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July 31, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Status of rights fees, WWE Battleground review, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 July 31, 2017

 

WWE BATTLEGROUND POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 5 (01.7%)

Thumbs down 256 (85.3%)

In the middle 39 (13.0%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Woods & Kingston vs. Usos 229

Kevin Owens vs. A.J. Styles 28

Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton 12

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton 151

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin 76

John Cena vs. Rusev 22

Women’s elimination match 13

Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis 10

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 7/25.

 

From a business standpoint, the most important long-term news story for both WWE and UFC is the status of rights fees for television programming when the current contracts expire.

There has been tremendous speculation, with the decline in viewership of cable television, decreased ratings for both groups and the sports networks having long-term big contracts with the major players like the NFL, NBA, Baseball, Hockey, the major college sports and NASCAR, and signs that revenue growth for television is slowing down.

Over the past week, there has become speculation of new players competing with television, such as Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Verizon. Thus far, none of those companies have become true competition in bidding against television, but there was talk this past week of Facebook perhaps being a player who could lead to a bidding war that would increase the value of the WWE U.S. contract.

Times are changing and nobody really knows the landscape. Most of the key sports rights are tied up for years to come, with perhaps the two most significant contracts in the U.S. being the UFC deal with FOX, which expires at the end of 2018, and the WWE deal with NBC Universal, and really the USA Network, which expires in September 2019.

Currently, by contract, there is a three-month window that ends 10/1 where FOX has exclusive negotiating rights for a new UFC deal. In October, UFC can start shopping around to everyone with a new deal.

The television contract is key to both UFC and WWE. While UFC derived far more revenue from PPV than television in 2016, that is very unusual in sports and that was a freaky year for PPV, and one that needs multiple major drawing cards active at the same time to pull off. WWE had banked on the WWE Network, which is a success, but not at nearly the level those internally had predicted by this time, so it is television that is by far the key profit margin item in the company’s ledger.

It was these television rights negotiations that was the key in the bidding getting up to $4 billion in the UFC purchase. And remember that WME IMG was not the only bidder in that range at the time. In hindsight, looking at how business, and most importantly, television ratings, have fallen for UFC since one year ago when the sale went through, that Lorenzo Fertitta picked the perfect time to sell and that he knew it was propped up by Conor McGregor, who was getting more and more difficult to deal with, and Ronda Rousey, who even then it was figured was on her way out, and with nobody upcoming that could fill their shoes.

For most of 2016, the narrative was how WWE had been significantly declining in ratings, while UFC was having a great year. And if the TV talks for UFC took place last year, it would feel like a growth business with momentum. Now, this is the worst time for UFC to begin talks, although a lot depends on what happens with McGregor in the fallout of the Mayweather fight. Even though in MMA, every fighter is short-term, a star like that generates incredible revenue and if he comes out of the fight with his star power stronger in some form and comes back, he’d at least be able to carry the PPV end and as last year showed, a rising tide on the big shows helps the entire product.

UFC is getting somewhere in the range of $120 million annually in U.S. television rights. When WME IMG purchased the company, the key, in their eyes, was that the company was immensely profitable with TV revenue in that range, and figured that the new deal in 2019 would be way up, meaning a huge increase in profitability to where the debt it took to purchase the company made economic sense.

Ari Emmanuel had talked about a new television deal for $400 million a year, and if they get that deal, then the purchase price, if anything, would be undervalued. But privately, even before the current fall in ratings, those in the company were thinking $250 million was a more reasonable expectation. Most in the TV industry felt the $400 million figure was hard to justify, but at the time of the sale, UFC was riding high. But one person at WME IMG had told us even when riding high that $250 million was the real goal and nobody truly expected $400 million. The point is at $250 million, if $130 million is added to current revenue and most of that ends up as profit, that can carry the interest on the debt.

For wrestling fans and business aficionados, the UFC talks over the next year will likely give a view of the landscape for WWE. WWE’s numbers in recent weeks have gotten better, with the return of John Cena, more long-term weekly advancing soap opera storylines that tend to build the audience and being in the sports gap after the end of the college and pro basketball playoffs and before the start of the NFL. So it’s not the weekly double-digit drops from the prior year which was the case for most of 2017. But the key to ratings as it pertains to negotiations is more where things stand next year than this year, just as the key to UFC talks would be ratings over the next several months.

On the flip side, even with the low ratings, there are those who believe that should McGregor continue to fight after the Floyd Mayweather fight, that his star power will be greater than ever because of all the exposure he’s expected to get over the next month.

Both suffer from stigmas where major companies don’t want to be involved with them. WWE has gotten its negative stigma softened to a degree, but even so, it’s rights fees and ad rates as compared to the audience it delivers are astoundingly low due to the perception that remains.

UFC isn’t as bad, but Ford Motor Company, for example, which advertises heavily on Fox Sports, will not advertise during UFC programming.

A story in the Hollywood Reporter this past week on UFC’s television situation, noted that 34 percent of the prime time hours on FS 1 and 24 percent on FS 2 was UFC programming, and that would be a major amount of time needed to be filled on both stations if FOX doesn’t renew the deal. And it should be noted that 2016 was the company’s best year for ratings since signing the deal with FOX, before the recent big drops.

That story said that Fight Pass, the streaming service, is an area of concern to FOX, although I don’t really know why, as Fight Pass only airs prelim fights on most shows, and the occasional live event, which are usually shows in Europe or Asia in bad time slots for the U.S. audience to begin with. There are also the questions regarding the biggest stars and biggest fights on PPV.

There are a lot of ways UFC can go with the experience of watching the successes and mistakes of the WWE Network.

The biggest fights with McGregor, and hopefully others, are likely to remain on PPV for a long time to come. There is no other way come close to the current level of big show revenue, not through a streaming low-cost monthly service (which is a business disaster for a big show), or the current level of TV rights fees, to come even close to the type of revenue generated for a 1 million buy show.

However, if the last UFC PPV show did 130,000 buys, as estimated, that’s around $4.5 million in company revenue. If Fight Pass subscriptions could increase by 500,000 or more from current levels, a big if, those type of shows may be better served as part of the streaming package. Or if the television deal guarantees them $5 million or more for that level of show, and pays for production, now those shows would have far more exposure and less risk. Of course, the 130,000 number is unusually low, and most of the shows this year have been between 200,000 and 300,000 buys even without one major marquee main event this year.

A major key when it comes to UFC is the status of ESPN. It was very clear, both based on ESPN coverage of big shows, and the status of ESPN as the sports leader, that UFC had hoped ESPN would get in the game. But with ESPN making cutbacks, and being on the hook for years when it comes to both the NFL and NBA deals, that ESPN may not have interest.

UFC either could have used ESPN to up its price, whether to go there or stay with FOX, or make deals like with other sports where they are on both networks.

The Hollywood Reporter story said that ESPN is instead looking at a boxing deal with Top Rank, as ESPN just aired Manny Pacquiao’s recent fight with Jeff Horn. It also stated that CBS Sports is unlikely to have interest in UFC. CBS was the first network to air MMA in prime time, but hasn’t done so in years. The CBS Sports Network is not nearly the priority that FS 1 is, doesn’t have the penetration or audience, and thus isn’t likely interested in the type of money it would take to land UFC. They stated that Turner and NBC Sports Network (which aired World Series of Fighting and now airs Professional Fight League) may have interest.

The story said that UFC is in talks with Amazon, Facebook and Verizon. Amazon did pay the NFL $50 million to simulcast ten Thursday night games that were already on either CBS or NBC, but that’s still tiny compared to what television was paying for those games.


After a Battleground show that got as bad a reaction as any WWE PPV show in recent memory, WWE’s next major step is SummerSlam on 8/20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The main event for that show is now official as Brock Lesnar defending his Universal title in a four-way against Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns. That is a change from the planned Lesnar vs. Reigns bout and probable title change. The four-way, in this case, opens up more possibilities and really depends on what are the plans for WrestleMania. If Reigns vs. John Cena is the plan, and it was at one point, Reigns doesn’t have to win now as any of the other three could win and still drop it to Reigns anytime between now and Royal Rumble. With Lesnar, if there is any chance he’ll be facing Jon Jones, or anyone else, at the December UFC PPV show, then this is probably the opportune time to make the change.

The negative is that ever since Lesnar beat Undertaker, they had been saving the big climactic Lesnar loss (as opposed to the quick loss to Bill Goldberg that was there to be avenged) for a climactic singles match with Reigns at a WrestleMania. This has been the plan for years, and doing that in anything less than a heavily promoted singles match makes the payoff weak for the Lesnar big win and several year storyline of who will be the guy who finally beats Lesnar clean for good. It doesn’t have to happen now, but it would be best to happen soon. While some on the UFC end believe Lesnar vs. Jones is earmarked for December as a way to get another huge PPV show (after Mayweather-McGregor, which UFC does get a cut of) on the books for this year, those close to the situation on the Lesnar/WWE side believe if there is such a fight, and it’s not a lock until it’s announced, that it wouldn’t be until 2018. An ESPN story this week pegged the fight as not happening until after April, when Lesnar’s WWE deal expires. But a ton can happen between now and then regarding Jones.

On the Smackdown side, the WWE title match will be Jinder Mahal against the winner of the 8/1 Smackdown match from Cleveland between Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. They are already pushing the idea of Cena breaking the mythical record of 16 title reigns of Ric Flair (even though Flair has no less than 18 and one can argue as many as 22) if he can get the shot. Having the first Cena vs. Nakamura match on Smackdown with a one week build feels like the waste of what could be a major match, but at least it’s there for a reason to build a title match instead of just thrown out with no build and no reason.

As far as other directions go, announced would be Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley for the Raw women’s title and Naomi vs. Natalya for the Smackdown version. Bayley beat Sasha Banks on the 7/24 Raw show to get the title shot. It felt like the start of a Banks heel turn, which had been talked about since early in the year and was originally planned for the spring. Since Bliss already beat Bayley twice in matches that did a real number on Bayley’s popularity and perception, her losing again makes no sense, especially Banks was clearly the hotter act of the two, and they did that gimmicked finish for Banks winning via count out at the last PPV to build for a rematch. When Lesnar vs. Reigns was scheduled to headline here, the women were set for a four-way at SummerSlam. But I guess with the men having a four-way, they didn’t want to do that for the same brand among the women. Natalya was a surprise winner, pinning Charlotte to win the elimination match at Battleground to get the shot. It still feels like Charlotte is positioned as the brand’s top star, although not nearly as clearly as it was when she moved over. Really, the entire booking of the Smackdown women has been strange of late.

Various other bouts have been teased including Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose for the Raw tag titles, Hardys vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs. The Revival (or this could wind up in a four or five way tag title match), Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt, Big Cass vs. Big Show, something with the U.S. title with A.J. Styles, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens in the picture (although they already did the three-way on Smackdown this week), Neville vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Ariya Daivari for the cruiserweight title, New Day vs. Usos for the Raw tag title and we’ll see what happens in the angle next week with Miz and Jason Jordan, since there’s nothing teased for the IC title just yet.

The U.S. title situation was the subject of a lot of discussion in recent days, notably the finish of the 7/23 Battleground main event where Owens regained the title from Styles.

The finish looked anti-climactic. Styles used a crossface and Owens cradled him for the pin. The ref, at least to me, seemed to count to two and then hit the mat the third time like he didn’t think he was supposed to, but Styles didn’t get his shoulder up.

What we do know is this. Those who needed to know these things in the company were given a finish where Styles would retain the title. When he didn’t, there was a ton of commotion backstage regarding the finish not happening the way it should have and that Owens was not supposed to win.

The belief is that Styles didn’t get his shoulder up on time, and the ref counted it as a shoot, as refs are instructed to do. But it’s hard to believe that after so long in wrestling, and so many big matches, and so many near falls, that Styles would make that kind of a mistake because he’s a pro and these mistakes virtually never happen. It is possible, and he was apparently backstage acting like he did. And they did put the title right back on him two nights later at television, which would seem to indicate the title change wasn’t supposed to happen the way it did and they immediately moved things back to plans. And they had in recent weeks been teasing the idea of both Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura coming after Styles’ title, not Mahal’s title. That would seem to indicate a lapse, but given the time and place, the odds of that are so slim. But if Styles messed up on the count, he’d have kicked out at what he thought was two and he didn’t do that either. The finish was flat, and came across like it wasn’t the finish, but WWE does that a lot with finishes where the heel goes over. It could be a situation where nobody but the wrestlers were clued in and to create a storyline since nobody else would know, and people would see through a smooth finish in that situation. That seems like a lot of work to go through to result in what should have been the highlight match on the show coming off as a disappointment with a flat ending.

Still, the TV two nights later in Richmond, VA, also featured the surprise return of Chris Jericho added to the title match. For the TV storyline, it would make more sense for Jericho to return after Owens as champion, although he still could come after Styles and claim he never got his rematch from after Owens beat him since they did an injury angle.

Jericho had worked for WWE a few weeks ago on the Japan tour. Fozzy does have a European tour from 10/27 to 11/18 and I’d heard of a Sacramento date just before that, and has a 7/28 concert date as part of an 80s style show honoring David Z at the Irvine Plaza in New York. At press time, he was not listed for any upcoming WWE shows. It is strange to get the big entrance return in a hot match, and in the first match back, be the one who loses and give the impression he’s back rather than it being a one-time thing.

Styles was a -4950 favorite with the heavy smart money coming in over the last hour before the show, as opposed to the Thursday before like at Great Balls of Fire. Most of the odds were going back-and-forth all week, showing that they were trying to keep winners under wrap for longer than usual, as smart money hadn’t come in even as late as Sunday afternoon. Almost all the matches had the major movement between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Eastern. Significant key money came in over that hour for Mahal, New Day, Styles, Natalya, Nakamura, Sami Zayn and Aiden English. Noteworthy is that even though Cena was a heavy favorite over Rusev all along, there was not a last hour betting rush on him and he ended up at -400, still a significant favorite, but there was late betting on Rusev.

Battleground drew 12,500 fans, a few thousand shy of sellout, on 7/23 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. As noted last week, for the last two weeks they had significantly discounted tickets because the advance was weaker than expected. Still, that isn’t a bad crowd for a Smackdown brand PPV show.

As far as the show itself went, the less said the better. The main event, the Punjabi Prison match with Mahal and Randy Orton was built around keeping outside interference away, and it ended up featuring tons of outside interference. The match went forever, and had little heat. It was the worst WWE PPV main event in recent memory, partially because the structure and rules aren’t conducive to a good match and partially due to length.

The match ended up with Orton destroying the Singh Brothers and having Mahal beat, when Great Khali came out and climbed up the cage from the outside and was choking Orton with one hand through the cage. This allowed Mahal to escape the cage to win.

Khali was kept secret and away from everyone. It wasn’t a secret that Mahal was winning, but the Khali interference was not well known. Khali wasn’t at television after, nor is he advertised at this point for any shows going forward. The one thing is that Khali is a legitimate well-known star in India. Since business growth in India is the big goal right now, even as limited as Khali is, using him makes all the sense in the world. Plus him being with Mahal, even in a limited capacity, may help get Mahal over to a higher level and be the modern Indian superstar the company is trying so hard to make.

Another reason for the lack of reaction is that fans in the building were told that the Royal Rumble was coming to the Wells Fargo Center on 1/28, and tickets would go on sale at 10:45 p.m. in the building. So after the Cena vs. Rusev match, a lot of fans left to buy tickets and the line was long enough that many missed much of the main event.

1. Aiden English pinned Tye Dillinger in 9:40. English was singing before the match. Dillinger got a big reaction coming out, but once the match started, they didn’t care as all the shine has been beaten off him from his TV portrayal. The match was a typical pre-show bout but didn’t have a lot of interest. English came off the top with a crossbody and Dillinger rolled through for a near fall. The finish saw them trade near falls until English won clean with a full nelson into a flapjack. Nobody expected that to be the finish. *1/2

2. Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods won the Raw tag titles over the Usos in 13:45. JBL tried to push that these were the two best tag teams in the world over the last ten years. Jimmy worked wearing a sweat shirt which is unusual, but it did allow you to tell them apart.; Kingston did a Nestea plunge dive off the top rope backwards onto the Usos. They caught him in mid-air and power bombed him on the floor. That took him out of action for several minutes and Woods worked by himself. Woods did a cool looking reverse wheelbarrow for an ear fall. Woods went for a ropewalk elbow drop but as he came off the ropes, Jimmy superkicked him. Kingston came back and ran wild. Kingston kicked out of Jey’s splash off the top rope which got a big pop. Kingston hit the trouble in paradise on Jimmy and then Woods used the ropewalk elbow drop three-quarters of the way across the ring onto Jimmy for the pin. This ended up as the best match on the show. ***½

3. Shinsuke Nakamura beat Baron Corbin via DQ in 12:29. The fans were really behind Nakamura. JBL talked about how Nakamura beat “Goto” to win the IWGP title in 2002. Actually, his first title win was over Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 2003. Corbin did a long bearhug. The match was disappointing, to say the least. Fans were chanting “Corbin sucks” and he yelled back at them and went back to another long bearhug. He went for a choke slam and Nakamura did something and he dropped it. Nakamura made a comeback. He went for a Kinshasa but Corbin used the Deep Six for a near fall. Nakamura used a backstabber and spin kick, and followed with an ax kick. Corbin then kicked him low for a DQ. The ending sucked. After the match, Corbin hit Nakamura in the gut with his briefcase and laid him out with the End of Days. *1/2

4. Natalya won the five-woman elimination match for the top contender position over Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Tamina and Lana in 10:54. The first fall wasn’t until 8:06 and then they went and eliminated everyone. Charlotte got the biggest pop coming out. Lana actually got a pop for her entrance, but nobody cared about her once the match started. Charlotte, Lynch and Natalya worked well together. At one point Natalya got the sharpshooter on Charlotte, and Lana made the save. How does that make any sense at all? Tamina and Lana were saving each other during the match but at least the storyline is that they have this weird not-as-yet-explained bond. Lynch made Tamina submit to the disarmer in 8:06, and in this case in the unique storyline, Lana didn’t save Tamina. Lynch then made Lana submit to the disarmer in 8:25. Natalya then pinned Lynch with a schoolboy and holding the trunks at 8:38. Charlotte and Natalya worked well for the last two plus minutes, which were the highlight of the match. They traded near falls. Charlotte went for the moonsault and Natalya got her knees up. Natalya then used a small package, which wound up with Charlotte’s head hitting the bottom turnbuckle, and Natalya pinned her. Nobody thought that was the finish. Naomi then came into the ring with her belt and went for a handshake, but Natalya walked out on her and left the ring. **½

5. Kevin Owens pinned A.J. Styles in 17:45 to win the U.S. title. This was a good match, but nowhere close to their match last month or the usual Styles match. The crowd wasn’t that into it early. I was told that the previous two matches had taken the crowd down. Owens looked like he had a bloody nose. Styles went for a springboard 450, but Owens got his knees up. Owens worked on the shoulder. Styles hit a desperation Pele kick, and went for the Styles clash, but his shoulder went out. Owens threw Styles into the ref. Owens hit a superkick with the ref down. He went for his pop up power bomb, but Styles turned it into the calf crusher. Owens reversed it into a crossface. Styles reversed it into a crossface of his own and the ref then counted the pin. ***1/4

6. John Cena beat Rusev in 21:02 in the flag match. The inherent problem here is that in a match where there are no pins and no submissions, and the goal is to take the flag from your corner and stake it near the entrance, you really can’t go very long. How many times can you get the flag and then walk slowly without exposing the fact you should be running with the flag and make the other guy chase you if staking it is the goal. The crowd was dead early. The first part of the match was both trying to climb the pole and get their flag. They worked hard and probably would have had a real good match if not hampered by the gimmick. Rusev power bombed Cena and then climbed up and got his flag. Cena knocked the flag away from him. Rusev missed a charge and went shoulder first into the post. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment. Cena put the STF on for a long time and got his flag, but Rusev then superkicked him. Both would get their flag and walk instead of run, so the other could stop them. Cena threw Rusev into the LED wall. Cena climbed up the steps of his structure to put the flag in but Rusev caught him and gave him a fall away slam. Rusev put two tables next to each other near the American structure. Rusev teased giving Cena an Attitude Adjustment off his podium through the tables but Cena escaped and got his flag. Rusev hit Cena with his stand but that didn’t look good. Rusev used an accolade on the ramp and got his flag. He was about to stake it when Cena stopped him. Cena tried an Attitude Adjustment on the stand, but Rusev escaped and superkicked him. He put on the Accolade again, but this time Cena stood up and powered out. Cena climbed up the podium and then dumped Rusev through the two tables and put his flag in to win. ***

Next, the Tyler Breeze & Fandango segment to discover who has been attacking them, trashing their office and who stole their stick horse ended up with nothing. The Ascension came out and admitted it was them all along. Keep in mind last month it was The Ascension who then said they lied and just were looking for a match on the PPV. Fandango then noted that the last incident where the horse was stolen that they weren’t even on that show, as they were at an Eddie Money concert. The Ascension insisted they did it. Fandango then showed them the head of Tully the stick horse and they were all grossed out, exposing that they were lying again not the perpetrators. The lights then went out and Breeze was shown knocked out. Then Fandango was also attacked from behind and then camera man was also knocked out. Fandango was then dragged away by an unknown assailant.

7. Sami Zayn pinned Mike Kanellis in 7:16. Not much to this, although it was decent enough. Maria distracted Zayn and Mike punched him. Mike and Maria kissed in the middle of the match. Zayn did a running flip dive as well as a crossbody for a near fall. Zayn surprisingly won clean with an exploder into the turnbuckles and the helluva kick. It seemed early to have him lose in this kind of a manner. **

8. Jinder Mahal beat Randy Orton in 27:37 in the Punjabi Prison match. The rules were that they started in one cage in the ring, which had four doors. When one signaled for the door to be opened, they would have one minute to get through the door, or the door was locked for good. The Singh Brothers came out to hide under the ring before the cage structure was put up. Most fans didn’t see them, but a lot did, so word got around to many that they were there ready to interfere. The first three doors were opened but they would stop each other from escaping. Orton suplexed Mahal into the bamboo a couple of times. With three doors locked, Orton powerslammed him and hit a draping DDT. Mahal came back and went for his Kallas, but Orton reversed into an RKO. He ordered the final door to open but the Singh Brothers came from under the ring and stopped Orton from escaping and pulled Mahal out the door before it was locked. Orton then climbed over the cage, and because the two cages were close together, him climbing over put him high on the second cage and he could have climbed out. They fought while climbing the second cage. Orton rammed Mahal’s head into the bamboo and he took a big bump. Orton gave one of the Singh Brothers a suplex on the floor. Mahal was about to climb out but Orton climbed up and stopped him. Orton suplexed another Singh on the floor. He was destroying both brothers when Mahal hit him with a kendo stick. He destroyed one stick on him and then got another kendo stick and kept beating on Orton. Samir Singh then crawled under the cage, and it was then clear that either guy could have escaped that way but instead they were climbing. Samir blocked Orton from climbing over from the other side. Orton punched him and Samir flew off the cage from legit about 15 feet up and crashed through the announcer’s table. Mahal and Orton were climbing and fighting again. They both ended up back on the floor and fighting. Orton gave him a draping DDT off the cage. Orton was bleeding from the left biceps. Orton then hit Samil Singh with a chair shot and hit Mahal in the back with a chair. Orton went to climb but Samil grabbed his legs. Orton knocked Samil off the cage and started climbing. The Great Khali came out and walked down the ramp. He shook the cage and started climbing and started choking Orton. Mahal then climbed over the top of the cage to win. Just awful. 3/4*


After seven shows, this year’s G-1 Climax tournament may be en route to being the single greatest tournament of its type in pro wrestling history.

The general feeling is that the G-1s from 2013 to 2015 were as good as any tournaments ever. This year’s tournament had a negative going in which was a feeling of sameness in the lineup. While the matches on paper were likely to be as good as any year, it was all New Japan regulars with the lone somewhat outsider being Kota Ibushi. So you had less of the unique match-ups as in other years. The positive is this tournament was also loaded with great workers, whether they be the veterans who know what to do and this is their biggest period of the year, or the wrestlers who are training for some of the biggest matches of their careers.

My big take on this tournament came after the Kenny Omega vs. Minoru Suzuki match on the first day of B block competition on 7/20 at Korakuen Hall. The match was outstanding, and I went back and watched the

A.J. Styles vs. Suzuki match from the 2014 G-1. Keep in mind that match also won match of the year.

Omega vs. Suzuki had far more heat, to the point you couldn’t even compare the two in that realm. It was more athletic and explosive as well. To me, for my personal tastes, I actually liked the Styles match better because Styles relies more on submissions. So their match focused more on submissions while the Omega match focused more on hard strike exchanges and Omega’s explosive athletic moves. So the Styles match felt every bit as real, but less dangerous. But while less concerning, it was also not as good a match as several matches in the first week of this year’s tournament. It really made it clear how much the wrestling in New Japan has changed in just three years. What was the match of the year three years ago and the match everyone talked about in that tournament was still a great match if put on a show today, but not anywhere near the standout match it was in its time and place. It was not as exciting as the best matches of the past week nor as heated. Perhaps it was smarter and felt less damaging. But it was scary and shocking to see how much the standard has changed and been elevated as the stars of New Japan have to follow all the great Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega matches that have set a new standard. It was also abundantly clear that we are in a golden age of in-ring action that people will look back on like All Japan in the 90s or the classic eras of other promotions.

Thus far, business is G-1 is also strong. At press time, every show but one, the 7/25 show in Fukushima, sold out in advance, and that show did end up being sold out. It was almost weird on 7/24 when the word was out the day before the show that there were tickets available. For a comparison with last year, four of the first even nights were legitimate sellouts and overall business based on the same period last year is up nine percent from what was considered a strong tour.

Another amazing stat is that the Japanese language feed of opening night, which was available free, did 600,000 live views. What that shows is that in Japan, there is great interest, but the mentality of paying for a streaming service isn’t there as New Japan World only had just over 60,000 paying subscribers at that point. The WWE Network, for the same reason, hasn’t done well in the Japanese market.

The one thing about this year as compared to other years, is that everyone is good and a lot of the crew has been consistently great, including Michael Elgin, Seiya Sanada, Evil, Kazuchika Okada, Omega, Suzuki, Hirooki Goto, Yuji Nagata, Tomohiro Ishii, Kota Ibushi, Zack Sabre Jr., Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito.

Really, aside from comedy matches with Toru Yano, and a so-so Bad Luck Fale vs. Naito match, everything from the first six days was very good to excellent. While there is nothing so far that will threaten to win match of the year, there were 16 **** matches in the first six days and the third night, at Korakuen Hall, would be a candidate for show of the year in most years.

On the flip side, to reach this level, across the board they are relying more and more on multiple shots to the head, particularly the hard slaps. That does bring with it the sense of realism, but it’s concerning for later life. It’s becoming like All Japan in the 90s when they had set a standard so high, that to shock the people into big reactions when they’d seen so much, they started doing the dangerous head drops which had a number of casualties. New Japan has already had Tomoaki Honma and Katsuyori Shibata this year, and while Honma’s injury came from a basic move, he was taking crazy punishment in recent years which likely was more of the reason he ended up that way. Honma, Shibata and Ishii were the ones who took the physical style to new levels, and Shibata’s career is almost surely over due to that jarring head-butt in the Okada match, right as it appeared to was about to take off.

And if anything, the style is getting tougher. There has been nothing as sick as the Shibata head-butt, nor as crazy as Honma’s doing a diving head-butt off the top rope to the floor. But some of the guys are doing the big PPV show singles match main event physical exchanges that used to be saved for a few matches per year, now on several shows in a week because that’s what it takes to stand out in such an amazing crowd of talent.

The big surprises internally, and a good sign, is just how much the crowd has gotten behind wrestlers like Juice Robinson and Sabre, who were somewhat controversial picks to be in the tournament, Robinson, because he is only a few months removed from being a prelim guy and wouldn’t have even been considered for this field not all that long ago, and Sabre, because he’s not a true heavyweight. But Robinson has worked well in his spot and the crowd loves him, knowing full well he’s not going to contend for the championship. Sabre’s mat wrestling has been incredible.

Yuji Nagata, in his last G-1, even though he’s losing all his matches, has gotten great crowd responses and he’s had his best New Japan matches in years.

Going into the 7/27 show in Nagaoka, here are the standings:

A BLOCK: 1. Naito, Sabre and Tanahashi 3-1; 4. Fale, Hirooki Goto, Ibushi, Ishii and Togi Makabe 2-2; 9. Yoshi-Hashi 1-3; 10. Nagata 0.4

B BLOCK: 1. Omega and Okada 3-0; 3. Evil and Suzuki 2-1; 5. Sanada, Tama Tonga, Toru Yano, Robinson and Elgin 1-2; 10. Satoshi Kojima 0-3.

This week’s schedule:

7/27 in Nagaoka (B block) at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time: Shota Umino & Ren Narita vs. Sabre & Desperado; Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Nagata & Hirai Kawato; Ibushi & Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura vs. Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens; Ishii & Jado vs. Naito & Bushi; Tanahashi & David Finlay vs. Goto & Yoshi-Hashi; Robinson vs. Tonga; Yano vs. Sanada; Suzuki vs. Evil; Okada vs. Kojima; Omega vs Elgin.

7/29 in Nagoya (A block) at 5 a.m. Eastern: Elgin & Finlay vs. Sanada & Bushi; Yano & Jado vs. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi; Suzuki & Taichi vs. Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi; Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Omega & Owens; Robinson & Taguchi vs. Okada & Gedo; Nagata vs. Makabe; Ibushi vs. Fale; Goto vs. Sabre; Tanahashi vs. Yoshi-Hashi; Naito vs. Ishii.

7/30 in Gifu (B block) at 3 a.m. Eastern: Finlay & Kitamura & Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Owens; Makabe & Umino vs. Sabre & Desperado; Nagata & Oka vs. Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi; Tanahashi & Taguchi vs. Ibushi & Kawato; Goto & Jado vs. Naito & Hiromu Takahashi; Yano vs. Evil; Suzuki vs. Tonga; Elgin vs. Sanada; Omega vs. Kojima; Okada vs. Robinson.

8/1 in Kagoshima (A block) at 5:30 a.m. Eastern: Elgin & Jushin Liger vs. Yano & Jado; Kojima & Tenzan & Kawato vs. Suzuki & Taichi & Desperado; Robinson & Finlay vs. Sanada & Bushi; Omega & Owens vs. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi; Okada & Gedo vs. Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi; Yoshi-Hashi vs. Fale; Makabe vs. Sabre; Ishii vs. Nagata; Naito vs. Goto; Tanahashi vs. Ibushi.

8/2 in Fukuoka (B block) at 5:30 a.m. Eastern: Oka & Umino vs. Kitamura & Narita; Nagata & Kawato vs. Ibushi & Tiger Mask; Goto & Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Fale & Owens & Yujiro Takahashi; Sabre & Taichi & Desperado vs. Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi; Tanahashi & Liger vs. Makabe & Finlay; Sanada vs. Robinson; Elgin vs. Yano; Suzuki vs. Kojima; Okada vs. Tonga; Omega vs. Evil.

 

JULY 20 - TOKYO KORAKUEN HALL (B BLOCK) - 1,741 SELLOUT

1. Zack Sabre Jr. & Desperado beat Kota Ibushi & Hirai Kawato in 10:20 when Desperado pinned Kawato with the Guitarra de Angel. This was a great opener, maybe the best of the year. The place exploded for Kawato, as well as when Sabre and Ibushi were in with each other building their match the next day. Kawato looked great with his hot tag including near falls on Desperado. At one point Desperado had the half crab on Kawato while Sabre had the octopus on Ibushi, but Kawato made the ropes. Post-match they did more teasing of Sabre vs. Ibushi. ***½

2. Yuji Nagata & Togi Makabe & Tiger Mask beat Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo in 8:51 when Tiger Mask pinned Gedo with a crucifix. This was teasing Nagata vs. Goto and Makabe vs. Ishii for the next day. Makabe and Ishii did their usual hard hitting and were not taking it easy. They also had a small pull-apart after the match.

3. Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens beat Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay in 8:29 when Fale pinned Finlay after the grenade. This was teasing Tanahashi vs. Fale for the next day. Tanahashi & Finlay did the old Rock & Roll Express double dropkick on Fale. Fale worked over Tanahashi’s injured right arm including wrapping it around the post. **½

4. Tetsuya Naito & Bushi beat Yoshi-Hashi & Jado in 8:34 when Bushi pinned Jado with a cradle. Yoshi-Hashi and Naito worked well together to build up their match the next day. **½

5. Juice Robinson pinned Satoshi Kojima in 11:48. It was noted that Kojima was Robinson’s mentor in New Japan, adding significance to this as Robinson’s first-ever G-1 match. Kojima took a lot of it early including Hiroyoshi Tenzan style Mongolian chops and a DDT on the apron. Robinson did a dropkick on the floor, which did his back no favors. They were doing hard chops and went back-and-forth for near falls. Kojima hit his lariat and Robinson kicked out of it. The place went nuts at this point. He went for another lariat and Robinson ducked it, landed a left punch and hit pulp fiction for the pin. After the match, Robinson led fans in a chant for Kojima. This was very well done. ***½

6. Tama Tonga pinned Michael Elgin in 13:46. This was good, but the crowd wasn’t that interested in it. Elgin used two German suplexes and then a Death Valley Bomb into a powerslam for a near fall. Elgin was landing hard clotheslines. Elgin powered out of a gun stun attempt. Elgin went for a lariat but Tonga hit him with a good dropkick. Elgin tried to slingshot into the ring but Tonga hit him with the gunstun, but Elgin rolled to the floor. The finish saw Elgin go for a falcon arrow off the middle rope and in mid-move, Tonga turned it into a gun stun for the pin. The finish looked great. ***1/4

7. Seiya Sanada pinned Evil in 15:46. This was the battle of LIJ members. It turned into a great match. Evil did his chair shot to a chair wrapped around Sanada’s head. Sanada did his double leapfrog spot into a dropkick. Sanada used an Ace crusher taking Evil off the top rope to the floor. The crowd was way behind Sanada, who came across like a main event star here. Sanada went for a moonsault into a skull end, but Evil reversed out of it with a fisherman buster into the turnbuckle. Sanada did a springboard missile dropkick and TKO for a near fall, but missed the moonsault. Evil did his chicken wing crossface, which is called the Banshee Muzzle. Sanada made the ropes. They were going back-and-froth including a great spot with a series of reversals into a skull end, but Evil popped out of that. They were teasing the tap but Evil made the ropes. Sanada finally hit the moonsault for the pin. After it was over, the two gave each other a fist bump. ****

8. Kazuchika Okada beat Toru Yano in 10:31. This was a battle of Chaos members. The crowd was super into this. Yano undid the turnbuckle padding, hit Okada with it and then threw it to Gedo. He then complained to the ref how Gedo hit him with it. Lots of near falls by Yano doing every trick in the book. At one point Okada was going to go for his running leap over the barricade on Yano, but Jado got in his way and blocked him. Okada and Jado argued and Yano hit both Okada and Jado, his own second, with low blows at the same time. Gedo then gave Yano a low blow. Both barely beat the 20 count. Okada finally won via submission with red ink. The crowd totally bought all of Yano’s cradles because they know there are tons of upsets in G-1. ***1/4

9. Kenny Omega pinned Minoru Suzuki in 21:24. This was a hard hitting super match. The crowd was super behind Omega as the babyface here. Omega went for his Terminator dive but Suzuki jumped in the ring and kicked him in the face. The chops were brutal. Suzuki used an armbar over the ropes and a running on the apron penalty kick on Omega, who was on the floor. Suzuki worked over Omega’s knee after a chair to the knee. Omega came back with a chair shot to the back. Omega did a one legged middle rope moonsault for a near fall because he was selling the knee. Omega went for a V trigger but Suzuki put ref Red Shoes Unno in his path and Omega knocked him out. Omega knocked out Suzuki with a V trigger but no ref. Desperado and Taka Michinoku and Taichi came out. Taichi hit Omega with a chair. They were all beating no Omega. Omega made a comeback with a springboard crossbody over the guard rail onto Desperado, Michinoku and Taichi. Fale made the save and was beating on everyone and took the other Suzuki-gun members to the back. Omega came off the top rope but Suzuki caught him with a heel hook and then a kneebar but Omega made the ropes. Suzuki landed hard chops, elbows and slaps. Omega hit a Saito suplex but Suzuki got back up. Omega slapped and spit on him. Suzuki then destroyed Omega with punches and slaps until Omega hit the snap dragon suplex. He tried the One Wing Angel but Suzuki reversed it into an ankle lock. Suzuki got the choke but Omega fell backwards on him to break it. Suzuki set up the Gotch piledriver but Omega got out and hit a V trigger. Suzuki hit a dropkick but Omega got two more V triggers. He went for the reverse huracanrana, which may have been planned to be smooth, or maybe not. Suzuki didn’t take it well and Omega sold it like he didn’t do it right because of his earlier knee injury. Omega hit two more V triggers and finally hit the One Winged Angel for the pin. This came across like an epic war. ****3/4

 

JULY 21 - TOKYO KORAKUEN HALL (A BLOCK) - 1,728 SELLOUT

 

1. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi beat Juice Robinson & David Finlay in 7:13 when Evil made Finlay submit to the Banshee Muzzle. After the match, Evil took out Robinson with the Banshee Muzzle to set up their match the next day.

2. Minoru Suzuki & Taichi beat Seiya Sanada & Bushi in 8:13 when Taichi used the Gedo clutch on Bushi. Taichi then unmasked Bushi after the match. This was to heat up Suzuki vs. Sanada.

3. Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi beat Tama Tonga & Chase Owens in 7:45 when Takahashi pinned Owens with Pimp Juice. This was a rare Bullet Club vs. Bullet Club match to set up Omega vs. Tonga the next day.

4. Michael Elgin & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima beat Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano & Gedo in 8:12 when Tenzan beat Gedo with the Anaconda Vise. This was to set up Elgin vs. Okada.

5. Hirooki Goto pinned Yuji Nagata in 15:02. The crowd was really into this one. This match was super. Goto was pounding on him early. Nagata kicked the hell out of Goto’s chest and back in his comeback. Nagata did the rolling your eyes back in your head Nagata lock and a Fujiwara armbar and Goto struggled to the ropes. After Goto kicked out of a standard vertical suplex, the heat was off he charts. Nagata did an enzuigiri and back suplex for a near fall. They traded elbows back-and-forth. Nagata went for his bridging back suplex, but Goto got behind him with a choke. Goto won with a head-butt and the GTR. ****½

6. Tomohiro Ishii pinned Togi Makabe in 15:51. This was just like all of their matches with the ridiculously physical style and great heat and non-stop intensity. It started with them running at each other with loud sounding collisions. They traded elbows. Makabe did an Ishii powerslam. Ishii did sick chops to the throat and Makabe used the shotgun lariats. Ishii used a German suplex and a superplex. Ishii did a lariat to Makabe’s right arm, so Makabe gave Ishii a lariat with his left arm. Makabe landed all kinds of lariats but Ishii kicked out. Makabe went for a German superplex but Ishii turned around on the top rope and gave him a head-butt. Makabe went down, hanging from the top rope upside down, and then did a sit-up and threw Ishii with a belly-to-belly superplex off the top rope. Makabe pinned a King Kong kneedrop. Callis said that Ox Baker killed a guy with that move. Actually, it was Tom Andrews and Alberto Torres. Ox Baker’s was a heart punch to Ray Gunkel. Both were nailing each other with super hard clotheslines. Then they did sick shotgun lariats. Ishii then knocked Makabe down with a lariat and followed with a sliding lariat. Ishii hit the brainbuster and got the pin. ****½

7. Kota Ibushi pinned Zack Sabre Jr. in 15:51. It was noted that this match had been booked five times in recent years in promotions all over the world, but due to injury and other reasons, it never happened, including this as the planned Cruiserweight Classic final, but since neither agreed to sign, both were beaten in he semifinals. The crowd was psyched for this as a special match. Sabre did great matwork and Ibushi did great strikes. There was almost no high flying and it was worked like a fight with the greatest submission guy against a great striker. Ibushi did a standing moonsault and Sabre caught him with a triangle. Sabre started throwing elbows. It was incredible. Sabre was throwing he European uppercuts and Ibushi used a fast German suplex. Sabre used his bridging pin but Ibushi kicked out. Sabre tried a sunset flip but Ibushi blocked and did a double foot stomp. The creativity was off the charts here and this was a great match for someone with a submission background going into pro wrestling to learn from. Ibushi looked to be as good as anyone in the world so far. Ibushi went for the Pele kick, but Sabre turned it into an ankle lock and STF. Sabre used a dragon suplex for a near fall. Sabre went for a penalty kick but it was blocked and Ibushi used a clothesline. The finish saw Sabre lock on the triangle, but with one arm, Ibushi lifted him with a last ride Power bomb for the pin. ****½

8. Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Bad Luck Fale via count out in 11:05. This was completely different as well. Fale was destroying him and Tanahashi mostly sold the bad right arm. Tanahashi twice tried for a slam, but the first time couldn’t get him up and the second time he collapsed because his bad arm gave out. At one point Fale threw Tanahashi over the top and he tried for a one arm skin the cat, but couldn’t do it so needed the second arm and could barely do it. The finish saw Tanahashi use the high fly flow to the floor. Tanahashi was selling the arm huge. Both were selling big and Fale got on the apron and Tanahashi gave him a sling blade on the apron and jumped in to beat the 20 count. Even though it was a count out, it was done so dramatically well and a count out counts as a win in Japan so the reaction was huge to it. Really it was a great finish within the context. I wouldn’t say this was the best match I’ve seen Fale in by any means, but he looked more like a star here than in his better matches. Maybe it was Tanahashi making him look great and maybe it was Fale. ***½

9. Tetsuya Naito beat Yoshi-Hashi in 22:19. The crowd was psyched for this one from the start. This was more of a typical New Japan main event as compared to the other matches on the show. Yoshi-Hashi got a lot of offense and came across more like a star here. Because G-1 has the unpredictable finishes and Yoshi-Hashi beat Kenny Omega last year, the crowd was buying his big moves. Yoshi-Hashi did a great spin kick to the jaw like Aleister Black’s Black mass. Naito used a Frankensteiner off the top and a side slam for a near fall. Yoshi-Hashi did a dropkick as Naito went for the flying forearm. Yoshi-Hashi kept going for the butterfly lock. Naito kicked out of the swanton. Yoshi-Hashi put the butterfly lock on again and held it forever. It looked like that was it but Naito finally made the ropes. People actually bought Naito was going to lose. The finish saw Yoshi-Hashi go for karma, but Naito reversed it into a destino and Yoshi-Hashi kicked out. Naito hit a second destino and got the pin. ****1/4

 

JULY 22 - TOKYO KORAKUEN HALL (B block) - 1,737 SELLOUT

 

1. Togi Makabe & Kota Ibushi & David Finlay beat Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo when Finlay pinned Gedo in 7:06. The focal point here was Ibushi vs. Ishii.

2. Zack Sabre Jr. & Desperado beat Yoshi-Hashi & Jado in 7:35 when Desperado beat Jado. Focal point here was Sabre vs. Yoshi-Hashi.

3. Yuji Nagata & Tomoyuki Oka beat Hiroshi Tanahashi & Katsuya Kitamura in 8:58 when Nagata pinned Kitamura with a bridging back suplex. This was really good, as the crowd was way into both Oka and Kitamura. Kitamura has the sickest chops I’ve ever heard, more than Chris Benoit, Wahoo McDaniel, Ronnie Garvin, Big Show, Ric Flair or anyone. It’s the first time I was scared for somebody’s chest from chops. Oka is actually the more advanced but Kitamura with his totally ridiculous physique and athletic ability has future IWGP champion written all over him.

4. Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi beat Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens in 7:33 when Naito pinned Owens with a low blow as the ref was distracted and a cool looking running cradle. The big story here was in the middle of the match, with no provocation, maliciously and seemingly with no remorse at all, Fale took Takahashi’s pet stuffed cat Darryl, and tore it to shreds. The crowd actually went pretty wild, screaming almost in horror about it. Takahashi didn’t see what happened, but saw that Darryl had been destroyed, and blamed Owens, and went crazy on him.

5. Toru Yano pinned Satoshi Kojima in 9:12. This was the weakest tournament match up to this point. Yano got his usual early quick near falls. Yano sprayed water from a water bottle in Kojima’s eyes, and Kojima came back and did it back. Yano undid the turnbuckle padding and hit him with it on the floor. Kojima did a plancha. Yano whipped Kojima into Hiroyoshi Tenzan, who was at ringside. Kojima did a DDT on the floor. Kojima went for a lariat and Yano moved. Kojima held up as he was about to lariat the ref, and as he held up and the ref was distracted, Yano did a low blow and schoolboy for the pin. *1/2

6. Evil pinned Juice Robinson in 11:46. Robinson came out fast with a dropkick, a cannonball and a plancha. Evil used a drop toe hold on the floor and Robinson’s throat hit the guard rail. Evil clotheslined him over the guard rail and Robinson wiped out a ringside chair. Robinson came back, teased a punch, but instead used a DDT and senton for near fall. They did an elbow trade back-and-forth. Robinson did a Honma-style diving head-butt off the top rope for a near fall. Evil used a fisherman buster into the turnbuckle. Robinson did a crazy lariat and the place just exploded because it was sold so well by Evil. He followed with a power bomb for a near fall. Evil hit a German suplex but Robinson got up. Robinson kicked out of a Tiger suplex and a lariat, and Robinson kept going for pulp fiction but finally Evil hit the STO for the win. This was great. ****

7. Minoru Suzuki pinned Seiya Sanada in 11:22. They brawled outside the ring and Suzuki used some chair shots, as did Desperado. Kevin Kelly said that you almost have to pull a knife to get a DQ in a G-1 match. Suzuki was slapping him around. The crowd was heavily behind Sanada. Sanada came back working over Suzuki’s knee. They told a story about Sanada trying to get Suzuki in the paradise lock. On the first try, Suzuki reversed into an armbar, but Sanada had to get to the ropes. He tried a second time and Suzuki again reversed into an armbar, but this time Sanada reversed out of the armbar and got it. The crowd went nuts for that exchange. Desperado interfered at one point and got dropkicked out of the ring. Another highlight was Suzuki whipping Sanada into the buckles and he did the Ric Flair flip into the turnbuckles, landed on his feet on the apron and did a springboard dropkick. The finish saw Suzuki go for the choke, Sanada reversed into skull end, Suzuki reversed back to the choke and hit the Gotch piledriver for the pin. ***3/4

8. Kenny Omega pinned Tama Tonga in 11:41. The story here was the Battle of Bullet Club. Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens were in Tonga’s corner and Yujiro Takahashi in Omega’s corner. Tonga tore off Omega’s Elite T-shirt and Omega tore off Tonga’s T-shirt. Lots of fast moving and avoiding each other spots. Tonga grabbed the mic and teased problems with The Elite and the rest of Bullet Club, saying that if you want to be the leader, represent the club and what’s this Elite and Superkliq thing. They traded huracanranas. Omega went to do the Terminator dive but Takahashi and Owens tried to stop him, but he did it anyway. They went back and forth with good stuff. Omega went for the One Winged Angel but Tonga reversed into a reverse Tongan twist for a near fall. Tonga tried the gunstun, Omega reversed into a fast dragon suplex, hit the V trigger, then a second one and got the pin with the One Winged Angel. They teased problems after the match, but in the end, they all got together and too sweeted each other. ***½

9. Kazuchika Okada pinned Michael Elgin in 25:49. It’s close between this, Omega vs. Suzuki and Naito vs. Ibushi (and maybe Makabe vs. Ishii and Ibushi vs. Sabre as well) but I have this as the top G-1 match so far. Okada went for his running leap over the barricade, but Omega caught him and slammed him over the barricade on the floor. Elgin did the hard chops and clotheslines. He also did a delayed cross-arm German suplex. The place went insane when Okada nailed him with a hard forearm. Okada did his trademark spots like the Randy Savage elbow and the dropkick while Elgin was sitting on the top rope and sending him to the floor. Okada went for a missile dropkick but Elgin took one step back and power bombed him. Okada did the dropkick to the back, then his regular dropkick, but Elgin destroyed him with a clothesline after Okada went for the rainmaker. Elgin used a power bomb and went for the buckle bomb, but Okada punched his way out. Elgin came off the top rope into a dropkick by Okada. They traded elbows and both were selling big. Elgin used a superplex off the top rope and hit a buckle bomb and a power bomb. Elgin went for the burning hammer, but Okada hit the rainmaker. He was too slow to cover and hit another rainmaker, but again he couldn’t cover. He went for a third, but Elgin hit a spinning chop and tried a power bomb, but Okada reversed into a tombstone piledriver and finally hit the rainmaker for the pin. Okada then did the show closing interview. ****3/4

 

JULY 23 - TOKYO MACHIDA GYMNASIUM (A BLOCK) - 4,598 SELLOUT

 

1. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima beat Michael Elgin & Katsuya Kitamura in 4:41 when Kojima pinned Kitamura with a lariat.

2. Minoru Suzuki & Taichi & Desperado beat Juice Robinson & David Finlay & Hirai Kawato in 8:31 when Desperado pinned Kawato. Suzuki attacked Robinson’s leg after the match to soften him up for their singles match.

3. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi beat Tama Tonga & Chase Owens in 5:10 when Evil used the Banshee lock t submit Owens. Tonga tried to hit Evil with a gunstun after the match to build their singles match.

4. Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi beat Toru Yano & Jado in 6:29 when Takashi pinned Jado after a DDT.

5. Seiya Sanada & Bushi beat Kazuchika Okada & Gedo in 5:43 when Bushi pinned Gedo after the MX, a codebreaker off the top rope.

6. Zack Sabre Jr. beat Yoshi-Hashi in 11:48. Sabre worked over the left arm early with holds and stomps. Yoshi-Hashi came back with a power bomb and jackknife pin. He went for the swanton but Sabre got his knees up. Sabre got the triangle and Yoshi-Hashi tried to power bomb out of it, but Sabre blocked that move and got another armbar. Yoshi-Hashi made the ropes. Sabre did his bridging pin and went for a flying armbar. He turned that into an Octopus submission and did a combination octopus and double armlock to get the submission. ***½

7. Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Yuji Nagata in 14:47. This match was so great in the sense you had two of the best technical wrestlers of the last 25 years doing an almost flawless match with hard wrestling but nothing outrageous. As far as putting it altogether, there was nothing better for just working a match in this tournament. The negative is that Tanahashi is so limited from the injury that he compensates by making the match into a fight, and both gave up their head for solid shots from the other an awful lot to get that aspect over, as opposed to doing a lot of wrestling spots. They worked the figure four, the reversal, but Tanahashi reversed back. Nagata did great kicks to the chest and back and hard slaps. Tanahashi came back with hard slaps. That’s the one negative is, while the slap exchanges were great and got super heat, in 2017 the number of hard slaps to the face in a match needs to be more under control. Nagata did his rolling the eyes in the back of the head armlock. He did a top rope exploder for a near fall. He did a brainbuster for a near fall. He tried his bridging back suplex, but Tanahashi shifted his weight in mid-air and landed on top. They went to firing away with slaps and elbows. They slapped the hell out of each other and Nagata went down, but got back up. Nagata was bleeding from under the left eye from the slaps. Tanahashi was on top for the high fly flow, but Nagata got up and teased doing another exploder off the top. Tanahashi nailed him with elbows while both were on the top rope trading, and the Tanahashi delivered a head-butt, followed with a crossbody off the top and finally a high fly flow for the pin. ****½

8. Bad Luck Fale pinned Tetsuya Naito in 11:55. Fale was choking Naito with a towel. Naito did a downward spiral into a puma blanca submission. Naito went for destino the first time and it was blocked. Fale did a clothesline and went for the grenade, but Naito ducked it and hit a DDT. Naito went for destino again, but Fale blocked it and hit the grenade, which Naito kicked out of. Fale then brought back the Bad Luck Fall to get the pin. **½

9. Kota Ibushi pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 17:14. So this was Ibushi’s third match and it was completely different from the first two. Ibushi has shown in the first three matches that he’s at the level of anyone and probably top three to five in the world, and Ishii has to be top ten. Ibushi did his perfect dropkick, and later a springboard missile dropkick and a plancha. Ishii did the shotgun lariat and a dangerous back suplex. Ibushi used sick kicks that Ishii would just take and not g down from. Ishii started slapping him around and did a head-butt. Ishii threw all kinds of knees, and Ibushi no sold them and threw knees from the Thai clinch like in a Muay Thai fight. Ibushi was kicking him all over the place. They traded hard slaps and Ibushi put him down. Ishii used a German suplex but Ibushi got up. Ibushi did a lariat, head-butt and Pele kick but Ishii came back with a lariat. Ishii did a head-butt to the jaw that looked scary and followed with a delayed superplex. They went back-and-forth including Ishii getting out of the lawn dart into the turnbuckles and used a German suplex. Ibushi landed on his feet from that one and used a high kick, and both went down. Ibushi did a ton of strikes and Ishii kicked out of the pin at one. Then Ishii did a killer lariat and Ibushi kicked out at one. Ibushi used a dragon suplex for a near fall. They traded head-butts until Ibushi did a killer lariat, a knee to the chin and the last ride power bomb for the pin. ****½

10. Togi Makabe pinned Hirooki Goto in 16:56. It was quite the risk putting these two on after the previous match and a Tanahashi vs. Nagata match that figured to be super and over delivered. But the crowd was so up from the last match that they reacted like this had to be better if these guys were on last. I can’t say it was better, but it was great and had the big man fight feel. It was mostly power collisions and hard hitting clotheslines back-and0-forth. Once when Makabe delivered a lariat, Goto went glassy eyed and down. Makabe followed with another lariat and Goto took a spin bump. Makabe missed the King Kong kneedrop. Goto used a lariat and kicks to the chest for a near fall. Goto did a long choke, let it go and did a head-butt. Makabe went down and Goto sold his own head, but did a running lariat. Both ended up on the top rope with Makabe throwing elbows and Rikidozan style chops which knocked Goto off the top rope. Makabe used a knee off the top and a power bomb for a near fall. Makabe did a lariat to the back of the head and front of the head and put Goto on the top rope. He went for his German superplex (Spider suplex), but Goto tried to block. Makabe rammed Goto’s head into the top of the ring post three times, hit the Spider suplex and followed with the King Kong kneedrop for the pin. ****

 

JULY 25 - FUKUSHIMA BIG PALETTE (B BLOCK) - 2,500 SELLOUT

 

1. Togi Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi beat Kota Ibushi & Shota Umino in 7:31 when Taguchi pinned Umino. Ibushi and Makabe brawled after the match to set up their singles match.

2. Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi beat Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka in 7:50 when Yoshi-Hashi used the butterfly lock on Kitamura.

3. Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi beat Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato in 8:17 when Takahashi used the Boston crab on Kawato. Nagata and Naito went at It after the match.

4. Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens beat Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi & Desperado in 5:37 when Takahashi pinned Taichi after Pimp Juice.

5. Hiroshi Tanahashi & David Finlay beat Hirooki Goto & Jado in 7:09 when Finlay pinned Jado.

6. Michael Elgin pinned Satoshi Kojima in 13:09. Another hard hitting match. Kojima’s machine gun chops in the corner always get over, but his elbow drop off the top that follows never does and that’s a hard bump on his hip that he does as a trademark spot that nobody buys as a finish. Elgin power bombed Kojima on the apron. Kojima collapsed trying to get in but did dive in at 19. The crowd was really hot for Kojima after he kicked out of a falcon arrow. Elgin finally won by power bombing Kojima off the ropes and hitting a spinning power bomb. ***3/4

7. Evil pinned Tama Tonga in 10:27. They brawled in the crowd early. Tonga threw him into a garbage door and threw the ref into the door as well. They teased a count out but Evil dove back in to beat the count. Evil made a comeback and used the baseball swing chair shot spot. The match was solid and hard hitting but the crowd was just so-so with it. Then they did a great series of reversals ending when Evil blocked a stun gun and hit the STO for the pin. **3/4

8. Minoru Suzuki pinned Juice Robinson in 11:23. Suzuki attacked Robinson’s left leg early. Desperado tried to interfere but Robinson whipped him over the barricade. Robinson blocked Suzuki’s armbar over the ropes spot but Suzuki then switched t a heel hook over the ropes. He also threw part of the barricade on he knee. Robinson was selling great and Suzuki is the best at working a leg but there wasn’t a lot of heat here. They traded hard chops and Suzuki did another kneebar. Robinson did a great job struggling to the ropes. Robinson did comeback and try pulp fiction but Suzuki turned it into a choke, but Robinson reversed and again tried pulp fiction. Suzuki blocked and started slapping him around. Robinson threw a big punch but Suzuki threw a punch back. They made those punches mean something. Suzuki then got the choke and followed with a Gotch piledriver for the pin. The work was really good but it was too much Suzuki and Robinson never got enough offense to get the crowd past a certain level. ***1/4

9. Kenny Omega beat Toru Yano via count out in 11:31. This match was ridiculous. It was a total comedy match and the crowd enjoyed it. It was different from everything else in the tournament, and as far a spot show match goes, it was fine for a Yano match. I’m not sure about it as a tournament match. Yano gave Omega the DVD but Omega didn’t want it and teased throwing it in the crowd. Yano insisted he take it as a present and got the crowd chanting “present.” He told Omega to open it. You could see the powder inside leaking which hurt the spot where as soon as Omega opened it, Yano kicked the DVD and the powder went in Omega’s eyes. Yano went for his quick cradles and people did buy his near falls. Omega couldn’t see and tried to give ref Red Shoes Unno a One Winged Angel, and had him up when Yano used a low blow and schoolboy for a near fall. As Omega was trying to clear his eyes, Yano undid all four turnbuckle pads. They did spots where they kept pulling each others’ hair and finally, both had the hair and Red Shoes jumped off the middle rope with a double sledge on both hands and both guys then sold their scalp being hurt. Yano got tape from under the ring and taped Omega’s legs together. Omega got tape and taped Yano’s legs together. So both were hopping around with their legs taped together. Omega grabbed a headlock and Yano sent him off the ropes. So Omega is jumping with his legs tied together, hopping to the ropes real slow, and then bounced off the ropes and hopped back for a shoulder tackle. The crowd did get into the silliness like the Taka vs. Taichi match in the juniors tournament. Omega did a dragon suplex and started undoing the tape. Chase Owens came out with scissors and cut the tape away. Omega then nailed a V trigger and Yano, legs taped up, was hanging from the ropes outside the ring. Yano fell to the floor and couldn’t get back in. Omega was criticized for this match, in particular by Davey Boy Smith Jr. (who was legit mad that he wasn’t picked for the tournament and called the match a load of crap), and his defense was that he did a comedy match with a comedy wrestler, and that his next match with Michael Elgin would be very different. “What’s worse, successful comedy within the confines of a ring of a failed attempt at being entertaining while wrestling serious?” “As humans, we, unfortunately, can’t all like everything. But I’m trying my best, taking risks, and hoping people can enjoy the show.” *

10. Kazuchika Okada pinned Seiya Sanada in 20:49. This was the hardest crowd, although they were into Elgin vs. Kojima and Omega vs. Yano, but it wasn’t like the other nights which slightly hurt this. The heat wasn’t at the usual level you’d think for an Okada singles match, and he did work this match like it was an IWGP title match. But there were spots where the place went nuts out of nowhere and they were really with it by the end. Sanada did a fake knee injury sell, but jumped Okada and hit a plancha on him. Okada backdropped Sanada over the barricade and did the running bodyblock over the barricade. Sanada kept trying for the paradise lock, and got a big reaction when he got it the third time. Okada whipped Sanada into the ropes and he did the Flair flip and went for the springboard dropkick, but Okada took him off the top rope with a neckbreaker over the knee and followed with the Randy Savage elbow. Okada whipped Sanada into the corner and this time he did the flip into the buckles and the springboard dropkick. The crowd went crazy for that. From there it was great. Sanada did a moonsault into a the skull end, but Okada made the ropes. He did his double leap from and dropkick spot and a TKO for a near fall. There were all kinds of reverses involving tombstone piledriver and skull end attempts. Sanada was sitting on the rope while he had the skull end on Okada. Okada pulled him off the ropes and hit the tombstone. The place exploded for that. Then he did the dropkick to the back and a regular dropkick. Sanada reversed a tombstone and hit the tombstone himself, and got the skull end. Okada made the ropes. Sanada used a backbreaker and moonsault combo like a young Keiji Muto, and then went for skull end. Okada reversed and hit the rainmaker. Both were down. Okada got up and hit another rainmaker, and both were down. He tried for a third and Sanada ducked and went for a Tiger suplex. Okada got out of it, hit a German suplex and a third rainmaker for the pin. ****½

 

JULY 26 - SENDAI SUN PLAZA HALL (A BLOCK) - 2,593 SELLOUT

 

1. Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi beat Juice Robinson & David Finlay in 5:55 when Takahashi pinned Finlay after Pimp Juice. This was to set up Tonga vs Robinson.

2. Toru Yano & Jado beat Seiya Sanada & Bushi in :45 when Yano pinned Bushi after a schoolboy. This was to set up Yano vs. Sanada.

3. Evil & Hiromu Takahashi beat Minoru Suzuki & Taichi in 7:28 when Takahashi pinned Taichi with a Gedo clutch. This was to set up Evil vs. Suzuki.

4. Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi beat Kenny Omega & Chase Owens in 7:20 when Elgin pinned Owens after a power bomb. This was to set up Elgin vs. Omega

5. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan beat Kazuchika Okada & Gedo in 5:21 when Kojima pinned Gedo after a lariat, to set up Kojima vs. Okada.

6. Tomohiro Ishii pinned Yoshi-Hashi in 15:43 with a brainbuster.

7. Zack Sabre Jr. scored a surprise win over Bad Luck Fale in 9:02 with a roll-up.

8. Togi Makabe pinned Kota Ibushi with a King Kong kneedrop in 13:20.

9. Tetsuya Naito pinned Yuji Nagata in 15:16 after a destino.

10. Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Hirooki Goto in 17:22 with the high fly low.


The Association of Boxing Commissions voted unanimously on 7/26 to add new weight classes to MMA.

Promoters are not obligated to stage fights in all weight classes so for UFC and Bellator, this may or may not make a difference. But it will give more leeway to local promotions.

The positive is that from a fair sports standpoint, the more weight classes, the better a weight class will fit someone’s natural weight. From a sports standpoint, it’s a positive. From a business standpoint, it makes an even stronger negative. The more champions there are, the less the titles mean because the public won’t be able to focus and care about so many championships.

This was already proven in boxing, when during the sport’s mainstream heyday, there were limited numbers of weight classes and championship fights were all a big deal. Then as more and more weight classes and sanctioning bodies were created, titles starting meaningless and less to the point now that fans very rarely care about championships, and it’s only about larger than life fighters.

MMA has undergone a similar transformation, but not quite as bad. When MMA first landed on television, there were five champions and every fan knew who they were. Title fights were almost guaranteed, even with weak challengers, to do 300,000 or more buys on PPV.

The existing five titles have expanded to where UFC now has 12 divisions, and is in the process of adding a 13th. Title fights no longer mean as much, and only the most hardcore of fans know who the champions are.

The argument, as stated by Andy Foster, the head of the California commission, who has worked harder than any commissioner when it comes to trying to make the sport safer when it comes to the weight-cutting issues, is that if there are more weight classes, it will keep fighters from cutting as much weight.

We’ll have to see how that works in practice. In theory, if you have a 190 pound guy, and before he was cutting to make 170, since he’d be too small for the modern 185 pound division, if you are adding 175 and 165, will he cut less and fight at 175 and be healthier, or will he go, “I can’t make 155, but I think I can make 165,” cut more, and be more unhealthy and take more risks? My gut knowing fighters is that they are more likely to choose the latter rather than the former. We’ve already seen with the early weigh-ins, which were supposed to keep fighters healthier by giving them more time to rehydrate, that instead, fighters are trying to cut more, knowing they have more time to get the weight back on, and more fighters are being hospitalized and missing fights due to weight-cutting issues than ever before.

Foster, in detailing the new weight classes, said that weight cutting and dehydration is the biggest issue facing the sport and that adding the new weight classes are critical to addressing the problem.

The new weight divisions listed don’t include the current 170-pound welterweight division, which has been a staple of the UFC for almost 20 years, including being the home of two of its greatest fighters, Matt Hughes and George St-Pierre.

UFC has been against changing its current weight classes, and its only changes are to potentially add more divisions, although at this point I don’t see any additions since they’ve added women’s championships at 125 (a tournament is going on right now) and 145 (which will have a champion decided on 7/29 with the Cris Cyborg Justino vs. Tonya Evinger fight, after first creating a champion in February when Germaine de Randamie beat Holly Holm in the first title match). There has been talk of eliminating men’s flyweight because it hasn’t drawn, but I’m guessing that doesn’t happen. I could see adding a women’s atomweight division at 105, particularly to market Michelle Waterson, who is on the small side at 115, but haven’t heard any movement in that direction.

The current weight classifications as per the new ABC regulations would be 105, 115, 125, 135, 145, 155, 165, 175, 185, 195, 205, 225 and heavyweight.

They would be called atomweight, strawweight, flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, super lightweight, super welterweight, middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and cruiserweight.

From a UFC standpoint and Bellator as well, adding 225 makes no sense because in both cases, there aren’t even enough quality fighters to have a heavyweight division, as opposed to splitting it in two with the addition of 225.

Plus, if you add a 225 division, that would mean everyone under probably 245 would fight at that division, making the heavyweight division quality even worse. Granted, there is concern with such a huge gap between 205 and 265 on paper. In practicality, it’s not really the case. Aside from Brock Lesnar and Tim Sylvia, most recent UFC heavyweight champions and most top contenders were guys who were 240 pound guys like Fabricio Werdum, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos and Stipe Miocic. All have had no issues competing with 280 pounders who cut to 265, because size is a detriment in a fight once you get past a certain size, unless you’re the very rare freak athlete like Lesnar, and he wasn’t a skilled overall fighter and lost quickly when matches with Velasquez.

Of the UFC’s top ten heavyweights, Miocic, Werdum, Velasquez and Dos Santos, or basically everyone of note right now except Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou, could make 225. And Overeem and Ngannou under other circumstances may try and make it as well, although it would serve them no purpose, and may not serve anyone a purpose since the heavyweight division is so shallow, and heavyweight champion sounds more prestigious than cruiserweight champion, even if all the best heavyweights would be natural cruiserweights based on how much weight is cut to make other divisions.

If there actually were great 285 pound fighters and a 240 pound guy like Velasquez or Miocic were too small to compete with them, and they did the same cut everyone else does, the only true heavyweights of note in UFC would be Mark Hunt and Derrick Lewis.


After three straight losses by stoppages, Chris Weidman’s career as a top middleweight fighter was on the line in his fight with Kelvin Gastelum that headlined the 7/22 UFC on FOX show from the Nassau Coliseum.

Weidman, who had been the undefeated UFC middleweight champion, and considered one of the company’s biggest stars after two wins over Anderson Silva, lost his title to Luke Rockhold, and was then stopped by Yoel Romero in Madison Square Garden, and then lost again to Gegard Mousasi.

Things weren’t looking good for him when Gastelum connected with a left to the jaw late in the first round where Weidman took the timber style fall. Gastelum was landing punches on the ground and Weidman was in serious trouble, but the round ended.

Weidman came back to win the second round with his wrestling, and finished Gastelum with a head-and-arm choke submission in the third round.

Weidman, who grew up in Baldwin, NY, minutes from the Coliseum, was emotional talking about how he drove past the building every single day, and grew up going to hockey games, as well as seeing friends from elementary school including a kid he used to get into fights with in fifth grade, in the stands cheering for him as he came to the ring.

It was a great moment that capped off a strong show, and Weidman came off like the hometown hero is supposed to on television with the superstar-level crowd reactions. He immediately challenged Michael Bisping to a title fight, but there are people ahead of Weidman and a fight with Ronaldo Jacare Souza would feel more likely for him next.

Gastelum after the fight was talking about moving back to 170 pounds. He’s very thick and had trouble making weight in the past, and until this fight had been successful at 185.

The bad news was the business numbers.

The show did a 1.23 rating and 2,046,000 viewers on average, making it the third lowest UFC on FOX show in its history. The only shows that did worse were the 4/15 show headlined by Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis, which did a 1.22 rating and 1,996,000 viewers, and the 8/27 show headlined by Demian Maia vs. Carlos Condit, that did 1,983,000 viewers, although that’s an unfair comparison since it was preempted in a number of markets that aired local NFL preseason football instead.

As compared to last year’s show on the same weekend, headlined by Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko, which was the most-watched UFC summer live events in history, the ratings were down 32 percent and the audience was down 31 percent from the 1.80 and 2,975,000 viewers.

The Weidman vs. Gastelum main event averaged 2,714,000 viewers.

It should be noted that this came on a night with very weak competition not only in sports, but all of television. The No. 2 sports event that night in prime time television was poker on ESPN that did 741,000 viewers.

The UFC show ended up as the second most watched show on television in its time slot, trailing only reruns of that averaged 2,409,000 viewers, and best CBS, NBC and every cable station. UFC was also No. 1 for the night in all of television in 18-49 overall, all key men’s demos and even was the most-watched show on network TV in its time slot in women 18-49, the latter of which is very rare. It speaks more to the lack of competition.

Even though the main card was well down from one year ago, the prelims were only down ten percent from the prior year, as last year’s July show did 1,261,000 viewers in the 6-8 p.m. time slot on FOX, while this year’s show, headlined by Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos’ win over Lyman Good, did 1,137,000 viewers.

The show, the UFC’s first in the building, did 11,198 fans and a gate of $1,088,332. The usual target for a FOX show is a $1 million gate so on the surface that sounds fine if it was a usual FOX show and not the first time ever in the building and with so many local fighters headlining, including the main eventer, as I would have expected a sellout from this show. They were several thousands shy of capacity. Even though it was the first time in the building, it was the UFC’s third trip to the New York market since November, so that probably played a part in the show not selling out as you’d think the first show in a major arena, with a legit hometown star on top in a very important career match, should do.

The show delivered overall, with a lot of good fights and some controversial judging, but they were close fights that could have gone either way, such as the Darren Elkins win in the semifinal over Dennis Bermudez.

Besides a strong main event, the most important FOX bout was a great back-and-forth fight where Jimmie Rivera won his 20th fight in a row in taking a decision win over Thomas Almeida, in a fight that had fighters with a combined 42-2 record.

With wins over Urijah Faber and Almeida in succession, Rivera has to be considered among the top contenders for the bantamweight title. When champion Cody Garbrandt returns, he’s going to face T.J. Dillashaw since they’ve got a story pushed through Ultimate Fighter. That leaves Rivera for Dominick Cruz, and he realized it, cutting a promo on Cruz after his win. Cruz, who announced the show with Jon Anik and Brian Stann, immediately responded and that fight makes sense for a bout where the winner would get the Garbrandt-Dillashaw winner.

The bonuses of $50,000 went to Junior Albini and Alex Oliveira for their knockout wins, and for the Dos Santos vs. Good fight for best fight on a show with several contenders.

 

1. Shane Burgos (10-0) beat Godofredo Pepey (13-5) on scores of 30-26, 30-26 and 29-28 in a featherweight bout. Burgos knocked Pepey down with a knee and got a second knockdown with a right in the first round. Pepey was able to take him down. Burgos got up and hurt him with more punches and that was the 10-8 round. In the second round, with Burgos getting the best of the standup game, Pepey tried to pull guard. Burgos would say up and the crowd would boo him. Pepey was able to pull guard late in the second round. Burgos continued to land big shots in the third, including a knockdown with a body shot.

2. Junior Albini (14-2) beat Tim Johnson (11-4) at 2:51 in a heavyweight fight. Albini got some coverage beforehand, as it was noted he was broke and was never able to afford getting his young daughter gifts, so he’d give her empty shampoo bottles and claim they were presents. Albini was expected to be cannon fodder here, but dropped Johnson quickly with a series of punches and it was stopped.

3. Marlon Vera (10-3-1) beat Brian Kelleher (17-8) in 2:18 in a bantamweight fight. Kelleher landed some good punches early and got a takedown. But Vera quickly snatched an armbar on the ground for the submission.

4. Jeremy Kennedy (11-0) beat Kyle Bochniak (7-2) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in a featherweight fight. Kennedy took Bochniak down right away. After Bochniak got up, Kennedy was landing knees to the body and took him down again and kept him down for the rest of the round. In the second round, Kennedy opened with a takedown. Bochniak would get up, but then be taken down again. Kennedy got four takedowns in the second round. Bochniak was able to keep it standing in the third round and did the better of it early. Kennedy was finally able to take him down and landed punches from back position. Kennedy got a second takedown before time ran out.

5. Chase Sherman (11-3) beat Damian Grabowski (20-5) on scores of 30-27, 30-26 and 30-27 in a heavyweight fight. Sherman wasn’t as aggressive as in the past. The first round went back-and-forth but Sherman had the edge. The same happened in the second round. Sherman took control I the third round, landing punches but it was still a slow round. Sherman landed elbows and punches to take the easy decision.

6. Alex Oliveira (17-3-1) beat Ryan LaFlare (13-2) at 1:50 of the second round in a welterweight fight. LaFlare worked hard but got Oliveira to the mat twice and kept him there almost the entire first round. In the second round, Oliveira threw a low kick that took LaFlare off his feet. He started landing good punches and was blocking takedowns. LaFlare was bleeding from the nose. Then Oliveira connected with a right cross that knocked LaFlare out. Oliveira, after winning, jumped over the cage and ran into the press section it appeared and seemed like he wanted to yell at someone.

7. Eryk Anders (9-0) beat Rafael Natal (21-9-1) in 2:54 in a middleweight fight. Anders was a former starting linebacker at the University of Alabama who played on the 2009 team which won the national championship beating Texas in early 2010, a game where he forced a fumble and had seven tackles. He later played in the CFL and in Arena Football before moving to MMA. Natal was doing well early but Anders, who was coming off fighting a five-round fight four weeks earlier, knocked him out with some lefts. Anders noted that after studying films, he found that when Natal tries to fight southpaw, it’s easy to land a left on him, and that’s exactly how he beat him.

8. Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos (17-5) beat Lyman Good (19-4, 1 no contest) on scores of 30-27, 28-29 and 30-27 in a welterweight fight. I thought Dos Santos clearly won, but 57 percent of the reporters scored the fight for Good. This was a hell of a fight. Dos Santos got a takedown but Good got back up. Dos Santos took him off his feet with a low kick but again Good got back up. Good took Dos Santos down off a kick. Dos Santos was bleeding from the left eye. Both went back-and-forth in the first round. In the second round, both were landing and trading. Dos Santos landed a jumping knee and also scored a knockdown with a punch. In the third round, Dos Santos landed punches and a spinning kick. He was landing big punches in the round. Good came back but Dos Santos had Good hurt again late in the round.

9. Jimmie Rivera (21-1) beat Thomas Almeida (22-2) on scores of 29-28, 30-26 and 30-27 in a bantamweight fight. The crowd was super hot for this fight, since it was an exciting fight and Rivera is local. Rivera dropped Almeida in the first round and Almeida tried to tie him up. Almeida started to land good punches late. In the second round, both were landing and this time Almeida dropped Rivera. Aside from being put down momentarily, Rivera was in control most of the round. Rivera used a sidewalk slam to start the third round. He used knees. Almeida did a spin kick to the body. Then both traded. Rivera got a late takedown.

10. Patrick Cummins (10-4) beat Gian Villante (15-9) on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a light heavyweight fight. Even though Judge Sal D’Amato had it for Villante, 100 percent of media scores were for Cummins. Cummins kept going for takedowns and not getting them. Villante hurt Cummins with punches early. They two cracked heads and Cummins’ head got the worst of that one, as he was bleeding all over the place. He was covered in blood. Cummins got a late takedown. Villante seemed tired after the first round and Cummins landed punches. Villante came back with an uppercut but Cummins continued to land punches and fail on takedown attempts. Villante came back with a few punches late and a great low kick. In the third round, Villante came out with punches as Cummins looked tired. But then Villante looked tired and Cummins came back to clinch the needed round with better striking.

11. Darren Elkins (24-5) beat Dennis Bermudez (16-8) on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a featherweight fight. This was another close fight. I had Bermudez winning and reporter scores were 56 percent for Bermudez, 39 percent for Elkins and five percent had it a draw. Both traded punches and Bermudez had nice low kicks. Bermudez slipped when throwing a kick and Elkins got behind him. Elkins threw him down and got another takedown when Elkins threw a punch. Elkins picked him up and slammed him for another takedown, but Bermudez got up and landed knees and punches. Bermudez went for a takedown and Elkins caught him in a guillotine. Bermudez escaped and got a takedown. In the second round, Bermudez was getting the better of punching exchanges and went for a takedown. He had Elkins hurt at that point and probably should have tried to finish it. He finally got the takedown. Elkins went for another takedown and Elkins grabbed a guillotine, then got his back and slammed him down. In the third round Bermudez was landing punches and knees. Elkins got the clinch and worked for a takedown. Bermudez landed punches and Elkins came back with punches. Pretty much everyone had Elkins winning the first and Bermudez the third, and it came down to a close second round.

12. Chris Weidman (14-3) beat Kelvin Gastelum (14-3, 1 no contest) at 3:45 of the third round in a middleweight bout. The crowd was hot for Weidman. Weidman was landing more early and got the takedown. You could see Gastelum’s idea here was to have Weidman work hard early and then take over in the later rounds. Gastelum tired a triangle but Weidman easily cleared it. Gastelum got back up but Weidman took him down into side control. Gastelum got up again. Gastelum landed a head kick, but then knocked Weidman down with a left to the jaw. Weidman was in trouble as Gastelum punched him on the ground but the round ended. Weidman had the entire round until the knockdown. In the second round, Weidman landed a right and got another takedown. He got Gastelum’s back. He secured two more takedowns and Weidman has Gastelum’s back as the second round ended. In the third round, Gastelum started landing punches. Weidman decked Gastelum and was landing big punches. Weidman got two more takedowns in the third round and finished him on the ground with a head-and-arm choke.


Dragon Gate presented its traditional biggest show of the year, the Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival on 7/23 at the Kobe World Memorial Hall in the company’s home city.

The PPV show drew a legitimate sellout what was announced at 9,800 fans, an exaggerated number but there really were about 7,500 fans in the arena, and there are only a handful of companies in the world who can draw a crowd that large in this era. During intermission, Dragon Gate President Takashi Okamura noted that this was the 19th year they’ve run their biggest show of the year in this arena and that this makes the 15th straight year they’ve been able to sell out. He noted that in 2017, Dragon Gate will present 201 house shows running in every prefecture (state) in Japan. He also said that this show will air on tape delay on network television later this summer, but didn’t give details as to where.

He said they were making a big announcement and trying to expand internationally, without saying so, following the success New Japan has had in the U.S. and U.K. market. He said this won’t be like in the past where they do one event outside Asia and then come home, but that their base will be in Japan, Kobe in particular, but they will try to expand to have an ongoing presence outside Asia, and pushed that Dragon Gate is the best pro wrestling in the world.

In an interesting note, they had all four of their major titles at stake but none changed hands.

1. Draztick Boy pinned Shachihoko Boy in 3:16 with the mad splash.

2. The veteran team of Don Fujii & Masaaki Mochizuki & Jimmy Kanda & Jimmy K-Ness beat the young team of Kaito Ishida & Shun Skywalker & Hyou Watanabe & Yuki Yoshioka when Mochizuki pinned Ishida in 8:21 with a high kick. After the match was over, Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa, the company’s perennial comedy loser, came out and demanded a match on the show. He asked why the young punks like Ishida & Skywalker & Watanabe & Yoshioka were able to get a match on the show while a legend like him wasn’t even booked. Mochizuki then asked Ichikawa if he even knew what the word legend meant. Mochizuki said that Ishikawa could face any of the eight men in the ring. He chose Yoshioka but the fans groaned at that. Mochizuki said that Yoshioka, who has only been wrestling for nine months, would probably beat Ichikawa and that would be an embarrassing loss for him in front of this big of a crowd. So Ichikawa said that he wanted a match with Mochizuki.

3. Masaaki Mochizuki pinned Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa in 3:30 when Ichikawa tried a German suplex, couldn’t do it, and was pinned.

4. In the first match of a tournament to determine who would be the next contenders for the Open the Triangle Gate title, fought with two count pins instead of three count, Kotoka & Big R Shimizu & Ben K beat Gamma & Eita & Takehiro Yamamura in 7:08 when Kotoka pinned Eita after la magistral cradle.

5. In another tournament match, again with two count rules, Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito & Jimmy Susumu beat Kzy & Yosuke Santa Maria & BxB Hulk in 11:53 when Horiguchi pinned Hulk after a backslide.

They did in-ring interviews with Yamato and T-Hawk building up the main event match. T-Hawk promised an end to the Yamato era

6. Jimmy Kagetora retained the Open the Brave Gate title beating Flamita from Mexico in 14:32.

7. In the finals of the tournament to determine the next challengers for the Triangle Gate title, again with two count rules, Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito & Jimmy Susumu beat Kotoka & Big R Shimizu & Ben K in 15:14 when Horiguchi pinned Shimizu with a backslide.

8. In the title match, Shingo Takagi & Lindaman & Takashi Yoshida retained over Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito & Jimmy Susumu in 20:16 when Takagi pinned Susumu with the Last Falconry.

9. Cima & Dragon Kid retained the Open the Twin Gate titles over Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino in a battle of established long-time promotional stars, when Kid pinned Doi in 21:37 with the dragon rana.

10. Yamato beat T-Hawk to retain the Open the Dream Gate title in 29:16 after three Gallerias. As soon as the match was over, Shingo Takagi, the previous champion, who Yamato won the title from on this very show on July 24, 2016, attacked Yamato, to set him up as the next contender. Yamato said that Takagi may have the Triangle Gate title, but the Dream Gate title is the focal point of the promotion and accepted his challenge.

A number of wrestlers came out after the main event ended. Cima, the best known star in the company noted that Yamato had won the big show main event for the second straight year and had retained the title for one year. Cima noted he hadn’t main evented this show since 2013 when he lost to Takagi. He said that being in the Twin Gate title match, second from the top, was a lot of fun, but the main event on the biggest show of the year is a different level. He said that his career isn’t over and he will headline this show again.

Horiguchi noted that he was exhausted from having three matches on the show, and that while stables in Dragon Gate come and go, that the Jimmyz have been together for six years and they aren’t a business stable, they are family and have an unbreakable bond. Takagi then said that Horiguchi talked big, but that they lost in the title match and they were trash, as their tournament win was meaningless since they lost the big match.

Yamato then said he was able to outlast T-Hawk in the main event, and things would only get more difficult for him because he can feel the next generation gaining on him. He said it’s the young talent that will be the catalyst of an upcoming golden age of the promotion when people like he are no longer on top.


“There really is a lot to learn from this business that relates to far more than just pro wrestling. The most important thing about wrestling, entertainment in general, and really life, that I've learned, is that the minute you think you understand it completely, it means that time has already passed you by. You're done. It's always changing. It has to always change, because the world always changes and time doesn't stand still. If you want to stop paying attention to the present and don't care to open yourself up to accept new concepts relating to both the present and the future, the door is there on the left. This business has changed completely over the past ten years. The next ten will bring changes probably just as significant. Don't decry these changes because you long for the way things were in the past. Not only does time, particularly in the entertainment world, not stand still, but it definitely doesn't go backwards. Decry the changes when you believe they aren't for the better, and many of them aren’t and many more won't be. But don't close your mind to them simply because they are new .”

The more things change.

By the way, I wrote this 24 ½ years ago. I probably could have written it 40 years ago as well. And yes, there was a mentality from some at the time it was written that Jushin Liger and Eddy Guerrero were the spot monkeys who didn’t know how to work because they did moves that you’d never do in a real fight and that they’d be flashes in the pan because their bodies would be destroyed by the time they were 35. 40 years ago the names would have been Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. The people saying it spent their careers doing moves that you’d also never do in a real fight, and the vast majority of them are long since forgotten.


The George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame weekend took place on 7/21 and 7/22 in Waterloo, IA, honoring stars including Dusty Rhodes and Stan Hansen, as well as Scott Williams, who was such an important part of this publication and my life, who passed away on August 17, 2016, at the age of 46.

I was sorry that I couldn’t attend. One of the coolest things was that Chad Gable, as well as Jason Jordan and Shelton Benjamin, were able to meet Dan Gable, who many consider the greatest American wrestling figure of all-time. Gable was 64-0 as an Iowa High School wrestler, winning three state titles, and went 181-1 in college, winning two NCAA titles, went unscored on in the 1972 Olympics where he won a gold medal even though he injured his knee and had stitches in his head from the first match. He won his first national championship in freestyle at the age of 18. He holds the collegiate record for 25 pins in a row during the 1969 season and he and Danny Hodge were considered the most physically dominating college wrestlers of all-time, although Gable did lose his final collegiate match.

He later coached Iowa to 15 NCAA championships including nine in a row from 1978 to 1986. His coaching dual meet record was 355-21-5.

Among the events was a live podcast with Wade Keller and Bruce Mitchell with guests Hansen and J.J. Dillon. WWE ended up nixing allowing Gable or Jordan to do the podcast. Hansen told a story about he and Bruiser Brody wrestling Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood in Japan, who may have been the two best tag teams in the world at the time. But Brody & Hansen were the monster team and Youngblood asked Steamboat how are they going to try and work with them. Steamboat said that they are smaller and faster so just make it a moving match, and in a few minutes, Brody & Hansen will get tired so once you survive that, they’ll work. About 5:00, with Youngblood mostly just bumping for both guys, Youngblood looked at Steamboat and said, “They’re not getting tired.” Hansen told the story, but Steamboat is the one who first told the story.

Hansen talked about the AWA title situation in 1986, a famous story at the time. The back story is that Giant Baba was working with Verne Gagne and in 1983 purchased a title run for Jumbo Tsuruta, who beat Nick Bockwinkel in Japan, held it for several months including touring the AWA cities as well as defending it in Japan, before losing to Rick Martel. Baba then made a deal with Gagne for Hansen to beat Martel for the title.

Gagne wanted Hansen to lose the title to Bockwinkel in Denver, as there were starting to be problems between the two of them and it was Hansen’s last show of a tour before going to Japan. However, Baba had booked a Hansen AWA title defense on his next tour. Hansen claimed that he wanted to do a program with Curt Hennig, who was the AWA’s best young wrestler. Gagne insisted he lost to Bockwinkel and they got into an argument in Denver, where Gagne shoved Hansen. Hansen said he didn’t shove Gagne back, but instead decided to leave the building and took the belt with him. At the show, they announced that Hansen had walked out of the building and Bockwinkel was awarded the title via forfeit. Hansen, who still had the belt, went to All Japan and did his planned title defense. Gagne demanded the belt back. Hansen ran over the belt with his pickup truck and said the destroyed belt back to Gagne. So that was the end of the famous huge AWA belt that had been around forever.

Dillon noted that, at the age of 52, after a lifetime in wrestling, he became a prison guard. Dillon just recently retired from that job. He noted that he had twins to take care of. Dillon worked for WCW until it closed, and then worked for Jerry Jarrett’s construction company before the two had a falling out.

Impact Pro Wrestling, the local promotion that does a Friday night house show, ran a tournament that included names like Benjamin, Penta 0M and ACH, and came down to Shane Strickland beating Chuck Taylor in the finals. There was a minor issue as Benjamin refused to lose a match via pin and we’re not sure why anyone would care on an indie show.

Benjamin, Jordan and Gable were only there for the first night and not for the ceremony.

Brian Blair, 58, the president of the Cauliflower Alley Club, had his first match in three years, teaming with Wes Brisco (Gerald’s son) & Myron Reed, who has gotten a lot of praise in recent months on the Midwest indie scene, to beat A.J. Smooth & Justin Decent & Aaron Von Baron in the main event.

The two Gables, Dan & Chad, cut a promo together. Dan Gable had always noted he was flattered by Chas Betts, who wrestled in the 2012 Olympics at 185 pounds, taking his name in WWE. While Dan Gable was never a huge pro wrestling fan, he did respect the business and many of its athletes, and also had a role in the 1974 movie “The Wrestler,” where they showed him outwrestling a young Mike Graham.

Among others who were in for the ceremony included Sabu, Larry Hennig, Baron Von Raschke, Paul Orndorff, Jim Brunzell, Kathie Vachon (Maurice’s widow), Barbara Goodish (the widow of Bruiser Brody) and Bruce Hart.

The induction ceremony was on 7/22, with Jim Ross as the M.C.

“I’m surviving because I’m surrounded by people who love me and that I love too,” said Ross, obviously referring to his battling some very down periods at home due to the loss of his wife.

Ross first talked about Williams. Williams was the original co-author of Ross’ autobiography, “Slobberknocker,” which comes out later this year and wrote several books on pro wrestling including a book on ECW history and bios of Terry Funk, Bill Watts and Jim Duggan. Before his death, he had discussions of doing books with Greg Valentine about Greg’s father Johnny, as well as with Bruce Prichard, although that would have 100 percent fallen through.

Ross noted that Williams was the expert on the history of Mid South Wrestling, served in the Gulf War (when the big wrestling controversy was going on in 1991 regarding WWF exploiting the war before that year’s WrestleMania, Williams wrote me a letter and said that the real soldiers were too busy fighting a war to worry about what WWF was doing). Ross noted that Williams named his son Brody, after Bruiser Brody and that he totally deserved the James Melby Award for wrestling journalism.

Hansen, 67, was given the Frank Gotch award. He noted that Terry Funk broke him into wrestling, saved his life and changed his life, and it was Funk who also booked him into Japan for the first time. It was also Funk who was the conduit in getting Hansen to jump from New Japan to All Japan, and Hansen became such a big star in All Japan that many consider him the greatest foreign wrestler ever to work Japan because of his longevity as a main eventer, touring Japan regularly from 1975 to 2000, and from 1977 on was a superstar there and usually the biggest drawing foreigner on just about every tour he was on. He also thanked Bruno Sammartino for never holding it against him that he broke his neck, and then thanked Charlie Thesz (the widow of Lou Thesz, who is a major part of the Hall of Fame ceremony every year) and everyone at the museum, and noted what a class act Lou Thesz was.

Ross then introduced Terry Allen, 58, better known as Magnum T.A., noted they knew each other from Mid South Wrestling, where Watts first made him a headliner as North American champion, before Dusty Rhodes brought him in and groomed him for the NWA title. Allen was given the Lou Thesz Award and Ross said that nobody will ever receive the Thesz Award who had a more difficult journey in life.

Allen said that he started amateur wrestling after reading a book about the life of Dan Gable. He said that he only had a six-year career as a pro wrestler (his career ended in 1986 after an automobile accident that nearly killed him and it was a miracle he was able to walk again) but people still talk about it 30 years later so he must have done something good. He said that after his auto accident, the doctor told him it was a million-to-one chance he’d ever walk again and that there was no way he’d ever wrestle. He said it was a bitter pill to swallow because he had done sports his entire life. He noted that he has a great wife and seven kids. Allen’s wife was originally married to Tully Blanchard, who was also Allen’s opponent in his most famous match, the Starrcade 85 I Quit match that many consider the greatest Starrcade match in history and is considered one of the two or three greatest I Quit matches, and probably the most historically significant one, in history. So Allen actually raised Tessa Blanchard as his stepdaughter.

He said after the accident he had two choices, to either fold, or to continue playing the game.

Mike Van Arsdale, 52, received the George Tragos award for a wrestler who used his wrestling talent to become a big star in MMA. He was a 1988 NCAA champion who later did MMA from 1998 to 2006, compiling an 8-5 record, and coaches fighters in Arizona.

He noted that at the age of seven, he was diagnosed with epilepsy and was told he could never drive or do contact sports. He said he continued to have seizures until the age of 11 and then they stopped.

Jim Ross gave a speech about Dusty Rhodes, who went into the Hall of Fame. Ross accepted the award as no members of the Runnels family was there. Ross noted that Dusty died on June 11, 2015, and how Dusty’s hero, John Wayne, passed away on June 11, 1979. He said Dusty was the John Wayne of pro wrestling. He also noted that Dusty was born on October 12 and also got married on October 12.

There were, unfortunately, issues involved to where nobody from either the Runnels or Williams family attended.

Brian Blair gave a speech about Paul Orndorff. The two knew each other long before pro wrestling, and noted that Orndorff was a college football star at the University of Tampa and a 12th round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints.

Orndorff, 67, came out crying, noted he’s a very emotional person. He said that he broke his neck four times and battled cancer. Orndorff said that when he was diagnosed with cancer, he told the doctor to do his job because he’d do his job and beat it. He said aside from his wife, there was nothing he loved more than wrestling. He talked about how tough it was training under Hiro Matsuda in Tampa, but he never quit. He also said that he wanted to thank Matsuda, Jack Brisco and Gerald Brisco, because, without them, he’d have never made it.

Bill Murdoch, who wrote Jack Brisco’s autobiography, talked about his charity, Headlock on Hunger, that a lot of pro wrestling people including Edge and Jim Ross, have worked tirelessly on, noting they’ve provided 1 million meals to underprivileged children. Charlie Thesz then came out and said that in wrestling, there are the givers and there are the takers, and this weekend, she noted, the people being honored were the givers.

Thanks to Pat Laprade for this story and the coverage of the weekend.


Santiago Ponzinibbio appeared to be the opponent for a triumphant main event for European star Gunnar Nelson, but the unpredictable world of MMA saw Nelson stopped for the first time in his career by a straight left to the jaw in just 82 seconds in the main event of the 7/16 UFC show in Glasgow, Scotland..

The win was a career changer for the Argentinean, who came in ranked No. 14, but with that kind of a win should be in line for a next bout that could put him near title contention. It was Ponzinibbio’s 15th first round win of his career. It was his fifth win in a row, and was by far the biggest of his career.

After the fight was over, he was talking about names like Neil Magny and Carlos Condit, who were ranked No. 5 and No. 6.

For Nelson, it was yet another detour for a fighter who came into the company with a lot of hype, had overall done well, but it was his third loss in the promotion, and easily the most decisive and most damaging to his career.

The show was entertaining, but there was nothing that was must-see and didn’t have much in the way of names.

The live event at the SSE Hydro was a major success, a sellout of 10,589 fans paying $1.2 million, and a mostly hot crowd for a show filled with U.K. and European fighters.

Because of the time zone difference, the show aired from 1-6 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon in the U.S. The show did 402,000 viewers, peaking at 496,000 for the main event. That was down 19 percent from the last Sunday afternoon UFC show, on 5/28, which was the Alexander Gustafsson vs. Glover Teixeira fight that did 496,000 viewers and peaked at 665,000. It also should be noted that show went head-to-head with the Indianapolis 500.

The prelims, with no major names featured, did 284,000 viewers, down 20 percent from the 353,000 viewers for the last Sunday show.

Cynthia Cavillo scored her third straight UFC win, beating local favorite Joanne Calderwood, who failed to make weight. Cavillo, who has only been fighting for 11 months as a pro, coming into the UFC after three wins in five months, scored her sixth straight win and with the lack of depth in that division, should already move into a top ten spot.

Paul Felder also made a big impression with a first round win over Stevie Ray of Scotland. Normally, that would get a fighter booed out of the place. And it’s not like the crowd wasn’t going to do that, but once Felder told the story about how his father had just died of pancreatic cancer one week before he started camp. He then talked up how great the fans were in Scotland, and by that point, they couldn’t dare boo him.

Felder and Ponzinibbio both got $50,000 performance bonuses for their quick finishes. Danny Henry and the debuting Daniel Teymur got $50,000 bonuses for best fight in a classic example of what happens to someone who always wins in the first round, and suddenly doesn’t.

Teymur, whose brother David is also a UFC fighter, came in with a 6-0 record, all first round finishes. But after landing hard shots that didn’t put Henry away, his first trip to the second round wasn’t pleasant, as he got tired and taken apart for the next two rounds, both of which could have been scored 10-8.

1. Leslie Smith (10-7-1) beat Amanda Lemos (6-1-1) at 2:53 of the second round in a women’s bantamweight fight. First round went back-and-forth with each getting a takedown and landing solid shots. Smith took over in the second round, landing knees and punches until Smith kept landing shots and Lemos couldn’t protect herself and the fight was stopped.

2. Brett Johns (14-0) beat Albert Morales (7-2-1) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25 in a bantamweight fight. Johns took him down in the first round and landed punches and elbows on him for the rest of the round. Morales got some offense in at the start of the second round until he was taken down again. Johns stayed on top the rest of the round. In the third round, Morales was getting the better of it early until Johns took him down again. Johns beat on him and went for an arm triangle, keeping the top position until the end of the fight.

3. Danny Henry (11-2) beat Daniel Teymur (6-1) on scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 29-26 in a lightweight fight. I had Teymur winning the first round, but Henry getting 10-8s in two and three. Henry was the crowd favorite coming from Edinburgh, Scotland. Henry was much taller. Teymur was throwing with full power from the start looking for a first round finish. Henry was able to hold on, but was hurt and being overwhelmed, but was never in danger of being stopped. Once they got into the second round, Teymur was suddenly human. Teymur landed hard punches early, but Henry took over , landed a right that dropped Teymur and landed punch after punch on the ground. Henry had Teymur’s back, working for a choke at the end of the round. Basically Teymur was just holding on as the round ended. In the third round, Teymur was tired and Henry was landing big punches. Henry took him down and got his back again. He went for a choke but didn’t get it fully. Henry got mount and was landing all kinds of punches on the ground, and went for a choke again late, but the round ended before he could get the finish.

4 Galore Bofando (5-2) beat Charlie Ward (3-3) at 2:10 of a welterweight fight. Bofando threw Ward down hard and Ward landed with his head on the mat and a big thud. He was probably knocked out from the landing as he hit face first and after a few punches on the ground, it was stopped.

5. Alexandre Pantoja (18-2) beat Neil Seery (16-13) at 2:31 of the third round in a flyweight fight. This was Seery’s retirement fight so he was the favorite. Pantoja looked good most of the way. He dropped Seery with a right. Both landed hard punches in the first round and Pantoja came back with a lot of knees. In the second round, Pantoja landed punches and knees to the body. Seery came back and it turned into a great fight. Both landed big shots and Seery was starting to take over late in the round. In the third round, Pantoja got a takedown, moved to mount, got a body triangle and got Seery’s back and finished him with a choke. Seery got a nice sendoff. He said that he didn’t know what he would do next, but it was time to leave, and his time in UFC was fantastic. He thanked his teammates and the UFC,. Dan Hardy tried to play it up big, the same way he did for the Brad Pickett retirement but it wasn’t the same because Seery was never a name fighter.

6. Danny Roberts (14-2) beat Bobby Nash (8-3) at 3:59 of the second round in a welterweight fight. Nash wrestled at Michigan State. He did well in the first round, landing uppercuts and head kicks, and then got a takedown. After Roberts got up, Nash landed knees to the body from the clinch. He got a second takedown late in the round. In the second round, Nash wasn’t able to get a takedown. There was an accidental low blow by Nash. Nash got a takedown but Roberts got up and dropped Nash with a left hook and it was stopped after punches on the ground.

7. Justin Willis (5-1) beat James Mulheron (11-2) on straight 30-27 scores in a heavyweight fight. This wasn’t much of a fight. Willis landed more, and got a takedown and back position. Mulheron got up. Willis landed a solid left and more hard punches to win the round. The second round was boring. Willis got a takedown late and bloodied Mulheron’s nose. In the third round, Willis took Mulheron down and got his back again.

8. Khalil Rountree (7-2) beat Paul Craig (9-2) at 4:56 in a light heavyweight fight. It started slow, but Rountree started taking over and put Craig down with a left uppercut and landed hammer fists on the ground until the fight was stopped.

9. Jack Marshman (22-6) beat Ryan Janes (9-3) on straight 29-28 scores in a middleweight fight. Marshman controlled the first round landing hard punches. The crowd was heavily into this. Marshman continued the attack into the second round, but Janes did get some offense in. During the third round, Janes landed a knee and a lot of punches from close range. Janes took the round but it wasn’t enough.

10. Paul Felder (14-3) beat Stevie Ray (21-7) at 3:57 in a lightweight fight. Felder put him down with a knee and started landing punches and elbows on the ground until it was stopped.

11. Cynthia Cavillo (6-0) beat Joanne Calderwood (11-3) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in a women’s strawweight fight. Calderwood is probably the most popular fighter in Scotland and got a ridiculously huge reaction. She just has that likeable thing going for her. She wasn’t able to make weight, and she’s probably better off moving to the new flyweight division. Cavillo has some potential star power as well, and great cardio which is important in this weight class. Calderwood was getting the better of the standup, but Cavillo too her down and got her back. She was working for a choke and an armbar, and was on the verge of completing the armbar when the first round ended. In the second round, Cavillo landed some punches and Calderwood had a bloody nose. Cavillo missed a kick and went down, but Calderwood didn’t capitalize on it. Calderwood landed a spinning elbow and a body kick and I had her winning the round, but two judges didn’t. In the third round, Cavillo got her back and was working for a choke and once again, Calderwood was in trouble and just survived until the end of the round.

12. Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3) beat Gunnar Nelson (16-3-1) at 1:22 in a welterweight fight. Nelson landed an uppercut and Nelson came back with a good left. Ponzinibbio hurt him with a right, and then landed a left to the jaw that finished the fight.


AAA announced its TripleMania show for 8/26 at a press conference that was more notable for what wasn’t announced.

There had been hints and rumors all week that they would announce that TripleMania would be airing live on Televisa this year. That would be gigantic in the sense it would be the equivalent of WrestleMania airing on NBC, except Televisa is far stronger than NBC. But at the press conference on 7/25, notable because neither Dr. Wagner Jr., nor Psycho Clown were at and they are the main eventers in a mask vs. mask match, nothing was announced in that direction.

In addition, even though the television has been built of late around making Kevin Kross a monster foreigner, and Vampiro as the guy who is standing up to him, nothing was announced for either of them, but they also have a month to add that.

The key is that Johnny Mundo, who holds the AAA Mega heavyweight title, the AAA cruiserweight title and the Latin American heavyweight title, was announced as coming in to defend all three belts in a TLC match against El Texano Jr. and El Hijo del Fantasma. The issues with Vampiro and AAA and Mundo and fiancé Taya are very real, but Mundo, who was also not at the press conference, has agreed to at least work for the company to play out this storylines since he’s got all the belts. Being that it’s a TLC match and there are three belts, it’s also possible that they’ll do a deal that there may not be a winner and that different people will end up with the different belts.

What was announced was Wagner vs. Psycho in a mask vs. mask match. They teased the idea that members of both families will be in attendance and specifically said that Brazo de Plata, who is Psycho’s father, would be there. They also teased Maximo and La Mascara, from the same family. Maximo and La Mascara have been working for The Crash, which is pretty much a hated rival promotion. However, with both AAA and The Crash working for GFW, Jeff Jarrett has tried to play mediator and to get the groups to work together at least in a minor way for this show.

They claimed at the press conference that between 60 and 65 percent of the arena is sold out, which would be 10,000 to 11,000 tickets since with the stage they are set up for 17,000 at Arena Ciudad in Mexico City, which has been the arena that show has been at every year. What’s notable about that is at the last press conference for the show, they claimed that 80 percent of the arena was sold out, so you can’t take anything at face value.

Also announced were:

*Pagano vs. Mesias in a street fight. At one point this was also talked about being a hair vs. hair match, and that stipulation could be added, or it could have been changed

*A 30 man match for the Copa TripleMania. The rules were not explained whether this would be an elimination match, as most Copa matches are, or a Battle Royal or Rumble style of match. The match was said to celebrate the different eras of the promotion with the idea that stars of the past would be returning to the company as part of the celebration of the 25th TripleMania (the first was in 1993, headlined by Konnan vs. Cien Caras in a so-called retirement match, which drew 50,000 fans to Plaza de Toros in Mexico City, still the largest pro wrestling crowd ever in the country). Names announced were La Parka, Bobby Lashley, Moose, the second Psicosis (not the one who worked in the U.S. for WCW, WWE and ECW, but the replacement for him in AAA who had previously worked as Leon Negro and has been working for years in CMLL as Ripper), Intocable, Scorpio Jr., Pimpinela Escarlata and Lanzeloth. At the press conference, Dorian Roldan threw out names like Los Villanos, Blue Demon Jr., Pirata Morgan and Sangre Chicana as possibly appearing, although not directly announcing them. Chicana did make a brief TV appearance this past week and Morgan has worked for the company in recent months. The second Psicosis is notable since he and AAA were in a nasty court fight over rights to use the name after leaving the promotion. But he was at the press conference, which was a very public quitting of CMLL. Another key note is that at least on the original lineup, which was never made public, that Lashley was going to challenge Alberto El Patron for the GFW title on this show. At one point, Alberto was going to be at this press conference, but he wasn’t, and it’s not clear if Lashley was announced for this match just to have a big name American announced and they’ll do the Alberto announcement later, or the Alberto thing fell through, which is very possible.

*Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria defend the AAA tag team titles against Aerostar & Drago, Monsther Clown & Murder Clown and one or two teams from GFW. Originally they were going to announce Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards as the other team in this match. While Edwards & Richards split up their team and were feuding in the U.S., that may not matter here. However, Richards announced asked for his release from GFW this past week so that changed it up.

*Sexy Star will defend her Reina de Reinas title against the winner of a match in Aguascalientes at the 7/27 TV tapings. Ayako Hamada, who is not announced for Aguascalientes (although that means nothing in AAA today) was at least the planned opponent earlier this week.

*The man, woman, mini and exotico eight-man that is a frequent staple on AAA major shows will be back with Mascara de Bronce & Big Mami & Dinastia & Estrella Divina facing Hernandez (former TNA star) & Hiedra & Mini Psycho Clown & Mamba.

*The finals of the Llave a la Gloria tournament, which has been a long tryout of new talent.


While history credits Art Davie as the creator of the UFC, and rightly so, as Davie came up with the concept and did the legwork, and then sold the idea to Semaphore Entertainment Group that led to the creation of the promotion in 1993.

But somewhat lost in history is that it wasn’t a new concept in the United States. A new documentary, called “Tough Guys,” which premiered last month at the 2017 AFI Docs Festival last month in Washington, DC talked about the Pennsylvania-based promotion that started in 1980, the “Tough Guy Championships,” and its organizers, Bill Viola and Frank Caliguri.

According to the documentary, the two Western Pennsylvania martial arts instructors came up with the idea while eating at Denny’s in Monroeville, PA in late 1978. They got into a discussion regarding who would win a fight, Muhammad Ali, Bruno Sammartino or Bruce Lee.

Ironically, that discussion was nationwide in that era, with Ali and Bruce Lee in every discussion. Most discussions also involved a heavyweight pro wrestler, usually a name like Jack Brisco or Billy Robinson, who had the shooter reputations, but it varied by Denny’s location and parts of the country. But when was in middle school and high school, that was a frequent subject. Lee, who had already passed away by that point, was still the name people believed, because of his movie fights and speed, as the representative of karate or kung fu, both of which were marketed big for self defense, while Ali, as the boxing champion, was believed to be the baddest man on the planet (Ali was actually past his prime by this point) and pro wrestlers doing their simulated matches were portrayed as real-life tough guys. At the time, judo and Jiu Jitsu weren’t really known to the general public and the pro wrestlers, at least the shooter types, were thought to be the ones best versed at submissions. Sammartino at the time was the wrestling hero in that part of the country, and known for being incredibly strong, at a time when people thought people who could throw around massive poundages in the bench press would enable them to be badasses in fights.

Viola and Caliguri’s idea was called “Combined Fighting,” with the idea that all moves from all different disciplines would have to be legal.

The first event took place in March 1980 at the Holiday Inn in New Kensington, PA, before a turn away crowd. The promotion only lasted a year.

Because the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission legally only had jurisdiction at the time over boxing and pro wrestling (while kickboxing had broken into some states in the 1970s it wasn’t big on a national basis), they were running the shows unsanctioned. The commission attempted to shut the promotion down, but didn’t have the power. So the Pennsylvania state legislature rushed into passing a law banning mixed fighting events and in specific, the events promoted by CV Productions, the company formed by Caliguri and Viola. The law wasn’t overturned until 2007, when UFC spearheaded the drive to legalize MMA in all 50 states.

The promotion garnered a very small amount of press during its brief existence, and was largely forgotten about until Viola’s son and Fred Atkins wrote a book about the short history of the promotion, called “Godfathers of MMA: the Birth of an American Sport.” The book led to the making of the documentary.” The Heinz History Center Sports Museum for Western Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh, has had an exhibit crediting the birth of the sport of MMA in the U.S. to the Pittsburgh area in 1980.


Smackdown on 7/25 did 2,535,000 viewers coming off the PPV, almost identical to the 2,548,000 the week before, or basically in the recent normal-level range.

Smackdown was third for the night on cable.

The show did a 0.50 in 12-17 (down 23.1 percent), 0.59 in 18-34 (down 9.2 percent), 0.95 in 35-49 (down 2.1 percent) and 1.05 in 50+ (up 4.0 percent).

The audience was 58.7 percent men in 18-49 and 62.5 percent male in 12-17.

Raw on 7/24 did 3,062,000 viewers, a drop of three percent from the prior week. Considering the 7/17 show was the most-watched show since 4/17, that’s a good sign.

Clearly, there has been an increase in interest of late, as this show actually did a stronger first hour than the week before. It fell more as the show went on, but part of that is because the big guns of Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe were all in the first segment and never appeared again. It’s also strong that they did this with a main event of Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins vs. The Miz & Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas.

Raw was the most-watched show for the night on cable and lost only to ABC, NBC and CBS programming in its time slot. On cable, Rachel Maddow on MSNBC was in second place at 2,909,000.

The first hour was the most-watched at 3,156,000 viewers, which goes against the usual summer pattern where the audience comes in late and hour two is the biggest. The second hour did 3,129,000 viewers and the third hour did 2,917,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.74 in 12-17 (down 10.8 percent from the prior week), 0.80 in 18-34 (down 8.0 percent), 1.22 in 35-49 (down 3.9 percent) and 1.22 in 50+ (even with the prior week).

The show did 61.6 percent males in 18-49 and 58.6 percent males in 12-17.

American Grit starring John Cena, on 7/23, did 1,135,000 viewers, up 19 percent from the prior week. It was still the least watched prime time network show by a large margin, as the second lowest in its time slot did nearly double the amount of viewers.

The season premiere of Ballers, starring Dwayne Johnson, did 2,476,000 viewers on HBO, which given the number of homes HBO reaches (just over 34 million), is an incredible number. For a similar percentage of available viewers, a show on USA or FS 1 would have to do nearly 7 million viewers, which they never do. It should also be noted that part of the reason the number was so high was the Game of Thrones lead-in did 9,270,000 viewers, which is really equivalent to the most watched shows of the year on network television.

Impact on 7/20 did 322,000 viewers, a 14 percent drop from the 2017 high of 374,000 from 7/13.

Lucha Underground had another decline in the ratings on 7/19, doing 73,000 viewers for the 8 p.m. showing and 51,000 for the 9 p.m. replay. The 124,000 total was down 17 percent from the prior week.

Raw on 7/17 did a 2.15 rating and 3,150,000 viewers (1.60 viewers per home).


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RESULTS

 

7/6 Orlando (Impact TV tapings): Tyrus b Mahabali Shera, Dezmond Xavier b Braxton Sutter, Drago b Idris Abraham, Laurel Van Ness b Ava Stone, Andrew Everett & Octagoncito b Davey Richards & Demus 3:16, Homicide & Ortiz & Santana b Alberto El Patron & El Hijo de Dos Caras & Dos Caras, Grado & Braxton Sutter & Suicide b KM & Fallah Bah & Mario Bokara, El Hijo del Fantasma & Naomichi Marufuji b Laredo Kid & Garza Jr., Handicap match: Kongo Kong b Joseph Park & Grado, Street fight: Ortiz & Santana b Mayweather & Wilcox, Taiji Ishimori b ACH, Bobby Lashley & Trevor Lee & Low Ki b Alberto El Patron & Sonjay Dutt & Matt Sydal

7/8 Waco, TX (WWE Raw - 3,500): Roman Reigns b Bray Wyatt, R-Truth & Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews b Goldust & Bo Dallas & Curt Hawkins, Cruiserweight title: Neville b Cedric Alexander, Four-way for tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro won over Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows, Rhyno & Heath Slater and Matt & Jeff Hardy, Sasha Banks & Bayley & Mickie James b Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax & Emma, Finn Balor b Elias Samson, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose b Samoa Joe & The Miz

7/8 Corpus Christi, TX (WWE Smackdown - 2,500): Shinsuke Nakamura b Dolph Ziggler, Rusev b Sin Cara, Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Epico & Aiden English, WWE title: Jinder Mahal b Sami Zayn, Naomi & Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch b Carmella & Natalya & Tamina, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Big E & Kofi Kingston and Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder, Three-way for U.S. title: A.J. Styles won over Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin

7/8 Walthamstow, UK (Revolution Pro British J Cup - 895 sellout): Marty Scurll b Tiger Mask, Jushin Liger b Josh Bodom, Kushida b Kyle O’Reilly, Will Ospreay b Ryusuke Taguchi, Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu b Kurtis Chapman & Josh Wall, Chris Brookes & Travis Banks b Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi-DQ, Tomohiro Ishii b Matt Riddle, British J Cup finals: Jushin Liger won over Kushida, Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll

7/8 Largo, FL (WWE NXT - 350 sellout): No Way Jose & Big Boa b Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler, Lars Sullivan b Nick Miller, Billie Kay & Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville & Vanessa Bourne b Sarah Logan & Taynara Conti & Liv Morgan & Aliyah, Hideo Itami b Marcel Barthel, Drew McIntyre b Dan Matha, Sage Beckett b Abbey Laith, Otis Dozovic & Tucker Night b Gabriel & Uriel Ealy, Roderick Strong b Andrade Cien Almas

7/8 Shizuoka (Dragon Gate - 500): Shun Skywalker d Hyou Watanabe, Naruki Doi & Ben K & Kotoka b Cima & Dragon Kid & Takehiro Yamamura, Jimmy Kagetora b Big R Shimizu, Jimmy Susumu & Jimmy Kanda b Flamita & Draztick Boy, Masaaki Mochizuki & Eita b Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito, Yamato & BxB Hulk & Kzy b Shingo Takagi & T-Hawk & Lindaman

7/9 Hidalgo, TX (WWE Smackdown - 4,000): Shinsuke Nakamura b Dolph Ziggler, Rusev b Sin Cara, Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Aiden English & Epico, WWE title: Jinder Mahal b Sami Zayn, Naomi & Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch b Natalya & Carmella & Tamina, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Big E & Kofi Kingston and Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder, Three-way for U.S. title: A.J. Styles won over Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin

7/9 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Acero & Aereo b Pequeno Olimpico & Pequeno Violencia, Cholo won Cibernetico over Robin, Principe Diamante, Oro Jr., Sensei, Magia Blanca, Sangre Imperial, Artillero, Inquisidor, Espiritu Negro, Canelo Casas and Espanto Jr., Dragon Rojo Jr. & Polvora & Sam Adonis b Angel de Oro & Blue Panther & Dragon Lee, Soberano Jr. & Valiente & Volador Jr. b Cavernario & Felino & Sanson, Niebla Roja b Ultimo Guerrero-DQ

7/9 Monterrey (The Crash): Guerrero Vida b Mr. Iguana, Chamaco Gurrola & Mini Hator b Jerrito Estrada & Mini Bengali, Erika Sotelo & Chocolata & Larry Miranda b Black Thunder & Golden Boy & Rey Demonio Jr., Demus 666 won three-way over Ares and Rico Rodriguez, Damian 666 & Zorro b Cibernetico & Sharlie Rockstar-DQ, Daga won four-way over Bestia 666, Ultimo Ninja and Sammy Guevara, Garza Jr. & Penta 0M b La Mascara & M-ximo

7/9 Okayama (Dragon Gate - 650 sellout): Draztick Boy b Katsumi Takashima, Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Big R Shimizu b Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito & Jimmy Kagetora, Genki Horiguchi b Eita, Dragon Kid & Gamma b Masaaki Mochizuki & Kotoka, Shachihoko Boy & Flamita b Cima & Takehiro Yamamura, Shingo Takagi & T-Hawk & Takashi Yoshida b Yamato & BxB Hulk & Kzy

7/9 Chiba (All Japan - 235 sellout): Tank Nagai & Yuki Sato & Ayumu Honda b Atsushi Aoki & Yusuke Okada & Hikaru Sato, Takao Omori & Carbell Ito b Manabu Hara & Kazuki Okubo, Jun Akiyama & Atsushi Maruyama b Yohei Nakajima & Kazuhiro Tamura, Tajiri & Kai & Minoru Tanaka b Koji Iwamoto & Kaji Tomato & Fuminori Abe, Suwama b Massimo, Kento Miyahara & Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi b Shuji Ishikawa & Kotaro Yoshino & Dinosaur Takuma

7/10 Houston (WWE Raw/Main Event TV tapings - 8,300): Mickie James b Emma, TJP b Lince Dorado, Finn Balor b Elias Samson, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson b Matt & Jeff Hardy, Sasha Banks & Bayley b Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss, Goldust b R-Truth, Cedric Alexander & Akira Tozawa b Neville & Noam Dar, Bray Wyatt b Seth Rollins

7/10 Laredo, TX (WWE Smackdown - 800): Shinsuke Nakamura b Dolph Ziggler, Rusev b Sin Cara, Jason Jordan & Chad Gable b Aiden English & Epico, WWE title: Jinder Mahal b Sami Zayn, Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch & Naomi b Natalya & Carmella & Tamina, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods and Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder, Three-way for U.S. title: A.J. Styles won over Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin

7/10 Nagoya (Dragon Gate - 600): Draztick Boy b Shun Skywalker, BxB Hulk & Flamita b Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy Kagetora, Masaaki Mochizuki b Jimmy Kanda, Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito b Takashi Yoshida & Punch Tominaga, Shingo Takagi & T-Hawk b Yamato & Kzy, Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi & Kotoka & Big R Shimizu b Cima & Dragon Kid & Gamma & Eita

7/11 San Antonio (WWE Smackdown/205 Live TV tapings - 6,800): Jason Jordan & Chad Gable & Sin Cara b The Ascension & Aiden English, Non-title: Jinder Mahal b Tye Dillinger, Xavier Woods b Jey Uso, Natalya & Tamina b Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch, John Cena & A.J. Styles b Kevin Owens & Rusev, Akira Tozawa b Ariya Daivari-DQ, Rich Swann b Mario Connors, TJP b Mario Connors, I Quit match: Cedric Alexander b Noam Dar, Shinsuke Nakamura b Baron Corbin

7/11 Osaka (Dragon Gate - 850 sellout): Kaito Ishida d Draztick Boy, Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito b Don Fujii & Gamma, Jimmy Kagetora b Kzy, Masaaki Mochizuki & Flamita b Masato Yoshino & Kotoka, Yamato & BxB Hulk b Naruki Doi & Big R Shimizu, Cima & Dragon Kid & Eita & Takehiro Yamamura b Shingo Takagi & T-Hawk & Takashi Yoshida & Lindaman

7/11 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Fantasy & Ultimo Dragoncito b Pequeno Nitro & Pierrothito, Oro Jr. & Principe Diamante & Robin b El Hijo del Signo & Metalico & Sangre Azteca, Estrellita & Sanely & Skadi b Comandante & Seductora & Metalica, Dragon Rojo Jr. & Hechicero & Polvora b Drone & Guerrero Maya Jr. & Rey Cometa, Valiente d Gran Guerrero, Rey Bucanero & Shocker & El Terrible b Angel de Oro & Niebla Roja & Mistico

7/19 Mito (All Japan): Takao Omori b Yusuke Okada, Minoru Tanaka b Yohei Nakajima, Jun Akiyama & Daichi Hashimoto & Takuya Nomura b Koji Iwamoto & Ryoji Sai & Fuminori Abe, Tajiri & Kai b Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi, Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura b Zeus & Massimo, Suwama & Joe Doering & Atsushi Aoki b Shuji Ishikawa & Masashi Takeda & Atsushi Maruyama

7/20 Cocoa, FL (WWE NXT - 250): Ruby Riot & Lacey Evans b Peyton Royce & Billie Kay, Babatunde Aiyegbusi b Sawyer Fulton, Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight b Gabriel & Uriel Ealy, Aleister Black b Marcel Barthel, Nick Miller b Chad Lail, Ember Moon b Bianca Belair, Hideo Itami & Velveteen Dream b Buddy Murphy & Kassius Ohno

7/20 Osaka (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 452): Akitoshi Saito b Seiichi Ikemoto, Gaston Mateo & Kaiser b Shunma Katsumata & Mao, Hajime Ohara & Hitoshi Kumano b Gurukun Mask & Shuri Joe, Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Kotoge & Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm b Brian Cage & Cody Hall & Kazma Sakamoto & Masao Inoue, Phil Atlas & Seiya Morohashi b Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke, Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 b Hayata & Yo-Hey, GHC tag titles: Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi b Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya

7/21 Fayetteville, NC (WWE Raw - 3,000): Three-way for tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro won over Matt & Jeff Hardy and Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows, Goldust b R-Truth, Jack Gallagher b TJP, Bray Wyatt b Apollo Crews, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose b The Miz & Curtis Axel, Mickie James referee: Sasha Banks & Bayley & Dana Brooke b Emma & Nia & Jax & Alicia Fox, Finn Balor b Elias Samson, Roman Reigns b Braun Strowman-DQ

7/21 Daytona Beach, FL (WWE NXT - 250): Fabian Aichner b Raul Mendoza, Liv Morgan & Lacey Evans & Taynara Conti & Aliyah b Sage Beckett & Reina Gonzalez & Vanessa Borne & Zeda, Velveteen Dream b Nick Miller, Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight b Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake, Johnny Gargano b Marcel Barthel, Nikki Cross b Sarah Logan, Drew McIntyre & Roderick Strong & Aleister Black b Bobby Roode & Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli

7/21 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 6,000): Puma & Tiger b Blue Panther Jr. & The Panther, Blue Panther d Sam Adonis, Caristico & Diamante Azul & Marco Corleone b Kraneo & Pierroth & Rush-DQ, Princesa Sugehit won Copa Natalia Vazquez over Marcela, Dallys, Estrellita, Amapola, Silueta, Zeuxis, Vaquerita, Comandante, Sanely, Metalica, Skadi, Seductora, and Lady Maravilla, Volador Jr. & Niebla Roja & Dragon Lee b Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia-DQ

7/21 Manchester, UK (What Culture U.S. World Cup tournament): Quarterfinals: David Starr b Bobby Fish, Jay Lethal b Moose, Keith Lee b James Storm, Ricochet b Matt Sydal, Angelico b Drake, Gabriel Kidd b Travis Banks, Joe Coffey b Mark Davis, Marty Scurll NC Joe Hendry, WCPW tag titles: Ray Rowe & Hanson b Kings of the North, Semifinals: Jay Lethal b David Starr, Ricochet b Keith Lee

7/21 Tijuana (AAA EMW): EMW middleweight title: Drago won title over champion Mamba and Estrella Divina, Dave the Clown & Monsther Clown & Murder Clown b Argenis & El Hijo del Medico Asesino & La Parka, Three-way for Reina de Reinas title: Sexy Star won over Faby Apache and Lady Shani, EMW hwt title: Mil Muertes b Pagano, Three-way for AAA Mega heavyweight title: Johnny Mundo won over El Hijo del Fantasma and El Texano Jr.

7/21 Takamatsu (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 197): Phil Atlas & Seiya Morohashi b Kaiser & Gaston Mateo, Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 b Shunma Katsumata & Mao, Akitoshi Saito & Yoshinari Ogawa b Kenou & Masao Inoue, Atsushi Kotoge & Mohammed Yone & Quite Storm b Eddie Edwards & Cody Hall & Kazma Sakamoto, Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke b Gurukum Mask & Shuri Joe, Hayata & Yo-Hey b Hajime Ohara & Hitoshi Kumano, Brian Cage & Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi b Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya & Go Shiozaki

7/22 Hampton, VA (WWE Raw - 5,000): Three-way for tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro won over Matt & Jeff Hardy and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, Goldust b R-Truth, Jack Gallagher b TJP, Bray Wyatt b Apollo Crews, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose b The Miz & Curtis Axel, Mickie James referee: Bayley & Dana Brooke & Sasha Banks b Alexa Bliss & Emma & Nia Jax, Finn Balor b Elias Samson, Roman Reigns b Braun Strowman-DQ

7/22 Wildwood, NJ (WWE Smackdown - 3,700): U.S. title: A.J. Styles b Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin b Sami Zayn, Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley & Tye Dillinger b Luke Harper & The Ascension, Chad Gable b Viktor, Three-way for WWE title: Jinder Mahal won over Shinsuke Nakamura and Dolph Ziggler, Charlotte Flair won five-way over Natalya, Tamina, Becky Lynch and Lana, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Big E & Kofi Kingston and Tyler Breeze & Fandango, John Cena b Rusev

7/22 Tampa (WWE NXT - 550): Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight b Tino Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss, Bianca Belair b Zeda, Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford & Big Boa b Gabriel & Uriel Ealy & Brennan Williams, Oney Lorcan b Kona Reeves, Drew McIntyre & Aleister Black b Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler, Lars Sullivan b Fabian Aichner, Asuka & Lacey Evans & Liv Morgan b Sage Beckett & Peyton Royce & Billie Kay, Roderick Strong b Velveteen Dream

7/22 Newcastle, UK (What Culture Pro Wrestling Rest of the World tournament): Quarterfinals: Travis Banks b Mark Davis, Jurn Simmons b Tom LaRuffa, Flash Morgan Webster b Raj Singh, Angelico b Icarus, James Storm & Matt Sydal b Bobby Fish & David Starr, Marty Scurll b Ricochet, Non-title: Ray Rowe & Hanson b Liam Slater & Moose, Semifinals: Travis Banks b Jurn Simmons, Angelico b Flash Morgan Webster, El Ligero won ladder match over Rampage Brown, Jay Lethal, Drake, Primate, Alex Gracie and Gabriel Kidd

7/22 Numazu (All Japan - 211): Yuma Aoyagi b Yusuke Okada, Minoru Tanaka & Atsushi Maruyama b Yohei Nakajima & Koji Iwamoto, Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato b Takuya Nomura & Yua Aoki, Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori & Zeus b Tajiri & Kai & Massimo, Suwama & Joe Doering b Ryoji Sai & Rikiya Fudo, Shuji Ishikawa & Daichi Hashimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani b Kento Miyahara & Jake lee & Naoya Nomura

7/22 Kyoto (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 323): Gurukun Mask & Shuri Joe b Kaiser & Gaston Mateo, Mohammed Yone & Yoshinari Ogawa b Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue, Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi b Go Shiozaki & Quiet Storm, Eddie Edwards b Atsushi Kotoge, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya b Brian Cage & Cody Hall, Shunma Katsumata & Mao b Hajime Ohara & Hitoshi Kumano, Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 b Phil Atlas & Seiya Morohashi, Hayata & Yo-Hey b Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke

7/23 Salisbury, MD (WWE Raw): Three-way for tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro won over Matt & Jeff Hardy and Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows, Goldust b R-Truth,. Jack Gallagher b TJP, Bray Wyatt b Apollo Crews, Mickie James referee: Bayley & Sasha Banks & Dana Brooke b Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss & Emma, Finn Balor b Elias Samson, Roman Reigns b Braun Strowman-DQ

7/23 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Electrico & Stukita b Mercurio & Universito 2000, Astral & Oro Jr. & Stigma b Arkangel de la Muerte & El Hijo del Signo & Nitro, Cholo & Espanto Jr. & Inquisidor b Artillero & Canelo Casas & Espiritu Negro, Dragon Lee & Soberano Jr. & Stuka Jr. b Dragon Rojo Jr. & Hechicero & Polvora, Diamante Azul & Volador Jr. & Valiente b Negro Casas & Felino & Cavernario

7/23 Tochigi (All Japan - 312): Koji Iwamoto b Yusuke Okada, Atsushi Maruyama b Yuma Aoyagi, Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori & Zeus b Tajiri & Kai & Yohei Nakajima, Suwama & Joe Doering b Yoshihisa Uto & Takuya Nomura, All-Asia tag title: Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato b Tank Nagai & Ayumu Honda, Kento Miyahara & Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura b Shuji Ishikawa & Ryoji Sai & Massimo

7/24 Washington, DC (WWE Raw/Main Event TV tapings - 9,000): Cedric Alexander b Tony Nese, Apollo Crews b Kalisto, No DQ: Elias Samson b Finn Balor, Big Cass b Enzo Amore, Nia Jax b Emma, Bayley b Sasha Banks, Jason Jordan b Curt Hawkins, Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson b Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, 2 on 3 handicap match: Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins b The Miz & Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas

7/24 Newark, DE (WWE Smackdown - 3,000): Three-way for tag titles: Big E & Xavier Woods won over Tyler Breeze & Fandango and Usos, Baron Corbin b Sami Zayn, Tye Dillinger & Chad Gable & Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder b Aiden English & Erick Rowan & The Ascension, Luke Harper b Viktor, Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura b Jinder Mahal & Dolph Ziggler, Charlotte Flair & Naomi & Becky Lynch b Natalya & Carmella & Lana, U.S. title: Kevin Owens b A.J. Styles, John Cena b Rusev

7/25 Richmond, VA (WWE Smackdown/205 Live TV tapings - 5,700): Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley b The Ascension, Shinsuke Nakamura b Baron Corbin, Charlotte & Becky Lynch b Tamina & Lana, Sami Zayn & Tye Dillinger b Mike Kanellis & Aiden English, Three-way for U.S. title: A.J. Styles won over Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho to win title, Non-title: Ariya Daivari b Neville-COR, Tony Nese & TJP b Rich Swann & Cedric Alexander, WWE title: John Cena b Jinder Mahal-DQ

7/25 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Pequeno Nitro & Pierrothito b Fantasy & Ultimo Dragoncito, Oro Jr. & Principe Diamante & Robin b El Hijo del Signo & Metalico & Sangre Azteca, Estrellita & Sanely & Skadi b Comandante & Seductora & Metalica, Dragon Rojo Jr. & Hechicero & Polvora b Drone & Guerrero Maya Jr. & Rey Cometa, Gran Guerrero d Valiente, Rey Bucanero & Shocker & El Terrible b Angel de Oro & Mistico & Niebla Roja

7/26 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Masters of Wrestling - 1,626 sellout): Ricky Fuji b Hisakatsu Oya, Great Sasuke & Shiryu (Kaz Hayashi) & Sato (Dick Togo) b Nosawa & Mazada & Fujita, Jushin Liger & Takuma Sano b Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Takaku Fuke, Shiro Koshinaka & AKIRA & Akitoshi Saito b Great Kojika & Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi, Tatsumi Fujinami & Riki Choshu & Hiroshi Hase b Great Muta & Great Kabuki & TNT

7/26 Nagano (All Japan - 369 sellout): Takuya Nomura b Yusuke Okada, Naoya Nomura d Kai, Jun Akiyama & Ultimo Dragon & Toru Owashi b Yohei Nakajima & Tajiri & Minoru Tanaka, Suwama & Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato b Koji Iwamoto & Masashi Takeda & Atsushi Maruyama, Joe Doering b Massimo, Kento Miyahara & Jake Lee & Yuma Aoyagi b Takao Omori & Shuji Ishikawa & Zeus

CMLL: The reason the anniversary show was moved to a Saturday late afternoon this year is that 9/15, the Friday, is a traditional family holiday where people stay home and have family dinners at night. In the past, if 9/15 was a Friday, CMLL would have the anniversary show on 9/22 or 9/29, and I have no idea why they didn’t do that this year. 9/16 is Mexican Independence Day so the combination of the anniversary show and a that kind of a holiday could be a big draw. The late afternoon slot is so the show will be over in time for the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin boxing match that will be gigantic in Mexico

The complete 16-man field for the 9/1 World Cup show is King Haku, Matt Taven, Juice Robinson, Satoshi Kojima, Sam Adonis, Marco Corleone, Johnny Idol, Michael Elgin, Volador Jr., Ultimo Guerrero, Dragon Lee, Diamante Azul, Euforia, Mephisto, Valiente and Rush

The 7/21 show at Arena Mexico drew 6,000 fans for a show with no special hooks and was just starting to build some future angles. The good point of this is that the base crowd only a few months ago was about 4,000. Blue Panther and Sam Adonis went to a 10:00 draw in the singles match and this set up a hair vs. hair match that will take place on 8/4. Some have joked how Adonis got the match that Bryan Danielson had wished he had gotten, since Danielson had talked in the past of wanting to do a hair vs. hair match against Blue Panther at Arena Mexico. Caristico and Rush started something that may or may not go anywhere as Caristico & Diamante Azul & Marco Corleone wrestled Rush & Pierroth & Kraneo. The match had super heat, and ended when Rush pulled off Caristico’s mask for the DQ, which would have been fine had they not then done the same finish in the main event. The Copa Natalia Vazquez, a women’s elimination match, went 34:34 and followed a Battle Royal. The whole segment went about 45 minutes. The order of elimination was Skadi, Metalica, Seductora, Comandante, Vaquerita, Angel Maravilla (making her debut), Sanely, Silueta, Marcela, Estrellita, Amapola and Dallys. It came down to Princesa Sugehit and Zeuxis with Sugehit winning. With that match going so long, the main event felt rushed. It was Volador Jr. & Dragon Lee & Niebla Roja beating Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia via DQ when Gran Guerrero pulled off Roja’s mask in the third fall. The combined of all three falls was only 12:52. The heels won the first fall with a triple dancing Gori especial. There were the usual cool dives at the end but it wasn’t the level of most main events, but action was good

The 7/28 show has Mistico & Caristico & Niebla Roja vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Mephisto, Blue Panther & Diamante Azul & Valiente vs. Pierroth & Rush & Adonis and Stuka Jr. vs. Hechicero on top. .. The sons of Cien Caras, Cuatrero & Sanson, who are both being groomed for stardom, captured the Arena Coliseo tag team titles from the world’s oldest tag team, Black Terry (64 years old, 42 plus years pro) & Negro Navarro (60 years old, 42 years pro) on 7/22 at Arena Coliseo. The teams were said to have not meshed well as they do completely different styles.

AAA: While at the San Diego Comic Con, Johnny Mundo was asked if he was 100 percent done with AAA, and he said, “Never say never in wrestling.” He also said, “I still have the AAA titles. We still have business to take care of. We’re working things out, with several different companies and we’re dealing with a firestorm with the comments that have been flying back-and-forth on Twitter because of the situation, so I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Regarding Vampiro, he said, “Vampiro is a yes man. Vampiro just says yes to everyone, and he’s got his nose was up Dorian’s turd cutter and all it does is tell people what they want to hear. And ultimately, it sucks, because he tells us what we want to hear, and he tells someone else what they want to hear, and ultimately, he’s just lying to everyone.

Both were later at a 7/21 show in Tijuana where they tried to turn their Twitter thing into an angle. Not sure how well it worked since their beef was in English and most AAA fans don’t follow the company on Twitter, and particularly don’t in English. They may know about Taya being stripped of the title but not the back story as to why, so this is kind of like those late 80s WCW angles where they assumed insider knowledge that fell flat. Mundo retained his AAA Mega heavyweight title in the main event over El Hijo del Fantasma and El Texano Jr. Mundo pinned Texano with a low blow. After the match, Mundo brought all three of his belts and threw them on the ground in front of Vampiro. Vampiro then praised Mundo and Taya (who wasn’t there) and said he was disrespecting the belts. Mundo ran down Vampiro like it was on Twitter and said he would come to Aguascalientes (where AAA has its TV taping) if they paid him what he was owed. Mundo also threw the mic at Vampiro. Vampiro teased fighting Mundo. The belief is that Taya is not going back, but Mundo will be doing business and at least working TripleMania, but it’s unclear what his plans are after that point

Interesting on the undercard that Mesias worked with his Lucha Underground name, Mil Muertes, and won the EMW title over Pagano with the flatliner. Sexy Star won a three-way elimination match over Faby Apache and Lady Shani to keep her Reina de Reinas title. Thunder Rosa (Kobra Moon in Lucha Underground) then issued a challenge to Sexy Star

The TV show in the U.K. was already canceled. It aired on Frontrunner TV, which draws small audiences. The first episode aired on 6/14 and was watched by 14,000 viewers, making it the most watched show on the channel since April. In fact, it drew triple the numbers of any other show on the channel, which tells you all you need to know about the channel. The footage was months old and the reaction to Dave Bradshaw and Alex Shane as announcers was really bad, and was said to be a real turnoff to viewers. By 6/28, the audience was down to 2,000 and on 7/5, the audience was below 1,000. At that point the show was pulled from the schedule. A big mistake was airing the show at 7 p.m., as there are strict regulations in the U.K. about what can air between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. and OFCOM, the U.K. television regulatory body received complaints about content and Frontrunner, given the complaints and the ratings, pulled the show. They acknowledged it by saying on Facebook, “Unfortunately we have had to pull all AAA programming from the channel indefinitely–this is out of our hands and we will miss it.

Another Vampiro story this past week revolves around supposed AAA and Lucha Underground tryouts listed for 8/20 at a wrestling school in Brooklyn. Mike Quackenbush and Vampiro were listed on the poster, with Quackenbush as the instructor and Vampiro as the judge, and that Vampiro would choose the winner to get an AAA and Lucha Underground tryout. There was a $200 sign-up fee. The logos of both AAA and LU were used in the advertising. They were pushing that you had to sign up by 7/31. Ricky Reyes also claimed on his Facebook that he’d be at the tryouts and it was legit. This past weekend, Vampiro said he was pulling out because of commitments to TripleMania, which takes place six days later. This was all announced long after the date of TripleMania was well known. The company involved, Toro Road Entertainment, referred all inquiries about refunds to Vampiro. The school running the event said they were just hosting it and had nothing to do with anything else. Vampiro was getting blasted in social media and said that he agreed to do this event a long time ago, but hadn’t heard from the organizers in a long time, and said it was put together by Joel (Joel Maximo of the old SATs tag team), who runs the school. Vampiro said that AAA and LU had nothing to do with the event. Toro Road then announced the tryouts were canceled due to Vampiro and LU pulling out and claimed that they had never taken any money for the tryouts. When asked about people who haven’t been able to get their money back, Vampiro said that he didn’t get any of it and it’s not his responsibility.. . Sexy Star said that she’s back here working with a mask even though she boxed on national television without her mask since she never actually lost her mask in a match. She said she’s still interested in boxing, and if a fight comes up, she’ll take time off from wrestling to train for it.

THE CRASH:  The 8/5 show in Tijuana is headlined by Penta 0M vs. La Mascara and Daga & Jack Evans & Oraculo vs. Bestia 666 & Black Danger & Garza Jr. The only foreigners working that 8/5 are Oraculo and Willie Mack.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: The round-robin part of the junior heavyweight tag team tournament ended on 7/22 in Kyoto before 323 fans, leaving GHC jr. tag champs Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 and Yo-Hey & Hayata tied for first with 5-2 records. The tournament final will be 7/27 at Korakuen Hall

Ishimori & Hi69 advanced to the finals beating Phil Atlas & Seiya Morohashi when Ishimori pinned Morohashi in 15:18 on 7/22 in Kyoto before 323 fans. Yo-Hey & Hayata also made the finals beating Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke in 17:20 when Yo-Hey beat Tadasuke. Earlier, Hajime Ohara & Hitoshi Kumano were eliminated from the finals with an upset loss against Shunma Katsumata & Mao. The finals standings were: 1. Hayata & Yo-Hey and Ishimori & Hi69 5-2; 3. Tadasuke & Harada, Ohara & Kumano and Atlas & Morohashi 4-3; 6. Katsumata & Mao 3-4; 7. Gaston Mateo & Kaiser 2-5; 8. Gurukum Mask & Shuri Joe 1-6

Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi retained the GHC tag titles beating Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya on 7/20 in Osaka. The end came at 26:30 when Taniguchi pinned Kitamiya with the Maybach bomb

They announced the debut of Jyunta Miyawaki, 20, from Takamatsu. He’s 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds with a judo background and will have his first match on 8/12 in Yokohama

Without mentioning names, Konnan said that two wrestlers from The Crash are headed here.

NEW JAPAN: If you want to understand the mentality about Hiroshi Tanahashi and his not getting surgery for his torn right biceps, his autobiography probably explains it. His favorite wrestler growing up was Dynamite Kid (although he later put Shawn Michaels in the same category) and said he felt the idea attitude for a pro wrestler was Dynamite Kid’s of “All I care about is making today’s crowd happy.” Tanahashi said, “His never look back attitude is a rightful one, since our job as a pro wrestler is to make people see that dream in us. People won’t buy into wrestlers who want to have a long and healthy life.” So in his mind, it’s about the here and now and having the best match possible here and now, as opposed to worrying about if what he does isn’t smart for later life or a longer career. Unfortunately, Dynamite Kid was never the same after the age of 27 or 28, and while Tanahashi is still among the best in the world with one arm at 40, he probably could have a longer shelf life at the time if he took six months off. Plus, no doubt he’s got injuries to other body parts that could use a rest, and New Japan could build for his return. One of the things that made Kenta Kobashi so much bigger later in his career as compared to years earlier when he was really at his peak, was his long time off for injuries, because his comebacks became gigantic (at least the first few, the last comeback was one too many, although the retirement was as big a retirement as anyone anywhere). It is true that a ton of wrestlers historically worked their way through a torn biceps (EC 3 did it as well a few years ago) but there was a mentality then that if you don’t work, you don’t get paid and thus there was little choice in the matter. There’s also the mentality of guys in top spots that they need to work through it because of the position the company gave them. Tanahashi will probably, without surgery, regain most of his strength in the bad arm in time but will have the hole where the arm symmetry will look somewhat deformed, but he already has that in the other arm from his injury in 2016 and came back and was still working as a top level, since so much of his great matches are built around selling and psychology and you can still take the hard hitting with a biceps tear. That wouldn’t be the case today, so trying to do now what guys in the past felt they had to do doesn’t hold any water.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: On 7/22, at a private function, there was an incident where Tsukushi, 19, a woman wrestler, was arrested for attempting to stab Kagetsu (Yukar Ishino, 25), who works for Stardom as well as a number of other independent groups. Kagetsu was able to stop the attack but police were called to the scene and Tsukushi was arrested. Tsukushi’s home promotion is Ice Ribbon and she’s noted because she started as a pro wrestler in 2010 at the age of 12 working for Ice Ribbon and also has worked for Neo Ladies. She’s one of the better workers and most popular of the young Japanese women wrestlers and worked some for All Japan as well as a number of the women groups. We’re not sure what caused the incident which we first reported on Observer radio. The two have worked on the same shows. Tsukushi missed her show the next day and it was said at the show that she was suffering from poor health as a cover reason. The story has since gotten some media coverage in Japan, however the names of the wrestlers were not mentioned. The media coverage has only stated that a 19-year-old wrestler from the Ice Ribbon promotion is being held in prison. Ice Ribbon stated they don’t know the full story yet. The victim was listed as a 25-year-old wrestler who was at one point a mentor. Ice Ribbon President Hajime Sato, and the company’s top star, Tsukasa Fujimoto, apologized to the press in a statement made at the company’s gym. Kagetsu wasn’t injured as she stopped the attack and worked the 7/23 show in Osaka for Stardom. This is very serious and could be a career-ender. Japan is very strict when it comes to public morals, especially when it comes to stars who are teenagers. Teen Pop idols often lose their spot in popular acts if it comes out publicly that they were smoking or having issues with drinking. This was considered way worse than the Yoshiko vs. Act Yasukawa incident, where Yoshiko suddenly started punching Yasukawa (who had a bad eye) for real and essentially this led to ending Yasukawa’s career and Yoshiko was fired by Stardom and out of wrestling for some time, although other groups did eventually bring her back. The idea is it’s one thing to start a fight using fists in the ring, but very much another to go after someone in a public function using a knife

The 14-year-old daughter of Mary Apache has started training with Stardom. She’s looking at debuting next year. Mary has moved her family to Japan, which is why she’s not wrestling in Mexico anymore, and starts wrestling this week with Stardom

Hiroshi Hase became the first member of the Japanese cabinet to do a pro wrestling match on 7/26. Hase, 56, who is a pro wrestling Hall of Famer who wrestled in the 1984 Olympics, and after retiring as a full-time pro wrestler became a major political figure in Japan, is the current Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet. On 7/26 at Korakuen Hell, he had his first match since his 2006 retirement match at Sumo Hall for All Japan. It was for Keiji Muto, who Hase has worked with dating back to New Japan and later they worked together to help Muto acquire All Japan when Motoko Baba wanted to sell the company. The Pro Wrestling Masters nostalgia show drew a sellout 1,626 fans, as Tatsumi Fujinami & Riki Choshu & Hase beat Great Muta & Great Kabuki & TNT (Savio Vega’s original name when he did a ninja gimmick in Puerto Rico and Japan) in the main event in 16:41 when Hase used his trademark Northern Lights Suplex (the move he popularized in modern pro wrestling) to pin TNT. Hase thanked everyone after the show. The show was built around old stories in matches. The old Ishingun heel group in New Japan of the 90s was reunited as Shiro Koshinaka teamed with AKIRA & Akitoshi Saito, and Masashi Aoyagi was brought in as their second, to face the Big Japan trio of Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi & Great Kojika (who may be the world’s oldest regular pro wrestler at 75 years old) years, when Koshinaka pinned Kojika. Kojika said after that the feud between Big Japan and Ishingun will continue. They also had Jushin Liger & Takuma Sano, who had a huge feud in the early 90s doing state-of-the-art matches over the IWGP jr. title, teaming up to beat a shooter team of Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Takaku Fuke (a former Pancrase original) in 12:03 when Sato pinned Fuke after a double foot stomp off the top rope. They also brought back an original Michinoku Pro trio of Great Sasuke & Shiryu (who is now Kaz Hayashi) & Sato (who became more famous as Dick Togo) beating Nosawa & Mazada & Fujita. .. The final DDT show at Korakuen Hall before its big Sumo Hall show next month, held on 7/23, drew 1,253 fans with Daisuke Sasaki retaining the Extreme title winning a ladder match over Joey Ryan in 16:08. Akito then came out to challenge Sasaki to a title match with hair vs. hair stipulations. The main event saw their current big gun, Konosuke Takeshita , a 22-year-old who is the closest thing in Japan to the next generation Okada, keeping his KO-D open weight title beating Keisuke Ishii in 17:51 with a wrist clutch fisherman’s buster. Then, Naomi Yoshimura of the DNA promotion showed up to cash in his briefcase after Takeshita had a long match. Takeshita pinned him as well with a lariat in 11:00. The biggest DDT show of the year will be 8/20 at Sumo Hall. They’ve packed the building in the past but have brought in guys like Kazuchika Okada or Hiroshi Tanahashi as the big guest star and then usually several other names to work underneath. This year, aside from Naomichi Marufuji, it’s really a pure DDT key show. Takeshita defends against the 2017 King of DDT tournament winner in the main event. Tag champs Irie & Kazusada Higuchi face Harashima & Marufuji. Sasaki vs. Akino for the Extreme title in the hair vs. hair match is next, plus owner Sanshiro Takagi faces Danshoku Dino in a gimmick 20th anniversary match, and there is a trios title match with Kudo & Yukio Sakaguchi & Masahiro Takanishi defending against Dick Togo & Yasu Urano & Antonio Honda

Antonio Inoki was back in the news as he ran a 7/24 show at Korakuen Hall before a sellout of 1,800 fans, billed as being a special show to honor Karl Gotch, who was known in Japan as “The God of Wrestling,” who passed away 10 years ago (July 28, 2007), and Muhammad Ali, who passed away last June. They had some pro wrestling matches and an MMA tournament but it was really about older fans seeing Inoki. Scott Norton, who was New Japan’s top foreigner during the late 90s, was brought in for the show, teaming with Hikaru Sato of All Japan, to beat Hideki Suzuki & Takashi Matsumoto when Norton pinned Matsumoto with a power bomb.

HERE AND THERE: This is a scary stat on first glance but it really doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know. There was a big news story that made the rounds that Boston University researchers had studied brains of 111 deceased former NFL football players and 110 had CTE. That’s immediately alarming, as it should be. But what wasn’t covered is that in studying those 111 players, how many of them had problems that could be recognized from it. There are people who have had concussions in life that function great and have no issues at all, and there are those who have terrible problems sometimes even early in life with memory problems, inability to control emotional issues and worse. This also happens to people who never played very physical sports. So while there is clearly cause for a lot of concern, the key studies would not be looking at brains of deceased athletes, but looking at cognitive skills over time of still living athletes from various different sports and comparing them, and cases of declines, with a group of people who never played those types of sports and studying issues from there, such as suicide rate, depression rate, memory issues and such. I saw a study last year of rugby players, and that’s as rough a sport as there is, and they examined those very issues and found no evidence that rugby players had any such issues more than the general public, and suicide rates were actually below normal. The point being we will have stories now of football players with all kinds of problems, and they will exist, just like people like that exist in the general public. The question is that on a percentage basis, how does that compare to a non-combat audience and that’s the real question that we haven’t seen answered and is the key one. Another aspect of it is that players or players families who would donate their brains are more likely to be ones who were having issues than not having issues. That’s not to minimize the dangers, but just to say those stats don’t answer the key questions. It’s like the steroid/drug argument with the 80s wrestlers. The pro-side would point out every heart attack of a steroid using wrestler and say it was steroids, and there were plenty of young heart attacks. The negative side would point out that plenty of people have heart attacks, even in their 40s. It wasn’t until the numbers were examined and it came out that the heart attack rate of wrestlers was seven times that of the general public and even more times that of NFL players was it conclusive that pro wrestling had a real problem, whether it be the lifestyle or in some form. And I’m sure that there is a real problem here, but exactly how severe is something that these numbers don’t tell you. .. Logic would tell you that a large percentage of both UFC fighters and pro wrestlers who last any kind of length in the profession would have to be considered high-risk in that category

The October issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, had a column by Stu Sacks revealing after all these years that Matt Brock and Liz Hunter were fictitious characters, and that over the years, Dave Rosenbaum, Steve Farhood (now a boxing Hall of Famer), Craig Peters, Eddie Ellner and Joe Bua all wrote under the Brock and Hunter names for years. He also wrote that up until a few years ago, virtually every quote from a wrestler in all of their magazines were actually made up. He said that after the story on the website popmatters.com on the history of the so-called Apter mags (that Saks, who started in the 70s at the same time I did, doing a pro wrestling newsletter and I actually would send him reports of matches from the Cow Palace and other arenas) which looked at what was and wasn’t real about those magazines that there is no reason to hide the truth. Saks said that the former employees had no problem revealing secrets that were supposed to remain sacred, but he said that he didn’t have any problem with it and that in the article, he spoke freely on it as well. He said that today they no longer are doing that.

Adrian Street, who was the prototype for a number of WWE characters including Adrian Adonis, Rico and more recently Tyler Breeze, whose entrance music idea was clearly taken from Street’s own produced entrance music, nearly died while undergoing routine surgery. Street, 76, a top U.K. star who came to the U.S. in his 40s and was a star in several territories before settling in Alabama, was undergoing a colonoscopy when he flatlined for a few seconds. He was in a hospital and he joked that they sent for an ambulance to rush him to another part of the hospital, saying the trip of about 200 yards cost him $700. He said that nearly gave him a real heart attack. Street note that he was told 17 years ago that he was going to die of throat cancer, but beat it. There is also a documentary being worked on about his life

A Go Fund Me campaign has been launched to benefit Matt Cappotelli, the former Tough Enough winner who is battling a Grade IV GiloBlastoma Multiforme, one of the worst forms of cancer imaginable

Ringside for Battle of Los Angeles will be $110 per night, a major increase from last year, which was a major increase from the year before that

There was a scary moment on 7/21 at the AIW show in Cleveland. Flip Kendrick & Face were facing Crazy Pain (Steve Pain & Gringo Loco), Cheech & Colin Delaney and Laredo Kid & DJZ. Kendrick went for a double moonsault off the top rope to the floor, a move he’s done many times, and ended up hitting head first on the ring steps. Fortunately for him, what looked really scary wasn’t that bad. He was taken to the hospital and there were no serious injuries past he needed stitches to close a cut

Ricochet vs. Shane Strickland was announced as the main event for the 10/5 WaleMania show in Orlando. George Carroll, who heads New Japan’s U.S. operations, is involved with producing the show, although New Japan is not involved with the show. They are going to do digital hype shows called MLW 360, built around building the personalities of Ricochet and Strickland

A promotion called XWA that runs weekly in Providence, RI, ran a big show on 7/16 which included a lot of area independent guys as well as LAX from GFW, Keith Lee, Jeff Cobb, John Morrison (who put over JT Dunn in a hot match), Paul London, David Starr, Kenny Dykstra and had Ricochet beating Rey Mysterio Jr. In the main event. The match was said to be outstanding with Mysterio able to keep up with Ricochet and his easier schedule over the last year has done wonders for him physically

In Puerto Rico, the WWL has become the top promotion, as they are doing about 600 fans per show while WWC is down to about 150. They had a 7/15 show in Mayaguez where they paid tribute to Johnny Rivera, also known as Invader III. It played into a heel turn by Mr. 450, as he attacked Rivera, who was his original teacher. He’s now changed his name as a heel to Mecha Wolf 450. LAX from GFW have continued to work here. In WWC, Apolo is no longer working there. Apparently the promotion felt transportation costs of bringing him in from Florida were too much. WWC has its Summer Madness show on 8/5 in Bayamon with Carlito vs. Ray Gonzalez in the decades long program over the Universal title. The feeling is the WWC’s style is dated and comes off in the past, while the WWL talent was talked to by Konnan who encouraged all of them to start watching matches from all over the world to see what the modern world style is instead of just doing the old localized style

Kevin Sullivan did a podcast with David Penzer and said that the night before Bash at the Beach, that he was in talks with Peter Young, who was Hulk Hogan’s agent, who he said was literally crying that they shouldn’t turn Hogan and the discussion didn’t end until 2:30 a.m. He said people until the last minute were trying to tell Hogan that a heel turn wouldn’t work. On the podcast, Sullivan said that he believed Mahal would draw more money than anyone in the history of WWE

James Laurinaitis, 30, the son of Road Warrior Animal, was hired as an announcer by the Big Ten Network. “James Laurinaitis had perhaps the best screen test I’ve ever seen,” said Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman to Buckouts. “James came in and the intelligence and how thoughtful, well-spoken for somebody, who literally just retired months ago really blew us all away. Having somebody who played some of his career actually on BTN and bringing him back on, it’s a great add for us.” Laurinaitis was a three-time All-American linebacker at Ohio State who won the Bronko Nagurski award in 2006 as the best defensive player in college football and the Dick Butkus Award in 2007 as the best linebacker in college football. He was a seven year starting linebacker for the St. Louis Rams, from 2009 to 2015 before he was let go. He was injured most of last season with the New Orleans Saints, and announced his retirement from pro football after the Saints cut him.

EUROPE: The promotion Fight Nation has purchased IPW: UK, a 14 year old promotion ran by Daniel Elder that has had a lot of stuff written about it as one of the pioneer groups of modern-style U.K. wrestling. Billy Wood, the owner of Fight Nation, is taking over operations. Wood has said that very little will change and that they will continue to run shows using the IPW: UK name.

The What Culture Pro Wrestling 64-man tournament is now down to the final eight, which starts on 8/23 in Milton Keynes, UK, with Kushida (Japan) vs. Kenny Williams (UK), Zack Sabre Jr. (UK) vs. Jay Lethal (US), Hiromu Takahashi (Japan) vs. Lucky Kid, Ricochet (US) vs. Angelico (Rest of the World), Penta 0M (Mexico) vs. Bad Bones (Europe), Will Ospreay (UK) vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. (Mexico) and Mike Bailey (Canada) vs. Travis Banks (Rest of the World)

The last of the two-eight man tournaments, which would come down to two people advancing, took place this past weekend. The U.S. tournament took place on 7/21 in Manchester, UK. First, they had the quarterfinals with David Starr over Bobby Fish in a solid all-action good match. Jay Lethal beat Moose in a match that got strong reviews, saying that Moose looked better here than he does on GFW TV. Moose kicked out of everything Lethal threw at him before finally putting him away with a second Lethal injection. Keith Lee beat James Storm in a decent match but there was a style clash. Fans also didn’t know Lee and saw Storm as the star. The final match saw Ricochet beat Matt Sydal. Sydal was still hurt from the GFW tapings and couldn’t do hardly any flying so this was a different match than these two would usually have. It was mostly hard strikes and brawling. The match was good, but not as good as people were thinking it would be. There were a number of matches before the semifinals. Marty Scurll and Joe Hendry went to a double knockout when both used an umbrella and hit the other with it and both were knocked out at the same time. The crowd hated the finish and chanted “bullshit,” but that was also what the promotion expected from it and I guess wanted. Scurll then promised to become champion. War Machine, who hold the WCPW tag team titles, beat Kings of the North in a title match. Nobody thought Kings of the North could win and they aren’t regulars with the promotion. In the semifinals, with both winners advancing to the August finals, Lethal beat Starr. Starr sold a leg injury from the Fish match and Lethal was selling taking a beating from Moose. The match was good. Ricochet beat Lee to advance. Ths was incredible, said to be as good as their Evolve match with great near falls back-and-forth and great flying from Ricochet

On 7/22 in Newcastle, they had the Rest of the World tournament. Travis Banks of New Zealand beat Mark Davis of Australia. Jurn Simmons of The Netherlands beat Tom LaRuffa of France. LaRuffa was Sylvester Lefort in NXT and later worked for TNA. This was said to be not good at all as the two didn’t gel and it dragged even though it was a short match. Flash Morgan Webster of Wales beat RJ Singh of India. Said to be a very good cruiserweight style match with flips, counters and fast-paced good action. This was the WCPW debut for both and the crowd really liked them, particularly Webster. Angelico of South Africa beat Icarus of Hungary. This isn’t the same Icarus that worked the U.S. for CHIKARA. Icarus wasn’t on the level of Angelico but the match was said to be fine. Before the semifinals, they had James Storm & Sydal beating Fish & Starr in a fun match. Fish & Starr called their team “Starrfish.” Lots of comedy that got over. Scurll beat Ricochet in a great match, said to be the kind of match you would expect both men to have. War Machine beat Liam Slater & Moose in a War Machine rules match (no rules match). Moose replaced the injured Johnny Moss, who is Slater’s regular partner. Hanson did a handspring back elbow that the crowd exploded for and Slater looked like he was able to hang at their level. In the semifinals, Banks beat Simmons. Good, not great, with a solid crowd response. Angelico beat Webster in a very good match with a lot of flying, high risk moves, dives and near falls. This was said to be exactly what the fans were hoping for out of these two. The main event was a ladder match where El Ligero retained his version of a Money in the Bank briefcase that he’d already won over Jay Lethal, Rampage, Drake, Primate, Alex Gracie and Gabriel Kidd with all kinds of crazy ladder match spots. Ligero hit a suplex from a ladder set up on the outside onto a bunch of wrestlers and security guards. Martin Kirby took Gracie out and Ligero pulled down the briefcase too win.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: Johnny Mundo noted that he has a role in the upcoming Syfy movie “Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.” He noted that he has “a fun little role” in the movie. Jericho, Rollins, Angle and Maryse have all been in prior Sharknado movies, which debuts on 8/5

For whatever this is worth, and it may not mean a thing because everyone is patiently waiting for an announcement of what is next, Variety last week ran a story on Mark Burnett which included quotes from him and all the different TV shows he’s involved with going on and there was no mention of Lucha Underground,.

ROH: The Young Bucks vs. Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian for the tag titles was added to the iPPV show on 8/19 in Liverpool

The 8/18 show in London has Young Bucks & Cody & Marty Scurll & Hangman Page vs. Tetsuya Naito & Bushi & Seiya Sanada & Evil & Hiromu Takahashi (they are advertising them as being seconded by Darryl), Kushida vs. Titan for the TV title and Dalton Castle & The Boys vs. Mistico & Delirious & Jushin Liger for the six-man titles and Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Bucanero

The first show in weeks will be 7/29 in Concord, NC, with the lineup of Young Bucks vs. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley for the tag titles, Cody & Scurll & Page vs. Bully Ray & Briscoes, Kushida vs. Kenny King for the TV title, Jay Lethal vs. Beer City Bruiser in a no DQ match, Flip Gordon vs.. Punishment Martinez, Kelly Klein vs. B.J. Whitmer (who were recently married. I can’t ever recall ROH doing a man vs. woman singles match unless maybe involving a male non-wrestler comedy spot), War Machine vs. Jay White & Jonathan Gresham and Chuck Taylor & Baretta vs. Leon St-Giovanni & Shaheem Ali.

GFW: The Orlando Police Department has dropped Alberto El Patron as a suspect in the 7/9 incident at the airport. Since he’s no longer being investigated, that gives GFW the chance to remove him from suspension and you really can’t argue the decision. Building so much around a ticking time bomb is a question you can ask, but you can’t suspend him for something when there’s no evidence of anything past he argued with his fiancé after she allegedly and admittedly threw a drink on him. At this point, he is still suspended but that could change at any time. On a conference call this week, Dutch Mantell said that Alberto was cleared as a suspect but the company is doing its own internal investigation and that when it’s concluded, they will release their findings

Davey Richards asked to be released from his contract. Richards wrote after asking that it was given, “Today I came to terms with GFW for my release. This story, however, is a happy one. I have nothing but good memories and great things to say about my time there. Truth is, I live wrestling. But my goal is to be a doctor. I have managed my time in doing bot my school, my job as a paramedic, being a dad, and a wrestler as best I could for as long as I could. But the demands as I head into the last couple of years of Medical School have brought me to a point where I have to choose one or the other. So with GFW’s blessing, I have chosen medical school.” He said that he could still be taking independent bookings on a limited basis for the time being. Richards quit just before he was scheduled to be announced for AAA’s TripleMania on 8/26

Impact has not been among the top ten most-watched shows on Spike U.K. since 6/16. The 6/16 show, the last ratings are available, had 118,000 viewers, which is still double what Raw and Smackdown to in their 1 a.m. time slots on Sky, which has far fewer available homes as well

GFW sources say that Nick Aldis was never offered a contract. He is no longer with the promotion

To save money and not have to tape content for the “One Night Only” shows, they are using footage from the GFW tapings a few years ago in Las Vegas with Chael Sonnen and others as monthly PPVs and free monthly specials for India and the U.K. Bobby Roode was on the tapings and they were marketing the next show around the idea that what was Bobby Roode doing in Las Vegas for the GFW show, like the show was new and Roode was showing up for it. Decades ago, Bill Watts did a segment on his shows where they’d show old footage of guys who were in WWF at the time, from Mid South months to years earlier, losing to wrestlers who were in Mid South, usually clean on their way out of the territory. Watts would air the footage, pretend the matches had just happened and how the WWF guys were looking for real competition, and then talk about how when they came in to test the Mid South guys they ended up not being able too hang .. John Morrison, Drago and Taya are on the Northeast house show run on 8/4 in Long Island, 8/5 in Staten Island at the minor league baseball field and 8/6 in Bridgeport, CT

When Abyss returns after his current run as Joseph Park, he’s going to have a new look and a new mask

James Storm wasn’t figured into anything at the last tapings and was off TV since Slammiversary due to a concussion. He’s expected back for the next set of tapings.

UFC: The working plan is for Brock Lesnar to face Jon Jones, provided Jones beats Daniel Cormier this week, with the idea of late December. But that time frame may not work since Vince McMahon would have to approve of any date until April. We were told that Lesnar vs. Jones was the working idea from a number of sources, but one said that it wouldn’t happen that early and would have to be in 2018. ESPN did a story where Jones said he didn’t believe Lesnar would ever accept the fight, and Lesnar responded by saying, “Would I fight Jon Jones? Anytime, anywhere. Right now he should be worried about DC on Saturday night.” It should be noted that Lesnar and DC are friends. “He’s a massive dude,” said Jones. “It would be a massive draw, really big for the sport. It would be a great challenge. That’s a big old boy. I doubt Brock Lesnar would take that fight, though, I definitely wouldn’t try to wrestle with him the whole time. I’m not going to tell you what I would do.” At the press conference on 7/26, Jones said that he’d beat Cormier and then focus on Lesnar. Dana White claimed there was nothing to the Lesnar story and he hadn’t even talked with him, but at this point, nobody believes that given that the day before the announcement of Lesnar’s return last year White said the same thing. Lesnar would probably outweigh Jones to 40 to 50 pounds when they stepped into the cage. Jones would probably win the fight, and the idea behind it is that UFC needs to create some big stars, and of all the guys they have on the roster not named Conor McGregor, the biggest star is Jones. But he’s not a 1 million buy guy, or even a 700,000 buy guy unless it’s with the right opponent. In fact, Jones’ previous fight with Ovince Saint Preux were more like just over 300,000. But Jones vs. Lesnar would top 1 million and perhaps that would be the catalyst, because Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were both 300,000 to 400,000 guys until they faced and beat Oscar de la Hoya, and those wins made both superstars and 1 million buy guys

Georges St-Pierre is still pushing for a middleweight title fight with Michael Bisping, but Dana White said that St-Pierre would be getting a shot at the Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia welterweight title fight this weekend

White, all week, pushed that he hasn’t talked to Jones in the last year, since the failed drug test. Jones then told Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times that it’s him that’s the reason they haven’t talked, saying White has called or texted him at least four times, but he hasn’t answered any of the calls because he doesn’t want to deal with White. “I just feel like when you’re making the company money and you’re a PPV draw and you’re ultimately putting money in his pocket, then you mean a lot to him,” said Jones. “The moment you aren’t those things, you mean nothing to him, and he’s done a decent job of showing that. I felt completely abandoned by him, in a situation when I needed him the most.” “I feel like he’s shown me his true colors, and now I have no desire to pretend like he cares about me or that we’re friends.” “As of now, I look at Ari (Ari Emanuel) as my boss and Dana as more the face and the voice of UFC.

Mayweather-McGregor will be in movie theaters around the U.S. through Fathom Entertainment with the show starting at 9 p.m. Eastern time on 8/26

Sling TV, which has never offered PPVs in the past, is doing a test marketing run this weekend for the UFC 214 show

The biggest UFC PPV show of the year by a long shot is UFC 214 on 7/29 from the Honda Center in Anaheim, which is going to be the biggest test of UFC on PPV after a series of shows that have ranged from 130,000 to 300,000 this year. Under normal circumstances, I’d say with the great videos and it being since December the last time there was a big show, that 600,000 should be considered a target. The first fight between the two of them did more than 800,000, but there was so much more heat leading up to that one and there was also more of a question who would win since both were undefeated. Jones won four of the five rounds in the first fight two-and-a-half years ago, and he’s moved more into his prime and Cormier, at 38, has moved more out of his, particularly since Cormier’s big skill is wrestling, and wrestling skill is less useful when you don’t have the speed or the knees that you had when you were younger. Plus, in the first fight, Jones got the better of the wrestling exchanges. The two did interviews on the FOX show on 7/22, Jones from Albuquerque and Cormier from San Jose. Cormier did most of the talking. Jones was mostly quiet and gave off the demeanor that he was mad to be there. Jones said that Cormier’s title was fake and Cormier said he’s been defending it for two years while Jones has been gone. When the interview was over, Jones got up, took off his mic and stormed off the set. The big take was that Cormier looked heavy, especially since the interview was six days before weigh-ins and Cormier barely made weight for his Anthony Johnson fight last time out. Jones was 217 this past week so he’ll breeze when it comes to making 205. Cormier on 7/26, two days before weigh-ins, claimed he was at 215, which if that’s a real number, should not be an issue making weight. This is also four weeks before McGregor vs. Mayweather, which has a $100 price tag and I can’t think of a time since 2005 where it has felt like UFC has less momentum. This would be like WWE booking its biggest match of the year a month before Mania. No matter what, it wouldn’t draw. Now think of an event that’s six to ten times bigger than Mania. So that’s going to hurt it a lot. The show opens on Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. with Joshua Burkman (28-15) vs. Drew Dober (17-8), Jarred Brooks (12-0) vs. Eric Shelton (10-3), and Alexandra Albu (2-0) vs. Kailin Curran (4-4). The prelims will air on FXX instead of FS 1, at 8 p.m., with Andre Fili (16-4) vs. Calvin Kattar (16-2), Renato Moicano (11-0-1) vs. Brian Ortega (11-0), Renan Barao (34-4) vs. Aljamain Sterling (13-2) and Jason Knight (20-2) vs. Ricardo Lamas (17-5). The PPV show has Jimi Manuwa (17-2) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (14-1), Donald Cerrone (32-8) vs. Robbie Lawler, Cris Cyborg Justino (17-1) vs. Tonya Evinger (19-5) for the vacant and ridiculous women’s featherweight title, Tyron Woodley (17-3-1) vs. Demian Maia (25-6) for the welterweight title and Cormier (19-1) vs. Jones (22-1) for the light heavyweight title. The Manuwa vs. Oezdemir winner and Cerrone vs. Lawler winner could both get the next title shots, although Cerrone may be difficult because of his clean-cut loss to Jorge Masvidal

Universal Pictures has announced and released a trailer for a documentary called “Notorious” on the life of Conor McGregor

UFC and Dyaco International have reached a global equipment partnership. Dyaco will develop UFC training equipment that will be marketed in retail stores and on-line including official UFC fight gloves that all fighters will have to wear in fights, training mats, resistance bands, weight lifting belts, push up bars, kettlebells, Olympic bars and weights and speed bags. The new products will be introduced in early 2018

By the way, those of you who hate WWE speak, where you can’t say wrestlers but that the wrestlers are “superstars” and fans are “WWE Universe” should know that UFC is getting in the game. While it’s not been said to the announcers, for the PR department at UFC, the competitors are no longer “fighters” they are “UFC athletes.

The new season of Ultimate Fighter, which will be a 16-woman tournament to crown the first women’s flyweight champion, featuring Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje as coaches, debuts on 8/30. The season already started filming

Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero have no fights scheduled, but are going off on each other on Twitter. It started when Romero claimed that Rockhold didn’t want to fight him. Rockhold came back and said that Romero was the one who turned down the fight. Rockhold said that Romero was offered the main event on 9/16 in Pittsburgh against Rockhold, but turned it down, saying he didn’t want a five-round fight. Romero then said how Rockhold would never give him a title shot when he was champion. “Remember when you were champion and you said no to fight me? That was five rounds. Remember the last time you took the easy fight?” Rockhold then brought up that Romero was asked to headline on 9/16 but said he was too hurt to make the date. Romero then said he only needed another 20 days to fight, but Rockhold hasn’t fought for 14 months. Rockhold then brought up how Romero headlined the last UFC and it broke the all-time PPV low (it didn’t, but it was among the lowest) and said that when he was champion, he chose to defend against Chris Weidman (which ended up falling through due to a Weidman injury and that’s where Bisping ended up as the replacement) . Rockhold also called Romero a cheater

Similarly, Chris Weidman and Michael Bisping have been going off on each other. Weidman made fun of Bisping’s bad eye and Bisping felt that his eye problems shouldn’t be something that another fighter mocks him for. Weidman also made note of Bisping being champion for well over a year and still not facing anything resembling a top contender

UFC officially announced 13 fights for the 9/9 PPV show in Edmonton. This won’t be doing much business either. There are two title matches on top, with Demetrious Johnson going for the record for most consecutive title defenses when he defends the flyweight title against Ray Borg. Johnson is currently tied with Anderson Silva with ten straight title defenses. The other main event has Amanda Nunes defending the women’s bantamweight title against Valentina Shevchenko. I guess it really doesn’t matter which is the main event, but in the past the idea was, unless there was a big star involved, that the heavier weight class goes on top. Johnson going for the record may be the bigger story but Nunes vs. Shevchenko is a closer fight. If you’re looking at star power and name recognition, it’s Nunes that blows away the rest of the field, and Shevchenko is well above Borg but well behind Johnson. The other matches are a key heavyweight fight with Francis Ngannou, who is probably going to be considered for a title show with a win, facing Junior Dos Santos. Gilbert Melendez is moving down to featherweight to face Jeremy Stephens. In a battle of top flyweight contenders, Henry Cejudo faces Wilson Reis. Former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos faces Neil Magny. A battle of ranked light heavyweights had Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro, plus Sara McMann faces Kelten Vieira, Gavin Tucker faces Rick Glenn, Ashlee Evans-Smith faces Sarah Moras, Arjan Bhullar (a Canadian wrestling Olympian with Indian ancestry) debuts against Luis Henrique, Alex White faces Mitch Clarke and Kajan Johnson faces Adriano Martins

They also announced a number of matches for an FS 1 card on 9/16 from Pittsburgh with a main event of Luke Rockhold vs. David Branch. Branch comes into the fight with an 11-fight winning streak and held both the light heavyweight and middleweight titles of World Series of Fighting when he signed with UFC. This is Rockhold’s first fight since losing the title last June to Michael Bisping in one of the bigger title upsets in history. A Rockhold win would likely get him the winner of the upcoming Bisping vs. Robert Whittaker title fight, or at the least get him a match with Yoel Romero or Chris Weidman where the winner gets a title shot. Other fights announced for that show are Hector Lombard vs. Anthony Smith, Krzysztof Jotko vs. Uriah Hall, Kamaru Usman vs. Sergio Moraes, Gilbert Burns vs. Jason Saggo, Anthony Hamilton vs. Daniel Spitz and Justin Ledet vs. Dmitri Smoliakov

The injury that Whittaker suffered in the first round of his 7/9 decision win over Yoel Romero was a severe Grade 2 MCL tear of the left knee. Basically it’s a partial tear. He said he strained the knee during camp and then Romero kicked at it and it went out

Germaine de Randamie vs. Marion Reneau has been added to the 9/2 show in Rotterdam, Holland. De Randamie has postponed her hand surgery so she could fight in Holland. Nick Hein is moving to featherweight and will face the debuting Zabit Magomedsharpiov, who is 12-1, on the same show

Added to the 9/23 show at the Saitama Super Arena is the debut of Pancrase women’s strawweight champion Syuri Kondo, who faces Chanmi Jeon, Jussier Formiga vs. Yuta Sasaki and Janel Lausa vs. Naoki Inoue

Humberto Bandenay was picked to replace Chris Gruetzemacher and face Martin Bravo on the 8/5 show in Mexico City. Bandenay, 22, comes into UFC with a 13-4 record

 

BELLATOR: Aaron Pico’s second Bellator fight will be on 9/23 from the SAP Center in San Jose. It will be on the TV portion of the show and no opponent has been named, but I’m sure they’ll have someone closer to his level of experience and someone who isn’t a whiz at submissions. Also added to the San Jose show is Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin.

OTHER MMA: Campbell McLaren said in an interview with MMAUNO.com that Alberto El Patron is stepping down in his role as figurehead President of Combate Americas. The cover reason being given is that he wanted to concentrate on his pro wrestling career. Combate had also lost Nelson Swegglar, who was the head of TV production for WWE before Kevin Dunn in the 80s, who also recently left the promotion. McLaren has always defended Alberto when every different news story broke. When we talked to McLaren this week, he refused to talk about the subject and said that Alberto and Paige would both be at their show on 7/27 in Miami. Combate now airs live on ESPN 3, a streaming service, and on TV in the U.S. on Azteca America, but it’s biggest following is in Mexico with its weekly Friday night time slot on TV Azteca

Renzo Gracie, 50, said he would be returning to MMA soon. He said that he is still under contract to UFC, although he wasn’t fought with the promotion since 2010. He said he had talked with Scott Coker and was in talks for a fight with Matt Hughes, although obviously, that is now out of the question. .. Rizin has a show on 7/30 at the Saitama Super Arena. At this point, there is no word on if the show will be available via streaming but Rizin shows are, as far as the show aspect itself goes, are the most entertaining around with all the pageantry and would have more mainstream appeal. The first round of the bantamweight tournament is the key to the show with former UFC fighter Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Hideo Tokoro, Anthony Birchak vs. Takafumi Otsuka and Keita Ishibashi vs. Khalid Taha. Lei’D Tapa, fresh from her being at the WWE camp as an alternative in the Mae Young tournament, will face King Reina (Reina Miura), who has become a female pro wrestler hunter having beaten Shayna Baszler and Jazzy Gabert in her last two fights. She’s giving away a ton of size to Tapa. Miyu Yamamoto, the former world champion wrestler in the 90s, faces Cassie Robb

Rocky Batolbatol, 32, a fighter out of The Philippines who had fought several times for ONE, passed away on 7/23 after a road accident. His team released the news, saying the accident took place in Cagayan de Oro at 12:30 a.m. that day, and said he died in a vehicular accident. The post said that a second person, a pedestrian who was not a fighter, Gennar Moradas Ponce, also died in the accident. Batolbatol and Ponce were both walking when they were accidentally hit by a taxi, whose driver was identified as Jerson Barsabal. The accident took place in front of the Capitol University Medical Center. The two were rushed to a different hospital about three miles away and were declared dead on arrival. Batolbatol, who started his career as a boxer, had a 5-3 MMA record and was scheduled on the 7/29 show in Indonesia that had just been canceled two days earlier.

WWE: For those who have claimed WWE was being cheated on its ratings, Neilsen, which has already measured Sling TV usage as part of the ratings, has now added YouTube same day viewing (and delayed viewing) and Hulu viewing to its ratings services, which affects WWE, GFW and New Japan

While it would seem way early to do this again, Mike Johnson at PW Insider reported the idea of a Superstar shakeup coming again after SummerSlam and others have confirmed to us that there is definitely talk of roster moves in the fall and even some tentative proposed ideas. The one thing is the Superstar shakeup did great ratings both nights, but there was a big drop afterwards as the shakeups seemed to make for less interesting rosters. But this could be a way to rectify it. The roster split thing is weird because Renee Young was on Raw this week with no explanation, not that it really matters. The company then announced that Young is now working for both Raw and Smackdown, so I guess she’s the female Cena. Lesnar is booked on some Smackdown house shows. Cena is billed as a free agent but he’s never been on Raw, although obviously there are plans for him to be at some point. Jordan moved from Smackdown to Raw with no explanation as to how the move was made. Another aspect being talked about is to send one or more wrestlers from the main roster to NXT. Names in particular would be people who were major stars in NXT that Vince McMahon simply isn’t going to push even if they are over, or people who are doing nothing on the main roster with the idea they could be more useful as major players on NXT

Brandon Howard did a study of YouTube videos. This would be for videos covering 1/29 to 7/10. During that period, of 2,260 videos uploaded by WWE on YouTube, 340 of them, or 15 percent, hit 1 million views. For those who think YouTube videos have replaced television, that’s a bitter pill because 1 million viewers worldwide would be about 200,000 to 300,000 in the U.S., which would mean the biggest segments on television maybe hit six to eight percent of the what the TV audience is, and even that is misleading because the TV audience doesn’t count multiples (if you download a video six times, you count as six people). But based on those numbers, Roman Reigns it the 1 million mark 54 percent of the time. Now it should be noted he was in the key segment on Raw, the most-viewed show, more often than anyone else so a lot of this is self-fulfilling prophesy more than marketability. John Cena only hit that figure 34 percent of the time. Braun Strowman hit it 49 percent, which does say he’s a star but he’s also been in a higher percentage of special effects segments which are the ones most highly viewed. And Reigns was in a lot of them with him, plus had the Undertaker feud. Brock Lesnar’s percentage was also 49 percent. Seth Rollins is at 21 percent, The Miz is at 30 percent (and he likely did well with all his skits with Cena before Mania), Randy Orton is at 29 percent, Samoa Joe is at 29 percent, A.J. Styles is a 32 percent, Nikki Bella is at 37 percent (keep in mind the percentage of her segments that were with Cena in the Mania build), Dean Ambrose is at 43 percent, Bray Wyatt is at 33 percent, The Hardys are at 23 percent, Jinder Mahal is at 31 percent (surprisingly low because the higher consumption of YouTube is in India so that should skew his numbers higher). But anything above 15 percent would be beating the average. If lowered to 500,000 views, a figure that 30 percent of the videos reach, the key percentages are 76 percent for Reigns, 51 percent for Cena, 49 percent for Rollins, 60 percent for Orton (essentially that means Orton is consistently way above average but not as strong for hitting home runs), 72 percent for Strowman, 48 percent for Miz, 52 percent for Owens (another who consistently beats normal but doesn’t has as many huge ones), 50 percent for Styles, 54 percent for Nikki Bella, 48 percent for Joe, 74 percent for Ambrose, 60 percent for Wyatt, 39 percent for Hardys, 56 percent for Mahal, 46 percent for Bliss and 47 percent for Jericho. The most viewed video of the year was the Hardys return at Mania with 18,221,127 as of 7/17, followed by Strowman’s 4/10 attack on Reigns at 13,549,269; a Strowman-Lesnar confrontation at 8,122,316; the WrestleMania kickoff show at 8,043,507 and Nakamura’s Smackdown debut at 8,037,537

As we’ve noted before, and WWE producer Brian James wrote about on Twitter when asked about the lack of pyro, it was just an economic cutback and expenses the company felt they didn’t need for television. James said it was just economics and that they weren’t necessary. While some fans noticed, most didn’t even notice

After a number of delays and changes, the Ric Flair 30 for 30 piece is scheduled to air on ESPN on 11/7 at 10 p.m. This moves it up a few months as the previous plan was to air it a few days before the Royal Rumble. Those listed as being part of the piece are Hogan, Ricky Steamboat, HHH, Nickla “Baby Doll” Roberts, Tully Blanchard, Undertaker, Arn Anderson, Michaels, Sting, Road Warrior Animal, as well as his first wife Leslie and his children. I was interviewed for the piece last year at a UFC event since the same people who did this work on several UFC shows including Dana White’s Looking for a Fight

In the hard to believe this one is true category, Dwayne Johnson was interviewed for Muscle & Fitness and said that in 2007 he considered going into MMA. Keep in mind he was 35 at the time and a movie star. He first said this on a UFC podcast months ago. “In my head, I felt like it was at least a two-year process for me to even get in the (cage), let alone the UFC. I wasn’t quite too sure what to do or what kind of people to put around me at the time, so the idea kind of fizzled out and I continued to stay on the path of movie making.” On Twitter to promote the story, he said, “Yup, I considered UFC ten yeas ago. My goal was Greg Jackson as my coach and two full years to train. Smarted up, because I prefer my jaw in tact.

Chris “Donovan” Dijak, 30, will be starting here shortly, likely in September after BOLA. Dijak was one of the wrestlers on the list with Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole and War Machine, who had been contacted by WWE and were to have contract offers waiting when their ROH deal expired. Due to legal threats for tampering by ROH, WWE made the decision in January to pull all contract offers, which left everyone involved except Cole, whose deal hadn’t expired yet, and War Machine, who continued to work New Japan and ROH, in a career holding pattern. WWE has since started offering contracts and Fish & O’Reilly have started in NXT and will be there full-time shortly, Cole is on his way, and War Machine, the current IWGP tag team champions, are still up in the air and haven’t made a final decision regarding what is next for them. Dijak, who is 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, so he may be billed at around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 in WWE, has great agility for his size. He was a star high school football and basketball player and got a football scholarship to Massachusetts, but ended up leaving the program and going to Division III Bridgewater State University, where was an all-league in both sports and was named to the Division III Eastern Regional All-Star team in 2010. He started with Chaotic Wrestling and was only in the business about a year when he came to ROH in the summer of 2014. He then won the 2015 Top Prospect tournament. He left the company in February after deciding not to sign a new contract for 2017 with the WWE offer on the table

WWE and Mattel have launched the first WWE action figures fashion dolls of the Bellas, Banks, Natalya, Charlotte, Lynch, Fox and Eva Marie. They revealed them at the San Diego Comic Con. They will also have a role playing line

Brie Bella is looking at returning in 2018. She and Bryan have talked about putting a ring up on their property where they can train together and he can coach her for a return

The new season of Total Bellas will be back on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on E! starting on 9/6. The season was filmed earlier this year, built around Bryan and Brie getting ready for the birth of their daughter, and at least as far as the show is concerned, Cena & Nikki moved to Phoenix to help them out. They also build to the Cena proposal at WrestleMania with them both returning to WWE earlier in the year and doing the angle with Miz and Maryse. Bryan is also shown in his role of General Manager of Smackdown. After that season ends, they’ll go back to the Total Divas new season that was being filmed recently

Mattel also announced at the San Diego Comic Con that it had hired Rob Schamberger, an artist who works for WWE and also has done independent wrestling portraits (including almost all the members of the Tragos/Thesz Hall of Fame)

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story about what we reported a few weeks ago regarding the city of Pizzoferato, Italy, where Bruno Sammartino lived until he was a teenager and his family moved to Pittsburgh. His father had left for Pittsburgh years earlier but first had to save money to bring the rest of the family over, but also they had to wait until Bruno, who almost died when his family lived in the mountain for 18 months due to rheumatic fever at the age of 12 and at one point was given two or three days left to live. It wasn’t until he was healthy enough to where he would be let in the country as he was only 84 pounds at the age of 14. At 81, he was going on what may be his last of what used to be regular trips to what he calls “The Old Country,” as part of a tour put together by radio station KDKA, leaving on 8/3. Sammartino has had health problems of late, and was hospitalized for eight days a few weeks ago as doctors were making all kinds of tests to find out why he has a low blood count. The tests haven’t given an answer and he will be back doing more tests after the trip. The city is erecting a 10 ½ foot statue of Sammartino for a public display, the home he grew up in has been redone as The Bruno Sammartino Museum, celebrating his career as a wrestler, and the main wing of the new medical center in the city is being called the Emilia Sammartino Medical Center. The latter is the one he’s most proud of. The story about how Bruno’s life was saved by his mother when he was a child has been told often. Emilia lived to be 97 years old when she passed away in 1995. “I was 59 at the time and I was so devastated that I can’t even put it into words. People say to me, `My God, Bruno, she was 97.’ I say, ‘Does that mean I love her any less and miss her any less?’ She was a peasant woman. She never went to school.” “She worked in the fields. But she was my hero.” His father passed away at 93 in 1985. His wife, Carol, has bad knees and is having a hard time getting around and asked him how they could even do the trip. “How could I say no to this trip? If you have to put me on a stretcher to get me there, I’m going. I’d regret it the rest of my life if I didn’t go.” A Hollywood film crew will be going on the trip as I guess the idea of a movie of his life, that has been the dream of Scott Rosenfelt (who produced Home Alone, Teen Wolf and Mystic Pizza) for years

The latest on the Broken Hardys gimmick is it’s clear there is a lot of frustration from the Hardys side as they believed Billy Corgan had negotiated a settlement between the sides as an intermediary, but then GFW officials didn’t sign off on it. That’s why the Hardys in recent weeks had heavily teased the gimmick on WWE television, while this past week there wasn’t even a hint of it, because of the realization this isn’t nearly as close to a deal as they thought. Matt Hardy, on Twitter, wrote this week, “Fun Fact–Myself, Jeff & Reby spent $2,500 and four days creating The Final Deletion set, with zero help from TNA, as it was our vision and creation.” Later when someone brought up that if they were with WWE, that Vince would have paid for it as well as paid all the talent involved (Senor Benjamin, for example, was never under contract nor paid by TNA for his involvement), Matt wrote, “100%. I never expected Version1. WWE never pays you two months late and they fund all shots. I created this concept with my money on my property.” Reby Hardy then went off saying that her recent comments were the last straw for her after weeks of staying quiet stemming from a verbal agreement between the sides after Corgan and the Hardys lawyers reached out to TNA to try and reach a settlement. She said that both sides were supposed to keep quiet until talks were completed but that Jeff Jarrett, Ed Nordholm and Dutch Mantell all gave interviews while they had agreed to keep quiet. She claimed that Jarrett said they were going to drag this out as long as possible because the Hardys will get tired of spending money. She blistered him for that, saying, “Easy for a failing company and someone whose lifestyle is supported by his wife’s ex-husband to say. You weak AF, little man. The only thing we’re tired of are the blatant lies and we will never back done. Even though we’ve already won.” Then Nordholm did an interview with Sports Illustrated claiming that the Hardys contract clearly gives Anthem the ownership of the Broken Intellectual property. When it was brought up that Jeff Hardy spent $3,000 on the volcano and all the money the Hardys spent, he said the company spent millions on producing television but them spending money for the segments doesn’t change the contracts. Nordholm said that Anthem doesn’t have to go to court regarding the IP because they own it, but if Matt does go to court, they will defend themselves, but he said they don’t intend to go to court themselves. A key to this is WWE’s refusal to allow the Hardys to use it so WWE doesn’t want to risk it unless there is an agreement in place from Anthem that the Hardys can use it, and WWE has also made it clear that they aren’t going to buy or lease rights to it from Anthem. Nordholm claimed the reason there is no deal is because the sides haven’t come to terms and that negotiations have gone back to February, and every time negotiations start, they start out good and them don’t come to fruition because they can’t come to an agreement. He said he’s made an effort to resolve things, they didn’t come to fruition, and they are moving on and not going back to it. He said he’s not interested in opening up future dialogue on the subject, that he made his best effort and it didn’t happen and he’s not starting over again. Nordholm also claimed that just after Matt’s contract had expired and they were negotiating a new deal, that Matt asked for a $100,000 increase in pay or they were going to explore their options. He said that they decided they couldn’t afford the $100,000 increase at that time and turned him down. Reby Hardy responded to that saying that Matt has recorded every single phone call with Nordholm and that Nordholm is “lying through his yellow Canadian teeth.” The conversation in question was three days before Matt’s contract expired. Jeff Hardy had already spoken with Jeff Jarrett and they were at an impasse but Jeff offered to come to Orlando without a contract and at least drop the tag team titles and Jarrett refused to even consider it. In Matt’s conversation with Nordholm, he discussed TNA wanting 10 percent of all money he’d make outside TNA, and Matt said that if he got a movie deal or something like that on his own, he questioned whether TNA should be able to get 10 percent of it. In the conversation, Matt brought up $400,000 to $500,000 as a number, but said that since he was only three days from when his contract expires and said they had dragged their feet until a couple of weeks earlier to make an offer, then he’d just as soon wait the three days and see what WWE offers. Nordholm said that he can’t compete with those guys. There was also talk about ROH, with Nordholm saying that ROH wants an answer but they can’t give ROH an answer (this would be regarding the proposed Hardys vs. Young Bucks program that was to go on for months in both promotions trading the tag titles back-and-forth) unless Matt signed his deal. Matt talked about being at the tail end of his career and wanting to make sure he made the right deal for his family and said he was open for negotiations, and was willing t come to Orlando for TV, but Nordholm said that unless he signed a new deal, even if it’s a short-term deal, they can’t put him on TV

With all the publicity about Talking Smack being canceled, WWE decided to do a spoof on it on 7/25 and did a skit called Smacking Talk hosted by Renee Young and Bryan. The idea is that Bryan and Renee Young were doing it rogue and against WWE’s wishes, and did it on Tout, the social media thing that WWE owns a percentage of that I’ve heard nothing about in a long time. The whole thing was a short spoof as Gable was the guest, and they wanted to talk about Jordan. Gable got all mad saying how all anyone wants to talk to him about is Jordan and nobody wants to talk with him. Bryan then said that after what happened with Angle and Jordan, he thought that Gable could be his son. He noted how they were both amateur wrestlers and good pro wrestlers. Bryan had an envelope with the results of a paternity test. Gable acted like it was ridiculous and noted Bryan was only five years older than he was. Bryan claimed he was a very virile five-year-old and Young asked Gable if he was virile and Gable said yes, and Bryan said that’s more proof. Bryan was doing this mock crying, and really they were just making fun of how ridiculous the Angle/Jordan angle was. Bryan then opened the envelope which said that Bryan was his father and Gable just blew it off and Bryan talked about how now he’s a father of two and there’s so much work he needs to do to make up for the lost time. .. If Asuka is still NXT women’s champion on 8/17, and that’s virtually a lock, she would surpass the 502 day reign of Rockin Robin as the longest reigning womens’ champion since1984 and the Moolah era

Angle did an interview on Facebook and was asked about how he prepared for the segment with Jordan being announced as his son. Angle said that in his mind if tried to put himself in a situation where if he saw his oldest son Kody for the first time and didn’t know about having him for 20 years so that is mentally how he got himself to react like that. To his credit, Angle was unbelievably great in his reactions both during Raw as well as in the segment right after Raw on the WWE Network. He took an angle that literally nobody bought, and that the live crowd groaned at the reveal, and made it seem like maybe it could be legit because of how he was acting so happy, and in tears

Styles was on the Edge & Christian podcast and during the show noted that Nakamura said he wanted a match with him. Styles said he wanted to make a rematch with Nakamura held in the U.S. to be really big, and said he told Vince McMahon how important it was that his next match with Nakamura is not just a match on a PPV show. He wants a long-term build and wants it stretched out and teased as long as possible, and he wants to give the fans as big a match as possible when the time comes. He said the spot in the Money in the Bank match that tore the house down when the two went at it was something Styles said he pushed to be in the match that way as step one of the build

Lesnar’s house show bouts have been changed, as he’s got a date on 7/29 in Detroit and an 8/12 date in Tampa, both on Smackdown brand house shows, against Joe

WWE has switched its TV partner in South Africa. They have moved from e.tv, the station they were on since 2001, and where they had more viewers than probably any country except the U.S. and India, and moving to SuperSport, a sports channel that is seen in 50 countries in Africa. Starting on 8/28, SuperSport will air all Raw, Smackdowns and PPV shows. Raw and Smackdown will air both live (Tuesday and Wednesday morning in Africa) with a replay of each later that day. All shows will be broadcast in English and also available on demand

There was a story 7/17 when GFW had meetings in Nashville and WWE had Raw in the city and some GFW people and WWE people ended up at the same bar later that night. Karen Jarrett came up to Strowman. The belief is that Strowman had no idea who she was, even though it’s not like there are that many woman wrestling fans who look like her. Karen said to him that he was one of her son’s favorite wrestlers and asked for an autograph for her son. I’m not sure what got into Strowman but he was rude, and may have sworn at her (the version I heard had it but that’s from someone far enough away that they didn’t hear the verbiage of what started it but was told he did, but everyone there saw what happened next). It turned into a scene at the bar because Karen immediately cut a major loud promo on him for blowing her off. While she was going off on him, she said how she was going to tell her son’s father about this incident, and her son’s father is Kurt Angle. Strowman did an about face, said he’d sign the autograph and begged her not to tell Kurt or anyone and said he was so sorry. She said she was telling Kurt. He said he’d get on his knees and beg her not to tell Kurt. She said she was still telling him. He did get on his knees in front of a lot of wrestlers from WWE and begged her not to, and she basically said something like now you’re acting like that because you found out that Kurt Angle is the father of her son, but even if he wasn’t, he should have never acted like that to a mother who asked for an autograph for her son, even if it was just another wrestling fan. He did say that’s true and he was sorry. Of course this story will be denied all week by everyone involved

Lesnar will be appearing on the 9/11 Raw in Anaheim

As the cover reason for Cena being a “free agent,” he saying that at 40, his days are numbered and he doesn’t know how many years he has left, so in his time left, he wants to be able to do whatever is necessary. .. Darren Young, out due to elbow surgery in January, is expected back next month

Armando Montalvo, 30, who was shot outside the WWE Performance Center on August 31, 2015, by police as he caused a scene and had sent in crazy videos and lusted after Amy Dumas, was committed to a state mental hospital and deemed incompetent to stand trial. Montalvo was being charged with aggravated assault, resisting an officer with violence and trespassing. He had a court order that had banned him from being near the Performance Center because of previous actions. On that day, he started banging on the glass door. Officers came and he seemed to grab at something and didn’t listen to officers and cut a wrestling promo on one of them, and ended up shot and taken to the hospital

Raw will be 7/31 in Pittsburgh. The main event announced is a three-way with Joe vs. Reigns vs. Strowman, plus a Miz interview with Jordan which could set up an IC title program. Smackdown will be 8/1 in Cleveland with Cena vs. Nakamura for the first time ever in a match to determine who faces Mahal for the title at SummerSlam, plus Styles vs. Owens for the U.S. title

For what it’s worth, the lineups announced this week for all the shows in a September Raw tour of Australia and New Zealand are: Reigns vs. Strowman street fight, Miz vs. Battle Royal winner for IC title, Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Rhyno & Slater for tag titles, Bliss defending the women’s title in a six-way with Bayley, Banks, James, Jax and Emma, Balor vs. Wyatt, Show vs. Cass, Neville vs. Tozawa for the cruiserweight title plus the Battle Royal with names announced as Joe, Jordan, Ambrose, Crews, O’Neil, R-Truth, Amore, Goldust, Dallas, Axel and Samson

Michaels will be going on the road for the first time this week as a producer for the NXT house shows

Several of the major executives got major stock grants this past week and then sold their stock. Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Michelle Wilson sold $1,744,737 worth of stock and currently still owns $10,678,122 in stock. Stephanie McMahon sold $224,204, as did Paul Levesque. George Barrios, the Chief Strategy and Financial Officer sold $1,742,714 and owns stock worth $15,027,601

The top ten shows for the past week on the WWE Network were: 1. Battleground; 2 Battleground post-show; 3. Battleground pre-show; 4. Table for 3 with Lita, Graves and Renee Young; 5. Great Balls of Fire; 6. NXT on 7/19; 7. Table for 3 with Godfather, Ron Simmons and Mark Henry; 8. WrestleMania 33; 9. WWE 24: Kurt Angle; 10. Kurt Angle interview with Jason Jordan after Raw last week. 205 Live on 7/18 ended up in 18th place for the week, one spot ahead of the Stone Cold Podcast with HHH from years ago, and one spot behind the 7/12 NXT show

The idea floated that WWE may be able to make a bigger money deal for TV rights from Facebook, plus the run-up to the quarterly investment call this week, led to the stock price moving to $21.74 per share, meaning the company is now worth $1.66 billion

Notes from the 7/24 Raw tapings in Washington, DC. The show was very much built around the idea that the Ambrose & Rollins reunion was a big enough thing that they could put Axel & Dallas in the TV main event with the new links to Miz. It was mostly setting the table for SummerSlam, even though the three contenders announced, Joe, Reigns and Strowman, only did the opening interview segment and never wrestled on the show. The show drew 9,000 fans. For Main Event, Alexander pinned Nese and Crews pinned Kalisto. Nothing happened after the show went off the air. Raw opened with Angle out. He brought up Jordan and that got a weak reaction. He said Jordan would have his first match on Raw tonight. You could see that people didn’t want to crap on Angle, but that most didn’t buy the angle at all except for a very small percentage of the crowd. Angle was about to announce the SummerSlam main event when Strowman came out. Strowman is now completely fine. He’s not even taping his elbow after all the beatings and the ambulance being smashed into the truck. He’s got those Wolverine and Cena healing powers. Strowman told Angle that the next words out of his mouth better be Strowman or else. He said that he won his match at Great Balls of Fire and he doesn’t fear Lesnar and Lesnar fears him. Joe came out. Joe introduced himself to Strowman and said he was the man who tamed the beast and came seconds from putting him to sleep. Joe said he didn’t fear Lesnar or Strowman. He told Strowman that all he did was save Reigns from losing to him for the third time in a row. He told Angle to let Reigns and Strowman settle their problems and leave Lesnar to him. Reigns came out and was heavily booed as usual. He said Joe hasn’t done a thing since he was here and Strowman’s only been here for a hiccup, but he talked about being a three-time WWE champion, winning the Rumble in Philadelphia and how the crowd reacted, retiring Undertaker and main eventing the last three WrestleManias. Fans didn’t appreciate that resume. They were about to fight when Angle announced it would be a four-way. Joe wasn’t happy with that and said he was the only one who deserved a title match. Strowman said that he didn’t care about the title, only about piling up bodies. Reigns punched Strowman and it was on. Joe & Reigns first knocked Strowman out of the ring and threw him over the barricade. Joe attacked Reigns. Strowman came back and threw Reigns’ shoulder into the post. Security ran in and Strowman and taking them all out. He set a human throw record by heaving a guy out of the ring and he flew over the top rope and took a bump bad on the floor. Strowman then powerslammed Reigns to end the segment. Samson came out to infuriate the crowd while singing. Balor’s music interrupted him. Samson pinned Balor in a no DQ match in 18:26. The match dragged but wasn’t too bad. I don’t know that it’s good for ratings to have Samson out there so long, but it is good for Samson to do a long singles match with Balor. And Balor did a good job here. Balor’s left shoulder was all taped up. I’m not sure if it’s a sell for TV, although he taped it up at the Saturday and Sunday house show but not on the Friday show. Samson hit Balor in the back with a chair. Balor came back later with four chair shots to the back, a running dropkick into the corner and the coup de gras. Then Wyatt’s video played and when we were back in the ring, Wyatt was there and hit Balor with Sister Abigail. Samson crawled over and pinned him. Wyatt did the crab walk in the ring. Bayley did a commercial for Sonic with the Hardys. The gist was she was so excited about them coming back, and Matt Hardy thought it was the Hardys return, as did Jeff. But it was really the return of some sort of a hotdog pretzel on the Sonic menu. Linda McMahon and her grandchildren were at ringside, but never shown. Renee Young was there for some reason, interviewing Angle. He talked about having butterflies because Jordan was wrestling. Emma showed up and claimed she was the one who started the women’s revolution and that she’s been sitting on the sidelines while the women who looked up to her like Banks and Bayley are in the spotlight. She asked what it took to get noticed and suggested that maybe she should start dating Kurt’s son. Angle then gave her a match with Jax, which she didn’t seem pleased with at all. Enzo & Show were backstage. Enzo said that he needed to prove to Cass that Cass made the biggest mistake of his life. He said he was bringing the fight to Cass. Show didn’t know if him fighting Cass again was such a good idea. Well, I think anyone who saw their PPV match would probably come to that conclusion. Enzo came out and cut a promo. He wasn’t as over as usual, but talked about this as being a marathon, not a sprint, and how he’s fueled by passion. Cass came out and he had good heat, with fans chanting “Casshole” at him. The match was a one-sided squash, which only buried Enzo even more because there is nothing worse than a big-talking babyface who not only always loses, but can’t even get offense in. Cass pinned him in 3:36 with a high kick. Cass continued to beat on him after the match. Show came out and Cass told him to stop. He grabbed Enzo by the neck and said that if Show got in the ring, he’d snap Enzo’s neck. Show’s reaction to that scary situation was to get in the ring. Cass threw Enzo at Show to distract him, and then kicked Show and started beating on Show. Cass laid out Show with four Empire elbow drops. Bliss did a really fake interview. Her delivery was fine but the verbiage was the worst. She called Bayley & Banks Team Gag Reflex and how they’ll destroy their friendship for the privilege of losing to her at SummerSlam. She said Banks’ ego won’t be able to handle losing to Bayley, and if Bayley loses, she’ll sit at home crying and eating Twinkies so no matter what happens, the real winner is Alexa Bliss. Jax pinned Emma in 1:23 with a somersault splash. Jax was clearly designed to be the face here so the long-term still looks to be Bliss vs. Jax. Tozawa was with O’Neil. He still wants a rematch with Daivari. O’Neil said his shoulder was still injured and he said he went to Angle and the medical staff and got the match with Daivari canceled for Tozawa’s own good. Tozawa was furious about that. Tozawa said he was going to the ring and he wanted his match right now, and told O’Neil to not come out with him. Tozawa shoved O’Neil. Tozawa went to the ring and called out Daivari. Neville came out instead. Neville called Tozawa a pathetic joke. Tozawa attacked him, gave him a spinning kick and laid out Neville with the senton off the top rope. When Tozawa landed, he started selling his shoulder again. Daivari then hit the ring and took out Tozawa with a rainmaker, and then took out Neville with a rainmaker. Somebody is watching Okada tapes. Bayley and Banks were backstage. Banks was mad at Bliss and Bayley told her not to let Bliss get to her. Banks said she was going to beat Bliss. Bayley said that maybe she should focus on her match tonight. Banks said that they were going to tear down the house and prove who the best woman is. Bayley said “Let the best woman win.” Banks then said, “The best woman will win.” This was a genuine heel turn tease for Banks. Jordan did an interview for his match with Hawkins. Rollins and Ambrose were backstage for a segment. Rollins wanted to discuss a game plan. Ambrose said he didn’t want a game plan. Rollins brought up how Ambrose keeps losing to Miz without a game plan and noted that they’ve got three people to worry about. Ambrose shot back saying that Rollins has three people to worry about, but he’s got four. Bayley pinned Banks in 12:12 to earn the title shot. It started as a technical match but then they started throwing punches at each other. They had a good match. Banks came off the top rope with the Eddy Guerrero frog splash, but Bayley reversed on landing and cradled Banks for the pin. Banks looked really upset about losing. Then she left the ring. Bliss got into the ring and taunted Bayley with the title belt. Hawkins did an interview. He said that all week long, everyone was talking about Jordan, but next week, everyone will be talking about him. Jordan pinned Hawkins in 1:41. Jordan came out to the same American Alpha theme music. The match was short. The crowd didn’t react to Jordan like he was any kind of a star. They tried to push it like Jordan now has a rougher edge as he was crossfacing Hawkins. He used an over-the-head belly-to-belly, a running tackle into the corner and got the pin after a neckbreaker. The jury is still out on this idea. The Revival came out for an interview. Dawson told Charly Caruso to scream. They claimed that Cass ditched Enzo because they were afraid of The Revival. Gallows & Anderson came out. They were clearly positioned as the faces and talked about all the good brothers and how Washington, DC, was a good brother town. Gallows called then “Top Nerds” instead of Top Guys. Revival beat Gallows & Anderson in 8:34. The Hardys music played and it distracted The Revival. Anderson & Gallows threw them out of the ring. Then Anderson & Gallows were distracted by the Hardys and the Revival got back in the ring and hit the shatter machine on Anderson for the pin. The Hardys then came out to attack The Revival. Jeff did poetry in motion on Wilder and Matt gave him the twist of fate. Jeff went to the top for the swanton but Dawson pulled Wilder out of the ring and they left. Rollins & Ambrose beat Miz & Axel & Dallas. They showed Sheamus & Cesaro watching this match, so they look to be building Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Rollins & Ambrose. Rollins sold most of the way and Ambrose got the hot tag. Miz did the skull crushing finale on Ambrose, but Rollins saved him. Ambrose & Rollins then hit a double tope. Rollins came off the top rope with a knee to the side of Miz’s head and Ambrose pinned Miz clean with Dirty Deeds at 17:19. After the match, Rollins went for a fist bump on Ambrose, but Ambrose blew him off and walked away

Notes from the 7/25 tapings in Richmond, VA. The show drew 5,700 fans. No Orton on the show even though advertised. Orton had worked the house show in Newark, DE the night before. They opened with a dark match as Rawley & Ryder beat The Ascension in a decent match. After the taping ended, they a Mahal vs. Cena WWE title match. Smackdown started with Owens out. There was a loud chant for Styles. Owens said he was reinstating the open challenge for the U.S. title, but that it would begin next week. He said he’d never defend his title in front of a bunch of hicks in Richmond. Styles came out and wanted his rematch. Owens again said he wasn’t defending the title tonight. Jericho then showed up as a surprise and got a big pop, and said he wanted his rematch tonight. Styles told Jericho that things had changed in the months since he’s been gone. Styles said that he’s the next guy in line for a shot. Jericho talked about Styles cutting in front of him in line, and asked Styles if he knew what happened when someone cut in front of him in line at the grocery store checkout line. Styles said that Jericho put him on the list. Jericho said, no, that he punched him and put him in the Walls of Jericho. Hopefully that’s not the next Del Rio headline. By this point Owens had walked off. Jericho ended up putting Styles on the list. Jericho told Owens to come back. Owens looked like he was leaving when Shane came out of the back and announced a three-way for the title as the main event on the show. Nakamura pinned Corbin in 9:24 with a Kinshasa to the back and another regular Kinshasa. Before the finish Corbin went for the same low blow he used at Battleground, but Nakamura moved out of the way and hit him with a spinning elbow. The match was a lot better than their PPV match, but was still maybe slightly better than average. Dasha Fuentes interviewed Naomi. Natalya showed up to talk about their SummerSlam match. Natalya told Naomi that she disgusts her with what she’s done to the belt (she’s redecorated the belt) which was awkward to do when you can’t use the word belt. She said Naomi had no respect for the people like the Hart family who paved the way and walked off. Then Carmella came out with her briefcase and “Free Ellsworth” t-shirt and reminded everyone she could cash it in. Charlotte & Lynch beat Tamina & Lana in 4:25 when Charlotte pinned Lana with a big boot. This Lana push is weird. Fans chanted lightly, “You can’t wrestle” at her. The stuff with Charlotte and Tamina was messy, and Lana wasn’t good either. In fact, in the commentary, the storyline in all this is that occasionally Lana shows signs, but she’s totally not ready. After she got pinned, Tamina was yelling at Lana and made her cry. It looks like they’re trying to make Lana a face who everyone bullies because she’s not as good as the rest of them. She is so much less effective in this role right now, but perhaps they figure she can catch on. But after that big build of her being this glamorous star and then being booked like this, it makes no sense at all. Mahal came out and demanded to know who he’s facing at SummerSlam. Cena came out. Mahal then did what he figured Cena would say. Cena then said Mahal has no idea, and he cut a promo saying that he respects Mahal, that Mahal has gotten in the best shape of his life and respects that Mahal will do anything to keep the title including bring out Khali and the Singh Brothers. So he told him congratulations, but he wanted the title shot at SummerSlam. Bryan then came out. He said that even Cena can’t make the matches here, that he and Shane do, and Cena has to earn his title shot so he’s making Cena vs. Nakamura with the winner getting the SummerSlam shot. Owens did an interview complaining about having to put the title up. Shane said that he only cares about giving the audience the best matches and that Owens vs. Styles vs. Jericho is a great main event. Owens and Shane went face-to-face. There was clearly a tease for the idea of a Shane vs. Owens match down the line. English was in the ring singing. This led to Dillinger & Zayn beating Kanellis & English in 6:01 when Zayn pinned Kanellis with the helluva kick. Things don’t look good for Kanellis losing clean to Zayn twice this quickly in when he’s got English as his partner, not to mention being positioned with English and Dillinger who are bottom guys. The New Day was about to come out and celebrate their tag title win. Then the Usos were shown beating up Kingston & Woods. The idea was they had already laid Big E out moments earlier. They threw Kingston into the LED wall. Big E came out, selling like he’d been jumped, and tried to make the save after Kingston & Woods had been laid out. They double-teamed Big E and laid im out with a double superkick. Nakamura did an interview, saying he’d be the one to face Mahal for the title at SummerSlam. Styles regained the U.S. title in the three-way over Owens and Jericho in 14:05. This was really good. They teased the usual finish when Styles hit a 450 on Jericho, and Owens then threw Styles out of the ring and he covered Jericho for the pin, but Jericho kicked out. There were all sorts of big moves with either kick outs or saves. Finally Owens used the frog splash on Jericho, but it was Styles who then threw Owens out of the ring and got the pin to win the title. Styles had a busted mouth. Owens then demanded his rematch for the title next week. 205 Live opened with Neville out. He said that he was gone a week and Daivari thought that his kingdom was the subject of a hostile takeover. This was a lot of that WWE writing verbiage that is a disconnect because nobody would ever talk like that. To his credit, the way Neville delivered the lines slowly, he can pull it off better than most and it didn’t seem so contrived. He said Daivari would learn this week that there was a difference between picking apart an injured animal like Daivari did with Tozawa last week or standing toe-to-toe with the king of the cruiserweights. Daivari came out for an in-ring interview. Tozawa was at ringside in a suit. Daivari cut his promo on Tozawa at first, and then talked about how he laid out both Tozawa and Neville the previous night. He said that proves he’s the only one who deserves a title shot. He dedicated this win to Abdollah Movahed, the 1968 Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medalist from Iran at 154 pounds. Daivari said how future generations will be dedicating their wins to himself. Daivari beat Neville via count out in 4:36. Daivari was stalling to establish that he’s the heel. He kept running away. Then he got the edge throwing Neville into the barricade and throwing his shoulder into the post. Neville kicked out of a frog splash. When they were fighting outside the ring, Daivari threw Neville into Tozawa. Daivari jumped in to beat the ten count while Neville couldn’t. Tozawa was selling like his shoulder was hurt again. This was Neville’s first singles match loss in a WWE ring since a 12/30 house show loss to Swann, and his first loss in a singles match on television since a 10/17 loss on Raw to Dallas in Denver. Neville blamed the loss on Tozawa and challenged him to get in the ring. Tozawa came from the desk and teased doing so but the referees kept them apart. Kendrick came out and cut an interview on Gallagher. He had a photo of Gallagher and dressed him up like a clown. He said there was a difference between fighters like himself and clowns like Gallagher. He made dated reference comparing Gallagher’s mustache to Rollie Fingers (a Hall of Fame relief pitcher known for his mustache who retired 32 years ago). When he had the photo doctored up to where Gallagher looked like a clown, he asked the crowd “Does that look like a fighter to you?” The idea was to get the crowd to yell “Yes.” A few kids did but the response was so light to be embarrassing. Finally Gallagher came out. Gallagher said that reasoning with him wasn’t working so he was going to knock his bloody head off. Kendrick then ran out of the ring and said that he doesn’t fight clowns. Swann & Alexander did a promo for the main event. TJP & Nese came out. The idea is that Swann and TJP are having friendly competition on the surface, but really TJP is a heel who pretends to be friends with Swann, and deep down, Swann knows it. Nese did an in-ring promo playing up his abs and said to the crowd that’s why all of your girlfriends are looking at me and not you. Very good match. Alexander and TJP looked great in with each other. There was a spot where Alexander did a running flip dive over the top rope and Swann came off the middle rope with a Phoenix splash type of bodyblock to the floor. After a really cool high spot with Swann and Nese, the crowd woke up to the match and gave both men applause. The finish saw Alexander go for a springboard move and just as he got to the top rope, Nese shoved him. It looked like Alexander was supposed to crotch himself on the top rope, but he fell awkwardly and TJP pinned him at 12:18. The dark match main event was Mahal vs. Cena for the WWE title. The Singh Brothers interfered early and were kicked out. The Singh Brothers saw one with a neck brace on and the other with his shoulder all taped up. Cena got Mahal in the STF when the Singh Brothers came from the back to save the title with the DQ. The Singhs held Cena and Mahal got a chair. Cena ducked the chair shot and Mahal laid out both Singhs. Cena then gave Mahal the Attitude Adjustment to end the show

The NXT weekend shows in Florida opened on 7/20 in Cocoa before 250 fans. Ruby Riot & Lacey Evans beat Peyton Royce & Billie Kay when Riot pinned Royce after a kick. Babatunde Aiyegbusi beat Sawyer Fulton in their usual battle of giants when Aiyegbusi won with a slam. This was kept simple with Fulton mostly working a headlock. Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy with their double-team world’s strongest slam. Brennan Williams for whatever reason was in the corner of the Ealy Twins. Aleister Black pinned Marcel Barthel with black mass. The two did some great trading of holds on the mat early on. Nick Miller, with Shane Thorne in his corner, beat Chad “Gunner” Gail with a tornado DDT. Ember Moon pinned Bianca Belair with the eclipse. Main event was Hideo Itami & Velveteen Dream over Kassius Ohno & Buddy Murphy. Murphy appeared to injure his ankle early on and Ohno worked the match by himself and Itami eventually pinned him after a GTS and hard kick

7/21 in Daytona Beach drew 250. Fabian Aichner opened and pinned Raul Mendoza with a wheelbarrow suplex. Liv Morgan & Lacey Evans & Taynara Conti & Aliyah beat Sage Beckett & Reina Gonzalez & Vanessa Borne & Zeta. The faces got a quadruple submission finish with Morgan jumping off the ropes to beat a guillotine on Beckett. Demetrious Bronson did an interview. He tried to talk like a preacher and was a heel, ripping on the crowd. Lars Sullivan came out and slammed him three times. Sullivan got the biggest reaction of anyone on the show, and he hasn’t really been pushed on television. Velveteen Dream pinned Nick Miller with a roll-up and holding the tights. Heavy Machinery beat Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler with the assisted wold’s strongest slam. Johnny Gargano beat Marcel Barthel with the Gargano escape. Cross pinned Sarah Logan with the spinning fisherman buster. Main event saw McIntyre & Black & Strong beating Roode & Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli when McIntyre pinned Moss after the Claymore kick

7/22 in Tampa drew 550 fans, which is the largest NXT crowd for a non-TV taping anyone can remember in Central Florida. The Central Florida shows have been up for the last several weeks after attendance having dropped from the year across the board. One person who attends regularly said that the big difference is McIntyre. Heavy Machinery beat Moss & Sabbatelli in the opener with the double-team strongest slam. Belair beat Zeda via submission. Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford & Big Boa beat the Ealy Twins & Brennan Williams. Oney Lorcan pinned Kona Reeves with a neckbreaker. McIntyre & Black beat Blake & Cutler when McIntyre got the pin with the Claymore kick. Sullivan destroyed Aichner with a slam. He slammed him twice more after the match. Asuka & Lacey Evans & Liv Morgan beat Sage Beckett & Peyton Royce & Billie Kay when Asuka pinned Beckett after a kick to the head. Strong pinned Velveteen Dream in the main event

Raw opened on 7/21 in Fayetteville before 3,000 fans. 7/22 in Hampton, VA drew 5,000. We didn’t get the attendance figure for 7/23 in Salisbury, MD, but they didn’t draw well going pretty much head-to-head with the PPV show

Smackdown opened on 7/22 in Wildwood, NJ before 3,700 fans. The 7/24 show in Newark, DE drew 3,000 fans

Kayla Braxton from NXT, who does the interview work on that show, was used as one of the ring announcers on the Raw tour with Mike Rome. For Fayetteville, it opened with Sheamus & Cesaro over the Hardys and Anderson & Gallows in a three-way tag title match. Matt hit Anderson with a twist of fate,

but Sheamus had tagged in. Sheamus threw Matt out of the ring and pinned Anderson. Goldust pinned R-Truth in 2:00 using the ropes. With all the time they spent building this split and program up, for whatever reason, it’s clear they don’t trust them to do a regular match. Gallagher pinned TJP. Crowd didn’t care at all about this but I was told the match was well wrestled. An interesting note is that there was no flying at all and neither man ever even went to the top rope. Wyatt pinned Crews with Sister Abigail. O’Neil wasn’t on the tour. Miz came out and said that everyone in Fayetteville was jealous of his title and jealous of his wife. Ambrose & Rollins beat Miz & Axel when Ambrose pinned Axel with Dirty Deeds. Rollins sold most of the way to set up Ambrose for the hot tag. They had a good match. They did the usual spot where Maryse interfered to break up a pin and the ref threw her out. Bayley & Banks & Brooke beat Bliss & Jax & Emma with Mickie James as referee. Bayley pinned Bliss clean with the belly-to-belly. Balor pinned Samson using the coup de gras. This was slower-paced then the rest of the show. In the main event, Reigns beat Strowman via DQ for hitting him with a chair. Reigns was cheered more than anyone else on the show. Strowman set up a table in the corner after the match, but Reigns made a comeback and ended the show spearing Strowman through the table

They did the same show the next night in Hampton. Everything was good except the quick R-Truth vs. Goldust match. Balor got the biggest reaction of anyone and Reigns was 50/50 and Strowman was almost completely cheered in the main event

Salisbury was also the same show. Rollins & Ambrose vs. Miz & Axel said to be the best match and Miz was the only heel to get strong heat

The Smackdown show in Wildwood opened with Styles pinning Owens to retain the U.S. title with the Styles clash. Real good stuff with lots of near falls at the end. Corbin pinned Zayn with the End of Days. Rawley & Ryder & Dillinger beat English & The Ascension when Rawley pinned Rowan after his running tackle. Viktor then said that he wasn’t leaving and challenged anyone in the back, or anyone in the city of Wildwood to a match. Gable, flying in from the Waterloo Hall of Fame thing and missing the banquet, came out and pinned Viktor in seconds. The Singh Brothers and Mahal came out to cut a promo for the match tonight and the Punjabi Prison match. Mahal retained over Nakamura and Ziggler in a three-way. Nakamura hit Ziggler with the Kinshasa. Mahal then threw Nakamura out of the ring and pinned Ziggler. The Singh Brothers attacked Nakamura after the match, but he made a comeback on both and gave one of them the Kinshasa. Most of the match was Nakamura vs. Ziggler and was good, as Mahal was mostly outside the ring. Charlotte won a five-way over Natalya, Tamina, Lynch, and Lana when Charlotte made Natalya tap out to the figure eight. This was very similar to their PPV match but with a different finish. The Usos kept the tag titles winning a three-way over Breeze & Fandango and Kingston & Big E when Jimmy pinned Fandango after a kick to the head and a roll-up. The match had a lot of comedy including Breeze doing the spot where the guy is on the top and he rolls to the other corner, then the guy goes to the other corner to jump on him and he rolls back. Cena beat Rusev in the main event with the Attitude Adjustment. Some spots were the same as the PPV match. There was a ref bump and Cena used the STF and Rusev was tapping but no ref. One thing was noted is that when Rusev tapped, even though there clearly was no ref, Cena jumped up and down like he won even though everyone in the arena knew it was a ref bump spot. Cena later won clean with the Attitude Adjustment. Cena got the biggest reaction of anyone

In Newark, they opened with new tag champs New Day, being Big E & Woods, retaining over Breeze & Fandango and Usos with a lot of comedy with The Fashion Police and New Day. The finish was clean pin on one of the Usos with New Day using the midnight hour. Corbin pinned Zayn with the End of Days. Dillinger & Gable & Rawley & Ryder beat English & Rowan & The Ascension. Everyone hit their moves at the end and Rawley pinned Rowan after the running punch. Viktor once again demanded another match saying he never lost. Harper came out and hit a discus lariat on him to win in seconds. Orton & Nakamura beat Ziggler & Mahal. Most of the match was Nakamura selling. Mahal avoided Orton. Orton got the hot tag and hit a draping DDT on Ziggler and a double draping DDT on the Singh Brothers before pinning Ziggler after the RKO, at the same time Nakamura laid out Mahal with the Kinshasa. Naomi & Charlotte & Lynch beat Natalya & Carmella & Lana in a trios match. Tamina was in the heel corner. Naomi pinned Lana with the rear view. Owens pinned Styles to retain the U.S. title. Owens tried to save the title with a walk out count out. Styles chased him down and threw him back in the ring, but Owens used a thumb to the eye and the pop up power bomb for the pin. Lots of stalling and mic work but it was still the best match on the show. Post-match saw Styles lay Owens out with the phenomenal forearm. Cena beat Rusev in the main event. Cena was clearly viewed as the star of the show. Rusev did a fake knee injury spot where the trainer came out, and then Rusev attacked Cena. There was the ref bump spot and Cena got Rusev in the STF, and he tapped out but no ref. Rusev used a low blow and went for a char shot, but Cena ducked it and hit the Attitude Adjustment and got the pin.