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June 26, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Money in the Bank review, G1 announcement, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 June 26, 2017

 

WWE MONEY IN THE BANK

Thumbs up 104 (18.7%)

Thumbs down 295 (53.0%)

In the middle 158 (28.4%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Men’s Money in the Bank 457

Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton 24

Kingston & E vs. Usos 17

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Naomi vs. Lana 209

Breeze & Fandango vs. Ascension 155

Women’s Money in the Bank 88

Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton 12

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 6/20.

 

Coming out of Money in the Bank, WWE is now gearing up for SummerSlam on 8/20, but first there is the Raw branded Great Balls of Fire PPV on 7/9 in Dallas, and the Smackdown branded Battleground show on 7/23 in Philadelphia.

Roman Reigns, on Raw this week, issued a challenge to the 7/9 winner between Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe. That match was originally scheduled for WrestleMania, where Reigns was to win the title, with Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman scheduled for SummerSlam. At this point, it’s not clear what the direction is. If Reigns is to beat Strowman at the next PPV and then win the title, he’d have a number of challengers around, but with the exception of Joe, he’d have already beaten all of them in big matches, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Lesnar, Strowman and Bray Wyatt. Waiting to pull the trigger at WrestleMania would give them more time to set up his challengers.

If the plans have changed, it would be the result of the weak ratings, and the idea that with Lesnar appearing infrequently, that it hurt the numbers. Still, there were plans in play for Lesnar to defend against Joe, Rollins and Balor this year before the Reigns match and as late as two weeks ago, Lesnar vs. Strowman was still scheduled as the SummerSlam main event.

Strowman returned from elbow surgery on the 6/19 Raw show to set up an ambulance match with Reigns for Great Balls of Fire. That show looks to be Lesnar vs. Joe, Rollins vs. Wyatt, The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose for the IC title, Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Hardys for the tag titles (with a likely stipulation to be added), probably a multi-person women’s title match, Balor vs. Elias Samson, Neville vs. Akira Tozawa for the cruiserweight title, and likely something along with lines of Big Cass against either Enzo Amore or Big Show, and R-Truth vs. Goldust.

The Smackdown side ran its Money in the Bank PPV on 6/18 from the Savvis Center in St. Louis, before 12,300 fans.

The show was more negatively received. If you watch shows just for pure match quality and no other reason, the show was fine, not great, but fine. There were good enough undercard matches and a great men’s Money in the Bank match.

If you care about finishes, that’s another story. It’s not a secret that WWE management, for the most part, has little clue about wrestling outside of WWE. I mean, some having a little knowledge of it. Some who are students of wrestling do know it. Some dismiss it as having any relevance past talent is being created, since there is such a wide gap between No. 1 and No. 2. But most are unaware of modern wrestling outside WWE.

Most of its fan base doesn’t have time or care to watch anything else, so it’s not completely wrong. But for people who do watch the rest of the products, the WWE presentation and booking feels like something a decade out of place. It’s all perspective. If you grew up on WWE rules of wrestling, and that’s what you think wrestling to be, ref bumps and silly finishes, it’s fine. If you watch other things, whether it’s other products or UFC, it feels like such dated thinking. It’s almost like if in 1990, when the tide in Japan was going away from the predictable double count outs and DQs, that one of the major promotions just pretended they were in their own little world instead of changing, which played a big part in the best decade of business they ever had. The funny part of this is that the changes took place elsewhere almost three decades ago.

On this show, it wasn’t any specific thing, although many seemed the most upset at the women’s Money in the Bank ending, where James Ellsworth climbed the ladder, pulled down the briefcase, and gave it to Carmella. That was clearly part of a plan that in hindsight looks more clever than anything. They pushed the idea that this first match was historical, then gave people an ending that would be anything but, with the idea of using that to garner interest in a television rematch where that first match result was negated.

But up and down the show, every key match had one of those finishes. The Usos vs. New Day title match ended with a heel walk out finish, something no other promotion nowadays would do because it feels so out place. Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton essentially repeated the finish from the prior PPV, with the only exception that it involved the Singh Brothers snatching Bob Orton Jr. at ringside to set it up.

It also featured two bouts that felt out of place, a Naomi vs. Lana match where Carmella’s distraction played a part in the finish and where the only purpose seemed to be to get Lana over as being the hot one, with the sexiest outfit. You can market it like a glorified T&A show or as a glorified athletic show, and instead of going in the past direction, or what they purport to be the future direction, they want both. In doing both, you are going to succeed at neither. If Lana and the match got a big reaction, and that reasonably could have happened, it wouldn’t matter if it was a bad match from a technical standpoint or she didn’t deserve the spot based on ability. It would have worked. The lesson of it not getting over is that at least today, marketing a woman as super hot as much as possible, and then sending her out there to have below par matches doesn’t get over like it would have 20 years ago.

The other match, an unannounced match with Tyler Breeze & Fandango vs. The Ascension, was put in the former women’s match spot as the buffer, and was exactly that.

It’s not that any of the finishes on their own were bad as much as the preponderance of them, leaving one with the reaction of why should they even care about the product. Even worse, neither Shane McMahon nor Daniel Bryan were at the show, made clear in storyline, and what does it say about your PPV shows value if the two top executives prioritize Father’s Day at home as being more important in their lives than attending the show.

Still, Money in the Bank has history as a big event. While not sold out, the Savvis Center crowd was big, and they were extremely hot for hometown wrestler Randy Orton challenging for the title. It did get significantly more reaction, double in fact of the 5/21 Payback show, when it comes to Google searches. We had 557 poll responses, a number that makes no sense as with the exception of last week’s Dominion show (580), it was more than any poll we’ve done since the 2013 WrestleMania.

An interesting note regarding the odds is that all favorites won except the Usos, and they retained but lost. Their odds swung at the same time as the other winners, indicating that finish went back-and-forth. Another key thing was the insiders who do know were heavily betting that the women’s MITB winner would fail in her cash-in. So that means a decision had to be made strongly at a meeting that was known about where either Carmella wasn’t going to win the real match next week, or if she does, that it’s already decided she fails in the cash in. Normal odds are close to 90% that the person winning will cash in, but it was 9-to-1 odds for the winner on this show to fail to cash in, and they don’t get that long for that question unless it’s a sure thing in the eyes of the people who know. And yes, we do know Vince often changes his mind and there is no sure thing when it comes to short-term.

There was an injury of sorts in the ladder match. Kevin Owens injured his leg, and off camera, had to be helped to the back after the match ended. I’m not sure where it happened, although he was slammed off the top rope and landed badly on the ladder. He did continue working the match from there. But in leaving the ring, it looked like he couldn’t put any weight on one leg. We got word late that night that Owens was okay, but he was limping significantly at the house show the next night in Indianapolis. He wasn’t walking all that well at TV, but he did a match with Chad Gable and while it was kept short, he showed no signs of an injury there.

1. Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder beat Primo & Epico Colon in 8:24. This was a basic pre-show opener. Nothing wrong and nothing special. Rawley was back to his old gimmick, minus some of the stuff that wasn’t working before. They worked on Ryder’s left knee most of the way. The finish saw Rawley hit the running punch in the corner on Primo and then Ryder pinned Primo after the Hype Ryder. **

2. Carmella won the Women’s Money in the Bank ladder match over Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Natalya and Tamina in 13:16. They worked hard and traded big moves. They tried to put this over as a historical event, and talked about the pioneers of women’s wrestling. I guess the rule is that if you are in the WWE Hall of Fame, even if you’re Jacqueline or Beth Phoenix, you are a trailblazer and pioneer but if you’re Mildred Burke or June Byers or Cora Livingston, you don’t exist since you’re not in the Hall of Fame. And the original trailblazer and all-time legend is now Mae Young, for no other reason than she’s Stephanie’s favorite. I can’t wait for a baseball historical video where Ron Swaboda is a trailblazer and Lou Gehrig never existed. They traded big moves and worked hard. They’d climb up and someone would pull them down. At one point Natalya had Lynch in the sharpshooter and Carmella broke it up, which made no sense at all. Charlotte speared Tamina into the steps. She then did the move of the show, a what looked to be a plancha off the top rope where she flew forward, but in flight, twisted around and landed with a moonsault taking out Tamina and Natalya. Lynch then power bombed Carmella off the ladder. Lynch was about to win when James Ellsworth tipped the ladder over and she caught her throat on the top rope. Ellsworth then climbed to the top, grabbed the briefcase, and threw it down to Carmella on the ground. This led to a long discussion with the referees arguing whether that should stand. It went so long everyone was expecting Shane McMahon to overrule it. It later came out Shane and Bryan weren’t there. Ellsworth announced that Carmella had won, which I guess made it official. ***

3. The New Day, of Big E & Kofi Kingston, beat the Usos via count out so the Usos retained the tag titles in 12:16. The work here was really good but this was marred by a finish more than anything. Big E splashed Jey on the apron. Kingston took a bump over the top when Jimmy pulled down the ropes and he was worked over. E made the hot tag and speared Jimmy off the apron with both crashing on the floor. Jimmy did a tope on E who turned it into a belly-to-belly on the floor. Jey later went for a splash and E was supposed to catch him, but didn’t but had to pick him up and went for the big ending, but Jimmy saved. The save was late and the crowd thought the ref held up the count and booed. Xavier Woods started playing the trombone and distracted the Usos. Kingston did a twisting Nestea plunge dive. Kingston & E did the double-team Midnight hour on Jey, but Jimmy pulled Jey out of the ring at two. The Usos then just walked out, taking the count out finish. The idea a title can’t change hands via DQ or count out in 2017 or that they still use those booking crutches only works for people weaned on one system and with each year becomes further out of touch with everyone else, especially when there are people who argue internally about credibility in the most insignificant things and ignore this. ***1/4

4. Naomi pinned Lana to keep the women’s title in 7:26. Lana got light cheers and almost no boos. Naomi got about the same reaction. When Lana was on offense, this was fine. The crowd wasn’t into it, but it didn’t look bad. Naomi’s comeback looked bad because Lana’s selling has a ways to go, which isn’t her fault. She’s had far too little experience to expect her to perform on a PPV title match stage if you’re selling serious women’s competition. And if you’re selling sex, the subtly isn’t going to work in 2017, you can only be blatant and I’m not sure that is what they’re looking for big picture. Lana kicked out of the rear view. Lana got a near fall with a sit out spinebuster. Carmella came out teasing a cash in and in the distraction, Naomi got her Lucha Libre stretch on for the submission. *

They did a “Fashion Vice” segment, with Tyler Breeze and Fandango

acting like they were on “Miami Vice.” They tried to make it like the 80s with the old school portable phones which read that it was property of Paul Heyman, who used that as a gimmick in WCW, AWA and other territories. They had an old VHS tape player hooked up to an old TV set. A mystery team with their voices altered were on the tape challenging them to a match later in the show.

Mike & Maria Bennett debuted. It was notable that they were also at the Smackdown tapings, but their interview took place during a commercial break there. As the act played out, they are Maria & Mike Kanellis, with her as the same first lady of wrestling character she did in TNA. She’s a lot better off in that role than being in the hot girl who doesn’t wrestle well role. The idea is that he took on her name and I think the idea is his big claim to fame is her wife for heat. We’ll see how it plays out, but for a debut segment, it was good.

5. Jinder Mahal pinned Randy Orton to retain the WWE title in 20:57. Before the match, they introduced Greg Gagne, Larry Hennig, Baron Von Raschke, Sgt. Slaughter, Bob Orton Jr. and Ric Flair as “St. Louis legends.” They were all in the front row. Because of the nature of what they were doing, it was probably for the best that they didn’t have Larry Matysik in the front row, but it’s still really weird that Vince McMahon specifically nixed his invitation to come to the show. Gagne had 12 or so St. Louis matches in his career. Hennig never worked for Sam Muchnick, but did work twice in the city around 1985. The others were all significant stars. Von Raschke did the claw pose which got over. Few know but it was in St. Louis where Von Raschke started using the claw, as it was an idea to get him over since Fritz Von Erich had lost a match where he would never wrestle in St. Louis again years earlier (at the time Fritz’s plan was to get out of wrestling, move to the beach and run a beachfront fishing shop and raise his kids in person and get off the road, but instead started wrestling in Dallas, got over huge, ended up in control of the territory and the rest is history). Von Erich was the original master of the claw, so Von Raschke became the Clawmaster. Slaughter got a big pop since he’s a WWE legend, and Orton Jr. got the hometown pop “St. Louis’ own” and Flair got the biggest of all. Flair, Orton and Harley Race had been mentioned in the storyline for this match and JBL said that Race would have been there if he hadn’t had his accident a few weeks ago. Orton came out fast. Mahal flipped him over the top rope and Orton started selling his left knee. At one point Orton back suplexed Mahal on the barricade right in front of his father. Mahal used the figure four in front of Flair. Orton reversed and Mahal made the ropes. Mahal then used the spinning toe hold. No Funks were at ringside. Orton did a superplex and it was noted his father made the move famous. They did the yay-boo spot which in WWE is supposed to be saved only for Cena matches, which means they gave these guys more leeway. Orton used the draping DDT and hit the RKO, but one of the Singh Brothers put Mahal’s foot on the ropes. The ref saw it and Orton had to beg him not to DQ Mahal for outside interference, which shows the stupidity of that rule in any logic. So the ref kicked the Singh Brothers out. They were leaving, but then came back and grabbed Bob Orton. Randy Orton then attacked them and destroyed both, including a back suplex on Samir on the barricade and another on Samil onto a table. At least this time he didn’t drop him on his head. He hit the RKO on Samir on the floor and the RKO on Samil through a table. He got in the ring where Mahal immediately hit the cobra slam for the pin. ***½

6. Tyler Breeze & Fandango beat The Ascension in 3:48. A nothing match that was clearly just a buffer. Fandango pinned Viktor with an inside cradle. *

7. Baron Corbin won the Money in the Bank ladder match over A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn and Dolph Ziggler in 29:48. Corbin attacked Nakamura during his ring introduction and beat him up with a ladder and left him laying. Nakamura was taken to the back and the match started without him. He came back at the 22:00 mark. This was one of the WWE’s best bouts of the year. It was very clear the idea of the match was to make Corbin a star. Zayn did a running flip dive on Owens. Corbin took out Ziggler with a Deep Six on the floor and Zayn did a split legged moonsault on Corbin on the floor. Zayn started selling his left knee. Owens took everyone out with a ladder. Zayn did the spot where he slammed Owens off the top rope onto a ladder. Corbin was about to win but Ziggler used a zig zag to take him off the ladder. Zayn came over the top of the ladder with a sunset flip power bomb on Ziggler which got a “This is awesome” chant. Zayn gave Owens a half nelson German suplex on the apron. He was climbing but Styles did the springboard forearm to knock him off the ladder. Corbin choke slammed Styles on the ladder and he bounced off it. Styles gave Owens a Death Valley bomb on a ladder. Styles climbed up and was at the top when Ziggler pulled the ladder away. So Styles was hanging on, trying to unhook the belt, but couldn’t do so and fell to the floor. The belt was a lot higher for this match than for the women’s match. Ziggler had small cut on his forehead. Corbin was about to win when Nakamura came back out. The crowd went nuts for his return. He knocked Corbin off the ladder, hit a Kinshasa off the middle ropes on Ziggler and a second one. He used a spinning kick and a reverse powerslam on Zayn. This match was really the first time Nakamura worked like big show Nakamura in Japan. He gave Owens a Kinshasa on the floor. Nakamura was climbing up to win when Styles came back. They did a clear tease for a major Styles vs. Nakamura match down the line. They traded elbows and went back and forth. Nakamura used a choke and a reverse powerslam on Styles. He went for the Kinshasa but Styles hit him with a jumping forearm. The Styles-Nakamura action here was the best thing on the show. Both climbed to the top and were trading elbows at the time. The crowd was loud doing dueling chants. Corbin then tipped over the ladder, with both landing throat first on the top rope. Corbin the climbed up to win. ****½


There were no real surprises on 6/20 when the 20 participants in this year’s G-1 Climax tournament were named.

The tournament, which starts 7/17 in Sapporo and will finish with shows on 8/11, 8/12 and 8/13 at Sumo Hall in Tokyo, has only one non-New Japan regular, Kota Ibushi, who has appeared before and has worked big shows this year as Tiger Mask W. Ibushi, who is one of the best workers in the business, was a standout in the 2013 and 2015 tournaments, including having one of the best matches in tournament history in 2013 with Shinsuke Nakamura.

The breakdown of the A and B blocks will be made on 6/26, and then the lineups will be announced on 6/27.

The participants announced were Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin, Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Yoshi-Hashi, Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tetsuya Naito, Seiya Sanada, Evil, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata, Juice Robinson, Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr. and Ibushi.

All of the 17 we said were locks are in. Notable names not in are Tanga Roa, Ray Rowe, Hanson, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Cody, Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi.

Nagata will be in his final tournament, although considering final tournament booking last year with Hiroyoshi Tenzan and in the Best of the Super Juniors with Jushin Liger, that doesn’t appear to mean that much past he’ll be losing most of his matches.

In most cases, it’s a numbers game. Cody, who was originally in the tournament, was clearly out when he took an indie booking in the middle. If he wins the ROH title on 6/23 from Christopher Daniels, his not being in would make sense. For one, it takes him off all ROH shows for several weeks, and more important, it doesn’t serve ROH any purpose to have its world champion lose multiple times over three weeks. Granted, that is a mentality from another generation as far as trying to sell your world champion as the best wrestler in the world, and thus he shouldn’t be losing unless it’s to set up a title match in your own company. But the promotion does have the right to do it feeling it protects the value of the title and for fans who want wins and losses to matter, it makes sense to keep the champion out of a position where he’d come across as anything but one of the top guys, especially if Cody wins the title and then loses to Okada in Long Beach. Really, unless he was going into the final four, in which case if he was portrayed at that level he should do it, it makes no sense for ROH to have its champion in. When New Japan and NOAH were working together, the current GHC champion was never put in G-1 for the same reason.

The IWGP champion, at least in theory, has to be in it and whether he wins or not, and the IWGP champion almost never wins the tournament, in most years they are protected and their losses are there to build main events for the rest of the year.

Six of the 20 participants are former winners, with Tanahashi winning in 2007 and 2015, Makabe in 2009, Okada in 2012 and 2014, Goto in 2008, Omega last year and Naito in 2013.

Omega was a surprise winner last year since no foreigner had ever won the tournament before, and only a few had ever reached the finals. The three favorites to win are Naito (the big favorite), Tanahashi and Omega. Okada will likely be kept strong and either lose on the last day of his block to a guy who will challenge him for the title later in the year, or in the finals, to the person who would likely headline the Tokyo Dome with him. That’s provided Okada doesn’t lose to Cody on 7/1. If Cody wins, then Okada would switch to being one of the favorites, if not the favorite.

The big question, for now, is how the blocks are split up. One would think Tanahashi, Okada, Naito and Omega would have two in the A block and two in the B block. How that’s set up depends on what matches they need and what they want to avoid. Tanahashi vs. Okada is always great, and did a 30:00 draw last year in one of the best matches of the year. Omega vs. Naito was last year’s best tournament match. Omega vs. Okada is this year’s legendary feud and with the draw, it is open ended for another title match. If they are in the same block, it makes sense for Omega to win and set up a title match either at King of Pro Wrestling in October or the Dome show. Tanahashi vs. Omega was only done once, and it was before Omega had the real momentum he has now, so it’s like a new match.

Plus it creates all kinds of unique singles matches for people like Ibushi and Sabre Jr. Based on teases, Omega and Ibushi are likely in the same block so they can do a modern version of their 2012 Budokan Hall match that is considered by many as the best small promotion match in modern Japanese history. As far as if Tanahashi, Naito or Okada would be in that same block depend more on what is planned for the Tokyo Dome and what matches you either want to avoid to make them fresh, or not avoid because they can play into the story of what is planned there.

People like Elgin, Ishii and Sanada will likely have their best matches of the year. Suzuki will probably have memorable matches against at least three of his opponents and Yoshi-Hashi and Robinson are both on the rise and while they’ll lose to most of the top guys, each is likely to get one signature win. While they probably won’t make the final four, they should provide exciting matches against the top guys. Goto, Makabe, Kojima and Nagata are likely for the same role as most recent years, where they win some and lose some and also have a couple of great bouts with the key people. They’ll probably drop the ball on the Nagata Cinderella story, and really, unlike with the Junior tournament, there really are far more important future storylines in play here than just Nagata’s last tournament.


Matt Hughes, one of the biggest stars in UFC and the company’s only two-time Hall of Famer, was seriously injured when the pickup truck he was driving was hit by a train on 6/16.

Hughes, 43, who in recent months has talked about coming back, was listed in critical condition.

Hughes was driving his truck by himself on a road, Beeler Trail, in Raymond, IL at about 10:45 a.m. that morning when a train, coming from Hughes’ right side, crashed into the truck. It has not been explained how that happened or how he wouldn’t have heard the sound of the train coming.

The crossing didn’t have a barricade to block traffic if a train was coming and was marked only with a sign. Hughes was unconscious when the first responders got to him.

He was airlifted to HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, IL, where he remains in critical condition.

His sister, Beth Ulrici, wrote on 6/18 that, “Our family is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support

Matt is stable and has no broken bones or internal injuries. He has some minor lacerations and bruising and is currently being weaned from his ventilator. He is not yet awake and not responding as we would like to see, but we see the fight in him. Matt’s strength and determination along with God’s mercy and grace will bring him through this.”

Hughes is believed to have suffered severe head trauma. According to MMAjunkie.com, the Triumph Over Tragedy Foundation, a nonprofit group that Hughes is on the board of, is offering to transfer Hughes to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta which specializes in traumatic brain injuries.

Reggie Jones, who founded the group, said they were working closely with the family including having him evaluated by one of the country’s top traumatic brain injury centers.

If he pulls through, authorities are hoping to get more answers to see if he can recall what happened, as well as wait for toxicology tests to come back.

On UFC’s live show from Singapore the next day, they had a graphic stating, “Our thoughts are with Matt Hughes and his family,” and announcers Jon Gooden and Dan Hardy spoke about Hughes briefly during the broadcast.

Hughes was a two-time UFC welterweight champion and is generally considered, along with Georges St-Pierre, one of the two best welterweights in the history of MMA. Both B.J. Penn and St-Pierre became major stars based on beating him for the championship. His 2006 win over Royce Gracie was, at the time, the biggest PPV event in UFC history, doing 625,000 buys, a number that Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz and Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell both broke by the end of the year.

When UFC hit it big on television in 2005, Hughes was one of the company’s signature stars along with Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Rich Franklin. A physically strong wrestler, he was extremely popular at points as the small-town powerhouse who grew strong by working on a farm, which he continued to work on long after becoming a star. But he could come across as arrogant, which made him a great opponent for St-Pierre, who defeated him in two of their three matches.

Hughes retired after being knocked out in the first round by Josh Koscheck on September 24, 2011. He was hired in January 2013 as Vice President of Athlete Development and Governmental Relations, as a liaison between talent and management. At the time it was expected that he, Liddell and Forrest Griffin were to have jobs for life with the company based on their roles in the growth of the sport. However, when WME IMG purchased the company last summer, they fired both Liddell and Hughes. Hughes had talked of late about being interested in fighting again, but against guys of around his same age.

Hughes is in the UFC Hall of Fame both as a competitor, along with for his second fight with Frank Trigg on April 16, 2005, considered among the most famous fights in company history. Hughes recovered from a low blow that wasn’t called, and nearly being choked out, to pick Trigg up and give him a running Oklahoma Stampede slam and then choking him out in 4:05. The finish of that fight plays in the arena as part of a video montage before the start of every UFC main card, and always gets a big reaction even though many spectators have seen the footage dozens of times.

Hughes was Illinois state high school champion in 1991 and 1992 at 145 pounds, going undefeated both years and winning his last 88 matches. His three year varsity record in high school was 131-2.

He was a four-time collegiate All-American, the first two years at the Junior College level and the final two years at the Division I level at Eastern Illinois University where he placed eighth in 1996 and fifth in 1997 at 158 pounds.

He debuted as a fighter in 1998 and won with a powerslam in 15 seconds. He started with UFC in 1999. He defeated Carlos Newton to win the welterweight title on November 2, 2001. It was a finish that many pro wrestling groups, including WWE (for a Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker main event), copied. Newton had him in a triangle choke, and Hughes lifted him up from that position and power bombed Newton, knocking him out cold. Hughes himself was almost choked completely out and Newton felt that Hughes started to slam him, blacked out in the middle and dropped him. Hughes later admitted to his corner that he was out before the slam.

He lost the title on January 31, 2004, in Las Vegas, to Penn. After Penn left the promotion, he regained it by submitting St-Pierre on October 22, 2004, in Atlantic City with an armbar at 4:59. St-Pierre defeated him via knockout after a head kick and punches on the ground on November 18, 2006, in Sacramento. He retired with a 45-9 record.

He was also named to the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame in 2013 and is in the Eastern Illinois University Sports Hall of Fame.

He has the fifth most wins in UFC history with 18 and fifth most wins in championship matches with nine.


Steve Finley, better known as Buddy Wayne, a Pacific Northwest journeyman wrestler was trained Bryan Alvarez and was one of the first regular guests on the old Figure Four and current Wrestling Observer and Figure Four website, passed away on 6/16 from a massive heart attack.

Wayne had open heart surgery many years ago which looked to end his career, but had come back and he and Alvarez, who wrestled each other well over 100 times over nearly two decades in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, had wrestled a late as last year.

His death came out of nowhere with no warning signs and while he had heart issues when he was in his early 40s, he was believed to have been past that and in good health.

Finley was also one of the early round of pro wrestlers to subscribe to the Observer, perhaps even before he started in wrestling, if not right from at the start of his career, and was a regular reader for decades.

Finley was known for an outrageous personality, as well as being a very good worker in the ring. Alvarez noted that his size, he was about 5-foot-4 ½ legitimately and maybe 180 pounds, limited him greatly during the 80s and 90s when he was young. He worked a number of matches for both WWF and WCW sporadically from 1991 through 2003, but always as an enhancement wrestler in the days of television squash matches. He wrestled the likes of Bam Bam Bigelow, Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, Edge, Booker T, Ricky Steamboat, Marty Jannetty and Jinsei Shinzaki. Many of his matches are available on YouTube.

“Buddy was pretty much universally renowned as the best worker in the Northwest for well over a decade,” said Alvarez. “He could go into any town, before any crowd, including crowds of very casual fans who didn’t follow indy wrestling or have any idea who most of the local wrestlers were, and have them going crazy by the end of his match. And he didn’t have to use anything resembling cheat heat, yelling at the people, flipping them off, etc. He’d just work a match and he’d work it in such a way that no matter how little they cared when the opening bell rang, by the end of them match, he’d be the biggest heel in the building and they’d go nuts when the babyface beat him. And he was the lightest guy I’ve ever been in the ring with. We’d chop the hell out of each other, sometimes until we both bled, but aside from that, he would never touch you.”

One of his last matches in a WWE ring was with Harry Smith (Davey Boy Smith Jr.).

“I had the pleasure of having a WWE dark match on my high school summer vacation in Kelowna, BC vs. Buddy,” wrote Smith. “It was before a Smackdown taping Aug. 2003. Although the match was nowhere near what my classic masterpiece match vs. George King was two years later. Insert joke here. It was a great moment and a really fun solid match. Actually, it was touted to me at the time as a perfect dark match opener by some peers. Buddy was always a super nice guy and I’m sure offered a lot of his students lots of knowledge. Sorry to hear of his passing.”

Alvarez felt that with his ability, had Wayne come along now, he’d have been a major star on the independent scene.

Finley started pro wrestling at the age of 18 for All-Star Wrestling, the British Columbia regional promotion, at the same time Mauro Ranallo was starting his career as a teenage heel manager and later got his first gig as a pro wrestling announcer.

“I was deeply shocked to hear of his passing,” said Ranallo. “I remember him being ultra charismatic as a neophyte babyface when I started my career in 1986. He was a terrific worker and a decent promo who was always smiling. Unfortunately, his smaller stature hurt him. When the territories went away, I was glad to see him continue to pursue his passion and eventually give back as a trainer. 50 is much too young to leave his loved ones behind.”

“He always made me laugh.”

But he was a fan, as he would talk about when he first started wrestling, that because Mid South Wrestling was on in the Northwest late Saturday night, he’d speed home after his matches or rush to the hotel to make sure he was there in time for the show.

“To describe my friendship with Buddy Wayne is simple,” said Missy Hiatt. “He was the best friend that I ever had in the business that I never met. I became a Buddy fan from his Figure Four Weekly podcast appearances. One day I shot him an e-mail to say how much I enjoyed his show, since I listen to a lot of audio on my commute to work. Over the last seven years, we would e-mail each other weekly and sometimes daily. We never worked in the same place. We have a handful of the same friends and grew up no different wrestling. Yet we were usually on the same opinion on what we enjoy in wrestling and what we dislike. We were both big-time territory fans and we would send each other books, old newsletters, video links and videos when we found something that we found entertaining. We would break it down and reminisce, since we both loved old school television from Southwest, Mid South, Memphis, Continental and Puerto Rico. Over the last few years we both became more passionate about Lucha Libre. We both marveled at Ultimo Guerrero, based on his age, charisma and how he can control a crowd. We both loved watching L.A. Park’s brawls and would scour YouTube to find his brawls from obscure companies. We compared L.A. Park to Bruiser Brody in the way he would brawl and never do a job.”

He wrestled from the start as Buddy Wayne, Buddy Wayne Gillis, Wayne Gillis and sometimes under a mask as the Atomic Kid. The majority of his career was in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, but he did work other places like Mexico and OVW.

He was an area veteran and one of the best workers in the Pacific Northwest in the mid-90s, when Alvarez, who was a gymnast and had done his own backyard stye promotion, started working for ICW, a promotion run by Diamond Timothy Flowers.

Because both were smaller, Flowers linked the two up and had Wayne train Alvarez, who Flowers booked as both Bryan Alvarez and later Chico Alvarez, in pro wrestling and they became regular opponents and longtime good friends.

“In all of our matches, and we had literally hundreds of them, the only time I ever remember him hitting me hard on anything other than a chop was actually my fault,” said Alvarez. “I grabbed the wrong leg and so he had to hit me with an enzuigiri using his bad leg, and he accidentally waffled me in the head. But that was the only time. He was the best. He’d been told many times that if he was six feet tall, he’d have been a millionaire. If I ever had a good match in my life, it was because of Buddy Wayne.”

Wayne had opened up the Buddy Wayne School of Wrestling in Everett, WA, and trained numerous wrestlers who worked the variety of different independent promotions in the Northwest. He worked regularly until undergoing major heart surgery at the age of about 43, but was still wrestling on occasion, and did matches as late as last year.

He was a stickler about professional ring gear, boots and being in shape. He worked out all the time, despite all of his injuries and his age, feeling that he still needed to look like he was somebody.

“Buddy was very old school on his wrestling school and proud of his students that could have a match by calling it and when they could work a hold and still incorporate the modern day psychology to it,” said Hiatt. “A few months ago, he sent me a tag team match with his female students. I was blown away that they even incorporated Lucha to it. Buddy totally got it on what worked and how to work a solid style that would get his students high praise when they went to seminars and tryouts.”

In 1995 and 1996, he held the Championship Wrestling USA TV championship five times, trading it with the likes of Col. DeBeers, Bart Sawyer, Sumito and Matt Borne for Sandy Barr’s promotion which ran the Oregon and Washington territory. As a teenager, he teamed with The Frog, Travis Tomko (not the WWE/New Japan/TNA wrestler of the same name), to form a tag team for Al Tomko’s All-Star Wrestling in the 80s.

He also formed a tag team with Moondog Ed Moretti in the Northwest.

“Very saddened to hear about the passing of PNW legend Buddy Wayne,” wrote Kyle O’Reilly. “One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, an outstanding reputation.”

“Learned so much from Buddy,” wrote wrestler/historian Matt Farmer. “One of my all-time favorites. Such a character. So very sad about this.”

Wayne, who was born May 28, 1967, was married and had one son.

“He was so proud of his son, who literally grew up with a wrestling ring on the family grounds,” said Hiatt. “Buddy would take his son to bookings to referee and just for the fun of a road trip. I remember Buddy being so proud that two girls knocked on the door to ask his wife for permission to see if his son would walk them to school. I joked with Buddy that maybe his son will be the new white-meat babyface that will bring the girls back to wrestling.”


Tim Hague, a former UFC fighter, passed away on 6/18 due to brain injuries suffered in a boxing match two nights earlier in Edmonton at the age of 34.

Hague was fighting Adam Braidwood, a former defensive end for the Edmonton Eskimos from 2006 to 2010, who, while playing pro football, knocked out the late Ryan Jimmo, who later became a UFC fighter, in just 1:54 in his only MMA fight in 2007.

Braidwood moved to pro boxing where he had a 7-1 record, with his only loss in 2009, before he was training full-time for boxing. He was considered the best heavyweight boxer in Western Canada.

Hague, a full-time school teacher, was 1-2 as a boxer after compiling a 21-13 record in MMA fights from 2006 to 2016. Between MMA and boxing, Hague had been knocked out four times in the previous 22 months.

Hague thought the fight with Braidwood was his shot at making his name in boxing. But he was clearly overmatched.

In the first round, Braidwood knocked Hague down four times. There was a point when Hague was taking a lot of unanswered shots in the first round that it could, and probably should have been stopped. But Hague did recover to a degree. The fourth knockdown came at the end of the round. All of the knockdowns saw Hague quickly recover, although after the fourth one it was questionable whether he should have been allowed to continue.

There was a fifth knockdown early in the second round, before a solid punch knocked Hague cold and he was down for a long time. But he got up and went to the back. He was then taken to the hospital as people knew he wasn’t right.

He was in a coma in the hospital because he needed surgery to relieve the pressure from bleeding on his brain, a situation very similar to what happened in April with Katsuyori Shibata.

Hague was a 6-foot-4, 265-pound powerhouse who came into UFC in 2009 with a 9-1 record. He debuted, using a guillotine to choke out Pat Barry in a very exciting and memorable 102 second fight in Las Vegas at UFC 98. He was best known for the dubious distinction of being the victim in one of the quickest knockouts in UFC history when he lost to Todd Duffee in seven seconds on August 29, 2009. He was cut in 2010 after his third straight UFC loss.

But after scoring a first round knockout of Travis Wiuff on October 1, 2010, he was brought back to UFC, where he lost to Matt Mitrione via first round knockout on January 22, 2011, in Fort Hood, TX. At that point, he was cut a second time.

He had bounced around smaller promotions since that time, including going 3-0 in the World Series of Fighting. He had lost four of his last five MMA fights, ending his career on July 15, 2016, with a 33 second knockout loss to Michael Andryszak in Russia. He was knocked out four times in 2015 and 2016, but the story of his career was mostly quick fights, win or lose.

In his 34 fight MMA career, only one of his fights went the distance, and 19 had ended in the first round, with him winning 13 of those 19.

The City of Edmonton is opening up a third-party investigation regarding the death.

This case, of an MMA fighter, going into boxing and the end result would naturally bring up the questions about sanctioning the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor fight. While realistically, the idea of a fight between the greatest boxer of this generation, even at 40, against a guy who never boxed professionally, should not be sanctioned, there’s simply too much money involved for it not to be sanctioned and that’s just the reality of the situation. The Hague situation is a strong argument for a three knockdown rule in boxing.


Chris Bryan, the co-owner of Absolute Intense Wrestling out of Cleveland, where a lot of today’s biggest stars worked early in their careers, passed away on 6/19.

Bryan, better known as Chandler Biggins, the name he used in wrestling as a promoter, booker and podcast host, had been in poor health since March.

He was hospitalized, believed to be from a bacteria infection although the exact cause was never made clear, back in March and it was considered at the time a life-or-death situation after he underwent emergency surgery.

Over the last few months he underwent more surgeries, including one within the last month, and during the ordeal at one point was in a medically induced coma. Bryan was more than 400 pounds and had been on a ventilator and had dropped more than 200 pounds during his hospital stay.

Bryan and John Thorne ran the AIW promotion. They were huge fans who followed wrestling everywhere, and were known for booking independent talent of all types, usually before the promotions like ROH or PWG exposed them to a larger audience. Their biggest event each year was the J.T. Lightning Memorial tournament, honoring longtime area wrestler and promoter James Haase, who passed away in 2011 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 41. Bryan also did a podcast called “The Card is Going to Change.”

“He’s one of the best promoters that I ever worked for,” said Missy Hiatt, who did a wedding angle in the promotion a few years ago. “He started out as an annoying heckling fan that would draw negative attention to himself on Ohio indie shows.”

Bryan and Thorne would use the top indie talent and mix in older wrestlers and gimmick wrestlers.

He booked often to entertain himself. He was a big fan of Memphis and Continental Wrestling, and used people like Robert Fuller, Tracy Smothers, Jimmy Golden and others and mix them in with Zack Sabre Jr. or Pentagon Jr. They were one of the first promotions to book MMA fighters like Matt Riddle, Tom Lawlor and Shayna Baszler, and booked the recent Lawlor vs. Dan Severn match. He also was the first U.S. promoter to use Grado after he became a U.K. star, and brought back Dennis Stamp for his final match.

Recently married Johnny Gargano, who was one of the company’s biggest stars, and Candice Dawson (Candice LeRae) met while working for the promotion.

“I feel the need to write about him because I want to make sure that as many people as possible know that last night, we lost one of the good ones,” said Kevin Steen aka Kevin Owens in a message sent out before the 6/20 show in Dayton. “I first met Chris, who is known to a lot of people within the industry as Chandler Biggins, in 2013. He and his buddy, John Thorne, run a great independent promotion in Cleveland, OH by the name of AIW.

Chris and John often gave me credit for helping AIW grow by reaching a new audience with my matches, but they deserve credit for rekindling in me a love for independent wrestling that was getting thinner and thinner as the end of my tenure on the independent scene drew closer. My dream from the start was always to be in WWE and after 15 years on the indies, I was more than ready to move on. Thankfully, WWE came calling and I realized my dream but getting to perform in AIW and meeting Chris and John lifted my spirits and made me feel like I could still have fun on the indies at the time. I truly can’t thank them enough for that.”

Michael Elgin called him one of his favorite people ever.

He was a big wrestling magazine collector and subscribed to this publication for decades.

The promotion is planning a special event on 7/21 in his honor.


ESPN on 6/21 released ESPY nominations with only a few mentions of UFC fighters, after fighters had won awards the past three years.

Aside from Conor McGregor being nominated for Best International Athlete, the only other category UFC athletes were listed in were Best Fighter, which McGregor and Demetrious Johnson were nominated in.

The ESPY awards are a fan-voted popularity contest, and UFC fighters due to name recognition have done well. Ronda Rousey won Female Athlete of the Year in 2014 and 2015, as well as Best Fighter in 2015. McGregor won Best fighter in 2016, while Holly Holm won biggest upset in 2015.

McGregor in the International Athlete category was nominated along with boxer Canelo Alvarez, sprinter Usain Bolt, swimmer Katinka Hosszu and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.

On a worldwide basis, Ronaldo is the most popular, by far, of the four, with McGregor in second place, with, based on Google trends, a huge gap between first and second, and also a huge gap between second and third (Bolt). In the U.S., where the voting comes from, McGregor would be 40 percent ahead of Ronaldo, meaning he’d actually be the favorite.

The best fighter category has boxers Terrence Crawford, Gennady Golovkin and Andre Ward along with McGregor and Johnson. Given the voting period, McGregor should be a major favorite in that as well.

Two wrestlers were nominated, Hodge Trophy winner Zain Retherford of Penn State was nominated for Best Male College athlete along with Wake Forest soccer star Ian Hareks, Kansas basketball player Frank Mason, Maryland Lacrosse player Matt Rambo and Clemson football player DeShaun Watson. Given the profile of wrestling compared with football and basketball, he wouldn’t figure to have a chance.

Kyle Snyder was nominated for Best U.S. Olympic male athlete along with Ashton Eaton the Decathlon winner, and swimmers Ryan Murphy and Michael Phelps. Once again, in a fan voted award, Snyder would figure to have little chance.


Holly Holm came into Saturday’s show in Singapore with three straight losses, but to show how thin the championship talent is in two different UFC divisions, after her win over Bethe Correia, she could be offered title shots in two different divisions.

With the UFC having a women’s featherweight division and only two featherweights, Cris Cyborg Justino and the just-signed Invicta champion Megan Anderson, who will battle for the vacant title on 7/29 in Anaheim, Holm could almost surely get the winner if she asked for it.

Holm probably should have been the first champion, given that 63 percent of the media had her winning over Germaine de Randamie in their 2/11 title fight in Brooklyn, but all three judges went the other way.

Instead, it was her third loss in a row. But even at 135, where they have many fighters under contract, the winner of the 7/8 title match with Amanda Nunes defending against Valentina Shevchenko, there are really only three possible contenders for the winner right now, Sara McMann, who faces Ketlen Vieira on 7/29, Raquel Pennington, who hasn’t fought since beating Miesha Tate in Madison Square Garden in November, and Holm. The actual rankings have Shevchenko as the top contender, Julianna Pena (who Shevchenko beat) as the No. 2 contender but she lost decisively in that fight, the retired Ronda Rousey at No. 3, Pennington (who Holm beat in 2015) at No. 4 and Holm at No. 5.

With Rousey out of the picture, Holm is the biggest name and would mean the most challenging for the title. Perhaps they’d go with Pennington and match McMann or Pena against Holm. I suppose it’s even possible they give de Randamie a title shot at the Nunes-Shevchenko winner. But either way, Holm would be the business pick, and in a close race, that’s usually the pick. Then again, the fight UFC would want the most if Cyborg wins the 145-pound title , would be Cyborg vs. Holm, which would be the biggest women’s fight from a name value standpoint the company could put on. If Holm is offered that and doesn’t take it, and really, she shouldn’t given the size difference, perhaps UFC won’t be as apt to offer her a shot at 135.

Holm’s win over Correia in the main event was as dull a fight as you could imagine, until it wasn’t. Holm is a counter fighter and people have started figuring out if you limit your aggressiveness with her, she’s not going to strike first. So you had two women who were playing the game of not striking first.

The crowd hated it. They were booing through two rounds of mimicking the famous Shamrock vs. Severn fight. Then, in the third round, Holm threw a high kick, the same kick she used to beat Rousey, and the fight was over with one blow.

Overall, the 6/17 show in Kallang, Singapore, at Singapore Indoor Stadium, was a normal show. The show drew 8,414 fans and did an $839,300 gate.

The two top fights weren’t exciting, but the undercard was largely good. There weren’t a lot of names, and as a Fight Pass show, it didn’t get a lot of hype coming in.

There were a few big performances. Former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos moved up to welterweight, citing how much trouble he was having making 155, and clearly defeated Tarec Saffiedine and immediately made himself a player in the division.

Colby Covington, a former All-American wrestler at Oregon State, continually took down and punished Dong Hyun Kim in an upset that also makes him somebody to watch out for at welterweight.

Undefeated flyweight Naoki Inoue looked good in dominating Carls John de Tomas, who was seven pounds heavier after missing weight, which is a major difference at 125 pounds. His ground work against a freestyle wrestling champion looked smooth, but it was also both men’s UFC debut.

The performance bonuses of $50,000 went to Holm and Ulka Sasaki. The Li Jingliang vs. Frank Camacho fight got a fight of the night bonus with each getting $50,000.

Walt Harris, who easily could have gotten a bonus, given he scored a knockout in just 1:44, may have jinxed himself by asking for it on a night with a lot of good finishes. He said he needed the bonus because his home was flooded and they had to move into a new place.

1. Lucie Pudilova (7-2) beat Ji Yeon Kim (6-1-2) on straight 29-28 scores in a women’s bantamweight fight. The first round was close, and both were throwing and landing at a fast pace. Kim took the second round, landing more and bloodying up Pudilova’s nose. Pudilova would push her into the fence to stop her offense, but didn’t get enough offense of her own in the round. In the third round, Pudilova grabbed a guillotine and took Kim down with it and was on top. Kim escaped and moved to the top. Pudilova worked for a guillotine a second time. The crowd heavily booed Pudilova winning but it could have gone either way and 79 percent of media scores were with Pudilova.

2. Naoki Inoue (11-0) beat Carls John de Tomas (8-1) via straight 30-26 scores in a flyweight fight. Tomas weighed 131, missing by five pounds, while Inoue came in at 124. It would have been sad if Inoue lost under those circumstances, but it was a moot point as he dominated. Both of these guys looked very good. Inoue got his back and was punching and went for a triangle in the first round. Inoue got his back and landed a lot of punches, went for a mounted triangle as well as an armbar. He also tried for a choke and armbar in a 10-8 round. The third round saw Inoue go for a takedown and Tomas blocked it and was landing elbows. Inoue got him down and went for an armbar and a choke, and later went for a choke again.

3. Russell Doane (15-7) beat Kwan Ho Kwak (9-2) in 4:09 of a bantamweight fight. Doane threw a kick and Kwak took him down off it. Kwak landed hard body kicks. But Doane came back strong and dropped him with a knee to the body and a lot of clean punches and the ref jumped in. Doane pushed that there’s a new generation of stars coming from Hawaii that people don’t know about.

4. Li Jingliang (13-4) beat Frank Camacho (20-5) on scores of 29-27, 28-27 and 29-27 in a welterweight fight. Camacho, from Saipan, was making his debut, and he’s got real power with 13 first round wins. But he was hampered by being a late replacement just two weeks ago. So he got tired as the fight went on, and Jingliang has the ability to take a punch. Camacho was picked for the Ultimate Fighter years ago, but lost in a fight to make the house to Neil Magny, so never got a chance. Jingliang has never been knocked out. Camacho blasted Jingliang with a right and the entire building woke up. He was landing more punches. Jingliang went for a takedown, but Camacho blocked it and landed on top. He landed another hard punch. They were trading and Jingliang came back, took him down twice and was working for a choke. Camacho was in a lot of trouble when the horn sounded. Both came out trading to start the second round. Camacho landed some hard punches but it was more Jingliang landing kicks. Camacho then got tired. Jingliang landed jabs and body punches and started to take over. Camacho landed a great body shot in the third but he was tired and Jingliang was picking him apart and had him hurt badly much of the round. The crowd gave both men big ovations when it was over.

5. Ulka Sasaki (20-4-2) beat Justin Scoggins (11-4) at 3:19 of the second round in a flyweight fight. This was another great fight. Scoggins opened with a German suplex. Scoggins got a knockdown with a right and hard left and landed big shots on the ground. In the second round, Scoggins knocked him down a second time with a spin kick to the body. Scoggins landed punches and elbows from the top. Sasaki was able to reverse into mount, get his back and worked for a choke. He never got the choke, but squeezed like crazy and got the submission with a Randy Orton chinlock. Basically Scoggins was killing him most of the way and then lost.

6. Alex Caceres (13-10, 1 no contest) beat Rolando Dy (8-5-1, 1 no contest) when it was stopped after the second round in a featherweight fight. Caceres was landing a lot, including dropping Dy with a left and landing punches on the ground. Caceres got his back and worked for a choke. Dominant round by Caceres. In the second round, the referee called the doctor because eh was worried about Dy’s eye. The doctor let it continue but Caceres landed punches, body kicks and a spin kick. After the round, the doctor checked Dy’s vision again. The doctor said Dy could still see but the referee felt he was closing his eye too much from a first round punch to the eye and wasn’t seeing the punches coming and stopped the fight. Good officiating here.

7. Walt Harris (10-5) beat Cyril Asker (8-3) in 1:44 of a heavyweight fight. Harris dropped him with a right and landed scary elbows and punches on the ground before it was stopped.

8. Jon Tuck (10-4) beat Takanori Gomi (35-13, 1 no contest) in 1:12 of a lightweight fight. This was sad to see since Gomi was such a big star a decade ago, but he’s now 38 and it’s passed him by. Tuck kicked him in the jaw and the liver, and took Gomi down, got his back and then got the choke.

9. Rafael dos Anjos (26-9) beat Tarec Saffiedine (16-7) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in a welterweight fight. I didn’t see a round Saffiedine could have won. Saffiedine did get a takedown off a dos Anjos kick in the first round. Dos Anjos worked for a Kimura. Dos Anjos took him down and both landed when they got up but dos Anjos was more active. In the second round, both landed. Dos Anjos landed a knee to the head and again dos Anjos was more active. In the third round, dos Anjos continued to land more punches and low kicks and controlled the fight.

10. Colby Covington (12-1) beat Dong Hyun Kim (22-4-1, 1 no contest) on scores of 30-25, 30-26 and 30-27 in a welterweight fight. Covington took him right down and that was the story of the fight. Kim is known for great takedown defense, but Covington was taking him down at will. Covington got three first-round takedowns and landed short shots on the ground. Covington got two more takedowns in the second round. Kim got a hip toss but Covington spun and got his back from there. Covington was landing a lot of punches at the start of the third round. Covington got a takedown. Kim got up and used a nice foot sweep to get a takedown in 1:00 left. Covington took Kim down once more. The crowd didn’t like this at all. As they booed him, Covington started cupping his ear like Hulk Hogan and cut a heel promo on the fans.

11. Marcin Tybura (16-2) beat Andrei Arlovski (25-15, 1 no contest) on scores of 29-28, 28-27 and 29-27 in a heavyweight fight. Arlovski landed a spin kick to the body. He threw another kick, but that allowed Tybura to get the takedown. Tybura got his back and mount and landed a lot of punches and elbows. Tybura was winning the round strong but Arlovski got back up and landed some hard punches and Tybura looked in trouble. In the second round, Arlovski continued to land punches and knees and even got a takedown. They ended up in a clinch until the ref separated them. In the third round Tybura got the takedown and stayed on top. He got to mount and landed punches. Arlovski gave up his back to se wouldn’t take punches to the face and Tybura dominated that round to clinch the fight. This was Arlovski’s fifth straight loss.

12. Holly Holm (11-3) beat Bethe Correia (10-3-1) in 1:09 of the third round in a women’s bantamweight fight. Nothing happened in the first round. Holm landed a kick to the body. The crowd was booing heavily. The second round was more of the same. At one point the ref stopped the fight and told both of them that he understands the strategy they are trying, but they need to fight. Correia then landed a spinning backfist. In the third round, Holm out of nowhere landed the left head kick, with the shin nailing Correia right in the face. Holm landed one more punch as Correia went down and it was stopped.


In 1978, Robert Eugene Nutt was a frustrated mid-level pro wrestler. He’d been working different territories, eeking out a living. It had been more than a year since his four-day run as NWA world junior heavyweight champion and his career seemed to be going nowhere.

While holding the Central States tag team titles with Tom Andrews, an aging veteran who was years earlier part of one of the hottest tag teams of the era, The Masked Medics, and later the Masked Interns, with manager Dr. Ken Ramey, he expressed his frustration to booker Buck Robley and asked for advice.

Wrestling as Ron Starr, he was a gifted natural worker, good timing, instincts and was in condition. But he looked like nobody that would stand out in a crowd. Robley suggested going to San Francisco and work for Roy Shire. The territory was long past its peak, but the big shows at the Cow Palace still had some of the better consistent payoffs in the country. Shire, himself a small heel and great worker and ring psychologist in his day, had an affinity for guys who could work.

A deal was set up, and Shire started pushing that the former world junior heavyweight champion was headed in. His timing was fortuitous. The main event babyface at the time was Ronald “Lonnie Moondog” Mayne, and he had just passed away in an auto accident. Dean Ho, a Hawaiian star at the tail end of his career, was in the top position, and talent was so scarce that Shire himself, who had stopped wrestling in 1961 when he started as a promoter, had come out of retirement to team with Ho in some main events against Don Muraco & and former bodybuilding legend Earl Maynard.

Starr was given a strong push and the decision was made to make him the territory’s top star.

Without a doubt, the highlight of Starr’s career was January 27, 1979, when he won the annual Cow Palace Battle Royal before a near sellout of 14,000 fans. In pro wrestling during the 70s, there were only a handful of things in wrestling bigger than the two major California Battle Royals in January, the one at the Olympic Auditorium, which got the national publicity in the wrestling magazines in both the U.S. and Japan, and the one that drew the bigger houses, at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, which was also heavily covered in Japan.

It came down to Starr and Harley Race, the NWA world champion. Ramey, who had a strong run years earlier, returned as a heel manager with his cane, and tried to cost Starr the match. Starr overcame Ramey and eliminated Race. But that was just the beginning.

Shire, for whatever reason, always put the Battle Royal on first, at 8:45 p.m. Nobody else did that, but Shire had his unique way of promoting the event.

The idea in selling it was that it could go all night long, and they needed to open the show with it because you never knew what could happen. Of course, it never did, and was usually over in about a half hour. The January Battle Royal was an area tradition, in fact, the term Battle Royal in that era was synonymous with the Cow Palace and Cow Palace was synonymous in pro wrestling with Battle Royal. The nature of how it was promoted and booked eventually led to Pat Patterson, who had been one of the area’s biggest stars for a dozen years, formulating the Royal Rumble. And in no coincidence, the usual last Sunday of the month would have been the day after the Saturday night Battle Royal day in San Francisco in another era.

Race was also supposed to defend the championship against Jimmy Snuka, who was working in the Carolinas. For whatever reason, Snuka decided not to come, burning a bridge. Starr’s winning over Race was a decision made that night to alleviate the crowd being unhappy about Snuka, and set up Race vs Starr for the title later that night. After a thrilling match, one of the better ones of that period in Northern California, the two went to a double count out.

Starr never got a rematch with Race, but he was established as the area’s top babyface that night, and really, Shire’s last top babyface. Most area fans remember Starr and Buddy Rose as the last stars of the Shire era.

It was less than two months later when the territory closed. Shire noted that costs had increased, and he was losing about $100 per spot show and felt there was no reason to be in business to lose money. He was still making money at the Cow Palace. So he closed down, except for one show every few weeks at the Cow Palace, and stopped taping television. He made a deal with Don Owen, where Owen would send tapes of his weekly matches from Portland, and the wrestlers could cut localized interviews for the Cow Palace. Shire sent his top stars, Starr and George Welles, to Oregon, for area continuity. His top heels like Roddy Piper, Rose and Ed Wiskoski were already dividing time between both places. It all made sense geographically. The wrestlers earned more at the Cow Palace than in their own territory even with the Cow Palace having to move to Friday because Owen taped television every Saturday night at the Portland Sports Arena.


RON STARR

 

CAREER TITLE HISTORY

 

NWA UNITED STATES HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Roddy Piper in tournament final December 3, 1979 San Francisco; lost to Buddy Rose May 11, 1979 San Francisco; def. Johnny Mantell (subbing for champion Buddy Rose) June 8, 1979 San Francisco; lost to Bob Sweetan October 13, 1979 San Francisco; def. Ed Wiskoski August 9, 1980 San Francisco; lost to Bob Sweetan October 13, 1980 San Francisco

 

NWA WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Pat Barrett December 2, 1976 New Orleans; lost to Nelson Royal December 6, 1976 Tulsa; def. Les Thornton in tournament final February 11, 1980 Tulsa; Vacated title when leaving territory

 

NWA AMERICAS HEAVYWEIGHT: as Masked Spoiler #2 def. Chavo Guerrero Sr. April 18, 1980 Los Angeles; lost to Walter Johnson May 9, 1980 Los Angeles

 

NWA WORLD TAG TEAM (West Coast): w/Dean Ho won tournament September 20, 1978 (may be fictitious tournament as Dean Ho & Moondog Mayne were champions and Mayne passed away in an auto accident); lost to Buddy Rose & Ed Wiskoski October 11, 1978 Sacramento; w/Enrique Vera def. Buddy Rose & Ed Wiskoski November 23, 1978 Sacramento; lost to Buddy Rose & Ed Wiskoski December 6, 1978 Sacramento; w/The Hood (Johnny Mantell) held title in 1980

 

WWC WORLD TAG TEAM: w/Chicky Starr def. Bart & Brad Batten October 16, 1988; Aguadilla; lost to Bart & Brad Batten November 12, 1988 Caguas; w/Cuban Assassin (Angel Acevedo) def. Mark & Chris Youngblood February 4, 1990 Aguadilla; lost to Super Medicos (Jose Estrada Sr. & Jr.) March 31, 1990 San Juan; w/ Doug Masters def Ciclon Silvadoreno & Bronco April 11, 1992 Caguas; title held up vs. Ricky Santana & Rex King May 16, 1992 Caguas; won titles via forfeit May 24, 1992 San German; lost to Rex King & Steve Doll June 24, 1992 Dorado

 

NWA NORTH AMERICAN TAG TEAM (Puerto Rico): w/Chicky Starr def. Invader I & III (Jose Gonzalez & Johnny Rivera) March 5, 1986 San Juan; title held up vs. Invader I & III April 19, 1986 Caguas; w/Chicky Starr def. Invader I & III June 2, 1986 Bayamon; lost to Miguel Perez Jr. & Huracan Castillo November 8, 1986 San Juan

 

WWC TELEVISION: def. Invader I in tournament final to become first champion September 19, 1986 Ponce; lost to Invader I November 5, 1986 San Juan; def. Invader I June 25, 1988 Carolina; lost to Carlos Colon August 20, 1988 Bayamon

 

WWC CARRIBEAN TAG TEAM: w/Cuban Assassin awarded titles January 25, 1990 when Starr replaced Jerry Morrow who left territory; lost to Invader I & IV (Jose Gonzalez & Maelo Huertas) March 10, 1990 Caguas; def. Invader I & IV May 24, 1990 Juana Diaz; lost to Miguel Perez Jr. & Huracan Castillo July 7, 1990 San Juan

 

WWC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Huracan Castillo August 25, 1990 Caguas; lost to Invader IV September 15, 1990 Bayamon; def. Invader IV September 26, 1990 San Juan; lost to Huracan Castillo September 26, 1990 Bayamon

 

NWA PACIFIC NORTHWEST TAG TEAM: w/Adrian Adonis def. Roddy Piper & Bad News (Killer Tim) Brooks April 3, 1979; lost to The Sheepherders (Luke Williams & Butch Miller) July 21, 1979 Portland

 

NWA INTERNATIONAL TAG TEAM (Western Canada): w/Honky Tonk Wayne Ferris def. Kerry Brown & Hubert Gallant in tournament final October 25, 1985 Calgary; lost to Leo Burke & Ron Ritchie February 7, 1986 Calgary; w/Honky Tonk Wayne Ferris def. Leo Burke & Ron Ritchie February 21, 1986 Calgary; lost to Chris Benoit & Ben Bassarab March 1, 1986 Regina

 

NWA BRITISH COMMONWEALTH MID-HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Sonny Two Rivers (Junji Hirata/Super Strong Machine) March 2, 1984 Calgary; lost to Bruce Hart August 25, 1984 Edmonton

 

USWA TAG TEAM: w/Sheik Jeff Braddock def. Jeff Jarrett & Matt Borne September 15, 1989 Dallas; title held up vs. Jeff Jarrett & Matt Borne September 22, 1989 Dallas; lost to Jeff Jarrett & Matt Borne September 29, 1989 Dallas

 

NWA CENTRAL STATES HEAVYWEIGHT: def. Bob Sweetan September 17, 1979 Wichita; lost to Ali Bey the Turk October 4, 1979 Kansas City

 

NWA CENTRAL STATES TAG TEAM: w/Tom Andrews def. Blue Yankee (Curtis Smith) & Buck Robley July 27, 1978 Kansas City; lost to Tank Patton & Jesse Ventura September 14, 1978 Kansas City

 

NWA SOUTHEASTERN TAG TEAM: w/Wayne Farris (Honky Tonk Man) def. Brad & Scott Armstrong November 21, 1983 Birmingham; Title vacated when Starr left territory

 

NWA GULF COAST TAG TEAM: w/Terry Latham def. Hells Angels March 7, 1975 Dothan, AL; lost to Mighty Yankees May 4, 1975 Pensacola

 

NWA INTERNATIONAL (Maritimes): def. Steve Pettipas 1985; lost to Leo Burke 1986; Held title 1987; def. Leo Burke July 20, 1989; lost to Leo Burke August 11, 1989

 

WESTERN STATES ALLIANCE TAG TEAM: w/Johnny Mantell def. Mando & Hector Guerrero 1981; lost to Tor Kamata & Woody Farmer 1981; w/Moondog Moretti def. Tor Kamata & Woody Farmer 1982; lost to Mike & Pat Kelly 1982; w/Steve Bolus def. Mike & Pat Kelly 1982; lost to John Tolos & Victor Rivera 1982


Problems with Shire and Rose, starting with Rose being suspended legitimately by the commission before a show he at first was scheduled to headline, defending his U.S. title against Starr. When Rose was suspended, Shire stripped him of the title and put Starr and Johnny Mantell in a match for the vacant title. In the days before the show, Rose got a court injunction against the commission, allowing him to wrestle at the Cow Palace. Shire said he had already stripped him of the title and was advertising something else on television, but Rose could wrestle in a prelim. Rose showed up, furious. The two argued backstage in front of the other wrestlers, including Starr. After the first fall of the Starr vs. Mantell main event, Rose went to the ring with Shire chasing after him. Shire starting yelling at the police to get Rose out of the ring. The police, thinking this was an angle, told him they weren’t going to be part of the show. Shire was furious at this point, and actually took a swing at the officer who told him he wasn’t going to be part of the show. At that point, the officers all jumped on Shire and started carrying him, kicking and screaming, to the back.

With no Shire to stop him, Rose started talking and asked fans if they knew why Don Muraco, Mr. Fuji and Toru Tanaka had left the area. He said it was because of Shire lying to the fans about personal circumstances, which he always did. Rose said that the fans were stupid to allow Shire to take advantage of them, and fans started chanting for refunds. It was the middle of Starr’s match, but Starr took the tact that this was a problem between Shire and Rose that he wasn’t part of.

Owen backed Rose, at the time his biggest drawing card. That ended the relationship. Shire made a deal with Bob Geigel and Kansas City, which was a terrible move since the television and the talent was so bad compared to what fans were used to. Shire’s crowds of 6,000 were dwindling down quickly at the Cow Palace, and they were no longer making money. Starr stayed loyal to Shire. He went back to Kansas City, and also based himself in Los Angeles, where he worked as a heel, Spoiler #2 (Chavo Guerrero was supposed to feud with the famous Spoiler, Don Jardine, but Jardine left Los Angeles after bad payoffs), while being babyface Ron Starr in San Francisco.

During this period, Leroy McGuirk brought Starr to Oklahoma with the promise of a two-year run as world junior heavyweight champion, as longtime champion Nelson Royal was going through one of his many retirements. But the money wasn’t there as promised and Starr complained. He was asked to drop the title to Les Thornton. He refused. McGuirk tried to talk him into returning and he could shoot with Thornton over who should be champion. Instead, he filed suit, which led to negative publicity for wrestling, since the lawsuit made it clear that the junior heavyweight champion was controlled by McGuirk. Granted, it had already come out in the 1930s how world championships were handled in pro wrestling, but a court case where it was spelled out in testimony made for good newspaper copy. Some of the promoters wanted him blackballed for suing a promoter and exposing the business. There was also talk that he was trying to unionize the wrestlers and get health insurance for the wrestlers. But LeBell and Shire refused to stop booking him.

If anything, he was becoming a bigger name. He won the Americas’ title in Southern California under a mask from Chavo Guerrero, before dropping it to former NFL star Walter Johnson. He had his third run as U.S. champion by beating Ed Wiskoski at the Cow Palace.

Billed as the current U.S. champion and former NWA world junior heavyweight champion, he was a top star when facing Tatsumi Fujinami for the WWF junior heavyweight title on a September 30, 1980 show at Budokan Hall in Tokyo before 12,000 fans, which also included Bob Backlund vs. Stan Hansen for the WWF title and Antonio Inoki vs. Ken Patera for the NWF title. Fujinami won via submission with the Boston crab in 18:39, and would later go on to say that in his days as a junior heavyweight, his three best opponents were Chavo Guerrero, Starr and Steve Keirn.

Starr’s last match at the Cow Palace was October 13, 1980. The crowd was down to about 600 fans and the quality of shows and awful TV had driven away the fan base. He lost the U.S. title to Bob Sweetan. Two weeks later he was in back in Japan, losing to Kengo Kimura in a match for the NWA International jr. heavyweight title. Shire stopped using talent from Kansas City and made a deal with Eddie Graham to do a co-promotion using Florida talent. Starr wasn’t part of this deal, and it really didn’t matter, because after three shows, even though crowds were improving, Shire decided to retire. Verne Gagne had gotten television on a stronger television station that Shire, and he had both Ray Stevens & Pat Patterson, Shire’s two biggest stars, at his disposal. Shire made the call that rather than risk the millions he had made over the years in the area in a fight that he’d be expected to lose, he’d just give it up.

Starr bounced around smaller territories for the next dozen years, but never achieved the prominence he had during his years headlining in San Francisco and New Japan. Despite his talent, his wild lifestyle and reputation didn’t help him. Aside from runs in Canada and Puerto Rico, he rarely shined.

By 1984, the business was changing. Starr always claimed he had a chance to go to the WWWF in 1976. His story he told, which may or may not be accurate, is that Vince McMahon Sr. wanted to create a WWF junior heavyweight championship, using Danny Hodge. Unfortunately, Hodge suffered a broken neck in an automobile accident and had to retire.

Hodge suggested Starr, then 25, would be a young, talented guy he could build the division around. But at the time, Starr was being groomed for the NWA jr. title, which, because of Hodge, was one of the most recognized championship belts in the business. Starr said he turned down the offer.

No offer ever came after the WWF expanded. It was the era of big bodybuilders and not smaller talented workers. Starr was a very good promo, but not in the WWF way. But as one person after another that he worked with, from Adonis to Rose to Piper to Honky Tonk Man became stars there, particularly Honky Tonk Man, he was bitter that nobody put in a good word for him.

In 1984, Starr was working as a headliner for Stampede Wrestling, as a heel, Rotten Ron Starr. He had a nice run as the British Commonwealth mid-heavyweight champion, beating the future Super Strong Machine, Junji Hirata, then working as a Native American Sonny Two Rivers. He had good matches against opponents like The Cobra (George Takano, who later became a star in Japan), Phil LaFleur (Phil Lafon, who became a star in All Japan as Dan Kroffat) and Ben Bassarab, before losing to Bruce Hart.

The highlight of his run, along with the end of it, was an angle with him and Dave “Tiger” Williams, a popular hockey enforcer with the Vancouver Canucks, who had just been traded to the Detroit Red Wings.

Bruce Allen, a Vancouver-based rock n’ roll manger, who had guided acts like Bachman Turner Overdrive, Loverboy and Bryan Adams, had in 1983, met Davey Boy Smith at the show at Sumo Hall in Tokyo, and told him he’d be interested in promoting in Vancouver and Victoria. Eventually, Allen started co-promoting events and crowds grew, plus playing music and having spotlights made the shows more than just wrestling. He brought in Williams as a special referee, and Starr challenged Williams to a fight.

On August 29, 1984, a tag match with Williams & Bruce Hart against Starr & Gama Singh drew 6,000 fans, a huge number for that territory at that time. It was the biggest crowd for wrestling in Vancouver since the glory days of Gene Kiniski and Don Leo Jonathan. The Red Wings were furious that Williams was risking his health in a pro wrestling ring. Several members of the British Columbia Lions football team seconded Williams & Hart, and Starr started questioning the sexual orientation of the football players. The show was so successful that the morale of the wrestlers was sky high coming home.

Two days later, back in Calgary, before the weekly Friday night show, on the 6 p.m. news, it was announced that Stu Hart had sold his territory to Vince McMahon. Bruce Hart, the booker, had no clue, as the family kept it from him for fear he’d screw up the deal, which was largely negotiated by brother Keith along with Stu and Helen with then-WWF booker George Scott, who had been one of the promotion’s biggest stars a generation earlier as part of the Flying Scott Brothers tag team.

Scott offered Stu a job as the WWE promoter in Western Canada, where he’d get ten percent of the shows, plus $100,000 per year for ten years for the territory. After one year, the deal fell through. McMahon never paid the second payment, claiming Bruce secretly running indie shows in the area violated the non-compete. With Stu no longer being paid, he reopened the territory, but Vince had gotten all of his television time slots in Western Canada and was entrenched, plus he had the top area stars like Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart and Dynamite Kid. As part of the sale, Stu insisted that Dynamite, his best wrestler, Bret, his best babyface and his son, and Davey and Neidhart, his sons-in-laws, would get jobs. Bruce was also promised a job, but not as wrestler or a booker, and felt insulted.

Starr was furious. He felt he was a key to rebuilding the territory, and was mad that Stu didn’t go to bat for him to get a job. Starr had come up on the short end of a legitimate fight a few weeks earlier with Dynamite Kid. Starr threatened to sue Stu, claiming discrimination.

Still, when Stu reopened in 1985, Starr & Honky Tonk Wayne (Honky Tonk Man) were brought in as the top heel tag team, the Memphis Mafia. But there were problems with Starr by this point, and he got into fights with both Kerry Brown and Mike Shaw and was gone for good in early 1986.

He claimed when Honky Tonk Man became a star in WWF, he tried to contact him and was blown off. Starr always felt he was a better worker than most of the guys in WWF, but in that era, the ability to work was never less important, as it was all about big bodies and crazy gimmicks.

Still, he came back in 1987 for a run that included North American title matches against Owen Hart, and tag team title matches against Bruce Hart & Brian Pillman. He returned again in 1989.

“He was always a hard, intense worker who had issues with promoters and various other wrestlers in many territories, sometimes resulting in fist fights,” remembered Stampede historian Ross Hart. “He was also known to get into numerous fights with fans in many places.”

“Bobby Gene Nutt was a Vietnam vet who was an underrated talent with skills and who was a bit of a defiant rogue, who liked to party,” remembered Jim Ross, who would have known him from his runs with McGuirk. “I’ve always thought his Vietnam experience was a destructive one,” he said.

He worked in Puerto Rico on-and-off from 1986 to 1992, usually as a heel, and against all of the area’s top stars. He’s best known for his tag team with Chicky Starr, but also had a championship team with the Cuban Assassin, Angel Acevedo, and Doug Masters.

He met his wife while working in Alabama and Florida, and they had an on-again-off-again relationship until he brought her to Canada in 1985, and later to Puerto Rico, where they married and she became his valet, Peaches.

Mick Foley, who wrote the foreword for Starr’s autobiography, credited Starr with teaching him brawling psychology, even though they only worked together for a few weeks in Alabama.

Robert Fuller came up with an angle that Foley had beaten up Starr’s son from a prior relationship, who lived in El Paso, and Starr played up the story as the father looking for revenge. Just as they were clicking, the territory closed up.

Starr was scarred by his experience in Vietnam. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Army and spent 18 months there. He had a hard time readjusting to the real world after leaving the army. He was working in construction and training with weights, where he met some wrestlers in the gym. He was a huge fan from childhood. His mother was actually attending a show at the Atlanta City Auditorium in 1951, and that night, just as she got home, she went into labor with Bobby. He grew up watching Dickie Steinborn, The Torres Brothers, Fred Blassie and The Assassins every Friday night at the City Auditorium. His father worked in construction and he started working with them. They built some apartments that some of the area wrestlers lived in, and made connections with wrestlers he later met at the gym.

After a few weeks of training, he started getting booked in Georgia as Bobby Starr in 1972, and started going from territory-to-territory as Ron Starr in 1973.

After wrestling, he worked as a door-to-door salesman in Florida and Alabama, but that ended when he suffered his first stroke in 1997. He battled health problems for the rest of his life.


Smackdown on 6/20 was up 25 percent from the surprisingly low previous week, based on the fact that when Raw is up, Smackdown usually is as well, coming off a PPV and the return of Daniel Bryan.

The show did 2,597,000 viewers, putting it in fourth place for the night on cable. It was the best number for the show since 4/11, similar to Raw the day earlier doing the best number since April.

The show did a 0.57 in 12-17 (up 32.6 percent from the prior week), 0.65 in 18-34 (up 51.2 percent), 1.05 in 35-49 (up 26.5 percent) and 1.04 in 50+ (up 13.0 percent).

The audience was 58.8 percent male in 18-49 and 63.2 percent male in 12-17.

Raw on 6/19 did a 2.04 rating and 3,095,000 viewers (1.65 viewers per home, which is the highest viewers per home dating back to the Attitude Era). It was the largest audience since the 4/17 show did 3,333,000 viewers, but the rating itself was only average for 2017. It was an increase of 17 percent in ratings and 22 percent in viewers from the prior week which went against the final game of the NBA playoffs.

The number was going to be way up with basketball season finally over. However, the increase was, in theory, a good sign. It’s funny, because when football season ended, it looked like Raw should do 3.2 million viewers on average when it bounced back, which it did a few times but has averaged well under. So this number, which should be the low end or normal, because of how quickly standards have changed, is actually really good. And that goes for everything, since Raw was No. 1 on cable for the night.

The third hour, which featured Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns, but was built around a long final segment with the reveal of the “Who attacked Enzo & Cass” storyline held up better than in most weeks, even though it was still the least watched hour. Regarding how many people that kept, in women 18-49 they lost eight percent in the final hour, but with men 18-49 they gained two percent, so the angle appealed far more with men. With teenage boys, they gained 12 percent in the final hour, so that was the age group people were most into it, while those over 50 lost ten percent, so they were the ones least interested in it.

The first hour did 3,075,000 viewers. The second hour increased to 3,201,000 viewers. The third hour did 3,029,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.75 in 12-17 (up 38.9 percent from last week; up 4.1 percent from two weeks ago), 0.81 in 18-34 (up 30.6 percent from last week, down 3.6 percent from two weeks ago), 1.23 in 35-49 (up 11.8 percent from last week, down 0.8 percent from two weeks ago) and 1.20 in 50+ (up 18.8 percent from last week, up 5.3 percent from two weeks ago).

The second episode of American Grit on FOX did 1,672,000 viewers, down from last season’s average, but up 50 percent from the first week. But that’s misleading, because the show got a lead-in of 3,940,000 viewers from the U.S. Open golf coverage. Except for a repeat of Family Guy that followed it, it was the lowest rated network show of the night, even losing to reruns on CBS and NBC.

The 6/15 episode of Impact was up slightly again, to 327,000 viewers. So Impact is now doing the best they have in a few months with the shows from India. It’s the second highest number for the show of 2017, trailing only the 3/16 show, which did 344,000 viewers. Before that, you’d have to go back to Final Deletion on 12/15 at 329,000 viewers.

The 6/14 episode of Ultimate Fighter did 442,000 viewers, which is the biggest number a regular episode of the show has done in more than two seasons. This season has gone against every previous rule of the show where the audience starts big and fades, as this has generally grown more often than not after starting low.

Lucha Underground on 6/14 had another rise, doing 123,000 viewers for the first airing of the show and 51,000 for the replay, a 17 percent increase and a number ahead of what the season had been averaging. The numbers have increased significantly both of the last two weeks.

Smackdown on 6/13 did a 1.53 rating and 2,072,000 viewers (1.48 viewers per home, far lower tan usual).


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CMLL: They announced a World Cup tournament on 9/1 at Arena Mexico and the first three names announced were Matt Taven, Juice Robinson and King Haku. Taven has worked Arena Mexico in the past and did a program with Ultimo Guerrero earlier this year. Haku also worked here in the past and actually was in the first World Cup in 1994 and lost to Rayo de Jalisco Jr. in the finals. He’s now 58, and while him being in New Japan with his sons was cool nostalgia, I’m not sure how well he would fit into the Grand Prix tournament. Robinson hasn’t worked here previously

Brazo de Plata did an interview this past week saying that he hasn’t been medically cleared to return and still has to lose 40 kilograms (88 pounds) and expects to do that in three months

The 6/16 show at Arena Mexico was pretty hot, built around the finals of the Gran Alternativa tournament. Caristico & Soberano Jr. won 2/3 falls from Ultimo Guerrero & Sanson in 22:49. It was a pretty spectacular match, I’d go ****1/4 for it. The finish saw Soberano use a moonsault on the draping Guerrero for the third fall win while Caristico put Sanson in the La Mistica. Soberano had also pinned Guerrero in the second fall as Guerrero was on the middle rope and Soberano was on his shoulders and went from rana into huracanrana for the pin. Soberano did a lot of spectacular stuff including a Fosbury flop dive and the match had super heat, with Guerrero really holding it together. When Soberano was in with Guerrero you had no idea about Soberano’s inexperience, but when he was in with Sanson you could see it. This was Guerrero at his best in making an undercard guy look like the next big thing in the promotion, and Guerrero was really the guy who got the original CMLL Mistico, now Caristico, over to such a huge degree when Mistico was green. Caristico was super motivated, probably wanting to not look bad next to Soberano. Angel de Oro and his brother, newly turned face Niebla Roja & Valiente beat Gran Guerrero & Euforia & Negro Casas in two straight falls in a quick match ending when Gran Guerrero unmasked Roja for a second fall DQ. The other big match was Dragon Lee over Cavernario in a one fall ten minute time limit match, teasing the draw but winning with the Del Rio double foot stomp in 9:39 in a ***3/4 match. Lee did a tope and a flip dive, followed by a splash off the top early. Cavernario did a Zayn-like move where he was on the apron, dove into the ring and back out like Zayn does with a DDT, but Cavernario just did a tope. At another point, Lee went for a standing Spanish fly and Cavernario turned it into a DDT. Lee winning made zero sense when Cavernario was going to challenge (and lost) for the NWA welterweight title in the same building four days later against Volador Jr

6/23 looks like nothing special with Volador Jr. & Marco Corleone & Diamante Azul vs. Cavernario & Rush & Euforia as the main event, plus Angel de Oro & Dragon Lee & Niebla Roja vs. Gran Guerrero & Casas & Rey Bucanero and a not promising at all singles match with Pierroth vs. Vangellys. Most notable is that the Gran Alternativa is supposed to move the newcomer winner, in this case Soberano, from prelim level to semi-main level. But the next week, he’s not even on the show. And even though that’s what it’s supposed to do, it’s very hit-and-miss. But past winners have included future superstars like Hector Garza, Shocker, Rey Bucanero, Ultimo Guerrero (1999), Caristico as Mistico (2004), La Mascara (2005), La Sombra (2007), Rey Escorpion (2011), Bobby Zavala (2013) and Cavernario (2014).; There was no tournament in 2015 and Esfinge, who won in 2016, didn’t become a star off of it

The Father’s Day show on 6/18 didn’t draw as well as expected, but 4,000 fans is still well above what they usually do no Sunday since Friday is the big show. The only stuff out of the ordinary was Corleone’s first CMLL heavyweight title defense beating El Terrible and bringing back the micros, with Gallito & Microman over Mije & Perico Zakarias. The first time they appeared they sold out the building but that was on Kids Day and this was the second time they’ve used them

Hechicero beat Atlantis to retain the NWA light heavyweight title on 6/19 in Puebla. Hechicero did a shooting star press, but ended up landing with his knee smashing Atlantis’ nose and he was bleeding for the third fall

Volador Jr. retained the NWA welterweight title over Cavernario on 6/20 at Arena Mexico in a great match. I’d go ****1/4 with it although some have said it was the best singles match this year at Arena Mexico. The crowd was super hot and they went 21:11 with all kinds of great moves in the third fall in particular. Cavernario did a Vader splash on the ramp. Volador’s right shoulder is all jacked, probably from the Super Juniors. He took a chicken wing overhead suplex on the floor. Cavernario did the Silver King special dive. Volador did a running flip dive. Cavernario used La Tapatia (Romero special) but Volador grabbed the ropes. Volador did a plancha into a huracanrana. Then he did an Asai moonsault. Cavernario used a reverse giant swing a few times into the barricade and then did the full body splash off the top rope to the floor. It’s too bad his knees are going to give out on him before his time and he’ll rue the day he did moves like that on a Tuesday night show. Cavernario did a chicken wing suplex in the ring for a near fall. Volador used a Super Frankensteiner (the move he won the second fall with) but Cavernario kicked out. Cavernario used his La Cavernaria finisher (like a camel clutch) but Volador made the ropes with a Japanese match style struggle. After more near falls and big moves Volador got the third fall with a Canadian Destroyer. They did a two-for-one ticket offer so they had double the usual Tuesday night crowd.

AAA: AAA had a big decision to make regarding TripleMania. The show was scheduled for 8/26, which is the same day as McGregor vs. Mayweather, and it appears they’ve already made the call to move it to 8/27. They wanted to get the show on PPV in the U.S., and that’s very unlikely on that day, and still isn’t a done deal since the people who got them the previous TripleMania PPV, Court Bauer, has no affiliation with them

The 6/19 tapings in Nuevo Laredo drew about 70 percent full for a show where of the seven matches advertised, zero took place, and nine advertised wrestlers, Ricky Marvin, Killshot, Taya, Faby Apache, Mamba, Hiedra, Australian Suicide, Bengala and Lanzeloth, didn’t wrestle. Taya said she is out due to injuries from being hit by a drunk driver last week. But Mamba and Hiedra are from the area. They opened with a match for the vacant mixed tag team titles, last held by Pentagon Jr. & Sexy Star, who both quit the company. Nino Hamburguesa & Big Mami beat Venum & Lady Shani to become champions. Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria retained the AAA tag titles beating Hernandez & Mascara de Bronce. Hernandez and Bronce didn’t get along. A match where the trios titles were at stake with champions Carta Brava Jr. & Mocho Cota Jr. & Soul Rocker defending against Aerostar & Drago & Raptor saw the champions win with a low blow finish. Vampiro, who is the babyface authority figure that everything is built around, came out and threw the result out and said that the two teams would now have a series of matches for the titles. This didn’t get over as planned since two members of the heel team are from Nuevo Laredo, so the fans booed Vampiro. Smart that he is, Vampiro after the show posed for photos with the champs for local media. Marty the Moth Martinez beat El Texano Jr. in a Lucha Underground match. At one point there was an angle where Averno attacked Pimpinela Escarlata, which led to Sangre Chicana, now 65, making the save. Chicana was a major star from the mid-70s until the early 00s. Averno & Super Fly were to face Argenis & La Parka. But when the match started, Parka wasn’t there. He was apparently attacked backstage and did the run-in later. Argenis got low blows and lost. The main event saw Dr. Wagner Jr. & Mesias & Kevin Kross beat El Hijo del Fantasma & Pagano & Psycho Clown when Texano distracted Fantasma and Kross pinned him

While this hasn’t gotten any talk, Mascarita Sagrada, the version who had been here and in Lucha Underground, seems to be gone. He had suffered a broken leg at the end of last year’s Lucha Underground tapings in a dark match Battle Royal and has been out of action for almost a year. He’s back working, but on indies as Original Tigre Blanco Mascarita Sagrada since AAA evidently has pressured him about the name. AAA isn’t really doing anything with minis right now.

THE CRASH: The company’s first U.S. show will be a joint promotion with the Defy promotion on 8/3 in Tacoma

Marty Scurll is said to be coming in. They’ve also tried to work out dates with Matt Riddle, although at this point the schedules haven’t coincided

Reporter Lio Riano said Crash is trying to bring in Rush, to go along with the recent acquisitions of —ximo and La Mascara. Rush and Mascara are good friends in real-life and Rush is the best heel in Mexico, and maybe the world right now

They have a 7/2 show in Oaxaca with Mysterio Jr. & Penta 0M & Rey Fenix vs. La Mascara & M-ximo & Rey Escorpion (who are doing the Los Ingobernables gimmick) plus Daga & Zorro vs. Damian 666 & Nicho

A 6/9 KBW show in Madero headlined by Mysterio Jr. drew 4,500 fans.

DRAGON GATE: Flamita returns next week.

ALL JAPAN: Hikaru Sato became a double champion, as on the 6/20 show in Obihiro, he & Atsushi Aoki won the All-Asia tag team titles from the world’s oldest championship team of Atsushi Onita (59) and Masa Fuchi (63) when Aoki made Fuchi submit to an armlock in 13:03. Onita working the show brought the crowd to a sellout of 703 fans, a good number for this promotion outside of Tokyo

Sato also retained the jr. title beating Yohei Nakajima in the main event of the 6/16 show in Hakodate before 460 fans

Zeus & The Bodyguard defend the world tag titles on 6/25 in Sapporo against Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori. Akiyama & Omori started together in 1992 and often have teamed, so they are pushing it like they are going after the tag titles in their 25th years in the business

Akiyama retained the TV title over Yutaka Yoshie with an exploder suplex on 6/21 in Kushiro

In a surprise, in a tag match in Kushiro with Triple Crown champ Shuji Ishikawa teaming with Koji Iwamoto against next Triple Crown challenger Suwama & Hikaru Sato, Ishikawa scored a clean pin on Suwama

They had a two-night trios tournament on 6/17 and 6/18 in Sasukino ending with Kento Miyahara & Jake Lee & Yuma Aoyagi beating Akiyama & Omori & Ultimo Dragon in the finals.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Quiet Storm returned on the 6/20 show after being out after surgery on 12/20 for a torn biceps. He teamed with Mohammed Yone in Yokohama to lose to Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi when he was pinned by Taniguchi. But he said that they would recover and eventually win the tag titles. Masa Kitamiya beat Cody Hall on that show, while Taiji Ishimori, in the main event tag match, teamed with Atsushi Kotoge to beat GHC heavyweight champion Katsuhiko Nakajima and jr. champion Hayata when he pinned Hayata.

NEW JAPAN: Jushin Liger, who was at ringside doing commentary for Okada vs. Omega II, said about the match (translation by Chris Charlton): “There are people saying it’s dangerous, and certainly they are pushing the limit. Wrestling’s not about killing one anther, but those two choose to have the matches they have. It’s not on us to tell them to stop. Those two train harder than anyone, eat better than anyone and are both in phenomenal shape. With those two, it’s a battle of pride. They’re putting their pride on the line and tearing each other apart. You listen to the fans and it’s all encouragement. You don’t hear boos, you hear people pulling for them to be even stronger, even better. Now, they’re human. They will reach their limits. Pride or not, humans have limits. But other people don’t have the right to say where those limits are. That’s between them. We just have to watch.

There is an issue even with the record indoor gate in Osaka for Dominion last week, as on 6/20, they once again failed to sell out Korakuen Hall. It used to be almost automatic, but they are running it so frequently and only sold 1,258 tickets to the first of three shows in eight days in the building. It was really weird seeing tickets available in almost every price category a couple of hours before the show at Korakuen, when until this year, that almost never happened, and now it’s happened several times. The show was built around the Never trios titles where Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi retained over Ryusuke Taguchi & Juice Robinson & Kushida in 15:46 when Robinson was pinned after a chair shot by Evil, the MX by Bushi and the skull end submission by Sanada. The other key match, with the result obvious going in but just the fact they were doing it was notable, saw Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi beat Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hirai Kawato when Takahashi made Kawato submit to the Boston crab in 9:21. The fans were really into Kawato, especially when he went right after Naito to start the match. After a trios match where Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi beat Minoru Suzuki & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Taichi, with Taichi doing the job for Yoshi-Hashi, a post-match brawl saw Yoshi-Hashi catch Suzuki in the butterfly lock and wouldn’t let go, to build for the Suzuki vs. Yoshi-Hashi Never title match on 6/26

AXS released its full schedule for New Japan on 6/30 and 7/1. Because the Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega match went 60 minutes, to air it uninterrupted would mean you would need more than an hour with ring intros and commercial breaks. So rather than edit the match, the decision was made to air Dominion as one two-hour show instead of two one-hour shows, airing on 6/30 from 7-9 p.m. Eastern. The two-hour show will only have two matches, Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Omega vs. Okada II. The unfortunate odd man out match is the Kushida vs. Hiromu Takahashi match, which was one of the best matches of the year. Originally they wanted to put Cody vs. Michael Elgin on as the first match, so people would see Cody’s win to build for his title match, but they would rather present the two matches with the promos and entrances and videos and such and make them strong, then have to edit so much out to fit in Cody’s match. They will be doing an all-day New Japan marathon on 7/1, starting at 8 a.m. (5 a.m. Eastern). As things are scheduled, Omega vs. Okada I will air at 8 a.m. Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki will air at 10 a.m. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee will air at 11 a.m. Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin will air at Noon. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Bad Luck Fale will air at 1 p.m. Okada vs. Shibata will air at 3 p.m. Omega vs. Ishii will air at 5 p.m. The two-hour Dominion show will be replayed from 6-8 p.m. The live show from Long Beach is scheduled from 8 p.m. until midnight, but it can go as long as 1 a.m. if need be. The Okada vs. Omega Tokyo Dome match is scheduled as a buffer from midnight to 1 a.m. which can be joined in progress if the live show goes long. Then the Long Beach show will be replayed from 1 a.m. (Which is for the West Coast since it’s a Friday night at 10 p.m. slot) until its conclusion

The Fight Network in Canada will also be airing the 7/1 show live. Anyone in North America can get the show live as Sling TV has a free seven day tryout of its streaming service and AXS is on Sling TV. .. The 7/7 show will be the second night from Long Beach, edited down to four hours. After 7/14, they’ll go back to one-hour shows. The 7/14 show will be the Will Ospreay vs. Kushida Super Juniors match and the 7/21 show will be the Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida title change from Dominion with the Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto Never title match from that show

They held a Lion’s Gate show on 6/15 at Shinjuku Face in Tokyo before a sellout of 467 fans with Satoshi Kojima & Ayato Yoshida of K-Dojo beating Yuji Nagata & Tomoyuki Oka in the main event when Kojima pinned Oka. Yoshida then issued a challenge for a singles match with Nagata on the 7/4 show in the same building. After Yoshi-Hashi used the butterfly lock submission to beat All Japan’s Yuma Aoyagi, another All Japan wrestler, Koji Iwamoto, came out to challenge Yoshi-Hashi also on the next show

Willie Urbina, the WWC announcer and former TNA Spanish language announcer, will be doing Spanish commentary for the AXS TV shows going forward. Urbina will be doing it for the Spanish language version of AXS and called up his mentor, Mike Tenay, to help him in his new role. Urbina told Impacto Estelar that TNA was fun when it started, but when the Carter/Hogan era started and cuts were made, it became challenging but praised Jeff Jarrett, Tenay and Hector Guerrero.

Another debut will be Ren Narita, who starts on the 7/4 show against Shota Umino. Narita, 19, is 5-foot-11 ½ and 183 pounds, and played baseball and wrestled in high school

Also on that show will be Kojima vs. Oka and Dick Togo vs. Kawato, another sign of how high they are on Kawato bringing in experienced stars from other groups for him to work with so early in his career

Billy Gunn, while on tour of Australia over the weekend, was asked about the much-criticized match with Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IC title on 7/2 in Long Beach. Gunn said he was excited about the match and said he thought it would end up being a highlight of his career

The Kenny Omega vs. a nine-year-old girl match which we wrote was in DDT was actually in Stardom, and it took place on July 24, 2011. Omega was working for DDT at the time.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Io Shirai, who still doesn’t have her WWE start date, dropped her Artist of Stardom trios title on 6/17 in Yokohama and then her World of Stardom title on 6/21 at Korakuen Hall. Hiroyo Matsumoto & Jungle Kyona & Kaori Yoneyama beat Shirai & HZK & AZM to win the titles, which makes four belts that Matsumoto now has with the Sendai Girls title, the Oz Academy title and the Stardom tag team and trios titles. Kyona, who debuted within the last two years is called Jungle Kyona because before wrestling, she lived in Senegal in West Africa for two years as a volunteer teacher

As expected Mayu Iwatani beat Shirai in the changing of the guard match on 6/21 at Korakuen Hall in 27:52 with a German suplex into a dragon suplex. Shirai had held the title since December 29, 2015, and set the record with 14 successful title defenses. Iwatani becomes the first person to hold the World of Stardom and Wonder of Stardom titles at the same time, and becomes the official top star of the promotion, which is expected to a rebranding of sorts starting with the 7/16 show at Korakuen Hall. Most likely the main event will be Iwatani vs. Yoko Bito, with the storyline that Iwatani has never beaten Bito in the past. Kagetsu has also challenged Iwatani for her top spot

This was originally to be Shirai’s last match, although the public was never told and it may not be, since she’ll stay here until starting with WWE and there is some hold-ups. Shirai was scheduled for a press conference on 6/22, which is likely where she’ll publicly announce she is leaving the company.

HERE AND THERE: Elliott Murnick, who was part of a pro wrestling promotional family in the Carolinas, passed away on 6/19 at the age of 75. The Murnick family, which came from Raleigh, ran a number of cities for Jim Crockett Promotions and had financial ties to the company. Joe Murnick ran cities in Virginia for the promotion when it was owned by Jim Crockett Sr., and his sons, Carl and Elliott, followed in his footsteps and eventually took over the business. Elliott continued in the business after the sale to Turner Broadcasting in 1988, and continued to run the Carolinas house shows. In the last few years of WCW, Elliott no longer worked for WCW, but worked directly for Zane Bresloff, who had the contract to run all the house shows for WCW. Murnick worked on getting a certain percentage of the gate for every show he worked, and his job would be to handle not only the running of the show but the local promotion of the shows. Like everyone involved in WCW on a percentage basis, it got very lucrative in 1997 and 1998, but fell fast and hard after that. He remained with Bresloff until the company folded in 2001. During the heyday of Jim Crockett Promotions in the 80s, Carl, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 54, ran the office and Elliott would run the shows. The family also ran night clubs in Raleigh. The Murnicks were best known for running the Longbranch Saloon, which booked name rock and country acts, basically the touring acts that don’t play major arenas. Keith Urban, The Dixie Chicks, Toby Keith, Garth Brooks and others played there during its run from 1982 to 2008, when it closed for the first time. It later reopened under other management

Former WWE & TNA wrestler Brooke Adams (Brooke Tessmacher in TNA), 32, along with her husband, Weston Wayne (real name Weston Piper, believe it or not), will be regulars on the second season of the show “Rattled” on The Learning Channel, which debuts on 7/11. The reality show will follow five couples who are new parents. The storyline of the show is that Adams has stopped wrestling to be a mother and Wayne decided to quit his regular job to start a new business just as the baby was born, and she’s panicking he won’t be able to support them and had to think about returning to wrestling to support the family

PWG ran on 6/16 in Reseda, CA, with the usual instant sellout of 400 fans. This wasn’t as loaded as usual but said to be very good. Chuck Taylor pinned Trevor Lee in a good match. Dezmond Xavier won a three-way over Jason Cade and Jake Crist. Cade looked good in his debut and fans wanted him back. Keith Lee beat Lio Rush in a match people were raving about and almost everyone had it well above ****. This one played off the huge size difference between the two of them and they made it work. Michael Elgin & Brian Cage beat War Machine. Mixed reviews but most had it as really good. Sami Callihan beat Matt Sydal in another match that some loved since they brawled all over the place and others didn’t since Sydal didn’t do his flying moves as much but they got a great reaction. Jeff Cobb beat Trent Baretta in what was said to be a **** caliber match with Tour of the Islands. Main event saw Marty Scurll & Zack Sabre Jr., who are an awesome team, beat Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly in a match that went more than 30 minutes and also said to be **** caliber or better. The next show is 7/7 with Sabre Jr. defending the PWG title against Taylor in the main event, plus Young Bucks vs. Elgin & Cage, Ricochet vs. Trevor Lee, Shane Strickland & Jason Cade & Dezmond Xavier vs. Dave & Jake Crist & Callihan, Rey Fenix vs. Keith Lee, Lio Rush vs. Baretta and Rey Horus vs. Sammy Guevara, the latter two making their PWG debuts

Greg Anthony, 36, a longtime independent pro wrestler and promoter, who owns the NWA Mid South promotion, was to undergo triple bypass heart surgery on 6/20, but they alleviated the problem by putting in three stents. He was a three-time holder of the NWA national championship

Sean Waltman’s 2004 DUI conviction that he didn’t complete all of the terms of the plea bargain but was one of those things forgotten, until it popped up during his recent arrest at the airport on the way to England, went before a judge on 6/15 at Los Angeles Superior Court. Waltman told the judge that he was a mess in 2004 but he’s a changed man now. The judge extended Waltman’s probation by two years and ordered him to attend a three-month alcohol program, and if he messes up during that time he’ll be put in jail

Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore is in the middle of a two-week tour of Australia. They drew a sellout of 700 fans on 6/16 in Brisbane, the biggest show on 6/17 in Sydney drew about 1,200 fans and the 6/18 show in Perth drew a sellout of 600 fans. The tickets were $60 apiece so all of these shows were considered ultra successful, and there was also a fan fest that had 500 people. House of Hardcore also set a merchandise record in Sydney. Sydney had the Young Bucks over Dreamer & Billy Gunn, who billed themselves as the Old Bucks. Merch sales were so strong that the Bucks sold out all their T-shirts by the second night of the tour and had nothing for 6/18 in Perth. In Perth, Australian wrestler Mark Silva beat Ryan Nemeth, who was in WWE developmental for years and is the younger brother of Ziggler. Silva’s real name is Mark Cometti, the son of Dennis Cometti, the best-known and most highly regarded Australian Rules football announcer. Dennis was in Mark’s corner. Mohamed Ali Vaez tried to interfere and Dennis stopped him. Young Bucks beat Spirit Squad in the main event with the Meltzer driver after a million superkicks

Jon Stewart, not to be confused with the talk show host, but a former wrestler who now is a Chicago-area automobile dealer is looking for run for Governor of Illinois as a Libertarian. He ran for the Illinois House of Representatives in 1997 but lost the election, and also ran in 2000

Evolve is pushing its Battle of Champions show on 6/24 in Melrose, MA at Memorial Hall as “As Big As It Gets” with the non-title battle of champions with WWN champion Matt Riddle vs. Evolve champion Zack Sabre Jr. They also run 6/25 in Woodside, NY with Riddle vs. Keith Lee and Sabre Jr. vs. Jake in title matches along with the return of Trent Baretta. For 7/8 in Charlotte, they have Sabre Jr. vs. Timothy Thatcher for the title, Chris Dickinson & Jaka defending the tag title against Anthony Henry & James Drake, Baretta vs Fred Yehi and ACH vs. Austin Theory. 7/9 in Atlanta has Sabre Jr. vs. Yehi for the title, Keith Lee vs. Tracy Williams and ACH vs. Ethan Page

AAW drew 663 fans in Merrionette Park, IL for a loaded up show that included Low Ki over Abyss, Eddie Kingston over Jeff Cobb, ACH over Garza Jr., Penta 0M beating Trevor Lee to keep the Heritage title, and John Morrison over Brian Cage. The main event saw War Machine beat Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish

Naomichi Marufuji faces Dijak on a 7/9 afternoon show in Belleville, IL, at the Fairgrounds, for Michael Elgin’s Glory Pro Wrestling. Cody Rhodes vs. Elgin in a rematch from Dominion is the main event

The MDA promotion sold out Arena Coliseo in Guadalajara on 6/18 for a main event of Caristico & L.A. Park over Ultimo Guerrero & Rush is a super heated match. It was largely Park vs. Rush as Caristico and Guerrero just tried to stay out of their way, since the match was crowd brawling, weapons shots, blood, and cursing on the mic, all of which CMLL doesn’t allow. Park broke some beer bottles over Rush. Security was trying to clean up the mess, and Park got a broom from a security guy who didn’t know it was coming and broke it over Rush’s head. Rush unmasked Park, but Park then rolled up Rush. Guerrero was long gone by that point, getting nailed with a tope by Caristico and he took off. Park then cut a promo about how CMLL was worthless and Rush was the only wrestler in the company worth a damn. Geez, his nephew is Volador who is just about the top star of the promotion. Keep in mind CMLL owns the building the show was in

Fenix & Penta 0M defended their PWG tag titles in Mexico City on 6/16 for Super Astro’s promotion which sold out a small arena beating Jack Evans & Rey Horus and Flamita & Laredo Kid in a really good match. Then they announced Rush was coming to the promotion on 7/29. Rey Escorpion on the show joined Maximo & La Mascara in a group called Los Ingobernables. Notable since CMLL owns the name.

EUROPE: There is a Lucha Libre tour this week with shows on 6/22 in Manchester at Albert Hall and 6/23 and 6/24 at York Hall in London. El Hijo del Santo and son Santo Jr. are the headliners. Also coming include Silver King, Laredo Kid and minis including Mascarita Sagrada.

ROH: The Best in the World PPV takes place on 6/23 at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, which is big enough (2,800 seats) that ROH probably won’t sell it out, since the company has only had one or two crowds that large in its history. The only outsiders are Kushida, Ultimo Guerrero and El Terrible. As great as Kushida and Guerrero are, they aren’t going to be selling much in the way of extra tickets. The PPV advance is said to be good, but the second day doesn’t have much of an advance. Cody winning the ROH title from Christopher Daniels to set up a champion vs. champion match on 7/1 in Long Beach seems to make the most sense. Either way, this is Cody’s biggest match so far of his ROH run. Kushida vs. Marty Scurll for the TV title should be great, and since Scurll is a regular and Kushida isn’t, Scurll would be the favorite, plus it sets up Scurll for an IWGP jr. title match in Japan at some point with a win. Young Bucks vs. War Machine I could see going either way. I’ve seen those two teams a few times together and it’s always great, plus both always step it up on the bigger stages. Bully Ray & Briscoes vs. Dalton Castle & The Boys will probably be a lot of Boys-based comedy. The rest is Search and Destroy (Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley & Jay White & Jonathan Gresham) vs. The Rebellion (Caprice Coleman & Kenny King & Shane Taylor & Rhett Titus) where the losing team has to split up, Guerrero & Terrible vs. Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia (Guerrero vs. Taven was a program in CMLL), Silas Young vs. Jay Lethal and Frankie Kazarian vs. Hangman Page in a strap match. There will be a women’s pre-show match involving Kris Wolf of Stardom, who teams with Sumie Sakai against Deonna Purrazzo & Mandy Leon. Wolf has some heat in Japan as she missed her 6/17 Stardom show in Yokohama. The first 500 people through the door are getting a free Young Bucks Superkick party 2 DVD

The matches announced so far for the 6/24 TV tapings in the same building are Guerrero vs. Taven, War Machine vs. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley, Bully Ray & Briscoes vs. Young Bucks & Page, Purrazzo vs. Kelly Klein vs. Karen Q and Mandy Leon vs. Jenny Rose.

IMPACT: The company released agents Al Snow, Pat Kenney and Shane Helms this past week which is clearly budget-cutting. Kenney, 49, has been with the company since 2003. Snow, 53, started at the end of 2008. Helms, 42, started in 2015. They are going with Sonjay Dutt and Abyss as the agents since they can double as wrestlers. Dutt is tight with Jeff Jarrett and is in charge of finding the top unsigned talent and rebuilding the X division among other things. The fact they’ve had to start letting people go when they already have a skeleton crew to begin with, is not a good sign for right now and for Anthem’s ability to grow the company. As far as the choices went, Jarrett is going to want his people in, and Helms is also closely aligned with the Hardys, who aren’t there anymore. There is a ton of frustration with the reality that as long as they are on Pop TV, their numbers are pretty limited in what they can draw, but with the numbers they are getting and it being pro wrestling with its lack of appeal to advertisers, these numbers make it hard to get a bigger outlet. Citing what you used to do with Spike got them Pop, but in the TV world, Spike is so many years back now that it’s ancient history

Because Jeremy Borash and Josh Matthews will be wrestling at Slammiversary on 7/2 in Orlando, the announce team for that one show only will be Robert Flores, who is a wrestling fan, with Don West, who is back working with the company. West probably should stay. Flores being in the spot showed that Mike Tenay turned it down since he’s been the first choice all along

They also announced that Dos Caras, who may be the best working heavyweight in the history of Lucha Libre, will be in Alberto’s corner for his main event against Bobby Lashley at Slammiversary. I just hope they don’t have Alberto fail to win by protecting his father, since WWE just did that finish and bringing Dos Caras in seems the natural set-up for that. Guillermo Rodriguez, who is Alberto’s brother, is also scheduled to be at the show, although at this point the company isn’t advertising him

Ross Forman has been hired to head up media relations. Forman had worked for the company for many years, and then they had a split. He had worked for WCW for years prior to that

Bob Ryder, who is the only person who has been with the company continuously from the start, noted this week that for the first time since 2011, he was diagnosed as 100 percent cancer free

Konnan on his podcast noted that Jeff Jarrett wants an LAX vs. Aerostar & Drago match for the tag titles on the 7/2 PPV show. That’s notable for a lot of reasons. First, it would put Konnan, who is the head of Crash, in a match against two wrestlers under contract to AAA, which hates Konnan. Also, Aerostar & Drago are both under contract to Lucha Underground. I’m presuming Lucha Underground gave the okay, because up to this point, Lucha Underground hadn’t allowed its talent to work for any other television promotion and even had threatened TNA not all that long ago about a video from the Crash with the Hardys that included a referee who had a Lucha Underground contract. That asks a lot of questions on why Lucha Underground changed its tune on this. Lucha Underground talent are still uncertain about what is next because nobody has heard anything about any future tapings

Konnan was also involved in a controversy in Puerto Rico. CWA, a promotion there, implied that LAX would be coming on 6/24. Konnan works in Puerto Rico for WWL and they have head-to-head shows that day in Juncos. Konnan then did a video saying CWA was a third-rate promotion taking advantage of the new popularity created by WWL and The Crash, and that CWA had only contacted Diamante (the woman in the group) and never the LAX tag team, ripped on the CWA owners and said they were false advertising LAX and that Diamante wasn’t coming either. CWA continued to promote her since they made a deal with her. Konnan made another video saying that LAX was his creation and the LAX wrestlers were only going to work for WWL in Puerto Rico. Diamante then released a video saying she wasn’t coming to CWA, and would be coming to WWL. The two groups had worked together last year, but then there were problems and CWA pulled all its talent out from WWL, leaving storylines incomplete

.The 9/23 show we reported as a WWL show is actually Wrestling Superstars, run by Hugo Savinovich.

UFC: Mauro Ranallo was officially announced as the play-by-play voice for the Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. Ranallo also said he’s got one more major announcement this week coming regarding a new gig. It made all the sense in the world given his background and knowledge in both MMA and boxing. It is notable that this means the Bellator lead announcer will be announcing the biggest show involving a UFC fighter in history. This event is a Showtime presentation, not a UFC presentation. If you look at how everything has gone down, even though UFC is the largest combat sports promotion in the world, they were the ones who came to the table begging for the scraps. It’s a complete boxing card, as opposed to a UFC card with a boxing main event. So UFC won’t be able to expose its up-and-coming talent on the biggest PPV of the year and boxing if they are smart will, although historically they don’t. It’s the boxing announcers. It’s the boxing rules, although there would be no fight with any other rules. Even Muhammad Ali couldn’t get that with Antonio Inoki and this was 1976 when there were no wrestling promotions even remotely on the level financially of today’s UFC. That was mostly the wrestling promoters and New Japan and to an extent WWWF who controlled the show and not the boxing people. It’ll be the Showtime boxing announcing team although there will be some appearances of UFC faces as far as analysis goes. When it comes to the promotion of the event, the rule of thumb is if your opponent is close to your level or better than you, you run him down, but if you’re way better than him you build him up. So the Mayweather camp will be doing nothing but building up McGregor’s boxing ability because they know they have to put on the facade that this is a competitive fight. And people are buying it, given the huge amount already bet on McGregor, which have taken the odds down to where Mayweather is less of a favorite here than he was in the second Maidana fight. Because it’s not a UFC fight, McGregor isn’t bound by the Reebok rule and will be able to get his own sponsors

Darren Rovell on the Ryen Rusillo show said that if the fight generates $370 million, that Mayweather’s take would be $220, McGregor would get $110 and the UFC would get between $25 million and $40 million. He claimed UFC has done zilch business this year and is in a world of hurt. With every PPV between 200,000 and 300,000 buys, they are way behind last year, and while they would still be very profitable based on their TV deals, they have a huge annual interest on their debt to service so they are less able to handle a bad swing than they were in 2014

The problem with Mayweather-McGregor is that if something works in promotion, generally you keep doing it until it doesn’t. Stipe Miocic has obviously seen the money figures so he’s been pushing the idea of facing Anthony Joshua in a boxing match, which would definitely not be a positive for UFC. When the idea becomes that you make a name in UFC, and then cash out by jobbing to boxers, it’s the worst direction possible for the sport to the mainstream audience. The key to this is if a UFC fighter makes a big name for themselves and they can strike, there’s more money in boxing for them to lose than in UFC for them to win. Up to this point, UFC has been able to keep its fighters away from this. Once the door is opened, it means the difference is UFC either has to up its pay for its top fighters to where they can’t make more elsewhere (and if there are a string of one-sided fights, the lure of UFC champion vs. boxing champion will stop drawing–but by that time, the damage to UFC will be significant in the eyes of the general public), or UFC has to find a way to stop it. Contractually they can, but then it becomes an issue over a legal test of their contract exclusivity covering boxing

There were people pushing the idea that McGregor vs. Mayweather is for the lineal Brawl for All championship. The idea is that Bart Gunn, the first champion, lost to Butterbean, who then lost to Genki Sudo, then he lost to Kid Yamamoto, who lost to Joe Warren, who lost to Bibiano Fernandes, who lost to Robbie Peralta, who lost to Akira Corassani, who lost to Dustin Poirier, who lost to McGregor, who lost to Nate Diaz, who lost to McGregor. That is amazing, but before Butterbean lost to Sudo, he lost in boxing to Billy Zumbrum, and then it would go through the heavyweight ranks of boxing to where Tyson Fury would be the current champion

Cris Cyborg Justino vs. Invicta champion Megan Anderson for the women’s featherweight title is now official for the 7/29 show in Anaheim underneath Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier. Yes, Germaine de Randamie was the champion. De Randamie was stripped of the title in a UFC statement, which, almost unintentionally hilarious, read: “UFC has informed Germain de Randamie and her management team that she is being removed as the women’s featherweight champion due to her unwillingness to fight the No. 1 ranked contender, Cris Cyborg Justino. UFC maintains that any champion is expected to accept fights against the top contenders in their respective weight classes in order to maintain the integrity of the sport.” De Randamie told Ariel Helwani that she had no idea she was being stripped, although it’s been pretty clear for a few weeks that was happening and that de Randamie was moving back to 135 pounds. She claimed she found out in social media and nobody told her anything. De Randamie’s manager, Brian Butler, had said weeks back that she would refuse to face Justino because of her history of using performance-enhancing drugs. With Holly Holm also fighting at 135, that whole featherweight title fight in Brooklyn was such a joke, although to be fair, it was pretty much known that would be the case going in. Anderson is 6-feet-tall and has an 8-2 record, beating Charmaine Tweet on 1/15 in Kansas City to win what was at first the Invicta interim title (Justino was champion) which became the regular Invicta title when it was clear UFC wasn’t going to allow Justino to return and defend the title

With Megan Anderson facing Justino, the 7/15 Invicta show, where she was to headlined and defend her title against Helena Kolesnyuk (5-0, 1 no contest) in Kansas City was changed to Kolesnyuk challenging bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger

The former agents of Nate Diaz have filed a lawsuit against him claiming they are due a percentage of his income from the second McGregor fight. The Ballengee Group of Dallas, best known for representing major league baseball players, represented Diaz from 2014 until Diaz fired them in July of 2016, one month before the second McGregor fight. They claimed in a lawsuit that they negotiated the contract for that fight and are due their percentage of both his guaranteed money and his percentage of what was the UFC’s record PPV number

Fight Pass is copying WWE in that they will now have a regular live stream 24/7 of content to go along with the in-demand feature. They also go to the weekly five-fight live show with the Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series starting on 7/11.

This week’s show is 6/25 from Oklahoma City. The show is starting an hour earlier than usual at 5:30 p.m., because the main show, being on a Sunday night, can end at midnight instead of 1 a.m. since it’s a work night. The Fight Pass bouts are Vitor Miranda (12-5) vs. Marvin Vettori (11-3), Johnny Case (22-4) vs. Tony Martin (10-3), Jeremy Kimball (14-8) vs. Josh Stansbury (8-3) and Jared Gordon (12-1) vs. Michel Quinones (8-1). FS 1 starts at 7 p.m. with Darrell Horcher (12-2) vs. Devin Powell (8-2), Carla Esparza (11-4) vs. Maryna Moroz (8-1), Clay Guida (32-17) vs. Erik Koch (15-4), B.J. Penn (16-11-2) vs. Dennis Silver (22-11), Alex Garcia (14-3) vs Tim Means (26-8-1), Joachim Christensen (14-5) vs. Dominick Reyes (6-1), Felice Herrig (12-6) vs. Justine Kish (6-0), Tim Boetsch (20-11) vs. Johny Hendricks (18-6) and a main event of Kevin Lee (15-2) vs. Michael Chiesa (14-2). We’ll see how much that brawl helps the ratings. The immediate take on the show is just how sad it is that Penn is still fighting,. His last win was almost seven years ago against a retiring Matt Hughes, and before that, his prior last win was in 2009. Worse, not just that he’s fighting but seeing him sixth from the top on a Fight Night and that almost nobody even knows he’s fighting

Sage Northcutt vs. John Makdessi has been added to the 7/29 show in Anaheim. Makdessi replaces Claudio Puelles, who was the original opponent for Northcutt. This is far from an easy opponent for Northcutt, even though Makdessi has lost four of his last six. His losses were to guys far above Northcutt’s level, like Donald Cerrone, Yancy Medeiros, Alan Patrick and Lando Vannata

Juliana Lima is now facing Tecia Torres on the 7/7 show in Las Vegas, which is the TUF Finale show at the T-Mobile Arena the Friday night before the PPV headlined by Michael Johnson vs. Justin Gaethje. Lima was originally to face Amanda Ribas, but Ribas was pulled from the show due to a potential drug testing violation from an out of competition test taken on 6/7

George Sullivan has been suspended for one year officially for a second anti-doping test violation. Sullivan, 36, tested positive for clomiphene and hydroxyclomiphene on 1/14. He was on suspension at the time of his testing. Sullivan immediately noted that he was taking a fertility medication and that was why he tested positive. USADA examined the case and confirmed his positive test was for using Clomiphene Citrate, which he was using within therapeutic limits to treat his condition. However, Clomiphene Citrate is not approved in the U.S. by the Food & Drug Administration for use for males. USADA ruled that Sullivan wasn’t at a high degree of fault because he was using the medication for a viable reason under care of a physician for a documented medical condition. So they decided to reduce a potential two-year suspension since he failed a test while already on suspension, to one year. The one year limit began on January 14, 2017, when the test was taken

Rob Font vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade has been added to the 7/8 show in Las Vegas.

BELLATOR: The biggest show in company history takes place on 6/24 in Madison Square Garden. The show starts at 8 p.m.. On Spike with Heather Hardy (0-0, a woman’s boxing star) vs. Alica Yaguer (4-5), Neiman Gracie (5-0) vs. Dave Marfone (5-2), James Gallagher (6-0) vs Chinzo Machida (5-2), and Phil Davis (17-3, 1 no contest) defends the light heavyweight title against Ryan Bader (22-5). The PPV at 10 p.m. has Aaron Pico (0-0) vs. Zach Freeman (8-2), Michael Chandler (16-3) defends the lightweight title against Brent Primus (7-0), Douglas Lima (28-6) defends the welterweight title against Lorenz Larkin (18-5, 1 no contest), Fedor Emelianenko (36-4, 1 no contest) vs. Matt Mitrione (11-5) and Chael Sonnen (29-15-1) vs. Wanderlei Silva (35-12-1, 1 no contest). Besides all the title matches and the two main events, the match they are trying to build toward down the line is Gallagher vs. Pico, although I would guess they’d want to give Pico several fights before making that match, but the idea is a rivalry down the line since Pico is 20 and Gallagher is also 20

Regarding the announcers, Mauro Ranallo and Jimmy Smith will be calling the PPV show. Mike Goldberg will work as a host. The roles will be reversed for the fights on Spike, with Goldberg as the play-by-play guy and Ranallo as the host. In the future, either Ranallo or Goldberg will be doing the play-by-play on the cards, alternating based on different factors including Ranallo’s busy schedule

While there was talk of a Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell fight, according to Ortiz, even though he thinks he would win the fight now (he’s 42 and Liddell is almost 48), he said he has no interest at all at fighting. He said he’s dying from neck pain and needs surgery. He said he was supposed to already get the neck surgery but his insurance got denied so he has to delay it.

OTHER MMA: Colbey Northcutt, the older sister of Sage Northcutt, makes her debut on the Legacy Fighting Alliance show 6/23 in Houston on AXS. She faces Courtney King.

WWE: The mentions of Conor McGregor on Raw this week were not coincidental, and things like that never are. Paul Levesque was on Sky Sports News HQ in the U.K. and outright said that they’d love to get McGregor and Floyd Mayweather on Raw to help them promote their fight. I’m sure the idea of the deal proposed is they’d have a worldwide platform with millions of fans to sell their fight and in return WWE would get the publicity and whatever ratings boost it can from promoting both being on the show. Plus, WWE has worked with Mayweather in the past to the point HHH himself has walked Mayweather to the ring, and they negotiated for McGregor for WrestleMania and having a relationship with them and McGregor makes sense on both sides.

Bryan did probably the strongest statement thus far that he’ll be returning to the ring in a Sports Illustrated interview where, when asked if he was going to wrestle again, said, “I’m working on it. Wrestling is more of a creative outlet, and especially for somebody like me. I view it as my creative outlet. Not all WWE superstars and not all wrestlers view it that way, but that’s how I view it and that’s one of the ways my mind works creatively.

In an interview with NBC Sports. He feels WWE needs to change the way they present the talent. He noted UFC style vignettes where they get people to care about the fighters and backstage stuff showing people’s real personalities are the way to go. He really liked the Roderick Strong piece on NXT for example, and said he liked The Fashion Police segments. He said a failing on Smackdown was American Alpha. He said changing the dynamic and highlighting the personalities is something they need to do but nobody has the magic answer of how to do that best in the modern world of television. He pushed that he thinks Matt Riddle has a ton of personality and charisma and the kind of look WWE wants and he thinks he’d do very well in WWE and that Kenny Omega would kill it. His favorite non-WWE match this year was Okada vs. Suzuki. He also said he’d love to wrestle Kushida. His contract expires in 2018 and at that point he’ll have to make his decision

The WWE sent out a survey to fans who attended WrestleMania this year in Orlando asking their preference when it comes to traveling to a WrestleMania in London, Toronto or New York

Kevin Eck of The Sporting News wrote a really interesting story regarding his experiences on the creative team and Money in the Bank situations. He noted that in 2011, after Bryan won the Money in the Bank, that he was told that Vince had buyer’s remorse about choosing Bryan to win. At the time they were trying to figure out a good scenario to get out of it where Bryan would be the first person to fail to cash in. He booked Bryan, after winning the briefcase, to lose TV matches to Sin Cara, Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett, and even moved him to Superstars for matches with Slater, Regal and Trent Baretta. He worked three straight dark matches on PPV shows against Slater, JTG and Barrett and then wasn’t booked on the Survivor Series show. Eck said he then pitched to link Bryan up with A.J. Lee, with the idea that they would be a nerdy couple, which of course, is something you’d think Vince would love. Brian Gewirtz also liked the idea. Lee was thrilled about while Bryan didn’t like it, saying the last time they put him in a storyline like that (the one with the Bella Twins and Gail Kim) that it did him more harm than good. Actually I’d strongly argue that one because it got him a wife and family, but it didn’t do his wrestling career much good at first. But what happened was that Mark Henry, who was the champion at the time, was banged up and needed time off. He was going to be facing Show at the December PPV that year and Show was logically going to beat him for the title. One of the writers suggested that after Show wins, that Henry lay Show out after the match and Bryan would cash in and win the title. Vince loved it, and went on from there about how Bryan would let the title go to his head and really think he beat Show in a match in seconds and people will hate the little guy who fluked into the title and thinks he beat Big Show. Eck said he added too that, saying that Bryan should then treat Lee badly to get more heat. Vince said that he didn’t think Lee had the chops to pull that off, but they went in that direction and Vince liked both Bryan and Lee in the role and changed his mind and went with the idea. Another aspect of that story is that this all went down the day of the TLC show. Bryan’s stock had fallen so much in Vince’s eyes that not only was he not booked in a match on that show, but they didn’t even have him scheduled to be backstage. The show was in Baltimore and there was no way, given when the decision was made, that they would have been able to fly him in. But they found out that he was doing a company autograph thing close enough to Baltimore that he could make it in. If for some reason that wasn’t the case, perhaps they’d have still had him cash in at a later time, but that’s not a definite and his career really took off in that role as the fluke little guy champion where it went to his head and pulled it off so well they came up with other angles playing off that. In 2012, Ziggler won. At that time they had no plans at all for what to do next. Once again, they started souring on him and it looked like he’d also fail to cash it in. Eck said that to say that Vince had lost faith in Ziggler would be a major understatement, and that even though Ziggler was getting good responses from the crowd, Vince thought he lacked instincts in the ring and on promos and HHH thought Ziggler didn’t listen to directions and was obsessed with trying to be Shawn Michaels. However, Pat Patterson always supported Ziggler and always urged Vince to push him. At the 2013 WrestleMania weekend, Patterson kept pushing the idea of Ziggler cashing in and winning the title at Mania, saying that the people would “go banana” an inside joke because Patterson, who grew up speaking French, was known at times for botching the s’ at the end of words, so that Roy Shire was always Roy Shires, bananas was banana, and so forth (on a side note, in the 70s, Patterson & Andre the Giant were doing a telethon on San Francisco television. One of the hosts wanted to arm wrestle Patterson, since in San Francisco, everyone believed Patterson was a real badass even though he will readily admit he was not, but he was able to work to make you believe he was. Patterson responded, “Only if we do it my way.” The host then said, “Pat, what is your way?” And Patterson said, “235 pounds.” Patterson pitched it hard the afternoon of Mania and Vince shot it down again. The next day, after more pushing, Vince agreed to let it happen on Raw. Vince then said, in front of everyone, “We are not pushing Dolph.” He said he just wanted a big pop for the Monday after Raw TV show and they’d get out of it later. In 2013, the winner came down to a group of people. Sandow, who won, Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Ambrose, Cesaro, Swagger and Fandango. As the show came closer, Vince nixed everyone but Barrett and Sandow. Both had backers. Eck said he felt Barrett could be a world champion, as he was a solid worker, had good size and was a great promo, while he saw Sandow as a mid-card comedy act that he couldn’t see headlining a PPV. After winning the match, Sandow was booked to constantly lose. Vince said that it doesn’t matter if Sandow loses, because he’s still got the briefcase. Then, after Sandow kept losing, Vince decided that fans didn’t see Sandow as world champion material. Then at a meeting, Vince said that they had went with the wrong guy, so they booked him in a TV match with Cena and had him lose. In 2014, Wyatt was the favorite to win. Vince said he wanted to hear other suggestions. Eck said he suggested Sheamus, because Sheamus wasn’t getting pushed big at the time so nobody would see it coming. However, Vince did have a plan to turn Sheamus heel slowly, so his winning would help that turn get over. Vince chose Sheamus, because they believed he should be a top star but every attempt to make him one hadn’t really worked, but they still believed in him. However, Bryan was injured, so the Money in the Bank match, instead of being for the briefcase, was now for the title, and whoever won, would be sacrificed to Lesnar at SummerSlam (the role Bryan was supposed to play), with the idea of leading to Reigns’ coronation over the unbeatable Lesnar at Mania in 2015. Well, Vince decided Sheamus wasn’t the guy for that role, because they saw Lesnar as a heel and Reigns was a face, so needed a face to win the title. The decision was changed to Cena. Then Vince decided not to turn Sheamus, feeling that with Punk walking out, they were shorthanded on the face side. But Sheamus did win the briefcase in 2015 and cashed in later that year

Rollins was announced as the cover person for the WWE 2K 18 video game. WWE was able to get the announcement with Rollins in studio on ESPN SportsCenter. The marketing campaign is based on the phrase “Be Like No One.” It’s notable because the cover person is a joint decision between WWE and 2K, and it usually comes down to who 2K thinks is a hot commodity and who WWE wants to push as a hot commodity. Rollins doesn’t seem to tick either of those boxes. But part of it also is they want new people in the spot, so the obvious (Cena & Lesnar) have already been done in recent years. Still, the last six years have been Orton, Punk, Rock, Cena, Austin and Lesnar. It’s notable Rollins was the joint pick ahead of Reigns, Styles and Nakamura, who would all seem to either be more heavily pushed (Reigns) or hotter with the crowd (Styles and Nakamura). It doesn’t really matter, just a surprise. I’d expect Undertaker or Angle as the legend for this year. Angle was the pick even before WWE signed him, as unlike with Sting and Warrior and Goldberg, this was the case where it wasn’t 2K making a deal opening the door for WWE to then make the deal

WWE’s book “Second Nature,” about both Ric and Charlotte Flair, is now set for a 9/19 release. It was originally scheduled for a July release

The TLC show, traditionally in December, has been moved to 10/22 at the Target Center in Minneapolis

Michaels complained that current talent isn’t evolving and is too set in their ways on the Edge & Christian podcast: “I think my match with (Vader) was the first time I can recall stomping for the superkick and you’re the champion, so you’re still figuring out new ways to develop and grow and evolve. It’s not a knock, but I don’t know how many people are doing that.” “People are sort of set in their sequence, their distinguished moveset of whatever, and heck, we were still trying to grow in a main event of a pay-per-view. Do you know what I mean? It was a constant effort for character development, so to speak, as opposed to being set in that and just moving forward. And again, it’s not to be critical of anybody. It’s just sometimes when I watch, it’s just people are pretty set on who it is they are and I don’t know if that’s the most positive way of going about doing it. You want to continue to grow as a character, to stretch out, to have more range and have more emotion and have more everything because once you do sort of get settled in it, then it becomes repetitive, right?

The WWE started releasing names for the Mae Young Classic this week. All of the names thus far were already reported here except Princesa Sugei from CMLL. The others listed are Toni Storm, who was one of the first group of wrestlers contacted about doing this probably nine months ago when it was going to be done months earlier, and NXT regulars Lacey Evans and Sarah Bridges. Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that Serena Deeb, 30, who worked for the company in 2009 and 2010 as part of Punk’s Straight Edge Society, before retiring in 2015 to become a full-time yoga instructor after concussion issues, has been in talks about returning which would be doing the Brian Kendrick role in the tournament

They also reported Shelton Benjamin is in talks about returning, likely for Smackdown

The plan right now is for Asuka vs. Nikki Cross in a last woman standing title match to be taped this week at the NXT tapings for airing on 6/28

In Memphis for years there has been a movement to save the Mid South Coliseum, which was the hope for wrestling from 1971 until well into the late 90s and they even ran successful nostalgia shows long after that. With new arenas opening, the Coliseum doesn’t have much use past its nostalgia value. Jerry Lawler noted that the city was willing to sell him the building for $1. The catch is that the building’s upkeep cost is $63,000 per month

Mikael Vierge, who was in developmental as Marcus Louis and in Impact as Baron Dax, wrote a very interesting take on Raw. He said that WWE needs to stop recruiting wrestlers until they’ve solved their writing issues. He said that there is a detrimental level of laziness in the promotion. “You cannot hand your guys scripts and have them act our play for the very simple reason that they’re not actors. They will fail at that exercise. Their job isn’t to fight either. You can’t just have them wrestle and hope for the best, you cannot hope to recreate nor capture sports excitement/intensity, this is not what you’re dealing with, the wrestlers will fail at doing this too.” I do have to disagree to a point. You can’t capture sports excitement and intensity often, but you can if you create legitimate consequences to the results. Promotions all over the world and in the U.S. on a regular basis create sports excitement and intensity when it’s the right guys performing in the right scenarios. But if you create an environment where most of the time, there are no consequences, then yes, you’ll fail except in rare occasions too create that feeling. And even in the best companies, you can’t do it up and down a show, only for certain guys in key situations. Vierge suggested writing scripts with the guys, and not to wait until Monday at 6 p..m. to hand people a script. He noted that it takes real actors weeks of preparation to pull off a role believably, and a pro wrestler can’t remotely come close to succeeding with two hours. He suggested having writers going on the road and traveling with the talent they are writing for and have them collaborate on ideas and promos. He said then the writers can learn how the guys really talk and their characters and write better for them, instead of handing them a script that is all wrong for them. “If not you’ll have these horribly painful microphone segments we’re enduring with guys reciting lines they’ve learned an hour ago trying to be someone they have absolutely nothing in common with, especially when it comes to voice.” He also said the office vs. the boys nonsense should be dropped, saying WWE should operate more like a newspaper team, with Vince as the editor-in-chief, to lay out the general idea but assign multi-week and even multi-month storylines to writers and send them on the road with the people in the stories they’ll write for, and give them the freedom to write. Then they report back to the editor before deadline and present the story. He said if the writers and talent worked together it would alleviate a lot of the frustrations of the performers and they’ll be more motivated and bring a higher level of passion to their work

Kairi Hojo starts in Orlando this week

Cena will work the TV on 7/4, and then head to Australia for a series of speaking tour shows and appearances and return for the a 7/11 Smackdown TV show

The first sign of the Cena free agent gimmick is that he’ll be doing the Raw tour in mid-July, with a Cena vs. Wyatt main eventing a 7/15 house show in Huntington, WV. Reigns is off those weekend shows as Reigns vs. Wyatt is headlining all the house shows right now. Cena is booked on all Smackdown TVs after 7/4

Lesnar will be appearing on most Raws in the buildup to SummerSlam. He’s official for 7/31 in Pittsburgh and 8/14 in Boston, but not at this point booked for 8/7 in Toronto

The New York Post ran a story on 6/17 about Georgia Tann, who ran the black market for stole young children, more than 5,000, between 1924 and 1950, some off the streets, some at day care centers, some at church basements where they played and often from hospitals with parents being told that their child was stillborn as part of the Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, which masqueraded as a charitable organization. They falsified adoption records and destroyed all records. The key to this story is that Ric Flair was one of the stolen babies, who was then sold to the only parents he knew, Dr. Richard and Kathleen Fliehr, who were unable to have children of their own, in 1949,. shortly after birth. He never knew his biological parents and there was never a way to trace who they were

Kimberly Frankele, formerly Kimber Lee, has been given a new name, Abbey Laith

There were a ton of athletes from all kinds of different worlds at a tryout camp this past week. Hunter McIntyre (and boy is that guy getting a name change if he’s signed) is the latest champion off the Steve Austin Broken Skull Challenge show. Amario Herrera was a 6-foot-2 231 pound linebacker from the University of Georgia from 2011 to 2014. Noke Tago, 24, is a 6-foot-1, 306 pound defensive end from Oregon State. Raynor Whitcomb is a 230-pound bodybuilder and model who played Australian Rules football. Denzel DeJournette was a Division I heavyweight wrestler from Appalachian State who went 31-4 the 2016 season and 33-6 in the 2015 season and went to the NCAA tournament both years, placing eighth as a senior this past season. Nicolai Salchow was raised in Germany and was a kickboxer and MMA fighter with a 6-1 pro record as a middleweight. Lindsey Kelly is a former swimmer at the University of Arizona who is now a powerlifter and crossfit competitor. Reginald Gibbs is an independent pro wrestler named Odinson in Georgia. Arthur Haug is a bodybuilder who is from Iowa. His brother, Josh Haug, 25, wrestled at the University of Iowa. Nick Brewer is the strongest man in the world competitor who we wrote about last week. Vernon Willis is listed at 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds and was listed as a California high school champion (actually he didn’t even make the state tournament but did wrestle at Mount San Antonio college). Andrew Cavanna is a weightlifter and wrestler from Connecticut. Briana Brady is a hip hop artist. Chris Gray, 36, would be the most well-known of the crew to wrestling fans, as he’s wrestled out of Ontario and in TNA as Cody Deaner. Steve Scott, 33, is Crazzy Steve from TNA. Paul Bilbo is a 6-foot-9 former basketball player who does indies with AIW and CWF Mid Atlantic. Matt King, 23, is a 6-foot-5, 250 pound model who does indies in Georgia as Raphael King. Troy Russell is a 6-foot-6 trainee of Lance Storm. Tehuti Miles served in the Army in Afghanistan and played for the University of Maryland football team. Quelton Toliver, 20, is a 285-pound amateur wrestler. Morgan & Christopher Hill are brothers who were models and also played football. Elena Pogosyan, 24, I a reporter who trained under Johnny Rodz. Jeslen Mishelle has done some cameos on WWE broadcasts and is the girlfriend of Jeff Cobb, who uses the name Desi Derata. She was used as a plant in the audience who took a selfie with Dean Ambrose at a Northern California taping, and I believe was in another show as well

Niki Duke, 24, is a bikini competitor. Mike Taverna, 25, is a Northeast indie wrestler. Haley Kate Yellin is a fitness model. Will Cuevas as a former Marine who wrestler for All Pro Wrestling in Northern California and is one of the top local stars. Blake Dees, 24 was a 257-pound linebacker at Texas Tech. Micas Harris is a pro wrestler out of Indiana. Marshall Williams is an indie wrestler out of Maryland who is 260 pounds. Zach Johnson is a 6-foot-6, 240 pound independent wrestler. Michael Richards is a New Zealand based independent wrestler. Joe Maples played football for the University of Missouri. Haley Tipton, 24, is a model and former beach volleyball player. Abigail Burgdorf is a powerlifter and track athlete

Regarding the note about the Hollywood Hills mansion that Miz & Maryse have put on the market for $3.65 million. The two purchased the house in 2012 for $1.85 million

So a funny spot on the 6/13 Smackdown show is that JBL twice used the word “belt” as Lana laid out Naomi, saying the belt, which is blue, matches the dress noting fashion coordination. At that point somebody said something and JBL had his mic off but in the corner of the shot you could see him in a discussion

The 6/26 Raw from the Staples Center right now doesn’t look like it’ll sellout. Expectations are 11,000 to 12,000. A Raw sellout is 14,000 (which is then announced as 17,000). They are loading up on the 6/27 Smackdown show in San Diego, with the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match rematch, Naomi vs. Lana in a title rematch, Zayn vs. Corbin and Usos vs. Rawley & Ryder in a non-title match

The Raw crew leaves from Los Angeles on 6/26, goes to Kallang, Singapore for a show on 6/28 (the same building UFC ran on 6/17), and then has shows on 6/30 and 7/1 at Sumo Hall in Tokyo before returning for the 7/3 Phoenix Raw taping. Raw and Smackdown are both being taped in Phoenix on 7/3 and 7/4. Because they knew 7/4 would be a difficult draw, when they put tickets on sale, the idea was that if you purchased a ticket for Raw at the regular price, you got a Smackdown ticket free

They also did some ticket discounting this past week in the local market for the 7/7 show in Madison Square Garden, although MSG hasn’t sold out in years for house shows, and does no arena that size, except for the network special when Lesnar was booked

WWE stock closed at press time at $20.15 per share, giving the company a $1.541 billion market value

No real surprises on the most-watched network shows from last week: 1. Money in the Bank PPV; 2. NXT on 6/14 (given the competition since it was PPV week that’s a good sign); 3. Extreme Rules PPV; 4. Money in the Bank post-game show; 5. Reborn by Fate: Hardys interview; 6. WrestleMania 33; 7. This Week in WWE; 8. Bring it to the Table from 6/12; 9. 2011 Money in the Bank PPV; 10. Money in the Bank pre-game show (that’s way low from what you’d think). Talking Smack was 11th and 205 Live was 12th

Notes from the Raw tapings on 6/19 in Evansville. The show drew 6,500, which was close to full in a 7,000-seat set-up. The show felt like a lot of filler, but had two good segments with the Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns match leading to the return of Braun Strowman, and the Cass heel turn when it was revealed he was the attacker of Enzo. Main Event had Kalisto pinning Rhyno in a very good match. Reigns opened the show with an interesting interview. Basically, he was being a heel to those who don’t like him while being a face to those who do. Cena was always being a face no matter what. Reigns said that nobody can beat him one-on-one without interference, and said he proved it beating Wyatt, Balor, his little brother Rollins, that he put Strowman out of commission and beat and retired Undertaker. He said he wants the title shot at Mania. Joe came out and said that his name isn’t on Reigns’ list because Reigns can’t beat him. Reigns said that “You’ll never be Samoa Joe to me, you’re Just Joe.” Just Joe was a prelim character in WWE about 18 years ago. Joe head-butted him. Reigns made a comeback and cleared the ring with a Superman punch. Hardys beat Gallows & Anderson in 10:29. A solid match. Matt kicked out of the boot of doom. The finish was the twist of fate by Matt and swanton by Jeff on Gallows. They did another Goldust interview vignette. He comes across more of a star than most in this setting even though he’s not being pushed as one. They were setting up a confrontation next week with Goldust vs. R-Truth. He invited R-Truth to the debut of his latest picture, “The Shattered Truth.” Samson came out singing and ripping on Evansville. Balor came out to interrupt him and Samson walked off. Balor pinned Dallas in 3:32 with the coup de gras. Dallas, who has a new look with new ring gear, and beard and mustache, attacked Balor before the match. Graves then said he had to leave the desk. Angle was on the phone and Graves came out and said “It’s too bad you didn’t have a good Father’s Day.” Angle wanted to know what he was talking about and Graves said that he got the same text angle got. So this mystery is still continuing after they solves the Enzo mystery. Angle asked about Enzo talking about Conor McGregor on Twitter. Enzo made a text about beating him up and called McGregor “Connie Mack,” who was a legendary baseball manager. Enzo & Cass thought it was The Revival and wanted them. But Cass said he knows factually it was Show who attacked him. Angle told them that by the end of the night, we’ll find out who attacked you both. Rollins came out and talked about growing up and playing video games. Fans were chanting “You deserve it” at him for getting the cover. He said how he did all those things but the fans gave him a second chance and said that “This is our cover.” He made a promise, but before he could say what he was promising, Wyatt was on the screen. Wyatt was talking about him being a God. Rollins said he was a coward. Wyatt came out and Rollins nailed him with a plancha. Balor did an interview and he wants a title shot. Charly Caruso asked him who was going to win between Joe and Lesnar. Before he could answer that, Samson attacked him, so that’s the new program. Samson told Balor to never upstage him again. Devon Dudley showed up for the save. Tozawa beat TJP in 10:34 in the typical well worked match that got no crowd response. Neville came out about 2:00 into the match. When TJP rolled out of the ring to escape the senton, Tozawa hit him with a tope. The finish saw a Saito suplex and a high senton off the top rope. O’Neil came in to congratulate him while Tozawa looked like he was suspicious of O’Neil. O’Neil said Tozawa is this close to signing with The Titus Brand. It’s so funny how much O’Neil is like Bearcat Wright. They were similar size and builds, although Wright was a few inches taller and a far bigger star. But both ended up as managers, even though they towered over the people they managed. O’Neil can talk so this role has potential. O’Neil promised him the title if he signed and money will be flowing. He said the Neville level will be annihilated by the powa of Tozawa. If he’s such a good marketer he should figure out a way to put life in that division in the fans’ eyes. R-Truth agreed to meet Goldust next week in Los Angeles. Dallas & Axel were hanging out. The last time we saw them, they were feuding with each other after Dallas turned on him. Miz showed up and told them and in the last “Marine” movie that they were action stars, but on Raw they’re just comic relief. He wanted them to be his entourage. Axel wanted to hit Miz, but Miz said he could hit him, but Miz will still be IC champion and the only matches Axel will have every Monday would be against catering. Miz said he’d make them the stars they deserve to be. Joe did an interview. They showed a clip of Joe beating Reigns on Raw four months ago. He vowed he would lock Reigns up in the Coquina clutch. Joe beat Reigns in 18:07. This turned into a very good match. There were dueling chants. Joe went for a choke the first time and Reigns rolled out of the ring. Joe drove Reigns’ back into the post and hit a senton on the floor. When Reigns set up a spear, Joe rolled out of the ring. Reigns went for a spear but ran into a kick by Joe, who then hit a uranage for a near fall. Reigns finally hit the spear but Joe got his foot on the ropes. Joe was nearly counted out. Reigns seemed to have the match won when Strowman came out of an ambulance and Reigns saw that and was distracted. Joe choked him out. Strowman then came to the ring and hit a forward choke slam on Reigns. Fans chanted “One more time” at that one. He challenged Reigns to an ambulance match. Miz came out to make up with Maryse. He had two guys dressed as bears with signs asking for forgiveness. He said it was a Miz bear and a Maryse bear. He said he was worry for accidentally destroying the clock, but that when she thought he was sleeping on the coach, he went on the Internet and learned how to fix it. So he had a present, the fixed clock. He also gave her champagne. They made up and were about to kiss when Ambrose came out. In the ensuing action, Miz actually bumped into Maryse, and she spilled the champagne on herself. Then Miz ran to attack Ambrose, who moved and Miz knocked down the broke the clock again. The two bears attacked Ambrose, revealing Axel and Dallas. Miz then hit the Skull crushing finale on Ambrose. Later in the show, in the dark match, it was Axel and Dallas with Miz and not Maryse so this may have been to write her out and leave the Bennetts as the married couple where the guy gets heat for having a hot wife role and Miz has a new entourage. She was a big part of the revitalization of his career, but his promos have been so good that I don’t see him falling back down without her. Plus, the depth issue is such that they aren’t going t be burying him. Sheamus & Cesaro beat O’Neil & Crews in 4:11. By this point the crowd was dead. Sheamus pinned Crews after a double-team white noise. There was a good promotional video of Joe and Lesnar. Lesnar was his usual cocky self saying that Joe isn’t even in his league. Jax beat Banks via DQ in 1:11. This was a nothing segment just designed to get the women on TV, and it looks like they are in a multiple person program. Bliss came out right away to do commentary. Emma then came out and attacked Bliss for walking out on her. But it was a swerve. Emma chased Bliss to the ring. Bliss was hiding behind Jax. Emma tried to kick Bliss, who moved, and kicked Jax. They announced that Jax won via DQ for Emma kicking her. Bliss attacked Banks and Emma suddenly joined in with Bliss attacking Banks showing this was all a set-up. The announcers really fumbled in not strongly getting that across. Brooke and James ran in for the save for Banks. Jax was destroying everyone but missed a leg drop. Bayley then ran in. All the faces combined ganged up on Jax who was dropkicked out of the ring. The final segment saw Angle call out Enzo & Cass. He also called out The Revival and Show. Show and Cass had words. Show was mad at Enzo, Cass and Angle for even insinuating he may have attacked Cass. I guess he forgot his 21 heel turns. He said if he’s attacking anyone, it’s to their face. He told Cass, “Don’t look at me like you want some.” He then told Angle that he didn’t want to be on his show anymore. Angle then said that he’s talked with agents and people backstage and The Revival has a rock-solid alibi. Graves then came out. He said that Cass claimed he had a lump the size of a baseball on the back of his head when blaming Show. Graves said he talked to the medical team and nobody from WWE treated him and there was no lump. This was a total knock at C.M. Punk and his golf ball sized growth thing which they’re in court over. Short story, WWE when Punk claimed the growth and MSRA staph, they thought it was a real bad situation and they settled, gave Punk all the money they’d been holding back and gave him a full release. After, for whatever reason, they believed they’d been conned and that there was something fishy about Punk’s personal doctor letter that scared them, especially when they looked back at tapes and couldn’t find this giant growth he talked about. Then Graves showed security footage that showed Cass setting up the place and just laying down to act like he’d been attacked. Graves said Cass was the one who attacked Enzo. Enzo was heartbroken and even cried. Cass admitted it. Cass did a great job at this point, and he needed to. He said that everybody in the back doesn’t like Enzo, but he felt bad for him and was his friend. He said he put up with his crap every single day for years. He said that after he attacked Enzo, he wanted to see if he’d be smart enough to figure it out, but he’s even dumber than he looks. He said Enzo was dead weight holding im down when he should be rising to the top. This was all inevitable in some form from day one, because Vince was going to see Cass as the star, and they portrayed the team as Enzo being a joke that Big Cass saves all the time. Cass blamed Enzo for his never wining a championship, and that he’s the future, he’s where the money is and Enzo’s mouth writes checks his ass can’t cash. He then laid out Enzo to end the show. After Raw ended, even though it was already late, because the last match was Jax vs. Banks, which went so short and had a non-finish, they came back with a non-title match with Miz vs. Ambrose. This made sense off the angle on TV. Ambrose made a comeback with Axel and Dallas interfering. Ambrose took a beating but made his own comeback, throwing both out of the ring. Miz went for the Skull crushing finale, but Ambrose reversed it into Dirty Deeds for the pin

Notes from the 6/20 Smackdown tapings in Dayton. They had a small crowd of just 3,100 paid, so almost everyone was seated in one side of the arena and that’s the side they shot. The show was easy to watch even if the last two matches were duplicate sequence finishes. The show was really all about building next week’s show and setting up the Money in the Bank rematch. The crowd was better reacting than usual for 205 Live. It opened with Breeze & Fandango & Dillinger over Colons & English in a dark match with Dillinger pinning English. Smackdown opened with Charlotte, Tamina, Natalya and Lynch complaining to Bryan about the finish of the ladder match. Bryan said he was going to hear everyone out but first wanted to talk to Carmella & Ellsworth. Carmella came out with Ellsworth and talked about how this was “The Fabulous Era of Carmella.” She said she’s been underestimated ever since she was the last pick I the draft. She brought up that Kane had helped Rollins win a Money in the Bank and Wyatt had cost Reigns from winning another year when Sheamus won, and they never reversed anything. She said Money in the Bank is no DQ. She did a really good job on her promo. Big E pinned Jimmy Uso in 6:31 with the big ending. At one point Jimmy tried to walk off and get counted out. Woods wouldn’t let him leave and Kingston did a crazy backwards dive off the steps to take out Jey. Bryan was on the phone with Shane. Natalya and Tamina came out. Natalya was kissing up to him badly, which was supposed to be heat because later in the show Natalya said she can’t stand a suck up and that Lynch was a suck up to Bryan. Bryan promised he’s made a decision soon. Naomi did an interview. Lana came out and wanted a rematch. Naomi agreed. This interview was horrific. The verbiage they used was perhaps the fakest of any backstage segment this year. Both women did their lines without a speck of conviction or realism, but I don’t know that anyone could with being given lines like they were. Orton did an interview and said he took his eye off the ball and beat himself, but that Mahal and the Singhs made it personal. He noted that from Evolution and Legacy, he’s used the numbers game to his advantage and has no problem with that. Nakamura pinned Ziggler in 16:48 of a good match. So this was the match where they didn’t show it during the commercial break. Nakamura got an armbar and Ziggler raked the eyes. Ziggler got a near fall with a Zig Zag and also nearly won with a choke. Nakamura won with a running kick to the back of the head and the Kinshasa. Bryan was with Zayn. Bryan announced a Zayn vs. Corbin match for next week. Zayn was fine saying he’s already beaten Corbin three times. Lynch showed up and complained about how people keep taking shortcuts and she knows people are going to cheat to get ahead and there’s nothing she can do about it and told Bryan to do the right thing. Bryan said it’s complicated and she asked if doing the right thing was really that complicated. Owens did an interview and said the other five all conspired against him in the Money in the Bank match because they knew he was the most dangerous man in the match and they all tried to end his career. He said he was going to put the U.S. title up from anyone in Dayton. Styles came out and Owens said he wasn’t from Dayton. Gable then came out. He claimed he moved to Dayton this morning and gave his new address (I believe it was the address of the arena which is why the crowd popped). Somehow this led to a title match. Owens pinned Gable in 5:57 to retain. Gable immediately hit Owens with a series of suplexes. This was really good while it lasted, but most of it was during the commercial break. Tom Phillips, the face announcer, did say that Gable was from Minnesota. Gable took most of the match including doing a moonsault for a near fall and using a rolling reverse cradle into a German suplex for another. Owens dropped his throat on the top rope and won with the pop up power bomb. Ryder & Rawley were with Bryan. They showed clips of the tag team Battle Royal from December for a title shot that Ryder won. Ryder said that now that he’s back they deserve a title shot. They claimed there were never any statute of limitations on getting that title match. Bryan said the division has moved on and changed since then, but did agree to give them a non-title match next week. If they win that, they’ll get a title shot. For some reason I sense one of them turning on the other down the line, I guess because it always happens. Bryan came to the ring with all five women and Ellsworth for his announcement. Bryan said that it was true that there has been interference in past MITB matches and they were allowed to stand. But he said there was no precedent for somebody else unhooking the briefcase that wasn’t in the match and handing it to someone. Ellsworth made a remark about Bryan being a daddy to a vegan hippie girl and that it made him soft. Bryan said if he ever talks about his baby girl again, he’ll punch him in the mouth and fire him. All the women started arguing. The funny part was Charlotte telling Natalya and she was going to make her look like Ellsworth. Tamina’s comeback line was that she was going to make Charlotte look like Ellsworth. They scripted two women to do the same line one right after the other? Bryan told Carmela she had to hand over the briefcase and said they would be redoing the match next week. The live crowd booed, I guess because they wanted it on their show. All of the women started brawling. Charlotte & Lynch cleaned house on Tamina and Natalya, and then they surrounded Carmella. Charlotte hit Carmella with Natural Selection and then Lynch put Carmella in the disarmer. Carmella was both tapping and crying. TV main saw Mahal pin Harper in 9:38 in a non-title match. Harper carried the match and it was good. Mahal went for a tope but Mahal threw one of the Singhs in the way to take it. Both traded near falls. Corbin came out with the briefcase, walked around the ring and left. The idea was for it to be that Corbin was putting it in Mahal’s mind he could cash in at any time. Then they did basically the same finish as the prior match. Harper got all kinds of near falls and then went after the Singhs. So after near falls like crazy, it was one kick and the cobra slam by Mahal for the pin. Orton then ran in, with his music playing. The Singhs went to block the ring but Orton threw both of them around and hit a Thesz press on Mahal. He gave Mahal a back suplex on the barricade and a draping DDT. He set up the RKO but both Singhs hit the ring and attacked him. Orton laid out with an RKO. The other came off the top rope and was hit by the RKO, but they this point, Mahal had escaped. 205 Live opened with Tozawa and Swann talking Japanese backstage. O’Neil showed up. Not that it needed much help, but the way they shot it made it look like a discussion between Ernie Ladd and a couple of sixth graders. O’Neil wanted Tozawa to sign. He talked about marketing Tozawa towa’s (for towels). Tozawa didn’t sign and O’Neil thought he was playing hard-to-get. O’Neil said that next week he’ll give Tozawa a deal that he can’t refuse. Nese pinned Gallagher in 4:58. Aries was watching as they are going into a Nese vs. Aries program when Aries is back cleared, which apparently they figure is soon. The crowd was dead. Nese faked a knee injury and when Gallagher backed off, Nese used a schoolboy sending Gallagher into the turnbuckles and Nese pinning him after a running knee. Dar & Fox were backstage. Dar was wanting to move on from facing Alexander. Alexander said once again he wanted to move on. Dar told Alexander to quit 205 Live or he’ll make his life a living hell. Alexander laughed at that notion. Dar then told Fox how he threw Alexander’s bag into the river. Alexander showed up and his bag was just fine. Dar asked Fox, didn’t she tell him it was a gold bag. At that point Daivari showed up and was looking for his bag. He said his bag was worth $15,000. Ali pinned Gulak in 4:42. Gulak came out with his bullhorn arguing for more ground based offense. Gulak challenged him to a No Fly Zone match. The crowd booed that, which is better than no reaction. Ali immediately dropkicked him and hit a twisting plancha. The finish saw Gulak go for a Boston crab and Ali reversed into a cradle, so the idea was that Ali beat Gulak at his own mat-based game. Aries and Gallagher were backstage. They agreed to a loose affiliation and shook on it. Gallagher said that “I believe we have an Accord.” Aries said that he has a Lincoln Continental. The line was so silly and with Aries’ delivery that it worked. TJP approached Swann and said he didn’t appreciate what Swann said to him last week. They talked it out. It felt like they are slowly bringing TJP back face. TJP then told Swann to do what you told me last week and take care of business. Neville beat Swann in 10:42 of a non-title match. Much of the focus was on Tozawa, who came out to ringside in his expensive suit and there was a VIP section at ringside which they said O’Neil had set up for him to watch in. Very good match with Swann getting a lot of offense. Just felt it ended abruptly without enough build but the wrestling was really good throughout. Swann did a running flip dive. Neville gave Swann a hotshot on the announcers table, which led to a “This is awesome” chant that you almost never get on 205 Live. Swann missed a Phoenix splash and Neville put him in the Rings of Saturn for the submission. The dark match main event was supposed to be Mahal vs. Orton for the title. The Singhs came out and announced it would be a non-title match. Why you’d have a non-title match and then do a DQ finish is beyond me. Orton hit the RKO and the Singhs both interfered to end the match. Orton then gave both Singhs the draping DDT at the same time. Match was said to be okay, but nothing more

Notes from the 6/14 NXT TV tapings. It opened with Drew McIntyre beating Rob Rizin in 3:26 of a squash. What hit me immediately watching this is why is this guy in this position and Baron Corbin in the position he’s in. Aside from Corbin being maybe one inch taller, if you look at every box to decide, natural charisma, look, work, promos, experience, connecting with the crowd, McIntyre has him beat and in some categories by a country mile. Plus, McIntyre is so much more aggressive, which helps for a main event level heel, and the company needs some main event heels even though McIntyre is a babyface right now. The only McIntyre negative is they used him badly years ago on his last run, but the key is that was years ago. McIntyre won with the Claymore kick. Authors of Pain won a squash. One guy who they beat was named Dominguez but they never said their opponents and this was over in:53 with Akam pinned one of them with a Death Valley bomb. After the match, they did their super collider and double power bomb spot on both. Paul Ellering did a promo and said that Heavy Machinery was as foolish as they are large. He noted that the AOP have been here for one year and are still undefeated. He noted they’ve gone through American Alpha, TM 61 (who should be back together on TV soon), The Revival and DIY. Heavy Machinery came out and there was a face-off. The Full Sail crowd is so different from last year and the year before that. They’re like the TNA crowd now. The crowd didn’t react at all to the face-off. There was a Sonya Deville promo. Her catch phrase is “Put your hair up and square up.” It was a good video to get her over for her MMA fighter gimmick. Velveteen Dream pinned Raul Mendoza in 3:38. Mendoza is small, with nothing much of a body, but really talented. But here he was enhancement and wasn’t allowed to show anything. Dream has potential for sure. He’s still only 21, has a great physique, unique look and a memorable gimmick. His elbow drop off the top rope is even better than Okada’s version. Kassius Ohno did a promo about Hideo Itami. He said that Itami isn’t a bad guy, but he’s just frustrated and dwelling on it. Ohno said that he shouldn’t have shoved him. They announced Ohno vs. Aleister Black for next week. They’ve been a tag team in the past and should have a great match. Asuka retained in a three-way elimination match over Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot. The crowd wasn’t reacting to ths at all. Riot dropkicked both off the apron. Asuka is great and Cross is very aggressive and her stuff looks good but the crowd made this feel like nothing early on. A few people started reacting about 6:30 in. Cross pinned Riot with a neckbreaker in 7:13, leaving Asuka vs. Cross. They started brawling outside the ring. It wasn’t a double count out as the ref never counted ten, he just threw it out although they were brawling outside at 11:54. The only big reaction was the negativity to the finish, but it’s being done to set up a rematch. Cross put Asuka’s face in a cooler with ice washing off her makeup as they were still going at it backstage. They kept brawling and ended up back int eh arena and brawled for several more minutes until the big spot where Cross came off the elevated announcers desk with a running crossbody off the desk where they both flew off the ledge and went through a hidden table set up. The big spot did get a strong reaction and was a good impactful ending to the show

. The NXT tour opened on 6/15 in Richmond, VA, before 300 fans. Kassius Ohno pinned Cezar Bononi in 4:59 with the spinning elbow. Fans were chanting “Jobber” and “Who are you” at Bononi. Just the fact they took Bononi on this out of Florida tour at this stage of his training is a good sign. He’s 6-foot-6 and has a fighter physique, and has picked up selling very quickly. He’s got a long way to go, but there’s something there. Ember Moon & Ruby Riot beat Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville when Moon pinned Rose with the eclipse in 8:27. Several mistimed spots. Lars Sullivan pinned Oney Lorcan in 6:40 with a slam. Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli in 7:49. Wolfe sold well. Sabbatelli was pinned after a double-team move. Drew McIntyre pinned Velveteen Dream in 12:09. The crowd was into the Dream’s act. Lots of stalling by Dream early with fans chanting “Purple Rain.” It got good by the end. Authors of Pain retained the tag titles over Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight in 8:12 with the Last Chapter. No Paul Ellering on the tour. Crowd was dead during this match. Asuka beat Nikki Cross to keep the women’s title with a kick to the head in 10:27. Cross had a lot of support and the crowd was hot by the end. A good match but not at the level of matches Asuka used to be doing. Main event saw Aleister Black & Roderick Strong over Bobby Roode & Andrade Cien Almas. Roode got the biggest reaction of anyone on the show by far. Best match on the show by a good amount. Strong pinned Almas to win it with a backbreaker in 15:54

6/16 in Bel Air, MD drew 800 fans. Knight & Dozovic beat Moss & Sabbatelli when Sabbatelli was pinned with the double-team worlds strongest slam. Short basic match. Dozovic’s unique charisma got over. Moon pinned Cross with the Eclipse. Dueling chants with only a 60/40 split in favor of Moon. Black pinned Dream with black mass. Dream said that as much as he’d like to say he was glad to be home, he couldn’t because Baltimore sucks. The crowd was into the match. Authors of Pain beat Dain & Wolfe in a tag title match when Akam pinned Wolfe after the last chapter. Sanity were the faces. McIntyre pinned Almas after the Claymore kick. Very physical action-packed match. They traded hard chops. Both did the Tranquillo pose. Ohno pinned Bononi with a rolling elbow. The crowd didn’t know who Bononi was obviously. Asuka & Riot beat Rose & Deville when Asuka pinned Deville after a kick to the head. Asuka worked as a face here but there was a spot where she appeared annoyed by Riot. Rose looked better than Deville. Roode pinned Strong in an NXT title match after a second DDT after Strong was getting into the ring and Roode kicked the ropes and Strong was crotched. The crowd went nuts earlier when Strong kicked out of the DDT. Roode brought a belt and a chair into the ring but missed a chair shot. Roode was the most over face even though he played heel. But Strong was almost as popular. Strong made a post-match comeback to end the show

The final NXT show was 6/17 in Poughkeepsie. The show drew nearly 2,000 fans. That’s a traditionally great market. Ohno pinned Bononi. This was one of those cities where Ohno was really over. Basic match. Bononi was still tentative,. Sanity beat Moss & Sabbatelli.

Sanity worked as the faces here. Mostly comedy. Moss kept pronouncing Poughkeepsie wrong. Riot & Moon beat Deville & Rose when Moon pinned Rose after the eclipse. Sullivan beat Lorcan in almost a squash as they are making Sullivan out to be a monster. They didn’t get much of a reaction coming out but had a good hard-hitting match. Authors of Pain beat Dozovic & Knight to keep the tag titles using the last chapter finisher. Asuka beat Cross to keep the women’s title. Asuka worked as the face here and got the second biggest pop on the show behind Roode. Strong & Black beat Almas & Roode when Strong pinned Almas. Roode got a superstar reaction and the others didn’t. Crowd was strong into it by the end

The Raw crew opened on 6/16 in Edmonton before 4,000. 6/17 in Calgary also drew 3,800. It’s noteworthy that in Edmonton and Calgary they used the smaller older buildings in the city (Calgary used The Corral, the building Stu Hart used to run for his bigger shows in the old days) rather than the modern arenas that almost every major entertainment act uses and where UFC would play. 6/18 in Springfield, IL drew 3,200

Because of the PPV, the Smackdown crew didn’t work on the road until 6/19, with the only house show in Indianapolis, where they ran the smaller Farmers Coliseum instead of the usual venue, the Canseco Fieldhouse. It made sense since they drew 2,300 and with the house shows attendances that WWE does these days, unless it’s a market they traditionally do well in or there is no alternative, it’s better to run 6,000 to 9,000 seat arenas instead of the 18,000 seat arenas

In Edmonton, R-Truth & Kalisto beat Goldust & O’Neil in 8:18 when R-Truth pinned O’Neil after a neckbreaker in a decent opener. Samson sang about how much he hated Edmonton and Crews came out. Samson pinned Crews in 6:19 after a swinging neckbreaker. Dull match but decent heat. Bayley & James & Banks beat Jax & Emma & Bliss in 12:38 when Banks used the bank statement on Emma. The crowd enjoyed it with lots of comedy and playing to the crowd. Miz did an anti-Edmonton promo, ripping on the Oilers for never winning. He refused to defend his title in a podunk town like Edmonton. Rollins & Ambrose beat Miz & Joe in 17:31. Miz had great heat. Hottest match on the show and Miz came across as the star of the match by playing coward. Rollins pinned Miz after the jumping knee. Neville pinned Tozawa to keep the cruiserweight title in 12:30 after crotching him on the top rope and pinning him with his feet on the ropes. Match was well worked but crowd didn’t react coming out of intermission. Sheamus & Cesaro won a three-way to keep the tag titles over Enzo & Cass and Anderson & Gallows in 7:11. Sheamus pinned Enzo after a double-team white noise. Reigns pinned Wyatt in the main event in 15:29. Crowd reaction was split down the middle. Crowd was hot for the match. Wyatt cut a promo and asked if everyone came to see him beat Reigns and everyone cheered him there. Reigns won after a spear. General reaction was none of the matches were very good but none were bad either. Those who were there reacted easily so that was a positive

Calgary was the same show. Fans were into Goldust. Only kids were interested in Kalisto. Samson was cheered when he came out but his singing a song about how Calgary sucked turns those cheers to boos. Crews got little reaction and they did a short match. Bayley got a huge pop but Jax got cheered a lot, with a big pop when she tagged in for te first time and chants for her. Ambrose got the biggest reaction of anyone on the show. The Rollins & Ambrose vs. Joe & Miz match was the best bout with the story that Miz kept avoiding Ambrose. Fans were doing the Tozawa chant but overall that match didn’t get much of a reaction and the match was said to be fairly boring to the crowd. The crowd was about 70 percent cheering Wyatt over Reigns, so Reigns is not like Cena where the house show audience goes for him. Very good main event

Springfield, IL, was the same show, except that the Hardys joined the tour and the three-way tag title match became a four-way. Bayley got the biggest reaction on the show which shows that even some of the bad recent segments hasn’t killed her with the house show audience in some of the smaller markets

For Smackdown in Indianapolis, it was a hot crowd. Dillinger pinned Rowan with a float over pin. The crowd was very into the “ten” chant. American Alpha & Ryder & Rawley beat Colons & Ascension when Rawley pinned Victor after the running punch. Jordan was way over since he wrestled at the University of Indiana. So of course they didn’t change things for him to get the pion. Lots of Hoosier chants for Jordan. Harper pinned English with the discus lariat. English tried to get heat singing negatively about Bob Knight, the legendary Indiana basketball coach. English, after losing, refusing to leave and demanded another match. Sin Cara came out and pinned him with a swanton in about five seconds. Nakamura & Zayn beat Ziggler & Corbin when Nakamura pinned Ziggler after the Kinshasa. Really good match. Nakamura in particular worked harder than usual and was very over. Charlotte & Naomi & Lynch beat Tamina & Natalya & Carmella when Naomi pinned Natalya after Carmella and Ellsworth walked out on their partners. Usos won a three-way over Breeze & Fandango and New Day to keep the tag titles. After losing, New Day and Breeze & Fandango all danced together. Orton & Styles beat Mahal & Owens when Orton pinned Owens after the RKO. Owens was limping badly during the match and never put any pressure on his bad leg.