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December 11, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: UFC 218 review, Impact management changes, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 December 11, 2017

 

UFC 218 PPV POLL RESULTS

Thumbs up 180 (100.0%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 0 (00.0%)

 

BEST MATCH POLL

Yancy Medeiros vs. Alex Oliveira 98

Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje 70

 

WORST MATCH POLL

Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis 76

Felice Herrig vs. Cortney Casey 12

Based on phone calls and e-mails to the Observer as of Tuesday, 12/5.

 

UFC ran three shows over the past two weeks, all notable for a variety of different reasons.

The first show was 11/25 in Shanghai, China, at the Mercedes Benz Arena, a show far more notable due to its location, and for the surprising crowd reactions, than pretty much anything that took place on the show.

The second show, on 12/1 from Las Vegas at the Park Theater, was built around crowning the company’s first champion in its 12th division, the women’s flyweight (125 pound) weight class.

The lesson of the show, hardly a secret if you’ve followed the business patterns, is that even though from a sports standpoint there are actually too few titles, not too many, for fair competition, from a business standpoint the opposite is true. Obviously with women, a gap from 115 pounds to 135 isn’t fair to a lot of women who naturally weigh anywhere from 132 to 145 pounds, meaning they have to go to unhealthy extremes to hit 115, but are too small for the 150 to 160 pound women who cut to make 135. Unlike with the 145 pound division, created so Cris Cyborg could have a belt and with no other competitors, there are a ton of fighters who fit in that division.

The decision to create the title out of the Ultimate Fighter, using mostly unknown women, only one of whom was even in the UFC (Lauren Murphy), and she wasn’t a big name, holding a tournament did not resonate with the public. Ratings for the series hit all-time lows. The finals drew the single lowest number of viewers for a UFC live fight show ever on FS 1 in prime time.

Roxanne Modafferi, the Miss Congeniality winner of the first Ultimate Fighter for women show, that one a big ratings success with Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate as coaches, was the only reason there was a modicum of interest in the finals, which nearly took place with neither of the actual tournament finalists in the fight.

The 12/2 show, a PPV from the Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, looked good on paper, was even better, featuring two potential matches of the year.

Still, it was the latest example of something proven regularly in wrestling, boxing and MMA. It’s about great personalities, not great fights. A show featuring the match for the self-proclaimed All-Violence championship, as well as a main card that featured nobody ranked lower than No. 6 in their respective division, with one title and perhaps a few title shots at stake, garnered the same interest as every other PPV this year that didn’t include Jon Jones or Georges St-Pierre.

But all of these shows could mean a lot more for the future.

China is an intriguing market. The UFC sold out with 15,148 fans. We don’t really know what that means without a gate figure attached and what was and wasn’t paid.

What we do know is the audience was not what was expected. The China audience was like the Dublin audience or the Rio audience, without the insanity or booing if fights were boring. In fact, if you could bottle a crowd and bring it to every show, this would be that crowd. They were there early. They reacted big toward every fight. They were smart as heel, reacting to the most subtle of moves. While they wanted their countrymen to win, they respected everyone, and booed no one.

You don’t hear much about MMA in China. There is nobody highly ranked from the country, but there are a lot of people who came to see MMA, not people coming to see street fighting, brawling, blood and stars like in many new markets. What this means for the future is anyone’s guess. It’s extremely difficult for an American company to make money in China, or take money out of China. Most go because it sounds good on paper when you keep repeating phrases like 1.38 billion people and world’s largest emerging economy and repeating the statistics that drive companies into bankruptcy saying things like if we can just get five percent of those people to pay for our sport, we’ll have 69 million paying fans, or even 0.5 percent runs dollars signs through people’s heads.

And they had their people they thought were stars, like 21-year-old Wu Yanan, a woman bantamweight who was pretty much dominated in losing to Gina Mazany, or 19-year-old Song Yadong, the name that will inspire hundreds of tiring bad jokes as long as he’s around, who looked spectacular in winning over an opponent who probably wasn’t very good, but got a reaction like he was Georges St-Pierre at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

And there was Song Kenan, a welterweight who knocked out Bobby Nash in 15 seconds, making it his ninth first round knockout in 16 pro fights. Or Wang Guan, who came in with a 20-1-1 record, and beat a very credible UFC fighter in Alex Caceres.

Or there were fans chanting for Li Jingliang, who has been on UFC shows in the past, but in winning his fight, acted like he had just won the world title in a Rocky movie, immediately running out of the cage to hug his wife and daughter many rows deep in the audience.

So repeat after me. There are 1.389 billion people, and all we need is one who is a good enough athlete to win a championship and win a championship, and there are untold riches behind these walls. But all those stats that sound so great on paper, are just as likely to cause people to go broke trying, but that kind of math logic doesn’t work in real business. But still, in the long run, based on the reaction to this show, you’d be a fool not to pursue it even harder.

The UFC sent out a release regarding the 11/25 show in Shanghai, China, saying the sellout of 15,128 fans at the Mercedes-Benz Arena was an MMA record the country (an implied knock at the One promotion which got into mainland China first and publicly sends out releases claiming Asia domination of the MMA market), that it got more than one million views on PPTV, which is a sports streaming service and another one million after the fact on VOD. They also claimed that the Michael Bisping vs. Kelvin Gastelum fight, which took place in the early morning, still drew the largest live viewing audience on Fight Pass for any individual fight from Asia.

Oh, and the only match that anyone outside of China knew or cared about, Gastelum knocked out Bisping in 2:30. It seemed ridiculous for Bisping to fight three weeks after the Georges St-Pierre fight. It was a sign of desperation for UFC to put him in. To be fair, the left that Gastelum threw and landed perfectly would have finished anyone, but it was not a good thing considering Bisping may have lost by submission three weeks earlier to St-Pierre, but it was a hard punch that set the submission up. But Bisping got one extra payday he didn’t count on before his retirement fight which right now is scheduled for 3/17 in London at the O2 Arena.

The 16-woman tournament came down to Sijara Eubanks, who came in as the No. 14 seed, a 32-year-old from Springfield, MA who came in with a 2-2 career record; and Nicco Montano, the No. 12 speed, a 28-year old Navajo from Arizona who came into the tournament with a 3-2 record.

Eubanks was known during the show for having trouble making weight. In her first match, she had to cut off quite a bit of her hair, going from thick hair to a Mohawk. The second time, she nearly fainted several times. The third time, she was brought a weight-cutting coach, and in examining. Many predicted she wouldn’t be able to make weight, and the day before the fight, she didn’t.

Montano almost didn’t make it as well. She suffered a broken foot two days after the show ended. She aggravated it two days before the show. She had some treatment done, was considering pulling out, and then mentally just said she was fighting hurt. Not to mention she described her family as dirt poor, and she was getting $100,000 for the fight.

Modafferi, 35, a woman’s MMA pioneer who lived in Japan for years, fought Montano in the finals. Modaferri was deemed nice enough, but not good enough to fight in UFC when she was 31. Amazingly, she is actually a much better fighter now, but a career record of 21-14 at 35 screams out anything but world champion.

Montano beat her handily on scores of 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46. Still, it was a compelling fight. Modaferri has a unique quality where you just want to see her succeed, even though deep down you know no matter how hard she tries, she’s just not nearly the athlete than most of the fighters are. Late in the fifth round Modaferri nearly finished Montano with an armbar, and Modafferi, while losing, was competitive in every round and made it a great fight.

The other featured player on the show was Sean O’Malley (9-0), who was one of the big stars of this summer’s Dana White Tuesday Night Contenders series. A tall bantamweight, O’Malley talks big, looks memorable with his wild hair, and is stylistically very entertaining with all kinds of spinning and side kicks. He took a decision from Terrion Ware, but the question is whether Ware has an iron jaw or O’Malley doesn’t have great power. O’Malley kept connecting with cool looking blows, but Ware was walking through them. But O’Malley connected enough to win rounds one and three in a fun fight.

The show drew 501,000 viewers, making it the lowest number of viewers ever to watch a live UFC prime time show on FS 1, breaking the record of the recent Lyoto Machida vs. Derek Brunson show of 548,000. It also averaged 5,271 viewers streaming on various platforms. The peak, for the five-round title fight, which was after 1 a.m. on a Friday night, was 566,000 viewers. The prelims before the fight did 361,000, also the lowest ever for prime time prelims on FS 1. The last hour of prelims and first hour-and-a-half of the main card went head-to-head with Bellator on Spike.

The final show was most noteworthy not for the incredible fights like Yancy Medeiros vs. Alex Oliveira, which Joe Rogan immediately said was one of the greatest fights he’s ever seen in his life, an Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje fight which on paper looked can’t miss and was every bit of that and more, and Max Holloway’s main event win over Jose Aldo. UFC made the decision to give all four men in those two fights $50,000 bonuses.

It was for a split second, in the heavyweight fight with Francis Ngannou connecting with a left hook that lifted Overeem up off the canvas and he was out cold in mid-air before falling. With that moment, Ngannou may have become that elusive breakthrough star that nobody saw coming, and his heavyweight title fight with Stipe Miocic is suddenly a big fight.

Dana White talked about Miocic vs. Ngannou headlining the 1/20 show in Boston, and days later, the negotiations were finalized, with that show having two title matches, with Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir for the light heavyweight title.

Unless you have a major star, which right now means, Jon Jones, St-Pierre or Conor McGregor, UFC PPVs seem like a 250,000 maximum. This should beat that. Ngannou has that Mike Tyson aura of ridiculous punching power that nobody has seen as a heavyweight, plus huge size at 6-foot-4 ½ and 262 pounds. But he still has to win the title.

Ngannou also will receive a bonus according to White, because that was perhaps the most memorable knockout of the year.

Holloway emphatically made the statement that the era of Jose Aldo is over and not coming back, when he waited for Aldo to tire in the third round, got into a slugfest with him, and put him away. Holloway, who turned 26 two days after the fight, won his 12th fight in a row, putting him behind only Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, St-Pierre and Demetrious Johnson in the UFC consecutive win standings.

After, he pushed for a fight with McGregor, which he should have, but it’s not likely to happen, at least anytime soon. More likely, he should face Frankie Edgar, his original opponent here, who pulled out due to an injury.

There was another top contender fight where Henry Cejudo won a decision over Sergio Pettis which once again almost emphatically told you a lesson in sports vs. entertainment.

The fight was weak, at least in comparison to most others on one of the year’s best shows. Cejudo’s wrestling was great, and he controlled the fight with it and won an easily 30-27 decision. The crowd booed it at times. But there were good exchanges in the second and third rounds. When it was over, even though it was a PPV and it wasn’t running late, UFC didn’t even give Cejudo interview time. So you have a gold medal winning wrestler who is going for a title shot, who has the wrestling edge, uses it to win, and is punished for winning in the smartest method possible. Fans have the right to boo. The promotion even has the right to make it harder for a guy to get big fights if they don’t have a crowd pleasing style. But Georges St-Pierre used that same style to become one of the biggest drawing cards in history, so being a great wrestler and using it is far from the kiss of death. But if St-Pierre was never allowed to do promos, he’d have never had a shot of being the draw he was. And it’s not like Cejudo was going to go out there and thank his Lord Jesus Christ and say he’ll fight whoever Sean Shelby and Dana White want him to.

When it was over, White was saying that he wanted Demetrious Johnson to face T.J. Dillashaw next in a battle of the flyweight vs. bantamweight champion.

The show drew what was reported as a sellout of 17,587 fans, but those live said that there were empty seats. The gate of $2 million is also lower than an attendance like that paid at UFC prices would generate.

The prelims on FS 1 did 694,000 viewers on television and 8,968 streaming live, peaking at 841,000 for the Medeiros vs. Alex Oliveira fight.

Very early PPV estimates are in the 230,000 range, or pretty much what was expected going in. Given that the undercard looked to be one of the best with everyone ranked, and the action on paper looked great going in, the show doing numbers at that level tells you that you can talk about what on paper are great fights, or fights with ranked fighters up and down the show, or fights that could lead directly to title fights, and none of that moves the numbers appreciably. It’s a star power game, which is why stars have so much leverage and value.

The PPV went against the Miguel Cotto retirement fight against Sadam Ali on HBO, which did 944,000 viewers for the main event.

1. Justin Willis (6-1) beat Allen Crowder (9-3-1) in 2:33 of a heavyweight fight. Willis landed hard and often with punches and knees until Crowder went down and it was over.

2. Dominick Reyes (8-0) beat Jeremy Kimball (15-7) in 3:39 in a light heavyweight fight. Kimball landed punches early and got a high slam. But Reyes took him down, got his back threw hard elbows and sunk in the choke.

3. Abdul Razak Alhassan (8-1) beat Sabah Homasi (11-7) in 4:21 of a welterweight fight. Homasi took him down and was landing hard elbows. Alhassan got two takedowns but Homasi kept getting up. Then both started throwing with no regard, Alhassan landed and Homasi went down. It was then stopped although Homasi was furious since he was knocked down but didn’t appear to be hurt.

4. Amanda Bobby Cooper (3-3) beat Angela Magana (11-9) at 4:34 of the second round in a women’s bantamweight fight. Cooper dominated. The most notable thing, which actually got the fight worldwide media, is that Magana’s sports bra fell off her and her breast was briefly exposed. It’s been edited off all replays as if it never happened and it was not on television but on Fight Pass. After the fight restarted, Cooper took her down and was landing punches from the mount. In the second round, Cooper took her down and landed punches and elbows until it was stopped.

5. Felice Herrig (14-6) beat Cortney Casey (7-5) via split decision on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in a women’s strawweight fight. To show how close this was, media scores were 50 percent for Herrig, 42 percent for Casey and eight percent even. I had Herrig winning the first two rounds close and Casey in the third, to show how close it was, the judges were split on every round, and every round easily could have gone either way. Both were landing in the first, Casey getting the better of it but Herrig powered her down. Casey used a Kimura too reverse to the top and Herrig got back up. Then they traded some more until the end of the round. In the second, both were landing, but it was kind of slow. I should mention the crowd was doing the “Whoo” all through this fight which is a new thing at UFC, to the point that even Joe Rogan, who hates pro wrestling, had to bring up that the place was filled with Ric Flair fans. Casey had swelling around both eyes by the third round. The crowd was back to doing “whoos” in the third. Casey threw her down, landed a knee and more punches. Casey was furious when the decision went against her, but you can’t be mad about a fight this close.

6. David Teymur (7-1) beat Drakkar Klose (8-1-1) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in a lightweight fight. Teymur landed more in the first. Klose would stand there and dare him to punch and Teymur wouldn’t do anything. The ref warned Teymur for passivity. Klose got a takedown but Teymur got right up with no damage. In the second round, Teymur landed a lot of body kicks and ahead kick. Both were blocking takedowns of the other. Teymur finally got a late takedown. Klose landed some early. Klose took Teymur down and was holding Teymur by the trunks. The ref didn’t see it. This was like 70s pro wrestling. Teymur got back up and landed a lot of body kicks to take the round.

7. Yancy Medeiros (15-4, 1 no contest) beat Alex Oliveira (17-4-1, 2 no contests) at 2:02 of the third round in a welterweight fight. Just unreal. Oliveira started strong until Medeiros dropped him with a left. Medeiros went for a guillotine but Oliveira came back with knees to the body. Medeiros landed a punch that broke Oliveira’s nose. Oliveira at this point was bleeding allover the place. Then Oliveira dropped Medeiros with a right. Oliveira dropped him a second time and was landing hard punches and Medeiros was in a lot of trouble. Medeiros was no bleeding. Oliveira was landing elbows and Medeiros came back with elbows. Both were landing big punches to end the round. In the second round, it was Medeiros who hurt him with big shots. Both guys were exhausted. Oliveira went for a takedown but Medeiros reversed in mid-move and landed on top and was dropping elbows to the head. It was even going into the third. Oliveira started landing hard punches and got a supelx takedown. Medeiros reversed to the top and got up and was landing punches. He knocked down Oliveira and the fight was then stopped.

8. Paul Felder (15-3) beat Charles Oliveira (22-8, 1 no contest) at 4:06 of the second round in a lightweight fight. Oliveira got a takedown and went for a guillotine. He also worked for a choke. Felder was in a lot of trouble here but managed to escape. Felder reversed on the ground late in the round. In the second round, Felder blocked the takedown attempt. Felder hurt him with elbows that put Oliveira down. He was landing elbow after elbow on the ground until it was stopped.

9. Tecia Torres (10-1) beat Michelle Waterson (14-6) on scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 in a women’s strawweight fight. I don’t know how you could score round two for Torres and get 30-27, but Torres clearly won rounds one and three. Waterson took her down and got her back. Torres got up, landed more and outpowered Waterson with punches from the clinch and elbows. In the second round, Waterson got a headlock takedown. Torres tried some stuff on the bottom but didn’t come close. In the third round, both were landing. Torres was getting the better of the exchanges. Waterson got tired and Torres took her down and landed elbows and punches to clearly take the deciding round.

10. Eddie Alvarez (29-5, 1 no contest) beat Justin Gaethje (18-1) at 3:59 of the third round in a match for the so-called All-Violence championship in the lightweight division. They went back-and-forth. Alvarez was landing more punches but Gaethje’s low kicks were taking out Alvarez’s leg. Alvarez got a takedown in the first round but Gaethje got right up. Alvarez was hurting Gaethje with body shots to take out his wind, while Gaethje was taking out Alvarez’s leg. Alvarez came out strong in the second round with big shots and clearly won the round. In the third round, Alvarez was swollen badly on the right cheek. Gaethje started landing low kicks and Alvarez’s leg was about to go out. It was Alvarez’s punches vs. Gaethje’s low kicks. Alvarez got a takedown but Gaethje got back up and was landing low kicks. Gaethje finally put Alvarez down with a low kick as his leg gave out. Alvarez was in trouble but landed a knee that put Gaethje down to finish the fight.

11. Henry Cejudo (12-2) beat Sergio Pettis (16-3) on straight 30-27 scores in a flyweight fight. Cejudo took him down and moved into side control and got his back. Cejudo controlled Pettis with punches and knees on the ground and kept him grounded. In the second round, both landed body kicks until Pettis tripped and Cejudo jumped on top. Cejudo landed some punches from the top. Pettis got up and missed a spin kick. In the third round, both exchanged punches. Pettis was landing better but Cejudo took him down again. Cejudo actually did a fist drop. Cejudo got his back, but Pettis was back up. Both traded some at the end.

12. Francis Ngannou (11-1) beat Alistair Overeem (43-1, 1 no contest) at 1:42 in a heavyweight fight. They were in a clinch and the ref broke them up. Ngannou landed the left hook and Overeem was out. Ngannou landed one more punch on the ground that was quite scary. Ngannou became the fourth fighter in UFC history to start his UFC career with six straight finish victories. The others were Ronda Rousey, Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin.

13. Max Holloway (19-3) beat Jose Aldo (26-4) at 4:51 of the third round to retain the UFC featherweight title. The first round was slow. It wasn’t much as Holloway was laying back and Aldo was aggressive but not that effective. In the second round, Aldo started with the low kicks. Aldo was landing more and even threw Holloway down. Late in the round Holloway got more aggressive and both were landing hard punches and Aldo was starting to fade. Even coming out, Aldo seemed like he just lost his confidence. Aldo came out aggressive in the third round. Both started landing punches and Holloway started picking it up. Holloway landed two head kicks. There was another big exchange of punches with both landing hard shots. Holloway got the better of it and Aldo was in trouble. Holloway took control with all kinds of punches. Aldo was bleeding badly. Aldo was getting the worst of the exchanges. Aldo went for a takedown, but Holloway was stronger and landed on top. Holloway kept landing punches form the top and Aldo was covered in blood and it was stopped.


Impact Wrestling announced on 12/5 that Don Callis and Scott D’Amore have been hired as Executive Vice Presidents and will essentially be calling the wrestling shots, reporting to company President Ed Nordholm.

Callis, 53, has been in talks with Impact for several months, and this deal has been expected to be made. A connection is that he’s from Winnipeg, and the Asper family that owns Anthem is also from Winnipeg. Callis’ name had been mentioned for a power position here ever since Jeff Jarrett was let go.

As of right now, Callis will be keeping his job with New Japan Pro Wrestling, but he will now be a liaison between the two companies. Callis noted it was settled a while ago that he’d keep working for New Japan if he took the Impact job. He also has money due for his role in putting together the Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho Tokyo Dome match.

Impact is attempting to work with both ROH and New Japan as far as exchanging talent goes and working together in whatever fashion can be beneficial. As of right now, there are no plans for talent trading with New Japan, but that can always change.

When D’Amore was in Japan for Impact as they had talent in Pro Wrestling NOAH a couple of months back, he went to a New Japan show and apologized to the company about the treatment of their talent by TNA (most notably Kazuchika Okada, as well as Tetsuya Naito), noting that all of those from that regime, whether it was Jeff Jarrett, Vince Russo, Dixie Carter or Eric Bischoff, are no longer there and it’s a completely new company with new ownership.

One thing for certain is that with Callis in a power position, that Bruce Prichard won’t be back, although that seems to have been already in the cards since Jeff Jarrett left. When they did the angle on television getting rid of Prichard, he was to return as a heel manager, but there have been so many changes since that angle was shot and his name hadn’t been mentioned since, but this would probably lock the door on that one happening because of past heat between the two from WWE.

Callis and D’Amore will be part of a three-man creative team, with Sonjay Dutt, who remains head of talent relations and day-to-day creative. Callis and D’Amore will also manage and execute company business. Callis is unlikely to become an on-screen character as when he was studying the company since a deal was expected to go down, he felt that Jim Cornette was a great performer but felt the authority figure regularly appearing on a wrestling show gimmick was played out.

Others working as producers who will have input into creative include Jeremy Borash, Jimmy Jacobs and Chris Park (Abyss).

Both John Gaburick and Wayne Keown (Dutch Mantell), who had been key players in creative in the past, will officially be done with the company effective 12/31.

Anthem has given Nordholm the directive to get the company into a break-even position, and as difficult as that sounds, the belief is with enough cost-cutting, which means getting rid of people with high salaries, and having few if any full-time contracted wrestlers, use guys on daily deals and no longer compete with ROH or WWE money for young talent that everyone wants, perhaps that is possible. But the talent level will decline. The company has its fixed income sources, mostly the Sony Six television deal from India and the other international deals. The company had talked a few months ago about getting back in the house show business, but after booking a group of shows in the New York area that didn’t draw well, they have scheduled nothing since.

Callis worked as a pro wrestler for Tony Condello on Winnipeg independent shows starting in 1989, and worked shows throughout Canada until a 1996 to 1999 run with WWE as a manager, and then worked as a heel television executive with ECW from 1999 to 2001.

He was scheduled to be part of the new WCW under Eric Bischoff, but WCW was instead sold to WWF in 2001 when Turner Broadcasting executive Jamie Kellner decided against keeping wrestling on television, and Bischoff, with no advanced warning of this, had only a few weeks to ink a television deal or the company would be sold at a fire sale price ($2.5 million plus an agreement to purchase $2 million in advertising on Turner stations) to WWF. Callis told me at the time that he realized with the volatile nature of wrestling, that he needed to get out and into working in a business where there was more stability.

He went back to school and earned an MBA, and until taking this job with Impact, was working as the President, CEO and Executive Director of the Manitoba Trade and Investment Corporation.

He had not really paid a lot of attention to pro wrestling in the interim, apparently sometimes attending local shows and watching it here and there and had no intention of getting back in. When Steve Corino took a deal with WWE to become a trainer at the Performance Center, that left an opening for a New Japan English language announcer, and upon the recommendation of Omega, who is from Winnipeg, Callis got the job. He then started doing a podcast with Lance Storm when Chris Jericho wanted to do a network of wrestling podcasts. His interest in TNA came when Anthem purchased the company and the Asper/Winnipeg connection, and he was close to D’Amore.


WWE is even more strongly teasing the idea of a Shane McMahon vs. Daniel Bryan feud on Smackdown.

There have been minor teases as part of the storyline where McMahon wants Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn fired, but Bryan keeps delaying it.

For the 12/17 Clash of Champions PPV show in Boston they’ve announced what will really be the main event of the show, whether positioned that way or not, with Owens & Zayn vs. Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura, with Shane as referee. If Orton & Nakamura win, then Owens & Zayn are fired from Smackdown and also from all of WWE. That’s a change since the earlier gimmick of why Bryan didn’t want them fired was because they would just be signed by Raw, outright saying a firing on Smackdown didn’t carry over, and Shane admitted that but didn’t care, saying they’ll just become Stephanie’s problems. But it’s wrestling and storyline consistency isn’t important to the writers or the fans, since nobody is taking it that seriously.

This has led to speculation it is leading to Shane vs. Bryan. It’s not completely impossible that it ends up that way, although right now that wouldn’t be a match under discussion since there has been no change in Bryan’s status as far as being medically cleared.

Another reason rumors are going around that Bryan has been cleared is that he’s being advertised locally to be a special referee at the 12/26 Smackdown tapings in Chicago. It’s not clear if that’ll be in a televised match or just a dark match, but WWE felt it needed something special since they are running Chicago for TV on both 12/25 and 12/26, and ticket sales for 12/26 needed a boost.

Sources close to the situation confirmed last week that nothing has changed regarding Bryan and WWE, and WWE told us on 12/4 that reports that he has been cleared are inaccurate.

Vince McMahon has made it clear to Bryan Danielson that the decision will come from Dr. Joseph Maroon. At this point, the angle they are doing with Shane McMahon is not meant to build to a match, at least not between the two of them, just like the situation last year with Miz never built to a match.

If he is cleared by Maroon, that would all change. There is talk of him wrestling at SummerSlam and working a limited schedule if he does get cleared. Danielson leaving would be huge for independent wrestling in the U.S., far bigger than anyone else (perhaps a C.M. Punk return would be but he’s shown no interest and the Young Bucks have tried to convince him to come). With Danielson, it’s not that it hurts WWE at all for him to wrestle elsewhere, but it will help whoever he works for and will lead to a stronger independent scene. How much stronger isn’t clear and won’t be until it happens. He’s pretty strong on returning to the ring in October, when his WWE contract expires, but also made it clear if he gets a negative test before he sets out to wrestle again, he will not wrestle.

With WWE cutting back on PPVs, the Clash of Champions will be the last major show until Royal Rumble six weeks later.

Aside from the tag match, it feels like a show being done just to bide time until the Rumble.

A.J. Styles vs. Jinder Mahal will be the WWE title match. Baron Corbin vs. Bobby Roode vs. Dolph Ziggler takes place for the U.S. title, with Ziggler seemingly there to give them an out and bide time until they get to Corbin vs. Roode on their own.

The tag title is a four way with the Usos defending against New Day, Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin (now heels) and Rusev & Aiden English. This was first announced as a three-way, but after Rusev & English beat The New Day in a TV match, they were added.

The other major match is Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya for the women’s title, with the rest of the women on the roster, Naomi, Lana, Tamina, Carmella, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan as lumberjacks.


Just days after the announcement of Charles “Konnan” Ashenoff as the head of talent relations and head writer for the new Arolucha promotion, Crash Lucha Libre, the other promotion he was booking announced that he was no longer with the promotion.

The Crash situation actually started before the announcement, although many different things were tied in. Konnan had believed that since he was the one who recruited most of the talent, did the booking and had an ownership interest as part of the deal when they got together two years ago with a plan to build a promotion that could go national and rival AAA and CMLL in Mexico, and expand into the U.S., that he was safe even with the issues. While Konnan is gone, the sides are still talking including working out the details of the business split. He’s also tried not to burn a bridge.

One person close to the situation said that the major issue was not the attendance at the shows, or anything to do with booking decisions, but that they believed Konnan didn’t understand that the person putting up the money gets the final call and you can’t conduct business for Crash without involving the people who are paying the bills.

A situation arose about two weeks ago, where a meeting was held with the other owners wanting Konnan out, with a key reason given that he had a meeting with Dorian Roldan of AAA that he hadn’t told his partners about. All sides had agreed the meeting was to be a secret, but it being pro wrestling, the news of the meeting got to the other Crash owners. Given long and short-term issues, it could hardly surprise anyone many different obvious ways it got out. They thought he was secretly negotiating a deal with AAA behind their backs. When called on the carpet, he explained it was a meeting that Impact had said up, as Impact, dating back months, had wanted Crash and AAA to stop with their war with each other. When Jeff Jarrett was still running Impact, he tried to put together an angle where Konnan and the Crash guys would come to TripleMania with an invasion angle, but it went nowhere as Konnan apparently didn’t want to do it because so many of The Crash guys came from AAA and had bitter feelings toward the promotion, and were happy no longer being there.

There was also unhappiness regarding Konnan working with Arolucha, particularly since almost all the talent booked for the group was Crash talent. Crash talent isn’t under contract so they can work anywhere they want. But an issue is that the Crash ownership group wanted to expand into the U.S. market, and have a big show scheduled for WrestleMania week in New Orleans. So they viewed Arolucha as a potential competitor in the U.S. market. Still, because their talent is independent, at least right now there doesn’t appear to be any pressure to keep them from working the 12/10 Arolucha television pilot taping in Nashville at the Fairgrounds. And unlike in the past, when Konnan left AAA and helped form Promo Azteca in the 90s, as well as when he left AAA for Crash, it doesn’t look like the talent will be leaving with him.

The listed lineup for the Nashville show is Rey Mysterio Jr. & Pentagon vs. Rush & John Morrison, Jack Evans & Hurricane Helms & Maximo vs. Garza Jr. & Daga & La Mascara, MVP vs. Sammy Guevara, Keyra & Lacey Lane vs. Vanilla Vargas & Taya, Demus 3:16 vs. Mascarita Dorada and William McClinton (Willie Mack, but Lucha Underground owns The Mack) vs. Mr. 450. With the exception of Vargas, who works the Puerto Rico circuit, MVP, Helms, Morrison and fiancé Taya, all are Crash regulars.

L.A. Park said at the meeting that all the owners wanted Konnan out but Mysterio Jr. (the face of the company and their current world heavyweight champion), who has been close friends with Konnan dating back to when both started their careers together being trained in Tijuana by Miguel Lopez, the original Rey Misterio and the uncle of Oscar Gutierrez. Gutierrez has always been loyal to Konnan since Konnan was the one who became an instant superstar in Mexico, while Rey Misterio Jr. was an undercard teenage flyer in Tijuana and Southern California. When AAA was formed in 1992, Konnan, who had come off a record-breaking run as a draw at Arena Mexico the prior year, was the key star for Antonio Pena when he left CMLL. He recommended Misterio Jr., helped get him his first push, and talked Pena out of making him the top babyface in the minis division, which was the division wrestlers of his size had been relegated to. However, Mysterio Jr. agreed to stay with the company which could have made a major difference, since he’s the top star. He worked the 12/3 show in Ecatepec and will be working the company’s next show on 12/15 in Puebla.

Konnan was spoken with at the time and thought the situation was taken care of, saying he was meeting with Roldan as a way to calm down the hostilities between the two sides. Even though he was a key with AAA in its battles with CMLL in the past, as well as with Crash and its issues with AAA, he has, dating back more than a decade and when Pena was still alive, always telling them that they weren’t seeing the future and their biggest threat was not CMLL, but WWE. Even now, he long expressed frustration at the political boundaries different companies in Mexico and the U.S. had put up, such as the New Japan/ROH/CMLL alliance, and different wars and rivalries, saying that it was counterproductive for the business as a whole.

But evidently, while he thought everything was placated, it wasn’t. At some point this past week some talent became aware that Konnan was done in his role and others were told. He was not at The Crash show in Tijuana on 12/1, but one wrestler noted to us they had been in communication with him as late as that day regarding future bookings. There was talent on the show aware at that point he was gone, but others were not.

Konnan said the meeting was about trying to get AAA to not try and sabotage their shows, noting that twice on their recent tour, AAA ran shows in the same cities, in one case on the same day, with much lower ticket prices, and in both cities, Crash didn’t draw well. Even though Crash had the reputation for providing the best actual shows in Mexico, and AAA would have the opposite reputation, AAA is the one with television, and outside of Tijuana, is going to sell more tickets in most places. Another issue was AAA constantly going after Rey Fenix and Penta 0M, issuing cease and desists on their merchandise, claiming they owned the Fenix and Pentagon names and it was creating confusion in the marketplace.

There were also other issues involved, including his not being at shows due to his work with Impact, and similarly that would happen going forward with Arolucha. He himself admitted that it was very difficult for him to handle all the work associated with Crash, while trying to make American money with Impact and Arolucha. He noted there was a lot on his plate, noting his age (he’s about to turn 54) and the amount of work it would be to book two different companies at the same time. The only person I’m aware of who booked two companies at the same time was Ole Anderson, booking Georgia and Jim Crockett Promotions, and he admitted it was too much, although that was more difficult with the different television shows and four or five house shows per day.

Right now it’s not clear who will take over as booker.

The Crash released a statement in English saying, “The Crash Lucha Libre brand is known for the way we treat people and value each and every single person that works in this company. Bettering the economical and habitual needs. Showing the support for each element and giving opportunity to new talent.

In this way, the value and professionalism shown between each of its partners.

Not being able to comply to the Crash Lucha Libre code of ethic it something we do not tolerate in this company.

With that being said, we now announce that Carlos Santiago Espada, “Konnan,” will no longer be working with The Crash. We thank him for the time and support and wish him the best in future endeavors.

We will be announcing the dates for 2018 with the best matches and our debut in the United States. ”

It’s clear from the wording that they believed the conduct was an ethical issue, that he wasn’t honest with them, and also was second-guessing some of their business decisions.

There was a claim that the owners booked Volador Jr., to do a run in last month in Tijuana without his knowledge, but he said that he was aware of that. Also there were issues with Mysterio Jr. and his bookings as they wanted him on dates, Konnan was booking him elsewhere and wasn’t available on dates.

The Aroluxe deal played a part since they wanted to promote in the U.S., and saw him as booker for another company in the U.S., that was working to get TV, and using their biggest stars. Crash also at least thought that Arolucha would be a joint effort of Crash and Aroluxe, but it was only Aroluxe with Konnan involved.

Konnan said that Crash was well aware of Aroluxe and that the sides had met in the past with talks of Aroluxe becoming part owners of Crash and of Arolucha tapings taking place in Mexico, where production was cheaper, but Aroluxe decided to tape in Nashville, where they are located, and at the Fairgrounds, a building they’re familiar with since Ron & Don Harris worked there regularly during their career and it was the home base of TNA when the Harris Brothers worked for the company. They also believed the meeting with Roldan had to do with Aroluxe, and in a sense it did, because of the issues of Roldan standing in the way and sending cease and desists regarding Penta and Fenix’s names among other things, and they believed he wasn’t honest and wanted to do business with Roldan.

Because Crash has a reputation for paying well, nobody is looking to leave.

From the Impact standpoint, it looks like they won’t be airing matches taped in Tijuana or from other Crash shows. The only Crash regular who was working for Impact is Garza Jr., and the early feeling is this situation won’t make a difference.

There is also hope from The Crash side that this will help relations with CMLL. Ygnacio is very tight with Rush and the Munoz Family, who have become headliners for Crash even though they are CMLL regulars. The feeling is with Konnan gone, since Paco Alonso still has bitterness dating back to Konnan leaving in 1992 as their top star and going to AAA, and being at war with them for all those years, that they may be more lenient when it comes to booking CMLL talent. At the same time, many CMLL wrestlers are unhappy about Rush, La Mascara and Pierroth being able to work for Crash while they can’t. And CMLL still won’t allow Crash to use any of its wrestlers in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Puebla.


AXS TV announced a three-hour live special on Saturday, 1/6 starting at 8 p.m. Eastern time with coverage of the key matches from Wrestle Kingdom 12, pushing in particular the Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho U.S. title match, the Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito IC title match and the Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White IC title match.

AXS Fights CEO Andrew Simon cited that the station has seen viewership growth based on airing more current matches and New Japan’s increased popularity in the U.S. market.

Based on the media release sent out, AXS will be pushing Jericho vs. Omega as the main event. It’s become a storyline in Japan where Omega is claiming that the show has two main events, while Naito is saying he’s been in this position before and there is only one main event, which is his match with Okada. While most cable stations are losing homes, AXS is actually growing, up from 44 million homes earlier this year to where they have just passed the 50 million home mark. It is believed to be one of only two cable stations to have substantially increased in the number of homes available in the last year.

AXS does not subscribe to Nielsen, although they do track viewers using Rentrak, which is direct measurement of set boxes. Based on that measurement, viewership for New Japan has increased by double-digit percentages since July. Adam Swift of AXS, who was behind the deal to get New Japan on the station as a longtime fan of the product from the 90s stemming from reading about it in this newsletter and then becoming a tape trader, said that the springboard came after doing the live special from Long Beach, but that also coincided with them being more current with the product, and said you can’t know which was the key reason since both happened at the same time. AXS and TV-Asahi, the network that has the television rights to New Japan, do most of the business, although New Japan and AXS also collaborate together.

The plan is to get the show off satellite live, and then time and figure out what will fit into a three-hour window. Jim Ross and Josh Barnett will be in the studio on 1/4, the next afternoon, to do the voice-overs.

The Okada vs. Naito storyline, and really Naito’s heel turn stemmed from his winning the G-1 Climax tournament in 2013, and his facing Okada for the IWGP title on January 4, 2014 at the Tokyo Dome. However, fans in Tokyo and Osaka weren’t into Naito that much, and there was significantly more interest in the Hiroshi Tanahashi challenge to Shinsuke Nakamura for the IC title. The decision was made to have a fans vote for what the main event was, and Tanahashi vs. Nakamura won handily.

It ended up being for the better, because after losing in the title match, Naito went heel forming Los Ingobernables en Japon, a Japanese offshoot of the Los Ingobernables heel group in CMLL. LIJ became a merchandising phenomenon in Japan and Naito became the hottest wrestler in the company. Okada already has the single longest championship reign in IWGP title history, at 529 days at press time, dating back to his June 19, 2016, win over Naito. He will also surpass Tanahashi for the longest title time, between all of his reigns (this is his fourth, Tanahashi holds the record with seven) right before the Dome show. For those reasons, many see it as time to change the title to Naito, to freshen things up. The Okada reign has to be viewed as an amazing success, easily the best major world title reign for match quality and length in recent times, and for match quality even surpassing the 2003-05 Kenta Kobashi GHC title reign.

After the three-hour special, Wrestle Kingdom will air in the usual New Japan Friday night time slot with the entire card airing between 1/12 and 2/9, including the matches that first air on 1/6 being replayed.

AXS will be broadcasting 11 consecutive hours of New Japan on 1/6, as there will be a marathon that starts at Noon Eastern time, airing some of biggest matches of the past few months including Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii in the U.S. title final from Long Beach, the Omega vs. Naito G-1 Climax final, Omega vs. Juice Robinson from Kobe and replaying the three-hour King of Pro Wrestling special (Okada vs. Evil, Omega vs. Trent Baretta, Naito vs. Ishii, Kushida vs. Will Ospreay) from Sumo Hall in Tokyo that debuted on AXS on 12/1, and will air again from 5-8 p.m. Eastern as the Wrestle Kingdom lead-in.


The WWE is now experimenting with the idea of a fifth weekly touring brand, with a cruiserweight tour, the first of which was announced for January.

 

The company announced three 205 Live dates, a 1/19 date in Kingston, RI at the Ryan Center, a 1/20 date in Lowell, MA at the Memorial Auditorium (which goes head-to-head with a UFC PPV coming from the T.D. Garden in Boston) and a 1/21 date in Poughkeepsie, at the Mid Hudson Civic Center. Lowell and especially Poughkeepsie are traditionally strong pro wrestling markets. The Mid Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie has long been viewed as one of the best buildings for independent promotions to draw in. Ticket prices for that show will range from $100 ringside down to $15.

Right now they are doing an experiment which would be to do three dates in January and three dates in February, and then evaluating from there whether they can profitably run shows. More than a decade ago, WWE attempted something similar with the ECW brand, which had an existing name and a weekly television show, but the touring was canceled after several months because it wasn’t profitable. But it is much easier to make things work now since you can charge far more for live event tickets since consumers are used to higher prices.

NXT, with no television, has been able to draw well in similar buildings for its out of Florida shows, and the 205 Live wrestlers appear weekly on Raw, the company’s highest rated show.

It’s far better for the competitors themselves as far as being able to work a fuller schedule. Enzo Amore, the division star, and his challenger of the week, would work the Raw tours and will continue to do so for the time being, except on 205 Live tour weekends. But the rest of the division only works Mondays and Tuesdays for Raw and the 205 Live show, and usually it’s only a some of the talent that works either show. In the past talent had been booked on NXT shows, but even though NXT often does two weekend tours, of late, they haven’t been using any of the 205 Live competitors.

The main events right now are scheduled as Enzo Amore vs. Kalisto with Nia Jax as referee, but that could all change. The Lowell show is pushing two singles matches, Cedric Alexander vs. Brian Kendrick and Rich Swann vs. Jack Gallagher, which on paper doesn’t sound like a card people will rush to buy tickets so, as I’d have figured Enzo Amore would be the focal point of the advertising.

Hideo Itami, who is being pushed as the new star of the brand, will likely anchor the shows with Amore, and the usual crew featuring the Zo train heels of Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari and Noam Dar (who seems in the process of a turn) and a babyface group featuring Cedric Alexander (whose been teased for a change), Rich Swann, Mustafa Ali and Akira Tozawa.

An idea talked about regarding booking the shows is to possibly include some NXT wrestlers on the undercard or tryout some wrestlers who are cruiserweights on these shows.


An article by David Bixenspan in Fightful.com based on new documents in the Flo Sports lawsuit against WWN listed a memo from Sal Hamaoui giving iPPV numbers for the company as well as contract details.

The contract signed in late 2016 called for Flo Sports to pay WWN $75,000 that year for a few months, $500,000 in 2017, $550,000 in 2018, $605,000 in 2019, $670,000 in 2020 and $740,000 in 2021. There were also profit-sharing incentives in the sense that if Flo Sports did well, they would earn significantly more on a 30 percent basis of net revenue increases.

The contract did allow Flo Sports to end it early, but based on provisions it could end the contract early, WWN would still have to be paid through the end of 2018. This seems to explain the lawsuit as a way to get out of paying some of the money due from 2017. There were reports WWN was late being paid for its final months, and at this point there are events that they still haven’t been paid for, as well as the $550,000 for next year that is obviously the key to the lawsuit to get out of paying that money.

For next year’s $550,000, if we go with the idea that the average Flo Slam subscriber price is $15 (some were at $120 for the year, some were on $20 for the month), they would need 3,056 subscribers to cover that cost. Obviously with a lots of other costs and other promotions signed up (although most were not getting significant money and some had pulled out on their own before the walls came tumbling down), break-even was way higher than that. The hope was to get numbers like New Japan World was getting worldwide, and obviously they didn’t come close, because they didn’t have a marquee enough brand. I’m still not sure why they rushed the service up before signing the key deals and rushed the deals that they did have to close, but that’s a different story.

For that money, WWN was supposed to produce five live events monthly. So while the gross money figure sounds like a lot, it really broke down this year to just $8,333 per show in 2017, so while the gross money sounds large, it’s really not a ton to work with considering the live FIP, Style Battle and Shine shows weren’t selling live tickets so they were money losers past the guarantee to produce, and Evolve was hit and miss on ticket sales with all the travel expenses and higher payrolls. 

The previous iPPV numbers were contractually bound between the two parties to be confidential information which creates another issue with FloSlam revealing them publicly.

Obviously it wasn’t working which led to the lawsuit, and last week, Flo Slam officially closed down, including laying off the people working on the news side of the web site. It had been clear since the lawsuit was filed, when they also stopped having new content and dropped the other promotions they signed, that this was not so much a lawsuit based on fraud, but an attempt to get out of a contract and get out of the wrestling business after one year.

This leaves WWN having to redo its business. They are said to be in talks with different potential carriers, although obviously nobody is going to make up the revenue lost. They’ve cut back on shows but have said they would still be running shows and they have some talent including Keith Lee and Matt Riddle under contract.

The reality with Flo Slam is that they rushed the deal out to the public, and also failed to garner enough major content providers. The $20 per month charge was tough because WWE had artificially created a wrestling marketplace where some people would balk at paying more than $9.99 per month for streaming content. The idea of 1.5 million subscribers to the WWE Network and the mentality of “if we only do ten percent we’re doing great” is a business fallacy in the sense I’ve seen business after business, from start-up wrestling companies to WWE when it tried to start a football league against the NFL using the “if you only do ten percent of what they do” when you can’t do that. The reality is that only a small percentage of the big audience is interested in sports in anything other than what they perceive as the major league product.

There was also talk at first, since Flo Sports itself had $21 million in capital, including a $1 million investment from WWE. WWE had no idea about the service until just before its launch and were furious about it, and quickly made deals with Progress and ICW in the U.K., and attempted to with Evolve, to keep them off the service. But the deal offered Evolve was too much for them to turn down. Talked about plans to put Progress and ICW on the WWE Network still haven’t materialized since Vince McMahon has gone back-and-forth regarding putting promotions that they don’t own on the WWE’s network, and like with ITV Wrestling causing them to sign up U.K. wrestlers, when it was clear the new service wasn’t doing significant business, WWE’s concerns about it went away.

FloSlam even talked about signing talent to contracts, with the idea of signing up key ROH talent like The Young Bucks, Jay Lethal and Adam Cole when their contracts were up and having them be the anchors and be booked, along with Riddle, as stars not just with WWN, but on the other Flo Sports properties. But in the end, they never made that level of financial commitment. Similarly, they had talks with key people in UFC, both office personnel to come over for a bump in pay, and ideas to use UFC stars in grappling matches promoted by Chael Sonnen, such as the Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson grappling match which was an expensive debacle and generated little in the way of new subscribers to that channel.

Flo Slam was encouraged coming out of the blocks when several hundred people signed up before they had really announced much, basically off the publicity from the launch. But from there, business was slow and the belief is the subscriptions were around 2,000, far short of their goals. The reality is that New Japan World, which had 15,000 subscribers outside Japan as of the G-1 Climax tournament (and the belief is the number is currently slightly higher, and expectations are it will increase after the Tokyo Dome show), is easily the No. 2 streaming service in North America. There’s no word on Impact’s numbers, and Impact does have an advantage in the sense they are on a national television platform and heavily promote the service throughout the show, which New Japan doesn’t do on its show, which is also on a station that reaches fewer homes. ROH is also looking into launching its service in 2018.

The jury is still out regarding how much a true alternative would do. The original concept was to use their capital to make deals with the major companies, New Japan, Dragon Gate, ROH, CMLL, PWG, Revolution Pro, Progress, ICW and AAA, along with Evolve. Really, every company of any note except for TNA was talked about.

On paper, that’s a political mess. AAA and CMLL wouldn’t do business with the same provider easily, although it is notable that Impact managed to do with the Crash and AAA, who are also very bitter rivals. New Japan had its own streaming service, as did Progress and Revolution Pro, although the latter who don’t have a great deal of U.S. subscribers. If Flo Slam had become a powerhouse, there was the argument that they could give them better exposure and promotion, but that didn’t happen and promotion was never a strong suit of FloSlam. Once Jeremy Botter was let go, there was virtually no promotion for FloSlam and all of the WWN promotion was generated on their side. The European promotions and U.S. indie groups on the service did little in the way of promotion of their shows.

ROH, which FloSlam officials at one point thought they were going to make a deal with and supposedly there was a great money offer, far stronger than the WWN deal, turned it down. They were not likely to work with anyone who also worked with Evolve. PWG had its own political issues, the key being they stay off iPPV so as to make sure they maintain the ability to use the talent they want to use and can get the finishes they want with no outside influence. Some of the talent they use were under contract to companies where they couldn’t appear on rival iPPV shows.

According to the memo entered into evidence, Hamaoui claimed that Evolve shows in 2015 were doing between 500 and 750 buys, peaking with more than 1,000 for the WrestleMania weekend shows. In 2016, those numbers increased to a 950 to 1,300 range and did more than 2,000 for some of the events over WrestleMania weekend, peaking at 2,475 for a show with a Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay match that some were saying was the best match of WrestleMania weekend.

Shine all-women’s shows were doing 500 to 750, peaking at 948. FIP shows mostly did under 175, peaking at 288. The Shimmer women’s shows over WrestleMania weekend were listed as doing 1,708 buys in 2015 and 1,508 in 2016.

The contract was signed based on this data which Flo is claiming in its legal papers was exaggerated, saying spreadsheet info listed customers more than once and included those who had purchased DVD or Blu Rays.

Flo Slam laid off its reporting staff this past week when closing up. They sent out an e-mail to all subscribers announcing the shutting down of the service and that they would no longer bill people for it. They said that those who had subscribed for a year would be getting pro-rated refunds.


Makoto Arakawa, a longtime preliminary wrestler from the golden age of New Japan Pro Wrestling, passed away on 11/5, although strangely, news didn’t break on his death until it was reported by several national media sources in that country on 12/2.

Arakawa was better known as Don Arakawa, the name he started using in 1985.

The cause of death was not released. Arakawa was born on March 6, 1945, in Kagoshima, making him 71 years old at the time of his death.

Arakawa was one of the first trainees of New Japan Pro Wrestling. With a background in judo, he was 27 years old when he started training with the promotion and debuted on September 19, 1972, after only two plus months in the camp, facing Hiroaki “Little” Hamada, who later became known as Gran Hamada.

His role was to work prelim matches, often openers, doing comedy-based matches to entertain the crowd before they would start the more serious matches.

Because he had similar hair and look, a thick body built on heavy bench presses and copious eating (he was able to bench press 440 pounds, which was tremendous in the early 70s), and wore long black pants, he was nicknamed “Opener Rikidozan.”

He was never pushed as a major player, and because in his era, the television consisted of one hour of the top matches from specific shows, he rarely was featured on television. Still, he was very well known to the public, and always got a nice reaction as a familiar and comfortable face in the prelims

Arakawa never got a significant push, even after changing his ring name. He retired from New Japan in 1989, but then came back out of retirement the next year when Megane Super Opticals (the leading manufacturer of glasses in Japan) formed the Super World Sports promotion. Megane Super owner Hachiro Tanaka, a huge wrestling fan, loved Arakawa and brought him back as a prelim wrestler in 1990, and he remained with the promotion until it folded in 1992.

After the company closed down, Tanaka hired Arakawa to work in his company. He also continued to wrestle, working as a regular for Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi from 1993 to 1996. After that point, since he was in his 50s, he wrestled less often, mostly on smaller independent shows.

The only significant championship he ever held was in 1979, when he and Kengo Kimura, who was a bigger star in Japan, went to the WWC in Puerto Rico and won the Caribbean tag team titles.

He retired again after working one comedy match on an All Japan Fan Appreciation show on September 15, 1997, at Korakuen Hall, teaming with Giant Baba & Haruka Eigen beating Jun Izumida & Masa Fuchi & Rusher Kimura.

He came back again in 2002 and did independent shows in prelims doing his comedy routine through 2009, including his final major appearance in a Royal Rumble type match on October 12, 2009, at the 25th anniversary show for Masahiro Chono, since Arakawa helped train Chono. He worked a Royal Rumble rules match, won by Kazuchika Okada, several years before Okada became a major star.

Tatsumi Fujinami, who started his career with Arakawa, noted that when he meets with older fans, Arakawa’s name is always brought up. Fujinami expressed regret that in the past few years he was always thinking about calling Arakawa but never did.

Among the wrestlers, Arakawa was known for eating and drinking contests, loving sake.

Keiji Muto, who noted that Arakawa helped train him. Muto said that he wanted to book Arakawa for his Pro Wrestling Masters show at Korakuen Hall, which would have been his first match in eight years, but was told by a friend of Arakawa’s that he wasn’t physically up to it and Muto said he was told that Arakawa apologized to him for not being able to do so.


Smackdown on 12/5 did 2,493,000 viewers, down seven percent from the high number last week.

Smackdown was seventh for the night on cable.

The show did a 0.54 in 12-17 (up 3.8 percent), 0.58 in 18-34 (down 6.5 percent), 0.94 in 35-49 (down 7.8 percent) and 1.02 in 50+ (down 12.1 percent).

The audience was 61.7 percent males in 18-49 and 52.3 percent males in 12-17.

Raw on 12/4 did a 1.95 rating and 2,784,000 viewers (1.56 viewers per home), so ratings were down one percent but the audience was up one percent from last week. Overall the news wasn’t good if you like long matches.

A show that featured four matches that went 14:52 and longer ended up having a higher percentage of viewers turning off during the show than all but one Raw in history, which would be the 10/23 show.

In all, the rating for the third hour was 22.8 percent lower than the first hour. Given the steady decline in viewers throughout the show, when you talk about the beginning to the end the decline is probably far larger than that. As far a decline by demo from hour one-to-three, women’s 18-49 were down 28.6 percent, men’s 18-49 were down 11.3 percent, females 12-17 were down 26.2 percent, Males 12-17 were down 12.9 percent, and over 50 were down 23.3 percent. So while men held up better than women, this was a huge decline across the board. The reality is while many, including myself, like the show with less talking, the take on this is that you can do long matches with the right people and it works, but 15:00 matches with the wrong people and too many in a show is not going to keep the masses. Also, another reason why the women’s percentage for Smackdown viewers is higher than Raw is women are less likely to stay for three hours, which increases the male percentage of viewers. Smackdown doesn’t have that issue.

Raw was sixth for the night on cable, with the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game doing 10,844,000 viewers for first place.

The first hour did 3,147,000 viewers. The second hour did 2,862,000 viewers. The third hour had a massive drop to 2,430,000 viewers, making it the least-watched third hour since 6/12 going against the NBA playoffs.

The audience skew was older as every demo was down from last week except 50+. The show did a 0.68 in 12-17 (down 4.2 percent), 0.72 in 18-34 (down 4.0 percent), 1.02 in 35-49 (down 4.9 percent) and 1.15 in 50+ (up 7.5 percent).

The audience was 62.1 percent males in 18-49 and 60.7 percent males in 12-17.

Bellator on 12/1, headlined by Julia Budd vs. Arlene Blencowe, and going head-to-head with UFC, did 439,000 viewers, the third lowest for the promotion since going on Spike for a prime time show, barely beating the record low 438,000 viewers. It beat the first hour of UFC, going against the UFC prelims, but lost to the rest of the show. With DVR+3, that added 86,000 more viewers on average to 524,000, or a 19.6% increase, unusually large for live sports, which tells you a lot of Bellator regulars watched UFC live and then watched Bellator. The peak rating was 695,000 (with DVR+3) for the Budd vs. Blencowe main event.

Impact on 11/30 did 255,000 viewers, up from the 169,000 on Thanksgiving night and back to what has been the normal levels. The Thanksgiving number should be considered meaningless past the fact that the remaining Impact viewers are less die-hard than in years past when they would lose viewers for Thanksgiving, but it would hold up far better than anyone would expect.

Total Divas on 11/29 did 548,000 viewers, which would be the third lowest in the history of the series.

Ultimate Fighter on 11/29 did 220,000 viewers, also among the lowest in the history of the series, and this show featured the finals of the tournament to determine the first women’s flyweight champion.

Smackdown on 11/28 did 2,680,000 viewers, up less than one percent from the week before. The number has to be considered strong as it was only slightly less than Raw, and the comparison was for the show right after Survivor Series and it increased off that number.

Perhaps the most notable statistic is that among 12-17s, the audience was only 44.2 percent male, which is unheard of for pro wrestling programming. For a breakdown from last week, among teenagers is that boys were down 30 percent from the prior week and girls were up 31 percent. For 18-49, it was a more normal 61.0 percent. The prior week for 12-17s it was 59.8 percent male, so that is a gigantic leap for women.

The show did a 0.52 in 12-17 (down 5.5 percent), 0.62 in 18-34 (down 4.6 percent), 1.02 in 35-49 (up 0.9 percent) and 1.16 in 50+ (up 6.4 percent).

Raw on 11/27 did a 1.97 rating and 2,754,000 viewers (1.52 viewers per home).


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RESULTS

 

11/29 Winter Park, FL (WWE NXT TV tapings - 400 sellout): Wolfgang b Kona Reeves, Killian Dain b Trent Seven, No Holds Barred match: Sonya Deville b Ruby Riott, Johnny Gargano b Kassius Ohno, Lars Sullivan b Roderick Strong, Ember Moon b Peyton Royce, Andrade Cien Almas b Fabian Aichner, Aleister Black b Adam Cole, Authors of Pain b Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch, Tag titles: Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly b Eric Young & Killian Dain to win titles, Women’s title: Ember Moon b Sonya Deville, U.K. title: Pete Dunne b Tyler Bate, Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford b ?, Johnny Gargano won four-way over Lars Sullivan, Killian Dain and Aleister Black

11/30 Lima, Peru (WWE Smackdown): Shinsuke Nakamura b Sami Zayn, Harper & Rowan won three-way over Sin Cara & Tye Dillinger and Mojo Rawley & Zack Ryder, Women’s title: Charlotte Flair b Natalya, Randy Orton b Rusev, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Big E & Kofi Kingston and Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin, Three-way for U.S. title: Baron Corbin won over Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler, WWE title: A.J. Styles b Jinder Mahal

11/30 Pittsburgh (WWE NXT - 800): Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford b Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli, Lars Sullivan b No Way Jose, Ruby Riott b Bianca Belair, Tag titles: Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly b Eric Young & Killian Dain, Aleister Black b Chad Lail, Women’s title: Ember Moon b Sonya Deville, Three-way for NXT title: Andrade Cien Almas won over Roderick Strong and Adam Cole

11/30 Lakeland, FL (WWE NXT - 300): Lio Rush b Adrian Jaoude, Shayna Baszler b Abbey Laith, Danny Burch b Gabriel Ealy, Trent Seven won a Battle Royal, Kassius Ohno b Dan Matha, Mandy Rose & Lacey Evans b Aliyah & Jessica Elaban, U.K. title: Pete Dunne b Johnny Gargano

11/30 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (New Japan - 1,717 sellout): Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi b Shota Umino & Ren Narita, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens & Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi & Leo Tonga b Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan & Tomoyuki Oka, Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi b Minoru Suzuki & Desperado, Evil & Seiya Sanada b Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hirai Kawato, Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay & Gedo b Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa b David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano b Togi Makabe & Henare, Baretta & Chucky T b Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb, Ray Rowe & Hanson b Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.

12/1 Mexico City Arena Ciudad (WWE Smackdown - 10,000): Shinsuke Nakamura b Sami Zayn, Mojo Rawley & Erick Rowan b Tye Dillinger & Zack Ryder, Four-way for U.S. title: Baron Corbin won over Sin Cara, Bobby Roode and Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton b Rusev, Women’s title: Charlotte Flair b Natalya, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Big E & Xavier Woods and Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin, WWE title: A.J. Styles b Jinder Mahal

12/1 Altoona, PA (WWE NXT - 500): Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford b Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli, Lars Sullivan b No Way Jose, Ruby Riott b Sonya Deville, Tag titles: Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly b Eric Young & Killian Dain, Aleister Black b Chad Lail, Women’s title: Ember Moon b Bianca Belair, Three-way for NXT title: Andrade Cien Almas won over Roderick Strong and Adam Cole

12/1 St. Augustine, FL (WWE NXT - 250): Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight b Shane Thorne & Nick Miller, Wolfgang b Buddy Murphy, Shayna Baszler & Sarah Logan b Aliyah & Rhea Ripley, Marcel Barthel b Fabian Aichner, Tyler Bate & Trent Seven b Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler, Vanessa Borne b Dakota Kai, Danny Burch b Kona Reeves, U.K. title: Pete Dunne b Kassius Ohno

12/1 Toyohashi (New Japan - 1,055 sellout): Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano & Baretta & Chucky T b Ray Rowe & Hanson & David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura, Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Desperado b Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa & Leo Tonga, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe & Henare b Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb & Tomoyuki Oka, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi b Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima, Evil & Seiya Sanada b Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi, Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka b Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan, Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi b Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens, Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay & Gedo b Tetsuya Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi

12/2 Salt Lake City, UT (WWE Raw - 3,000): Bray Wyatt b Matt Hardy, Heath Slater & Rhyno & Apollo Crews b Curt Hawkins & Curtis Axel & Dash Wilder, Asuka b Alicia Fox, Finn Balor b Karl Anderson, Elias b Jason Jordan, Mickie James ref: Bayley & Sasha Banks b Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax, Cruiserweight title: Enzo Amore b Kalisto, Roman Reigns & Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins b Sheamus & Cesaro & Samoa Joe

12/2 Merida, Mexico (WWE Smackdown - 4,500):Shinsuke Nakamura b Sami Zayn, Mojo Rawley & Erick Rowan b Zack Ryder & Tye Dillinger, Four-way for U.S. title: Baron Corbin won over Sin Cara, Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode, Randy Orton b Rusev, Women’s title: Charlotte Flair b Natalya, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable and Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods, WWE title: A.J. Styles b Jinder Mahal

12/2 Bel Air, MD (WWE NXT - 600): Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford b Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli, Sonya Deville b Ruby Riott, Tag titles: Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly b Eric Young & Killian Dain, Adam Cole b Chad Lail, Lars Sullivan b Adam Cole-DQ, Women’s title: Ember Moon b Bianca Belair, NXT title: Andrade Cien Almas b Roderick Strong

12/2 St. Petersburg, FL (WWE NXT - 200): Lio Rush b Raul Mendoza, Liv Morgan b Jessie Elaban, Big Boa b Tian Bing, Buddy Murphy b Brennan Williams, Trent Seven & Tyler Bate b Shane Thorne & Nick Miller, Kona Reeves b Christopher Dijak, Nikki Cross b Vanessa Borne, Pete Dunne & Authors of Pain b Wolfgang & Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight

12/2 Osaka (New Japan - 1,485 sellout): Manabu Nakanishi & Tetsuhiro Yagi b Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino, Evil & Seiya Sanada b Yuji Nagata & Hirai Kawato, Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi b Minoru Suzuki & Desperado, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan b Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens & Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi & Leo Tonga, Baretta & Chucky T b David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura, Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb b Togi Makabe & Henare, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa b Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr., Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano b Ray Rowe & Hanson, Tetsuya Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi b Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay & Gedo

CMLL: Shocker was on the TV show Ventaneando regarding the allegations of attacking a prostitute. He claimed that he went out drinking with the wrestlers and his wife has told him not to come home after drinking, so he went to a hotel room. He said he fell asleep, woke up, and then went back drinking. As he was going back to his room, he thought somebody was following him, so he defended himself using a fire extinguisher. He said there were no prostitutes involved and said he paid about 20,000 pesos (about $1,073) in damages

They held a press conference on 12/6 and announced a lot of news. There will be yet another Cibernetico, this time being the Leyenda de Azul (honoring Blue Demon) on 12/22 at Arena Mexico. This will have 16 rudos with Ultimo Guerrero, Gran Guerrero, Rey Bucanero, Euforia, El Terrible, Hechicero, Mr. Niebla, Rush, Shocker, Sanson, Forastero, Cuatrero, Vangellys, Misterioso Jr., Pierroth and one more to be named

There will be a cage of death match on 12/25 with Fiero, Star Jr., Starman, Oro Jr., Pegasso, Cancerbero, Raziel, El Hijo del Signo, Nitro and Templario with the loser losing his mask. The Sam Adonis vs. Negro Casas hair vs. hair match they’ve been building will be on 1/1 at Arena Mexico. They are also going to market Adonis, Johnny Idol and Okumura as a foreign heel trio. They also noted that most of the top names will be in Japan for Fantastica Mania from 1/10 to 1/23, meaning they will be missing two Friday night shows.

. 12/1 was the big three-way battle with the usual Friday night show at Arena Mexico, WWE running Arena Ciudad for the first time in a year and the return of The Elite promotion at Deportivo Pavon. WWE was the big winner doing about 10,000 fans at high ticket prices, although they had trouble as a lot of the $600 tickets appeared to be comps and there were two-for-ones all week after a slow advance. The feeling was they would have drawn better but they overpriced things. While WWE is way down in popularity from its peak when Rey Mysterio Jr., Batista and Undertaker were huge in the country, they did outdraw last year’s show. Arena Mexico drew 3,000, its smallest crowd in a long time, clearly due to WWE. The feeling was that people could see CMLL any Friday night but this was their only chance to see WWE ths year. What will be interesting is what happens the next few weeks. In the past, due to WWE tickets being so much more expensive, it would hurt Arena Mexico attendance for several weeks. Elite, which was headlined by Mr. Electro (formerly Electro Shock) vs. Cibernetico vs. Blue Demon Jr. after interference from El Hijo de Dos Caras and Golden Magic, drew only 650 fans

Arena Mexico had what was one of its worst shows of the year. The undercard wasn’t good. The crowd wasn’t that into it and the matches weren’t good either. Many of the CMLL wrestlers and office staff either went to the WWE show, or worked the show here and then rushed over to the WWE show. Several CMLL trainees were at ringside and it was noted that they had to be papering WWE because they were in $600+ tickets and there’s no way they could afford those. In the opening minis match they appeared to be setting up a Shockercito vs. Mercurio hair vs. hair match and had a rare over the top rope DQ finish. The second match also had a DQ finish. The women’s match was a mess with lots f blown spots. Four of the six women after their match rushed to the WWE show. The semi had Mr. Niebla & Rey Bucanero & El Terrible beating Marco Corleone & Titan & Valiente. The main event was another elimination match, and they are clearly going to that well far too often. Really the show was all about this match and these matches have usually been great, even if overdone. This week it was for the Copa Juniors, meaning everyone involved was the son of a wrestler, although Stuka Jr. I believe is actually the younger brother of Stuka rather than his son. The order of elimination was Stuka Jr., Felino, Dragon Lee, Euforia, Shocker & Volador Jr. (out together), Negro Casas, Mistico Sanson, Caristico and it came down to Niebla Roja vs. Mephisto, with Niebla Roja winning in 27:45. It started off really good with lots of dives and spots but then fell apart. Caristico had a really bad night. He slipped on the ropes doing spots five different times. After the show he claimed he was working injured, but that may have been his covering for how bad he looked. It looked like after the first slip, it got to his head and he never recovered. He worked the next day so he wasn’t injured that badly. The Volador and Shocker double elimination came when Volador superkicked ref Tirantes and Shocker then gave Volador a low blow, so Tirantes disqualified both of them. What looked bad is that Volador superkicked Tirantes, who Is almost 60, and he no sold it and shoved down Shocker after Shocker complained about his being eliminated on the DQ. Sanson (who replaced the injured Dragon Rojo Jr.) was booked strong as he eliminated Dragon Lee and Mistico, until Caristico eliminated him with the La Mistica submission. When it came down to Roja and Mephisto there were two near disasters. The first was Roja doing a springboard huracanrana off the barricade, but he cracked his head on the floor doing the move. A few seconds later, Mephisto gave him the Devil’s wings off the middle rope and dropped him nearly on the top of his head, which looked clearly terrible. The belief is that because Roja is an amazing shape and has a strong neck since neck exercises are pushed heavily in training here, he survived the move and didn’t appear to be injured, and got up and won via submission

The 12/8 Arena Mexico show looks a lot better, with a unique main event where rudo Ultimo Guerrero teams with tecnicos Caristico & Soberano Jr. against rudo El Terrible teaming with tecnicos Mistico & Volador Jr., which pits the great high flyers of Soberano against Mistico and Volador. Corleone & Casas & Valiente, a team of two tecnicos and a rudo, face Pierroth & Rush & Sam Adonis. Also, a week before they are gone for the ROH Final Battle, there is a singles match with Dragon Lee vs. Titan, which is their first ever singles match

The company’s annual bodybuilding contest took place on 11/29 at Arena Mexico. Angel won the MicroStars (minis) division, Angel del Amor won the wrestling school division, Soberano Jr. won the beginners (first contest I think) division, Niebla Roja won the intermediate division, Dallys won the women’s contest and Astral won the advanced contest. Then they did a posedown with all the winners, including Dallys, and awarded Astral the Mr. CMLL title

Rumors are that Atlantis Jr., the son of Atlantis, will be debuting soon. Atlantis is expected back from knee surgery in January

There was no 12/3 show at Arena Mexico, as they moved it to the smaller Arena Coliseo since they booked the building out for a rap battle

They had an 11/30 show at Arena Coliseo, a benefit for Universo 2000, who suffered a major heart attack a few months back, bad enough that it was at one point feared he wouldn’t make it. They did about 650 fans, a very poor turnout, but they ran Mexico City so often and it was an unfamiliar night. They had Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & Canek & Blue Panther over Mascara Ano 2000 & Cien Caras & El Satanico via DQ. This came after those same guys had just drawn 14,000 for the nostalgia show a few weeks back. It was said to be far sadder because at least the last one they drew a huge house, but this was really bad and with an empty building

Ultimo Guerrero retained his NWA Historic middleweight title over Rush on 12/4 in Puebla

They announced a Reyes del Aire Cibernetico match, and these are usually great, for 12/11 in Puebla (this streams live) with Mistico, Negro Casas, Volador Jr., Mephisto, Dragon Lee, Rey Bucanero, Niebla Roja, Gran Guerrero, Valiente and Felino.

THE CRASH: They had a big show on 12/1 in Tijuana drawing a near sellout of 4,200 fans featuring The Young Bucks, but the rest of the week didn’t draw well at all. The promotion is really strong in Tijuana since because its their home base the fans know the workrate top-to-bottom is great, but with no television, it’s not clicking in many of the other cities. On 11/29, they were in San Luis Potosi and drew 1,500 in a big building (the building they set their record crowd of about 9,000 a few months ago) even with the debut of L.A. Park with the promotion, Los Ingobernables being back together and a rematch of a sensational Flamita vs. Rey Fenix match. Willie Mack was advertised all week and wasn’t there. Flamita beat Fenix in what was said to be a ****1/4 match, using a Phoenix splash. The crowd loved this match again and threw tons of money in the ring after, to the point it was said to look like it was raining money. It was the second time they wrestled in San Luis Potosi and the first one was said to be great as well, but it didn’t lead to a big crowd coming back. Flamita also suffered a foot injury and missed the rest of the week. The main event was Rush & La Mascara & Pierroth in a reformation of Los Ingobernables beating Park & Daga Penta 0M. After the match, Park and Rush were issuing challenges for singles matches

11/30 in Pachuca drew only 600 fans in a show co-promoted by the local DTU hardcore promotion that usually draws bigger crowds than that in the building. Mack and Flamita both weren’t there. No announcements were made. An unadvertised match with Bandido over Latigo stole the show. Daga & Fenix wrestled Solar & Black Terry to a double pin draw. The match fell apart since Black Terry, who is 65, suffered a separated shoulder. There was no doctor at the matches but he was rushed to the hospital and the promotion did pay all the medical bills. There was fear he would need surgery but the doctors were able to pop the shoulder back in. He’ll still likely need some rest. The main event was Penta 0M winning a four-way over Mascara, Garza Jr. and Rush when Pierroth interfered

The Tijuana show was a big success, just shy of a sellout. Crash is known for having great high flying prelims with hungry guys trying to make names for themselves. A wrestler named Aramis got rave reviews from the opener where money was thrown in. The most talked about spot on the show saw Toxin on Arkangel Divino’s shoulders on the floor like they were setting up a doomsday device and Black Boy hit a tope and they all flew into the crowd. The second match was a trios match with men vs. women with Black Danger & Jonathan & Ultimo Maldito losing to the women’s team of Christi Jaynes & Keyra & Lacey Lane. That match got over strong and money was thrown in again. The crowd was totally behind the women. Joey Ryan worked a five-way and his dick spots got over big in a five-way that Jack Evans won over Ryan, Viento, Luke Hawx and El Hijo de L.A. Park. Damian 666 & & M-ximo beat Pierroth & Black Taurus via DQ when Garza Jr. interfered and laid out Damian with a tombstone. Daga also got involved and they seemed to be building up a cage match for the next show in January with all the post-match challenges. Next was advertised as Fenix & Flamita vs. Young Bucks, but no Flamita, and they were advertising him all day up to show time. Daga took his place. Daga’s shoulder was a mess. It’s said that he needs surgery but isn’t getting it. The match was said to be good, and the crowd did all the American chants for the Young Bucks. The Young Bucks did the Meltzer driver on Daga but Fenix then rolled-up Nick while Matt pinned Daga but the ref counted only the Matt fall on Daga. The main event saw Mascara & Rush win a three-way over Bestia 666 & Garza Jr., and Park & Nicho (who replaced Daga). Nicho got a huge pop as the surprise but he’s still not close to ready after knee surgery so it hurt the match. They mostly brawled. The crowd was into Park and Rush against each other the most. Rush pinned Park after a low blow and they did the usual hair vs. mask post-match challenges for a bout not likely to ever happen, since Park isn’t losing his mask for less than a ton of money and Rush’s hair is his trademark

The last show of the Konnan era, although he was not at the show, was 12/3 in Ecatepec, which drew a packed house of 3,000 fans. They did announce Flamita was injured. Black Terry was replaced by another veteran, Skayde, who teamed with Solar in losing to Daga & Fenix. The main event was Rey Mysterio Jr. & Penta 0M & L.A. Park beating Carlito & Garza Jr. & La Mascara. Mysterio Jr. was presented with the new Crash heavyweight title belt. He had won the title last month in a tournament in Tijuana but the belt wasn’t made yet. The belt was made with the faces of Eddy Guerrero and Perro Aguayo Jr. and the mask of Rey Mysterio Jr. on it.

DRAGON GATE: Dragon Kid will be out of action for several months after a knee injury. The Over Generation group was already hampered since Kaito Ishida has a bad neck and Takehiro Yamamura is also injured and won’t be back for a long time. They did an angle on the 12/5 show at Korakuen Hall in the main event with Cima & Don Fujii & Masaaki Mochizuki vs. T-Hawk & Eita & Lindaman where if Cima’s team lost, Cima & Dragon Kid would have to vacate the Twin Gate titles (which they’d have to anyway since Dragon Kid is out for a long time) and Cima would have to lick Lindaman’s boots. Eita pinned Fujii in 15:53. By virtue of the stip, T-Hawk & Eita became the Twin Gate champions. Lindaman then noted that a 20-year-veteran now has to lick the boots of a three-year veteran. Susumu Yokosuka came out and stopped that from happening and it ended up setting up T-Hawk & Eita defending against Cima & Yokosuka

Metal Warrior attacked Kagetora again on 12/2 in Sapporo using Susumu Yokosuka’s Yokosuka cutter on him. Kagetora then called out Genki Horiguchi, his former partner in the defunct Jimmyz group, and said that Metal Warrior is a conspiracy with Yokosuka, Ryo Saito and K-Ness and asked why are his former partners doing this to him. Horiguchi said that the next night, since they were running the building twice, he should ask Yokosuka and Saito to second him since K-Ness wasn’t even on the tour this week. Kagetora told him that was great advice and thanked him. On 12/5 at Korakuen Hall, Metal Warrior did another attack, and unmasked himself as Yasushi Kanda, and started cutting Kagetora’s hair. This sets up a Brave Gate title match

They had an early Christmas tag team tournament on the three Sapporo shows from 12/1 to 12/3. In the semifinals on 12/2, BxB Hulk & Kzy beat Shingo Takagi & Yasushi Kanda, and T-Hawk & Eita beat Naruki Doi & Big R Shimizu. The finals on 12/3 saw T-Hawk & Eita beat Hulk & Kzy.

ALL JAPAN: These are the updated tag team tournament standings with four shows left, as the finals are on 12/12, and all teams will end up with nine matches: 1. Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori (current world tag team champions), 4-2; 2. Kento Miyahara & Yoshitatsu 5-3; 3. Zeus & The Bodyguard 3-2; 4. Daichi Hashimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani, Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa, Yuma Aoyagi & Naoya Nomura and Joe Doering & Taiyo Kea 3-3; 8. Tajiri & Kai 2-3; 9. Manabu Soya & Black Tiger VII 2-4; 10. Ryoji Sai & Masakado 1-4

The tournament continued on 12/2 in Osaka before 656 fans as Miyahara & Yoshitatsu beat Sai & Masakado in 14:34 when Miyahara pinned Masakado with a German suplex. Akiyama & Omori beat Suwama & Ishikawa in 6:56 when Akiyama pinned Ishikawa with a wrist clutch exploder suplex. Suwama & Ishikawa had trouble getting along in the match. Zeus & Bodyguard beat Hashimoto & Kamitani in 12:59 when Bodyguard pinned Kamitani. All Japan’s tag tourney went head-to-head on 12/2 in Osaka with New Japan’s tag tourney, with New Japan drawing a sellout of 1,485 fans at the Osaka Municipal Central Gym while All Japan drew 656 at the smaller Osaka Edion Arena #2

12/3 in Hiroshima saw Akiyama & Omori beat Sai & Masakado in 11:01 when Omori pinned Masakado with a lariat and Miyahara & Yoshitatsu beat Zeus & Bodyguard in 19:35 when Miyahara pinned Bodyguard after a German suplex

12/4 in Fukuoka before 580 fans saw Sai & Masakado pick up their first win over Soya & Black Tiger VII when Masakado pinned Tiger in 11:01. Zeus & Bodyguard beat Tajiri & Kai in 3:36 when Zeus pinned Tajiri with the jackhammer slam. Miyahara & Yoshitatsu beat Akiyama & Omori in a major match when Miyahara hit the German suplex on Omori in 19:38

12/5 in Shunan before 571 saw Doering & Kea beating Sai & Masakado in 6:17 when Doering pinned Masakado; and Suwama & Ishikawa beat Zeus & Bodyguard in 15:58 when Suwama pinned Bodyguard.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Company president Masayuki Uchida said the 12/22 Great Kabuki match is not being billed as hire retirement match, because he had a retirement match in 1998, so they are calling it his final match and his memorial match. The match announced is Kabuki & Akitoshi Saito & Shiro Koshinaka vs. Go Shiozaki & Yoshinari Ogawa & Masao Inoue. Added to that show is a singles match with Takashi Sugiura vs. Moose

The 12/3 show at Korakuen Hall drew only 784 fans with a main event of Eddie Edwards & Moose from TNA beating Kenou & Takashi Sugiura in 20:06 when Moose pinned Sugiura with a lariat

DJZ and Andrew Everett are scheduled to appear in January. DJZ gets a shot at Taiji Ishimori’s X division title on 1/6 at Korakuen Hall.

NEW JAPAN: Regarding Jim Ross and AXS TV, both sides have verbally agreed to a contract extension and everyone is proceeding with the idea it is happening. The actual contract has yet to be finalized and signed. Since Ross isn’t appearing on WWE television, and right now isn’t doing anything with WWE (he was hired for the U.K. show, which hasn’t transpired yet, and hasn’t done play-by-play work for WWE since the Mae Young Classic), WWE did not stand in his way of the deal. His WWE deal allowed him to continue doing existing work

Chris Jericho was on our show talking about the birth of the match with Kenny Omega and noted the actual idea was Don Callis making a remark in passing about him wrestling Omega at the Dome, and since he was a free agent, it got serious from there and pushed for it. What put it over the top was when four New Japan officials, including booker Gedo, flew to New York where he was doing a book signing for the first meeting. He figured at that point it was real because if they’re flying four people in, they want it to happen. He seems this as him being a WWE guy, even though he’s a free agent, against a New Japan guy as a special dream match. He said he did talk to Vince McMahon about it before it got out. He’d already made the deal and they had a brief conversation and Vince was fine with it when he pitched that this would only make him a bigger star

According to the Twitter of Hiromu Takahashi, Darryl Takahashi Jr., the son of his stuffed animal pet and his stuffed animal pet’s wife Carol, was born on 12/3

At press time, going into the 12/7 show, here are the World Tag League 2017 standings: A block: 1. Seiya Sanada & Evil, Hangman Page & Yujiro Takahashi and Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi 4-2; 4. Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens, Juice Robinson & Sami Callihan, and Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka 3-3; 7. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima 2-4; 8. Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi 1-5. So aside from the bottom two, everyone else is still alive. The B block has: 1. Michael Elgin & Jeff Cobb, Baretta & Chucky T and Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa 4-2; 4. War Machine and Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr. 3-2; 6. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano 3-3; 7. Togi Makabe & Henare and David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura 0-5. So again, aside from the bottom two, everyone else is still alive

The tournament, minus the big stars and filled with parity booking, really hasn’t gotten a lot of attention. The crowds have been fine, mostly full houses in smaller buildings and Nagoya was way up from last year. There are four shows left, with three going live on New Japan World. The 12/8 show in Hiroshima Green Arena at 4:30 a.m. Eastern has Finlay & Henare & Kitamura vs. Tama Tonga & Loa & Leo Tonga, Elgin & Cobb & War Machine vs. & Yano & Baretta & Chucky T, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Makabe & Jushin Liger vs. Archer & Smith Jr. & Desperado, Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay & Gedo vs. Tetsuya Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, plus tournament matches with Tenzan & Kojima vs. Suzuki & Iizuka, Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Fale & Owens and Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Evil & Sanada

12/9 in Ehime at 4 a.m. Eastern has Nagata & Liger vs. Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino, Nakanishi & Hirai Kawato vs Evil & Sanada, Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Suzuki & Desperado, Tanahashi & Tenzan & Kojima & Robinson & Callihan vs. Fale & Owens & Page & Yujiro Takahashi & Leo Tonga, Okada & Ospreay & Gedo vs. Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi and tournament bouts of Makabe & Henare vs. Finlay & Kitamura, Elgin & Cobb vs. War Machine, Ishii & Yano vs. Tama Tonga & Loa and Baretta & Chucky T vs. Archer & Smith

The tournament finals are 12/11 in Fukuoka at the Convention Center starting at 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning. This is considered a major show and there will be English commentary. The card itself is mostly to be determined based on who reaches the finals, but three matches not involving tournament teams announced to do angles to set up the Tokyo Dome are Kota Ibushi & Kushida vs. Cody & Marty Scurll, Rocky Romero & Sho & Yoh vs. Kenny Omega & Young Bucks, and Okada & Ospreay vs. Naito& Hiromu Takahashi

For the 11/30 show at Korakuen Hall, which drew a sellout of 1,717 fans, Tonga & Loa beat Finlay & Kitamura in 9:45 when Loa pinned Kitamura. Ishii & Yano beat Makabe & Henare in 8:29 when Ishii pinned Henare after a brainbuster. Baretta & Chucky T beat Elgin & Cobb in 17:08 when Elgin pinned Cobb with Strong Zero. The main event saw War Machine become the first team to beat champions Archer & Smith Jr., when Smith was pinned after Fallout in 16:33

12/1 in Toyohashi before a sellout of 1,055 fans saw Page & Yujiro Takahashi beat Tenzan & Kojima in 9:48 when Takahashi pinned Kojima with Pimp Juice. Evil & Sanada beat Nagata & Nakanishi when Nakanishi was pinned after the magic killer. Suzuki & Iizuka beat Robinson & Callihan in 8:56 when Suzuki pinned Robinson after the Gotch piledriver. Goto & Yoshi-Hashi beat Fale & Owens in 9:36 when Goto pinned Owens with the GTR

12/2 in Osaka before a sellout of 1,485 fan saw Baretta & Chucky T beat Finlay & Kitamura in 7:26 when Baretta pinned Kitamura with strong zero. Elgin & Cobb beat Makabe & Henare in 7:35 when Elgin pinned Henare after a spinning power bomb. Tonga & Loa beat Archer & Smith Jr., when Tonga pinned Smith in 9:42 after a gunstun. Ishii & Yano beat War Machine when Yano pinned Rowe in 13:05

12/3 in Kochi before 1,665 fans saw Owens & Fale upset Callihan & Robinson when Owens pinned Callihan, and Sanada & Evil beat Kojima & Tenzan in11:45 when Tenzan was pinned after the magic killer

12/5 in Oita before a sellout of 1,120 fans, saw Ishii Yano over Baretta & Chucky T in 9:27 when Yano pinned Chucky with a cradle; and Elgin & Cobb beat Tonga & Loa in 14:35 when Cobb pinned Loa after tour of the islands

12/6 in Nagasaki saw Page & Yujiro Takahashi beat Suzuki & Iizuka via DQ in 5:28 and Goto & Yoshi-Hashi over Nagata & Nakanishi when Goto pinned Nakanishi with the GTR in 11:55.

HERE AND THERE: There is good news regarding James “Kamala” Harris, 67, the 80s pro wrestling star. After health issues, complications from surgery to remove fluid from around his heart and lungs on 11/19, he was on life support and in danger of not making it. Harris returned home this week with the scare behind him. “Tell everyone I’m going to be all right,” he said to Jason King

Bret Hart, 60, has filed a $1 million lawsuit against Calgary Dr. Justin Yeung for a botched surgery on his right wrist. Yeung did surgery on Hart’s wrist on November 23, 2015 and he’s had major problems with it ever since. Hart’s wrist and knee took a pounding from those forearm drops off the ropes that he did in all of his comebacks. The lawsuit claims Yeung failed to provide him proper medical care, claiming they left a tourniquet on his right arm too long, and the circulation of the nerves and tendons to his right thumb and index finger were damaged by the prolonged insufficient supply of oxygen. The lawsuit claims Hart is unable to use his right hand to pick up and use objects like pens, pencils, eating utensils and tools and can’t dress himself without assistance. Hart had another operation to attempt to repair the damage in October since he failed to get use of the hand back after nearly two years

GLOW on Netflix was listed as the No. 1 best television show of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly. I don’t know of anyone, wrestling fan or not, including some wrestling haters, who didn’t like the show

In last week’s Hall of Fame bio on Mark Lewin, we noted his return to Australia and New Zealand in 1981 and 1982. While he did return to New Zealand those years, he did not come back to Australia

Also, when mentioning Akihisa Mera (Great Kabuki) and his career as a journeyman using the name Hito Tojo, he never used that name in the U.S. or Japan. He was only Hito Tojo in Australia as part of a tag team with Hiro Tojo (Samson Kutsuwada) on tours in that country in 1973, 1974 and 1976

Kevin Owens, Bret Hart and Eugene Tremblay were voted into the Quebec Wrestling Hall of Fame this year. Tremblay started his career around 1900 and was a household name in Quebec when he defeated George Kennedy for the Canadian lightweight title. He was the most popular wrestler in Quebec before the era of Yvon Robert (who was the most popular Quebec wrestler of all-time). He was also famous as the referee in the first Montreal screwjob, where the local promoters stole the world title from Strangler Lewis in a match with Olympic gold medal winning wrestler Henri DeGlane, where Tremblay disqualified Lewis for biting, even though DeGlane actually bit himself to draw blood in the bathroom between falls (in those days the wrestlers would go to the back between falls of two of three fall matches so fans would buy more concessions, Don Owen was the last promoter to still do that). He also helped start the career of Robert by sending him to Emile Maupas when Robert wanted to become a pro wrestler. The Quebec Hall of Fame is voted on by a panel of former wrestlers, journalists, historians and experts

The long-lasting legal issues between Jesse Ventura, 66. and the estate of Chris Kyle ended with a sealed out-of-court-settlement. The lawsuit involved a chapter in Kyle’s book called “Punching out Scruff Face,” describing a bar fight Kyle had with a famous conspiracy theorist who said that the SEALs “deserved to lose a few.” Ventura was later outed on television as the name. Kyle ended up murdered in 2013. Ventura was first awarded $1.8 million in 2014 in a defamation case, but the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals in Minnesota overruled the verdict in 2016. Ventura said after the announcement, “I can smile again. The settlement is confidential but I can smile.”

Michael Elgin is in the process of selling Glory Pro Wrestling and has gotten off Twitter after a series of incidents involving a fan of the promotion and one of his wrestlers. Elgin wrote from Japan: “I recently took a break from twitter because things were quickly getting out of hand and I thought it would be a good idea to step back and try to organize my thoughts rather than say something reactionary that would come across wrong. First, let me say that at no point have I been accused of any sort of assault. If you have interpreted anything that has been said up to this point that way, it is incorrect. I absolutely have not been accused of doing anything illegal. Second, yes, before it became public I was informed of a situation involving one of my wrestlers that I trained and used on my shows. I’m not mentioning any names because I do not believe it is my place to do so. If they want to do that, that’s their business. I spoke with both parties separately. Each has their own version of the story. The wrestler in question was considering possible legal action regarding the claims being made. I encouraged the person making the claims several times to go to the police and that I would act immediately. This individual wanted the wrestler to no longer be hired by my company and for me to make public statements against them. She did not want to go to the police, which I can understand. He also had evidence that they had some sort of a prior relationship and it indicated that she had other motives for making these claims and that she was possibly lying about it. During some of these private conversations with both of them, I was frustrated and short tempered. I used language I should not have with either. I felt like I was put in the middle of something that wasn’t my place, but I admit that my attitude and how I spoke to both of them in that situation was wrong. I used language that I should not have, accused them both of things out of frustration. I apologize for that. Maybe I should have stopped interacting with both of them entirely, but one was a huge fan of Glory Pro and fans were worried about her, and another was someone that I had closely worked with for a long time. So now I’m stuck in the middle of a situation that has nothing to do with me. I’m not the police. I’m not a counselor. I’m not even his real employer. I’m just a wrestler wanting to put on a wrestling show. So now I am put into the situation of deciding, should I go against the wrestler who is alleged to have done something terrible, which would without a doubt be the end of his career in this business and ruin his reputation, or should I stand by the wrestler who is claiming that what she says isn’t true and has some things that back that up, but at the same time risk making her situation worse? So, I decided to do nothing and hope that it resolved itself. When she would contact me about it, I would tell her to involve the police. When he would bring it up, I would tell him to get a lawyer. He said he’s got one and that the process was underway. So I’m stuck. I never wanted to be involved in this and assumed by staying out of it that it would not affect me or my students. That’s why when this situation started being made public on twitter, I had to cut ties with the wrestler. Was this the right way to handle the situation? I don’t know. I’ve never been in this position before. I’m just a guy, not a big business. It obviously didn’t work out because now I’m accused of turning a blind eye to a sexual assault and helping to cover things up. This has affected my students. It has affected my job and my family. For everyone saying I’m somehow guilty because I went off twitter and sold Glory Pro, let me set the record straight. I wanted to clear my thoughts. I was being attacked on all sides with nonstop questions. I wake up in Japan and this thing is going full force without me. I’m not guilty of doing anything legally wrong. Was I frustrated with the situation and said some things that I shouldn’t have? Absolutely. I apologize for that. My frustration is no excuse for talking that way, even though the statements have absolutely been taken out of context. Regardless, I shouldn’t have used the words that I did, even though I was frustrated. I haven’t yet completely sold Glory Pro. What I meant was I have begun the process to transition the company to others because I don’t want my involvement to be detrimental to the company. I love the company that I’ve helped build, the wrestlers that have worked for it and I love that the fans enjoy the product. If me being involved harms that, I wanted to be away from Glory.” The wrestler in question was no longer being used by Glory Pro as of 11/16. The fan, who used a fake name on twitter, made the accusation public, claimed she was sexually assaulted in March, told Elgin at that time, the story broke in mid-November and the wrestler stopped being used. Evidently Elgin made comments to another fan who was friends with the wrestler, who also goes by a fake name on twitter, and in doing so, said some things negative about the woman, which led to him being attacked on twitter. Elgin later said that his reaction to what happened was abhorrent, and what he said in the conversation and language he used was a big mistake. Elgin has been pulled off at least a few independent dates by promoters due to this controversy. There’s a lot of questions going on regarding New Japan as well, which has been his main job for the last few years

The country of Bulgaria has released a Dan Kolov postage stamp, commemorating 125 years since his December 27, 1892 birthday. Born in Bulgaria, Kolov (whose name was often spelled Dan Koloff, and he is where the Ivan Koloff name came from), came to the U.S. at the age of 17. He was famous for enormous strength, being able to twist metal rails around his neck. He eventually was hired as a circus wrestler and trained by Stanislaus Zbyszko. He drew big crowds in Europe as the three-time European champion in the 30s, and was a national hero in Bulgaria where he returned. He died at the age of 47 in 1940 from tuberculosis. He had a major amateur wrestling tournament in Bulgaria named after him, and Anthony Carelli (Santino Marella) named his arena as part of his Battlarts Gym facility in Mississauga, ONT the Dan Kolov Arena

Jimmy Jacobs was a guest on Chris Jericho’s show and said that things changed for him working for WWE when he went into a 30-day rehab program for an opiate addiction in April. There had been heat on him for taking time off, and he said that when he came back, he didn’t care as much for working for WWE. As far as taking the photo with The Young Bucks, he said that he wasn’t trying to get fired and because a news story, but that he wasn’t trying not to get fired either

Terry Funk was scheduled to wrestle on 12/1 in Wilmington, CA, for Pacific Coast Wrestling Ultra, in a tag team match teaming with Sandman against the tag team of the Beastmasters, one of which was the Almighty Sheik. However, he didn’t appear. It was said it was due to an illness in his family and that he is okay. Davey Richards was also not there although that wasn’t announced and nobody seemed to realize it. Stan Hansen did a promo before the show. The main event saw Penta 0M beating John Hennigan (Morrison) for their title. They announced Great Muta for a show on 1/19 but only half the crowd reacted to it. The description of the main event was that Hennigan and Penta were great at working the crowd and getting them into it. They didn’t do any big spots except a Canadian Destroyer trade at 7:00, until the finish. The crowd was really into it by the end when Penta did his broken arm spot from Lucha Underground, followed by a package piledriver, and Hennigan kicked out. They went two more minutes, and it was said Hennigan didn’t sell the arm at all, although most reports didn’t mention it. Hennigan acted like he was going to strap the belt on Penta, but laid him out with a belt shot and tore up his mask

Northeast Wrestling drew 1,321 fans on 12/1 in Waterbury, CT, for a three-way for their title where Cody Rhodes dropped the title to Flip Gordon, with Brad Hollister as the third guy. Rhodes lost because it’s his last time with the promotion for now due to his exclusive ROH contract, but they allowed him to drop the title. Vik Dalishus on that show fractured both his tibia and fibula doing a double sledge off the top rope to the floor when he landed badly during a tag team title ladder match. He had surgery on 12/2 and will be needing a second surgery in two weeks. He said the injury was so bad he’ll be immobile for three months and it’ll be six to eight months before he recovers

World Series Wrestling announced an International Assault tour in Australia from 3/16 to 3/19, with two shows in Melbourne and one in Adelaide and Sydney, using the Young Bucks, Marty Scurll and the Briscoes

Tommy Dreamer got heat with Australian promoters by saying that his House of Hardcore show in Australia put Australian independent wrestling on the map

Battleground Wrestling in Australia is doing a Lucha Down Underground tour on 1/19 in Melbourne and 1/20 in Sydney using P.J. Black, Mil Muertes, Drago, Aerostar, Angelico and Ivelisse. Lucha Underground never aired on television in Australia and we’re told as far as the super hardcore scene, it has far less buzz there than it did a few years ago. Also we’ve been told that Angelico won’t be there and Muertes just had surgery so he’s not going to be wrestling either, but Aerostar and Drago are legit

I was also told names to watch from Australia as far as breaking out in 2018 are Damian Slater, Marcius Pitt, Alex Kingston and Logan Grey

So here’s a crazy story. Alberto El Patron announced he’s running a 1/20 show in Mexico City at Deportivo Morelos as an earthquake benefit show. He had scheduled one earlier but had to change the date. The main event announced was Alberto vs. Cibernetico vs. Dr. Wagner Jr., plus Dos Caras Sr. & Octagon & Solar vs. Canek & Fuerza Guerrera & Pirata Morgan. They also listed Sexy Star, under that name (AAA owns the name, she’s been working as Sexy Dulce). They handed out a poster and the guy who put it together must have Googled some names because there’s a prelim guy named Saru, and the photo was of Sabu, and a prelim guy named Omega, and you can figure whose face was on the poster. But the biggest surprise was a wrestler named Myzteziz, which was the name the current Caristico used in AAA and he hasn’t used the name since. Alberto and Myzteziz have hated each other dating back at least to WWE to the point Myzteziz left AAA partially because Alberto was there, and when both were working AAA they had to always be kept apart

Kyle Snyder was named the U.S. Olympic athlete of the year for 2017. He’s only the second wrestler ever to win that award, with the first being Rulon Gardner in 2000, after Gardner had upset the thought to be unbeatable Alexander Karelin to win the Olympic gold medal in what is often called the biggest upset in Olympic history. Snyder was the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist in 2016, and in 2017. On 8/26, Snyder’s win over another gold medalist Abdulsharid Sadulaev, coming from behind to win 6-5, via a takedown with 20 seconds left, in Paris, gave him the unofficial title as the best wrestler in the world (Sadulaev held that unofficial title and moved up a weight class with the specific intention of proving he was the best in the world by beating Snyder) in what was billed as amateur wrestling’s Match of the Century. The win also gave the U.S. the team championship. Snyder is currently a senior at Ohio State and competing in the 285 pound weight class, and is going for his third NCAA title this year

Sexy Star was back in the news regarding a match that fell apart on a show in Monterrey back on 11/19 because the video surfaced. The part of the video that I saw showed Diosa Quetzal, her opponent, who is a TV star who does pro wrestling, kicking Sexy Star, going by the name Sexy Dulce, in the face hard and then Dulce started back and it broke down into a sloppy fight. There is a claim that Quetzal stiffed her because Sexy wasn’t cooperating, while Sexy said she was the victim. Quetzal said everything she tried to do, that Sexy was uncooperative and said she was a fan of Sexy Star and was disappointed. She also said Reyna Isis is as unprofessional as Sexy Star. It also could be old-school mentality that a TV star comes into pro wrestling and the wrestlers try to teach her respect by making it difficult for her. I’m not advocating this, as everyone outside the business would say this is silly, and you don’t hear much about it in the U.S. business anymore, but it was part of the business in the U.S., Mexico and Japan until the modern era

Rachael Ellering suffered a broken nose and underwent surgery on 12/4, but still worked the weekend shows first for AAW since she was in the tournament final to crown their first women’s champion. Jessicka Havok won the three-way over Ellering and Ivelisse. They did elimination rules where Ivelisse first pinned Ellering and then Havok pinned Ivelisse with a piledriver off the middle rope. There were three standout matches, a three-way with A.R. Fox over Myron Reed and Sammy Guevara, a 15:00 draw with Matt Riddle vs ACH and a tag title match with Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett retaining over Keith Lee & Shane Strickland

There was a dispute regarding the BCW promotion out of Scotland and Matt Sydal. Sydal was booked on a show on 12/1 for the promotion and apparently, due to a traffic problem, missed his flight. Sydal was stuck on a bridge and it took him 68 minutes due to a traffic jam on a bridge on the West Courtney Campbell Causeway (there was a legitimate confirmed traffic jam confirmed no that bridge) and he was unable to move at all. He lives eight miles from the airport, and arrived 15 minutes before the flight took off but British Airwaves had closed the counter even though he had called ahead and said he was stuck in traffic. He was at the airport and told the promotion and was able to get another flight but it would cost an additional $2,500 plus and the promotion balked about paying it and decided against using him. Sydal’s agent, Bill Behrens said he spent four hours trying to find a better price on a flight and did get a lower price, talking to the promoter, who said that Sydal had to buy a new ticket. The promotion asked Sydal to return his $1,500 deposit that they had given him since a lot of indie wrestlers when working for an unfamiliar promoter ask for a 50 percent deposit in advance because if there is a screw up and the show doesn’t happen, they’d be out their money. Since Sydal didn’t wrestle, they wanted their deposit back. Behrens, who booked Sydal for the show, returned his $300 portion of the deposit which left $1,200. Sydal said that he’d work another date for the promotion, but the promotion just wanted their deposit back and he felt it was due him, because it was possible he could have made it and it was the promotion that decided it wasn’t worth the extra cost to fly him in. The promoter filed a claim with Paypal for the $1,500 against Behrens, even though Behrens had returned the $300, and Paypal, after contacting Behrens, rejected the complaint the day after it was filed. The situation ended up being resolved by Impact, who stepped in and the promoter got his $1,200 deposit back

Although it was implied on Impact that Gail Kim had retired, she worked a 12/3 show in Toronto for Smash Wrestling as part of their annual U.S. vs. Canada women’s series show. It was tied 3-3 with Allie, representing the U.S., beating Kim in the main event. Everyone was surprised figuring Kim would win since they were in Toronto. Kim then asked Allie to represent and lead Canada in the show next year and Allie said she would for the happy ending. They never at any point said it was Kim’s last match, but I don’t know of any other bookings for her

The TV series “Tainted Dreams” on Amazon, that former TNA star Jessie Godderz had a lead role in, was just renewed for a second season

Pepe Ramirez, who was part of a California wrestling family, passed away on 12/5. His father wrestled as Chivo Garcia and his brothers were the tag team of Enigma de Oro & Kayam. He wrestled under a mask as Caballero Azul in Gori Guerrero’s Ciudad Juarez promotion and then wrestled as Pepe Ramirez (Ramirez was his mother’s maiden name) in the Southwest as part of the trio called Los Chivos with his younger brothers until he retired due to injuries

Mia Yim (Jade in TNA) noted on twitter that due to injuries she’ll be out of action from March to April. She’ll still be available for autograph signings and appearances

I want to thank Sparky Ballard and the crew at Gold Rush Pro Wrestling for inducting me into their Northern California pro wrestling Hall of Fame with Walt Harris, Boyce LeGrande and Chicano Flame on 12/3 in Pacifica, CA. Harris, at 96, didn’t attend. LeGrande stole the show. In the small world department, Flame worked with one of my best friends growing up in the fire department for 20 years

Hall of Fame woman wrestler Bull Nakano has agreed to work multiple U.S. dates for the women’s Rise promotion, and will be managing a stable called Gokuaku Domei, which was the name of her 80s heel stable with Dump Matsumoto in All Japan women. She will work as a trainer and a heel manager and feud with a face stable headed by Madusa called the “Deuce Alliance,” including on a 4/13 show in the Chicago area. Rise will also be sending five women, Delilah Doom, Britt Baker, Kikyo, Dust, Kyle and Shotzi Blackheart, to a joint show with Stardom on 7/16 at Korakuen Hall

Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore ran 12/2 in Waukesha, WI. Kenn Doane & Mike Mondo of the former Spirit Squad are now being called the SWO for Spirit World Order. The entire promotion tries to feel like the 90s. Abyss beat Dreamer in a hardcore match with a black hole slam into thumbtacks after distraction by Nick Aldis. Candice Michelle, 39, did her retirement match and first match since February 2, 2009, when she left WWE on maternity leave, pinning Lisa Marie Varon, who also rarely wrestles these days. They started as faces and Varon went heel doing the fake knee injury spot. Then Michelle thanked her for all her help when they were in WWE and she talked about growing up as a wrestling fan and thanked Dreamer for letting her have one last match in her home area as she grew up in Milwaukee. Their heel authority figure from the federal athletic commission said he was appalled by violence and that fans should be ashamed for liking the company. Like I said, for better or worse, they try and give the show a 90s pro wrestling feel. The ref threw Shane Douglas out from ringside and he came out and overruled the ref saying Douglas has a federal manager’s license which overrides a referee’s ruling. Austin Aries beat Joey Mercury in the main event. Mercury gave the ref a low blow and Douglas threw Mercury a chain and he hit Aries with it. Douglas waved for another ref to come in. It was Dreamer in disguise at first and he refused to count, then he gave Mercury a diamond cutter, punched Douglas and Dreamer and Aries dropkicked Mercury and Aries hit the 450 and Dreamer counted.

The show “The 5th Quarter,” on Verizon Media’s go90, has episode on 12/7 called Wrestlestock, with the fictional story of a three-day pro wrestling event in1968, patterned after Woodstock. John Morrison, Joey Ryan, Damien Sandow, Rocky Romero, Ryan Nemeth and JTG appear in the episode

SlamWrestling and Greg Oliver wrote a bio on Dave Johnson, the former member of the Blackhearts (sometimes spelled Blackharts) tag team last week, who died last week from a heart attack. He was born May 22, 1967, so was 50, not 49 as reported last week, real name David Johnson. Actually there is something in the story not correct as it said the Blackharts gimmick of being the illegitimate sons of Stu Hart came from me and Tom Nash. While I was good friends with Tom Nash, and it would be cool to say that was my idea, I didn’t know about the illegitimate sons of Stu Hart aspect of the gimmick until I saw it on television. The Blackhearts name and gimmick was something we discussed at length, but that was all Nash’s brainchild, not mine. The story noted that for the past eight years after leaving pro wrestling, he ran a pool cleaning business called DJ’s Pool Services in Vero Beach, FL. The original team was Tom Nash & David Heath. Nash married Luna Vachon, and later found out Heath was having an affair with his wife, which led to a break-up of the marriage and a physical breakup of the friendship and the team. Nash, who came up with the name, retained the rights to it and picked Johnson a Heath’s replacement. Jimmy Suzuki, who was a well-known Japanese photographer and had a hand in booking foreign talent for All Japan, saw them teaming at an independent show and loved them, started raving about them because of all their innovative moves. He brought them into All Japan and they were going to get a push. Unfortunately, there were problems on the first tour. There was a tag match against Stan Hansen & Danny Spivey and Hansen destroyed Nash with a chair shot and knocked Johnson out cold with a lariat. Johnson helped start the career of MVP, who wrote about Johnson, “My friend and mentor. He taught me how to be a pro wrestler, always kept it real, a great father, a true friend. As a professional wrestler I am used to losing friends. This one caught me completely off guard. This one hurts more than usual. I will miss my friend.

An indie group is running 12/15 in Tijuana with the Dos Caras family of Alberto El Patron & Dos Caras Sr. & El Hijo de Dos Caras vs. Dr,. Wagner Jr. & El Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr & Tinieblas Jr.

EUROPE: 5 Star Wrestling announced their weekly Thursday night major arena shows with dates on 2/1 in Liverpool, 2/8 in Newcastle, 2/15 in Sheffield, 3/1 in Belfast, 3/8 in Aberdeen, 3/22 in Manchester, 3/29 in Leeds, 4/19 in Dundee, 4/26 in Blackburn and 5/10 in Cardiff. The shows will air live on prime time television in the U.K. on FreeSports, the first time the U.K. will have ever had a live wrestling TV series, as even in the World of Sport days, the show was taped ahead of time. The names they are listing as their top stars are Rey Mysterio Jr., John Morrison and Rob Van Dam. The shows are supposed to be about airing a 128-wrestler single elimination tournament

Regarding Van Dam, in his divorce papers from wife Sonya he’s trying to get his financial support number down noting that he’s not making big money as a pro wrestler because he’s aged out (he’s now 47) and said that he suffered a concussion in a match on November 12, 2016 that caused “visual impairment” and that WWE will no longer use him. He was wrestling Pentagon Jr. In that match. He said that his WWE merchandise contract ended in July and wasn’t renewed

Revolution Pro Uprising on 12/8 at York Hall sold out in advance (about 1,100 tickets) with a loaded show with Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Matt Riddle for the British title, Young Bucks & Marty Scurll vs. Flip Gordon & Chris Brookes & Travis Banks, Cody vs. Jay Lethal for the ROH title, Tyler Bate & Trent Seven defending the British tag team titles against Zack Gibson & Josh Bodom, Pete Dunne vs. Eddie Dennis, Flash Morgan Webster defends the cruiserweight title against Ryan Smile, David Starr, Kurtis Chapman and Phantasmo and Martin Stone vs. Dave Mastiff

The Young Bucks & Cody are also working 12/7 for Discovery Wrestling in Edinburgh, Scotland (which has a few tickets left) and 12/9 in Dublin for OTT Wrestling, which is sold out, which is 2,200 tickets, for a show that also includes Will Ospreay, Scurll and Rey Fenix

Defiant Pro Wrestling, the group formerly known as What Culture Pro Wrestling, taped three hours of television on 12/5 in Birmingham, using David Starr, Travis Banks, El Ligero, Joe Hendry, Stu Bennett (as the General Manager, formerly Wade Barrett), Austin Aries, Marty Scurll, Chris Brookes, Jurn Simmons, Kay Lee Ray, Joe Coffey, Jimmy Havoc, Speedball Mike Bailey, Rampage Brown, Zack Gibson and others. The first show saw Aries beat Scurll in a match for the Defiant championship. The show ended when Aries, Chris Ridgeway, Mark Haskins, Aussie Open (Mark Davies & Kyle Fletcher) and other IPW guys attacked Jimmy Havoc, tore down the ring and all Defiant logos, so it looks like a promotion vs. promotion and invasion storyline.

ROH: Regarding the big show that the Young Bucks and Cody are working on putting together, the latest word is that the probable location will be either an arena in the Chicago area or an arena in Southern California. There are other places like London, Toronto and San Francisco that have been talked about, but based on recent discussions, they are now less likely. They are working on a few sponsors. On this week’s Being the Elite show, they showed the Young Bucks and Cody in Dallas at TGIF Headquarters being cooked a meal. While nothing was said, the reason they were there was for a meeting regarding sponsorships or being involved in some form with the show. The Young Bucks joked that they were at their favorite Japanese restaurant, because when they go to Tokyo, they often film segments at the TGIF there

Nothing is still official. My gut is if they had C.M. Punk and Kenny Omega in Chicago with a few New Japan guys, it’s the best bet to hit 10,000 anywhere, but that is still a ton of people for a modern show and as noted, it would be a gigantic success to even get close to that number. The one thing with Bryan Danielson is that there is still a chance WWE clears him, while the odds of Punk going to WWE at least next year is a whole lot slimmer. But Punk, if he wanted to be wrestling, would be wrestling, and he’s made no hints of being anywhere near it

For Final Battle, a stipulation is that if Jay Lethal beats Cody to win the ROH title on 12/8 in London on the Revolution Pro show, that the Final Battle card will change from Cody vs. Dalton Castle for the title to a four-way with Lethal, Cody, Castle and Marty Scurll

There was a very controversial segment on the new Being the Elite where Kenny Omega acted like a nervous fan boy meeting Joey Ryan and wanted Ryan to use his dick to sign an autograph on Omega’s dick. That was different. Another segment they did was have Hangman Page, while in Japan, studying tapes of Ryan’s dick spot he does in every match with the idea he’s trying to learn to do that spot himself, or perhaps build for a Page vs. Ryan program.

IMPACT: The Nashville offices were officially closed as of 12/1, with some of the employees being let go, and others will work from home. Impact business will be done out of a Toronto office. The plan is to continue taping both in Canada and the U.S., but the company is in heavy cost-cutting and due to tax breaks and other things, they save a ton of money, as in about a half million dollars, every time they do a massive taping in Canada

.There are also more international plans. Don Callis, who hasn’t started here, is a liaison at building a relationship with New Japan since he and Scott D’Amore are close, and the company wants to be part of the New Japan/ROH alliance, which is notable because they work with AAA and Crash, and New Japan in the past has stayed away from people who work with AAA. Callis has tried to mend fences, as has Scott D’Amore, with the idea of exchanging some talent although right now there’s nothing in the cards on that. That’s also interesting since Impact has been working with NOAH, and NOAH and New Japan don’t get along

Matt Sydal has signed a contract here. Since the new contracts are on per date deals, he is allowed to book his own independent dates rather than having the company book them for him

Add Eddie Edwards, whose deal is up in February, to the list with Bobby Lashley and Ethan Carter III, whose contracts are coming due. The word is that Impact will only be offering the new per-day contracts rather than significant money guaranteed deals like all three are signed for, so there’s a good chance all three may leave. It’ll be interesting to see if Lashley, at 41, tries to go back and fight because he pulled out of Bellator to concentrate on pro wrestling because of his contract, and that storyline was kind of a weird way real life mimicking storyline. The belief right now is WWE and ROH have interest in Edwards, with the WWE interest likely for NXT. They passed on him years ago, but that was when they had the negative mentality toward ROH stars that is no longer the case, and it was also as a tag team with Davey Richards, and they are no longer a team

Future Stars of Wrestling and Defy have been added to the Global Wrestling Network. Future Stars is based out of Las Vegas and Defy is based out of Seattle. A defy match with Sami Callihan vs. Randy Myers aired on the 11/30 episode of Impact

The situation with Chelsea Green (Knockouts champion Laurel Van Ness) is that after she won the title, hours later, she asked for a release and it was turned down. The company was really upset because they had already gone through several days of tapings and angles to build for her winning. She admitted she had made a mistake in not asking for the release on the first day of the tapings and then going through all the plans of making her champion without saying anything. Apparently there was an agreement that, since she held the belt, that this wasn’t supposed to be talked about publicly anywhere until she lost the title. Unless they arrange something at an indie show quickly, that wouldn’t be until the January taping and the last word we heard is that it would be at the January taping. But it’s now one of those things where fans a lot of fans at the tapings are going to know. They could do a swerve and surprise those fans by having her win a title match and then lose later in the tapings but that’s also working too hard to try and fool fans who don’t need to be pulled. But the story got out that she asked for her release and Impact was refusing to release her, then they put the belt on her anyway and still wouldn’t release her, which obviously sounded suspicious and made no sense. Right now the plans to release her after she drops the title

James Storm is now taking indie bookings, which leads me to believe he’s not WWE bound. Storm had appeared on NXT television but hadn’t signed a WWE contract the last time his contract expired here. He went on their TV, was over huge, as everyone who has even a small name is the first time they show up at Full Sail, did a promo and everything. Then TNA gave him a far superior offer to what WWE gave him, so he came back, until that deal expired.

UFC: Conor McGregor, who is was rumored had fled Ireland, didn’t and was in court on 11/30 on a speeding charge and paid a 400 pound fine. An RTE reporter asked him about any threats on his life and he said, “Come and get me.” That’s probably not the wisest reaction to mob threats. While in court, the judge actually asked him how much he made for the Mayweather fight and he said $140 million. It wasn’t clear if he meant dollars or pounds, because 140 million pounds is closer to $189 million, which doesn’t sound possible given the 70/30 split whereas $140 million is. Keep in mind that McGregor is very prone to exaggeration as well. Dana White over the weekend, stemming from the problems in the negotiations for a 12/30 McGregor vs. Ferguson fight said that he didn’t know if McGregor would ever fight again, noting that it’s not the easiest thing train and get punched in the face when you have $100 million in your bank account. Later in the weekend he said they were proceeding with the idea that McGregor isn’t part of the plans. I was really surprised he would say that this month, since UFC is trying to get its next TV deal done this month or in the first quarter of 2018, and saying publicly that you’re proceeding with the idea McGregor will never fight again, while honest, does you no favors in negotiations. He also told TSN when they asked him about McGregor being suspended for what happened in Bellator, White sort of blew it off saying that it didn’t happen on their show but on a different show, but kind of jokingly said McGregor is suspended until the summer. To me, and they need a rule of thumb here, but I’ve always felt that when you hit the one year mark since your last defense, which in the case of McGregor would have been November, and if you don’t have a fight at least scheduled, you should be stripped of the title. Obviously he’s going to get leeway but that would make Tony Ferguson champion and he should face the winner of the 12/30 fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov (who has had his own problems fighting between weight issues and injuries) vs. Edson Barboza

McGregor was scheduled this past week to appear as a guest on the Jonathan Ross talk show on ITV in the U.K. to promote his documentary movie, which is out on DVD and Blu Ray. He no-showed the appearance. This was even with his security team flying in the day before, unannounced, a private jet for him waiting on the runway at the Dublin Airport that he’d paid 15,000 pounds plus 1,000 pounds per hour (it sat there all day waiting for him) and him booking 12 rooms at the Claridge, one of London’s top hotels for his entourage at 400 pounds per room. Ross was furious about McGregor no-showing and the word in the English media on him isn’t good. Of course, he’s such a big star that when his next fight comes, most will still be working with him, but right now this has hurt his reputation

St-Pierre is currently suffering from colitis (an ulcer-like inflammation of the colon). He said he first knew he was sick about one month before the Michael Bisping fight but didn’t want to pull out, and said he decided to just work through it and take care of it after the fight. Colitis leaves one fatigued. He said that since he started on medication things have gone well and he’s almost 100 percent and said he feels a lot better now. He said his level of Colitis wasn’t very severe. So now we’re back to every single drawing card and a large percentage of the champions being question marks going forward. Right now the idea seems to be Whittaker defending the interim title against Luke Rockhold on 2/11 (2/10 U.S. time) at the UFC 221 PPV show. This hasn’t been signed yet but Ariel Helwani reported there are talks going on in that direction. On 12/6, St-Pierre did an interview on TSN and said that he doesn’t think he will be defending the middleweight title after all. “We’ll talk about it, but I’m not sure if I compete I will go back at 185. I don’t think so.” He said that he learned from his mistakes. He said there was no easy way to gain muscle mass like he had to for the bigger weight division, he avoided PEDs and he ate so much that it wasn’t healthy. “I think the body has a natural weight it can perform at its best athletic ability, and for me, the weight that I am now is my perfect weight.” The reality is that even though St-Pierre looked like a physical specimen inside the cage, the added weight caused him to tire faster and he wasn’t as quick, and while it worked out against Michael Bisping, it probably wouldn’t have with Whittaker or Luke Rockhold

Francis Ngannou has challenged Brock Lesnar. Well, he should, because that’s his biggest money fight. Obviously that would not be a wise fight for Lesnar

Mark Hunt has been cleared by UFC to continue fighting

Floyd Mayweather Jr., is now claiming that he carried Conor McGregor in their fight. McGregor is also claiming that if they had a rematch, he’d win for sure

Dana White was pushing this week that it’s pretty much a done deal waiting to be announced regarding a Demetrious Johnson vs T.J. Dillashaw in a battle of champions. The big question is if Dillashaw will go to 125, which he has said he could and would do, or if Johnson would go to 135. Henry Cejudo talked about this and said that if Dillashaw comes down to 125, and loses the strength in cutting down, that Johnson is such a fantastic fighter and cardio machine that he thinks Dillashaw would lose, but at 135, he sees things very differently because Dillashaw would be at his peak weight. Dillashaw has been pushing for the fight and Johnson has kept saying that he wants $2 million, and unfortunately, the drawing power of this fight doesn’t make it worth that kind of money. He also questioned whether Dillashaw could make weight and I guess wanted him to prove he could first. Henry Cejudo said that he’d fight Dillashaw at 125 if they needed him to, but that direction doesn’t seem like it’s happening. It leaves contenders in the lurch waiting, just like Conor McGregor has done at lightweight, and Tyron Woodley due to his labrum tear (not his fault) has done at welterweight, GSP with his illness at middleweight, and Stipe Miocic has (although it’s being worked out now) at heavyweight with his contract dispute. Johnson right now has no contenders except Cejudo and Joseph Benavidez, both of whom he beat in the first round the last time he faced them. Dillashaw would have the winner of the 12/30 Jimmie Rivera vs. John Lineker fight, as well as former champion, Dominick Cruz, who isn’t getting any younger, and who has a win over Dillashaw

This week’s show is 12/9, the company’s debut in Fresno, CA. It starts at 6:30 p.m. with Fight Pass bouts with Antonio Braga Neto (9-2) vs. Trevin Giles (10-0), Davi Ramos (6-2) vs. Chris Gruetzemacher (13-2), and Iuri Alcantara (34-8) vs. Alejandro Perez (18-6-1). The FS 1 fights are Frankie Saenz (11-5) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (7-2), Alex Perez (18-4) vs. Carls John de Tomas (6-1), Andre Soukhamthath (11-5) vs. Luke Sanders (11-1), Liz Carmouche (11-5) vs. Alexis Davis (18-7), Albert Morales (7-2-1) vs. Benito Lopez (8-0), Markus Perez (9-0) vs. Eryk Andes (9-0), Darrell Horcher (13-2) vs. Scott Holtzman (9-2), Aljamain Sterling (14-2) vs. Marlon Moraes (19-5-1), Jason Knight (20-3) vs. Gabriel Benitez (19-6) and Cub Swanson (25-7) vs. Brian Ortega (12-0). In the main event, Ortega is coming off an incredible streak of four straight third round submission wins in fights that he was probably losing, winning in two of those cases in the last minute. What that tells you is he’s never out of a fight, but his record may also be misleading. Still, if he beats Swanson he’s in the mix for a title shot. Swanson and Frankie Edgar have been talked about for Max Holloway, although Holloway beat Swanson handily so I’m not that hot on that match. Sterling vs. Moraes is a strong bantamweight fight as far as the winner in the title mix, although the winner should still be behind the Lineker vs. Rivera winner, Cruz and Cody Garbrandt. I could see the winner of this fight getting Garbrandt next

Donald Cerrone, whose walk around weight is 190, is returning to 155 since he’s outsized by the guys he’s been facing at 170. He also said he’s going to fight less frequently going forward

Jeremy Stephens vs. Doo Ho Choi, Michael Johnson vs. Darren Elkins (Johnson is dropping to 145 pounds, which is a big drop for him), Michael Santiago vs. Mads Burnell and Guido Canntelli vs. Kang Kyung-Ho have been added to the 1/14 show in St. Louis. Kyung-Ho hasn’t fought in UFC since a two-year military term

Justin Scoggins had to pull out of his 12/16 fight with Tim Elliott on the Winnipeg show due to a spinal process fracture. Pietro Menga a U.K. fighter who is 13-0, will now face Elliott. A fight with Ricardo Lamas vs. Josh Emmett has been added to that show. Emmett replaces Jose Aldo, who Lamas was to face, but moved to the show this past weekend. Darren Stewart replaces Vitor Miranda that night to face Julian Marquez. Also added is Nordine Taleb vs. Danny Roberts. Taleb was to face Sultan Aliev on the show. Roberts was to face Sheldon Wescott

Amanda Lemos, who last fought in the UFC in July, tested positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition test on 11/8. She has been provisionally suspended

Luis Henrique vs. Timothy Johnson has been added to the 2/3 show in Belem, Brazil.

BELLATOR: Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione in a first round match in the heavyweight Grand Prix was announced for 2/16 in Uncasville, CT and the Mohegan Sun Arena

They are going head-to-head with UFC with a Spike show on 12/9 on tape delay from Florence, Italy. Ratings wise I could see this being a tough night when you have a show without main stars, even though there is a title fight, the unfamiliar night since Bellator is usually Friday, tape delay (although Bellator history is that live vs. tape doesn’t seem to matter at all when it comes to ratings) and the UFC free television competition. It’s a combined MMA and kickboxing show with the kickboxing matches airing out of prime time at a later date. The MMA card features Rafael Carvalho (14-1) defending the middleweight title against Alessio Sakara (19-11). Sakara is getting the title shot since he’s from Italy and it’s for the local market more than Sakara being the top contender. Other TV fights are Brandon Girtz (14-7) vs. Luka Jelic (10-2), Lena Ovchynnikova (12-4, a woman who they are pushing because of her looks) vs. Alejandra Lara (6-1) and Mihail Nica (6-0) vs. Carlos Leal Miranda (10-3)

The 12/1 show, which went head-to-head with UFC and thus didn’t get much attention, from Thackerville, OK, saw Julia Budd (11-2) beat Arlene Blencowe (10-7) via split decision 46-49, 48-47 and 49-46 to retain the featherweight title. The match was boring and a lot of people seemed to think Blencowe had the match won going into the fifth round, but the judges saw differently. Rafael Lovato Jr. (7-0) beat former All-American wrestler Chris Honeycutt (10-2, 1 no contest) on 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 scores. Chidi Njokuani (18-5, 1 no contest) beat Hisaki Kato (8-3) on straight 30-27 scores. David Rickels (19-4, 2 no contests) handed Adam Piccolotti (9-2) his second straight loss by straight 30-27 scores. Former UFC fighter Sam Silcia (16-8) won a straight 29-28 decision over former Bellator bantamweight champion Marcos Galvao (18-9-1).

OTHER MMA: Gabi Garcia of Rizin, the freakishly muscular woman fighter, claimed that on 11/29, when she was leaving a medical office getting work done for her 12/31 Rizin fight against Shinobu Kandori, a man came and attempted to start a fight with her. She said the man dared her to punch him, and when she refused, he leg kicked her and bruised her leg.

WWE: Jim Johnston, 58, who wrote most of the iconic WWE entrance music from 1985 to 2012, is no longer with the company. While WWE would not confirm the release saying that they don’t comment on the status of employees, a number of sources did confirm it. Johnston, who was one of the highest paid non-executive employees in the company (and former employee said that word in the company years ago was that he was the highest paid), saw his contract expire and wasn’t renewed. CFO$, who are John Alicastro and Michael Lauri, had taken over as the main composer of entrance music over the past five years, and were responsible for the Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura themes that have become such a big part of their presentations. Neil Lawi, the General Manager of WWE Music Publishing, had brought them in years ago and Johnston had been faded out of the picture. Alicastro and Lauri of CFO$ had wanted to replace all the Johnston music and overhaul the division. They already did a remake of Kane’s theme and there is talk they will do that with others as well. Those in the company were aware he was not going to be renewed when his contract ended. Johnston wrote entrance music for all the major names including The Rock, Steve Austin, Undertaker, Jake Roberts, Mr. Perfect, Ted DiBiase, Roddy Piper, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Vince McMahon, Bret Hart, Michaels, Ultimate Warrior, Edge, Mick Foley and everyone in between. He’d also done collaboration work other famous musicians for themes like HHH and Orton, as well as a collaboration with Jimmy Hart on the Shawn Michaels “Sexy Boy’ song. Most of the WWE musical albums have cracked the top 200, and WWE The Music 3 sold 1.2 million united in the U.S. He also did the musical score for a number of WWE movies and video games

It’s now official that Jericho won’t be back for Mania. Fozzy announced a U.S. tour from 2/28 to 4/8, and he’s playing a gig on Mania night in Hampton Beach, NH

Expect another big run of WWE stock because JPMorgan analyst David Karnovsky set a price target for the stock of $37 per share. The thing that caused the big analysis increase was the UFC negotiations story, since UFC has multiple suitors and they are expected to have a big increase in TV rights fees (which will also increase the profit margins of the company to the point where the huge sale price was worth it). The feeling is if UFC was getting multiple suitors and its price up, then WWE will do the same and get a big increase, which would set them up for record profits, particularly after 2020. The stock price at last check because of this analysis has increased to $29.25 per share giving the company a market value of $2.255 billion

USA Today this past week reported that a deal with Ronda Rousey and WWE was close to being finalized. Is this June or December? Rousey has been training for WWE under Brian Kendrick in Los Angeles as well as at the Performance Center, and they aired videos on YouTube and shot the angle with the Horsewomen at the Mae Young Classic in the summer. Rousey was back at the Performance Center training of late. So I’m guessing they are going to make a formal announcement of the deal soon. In a promotional video for Ronda Rousey’s new web site, there were a few clips of her training for pro wrestling, so I guess that’s not still supposed to be a secret

Given Asuka switching from the chicken wing Asuka lock to the armbar, and Rousey as the legit armbar master, and then giving Asuka the shooter push and protecting her so much, that would seem to be a natural match up down the line

R-Truth underwent shoulder surgery on 12/4 so he’ll likely be out of action. He hasn’t worked since 10/15 so that would be the time frame of when he suffered the injury. He’s 45 and because Vince McMahon is so youth oriented (unless you are a legend), so it’s amazing he’s survived this long as just a guy on the roster

This coming week is the annual WWE Week on the USA Network. Besides Raw & Smackdown, there will be the debut of the current version of NXT on U.S. television with a one-hour show from 7-7:55 p.m. on Wednesday, 12/13, and Tribute to the Troops on 12/14 from 8-10 p.m. They are also advertising WWE performers in replay of the movie “Psych” (which debuted this past week) featuring Charlotte and on 12/14 at 10 p.m. the USA Network series Damnation has an episode featuring Harper. WWE has confirmed the NXT show will be the one that will also debut that day on the WWE Network. The show looks to be Ember Moon vs. Peyton Royce, Fabian Aichner vs. Andrade Cien Almas, Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black in the No. 1 contender’s tournament and Authors of Pain vs. Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch. The rating for NXT will be interesting. If the number is strong enough, it would open the door for WWE to be able to sell the show and make a lot more money off it than as a network property

Foley is going back to touring comedy clubs from April through June with 20 shows with the hook being the 20th anniversary of his most famous match the Hell in a Cell match with Undertaker in 1998

James Ellsworth will be taking indie bookings starting in mid-February, when his 90 day non-compete ends

While they said Sheamus was out of action last week because he was on a trip back to Ireland, he’s actually rehabbing spinal stenosis, which is not a good thing at all. Spinal stenosis ended the careers of Edge and Steve Austin

Cena is currently out promoting the movie “Ferdinand,” an animated movie where he does the voices of the lead character, a bull. I’ve seen a good deal of promotion for it all over the place over the past few weeks and it’s the biggest movie that Cena has been the lead in. It will be released on 12/14

Sting, 58, was at the Wales Comic Con on 12/2 and talked about a few subjects. When asked if he wasn’t getting neck surgery because he wanted to do another match, he said that he never said he wanted to do another match. He did say he would still like to have a match with Undertaker but doesn’t expect it to happen. He said he decided against neck surgery on the advice from Steve Austin. He said he feels fine, has no side effects from the injuries in the match with Rollins, can still train and his neck doesn’t bother him, and he never gets a sore neck so feels he has no need to get surgery. He said he has no complaints regarding his match with HHH, saying you had DX and the NWO interfering and it was surreal, a great moment and great memories. He said there was no need for a rematch with HHH. He also said he’s looking at getting back into working in real estate.

 The Pontiac Silverdome, home of WrestleMania III, a landmark event in pro wrestling history in 1987 with the Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant match which may have been the biggest match in modern pro wrestling history as far as being famous in North America goes, was imploded on 12/3. Actually they imploded it that morning, but it was built so well it stayed up, but it will be collapsing at some point soon

From the NXT tapings, while not announced officially, the direction for 1/27 in Philadelphia looked to be Andrade Cien Almas vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT title (that is official), Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly vs. Sanity for the tag titles, Ember Moon vs. Nikki Cross for the women’s title and perhaps Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane. They did the start of Baszler vs. Sane at TV, but in commentary when Sane beat Peyton Royce this past week, were pushing Sane going after the title. They are only putting the lower bowl of the building for sale

WWE is filming a WWE 24 show on the Hardys

With their tag title wins in NXT, Fish & O’Reilly are the first team in history to win tag team titles in WWE, NJPW and ROH

HBO has officially announced that Bill Simmons’ Andre the Giant documentary project will be debuting this spring. This will be more in-depth than anything ever done on Andre due to the people interviewed for the piece. After it airs we’ll have some good stories to tell

Ford filed a lawsuit for breach of contract against Cena in U.S. District Court in Michigan. According to the suit, Cena was given a deal to purchase a $500,000 2017 Ford GT and as part of the contract, agreed not to sell the car for two years. He then sold he car soon after getting it for a major profit. Their lawsuit claimed that Ford has suffered additional damages and losses including but limited to, loss of brand value, ambassador activity and customer goodwill due to the sale. They are asking for his profits from the sale and additional damages. According to the lawsuit, Cena told Ford that he needed to sell the car and some of his other property at a time to pay some bills. He did apologize and said, “I completely understand and as stated, am willing to work with Ford to make it right. My sincerest apologies.

Maria Kanellis wrote a long Facebook blog on husband Mike Bennett and dealing with drug addiction. It was really a powerful message, saying addiction took over and he had mood swings, no motivation, no will to help with housework or paying bills, they had so many ridiculous fights, lies, and lots of sleeping and she thought he hated her. She said she just thought he was going through depression, but after almost three years she was tired about lying about where the money was going and why he was always broke, why he would disappear for hours at a time and started thinking about a divorce. She said she didn’t want to do it, but it was bad and she didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t love her. She said when she was two weeks pregnant, but didn’t know it at the time, they were supposed to go to Universal Studios and Mike wouldn’t get out of bed. She went to the gym. He still was in bad. She said he’d promised he’d be ready when she came back and promised they’d have a fun day on their mini-vacation, and he just laid in bed. She said he was ready to bring up the D (divorce) and talked about going the next day and he said that he can’t afford to pay for a ticket to Universal. She said she’d been paying for just about everything up by that point, and said she was someone who said she would never be with someone who treated her like that, and there she was and she was done. After a fight, he said that he didn’t want to die and that he think he has a problem. She admitted having a bad temper. “I’ve had therapy to help it and I try to meditate. But no amount of medication or therapy will control temper after three years of being lied to about pain pills and money.” She said she went for a walk and made the decision that right now her feelings will be placed in a small box in her mind and that she needs to take care of her best friend and husband, “not because he is my best friend or husband but because he is a human being that shouldn’t die.

Dwayne Johnson will be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 12/13

Both Harper and Samil Singh left the Smackdown Latin American tour early. Harper left after the show in Lima, Peru because his wife was having to give birth in an emergency situation about six weeks early. He worked the show, got the word, flew home in the middle of the night and five minutes after he arrived at the hospital, she gave birth. She had gone in for a check-up and due to pre-elampsia, which has to do with high blood pressure developed during pregnancy, she was told it was time to have the baby right there. His son, Nolan Rhino Huber was born about 12 hours later, as she asked to wait until he got home. One of the Singh brothers left due to what talent was told was a visa issue but WWE’s official word was it was a personal issue not injury related

Kyle O’Reilly noted that his mother had passed away on 11/29 after a long bout with cancer

New England Marketing Research out of Norwalk, CT, sent out a e-mail to some area WWE fans. They are picking ten people who are already WWE fans to use as a focus group on 12/19 to watch people and footage for reactions. .. WWE also sent out a survey to fans asking which of these celebrities they would be most interested in seeing in a WWE match. The names listed were Rousey, Terry Crews, Conor McGregor, Cris Cyborg, Miesha Tate, Vladimir Klitschko, Danica Patrick, Marshawyn Lynch and Rob Gronkowski. Interesting they didn’t mention Paige VanZant. VanZant was supposed to appear at the 2016 SummerSlam show, but then backed out to train for a fight, and it’s notable that they seemingly never tried to use her again

Chris Berlatti, the Senior Vice President of Communications has left the company. He had been with the company for two years, coming from ESPN. He praised working with Stephanie McMahon and Paul Levesque on his way out

Raw on 12/11 is from Cleveland with Kane vs. Strowman and Swann vs. Gulak for a shot at Enzo’s title as the two matches announced. Smackdown is 12/12 from Cincinnati.

. The Raw crew left after Tribute to the Troops for shows on 12/7 and 12/8 in Abu Dhabi and a 12/9 show in New Delhi, India. Mahal and the Singhs were advertised on that show with a HHH vs. Mahal main event. It is kind of crazy they put the title on Mahal for all those months, only to take it away before the India tour, and not go with him in a title match as the main event

For U.K. ratings the week of 11/20 to 11/26, live Raw did 51,000 viewers, live Smackdown did 49,000, a Smackdown Wednesday at 10:15 p.m. replay did 26,000, a Raw on Thursday at 5 p.m. replay did 28,000, Main Event did 19,000 and a Smackdown Saturday at 9 a.m. replay did 19,000. On 11/6 and 11/7, which was the week the show was taped in the U.K., Raw and Smackdown did 70,000 and 40,000, the highest numbers of the year for both shows. But the 11/13 Raw with The Shield reunion beat that at 73,000, although Smackdown did less than 13,000 the next night. Smackdown on 11/21 at 49,000 was its high for the year

The ten most-watched shows on the WWE Network ths past week were: 1. NXT on 11/29; 2. 2017 Survivor Series; 3. Table for Three with Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat and Sting; 4. NXT Takeover Houston; 5. 2015 Night of Champions PPV Rollins vs. Sting; 6. WWE 365 Kevin Owens; 7. 205 Live from 11/28; 8. NXT from 11/22; 9. WWE 24 Bill Goldberg; 10. WrestleMania 33

Notes from the 12/4 Raw in Los Angeles. It was a heavy wrestling show with long matches and far less talking than usual. The show felt shorter with the emphasis on action, but the reaction told a lesson. Stephanie McMahon was doing a speech that night at the CMO Digital Summit in Pelican Hills, CA (Newport Beach in Los Angeles so she was in town) but her speech was at the same time as Raw. For those fans of less long interviews and less Stephanie McMahon, the ratings were not your friend. They drew 9,000 fans, which was a disappointment since they had a good advance and two weeks away I heard they were trending toward 11,500, which would have been the best Raw crowd in a long time and the Staples Center is one of the company’s most consistently strong arenas that they run. They had four different matches that ranged from almost 15 to just over 20 minutes. Main Event opened the show with Tozawa pinning Kendrick and Anderson & Gallows beat Slater & Rhyno. Raw opened with Angel out. It’s still funny to me watching Angle come out and lead the crowd in chanting “you suck” like he’s a super babyface. He was about to announce who Reigns would defend the IC title against when Jordan came out. Jordan wanted Reigns and said that this week, his knee was fine. The knee was taped up and this is becoming a running gag. He said he knew he could beat Reigns, and he said, “I just need a chance, dad.” Reigns came out. It was really funny watching just how much thought goes into trying to get Reigns cheered, and here, it sounded smart on paper, but the crowd just wasn’t willing. They didn’t boo Reigns when he came out, so that’s a positive. Reigns wanted Joe. He told Jordan not to run to his daddy and set up and take it. Jordan started laughing and said, “You’re going to talk to me about earning opportunities? You’re the poser boy for what WWE management wants.” Reigns said he wasn’t given anything, he earned his spot through seven straight years of hard work. He did have seven straight years of hard work, but it also was given to him. He told Jordan to step up and take it. Joe then came out. The crowd was way behind Joe, as expected, since they were in Southern California, where he’s originally from. Joe accepted Reigns’ challenge for a title match. Joe gave Reigns five seconds to withdraw his challenge saying Reigns knows he can’t beat him. Jordan went to Joe and said that “Unlike you, I don’t talk tough, because I am tough.” Jordan then gave Reigns an overhead belly-to-belly, so Reigns challenged Jordan to a match right now, and said Joe can wait for later. Reigns pinned Jordan in 20:35. Joe was sitting on the stage watching. This was like all the long matches on the show. It was technically good old style professional and the crowd was quiet until about 17:00 in. Jordan suplexed Reigns over the top and both went over, with Jordan then selling his left knee. Reigns used a half crab. That was the point the crowd got into it. Reigns went for a spear and ran into a knee. Jordan hit two Northern lights suplexes for near falls. Jordan, because his knee was hurt, executed the suplex with his bad leg in the air which was some good subtlety. As far as work goes, this was an example of a match that by the standards of what they teach and what the agents put together is really good. But this crowd wasn’t on that page except they reacted to big moves and were into chanting “this is awesome” after. Reigns got the pin with a Superman punch and spear. Joe then hit the ring and put Reigns in the choke. Jordan then suplexed Joe. So the idea here was that the crowd hates Jordan, so they’ll cheer Reigns against. Instead, it was one of the quietest Reigns matches in months. Then Joe, the big favorite, attacks Reigns, but Jordan, who they hate, saves, so at this point, the people will hate Jordan, plus they want to see Reigns and Joe go at it and it’s Jordan who screws that up. So when Reigns hits the Superman punch on Jordan, the segment ends with a big Reigns pop. Well, they did all that. The problem was the crowd didn’t boo Jordan like they expected. Then when Reigns hit the punch on Jordan, they didn’t react to that either. Angle was on the phone with Stephanie when Jordan showed up again. Jordan wanted a rematch with Reigns for next week. He also said he wanted a match with Joe. Joe then attacked Jordan and threw him into the wall while once again, Angle had to stand there. Paige beat Banks in 16:03. Paige had Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville in her corner. Banks had Bayley and Mickie James. They had to put the newcomers over. Banks took a couple of bumps on her neck. Especially bad was her taking a sunset flip power bomb out of the corner. The other women fought outside the ring. Deville took out Bayley and gave a chop block to James. This distracted Banks, and Page kicked her as she turned around and pinned her after Rampage. All three put the boots to Banks after the match and Rose gave her a front suplex onto Deville’s knee. This was by the book, but the match evidently went way too long for fan interest. Angle was backstage and Elias came in. Elias wanted a title shot and complained that Angle gave the shot to his son. Wasn’t that Reigns? Well, maybe he read about it on Twitter and it got misinterpreted. He complained about Angle’s favoritism and how his bastard son will be the end of him. Angle said that Elias will have an opponent later. Enzo was giving advice to the Zo Train for later. Jax came out and started hitting on him. They want to keep Jax away from the Absolution girls, so Jax is now going to have a TV love affair with Enzo as a way for them to make fun of Enzo. Gulak won a four-way over Nese, Ali and Alexander in 14:52. This got a better reaction than most cruiserweight matches because the crowd did react to big moves. But 15 seconds after the big move, they’d be quiet again. The fans at ringside were really into this match but the rest of the arena didn’t seem t be. The finishing sequence saw Ali go for the 054 (inverted 450) on Gulak, but Nese pulled gulak out of the way. Nese hit the running knee on Ali, but Alexander hit Nese with the lumbar check and Nese rolled out of the ring. Alexander hit the lumbar check on Ali, but then Gulak ran in and hit a knee on Alexander and then pinned Ali. This sets him up with the match against Swann, with the winner becoming the top contender for the cruiserweight title. Charly Caruso got in the ring and asked Gulak about possibly facing Enzo. He wanted to explain it in a power point presentation, but then the music played and they went to a break. Elias came out singing. He got a face response. Strowman came out. They brawled. Elias hit him with a guitar shot, which broke the guitar, but Strowman no-sold it. Elias started running away but Strowman caught him and clotheslined him down and hit the powerslam. He threw the ring steps and looked like he was going to powerslam Elias on the steps. Kane’s music made the save, as Strowman just stopped dead in his tracks when the music played. But it was only Kane on the screen saying that while Strowman is a monster among men, he is a monster among monsters. Kane wanted a match with Strowman next week and next week they will ascend into the abyss. Unless he shows up as Joseph Park. The Shield was backstage. Reigns said he did his part by keeping his title and told them to do their part by winning the tag titles back. Rollins said that they would win because of it wasn’t for the New Day, they’d still be champions. Ambrose pretended that he didn’t know they had a title match this week because he stayed off twitter. But in the end, he was swerving them. Asuka beat Fox with an armbar in 2:18. Absolution came out and surrounded the ring. Once again they wouldn’t make a move. She left the ring and walked backwards to the back so they couldn’t jump her. Then Paige got in the ring and talked about how Fox was her best friend last year and was the only one of the women who liked her. She told Fox she loved her but that Rose and Deville don’t, and then they all beat down Fox. Rose and Deville both hit Fox with running knees to lay her out. Balor pinned Dallas in 5:37 with the coup de grace. Axel distracted to give Dallas the edge. So Michael Cole said Miz wasn’t there because he’s doing a movie, which is true, but originally they said Miz wasn’t around because The Shield injured him. Cole also talked about how Maryse is at home resting because she’s pregnant while Maryse is all over social media talking about how she’s in London (where The Marine is being filmed). They did alternate promos back-and-forth between Wyatt and Matt Hardy, with Hardy doing the Woken character. There wasn’t even a transition or an explanation. Still, Matt got a big response. I just have no faith in them booking this gimmick. The segment was good. Remember when Ed Nordholm said that WWE had no interest in doing the gimmick? No, they had no interest in leasing the ability to use the gimmick from Impact. Rollins & Ambrose first beat Sheamus & Cesaro via DQ in 17:08 in a tag title match. They started out fast. Once again, the crowd wasn’t that hot until late. And once again it ended up being a good match. The crowd reacted big when Rollins did a superplex and a falcon arrow on Sheamus but Cesaro saved. Lots of good near falls and saved. Rollins hit the knee on Cesaro but Sheamus saved, and Sheamus was disqualified when he wouldn’t stop putting the boots to Rollins. Angle came out and restarted the match with the titles at stake in a no DQ match. Rollins & Ambrose hit a double tope. Rollins hit a frog splash on Cesaro, but he kicked out. Joe then hit the ring and attacked Ambrose & Rollins. Reigns came in and Joe ran away from him into the crowd. While all this was going on, Sheamus hit the Brogue kick on Ambrose and Cesaro pinned him in 1:32

Notes from the 12/5 Tribute to the Troops show taped at the Naval Base in San Diego at 10 a.m. that day. I don’t know if this will air in this order, as all the Raw guys had an early flight to the Middle East so they taped their stuff first. The Shield beat Joe & Cesaro & Sheamus. Paige & Rose & Deville beat Bayley & Banks & James. Usually the rule on these shows is all faces over, no screwjobs, but I guess they felt the Absolution women shouldn’t be losing. Plus with Paige & Rose, they were probably the favorites of the navy crowd anyway. Charlotte beat Riott with the figure eight clean. New Days & Usos beat Benjamin & Gable (which I guess officially makes them heels) & Rusev & English. Even though Rusev is in the process of being cheered, he is still a foreign menace and this is Tribute tot he Troops. The main event saw Styles & Orton & Nakamura beat Owens & Zayn & Mahal. Machine Gun Kelly performed at the show. John Layfield returned and announced the show with Cole and Saxton. The Tribute to the Troops idea originally came from Layfield. Other guests at the show were Sgt. Slaughter, Ricky Steamboat and Henry

Notes from the 12/5 Smackdown tapings in San Diego. The show drew 5,000 fans. Dillinger pinned Kanellis in the dark match. The show opened with Owens & Zayn out. Owens said that they were the victims of a McMahon family vendetta and the McMahons will stop at nothing to get their pound of flesh. He noted that the McMahons tried to destroy Daniel Bryan, Bret Hart and Steve Austin, and then said how he and Zayn were better than all of them combined. They talked about how Orton has been handed everything while they have to scratch and claw for everything they’ve ever gotten. He said Shane McMahon tried to get Orton to do his dirty work because he can’t, but last week his plan failed. Zayn talked about how last week he didn’t violate the rules of the match because when he attacked Orton, it was on the stage, and noted that isn’t ringside where he was banned. While Zayn was on the floor showing the line between ringside and non-ringside, Orton hit the ring and gave Owens an RKO. Shane came out and said that on the PPV it would be Owens & Zayn vs. Orton and a partner of his choosing, and that on this show it would be Zayn vs. Orton with Owens handcuffed to the ropes. Owens was laid out from the RKO and didn’t hear any of this. Zayn told him and Owens said he was going to talk to Bryan about fixing this. English starting singing a song, the 12 Days of Rusev. He got to the second verse. If he sang any longer the crowd would have ended up cheering him. Rusev got a big pop holding up a “Rusev Day” T-shirt. The New Day interrupted his swinging and were passing out gigantic pancakes to the crowd. English & Rusev beat Big E & Kingston in 9:24. Kingston did a crazy dive on English. Kingston tried a springboard move, but Rusev tripped him. Rusev then kicked Kingston in the head for the pin. Renee Young interviewed Rawley. He talked about how Ryder got injured, and then, without Ryder, he won the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. He said everything was going his way until Ryder returned and Ryder dragged him down. He said that he’s a superstar and he’s nobody’s tag team partner. Bryan was out with Carmella, Lana and Tamina. The Riot Squad (Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan) came out. Everyone was yelling and Bryan just had enough and started screaming at them to stop it as they all wanted a title shot and to be on Clash of Champions. Bryan said they’d all be on the card as lumberjacks in the Charlotte vs. Natalya lumberjack match. Corbin and Roode were face-to-face. Both were mad that Ziggler was added to their PPV match because it lowered their odds of winning by one-third. Ziggler showed up and said that he was a two-time WWE champion, and when he won Money in the Bank, he cashed it in successfully, and their odds of winning both dropped to zero. Harper & Rowan destroyed Adam James & Josh Carr in 1:00 in a quick squash. Backstage, Owens was talking to Zayn. He said that he talked to Bryan and Bryan said he was going to think about changing the stip where he wouldn’t be handcuffed to the ropes. Roode beat Corbin via DQ in 3:25. Both were knocked out when Ziggler hit the ring and gave Roode a zig zag. He then gave Corbin a zig zag. Since the fans considered him the weakest of the three and the guy in the way, it made sense to have him lay both of them out in this angle. Natalya went up to Lana & Tamina & Carmella, saying she was so excited about them being lumberjacks in the match. She talked about how she would have their back and how they used to be the Welcoming Committee group and Charlotte and the Riot Squad were the enemy. The Riot Squad came out and Natalya went all two-faced, kissing up to them right in front of Lana & Tamina & Carmella. Natalya asked them to have her back in the lumberjack match. Charlotte beat Tamina in 6:40 with the figure eight. Lana, Carmella and Natalya were all at ringside in Tamina’s corner. The crowd wasn’t into this match. Natalya cut a promo after and teased that all the women would attack Charlotte. The Riot Squad came out. Tamina decked Logan and it was mainly a Tamina vs. Logan pull-apart. Owens & Zayn were trying to get Bryan to change the stips. Bryan wouldn’t do it, and had security with him. There was a huge security guard and Bryan told Owens that if he didn’t come to ringside and get handcuffed to the ropes that he would be suspended. Orton pinned Zayn in 11:29. They handcuffed Owens to the ropes. This was a good match. Orton mostly was on top, and gave Zayn an early beating. He didn’t clear out the monitors before he gave Zayn a back suplex on the announcers table, so he dropped him right on a monitor. For all the talk about how great a worker Orton is, and he is, when it comes to dropping guys on the table, he has dropped some guys in a dangerous way. Zayn had a big bruiser on his back from smashing on a monitor. Zayn got bolt cutters from under the ring. Orton stopped him from using them. So the match continued and there are bold cutters on the apron. What does the ref do? Why, not remove them or anything. He just kicked them to the corner. Owens then got them, and while it took some time to do it, he used them to break the handcuffs. So even with Owens free, Zayn went for the Helluva kick, missed, hit the buckles and Orton pinned him with a schoolboy. Post-match saw Owens and Zayn beating down on Orton until Nakamura made the save. This made up for that walk out in the New Day beatdown, as Orton hit RKO’s on both Zayn and Owens. Then Nakamura hit the Kinshasa on Zayn. With them destroyed, they cut to Shane and Bryan backstage. Bryan said that now that they’ve been destroyed Shane can be done punishing them. Shane said he was only getting started, as he was going to be the referee in the Nakamura & Orton vs. Owens & Zayn match at Clash of Champions, and gave the stips of the match while Bryan didn’t look happy about this at all. For 205 Live, with Enzo having flown out that morning to the Middle East, along with Kalisto, it became the Gulak show. The Zo Train is also the Justice League and Enzo is Superman and Gulak is Batman, so he’s in charge. Gulak came out for an interview and got probably the best reaction for one of this promos to date, so he is starting to get over. There were some “Power Point” chants as the came out. He was about to do the Power Point Presentation when Alexander’s music played. Alexander pinned Dar in 5:41 with the lumbar check. The story is how Dar is the guy the rest of the Zo Train is bullying so it appears he’ll turn face out of this. At one point he went to the middle ropes to jump on Alexander but Gulak told him to get off the ropes. He was distracted and lost. Gulak then blamed him for always losing. They also were building Gulak vs. Alexander out of this. Mustafa Ali, Rich Swann and Akira Tozawa were plugging the 205 Live tour. Brian Kendrick & Jack Gallagher did a promo talking about Kalisto, who was noted was also on the Middle East tour. Kendrick beat Gran Metalik in 5:47 with a ref stoppage from the captain’s hook submission. Metalik got over with the crowd, particularly when he ran from the audience and jumped over the barricade into a huracanrana ont he floor on Kendrick. The crowd didn’t like the finish. It was a reaction of they saw how good Metalik looked and thought it was B.S. he wasn’t being pushed. More stuff with Gulak, Nese, Daivari and Dar. Gulak was giving all the guys Justice League nicknames and called Daivari Wonder Woman. Daivari, who was counting money (Daivari Dinero nickname) wasn’t happy about that until Gulak explained it was a compliment. Swann pinned Nese in 7:59 with a Phoenix splash. Gulak was interfering and Alexander came out to even the odds. Swann did a Phoenix splash style body block off the middle rope to the floor. They traded kicks and this turned into a good match. The dark match saw Styles retain the title over Mahal with the forearm. The Singhs were still in Mahal’s corner here even after he had laid them out last week

Notes from the 11/29 NXT television show. This was the show taped in San Antonio on 11/17 head-to-head with ROH. The Street Profits beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli in 10:11. Montez Ford did a flip dive off the apron to take out Moss and then Angelo Dawkins hit the spinebuster on Sabbatelli and Moss followed with a frog splash. It was a standard tag match. Moss & Sabbatelli have something, are clearly both great athletes who are good sized football players with that feel like they’d be stars in another era, but something is missing here. Pete Dunne was backstage. Tyler Bate & Trent Seven came up to him and Bate wanted a strong style tag team match against him if he could find a partner who would still trust him. It was then announced Mark Andrews would be the partner. Seven brought up how Dunne bailed out on Wolfgang when The Undisputed Era beat down on him. Bate said that they’d teach them that a real tag team like they are will beat two guys who aren’t a tag team. Bate & Seven need work on their promos at this level. Andrews then said he’s not looking to be friends with Dunne, but the stipulation is he’s agreed to team with Dunne because if he wins, then Dunne has agreed to give him a U.K. title match. Kairi Sane pinned Peyton Royce in 7:15 with an elbow off the top rope. They were pushing Sane hard in commentary like she’d be the next contender for Ember Moon’s title. Bate & Seven beat Dunne & Andrews in 12:52. Dunne came out and got a really big reaction. Much bigger than you’d think he would given how limited his NXT matches have been. There were loud “Bruiserweight” chants and he came off like the biggest star on the show. The match story is that the longer it went, the more Dunne and Andrews weren’t getting along, and the better Bate & Seven were doing with their tag team work and double-team moves. There was a really cool spot where Andrews gave Bate a Frankensteiner off the top rope and Bate flew right into a power bomb by Dunne, but he kicked out. Bate ended up pinning Dunne with an airplane spin and the Tyler driver 97, which sets him up for a title shot. After the match, as was building, Dunne turned on Andrews and laid him out with the bitter end

Notes from the 11/29 NXT tapings at Full Sail University. These are the last tapings at Full Sail until likely March or later, since the next three sets of tapings are in Atlanta. Wolfgang pinned Kona Reeves with a senton off the top rope in a dark match. What appeared to the be the first hour opened with William Regal announcing that due to the injury to Drew McIntyre, they will be doing a tournament for the 1/27 Takeover Philadelphia title shot. Johnny Gargano ended up winning the four-way. They had been doing a losing streak angle for Gargano, but with McIntyre out of the picture, as evidently that was the plan originally to do a rematch, they dropped it and pushed him here. Andrade Cien Almas and Zelina Vega talked about how he was going to have an historic reign as champion. In a tournament match, Killian Dain pinned Trent Seven with a Vader bomb. In what was billed as a no holds barred match, Sonjay Deville beat Ruby Riott using a rope assisted submission. Because it was no DQ, she could use the ropes. I’m really surprised they did this match at this point. It led to Deville challenging for the title on her way out, but there are a lot of women who could have put over Deville. The company mentality is that a brand is like a promotion and you lose on the way out. But the mentality of that, coming from territorial wrestling, is that when you leave the territory, nobody will be seeing you for months or years so it helps the business and puts over somebody new to lose. In another tournament match, Gargano beat Kassius Ohno in what was called one of the best matches in Full Sail history, with some of the loudest dueling chants ever. Ohno destroyed Gargano with elbows and kicks for most of the match, but Gargano came back with a tilt-a-whirl Gargano escape for the submission. Lars Sullivan beat Roderick Strong in another qualifying match with the freak accident. What appeared to be the second show (the one on USA on 12/13) opened with Ember Moon beating Peyton Royce with the eclipse. Kay & Royce beat up Moon after the match until Nikki Cross made the save. Almas beat Fabian Aichner using the hammerlock DDT in a good match. In another qualifying match, Aleister Black beat Adam Cole with black mass clean in the middle. Authors of Pain beat Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch using the super collider followed by the last chapter. What appeared to start the third show was the tag title change with Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly beating Eric Young & Dain. Long match. Cole got involved. Cross tried to stop Cole. The finish saw Young get distracted and Fish & O’Reilly hitting total elimination on him for the pin. Moon retained her title beating Deville with the eclipse. After the match, Kairi Sane came out. Shayna Baszler came out from behind and choked her out, so that’s a new program. In what looked to be the main event, Pete Dunne beat Tyler Bate to retain the U.K. title. Said to be another great match between the two of them. Dunne won after a second bitter end. For hour four, The Street Profits won a squash against wrestlers given no introduction when Montez Ford hit a splash off the top rope. They talked about wanting the tag titles, so it looks like Fish & O’Reilly vs. Street Profits is on the horizon. That makes all the sense in the world as The Street Profits, particularly Ford, have great natural charisma and Fish & O’Reilly are that old school kind of tag team that will accentuate their strengths and help them get over. In a match for the title shot at Takeover, Gargano beat Sullivan, Dain and Black. They brawled all over the place. Black had the match won, but Cole, O’Reilly and Fish all attacked him. Gargano pinned Black with a DDT leading to a post-match big celebration

The non-Florida tour opened on 11/30 in Pittsburgh before 800 fans. ROH had sold out the same building with 1,000 fans last month. It used to be the opposite in the sense NXT would greatly outdraw ROH in the same building. The Street Profits beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli when Ford pinned Moss after a splash off the top rope. The Street Profits came out in Steelers jerseys. Sabbatelli came out and cut a heel promo as well. Sullivan pinned No Way Jose with the freak accident. Riott pinned Bianca Belair with a kick. Belair looked really good, both athletically as well as in the different ways she uses her ponytail as a gimmick. Fish & O’Reilly beat Young & Dain in a tag title match. It’s notable that even though the title change won’t air for weeks, they are progressive enough (perhaps progressive is the wrong word) to not play we’ll pretend it didn’t happen until it airs on television. Neither Alexander Wolfe nor Nikki Cross were at the show. Fish pinned Young with a roll-up holding the trunks. Black pinned Chad Lail with black mass. The fans didn’t care for Lail since he hasn’t been on NXT television. Moon pinned Deville with the eclipse. Very basic match. The crowd was dead quiet at times. One guy tried to star ta C.M. Punk chant and the crowd turned on him something fierce. Almas retained the title in a three-way over Strong and Cole. Cole was by far the most over wrestler on the show. Great main event. Vega used a huracanrana on Strong and Almas hit strong with the hammerlock DDT for the pin

12/1 in Altoona drew 500 fans, which isn’t good for the out-of-Florida NXT shows. This may be premature to say, but after seeing several cities that both have run of late, it appears ROH now has surpassed NXT as the cool No. 2 non-WWE main roster touring brand, although NXT still runs far more dates and I hear far more about their television and angles, and because of network that most fans are already paying for vs. PPV, there is considerably more buzz and talk about an NXT Takeover event than an ROH PPV event. Still, on the merchandise end, ROH, because of Bullet Club, is ahead in that battle. Months ago is was very clearly NXT and ROH was far behind and they do compete in the sense of running the same markets and even the recent deal in San Antonio where they ended up, and this was NXT booking it second, in the same city head-to-head. The show was the same show as Pittsburgh except Belair and Deville switched matches, with Riott beating Deville and Moon beating Belair. Three-way main event said to be very good

12/2 in Bel Air, MD, drew 600 fans. The Street Profits beat Moss & Sabbatelli when Sabbatelli was pinned after a spinebuster by Dawkins and a frog splash by Moss. Lots of comedy. Deville beat Riott with a ankle lock after blocking the high kick. The crowd reacted well to them since they knew them from the main roster. Even though both are heels, Riott worked as the face and got most of the cheers. Fish & O’Reilly retained the tag titles over Young & Dain when O’Reilly rolled up Young. Crowd was hot for this match. Cole pinned Lail after an eye rake, superkick and shining wizard. Cole got the best reaction of anyone on the show. Fans were completely behind Cole even though he played heel. It was a basic TV style match, not a squash but with a star and a guy who is clearly losing in the fans’ eyes since Lail is never on television and I don’t think many remember him as Gunner in TNA. Young then said there was nobody who could hang with him in NXT. Sullivan came out. Cole worked twice because Black wasn’t on the show as he was hurt the night before. No Way Jose was also hurt the night before and missed this show. It was weird because Black was tweeting the morning of the show that he was on his way. Sullivan challenged him to a match and Cole said, “anytime, anyplace, except not tonight.” Instead of booing, the expected reaction. The crowd laughed. Cole walked off, but then did the sneak attack which a chop block to the right knee. Sullivan won via DQ when Fish & O’Reilly interfered after Sullivan teased putting Cole through a table. They threw Sullivan into the post and Cole gave him a low blow. Fish & O’Reilly left and Cole went to leave but Sanity came out and threw Cole back in the ring where Sullivan laid him out with the freak accident and a diving head-butt off the top rope. Moon beat Belair with the eclipse to keep the title. Moon was a big favorite and seems to have more confidence now that she’s clearly being pushed as the woman star of the brand. Almas beat Strong to keep the title with a hammerlock DDT after Vega’s interference with the Kalisto style short huracanrana. Said to be the best match on the show by a wide margin

The Florida tour opened on 11/30 in Lakeland, FL, drawing 300 fans. Lio Rush, in his first match since his tweeting miscue (hopefully ending rumors that he’s not with the company–the reality is that while he did get a lot of heat, they also recognize his talent because of how quickly he got over on television and I’ve heard the idea of next Rey, which is also always the kiss of death given Rey got over in spite of the way he was booked, not because of it), pinned Adrian Jaoude. Shayna Baszler beat Abbey Laith. Danny Burch pinned Gabriel ealy. Trent Seven won a Battle Royal. This was being taped for NXT television. So this is a time machine

thing in the sense that Seven won a Battle Royal to get the final spot in the No. 1 contenders tournament. Of course he had already lost the match he earned by this win. Those also in the Battle Royal were Chris Dijak, Kona Reeves, Jason, Jeet Rama, Tian Bing, Brennan Williams, Marcel Barthel, Wolfgang, Tyler Bate, Raul Mendoza, Fabian Aichner, Wesley Blake, Steve Cutler, Nick Miller, Shane Thorne, Tucker Knight, Otis Dozovic and Buddy Murphy. Ohno pinned Dana Matha. Mandy Rose & Lacey Evans beat Aliyah & Jessica Elaban. Main event saw Dunne beat Gargano to retain the U.K. title

The 12/1 show in St. Augustine, FL, drew 250 fans. Heavy Machinery beat TM 61. TM 61 went from tag team of the year in Japan a few years ago to being lost in the shuffle here. Wolfgang pinned Murphy. Baszler & Logan beat Aliyah & Rhea Ripley. Marcel Barthel beat Aichner. Bate & Seven beat Cutler & Blake. Vanessa Borne pinned Dakota Kai. Danny Burch beat Kona Reeves. Dunne beat Ohno in the main event to keep the U.K. title

The final weekend show on 12/2 in St. Petersburg, drew 200 fans. Lio Rush pinned Raul Mendoza. Liv Morgan beat Jessie Elaban. Big Boa beat Tian Bing. After the match, Cutler & Blake attacked Boa until Mars Wang, another Chinese recruit, made the save. Murphy pinned Brennan Williams. Bate & Seven beat TM 61. Reeves, managed by Ming, beat Dijak. Nikki Cross pinned Borne. Main event saw Dunne & Authors of Pain beat Wolfgang & Heavy Machinery

The Raw crew only did two house shows this weekend. The 12/2 show in Salt Lake City drew only 3,000 fans. The 12/3 show in Anaheim drew 4,000, also weak for the city but given Raw was in Los Angeles the next day and drew well, that probably explains it

Smackdown tour opened in Lima, Peru on 11/30. We didn’t get the attendance for that show. 12/1 in Mexico City drew 10,000. 12/2 in Merida, Mexico drew 4,500. We didn’t get a report or a crowd on 12/3 in Monterrey

Salt Lake City opened with Wyatt pinning Matt Hardy clean with Sister Abigail. Hardy went heavily into his Broken, now Woken character after the match and did a two minute long “delete” chant. Slater & Rhyno & Crews beat Hawkins & Axel & Wilder. So Axel worked even though he’s doing the neck injury gimmick on television. Asuka beat Fox with the Asuka lock. Balor pinned Anderson with the coup de grace. Gallows was out with Anderson and interfered freely. After the match, Kane destroyed Balor. Strowman made the save and they had a short brawl with Strowman putting Kane through a table. You can see that they don’t want to actually put the two of them in a singles match and just create short brawl scenarios with the big table finish. Elias pinned Jordan. Jordan was selling the knee injury and Elias won with drift away. Bayley & Banks beat Jax & Bliss when Bayley pinned Bliss after the Bayley-to-belly. Mickie James was the referee. Enzo beat Kalisto to retain the cruiserweight title. Main event saw The Shield beat Sheamus & Cesaro & Joe with the Shield triple power bomb on Cesaro

Anaheim was the same show as Salt Lake City except Strowman wasn’t in Anaheim. Not sure why, but there were a lot of complaints because he was heavily advertised. Kane was on the show and after Samson pinned Jordan, Kane came out and choke slammed Jordan. Everyone figured Strowman would come out at that point, but Kane just left. Even though the crowd was small, they were very hot all night

Among the notes is that the angles from Smackdown were not acknowledged since the TV hadn’t played in Peru yet, so The Hype Bros were still together as a team and the Singhs were still in the corner and introducing Mahal. Show opened with Nakamura pinning Zayn with the Kinshasa. Harper & Rowan won a three-way over Sin Cara & Dillinger and Rawley & Ryder. Charlotte beat Natalya to keep the women’s title. They were the only women brought on this week’s international tour. Orton pinned Rusev with the RKO. Usos kept the tag titles in a three-way over Big E & Kingston and Gable & Benjamin. Corbin won a three-way to keep the U.S. title over Roode and Ziggler. Styles pinned Mahal with the phenomenal forearm in the main event

In Mexico City, Nakamura again pinned Zayn with the Kinshasa. Rawley replaced Harper and teamed with Rowan to beat Ryder & Dillinger. Corbin won a four-way to keep the U.S. title over Roode, Ziggler and Sin Cara. They pushed it locally as Sin Cara returning home to try and win the U.S. title. This Sin Cara is an El Paso/Juarez wrestler and I think the only time he ever worked Mexico City would be on WWE tours. Orton pinned Rusev with the RKO. English was there in Rusev’s corner. Charlotte beat Natalya. Usos won over Benjamin & Gable and Big E & Woods. Main event saw Styles beat Mahal with the forearm, and then hit the Styles clash on the Singh brother who was there. The report from the show was that Nakamura and Orton were the most popular, and the match quality wasn’t that great, with lots of chants for Punk and “Too sweet” chants. Styles vs. Mahal didn’t have much of a reaction because it was almost midnight by the time they got in the ring and fans were tired

Merida was the same show as Mexico City. Sin Cara was really over in the four-way. The fans cheered Corbin early but he turned them. Rusev also got cheered by a lot of fans, although it wasn’t as if anyone booed Orton. Styles got the biggest reaction since his match took place a lot earlier as they did a much shorter show in the smaller market. Mahal got a lot of reaction including a “You’re a jobber” chant

Monterrey was the same show as Mexico City.