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April 24, 2018 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: The death of Bruno Sammartino

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 April 24, 2008

 

Editor’s Note: I’ve said many times that of all the guests I’ve had on talk shows, my favorite is Bruno Sammartino. I would hardly be the only person to say this. At times he was controversial, and for years, we weren’t always friends. In the 1980s, Sammartino was very much anti-steroids. He had a lot of problems with what wrestling turned into, feeling that the heavy steroid and drug usage in the business would turn into a morbid body count. I felt the same way. Neither of us got any solace in history proving us more right than we ever imagined. Mark Madden, a Pittsburgh reporter who at the time was friends with Sammartino, and later became an announcer for WCW and is now a well-known sports talk show host in the city, was working on a piece and Bruno had noted that he was against steroids as was everyone in his family, including his twins who were strength athletes, and oldest son David, a pro wrestler at the time. That wasn’t true, as David, who was estranged from his father, then told Madden that he had used steroids and his father was aware of it, and it was a major reason they no longer spoke. His father hated it, and, sadly, the two never made up. David also stated one of his younger brothers used steroids, which Bruno didn’t believe, adamantly denied, and felt that David had gone too far in fingering his brother, saying it wasn’t true and felt David was trying to hurt him and his public image. Madden wrote the story and Sammartino was furious at him. I was covering the story and he was furious at me as well. Years later, things calmed down. We had met a few times, including a backstage story on the Phil Donahue show in 1992.

 

Vince McMahon was under fire for the steroid use in pro wrestling, stemming from the aftermath of the trial of Dr. George Zahorian, who distributed steroids to a significant percentage of the roster, including McMahon and Hulk Hogan. There were other issues as well, including a scandal involving a ring boy who was fired after he claimed he turned down homosexual advances from Terry Garvin (Terry Joyal), a WWE Vice President at the time. McMahon and Sammartino were on the Larry King show and went back-and-forth. Sammartino was the honest one of the two, but King seemed to side with McMahon. Sammartino brought up the claims of the WBF announcer that he was fired for not giving into a pass by someone in the company. As it turned out, that person was a lifelong con man, which Sammartino didn’t know at the time. With the benefit of hindsight, other claims, particularly from the ring boy, which led to a quick out of court settlement by the company, with hindsight appeared to have credence. Joyal and Mel Phillips were both fired, and never brought back, and have never been mentioned again by the company. The claims about steroids, which Sammartino was vocal about, were largely and obviously true. McMahon in points made Sammartino look bad, making him look foolish by saying the man in question was never a WBF announcer (even though he did the announcing for the first WBF show) and that Phillips, the ring announcer who headed the ring crew, had never even been an employee of the WWF. In actuality, Phillips was technically an independent contractor, but worked for them almost every day (which McMahon later admitted a few days later). In fact, his license listed his home address as the company’s corporate offices.

 

Fast forward a few days. Sammartino and myself were booked together on the Phil Donahue show, at the time the most popular afternoon talk show in the country. At the last minute, Vince McMahon agreed to go on the show. The people involved in the show had set up a seating chart. The two biggest names, McMahon, and Sammartino, were to sit next to each other in the center. Sammartino, who was 56 at the time, was furious about the Larry King show because he felt he was honest, that McMahon had lied, and to many watching, made Sammartino look to some like he was out-of-touch, when the opposite was the case.

 

He told the producers that he didn’t think having them sit together was a good idea. He said he would try to be calm, but if McMahon lied, he would probably lose his temper and didn’t know if he could contain himself from punching him. The producers were aghast. Everyone froze. The producers looked at me, because I was the one on the show who was thought to be the voice of reason and asked if I thought Vince would lie. I said that I would sit next to McMahon because no matter what he said, there would be no problems. That’s why Sammartino was put on the last seat on the right.

 

I had talked with him from time-to-time over the next several years, and we booked him to appear on our first internet radio show on Eyada. We did the show, and after it was over, he said he wanted to talk to me off the air. Without going into detail of what he said, he said that he was taught to dislike me for all the years, and that there were problems in the past having to do with his son David. But he wanted to apologize. I was long past any issues and told him that. He insisted saying that he was very wrong in what he thought about me. If I ever called, he’d always get back to me. If I ever asked him to do a show, he’s make sure to do it, even rearranging his schedule to do so. And it was long past time to do another show together.

 

My own memories of Sammartino are very similar to that of Lance Russell. There is a lot of eeriness. In late June of 2014, I had written down that the first thing I was going to do the next day was call both of them. As it turned out, Russell’s wife Audrey passed away that morning or the day before, and I found out when I woke up. I called Sammartino, and found out that his close friend Marty Lozarro, who was making a documentary on his life and was the key person behind pushing for a full-length motion picture on his life, had suddenly passed away a few days earlier.

 

I actually hadn’t spoken to Sammartino in some time. What can I say? You need more hours in a day unfortunately. Last summer I wanted to talk to him about his last trip to Italy, particularly about them naming a wing in the hospital in the city he was born after his mother. Chris Cruise would tell me to talk to Bruno. I loved talking with him. But there was always tomorrow. There was always his birthday, which I would call him that week every year, but time ran out this year. October turned into Christmas. It was always on the to do list, although it unfortunately wasn’t until Tuesday night of this week when it was first thing on the Wednesday morning to-do list.

 

We all love our mothers, but Sammartino’s bond with his mother was herculean because of the story. For all of Sammartino’s exploits in the ring, the most notable story in his life was his harrowing time in Italy and his mother saving his life, and risking her life for him and his older brother and sister.

 

I remember talking to him when my mother had a stroke, as he would always marvel at how long she and my father were married, even longer than he and his wife were. While noting how lucky I was to have both of my parents live to an old age, he talked at the time about the death of his own mother, who lived to be 97 but not a day went by when he didn’t miss her greatly and that sadness never went away, even when people consoled him that she lived a long life and had to be proud of how her son turned out.

 

About once a week, he’d go to the cemetery and talk to her tombstone.

 

I was 59 at the time,” he said in an interview talking about his mother’s death. “I was so devastated that I can’t even put it into words. People say to me, `My God Bruno, she was 97.’ I say, `Does that mean I love her any less and miss her any less? She was a peasant woman. She never went to school. She worked in the fields. But she was my hero.”

 

For whatever reason, because Bruno’s father was 93 when he passed away and his mother was 97, and because Bruno trained so hard and didn’t have the excesses so many had, I thought that he would be around for a long time. The reality is that while he lived a charmed life in many ways as an adult, he took great physical punishment working an insane schedule and not missing time and working through so many injuries because of his feeling he owed his good fortune to the fans and never wanted to cheat them.

 

I’m not sure why, but there were two things about him that I always think of with him. The first is that he moved into his home in Pittsburgh in 1962, and never moved. This was before he won the WWWF title in 1963 and became the highest paid pro wrestler in the world over the next eight years. While he never made anywhere near the money that current stars made, he was one of the highest paid athletes in the country in the 60s, and while other athletes salaries escalated in the 70s, he made great living in that decade as well. He could have lived high, bought a new place, but he never did. He casually mentioned to me once about how he moved into his home in 1962, before he won the title and started making what was huge money for that time. He mentioned that he had offers from people who would have built him a house for free on Long Island in New York, but he liked where he lived.

 

His home was equipped with a gym, and maybe that was all he needed. When he retired, money never seemed to be a major issue. He said he wasn’t rich, but he didn’t need to be rich, and he would say he was well off and his needs were not extravagant. A newspaper story last summer listed his net worth at $4 million, so some would say that he was rich–certainly well off. He could have made a lot more being aggressive with signings and appearances, or making up with WWE years earlier. But he never was, and he seemed completely content with that. He told me as long as he could spend time with his wife, kids and their families, train every morning, and go out on his Saturday night date, life was good. And he was grateful for his wife, and his life.

 

The other, was that in recent years, when he and WWF made their business deal for him to come back, and he was portrayed as the legendary wrestler that he deserved to be, he started getting new opportunities for personal appearances from the company. His rule, no matter how much was offered, is that he wanted to be home that night if possible. But if the appearance was on a Saturday, he had to be home early enough to go on his weekly date to his favorite restaurant with his wife. He made the exception WrestleMania week. He started having trouble with his legs again three years ago at the WrestleMania in Santa Clara, and he was no longer able to train the way he wanted to much after that.

 

As he got older, he would talk about the frustrations of being a life-long athlete and his health issues in recent years. The same mentality that built him from 84 pounds to 270 pounds was still there when he couldn’t walk due to back and leg problems. Instead of running eight miles, his goal was to walk 20 feet, and then 25 feet, and then 50 feet, just a little more each day But hearing him talk of walking 100 feet before his legs would give out was sad because he was the legendary Bruno Sammartino, but he never sounded bitter, just matter-of-fact, that it goes with age. It was a reminder that no matter how hard you work at it, you never truly own your body, you only rent it, and even if you do things right, you only have so much control. He always asked me how my training was going, and I always asked him how his was. In recent years, he’d start telling me to keep training, but don’t focus on going so heavy. We’d talk about the pains in our shoulders and how he had to give up many of his favorite exercises and which ones he could still do into his early 80s. He’d tell me about the problems he was having with his back and legs. He was not a complainer and these subjects only came up when I asked about his training.

 

Tuesday night I went to bed. I still had a story to write about Johnny Valiant. Tom Sullivan had passed away when he was run over very close to Bruno’s home. In addition, Tom Sullivan’s start in wrestling was as a fan watching Bruno, and one day knocked on his door around 1967 because he wanted to get into wrestling. Bruno opened the door for him to get in, not just the house, but the business itself. Sullivan’s greatest fame as part of the Valiant Brothers was because the team had several wins over the super team of Dick the Bruiser & Sammartino, and Sammartino was their main foe in tag team matches when they headlined and sold out Madison Square Garden. Sammartino set him up to be trained, started him out in Pittsburgh and sent him on his way. Before writing the story on Wednesday, I was going to, first thing, call up Bruno. Even though we have a mutual good friend in former WCW announcer Chris Cruise, I had no idea he had been hospitalized for the past two months.

 

I was asleep Wednesday morning. There was a knock on my door. “Bruno just died.”

 

It was the worst feeling when I went to my computer, and had a message from Cruise. I can only compare it to the death of Lance Russell. It was going to be a tough week anyway, as Thursday would have been my father’s 91st birthday, meaning it was the first time in many years I wouldn’t be spending it with him.

 

Bruno lived an incredible life. He touched millions. He was loved in a way that few wrestlers were. Right or wrong, he had his opinions and the courage of his convictions. He wasn’t afraid to get people mad at him if he felt that what he said was important. Yet at the same time, when he would do media interviews from people who would sympathize with him on a subject that he felt strongly about, but then they moved on to the next story without any resolution, he would get frustrated. But he was gracious to the Pittsburgh media, and they paid him back by keeping his name alive to where he became one of the cities true cultural icons.

 

Years ago, when he had a private audience with the Pope, he would remark about how hard it was for him to come to grips with the idea that someone like him could get a private audience with the Pope. Perhaps more than anything else, that was something he was proud of the most. Even then, he never fully understood that the Pope was talking about how he got a private audience with Bruno.

 

There have been times, in passing, where the thought entered my head that this day would come. But for whatever reason, I expected it many years from now. The only conversation I can ever recall in this direction was with Georgiann Makroplous, who was a lifelong friend of Bruno’s and who ran his fan club during his career. Georgiann was a sweet woman, kind of like an aunt to me, who it hit hard when wrestlers would die, especially in the era where we both would know wrestlers who were dying far too young. One day we were talking and she brought up Bruno, and just said, that she didn’t think she could ever handle if that happened. Instead, it was Bruno who came on our show and spoke eloquently about Georgiann, how she was a great friend, and how she was a giver who never wanted anything in return.

 

He was a man who worked very hard. He got some lucky breaks. He was the right superstar at the right time. He connected with people in a way few ever could, and likely nobody in this business going forward ever will. It’ s a different business and a different world. It’s not saying things were better in his day, or this day. He never fully understood how or why, but was grateful for it. You will hear stories about how gracious he was to fans. You will hear stories from people who grew up in the Northeast about what an impact he had on their childhood, or on families bonding around his triumphs.

 

People often said he was bitter. I never saw him that way. I thought he was a man who tried to be honest, while also trying to adhere and live by the codes of an often-dishonest world. He tried to claim his matches were real long after the modern wrestlers gave up on it, but eventually did come to grips with discussing it publicly. He still had his stories that he would stick to in public, although less and less as the years went down, and was a lot more open about them to his friends.

 

He traveled a lot for decades, but always tried to be a good son. After his career was over, he tried to make up for lost time and be a good husband and father. I had wished things worked out better for he and David. With hindsight, I’m glad Paul Levesque and he made their business deal. He and I talked about it when it was in the negotiations process and he was matter-of-fact about it. He had his price and if they agreed to it, fine. If not, he wouldn’t give it any more thought. He thought, in the end, that Vince wouldn’t agree to his terms, but he did. WWE obviously felt it was worth it, both for the credibility of their Hall of Fame, and for the ties to the legacy of the company. While he never fully warmed up to Vince McMahon, when we talked about McMahon in recent years, there was no hate, and it was more funny stories and amusement. He had his view on Vince, and there were times he very much hated him, but seemed more amused by his peculiarities. He seemed to like and respect Paul Levesque, but was not a fan of modern wrestling. Even though his return was a business decision, it was still Dr. Joseph Maroon who played a big part in his agreeing to return by vouching for the legitimacy of the company’s drug testing program.

 

In 2001, while used to living with back pain and doing his road work (running miles around his neighborhood), suddenly, he began to get numbness in his legs and had difficulty waling, and then even standing. His back was so bad that he couldn’t even walk to his mailbox. An MRI noted all kinds of problems, including severe lumbar stenosis, or narrowing of the lumber spinal canal. Maroon did the surgery, and five weeks later, Sammartino was up to walking six miles and said he was pain free.

 

In a local newspaper article in 2010, just after his 75th birthday, a reporter came to his home to watch his daily workout. He got up at 5:30 a.m., walked downstairs, got the newspaper and brewed some coffee. He read the newspaper and then started warming up. He then started his workout, with 185 pounds on the bench for ten reps. To him that was nothing, but that kind of poundage for a 75 year old man is still ridiculous. He then did four more sets, each time adding weight. And yes, his shoulders did hurt from the wear-and-tear of 60 years of bench presses.

 

Maroon told him that the testing WWE did was keeping the guys off steroids. I don’t know that he fully believed it, but he did believe the testing was real. He achieved so much natural that he’s look at guys who, honestly, were likely doing GH, and to him, he was bigger and thicker than they were, so could accept them as clean. But he wasn’t so naive to not see through the obvious neon signs. But it had changed from the 80s.

 

On the stage known as pro wrestling, Bruno Sammartino was the ultimate hero. In a world of black and white, both in how things were often viewed and the television sets he appeared on when he first became a legend, he was the ethnic John Wayne for two generations in the Northeast, where he will always be them most beloved wrestling star of them all.

Off the stage, some would say he was the ultimate hero, but I don’t think he would think that moniker would fit. He was always in amazement, as when he thought he was leaving pro wrestling in 1981 (he did come back from 1985 to 1987, but wished he never did), he figured after a few years, everyone would forget him. In a business that picks and chooses its history, Sammartino was remembered strongly by fans that grew up with him, but his ties to the newer generation were minimal. In recent years Paul Levesque made a business deal that Vince McMahon thought was never possible. Levesque invoked the name of his trainer, Walter “Killer” Kowalski, one of Sammartino’s all-time favorite rivals, and the company reached a deal to finally put him in their Hall of Fame in 2013. The deal opened up relations with the company that Sammartino carried for much of the 60s and 70s, after 26 years of a strong estrangement between Sammartino and McMahon.

Sammartino died at 9 a.m. on 4/18 after being hospitalized in Pittsburgh for about two months.

“Bruno was 82 when he died this morning,” said good friend Chris Cruise. “I last spoke with him about a week ago. He sounded weak, but determined to get out of the hospital. In the end, the accumulation of injuries he suffered in the ring were too much. Bruno Sammartino gave his life for pro wrestling. Literally.”

He had it kept quiet that he was having serious health problems. Gary Juster, one of his closest friends still in wrestling, who considered Sammartino his mentor in teaching him so much about the business, said he was aware he had been in the hospital, but had no idea it was that serious.

Cruise, who grew up with Sammartino as his sports idol, later became one of his best friends, actually taught a college course in Pittsburgh about the life of Sammartino, was aware of how he was doing, and likely based on Sammartino’s wishes, kept it quiet.

“Bruno Sammartino had been in the hospital the last two months, fighting every day to get out and get home,” Cruise wrote. “And every day, all day, his high school sweetheart, Carol, was by his side. She was his rock, and he was hers. They were married almost 60 years. As tough as Bruno was, she is tougher.

“Carol never wanted the limelight, never wanted to be known as the wife of a famous man. I always enjoyed talking with her and I always loved how much she loved Bruno. They were each others’ best friends. After 60 years, what special people they were.

“Bruno and his wife were cared for lovingly by their son Danny, and their son Darryl traveled to WrestleMania events with Bruno. Danny looks like David a bit, and his mother, and Darryl is the spitting image of Bruno. They are such good and loving sons. Danny spoke with his mother many times throughout the day, was at her side through everything. He is a good man.

“I spoke with Bruno almost every day for the past 35 years, traveled with him to Italy and to WrestleManias, and to other events. We laughed and poked fun at each other. We talked about everything under the sun. We gossiped. He was the older brother and father I never had. I was thrilled to talk with him. It never got old.”

“He made you feel good, supported you through ups and downs,” said Cruise. “He felt your pain.”

“Bruno was strong, but very gentle, and was so careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings, He hated discrimination of any kind, especially against minorities and homosexuals. He loved being with his wife, having a quiet and stable life. He loved Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh sports.

In typical Sammartino fashion whenever he had health issues, he kept them quiet before beating them. Sammartino was one of the strongest men in the world in his heyday, a man who once bench pressed 335 for 38 reps in Tom Minichiello’s gym in New York, with no steroids or special equipment or even any special rep training for it. It was just his last set, not first, in a workout. While Minichiello, a strength afficionado would talk about seeing it for decades after the fact, Sammartino always downplayed it to me when I’d bring it up, but he was more proud of his 565 single rep.

The young Sammartino, who came to the U.S., reuniting with his father in Pittsburgh, at the age of 14, was the prototype of the sickly weakling.

He nearly died at the age of 12. To honor his mother, who he loved dearly, he would forever speak and relive the nightmare of his youth and her heroic story. The story was such that there were attempts to make it the focal point of a Hollywood movie on his life. One of the main reasons it was never made was because of his insistence on complete historical accuracy. He walked away from any major studio offers because they would change the story. He would bemoan the idea that the movie wanted to portray his mother, who was in her late 40s at the time, as a beautiful young woman, and create drama like her having a love interest in Italy.

His home town, Pizzoferrato, Italy (during his career, he would be billed from Aburzzi, Italy, which Pizzoferrato was a part of, as well as from Pittsburgh), where he is their cultural icon, was occupied by the Nazis during World War II. When soldiers invaded their town, Sammartino’s uncle, Camillo, banged on the doors of all the homes and told people to grab their kids and run. The families left in a panic. Soldiers came and killed many who had stayed behind.

Emelia Sammartino and her children made it to the top of the mountain, Villa Rocca. For 14 months, they lived in a secret refugee camp.

His father, Alfonso, had moved to Pittsburgh in 1936, when Bruno was less than one year old. When he saved enough money he was going to bring his family to the land of opportunity.

Alfonso worked as a blacksmith, a steelworker and a coal miner, and sent money back to Italy. He lived in the “Little Italy” section of Pittsburgh with his sister.

While at the top of the mountain, often living on snow and flowers, his mother would climb down the mountain while his older sister, who was 23, and brother, who was 17, looked after the nine-year-old sickly child. Emelia would climb down the mountain and sneak back into their home in the middle of the night, while the soldiers sleeping in their home were asleep. She would grab food that she had hid in the corner of the basement. The trip would take her about 24 hours. Once, she was shot in the shoulder trying to escape. Bruno had a stone he would sit on that gave him a view down the mountain, and would stare, for hours, waiting for her to return, a young, sick child staring into space not knowing if he would ever see her again.

“We were so hungry,” he remembered about that 14 month period. “I don’t remember one day on that mountain when I wasn’t hungry. Us kids, we would ration our food so she wouldn’t have to go into town as much. We’d never eat enough to be full. We just ate enough to sustain ourselves.”

In 2010, when filming a documentary on his life, he did the one thing he said he would never do. He climbed up the mountain. The stone was still there. He had nightmarish flashbacks.

After the war ended, when he was 12, he contracted rheumatic fever.

“The doctor gave me one or two days to live, and said there was nothing he could do for me, told my mom to brace herself for losing me,” he said. “I remember her saying, `I already lost two children, I’m not going to lose a third.’ She was angry. She had tears flowing down her face.

“They put leeches all over my body. At the time, they believed that sucked the poison out of your body. I remember her boiling water and making me inhale the fumes. Well, that doctor came back a few days later and asked my mom about the (funeral) arrangements. She told him that I was still living.

“My mom is why I’m still living.”

Last summer, even though he had physical problems that made traveling extremely difficult for both he and his wife, he flew back to Italy, not so much because they were going to honor him with a statue, or that his childhood home is now the Bruno Sammartino museum, but because he said there was nothing that would keep him from being there when they named a wing at the local hospital after his mother.

Many people’s clearest memories of Sammartino was seeing him vanquish villains before thunderously loud packed arenas, or for those who were in Madison Square Garden the night he lost to Ivan Koloff, the eerie silence and, after a slight delay, the sound of people weeping that something they never imagined possible had happened and he had lost the WWWF championship.

But for Sammartino, no matter how strong he was, and how many people he touched, the memory of his childhood nightmare was his most lasting memory. In his mind, the escape from that weakness started when he went to the gym and lifted heavier and heavier weights, and ate more-and-more, so he would never be that sickly child again.

Sammartino felt so strongly about the link between training and health that it kept him training for hours every morning until he no longer could train. He was humble about his strength. When he was in his 60s, he was still curling with 60 pound dumbbells and had a physique that most 20 year olds would be envious of. If you made a big deal about it, he’d downplay it because, to him, he wasn’t nearly as strong as he was in his younger days.

When one after another of his contemporaries would pass away, he would always be saddened. Once, when I talked with him about John Tolos, it hit him hard. Tolos was known for hard training and lots of running. Sammartino always went with the idea that if you took care of yourself, while some things were out of control, you would live a long life. The Tolos death hit him hard because he was of the belief that Tolos did things the right way.

Even when he needed a heart valve replacement in 2011, he was clear to point out that it was the effects of the Rheumatic fever he had suffered as a child, because he didn’t want people to think that all the years of hard training were not beneficial to living a long and healthy life, particularly since he was so anti-steroid use.

It was that belief that caused a huge rift between he and son David, who he was estranged from for decades, when he found out David, whose goal in life was to be like his father, was using steroids.

It was 1947 when he got sick, and because of his health, he was not allowed into the U.S. His family stayed behind with him in Italy until 1950, reuniting with his father after 14 years, when he was finally cleared to come to the U.S.

He weighed 84 pounds at the time, and was constantly picked on. He couldn’t speak English and was skinny and sickly. He had a hot temper, and would fight back when insulted, but would usually get beat up.

One of his friends, Maurice Simon, knew what was happening and took him to the Young Men & Women’s Hebrew Association, where they had a gym with weights. He started him lifting weights.

“I couldn’t lift a feather that first day, but I remember going home with such a good feeling in my gut,”

“I couldn’t wait to go back.”

He immediately thought his life was going to change.

His body responded quickly. As it turned out, even as sickly as he was, he had a uniquely thick bone structure. His wrists and forearms were huge. He was genetically predisposed to gaining strength and his love for lifting heavier and heavier weights sped up that process. When he was older, doctors noted to him that he would never have problems when he was older when it came to osteoporosis, because part of his power was just how thick his bones were. He wasn’t tall, at about 5-foot-10, but his body put on muscle and gained strength quickly.

Knowledge of training and nutrition was primitive at the time. Sammartino only knew to lift heavier weights every time out, and eat as much as he could stand, and drink gallons of milk daily.

Four years later, he was a 225-pound high school senior who was a star on the Schenley High football team.

In his senior high school yearbook in 1955, the formerly almost all bones teenager was now called Bruno“Muscles” Sammartino, and it was noted that his goal in life was to be a wrestler.

There was no wrestling program in high school, but he trained some with Rex Peery, the famed University of Pittsburgh wrestling coach, who said he could get him a partial scholarship to join the team. He said he knew he couldn’t make it academically in college, so after graduating high school, he took a job as a carpenter’s apprentice and continued to lift heavier and heavier weights. In those days, guys who lifted didn’t really specialize in different sports. Sammartino did the Olympic lifts, and was strong enough that he dreamed of going to the 1960 Olympics at first. He also competed in and won both bodybuilding contest and powerlifting contests.

He was eventually able to do a 565 pound bench press, with a pause on the chest, which wasn’t far off the world record at the time, and could squat more than 700 pounds, although he gave up heavy squatting when he became a pro wrestler because he felt it wasn’t conducive to wrestling. While there have been a few wrestlers over the years who have done bigger numbers in competition, Sammartino did this steroid free. In muscle magazines well into the 90s, writers and power historians would bring up the question as to whether or not Paul Anderson, the strongest man in the world at the time, did steroids, and if he did, how strong would Sammartino have been had he done them. I’ve talked lifting with Sammartino many times, and the ridiculous weights he’d toss around in training when he was young, and even when he was older and slimmed down some so he’d have more stamina in the ring and not have the pressure on his back. The idea of what he could have done on steroids, if it ever crossed his mind, was something he never said.

On February 18, 1961, Sammartino had an afternoon match at Sunnyside Gardens, a small arena in Queens, NY, against 46-year-old Chick Garibaldi. During the match, Garibaldi suffered a heart attack after being body slammed, and died. Sammartino later found out that Garibaldi was using steroids. Whether one had anything to do with the other, that was the catalyst for Sammartino’s hatred for steroids.

He was 265 to 270 pounds and was one of the strongest men in the world. He once, based on being goaded from his friends at work, fought against an orangutan, and got unmercifully beaten up. He even sparred with Sonny Liston, the world heavyweight boxing champion. Boxing promoters wanted him, noting he had a great chin, but he didn’t like boxing.

He appeared on a local television show in 1957 with Bob Prince, a local sportscaster, where he did strongman stunts. He was called the “Pittsburgh Hercules” in the local newspapers, and talked about drinking seven quarts of milk a day, eating a dozen eggs for breakfast, and a loaf of bread and eating two-pound steaks for lunch. He ate like crazy, as the bigger he got, the more he felt he was battling against his being a weakling in childhood and being sickly that never left a part of his brain.

As best anyone can find, the first local newspaper story on him in Pittsburgh was on September 7, 1958, about a year before he started as a pro wrestler. The story talked about the 22-year-old from Pittsburgh who was one of the strongest men in the world. At the time he was working as an apprentice carpenter working on the local Hilton Hotel. It noted his offer for a tentative scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, but took the carpenter job. At the time he said he had turned down a five-year contract to be a pro wrestler because he wanted to compete as a weightlifter, obviously eyeing the Olympics. But he said that there was a possibility he might accept the pro wrestling contract. It talked about his intending to marry Carol Teyssier, who he met at the wedding of a friend.

It talked about his training for major Olympic weightlifting events, and to appear on a television show called “Brawn vs. Brains,” with Paul Anderson, who was the strongest man in the world at the time. Obviously that show never got off the ground.

Art Rooney Sr. offered him a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and was told if he made the team as a lineman, he’d pay him $6,000 or $7,000. Ace Freeman, the wrestling promoter in town, offered him $15,000 a year.

Freeman saw him on the Bob Prince show and made his first offer. After giving up his Olympic dream, he gave up his carpenter job and started wrestling in late 1959. From the start, he was treated as something special. Even when he started, he rarely lost a match, and when he did, it was only to the biggest stars.

On February 6, 1960, in the city of Paterson, NJ, he had a match with Gorgeous George. While George’s best years as a star came before Sammartino had come to the U.S., he knew of him as one of the legends, like Jim Londos, Strangler Lewis, and his Italian heroes, Argentina Rocca and Primo Carnera.

George was long past his prime and a heavy drinker, and he remembered the catcalls from the fans that George received that night, about being an old man and such. Sammartino never forgot it, and vowed that he would never allow that to happen to him. He brought up this story many times to me as the reason he decided to retire in 1981, even though he was still the biggest drawing card in the country’s biggest cities.

He said that he never wanted to be in the ring and have fans say how he’s slower and not as good as he used to be, which also kept him not only training hard with weights, but running six to eight miles a day.

While records aren’t complete, the late Georgiann Makropolous, who was one of his biggest fans and best friends, put together an updated Sammartino record book , and aside from occasional tag team matches against major stars like the Fabulous Kangaroos, there was no record of Sammartino losing via pinfall in a singles match until a November 3, 1961, NWA world championship match against Buddy Rogers in White Plains, NY.

Although many sources this past week were listing a December 17, 1959, match with Dmiti Grabowski in Pittsburgh as his first match, the first match we have a record for him was a win over Miguel Torres on October 23, 1959, in White Plains. In Pittsburgh media, they listed his debut as November 15, 1959, in a match with Jack Vansky in the city.

But he had only been wrestling a few months when he debuted in Madison Square Garden, on January 2, 1960. To show how he was pushed from the start, in his debut match, billed as “Bruno Sanmartino,” in the newspaper ads (from his fourth MSG show, on March 7, 1960, they had the correct spelling of his name) he was to face Killer Kowalski in a match second from the top behind an Argentina Rocca vs. Amazing Zuma match, which did the largest gate in the arena since the famed 1920 Joe Stecher vs. Earl Caddock match, doing $64,680.23. As it turned out, Kowalski didn’t appear, and was replaced by Wild Bull Curry, and Sammartino beat Curry, one of the era’s biggest stars, via submission in only 5:00. He remained second from the top on the next six shows, underneath Rocca, who was the top star. Aside from a no contest with Kowalski in a long match, he won almost all his matches in around 5-6 minutes, which in those days was considered a short match, and against name stars like Skull Murphy, Zuma (who was a huge drawing card in New York), Karl Von Hess and the match that is most remembered for getting him over as a major star, the May 21, 1960, match where he pinned Haystacks Calhoun.

Whether it was before or during the match, Sammartino lifted Calhoun, who was billed at 601-pounds, off his feet. Later legend has it that he body slammed him or press slammed him, but it was just lifting him off his feet. Still, nobody had done that before. This led to his first MSG main event, on June 4, 1960, where he and Rocca teamed to beat Pampero Firpo & the Great Antonio before 13,000 fans.

Later that year, he headlined twice in singles matches against Rocca, with the idea of it being the next upcoming superstar against the guy who had dominated Madison Square Garden wrestling since 1949. Still, the face vs. face matches only drew average houses for the time, 12,654 for the first one, 12,815 for the second one, with Rocca winning by DQ, and the second match ending at the 11 p.m. curfew after they had gone 34:00.

A story that he often told was that he had an issue with Vince McMahon Sr., which led to him not knowing about a booking, missing a booking, and being put on a national suspension through the various athletic commissions. He noted he’d go to territories and promoters wouldn’t use him, feeling he had been blacklisted. While his relationship with both Vince McMahons was complicated, to say the least, it was he and McMahon Sr., who later, together, basically made the WWWF championship mean what it did after they got back together for business reasons.

He was working regularly in the U.S. until April of 1962. He mentioned to me about going to Indianapolis, which was run by Jim Barnett at the time, and he had been promised work and then, when he got there, Barnett wouldn’t use him. It led to him being bitter against Barnett for years. A few years later, when Barnett tried to book him in Australia and was offering McMahon so much money for a short tour, Sammartino refused. Barnett told me that he had to pay $15,000 per week, a number absolutely unheard of in the era, to get Sammartino to come. He also said it was worth it, as even though he knew Sammartino never liked him, that he the truth is that Sammartino was the biggest short-term draw in the history of his World Championship Wrestling promotion.

But there was a one-year break between Sammartino matches in MSG. He considered returning home to work as a carpenter, but got an offer from Frank Tunney in Toronto, where his suspension by American commissions wasn’t enforced.

When he went to Toronto, he got booked on television shows doing strongman stunts. Billed as “The Italian Strongboy,” in a city with a large Italian population, Sammartino became the most popular wrestler in the territory. He was doing so well that McMahon wanted him back. Sammartino refused to talk to McMahon, although eventually, after his friends in the Pittsburgh office told him to please listen to Vince, he did talk with him.

Sammartino was negative about coming back, because of his loyalty to Tunney, who had used him when other promoters wouldn’t. This was early 1963 and the entire wrestling landscape was starting to get weird.

Rogers had beaten Pat O’Connor on June 30, 1961, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, before the largest crowd of the era, 38,622 fans setting a gate record of $141,000, and was the NWA world champion. McMahon was booking Rogers, and unlike previous champions who would work all the territories, McMahon kept Rogers, who was the biggest star and drawing card at the time, around his territory for at least two weeks every month.

Many NWA promotions couldn’t get any dates on the world champion which led to many of the companies withdrawing from the NWA and creating their own world champions.

Sam Muchnick, as the leading promoter and often-times President of the NWA, and Lou Thesz, as champion, built the NWA in the 1950s around the idea that sports people considered pro wrestling a joke due to its multiple world champions. Things were generally good when Thesz was champion through 1957, but the NWA weakened greatly when Thesz quit as champion and dropped the title to Dick Hutton, a great amateur but someone who didn’t draw as a pro. O’Connor replaced him, and while O’Connor may have been the best worker in the business, or was at least right at the top, and an established superstar for years, he wasn’t a big draw like Rogers. A lot of the promoters wanted Thesz to lose to Rogers, but Thesz hated Rogers and refused, and also felt it ruined the credibility of the world heavyweight championship to have a guy who was not a legitimate top wrestler holding it.

By the end of 1962, the NWA was falling apart. Rogers was drawing great, but so many of the smaller promoters couldn’t get dates on him. Muchnick called Thesz to bring him back to take the title from Rogers. There were at least two occasions when the title was supposed to change hands, and Rogers was injured and missed both matches. The injuries probably were legit, one came after he was roughed up in a dressing room fight by Bill Miller and Karl Gotch and had a door slammed on his hand and he broke his hand. Criminal charges were pressed in that one so it was undoubtedly legit. The second time, just before a scheduled title loss with Thesz, Rogers broke his ankle in a match with Kowalski. Kowalski was recognized in some places as world champion, given that Rogers couldn’t continue in the match, but since it wasn’t the planned finish and Kowalski wasn’t voted on to take the title, it never really counted.

Finally, on January 24, 1963, Thesz beat Rogers at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto to win the NWA title. Rogers told me about the tension on the day, because his promoter, McMahon, didn’t want him losing the title. Muchnick, the President of the NWA, did, and was going to release the $25,000 bond that Rogers had posted when winning the championship to charity, which was protection for the NWA in case a guy wouldn’t lose the title when asked.

Rogers said it was so tense that when the match started, Thesz had no love for Rogers, and was one of the most legit wrestlers of that era, even at 46 years old. Thesz went up to him and said when the referee was giving instructions,“We can do this the hard way or the easy way.” Rogers told him he didn’t want any trouble.

McMahon then withdrew from the NWA, because he didn’t want to book Thesz, who didn’t draw well in New York when he was champion in the 50s, and wanted to keep Rogers as world champion.

McMahon contacted Stanley Weston, who headed the most widely-read wrestling magazines of the era, and asked him not to publish that Thesz beat Rogers and to act like Rogers was still the champion. Weston refused, which started decades of uneasiness between Weston’s magazines and the company, although for the good of business, they still worked together. Weston and Bill Apter felt that when the current Vince McMahon went national, started his own magazine, and banned all the other magazines from covering WWF shows, that at least in part, it stemmed from the longstanding grudge where Weston reported that Thesz beat Rogers after McMahon’s father had tried to keep it away from the magazine-reading fans.

However, one of the magazines created a story of a tournament in Rio de Janeiro to crown the new Worldwide Wrestling Federation champion, where Rogers beat Rocca in the finals. The WWE history today claims this happened, even though everyone readily admits no such tournament existed, and that fake was the creation of the current title.

On the McMahon television show, no such story was ever stated. Willie Gilzenberg, who promoted boxing and wrestling in New Jersey and was a minority partner in the office, came on television as the authority figure (later, and until his death in 1978, he became the figurehead president of the World Wide Wrestling Federation). He came out, with Rogers and with a new championship belt, the WWWF title. Gilzenberg acknowledged that there was a match in Canada, but claimed it was a non-title match and said he was giving the title back to Rogers. As far as the fans in the Northeast were told, Rogers was just continuing his reign as champion. The next week Gilzenberg, in trying to get fans to believe Rogers was still the top guy, came out with a trophy for Rogers in honor of his 100th or 200th (there are different memories of the number) title defense.

Another story that the Northeast promoters claimed that the Thesz-Rogers match was one fall, and not two out of three falls, and most title matches in that era were two out of three falls. But that was silly since many promotions had already moved to one fall, including Capitol Sports, McMahon’s company. And to guard against that story, Muchnick and Tunney booked a Thesz vs. Rogers rematch in Toronto on February 7, 1963, just two weeks later, for 2/3 falls, which Thesz again won (although Rogers was able to negotiate losing his early fall via DQ but was still pinned in the third fall). Then, on March 14, 1963, Tunney booked Thesz vs. Bruno Sammartino in a match that Thesz won via pinfall. That was key because in the bragging rights of the kayfabe world of wrestling, when Sammartino and Thesz were the two most noteworthy world champions, Thesz held that win and the NWA could use it to claim they had the superior and rightful champion.

Sammartino has said that when he lost to Thesz, it was just a match and not part of political maneuvering for the public viewpoint of who was the real deserved world champion. He said that at the time, he hadn’t made the deal to beat Rogers and that Muchnick and Tunney wouldn’t have known. But he also told me that the title win over Rogers was absolutely part of the package for him to return to work for McMahon,.

He had returned to Madison Square Garden on February 25, 1963. But he didn’t start working the Northeast territory as he was still working mostly Ontario, Quebec and the Pittsburgh territory (which he always worked as it allowed him to go home, and was working there during the period he claimed he was blacklisted) until late March, about two weeks after the Thesz loss.

When he returned to television, which in those days was taped in Washington, DC, he immediately challenged Rogers for the title. He put up $1,000 to get a match with Rogers on television. Rogers then put up $1,000 as well. Announcer Ray Morgan held both checks in his hand as they went to do a match. Rogers tried to jump Sammartino before the bell, but Sammartino was ready, lifted Rogers up and put him in his over-the-shoulder backbreaker. Rogers submitted, but the bell had never rung to start the match. However, Morgan said that in his mind, Sammartino won, and handed him both checks.

The May 17,1963, match in Madison Square Garden where Rogers defended against Sammartino, which Sammartino won in 48 seconds with his over the shoulder backbreaker submission, was, along with the Calhoun lift, the real start of the Sammartino legend.

The idea of a 48 second world title win was unheard of. Rogers always claimed the reason the match was so short was because he had heart issues. The reality is, Rogers was mostly doing tag matches and not working very long. He worked the next night in what was billed as a world title defense in Baltimore against Argentina Apollo, and won in less than one minute. He then took a month off. He worked some shows in the Northeast for the next few months, almost all tags, but the singles matches were all kept short. He didn’t work again until 1965, and aside from a few Montreal dates, we don’t have records of Rogers wrestling in the U.S. again until 1969.

Sammartino vs. Rogers drew a sellout of 19,648 paying $58,966.10. There were bigger gates in the Rocca era, but it had been roughly a year, since the Rogers vs. Cowboy Bob Ellis world title program, since the Garden had been close to selling out.

There was never a rematch. The promotion booked Roosevelt Stadium on October 4, 1963, for the Sammartino vs. Rogers rematch. The belief was that it would set the all-time gate record for the Northeast. Rogers disappeared completely a few weeks before the match, and didn’t wrestle anywhere for a long time. Sammartino instead wrestled his first singles match against one of his most legendary opponents, the supposed 6-foot-7 and 400 pound Manchurian giant, who spoke not a word of English, Gorilla Monsoon, losing via DQ in a bloodbath to start their rivalry.

Sammartino always claimed Rogers never had a heart issue, and that it was made up by Rogers to save face. Most in wrestling believed it to be true. The fact Rogers never did a rematch with Sammartino, and only worked short matches when he did work singles for the next few months, would indicate something was wrong,

Through May of 1963 when Rogers was on track to have one of the best years when it came to drawing of any wrestler up to that point in history.

For nearly eight years, Sammartino ruled the Northeast as its champion. One could make a case that no wrestler was so beloved by the fans ever in the United States, and even on a worldwide basis, only El Santo would exceed him. There were other huge stars that came before him and after him, whether it be Londos, or George, or Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin, but when they lost, the place never went silent, nor did, after that silence, did the only sound in a sold out arena be women sobbing and men with tears in their eyes trying to hold back their emotions.

His biggest feud of that era was with former tag team partner Cowboy Bill Watts. The two were legitimately good friends, and workout partners, as well as being the area’s top two babyfaces. They were both powerhouses. Sammartino noted that Watts was very strong, and could bench press 500 pounds, although he would arch (cheat) like crazy to get it. Still, in that era, that was an enormous amount of weight.

On January 25, 1965, Watts & Sammartino challenged U.S. tag team champions Gene Kiniski & Waldo Von Erich, winning via DQ. During the match, Sammartino accidentally hit Watts with a dropkick. Then, in a television match against Smasher Sloan & The Golden Terror, Watts refused to tag in, and then, after the match, attacked Sammartino and gave him a beating.

Usually a challenger would get one or two title matches, and the best drawing challengers would get three. Watts got four. The second meeting was billed as a Texas death match with no DQ. But Watts used a low bow and was disqualified. Sammartino, on television, said that he, Watts and WWWF officials had a meeting and that even though it was a Texas death match, low blows were not legal. Watts claimed there was no such meeting. But it did tell a lesson. Sammartino and Watts sold out the first two meetings, but after a DQ in a Texas death match, it left a bad taste in people’s mouths and the third meeting, a two out of three fall match, drew 12,984 fans and the fourth did 13,624.

While McMahon and Muchnick had their falling out in 1963, by 1965, with Sammartino establishing himself as the biggest drawing card and biggest star in pro wrestling, they were back to doing business.

Muchnick always felt that the best thing for wrestling was one world champion. The reality is that Thesz was nearing 50, and Sammartino was clearly the bigger draw. The two arranged for the idea of the first-ever closed-circuit show with the battle of the two biggest world champions.

But it never happened. Neither Thesz, nor Sammartino, wanted it. Thesz said that he never trusted McMahon, feeling that McMahon tried to steal the title with Rogers a few years earlier. He asked for a $100,000 guarantee to lose, knowing it would be turned down. He was also told he would lose the match to Sammartino, but in return, would win the title back a year later. He didn’t believe that, and he probably shouldn’t have believed it.

For his part, Sammartino, who was already being run ragged with his Northeast schedule, working 28 dates a month and barely seeing his family. The agreement of a new schedule for a touring world champion, had him literally working every day, and even then there was more demand for him for dates than there dates available. He said there was no way he was doing that schedule.

It wasn’t until 1971, after Sammartino had lost the title, that McMahon rejoined the NWA. By that time his WWWF title had been established by Sammartino and in his area, was thought to be the real championship. Changing the name from WWWF world title to just WWWF title, a semantics change that most fans weren’t aware of, made no difference. McMahon also never booked the NWA champion in his territory until after the Sammartino era was over.

In 1968, Sammartino suffered a serious back injury. As champion, he continued to work, but was in great pain. By 1969, he asked out as champion. They kept putting it off until he finally insisted, and on January 18, 1971, he dropped the title to Ivan Koloff before what was announced as 21,666 fans paying $85,554, the second biggest gate up to that point in time in Northeast wrestling history.

Sammartino worked a lesser schedule and spent more time at home. He told me that during this period, he began to love life, and love wrestling a lot more. He had been running the local promotion in the Pittsburgh area for years, but things were tough on that front and eventually sold the company. Several years later Pittsburgh became part of the WWWF circuit. He worked for a number of major promotions. In some places, he drew big. In others, not so much.

Pedro Morales beat Koloff for the WWWF title and was actually the most successful drawing champion in Madison Square Garden history. It should be noted that during Sammartino’s two title reigns, as well as the Morales and Superstar Graham era, that children under 14 were banned from attending matches in Madison Square Garden stemming from a riot in the building in 1957. So when looking at his attendance figures, you have to realize that while Sammartino was a hero to kids, they weren’t allowed to see his big matches, and many fathers who watched Sammartino with their sons didn’t come either. The Morales was era similar. By the era of Bob Backlund, his sellout percentage was higher for a career than Sammartino, but they also loaded up shows and he was able to draw kids because the restriction was overturned.

Even though Morales’ three year-run as champion was more successful in Madison Square Garden than Sammartino’s first run, he was nowhere near the draw Sammartino was overall.

While Sammartino frequently sold out Madison Square Garden during his second run, and was starting to do so regularly at the end of his first run, and was easily the biggest star in the U.S., he never was able to break the O’Connor vs. Rogers mark.

His match with Rogers at Roosevelt Stadium was the first time they tried, but Rogers disappeared and Monsoon was hardly the star in 1963 that Rogers was, although he would become one of Sammartino’s best rivals of his first run. Bringing in Fred Blassie, who had been the WWA champion in California, with fans told he was the Pacific Coast champion, to face Sammartino at Roosevelt Stadium drew about what a sold out Garden would do.

After losing the title, McMahon made the “Wrestling Match of the Century,” Morales vs. Sammartino for the WWWF title. It started with Sammartino returning, with the idea that he and Morales were good friends who were joining forces to go after the tag team titles held by Prof. Toru Tanaka & Mr. Fuji. In a title match, the Japanese threw salt in both men’s eyes. They started swinging wildly to defend themselves, and ended up hitting each other. When their eyes cleared up, and they each could see the other one was punching them, they continued to punch back. Sammartino said that out of respect for Morales, he hadn’t asked for a title match, but now he was going to.

The match took place on September 30, 1972, at Shea Stadium. Both were faces. The crowd actually cheered Morales more than Sammartino. In those days, face vs. face matches usually didn’t draw well, but it was figured this would be the exception.

It was cold and rainy, and in those days, most tickets were sold the day of the event. The show drew 22,508 fans for $140,923, falling short of the gate record of both O’Connor vs. Rogers, as well as the 1971 Fred Blassie vs. John Tolos match at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The match was reported as a 75 minute draw, ending for the 11 p.m. curfew, although the actual match time was 65:05. It was a totally babyface match. While the match, without any brawling, which was Sammartino’s specialty, was panned, Sammartino always talked of it as one of his proudest matches, going that long in a technical match. When it was over, Sammartino said he respected Morales, and would never challenge him again, and blamed Tanaka & Fuji, setting up a tag team grudge match two weeks later, which drew nearly the same sized crowd to the Garden.

By 1973, both Vince McMahon Sr., and his son, came to Sammartino, wanting him to come back and replace Morales as champion. Sammartino said that he wasn’t interested, because he refused to do the schedule again.

To understand how valuable they felt Sammartino was, there were some amazing concessions made. First, Sammartino would work a limited schedule, a few nights per week and only major arenas. The second is he was guaranteed six percent of every show he worked, except Madison Square Garden, where he was to get five percent. Whether he actually got that was a matter of conjecture, because he did file a suit years later claiming he found out he didn’t. The current Vince McMahon settled the suit, and as part of the settlement, hired Sammartino to a well paying job as a television announcer.

In an even more amazing concession, Vince McMahon had started working on a deal where he’d be paid for booking talent to Antonio Inoki’s New Japan Pro Wrestling. New Japan was at war with Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling. Sammartino and Baba were friends, to the point that Sammartino once bought Baba a large Cadillac as a gift, when he saw how uncomfortable it was for Baba to drive in a smaller Japanese car

Sammartino had worked for All Japan. He refused to work for New Japan, so McMahon, the booker of foreign talent, if he made Sammartino champion, couldn’t send his champion, and New Japan couldn’t get any WWWF title matches.

Sammartino came back, winning the title in stunning fashion. The December 10, 1973, show in Madison Square Garden was advertised as Morales defending the title against Larry Hennig, with Sammartino, who hadn’t appeared in the arena since January, facing Stan Stasiak in the co-feature.

On December 1, 1973, in Philadelphia, Stasiak wrestled Morales. They did a fluke looking pin, but both men’s shoulders down. For fear of a riot, they never announced the result of the match. It wasn’t until the television tapings the next day, when Stasiak came out with the title belt. But he only had the belt for the first hour of the tapings.

That Wednesday, at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, for the show that aired live in California, but a few weeks later in New York, Jimmy Lennon announced that January 14th, in Madison Square Garden, Bruno Sammartino would be defending the WWWF title against Don Leo Jonathan.

Communication was slow, so very, very few people in the country, particularly outside Los Angeles, knew what that meant. That weekend, on the television shows in New York, it was announce that new champion Stasiak would be defending against Sammartino while Morales vs. Hennig was now a non-title match. As soon as this was announced, tickets went flying. Sammartino pinned Stasiak with a bodyslam at 12:14, before a legitimate advanced sellout crowd, something very rare in that era. Sammartino’s title loss was the quietest reaction to a match ever remembered, to the point Sammartino thought he broke his eardrum. Sammartino’s win over Stasiak was one of the biggest pops in that building of the era, although those who were at both still said that the Morales win over Koloff was bigger.

Business was big all over the Northeast during the second Sammartino run. In 1975 and early 1976 things peaked, with Sammartino’s series against Spyros Arion, a babyface who had turned on he and Chief Jay Strongbow, the return to the WWWF of Koloff and his most remembered rival of that era, Superstar Billy Graham. Matches were so big that several sold out more than a week in advance, and they would then book the Felt Forum for closed-circuit showings of the overflow, and that was with the matches airing live in the area on the MSG Network, and kids not allowed to attend.

Arion, Koloff and Graham’s programs were so strong because fans saw them as people who could win the title. Arion was a powerhouse who could wrestle, coming in after being the biggest star in Australia. Koloff had beaten Sammartino before, and Sammartino had never gotten his revenge from five years earlier. Graham was so big and muscular, and so charismatic, that he took the area by storm. Sammartino was always the strongest, but Graham looked bigger and stronger and fans saw him as his greatest challenge.

Arion had first been in the area in the late 1960s, and was the No. 2 face in the promotion at the time. He never lost, and he got over with the idea that after Sammartino would beat opponents, Arion would face them, and beat them faster than Sammartino did. But he returned to Australia and there was never a match.

In 1975, when he returned, it was as a babyface that, while not as popular as Sammartino, he was the one guy fans thought maybe he was as good. Arion started teaming with Chief Jay Strongbow, who had become the No. 2 babyface, but turned on Strongbow in a tag team title match against the Valiant Brothers.

Arion then signed for a match with Larry Zbyszko, the protégé of Sammartino. The idea was that this was a mismatch. Arion said that Zbyszko was his friend and they would have a friendly match. But because he had turned on Strongbow, fans didn’t believe him, nor did Sammartino, who said that he didn’t want Zbyszko to take this match.

The build worked. Fans were furious when Arion took liberties on Zbyszko. Sammartino ran in to stop the attack, and then challenged Arion to a match. The first match, on February 17, 1975, was the first time wrestling was closed-circuited into the Felt Forum, meaning there were more than 24,000 fans (billed as 26,000). They did double sellout business for a Texas death match rematch, followed by going clean a third time for a Greek death match.

On April 26, 1976, Sammartino was making his first title defense against Stan Hansen. During the match, Hansen did a routine bodyslam, let go early, and dropped Sammartino right on the top of his head, breaking his neck. If it wasn’t for Sammartino’s powerful neck, he would have likely been paralyzed. Still, with a broken neck, and a probable concussion, Sammartino kept fighting, continued the match, and while it was stopped with Hansen winning because Sammartino was bleeding so badly (a blade cut, as this was the planned finish), Sammartino retained the title.

But with the injury, they had no WWWF champion. It wasn’t too bad, because for the first month, Hansen going against babyfaces who vowed revenge for Bruno was big business. But the feeling was that would wear out by the second or third show in each market.

McMahon Sr. begged Sammartino to come back, since June 25, 1976, they had booked Shea Stadium for a closed-circuit showing of Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki and Chuck Wepner vs. Andre the Giant. They also had arenas and theaters booked all over the country, with McMahon and Bob Arum as co-promoters.

Sammartino’s doctors told McMahon, and himself, that he was nuts to try and wrestle that soon. Sammartino said that McMahon told him they had so much money tied up that if the show bombed, and it could without him, that the company may have to go into bankruptcy. Whether true or not, Sanmartino came back for the grudge match with Hansen.

Ali vs. Inoki was not a success anywhere but the Northeast. In the newspaper reports of the show, the lead was that Ali vs. Inoki was a flop, but the show was a success because 32,000 fans paid $500,000, the latter destroying all records, to Shea, with the stories saying the crowd didn’t come for Andre, and didn’t come for Ali, but, based on reaction, came to see Bruno get his revenge.

But after the broken neck, Sammartino once again wanted to drop the title. They begged him to stay on for another year. McMahon Sr. met with Graham, and Graham was told two things, that he would win the title on April 30, 1977, in Baltimore, and he would lose to Bob Backlund on February 20, 1978, in Madison Square Garden.

Last week in the Andre story, we noted that even though Bruno asked for a Shea Stadium match with Andre, and agreed to lose to make it happen, Vince McMahon Sr. adamantly refused. It’s notable that from 1963 until his retirement, Sammartino only lost twice, both times when he had to as it was the two title losses, by pin or submission in the WWWF territory.

Graham won the title with his feet on he ropes, giving Sammartino an alibi. Graham’s title defenses against Sammartino were some of the biggest drawing and most heated matches in the territory’s history. One match, a cage match on February 18, 1978, in Philadelphia at the Spectrum, was remembered as the city’s biggest event of the era. The news, which rarely covered wrestling, told fans that evening not to go to the building, as it was sold out. In Philadelphia, Graham had escaped a few times with his title, but in a cage, there was no way, as Sammartino had never lost a cage match in that part of the country. It was the first-ever fluke cage match finish as Sammartino punched Graham and he flew out the door to escape.

Sammartino had what was actually the biggest feud of his career in 1980, shortly before his first retirement.

Larry Whistler was a good high school wrestler in Pittsburgh who befriended Sammartino. He started his career in Pittsburgh as Larry Zbyszko, the personal protégé of Sammartino. He eventually settled in as a mid-card babyface in the WWWF, a regular tag team champion with Tony Garea.

Frustrated by his career stagnation, Zbyszko suggested the idea to Sammartino of his turning on him. Sammartino liked the idea and went to McMahon Sr. with it. McMahon Sr. was completely against it, feeling Zbyszko wasn’t big enough nor a big enough star to have the credibility to have a long program with Sammartino. Zbyszko got even more frustrated and Sammartino pushed harder. McMahon relented.

The program, which was somewhat the prototype for the later Owen Hart turn on Bret Hart in 1993 and 1994, has to be considered one of the greatest in pro wrestling history. Zbyszko kept challenging Sammartino to a match, and Sammartino said he considered Zbyszko like a son, and would never wrestle him. Zbyszko kept pushing. Eventually they agreed to a public workout. Zbyszko would get holds on Sammartino, and he would break out of them. Sammartino would get holds on Zbyszko and he would try, and fail to break out of them, and Sammartino would let him go. This happened a few times, and Zbyszko grew frustrated, and eventually hit Sammartino in the head with a chair. Sammartino did one of the most blatantly obvious blade jobs over, but it didn’t matter.

The series of promos was the master class in building a program. They sold out Philadelphia, Boston and Pittsburgh, so they knew to open up both Madison Square Garden and the Felt Forum for their fourth match, on March 24. 1980. Both buildings sold out in advance. In this one, Sammartino lost his cool because he was so mad at being turned on, talking about all the time he took away from his own family to train Zbyszko, that he was disqualified. An April 21, 1980, rematch in the Garden also sold out, but didn’t sell out the Felt Forum. This time, Sammartino was getting the better of Zbyszko, and he walked out, losing via count out.

They mirrored this program in every major arena in the Northeast, doing record business everywhere. Pittsburgh and Boston did blow-offs in June, a cage match in Pittsburgh, a Texas death match in Boston.

Then, at the June 16, 1980, show in Madison Square Garden, where Zbyszko beat Bob Backlund via blood stoppage in a title match, when everyone expected a conclusive finish next month, they instead announced that on August 9, they would return to Shea Stadium with Zbyszko facing, not Backlund, but Sammartino, in a cage match.

The show drew 35,771 paid and 36,295 total, although the public announcement was 40,717, with the idea of breaking the O’Connor vs. Rogers record. The gate was $541,730, which beat the Sammartino vs. Hansen record for North America. Of course Sammartino won decisively.

Sammartino wrestled sparingly after that. His neck injury was getting worse. He did a 1981 program with Hansen in Boston and Pittsburgh, but not anywhere else, climaxing with cage matches. He didn’t wrestle at all in New York in 1981, ending his career with a count out win over George Steele on the first wrestling show at the Meadowlands Arena on October 4, 1981.

His son, and Vince McMahon, convinced him to come back in 1985, but he always regretted it and talked very negatively about that period. He hated the drug use and the steroids. His back was in immense pain. He would only travel with Chief Jay Strongbow. He didn’t get along with Hulk Hogan, who had become the big star.

He told me his issues with Hogan came because he was trying to give him advice on working as the top star, and Hogan blew him off.

Sammartino noted that Hogan had a routine that he always did, and that was fine if he would come to cities a few times a year, but he felt it wouldn’t work with coming back month after month and doing three match series’ with the same opponents, building to the blow-off. He tried to impart his knowledge on working a more realistic match, how to sell to make fans think it’s legit, doing a comeback, and working finishes. He said Hogan wouldn’t listen, and he never really had time for him. The irony is that Sammartino’s last match, on August 29, 1987, he and Hogan teamed up to sell out the Baltimore Arena in a match with King Kong Bundy & One Man Gang. Sammartino never did muscle poses in his match, feeling that was showing off. But when Hogan did his post-mach posing routine and the fans cheered for Bruno to do the same, reluctantly, he did. It was the only time they ever teamed. Sammartino never talked about the match, and if it was brought up to him, you could see it was not a happy subject to him.

As it turned out, I saw his next to last match, the night before, in Houston, as Paul Boesch wanted him to appear on his own retirement show. He wrestled Hercules, and his back was hurting bad and he couldn’t do much.

Worse, when Hogan went on the Arsenio Hall show, after Sammartino had knocked the WWF for all the steroid usage, and Hogan denied being a steroid user, he then directly said Sammartino was a hypocrite since he had worked against Graham.

The reality is that Hogan, because of national television, became bigger and more well-known than Sammartino. But Sammartino noted that Hogan’s house show programs never drew as well as his. Hogan would do well spaced out every few months in a city, but if he’d work a program, the first match did well, the second match would go down, and the third would go down from that. Sammartino noted that the way it was supposed to be, is the first match should build a rematch and a larger crowd, and the third match should do the biggest of the three.

Times had changed and they were different people. Sammartino, particularly after his second title win in 1973, did draw better than Hogan on a consistent basis in the Northeast arenas. Steve Austin came in and broke all of their records, but Sammartino always noted that Austin also didn’t work month-after-month in the same markets like he did.

Bruno retired to Pittsburgh and became something of a cultural icon in the city. He was treated reverently in most cases by the television and newspaper reporters in news stories, and his death was the lead news story on at least some of the television stations in the city.

“Bruno Sammartino was one of the greatest ambassadors the city of Pittsburgh ever had,” said Mayor Bill Peduto. “Like so many of us, his immigrant family moved here to build a new life, and through his uncommon strength and surprising grace he embodied the spirit of Pittsburgh on the world stage. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are of sitting in the basement with my grandfather on Saturday mornings and watching Bruno wrestle. They both came from the same part of Italy, and when my grandfather, who was 5-foot-8, would watch Bruno wrestle, he became 6-foot-10. I consider it a personal honor that Bruno and I later became friends. I join all other Pittsburgh residents in saying, `Thank you Bruno,’ and we will miss you.”

His death was covered almost everywhere nationally. Sammartino was the third most searched for term on Wednesday in the United States.

Most of the stories had the exaggerated statistic of him headlining 211 times in Madison Square Garden and selling out 187 times. Later, after the 2013 Hall of Fame ceremony, that number changed to being his 188th sellout.

The number isn’t close to accurate, but he did both headline and sell out Madison Square Garden more than any wrestler in history. He told me that he and Georgiann Makropolous came up with the number, estimating he regularly worked the building for 18 years, once a month, and sold out 90 percent of the time. This was long before research was done and real records were available.

His actual record of Madison Square Garden matches is listed here. He did 160 matches in Madison Square Garden, and was only pinned once, which ironically was his most famous match ever, and the most enduring match of that era, with Koloff.

Of those, 140 of those shows you could say he main evented. When he was champion, every match he was in was the main event. During the Morales and Backlund runs, his match had equal billing with the championship match as the main event. Often his match was a bigger drawing match than the championship match. For those who would watch the Madison Square Garden shows live, or on the MSG Network in the late 70s, some of the fondest memories would be right before the final match, when the ring announcer, where it was Johnny Addie or Howard Finkel, would announce the next show.

When Sammartino was champion, the anticipation was who would be the next contender, although usually that was obvious, or in the case of a disputed ending earlier in the night, what the special stipulations would be next month.

But after he lost the title in 1977, because he was not there every month, the announcement of his appearances would be louder and more dramatic.

Finkel was the master of this, and he’d run down the card, and then the championship match, and you thought it was over. He’d subtly stop, and then say that there’s one more match, and he’d announce that name of the heel, who was always one of the top guys. “And he will face,” as his voice boomed, “BRUNO SAMMARTINO!” The place never failed to explode.

Pay records from Madison Square Garden from the Backlund era showed that every show he appeared on, he was paid the most, always $6,000, which was more than Backlund, who would get $5,000, or Andre the Giant, who would get $3,000.

Legitimately, his match was the true main event a minimum of 130 times. Not all attendance figures are available, but he had 60 verifiable sellouts, and logically, there are probably a few others, but not more than 65.

Some of the late 60s crowds don’t look impressive, but during that period, they had no television at all in the market, and relied only on newspaper advertising, so there was really no chance to draw big numbers.

If you go to the South Oakland neighborhood in Pittsburgh, where Sanmartino grew up, on the corner of Dawson and Swinburne Streets as you enter the area, there is a sign that reads, “Welcome to South Oakland, childhood home of Dan Marino, Andy Warhol and Bruno Sammartino.” There is also a second sign that says the same thing in a local park.

In around 1981, a sign was first put up, mentioning Warhol and Marino, but not Sammartino. Marino could never figure it out. In a 2016 ceremony, that was changed.

“I remember my dad always saying, `Why don’t they have Bruno’s name on the sign?” said Marino when it was changed. “So today we took care of that.”


BRUNO SAMMARTINO

 

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN HISTORY

 

Bruno Sammartino earliest recorded match was October 23, 1959, in White Plains, NY, beating Miguel Torres.

 

January 2, 1960: def. Wild Bull Curry (second from top) - sellout

January 25, 1960: def. Skull Murphy (second from top) - 15,675

February 22, 1960: no contest Killer Kowalski (second from top) - 18,896

March 7, 1960: def. Mighty Zuma (second from top) - 8,912

March 19, 1960: def. Karl Von Hess (second from top) - 6,450

May 21, 1960: def. Haystacks Calhoun (second from top) - 18,000

June 4, 1960: w/Argentina Rocca def. Pampero Firpo & Great Antonio (main event) - 13,000

July 16, 1960: w/Ilio DiPaolo def. John & Chris Tolos (second from top) - 15,850

August 6, 1960: w/Argentina Rocca def. Dr. Jerry Graham & Pampero Firpo (main event) - 16,752

August 27, 1960: w/Argentina Rocca def. John & Chris Tolos via DQ (Main event) - 11,000

October 1, 1960: w/Ilio DiPaolo def. Larry Hamilton (Missouri Mauler) & Jackie Fargo (third from top) - 10,000

October 24, 1960: lost to Argentina Rocca via DQ (main event) - 12,654

November 14, 1960: curfew draw with Argentina Rocca (main event) - 12,815

January 23, 1961: w/Primo Carnera def. The Crusher & Danny McShain (second from top) - 14,783

February 27, 1961: def. Haystacks Calhoun via count out (third form top) - sellout

August 25, 1961: def. Eddie Graham via DQ (fourth from top) - 18,752

September 18, 1961: def. Yukio Suzuki (fourth from top) - 12.391

October 16, 1961: w/Sailor Art Thomas def. Mark Lewin & Don Curtis via DQ (third from top) - 12,511

November 13, 1961: lost to Giant Baba via count out (second from top) - sellout

December 11, 1961: w/Argentina Apollo def. Great Togo & Yoshino Sato (third from top) - 13,430

January 22, 1962: w/Argentina Apollo lost to Giant Baba & Yukio Suzuki (second from top) - sellout

February 26, 1962: w/Argentina Apollo def. The Fabulous Kangaroos via DQ (fourth from top) - sellout

February 25, 1963: w/Bobo Brazil def. Handsome Johnny Barend & Magnificent Maurice (second from top) - 9,324

March 25, 1963: w/Bobo Brazil def. Brute Bernard & Skull Murphy (second from top) - 13,150

May 17, 1963: def. Buddy Rogers to win WWWF title in 48 seconds (main event) - sellout

June 21, 1963: def. Hans Mortier to retain WWWF title (main event) - 8,552

July 23, 1963: def. Hans Mortier to retain WWWF title (main event) - 14,495

August 2, 1963: w/Bobo Brazil lost to Buddy Rogers & Johnny Barend (main event) - 14,667

August 23, 1963: def. Killer Kowalski to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

September 16, 1963: w/Bobo Brazil drew Hans Mortier (subbing for Buddy Rogers) & Gorilla Monsoon via curfew (main event) - 17,576

October 21, 1963: double count out Gorilla Monsoon for WWWF title (main event) - sellout

November 18, 1963: def. Gorilla Monsoon via count out for WWWF title (main event) - sellout

December 16, 1963: def. Dr. Jerry Graham via blood stoppage for WWWF title (main event) - 11,670

January 20, 1964: def. Dr. Jerry Graham for WWWF title (main event) - 17,006

February 17, 1964: def. Giant Baba for WWWF title (main event) - 14,764

March 16, 1964: def. Dr. Jerry Graham for WWWF title (main event) - sellout

May 11, 1964: drew Gorilla Monsoon over 70:00 to retain WWWF title (main event) - 16,300

June 6, 1964: def Gorilla Monsoon to retain WWWF title (main event) - 16,781

July 11, 1964: lost via DQ to Fred Blassie to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

August 1, 1964: def. Fred Blassie to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

August 22, 1964: drew Waldo Von Erich over 81:00 to retain WWWF title (main event) - 16,958

September 21, 1964: def. Waldo Von Erich via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - 14,915

October 19, 1964: def. Waldo Von Erich to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

November 16, 1964: def. Gene Kiniski via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - 16,816

December 14, 1964: def. Gene Kiniski to retain WWWF title (main event) - 11,803

January 25, 1965: w/Cowboy Bill Watts def. Gene Kiniski & Waldo Von Erich via DQ (main event) - 13,875

February 22, 1965: def. Cowboy Bill Watts via DQ to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

March 29, 1965: def. Cowboy Bill Watts via DQ to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

May 17, 1965: def Cowboy Bill Watts via blood stoppage to retain WWWF title (main event) - 12,984

July 12, 1965: def. Bill Miller via split decision after 60:00 to retain WWWF title (Main event) - 17,134

August 2, 1965: lost to Bill Miller via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - 15,064

August 23, 1965: def. Bill Miller via submission in 48 seconds to retain WWWF title (main event) - 16,113

September 27, 1965: def. Tarzan Tyler to retain WWWF title (main event) - 13,000

October 20, 1965: def. Cowboy Bill Watts to retain WWWF title (main event) - 13,624

November 15, 1965: w/Johnny Valentine lost to Bill & Dan Miller (main event) - 13,913

December 13 1965: w/Johnny Valentine def. Bill & Dan Miller (main event) - 10,090

January 24, 1966: def. Baron Mikel Scicluna via DQ to retain WWWF title (main event) - 12,354

February 21, 1966: def. Baron Mikel Scicluna to retain WWWF title (Main event) - 14,303

March 28, 1966: def. King Curtis Iaukea to retain WWWF title (main event) - 10,859

November 7, 1966: def. Bulldog Brower to retain WWWF title (main event) - 14,159

December 12, 1966: def Tank Morgan to retain WWWF title (main event) - 12,029

January 30, 1967: def. Jesse Ortega to retain WWWF title (main event) - 14,760

February 27, 1967: lost to Gorilla Monsoon via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - 13,827

March 27, 1967: drew Gorilla Monsoon 39:52 curfew to retain WWWF title (main event) - 17,395

May 15, 1967: def Gorilla Monsoon to retain WWWF title (main event) - 11,804

June 19. 1967: def. Professor Toru Tanaka to retain WWWF title (main event) - 11,515

July 31, 1967: w/Spyros Arion lost to Prof. Toru Tanaka & Gorilla Monsoon via DQ (main event) - 10,891

August 21, 1967: w/Spyros Arion def. Gorilla Monsoon & Prof. Toru Tanaka (main event) - 11,750

September 25, 1967: drew Hans Mortier 40:00 curfew to retain WWWF title (main event) - 9,351

October 23, 1967: def. Hans Mortier to retain WWWF title (main event) - 6,612

January 29, 1968: def. Prof. Toru Tanaka to retain WWWF title (main event) - 14,130

February 19, 1968: def. Apache Bull Ramos to retain WWWF title (main event) - 12,989

March 11, 1968: def. Kentucky Butcher (John Quinn) to retain WWWF title (main event) - 13,148

May 20, 1968: drew George Steele 50:51, curfew to retain WWWF title (main event) - 10,506

June 22, 1968: def. George Steele to retain WWWF title (main event) - 10,580

July 13, 1968: def Ernie Ladd via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - 9,783

August 17, 1968: w/Victor Rivera def. Gorilla Monsoon & Prof. Toru Tanaka (Main event) - attendance unavailable

September 23, 1968: def. Rocky Fitzpatrick (Bob Orton Sr.) To retain WWWF title (main event) - 9,382

October 21, 1968: lost to The Sheik via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - 10,443

November 18, 1968: def. The Sheik via DQ to retain WWWF title (main event) - 11,122

December 9, 1968: def. The Sheik via blood stoppage to retain WWWF title (main event) - 10,943

January 27, 1969: w/Victor Rivera lost to Gorilla Monsoon & Killer Kowalski (main event) - 11,568

February 17, 1969: No contest with Killer Kowalski to retain WWWF title (main event) - 9,639

March 7, 1969: def. Killer Kowalski via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - 11,326

May 14, 1969: w/Victor Rivera def. Killer Kowalski & Prof. Toru Tanaka (main event) - 7,670

June 30, 1969: def. George Steele to retain WWWF title (main event) - 5,527

October 1, 1969: lost to Waldo Von Erich via DQ to retain WWWF title (main event) - attendance unavailable

October 27, 1969: def. Waldo Von Erich to retain WWWF title (main event) - 11,128

December 8, 1969: lost via blood stoppage to Ivan Koloff to retain WWWF title (main event) - 10,878

January 19, 1970: def. Ivan Koloff to retain WWWF title (main event) - 16,858

March 9, 1970: def. Krippler Karl Kovacs (Stan Kowalski/Bert Smith) to retain WWWF title (main event) - 14,328

June 15, 1970: lost via blood stoppage to Crusher Verdu to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

July 10, 1970: def Crusher Verdu to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

August 1, 1970: w/Victor Rivera def. The Mongols (Josip Peruzovic aka Nikolai Volkoff & Newton Tattrie) via DQ (main event) - 17,864

September 14, 1970: lost to Bepo Mongol (Volkoff) via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - 17,232

October 23, 1970: def Bepo Mongol to retain WWWF title (main event) - 17,491

November 16, 1970: def. Bulldog Brower to retain WWWF title (main event) - attendance unavailable

January 18, 1971: lost to Ivan Koloff to lose WWWF title (main event) - sellout

February 8, 1971: def. Geto Mongol (part of double main event) - sellout

July 24, 1971: def. Blackjack Mulligan (part of double main event) - sellout

March 13, 1972: def. Smasher Sloan (part of double main event) - attendance unavailable

September 2, 1972: def. George Steele (part of double main event) - sellout

September 30, 1972: drew Pedro Morales in WWWF title match at Shea Stadium (main event) - 22,508

October 16, 1972: w/Pedro Morales def. Prof. Toru Tanaka & Mr. Fuji via DQ (main event) - sellout

January 15, 1973: def. Prof Toru Tanaka (part of double main event) - sellout

December 10, 1973: def. Stan Stasiak to win WWWF title (part of double main event) - sellout

January 14, 1974: def. Don Leo Jonathan to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

March 4, 1974: drew Nikolai Volkoff 53:00 curfew to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

April 1, 1974: def. Nikolai Volkoff to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

April 29, 1974: no contest Killer Kowalski to retain WWWF title (main event) - attendance unavailable

May 20, 1974: def. Killer Kowalski in Texas death match to retain WWWF title (main event) - 17,103

June 24, 1974: w/Chief Jay Strongbow def. Nikolai Volkoff & Fred Blassie (main event) - sellout

July 22, 1974: def. John Tolos to retain WWWF title (main event) - 18,579

August 26, 1974: w/Chief Jay Strongbow drew Jimmy & Johnny Valiant, curfew draw (main event) - sellout

October 7, 1974: w/Chief Jay Strongbow def. Jimmy & Johnny Valiant via DQ (main event) - sellout

November 18, 1974: def. Bobby Duncum via blood stoppage to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

December 16, 1974: def. Bobby Duncum to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

January 20, 1975: w/Chief Jay Strongbow def Jimmy & Johnny Valiant via DQ (main event) - sellout

February 17, 1975: lost via DQ to Spyros Arion to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout and closed circuit sellout at Felt Forum

March 17, 1975: def. Spyros Arion in Texas death match to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout and closed circuit sellout at Felt Forum

April 14, 1975: def. Spyros Arion in Greek death match to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout of Madison Square Garden and closed circuit sellout at Felt Forum

May 19, 1975: lost to Waldo Von Erich via blood stoppage to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout of Madison Square Garden and closed circuit sellout at Felt Forum

June 16, 1975: def. Waldo Von Erich to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

July 12, 1975: drew George Steele, curfew to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

August 9, 1975: def. George Steele to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

September 6, 1975: def. Bugsy McGraw & Lou Albano in handicap match (main event) - sellout

October 13, 1975: double disqualification with Ivan Koloff to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

November 17, 1975: def. Ivan Koloff via DQ to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

December 15, 1975: def. Ivan Koloff to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

January 12, 1976: lost to Superstar Billy Graham to retain WWWF title via count out (main event) - sellout

February 2, 1976: def. Superstar Billy Graham to retain WWWF title (main event) - Madison Square Garden sellout, Felt Forum near sellout

March 1, 1976: def. Ernie Ladd to retain WWWF title (Main event) - sellout

March 29, 1976: w/Tony Parisi def. Superstar Billy Graham & Ivan Koloff via count out (main event) - sellout

April 26, 1976: lost via blood stoppage to Stan Hansen to retain WWWF title (main event) - 17,493

June 25, 1976: def. Stan Hansen via count out to retain WWWF title at Shea Stadium (part of triple main event) - 32,000

August 7, 1976: def. Stan Hansen to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

September 4, 1976: def. Bruiser Brody via DQ to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

October 4, 1976: def. Bruiser Brody to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

October 24, 1976: def. Nikolai Volkoff to retain WWWF title (main event) - attendance unavailable

November 22, 1976: lost to Stan Stasiak via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

December 20, 1976: def. Stan Stasiak to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

January 17, 1977: lost to Ken Patera via count out to retain WWWF title (main event) - attendance unavailable

February 7, 1977: drew Ken Patera in Texas death match to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

March 7, 1977: def. Ken Patera via blood stoppage to retain WWWF title (main event) - sellout

March 28, 1977: def. Baron Von Raschke via DQ to retain WWWF title (main event) - attendance unavailable

April 25, 1977: def. Baron Von Raschke to retain WWWF title (main event) - attendance unavailable

May 16, 1977: def. George Steele (part of double main event) - sellout

June 27, 1977: double disqualification with WWWF champion Superstar Billy Graham (main event) - sellout

August 1, 1977: double disqualification with WWWF champion Superstar Billy Graham (main event) - sellout

August 29, 1977: def. Ken Patera (part of double main event) - sellout

October 23, 1978: def. Superstar Billy Graham via blood stoppage (part of double main event) - sellout

March 26, 1979: def. Ivan Koloff via count out (part of double main event) - sellout

August 27, 1979: def. Nikolai Volkoff (part of double main event) - sellout

October 22, 1979: def. Greg Valentine (part of double main event) - sellout

March 24, 1980: lost to Larry Zbyszko via DQ (part of double main event) - sellout of Madison Square Garden and closed circuit sellout of Felt Forum

April 21, 1980: def. Larry Zbyszko via count out (part of double main event) - sellout

August 9, 1980: def. Larry Zbyszko in cage match at Shea Stadium (main event) - 36,295

December 8, 1980: def. Sgt. Slaughter via count out (main event) - sellout

May 20, 1985: w/David Sammartino def. Brutus Beefcake & Johnny Valiant (second from top) - 15,000

June 12, 1986: w/Tito Santana def. Randy Savage & Adrian Adonis (main event) - 16,000

 

Bruno Sammartino announced in the summer of 1981 that he would retire. He was talked into having his retirement match the night the WWF debuted at the new Meadowlands Arena (now Izod Center) in East Rutherford, NJ, on October 4, 1981, beating George Steele. He had agreed to actually finish his career with a several day tour of Japan, so what he and most believed would be his actual retirement match was October 9, 1981, in Tokyo, teaming with Baba and going to a no contest against Tiger Jeet Singh & Umanosuke Ueda. The part of his career he never speaks fondly of, his return, started on February 16, 1985, selling out the Spectrum in Philadelphia teaming with son David to beat Bobby Heenan & Paul Orndorff via DQ.

 

Bruno Sammartino’s final match was August 29, 1987, in Baltimore, teaming with Hulk Hogan (the only time the two ever teamed), beating King Kong Bundy & One Man Gang.


Paul Jones, one of the key building blocks of the 1970s Mid Atlantic promotion that was considered the best territory in the country in most circles, passed away this past week in Atlanta.

Jones, whose real name was Paul Frederick, was 75.

He was a Golden Gloves boxer out of Port Arthur, TX, was best known in both Florida and Mid Atlantic wrestling, where he spent years as a main event attraction and in the championship scene.

He started his career wrestling in Texas after being trained by Paul Boesch and Morris Sigel, who ran the promotion in Houston. He was often called Young Paul Jones, to differentiate himself in the early years from Paul Jones, who was the promoter in Atlanta.

He also wrestled in Australia as Al Fredericks, and there is a surviving piece of video on YouTube of a television studio match with a 22-year-old Frederick facing a prime Ray Stevens, that is probably the only surviving footage of Stevens from that era.

He became a star in Oregon, often called Cowboy Paul Jones since he was from Texas, and formed a cowboy babyface tag team with Nelson Royal in the late 60s that was considered one of the top tag teams in the world at the time. They often feuded with the Anderson Brothers, Gene & Lars, and later Gene & Ole.

His first singles break came in 1972 when he came to Florida, and not only beat world champion Dory Funk Jr., in a non-title match, but captured the Florida title from Jack Brisco. Those wins over the world champion and the top contender for the title and top star in the promotion in Brisco led to him giving himself the nickname No. 1 Paul Jones, a name he kept for the rest of his career.

In a famous angle, that was repeated in other territories with different people, he took the Florida title belt and threw it off the Grandy Bridge in Tampa in front of thousands of people in a publicity stunt.

When he returned to the Carolinas in 1974, he was considered a major national star due to his success in Florida. He worked as a top babyface, including holding the U.S. championship in its infancy. After Johnny Valentine was injured in a plane crash, Jones lost to Terry Funk in a tournament final on November 9, 1975, at the Greensboro Coliseum, on a show that set the attendance record at the time in the building. Jones later beat Funk to win the title, and feuded with a heel Blackjack Mulligan for what was the top position in the territory at the time.

He later formed one of the top tag teams in the history of the territory with Ricky Steamboat. Jones was noted as being a good looking guy and was a legendary ladies man. There was a saying, whether true or not, that nobody in the Carolinas had sex with more women at that time than Jones.

Steamboat & Jones held the Mid Atlantic tag team titles three times and the world tag team titles once. It was a major angle when Jones turned heel on Steamboat, with the storyline being that he was jealous because the younger women were chasing Steamboat more than him. It was portrayed as the older jealous guy who had been the most loved star by the women being jealous of his tag team partner.

Jones, as a heel, later held the world tag team championship with Baron Von Raschke and Masked Superstar, often feuding with Steamboat & Jay Youngblood.

Due to injuries, he started working as a manager in 1982. He was not really a good manager, but the Crocketts had loyalty to their longtime workers. He was best known for managing a number of people who feuded with Jimmy Valiant, climaxing with Valiant beating Jones in a 1986 hair vs. hair match.

He managed a number of major stars in that era including Rick Rude, Manny Fernandez, The Barbarian & The Warlord, Superstar Billy Graham, Ivan Koloff, Kamala, Superstar, Dick Murdoch, Von Raschke, Jake Roberts and even a young Vince Torelli (Ken Shamrock) when he was starting out in a Carolinas independent promotion.

Shortly after the Crocketts sold the company to Turner Broadcasting, who didn’t have the loyalty to Jones, he was let go. He wrestled for a few more years on independent shows in the Carolinas before later opening up a body shop in Charlotte.


Due to the death of Bruno Sammartino, there really isn’t the time to go into detail on all the WWE goings-on in what was a huge news week.

The Superstar shakeup saw Smackdown gain The Miz, Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Andrade Cien Almas, Sheamus, Cesaro, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, R-Truth, Asuka, Big Cass plus add from NXT, Andrade Cien Almas with Zelina Vega, as well as Sanity, Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe. The decision was made not to bring up Nikki Cross with the group. Perhaps, with Ember Moon, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce all brought up, they feel they need Cross more right now in NXT.

Raw gained Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Mojo Rawley, Zack Ryder, Tyler Breeze, Fandango, Natalya, Dolph Ziggler, The Ascension, Baron Corbin, Chad Gable and Mike Kanellis, as well as added Drew McIntyre from NXT.

It was more of midcard movement. While there could be title changes involving the U.S. and IC titles at the Greatest Royal Rumble and Backlash shows on 4/27 and 5/6, as things stand right now, none of the titles look to be moving. There was the tease of the U.S. title moving when Mahal came to Raw, but he immediately lost the title to Jeff Hardy, who then moved to Smackdown. The move separates the Hardys and obviously the decision ended up not breaking up Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt for Wyatt to lead Sanity, since Sanity is debuting on Smackdown without him. Velveteen Dream, who was heavily debated whether he should move up or not, at least at this point looks to be staying in NXT to feud with Ricochet.

The big surprise was Joe, since they had started the Roman Reigns vs. Joe program that looked to be the next Universal title thing if Reigns does beat Brock Lesnar in Saudi Arabia or at a later date.

The movement of Miz to Smackdown was clearly for a program with Daniel Bryan, which is already being teased and has matches announced for the European tour. Cass is also being put in the top mix as a heel against Bryan.

On the Raw side, the addition of Owens & Zayn wraps up their feud with Shane McMahon. The idea is that Kurt Angle didn’t want them, but Stephanie signed them over his head. The idea of Stephanie signing the guy who injured her father hasn’t been addressed. It’s known Vince thinks highly of Corbin, and while McIntyre is starting in a unit with Ziggler, he’s a guy who pushes all of McMahon’s buttons as far as being a star goes.

So, in looking at the rosters and depth, and there are some assumptions being made regarding levels, tag teams and other aspects, this is what we have as a something of a depth chart:

RAW

Top faces: Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, John Cena, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor

Top heels: Brock Lesnar, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, Elias

Mid level faces: Bobby Roode, Big Show

Mid level heels: Jinder Mahal, Kane, Jason Jordan

Face tag teams: Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt, Tyler Breeze & Fandango, Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews, Heath Slater & Rhyno

Heel tag teams: Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre, Authors of Pain, Revival, The Ascension

Women faces: Ronda Rousey, Nia Jax, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Ember Moon, Natalya

Women heels: Alexa Bliss, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Mickie James, Alicia Fox

Prelim faces: No Way Jose, Goldust, Zack Ryder

Prelim heels: Chad Gable, Mojo Rawley, Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, Curt Hawkins, Mike Kanellis

With Lesnar possibly gone and Cena not around much, we’re basically balanced on top with a big four on each side. With Rollins as IC champion, he could do a program with the likes of Mahal and Jordan (who at one point he was going to wrestle at Mania). Kane probably won’t be around much if he wins his primary.

The tag team division has four teams each, with the face side looking weak since Hardy & Wyatt are a gimmick team but the other teams are essentially underneath on the face side. Ziggler & McIntyre and Authors of Pain look like legit contenders.

The women’s heel side is weak, although there is a good chance both Banks (or Bayley) and Natalya wind up on that side. The Riott Squad in particular look to be in a strong position.

On the prelim level, the face side has less members than the heel side. Gable could easily be a face, and in reality, it would be great if Gable was pushed as a mid-level face since that level could use one more person.

SMACKDOWN

Top faces: A.J. Styles, Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy

Top heels: Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, The Miz, Big Cass, Andrade Cien Almas

Mid level faces: Nobody

Mid level heels: Nobody

Face tag team: Usos, New Day, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

Heel tag team: Bludgeon Brothers, Sheamus & Cesaro, Rusev & Aiden English, Sanity

Face women: Charlotte Flair, Asuka, Becky Lynch, Naomi

Heel women: Carmella, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Lana, Tamina

Prelim faces: Tye Dillinger, Sin Cara

Prelim heels: Shelton Benjamin, Primo Colon

The clear thins is the main event side has a strong big four. But when you consider Hardy is 40, and Bryan and Orton are not likely to be working full road schedules, there is way too much reliance on Styles, who is also 40 and has plenty of wear-and-tear.

The heel side is also strong as far as Nakamura being fresh in the role and Joe is top notch. Miz is fine in that position while Cass has potential,. But you’ve got five full-time guys on that side and really only two on the other. The end game for Almas is also always to be that Latino babyface, but with Vega, my feeling is they need a heel run before that time.

But with no mid-card, you’ve got a men’s singles roster filled with quality for television, but weak on the road. But you’ve got enough tag team and women to fill our a show.

Really, Rusev should be moved to the top face level, although that leaves English somewhat homeless. If Sanity is a heel tam, they have three quality heel teams already.

The women’s face side is strong. The heel side is strong on looks, and are charismatic enough, but you don’t have the quality opponent for any of the faces. At some point Asuka or Flair should turn, and add Kairi Sane on the face side.


One aspect of the Greatest Royal Rumble is the irony of it. Just a few weeks after WWE put Sputnik Monroe into their Hall of Fame in the Josh Gibson (separate but unequal) division largely based on being a wrestler who was responsible for integration of public events in Memphis, WWE, nearly 60 years later, is involved in the exact same thing.

Aside from the talked about controversy regarding women not being allowed to perform at the show, a second controversy is that the show will have the exact same seating restrictions that led to Monroe’s actions in the late 1950s.

Because this event is something of a cultural propaganda thing, they want to give a certain look. This is from the Saudi Arabia side, not the WWE side. So in the 62,000 seat stadium, which would likely be set up for 52,000 with a stage, all of the good seats are reserved for families because that’s the look they want. The only way you can purchase a seat in most of the arena is that your family has to include at least one adult woman.

Single men, either on their own or in groups can only sit far away and were only allocated a little over 10,000 seats, which sold out quickly. Guys ordering have been vocal about only being able to get bad seats, or not being able to get seats at all, even though tons of tickets are left. The belief is that it won’t come across that hot because the people who would make the most noise are the farthest away. But this was all about Saudi Arabia trying to show the world that there are a lot of women in the crowd, as well as a cultural thing that is part of Saudi Arabian society. Single men are not supposed to be in the family section in stores, restaurants, parks and entertainment venues to limit the mixing between single males and females, and that is even stronger regarding any event that is televised or photographed.

It’s a sold show for a high dollar amount and it’s not like the government cares about breaking even on ticket sales. In this case, it’s single men as opposed to blacks being relegate to only one section, but it’s still the same principle.

According to one reader in Jeddah, the promotion locally has been lackluster, and really the only people who know about the show are the hardcore WWE fans.

The Saudi General Sports Authority is in charge of finding a way to fill the stadium. They will be able to get people in, both with low ticket prices and free tickets. But it was noted that they weren’t even able to fill the stadium for high-level soccer matches, which is the most popular sport in Saudi Arabia.

The government is absorbing almost all the costs and most of the tickets are priced at 10 or 20 Saudi Riyal ($2.67 and $5.34 U.S.). The only expensive seating is the VIP section at 300 Saudi Riyal ($80, which also gets you free drinks). But those seats are also only reserved for the Saudi General Sports Authority members and their celebrity friends, so in a sense, are also really free tickets. There were hardcore fans willing to pay that for ringside tickets but weren’t able to.

Single males have been protesting this heavily in the country, especially when the single male tickets sold out in one hour. After the complaints, there were expected to be some changes, especially with so much of the arena not sold. In addition, when purchasing a ticket, you are not allowed to pick your ticket but instead buy a ticket and whoever is in charge of the event from the government assigns the seat in the region.

So this is weird. Just days after announcing that the Undertaker vs. Rusev casket match on 4/27 in Saudi Arabia was off and Jericho was replacing him, it was changed back. The storyline reason is Lana approved of the change. Of course, in storyline, Lana has been apart from Rusev for some time. It was just creative plans changing twice.

Jericho remains on the show as part of the 50 man Royal Rumble. There is a graphic for the show that also has photos of Rey Mysterio Jr., who has been confirmed on the show after reports last week, Shane McMahon, Mark Henry and Great Khali.

There are reports that Kane has been pulled from the match. Kane being out could be due to campaigning for Mayor of Knox County in Tennessee, since the election is on 5/1, but WWE at press time had not confirmed him being off the show.

Besides Cena vs. HHH and Undertaker vs. Rusev, matches on the show are Lesnar vs. Reigns for the Universal title, Seth Rollins defends the IC title against Samoa Joe, Finn Balor and The Miz in a ladder match, Jeff Hardy vs. Jinder Mahal for the U.S. title, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan vs. Usos for the Smackdown tag titles, and Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt for the vacant Raw tag titles.

The latter match at ths point makes no sense, since Sheamus & Cesaro are now on Smackdown. They still could win and then lose at Backlash, since usually it takes several weeks before all the changes go into effect.

A.J. Styles will also defend the WWE title, with Shinsuke Nakamura being the most logical opponent, unless they make it a multiple person mach. Cedric Alexander will defend the cruiserweight title against the winner of a gauntlet match on the 4/24 205 Live show. The claim was that Buddy Murphy was going to get the shot but he missed weight and was disqualified until he made weight, but Alexander vs. Murphy and Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali were both being promoted in recent weeks and it looked like those matches would be on the next two big shows.


Variety reported this week details of a proposed joint bid between ESPN and FOX for the UFC television contract.

Based on information we had heard last week, this story has more credence than the one reported last week that listed FOX and NBC as the bidders, although NBC was definitely in serious talks with UFC.

The story stated that part of the deal would include as many as 15 live events on ESPN+, the new ESPN streaming service. Given that is a subscription service that most in the marketplace are thinking will not do well, while UFC would help, the flip side is that those shows would be viewed by a relatively smaller number of people.

The story said that ESPN would be willing to pay in the $120 million to $180 million annual range for a share of broadcast rights to live events. The story said that FOX would be willing to spend just over $200 million for its share of live events. A combination package of $320 million to $380 million would be a huge success, as noted last week.

One FOX source told us last week that they have a deal at a price (just over $200 million) on the table that has been there for nine months, and they’ve made it clear that is their price. The story said there would be slight decline in the number of FOX events, which sounds like UFC would probably be running shows every weekend or close to it.

UFC live events count become the top draw on ESPN+, but the deal would likely hurt the promotion when it comes to Fight Pass. Fight Pass currently is based around airing a few overseas live events that FS 1 doesn’t carry because of the time slot, as well as prelims from almost every card. It has been reported to have in excess of 400,000 subscribers.

ESPN and Fox Sports are major rivals, but both companies already broadcast Major League Soccer as well as Big Ten and Pac 12 college sports.


Raw on 4/16 did 3,616,000 viewers, which would be the fourth best number the show has done over the previous two years. The only shows over the last two years to have beaten the number were the Raw after WrestleMania in 2017 and 2018, and the 25th anniversary show. It would be a surprise if any show for the rest of this year beats it.

The key is that even though it was down 11 percent from the Raw after Mania, which is not something it should be compared to, it was up 5.7 percent from last year’s Superstar shakeup first night.

Raw was third for the night on cable, trailing an NBA playoff game (3,653,000 viewers) and Hannity (3,701,000), who is mired on controversy right now and is boosting the ratings.

Based on previous patterns, the number should start dropping consistently between now and the end of the NBA playoffs in June, and the rebound until the start of football season. But WWE was up for the first quarter over the previous year, the first time in years that has been the case.

The Superstar shakeup led to a lesser third hour drop than is usual, with the mystery of who the big name coming over, who turned out to be Bobby Roode, would be.

The show did 3,634,000 viewers in the first hour, 3,754,000 viewers in the second hour and 3,479,000 viewers in the third hour.

The show did a 0.88 in 12-17 (down 12.0 percent from last week; down 6.4 percent from the shakeup show last year), 1.12 in 18-34 (down 9.7 percent from last week; up 3.7 percent from last year), 1.54 in 35-49 (down 8.3 percent from last week; up 8.5 percent from last year) and 1.29 in 50+ (5.1 percent from last week; up 4.9 percent from last year).

The audience was 63.2 percent male in 18-49 and 54.2 percent male in 12-17. Last year at this time it was 61.0 percent male in 18-49 and 64.4 percent male in 12-17, so teenage boys are way down from a year ago, while in 18-49, males are significantly up from a year ago.

Bellator on 4/13, headlined by Michael Chandler’s first round win over Brandon Girtz, did 403,000 viewers, a record low for the promotion. This was broken down as 242,000 viewers on Paramount and 161,000 on CMT. No prior show on Paramount/Spike had ever done less than 394,000 viewers on that station alone, and that was a taped European show. Paramount had never done less than 400,000 previously for a live show. There were NHL playoffs. The peak rating was 528,000 viewers for the main event. If you combine the two stations and DVR +3 numbers you get to 502,000 viewers.

Not only that, but a prime time Bellator show was outdrawn by a midnight airing of Combate Americas. That show, headlined by Jose Alday beating John Castaneda via split decision, did 402,000 viewers on Univision and another 181,000 on Univision Deportes. It’s the first time the promotion ran on both stations simultaneously. Univision is one of the highest rated stations in the country, considered a broadcast network that is ranked ahead of CW, so a show on that station should easily beat a show on Paramount, but this is still comparing midnight to prime time.

Impact on 4/12 rebounded back to strong levels with its second best number of the year with 381,000 viewers, showing that last week’s decrease was because of the WWE WrestleMania special on head-to-head.

Smackdown on 4/10 did a 2.10 rating and 2,952,000 viewers, which is 1.54 viewers per home.

Smackdown on 4/3 did a 1.74 rating and 2,467,000 viewers, which is 1.55 viewers per home.


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AAA: The announced return of Rey Mysterio Jr on 6/3 for Verano de Escandalo at the bullring in Monterrey has led to rumors that Konnan will be coming back as well. The wrestlers in Mexico in both AAA and Crash are all presuming it will happen and it’s more a matter of when than if, although Konnan hasn’t publicly said anything. There was a lot of talk of this as an inevitability over Mania weekend in New Orleans from people who are close to those in AAA and those close to wrestlers that Konnan is usually affiliated with. Konnan and the Roldan family had a tremendously bitter breakup which led to a lot of the big name talent leaving. Mysterio has been gone from the promotion for two years after Crash had been his home in Mexico. He is also still billed for The Crash on 5/29 in Tlaxcala. This comes at the same time that Pentagon Jr. and Fenix and AAA have agreed to stop their issues. The end result is that they will be known as Pentagon Jr. and Fenix on U.S. television, names they had been prohibited from using, most notably with Impact and MLW. AAA will also be allowed to license and market those names, and will drop any legal issues with the two of them for using the names Penta 0M and Rey Fenix on independent shows in the U.S. However, they are both still working for The Crash and other indie groups in Mexico.

It is also notable that AAA is running a television taping in Tijuana on 4/20 with Maximo & La Mascara & Psycho Clown vs. Chessman & Averno &Super Fly, Dr. Wagner Jr. & Vampiro vs. El Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr. & Hernandez and a TLC match with La Parka vs. Pagano vs. El Hijo del Fantasma vs. Parka Negra & Joe Lider vs. mystery wrestler. Another sign regarding Konnan is that several guys who had been working Crash undercards are on the Tijuana show. A lot of major names are expected to come in and work some dates including Pentagon and Fenix.

Vampiro, who last week was retiring by the end of the month, now says he’s wrestling on the 5/16 TV tapings in San Luis Potosi. I remember nearly 20 years ago when he had his career ending concussion and would never wrestle again and was going to become a guitar player for ICP.

NEW JAPAN: Junji Hirata, 61, best known as Super Strong Machine, will have a retirement ceremony on 6/19. He’s been working as a trainer since he was no longer medically cleared to wrestle due to injuries after 2014. Hirata started with New Japan on August 26, 1978 using his real name, working New Japan as well as the UWA in Mexico. He went to Calgary in 1983-84 as Sonny Two Rivers, and then returned with Hiro Saito and Shunji Takano as the Calgary Hurricanes to New Japan. He worked as part of a tag team called the Strong Machines, and then as a single as Strong Machine and later Super Strong Machine under a mask, and also worked as Hirata without his mask 1994-2001. He was also Makai #1 under a mask and Black Strong Machine. He was a good worker, usually a quality guy they somewhat protected but never the top guy, and held the IWGP tag team titles with partners George Takano, Hiro Saito and Shinya Hashimoto during his career.

The new tour opened on 4/13 at Korakuen Hall before 1,244 fans, which is the lowest crowd I can recall for them in some time in that building. The only one I can think of close was one of the ROH shows in 2017. They are running Korakuen four times this month and were running Tokyo way too much in March as well. No matter how hot you are there are limits. The main event was a ten-man elimination tag match up the Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada program. Tanahashi & Juice Robinson & David Finlay & Michael Elgin & Kushida faced Okada & Hirooki Goto & Jay White & Yoshi-Hashi & Will Ospreay. What was notable in this match, where eliminations are via pin, submission or over the top rope, that there were no pins and no submissions in the match. Kushida and Ospreay went over the top together and were the first ones out although they were in for 14:44. Okada and White were left with Tanahashi and Finlay. Okada and Tanahashi both went out, leaving Finlay vs. White, who meet on 4/24 in the same building for the U.S. title. Finlay threw White over the top to win in 26:46.

What was notable is the 4/13 show, they kept both Minoru Suzuki and Tetsuya Naito off and they did a bad Korakuen Hall crowd. On 4/14, they had Suzuki and Naito as captains in a similar elimination main event and kept Tanahashi and Okada off the show, and drew a sellout of 1,693 fans. It saw Suzuki-gun of Suzuki & Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru beating Naito & Evil & Seiya Sanada & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi. Like the first night, it was almost all top rope eliminations except for the finish and Kanemaru pinned Bushi. Naito and Suzuki both went over the top together. It came down to Archer & Desperado vs. Evil & Takahashi. Archer tossed out Evil. Takahashi tossed out Archer. Desperado then pinned Takahashi to win in 22:06. The opening match with Ren Narita and Yota Tsuji, in his second pro match, was a ***½ match. Tsuji, who has good size, has great timing and selling ability already but my God he needs to calm down with his slaps. It’s amazing how good every one of the young wrestlers they have here are and speaks volumes to the quality of the training.

There are two shows on New Japan World this coming week, a 4/23 and 4/24 show at Korakuen Hall, both starting at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time. The first night has Narita vs. Tsuji, Yuji Nagata & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino & Tetsuhiro Yagi, Rocky Romero & Sho & Oh vs. Takashi Iizuka & Taka Michinoku & Taichi, Togi Makabe & Michael Elgin & Juice Robinson & Toa Henare & Kushida vs. Goto & Ishii & Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi & Ospreay, Tanahashi & Finlay & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Okada & White & Gedo, Naito & Evil & Sanada vs. Suzuki & Archer & Smith Jr. And an IWGP jr. tag title match with Kanemaru & Desperado defending against Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi.

4/24 has Yagi vs. Narita, Tenzan & Umino vs Nagata & Oka, Romero & Sho & Yoh vs. Iizuka & Taichi & Michinoku, Makabe & Elgin & Henare & Kushida vs. Ishii & Yano & Yoshi-hashi & Ospreay, Naito & Evil & Sanada & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi vs. Suzuki & Archer & Smith Jr.& Desperado & Kanemaru, Tanahashi & Robinson & & Taguchi vs. Okada & Goto & Gedo and a main event of White vs. Finlay for the U.S. title. It’s something because a few years ago you’d see White vs. Finlay in the opening match at Korakuen Hall.

There was a tease this past week of Bone Soldier returning.

They also shot an angle on he 4/17 show in Ishikawa where Henare attacked and laid out Ishii, so it looks like that’s the start of a new program.

HERE AND THERE: Leon “Vader” White was released from the hospital this past week after open heart surgery.

Dick “Destroyer” Beyer, 87, will be missing the Cauliflower Alley Club banquet this year for the first time in recent memory. He was advised not to travel due to surgery to replace his aortic valve at the end of February. He is still hoping to do his annual summer trip to Japan later this year.

LuFisto, real name Genevieve Goulet, 38, had surgery on 4/17 for cervical cancer. She has been continuing to wrestle a regular schedule leading to the operation, as Shine champion. She wrestled on the Shimmer shows over the weekend and is booked at the next Shine main event on 4/27 defending her title against Kimber Lee.

The Monterrey, Mexico-based Revo Lucha promotion on 4/15 drew a reported 6,500 fans (that number is probably double the real number although it was a sellout). Rey Mysterio Jr. & Alberto El Patron & Caristico worked the main event against Carlito & Garza Jr. & Nicho, which saw Alberto turn on Mysterio. plus a legends match with Dos Caras Sr. & Villano IV vs. Humberto Garza Jr. (The retired brother of Hector Garza and a major local star in the 90s) & mystery partner. This would have been probably the biggest independent crowd for pro wrestling in North America of the year. With the success, they are working with the Sultanes de Monterrey of the Mexican Baseball League and local television station Multimedios to run a 6/29 show at the Sultanes’ 27,000-seat baseball stadium. The battle plan of the promoter is to do two-for-ones, family discounts, and even give away tickets to make sure to get 20,000 in the stadium and use that for promotional purposes with clips of the big crowd all over television to make it look like Lucha Libre is hot, and sign up sponsors off that crowd. With Albedo having turned on Mysterio, they are going with a main event of Mysterio Jr. & Dr. Wagner Jr. & Rayo de Jalisco Jr. (who was a huge star 30 years ago) vs. Alberto & L.A. Park &Blue Demon Jr. There is also a match in a cage where the last man left loses their hair or mask with Penta 0M, Garza Jr., Bestia 666, Rey Fenix, Daga, Ultimo Ninja, Mr. 450 and. By that point Ninja hopes to know if he got his WWE deal (he was offered a contract pending medicals) and if he is going, this is a way to lose his mask.

David Starr won CZW’s Best of the Best tournament beating Zachary Wentz in the finals. Wentz beat Joe Gacy in his semifinal match while Starr won a three-way semifinal over Matt Riddle and Tessa Blanchard. The big news on the show was the return of Rich Swann. He wasn’t advertised. The crowd popped like crazy for him, so as far as a test of the audience went, he passed. Swann a few weeks back said that he was retiring after domestic violence charges against him were dropped but he was still fired by WWE, and then there was the feeling he would get a bad reaction on the indie scene because of what happened with Michael Elgin. He had pulled out of all of his bookings last month for that reason, but this would at least indicate no problem. Then again, Elgin worked his first show back in Canada with no problem, but then when he came back to AAW, it was a disaster and to the best of my knowledge hasn’t worked a U.S. date since. Joey Janela made a scene and had an argument and walked out of the building during the show. He on twitter said it was his last CZW match, but this also could be an angle.

For the MLW television show, the first episode on 4/20 will feature the Pentagon Jr. vs. Fenix match that they feel is the best bout they've done but the second show on 4/27 will start several weeks of stuff from their 4/12 show in Orlando. They'll be doing four one hour shows and with packages and backstage stuff, the plan is to tape every four weeks or so. In key stuff from the 4/12 tapins, Mike Parrow beat Vandal Ortagun. Col. Rob Parker (Robert Welch/Fuller) was scouting Parrow. Tom Lawlor announced that he wasn’t cleared, which was actually an angle for a later match at the same tapings. He brought out Simon Gotch to face ACH and ACH pinned him. Lawlor and Gotch beat down ACH after he match. Parker announced that he was bringing in Jack Swagger. Pentagon Jr. beat Rey Fenix to become the top contender for the MLW title using a package piledriver. Sami Callihan beat MVP thanks to the help from Leon Scott. Jimmy Havoc pinned Joey Janela with a rainmaker after putting Janela through a door. Lots of weapon is usage in that one. Lawlor beat ACH when ACH was distracted and Lawlor hit ACH with his wrapped up arm and then choked him out. Main event was one of the best matches in company history, as Shane Strickland became their first champion pinning Matt Riddle in the tournament final. Strickland vs. Pentagon is the next main event for the 5/3 tapings. This was said to have been the best match of this run of MLW shows. The crowd was split although Strickland seemed to be working as the babyface. Fenix vs. ACH is also on the 5/3 show, and Jake Hager also debuts as a regular on the next show.

PWG has two of its last three shows in Reseda this weekend for All-Star weekend. The 4/20 card has Trevor Lee vs. Rey Horus, Robbie Eagles vs. Flash Morgan Webster vs. Sammy Guevara, Joey Janela vs. Jonah Rock, Walter & Timothy Thatcher vs. Brody King & Tyler Bateman, Taiji Ishimori vs. Bandido, Keith Lee vs. Adam Page in a non-title match and a three-way for the PWG tag titles with Jeff Cobb & Matt Riddle defending against The Young Bucks and Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz. This will be the Young Bucks final show in Reseda for PWG, since they aren’t booked the next night or on the final show on 5/25. They went back for one last show since this was the building where they really made their insider name in. The 4/21 card has Bandido vs. Horus, Eagles vs. Janela, Trevor Lee vs. Webster, Xavier & Wentz vs. King & Bateman, Guevara vs. Ishimori, Riddle vs. Thatcher and a three-way for the PWG title with Keith Lee vs Walter vs. Rock.

The GoFund Me campaign that has gotten a lot of publicity in Milwaukee for a statue of The Crusher, has reached $36,000 of the $40,000 goal. One fan donated $10,000. Milwaukee Mayor Eric Brooks has hinted that the statue of Crusher, which he endorses, would be displayed in downtown South Milwaukee. At the 3/20 City Council meeting, Brooks said it's yet to be determined but said, "I suspect it will be in a prominent location, probably downtown. It'll be a quirky stop for tourists." Right now it looks like the statue will be completed by late this year and an event to dedicate and debut it would be held in the spring of 2019 if the funding is reached.

ROH: I’m not sure if this is the post-huge show deal or what, but the first two shows this weekend after last weekend’s record house, the 4/14 show in Pittsburgh and 4/15 show in Columbus, OH, both did 700 fans and neither sold out. A lot of it was that the lineups really weren’t pushed much until this past week because so much was geared toward the New Orleans show.

There was a locker room fight before the 4/14 show in Pittsburgh. We didn’t get much in the way of details but a lot of wrestlers tweeted about it and didn’t like the idea of it. Basically there was somebody who was an extra and he was apparently sitting in Christopher Daniels chair. He was asked to move, and evidently got mouthy about it and ended up in an argument with Flip Gordon that turned into a fight, which Gordon, who has an MMA background, won quickly. Nobody got hurt, past some food being stepped on. That’s why Cody joked about now putting Gordon in the All In show after.

Jushin Liger, Sho & Yoh and Los Ingobernables (Tetsuya Naito, Evil, Sanada, Bushi and Hiromu Takahashi) have all been announced for the May War of the Worlds tour with shows on 5/9 in Lowell, MA, 5/11 in Toronto, 5/12 in Royal Oak, MI (which is already sold out) and 5/13 in Chicago. It’s notable there is no New York or Philadelphia stop this year and New York is still the company’s strongest market. It’s not clear yet but one would think three of the four shows would be live on Honor Club and one wouldn’t be as a TV taping.

There will be an All In press conference on 5/13, a Monday at 1 p.m. Central time at Pro Wrestling Tees in Chicago which will include the first announcements regarding tickets as well as the first announcement regarding some of the matches. Those scheduled to be there are Young Bucks, Cody, Brandi Rhodes, Hangman Page, Marty Scurll, Tessa Blanchard. The event will be streamed live on Facebook.

They taped television on 4/14 in Pittsburgh. Rosa Mendes and her ex-boyfriend were in the crowd as they live in the area and she was talking with management at one point. With Colt Cabana overseas, B.J. Whitmer did the announcing with Ian Riccobani. Cabana was in Wenzhou, China over the weekend for an NWA title match with Nick Aldis. The first hour saw Chuckie T beat Josh Woods when T pinned him while Woods had an armbar on. Sumie Sakai pinned Stella Gray with a rolling diamond cutter. After the match, Jenny Rose came out and issued a challenge to Sakai for a title match. Bully Ray did an interview running down the new generation of wrestlers, saying they are entitled and didn’t pay their dues. He called out Joe Koff and then he put on his WWE Hall of Fame ring and said this ring shows he’s better than anyone there. Silas Young pinned Flip Gordon with misery to win the first hour main event. The second show opened with Coast 2 Coast, Shaheem Ali & LSG, beating Beer City Bruiser & Brian Milonas when Milonas was pinned after a double Coast-to-coast dropkick. Jonathan Gresham pinned Will Ferrara with a bridging cradle. After the match, Rhett Titus, who was at ringside, joined with Ferrara in beating down Gresham. Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley made the save. Shane Taylor beat Ryan Nova. Taylor used two choke slams and a sit out tombstone piledriver and the ref stopped the match at 37 seconds. Matt Taven & TK O’Ryan & Vinny Marseglia beat Dalton Castle & The Boys when Taven pinned one of the boys with a headlock DDT. They all beat down Castle & The Boys after the match and attacked Castle’s injured hand, which he had a cast on selling, from the Marty Scurll match. Taven put Castle’s hand in a chair and came off the top ropes onto the chair to Pillmanize it. The third show saw Tenille Dashwood cut a promo. The Young Bucks beat Mark & Jay Briscoe via DQ in a tag team title match. The Briscoes threw chairs at the Bucks to start the match. They set up the Meltzer driver on Jay, but Mark hit Nick with a chair shot for the DQ in 11:20. Matt had a busted eye in this match when Mark threw a chair at him that nailed him in the eyebrow. The Briscoes also superplexed him onto five chairs. The Briscoes beat down the Bucks with chairs until Adam Page, Gordon and Cody all came out for the save. The Briscoes laid all of them out. The angle was said to be great. Jenny Rose pinned Brandi Rhodes. Bernard the Business Bear was in Rhodes’ corner. Rhodes hit a superplex but Rose cradled her from that. Jay Lethal pinned Punishment Martinez with the lethal injection in what was said to have been a great match in 13:59. Lethal opened the match with seven topes in a row. The fourth show opened with Shane Taylor beating Joey Daddiego. Taylor put Daddiego on top of two chairs outside te ring and splashed him through the chairs off the apron. The ref stopped the match at this point. Taylor continued to beat on him after the match, and also laid out a ref and some backstage personnel. Kelly Klein pinned Madison Rayne with a knee to the face. Sabin & Shelley beat Titus & Ferrara in 8:14 when Sabin pinned Titus after a double team neckbreaker and splash off the top. Facade went to a no contest with Eli Iso. Bully Ray hit the ring and took out both guys. Bully Ray then said he was firing both of them. Cheeseburger came out and said that he used to respect Bully ray but he’s now a piece of shit. Bully Ray choke slammed him. Joe Koff came out and fired Bully Ray was his office role. Bully Ray then said he was unretired and is back as a wrestler. Page & Scurll & Cody beat Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky in a non-title mach. Page pinned Sky in 15:24using the Rites of passage. The two teams brawled after the match. Scurll went to hit one of the SoCal Uncensored guys, but he moved and Scurll laid out Cody with his umbrella. The two did make up after. After the cameras were done filming TV, Cody brought Bernard, Brandi, The Young Bucks and Gordon to the ring. Scurll was singing after. The crowd went nuts for the post-TV show final stuff.

The 4/15 show in Columbus opened with The Besties in the World, Mat Fitchett & Davey Vega winning a pre-show match to get a title shot. Josh Woods also won a pre-show match. Coast 2 Coast beat Ferrara & Titus with the double coast-to-coast dropkick. Young beat Cheeseburger to keep the TV title. There were a lot of near falls for Cheeseburger and the crowd was into it. But Young came back to win. Bully Ray came out and ran Cheeseburger sucked. Cheeseburger got in his face and got right up to him even though he’s so much smaller. Bully destroyed him with one move, a high choke slam. Gordon made the save, Bully ended up laying him out as well. Bully then started challenging fans. In the 70s, this stuff worked because fans were truly scared to death of wrestlers, but even though Bully is a big guy, he got in the face of a fan who kind of laughed at him because fans know nobody will do anything because they’ll be suspended and wrestlers won’t touch anyone first due to the threat of a lawsuit, particularly with everything being taped, so eventually if the guy laughs at the wrestler, the wrestler still can’t touch him. Bully is an excellent heel, though. Sakai & Dashwood & Deonna Purrazzo beat Madison Rayne (which explains why Josh Matthews was there all dressed up) & Brandi Rhodes & Jenny Rose. Sakai countered crossroads and pinned Rhodes with a neckbreaker. Rhodes and Dashwood got much bigger reactions than the others. Purrazzo then cut a promo to build something with Klein. She said that it was okay that she didn’t win the WOH tournament because Klein didn’t either. They went back-and-forth regarding a 4/27 match in West Palm Beach, although Klein in her interview said it was in Miami. Young Bucks & Gordon & Page beat Daniels & Kazarian & Sky & Shane Taylor. Taylor got a lot of cheers since he’s from Cleveland. The Bucks won with a superkick party and a Meltzer driver. The Briscoes beat Besties in the World to keep the tag titles. The match was pretty one-sided. Mark beat Davey Vega via tap out from a choke. Lethal beat Jonathan Gresham in an excellent match by blocking an Oklahoma side roll. Lethal then praised Gresham for bringing out the best in him. They pushed that Gresham has never been able to beat Lethal and Gresham asked for one more chance, saying he knew he could, and Lethal agreed to it. Cody beat Taven in a first blood match. O’Ryan interfered a lot. O’Ryan bled first but he wasn’t in the match. He ended up being booted out so it was one-on-one. Cody missed a leg drop and went through a table. Taven got a piece of the table and tried to cut Cody with it, but Brandi came out and gave Taven a low blow. Cody used a crossroads on a belt (Taven’s CMLL welterweight title belt and his beating Volador Jr. for it was acknowledged). But Taven didn’t bleed. Cody then started hitting Taven with his ring. Taven was bleeding and the match was called. Everyone assumed Cody had won, but the ref ruled that Cody was bleeding from the hand first so Taven was the winner. The main event was a four-way elimination non-title match where Scurll beat Martinez, Castle and Beer City Bruiser. Martinez pinned Bruiser after the South Heaven. Castle pinned Martinez with the bangarang. Castle went for the bangarang on Scurll but Scurll countered with a cradle and got the pin, so it was announced that Scurll was back as the top contender for the title. Scurll teased singing at the end but SoCal Uncensored came out. They told him if he didn’t sing a Slayer song they would kick his ass. The rest of the Bullet Club came out and they ran off SoCal Uncensored. The show ended with Scurll singing “Real American.

The next show is 4/27 in West Palm Beach and it also has nothing major announced at press time.

IMPACT: There is an issue with the U.K. television deal. The company is in negotiations with Spike U.K. and expects to be back running imminently, but because the deal isn’t done, it was pulled from the listings on the schedule. Due to the MIP Conference, they are a few days behind but expect a finalized deal shortly.

In an interview with The Sporting News, Alberto El Patron claimed the reason for his no-show was a family issue. That was curious. He missed the live show and an autograph session the next day after coming to the press conference that afternoon, left no word with the company, then claimed he was ill. Days later it was a family situation. Obviously the company didn’t buy it since they had to go to great lengths to change the main event for the 4/22 Redemption PPV, the company’s first PPV of the year, from Orlando. After that they will be taping nine weeks worth of television from 4/23 to 4/26, so next week’s tapings will get them through the to 6/21.

They had to completely re-edit the show that aired on 4/12 and 4/19 because those shows were all about building Austin Aries vs. Alberto as the main event. They addressed it at the top of the 4/12 show. There was a great interview segment back-and-forth on that show with Konnan in the ring and Eli Drake & Scott Steiner on the ramp building up the LAX vs. Drake & Steiner title match. Drake buried Chris Adonis in his promo. Adonis had been his tag team partner and was supposed to be in this match and then abruptly quit the promotion in the middle of the last set of tapings.

The updated PPV card has Austin Aries vs. Fenix vs. Pentagon Jr. In a three-way for the Impact title, LAX vs. Drake & Steiner for the tag titles, Matt Sydal defends the X title against Petey Williams, Allie defends the Knockouts title against Su Yung, plus Brian Cage vs. DJZ vs. Taiji Ishimori vs. El Hijo del Fantasma vs. Trevor Lee, Sami Callihan & OVE (Dave & Jake Crist) vs. Tommy Dreamer & Moose & Eddie Edwards in a House of Hardcore rules match, Drago vs Aerostar and there will be one more match announced the day of the show.

Tyrus (George Murdoch) has left the promotion. He said that creatively he and the company don’t see eye-to-eye on anything. The reality is that in the direction they were going, he really didn’t fit, as shown by now being booked on the PPV show.

UFC: This week’s show is 4/21 in Atlantic City at Boardwalk Hall. The show opens at 6:30 p.m. Eastern with Fight Pass bouts with Keita Nakamura (33-8-2) vs. Tony Martin (12-4), Ricky Simon (debuting with a 12-1 record) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (7-3), and Aspen Ladd (6-0) vs. Leslie Smith (10-7-1). It then moves to FS 1 from 8 p.m to about 1 a.m. in the usual time slot with Corey Anderson (9-4) vs. Patrick Cummins (10-4), Luan Chagas (15-2-1) vs. Siyar Bahadurzada (23-6-1), Ulka Sasaki (20-5-2) vs. Magomed Bibulatov (14-1), Alex Garcia (15-4) vs. Ryan LaFlare (13-2), Dan Hooker (15-7) vs. Jim Miller (28-11), Brett Johns (15-0) vs. Aljamain Sterling (14-3), David Branch (21-4) vs. Thiago Santos (17-5), Chase Sherman (11-3) vs. Justin Willis (6-1), Frankie Edgar (22-6-1) vs. Cub Swanson (25-8) and Edson Barboza (19-5) vs. Kevin Lee (16-3). Lee is coming off a loss to Tony Ferguson and Barboza is coming off a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov. Barboza is the No. 4 ranked contender and Lee is at No. 7. The winner will be in the mix in a crowded top of the division. This is a show without a lot of major names, although Edgar is a top star and the main event looks good on paper, but it’s got a lot of depth, really one of the deeper shows of the year. I’m still really squeamish on the idea of Edgar fighting this soon after the way he was rocked in the Brian Ortega fight on 3/3. I really wouldn’t want someone who got rocked like that fighting for at least 90 days. Swanson is a slugger who a healthy Edgar has dominated in the past. It’s really concerning to me, especially after the deal last year with Michael Bisping and these things worry me that they are allowed to happen, even if he does end up winning again.

BT Sports in the U.K. send out a questionnaire for its subscribers regarding UFC. The questions are both asking subscribers if they would five to 15 pounds extra ($7 to $21) to see individual events.

The new season of Ultimate Fighter, with Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier as coaches, debuted on 4/18.

Cormier also announced on 4/17 that he will be starting as the head wrestling coach at Gilroy High School, which is the school near where he lives. Cormier has volunteered for the position and the small amount of money that they allocate for their high school wrestling coach will be split between Shawn Bunch and Kyle Crutchmer, two All-American wrestlers who train at AKA. Cormier already coaches wrestling in the area doing youth programs at three gyms, one at AKA in San Jose, one at the LUTE training academy in San Jose (A BJJ school in the city) and one at Knoxx Gym , which is Josh Thomson’s martial arts and fitness gym in San Jose. Cormier has also said he’s interested in doing pro wrestling announcing after he retires next year. There’s a learning curve, but he was pretty great at doing MMA from day one.

UFC signed a deal with Singapore to run one show a year at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang. The deal kicks off with the 6/23 show which will air as a Fight Pass exclusive. Donald Cerrone vs. Leon Edwards was already announced as the main event. Other fights announced on the show are Tyson Pedro vs. Ovince Saint Preux, Shinsho Anzai vs. Jake Matthews, Jessica Eye vs. Jessica Rose-Clark, Janel Lausa vs. Ashkan Mokhtarian, Naoki Inoue vs. Matt Schnell and Nadia Kassem vs.; Yan Xiaonan.

The 5/27 show in Liverpool, headlined by Darren Till vs. Stephen Thompson, is now sold out.

Gokhan Saki, the kickboxing star, will face Khalil Rountree on the 7/7 PPV show in Las Vegas. Mike Perry vs. Yancy Medeiros is also scheduled for that show.

Clay Guida vs. Bobby Green has been added to the 6/9 show in Chicago.

Manny Bermudez vs. Davey Grant has been added to the 5/27 show in Liverpool.

Desmond Green vs. Gleison Tibau and Nik Lentz vs. Leo Santos have been added to the 6/1 show in Utica, NY.

WWE: Cena, 40, and Nikki Bella (Nicole Garcia-Colace), 34, announced on 4/15 that they are breaking up. It’s notable because the new season of Total Divas, which starts on 5/20, was all about them planning their wedding and set to end the season with the wedding, scheduled for Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, since Bella is Mexican in ancestry. People reported that Cena started getting cold feet as the wedding approached and was apparently the one to call it off. Their version is that as the wedding came closer, he “just went back to who he’s always been–which is someone who puts himself first, always.” She was said to have been devastated by this. US Weekly claimed it was she who broke things up claiming things he said on television and to the press hurt her greatly. I have no idea what that would be since I’ve never seen him knock her publicly, but the story was about him saying in recent weeks while on the road promoting “Blockers,” that with their schedules they don’t need to see each other that often, which she was hurt by. She was mad when he would say how it was hard work being in a relationship was another thing she was upset by. This was a case of life imitating art given that back in January, when promoting the recently completed season of “Total Bellas,” one of the storylines being promoted for the new season was whether or not they were going to split up before the wedding. Obviously each side has a publicist out to babyface themselves in this situation but Nikki’s side is clearly working harder on this. People then changed the story, saying it was Nikki who broke up, saying, according to a source, “He was making it abundantly clear that he was going into this gritting his teeth the whole way. Nikki is an amazing, talented, strong, one-of-a-kind woman. Anyone would be lucky to have her in their life, yet John acted more and more like he was doing her a favor by somehow conceding to go ahead and marry her. (Nikki) doesn’t need a pity proposal, a pity wedding, a pity husband. She’s phenomenal, tremendous woman.” Well, clearly that’s Nikki’s publicist at work. Cena then wrote on Twitter, “Hardship, loss and humility are extremely difficult waters to navigate, but perseverance through them builds a strength to withstand anything life throws your way.” There was always the big issue from the start of the relationship of her wanting children and him not, and his having cold feet about getting married because of the nature of his first marriage falling apart. The most awkward aspect of this is that they’ve gone through a real break-up, and at the same time because of the nature of “Total Divas,” which is currently being filmed, they will be doing a storyline that they will have to recreate their breakup for the mass audience, whether a fictitious version of it or something approximating the real version of it. You have to remember that “Total Divas,” doesn’t have cameras around all the time, and the storylines are all scripted, so while we will likely see a break-up on the new season, it’s hardly like the actual breakup itself was filmed. So like pro wrestling, there will be a storyline reason that people will tae as the reality. Cena’s response in being cast as the heel in all this was to write, “Sometimes we must bare the burden of shame and judgment to protect and give to the ones we love.” The fact he’s even discussing this publicly in cryptic statements pretty much says it’s bothering him enough to where he can’t keep it private, which at first, both had claimed they wanted to do. At first, they both released a joint statement “After much contemplation and six years of being together, Nikki Bella and John Cena announced today their decision to separate as a couple. While this decision was a difficult one, we continue to have a great deal of love and respect for one another. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time in our lives.” The story got a lot of mainstream interest in news shows to the point that it was one of the most searched stories in the country. While not directly quoted, People also had comments indicating it was the question of children that was a big stumbling block, especially seeing how her sister has been with her niece. “The things she said when she was with John, that she didn’t need to be a wife, or then that she didn’t need to be a mom, that’s just not Nikki.” They said that Brie never bought that Nikki was really okay with never having kids even if she would say she would do that for Cena. “There’s some relief that at least Nikki can go forward and find someone who will really give her everything she’s dreamed of. Because that guy isn’t John. Never was.”

Rousey has been announced on shows on 5/16 in Geneva, 5/17 in Vienna, 5/18 in Torino and 5/19 in Paris.

Bryan’s first hour shows on the schedule at this point are also on the European tour. Bryan will be at the 5/15 TV tapings in London and then work house shows against Miz on 5/16 in Liverpool, 5/17 in Newcastle and 5/18 in Sheffield.

While there are rumors going around of a Lesnar vs. Lashley match, right now there are no plans for it. If Lesnar is really leaving, you can probably get two losses from him, the title loss and hopefully one more to build someone. I don’t think the person that should go to should be over 40 or a part-time because it’s then of limited benefit. Like maybe just Reigns (who he pretty much has to lose to at some point) and Strowman, if they’ve even got him for enough dates to pull both off.

Jericho was on the StillRealToUs.com podcast and regarding the casket match, said, “You learn to roll with the punches and sometimes things that are planned for six months fall apart, Sometimes things that you never expect to happen (do so) with a week’s notice.” He said that he would not be wrestling at SummerSlam this year. He also said he was done with New Japan. “Yeah, you know it was a good idea. It was good when it happened. We had a blast. But sometimes things just don’t work out. So New Japan was a lot of fan. Not to say that I wouldn’t go back there again, but as of right now, our relationship is pretty much finished at this point.” Those in WWE said the change back was a creative decision.

Last week we said the Undertaker vs. Jericho match would be their third career singles match. Actually had it taken place, it would have been the fourth as they have done three singles matches, all on television, on Smackdown episodes on November 13, 2009, November 27, 2009 and February 12, 2020. They have never had a PPV singles match and even more strange, have never worked a singles match on a house show.

Both Dwayne Johnson and John Cena had two of the biggest movies in the country over the weekend. “Rampage,” starring Johnson, opened at No. 1, doing $35,753, 093, but it was gigantic overseas. It did $115.7 million in its opening weekend outside North America, which was the 52nd opening weekend of all-time outside the U.S., including $55 million in China. “Blockers,” with Cena, did $10,770,310 in its second week, for a two week total of $37,403,980 in North America. After two weeks, it also did another $15.7 million outside North America.

For this coming week, Raw is 4/23 in St. Louis. Lesnar and Heyman return for the show to push the Saudi Arabia show since it’s the go-home show. Smackdown is 4/24 in Louisville. The only thing announced is a gauntlet match for the cruiserweight title shot in Saudi Arabia.

So this is another unique story. The Meddlesome Brewing Company of Memphis is now offering a “Jerry The King Lager” beer. Lawler noted this week that he was contacted by the brewery who told them they make beer with names familiar to people in Memphis. So they came to him with the idea and they made a deal to use his name. That in and of itself wouldn’t be that weird. Steve Austin and Bret Hart have had signature beers. But Lawler doesn’t drink alcohol, even though Bill Apter once did an angle in his magazines talking about how Lawler had turned to the bottle due to depression once after losing a series of matches. Lawler also did an angle on television once in Memphis where he had lost a match, gotten depressed and was drinking heavily. The next week on television he said it was all a trick to get whoever the heel was at the time to sign for a match with Lawler, who then noted that he doesn’t drink. Lawler claims he’s never had even a sip of alcohol in his entire life. Lawler said, “I’ve never tasted beer, wine or whiskey in my life, and I’m not going to start because one’s named after me.” Hopefully he doesn’t say that in the advertising for the product.

The company announced notes on the 6/18 and 6/19 U.K. shows at Royal Albert Hall. While billed as WWE U.K., it’s really an NXT tour. The 6/18 show will have the beginning of a King of the Ring tournament plus Pete Dunne & Tyler Bate & Trent Seven vs. Adam Cole & Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong. This comes from an angle at WWE Axxess where Strong & O’Reilly beat Bate & Seven thanks to help from Cole, and Dunne made the save. The 6/19 show will feature an NXT women’s title match, a North American title match and an NXT tag team title match.

Expect to hear this phrase a lot going forward since WWE has asked for a trademark, “Global Localization.” I think it’s a marketing thing about WWE being a global company but working on producing market-specific content in different parts of the world.

A correction from last week. WWE actually did two tapings in the U.K. last year, the tournament in January and a TV taping on 5/6 and 5/7 in Norwich.

Jim Ross said that he found out this week that he has a fractured vertebrae. He said that he suffered the injury in September while on the sidelines of the Oklahoma vs. Tulane football game and he got run over. He did checked at the time but the X-rays were inconclusive. He’s not going to miss any of his scheduled events with WWE or New Japan, and was to tape the ending of the New Japan Cup and Sakura Genesis shows this week.

Nigel McGuinness is off for two weeks because he just had a baby girl.

Apollo Crews is going back to that name after the Crews last name being dropped in February and his just being Apollo. The name change was because of a Vince McMahon edict because Nikolas Cruz was in the news for the Parkland, FL school shooting. On Raw this past week and on the web site, they’ve gone back to calling him Apollo Crews.

Corey Graves has a misfire late on Raw when he talked about how Bullet Club is for everyone as Balor made his ring entrance. This actually stemmed from a Tweet by the Young Bucks about how Bullet Club is for everyone, which Balor apparently later used saying Balor Club is for everyone, and Graves, likely tired, made the mental error on live television.

The company will be doing its first show ever in Norway, on 11/1 in Oslo, with a Raw brand event.

For the WrestleMania DVD this year, they are not including the Hall of Fame as part of it for the first time since 2004. But this year they are including the three matches on the pre-show and will include the Raw show the next night. The Blu Ray version will also include highlights of the Smackdown show.

WWE is doing tryouts from 4/18 to 4/21 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, so they are trying extremely hard to get prospective wrestlers from that country as part of their deal. WWE said the tryouts are part of their commitment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Catherine Alexander, the tattoo artist of Randy Orton, has sued WWE and 2K, claiming they used her copyrighted work in the video game for the Orton character.

The stock closed on 4/17 at $38.96 per share, giving the company a market value of $3.006 billion. The company passed the $3 billion market in value this past week, but the stock fell from $39.48 on 4/16, due to a downgrade by JP Morgan. Morgan downgraded the stock to neutral. JP Morgan analyst David Karnovsky said he doesn’t see a high enough increase in television rights fees coming to indicate a higher than $39 price for the stock. The stock is currently trading at 93 times earnings, and 20 times earnings is usual for media stocks. But earnings are expected to increase significantly this year, and have a huge increase in 2020 when the new television deals are signed.

For the most-watched shows of the past week on the WWE Network, they were: 1. WrestleMania 34; 2. WWE 24: Raw 25th anniversary show; 3. NXT Takeover New Orleans; 4. NXT from 4/11; 5. Ride Along with New Day, Gable & Benjamin; 6. This Week in WWE; 7. 205 Live from 4/10; 8. Ride Along with Styles, Roode, Mahal and Sunil Singh; 9. WWE Hall of Fame; 10. WrestleMania kickoff show. An interesting note is that No. 14 was the ECW Barely Legal PPV from 1997, which this past week was the 21st anniversary of.

Notes from the first Superstar shakeup Raw show on 4/16 from Hartford. The show was built around the roster changes more than anything. They drew 7,500 fans, so for a Northeast show, it does indicate a post-Mania lull. For Main Event, Karl Anderson pinned Hawkins to keep his losing streak going. Lince Dorado & Gran Metalik beat TJP & Ariya Daivari. Raw opened with Angle out. Sunil Singh then announced Mahal. The crowd booed him heavily, enough that he came across like a real star. Mahal said his being there secured Raw as the A show, but he’s mad that Angle brought him to the show in an SUV, because he only travels in a limo with a motorcade. Angle said that he never agreed to a limo. Mahal said that he was better than anyone on Smackdown and now he’s better than anyone on Raw. He said that he expects the same perks that Lesnar gets. Angle told him that if he thinks he’s better than anyone else, to prove it. He told Mahal to defend the title right now and invited anyone to come out and go after the U.S. title. Jeff Hardy came out. If you’re wondering about weight exaggerations, Mahal was said to be 238 pounds, and he said when he got his great physique, that he had cut from 238 to 218 and that was his shoot weight. The crowd was into this match, more than anything on the show. They traded a lot of near falls and Hardy won clean with the twist of fate and swanton in 11:26 to take the title. Mahal then did an interview saying that he wasn’t properly warmed up and that this was all a conspiracy against him. He wanted his rematch on the Greatest Royal Rumble show. Jose then showed up with his konga line and was just dancing around. It looked like they were setting up a program between the two of them. Bayley no contest with Banks in 8:54. This wasn’t one of their better matches. Bayley slipped off the ropes on the first spot. It was rough in spots but generally okay, and got good toward the end. They traded hard slaps. Banks had her in the bank statement when The Riott Squad all hit the ring and attacked both of them. Liv Morgan laid out Banks with a codebreaker and Riott laid out Bayley with the riot kick. Authors of Pain, without Ellering, beat Slater & Rhyno in 2:35. There were a few ECW chants for Rhyno. They noted that Akam could have gone to the Olympics in wrestling, which is true. He was the leading super heavyweight in Canada and at his age was expected to compete in the 2016 games and even possibly the 2020 games, but he chose WWE instead. After Akam threw Slater over the top rope, they hit the last chapter on Rhyno and Rezar pinned him. This was pretty much a squash match. Next was Miz TV, and he brought out Owens & Zayn as the new members of the roster. Cole started complaining saying that they couldn’t be drafted to Raw because they weren’t even on the active talent roster as they were fired from Smackdown, and last week, neither won in their shot at making the roster. It all at first seemed to make no sense, but they did explain it later. Still, fans were chanting “Yes” at them being signed, like they liked it. Angle came out and said that he never approved of either of them coming to Raw. Zayn then read a letter from Stephanie who said she was overruling his decision from last week and had signed both of them. They pointed out that Stephanie was Angle’s boss. The idea that Angle wasn’t fired after the Rousey angle and Mania match makes absolutely no sense. They could have done a deal where he had an iron-clad contract, but they couldn’t do that because they had already done storylines threatening to fire him and bullying him and making him back down. Angle made a remark that he thought Stephanie would be doing around-the-clock therapy because Rousey ripped her arm out last week. Angle also said that Miz was done on Raw and had been traded to Smackdown. The story is that Shane & Paige wanted him because Bryan still had pull and Bryan wanted to fight him. Miz told Angle that he had just made Raw the B show. Miz talked about how he and Dallas and Axel would take care of Bryan on Smackdown when Angle said that Dallas and Axel were staying on Raw. That kills them dead. They’ll probably give them a push at first but without Miz, I don’t see it taking. Wyatt & Matt Hardy did a promo. Wyatt & Matt Hardy beat The Revival to earn the match with Sheamus & Cesaro for the Raw tag titles at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Wyatt & Matt did a double-team twist of fate on Wilder after Wyatt had given Sister Abigail to Dawson, and Matt pinned Wilder in 5:25. Breeze & Fandango showed up backstage as The Fashion Police. Breeze said they were there to clean up the mean streets of Raw. Sheamus & Cesaro showed up. Breeze made fun of the color coordination of their ring outfits and said they were wearing dresses. They wrote up tickets for both of them for fashion violations. Angle was backstage with Rousey. Natalya then showed up. Rousey got all excited and said that Rousey was her training partner and they hugged and are now being portrayed as friends. Jax came out to be at the announcers desk for Moon vs. James. Bliss was supposed to be there but never came out. Bliss was shown in the locker room and cut a promo saying that Jax was a big bully. She noted there would be a rematch at Backlash. Moon pinned James in 4:37. This wasn’t good and the crowd wasn’t into it. It was amazing just how different the reaction to Moon was as compared to last week. Moon won with the eclipse off the top rope. The finish itself looked great. Owens & Zayn were backstage complaining about the idea of a mystery opponent in the ten-man tag main event. Zayn told Owens that they need to get rid of Strowman. Miz came out and asked about Shane. They ran down Shane to him. Miz then told Dallas & Axel to focus on the match tonight which teased problems for later. Ziggler came out and was doing a promo when O’Neil, Crews and Brooke all came out. O’Neil & Crews tried to recruit Ziggler for Titus Worldwide. Titus got no reaction for this. Ziggler said that he didn’t come alone. McIntyre came out and they threw O’Neil into the post and Ziggler superkicked O’Neil. Fans chanted for McIntyre. They did a combination Claymore kick by McIntyre and superkick by Ziggler on Crews, which looks like their new finishing move. Even though Ziggler & McIntyre were clearly meant to be heels out of this, everyone cheered them. Reigns came out and was booed heavily. He was noticeably smaller, which probably means he was banged up so badly in the Mania match that he couldn’t do any lifting. It really felt like if Reigns does win, that they missed the boat timing wise and this will be so anticlimactic. And the people aren’t going to accept him. I really felt like he needed to run. Reigns talked about winning the title in cage match, but it came off badly because they did nothing in the Mania match to set up a cage match and Lesnar won clean, without any running away during the match or any outside interference, so there’s no storyline reason for a rematch or a cage match. That only makes it worse if Reigns wins because it comes across like he was given another shot he didn’t deserve. Joe came out and did Lesnar’s promo for him. He said that Reigns didn’t get the job done at Mania, and he never will. He said not once, not twice, but every time he stepped into the ring with Lesnar, he failed. Reigns said that is what Lesnar did, but challenged Joe to get his lazy fat ass down to the ring. Joe went to the ring, then backed off. Then he went back, and backed off again and said he would see Reigns on his own time at Backlash. Natalya beat Rose in 2:48 with the sharpshooter. Natalya was the clear babyface here. Deville jumped Natalya after the match. Rousey walked down to the ring rather than ran, for the save. Rose & Deville at first left. But Deville got back in the ring to challenge Rousey. Rousey took her apart with punches and finally did a judo trip takedown. Rousey’s stuff didn’t look that good here and she wasn’t anywhere close to as over as you’d think watching Mania and Raw last week. But it was short enough that I don’t think it was a negative in the least. They announced Corbin coming. Breeze & Fandango beat Sheamus & Cesaro in 3:47. Breeze pinned Cesaro with a roll-up. Cesaro had went to make a tag to Sheamus, but Fandango pulled Sheamus off the apron. Elias did an interview with Renee Young. He called her “Rachel.” Elias said that he doesn’t do small-time anymore and doesn’t perform in places that don’t matter. He then said this dirtbag of a town, Hartford, definitely doesn’t matter. Elias said that he was the biggest star in WWE and a guy like Lashley doesn’t even belong in he same arena as him. He said Lashley should sit in the stands and worship Elias like everyone else does. He then wanted to perform strictly for Young. She acted kind of repulsed and pitched to the desk. I wonder if this will be the start of a build for Ambrose vs. Elias because of Elias making Young uneasy. Rollins & Lashley & Balor & Strowman & Roode beat Miz & Dallas & Axel & Owens & Zayn in 22:10. This wasn’t bad, but didn’t have the hear nor was it as good as most matches of this type in WWE. The crowd was really into Strowman but he wasn’t even in until the last few minutes. It was weird seeing Strowman in the corner playing total face and wanting to get tagged. It kind of contradicted the whole Strowman loner monster portrayal that god him over so big. Strowman finally hot tagged in. He was supposed to miss a charge and go shoulder first into the post, except Dallas didn’t get out of the corner so Strowman hit Dallas and not the post, but the announcers sold like he did what was planned. Rollins did a tope on Axel which led to a stream of give moves by everyone. Strowman dropkicked Miz. Miz got to his corner, but Axel jumped off the apron and wouldn’t tag in. He went to Dallas, and Dallas refused to tag in. Dallas & Axel waled out on him. Strowman then pinned Miz with a powerslam to win it.

Notes from the 4/17 Smackdown tapings in Providence. This was mostly introducing the new talent. Unlike with Raw, all of then new talent was either there or introduced in video packages. The show drew 8,000 fans which is good for a Tuesday taping. Dillinger pinned Primo Colon in the dark match opener. The show started with Styles out. He said he dreamed about facing Nakamura at WrestleMania. In the end, he said that he succeeded and Nakamura failed, and when he failed, he showed his true colors. He said that Nakamura isn’t just an artist, he’s a con artist. He said that last week he was given another dream mach with Bryan, but Nakamura ruined that match. He said he wouldn’t lave the ring until Nakamura came out. He said that he knows that Nakamura has suddenly forgotten how to speak English, but he’s not here for a conversation, and he wants a fight. English came out, which led to loud Rusev Day chants. English said that Nakamura is on vacation because he wanted to be anywhere but Providence. He challenged Styles to face Rusev. Styles agreed. So Styles was in there with a guy everyone was cheering. The match only went :29 got him in the calf crusher right away and English interfered for the DQ. They were both beating on Styles until Bryan made the save. Bryan & Styles cleaned house together. Shane McMahon, who is clearly still in charge so they’ve completely forgotten that leave of absence story, was backstage with Paige. Paige was doing a Teddy Long imitation and said that he was turning what happened into a tag match with Bryan & Styles vs. Rusev & English as the main event. She was doing the Teddy Long dance and left. Then Shane did it as well. Benjamin came out and talked about how he wished Gable well on Twitter, and then said his Twitter was hacked and that he never praised Gable. He said he never needed Gable, and Gable needed him. He said that he asked Paige to give him top competition. Orton came out and they teased Orton as his opponent. But then Jeff Hardy came out. Hardy beat Benjamin in 8:19 with a twist of fate and swanton. Hardy mostly sold his left knee. The crowd was into the near falls. Miz did a taped interview with his wife and daughter and said he would be there live next week. They announced Rose & Deville coming. Harper pinned Jey Uso in :47. Weird booking to have the challenger lose so quickly in almost squash form before the title match. Jey went to hit Rowan with a tope. Jimmy superkicked rowan. Harper then hit the discus clothesline on Jey for the pin. Jimmy got the sledge hammer and hit Harper in he gut. But Harper then threw him into the steps. Harper & Rowan beat down the Usos and got both sledge hammers. Naomi ran down all crying and begged them to stop. They looked at each other and walked away. Samoa Joe beat Sin Cara with a choke in 1:32. Joe did an interview talking about Orton, Bryan and Styles. He said that he would put Reigns out to pasture for good. The crowd cheered him for that. He said that he was going to win the title in Saudi Arabia, and if Reigns beats Lesnar, he would beat Reigns and bring the Universal title to Smackdown. They announced Sanity was coming, but for whatever reason, decided not to bring up Nikki Cross in the group. Bryan did an interview and said that the whole time he was out, he was watching Styles because he thinks Styles is the best. He said that he knew he would face Styles again. Cass showed up and they shot it to make it look ridiculous. Cass is about a foot taller (6-8 to 5-8) but they shot it to accentuate that. Cass called him little man. Next was the Carmella title win celebration. She called it a Mellabration. The fans were cheering her so she shut them down saying that the fans were just jumping on her bandwagon now that she’s champion. She said that they never supported her before she won the title and doesn’t want them supporting her now. She talked about beating Charlotte. She is now calling her title belt Cleopatra. Charlotte came out. Charlotte said she learned from the dirtiest player in the game so she wasn’t mad that Carmella cashed in her opportunity. She said Carmella capitalized on a situation and congratulated her. Kay & Royce came out and both attacked Charlotte again. Lynch made the save. Charlotte beat Kay in 7:54 with the figure eight. Lynch and Royce were at ringside. Carmella attacked Charlotte after the match and then Carmella, Lynch and Royce all beat down Lynch. Asuka made the save and cleaned house, and laid out Kay with a high kick. They announced Anderson & Gallows as coming in, along with Sheamus & Cesaro doing an interview about coming in. The New Day was walking about backstage. They saw R-Truth. Dillinger then confronted him and the two acted like they were going to go at it, and then they hugged. R-Truth thought they were all on Raw and it was Monday. They announced Almas & Vega coming in, which makes sense then for him to lose the NXT title. Styles & Bryan beat English & Rusev via DQ in 12:34. The match was Styles getting beaten down and teasing the hot tag to Bryan. After Styles hit the Pele kick, Bryan hot tagged in. Bryan did the Yes kicks on Rusev and gave him a running knee. Nakamura then gave Styles a low blow. Cass then got in the ring and kicked Bryan in he face. Nakamura then did an interview once again saying he “No speak English.” For 205 Live, it opened with Ali pinning Ariya Daivari in 7:43 after the 054. There was no crowd reaction to this match. Daivari gave Ali a spinebuster n the floor at one point. Drake Maverick said that Buddy Murphy had earned a title match and it was going to be in Saudi Arabia, but then said that he missed weight and wouldn’t be getting the chance. They showed Murphy and he was listed at 207.7. He wanted two more hours to weigh in but Maverick wouldn’t let him. So he announced a gauntlet for the title match next week. Gallagher & Kendrick beat Kevin Ditebrese & Vinny Salice when Kendrick used the captain’s hook submission on Ditebrese in 3:55. Ali did an interview wanting another shot. Gulak did an interview and he’s back to doing his anti-flying shtick. He wanted once again to create a better 205 Live and was back in his suit looking like a political candidate. He said he wanted a title shot and hinted about being in the gauntlet. Dorado & Metalik beat Itami & Tozawa in a tornado match in 15:35. Good action match. The crowd got really into it, far more than most 205 Live main events, by the last few minutes. Dorado and Metalik did a double tope to start the match. Itami went after Dorado’s mask. Dorado & Metalik did a double top rope Asai moonsault. Tozawa did a tope on Metalik. Metalik did a sunset flip power bomb off a tower of doom spot. This was the spot that got the crowd invested into the mach. Tozawa had Dorado pinned after a senton off the top but Metalik saved. The crowd booed that. Dorado did a double Lethal injection on both of them. Tozawa kicked Itami when metalik moved. Metalik used an elbow off the top rope on Itami and Dorado used the shooting star press on Tozawa and Metalik & Dorado scored simultaneous pins. The dark match main event saw Orton beat Nakamura via DQ for a low blow. A ton of fans left and this wasn’t much of a match. Nakamura set up the Kinshasa after the match, but Styles ran in and attacked Nakamura. Styles and Nakamura posed together and made some jokes about getting hit in the testicles.

Notes from the 4/11 NXT show. This was the usual post-Takeover show with mostly recaps from the show, two matches and a few new interviews. It opened with Kairi Sane pinning Lacey Evans in 8:45 with the elbow off the top. There were some rough spots early but the crowd got really into it a few minutes in. Evans is coming along and has more presence in the ring than most of the women on the roster. Cathy Kelly did an interview with the Undisputed Era. Well, sort of. She asked for an explanation of why Roderick Strong turned on Pete Dunne. Strong didn’t want to talk about it and they all walked away. To follow up from Raw, there was an Authors of Pain interview. Paul Ellering came up and asked what happened, as he said he provided the game plan that got them the NXT tag titles and got them to the finals of the Dusty Rhodes classic. They told him that this chapter has ended and walked out on him again. Shayna Baszler did an interview. She didn’t say much. It was weird because it was almost a babyface thing because they asked her about Ronda Rousey being at ringside for her match and she said how Rousey was her best friend. She said that it’s no longer about who gets the most compliments on their hair and their ring outfit, but who can really wrestle. Ember Moon did an interview and said that she was sorry that she left NXT with Baszler as champion, but said that the women in NXT will be able to handle this situation. Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli went to a no contest with Heavy Machinery in 8:05. Match was fine. Dozovic has a lot of charisma and the crowd was into his hot tag. Then the War Raiders came out. The crowd popped like crazy far them. They took both teams out and finished laying out Sabbatelli with fallout.

There were no main roster house shows this week due to the extensive scheduled everyone had last week in New Orleans. The only weekend stuff were two NXT house shows. The 4/13 show in Venice, FL, drew 300 fans. Ricochet pinned Chad Lail. Vanessa Borne & Reina Gonzalez beat Steffanie Newell (Nixon Newell, in her first match back since knee surgery) & Dakota Kai. This was her first match with the promotion as she had the surgery after being signed. She worked under her real name and wore a matching ring outfit with Kai, so they are apparently being groomed to be a tag team. Christopher Dijak pinned Mars Wang. Kassius Ohno pinned Brennan Williams. The Street Profits beat TM 61. Buddy Murphy pinned Lio Rush. Rush once again had Babatunde Aiyegbusi as his second at ringside so it looks like they are grooming the two to be a package with the 6-foot-9 second with the barely 5-foot wrestler. Fabian Aichner, with Marcel Barthel in his corner, beat Jeet Rama. The War Raiders beat Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch. Main event saw Shayna Baszler retain the women’s title over Candice LeRae. Baszler wouldn’t let go of the choke after the match and Newell and Kai ran in to save her. It turned into a six-way brawl where the faces of Newell & Kai & LeRae cleaned house on Baszler & Borne & Gonzalez.

4/14 in Cocoa, FL, drew 150 fans. Raul Mendoza pinned Lio Rush with a standing Spanish fly. LeRae pinned Aliyah with a springboard moonsault. Street Profits again beat TM 61 with a Ford frog splash. Kona Reeves did a promo building up his main event later against Aleister Black. Aiyegbusi beat Marcel Barthel via DQ when Fabian Aichner ran in. Both beat on Aiyegbusi until Rush made the save. Authors of Pain & Jessie Elaban beat Cezar Bononi & Adrian Jaoude & Taynari Conti. Ricochet pinned Velveteen Dream with a roll-up. EC 3 pinned Mars Wang after a TKO. EC 3 then challenged anyone in the back. No Way Jose came out and pinned him quickly with a pop up punch. Dakota Kai won a four-way over Vanessa Borne, Nikki Cross and Bianca Belair. They announced the winner of this match gets a shot at Baszler’s title next month when they return to Cocoa. After winning, Baszler came out and told Kai that she was in trouble. Black pinned Reeves in he main event. Black won with a new submission called the Anti-Cross. He then hit a black mass on Reeves after the match.

The first house show since WrestleMania was the Raw show on 4/18 in Cape Town, South Africa. Matt Hardy & Wyatt won a three-way over Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro. That means the promo on Smackdown with Sheamus & Cesaro was actually taped at Raw the night before, so they got a heads up. Most talent was told of their moving the day of the move. Alexander pinned Gulak to retain the cruiserweight title. Bayley pinned Banks. Bayley worked as the face in this match. Rollins pinned Balor in a match where both worked as faces to keep the IC title, so Miz didn’t go on tour. O’Neil & Crews beat Dallas & Axel. Jax pinned Deville to keep the women’s title. The main event saw Reigns win a three-way over Strowman and Elias when Reigns put Strowman through a table and pinned Elias after a spear.