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April 16, 2018 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Historic Wrestlemania 34 weekend reviewed, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 April 16, 2018

 

WRESTLEMANIA 34 POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 317 (51.0%)

Thumbs down 110 (17.7%)

In the middle 194 (31.2%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Rousey & Angle vs. Stephanie & HHH 379

Charlotte vs. Asuka 139

A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura 54

Rollins vs. Miz vs. Balor 46

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Strowman & Nicholas vs. Sheamus & Cesaro 158

Undertaker vs. John Cena 122

Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns 92

Bludgeon Brothers vs. New Day vs. Usos 62

Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss 52

Women's Battle Royal 44

Mahal vs. Roode vs. Orton vs. Rusev 34

Men's Battle Royal 30

Bryan & Shane vs. Owens & Zayn 13

 

NXT TAKEOVER POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 634 (96.9%)

Thumbs down 1 (00.2%)

In the middle 19 (02.9%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa 392

North American title ladder match 189

Aleister Black vs. Andrade Cien Almas 50

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Shayna Baszler vs. Ember Moon 311

Tag title match 145

 

UFC 223 POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 129 (89.0%)

Thumbs down 10 (06.9%)

In the middle 6 (04.1%)

BEST MATCH POLL

Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Kyle Bochniak 94

Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 37

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Bec Rawlings 71

Renato Moicano vs. Calvin Kattar 10

 

ROH SUPERCARD OF HONOR RESULTS

Thumbs up 126 (57.3%)

Thumbs down 20 (09.1%)

In the middle 74 (33.6%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Cody vs. Kenny Omega 76

SoCal Uncensored vs. Bucks & Gordon 62

Kota Ibushi vs. Hangman Page 55

Dalton Castle vs. Marty Scurll 14

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Sumie Sakai vs. Kelly Klein 100

Bully Ray & Cheeseburger vs. Titus & Ferrara 40

Silas Young vs. Kenny King 37

Dalton Castle vs. Marty Scurll 8

Chucky T vs. Jonathan Gresham 8

Based on e-mails to the Observer as of Tuesday, 4/10.

 

WrestleMania week was ridiculous newsworthy for WWE, between the show itself, business news related to the show, marquee talent, new talent and more.

The Raw and Smackdown television shows after WrestleMania saw the returns of No Way Jose, Bobby Lashley, Samoa Joe and Jeff Hardy on Raw, as well as debuts of Ember Moon and the Authors of Pain, with an angle seemingly breaking them up from Paul Ellering.

Smackdown saw the debuts of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce as The Iconics tag team, as well as Shinsuke Nakamura going heel at WrestleMania after his match with A.J. Styles.

There will be more changes this coming week with the Superstar shakeup on 4/16 in Hartford and 4/17 in Providence.

WrestleMania, which took place on 4/8 at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, was a nearly seven hour show, far too long with some strong highlights, such as the debut of Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair’s match with Asuka which saw Asuka’s unbeaten strike ended.

The Kurt Angle & Rousey vs. HHH & Stephanie McMahon match was generally viewed as the highlight of the show, with Rousey making one of the best debuts in pro wrestling history. Rousey came off both Sunday and Monday like she was the biggest star in the promotion, in terms of both name value and crowd reaction. It really couldn’t have gone better, to the point where there has been very open talk about the possibility of Rousey vs. Flair as the first-ever women’s WrestleMania main event next year.

It should be noted that Rousey had been working months on the match. But still, the basics as far as footwork and movement, and her expected strong point regarding her mad facial expressions as well as overall athletic ability were there. She lit up the crowd with a number of different spots, including a crazy punching sequence on Stephanie and another on HHH, as well as when he got HHH in the armbar, which would have made an even bigger finish than the one on Stephanie. But there were storyline reasons of Stephanie selling the injury that Stephanie was the one to tap out.

As far as other first matches that I’ve seen, Jun Akiyama was more compete, but he also debuted against Kenta Kobashi and not Stephanie McMahon. DeAngelo Williams was more athletic, but he was a legit NFL superstar running back. But Williams’ situation with Impact was much different, in that he was only in the ring for a few minutes, while Rousey was in far longer than expected and did far more than expected. Williams also only had two days of training for his debut while Rousey has trained for about a year for pro wrestling and months specifically for this match. But Williams also only wanted to do it once as a life bucket list thing while Rousey is out there to make her next career, to the point she’s now saying it was a good thing she lost those last two fights because it made her start wrestling sooner.

But whatever comments people had made, with the idea she wouldn’t get over to wrestling fans, or she’d flop in the ring, or wouldn’t sell merchandise have all been shut down, at least for the short-term. She still has to now do angles without being surrounded by people at the level of Angle, HHH and Stephanie, and work in the ring when Ronda Rousey doing pro wrestling is no longer novelty.

Either way, for the first time in company history, its most over performer on a big show and most well-known mainstream star is a woman.

While Rousey may have been the most pleasant surprise, the biggest surprise was the end of the show, as Brock Lesnar retained the WWE title pinning Roman Reigns. In many ways, this was a replay of 2015, where Reigns was promised the title, it was clear the fans would reject it, and about a week out, Vince McMahon changed his mind and kept that a secret.

It was also expected that this would be Lesnar’s last match with the WWE before going to UFC. But until Lesnar goes into the USADA drug testing pool for UFC, and he needs to be in it for six months before he can fight, I’m not sure how serious you can take his UFC return. It was the same as 2015 where the word was that Lesnar would be returning to UFC. In 2015, he announced on ESPN days before WrestleMania that he had signed a new WWE deal and would never fight again. Then he ended up fighting again in 2016, after Vince McMahon gave his approval because of his big money UFC offer for one match. This time, they waited until after the match to announce his signing, but last time was a three-year deal while this was a short-term deal.

The length of time was not revealed because, if it was, one could pretty much pinpoint the plan as to when he will drop the title. An agreement was reached on 4/2 in Atlanta before Raw for a short-term deal. What we know about the deal is that the key thing on it is the 4/27 Greatest Royal Rumble show, where he defends in a cage match against Reigns. We also know it is not listed as a one-match deal, although it wouldn’t shock me if it turns out that way, and the deal does end before SummerSlam. It also allows Lesnar to negotiate one UFC fight while under contract. Obviously, the fight would be taking place after his WWE contract is over.

Lesnar was said to have gotten a significant raise on his new deal, and while there is once again lots of talk he does Saudi Arabia, and perhaps other dates, but when the deal is over, they are right back where they started. There is no reason they can’t sign another deal, whether short-term or long-term, and his value as far as both sides wanting him.

Offers could increase as both sides are expected to sign television deals that give them far more money to work with. Lesnar has been offered a fight against the Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier winner, and his WWE deal would allow him to take that fight while under contract. The interesting question is if he stays with WWE for a longer deal, would UFC give him a title fight and put themselves in a position where if Lesnar wins (and he’d be a significant underdog against either Miocic or Cormier, but in MMA, anything can happen as the right blow connects and the match can be over) where Vince McMahon would own their heavyweight champion?

The dynamic here is unique and he’s the only guy with it. While UFC and WWE can claim they are not competition, and to a degree they are not and in other ways they are, one of the ways they are is they are both competition to sign Lesnar. Until Rousey signed, Lesnar was generally considered with John Cena as one of WWE’s two biggest stars, particularly mainstream. For UFC, with Rousey gone, the belief was that Lesnar was UFC’s second biggest potential drawing card, behind Conor McGregor, although it is possible Georges St-Pierre may be ahead of him at this point. Both UFC and WWE are expected to be far more profitable than ever, so they can afford far more than ever before. WWE doesn’t want the appearance that one of its biggest stars left for UFC, even if they got Rousey, who is a bigger mainstream name than Lesnar and gets them far more attention. UFC badly needs some big PPV numbers by the end of this year, which means they have to have Lesnar agreeing to a fight by June to get him back in the testing pool.

The comment made on the 4/2 Raw by Paul Heyman in his interview, as a spoiler, that if Reigns beats Lesnar, that they will never appear on Raw again, sounded weird. Whether he leaves for UFC or not, even if it’s a couple of years (and at Lesnar’s age, turning 41 in July, he realistically has very little time in UFC), he is coming back. There’s simply too much money for Lesnar, and WWE has already shown they are fine with paying him big money for limited dates. And financially, they’ll be able to afford that more easily going forward.

As it turns out, the line was because Heyman was aware that Lesnar was beating Reigns. Almost nobody else was. Unlike most of the talent contracts, which are done by Paul Levesque and the talent relations department, Lesnar only talks deals with Vince McMahon.

Lesnar and McMahon verbally agreed on the terms and tenure of the new deal, and Lesnar beating Reigns at Mania, in Atlanta. Heyman, whose deal is tied in with Lesnar, also agreed to stay. Heyman was doing media working everyone all week, including at his show where he said that Lesnar was going to UFC (which he still may do) and that he believes Sunday is his last day with the company. The contract itself wasn’t signed until they were in New Orleans, said to be the day of the show.

The script for WrestleMania and production meeting for the main event was for Reigns to pin Lesnar after bouncing off the ropes and hitting a fifth spear in the match. Instead, he came off the ropes, and Lesnar picked him up, hit a sixth F-5 in the match, and got the pin.

It’s hard to know who knew about it ahead of time. Reigns was told the day of the show. One would suspect Paul Levesque and a few others were told by Vince.

The referee, Chad Patton, was tipped off while inside the ring at the start of the match. He was told, but not exactly told. When they were all in the ring, Lesnar said to him something along the lines of, make sure to count three when the shoulders are down, which he never would have needed to say if Lesnar was getting pinned after a bunch of spears as everyone was told. It’s somewhat similar to the story of Lesnar’s win over Undertaker four years ago, where the ref’s instructions were to count the pin and that it was the job of the wrestlers to get their shoulders up. Michael Hayes, who laid out the match with Lesnar, Reigns and Heyman, reportedly was not told and they laid the match out with a finish set up with Reigns winning after several spears.

When it was over, everyone was shocked, but they knew it was an F-5 and Reigns didn’t kick out, and it was clear Lesnar didn’t go into business or go against the script. Still, when Lesnar hit the Gorilla position, he did throw the belt at Vince McMahon and it hit the wall, and there were a few words said. There were explanations given as to why Lesnar was mad, but it could very well have just been that they were working the people backstage, although the story being told is Vince was not aware nor expecting it, and obviously, Shane McMahon wasn’t. Lesnar and Heyman continued walking to the back and got in their SUV and were driven off. Shane McMahon, who didn’t know anything, was furious at what he perceived as an attempt to intimidate his father, and did go after them, but they were already gone and there was no confrontation. The belief is that Lesnar didn’t even know Shane went after him until they got word much later, long after he was gone, from people who were there watching Shane take off.

There is a romantic thing about working everyone that some have with wrestling. Lesnar matches always have that element, such as the blood in almost all his Mania matches when blood is banned, or the brutal beatings from hard elbows to the head that left John Cena a bloody mess in Lesnar’s first match back, and left Randy Orton with a concussion a few years back. The reality, and this case is no different, as it builds a lack of trust among key employees and the belief that everything said isn’t believed and questioned, which is not a good thing in a business where paranoia runs deep. You only have to look at the last few years of WCW to see the long-term of this direction.

But Lesnar has different rules. McMahon and Reigns both agreed to allow Lesnar to give the elbows to the head and draw the hardway juice. Given the lumps on his head the next day, he took real shots, and if they did a secret pre-existing blade job, it would be one cut, not two, and it would be a clean cut, rather than an ugly cut that comes from an elbow shot. Realistically a blade job is actually less barbaric, even if to the public it isn’t, than laying there and waiting to take elbow shots to the hairline, and far less dangerous, particularly in a business that on one hand takes precautions against concussions, and then does this. The German announcers were obviously not clued in on what happened at their table, and that did become a news story.

From the Lesnar standpoint, even if he is going to UFC, it’ll be a minimum six months before he can fight, so it makes sense to get big money before he gets his UFC big money, particularly seeing with WWE making so much on the Saudi Arabia show from that country’s government, Lesnar recognized he could get a big payday for the match.

From a Reigns standpoint, the reality is, the crowd in New Orleans was sitting there ready to ruin his long-delayed coronation. The build to the match, with the idea of portraying Lesnar as someone who was going to leave the company, didn’t care about the company, the other wrestlers, or the fans, and would give fans one minute matches when he would show up and would no-show advertised dates at will (all arranged by McMahon for getting him over as a heel) did work in the sense the fans did not cheer Lesnar. It didn’t work because they still came to the show with the idea of rejecting Reigns. They crapped all over the main event, chanting “This is awful,” and worse, and reacted more to beach balls in the crowd and decided to get back at the company by paying no attention to what was a main event that was the culmination of a year’s worth of stories. The big planned moment, when Reigns would kick out of the first F-5. It got no reaction. Then they did it several more times, and people still didn’t react. Nothing, but kicking out of finishers, which always works in big WWE matches, or copious amounts of blood spilled, which is almost never allowed, would get them into it.

Saudi Arabia at least would go with it better, if the title change is in Saudi Arabia. The belief is that Reigns’ title win is imminent, as it’s hard to believe McMahon would book him to lose the cage match. He could still go with Braun Strowman, who is far more popular. But Strowman isn’t as versatile in the ring and has to be protected more in booking. Reigns also could go heel, although one would think if that was in the cards, they’d have done it along ago. Samoa Joe was groomed to be the first challenger for Reigns, but that isn’t a new match, and there really is nobody else, as most of the strong title contenders are on the face side.

As far as WrestleMania, Seth Rollins won the IC title in a three-way over champion The Miz and Finn Balor. Jinder Mahal won the U.S. title in a four-way over champion Randy Orton, as well as Bobby Roode and Rusev. The Bludgeon Brothers, Erick Rowan & Luke Harper, won the Smackdown tag titles in a thee-way over champs The Usos and Big E & Kofi Kingston. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn lost to Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon, so they are still storyline fired. Nia Jax won the Raw women’s title over Alexa Bliss. Shinsuke Nakamura lost to A.J. Styles in a match that was very good, but not nearly at the level of expectations, and then turned heel on Styles after the match. The Raw tag titles also changed hands as Braun Strowman brought out a supposed 10-year-old fan Nicholas (the son of referee John Cone) and they beat Sheamus & Cesaro, although they vacated the belts the next day since Nicholas has school.

The match strongly hinted at, pushed really hard, but never announced, with John Cena vs. Undertaker, did take place. Barely. Cena was shown sitting in the crowd as a fan at ringside, as he said he would be. At one point, an official came out and Cena got up and ran to the back. The idea is he was told Undertaker was there.

After the Smackdown tag title match, Cena came out. He waited in the ring and then he left and went to the back. Elias then came out. Elias had been listed for the men’s Battle Royal but was not in the match. He was playing the guitar and sang about how Cena sucked. Cena came out, did a few trademark spots and got rid of Elias with an Attitude Adjustment. Then, before he left, all of a sudden Undertaker’s coat and hat that he put on the mat at last year’s WrestleMania when he retired was in the ring. Lighting struck and his music played, and Undertaker came to the ring. He beat Cena in less than 3:00.

Basically, the decision to go with Cena vs. Undertaker was made months ago. At some point they realized that Undertaker couldn’t do a match of any length. That was the catalyst for the build being what it was, because they wanted everyone to know Undertaker would be there against Cena, but downplay the idea it was one of the biggest matches on the show as people would expect it to be with a normal build.

As far as what is next, besides the Lesnar vs. Reigns cage match, also announced for The Greatest Royal Rumble is a John Cena vs. HHH match, an Undertaker vs. Chris Jericho casket match, plus seven championship matches with every men's title at stake.

Originally Undertaker was going to face Rusev in a casket match, but Rusev on Twitter, called attention to the match and then wrote “bury me softly, brother” in response. Jericho, who was originally to have been in the Rumble, was then put in his spot. This would only be the third time Jericho has ever wrestled Undertaker in a singles match, as hard as that is to believe.

Jericho’s latest Fozzy tour ends 4/22 and he doesn’t go back to touring until 7/12, so it is possible he could be back for more dates either here or New Japan during that period.

No women will be allowed to perform at the show which has become somewhat controversial but there is a lot of money at stake and money comes before principles in big business. WWE has been criticized by fans, and to a degree, their position of being part of this women's empowerment movement when they are really just catching up to many other sports and in some cases were 50 years behind tennis, is a contradiction in doing business here, I've seen no mainstream criticism or business criticism. It's just accepted in a big money deal like this that you have to play by the rules of the country you go to. I don’t like it. But it’s business. But that said, it doesn’t bother me if they promote women’s wrestling hard while doing it, but it is a contradiction talking about being trail blazers for women in sports or society when they do business with people who treat women as second-class citizens to the point they won’t allow much of their roster to perform.

Also announced is a four-way ladder match for the IC title with Rollins defending against Miz, Samoa Joe and Balor. The vacant Raw tag team titles will be decided with Sheamus & Cesaro facing the winners of a match on the 4/16 Raw in Hartford between Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt vs. The Revival. The Bludgeon Brothers will defend the Smackdown tag team titles against The Usos. There will also be a U.S. title defense by Jinder Mahal, a WWE title defense by A.J. Styles, probably against Shinsuke Nakamura, and a cruiserweight title defense by Cedric Alexander, with Mustafa Ali or Buddy Murphy the likely opponents.

The show will air worldwide live on the WWE Network, but in a number of countries, it will also air live on local television. We’ve already heard the local stations in the Middle East, and several stations in Europe will be carrying it.

Names announced for the 50 man Rumble are Daniel Bryan, Big Show, Kane, Bray Wyatt, Angle, Baron Corbin, New Day, Apollo, Shelton Benjamin, Sin Cara, Elias, Chad Gable, Goldust, Titus O'Neil, Mojo Rawley and Dolph Ziggler. PW Insider also reported the name Rey Mysterio Jr., which we have confirmed. Mysterio Jr. has not at press time agreed to terms for a return, but both sides are still in talks, but is doing this as a one-shot deal. If Mysterio was to sign with WWE, it wouldn’t be immediate since he’s got commitments for a number of events over the next several months outside WWE, including Arolucha TV tapings and New Japan dates.

Basically this show is an all-hands on deck event with all the part-time top stars like Lesnar, Angle, HHH, Cena and Jericho being brought in.

After that comes the 5/6 Backlash show from Newark, NJ. Thus far announced is Reigns vs. Joe, which would be a Universal title match if Reigns win the title, and Rollins vs. Miz for the IC title. It has been pushed heavily on television as a dual-branded show, but all the PPVs from this point forward will be dual-branded. Mahal vs. Randy Orton for the U.S. title is also announced.

This may mean nothing so far in advance, but does indicate it was at least the plan at some point, but there is advertising already out in the Pittsburgh market for the 7/15 Extreme Rules PPV show listing Styles vs. Nakamura vs. Corbin as the main event for the WWE title. It should be noted that of all the non-main event talent in WWE right now, Vince is still highest on Corbin as a future major player. Then again, coming off WrestleMania last year, the idea was to give Corbin his new music and go heavy with him, and they didn’t pull that trigger.

As of 4/9, the WWE Network was at 1,808,000 total subscribers and and also had 316,000 free subscribers based on the strong free push on television. Both are worldwide numbers, not domestic. Because the splits weren’t announced, right now there is no way to know if the increase from last year is primarily new markets, or existing markets like the U.S. Last year, the day after WrestleMania, those numbers were 1,661,000 paid and 288,000 free.

From New Year’s Day to WrestleMania, they picked up a net addition of 335,000 subscribers, up from 258,000 last year.

There are two things to note. There were a ton of gimmicks done over the past three months to build up the paid numbers, by offering 99 cents, $1.99, $2.99 and $9.99 total offers at different times for three months. Those subscribers are listed as paid. Really, until August, when you can compare revenues from the first two quarters, you really don’t know what this means other than to those not delving into things are looking at it closer, it is a nine percent increase in paid subscribers,

Even if revenue is the same, or even down because of the gimmicks, the real test is how many of the free subscribers and cut-rate subscribers don’t’ cancel and become full priced subscribers.

WrestleMania is the big driver of the growth and this year’s Mania, on paper, with Rousey, Bryan, and Cena vs. Undertaker, was stronger than last year so paid growth being better should have been the case. But since we don’t know how many of those 335,000 new subscriptions are at full price, it’s kind of meaningless until we see the conversion rate.

The actual average paid subscribers for the first quarter were 1,558,000, up five percent from 1,490,000 last year, but again, that includes this year’s gimmicks.

However, the key in all this is WWE predicts that the second quarter average, due to all the free subscriptions and nine percent increase in paid, for quarter two, would be 1,770,000, up 8.3 percent from 1,634,000 last year.

A major positive is that the company also projects first quarter OIBDA to be at least $30 million, up from the projected $23 million to $27 million. The keys are more profitable house shows due to higher ticket prices, more live event sponsorships and higher Internet advertising revenue than projected. The company is now projecting at least $145 million in OIBDA in 2018, up from $136.1 million in 2017.

At the conference call, George Barrios addressed a stat we’ve written about in for years. When it comes to social media and YouTube, roughly 80 percent of the numbers come from outside the U.S. But less than 30 percent of the revenue comes from outside the U.S. Some would take this as social media and YouTube views being overrated as revenue drivers. He was saying it shows that the overseas potential for revenue is strong given all this interest level that hasn’t led to revenue yet. They noted Saudi Arabia is part of that strategy, but Saudi Arabia is a wealthy government looking to spend money to bring in American entertainment, which is very different from consumer spending.

Barrios would not say what type of money the Saudi Arabia deal is bringing in, but did note with the 4/27 show being in the second quarter, that when that quarter’s business numbers are released, it would be there.

Regarding YouTube numbers in places where revenue isn’t strong, he said that revenue historically follows engagement numbers. He said it’s happened for 100 years, he said it may not be that way in the future, but because of history, they think it will.

He and Michelle Wilson pushed that the increase this year was them aggressively pushing trial subscriptions and free subscriptions, plus the increase in interest from sports fans because of all the publicity they got in the sports media for Rousey’s debut.

For the week of WrestleMania, the average WWE Network subscriber watched 11.86 hours of programming. Last year they averaged 11.54 hours of programming. So essentially it was up 19 minutes, but with a Hall of Fame show that went much longer, and an NXT show that went about 40 minutes longer, plus a longer Mania show, if anything, you’d expect far more than a 19 minute per viewer increase.

He also said that creating new tiers for the network will happen sooner than later. Recently, WWE sent out another survey to some of its subscribers asking about interest in a future tier and bringing up if they had interest in footage from different promotions, listed as TNA (which doesn’t even use that name anymore), New Japan, ROH, ICW and Progress. WWE already has deals in place with ICW and Progress for network footage, but Vince McMahon hasn’t greenlit the idea of putting any current non-WWE promotion on.

The live attendance was announced as 78,133 fans with a gate of $14.1 million. WWE exaggerates live attendance, usually between 10,000 and 15,000, although according to police records, two years ago the exaggeration was 20,000 (the building itself claimed the exaggeration was only 8,000).

The live gates are legit, although they do include ticket surcharge revenues which most sports that announce gates don’t add into things. The gate would be the third largest in pro wrestling history, trailing the record of $17 million two years ago in Dallas and the $14.5 million last year in Orlando. WWE announced it as the largest “entertainment” gate in the history of the building, meaning for this day it wasn’t sports and you eliminate things like Super Bowls or Final Fours that have also taken place in the building. It’s still a monster number.

\ At the 2014 WrestleMania in the same building, they announced 75,167 fans, and the actual attendance was between 60,000 and 65,000, with 59,500 paid. With lower ticket prices, the gate for that show was $10.9 million the way WWE announces and $9.8 million the way other sports or entertainment events would have.

We were told the afternoon of the show that the real number this year would also be between 60,000 and 65,000, and that they “had” to announce a bigger number than four years ago. It probably won’t be until August that the second quarter numbers will be released to where actual attendance can be deciphered. Due to a good amount of late buys which came with the announcement of Daniel Bryan on the show, it was a legitimate sellout.

It was also an early arriving crowd, as usually it’s not until just before the main show starts that the building fills up and it’s empty for the first match and so-so for the second. It was packed when the show started, and thus, the whole crowd got tired earlier with the long show.

1. Matt Hardy won the Andre the Giant Battle Royal in 16:35. This was pretty much everyone on the roster who didn’t have a match on the main show and wasn’t hurt, or being kept off until television later, except for Elias. Zack Ryder threw out Aiden English and the fans booed because they like English. English had hair here, but then pretty much shaved his head after this match (and it wasn’t even Mexico) for the introduction of Rusev a few hours later. Konnor was next out. The camera work was bad and the announcers didn’t even get told who was eliminated when it wasn’t on the screen. Next out was Curt Hawkins, and Goldust then threw out R-Truth (back from an injury). R-Truth for the first time in his career worked with his shirt on. Tye Dillinger threw out Primo Colon. Mike Kanellis was next out. Shelton Benjamin dumped Tyler Breeze. Viktor was next out. Dolph Ziggler was doing the dangling but not eliminated bit throughout the match. Mojo Rawley pounced Zack Ryder over the top. Chad Gable sent Karl Anderson over the top with a rolling koppo kick. Titus O’Neil kicked Luke Gallows over he top. Dash Wilder threw out Apollo. Dash Wilder eliminated Benjamin. Chad Dawson threw out Rhyno. Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel threw out Wilder & Dawson. Kane grabbed Dallas by the throat and pushed him over the top. Baron Corbin hip tossed Sin Cara onto a bunch of guys who had been eliminated that were still hanging out. Corbin threw Heath Slater into the post and he fell to the floor and was eliminated. Ziggler superkicked and clotheslined O’Neil over the top. Ziggler backdropped Goldust over the top. Fans booed that one. Matt Hardy threw Dillinger over the top. This left Kane, Hardy, Ziggler, Corbin and Rawley. Kane threw out Ziggler when he tried the zig zag. Corbin threw out Kane. Bray Wyatt then showed up in the ring. Hardy threw out Rawley. Corbin hit the end of days on Wyatt. Matt then threw out Corbin. It appeared it had come down to Matt and Wyatt, and that’s how Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were calling it, and then the bell rang and they announced Matt as the winner, as I guess Wyatt was never in the match. Matt and Wyatt then hugged when it was over. *1/2

2. Cedric Alexander pinned Mustafa Ali in 12:15 to win the vacant cruiserweight title. This was a good match, but nothing compared to a lot of the 205 Live matches on television. Alexander did a running flip dive. He also did a standing Spanish fly. Ali did a top rope Spanish fly. Ali used the 054, but Alexander got his foot on he ropes. Ali tried it a second time, but missed. Alexander hit three spinning elbows and got the pin with the lumbar check. ***

3. Naomi won the women’s Battle Royal in 9:38. This was all the women on the roster plus Peyton Royce, Dakota Kai, Kavita Davi (they wanted someone from India–you have to know the buzzword internally when it comes to talent and announcers is ethnic diversity), Taynara Conti (they wanted someone from Brazil), Bianca Belair and Kairi Sane (Japan) from NXT. This was just quickly eliminating people. They pushed this as the first women’s Battle Royal in WrestleMania history. There was actually one in 2009 that Santino Marella won in drag, which comes across even more embarrassing today than it would have then, so I guess it never happened. Bayley kicked Carmella out first. Dana Brooke was next out. The NXT women got an NXT chant going. The NXT women dumped Mandy Rose. Belair hit a 450 on Kai and Sonya Deville threw her out. Lana and Davi were next out. Liv Morgan kicked Conti off the apron. Belair did the hair whip on Becky Lynch. She tried a second time but Lynch threw out Belair. Banks threw out Kai. Mickie James threw out Lynch. The crowd booed that one. Riott then knocked James off the apron. The Riott squad all threw out Royce. Natalya did a suplex to Riott and Logan at the same time. Bayley and Banks then combined to throw out Natalya. Bayley and Banks joined forces to throw out Morgan, and then Riott, and then Logan. This in theory left Bayley vs. Banks. The crowd popped big thinking they were the last two. Banks hesitated this time but Bayley didn’t and just threw him over. Suddenly, Naomi, who had been on the floor most of the match, got in the ring after everyone thought Bayley had won. Naomi hit Bayley with the rear view and then threw her over the top. *1/2

4. Seth Rollins won the IC title in a three-way over champion The Miz and Finn Balor in 15:35. Rollins came out wearing dark blue contacts. Miz came out and told Axel and Dallas to go to the back as he wanted to do this on his own. He worked the entire match as a face, as he was since his daughter was born. The next night he was back heel. Balor got a lot of attention for his ring entrance with members of the LGBTQ community of New Orleans. Balor wasn’t the Demon, even at WrestleMania. Balor did a running flip dive on both. The crow was up fr this. Rollins did a tope on Balor and another on Miz. They traded big moves. Miz had the figure four on Balor and Rollins broke it with a splash off the top on Miz, but Miz kicked out of the pin. Rollins power bombed Miz into the buckle and gave Balor a superplex, but Balor cradled him off of it, the finish of their TV match, but Rollins kicked out. Miz hit the skull crushing finale on Rollins, who kicked out. Miz’s right side was all bruised up. Miz was on top of Rollins and Balor came off the top with the coup de grace on Miz. Balor used a sling blade and Woo dropkick on Miz, and went to the top for the coup de grace. Balor was pinning Miz when Rollins hit Balor with the curb stomp and then hit Miz with the curb stomp for the pin. This was good, but the Rollins vs. Miz match on Raw last week was significantly better. ***½

5. Charlotte Flair beat Asuka in 13:04 to keep the Smackdown women’s title. Flair looked like she had dropped some weight. Real good opening sequence. A funny part of this match is that originally they were going to work the match around Asuka’s armbar finisher. Then they were told Asuka is no longer allowed to do the armbar. The whole idea for Asuka going from the chicken wing to the armbar was to set up something with Ronda Rousey, so that’s the sign they dropped that idea when she went from being told to focus ont the armbar to being told not to use it. Flair did chops and knees and a Flair flip into the corner. Asuka used a hip attack to knock Flair off the apron. Asuka got a choke but Charlotte broke it with a backpack stunner. Flair did a moonsault but was caught with a triangle. Flair turned it into a Boston crab. Flair was bleeding from the left elbow. Asuka suplexed Flair off the apron to the floor. Both barely beat the ten count back in. Asuka started landing all kinds of strikes and got a near fall after a missile dropkick. Flair used a top rope Spanish fly (the third time that move had been used in the previous 90 minutes) for a near fall and went for natural selection, but Asuka used an armlock. Asuka went for the Asuka lock but Flair rolled it into a pin. Flair started crying at this point in the match. She was about to win and it was her biggest career win on the WrestleMania stage and this time of the year is the anniversary of Reid’s death. And it was Reid who talked her into becoming a wrestler and it was Reid whose dream she is living, since she never wanted to be a wrestler until Reid talked her into it with the idea they’d train in Orlando together (he then failed the drug test and his contract offer was rescinded). Flair hit the spear and then put Asuka in the figure eight. She was bridging with one arm, because she was selling the left arm based on Asuka’s armlock earlier. This was an excellent match, second best on the show. It was hard hitting and emotional. Asuka then grabbed the mic and said, “Charlotte was ready for Asuka. Congratulations.” And they hugged. It was weird because they walked over Flair’s in-ring celebration when referee Dan Engler came out and told Cena that Undertaker was there and Cena ran to the back. ****

6. Jinder Mahal won a four-way to win the U.S. title over champion Randy Orton, Rusev and Bobby Roode in 8:13. Good fast action. Aiden English’s singing for Rusev got a big reaction. Rusev was the most over guy in the match, so of course he ended up losing. Rusev did a hell of a dropkick on Roode. Orton gave Rusev a back suplex on the barricade. Orton threw Mahal into the post shoulder first. English ran in at one point and Orton laid him out with an RKO. The finish saw Roode hit the glorious DDT on Orton, but Mahal saved. Rusev landed a kick on Roode and another on Mahal. Rusev then kicked Sunil Singh, which gave Mahal the chance to get him from behind and hit the Khallas for the pin. **3/4

Mick Foley made a cameo in a Snickers commercial with Tyler Breeze & Fandango.

7. Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey beat HHH & Stephanie McMahon in 20:26. So the story is that nobody in the history of the company was ever there so long before having their first WrestleMania match and Stephanie started as a character 19 years ago. Jerry Lawler started with WWF in 1992 and his only WrestleMania match was in 2011, but in his case it was 18 years plus. HHH & Stephanie came out to a big motorcycle parade ring entrance. Rousey came out wearing a kilt like Roddy Piper. The crowd was up more for this than anything on the show, by a wide margin. They were chanting Rousey’s name right away. McMahon pie faced Rousey and pulled her down by the hair. It started with Angle vs. HHH to build to the women. Stephanie pulled down the ropes and Angle took a bump over the top. HHH threw him shoulder first into the post. Stephanie slammed his head on the ring steps. HHH was beating on him. HHH went to punch Angle, who moved, and almost hit Stephanie. Angle went to tag but Stephanie had pulled Rousey off the apron. Finally Angle got out of a pedigree and flipped HHH over the top rope and made the hot tag. The place went insane. Rousey used a back suplex and a ton of punches, dropping Stephanie with a body shot, just like Coach Edmond taught her. Rousey was throwing her around and then did a monkey flip into the mount. Rousey went for the armbar and Stephanie broke it attacking the eyes. The one bad thing, and this is probably the only thing negative about this match is that Stephanie’s ability to continually block the armbar was too ridiculous, especially in Rousey’s first match. Blocking the armbar should be saved for a top wrestler many matches deep in her career. Stephanie tried to tag out but HHH wasn’t there. Rousey hit a DDT and a spinning Samoan drop, but HHH pulled the ref out of the ring before he could count three. HHH then pulled Rousey out of the ring. Angle went after HHH. HHH flipped Angle onto the Spanish table. Rousey then challenged HHH. The place went nuts again. Rousey landed all kinds of punches on him and also hit him with a huracanrana. They were very careful that HHH never got any offense on her and any man vs. woman stuff was the woman attacking and not the man. Rousey was throwing all kinds of punches to HHH and got the armbar on him which may have been the biggest pop on the show except for maybe Bryan’s ring entrance. Stephanie broke it up and slapped Rousey. Rousey chased her around the ring but Stephanie was able to throw Rousey into the post. In the ring, Angle gave HHH two belly-to-belly overhead throws and two German suplexes. HHH came back with a pedigree but Angle reversed into an ankle lock. Stephanie broke it up. He put the ankle lock on Stephanie but HHH then hit the pedigree on Angle. Rousey saved. Angle put the ankle lock on HHH but HHH broke it by pulling Angle into Rousey. HHH shoved Angle into the post and Stephanie threw Rousey shoulder first into the post. They set up a double pedigree spot, but Angle backdropped HHH over the top rope and Rousey reversed and got the armbar. They showed Dana White at ringside, and identified him as Rousey got a standing ovation when it was over. ****1/4

8. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan won the Smackdown tag titles over champs The Usos and Big E & Kofi Kingston in 5:54. They had no chance following the previous match. Xavier Woods came out with a 1970s Afro. Jimmy did a splash off the top on Harper, who kicked out. Both Usos went for topes on Rowan, but he caught both by the throat. The Usos gave him a double suplex on the floor. The finish saw Harper delivering an assisted power bomb off the top rope on Kingston and pinning him. **

Cena came out for his match with Undertaker. Instead, Elias came out and started singing for a while. Cena first went to leave and go back to sitting in the stands with the idea that Undertaker wasn’t coming. Elias was singing about how much Cena sucked, when Cena hit the ring, did his trademark stuff like the five knuckle shuffle and followed with the Attitude Adjustment. It looked like it was over until suddenly Undertaker’s trenchcoat and hat was in the ring. Lightning struck and Undertaker’s music started to play.

9. Undertaker pinned John Cena in 2:46. It took forever for Undertaker to get to the ring. Michael Cole pushed that Undertaker and Cena were the two greatest performers of all-time. Please. Undertaker started with punches and a flying clothesline, and did the old school ropewalk. He missed a big boot badly that was supposed to hit, and did a leg drop. He went for a choke slam, but Cena got out and used a back suplex. The fans booed Cena. Taker then sat up and Cena freaked out. Undertaker then hit the choke slam and tombstone piledriver for the pin. *1/4

They did the Hall of Fame announcement. No Howard Finkel this year. Jarrius Robertson, who has super charisma, got the biggest reaction of anyone but Bill Goldberg. They build it up for Goldberg to get a big pop with his sparklers entrance and fans chanting his name.

10. Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon beat Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn in 15:22, so Owens & Zayn remain fired. Bryan was ridiculously over but he got jumped right away. Zayn gave Bryan the helluva kick and Owens gave him a power bomb on the apron. Bryan was out of it before it started and for the firs 9:00 it was a handicap match with Shane. Shane was selling his stomach and they worked over his stomach most of the way. He was moving and taking stuff well enough that I’m not sure I buy that he needs hernia surgery, but he was clearly not himself. The crowd went quiet as they were all into Bryan and thought they were getting ripped off. Shane did hit a coast-to-coast dropkick. Shane went to pin Zayn but Owens hit a senton on Shane and then a frog splash, but that’s when Bryan recovered and saved. Owens missed a cannonball on Shane and Bryan tagged in. The match sped up and turned around form here, with running clothesline and a flying knee off the apron on Owens, a missile dropkick, and give straight dropkicks into the corner alternating on both guys. He used a top rope Frankensteiner on Zayn. Owens distracted him and Zayn hit the helluva kick, but Bryan kicked out. Owens Superkicked Shane off the apron and into the barricade. Owens power bombed Bryan for a near fall. Shane clotheslined Owens off the apron and Bryan was nailing Zayn with all kinds of yes kicks. Bryan was also bruised up on the right arm. Bryan beat Zayn with a running knee and the yes lock. There were “Yes” banners all over the ringside area for Bryan, but they were all handed out by WWE personnel at the start of the match. Bryan went to ringside and hugged his wife and Shane went to ringside and celebrated with his kids. ***½

11. Nia Jax pinned Alexa Bliss in 9:02 to win the Raw women’s title. Mickie James came out with Bliss. Jax destroyed James before the match started, throwing her into the barricade over-and-over. Bliss jumped Jax, who no sold it. Jax gave James a Samoan drop on the floor and that was it for her. Jax then mostly threw around Bliss. Bliss grabbed her belt and wanted to leave but Jax ran her over. Jax used a superplex but missed a charge and hit the post. Bliss hit Twisted bliss off the top rope to the floor on Jax. Then, in the ring, Bliss tried to do Shawn Michaels and do “I’m sorry,” before she hit her DDT finisher. Jax kicked out and absolutely nobody bought it was the finish. Jax came back to win with an Alabama slam, and then said, “I loved” you, and hit the Samoan drop off the middle rope for the pin. **3/4

12. A.J. Styles pinned Shinsuke Nakamura in 20:10 to retain the WWE title. Nakamura got the big entrance from Nita Strauss, Alice Cooper’s guitarist who is considered one of the best female guitarists in the world. She’s a big wrestling fan and Nakamura is her favorite wrestler. Except for Rousey’s match, the crowd was more jacked up for his match from the start. It was a good match, but it never reached the great level. Styles did his perfectly timed leapfrog and dropkick spot. He went for the phenomenal forearm but Nakamura caught him with a landside for a near fall. Styles got the calf crusher but Nakamura reversed it into a triangle. Styles powered out with a Norther lights bomb. Styles was selling his back and couldn’t get Nakamura up for a power bomb. Nakamura missed a knee and went into the turnbuckles. Styles hit the forearm for a near fall and went for a springboard 450, but Nakamura got his knees up. Styles used head-butts. They traded elbows until Styles hit the Pele kick and then did a Kinshasa to the back of the head. Nakamura used his reverse powerslam and went for another Kinshasa but Styles caught him running in with a Styles clash for the pin. Styles was bleeding from the right ear. After the match, Nakamura took the belt and got on his knees and handed it to Styles. He then gave Styles a low blow and started putting the boots to him, knocking him out of the ring. There was a mixed reaction to this. Lots of people cheered with the idea we got to see an angle and there were loud “Yes” chants as he turned. Others booed the turn. After he continued the beating, the boos got louder. But when Nakamura gave Styles a Kinshasa on the floor to complete the beating, he got cheered. ***3/4

13. Braun Strowman & Nicholas beat Sheamus & Cesaro to win the Raw tag titles in 3:55. Strowman came out and said his partner would be a fan from the stands. He walked all over the stands. I was thinking maybe he’d run into somebody like Suzuki. Instead, he walked best the NXT section putting them all on camera, looking for his partner and came out with a ten-year-old kid. The kid hopefully got his wrestling license like everyone else over the weekend had to. Strowman fought both guys. Sheamus & Cesaro gave him a double suplex and Sheamus did a kneedrop off the top rope n him. Cesaro came off Sheamus’ shoulder with a swanton on Strowman. Strowman came back and backdropped Sheamus over the top rope and he hit the post. He tagged in Nicholas. Nicholas got in the ring and tagged him back. Cesaro did a springboard move but Strowman caught him in mid-air and powerslammed him for the pin. Strowman & Nicholas celebrated after. *

14. Brock Lesnar pinned Roman Reigns in 15:53 to retain the Universal title. This was the usual Lesnar style Paul Heyman match of nothing but big signature moves. Reigns got no cheers and really the crowd just rejected this match, but they didn’t leave early either. Lesnar looked as soft as compared to how he usually looks at the big shows. Lesnar hit three German suplexes. There were fans counting them out loud. Reigns came back with two Superman punches. Reigns then did a Superman punch off the ring steps. Reigns came off the steps but Lesnar caught him with an overhead belly-to-belly throw. Reigns landed almost on his head on that one. Fans started chanting C.M. Punk. Lesnar threw Reigns face first into the announcers table. Lesnar did two more German suplexes and two more overhead suplexes. On the second one, Reigns landed right on his shoulder. Lesnar cleared out the German announcers table, and they were not ready for that. Reigns came back and tackled Lesnar over the American table. Reigns hit a Superman punch and two spears but Lesnar kicked out. Reigns questioned ref Chad Patton on the count. He went for another spear, but ran into Lesnar’s knee. Lesnar then hit the F-5, but Reigns kicked out. They had spent a year building nobody kicking out of that move, and when they did it, because the crowd was reacting more to the various beach balls and security trying to confiscate them than the match, that the year of build for that spot got little reaction. Lesnar hit a second F-5 and Reigns kicked out again. After a third F-5 that Reigns kicked out of, the crowd started chanting “boring.” Then Lesnar gave him an F-5 through the announcers table. The crowd didn’t even react to that. You could see the crowd just reacting to beach balls. Lesnar hit another German suplex and a fifth F-5, and Reigns kicked out again. Lesnar then started throwing elbows to the head and before long, Reigns was covered in blood. Reigns needed both sutures and staples to close the wound after the match. Reigns was covered in blood and the crowd was chanting “This is awful.” Reigns then came back and hit two more spears but Lesnar kicked out. Reigns then came off the ropes for the spear that everyone backstage thought was the finish, and Reigns instead picked him up and gave him an F-5 and got the pin. After they played the Mania highlights video package, the show ended with Reigns, bloodied, bruised up, walking slowly down the aisle with the idea of the people at home giving him sympathy, but in the building the chants were “You deserve it.” I think as he was leaving, you could hear Reigns’ father say, “When is he going to lay down for you?” ***


Conor McGregor and his crew went on a rampage on 4/5 in an attempt to get at Khabib Nurmagomedov, and in the process, threw a dolly threw the window of a van, shattering glass which caused cuts that led to two fighters, Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg, having to be pulled from the UFC 223 show.

The story evidently started two days earlier with a confrontation in a hotel room that involved Nurmagomedov and Artem Lobov, a teammate and close friend of McGregor's.

McGregor brought about 15 or so people with him and flew into New York. They came with the intention of doing something similar to what happened, with Nurmagomedov as the target, just days before Nurmagomedov was to headline the show and go for the lightweight title that McGregor held.

McGregor's group was able to get backstage, and after the media day with the fighters for the show scheduled at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

And then they struck. They spotted the van Nurmagomedov was in with a number of other fighters and UFC officials. McGregor went crazy. The key thing he did was grabbed a heavy dolly and ran at the van and threw it through the window.

The broken class ended up splitting the head open of Chiesa, who was to face Anthony Pettis on the show. Shards of glass got into the eye of Ray Borg, who was to face Alex Morono. Borg went to the hospital saying that he was unable to close his eye, which he believed was from glass getting into the eye. Rose Namajunas was badly shaken up emotionally since glass exploded onto her, but she wasn't cut, nor physically hurt. She did fight and retained her strawweight title over Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Another UFC official was hurt, suffering wounds that broke a knuckle in his hand.

After doing so, McGregor was so hyped up that he grabbed a metal barricade and threw it at the van, and also threw a chair at the van. While not reported elsewhere, two sources confirmed that McGregor allegedly punched a UFC official at another point and another member of UFC's crew punched a different UFC official.

UFC showed footage on its Embedded series with hyping the PPV with cameras showing the incident from the outside, as well as footage inside the van. They didn't show the glass exploding in the van, but did show Chiesa's head cut up, with a split head looking like Katsuyori Shibata did after the head-butt in the Kazuchika Okada match last year. Reid Harris, a UFC official, was shown calling Dana White and telling him what happened.

Nurmagomedov, who was calm after the incident, said to tell McGregor if he has a problem, name a time and place and don't bring anyone else or any officials, and they can fight one-on-one.

White called it the most disgusting thing that ever happened in the history of the company.

The next day on FS 1's "First Things First," White said that he talked with McGregor and said, "It's not that I don't think he understands what happened. He justified it. It was justified to him."

White said McGregor was sorry for the innocent people who were injured but still felt he did the right thing.

"Guys will say things, push, shove, grab each other, these things have happened," said White. "People have slapped each other. We can deal with all of that stuff. But when you bring in 20 hoodlums that flew in from Ireland to basically do this at our event, there's nothing like this that has ever happened."

The 13 fight show fell apart, ending up with nine fights due to this situation and another situation involving Max Holloway not being medically cleared due to weight-cutting issues.

McGregor was charged with felony criminal mischief, misdemeanor assault as well as menacing and reckless endangerment charges by the New York Police Department. He turned himself in at 10:23 p.m. on 4/5 and was arrested and held overnight. He was released the next day on $50,000 bond. He is to return to New York for a court date on 6/14. Another member of his crew, Cian Crowley, was charged with one count of misdemeanor assault and one count of criminal mischief. He was released on $25,000 bond.

The story got worldwide major media coverage and was the single most talked about news story in the U.S. on the day it took place, based on Internet traffic and searches.

While anyone else doing such a thing would likely be banned for life, and at first indications were that White wanted nothing to do with McGregor after the incident, the two have since talked and White indicated that the talks went well.

Still, there are a lot of issues to be worked out. The fighters who were injured, even if they were paid their show money, have a slam dunk lawsuit against McGregor. McGregor also has some very real and obvious problems and in this sport, when success goes to your head, you usually aren’t long for success. He likely has some very deep issues causing this repeated behavior. For a guy who has always wanted to get out before being damaged, in some ways, it appears he already is. In addition, there has to be incredible resentment of him by fighters, because any of them could have been in that van and they could see that he didn’t have a care in the world when he was going crazy, about innocent people, the same people who are on the roster with him, getting hurt for really no reason.

UFC employees also have to have an issue. One was injured and two others were punched in this attack. In some form, the company has to stand up for its employees. McGregor has been a huge money generator but he’s also the single most unprofessional and egomaniacal fighter on the roster. It’s been a running joke about if you need McGregor somewhere at 2 p.m., you have to tell him the appointment is at noon, because he will always be late. He has held up one press conference after another trying to big league people and causing thousands of people to waste their time waiting for him.

The reality is that McGregor's drawing power is such that time heals all wounds and he would likely fight with UFC again if he wanted to. Right now McGregor has a slew of huge money fights, with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Georges St-Pierre clear fights that would have a good shot at breaking company PPV records, and there is always the third Nate Diaz fight and there has been a ton of talk in recent weeks about Floyd Mayweather in the UFC, and if he was to fight, McGregor is clearly the logical opponent.

Mayweather and McGregor made so much money in their boxing match and there is really no way to do a boxing rematch, but they could do a rematch under MMA rules. While one year ago, nobody thought it possible that Mayweather could possibly fight in MMA, the reality is that there is so much money for him to make that you can't rule it out.

On the 4/7 Showtime boxing show, Mayweather spoke to Jim Gray and said, "It is possible I do come back, but if I do come back, it has to be in the Octagon. I spoke with my team, I spoke with Al Haymon. Al Haymon says no. I spoke with Showtime. I spoke with CBS. If I do comeback, Showtime and CBS has to be involved."

He also said that if he fought in UFC, it would be at 145 pounds. He said he would do it if the money is right.

White did an interview and said that the money is right and he really believes it's going to happen, but then talked about how he doesn't like that he found out that the "slimy weasel" (Showtime's Stephen Espinoza) would be part of the promotion of the fight.

White and Espinoza had a war of words when Espinoza said, "And they claim boxing is lawless. never heard a boxing match declared a title fight for both fights even though one fighter failed to make weight. Congrats, UFC, you've far outdone boxing in terms of shadiness. But why bother adhering to rules when you don't feel like it?"

White had said that they wouldn't work for Showtime again, but when that kind of money is at stake, those words go out the window.

McGregor was thought to be coming to New York to finalize a new contract with the promotion. The company was hopeful the deal would be completed last week and be announced at a 4/6 press conference.

At one point after Tony Ferguson was injured, there was at least talk of Nurmagomedov being pulled from the Brooklyn show and to announce him facing McGregor in a lightweight title match on a show relatively soon. But when the promotion was able to get Max Holloway, they dropped that idea.

According to Ariel Helwani, besides the obvious fight for the lightweight title against the winner of the 4/7 main event, another fight they were talking about was a match with Rafael dos Anjos for the interim welterweight title, but obviously that idea was nixed when Colby Covington was announced for that fight.

Audie Attar, McGregor's manager, in response to the situation, said, "So much rumor and misinformation about my client, Conor McGregor. The matter is in the hands of law enforcement and I cannot really say more. Conor is a great father, a fiercely loyal friend, and one of the best athletes in the world. He looks forward to getting back to fighting as soon as possible."

Lobov, who was part of the McGregor group, was pulled from the show, where he was to face Alex Caceres. Brandon Moreno, who was to face Borg, also had no opponent and couldn't fight. Others who trained for the card and couldn't fight were Paul Felder, who was to face Al Iaquinta, who got moved up to the main event against Nurmagomedov, and Anthony Pettis, who to face Chiesa.

All the fighters pulled from the show due to the McGregor incident, and their opponents, except Lobov, were given their show money but not their win money. They are likely to be booked as soon as possible on upcoming shows.

The Holloway weight-cutting story led to Iaquinta facing and losing to Nurmagomedov in what UFC billed as a title match while the New York State Athletic Commission refused to sanction it as a title match. Iaquinta was the fifth opponent Nurmagomedov was asked and accepted facing over the week before the fight.

After Tony Ferguson pulled out due to tearing his LCL while doing promotional work, Nurmagomedov accepted prospective lightweight title fights with Brian Ortega (who was willing to fight), the top featherweight contender, and Holloway, the champion.

The promotion went with Holloway, and was expecting to do 500,000 or more buys based on how a lot of things were trending. Dana White actually said it was trending better than anything since UFC 205 (the McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez debut in Madison Square Garden). That was ridiculous given since that time they've had the Ronda Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes, Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier and Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping took place during that time. Early indications are that all of that publicity regarding UFC may have created a little bit of curiosity toward the show, but it's still maybe 260,000 to 320,000 for an early estimate.

Because it had come out publicly what a difficult weight cut Holloway would have, the UFC was monitoring him closely. The feeling is if something went bad in the cut, since everyone knew ahead of time, that UFC can't claim it didn't know. When being checked on while cutting weight, Dr. Jeff Davidson of UFC wasn't comfortable with how it was going and made the ruling that he could no longer safely cut weight, nor could he fight the next day.

This came on the morning of weigh-ins. Holloway himself wanted to continue cutting and to fight.

A statement was released stating that the UFC and New York State Athletic Commission had jointly decided he couldn’t safely continue to cut weight. In actuality, the commission had little or nothing to do with the decision and to the best of our knowledge, no commission doctor examined him to make that ruling.

Anthony Pettis, who was to face Chiesa, who ended up being pulled from the show due to his injury, was announced as the replacement. He weighed in at 155.2 pounds. That number was fine for the fight he was contracted for with a 156 limit, but a championship fight is at 155. He was told he had two hours to cut 0.2 pounds, which he probably could have done, but the reality was he didn't seem all that anxious to take the fight. He never came back to be weighed in.

The next choice was Felder, who had weighed in at 155 for his fight with Iaquinta, but the New York State Athletic Commission stated that since Felder wasn't ranked in the top 15, they refused to allow or sanction that match. Iaquinta, who was ranked No. 10, indicated he would take the fight. However, Iaquinta also weighed in at 155.2, since he only had to make 156, he was fine. He weighed in with his underwear on.

By the time they got to him, he had been rehydrating and eating and there was no way he could make 155.

His camp then noted that he had weighed in his underwear and made the case that if his underwear was 0.2 of a pound or more, than it would show that he really was at 155 at the time of the weigh-in. They weighed his underwear, and it was 0.2 pounds on the nose, indicating that he really was 155 when he weighed in.

However, the commission refused to accept that, given there was nothing in the regulations allowing for such a thing. It has been practice in the past in other states, particularly in women's fights, that if it's 0.2 pounds to just allow that they made weight with the idea of not having them strip naked over a weight where it was clear that their underwear put them over the mark. I don't know of that ever being accepted for a championship fight.

So the end result of that was the commission would not sanction it as a full title fight. New York accepted that if Nurmagomedov won, he would be recognized as champion, but Iaquinta could not win the title that UFC had vacated because McGregor hadn't defended it since winning 17 months earlier and had not signed for a match to defend it.

Dana White then countered, saying that he accepted that Iaquinta really made weight, and as far as the UFC was concerned, if Iaquinta won, they would recognize him as champion.

White wasn't wrong, it just made the entire sport come across badly. The reality is Iaquinta was 155.0 when he weighed in, and would have made it if he had ESP and knew he needed to make championship weight when he weighed in. But for a sport that is supposed to be sanctioned by commissions, when a commission makes a ruling on a title fight, and then you just say we're not listening and making our own rules, it feels less like a legitimate sport. And that's with a sport that already has different rules and different judging criteria depending on what state it takes place in.

This also left Felder and Pettis, both lightweights, without opponents, but because they are training partners and teammates at RoufusSport in Milwaukee, they refused to fight each other, leaving the card with nine fights.


With two of the best matches in WWE history bookending the card, the 4/7 NXT Takeover show from New Orleans ended up as the best show over WrestleMania weekend, and one could argue the best from an in-ring standpoint in company history.

The show opened with the debut of the North American title, won by Adam Cole in a ladder match. It followed with title changes where Aleister Black won the NXT title from Andrade Cien Almas, and Shayna Baszler won the women’s title from Ember Moon. It followed with a three-way tag team title match that wound up with Roderick Strong turning on Pete Dunne, and joining the Undisputed Era, largely to take the place of the injured Bobby Fish as NXT tag team champion with Kyle O’Reilly.

It ended with a dramatic war where Johnny Gargano got his “job back” in beating Tommaso Ciampa in an unsanctioned match in a brutal and dramatic battle.

Even if Moon wasn’t leaving, it was time to get the women’s title on Baszler, although except for Kairi Sane, the women’s roster is lacking in championship caliber talent at this point.

It’ll be interesting to see how the NXT title picture goes from here. Black’s winning was a great match, and was equal or better than anything at WrestleMania. It would have gotten far more attention if not for the two crazy matches on this show. But Almas & Zelina Vega had been such an incredible championship pair, that unless they are being called up, going with Black, who has lost steam since he started talking, seemed like bad timing. Particularly right now, since Gargano is clearly the hottest wrestler on the brand and the most interest would be in his quest to get the title from Almas, who kept beating him. And if anything, with Candice LeRae on his side to counteract Vega, it only would make it a more natural and hotter program.

The show drew a sellout of more than 12,000 paid to the Smoothie King Arena in New Orleans.

1. Kairi Sane pinned Lacey Evans with an elbow drop off the top rope in a match taped for the 4/11 television show.

2. Heavy Machinery (Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight) went to a no contest with Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli when The War Raiders, the team formerly known as War Machine, ran in and destroyed both teams for their television debut.

3. Adam Cole won a six-way ladder match to become the first holder of the new version of the North American title (WWE had a version in the late 70s that was transferred into the Intercontinental title and then briefly moved to New Japan Pro Wrestling) over Ricochet, EC 3, Killian Dain, Lars Sullivan and Velveteen Dream in 31:16. The storyline on EC 3 is that he comes from a family that owns a number of restaurants and other commercial properties, so he’s doing the same rich kid character as in TNA. They tried to initially put him over strong to the audience as a heel, particularly since they knew this crowd would never boo him. The place went nuts when Ricochet was introduced last. The crowd was jacked before the match ever started, and they stayed hot throughout. At first Sullivan and Dain cleared the ring but before they could go at it, they were pulled outside. Ricochet did a springboard shooting star press to the floor on Sullivan and Dain to keep them from going at it. Ricochet was clearly the star of the match and put on an incredible performance. Cole hit an ushigoroshi on Dain and tope no Sullivan. Sullivan put the ladder around his neck and took out everyone. He dropped Dream onto the ladder stomach first. Everyone beat on Sullivan to set up Ricochet power bombing him off the apron. Dain backdropped Ricochet onto a ladder. Cole started taking out everyone with superkicks. Ricochet came off the ladder into a superkick by Cole. Dream did an elbow drop off the top of the ladder onto Dain. Then he dropped the elbow on Cole as well. He did an elbow off the top to the back of Ricochet’s head. Dream was at the top of the ladder ready to grab the belt when EC 3 power bombed him off the ladder into a ladder in the corner. He gave Cole a TK off the ladder. Dain did a senton on the ladder onto EC 3. Finally they cleared everyone out for another Dain vs. Sullivan spot. Dain went for his running crossbody, the divide, but Sullivan caught him and powerslammed him. Ricochet was climbing to the top. Sullivan tipped over the ladder and Ricochet flew off the ladder over the top rope to the floor with a Fosbury Fop dive on Dain and Cole. He did a shooting star press on EC 3 no the ladder. He tried to climb but Dream knocked him down and gave him a Death Valley bomb while both were standing on a bridging ladder. Dream was bleeding from the left eye. Sullivan then gave EC 3 the freak accident onto Dream, with all three going through a ladder bridge. Dain picked up Cole, jumped off the apron and went through a ladder with Ricochet on it. Sullivan and Dain were climbing and EC 3 hit both in the back with a ladder. Before long there were three ladders set up and all six were battling each other. Ricochet did a neckbreaker off the ladder onto Dream. Sullivan did a freak accident on Dain off the ladder. Sullivan was bleeding from the left era. Ricochet then came off the rope and knocked Sullivan off the ladder. Cole then tipped over the ladder that Ricochet was on and climbed to the top to grab the belt and win. This was the best multiple-person ladder match I’ve ever seen. I won’t go so far to say it was the best ladder match period. There were risky spots for sure, and it was very physical, but previous ladder matches that had more dangerous stunts. But this topped it with the athletic big men in Sullivan and Dain, the ridiculous athleticism of Ricochet, and Cole came across as a real superstar personality wise with this crowd. *****

4. Shayna Baszler beat Ember Moon to win the women’s title in 12:55. Even if these two had the best women’s match in NXT history, they’d have never been able to follow the prior match. To their credit, they did a very good story match that was better than their previous encounter. Lzzy Hale of the band Halestorm played Moon’s entrance music which was a nice touch for the show aspect. Ronda Rousey and Jessamyn Duke were shown at ringside supporting Baszler. Baszler knocked her out with a right. Moon came back with a dropkick on the floor. Moon got a near fall with the MX. Baszler used the V trigger for a near fall. Somebody’s watching New Japan. Moon stomped on Baszler’s left hand as revenge for what Baszler has been doing, and Baszler was selling her left arm. The idea is that she separated her shoulder. Baszler then started banging her own shoulder into the post with the idea she was popping it back in its socket. Moon did an eclipse off the top rope to the floor. Both barely got in the ring to beat the double count out tease. Baszler was selling great, but got the choke out of nowhere. But her left arm was out so she used her right arm holding her own hair to keep the choke in place. The choke was on for a long time, really too long, before Moon finally tapped out. ***1/4

5. Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly won a three-way over Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong & Pete Dunne to retain the NXT tag titles in 11:42. Cole came out with his ribs all taped up from the ladder match. Earlier he had said he didn’t know if he could come out after the ladder match but O’Reilly told him he had to. Because Authors of Pain and Strong & Dunne were the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, this, because of a storyline booking change, became the tournament final. They showed Dustin Rhodes at ringside with Jeff Jarrett. O’Reilly looked great in with Dunne. Good action throughout. The AOP did the Last Chapter on O’Reilly but Strong saved, which made sense since you wanted to make suer nobody got pinned. Dunne was doing the finger breaking on Rezar. Strong hit Rezar with an Olympic slam for a near fall. Dunne hit the bitter end on O’Reilly, but then Strong turned on Dunne and gave him the end of heartache, and put O’Reilly on top of him for the pin. After the match, Strong took the Undisputed armband off Cole and put it on himself. Cole, O’Reilly, Strong and Bobby Fish (on crutches) all posed together on the stage after the win. ***1/4

6. Aleister Black pinned Andrade Cien Almas in 18:19 to win the NXT title. Black did a middle rope moonsault to the floor right away. Zelina Vega then gave Black a huracanrana off the apron sending his head into the steps. Almas threw Black’s shoulder into the post. The crowd picked back up for this match, having enough of a break since the ladder match. Almas used a springboard dropkick for a near fall, and tried another springboard but got hit with a front kick by Black. Black used a quebrada for a near fall. Almas used a double moonsault for a near fall. Almas used a corkscrew plancha. The ref was distracted and Vega gave Black a short huracanrana. Black came back and hit black mass but Vega put Almas’ leg over the ropes. Almas came back with the Del Rio double foot stomp outside the ring and the double knees in the corner, but Black kicked out. Black went for black mass again, but when he was spinning, Almas caught him with a dropkick to the back. Almas did the running knees on the apron, sending Black’s head into the post. Almas went for a draping DDT but Black flipped him over the top rope. The finish saw Vega come off the top rope for a crossbody on Black, who moved and Almas caught her. Black then hit Black mass on him while he had Vega in his arms for the pin. ****1/4

7. Johnny Gargano pinned Tommaso Ciampa in 36:58 of an unsanctioned match to get his job back in NXT. This was just a crazy match. Gargano did his spear into the ring. He whipped Ciampa over the barricade and followed with a running dive over the barricade. Ciampa suplexed Gargano off the table to the floor. Ciampa then back suplexed Gargano onto another table. Gargano power bombed Ciampa off the apron onto the floor after the mats were removed. Fans chanted “you deserve it” at Ciampa. Ciampa brought in a crutch from a planted fan at ringside. They had a tug-of-war over the crutch, that Gargano won, and he hit Ciampa with it to the stomach, back and head. Gargano tried another spear into the ring but got caught with a knee. Ciampa did a power bomb for a near fall. Gargano got the Gargano escape on for the first time. Because this was a non-sanctioned match, apparently that meant no rope breaks. Ciampa escaped by raking the eyes. Gargano came back with punch after punch until Ciampa hit a low blow, a crutch shot to the back and a power bomb into double knees. Gargano came back with a lawn dart spot throwing Ciampa’s head into an exposed turnbuckle. Gargano hit two superkicks but Ciampa kicked out. After several more near falls, Ciampa pulled off his knee brace and his knee sleeve to expose the knee. Gargano got the crutch and was about to hit him with the crutch. Ciampa begged off and Gargano wouldn’t hit him. Ciampa’s right eye was all swollen by this point. Ciampa then tired to hit Gargano with the crutch, but Gargano put on the Gargano escape and used Ciampa’s kneebrace around his throat to give it more pressure and get the submission. *****


Ring of Honor ran the biggest show in its history on 4/7 at the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena, built around the first meeting of Cody vs. Kenny Omega.

The show drew a paid attendance of 5,879 fans, sold out several days in advance, and had more than 6,000 in the building, breaking the company attendance record of 3,500 set in Lakeland, FL, over last year’s WrestleMania weekend for a Young Bucks vs. Hardys ladder match.

The show featured three outstanding matches, but was not a home run by any means. There were a number of problems. The show itself went too long. The main show went nearly five hours and with the preshow it was closer to five-and-a-half hours.

The decision was made to put the ROH title match with Dalton Castle vs. Marty Scurll on after Cody vs. Omega, which led to thousands of people leaving. Then, the title match went 31:39. Similar to the final match at WrestleMania, it was technically a good match, but the lack of crowd reaction killed it. Unlike Mania, where it was a crowd bound and determined to make sure the match didn’t get over, this was a crowd that had already seen the main event, were pretty much spent early on after the Kota Ibushi vs. Hangman Page and ladder match and after getting a second wind for Cody vs. Omega, there was pretty much nothing that could have been done after what had already been such a long show to get them back.

The other issue was the Honor Club streaming platform. For the biggest show in company history, it didn’t work live until late in the show, leading to the most hardcore fans being frustrated. Then, the video on demand was weird as well. There were people able to access the VOD, and others who couldn’t. It took several days before I was able to watch the show, and it wasn’t until the morning on 4/12, nearly five days after the show, that I was able to watch it without constant annoying buffering.

Because of the technical issues, ROH provided $40 coupons for merchandise at their pro shop to the VIP members and $10 for all other subscribers as make-goods.

The action was great but the body toll was scary. The ladder match had so many crazy bumps that you couldn’t even remember them all. There were also scary scenes in other matches, notably Dalton Castle being backdropped on the steps next to the stage and Punishment Martinez doing a running dive over the post, going way over the head of Tomohiro Ishii, and landing on his head on the floor.

Doing all kinds of table spots (and this felt like the old ECW where you had endless table spots in multiple matches) and ladder bumps is the standard for these type of ladder matches now on big stages, and the NXT match was the same. I guess here, just seeing how clearly injured Matt Jackson was (luckily Flip Gordon and Nick Jackson could more than take up the slack) and seeing him still do a few crazy spots was hard to watch. There was also a lot of interference up and down the show because they were looking at creating stories for the future. There’s a balance, because a lot of newer fans are into clean finishes and don’t like interference, and those are the fans who are the backbone of the underground boom. Even with NXT, which in many ways is ROH’s competition, there is interference at key spots when warranted, and limited to only the matches it is necessary in (Zelina Vega in the Andrade Cien Almas match).

Part of it was telling a story, that for some reason Bully Ray was not coming out to stop the interference as in the past, and then leading to the Bully Ray heel turn. The turn itself was well done but it just lengthened the show.

Cody beat Omega in 37:09 when the Young Bucks interference backfired after a ref bump. This was very different from a usual big Omega match. It was less about athleticism and creating the drama of a high-level sports contest and more about 80s territorial face vs. heel. It’s not Omega’s element really, although it still ended up an excellent match. But it was really about Cody as a heel, escaping a loss, getting over his character about being self-centered and not caring that his wife was injured while others, Omega and Flip Gordon did, and then winning. The idea of this was not one-match, but to do a long program, which means you can’t do all your moves in the first match, and the first match is to tell the story to where the face still has something to show and prove in rematches.

1. In the first semifinal of the Women of Honor tournament, Kelly Klein pinned Mayu Iwatani. Klein used a guillotine submission which Iwatani passed out to. This was sloppy at points.

2. Sumie Sakai beat Tenille Dashwood in the other semifinal. Sakai got the pin with a crucifix. Klein came out for a face-off with Sakai and punched her, to establish her as the heel later. It was a big surprise in the sense that Iwatani is the top star of Stardom and easily the best wrestler of the four, but she was eliminated. Dashwood was easily the biggest star to the fans, but she also was eliminated.

3. Chuckie T pinned Jonathan Gresham in 8:49. Gresham went for a tope early on, completely missed and landed on the floor. Trent Baretta was at ringside with T, with his left arm all wrapped up from his recent surgery. They also noted that T’s finisher, the awful waffle, was banned. Even though it was reported that WWE and ROH were exempt from the commission piledriver ban, either they weren’t or just decided to use that in storyline form (it played into the Bully Ray turn later). Taylor won with an inside cradle. **

4. Punishment Martinez pinned Tomohiro Ishii in 8:29. They pushed that Ishii had just won the British heavyweight title and if Martinez could win here, he could get a title shot. The height difference was huge here. Ishii is deceptively short, probably around 5-foot-4, and Martinez is closer to 6-foot-5. Ishii works really well with tall guys usually as noted by his recent U.K. bouts with Keith Lee and before that, Chris Hero. Early on, Martinez went for his running dive over the post, way overshot Ishii and crashed head first on the mats on the floor. Somehow, he seemed to be okay. The crowd went nuts for that spot. At first, even though Martinez has kind of been turned, the crowd booed him because Ishii was so popular. But after he crashed on the dive, they were into Martinez as well. Martinez then did a springboard flip dive and a spin kick off the top rope. He also did a Frankensteiner off the top rope. Ishii came back with a superplex. Martinez won clean with two high kicks and a choke slam. Martinez’s big moves were very impressive for a guy his size, but this wasn’t as solid as a usual Ishii match. **3/4

5. Kota Ibushi pinned Hangman Page in 15:12. This was excellent, among the best matches of the week. The crowd booed Page a lot when he broke up the first golden triangle. Page tried a shooting star press off the apron, but Ibushi moved and Page landed on his feet and drove Ibushi into the barricade. The big crazy move was Ibushi giving Page a German suplex as both were standing on the barricade and Page landing pretty much on his head on the floor. The crowd went nuts but that seemed dangerous as hell. Ibushi then did a top rope moonsault to the floor. At another point, Ibushi went for a tombstone but Page reversed into a forward rites of passage for a near fall. Page eventually gave Ibushi a backdrop on the apron and did a moonsault to the floor. They traded elbows and all kinds of slaps, before Ibushi used a last ride power bomb, a cross arm German suplex and the Kawagoe knee for the pin. ****1/4

6. Sumie Sakai pinned Kelly Klein to become the first Woman of Honor champion in 7:15. Most of the women in the tournament were at ringside to make this feel special. Klein took most of the offense. Sakai didn’t look good in this match which hurt with her being the first champion. Sakai missed a moonsault, but Klein sold it like it hit her and then pinned Klein with a DDT. The finish came off weak. *1/4

7. Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky beat Young Bucks & Flip Gordon in 24:20 to retain the six-man titles in a ladder match. This was a brutal high-end ladder match. Nick did a corkscrew dive over the top on Daniels. Sky did a flip dive onto a ladder. Kazarian did a diamond cutter off the top of a ladder on Gordon. Kazarian suplexed Nick on the ladder. Gordon came off the post and fell backwards onto the floor on everyone. Nick did a springboard off the ropes, onto a ladder in the ring, onto a second ladder, then onto the ropes on the side of the ring and springboarded off the ropes with a dive on everyone of them. The Bucks team had it won when the Kingdom, Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia & T.K. O’Ryan interfered. The story is that they were banned from the building but there they were, and then it was pushed that Bully Ray never came out to kick them out. They tripled teamed Gordon and gave him the Super Nova, and then the Kingdom attacked Daniels & Kazarian & Sky. Taven did a running dive on Daniels. All six guys were fighting on three ladders. Gordon was on the top, Kazarian hit him and Gordon landed face first on the top of the ladder and then fell to the floor. Matt and Kazarian were the last two and each held the belt. Kazarian eye poked Matt. Daniels did a downward spiral off nearly the top of the ladder on Matt. Nick used a facebuster on Kazarian. Nick did a twisting flip dive on the Kingdom. Matt came off the top rope with a DDT on Kazarian on the apron. Sky gave Matt a diamond cutter on the apron. Gordon did a double blockbuster on Kazarian and Sky off the apron. Gordon and Nick each did 450s off the top rope onto I believe Kazarian and Marseglia, putting them through two different tables. Daniels and Matt climbed up the ladder and Matt ended up taking off his belt and whipped Daniels, and slammed his head on the ladder. Matt was on top and Daniels tipped over the ladder and Matt flew off with an elbow on Marseglia putting him through the table. Daniels then climbed up to grab the belts and win. After the match, Taven hit Daniels with a belt shot and The Kingdom grabbed the belts and left. ****½

8. Mark & Jay Briscoe beat Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jay Lethal to retain the ROH tag titles in 19:40. Coming off the previous match, the crowd wasn’t that into this one early. It turned into a good match with lots of near falls. Lethal sold most of the way and it was good. Mark kicked out of a Lethal injection. Tanahashi & Lethal set up the doomsday device, but Jay broke it up. Lethal went for a Lethal injection but Jay Briscoe turned it into a German suplex and then they hit the Doomsday device on Lethal for the pin. ***1/4

9. Silas Young beat Kenny King in a last man standing match in 15:56 to keep the TV title. Austin Aries was on commentary and wanted the winner. The story is that Aries is the belt collector and during his career he’s never held the ROH TV title. Young threw King over the top rope and he went through a table. King was selling his back the rest of the match. At one point when he tried to do the royal flush on Young, his back went out. Young hit misery on the ring apron and King finally hit the royal flush on a garbage can, but Young rolled out of the ring and in falling off the apron, landed on his feet, to break the ten count. King pulled out another table and Beer City Bruiser ran in. They again pushed that Bully Ray wasn’t coming out to run off Bruiser. King gave Young a belly-to-belly onto a ladder on the floor. King then did a shooting star press off the top rope and put Young through a table. The crowd exploded for that move. Bruiser had gone under the ring and he grabbed King’s feet and zip tied King’s feet together so he couldn’t get up. Young barely beat the ten count to retain the title. After the match, both were beating on Young until Aries ran down to make the save. ***

10. The Dawgs (Rhett Titus & Will Ferrara) went to a no contest with Bully Ray & Cheeseburger in 2:55. This was more an angle than a match. It was supposed to be The Dawgs against Cheeseburger & Eli Isom. The Dawgs destroyed both of them before the match. Bully Ray came out to stop the carnage. Bully told Cheeseburger that Isom was injured and if he couldn’t find a new partner he’ll have to cancel the match. Cheeseburger asked Bully to be his partner. He said it was the biggest show of the year, and that Bully was just inducted into the Hall of Fame last night and tonight he should have one final fight. Bully paused but then accepted. They started the match. After Cheeseburger hit Ferrara with the shote, they did the wazzup spot on Ferrara. Bully told Cheeseburger to get the tables. Bully then turned on Cheeseburger and choke slammed him. Most fans booed this and some cheered it. The match just ended at that point. Bully grabbed the mic and said, “How dare you put me ont he spot. You are what’s wrong with wrestling, you and all your kind, your entire generation, guys like you, Will Ospreay, Flip Gordon, Ricochet, you’ve destroyed this industry.” Joe Koff came out and Bully called him an old bastard. He said that the business sucks because of people like you. Flip Gordon came out but Bully then picked Cheeseburger up and told Gordon that if he stepped into the ring, he would give Cheeseburger a piledriver and the commission would shut down the show. He said he’d break Cheeseburger’s neck and if he piledrives him, you fans won’t get to see Cody vs. Kenny. Bully was great here. He told Gordon that he’s a veteran, he’s a WWE Hall of Famer and that Gordon was a nobody. He then power bombed Cheeseburger and left.

11. Cody pinned Kenny Omega in 37:09. Cody came out with a patch over his left eye, but took it off to work the match. He came out with both Brandi and Bernard the Business Bear, which was a guy in a bear costume wearing a tie. Cody’s eye was pretty bruised up from the spin kick at the Sakura Genesis show six days earlier from Omega. Omega teased the Terminator dive early but Bernard tripped him. Omega did a running dropkick from the ring to the floor knocking Bernard flying and his headpiece came off. Cody then hit Omega with a tope while ref Paul Turner kicked Bernard out from ringside. Brandi slapped Omega. Most of the match was Cody using heel tactics and riling up the fans, and Omega making short comebacks. Brandi threw some sort of a gimmick into the ring and Cody caught it. Turner took it away and when he had his back turned, Cody kicked Omega low. The crowd was very hot at this point. Omega sent Cody to the floor and did the Terminator dive. Later, Cody did a long figure four spot that Omega eventually reversed and Cody made the ropes. Cody pulled out a table. He went to do crossroads off the apron through the table, but Omega blocked it. Cody teased a piledriver on the apron but Omega escaped and hit the snap dragon on the apron. While on the floor, with the table now on it’s side, Omega went for a suplex but Cody blocked and picked up Omega for a suplex, but dropped him forward, with his ribs landing on the edge of the table. Cody then grabbed the table that Cary Silkin and Bobby Cruise were sitting at and set it up. Cody did a springboard missile dropkick, but Omega came back with a reverse huracanrana. He went for a V trigger but Cody moved and Omega hit Brandi, who fell off the apron backwards through the table. Omega then tended to Brandi. Cody took over and hit crossroads, but Omega kicked out. Gordon came out to help Brandi to the back. Cody acted like he didn’t care at all that his wife went through the table and was all shaken up, and only cared about beating Omega. Cody hit a top rope superplex and whipped Omega withy his weight belt. Cody missed a moonsault and Omega hit two V triggers. Cody then threw Turner into Omega. Omega hit two more V triggers but Cody kicked out. After another V trigger, Omega went for the One Winged Angel. Cody escaped and hit the vertebreaker. Cody charged and Turner ended up being crushed into the corner. He went down. The Young Bucks came out. First they teased going after Cody, then after Omega, and then went for a double superkick on Cody, who moved and hit Omega. This was timed perfectly. Cody then dropped Omega on his head with crossroads and got the pin. The Young Bucks tried to apologize to Omega, who walked out on them and the crowd chanted “You f***ed up.” In some ways I feel I’m underrating this match because the purpose wasn’t to have a classic match but to weave a storyline of a number of things together and it did that. ****1/4

12. Dalton Castle pinned Marty Scurll to retain the ROH title in 31:39. One thing for sure is at this point in the night this shouldn’t have gone nearly this long. Between much of the crowd leaving and the match everyone came to see being over, the crowd was quiet until the end. I think a lot of people expected a title change with the idea that Scurll as champion but Cody wanting the title would make for a good story. Really, because Cody is so clearly the focal point and top singles guy, the title hasn’t meant much since Castle got it and has become secondary. With Scurll being viewed as much more of a superstar, in theory that would have elevated it. It’s funny, because Castle seemed on the verge of becoming a really big deal and the title seems to have actually slowed his momentum. Nick Aldis, the NWA champion, was at ringside dressed in a suit and tie like he was 1985 Ric Flair. They pushed that he and Scurll were longtime friends. Castle lariated the post early and also had a bloody nose early on. The crowd was tired and dead. Castle at one point pulled Scurll out of the ring and German suplexed him on the floor. The heat picked up halfway through. Scurll hit a top rope superplex. He also backdropped Castle on the ramp stairs, which looked like a very bad bump to take. Castle took it on his left shoudler and was selling the shoulder. Aldis handed Scurll some type of clippers and Scurll used it to cut the padding off one of the turnbuckles. Scurll went outside the ring for a bag of powder. The problem was, he couldn’t find it. He looked in a couple of corners, and this went way too long, before he could find the bag with the powder underneath the ring. He brought the bag into the ring and Castle kicked his hand so the powder went into Scurll’s face. Scurll couldn’t see and grabbed the hand of ref Todd Sinclair and broke his fingers. Castle hit the bangarang, and Sinclair went to count, but after hitting the mat for the first time, started screaming in pain because of the broken fingers. With Sinclair going to the back, Scurll grabbed his umbrella and hit Castle in the head and did eight more umbrella shots to the head, back and shoulders with no ref in the ring. Scurll hit the brainbuster and covered Castle for a long time but there was no ref. Paul Turner ran in and counted as Scurll covered Castle but Castle kicked out. Fans booed the kick out as they expected it to be the title change. Scurll got the chicken wing but Castle got to his feet and fell backwards onto Scurll, breaking the hold. He got the chicken wing a second time. Castle tried to reach the ropes but Scurll broke his finger. Scurll let go and kept stomping Castle to the head. The announcers teased the idea that Turner would stop the match (a ref stoppage from stomping a guys’ head over-and-over should be done in promotions as an educational tool to get over the fact it can be a big match finish). The finish saw Scurll hit two superkicks, but Castle hit the bangarang and got the pin. **3/4


After five main event changes in the last week, four of 13 fights falling apart, the UFC 223 show ended with two key takes.

The first is that Khabib Nurmagomedov may have dominated Al Iaquinta for most of five rounds, won the lightweight title, and improved his record to 26-0, but if anything, he opened up more questions.

The rabid animal like ground-and-pound that made him perhaps the most feared fighter in the company wasn’t there. And while he took Iaquinta down several times, he could not do it consistently. And while he greatly outlanded Iaquinta standing, his standup isn’t strong enough to survive a five-round fight with a strong striker so he needs that takedown and ground-and-pound ability.

Nurmagomedov, perhaps sensing that McGregor has a lot of issues, challenged Georges St-Pierre, and not McGregor, after the fight. St-Pierre was quick to make it clear he wasn’t interested. While a Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor fight would do huge business, and be very legitimate as the guy who never lost the title against the new champion, McGregor is still going to be in search of a Mayweather or St-Pierre payday first. The other alternatives are Max Holloway, a fight that did have interest, but that holds up the featherweight division, Tony Ferguson, a fight that is jinxed but is still very viable, or Eddie Alvarez, which would be the easiest title fight to make and also draw the least of all the prospective opponents.

The other take is that Rose Namajunas answered every question about whether her first win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk was a fluke, or catching someone quickly on a bad day. This time she retained her title on straight 49-46 scores. The majority had it closer, at 48-47, even going into the final round. Of media scores 83 percent had it for Namajunas. It was clear that Namajunas has improved greatly as a fighter. Jedrzejczyk also seems to have lost some of the crispness she had as a standup fighter two years ago.

Namajunas has an obvious next opponent in Jessica Andrade, while Jedrzejczyk, with two losses, may be best served moving to 125, since with her name value, she’d be short-tracked for a championship shot there.

Even though it was commission mandated that with the main event change they would have to refund tickets, every single ticket refunded was immediately sold and the 4/7 show at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn was sold out with 17,026 paying $3,007,108, the highest sports gate in the history of the arena.

The early PPV estimates were at 320,000 buys. That was significantly higher than I would have expected, but internally, when it was Nurmagomedov against either Ferguson or Holloway, they were hoping for 500,000. It would be the second best number of the year, trailing the January show with Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou and Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir, which did in the 350,000 range.

The ratings for the prelims were at normal levels, doing 892,000 viewers on FS 1, and peaking at 1,057,000 for the Karolina Kowalkiewicz win over Felice Herrig. The prefight show did 373,000 viewers and the postfight show did 138,000. All of these numbers were below what the Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya show did, and 4/7 was actually a very easy night as far as competition went, with a minor boxing show on Showtime and an NBA game on ABC as the only significant competing sports events.

The highlight of the show was a match of the year candidate where Zabit Magomedsharipov beat Kyle Bochniak. This fight was originally to be on the Fight Pass prelims, but with so many changes, it ended up airing on the PPV show. Both got $50,000 bonuses for the fight and the other bonuses went to Renato Moicano and Olivier Aubin-Mercier.

1. Devin Clark (9-2) beat Mike Rodriguez (9-3) via decision on scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 in a light heavyweight fight. Rodriguez put Clark down with a low kick in the first round. But Clark got two takedowns and some good ground-and-pound late in the round. Rodriguez scored well withy strikes early in the second round until Clark got a takedown and some ground and pound. Both were tired in the third round. Clark got a takedown and got Rodriguez’s back. Clark got a second takedown and landed well on the ground to easily take round three.

2. Ashlee Evans-Smith (6-3) beat Bec Rawlings (7-8) on scores of 30-27 across the board in a women’s strawweight fight. Evans-Smith got the better of the standup in the first round and also got a takedown. Rawlings did better in the second round but Evans-Smith still won the round. Evans-Smith continued to get the better of it in the third round.

3. Olivier Aubin-Mercier (11-2) beat Evan Dunham (18-7-1) in :53 in a lightweight fight. They traded punches and Aubin-Mercier dropped Dunham with a knee to the body and finished him off with punches on the ground.

4. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-2) beat Felice Herrig (14-7) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a women’s strawweight fight. Even though this was a split decision with close scores, when it came to media scores, they were 100 percent for Kowalkiewicz, and more than half had it 30-27. Herrig landed some good punches in the first round, as did Kowalkiewicz, who also got on top. In the second round, Kowalkiewicz scored with a good elbow and spinning backfist, and more elbows from the clinch. The third round was competitive as Kowalkiewicz landed more but Herrig hurt her late in the round. Herrig’s only shot at winning was to follow up on her big punch, but instead she went for a takedown and couldn’t get it, and Kowalkiewicz recovered.

5. Chris Gruetzemacher (14-5) beat Joe Lauzon (27-16) at 5:00 of the second round in a lightweight fight. Lauzon came out strong, landing good punches, but then got tired. Gruetzemacher landed a lot of punches late in the round and Lauzon seemed done. In the second round, Gruetzemacher continued to land. Lauzon went for takedowns but couldn’t get them. Lauzon was bleeding from the right eye. Lauzon was trying to punch back, but he was tired and the punches lacked power. He was taking a beating and both of his eyes were busted open. Lauzon never went down, but he was taking a bad beating and it probably should have been stopped. At the end of the second round, with him bleeding like crazy and the right eye almost shut, it was stopped. Really, it’s time for Lauzon to retire as he’s clearly diminished and future fights are not going to do him any favors.

6. Zabit Magomedsharipov (15-1) beat Kyle Bochniak (8-3) on scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 in a featherweight fight. Apparently Magomedsharipov broke his hand while warming up. This ended up a three round war. Magomedsharipov landed a nice left, body kicks and Bochniak came back with punches. Magomedsharipov landed a spin kick and a body kick, another spin kick and jumping knee as well as a head kick. In the second round, Magomedsharipov landed punches and Bochniak was letting him hit him. Magomedsharipov got a takedown into side control. Bochniak was covered in blood by the third round. Bochniak got all fired up and the rod went nuts. He came out swinging and landed punches. Magomedsharipov took him down twice. Bochniak landed good punches late.

7. Renato Moicano (12-1-1) beat Calvin Kattar (18-3) on scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 in a featherweight fight. After the great previous fight, the crowd was quick to boo this more normal fight. Moicano dominated the first round with low kicks. Moicano landed punches, head kicks and lots of low kicks. Fans were booing again in the third round even though Moicano was continuing to land all kinds of punches. Kattar was covered inj blood. His nose was bleeding badly and his foot was covered in the blood dripping from his nose. Moicano continued to land big punches.

8. Rose Namajunas (9-3) beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-2) via decision on straight 49-46 scores to retain the women’s strawweight title. Namajunas landed well early. Jedrzejczyk was bleeding from the right eye. It was clear immediately the way she moved how much Namajunas has improved from a couple of years ago. Both traded punches but it was Namajunas’ round. The second round saw Namajunas continue to land more punches, including hurting Jedrzejczyk with a left hook. Jedrzejczyk landed some knees in the clinch. Round three saw them go back-and-forth but Jedrzejczyk landed a lot ore including a head kick. Round four saw Jedrzejczyk take apart Namajunas’ right leg with kicks. Namajunas landed some nice punches early in the round. Round five saw Jedrzejczyk’s right eye looking bad. Namajunas was landing more punches. There was a good exchange and the round was anyone’s until Namajunas seemed to clinch it with a takedown with 25 seconds left and kept her down.

9. Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0) beat Al Iaquinta (13-4-1) on scores of 50-44, 50-43 and 50-43 to win the vacant lightweight championship. In round one, Nurmagomedov took him down and moved to side control, got his back and worked for a choke. Iaquinta got up but was taken right back down. The crowd was hot for this. Nurmagomedov got another takedown before the round ended. In round two, Nurmagomedov got another takedown, got his back, and totally dominated the round to where I had it 10-8. In the third round, Nurmagomedov was landing jabs but Iaquinta was stopping his takedowns and landed some good punches. Iaquinta’s face was covered in blood while Nurmagomedov mostly landed jabs. Nurmagomedov again couldn’t get a takedown in the fourth round, but he kept landing jabs and wont he round. Iaquinta clearly needed a knockout in the fifth. He came out and started landing good punches. Nurmagomedov couldn’t take him down. But Nurmagomedov came back with a running knee, got the takedown and got his back so he won this round as well.


Impact and Lucha Underground worked together to run a joint show on Impact's Twitch channel on 4/7 at the Sugar Mill in New Orleans.

The show was most notable for Alberto El Patron no-showing. Alberto was in New Orleans, and I even saw him at WaleMania the night before. He was at the Impact press conference to promote his 4/22 Redemption PPV match with Impact champion Austin Aries that day, where they shot a physical angle, and one person noted to us he wasn't acting normal. He then missed the show, where he was scheduled for a main event tag team match that was to set up the two big singles matches for the PPV, which were his match, and a Pentagon Jr. vs. Fenix match (using those names since Impact and Lucha Underground work together).

After he no-showed that card, as well as an autograph session the next day, Impact announced they were releasing him. His contract was to expire the day before the PPV and even though they had talked, they had not signed a new deal. Alberto had claimed he missed the show because he was sick, but if the company believed him, I can't imagine they'd let him go and screw up all the promotion of their main event. They had already shot several angles for the match and have angles already shot in the can so it would be easier to just finish him up at the PPV. Evidently, they felt strongly enough about it that they released him.

The new PPV main event will be a three-way with Aries defending against Pentagon Jr; and Fenix and they will explain on the 4/12 TV show the changes and the departure of Alberto.

The other big of news from the show was that in the opener, a six-way match, Chavo Guerrero Jr. apparently suffered a torn triceps.

They used Josh Matthews, Impact's lead announcer, with Matt Striker, Lucha Underground's lead announcer. The show drew 1,400 fans, a near sellout, and they were hot. At first the crowd was anti-Impact, as early mentions of Impact were booed and mentions of Lucha Underground were cheered. It's one thing for Matthews to be booed, since he plays a heel character even though he's the lead announcer (largely because efforts to bring back Mike Tenay didn't work out and Jeremy Borash left to work for NXT). But they also booed McKenzie Mitchell, Impact's backstage interviewer, since she was from there.

1. Matanza Cueto (Jeff Cobb) won a six-way over Chavo Guerrero Jr., Jack Evans, Caleb Konley, Moose and Matt Sydal. The match was filled with cool moves with Evans and Sydal standing out. Matanza pinned Konley with the tour of the Islands.

Guerrero after the match was to do an interview, but nobody could find a mic. When they finally did, he announced season four of Lucha Underground would be debuting on 6/13.

2. Allie retained the Knockouts title over Taya Valkyrie. This was supposed to be Impact vs. Lucha Underground so Taya was from Lucha Underground, even though she's also a regular on Impact. Allie won with a backstabber and codebreaker. Fans booed as they were more a Lucha Underground crowd.

3. Teddy Hart & Scott Steiner, who aren't from Lucha Underground or Impact, beat Impact's Dave & Jake Crist. Steiner beat Jake with the Steiner recliner. This came across like a TV squash match which is weird since the Crist Brothers are TNA regulars, but Steiner was more star power to the public and now nostalgia also kicks in since he's rarely around. Hart worked most of the way and made the hot tag to Steiner, who threw everyone around. The fans exploded for Steiner's hot tag. Announcer Matt Striker teased the idea that Dave Crist and Hart were shooting on each other. Shouldn't every announcer call every match like they are shooting on each other?

4. King Cuerno & Drago & Aerostar (LU) beat Dezmond Xavier & Andrew Everett & DJZ (Impact) in a hell of a match, the show stealer. Everett and DJZ haven't even been around Impact in a while. Cuerno made Everett submit to the Indian deathlock. They all shook hands and raised each others' hands after the match. Cuerno was bleeding from the chest, probably from hard chops, and put on a shirt at the end of the match. Lots of great dives and innovative moves.

5. Trevor Lee (Impact) pinned Marty "The Moth" Martinez (LU) with a roll-up. holding the tights after distraction from Caleb Konley. It was advertised as Lee vs. Famous B. B cut a promo and said he wasn't going to be wrestling and announced Martinez taking his place. Once when Konley tried to interfere, B superkicked him.

6. Ortiz & Santana retained the Impact tag titles over LU's Killshot (Shane Strickland) & The Mack. Diamante returned in the corner of LAX after knee surgery. Konnan wasn't there due to recovering from hip replacement surgery. Another really good long match. Santana pinned Killshot after a double team power bomb and blockbuster. There was a missed spot when Ortiz slipped and fell when Killshot was setting up a Death Valley bomb, and he hit it on the second attempt. The big spot was Killshot throwing Ortiz off his shoulders right into a pounce by Mack.

7. Brian Cage pinned Eli Drake. Drake cut a promo and ripped on the mostly pro-LU fans saying Impact is on TV every week and LU does one season a year and took almost two years off from taping. Cage was said to be representing LU even though getting a big Impact push. Drake said he didn't want to wrestle Cage and instead invited him out drinking. But then Drake attacked him. Cage won with a combination discus clothesline and diamond cutter inside out. They worked a competitive match with Drake getting a lot of offense.

8. Jeremiah Crane beat Eddie Edwards in an I Quit match. Crane is Sami Callihan but he was representing LU so used his name there, even though this is from the baseball bat angle and he's far better known as Callihan. They brawled all over the place. They didn't get into the ring for about te minutes. Edwards, who just returned about a week or two ago (I think this was his second match back) after the baseball bat angle that went awry, took a Death Valley bomb on a chair. Edwards got Crane mad by calling him Solomon Crowe (his NXT name). Edwards power bombed him on a guard rail. The crowd was not making a lot of noise in this match. The Crist Brothers interfered. Crane delivered a hard chair to the head. Crane went to hit Edwards again with a baseball bat. The ref tried to stop im and Don Callis ran down and threw in the towel to end them match. Crane was about to go after Callis but Moose stepped up for the save.

9. Pentagon Jr. won a non-title three-way over Austin Aries and Fenix. At the time the announcers didn't know what to say about Alberto not being there and said that they had no idea why it wasn't a tag match but that they were told the match was changing during the show. Good match. Aries used a 450 on Pentagon and last chancery on both guys but the other would break it up. Finally Aries got superkicked by both and Pentagon pinned Fenix with a Penta driver.


The week in New Orleans was filled with wrestling. While there weren't nearly as many events as Orlando, there was probably a higher quality of events this year overall.

Regular promotions like Progress, Revolution Pro, Evolve, The Crash, Shimmer and a combined Impact/Lucha Underground show took place. The biggest crowds, sellouts of 1,600 each, came for special events, the WrestleCon Super Show which had the biggest names including surprise appearances by Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jerry Lawler and Minoru Suzuki; and Joey Janela's Friday night at midnight second Spring Break show. There was also a unique Matt Riddle "Bloodsport" show with no ropes and a somewhat UWFI feel. The Impact/Lucha Underground show was also sold out in a set up of 1,400 fans and the first of the two Progress shows was close to sold out.

A lot of the talk revolved around the numerous losses suffered by Zack Sabre Jr. and Keith Lee.

Sabre Jr. lost his Evolve title on the 4/5 show to Matt Riddle, and the next day, lost his Revolution Pro British heavyweight title to Tomohiro Ishii, and also lost to Walter on the 4/7 Progress show. This is notable coming off the biggest run of his career with New Japan in winning the New Japan Cup. Even though wins and losses mean a lot in Japan (although not nearly what they meant in a prior generation when the daily newspapers were big and covered pro wrestling results so the masses saw them) it's pretty clear that aside from people like Minoru Suzuki (who didn't lose in New Orleans), Hiroshi Tanahashi, as well as Tetsuya Naito and Kazuchika Okada (who didn't work this week although Okada was in New Orleans and attended WWE events to hang out with Shinsuke Nakamura and watch his WrestleMania match), that they have no problems with the talent losing on other shows, even guys like Sabre Jr. who they are giving big pushes to, or Will Ospreay, their jr. champion (although they've always been okay with jr. champions losing, especially in heavyweight matches).

This led to a lot of speculation regarding his future, which is accurate in the sense he's just signed a new full-time deal with New Japan. While it's not clear if he'll be only working New Japan, he will be doing a lot less independent work going forward.

Lee also lost his WWN title to Austin Theory on 4/6, as well as lost to Daisuke Sekimoto in a singles match. There is nothing official regarding he and WWE, and his working Axxess doesn't necessarily mean he's going there, as Axxess asked Progress and Evolve to send talent to Axxess as opposed to Axxess appearances meaning those guys are headed to WWE down the line. The win allowed Theory, who is a 20 or 21 year old bodybuilder that Gabe Sapolsky is super high on as a future WWE star, to defend his title at Fan Axxess.

The only thing we know is that he was given an offer by WWE and he did not appear as a surprise in the crowd at the NXT show, which would be a confirmation that he took the offer and taken and he would be starting soon.

It is also notable that Riddle, who is considered by many if not most to have the most potential, did not work Axxess. Riddle's situation remains amazing that his public history with marijuana, between the test failures in UFC and interviews he's done, continues to be literally the only thing keeping him from being a major player in either WWE or New Japan.

The other biggest story on the indie shows once again regarded Will Ospreay, who worked all six of his scheduled matches after the bad landing on the Spanish fly off the apron in his Sakura Genesis match on 4/1 against Marty Scurll.

Ospreay showed up all taped up, with his shoulder and neck area all taped up with kiniseo tape and his skin showed signs of having received Japanese cupping treatments. He worked matches built around the idea that everyone knew about his neck being hurt, so worked around selling it. I saw him in three different matches on the same day on 4/6. In the first match, for Progress, with Mark Haskins, it was a good match mostly built around his selling his neck.

His second match, for Revolution Pro, was a six-man tag with him teaming with Rocky Romero & Chuck Taylor to beat Kota Ibushi & Flip Gordon & Shane Strickland in what was one of the best matches of the weekend. It was exactly what you'd expect from that kind of a match with the New Japan style that Revolution Pro uses. Ospreay was selling his neck but it was a flying spectacular type of performance from all involved.

The third, and biggest, was a singles match with Matt Riddle for the Evolve title. This was meant to play directly off the injury. Very early in the match, Ospreay went for the same Spanish fly off the apron and the crowd reaction was very weird. It was as if they didn't want to see it, but it was blocked anyway. Later, in the key spot, Riddle had a choke on and Ospreay climbed to the top rope with Riddle climbing while still holding the choke. Ospreay then kicked off the top, falling backwards, while still holding the choke. Riddle turned the move, instead of Ospreay landing on Riddle backwards and the landing would break the choke, into a choke suplex. Ospreay flipped over so he didn't land on his head, but it was one of those just barely landing head first spots. Ospreay laid there and the ref immediately panicked. He acted like was knocked out cold while other refs came out. Being there, there were certain signs, in the sense several refs came out and Gabe Sapolsky ran out of the back, but one of the refs' interactions with Riddle was a give away. Some people thought it was legit, but what was notable is that almost everyone, even the ones who saw through it, went with it. Riddle attacked the neck and was actually booed, including teasing a Gotch piledriver, which this audience reacted big toward. Riddle actually dropped him forward and not on his head. Piledrivers were banned all week except for WWE and ROH wrestlers so he had to modify the move. The place came unglued when Ospreay was kicking out of everything and then made his babyface comeback. Ospreay was really great in this match in a very different way from usual, as it was just the great sell of the supposed injury, the fast start, the big sell, Riddle working over the neck and the big comeback with the whole building standing. Ospreay finally went for the Oscutter but Riddle got behind him and choked him out for the win. After turning vicious heel on Ospreay, Riddle then cut a babyface promo thanking everyone for attending. I'd go ****1/4 on it, and it was a match where both guys did a completely different match than they usually do and for what it was, it couldn't have gotten over better. And it was really almost Terry Funk-like in the sense this was a cold crowd, not a dead crowd, but a cold and tired audience that had seen so much and they got everyone going crazy.

Aside from the NXT matches, the general feeling from people who had seen a ton of shows was that the best matches were Riddle vs. Ospreay, Walter & Timothy Thatcher vs. Munenori Sawa & Daisuke Sekimoto, Sabre Jr. vs. Walter and Bandido & Flamita vs. Rey Fenix & Rey Horus.

From a star power standpoint, particularly since they had Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi and the surprises, nothing beat the WrestleCon Super Show.

The most talked about match as far as action went was a Lucha Libre flying match with Rey Fenix & Rey Horus beating Flamita & Bandido where Fenix in particular stood out with his amazing moves. The fans gave the match a standing ovation and threw money into the ring. Another similar big moves match was Ospreay win over Adam Brooks, Shane Strickland and Sammy Guevara which ended with Ospreay pinning Guevara with an Oscutter.

A big pop came when Joey Ryan came out and cut an Andy Kaufman style promo about how women are only good for cooking and cleaning up after men. He challenged any women to a match. Instead, Lawler came out. Lawler noted that this match was 35 years to the day of his famous first match with Kaufman in Memphis, and that he gave Kaufman a piledriver and sent him to the hospital. Ryan noted that the piledriver is banned, and that he would accept the challenge. He told Lawler to touch his dick and people expected Lawler to take the dick flip. Instead, Lawler threw a fireball at his dick, which was the only move of the match and Lawler was DQ'd.

Tomohiro Ishii and Jeff Cobb had a match described as incredible, with Cobb throwing Ishii around and Ishii coming back with his standard stuff and winning after a brainbuster.

Rocky Romero worked as Chico El Luchador under a mask in a comedy bout teaming with Psicosis & Super Crazy (with Juventud Guerrera outside the ring) beating Matt Classic & Jason Cade & Teddy Hart,.

Suzuki and Tanahashi worked the semifinals. Sami Callihan came out first and was booed like crazy. Next came Juice Robinson, who got a really big reaction, and the place came unglued when Tanahashi's music played since he wasn't advertised. The building was said to have been shaking. Then the opposing team came out, which was David Starr & Brian Cage. They teased the idea of a two vs. three match until Suzuki's music played and that got an even bigger reaction than Tanahashi. The only thing really notable from the week is how much more over Suzuki is now with this type of audience than even a few months ago. Suzuki tapped out Callihan with an armbar.

The main event saw Omega & Ibushi beating Taylor & mystery partner Flip Gordon. Because the show was long and the crowd had popped so big for Tanahashi and Suzuki, they didn't as much for Omega & Ibushi. Plus, they hated Gordon for whatever reason as the partner. They tried to make it work as Taylor first called out the Swamp Monster, Detective Dan Barry (who he does a Highspots show with) and Trent came out as well, before Gordon came out. Gordon cut a promo asking Omega to get him booked on the All In show, which has been a long storyline. Taylor, to turn heel, said that he had talked to Bullet Club leader Cody and he told them if they beat the Golden Lovers, they are both booked for All In. They had a pretty good match, not the best thing on the show with Gordon getting pinned after the Golden Trigger.

Janela's Spring Break was a heavy comedy show which started at midnight and was meant to be the wackiest show of the year. Among the highlights were Riddle beating James Ellsworth and a main event of Janela beating Great Sasuke. The highlight, a match that was said to be **** to ****½ from various sources, was PCO (Pierre Carl Ouelett of the Quebecers team) against Walter. At first people weren't that into it but very quickly after a chop battle they were going crazy when PCO stood toe-to-toe with him. There was a ref bump, a power bomb through the table, a PCO somersault senton to the floor and PCO won in the end. They went about 20:00. PCO did a moonsault off the top rope to the outside and actually neither Walter nor the ref were able to catch him and he landed face first on the floor. He also did a tope, split legged moonsault and cannonball. The crowd gave both a standing ovation and chanted "PCO." PCO, who is now 50, said that his goal was to get a match in PWG, and in particular this year's BOLA if possible. PCO and Walter had done a match ten years ago in Germany when Walter was only 20.

Nick Gage, who was very over, beat Penta 0M. David Starr beat Mike Quackenbush which was pushed because Starr said how much Quackenbush meant to him and was the most influential wrestler to him getting in and Quackenbush to come out of retirement for him. Then there was a Clusterf*** match won The Invisible Man. It included comedy people like Grado, Swoggle, Kikutaro, a Masked Real American, Dan Severn, and Alabama Doink. Janela vs. Sasuke saw Sasuke hypnotize Janela and had him land on his head. Lots of crazy weapons spots but at this point the crowd was exhausted. Janela won with a double foot stomp and the show ended with Janela and Sasuke singing "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi, and the show ended at nearly 4 a.m.

Progress from the U.K. ran shows on 4/6 and 4/7. The attendance was about 1,500 for the first show and 1,000 for the second, but those are estimates. The total between the two shows was 2,500 tickets sold but the split may be off slightly.

The shows were at the Pontchartain Center which was cold inside and the crowd was affected. It was like a Japanese crowd more than a U.K. crowd in that they were quiet and would then come together and react to big moves as opposed to the crazy loud reactions and all the singing. Still, it felt like a large percentage of the audience was either from the U.K. or the super U.S. indie fans.

Tag champs James Drake & Zack Gibson won the opener on he first night beating Tyler Bate Trent Seven. Ospreay beat Haskins. Walter & Thatcher beat Keith Lee & David Starr. Lee was all banged up from getting into an auto accident, but still did multiple matches each day as well as WWE Axxess matches during the week. Starr and Walter have great big man/small man chemistry.

Progress has a signature match called a Thunderbastard match. It was an eight-man match like a Rumble with staggered entrances except the eliminations are via pin or submission. Jeff Cobb won and earned a Progress title match the next night.

Jinny & Mercedes Martinez beat Toni Storm & Shazza McKenzie. Storm got a big reaction. Martinez pinned McKenzie to earn a title match the next day.

Riddle beat Jimmy Havoc in a sick match. Havoc worked over Riddle's toes since he wrestles barefoot. He bit the toes. At another point Riddle went for a kick but Havoc missed and he kicked the post. Havoc also used paper to try and slice Riddle between toes with paper cuts which drew one of he many "you sick F***" reactions from the crowd. Riddle won with the bromission.

The show stealer saw Pete Dunne win over Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster in a three-way. Dunne did finger break spots. Lots of good flying including Andrews doing a moonsault into a DDT on the floor. Webster did cool spots including a moonsault into a double superkick, and a reverse huracanrana on both at the same time. Dunne pinned Andrews with a tombstone piledriver. Keep in mind that only WWE and ROH talent was allowed to do piledrivers because of the athletic commission. It could be that Dunne was considered WWE talent for all the shows since he's signed with WWE, but we didn't hear of any issues for him doing the move that everyone else stayed away from. Minoru Suzuki all week won all of his matches without ever attempting the Gotch piledriver because of the regulations.

Travis Banks beat Strickland to keep the Progress title in a good main event using the Kiwi Krusher.

Progress, ICW and Revolution Pro are the big three U.K. groups these days. ICW (which for some reason didn't run here) is more built on wackiness and storylines. Progress has a cool punk rock theme and more show-to-show booking. Revolution Pro is about delivering great matches using the best U.K., indie and New Japan talent with the idea of delivering matches with top wrestlers that you usually can't see anywhere else.

The next day's Progress show saw Brookes beat Rey Horus with the octopus. Storm beat Martinez to keep her title in a really good hard hitting match with an armbar. Theory & Jinny beat Ospreay & Kay Lee Ray when Jinny pinned Ray. Haskins & Havoc & Webster beat Keith Lee Riddle & Starr. Walter beat Sabre to earn a shot at the Progress title. This was Walter destroying Sabre's chest with chops as he does whenever these two face each other. Walter won when Sabre tried his bridging pin but Walter escaped and got behind him and choked him out. The idea that Sabre was the one who tapped out got a huge reaction. This was said to be a great match. Gibson & Drake kept the tag titles over Rickey Shane Page & Ethan Page. Page & Page claimed that they were brothers and also claimed that DDP was their third brother. Eddie Denis. who had shoulder surgery but is on the way back, is setting up a program with Andrews and called him a sell out for working for WWE. Banks beat Cobb in their title match using the Kiwi Krusher in another good title match. Walter then chased Banks out of the arena and said he was coming for the title next. I was told this was the better show, and had the hotter crowd even though it was smaller. Still, whatever it was about the building, the atmosphere couldn't touch when Progress came to New York or their U.K. shows.

These were well structured shows, with solid show-to-show booking. It's very difficult at Mania week because while you can draw your biggest crowds, so much of the audience is on fumes seeing so many shows in a short period of time and with the quality of wrestling and wrestlers these days, it becomes so difficult to stand out. But Progress has unique characters, good wrestling with a variety of styles and the booking in hindsight all has a purpose and makes sense.

Revolution Pro on 4/6 was a strong show. I don't want to compare it to Mania, but from what I saw, it was second to NXT, largely for the six-man tag and the great atmosphere. The show drew 1,117 fans for a 4 p.m. show. I consider this a strong showing for a 4 p.m. show when you consider the better evening time slot went to a combo show of Impact and Lucha Underground, who both have U.S. television, and they drew 1,400 fans.

Starr pinned Martin Stone (Danny Burch in NXT) with his feet on the ropes. Adam Brooks pinned Brian Cage after a low blow. It's notable seeing Cage as a monster on Impact these days and then losing here, but I don't know if such a thing matters much today. Ospreay & Taylor & Romero beat Strickland & Ibushi & Gordon in a ****+ match. It's not fair for me to rate it as I didn't see it from start to finish, but saw enough that it was clearly above that threshold and was among the best matches of the weekend. Nothing was on the level of the two top matches on the NXT show, but this was as good as anything else I saw. It was hotter and felt better than the Ishii vs. Sabre title change, but they are also completely different style matches. If there wasn't so much product out there from WWE and New Japan to where just keeping up with them is an incredible chore, RevPro big shows are some of the best stuff around.

Suzuki, who was really over, with the crowd singing "Kaze Ni Nare" even louder than in Japan, beat Cobb via choke. It was a good match. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Juice Robinson beat Aussie Open, the tag team of Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher. This was a basic good house show match. Robinson feels so much more like a star than he did even a few months ago. He doesn't do anything super flashy but everything is solid and more than that he has real charisma. Tanahashi was super over of course.

Ishii beat Sabre to win the British title. The place went nuts for the title change. This was very different from Sabre's recent matches. Sabre did his cool submissions but Ishii had more offense and while the matwork was there, it didn't dominate the match. I'd go ****1/4 for this one. Just an excellent match.

The WWN Super show on 4/6 featured Daisuke Sekimoto beating Keith Lee with a German suplex in what was a really good match. They did probably about 1,200 fans as it was a good crowd but not as packed as Progress. Lee did more flying than in other matches including a huracanrana and a missed moonsault. Sekimoto is one of the most underrated guys around. Also on the WWN tour was Munenori Sawa, who had left wrestling seven years ago and came back. I didn't see it, but I was told Sawa & Sekimoto earlier in the week in a match against Walter & Thatcher was a ****½ match. This was the show headlined by the Riddle vs. Ospreay singles match.

The gimmick with Riddle as Evolve champion is that he announced that all of his title matches have no rope breaks. This did help get the submissions over more in the Ospreay match. Riddle also retained his title earlier in the day over Sekimoto with MMA style ground and pound and a ref stoppage, and to get the gimmick over had an armbar in the ropes but Sekimoto had to escape rather than have it as a break.

Another unique show was the Riddle Bloodsport show on the afternoon of 4/5.

It was modeled after the movie "Bloodsport" where they did matches that were somewhat done in a UWFI worked shoot style (but each match varied). The matches were quick and finishes came out of nowhere. It's a matter of taste but the crowd of about 850 for the most part wanted to like it as something different. It was somewhat similar to the Ambition shows that wXw does. These type of matches don't get as much heat but the guys aren't working so much for heat as for realism.

I saw most of the show. Ironically the two things people were raving about were what I missed. One was Walter beating Tom Lawlor since the streaming feed went out. Walter used his size to dominate and tore Lawlor's protective sleeve (from his recent surgery to repair a broken forearm, this was Lawlor's second match back) off and worked on the arm. Walter did a lot of chops, which you wouldn't see so much in a UWFI match and then they traded suplexes before Walter won with a choke.

The main event was scheduled as Riddle vs. Low Ki, but Low Ki pulled out a few days before due to a neck injury. So they got Minoru Suzuki as a sub, which was a huge upgrade. They had a quick match exchanging big strikes. Most had it at **** and said it was better than their Revolution Pro match, which I liked a lot. Suzuki won with the choke.

Nick Gage beat Timothy Thatcher in a match different from the others since they did brawling outside the ring. Gage just kept throwing punch after punch on him once they were back on the mat and it was a ref stoppage.

In a throwback moment, Dan Severn, who is 59, and he's big and in great shape for his age, actually much better shape then he was in years ago when he was at the end of his fighting career, beat Chris Dickinson via choke. The throwback moment was Severn coming out to the old 90s UFC theme music, with different people carrying his different old UFC belts. It was the same multi-belt ring entrance that he did in the UFC and he was even wearing either the same t-shirt as he wore in his first UFC match in 1994, or a shirt that looked identical to it. All he needed was Al Snow coming to the ring with him.

The Crash ran a show on 4/6, before about 450 fans. The show went less than two hours as everyone did short matches. We were told Flamita and Rey Horus did an incredible match for the six or seven minutes it lasted.

House of Hardcore ran on 4/7. They did their TV title tournament with Alex Reynolds beating Swoggle and Willie Mack beat Kevin Kross in the semifinals.

The former Spirit Squad came out and fans were chanting that they wanted Dolph Ziggler. Kenny said that he was probably at the hotel watching on Twitch wishing he was here instead of being a f***ing jobber getting ready for a Battle Royal. Crowd popped for that. The Squad lost to Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson & Shane Helms doing the double dropkick spot by Morton & Gibson.

The tournament final saw Mack win a three-way over Sami Callihan and Reynolds by pinning Reynolds. Jerry Lynn was the ref who teased doing the cradle piledriver on MJF when he tried to get involved.

The show also had a promo from Mick Foley who talked about working upcoming HOH shows. Austin Aries pinned Cage with a brainbuster and Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. beat Dreamer & Billy Gunn in a street fight with lots of weapons used.

Another unique show was a Beyond Wrestling event which was all men vs. women matches. Severn was asked to be on the show but didn't want to do that kind of a match. It started at 12:08 a.m. on 4/6. Impact tag champs LAX lost to LuFisto & Jordyanne Grace. It was a fast paced mach and Grace pinned Santana after a Michinoku driver. The show ended at 2:50 a.m. local time with Toni Storm beating Thatcher with an armbar. She gave Thatcher a bloody nose, it looked possibly broken, from a kick to the face. His nose was gushing blood.


Thomas Sullivan, best known as Luscious Johnny Valiant of the Valiant Brothers tag team, passed away on 4/4 after being hit by a truck while crossing the street in Ross Township, PA, very close to Bruno Sammartino’s house.

Sullivan was 71 years old.

The location was somewhat ironic since it was Sammartino who broke Sullivan into pro wrestling in Pittsburgh in 1967.

Sullivan was crossing the street in the early morning, not using a crosswalk, at about 5:30 a.m. when he was hit by a truck. The driver of the truck remained on the scene to get help. Sullivan was rushed to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh where he was pronounced dead.

The original Valiant Brothers tag team in the mid-70s was the best drawing and most charismatic heel tag team in WWWF history. They were the only tag team champions who headlined Madison Square Garden multiple times, since in that era, it was always the singles champion, Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales or Bob Backlund that was always in the main event.

But the Valiants were so strong that they worked several tag team matches against Sammartino and partners and drew sellout crowds of 20,000 fans.

James Fanning who had been wrestling since the mid-60s, took the name Handsome Jimmy Valiant in late 1970 while working in Texas. He came to the WWWF in April 1971 as a babyface, and then turned on partner Chief Jay Strongbow. He became something of a name wrestler in the magazines from that run.

Sullivan started wrestling in Pittsburgh as John L. Sullivan, named after a famous world heavyweight champion boxer of the 1880s. In late 1973, while working for Dick the Bruiser in Indianapolis, he was brought in to form a tag team with Jimmy Valiant and Luscious Johnny Valiant was born. They worked some AWA and mostly for Bruiser in Indiana. The team got instant national credibility when they defeated Bruiser & Sammartino, a virtual dream team, in both Detroit and Indianapolis to win the WWA tag team titles. At the time of the wins, Sammartino had already regained the WWWF championship.

They came into the WWWF, managed by Lou Albano, for their biggest run, known for their crazy interviews. They remained a team in several other territories, including two more runs as WWA tag team champions, as well as holding the Georgia tag team titles and the San Francisco-based version of the NWA world tag team titles.

They returned to the WWF in 1979 for another run as tag team champions. But Jimmy contracted hepatitis, so a third Valiant Brother was introduced. John Hill, best known as Stomper Guy Mitchell, became Gentleman Jerry Valiant. Jerry & Johnny had a run as tag team champions but without Jimmy, the team didn’t have nearly the same charisma.

It’s lesser known that before both were working in pro wrestling, in the mid-1960s that Thomas Sullivan was a classmate of Vince McMahon’s at Fishburne Military Academy in Waynesboro, VA. It’s unclear if they were close, but they definitely knew each other and played baseball and wrestled together. Sullivan noted that he played catcher and Vince was a pitcher when they played baseball, and both wrestled in the 165 pound weight class. Sullivan said that Vince beat him for the varsity starting position.

After the team broke up, Johnny was largely a journeyman performer, although he did hold the WWA title twice when the promotion was falling on hard times.

He was a great talker by the 1970s heel standard of saying a lot of stuff that didn’t always make sense but sounded funny and heelish. That became out of vogue in the 80s. Still, Verne Gagne brought him in for a major role in 1981, with the idea of him managing the top heel, Hulk Hogan.

Valiant did promos talking about Hogan’s impending arrival. The problem was, when Hogan arrived, the fans loved him and cheered him. Valiant, as a heel manager, was out of place. So Gagne shot an angle where Jerry Blackwell, one of his top heels, attacked and injured Valiant, which was Hogan’s official turn even though he already really was a face. Valiant left at that point.

Vince McMahon brought him back as a heel manager for Brutus Beefcake. He also managed Beefcake & Greg Valentine as The Dream team, who held the WWF tag titles. When Beefcake was turned on and went babyface, he managed Valentine & Dino Bravo as the new Dream Team. He also did some commentary before he was let go in 1987.

He then went to the AWA as the manager of the Destruction Crew, Mike Enos & Wayne Bloom, and led them to the tag team titles, but the AWA was dying organization at the time.

After wrestling, he worked in standup comedy and did some acting. He appeared in multiple episodes of popular TV shows like “The Sopranos” and “Law and Order.” McMahon later inducted The Valiant Brothers into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1996.


In a surprise, the Being the Elite weekly video show, which had enough of a cult following that it placed fourth for Best Television Show in the 2017 Observer awards, may be finished.

The 100th episode came out on 4/10 and was called “The Finale,” and was there to wrap up a lot of storylines, but was also open-ended in other ways.

Matt Massie aka Matt Jackson, who started the series with his brother Nick in May, 2016, and released episodes weekly since then, said it was undecided if they would revive the show.

“Needed a break either way and the main stories have been told,” he said. “A goal was to always make it to 100. Sort of playing it by ear. I’ll tell you this, I can’t believe the response episode 100 has gotten and how upset people are.”

The series created a lot of major storylines, most notably the Cody Rhodes vs. Kenny Omega story that played out more on the show than anywhere else, even if the big angles were shot in New Japan. It also helped bring its key characters to a new level of popularity, most notably Hangman Page, Brandi Rhodes and especially Marty Scurll, and it was expected that it was going to eventually turn Flip Gordon into a star by the end of this year. It gave Cody a level of cool credibility and star power with an audience that without it may have considered him just another WWE performer doing independent dates after leaving the company.

In storyline, the show ended because there is no more Elite. While there were a number of different characters developed over the last two years, the show was originally a video log of the travels of three best friends, the Young Bucks and Omega, who were the three only three members of The Elite. After the Young Bucks cost Omega his match with Cody by accidentally giving him a double superkick, on the show they showed them apologizing. Omega refused to accept the apology and said The Elite was over. And eventually, Kota Ibushi, who was there, kicked them out of the room. This seemed to set up a longer-term program of Young Bucks vs. Golden Lovers.

It is wrestling, and some day, like in most stories like this, there should eventually be a reconciliation and a happy ending, but it also probably shouldn’t be soon.

The timing is notable since the show was thought to be a key part of the promotion of the 9/1 All In show, and keeping the cult popularity of its key cast members.

The episode in some ways was a finale to a lot of the Young Bucks things.

They revealed that Scurll really never had super powers to freeze time, and that everyone was just working him all along. Scurll in the episode claimed he got a $5 million offer from a major record company that would allow him to continue wrestling, but no longer appear on the show. They blew off the old “FTR” (F*** The Revival) chant saying that those guys are no longer relevant. The FTR came from a team when The Revival were in NXT and there was a lot of Internet controversy over whether it was The Young Bucks or The Revival as the best tag team in the world. They claimed the FTRR chant (F*** The Roman Reigns), after Reigns knocked Cody on social media, was never about Reigns and was really about Rocky Romero.

There was also a mystery assailant, with the idea of it being Page, who attacked and beat Joey Ryan up badly in his New Orleans hotel room and left him bruised and bloodied.

Flip Gordon took Brandi Rhodes to the hospital for a probable concussion after she took a V trigger from Omega and went through a table. While his wife was in, Cody wasn’t even there, partying in another room over beating Omega. But while he was celebrating, everyone else was depressed, as Page, The Young Bucks and Bernard the Bear all left the room, leaving the episode ending with Cody, after the biggest win of his career, alone in a room.


The WWE and ITV U.K. story that has gone on for more than a year is back in play.

WWE announced they will be broadcasting two U.K. shows live, on 6/18 and 6/19, at Royal Albert Hall in London, which holds about 4,000 fans and was the big venue for wrestling in the 60s. This will be the first WWE U.K. shows since the original tournament for the title, and will crown the first WWE King of the Ring since 2015. It is believed it will be an eight-man tournament of U.K. contracted wrestlers.

This comes on the heels of ITV is making noises of starting something again, and two sources have said that they've told wrestlers they have under contract they are looking at doing a taping as soon as next month. Whenever that happens, WWE gets aggressive in the market and that happened again this time.

Talent under ITV contract has been told about plans for May, with the idea of taping ten one-hour television shows over a three-day span. Nothing else has been said to the talent, and there have been a number of plans and things said about the ITV television deal that have never come to fruition.

The problem is that most of the U.K.'s best talent is already under contract to other promotions around the world. ITV is one of the country's biggest stations and a show on the channel would do multiple times the viewership that WWE could ever do. The first ITV special, which aired on December 31, 2016, did 1.25 million viewers while a good episode of Raw is lucky to do 50,000 viewers on Sky. But even with those stats, WWE can sell out or come close at most of its U.K. venues and it wasn't as if the talent featured on that ITV show like Grado, Dave Mastiff and Davey Boy Smith Jr., suddenly became far bigger stars off the airing.

WWE hadn't done anything because of the high cost of taping the original tournament as a network show and have been trying to get a television partner to pay for a television show that was first announced about a year ago.

The story going around was ITV was looking at a limited series, similar to the original plans, of several weeks and then, depending on ratings and response, deciding from there.

That would make WWE more aggressive to try and lock up as much of the key talent, and that would explain the recent move for Zack Gibson and perhaps others.

There is the belief a lot of new U.K. talent will be looked at and some will be signed in May after tryouts take place the next European tour, and that WWE is close to its own television deal for the U.K. version of the product and that this tournament will be the start of regular tapings and not just a one-time deal, and that they would then run regular tapings and perhaps shows.

Then again, that's been in the cards dating back to the first tournament and has kept getting delayed given ITV not running and WWE not landing a TV deal yet.

Those in the U.K. feel the scene is going to be changing very soon, with WWE more aggressive if ITV starts, and the U.K. talent under WWE being more restricted what groups they can work for. Time will tell how this all shakes up as WWE in the U.K. up to this point has been more open about their contracted talent working places other than Progress and ICW, where they have financial ties, which is a different m.o. than the old WWE would do. Still, the belief is WWE strongly wants to control the top tier of the indie side and be the only people with television.

There is also the logical situation of WWE running on ITV, as ITV has been looking for a promotional partner. WWE can supply the biggest name talent and it would be fantastic local exposure. The question becomes whether or not Sky has exclusivity on WWE in the market through its deal expiring at the end of 2019.


Regarding the Andre the Giant HBO documentary, which debuted on 4/10, and our story this past week, we have a lot more background including from Denny Burkholder, who did extensive research into Andre for some stories about him.

While Andre was raised in Molien, France, he was actually born in Coulommiers, France, as listed via his passport.

The documentary did 931,000 viewers, which would be an excellent number given that HBO is in 36,017,000 homes. The audience breakdown was interesting because it was 0.11 in 12-17, 0.17 in 18-34, 0.61 in 35-49 and 0.35 in 50+. One would have expected the 50+ number to skew the highest because that would have been the audience that had actually grown up watching him. The audience was also 75.6 percent male in 18-49 but only 53.0 percent male among teenagers. The number was easily strong enough to justify the idea of doing similar shows on other pro wrestling legends.

Pat Laprade, who was in the documentary and is writing a book on Andre's life, noted that while Andre was billed as 208 centimeters (6-9 3/4) in his first few years in Europe, that both of his brothers, independently, said he was 218 centimeters when asked his height, which would be 7-1 ½. His passport lists a 218 centimeter height although I doubt anyone actually measured him and that easily could have been what he wrote and was doing so to protect his gimmick. Past a 1970 measurement in England (208 centimeters), any records from hospitals and such were destroyed, likely to protect his gimmick. Andre's height will always be talked about. There are a lot of clips of him in the documentary and that have resurfaced on YouTube from his early days in France where he's talked about as being 6-foot-10, and while it's hard to ascertain, there are clips of him where he looks much taller than he ever looked in North America.

Still, in the legendary 1971 IWE tournament that included Karl Gotch, Billy Robinson, Don Leo Jonathan and Shozo Kobayashi (at the time the IWE's top star, who beat Andre as Monster Roussimoff in the finals in a two of three fall match where Andre was protected because Kobayashi won one fall via DQ and another via count out and he was never pinned in the tournament, although he did a number of 30:00 draws with Robinson), there are tons of photos and you see a very different Andre. All the photos from the tour show him both remarkably shorter than you would think and also far more muscular. There's the famous photo of him bare-footed and Don Leo Jonathan in boots where they are posing, looking at each other, and look nearly the same height. That Andre looked almost like a bodybuilder, even though he never lifted weights that I'm aware of, with abs and muscularity. Still, he wasn’t that much taller than Karl Gotch, who was listed at 6-foot-2 when he competed in the Olympics. Andre had that look to a lesser degree in his early years in Quebec (he started in Montreal a few months after that tournament) before the drinking and disease caused him to continue to gain weight. Still, while in Quebec, just a few months later, he was billed at 7-foot-4 and looked about five inches taller than Jonathan and Killer Kowalski.

Laprade believes that Andre was more than 7-feet tall because both of his brothers, independently, said that, and felt the disease that grew his other parts of his body caused him to shrink to about 6-foot-10 by the time he came to North America in 1971, right around his 25th birthday. Still, in England and France as a wrestler, he was always billed at 208 centimeters in France and 6-foot-11 in England, and wrestling promoters usually exaggerate heights of giants.

I saw Andre live tons of times and always figured him to be about 6-foot-10, as he looked about four inches taller than Blackjack Mulligan when I saw them in a match in 1974. Then again, he always wore big lifts in his wrestling boots and in the early 70s, there was a wrestling photographer who was 6-foot-8, who posed next to Don Leo Jonathan (who was billed around that size) and he was several inches taller, and posed with Andre in tennis shoes and they looked to be almost identical height. He and Chris Taylor were on the Mike Douglas show together and Andre only looked about inches taller than Taylor. Taylor was billed at 6-foot-7 and compared to everyone else, that looked legit. But in the 1972 Olympics, Taylor was measured at 6-foot-5 1/4. A photo of Hulk Hogan, Donald Trump and Andre together showed Andre several inches taller than both, but if Andre was a 7-footer, Trump would have to have been something like 6-foot-6.

While the questions of his real height weren’t gone into, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

“We asked it of everybody,” said director Jeson Hehir about Andre’s real height when interviewed by Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports. “And pretty much, everybody just lied. Vince said, `I don’t know if he was 7-foot-4, but for sure he was 7 feet.’ He just mumbled about it.”

“The reality of it is that we tried pretty hard to track down any sort of official document that would have an official measurement. We had some of his state wrestling licenses, but it was clear that he, or whoever his handler was, was just scrawling numbers down on a piece of paper and perpetuating the myth that this guy was anywhere from 7 feet to 7-feet-four and anywhere from 380 to 520.”

Also, while Andre did leave almost his entire estate to daughter Robin, as we and the documentary noted, Burkholder has seen Andre's will from 1993 and he left a substantial amount of money to Frenchy Bernard and Jackie McAuley, who lived with him and took care of his ranch in Ellerbe, NC. The remainder went into a trust for Robin, which aside for special circumstances (her college tuition), he didn't allow her access to until she was an adult. Those three, along with his lawyer, are the only names mentioned in his will.

It is also confirmed that it was Dick the Bruiser, and not Paul Vachon or Vince McMahon Sr., who came up with the Andre the Giant name. This came when Andre was being booked for the first time in Chicago for a September 1, 1972, show at Soldier Field in Chicago, where he worked a handicap match against Paul Vachon & Larry Hennig underneath the double main event of Verne Gagne vs. Ivan Koloff for the AWA tag title and a cage match with Bruiser & Crusher vs. The Blackjacks.

Bruiser, who was the co-promoter of Chicago with Gagne, was on the phone with Paul Vachon, who was one of the owners of Grand Prix Wrestling in Montreal, where Andre had become a huge attraction as Jean Ferre. When Vachon told Bruiser the name, Bruiser made the comment that we can't bill as a wrestler as Giant Fairy, and asked what his real name was, and when he was told, advertised him as Andre the Giant.

In AWA programs, before he went to work for Vince Sr. in 1973 and started touring the world like a world champion, they listed his real name as Andre Roussimoff, as that was the first time I had read his real name, as even though he used the Roussimoff name in Japan, we didn't know it was his real name. The program story said he was known as both Jean Ferre (the name he worked as in the AWA) and Andre the Giant.

There were some historical inaccuracies, mostly noted last week. The only other major one was the assertion that in the 70s and early 80s, Andre could come to territories, work with the top babyface, sell for him and make him look good, but always beat him in the end. The idea is that the top babyface would then be stronger because Andre sold for him, even losing. That was almost never the case. In fact, I can’t think of one time when it was the case. I think they were confusing because of the comments made by Jerry Lawler about wrestling against Andre, without realizing that Lawler was a heel when those matches took place.

Vince McMahon Sr., who booked Andre, was adamant of a few things. The first is that Andre could never lose. He could lose via DQ, but not via count out and certainly not by pin or submission. While Andre did lose matches earlier in his career, once McMahon Sr., booked him, he never lost. It wasn’t until McMahon Sr. was dying of cancer that Andre put over Canek in 1984 in Mexico after a bodyslam, and after his death, when he put over career rival Antonio Inoki in 1986 with an armbar submission.

The others were that Andre couldn’t work heel in North America, and that Andre was not allowed to have photos taken with tall NBA players which would give away he wasn’t really 7-feet. The Manute Bol story when he wanted to meet Andre was told often by WWF wrestlers of the 80s. There was tremendous heat in 1984 for Andre’s photos with Wilt Chamberlain, taken in Mexico, getting into the Wrestling Observer and showing Andre shorter than Chamberlain even with his wearing thick shoes to make their heights close to similar. A similar story came in Cincinnati when a number of Bengals came backstage to meet him and one of the players was a legit 6-foot-7, and when Andre saw him coming and asking for a photo, he got out of the building as quickly as he could.

Once, when Stanley Weston’s magazine did one of their made up stories with photos of Andre vs. Lawler, they told a story called “The Night Andre the Giant lost to a midget,” telling the story that Lawler beat Andre via count out, a result that as far as I know didn’t actually didn’t happen. At the next NWA convention, McMahon Sr. was furious, both at Lawler and at the magazines for the story, speaking about people who were trying to ruin the business by telling people that Andre lost a match, since they always billed that Andre was undefeated. It’s still curious how Sheik got away with beating him in Detroit and Toronto, even with the big gates that the series of matches drew.

Bruno Sammartino noted that he went to McMahon to work a match against Andre, figuring they could take it to Shea Stadium. Sammartino said he was willing to lose the match to have it, and that McMahon was adamant that he would not consider booking such a face vs. face match. Sammartino, as the top star of his era, could usually influence McMahon when it came to matches, notably the Larry Zbyszko feud that McMahon Sr., was strongly against, feeling Zbyszko wasn’t the caliber of star who would be able to draw on top in that position, but their teacher vs. student program ended up being the biggest money drawing feud up to that point in time in WWF history. But this was the one case where McMahon wouldn’t budge. He would say with Bruno and Andre, he had to great babyface attractions, and he was said there was no reason to put them against each other would weaken one or both.

While Andre did work as a heel in Japan for his entire career there, in North America, he was always a babyface until the 1987 angle with Hulk Hogan. When he toured, he would often be in Battle Royals, or mid-card handicap matches, especially in the early years of national touring. The Shane McMahon assertion that he was performing before small crowds until he hooked up with Shane’s grandfather was ridiculous, as Grand Prix Wrestling in Montreal, his home promotion, was on fire during the period Jean Ferre worked there, whether he was on top or the other stars were. His hottest singles program before the 1980 and 1981 programs with Hogan off the WWF television angle where Hogan bloodied him up and slammed him and they took the match all over the WWWF and into several other territories, and the Killer Khan program, would have been in Grand Prix with Jonathan, where they did indoor record business at the Montreal Forum.

He never headlined and did close to that business probably until Khan, as even the first Hogan program did headline some in the WWF and probably Montreal, but usually it would be second from the top below the title match. It was rarely if ever main event outside the territory when they toured. Andre and Hogan also worked a number of matches in Japan. Andre did lose via count out to Stan Hansen in their most famous match in Japan. That match was noteworthy for two reasons. For one, it is generally considered the greatest match of Andre’s career and the one where you really could see him at his best when it comes to working as a giant, while still getting over the smaller man. The other is that, perhaps even more than the Hogan match at the Pontiac Silverdome, Andre losing created the biggest foreign drawing card in Japan of the next generation. Many would say the same about the Silverdome match, but the reality is that Hogan had exploded as a draw in 1985 and 1986, and if you look back, his drawing peak was 1986, before the Andre match.

The first time Andre worked in most territories, he would do handicap matches against Frank Valois, who took care of him on the road as his manager, and a local wrestler, usually a short bump taking heel who would make Andre look like a giant in comparison. It was tough because Valois was a big man, probably 300 pounds or more and 6-foot-2 or more but Andre was still significantly larger. In time he started working more singles and tag team matches against the top heels, often as a partner of the top babyface. He did big business in Detroit and Toronto against The Sheik, but many will say the match where Sheik beat Andre by throwing fire in his eye and Andre not getting up by the ten count killed Toronto. I’m still not sure how they did that finish, but Andre and Sheik did a long program that drew big business, and Sheik’s gimmick is that he always won the blow-off. Once Sheik beat Andre, his matches stopped drawing as well and it took a few years, really the emergence of Ric Flair, to revive the city.

Andre was in some ways the biggest drawing card and highest paid wrestler of the 70s. It wasn’t like Andre had great feuds that headlined shows and did consistent sellouts or had a run like Hulk Hogan in the 80s or Steve Austin in the 90s, or even Mitsuharu Misawa and his crew with their long run of selling out in Tokyo. He usually did strong business in singles main events with super heels like Sheik, or bigger heels like John Studd, Ernie Ladd or Blackjack Mulligan. The local star challenging the world title in an NWA territory, or the big world title match in New Japan or WWE headlining a show would mean more than Andre, but as far as a guy on the card who helped sell more tickets just by being on the card, Andre was the biggest on a national basis. Sam Muchnick was arguably the most powerful person in wrestling for much of the period from the 50s through the mid-70s as NWA President, was a fan and covered the business as a writer dating back to the 20s and worked in the business from the late 20s until retiring at the start of 1982. When I once asked him who he felt during the period he was in the business who the biggest drawing card was, he said that some champions drew the biggest as champions, and some guys were great draws when put in matches where they challenged for the world title in main events. But he said the three guys who were the biggest draws, in the sense that just them being on the card in any form, as an attraction, who would add to the attendance of a show, were Jim Londos, Buddy Rogers and Andre.

Another of the Andre questions, which came up in some circles at the time of his death, was the what ifs of Andre going into legitimate sports. He was too slow for the NFL, plus didn’t grow up playing football, and was also too slow for the NBA. The sport most talked about that he may have excelled at paid no money, like Greco-roman wrestling or powerlifting.

In the former, we’ll never know since he never trained for it. Being a big strong guy is good, but wrestling is a sport about intense training and that’s not for everyone. But unlike most tall guys, Andre’s body structure was completely different. His legs were not that long as compared to people that height, and were absolutely massive, as were his hips and butt. His torso was enormous, both unusually long compared to his legs and thicker and wider than pretty much anyone ever as far as a not completely blubbery chest, back and shoulders. Had he trained for the sport, with his strength and physical gifts, perhaps he’d have simply been too big and strong.

Still, when the Akira Maeda match turned into a shoot, Maeda, who had no high level wrestling background but was something of a shooter in pro wrestling, was able to take him down with ease. Then again, Andre was 39, and with his condition, a very old 39, likely drunk at the time, but it really did expose the myth of Andre as the unbeatable fighter when he was too slow standing to block anything and easily taken down.

Undoubtedly if Andre was born 30 years later, he’d have gotten giant money offers to fight in Pride, numbers that would have been difficult to turn down, even if the smart thing would have been to turn them down. As noted last week, he did turn down appearing on the CBS World’s Strongest Man show.

Superstar Billy Graham, who worked with Andre a lot during the 70s, and in his day was one of the stronger men in the world, said that Andre’s pushing power was nothing special. Unless it was in Mexico with smaller guys, you never saw Andre press anyone overhead like the power guys who came later would do. But he said that his pulling power was out of this world. Frenchy Bernard claimed that when it came to lifting something off the ground strength, that Andre was the strongest man in the world. Ken Patera, who was among the strongest men in the world in his prime, claimed that had Andre taken steroids, that he’d have easily set world records that nobody could have topped in the deadlift and squat. Physically, it would appear that Andre, if he had trained at it, could have squatted more than anyone ever, but Andre never lifted weights seriously so it’s all just speculation.

It’s very likely Big Show would have had a similar life and freaky look later in life had he not gotten the surgery in college to remove the tumor that caused him to grow so tall.

The documentary was done to present Andre as a loving and warm-hearted character. His dark side was avoided, but in this day and age, there probably wasn’t anyone who would talk about it. Most of the lifelong exaggerations about him avoided rather than discussed, which again, would have bogged down the documentary to point out case after case of stories, often told by Andre himself, that were accepted by many as facts (like the Samuel Beckett story or the giant grandfather) that simply were made up. The idea, on the drinking stories, is that they would only use first-hand recollections, but wrestlers when it comes to Andre are so prone to exaggerate that it’s almost impossible in any story to know what was and wasn’t true. Hehir himself remarked in doing this documentary that pro wrestling was a completely different world from any world he had ever worked with.

Aside from the few minor historical issues, what they did present was largely accurate and something that a non-fan would enjoy, which is often tough when the subject is pro wrestling.

Obviously, the story that Hulk Hogan went into the ring at the Silverdome and didn’t know the finish is hard to take seriously. Andre had already put over Canek and Inoki in his other main territories and there was a lot of thought at the time that it would be Andre’s last match. He didn’t wrestle again for months, and was brought back in 1988 for their NBC prime time main event that peaked at 33 million viewers watching, the most ever for a wrestling match in the United States, as well as their singles match (a no contest to eliminate both) in the WrestleMania tournament for the vacant WWF championship.

Hogan was both the star and the supreme worker in the documentary. While this ended up edited out, Hogan claimed that he first got interested in wrestling seeing Andre and if it wasn’t for that, would have never become a pro wrestler. Previously he was a lifelong fan who wanted to be a pro wrestler after seeing Superstar Billy Graham. Or he was a bank teller at a bank where one of the headliners in Championship Wrestling from Florida did his banking and saw the size of his weekly check and wanted to become a wrestler.

Hehir did note in several interviews this week that the piece of paper where it appeared Hogan scripted out the Andre match on his own, move for move, where Hogan left the finish blank, was actually something he hand wrote when he was interviewed for the piece and not the authentic script. He claimed in his interview that he had scripted out the match but left the finish blank, and it did seem unreal that he had the original piece of paper from 31 years ago and it was in such good condition. The idea that Andre called leg drop out of nowhere at that point in the match and he thought Andre was going to kick out sounds preposterous.

Another interesting anecdote is, as the documentary did show the Rocky vs. Thunderlips (Hogan) boxer vs. wrestler scene from Rocky III, is that scene, including the climax of Thunderlips tossing Rocky out of the ring, was largely inspired by the 1976 Shea Stadium match with Andre vs. boxer Chuck Wepner (who the original character of Rocky was inspired by).

There was another showing of the Andre movie in New Orleans for WWE people and those they do business with. Vince McMahon was expected to watch it for the first time there, since he wasn't at the premiere. Vince wasn't there. Stephanie said some nice words about it but left before the screening as she had already seen it in Los Angeles. Among those who were there were Linda McMahon, Big Show, Mark Henry (both of whom had seen it in Los Angeles), Big Cass, Kane, Goldust, Charlotte Flair, Ted DiBiase, Bob Backlund and Titus O'Neil.


Katsuya Kitamura, 32, the 2017 Wrestling Observer Rookie of the Year and a wrestler considered the Japanese version of Brock Lesnar, may no longer be with the company.

Kitamura has been out of action for five weeks. His last match was on 3/4 in Tsukuba, teaming with Manabu Nakanishi, losing to Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano. He apparently suffered a concussion in that match and hasn’t wrestled since.

There are reports that he’s out of action with a concussion and his career is over. Those within the company have said that the concussion is a cover reason and it was another as yet undisclosed reason why he is not expected back.

Kitamura was considered a future IWGP champion. He debuted on March 13, 2017 in Fukui, teaming with another former amateur star, Tomoyuki Oka, to lose to Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa. In his first year, he showed steady improvement and had a great physique and exceptional fire. He had a tremendous match with Yuji Nagata at the New Beginning show in Osaka on 2/10.

Kitamura won the Japanese collegiate championship in the 265 pound weight division in 2006 at Senshu University. He later went on to win three national open championships and represented Japan in that weight class twice in the world championships. He was expected to represent Japan in the 2012 Olympics, but failed a drug test for the steroid Drostanolone on June 13, 2011, and got a two-year suspension. He claimed he took tainted supplements but never tried to appeal the suspension.

In 2015, he won a fighting tournament with the Ganryujima promotion, which had different rules than MMA and was more violent and like early UFC events. But instead of going into MMA, he signed up with New Japan. He went 5-0 in capturing the 2017 Young Lions Cup.


Smackdown on 4/10 did 2,952,000 viewers, the third best number since it went to the live format. It actually beat the show after WrestleMania last year that did 2,885,000 viewers, but not the Superstar Shakeup episode the next week that did 3,105,000 viewers. It was up 20 percent from the prior week.

It was third for the night on cable.

The show did a 0.70 in 12-17 (up 37.3 percent), 0.81 in 18-34 (up 37.3 percent), 1.15 in 35-49 (up 16.2 percent) and 1.14 in 50+ (up 14.0 percent).

The breakdown was 62.8 percent males in 18-49 and 56.2 percent males in 12-17.

Raw on 4/9 did a 2.71 rating and 3,903,000 viewers (1.57 viewers per home) for the day after Mania show. It will almost surely be the second biggest number of the year, trailing the 4,497,000 viewer number for Raw 25.

It beat last year's 2.61 rating and 3,757,000 viewer number. But last year's show went against the NCAA basketball championship game that did 22,998,000 viewers that this year didn't have that competition, so most likely last year would have done bigger numbers. It's the second lowest day after Mania number, but the big drops in ratings for Raw from 2014 to 2017, which have since stabilized, make this still for this time and place an excellent number.

The 2016 Raw after Mania show did a 2.92 rating and 4,079,000 viewers. The 2015 show did a 3.67 rating and 5.35 million viewers. The 2014 show did a 3.69 rating and 5.14 million viewers. The 2013 show did a 3.43 rating and 4.61 million viewers.

It was the highest rated show on cable (Rachel Maddow was No. 2 at 3,402,000 viewers), and USA was the fourth most watched station behind ABC, NBC and CBS for the night. It even beat CBS programming for third place between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

The three hours saw the first hour do 4,098,000 viewers, the second hour did 4,069,000 viewers and the third hour did 3,597,000 viewers. Considering the big thing pushed for hour three was Miz & Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas vs. Seth Rollins & Jeff Hardy & Finn Balor, there figured to be a drop, even though it had been a strong show with a number of debuts and newsworthy events, and it was Hardy's first match back. It may have done better had they saved the Ronda Rousey/Stephanie McMahon segment until later, but they probably figured that for the day after Mania show, the opening minute would be strong and they wanted the most people seeing what they considered the big segment.

The second-to-third hour drop was actually bigger among men than women, which is a rarity. Males 18-49 and 12-17 were both down eight percent while women were down five percent in 18-49. Teenage girls were up three percent from hour two to three while 50+ was down the largest at 14 percent.

As compared with last year's Raw after Mania, last year's show did a little better with viewers under 35 and this year's show did slightly better with those over 35. That would coincide with last year's college basketball championship game doing stronger among viewers over 35.

The show did a 1.00 in 12-17 (up 11.1 percent from last week, down 8.3 percent from last year's show); 1.24 in 18-34 (up 29.2 percent from last week, down 2.4 percent from last year); 1.68 in 35-49 (up 18.3 percent from last week, up 5.7 percent from last year) and 1.36 in 50+ (up 17.2 percent from last week; up 1.5 percent from last year.

The audience was 66.2 percent male in 18-49 and 59.6 percent male in 12-17.

The WrestleMania prelims, which aired the Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali match as well as the Women's Battle Royal on USA, did 665,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.13 in 12-17, 0.17 in 18-34, 0.37 in 35-49 and 0.31 in 50+.

The audience was 58.5 percent male in 18-49 and 48.1 percent male in 12-17.

The Hall of Fame on 4/7 on the USA Network did 665,000 viewers.

Bellator on 4/6 with a taped show from Budapest, Hungary did 420,000 viewers for the Benson Henderson vs. Roger Huerta fight. It was among the lowest in promotion history. It did another 102,000 viewers via DVR over the next three days and with DVR viewership the ain event peaked at 736,000 viewers. Bellator Kickboxing that followed at 11:07 p.m. did 238,000 viewers live.

WWE debuted its Greatest Moments in WrestleMania history on 4/5 and did 746,000 viewers, which is a bad number for original USA Network programming in prime time. What is notable is that you would think a show like that, celebrating the history of Mania, would skew well older and male. While 50+ was the highest demo, it only did a 0.32 in that demo. Also notable is that in 18-49 the audience was exactly 50.0 percent split male to fame, and among teenagers it was only 40.0 percent male viewers.

Impact on 4/5 did 294,000 viewers, a 26 percent drop from the high water mark of 399,000 the week before. The likely culprit was the WWE show going head-to-head, and perhaps people knowing they were watching so much wrestling this weekend may have skipped this. But Impact always gets hurt badly when WWE goes head-to-head.


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CMLL: The 4/7 Arena Mexico show was headlined by Volador Jr. & Atlantis & Caristico beating Rush & Bestia del Ring & Kraneo, when the Rush trio once again had problems and Kraneo turned on his partners and cost them to lose. It was the second week in a row they did that angle, but this time it counts, because next week Kraneo is against them instead of teaming with them again. Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia beat Dragon Lee & Titan & Mistico in what was evidently a hot match since they threw money into the ring and Arena Mexico fans rarely do that. The other top match saw Valiente beat Stuka Jr. via submission

The 4/14 show features Atlantis & Diamante Azul & Kraneo vs Bestia del Ring & Rush & El Terrible, plus Volador Jr. & Caristico & Valiente vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Mephisto & Euforia plus Negro Casas vs. Soberano Jr.

The 4/9 show in Puebla featured a singles match with Mistico vs. Caristico as the main event. It was the first time the man who made Mistico famous had a singles match with the guy who took over his name when he went to WWE. Mistico won the first fall with La Mistica. Mistica was disqualified in the second fall for pulling off Caristico’s mask. Caristico won the third fall via submission with La Mistica.

They held a Torneo Nuevos Valores, basically a tournament for newcomers on the 4/3 and 4/10 Arena Mexico shows. Flyer won the 4/3 tournament and Magia Blanca won the 4/10 show, and they will face for the championship on 4/17.

AAA: On the Vampiro retirement front, he said earlier this week that he has had his last match, and two days later, said he would be wrestling on the 4/14 show in Puebla, but would be retired before mid-May.

DRAGON GATE: The 4/6 show at Korakuen Hall featured a ten-man elimination main event where Kzy & Susumu Yokosuka & Genki Horiguchi & Brother Yasshi & Punch Tominaga beat Eita & T-Hawk & Lindaman & Shingo Takagi & Yasushi Kanda. Kzy was left with both Eita and Takagi, and he first pinned Eita with an elbow smash, and then pinned Takagi with a schoolboy at the 29:12 mark. Takagi held Kzy for Lindaman, who had been eliminated, to hit him with a box. Kzy moved but the story was that Lindaman clearly had time to hold up his swing, but didn’t, and it wasn’t a mistake that he hit Takagi with the box and caused him to be pinned. Then Lindaman made fun of Takagi for losing the match and said if Takagi loses in the Dead or Alive multiple person cage match, that he would be shaved bald. After winning, Kzy said he had established himself and wanted to start his own group with Horiguchi and Yokosuka but wanted to be the leader. He also asked Tominga to join. Horiguchi, who is mostly bald, suggested they all shave their heads. This was after Tominaga joked that they should all get perms, but Horiguchi didn’t have enough hair to get a perm. Yasshi also joined the group and they said their goal is to take the Triangle Gate trios titles and prove they were the best unit. They called out MaxiMuM. Kzy said they would announce their new group name shortly.

The other top match saw Dragon Kid win the tournament final for the vacant Open the Brave Gate title pinning Kagetora in 12:15 with the ultra huracanrana.

ALL JAPAN: After the first four shows of the Champion Carnival tournament, the standings are: A block–1. Yuji Hino 2-0; 2. Shingo Takagi and Zeus 1-0; 4. Kento Miyahara and Shuji Ishikawa 1-1; 6 . Joe Doering 1-2; 7. The Bodyguard and Naoya Nomura 0-1

B block–1. Jun Akiyama 2-0; 2. Naomichi Marufuji 1-0, 3. Zeus, Dylan James and Suwama 2-1, 6. Yoshitatsu 1-2; 7. Yutaka Yoshie 0-2; 8. Kai 0-3

It opened on 4/7 in Sendai before 1,290 fans with Hino pinning Ishikawa in 12:48 with a power bomb; Akiyama pinned James in 3:57 with a roll-up off a choke slam; Takagi of Dragon Gate beat Triple Crown champion Miyahara in 14:28 with the last falconry and Zeus pinned Suwama in 15:45 with a jackhammer. There was also a special match on the show to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Tsuyoshi Kikuchi’s career. Kikuchi ended up being pinned by Ultimo Dragon with la magistral.

4/8 in Akita before 390 fans saw Zeus pin Yoshitatsu in 15:52 after a jackhammer; Suwama pinned Kai in 13:29 with a last ride power bomb; Ishikawa pinned Doering in 11:25 and Miyahara pinned usual tag partner Nomura in 17:44 with a German suplex.

4/10 in Nagaoka saw James pin Yoshie in 10:10 after a choke slam; Doering pinned Bodyguard in 6:29 with a Revolution bomb; Marufuji pinned Yoshitatsu in 12:29 after a shiranui (sliced bread, and Akiyama pinned Kai in 15:05 with a crucifix pin.

4/11 in Kanazawa saw Yoshitatsu beat Kai in 13:24 after a codebreaker; Suwama pinned Yoshie in 11:05 after a back suplex; Hino pinned Doering in 8:47 with a power bomb and James pinned Zeus in 4:12 after a lariat..

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Go Shiozaki & Kaito Kiyomiya captured the Global Tag League tournament on 4/11 at Korakuen Hall, beating Takashi Sugiura & Kenou in the finals at 26:00 when Shiozaki pinned Kenou after a lariat. The win sets up Shiozaki & Kiyomiya challenging GHC tag champs Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya for the titles on 4/29 in Niigata. Nakajima & Kitamiya also have a probable title match set up with Sugiura & Kenou, who eliminated them from the tournament two days earlier. It had to be disappointing that the tournament championship show only drew 830 fans. Also at Korakuen Hall, Hi69 won a non-title match over jr. champion Daisuke Harada in 9:39 with a Michinoku driver, which sets up a title match

The finals standings of the tournament were: 1. Shiozaki & Kiyomiya 4-2-2; 2. Sugiura & Kenou 4-3-1; 3. Naomichi Marufuji & Atsushi Kotoge, Nakajima & Kitamiya, and Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm 3-3-1; 6. Mitsuya Nagai & Maybach Taniguchi and Cody Hall & Kazma Sakamoto 3-4; 8. Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue 1-6. These numbers won’t add up perfectly because time limit draws are counted as draws in the tournament, but double count out or double DQ’s are counted as losses for both teams.

On the 4/7 show in Osaka before 385 fans, Taniguchi & Nagai beat Marufuji & Kotoge in 9:49 when Taniguchi pinned Kotoge with the Maybach bomb. Nakajima & Kitamiya beat Yone & Storm in 12:44 when Kitamiya pinned Yone with a Saito suplex. Kenou & Sugiura went to a 30:00 draw against Shiozaki & Kiyomiya.

4/8 in Shizuoka before 314 fans saw Nakajima & Kitamiya beat Saito & Inoue in 10:17 when Kitamiya pinned Inoue after a Saito suplex; Marufuji & Kotoge beat Yone & Storm in 17:48 when Kotoge pinned Storm with an outside cradle while Sugiura & Kenou beat Taniguchi & Nagai in 16:49 when Sugiura pinned Taniguchi with an Olympic slam.

4/9 in Yokohama before a sellout 329 at Radiant Arena saw Saito & Inoue get their first win over Hall & Sakamoto in 8:35 when Inoue pinned Sakamoto with a cradle. Storm & Yone beat Taniguchi & Nagai in 12:15 when Yone pinned Nagai with a funky buster bomb. Shiozaki & Kiyomiya beat Marufuji & Kotoge in 18:28 when Shiozaki pinned Kotoge with a lariat. This ended up getting Shiozaki & Kiyomiya in the finals. The match to determine their opponent saw Sugiura & Kenou beat Kitamiya & Nakajima in 23:21 when Kenou did a high kick knockout finish via ref stoppage on Kitamiya.

NEW JAPAN: Kazuchika Okada, Tiger Hattori, Red Shoes Unno, Minoru Suzuki, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tomohiro Ishii all went to WrestleMania to see the show because of the A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match

There are two New Japan World shows this week, both at Korakuen Hall, both starting at 5:30 a.m. The 4/13 show has Tetsuhiro Yagi vs. Yuya Uemura, Manabu Nakanishi vs. Tomoyuki Oka, Togi Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi & Ren Narita vs. Yuji Nagata & Jushin Liger & Shota Umino, Rocky Romero & Sho & Yoh vs. Takashi Iizuka & Taichi & Taka Michinoku, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Toa Henare vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano, Evil & Seiya Sanada & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi vs. Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Desperado and the main event is an elimination match with Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin & Juice Robinson & David Finlay & Kushida vs. Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto & Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi & Will Ospreay. This entire tour is built around tag matches pushing Tanahashi vs. Okada and Ospreay vs. Kushida.

The 4/14 show has Narita vs. Yota Tsuji, Nagata vs. Umino, Tenzan & Liger & Yagi vs. Nakanishi & Taguchi & Oka, Romero & Sho & Yoh vs. Iizuka & Taichi & Michinoku, Makabe & Henare vs. Ishii & Yano, Elgin & Robinson & Finlay & Kushida vs. Goto & White & Ospreay & Yoshi-Hashi, and another elimination match with Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Sanada & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki & Archer & Smith Jr. & Kanemaru & Desperado.

The only show of the past week was a 4/10 Lion’s Gate show in Tokyo at Shinjuku Face before a sellout of 467 fans. The main event saw the K-Dojo team of Ayato Yoshida & Go Asakawa beating Nagata & Umino when Yoshida pinned Umino after a back suplex. The first two matches saw the New Japan debuts of Uemura and Yota Tsuji. As is tradition, both lost their first bouts. Uemura lost to Narita in 8:06 with a Boston crab. Yota lost to Oka in 7:16, also with a Boston crab.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Antonio Inoki announced an 8/31 show at the Ota Ward Gym in Tokyo, the site of his famous match with Karl Gotch in 1972, for a combination MMA and pro wrestling event. The idea was to have some pro wrestling on the undercard and headline with five MMA fights in a best of five Japan vs Brazil series with Yoshiaki Fujiwara coaching the Japanese team against a Brazilian team coached by Wallid Ismael (a 90s MMA fighter).

IGF International sold out Shinjuku Face with about 300 fans on 4/4 for IGF's Kazuyuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin & Nosawa beating the 90s FMW trio of Masato Tanaka & Tetsuhiro Kuroda & Hideki Hosaka in the main event. MMA star Shinya Aoki worked in a six-man tag and Dragon Gate's Dream Gate champion Masaaki Mochizuki won this group's world title beating Rocky Kawamura..

HERE AND THERE: Danny Davis (Dan Briley, 65) has sold his Ohio Valley Wrestling training school and promotion to Al Snow (Allen Sarven, 54). OVW was WWE's first developmental territory and was key in starting out a ton of current top stars including John Cena (who started in California but has heavily credited OVW for his learning the business more than he's credited UPW), Randy Orton, Batista, Brock Lesnar, The Miz, Shelton Benjamin, Dolph Ziggler, Alicia Fox, Bobby Lashley, Beth Phoenix, Cody Rhodes, John Morrison, Jessie Godderz, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Tye Dillinger, Maryse and many others. Davis is apparently going to retire to Florida. Davis founded his school and started promoting local shows in 1997. Jim Ross and Jim Cornette put together the deal to use Davis' school in Louisville to make it the main training center for WWE talent in 2000 until WWE wanted to have its own system in Florida and cut ties in 2008. OVW worked with ROH when Jim Cornette was part of ROH, and after Cornette left ROH, they worked with TNA from 2011 to 2013 until TNA broke ties as a cost-cutting measure. Snow was a trainer there for several years and has been training wrestlers at various schools, including his own, dating back to the 80s.

Terry Simms, who also used the name Terry Garvin or Terrence Garvin, passed away on 4/8. The age we have for him was 55, although that wasn't confirmed. He started on independent shows promoted by Dale Mann in 1985, and arrived in Texas as part of the Beauty & The Beast tag team in 1988. Simms was best known in the Dallas area, working for World Class, USWA (when Jerry Jarrett had his brief run in the territory working with Kevin & Kerry Von Erich to run the area), as well as other groups like Global and Big D. He used the Garvin name at times because he somewhat resembled Jimmy Garvin. According to friends, he had been in bad health for some time and people were aware of it, but didn't speak to them about what the health issue it was that he was battling. He also used the name Beauty in a tag team called Beauty & The Beast, with Mark Guleen, and held the Texas tag team championship when Jarrett was running the area. He was very close to Kerry Von Erich. When Global Wrestling had a regular time slot on ESPN in the early 90s, he held both the jr. heavyweight title and their North American title, with partner Scott Putski.

Owner Major Baisden on 4/12 shut down the NWL promotion. He had been running shows in the old Central States territory and St. Louis, and had put talent on contract with benefits as well as produced television. But they weren’t drawing and the concept didn’t seem to be getting stronger. This came out of nowhere as they had just scheduled six hour shows in Springfield, MO and had expanded the television into the Gulf Coast.

Wale, the rap star and super wrestling fan, who did his fourth WaleMania on 4/5, is talking about wrestling next year on a WaleMania wrestling show over Mania weekend in New York. At one point I was told that during my panel discussion segment on stage that Wale could come out and I'd bring the subject up. But he never sat down next to me and it was never announced. He has a college football background and wanted to train with some of the top trainers during the year. Given all of the things he does with his life, that doesn't mean it'll happen. He's talked about starting his own promotion for years and has really tried to study booking of wrestling.

There was an incident involving Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Jake Roberts that took place on 4/7 at WrestleCon. Smith has been upset at both Scott Hall and Roberts for some time. Hall recently made a comment on Twitter when asked about the 90s tag team of Lex Luger & Smith as the Allied Powers and said they were put together because they were two failed singles wrestlers. Smith Jr. was upset and wrote him back, and ended up blocked or muted. So he went to Hall, who was very apologetic about everything, said he was sorry and they shook hands and it was over. He and Roberts have had heat since the 2012 Wrestlecon when he said that Roberts was rude, basically offered to do drugs with him in his hotel room and said he would teach him about the business. He was also mad that Roberts had done a number of interviews knocking his father. This didn't go as smoothly. Smith went to Roberts and Roberts wanted to shake hands and Smith wouldn't do it. Smith had said to Roberts on Twitter in the past that he didn't like what he said about his father. Smith said he wanted an apology for being rude to him in the past and for what he said about his father. Roberts refused to apologize and said, "For what, it's true." Smith asked Roberts to step outside so they wouldn't make a scene and Roberts allegedly swore at him and said he wouldn't fight him and then Roberts approached him and Smith threw his coffee on Roberts. Roberts flipped out and Smith left. Roberts then complained to Bret Hart about what Smith did.

Dan Daniels, a wrestler in the 70s who also at one point was a guitarist in the Charlie Daniels band, passed away due to health problems. Daniels played in a band from 1967 to 1969 with Tom Hankins, who, in 1969, quit the band to become a pro wrestler. Daniels thought that was cool, noting he was a huge pro wrestling fan and had grown up in Hawaii and Ed Francis, the promoter, was his next door neighbor. Daniels only weighed about 120 pounds at the time, but he got interested in weightlifting and gained nearly 100 pounds. At that point he joined Hankins and they became a tag team called The Reid Brothers, Daniels being Perry Reid and Hankins as Crazy Charlie Reid. Daniels worked a few matches in Kansas City and then went to work for Nick Gulas in Tennessee, where they were quickly fired for wild antics, and ended up working for an opposition group run by Saul Weingeroff, where they held that company's version of the Southern tag team titles and feuded with Bill Helm & Joe Ball. Daniels also once worked on Wrestling at the Chase for Sam Muchnick against Danny Hodge and another time against Baron Mikel Scicluna, and later wrestled in California for Anton Leone in the 80s. He retired in 1984 after suffering a knee injury. Kurt Brown noted that he was a solid worker, but his real passion was playing the blues.

In another where are they now, Patrick Helvey, 63, who wrestled in the 80s as Ric McCord, with guys like Randy Savage, Lanny Poffo, Bob Roop, Bob Orton Jr., Ron Garvin, Rip Rogers, One Man Gang (then known as Crusher Broomfield) and others in the old ICW, is now running a limo service, Executive Town Car and Limousine Service in Roanoke, VA. He's got 14 vehicles and 20 employees.

Chris Harris & James Storm reunited their America's Most Wanted tag team on 4/7 in Mansfield, OH and won the ASWA tag team title. Former WWE developmental wrestler Sawyer Fulton holds the promotion's singles title. Storm was in New Orleans.

With Candice LeRae now in WWE, it looks like Joey Ryan is going to work with the U.K.'s Session Moth Martina as a regular indie tag team because they have named their team Special Attraction.

EUROPE: After being announced as terminated by wXw for unspecified reasons, Bad Bones John Klinger showed up for the GWF promotion doing a run-in during a three-way match with Pascal Spalter, Lucky Kid and Dover wearing a hoodie pulled over his face and attacked Spalter. He will be wrestling on 4/14 for the POW promotion in Hannover, Germany in a tables match against Rene Dupree.

IPW announced three shows in two days on 9/22 and 9/23 in Rochester, Kent at the Casino Rooms. The first day will be an International Super 8 tournament that will include wrestlers from NOAH in Japan.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: Both Jack Evans and Angelico have officially gotten their releases. WWE had interest in Angelico coming off the first season of Lucha Underground. Evans said the reason he quit was mainly the contract but also brought up an argument with Ivelisse.

ROH: Kazuchika Okada, Tessa Blanchard and Deonna Purrazzo were both announced for the 9/1 All In show.

The entire Los Ingobernables de Japon stable of Tetsuya Naito, Evil, Seiya Sanada, Bushi and Hiromu Takahashi will be in for the May War of the Worlds tour.

 There are two shows this coming weekend. The 4/14 show in Pittsburgh has Mark & Jay Briscoe defending the tag titles against the Young Bucks, Silas Young defending the TV title against Flip Gordon and six-man champs Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky defend against Cody & Marty Scurll & Adam Page plus Dalton Castle & The Boys vs. Matt Taven & TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia.

4/15 in Columbus, OH has Castle vs. Scurll vs. Punishment Martinez vs. Beer City Bruiser, Cody vs. Taven in a first blood match, Jay Lethal vs. Jonathan Gresham and Coast 2 Coast vs. The Dawgs.

UFC: We spoke with a number of people regarding UFC and WWE TV talks over the weekend. FOX and UFC was definitely still alive as of the weekend but those at FOX said they won't budge from their latest offer (in the $200 million to $250 million range) and they are obviously interested in WWE as well. There is a belief from both the FOX side and the WME side that they will now try and put together a dual network deal like the major sports, where they would have fights on FOX and fights on another network (Turner and ESPN both being mentioned) and are hopeful of finalizing negotiations as quickly as possible. Dana White's only comments this week was that they were close to finalizing the deal. It was known that FOX, ESPN, NBC Universal and Turner all had interest in the UFC package, but due to merger issues, Turner couldn’t commit to a major money deal until certain things were cleared up. Gossip columnist Terez Owens claimed that ESPN and NBC (the NBC talks we had heard of included NBC specials, regular fights on NBC Sports Network, and streaming prelim fights on NBC Sports’ streaming service) would get a dual deal at $160 million each, meaning UFC’s TV deal would be worth $320 million, which, if that is even close to accurate, would be a huge success based on how all the word going around that UFC was going to end up disappointed and the WME purchase would be considered a flop. If they really get $320 million, that would also be a positive benchmark for the value of WWE rights, and WWE’s profitability if they could get that number (which would double domestic rights) would be at UFC’s 2016 levels and make the value of the WWE franchise worth considerably more than it is now. The Owens story claimed that another benefit of the ESPN/NBC dual deal is that the networks, and not UFC, would pay for production, meaning an even greater increase in profitability. The story is that the prelims that used to be on Fight Pass would instead be on either the ESPN or NBC streaming service. We do know that in the talks with NBC, that was very much part of the deal that NBC wanted UFC prelim content and another content to build their sports streaming service. The report also stated that Ultimate Fighter reality show would go away and be replaced by the weekly Dana White’s Contenders show which would showcase new fighters trying to impress fans and get into the UFC, and that ESPN and NBC (likely for NBC Sports Network) would each get one limited season (maybe 10-13 episodes) per year. They also claimed they would add new weight classes, women’s 105 pounds and men’s 165 (which only make sense if they move 170 to 175). The deal is that each network would get exclusivity to certain top name fighters and that there would only be six PPV shows per year. It should be noted that the Owens report was the same as a post on an MMA message board by a guy named MMA Logic, and if that’s the source, well, the MMA Logic guy does have some inside connections and a good head for business, but I still wouldn’t take a post by him on a message board as news, and hopefully Owens had a different source. It should be noted that shortly after WME purchased UFC and the idea that WME was hoping for $400 million from its UFC deal, we were directly told that $400 million number was a public number and that the realistic figure they were looking for would be a multi-year deal with escalating numbers that would start around $250 million, so that was what they were really expecting at the time of the purchase and anything above that would be considered successful negotiations. While FOX and NBC Universal are both well known for having interest in WWE, there is talk WWE could also end up with separate deals, like in the past when Smackdown was on UPN and later CW while Raw was on USA. The WWE package right now has far more interest than it did five years ago when the last set of negotiations took place. The timing of signing Ronda Rousey couldn't have been better because we keep hearing her name in regard to the talks. There would have been interest because WWE's ratings over the last year haven't declined (after big declines in prior years) and in television, that's considered a great product where television ratings are staying even. UFC was one year late, because if they were negotiating coming off their great 2016 year when they were seen as a hot property, things would be different, but they're coming off a year with major ratings declines and major star power issues.

A T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt bantamweight title match will be the main event of an 8/4 PPV show from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

. The Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington fight that was originally set for 5/12 in Rio de Janeiro has been moved to the 6/9 Chicago PPV show, for the interim title. Mike Jackson is C.M. Punk's opponent for that show. Jackson, an MMA reporter whose only pro fight was a quick loss to Mickey Gall (quicker than Punk's loss) in UFC, is a guy that Punk should have a decent shot at beating. I don't see Punk's second fight having anywhere near the PPV drawing power of the first. I don't know that UFC thinks it either given it took so long to offer him a second fight, and I think they only did it because they think it'll garner some pub in the Chicago market. Win or lose, I don't know where UFC can go with him after this.

UFC also this week held a press conference to talk about future fights and Dana White talked about Brock Lesnar challenging the winner of the Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier fight and Cormier's face just lit up. Cormier is friends with Lesnar but if he can get past Miocic, which is a big if since I'd favor Miocic in such a fight. Cormier told a story on MMA Tonight which about when he was going to fight Jon Jones at UFC 200 and heard the rumors Lesnar would be on the show facing Mark Hunt and texted him asking if Christmas was coming early (since Cormier was cut in for points on that PPV) and Lesnar texted back "Merry Christmas".

Paige VanZant, in a new autobiography, “Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life,” which was released on 4/10, wrote in detail about being raped while in high school. She said that it happened at a high school party where several boys got her drunk and took turns on her while she was passed out. She said it led to horrible problems because students at her school claimed she had sex with several different boys. At the time, her name was Paige Sletten, and at school they called her Paige Slutton, which is why she changed her name to VanZant. One day, when she came home from school, there were condoms hung from the trees around her house. VanZant also noted that the broken arm she suffered in her fight with Jessica Rose-Clark hasn’t healed correctly so there is no timetable when she will fight again. She said she’s telling her story to help others who have been victims of similar things or bullying.

Josh Barnett filed suit on 4/9 in Los Angeles Superior Court against Genkor, the supplement company that manufactured the supplement, Tributestin, that caused him to test positive for Ostarine and be suspended. He sued on grounds of negligence, breach of implied and express warranty and strict product liability. Barnett is claiming lost income due to not being able to fight, as well as attorney fees for his battle against USADA in trying to clear his name, as well as for reputational harm and physical and emotional distress. Barnett is seeking both financial damages and compensatory damages, in an amount not listed, as well as attorney fees and court fees. Barnett claimed in the suit he began taking Tributestin in the fall of 2016, with the idea it contained tribulus terrestrial, a legal herb that is said to boost natural testosterone levels. On December 9, 2016, he failed a drug test for Ostarine and was suspended. While suspended, he removed himself from the USADA testing pool, so now that he is cleared, he would have to wait to finish six months of clean testing before he would be allowed to fight.

For those wondering the cost of the drug testing program, it’s not specified. But USADA’s financials show that revenue increased $3.7 million the year that they signed the deal with UFC. Not all of that would be UFC, but probably a very significant portion of it is UFC.

UFC announced some new summer dates with a 7/14 show in Boise, ID, a 7/22 show only listed for Canada, and an 8/25 show in Lincoln, NE. This would be first times in both Boise and Lincoln for Fight Nights. The finale of this upcoming season's Ultimate Fighter show will be on 7/6.

This week's show is on FOX on 4/14 from Glendale, AZ. It's got on paper a killer main event as far as if you look at two guys that you'd expect to give you a hell of a fight and a match of the year candidate, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje would be at the top of the list. Israel Adesanya, who has similarities to a young Anderson Silva, is someone to watch and is being put on FOX to help build his name. The lineup, and we don't have where each fight will air, but the main card starts at 8 p.m. on FOX, from the bottom to top has Gilbert Burns (12-2) vs. Dan Moret (13-3), Muslm Salikhov (13-2) vs. Ricky Rainey (13-4), Alejandro Perez (19-6-1) vs. Matthew Lopez (10-2), Patrick Williams (8-5) vs. Luke Sanders (11-2), Arjan Bhullar (7-0) vs. Adam Wieczorek (9-1), Yushin Okami (34-11) vs. Dhiego Lima (12-6), Lauren Mueller (4-0) vs. Shana Dobson (3-1), Kryzysztof Jotko (19-3) vs. Brad Tavares (16-4), Wilson Reis (22-8) vs. John Moraga (18-6), Antonio Carlos Jr. (9-2) vs. Tim Boetsch (21-11), and the main card fights are Cortney Casey (7-5) vs. Michelle Waterson (14-6), Israel Adesanya (12-0) vs. Martin Vettori (12-3-1), Carlos Condit (30-10) vs. Alex Oliveira (17-5-1) and Poirier (22-5) vs. Gaethje (18-1). There are two fighters who have somewhat pro wrestling connections. Bhullar, an Olympic caliber wrestler from Western Canada, is close friends with Jinder Mahal. He has also asked for and gotten permission to become the first person to come to the cage this weekend wearing a turban. Sanders was the boyfriend of Becky Lynch as of the last I'd heard.

Ben Rothwell, 36, a veteran heavyweight star has been given a two-year suspension for USADA for testing positive for steroids in both a 2/6 and 2/15 out-of-competition test. Rothwell tested positive for testosterone and claimed he had been prescribed it by his physician and sent in his medical records. However, testosterone replacement therapy is banned by UFC due to it being abused in the past. The interesting part of this is USADA determined his medical records didn't meet the criteria for needing testosterone. Rothwell had been using testosterone replacement therapy when it was legal in UFC and once tested overall the allowable limits for replacement therapy in 2013 and was suspended for nine months at the time. His suspension will end on February 6, 2020, two years after the first positive test. We were under the impression that nobody would be allowed to get a TUE for testosterone even if they had a legitimate medical reason for usage (legitimate being more than WWE’s legitimate reason of I’ve done so many steroids in the past that my body isn’t producing enough testosterone anymore, so now I can take more steroids and still get a pass on the tests). We are told that a TUE for testosterone granted by USADA would be very, very rare, but it is not out of the question. While it is not ruled out completely, it is very likely it will never be granted for a UFC fighter and it is also unlikely that any athletic commission in the states they run would allow a fighter to fight with a TUE for testosterone. In the remote possibility that USADA would give a TUE to a fighter, that fighter would also have to get approval from the commission in the state they are fighting in.

Nick Diaz and USADA agreed to a one-year suspension which actually would end on 4/19, for his missing three different unannounced drug tests in 2016 and 2017. All fighters have to inform USADA of their whereabouts and be ready to provide blood or urine samples for drug tests. Three missed tests are treated as a failure and a one year suspension.

Matt Brown underwent knee reconstruction surgery on 4/10 for his torn ACL that put him out of this weeks scheduled fight with Carlos Condit. He's been talking retirement for some time, and even had retired, so this could be the end of his career.

The Donald Cerrone vs. Leon Edwards fight talked about in last week's issue is now the official main event for a 6/23 show in Singapore, which is likely a Fight Pass show

UFC sent out a press release for the 6/9 UFC 225 PPV show from Chicago. The most notable thing is that the C.M. Punk vs. Mike Jackson fight was not listed, which either means it's not finalized or they are looking to make a bigger announcement for it later. Still, the release was for the ticket on-sale and one would think they'd want to be pushing the Punk fight for that since he should mean something for Chicago tickets. The bouts announced were the Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero middleweight title main event, Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington for the interim welterweight title, Alistair Overeem vs. Curtis Blaydes, Holly Holm vs. Megan Anderson (this is at featherweight and it’s interesting because Anderson is a contender for Cyborg and Cyborg has already beaten Holm, and it’s basically risking Anderson as a contender against someone Cyborg already beat, but since the only featherweights they have are bantamweights who will move up when asked, largely only Holm and maybe Amanda Nunes, there isn’t a lot of choices to make), Joseph Benavidez vs. Sergio Pettis (with a win it's time for Benavidez to get another flyweight title shot but with his prior losses to Demetrious Johnson UFC hasn't wanted to book that fight), Claudia Gadelha vs. Carla Esparza (the winner would be close to a shot at Rose Namajunas), Andrei Arlovski vs. Tai Tuivasa (the first big test for the charismatic rising heavyweight from Australia who has a 9-0 record, all first round wins), Ricardo Lamas vs. Mirsad Bektic, Rashad Evans vs. Anthony Smith, Rashad Coulter vs. Allen Crowder and Mike Santiago of Chicago vs. Dan Ige.

Rafael Assuncao vs. Rob Font has been added to the 7/7 PPV show from Las Vegas.

Molly "Meatball" McCann, who was the Cage Warriors (U.K. promotion) women's flyweight champion, will debut on the 5/27 Liverpool show against Gillian Robertson.

BELLATOR: Benson Henderson (25-8) defeated Roger Huerta (24-10 via submission in a lightweight bout in the main event on the 4/6 show in Budapest, Hungary. Henderson controlled the first round ad used a guillotine to win at :49 of the second round. In other television fights, Hungary favorite Adam Borics (7-0) beat Teodor Nikolov (11-2) with a flying knee knockout at 1:30 of the second round in a one-sided fight. The finish was really scary as Nikolov was knocked out for ten minutes after the knee and had to be taken out on a stretcher. Denise Kielhotz won a straight 30-27 decision over Petra Castkova. Brian Moore made Giorgio Belasanti submit to a guillotine in 2:46 of round one. Ed Ruth, the former Penn State multi-time NCAA champion moved to 5-0 winning by decision on scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 over Ian Pascu (17-8). Ruth had been fighting at 185 (his wrestling weight was 189) but was wanting to drop to 170, and this ended up at a 175 catch weight. It was the first time he'd ever gone the distance after knocking out his previous four opponents.

This week's show is 4/13 in St. Charles, MO at the Family Arena. It was supposed to be Michael Chandler going back after his lightweight title, but champion Brent Primus pulled out due to an injury. So the TV bouts are Chandler (17-4) vs. Brandon Girtz (15-7), A.J. McKee (10-0) vs. Justin Lawrence (11-4), Kevin Ferguson Jr. aka Baby Slice (2-1) vs. Devon Brock (1-0) and Joaquin Buckley (8-1) vs. Logan Storley (7-0). McKee and Slice are two young fighters who they are trying to make into stars, similar to Aaron Pico. Storley was a four-time All-American at the University of Minnesota and went to the same high school as Brock Lesnar, and who knew Lesnar since he was a high school freshman and wanted to follow in his footsteps into MMA.

They also announced a 7/14 show in Rome, Italy, which will be headlined by Patricio Pitbull Freire vs. Daniel Weichel for the featherweight title and Italy's Alessio Sakara vs. Jamie Sloane. Freire retained his title against Weichel last April. This will be a combined kickboxing show that features Giorgio Petrosyan, arguably the best kickboxer of the past decade (85-2-2) battling for the Bellator lightweight title facing Chingia Allazov (53-2) and featherweight champion Kevin Ross (45-13) defends against Gabriel Varga (21-6). Petrosyan hasn't lost in his last 46 fights while Allazov has won 27 in a row.

WWE: Lawler, who is 68, suffered a stroke at home on 3/21. That may be why his match with Joey Ryan at the WrestleCon show was limited to one move. We had heard that story but then Lawler showed up at WrestleMania to do the announcing, so I had just figured the story had to have been exaggerated. Lawler discussed this on his podcast and said that he suffered the stroke while having sex with his fiancé, 29-year-old Lauryn McBride, at home that night. He was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a stroke and put in the intensive care unit. He was unable to speak for three days and his face was sagging for a few days. He said that Kevin Dunn, Vince McMahon and Paul Levesque all knew about his stroke and he was surprised that it never got out until he went public with it but said that he woke up on 3/24 and felt fine and said that the doctors were shocked he made such a quick and complete recovery. He was released from the hospital later that day.

Two people at the WrestleMania post-show party said that Mickey Gall, the UFC fighter who beat C.M. Punk, was there and the reporters were not kind to him, saying he was acting like a jerk and screaming about not signing anymore autographs. He and his entourage caused a scene to the point that people were waiting for someone to get in their faces, but it didn't happen. He was irate and screaming at people outside the party as well. Security came and his entourage then calmed him down. There were people filming this but there was no confrontation with anyone. Aside from that, this was said to be by far the tamest party overall in years

Another incident took place the night before WrestleMania, involving Alicia Fox and Travis Browne, the husband of Rousey. At about 12:30 a.m., Fox had gotten in an argument with somebody who was with Browne, but it wasn’t much and nobody thought much about it. About two hours later, both ended up in the same place. Fox came up to Browne and started yelling at him and made a scene. Browne didn’t know what was going on. It then got diffused. They were not happy with Fox. Rousey wasn’t with Browne at the time as he was about drinking with friends. She is still a few weeks from being cleared from breaking her tailbone at the rehearsal for the women’s Royal Rumble in January.

Orlando is making a play to once again host WrestleMania soon, after doing so in 2008 and 2017. Orange County, Florida’s tourist development sports incentive committee ha requested a $1 million increase in resort taxes in the city (fees added to sales of hotels, motels or other short-term sales that go to Visit Orlando, the area’s tourism and marketing agency) to use to bring back WrestleMania in either 2023 or 2025.

The movie "Blockers" which stars Cena opened this past weekend doing $20,556,350, which was considered a good open for a movie that had a $21 million budget. It was third for the weekend at the box office behind "A Quiet Place" and "Ready Player One.

Nita Strauss, who is part of Alice Cooper's band and is considered one of the best female guitar players in the world, who did the guitar playing for Nakamura's ring entrance at Mania, thanked WWE for inviting her and said that Nakamura was her favorite wrestler.

Heyman did a talk show on 4/6 in New Orleans, and both Jim Ross and Rob Van Dam showed up with him. There is talk of him doing more like this. The most interesting story is that he said he was going to return to WWE television prior to the 2002 WrestleMania to manage Chris Benoit, and not Brock Lesnar. He said in the weeks before, he had been giving Lesnar advice claiming that the agents at the time were clueless and saw Lesnar as being someone like the Warlord, a big powerhouse and were wanting to him to that kind of a stand there and do power moves style. He said that Vince then put him with Lesnar instead. It should be noted that at the time of the 2002 WrestleMania, that was when Benoit was out of action with neck surgery and he didn't return until two months after WrestleMania. This led to a guy in the crowd screaming something positive about Benoit and Heyman jumped on him, saying that three people died due to Benoit and two of them had no choice in the matter. Then someone shouted it was CTE and Heyman said that was irrelevant to this discussion. He said as a performer, Benoit was great. As a human being he was not, "so f*** him." It should be noted that while Heyman was at one point a teacher to Chris Benoit, he was very close with both Nancy Benoit and her sister Sandra and was probably the closest person in the wrestling community that I know of to Sandra.

Regarding merchandise sales, Cena is still far and away No. 1. Styles and Reigns right now duel for the No. 2 spot so Styles is probably making a ton of money right now. The New Day are also very strong performers in that regard and guys like Balor, Rollins and Strowman also do very well.

There is some talk of Bam Bam Bigelow going into the Hall of Fame next year. The idea is that when WrestleMania was coming to New Jersey, where Bigelow is from, that it would be more fitting to do it next year than this year, and Mark Henry was added when the decision was made to not do Bigelow this year.

They also announced a second Mae Young Classic women's tournament for this summer. It makes sense since they just completed a cruiserweight tournament and a tag team tournament. Plus, if they bring in top indie male talent for a tournament, if it's the top guys, there's no guarantee they can sign them if they want them like happened with Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi in particular. With the women, while it's possible there were one or two who did well in the tournament who weren't interested in WWE, it's not like they are nearly as high profile on the world scene. With possibly one or two exceptions, like maybe the ones who are pushed to the top at Stardom, virtually every woman wrestler wanting to make a career would jump at the shot at a WWE developmental-level deal, while the top male indie guys make far more than a WWE developmental-level deal.

On the upcoming Hardys DVD release, there will be Impact footage as WWE reached a deal with them for use of the footage. That may also explain the willingness to name drop TNA, although it was in a very backhanded way and they still didn’t allow Jeff Jarrett to talk about TNA in his Hall of Fame speech.

WWE was scouting Shimmer on 4/7 for the tournament and future signings. Tessa Blanchard was said to be the standout. She was one of the best women in the Mae Young Classic, so they know about her and obviously there is a reason they didn't sign her after initially showing interest last year. Blanchard even cut a promo on an indie show a few months ago and talked about attitude issues that people were saying. She's still young and at this point she has the look and charisma and real star potential, not to mention the last name and second generation aspects that they like. The other women who stood out on the show like Mercedes Martinez were also in last year's tournament.

Jazzy Gabert, who got over huge at last year’s Mae Young Classic, was offered a contract, but then had the offer rescinded due to medical reasons due to serious issues discovered with her neck, has said that after her recovery from recent surgery that in October, she will make a final try to get a WWE deal.

It's pretty clear that they must be happy with the network performance with the strong increase after a somewhat weak last six months of 2017, because they are back to doing a lot more original programming. This past week they announced a number of new shows. There will be new WWE 24 documentaries on Rousey, The Hardys and Raw 25, which all have been shot or shooting of late. The Rousey video is about the build to her match so I'd guess they would have finished shooting this past weekend. There will be a show called Elias Unplugged. They filmed an episode this past week with him performing at Bourbon Street. There is a new show called Something Else to Wrestle With Bruce Prichard, which will be Prichard and Conrad Thompson talking about his days with WWE, similar to their podcast. They are also bringing back the Edge & Christian show, making new episodes of Camp WWE and Story time, as well as continue the Table for 3 and Ride Along shows that have been popular on the network.

There is local advertising out for a 6/13 Smackdown show in Tupelo, MS, with Asuka on the card, so at least at some point there was a plan for Asuka to move over in next week’s shakeup.

WWE did a lot of filming for Total Divas in New Orleans. Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Paige and Lana are all in the cast for next season since they were all being filmed. Liv Morgan may be as well. Lana and Liv Morgan were both there filming for an episode of Total Divas. Lana arrived very late in the night as I never saw her or anyone filming, but Morgan was there earlier. Moose was supposed to film stuff from WaleMania for Twitch for Impact and Impact had advertised it taking place but had never asked for permission and the Impact cameras were not allowed in, although Moose (who was supposed to be filmed there) and Eddie Edwards were both there. Impact said that the reason they didn't film was the lighting was bad to save face.

Brian Kendrick has been cleared to return after his broken orbital gone suffered taking the GTS from Itami. Notable is that Itami has done the move safely for years and we were told it was Kendrick taking it wrong that caused the injury, but Itami hasn't been using it since.

James Storm was staying at the WWE Hotel in New Orleans and was also at WaleMania. Rey Mysterio was also backstage at the show.

Announced for the 4/16 Raw in Hartford, besides the Superstar shakeup, is the Revival vs. Matt Hardy & Wyatt match with the winning team facing Sheamus & Cesaro for the vacant tag titles at the 4/27 show in Saudi Arabia, plus Bayley vs. Banks. Smackdown on 4/17 won’t be airing live on Sportsnet 360 in Canada due to the NHL playoffs, and will be relegated to Sportsnet Now, their streaming service. The show will be from Providence. The shakeup shows both did big ratings last year. The Smackdown shakeup show did better ratings than the Smackdown after Mania. The only thing already announced is a tornado match with Itami & Tozawa vs. Metalik & Dorado.

Another note at WrestleMania is that a number of women wrestlers were sitting together and a large drunk fan during the Rousey match started saying very disrespectful things about Rousey and women in general. Kay Lee Ray got in his face and started yelling at him for disrespecting women and that she wasn't going to stand for it. The drunk fan sat down and didn't say another word about Rousey or women. Later in the show, the fan started swearing in an argument with a friend and Ray got in his face again to tell him there were children right there. The guy then sat down and went quiet and shortly after left the area.

Whether this happens or not remains to be seen but there is a pitch for Wyatt to turn on Matt Hardy and then be the leader of the Sanity group.

Based on the network number announcement, the stock on 4/10 closed up $1.65 per share to $38.68, giving the company a market value of $2.984 billion. With that kind of a market value and an expectation of a strong new television deal, there is a belief the stock is going to be up significantly when the new deal or deals come out in a few months. Given how much UFC was able to sell for, and with a number of bidders who came in at more than $3 billion, it's entirely conceivable of a sale here. Even though both sides will deny it, there is competition and the belief going around is that if Vince can get a $4 billion offer that he'd sell. But there is a ton of sale talk going around, although unlike with UFC, it is not outwardly for sale in the sense with UFC it was clearly up for sale and with WWE it's more like they are open to listen to offers (which they have said ever since the sports world was shocked by the UFC number nearly two years ago).

The top ten most-watched shows on the network this past week were: 1. WrestleMania; 2. NXT Takeover New Orleans; 3. WWE Hall of Fame; 4. NXT Takeover preshow; 5. WrestleMania's Greatest Moments; 6. WWE Chronicle: Shinsuke Nakamura; 7. Ride Along with Bobby Roode, A.J. Styles, Jinder Mahal and Sunil Singh; 8. WrestleMania 2017; 9. WWE 24 Empowered; 10. Royal Rumble 2018. With all the Mania stuff, the Mixed Match Challenge final match was 11th, the NXT TV show for 4/4 was 14th and 205 Live this past week didn't even crack the top 20.

Notes from the 4/9 Raw after Mania show. The show sold out with 13,000 fans. It wasn't nearly as wild as in years past, perhaps because of the overall exhaustion that I kept hearing from everyone after that seven hour WrestleMania show. It was a good show with all the debuts and it was a crowd to debut in front of because everyone that came back did get a huge reaction, as did Ronda Rousey who came across like the biggest star on the roster. But they weren't that wild for the matches. The show opened with Main Event, with Mark Andrews pinning Tony Nese with a shooting star press. Kalisto & Lince Dorado & Gran Metalik beat TJP & Gallagher & Daivari and Metalik pinned TJP with a ropewalk elbow drop. The show opened with the hottest segment with Rousey and Stephanie. Stephanie had a brace on her arm and was selling an injury. She said talked about the person making the greatest transition in WrestleMania history, with the idea she was talking about Rousey, but she said it was herself, that she was amazing and deserves all the accolades. She said that she brought out the best in Rousey and showed the world what she was really made of. Fans were chanting for Rousey, who got a gigantic pop, easily the biggest on the show, when she came out. Stephanie said that last night you made me tap out and you were the better women. The fans were chanting Rousey’s name and she had this big smile on her face. Stephanie said Rousey’s debut was spectacular and she could be a role model for young girls and people. Stephanie said that she got beat by the best in the world and she doesn’t feel bad about it. Stephanie said that with Rousey’s talent and her spotlight they can make her an even bigger star. Stephanie said that Rousey taught her a lesson and she paid the price. Stephanie offered her hand and Rousey shook it. Then they hugged and people booed. Then Rousey put on her mad face and gave her a flying armbar. She took off the brace and cranked the arm while the crowd went nuts and Stephanie sold it big. Fans were chanting “You deserve it” at Stephanie as she was selling the idea she tore more ligaments in her arm. As she was leaving and the crowd was taunting Stephanie, JoJo on the mic said, “Can we please have a little respect for Stephanie McMahon.” People booed the hell out of Reigns when his face showed up on the graphic. Bliss & James came out. Bliss said that Jax was a bigger bully than Rousey and just loves to throw her weight around and she said it’s clearly a lot of weight. She said that Jax was twice the size of James and three times her size. She said Jax beat up James at Mania for no reason, and because she, Bliss, was so worried about her friend, she was distraught and lost the title. She said that Jax was cold as ice and couldn’t get a partner. Jax said she had a partner. Ember Moon debuted. This was the night that every debut was going to get over big. So Coachman said that this was the worst night to make a debut while the crowd went nuts for Moon. Graves said that this was the best night for a debut. This was a quick match as Moon & Jax beat James & Bliss in 2:59 when Moon pinned Bliss after the eclipse. I don’t know anything about who is going where, and really, even people who usually know what is going on, and the talent themselves, don’t know anything. In the past, the WWE way of doing things was to just give a beating on one brand to the people switching brands with the idea it’s a fresh start, kind of like the old days of putting people over on the way out of the territory. Bliss doing the job here in particular would fit the M.O. But they are booking more to swerve people these days so anything is possible. Angle was on the phone putting over Moon. Strowman came in. Angle asked where his partner was, and Nicholas was behind Strowman so you couldn’t see him. Strowman said they were giving up the belts because Nicholas has a schedule conflict, being he’s in fourth grade. Well, he probably missed a day of school here, but you don’t get a cameo on Raw that often as a ten-year-old. Nicholas said that when he’s out of school, he’s coming back and that the other wrestlers were going to get these hands. Most catch phrases that get over are ones that do so by accident. The “get these hands” is very forced but Strowman himself is really over. No Way Jose showed up. He’s the new Adam Rose, with a group of extras as Rosebuds, called his Konga line. In theory, he should be a good house show opener. He came in and pinned John Skyler in :25 with a wind-up punch. Sheamus & Cesaro were with Angle. They expected Angle to give them their belts back. Angle said that they would have to earn them, and said they would be put in a title match in Saudi Arabia against the winner of a four-team tournament with the semifinals on this show and the finals next week. Good for Angle to come up with all of this literally minutes after finding out the tag titles are being vacated. The Revival beat Gallows & Anderson in the first semifinal in 3:41. Dawson took out Gallows’ left knee. Anderson made a nice hot tag but Wilder pinned Anderson after the shatter machine. Rollins was out with the IC title and got “You deserve it” chants. He said that with his winning the IC title, every member of the Shield is a Grand Slam champion and that’s cool, and it’s cooler that he got his Grand Slam on the biggest stage of them all. Balor came out and said that last night, Rollins was the better man. He said last night there was a winner and there was a loser, and Balor noted that he didn’t win or lose, and he wanted the next title shot. They shook hands on it. Miz then came out and after two weeks of playing babyface, including the night before, he was back to being full-fledged heel. He said that Rollins didn’t deserve it and he was the one who made the title the most prestigious and relevant title in WWE. Fans cheered him saying that. He said that he told Dallas and Axel to go to the back last night because if he didn’t then he’d never hear the end of it. He then talked about being a new father, and the crowd cheered, and even Balor and Rollins clapped. He said that Rollins winning the title made his daughter cry, which then made his wife cry, and in turn, made him cry. Rollins said that it’s good you can admit that you cried, since that’s what the fans do every time they watch you try to wrestle, and said that Miz couldn’t lace his boots. Miz said that unlike Balor, because he’s the former champion, he is guaranteed a rematch. Rollins said he could get ti right now. Miz said he didn’t want it now, he wanted it at Backlash. Miz then challenged Balor & Rollins to a two vs. three match. Jeff Hardy then made his return and it turned into a six-man tag main event. Rose pinned Banks in 6:59. Bayley came to ringside to counter Deville and Page. Banks gave Bayley a dirty look. Didn’t they already do their break-up a few weeks ago? The fans were singing to Bayley like they did when she was in NXT, although it wasn’t nearly as many as it used to be in Europe. The match fell apart briefly when Banks gave Rose a knee that caught her in the face. They got it back together. Bayley went to hit Rose, who moved, and ended up hitting Banks. Banks and Bayley exchanged words and Banks got in the ring and got hit by a running knee by Rose for the pin. After the match, Paige did her retirement speech due to neck injuries. They’ve known this for months, but I guess the idea was to do it on this show since, with Bryan cleared, there was a spot open for a G.M. and they moved her there in a higher profile role than just being a second in Absolution. It made for a good story since she debuted at the Smoothie King Center four years ago and beat A.J. Lee to win the women’s title in her first match, so it was fitting to do her retirement speech in the same building. She did bring that up. Fans chanted “Thank You Paige.” They tried to make you think she was leaving the company, but with the movie coming out, the time wouldn’t be right, and in fact she wasn’t even gone for one day. She thanked all the women backstage. She also thanked Bryan, saying that him coming back after several years gives her hope. My belief is that there is still a good chance she will wrestle again some day. She’s only 25 and I’ve seen too many examples of people in wrestling who have had career ending injuries who come back, even if they have to pick their spots. She also thanked Edge, who did retire due to neck problems, and noted that she talked to him, he talked to her that there is life after wrestling, that he’s got married, a family and is working as an actor. Of course there are differences in the sense Edge retired financially set for life for years of making huge money. And he had talked for years of knowing that all the ladder matches and his spinal stenosis were going to shorten his career. At the time he was flagged with his last neck injury and told he was not going to be cleared, he had already decided on his own he was going one more year and had been talking retirement for some time. She thanked the WWE for giving her the chance and said that this was the city she wanted to retire in. Fans chanted “This is your house” and she was crying. She said that this will always be my house. Elias was singing. Lashley showed up. He laid out Elias with a neckbreaker and a long delayed vertical suplex, at some point only holding Elias up with one arm, similar to the move Michael Elgin does minus the squats. Owens and Zayn showed up in suits and ties looking for a job. Angle brought up that they just got fired for attacking both the General Manager and the Commissioner. He said that their tag team division was full, but he said that I hear TNA is hiring. That line got a big pop. Probably because it’s the first time the words TNA were ever said by a character on a WWE television broadcast. Of course the promotion hasn’t even been known as TNA for a while, which is probably why they scripted the line. Owens said that Angle doesn’t have to take both of them, so Owens is a true heel undercutting his best friend for a job. He said that he was the one with the wife and kid. Angle said he did have one spot open and they could wrestle for it. Authors of Pain debuted and beat Slater & Rhyno in :49 with the last chapter on Slater. Ellering was with them and they put over how he was a Hall of Famer and manager of the Road Warriors. Then the Authors of Pain after the match walked out on Ellering. I’m not sure why you even bother to have Ellering come out if you’re doing it on week one. Even if the idea is that Ellering will manage a team against them, which I doubt, you at least want to establish to the masses them together as a unit first. You could say that they are trying to tie up NXT storylines but to the vast majority of the TV audience, they don’t watch NXT and they’ve ever tied up NXT storylines on Raw before. Vince doesn’t like managers to begin with while Paul Levesque clearly doesn’t have as much of an issue with them. A lot of people were worried after seeing this that Vince would break up Almas & Vega, and I can’t say no way that will happen, but that would be completely stupid. In reality, Ellering wasn’t that important in the act and Ellering, who is 64, probably doesn’t want to go on the road on a full-time basis. Even in NXT, he only worked Takeovers and TVs and never did the house shows, so in that sense, his not being with them made sense. I just don’t know why they brought him in for just one show. Reigns came out and was walking slowly to sell the match. Even though the crowd wouldn’t give them a chance, it was one very physical and brutal match. Reigns said that he got his ass kicked last night. Fans then started chanting “You deserve it.” The reality is he was booed far more by this crowd than he’s been booed in a while. He said that he was there and Lesnar wasn’t. He said that he showed up the day of the show and said that Vince never smartened him up and didn’t look him in the eye. While it is true that he wasn’t told until shortly before the match that he wasn’t winning the title as planned, I was told Vince did look him in the eye. He said that Lesnar is a hell of a businessman, saying that on Wednesday the word was that he was going to the UFC and today it was announced he signed a new contract with WWE. Then he said he just found out on the Internet about having the cage match in Saudi Arabia. He said if they keep matching him with Lesnar, he was going to win the title. Joe came out. He said that Reigns was lying and a failure, saying that all year he said that he was the only one who could beat Lesnar. He said he lied tot he fans and he lied to his family. He said that whenever he encounters he gets put through tables and goes out on stretchers and Lesnar gets richer. He said that when Reigns fails again in Saudi Arabia, that he will be in the back waiting to put him to sleep. The plan for now is Reigns vs. Joe as the Raw headline match at all the house shows, since as of right now, Lesnar isn’t booked on any house shows or even the European tour. Matt Hardy & Wyatt beat O’Neil & Apollo in 5:05. There were loud “delete” chants here, far more than anywhere since this is the most wrestling savvy audience they play before. Wyatt teased doing Sister Abigail on Apollo, but then threw him to Hardy who gave him the twist of fate for the pin. Owens and Zayn went 10:14 to a double knockout, so neither man got a job. They had a good match, but nowhere even close to the level of matches they usually have. Fans still went crazy for them. Zayn did the Helluva kick and Owens did the pop up power bomb, but in both cases they ended up outside the ring. Owens did a fisherman buster off the middle rope and both laid on the mat. The ref counted to ten and that was the finish. Fans booed the finish a lot. Matt and Wyatt were walking and saw Jeff, Rollins and Balor. Matt and Jeff talked. Jeff said he called Matt but his message must have been deleted. I guess the idea is that Matt will do the gimmick but Vince didn’t want Jeff doing it, plus they’ve always seen Jeff as the bigger star and they usually don’t allow tag team guys to get past a certain level. Wyatt did a staredown with Jeff before they hugged and Wyatt said he feels wonderful. Main event saw Jeff Hardy & Rollins & Balor beat Miz & Axel & Dallas in 13:56. The match was fine, but after all that had happened, this felt anti-climactic in the main event position. It was kind of boring early when they were working over Hardy. It got better with the Rollins hot tag. Rollins was really on fire here. He did a tope on Axel and another on all three. He did the top rope superplex into the falcon arrow on Miz, but Dallas saved. Balor did a running flip dive on Dallas and Axel. Rollins pinned Miz with the curb stomp, which is now just called a stomp. After the match, the faces just laid to waste the heels way past the point necessary, particularly since Miz is challenging for the IC title on both the 4/27 and 5/6 shows. Jeff hit Dallas with a twist of fate and Balor laid out Dallas with a coup de grace. Jeff followed with a swanton and Rollins with a curb stomp on Dallas. Rollins superkicked Axel, then Balor gave him a coup de grace and Jeff used a swanton. The fans chanted one more time and Rollins gave Axel the curb stomp.

Notes from the final night of Mania week, the Smackdown tapings on 4/10. They drew 9,000 fans, which is a strong Smackdown number, but probably disappointing that they couldn’t sell out during Mania week. The crowd wasn’t as hot as a usual post-Mania Smackdown but it was a good show. The big thing was the first Styles vs. Bryan match. It was announced at the start of the show by new General Manager Paige. At first I thought it’s kind of silly to do this match cold, with no promos or buildup, since it could be built into something big. When it was over, it was even sillier. The whole idea was to give people a match, and while it was a good match, they didn’t have time and why waste their first-ever meeting, which should be huge, on a match given no time and just designed as a way to get heat for Nakamura. Lynch beat Riott in the opening dark match. Smackdown opened with Shane out. Didn’t he just quit as commissioner a few weeks ago to take a leave of absence? And there he was, now back, thanking the fans for making WrestleMania such a huge success. He talked about his match, said that seeing Bryan wrestling was magical and that Bryan was born to do this. He said Bryan was back to being a full-time in-ring performer. He said Bryan has quit at General Manager to be a wrestler and introduced Paige as the new General Manager. This was the crowd to do this in front of as they reacted huge for her, chanting “This is your house.” She announced that Bryan would wrestle, and then paused, I guess hoping people would chant Styles. They chanted Rusev. She waited and then they chanted for Styles and she announced Styles. Usos beat Big E & Woods in a match to determine who would get a shot at the tag titles at the Saudi Arabia show. Good match. E missed a splash on the apron. Jimmy did a dive over the top onto E. E tackled Jimmy through the ropes to the floor. They did a double superkick to E, Woods hit a missile dropkick on Jey, and Jimmy did a mistimed superkick on Woods. Jey then pinned Woods with a splash off the top rope. The Bludgeon Brothers came out. They have now grown several inches. The claim was both are nearly seven feet tall. Once again they pushed the show in Saudi Arabia. The next half house was all about the performers who aren’t allowed in Saudi Arabia. Naomi was shown with her trophy. Natalya showed up and said that out of all the women in the Battle Royal, she was the least favorite pick and that all the other women in the locker room feel the same way. Natalya said that Naomi winning was to the fans the disappointment of the night. She said she can’t wait for Naomi to be shipped to Raw. Naomi said she accepted. Natalya hadn’t challenged her to a match. Natalya made fun of her look saying it’s so seventh grade, so Naomi said that Natalya’s whining was so seventh grade. Naomi pinned Natalya with a split legged moonsault in 7:26. This was also good. Renee Young interviewed Nakamura. She asked why he turned on Styles. He said that he didn’t know what came over him, that maybe he got too emotional and he’s very sorry for what he did. Then he winked to show that he was letting us know this was all a swerve. Young figured out that he was being disingenuous. So she asked him again why he turned on Styles and he said, “Sorry, no speak English.” He delivered that line great. Really, even though he was trying to be a total dick heel, he was so charismatic at it that he came off like a babyface. Charlotte came out and talked about her win over Asuka. She asked who she was going to make magic with next. Billie Kay & Peyton Royce, both with new boob jobs, came out as the Iconics, as opposed to the Iconic Duo. The crowd was going to pop for everyone new. They made fun of Charlotte’s interview and they cheered them. It turned into a brawl and Kay took out her knee and they beat Charlotte down. Kay gave her a running kick. They threw her over the announcers table and then threw her back over the table toward the ring. They threw her into the post and continued to beat her down, including a double-team back suplex on the floor. They left her laying. Carmella then came out for the cash in. She told Mike Chioda she was cashing in. He seemed clueless. She was screaming at him to hurry up before Charlotte recovered. Finally he called for the bell and Carmella hit a high kick and got the pin in :06 to win the title. I have no idea the purpose of having Charlotte break the streak and then having her lose the title the next day. Basically they ended the streak for no reason and got no value out of it, unlike with Lesnar who ended the streak and was super protected for a long time after. It is very possible this loss was to set up Charlotte switching sides so she had to drop the title (if that doesn’t happen, it makes it more perplexing) and if the goal is Charlotte vs. Rousey next year, I get it, but they could have just flipped champions and not beaten her one day after ending the streak. Fans cheered this whole segment like crazy because they came to see new people and cash ins. Orton won a three-way over Roode and Rusev to earn a shot at Mahal at Backlash. The crowd liked Rusev the most of the three. Orton back suplexed Rusev on the announcers table. Rusev then came back and back suplexed Orton on the same table. As it went on, the crowd got more and more into Rusev than the other two. At least they didn’t beat him again. Rusev got the accolade on Roode and Orton saved. The crowd booed Orton for that. Orton threw Rusev into the post and hit the RKO on Roode to win in 6:57. A lot of action in this one. Carmella did an interview. The idea was to get over her new catch phrase, “Mella is Money.” When she was asked about Royce & Kay helping her, she said, “Who?” Styles came out and said that Bryan is great and one of the best ever, but he’s not phenomenal. Styles vs. Bryan ended in a no contest in 12:41 when Nakamura interfered. This was the first time these two had a singles match in 12 years. Of course these two are always going to have a good match, but it was such an incredible waste of what could have been a classic if they had just saved it and built it up. When Bryan did his kicks, Graves said he’s been studying Miz matches and stole that move. That was funny. Bryan did a double-arm suplex into an armbar. Styles reversed that into a calf crusher. Later Styles went for the Styles clash and Bryan reversed it into the Yes lock. Styles made the ropes. Bryan went for a backwards superplex, but in mid-air, Styles shifted his weight and landed on top. At this point Nakamura showed up. He did a Kinshasa to the back to the head on Bryan. He gave Styles a low blow, hit the Kinshasa, and then gave Styles another low blow. 205 Live opened. They announced Nigel McGuinness wouldn’t be there for two weeks, and that Percy Watson is the new member of the broadcast team so they’ll have three man teams. The organization right now is super into diversity in the on-air product so aside from the lead guys, they are looking to get a woman doing color to go along with the backstage interviewers being women, and every broadcast needs an Africa American. Hiring based on fitting into certain demos as opposed to hiring the best people leads to so many worst announcer awards being won by this promotion. Watson wasn’t bad here, at least after the standards set by people like Otunga, Coachman and Booker T. Kalisto pinned Tozawa in 11:17 with the Salida del sol. Tozawa had vowed to beat Kalisto, Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik in a row and then they would all be fired. Usual good match. Even with the hardcore fans, this got little crowd reaction most of the way. Backstage, Andrews was talking to Nese. Nese is now a babyface. He said that Gulak has turned into a sadistic egomaniac and told Andrews to go out and kick his ass. Gulak came out and went back to his old character and said he was going to deliver a power point presentation. The audience went crazy, as this is the audience that probably realized Gulak was good while everyone else just saw him as a guy on 205 Live and thus rarely reacted to him. Then he shut it down saying he wasn’t going to do it, which got him heat. Gulak beat Andrews in 10:30. They did get the crowd in the closing moments as they had a very good match. Andrews hit the stundog millionaire and went to the top rope but Gulak rolled away. Gulak won by submission with the dragon sleeper, which they are calling the Gu lock. Gulak put the hold on him again after the match and wouldn’t break it. Nese ran in to make the save. Nese ended up laying out Gulak, after he ran out of the ring, by doing a Fosbury Flop dive. Backstage, Drake Maverick said that Gallagher & Kendrick were back as a team. Maverick told them he didn’t want them to have a vendetta against Itami. Gallagher said a vendetta against Itami would be beneath them. Kendrick said to consider it water under the bridge. Maverick was clearly not buying any of that. The final segment on the show saw Maverick out and he called out Alexander. Fans were chanting “You deserve it.” When he loses and the next guy comes out, they’ll chant the same thing. Ali came out and he said that Alexander deserved it and earned it, but he wanted a rematch. Murphy’s music played and everyone looked at the entrance. But Murphy came from behind and laid out Alexander with his spinning Olympic slam, which is called Murphy’s law. Maverick was yelling at him as to why he did it as he said Murphy was going to get a title shot. So this was Murphy’s heel turn and he’ll likely face Alexander either in Saudi Arabia or at Backlash. Nakamura pinned Ziggler in the dark match main event.

Notes from the 4/11 NXT tapings. Nigel McGuinness wasn’t there for the tapings. Mauro Ranallo did the shows with Percy Watson. They opened with a dark match with Lio Rush pinning Chico Adams. Rush had Babatunde Aiyegbusi in his corner. Aiyegbusi distracted Adams to lead to Rush winning. So they are doing this deal where Rush, who is barely 5 feet tall, is being seconded by a guy who is a legit 6-foot-9 and 375 pounds. What appeared to be the first show of the series, which would be the show that airs on 4/18, opened with Johnny Gargano & Candice LeRae out. They thanked everyone for their support and announced LeRae vs. Zelina Vega tonight and that Gargano would be getting a title shot with Aleister Black soon. Ricochet pinned Fabian Aichner with a 630 splash. The War Raiders (War Machine) beat The Metro Brothers using fallout, their usual finishing move. Lars Sullivan beat Killian Dain in a no DQ match. LeRae beat Vega in the TV main. Gargano and Andrade Cien Almas were in the corners. Quick match. She used the Gargano escape on Vega while Johnny used the move on Almas at the same time. Black came out and accepted Gargano’s challenge for a title. What appeared to be the second hour opened with The Undisputed Era coming out. Roderick Strong said he made the greatest decision of his life at Takeover. Adam Cole said nobody could do what he did in Takeover, wrestling two matches like that on the same night. Strong said he turned on Pete Dunne because he knew that if he didn’t, Dunne would have turned on him. They pretty much made clear that it was Kyle O’Reilly & Strong as the tag champs and Cole as North American champion. Cole then said he would defend his title against Oney Lorcan and he didn’t want the rest of Undisputed Era at ringside. So during the match, Cole started selling like he was injured. Strong and O’Reilly came out and with the ref distracted, they beat down Lorcan and Cole pinned him. Danny Burch ran in for the save but they beat him down as well. Heavy Machinery beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. They seemed to finally pull the trigger on the turn. Sabbatelli jumped off the apron when Moss went to make the tag, so it appears if there is a feud, Moss would be the face. Heavy Machinery pinned Moss with the compactor (double-team world’s strongest slam). Heavy Machinery said they wanted a match with the War Raiders. What appeared to be the third show opened with Kairi Sane pinning Shazza McKenzie with the elbow off the top rope. Lacey Evans came out and at first apologized to Sane about something, but then turned on her, hitting her with a sucker punch. TM 61, now as heels, beat The Street Profits using the ropes for leverage. Kona Reeves pinned Patrick Scott. This may have been a dark match. Bianca Belair pinned LeRae. Belair dominated the match, so they are giving her a big push now since LeRae is probably the most popular woman on the NXT roster right now. She won with a reverse power bomb. Dunne beat Strong via DQ. Dunne hit the bitter end and Cole & O’Reilly jumped in for the DQ. They were beating down Burch until Lorcan & Burch made the save. Ricochet did an interview. He said he wanted a shot at the NXT title. Velveteen Dream came out and they went back-and-forth. Dream said that anything Ricochet could do, he could do better. EC 3 pinned Raul Mendoza. He did an interview after the match. Dakota Kai pinned Vanessa Borne with a backstabber. Shayna Baszler came out and chased Kai away and then destroyed Borne. The Black vs. Gargano title match was supposed to be next. But Ciampa attacked Gargano and destroyed him, putting him through the announcers table and Gargano did a stretcher job. Apparently this was taped for the second hour. The War Raiders beat Heavy Machinery with fallout. Ciampa pinned Kassius Ohno. They worked this as a grudge match where Ohno was after Ciampa for what he did to Gargano. Ciampa attacked the eyes and hit a knee to the back of the head for the win. After the match, Ciampa choked out Ohno with his knee brace. In a segment that may not air on television, Black was cutting a promo and Sanity came out. Eric Young challenged for the title. Black then pinned Young in the title match with black mass.