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March 20, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Situation with Broken Matt Hardy and Anthem Sports, Wrestlemania card, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 March 20, 2017

 

ROH 15TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW

Thumbs up 187 (95.9%)

Thumbs down 1 (00.5%)

In the middle 7 (03.6%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Hardys vs. Romero & Baretta vs. Young Bucks 84

Jay Lethal vs. Bobby Fish 53

Marty Scurll vs. Lio Rush 33

Christopher Daniels vs. Adam Cole 23

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Jay White vs. Kenny King 73

Kingdom vs. Dalton Castle & The Boys 52

Bully Ray & Briscoes vs. War Machine & Smith 13

 

NEW JAPAN CUP DAY ONE

Thumbs up 21 (21.2%)

Thumbs down 27 (27.3%)

In the middle 51 (51.5%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Evil vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi 92

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Yuji Nagata vs. Tanga Roa 34

Toru Yano vs. Tama Tonga 31

Bad Luck Fale vs. Michael Elgin 15

 

NEW JAPAN CUP DAY TWO

Thumbs up 93 (98.9%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 1 (01.1%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega 93

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Bullet Club vs. Kojima & Tenzan & Kawato 36

Nagata & Liger vs. Tiger Mask & Finlay 28

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 3/14.

 

The arguments about the ownership of the Broken Hardy gimmick, voted the best gimmick of 2016 in the Observer awards, led to The Dish Network pulling the plug on the 3/10 ROH 15th Anniversary PPV after threatening legal letters from Anthem the parent company of Impact and The Fight Network.

Anthem sent a cease and desist letter regarding the gimmick, which they claimed to own, to not only the Hardys and Ring of Honor, but also to the cable providers, DirecTV and Dish Network, threatening legal action if the gimmick was used on the show.

ROH wouldn’t allow the Hardys to do their gimmick, as they created new music as opposed to the music they were using in TNA, introduced them as Matt & Jeff Hardy, made no references to their changed personalities, didn’t have the Hardys lead chants of “delete” or “obsolete,” even though the crowd did them themselves, and used Jeff as he’d always been. The Dish Network got cold feet and canceled airing the show. Evidently they felt the 2,000 or less orders they’d have gotten maximum for the show wasn’t worth risking legal action.

The problem is the letters were sent the day of the show, leaving no time for negotiations, which had to leave ROH furious about the cancellation even though they’ve said nothing publicly about it.

Due to the probable legal action going farther, Matt & Jeff Hardy also stayed quiet on the subject, as has Impact. But Rebecca “Reby” Hardy went crazy on social media, and Matt Hardy did release a new “F*** the owl” T-shirt regarding the new Impact logo.

What’s notable is this letter was sent out at the same time Anthem wanted ROH & Impact to have more of a relationship, since both air on The Fight Network.

The belief is that Anthem made the move in response to Matt Hardy trying to trademark the gimmick on 3/1, the day after his contract expired, and felt they needed to move immediately. The timing was a mess for ROH, but more likely, the feeling was they had to do it because they wanted to show they were vigilant regarding the ownership of the intellectual property with the expectation the Hardys are going to WWE.

The trademark issue is why there isn’t a similar issue regarding Mark LoMonica and Bully Ray. LoMonica, who had been burned once before on the Dudleys character which was created in ECW, and Paul Heyman had verbally given he and Devon Hughes the rights to use, but never took care of it legally, saw WWE claim ownership of the Dudleys name and gimmick based on the idea that they had purchased ECW in bankruptcy court, and thus now owned its intellectual property. So when LoMonica came up with the Bully Ray character while in TNA he trademarked it and TNA never opposed the trademark. This would have allowed him to use it, even in WWE.

Anthem is asking for a negotiated percentage of the revenues generated from the gimmick going forward as a settlement to the case. It is hard to believe WWE would allow the Hardys to do the gimmick if they made that settlement. Something like this has never happened where WWE used talent with a gimmick that was established as being owned by a rival wrestling company and paid a percentage of their revenue to use it. More likely, if WWE brought in the Hardys, they would change the gimmick completely, or at least enough of it to where they felt they wouldn’t infringing on it, if they felt Anthem had a case.

As far as the legal situation and who owns what, that boils down to the Hardys contract. I’ve seen a standard TNA contract and it’s made very clear that any intellectual property introduced first on TNA television is completely owned by the company. Now, it is possible Matt Hardy’s contract is difference, since Matt did not have a standard TNA contract, as his deal was never exclusive, even to the point he could have continued to appear on ROH television while working for TNA, but ROH at the time he started with TNA decided against using him. Nevertheless, the legal letters sent to ROH, The Hardys, Dish, DirecTV and the cable companies quoted from the contract and it was enough for ROH to have them drop the gimmick for the most part.

Matt did still look like Broken Matt and in an off-television video and at the TV tapings the next day, but not on PPV where they never did any promos, talked in the same voice.

Impact was claiming ownership of all things related to the gimmick from the music, the phrases and the use of King Maxel, Queen Rebecca, Senor Benjamin and Vanguard One.

Reby Hardy noted Benjamin (her father) was never even paid by TNA nor was he ever under contract, and that the Hardys themselves financed some of the segments on location for Impact when TNA was strapped financially. And Matt was largely the creator of the gimmick and of the segments that aired which got the gimmick over.

This was a situation where Impact and Anthem may be legally right, but it was a bad move from a public relations standpoint. To an extent, blocking talent from using gimmicks they popularized will never be something the average fan would side with the promoter over talent on, unless it was a fan of the promotion and not the talent. If this was WWE and a talent, like say New Day, which really created their own character, not the same, but the original character was a flop and they tweaked it to get it over, they still wouldn’t be able to make it anywhere. WWE didn’t even allow Cody Rhodes to use the family name elsewhere.

But the timing came off badly, and also most people are aware it was Matt who largely came up with the gimmick. Anthem claimed that Jeremy Borash, David Lagana and Billy Corgan all had roles in the gimmick.

Rebecca Hardy’s key points on Twitter in response to all this is to say that there were numerous times Matt could have broken his contract with TNA due to issues, and noted that everyone who had a hand in the Broken Hardys gimmick “has our back,” which would probably be the case since Lagana and Corgan left TNA. She also noted that Ed Nordholm, who runs Impact, sent out a tweet thanking the Hardys and wishing them well, and then hours later the company sent them a threatening legal letter. She also noted that it isn’t like Impact is going to use the Broken Hardys gimmick with other characters as they claimed they were just trying to negotiate a settlement regarding a percentage of future revenues from the gimmick with them. She also pointed out that Matt went to television tapings one day after his son was born, and she claimed the three highest rated segments of the year were personally financed by Matt & Jeff because they believed in TNA. TNA’s ratings on Pop TV were significantly higher after the introduction of the gimmick than before, and it was clearly the company’s hottest act. They probably should have gone harder at keeping it, because the Hardys were not looking to leave even with the WWE offers until Jeff Jarrett was put in charge and the negotiations slowed down due to Anthem not creating a talent budget to work with.

“It’s just very heartbreaking,” said Jeff Hardy to SE Scoops about the legal action. “I gave seven years of my life to Impact Wrestling and TNA and for them to hold this against us, when they threatened to sue Ring of Honor, what they said was a complete lie, that they developed the Broken Universe for us, which is so untrue. We did that all on our own. It started when I broke my leg in April 2015. The positive outcome is that Broken Matt Hardy was born. Brother Nero was born as well. The stuff we did at our home, Final Deletion, was the highest rated show all year for Impact Wrestling and it was just four guys and a couple of sound people. We did it all on our own and we totally developed the characters all on our own. For them to hold this against us like this is very sad and heartbreaking. But I think in the end, we’ll come out on top.”

Jeff Hardy said that if Billy Corgan had won the legal battle and owned the company, he’s pretty sure they’d still be there.

“He is so open minded and he was out there when we filmed Delete or Decay and he was great. He had great ideas and he was out there all night until the sun came up. That said a lot to me for sure. If Billy owned the company, I’m sure I’d still be under contract.”

It was noted that on TNA’s first show, that Wayne Keown came out and did the “We the people” chant, which came from WWE, and he came out in a motorized cart like Zeb Coulter. He mentioned he was Zeb Coulter before but that “my real name is Dutch Mantell.” He could argue that due to ring injuries, he needs the cart to move around with ease, and if WWE had claimed the “We the people” phrase as its IP, Impact probably wouldn’t have used it, so that would be the explanation.


After seemingly decades since having a regular weekly locally produced wrestling product on television, the U.K. scene has a number of different promotions and stations looking at having content.

The three groups involved at this point are the WWE, which confirmed taping of a weekly U.K.-based show, ITV/Anthem, which has plans to do the same that haven’t been announced but were likely to impetus for WWE speeding up its own plans, and the Five Star Group which is still in the game with the idea of doing weekly Saturday night prime time television for a 128 man tournament on TV-5, although nothing has been heard from that group since their first live special from Scotland.

WWE announced a show called “United Kingdom Championship Live,” which will actually be taped, with the tapings taking place on 5/6 and 5/7 at Epic Studios in Norwich, England, a 900-seat building. The timing of the shows work well for WWE, since they are touring the U.K. at the time, meaning the entire crew is there and will be doing television on 5/8 and 5/9 from the O2 Arena in London. So taping at that time saves a lot of money, particularly since the plans for the tapings are to use both the U.K. talent under contract like champion Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Pete Dunne, Mark Andrews, Wolfgang, Tyson T-Bone, Sam Gradwell, James Drake, Joseph Conners, Dan Moloney and Saxon Huxley, as well as WWE cruiserweight talent like Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa, T.J. Perkins, Brian Kendrick and Tony Nese. All of those wrestlers were being brought in for television, but may not have had other house show work as it’s most likely that the Raw crew tour will include Neville vs. Austin Aries title matches, so they wouldn’t be available for these tapings.

At this point, nothing has been said as to where the shows would air. WWE was looking at local television for a weekly U.K. series as opposed to it being on the WWE Network, since the idea is to create stars off television and run house shows off it.

The dates go head-to-head with a Revolution Pro show on 5/7, a promotion that usually uses WWE contracted talent. In addition, U.K. talent in six-man tags were being promoted on house shows on those days until the announcement, which shows just how quickly plans for this were put together and changed.

The studio they are using in Norwich is the same location that World Association of Wrestling, the promotion headed by the Bevis family (the parents of Paige) run, and they were furious, feeling choosing an out of the way small city like Norwich for the tapings was a direct shot at them, particularly since they had the same studios booked a week later for their biggest show ever, featuring Alberto El Patron and Rey Mysterio.

Anthem the parent company of Impact, and ITV, have reached a deal. We don’t know of all the details at this point, the working plan is to start a weekly television show on ITV that will air at 5 p.m. Saturdays, starting in July.

The plan is to tape shows from 5/25 to 5/27 in the U.K., taping ten or 11 one hour shows. ITV has committed to a short run in that time slot, and would then make a decision on continuing based on ratings.

While the original idea was for an ITV-run promotion, the decision was made, similar to how wrestling worked on the network during its run in the same time slot during the 60s, 70s and 80s, that they would use an existing promotion as a content provider.

The promotions suggested were Impact and What Culture, and the decision was made to go with Impact.

The positive, is that a weekly show could easily do 30 times the audience that Raw and Smackdown does because of the difference between ITV and Sky. The ITV special in December did 1,250,000 viewers in that time slot. For a comparison, Raw and Smackdown for the week ending 3/5 did 38,000 and 42,000 viewers respectively for the live showings, which, granted, start at 1 a.m., but the prime time replays of Raw did less than 28,000 viewers and the replay of Smackdown did 39,000 viewers. Yet, WWE can sell out shows in the U.K. at high ticket prices and it’s not only the company’s No. 2 market for revenue, but its leading market when it comes to the ability to draw live gates at high prices.

The plans would be to use Impact talent along with outsiders, such as the talent that appeared on the first taping like Grado (who would likely start the next set of tapings as world champion, since he captured that belt at the first set of tapings), Davey Boy Smith Jr., Dave Mastiff, El Ligero, Zack Gibson and Rampage Brown, as well as trying to work with the likes of Drew Galloway, Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll types. Some of those names have committed to the tapings while others have yet to do so.

The plan would be to start running house shows later in the year after the television gets the talent exposure, probably in the third quarter of the year. It is believed Anthem would be able to bill its arena shows at World of Sport Wrestling, which would also be the name of the television show. There has even been talk of using the time slot to build to PPV events. Essentially Anthem would be getting network TV in a good time slot to publicize its talent, but would also have to fund it, and that’s a major financial risk. They would likely be using their same creative team, with possibly a few tweaks, for this product. The U.K. scene is hot, but Impact fell greatly in popularity there over the past few years.

While nobody has said this is related to their getting into pro wrestling and the obvious money losses they have already incurred and with plans on expanding with new programming in the U.K. and India, there were major cuts seemingly out of nowhere this past week at The Fight Network, which was Anthem’s major property. Anthem determined that it was cheaper to fill the TV time on The Fight Network with old UFC and TNA shows (since they now own the TNA library and have rights to a lot of UFC programming) rather than produce original content. The company will be making a massive cutback on original programming and Robin Black, The Fight Network’s MMA expert, who is considered one of the best fight handicappers around, was among those let go. Black is well respected enough that this move was considered significant news within the MMA World. There are very few left on the reporting end of the staff. TNA was the station’s second highest rated programming, behind only UFC.

Both ITV and Anthem are looking at Jim Ross as the lead announcer for the ITV show, as he did the pilot. Right now does not have a deal for the full-time show but they are in talks.

Regarding Five Star, there is nothing about dates past the owners saying the tournament is being worked on, that they would do the tournament with tapings every Saturday night with the finals at the Manchester Arena.


A lot of times people talk about how there’s no long-term planning but the WrestleMania 34 main event for April 8, 2018, which obviously could change, is set for Lesnar vs. Reigns for the Universal title.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Reigns is beating Undertaker or that Lesnar will have a full one year run as champion, although both could happen. I have no idea of what the finish will be of Undertaker vs. Reigns. The goal is very much to make Reigns the next Cena, which was the plan for Santa Clara two years ago, until they decided to delay it based on fan reaction.

The plan is to once again build for a year and have the big coronation at WrestleMania. The idea between now and then is for Reigns to be the face, not just when he wins the title, but to fully replace John Cena as the lead babyface of the company. How they’ll make that work is uncertain. They may just go with the idea that the fans that attend TVs and PPVs that boo Reigns are a minority of their worldwide audience and ignore the obvious crowd reaction. It’s hard to believe that in one year, considering it’s been more than two years since they’ve tried to change things, that the Santa Clara reaction of Lesnar being far and away the most popular wrestler on the show as the heel, and Reigns being even more far and away the most hated, even positioned as main event babyface, will change much with another year of attempting to convince fans Reigns is the guy.

Whether they’ll just say what they’ve been saying and screw it, that the masses like Reigns (he does move merchandise well) or they go with the Naito idea of turning him into a cool heel to make him cheered (and I’d be pretty sure Vince McMahon himself couldn’t pick Naito out of a police lineup) and use Heyman to make Lesnar a heel (which really hasn’t happened either), I don’t know.

Goldberg’s contract expires at WrestleMania but the run was considered a success and the door is open to use him for big shows in the future.

Then again, even if the idea was he’s done after Mania, that could change, since the original deal was Survivor Series and that’s it and then they extended him until Mania.

The plan in place is that Lesnar will do more shows from this point forward, in what will be the final year of his current three-year WWE contract, especially since UFC is now clearly part of his past.

He’s been on TV almost every week and done some house shows of late. The impression we’ve been given is he will never work a full schedule, but he will work more dates over the next year, as has been shown by his doing more house shows than ever before and working all but one Monday in the last two months before WrestleMania.

As for Reigns vs. Undertaker, there are a dozen different ways you can tell that story that could involve either man winning depending on how you want to tell it. You could come out of the match with just the standard Reigns winning to start the build for the next Mania. He could stay face or go short-term heel. He could get screwed by a third party (Braun Strowman). He could lose clean and do a story of him starting from the bottom and climbing his way up with a new motive and purpose, etc.

The difficulty is keeping the two away from each other and keeping Reigns out of the title picture, and getting enough fresh opponents to keep Lesnar headlining much of the year. Lesnar doesn’t have to hold the title for the full year, but does have to be in the title picture most of the way. He can trade with someone if need be to keep things fresh. Given the way things are, a full year for the obvious match is difficult which is why I sensed the Lesnar vs. Reigns match for SummerSlam. That is definitely not the case now, but as joked, this plan could change on a moment’s notice at any time over the next 13 months.


There is not a lot new regarding the 4/2 WrestleMania show.

From television this week, it would appear that the only new match, and this isn’t a definite, would be Jason Jordan & Chad Gable vs. The Usos, a likely pre-show Smackdown tag title match since the Usos won a non-title match this past week.

The other thing confirmed is that Big Show vs. Shaquille O’Neal is off. It should be noted that O’Neal showed a photo of himself and he, in fact, was in great shape, so the idea that he hadn’t trained and was out of shape as Show had been saying wasn’t the case. It was very clearly a financial situation since negotiations had been continuing and they hadn’t agreed on a price. One would think that should have been done, and maybe it was done and one side or another changed, when they shot the angles for the match at last year’s WrestleMania and at the Espy Awards in 2016. But Show was confirmed as being in the Battle Royal.

Other matches that were known but not officially announced were confirmed this week such as A.J. Styles vs. Shane McMahon, Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns, John Cena & Nikki Bella vs. The Miz & Maryse and Neville vs. Austin Aries for the cruiserweight title.

The Raw tag team title match will be a three-way with Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson defending against both Enzo Amore & Big Cass (so you get the Enzo & Cass ring entrance before a match other than the Battle Royal) and Cesaro & Sheamus.

The Raw women’s title match at this point is Bayley vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks. In recent weeks, both Dana Brooke and Nia Jax at different time were talked about or slated to be in the match as a four-way, but a three-way at certain points was the idea as well. It’s changed many times. Angles were shot on Raw that could have added one or the other or both.

The Smackdown women’s title match still doesn’t have all the participants named as it’s every available woman on the roster. It’s been made clear that will be Alexa Bliss defending, with Natalya, Becky Lynch, Mickie James and Carmella confirmed. There could be others added. On television this week, they continued to push that there would be a stipulation added to the match as well.

If Jason & Gable vs. Usos is added, that would make 14 matches for a show that is slated to start at about 5 p.m. local time in Orlando and end after 11 p.m.

As of 3/14, there were 317 tickets left out of about 55,000 seats for sale at the Citrus Bowl on the primary market but thousands of tickets left on the secondary market. Raw, Smackdown, Hall of Fame and NXT are now all sold out on the primary market. Secondary market tickets start at $109 for seats that were priced at $160, so supply is greater than demand when it comes to the least expensive seats. There are several front row seats available with the cheapest being $6,300.


With Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kenny Omega, Michael Elgin and Minoru Suzuki all eliminated in the first round, the New Japan Cup heads to the semifinals on 3/19 in Hamamatsu with Bad Luck Fale vs. Evil as one semifinal and Katsuyori Shibata against the winner of the 3/17 match with Seiya Sanada vs. Tomohiro Ishii in the other.

Both the semifinals and finals will air live on New Japan World at 2 a.m. Eastern, or 11 p.m. Pacific, late Saturday and Sunday nights with the finals on 3/20 in Nagaoka, Japan. The winner gets to challenge for his pick of the three major singles championships, the IWGP title held by Kazuchika Okada, the IC held by Tetsuya Naito or the Never title held by Hirooki Goto. Historically, the New Japan Cup winner gets the next shot at the IWGP title, which would be on the 4/9 show at Sumo Hall. From the list of those still alive, Shibata and Ishii would be the favorites as Okada against Evil, Fale or Sanada at this point would feel weak for a Sumo Hall main event.

While it made all the sense in the world not to have Tanahashi or Omega win, as Okada against either should be saved for a bigger show, the booking of both losing in the first round was abrupt. Evil beat Tanahashi by blowing green mist in his face in what seemed to set up a program, so that made sense. Omega losing to Ishii makes sense if Ishii wins the tournament, but if not, the guy who beat Omega should have been the tournament winner.

The tournament has been a mixed bag so far. The matches that looked good on paper delivered, and the other ones weren’t surprises. The first show on 3/11 in Nagoya was a disappointment, with a cold crowd, so-so matches and a crowd of 4,515 fans. Aside from the barely 3,000 at the Nagoya show during the 2016 tag team tournament, this was the smallest crowd I can remember at the Aiichi Gym for New Japan. Aside from an excellent Tanahashi vs. Evil main event, it was a bad show, really worse than Fast Lane. The 3/12 show in Amagasaki drew a sellout of 3,862 to the Baycom General Gymnasium. This was a good show, but still a hard crowd. It had what was easily the best match of the tournament, and one of the best bouts of the year.

The next three shows each had one second round match. Because of that, none of the rest of the card could be advertised ahead of time. They didn’t do so well with none of the three selling out. The 3/13 show in Fukui drew 823 fans for a second round match where Evil pinned Yuji Nagata in 13:33 with an STO in what was said to be a good match. The 3/14 show in Shiga drew 629 as Fale went to the semifinals pinning Toru Yano in 8:23 after the grenade. And the 3/15 show in Matsumoto drew 1,090 as Shibata pinned Juice Robinson in 11:23 with the Penalty kick.

From Nagoya:

1. Desperado & Taka Michinoku beat Ryusuke Taguchi & Hirai Kawato in 6:35 with Desperado pinning Kawato with Guitara de Angel. It was mostly about Kawato who looked good, kicked out of some near falls and got the crowd into it.

2. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Jushin Liger beat Manabu Nakanishi & Tiger Mask & Tomoyuki Oka in 6:47 when Kojima pinned Oka after a lariat.

3. Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi beat Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi in 9:51 when Omega pinned Yoshi-Hashi after the One-Winged Angel.

4. Tetsuya Naito & Seiya Sanada & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi beat Katsuyori Shibata & Juice Robinson & Kushida & David Finlay in 8:41 when Sanada made Finlay submit to skull end.

5. Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto & Gedo & Jado beat Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi when Okada pinned Taichi in 10:42 after the rainmaker.

6. Yuji Nagata pinned Tanga Roa in 11:45 with a bridging back suplex in a first round match. There wasn’t much heat here. There was a lot of trash talking by Roa and it was very physical. *3/4

7. Toru Yano pinned Tama Tonga in 3:46 with a low blow and schoolboy in a first round match. Not good at all. Yano did his shtick early and it was over. ½*

8. Bad Luck Fale pinned Michael Elgin in 10:32 after the grenade. They did the powerhouse spots. There was a big pop when Elgin suplexed Fale. Still, it never really got going and Fale hit the Grenade, which they are really trying to get over right now as his finisher, and got the pin. Since people expected the Bad Luck fall as the finish, it felt like everyone thought Elgin would kick out. *1/2

9. Evil pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in 22:55. Even with the dead crowd, this turned into a hell of a match. Tanahashi even did the high fly flow to the floor. They had lots of near falls at the end. Evil used his new facelock and there was a great tease as it appeared Tanahashi was passing out, but just as it looked like the ref was going to call it, he made the ropes. Tanahashi then kicked out of some pins and Tanahashi made a comeback. There was a ref bump, and Evil blew green mist in Tanahashi’s face and hit the STO for the pin. The thing that looks so stupid if even if the ref misses it, when he recovered and there’s green mist covering all of Tanahashi’s face, it makes the ref look stupid to count the pin. That’s one thing New Japan is behind WWE at when it comes to matches is WWE doesn’t have its refs come off so badly in booking certain finishes and just standing there during outside interferences. ****

 

From Amagasaki:

1. Yuji Nagata & Jushin Liger beat Tiger Mask & David Finlay in 5:46 when Nagata used the armlock while rolling his eyes into his skull on Tiger. Nice action, obviously the idea is Nagata goes over strong since he was alive in the tournament. **

2. Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa beat Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hirai Kawato in 6:18 when Roa pinned Kawato after a tombstone piledriver. Tenzan had one of those nights where he just couldn’t do anything but Mongolian chops. The way he was moving, you could see he was hurting. Kawato has a nice dropkick but not much to this match. *1/4

3. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin & Kushida & Ryusuke Taguchi beat Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi in 9:57 when Evil pinned Taguchi with the STO. Elgin was really over. The crowd was tough even with Naito and Tanahashi in the match but it was good. ***

4. Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto & Toru Yano & Gedo & Jado beat Takashi Iizuka & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi & Desperado & Taka Michinoku in 10:18 when Yano pinned Desperado with a low blow and cradle. Iizuka was biting Gedo’s head. Taichi hit Gedo with the ring bell hammer and choked him with it. There was a great unique spot where Kanemaru came off the top rope into a knee to the groin by Gedo. The crowd was into Okada’s hot tag as well as Goto’s. **1/4

5. Juice Robinson pinned Yujiro Takahashi with the Pulp Fiction (killswitch) in 10:21 to advance in the tournament. Match was fine. Takahashi’s ring girl, Peter, ended up as the star of the match. **1/4

6. Seiya Sanada beat Yoshi-Hashi in 13:57 with the skull end submission to advance in the tournament. This was very good, and probably would have been great in front of a different crowd. Sanada comes across as a guy who is so athletic he can do almost anything effortlessly. He needs to develop facials that give the impression he’s working harder. It’s a good heel thing in one sense but it keeps him from being a top guy here. Yoshi-Hashi has “Loose explosion” written on the back of his trunks. That’ll take you out of the match. Sanada did a flip into the turnbuckles like Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels, landed on his feet on the apron and then hit a springboard dropkick. They got the crowd going by trading elbows. Lots of near falls, as well as near submissions built around Yoshi-Hashi’s butterfly lock and Sanada’s skull end. Sanada used a moonsault block into a skull end to get the submission. ***½

7. Katsuyori Shibata pinned Minoru Suzuki in 19:44 after a penalty kick. This was another match hurt by the lack of crowd heat. This was a match that would have been considered super by 1980s Japan standards because of how smooth and stiff it was during the era where in Japan it wasn’t about crowd heat but execution. It was funny because they did the same exchanges that the crowd went wild for when Sanada and Yoshi-Hashi did them, to little reaction. Taichi interfered when Suzuki distracted the ref. Suzuki also used a chair. They did a double knockout spot when both kicked the other in the head at the same time. Suzuki was on the mat drooling which gave it some visual reality. They traded chokes back and forth until Shibata hit a Death Valley bomb and penalty kick for the pin. ***3/4

8. Tomohiro Ishii pinned Kenny Omega in 29:45 with a brainbuster. This was one of the better matches of the year, but I’d rank it below Omega vs. Okada, Elgin vs. Naito, Styles vs. Cena and Suzuki vs. Okada. The last 15 minutes were incredible and these two bring out the best in each other with their respective strengths, but the crowd hurt it and the first 15 minutes were not that great. It did tell a story with Omega constantly going for the one winged angel and once again, never hitting it. Ishii tried the move once but Omega escaped. Particularly great was Omega’s explosiveness and timing of the jumping knees at the end. Omega did a moonsault block off the guard rail early. There were lots of trades of chops and elbows. They were both on the top rope teasing moves on each other until Ishii hit a Frankensteiner off the top. The match took off from there. Ishii German suplexed Omega on his head and Omega took a crazy spin bump for a lariat. Omega did an ushigoroshi, but started selling his right leg that had been worked on. The crowd did the Terminator clapping pattern to set up Omega’s Terminator con giro. Ishii barely beat the 20 count back in. Ishii did an awesome one count kick out off a jumping knee. Once when Omega went for the One winged angel, Ishii broke it with head-butts to the back. At another point Ishii went for a brainbuster but Omega escaped and hit a reverse Frankensteiner. The climax was Omega going for the One winged angel and Ishii reversing it into a stunner. Ishii head-butted Omega when he went for a jumping knee, and followed with a running lariat and a brainbuster for the pin. The crowd was going nuts for this by the time they were done. ****3/4


Ring of Honor’s 15th anniversary show took place this weekend for a promotion that is in a very unique position.

On one hand, the roster has been something of a question for months, with a lot of talent in the company and formerly in the company in something of a holding pattern.

WWE was more aggressively going after talent than in the past, as toward the end of 2015, when contracts were coming due, some talent was getting offers but the only key person who left was Roderick Strong and others were offered less than their ROH deals for NXT, which would also be working far more dates for less money.

This year the offers were more similar in money, but it would still be more dates for similar money, or perhaps slightly more money. However, WWE then pulled offers agreed upon, in some cases with starting dates, after Sinclair evidently got wind of allegations of tampering and sent legal letters. Obviously the evidence was strong enough to get the offers pulled but it left a slew of talent in limbo.

The most obvious departure was Kyle O’Reilly, who disappeared after losing his ROH title back to Adam Cole. Officially, he decided against renewing his contract. The impression we have is with him in limbo, ROH hasn’t made any attempts to bring him back.

O’Reilly resurfaced on 3/9 at the National Wrestling League show in St. Louis. Promotion owner Major Baisden came to the ring and introduced O’Reilly as the special guest at the show. O’Reilly said that he will be part of the NWL St. Louis roster and would debut with the promotion on 3/26. He is expected to work more indies for now, and it is possible he could return to New Japan. If WWE was to make an offer, obviously that would be the place he’d most likely end up with.

Donovan Dijak also left the company last month and has started with Evolve and working other independent dates. He’s in a similar situation as O’Reilly.

Obviously the Hardys are going to WWE unless things change, likely after the Lakeland show or shortly thereafter.

Adam Cole dropped his ROH title to Christopher Daniels in the main event of the 3/10 PPV show in Las Vegas. The next day, he was kicked out of the Bullet Club. His contract expires on 5/1. It’s well known WWE has been after him for some time to be a star on the NXT brand. It’s possible he could do a New Japan/ROH deal or go to WWE. Certainly the ROH booking feels like they are not planning on him to be a key player much longer.

Bobby Fish is still on a short-term deal with ROH, which expires on 3/27. He has already sent out word that he’ll be taking independent dates soon beginning that week, which means he isn’t planning on signing a new deal. It is likely he’ll be doing indies until getting the chance to go to WWE. It was noted here last week that he had teased already that he and O’Reilly would be teaming up again, and it wasn’t a secret that O’Reilly was WWE bound, for NXT, at the time WWE suddenly backed off on signing people. While it clearly the threat of legal action that caused WWE to back off, since historically the company has been blatant about being the big dogs who can do what they want, bullying everyone with no repercussion, but in reality, while a bigger parent company called them on it, the victims are the talent since in the industry the feeling used to be that ROH was the place to be because of the New Japan connection and then having the former ROH goes go to bat for you to get you into WWE. With NXT being the direct line to WWE, and NXT really being the competition to ROH, that dynamic has changed.

Lio Rush is booked for Evolve at the end of the month and is another wrestler who had WWE interest but everything is in the holding pattern. Working Evolve is usually a sign somebody is leaving, and he’s also put out word he’s looking for indie dates (he didn’t have an exclusive ROH contract) and he could be like Dijak, who looks to be working Evolve until something changes in the WWE situation.

Dalton Castle, who is under an exclusive ROH contract, is believed to have that deal expiring in a few months. Independent promoters have noted that word has gone around that Castle will be available for dates later in the year, although that could be testing the waters. Castle’s act will get over in NXT if WWE has interest in it. As far as the WWE main roster, who can tell anymore because the WWE main roster booking has marginalized so much good talent.

There’s also War Machine, as Ray Rowe looked to be leaving at one point, and the tag team does want to stay together. They’ve since gotten over big in New Japan, so that also could change the dynamic.

There’s also the question of the long-term relationship with New Japan. The two companies are continuing to work together, including the annual May War of the World’s show that includes a 5/12 PPV show from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, but New Japan is also making plans for running their own shows in the U.S., and even running a regular territory in California in 2018.

How all these things work out, as well as how much of a commitment the higher-ups at Sinclair want to make are really the keys to the future, far more than current business trends, arguments about the state of the booking, buzz, or in-ring product quality. Sinclair has not put ROH in a position to have television production at the level of TNA, and even owned by a network, as opposed to a privately owned TNA until recently (and Anthem is peanuts as far as the size of its network compared to Sinclair, which is actually a far larger company than any company that owns a wrestling franchise including WWE), they don’t have the international distribution. In today’s environment the backing and aggressiveness in spending means more than talent and booking.

There have been a lot of suppositions about current buzz and popularity. There were markets down toward the end of last year. However, things have been largely good this year. The 3/4 show at the Hammerstein Ballroom did a sellout of 1,800 fans, a number the company didn’t hit regularly during its heyday unless it was a major show or a PPV show, and that was with Cole vs. Fish, Bucks vs. Lio Rush & Jay White and Will Ospreay vs. Dragon Lee as the top advertised bouts. That number was drawn without anyone knowing the Hardys or Bully Ray would be there. The Hardys being on that show led to more talk, based on Google searches for the product than any time in its history, 15 percent above the peak set during last May’s New Japan tour, and 22 percent above the peak prior to that during June 2014. Then the PPV saw that record setting level of interest topped by another 28 percent.

That would indicate the most interest in the ROH product of any time in its history was, over the past two weeks, and by a substantial margin. That isn’t to say this couldn’t be WCW in February 1998 when they were on fire and had a string of 23 straight sellouts but it was pretty clear they were going down. And the amount of talent leaving is a significant story.

The 3/10 show in Las Vegas at Sam’s Town Casino sold out for the PPV, which means little since it was only 900 tickets, but they were up 100 tickets for the TV tapings in comparison to the same show last year when they had most of the key New Japan talent as opposed to this year with nobody from New Japan. The 4/1 show in Lakeland has more than 2,200 tickets sold, far ahead of the last two years even though they are about an hour away from Orlando, and they are at the pace to set the all-time company attendance record. They are running a larger building, but there are also far fewer people coming to Florida this year as compared to Texas. Granted, that is being drawn by The Hardys vs. Young Bucks and the Hardys aren’t staying. The company may set its record, but it’s not necessarily a sign of building something that will sustain things at a higher level going forward. But it hardly supports the business falling due to lack of interest either.

As far as our reactions went, the 15th anniversary had 195 responses (keep in mind this figure is likely down 15 percent due to Dish Network not carrying the show), down from 233 for Final Battle, 148 for All-Star Extravaganza, 142 for Death Before Dishonor, 72 for Best in the World and 101 for last year’s Global Wars. So clearly that is not a lack of interest as compared to the past.

The show itself was strong, with a crazy street fight with the Hardys keeping the tag team titles over the Young Bucks and Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta as the other key match. The opener was okay and everything after that was good-to-great.

Daniels beat Cole for the title in the main event with the storyline of it being likely the last chance Daniels, weeks before his 47th birthday, would have to winning a major world title. It ended when it turned out that Frankie Kazarian turning on Daniels to join the Bullet Club was a ruse and led to Cole losing. Given the contract situation, Cole had to lose to either Daniels here or Castle on 4/1, and with Daniels having a hand in the booking, it made the most sense and there was a viable storyline played out well in interviews.

The bad news was during the six-man title, TK O’Ryan did an Asai moonsault off the top rope to the floor, and in landing, cracked his shin hard on the guard rail. It was immediately clear he was hurt and they went right t the finish. He was carried out on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital. He ended up with both bones in his lower leg broken and has since underwent surgery. The Kingdom of O’Ryan & Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia retained the six-man titles as scheduled over Castle & The Boys. But with O’Ryan out, they lost the titles at the TV tapings the next night to Mark & Jay Briscoe & Bully Ray, with Silas Young replacing O’Ryan in the match.

1. Jay White pinned Kenny King in 9:50. Some of the stuff early was rough. King used a twisting dive. White hit a tope on Caprice Coleman, who was in King’s corner. The match got better as it went on. White came off the top with a crossbody and King rolled through, and hoisted White on his shoulders, like a John Cena spot. But White cradled him from there for the pin. **1/4

2. Frankie Kazarian won a six-way over Adam Page, Chris Sabin, Punishment Martinez, Cheeseburger and Silas Young in 10:10. The win earned Kazarian a shot at the TV title. This was a match of nothing but one big spot after another. It was crisp and Young in particular looked good. Martinez once again looked to have a lot of potential. They pushed him as being 6-foot-7, and I doubt he’s close to that, but he towers over everyone here. Then there were finishes and saves. They spent the match teasing Cheeseburger hitting the Jushin Liger shote, and as soon as he did that, Kazarian hit the Ace of Spades on him for the pin. ***

3. Jay Lethal beat Bobby Fish in 15:06. This was more a Japanese style match the way it was paced. Lethal did a tope into the guard rail when Fish moved. Lethal later did a tope. By the end, they made it come off like a fight and the crowd was into it. Lethal once escaped from an ankle lock into a diamond cutter. Fish used a heel hook for a near submission and rope break. Lethal went for the Lethal combination, but Fish sidestepped and got the heel hook again. The finish saw Fish land body punches and a kick, but missed another kick and Lethal hit the Lethal injection for the pin. ****

4. Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia & TK O’Ryan retained the six-man titles over Dalton Castle & The Boys in 8:00. The big surprise was just how good The Boys looked. They never looked like they didn’t belong in an ROH ring, sold well and opened with a double flip dive. They’ve never been portrayed as people you’d take seriously in a title match, so they had to come out strong to change the perception to make the match, which they did. They did seem like they were building to the finish with all the big moves so I don’t think they were that far from it when O’Ryan was injured. Taven used a power bomb on Boy 1 with assistance by Marseglia for the pin. ***

5. Marty Scurll beat Lio Rush in 18:36 to retain the TV title. Another great match. Scurll trapped Rush in the apron skirt and superkicked him in a spot that got over really big. Scurll went for the finger break early but Rush slapped him. The two mixed well the entire match. Rush did a springboard into the chicken wing, but Rush rolled him up and Scurll had to let go. Rush did a splash off the top but Scurll goes his knees up. Rush kicked out of a piledriver. Rush was bleeding from the mouth. Scurll went for a tombstone, but it got reversed, and then reversed back. Crowd was going nuts, particularly after Rush used a standing Spanish fly for a near fall. Rush grabbed the belt and teased a belt shot, which felt like it made no sense since he’d have gotten DQ’d. They went to more near falls and Scurll did the finger break, got a chicken wing, undid the kiniseo tape on Rush’s shoulder and threw elbows to the head and shoulder and got the submission. ****

6. Mark & Jay Briscoe & Bully Ray beat War Machine & Davey Boy Smith Jr. in 11:45. Another great match. They set the stage for Smith & War Machine not getting along by saying that Suzuki-gun in Japan doesn’t like War Machine. Smith gave both Briscoes Northern lights suplexes at the same time. Mark did the wazzup elbow off the top to the groin. It’s funny how War Machine are like monsters because most ROH guys aren’t very big, and Bully was a lot bigger than both of them are. Rowe threw Mark in the air and Hanson caught him and powerslammed him. The Briscoes worked most of the way and they built to Bully Ray tagging in. Jay used a tope on Rowe. Mark & Jay did crossbodies off the top onto Rowe & Hanson. Then Bully did a crossbody off the top onto Rowe, Hanson & Smith. Jay hit the Jay driller on Hanson who rolled out of the ring. All three set up a 3-D on Rowe for the pin. After the loss, War Machine and Smith went at it and had a pull-apart with Smith throwing security everywhere. ***3/4

7. Matt & Jeff Hardy kept the ROH tag titles over Young Bucks and Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta in a street fight in 17:13. They pushed the idea that the Bucks have lost their ROH & IWGP jr. tag belts and have nothing left but their made up Superkick belts (so PWG belts were forgotten about). This match was completely nuts as they did all their non-stop spots, but also got the street fight gimmick over with all the weapons. Bucks & RPG carried things. Matt Jackson power bombed Baretta on the ramp and he bounced off it. Fans were chanting “RPG” early and later “Bucks of Youth.” They brought in a ladder. Nick at one point was knocked off the ladder but landed on the top rope and did a springboard flip dive to the floor. Matt Jackson power bombed Baretta into the corner where Nick kicked him. Nick did a 450 on Baretta onto a garbage can for a near fall. Matt Hardy was biting Nick. Jeff went for a swanton but Nick got his knees up. Rocky came out with a sleeve over his forearm with thumb tacks on it and used the forever clothesline with it. RPG used Strong Zero on Nick but Matt Jackson saved. Baretta brought in thumbtacks and the Bucks used a sky high bulldog on Baretta onto the thumbtacks. Matt then grabbed a ton of thumbtacks, stuck them in Baretta’s mouth and Nick superkicked him with the thumbtacks going everywhere. The Bucks did the Meltzer driver on Romero into the thumbtacks for a near fall. Matt Jackson was bleeding from the shoulder from the thumbtacks. Matt Hardy gave Nick a twist of fate on the thumbtacks. The thumbtacks were flying everywhere. The Hardys brought in ladders and tables. They put Baretta on the table and Jeff climbed the ladder, flipped over it and put Baretta through the table for the pin. After the match, the Hardys stole the Superkick tag titles as well as left with the ROH tag belts. ****½

8. Christopher Daniels beat Adam Cole to win the ROH title in 21:51. They pushed that Daniels was 0-8-1 in ROH title matches for his career (I think the draw was with C.M. Punk). Daniels did an Arabian moonsault top rope to the floor. Cole superkicked Daniels’ head into the post. Unfortunately the slow-mo showed the boot mostly missing. Daniels juiced and Cole rammed his head into the post. Cole rubbed Daniels’ blood all over him and hit a shining wizard for a near fall. At one point Cole stopped wrestling to cut a promo on Daniels and tell him that there’s never been one day in his life that he’s been at Cole’s level. Cole said there was a reason you’ve never been and never will be a world champion. Then he said that after he wrecks Daniels, he’ll go to Daniels’ house and wreck his wife. Daniels made a comeback. They traded big moves including Cole hitting the last shot. Daniels blocked a Canadian Destroyer. Cole used the Angel’s wings on Daniels for a near fall. Daniels then used the last shot on Cole for a near fall. Daniels blocked a huracanrana and hit the Styles clash (since he and A.J. Styles are best friends) for a near fall. There was a ref bump. Cole superkicked ref Todd Sinclair. Then Cole used a low blow and was mad there was no ref. Kazarian came out. Kazarian held Daniels. Cole went for a belt shot but Daniels got away. Cole held up on the belt shot to not take Kazarian out. Cole went for another belt shot but Kazarian asked for the belt so he could do it. Kazarian teased doing it, but threw the belt out of the ring and Cole all of a sudden realized the swerve was on him. Daniels made comeback. Kazarian tore off his Bullet Club shirt to reveal a Destiny shirt. Daniels hit a uranage and three best moonsaults ever on Cole to get the pin. After the match, all the babyfaces came out for a post-match celebration of Daniels’ title win. The ending of the match and post-match made for a great finish to the show as the Kazarian swerve couldn’t have been done better. ***3/4


Dennis Stamp, who was best known by modern fans for his comedic portrayal in the movie “Beyond the Mat,” but was a great athlete who was a solid star in the 1970s passed away from cancer on 3/13 at the age of 69.

Stamp was a star football player and wrestler at Brainerd High School in Minnesota, winning the Minnesota high school state championship at 175 pounds in 1965.

He went to Concordia College, an NAIA school in Minnesota where he spent three years on both the wrestling and football teams. In 1966, he was the conference champion as a heavyweight in wrestling. In 1968, at 191 pounds, he was conference champion and placed sixth in the nation. He was also a three-year starter and All-conference football player in 1968. He never came back for his senior year.

In 1971, he was recruited by Verne Gagne for his training class, and then worked as a referee before getting his first match in August. He was named AWA Rookie of the Year in 1971. In 1972, he worked mostly prelims in the AWA, as well as some main events for the IWE in Japan where he often teamed with Red Bastien & Mario Milano, and worked some in the Tri-States promotion for Leroy McGuirk. He won a legitimate fan voting which landed him on the cover of “Wrestling Review” magazine in early 1973 as the 1972 pro wrestling Rookie of the Year.

Stamp, who was 6-foot-2 and about 235 pounds, was a solid worker in the ring, very believable but not particularly charismatic. He went from territory-to-territory, mostly working mid-cards, although had a strong run in Los Angeles where he feuded with John Tolos over the Americas’ title, frequently wrestled The Hollywood Blonds (Buddy Roberts & Jerry Brown), who he had previously worked against in the Tri-State area and always thought the world of as a team (and Roberts & Brown thought the world of him), and was also the house policeman.

Roberts, in the 2003 biography of Dewey “Missing Link” Robertson, noted that one of the most memorable matches of his career was in New Orleans in 1973 when Stamp, about 18 months into his career and getting the first push of his career, teamed with Robertson against the Hollywood Blonds for the U.S. tag team championship and did a 90 minute draw coming off a 60 minute draw.

“They weren’t just muscleheads,” said Roberts. “They had great wrestling knowledge. It was in New Orleans. We had the hour-and-a-half, no falls at all whatsoever, in a total of 90 minutes. It was nonstop, and the fans never stopped reacting. We always got a reaction from beginning to end, which is very unusual for an hour-and-half draw match. Very unusual. It was in New Orleans. I remember it clearly. That’s one of the clearest matches I remember in my life because of the time of it and the quality of the match.”

In May, 1976, he left California and started wrestling in Amarillo, and ended up getting married and for the most part, stayed in the area until the promotion closed in 1981. He was booked well, mostly as a wrestling heel, facing The Funks, Ricky Romero, Ted DiBiase, Dick Murdoch, The Von Erichs and many other top stars, holding the Western States tag team titles twice, with Alex Perez and Davey O’Hannon as partners, as well as the Brass Knux title three times.

He came to Amarillo because his favorite wrestler was Dory Funk Jr., who he regarded as the greatest wrestler he ever faced. Coming in as a heel, it gave him the chance to wrestle his idol, who at the time was co-owner of the promotion. The two wrestled numerous matches, including many 60 minute draws.

After the Amarillo territory closed down, rather than go on the road away from his family, he took a job at Cavely’s Pest Control company that his father-in-law owned in Amarillo. He would get a kick out of it in the 80s, because Verne Gagne would bring him to Las Vegas every few weeks for television tapings at the Showboat, where he’d often work three matches as enhancement talent, and ESPN aired them matches in the afternoon. He’d often go to people’s houses to work and see them watching him on television which would shock them.

Stamp was also a mentor to Mike Tenay, helping teach him the inner-working and real world of the con-man aspect of the business.

“He was one of the first guys who put a lot of things into perspective about the business to me,” Tenay said. “I became friends with him before I got in. There’s a big difference between thinking you know it from the outside and knowing it from the inside. He was a pretty damn sharp guy, like a philosopher when it came to wrestling. He looked at things in a different layered way from most in the business. He always said that his rebellious attitude kept him from advancing. I think he was just one of those guys who had a difficult time playing all the political games.”

When he was working in Southern California and getting a push, he was used as the policeman since Gene LeBell wasn’t around. The problem, as he noted to me in recounting that era, was while he was a good amateur wrestler, he wasn’t a Billy Robinson who knew all the submissions. Previously, when people would come and want to become wrestlers, they would have LeBell train with them and hurt them and they’d never come back. With Stamp, sure he’d out wrestle them and tire them out until they couldn’t go on, but he didn’t hurt people with bone-breaking moves. Once, when he faced a good 300-pound football player, he was able to outwrestle him but the guy would never quit. Stamp told the story that they went at it forever. He couldn’t break the guy although he had the better of it, and after going nearly an hour in a shoot, he was exhausted and knew if he quit, it would be considered a disgrace to the business. He said, luckily, the other guy finally quit out of exhaustion.

At another time, Bryant Gumble had a show in Los Angeles called “Be What You Want to Be,” where a guy wanted to be a pro wrestler. They contacted the local office and put the guy against Stamp. Once again, he outwrestled the guy, but never hurt him. The promotion wasn’t happy because he didn’t hurt the guy badly on television, feeling that it exposed the business. For a time after it aired, the other wrestlers wouldn’t even talk to him, feeling he exposed the business.

“They said, `How are you going to get people to believe it’s real if you don’t really hurt them,’” he said.

But he liked his stay in California. He wrestled in the famous Battle Royals at the Olympic Auditorium and in other cities, including being brought in by Roy Shire as a star outsider in 1975 to the Cow Palace Battle Royal. He was able to do some TV and movie work while living there to augment the wrestling.

In the 1980s, both the WWF and AWA would bring him to television because he was a solid reliable veteran who could get a little offense and lose semi-competitive matches to the stars who would look good. Gagne in particular brought him in all the time, paying him $150 for a couple of matches at a taping.

“What he loved more than anything was that he was the favorite Showboat jobber to all the regular fans,” said Tenay. “When he went out, even for his third job of the night, the people were behind him. He believed that was the biggest compliment to his work he could have. He did it well because there were so many goofs and here’s this guy and obviously you can tell in the first couple of minutes he belongs with the big name talent as opposed to a guy tripping on his own feet.”

When the AWA stopped taping at the Showboat in 1988, Stamp’s career in wrestling was pretty much over.

In 1997, when the movie “Beyond the Mat” was being filmed, Stamp was shown as a comedic 50-year-old man who would train by holding weights and jumping up and down on his trampoline in the backyard with the idea that he had to stay in shape in case the phone rang for his next booking, even though he hadn’t had a match in nine years, the case of someone who couldn’t give it up. The reality was different, since he could have continued wrestling but had given it up to raise a family, work a job, and the wrestling he didn’t want to give up was being a referee for the local high school matches, which he did for decades.

The wrestling tradition continued in his family with his granddaughter, Jaclyn, now wrestling as a sophomore at Amarillo High School.

Still, he would never come to the Cauliflower Alley Club events in Las Vegas, because he felt it was something you attended when you retired, and he never considered himself a retired wrestler.

On February 20, 2015, in what was his first match in more than 26 years, he worked for AIW in Cleveland, wearing a Grado singlet for a comedy match as a trio with Grado & Dick Justice beating Gregory Iron & Benjamin Boone & Joey Vincent Martini.

In the movie, his long-time good friend Terry Funk talked with him about Funk’s supposed retirement show in Amarillo that year. Stamp wanted to be booked and Funk tried to let him down saying there wasn’t a spot. Later, Funk came back to him and offered him a role as a referee for the main event where Funk would face then-WWF champion Bret Hart. At first Stamp was too proud to take the referee job, but eventually he did.

Stamp and I talked many times in the early days of the Observer because he loved writing, and loved someone writing about his business while cutting through the bullshit. He would say that if you ask almost any wrestler why they did it, they would almost all say for the money, and he said almost everyone of them was lying, and that they almost all did it for the ego. He noted that allowed promoters to control them without paying them their fair share of the gates.

“I think a lot of people would think he was bitter, but he was never bitter, he was more insightful into the business,” said Tenay. “The stories I remember was he would say the one thing you have to remember about the wrestling business is the basis of the business is all formed on a lie. When you are in a business where the foundation is a lie, you better be prepared to be lied to by every promoter, the other talent and just keep that in mind and be prepared. He would note the term ‘the boys,’ which was used for the wrestlers, showed the mentality of the promoters who looked at the wrestlers as a group of boys they can manipulate. He had an understanding of the business at a different level and he wasn’t afraid to share it with me.”

Finally, he self published a book, “The Stamp Collection,” although joked he only sold 30 copies and gave away 50 copies.

In 2011, he was diagnosed with cancer and was in very bad shape, and he wasn’t expected to beat it. He beat the cancer through aggressive high doses of chemotherapy. But in September, the cancer returned and in recent weeks had gotten worse, getting the news just a few weeks ago that it had spread to his bone marrow.


The career of Vitor Belfort is a living monument to the effect of testosterone on fighting ability.

Belfort was one of the first stars of MMA, a combination boxer and BJJ practitioner whose fast and accurate hands made him a phenom in the sport, a superstar while only 19-years-old.

He never truly dominated like expected, as he ran into Randy Couture in his fifth fight and a combination of high-level Greco-Roman wrestling and mental toughness exposed Belfort, who really was a frontrunner as a fighter, who panicked when things weren’t going his way, such as in his 1999 fight with Kazushi Sakuraba.

Whispers of steroids always followed Belfort, who competed as a 220 pound heavyweight, ripped to shreds, trained by a bodybuilder in his early days. He had flashes of brilliance, but generally lost when facing the top-tier opponents. In 2006, after a decision loss to Dan Henderson, he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in what may have been the first time he was subjected to steroid testing.

In 2011, after a first round loss to Anderson Silva, he was granted a very controversial therapeutic use exemption for testosterone. It was controversial since one would think someone with a prior failure, meaning their low testosterone readings were likely due to damage they had taken from using steroids earlier, had led to them having a deficiency later. It’s one thing to be able to take that for health, but quite another to give someone an advantage in sports competition, let alone a fight, under those circumstances.

So at 34, with 15 years of mileage on his body, this 19-9 fighter came back, looking like a late 1980s WWF headliner. He knocked out Yoshihiro Akiyama in the first round. He choked out Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in the first round. He took a short notice fight, not in his best shape, against Jon Jones, arguably the greatest fighter of all-time, who fought a weight class above him, and those were the limitations of his advantage. Still, he nearly finished Jones with an armbar before being dominated most of the fight.

In 2013, he went on a ridiculous tear. At 36, he knocked out Michael Bisping in the second round with a head kick. He followed by knocking out Luke Rockhold in 2:32 with a head kick, and then beat Henderson in 1:17 with a head kick.

He was supposed to get a title shot at Chris Weidman, but in one of the tests taken out-of-competition by the Nevada Athletic Commission, he was over the allowable limit of testosterone from his therapy. The whole situation got confusing for Nevada which banned TRT, even for legit medical reasons, from that point forward. Fighters like Belfort were then screwed, because by using TRT for years, and as older fighters, their natural testosterone levels had been suppressed and would be dangerously low. Well, in theory. Plus, the drugs you would take to get things back to normal were also banned, because those were the drugs that you’d catch people coming off a cycle using.

Belfort’s body aged 15 years between the Henderson fight and the Weidman fight, which he lost in 2:53.

On 3/11, when he stepped into the cage with Kelvin Gastelum in Fortaleza, Brazil, he was old and skinny, looking like the father of the fighter of 2013. He showed brief flashes of the hand speed and accuracy, but was finished in 3:52 in the main event, his fourth loss in five fights, all four coming via stoppage, three in the first round.

Belfort announced after the show that he had one fight left on his contract, which he hoped to have on 6/3 at the UFC PPV show from Rio de Janeiro, and unless UFC started a seniors circuit at that point, he would probably retire.

Belfort vs. Gastelum drew a sellout of 14,069 fans to the Olympic Gym in Fortaleza for a show with largely good action, with a fun win by crowd favorite Mauricio Shogun Rua, and impressive wins by title contenders Edson Barboza at lightweight and Ray Borg at flyweight.

Because of issues at Nielsen, the only thing at press time known about the ratings is that the main card did 946,000 viewers, which is roughly average, probably lower than hoped for with Belfort and Shogun fighting. The prelims did 830,000 viewers, which isn’t bad. It went against the NBA on ABC (2.2 million viewers), the ACC tournament on ESPN (3,596,000 viewers) and World Baseball Classic (977,000 viewers).

The $50,000 performance bonuses went to Gastelum, Barboza, Michel Prazeres and Paulo Borrachinha.

1. Paulo Corrachinha (9-0) beat Garreth McLellan (13-6) in 1:17 of a middleweight fight. Borrachinha came out fast in his UFC debuting, knocking down McLellan and finishing him with punches on the ground.

2. Jeremy Kennedy (10-0) beat Rony Jason (14-7, 1 no contest) on scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27 in a featherweight fight. Jason knocked Kennedy down early but Kennedy scored some takedowns and ground and pound in the first round. Jason dropped Kennedy again in the second round with a flying knee and punched from the top and had Kennedy in trouble. In the third round, Jason was taunting him but Kennedy took him down five times in the round and landed with punches from the top and took the decision.

3. Michel Prazeres (22-2) beat Joshua Burkman (29-15, 1 no contest) in 1:42 in a lightweight fight. Burkman physically looked like he’d aged a lot. Prazeres came out firing punches, with the crowd going nuts. He took Burkman down, moved to side control and finished him with a North-South choke. Burkman talked retirement briefly after the fight, but later said he decided against it.

4. Joe Soto (18-5) beat Rami Yahya (23-9, 1 no contest) on scores of 29-28, 29-27 and 29-27 in a featherweight fight. The story here is that Soto bled a horrible amount. There was an accidental head-butt that opened up a deep cut, but not in a dangerous position, and Soto was bleeding like a faucet. The canvas was covered in dried blood the rest of the fight. Soto dropped him with a right in the first round, but Yahya took him down and was on top. I had Yahya in the first but Soto in the second and third. The cut was opened in the second round. Soto got Yahya’s back. Yahya escaped and landed punches, but went for a takedown, Soto blocked and got on top in the mount to end the round. In the third round, Yahya again went for a takedown and Soto landed on top. He was bleeding all over Yahya. It was sick, as it was almost like the two were swimming in blood. Yahya reversed to the top but Soto got up and took him down again to win it.

5. Kevin Lee (15-2) beat Francisco Trinaldo (21-5) at 3:12 of the second round in a lightweight fight. Trinaldo came into the fight with an eight-fight winning streak. Lee is someone to follow. Lee’s right eye was swollen early but he cut a takedown. Trinaldo hurt him with a body shot and landed punches on the ground. In the second round, they were trading. Trinaldo tried a takedown but Lee landed no top in the mount, got his back and choked him out.

6. Alex Oliveira (16-3-1, 2 no contests) beat Tim Means (26-8-1, 1 no contest) at 2:38 of the second round in a welterweight fight. This was a rematch of a fight that Means had dominated, but threw a blatant illegal knee to the head that he should have been DQ’d for, but it was ruled a no contest when Oliveira couldn’t continue. This time, Oliveira beat him via wrestling. He got four first round takedowns and landed from the top. In the second round, Oliveira got him down again and choked him out.

7. Marion Reneau (7-3-1) went to a majority draw with Bethe Correia (10-2-1) on scores of 29-27 Reneau, 28-28 and 28-28. I had it 29-27 Reneau. Media scores were 64 percent for Reneau and 36 percent had it a draw, with none for Correia. It came down to a close round one, as Correia won round two and Reneau had a 10-8 third. In the first round, Reneau, who is 39-years-old, got the better of the standup with kicks and knees, as well as a nice punch. Correia got a late takedown. Reneau had a 20-15 edge in significant strikes landed in the key round. In the second round, Correia started to land, dominated the round, hit a nice uppercut and got a takedown. Reneau went for a triangle from the bottom but Correia pulled out. In the third, Reneau dominated with a lot of punches and elbows on the ground from mount but couldn’t finish her.

8. Ray Borg (11-2) beat Jussier Formiga (19-5) on straight 29-28 scores in a flyweight fight. The winner of this fight would be a potential contender for Demetrious Johnson’s title. This was an exciting fight. Both landed in the first round. Borg landed more but Formiga’s shots were strong. In the second, it as mostly Borg, although Formiga hurt him with a low kick late. In the third round, Formiga got the takedown and got his back. Borg reversed to te top and landed elbows, that cut Formiga up and got his back. Borg challenged the winner of the Johnson vs. Wilson Reis fight on 4/15 to a title fight. It would come down to either he or Joseph Benavidez for the next shot at that winner one would think.

9. Edson Barboza (19-4) beat Beneil Dariush (14-3) at 3:35 of the second round in a lightweight fight. This figured to be Barboza’s striking against Dariush’s grappling. But in the first round, Dariush did well in the standup. Both landed good shots but Dariush was landing a lot more, with a 28-16 significant strikes edge to win the first round. In the second round, they had a great exchange. Dariush tried a takedown but didn’t get it. Barboza landed what will be one of the best knockouts of the year with a jumping right knee to the chin when Dariush left himself open throwing a left. Barboza also called for a title match with Conor McGregor after winning. He isn’t getting that any time soon.

10. Mauricio Shogun Rua (25-10) beat Gian Villante (15-8) at :59 of the third round in a light heavyweight fight. Good fight. Villante hurt him early but Rua landed hard punches and got a knockdown with a right. He landed body shots and more hard punches. In the second round, Villante came back and was landing more, and hurt Rua. Villante also got a takedown, but Rua landed some good punches late in the round. In the third round, Rua hurt him with punches against the fence. He was landing punch after punch until Mario Yamasaki stopped the fight. The place went nuts here. There’s nothing like the aging Brazilian legend getting a big win before a sellout crowd in his home country.

11. Kelvin Gastelum (13-2) beat Vitor Belfort (25-14) in 3:52 of a middleweight fight. Belfort landed a nice kick but Gastelum dropped him with a left and had him hurt. Belfort came back with fast punches but Gastelum dropped him with another left and Belfort went down hard and ref John McCarthy stopped it.


The WWE’s annual stockholders meeting will be on 4/20, and with the retirement of Joe Perkins, who has been on the Board of Directors since 1999 and been affiliated with the WWWF since the 70s, the board members will be Vince McMahon, 71, the CEO and Chairman of the Board; Stephanie McMahon Levesque, 40, the Chief Brand Officer; Paul Levesque, 47, the Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative; Stuart Goldfarb, 62, Patricia Gottesman, 58, Laureen Ong, 64, Robyn Peterson, 41, Frank Riddick, 60 and Jeffrey Speed, 54.

Besides Vince, Stephanie and Paul Levesque, the rest of the senior executive team is composed of Michelle Wilson, 51, the Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer; George Barrios, 51, the Chief Strategy and Financial Officer; Kevin Dunn, 56, the Executive Producer & Chief of Global Television Production, Blake Bilstad, 47, the Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary; Casey Collins, 44, the Executive Vice President of Consumer Products, Basil DeVito, 62, the Senior Advisor of Business Strategy and Michael Luisi, 51, the President of WWE Studios.

For 2017, the base salaries for Vince is $1.4 million, Wilson is $791,044, Barrios is $783,510; Levesque is $650,000 (as an executive, not including his salary as talent) and Dunn is $909,560.

It’s interesting that in management goals for 2017, the stated goal is not based on adding new subscribers to the network, but based on adding the average hours consumed per subscriber, which was a number that declined in 2016 from 2015.

As far as total pay for last year, not including dividends, Vince McMahon earned $3,071,600 ($1,313,462 in salary, $1,739,063 in incentive compensation and $19,075 in matching 401K plans and life insurance payments). That was down from $3,308,998 from 2015 but up from $2,413,865 in 2014.

Wilson earned $4,317,617; Barrios earned $4,311,056; Levesque earned $3,993,417 (which was $601,933 for executive salary, $499,992 in stock, $419,531 in incentives for company performance and $2,471,961 as talent for his matches and television appearances and he also missed football season as talent this past year); and Dunn earned $4,637,652.

Like Vince McMahon, all the executives earned less in 2016 based on lower revenue coming from meeting incentives, with the exception of Paul Levesque, and that’s because his money for being a wrestler increased from $1,713,360 in 2015.

Stephanie McMahon earned about $2 million between executive pay and talent, not including stock. Shane McMahon earned about $2,150,000, all as a performer, for his role on television as commissioner as well as for his main event money from WrestleMania and Survivor Series.

Listed as the company’s key goals in 2017 are to grow the WWE Network, although as noted, the main goal listed is to grow the average amount of hours consumed per subscriber, and not grow subscriber numbers; increase international revenue; increase “certain television ratings, social media metric; sponsorships and net promoter score,” increase revenue from new product initiatives and come up with actionable business initiatives to generate new revenue and social media followers in certain new markets.

Vince McMahon received an additional $17,056,020 in stock dividends. Linda McMahon received $272,050 in stock dividends. Stephanie McMahon received $919,079.52 in stock dividends in 2016. Paul Levesque received $30,803.52 in stock dividends in 2016.

Like most of the biggest stars, even though he far out-earned that figure even working nine matches for the year and missing several months of television due to storyline reasons of wanting to keep him off, Levesque’s downside for 2016 was $1 million. I believe with the exception of Brock Lesnar and maybe John Cena, nobody has a downside greater than $1 million, even though the headliners earn multiple times that.

The members of the Board of Directors who aren’t executives last year earned between $57,541 and $98,041, and all also received an additional $57,500 in stock.


The WWE returned to its former home arena, Madison Square Garden, on 3/12 for a loaded up show with the Smackdown crew, plus Brock Lesnar and Kevin Owens in what was originally supposed to be a card headlined by both the WWE and Universal titles.

That didn’t quite happen, but the addition of Lesnar and an advertised appearance of Shane McMahon led to nearly 15,000 fans almost filling the building, the biggest house show crowd in the building since the WWE Network special built around Lesnar.

Shane McMahon opened the show, noting it was his first time back in the building in many years and talked about his two sons in the front row. A.J. Styles came out to complain about being screwed out of his WrestleMania main event. They argued back-and-forth and Shane ordered Styles to face Randy Orton “right now.”

1. Orton pinned Styles in 17:00 with an RKO counter to the phenomenal forearm. ***½ (star ratings are average of four different people).

2. Rhyno & Heath Slater & Kalisto beat Tyler Breeze & Fandango & Curt Hawkins when Rhyno pinned Breeze after a gore. **1/4

3. Dolph Ziggler pinned Apollo Crews with a superkick. Nothing wrong with the wrestling but the crowd was completely dead from the start of the match. Nobody cared about either guy with the crowd responses reserved for moves. **

4. Dean Ambrose retained the IC title in a four-way over Luke Harper, Baron Corbin and The Miz when Ambrose pinned Miz after Dirty Deeds. Miz and Maryse got a lot of heat. **3/4

5. Brock Lesnar pinned Kevin Owens in 1:58 after an F-5. Owens attacked Lesnar at the bell, throwing hockey fight punches, a cannonball into the corner and a swanton off the top. From that point, Lesnar suplexed him over and over until hitting the F-5. Fans were chanting “Goldberg.” Lesnar got a super babyface pop, as did Paul Heyman.

6. Nikki Bella & Becky Lynch & Tamina & Asuka beat Alexa Bliss & Mickie James & Natalya & Carmella when Asuka made Carmella submit to the Asuka lock. Asuka was over far more than anyone else and worked at a different level than everyone else. The ring entrances were longer than the match itself. **3/4

7. Jason Jordan & Chad Gable kept the tag titles beating The Usos. It was noted regarding NXT that Asuka, still in NXT, was super over while Jordan & Gable were dead. Nobody cared. The match was slower than you’d think, which was death this late in the show. Usos were cheered more than Alpha and almost no reaction to the sky high bulldog finish. **½

8. Bray Wyatt beat John Cena to retain the WWE title. Several very good near falls including Cena kicking out of Sister Abigail. After that, Wyatt grabbed his belt and walked out, losing by count out in 17:00. Shane came back out and ordered the match restarted, with no DQ and no count outs. But the match lost a lot of heat as they fought in the aisle. Cena hit Wyatt with a piece of the barricade. Wyatt suplexed Cena into the barricade. Wyatt used a low blow and got the pin in 25:00. After the match, Wyatt attacked Cena again, and set up a suplex through a table. Cena blocked it and hit the Attitude Adjustment on Wyatt through the table. ***3/4

They announced the next date back will be the Raw crew for a house show on 7/7.


TV-Asahi aired a network special on 3/12, which was supposed to air in prime time after the World Baseball Classic (which is much bigger in Japan than in the U.S.).

The WBC in Japan is probably equivalent to the World Series in the U.S., so this would be like a decision by NBC to do a historical special on pro wrestling to keep the World Series audience in prime time after a series game. What’s notable is that pro wrestling really is right now more popular in the U.S. than Japan, but from an historical and cultural standpoint, because pro wrestling was so big from 1954 through probably around 1998 or so, the old days are considered huge.

As it turned out, the show, scheduled to start at about 9 p.m. on a Sunday, didn’t air until 12:13 a.m. because of baseball games going long. The show itself featured a panel of major celebrities talking about their favorite memories of watching wrestling. Among those appearing live were Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Kota Ibushi, Yoshihiro Takayama, Tomoaki Honma (this show was taped before his injury), Shinjiro Otani, Animal Hamaguchi (who is well known mainstream in Japan from appearances on game shows and TV variety shows as well as for coaching Japanese women’s wrestling and his daughter’s success as an amateur wrestler). Appearing on video were Yoji Anjo, Milano Collection A.T., Abdullah Kobayashi, Kazuo Yamazaki, Shinobu Kandori, Io Shirai, Naomichi Marufuji and Akitoshi Saito.

The special polled 10,000 people (as well as 200 pro wrestlers) on the question who was the greatest wrestler ever to appear in Japan. Because it was TV-Asahi (New Japan’s network) and the poll was done this year, there was a heavy skew to the modern because with casual people, they wouldn’t know history.

What’s notable is the standing that current people see the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega, and more, to this day, even though his heyday was only 1981-83 (when TV ratings were through the roof), the general public opinion of the original Tiger Mask.

The ranking of the top 20, in order was: 1. Antonio Inoki (it’s notable because as big as Inoki was, to teenagers and younger they don’t really have the connection to him, but to the modern generation of adults, he’s still the person they view as the greatest of all-time); 2. Giant Baba (Inoki’s contemporary); 3. Satoru Sayama (notable because of his standing in putting junior heavyweights on the map and also notable is that the first real modern junior heavyweight superstar, Tatsumi Fujinami, shockingly, did not crack the top 20, showing that people like he and Seiji Sakaguchi’s name value didn’t have the legs of others); 4. Kazuchika Okada (showing that the modern casual fan sees him as the greatest of this era); 5. Rikidozan (interesting but if you think about it, a modern voting of casual people about football probably wouldn’t have Jim Brown as the No. 1 running back either); 6. Tanahashi; 7. Jumbo Tsuruta (very noteworthy his placing vs. Fujinami, since they were both in the same position and this is a New Japan network show, it really shows Tsuruta’s name has lived on strongly long after his retirement and death); 8. Jushin Liger (interesting placing because he was an absolutely fantastic worker in his prime, one of the best ever, but was never pushed as the greatest); 9. Mitsuharu Misawa; 10. Stan Hansen (highest ranked foreigner to no surprise, since that would be expected to a modern audience); 11. Riki Choshu (again notable because his main claim to fame is he got hot because he could stay even with Fujinami); 12. Keiji Muto; 13. Kenta Kobashi; 14. Genichiro Tenryu; 15. Omega; 16. Shinya Hashimoto; 17. Masahiro Chono; 18. Hulk Hogan; 19. Togi Makabe (obviously he shouldn’t be on the list but we’ve noted that to mainstream people, because he’s on talk shows and TV commercials and known mainstream as the pro wrestler who loves junk food as a comedy figure, he’s the most famous of all the current New Japan wrestlers and wrestlers not from the prior generation); 20. Andre the Giant.

This also shows from a mainstream standpoint the view of WWE in Japan, as no WWE competitor except Hogan made the list, and Hogan is better remembered in Japan for his 1980-83 run when New Japan was on fire than post-1984. But it also shows that in Japan that the modern WWE superstars like John Cena, HHH, The Rock, Steve Austin or Shawn Michaels are not viewed as being as great wrestlers as the current New Japan stars, nor did the old legendary world champions like Ric Flair, Harley Race, Jack Brisco, The Funk Brothers, Bruno Sammartino, Verne Gagne and Lou Thesz make the list. Aside from Baba, Inoki, Sayama, Andre and Hogan, are dominated by names who were on top regularly in the last 25 years.

It’s interesting to note what names did and didn’t get stronger over time from the past. Baba, Inoki and Rikidozan were always top three in virtually every list done until a decade ago, and even a few years ago in a listing of the greatest sports stars in Japanese history, all three made the top ten and nobody else from pro wrestling would have come close.

Besides Fujinami, the names that have been high in similar lists in the past include Akira Maeda (usually at about the same level as Tsuruta), Nobuhiko Takada, Kazushi Sakuraba and Bruiser Brody. When the Maeda style of pro wrestling died in Japan, in time, much of its history died with it.

In 2000, there was a poll of Japanese pro wrestlers, not fans, of the greatest wrestlers of all-time. Inoki, Baba and Rikidozan dominated the Japanese side, while Brody beat out Hansen for No. 1 on the foreign side. But it’s been more than 28 years since Brody died, while Hansen’s career continued another dozen years and he came back regularly to Japan since then. At that point foreign stars like The Funks, Mil Mascaras, Destroyer, Lou Thesz, Karl Gotch and others were still remembered as among the all-time greats.

In 1995, in the Japanese book “Best 1,000,” about the greatest pro wrestler of all-time, Rikidozan was front and center and the other cover photos were Bruno Sammartino, Dick the Bruiser, Inoki, Andre, Freddie Blassie, The Destroyer, Fritz Von Erich, Karl Gotch, Hogan, Brody, Mil Mascaras, Gagne, Thesz, Bobo Brazil, Dory Funk Jr., Terry Funk and Baba.


For those going to Orlando for WrestleMania, this is a listing of the events there during the week:

3/28: Pro Wrestling 2.0 at 7 p.m at the Pro Wrestling 2.0 Training Center with Shane Strickland, Sami Callihan, Seth Petruzelli, Devon Dudley’s sons, Santana Garrett, Tessa Blanchard, Joey Ryan, Raquel and Seth Petruzelli.

3/29: AWE Rock & Brawl at 5 p.m. at Gilt Nightclub with Colt Cabana, Jesse Neal, Joey Ryan, Hornswoggle, ODB, Gangrel, Leva Bates, Sonjay Dutt, and Robbie E.

3/29 Punk Goes Wrestling at 8 p.m at the Team Vision Dojo.

3/29 Late Night Sleaze Talk Show with Joey Ryan at 11:45 p.m. at Team Vision Dojo

3/30 FEW Survive Live at 8 p.m. at the Downtown Orlando Rec Center.

3/30 Evolve at 8 p.m. at Orlando Live Events with Zack Sabre Jr. vs. ACH for Evolve title, Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi vs. Michael Elgin & Donovan Dijak for Evolve tag titles, Drew Galloway vs. Matt Riddle, Ricochet vs. Keith Lee, Timothy Thatcher vs. Chris Dickinson, Jaka vs. Jason Kincaid, Etna Page vs. Austin Theory.

3/30 WrestlePro at 8:30 p.m. at Wyndham Resorts Orlando with Cody Rhodes, Brian Cage, Jeff Cobb, Tommy Dreamer, Brandi Rhodes, Blue Meanie, Stevie Richards and Nova Mike Bucci.

3/30 WaleMania at 8:40 p.m. at Tier Night Club, a live podcast and Q&A session with me, Jim Ross, Will Ospreay, Ricochet, Tama Tonga, Tanga Roa, MVP, Court Bauer, Kevin Sullivan, MSL, Conrad Thompson and Alex Greenfield. Wale performs at midnight.

3/30 Joey’s Spring Break at midnight at Orlando Live Resorts with Marty Jannetty, Joey Janela, Lio Rush, Keith Lee, Sami Callihan, Matt Riddle, Eddie Kingston, Braxton Sutter, Allie and Glacier.

3/31 Progress U.K. at Noon at Orlando Live Events with Zack Sabre Jr., Trent Seven, Tyler Bate, Pete Dunne, Matt Riddle, Shane Strickland, Mark Andrews, Sami Callihan, Travis Banks, Toni Storm, Mark Haskins, Rockstar Spud, James Drake and Jimmy Havoc.

3/31 FEW at Noon at the Downtown Orlando Rec Center.

3/31 FEW Flares at 3 p.m. at the Downtown Orlando Rec Center.

3/31 Revolution Pro Wrestling U.K. at 4 p.m. at Wyndham Resorts Orlando with Zack Sabre Jr., Pentagon Jr., Ricochet, Marty Scurll, Jay White, Sami Callihan, Will Ospreay, Rey Fenix, Martin Stone, Jeff Cobb, Shane Strickland, Michael Elgin and Brian Cage.

3/31 Evolve at 4 p.m. at Orlando Live Events with Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Michael Elgin, Fred Yehi vs. Matt Riddle, Keith Lee vs. Donovan Dijak, Tracy Williams & Chris Dickinson & Jaka vs. Jason Kincaid & Sammy Guevara & Austin Theory, Drew Galloway vs. Lio Rush and Timothy Thatcher vs. ACH.

3/31 Colt Cabana podcast with Larry Zbyszko at 4 p.m. at Team Vision Dojo

3/31 Wrestling Observer/Figure Four web site dinner at Texas de Brazil in Orlando at 5259 International Drive Ste Fl with me appearing. Reservations must be made by 3/24 to Srjailaiot@yahoo.com

3/31 WWE Hall of Fame at 8 p.m. at Amway Arena

3/31 WrestleCon Super Show at 8 p.m. at Wyndham Resorts Orlando with Bobby Lashley, Matt & Jeff Hardy, Jeff Cobb, Will Ospreay Ricochet, Rey Fenix, Pentagon Jr., Trevor Lee, Johnny Mundo, Drew Galloway, Sami Callihan, Vampiro, Shannon Moore, Too Cold Scorpio, ACH, Jack Evans, Angelico and Brian Cage.

3/31 Chikara at 8 p.m. at Orlando Live Events with Grado and Ultramantis Black.

3/31 Brain Buster Pro Wrestling at 8 p.m. at Team Vision Dojo.

3/31 Punk Pro Wrestling at 10:15 p.m. Team Vision Dojo

3/31 Kaiju Big Battel at midnight at Orlando Live Events

4/1 Wrestling Revolver at Noon at Wyndham Resorts Orlando with Ricochet, Shane Strickland, Rey Fenix, Pentagon Jr., Brian Cage, Sami Callihan, David Starr, David & Jake Crist, Jack Evans, Angelico, Michael Elgin and ACH.

4/1 FEW at Noon at Downtown Orlando Rec Center.

4/1 Shimmer at Noon at Orlando Live Events with Mercedes Martinez vs. Candice LeRae for Shimmer title; Vanessa Kraven & Tessa Blanchard vs. Mia Yim (Jade) & Kay Lee ray for tag titles plus Allie, Jessicka Havoc, Dulce Garcia (Sexy Star), Shayna Baszler, Santana Garrett and Veda Scott.

4/1 Jim Ross talk show at 2:30 p.m. at Plaza Live with guests Paul O’Brien (his co-author) and Tony Schiavone, plus Tyrus as the M.C.

4/1 Ignite Wrestling at Team Vision Dojo at 3 p.m.

4/1 Chikara at 4 p.m. at Orlando Live Events with Zack a Sabre Jr.

4/1 Women’s Super Show at 4 p.m. at Wyndham Resorts Orlando with Taya, Taelor Hendrix, Kennadi Brink, Jazz, Chelsea Green (Laurel Van Ness), Jazz, Santana Garrett, Rachael Ellering, Leva Bates, Tessa Blanchard Allie, Deonna Purrazzo and Jessicka Havok.

4/1 ROH Supercard of Honor at 6 p.m. in Lakeland, FL at the Lakeland Civic Center (Hardys vs. Young Bucks ladder match for ROH tag titles; Christopher Daniels vs. Dalton Castle for ROH title, Cody vs. Jay Lethal bullrope match plus Jushin Liger, Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay, Briscoes, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Silas Young, Yoshi-Hashi, Dragon Lee, Volador Jr., Amapola and Marcela.

4/1 FEW at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Orlando Rec Center with Swoggle, Cryme Tyme, Headbangers and stars of Micro Championship Wrestling.

4/1 WWN Super Show at 8 p.m. at Orlando Live Events with Drew Galloway vs. Fred Yehi vs. Jon Davis vs. Matt Riddle vs. Parrow vs. Tracy Williams to crown the first WWN champion, Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Mark Haskins for Evolve title, Pete Dunne vs. ACH, Ethan Page vs. Jimmy Havoc, Travis Banks & TK Cooper vs. Chris Dickinson & Jake, LuFisto vs. Su Yung for Shine championship ad Keith Lee vs Jason Kincaid.

4/1 United States Wrestling Alliance at 8 p.m. at Team Vision Dojo.

4/1 CZW Best of the Best at 8 p.m. at Wyndham Resorts Orlando with Joe Gacy vs. Brian Cage for the CZW title, Penta 0M vs. Matt Tremont and first round Best of the Best tournament matches with Sami Callihan vs. Dave Crist vs. Jake Crist vs. Rey Fenix, Ricochet vs. Jason Cade vs. AR Fox vs. David Starr, Michael Elgin vs. Anthony Henry vs. Scorpio Sky vs. Zachary Wentz and Shane Strickland vs. Lio Rus vs. Dezmond Xaiver vs. Joey Janela.

4/1 Beyond Wrestling at midnight at Orlando Live Events with Donovan Dijak and Matt Riddle.

4/1 WWE NXT at 8 p.m. at Amway Arena

4/2 WWN Hardys Broken Tailgate party at 10 a.m. outside of Saddle Up in Orlando with an ACW show at 11 a.m. and an FIP show at 2 p.m. with Sami Callihan & Dave Crist & two mystery partners vs. Michael Elgin & Keith Lee & Donovan Dijak & Sammy Guevara, Fred Yehi vs. Dezmond Xavier and Marti Stone vs. Jon Davis.

4/2 Jim Ross talk show at 2:30 p.m. at Plaza Live Orlando with guests Jim Cornette and Bruce Prichard and M.C. Tyrus.

4/2 WWE WrestleMania at 5 p.m. at the Citrus Bowl

4/3 WWE Raw at 7:30 p.m. at Amway Arena

4/4 WWE Smackdown/205 Live at 7:30 p.m. at Amway Arena

4/5 WWE NXT TV tapings at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.


Due to a power outage at Nielsen, there are no ratings available at press time past Saturday. The television industry is fuming over this.

The John Cena-hosted Kids Choice Awards on Nickelodeon on 3/11 did 3,054,000 viewers. The show featured appearances by Dwayne Johnson and Nikki Bella, and Cena getting majorly slimed as expected. The demo pattern was notable as the show did a 1.47 in 12-17, 0.55 in 18-34, 0.81 in 35-49 and 0.26 in 50+. The audience was 60.0 percent women in 18-49 and 61.4 percent women in 12-17.

After all the talk this past week of the new Impact, new ownership, the debut of Alberto El Patron, and such, the audience for the show on 3/9 was 292,000 viewers, down 1,000 from the week before.


This is the second issue of the current set. With last week being a double issue, if you’ve got a (1) on your address label, your subscription expires with next week’s issue.

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CMLL: The go-home show for the Dos Leyndas show this week, on 3/10 in Arena Mexico, saw rudos destruction in the main event, even though they lost the match before 5,000 fans, the lowest in several weeks. Caristico & Diamante Azul & Maximo Sexy won in two straight falls, the second via DQ, in less than 10:00 over La Mascara & Rush & Pierroth. In the third fall, Azul was destroyed, including being hit by a tray of potato chips and unmasked once again. Ultimo Guerrero & Niebla Roja & Euforia beat Dragon Lee & Mistico & Valiente in 2/3 falls with Roja vs. Lee being a focal point. Was told the show was good but no match out of this world

It was said to be a good show, at least until the main event, but a night of near accidents. In the second match, Forastero did a spot where he ran down the ramp and went to jump to the top rope for a springboard spot, but missed the ropes and crashed, but he was fine. Stuka Jr. pinned Bobby Villa with a roll-up off the top rope, but they hit the move too clean and Stuka came down, sitting on Bobby’s head. Bobby had to be immobilized and taken to the hospital, but he was okay. Atlantis was doing the spot where he gives everyone the quebradoras (spinning backbreakers), and Negro Casas was running in take it, but tripped over his brother Felino, stumbled and took it badly. He was shaken up, but they went to the finish and he was fine afterwards. Mistico also hurt his shoulder again, but he seemed okay after. They also look to be starting something up with Soberano Jr., who did so well in Japan that they are taking notice here, with Misterioso Jr., as Misterioso Jr. has taken his mask the last two weeks

The big show on 3/17 has Pierroth vs. Azul in a mask vs. mask match. As noted, this will not air live, nor be free, but will be a cheap (like $3 or so) iPPV show that will be put up very late Friday night. Also Mistico & Valiente & Volador Jr. defend the CMLL trios titles against Mephisto & Ephesto & Luciferno, the current Mexican national trios champions. Ultimo Guerrero defends the NWA Historic middleweight title against Matt Taven. The rest of the show has Atlantis & Caristico & Marco Corleone vs. Rush & La Mascara & Kraneo, Dragon Lee & Titan & Stuka Jr. vs. Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja & Euforia, and opens with women with Estrellita & Marcela & Princesa Sugei vs. Amapola & Zeuxis & Tiffany. As far as depth goes, this is far stronger than a usual Friday show, particularly seeing guys like Dragon Lee and Euforia in the second match of the show

They are cutting down on the capacity at Arena Mexico and adding a bar and restaurant to the building. It makes sense as there are only a few shows a year that need all the seats while a restaurant in the building can drive added revenue year-around

There is another Dos Leyendas show on 3/21 in Guadalajara, honoring Ringo Mendoza. The original plan, and it was announced, was to honor Americo Rocca. It was changed to Mendoza, because he’s in poor health. Mephisto vs. Caristico headlines.

AAA: Konnan on his podcast claimed that AAA was trying to get Halloween, Damian 666 and Mr. Aguila to come in so they would be able to use the Perros Del Mal name that they were claiming ownership of and have it at least be seen as legit, since those were among the original members

Some notes on Jose Miguel Gomez Fonseca, who just left the promotion. He and Mauricio Valero (who now wrestles as Gallo Tapada Jr.) launched the first Mexican web site on Lucha Libre in the 90s called LuchaLibreMexico.com. He was in charge of media for AAA and was also being groomed by Konnan for booking, and wrote the AAA column in Super Luchas magazine. He had been on the old booking committee which was Konnan, Dorian Roldan, Joaquin Roldan, Jose Miguel Copetes Salazar and some others. He left due to Dorian Roldan’s growing paranoia and he sees everyone as secret agents for Konnan, which is also where Vampiro has picked up power of late, since he and Konnan haven been mostly enemies (and at times not enemies) dating back to the late 80s. Fonseca is now heading press for FULL, which is the promotion that Tinieblas Jr. is running which is backed by Lorena Zedillo, the sister of former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo (who was President of the country from 1994 to 2000).

DRAGON GATE: The 3/8 show at Korakuen Hall drew the usual sellout of 1,850 fans for a match between Over Generation vs. Verserk, where the winning group could choose a member of the losing group to switch sides. Over Generation of Cima & Dragon Kid & Eita & Takehiro Yamamura & Naruki Doi beat Verserk’s team of Shingo Takagi & T-Hawk & Cyber Kong & Lindaman & Punch Tominaga in 27:51 when Yamamura pinned Tominaga with a Stardust press. Cima then teased who he would pick. He said he didn’t want Kong, since he wasn’t there. He said that having Takagi around wouldn’t be any fun. He said T-Hawk is a new generation star but he has issues with Yamamura on their team so he didn’t think it was a good idea. He said that in his entire career, he’s never teamed with Yasshi, and he’d like to keep it that way so he was passing on him as well. He also said none of the fans want to see them team, so he picked Mondai Ryu. Ryu said he refused and he wasn’t even in the match, even though he’s a member of Verserk, plus he’s got back neck problems and isn’t wrestling. So he went. T-Hawk then said Ryu being gone is a gain for Verserk. Ryu said that last year he was dropped on his head and suffered a herniated disc in his neck, the same injury Cima had. Cima pushed that Ryu’s newly born niece and all the fans were waiting for his comeback.

ALL JAPAN: The Champion Carnival tournament runs 4/16 at Korakuen Hall to 4/30, with the finals in Fukuoka at Hakata Star Lanes. The A block has Kento Miyahara, Daisuke Sekimoto, Zeus, Joe Doering, Jake Lee, Ryoji Sai and Kai. The B block has Suwama, Takao Omori, Naoya Nomura, Shuji Ishikawa, Kengo Mashimo, The Bodyguard and Daichi Hashimoto. It sounds like some great matches are coming out of this. The 4/16 show has Nomura vs. Hashimoto, Bodyguard vs. Mashimo, Suwama vs. Ishikawa, Zeus vs. Kai, Doering vs. Sekimoto and Miyahara vs. Lee

The last Korakuen Hall show before the tournament was on 3/12, drawing 1,195 fans for a special show. They had a 30th anniversary of their world jr. title, a six-man featuring all six as former champions including bringing back the original champion, Hiro Saito, who teamed with Hikaru Sato & Atsushi Aoki to beat Minoru Tanaka & Soma Takao & Masa Fuchi when Sato made Fuji submit to the armbar. The winner of the fall was to get the next shot at the jr. title. Jun Akiyama beat Kenso to win the vacant TV title in 9:28 with a wrist clutch exploder suplex. Keisuke Ishii retained the jr. title beating Koji Iwamoto, who won the recent jr. tournament, in 14:00. The main event was a prelude to the carnival with Omori & Zeus & Bodyguard over Miyahara & Ishikawa & Kai when Omori pinned Ishikawa with a lariat. There was also an undercard angle where Atsushi Onita showed up, dressed up as Great Nita, and blew mist at Suwama & Aoki, to set up a match on an Onita show on 5/28 in Chigasaki.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: The first major show of the year, at least by NOAH standards, on 3/12 in Yokohama Bunka Gym. drew 2,504 fans. Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 retained the GHC jr. tag titles beating Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke in 11:41 when Ishimori pinned Tadasuke with a 450 splash. Hajime Ohara retained the GHC jr. title beating Hitoshi Kumano in 16:23. After the match, Kumano asked Ohara to team with him and challenge Ishimori & Hi69 for the jr. tag titles. With the TNA relationship, James Storm pinned Kaito Kiyomiya in 8:35 with the superkick. Eddie Edwards then pinned Atsushi Kotoge in 19:18 after a running knee. Naomichi Marufuji & Keiji Muto beat Moose & Kazma Sakamoto in 13:50 when Marufuji pinned Sakamoto with a shiranui. Marufuji & Muto were billed as The Genius Duo since both are considered as being geniuses in laying out a match. Takashi Sugiura & Kenou won the vacant GHC tag team titles beating Mohammed Yone & Masa Kitamiya in 21:41 when Sugiura pinned Kitamiya with an Olympic slam. After the win, Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi came out to issue a title challenge. Kenou & Kitamiya were champions but they split p as a team. In the main event, Katsuhiko Nakajima retained the GHC title pinning Go Shiozaki in 27:01 with a brainbuster

Edwards is staying in Japan for the next tour which goes from 3/16 to 3/25, wrestling Shiozaki on the final show at Korakuen Hall, which is headlined by Kitamiya vs. Kenou

They also announced another Korakuen Hall show on 4/14 with Sugiura & Kenou defending the tag titles against Marufuji & Taniguchi, Kitamiya vs. Kotoge and Shiozaki vs. Cody Hall.

NEW JAPAN: While this is not a done deal by any means, since I always get asked about booking Omega vs. Okada and I’ve said I’d have the rematch with Omega going over (provided Omega commits to 2018 because if he’s not committed into 2018 I’d handle things differently) at Dominion in Osaka with the idea the momentum coming off it would be a few weeks before the U.S. debut in Long Beach with him as the top star. My thoughts now are different, and that I’d have the title change in Long Beach, which I’m guessing is not their plan, with the idea of doing a live show on AXS headlined by that match. I’d do it with the idea it’s live, and treat it like MMA programming, with the idea that you trust the guys on the time in the sense if they to go over let them go over a few minutes (but start the match early enough with the idea of 40 minutes plus post-match promos like it’s a live sporting broadcast). AXS and New Japan have meetings this week on how to work together, which includes speeding up the turnaround time so the shows are more up-to-date, basically a lot of the stuff I wrote in the article a few months back. But a few live specials on AXS to me would help sell the streaming service because you get all of the PPV events similar to the WWE TV model selling the network. If the TV’s are more updated, you can sell the PPV’s on New Japan World as the destination in the soap opera similar to how WWE does it and how a territory in the past would do it. At this time there are no plans for any of this. It’s just my thought that to get the title change over, do it in the U.S., which for Japan makes it more of a world title and also tells a story that Okada lost it in the U.S. to build the rematches

Tickets for the 6/30 and 7/1 shows in Long Beach are expected to be put on sale relatively soon but no date is finalized for that right now. It will be very interesting how they go. There will be info on those shows announced at WaleMania on 3/30 in Orlando

The match where Tomoaki Honma was injured on 3/3 in Okinawa was Honma & Togi Makabe & Michael Elgin vs. Jado & Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii

Kota Ibushi, while in the U.K., was asked about Kenny Omega and said that “I would like to team with him again, but I would like to wrestle him again, too. I know I must face him again. If it happens, it would possibly be the best match in the world.” Back in 2012, the two had an incredible match at Budokan Hall

Katsuya Kitamura, the heavily muscled guy at ringside at New Japan shows for the past year or so, made his debut on the 3/13 show in Fukui teaming with Tomoyuki Oka to lose to Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa when he was pinned. Kitamura, 31, because of his physique, looking more like a powerhouse bodybuilder, got the nickname “The Wrestling Monster” when he was a top heavyweight at Senshu University. He was Japanese freestyle national champion in 2006 in the 265 pound division, and later won an MMA tournament with the Ganryujima promotion in 2015. I’m guessing his training went slower than expected because he did an exhibition back in February 2016 and usually that means you would start out a few months later, and it took more than a year. Part of it also is that New Japan is overloaded with bodies on their shows which is why they have so many multiple man matches, and it’s hard to fit new people in. In the old days, a national champion with a body like Kitamura would be somewhat fast-tracked to stardom.

HERE AND THERE: The entire NCAA Division I wrestling championships will be televised this coming week. The tournament is from 3/16 to 3/18 at the Savvis Center in St. Louis. There will be six sessions, all expected to draw between 17,000 and 19,200 fans, which will make them, with the exception of WrestleMania and the Royal Rumble, the third through eighth largest wrestling crowd that will likely happen in North America in 2017. While there is no superfight type match like Kyle Dake vs. David Taylor or Kyle Snyder vs. Nick Gwiazdowski in recent years, there are a lot of returning top stars and two favorites return to the NCAA tournament after winning medals at the Olympics. Bronze medalist J-den Cox of Missouri is the favorite at 197 pounds. Snyder, the gold medalist in Rio de Janeiro at 213.5 pounds, a mini-Brock Lesnar, is the favorite at heavyweight even though he’s a small heavyweight, giving up 30 or more pounds to a lot of the competition. Snyder, now 21, won a gold medal at 20, a world championship in 2015 at 19 (which is an amazing accomplishment) and a teenage world championship while only 17

All of these times are Eastern time, but the TV shows will start at Noon on 3/16 on ESPN U, 7 p.m. on 3/16 on ESPN, 11 a.m. on 3/17 on ESPN U, 8 p.m. on ESPN (the semifinals which will air on distracting split screens as the two semifinals in each weight class take place at the same time) , 11 a.m. on 3/18 on ESPN U (these will be the matches to determine third place), and the championship bouts are on 3/18 at 8 p.m. Oklahoma State goes in as the favorites to win the national championship. The favorites in each weight class are: 125 - #1 Thomas Gilman of Iowa (27-0, 10 pins, seven tech falls), #2 Joey Dance of Virginia Tech (25-1); 133 - #1 Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State (19-0), #2 Seth Gross of South Dakota State (30-1); 141 - #1 Dean Heil of Oklahoma State (27-0), #2 Kevin Jack of North Carolina State (29-1); 149 - #1 Zain Retherford of Penn State (23-0, 16 pins, three techs), #2 Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State (20-2); 157 - #1 Jason Nolf of Penn State (22-0, 13 pins six techs), #2 Michael Kemerer of Iowa (27-2); 165 - Isaiah Martinez of Illinois (27-0, six pins, 10 techs), #2 Logan Massa of Michigan ((27-2); 174 - Zahid Valencia of Arizona State (33-0, 13 ins, three techs); #2 Brian Realbuto of Cornell (23-1); 184 - #1 Gabe Dean of Cornell (30-0, 20 pins, four techs), #2 Bo Nickal of Penn State (21-1); 197 - #1 J’Den Cox of Missouri (23-0, five pins, six techs), #2 Bret Pfarr of Minnesota (27-2); 285 - #1 Kyle Snyder of Ohio State (12-0, four pins, three techs, Snyder missed a lot of dual meets because he was competing for the U.S. national team overseas); #2 Connor Medberry of Wisconsin (25-1). Gilman placed second last year at 125. Heil at 141 is the defending champion. Retherford, a junior, at 149 was the undefeated defending champion last year and a complete destroyer in 2016. He won the Most Dominant Wrestler Award last year and comes into the tournament with a 58 match winning streak and finished second last year in the Hodge Trophy balloting and came one match from making the Olympic team. As a freshman in 2014, he finished fifth, but of his three losses that season, two were to Logan Steiber, one of the greatest college wrestlers in history (one of only four four-time NCAA champions in history). Nolf took second last year to Martinez, who is moving up a weight class to 165. Martinez beat him 6-5 in last year’s finals. Martinez, a junior, has only lost one match as a collegiate wrestle and won NCAA titles at 157 pounds in both 2015 and 2016. Nickal lost in the finals last year at 174 and is moving up a weight class. Dean, a senior, has won title in 2015 and 2016 after finishing second to Ed Ruth as a freshman in 2014. Cox is the defending champion at 197 and has only lost once in the past two seasons. He is a senior and going for his third NCAA title, having won in 2014 and 2016 (he placed fifth in 2015). Snyder is the defending champion at heavyweight and hasn’t lost in collegiate competition since the 2015 finals as a true freshman. He’s a junior, and took second in 2015 at 197, and last year took third in the Hodge trophy balloting, but ended up winning what is generally considered the greatest heavyweight final in history last year and followed by taking the gold medal in the 213.5 pound weight class. WWE had heavy interest in Snyder, but Snyder told them he was interested in competing through the 2020 Olympics and then going into coaching. Since then, when he attended a live UFC event, he has talked seriously about signing with UFC

The wXw promotion in Germany held its biggest event of the year, the 16 Carat Gold tournament, from 3/10 to 3/12 in Oberhausen, drawing 810 fans the first night and selling out with 850 fans the next two nights. Cody Rhodes continued his improbable year of, in a 12 month period, working WrestleMania, Bound for Glory, Final Battle, BOLA, WrestleKingdom and the 16 Carat Gold tournament. Other major names brought in were JT Dunn, Timothy Thatcher, Koji Kanemoto, Matt Riddle, Donovan Dijak, Paul London, Mike Bailey, David Starr and ACH. On the first night, Rhodes kissed the mat and beat Da Mack with Crossroads. Kanemoto lost to Thatcher, but kicked the hell out of him. Riddle beat Dijak in his first round match. Walter, the local star, beat Starr via choke in a tremendous first day main event. The quarterfinals included Riddle over Bailey with the Bromission, Ilja Dragunov over Thatcher, Walter over Marius Al-Ani and Bad Bones John Klinger pinned Rhodes. Rhodes crowd surfed from the stage to the ring and the place went nuts for him. The result was a big upset. Jurn Simmons beat Axel Deiter Jr. on that show’s main event to win the wXw title with a piledriver in 23:33 in another great match. On 3/12, in the semifinals, Dragunov beat Klinger in 10:20 in a hard hitting match and Walter pinned Riddle in 9:39 with a power bomb. Dragunov beat Walter to win the tournament in 16:09 in what was described as a must-see match and Walter destroying Dragunov’s chest with chops to the point it was bruised up and bleeding. The fans cringed with the sound of the chops. The idea of the match is he took a beating but would never quit against his much larger opponent. On 3/11, they did an afternoon show with the annual Ambition tournament, which is a UWFI style show with no pins, submissions and knockout finishes like the 90s Japanese promotion, and not doing moves that aren’t legit, so a form of worked MMA although not quite since it predated MMA so it was more something to look real to what fans in the 90s thought a real fight would look like. Jeff Cobb was in for that and beat Walter in the first round. Thatcher beat Cobb with an armbar and noted that both men had trained together as they dedicated the match to Oliver John in Sacramento. This was described as a grappling clinic. Riddle beat Thatcher with jumping knees in 10:42 via a knockout finish to win the tournament. Tickets for the three days in 2018 went on sale on 3/14, and all three nights and they sold out everything but standing room

Rey Mysterio Jr. said that his plans for right now are to only work for The Crash in Mexico. Over the past week, The Crash announced a promotional deal with Pro Wrestling NOAH. This isn’t a surprise with Hayashi at the last Tijuana show. The 3/25 Crash show in Tijuana has Mysterio Jr. & Daga vs. Young Bucks, Bobby Lashley & Black Taurus vs. Garza Jr. & Sami Callihan, Dezmond Xavier & Shane Strickland & Famous B vs. Laredo Kid & Bestia 666 & Extreme Tiger, Travis Flip Gordon & Mr. 450 Hammet vs. Black Boy & Arkangel Divino (a 20-year-old who they are super high on and has some spectacular moves) plus Mascarita Dorada (Torito in WWE) vs. Septimo Dragon

Octagon and Alberto El Patron will be special guests at the Crash debut at Juan de la Barrera Gym in Mexico City on 4/5, which is a major show since it’s the media capital of Mexico and the Mexico City longtime home arena of AAA

Coliseo Mania is 4/9 in Monterrey, a Crash show headlined by Mysterio Jr. & Garza Jr. & Penta 0M vs. Nicho & Bestia 666 & Damian 666. The Crash drew just under a sellout in Aguascalientes on 3/9 for a show headlined by Mysterio Jr. & Penta 0M beating Brian Cage & Willie Mack

Elite is planning on restarting with a show on 4/6 in Aguascalientes called Night of Champions. Rey Fenix has been announced, so Crash and Elite are working together which means Elite is not getting back in business any time soon with CMLL

Ray Leppan, 37, better known as Adam Rose, said on Twitter that “This will be my last year wrestling. Thank you to those who got it. Thank you even more to those who didn’t. You pushed me harder.” He’s worked very little on the indie scene since leaving WWE

Kota Ibushi made his U.K. debut over the weekend with shows in Colchester and London. On 3/12 in London for XWA, Ibushi & DDT’s Gota Ihashi wrestled Jimmy Havoc & Cara Noir, in a brawl which went out of the building. Havoc was choke slammed on a car. Ibushi then got a bunch of pyro and lit up the sky and then did a moonsault off the roof of a car and another off a balcony. Ibushi said he’d really like to wrestle Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay in the U.K. as well as the British wrestlers under contract to WWE, even in WWE. Ibushi has told WWE officials that he’s open to working for them, but he won’t sign an exclusive contract with anyone, preferring at this point to work his own schedule

David Bautista will co-star with Sylvester Stallone on a movie called “Escape Plan 2,” which is the sequel to the 2013 movie. Steven C. Miller will be directing the project that starts shooting in the spring in Atlanta. Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in the original

Cody Rhodes will be reprising his character, named Garrett Runnels, on another episode of “Arrow” on CW. The episode will air in late April or early May. He plays a drug dealer who is pushing a new super drug called “Stardust” of all things. The show stars Stephen Amell, who worked an angle with Rhodes in 2015, and the two became friends and Rhodes did an episode doing that character that aired in October

A correction from last week. The 3/30 Evolve show in Orlando on Flo Slam headlined by Zack Sabre Jr. vs. ACH is not going against the WWE Hall of Fame, but is the Thursday night (Hall of Fame is Friday). It’ll be going head-to-head with WaleMania

The Baracal Promotion ran Juan de la Barrera Gym in Mexico City with about 2,500 fans for another L.A. Park vs. Rush match, a double juice super heated brawl with security running in to stop it, ref bumps and far too many chair shots to the head. Park, who has to be 300 pounds and 51 years old, was flying all over the place. La Mascara interfered and El Hijo de L.A. Park ran in to even things up. Rush gave Park a low blow and pulled off his mask when the ref was knocked down and counted the pin at 22:58 of a ****1/4 match. But he then realized what happened and DQ’d Rush. Both did mic work and Park challenged him to a mask vs. hair match that will never happen

A play called “Sam and Dede” premiered off Broadway at the 59E59 Theater in Manhattan about the friendship of famous writer Samuel Beckett and a teenage Andre Roussimoff (Andre the Giant) in France

P.J. Black wrote on Facebook that due to a change in a visa law in the U.K. that he would be unable to travel into the country after the end of 2017

Melina Perez, 38, suffered an apparent dislocated knee on a show on 3/10 in Sheffield, England for the Southside Wrestling promotion

There was a killer match, said to be ****½ on 3/10's ICW show in Liverpool, England with Trent Seven vs. Jordan Devlin. Devlin was a late replacement for Drew Galloway. Devlin went to do a swanton from the ring to the floor onto Seven, but he missed his mark and cracked the back of his head. Quickly he was covered in blood. They went another five to seven minute doing all kinds of incredible high spots. The crowd, which didn’t like Devlin from the start, were cheering him heavily. Promoter Mark Dallas after the match talked about what a fantastic performance Devlin put on in losing the title. Dallas talked up what a fantastic performance Devlin did and we’d be seeing more of him

What Culture did a TV taping on 3/13 in London headlined by Internet champion Cody Rhodes against a mystery opponent, who turned out to be Matt Riddle making his debut with the promotion and they went to a double disqualification.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: Vampiro was named Head of Talent Relations for the promotion. The last we heard that job was going to Dorian Roldan. With Vampiro’s promotion in AAA, it feels like AAA and Lucha Underground are working more closely together, and that questions how it impacts Pentagon and Fenix for next season

Sexy Star (Dulce Garcia) has said that she will stop wrestling at the end of this month (she’s working in Orlando for WrestleMania weekend) to concentrate on her pro boxing. She’s also wrestling on the 3/25 Crash show in Tijuana

Paul London was in Germany for wXw scouting talent as he’s a producer here and said there were a few guys he was pitching to bring in for season four, which he thought would be starting taping in the fall.

ROH: Bully Ray, when he did the Busted Open radio show, said his ROH deal would be for one year or longer. He said he’s been a fan of ROH since the start of the promotion, Because it reminds him of ECW. He said he always wanted to be a part of it at some point in his career. He said that his role with the company was to tell stories to lead to fights. He also in a Sports Illustrated interview that WWE almost did the Bully Ray character. There was apparently an idea on the table that when their contracts expired, that he would turn on Devon (who would retire and work as an agent, the role he’s in now), and do Bully Ray, but at the last minute, he said the day before the angle was to be shot, they nixed the idea. He said that he’s hoping to play the Terry Funk in ECW role here. “By no means am I saying I am as great as Terry Funk, but Funk helped ECW take the next step. Hopefully Bully Ray can do the same for Ring of Honor.” Backstage, his is working as an agent and has a hand in booking decisions

Jeff Hardy is working on a movie called “The Favorite,” where he plays a retired MMA fighter turned promoter. He called it a one-time thing as far as the movie role went at least for now. He said in an interview with SE Scoops that he knows he can’t wrestle forever and if the music business doesn’t work out, maybe he’d go back to acting

The TV tapings on 3/11 in Las Vegas drew 700 fans. The first show taped opened with The Addiction coming out. Christopher Daniels pulled out a martini glass and a shaker full of appletini’s. He cut a promo about winning the title, with the “You Deserve It” chant. He cut a promo about his plan that he and Kazarian put into effect to trick the Bullet Club. Dalton Castle came out and said that he wanted to attend the party. He drank an appletini with them. Adam Cole and The Young Bucks came out. Cole said that Kazarian had screwed him out of the title, that Daniels didn’t deserve it and Castle was a joke as a title contender. This led to Cole & Bucks vs. Castle & Addiction. Kazarian did the challenging and wanted the match “tonight,” which it was taped that night, but it wasn’t until the fourth hour, so they’ll have to edit it. Raymond Rowe beat Davey Boy Smith Jr. in a decent TV match coming off the split the night before. Rowe won with Death Row. In the first hour main event, Marty Scurll kept the TV title beating Kenny King with the breaking fingers and chicken wing. Caprice Coleman was great working the crowd at ringside. In the second show, Punishment Martinez, who is starting to get a push, beat Hanson due to distraction from Smith Jr. Martinez used a sit out power bomb as his finisher. This is building with Smith & Martinez has a team against War Machine. The TV main event was the trios title change where Bully Ray & the Briscoes beat the new Kingdom trio of Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia & Silas Young with the 3-D. Taven then blamed Young for losing the titles for his team. Bully comes across like he’s the coach in the corner of the Briscoes while playing in the game and is said to be really good at the role. After, and this wasn’t taped, Bully said he had never won a six-man title before and it was an honor that his first time would be with the Briscoes. The third hour opened with Chris Sabin pinning Coleman. Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta beat Cheeseburger & Will Ferrara. Ferrara, after losing, did a heel turn as he refused to shake hands with Romero & Baretta and shoved Cheeseburger away. The main event was promoted as a match drawn at random with eight wrestlers, called a Vegas Wildcard match. It ended as Jay Lethal & Jay White & Young & Hangman Page vs. Colt Cabana & Lio Rush & Bobby Fish & Hanson. There were issues with both teams. Young & Page kept tagging each other in and wouldn’t tag Lethal or White in. Cabana and Fish also didn’t get along. Big pop for Rush slamming Hanson (they were teammates) onto Page. Page & Young basically quit but Lethal pinned Rush after Lethal injection. Page yelled at both White & Lethal after the match. The final show had the Hardys defending the tag titles against the Briscoes. They didn’t play up the Broken Hardys gimmick past Matt’s look, and Matt saying “wonderful” after hitting a movie. Jeff was also yelling “obsolete,” which he didn’t do on the PPV. Crowd was tired here and match was okay. They got up for the finish. Jeff looked really tired by the end of the match. Matt used a gutbuster on Jay and Jeff used the twist of fate on Mark for a double pin. Not sure I’d put them over the Briscoes that strong given the Briscoes are staying, even though Hardys did have to win and Briscoes kicked out of a lot of stuff before the finish. The Young Bucks came out after and said they wanted their ROH tag belts back as well as the stolen superkick tag title belts and wanted both belts at stake in a ladder match in Lakeland. The Hardys led the fans in a “Yes” chant doing the Daniel Bryan. Castle & Daniels & Kazarian beat Young Bucks & Cole in the last match of the taping. Very good but not great. Lots of action involving the Bucks and the Boys. The Addiction and Bucks were fighting outside the ring and Castle pinned Cole with the bang-a-rang. Cole then called The Bucks into the ring and said he was disappointed in them and upset because they weren’t there for him in the title match with Daniels. He said that he still considered the Bucks to be friends but he fired them from the Bullet Club. The Bucks said that Cole wasn’t the leader of the Bullet Club and can’t fire them. They said the leader of the Bullet Club, and the only person in Elite besides them, was Kenny Omega. The show ended with the tease of a Cole vs. Omega match. For a number of reasons, having to do with Omega’s schedule in Japan (they wanted the match for 4/1 in Lakeland but Omega is on a New Japan tour that week) and the future of Cole, whose contract expires at the end of April, there is no date for the match and it may not happen, although they are working to find a date for it to happen.

IMPACT: The long-awaited India tour, which is part of the company’s contract with Sony Six, which is the company’s leading revenue stream, was announced for 5/30 and 5/31 in Mumbai. The shows will be taped for Impact, with them taping two shows each night and be the shows building the 7/2 Slammiversary PPV show. The company is also in talks to launch a weekly television show in India which would hopefully start filming late this year. The idea would be to send some TNA talent to each set of tapings but also fill the show up with native talent. What would be interesting is if they can get Great Khali to work for them. They had announced a deal where they would use some of his students a long time back. Khali is legitimately a huge star in India and has done his own shows using little-known American talent as heels with goofy angles that have drawn 20,000 to even close to 50,000 people. In India, wrestling isn’t very popular, although even a niche sport with the population of that size can mean a lot of viewers, but everyone knows Khali

They also announced Scott D’Amore’s official title as Vice President of International Development, so he’ll be responsible for overseas deals such as the India deal, the U.K. deal, and The Crash deal in Mexico

Even though ratings were the same, the promotion pushed that Youtube viewing of the product hit 2.4 million views (which is a worldwide number as most of WWE’s youtube viewing it outside the U.S., and it’s the same people counted multiple times and there’s little revenue from it), about four times that of the prior week

TNA put out a video of a supposed board meeting where Bruce Prichard headed it and told Alberto that he had to relinquish the title based on using the belt shot to win it, and that they were giving the title back to Lashley. At first Alberto thought it was a joke, and Prichard asked him, “What would your father do?” He got mad at that. He said he’d give it up if Lashley would give him a rematch, but Dutch Mantell said that while they’d like to agree to that they don’t have the power to order Lashley to do that and that Alberto would have to ask Lashley for a rematch. Well, that made no sense

Regarding the dealings with The Crash, Konnan said that Anthem is going to help them get television deals outside of Mexico

Gail Kim has been out of action with a back injury. She was hoping to start back over this past weekend but wasn’t ready, but right now is tentatively scheduled to return at the next set of tapings in early April. It should be noted that her contract here has expired so she is a free agent at this point, but on Twitter she pretty much said she was expecting to return

A few notes from the first show of the new era on 3/9. So they opened with a great video package, but the question is was it great in the wrong way. They showed clips of everyone from Hulk Hogan to Ric Flair to Kevin Nash, Kurt Angle, Sting, Samoa Joe, A.J. Styles, Low Ki, Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes and tons of Jeff Jarrett and others as part of the TNA history package. The problem is, none of them were in the promotion and most went back to WWE. It’s part of the theme of making Impact great again, except it was a reminder of all the people who came and they really never got it past a certain level. The open was hot with Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards brawling and then they went to the announcers argument. Honestly, I was expecting not to like it, but it was great. Josh Matthews was a tremendous smug heel and Jeremy Borash did a great job as a babyface, the line about Jim Ross worked and even the line about the idiots who were in charge that are no longer here (the funny thing is the guy who made the call to replace Mike Tenay with Josh Matthews was John Gaburick, and he is still working for the company yet got called out on television as an idiot) replaced Tenay with a guy who got fired by WWE and Borash said the announcers in wrestling today are Ken Dolls with no balls, which is actually a hell of a line, not true in every case, but it’s not like it’s not true in a lot of cases. Matthews played it great like when Reno Scum came out, he had no idea who they were and Borash said they were the tag team champions of Future Star of Wrestling. The announcing arguing during the match got old and did interfere with getting over the matches and the talent. But it’s only a few weeks and it is a storyline to get rid of Matthews. But it was the entire show. Matthews really should be kept on as a heel manager for Bobby Lashley or somebody else because the people truly don’t like him and that gives him a dynamic that most heels now don’t have

They should do something with Rachael Ellering, who debuted against Sienna. The crowd liked her with no intro or push and unlike on NXT, where they didn’t let her do anything, she was given enough offense where you can see she’s way ahead of most at the same stage and has a good luck but not in the model who isn’t believable as a top athlete type of look

Bruce Prichard and Dutch Mantell are both great talkers, but I didn’t see what the point of their segment was. They really put over his podcast strong. An interesting note is the reason Prichard was called was because his podcast was doing great numbers and the idea is his podcast listeners would now watch TNA and with the rating being exactly what it was, and not a good number, that didn’t happen in the first week. Now, there was an increase in Youtube watching of clips, but there is almost no money in that and for whatever anyone wants to say about TV viewership falling across the board, which it is for most things, as TV viewership falls, all sports, including wrestling, are primarily dependent on TV for their revenue. So getting Youtube views up, whether it’s a valid measure of popularity, it’s like trending on Twitter, it’s an adjunct where it’s value is to help ratings, not something you can make money on your own (unless it’s WWE where it can help make you business partners). The best example would be in another era if a promotion was to, in the days when TV didn’t pay, give away all their big matches on TV, and draw big ratings and get a lot of people talking, but nobody bought tickets to the show. You may very well be popular but at the end of the day, you’re out of business because revenue, and not even revenue, but profits, in the end, are the key. I know the idea is have great talkers try to rally people around the idea of making TNA great again . Prichard’s speech was how when he was there, TNA was close to turning it around and was almost there and then it didn’t happen. He talked about how he knew wrestling and was there for Hogan, Austin and Rock. That never comes across well as when you watch another wrestling promotion, it never comes off well to be pushing WWF legends. Mantell brought up Styles, Joe, Nash, Hogan, Flair, Sting, Christian, Booker T and the guys who used to be there and they left because they weren’t treated well. The problem is that most of them today are affiliated with WWE and again it was just getting over that WWE was the major league on their TV. It was funny when he said he was Zeb Coulter but his real name is Dutch Mantell. When the Zeb Coulter character was running into controversy over being in bad taste, he cut a video about how he was just a guy playing a character and his real name was Wayne Keown. But Mantell led the crowd in a “We the people,” but put over that he’s working here for the fans and the fans are his boss. I just remember when Eric Bischoff in WCW tried the idea of how we sucked and our ratings are down and now we’re going to turn it around, that didn’t work well. They never buried the Hardys and showed clips of them on bumpers throughout the show, I guess feeling if they were promoted it would help the ratings during this transition period. They did write off Maria Kanellis by saying she’s had a nervous breakdown and would probably never be in the Impact Zone again and there was a quick goodbye to “Mike,” for Mike Bennett. Prichard tried to put over Lashley as one of the greatest athletes in the world as their world champion, and mentioned that our President (without mentioning his name) handpicked Lashley to defend him.

UFC: Floyd Mayweather said he was now out of retirement and said he’d like to fight Conor McGregor in June. He pushed to make it happen. Making that deal, because UFC has McGregor under an exclusive contract, isn’t something you can snap your fingers on. For what it’s worth, Dana White told Kevin Iole that it’s “so far from being made.” There are a lot of rumors going around that they’ve got a date booked in June for it. It’s one thing for the two guys to talk each other up to keep each other in the news, but it’s quite another to make a three-way deal where for McGregor and UFC they are basically sacrificing their sport to the general public in exchange for a likely ton of money and exposure and notoriety

For UFC 209 on 3/4 in Las Vegas at the T Mobile Arena, the numbers were better than I expected a they had 9,771 paid, which is more than a lot of UFC events in Las Vegas had, with 13,453 tickets out, with a gate of $2,385,230. UFC announced 13,150 as the attendance and $2.385 million as the gate

The father of Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is a huge influence on him, said that his son would retire at the age of 30. He turns 29 in Septembe

.Just for some more stats on weight cutting issues. With the old method of weighing in live late in the afternoon, in the first five months of 2016, there was one person who failed to make weight and no fights canceled over weight issues. For the first 13 weeks of 2017, there were five, and two more never made it to weigh-in with three fights canceled. California is changing its regulations to where the 20 percent fine for missing weight will be out of both the show money and win money. Previously it was just 20 percent of the show money (your guarantee). They are also looking at coming up with more regulations regarding weight cutting for their 5/16 commission meeting

UFC did attempt to bolster the 4/8 Buffalo show by adding either Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson or Ferguson vs. Eddie Alvarez, but given the short notice, neither happened. Nurmagomedov after his health issues stemming from the weight cutting last week wasn’t going to be ready to fight so quickly

Combate reported Anderson Silva vs. Kelvin Gastelum for 6/3 in Rio de Janeiro

Javier Mendez told Submission Radio that a target date for Cain Velasquez to fight again after his recent back surgery is June or July. Mendez said he’d like to see Velasquez fight Fabricio Werdum. Velasquez said his surgery in early January was successful and he hoped his back problems don’t ever come up again. He said he’s getting in shape but he’s going to take it slow regarding getting into fighting shape because he doesn’t want to risk another injury. He said he can’t give a time line on when he’ll be able to fight

Ariel Helwani reported that Matt Hughes, 43, in an interview on the TV show “Undeniable with Jack Buck,” said he’s in talks to fight again. Hughes had been working for UFC as Vice President of Athlete Development and Government Relations, before being let go a few months back when WME IMG took over. Helwani said the person he’s in talks about fighting is Royce Gracie, who Hughes defeated handily in a 2006 match up (which, for trivia notes, was the first UFC fight Dwayne Johnson attended). The fight would most likely take place in Bellator, although Helwani reported that Bellator sources said that talks were preliminary and no offered had been made

Former Bellator champion Alexander Volkov faces Roy Nelson on the 4/15 show in Kansas City. Volkov, who is 6-foot-7, scored a split decision win over Timothy Johnson in his UFC debut on the 11/19 show in Belfast. Nelson, 40 has gone 3-6 in his last nine bouts

In last week’s issue on the media scores for Woodley vs. Thompson, they were 24 percent for Woodley, 48 percent a draw and 28 percent for Thompson. We had a typo last week and listed the Thompson number wrong

Frankie Edgar vs. Yair Rodriguez has been added to the 5/13 show in Dallas, which is quite the loaded show

This week’s show is a Fight Pass event from the O2 Arena in London, England, on 3/18 starting at 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern. The lineup has Lina Lansberg (6-2) going from main event to opening match vs. Lucie Pudilova (6-1), Scott Askham (14-3) vs. Brad Scott (10-4), Ian Entwistle (9-3) vs. Brett Johns (13-0), Leon Edwards (12-3) vs. Vicente Luque (11-5-1), Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2) vs. Tom Breese (10-1), Marc Diakiese (11-0) vs. Teemu Packalen (8-1), Timothy Johnson (10-3) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (19-6-1), Francimar Barroso (18-5) vs. Darren Stewart (7-0), Joseph Duffy (15-2) vs. Reza Madadi (14-4), Arnold Allen (11-1) vs. Makwan Amirkani (13-2), Brad Pickett (25-13) vs. Marlon Vera (8-3-1), Alan Jouban (15-4) vs. Gunnar Nelson (15-2-1) and headlined by Jimi Manuwa (16-2) vs. Corey Anderson (9-2)

The BBC in the U.K. ran a story on weight cutting. It was about Dean Garrett, who fought on a Bellator show in London. It was the usual stuff about how unhealthy it is, and how much torture it was to go through it. It noted that Garrett weighed in at 136 for his fight but went into the cage the next day at 154. It also noted that for a prior fight that Garrett, seven days after the fight, was 178 pounds

Added to the 6/3 UFC PPV show in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is Antonio “Shoe Face” Carlos Jr. vs. Eric Spicely, Johnny Eduardo vs. Matthew Lopez and Marco Beltran vs. Deiveson Alcantara, who is an 11-0 fighter who will be making his UFC debut

Stevie Ray vs. Joe Lauzon has been added to the 4/15 show in Nashville

Misha Cirkunov returns after signing his new contract and faces Volkan Oezdemir at the 5/28 show in Stockholm.

WWE: Both Cena and Jericho will be doing other entertainment gigs that will keep them out of wrestling for a period of time. Cena will be one of the main characters in the sequel to the movie “Daddy’s Home,” tentatively called “Daddy’s Home 2.” He had a cameo in the original movie, which grossed $240 million worldwide. The original movie starred Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, where Wahlberg was a buffed guy who was formerly married to the woman Ferrell married and whose daughter Ferrell was raising. He came back to try and run Ferrell off, but by the end of the movie they became friends. Wahlberg then ended up marrying a new woman who also had a child, and in the closing scene when Wahlberg met the woman’s first husband, in walks Cena in this tight T-shirt. Cena is a major character in the second movie, which is about Wahlberg and Ferrell raising the daughter but the parents (Wahlberg’s father is played by Mel Gibson; Ferrell’s by John Lithgow) and have issues. Wahlberg also has his issues with Cena. The movie starts filming in April in Boston for a few months. As far as WWE scheduling goes, Cena isn’t booked as late as it goes, which is June’s Money in the Bank show

Jericho’s band Fozzy announced a tour from 5/5 to 5/27, plus has a 6/11 date at the Download Festival in Donington, England. Jericho is advertised for the 6/4 Extreme Rules PPV in Baltimore but not for Raw date in Ma

. NXT will also be part of the Download Festival and they are building a European tour around those appearances. They will be at Download from 6/9 to 6/11, and preceding that, have dates on 6/5 in Aberdeen, Scotland, 6/6 in Manchester at the Arena, 6/7 in Leeds and 6/8 in Brighton

.Right now the plan is for Nakamura to debut on the main roster very shortly. I’m not sure what date it will be, but the likely scenario is he loses to Bobby Roode at Takeover and starts immediately after, with Raw after WrestleMania being a good bet. There are others who may be brought up as well. Asuka is likely not one of them because the posters for the U.K. tour are built around Roode, Asuka, Kassius Ohno, Dillinger, Aleister Black and Sanity

The WWE announced this week that Eric LeGrand, a former football star at Rutgers, would receive the Warrior Award at the Hall of Fame ceremony. Dana Warrior will present him the award. The Hall of Fame ceremony will air live on the WWE Network at 8 p.m. on 3/31 and then air on the USA Network at 11:05 p.m. after Raw on 4/3. It should do big numbers since it’s right after what should be the highest rated Raw episode of the year. LeGrand was a star on the team who suffered a spinal cord injury in the 2010 season that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He got national attention by continuing his college classes through Skype and is currently an analyst for Rutgers’ radio network and a highly sought after motivational speaker. As part of the deal to honor him, the WWE will donate $25,000 to Team LeGrand, his foundation to help find a cure for paralysis and improve life to those with spinal cord injuries. I know that this birth of this award came from Ultimate Warrior, and this is not what he had planned in mind. His idea was for an award to be called the Jimmy Miranda award, and be part of putting an unsung backstage employee every year into the WWE Hall of Fame, with the idea those people never get the credit for their work. Warrior then died a few days later. The negative on the creation of this award is WWE claiming it was his idea, and then took his speech completely out of context to frame the idea that it was his idea and they naming the award after him. It was a way t induct Conor Michalek into the Hall of Fame the next year and get pub while honoring Joan Lunden. That said, in and of itself, it is a nice gesture, and of course it’s a P.R. gesture but still it’s a nice gesture that they do it even if the idea and birth isn’t what it is claimed to be

Dwayne Johnson in a message to Eric LeGrand said that he was trying to get to Orlando for WrestleMania. He’ll be in the middle of heavy promotion for “Fast 8, The Fate and The Furious” at that time

Rusev will be out of action for about two months due to surgery on his left shoulder which I believe was on 3/9, although it was confirmed it was this past week. That continues the shoulder epidemic in the company. He’s been needing the surgery for some time and I guess it couldn’t go any longer since the timing of it, where he’d be off the biggest payoff show of the year, couldn’t be worse. That’s why Show squashed him so badly at Fast Lane and why they broke he and Mahal up for no reason without doing a feud. That’s also why Lana did a match in Florida a week ago

Alexander is also out of action with a right knee injury. He injured the knee while taping the 205 Live show on 2/28 in a six-man tag with Perkins & Ali vs. Daivari & Nese & Gulak from St. Paul. He’s targeted to return in mid-July

Both Finn Balor and Hideo Itami returned over the weekend. Balor was back on the Raw house shows as had been advertised for a few weeks. Itami made a surprise appearance at the NXT house show on 3/11 in Orlando. Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli were doing a beatdown after the match on Buddy Murphy, and Itami ran in for the save. Moss reacted like he was all freaked out to see him back. He laid out Moss with a GTS. It should be noted that he invented that move and the Moss was the guy who injured his neck on a powerslam on 10/12, so he was out five months. Murphy went to celebrate with him but he also laid out Murphy with a GTS

Women have been contacted for a new WWE tournament for the Network. This was the one originally set for January through March, but moved back when WWE prioritized the U.K. tournament due to the ITV television show. Talent has been called about clearing their calendars for a first round of tapings in the latter part of May

Next time you think your schedule is tough, this past weekend was Cena host the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards on 3/11 in Los Angeles, a Saturday night; came to New York on Sunday to headline an afternoon house show in Madison Square Garden; did the Today show early the next morning with Nikki Bella; then spoke at the SWSX convention in Austin, TX that afternoon, and worked a house show that night in Charleston, WV. .. Cena will also be receiving the CinemaCon Action Star of the Year award. He will be presented the award at their ceremony on 3/30 in Las Vegas at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace

Besides filming the new movie, a movie already filmed, “The Wall,” where he is one of the stars, will be released on 5/12. Cena plays a soldier being pinned down by an Iraqi sniper with nothing but a crumbling wall between them

Io Shirai (Masami Odate, 26), who is one of the two or three best woman wrestlers in the world right now, is in Orlando at this writing as part of a WWE tryout. In her case, this isn’t so much a tryout as her being there to do drills as WWE has been after her for months. But unlike the others at the tryout, the ball is in her court on whether to accept the offer or not. Unlike Kairi Hojo, who as noted last week has already signed her three-year contract, Shirai was invited to Orlando to check things out and then decide what she wanted to do. With Hojo leaving, if Shirai follows, and Mayu Iwatani retires, it would be a killer to Stardom, which had been the leading women’s pro wrestling organization in the world. Also at the tryouts were Norwegian women wrestlers Ingrid Hogtun and Kamilla Tjostland, Sarah-Jean Greaves, 28, a three year pro from Texas known as Delilah Doom, Chik Tormenta from Mexico, Katsiaryna Kavaleva of Belarus, a 6-foot-5 woman kickboxer who they’ve looked at in the best; Jaime Espinal (32, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling at 185 pounds representing Puerto Rico who also competed in the 2016 Olympics, he grew up wrestling but quit the sport when he was 15, was a cheerleader and breakdancer and model, and then at 26, got talked by a former coach into coming back and two years later won a silver medal which is an amazing story); and former contracted wrestler Wes Brisco, the son of Gerald Brisco, who had spent several years in FCW before being released after a knee injury, and then went to TNA before he was released as well)

There has been a lot of talk around wrestling over the past few weeks that Jim Cornette will be the one to induct the Rock & Roll Express into the WWE Hall of Fame on 3/31. Some will be surprised about Cornette being at a WWE function, but I’m not in the least as he wasn’t going to turn down being part of honoring the team. Neither the WWE nor Cornette would confirm or deny the story

PW Insider reported that plans have changed on the Regal induction and that he was not scheduled to go in this year, after being on the original list and at one point was to be announced this week or next

They are also going to add more people to the legacy wing, which is the Josh Gibson wing of the Hall of Fame. Essentially it’s where they put people like Lou Thesz and Strangler Lewis in because it’s not marketable to induct them into the public version. If nothing else, it’s the answer for the idea that how can you have a pro wrestling Hall of Fame without Frank Gotch and Thesz. I’d suspect Jim Londos, since that’s the most glaring commission. They started it last year and did the same quota they have for the real Hall, which will be tough with women in particular although for a few years they can do June Byers and Penny Banner and Clara Mortensen (the world champion before Mildred Burke) before it’s just names. Last year with the quota they put in Art Thomas, who was a bigger star than some in the main Hall, was still a very different level of star of everyone else. The obvious pick there would be Bearcat Wright, but a lot of the promoters hated him, and for good reason, but he was a legit superstar and big draw worldwide. The problem with quotas in the Hall of Fame is you have a much easier standard for those within the quota group to get in

The Angle interview shot last week, with some clips shown on the WWE Network this week, will be part of a new WWE 24 show on Angle’s return that will be shown at a later date

Swagger was officially released on 3/13, meaning he would be available for MMA and pro wrestling bookings in mid-June. Swagger had publicly stated he was released on 3/1, but WWE officials two days later stated that wasn’t the case, although hinted that he would likely be released at some point. Later WWE said that when he was released he would have a 90-day non-compete period where he would be paid his downside by the promotion

Bryan and Brianna Danielson announced that their daughter would be named Birdie Jo Danielson

Although most of the Raws, even Detroit this week, failed to sell out in the Mania season, both Brooklyn (almost sold out) for 3/20 and Philadelphia for 3/27 are tracking to sell out

For the European tour in May, the Raw shows right now are scheduled as Reigns vs. Strowman, Balor & Zayn vs. Joe & Owens, Gallows & Anderson vs. Sheamus & Cesaro vs. New Day vs. Enzo & Cass for the tag titles, Bayley & Banks vs. Charlotte & Jax and Neville vs. Aries. One would expect that coming out of Mania that Owens would be U.S. champion and the lead champion on the brand since Lesnar as probable Universal champion won’t be touring, because I can’t see them having Lesnar beat Goldberg and then dropping it before SummerSlam, where you’d figure they’d do a major match. This may change with Rollins if he’s ready because the tour is five weeks after Mania and if he’s ready for Mania, he should be ready five weeks later but they probably can’t push him just yet

The Smackdown tour will be Orton vs. Wyatt vs. Styles for the WWE title, Ambrose vs. Corbin for the IC title, Jordan & Gable vs. Usos for tag titles, Nikki (interesting she’s listed since there were reports she’s going to retire soon or at best, only work sporadic states) & Lynch & Tamina vs. Bliss & James & Natalya & Carmella, plus there will be six-man tags with the U.K. guys at least on the Smackdown tour with Tyler Bate & Trent Seven and a third man (revolving) vs. Pete Dunne & Joseph Conners and a third man (either Tyson T-Bone or James Drake)

Raw on 3/20 will be from the Barclays Center with Reigns vs. Strowman announced as being on TV plus a Highlight Reel where Jericho will interview “the real Kevin Owens.” Owens & Joe vs. Jericho & Zayn is also announced, possibly as a dark match. Neither Goldberg nor Undertaker are advertised, but both will be in Philadelphia the next week

The WWE network will be doing a spoof on old-time Southern wrestling that Vince McMahon hates so much called Southpaw Regional Wrestling on the WWE Network debuting on 3/17

Dwayne Johnson will star in a movie “Skyscraper,” with Universal that starts shooting in August in China. The story is about the world’s largest skyscraper, on fire and Johnson’s characters wife and kids are tapped on the top floor. He plays a disabled U.S. war veteran and former hostage rescue team leader

WWE stock closed at press time at $20.26 per share, meaning the company has a $1.55 billion market value

With little in the way of new non-wrestling programming and the Foley series evidently running its course, the top ten most-watched shows on WWE Network for the week were: 1. Bring it to The Table w/Kurt Angle interview; 2. Fast Lane; 3. NXT from 3/8; 4. WrestleMania 30; 5. Ride Along with Zayn, Neville and Rollins; 6. 205 Live; 7. WrestleMania 32; 8. Talking Smack; 9. WrestleMania 31;p 10. Royal Rumble 2017

Notes from the 3/13 Raw show in Detroit. This was billed as WWE’s final show ever in the Joe Louis Arena. It was mentioned on the broadcast by Cole, and they were selling “Last Go at the Joe” T-shirts at the arena, which sold out quickly. They didn’t have a video package on it, which, given the show was filled with video packages and it’s Mania season, I can see why. However, there was an announcement that night of a 7/29 house show in the same building which was weird after all the local promotion of it being the last event. The show drew 12,772, or about 1,300 shy of a sellout. This very much felt, not the talking aspects, but the wrestling aspects, like an old school “competitive” Florida/Georgia show with a few squash matches, and a lot of non-finishes when you had stars involved and a match with underneath guys. They were very much keeping anyone who was being pushed at all from losing clean on television and when guys needed wins, they gave them people that haven’t been pushed to beat as opposed to mid-level guys. And in the case of Brooke, after losing, she got an angle where she got the better of Charlotte so on the entire show, the only people not protected were O’Neil and Mahal. The show was built around the idea that Foley had to fire someone before the end of the show, which appeared to be his write-off on the show for his hip surgery. The only thing he took was a low blow by Stephanie and then Rollins came in to save him from a HHH beating. HHH ended up laying out Rollins by attacking the knee and doing the reverse figure four on him on the injured knee which was a good heat getting ending. Before Raw started, for Main Event, Axel pinned Dallas with the fisherman suplex and Gallagher pinned Dar. The show opened with Lesnar & Heyman out. Heyman was laughing about Lesnar laying out Goldberg last week. The promo was built around Heyman saying “Down goes Goldberg” over and over in a tribute to the Howard Cosell call “Down goes Frazier” from his fight with George Foreman. Heyman noted that Goldberg wasn’t there, and that every time previously that Goldberg has been there it’s been spear, jackhammer, but not last week. Stephanie and Foley were backstage with Stephanie saying “Paul is so creepy.” I suppose Foley is the kind of guy women would look to for a sympathetic ear about their marriage problems. Actually Stephanie said that Foley was failing as General Manager, that she tried to teach him through tough love, but that didn’t work, and Foley said he’s the kind of guy who responds better to a pat in the back. Stephanie said she wanted to teach Foley all the lessons she’s learned and if he was filling to learn, she was willing to teach. Stephanie told Foley that by the end of the show, he had to fire someone. She said just one person, that it would send a message of strong leadership to the locker room, everyone will be more competitive, we’ll have a better product and we’ll cut some overhead costs. She then patted him on the back. He looked worried. Banks pinned Brooke in 1:18 with a reverse cradle. Bayley and Charlotte were in the corners. Banks was very subtly teasing a heel turn. Brooke was ten days away from her fitness contest. All that unnatural dieting for those contests screws with your system because when you do crazy stuff to diet, once you stop, you get the bounce back. Charlotte was calling her a disgrace and she’s finally getting rid of her. Brooke decked Charlotte and started attacking her until Charlotte broke free and bailed out. As dead as Brooke’s character has been, they have been building Brooke turning on Charlotte since day one, but had forgotten about it for months. The crowd actually went nuts for it chanting her name. Nese & Kendrick beat Tozawa & Perkins in 8:50 when Nese kneed Perkins into Tozawa and rolled up Perkins holding the tights. Neville was shown watching the match. The wrestling was solid but the crowd wasn’t much into it. Anderson & Gallows did an interview. Owens came out and said that he was never Jericho’s best friend, that he only pretended to be his best friend. He said that Jericho never considered him to be his best friend either. He said Jericho was just trying to get close to him so he could get close to the Universal title. He said he did what every single person in the same situation would have done, which is that he stabbed Jericho in the back before Jericho stabbed him in the back. He said he outsmarted Jericho and now Jericho wants revenge. He said that Goldberg never beat him, it was Jericho who caused him to lose and Jericho got one over on him. But he said Jericho is foolish enough to go to WrestleMania and he’s getting his ultimate payback. He said Jericho is putting up the U.S. title and that proves he’s smarter than Jericho will ever be. Jericho & Zayn beat Owens & Joe in 3:43. Zayn did a running flip dive on Owens & Joe, and got up limping. He did a good job of making it feel like a legit injury and the crowd reacted when Owens chop blocked him. Owens & Joe beat down Zayn for the DQ. Jericho made the save but they beat him down two-on-on. Joe had Zayn in the choke when Jericho made the save. Jericho got rid of Joe and he and Owens went at it. Jericho was working on the Walls of Jericho but Joe made the save and beat Jericho down with head-butts. Joe held Jericho while Owens hit him a few times and laid Jericho out with a pop up power bomb. Stephanie again told Foley he needed to fire someone. She suggested Zayn because he was an underachiever. Jax showed up and she wanted justice. She said she’s been destroying Banks and Bayley, lost one time as a fluke to Banks and now she’s not in the title match at WrestleMania. Stephanie agreed to her, and she deserves to be in the conversation for the title match and said that tonight’s she’d face Bayley. Foley was walking the halls. Mahal, all ripped to shreds like nobody’s business, said that Foley shouldn’t fire him and that he’s main-event level talent and Rusev was holding him back. Foley gave him a match with Reigns to prove he was main event talent. New Day did an interview with Show. Show was there pushing the Jetsons movie, and mentioned he was in the Battle Royal, so the match with Shaq is off. O’Neil came out and said he should have starred in the movie. This set up a match for later in the show. Enzo & Cass came out. Enzo debuted a coffee cup that they are selling called “A Cuppa Haters.” That was pretty clever. They did a promo spoofing the NCAA basketball tournament since both grew up big hoops fans (and I’m sure this shocks everyone, but Cass played at the college level (he was a 6-foot-8, 240 pound backup center at New York University from 2005 to 2009 and his college bio said he liked watching baseball, playing stickball–nothing says New York like playing stickball–and watching pro wrestling). Enzo & Cass went to a on contest with Sheamus & Cesaro in 8:00 when Anderson & Gallows attacked Sheamus and Cass. The winners were supposed to get a tag title match. Anderson & Gallows threw Sheamus into the post, beat down Cesaro, and then Gallows superkicked Enzo and they did the double-team magic killer on Cesaro. Foley was backstage with Anderson & Gallows. Gallows called Foley a nerd and they joked that since nobody won the match, they had no opponents at WrestleMania. Foley said he was tempted to fire both of them, even though they were tag team champions. Foley instead said they would be in a three-way at Mania. The funny part of this is whenever this situation arises, it always turns into a three-way. You’d think heels would be smarter by now. But then again, heels still get in the ring with big cakes inside. Reigns pinned Mahal with a spear in 1:54. During the match, Undertaker’s music played and Reigns was distracted. Mahal got a near fall off that and the place came unglued with the gong hit. Fans cheered Mahal in this match and there were loud boos when Reigns won. Reigns then told Undertaker to come out. Then they cut to a commercial break for three minutes. The poor guy had to stand there and wait. They came back, and he was still standing there and instead, Michael’s music played and he came out. The crowd went totally nuts for him. Reigns said that it was cool to see him but he wanted Undertaker. Fans were still going nuts with “HBK” chants and Michaels seemed moved by it. Michaels was giving Reigns veteran advice. He told him it made no sense if you’re a full-time guy who they want to carry the brand to put over a part-time guy, well, unless I’m the part-time guy. Okay, he actually told him that if Undertaker was in his head this far out of the match, he’s going to eat him alive. Michaels said he was in Reigns’ shoes because he knows what it’s like to have everyone secretly hope you are going to fail even though nobody will say it to your face. He told Reigns he was on his side. Yes, endorsing Reigns even got Michaels booed. He shouldn’t feel bad, as Rock and Bryan got booed trying to put Reigns over verbally and Austin and Hogan would as well. Reigns noted that the difference is, “Undertaker retired you and I’m going to retire him.” Reigns left the ring and Strowman came out and clotheslined him off the ramp. Fans chanted “Thank you Strowman” for that one. Foley and Stephanie were backstage again. Foley doesn’t want to fire anyone right before WrestleMania. He acted like it was right before Christmas, which I guess to some people it is. Stephanie told Foley he had one hour and if he doesn’t decide who he’s firing she’ll decide, and it may be something he doesn’t like. Aries pinned Ariya Daivari in 3:46 with a spinning elbow. The crowd didn’t react much to this. Emma is coming, hopefully some time before Halley’s comet. Show pinned O’Neil after three choke slams in 1:49. They did a video honoring Billie Jean King. Jericho did an interview saying that at WrestleMania he was going to get the Revenge of Jericho and pay him back, man. He said next week he wanted to show people the real Kevin Owens so next week will be the Highlight Reel with the real Kevin Owens. Mike Rome was interviewing him. Jericho called him Tom Phillips. He said Phillips had moved to Smackdown. Jericho said that the guy doesn’t even know his own name, that he knows he’s Tom Phillips and when you insult Jericho’s intelligence and don’t know your own name, you just got put on the list. Bayley beat Jax via DQ in 7:44 for the same heel beating down the face that they did in the Joe & Owens mach earlier. Twice in the same show felt like overkill. Jax threw Bayley into the barricade after the match. The final segment started with Stephanie and Foley and ended with HHH destroying Rollins. Stephanie came out. Some people tried to chant “C.M Punk,” but almost nobody was willing to go along so that died. She called out Foley. Foley was really having trouble walking. It was noticeable in one of the backstage skits as well. Foley said that he was thinking about who to fire and couldn’t come up with one name who deserves to be terminated, but ten minutes ago, a name popped into his head, and he thanked Stephanie for giving him the opportunity to make for a more enjoyable Raw. So he fired Stephanie. The place went nuts. Stephanie said that it wasn’t within his power to fire her and don’t turn this into a cheap joke. Foley said that Stephanie is the one who needs to go, she treats the superstars like jokes, like cattle, but they’re human beings. Foley said he came to work for Stephanie because he treasured their friendship of 18 years, but he remembers six months ago when she looked him in the eye and said he had nothing to do with HHH giving Owens the Universal title and he had to believe her because if he didn’t, he’d have to think she was a liar and a really bad person. Well, he said that she’s a liar, and a really bad person, and she needs to go. He said she was behind HHH all along and that HHH isn’t a creator, he’s just assembling his own army to do his work for him. She called him pathetic and weak and then HHH showed up. HHH acted like he was Mr. Cool and way above it all, like everyone were just children amusing him by acting up. He said he doesn’t want a lawsuit before Mania so he’s not going to take Foley’s leg off and beat him with it. He said that Foley was a fun little nostalgia act, made a remark about this being the “Last Go at the Joe,” and that he’s working so hard at creating the future so he doesn’t have to look at pathetic has-beens like Foley. He said Foley is about to take his beat up body across the globe again telling stupid stories about the man he used to be. Foley said that the wrestlers respect him and enjoy being around him, unlike how they act around HHH who they pretend to like. Foley said he can look in the mirror and like what he sees. Then HHH said that Noelle’s dream is to be a superstar and Dewey works at the office in Stamford. He said that maybe if Foley doesn’t calm down he can give them a ride to the unemployment office and maybe some day they’ll forgive their selfish, self-absorbed father for ruining their lives. He was a super heel with that one. He told Foley to get his ass up the ramp and get out of his ring. Foley then pulled out Mr. Socko and put it on HHH. That lasted about two seconds before Stephanie gave Foley a low blow. HHH was about to destroy Foley when Rollins came to the ring on crutches. Then Rollins threw his crutch away and ran into the ring, to signify that he’s okay. Rollins gave him a superkick to the stomach and a dropkick. HHH tried to use the crutch but Rollins beat him to the punch at first, but eventually HHH nailed Rollins in his bad knee with the crutch twice. HHH put Rollins in the reverse figure four and held it on him with the idea he was taking out the bad knee (so Rollins goes into Mania as more of an underdog) until he was pulled off. Then he nailed Rollins with one last crutch shot to the knee. This was a pretty great angle to end the show. It felt like this was Foley being written out so he could get his hip surgery, but it may be just one of the last angles building to that same end result, as he could come back and that could be the angle to build to him getting fired. Either way, he is getting the surgery soon and this is part of being written out, but the actual timing of what is Foley’s final appearance is a very closely guarded secret. After the show ended, Reigns came back out and called out Strowman. The bell never rang so it was never a match, but they brawled all over the place for five minutes. Reigns got most of the offense. Strowman was about to hit Reigns with the steps when Reign speared him, and the hit the Superman punch and Strowman bailed

Notes from the 3/14 tapings in Pittsburgh. The show drew 7,000 fans and like is the reputation, the crowd was dead for most of the matches. Everything in the build with Cena & Nikki vs. Miz & Maryse has been very good, and they played up the Styles vs. Shane McMahon angle very well to make it a big-time match. But the in-ring on Smackdown wasn’t good, and even on 205 Live, where the main event was great, it was a tough crowd. In the Smackdown main event with Jordan & Gable vs. Usos, the crowd was dead except for the fairly loud “We Want Angle” chants. Tom Phillips & JBL did the announcing for Smackdown and Phillips & Graves did it for 205 Live. What they said on the air was that the weather prevented Ranallo from coming and he’d be back next week and that Otunga was out filming a movie. At least half of that was true, since Otunga was out filming a movie. It opened with Slater & Rhyno over Breeze & Fandango. Smackdown started with Bryan on the phone. We never know who the person he’s talking to is on these conversations. I guess we’re supposed to believe it’s his wife. Styles showed up and he wanted Shane, who Bryan said wasn’t there yet but would be arriving. Styles came out before the fans for an interview. He talked about how he was the champion and that Bryan had granted Cena an undeserved title match because he’s practically his brother-in-law, but he got beat by the great John Cena in that bout, he admitted and accepted it but he also expected a one-on-one rematch. Instead he got a Triple Threat match he didn’t lose in, an Elimination match with five other guys, a Battle Royal that he clearly won, and then earned the title match at Mania beating Harper. He said that Orton then burned down Wyatt’s house, and not only did he not get arrested (we never did get an explanation as to how a like arson on television resulted in no negative repercussions), didn’t go to jail, but he was rewarded with the main event at WrestleMania. He said that anyone who knows the business knows that Styles was the best wrestler in the world in 2016. He said that he put Smackdown Live on the map, was the reason everyone bought tickets to this show, the reason everyone watched the TV show and the reason everyone subscribes to the WWE Network, and now he doesn’t even have a match at WrestleMania. Lynch beat Natalya in 8:45 with the disarmer. The worked was solid. Carmella attacked Lynch after the match and then superkicked Natalya. Styles was in the parking lot waiting for Shane to arrive. Carmella did an interview saying she’d be the next champion. Then came a fun segment somewhat hovering on reality. Miz & Maryse came out. Miz said that Maryse had a lot to say. Maryse said that the difference between here and Nikki is that Nikki will never get the ring, as she showed her wedding ring. It sure felt like a proposal by Cena is coming at Mania. Miz said that Cena is the most manipulative plastic person he’s ever seen and he lives in Los Angeles. That was funny. Maryse said that she and Nikki used to be best friends but she stabbed her in the back. She said how she and Kelly Kelly and the Bellas were all supposed to come back when WWE got the Total Divas deal with E!, which is true. I think Maria Kanellis was mentioned around that time as well. She claimed that Nikki told her that the offer they were giving her was too low and that they can negotiate together and get more money. She said the next thing she knew, she was told by WWE that because she hadn’t signed, that the offer was pulled off the table. She said that Nikki told her she’d take care of it, because she’s now dating Cena so she’s untouchable (Cena and Nikki were dating before the Bellas returned to the company after they had quit). She said that she never heard from her again until she got a text on a Monday saying that Brie and her were back in WWE. She called Nikki a lying, backstabbing bitch. It worked here because it was the first time but if you keep having women call each other bitches on TV, it’ll end up like the Russo scripted knockout division era where all the women came off like trash. Cena & Nikki came out. They traded more words and Miz & Maryse left when Bryan came out and said how every time he sees Miz he wants to punch him in the face. He said that every time Miz talks about him not being able to wrestle he wants to punch him in the face (they may build to Bryan throwing a punch on Miz at Mania at the end of the match, or it at least seems that way since they are setting up that for a big pop), that every time Miz steals his moves and does them badly he wants to punch Miz in the face. Bryan then announced the mixed tag for Mania. James pinned Bliss in a non-title match in 8:36. The crowd was dead and this match was really bad. Not sure what happened but they had a lot of problems Bliss missed a standing moonsault and James pinned her after the Mick kick. James did need the win and this does build the title match at Mania, but I hate trivializing champions losing on TV (since they did that twice on the same show) because it makes the titles look meaningless. Shane showed up and Styles was ready and attacked and destroyed him, including throwing him threw a car window. Shane came up bleeding and Styles was pounding on him until Finlay broke it up. They played it up well as they wanted to take Shane to the emergency room, but he refused to go, but sold it like he was beaten up pretty bad. This was a hell of a lot more convincing than the angle they did with Corbin and Ambrose backstage with the forklift. Styles went to the dressing room to grab his stuff and everyone told him how messed up it was that he attacked Shane. The announcers talked about how no matter how Styles was, if you attack the officer of a company that you’re gone. As Styles went to leave the building, Bryan confronted him. He said that Styles was a coward. Styles mocked Bryan and acted like he was above being fired because he was such a big star and then Bryan fired him. Rawley beat Ziggler via count out in 2:29. The story here is they were teasing the Battle Royal. Rawley threw Ziggler over the top rope three times and Ziggler just walked out and quit the match. That was quite bad but it at least sort of told a story. Neville cut a promo to build for 205 Live. Orton did an in-ring promo, saying he had waited for months and could have attacked Wyatt at any time and hit him with an RKO, but that wouldn’t have been enough. He said he had to hurt Wyatt where it hurt him the worst and devised a plan to get close to him, become a member of his family and be the person he trusts the most. He gave the impression that he manipulated Harper into leaving so that it would only be him and Wyatt and now he’s left Wyatt and Wyatt is all alone. I wonder if that’s the sign that Rowan is coming back, since Rowan has been cleared and is ready to debut, and I believe was even backstage here. Orton said he was now going to take everything from Wyatt. Wyatt was on the screen and said that Sister Abigail was the pawn of Satan, but has now given him her power and now he’s more powerful than ever and he’s born again. Usos beat Jordan & Gable in a non-title match in 10:35. It’s really sad how not over Jordan & Gable are compared to how crazy over they were in NXT and their first few weeks here. It shows the value of a dance partner, and even though the Usos are very good, they were the only dance partners anyone took seriously and it’s been done to death. This was a good match. They set up the sky high bulldog with Jey on Jordan’s shoulders, but Jimmy superkicked Jordan and Jey pinned him. Shane McMahon came out and said that Styles said he didn’t have an opponent for WrestleMania, but he does now. Right then they switched to the Crisleys and showed Todd on the screen. If this was old-time wrestling, that would signify that Styles is wrestling Todd Crisley at WrestleMania. 205 Live started with a Neville promo. He noted that one year and one day ago in this very building he broke his ankle and robbed him of his first WrestleMania moment. He said that he learned that nobody cared and that he was forgotten by all the fans. But he said he had returned and showed how good he was by obliterating an entire division. The show was built around getting him an opponent for WrestleMania in a five-way main event. Mustafa Ali pinned Gulak in 4:54 with an inverted 450. The crowd was totally dead. After the match, Gulak was furious, saying that nobody appreciates him and he’s always walking away frustrated and is tired of it. He said the problem wasn’t him, but 205 Live. I was hoping he’d say they need to tape it before Smackdown so there would be some crowd reactions, but he didn’t elaborate. Dar & Daivari were backstage. Dar was almost in tears because of recent losses, saying that no matter how good he treats Fox, that a woman like Fox will only stay with him if he’s a winner, so he said that we need to win the math. And they did, as Dar & Daivari beat Swann & Gallagher in 4:05 when Dar pinned Swann in an upset with a running kick. Dar was doing a promo with Fox taking credit for the gifts he didn’t get her but saying that tonight the gift was the win in the match, and then somebody arrived with a giant Teddy Bear. He had to switch in mid-sentence to take credit for giving it to her. They left together. Aries won a great four-way over Tozawa, Kendrick, Nese and Perkins in 14:19. The wrestling was great but they had the same problem with the crowd for most of the match. By the end, particularly after Nese did a running knee on Aries running through and knocking over the barricade, the crowd was with it. I’d call it a***3/4 match and the best match since they started the show. Aries was clearly the crowd favorite. The crowd hates Perkins’ dabbing. Either he should turn heel or drop that. Tozawa has gotten the crowd to chant with him. Aries did a tope on Nese. Kendrick tried to talk Aries into working with him to eliminate everyone else, and then Kendrick suckered Aries. At one point Tozawa had Nese pinned with a German suplex but Kendrick broke it up. Since it was an elimination match and not first pin, it made no sense, but the explanation was that Kendrick hated Tozawa so much he wouldn’t let him pin anyone. Tozawa, Perkins and Nese did dives. Aries was on the top rope to do one and Kendrick shoved him off and he flew with almost a belly flop on the floor. So Aries was down selling. Then Nese did the running knee which woke up the crowd. Perkins made Nese tap out to an armbar in 9:05. Nese than attacked Perkins after. Tozawa started yelling at Nese for interfering and Kendrick came from behind and pinned Tozawa with sliced bread in 9:51. Kendrick put the captain’s hook on Perkins, who escaped. Kendrick pinned Perkins in 12:52. This left Aries vs. Kendrick. Kendrick put Aries in the captain’s hook but Perkins, even though eliminated, saved Aries, so Kendrick has a legit gripe with the ending and with Perkins. Kendrick used sliced bread on Aries, but he kicked out. Kendrick got the captain’s hook on Aries again, but he used the ropes, since the rules were no DQ with no rope breaks on submissions, to get up and break the hold. Aries then pinned Kendrick with a rolling elbow. In the dark match, Ambrose pinned Corbin with Dirty Deeds to keep the IC title

The NXT weekend opened on 3/9 in Largo, FL, before 250 fans. Ohno pinned Kishin Raftaar with an elbow. Lana pinned Aliyah with a spinebuster. Otis Dozovic & Tucker Night beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy. Nese pinned Mustafa Ali with a running knee in a great match. Nakamura pinned Moss with the Kinshasa. Interesting them putting Nakamura early in the show. Aleister Black pinned Kona Reeves with a series of kicks. Eric Young & Killian Dain & Nikki Cross beat Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford & Liv Morgan when Cross pinned Morgan after a neckbreaker in a fast-paced match. Roode retained the NXT title in the main event pinning Buddy Murphy with a low blow and a DDT. After the match, Nakamura and Roode went at it, and Nakamura ended the show laying out Roode with the Kinshasa

3/10 in Daytona Beach opened with Jose pinning Cutler. Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado beat Dar & Gulak when Metalik pinned Gulak after the Metalik driver. Eric Young pinned Oney Lorcan with the wheelbarrow neckbreaker. Asuka & Morgan & Aliyah beat Kimberly Frankele & Kay & Mandy Rose. Notable that they aired the Kay injury angle but still had her working Florida shows, when they could have sold the angle and just had Royce work the show. Asuka beat Lee with the Asuka lock. Authors of Pain kept the tag titles over Dawkins & Ford with their last chapter on Dawkins. Daria Berenato pinned Macey Estrella. Main event saw Roode & Almas beat Ohno & Black (reuniting the Chris Hero & Tommy End tag team) when Roode used a low blow and a DDT on Ohno. After the match, Ohno & Black laid out Roode & Almas with their usual finishers

3/11 in Orlando drew 350. Victoria, who is Victoria Gonzalez, a former college basketball player and the daughter of longtime Texas wrestler Rudy Boy Gonzalez, worked a six-women’s opener with Morgan & Aliyah beating Macey Evans (sometimes called Macey Estrella) & Berenato & Frankele. It’s a surprise to just call her Victoria, because of Lisa Varon, who used the name here for years. Not only that, but a lot of people think, while not confirmed, that Varon is one of the company contacted with the idea of bringing some of the former women in like Kelly Kelly for some sort of a story. Gonzalez, who towered over the rest, was throwing people around. Dan Matha beat Cezar Bononi with a clothesline. Not good. Murphy pinned Tino Sabbatelli with a running suplex. Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss beat down Murphy after the match. This is where Hideo Itami returned. Tian Bing pinned Kona Reeves in a match that got little reaction. Black pinned Almas in a very good match after a kick. An elimination match for the tag titles ended in a no contest between the Authors of Pain and Dain & Wolfe. Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight and Dawkins & Ford were the other teams. Knight & Dozovic were out first from the AOP’s finisher and the Sanity beat Dawkins & Ford. The match ended with AOP & Sanity having a pull-apart. Samson’s music played and he came out in a mask called The Highway Man. He played the guitar and sang as usual. He’s used a different name every night. He had a confrontation with Jeet Rama and laid him out. He left. Rama challenged him to come back, which he did, and this time Rama laid him out. Ruby Riot pinned Mandy Rose. Nakamura & Ohno beat Roode & Clark in the main event when Nakamura pinned Clark with the Kinshasa

The Raw tour opened on 3/10 in Buffalo before what I’d have to call a disappointing crowd of 5,000 fans considering both HHH and Lesnar were pushed heavily, and it was Balor’s first match back. 3/11 in Toronto drew 7,000. 3/12 in London, ONT, drew 6,000

The Smackdown crew opened on 3/11 in Fairfax, VA, before 4,000 fans. Cena and Nikki were off Fairfax due to Cena hosting the Kid’s Choice Awards, but Cena worked the rest of the weekend. 3/12 in Madison Square Garden drew 15,000. 3/13 in Charleston, WV, drew 6,000, which was an amazing crowd for a Monday night show in a market of that size

Buffalo opened with Cass pinning Mahal with the running kick. Enzo was in Cass’ corner, but no Rusev on the show. Neville pinned Swann to retain the cruiserweight title. The finish was Neville did the fake knee injury spot. They stopped the match and checked him out. Swann’s guard was down and then Neville superkicked him with his bad knee and used the Rings of Saturn for the submission. Banks & Fox beat Jax & Brooke when Banks used the bank statement on Brooke. Gallows & Anderson kept the tag titles in a three-way over Cesaro & Sheamus and Big E & Woods. Anderson pinned Big E using the ropes. After the match, Anderson took the trouble in Paradise from Kingston, the giant swing by Cesaro and the Brogue kick from Sheamus. New Day danced after the match and invited Cesaro & Sheamus to join them. Cesaro did but Sheamus didn’t want to. It led to a big pop when they finally convinced Sheamus to do so. Lesnar came out to all cheers, but then “Goldberg” chants broke out. Heyman ripped on Buffalo, the sports teams and the weather to turn him heel. They issued a challenge to anyone in the back. Show came out to a good pop. Show controlled it early until Lesnar hit the F-5 in about 2:00. Now that show is 370ish, Lesnar lifts him a hell of a lot easier than when he was 450. Bayley pinned Charlotte with the belly-to-belly. Reigns beat Strowman via DQ. The younger fans cheered him a ton but there were boos as well but he got a big reaction. Same spots as they’ve been doing. Strowman hit Reigns with the ring steps for the DQ. After the match, Strowman went to hit Reigns with the ring steps again, but Reigns speared him, which was the biggest pop on the show. Reigns hit a second spear on him after that. Main event was Jericho & Zayn & Balor over HHH & Joe & Owens. Balor didn’t get nearly as good a reaction as you’d think. It was good but nothing compared to the others. Owens was cheered more than booed. HHH got a big reaction and fans made it clear they saw him as the biggest star in the match. His body looked great, no surprise, and his work was very good as well. Everyone started hitting finishers. Balor laid out HHH with the double foot stomp and Jericho then pinned Owens after a codebreaker

Toronto the next night was a different show, largely due to no Lesnar. They opened with R-Truth & Goldust & Sin Cara & Show beating Dallas & Mahal & Primo & Epico. Mostly comedy. It

was actually 3-on-4 as a handicap match and with the faces being beaten on, Show came out, tagged in, choke slammed Primo & Epico and then knocked out Dallas with a punch. Same Neville vs. Swann with the fake knee injury leading to the finish. Banks & Fox beat Jax & Brooke. The crowd was hot for Banks in this match. Reigns beat Strowman via DQ in the same match. Reigns was heavily booed but there were cheers as well. Anderson & Gallows won a four-way over Enzo & Cass, Big E & Kingston & Sheamus & Cesaro. The New Day came out with the mini freezer like they were ice cream man. Anderson pinned Enzo with the tights. Cesaro did a 28 rep giant swing to Anderson after the match. They ended up building where Cesaro danced with the New Day and all the faces did and finally Sheamus did. I was told this segment pretty much died live. Same Charlotte vs Bayley title match. Same six-man with Jericho & Zayn & Balor over HHH & Joe & Owens. The match was hot, although the ring entrances were bigger than the match. HHH vs. Balor got heat squaring off. Everyone did finishers on everyone else until Jericho pinned Owens after a codebreaker. Jericho said that he doesn’t need Owens as his best friend because Toronto is his best friend and then said, “Toronto, you just made the list.

London was mostly the same show as Toronto except no HHH, Balor or Owens. Once again Show came in as the fourth guy on his team about 10:00 into the match. He was limping pretty badly favoring the left leg. Fans had no idea why Fox was a face. With the six-man main event out, instead there was a three-way for the U.S. title with Jericho retaining over Zayn and Joe. Crowd was hot for all three. Zayn hit the Helluva kick on Joe, knocking Joe out of the ring. Jericho then used the codebreaker to pin Zayn. The crowd wasn’t much into Bayley past her ring entrance. The belly-to-belly finish on Charlotte didn’t get much reaction. Gallows & Anderson won the four-way tag title match against Sheamus & Cesaro, Enzo & Cass and Woods & Kingston. Same match as the night before. Reigns beat Strowman via DQ in the main event in the same match as at the show the night before

Fairfax opened with Slater & Rhyno & Rawley over Breeze & Fandango & Hawkins when Rhyno pinned Breeze after a gore in 7:12. The crowd was hot for Rhyno. Miz pinned Kalisto in 10:18 with the Skull crushing finale. Miz had great heat. Crews pinned Ziggler in 7:28 with a power bomb, so they go back-and-forth on this match. The crowd was flat for this match. Ziggler got no reaction, neither cheers nor boos, except when the crowd wanted chairs and he got a chair, and then put it down to not use it and then the crowd booed him. Crews wasn’t over at all, although from TV, you could see that. Jordan & Gable beat Usos in 8:56 to keep the tag titles, this time using the sky high bulldog. Jordan & Gable also got no reaction. Usos didn’t get much, but they were the team cheered. Wyatt retained the WWE title pinning Harper using Sister Abigail in 12:26. There were lots of chants for Harper. The match was more physical than most house shows matches and they worked harder than most do on house shows. Bliss retained the women’s title in 6:14 in a six-way over Lynch, Tamina, Natalya, James and Carmella when she pinned Carmella after a cradle. Lynch got the best reaction. Ambrose retained the IC title over Corbin in 16:16 when Corbin was DQ’d for a chair shot. Corbin got a lot of heat and dominated the match. Also a good match with lots of near falls. Orton pinned Styles in 20:00 with the RKO in the main event in a great main event. Styles worked as a heel. He got a 50/50 reaction but nobody booed Orton. At certain points, Styles was booed heavily. Styles did a Bullet Club sign and the crowd cheered that

Charleston was a different show for the most part. Slater & Rhyno & Kalisto beat Breeze & Fandango & Hawkins. Slater got the pin here since they were in West Virginia and he was over like crazy as the home town guy, using a jumping sleeper slam. Ziggler pinned Crews with a superkick. Crowd was quiet as they didn’t know Ziggler was a heel, but started cheering Crews late since Ziggler played heel and was booed heavily by that point. Jordan & Gable beat Usos in the same match. So-so crowd response. The Usos got a big pop coming, but as the match went on, it was a 50/50 crowd response. Alpha used the sky high bulldog for the finish. Ambrose beat Corbin via DQ for the chair. Crowd was very into this one, particularly Ambrose. Corbin laid him out after the match, took the belt and paraded around with it and left. But then he came back in to do more damage, and that’s when Ambrose hit the Dirty Deeds on him. Wyatt pinned Harper with Sister Abigail. The crowd wasn’t as into this as the previous match. Wyatt got a big pop coming out and there were “Let’s Go Wyatt” chants. Nikki & Lynch & Tamina & Asuka beat Bliss & James & Natalya & Carmella when Nikki pinned Natalya. What shows the difference between crowds was the day before in Madison Square Garden, Asuka was over like crazy, far more than any of the women, but here nobody knew who she was. Tamina was pushed as a power monster. Miz & Maryse came out. Mis called out anyone from the back. Orton came out. The crowd was super into Orton, who won clean with the RKO. Main event saw Cena beat Styles in a street fight with an Attitude Adjustment through a table. Cena sang “Country Roads” with the crowd, as he does whenever he does a show in West Virginia. This had easily the most crowd reaction of the show. Cena came across as the star of the show. Styles kicked out of the first Attitude Adjustment and Cena kicked out of the Styles clash.