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May 22, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: NJPW business up, ROHWar of the Worlds review, tons more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 May 22, 2017

 

ROH WAR OF THE WORLDS POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 156 (86.2%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 25 (13.8%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Will Ospreay vs. Jay White 157

Young Bucks vs. Bushi & Naito 10

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Hangman Page vs. Frankie Kazarian 64

Young vs. Kushida vs. Fish vs. Castle 24

Daniels vs. Cody vs. Lethal 19

Bully & Briscoes vs. Chaos 14

Marty Scurll vs. Matt Sydal 9

 

UFC 211 POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 140 (94.6%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 8 (05.2%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Chase Sherman vs. Rashad Coulter 93

Jason Knight vs. Chas Skelly 25

Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier 14

Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Andrade 9

 

WORST MATCH POLL

David Branch vs. Krzysztof Jotko 90

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 5/16.

 

After completing a successful European tour while coming off record low ratings against NBA playoff competition, WWE is promoting a number of major events all at the same time.

This coming weekend will be a taped U.K. special on 5/19, where the company has already publicly given away the endings of the top two taped matches. The show is built around Pete Dunne vs. Trent Seven for the No. 1 contender spot for the U.K. title, and Tyler Bate vs. Mark Andrews for the U.K. title. Both were reported to be excellent matches. However, WWE announced Bate vs. Dunne, the two winners, for the 5/20 Takeover show right after the 5/7 matches had ended. After the NXT Takeover show, and Backlash, will come the revamped Extreme Rules show on 6/4 in Baltimore.

The major news regarding that show is that Braun Strowman will be out six to eight weeks after minor elbow surgery on 5/11 in Birmingham. Because the original plan for the 6/4 show was Roman Reigns vs. Strowman in the main event leading to Brock Lesnar vs. Strowman on 7/9, everything had to be redone.

The new direction is a five-way match as the main event for Extreme Rules, with Seth Rollins, Reigns, Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt and Samoa Joe. That’s something of a contradiction since the pick of the top contenders including Balor and Rollins, who were just two weeks ago battling Miz with the idea that the winner would face Dean Ambrose, and from there, that would set up who would face Lesnar. But this time, Miz, who won the match, and Ambrose, the IC champion are no longer in the running. It pretty much established the IC title as a battle for sixth place out of the seven active pushed singles wrestlers on the brand.

Most likely, it’s not a major change. Whoever wins, with Rollins or Balor as the favorites, would face Lesnar on 7/9. Given that both had talked two weeks ago about challenging for the title, it’s likely both will be in the title picture over the next year. Unless the idea is to back away from Reigns over Lesnar for the title at Mania, Reigns should be kept away from Lesnar. Feuds with Strowman, Joe and Wyatt can occupy his time.

Since Strowman will be back for SummerSlam, they could do Lesnar vs. Strowman there, and whatever the SummerSlam plan was, that would be moved up one PPV.

The WWE announced both on its website and on television that Strowman would be out “up to six months.” They pushed that the injury was a shattered elbow. They were doing a storyline where Reigns and Strowman were destroying each other, but even with injuries, were still out there wrestling. Strowman was supposed to have a torn rotator cuff in storyline yet he’d still wrestle. But reality got in the way, so to make up for it, he’ll show up “four months early” from this injury that was exaggerated in scope.

There will be an NXT Takeover show on 5/20 at the All-State Arena in Chicago. Matches official are Bobby Roode vs. Hideo Itami for the NXT title, Authors of Pain vs. Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa for the tag titles in a ladder match, Bate vs. Dunne for the U.K. title and Asuka vs. Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross for the women’s title. The show will be a real test for Itami, who has not looked anything special since returning after two shoulder operations. He never fit well in NXT. The difference is that other Japanese wrestlers didn’t have to remake their styles that much coming in. Itami, because he got over on the harder style he grew up with, had to change more than anyone to fit in, and he’s never really figured out how to make that work, plus the injuries have hurt him as well. It’s pretty clear he’s a placeholder opponent, as is everyone on this show, because the directions seem to be Roode vs. Drew McIntyre, Asuka vs. Ember Moon and AOP vs. Heavy Machinery, likely for the pre-SummerSlam show.

The WWE ratings patterns over the last year remain significant drops, largely among male viewers. This past week saw Raw tie its seasonal ratings low at 1.89, and then Smackdown almost surely did its worst numbers of the year by a wide margin, and worst ever since going live except against the election cycle. The overall drops are notable. To an extent, there is the excuse that all television is down, which isn’t true, but overall television is down. There are things down more than WWE, but Raw and Total Divas are also down far more than normal programming. Smackdown is up from moving days and going live with an exclusive roster. But once annual comparisons are made under the same circumstances in July, the likelihood is that it’ll show similar drops to Raw. It is significant given WWE is a television company. But the PPV shows are doing strong live business and it doesn’t matter what is presented.

The Takeover show in Chicago has sold well even with a lineup that on paper doesn’t look like something that would sell well, as they are expecting in the range of 8,000 fans. In fact, lineups are meaningless. NXT, which has declined greatly in quality, still has a hot buzz and Takeovers have always delivered.

Smackdown on 5/21 has a lineup that would have bombed in the PPV days, but tickets were nearly sold out in Chicago before any direction was known. The main event is Randy Orton vs. Jinder Mahal for the WWE title, but most of the promotion has been around the first televised Shinsuke Nakamura match on the main roster.

Match order is interesting. Orton is coming off a really bad series with Bray Wyatt. With Mahal, it’s probably going to be a basic match. Chicago is a strong city for reactions and Mahal will have his seconds to interfere and have the foreign villain thing going for him. Still, you can’t predict crowds and if they go on last there is a risk the crowd won’t be that interested.

The rest of the show has Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens vs. A.J. Styles for the U.S. title, Usos vs. Tyler Breeze & Fandango for the tag titles, Naomi & Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch vs. Tamina & Natalya & Carmella, Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin and Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan. They’ll open with Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English in the pre-show match.

For Extreme Rules, the depth is different as instead of the top six guys being in three singles matches likely with gimmicked rules, Reigns vs. Strowman, Joe vs. Rollins and Balor vs. Wyatt, they are in one match.

Other matches set for that show are Ambrose vs. Miz for the IC title with the stipulations that the title can change hands via DQ, Hardys vs. Sheamus & Cesaro for the tag titles, Neville vs. Austin Aries for the cruiserweight title (they have a tease going on of a three-way involving TJ Perkins but they may not pull the trigger on that until later) and Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley for the women’s title in a kendo stick on a pole match. Bayley challenging for the title now makes the result where Bliss won clean in San Jose without cheating, and then pinned her clean the next night in Sacramento when she had three partners who could have lost, make no sense in hindsight. Needing more matches, that probably led to some angles on Raw to set up R-Truth vs. Goldust, as well as Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews as new programs on that side.


New Japan’s business has improved overall significantly as they are looking at 16 percent growth from last year.

In the last fiscal year, which is summer-to-summer, New Japan grossed 3.2 billion yen ($28.8 million). They are projecting 3.7 billion ($33.3 million) for this fiscal year. They are projecting 4.5 to 5.0 billion yen ($41 to $45 million) for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

They have already more than quadrupled business since 2011, which was when they had bottomed out. It’s a tiny percentage of that of WWE.

The one place of growth that is difficult for a Japanese-based group is international syndication, as Impact even as weak as it is, has paying television deals in both the U.K. and India, the two biggest paying non-U.S. markets for wrestling, which New Japan has nothing in.

If growth continues at the same level, they’ll have their biggest grossing year ever in either 2018 or 2019.

Owner Takaaki Kidani, who held a business press conference before the open of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, noted that the one area they are strongest in is merchandise sales, saying they are doing 20 to 25 percent of what WWE does.

New Japan does far more per head than WWE, often more than $25 and up to $35 per head at house shows with big sellers like LIJ, Bullet Club and Tanahashi, while WWE does just over $10 per head on average, although much more for WrestleMania. But that is the only category they are competitive in.

Kidani said they are looking at selling out the Tokyo Dome legitimately by 2020, which would be 40,000 to 45,000 tickets sold not including comps.

He said the goal is 100,000 subscribers to New Japan World, which would make it Japan’s most popular streaming service. One of the issues is that streaming services like Netflix and Hulu don’t do any kind of numbers in Japan and it’s not as much part of the culture.

One issue is that they didn’t retain the bulk of the giant one day Tokyo Dome new subscribers. Before the Tokyo Dome show, they had 50,000 subscribers, broken down as 41,500 in Japan and 8,500 outside of Japan. The day after the Tokyo Dome show, they had 60,000, broken down as 46,000 and 14,000. Now they have 50,000, broken down as 40,000 in Japan (so they are slightly behind before Dome numbers) and 10,000 outside Japan. Then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise, as without the free month staggering things, WWE months after Mania would be well below the day before Mania numbers and wouldn’t pass those numbers until the next year. There is hope that with the Osaka and Long Beach shows that the numbers can show significant growth coming up.

New Japan World updated its site on 5/16 and it will be more accessible through Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV. Plans for New Japan World are to increase live events by having more content from Revolution Pro, ROH and CMLL The AXS show is averaging 200,000 viewers, putting it still behind Impact, although AXS is also in 44 minutes homes and POP is in 73.8 million homes, so the equivalent would be 336,000 viewers or slightly more than Impact gets most weeks.

Kidani noted that the additional seating for the Long Beach shows sold out in two minutes. He said that they are now looking at running in a building that would hold around 6,000, although those who handled ticket sales based on the volume of first-day calls believed they could have sold out the 13,000-seat Convention Center adjacent to where they ran if they had the capacity.

In talking about an expansion into the U.S. market, Kidani said the advantages they have is they present the “best in ring wrestling in the world, have a long history and an original product not available anywhere else.”

He talked about trying to sell New Japan to other cable stations in the U.S. He talked about doing Japanese style tours for the American territory rather than a few big shows a year which I still feel is the better concept for this market.

He also talked about opening a dojo and creating new American stars for the U.S. market.

The estimates are that the entire wrestling industry in Japan will gross $109 million this year, which would be ahead of the $95 million that sumo is expected to gross.

Dominion on 6/11 at Osaka Jo Hall is not sold out at this point, but ticket prices were raised significantly from last year and the advance is ahead of last year’s pace when they came a little shy of a sellout. I can’t imagine with Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (although the latter bout is in jeopardy) as the double main that it’s not selling out.

Kidani mentioned that Tomoaki Honma is already back training for a comeback. He was less detailed about Katsuyori Shibata, far less than we’ve reported, just saying there was no timetable for anything. He did say that they were at an internal committee trying to improve in-ring safety due to those two serious injuries.

Takeshi Misawa, the company’s head of medical, went into more detail on Honma and Shibata.

He said that Honma has been moved from a hospital specializing in cervical vertebrae issues to a rehab hospital in Osaka. There is no timeline on how long he will have to remain hospitalized, but he has started light weight training in the gym and light running.

Misawa said that Shibata’s original condition was life threatening, but he’s out of intensive care but still hospitalized. Shibata has no trouble walking and talking, but past that, there is no timetable for anything.

The New Japan Pro Wrestling Medical Committee talked about will include neurosurgeons, spinal specialists, orthopedic surgeons and pro wrestling trainers. They said that the medical committee will be looking at limiting the number of matches wrestlers compete in during a tour if there are any health issues. Previously, the mentality was that unless the situation was severe, you worked on every show on a tour since New Japan has been very strong on the idea that if you are advertised to appear, you wrestle on the show.

Kidani noted that the goal going forward is to increase revenue and in doing so, pay wrestlers better and at the same time, for health reasons, have them work fewer dates.

The goal seems to be that they can’t pay wrestlers WWE money, but they can give them a better quality of life by having them have more time off. Another advantage for the U.K. wrestlers is they can continue to live in the U.K. between tours.

Company paid attendance through the end of April is up 21.4 percent from last year. While wrestling is by no means booming in Japan, it’s been noted that it’s hotter than it has been in probably 15 years overall.

All Japan, which has been having killer matches built around Kento Miyahara as champion as well as people like Shuji Ishikawa, Ryoji Sai and bringing in other outsiders like Daisuke Sekimoto, is up 58.7 percent this year. DDT is up 10 percent, Big Japan is up 11 percent and Stardom is up 30 percent, although Stardom is facing a crisis with its two top stars leaving.

The only company down is NOAH, which is down 29 percent after losing its affiliation with New Japan and losing Suzuki-gun as the regular top heels. For as much as the NOAH fans hated Suzuki-gun and blamed them for the bad business, and they didn’t pick business up the way hoped for, NOAH has fallen significantly without them.

For April only, New Japan was up 35 percent and All Japan was up 78 percent during the Champion Carnival tour, while NOAH was down 28 percent.


With a lot of questions regarding the future of the ROH/New Japan relationship, given New Japans’ worldwide expansion plans, it felt like the companies were close than ever publicly with the presentation of the War of the Worlds PPV show on 5/12 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.

The show featured plenty of talk on the air about New Japan shows. There was an in-ring ceremony where they announced New Japan was creating an IWGP United States championship, which featured officials from both companies, Naoki Sugabayashi, the CEO of New Japan, Tiger Hattori, one of their bookers and referees, George Carroll, who heads their U.S. operations, along with Joe Koff, the head of ROH and Cary Silkin, the former ROH owner and product ambassador.

ROH wrestler Jay Lethal was the first guy announced for the tournament. Hangman Page came out to confront him and was later announced for the tournament. It was announced as a round-robin tournament over 7/1 and 7/2. However we’ve since been told it’ll be a single elimination tournament. The idea seems to be to create a singles title for New Japan’s U.S. tours in 2018 as they have the idea of running a full-time West Coast territory.

Kevin Kelly on the commentary constantly pushed the Dominion show on 6/11 as well as the Long Beach shows. During the commentary, there were constant tie-ins between ROH and New Japan as far as storylines went to the point they came off like they were sister promotions booked by the same people. Bullet Club, in particular, a New Japan concept saw Adam Cole kicked out and Marty Scurll enter just days before the start of the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Kenny Omega, who has no ROH dates on his schedule, even though they showed his pinning ROH champion Christopher Daniels on the pre-show from Toronto, appeared on the screen as the leader of Bullet Club to lead to the angle where The Young Bucks and Scurll turned on Cole. This was also the culmination of an angle on The Young Bucks own “Being the Elite” show where Nick Jackson’s legit food poisoning a few weeks ago in storyline form was said to be that Cole had poisoned him. It was some silliness with the idea that they were setting up his leaving.

Cole appears to be WWE-bound based on this weekend, and the fact he’s expected to say Goodbye at PWG this week as well. He did a farewell at television. As far as when, that’s up to WWE which has been holding back on even giving offers to ROH talent thus far, but he’s a guy they’ve wanted for nearly two years, with the idea of being one of the top singles guys in NXT. His situation appears different from guys like Donovan Dijak, Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly who have been waiting for WWE to officially execute the contracts. Cole’s contract ended on 4/30 and he did his farewells a few weeks later while the others have been waiting.

As far as the show went, every match was good action and almost every match had good to great heat. The negative is that nine matches with the level of talent they had with a three-hour window saw almost every match feel rushed. The only match that felt like it was perfect length was Jay White vs. Will Ospreay, which could have gone longer but in the form it was, it was one of the best matches in North America this year. Ospreay has had plenty of matches that good all over the world, but White, a great technical wrestler and young guy with potential who hadn’t fully connected with the fans, may have made himself to the ROH audience with that performance. It pretty much tells you that White, who is 24 years old, has the potential to be a superstar at least as a worker going forward.

The show for match quality would have been better with seven longer matches, but there were also booking stories they wanted to tell and talent they probably wanted. Another negative was the number of chair shots to the head in the six-man title match. It was probably six or more. They weren’t brutal, but they weren’t soft either. Mark took most of them and most were throwing the chair at his head. But you could also tell with the crowd that it made them uneasy and it just feels so backward to do it now.

There were no title changes, although everyone pretty much knew the only title that could change hands was the ROH belt. The trios title match had Goto in it. The tag title match had Naito & Bushi as challengers. The TV title had Matt Sydal, who had just signed with TNA. There seemed to be a lot of expectation of Cody winning the title and announcing his signing with ROH. Instead, Christopher Daniels retained and they pushed the idea of, if Cody were to win, that he’s an outsider who works all over the world and not an ROH wrestler, so that seems to be the storyline going forward.

However, Daniels vs. Cody looks to be the main event for the 6/23 Best in the World PPV from Lowell, MA. The storyline is based off the finish, where Cody had Jay Lethal in the figure four leglock, but Daniels then hit the BME on Cody and pinned him. The gripe is that Lethal’s shoulders were down for more than three seconds while in the figure four, but the ref was looking for the submission and never counted the fall.

If you bought the PPV and tuned in early, they aired the Young Bucks & Omega match with Daniels & Kazarian & Hiroshi Tanahashi from 5/7 in Toronto. I wish I knew that since I tuned in just as it went to the finish.

The show also aired live on New Japan World, but was blocked outside of Japan. To show how bad the situation with marijuana in Japan is, New Japan World wouldn’t air the Scurll vs. Sydal match since Sydal was caught last year with marijuana.

Based on challenges made at the TV tapings in Philadelphia on 5/14, Daniels vs. Cody, a tag title match with the Young Bucks defending against War Machine and an eight-man tag with Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley & Jay White & Jonathan Gresham (Search & Destroy) vs. The Rebellion of Shane Taylor & Rhett Titus & Kenny King & Caprice Coleman with the losing team disbanding looked like they were all happening at Best in the World. There were teases of a six-man tag title with Bully Ray & Briscoes against Dalton Castle & The Boys, Silas Young vs. Jay Lethal and perhaps a strap match with Hangman Page vs. Frankie Kazarian.

Ultimo Guerrero and El Terrible from CMLL are also being brought in. It would have been better to send in a high flyer, since that’s what people want out of Luchadors, and have them work with Guerrero, who has been in ROH before.

Kushida beat Scurll in Philadelphia to win the TV title due to the distraction from Cole. They didn’t tease anything with Kushida past a possible rematch.

The show drew a sellout of 1,800 fans. During the broadcast they announced several times that it was the fastest sellout in company history.

1. Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia beat Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu. Taven pinned one of them by blocking a roll-up and holding onto T.K. O’Ryan’s crutch.

2. Kenny King & Rhett Titus & Shane Taylor beat Cheeseburger & Will Ferrara & Gedo. The Rebellion won with Cheeseburger losing the pinfall.

3. Dalton Castle won a four-way over Silas Young, Kushida and Bobby Fish in 7:48. Castle came out with about a dozen Boys at ringside. Beer City Bruiser came out with Young. Kushida came out wearing a New York Yankees baseball jersey and Young attacked him and put the boots to the jersey for easy heat. Very good action, but rushed. Kushida did a flip dive and had several armbar attempts. Castle tried the bang-a-rang on Fish once, but Fish reversed into a heel hook. Kushida did a moonsault on Fish to break it up. Kushida got the hoverboard lock on Fish but Young saved. Castle pinned Fish after the bang-a-rang. **3/4

4. Hangman Page pinned Frankie Kazarian in 4:43. This was wild from start-to-finish, but too short. Kazarian attacked Page before the bell. Kazarian did a dive, as well as a belly-to-belly on the floor right into a security guard. Page came back with a shooting star shoulderblock. Page spit in Kazarian’s face. Kazarian spit in Page’s face. Page blew his nose on Kazarian. Kazarian spit in Page’s mouth. Page then took the spit that didn’t get in his mouth and ate it. Kazarian got a cool near fall with a slingshot into a diamond cutter. The crowd was hot. Page used a low blow and cradle for a near fall. Later, Kazarian went for a sunset flip out of the corner but Page blocked it and grabbed the ropes to keep his balance for the pin. **½

5. Ray Rowe & Hanson, the IWGP tag team champions, won a three-way non-title match over Jonathan Gresham & Chris Sabin and Seiya Sanada & Evil in 8:47. Alex Shelley was in Gresham & Sabin’s corner. He looked good. Fast paced and very good, but rushed. Sanada tied Sabin and Gresham up in knots. Then he gave both a low dropkick. Rowe did a belly-to-belly on Sabin and Gresham overhead at the same time. Evil put a chair around Hanson’s neck and swung another chair like a baseball bat in a spot he does in every match. Sabin did a plancha on Rowe. Sanada did a running dive over the top on everyone. Hanson powerslammed Sabin and then did a tope on everyone while Rowe then pinned him. ***1/4

6. Will Ospreay pinned Jay White in 13:11. Ospreay went for a shooting star off the apron but White moved and Ospreay landed on his feet. Ospreay did a tope but White caught him and gave him a belly-to-belly into the guard rail. White got the Mutalock but Ospreay made the ropes. Ospreay did a standing shooting star press. He then went for a moonsault but White moved and Ospreay landed on his feet. White was really aggressive, far more than usual. They traded German suplexes. White did a standing Spanish fly. He went for a 450 but White moved and he landed on his feet. Ospreay dropkicked White and got a near fall with a code red. Then in a crazy spot, Ospreay did a space flying tiger drop, but White caught him and gave him a brainbuster on the apron. They traded more stuff including White doing a cobra clutch suplex. White got Ospreay in the crucifix position and was throwing elbows and it looked like a stoppage but Ospreay got out of danger. There was a standing ovation near the finish. Both were standing on the middle rope trading elbows. The finish saw Ospreay with a springboard shooting star press to the floor. He threw White in the ring and Ospreay used the Oscutter for the pin. They got another standing ovation. After the match, Punishment Martinez came out and gave Ospreay a kick and choke slammed White. Coming off that performance the fans wanted to see the handshake and hug but Martinez ruined it for them, which led to him getting some good heat. They pushed that Martinez had just lost to White in Hopkins, MN to tie this into a storyline since Martinez is likely to face both Ospreay and White going forward. ****½

7. Bully Ray & Mark & Jay Briscoe beat Hirooki Goto & Trent Baretta & Rocky Romero to retain the ROH six-man titles in a no DQ match 12:45. Bully came out for a promo to loud “ECW” chants and said it was now a no DQ match. Lots of crazy stuff. Jay did a tope and Mark did a moonsault off the top to the floor right away. Bully Ray was really over. He did a crossbody off the top onto all three opponents. He did hard chops on Romero and Baretta. There were all kinds of chair shots to the head and crowd then started chanting for tables. Romero did a chair assisted missile dropkick on Mark. Baretta did a running flip dive onto the Briscoes. Baretta threw another chair at Mark’s head. Jay and Baretta were trading elbows and Jay threw a chair at Baretta’s head. Mark did a blockbuster off the apron on Baretta. Bully and Goto were trading elbows. Romero did a flying knee off the apron that sent Bully over the barricade. Mark Briscoe broke up Strong Zero on Jay. Romero did the forever clothesline on Mark. Bully and Jay got Romero and Baretta on their shoulders and Mark came off the top with a double Doomsday device. Bully spread Goto’s legs for a sort of wazzup spot as Mark came off the top with an elbow to the groin. The finish saw Bully give Baretta a power bomb off the middle rope through a table, and then, with the Briscoes help, hit the 3-D on Romero and Jay pinned Romero. ***½

8. Marty Scurll retained the ROH TV title beating Matt Sydal in 11:24. The crowd loved Scurll. Colt Cabana had a funny line, when they talked about how Sydal has been wrestling in South America of late, that he had spent a lot of time in Japan (he was incarcerated there due to marijuana charges at the airport). This was another good match, but the prior two matches were so hot that it took a while for the crowd to get into this one. Sydal did his standing on the mat and jumping up and taking Scurll off the top rope with a Frankensteiner. Sydal also did double knees off the top for a near fall. Scurll did the broken fingers spot. Scurll went for a vertical suplex but Sydal turned it into a huracanrana. The finish saw Sydal go for the shooting star press, but Scurll got his knees up and locked in the chicken wing for the submission. ***½

9. Young Bucks retained the ROH tag titles over Tetsuya Naito & Bushi in 13:35. The Bucks mocked Naito by throwing the ROH tag titles in the air like they meant nothing. Naito spit in Nick’s face. Bushi did a tope on both. Nick went for a flip dive but actually flew over them. Naito was clowning around and got over big with the audience. Nick did a double foot stomp no Bushi and backstabber on Naito, and a swanton on Naito. Naito did a reverse Frankensteiner on Matt. Naito landed bad but worked the rest of the match like nothing went wrong. They set up the Meltzer driver but Bushi blew green mist into Matt’s eyes. Matt superkicked Naito, Bushi, Nick and referee Paul Turner. The crowd went nuts when he superkicked Turner. Matt then got a water bottle to wash out his eyes so he could see. Naito hit the Destino on Matt, but Nick broke up the pin with a swanton. Nick did a moonsault off the apron and Matt gave Naito a DDT on the apron. Nick did a 450 and Matt a standing moonsault on Bushi, who kicked out. Nick did a flip dive on Naito and then they did the Meltzer driver and Matt pinned Bushi. ****

10. Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Adam Cole in 13:32. This was pushed as one of ROH’s all-time greatest champions against New Japan’s all-time legend. After Cole did his “Adam Cole Baybay” deal, Tanahashi did “Tanahashi baybay.” Lots of dueling chants. Wrestling was good but it was not the level of a usual Tanahashi major singles match. The crowd was really into it. Cole got a near fall with a shining wizard to the back of the head. Tanahashi used a cross-arm German suplex for a near fall. Tanahashi went for his somersault off the middle rope, but missed. Later he did a high fly flow, but Cole got his knees up. Crowd was real hot. Tanahashi came off the top rope into a superkick by Cole and a running shining wizard for a near fall. Tanahashi came back to win clean with the high fly flow. Cole stayed in the ring and the crowd kind of knew this was it and they were supposed to wish him well. The Young Bucks came out and teased giving him a superkick. Then they hugged him and compared this to the curtain call given they were a block from Madison Square Garden. Then the lights went out and Kenny Omega appeared in a taped segment. Omega made fun of the curtain call and said he was disappointed with the Young Bucks. He said that the same man who tried to fire you, you are now showering with adulation. Omega said that Cole’s long tenure in Bullet Club has been long and storied, but it was a fairy tale, and in every fairy tale, there has to be a hero and a villain. Suddenly Scurll in his ring outfit showed up with Omega. Omega then fired Cole from Bullet Club. The lights went on and Scurll was in the ring with a Bullet Club umbrella. The Young Bucks then superkicked Cole and Scurll took off his T-shirt to reveal a Bullet Club T-shirt. They made a point of saying how Scurll will be the Bullet Club representative in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. Scurll then knocked out Cole with a hard umbrella shot. The Bucks then kissed Cole. ***1/4

11. Christopher Daniels retained the ROH title winning a three-way over Cody and Jay Lethal in 13:31. Lethal did two topes early. He started selling his leg briefly, but then continued and stopped selling, like you’d do with a legit injury that is hurt but in a fight you don’t keep limping. What’s notable is this was a worked injury, because it led to moves including the figure four finish, but to try and make it seem like it wasn’t worked, neither man started working on Lethal’s knee until the figure four spot. Cody did a missile dropkick on both. Cody tried a figure four on Daniels and crotched Lethal on the post. Daniels drive Cody into the barricade and used an Arabian moonsault. Cody then used a dragon screw on Lethal to work on the knee. Lots of near falls. Daniels did a springboard Arabian moonsault on both to the floor. They traded big moves on each other. Cody did a crossroads on Daniels that didn’t look good. Lethal came off the top with an elbow on Daniels but Cody broke up the pin. Lethal whipped Cody into Daniels, knocking Daniels off the apron and through a table that Cody had set up. Cody kicked Lethal, who knocked into ref Todd Sinclair. Cody gave Lethal a low blow and went for a disaster kick, but Lethal evaded it and hit a diamond cutter for a near fall. Lethal hit a superkick and went for the Lethal injection, but Cody turned that into crossroads. Lethal kicked out of Cody’s finisher. That’s when Cody put on the figure four and had Lethal pinned, but Daniels came off the top rope with the BME on Cody for the pin. This was a good match, but didn’t have the heat that several of the matches had earlier, and never hit the level that you expect an ROH title match main event on PPV to reach. ***


Stipe Miocic and Joanna Jedrzejczyk couldn’t have looked more impressive, but in very different ways, as they retained their respective championships in the top bouts of UFC 211.

Miocic added Junior Dos Santos, the last fighter to beat him, to his consecutive first round knockout streak that also includes Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem. Before that, he had stopped Mark Hunt in the fifth round.

Dos Santos beat Miocic via close decision on December 13, 2014, but it’s clear Dos Santos’ career at the top was ruined by the two terrible beatings he took from Cain Velasquez.

The Miocic win would seem to set up a title match with Velasquez. The two are actually the two best heavyweights in UFC history, but Velasquez’s career was greatly hindered by constant shoulder, knee and back problems and he’s only fought twice in the last three years.

Jedrzejczyk set a UFC championship match record by landing 225 significant strikes in taking apart Jessica Andrade, who was thought to be her toughest possible test. That broke the record of 220 set in her win over Valerie Letourneau, and is second most (behind Nate Diaz landing 238 strikes on Donald Cerrone in a 2011 fight) in UFC history. She also set a record with landing 75 low kicks.

In going to 14-0, Jedrzejczyk has proven to be the best woman fighter from a technical standpoint in the company, and her offensive striking technique rivals some of the best of the men.

In both cases, the question becomes what turns a heavyweight knockout artist and a charismatic and charming, and brutally effective woman superstar into major draws. The answer, at least at first, would be the right opponent. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather went from so-so draws to megadraws after beating Oscar De La Hoya. Conor McGregor turned the corner with Jose Aldo. Georges St-Pierre had Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. Anderson Silva had Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort.

Jedrzejczyk seems to have nobody on the horizon. Her next fight will likely be the Rose Namajunas, which it would be a big upset if she doesn’t dominate. After that, it would be the winner of the 6/3 fight with Claudia Gadelha (who she beat twice but they were the two closest fights of her career and it was conditioning that won both of them) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (who she beat four of five rounds, but was legitimately in trouble for a short period in that fight). After that may be a move to 125, and perhaps facing some current 135-pound fighters moving down.

The 5/14 show at the American Airlines Center in Dallas was the company’s strongest show of the year on paper, and mostly delivered. The prelims, moved to FX because FS 1 had a NASCAR race, were as good as any PPV prelims in years.

There was a quick knockout by James Vick over Marco Polo Reyes, followed by a heavyweight dictionary definition slobberknocker with Chase Sherman finally stopping Rashad Coulter. That was followed by an equally as good technical display where Jason Knight beat Chas Skelly. And then, in a strong marquee fight for prelims, Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier had a back-and-forth war, with an unfortunate no contest ending.

Poirier seemed to be ahead, but both men had the other in trouble multiple times. Alvarez threw a knee to the head of Poirier when he had one hand down. The move would be legal in most states under the recent rule changes, but Texas has not adopted the new rules, so it was illegal. But Poirier went down, and Alvarez delivered a second blatantly illegal knee under old or new rules. Poirier was ruled unable to continue. With two illegal knees in a row, it should have been a disqualification, but Herb Dean ruled it a no contest.

The rules are that if a foul is accidental that ends the fight, it’s a no contest. If it’s intentional, it’s a DQ. Very clearly Alvarez was intending to throw the knees. The first knee was intentional. It is possible Alvarez didn’t at that split second register the different rules, but ignorance of the rules, however unfortunate that is (and this was a key argument as to why rules need to be uniform throughout the country) is not a defense for breaking them. Either way, the second knee was also intentional and there was no question Poirier was down at the time the knee was thrown. Dean’s argument is that Alvarez wasn’t intending to commit a foul, as opposed to intending to throw a knee in a position when such a knee is a foul.

Either way, it makes sense for a rematch since fans didn’t get to see a conclusion in a fight that was exciting until its conclusion. Alvarez has already talked that Poirier was looking for a way out. However, Poirier was diagnosed with a concussion, likely from the final knee, so there is no definitive time for him to return but he is targeting November according to manager Robert Roveta, as told to MMA Fighting.

Demian Maia won a split decision over Jorge Masvidal, which theoretically should earn him a welterweight title shot at Tyron Woodley. Maia has now won seven in a row, the last five over Neil Magny, Gunner Nelson, Matt Brown, Carlos Condit and Masvidal. The Maia problem remains the same. He’s still Maia and not a draw, and champion Tyron Woodley can make far more money against Georges St-Pierre, Nick or Nate Diaz. While Maia got a split decision, when it came to media scores, he got 100 percent, with 43 percent giving him all three rounds.

Another key fight was Frankie Edgar’s one-sided destruction of Yair Rodriguez. Rodriguez was coming off an impressive win over B.J. Penn, and the question after the fight was if Rodriguez was really that great or if Penn had fallen so badly. Rodriguez would have almost surely gotten a featherweight title shot with a win.

Should Max Holloway beat Jose Aldo for the title on 6/3 in Rio de Janeiro, Edgar is likely to get a shot at Holloway. If Aldo wins, it’s more of a question since Aldo has beaten Edgar twice. But Aldo also has beaten the other top contenders, Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson (granted that was in 2009 in an eight second knockout), and Edgar destroyed Swanson when they fought.

The show drew a sellout of 17,834 fans paying $2,662,645.

The prelims did 1,148,000 viewers on average, the best so far this year, and up 31 percent from the average coming into the fight for 2017. Last year, the only shows that beat that number were the five shows that topped 1 million buys. The peak, for Alvarez vs. Poirier, was 1,360,000 viewers.

The show was the highest rated show on cable in the Male 35-49 demo for the day and the second largest cable audience for a UFC event this year, trailing the 1,158,000 viewers for the Fight Night headlined by Chan Sung Jung vs. Dennis Bermudez.

The pre-fight show on FX did 522,000 viewers, the tenth most watched pre-fight show since the FOX deal was signed in 2011. The post-fight show did 329,000 viewers on FS 1. For a comparison, for UFC 210 (Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Rumble Johnson), those numbers were 723,000 for the prelims, 268,000 for the pre-fight show and 160,000 for the post-fight show.

Yet, early indications are that PPV numbers are almost identical. Based on preliminary numbers, the last three UFC shows (UFC 209 was headlined by Woodley vs. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson) all did in the neighborhood of 300,000 buys.

Sherman and Coulter, for their fight, along with Knight and Miocic, for their finishes, got $50,000 performance bonuses.

1. Gadzhimurad Antigulov (20-4) beat Joachim Christensen (14-5) in 2:21 of a light heavyweight fight. Antigulov got a takedown, landed knees to the body, and finished Christensen with a choke.

2. Enrique Barzola (14-3-1) beat Gabriel Benitez (19-7) on straight scores of 29-28 in a featherweight fight. Benitez won the first round even though Barzola scored four takedowns including several cool slams. Barzola slammed him down to start the second round, then did a spinebuster slam and ended with four takedowns in that round as well, but Benitez didn’t dominate the standout in round two. Barzola took him down to start round three and worked for a choke. He kept him down much of the round. Benitez got up late and Barzola knocked him down just before time ran out.

3. Cortney Casey (7-4) beat Jessica Aguilar (19-6) on straight 30-27 scores in a women’s strawweight fight. Aguilar was considered No. 1 in the world in this division a few years ago, but injuries and a higher level of competition saw the field pass her by. Casey was much better standing. Aguilar got two first round takedowns but Casey’s striking was too fast for her. Aguilar took Casey down to start the second round but the same thing happened. Casey landed good punches and Aguilar was in trouble and heavily bloodied up.

4. James Vick (11-1) beat Marco Polo Reyes (8-4) in 2:39 of a lightweight fight. Both were swinging and Vick, who is 6-foot-3 at 155, had the reach and dropped him with a right to the jaw and finished with punches on the ground. Vick cut a promo saying that he’s now 7-1 in UFC, that UFC should start promoting him. He said he wanted top 15 guys, and said in specific he wanted the winner of the upcoming Kevin Lee vs. Michael Chiesa fight on 6/25 in Oklahoma City. He also said he came out unscathed and if one of them gets hurt, he’ll be ready to step in.

5. Chase Sherman (10-3) beat Rashad Coulter (8-2) at 3:06 of the second round in a heavyweight fight. This is the early candidate for the Steve Bosse vs. Sean O’Connell award for brawl of the year. Coulter is from Dallas so the crowd was really into this from the start. Both are former football players. Sherman was landing more punches and Coulter was getting in counters whenever it looked like he was in trouble. The second round was wild. Coulter was landing punches. He got Coulter down and was landing punches from the top. Coulter got back up and threw punches. Sherman had destroyed Coulter’s legs with low kicks to where he could hardly move, and then barely stand up. But Coulter would still throw and started landing big punches. Sherman came back with punches. It looked like Sherman was out of gas as Coulter took over. Sherman then landed an elbow for the knockout. Sherman in his interview asked for a $50,000 bonus. Usually when you do that, it psychologically works against you. But this fight was so good he could get away with it.

6. Jason Knight (20-2) beat Chas Skelly (17-3) at :39 of the third round in a featherweight fight. Both of these guys have looked great in recent fights. Skelly is from Arlington, TX so he was a big favorite. Knight was landing clean shots but Skelly took him down. Knight went for a triangle. The two were reversing back-and-forth on the mat. Knight tried a gogoplata and used it to reverse to the top. Knight also went for a Kimura. Skelly got up and landed punches but Knight took him down to end the first round. In the second round, Knight took him down but let him back up. Knight was doing better with the standing and took him down into side control. Both landed big shots to end the second round. Knight was bleeding badly at this point. Knight knocked Skelly down to start the third round and landed punches on the ground before it was stopped. The stoppage was late. Knight had a big gash under his right eye. He also said that he heard Skelly’s arm pop in the first round and put over how tough he was to continue the fight from there. He said Skelly had more heart than anyone he’s ever faced. It was later confirmed that Skelly did suffer a broken arm in the first round and kept fighting.

7. Dustin Poirier (21-5, 1 no contest) went to a no contest with Eddie Alvarez (28-5, 1 no contest) at 4:12 of the second round in a lightweight fight. Alvarez got a big reaction as people saw him as legit star. Poirier was landing a lot of kicks. He went for a guillotine but Alvarez got out. Alvarez got a takedown and went for a guillotine. In the second round, Alvarez hurt Poirier with punches and shot in for a takedown, but Poirier went for a guillotine. Alvarez got out and tried another takedown, but Poirier was punching him. Both were landing big shots. Poirier had Alvarez just about finished, and then Alvarez came back and hurt Poirier. Alvarez then threw the two illegal knees and the fight was waved off and ruled a no contest.

8. David Branch (21-3) beat Krzysztof Jotko (19-2) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a middleweight fight. 85 percent of media scores were for Branch, who was the World Series of Fighting middleweight and light heavyweight champion, in his UFC debut. Media scores went 10 percent for Jotko and five percent were even. Branch got a takedown and kept Jotko down. Jotko got up but Branch controlled him and was throwing knees to the hamstring. Jotko landed some good strikes in the second round to win, even though Branch got two takedowns in the round. The third round saw the crowd boo both guys. Branch took him down and kept him against the fence. Jotko got up and landed some as the crowd again heavily booed the fight.

9. Frankie Edgar (21-5-1) beat Yair Rodriguez (11-2) via ref stoppage after the second round in a featherweight fight. Edgar took him down in the first round and landed hard punches and elbows throughout the round. This was a 10-8 dominant round. Rodriguez had very bad swelling under the left eye, which only got worse during the second round. Rodriguez landed a nice spinning kick, but Edgar took him down. Rodriguez was working for a kneebar but Edgar landed all kinds of punches and started dropping elbows under the left eye, making the swelling worse. At the end of the round, Rodriguez’s left eye was swollen almost completely shut and the fight was stopped. Edgar was in tears in his interview. One of his good friends, UFC fighter Nick Catone’s two-year-old son Nicholas Jr. had just passed away. He had gone to bed on 5/11 and never woke up the next day. Edgar said that he dedicated the fight to Nicholas and he said he just wanted to go home and hug his kids.

10. Demian Maia (25-6) beat Jorge Masvidal (32-12) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a welterweight fight. Maia got an early takedown and got Masvidal’s back. He was controlling Masvidal for most of the round. Masvidal reversed to the top and landed a lot of punches just as the round ended. Masvidal had Maia in trouble and the horn may have saved Maia. In the second round, Masvidal was landing kicks to the leg and body, seemingly at will, while stopping all of Maia’s takedowns. Masvidal was taking him apart when Maia finally got him down and got Masvidal’s back, and was landing punches from that position as the round ended. In the third round, Masvidal was again landing at will with good head kicks. With 2:27 left, Maia took him down again and controlled Masvidal on the ground for the rest of the round. What’s notable here is that Masvidal clearly did more physical damage than Maia all three rounds, but Maia outgrappled him long enough that he got two rounds on most scorecards.

11. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0) beat Jessica Andrade (16-6) on scores of 50-45, 50-44 and 50-45 to retain the UFC strawweight title. The story of the fight was that each round was the same. Jedrzejczyk landed kicks and punches almost at will. She was far too fast, too technical, and controlled the fight. Andrade did have some success in the first round with some hard punches and a couple of takedowns, but still didn’t win the round. Andrade got a second round takedown but it meant nothing since Jedrzejczyk got right up and picked her apart. Jedrzejczyk didn’t get tired even though landing so many blows and it was really a virtuoso performance. Andrade after the fight asked her girlfriend to marry her.

12. Stipe Miocic (17-2) beat Junior Dos Santos (18-5) in 2:22 to retain the UFC heavyweight title. They traded punches early. Dos Santos was very wary of Miocic’s power. Miocic moved forward with punches and connected with a hard right to the jaw that was the key blow, and finished him with punches on the ground.


Dragon Lee gave IWGP jr. champion Hiromu Takahashi his first loss since returning to Japan to open up the 2017 Best of the Super Juniors tournament on 5/17 at Korakuen Hall.

The first of four Korakuen Hall shows in 12 days, the only show that features everyone in the tournament in a singles match, drew a sellout of 1,729 fans.

Every match was good, although only two–the two expected beforehand, hit great, as an opening night they brought in just about the best in-ring regular U.K. feud as Marty Scurll debuted beating defending champion Will Ospreay, and the best in-ring Mexico feud of recent years with Lee and Takahashi in the main event spot.

The match was great, but very different from their previous matches. It was smarter worked and better paced. With no ramp and stage, a lot of their Arena Mexico spots can’t be duplicated in Japan. Unlike their match earlier this year when it appeared their goal was to make sure they weren’t wrestling by the age of 30, this toned way down on dangerous spots and was paced a little slower. It still had some crazy stuff and the chemistry these guys have is among the best in wrestling. Really, with the exception of Tanahashi vs. Okada, which is the rivalry of the generation, and Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn, these two probably have had as good a long-term singles feud as there’s been in pro wrestling in the last decade.

Lee beating Takahashi was predictable since Takahashi beat him to defend his title earlier this year and Gedo likes to book attention getting upsets on the opening night of his tournaments. Scurll beating Ospreay made sense since it was Scurll’s debut.

The big surprise, which again shows how small the world is, is that a lot of the crowd knew Scurll and did the “whoop, whoop” for him from when he came out, and many others did before the match was over. A lot of the crowd knew the chicken wing submission and the breaking fingers spot, and he was over from the moment he came out.

New Japan put the show up live for free, although didn’t advertise that until several hours before the show, in an attempt to get both Japanese and foreign fans into the tournament so they’d be interested and want to subscribe.

There were no other major stories on the first night, which opened with Jushin Liger, who probably got the biggest reaction in his final tournament, losing to Taka Michinoku. That doesn’t preclude Liger being a major part of the tournament, but one of the big keys in the 1996 G-1, Riki Choshu’s final tournament, which was so big mainstream was because he beat IWGP champion Shinya Hashimoto on the first night.

1. A block: Taka Michinoku pinned Jushin Liger in 8:33. Liger did a flip bodyblock off the apron. Michinoku did a long crossface submission spot and Liger did a tremendous job teasing tapping. He was tapping in the air but since his hand never hit the mat it didn’t count. He finally made the ropes. Liger’s selling in this match was incredible. Michinoku kicked out of a Liger bomb and won with an eye poke and a cradle. ***

2. B block: Volador Jr. pinned Tiger Mask in 9:48. Volador did a running flip dive early in the match and looked to have hurt his left elbow and shoulder. He does that move constantly in Mexico and never gets hurt and on the opening day of the tour after a couple of week vacation, he got hurt on it. You could see in his face how mad he was. Tiger reversed an armdrag off the top rope and got a near fall with a Tiger driver. Tiger did a tombstone, but missed a diving head-butt. Volador won with a top rope Spanish fly. He was holding the left shoulder and elbow after the match. ***1/4

3. A block: Ricochet pinned Taichi in 8:56. Taichi stalled for several minutes like he was Larry Zbyszko’s son. Ricochet finally had enough of it and hit a tope about two minutes in. Miho Abe, Taichi’s groupie, distracted the ref and Taichi was choking Ricochet with his mic stand and threw Ricochet into the post. The crowd was strong into Ricochet’s comeback. He won with a jumping kick and a shooting star press. **3/4

4. B block: ACH pinned Bushi in 10:47. Bushi opened strong with a plancha into a huracanrana. Bushi did a DDT on the apron. Bushi used a backstabber off the ropes and then came off the top rope into a dropkick by ACH. ACH won with a hard lariat and the Midnight driver, which is like a Michinoku driver. ***1/4

5. B block: Desperado pinned Kushida in 11:43. Kushida came out with the ROH TV title belt. This match started out hotter than anything up to this point. Desperado did a tope con giro and threw Kushida into chairs and jabbed a pen into his brain. Kushida, who technically has to be one of the top wrestlers in the world, looked so good in his comeback. Desperado used a submission which was a standing stretch muffler with double armbars. Kushida made the ropes. They were trading elbows while sitting on the top rope. Both ended up standing on the top rope and Kushida took him off the top with a tremendous flying armbar. Desperado made the ropes. The finish took it down a notch. Kushida finally got the hoverboard lock but there was a ref bump. Desperado was tapping like crazy but there was no ref. Kushida went to help up the ref. Desperado got the ROH TV belt and went for a belt shot, but Kushida ducked and hit a Pele kick. But Desperado came back and used a pedigree on the belt. Kushida kicked out of that, but Desperado followed with his usual finisher, the Guitarra del Angel, and got the pin. ***1/4

6. A block: Marty Scurll beat Will Ospreay in 12:11. Just super while it lasted. Ospreay went for a shooting star but Scurll got his feet up. Scurll superkicked him off the apron. They went back-and-forth with elbows. Scurll body slammed Ospreay into the ropes and he landed almost on his head. Scurll went for the chicken wing but Ospreay escaped, went for a standing shooting star, but Scurll got his knees up. Ospreay used a flip into a stunner and a space flying tiger drop. Scurll did the broken fingers spot. Scurll clotheslined Ospreay, who did the spin bump but landed on his feet and hit the spinning kick. Ospreay did Randy Orton’s RKO pose and actually tweeted Orton a few hours before the show to tell him to watch this match. Somehow I’m guessing Orton didn’t do that. He went for the Oscutter, but Scurll moved and caught him in mid-air with the chicken wing for the submission. ****1/4

7. A block: Ryusuke Taguchi pinned Yoshinobu Kanemaru in 11:27. Taguchi did a lot of his usual early comedy. He did the triple leapfrog and drop down spot. He did a spot where he kept running the ropes until he got exhausted and collapsed. Then he did it again. Kanemaru was kicking Taguchi’s ass, which takes away his big weapon. Taguchi still came back with the hip attacks. Kanemaru is one of those guys who is technically excellent but lacks charisma, so people don’t notice him, like Brad Armstrong or Fit Finlay used to be. He did a great tornado DDT, followed by a reverse DDT and finally came off the top rope and gave Taguchi a DDT. His timing was perfect on everything. Taguchi got Kanemaru in the ankle lock. Michinoku jumped on the apron and distracted the ref and Kanemaru broke the ankle lock with a low kick. But as Taguchi fell backwards from the low blow, he landed on Kanemaru’s groin so both were down. Taguchi kicked Kanemaru into Michinoku, knocking him off the apron and Taguchi got the pin with a small package. The finish got over great. After the match, Tomoyuki Oka was told to put the ice pack on Taguchi’s groin since he was still selling the low blow. The crowd laughed at that one. ***1/4

8. A block: Dragon Lee pinned Hiromu Takahashi in 18:56. Very intense excellent main event. Both started by chopping the hell out of each other forever. Lee finally got the better of that. Lee did the spot where he went from the ring, jumped over the top rope, gave Takahashi a huracanrana while Takahashi was on the apron, sending him to the floor. He followed with a running flip dive over the top. You could see that they toned everyone down on dives as there were way less on the show than you’d think. The crowd was going crazy for Lee. Takahashi used an overhead belly-to-belly into the turnbuckles and then went after Lee’s mask. Lee did a sunset flip power bomb to the floor. I’m not a fan of that spot because of the high concussion risk, but that said, Lee flew so high in doing it that it looked great. Lee did a power bomb for a near fall but missed the Del Rio double foot stomp spot. Takahashi then set Lee up for the Del Rio spot but Lee did the sit up from that position and Takahashi missed. Then they traded German suplexes. They traded six straight German suplexes until both were knocked loopy. When they recovered, they went back to trading hard chops. Lee did the Del Rio double foot stomp but Takahashi was in a backwards position draped off the top rope so he nailed him in the back and not the chest for a great near fall. Takahashi did a Death Valley bomb into the corner and went back after the mask. They traded some more moves and got lost at one point. But they got it back together and Takahashi used a Canadian Destroyer off the top rope that Lee kicked out of. Takahashi did another Death Valley bomb into the turnbuckles and a wheelbarrow German suplex. Lee finally hit a Death Valley bomb into the turnbuckles of his own and got the pin with a Phoenix plex. Lee then closed the show with an interview in Spanish where he vowed to win the tournament. ****1/4


“Pretty Boy” Doug Somers, a journeyman wrestler for two decades who was best known for his tag team with Buddy Rose in the AWA, passed away on 5/16 at the age of 65.

No details are available at press time regarding his death, which was confirmed by his family.

Born Douglas Duane Somerson on September 22, 1951, he grew up a wrestling fan in the Minneapolis area. He got his start in the business working on the ring crew with George Gadaski and John Sutton (who later became Sir Oliver Humperdink), as well as taking tickets and then became a referee before starting as a wrestler in 1971.

His career took him all over the world, with his best success in the 70s coming while working in West Texas, and in the Oklahoma territory run by Leroy McGuirk toward the end of its run. Somerson had one point married Mike McGuirk, Leroy’s daughter, who later became WWE’s first woman ring announcer.

He was best known for his 1986-87 run in the AWA, where he teamed with Buddy Rose, as the tag team known as The Playboy and The Pretty Boy, managed by Sherri Martel, and feuded with the Midnight Rockers, Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty. The feud started before either team were champions. They started out low on the shows.

They wrestled on the April 20, 1986, WrestleRock show in Minneapolis at the MetroDome before 16,000 fans. At the time it was the fourth match on a 16-match show, but shortly after, the four were often main eventing or second from the top in the promotion.

Rose & Somers defeated Curt Hennig & Scott Hall on May 17, 1986, via count out in Hammond, IN at an AWA TV taping to win the AWA world tag team titles. They dropped the titles on January 17, 1987, to Michaels & Jannetty in St. Paul.

The Rose & Somers vs. Rockers feud put Michaels & Jannetty on the map, as the AWA aired on ESPN at the time. One of their matches, a bloodbath, was put on several Michaels’ DVDs by WWE and was considered among the best matches of the 1980s.

After the combination broke up and Rose and Martel left the AWA, Somers remained, teaming with partners like Buddy Wolff and Kevin Kelly (Kevin Wacholz), who later became Nailz in WWF. Somers & Kelly had one of the last matches of the legendary tag team of Ray Stevens & Nick Bockwinkel, on April 27, 1987, in Salt Lake City shortly before Bockwinkel retired and went to work as an agent for the WWF.

Somers had a second brief run as AWA tag team champions in 1987. The Russian team of Boris Zhukov & Soldat Ustinov held the titles, when Zhukov was signed by WWE and left the promotion without dropping the belts. On an October 11, 1987, show at the Mid South Coliseum in Memphis, Ustinov & Somers came in as champions to lose the titles to Jerry Lawler & Bill Dundee.

Somers worked some with WCW and WWF in prelims after the AWA was just about over, and his full-time career ended in 1992, although he did independent shows as late as 2012.

In 2011, Somerson failed suit against the WWE, as well as Vince and Linda McMahon, regarding usage of his likeness on four DVDs and the Classics on Demand service. The company’s argument on the case was that it was a news service and that Somerson was a personality they were covering in different stories. Somerson argued that the stories on him weren’t factual since they were pro wrestling stories and claiming their website was not a news service but for personal gain, and usage of his image in their articles was marketing and not news. In 2013, the case was thrown out of court with the ruling that Somerson couldn’t claim invasion of privacy with them covering his pro wrestling career, since he was on television and thus no longer a private person.

Among the territories he worked during his career were the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tri-State (McGuirk), Central States, West Texas, Southwest, Oregon, Tennessee, Global in Texas and All Japan.


The age-old multi-generational debate over the evolution of pro wrestling made its way to the Internet once again this past week. It started with Rip Rogers and evidently opening up old wounds between Randy Orton and Mark “Bully Ray” LoMonaco, and led to a new T-shirt design by Will Ospreay.

The crux of the deal, which was a big topic last year at this time after the Ricochet vs. Ospreay match on May 27, 2016, at Korakuen Hall, at the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, is about acrobatic moves and modern pro wrestling. The bout, one of the most talked about of the year, getting worldwide attention despite it being on a minor card in Japan. It placed sixth in last year’s Match of the Year balloting. Some people including some former industry stars were heavily critical of it. It even turned into an angle where Ospreay worked with Vader in London, although that turned into a disaster when Vader wouldn’t do the job in their match as was originally agreed to, and then Ospreay all but said so on the mic after the match was over.

Anyone who has followed wrestling for any length of time has seen major changes in the in-ring product and these same arguments have gone on probably since the beginning of time. Strangler Lewis in the late 1920s, when he was still an active top star, was critical of Gus Sonnenberg, a former college and pro football star, bringing the flying tackle into pro wrestling since such a move wouldn’t be realistic in a real wrestling match. But Sonnenberg over the next few years became an incredible drawing card, and he and Lewis set the all-time U.S. gate record battling over the world title in Boston.

Even before that, Farmer Burns, more than 100 years ago, was complaining about the modern wrestlers using moves that he would never use because they wouldn’t work in a real match. In time, little of pro wrestling looked like a real fight, and when it does today, many veterans and long-time fans will complain because they aren’t doing the art form of pro wrestling and are instead imitating real fighting. Those same people will criticize modern moves and styles as not making sense, forgetting that most of what takes place in any style of pro wrestling of the last 65 years doesn’t make sense. Indeed, when the complaints regard being realistic, it is often longing for rules and a style that is also not at all realistic. Quivering and selling one move for minutes is far less realistic than getting right back up. That’s not to say the taught form of traditional selling is wrong or passe. It’s not. Without it, wrestling loses a lot and moves mean less. Great selling is an art form. But timing the audience well and getting a reaction, and sometimes big reactions from unique forms of selling or even not selling at the right moment, is also part of the art form.

But so often, particularly of late, I see guys doing great selling and those who watch it and don’t understand it, because it’s different from the patterned wrestling selling of their childhood, will complain that the guys aren’t selling when their selling is obvious, more realistic, and effective as hell in getting their opponent and the match over. But it’s a new style of selling is very different from the pro wrestling style of 30 or 40 years ago.

Having lived through the late 70s, when the first round of the classic Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat matches, long fast-paced bouts with a lot of big bumps and no down time were at the time decried by some veterans as being examples of two guys who don’t know how to work, tells you how these stories always end up when viewed in hindsight. Shawn Michaels got some of the same criticism, and even before him, some veterans said the acrobatics of Ricky Morton were hiding his lack of wrestling ability, although to be fair, many gave them their due as well. But today they are considered some of the greatest workers of all-time.

At the same time, as the style involves bigger and bigger bumps, and more high risk moves, the injury rate does escalate. There is a price to pay. Another aspect of the natural evolution of the business is Mick Foley and Sean Waltman, who 25 years ago in their very different ways were taking extreme risks in the ring to make their name.

In both cases, in what was a very cosmetic business around 1990, they were two fans who grew up loving the business and badly wanting to make it. Foley had size, but didn’t have the right look or body to advance past mid-level, even while having great talking ability.

Waltman, because he was so skinny, by the standards of that era, wouldn’t have even been able to get a job. People forget how much the business was size-based. The best example was in 1989, when Terry Funk brought in Eddy Guerrero from El Paso to work a match on WCW Saturday Night. Guerrero was a natural worker and great high flyer and they had a television match far better than almost all television bouts of the era. However, WCW decided to pass on Guerrero, thinking he was too small to hire or be a player. Guerrero instead ended up several years later wrestling in AAA, where he became a major star, got bookings in Japan, and ended up as a major U.S. star many years later when he got a lot more muscular and the size restrictions changed.

Foley got himself over taking crazy bumps on concrete, doing anything to be noticed, although his interviews were also a major part of his success. Waltman got over at first by high heavy risk style. Both, decades later, have second thoughts on what they did given the physical issues later in life that their styles resulted in them having. But at the same time, they also never would have had successful wrestling careers if they wrestled like the older wrestlers advised. Foley, now 51, having just undergone major hip replacement surgery, recognizes the risks got him to become a bigger star and making more money in wrestling than he probably ever would have thought possible when he started, but at the same time, regrets taking so many bumps on concrete floors at small shows starting out, which took away from the end of his career and what would have been some of his biggest money making years.

As time has gone on, wrestlers have gotten smaller, faster, work a more athletic style and have taken more risks. Some want smaller guys to work like 250 pound guys did 25 years ago, but that’s inherently silly. In the 50s, the junior heavyweights worked faster and did more than heavyweights. Watch a smaller man boxing, wrestling match or MMA fight and it’s based on speed and less on power. And the world has become more action oriented. In both boxing and MMA, the heavyweights are no longer the biggest draws, when in boxing the heavyweights always were for much of history, and in MMA the light heavies and heavies were until the emergence of Georges St-Pierre.

In the natural evolution, wrestling is in that sense, behind the times and still somewhat stuck in an era that everyone else moved past.

Doing spectacular moves is what has gotten most of the smaller wrestlers over. But they also take more risks than wrestlers of any previous generation, who have the experience and knowledge of all of their injuries to teach warnings of that style. Waltman said it best when he said that the veterans tried to teach him to cut a lot of what he did out to preserve his body, and he didn’t listen. He said he now tells that to the young wrestlers today, with full knowledge that they, like he in his youth, will not listen, but he still thinks it’s his veteran duty.

Rogers (Mark Sciarra, 63) trains wrestlers out of Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville. He played a part in a number of today’s top stars training, including John Cena, Dave Bautista, Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton. He regularly posts on the Internet lessons he learned about pro wrestling in the 70s and 80s, when he went from place-to-place as a journeyman wrestler who was a sound psychological worker.

Another wrestler sent him a post, which he then sent out, which read: “Every Indy match now: handshake, drawn out move exchange, this is awesome chant, strike exchange, dive, no sell Indy strongstyle, dive, more strikes, no sells, dive, flippy floppy sequence, dive, hit everyone with each other’s finisher, then Humpty Dumpty, we all fall down. Fight forever chant, rinse and repeat until every move is useless and means nothing, dive, take unsafe shot that looks like shit and hurts like hell then roll-up finish. Handshake and hug after match. Everyone’s hand raised. All these guys chant. Go home and type on social media thanking your opponent and company for the match and telling others they should book these guys...dive.”

The Young Bucks read that and joked that this sounds like a great match. Within days, Ospreay had a “dive” T-shirt marketed. Rogers then had a “no dive” t-shirt marketed.

Actually, when I read that, I found it funny. The chants like this is awesome, fight forever and all these guys, which started out as fans being moved in tremendous matches, became cliches where sometimes you get it before the match has even started. In the end, it’s people having fun chanting at pro wrestling, which is what a lot of pro wrestling in North America and the U.K. has turned into. The star indie wrestlers know what spots to do and when and how to do them, to get those chants, just like the WWE stars do. For all the people talking about how excessive dives is some indie thing and an example of why WWE is better, the reality is, watch Raw every week. It’s almost like it’s a rule that you do a dive for no reason other than to set up a commercial break.

Moves that are silly and choreographed done to elicit major crowd pops has been a part of wrestling for generations. Pro wrestling rarely looks like a real fight, and when it does, some will criticize it for being too dangerous or not appealing to enough people. Some will criticize at the other extreme, feeling things are too choreographed. Everyone has their tastes and is entitled to them. Wrestlers, at least the good ones, are going to learn what works to get over to the audiences they are playing before. Often the style you grew up with is the one you wish would still be the one used all the time, but that’s simply not possible. But as the style evolves and gets more dangerous, there is a very important issue of physical punishment.

The top independent wrestlers of today, who travel hard, often flying every weekend either to or from Europe, or Japan, don’t work as many dates as their predecessors. But they test the limits of their bodies even more. Most do a ton early, making their names, and when they are stars, can do less and make it mean more. They get their own trademark spots. They often get over, just like young wrestlers in every era, by doing things that based on the mentality and psychology of the previous generation, would be as wrong as wrong could be. Yet, it works today. Criticizing the Young Bucks for doing too many superkicks is as silly as criticizing Dusty Rhodes for doing too many bionic elbows. Has it created an audience that wants too much and expects too much? Probably. Are there limits. We all have them as far as too much, and it varies by night and building because today’s audience, and frankly audiences in many eras, varied by night and building.

But it’s also created a fairly thriving industry that is getting stronger on the grassroots level even if it has less weekly mainstream viewers, and is allowing people to be able to make nice livings and work all over the world that a few years ago would be struggling to survive and holding on just hoping one of the major promotions may give them a chance.

Like with every generation, there will be guys who make it from this world to become big stars and make a lot of money. There will be others, who today are shunned by some for not knowing how to work, that will be regarded by the next generation the same way Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat and Shawn Michaels are regarded today, as the innovators who had the classic matches of their youth. And then they’ll get old and see young guys making mistakes learning and feel they don’t know how to work. The cycle is likely forever, but the style within the cycle will always be changing. History tells us it will become faster and with more high flying and acrobatics, but on the flip side, due to MMA, there can also be a wider variety of believable submissions worked in. And sometimes what’s old is new, such as people reviving moves from another generation that ran their course, and today, are things that would appear to be innovative.

LoMonaco then posted a photo of him coming off the top rope with a crossbody onto three guys.

Orton saw it and then joked, “Lol, there is a difference between a young hungry talent diving and an old outta shape ‘vet’ falling.”

Orton was injured by LoMonaco early in his career, which probably explains him taking the shot. LoMonaco was on the Busted Open radio show, praised Orton heavily as a worker, and while admitting they had issues in the past based on a tag match where both of them got hurt in a disaster of a match, said they buried the hatchet and acted like they became friends. Given Orton was clearly giving a cheap shot, I guess LoMonaco’s thinking they buried the hatchet wasn’t correct.

LoMonaco shot back, “Dear Randy Orton, my tweet had zero to do with you. Looks like you were wrong again. You’re still awesome.”

Orton got heavily criticized for what to him was likely nothing more than an inside shot. Rogers also took it bad from people with less than a sliver of his knowledge and understanding of the business. That’s the nature of social media. There is a reality about overuse of moves. When the big dive now becomes a three dive sequence to a lesser reaction, it is a move being burned out. That happens to every hot move in wrestling over time. Moves that were finishers then become near fall spots, then transition spots, and then rest holds, and then sometimes even disappear.

In time, the market corrects itself. When moves are getting less of a reaction, it’s time to try different things. But the one key lesson from the veterans that is important is not regarding not doing moves that get a reaction or become your trademark, but learning overdoing things on a show will lead to those things working less. Things that did work in time can become obsolete if they are overdone, unless they are a signature part of your act in the sense they always get over because people come to see ut, And the other key that can’t be stressed enough is protecting the body, especially the head and neck.

Orton, on the last day of his European tour while in Copenhagen, Denmark, wrote, “Sorry to the indy marks, indy guys and old-timers who do dives took offense...just having a good time over a few drinks in Denmark closing the Smackdown live tour...while beating Raw in making over $5 million (his estimate was low, I’d guess the figure was closer to $7 million) in the last 11 shows. Now I know to some that doesn’t equate to a standing room only crowd of 150 people paying $8 at an armory somewhere...bit in the big boy world that’s called putting asses in seats. So enjoy your flips, dives and 20 superkicks per match. To each their own. I will go `dive’ back into my 13th title run and get ready to `flip’ when my make statement comes this month...headlock.”

After being lambasted, Orton then wrote, “I really need to issue an apology,” which he meant in complete jest.

Of course, Orton, being 6-foot-4 ½ and with great looks and the advantages of being Bob Orton’s son who people pegged as a potential top player from his first day in camp, he didn’t have to do things to be noticed that smaller guys or guys who never had the magic wand put on them by a top promoter would have to do. To each his own. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and this whole debate is probably 100 years old and will continue to play out as long as there is pro wrestling and guys wanting to be noticed, and figuring out ways on their own to make themselves stars.

Besides, if you look at the statement for what it is without the wrestling bubble blinders on, Orton is the actor in the major franchise movie, not the draw or top star, but a major regular part of the ensemble cast, bragging about his money and his winning fake choreographed fights and running down people making their name with no studio help who have managed by garner a worldwide following of their own and steady work and solid or in some cases even very good money doing independent movies that are getting significant critical acclaim. Would Dwayne Johnson make fun of award nominated movie stars and publicly brag about his box office numbers while making fun of their box office numbers, and then, in the end, brag that he gets to win his fake fight scenes in the movie? If he did, to the public, the reaction would be a whole lot worse than any that Orton got, both from the masses who don’t have a clue, and those who do.


Smackdown on 5/16 did 2,175,000 viewers, the lowest number of the year, a drop of seven percent.

The show got hurt by the NBA Draft Lottery from 8:30 to 9 p.m. that did 3,224,000 viewers, and then the second game of the Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs series that did 5,775,000 viewers.

Smackdown was tenth for the night on cable.

The show did a 0.48 in 12-17 (down 5.9 percent from last week), 0.54 in 18-34 (down 16.9 percent), 0.82 in 35-49 (down 1.2 percent) and 0.91 in 50+ (down 8.1 percent).

The male viewership continued to shrink as in 18-49, it was 55.1 percent and in 12-17, it was 53.9 percent.

Raw on 5/15 did a 1.89 rating 2,746,000 viewers (1.58 viewers per home), only a two percent increase in audience from last week’s seasonal record low. The rating tied last week’s seasonal record low.

The competition was tougher than in recent weeks as the game seven of the Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards NBA playoff game did 6,800,000 viewers, up from 4,515,000 for the playoff game the week before. There was also a Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators NHL Stanley Cup playoff game that did 1,737,000 viewers (down from the 1,868,000 the week before).

The number barely being up from the week before showed that it wasn’t so much that the show was taped that was the issue, but just the reality of the interest level. This week’s show was better. As compared to the prior week, there wasn’t the second hour gain, nor the third hour drop. In fact, the third hour fell only three percent with a third hour that included Roman Reigns vs. Finn Balor and Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt. The prior week’s show dropped 15 percent in the third hour.

Raw was fifth for the night on cable, trailing one news show, as well as the NBA playoff game, and the pregame and postgame shows for that game.

The first hour did 2,884,000 viewers. The second hour did 2,724,000 viewers. The third hour did 2,645,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.74 in 12-17 (up 7.2 percent), 0.84 in 18-34 (up 3.7 percent), 1.10 in 35-49 (up 4.8 percent) and 1.03 in 50+ (down 6.4 percent).

The audience was 58.5 percent male in 18-49 and 58.7 percent male in 12-17.

Next week may have even tougher competition with game four of the Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs.

Impact on 5/11 got back to normal levels with 309,000 viewers.

The final episode of the season of Total Divas on 5/10 did 683,000 viewers, which was up 19 percent from the 576,000 the week before.

The audience makeup was even more women than usual as it was 70.1 percent women in 18-49 and 83.3 percent women in 12-17. The show overall did a 0.15 in 12-17, 0.27 in 18-34, 0.31 in 35-49 and 0.23 in 50+.

The Ultimate Fighter on 5/10 did 348,000 viewers live and 195,000 on DVR over the next three days so it is picking up momentum. The 5/3 show did 324,000 live and 173,000 over the next three days via DVR.


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CMLL: Soberano Jr. won the Mexican national welterweight title from Rey Cometa on the 5/12 show at Arena Mexico. It was a high flying match similar to all of Soberano’s recent big bouts where his moves standout but you can see he’s green at other aspects. It was a dive fest ending when Soberano used Cometa’s own finisher, the Canadian Destroyer, on him for the pin. The crowd cheered both guys, as it was a tecnico vs. tecnico match, but Soberano was cheered more which shows his recent push has been taking. Coming off his Japan tour, and his Copa Juniors win, you can see they are behind him as a rising star and making sure people notice him. Atlantis & Diamante Azul & Stuka Jr. beat La Mascara & Pierroth & Rush in the main event which was focused on the Atlantis vs. Rush feud. Angel de Oro & Dragon Lee (in his last Friday night match for a few weeks) & Valiente beat Cavernario & Mr. Niebla & Negro Casas. The big thing was it was the first Friday night since the opening of the Freedom Restaurant inside Arena Mexico. Not sure if that made a difference, but the crowd was up to 6,000, which is better than they had been doing for shows with nothing special on them. The restaurant is a buffet where they allow you to come in two hours before the start of the show and stay one hour after the show, and you can drink beer all night (in the rest of the building, alcohol is cut out before the main event)

5/19 is another normal show with Volador and Dragon Lee in Japan, with Mistico & Caristico & Maximo Sexy vs. Mephisto & Ephesto & Negro Casas, Angel de Oro & Atlantis & Valiente vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja, and Titan vs. Cavernario

Shocker didn’t appear on the 5/13 show at Arena Coliseo, which was scheduled as his return after jaw surgery. No explanation was given for his not being there even as of a few days later. He was on the 5/17 CMLL news show talking about his return and he didn’t look good

Sam Adonis, the brother of Corey Graves, is starting as the color commentator for this group’s English language TV show that airs in Canada on The Fight Network

Okumura has returned to Japan after neck surgery. He said he’s started rehab work right away, but still has numbness in his thumb and index finger on his right hand. He hopes to be wrestling again by December

Mephisto retained the CMLL welterweight title against Negro Casas in the main event of the 5/15 show at Arena Puebla

In something that politically isn’t supposed to happen, the MDA group out of Monterrey is running a show at Arena Puebla, the CMLL-owned Monday night arena, for a show on 6/4 with Jeff Cobb vs. Hechicero as the main event. The key to that is that Cobb is under contract to Lucha Underground and Hechicero to CMLL, as that isn’t supposed to ever happen. It may sneak through because people don’t realize Cobb is a Lucha Underground wrestler.

AAA:

The newspaper Diario Besta had a headline regarding the upcoming Verano de Escandalo show on 6/4 in Ciudad Juarez with the six-way mask match with Dr. Wagner Jr., Soul Rocker, Psycho Clown, Murder Clown, Carta Brava Jr., and Monsther Clown. The headline read “Fraude!” with the idea that the company was fleecing its customers by advertising the match noting that “Obviously neither guy will lose the mask at Verano de Escandalo” regarding Wagner and Psycho, who are booked in a mask vs. mask match at TripleMania. The story said that the fans of Juarez should feel insulted by the advertising of this match saying AAA is treating them like fools, and it also had the overriding message that the results are predetermined, which, while not a secret, isn’t something written about in Mexico often.

In an interesting note, AAA wasn’t allowed to air an Aerostar & Drago vs. Killshot & Marty the Moth match at the tapings in Tijuana. Killshot and Marty are Lucha Underground characters.

The 25th anniversary of the first AAA show and television taping was this past week. The first show was on May 15, 1992, in Veracruz.

The Toluca Sports Hall of Fame on 5/11 inducted Joaquin Roldan and La Parka (the AAA version, not the original that worked in WCW in the 90s who originally put the gimmick over).

They taped two weeks of television on 5/16 in Pachuca before a sellout of 2,000 fans. Once again virtually every match advertised didn’t take place and they had sent La Parka and Psycho Clown to do advance promotional work pushing all the matches that didn’t happen. Faby Apache beat Ayako Hamada in a match to earn a Reina de Reinas title shot at Taya at some point. In an eight-man tag match, Australian Suicide turned on partners Aerostar, Bengala and Drago. The main event saw the Psycho Circus reunite as Monsther & Murder & Psycho Clown beat Dr. Wagner Jr. & Soul Rocker & Carta Brava Jr.

DRAGON GATE:

In the King of Gate tournament, on 5/13 in Okazaki before 700 fans, Genki Horiguchi pinned Lindaman in a D block match, T-Hawk beat Yosuke Santa Maria in C block, Jimmy Kagetora beat Takashi Yoshida in C block and Big R Shimizu pinned Jimmy K-Ness in A block.

On 5/14 in Yamanashi, Lindaman beat Jimmy Kanda in D block and Jimmy Susumu pinned Gamma in C block. That show drew 1,650 fans because it’s Shingo Takagi’s hometown, and they brought in Keiji Muto as a special guest, teaming with Yamato & BxB Hulk to beat Takagi & T-Hawk & Yoshida when Muto pinned Yoshida with the shining wizard.

On 5/15 in Kobe, Susumu pinned Ben K in a B block match, Kanda beat Genki Horiguchi in a D block match of Jimmys Kagetora beat Ryo Saito in a C block battle of Jimmys, and Eita beat Dragon Kid in an A block match.

ALL JAPAN:

They had a big show on 5/12 in Osaka before a sellout of 1,438 fans at the Moriguchi Shimin Taiikukan. The main event saw Zeus & The Bodyguard retain the world tag team titles over Jake Lee & Naoya Nomura in 22:50 when Bodyguard pinned Nomura. Zeus & Bodyguard will next face Daichi Hashimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani from Big Japan on 5/20 in Yokohama. There was an accident in an underneath tag team match as Suwama & Atsushi Aoki faced Ryoji Sai & Koji Iwamoto. I think Sai was trying to duck a lariat or there was a miscommunication but it ended up that Suwama clobbered Sai with a blow to the point that Sai was bleeding badly and carried out on a stretcher, and Suwama suffered three broken fingers in his right hand. Suwama was first said to be out of action for three weeks, but now there is talk he’ll come back on the 5/21 show at Korakuen Hall. Sai wasn’t hurt as badly as first thought, but apparently suffered a concussion but isn’t expected to be out of action that long.

Atsushi Onita & Masa Fuchi will be defending their All-Asia tag titles against former champions Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato on 6/20.

NEW JAPAN:

Hiroshi Tanahashi suffered a torn biceps injury on the 5/14 show in Philadelphia. That should require surgery and put him out of action for months, but with the mentality the top stars in Japan have about being there for their company, he may not do the surgery and just rehab it. If he does that, it’ll lead to a permanent deformity in the biceps muscle which is tough on a bodybuilder type guy. But surgery would put him out of action six to eight months, and mess up company major plans because you know Tanahashi was figured strongly into G-1 and the build for next year’s Tokyo Dome show. Most likely he was scheduled to win the IC title at the Dominion show, and thus this would change all the long-term plans for that title which was likely to headline one of the two Long Beach shows and several of the PPV shows later in the year. Right now the plan is for him to be out this tour, but he may still return for Dominion and Long Beach rather than get surgery. Tanahashi had suffered a partial biceps tear in early 2016 when he had his shoulder injury and missed some time, notably missing his scheduled ladder match with Kenny Omega that opened the door for Michael Elgin to step in. Tama Tonga worked the last tour after a partial tear. A full tear would either require surgery, keeping him out for six to eight months, or rehab, which would have him out a shorter period of time, but would leave him with a big space in his arm.

A press conference will be held on 5/18 in Los Angeles for the Long Beach shows. One of the things that will be announced is the TV schedule for the shows. The 7/1 show is scheduled to run live on a Saturday night and the 7/2 show (which will go head-to-head with TNA’s Slammiversary show) will air on AXS on 7/8, or head-to-head with UFC on FS 1.

Kenny Omega did an interview with ESPN and felt that it was too early to have the rematch with Kazuchika Okada. “If I’m going to give you a personal opinion, I would say that I personally think it’s too soon to revisit that match. I would have liked to just let that performance be, come back to it at a later date. But there come a time in business when it’s just important to move numbers, put asses in seats, as the saying goes, and you have to come out guns blazing. I knew eventually there would be a second match, regardless of how good or bad it was. I think there’s going to be a third. I still think there’s going to be an Omega vs. Okada four. I’ve been called to duty sooner than I would have liked to have been, and I’m put into a situation where that match is still very fresh in everyone’s minds.” “My goal with Okada is going to be very similar with how I dealt with the G-1. I’m not necessarily going for match of the night. I’m going to try and tell a very different, unique story, in that we’ll sort of lay the groundwork for not just the match, but for probably the next match, and the match after that.” “I’m not going to add some sort of crazy thing just to say that, `Hey, we did something crazy, we went longer.’ That doesn’t necessarily equal better. I’m lucky that my best strength as a wrestler has always been my brain. As naturally athletic as I’m gifted to be, where certain things came easily, I always rely on my brain first.” He pushed that he felt he should be the top star in the promotion, saying that he has a certain versatility that others don’t have. “Whereas, if someone else is trusted with the responsibility (of being the top guy as they expand internationally) of doing it, I don’t know how it would go. But I have a very precise vision that I can’t see failing, and I really want to be the guy to give my all and make this thing truly worldwide.

Will Ospreay told ESPN that his goal is to retire from all the traveling by 30 and just work the U.K. indies from there. “That’s my goal but I don’t think that’ll ever happen. I think I’ll stay with New Japan for the rest of my life, if I’m honest. I love it there.” He’s under contract with New Japan and ROH through the end of 2018. Ospreay came to the Best of the Super Juniors hurting as his foot got messed up at the ROH PPV against Jay White doing the dive that ended up with White twisting and slamming him into the barricade. His foot wrapped around the barricade and he said that it was the most painful thing ever. He said his back was all scratched up and his obliques were all cut up.

Cody Rhodes took an 8/5 booking with WrestleCircus, which is in the middle of the G-1. Right now when it comes to him and the G-1, it’s up in the air.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES:

Yoshihiro Takayama & Danshoku Dino officially vacated the KO-D tag team titles due to Takayama’s injury. It was announced that on 5/21 in Sapporo, that Konosuke Takeshita & Akito will face Shigehiro Irie & Kazusada Higuchi to determine the next champions.

One of the weirdest mixes of people in matches ever was the main event of a Zero-One show on 5/12 in Nagoya. It was an electric current blast death match with one team of Atsushi Onita, the 59-year-old hardcore legend, teaming with Aja Kong, a 46-year-old Hall of Famer who was one of the greatest woman monster performers ever, and Shogun Okamoto, a 33-year-old shooter type, facing Bob Sapp, the one-time mainstream superstar celebrity who nobody cares about now, Taru, a guy who was out of the business for years after giving another wrestler such a beating backstage that he nearly killed him, and Jaguar Yokota, who would probably be the first woman wrestler who was at the same level as the best male wrestlers of her era, but that was in the early 80s. Onita pinned Taru after hitting him with an electric current baseball bat. They have a 5/21 show at Korakuen Hall headlined by Masato Tanaka defending their world title against Okamoto.

Stardom ran 5/14 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, and besides Miyu Iwatani beating Kairi Hojo to win the Wonder of Stardom title, Io Shirai retained her World of Stardom title in a 30:00 draw with Toni Storm (who is one of the wrestlers expected in the women’s tournament). Fans at the time didn’t know Shirai was leaving. Rebel from Impact is working there now and will face Shirai in a non-title match on 5/21 in Hiroshima. Talk about a style clash. They also had a tag title match where Jungle Kyona & Hiroyo Matsumoto retained over Jessicka Havok & Tessa Blanchard. Besides their top two native stars leaving, the expectation is that many of their foreigners will be part of the WWE tournament which opens the door to losing them as well.

Manami Toyota, on her farewell tour, worked for Oz Academy on 5/14 in Tokyo at Shinjuku Face, beating 90s rival and early tag team partner Mima Shimoda. Toyota & Shimoda were first put together as a young pretty girl tag team in the late 80s, before Toyota was switched to teaming with Toshiyo Yamada and Shimoda with Etsuko Mita. Two more major Toyota matches were announced with 8/20 being Toyota & Kong vs. Kyoko Inoue & Takako Inoue, and 10/29 being the last-ever Kong vs. Toyota match.

HERE AND THERE:

Hans Schroeder, a veteran wrestler billed from Germany but who may have been from Australia in actuality, passed on 4/29 at the age of 85. He worked for Jim Barnett’s World Championship Wrestling from its inception in 1964 through 1968. He worked in Europe for a while and came to the U.S. in 1974, working first for Stampede Wrestling and later for the first of his many runs in the WWWF. He was a thick mostly prelim wrestler of nearly 300 pounds. He went from territory-to-territory from 1974 to 1984 working almost all the major ones including All Japan, Northern California, All Japan, IWE Japan, Southern California, Tennessee, Carolinas, Florida, Georgia, Mid South, Hawaii, St. Louis, West Texas and probably several others. He also used the name Johnny Karisma, which sounds like a gimmick name but may have been his real name, since when he married Leilani Kai, her real name was Patricia Karisma. The only championships we’re aware of that he held were in the dying days of Ed Francis’ promotion in Hawaii in 1979 and 1980, where he was a two-time Hawaiian heavyweight champion and worked with top talent like Peter Maivia, Rocky Johnson, Ripper Collins and Don Muraco. His last major territory was a 1984 run with Jim Crockett Promotions. He was also perhaps the first wrestler to use the name The Undertaker, a name he first used while working for the IWE in Japan in the 70s, and also was The Undertaker in both California and the WWWF, but only for a brief period of time to the point that probably almost nobody remembers it.

The NWA situation is almost closed where Billy Corgan is now the official owner of the brand. We’re told the basic deal was signed this past week although it’s in the hands of lawyers and everything is not completely done and the money hasn’t changed hands. It’s expected that when that aspect is done that Corgan will talk publicly about the brand. Unlike a few weeks ago, the Houston wrestling library is now part of the deal. The actual ownership of the library is still in the hands of Valerie Boesch, Paul’s widow. Bruce Tharpe was used as a broker and went to sell it to WWE, but felt their offer was too low, and then created the NWA on Demand website where they charge a monthly subscription fee and put up new matches on a regular basis as they transfer them to digital from the original tapes. Corgan will take over that position and there are a number of different things they could do with the library, including sell it to WWE, or market it in some form themselves. Another group headed by Matt Riviera was looking at making an offer to Bruce Tharpe for the NWA. The Riviera side offered Tharpe the ability to stay with the NWA and get work as a heel manager and that they would give him a title of International Brand Ambassador so he could retain his position of NWA authority in the Japanese market. Tharpe will have a role with the Corgan NWA, at least during the transition phase. The sale price is believed to be in the $175,000 to $250,000 range, although nobody has confirmed any figures other than it is a fraction of the $7 million to $9 million than Corgan had earmarked for Impact Wrestling, to pay off all the debts and other percentage owners and a purchase price, when he was looking at buying that brand. As far as what happens next, it’s a work in progress, but don’t expect anything like shows any time soon. But one idea is to use the NWA brand name to market historical aspects like books, DVDs or other projects.

Wayne VanDyke, the Florida independent wrestler who had suffered three heart attacks on 4/29, passed away on 5/13 at the age of 29. VanDyke, who worked with a number of different promotions as well as did ring crew for WWN shows in the area, was wrestling on a show for Ronin Pro Wrestling. He was in a tag team match, and suddenly, said he wasn’t feeling well and tagged out. At that moment, he suffered a heart attack. They started CPR immediately and called for an ambulance. He suffered a second heart attack in the ambulance and a third in the hospital. He was put into a medically induced coma. The CPR had also broken a rib which punctured his lung, causing a fluid build-up in the long.

PWG runs on 5/19 in Reseda and will be coming back for another date on 6/16. They are running more often given how popular the shows have become with the five minute or less sellouts. The 5/19 show has Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Trent Baretta for the PWG title, Penta 0M & Rey Fenix vs. Young Bucks for the PWG tag titles (they’ve had two matches in Reseda, once part of a three-way, both near match of the year caliber), Sami Callihan vs. Adam Cole (in what may be his final PWG show), Lio Rush vs. Mark Haskins, Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly vs. Jeff Cobb & Matt Riddle, Shane Strickland vs. Michael Elgin and Keith Lee vs Trevor Lee.

I saw the AAW match from Chicago with Michael Elgin vs. Zack Sabre Jr. that everyone was raving about. The match was fantastic with the crowd going nuts, technically great, 19:00 built perfectly. Because it was in Chicago, a lot of people there were also at the 2011 Cena vs. Punk match and just about everyone said this one was better. As far as a comparison goes, as far as a technical wrestling match, this was way better. The Cena vs. Punk match was made by the emotion of the storyline and the molten crowd, but I can’t say the crowd was any less hot, but there’s a big difference when it’s a few hundred vs. 11,000. Cena vs. Punk did have that intangible feeling because of everything that went down where it seemed to matter more. But as far as just if you put both matches sans storyline out there, Elgin vs. Sabre Jr. was the better match. It’s always different live but this was no less than ****½ and maybe ****3/4 based on streaming version. It was completely different, but I felt it at the level of Elgin vs. Nakajima in G-1 but not quite as epic as Elgin vs. Naito’s last match.

Scott Hall, 58, had a health scare on 5/14 while in the U.K. working for the Knight Family (Paige’s family) and their WAW show in Norwich. Hall was brought to the hospital in Great Yarmouth with bad chest pains and was said to be very agitated. The story was that he left some meds in the U.S. At first the word was that he was in bad enough shape that he shouldn’t travel home. He had a big entourage with him and they shut his ward down to accommodate him. He was discharged at 4 a.m., but at press time was still in Norwich, but looked a lot healthier.

The drummer of the band Culture Profetica, one of the most successful bands in Puerto Rico, purchased the WWL promotion and is working with Konnan and Savio Vega. Their first major show was 5/13 in Juncos before 850 fans, bringing in Mr. 450 from WWC as well as Mike Mendoza and Angel Fashion. They are doing a storyline where Konnan has gotten control of the company as a heel as either Manny Ferno or Dennis Rivera (Vega’s brother) sold Savio Vega’s stock to him. Willie Mack also came. Konnan and Mack came out and vowed that Mr. 450 would win their title from BIG. Konnan then fired Hector Melendez (the booker). The storyline is that Ferno and Rivera had gotten Vega to sign papers that he didn’t know which sold WWL to The Crash. Vega then attacked Ferno but was beaten down. The show ended with the return of Miguel Perez Jr., as a heel, as Konnan’s new General Manager and he fired Savio Vega and Dennis Rivera, so Rivera was double-crossed. But in the main event, BIG retained his title over Mr. 450 and The Mack. The heels were beating him down until Mendoza (the grandson of Vikingo) and Fashion from WWC debuted making the save.

A one-time-only match that couldn’t be made or announced until this weekend with Cody Rhodes vs. Adam Cole (since both were in Bullet Club until the angle on 5/12 where Cole was kicked out), was announced for the Northeast Wrestling show on 5/26 in Newburgh, NY at the Ice time Sports Complex.

A note from the last issue, the angle Pat Patterson did at the Cow Palace was with Dylan Drake, not Rik Luxury.

Luke Perry of “Beverly Hills 90210" fame was at the Cow Palace show since his son wrestles for the promotion as Jungle Boy, appearing briefly in the Rumble. He’s a small high flyer who looks somewhat like former Texas star Shaun Simpson. Perry went backstage looking for Cody Rhodes because he was a big fan of Dusty Rhodes growing up. Perry said that one of the greatest things about becoming a celebrity to him was finding out that Dusty Rhodes knew who he was.

Prosecutors have yet to put a case in front of the Grand Jury in New York regarding independent wrestler James “Rude Boy” Riley, who was arrested on 3/29 at his family’s home in Arden Heights on Staten Island, in New York after police claimed they found images of children under the age of 16 engaging in sexual acts. Riley had a court date on 5/15 with no charges being brought, but he has another court date on 8/1. The allegation was that in 2014, Riley uploaded nine photographs of children engaging in sexual acts to his Google account, and in 2016, he uploaded a similar photograph to his tumblr account.

XICW, which is now the longest running local promotion in the history of Detroit (almost 17 years old now, which is longer than The Sheik’s promotion which ran about 16 years) is going to follow in the All Pro Wrestling tradition of running the Cow Palace planning a show in October at Cobo Hall. It will be a combination live event and a convention with Sabu, P.J. Black, Abyss, Zach Gowen, Kongo Kong, Jim Cornette and Bobby Heenan booked.

Some more notes on Kevin Von Erich, who turned 60, on 5/15, doing his first match in 22 years and his retirement match on 7/9 in Tel Aviv, Israel. We’re told it is in a 5,000-seat arena and it will easily sell out. Kevin Von Erich had come to Israel five times in the 80s and 90s, did lots of television shows and met the President of the country. There were only three television stations in Israel in the mid-80s and American pro wrestling was never popular when one station put on World Class Championship Wrestling during the heyday of the Von Erichs and it became huge. Kevin’s recent trip saw all of the major Tel Aviv media talk with him. While there are local pro wrestling groups, there hasn’t been a pro wrestling show of any major significance in the country since 1995. Wrestling isn’t at all popular in the country, and nobody really knows about it, but the reaction to Kevin Von Erich’s trip was huge. He said that he wants to do this for his son, and compares it to when his father teamed with him in Texas many times. He did get some heat for some of the things he said, saying he doesn’t think women should wrestle, saying women should be ladies and also that he liked Donald Trump and didn’t like Obama, which didn’t go over well in Israel. Matt Sydal, Bad Bones John Klinger, David Starr, Tatanka and Marty Jannetty are advertised for the show, called “the Rage.”

Evolve on Flo Slam runs 2:30 p.m. on 5/20 from Summit, IL (near Chicago, taking advantage of WWE running Chicago) with Matt Riddle vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the WWN title, Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Ethan Page for the Evolve title, Chris Dickinson & Jaka defend the tag titles against Matt Knicks & Isaias Velezquez, Keith Lee vs. Donovan Dijak, Tracy Williams vs. Jeff Cobb, Austin Theory vs. Lio Rush and Fred Yehi vs. Jason Kincaid. They also run 5/21 in Livonia, MI at 8 p.m., which is head-to-head with Backlash, with Sabre Jr. vs. Rush for the Evolve title, Riddle vs. Cobb for the WWN title, Williams vs. O’Reilly, Page vs. Dijak, Yehi vs. Lee, Dickinson & Jake vs. Kincaid & ?, and Allysin Kay (Sienna in TNA) vs. Priscilla Kelly as they debut women wrestlers in the promotion.

Johnny “Ram Man” Evans, a Florida independent wrestler who started in the late 80s, passed away on 5/11. He had health issues with diabetes. He was trained by Rusty Brooks and started in South Florida for the old Global promotion. He had been running shows in Jacksonville with Larry Hamilton, (not the Missouri Mauler but the other Larry Hamilton who wrestled in a number of Southern territories in the mid-80s).

A show built around Santo Jr.’s debut in Monterrey on 5/14 sold out Arena Coliseo in that city.

Canek did an interview and said that he feels he needs to win the masks of Rayo de Jalisco (who is like 84 years old, although probably means his son, who is 57), Mil Mascaras, Tinieblas (who are both closer in age to Rayo Sr. than Jr., since Tinieblas is like 77 and Mascaras is probably about the same even though his listed age is 74), and Dos Caras to complete his career.

Johnny Jeter, who was a former WWE tag champion as part of the Spirit Squad, is now the Senior IT Auditor at Carlisle Companies, Inc. at Cal State Northridge. Jeter was thought to have a good future in pro wrestling as did well in OVW, got a WWE call-up, but he lost interest after the Spirit Squad ran its course and was sent back to OVW.

Wade Barrett, using that name, is on a wrestling tour of Pakistan this week by a promotion called Pro Wrestling Entertainment. The crew for the tour are mostly unknown European wrestlers, best known being Adam Maxted, a U.K. reality show actor, and bodybuilder who just this past week who just this past week had a WWE tryout, and Chris the Bambikiller Raaber, who promotes shows in Europe. The tour was from 5/17 to 5/21 with three events.

EUROPE:

Five Star Wrestling has announced John Morrison, Chris Masters, Carlito, Moose, PJ Black and Shelton Benjamin as participants in its 128 man tournament which will run every Saturday night from 6/10 in Liverpool to 12/30 in Manchester, including shows at the biggest arenas in the U.K. What’s notable is that Moose and Masters are with Impact, and Impact has television in the market. In theory would be looking at promoting on their own in the market with the ITV deal, but that’s on hold for a long time. They’ve also announced a new date on 8/5 in London at the 7,500-seat Copper Box Arena.

What Culture did its Canadian tournament as part of its World Cup on 5/14 in Toronto at the Phoenix Concert Theater. The first round matches saw Michael Elgin beat Rene Dupree via DQ, Harry Smith (Davey Boy Smith Jr.) beat Franky the Mobster, then Speedball Mike Bailey pinned Brent Banks and Kyle O’Reilly beat Tyson Dux. In the semifinals, Elgin beat Smith and Bailey beat O’Reilly in what I was told was a ****½ match. Elgin and O’Reilly advance to the next round of the tournament in the U.K. in August. The show also saw WCPW champion Joe Hendry beat El Ligero in a non-title main event match, and Internet champion Gabriel Kidd beat Zack Sabre Jr.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND:

The Cubs Fan reported that in Germany, the TV show last week did 110,000 viewers at 11 p.m. and 80,000 at midnight in its second week on Tele-5. That’s along the lines of what the show does in the U.S., and given the population difference, I’d say that’s a good showing.

ROH:

This year’s Final Battle is once again scheduled for the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York in December.

As expected, Travis “Flip” Gordon signed here. Both ROH and Impact were after him. Friends of his steered him to ROH because he’s not signing an exclusive ROH contract, so he can continue booking his own indie dates. The feeling is that his name will be breaking out some this year being pushed in Northeast Wrestling and working for The Crash, and if he had signed with Impact, they’d have controlled his indie bookings and a lot of promoters don’t like going through Impact, plus Impact has been signing people on per-day basis contracts and unless they start doing house shows, that’s not a lot of money.

Marty Scurll got an endorsement deal as he will be the main person in an ad campaign for British fashion company Topman promoting a new line of Muscle Fit Suits. The commercial shows Scurll performing in a sold out York Hall, identifies him by name as a pro wrestler, shows him backstage as well as all dressed up wearing a suit.

Seth Lesser, best known as Simon Gotch of the Vaudevillains, who has designed T-shirts with a new name of Simon Grimm, was backstage not just at the PPV but also at the TV tapings over the weekend.

There are no new shows until 6/3 in Chicago and 6/4 in Collinsville, IL (St. Louis area).

They taped four weeks of TV for the final War of the Worlds show before a sellout 1,100 fans at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia. The taping took five hours but it was said to be a good show with a lot of angles and good matches. It opened with a dark match as Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu beat Leon St. Giovanni & Shaheem Ali. The first show opened with the Young Bucks and Hangman Page out. They said it was a new era for the Bullet Club and called out Marty Scurll. Scurll ran down Adam Cole and talked about having tea time with Marty Scurll. Cole came out and talked about why have tea time when you can have story time with Adam Cole. Cole said he was the franchise player and Page said he would run Cole out of the company. Cole said that the Bullet Club has a new enemy. Page challenged Cole to a match. Josh Woods beat David Starr with a kneebar. Starr worked like a heel and Woods worked like a face, but the crowd loved Starr and hated Woods. Starr is a far more complete worker since he’s been all over the world and is very good. Woods only has the Performance Center training and hasn’t had a ton of matches. Silas Young & Beer City Bruiser came out. Young mocked Jay Lethal calling himself the franchise and noted that he beat Lethal clean in the middle in Milwaukee. Lethal wanted a fight, but Bruiser jumped Lethal from behind. This turned into a match with Lethal vs. Bruiser with Young on commentary. Lethal won via DQ when Young interfered. Lethal had his knee taped here, but didn’t have it taped later in the tapings, so this was to sell the PPV match and in his later appearance I guess they felt the PPV was far enough behind him. They beat down Lethal until Bobby Fish made the save.

Cody came out and said that ROH management is afraid of having a guy who isn’t signed to ROH as its champion. Frankie Kazarian came out. Cody noted that in the main event, that Lethal’s shoulders were down in the figure four and the ref should have counted the pin before Daniels hit the moonsault, so he’s the rightful champion. Cody pinned Kazarian in the first show main event with crossroads. After the match, Page attacked Kazarian and they were double-teaming him until Christopher Daniels made the save. They did an Internet Women of Honor match with Gabi Ortiz & Sumie Sakai beating Tasha Steelz & Bonesaw Jessie Brooks when Sakai pinned Steelz after a Northern Lights suplex.

The second hour saw War Machine beat Will Ferrara & Cheeseburger. The place went crazy when Cheeseburger kicked out of one near fall, but then he was pinned after the powerslam double team spot. War Machine talked about being IWGP tag team champions and wanted a champions vs. champions match against the Young Bucks. Bushi & Evil & Tetsuya Naito & Seiya Sanada beat Mark & Jay Briscoe & Bully Ray & Dalton Castle. Naito pinned Mark after Bushi blew the green mist in Mark’s face. Naito was really over. The Boys did something to Jay Briscoe. The Briscoes argued with Castle & The Boys after the match. In the main event for the second show, Page pinned Cole after two Omori drivers. Said to be a very good match. Fans sensed what was up and were chanting “Thank You Adam” before the match even started. After the match, Page knocked down ref Todd Sinclair and started whipping Cole with the belt. Kazarian ran in for the save. Kazarian chased Page away to leave Cole in the ring and fans to do more “Thank you Adam” chants. As Cole acknowledged them, Marty Scurll attacked Cole from behind and Scurll said he stole Cole’s moment in New York and he was stealing it again in Philadelphia. They then announced a Cole vs. Scurll Philadelphia street fight as the dark match main event. One would think all the stuff with Scurll would be edited off the TV since it was building a dark match.

Kelly Klein beat Jenny Rose with a dragon sleeper submission in another Woman of Honor match. The third hour opened with The Young Bucks & Page out. Rocky Romero & Baretta came out and said they wanted a six-man and introduced Baretta’s best friend, Chuck Taylor debuting. The place went crazy for Taylor. Romero & Baretta & Taylor beat Page & Young Bucks when Taylor pinned Matt. Said to be the match of the night. They set up the Meltzer driver but Taylor did the awful waffle to pin Matt. Jonathan Gresham & Jay White beat The Rebellion team of Shane Taylor & Rhett Titus who had Caprice Coleman in their corner, via DQ when Kenny King interfered. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley made the save. White got his biggest reaction to date, likely stemming from his performance in the PPV match with Ospreay. King attacked Gresham right in front of the ref and a DQ wasn’t called. They had a crazy pull-apart with security guards being thrown everywhere. After the match, White & Gresham & Sabin & Shelley challenged The Rebellion to a loser must disband match at the PPV on 6/23.

In the third hour main event, Kushida won the TV title from Scurll. The lights went out and Cole came out in Scurll’s gear and with his umbrella and bird mask. Scurll was distracted and Kushida used a tornado DDT and small package driver to win the title. The fourth episode, which may be put over big since it’ll be the 300th episode of ROH Wrestling on television, opened with Young & Bruiser over Fish & Lethal when Young pinned Lethal with misery. That’s a surprise since Fish isn’t under contract and seems to be just biding his time for now while Lethal is a regular. Vinny Marseglia & Matt Taven, with TK O’Ryan, on crutches, in their corner, beat The Boys, with Castle in their corner. Mark Briscoe came out after the match to confront Castle. Jay Briscoe and Bully Ray also came out to calm Mark down. Punishment Martinez destroyed Joey Daddiego in a quick squash with the sit out choke slam.

The fourth show main event saw Cody on commentary with Daniels & Kazarian & Hiroshi Tanahashi beating Gedo & Hirooki Goto & Will Ospreay when Daniels pinned Gedo after Tanahashi hit the high fly flow and Daniels followed with the BME. Tanahashi left and Page & Cody came out and attacked Daniels & Kazarian, including Page whipping Kazarian and Cody laying out Daniels with a belt shot. Ospreay was also way more over than before. Very good match. Daniels did some teased Curry Man spots with Gedo. In what was pushed as a web exclusive dark match, Scurll beat Cole with the chicken wing after Bullet Club interference. This match was about the Bullet Club history. Scurll tried a One Wing Angel and Styles Clash. Cole used a Bloody Sunday DDT (Prince Devitt’s move that A.J. Styles also used regularly in New Japan). The Bucks attacked Cole, but he fought them off and superkicked both of them off the apron through a table. Cody ran in and tried to throw powder, but Cole kicked his hands and the powder went in Cody’s face. Scurll hit Cole with superkicks and an umbrella shot. Cole flipped off Scurll, and Scurll then broke Cole’s fingers and started doing UFC elbows to set up the chicken wing submission.

The show ended with Cole in the ring again. Fans were again chanting “Thank You Adam,” “Please Don’t Go,” and “Speech.” When he started talking, fans were chanting “We Will Miss You.” Cole said that he fell in love with pro wrestling at the age of nine, watching Steve Austin and The Rock and others from that era. But what made him decide that he wanted to be a pro wrestler was watching ROH. “I’ve said this countless times, and it’s the truth. This place, not just the locker room, not just the camera men, not just the referees, but all of you, we are one big, giant family. The love and respect that each and every one of you have shown me is the reason I can stand before you here today, nine years a pro wrestler, three times a world champion, traveling the globe because you guys thought I was good enough. No matter what happens going forward, I just want each and every one of you to know that I deeply love, you and Ring of Honor will always be my home.” He then noted his mother was at ringside and said, “Happy Mother’s day.” He left with his final “Adam Cole Baybay.”

The second War of the Worlds show was 5/10 in Dearborn, MI, before a sellout of 1,000 fans. Castle pinned Fish in a good opener with the bang-a-rang since Castle is staying and Fish has no long-term commitment. White & Sabin & Shelley beat Titus & Taylor & Coleman as The Rebellion. Sabin & Shelley got a big reaction begin in Michigan. Young pinned Kushida in what has to be considered an upset. The match had its missed spots. In a non-title match, IWGP tag champs War Machine beat Tanahashi & Lethal. In a battle of the ROH trios champs vs. New Japan trios champs, with neither set of belts at stake and the champion vs. champion aspect not being pushed, Bully Ray & Mark & Jay Briscoe beat Sanada & Evil & Bushi. All six did come out wearing their respective belts. Bully Ray came out and said that people had seen a lot of good wrestling but now they’ll see a fight and changed this to a no DQ match. So the Japanese heels were adhering to the rules and the American face were doing whatever they wanted. The crowd was hot for this match. Bully gave Bushi a power bomb off the middle rope through a table for the pin after Bushi accidentally blew green mist in Sanada and Evil’s eyes. Bully then said that the Briscoes were the best tag team in ROH history. Bully has been over huge at all the shows he’s been appearing on for ROH. Naito pinned Martinez with the destino. The crowd wasn’t up for this one. In a six-way, Cheeseburger won over Scurll, Kazarian, Ferrara, Marseglia and Bruiser in a big upset when Cheeseburger pinned Bruiser. The match had a lot of comedy . Lots of comedy and big moves as well. Scurll and Cheeseburger were the most over. Cheeseburger won the match, which led to Scurll giving him an immediate TV title match. Scurll won that one with a chicken wing in a few minutes. Daniels retained the ROH title over Taven with the best moonsault ever. The crowd only reacted to the big moves. The crowd was worn out as the show went more than four hours and was on a Wednesday night. Both guys worked hard. Main event saw Ospreay & Goto & Romero & Baretta as Chaos beat The Young Bucks & Cody & Page. Ospreay stole the show here with lots of “This is wrestling” and “This is awesome” chants. Ospreay hit an Oscutter on both Bucks at the same time and pinned Nick in about 25:00. Ospreay also gave both Bucks huracanranas at the same time.

IMPACT:

Jeff Jarrett brought up the World Cup, saying that there was talk of AAA, Pro Wrestling NOAH and Impact working together for the annual World Cup trios tournament, saying it would be in Japan in October but it’s not a done deal. It’ll be hard because the guy from Japan who was key the previous years had a falling out with AAA and was helping The Crash.

Some ratings updates from the U.K. The first week show, as reported earlier, did 151,000 viewers on Spike U.K., which is about what the show had been doing on Challenge at the end, or slightly better. It was the fifth most watched show on the station for the week. It’s double to triple what Raw does on Sky, but Spike is available in far more homes. The second show on 4/28 we didn’t get a number on as it wasn’t among the highest rated shows on the station and would have been less than 129,000. The 5/5 show did 135,000 viewers.

Matt Sydal has signed here so he’ll be regular from this point forward.

I’ve heard that on the 5/18 TV show, that the Ultimate X match with Low Ki defending the X title against Andrew Everett and Trevor Lee is one of the best Ultimate X matches the company has ever done. . Vampiro said in an interview this week that Lucha Underground wrestlers would not be working for Impact. That makes more sense than Dorian Roldan said that they would, since LU has been so big on exclusivity on American television of its wrestlers and characters. AAA wrestlers not under contract to LU will be on Impact.

Dixie Carter wrote on Instagram that she’s filming a television show. For years Carter has tried to get a reality show about her life done.

Al Snow was arrested on 5/15 in Winchester, KY. He claimed on Twitter that he had a ticket from two years ago for a broken light and an expired insurance ID card, and had taken care of it, but due to a typo, there was a bench warrant for his arrest that he had no idea of. So this week he said he had car trouble and police approached him, asked if ID, saw he had an outstanding warrant and took him in. He said he paid a $234 fine and was released.

UFC:

They had a press conference on 5/12 to build up a number of upcoming main events between now and 7/29. The new main fights pushed were Justin Gaethje’s debut against Michael Johnson on 7/7, Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko on 7/8, as we’d reported was in the plans, for the bantamweight title; Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum as the main event for a 7/22 FOX show from the Nassau Coliseum; and Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones on 7/29 in Anaheim. Cormier and Jones had tremendous heat. Before the press conference started, there was a backstage incident where the two had words and Cormier blew his stack as apparently Jones said something about his children. I didn’t get the context of what he said, but security and Chris Weidman jumped in and pulled Cormier away, although he did throw a water bottle at Jones. Nothing physical happened but when they got onstage in front of the people, Jones brought it up and acted like they had a fight and Cormier was crying on Cain Velasquez’s shoulder when it was over. Cormier was then asked what happened and just said, “He’s a bitch ass” and Jones said, “Who was the bitch ass, you were hugging Cain.” Cormier said that “He said something about my kids and I smashed him in the face with a water bottle.” Cormier called him a junkie and Jones said the junkie whooped you ass and told him to get his Christmas card photos done now because in 11 weeks he’s losing the belt. Cormier later asked whether Jones would even show up for the fight, or is he going to screw it up again by using steroids, cocaine or sandblasting prostitutes. Jones fired back “I beat you after a weekend of cocaine,” which Cormier noted contradicted everything Jones had said about never doing cocaine except when he got caught. Jones then, in a statement that was so completely stupid for a guy looking for sponsors, about how he had a great month spending one weekend doing cocaine and the next weekend beating Cormier. He said that Anthony Johnson gave Cormier that fight and that Cormier looked even worse against Anderson Silva.

The hostilities were such that when they were brought out to pose together, they wouldn’t let them near each other. Cormier was trying to play heel, and even did the Jericho “drink it in man” pose. The funny part of that is Cormier had tried to portray Jones as the heel and people booed him everywhere for it. This time it was clear he didn’t care, and basically embraced being a heel, and naturally that means fans chanted “D.C.” and were booing Jones. The point is they were booing Jones before Cormier started doing the heel stuff. When Nunes and Shevchenko squared off, both got close and put up their fists and Nunes flicked a quick jab at Shevchenko. The most heated confrontation was actually between Kevin Lee and Michael Chiesa, who headline the 6/25 show in Oklahoma City. Lee, dressed up like Jimmy Snuka (well, actually Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder in honor of fighting in Oklahoma City), was trying to claim that Conor McGregor was a fake and was trying to take from hood culture and hip hop culture, while he was real, saying “Nothing better than being young, black and rich.” Anyway, Lee mentioned something about Chiesa’s mother being at ringside and Chiesa told him not to talk about his mother. Chiesa got up and went after Lee. Lee threw a punch that missed and security pulled them apart and both were taken off stage. However, they had enough confidence to let them return for photos but they were looking right each other for the square-offs at close distance. Nothing physical came close to happening but both were mouthing off and security was right there.

Dana White, in an interview for the TV show UFC Fight Week that airs on Fox Sports in Australia, said that the Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre fight is dead and that Bisping would defend his title against Yoel Romero. White said that when they held the press conference and made the fight, it was supposed to be for July, and they’re not waiting for November for GSP to be ready. Really, that’s the only decision they could have made. White wants GSP to fight instead at 170, no doubt wanting to have him face either Tyron Woodley or one of the Diaz Brothers since they’d all be big money fights, but Bisping wants GSP thinking he’d make far more for that fight than any two or three or five of his previous fights, as he’d had lots of good paydays but he’s never had the seven-figure payday let alone several million if he and GSP can get to the 850,000 or more mark.

Bisping is very strongly wanting to fight GSP and is willing to wait for whenever GSP is ready. He agreed to the fight on two separate occasions, and at this stage of his career, wants the big money and high profile fight. He can argue he’s done UFC one favor after another over the years (and they have done the same for him). One of the things with fighters making more money than ever before is that with money, they are less willing to fight because they don’t need to. One of the reason in the past UFC was able to get fighters to fight who they wanted and when they wanted more was because the fighters needed money. When they don’t need money, the dynamic changes and it’s never been more evident than this year. Plus, Bisping has the mentality that his career was hurt badly by facing guys on steroids (three of his seven losses have been to people who were suspended on drug test issues–Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen, and another, Dan Henderson, was approved for TRT when Bisping lost to him). So he’s not running into a fight with Yoel Romero. Plus, from a pure reality standpoint, Robert Whittaker is a very tough style match-up for him, as his Luke Rockhold, who he did beat once but that was one of the biggest title win upsets in history and Rockhold beat him handily the first time). Being the bigger guy and guy who has been active, he does have advantages over GSP even though GSP, or at least the old GSP, was more skilled than any of Bisping’s potential opponents.

Bisping is currently involved in a U.K. court case which is in process at press time. Bisping was sued by former manager Anthony McGann of the Wolfslair team in the U.K. for $350,000 for unpaid fees and expenses dating back ten years. Bisping, in court, according to a story in The Sun, said he had refused to sign a new contract with the team after years of threats and bullying and claimed that was a breach of the old contract. He said he left the team in 2012 (when he moved to California) claiming they were violent people and that he moved to California to train full-time with different management. McGann claimed Bisping was still under contract to the team but hasn’t paid his fees for representation for more than six years. Bisping was asked in court why he never brought up any problems with McGann before leaving, and said, “There was no point in bringing it up. I thought I was moving on. The six years were up. They were violent people and there had been threats over the years and I was trying to make it a smooth transition.” Bisping’s contract gave Wolfslair 20 percent, and he said he paid that. Bisping said he had no contract with McGann, only with the Wolfslair Gym, and denied signing a contract that was shown in court. Then he said he didn’t fully read the original contract he signed in 2005, but said the document shown in court was several pages longer than the contract he had signed in 2005. He told Judge Richard Salter, “It’s all fabrication, your Lordship. I have never seen any of them in my life.”

The main event on the 7/8 PPV show is in grave danger as Cody Garbrandt has a serious back injury. He’s been sent by UFC to Germany for treatment and the hope is he can recover in time to face T.J. Dillashaw and defend his welterweight title. But the odds are not good regarding that fight taking place on that date. The current season of Ultimate Fighter has been built around setting up that fight. I don’t know how serious he was but Dillashaw talked about cutting to 125 and facing Demetrious Johnson for the title, which is an interesting match up but there is no indication that is being worked on.

Andy Foster, the Executive Officer of the California State Athletic Commission will implement the state’s new bylaws on weight cutting for all events starting 6/15, which means these standards will be in place for the 7/29 show in Anaheim (Jones vs. Cormier). Fighters who miss weight will be fined 20 percent of all of their purse. Of that, two-thirds will go to their opponent if they made weight and the other third will go to the athletic commission. All fighters will be weighed the day of the fight. If a fighter on the day of the fight has gained more than ten percent of his weight from weigh-ins, it will be recommended they move up a weight class for their next fight. I’d think a large number of the fighters on that card will fall into that category. They also want to add new weight classes for California with fights at 115, 125, 135, 145, 155, 165, 170, 175, 185, 195, 205, 225 and heavyweight. In July, the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports will vote to recommend this plan in other states. The promotions don’t have to add the new weight classes if they don’t want to. Having weight classes at 165, 170 seems like overkill, but it’s a way for UFC and Bellator to keep their 170 pound division and they don’t have to add 165 and 175 pound divisions. The commission will also have the ability to weigh fighters 30 days out and ten days out to see if they are within a viable striking distance of their weight class.

UFC is adding another new show, a weekly Tuesday night live fight card that will be airing from the UFC TUF Gym in Las Vegas called “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series,” which will debut on 7/11, right after International Fight Week. The show will air on Fight Pass. Each week there will be five fights. The original concept of the show was to have at least some fights with storylines rather than cold fights, with the idea that it would feature fighters making their UFC debuts and trying to get contracts, or fighters who have lost a series of fights and otherwise would be cut, they would get one last chance to save their jobs. In particular, if two fighters in the same weight class were in the same predicament at the same time, they’d have a loser leaves town fights (of course a great showing by the loser in defeat could also keep ones job). While it won’t completely be this, there could be some regular loser leaves town type matches. If that’s the case, I just hope we don’t have too many guys come back as Midnight Riders, Stagger Lees and Yellow Dogs. White’s goal when he bought UFC was to have a show on Tuesday nights, based on the idea of the old Tuesday Night Fights show in the 90s on the USA Network. The fights will all be three round fights and fully sanctioned and regulated by the Nevada commission, counting on the fighters’ records, unlike the TUF fights in the gym which are considered exhibitions because they are two rounds and the results are withheld from the public until the air date. Right now the plan isn’t for a year-around show, but seasons, similar to TUF, so maybe 13 or so weeks in a row, some time off, and the coming back with another season months down the line.

With no show this weekend, the UFC is flying in most of the roster to Las Vegas for the 2017 Athlete Retreat. All fighters were invited although some had previous scheduling conflicts. New owners Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell will be attending. Fighters will get to visit the new UFC offices that recently opened up, and will be there for the grand opening of the UFC Performance Institute.

The UFC picked up an Emmy Award this past week for Outstanding Editing Sports Coverage for the episode of UFC Fight Flashback on FS 1 which covered the second McGregor vs. Nate Diaz fight.

The mysterious business opportunity which led Anthony Rumble Johnson to retire is that he’s apparently going to open up a marijuana dispensary. Johnson did an interview with Booker T on Booker’s weekly radio show in Houston, that he’s just waiting for a law to pass and then opening it up. Another reason he said he retired was because he was tired of the hard training, and in particular, getting punched in the face and worried about how the punches to the head would affect him later in life. Interestingly, Johnson said that he was never really a fighter. He said he was a great athlete whose skills translated well to MMA but didn’t consider himself a fighter and said he felt like he was meant to do something else in life. “If those guys want to go in there and do that to themselves, go ahead, that’s your life, that’s your body, that’s your future. But for me, I’m destined to do something greater. I just couldn’t do it anymore. You gotta go in there and do your thing. You’ve gotta make your money and get out.” He insisted he was done, that he would not come back to fight Jon Jones and he said he left on his own terms while still at the top.

Luke Rockhold and Dana White went at it this past week. It started when Rockhold talked about how the top middleweights should refuse fights until Michael Bisping defends against a top contender. Rockhold himself is coming up on one year since he lost the title to Bisping and hasn’t fought since, although he and UFC were on the same page for him to face Anderson Silva on the 6/3 PPV show, but Silva didn’t accept that fight. At the post-fight press conference after UFC 211, White said, “There was a lot of guys talking about deserve, deserve, nobody deserves anything. You’ve got to earn it here. It’s like these guys want to sit around–you’ve got Rockhold right now screaming, ‘I deserve this.’ You just got knocked out in the first round. You don’t deserve anything. You’ve got to come back and earn it.” Rockhold responded saying, “I never said I deserved a title shot. I said we (middleweights) deserve clarity. We deserve something to fight for.” “You have to earn your way in this company? Tell me how did GSP earn a middleweight title shot? Think before you run your mouth.” Can you imagine one of the WWE guys saying that publicly to one of the McMahons? White then fired back, “I usually never respond but GSP never lost his title. Bisping, GSP and the fans wanted it. Stick to fighting and modeling and leave the matchmaking to us.”

Three UFC fighters got engaged this past week, all women, two to each other. Raquel Pennington and Tecia Torres, who were a well-known couple, announced their engagement. Jessica Andrade, after her loss to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, asked her girlfriend to marry her right after the fight.

UFC officially announced a return to Japan on 9/23 at the Saita.ma Super Arena. That’s only a few weeks before Rizin is expected to do its 20th anniversary of the first Pride event (October 11, 1997 at the Tokyo Dome headlined by Rickson Gracie beating Nobuhiko Takada).

There is no show this weekend. The next show will be a 5/28 Sunday afternoon show from Stockholm on FS 1 headlined by Alexander Gustaffson (17-4) vs. Glover Teixeira (26-5) and Misha Cirkunov (13-2) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (13-1), the latter of which are two guys without big names but both are knocking on the door of the top of the division and the winner will be getting into the top mix. The show will start at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, with the FS 1 live fights scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern. It’ll start a run of four straight weekends with shows, as they have the 6/3 UFC 212 PPV show (Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway for the featherweight title), 6/10 in Auckland, New Zealand (6/11 local) with Mark Hunt vs. Derrick Lewis and 6/17 in Kallang, Singapore with Holly Holm vs. Bethe Correia.

UFC has signed a new television deal with Fox Network Group Latin America. The station, which airs in 44 million homes, started its deal this past weekend to air both the PPV and Fight Night shows live. The deal would not include Mexico until 2019 (UFC has a current deal with Televisa) nor Brazil (where they have major existing deals).

Jessica Penne has been put on a provisional suspension related to a drug test on 3/20. What’s notable about this is she didn’t fail the test for any specific banned substances, and fought on the 4/22 show in Nashville. But after reviewing her biological passport, they showed too much of a variability in urinary biomarkers, which is a characteristic of the usage of a banned substance. This is the first UFC fighter to have been suspended based on the biological passport, a new sophisticated method that is supposed to catch people using banned substances based on certain changes that people who may slip through drug testing in different ways will still show differences in. It’s actually a very significant breakthrough because it shows that fighters who use substances that can slip through the tests can be caught in other ways.

Gastelum’s suspension for failing a marijuana test taken on 3/11, the date of his fight with Vitor Belfort, was three months. USADA announced that he tested positive for above the limit of 180 ng/mL of the metabolite of marijuana, which is a very high concentration, on the day of the fight. USADA’s guidelines for marijuana are a one year suspension, but they only gave him six months, and then, based on him completing a USADA approved during awareness and management program, it was cut again to three months, he can fight again on 6/10 and was booked for 7/22. That is one week after what was his scheduled fight date with Anderson Silva. CABMMA, which is the commission in Brazil that his regulatory jurisdiction over the card in Fortaleza where he tested positive, also gave him a three-month suspension.

The main event for 7/16 in Glasgow, Scotland will be Gunnar Nelson vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio and they also announced Joanne Calderwood vs. Cynthia Cavillo.

Dennis Bermudez vs. Darren Elkins is set for the 7/22 FOX show at the Nassau Coliseum.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira suffered a neck injury in training and had to pull out of his 6/25 match with Ilir Latifi in Oklahoma City.

Julianna Pena was on TUF Talk, said that she wanted to drop to 125 pounds and compete in the tournament for that championship. Pena, who first made her name winning a tournament on the Ultimate Fighter in the Rousey-Tate season, noted that she’s gotten engaged. But she said she would be happy to go into the TUF house and do a tournament. A lot of people hate being in the house because you are kept from contact with the outside world, but she said you get to live in a mansion, pay no rent, get all the best food with no cost, and you get to concentrate on nothing but improving as a fighter with no outside distractions.

A return to Arena Ciudad in Mexico City was announced for 8/5, which will be a TV show and not a PPV date.

Doo Ho Choi vs. Andre Fili was announced for the 7/29 show in Anaheim.

Tim Elliott will be replacing the injured Joseph Benavidez for the 6/10 fight with Ben Nguyen in Auckland, New Zealand.

Emil Meek pulled out of his 5/28 fight in Stockholm with Nordine Taleb. Taleb will now face Oliver Enkamp, 7-0 with five stoppages, who is from Sweden.

BELLATOR:

The next show is 5/19 from the SSE Wembley Arena in London, which will air on tape delay on Spike at 9 p.m. Eastern. It’s a more loaded than usual show headlined by the Bellator debut of Rory MacDonald (18-4), facing Paul Daley (39-14-2), with the winner getting a shot at the welterweight title against the winner of the Douglas Lima title defense against Lorenz Larkin, which takes place on the 6/24 show from Madison Square Garden (Bellator will be taking five weeks off after London with a straight build to the MSG PPV show). Other fights from London are Liam McGeary (12-1) vs. Linton Vassell (16-5), Cheick Kongo (25-10-2) vs. Augusto Sakai (9-0-1), Baby Slice (Kevin Ferguson Jr., the son of Kimbo Slice) (0-1) vs. D.J. Griffin (0-0) and Alex Lohore (10-1) vs. Dan Edwards (14-14).

WWE:

NBC Universal announced that Smackdown will be trying out a picture-in-picture approach during the commercials for Smackdown. This has been tried before with other sports and wrestling in the past. The idea in theory is that people won’t speed through commercials on DVR or change channels. During the commercial periods on Smackdown, the sound will be of the commercial but there will be a part of the picture showing the action going on in the arena. This is expected to debut in late May or early June. They are also planning this for the 2018 Olympics. They did this on a couple of Smackdown shows in 2016 and it was successful in that ratings during the commercial breaks were 13 percent higher and led to a two percent overall increase in ratings of those episodes. They said that test marketing showed that the ads were 42 percent more memorable than under normal circumstances as people continued to watch more closely. This is already regularly done with auto races.

Speaking of Smackdown, Broadcasting Cable had a list of the ten companies that spent the most money from January through last week in advertising on Smackdown as: 1) WWE Network $742,418; 2) Taco Bell $618,033; 3) Verizon $583,050; 4) The Real Cost $559,728; 4) NutriSystems $559,728; 6) Universal Pictures $536,406; 7) Domino’s $513,084; 8) Geico $443,118; 9) Burger King $396, 474; 9) Subway $396, 474. Considering USA Network would have paid about $21 million for the rights to Smackdown and the revenue from the leading advertisers was $5,348,513, it shows a big gap between the two numbers. Overall, that would under normal TV standards be considered shockingly low advertising revenue given the amount of viewers Smackdown draws.

The U.K. TV show will debut with a 90 minute special on 5/19 which will be there to help build the NXT Takeover Chicago show. The special was taped on 5/7 in Norwich, and has Tyler Bate vs. Mark Andrews for the U.K. title and Pete Dunne vs. Trent Seven for the No. 1 contender position. This leads to the Bate vs. Dunne match that has already been announced for Chicago on 5/20. The show will debut at 3 p.m. Eastern, so it will be in prime time at 8 p.m. in the U.K. It will then air again at 8 p.m. Eastern for the U.S., although on a streaming service the time slot is immaterial. But the prime time in the U.K. makes sense since the show is earmarked for that market. Jim Ross and Nigel McGuinness will be doing the voice overs in studio this week. The other two matches on the show will be Wolfgang vs. Joseph Conners and Rich Swann & Dan Moloney vs. TJP & Brian Kendrick. Originally the show was to air on 5/18, but it was moved back a day. There is no word on when the show will begin as a weekly series just yet.

Jim Ross and Nigel McGuinness will be announcing the show doing voice overs in studio this week. Both will also be in Chicago for the NXT Takeover show and will be calling the Bate vs. Dunne match.

Lesnar’s bookings related to his 7/9 PPV show in Dallas will be a Raw return on 6/12 in Lafayette, LA, then 6/26 in Los Angeles, 7/3 in Phoenix for the go-home show and 7/10 in Houston he’ll appear on the day after.

Dwayne Johnson will be hosting Saturday Night Live on 5/20.

Former or current WWE stars had lead roles in three of the top 15 movies domestically this past weekend. “Guardians of the Galaxy 2" with Dave Bautista as one of the leads (and he got strong reviews, I thought his low-key humor was very good and he stole many scenes), was No. 1 for the second week, grossing $65,263,492 for a two weekend total of $248,420,911. It has now grossed $632.3 million worldwide. “Fate of the Furious,” with Johnson, was No. 4 at $5,400,845 and is at $215,134,775 in five weeks. So Guardians is already ahead of it for domestic gross. But Fate of the Furious was much stronger outside the U.S., and has done $1,193,237,884 worldwide as of 5/15, putting it as the 12th largest grossing movie worldwide in history. “The Wall,” with Cena as one of the lead characters, had a more limited opening doing $898,013 in 541 screens in its first weekend out, putting it in 15th place when it comes to total gross revenue and 23rd place when it comes to average revenue per screen.

Public Policy Polling released a report on 5/16 stating that if the election was held today, Dwayne Johnson would beat Donald Trump 42-37 percent if they ran against each other for President. Johnson would, besides anti-Trump voters, about 15 percent of those who voted for Trump. He’s viewed 38 percent favorable, 15 percent unfavorable and 47 percent have no opinion among Democrats, and Johnson is viewed 31 percent favorable, 17 percent unfavorable and 52 percent with no opinion among Republicans.

The details of the Fighting with my Family story was from the Splash Report website.

In last week’s issue in the mention of Io Shirai, we mentioned that Asuka was the top star of Stardom before coming here. Actually it was a different promotion as Asuka, as Kana, never worked for Stardom due to political issues in Japan at the time, and worked for a number of groups notably Pro Wrestling Wave.

In the big blow to Stardom, which could have survived at probably its same level had either Io Shirai or Kairi Hojo stayed, but now, after Hojo signed, Shirai has now accepted the WWE’s offer. So that’s a devastating blow to the promotion, which was the most popular of the women’s groups in Japan. I was told there are some holdups and Shirai is at this point not a sure thing for the women’s tournament due to timing issues, while Hojo is expected to debut in the tournament. Shirai doesn’t have a start date for Orlando. She was in Orlando in late March at the Performance Center and when she came back, she was leaning toward staying. She’s actually gone back-and-forth on whether or not to go to WWE for months before making the commitment and accepting the WWE contract offer this past week. Shirai posed for the Japanese version of Playboy in the March issue this year. Shirai (real name Masami Odate, 27) debuted in 2007 and made her name in 2010 as part of a trio with older sister Mio Shirai and Kana (Asuka). She’s the current World of Stardom champion and top star of the promotion, and was named Woman Wrestler of the Year in the annual Tokyo Sports awards in both 2015 and 2016. The Triple Tails (Mio Shirai & Io Shirai & Kana) worked for a number of promotions in 2010 and 2011 before starting with stardom in 2011. On May 23, 2012, Odate and Kazushige Nosawa (the wrestler Nosawa), who were boyfriend and girlfriend at the time, were arrested at the Narita Airport coming from Mexico under the suspicions of trying to smuggle 75 grams of marijuana hidden inside paints of the two. She was held in a detention center for three weeks as Japan is extremely strict when it comes to marijuana, especially when the issue becomes legal. She apologized at a press conference and denied the charges, and then said she had broken up with Nosawa. On June 28, 2012, the prosecutor’s office decided against pressing charges against her and on July 9, the wrestler Takuya Sugi said that he had planted the drugs on both of them, claiming he did so because Masahiro Hayashi, a liaison between AAA and Japan had a personal grudge and was trying to get back at Nosawa, and that Hayashi had promised Sugi a contract extension with AAA if they planted the drugs on them.

Hojo lost her Wonder of Stardom championship on the 5/14 show at Korakuen Hall to Miyu Iwatani with a dragon suplex. Hojo still has to lose the trios championship. Hojo was given the word that she has to come up with a new finisher. A lot of people questioned that. Hojo has the coolest looking elbow off the top rope in pro wrestling, probably the best since a young ICW-era Randy Savage. She was told that’s Bayley’s move. To those in Japan, it’s considered ridiculous because that’s the move she’s known for, but it’s a different world. Hojo would walk right into WWE as technically the best of their women wrestlers, but she’s also maybe 5-foot-1, and a lot smaller than Asuka.

Regarding any thoughts of Shirai or Hojo being shown in the audience at the Takeover show this week, both are booked on weekend shows in Japan which would make it impossible unless they cancel their bookings and in Japan, that is almost never done.

Jericho is booked on the 6/30 and 7/1 shows at Sumo Hall in Tokyo. Itami and Tozawa are also on those shows, but not Asuka for some reason. The 6/30 show is Reigns & Rollins vs. Joe & Wyatt, Ambrose vs. Miz for the IC title, Balor vs. Anderson, Jericho vs. Itami, Enzo & Cass vs Sheamus & Cesaro, Bayley & Banks & James vs. Bliss & Jax & Emma, Neville vs. Aries vs. Tozawa for the cruiserweight title and Goldust & R-Truth vs. Dallas & O’Neil. Obviously the opener will be changed and I guess that shows how last minute the idea to split them up was. The 7/1 show is Reigns vs. Wyatt, Ambrose vs. Jericho vs. Balor vs. Miz for the IC title, Rollins vs. Joe, Cass vs. Cesaro, Itami & Tozawa vs. Gallows & Anderson, Bayley & Banks & James vs. Bliss & Jax & Emma, Neville vs. Aries for the cruiserweight title and Goldust & R-Truth vs. Dallas & O’Neil.

Jerry McDevitt, in a filing to get a summary judgment to get what is left of the Evan Singleton, Russ McCullough and Vito LoGrasso concussion-related lawsuits thrown out, largely based on contradicting the claims the plaintiffs lawyers wrote in the filed lawsuit, also listed regarding the idea that concussions and CTE are related wrote, “Reports of such a link remain uncertain and conflicted. Notably, the Consensus Statement from the 5th International Conference on Concussion in Sport published on April 26, 2017 states: “(a) cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been demonstrated between CTE and (sports related concussions) or exposure to contact sports. As such, the notion that repeated concussion or subconcussive impacts cause CTE remains unknown.”

Judge Vanessa Bryant, who is presiding over the bigger case where the dozens of wrestlers including Paul Orndorff and Joe Laurinaitis were suing over the concussion issue, ordered the attorneys on both sides to meet with their clients and each other to discuss a settlement offer.

WWE and Psyonic announced a partnership leading to the heavy push of Rocket League on all WWE platforms. Rocket League will be the lead sponsor of Backlash this week. as well as Great Balls of Fire and SummerSlam. Rocket League is an arcade style soccer crossed with vehicular mayhem type game.

The Ontario Sports Hall of Fame will be honoring Trish Stratus, 41, at their ceremony in Toronto on 10/3 at the Metropolitan Ballroom at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel. Stratus, who was pushed as the only woman ever to win the Iron Mike Mazurki award (given to her last year by the Cauliflower alley Club), will be given the Sandy Hawley Community Service Award. The award is named after one of the greatest jockeys in horse racing history. It’s for an athlete who exemplifies dedication to the community. Stratus has worked with a number of area youth charities.

Adam “Flex” Maxted, 25,a model/bodybuilder reality show star in the U.K. from the TV show “Love Island,” a dating show on ITV 2, was among the names trying out this past week in London. A former stripper, he has wrestled on the U.K. indie scene previously and once wrestled Drew McIntyre.

Marcus Louis (real name Mikael Vierge) did an interview with the Pancakes and Powerslam show talking about the original idea of the Sanity group. He said that in late 2015, he was told by Paul Levesque they were starting a new trio called Sanity, which would be Jacob Southwick (Sawyer Fulton who they were high on because he was a college wrestling star who was about 6-foot-8 and 280 pounds) & Vierge & Sam Johnston (Sami Callihan, who was there as Solomon Crowe). It was to be a combination Punk and Mad max idea. Then Crowe decided he wanted to go back on the indies and asked for his release. Vierge said that Levesque had promised him a new direction for his character four different times, but none of them ever transpired and he ended up being cut.

Cena is advertised for the 7/3 Smackdown TV tapings in Phoenix. He’s not advertised on the WWE website but a ticket e-mailer listed him for that show.

I don’t know that the odds are necessarily good of anything happening from this, but there are still open lines of communication involving bringing Mauro Ranallo back. There’s a lot of water under the bridge. Even though they reached their agreement on his contract where he’s being paid until the end of the deal on 8/12 either way, there clearly is still heat since John Layfield is still blocking anyone who praises Ranallo’s announcing. He was blocking people like crazy a few weeks ago after the Joshua vs. Klitschko fight with people praising Ranallo’s commentary.

Although at one point he was announced when ticket sales were slow, to pick up sales, Nakamura will not be going on the early June NXT U.K. tour. They had pulled him from all the promotion of the tour a couple of weeks ago. To show what is on the tour, these are two of the announced lineups: 6/6 in Manchester has Roode vs. Itami for the NXT title, Aleister Black vs. Andrade Cien Almas, Authors of Pain vs. Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano for tag titles, Asuka vs. Ember Moon for NXT title, No Way Jose & Gallagher vs. Wolfgang & Pete Dunne, Drew McIntyre vs. Killian Dain, Ruby Riot & Aliyah vs. Peyton Royce & Billie Kay and Trent Seven vs Tyson T-Bone. 6/8 in Brighton has Roode vs Kassius Ohno for NXT title, Authors of Pain vs. Sanity vs. Gargano & Ciampa for tag titles, Asuka vs. Royce for women’s title, Black vs. Roderick Strong, Seven & Wolfgang vs. Dunne & T-Bone, Moon vs. Kay, Jose vs. Gallagher and McIntyre vs. Almas.

Black was used on the Raw European tour because he’s the only wrestler on the roster from Holland and they had a show in Rotterdam. He appeared on Main Event since he was traveling with the group and they didn’t want to put him on Raw. Being on Main Event wasn’t a sign a call-up is imminent. He mostly worked three-ways with Neville and Aries and got great reports. With his current NXT presentation, one would think he’d be a big star on the main roster, but after American Alpha and Zayn, I don’t think you can ever assume anyone for sure.

The company signed a TV deal in Turkey with Saran Media. They announced a multi-year deal to air edited versions of Raw and Smackdown on S-Sport. The deal started on 5/13 with S-Sport airing Raw, edited into two hours, at midnight every Saturday night, and would then air Smackdown immediately after, edited to one hour, at 2 a.m.

Ryder is no longer dating Emma. He’s now dating Chelsea Green, who works for Impact as Laurel Van Ness and was in WWE briefly as Bryan’s rehab therapist who Stephanie McMahon bribed to say that he was cheating on Brie Bella with her. Later, she was a late replacement on the last season of Tough Enough.

The secondary market for Chicago isn’t that strong right now as price of entry for the 5/21 Backlash PPV is $56 and for NXT Takeover it’s $39.

Lilian Garcia, on her podcast, talked about how she was asked to do bikini contests by WWE but turned them down because she was very self conscious about her body and the thought of parading her body in the middle of the ring was mortifying to her. She said when she told them she wouldn’t do it, she was freaking out and in tears and couldn’t explain to them why. She blamed it on the horrors of bulimia and body issues and knew if she did it she’d break down in the middle of the ring. She did swimsuit competitions in beauty pageants when she was younger, but noted that she had three bad years with bulimia issues, once where she threw up 15 days in one day, saying she’d drive to McDonalds and then to 7-11 to throw up. She said her teeth were turning grey and one day she threw up blood and that’s when she decided to get help and got help, but in lingers with her.

The 7/7 Madison Square Garden show has Reigns vs. Wyatt, Joe sv Balor, Ambrose vs. Miz for the IC title, Balor vs. Anderson, Hardys vs. Sheamus & Cesaro for tag titles, Bayley & Banks & James vs. Bliss & Fox & Jax, Neville vs. Aries for cruiserweight title and Kalisto & Crews (notably still a face even though he turned on TV) & Rhyno & Slater & R-Truth vs. Samson (so he should be starting up at the house show slotted as a prelim guy)& O’Neil & Dallas & Hawkins & Goldust.

Paul Ellering has been working as a visual interpreter for Rachael Scdoris, a blind candidate for Congress in Oregon.

Some upcoming DVD releases are Seth Rollins on 5/30, Kevin Owens on 7/4, Kurt Angle on 8/1, WWE Unreleased 1985-95 of best matches not previously released on 9/5, A WWE 1997 DVD called Dawn of the Attitude Era on 10/3, and an NXT documentary called “From Secret to Success” on 12/5.

The stock closed at press time at $19.18 per share, so it dropped significantly over the past week, ending with the company valued at $1.47 billion.

The top ten most-watched shows on the network this past week were: 1. WWE 24 Finn Balor; 2. NXT from 5/10; 3. Payback; 4. WrestleMania 33; 5. Bring it to the Table; 6. Backlash 2016; 7. Talking Smack from 5/9; 8. 205 Live from 5/9; 9. Table for 3 with Edge, Christian and Angle; 10. NXT from 5/3.

Notes from the 5/15 Raw show. It was a better show than in recent weeks with Crews and Goldust going heel to change up the undercard a little, and there were a few good action matches. The show drew 10,000 fans in Newark, NJ, which is a solid crowd considering how things have been down since Mania on the domestic front. They were more up than most Raw crowds have been. Main Event opened with Jax pinning Brooke after a Samoan drop in a mostly one-sided match. Swann pinned Daivari with a cradle in a fast moving match.

The show opened with Angle out. He said that Reigns had settled the score with Strowman and that Strowman had a shattered elbow, had surgery and would up out up to six months. He announced a five-way match at Extreme Rules on 6/4, with the winner facing Lesnar for the title on 7/9 at Great Balls of Fire. When he announced the names, Rollins got cheered. Joe got some buzz and a good reaction. Balor got the biggest reaction of all. Wyatt got a so-so reaction and Reigns was heavily booed. Reigns said they don’t need to do a five-way because he’s the No. 1 contender. Given that Reigns was just pinned in his last match on television by Strowman, I’m not sure how he figured that. Reigns said that he beat Undertaker, which drew massive boos, and he’s the only one of the five who can beat Lesnar for the title. Balor came out and said he was first Universal champion and he never lost the title, so the line starts behind him. Reigns said that Balor has all the heart in the world, but doesn’t have the killer instinct to beat Lesnar. Balor said that on his first night on the roster he beat Reigns. Joe came out and said he didn’t care about anyone’s heart, anyone’s yard or anyone’s club, he’s about action. Wyatt interrupted him and showed up in the ring. He said almost nothing when Rollins came out. Rollins challenged Joe and everyone started fighting. Rollins tried to take out Joe’s knee. Balor and Reigns were the last two left in the ring and Balor used a sling blade and flip dive on Reigns and Rollins. Rollins and Balor argued and Angle announced Rollins vs. Wyatt and Reigns vs Balor.

Jeff Hardy pinned Sheamus in 8:26. Jeff did a plancha early but Sheamus caught him and threw him into the barricade. The finish saw Sheamus go to give Matt a Brogue kick off the apron. He missed the first one and Matt didn’t sell it, so Sheamus had to do it again. Sheamus then turned around into a twist of fate by Jeff and swanton. Booker called the finish the coup d’etat, which actually is a term for overthrowing the government, and not the coup de gras which means the finish. Fox pinned Banks in 3:03 with an ax kick. The fans were stunned by this finish as nobody thought Fox had a chance to win. We’ll see in a few weeks how this storyline goes if this makes sense. Miz beat Ambrose via DQ in the IC title match in 12:00. The match was good action and the crowd was with it. Ambrose did a tope. Miz hit his Skull Crushing finale and Ambrose kicked out. Ambrose went for a plancha but Miz put Maryse in the way. Ambrose dove anyway and Maryse got out of there. Maryse distracted the ref and Miz went for a low blow. Ambrose blocked it and then gave Miz a low blow in front of the ref for the DQ.

Balor did an interview with Charly Caruso. The verbiage here was cringeworthy bad. Both Caruso and Balor talked in a manner that no human beings ever would. Balor said, “This may be Roman’s yard, but it’s my universe.” Bliss came out for an interview. She did a great job here. She ran down Newark, running down that it wasn’t New York and called it the sweat gland of America. She called the fans poster children for failure and called herself the Goddess of the WWE. Bliss said that when you’re smarter than everyone and more dominant than anyone that winning becomes easy. Fans started doing the “What” chants to her and she said, “If you’re a failure say `What.’” Then the fans chanted “What” one last time and she said “my point exactly.” They didn’t say “What” again. It was so smooth. She then said if she would have entered Miss USA that Miss DC wouldn’t have won.

Bayley came out and wanted a match at Extreme Rules. Bliss made fun of her, saying Bayley couldn’t get extreme. Well, now that it’s established Bayley is getting a title rematch on the next PPV, why did she lose clean with no cheating two nights in a row to Bliss? Bliss told her that her moment was over and to go back to the kiddie table and leave the championships to the adults. Bayley shoved and dropkicked her. Bliss snapped Bayley’s neck on the top rope. She started looking under the ring for the kendo stick. This was awkward. She couldn’t find it. She looked in one place. Not there. She moved to another place under the ring and couldn’t find it. Poor Bayley had to sell the whole time. It’s never a smart idea for the face to start a fight and then got beat up clean. The heel should at least have to cheat or attack from behind to get the heat. Segments like this are why they can’t get their faces over past a certain level. Bliss finally got the kendo stick and nailed Bayley in the back with it as fans chanted “ECW.”

Angle was on the phone talking with somebody named Sammy, who I guess we’re supposed to think was Zayn. Miz showed up and he wasn’t happy. Miz said he should be champion and that Ambrose intentionally got disqualified to save the title. Angle gave him a rematch and Miz complained Ambrose would do the same thing and wanted a title can change hands via DQ stipulation. Angle agreed to it. Maryse then started yelling at Angle in French. Angle yelled back in the worst French imaginable. Angle still has the knack for the comedy. The Drifter then showed up and started playing the guitar. Angle asked if he could help him. The Drifter ignored him and kept playing the guitar. Neville & Perkins beat Aries & Gallagher in 9:33. Gallagher backdropped Aries over the top rope onto both of them. The crowd kind of killed this match as the beach balls came out. Then security went after the beach balls. The crowd paid no attention to the match and were chanting “We Want Beach Balls,” and then “C.M. Punk” and all kinds of other stuff. They weren’t watching the match. Perkins was working on Aries’ knee again. Aries still jumped of the top rope with a sledge to the floor, which makes no sense with a bad knee. Aries laid out Neville with a discus fivearm on the floor, but Perkins hit the Detonation kick on Gallagher for the pin. Angle was backstage with Bayley, who had an ice pack on her shoulder. Angle said he would give her a rematch in a straight up wrestling match. Bayley got mad saying that wasn’t fair, saying she won’t get her chance at revenge in a straight up wrestling match. So Angle said he would make it a kendo stick on a pole match. R-Truth & Goldust were backstage. R-Truth was sad about losing the fall last week and apologized. Goldust told him he didn’t have to, saying, “How many times have I fallen down and you lifted me back up.”

Reigns pinned Balor in 14:36. This was a really good match. Reigns hit a Samoan drop but missed a charge and went shoulder first into the post. Balor did a double foot stomp off the apron to Reigns’ back. Reigns drove Balor’s back into the post and used the drive by to send Balor into the post again. Balor kicked out of a Superman punch. Balor was on the top rope when Reigns got up and hit him and Balor crotched himself on the top. Reigns won with the spear. The crowd was totally behind Balor as expected. Wyatt did an interview and called Rollins gutless. Rollins did an interview and talked about how he had to battle Stephanie McMahon every week and that Wyatt will not be the guy to stand in his way of winning the title. R-Truth & Goldust came out. R-Truth was dancing around when suddenly Goldust jumped him from behind and beat him down. Fans starting chanting “This is awesome” and “Thank you Goldust” for his heel turn. It’s not even that they didn’t like R-Truth, they just liked seeing an angle they didn’t expect. Goldust beat him down and fans were loudly chanting “Yes.”

Enzo & Cass came out. Enzo noted that he was from the Garden State. O’Neil & Crews came out. O’Neil insulted the fans and said that Crews was going to beat Enzo down. Cass grabbed the mic and said the match wasn’t Enzo vs. Crews but Cass vs. O’Neil. O’Neil was wearing an expensive suit. O’Neil said he had a $3100 suit on and his shoes cost $1200. The writers did come up with a good line for Cass about O’Neil in the expensive suit saying, “You’re not going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.” The match was on. O’Neil was beating down Cass. O’Neil took off his belt. Enzo distracted him by yelling at him. Cass then hit the big boot and pinned O’Neil in 1:08. Enzo went to take a selfie, but Crews gave Enzo an enzuigiri, so that was Crews’ official heel turn. TJP was with Neville. TJP wanted his title shot. Neville said the title shot was around the corner but they still have the Aries problem. He told TJP to take out Aries’ knee in their match the next night and that tomorrow we will end this, once and for all. Rollins beat Wyatt via DQ in 14:10. Rollins did a plancha and a tope. Wyatt used a uranage on the barricade. Wyatt did a sick lariat for a near fall. Rollins did a plancha off the top rope t the floor. Joe then attacked Rollins for the DQ. Joe was beating him down. Wyatt got in Joe’s face. It was surprising to see how much bigger Wyatt was than Joe. Then the two of them put the boots to Rollins together. But then Wyatt laid out Joe with Sister Abigail. He then gave Sister Abigail to Rollins and the show ended. After Raw was over, Wyatt left. Joe went to attack Rollins but Rollins made a comeback, ran Joe off and thanked the fans for coming out.

Notes from the 5/16 tapings in Manchester, NH. It was a usual Tuesday show before 5,500 fans. There was a brief “Fire Bradshaw” chant. The floor director was visibly making fun of the fans chanting and started then taunting the crowd. The only thing promoted last week was that Rusev would be there to confront Shane McMahon. Plans change. Rusev instead was watching a hockey game. New Day was also advertised locally and weren’t there, and the Orton vs. Styles WWE title match the show was built around also never took place. English came out singing and ran down the crowd. Dillinger came and out pinned him in about 5:00 with the Tye breaker. Smackdown opened with Owens out doing the new Kevin Owens Highlight Reel. This sure made it seem like Jericho won’t be gone for that long of a time, since the Highlight Reel is to remind people f Jericho, and Owens talked about Jericho saying how the original host will never ever, ever be seen again (in the Jericho again pronunciation). He went to introduce his guest in French to get heat, and then Styles, who was not his guest, came out. Styles said he was bringing the title back to the USA, and got a “USA” chant going. Styles wanted to do the title match right now. Mahal came out and said that he was supposed to be the guest. Owens said that Styles was a typical rude American interrupting and said that Styles was going to have a tough week, because he’s going to lose to Mahal tonight and then lose to him on Sunday. Mahal pinned Styles in 15:39. Most wrestlers when it comes to working are better as heels, but Styles is just as good, maybe even better as a face. JBL tried to compare Mahal winning the title to Rulon Gardner beating Alexander Karelin or Leicester City. The match was good largely because Styles was outstanding and Mahal was always in position to make everything work. Styles set up the phenomenal forearm, but Owens nailed him with a belt shot to the knee and Mahal got the pin after the cobra clutch slam.

There was another Lana dancing video followed by a Fashion Police segment. They made fun of Corbin always wearing shirts with wolves on it, Zayn’s underwear and the Usos merchandise saying it makes no sense. Breeze was in disguise as a janitor and looked at the mop and talked about how the Usos have such luxurious hair. Fandango then said Breeze was Prince Pretty, meaning he’s the prettiest of all the princes. The segment ended with the two of them about to do a high-five but they do a freeze frame, which looked to be a new gimmick like the Edge & Christian five second pose. Orton did an interview saying that Mahal thinks people don’t like him because of ignorance and intolerance, but they really don’t like him because he’s an ass. Breeze & Fandango beat Colon when Fandango pinned Epico with a falcon arrow in 3:21. The Usos did a promo. Since Breeze & Fandango are the fashion police, their promo was a spoof on reading them their Miranda Rights. The Usos will never be strong heels cutting promos as cool as they did here. It was cleverly written and Jimmy in particular is great at pulling off the delivery.

Next was a contract signing for the women’s trios match. Charlotte said to Naomi that after this match, the queen is coming for her crown, so that match is coming up soon. Ellsworth was very good here. He did a deal where he said that Lynch had the hots for him but to quote Vince, she’s got no chance in hell. He also told charlotte that she doesn’t have a shot with him either. He started on Naomi, who snatched him and slammed his head down on the table. This led to a pull-apart with Naomi and Carmella. Shane McMahon, in the ring for all this, made a match between the two of them. Carmella beat Naomi in a non-title match in 11:19. They never mentioned it was non-title. Well, the term non-title is actually banned in WWE lexicon. But even when Carmella won, they never even acknowledged this may set her up for a title match. The crowd was into this match. Ellsworth saved Carmella from “she calls it the rear view,” and then the ref kicked Ellsworth out. Naomi did a good comeback. She went to the top rope and Tamina jumped on the apron. The ref then kicked Tamina and Natalya out. This led to the brawl with Tamina & Natalya vs. Charlotte & Lynch. Tamina knocked down Charlotte and Naomi gave Tamina a sliding kick. Carmella then came from behind Naomi and pinned her with a schoolgirl holding the tights.

Ziggler did an interview and teased an apology for saying Nakamura was a fraud. He said he was going to show a tape of all the remarkable things Nakamura has done in WWE. So he showed a tape which started with “Footage not Found” and a test pattern. Ziggler said that Nakamura has done nothing in WWE and then showed footage of his own highlights. Zayn did an interview. He said that Corbin was threatened by him. He said he’s dangerous to a guy like Corbin because he’s a constant reminder that Corbin isn’t as dominant as he thinks he is and is a threat to Corbin’s ego because he’ll always get up. Corbin then attacked him from behind and laid him out. Zayn’s job here is to get Corbin over, but even so, given his dialogue and portrayal, it almost takes a skill to book him so badly as a babyface. Orton pinned Corbin clean with the RKO in 13:18. The match was slow paced, but everything was solid and looked good. Mahal then came out and cut a promo. Orton was looking at him when the Singh Brothers both attacked Orton from behind. Orton got the advantage and threw both out of the ring. They were getting back in when Orton hooked them for a double draping DDT. But before he could deliver the move, Mahal attacked Orton from behind and laid him out with the cobra clutch slam.

205 Live opened with an Aries interview. He said that TJP was Neville’s lap dog, and said he was like a little Pomeranian who keeps parking. He said that TJP thinks he’s getting a title opportunity, but Neville is a liar so he’s never getting the shot. He said that his knee was hurting, but that Perkins can’t take him out. It was the usual dead crowd for 205 Live. Dar pinned Gran Metalik in 8:56. Metalik did a top rope Asai moonsault to the floor and a rope walk elbow drop for near falls. Metalik was doing his rope walk spt when Dar kicked him in the leg and Metalik fell off the top rope. Dar pinned him with a running high kick. It’s funny because Gran Metalik in the Cruiserweight Classic was one of the most over guys on a show that did some of the best numbers on the network. A storyline based Cruiserweight Classic built around interviews and English speaking personalities is dying, and obviously Metalik doesn’t fit in well with the latter.

Kendrick did an interview building up a street fight with Tozawa next week. They also announced the return of Cedric Alexander next week. Alexander was brought to TV this week but not used. A match with Nese vs. Mustafa Ali never got started. Ali was coming to the ring when Gulak jumped him and threw him into the post. Nese delivered a running knee into the corner on him. Ali was selling like he was out cold while Gulak held up his “No Fly Zone” sign. Swann did an interview and was asked about Dar & Fox. He said he wanted to get as far away from those lunatics as he could. A package then arrived for Swann. Swann said it was a mistake and wasn’t for him. He said it was for Daivari, who was looking at himself in the mirror with his expensive shirt on. Daivari then walked away. For whatever reason, Gallagher showed up. He was about to open the box. I guess this scene was so they could script Daivari saying, “Get your hands off my package.” Daivari then called Gallagher “common street trash.” Gallagher was insulted but walked away. Daivari then opened the package and powder exploded all over his face and his expensive shirt. Then, in the absolute worst thing possible, they cut to Graves & Phillips. Phillips was out there laughing uproariously and Graves was to a much smaller extent. If they did a tight shot, it would still be bad, but they didn’t. You could see a bunch of fans behind them and not one fan cared or laughed which just made the announcer look incredibly fake and killed whatever humor there was about the powder. I mean, everyone knows he’s instructed to laugh, but he was the geek who is laughing at a joke that nobody else finds funny and that’s the worst spot to put your lead announcer in.

Aries beat Perkins in 12:24. This was a technically good match but the lack of crowd reaction hurt it a lot. The story was that Aries had a bad knee and Perkins spent most of the match working on it. Aries sold well, but did get up and do a plancha and later his low tope. Aries sold the knee even more after the tope, which kind of made doing the tope seem silly. TJP got the kneebar and was holding the ropes. Aries was selling it great while the crowd was just dead. Aries escaped and got the last chancery on and Perkins tapped out quickly. Neville attacked Aries after the match. Neville put Aries in a heel hook and Aries was now tapping like crazy. I’ve never figured out why guys tap in post-match brawls. Gallagher ran in and hit Neville with the umbrella and head-butted him out of the ring. In the dark match main event, Nakamura again beat Ziggler in 10:00 with the Kinshasa. Ziggler was on offense most of them match playing to the crowd.

Notes from the 5/10 NXT TV show. It was just another show. The show opened with Aleister Black pinning Cezar Bononi in 1:29. Bononi is 6-foot-6, about 240-250, good physique, good facials and for the brief time he was in, sold believably. He’s really green obviously but he’s athletic as hell and there is potential here. Black won with a jumping knee that looked like he crushed him and the Black mass spin kick. Black comes across like a superstar in presentation. They did a feature on the Ember Moon injury. They said she’ll be out another four to five weeks with a shoulder sprain. They did a Ruby Riot video feature. I didn’t take much out of it other than she has a lot of tattoos and all her tattoos tell a story. They did a Nikki Cross interview where she slapped around the sound guy, acted all weird about answering questions and at least came off like the weird character that fits her gimmick. Drew McIntyre did an interview. Wesley Blake showed up to interrupt him. I guess Blake is his next victim. There was another video building up the re-debut of Patrick Clark as The Velveteen Dream. Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa did a promo. They wanted a shot at the Authors of Pain in a regular tag match by themselves.

Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli came out. Gargano & Ciampa attacked them and it turned into a match. Gargano & Ciampa beat Moss & Sabbatelli in 5:03. Moss facially looks like Perro Aguayo Jr. if Aguayo was nine inches taller and looked like a football player turned bodybuilder. Gargano did atop eon Moss and Ciampa did a kneedrop off the apron on Sabbatelli. Sabbatelli looks like a guy who would have been a superstar in another era. He towered over these guys and has a great look. He also has some natural heel cockiness but there is a missing component as once you get past his physique he doesn’t stand out even though he moves like an athlete. They did their running superkick and knee sandwich finish on Moss for the pin. William Regal came out and announced they would get a title shot. Paul Ellering and the Authors of Pain came out and Ellering made some threats. Regal then announced it would be a ladder match. Kassius Ohno did an interview. Andrade Cien Almas showed up. Ohno said that Almas has all the talent in the world but he only cares about what happens after the match. That goes with the segment they showed when Almas lost a match and left in a limo with a bunch of women and seemed to not care at all that he lost. They’ll be wrestling next week.

There was a Bate video. Hideo Itami pinned Roderick Strong in 17:59 of a match to determine who would face Bobby Roode for the title at Takeover. So they did those great video features on Strong, pushed how he just had a baby, and then he comes out, works a great match, and loses. The worst thing that ever happened was them trying to sabotage Bryan getting over and him getting over anyway. Now they’ve learned from it and think having fans get into the babyfaces and pulling the rug out makes the babyfaces in the long run. The crowd got into the match late and technically it was good but they weren’t that into it a lot of the way. It was face vs. face. The story was that Strong was looking great, getting all kind of near falls. The problem with near falls here is the fans now chant, “1, 2, sweet” so it’s like a game and it hurts the near falls. Itami got the pin after a busaiku knee, a low dropkick and the GTS. Strong ended up getting a bloody nose, probably from the last move.

NXT opened the weekend on 5/11 in Daytona Beach before 200 fans. Kassius Ohno pinned Adrian Jaoude with the rolling elbow. Sonya Deville pinned Kimberly Frankele with a knee strike. Yanbo Wang of China cut a promo. Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake came out to go after him until Heavy Machinery, Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight, made the save, to set up a tag match. Heavy Machinery won that match with their usual finish of Dozovic doing a world’s strongest slam while Knight jumped on Dozovic’s back to add more weight to it. Jeet Rama pinned Kona Reeves with a slam. Roderick Strong & Buddy Murphy beat Cezar Bononi & Lars Sullivan (Dylan Miley). Strong beat Bononi with a Boston crab. As usual, Sullivan destroyed Bononi after the match and blamed him for losing. Lana beat Danielle Kamela, using the accolade as her submission finish. Once again Lana had Mary Kate in her corner. Babatunde Aiyegbusi, the giant, pinned Demetrius Bronson in a battle of football players. Main event saw Itami & Asuka & Aliyah beating Andrade Cien Almas & Billie Kay & Peyton Royce when Asuka pinned Kay after a kick.

5/12 in Largo, FL, drew 250 fans. Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy. Good opener. Peyton Royce & Billie Kay & Bianca Blair won over Liv Morgan & Danielle Kamela & Sarah Bridges. Blair has a long pony tail that she uses as a weapon and the crowd was chanting “Cut your hair.” Itami pinned Kona Reeves with the GTS. The crowd was lukewarm or Itami even with his current push on TV. Lars Sullivan pinned Wesley Blake. Steve Cutler was in Blake’s corner. Sullivan did some power spots but that was it. Jeet Rama pinned Brennan Williams. Rama was the babyface but the crowd was dead for the match. Rama didn’t show much but he’s from India and they are trying to get him ready as fast as possible. Sanity of Alexander Wolfe & Killian Dain, managed by Nikki Cross, beat Heavy Machinery. Lana pinned Lacey Evans. Lana is a heel doing a pro-Russia gimmick. Evans is wearing new ring gear, more military inspired since her gimmick is that she was a former U.S. Marine. She had been dressed like a pin-up girl on the walls of the military barracks. Well, if it was World War II. Lana used the accolade for the submission. Mary Kate was in Lana’s corner. Lana looked solid in the ring. Ohno & Strong & Buddy Murphy beat Almas & Moss & Sabbatelli in the main event. The crowd was hot for the main event. Strong is way more over at the Florida shows since the videos of him aired on the NXT shows. In fact, the was the most over guy on the show.

The final weekend show was 5/13 in Dade City, FL, which drew 200 fans. Blair won a Battle Royal for a shot at Asuka later in the show. Two women wrestlers debuted in the Battle Royal. One was Julia Ho, a model and martial arts movie actress who has a 2-0 amateur MMA record under the name Julie Real (Julia Ho is her real name). The other is Taynara Melo, who is a judo black belt from Rio de Janeiro with the requisite model looks. She’s the first Brazilian woman WWE has signed and last year was very controversial because she competed in Jiu Jitsu for the first time as a white belt and ran through everyone with the idea that as a black belt in judo she shouldn’t be competing in a white belt JJ tournament. The rest of the women were the regulars like Kay, Royce, Aliyah, Morgan, Bridges, Kamela, Rose, Evans, Frankele and Mary Kate. Ohno pinned Jaoude. Cutler pinned Lorcan. Moss & Sabbatelli beat Ford & Dawkins. Asuka retained the title over Blair. Main event saw Wolfe & Dain, with Cross in their corner, losing to Strong & Jose.

Raw on 5/10 in Zurich, Switzerland drew 6,000. 5/11 in Stuttgart also drew 6,000. 5/12 in Liege, Belgium drew 4,000. 5/13 in Rotterdam, Holland drew 3,000.

Smackdown on 5/10 in Birmingham drew 8,000. 5/11 in Sheffield drew 8,500.

5/12 in Newcastle drew 7,000. 5/13 in Stockholm drew 5,500 for what I believe was WWE’s first show in the market. WWE has never been that strong in Sweden (UFC actually got popular first) but it was a very well responding crowd. The tour ended on 5/14 in Copenhagen, Denmark before 9,000 fans.

Zurich opened with a three-way for the tag titles with the Hardys over Enzo & Cass and Cesaro & Sheamus. Cesaro got a gigantic pop since they were in Switzerland. Good match ending when Matt gave Sheamus the twist of fate and Jeff pinned him with a swanton. Cesaro was really the headliner here but they didn’t stray from the normal course and put him in the opener. Banks & Brooke beat Fox & Jax when Banks beat Fox with the bank statement. R-Truth & Goldust & Crews & Kalisto beat O’Neil & Dallas & Hawkins & Axel when Goldust pinned Hawkins in a comedy-driven match. Neville won a three-way to keep the cruiserweight title over Aries and Aleister Black. Almost nobody knew who Black was. They had what was said to be a fantastic match with Neville pinning Aries holding the tights, so protected Black. Ambrose pinned Miz to keep the IC title with Dirty Deeds after Maryse was kicked out. Bliss pinned Bayley to keep the women’s title with her feet on the ropes. Bayley hit the belly-to-belly after the match. Balor pinned Anderson with the coup de gras in a great match. Rollins & Reigns beat Wyatt & Joe in the main even when Reigns pinned Wyatt with a spear in a good match. The show ended with Rollins posting with a Swiss flag.

Stuttgart the next day was the same show. The Hardys weren’t cheered that much, which was a surprise, but this was also a very pro-Cesaro crowd, that was also pro-Enzo. Fox came out slapping hands and acting like a babyface, but heeled once the match started. R-Truth & Goldust also got a great reaction. Neville vs. Black vs. Aries was the best match of the show. Black did a lot of crazy spots. Aries was getting in the ring when Neville kicked the ropes and Aries got crotched and pinned. Miz came out and did a promo in German, speaking very slowly. Then Maryse spoke in French and bo booed heavily. He said in German that he was awesome and the crowd was dumb. Bliss pinned Bayley but Bayley got her foot on the ropes and the ref missed it. Bayley laid Bliss out after. Fans were chanting “Bullet Club” as Balor faced Anderson. Gallows interfered several times but Balor won with the coup de gras.

Liege was also the same show.

Rotterdam was also the same show. Black, who is from Holland, got the biggest reaction on the Rotterdam show, and that’s a big part of the reason he was used on the tour.

Smackdown in Birmingham opened with Nakamura pinning Ziggler with the Kinshasa in a slow match. Super reaction to Nakamura coming out but really didn’t get much reaction until the end. Breeze & Fandango & Dillinger beat The Ascension & English when Breeze pinned English with the killswitch. Harper pinned Rowan with the discus elbow. Naomi & Charlotte & Lynch beat Carmella & Natalya & Tamina when Naomi pinned Carmella with the rear view. Owens pinned Zayn with a power bomb. Owens talked about how the best part of the British Empire was Canada. Zayn laid him out with the helluva kick after the match. Tyler Bate & Trent Seven & Dan Moloney beat Pete Dunne & Joseph Conners & James Drake when Bate pinned Drake after the Tyler driver 97. They didn’t get that big of a reaction as it’s clear that people come to see stars and don’t see these guys as stars even though they are really good and tear the house down on the local level. Moloney is usually a heel so seemed out of place. Corbin pinned Rawley quickly with the End of Days. Rawley came out with a local reality TV star and thus ended up getting booed. Usos retained the tag titles over the Colon and American Alpha when Jey pinned Primo. Orton retained the WWE title in a three-way over Styles and Mahal. Orton ended up pinning Mahal with the RKO. Styles and Orton got far bigger reactions than anyone else on the show with Styles having a slight edge here.

The next night in Sheffield was the same show, with the exception of Sam Gradwell replacing Moloney in the U.K. six-man tag match. Nobody knew the six guys in that match but it was good enough that they got the people into it by the finish. Styles was more over than Orton here as well. Also in the three-way for the tag title it was Gable who was pinned instead of one of the Colons.

Newcastle the next night was the same show except Saxon Hurley was brought in for the U.K. trios match in place of Gradwell. Seven pinned Conners to take that one with a burning hammer.

Stockholm was the same show but they didn’t use the U.K. guys. Crowd very hot for Nakamura. English got some heat for singing and the crowd was into Dillinger. The women had a hot match and Charlotte was really over. Owens vs. Zayn was the best match. Owens won using a DDT instead of a power bomb. instead Crowd didn’t care for Corbin vs. Rawley. In the tag tea match, Jordan was the one who was pinned. It’s notable beating Jordan & Gable since the rule of thumb, especially on foreign shows, is to protect the face unless it’s a title match. Here they could have beaten the Colons.

Copenhagen was the same show. Dillinger got a huge pop and the six-man was mostly comedy. Harper has been doing flexing his arms in his matches with Rowan. Lynch and Flair got the biggest reactions of the women. Crowd was dead for Rawley vs. Corbin. The show ended after the three-way title match with Styles picking up the belt and teasing the idea of a singles match with Orton.