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June 19, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Connor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather on, Okada/Omega classic, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 June 19, 2017

 

NJPW DOMINION POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 579 (99.8%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 1 (00.2%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega 519

Kushida vs. Hiromu Takahashi 49

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito 11

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Eight-man tag 134

Never trios gauntlet 108

Cody vs. Michael Elgin 69

Opening six-man 49

Minoru Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto 34

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday 6/13.

 

What is likely to be one of the biggest PPV events of all-time appears to be a reality.

Kevin Iole of Yahoo! reported on 6/14 that the negotiations for the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor fight have been completed.

Dana White on Sports Center said the fight would take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on 8/26, and the fight would be at 154 pounds, which is a concession to McGregor, who would have the harder time making 147. Both men have agreed to 10-ounce gloves.

Mayweather Promotions was approved for a boxing event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for that date earlier that day, but Iole reported it could be moved to the larger T-Mobile Arena.

After his report, Mayweather, McGregor and Dana White all confirmed the fight. White, on Sports Center, said negotiations for the fight were not as difficult as some had expected.

“Negotiations went smooth,” he said. “Floyd is surrounded by some smart people and we got this thing done. The impossible deal is now done.”

Figures of $100 million for each fighter have been thrown around, although the real number are dependent upon the PPV numbers. It’s quite the story about McGregor, who was living on government assistance just four years ago. What is notable is that for McGregor, this will likely be the first time one of his fights will be on PPV in the U.K. and his home country of Ireland, which increases the revenue potential.

Earlier in the week, Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times, said that the talks to make the fight were going on with WME IMG and Al Haymon, the head of the Premier Boxing Champions. It claimed that Dana White was not involved in the talks. White immediately shot back that the story was inaccurate and he was not only involved in the talks but he was the key guy in the talks.

Mayweather Promotions had earlier in the week asked the Nevada commission for an 8/26 date for a show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Immediately, people presumed it was for the McGregor vs. Mayweather fight. Mayweather’s team withdrew the request for a date on 6/12, meaning something happened in the interim. But late on 6/13, they informed the commission they were requesting the date once again, and it was approved the next day.

They gave no indication at the commission meeting what the date was for, past it being a boxing event. McGregor’s teased a few days ago on Twitter that “Something big is coming,” but McGregor uses social media to keep his name in the news at all times and game plays the public, lest we forget his retirements and statements that he was back on UFC 200 which were both pure fantasy.

The fight, pitting the biggest drawing card in boxing over the past decade against the biggest drawing card in MMA in recent years, has one uncharted question.

Will the public buy into two huge personalities when, as a boxing match, it should be a mismatch? Mayweather, 49-0, is the greatest boxer of this generation, although is 40. McGregor is 28, and is a great MMA striker, but that’s an entirely different sport. He has never boxed professionally. Those who know boxing well and knew him from his start in boxing gyms said that he had great aptitude for that sport and probably could have been a European champion and a ranked contender. But he didn’t go into that sport and has no experience at it.

Promoters would be disappointed if the match did 2.2 million buys, a number that has only been reached three times in history, Mayweather fights with Oscar de la Hoya, Canelo Alvarez and Manny Pacquiao. The latter did closer to 4.6 million buys, raising greatly what was widely thought as the ceiling for a PPV event of less than 3 million buys. Because of that figure, there are those talking four million buys as a possibility here, whereas if that fight had never happened, the predictions would be closer to 2.5 million.

White, as one of the promoters, predicted record numbers.

“The fans wanted to see this fight,” he said. “It’s the most talked about fight on the planet right now. And it will be the biggest fight ever in the history of two people punching each other. They (sports people) can be as disgusted as they want. It’s what people wanted to see.”

White also said that McGregor told him he wanted to do have at least one UFC fight before the end of the year.

There are thoughts that if you combine the boxing fan base with the MMA fan base, this should break the Mayweather-Pacquiao record, but that’s looking at it all wrong. While a bad comparison because of McGregor’s name value vs. Antonio Inoki’s, the Ali vs. Inoki fight in 1976 did not do well on closed-circuit even though the mentality was it would draw the boxing audience for Ali, and all the pro wrestling fans. Instead, most boxing fans considered it a joke and pro wrestling fans didn’t support it because they were into supporting local heroes, and Inoki was not well known and most promoters didn’t spend a lot of effort in promoting him.

A ton of MMA fans, perhaps most, bought Mayweather-Pacquiao, because it’s appeal and reach went far beyond boxing. This show’s success or failure isn’t about the boxing or MMA audience, but about the audience that watches the Super Bowl or the NBA finals but watches nothing during the season. It’s a given that the base MMA audience will mostly buy the show, and that the base boxing audience will. Those are low numbers. From there, how well it does is largely dependent upon how big the fight becomes in its final few days within regular culture, both in and out of sports.

Will the general public be captivated enough by the personalities that they see it as a can’t miss sporting or cultural event? If that’s the case, the ceiling is very high, as today, while average events don’t do as well as in the past, huge events do bigger than ever.

If the general public doesn’t get interested, or sees it as a joke fight and doesn’t support it (many will see it as a joke fight and still support it because in the end, they want to see it), which on paper it is, the results will be very different. Mayweather-Pacquiao had years of hype to it, although McGregor comes into this fight as every bit as big a draw as Pacquiao, and likely with a fan base that doesn’t overlap as much as the Pacquiao and Mayweather purchasers did. But that fight appealed to an audience far beyond boxing fans and became a huge event to where the night of the fight, people suddenly started ordering in record numbers on the spur of the moment even with a $100 price tag as it became a can’t miss cultural event.

There are arguments that with the promotional ability of these two, that will happen here. But unlike with Mayweather and Pacquiao, this will not have the media promoting it hard as a serious event, although it will get plenty of publicity since the belief is the sports coverage of the two personalities will draw ratings for them. But it will be constantly mocked as a serious sports event, or at best, most will say it’s a mismatch, but the dissenting opinions will be more trolling attention getting media types than those who seriously believe it. Whether that hurts the buys, or makes it better, remains to be seen.

While those in boxing pretty much knew Mayweather would win, enough people could give arguments for Pacquiao, who was still one of the best boxers of this generation. Here, unless Mayweather has suddenly slipped. or there is a fluke, there is no argument over who wins, and in dominant form. Right now, Mayweather is listed as a -1100 favorite.

Plus, Mayweather-Pacquiao, for as much as it drew, was a huge disappointment. It wasn’t much of a fight, and it left a bitter aftertaste to the public. Pacquiao went into the fight with an injury he kept secret. In the end, the feeling was the public paid big money to see an event and was not being aware one of the participants was coming in damaged. Mayweather’s fights after that, against Andre Berto, bombed on PPV, doing in the range of 500,000 buys, his lowest number in almost nine years. He then retired, as he didn’t need the money, and the people he would be able to draw with were few, and all bigger and dangerous. When it’s over, the fight may not be exciting. McGregor will likely look out of his league. And it could leave another bitter aftertaste, that could hurt both men as draws. For Mayweather, that really doesn’t matter. He’s already done. Mayweather beat Pacquiao and his inability to draw after Pacquiao could be a lesson. But until the fight happens, there is no way to predict the aftermath.

Mayweather decided to come out of retirement because he saw an opportunity to draw Pacquiao like numbers with a minimal physical risk. McGregor, to his credit, hyped this match for a few years, at a time when nobody took seriously any chance it could happen, and he was the catalyst in it happening. And it was more than talk, he had to win two world championships over very real fighters to reach his status in MMA.

But if you think about it, the idea that a 49-0 greatest fighter of his generation could be sanctioned for a fight against someone with an 0-0 record, and sanctioned without discussion, points to the value of money overriding regulated sport. In theory, the reason boxing is regulated is because promoters can’t keep themselves honest, and the public will buy freak shows ahead of legitimate fights. But even if Nevada commission members privately felt differently, they’d be replaced if they blocked a fight that would generate that level of money to the local economy.

If Mayweather wins, it will give him a 50-0 record, breaking the Rocky Marciano record of 49-0 and retiring undefeated, although this is quite the cheap way to break that record.

The biggest loser in this scenario is Golden Boy, which has a 9/16 date booked for the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin PPV fight. That is considered the biggest PPV boxing fight in years, but will no doubt be hurt as far as the non-boxing purists in drawing because of the expected $100 price tag for the Mayweather-McGregor show. It will probably also greatly impact the UFC PPV shows from August through probably October.


Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega followed one of the greatest pro wrestling matches of all-time, with an even better sequel, a 60:00 draw for the IWGP title in the main event of the 6/11 Dominion show from Osaka Jo Hall.

When it was over, both men collapsed on the mat selling complete exhaustion. It was the first 60:00 draw in an IWGP heavyweight championship match since a March 26, 2005, title match with Satoshi Kojima vs. Manabu Nakanishi. There were three other previous one hour draws in IWGP title matches, a March 5, 2003 match with Nakanishi vs. Yuji Nagata, an October 21, 2002, match with Nagata vs. Masahiro Chono, and an August 8, 1988, match with Tatsumi Fujinami defending against Antonio Inoki.

In a match filled with memorable moments, perhaps the best was Omega being done and Okada throwing the rainmaker, but Omega collapsed to the ground as Okada threw and Okada missed the move and went flying.

The key story of the match they were trying to tell is that Omega is the first person that Okada can’t beat with the rainmaker, as he hit him with it multiple times, but we still don’t know if Okada can survive the One Winged Angel. Omega hit the move once during the match but Okada’s foot was on the ropes.

A 60:00 match is far riskier today when a 30:00 match seems like an eternity. The idea of such a match had gotten so much talk that in his pre-match interview, Omega downplayed it by saying this match would not last the nearly 47 minutes of the first one, and it was not going 60.

Okada’s next title defense will be on 7/1 in Long Beach against Cody, who defeated Michael Elgin on this show and spit beer in Okada’s face at the post-show press conference.

There is a very good chance that Cody will be winning the ROH title from Christopher Daniels on the 6/23 PPV show in Lowell, MA. If he does, and obviously, until it happens, it hasn’t happened, that creates the unique situation of the world champion of Japan’s No. 1 organization against the world champion of the (very distant) No. 2 organization in the U.S. That may in part play into why that match will headline New Japan’s first U.S. show. The title vs. title match was always huge in the past to hardcore fans, but it’s hard to say for today’s hardcore fan where titles have been devalued. The IWGP title and the way it’s booked goes against the industry trend.

This leaves an interesting question about the finish. ROH has long since had a rule that their world champion can’t lose a singles match on shows outside the organization. This is more than an indie show, since the 7/1 card will be broadcast live on AXS in a four-plus hour window in what is described as a modern version of the old Clash of the Champions and Battle of the Belts type television specials that WCW and Championship Wrestling from Florida did in the 80s and 90s. The companies are working more closely together. The 7/1 AXS show is being advertised on many of the Sinclair stations during ROH programming. The 6/23 ROH PPV has been advertised on AXS during the New Japan show.

Usually, in those scenarios, you do a draw, which would be acceptable except it was just done this week, or a double count out or DQ finish which today wouldn’t be received well at all. In 1991, when New Japan booked Ric Flair (NWA/WCW champion) vs. Fujinami (IWGP champion) at the Tokyo Dome, they booked a finish where Fujinami pinned Flair to apparently win all the titles with the old Dusty finish, so it was huge pop ending in Japan. It was later ruled, since Fujinami threw Flair over the top rope prior to the finish, that under WCW rules, that was a DQ, so Flair retained the WCW title, but Fujinami was still NWA & IWGP champion. Flair later regained the NWA title on a WCW PPV show, but the NWA title aspect was only talked about in Japan, not the U.S.

There appears to be a major storyline brewing in some form. During the Omega vs. Okada match, there was a sequence where Okada came off the top rope onto a table on the floor with an elbow drop. The wood on the thick table cracked, but didn’t fully break. Okada followed with a missile dropkick and two rainmakers. Cody came out and wanted to throw in the towel, but the Young Bucks wouldn’t let him, basically a takeoff on the finish of the Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie Tokyo Dome match in 2000 where Rorion Gracie wanted to throw in the towel but for several minutes but Helio wouldn’t allow it, a finish that came back into the public eye this past week because of the video of Kazushi Sakuraba going into the UFC Hall of Fame and the talk about their match. Owen Hart was in a somewhat similar role in the match where Bob Backlund beat Bret Hart for the WWF title in 1994, although in both of those cases, the towel was thrown in for the finish. In this, the tease was strong, but the towel wasn’t thrown in. Cody kept insisting that Omega was too badly injured and the match needed to be stopped, but in fact, Omega recovered and wrestled for a long time after that.

Later, after Okada had retained the title, and was backstage during his media interview, Cody showed up and challenged him to a title match in Long Beach before spitting beer in his face.

Dominion, the company’s annual June show in Osaka which dates back to 2009, became the company’s No. 2 show of the year when it comes to major matches and depth starting in 2015, when it was moved from the long-time home at the Furitsu Gym (later called the Bodymaker Coliseum and currently the Edion Arena) to Osaka Jo Hall, an arena they hadn’t run since September 27, 1994. One can argue the G-1 final show at Sumo Hall is bigger, but that’s a one-match show.

This year’s show, with the Okada vs. Omega title match and four rematches from Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome, drew the company’s all-time record gate in the building, with an advanced sellout with standing room of 11,756 paid. They increased ticket prices from last year, when they drew 9.925 paid. Ticket prices were increased 50 percent from last year, with the idea that the Okada vs. Omega rematch would be a major draw.

The show was, from a match quality standpoint, one of the best shows in company history. You can make an argument this show was better than this year’s Tokyo Dome show, particularly due to the main event. Of the four rematches, three of them, Omega vs. Okada, Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida for the IWGP jr. title and Rocky Romero & Baretta vs. Young Bucks for the IWGP jr. tag titles, were better than their Wrestle Kingdom 11 counterparts. The fourth, Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, was very different, but certainly on the same level with some of the best in-ring storytelling of any match this year. I thought it was slightly better than last year as well, but it was close whereas the other three I thought were clearly better than their Dome match.

Okada vs. Omega basically broke the bank on superlatives, if the first match was one of the few ****** matches in history, this may have been the first Milky Way Galaxy match. And this was hardly the perfect time or place, even if Osaka and Dominion ahead of time looked like it would be. This wasn’t the usual super hot Osaka crowd, and the main event’s bell rang roughly four hours after the start of the show, and followed a match of the year contender with the emotional draining element of Tanahashi, fighting with one arm, beating Naito, who had been destroying and defacing the IC title belt. As hard as it appeared to follow Tanahashi vs. Naito at the Dome, this was even harder because not only did you have the drama of the one-armed Tanahashi winning via submission, but this was his first win in a singles title match in two-and–a-half years, since his January 4, 2015, successful title defense of the IWGP title at the Tokyo Dome against Okada, and Naito had essentially declared Tanahashi past his prime and irrelevant after beating him at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom.

Omega vs. Okada was a very different match from the first one. The first one went 46:40, building to the key moves late. This time, going 60:00, they had to pull out all the stops. Omega survived multiple rainmakers, including one just seconds before the finish. Omega finally hit the One Winged Angel, but Okada got his leg over the ropes to stop the count.

There was no vibe of a 60:00 main event as the show was going on. The key undercard matches all were given time and if you’re planning a one hour broadway, you normally wouldn’t start it four hours into the show nor have so many long matches underneath. They were building the apparent finishing sequences around 40:00 in, to where it felt like there simply wasn’t enough left to go much longer. At the 50:00 mark, you had to think it was going to a one hour draw, but New Japan had done a finish in the Tenzan vs. Kojima match just 11 seconds shy of 60 minutes in a 2005 major match.

For this publication, Dominion had 580 responses, all but one being a thumbs up. It was the largest number of responses for a show to our poll since the 2013 WrestleMania (602). It beat both this year’s Wrestle Kingdom (534) and this year’s WrestleMania (523). I expected it would be big, but expected it more at the SummerSlam or Royal Rumble level. Obviously, this is a very unique audience as the interest level in the U.S. didn’t even measure 20,000 Google searches. The only number on New Japan World is that on the morning before Dominion they had gotten roughly the same amount of new subscriptions as the morning before the Tokyo Dome, with about 60 percent of them coming from the U.S.

However more than 90 percent of the new subscribers from the Tokyo Dome show (most of which didn’t stay as the number a month ago was roughly the same as the number in December before the Dome spike) came in the hours before the show and in the 24 hours after the show based on reaction to the show. Even though this Omega vs. Okada match was better than the first, it felt to me that the first got a lot more reaction, particularly from a media standpoint.

It was the same thing with Ricochet and Will Ospreay in May, where their second match was as good as the first, and perhaps better. But the first match got an incredible amount of reaction worldwide because of all the debates it inspired, and the debates played themselves out and for the second match, people’s expectations were so high, and also, this year’s Super Juniors tournament had a higher quality of great matches.

Exactly what this means next is interesting. Omega did an incredible 20 minute plus promo prior to this match where he both did and didn’t break the fourth wall, talking about how if New Japan is going international he, not Okada, needs to be the champion. The interview was designed for him to be the babyface outside of Japan, but the heel, if that’s even the right term, in Japan.

Throwing Cody in the mix can take things in many different directions. Cody could beat Okada and get the title, with the storyline that everyone knows Okada was beaten down the past few months by the schedule, with the grueling Omega match as the climax of this story and some could see Cody backdooring into a title win that Omega “deserved.” This could lead to Cody vs. Omega, which also works to make Cody the Bullet Club leader in the event Omega goes to WWE in 2018. If Omega does leave, they do have to get a new top foreign singles star ready for the spot. Earlier this year, they were teasing something similar with Omega vs. Adam Cole, but it never went anywhere as Cole finished up in New Japan and Omega’s U.S. visa ended up delayed so he couldn’t do the match at the ROH New York show, which was the original plan. It puts Cody in the position to be a new headliner, and the Okada match is a major one for him because of the run of matches Okada has had and the ridiculous expectation of an Okada title defense.

This could lead to an Elite vs. Bullet Club feud, or simply Omega being kicked out and going as a babyface, essentially doing the angle A.J. Styles could have done if things didn’t work out in WWE. It’s also possible it could lead to nothing, as the Omega distraction of Kota Ibushi when he challenged Styles for the IWGP title never led to anything with Omega and Ibushi. But there are endless possibilities.

Regarding Omega vs. Okada, there is expected to be a third meeting before the end of the year. Okada’s run as champion over the past year should go down as legendary, with the title defenses against Marufuji, the two with Omega, Minoru Suzuki, Katsuyori Shibata all being among the best matches of the past year, as well as a strong non-title win over Tiger Mask W and a very good match with Bad Luck Fale.

There ended up being four title changes in the seven title matches at Dominion. The Young Bucks won the IWGP jr. tag titles for the sixth time, beating Romero & Baretta, and pushed it like it was equivalent to Michael Jordan’s six rings. Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa won the IWGP heavyweight tag titles from War Machine, which I thought was premature. War Machine has done great as a team in Japan and even with the lack of depth in that division, they didn’t need to lose so soon. Kushida beat Hiromu Takahashi to win the IWGP jr. title. I felt this was early because Takahashi has been an incredible champion, but after Kushida lost to Takahashi in 1:56 in their last meeting, the way the storyline had played, it looked like he’d regain it. And given Kushida’s position and his match quality, you can’t complain about it. Plus, Kushida vs. Takahashi has the chance to be a multi-year legendary program. And Tanahashi beat Naito.

Minoru Suzuki retained the Never open weight title beating former champion Hirooki Goto in an interference-filled lumberjack match. Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi retained the Never trios titles in a gauntlet series of matches.

The Okada vs. Omega future storyline really revolves around what decision Omega makes come January. If he stays, he should get a long run as champion and be the international face of the company. Given his performances, for Japan, he as champion with Japanese stars chasing him should work, and for expansion internationally, he’s the better face of the company than Okada.

This leads to the U.S. title tournament that the company is doing on 7/1 and 7/2 in Long Beach. Omega is in the tournament. For a WWE-weaned modern fan, a U.S. title would seem below the level of Omega, although when WWE put the title on John Cena, its biggest star, the title never meant more. It’s the man who makes the belt today and if Omega wins, it goes from being just another mid-card title, to a main event level title, similar to how Shinsuke Nakamura elevated the IC title, as did Naito, and as likely will Tanahashi.

The announcements this week of the Long Beach lineup brought with it some negativity, largely with Cody getting the IWGP title match and Billy Gunn getting the IC title match with Tanahashi. From a Japanese perspective, if it is title vs. title, that would seem to be huge in their mindset for a U.S. debut. Gunn is a misfire. Gunn and Yoshitatsu put on the tour with the idea both had time in WWE misses the point of the fans of New Japan in the U.S. Gunn is fine as an undercard nostalgia guy in a multiple person match. Perhaps, even down the line, you could do the veteran going for one last bit of glory once he’s established as a nostalgic figure. But for here, it’s not the right time. Plus, having two guys who were in WWE but not pushed to the top there (Gunn was part of a major stable and well known because he was an Attitude-era star, but that was also more than 15 years ago) going after two singles titles feels like the booking mistake TNA would do. I’ve got no issue with Cody in the spot because there are so many storyline ways to go and it feels like New Japan sees him as a long-term star. But two of them on the same weekend amplifies the idea it’s guys who weren’t on top in WWE getting shots at New Japan’s two top titles.

AXS is planning on a marathon of New Japan in three weeks. The Dominion show will be edited down to two hours, from 7-9 p.m. There will be the all-time New Japan marathon leading to the live show at 8 p.m. Eastern from Long Beach.

The bracketing in the U.S. title tournament is Omega vs. Michael Elgin, Jay Lethal vs. Hangman Page, Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Juice Robinson and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tetsuya Naito. Those matches all take place on 7/1. Omega vs. Elgin and Naito vs. Ishii are rematches of tremendous matches from Japan.

On 7/2, they will have the semifinals (Omega winner vs. Lethal winner, Sabre winner vs. Naito winner) and the main event on 7/2 will be the championship match.

As we’ve seen with the New Japan Cup, when it comes to New Japan single elimination tournaments, there are usually upsets and the dream matches usually don’t happen. The optimum is Omega vs. Lethal and Sabre vs. Naito in the semis and Omega vs. Naito as the championship match.

There will be a very negative reaction in particular if Omega is ousted before the finals, and to an extent if Naito is. But you don’t know the long-term story New Japan wants to tell. It has to fit into plans for G-1 and next year’s Wrestle Kingdom main matches and it’s not about making fans who want to see something on that night and giving them instant gratification. However, it is imperative the first and second show featuring significant news for the American market. Naito did just lose the title so it doesn’t feel like the right time for Ishii to beat him. Omega had to lose in the New Japan Cup because it was too early for Omega vs. Okada III, but that isn’t the case here.

On paper, it looks like it could produce incredible matches, but asking for three Omega-level singles matches in two days may be much, particularly with the two bouts on the second night.

Omega and Naito had one of last year’s best matches in the B block finals of G-1 and they haven’t wrestled since. If the tourney does go with those two in the finals, it sounds strong, but the New Japan Cup booking actually avoids those kinds of matches. Omega and Ishii have worked twice this year and Omega vs. Sabre would be an indie dream match, the reality is this tour is New Japan so Naito would be better in that spot.

The opening day match order has Mark & Jay Briscoe & Will Ospreay & Rocky Romero & Baretta vs. Young Bucks & Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Marty Scurll, Jushin Liger & Volador Jr. & Dragon Lee & Titan vs. Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, Lethal vs. Page, Sabre Jr. vs. Robinson, Tanahashi & Kushida & Jay White & David Finlay vs. Gunn & Yoshitatsu & Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka, Tonga & Roa vs. War Machine for the IWGP tag titles, Naito vs. Ishii, Omega vs. Elgin and Okada vs. Cody for the IWGP title.

The second day lineup won’t be announced until after the first day because of the tournament. The tournament final will be the main event, plus they’ll have Young Bucks vs. Romero & Baretta for the IWGP jr. tag title and Tanahashi vs. Gunn for the IC title.

The secondary market is strong, but not outrageous, with the price of entry being $97 for the first night and $104 for the second night.

They didn’t make any G-1 announcements this week after all. It had been reported in Japan, and had been tradition, that the G-1 lineups and top matches would be announced during intermission at Dominion. But there was no intermission.

Right now the plan is to announce the participants at the 6/20 show at Korakuen Hall. Then the breakdown of the A block vs. B block will be announced on 6/26 at Korakuen Hall. And then the top matches for the tour will be announced on 6/27 at Korakuen Hall. All of the shows will air live on New Japan World.

Last year, there were 20 participants. Right now, I’d say there are probably 17 locks, who are Fale, Goto, Ishii, Togi Makabe, Okada, Sanada, Tanahashi, Elgin, Evil, Nagata (who it has been announced will be in his last-ever G-1), Naito, Omega, Yoshi-Hashi, Suzuki, Robinson and Sabre Jr. Toru Yano is also possible for a comedy relief spot. People like Satoshi Kojima, Tama Tonga, Yujiro Takahashi, Page, Tanga Roa, War Machine and Davey Boy Smith Jr., are also possibilities, as well as the possibility of outsiders given the company has just opened up relationships with All Japan and they may also bring in someone from ROH.

Next up for New Japan is the Kizuna Road shows from 6/18 to 6/27. Three of the shows will air on New Japan World, all starting at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time.

6/20 has Tomoyuki Oka vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Desperado & Taka Michinoku vs. Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask & Shota Umino, Nagata & David Finlay vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Katsuya Kitamura, Makabe & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Kojima vs. Ishii & Yano & Jado, Tanahashi & Hirai Kawato vs. Naito & Hiromu Takahashi, Okada & Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Suzuki & Smith & Taichi and headlined by Sanada & Evil & Bushi defending the trios titles against Kushida & Robinson & Taguchi.

A few things to note here is the Nakanishi & Kitamura pairing of the old powerhouse and the new powerhouse, and also Kawato already teaming with Tanahashi against Naito & Takahashi. Obviously, Kawato is there to lose, but Kawato has been getting more and more focused on and it’s pretty clear that Oka, Kitamura, Kawato and Umino are stars of the future, and that Kawato is already being put in higher profile spots.

6/26 has Umino vs. Yagi, Oka vs. Kitamura, Kanemaru & Taichi & Michinoku vs. Liger & Tiger Mask & Kawato, Tenzan & Kojima & Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Goto & Ishii & Yano & Jado, Okada & Gedo vs. Smith & Desperado, Tanahashi & Makabe & Robinson & Taguchi & Finlay vs. Naito & Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, and Suzuki vs. Yoshi-Hashi for the Never title.

Suzuki vs. Yoshi-Hashi was set up at Dominion when Yoshi-Hashi got a glory spot cleaning house of all of Suzuki-gun including Suzuki at one point and challenges were issued. Also at Dominion, there was a tease down the line of Suzuki vs. Liger, since they got into it with Liger on commentary for the Suzuki vs. Goto match and the crowd reacted big to that.

6/27 has Umino vs. Yagi, Tiger Mask& Kawato vs. Kanemaru & Michinoku, Nagata & Nakanishi & Oka vs. Tenzan & Kojima & Liger, Makabe & Kitamura vs. Ishii & Yano, Tanahashi & Robinson & Taguchi & Finlay vs. Naito & Evil & Sanada & Hiromu Takahashi, Okada & Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Gedo vs. Suzuki & Smith & Taichi & Desperado and Kushida vs. Bushi for the IWGP jr. title.

Dominion notes:

 

1. David Finlay & Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino beat Hirai Kawato & Tetsuhiro Yagi & Katsuya Kitamura in 7:38. Fun fast-paced opener, a step above their usual stuff. Umino and Yagi came out fast. Kitamura and Oka got the crowd into their hard shoulder blocks with neither budging. Kitamura also did a Karelin lift on Oka and his sick hard chops. Finlay pinned Yagi after an uppercut off the middle ropes and a stunner. **3/4

2. Togi Makabe & Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask W & Tiger Mask beat Jushin Liger & Manabu Nakanishi & Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 7:01. Everyone did their usual spots. The crowd loved Liger. The Tiger Mask’s did the Mil Mascaras/Dos Caras flying cross chops. TM W was toned down from usual but did do a double Pele kick on Kojima & Tenzan. Makabe pinned Nakanishi after a King Kong kneedrop to the back of the head. **3/4

3. Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi beat Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page in 6:01. This was the first match of the Never trios gauntlet. Not much to it. Ishii clotheslined Fale to the floor. Yujiro and Page collided and Yano gave both low blows behind the refs back and pinned Yujiro with a schoolboy. *1/2

4. Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru beat Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi in :43. This continued the gauntlet. Kanemaru tried to use the whiskey bottle but the ref stopped him. Yano tried to low blow Sabre, but it was blocked and Sabre used a bridging pin on him.

5. Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi & Juice Robinson beat Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 4:53. They did a gig where Taguchi acted like he was a catcher giving signals for the guys on his team to do moves like Robinson doing a cannonball on Sabre. Ricochet did a shooting star off Robinson’s back as Robinson bent over. Taichi hit Robinson with the hammer but Robinson kicked out of a penalty kick. Kanemaru went to blow the whiskey into Robinson’s face, but he ducked and it went in Taichi’s face. Robinson pinned Taichi with pulp fiction, which is the unprettier or killswitch. But after the match, Sabre put Robinson in the octopus hold while bending his fingers back to set up Robinson being injured before their next match. *1/2

6. Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi retained the Never Open weight trios title over Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi & Juice Robinson in 7:02. There were some heel antics including Evil putting a chair around Taguchi’s neck and doing his baseball bat swing of the chair spot to the other chair. Ricochet got a hot tag doing a springboard missile dropkick on Evil and a 619 on Bushi. There was a tower of doom spot where Ricochet, who was not in the tower, got wiped out by Sanada, who was superplexed into him. The idea may have been for the spot to end with Ricochet power bombing Sanada, which would have been amazing if they could have pulled it off. Bushi tried the MX (codebreaker off the top) but instead landed with his groin on Taguchi’s knee and Taguchi used a dodon on him but Sanada saved. Taguchi kept working for an ankle lock on Bushi but Bushi came back to pin Taguchi with the MX. **½

7. Young Bucks beat Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta to win the IWGP jr. tag titles in 14:14. The match opened with Baretta doing a running flip dive onto both. That was the spot in the first match where Baretta missed when they moved. They were brawling outside and Matt took out Romero with a power bomb on the apron, then ramming his back twice in the post and then a double-team power bomb on the apron. The next several minutes were heat on Baretta. This was more of a traditional tag match with the long heat spot. Matt was working on getting the sharpshooter over as a new finisher. Nick did a swanton off the apron on an outstretched Baretta. He also did a 450 on Baretta who was draped on the ropes, but he kicked out. Baretta came back with a German suplex and running knee on Matt, and got a near fall with a piledriver. They did the strong zero on Matt, which is their finisher, but Nick saved Matt with a swanton onto Baretta to break up the pin. Romero made the hot tag doing the forever clothesline and a huracanrana on both at the same time. Nick took out Baretta with a German suplex on the apron and Matt used a sharpshooter on Romero. Romero got to the ropes in a great spot. The Bucks went for More Bang for Your Buck but Baretta shoved Nick off the top and Romero got a near fall on Matt. Matt went for the sharpshooter, but Romero got a near fall with a small package. The finish saw the Bucks use the Indy taker on Romero and Matt got the submission using the sharpshooter on Romero. ****

8. Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa beat Ray Rowe & Hanson to win the IWGP tag titles in 10:43. Another strong match. Hanson gave Tonga a high backdrop. Rowe did an exploder on Roa, who popped up. Roa did a German suplex on Rowe, who also popped up. Tonga and Rowe were throwing stiff shots on each other. They set up the fallout on Tonga, but Roa jumped to the ropes and did a superplex on Hanson. Hanson did a splash on Tonga and tope on Roa but Tonga kicked out of Rowe’s pin. Ref Massao Hattori was knocked out when Tonga threw Rowe into him. The finish saw Roa nail Rowe with a hard chair shot to the head (and this wasn’t the only time they did this, because they don’t have the concussion publicity in sports in Mexico and Japan like in the U.S., they still do this but they really shouldn’t) and Rowe was pinned after the double-team Guerrilla warfare. ***½

9. Cody pinned Michael Elgin in 11:52. The early part of the match was Elgin one-upping Cody, including doing a 17-second suplex. Elgin also gave him a back suplex on the apron. They traded moves including Cody doing nice springboard dropkick. Elgin splashed him from outside in and did a delayed German suplex, a second German suplex and a third off the ropes. Cody did moves like an Indian deathlock, a disaster kick, and a draping downward spiral. Elgin tried his power superplex but Cody landed on his feet, kicked the knee and got the pin with crossroads. ***½

10. Kushida beat Hiromu Takahashi in 19:12 to win the IWGP jr. title. Just an awesome match. They traded blows early and the crowd was the hottest it had been up until this point. They continued going back to the trading of elbows and hard chops until Takahashi did a belly-to-belly into the corner. He did a pop up power bomb and a falcon arrow for near falls. Takahashi went for his sunset flip power bomb out of the ring, but Kushida reversed into an armbar on the apron. Another big spot saw Kushida beat up Takahashi and put him on a chair over the guard rail but before the second guard rail. Kushida then set up a chair, which caused the fans to boo because they didn’t want Kushida to resort to a chair shot. He put the chair down, ran on the floor, springboarded off the chair and over the rail into a dropkick on Takahashi, sitting in the chair, which knocked Takahashi right through the other guard rail. Kushida worked the arm too set up the hoverboard lock. He got the hoverboard lock on while both were standing on the middle rope and did a hoverboard lock suplex into the ring. Takahashi went for another sunset flip power bomb out of the ring but Kushida violently stomped his way out of it. Finally Takahashi did hit the sunset flip power bomb out of the ring, and Kushida’s head landed hard on the mats. That’s another move that is nuts. They traded moves. They teased a double knockout but both got up at nine. They traded slow chops and punches and then Kushida cub stomped the hell out of him, used the hoverboard lock and just before Takahashi made the ropes, Kushida pulled him back in the center of the ring and Takahashi tapped. Kushida had vowed to win the title and have the crowd do the wave. As they were doing the wave, out of nowhere, Bushi showed up and blew mist in Kushida’s eyes. This angle was so well done because the cameras missed it, probably on purpose, and an angle during the wave is exactly when fans weren’t thinking angle. ****3/4

11. Minoru Suzuki beat Hirooki Goto in 16:00 to retain the Never open weight title in a lumberjack death match. Goto came out with Yano, Yoshi-Hashi, Jado and Ishii. Suzuki came out with Desperado, Sabre, Kanemaru and Taka Michinoku. There was a ton of interference from both sides. The match was designed for interference and most of the time it was the Suzuki-gun side getting the better of it. At one point Suzuki slapped Liger, who was doing the TV announcing, in the face. Liger threw a chair at Suzuki. Suzuki then blew a kiss at Liger. The crowd was really wanting a Suzuki vs. Liger match. Goto finally made a comeback. They traded big spots including a sick elbow by Suzuki and the ushigoroshi by Goto. Suzuki threw Goto into ref Marty Asami and Suzuki-gun all attacked Goto. Yoshi-Hashi finally cleaned house since the match was really about putting Yoshi-Hashi over. Yoshi-Hashi nailed everyone with a running flip dive. After more reversals and big moves, Goto hit the GTR to the side and the front. Taichi pulled the ref out of the ring at two. The spot done constantly makes the company look bad, but saying that, the execution of it here was great. Taichi then hit Goto with a chair shot to the head and Suzuki used a dropkick, a choke and got the pin after a Gotch piledriver. Yoshi-Hashi again cleaned house on Suzuki-gun after the match and Suzuki, as he was on the ramp, challenged Yoshi-Hashi, who was in the ring. Yoshi-Hashi took off after him until he was pulled off. ***½

12. Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Tetsuya Naito in 25:56 to win the IC title. Tanahashi jumped Naito before the match when Naito was still in his purple suit. Tanahashi’s right arm was heavily taped up but he did use it for punches and chops. Naito of course worked on the right arm. He used a tornado DDT on the ramp, but Tanahashi beat the 20 count back in. At one point Tanahashi spit on Naito. They did the Frye-Takayama spot. Naito then spit in Tanahashi’s hair. Naito went back to work on the right arm. Tanahashi then went to work on Naito’s bad right knee with dragon screws. He also did a high fly flow to the floor and Tanahashi started selling the damaged right arm. Naito had the armbar but Tanahashi made the ropes. Naito went for his flying forearm but Tanahashi turned it into a uranage. Both were fighting on the top rope and Naito threw elbows to Tanahashi’s bad biceps and gave him a Frankensteiner off the top, but Tanahashi rolled through with a sunset flip. Tanahashi did two twist and shout neckbreakers but missed the high fly flow. Tanahashi blocked the Destino and they traded hard slaps. Tanahashi kicked out of a Destino off the middle rope. Naito went for another Destino and hit a dragon suplex. After a sling blade, Tanahashi hit the high fly flow, but Naito kicked out. This is one of the two shows of the year where you do that. Tanahashi put him in the cloverleaf. Naito nearly made the ropes but Tanahashi pulled him to the center. He had the hold on, and bent Naito back like an extreme Walls of Jericho but with a cloverleaf. It seemed like it was on forever, and they teased a ref stoppage but Naito submitted. ****½

13. Kazuchika Okada retained the IWGP heavyweight title with a 60:00 draw with Kenny Omega. Omega used a huracanrana on the floor and teased the Terminator dive, but Okada kicked him. Okada used a running flip dive and started selling like he hurt his left knee. Omega worked on the knee with a dropkick and a 70s Brisco avalanche leg dive. He worked it over with a kneebreaker and the figure four leglock, which Okada reversed ad they got into the ropes. Omega gave him a kneebreaker on the apron and threw the knee on top of the table. Omega went for a moonsault off the guard rail, but Okada shoved him and Omega flew into the other guard rail. Okada did the running crossbody over the guard rail onto Omega and drove him through the second guard rail. They both reversed out of tombstone attempts. Okada missed an elbow off the top. Omega did a top rope Asai moonsault to the floor where he nearly lost his balance for a second. Omega used a missile dropkick to the back of the head for a near fall. Omega did a power bomb, a forward fireman’s carry and middle rope moonsault, but Okada got his knees up. They teased both a top rope piledriver and a top rope dragon superplex, neither of which they did. Okada did a Death Valley bomb on the apron and a running Woo (Suwa) dropkick into the guard rail. Okada set up a table. Omega did a top rope superplex with knee pressure but missed a knee. They each got out of the rainmaker and One winged angel. Okada used two German suplexes and hit the rainmaker. Okada went for his big dropkick but Omega power bombed him. That was incredible. Okada later dropkicked him off the top to the floor. He put Omega on the table and came off the top rope with an elbow through the table, which cracked but didn’t fully break. Okada used a missile dropkick and a low dropkick. Omega was selling like he had no strength. Omega was throwing weak punches to the stomach and Okada hit two rainmakers. Okada wanted the ref to stop it and Cody came out and wanted to throw in the towel. The Bucks stopped Cody. Then Omega suddenly exploded with a jumping knee and a reverse huracanrana. He went for another knee but got hit with an Okada dropkick. Omega hit some running knees and hit the one winged angel for the first time in their two matches, but Okada got his foot on the ropes. Okada it another rainmaker and then stumbled. Omega hit the fast dragon suplex but Okada hit another dropkick. They traded elbows and Omega hit the running knees for a near fall. Omega went for the one-winged angel but Okada reversed into a tombstone. Okada went for another rainmaker, but Omega just collapsed causing Okada to miss. Both were trying gut wrenches to set up a tombstone but couldn’t get the other up. Omega hit all kinds of elbows and knees. He went for another one winged angel but Okada got out and hit a dropkick to the back. Okada hit a spinning tombstone, but then collapsed and couldn’t cover him. Okada did another German suplex, and another dropkick. Omega then started throwing backwards elbows and another snap dragon suplex. Okada hit another dropkick and hit the rainmaker and collapsed. Okada was crawling trying to get the pin when the bell rang. They didn’t gimmick the time at all, it was right at 60:00 and not on top for the two. You could argue that Omega, as challenger, should have been the one crawling. The match story was all about Omega’s survival so from that standpoint, Okada should have been trying for the pin at the end, and it really doesn’t matter. After their 1/4 match, which was one of the best matches I’ve ever seen, I watched the Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada match from 1994, which many call the best match ever. Obviously that is a subjective subject and there are tons of matches that can fit into that category, but more people I know would say Misawa vs. Kawada then any other. I would say the two were comparable. They were different. Misawa vs. Kawada was more a fight and more heated, like an incredible sports contest. Omega vs. Okada I was more spectacular when it came to moves, as we’re 23 years later but every bit as dramatic, which is ultimately the goal. What I can say is that while this match was not as heated as either of those two matches, it was more intense, featured better selling, was more drama and told a better story than either. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the greatest match they’ve ever seen. This was better than those two matches that I thought were the best ones I’d ever seen. It was the two best wrestlers in the world at this point in time, both in the best match of their lives. We are seeing history with this Okada championship run and this Omega vs. Okada program. This is the modern version of the 1989 Flair-Steamboat series, which consisted of three major national shows (they also did dozens of house show matches, most of which were close to the level, at least one of which was above the level, of the three national matches, which is something Omega and Okada didn’t do). Omega and Okada are right now scheduled for three matches this year, and after two, they are well ahead in comparison, even factoring in the time and place elements. I don’t know how you could top it, except some day, like everything, it will happen. ******1/4


For the past several years, Money in the Bank has risen to become the company’s No. 4 PPV event of the year.

But the 6/18 version, from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, is a singular brand event with the lower-drawing Smackdown group, which is still for the next few weeks minus John Cena.

The show features the traditional match for the briefcase, with Shinsuke Nakamura, A.J. Styles, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler. The winner gets the right to choose when he wants to challenge for the WWE title.

It also features the first women’s Money in the Bank match, with Charlotte Flair, Tamina, Becky Lynch, Natalya and Carmella.

WWE performers over the years have set a high standard for ladder matches in general. Often the MITB match is among the company’s most talked about matches of the year. With the women, there will be a strong motivation to beat the men, because most likely, as the first, their match will be remembered more going forward.

Tickets are not sold out at press time, which is likely more because of the price, with ringside going at $1,005. The bottom list price was $37, but there is nothing available for less than $50 and the secondary market starts at $53.

Other matches on the show are Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton for the WWE title with Orton being the local favorite, having grown up and still living in the St. Louis area, Naomi vs. Lana for the women’s title and The Usos vs. New Day for the tag team titles.

There will also be some sorts of a legends segment to the show.

This hasn’t been announced publicly, but with St. Louis having the rich history for pro wrestling, being a hotbed in particular from the 1920s until the early 1980s, and then coming back in recent years hosting more PPVs than any other city of comparable size as well as hosting the NCAA tournament regularly, it has regained its prominence.

Ric Flair, Bob Orton Jr., Larry Hennig (interesting since Hennig never wrestled once in his career in St. Louis), Baron Von Raschke and Greg Gagne are all confirmed as appearing on the show in some form with the idea they were former St. Louis stars. Gagne worked a few shows in the 70s in St. Louis, while Flair was one of the bigger draws in the history of the city, at least until 1983. The early years of Flair as champion were the best drawing years on a consistent basis in the city’s history, but after 1983 that was far from the case.

Orton and Von Raschke were solid stars in the city.

Several other names have been mentioned as possibilities like Gerald Brisco, Rocky Johnson and Ted DiBiase, but we don’t have confirmation of those names. What the segment entails isn’t clear.

Larry Matysik, 70, who was the television announcer from 1971 to 1983 for Wrestling at the Chase, was contacted and was originally going to appear at his first WWE live event in more than 20 years.

However, this past week he got a call from Sue Aitchison, who said that Vince McMahon saw the name and immediately removed it, saying that Matysik’s disability would not allow it because the fire code wouldn’t allow him into the building because he has a power wheelchair.

Obviously, that’s not the case in a modern arena. Exactly why Matysik’s name was really removed wasn’t clear. Knowing how WWE usually does these things when bringing back old stars, the idea is to use them to put over younger heels bullying them. If that’s the case here, with Matysik confined to a wheelchair, it would be a bad look and worse, it would be a terrible idea if physicality was involved to have someone in a wheelchair in the ring when this is going on. If no angle is involved, then it could be something personal, although this did involve rescinding an invitation to appear and they could have done the in-ring angle without him and still had him involved in other ways.

The company is also promoting its Great Balls of Fire show on 7/9 in Dallas, built around Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe for the Universal title.

The main event seems to have the most interest of any WWE match since WrestleMania, particularly after the pull-apart angle that opened the 9/12 Raw show did more than 4 million views on YouTube in one day. Even though 70 to 80 percent of that figure is likely from outside North America, it is about four times the number that a major angle on Raw would do in the same period of time.

Raw did less build for other matches with major names like Roman Reigns and Finn Balor not being on the show.

What is clear is there will be a Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt match and likely a gimmick match for the tag titles with Cesaro & Sheamus vs. The Hardys.

Most of the women on the roster are in an intertwined storyline which indicates a possible multiple person match for that title. The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose for the IC title seems a direction, with a shot that Elias Samson could be involved as a third man. Neville vs. Akira Tozawa seems like the cruiserweight title direction and Goldust vs. R-Truth has been pushed weekly.

Other possibilities look like Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. The Revival and Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman.

Strowman is close to being cleared after his minor elbow surgery weeks earlier than anticipated. WWE officials at press time said that Strowman has not been cleared yet, but others have contradicted that to us.

What we do know is that whether he’s cleared or not right now, he is now scheduled on the PPV show.

Reigns is the best bet but nobody has told me that, just that Reigns and Strowman were originally scheduled for one more match before the Lesnar vs. Strowman match, which was at least scheduled as of last week to still be the main event for SummerSlam.

It’s notable that they’ve done nothing to tease matches for either Balor or Reigns for the show. Reigns is going to make a big announcement for SummerSlam, and unless it’s Cena (which we’ve been told it isn’t), there’s hardly a lot of options other than Lesnar. But that doesn’t make sense because why announce that before Lesnar vs. Joe, unless his announcement is he wants the winner, which would indicate either a change for Mania or Mania being a rematch from SummerSlam. It could also be a direction change, in the sense Reigns does the big angle to challenge the Lesnar vs. Joe winner and that on TV, Strowman returns, and an angle is shot to get him with Strowman and away from that direction. But if that’s done, you still have to get to Lesnar vs. Strowman, unless that direction is changed.

When Strowman was injured, it appeared they were building toward a Strowman vs. Reigns ambulance match.


UFC has some obvious problems given the level of debt the owners incurred in the purchase which means they have to make obscene profits, and the fighters, with knowledge of all this, fully recognize it takes tens of millions away from what they could be earning.

Business is down greatly from last year. But that’s misleading comparing it to the biggest yearni company history, where profits may have been close to $200 million and five PPV shows broke 1 million buys, things were inherently going to be way down.

This has been the year where every PPV show so far has done in the 200,000 to 300,000 buy level. It’s not good or bad, because it’s not like there was a show that did below expectations and a few beat expectations. There isn’t even a test to see how PPV is truly doing until Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones on 7/29.

But there is a problem, which is that Dana White has become a parody of Dana White. One of White’s great traits as a promoter was his ability to be the front man and sell a fight. Essentially, like a pro wrestling babyface trying to get you to buy a ticket, you have to tell a lot of truth, sometimes lie but do it rarely and judiciously, but always make sure to have an explanation for it and keep your good name with the public.

Somewhere along the line, like most people who get too successful and forget how they got successful, he lost touch.

I just know that there was a time when people, as in non-hardcore fans, would think Dana White was the cool guy you’d like to hang out with and talk fights with. He was ridiculously friendly to fans, not just in the posing for photos and signing autographs way, but in talking to them and listening, giving the impression that he valued their opinions.

For a guy like him, the social media age is going to kill that. Anyone in the public eye hears from so many people that it skews your opinion of the public. I can recall a conversation with a major name wrestler on the subject who went through all the stages about wrestling fans, from being one, to having respect for them, to losing respect for them due to social media. My belief is that a huge percentage of the interaction is positive, well over 90 percent, but there are the people there that make you concerned that they are allowed to vote.

And thus, you lose respect for your audience and fan base.

There was a time when, if there was a dispute between fighter and management, and keep in mind in most cases people are naturally going to side with the fighter, White actually would get people to see his side. And like in every dispute, there are two sides, and sometimes he was the right side, and sometimes he was the wrong side. Sometimes both sides were the wrong side.

So the last few weeks have been the Demetrious Johnson vs. Dana White story. In this case, because White has blown through his credibility with fans and media, Johnson has been the babyface.

He’s, from a technical standpoint, the best fighter in the sport’s history. He’s never made huge money even with his talent. UFC has pressured him in negotiations. And UFC never marketed him, even with all his talent and his winning streak, as hard as they’ve marketed others.

But the reality is that Johnson’s plight is determined by the fans far more than the promotion. The promotion, in reality, has pushed him. He’s headlined four FOX shows, which is the best chance for someone to get over with the mass audience, and last year they built an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter around him, his championship, and brought in fighters from all over the world with the idea of all challenging him for that title.

And not every Johnson-led show bombed. His first fight with John Dodson was on a show that did 4.2 million viewers on average, and his main event did 5.2 million viewers. He was helped by Rampage Jackson, who was still a major draw in 2012, but still, the people stayed to see him.

But his next FOX show, where he beat John Moraga, was down to 2.38 million viewers without the supporting cast.

His second fight with Joseph Benavidez was up to 2.8 million viewers, a strong number, and was helped by having Urijah Faber on he undercard. His last fight, with Wilson Reis, did 1,996,000 viewers. During the build to this fight, UFC constantly pushed him as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and that he was going for Anderson Silva’s record.

His PPV numbers have been the lowest for any headliner in UFC history, even with the exposure on FOX. Every one of those shows was promoted hard. Were they promoted as hard as shows with Conor McGregor or even Jon Jones? No. After the first 100,000 buy show, you budget accordingly. But they never threw in the towel on his shows, and even at UFC 178, despite people strongly arguing against it, they pushed his title defense against Chris Cariaso as the main event, and pushed him as the star of the show even though the undercard featured Eddie Alvarez’s debut against Donald Cerrone, McGregor (at that point unproven as a draw but clearly had shown potential to be one) vs. Dustin Poirier, Tim Kennedy vs. Yoel Romero, Cat Zingano vs Amanda Nunes and Dominick Cruz (returning after years on the sidelines due to injuries) vs. Takeya Mizugaki. That was Johnson’s most successful PPV show, with about 205,000 buys, and it’s was very clear being there live that it was the undercard and not the main event that people cared about.

That said, White, in a public argument with Johnson, put his foot in his mouth.

“The media claims he’s the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world,” White told TMZ. “I think Conor McGregor is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.”

The problem is back in April, when he was trying to push Johnson, he said, “Listen, he’s already the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and he strives to be better each time, and he gets better each time, literally destroying people.”

If not for that silliness, the reality is that White’s points make sense. White claimed that Johnson in the past has never wanted PPV points, just up-front money. While each contract is different, PPV points usually kick in at around 200,000 to 300,000 buys, numbers Johnson can’t hit. The argument about PPV points sounds unfair that he doesn’t get them and he’s one fight away from setting the consecutive title defense record. But it is kind of a moot point.

The question also becomes how hard has Johnson worked at selling himself? Anyone around knows the fighters who work hard to sell themselves, whether it was McGregor, Ronda Rousey, Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping or to a lesser extent Georges St-Pierre, Paige VanZant, or Daniel Cormier, or people like Dan Hardy or Matt Serra in the past. Those are the people who both get themselves, and their opponents, over. A lot of fans complain about it, but it is the reality. Sonnen, who can be completely full of shit in public, still wrote the blueprint regarding a fighter who isn’t a champion and doesn’t have a great highlight reel but made himself a star. Bisping isn’t far behind. The Diaz Brothers are different in the sense they don’t work hard to sell themselves but have a unique charisma that the limited stuff they do works better than the guys who do work hard.

In the end, this is a fight over Johnson wanting to fight Ray Borg, who he agreed to fight, when chasing a record, rather than T.J. Dillashaw. His argument is that Borg fights in the division and UFC deemed him the next challenger first. UFC’s argument is that Dillashaw will draw more in that role, and they are correct. Johnson says that Dillashaw has never made the weight, which is true, and it’s not like Dillashaw looks to have ten pounds in him to cut so I can see that as a real concern.

But most of his argument is that Dillashaw has never fought at that weight and shouldn’t get a title shot. But Johnson himself was put in the title tournament to become the first flyweight champion in 2012 after losing a title match to Cruz at bantamweight, the division he’d fought in his entire career. In fact, if you want to know the truth, flyweight was made specifically for Johnson and Joseph Benavidez, because the idea was Johnson seemed like a rising star against Cruz, but was slightly small for the division.

Regarding the key claim by Johnson, that UFC threatened to get rid of the entire flyweight division is he didn’t fight Dillashaw, White said in a TMZ interview, “That’s not true. We’ve been talking about shutting down the flyweight division for about three years. And, never once did I threaten him to shut down the division. I told him what we had been talking about shutting down the division for years. He knows that.”

The key is what was said and how it was said. The problem with White’s version, which how some accuracy to it that I do know, is that he’s lost his credibility in regard to saying so many things, like the pound-for-pound deal, that even if he’s telling the truth, people are going to believe Johnson, who has no track record for lying.

But as far as talks of shutting down the division, while I can’t give a time frame, I do know it has come up for years.

Should they? It’s ridiculous to shut it down and add a women’s featherweight division, of which UFC has no fighters and there are exactly three fighters in the world of even moderate ability in–Cris Cyborg Justino, who the division would be created for and who, frankly, is too heavy to make the weight in a healthy manner, Megan Anderson, and Julia Budd (who lasted 14 seconds with Amanda Nunes and 39 seconds with even smaller Ronda Rousey).

With UFC constantly creating fake championships because of the feel that they need title fights on monthly PPV shows, nixing a real title doesn’t make sense.

That said, the public has shown how much it cares. As Johnson gets promoted harder, gets more exposure and comes closer to setting records, inexplicably, interest in him doesn’t increase, and perhaps even declines.

The good 125 pounders will have success at 135. Johnson and Benavidez were both title contenders at that weight. John Lineker and John Dodson moved up, Lineker for having trouble making 125, Dodson because he couldn’t beat Johnson, and have done okay. Lineker lost only to Dillashaw, a former champion. Dodson lost only to Lineker. The marginal 125 pounders won’t do much at 135. But nobody will miss them.

As a sport, for fairness, you want 125. As a business, you want fewer weight classes and titles. UFC is both, and has harmed championships by having too many and diluting their value already.


Derrick Lewis, riding a six-fight winning streak based on scary power, got the fight he wanted on 9/11 (9/10 U.S. time) in Auckland, New Zealand against Mark Hunt.

The battle of the hard-hitting heavyweights was Lewis’ ticket to the top of the aging division. But Hunt connected more often, and Lewis got tired by the third round and had nothing left when it was stopped in the fourth.

When it was over, both fighters gave the indication that they may not be fighting much longer. Hunt, 43, said he respected Lewis because he doesn’t do steroids like so many of his recent opponents, and said he was up for fighting, but if his career ended with this fight, he would be satisfied. Lewis, who is getting married next week, said that this was his last fight, noting that he doesn’t want to put his family through this again. It sounded more like frustration because a win over Hunt would have put him in the title picture, but this loss puts him way back.

It was really a one match show from a name standpoint. Derek Brunson, a top middleweight, scored a one punch knockout of Daniel Kelly, which should rehab him after a loss to Robert Whittaker and a loss to Anderson Silva, the latter which was a very questionable decision.

The show drew 8,649 fans to Vector Arena in Auckland and an $830,000 gate.

The main card did 923,000 viewers, slightly below the FS 1 prime time average for the year of 966,000. That would figure, since it was below average from a star power standpoint. The main event peaked viewership at 1,087,000 viewers.

The prelims, with no major names, did 696,000 viewers, which is the lowest prelim number of the year for an FS 1 prime time show.

The prefight show on FS 2, because baseball went long, did 61,000 viewers. The postfight show did 351,000 viewers.

Hunt and Lewis got a bonus for best fight, while Dan Hooker and Ben Nguyen also earned $50,000 performance bonuses.

1. J.J. Aldrich (5-2) beat Chan Mi-Jeon (5-1) on straight 30-27 scores in a strawweight fight. Mi-Jeon missed weight by two pounds and was fined 20 percent of her purse. First round saw both land, but Aldrich had more power and won the round. Aldrich started landing more most of the second round, but Mi-Jeon did get a nice combo late. Aldrich controlled the third round, picking Mi-Jeon apart, and Mi-Jeon was bleeding heavily by the time it was over.

2. Zak Ottow (15-4) beat Kiichi Kunimoto (18-7-2, 1 no contest) on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a welterweight fight. Ottow got the better of the standup in the first round. He also blocked takedown attempts. In the second round, Kunimoto got the takedown but Ottow reversed to the top and did more damage. Kunimoto reversed back on top as the round was ending, and tried a guillotine, which allowed Ottow to reverse to the top. Kunimoto took Ottow down to start the third round. He got his back and worked for a choke as time was running low. Ottow reversed him with 30 seconds left. Kunimoto won the round but he’d lost the first two.

3. John Moraga (17-6) beat Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-2) via scores of 30-25, 30-27 and 30-27 in a flyweight fight. Moraga went for a guillotine but Mokhtarian powered out. Moraga got his back and worked for a choke. Mokhtarian got out of trouble but ended up on his back with Moraga throwing elbows from the top. Moraga tried an armbar with ten seconds left but didn’t get it. In the second round, Moraga was getting the better of the standup and got a takedown, and got his back. He again tried an armbar late. In the third round, Moraga got a belly-to-belly takedown. He again tried an armbar. Mokhtarian got up and went for a takedown, but Moraga blocked that and landed no top in side control. He got mount and landed punches. Mokhtarian did reverse to the top in the closing seconds but it was a one-sided fight.

4. Luke Jumeau (12-3) beat Dominique Steele (14-9) on straight 29-28 scores in a welterweight fight. Jumeau was a big favorite, from New Zealand. Steele threw big punches and got a takedown into side control, and landed forearms. Jumeau hurt Steele early in the second round, but Steele tied him up and regain his bearings. Jumeau knocked him down in the third round and landed a lot of punches. The crowd was going nuts. Steele came back. Jumeau landed more good shots late. Third round was action-packed and the crowd gave them a standing ovation. Jumeau, after it was over, thanked the fans, saying it was all the social media coming from New Zealand that got him his contract and even though it’s a four-fight deal, nothing is guaranteed so the win was big.

5. Vinc Pichel (10-1) beat Damien Brown (17-10) in 3:37 in the lightweight fight. Pichel was on TUF years ago and looked to have some promise. But he’s been out of action for just over three years. Brown was aggressive the entire fight going forward and landing some and missing some. Brown was throwing and missing when Pichel landed a left uppercut and a second punch as Brown was falling and it was stopped. Pichel noted that had he lost, he had a retirement speech already written, but instead promised more violence and more knockouts.

6. Alexander Volkanovski (15-1) beat Mizuto Hirota (19-8-2) on straight 30-27 scores in a featherweight fight. Volkanovski knocked him down in the first round and landed big punches and elbows. Hirota was in trouble but managed to trip Volkanovski when he was on top, and then get back up. Volkanovski got four more takedowns in the round but never had him in big trouble like he did early. Both got takedowns in the second round and Volkanovski got another knockdown late in the round. Volkanovski got a takedown in the third round. His right eye was badly swollen.

7. Ben Nguyen (17-6) beat Tim Elliott (15-8-1) in :49 in a flyweight fight. Elliott hurt him with a punch and took him down, but Nguyen rolled through and got his back, and threw punches to set up the choke finish. This was the second-fastest finish of a UFC flyweight fight, behind only a Fredy Serano win in 44 seconds in a 2015 fight. This kind of a win against a recent title challenger is a big boost to Nguyen’s stock.

8. Ion Cutelaba (13-3, 1 no contest) beat Henrique Da Silva (12-3) in :22 of a light heavyweight fight. Cutelaba has an amazing record as this was his eighth win in less than 30 seconds and tenth in less than 90 seconds. But he’s 2-3 once he goes past 90 seconds. He came out and landed punches and dropped him with a left and landed hard punches on the ground until it was stopped. This was also the seventh fastest finish in UFC light heavyweight division history.

9. Dan Hooker (15-7) beat Ross Pearson (21-14, 1 no contest) at 3:02 of the second round in a lightweight fight. It was mostly standing and competitive in the first round. Pearson started landing more to open the second round but Hooker landed a knee out of nowhere that knocked Pearson out. Pearson, in losing his fourth fight in a row, doesn’t look anything like the fighter he was several years ago.

10. Derek Brunson (17-5) beat Daniel Kelly (13-2) in 1:16. Brunson, coming off a loss in a fight to Anderson Silva that he should have won, dropped Kelly, a four-time Australian Olympian in judo, almost immediately with a left to the jaw and it was over. Brunson’s sixth first round stoppage is the most in UFC middleweight history.

11. Mark Hunt (13-11, 1 no contest) beat Derrick Lewis (18-5, 1 no contest) at 3:51 of the fourth round in a heavyweight fight. It was a slower fight than the previous ones with the big heavyweights. Hunt looked smaller, but in better shape than in the past, which you have to be at 43. Lewis looked huge, and was probably close to 285 after putting his weight on. Lewis landed early but Hunt came on late in the round. Lewis landed a head kick and body kicks but Hunt came back and hurt him with a right. Hunt landed more hard blows but each connected throughout the round. Lewis started landing more early in the third round, but Hunt came back later in the round. Hunt took over in the fourth round as Lewis was exhausted. Hunt started landing big punches and Lewis stayed up but kept getting hit. Hunt continued to land big punches until the ref stepped in to end it.


While Raw clearly had the excuse for its low number this week, Smackdown didn’t. The 6/13 show did 2,072,000 viewers, the second lowest number since moving to Tuesday live.

The lowest was the 11/8 show that did 1,921,000 viewers, which was the night of the presidential election. This had no sports competition at all, so the decline of 12 percent from last week has no real explanation past the product itself.

The show was 16th for the day on cable, the lowest I can ever recall the program doing, but that low level was more because of how up the news stations were. But it’s doubtful it was the news, since the major declines from last week were those under the age of 35.

The show did a 0.43 in 12-17 (down 23.2 percent), 0.43 in18-34 (down 20.3 percent), 0.83 in 35-49 (down 11.7 percent) and 0.92 in 50+ (down 4.2 percent).

The show did 53.8 percent males in 18-49 and 60.8 percent males in 12-17.

Raw on 6/12 did a 1.74 rating averaged 2,529,000 viewers (1.58 viewers per home) going against what turned out to be the final game of the NBA playoffs.

This tied the lowest rating in the 24-year history of Raw. There were two episodes of Prime Time Wrestling, the predecessor to Raw, in 1992, that did 1.7 ratings against major NFL games.

The only modern era Monday night show to do a lower total audience was the September 26, 2016, show which went against even tougher competition from the Trump/Clinton debate and did a 1.74 rating and 2.464,000 viewers. It was the lowest in history not against the NFL.

Really, this number can be thrown out as being almost meaningless given the competition. The only thing of note is that they put the most anticipated thing on the show, a Samoa Joe/Brock Lesnar confrontation, on in the first segment. The decision was made to sacrifice overall show ratings to get as many eyeballs as possible on the key segment, figuring no matter how much they hyped it, they couldn’t buck the competition.

It felt like a throwaway show after the first hour, with no Roman Reigns or Finn Balor, and Seth Rollins didn’t wrestle either.

The three hours saw the first hour, featuring the Lesnar/Joe angle, do 2,769,000 viewers; the second hour did 2,522,000 viewers and the third hour did 2,325,000 viewers.

The Warriors-Cavaliers game started at 9 p.m. and did 24,466,000 television viewers and 537,000 streaming viewers (obviously the largest for any game in NBA history), making it significantly tougher competition than WWE will face in that time slot all year, as NFL games are likely to average less than half as many viewers this fall. It was the most-watched NBA playoff finals on television since 1998, not even factoring in streaming viewership.

Raw was fourth for the night on cable, trailing three news shows.

The rating was down 15 percent, but the number probably would have increased over the previous week had it not been for the game. The NBA hurt WWE significantly worse with viewers under the age of 35 than with those over that age.

The show did a 0.54 in 12-17 (down 25.0 percent from last week), 0.62 in 18-34 (down 26.2 percent), 1.10 in 35-49 (down 11.3 percent) and 1.01 in 50+ (down 11.4 percent).

The audience was 59.0 percent males in 18-49 and 64.0 percent males in 12-17.

The second season of “American Grit,” even with WWE pushing the show hard, opened on 6/11 and did only 1,114,000 viewers on FOX, which is a terrible network number and the lowest rating show between 8-11 p.m. on network television. The first season usually hovered around two million viewers. Between 8-11 p.m. that night, the second lowest show was its lead-in, Bob’s Burgers, which did 1,522,000 viewers. For comparison, the other three networks head-to-head did 6,198,000 for ABC, 6,053,000 for CBS and 6,985,000 for NBC (which was the Stanley Cup playoffs).

Impact on 6/9 for the first show from India did 318,000 viewers, which was up 11 percent from the 287,000 the prior week.

Lucha Underground on 6/8 did 111,000 viewers for the first run and 38,000 for the second run, a big increase of 48 percent from the first week. That’s back to slightly above what had been its usual levels and week one may have been because a lot of regular fans didn’t know they were back to airing new episodes.

Ultimate Fighter on 6/7 did 303,000 viewers, plus another 238,000 watching via DVR, which is down from recent weeks.

UFC Tonight on 6/7 did 107,000 viewers.


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RESULTS

 

6/5 Wilkes-Barre, PA (WWE Raw/Superstars TV tapings - 7,000 sellout): Lince Dorado b Drew Gulak, Bo Dallas b Curt Hawkins, Roman Reigns b Bray Wyatt, Non-title: Sheamus & Cesaro b Rhyno & Heath Slater, TJP b Mustafa Ali, Kalisto b Titus O’Neil, Enzo Amore & Big Show b Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, Women’s title: Alexa Bliss b Nia Jax-DQ, Samoa Joe b Seth Rollins

6/6 Rochester, NY (WWE Smackdown/205 Live TV tapings - 6,000): Luke Harper & Jason Jordan & Chad Gable & Tye Dillinger b The Ascension & Erick Rowan & Aiden English, Natalya & Tamina & Carmella b Naomi & Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch, A.J. Styles b Dolph Ziggler, Non-title: Jinder Mahal b Mojo Rawley, Big E & Xavier Woods b Colons, Non-title: Shinsuke Nakamura b Kevin Owens, Cedric Alexander b Noam Dar, Mustafa Ali b Louie Valle, Cruiserweight title: Neville b TJP, WWE title: Randy Orton b Jinder Mahal-DQ

6/7 Leeds, UK (WWE NXT - 2,500): Kassius Ohno b Wolfgang, Jack Gallagher & Mark Andrews & Trent Seven b Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli & Lars Sullivan, Ruby Riot b Nikki Cross, Pete Dunne b Roderick Strong, Aleister Black won three-way over Eric Young and Andrade Cien Almas, Tag titles: Authors of Pain b Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe, Asuka & Aliyah b Billie Kay & Peyton Royce, NXT title: Bobby Roode b Drew McIntyre

6/8 San Juan, PR (WWE Smackdown - 11,500): Shinsuke Nakamura b Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley & Luke Harper & Sin Cara b The Ascension & Erick Rowan, Tye Dillinger b Aiden English, A.J. Styles & Sami Zayn b Kevin Owens & Baron Corbin, Five-way for women’s title: Naomi won over Natalya, Carmella, Tamina and Becky Lynch, Four-way for tag titles: Usos won over Colons, Tyler Breeze & Fandango and Jason Jordan & Chad Gable, WWE title: Jinder Mahal b Randy Orton

6/8 Brighton, UK (WWE NXT - 2,200): Jack Gallagher b Trent Seven, Billie Kay & Peyton Royce b Aliyah & Ruby Riot, UK championship: Pete Dunne b Mark Andrews, No Way Jose & Roderick Strong & Kassius Ohno b Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young, Tag titles: Authors of Pain b Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli, Women’s title: Asuka b Ember Moon, Drew McIntyre & Aleister Black b Bobby Roode & Andrade Cien Almas

6/8 Kumamoto (Dragon Gate - 900): Eita d Ben K, Shingo Takagi & Lindaman & T-Hawk b Yamato & BxB Hulk & Yosuke Santa Maria, Kzy b Gamma, Cima DCOR Takashi Yoshida, Dragon Kid b Jimmy K-Ness, Jimmy Kanda b Masaaki Mochizuki , Genki Horiguchi & Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito & Jimmy Kagetora b Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Big R Shimizu & Kotoka

6/9 Jackson, MS (WWE Raw - 4,000): Non-title: Dean Ambrose b The Miz, Sasha Banks & Mickie James & Dana Brooke b Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax & Emma, Heath Slater & Rhyno & Kalisto b Titus O’Neil & Curt Hawkins & Curtis Axel, Cruiserweight title: Neville b Austin Aries, Seth Rollins b Samoa Joe-DQ, Apollo Crews b Elias Samson, Three way for tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro won over Enzo Amore & Big Cass and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, Roman Reigns b Bray Wyatt

6/9 Sunrise, FL (WWE Smackdown - 5,300): Four-way for tag titles: Usos won over Colons, Jason Jordan & Chad Gable and Tyler Breeze & Fandango, Tye Dillinger b Aiden English, Mojo Rawley & Sin Cara b The Ascension, Luke Harper b Erick Rowan, Shinsuke Nakamura b Dolph Ziggler, Five-way for women’s title: Naomi won over Natalya, Carmella, Tamina and Becky Lynch, Baron Corbin b Sami Zayn, A.J. Styles & Randy Orton b Jinder Mahal & Kevin Owens

6/9 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (New Japan - 1,557): Desperado & Taka Michinoku b Shota Umino & Tetsuhiro Yagi, Togi Makabe & Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask & Hirai Kawato & Tomoyuki Oka b Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Manabu Nakanishi & Jushin Liger & Katsuya Kitamura, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi b Tomohiro Ishii & Gedo, Cody & Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa b Michael Elgin & David Finlay & Ray Rowe & Hanson, Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi b Hirooki Goto & Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi & Jado, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi & Juice Robinson & Ricochet & Kushida b Tetsuya Naito & Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, Kenny Omega & Young Bucks b Kazuchika Okada & Rocky Romero & Baretta

6/9 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 7,000): Arkangel de la Muerte & Metalico b Principe Diamante & Robin, Estrellita & Marcela & Princesa Sugei b Amapola & Dallas & Zeuxis-DQ, Guerrero Maya Jr. b Misterioso Jr., Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia b Atlantis & Dragon Lee & Mistico, Gran Alternative tournament Block B: Negro Casas & Canelo Casas b Valiente & Astral, Pierroth & Akuma b Niebla Roja & Drone, Volador Jr. & Flyer b Mephisto & Raziel, Caristico & Soberano Jr. b Angel de Oro & Oro Jr., Negro Casas & Canelo Casas b Pierroth & Akuma-forfeit, Caristico & Soberano Jr. b Volador Jr. & Flyer, Caristico & Soberano Jr. b Negro Casas & Canelo Casas

6/9 Kokurakita (Dragon Gate - 600): Jimmy Susumu & Ryo Saito b Shingo Takagi & Lindaman, Gamma b Yosuke Santa Maria, Eita b Jimmy K-Ness, Takashi Yoshida b Takehiro Yamamura, Genki Horiguchi b BxB Hulk, Jimmy Kagetora & Jimmy Kanda b Yamato & Kzy, Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi & Big R Shimizu b Cima & Dragon Kid & Masaaki Mochizuki

6/10 Alexandria, LA (WWE Raw - 5,500): Heath Slater & Rhyno & Kalisto b Titus O’Neil & Curt Hawkins & Curtis Axel, Cruiserweight title: Neville b Austin Aries, Sasha Banks & Mickie James & Dana Brooke b Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax & Emma, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose b The Miz & Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews b Elias Samson, Three-way for tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro won over Enzo Amore & Big Cass and Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows, Roman Reigns b Bray Wyatt

6/10 Panama City, Panama (WWE Smackdown - 5,000): Four-way for tag titles: Usos won over Tyler Breeze & Fandango, Jason Jordan & Chad Gable and Colons, Tye Dillinger b Aiden English, Luke Harper & Sin Cara & Mojo Rawley b Erick Rowan & The Ascension, Shinsuke Nakamura b Dolph Ziggler, Five-way for women’s title: Naomi won over Natalya, Becky Lynch, Tamina and Carmella, Baron Corbin b Sami Zayn, A.J. Styles & Randy Orton b Jinder Mahal & Kevin Owens

6/10 Lincoln, NE (US Freestyle World Team Trials): 125 - Thomas Gilman b Tony Ramos 4-3, 7-2; 134 - Logan Steiber b Kendric Maple 9-8, 10-0; 14 - Zain Rethersford b Frank Molinaro 6-7, 6-0, 7-4, 154 - James Green b Jimmy Kennedy 6-0, 8-5, 163 - Jordan Burroughs b Kyle Dake 3-6, 8-4, 5-3; 189 - J’den Cox b David Taylor 3-9, 4-3, 6-2; 213 - Kyle Snyder b Kyven Gadson 10-0 tech fall, 13-2 tech fall; 275 - Nick Gwiazdowski b Dom Bradley 5-0, 3-1

6/10 Fukuoka (Dragon Gate - 1,000): Kaito Ishida d Shun Skywalker, BxB Hulk & Yosuke Santa Maria b Don Fujii & Gamma, Jimmy Kanda b Kotoka, Masaaki Mochizuki & Jimmy Kagetora b Yamato & Kzy, Takashi Yoshida & Lindaman & Punch Tominaga b Masato Yoshida & Big R Shimizu & Ben K, King of Gate tournament semifinals: T-Hawk b Eita, Naruki Doi b Shingo Takagi, Cima & Dragon Kid & Takehiro Yamamura b Jimmy Susumu & Genki Horiguchi & Ryo Saito

6/11 Beaumont, TX (WWE Raw - 2,000): Heath Slater & Rhyno & Kalisto b Titus O’Neil & Curt Hawkins & Curtis Axel, Cruiserweight title: Neville b Austin Aries, Sasha Banks & Mickie James & Dana Brooke b Emma & Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax, Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose b The Miz & Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews b Elias Samson, Four-way for tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro won over Matt & Jeff Hardy, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows and Enzo Amore & Big Cass, Roman Reigns b Bray Wyatt

6/11 San Jose, Costa Rica (WWE Smackdown - 7,000): Four-way for tag titles: Usos won over Colons, Tyler Breeze & Fandango and Jason Jordan & Chad Gable, Tye Dillinger b Aiden English, Mojo Rawley & Luke Harper & Sin Cara b The Ascension & Erick Rowan, Shinsuke Nakamura b Dolph Ziggler, Five-way for women’s title: Naomi won over Natalya, Carmella, Tamina and Becky Lynch, Baron Corbin b Sami Zayn, A.J. Styles & Randy Orton b Jinder Mahal & Kevin Owens

6/11 Fukuoka (Dragon Gate - 1,100 sellout): Jimmy Kanda b Yuki Yoshioka, Ryo Saito & Genki Horiguchi b Takehiro Yamamura & Kaito Ishida, Jimmy Kagetora b Punch Tominaga, Jimmy Susumu b Ben K, Masaaki Mochizuki & Gamma b Yamato & Don Fujii, BxB Hulk & Kzy & Yosuke Santa Maria b Shingo Takagi & Takashi Yoshida & Lindaman, Cima & Dragon Kid & Eita b Masato Yoshino & Big R Shimizu & Kotoka, King of Gate tournament final: T-Hawk b Naruki Doi

6/11 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (All Japan - 1,312): Takao Omori & Masa Fuchi & Ryoji Sai & Ayato Yoshida b Yohei Nakajima & Koji Iwamoto & Keisuke Okada & Fuminori Abe, BANG TV title: Osamu Nishimura b Rikya Fudo, Joe Doering & Atsushi Aoki b Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi, Taiji & Yutaka Yoshie & Minoru Tanaka b Jun Akiyama & Ultimo Dragon & Atsushi Maruyama, World tag titles: Zeus & The Bodyguard b Kengo Mashimo & Kai to win titles, Suwama b Kento Miyahara, Triple Crown title: Shuji Ishikawa b Jake Lee

6/11 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Leono & Sensei b Apocalipsis & Cholo, Jarochita & Vaquerita & Skadi b Comandante & Metalica & Tiffany, Cuatrero & Sanson & Universo 2000 Jr. b Blue Panther Jr. & Rey Cometa & The Panther, Blue Panther & Dragon Lee & Titan b Dragon Rojo Jr. & Ephesto & Luciferno, Rey Bucanero & Shocker & El Terrible b Atlantis & Marco Corleone & Mistico

6/12 Lafayette, LA (WWE Raw/Main Event TV tapings - 6,800): Ariya Daivari b Gran Metalik, Elias Samson b Dean Ambrose, Cedric Alexander b Noam Dar, Apollo Crews b Kalisto, Mickie James & Dana Brooke & Sasha Banks b Emma & Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss, Heath Slater & Rhyno b The Miz & The Bear, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson b Enzo Amore & Big Cass, Tag titles/2 of 3 falls: Sheamus & Cesaro DCOR Matt & Jeff Hardy, Roman Reigns b Bray Wyatt

6/13 New Orleans, LA (WWE Smackdown/205 Live TV tapings - 6,000): Luke Harper b Aiden English, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods & Tyler Breeze & Fandango b Usos & Colons, Non-title: Naomi b Tamina, Charlotte Flair b Natalya, Shinsuke Nakamura & A.J. Styles & Sami Zayn b Kevin Owens & Baron Corbin & Dolph Ziggler, Cedric Alexander b Ariya Daivari, Akira Tozawa b TJP, WWE title: Randy Orton b Jinder Mahal-DQ

6/13 Tatebayashi (All Japan - 355): Minoru Tanaka & Koji Iwamoto b Masa Fuchi & Yusuke Okada, Kai & Yohei Nakajima b Atsushi Aoki & Super Tiger, Suwama & Joe Doering b Daichi Hashimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani, Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi b Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura, Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori b Zeus & The Bodyguard, Shuji Ishikawa & Tetsuya Endo b Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi

6/13 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Pequeno Nitro & Pequeno Violencia b Acero & Aereo, Arkangel de la Muerte & Metalico & Sangre Azteca b Oro Jr. & Principe Diamante & Star Jr., Estrellita & Marcela & Princesa Sugei b Amapola & Dallys & Zeuxis, Misterioso Jr. b Fuego, Hechicero & Morphosis & Rey Bucanero b Blue Panther & Rey Cometa & Titan, Cavernario & Felino & Mr. Niebla b Stuka Jr. & Volador Jr. & Valiente

6/14 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Fortune Dreams - 1,300): Kotaro Suzuki b Kazuhiro Tamura, Meiko Satomura & Mika Shirahime b Hiroyo Matsumoto & Konami, Go Shiozaki & Takuya Nomura b Yuji Okabayashi & Kaito Kiyomiya, Shuji Ishikawa & Hideki Suzuki d Joe Doering & James Raideen 30:00, Daisuke Sekimoto & Suwama b Kohei Sato & Shingo Takagi

CMLL: Bobby Zavala, who had been wrestling here as Bobby Villa and before that, Bobby Z, finally spoke about his firing from CMLL over the incident where Ultimo Guerrero’s car was destroyed by members of the Alvarado family. He said that he was out to dinner on 5/18, which was where the promotion, Ultimo Guerrero and the Alvarado brothers were all together to discuss the new union head after the death of Brazo de Oro. The promotion wanted it to be Guerrero, the Alvarados thought it should be a member of their family and they got hot at things Guerrero said about Brazo de Oro. Zavala said that when it was over, he was trying to calm the Alvarados down. He said after Ultimo Guerrero left, they were very upset. He said that the security surveillance video of the incident where the Alvarado Brothers destroyed Guerrero’s car showed that he was there, but that he didn’t take part in the incident and claimed he was trying to diffuse the situation. He said that afternoon at 1 pm., Guero Noriega, a referee who works in the office, called him to tell him not to come to the show that night as he was being replaced and was suspended. He asked why, and said it was the boss’ (Paco Alonso presumably) orders as they were investigating what happened that morning. He said the weekend passed and he heard nothing, and then on 5/22, he found out that CMLL sent out a release that he was fired. Nobody told him. He said he called the office but they wouldn’t take his call. Finally, on 5/24, he was able to get in touch with Jose Luis Feliciano, who works in the office and was told that Alonso made the call to fire him. He claimed that when La Mascara was called in, he told the office that Zavala didn’t do anything. He said that he also texted Guerrero and told him that he had nothing to do with the damage to his car but Guerrero never replied to him. He claimed Dragon Rojo Jr. went to the office and tried to get him back his job but was told that they weren’t going to talk about it. He said he’s talked to The Crash and is open to going to AAA as well

Niebla Roja won the vacant CMLL light heavyweight title (the one La Mascara held when he was fired) in a one-night Cibernetico match on 6/10 at Arena Coliseo in Mexico City. It came down to Roja and Cavernario after Drone, Johnny Idol, Polvora, Misterioso Jr., Ripper, Blue Panther, Caristico and Stuka Jr. had been pinned. Roja as champion makes sense since he’s being programmed into a feud with Ultimo Guerrero. A trivia note mentioned by The Cubs Fan is with Roja as the is light heavyweight champion, his brother, Angel do Oro, is the current middleweight champion

Sanson said publicly this week that Universo 2000 was still in serious condition after a massive heart attack last week, but was stable

The 6/9 show at Arena Mexico drew 7,000 fans for the B Block of the Gran Alternative tournament, where Caristico & Soberano Jr., who were the favorites, beat Negro Casas & Canelo Casas in 6:37 in the finals. The crowd was helped by competition, as weird as that sounds. The U.S. national soccer team was playing a World Cup qualifier in Mexico City over the weekend and a lot of American soccer fans were in the country and went to both the Friday night show and the Saturday night show at Arena Coliseo (which drew 1,500, which is the biggest turnout in that building in a long time). The winners face Ultimo Guerrero & Sanson, who won Block A on 6/2, in the main event on 6/16. Caristico & Soberano Jr. won their first round match of Angel de Oro & Oro Jr., and their semifinal match over Volador Jr. & Flyer (said to be the best match of the tournament). The crowd was really hot to see Caristico against Volador. Caristico started ripping Flyer’s mask and Volador went after Caristico’s mask. The Casas Family reached the finals beating Valiente & Astral in the first round and got a forfeit into the finals. They were supposed to meet Pierroth & Akuma in the semifinals. After Pierroth & Akuma had beaten Niebla Roja & Drone, Vangellys came out of the crowd and destroyed Pierroth with a baseball bat and smashed the barricade on Pierroth’s shoulder. The doctors and commission in an angle claimed he was too badly injured to continue in the tournament, so The Casas Family was given a forfeit win that got them into the finals. The biggest non-tourney match was the usual with Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia beating Atlantis & Dragon Lee & Mistico in their usual strong high flying match. There were issues with the Claro Sports stream as they changed the video player and the feed died many times during the first half of the show

The 6/16 show looks good with the tournament finals, plus Angel de Oro & Diamante Azul & Niebla Roja vs. Gran Guerrero & Negro Casas & Euforia, a lightning match with Dragon Lee vs. Cavernario, which should be really good, and the start of a heel feud with Rush & Pierroth & Kraneo vs. Vangellys & Shocker & El Terrible

There will be a Volador vs. Cavernario CMLL welterweight title match on 6/20 at Arena Mexico which is a loaded up show (these shows air live on the CMLL YouTube page) with Mistico & Caristico & Valiente vs. Mephisto & Ephesto & Luciferno as well

They are bringing the micros back to Arena Mexico on 6/18 for a Father’s Day special show.

DRAGON GATE: T-Hawk defeated Naruki Doi in the finals of the King of Gate tournament on 6/11 at Hakata Star Lanes in Fukuoka before a sellout crowd announced at 1,600 (the real number was about 1,150) in 23:50 with the Night Ride. After the match, T-Hawk challenged Open the Dream Gate champion Yamato. Yamato said that T-Hawk didn’t beat him in the tournament so didn’t deserve a title shot. Eventually, he agreed to the title shot saying that winning the tournament is big, but winning the title is on a different level. The semifinals were on 6/10 in the same building before about 1,000 fans where T-Hawk pinned Eita with the Night Ride and Doi pinned Shingo Takagi. Most of the winners were clinched earlier in the week. The C block came down to 6/8 in Kumamoto. Doi was 3-1-1 and had finished up. Cima was 3-1, and was to face Takashi Yoshida. Yoshida came out and said that Cima needed a win, so he’d lay down for him for 1 million yen (about $9,100). Cima said he’d consider it but then joked that he’s not sure if he even had that much money in the bank. Yoshida said it was that money without tax and Cima said that Yoshida has been losing so often he doesn’t need to do that. They did a match and the Verserk group helped Yoshida and the match ended with a double count out, which, unlike a draw, in a Japanese tournament a double DQ or double count out is considered like a loss and zero points, so Doi finished with seven points and Cima with six, even though essentially both had 3-1-1 records

The A block came down to last round-robin show on 6/9 in Kokurakita, as Eita was 2-1-1 while Yamato and Dragon Kid were both 3-2. But Eita beat Jimmy K-Ness in 6:06 in an uneventful match to win the block

In the D block, it came down to 6/8 and 6/9 as Masaaki Mochizuki was 3-1 and could tie for first, but he was pinned by Jimmy Kanda, and the next day BxB Hulk, who could have tied for first, was pinned by Genki Horiguchi

The final standings were: A block: 1. Eita 3-1-1; 2. Yamato and Dragon Kid 3-2, 4. Big R Shimizu 2-2-1; 5. Don Fujii 2-3; 6. Jimmy K-Ness 0-5; B block: 1. T-Hawk 4-1; 2. Jimmy Susumu 3-1-1; 3. Gamma 2-3; 4; Kzy 1-3-1; 5. Ben K and Yosuke Santa Maria 1-4; C block: 1. Doi 3-1-1; 2. Cima 3-1-1 (his draw was a double count out so only had six points); 3. Jimmy Kagetora and Ryo Saito 2-2-1; 5. Takehiro Yamamura 1-3-1; 6. Takashi Yoshida 1-3-1 (his draw was a double count out so only had two points); D block: 1. Shingo Takagi 4-1; 2. Masaaki Mochizuki and BxB Hulk 3-2; 4. Jimmy Kanda 2-3; 5. Genki Horiguchi and Lindaman 1-4.

ALL JAPAN: There was an opening of the doors to New Japan with two interpromotional matches announced, which of course leads to speculation that perhaps an All Japan wrestler will come in as an outsider for G-1. They have their biggest show of the year on 8/27 at Sumo Hall and announced Taichi from New Japan facing Yuma Aoyagi. In addition on the 7/5 show in Tokyo at Shinkiba, Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori will face New Japan’s Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka, which is kind of a big deal because even though they will lose in the end, these are the kind of matches in Japan that get the newcomers over

The 6/11 show at Korakuen Hall drew 1,312 fans with Shuji Ishikawa retaining the Triple Crown in the main event over Jake Lee in 16:53 with a giant slam. Earlier in the show, in a battle for the next title shot, long-time champion Kento Miyahara lost via pin to Suwama and his Lou Thesz style back suplex in 14:45. The Ishikawa vs. Suwama title match will be on 7/17 at Korakuen Hall, and the winner will defend at the Sumo Hall show. Zeus & The Bodyguard regained the world tag team titles that they had lost on 5/21 to Kai & Kengo Mashimo in 11:08 when Zeus pinned Kai with a jackhammer slam. As three-time champions, Zeus & Bodyguard tied the team of Stan Hansen & Genichiro Tenryu for fourth place all-time behind Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (6), Steve Williams & Terry Gordy (5) and Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (5). The show also featured the return of Tajiri, who was just released by WWE, teaming with Yutaka Yoshie & Minoru Tanaka to beat Akiyama & Ultimo Dragon & Atsushi Maruyama when Tajiri pinned Maruyama with a buzzsaw kick. Tajiri then issued a challenge to Akiyama for his TV title

I saw the Ishikawa Triple Crown title win over Miyahara from 5/21 and I’d go ****½ for it. It’s just amazing how many great matches there are in different styles all over the world. The key to this match is Miyahara had been a long-time champion (he won it February 12, 2016, and these days one year plus is a dynasty) and Ishikawa, an outsider, was the indie wrestler of the year who had just won the Champion Carnival. Miyahara is one of the best sellers in the business and reminds me of a more explosive version of Ricky Morton. He in the top spot combined with the management of Jun Akiyama has greatly increased business this year. The match built well and the crowd was molten hot, like Cena vs. Styles Rumble hot, for the last five minutes

The company announced two new wrestlers would be coming in, a 6-foot-5 wrestler named Massimo from Italy, who works out of Scotland and has worked in Zero-One in the past, and Danny Jones from Wales.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: They are doing the annual Junior Heavyweight tag league from 7/13 at Korakuen Hall to 7/27, also at Korakuen Hall. The teams are GHC jr. tag champs Taiji Ishimori & Hi69, Hajime Ohara & Hitoshi Kumano, Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke, Hayata & Yo-Hey, Shunma Katsumata & Mao, Phil Atlas (an Ontario-based independent wrestler) & Seiya Morohashi, Gurukun Mask & Shuri Joe and the Chilean duo of Kaiser & Gaston Mateo. Each show will have four tournament matches. The biggest shows look to be opening night and 7/20 in Osaka, which also has Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi defending the GHC tag titles against Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya.

NEW JAPAN: They had all the talent in for Dominion work the 9/9 show at Korakuen Hall which drew 1,557 fans. Considering all the talent they should have sold out, particularly with the return of Hiroshi Tanahashi from the injury, but the reality is they are running Tokyo and the building so much and it was all multiple-person matches, and there are so many Korakuen shows on sale and the hot tickets are the G-1 dates in the building which all sold out instantly. Young Bucks & Kenny Omega won the main event over Kazuchika Okada & Rocky Romero & Baretta in 20:12 when Nick pinned Romero after Omega delivered the One Winged Angel. The match was mostly comedy although the last several minutes were good wrestling. Cody interfered right in front of the ref which led to Gedo running in after Cody. After the match was over, Omega asked Okada to come into the ring and take photos with the belt for the last time. Then he wanted to shake his hand, and the Young Bucks delivered a double superkick to Okada. The Young Bucks then brought a table and they teased Omega doing the One Winged Angel on Okada through a table, but Omega put him down and said he wanted to beat Okada at 100 percent and not beat an injured Okada

Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi & Juice Robinson & Ricochet & Kushida beat Tetsuya Naito & Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi in 15:21 when Tanahashi pinned Sanada with an abdominal stretch into a lateral guillotine, and not the high fly flow. Much of the match was Naito working on Tanahashi’s right arm

There is another live show on 6/15 starting at 6 a.m. Eastern time, which is a Young Lions show from Shinjuku Face with a main event of Tomoyuki Oka & Yuji Nagata vs. Satoshi Kojima & Ayato Yoshida of K-Dojo, plus All Japan’s Yuma Aoyagi vs. Yoshi-Hashi and Manabu Nakanishi vs. Katsuya Kitamura

Don Callis, who went from not knowing the product to being strong in the discussion for the best color guy in the business in four months is not under contract to New Japan

On the Dominion show, after winning the IWGP tag team titles, Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa dedicated their title win to Bobby Seich. Bobby Seich was a popular police officer in Roseville, CA, who died at the age of 34 from brain cancer. Years ago, when Seich was a kid growing up, his family was next door neighbors with Haku’s family in Kissimmee, FL. He was first diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008, and underwent successful surgery to remove the tumor, but a second tumor was found in 2015, but this time it spread

Nick Massie of the Young Bucks had his bag stolen while in Osaka, which included his passport and $2,000. You think of Japan as being super safe, and it generally is, but apparently what happened wasn’t that unusual in that part of the city. He was able to get a new temporary passport at the U.S. consulate in a photo finish just in time to get on the flight home (they flew from Japan to California and a day later to Australia for the House of Hardcore show rather than Japan to Australia to get in like 36 hours with the family), and it wasn’t until they landed that they realized his car keys for his car at the airport was in the bag stolen

On the background of Kitamura, who is nicknamed the Japanese Brock Lesnar because he resembles the collegiate version of Lesnar. He was called the Wrestling Monster in college. He was the 2005 collegiate wrestling champion at 264 and a three-time Greco-Roman national champion. He represented Japan in two world championships but his amateur career ended in 2011 with a two-year suspension for testing positive for the steroid Drostanolone, which cost him a shot at the 2012 Olympics. He claimed it was a tainted supplement from overseas. He did a mixed fighting tournament which he won, which wasn’t MMA, but funky rules (the Ganryujima tournament) and last year signed with New Japan.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Kenta Kobashi’s Fortune Dream promotion ran 6/14 at Korakuen Hall before 1,300 fans for a show built around unique matchups of wrestlers from different companies. The main event saw Big Japan’s Daisuke Sekimoto team with All Japan’s Suwama to beat Zero-1's Kohei Sato & Dragon Gate’s Shingo Takagi, when Sekimoto pinned Sato with a deadlift German suplex. They seemed to tease a Suwama vs. Takagi singles match coming out of this. They also had a mixed promotion match where NOAH star Go Shiozaki teamed with Big Japan future star Takuya Nomura against Big Japan star Yuji Okabayashi and NOAH future star Kaito Kiyomiya (Shiozaki pinned Kiyomiya) similar to the CMLL Gran Alternative tournament. The real highlight was a 30 minute in-ring discussion and talk show with fans where on the stage for the first time in history together, one of the greatest male wrestlers of all-time (Kobashi) was with one of the greatest female wrestlers of all-time (Manami Toyota). The two noted that they had never met until 2013 (at a wedding of NOAH’s Maybach Taniguchi with woman wrestler Mika Nishio)

Kagetsu returned to Stardom on 6/11 attacking Mayu Iwatani, who is being pushed as the new top star with Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo on the way out. Iwatani retained her Wonder of Stardom title via DQ over Hana Kimora. Kimora said that Kris Wolf would also be returning. The big changing of the guard match which is expected to be one of the biggest matches in the promotion’s history will be Shirai defending her World of Stardom title against Iwatani on 6/21 at Korakuen Hall

A correction from last week in the All Japan women’s reunion story. The original Beauty Pair was Jackie Sato & Maki Ueda, not Mach Fumiake. This led to the November 11, 1977, match at Budokan Hall where the two split up and wrestled over the WWWA title and went to a 61-minute draw with Mildred Burke as the sole judge at ringside, and she awarded the match to Sato. This was the first time women had ever wrestled at Budokan Hall and they sold the building out.

HERE AND THERE: Robert Eugene Nutt, who wrestled as Ron Starr full-time from 1972 to 1992 and was one of the most underrated workers of that era, passed away on 6/8 at the age of 66. Nutt had been battling health problems for the past 20 years, starting with a stroke he suffered in 1997, when he was just 46 years old. He suffered four heart attacks and three more strokes over the next 20 years, and was in constant pain from his spine, neck and knees and had been confined to a wheelchair. He wrestled some through 1997, but the stroke and severe knee issues ended his career. He attributed his spinal issues to both his years taking bumps as well as lifting heavy things while serving in Vietnam in the early 70s. He believed he was exposed to Agent Orange in the military and that may have played a part in his health issues. His friends were well aware that his health was failing badly in the last year. He had to be revived a few times in the last year, and once was on life support and flatlined, but he came out of that. He also suffered a collapsed lung. Last week, he was having trouble breathing and needed an oxygen mask, and went to the hospital and he died a few days later. Starr was only 25 years old, and just four years into his career when he won the NWA world junior heavyweight championship from Pat Barrett. The belt had been dominated for most of the previous 16 years by Danny Hodge, so it was considered a major championship in the business at the time. However, he was a transitional champion, only holding it for days. He always said the highlight of his career was as the last main event babyface for Roy Shire. He held the U.S. championship three times and headlined the Cow Palace frequently for several years, including, at 27, winning the 1979 Battle Royal at the Cow Palace, throwing out world champion Harley Race, before 14,000 fans. He was such a complete worker and a solid interview by that time that you would have thought he’d end up as a major superstar, but the business changed and he didn’t get along well with promoters. In 1980, he was contacted about the NWA jr. title. But by this point in time, the belt, controlled by Leroy McGuirk, had lost much of its value and the champions were never treated as major stars outside the McGuirk territory like Hodge was. Plus, McGuirk’s territory was doing poorly. He claimed he was promised a two-year run as champion and a certain amount of money. But he was paid considerably less than promised and asked to drop the title to Les Thornton. He refused and filed suit. The promotion wanted him to drop the title in the ring before leaving, and even offered to allow him to shoot for the title as opposed to dropping it, with the belief that Thornton, who had a reputation as a tough guy, would likely win in such a scenario. His lawsuit got national attention because it was 1980 and a wrestler had filed a lawsuit which explicitly said he was promised a world championship in pro wrestling, was cheated on money by a promoter, and explicitly said how matches and title results were predetermined. It was considered a black eye for wrestling and a lot of promoters didn’t want to use him. He had also talked about unionizing wrestlers. There was talk that year among some of the NWA promoters about blacklisting him, but Mike LeBell, who he was working for at the time, said outright that the guy was a great wrestler and he was not going to stop using him. Roy Shire, who Starr was loyal to and who would come in to headline the Cow Palace shows after Shire close down the rest of the territory, also continued to use him. LeBell also booked him into New Japan, where he wrestled Tatsumi Fujinami for the NWA International jr. title at Budokan Hall. To show the caliber of worker Starr was, Fujinami has always said that in his days as a junior heavyweight, the best worker he faced was Chavo Guerrero (Sr.), and that the next two after that were Starr and Steve Keirn. Starr continued to work all over the world, but never had the success that his ability should have given him. He had trouble with promoters and with some talent. Many felt that he was haunted by his time in Vietnam. He admitted he had bad flashbacks in his dreams, but as he got older, they were less and less, but the bad part was that, because of the pain he was in, he didn’t sleep much so he didn’t have those nightmares as often. He was best known in Puerto Rico, where he was a main eventer on-and-off from 1986 to 1992. He was billed as the cousin of Puerto Rican legend Chicky Starr. He was known as Rambo Ron Starr, and his tag team was called The Mercenaries, to play off his past in the army. His wife, Jackie, was their interfering valet, Peaches. Chicky Starr did a tribute to Ron on the WWC television show this past weekend, noting that he was heartbroken. He said that Ron was a true ring general, and tremendous at laying out matches before shows and coming up with angles. He was also a headliner for Stampede Wrestling, where he had a famous fight with Dynamite Kid, and formed a tag team called the Memphis Mafia with Honky Tonk Wayne, who later became the Honky Tonk Man. Mick Foley also credited Starr with helping him understand the psychology of brawling when they both worked in Southeastern Championship Wrestling. Foley wrote the foreword to Starr’s recently-published autobiography, “Bad to the Bone: 25 years of Riots and Wrestling,” co-authored by Rock Rims

The NWA deal and Billy Corgan remains in a weird state. Those close to the situation say that Corgan does have a signed deal with Bruce Tharpe and they are aware of the issues in play, but the money has not changed hands and Corgan’s side hasn’t officially taken over. The NWA affiliates are pretty much on hold waiting to find out what is going to happen

Jesse Ventura, 65, was in the news this past week saying that he hasn’t been able to find work since his lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle, so he’s agreed to work for RT, the Russian Television Network. Ventura said he had the personal assurance from President Vladimir Putin that his new show, “The World According to Jesse,” won’t be censored. Ventura has had a tough go of late, even losing his longtime SAG union health insurance because he hadn’t worked in that industry for so long. Ventura said he signed a contract for 32 episodes of the show, which will be filmed in Minnesota. He hasn’t started filming yet but the first episode should be done within a month or so. The station also promised him health insurance. Ventura had a show in 2015 called “Off the Grid” that was carried by the U.S. version of RT

John Hennigan (John Morrison/Mundo), 37, and girlfriend Kira Foraster (Taya), 33, got engaged this past week

In most cases, the favorites came out on top in the U.S. team trials for the 2017 world championships which take place on 8/21 to 8/26 in Paris, France. The event, which took place this weekend in Lincoln, NE, with the finals on 6/10. There was a tournament held that weekend, with the tournament winner then meeting the current national champion in a best-of-three series. The main event was at 163, where tournament winner Kyle Dake beat 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs 6-3 in the first match, which was the first time Burroughs has lost a match in the U.S. since 2011. But Burroughs came back to win the second and third on scores of 8-4 and 5-3. The other most talked about final was at 189, where David Taylor faced 2016 Olympic bronze medalist J’Den Cox. Taylor won the first match 9-3, but Cox came back to win 4-3 and 6-3. Cox had suffered a serious leg injury in the third and deciding match but held on to win. Cox was up 3-2 when his leg went out early in the second round on a shot by Taylor, where Taylor scored to tie it at 3-3 with 2:49 left. Cox was screaming in pain and it looked like it was over. However, Cox continued to wrestle and actually scored three points. Every time he went down, he could barely get up and when he did, he was limping badly. And then when the whistle blew and they’d have to wrestle, he’d be okay. Then when it was over and he won, he collapsed and Taylor was furious. Given the injury, there’s a good chance Taylor will end up representing as Cox’s knee appeared to be seriously hurt

Kyle Snyder, the 2016 gold medalist, scored two straight tech falls on Kyven Gadson in the 213 championship. WWE prospect Nick Gwiazdowski also goes to the world championships at 275 with wins over Dom Bradley by scores of 5-0 and 3-1. Zain Retherford, coming off winning the Hodge trophy at Penn State, beat 2016 Olympic team member Frank Molinaro, by winning the second and third match. People who saw the finals said it was one of the best combat sports shows in a long time and that a lot of people came across like major stars

Jimmy Lennon Sr., who was the voice of boxing and pro wrestling in Southern California from the 1930s to the 1970s and one could argue the best ring announcer in both genres in history, was finally inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame over the weekend in Canastota, NY. He had already been inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame, making him the only person in both the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame (and the only ring announcer in thus far) and the boxing Hall of Fame. Lennon Sr.’s son, who is amazingly similar to his father, is in the International Boxing Hall of Fame making them a rare father-and-son combination. Jimmy Lennon Jr. is the ring announcer for boxing and was for Strikeforce. His father was best known nationally in the 70s when Wrestling from the Olympic aired nationally on Wednesday nights on SIN (now Galavision) and Boxing from the Olympic was syndicated. I would say he and Howard Finkel were the two best pro wrestling ring announcers in history, and his edge is more than 40 years of uninterrupted service. Lennon actually wanted to be an English professor, but when his father died young, he had to go to work full-time at 17 to support the family. He, like many members of his family, was a singer who would sing the national anthem at boxing and wrestling events in the 30s. Once, at a show in Santa Monica, the regular ring announcer wasn’t there so they asked him to stand in. He then became the regular ring announcer there, and soon, every arena in Southern California wanted him because of his great pronunciation of everyone’s name, most notably Mexican names. In the 60s and 70s, the tone of voice where he would announce the heel tag team of Black Gordman & Great Goliath as “claiming to be from New Mexico, not Mexico,” was magic and, even though they were a great working team, that was a huge part of making them the most memorable tag team of the era in that part of the country. He was so in demand and well known that he played himself as the ring announcer in more than 75 movies and television shows when they would do either pro boxing or pro wrestling storylines for authenticity. A few years back, when his son was inducted, some of the older boxing writers, as well as Jimmy Jr. and Mike Tyson (a childhood pro wrestling fan who grew up watching Wrestling from the Olympic and noted one of his greatest thrills was early in his career when Lennon Sr. introduced him) talked about how Jimmy Jr. should have never gone in before his father (his father went in first to the World Boxing Hall of Fame). Lennon continued through the end of the territorial era in California, and did boxing until he had heart problems, and passed away on April 20, 1992 at the age of 79. Also inducted into the boxing Hall this weekend was Steve Farhood, the famous boxing writer who in another lifetime wrote for Stanley Weston’s pro wrestling magazines

Buff Bagwell, 47, has announced a retirement tour, claiming that he will wrestle until May 2018

Even though Matt Riddle is under contract to WWN, he was given the 7/8 and 7/9 weekend off that he was booked on because Revolution Pro offered him a match with Tomohiro Ishii in the U.K. and evidently this was hugely important as New Japan must be considering using him (and that getting out will probably speed up WWE trying to get him since he’s been in touch with WWE since day one of his career since Sean Waltman helped train him and Waltman is good friends with Paul Levesque) because this match was said to be important for a major career opportunity for him and WWN didn’t want to stand in his way

Bob Backlund will be inducted in the St. Louis Wrestling at the Chase Hall of Fame on 9/9 at the Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling show in East Carondelet, IL. Backlund, who had prior success in West Texas and Georgia, got an early career push from Sam Muchnick in winning the Missouri State title from Harley Race on April 23, 1976. His St. Louis debut was interesting. In those days, Muchnick would run television tapings maybe ten months or so out of the year and in the summer would use tapings from other NWA promotions. They had aired a tape of Backlund on top from Amarillo or Georgia, I’m not sure which, but he was very well conditioned, athletic and very strong for his size. Fans in St. Louis immediately started talking about him and the promotion then brought him in and from the start wanted to make him a star. In those days, only the top guys would headline in St. Louis so it pretty much made Backlund a national star as far as reputation went. A few months later, Vince McMahon was talking to various promoters looking for a replacement for Bruno Sammartino as WWWF champion, since Sammartino had said he wanted out as champion, particularly after he broke his neck that year in a match with Stan Hansen when he was dropped on his head on a bodyslam. Both Muchnick and Eddie Graham suggested Backlund, and McMahon made that call in late 1976. McMahon had already decided in late 1976 of his plan to have Bruno Sammartino lose to Superstar Billy Graham, and chose the date, February 20, 1978, in Madison Square Garden, back in late 1976, for Backlund’s title win. Graham knew the date he would lose before he ever got the title, which was frustrating for him since he was drawing huge at the time and wanted a face turn to continue, but McMahon wouldn’t change his call. Backlund wrestled in St. Louis and defended his title many times as champion

Naomichi Marufuji was announced for Michael Elgin’s Glory Pro Wrestling promotion for a 7/9 show in Belleville, IL (St. Louis suburb)

Adam Cole won the IWC Super Indy title on 6/10 in Elizabeth, PA in a one-night tournament, beating DJZ (back in action after a scary injury in Mexico), Joey Janela and Jonathan Gresham, the latter match going 25:00

There is a promotion based in San Diego called FIST that ran a unique show on 6/9 geared toward an adult audience. ROH booker Hunter Johnston (Delirious) was in to do a seminar and work the main event. The main event was Dirty Ron McDonald against Delirious in an I Quit match for the TV title. First Dirty Ron said that he’s taken some acid and will get Delirious to quit by screwing with his mind. Then McDonald started singing a song and asked Delirious if he wanted to quit and he said “I kind of do.” Then he started rapping. Then a character called Officer Chip Law pulled out a gun on Dirty Ron, but Dirty Ron got the gun and put the gun to Delirious’ head and Delirious said “I Quit.” I don’t know if putting a gone to someone’s head to cause them to quit in an I Quit match is something that’s never been done, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it

Pentagon Jr. & Rey Fenix defend the PWG tag titles in Mexico City on 6/16 in a three-way against Rey Horus (Lucha Underground’s Dragon Azteca Jr.) & Jack Evans and Laredo Kid & Flamita

Hugo Savinovich announced a WWL show on 9/23 at the Pepin Cestero Arena in Bayamon called “Mysterio Mania: Tribu al Mesias.” a show built around Rey Mysterio Jr., and will include a tribute to Ricky Banderas of Bayamon, who was a huge star in Puerto Rico before leaving for Mexico and becoming Mesias in AAA and TNA and then Mil Muertes in Lucha Underground. Also announced for the show are Johnny Mundo, Taya, Brian Cage, Ivelisse and MVP. There are some issues as the wrestling commission in Puerto Rico noted that promoters Savinovich and Edwin Vazquez Ortega don’t have promoters licenses and that the wrestlers aren’t licensed and if that isn’t taken care of there will be no show. .. Shad Gaspard has a role in the Marvel movie “Black Panther.

Jimmy Havoc won CZW’s annual Tournament of Death on 6/10 in Townsend, DE. The show drew the largest crowd in the 16-year history of the tournament. Havoc first beat John Wayne Murdoch and Rickey Shane Page in a three-way which included a Canadian Destroyer onto a pane of glass. Havoc beat Masada in a light tubes match in his second bout. The finals, where Havoc beat Conor Claxton, was a no rope, no ring mat, barbed wire and light tubes death match. Claxton did a Michinoku driver onto a pane of glass. Havoc used a curb stomp breaking light tubes. After Havoc won, Claxton destroyed the trophy

The Documentary Channel in Canada on 6/11 in prime time aired a documentary on the life of Reginald “Sweet Daddy” Siki, 82, who was a major star particularly in the 60s. Among those who appeared on the show were Adam “Edge” Copeland, Bret Hart, Bruno Sammartino, Rocky Johnson, Ricky Johnson, Santino Marella and Nikolai Volkoff

Jim Duggan & Sean Mooney are starting a Podcast talking about wrestling in the past.

EUROPE: The 8/17 Revolution Pro show at York Hall in London has announced Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Marty Scurll as the main event plus Zack Sabre Jr. defends the British heavyweight title against Chris Brookes. As of the weekend, there were about 900 tickets sold for the place that holds about 1,100

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Rampage Brown was announced for What Culture on 7/7 in Manchester

The AAA TV show begins airing this week in England on Front Runner, with a regular first-run on Wednesday night from 9 to 10:30 p.m., and a Friday night replay from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Friday replay goes head-to-head with Impact on Spike U.K

Jeff Cobb vs. Matt Riddle match from day two of the Progress Strong Style tournament that people were raving about as the best match in the history of the promotion. The match went 13:40 and really the crowd was what made it, as well as some of the moves that were incredible. The two know how to work together since they’ve been both opponents and a tag team. Cobb’s power moves got over great and Riddle has a certain type of charisma that scream top guy. Most people went ****½ for it, and I think if I was there live I’d have probably gone with that. I was torn between that or just under that in the sense if that exact match was in WWE or New Japan I think it would be ****1/4 but the perfect crowd did make it even better

Naomichi Marufuji is coming in for the Lucha Forever promotion on 10/5 for a show at the Coronet Theater in London

Jack Swagger debuts for Revolution Pro on 8/27 in Portsmouth.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: Paul Lloyd Jr., 36, who works here as P.J. Black (Justin Gabriel in WWE), suffered a terrible injury base jumping this past week. He suffered a broken leg, a broken hand and lost a finger. He’s has to cancel all of his upcoming indie dates. He had suffered two broken ankles in October from an earlier base jumping accident while in South Africa

Vampiro now has a booking page up for promoters to book all Lucha Underground talent through him at www.VampiroTV.com. The funny thing is among those on the page listed as available are both Kairi Hojo and Io Shirai with their Lucha Underground names, as well as Prince Puma (Ricochet), who left the company months ago. Regarding Ricochet and WWE, the contract states he wouldn’t be able to go there until six months after his last apperance on television here, and he’s still got appearances to go. It is possible they could relax it, and it is possible he could choose not to go to WWE when he’s eligible to do so

Most of the rest of this season will be built around The Cueto Cup, a 32-man single elimination tournament. They are building to that as well as a Johnny Mundo vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. Lucha Underground championship match.

ROH: The lineup for the 6/23 PPV from Lowell, MA is finalized as Christopher Daniels vs. Cody for the ROH title, Young Bucks vs. War Machine for the ROH tag titles, Kushida vs. Marty Scurll for the TV title, Bully Ray & Mark & Jay Briscoe vs. Dalton Castle & The Boys for the trios titles, The Rebellion (Caprice Coleman & Kenny King & Shane Taylor & Rhett Titus) vs. Search and Destroy (Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley & Jay White & Jonathan Gresham) where the losing team has to break up, Jay Lethal vs. Silas Young, Ultimo Guerrero & El Terrible vs. Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia and a strap match with Frankie Kazarian vs. Hangman Page. ROH doesn’t have any shows scheduled until the PPV and the TV tapings the next day. .. It’s funny how the Being the Elite storyline, where Adam Cole got poisoned and was replaced in the Bullet Club by Marty Scurll came about. The whole poisoning idea was Matt Jackson’s idea when Nick suffered legit food poisoning a few weeks ago at the airport when they were scheduled to go to the Tommy Dreamer House of Hardcore show. They came up with the idea to turn it into a storyline where Cole poisoned him, since they’ve known, for a long time, that they were doing a storyline to blow off Cole since he was leaving at some point. The original final match for Cole was to be at the New York show (which originally wasn’t a PPV) against Kenny Omega, but Omega’s visa was held up for real because of governmental issues (they did a storyline on that where it was Cole who called up the U.S. government and claimed Omega had assaulted an underage girl. This was taken from a DDT match years ago in Japan where Omega wrestled a nine-year-old girl. So with no Omega, Cole instead got turned on by Scurll although they used Omega as the catalyst, taping him with Scurll and setting up the turn in Toronto when they were together. The funny part of that is that it came off like a well planned out storyline since Scurll was all over the Being the Elite show and then joined Bullet Club, but Scurll was introduced and New Japan made the call to add him to the Bullet Club, as opposed to ROH or the Young Bucks coming up with the idea, since New Japan owns Bullet Club

While not a done deal at last word (although it has been reported as a done deal), company officials have sad that things look very promising in signing Dalton Castle (Brett Biehl, 31), to a new contract. His contract expires this month and there was interest from WWE.

IMPACT: The first show from Mumbai, India was notable because the show itself when you were watching it looked like it was from the Impact Zone. The two studios are remarkably similar and they didn’t dress the studio up to look different. The crowd was more enthusiastic, partially because they were prompted to be and because it was something new to them. The out of the ring video features were very good for the most part. It’s too bad they ruined their goodwill to the audience and WWE put out so much product and Impact established itself as being so secondary that for most fans there simply isn’t the time to watch it. The serious wrestling is good and Bobby Lashley has been booked better as world champion than WWE champions. Still, there is way too much authority figure backstage stuff. The first show had four different Bruce Prichard segments in what seemed like 45 minutes. I think Prichard is very good as far as he’s a good talker, knows how to talk to a wrestling audience. I’d rather have a more babyface authority figure just because the heel stuff is overdone, but I’d rather they were used sparingly instead of as almost the guy who is carrying the show. Also, in 2017, the Rockstar Spud vs. Swoggle thing just feels really out of place

On 5/19 and 5/26, Impact didn’t break into the highest rated shows on Spike U.K

They announced a second house show on 8/4 in St. James, NY at the Sports Arena, a building Tommy Dreamer has run of late. St. James is on Long Island in New York, the day before their stadium show in Staten Island

They announced that Don West would be coming for Slammiversary weekend, which would be his first time at an Impact event in five years. Mike Tenay has also been talked with about coming for Slammiversary but thus far no deal has been made.

UFC: Middleweight champion Michael Bisping, 38, told ODDSbible that he’s looking at two more fights and then retiring. He said he wants to fight Georges St-Pierre in November, and then do one last fight in England as his farewell. Bisping is currently out of action as he’s had two knee surgeries this year

In the Cung Le lawsuit against UFC, there was a ruling this week that several internal documents related to fighter pay had to be turned over to the plaintiffs. The UFC commissioned a study for internal use regarding fighter pay which included studying NASCAR, baseball, the NBA, and NHL and how they pay talent as compared to UFC

Andres Pederneiras, the coach of Jose Aldo, said that he went into the fight with Max Holloway with a leg injury in an interview with Guilherme Cruz at MMA Fighting. Everyone goes in injured and all that, but the minute I saw him come out, he didn’t look right. The leg injury was why he didn’t throw any low kicks, which were his primary weapon. He also was limited in training and couldn’t run, which would explain his getting so tired that he was done in the third round after going five hard rounds in his previous fight with Frankie Edgar. Aldo also has a neck injury

There is a Fight Pass show on 6/17 from Kallang, Singapore at Singapore Indoor Stadium. The show starts at 4:30 a.m. Eastern time early Saturday morning which is late Friday night on the West Coast at 1:30 a.m. The lineup has Ji Yeon-Kim (6-0-2) vs. Lucia Pudilova (6-2), Carls John de Tomas (6-0) vs. Naoki Inoue (10-0), Russell Doane (14-7) vs. Kwan Ho Kwak (9-1), Frank Camacho (20-4) vs. Li Jingliang (12-4), Ulka Sasaki (19-4-2) vs. Justin Scoggins (11-3), Alex Caceres (12-10) vs. Rolando Dy (4-2), Cyril Asker (8-2) vs. Walt Harris (9-5), Takanori Gomi (35-12) vs. Jon Tuck (9-4), Rafael dos Anjos (25-9) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (16-6), Colby Covington (11-1) vs. the original Dong Hyun Kim (22-3-1), Andrei Arlovski (25-14) vs. Marcin Tybura (15-2) and a main event of Holly Holm (10-3) vs. Bethe Correia (10-2-1)

Angela Magana claimed that she suffered swelling of the brain from the punch from Cris Cyborg a few weeks ago at the Athletes Retreat in Las Vegas. Cyborg has since lost a sponsor, GRRRL, a women’s athletic wear company. The company announced they were dropping her due to battery on another fighter on the streets and claimed she was broadly condemned within the industry and the organization. They claimed they had signed her up to a one-year sponsorship deal, but that they market to girls as young as six so couldn’t continue. Actually, a lot of fighters, perhaps most, backed Cyborg feeling Magana continually making fun of her was asking for it. Cyborg claimed that the real story is the company doesn’t have the money to pay her and were just using this as an excuse, saying he did a speaking engagement with them a few weeks back where she was to receive $7,500, and she never got the money

Arjan Bhullar, who represented Canada in the 2012 Olympics in the 265 pound weight class, after winning a gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, will debut against Luis Henrique on the 9/9 show in Edmonton. Bhullar, 31, was eliminated in the second round at the Olympics and went into MMA in 2014 and went 6-0, including winning the heavyweight championship with the Battlefield Fight League and was considered a strong prospect. Bhullar does his fight camp training at AKA in San Jose, making him a training partner of Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez

Dana White said last week that the Sara McMann vs. Ketlen Vieira fight would be on the 7/29 show in Anaheim, but Vieira was on TV in Brazil and said she signed the contract and it would be on the 8/19 show

For the fourth quarter, the PPV dates are 9/9 in Edmonton, 10/7 (likely in Las Vegas), 11/4 (Madison Square Garden, which is the hoped for date for Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre), a 12/2 show in Detroit and 12/30, which is traditionally in Las Vegas

Urijah Faber was on the MMA Hour on 6/12 and said that Team Alpha Male has secured a deal with Jim Wilkinson and Mountain Lion Aviation, who will be sponsoring the team, including paying for salaries for the coaches (the Team Alpha Male coaches had previously been paid by the fighters putting a percentage of their earnings into the coaches). They are being given a recruiting budget. There will also be performance bonus for the fighters and they are going to implement a program for fighters teaching them business life and advice,. The airline partnership that will allow flights to be paid for. Hopefully this all works out. Historically when it comes to fighter management and sponsorships when things sound too good to be true, it’s because in the long run, they don’t last. Faber also said that he was under the impressions that Sage Northcutt would be joining the team full-time in the future

Sorry to report that Camille Jones, the mother of Jon Jones, passed away on 6/11. She was featured in a ton of video packages on him over the years and news stories about him and his brothers, Arthur and Chandler, who are NFL stars. She and Jon were very close

Doo Ho Choi pulled out of his 7/29 fight with Andre Fili due to an undisclosed injury that will keep him out of action until September at the earliest

Mike Perry vs. Thiago Alves is the first fight announced for UFC 215, which will take place on 8/19. The idea was for this being in Seattle

Chad Laprise, the former TUF Nations winner, will replace the injured Alan Jouban against Brian Camozzi on the 7/8 show in Las Vegas

Jack Hermansson, after his big win in Sweden, will face Brad Scott on the 8/5 show in Mexico City

Johnny Case vs. Tony Martin has been added to the 6/25 show in Oklahoma City, which is the show headlined by Kevin Lee vs. Michael Chiesa.

BELLATOR: Scott Coker announced on 6/13 at a press call that they had hired Mike Goldberg, 52, and Mauro Ranallo, 47, as the new voices of the company. Both will start on the next show on 6/24 from Madison Square Garden show, which is the biggest and most expensive show in company history. Goldberg was the voice of the UFC from 1997 until being let go at the end of 2016. It was well known that he was in talks with Bellator. Ranallo was the lead announcer for Strikeforce when Scott Coker had the deal with Showtime. It wasn’t known he was talking to Bellator but he had been teasing that he was about to sign a new deal. The two will work with Jimmy Smith. Ranallo on Twitter indicated that the two of them wouldn’t be working together, but would be working different shows. Ranallo will continue with Showtime boxing. Ranallo is still under contract with WWE until August even though he hasn’t actually worked there until March, but his WWE contract only involves pro wrestling. He wouldn’t be able to take a pro wrestling gig until after August but the deal he signed allowed him to do work in anything but pro wrestling. Signing either Goldberg or Ranallo wasn’t a surprise, but signing both was.

Sean Grande, 45, who had been announcing Bellator the past two years, has announced on 6/12, the day before this announcement, that he was leaving the company effective immediately. Grande, who is a longtime reader of this publication, dating back to the 80s, and got interested in MMA as a pro wrestling fan from the coverage here, wrote a letter to MMA Fighting where he basically said that combining Bellator work with his full-time job as the radio voice of the Boston Celtics and being the father of a five-year-old was just too much. He said when he started there were 16 shows, half outside of basketball season, but it grew to 24, with many of them overseas and two-thirds during basketball season. He noted there he did 18 shows during this past basketball season and said it became a health concern and it was just too many days away from his son and said on a recent overseas flight he realized he simply couldn’t keep up with it. He hinted Goldberg and Ranallo when leaving, saying,“You’ll be in good hands, and I have a hunch old-school fans are really going to have a blast.” He hinted he’d talked with one or both about the decision saying, “A couple of MMA play-by-play veterans who recently ended up on the waiver wire greatly helped me find peace with this.” If you watched Bellator, you could see a lot of how Grande called the sport and more than that, did the storylines, was related to the idea of doing a believable version of old-time pro wrestling storylines. You could see the influence of growing up watching good pro wrestling announcers in his game, as you could with Michael Schiavello and Mauro Ranallo as well. Grande also praised Jimmy Smith, who is excellent and highly underrated as an analyst, saying he’s not just a great MMA analyst but for any sport, he would be elite

The Chuck Liddell name has bounced around in the last few weeks. After the sale, as a cost-cutting move, UFC let Liddell, 47, go from his job where he was said to be earning $1 million per year and a job he had figured he would have for life. Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz is the speculated fight and that is the type of thing Bellator would promot

Keri Melendez is out of the next show on 6/24 in Madison Square Garden due to an injury that requires surgery. She was going to be on the TV portion of the show. Her fight will be replaced by Heather Hardy, a Brooklyn-based boxer of same name value making her Bellator debut, against Alice Yauger (4-5).

OTHER MMA: Rizin is doing a gimmick fight on its next show on 7/30 at the Saitama Super Arena. Tenshin Nakusawa, a teenager they are trying to groom as a future star, will face Kizeamon Saiga, who is best known because of his actress/model wife Yu Abiru, who they focus on during his fights. The gimmick is it will be a combined kickboxing and MMA fight. It will start with five minutes of kickboxing, with the bigger gloves and if nobody has won, the second round they’ll switch to smaller gloves and fight an MMA round. If nobody scores a win after two rounds, it’ll be ruled a draw. Promoter Nobuyuki Sakakibara told Tokyo Sports that they want to make an offer to Kota Ibushi to fight in their promotion this year

Adlan Amagov, a former UFC and Strikeforce fighter from Russia, was allegedly involved in a shootout involving warring factions on the streets of Moscow on 6/6. According to Life.ru and Bloody Elbow, Amagov, part of the Khalidov group, allegedly stabbed another MMA fighter, 19-year-old Timur Baysrov, after allegedly stabbing him in the chest. Two people were killed in the shootout and several others were hospitalized. The news reports that the two sides were meeting to redistribute a shared business and when they couldn’t reach an agreement, a fight broke out involving guns and knives. Amagov was 13-2-1 in MMA, going 2-0 in UFC before retiring from fighting in 2013. Amagov said he got out of fighting because he was tired of weight cutting.

WWE: Besides the Lesnar vs. Joe match, the other big storyline is the hard push for a 7/4 Cena return and his being a free agent. The free agent idea is that he can work on both Raw and Smackdown, which would get him on more PPV shows and give him a wider variety of opponents. I wonder what that would mean for house shows where he is the biggest draw. They could also do a storyline where both sides are bidding for him. I have no idea why they are pushing the Cena return on a 7/4 show, since a hard push for a Cena return will do numbers, but 7/4 is the single worst date of the year historically for wrestling to do ratings because so many people aren’t home in prime time. The funny thing is, with Smackdown drawing an older audience than Raw, it may hold up slightly better than Raw did in 2016

There’s a lot of talk regarding a HHH vs. Angle program as the culmination of the mystery thing they are doing now, with the story being for SummerSlam. We can’t confirm that since HHH’s programs are kept top secret, but when Angle was hired as babyface General Manager and we got word that he would definitely be wrestling if he could get cleared, HHH was clearly the most obvious opponent in a feud involving Stephanie coming off them having problems with running Raw after Stephanie returned. Several in WWE believe it but don’t know it factually, but the word is that the plans are to make SummerSlam as big as possible this year, which means bringing back part-timers. Others have said as much, that they expect, it, there are rumblings but nothing as far as definitive word. I had figured it more for WrestleMania, but SummerSlam would work as well

Paige also could be cleared to return after neck surgery. She’s getting X-rays to see how well the healing process has gone, and June was the target date for her return. She’s been training with weights as well as sparring for some time. She tweeted regarding X-rays and a comeback on 6/13

Angle spoke to Metro in the U.K. and he said that he was in denial about his drug addiction issues for eight years and talked about how his wife, Giovanna, told him she was going to leave him after the fourth time he was in jail. “She’s a strong woman and she didn’t want to live Ike that. I didn’t realize it was that bad, but when you have an addiction, you don’t know the damage you can do to other people, all you care about is the drugs.” Angle admitted that he almost died many times, but he never actually thought he would die. He claimed he was spending $3,000 a month on painkillers and taking 65 extra strength Vicodin a day. He said that there are a point when TNA should have fired him, but they never did. He noted that he should have gotten into more trouble for having four DUI’s, but they were either reduced or thrown out so he never really faced the legal repercussions from them. He said the reason he continued to wrestle at a high level in TNA is because he never got high during the day, but after the matches he would drink heavily. He claimed he broke his neck four times in two-and-a-half years, but said it was the same injury over-and-over, but claimed he talked his own doctor into clearing him and WWE didn’t know better. I don’t know about that one. He said the WWE continues to drug test him to make sure he stays clean. As far as wrestling goes, he said he’d like to wrestle Lesnar, HHH, Cena, Styles, Rollins, Cesaro, Sheamus, Rusev or Balor

Matt Hardy, 42 and wife Rebecca (Reby), 30, had their second child at 11:37 p.m. on 6/8, a seven pound, four ounce baby boy, Wolfgang (Wolfie) Xander Hardy. The announcement of her pregnancy was made on Impact at the end of one of the television shows taped at the Hardy compound. The Hardys missed the first two Raw house shows but did return on the 6/10 show in Beaumont, TX

There is still no planned date for when Io Shirai will start here. She is still working for now for Stardom

Fozzy announced a late October/November tour, so that at least tells you that Jericho won’t be around then

Balor was off TV and the house shows this week because he was doing a promotional tour for the company in Japan and Australia promoting the upcoming tours

Ryder was cleared this week to return after being out since major knee surgery in December, and returned with a cameo on this week’s Smackdown show teasing a reunion of his tag team with Rawley

The company announced a return to China on 9/17 at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center Arena with the Smackdown brand, the same crew running Osaka that weekend

Jim Ross is publicly pushing for calling the Lesnar vs. Joe match. If they make the call for him to do it, that would mean in a ten day period he’d call that match, Okada vs. Omega and Tanahashi vs. Naito, and would call a live major New Japan show and WWE PPV show within eight days of each other

Mark Andrews had a scare in a match on 6/11 at the Download Musical Festival in Derby, UK. He was in an eight-man tag match on an NXT show and suffered a neck injury. He was taken out on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital. He had taken a stiff clothesline from one of the members of the Authors of Pain, and couldn’t get up. A CT scan came back negative, with nothing but a bruised neck

Ruby Riot also got busted open on the 6/9 show as part of the Festival, and needed stitches but was otherwise fine

The silly debate about dives in wrestling was used on Bring It To The Table with John Layfield and Corey Graves. Layfield took the tact that guys use dives because they can’t work and claimed that style can’t draw 100,000 fans or 2 million fans on television every week, when style has nothing to do with exposure, promotional money and time slot exposure and who is pushed, not to mention that Ambrose and Rollins are two of the company’s top stars and they constantly do dives and are on those same said shows. Graves said, and I thought this was telling, that 205 Live would be the best wrestling show on television if they just let the guys do what they can do. One of the big criticisms of the show is the toning down of the guys. The big problem isn’t that, but the approach, on a major niche show doing silly storylines that nobody takes seriously and it being taped after Smackdown and not getting crowd reactions are the big problems of that show since the Cruiserweight Classic presentation proved so much more popular on the same network with a similar talent roster. But the guys being taught to do a slower style than the heavyweight main eventers to guard against them overdoing it on their own, when the whole idea of smaller guys in every sport is faster and more exciting, certainly doesn’t help. The Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay match was brought up and Layfield said that he liked the match but both questioned if such a match would get over in WWE. The reality is if that match was in NXT, people would be saying it was the greatest match in history. If it was in WWE, that’s harder to say because that’s a star power audience and if you throw unknowns in cold it’s difficult to impossible to get a long match over. If they had years of exposure and were pushed as stars and it was pushed as an important match, at that point, it would probably get over huge, but all those things leading to that aren’t likely to happen. On the flip side, Graves said that he thought the Buddy Rogers vs. Pat O’Connor match (the 1961 NWA title change although they said 1963) he thought was boring while Layfield thought it was a great match. Rogers and O’Connor were considered two of the best workers of their era and in its time and place, that was considered an all-time classic match, but if you aren’t from the time and place, you’re not going to be able to understand it in its context

NXT wrestlers Kenneth Crawford, 27, who now uses the name Montez Ford, and Bianca Blair, 28, who is still using her real name, got engaged over the weekend. Ford is a former Marine. Blair has been called the best female athlete on the roster, as she ran track at the Division I level in the hurdles as well as the 200 and 400, and was a high school state champion in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles when growing up in Knoxville. She ran track at the University of South Carolina, Texas A&M and the University of Tennessee

Blair is one of the 32 women scheduled for the Mae Young Classic tournament on 7/13 and 7/14. PW Insider listed Zhao Xia of China, Mary Kate (who was Rosie Lottlalove and Andrea in TNA and indies), Danielle Kamela (who has done enhancement work on NXT), Julia Ho, Kimberly Frankele (formerly Kimber Lee, who has done enhancement work on TV and works the house shows regularly), Lacey Evans (who has also been on NXT TV and house shows), Victoria Gonzalez (who did one TV appearance and has done a few house shows), Sarah Logan (formerly Crazy Mary Dobson, who has also been on TV and house shows) and Taynaro Melo (a judo and BJJ specialist from Brazil who has a great look) as wrestlers already under contract in the tournament. There will also be a lot of women not under contract from all over the world. Names talked about have included Toni Storm and Tessa Blanchard, who have worked Stardom

Emma returned this weekend on the Raw side in trios matches

The Hardys did an interview for the WWE Network (which ended up being the most-watched show of the week) where they talked publicly for the first time on a WWE show about the Broken gimmick. Matt said it was weird to him to go back to the old Matt Hardy after doing the gimmick and that he almost became the new personality and had morphed into it. Regarding whether they would use the gimmick in WWE he said, “I definitely think there is a chance. It’s a work in progress. Unfortunately, due to legal reasons, I really can’t go into it right now, but I find it very flattering and humbling that every time we come and wrestle in front of the WWE Universe, they chant and they address it and acknowledge it.” Regarding the “delete” chants, he told fans to please keep doing it. He used the term, “When it (the transformation) happens, and I’m not going to say if, when it happens, its doing to be the most exciting thing to hit WWE programming in a long, long time.” Matt also said that it was inevitable that at some point Jeff would go as a single

Naomi did an interview with Chuck Carroll of CBS radio and said that she pitched her current gimmick back in 2014, but was turned down, but she was persistent about it. Regarding the TV show that she and the Usos were filming, she said that she’s not allowed to talk about it, but the show was for Nickelodeon. She said it’s not a reality show, but a one-time thing that they just filmed. She said it was a kids show. “It’s a race, like a tournament,” and she said it will air later this year. She also just got the word this week that she was picked up for the cast for the next season of Total Divas. Added to the cast of the show next season will also be Bliss and Jax. It’s not clear who will be on the show other than Eva Marie is not going to be because she’s done with the company and working as an actress, and Renee Young also won’t be on the next season

The Revival are ready to start back as Wilder was cleared after surgery due to a broken jaw. They’ve been teasing a program with Enzo & Cass to start with as part of the Enzo & Cass storyline

Show was on Jericho’s podcast this week and had a lot of complaints about working on television. He said he loved working live events but hates television days, saying they are long days filled with wasting time and sitting around waiting for some idea that absolutely sucks. He said the decisions are made by one or two guys who have laced up boots a few times and others who have never done so but for some reason they’re telling us what to do. He said at TV, “We all walk around baffled going, `Why are we doing this?’” The last time a big star complained about creative publicly to this level was Austin, and a few days later he was told he was losing to Lesnar on television in their first ever meeting, probably eight months before the match should have happened and been on a major PPV show. Show said loves working matches. He said the spots when he’s booked to walk to the ring, knock somebody and leave, he hates that but he gets why they do it because he’s old and beat up and they are trying to protect him. Regarding criticism of him, he said that most of the stuff he does he doesn’t get to pick so don’t get mad at him, “Get mad at the people who write this shit.” He said he’s fine with the young talent getting pushed and getting the TV time, but he said he’d rather they didn’t bring him to TV and spend all day there and then not have anything for him on the show. .. The movie “Mohawk,” where Jonathan Huber (Luke Harper) is one of the stars, will be premiering at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. I believe Huber did the movie while he was recovering from knee surgery. The movie is about two Mohawk warriors and their British lover who are being chased by American renegades looking for revenge, set in 1814

Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Pete Dunne, Mark Andrews and Wolfgang either have been or are expected to be offered new three-year deals at a higher price. They had all originally signed $20,000 per year deals. The entire U.K. strategy seems up in the air. As noted, they had originally booked monthly TV tapings that would have started in June, but we’re now in June and nothing has been announced and even people in the mix don’t seem to know anything about a start date for the long-talked about weekly network show. The market changed with the ITV thing seemingly failing apart

Mike and Maryse Mizanin have put their $3.65 million mansion in the Hollywood Hills for sale. The 4,500 square foot home includes a basketball court, swimming pool and a spa

The divorce of Windham Rotunda (Wyatt), 30, from wife Samantha, 31, became public in a story in The Daily Mail. The two, who met when both attended Troy University in Alabama, where he was a football player, have been married for five years and have two children together. She’s being represented by Ray Rafool, a Miami lawyer whose name may be familiar because he represented Linda Bollea, the wife of Hulk Hogan, in her long and very public divorce from Terry Bollea. She claimed they were married in 2012 and he walked out on her and their two children, girls six and four. Windham Rotunda attempted to get an injunction to keep his wife quiet about the split and claimed she made defamatory remarks about him to people in the community in an effort to ruin his reputation and claimed she posted lies on social media to damage his business ventures in the entertainment world. Her lawyer’s response to attempt to stop the injunction was that his actions are just a media ploy to defend his adultery and misdeeds and an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the public

WWE has put money into the new Drone Racing League promotion. The Drone Racing League raised more than $20 million with Sky in the U.K. being one of the leading backers. WWE is a minor investor in the project. The group starts a new season on 6/20 on ESPN. .. Emma returned from her shoulder injury on the Raw tour this weekend working trios matches

Vic Joseph (real name Victor Tarvagliante, who was hired in January after he had been working as the announcer for Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore promotion) replaced Tom Phillips as the voice of 205 Live. He had just started last month doing Main Event. Listening to him, he sounds a lot like current UFC and former WWE announcer Todd Grisham. On his first show, he came across like so every WWE announcer. It’s not good or bad, but it’s having all style removed, but Graves does a good job of carrying the broadcast exactly like he did with Phillips. Tarvagliante has a background in doing local sports in Cleveland

Raw this week is 6/19 in Evansville and Smackdown is 6/20 in Dayton. The only stuff promoted for next week is that for 205 Live in Dayton they’ll have Gallagher vs. Nese and Gulak vs. Ali

Nick Brewer, a strongman competitor, will be getting a tryout later this week

The stock closed at press time at $20.92 per share giving the company a $1.599 billion market value

The top ten shows for this past week on the WWE Network were: 1. Reborn by Fate: A short interview with Matt & Jeff Hardy; 2. Extreme Rules; 3. NXT on 6/7; 4. Bring It to the Table on 6/12; 5. Money in the Bank 2016; 6. WrestleMania 33; 7. Table for 3 with Orton, Sammartino and Flair; 8. ECW Exposed with Heyman and Joey Styles; 9. Backlash 2017; 10. 205 Live on 6/6 (this was the episode with the Neville vs. TJP match that been teased for a long time so it did help numbers but only enough to get it to 10th place). Talking Smack was 16th for the week. .. Notes from the 6/12 Raw tapings in Lafayette, LA. The show was promoted around the return of Lesnar and a physical confrontation with Joe. That was the opening segment and really the only noteworthy thing on the show. At times it felt like they came in with the idea they were throwing in the towel at 9 p.m. once the basketball game started. The show drew 6,800 fans. It opened with Daivari pinning Gran Metalik. I know it’s almost hard to believe, but Mascara Dorada was actually as good or better than either Dragon Lee, Mistico or Volador Jr. in CMLL until he left. Raw opened with Lesnar & Heyman out. Heyman said that he showed Joe respect that he thought Joe deserved, but Joe was like a shark and took him out. He said that now Brock has a problem. He said he thought Joe was a guy who could give Lesnar a fight and be a worthy challenger, a guy who can go man-to-beast, but that’s not who Joe is. He talked about all the Samoans in the business and all their accomplishments, and how they are all related and all proud of each other, except for one. He said Joe was the one Samoan that the other Samoans want nothing to do with, and called him a mutt, a punk an a dog whose career defining moment was putting the coquina clutch on Heyman. He said Joe will never get the coquina clutch on Lesnar because he’s not man enough to do so. Joe came out and they went face-to-face. Joe gave him a sucker head-butt and they went at it. Angle sent out security. Lesnar was pounding on Joe and taking everyone out. Joe then took Lesnar down and the undercard guys all ran in to pull them apart. As they were holding Lesnar, Joe superkicked him and it was like set up dominoes as all the guys went down that were holding Lesnar. They continued the pull-apart. This was the real highlight of the show. Samson was in the ring singing an anti-Louisiana song. He sang that Cajuns should be caged up and then ripped on Ambrose. When Samson is in the ring with the spotlight playing the guitar, because of his Randy Savage look, physique, and his eyes, he comes across like a star. But once the bell rings, it’s tougher. Ambrose came out and they had a match. Ambrose kept the match interesting. Fans were chanting “You can’t sing, you can’t wrestle” at Samson early, but somewhat lost interest in him. He wasn’t bad, but didn’t stand out in any way. Miz came out with Maryse to distract Ambrose. Ambrose went after Miz, who hid behind Maryse. Maryse distracted Ambrose but when Miz tried to get him from behind, Ambrose turned around and Miz backed off. Ambrose got back in the ring but Samson gave him a kneedrop to the back and a twist and shout neckbreaker for the pin in 11:46. Goldust did another interview where he came across like a big star. He did more movie quotes, including “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” saying that was from The Godfather in 1974. Buddy Rogers was using that line in the 50s. He cut another promo on R-Truth. Angle yelled at Miz for messing up the match. Miz said Maryse was still mad at him for breaking The Grandfather Clock last week and he blamed Ambrose. He wanted Ambrose punished and blamed Angle for letting his personal problems interfere with work, and that’s how Ambrose snuck back in the building last week. The key take here is that Angle was wondering how Miz knew about his personal life problem. Angle then said he wasn’t going to do anything to Ambrose and that if Miz has a problem with Ambrose, to do something about it himself. There was a video on Cedric Alexander. They showed Dar having facetime on his phone with Fox, who was just berating him. So her new role is back to being a total psycho and he’s the henpecked boyfriend who just takes it. She demanded that he not hang up the phone. While this was going on, Alexander once again said he was done with those two and it ends tonight. He’s said he was done with her months ago and said the same thing last week. Dar came to the ring while holding his phone and Fox continued to yell at him. She was screaming to set up the phone so she could see the match. She could just watch it on TV. Alexander was laughing about all this. The match started and Alexander pinned him in :07 with a lumbar check. Fox continued to berate Dar after. They did a Reigns video and announced that next week Reigns would make an announcement regarding SummerSlam. It has to be significant for them to push it weeks before the Great Balls PPV. Wyatt did a promo. Notable in the Wyatt video was a lot of clips of Orton, so that teases going back to that. Wyatt did a promo talking about Rollins and said he would be punished. Rollins came out and said Wyatt cost him his match with Joe and said Wyatt was all mad just because he called him couple of names. He called Wyatt a coward and dared Wyatt to prove him wrong. Wyatt talked some more and then disappeared. He then showed up on the screen and said that Rollins may have slayed a king but a God lives forever. The Hardys came out and said they have Sheamus & Cesaro’s number and if they have to beat him twice, that’s what they’ll do. The did the video promoting Cena’s return on 7/4 as a free agent. Crews pinned Kalisto in 2:14 with the power bomb. This was more about O’Neil, at ringside, recruiting Tozawa to be part of The Titus Brand. Tozawa was at ringside in a suit and tie. After the match, O’Neil brought Tozawa in the ring and had everyone raise each others’ hands. The idea was that Tozawa wasn’t happy about all of this. Rhyno & Slater were backstage eating crackers. Miz was looking for help and wanted to recruit Slater to watch his back. Miz noted that he took care of Slater and got him a role in the last “Marine” movie. Slater then said that when he was a kid going to the matches with his grandfather and his mother, he dreamed of being the IC champion. Miz promised him a title shot down the line if he helps him out. Isn’t that the same angle they did with Neville and TJP and Bliss and Jax on this same show? Rhyno was eating cheese whiz and Miz said that you can eat cheese while we eat caviar. Slater had n idea what caviar was. Rhyno kept saying that Slater already has a partner and was wolfing down the crackers and cut a promo with his mouth filled with crackers. This set up a match with Rhyno & Slater vs. Miz and a partner for later in the show. Bliss came out. First she plugged the women’s Money in the Bank match. Jax came out and was mad about what happened in last week’s title match where Brooke and James attacked Bliss so she won via DQ. Bliss said how Jax was a great competitor and a friend, and she wanted to have a classic match with her, but James and Brooke ruined it. She asked Jax why she was mad at her when the real problem was James and Brooke. James and Brooke came out. James has a new look. James & Brooke told Jax that Bliss had told them that they all have a Nia Jax problem. Bliss said that Brooke is just a disgruntled worker and James is someone whose spotlight is fading out and dimming by the second. She said that those two will say anything to get attention. Emma then came out and challenged Bliss. Banks then came out and hit Bliss with the mic and there was a big brawl. Banks & James & Brooke beat Jax & Bliss & Emma in 3:32. Emma tried to tag out to Bliss, who walked off. James did a Thesz press off the to rope to the floor onto Jax. Emma tried a schoolboy with tights on Banks but Banks reversed it into the bank statement for the submission. Bayley did an interview. What a disaster this was. Graves was doing the interview. He noted that she said she was ready to use the kendo stick, asked for the match, but then couldn’t pull the trigger. Bayley said that she doesn’t want to hurt anyone but wanted to be the best. She talked about recapturing the title and going into WrestleMania next year as champion again to show kids that you can do it your way. She then asked Graves if she could hug him. She hugged him and rubbed his back. He said that he may need a cigarette. There are rumors flying everywhere that they are building to this thing of Bayley kissing a guy at SummerSlam, and they can’t figure on the guy, but I guess Graves is in the lead if that’s where they’re going. The awkward hug spot was a takeoff on a deal last week with Jerry Seinfeld refusing the hug from Keisha on the red carpet. None of this is doing her any favors. And then it got silly. Slater & Rhyno were to wrestle Miz and his partner. So a tall guy in a bear costume came out. The announcers started doing plays on words, saying the bear was the 101 Acre Woods Bear Knuckles champion (I got a kick out of that one), and called him Big John Cub (since he was really tall, a takeoff on Big John Studd). They said he was a picnic basket thief who also prevents forest fires. There was a “We wand Bear” chant. There was a Two Bearsman reference and a line about how Tully (Four Horsemen) was busy. The Bear tagged in and the line was that the bear was legal, but he was Barely Legal. After some gags, the announcers aid this was Unbearable. Then the bear used a bearhug on Slater, but Rhyno broke it up. Miz all of a sudden figured that this week the bear was Ambrose, so attacked and bear and started destroying it. Then he pulled off the head piece and it was just a guy. But then a second guy in a bear costume came out. He gave Slater Dirty Deeds. Miz had his back turned and Maryse was yelling at him over it. The second bear unmasked as Ambrose. Miz tried to run away, but ran into Maryse, knocking her off the apron. So this is all about setting up spots where Maryse is mad at Miz, which will turn Maryse face if they keep that up. Ambrose gave Miz Dirty Deeds and then pulled Slater on top of Miz for the pin at 6:27. He then put his bear head piece on Miz. Neville was supposed to wrestle Swann. Neville attacked Swann before the match and put him in the Rings of Saturn. The match never started. Neville then cut a promo and kicked Swann out of the ring. Swann came off like a low-level enhancement guy here rather than a star. Neville cut a promo about how many pretenders does he have to beat to get the respect he deserved. In the promo, he brought up Tozawa and told Tozawa to tread carefully. Sheamus & Cesaro did an interview regarding their match with the Hardys. They once again pushed the phrase, “We don’t set the bar, We are the bar.” Backstage, Cass was shown laid out once again. At first I thought it was a clip from last week. Once again The Revival were shown in the background while this was happening. Cass said he took a shot to the back of the head that was really hard but didn’t see who it was. This time Cass wanted to team with Enzo but Enzo thought it would be a bad idea. Gallows & Anderson cut a promo laughing about Enzo & Cass’ problems. Cass came out but was all messed up. He started, would get some offense in but mostly staggered around. Enzo finally tagged in. Enzo came off the top rope into a kick by Gallows and was pinned after the Magic killer in 2:26. Cass had been laid out before that. They threatened Enzo after the match, but Show came out and Gallows & Anderson ran off. Show helped Enzo up and hugged him. Cass just then got up and saw Show and Enzo hugging and got mad that Enzo was buddying up with show. R-Truth did an interview doing his own movie lines and talking about Goldust. Enzo was backstage and thanked show. He was all nervous, but said he needed to ask a question for his piece of mind. He said Cass got taken out with one shot and Cass is a big guy and said he’d never been hit so hard in his life. He asked Show if Show was the one who did it. Show got mad. Show said that he had one word to describe Enzo’s partner and he was going to spell it out, SAWFT. Joe did a promo regarding Lesnar. Good promo, very intense delivery, much better than most WWE promos. Main event saw Sheamus & Cesaro retain the tag titles going to a double count out in a 2/3 fall match with the Hardys in 14:25 total time. Sheamus kicked Jeff and pinned him for the first fall in 1:05. Jeff sold but made the hot tag to Matt, who hit Sheamus with a side effect on the apron. Matt pinned Cesaro at the 8:50 mark after a twist of fate. Good third fall. Jeff made the hot tag and hit the twist of fate on Sheamus, but Cesaro saved at the last second. Jeff was dropped throat first on the to rope but Jeff kicked hit the swanton on Sheamus, but Cesaro pulled Sheamus out of the ring. Jeff did a bodyblock on Cesaro of the apron. All four were fighting outside the ring and were counted out. In the post match brawl, Matt gave Cesaro a high backdrop on the floor. Jeff did a plancha off the top of the post onto both of them. Double count outs come across flat nowadays and the double count out in theory should set up the cage match, not come in the match after the cage match, but that time of booking is long gone. So this would appear to set up a new stip match between the four for the title on the PPV. After the live show was over they did a dark match where Reigns pinned Wyatt after a spear. The crowd was more into that than anything on Raw

Notes from the 6/13 tapings in New Orleans. I thought as a go-home show this was pretty weak as far as building anticipation in the big show. They pushed the theme of being in New Orleans a little. The crowd was 6,000 for what was originally promoted by WWE as a major episode of the show with Mahal vs. Orton for the WWE title, Owens vs. Styles for the U.S. title and Nakamura vs. Ziggler in a singles match. As it turned out, plans changed and it was just another episode with none of those matches taking place on television, although Mahal vs. Orton did take place as the dark match. Harper pinned English in the dark match opened. The show opened with an elaborate New Day entrance with a local marching band playing and coming to the ring with them. It made the New Day come across like big stars. The New Day did a promo and talked about how New Orleans was the home of next year’s WrestleMania, said they’d beat the Usos for the tag title this weekend and then they could audition for a remake of “Straight Outta Compton.” They said they would then bring the titles to WrestleMania. The Usos came out, followed by Breezango. Epico said that the Fashion Police were the worst detectives ever and their fashion sense was horrible. Woods & Kingston & Breezango beat Usos & Colons in 14:25. This was a slow match with no crowd reaction until Big E, at ringside, started cheerleading them. It just felt like they were stretching things out. It picked up in the last 90 seconds. Woods did a flip dive onto both Colons and Kingston did a trouble in paradise on Jimmy but Jey saved. Fandango and Jey then botched a clothesline off the top spot that was almost comical as Fandango, who did the spot, flew over, while Jey just stood there. Kingston held up Primo and Woods came off the top with a double foot stomp on him for the pin. Styles & Nakamura were backstage when Zayn showed up. They were making Zayn a total geek here. The gimmick is that he never stops talking and even his partners don’t’ like being around him. Styles was rolling his eyes at him, but Nakamura said that he liked him in this child-like way since in WWE, if you’re a babyface foreigner who can’t speak fluent English, you play a childlike character. Rawley did an interview and said he can’t blame Shane McMahon, since Shane gave him a shot at Mahal last week, but he lost it and he lost on his own and he’s been beating himself up all week for it. To their credit, at least they made the loss seem important. But he said a part of him was glad he lost because he knows how he bounces back from defeats and will use this to up his game. He said that the best of Rawley is yet to come. Ryder came back and they hugged and talked about getting their team back together. Naomi beat Tamina in 5:05 in a non-title match. Lana came out to watch the match. That led to a “We Want Rusev” chant. The crowd was dead for this match as well. Tamina was on the top rope but Naomi threw her off and pinned her after a split legged moonsault. Lana attacked Naomi after the match and gave her a sit-out power bomb in a red carpet dress, which wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to navigate. Lana was then holding up the belt and put it on Naomi’s chest. They tried to push the Naomi vs. Lana match with the idea that it could be the biggest title upset in history. The Singh Brothers and Mahal came out. Singh cut a promo on Orton and in English got moderate heat. When he switched to Punjab, the crowd was really on him. They teased Orton coming out. Mahal ordered the Singhs to go up the ramp to stop Orton. But instead Orton came from the stands from behind and laid out Mahal with an RKO. Corbin, Owens and Ziggler were backstage talking about their main event match. The storyline is that none of them liked each other but Owens explained that, what is better for them, working together to hurt Nakamura, Zayn and Styles five days before Money in the Bank, or beating each other up and them going in at a disadvantage. Owens said that he’s not sure they could be friends, but they shouldn’t be their own worst enemies. They definitely teased the idea of Owens vs. Corbin. Orton did an interview with Renee Young. He said the time for talking is over and he’s going to take back the title in his home town. He then walked off. Charlotte beat Natalya in 8:14. This was a good match. Unlike the first match where they basically did nothing in the commercial break, these two kept up a strong pace. They traded near falls until Charlotte hit natural selection for the pin. They did another Fashion Files segment. Breeze was laid out and beaten up wearing a women’s outfit. There were the funny photos in the back including a publicity photo of Zayn where it read underneath “Generic.” So it’s the same Enzo & Cass angle. Breeze said he was attacked by two hideous monsters. Fandango was drawing it like a police sketch artist and Breeze said that’s exactly what they looked like. They later showed that Fandango had just drawn stick figures of a boy and a girl. Dasha Fuentes interviewed Lana. She said nothing of note. Nakamura & Zayn & Styles beat Owens & Corbin & Ziggler in 12:42. Good match. Zayn did a running flip dive on Owens as well as a blue thunder bomb on Owens. Zayn did his usual great job of selling including a spot where he finally got to his corner but Owens and Ziggler pulled Nakamura and Styles off the apron so he couldn’t tag out. Still, Zayn pinned Corbin with the Helluva kick. After the match, the heels beat down the faces. Owens brought in a ladder and the fans started loud “Yes” chants. They continued to brawl with Ziggler laying out Styles and Zayn with ladder shots. Corbin then attacked Ziggler and Owens and laid both out with ladder shots. He climbed up the ladder to try and get the briefcase. But Nakamura recovered and tipped the ladder over and Corbin flew off. Nakamura hit Corbin with the Kinshasa and climbed up the ladder and got the briefcase as the show ended. 205 Live opened with O’Neil with Tozawa. O’Neil told Tozawa that he got him the main event match tonight with TJP. He told Tozawa that he could be the Kobe Bryant or LeBron James of Japan. O’Neil was singing “It’s Raining Yen” to the tune of “It’s Raining Men.” That’s one of those segemnts that reads silly but actually O’Neil pulled it off well. Tozawa was just shaking his head through all this. Alexander pinned Daivari in 6:52. In the middle of the match, on the screen, they had a phone with Fox yelling at Dar and telling him to get Cedric. So Dar went to the ring. Yes, so Cedric and the fans were told that Dar is going a run-in before it happened. Alexander kicked Dar and then hit the lumbar check on Daivari for the pin. Fox was still yelling at Dar on the phone. The phone ended up in the ring and Alexander picked it up and she started calling him a loser. He hung up on her. Alexander then insisted he was done with them, like he does on every show. Aries came out and said that he could say that he made Neville tap out but it was outside the ring during the match. He said when it counted most, he didn’t get the job done. He said to the fans that we’ve all been through that, but you get up and you keep going. He said that he has problems with his leg and his neck and right now he’s not medically cleared to wrestle. You could see he physically looked slightly off and he had kiniseo tape around his neck during the match with Neville. Nese came out and told him to get out of the ring and quietly fade into the past. Aries noted that the last time they were in the ring that he made Nese tap out. Nese threatened him. This brought out Gallagher who said that Nese was the biggest joke of all and no Austin Aries. Nese grabbed his umbrella and threw it down and went to attack Gallagher,. Gallagher ducked and Aries picked up the umbrella and threw it to Gallagher, who hit Nese a couple of times with it and broke it over Nese’s back. TJP was backstage. He bumped into Swann. Swann told him that he took Neville to his limits and that both of them were looking for another shot at Neville. Swann told TJP how the WWE Universe in that match with Neville was starting to believe in him again and so did he. He said he doesn’t know about TJP, but T.J. Perkins would take care of business the right way and told him to get his head back in the game. They showed a video package of Ali. The package was interrupted by Gulak doing his politician running for office parody commercial to stop high flying and set up their mach for next week. The main event saw Tozawa pin TJP in 11:15 after a high senton off the top rope. This was very well wrestled and they had no crowd reaction, although that’s usual. There was a C.M. Punk chant, not that loud, but when nobody is making noise it was noticeable. A few people tried to boo it but it was only a few. Then there was a Corey Graves chant. These two continued to wrestle a very strong match with nobody caring. Tozawa did a great tope. TJP got the kneebar and Tozawa sold it great but escaped into a front rolling cradle. TJP did a great spin kick that knocked Tozawa’s mouthpiece out. The crowd did get into it in the last minute, or at least did Tozawa’s chant with him. After the match, O’Neil was backstage singing “It’s Raining Yen” again. O’Neil’s role here does help Tozawa break out of the pack. Neville showed up and told O’Neil that he was setting his client up for misery and said Tozawa isn’t even close to the Neville level. O’Neil then said that Tozawa is the future of 205 Live

Notes from the 6/7 NXT TV show. Heavy Machinery of Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight beat Lars Sullivan & Victor Andrews in 3:54. They did the same gimmick of Sullivan’s partner losing and getting destroyed after. Everyone knew it was coming and they even did a promo with Andrews before the match saying that he knew it could happen but this was the biggest opportunity of his career. Andrews was pinned after the double-team world’s strongest slam where Knight jumps on Dozovic’s back. Dozovic is so animated and has good fire. I can see them making it to the top in NXT. As far as main roster predictions, at this point it’s foolish to make them. After the match, the fans started chanting “Delete,” wanting Sullivan to destroy Andrews, which he did. He cross faced him a few times and gave him a hard knee to the body, a powerslam, and finished Andrews by putting him on his shoulders with a Bruno backbreaker. Sullivan’s got that powerhouse physical look with big features like a Bigfoot Silva and giant thighs, and makes great facial expressions. He’s somebody you notice. So there’s some obvious potential. Roderick Strong came out and talked about his fiancé and baby boy. He said the story about him growing up where his mom shot his dad (he didn’t actually mention the shooting but it was in the video) was stuff he was ashamed of but said he told the story and you fans accepted me. He said he wanted the NXT title. Bobby Roode came out. He was mock crying regarding the video. Roode came across like such a superstar here. Even throwing out the song which made such a big difference, he looks like a star and promos like a star. Roode said that Strong has a “marginally hot fiancé” which for some reason the way he said it made me laugh since and a “somewhat normal looking son” and then gave Strong the backhand compliment “You’re a good hand,” which in wrestling means a good worker in prelims who has good matches but doesn’t have the charisma to be a real star. Then he said that maybe one day we can take a selfie together so you can show your son of photo of you next to the champ. He then told Strong not to play this game because he’s not man enough to win. Very good segment. Paul Ellering did a taped promo like he was reading a book, you know, since his team are authors, and they showed Heavy Machinery, Sanity and Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli clips in the background so I guess those are the three leading contenders. Peyton Royce beat Sarah Logan in 3:41. Nigel McGuinness told the story that Logan, better known as Crazy Mary Dobson, four days after she graduated high school had saved up her money to fly to Japan to get trained at K-Dojo (Taka Michinoku’s gym). Royce did both the STF and the Attitude Adjustment. That was a surprise and it wasn’t even some deal like she was mocking Cena as the announcers didn’t even call the spot she just did it. Royce won with a running knee and fisherman suplex. This match was good. Royce has real ring presence. They showed Andrade Cien Almas leaving the building with three women. A dressed up Thea Trinidad, who is doing a storyline with him, slapped Almas in the face and was mad at him. So either he dumped her or her role is to get him back to caring about wrestling. Hideo Itami did an interview saying that he’s not going back to Japan because he’s not done yet. Itami no contest Oney Lorcan in 6:30. This got a lot of heat, and that doesn’t happen much during NXT matches these days. Percy Watson, after Itami did the hard kick to the back of Lorcan, said he reminded him of Kobayashi. Well, he is Kobayashi. I thought maybe he screwed up and meant Kobashi, except it wasn’t a move Kobashi did. Lorcan did really hard slaps and a running uppercut. This was worked like a Japanese style match, and the crowd, which usually sits there during the matches, got really excited for Lorcan and the match. Lorcan did a flip plancha. Itami did the fake knee injury spot and then started unloading with hard strikes and kicks. Then Itami gave Lorcan a GTS, but wouldn’t pin him. He gave him two more GTS’s until Kassius Ohno ran in. Itami shoved Ohno and Ohno had this pained look on him face and shoved im back. It was broken up. Ember Moon did an interview and vowed to win the title in her next opportunity. I figure she wins it at Takeover in Brooklyn. Killian Dain pinned No Way Jose in 8:02. After the ring entrance, the crowd was dead. It really wasn’t much of a match. Dain head-butted Jose and gave him a Woo dropkick and one winged angel for the pin

The NXT U.K. tour continued on 6/8 in Brighton, before 2,200 fans. Gallagher pinned Trent Seven in a comedic British style match with stiff chops. Gallagher won with his dropkick into the corner. Billie Kay & Peyton Royce beat Aliyah & Ruby Riot. Royce pinned Aliyah with a knee. Dunne pinned Andrews to retain the U.K. championship. Their usual great match, said to be second best of the show. Dunne was one of the most over guys as should be expected. Dunne won clean with the bitter end. No Way Jose & Strong & Ohno beat Sanity. Entertaining match with Strong and Dain as the standouts. Strong pinned Wolfe with the end of heartache. Authors of Pain retained the tag titles over

Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. Crowd didn’t care about this. It went 7:00 with the finish being the last chapter on Sabbatelli. No Paul Ellering on this tour. Asuka beat Ember Moon to keep the women’s title. Asuka worked as a heel but the fans cheered her anyway, including her jumping Moon before the bell to get the fans to cheer mon. Good match with Asuka winning by rolling through a crossbody and holding the tights. Black & McIntyre beat Roode & Almas. Black used a moonsault to the floor on Roode and McIntyre used the Claymore kick on Almas for the pin

Raw opened on 6/9 in Jackson, MS before 4,000 fans which was near capacity for the set up. 6/10 in Alexandria, LA drew a strong 5,500 for the first show in the market in four years. 6/11 in Beaumont, TX drew 2,000

The Smackdown crew opened on 6/8 in San Juan before 11,500 fans, one of the best house show crowds of the year, since WWE hasn’t been in the market in a long time and it’s been a very strong WWE market for nearly 20 years. 6/9 in Sunrise, FL drew 5,300. 6/10 in Panama City, Panama drew 5,000 fans to Arena Roberto Duran. 6/11 in San Jose, Costa Rica for the first show there in years drew 7,000

Jackson, MS, opened with Ambrose over Miz in a non-title match with the same deal Miz did all the time when he was champion on the Smackdown brand. He said he wouldn’t defend the title in a city like Jackson. Maryse interfered and was kicked out, and in the confusion, Ambrose hit the Dirty Deeds for the win. Banks & James & Brooke beat Bliss & Jax & Emma when Banks used the bank statement on Emma. Slater & Rhyno & Kalisto beat Axel & Hawkins & O’Neil when Rhyno pinned Axel after a spinebuster. After the match, Joe laid out Slater & Rhyno & Kalisto. Neville beat Aries using the ropes to keep the cruiserweight title. Rollins beat Joe via DQ. Samson came out singing a song. Crews interrupted him which led to a match with Crews winning. Cesaro & Sheamus kept the tag titles in a three-way over Enzo & Cass and Gallows & Anderson, winning when Cesaro pinned Enzo after an uppercut forearm coming off the ropes. Reigns pinned Wyatt with a spear in the main event

Alexandria was the same show except they combined two matches and had Rollins & Ambrose beating Joe & Miz when Ambrose pinned Miz with Dirty Deeds. That way they didn’t have to have a DQ finish as they didn’t want to beat Rollins at a house show but didn’t want to beat Joe, which would be what they’d normally do, this week

The Beaumont show was the same as Alexandria except the tag title match added the Hardys and became a four-way for the titles with Enzo & Cass and Gallows & Anderson, ending when Cesaro pinned Enzo after a forearm uppercut

In San Juan, Nakamura pinned Ziggler with the Kinshasa in a basic match. Rawley & Harper & Sin Cara beat The Ascension & Rowan. Harper was really over and got a lot of chants. Rowan blew up a balloon and then let the air out of it. Harper pinned Rowan after a discus clothesline. The Colons did a promo vowing to win the tag team titles in Puerto Rico. Dillinger pinned English with the tye-breaker. Zayn & Styles beat Owens & Corbin when Styles pinned Owens with the phenomenal forearm. Styles was super over. Naomi retained her title in a five-way over Carmella, Natalya, Tamina and Lynch when she pinned Natalya with the rear view in a short match. The Usos won a four-way to keep the tag titles over the Colons (who were huge there), Breeze & Fandango and American Alpha. Primo had the figure four on Jimmy, but Jey had tagged himself in and was legal and she came off the top rope with a splash on Primo. The Colons worked as faces and were the most popular of the four. Seriously, beating the Colons in San Juan at a house show before one of the biggest house show crowds of the year. This was said to be the best match because the crowd was so behind the Colons. Main event saw Mahal pin Orton with the cobra slam after distraction from the Singh Brothers. Mahal, who is well known in Puerto Rico since he worked a lot of WWC during his career, got heat with an interview before the match but the match didn’t have much heat. Orton gave RKO’s to both Singh Brothers after the match. Jamie Espinal, an Olympic silver medal winning wrestler from Puerto Rico was the guest bell ringer. He’s looking to join WWE

Sunrise, FL was mostly the same show. The tag title was the same. They split up the six-man to Rawley & Sin Cara over The Ascension and Harper pinning Rowan. Nakamura pinned Ziggler with the Kinshasa. The audience chanted for Nakamura and sung his theme. Slow match. Corbin pinned Zayn with te End of Days. Main event saw Styles & Orton over Mahal & Owens. Styles hit the phenomenal forearm on Mahal and Orton pinned Owens after an RKO

Panama City was the same show. The only surprise is Corbin over Zayn there because when they do shows outside North America, the usual protocol is faces over unless it’s a title match. Karkamo, a local pro wrestling star in Panama, was used as the guest timekeeper for the show. Gable was the one pinned in the four-way for the tag titles. Harper was very popular in his match. Nakamura & Ziggler got a lot of dueling chants and they had what was reported as the best match of the show

.San Jose, Costa Rica was also the same show. Reports were again that Nakamura vs. Ziggler was the best match. Fans were singing Nakamura’s song the entire match. The Usos got the biggest babyface reaction in a four-way with American Alpha, Breezango and the Colons. Lots of chants for Harper wh was really over on the outside U.S. shows this week, as well as “Lucha Libre” chants for Sin Cara.