn’t happen. Blaydes got $38,000 for the win and Omelianczuk got $30,000 for the loss.

10. Alistair Overeem (43-15, 1 no contest) beat Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1) via majority decision on scores of 28-28, 29-29 and 29-28 in a heavyweight fight. Little happened in this fight. Overeem was very defensive. Even though Werdum landed more, Overeem’s punches were harder and more accurate. Little happened in round one. In the second round, Werdum tried to get him to the ground and pulled him down. Overeem hurt Werdum with a left and took him down. In the third round, Werdum landed the best series of the fight with a punch that dropped Overeem to his knee. Werdum had him rocked and was landing punches. Overeem looked in trouble and then Werdum took him down, which strategically was a terrible mistake. Werdum landed bod punches and elbows from the top to easily win the round, but by mistakenly thinking he won the first and just taking the third round win, he cost himself a good shot at winning the fight since Overeem was in trouble and open to punches when Werdum took him down. Overeem got $800,000 for the win and Werdum got $275,000 for the loss.

11. Robert Whittaker (19-4) beat Yoel Romero (12-2) on straight 48-47 scores to win the UFC interim middleweight title. In the first round, Romero kicked at Whittaker’s knee. Whittaker later said his knee was out and thrashed when he went to his corner after the round. Romero got a takedown. Romero went for a few takedowns later and couldn’t get them. This was a close round but all three judges gave it to Romero. In the second round, Romero took him down and threw punches on the ground. He got his back. He got two more takedowns in the second round. In the third round, Whittaker hurt Romero with a punch and a front kick. He landed more to take the round. In the fourth round, Romero got a takedown, but Whittaker got back up quickly. Whittaker landed more punches and kicks, and blocked takedowns. Whittaker hurt Romero with an uppercut. Romero was exhausted as the round ended. In the fifth round, Romero landed a good right and a head kick. Whittaker took over. Both were swinging but Whittaker was landing more. Romero landed a good left. Whittaker landed a left and Romero slipped, with Whittaker getting top position on the ground. Whittaker landed elbows from the top and Romero was bleeding as the round ended. The late takedown and ground and pound decided the fight. Whittaker got $400,000 for the win, which included a $50,000 best fight bonus. Romero got $400,000 for the loss, which also included a $50,000 best fight bonus.


The WWE shook things up by having its first title change at a house show in more than five years when A.J. Styles beat Kevin Owens to win the U.S. title on 7/7 in Madison Square Garden.

The Smackdown-based title changed hands on a Raw house show, and brought the stunned crowd of 10,000 to its feet, as the audience was almost all conditioned to know that titles and major angles never take place at house shows.

While it goes against the usual protocol, to me, it’s a good thing to do this from time-to-time, and actually it would be better to do it in a medium-market show and push huge that it happened because changing in MSG, which is always considered something above a usual house show really doesn’t teach fans in Des Moines it could happen in their city. But it would be a good thing to have things happen at house shows from time-to-time to make them seem more important.

Even with it being the better-drawing Raw brand, and adding two Smackdown matches (Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler was also on the show), and pushing that it was the MSG debut of Nakamura, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor and the first match of the Hardys in MSG in more than eight years, the crowd was well below the usual MSG level.

Styles vs. Owens stole the show. With social media being what it is, it only took seconds for the word to get out, and clips of the finish from people’s phones to get out, after it happened and WWE immediately promoted it. For the rest of the weekend, Styles defended the title in three-way matches with Owens and Baron Corbin.

The last time a main roster championship changed hands was January 15, 2012, when Primo & Epico won the Raw tag team titles from Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne (Matt Sydal) at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, a change done because Sydal was about to be suspended for a wellness failure. Before that, you’d have to go back to The Miz & John Morrison beating Kingston & C.M. Punk on December 13, 2008, in Hamilton, ONT, for the old WWE World tag team titles.

More recently, Samoa Joe beat Finn Balor to win the NXT title on April 21, 2016, in Lowell, MA (making the Lowell Memorial Auditorium the only site in the world where the WWF, NXT, TNA and ROH titles have changed hands). There was also a Shinsuke Nakamura title win over Samoa Joe on December 3, 2016, in Osaka at the Edion Arena, but even though it was presented as a house show, it was actually an NXT TV taping.

The title change seemed to simply be a company booking decision to surprise people with a house show title change.

Quality-wise, this was said to be better than most MSG shows in recent years and a lot of the recent PPV shows with a number of good matches. It was pretty clear that the early matches long and because the expense of running MSG is so high and you don’t want to pay unions for overtime, they have a time cue they wanted to meet here stricter than most shows so the second half was all rushed with the four matches after the Styles-Owens title change being badly rushed.

1. Shinsuke Nakamura pinned Dolph Ziggler in 14:00 with the Kinshasa. Said to be a better version of their usual house show match. Back-and-forth hard-hitting match.

2. R-Truth pinned Goldust in 5:00 with the lie detector. Short match with the ending coming out of nowhere and was flat. Plus the finish didn’t look good so people were surprised Goldust didn’t kick out

3. Neville pinned Cedric Alexander in 10:00 with his feet on the ropes. Alexander replaced Austin Aries who had been released. Both worked hard and they had a good match. It took time for the crowd to get into it but they did by the end.

4. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose beat The Miz & Samoa Joe in 16:00. This was advertised as Joe vs. Rollins and Miz vs. Ambrose for the title. We got a lot of people upset because they were looking forward to Rollins vs. Joe as a singles match and felt this was watered down. Ambrose pinned Miz with Dirty Deeds. The match had non-stop action. Miz cut a promo before the match saying he was refusing to put the IC title on the line in Madison Square Garden because this is where the Knicks play. This was non-stop action. Ambrose did a lot of comedy spots.

5. A.J. Styles beat Kevin Owens in 15:00 to win the IC title using the phenomenal forearm. Styles kicked out of the pop up power bomb to a big pop. Said to be the best match on the show with almost across-the-board ***½ ratings for the match. The title change pop was one of the louder pops at a WWE show in a long time.

6. Bayley & Sasha Banks & Mickie James beat Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax & Emma in 8:00. Bayley got the biggest reaction of the six even with her recent burial. Banks beat Emma with the Bank statement.

7. Finn Balor pinned Karl Anderson with the coup de gras. This was the epitome of that. The match went 30 seconds with Balor just doing a few moves and getting the pin.

8. In another rushed match, Cesaro & Sheamus retained the tag titles over Matt & Jeff Hardy in 7:00 when Cesaro pinned Jeff. Tons of “delete” chants. Jeff used a swanton on Sheamus but Cesaro was the legal man and he pinned Jeff. It was a blind tag spot and fans didn’t see the tag so they were confused.

9. Roman Reigns pinned Bray Wyatt in 10:00 with a spear. Said to be a very good match, second best on the show but also very much rushed for a main event. The crowd booed Reigns and cheered Wyatt heavily, but you’d expect that in MSG. But as it went on, you got the big reaction with the dueling chants like a John Cena TV match. Good brawl throughout. After the match, Braun Strowman, who wasn’t advertised attacked Reigns. Alexander did the first run-in and Strowman destroyed him. R-Truth did the second attempted save with the same result. Rollins ran in and got some offense on Strowman. Wyatt then cut off Rollins. Wyatt was about to give Rollins Sister Abigail when Reigns recovered, hit the Superman punch on Wyatt and then speared Strowman. The show ended with Reigns and Rollins in the ring staring at each other. Fans started chanting “We Want Ambrose,” and Rollins cut a promo saying that Ambrose is probably already in the pub and about 17 beers deep.


The announcing and the talent reaction from the New Japan G-1 special shows remained a story all week long.

While the shows themselves were considered major successes, there was a lot of tension before, during and mostly after the show regarding the show itself. Several who were keys in putting the show together noted frustration with certain aspects, in particular, the politics involved behind-the-scenes.

From a public standpoint, the announcing became the lightning rod. As noted last week, during the Young Bucks vs. Rocky Romero & Baretta jr. tag title match, there were two incidents in the middle of the match involving Matt Jackson and color commentator Josh Barnett.

The first wasn’t audible on the air although you could see Barnett somewhat uncomfortable reacting to it. The second was audible where Jackson, late in the match made a remark about Barnett burying them.

“I just said, `Are you burying us again, man?,’ cause that’s what he’s doing,” said Matt Massie of the Young Bucks on Sean Waltman’s podcast. “I’ve literally watched matches that I have loved of ours, and I’ve heard his commentating. And the matches are less great with his commentating. And like, he can bury us and stuff and he doesn’t like our style of wrestling. That’s fine. I don’t like his style of commentating.”

“I feel like he should be doing his job instead of trying to get whatever he wants over for himself,” said Matt. “He has a certain style he likes and it comes across so much like obviously, Josh doesn’t like this style.”

“Announcers are not supposed to get themselves over,” said Nick. “You’re supposed to get the product over.”

In particular, they watched their matches on AXS from the start and felt something was wrong, and even for me, there was early on a Larry Zbyszko-like feel to me on it. In time, I’d felt that had changed, but Barnett is obviously so much stronger in calling a singles main event match with Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi and specially Minoru Suzuki and Katsuyori Shibata. The Ross-Barnett pair have been outstanding this year in calling the high-caliber main events on AXS, but less so in the matches where there is a lot of comedy and silliness, and where the referee’s authority was so blatantly disregarded. It is an issue since the AXS presentation is meant to be serious sport pro wrestling, as a lead-in for MMA, and while the high-end New Japan matches deliver that better than anyone, that isn’t the case for some of the undercard nor has it been for a long time. The Young Bucks are different, in the sense they do a faster-paced style, with some comedy spots early but a lot of high-risk and big moves as they get to the meat of their big matches.

They were also upset about something Barnett had said about them on a podcast recently. In doing the comments during a match on a major show, it made things awkward for both announcers, who had no idea it was coming. Nothing was said after the show by The Young Bucks or Barnett to the other regarding the incident.

The tension was high because this was considered such a major show for New Japan and its foreign talent trying the almost impossible task of getting at least a small foothold past the hardcore community for their product with the attempt to run in the U.S. in 2018 and somehow create significant drawing stars without the WWE machine behind them, which is something that nobody has been able to do in the U.S. market in two decades and may be an impossible task.

Barnett, who has been the color commentator with AXS since the show started in the U.S., was brought in because they were trying to market a Friday night block of New Japan wrestling and MMA, feeling that the New Japan serious and hard-hitting style would appeal too the MMA audience, and Barnett could be their conduit, to give the show a sports feel rather than an American pro wrestling feel. The Friday night live MMA fights on AXS are the station’s highest rated programming. The wrestling has been considered a big success, to the point the station wanted to do both shows in Long Beach, one live, and has started producing the weekly shows themselves so that the matches are more up-to-date, rather than just taking the months-old show TV-Asahi produces for its satellite station and using English voiceovers.

Barnett had ripped on them as far as trying to portray them as heels for cheating and interfering, but that’s a different issue.

It did become an issue because of the feeling backstage that the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega are keys to the product being successful in the U.S. market.

Tama Tonga then wrote, “Commentary sucked at the G-1 special, at least Kevin Kelly knows the storylines and our f***ing names.”

Some of this also had to do with a lot of the talent being very pro-Kelly and Don Callis, since they are part of the team in Japan.

AXS officials noted that they were largely along for the ride on the production. New Japan staged the event and AXS filmed and broadcasted it like a sports event. AXS noted that they were fine with Kelly and Callis doing a separate feed for New Japan World and that AXS would have rather had Ross and Barnett exclusive to them. They noted that several times in the planning stages that was talked about with New Japan, who made the call to go with Ross and Barnett instead. It should also be noted that the early planning and decisions were largely made before Ross signed back with WWE. New Japan had counted on Ross to be the announcing face of the company for its U.S. expansion in 2018 and a major coup due to his name value and value in promoting the brand to the media, and were completely blindsided when he made the deal.

It should also be noted and obvious if you see commercials on AXS, that they marketed it around both New Japan having the most athletic action, but also around Ross and Barnett calling that action. More likely, originally, it was simply the idea of why fly in a second English announce team for the show when AXS was bringing in their team for their own show to begin with. However, Callis in particular, pushed the idea that if they are the New Japan World announce team, they should be at what many considered because of it being in the new market, two of the company’s most important shows of the year. This led to New Japan bringing them in. Kelly and Callis did work doing pre-game shows and such while in Long Beach.

In the big picture, the long-run of what happens next year is the bigger story. AXS brought New Japan to U.S. television, but for New Japan to be anything more than a niche product, they would need a larger television vehicle. And there is the argument, the one what also involves GFW, Lucha Underground and ROH, that with WWE, the major league promotion in North America, producing so much content that nobody can keep up with it all, there is no market for a competitor past a few hundred thousand viewers and live shows with a low ceiling on potential ticket sales. There is more money in catering to a hardcore audience than ever before, but it is still very limited. For New Japan, a key to the U.S. market is that amount of revenue WWE has been able to generate through television, or for that matter, the amount TNA used to be able to generate through television when they were on Spike, or even Destination America. But nobody has been offering that kind of money, and ROH hasn’t been able to garner a strong national cable outlet after losing Destination America, and Jeff Jarrett’s original GFW was never able to garner a deal.

With every promotion going forward, it is not the quality of matches. Attendance is a barometer of measuring whether the product is working to the fans, but this is not the old business where it’s about fan support. Given who is on top and how hardcore its small base of fans are, the per-capita merchandise numbers for New Japan shows will likely be huge and the success at Hot Topic, which under normal circumstances makes no sense that a small niche promotion stars would sell so well with a mainstream national mall chain, is also an interesting offshoot of this. Still, it’s all about television, even as streaming becomes far more viable than ever. Until there is comparable money in streaming, and we are nowhere near that happening, then television is still the key to being any kind of a significant promotion in the marketplace. Television revenue is the biggest piece of the wrestling pie for the primary and secondary companies. The perception of being important based on having strong television is also the key past the hardcore audience.

Streaming is more important than ever to hit hardcore fans, but the whims of the television industry more than the fan base are going to be the ones who still determine the long-term narrative and success of WWE, and even more, every non-WWE wrestling product in the U.S. past indies who budget based on drawing a few hundred people. Every promotion, in the end, is dependent upon being able to negotiate and keep its television deal.

If Lucha Underground was able to get television deals that would pay for all the costs of the company, they could run 52 weeks a year and last forever. Even with ROH doing its biggest live business by far in its history, they are a tiny cog in the wheel of Sinclair and their existence still depends more on Sinclair’s whims than whether their booking is or isn’t good or whether they can draw 500 or 1,500 people at live events, or do or don’t lose more talent over the next year.

New Japan has an advantage in that they have a growing Japanese base business so they are far more secure long-term, plus have strong financial backing from a fairly large company which sees them as a major asset. They are tiny compared to WWE, and the gap is so large and the WWE’s advantages of being an American product are so huge that this is how the lay of the land will stand, as a very, very, very distant No. 2. The reality is that Impact, only because it is an American-based product, has more worldwide television and gets more revenue around the world from television than New Japan.

But as far as this story goes, there is clearly a bad aftertaste across-the-board. Most likely, Ross is only there until his contract expires early next year, unless something happens with his relationship with WWE. He’s a pro and will do his job, but how it will affect his performance, or Barnett’s performance, and their enthusiasm in putting the talent and product over is a question, as well as in his doing media to build up big events like next year’s Tokyo Dome show, which AXS will be pushing hard for increased ratings from. Ross was very strong on his podcast in putting over the show and the talent, Omega in particular, as was Steve Austin, who was at the show. Austin has outright said that he thinks Omega should be the guy in WWE. Ross said that the Omega vs. Ishii main event was one of the greatest matches he had ever called live, comparing it to the 1989 Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat matches. And this came after all the issues went down.

“I wish we did not have those errors, but I can tell you this, when I saw the Briscoes on Sunday, I apologized to both of them for screwing that up and I took complete responsibility for it even though I got bad information, I owned it,” Ross said on the Two Man Power Trip show.

“I don’t live this product,” he said. “Kevin Kelly and Don Callis are there. They live it all the time and they were in the building doing some stuff but I think that people will see that our second show was much more cleaner and much smoother than was our first show. Of course, the second show was also highlighted by the United States title tournament, but I thought that the final match with Omega and Ishii was absolutely tremendous. The Young Bucks had a real good match on that second night with Roppongi Vice and it ended up being Roppongi Vice’s apparent last match as a team. Was really happy that I had the chance to do two live shows and not in voiceovers but actually sitting in the arena, sitting at ringside and being able to do what I enjoy doing more than anything or any other phrase of the wrestling business, and that is doing live commentary.”

Plus, there was extensive on-line criticism of their work, although the strong consensus that I heard was that people who watch both felt Kelly & Callis are better in the undercard matches and multiple-person matches with their familiarity with the talent, storylines and signature moves, but that Ross & Barnett are better with the longer singles matches, which are the cornerstone of the group. I would just say for the main events, both teams are strong given the AXS airings of the big matches this year have had strong drama and the feeling of being epic and those are bouts I’ve already seen. But it’s not like those big matches, Okada-Omega, Okada-Suzuki, Elgin-Naito and Okada-Shibata weren’t enhanced by the Kelly-Callis team.

Callis has been heavily pushing for the AXS deal, but that would be the Barnett job and not the Ross job. If and when AXS would do another live special in 2018, Ross’ contract would likely be gone unless. It was well known in wrestling that the Ross spot would be open when his contract expires in the early part of next year.

AXS was very defensive of its announcers, noting they were given the wrong information on the Briscoes on the bio sheet and a second time when they at ringside had asked which Briscoe brother was which, and also noted that they apologized for their mistake. Ross later claimed he was told Mark was the one who didn’t have teeth, but during the match neither could tell which one that was. It’s also notable that they are dealing with a very different audience, as the New Japan audience is the two percent of the football fans who know the stats and all the player and stories off the top of their heads and also get mad at the NFL announcers for every mistake. It was notable just this past weekend when Todd Grisham was announcing UFC, and he had to identify Kazushi Sakuraba, and it was clear he didn’t know who he was, and far worse, couldn’t pronounce his name at all. And Sakuraba had just been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame the previous day. However, he had a producer, and the issue was rectified in seconds. Most likely he wasn’t told ahead of time Sakuraba would be shown at ringside, but to hardcore fans, not knowing how to pronounce Sakuraba’s name was blasphemy. Still, while there was criticism of him for it, it was minor compared to this and it’s not like fighters were involved.

So it comes down to a very heated argument over what was more valuable to the product, the Ross promotion of the show and familiarity as the modern generation voice of wrestling and ability to make the long singles matches feel epic against the more familiar New Japan announce team who instinctively would know everyone and pick up the storylines faster, and would know more background and stories regarding the non-main event talent.

Kelly, whose full-time job is New Japan announcer, is far more familiar with everyone, had years as the voice of ROH, knows the undercard angles and key moves and spots and storylines on an instinctive level, plus he knows everyone from ROH and their moves from his long tenure with that company. Callis came in unfamiliar with the product in February, and got the gig largely through being recommended by Omega. To his credit, he sped through the learning curve quickly.


Gegard Mousasi, coming off a win over Chris Weidman and being probably one win away from a middleweight title shot, became the latest fighter to leave UFC for Bellator.

Mousasi announced on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani on 7/10 that he had signed a six-fight deal with Bellator. He noted that he had been negotiating with UFC, and they made an offer that was very close to the Bellator offer, but in the end, decided not to match Bellator’s deal.

Mousasi, 31, was the No. 4 ranked middleweight contender in UFC, behind champion Michael Bisping and contenders Robert Whittaker, Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero. He said that he felt he deserved the interim title match ahead of Whittaker and if he had gotten that, may have stayed. UFC had been negotiating with Mousasi to face Luke Rockhold on 9/9 in Edmonton. The winner of that fight would have most likely gotten a shot at the winner of the Bisping vs. Whittaker fight that is expected to take place later in the year.

He praised Bellator CEO Scott Coker, who he worked for from 2009 to 2013 in Strikeforce.

He said he also received offers from a Russian promotion to go into boxing.

Mousasi is one of the sport’s most enduring stars, first breaking out in 2006 while fighting for Pride in Japan. During his career he held the Dream middleweight title, the Dream Light heavyweight title and the Strikeforce light heavyweight title. He also moved up to heavyweight and defeated Mark Hunt in the first round.

He said that he thought Bellator was more open minded, in the sense he said he could fight at middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight, while in UFC they wanted him to stick to one weight class. He said his goal was to first win the middleweight title in Bellator from Rafael Carvalho, and then try for the light heavyweight title, currently held by Ryan Bader. But he also said that at the end of the day, belts aren’t that interesting to him.

He also talked about wanting to face Rory MacDonald, who is likely to face and will be favored to beat Douglas Lima for the Bellator welterweight title.

He expects to debut in Bellator in a few months and said that he wasn’t promised a middleweight title shot in his first fight, but hoped to get it. Carvalho’s camp sent word during the show that Carvalho would love to face him.


Smackdown on 7/11 did 2,465,000 viewers, which is a strong number going against the All-Star game, which did 9,280,000 viewers on FOX, as the return of Cena continues to boost numbers.

Smackdown was third for the night on cable.

Rather than compare the numbers for 7/4, which is misleading, we’ll compare with the 6/27 show, which was the Cena return, and was a five percent drop, which given the baseball competition is a smaller drop than you’d expect.

The show did a 0.66 in 12-17 (down 4.3 percent from two weeks ago), 0.61 in 18-34 (down 9.0 percent from two weeks ago), 0.91 in 35-49 (down 8.1 percent from two weeks ago) and 0.97 in 50+ (down 3.0 percent from two weeks ago).

The audience was 57.9 percent male in 18-49 and 52.3 percent male in 12-17.

Raw on 7/10 did a 2.04 rating and 3,009,000 viewers (1.61 viewers per home), an increase of seven percent in ratings and six percent in viewers from the prior week.

The number is more impressive than it sounds because it went head-to-head with Home Run Derby, which traditionally hurts Raw ratings. The number is barely down from the 3,174,000 against Home Run Derby last year, and last year’s Home Run Derby did 5,524,000 viewers while this year’s did 8,167,000 viewers, a monster number.

The strong number is a combination of interest from the PPV, likely from the Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman angle, Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe as well as the week-to-week soap opera with the Kurt Angle thing.

Another key is that the 7/17 show is likely to do big numbers since they are advertising the reveal of the Kurt Angle situation, heavily teased as someone who he loves that he is having an affair with, along with Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe for the SummerSlam title shot.

The increase was primarily viewers under the age of 35 and men were way up from usual while women were significantly down.

The male skew in 18-49 was 61.0 percent and in 12-17 was 67.6 percent, which was the audience make-up from months back before the big losses of male viewers.

The first hour did 3,049,000 viewers. The second hour did 3,074,000 viewers. The third hour did 2,905,000 viewers. The third hour holding up better than usual is likely mostly that fans were interested enough to stay, but perhaps partially because Home Run Derby ended at 10:26 p.m. so some regular Raw viewers may have switched back at the time. A key to that is in the third hour, males 18-49 were actually up from the second hour, but women were down significantly.

Raw was fourth for the night on cable, trailing only ESPN programming related to Home Run Derby and a Celebrity Softball game that followed Home Run Derby and did 3,578,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.81 in 12-17 (up 15.7 percent), 0.77 in 18-34 (up 16.7 percent), 1.17 in 35-49 (down 0.8 percent) and 1.17 in 50+ (up 2.6 percent).

Impact on 7/6 did 345,000 viewers for the show after Slammiversary. It was the highest rated episode of the show in nine months, which is likely due to the PPV bump and that the show is slowly gaining ground after an unusually low 6/29 audience of 268,000, meaning a 29 percent jump in one week.

The final episode of the season of The Ultimate Fighter on 7/5 did 408,000 viewers and another 246,000 over the next three days for a plus three total of 654,000 viewers. Also on that night, TUF Talk did 111,000 viewers and UFC Tonight did 107,000 viewers.

Lucha Underground continues its increase doing 132,000 viewers for the 8 p.m. show and another 84,000 for the 9 p.m. replay. The 216,000 total was the best number the show has done dating back 29 episodes, to a show headlined by King Cuerno vs. Mil Muertes and Fenix vs. Johnny Mundo toward the end of season two. It was the seventh highest number in the history of the show on El Rey (the first season if you add in Unimas numbers, every week did better but none of the weeks did better just on El Rey). But ever since they took the break, it’s been a steady rise when the first half of season three had been falling.

The 7/4 Smackdown did a 1.59 rating and 2,239,000 viewers (1.60 viewers per home).

Raw on 7/3 did a 1.91 rating and 2,836,000 viewers (1.62 viewers per home).

The 6/30 debut of the Professional Fighters League, that did 291,000 viewers, was the biggest audience to see an MMA event on NBC Sports Network in more than three years and second largest ever. The Jon Fitch vs. Brian Foster fight peaked at 495,000 viewers. This may have been more a race car audience since the show was to start at 10:30 p.m. and started just after 9 p.m., and it was in the time slot of a NASCAR race in Daytona that was not taking place at the time due to rain, so this isn’t really reflective of anything past that there are more race car fans who will watch during a rain delay than fans who will watch MMA on NBC Sports Network.

The 6/28 episode of Ultimate Fighter that did 369,000 viewers did another 195,000 watching via DVR, which is a lower DVR viewership as well as a lower first-night viewership than the show had been doing.


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CMLL: The Atlantis knee injury is worse than anticipated. He underwent surgery this past week and will be out at least four months, meaning he’s missing the Anniversary show, which he’s usually a major part of. This will be something like the third anniversary show in the last 34 years that he’s not going to be on. The injury took place when doing a tope on Mephisto on the 6/30 show at Arena Mexico when he ruptured his right patella tendon. As noted last week, it is amazing that he’s worked so long and done a high flying style, particularly in his 20s, and never had a serious injury until now. No time frame has been announced for his return past he’s been pulled from stuff throughout the summer

Universo 2000 was on Lucha TV and talked about his health issues, saying he was told he only had three hours left to live at one point, but he’s doing a lot better now

The 7/7 Arena Mexico show was said to have been one of the weaker shows of late. Still, the crowd was up to 8,000 for the Universal title Block B tournament. It was also built around building 7/14, which is a major show. Block B of the Universal title tournament was won by Ultimo Guerrero, which was hardly a surprise. So Guerrero vs. Volador Jr., matching the company’s top tecnico against their top rudo, is the championship match. The tournament was mostly rushed matches, as Guerrero first beat new CMLL heavyweight champion Marco Corleone in 1:58, Diamante Azul (who replaced Atlantis) in 3:36 and Niebla Roja in 7:31. He unmasked Roja and then cradled him for the pin. The match was one-sided and all Guerrero, who, even though he’s the heel, the crowd was heavily cheering him. This whole Roja turn has been botched from the start, as he was the one not helping his partners most weeks before the turn and he was nowhere near the star of Guerrero so he needed booking credibility help to get over at the level for a feud with Guerrero and thus far hasn’t gotten it. Roja made the finals beating Soberano Jr. and Mistico. The best match of the tournament was said to be the Mistico win over Mephisto that went 7:28. The other angle match was Pierroth & Ripper & Rush vs. Shocker & El Terrible & Vangellys, which ended with Pierroth knocking out Vangellys with Brass Knux and pinning him, to build up their hair match on 7/14. Vangellys went out on a stretcher. The first two falls saw them trade DQ finishe

The 7/14 show has the finals, plus the hair match and Dragon Lee & Mistico & Caristico vs. Mephisto & Ephesto & Luciferno

Sam Adonis was announced for the World Cup on 9/1, meaning that 14 of the 16 slots have been announced

The 7/9 Arena Mexico show featured an Ultimo Guerrero vs. Niebla Roja rematch, with Guerrero losing the third fall via DQ for an unmasking. Roja challenged him to a mask vs. hair match and this time Guerrero accepted

The fake La Sombra thing has been completely dropped it seems as after 7/3, nothing has been mentioned on it. Rush was scheduled on CMLL Informa (the news show) this past week and teased bringing Sombra with him, but instead Rush never showed up. He had also promised a big surprise this past week and that never happened either

Among things being teased are a Fantasy vs. Pequeno Nitro mask match and a Princesa Sugehit vs. Zeuxis mask match. Sugehit goes to WWE this week for the Mae Young Classic

Mr. Niebla has disappeared again

Volador Jr. beat Caristico in a singles match on 7/7 in Acapulco for the local promotion’s middleweight title by pulling off his mask after Histeria distracted Caristico and the ref, and pinning him, which sounds like a heel finish.

AAA: Referee El Hijo del Tirantes lost his hair on a show he promoted on 7/10 in Xalapa against local wrestler Eslabon Perdido. At one point he was supposed to lose his hair at this year’s TripleMania but plans changed.

THE CRASH: Revolucha, the company aligned with Crash, on 7/10 at Arena Coliseo in Monterrey drew about 2,800 for Garza Jr. & Penta 0M beating La Mascara & M-ximo when Garza Jr. went heel in his home town to set up a match with Rey Mysterio Jr. in September. Garza was working with Penta as a team and then went to walk out. Daga and Zorro attacked Garza. Ultimo Ninja, who is Garza’s cousin, went to help out. Garza then announced he was going to create his own Rebelion group with Ninja and then they played the tape of Mysterio saying he was coming. Garza then attacked promoter Roberto Figueroa.

DRAGON GATE: The big show of the week was 7/6 at Korakuen Hall before a sellout of 1,850 fans. It was built around a ten man captain’s fall match with the team of MaxiMuM, with Kotoka as the captain, teaming with Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Big R Shimizu & Ben K, beating the Jimmys, with Genki Horiguchi as the captain, teaming with Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kanda & Ryo Saito & Jimmy K-Ness. The rules were that if someone lost the fall, they were eliminated, but the match would continue until either Kotoka pinned Horiguchi, or Horiguchi pinned Kotoka. Eliminations were pin, submission or over-the-top rope. Nobody was eliminated until 24:25 in, with K-Ness, Ben K, Shimizu, Kanda, Susumu and Yoshino were eliminated before finally Kotoka beat Horiguchi in 34:01.

ALL JAPAN: They ran a 7/5 show at Shinjuku Face in Tokyo before a sellout of 352 fans. In the main event, Suwama & Hikaru Sato beat Shuji Ishikawa & Minoru Tanaka when Suwama cleanly pinned Triple Crown champ Ishikawa in 24:15 after a back suplex, to help build a title match. The other big match was a generation battle of All Japan veterans Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori beat New Japan rookies Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura in 11:58 when Omori pinned Kitamura after an exploder. Akiyama after the match said how impressed he was by the New Japan rookies and that the All Japan rookies, and even Yohei Nakajima, need to step it up to keep up with the New Japan guys.

NEW JAPAN: According to those with New Japan, it’s actually unlikely they will be doing anything in New Orleans in conjunction with Mania week, at least at this point. From one aspect it would make sense since they’d be able to draw a big crowd, but they are usually in the middle of a Japanese tour at that time, plus I don’t think they want to be seen as piggy backing off a WWE event. There have been people who have talked about it and talked to New Japan about working with them on it, but at this point it’s not going to happen. The key is that New Japan doesn’t want to be positioned as an indie piggy backing off WWE’s biggest event, even though tons of U.S. companies and U.K. companies do that and it’s their biggest money week of the year

When the second night on AXS was replayed, the segment where Ricochet came out and said that he and Ryusuke Taguchi were challenging the Young Bucks for the jr. tag titles, was edited off the broadcast. This was a decision made by TV-Asahi, not New Japan nor AXS. I’m not sure if it related to his burying Lucha Underground in the promo or not, but since this was a U.S. television show, Lucha Underground would have had to have given permission for him to appear, even if they didn’t allow him to wrestle

The reason Billy Gunn was able to use that name is that even though WWE gave him the name, WWE did not continue the trademark. When they let it go, he trademarked it himself and he now owns the rights to the name worldwide

When The Young Bucks were on the Sean Waltman podcast, they noted that when Nick went on Twitter and said they were going to do the craziest Meltzer driver ever, right after my father passed away, that they had come up with no idea what to do at the time and made the comment anyway. So then they had to think of something. They also noted that they make a very small percentage off the shirts sold at Hot Topic, and with the new rules regarding how wrestling is categorized on YouTube, that the money they make off “Being the Elite” has been reduced to pennies

The only two title matches during G-1 will be on the 8/13 show at Sumo Hall, the night of the finals, with the Young Bucks vs. Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi for the jr. tag titles and War Machine vs. Cody & Hangman Page for the heavyweight tag titles. Both were set up on the 7/2 show in Long Beach. War Machine, Ricochet, Cody, Page and the Young Bucks will be working only the three Sumo Hall shows. So the 8/11 show is Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa vs. Seiya Sanada & Bushi, Satoshi Kojima & Juice Robinson vs. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi, Toru Yano & Jado vs. Minoru Suzuki & Taichi, War Machine & Michael Elgin & Taguchi & Ricochet vs. Cody & Page & Chase Owens & Young Bucks, Kazuchika Okada & Gedo vs. Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi, and the last night of the A block with Tomohiro Ishii vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Yuji Nagata vs. Bad Luck Fale, Togi Makabe vs. Yoshi-Hashi, Hirooki Goto vs. Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito

The 8/12 Sumo Hall show has Kushida & Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask & Hirai Kawato vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi & Desperado & Taka Michinoku, Goto & Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Roa & Yujiro Takahashi & Owens, Makabe & Nagata vs. Sabre & Takashi Iizuka, War Machine & Taguchi & Ricochet vs. Katsuya Kitamura vs. Cody & Page & Young Bucks & Fale, Tanahashi & Ibushi & David Finlay vs. Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, plus the final B block matches with Elgin vs. Robinson, Sanada vs. Tonga, Yano vs. Suzuki, Kojima vs. Evil and Okada vs. Omega

G-1 opens on 7/17 in Sapporo for a 2 a.m. Eastern show, meaning it’s Sunday night at 11 p.m. on the West Coast, with Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Liger vs. Elgin & Robinson & Finlay, Suzuki & Taichi & Desperado vs. Omega & Tonga & Owens, Sanada & Bushi vs. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi (a special tag match with LIJ teams against each other), Okada & Gedo vs. Yano & Jado (a special match with Chaos members against each other) and A block first night matches with Nagata vs. Yoshi-Hashi, Makabe vs. Fale, Goto vs. Ishii, Tanahashi vs. Sabre and Naito vs. Ibushi

The New Japan crew on 7/7 worked for What Culture Pro Wrestling in Manchester, UK at the Bowlers Exhibition Centre, as part of their World Cup, with Hiromu Takahashi and Kushida advancing to the finals. It was an eight-man tournament where they’d eliminate it down to two, who would then represent Japan in the WCPW World Cup finals. It started with Ryusuke Taguchi pinning Jushin Liger in the first round with a cradle, which naturally upset the crowd. Hiromu Takahashi beat Yohei Komatsu with the time bomb just as fans were chanting “This is awesome.” Bushi pinned Tiger Mask. After a ref bump, Bushi unmasked Tiger Mask, gave him a low blow and the MX and got the pin. Kushida beat Sho Tanaka with the hoverboard lock. Good match. Takahashi pinned Taguchi with a victory roll. Kushida beat Bushi in a match where Bushi tried to use the mist but it went in the ref’s eyes. Kushida went to hit Bushi, who ducked and Kushida knocked the ref down. Bushi used the Canadian Destroyer, but the ref was down. Bushi brought the ref into the ring and went for the MX, but as he came off, Kushida hit Bushi with the codebreaker, followed by a huracanrana into the hoverboard lock for the submission. The main event saw Tomohiro Ishii beat Rampage Brown in a non-tournament match. A hard-hitting match with a lot of no-sell pop-ups and Ishii winning with the brainbuster

On 7/8 they worked with Revolution Pro for the first British J Cup tournament, a sold out show before 895 fans Walthamstow, won by Liger. The talent in the match and tournament was thrilled to put Liger over since they all idolized him growing up and his winning got a huge reaction. So they took advantage of the Liger nostalgia, unlike New Japan in their own tourney. The tournament was four singles matches, leading to a four-way main event. In the first round, Marty Scurll beat Tiger Mask in 12:00 with a roll-up, a move that played into the entire show. Then Liger beat Josh Bodom in 2:00 with a brainbuster. Kushida beat Kyle O’Reilly in 21:00 with a submission based excellent match using a hoverboard lock into a back to the future in what was said to be the best tournament match and said to be ****+. Will Ospreay beat Taguchi in 13:00 in a very good match with the Oscutter. There was a lot of comedy early but it turned into a good match. Next was a surprise match as Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu beat two new wrestlers, Josh Wall & Kurtis Chapman in 10:00. Chris Brookes & Travis Banks beat Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi via DQ in 9:00 when Bushi blew mist in Brookes’ eyes. Work was fine but finish didn’t get over. Ishii beat Matt Riddle in the match of the night. They went 12:00 in what was said to be in the ****½ range and New Japan big show main event quality. There was a crazy chop exchange and it ended with a brainbuster. It was said that this blew away everything on the show. Riddle met with Tiger Hattori, who books the New Japan foreign talent, after the show. Riddle asked WWN if he could work the show instead of the Evolve shows this weekend so he could do a match with Ishii in front of New Japan officials. This becomes an interesting thing. There’s the marijuana issue which is so frowned upon in Japan, although it’s not like his testing positive in UFC would be an issue with New Japan. But any issues in Japan itself would be serious. In addition, WWE has had its eye on him since he started, but they haven’t rushed to sign him because he’s learning and having fun on the outside. In some ways, I could see WWE not having an issue with him doing New Japan for two years and then signing him, but then that becomes an issue with New Japan because he has potential to be the No. 2 singles foreigner. Liger won the finals, also said to be in the **** range, elimination style. Scurll first took out Liger with the umbrella, and then threw the umbrella to Ospreay. Kushida, seeing this, got mad at Ospreay for attacking a legend with the umbrella. Scurll pinned Kushida with a cradle first in 8:00. Scurll pinned Ospreay with a cradle in 18:00. Liger then used a top rope Frankensteiner, a Liger bomb and a brainbuster to pin Scurll in 23:00. Most of the match was Liger selling a beating and the other three working. After Scurll pinned Ospreay, that’s when Liger returned and made the big comeback. Bodom went to attack Liger and Bodom even shoved down Marty Jones (a U.K. legend) before he was run off. Jones was brought in to present the trophy to the tournament winner. A lot of the talent, most notably O’Reilly and Ospreay, were said to be thrilled to be able to spend time with Jones. Liger will now challenge Bodom for the RevPro cruiserweight title on 8/17.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Hiroshi Hase, 56, a member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet as well as a wrestling Hall of Famer, has agreed to wrestle on 7/26 for the Keiji Muto-run Pro Wrestling Masters show at Korakuen Hall. Hase last wrestled in 2006. He is the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and is part of Muto’s Wrestle-1 Executive Committee. Muto announced that they had pretty much agreed on this some time back and Hase has been training for some time, but because of his schedule, he wasn’t able to confirm being able to wrestle on that date. The main event for the show will be Hase & Riki Choshu & Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Great Muta & Great Kabuki (originally when Gary Hart brought Muta to WCW in 1989, he was billed as the son of Kabuki and copied a lot of the Kabuki gimmick that Hart came up with in Texas) & TNT (Savio Vega), plus Shiro Koshinaka & AKIRA & Akitoshi Saito (the Heisei Ishingun heel group in New Japan in the mid-90s, who will be managed by Masashi Aoyagi from that group) vs.; Big Japan’s Great Kojika & Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi, Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Takaku Fuke (an early Pancrase fighter) vs. Jushin Liger & Takuma Sano (Liger & Sano were big rivals in the early 90s), Great Sasuke & Shiryu (Kaz Hayashi’s original gimmick as a masked wrestler) & Sato (Dick Togo going by his early Michinoku Pro ring name) vs.; Nosawa & Masada & Fujita

Chigusa Nagayo, the 80s woman superstar, and Atsushi Onita, the 90s hardcore star, who have been teaming up on small shows with the explosive ring gimmicks, will face each other for the first time in a singles match on 8/13

MMA star Shinya Aoki wrestled again on the NEW promotion show on 7/7 at Korakuen Hall before 1,087 fans. NEW is the side project of the IGF. Aoki worked the semifinal in what was billed as a pro wrestling vs. MMA match, losing to Tatsuhito Takaiwa.

HERE AND THERE: Kevin Von Erich’s retirement match, and his first match in about 22 years, took place on 7/8 in Tel Aviv, Israel, a six-man tag with him teaming with his sons Ross & Marshall against locals Gary Roif (Israel’s first local wrestling promoter) & Marty Jannetty and booker Jumping Lee. The show aired live on a major national television station, the first time pro wrestling ever did so in the country. The Von Erich family and World Class Championship Wrestling were gigantic in Israel in the 80s and did some tours that drew huge crowds. Kevin, now 60, got a huge pop as expected. For his age, he had gotten into great shape., although worked the match with pants and a T-shirt. He also filmed at least one television commercial while he was there and did the commercial in Hebrew. He looked really happy in the ring and his sons did some cool moves. It was mostly Lee selling for his sons and they did a triple iron claw finish. Some of the older fans were crying when they did the claw spot. Kevin got a standing ovation and said it was the best experience he ever had in wrestling and he got emotional, as did the crowd and noted how the people of Israel have a special connection with his family. “I just did it for Israel and my sons,” Kevin told us. “But it went better than I thought. Before the match I had a fever and was throwing up, but when I heard the music, it disappeared.” A lot of the fans who attended hadn’t seen shows in more than 25 years, since the heyday of the Von Erichs and they were saying this was nothing like the wrestling they used to love in the 80s and how it didn’t look as real and the wrestlers (the show mostly consisted of local wrestlers in a promotion that runs there and doesn’t draw many people and certainly not older fans) were smaller than they remembered. The show was not a giant success as far as live ticket sales went, but was a big deal in town. The Von Erichs met with community leaders, including the Mayor of Tel Aviv, and the talk was to bring Ross & Marshall in as headliners once or twice a year for big shows. The expectation was that Kevin Von Erich’s retirement would be a big seller and he did promote it in a trip to the country a couple of months ago. But the reality is that the Von Erich name is huge to those over the age of maybe 45 or so, but most people that age weren’t interested in coming to a wrestling show and we’re told the crowd was about 1,800 fans. David Starr got over big as he played up being Jewish. Matt Sydal was there and got a big reaction but didn’t do any flying due to a shoulder injury suffered at the GFW tapings

Lester “Buddy” Wolff, a 70s heel who worked all over the world, passed away on 7/12 at the age of 76. Wolff sometimes teamed with Don Jardine as Spoiler #2, and also formed a tag team in the AWA with Larry Heineimi (also known as Lars Anderson). Both were 260 pounders and had similar looks, so were billed as cousins. Both went to college at St. Cloud State University, where Heineimi was an All-American wrestler and Wolff was a football star. Wolff was the 1968 Continental Football League (at the time the top minor league pro football league in the country) MVP as a defensive end with the Norfolk Neptunes, but there was more money in pro wrestling than minor league football. Wolff started pro wrestling in 1966 and worked full-time from about 1969 through 1979, when he got off the road. He held both the Florida and Texas heavyweight titles during his career, as well as twice holding the AWA Midwest title and the U.S. tag team title with Jardine. His teams with Heineimi and later Kim Duk in the AWA were as the secondary heel tag team in the territory who were to put over the face teams going for the championships for the most part. He wrestled sporadically in the 80s, including coming back in 1987 for the AWA. He was also married to wrestler Diane “Vivian” Vachon from 1976 to 1979. He had a 1972 and 1973 run in the WWWF, but never got a Madison Square Garden title shot at Pedro Morales, the champion, although did face him in smaller market main events. As a trivia note, Wolff was the opponent of Andre the Giant in Andre’s Madison Square Garden debut match on March 26, 1973. His most famous match was in 1976 in Chicago against Muhammad Ali. Shortly before the Ali vs. Inoki closed-circuit match, Ali did two matches, one with Kenny Jay which he won via knockout, and one with Wolff which he won via blood stoppage, that aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports on a huge national TV audience

PWG ran on 7/7 in Reseda, CA, before the usual five minute sellout of 400 fans. I was told this wasn’t as good as the highest tier PWG shows, but every match was good and the show overall was said to be great. Sammy Guevara beat Rey Horus in the debut of both men in 19:11. The match went too long and they tried to establish Guevara as the heel and Horus as the face. They didn’t do the usual spotfest newcomers do to get over with the crowd. Guevara won with a 630 senton that he had to modify the angle of in his jump to avoid hitting a light fixture. The crowd chanted for both to “Please come back.” Got ***1/4 across the board. Michael Elgin & Brian Cage beat The Young Bucks in 18:27. I heard mixed reviews. Nick was still limping from the weekend shows. After this show, the Young Bucks have three weeks off until going back for ROH. I got everything from ***1/4 to ****1/4 for this one. They announced the Bucks at 206 pounds each, or as they noted, one pound over 205. After Matt had Elgin up for the Meltzer driver, Nick went for the springboard but Cage caught him and hit a reverse STO on Nick. Elgin got out of the tombstone and hit an Elgin bomb on Matt for the pin. The crowd was really surprised to see the Bucks on second and then lost. On Sean Waltman’s podcast, Nick said that they may not work for PWG much longer, which to me would be the end of an era, because of all the companies they work for, that is the most taxing on their bodies. They said the only reason they’ve continued to work there is because they have a good friend there who they are loyal to. Right now there are no imminent plans to no longer work PWG and they are booked for the BOLA weekend and it was described to me that they may start taking fewer dates there eventually but nothing imminent. Keith Lee won a three-way over Lio Rush and Trent Baretta in 22:13 when Lee pinned Rush. Originally it was to be Rush vs. Rey Fenix, but Fenix couldn’t make the show at the last minute. This got ***3/4 across the board. Lee pinned Rush after a jackhammer. With Lee’s size (probably 6-2 and 330 legit) and ridiculous agility at that size, and his exuding personality with an expressive face, I’d be surprised not to see WWE sign him. Dezmond Xavier won a four-way over Sami Callihan, Dave & Jake Crist in 10:06 . Originally this was Xavier & Jason Cade & Shane Strickland vs. Crist Brothers & Callihan and had to be changed when Cade and Strickland had travel issues. This was rated *** to ***½ with a big pop for ref Rick Knox doing a tope. Ricochet pinned Trevor Lee in 14:46 which got ***3/4 across the board. Ricochet used the Benadryller and King’s fall for the win. Main event saw Chuck Taylor beat Zack Sabre Jr. in 29:24 to with PWG title. Sabre was the total heel. Great storytelling. Late in the match when Sabre couldn’t beat Taylor, he resorted to trying to get DQ’d by using low blows. Later he forced a ring attendant to disassemble the bottom rope to Taylor could no longer make the bottom rope for rope breaks on submissions. That led to a submission spot where Taylor ended up getting his foot on the middle rope. Thumbtacks were involved and Taylor ate many of them, which doesn’t sound like the best of ideas. The finish saw Sabre lock Taylor in the triangle armbar, but Taylor did the one arm power bomb spot off the triangle, that seems to always get over on indies, and power bombed him into the thumbtacks. Taylor used the awful waffle into the thumbtacks for the pin. This was rated **** to ****1/4 aside from one report which called it the best PWG match in two years. Others just said excellent. Very emotional finish. Baretta came out and they celebrated together and there was a huge pop for the title change.

The next set of shows is the Battle of Los Angeles from 9/1 to 9/3. The 24 men in the tournament this year are Penta 0M, Ricochet, Matt Riddle, Sami Callihan, Matt Sydal, T.K. Cooper (from New Zealand), Michael Elgin, Marty Scurll, Rey Horus, Brian Cage, Jonah Rock (a native of Australia who wrestled years ago for Pro Wrestling NOAH as the tag team partner of Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls), Mark Haskins (U.K.), Sammy Guevara, Sabre Jr., Flash Morgan Webster (U.K.), Trevor Lee, Jeff Cobb, Donovan Dijak, Dezmond Xavier, Rey Fenix, Travis Banks (New Zealand although best known in the U.K.), Walter (Germany), Flamita and Keith Lee. It’s not quite the 2016 field but still a pretty awesome collection of talent

Danielle Fishel (Topanga from “Boy Meets World”) was the celebrity who showed up in the crowd, keeping the streak alive of celebrities attending the PWG shows, even buying merch and to the wrestlers who grew up watching that show, that was a big deal. Apparently she has been dating Jensen Karp, the podcast host and comedian who at one point was on the WWE creative team

Phyllis Burch, who wrestled as Diane Von Hoffman and later Moondog Fifi in the 80s and through the mid-90s, passed away on 7/6 at the age of 55. Burch was one of the last female students of the Fabulous Moolah. She died while undergoing surgery. She grew up in a family of wrestling fans in Louisville. While in high school, she started training with Dale Mann, an area independent promoter. After graduating high school, she wrote a letter to Moolah and entered her camp. She started as part of Moolah’s troupe in 1981. When The Moondogs had their big feud with Jeff Jarrett & Jerry Lawler in Tennessee, she managed them dressed up as a female Moondog. Her career largely ended in 1994 after a bad automobile accident although she wrestled on occasion at least through 2013

Wale and Court Bauer are putting together a show on 10/5 at the Gilt Night Club in Orlando that will be called “MLW One Shot.” Wale for years has talked about doing a wrestling promotion. This is being pushed as a one-time thing and not the start of anything, but Wale has told me for years that his goal is to run a promotion. The idea is to do a show loaded up with the best independent talent like a PWG type all-star show and also have an after-party at the club. Bauer said the main event will be announced shortly and that Bauer and MSL will be running the event with Wale as co-Executive Producer. Bauer said the show would have a variety of styles, with the best high flyers and other talent. Right now there doesn’t appear to be any New Japan talent that would be on the show

Evolve ran shows on 7/8 in Charlotte and 7/9 in Marietta, GA. The advances for both shows were weak but they had good walk-ups and will be returning to both markets. The Marietta show went head-to-head with Great Balls of Fire. Anthony Henry & James Drake beat Chris Dickinson & Jaka to win the tag titles. Henry & Drake were pushed as a local team going for the titles. The original plan was to do a pop for the local show and then switch the titles back in Marietta, but Gabe Sapolsky called an audible feeling the idea that a title can change hands in a match you don’t think would be hurt if they switched it back the next day. The next night, instead of doing the rematch as planned, they made it a three-way with Henry & Drake vs. Dickinson & Jaka vs. The Ugly Ducklings, with the Ducklings losing the fall so that they didn’t have to change that titles and Dickinson & Jaka didn’t lose and were still the top contenders. So Henry & Drake will be added to upcoming shows as champions. The Charlotte main event was Zack Sabre Jr. over Timothy Thatcher in a no holds barred match via submission when Thatcher was in the ropes, to get over the idea that rope breaks aren’t allowed in those type of matches. They are pushing Matt Riddle vs. Lio Rush (the WWN title won’t be at stake) on 8/11 in Joppa, MD, which was the building where Rush started his career along with Thatcher vs. Keith Lee

Jamie Szantyr (Velvet Sky), who announced her retirement last week, noted that she is only retiring from doing matches, but she is not retiring from the wrestling world. “I am still very much active in doing autograph signings and conventions as well as other meet and greet appearances.” She said she didn’t want people to think she was retiring from the wrestling industry, just that she is no longer going to wrestle

Rob Conway,42, competed on 7/8 in the NPC Midwestern States bodybuilding championships.

EUROPE: Revolution Pro’s Summer Sizzler show on 8/17 at York Hall in London has Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Marty Scurll, Josh Bodom vs. Jushin Liger for the British cruiserweight title, Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Chris Brookes for the British heavyweight title, Sami Callihan vs. Martin Stone, Bully Ray vs. Sha Samuels, Travis Banks vs. Jay White and Dalton Castle vs. Zack Gibson. At press time they had sold 1,130 of the 1,200-seat capacity. There is a pure ROH show the next night in the same building

Progress Wrestling’s 8/13 show in Somerville, MA, sold out the 300 seats in 25 minutes

Walter beat Matt Riddle on the 7/9 Progress show in Birmingham, UK to win their Atlas title. I was told this was a must-see type of match. Pete Dunne & Tyler Bate & Trent Seven also won their tag team titles in a six-man tag over Chris Brookes & Travis Banks & Kid Lykos

XWA U.K. is bringing in Daisuke Sekimoto from Big Japan to wrestle Keith Lee, and also has Matt Riddle vs Simon Grimm, who is the former Simon Gotch.

ROH: Cody’s MRI on his shoulder revealed a Grade A separation, no structural damage, and he’s not going to be missing any time. He defended his ROH title on the 7/7 All Pro Wrestling show in Daly City, CA, beating Willie Mack. They are doing an angle where Cody is defending the title on many of his indie dates with the idea he’s doing it without the ROH Board of Directors approval, with the storyline that he’s an unsigned champion outsider with the belt. What’s notable is that was Cody’s last show scheduled with that promotion, where he’d worked regularly since leaving WWE and had been their top draw and star, and they were still under the impression he wasn’t available for any indie dates after the end of the summer. Cody will also be defending the ROH title on 8/25 in Pittsfield, MA, for Northeast Wrestling against Jerry Lawler, in a match where Cody’s NEW title is also at stake

With Atlantis injured, CMLL is sending Titan as the replacement to work the 8/17 to 8/20 dates in the U.K

Regarding Kenny Omega coming in as U.S. champion, that is at this point scheduled for October. There is no match set right now. A name he’d like to face if it could be worked out would be Will Ospreay. The next PPV date is 9/22 and that would be a shame not to have on PPV, but New Japan usually runs late September

Kevin Kelly will no longer be announcing here. His regular gig was New Japan, but ROH had used him for some shows in between NJPW shows, but he didn’t work the last PPV show. He said he was no longer doing it to concentrate on NJPW and other gigs

They don’t have another show until 7/29 in Concord, NC. The matches announced for that show are Young Bucks vs. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley for the tag titles, Kushida vs. Kenny King for the TV title, Bully Ray & Briscoes vs. Cody & Hangman Page & Marty Scurll and Flip Gordon vs. Punishment Martinez

The schedule is really slow the next few months as aside from the August U.K. tour, they only have 8/26 at Center Stage in Atlanta which almost has to be a TV taping, 9/22 PPV in Las Vegas, 9/23 TV tapings in Las Vegas and 10/20 in Philadelphia.

GFW: Jeff Jarrett did a conference call and apparently Impact is going to be doing weekly calls. He said that there was no agreement for the Hardys to acquire the intellectual property to the Broken gimmick. There were settlement talks this past week which led to the Hardys to believe a deal was done, although as noted here, they’ve been close to a deal in the past and then have had things impede a settlement. If you saw Raw this week, it’s very clear that WWE and the Hardys believed a deal was either done or virtually done. Before Jarrett said what he did, Matt had said, “If Ed Nordholm and Jeff Jarrett don’t wrap up this situation with us shortly, it’s gonna get terribly nasty. We have lots to expose.” Reby Hardy on Twitter pretty much confirmed the deal was closed last week, and we had reported the deal being very close last week. “I’m going to have to start `clarifying’ things by recording phone calls, apparently. Everything out of this loser’s mouth is BS. Why tho

“We had agreement terms as of last week. Included non-disparagement clause to the tune of $5,000 every time I tweet something about TNA.” “I haven’t said anything for weeks. Meanwhile, Jeff, Dutch & Ed all can’t seem to be able to keep us out of their mouths. Snakes.” Well, I suppose that may delay finalizing the deal

Jarrett also said they were looking at an over-the-top service

When asked about getting rid of agents Shane Helms, Al Snow and Pat Kenney, Jarrett said it was a cost cutting measure and they didn’t need as many agents as they had. We were told that they didn’t need seven agents for a two hour television show. Jarrett was obviously putting his team in charge since he’s the head of creative. Helms responded by tweeting, “Jeff Jarrett would rather climb a tree to tell a lie than stay on the ground and tell the truth.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the line Jim Cornette has used for Paul Heyman for about 20 years

They are trying to peak with the 8/17 Destination X show, which will be an almost-live TV show with Sonjay Dutt vs. Trevor Lee in a ladder match for the X title, Sienna vs. Gail Kim for the Knockouts title, Dezmond Xavier vs. Taiji Ishimori for the World X Cup finals (which in theory should set up the winner as the top contender for the title), Bobby Lashley vs. Matt Sydal and Alberto El Patron defending against Low Ki (if Alberto is not still suspended but all the TV will build to that and it is promoted on the final shows that air in August). The key is that every men’s match has an X Division competitor. They will also be announcing a new TNA Hall of Fame member and introducing all new GFW championship belts

Even though it was free and they usually pack the Impact Zone (maybe 800 to 900 fans) when they do PPVs, this was the quickest they filled up and they turned more fans away than in a long time. While they have a long way to go, there are positive growth signs with more PPV buys and generally higher ratings, although admittedly they are still at a low level

Jeremy Borash had two to three dozen puncture wounds on his hands when he did the frog splash into thumbtacks

The stuff in the Borash & Joseph Park vs. Scott Steiner & Josh Matthews match was taped mostly the night before and some the next morning of the PPV

Notes from the 7/6 Impact tapings. Tyrus pinned Mahabali Shera in a match for Xplosion. Ever since they got back from India, no more push for Shera. Dezmond Xavier pinned Braxton Sutter in a match for Xplosion. Drago pinned Idris Abraham in a match for Xplosion. Laurel Van Ness pinned Ave Storie for Xplosion. After the match, Van Ness and Sienna beat down Storie until Allie made the save with a kendo stick. Andrew Everett & Octagoncito beat Davey Richards & Demus 3:16 for Xplosion. The LAX trio of Santana & Ortiz & Homicide beat Alberto El Patron & Dos Caras (which would likely be the 66-year-old Caras’ first match on U.S. national television since the 1970s which has to be some sort of a record) & El Hijo de Dos Caras when Low Ki interfered and joined LAX. Alberto needed help to get to the back. Grado & Sutter & Suicide beat KM & Fallah Bah & Mario Bokara when Grado pinned KM. After the match, Grado once again proposed to Van Ness. Before she could answer, Kongo Kong came out and destroyed him. Kong went to the top rope to jump off on Grado but Van Ness stopped him. EC 3 did a promo where he talked to the Grand championship belt like it was his lover. Eventually, he told the belt they needed to leave this place together. Sienna did a promo saying she was told she had a mystery opponent for the title on 8/17. She said she wasn’t leaving until she found out who it was. Karen Jarrett came out and told her that it’s Gail Kim. Kim vowed to not only beat Sienna to win the title, but to hold the title for the rest of the year and retire as champion. El Hijo del Fantasma & Naomichi Marufuji beat Laredo Kid & Garza Jr. Kong then won a handicap match over Grado & Joseph Park. Kong once again tried to splash Grado from the top rope but Van Ness stopped him. Kong then picked up Van Ness and tried to slam her but Tyrus hit the ring. Tyrus and Kong had a staredown. Santana & Ortiz beat Mayweather & Wilcox in a street fight. During the match a kendo stick flew out of the ring and hit a female fan in the head, but she was okay. Taiji Ishimori pinned ACH to advance to the finals of the World X Cup. The main event of that show was Lashley & Trevor Lee & Low Ki over Alberto & Sonjay Dutt & Matt Sydal when Low Ki pinned Dutt.

UFC: In something of a big surprise, since it is a fan voted award, Demetrious Johnson won the ESPY for best fighter on 7/12, beating both Conor McGregor, Andre Ward, Terence Crawford and Gennady Golovkin. .. Ariel Helwani reported that Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje are under consideration for coaches for the next season of Ultimate Fighter, which would build for a match between the two of them in December

With such a bad year on PPV so far, the company’s biggest show, by a wide margin, will be the 7/29 show in Anaheim with three title fights (Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones, Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia and Cris Cyborg Justino vs. Tonya Evinger) plus Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone. The big question is will, and how much, will the promotion of McGregor vs. Mayweather with its $99.95 PPV price could cause people who only want to buy two or three big fights a year, and clearly this is the biggest so far, to skip this show. Plus, UFC has lots its edge

There were reports going around this past week about UFC looking to do Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate for the year-end show. As far as talk goes, there has been that and given the year UFC has been having the idea of that fight makes business sense from their end. Exactly what Rousey would mean after her two losses is a question, but it is her career rival and she does bring the currently lacking mainstream attention. People did say she was done as a draw after the way she handled the Holly Holm fight, but there was more interest in her return than any of her prior fights and they did 1.1 million buys on a Friday night show. Dana White has consistently said he doesn’t think she’s going to fight again. She has never retired nor removed herself from the drug testing pool, and if she, in her mind, wasn’t going to fight again, why not remove yourself from drug testing because it’s just an unnecessary hassle to have to keep USADA informed of your whereabouts? You could take the fact that when she does mainstream interviews now, it’s with the caveat that no questions can be asked about fighting either way. I would put odds against this happening because she doesn’t need the money, although a few million dollars for one fight on the way out to build up your nest egg for the future is something most would do in that situation

Bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt now looks like he won’t be able to return to action due to his back problems until November

While he didn’t announce a time or a place, Dana White did say that Max Holloway would be defending the featherweight title against Frankie Edgar next. That was the most logical call

This week’s show is a Sunday afternoon show on 7/16 from the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland. The show starts at Noon Eastern time with Fight Pass fights with Amanda Lemos (6-0-1)_ vs. Leslie Smith (9-7-1) and Brett Johns (13-0) vs. Albert Morales (7-1-1). From there is’s five hours on FS 1 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern with Danny Henry (3-0) vs. Daniel Teymur (6-0), Galore Bofando (4-2) vs. Charlie Ward (3-2), Alexandre Pantoja (17-2) vs. Neil Seery (16-12), Bobby Nash (8-2) vs. Danny Roberts (13-2), James Mulheron (4-0) vs. Justin Willis (4-1), Paul Craig (9-1) vs. Khalil Rountree (5-2), Ryan Janes (9-2) vs. Jack Marshman (21-6), Paul Felder (13-3) vs. Stevie Ray (21-6), Joanne Calderwood (11-2) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (5-0) and Gunnar Nelson (16-2-1) vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio (24-3). It doesn’t feel like much of a ratings show

There is also an Invicta show on Fight Pass n 7/15 from Kansas City at 8 p.m. headlined by Milena Dudieva vs. Mara Romero Borella

The company announced an 11/19 show in Sydney, Australia, which would be an 11/18 air date in the U.S

Four new fights were announced for the 9/2 show in Rotterdam, Holland, with Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Abu Azaitar, Desmond Green vs. Rustam Khabilov, Islam Makhachev vs. Michel Prazeres and Abdul-Kerim Edilov vs. Bojan Mihaljovic

Joseph Morales vs. Robeto Sanchez has been added to the 8/5 show in Mexico City

The 7/18 lineup for Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders show at the UFC Gym has Angel DeAnda (18-5) vs. Daniel Spohn (15-5), Alfred Khashakyan (8-3) vs. Sean O’Malley (6-0), Than Le (6-1) vs. Lazar Stojadinovic (12-5), Michael Cora (4-1) vs. Sidney Outlaw (7-3) and C.J. Hamilton(11-4) vs. Casey Kenney (6-0-1). DeAnda has won six in a row, but went 0-2 in WSOF before that. Spohn fought once previously in UFC after being in season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter, and has gone 7-1 since being cut by UFC.

WWE: There is a change in Sky Sports. There previously were five Sky Channels, one through five, with WWE programming mostly on five. A Sky Sports package would get you all those channels. Now, Sky is making a change and moving to eight sports channels to be purchased individually. Raw and Smackdown will continue to air live, which is 1 a.m., on Sky Sports Main Event, a channel that will feature the biggest live events including soccer. This is an upgrade in theory for those shows. The rest of the programming, including the taped versions of Raw and Smackdown (because they air in better time slots, a lot more people watch those shows taped) will be on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Arena, which would likely be available in far less homes. Still, even with the bad slot, you could get Raw & Smackdown and DVR them off the Sky Sports Main Event channel and it would cost less money

WWE did five straight days of television taping this week, starting with Great Balls of Fire on 7/9, Raw, Smackdown & 205 Live, an NXT TV taping on 7/12 and then the Mae Young tournament being taped on 7/13 and 7/14

Madusa will be involved in some form with the tournament

Toni Storm, as expected, looks to be one of the favorites for the tournament. Besides the names already announced by WWE, others in the tournament include Shayna Baszler, 36, a pioneer of women’s MMA in the U.S. and former UFC fighter who has been working indies around the country and is best friends with Marina Shafir who has become an NXT character; Rachael Ellering (using the name Rachael Evers), 24, a student of Lance Storm (using Lance’s real last name of Evers), a former powerlifting champion who has been popular in an enhancement role on NXT; Santana Garrett, 29, who worked for TNA both under her real name and also as Brittany and has wrestled all over the world; Rene Michelle(a Washington, D.C. based wrestler who was trained in Japan by Chigusa Nagayo and has done extra work with the company), Callee Wilkerson, 26, better known as Barbi Hayden, a former NWA women’s champion and seven-year veteran; Nicole Savoy, 31, a Sacramento-based woman wrestler just coming off knee surgery after being out for more than six months, who is heavy into weights and has pretty freaky shoulders and works a good athletic style and is one of the stars of Shimmer; Mercedes Martinez, 36, considered among the best technical woman wrestlers in North America, who has been a former Shimmer champion and a 17-year veteran after being a college basketball player who has worked all over the world; Ayesha Raymond (wrestling name Ayesha Ray, although she’ll be going by Ayesha Raymond in the tournament, another U.K. based wrestler), billed at 6-feet tall and 183 pounds, an eight-year veteran from London who was trained by the Knight family; Kayleigh Lee, 24 (wrestling name Kay Lee Ray from Scotland); Jessica Shaw, 34, who uses the name Jessica James and is a 13-year-veteran; and Martibel Payano, 28, better known as Marti Belle, who has been wrestling for nine years and was with TNA from 2014 to 2017 as part of the Doll House group

Nixon Newell from the U.K. is out of the tournament due to a torn ACL, which she had surgery for a couple of weeks ago. She’ll be out of action six months minimum

Talent ranges from 20 years old to 36 (Baszler), many with college degrees, representing as many different countries as they could and unlike the past emphasis on models and how they would look in bikini shoots, they’ve brought in women with a wide variety of looks, backgrounds, body types and ranging from very experienced to not experienced at all

Those who believe that WWE women all have to be hot were not that happy about it, feeling a lot of the women brought in weren’t good looking enough for WWE standards. Don’t blame me. I think the last year showed conclusively that the audience reacts better now to strong performers than hot women who are there for nothing other than being hot. The lack of reaction to Lana in her new role as compared to her old role, the one woman being marketed the old way to the extreme, kind of showed that. But far more important than if the crowd does or doesn’t react, those who have access to quarter hour numbers have noted this group of women do far better in the ratings than the Kelly Kelly types and Maryse types (in her wrestling days) and the women in general did when the women were hired with the idea of getting the hottest models and trying to teach them to not have bad girlie matches as opposed to now where the women aren’t discouraged from wrestling a hard style. WWE did give some of the women makeovers

WWE will be doing a special on its Facebook and YouTube channels at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time on 7/13 to introduce all 32 women. This will be live right before the first round of matches is being taped at Full Sail University. Jim Ross, Lita and Madusa will be the announcing team for the tournament

Kairi Sane (Hojo) is facing Tessa Blanchard in the first round, which surprises me because I had figured they’d earmark both of them to go far in the tournament. Sane was told she could do her elbow off the top rope. She had at first been told to come up with a new finisher as they considered that Bayley’s move. There was a social media outcry on it because that’s her specialty move, and when WWE announced her signing, the release specifically mentioned her elbow off the top rope. But it was actually just confirmed to her that she could use it

Bayley was on Austin’s podcast this past week and seems clearly frustrated by her position. She said that she went to HHH and asked about making a change in her character. She said HHH told her that would be up to Vince McMahon. Austin warned her about not being true to herself and her character and how his turn in 2001 was the biggest mistake of his career

Even though it has been reported differently and even reported with me as the source, those in WWE say that Shelton Benjamin has not signed a deal with the company as of earlier in the week

Regarding rumors regarding Punk, when he was asked by ESPN in Chicago if there is any part of him that misses pro wrestling, he said, “Not at all.” He said that WWE has sent lawyers and people by proxy (meaning the lawsuit filed by Dr. Chris Amann which is still going on) after him because they’re mad “I called them on their BS.” He said he hasn’t spoken to Dana White in several months, but he wants to fight again, and said he should know what is next for him in one to two months

Kyle O’Reilly, who was originally set for a surprise debut in January, was on the 7/12 NXT tapings and lost to Aleister Black. His debut was held up due to legal issues involving WWE and ROH. Adam Cole is also expected to debut shortly

Speaking of the 7/12 tapings, one person there noted to us a strange almost backfire of sorts revolving around Mauro Ranallo. At the tapings, the crowd was mostly quiet again. We’re told in some places if fans started to make noise, other fans would tell them to be quiet because the building is so small and Ranallo talks so loud that if there’s no crowd noise, you can hear the commentary, and a lot of the live fans want to hear the commentary

Lionel Green, 22, better known as Lio Rush, is expected to start here in developmental shortly. He was at the 7/8 CZW show and said that his final show with the promotion would be on 8/5 against Joey Janela. The belief is Green still has to complete his physicals but it’s been known for months, since he’s turned down offers from several places, that there was a WWE deal for him that was going to happen, just a question of when WWE would pull the trigger on it. He’s very small, pretty much Rey Mysterio-height, but has great timing and athletic ability. Almost nobody has gotten as far as he has gotten so quickly on the indie scene, considering it’s just three years since he started. He started with MCW in the summer of 2014 and broke in with Patrick Clark, now the Velveteen Dream, as his tag team partner in a team called Sudden Impact. Ironically, about 25 years ago, I saw another tag team called Sudden Impact who were two of the best newcomers in wrestling at a similar stage of their career, who were Lance Storm & Chris Jericho. Rush is the kind of guy who probably can do well in NXT because he should only be getting better

The WWE web site came up with its list of the ten best matches of 2017. The list was topped by Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne from the Chicago Takeover show. Pretty much everyone will list either that or the Cena vs. Styles match at Royal Rumble as the best match in WWE this year. You could take you pick. They actually listed Styles vs. Cena third and put the Authors of Pain vs. DIY vs. Revival three-way over Orlando in second place, which was a great match as well. From four through ten, they listed Balor vs. Rollins vs. Miz on the 5/1 Raw, Styles vs. Shane McMahon at Mania, Strowman vs. Show on the 2/20 Raw, Reigns vs. Rollins on the 5/29 Raw, Gallagher vs. TJP vs. Alexander vs. Dar vs. Ali on the 2/7 205 Live, The Women’s Money in the Bank ladder rematch on Smackdown on 6/27 and Neville vs. Swann for the cruiserweight title on the 3/6 Raw

While this was probably not the reason for the split, since the split was teased months ago, Enzo Amore right now has a lot of heat on him. There was an incident on the tour bus when the talent was traveling together several weeks ago. We haven’t been able to confirm the details as to why this happened although it had to do with the business and it upset many to the point that Reigns kicked Enzo off the bus and for a time he was given “Miz treatment” in that he wasn’t allowed to dress in the locker room. The line where he talked about his real life being better than his fantasy life was something of a shoot in the sense he’s now based in Los Angeles and having a great time in his non-wrestling life. He was also legit not happy at the breakup of the team, because in reality, it’s hard to see what his prospects are on his own given the way he’s been portrayed as a guy who is a joke when facing real competition

Cass has some heat, particularly with his views on politics as he’s a strong Trump supporter in a locker room where many don’t share those views, but management is super high on him and unlike with Enzo, the reaction of the wrestlers to him will not affect his push, at least right now. But the reaction to him is pale compared to that of Enzo

In Detroit, they are heavily pushing the 7/29 house show as the final event ever in the Joe Louis Arena, with Lesnar defending against Corbin on a Smackdown show, plus Mahal defending against Orton, and Cena appearing

Johnny Saint finished up his six-month commitment, working as a coach at the Performance Center and has returned home to the U.K

Rapper Mega Ran was one of the people in the New Day entourage during the Rap battle segment on the 7/4 Smackdown. About two weeks earlier Woods, who is friends with Ran, had told him about an idea he had pitched for a rap battle and he helped prepare the Usos for it. The original script they were given had Wale doing a rap first and Big E was against that happening. Ran said he didn’t write any of the material but helped with the cadence. The New Day let the Usos see their script and lines but the Usos only ran their lines back to get the approval of one producer, so the New Day didn’t know what the Usos would be saying and didn’t know the Usos would make an R rated reference to Woods regarding the sex stuff with Paige (which also included Brad Maddox) from years ago when they were all in developmental together that leaked

Bobby Roode vs. Drew McIntyre is official for the Brooklyn Takeover show. Some thought, based on the ending of the TV match, that they’d give Roderick Strong another shot. Andrade Cien Almas is being put in the position that originally Tommaso Ciampa was to have on that show, facing Johnny Gargano. .. WWE applied for a trademark of the XFL on 6/28 for entertainment use. The impression was it was for use in some form perhaps for a documentary as opposed to anything else

Developmental woman wrestler Zhao Xia from China, has been given a new ring name of Xia Li

Reigns, Miz and Orton are off the weekend house shows, but Cena is back touring but on the Raw brand shows since they needed him. On the 7/14 show in Roanoke, there is no Cena, and the top matches are Rollins vs. Wyatt, Balor & Ambrose vs. Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Hardys. Cena arrives on the 7/15 show in Huntington, WV, with Cena vs. Wyatt, Rollins vs. Strowman, Ambrose & Balor vs. Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Hardys and 7/16 in Lexington has the same show. The Smackdown tour is headlined by Mahal vs. Styles, Usos vs. New Day vs. Fashion Police, Nakamura vs. Ziggler and Zayn vs. Corbin

The WWE stock closed at press time at $20.53 per share, giving the company a market value of $1.57 billion

The top ten most watched shows of the week on the WWE Network were: 1. Great Balls of Fire; 2. Great Balls of Fire post-show; 3. WWE 24 Kurt Angle; 4. Great Balls of Fire pre-show; 5. Ride Along with Angle, Show, Cesaro and Sheamus; 6. WWE 24 Finn Balor; 7. NXT from 7/5 (Bobby Roode vs. Roderick Strong show); 8. WrestleMania 33; 9. Ride Along with Jericho & Owens; 10. 2017 Money in the Bank. Talking Smack this week placed 18th. The 205 Live show from 7/4 was not in the top 20. The 6/28 NXT show beat the 7/4 205 Live show for the week, and there were two episodes of the WWE’s version of ECW from 2006 that placed 11th and 12th for the week

Notes from the 7/10 Raw show in Houston. The show was largely built around promoting next week’s show, with the final reveal of the Angle situation and a Reigns vs. Joe match with the winner facing Lesnar for the title at SummerSlam. There also seemed to be a strong tease for the Hardys to do their Broken character as they are going on a streak where they are beaten up to build to the change, and they were more than just teasing it in their interview. The Hardys and Impact had been in negotiations and the last word we heard a few days ago was that the sides were close to an agreement, and I can’t see them teasing it as hard as they did here unless the agreement was finalized. The show drew 8,300 fans, surprisingly low since Houston is one of the best markets. In a lot of cases, because they’ve jacked up the prices so much for floor seats, they are not drawing as many fans, but they are doing much bigger gates. The show opened with Mickie James pinning Emma for Main Event. TJP beat Lince Dorado with a Detonation kick. Raw opened with Cass out to new music. He got a lot of heat, more than I expected. He said he went from the bottom of the totem pole to te top, and he means the very top. A lot of people have compared Cass to Test from another generation, in the sense both had great size and look but neither were much in the ring and Test never was able to project a personality past a certain level. But Cass is a much better promo and handled himself well here. He told the fans not to jump on his bandwagon now, and said he’s the future of WWE and will be the Universal champion and when he holds it he’ll shove it down everyone’s throat. He said he would main event Mania and he would be on The Tonight Show. He said that nobody is on his level. Well, except Neville. He started talking about how nobody can look him eye-to-eye, and made other comments about being tall where it was clear this was setting up a program with Show. Show came out to a good reaction. People seemed into this match-up and it felt fresh. Show was several inches taller than Cass which kind of exposes the 7-foot thing (Show is probably 6-foot-11 or so, and Cass is 6-foot-8). Show then head-butted him and stared outwrestling and outfighting him as they did a short shoot oriented brawl. Cass ran off. I was surprised they’d have Show handle him in such a shoot manner and made it like Cass wasn’t in his league, but since Cass is almost surely going over in the feud when it’s over, that’s fine. Balor pinned Samson in 10:04 with the coup de gras. Samson sang before the match. He’s got some good presence with his look, particularly the Randy Savage face and eyes, but once the bell rang, he was in with a great worker and even with Balor, this match wasn’t very interesting. If you can’t have a good match with Balor, you’re limited. After he lost, Cole pushed Samson as having a big future so they went out of their way to not let the clean finish to get Balor over to make you think Samson isn’t someone to pay attention to. The Hardys then came out with Balor. The Hardys then went to the ring and talked about how last night was the first tag team Iron Man match ever. That it wasn’t. Jeff said after the loss people thought they might fade away and classify themselves as obsolete, with emphasis, to make now mistake they are looking to transition. Anderson & Gallows came out and said that people thought they were going to get the Hardy Boys of old, but what they’ve got is the old Hardy boys. Matt talked and when he used the term “broken” the place popped. Cole then said the match the night before was the best Iron Man match that he’s ever been part of. You have to pick your spots better because you just can’t say that, not that the match was bad, there are a ton of Iron Man matches that this wasn’t even in the league of and I think that would be most people’s reactions. It wasn’t like, say Angle vs. Lesnar Iron Man, which may not have been the best, or Hart vs. Michaels, which also may not have been the best, but you could say either was and people would at least go it’s a valid opinion. Anderson & Gallows beat the Hardys in 6:57 when Anderson hit Matt with a running knee and they finished him with the magic killer. It’s pretty clear this was about the Hardys old gimmick beating beaten down. And then when it was over, The Revival hit the ring and they beat the Hardys down as well, finishing them off with the shatter machine on Jeff. Next was Miz, Maryse, Axel and Dallas for the Mizzies. Miz gave an award for Best Supporting Actor to Axel & Dallas tied. The fans actually chanted “You deserve it.” Miz put them over as being underutilized. Then the award for the Most Gorgeous, Sexy Leading Lady in WWE went to Maryse. Miz claimed he was the leading man and biggest box office draw in WWE and said the Hardys, Tozawa and Rollins were all frauds as they talked up what they were going to do on the PPV and they all lost. Then he said that Ambrose was the toughest man in WWE, but he beat Ambrose, “So what does that make me?” Ambrose came out and went after Miz, but all Miz, Axel and Dallas all beat him down. Rollins made the save and cleaned house. Backstage, Ambrose yelled at Rollins saying he didn’t need his help or want his help. Ambrose said he didn’t trust Rollins and that The Shield reunion isn’t going to happen, which in wrestling, means it’s planned to happen. He told Rollins to stay out of his business and fight his own battles. Rollins said he only came out because Miz called his name out and he didn’t come out to help Ambrose. This would make a lot more sense if Ambrose & Rollins weren’t teaming together all the time the past few weeks. Banks & Bayley beat Jax & Bliss in 9:23. Bayley’s reaction after her recent booking was so flat, even with her and Banks doing everything they could to get a reaction. Bliss hit twisted bliss on Bayley, but Banks made the save. Jax threw Banks out of the ring and went for charge, and ran into the barricade. In the ring, Bayley pinned Bliss clean with a schoolboy. Also a flat reaction to the finish. Goldust did one of his promos with the movie references. Goldust pinned R-Truth in 5:37. So this was essentially the PPV match they spent the last month building up that they didn’t have time for. Sadly, the crowd was dead for this, so even with the idea Goldust comes across like a star doing his 90s style promos, he’s and R-Truth have been portrayed as low card that the audience sees them that way. Booker T said that when he was with Goldust they were tag team champions, but with R-Truth, they never won the titles, so Booker said that made R-Truth the weak link. That’ll work wonders in getting a babyface the people don’t believe in over. Goldust won with his version of the final cut, the spinning slam. Angle came out and said that he couldn’t wait for next year’s Great Balls of Fire show. He called out Lesnar. Angle said that he had an idea for SummerSlam. Heyman cut him off and said this isn’t the place where they discuss business in front of people and they went to leave. Reigns came out. Angle said that Reigns had a lot of nerve coming out after what he did last night. Reigns said that Angle was part of the Attitude Era and that Heyman was the father of Extreme. He said that Angle hasn’t been able too handle Strowman and that Lesnar is never around to handle Strowman so he took it upon himself. Lesnar got in his face. There was a “Roman” chant, mostly among women in the crowd. Reigns wanted him at SummerSlam and Heyman liked the idea. Lesnar said that Reigns didn’t deserve shit, using that word which was bleeped out. He held up the title and said this was as close as you’re going to get to it. Joe came out talking about reality. Lesnar said he kicked his ass last week. Joe said he’s putting Lesnar to sleep some day and that Lesnar didn’t beat him he escaped him. He then said that Reigns has never beaten him. Joe came out the star in this scenario, and even more so because Heyman copied Mickey from Rocky III in saying that Joe was never getting another title shot, which of course, means that he has to get another shot. Heyman said that Reigns deserves a shot because he beat Undertaker at WrestleMania and put over him as a Samoan star, while saying the other excommunicated Samoan will never get another shot. Joe told Lesnar that his advocate is trying to protect him because he knows he’s the one who can beat him. Angle then announced Joe vs. Reigns for the title shot next week. Angle said that if they came to blows, he’d cancel the bout and neither would get a shot. Joe and Reigns acted like they were going to come to blows and Angle told them if they fight neither gets the shot and if it’s worth it, and told them to save it for next week. Later, Angle was backstage having seen a text and was all depressed. He said he could lose his job and his family over this. Then he said he was going to go public with it next week and that could be his way of saying goodbye. Graves told Angle that the people like him and will support him through this and Angle asked if he really believed that and Graves put his head down. Alexander & Tozawa beat Neville & Dar in 9:33. Graves came back during the match and once again was asked what the Angle thing was about and he blew it off. They kept pushing that Alexander vs. Dar would end the next day with their I Quit match. I don’t think anyone much believed that given it’s now become comedy like the return of Emma as Emmalina when they talk about this program being over. The idea is now that Alexander and Dar want it over but Fox doesn’t, so it continues. A funny spot in this match saw Alexander got in Fox’s face and she whispered to him, “You’ve got a booger in your nose.” and he tried to nonchalantly, and it was hardly that, wipe it away. Tozawa’s chant got the crowd going to this had more heat than most cruiserweight bouts. Alexander did a tope on Dar. Neville ended up being crotched when he was on the top rope with Alexander and lost his balance. That was similar to Tozawa the night before, and Tozawa kicked the ropes to make it worse, like Neville did the night before. Tozawa pinned Neville with a senton off the top in 9:33. This is more backwards booking in the sense you do the clean pin before the tag team match where the challenger beats the champion, and you wouldn’t have the champion win clean if the idea is building a rematch, which clearly that is the idea. Rollins did an interview with Charly Caruso where he tried to channel Jericho by calling her Charles. Wyatt did an interview and said that Rollins will not be forgiven for his sins. Wyatt pinned Rollins in the main event in 16:55. It was a better match than the night before. Rollins did a tope early. Rollins tried to do the Marty Scurll broken fingers spot. Rollins did another tope. Rollins got a lot of near falls but Wyatt head-butted Rollins in the bad eye (they played up that Rollins’ eye hadn’t recovered from being poked the night before) and hit Sister Abigail for the pin. After the match, Wyatt just disappeared. Miz, Dallas and Axel came out and gave Rollins a beatdown after the match. Ambrose made the save with a chair, including seven chair shorts too the back of Miz until Dallas and Axel pulled him out of the ring. The show ended with Angle on the phone. He was talking to whoever the mystery person he’s allegedly having an affair with was on the phone. He said why don’t you come to TV and we’ll both make the announcement together and then told the person that “I’m proud of you” and “I love you.” Given that Raw is in Nashville and that Dixie Carter was on the Angle 24 special, that’s the name they want you to speculate on. Stephanie McMahon would be the best reveal, particularly to build a HHH vs. Angle feud, but the last time they tried that, that was nixed as not happening. I just hope the idea isn’t to show how culturally relevant and not behind the times they are by thinking it’ll be a groundbreaking and shocking program to have Angle have a male lover. After Raw went off the air, Ambrose cut a promo talking about how great it was to be in Texas

Notes from the 7/11 tapings in San Antonio. The highlight this week was the 205 Live segment with the Alexander vs. Dar I Quit match and ensuing Dar break-up with Fox. As far as Smackdown went, they did a big tease for Cena vs. Styles, which looked like it would be at SummerSlam. The show drew 6,800 fans. The pre-show dark match was Jordan & Gable & Sin Cara over The Ascension & English when English was pinned after Grand Amplitude. Smackdown opened with Styles out. He wanted to bring back the U.S. title open challenge that Cena used to do. He said the title has been overlooked for too long and from now on he wants people to know that the U.S. champion is the best wrestler. You could now make that argument for both of the top promotions. Cena came out for the challenge. JBL pushed that their last big match was in San Antonio and pushed that it was one of the greatest matches of all-time. That was the Rumble match and it was a great match. Greatest matches of all-time feels like a stretch. Cena said that when Styles issued the challenge, he meant everyone but him. Styles said that wasn’t the case, he meant everyone, “especially you.” But before the match could start, Owens came out and said that nobody wants to see another Cena vs. Styles match and nobody cares about either of them. He told Cena to leave saying that nobody wants to see you here anymore. Cena called him the Michelin Man (for historical record Ron Starr in the late 70s used to call Buddy Rose the Michelin Man or Michelin Tire Dummy). Rusev then tackled Cena. Styles threw Rusev out of the ring. Owens power bombed Styles. Rusev used a side kick on Cena and put him in the accolade, and that was the set up for the main event. Mahal pinned Dillinger in 6:32 with the Khallas. Mahal did his usual interview playing babyface for India and heel for the U.S., talking about how he brings class, diversity and excellence to the WWE and said how Orton was threatening his people and he’s got 1.3 billion followers. He said that he was bringing the Punjabi Prison to Smackdown next week. The New Day came out. When they show the crowd shots of the fans wearing those horns gimmicks, I wish those poor fans would know just how much they are embarrassing their families for several generations. Woods pinned Jey Uso in 2:22. Jey shoved Kingston and everyone started to go at it. Charles Robinson then kicked Big E, Kingston and Jimmy out. Quick match ending with Woods winning with an elbow drop off the top rope onto Jey, who was draped over the middle rope. Shane was on the phone with Bryan. Naomi came and asked who she was defending the title against next. Charlotte came out and said it better not be Lana again. Lynch came out and said it should be her. Natalya, Tamina and Lana came out. Shane announced the five-way and the winner gets the SummerSlam shot. Charlotte couldn’t understand why Lana is in the match. Lana said nothing but Tamina rushed to her defense. Natalya said that all Charlotte does is ride on her families coattails. After everyone left, Carmella came out with a letter from her attorney for Shane to pull the suspension on Ellsworth. Shane read the letter and then ripped it up. Renee Young interviewed Corbin, who had little to say. Nakamura vs. Corbin was the advertised TV main event, but it never got started. Nakamura attacked Corbin as eh was coming to the ring. Corbin threw Nakamura over the barricade and into the crowd. Whenever they do that and the announcers say he threw him into the universe, think they must have somehow escaped the Earth’s gravitational pull and are brawling in some faraway solar system. It’s the most awkward thing in the world that Vince has created a language that only he and his employees speak. They ended up doing a pull-apart brawl. Cena and Styles were backstage. Styles said he knew Cena would be the first guy out. Styles said he hasn’t forgotten about their last match. Styles said he was going to hold the U.S. title for a long time and that will make him the best. They teased doing a match later on. Natalya & Tamina beat Lynch & Charlotte in 8:44. It was mostly Lynch selling. Charlotte hot tagged in for the finish. Lana came out and jumped on the apron. Charlotte went after her, and with Charlotte’s back turned Natalya tagged Tamina. Natalya then sold being dead and Charlotte went for the figure four, but Tamina, who was legal, superkicked Charlotte and pinned her. Maria was backstage and knocked on the men’s dressing room door. Gable came out. Maria said she wanted to talk to Zayn because he owes her an apology. Gable said that Zayn wasn’t there but he’d pass the word. Mike & Maria were backstage when Zayn showed up. Maria wanted an apology. Zayn said that he’s already apologized twice and is getting sick of apologizing, and at this point he’s not even sure why he’s apologizing. He then asked Mike if he even competes here and what is he doing here. Then he said, he’s got it figured out, he’s the lover and she’s the fighter. She slapped him and he broke a glass vase with flowers over the back of his head. Next was a skit where Breeze & Fandango were spoofing “Walker: Texas Ranger” calling it “Sexy Fashion Rangers.” Fandango was on a stick horse. He approached Ryder. Breeze was supposed to lasso Ryder to capture him. But Breeze ended up with the rope of truth around him. Rawley then showed up thinking this was all weird. Fandango & Breeze said it was the day Ryder returned when somebody trashed their office and jumped him. Rawley said they didn’t even have time for that and they wouldn’t do such a low-class thing. Ryder then asked why Rawley threw him out last week in the Battle Royal. Rawley acted annoyed saying that a Battle Royal is everyone for themselves. While all this was going on, Fandango’s stick horse was stolen even though they were all within a few feet of it. So next week they are doing an X Files spoof because the only thing they could come up with was that it was Ghost Aliens who stole the stick horse. By the way, for what it’s worth, the stick horse was named Tully (you know, one of the Four Horsemen). Cena & Styles beat Owens & Rusev in the main event in 13:24. The finish saw Styles hit Owens with the Pele kick and Cena then used the Attitude Adjustment on Owens for the pin. 205 Live opened with O’Neil on the phone to Tozawa. O’Neil was giving Tozawa a pep talk when Daivari walked in to confront him. Daivari hung up on O’Neil and said that his management was two steps behind and that unlike in Japan, the main martial art in Iran in wrestling for thousands of years. He asked Tozawa if he hade any honor. Tozawa told hi to never question his honor. Tozawa beat Daivari via DQ in 2:18 when Neville interfered. Neville threw Tozawa into the barricade, put the boots to him and put him in the Rings of Saturn. Tozawa wouldn’t tap and eventually Neville let go. So that program is continuing. Gulak did another of his political TV commercial interviews. He said that two weeks ago he had an indiscretion, a lapse of judgment that doesn’t affect his character. He said he caved into peer pressure and had a moment of weakness. He dove like a common showoff. He apologized for lowering himself to that level of conduct. He challenged Mustafa Ali for the future of the cruiserweight division, and said he represented ground based family friendly wrestling against a flying showboat and wanted a 2/3 fall match, which it was later announced for next week’s show. Swann pinned Mario Connors with the Phoenix splash in 3:49. TJP came out during the match. Connors was a good worker, including doing a great tornado DDT. TJP then came to Swann, and he was clearly a heel here, asking if he was happy with his performance. TJP said he expected more from a guy who beat him last week, and said he could beat the guy in half the time. Connors was still selling during all of this. TJP then offered Connors a match with him and asked for 3:49 to be put ont he clock and told Swann that either this guy is tougher than he looks or Swann needs to step up his game. TJP then pinned Connors with a detonation kick in :28. Kendrick came out to Gallagher’s music and dressed up like Gallagher in a suit with a wig and fake mustache. He said Gallagher was a clown, a fraud and a third-rate Regal. Gallagher came out and was mad that Kendrick questioned his work ethic. He said he’s been fighting since he was 16 and he’s a first-rate Jack Gallagher, that he can back it up and if Kendrick questions his dedication, he’ll knock his head off. Gallagher threw a punch and they two went at it. Kendrick got to the umbrella and hit Gallagher four times with Kendrick’s umbrella, which was bent to hell. Then he grabbed Gallagher’s umbrella and hit him 12 more times. So those two are likely having a match next week or the week after. Alexander beat Dar in 11:00 in the I Quit match. This was a good match and the crowd was into it. After all the months of feuding, this did come off like the blow-off match. Dar tried to put Alexander’s fingers into the turnbuckle, but Alexander reversed, put Dar’s fingers in the metal turnbuckle and started bending them. Dar wouldn’t submit. Dar was working on Alexander’s left knee after Alexander tried a moonsault off the apron to the floor and Dar moved, and Alexander landed on his feet. Dar ripped at the nose and used half crab. Alexander used a downward spiral on the ramp and a running flip dive. Dar then threw Alexander into the ring frame and over the announcers table. Alexander then dove off the announcers table with a clothesline onto Dar on the floor. The finish saw Alexander put Dar’s arm in a chair and went to Pillmanize the arm. He told Dar to quit and Dar refused. He stomped on the chair and told him to quit again. He refused again. Alexander then stomped over and over without stopping until Dar finally quit. The finish was almost heelish. Dar then broke up with Fox. Basically he did the exact speech Fox gave him when she broke up with him, saying to think he was into her she’d have to be as stupid as she looked. He said he was a world class athlete who signed with WWE at 22 years old and is now 23, the youngest wrestler on 205 Live and the youngest wrestler on Raw. He said she must realize he’s got women in every continent and every city and could get any woman in the arena right now. Fox for her part was crying through all of this. He said she was more trouble than she was worth and she was crying. This segment was really strong. The post-show main event saw Nakamura pin Corbin after the Kinshasa

Notes from the 7/5 NXT TV show. The entire show was built around Bobby Roode vs. Roderick Strong for the title. They had a really good story telling type of match. They kept going over-and-over to crowd shots of Marina Shafir, Strong’s fiancé and mother of his son. She was great in the front row, sitting with Strong’s mother, yelling and being in tears at the twists and turns of the match. They showed her so much that it looks like they have to continue the angle and that in some form she’s going to play a big part in it going forward. The only other match was also an angle for the next Takeover to build up Hideo Itami vs. Kassius Ohno. Sanity, of Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain (no Eric Young, whose mother just passed away from cancer) beat Ohno & Itami in 6:58. The crowd was dead. Itami was getting beaten on. Wolfe and Ohno were arguing on the floor and when Itami reached the corner, Ohno wasn’t there. The idea is clearly Ohno as the babyface, but Nigel McGuinness pushed that Ohno was the one at fault for not being in the corner. Later, when Ohno was in the corner and wanting a tag, Itami wouldn’t tag him in. Itami made his own comeback, hit the busaiku knee (that Daniel Bryan took from him and made his finisher) and hit the GTS on Wolfe. But Dain had tagged in with Itami unaware, and he ran through Itami and pinned him. They told their story well throughout the match but the lack of crowd reaction made it feel kind of dead. Ember Moon did a taped interview saying she’s taken advantage of her time off to study Asuka. Ruby Riot then interjected and said that Moon had her shot at Asuka and Nikki Cross had her shot, so she deserves the next one-on-one-shot. Moon said she’d face anyone who wants to get in the way of her shot at Asuka. Drew McIntyre did an interview talking about the Roode vs. Strong match, saying the next time he talks, it’ll be about his title shot. He mentioned Rollins, Owens, Joe, Nakamura and Balor as former NXT champions and said he wants his name on that same lineage. They showed a clip of Tommaso Ciampa turning on Johnny Gargano. Gargano was announced as returning next week. As noted before, the idea was Ciampa vs. Gargano at the Brooklyn Takeover show but with Ciampa getting knee surgery, he’s not scheduled back until early 2018, so they need to give Gargano a new story. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce were doing an interview. It was just a time filler with Kay complaining that it was her birthday, nobody gave her any presents except Royce or a cake. In the background, there was a bunch of yelling and screaming. Kay & Royce left and interviewer Kayla tried to find out the commotion. It was Thea Trinidad yelling at Andrade Cien Almas in Spanish. Both were yelling at each other and it came across as a mock of the Alberto/Paige situation. She stormed off and Almas just said she’s crazy in Spanish. They showed all the angles leading to Strong vs. Roode. Strong said that Roode had more suits than him, had more money than him and is more famous than him, saying the latter was because of his entrance music. Roode said that Strong had been living a fairy tale the last few weeks and now he’ll face reality. The match was very good. It was very different from the type of good match Strong was having before as it was much slower, but everything meant more in theory. The problem once again was the crowd, as they really didn’t react big until 16:30 into the match when Strong kicked out of a Glorious DDT. From there, they were with it. They kept showing Shafir and Strong’s mom over and over for reactions, and Shafir’s reactions and the emotion really made up for the lack of such in the crowd as a whole. Roode worked over the left knee after running the ring steps into it. Mauro Ranallo was also calling the match like it was a classic, which also helped the television atmosphere. Strong came back with several different variants of the backbreaker. The next key spot was Strong doing a suplex into a backbreaker, but Roode got his foot under the plane of the ropes which the ref saw after counting three. Strong had through he won and rushed to his girlfriend to celebrate hugging her. The ref told him the match had to continue. Roode knocked him off the apron into the barricade and hit the Glorious DDT on the floor right in front of her. She was screaming at him and calling him a cheater (it came off too much like a 70s fan using the word cheater since fans accept that cheating is acceptable in pro wrestling). He hit another Glorious DDT in the ring and got the pin in 19:54. I’d go ***3/4, unless you give bonus points for the announcing and the girlfriend at ringside because I could see **** as an overall presentation, and even more if it was another crowd. Still, this was better than anything on the PPV and they showed Shafir again after the match. Usually when family is put into the feud and then the face loses clean with family honor at stake, it’s death for a face, but this was done so well that you came across wanting to see a rematch even after the pin

The NXT weekend tour opened on 7/6 in Lakeland before 350 fans. Some notes from the weekend shows are that Lars Sullivan has gotten over as a babyface even though playing the throwback heel powerhouse role. Velveteen Dream is doing one of the most impressive elbows off the top recent memory. He also hit the ceiling with his elbow drop in one of the buildings recently. Strong pinned Adrian Jaoude in a physical match. Lacey Evans beat Taynara Conti in a match to get them ready for the women’s tournament, using an armbar submission. They beat the judo girl via armbar submission. Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy

with Ford using a frog splash for the finish. Lars Sullivan pinned Marcel Barthel with a slam. Aleister Black pinned Kona Reeves with black mass. Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight beat Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler with the double-team slam. Bianca BelAir pinned Liv Morgan with a spear. Drew McIntyre & No Way Jose beat Dan Matha & Velveteen Dream when McIntyre pinned Matha with the Claymore kick.. . The 7/7 show in Jacksonville had a weak lineup by usual standards but drew a sellout of 400 fans, which is above the usual for the market. No Way Jose pinned Cezar Bononi. Sonya Deville beat Julia Ho. Lars Sullivan beat Demetrious Bronson. Sullivan, who they have big hopes for, kept destroying Bronson with slam after slam after them match. Raul Mendoza pinned Fabian Aichner. Chad Lail, who was Gunner in TNA and is now going by his real name, issued an open challenge to anyone for when they come to nearby St. Augustine next week. Velveteen Dream pinned Buddy Murphy. It’s really amazing how there are so many guys in the system that a guy like Murphy who is a good worker with a good look, but for whatever reason, is hardly getting any ring time now. Sullivan came out after and destroyed Murphy. The crowd cheered Sullivan big for this even though Murphy was presented as the babyface. He’s got that Strowman thing going on where people see him as a monster and get a kick out of him killing people. Mandy Rose & Vanessa Bourne (Daniella Kamela, taking the name of a country music singer) beat Sarah Logan & Ashley Laith (Kimberly Frankele). Itami pinned Marcel Barthel. Main event saw The Street Prophets, Dawkins & Ford, beat Blake & Cutler

The final weekend NXT show was 7/8 in Largo, FL, before a full house of 350. Big Boa, a 6-foot-4 trainee out of China, made his debut in a tag match, teaming with Jose to beat Cutler & Blake with Jose doing his wind-up punch for the win. Sullivan, who is getting over at the local shows, beat Nick Miller with a gut wrench. Shane Thorne, recovering from knee surgery, was in Miller’s corner. Billie Kay & Mandy Rose & Deville & Bourne beat Logan & Taynara Conti & Liv Morgan & Aliyah. Itami pinned Barthel with the GTS. McIntyre pinned Dan Matha with the Claymore kick. Matha is even bigger than McIntyre and they worked a back-and-forth match. Sage Beckett pinned Abbey Laith with the black hole slam. Heavy Machinery (Dozovic & Knight) beat the Ealy Twins with their double-team slam. Main event saw Strong beat Almas in a great main event. .. The Raw crew, with two Smackdown matches, opened on 7/7 in Madison Square Garden before 10,000 fans. 7/8 in Waco, TX drew 3,500

The Smackdown crew opened on 7/8 in Corpus Christi before 2,500. 7/9 in Hidalgo, TX, drew 4,000. Hidalgo has been the company’s best small market city for years and this would be the smallest crowd I can ever recall in the last decade. They ran 7/10 in Laredo, TX, but we didn’t get an attendance for that show. The Smackdown crew ran this weekend without Orton (doing a movie) and Cena (doing a very lucrative speaking tour of Australia), and with Styles having won the U.S. title and defending it, they went with Zayn over Nakamura to put over Mahal in the main event

In Waco, for whatever reason, they put the main event on first as Reigns pinned Wyatt in 15:25 with a spear. R-Truth & O’Neil (now a babyface) & Crews beat Goldust & Dallas & Hawkins in 6:52 when Crews pinned Hawkins with his version of a power bomb after R-Truth chased Goldust to the back. Neville pinned Alexander in 8:18 with his feet on he ropes. Alexander looked great and even did a space flying tiger drop, a move that you don’t see often in WWE let alone at a house show. They did a four-way for the tag titles with Sheamus & Cesaro over the Hardys, Slater & Rhyno and Anderson & Gallows in 11:12 when Cesaro pinned Slater after a schoolboy. Bayley & Banks & James beat Bliss & Jax & Emma in 10:03 when Banks used the bank statement on Bliss. Balor pinned Samson in 8:45 with the coup de gras. The show ended with Ambrose & Rollins beating Joe & Miz in 16:37 when Ambrose pinned Miz after Dirty Deeds

For Corpus Christi, they opened with the Nakamura pinning Ziggler with the Kinshasa in a good opener. Rusev beat Sin Cara in a short match with the Accolade. Jordan & Gable beat Epico & English when Grand Amplitude on English. Mahal beat Zayn to retain te WWE title with the Khallas after interference from the Singh Brothers. Zayn laid out one of the Singhs after with the helluva kick. Match said to be really good, with a lot of high risk moves by Zayn. Naomi & Charlotte & Lynch beat Carmella & Natalya & Tamina when Naomi pinned Tamina with the rear view. Naomi got a huge reaction and her merch was selling. Usos retained in a three-way over Big E & Woods and Rawley & Ryder when Ryder was pinned. Main event saw Styles retaining the U.S. title over Owens and Corbin when he used the forearm on Corbin for the pin. The match felt rushed. Owens attacked Styles after the match, only to be laid out with the Styles clash

Hidalgo the next night was the same show. The only difference is the New Day team was Kingston & Big E. Sin Cara was really over, as he always is in Hidalgo and Laredo. The original Sin Cara would be super over previously. English got good heat live from his singing and Jordan & Gable were surprisingly over. Mahal vs. Zayn was once again a good match with all the high flying moves from Zayn and Mahal worked hard and got good heat. Naomi was also over big here. The three-way was the best match on the show with Styles coming across as the star of the show

Laredo was the same show.