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February 12, 2018 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Wrestlemania plans, All Japan streaming service, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 February 12, 2008


There is really nothing clearer regarding the WrestleMania direction even with some changes that have been made to the Elimination Chamber PPV.

Still, the biggest news revolves around the key questions involving Brock Lesnar, Dwayne Johnson, Ronda Rousey and the Undertaker.

With Lesnar, the situation is simple. It is February. His wrestling contract expires after WrestleMania, although there are some provisions that go through August. As we saw the last time he was in this situation, at this time in his last contract year, the UFC rumors get started.

Last time they went down to the wire, with Lesnar claiming to be an older but wiser man and choosing entertainment over fighting. That included walking out on a taping over a disagreement, and showing up at the UFC live event. He claimed he went through a mini-training camp because he was very serious about returning to UFC, but decided at that point that the hunger wasn’t there. He showed up at a UFC show to see if it would change his mind, and it didn’t. Still, UFC believed he was serious and made him a huge offer, far bigger than the WWE offer, as late as the morning he finally agreed to WWE terms.

As far as what part of the Lesnar story you wish to believe, all of this also came across as great negotiation strategy. Yet, after all that, Lesnar returned to UFC for UFC 200 and defeated Mark Hunt via decision. He needed WWE’s approval to take that fight, and, surprisingly, considering he could have been hurt and he was one of the company’s biggest stars, he got it. At the same time, had WWE not given his approval, given the size of Lesnar’s payday for the event (a minimum of $5.5 million, perhaps more), Lesnar would have had all kinds of resentment for not being able to make that money. And a happy Lesnar is far better than an unhappy one.

But in the end, Lesnar tested positive for Hydroxyclomifene. He was given a one-year suspension by both the UFC through USADA, and by the Nevada Athletic Commission, and also fined $250,000. Hunt was so furious, since Lesnar’s positive test was before the fight but the result didn’t come in until after the fight. He believed they withheld the result and he had to fight a juiced up guy. Hydroxyclomifene isn’t a steroid, but is often used after a steroid cycle to kickstart the body to start producing its own testosterone after a cycle leads to the body shutting down its own production. Several months into the suspension, Lesnar retired again. The retirement meant he was no longer subject to unannounced drug testing, but it also put his USADA suspension (but not the Nevada suspension), on hold. To the best of our knowledge, he has not formally unretired, but once he does, he would need to test clean for about six more months before he would be able to fight. He’s also turning 41 in July, and in MMA, older strikers fare better than older wrestlers for the most part.

The suspension didn’t matter to WWE, since Lesnar’s somewhat unique part-time contract didn’t allow them to drug test him or put him under their policy.

Still, Lesnar leaving WWE for UFC was almost a given when the idea of the Jon Jones fight was broached. There was simply too much money involved for Lesnar too turn down. But Jones testing positive for steroids and facing a suspension that was looking to be four years seemed to take that off the table. Now, there has been talk that Jones has a defense, likely a contaminated supplement, and talk that at a hearing, which still hasn’t taken place even though his test failure was six months ago, and could fight this year.

Even if Lesnar returns for a fight or two, and more money than he could make in wrestling, it is inevitable that he would return to wrestling at some point.

But if he leaves after WrestleMania, the talked about program with Bobby Lashley won’t be happening. And, given he is older and wiser, this also could be an attempt to get a better deal from WWE. But if a Jones fight can happen, he would probably let his contract expire and at least take that.

Regarding Undertaker and Johnson, there is nothing new on either front. Given that John Cena is in the Elimination Chamber, if Cena vs. Undertaker is the plan, and it was the plan as of a few weeks ago, it would make no sense to shoot the angle until the Chamber is over and Cena hasn’t won.

As far as Rousey goes, the key item not really talked about is the goals and a major reason why she is there from a company standpoint. All the different questions about her value to the company financially I’m told are secondary.

The key to Rousey is more about Stephanie McMahon, which is why they want that super high-profile match (and if they can get Johnson, it makes it even more high-profile). Stephanie McMahon is a big star in wrestling, but she is not a mainstream star at all. It was explained to me that the key in all this goes back to what made Vince McMahon a big star, which was the program with Steve Austin, and what made Steve Austin a breakthrough star past being a pro wrestling top guy, which was hardly an interview at King of the Ring or the WrestleMania match with Bret Hart, as legend has it, but the angle in Fresno with Mike Tyson.

Rousey is a major sports star. The idea that she was the single most searched female athlete in the U.S. on the Internet in 2017, a year she never competed and for the most part laid low in, speaks volumes. The idea for the program is to make Stephanie a star outside of just the pro wrestling world.

There were some interesting pieces of the puzzle with some minor changes on the Raw women’s side.

In the 2/25 Elimination Chamber match in Las Vegas, there was one change in the original lineup as Mickie James will replace Nia Jax, joining Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Bayley, Sasha Banks and champion Alexa Bliss. Jax will now have a singles match with Asuka.

As of last week, the plans were Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka for the Smackdown title and Bliss vs. Jax for the Raw title for WrestleMania. However, on TV this week, Angle said that if Jax beats Asuka on the PPV show, that the Mania match would become Bliss vs. Jax vs. Asuka. Last week the idea was that Asuka hadn’t said which title she would challenge for, nor would she until after the Chamber match. This week Angle outright said she was in the Raw title match. Whether that’s a change of plans or they were looking to throw the fans off scent, isn’t clear. They could do a disputed finish with Asuka vs. Jax, because Asuka beating Jax and then Bliss vs. Jax stemming from it, while it can be done, doesn’t seem the best way to do it. Jax beating Asuka to end her streak before Asuka faces either Flair or Rousey makes even less sense.

The men’s chamber match also had some changes. The original idea included Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins, who were both pulled, Jordan due to his neck injury and Rollins for whatever reason. It’s likely Rollins was in there to work something with Jordan as from television that looks like the Mania direction.

On television, they continued that angle on TV, claiming Jordan had suffered a neck injury in warming up for a match on Raw, and wasn’t medically cleared. Then Angle sent Jordan home, which was a cover story as Jordan had minimally invasive neck surgery on 2/6 for a herniated disc, which has caused strength issues including issues with gripping.

Jordan’s surgery was a posterior cervical microdiscectomy, to decompress the nerve issue that caused the problems. There was no report on a return date but we’re told that Jordan vs. Rollins at WrestleMania is not a dead issue, but it’s far from a certainty.

The Miz was put into the Men’s Chamber match, along with Roman Reigns, who has been slated to win the Chamber match for months. Reigns qualified on Raw by beating Bray Wyatt, while Miz qualified, beating Apollo Crews, both on the 2/5 Raw show in Des Moines. John Cena, Elias and Braun Strowman qualified the prior week. The sixth spot will now go to the winner of a four-way on the 2/12 Raw show in San Jose with four of the first-round losers, Finn Balor, Matt Hardy, Bray Wyatt and Crews. The other first-round loser, Kane, was not announced. It appears, since his name was never mentioned, that the angle on the 1/29 Raw was to write him out for the time being since he’s running for Mayor of Knox County.

For house shows, Balor will be used in the slot Jordan had, so teaming with Rollins (and with Reigns if it’s a six-man) against Sheamus & Cesaro or a partner.

Prior to being put in the Chamber, Miz would have likely defended his IC title against Balor, and Balor would seem to be the favorite to win the San Jose four-way, and to leave Wyatt vs. Hardy in some sort of a gimmick match for the PPV, but that’s all speculation. They also could do Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Balor & Rollins, like they are doing at the house shows, and go with one of the other three in the Chamber match.

The company also did angles to set up A.J. Styles vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens in a three-way to headline Fast Lane on 3/11 in Columbus, OH. Nothing else is official for that show, but the programs being teased are Usos vs Bludgeon Brothers for the tag title and Bobby Roode vs. Randy Orton for the U.S. title (or a multiple person match involving those two and others).

All Japan Pro Wrestling, which was the fastest-growing somewhat major company in the world in 2017, took a couple of major steps this past week.

The company announced its own streaming service, “All Japan Pro Wrestling TV,” debuting in March. The price will be 900 yen per month ($8.17). No other details were given but when it comes to All Japan, one can argue that when it comes to actual great matches, it has the potential to have the best library of any company in the world, since almost all of its great matches from 1972 on were taped, and at many times in the 70s, 80s and 90s, they had the best wrestling in the world.

The service will go into effect just before the annual Champion Carnival tournament, which take place between 4/7 and 4/30. This looks to be one of the most loaded tournament since the glory days of the promotion with a number of key outsiders including Naomichi Marufuji, Shingo Takagi and Yuji Hino.

The A block will have Triple Crown champion Joe Doering, Kento Miyahara, Hino, Takagi, Naoya Nomura, Shuji Ishikawa, Ryoji Sai and The Bodyguard.

The B block has Marufuji, Suwama, Jun Akiyama, Dylan James (who was James Raideen in Zero-One), Zeus, Yoshitatsu and Yutaka Yoshie.

Both of these announcements were made at the 2/3 show at the Yokohama Bunka Gym, which drew 1,998 fans.

The show featured three title changes. Jun Akiyama & Yuji Nagata beat Naoya Nomura & Ryoji Sai for the vacant All-Asia tag titles. Akiyama & Nagata are two of the best wrestlers from a previous generation, can still go and can credibly elevate younger stars when it’s the right time to do so. Atsushi Aoki beat Tajiri to win the jr. title. Kento Miyahara & Yoshitatsu beat Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa to win the world tag team titles.

Both tag title matches I’d rate at ****1/4. Nagata in particular showed how great he was when put in a position to be more than just a prelim guy in short multiple-person matches. Miyahara is one of the best sellers in the business and Suwama & Ishikawa were one of the world’s beat tag teams of last year.

The other big news was an angle after the tag team title change. The new outside faction of Kazuyuki Fujita, the old MMA star, along with Kendo Kashin and Nosawa all attacked Suwama and were beating him down after the tag team title loss. Rookie Yusuke Okada, who has a lot of promise, and Hikaru Sato, who himself was an MMA fighter with Pancrase, made the save for Suwama so that will be the program. The program gets Okada into a major program barely one year into his career, which is quick progression. 1. Koji Iwamoto & Kotaro Suzuki & Hikaru Sato & Yohei Nakajima beat Atsushi Maruyama & Yusuke Okada & Shuji Kondo & Keiichi Sato when Hikaru Sato made Keiichi Sato submit to the armbar. This was a preview mach since these wrestlers are all in the upcoming Junior Battle of Glory tournament.

2. Ultimo Dragon & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (a 90s star from this promotion) beat Masa Fuchi & Sushi in 10:21 when Dragon pinned Sushi after la magistral.

3. Zeus & The Bodyguard & Yutaka Yoshie beat Osamu Nishimura & Black Tiger VII & Masakado in 8:38 when Zeus beat Tiger.

4. Jun Akiyama & Yuji Nagata won the vacant All-Asia tag titles beating Naoya Nomura & Ryoji Sai in 20:15 when Akiyama pinned Nomura after a wrist clutch exploder suplex. Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi were champions but the titles were vacated because Aoyagi is out of action with a broken right ankle that needs surgery.

5. Atsushi Aoki captured the World jr title from Tajiri in 16:27 after an armbar. After the match, Koji Iwamoto came out and said that he was going to win the upcoming Junior Battle of Glory, where the winner (if it’s not Aoki) will become the top contender for the title, and then he would come back and beat Aoki for the title.

6. Kento Miyahara & Yoshitatsu beat Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa to win the world tag titles in 20:17. Miyahara pinned Suwama to win the title with a German suplex. Zeus & The Bodyguard came out to issue a challenge for the titles on 2/25 in Osaka. After that came the attack by Fujita, Nosawa and Kashin.

7. Joe Doering pinned Kai in 14:31 to retain the Triple Crown with a revolution power bomb. After the match, Miyahara issued a challenge for the title and Doering accepted. The match has since been announced for 3/25 in Saitama.

The scheduled 3/3 UFC PPV show nearly fell through after featherweight champion Max Holloway suffered a serious leg injury in training and is off the show, where his title defense against Frankie Edgar was really the only drawing point of the card.

Things have been kept quiet on the nature of the leg injury but the belief in UFC is that Holloway, who was just starting to get over (to the point UFC was hopeful of matching him with Conor McGregor this year) may be out of action for a long time.

This makes the second time UFC has headlined by Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar. The 12/2 show in Detroit had that main event but Edgar suffered a broken orbital bone in training and had to pull out.

Looking at the featherweight division, the most logical replacement for Holloway was Brian Ortega, and UFC was able to put that fight together.

UFC ended up also adding, as the main event on the show, a women’s featherweight title fight between Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya.

Kunitskaya (10-3) is the current Invicta bantamweight champion. Kunitskaya was looking at moving to featherweight due to problems making 135.

Kunitskaya captured the Invicta bantamweight title that was vacated by Tonya Evinger (who had beaten Kunitskaya) when Evinger was signed by UFC to be the opponent of Cyborg in the fight that made Cyborg champion. That fight was one-sided given the size, strength and skill differences between the two. Kunitskaya wouldn’t likely be any more competitive.

While I’m not a fan of that fight as a main event, the reality is when you’re trying to save a show less than a month away, you can’t be picky about it not being a usual valid title contender. That goes double when it’s a joke division since UFC actually only has one featherweight on the roster, and most of the bantamweights really aren’t exactly in a rush to do a completely unfair fight with Cyborg.

What we’ll see is if it was Cyborg who was the key to the surprisingly big 12/30 PPV number, or if it was Holm or the combination of both and a traditional good date. But it’s tough as Kunitskaya, a Russian who trains out of the Jackson Wink camp, is an unknown to most fans.

Another key note is Cyborg fighting here as a panic move makes it far less likely they’ll be able to put together Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes, a fight that had been targeted for the 5/12 show in Rio de Janeiro. There is now talk of Nunes vs. Raquel Pennington. Pennington suffered some pretty serious leg injuries when a jeep rolled over on his leg several months ago.

UFC 222 had noting of note on the undercard to begin with so it was a one-fight show, and even that fight wasn’t going to do a lot of business. The next two fights were Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski and C.B. Dollaway vs. Hector Lombard.

Had they not put together the women’s title fight, there had been three options in place, according to a report by Ariel Helwani, and that we had also confirmed.

It would have been hard to keep this as a PPV show with just Edgar vs. Ortega and the undercard that is in place. If that was the main event, there was a good chance it would have turned into an FS 1 show. There was also the chance that Edgar vs. Ortega would be moved to the weak 2/24 FOX show in Orlando and some of the other fights moved to help other cards coming up and the 3/3 show could have been canceled.

The UFC had earlier wanted to add a T.J. Dillashaw vs. Cody Garbrandt bantamweight title fight, and in doing so, would delay or eliminate (depending on the result) the Dillashaw vs. Demetrious Johnson fight.

But Dillashaw turned it down, saying, “It took me two years to get a title shot back, now they want me to defend it on four weeks notice? I have a five-week-old son. I’m not training. My camp is in California and I’m in Denver right now. And all this to face a guy who doesn’t deserve a rematch to begin with. I lost a split decision to Dominick Cruz when I lost my belt, the UFC told me they thought I won that fight, and it still took me two years to get back to it. I had to wait through Cody’s back injury last year, all of TUF bullshit. I told the UFC I’m not doing it. I’m shooting for the DJ fight in July.”

Dillashaw is also injured and is gunning for a summer return and facing Demetrious Johnson in a champion vs. champion battle.

Garbrandt also offered to face Edgar, but UFC wasn’t up for that suggestion, as they see Garbrandt as a star and want to get him back into the bantamweight title picture and don’t want him to lose by fighting someone a weight class up.

Dana White said that Demetrious Johnson hasn’t been that hot regarding the Dillashaw fight but said it’ll be a win either way because Dillashaw will face either Johnson or Garbrandt next.

In the aftermath of UFC’s 2/3 debut in Belem, Brazil, the story wasn’t that Eryk Anders, a former linebacker at the University of Alabama, established himself as a player in the middleweight division in beating name fighter Lyoto Machida.

That was because the judges gave Machida a split decision win in a close five-round battle, even though 74 percent of media scores had it for the lesser known Anders.

The story wasn’t that Valentina Shevchenko established herself to be the favorite to wind up as champion and the top star of the new women’s flyweight division, although that actually did happen.

The story wasn’t even the weekly weight-cutting mishaps, which included the scheduled semi-final with John Dodson vs. Pedro Munhoz falling apart.

Instead, the story was in Shevchenko’s match, where veteran referee Mario Yamasaki failed to stop a one-sided beating until 4:25 of the second round. While Dana White often overreacts, Yamasaki didn’t have many defenders in a fight that went far too long, to the point Shevchenko oustruck her opponent, Priscila Cachoeira, by a 230-3 margin. White outright said that Yamasaki would never referee a UFC fight again. Athletic commissions actually assign referees and the UFC is only in control when they fight in places like Europe where there is no athletic commission. It took years of White complaining about Steve Mazzagatti before he was no longer officiating, and that took a change at the top of the Nevada commission to take place. And there are worse referees we’ve seen and non-stoppages just as bad. I think some of the outcry was that it involved women. To slightly defend Yamasaki, Cachoeira was never knocked out and taking punch after punch, and she was trying to move. There were never periods where she took continual nonstop punches. But she took a steady barrage of punches and couldn’t get out of bad positions, and the fight should have been stopped minutes earlier. One can argue about the corner should have thrown in the towel for her, but corners just aren’t going to do it. Yamasaki let the fight go until Shevchenko had Cachoeira in a choke and she tapped.

Shevchenko, in her first fight at flyweight after losing two close fights to Amanda Nunes at welterweight, looks to be the heavy favorite to win the championship at 125. The match will likely take place when champion Nico Montano recovers from a broken foot.

There were two weight issues, and both similar. The hotel the fighters were staying at in Brazil didn’t have hot water in the middle of the night, when the fighters were cutting for their early morning weigh-ins. The fact we still have these early morning weigh-ins is crazy given the statistical evidence of what a disaster they’ve been. Without that, Munhoz and Michel Prazeres both missed weight.

Munhoz missed weight, coming in at 140 pounds for a 136 pound weight limit fight. Dodson, whose UFC contract was to expire with this bout, tried to negotiate a new contract. That fell through and he didn’t take the fight. There was some controversy as to whether he would get paid, given he made weight and by all rights should have been paid. I guess the argument was that he didn’t take the fight and they had an opponent ready to fight him. When the dust cleared, the fight was rebooked for the 3/3 PPV show in Las Vegas.

Prazeres missed even worse, coming in at 161 for a 156 pound fight. Opponent Desmond Green agreed to fight Prazeres after Prazeres forfeited 40 percent of his purse to him for missing weight. The sides had an agreement that Prazeres wouldn’t step into the cage at more than 173 pounds. As it turned out, he stepped into the cage at 180 for a lightweight fight, and won a decision. This was the third time in Prazeres’ last four fights that he missed weight, and will be forced after this to move up to welterweight.

The show drew a sellout of 10,144 fans to Arena Guilherme Paraense in UFC’s first show in Belem.

Ratings were okay. The main card did an average of 839,000 viewers on television and 12,538 streaming. While lower than the 2017 Fight Night average of 965,000, this show had only two names that had any real star power, Machida and Shevchenko. So I’d consider the number okay. The peak was 974,000 during the main event.

As far as head-to-head sports went, NFL Honors on NBC did 3,457,000 viewers and a Houston vs. Cleveland NBA game on ABC did 2,967,000 viewers. UFC beat Top Rank Boxing on ESPN, which did 741,000 viewers for a show that had two title fights.

The prelims on FS 2 did 361,000 viewers, making it the seventh-most watched show in the history of the station. The prelim main event saw Sergio Moraes beat Tim Means via split decision in a fight that also could have gone the other way. Maybe should have would be a better description given 93 percent of media scores were for Means. While both close fights went to the Brazilian over the American even though it appeared the Americans won both, it should be noted that the judges were mostly Americans brought in.

What is notable is that with FS 2 being in far fewer homes than FS 1, and thus far less viewers watched than had the prelims been on FS 1, one would expect those normal viewers to stream to make up for the difference. In fact, that didn’t happen, as only 6,355 viewers were streaming for an average minute. There is a real lesson there about modern viewership and TV viewers streaming if they can’t watch on television.

The bonuses of $50,000 went to Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos for the best fight and to Iuri Alcantara and Shevchenko for performances.

1. Deiveson Figueiredo (14-0) beat Joseph Morales (9-1) at 4:34 of the second round in a flyweight fight. Figueiredo got the first takedown and started landing some punches. They were stood up and Figueiredo knocked Morales down and was landing punches when the round ended. In the second round, Figueiredo got a takedown. After Morales got back up, Figueiredo dropped him and landed punches on he ground until the fight was stopped.

2. Iuri Alcantara (36-9, 1 no contest) beat Joe Soto (18-7) in 1:07 of a bantamweight fight. Soto shot in but didn’t get the takedown. Alcantara hurt Soto with a kick to the body and landed a ton of punches on the ground, as well as some elbows, before it was stopped.

3. Polyana Viana (10-1) beat Maia Stevenson (6-5) in 3:50 of a women’s strawweight fight. Viana won a world championship in BJJ in 2015 and was a big favorite. Stevenson is the wife of former TUF winner and lightweight title contender Joe Stevenson. She came across like someone who can be a star in Brazil. Viana took her down. She worked for an armbar but Stevenson escaped and got up. Viana tried a guillotine, got ta takedown, landed punches on the ground and finished with a choke. The crowd went crazy for her.

4. Alan Patrick (15-1) beat Damir Hadzovic (11-4) on scores of 30-25, 30-27 and 30-27 in a lightweight fight. The fight was one-sided. Patrick took him down nine times over the three rounds. Patrick was landing a ton of punches ont the ground at the end of the first round. In the second round, Patrick took him down and was working for a choke. In the third round, Patrick continued to take him down and got his back.

5. Sergio Moraes (13-4-1) beat Tim Means (27-10-1, 1 no contest) via split decision on scores of 28-29, 29-28 and 29-28 in a welterweight fight. I had Means winning rounds two and three, but the second round was close. Morales pulled Means down. When standing, Moraes got the better of it landing a lot of punches and some body and head kicks. Means had a bloody nose. In the second round Means started landing kicks. He was winning the round but Moraes did come on late in the round. In the third round, both were landing good shots. Moraes started to get tired and Means clearly took this round.

6. Thiago Santos (17-5) beat Anthony Smith (28-13) in 1:03 of the second round in a middleweight fight. The first round was great. Santos lost balance throwing a kick and Smith landed an elbow. Santos came back with body kicks and a spin kick as well as a knee to the head. Smith then took Santos down into mount. Santos reversed to the top. Santos was landing hard punches on the ground. Smith got up, but Santos dropped him with a right. But Santos was bleeding badly. Santos was pounding on Smith at the end of the round, enough that I had a 10-8. In the second round, Santos put Smith down with a body kick, and Santos landed a ton of punches and it was stopped.

7. Douglas Silva de Andrade (25-2, 1 no contest) beat Marlon Vera (10-5-1) on straight 30-27 scores in a bantamweight fight. Andrade landed the more solid punches all three rounds. Andrade landed big punches in the first round and also got two takedowns. Vera was bleeding from the right eye during the second round. Andrade landed more punches and a spin kick. He kept landing during round two. Andrade continued to land solid shots in the third fight. Vera started to land in the third round. Andrade landed some spinning elbows. This was a fun fight and the crowd gave both a big hand.

8. Tim Johnson (12-4) beat Marcelo Golm (6-1) on scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 in a heavyweight fight. This was supposed to be a showcase for Golm, but Johnson kept the fight slow by controlling Golm. The crowd booed the fight a lot. Johnson was bleeding from the right eye in the first round. Very little happened in the round. Both were swinging wildly in the second. Golm landed elbows but Johnson won the round by pushing Golm into the fence and landed body shots and knees. The third round was the deciding round and Johnson landed several shots from close range to win it.

9. Michel Prazeres (24-2) beat Desmond Green (20-7) on scores of 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 in a supposed lightweight fight. Yes, we had a lightweight go into the cage at 180, which probably isn’t as rare as you’d think. Prazeres used body kicks and dropped him with a punch. Green gave a takedown. Prazeres got a takedown and was punching the back of the head. The ref stood them up because Prazeres punched the back of the head but didn’t dock a point. Green took him down. Prazeres went for a takedown and Green landed on top in side control. In the second round, Green got a takedown. Prazeres then got a takedown into mount. Prazeres went for an arm triangle. Then he went for a North-South choke and a guillotine. Green escaped all the submission attempts. In the third round, Prazeres moved in, got a takedown into mount and controlled the round from there.

10. Valentina Shevchenko (15-3) beat Priscila Cachoeira (8-1) at 4:25 of the second round in a women’s flyweight fight. This was Shevchenko’s first fight in the new division. Shevchenko landed some good shots, took Cachoeira down and beat her up the entire round, leaving her bloody. There were points in the round the fight could have been stopped, and it was totally one-sided. It wasn’t horrible it went to the second round but it shouldn’t have. In the second round, Shevchenko took her fight down into side control. Shevchenko got Cachoeira into the crucifix position and she was basically trapped and eating punches. She was moving and struggling, but it got ridiculous how many punches she was being hit by with her arms trapped and her not being able to block them. Fans started booing that it went on too long and it really was a poor job by Mario Yamasaki when fans are mad at it not being stopped. Shevchenko moved to mount. Cachoeira was taking way too many punches from mount before she turned and Shevchenko finished her with a choke. Yamasaki even then didn’t jump in when she first tapped.

11. Lyoto Machida (23-8) beat Eryk Anders (10-1) via split decision on scores of 48-47, 47-48 and 49-46. I’m not sure how Machida could get four rounds. It’s even tough to see him get three. But he did outland Anders in every round, but Anders landed the harder blows and was the one who was more aggressive. Loud Lyoto chants to start the fight. Machida landed a good low kick and Anders went down with Machida on top. Machida backed off and was kicking Andes’ leg and Anders was on his back. Machida kept kicking the hamstring and went to the ground and landed punches. Machida took round one. In the second round, Anders hurt Machida with a left and a knee. But Anders couldn’t take him down. It’s notable that Anders asked for the fight here, and when you’re a guy on the rise, even though Machida is a name who is past his prime, he’s a bad call-out because even if you win, you are likely not going to look impressive in winning. And here, Anders could have won, but even if he had won, yeah, it’s a good name win, but it wasn’t as if he was ruled the winner at the end that he got over to the TV viewers. Boring round two. Anders landed enough to win the round which was mostly Machida dancing away. But two judges gave the round to Machida. In round three, Machida threw a kick and Anders took him down. Machida was bleeding badly at this point. Once again, two of the three judges gave Machida the round. In the fourth round, Machida came out with body kicks. Anders moved in and started swinging. Anders landed a left and Machida slipped and went down. Anders then took him down. This was the only round all three judges gave Anders. In the fifth round, Machida landed more kicks. Anders was missing on his punches and Machida landed body kicks. Anders got a takedown but Machida got back up. I had the round for Machida, as did two of the three judges.

5 Star Wrestling, an attempt to do a three-hour live television show from a major arena every Thursday night debuted on FreeSports.

FreeSports is a national channel with good clearance, far more than Sky that WWE is on, but it is not a widely viewed channel.

The show got mostly negative reviews, particularly live as there were only 800 fans in the 11,000-seat Echo Arena in Liverpool on 2/1. The second show, on 2/8, in Newcastle, at the Metro Radio Arena, had sold less than 500 tickets as of the weekend.

Freesports likes the idea of shows coming from major arenas

The show came across on television as okay by early 80s standards of television wrestling but so much of the product now is the crowd and crowd reactions, and fans in empty big arenas aren’t going to make noise and they darkened the buildings anyway so you couldn’t see how empty it was. So the whole benefit of running major arenas isn’t there. Since they aren’t selling tickets anyway, the best bet for now is if they want the bigger names is to do as What Culture did and run smaller buildings with livelier fans. But even with What Culture, they had their pulse on the modern wrestling, using guys who could put on top quality matches as opposed to only using guys who had star power from WWE television exposure previously. Plus, with so many great U.K. stars, there was no Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay level U.K. superstars to go with guys like Gibson and Haskins.

As compared to Raw, it’s mostly longer matches and less talking. The production can’t compare, as it’s dark, where you can’t see the empty stands. It looks like when a smaller promotion like Central States wrestling would do an arena taping instead of studio tapings in the late 70s. In that sense, it came across far worse than the major UK and Ireland groups like Progress, Revolution Pro, ICW, OTT and others who will pack small arenas. It’s really not even close to the old What Culture promotion that spent heavily on foreign talent and booked them at high prices in small buildings to where it didn’t seem to make economic sense. Given that group’s implosion, that seemed the inevitable result. Here, for the same reasons, unless they get substantial help from the television station, this makes no sense.

It’s not only regularly using Rey Mysterio Jr., who is just about the most expensive wrestler on the market right now, but that guys like Mysterio, John Morrison and Jake Hager (formerly Jack Swagger), who they are using as their signature stars, are flying in for Thursday, then flying home, and then flying back every week. When you consider that I would think Mysterio is getting first class from San Diego to England and his per-date figure, they clearly have a lot of money tied up in these shows.

Mysterio was on the first show and on the 5 Star television show, they asked him about the Royal Rumble, and he put over WWE big. Granted, it’s an honest answer and he also put over 5 Star as well, but if you’re a company with a national TV deal, your claim to fame shouldn’t be that you’ve got a guy who was just in the Royal Rumble.

The wrestling was fine, but the lack of the usual hot U.K. crowd and the dark room hurt the presentation in week one.

1. P.J. Black pinned Timm Wylie.

2. Jack Jester pinned Jason Prime.

3. The TV show itself started with Mark Haskins becoming the first Tap or Snap champion in a submissions elimination match over Joey Axl, BT Gunn, Nathan Cruz and Flash Morgan Webster. Axl, from Australia, got a big push as he eliminated Webster first via submission and followed making Cruz and Gun tap, all to the Ayers rock lock. Haskins then made Axl tap to win with a snap trap armbar.

4. Rampage Brown pinned Moose after a piledriver.

5. The tag team of Mad Money, which is Adam Maxted, a bodybuilder and reality show star who wrestles regularly, teamed with Charlie Sterling to beat Chris Masters & Carlito when Maxted rolled up Masters in the semifinals of their tag team title tournament.

6. Jake Hager (Jack Swagger) pinned Eddie Ryan with his feet on ropes.

7. Rey Mysterio Jr. beat Zack Gibson via DQ. Mysterio looked good. The finish was Gibson kick Mysterio low.

8. Jody Fleisch & El Ligero won the other tag team tournament semifinal mach beating Dave Mastiff & Big Grizzly when Fleisch pinned Grizzly after a DDT.

9. John Morrison pinned Rob Van Dam with an inside cradle to retain the 5 Star championship. Gibson, who was doing color, hit the ring and hit both Morrison and Van Dam with belt shots to end the show. After the show was over, Maxted and Sterling hit the ring and joined with Gibson in beating down Morrison and Van Dam until Mysterio made the save and cleaned house.

Gibson is doing an angle that may end up turning him face in the long run where he complains about how the Americans are in all the main event spots and his gimmick is he’s the spokesman for British wrestling.

For the 2/8 show, it’s Morrison vs. Hager for the 5 Star championship and Haskins vs. Mysterio for the Tap or Snap title, plus the finals of the tag team title tournament and Van Dam vs. Gibson. Also announced are Brown, Carlito and Masters.

There are a lot of questions regarding the 4/5 show in Birmingham since Webster, Haskins and Gibson, all advertised on that show are working that weekend in New Orleans for Progress even though all are advertised for that show.

A statement Booker T made on his weekend Houston sports radio talk show about Corey Graves and his no longer announcing on Raw was something he expected to get publicity out of.

So here’s the situation, based on what he said, if WWE believed he was serious, it probably couldn’t employ him. That said, based on comments from those in the company, there probably is some underlying truth in the sense Booker felt that Graves was making him look bad on Raw, but they may also be reading too much into what is clearly an angle, although one probably leading nowhere, particularly since New Day was joking about it on Smackdown television this week.

The reality is that the change in announcers wasn’t so much Booker being demoted, although Booker had gotten tough to listen so, but a hiring of Jonathan Coachman. Coachman had stayed loyal to the company, to the point of making himself look bad at times with ESPN, so when ESPN removed the WWE segments and then let him go as part of massive layoffs, he now had ESPN credentials and was loyal to WWE. Some find Booker entertaining and it’s too early to judge Coachman, and it’s difficult to thrive in the three-announcer system where everyone has a certain somewhat contrived role except the lead guy.

Booker is still with the company and is at least listed to still be on the PPV pre-game show panels. If suddenly that is no longer the case, than people would have taken his words seriously. He ended his speech about Graves talking about doing a fight at WrestleMania, which pretty much tells you in the end this is them working their own storyline.

The fact that Graves also responded on Twitter, saying after Booker’s radio show comments, saying “Thus the expert in battle moves the enemy, and it not moved by him.” Sun Tzu (yes this is what you think it is), given they are still in the same company and one that doesn’t favor real-life personal issues to go public, says there’s a measure of working involved. At the end of the day, I really don’t sense Booker is going to assault Graves when they are away from work. In addition, before this all came out and Booker decided to make an issue out of it, and obviously since there’s no word of him being let go over it, the company believes it is storyline, Graves had gone on the Edge & Christian podcast and talked about how Booker was one of his favorite people in wrestling.

One person internally noted to us that they are expected to continue doing this but they can’t see how it can pay off since Graves will not be allowed to do a match due to concussion issues.

Booker put the finger on his demotion at Graves. In reality, the company had hired Coachman and kept it a secret from everyone because they waited until almost the last minute to tell Booker T.

“People ask me about Corey Graves. Corey Graves is good at what he does. Corey Graves, he’s thrown jabs at me. I’ve thrown jabs back. And the thing is Corey Graves, yeah, he’s a college educated young man. His vernacular is a little different than mine. You can see that word I just used? Threw that out there. Just want you to know. I’m ain’t studied this. It’s just something that we just threw out.

But I tell you, if I got Corey Graves into fisticuffs, I would beat him down like he stole something. I would be whopping his ass all day long. Because that’s the thing, my thing is this. I’m a nice guy, until you get on my bad side. Corey Graves, right now, I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s on my bad side, but he’s the reason that I’m not on Monday Night Raw right now. Because, you know what, a lot of people in the company thought I was gonna jump on him, I was going to do something bad to him. I was gonna drag him. I was gonna take him out to the woodshed. I was gonna beat that man so bad, I was gonna beat him until this man said, `Please, please, please, just don’t beat me anymore.’

That’s how hot I was getting. That’s how close I was getting. So, they said, `Hey, Book, we’re gonna take a step back, a second, alright. We’re gonna regroup, alright. We’re gonna press the rewind bottom. We’re gonna send you back to the kickoff show of Smackdown, Monday Nigh Raw pay-per-views and cool you down for second. Cause we don’t want you to do anything to Corey Graves, because we know what you could do to him.”

Later he also said how he knew his comments were going to make the “dirt sheets.”

“But if I catch Corey Graves on the street, I’m gonna do something to him. I ain’t gonna do it at the office or anything like that. But if I catch him, I’m not gonna do it in the airport, nah, I’m not gonna do that. But if I catch Corey Graves on the street? You see that little bouffant hairdo he got? I’m gonna rearrange it for him. I’m just saying. Let me catch him at Starbucks, I’m gonna tattoo him.”

He also said, “Everybody knows my reputation. I get mean when you mess with my green. And right now, my green is being messed with, you know what I mean?”

Smackdown on 2/6 did 2,505,000 viewers, virtually identical with the 2,509,000 viewers the week before.

Smackdown was ninth for the night on cable.

The show did a 0.52 in 12-17 (down 11.9 percent from the prior week), 0.59 in 18-34 (up 7.3 percent), 0.91 in 18-34 (down 6.2 percent) and 1.06 in 50+ (up 3.9 percent).

The audience was 61.1 percent male in 18-49 and 56.1 percent male in 12-17.

Raw on 2/5 did a 2.13 rating and 3,077,000 viewers (1.57 viewers per home), down nine percent in viewers from the prior week.

The number was going to drop since last week was the day after the Rumble and will probably be among the top three to five ratings of the year. This week is a more normalized number. A better comparison would be the same week last year which did 3,100,000 viewers, so it’s pretty close to the same as last year.

But the pattern was different. Unlike most weeks where the biggest audience is early, this show peaked in the second hour and fell big in the third hour, with a 13 percent drop from hour two to hour three. That’s not unusual, except this hour three contained the show’s four biggest stars, with John Cena vs. Elias vs. Braun Strowman in the main event and a Roman Reigns (who had already worked the opener) & Seth Rollins challenge for the tag team title against Sheamus & Cesaro. The peak second hour was built around Asuka vs. Bayley and Miz vs. Apollo Crews, and a Kurt Angle interview with Alexa Bliss, so there’s no obvious reason why that hour would be up.

Also unique in that second-to-third hour drop was it was five percent in women 18-49, six percent with men 18-49, but teenagers increased two percent with women and ten percent with boys hour two-to-three, with the big drop in the over-50 demo of 17 percent.

The first hour did 3,161,000 viewers. The second hour did 3,212,000 viewers. The third hour did 2,793,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.65 in 12-17 (down 21.7 percent from last week), 0.83 in 18-34 (down 9.8 percent from last week), 1.31 in 35-49 (down 3.7 percent) and 1.14 in 50+ (down 13.6 percent).

The audience was 63.3 percent males in 18-49 and 64.3 percent males in 12-17.

The first week of the new era of Impact on 2/1 did 319,000 viewers, up slightly from the prior week. It was the best rating for the show since 8/17.

The final episode of Total Divas on 1/31 did 665,000 viewers, which was the second best number of the season.

Smackdown on 1/30 did a 1.73 rating and 2,509,000 viewers (1.58 viewers per home).

Raw on 1/29 did a 2.36 rating and 3,379,000 viewers (1.56 viewers per home).

Smackdown on 1/23 did a 1.77 rating and 2,580,000 viewers (1.59 viewers per home).

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1/11 Yaizu (All Japan - 219): Naoya Nomura b Keiichi Sato, Ultimo Dragon won three-way over Hikaru Sato and Yohei Nakajima, Yuma Aoyagi b Atsushi Maruyama, Suwama & Atsushi Aoki b Taiji & Yusuke Okada, Jun Akiyama & Kai b Joe Doering & Black Tiger VII, Kento Miyahara & Yutaka Yoshie & Yoshitatsu b Zeus & Ryoji Sai & Koji Iwamoto

1/11 Orlando (MLW - 316 sellout): Rhett Giddins b Kotto Brazil, Brody King b MJF, Barrington Hughes b Chico Adams, Darby Allin b Sammy Guevara, Santana Garrett b MJ Jenkins, Penta 0M b Rey Fenix, Matt Riddle & Jeff Cobb b Tom Lawlor & Seth Petruzelli, Low Ki NC MVP, Death match: Jimmy Havoc b Shane Strickland

1/13 Hidalgo, TX (WWE): Four-way for tag titles: Usos won over Big E & Kofi Kingston, Rusev & Aiden English and Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable, Primo & Epico Colon & Mojo Rawley & Mike Kanellis b Zack Ryder & Sin Cara & Tyler Breeze & Fandango, Tye Dillinger b Erick Rowan, 2 on 3 cage match: Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura b Jinder Mahal & Samir & Samil Singh, Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair & Naomi b Natalya & Carmella & Tamina, Bobby Roode b Baron Corbin, handicap match for WWE title: A.J. Styles won over Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

1/13 Kyoto (Dragon Gate - 850 sellout): Shun Skywalker d U-T, Shingo Takagi & Takashi Yoshida & Yasushi Kanda b Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Kagetora, Jason Lee b Gamma, Kzy b Ryo Saito, Susumu Yokosuka & Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz b Genki Horiguchi & Flamita & Bandido, Big R Shimizu & Ben K b Masaaki Mochizuki & Don Fujii, T-Hawk & Eita & Lindaman b Yamato & BxB Hulk & Yosuke Santa Maria

1/13 Chiba (All Japan - 141): Koji Iwamoto b Keiichi Sato, Kotaro Yoshino & Dinosaur Takuma b Jun Akiyama & Naoshi Sano, Suwama b Yusuke Okada, Joe Doering & Hikaru Sato & Atsushi Aoki b Yohei Nakajima & Ryoji Sai & Tank Nagai, Tajiri won three-way over Atsushi Aoki and Black Tiger VII, Kento Miyahara & Yoshitatsu & Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi b Zeus & Kai & Yutaka Yoshie & Atsushi Maruyama

1/14 Kofu (All Japan - 512): Yusuke Okada d Genseki Tanaka, Atsushi Aoki & Naoshi Sano b Black Tiger VII & Atsushi Maruyama, Kai won three-way over Keiichi Sato and Yohei Nakajima, Joe Doering & Hikaru Sato b Koji Iwamoto & Ryoji Sai, Suwama b Yoshitatsu, Kento Miyahara & Keiji Muto & Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi b Jun Akiyama & Zeus & Yutaka Yoshie & Tajiri

1/14 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Pequeno Olimpico & Pierrothito b Acero & Aereo, Apocalipsis & El Hijo del Signo & Templario b Retro & Robin & Sensei, Comandante & Seductora & Zeuxis b Jarochita & Vaquerita & Lady Maravilla, Felino & Luciferno & Vangellys b Blue Panther & Blue Panther Jr. &U Titan, Euforia & Mephisto & Sam Adonis b Caristico & Diamante Azul & Valiente-DQ

1/14 Brooklyn (Evolve): Brody King d Darby Allin, Jarek 1:20 b Snoop Strikes, Kyle the Beat b Yuta, Austin Theory NC Jason Kincaid, Timothy Thatcher b Fred Yehi, Odinson & Parrow b Tracy Williams & Dominic Garrini, Matt Riddle b Jaka, Walter b Zack Sabre Jr., WWN title: Keith Lee b Chris Dickinson

1/15 Tokorozawa (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 228): Leona b Junta Miyawaki, Jay Bradley b Hitoshi Kumano, Hayata & Yo-Hey b Hajime Ohara & Masao Inoue, Yoshinari Ogawa & Minoru Tanaka b Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke, Maybach Taniguchi & Mitsuya Nagai b Cody Hall & Seiya Morohashi, Kaito Kiyomiya b Andrew Everett, Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm & Go Shiozaki b Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya & Hi69, Kenou & Takashi Sugiura & Akitoshi Saito b Yuko Miyamoto & Naomichi Marufuji & Atsushi Kotoge

1/16 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Pequeno Olimpico & Pequeno Violencia b Acero & Aereo, Jarochita & Vaquerita & Sanely b Dallys & Metalica & Reyna Isis, Magia Blanca & Pegasso & Starman b Blue Panther & Blue Panther Jr. & The Panther, Stuka Jr. & Titan & Valiente b Mephisto & Ephesto & Luciferno, Caristico b Euforia

1/19 Yokohama (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 279): Katsuhiko Nakajima b Junta Miyawaki, Maybach Taniguchi & Mitsuya Nagai & Cody Hall & Seiya Morohashi b Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm & Akitoshi Saito & Leona, Daisuke Harada & Yoshinari Ogawa b Hajime Ohara & Hitoshi Kumano, Go Shiozaki & Andrew Everett b Atsushi Kotoge & Tadasuke, Naomichi Marufuji b Masao Inoue, Hayata b Hi69, Taiji Ishimori b Yo-Hey, Masa Kitamiya b Kaito Kiyomiya, Yuko Miyamoto & Minoru Tanaka b Kenou & Takashi Sugiura-COR

1/20 Chicago (AAW - 520): Curt Stallion & Jake Something b Zero Gravity, Eddie ingston b Kevin Lee Davidson, MJF b Juice Robinson, Teddy Hart b Myron Reed, ACH b Paco, David Starr & Trevor Lee & Jeff Cobb b Sami Callihan & Dave & Jake Crist, Three-way elimination match fo women’s title: Jessicka Havok won over Scarlett and Kylie Rae, Tag titles: Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett b Shane Strickland & Keith Lee, AAW title: Rey Fenix b Matt Riddle

1/21 Yamada (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 256): Andrew Everett b Junta Miyawaki, Cody Hall & Jay Bradley b Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue, Hajime Ohara & Yoshinari Ogawa b Daisuke Harada & Leona, Naomichi Marufuji &

Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 b Hayata & Yo-Hey & Tadasuke, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya DCOR Maybach Taniguchi & Mitsuya Nagai, Kenou & Takashi Sugiura b Yuko Miyamoto & Minoru Tanaka, Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Kotoge & Kaito Kiyomiya b Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm & Hitoshi Kumano

1/21 Gifu (Dragon Gate - 700 sellout): Kzy & Flamita b Yuki Yoshioka & Bandido, Kagetora & Dezmond Xavier b Yamato & Zachary Wentz, Susumu Yokosuka & Diablo b Masaaki Mochizuki & Shun Skywalker, Yamato & BxB Hulk b Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa & Ryo Saito, Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Jason Lee & Genki Horiguchi b T-Hawk & Eita & Shingo Takagi & Yasushi Kanda

2/1 Atlanta Center Stage (WWE NXT TV tapings - 700 sellout): Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford b Raul Mendoza & Fabian Aichner, Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight b Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli, Bianca Belair b ?, Tornado match: Eric Young & Alexande Wolfe & Killian Dain b Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole, Nick Miller & Shane Thorne b John Skyler & ?, U.K. title: Pete Dunne b Roderick Strong, Women’s title: Shayna Baszler b Ember Moon-DQ, Velveteen Dream b No Way Jose, Nikki Cross b Vanessa Bourne, Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler b ?, NXT title: Andrade Cien Almas b Johnny Gargano

2/1 Yume (New Japan - 1,447 sellout): Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo b Tetsuhiro Yagi & Shota Umino, Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask b Kushida & Ren Narita, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi b David Finlay & Tomoyuki Oka, Rocky Romero & Sho & Yoh b Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Desperado & Taka Michinoku, Jay White & Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano b Juice Robinson & Toa Henare & Katsuya Kitamura, Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka & Taichi b Togi Makabe & Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi, Tetsuya Naito & Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi b Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Will Ospreay & Gedo

2/2 Salina, KS (WWE Raw - 3,500): Finn Balor b Bo Dallas, Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder b Heath Slater & Rhyno, Cedric Alexander b Jack Gallagher, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson b Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews, Matt Hardy b Bray Wyatt, Goldust b Curt Hawkins, Asuka & Bayley b Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax, 2 on 3: Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins b Cesaro & Sheamus & Elias

2/2 Atlanta Center Stage (WWE NXT TV tapings - 700 sellout): Kassius Ohno b John Skyler, Nikki Cross b Vanessa Bourne, Velveteen Dream b Tyler Bate, Shayna Baszler b Kairi Sane, Ricochet b Fabian Aichner, Authors of Pain b Nick Miller & Shane Thorne, Bianca Belair b ?, Aleister Black b Killian Dain, Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford b Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight, Dakota Kai b Lacey Evans, Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe b Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli, U.K. title: Pete Dunne b Adam Cole-DQ

2/2 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Coyote & Templario b Astral & Electrico, Audaz & Pegasso & Rey Cometa b Kawato San & Misterioso Jr. & Virus-DQ, Parejas increibles tag team tournament Block A: Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja b Blue Panther & Sam Adonis, Mephisto & Mistico b Hechicero & Soberano Jr., Ultimo Guerrero & Volador Jr. b Cavernario & Titan, Diamante Azul & Pierroth b Valiente & Rey Bucanero, Mistico & Mephisto b Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja, Volador Jr. & Ultimo Guerrero b Diamante Azul & Pierroth, Volador Jr. & Ultimo Guerrero b Mistico & Mephisto, Angel de Oro & Atlantis & Caristico b Cuatrero & Euforia & Sanson-DQ

2/2 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,015): Yo-Hey b Junta Miyawaki, Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke b Hajime Ohara & Masao Inoue, Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Kotoge b Cody Hall & Jay Bradley, Yoshinari Ogawa & Minoru Tanaka & Seiya Morohashi b Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 & Leona, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya b Takashi Sugiura & Akitoshi Saito, Hayata b Hitoshi Kumano, Naomichi Marufuji b Kaito Kiyomiya, GHC tag titles: Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm b Maybach Taniguchi & Mitsuya Nagai, GHC hwt title: Kenou b Yuko Miyamoto

2/2 Toluca (AAA TV tapings): Big Mami & Lady Shani b Ashley & Faby Apache, Nino Hamburguesa b Dave the Clown, Joe Lider & Mr. Aguila b Histeria & Psicosis, Angelikal & El Hijo del Vikingo & Lanzelot & Mascara de Bronce b Australian Suicide & Averno & Chessman & Super Fly, Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria & La Parka b Carta Brava Jr. & Mocho Cota Jr. & Tito Santana, El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. & El Hijo del Fantasma b El Texano Jr. & Villano III Jr., Vampiro & Psycho Clown b Rey Escorpion & Dr. Wagner Jr.

2/3 Lincoln, NE (WWE Raw - 2,500): Finn Balor b Bo Dallas, Goldust b Curt Hawkins, Matt Hardy b Bray Wyatt, Cedric Alexander b Jack Gallagher, Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder b Heath Slater & Rhyno, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson b Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews, 2 on 3: Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns b Cesaro & Sheamus & Elias

2/3 Nashville, TN (WWE NXT - 1,000): No Way Jose b Cezar Bononi, Shayna Baszler & Lacey Evans b Nikki Cross & Dakota Kai, Roderick Strong b Kassius Ohno, Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young & Killian Dain b Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole, Aleister Black b Velveteen Dream, Women’s title: Ember Moon b Bianca Belair, Johnny Gargano & Candice LaRae b Andrade Cien Almas & Zelina Vega

2/3 Largo, FL (WWE NXT - 300): Jason b Kona Reeves, Aliyah b Rhea Ripley, Buddy Murphy won four-way over Brennan Williams, Jeet Rama and Raul Mendoza, Tucker Knight b Dan Matha, Otis Dozovic b Dan Matha, Nick Miller & Shane Thorne b Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli, Jessie Elaban & Kairi Sane b Reina Gonzalez & Sage Beckett, Chad Lail b Kishin Raftaar, Fabian Aichner b Tian Bing, Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford b Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler

2/3 Chino (New Japan - 826 sellout): Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo b Shota Umino & Ren Narita, Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask b Ryusuke Taguchi & Tetsuhiro Yagi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi b Toa Henare & Tomoyuki Oka, Rocky Romero & Sho & Yoh b Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taka Michinoku & Taichi, Jay White & Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano b Juice Robinson & David Finlay & Katsuya Kitamura, Togi Makabe & Michael Elgin & Kushida b Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka & Desperado, Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Seiya Sanada & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi b Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Will Ospreay & Gedo

2/3 Shirasagi (Dragon Gate - 700 sellout): Yamato & BxB Hulk & Kzy b Masaaki Mochizuki & Ryo Saito & K-Ness, Naruki Doi & Ben K b Problem Dragon & Kaito Ishida, Susumu Yokosuka & Genki Horiguchi b Jason Lee Shun Skywalker, Flamita & Zachary Wentz b Cima & Bandido, T-Hawk & Eita & Shingo Takagi b Masato Yoshino & Big R Shimizu & Kotoka

2/3 LaSalle, IL (AAW - 400): Myron Reed b Trey Miguel, Dave & Jake Crist b Brett Gakiya & CJ Esparza, Trevor Lee b Shane Strickland, Ace Romero won over Dante Leon, MJF, Donovan Danhausen, Gringo Loco, Saige Cainan and Space Monkey, Jeff Cobb b A.R. Fox, Sami Callihan b Matt Riddle, Brubaker & Connor Braxton & Curt Stallion & Jake Something b Kody Rice & Mat Fitchett & Mike Hartenbower & Paco, Penta 0M b Eddie Kingston, Women’s title: Jessicka Havok b Rosemary, AAW title: ACH b Rey Fenix to win title

2/3 Rahway, NJ (Wrestle Pro/Impact twitch tapings - 1,000): Johnny Clash b CPA, Team Espana won over Beach Bums and Job Security, Chris Queleing & Delroy & Habib b Kevin Matthews & Chris Steeler & Talon, Colby Covington b Tyquil Woodley, Matt Sydal & Chris Payne b Heavenly Bodies, Moose b Shawn Donovan, Alberto El Patron b Fallah Bahh, Bobby Wayward b Teddy Hart, Craig Steele won over Buster Jackson, John Hartnett, Joe Keys, Richard Sharp and Micah Jennings, Anthony Bowens won three-way over Eli Drake and Matt MacIntosh, Johnny Impact b Dan Maff, Tenille Dashwood b Angelina Love

2/4 Omaha (WWE Raw - 2,500): Finn Balor b Bo Dallas, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson b Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews, Goldust b Curt Hawkins, Braun Strowman b Curt Hawkins, Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder b Heath Slater & Rhyno, Matt Hardy b Bray Wyatt, Cedric Alexander b Jack Gallagher, Bayley & Asuka b Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax, 2 vs. 3: Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins b Sheamus & Cesaro & Elias

2/4 Little Rock, AR (WWE Smackdown - 1,600): Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Big E & Kofi Kingston and Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin, Zack Ryder b Mike Kanellis, Naomi & Becky Lynch b Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan b Tyler Breeze & Fandango, Three-way for U.S. title: Bobby Roode won over Baron Corbin and Jinder Mahal, Four-way for women’s title: Charlotte Flair won over Natalya, Lana and Carmella, Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton b Rusev & Aiden English, Handicap match for WWE title: A.J. Styles won over Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

2/4 Knoxville (WWE NXT - 1,000): No Way Jose b Cezar Bononi, Shayna Baszler & Lacey Evans b Nikki Cross & Dakota Kai, Roderick Strong b Kassius Ohno, Alexander Wolfe & Eric Young & Killian Dain b Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly & Adam Cole, Aleister Black b Velveteen Dream, Women’s title: Ember Moon b Bianca Belair, Johnny Gargano & Candice LaRae b Andrade Cien Almas & Zelina Vega

2/4 Gifu (New Japan - 1,572 sellout): Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo b Tetsuhiro Yagi & Shota Umino, Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask b Kushida & Ren Narita, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi b David Finlay & Tomoyuki Oka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi & Desperado b Rocky Romero & Sho & Yoh, Jay White & Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano b Juice Robinson & Toa Henare & Katsuya Kitamura, Togi Makabe & Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi b Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka & Taka Michinoku, Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Will Ospreay & Gedo b Seiya Sanada & Evil & Tetsuya Naito & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi

2/4 Okazaki (Dragon Gate - 600): Yuki Yoshioka b Hyo Watanabe, T-Hawk & Eita & Shingo Takagi b Flamita & Bandido & Problem Dragon, Jason Lee b Takashi Yoshida, Susumu Yokosuka & Genki Horiguchi b Gamma & Zachary Wentz, Ryo Saito & Kagetora b Masato Yoshino & Kotoka, Yamato & BxB Hulk & Kzy b Masaaki Mochizuki & Naruki Doi & Big R Shimizu

2/4 London (Revolution Pro Wrestling): Three-way for cruiserweight title: Kurtis Chapman won over Flash Morgan Webster and Chris Brookes, Josh Bodom b Dan Magee, Adam Brooks b Phantasmo, David Starr b Speedball Mike Bailey, Sammii Jayne b Nina Samuels, Aussie Open b Lord Gideon Gray & No Fun Dunne, Zack Sabre Jr. b Travis Banks

2/4 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Fantasy & Ultimo Dragoncito b Pequeno Olimpico & Pierrothito, Arkangel de la Muerte & Metalico & Principe Odin Jr. b Retro & Robin & Sensei, Blue Panther Jr. & The Panther & Fuego b Disturbio & Kawato San & Polvora, Diamante Azul & Marco Corleone & Niebla Roja b Johnny Idol & Okumura & Sam Adonis, Dragon Lee b Cavernario-DQ, Atlantis & Mistico & Volador Jr. b Ephesto & Luciferno & Mephisto

2/4 Lima, Peru (Imperio Lucha - 2,250): Ricky Marvin won four-way over Seven, Jason Starbuck and Limite, Trash & Slayer b Astaroth & L.J. Night, Tiffany won over Alexa Jade, Sara Phoenix and Alissa Webb, Bad Boy Jr. b Apocalipsis, Alejandro Saez b Zumbi, Kaiser & ? won elimination match over Virrey & TK3, Kassius & Ian and Al Cold & Axel, Apolo b Vicente Viloni, Mansilla b Paul London, Austin Aries b Marty Scurll, South American title: Reptil b Matt Sydal, South American title: Ricky Marvin b Reptil, Imperio title: Carlito b Brian Cage

2/5 Des Moines (WWE Raw/Main Event TV tapings - 6,500): Goldust b Curt Hawkins, Kalisto b Ariya Daivari, Roman Reigns b Bray Wyatt, Finn Balor & Karl Anderson b Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson, Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali b Drew Gulak & Tony Nese, Asuka b Bayley, The Miz b Apollo Crews, Tag titles: Sheamus & Cesaro b Roman Reigns & Seth Rollins-DQ, Nia Jax b Vanessa Floyd, Elias won three-way over John Cena and Braun Strowman

2/5 Springfield, MO (WWE Smackdown - 3,000): Three-way for U.S. title: Bobby Roode won over Jinder Mahal and Baron Corbin, Becky Lynch & Naomi b Ruby Riott & Sarah Logan, Zack Ryder b Mike Kanellis, Luke Harper & Rick Rowan b Tyler Breeze & Fandango, Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton b Rusev & Aiden English, Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Big E & Xavier Woods and Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable, Handicap match for WWE title: A.J. Styles won over Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens

2/5 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (New Japan - 1,604): Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask & Ryusuke Taguchi b Shota Umino & Tetsuhiro Yagi & Ren Narita, Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo b Manabu Nakanishi & Tomoyuki Oka, Hiroyoshi Tenzan b Katsuya Kitamura, Rocky Romero & Sho & Yoh b Taichi & Desperado & Taka Michinoku, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano b Juice Robinson & Toa Henare, Togi Makabe & Michael Elgin & Kushida b Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Jay White b David Finlay, Elimination mach: Tetsuya Naito & Evil & Seiya Sanada & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi b Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi & Will Ospreay & Gedo

2/5 Shizuoka (Dragon Gate - 300): Hyo Watanabe b Oji Shiiba, Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Yoshino & Jason Lee b Genki Horiguchi & Kagetora & Mondai Ryu, Eita b Gamma, Susumu Yokosuka & Zachary Wentz b Naruki Doi & Big R Shimizu, Kzy & Bandido b Ryo Saito & Kotoka, Yamato & BxB Hulk & Flamita b T-Hawk & Shingo Takagi & Takashi Yoshida

2/6 Kansas City (WWE Smackdown/Mixed Match Challenge/205 Live TV tapings - 7,000 ): Becky Lynch b Natalya, Non-title: Charlotte Flair b Liv Morgan, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan b Matt Fitchett & ?, U.S. title: Bobby Roode b Rusev, Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable b The Ascension, A.J. Styles NC Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan referee: Jimmy Uso & Naomi b Goldust & Mandy Rose, Kalisto b Lince Dorado, Roderick Strong b Hideo Itami, A.J. Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura b Baron Corbin & Jinder Mahal

2/6 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (New Japan - 1,706 sellout): Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask & Kushida b Shota Umino & Tetsuhiro Yagi & Ren Narita, Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo b Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Tomoyuki Oka, Manabu Nakanishi b Katsuya Kitamura, Rocky Romero & Sho & Yoh b Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Desperado & Taka Michinoku, Jay White & Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano b Juice Robinson & David Finlay & Toa Henare, Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka & Taichi b Togi Makabe & Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi, Yoshi-Hashi & Will Ospreay & Gedo b Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi, IWGP tag titles: Evil & Seiya Sanada b Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto

2/6 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Fantasy & Ultimo Dragoncito b Pequeno Violencia & Pierrothito, Astral & Oro Jr. & Star Jr. b Espanto Jr. & Nitro & Sangre Azteca, Kawato San & Misterioso Jr. & Virus b Audaz & Fuego & Guerrero Maya Jr., Rey Cometa & Soberano Jr. & Titan b Felino & Hechicero & Rey Bucanero, Cuatrero b Angel de Oro-DQ, Caristico Niebla Roja & Valiente b Mephisto & Ephesto & Luciferno

2/7 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Dragon Gate - 1,850 sellout): Mondai Ryu & Kaito Ishida b Hyo Watanabe & Yuki Yoshioka, Genki Horiguchi & Susumu Yokosuka & Jason Lee b Kagetora & Zachary Wentz & Bandido, Takashi Yoshida b Big R Shimizu, Don Fujii & Yosuke Santa Maria & U-T b Kotoka & Gamma & K-Ness, Ryo Saito & Punch Tominaga b Shingo Takagi & Yasushi Kanda, T-Hawk & Eita & Lindaman won three-way elimination over Yamato & BxB Hulk & Flamita and Naruki Doi & Masato Yoshino & Ben K, Open the Dream Gate title: Masaaki Mochizuki b Kzy


Special thanks to: Joad Abbasi, Suju Abraham, Amin Ajani, Chris Allman, Bryan Alvarez, Rob Ashley, Josh Baker, Patrick Bateman, Sean Becker, Wayne Becker, Jim Bennett, Robert Bihari, Jacob Boleyn, Rob Boscamp, Justin Brock, Riley Bryant, John Carrey, Kevin Chiat, Joseph Christensen, Jacob Cohen, Jeff Cohen, Patrick Conkling, Chris Cooper, The Cubs Fan, Zachary Cutler, Zack Davis, Matt Dagnall, Tyler Dawson, Kyle Dominguez, Sammy Eanes, Gerald Feinstein, Emmanuel Figueroa, Paul Fontaine, Gary Fonseca, Don Forbes, Steve Fullhart, Jaime Garcia, Pip Gengerbach, Joseph Gilbert, Denis Gorman, Dave Gould, Markus Gronemann, Jorge Guerrero, Matt Harrigan, Ben Hart, Robert Hayes, George Heard, Chris Hendricks, Erik Hoffman, Tommy Jackson, Luis Jiminez, Kyle Jorgensen, Jake Koch, Stanley Kosek, James Ketkowski, Mike Kuzmuk, Justin Lally, Jeffrey Lam, Christopher Lowe, Nick Mahmood, Michael McCarty, Phillip McConnell, Kevin McKenzie, Travis Mickey, Kevin Minello, David Moleesevich, Zack Morgan, Ronald Myers, Kurt Narten, Kyle Niblett, Bob Nichnadowicz, Mike Omansky, Dylan Parry, Ontonio Payne, Steven Phelps, Lou Pickney, Joe Puccio, A.J. Raskin, Christopher Rees, Liam Renner, Brian Reznick, Gabriel Rodriguez, Mike Sands, Zachary Shults, Cameron Smith, Derek Sousa, Adam Spagna, Jon Straus, Dustin Taylor, Lee Thomas, James Walker, Ryan Welch, J.J. Williams, Cody Willyard, Arya Witner, Brian Witner, Andrew Woltman, Bruce Yancey, Michael Yoen

CMLL: The first major show of the year, El Homenaje a Dos Leyendas, will take place on 3/16 at Arena Mexico. The show will honor both Salvador Lutteroth, the founder of the company and promoter that put pro wrestling on the map in Mexico, as well as Mil Mascaras, who is generally considered one of the four biggest stars (with El Santo, Blue Demon and El Solitario) in history within Mexico and easily the biggest Mexican star ever in Japan. He would also be the biggest in the U.S. before the likes of Eddy Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr. and Alberto Del Rio who had the advantage of national television, but none of which were truly the drawing cards Mascaras was at his peak. Angel de Oro vs. Cuatrero in a mask vs. mask match will headline. They’ve been feuding of late, including Cuatrero beating him for the CMLL middleweight title on 1/19 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. They had a singles match on 2/6 at Arena Mexico where Angel lost his cool and gave Cuatrero a low blow and pulled off his mask, to set up the mask match

The CMLL tag team titles, which had been held by Negro Casas & Shocker, have been vacated since they hadn’t been defended since October 2016. Nothing was announced regarding how the vacancy would be filled, but most of the time they do the three-week long tournaments

. They also announced they would be co-promoting the Sunday shows with Elite, which is back running weekly again. The Sunday shows will air on the A+ channel in Mexico in a Sunday at 2 p.m. time slot, which is seven days after the matches take place

The first show back is 2/11, with Cibernetico & Sharly Rockstar vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero, Angel de Oro & Golden Magic & Mistico vs. Euforia & Mephisto & Hechicero and Diamante Azul & El Hijo de Dos Caras vs. Blue Panther Jr. & The Panther

The A block in the Parejas Increibles tournament went as expected with the most popular and star team of Volador Jr. & Ultimo Guerrero beating Mistico & Mephisto in the finals on 2/2 at Arena Mexico. Volador & Guerrero had beaten Titan & Cavernario and Diamante Azul & Pierroth in the first two rounds while Mistico & Mephisto reached the finals with wins over Soberano Jr. & Hechicero and Niebla Roja & Gran Guerrero. All of the tournament matches were quick, with the finals going 7:41 and everything else was 6:00 or less. All of the team were comprised of usual enemies as partners, and Blue Panther & Sam Adonis turned on each other right away in their first round loss to Roja & Gran Guerrero. And they also broke up in their loss to Mistico & Mephisto. They ended up getting through an 11-match show in just over two hours, as the card ended up much earlier than usual even with more matches. The main event was focused around Angel de Oro and Cuatrero, and they may be building a mask match out of this. Angel de Oro & Caristico & Atlantis beat Cuatrero & Euforia & Sanson via DQ when Cuatrero unmasked Angel. The show also saw the debut of New Japan’s Hirai Kawato, as Kawato San, in also losing via DQ due to a mask pulling with Audaz & Pegasso & Rey Cometa vs. Kawato & Misterioso Jr. & Virus. Kawato’s moves were good but he’s a 20-year-old guy who has been a babyface in New Japan and was sent to Mexico with a different style to work heel, so there is a learning curve

The B block on 2/9 has teams of Caristico & Euforia, Atlantis & Mr. Niebla, Rush & El Terrible, (Rush is considered the babyface on this team, God only knows why as even though Rush has been the top rudo in the promotion for years, he’s still considered a tecnico), Marco Corleone & Shocker, Angel de Oro & Cuatrero, Dragon Lee & Sanson, Stuka Jr. & Forastero and Blue Panther Jr. & Mascara Ano 2000. The main event will be Mistico & Diamante Azul & Volador Jr. vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Kraneo & Cavernario.

AAA: They taped TV on 2/2 in Toluca. What’s notable now is that even though the shows are taped for television, AAA airs them live on Twitch at the same time. Only a few thousand people were watching the show the first night, but it’s still the equivalent of WWE having a show on NBC, taping it a week ahead, and putting it live for free on Twitch. You’d think the TV partner wouldn’t be happy with this, but with such low numbers on Twitch, it’s not that big of a deal. There was a trios match where Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria & La Parka faced Carta Brava Jr. & Mocho Cota Jr. & Tito Santana where the person who scored the pin fall would get a shot at Dr. Wagner Jr. for his AAA Mega heavyweight title at some point. Parka pinned Brava to get the title shot. El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. & El Hijo del Fantasma faced El Texano Jr. & Villano III Jr. This saw El Hijo del Tirantes come out to referee but Villano III (who is now 65 years old) and Vampiro ordered him out and Copetes Salazar took his place. Wagner turned on Fantasma, which you had to figure given he turned on his own father last week. Copetes was knocked down and Tirantes came in and Texano Jr., Villano III Jr. & Wagner Jr. all beat on Fantasma. Bengala ran in for the save and it ended with Fantasma pinning Villano III Jr. The main event was Psycho Clown & Vampiro over Dr. Wagner Jr. & Rey Escorpion. Vampiro ran into the post and was stretchered out. La Mascara and Maximo ran in and helped Psycho get the win. Maximo and Mascara said they were 100 percent with AAA.

THE CRASH: Flamita vs. Rey Fenix was the first match announced for their 4/6 show in New Orleans, which is about their best chance for a fantastic match for an American audience.

DRAGON GATE: Masaaki Mochizuki retained his Open the Dream Gate title over Kzy in 21:27 in the main event of the 2/7 show at Korakuen Hall before the usual sellout of 1,850 fans. After losing, Kzy said that he was leaving the Tribe Vanguard group. His fellow members tried to convince him to change his mind. Then Antias tried to recruit him but he turned them down and they beat him up. Susumu Yokosuka and Genki Horiguchi saved him, which leads to a 3/6 main event of Kzy & Yokosuka & Horiguchi vs. T-Hawk & Eita & Lindaman. Earlier in the show, Punch Tominaga & Ryo Saito beat Shingo Takagi & Yasushi Kanda when Tominaga pinned Kanda, which sets up a Kanda defense of the Open the Brave Gate title against Tominga.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Kenou retained the GHC title over Yuko Miyamoto in the main event of the 2/2 show at Korakuen Hall. Kenou got the pin in 16:15 after a double foot stomp off the top rope before 1,015 fans. After the match, Takashi Sugiura, who is Kenou’s main ally in the promotion, and who was in his corner for the match, came up to congratulate him. Kenou had talked about being the guy who would bring the title back to Budokan Hall. Sugiura then said if he wants to take the title to Budokan Hall, he has to go through him. So Kenou vs. Sugiura was announced for a 3/11 show at the Yokohama Bunka Gym. Angles were shot for the top four matches on the show, which will also be Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm defending the heavyweight tag titles against Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya, Daisuke Harada defending the jr. title against Hayata and Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 defending the jr. tag titles against Yoshinari Ogawa & Minoru Tanaka. Yone & Storm retained their tag titles against Maybach Taniguchi & Mitsuya Nagai in 17:37 when Yone pinned Nagai. Nakajima & Kitamiya issued the challenge after the match. Hayata pinned Hitoshi Kumano in 9:27 in a match billed for the winner to get the shot at Harada in Yokohama. In a six-man, Ogawa & Tanaka & Seiya Morohashi beat Ishimori & Hi69 & Leona when Tanaka pinned Hi69 and Tanaka & Ogawa then issued the challenge for the tag titles

They also announced a Global Tag League tournament from 3/18 to 4/11.

NEW JAPAN: The company is looking for a mobile game developer and publisher to collaborate on a New Japan game

The biggest show since the Tokyo Dome is the 2/10 Osaka Edion Arena show that starts at 3 a.m. Eastern (this is late Friday/early Saturday), which set a New Japan record in that building by selling out one month ahead of time. The lineup is Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuya Kitamura, Sho & Yoh vs. Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Ryusuke Taguchi & Kushida & Michael Elgin & Togi Makabe vs. Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka & Taka Michinoku & Taichi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay & Toa Henare vs. Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii & Jay White, Gedo vs. Bushi, Tetsuya Naito vs. Yoshi-Hashi, Will Ospreay vs. Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP jr. title, Hirooki Goto vs. Evil for the Never title and Kazuchika Okada vs. Seiya Sanada for the IWGP heavyweight title. Nagata vs. Kitamura is notable because it’s probably the best technical wrestler of all Kitamura’s recent singles match opponents. Sho & Yoh need new challengers and Desperado & Kanemaru could beat them non-title to set it up, or this could turn into a title match since they did a brawl at the 2/6 Korakuen Hall show where Desperado & Kanemaru issued a challenge for the belts. In the eight-man tag, the likely focus is Suzuki vs. Makabe since they have an IC title match coming soon. In the six-man, Yano & Ishii have been getting a lot of wins so I can see them getting a tag title match soon. White needs a U.S. title opponent and Hangman Page is probably it next, but Robinson could also be. It also tells you how much value the belt loss going from Kenny Omega to White. Naito vs. Yoshi-Hashi is obviously there to give Naito a win coming off his Tokyo Dome loss, and try to have Yoshi-Hashi look good in losing to a top guy. Ospreay vs. Takahashi will likely be one of the best matches so far this year. I could easily see Takahashi winning since he’s really the best guy for the title as being the most over in the division. But to me they’ve bounced that belt around too much and Ospreay just won it. These two have been working together in Chaos vs. LIJ matches and it’s been the best action at the house shows in New Japan all year. While most seemed focused on the main event, this match, especially in Osaka, is almost a lock to be one of this year’s best matches. Goto vs. Evil could go either way. I look at this as a show with a lot of LIJ success underneath over Chaos, but then Okada wins the big one. Okada vs. Sanada should be excellent the way they mesh in a big match, plus Osaka is the best city in Japan for rabid crowds, although Osaka is not 100 percent but more like 70 percent like that

AXS made the official announcement that the 3/25 Long Beach show will air live at 8 p.m. Eastern time

The first of this week’s two Korakuen Hall shows on 2/5 was built around a Chaos vs. LIJ ten man elimination match, which drew 1,604 fans, which is just under what they usually sell out with. Hiromu Takahashi and Ospreay went over the top rope together first. Takahashi did his running sunset flip power bomb over the top, and since his feet hit the floor, he eliminated himself. Ospreay was holding onto the top rope to avoid being flipped over, but Naito spit in Ospreay’s face which caused him to let go and be flipped to the floor by Takahashi. Yoshi-Hashi then eliminated Naito, and he needed that to set up the singles match. There was an awesome spot where Yoshi-Hashi almost eliminated Naito but he hooked both of his insteps in the bottom rope on the way out to avoid falling to the floor. He got back in but Yoshi-Hashi dumped him. Gedo was disqualified for unmasking Bushi. Bushi had his hands over his face to protect his identity and Yoshi-Hashi threw him over the top. Okada eliminated Sanada as both were fighting on the apron and Okada gave him a back body drop. Evil then eliminated Okada. Evil clotheslined Goto out. This left Evil vs. Yoshi-Hashi and Evil won with Everything is Evil (the STO). The other big match saw White pin Finlay in 11:49 with the blade runner. This was noted that these two used to wrestle each other as Young Lions, and now they were in the semi-main event. It was a good match, but the last few minutes were great. After the match, White helped Finlay up and put an ice pack on him since the two started together and were good friends. Suddenly, White hooked a crucifix on Finlay and started throwing Gary Goodridge elbows until Finlay was knocked out. After Makabe & Elgin & Kushida beat Suzuki & Iizuka & Kanemaru when Makabe pinned Kanemaru, Makabe challenged Suzuki to an IC tile match. Suzuki ran to the ring with a chair but was held back

The 2/6 show did a legit sellout with 1,706 fans headlined by Evil & Sanada retaining the tag titles over Okada & Goto in 18:14 when Evil pinned Goto after the Magic killer and Everything is Evil. Right before the finish, Okada and Sanada reversed out of each others’ big moves until Sanada laid out Okada with a rainmaker, in a spot that I have a feeling will be played into on the weekend show. I’d go ***3/4 for the match. After the match, with Evil & Sanada standing tall, they both vowed to win the singles title in Osaka. In a six-man where Yoshi-Hashi & Ospreay & Gedo beat Naito & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi when Yoshi-Hashi made Bushi submit to karma, they continued the Yoshi-Hashi brawling with Naito. Gedo unmasked Bushi and also stole a second mask that Bushi had brought in. There was also an angle in the Makabe & Elgin & Taguchi vs. Suzuki & Iizuka & Taichi match. Suzuki made Taguchi submit to a heel hook, but refused to break it after the match. This is significant because back in the Pancrase days there were a lot of serious injuries from heel hooks. Elgin tried to stop him but Iizuka laid out Elgin with the iron fingers from hell. Suzuki also laid out Makabe with the Gotch piledriver

Okada & Ishii vs. Young Bucks was announced for a 2/16 show in Adelaide. For 2/17 in Melbourne, it’ll be Okada & Ishii & Rocky Romero vs. Kenny Omega & Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa as the main event

The AXS schedule has the Okada vs. Naito Tokyo Dome match on 2/9, New Year’s Dash on 2/16, the White & Sho & Yoh vs. Young Bucks & Omega and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Suzuki from New Sapporo on 2/23, Fale & Tonga & Loa vs. Henare & Taguchi & Makabe for the Never title, LIJ vs. Chaos ten-man and Young Bucks vs. Sho & Yoh from the second Sapporo show on 3/2, and Omega vs. White for the U.S. title on 3/9

For the first time in history, New Japan cleaned up in the Pro Wrestling Illustrated awards. I don’t believe anyone has ever won an award from Japan before, but this year Omega vs. Okada won both feud of the year as well as took the top two spots for match of the year, with 1/4 winning and 6/11 placing second. The Young Bucks also won tag team of the year, which they had never done before in that magazine. Otis Dozovic was named Rookie of the Year, Christopher Daniels was named Most Inspirational, Jinder Mahal was named Most Improved The Hardys were, A.J. Styles was named Most Popular, Mahal was named Most Hated and Styles was named Wrestler of the Year with Okada second.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Big Japan will be doing a singles tournament that starts on 3/8, with A and B blocks, with semifinals on 4/14 and finals on 4/15. Those announced so far are Daichi Hashimoto, Daisuke Sekimoto, Hideki Suzuki, Yasufumi Nakanoue, Ryota Hama, Ryuichi Kawakani, Hideyoshi Kamitani, Yoshihisa Uto, Kazuki Hashimoto, Kazumi Kikuta, Takuya Nomura and Yuya Aoki

DDT’s next Korakuen Hall show is 2/25 with Konosuke Takeshita & Harashima vs. Shuji Ishikawa & Daisuke Sekimoto as the main event plus Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kazusada Higuchi

Io Shirai beat Nicole Savoy on 2/4 in Kyoto to retain the Wonder of Stardom title before 325 fans

Stardom announced Meiko Satomura vs. Toni Storm along with Io Shirai vs. Momo Watanabe for the Wonder of Stardom title as the top matches of their 2/18 show at Korakuen Hall. Also on the show is a tag title match with Hana Kimura & Kagetsu vs. Mayu Iwatani & Tam Nakano.

HERE AND THERE: There is a really interesting story regarding WrestleMania being in New Orleans. Louisiana is one of the commissions that still regulates pro wrestling. Because of that, Tom Lawlor, who had been booked for one show found out he wouldn’t be able to wrestle because of his two-year commission imposed suspension for a positive test for Ostarine that doesn’t expire until October. Lawlor won’t be coming since he has since gotten bookings for a military base tour at that time in Iraq and Afghanistan

The wrestlers working the shows that week all have to go through local licensing

The next obvious question involves Brock Lesnar. But Lesnar, like Lawlor, has two different suspensions, the commission suspension and the USADA suspension. In most cases, they are the same thing for the same length. With Lesnar, he had a one-year suspension from the Nevada commission that would have expired in July. But his USADA suspension is still ongoing because it freezes upon retirement from the UFC, and he had announced his retirement mid-suspension. It will unfreeze when he make it official he is coming out of retirement, and would then have to undergo five or six months of clean drug testing before he could be licensed. In other words, if WWE would have run New Orleans last year, Lesnar would not be allowed on the show. Now, I’m sure there would be work done in that case where WWE would work to try and get the commission to stop regulating wrestling and with all the money involved in a WrestleMania, perhaps that would happen. Even though there is no issue, with Ronda Rousey, she has never retired from MMA and is still in the drug testing pool and can be tested at any time unannounced. But with no fights signed, she was never tested once in 2017

Dick “Destroyer” Beyer, 87, one of the biggest American stars ever to work Japan, was honored on 2/3 in Buffalo and given the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays from Reiichiro Takahashi, the Japanese consul general in New York. Beyer came out in a suit, wearing his mask. He talked about his 1963 match with Rikidozan that he won which set him up as a superstar just from that victory. They also noted another match from that year that drew 70 million viewers, the largest live audience ever to watch a televised pro wrestling match as best we can tell. It is still among the 20 most-watched television shows ever in Japan. Several months back we noted the minute-by-minute ratings and how it grew for an entire hour. Beyer said that his goal is to be able to attend the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and to be able to go there and coach Japanese amateur wrestlers. Beyer was a strong college heavyweight at Syracuse who was undefeated during the regular season although he didn’t place at the NCAA tournament. He was also a college football star before getting into pro wrestling as babyface Dick Beyer. Fred Blassie saw him when he was wrestling in Hawaii and brought him to Los Angeles where they put a mask on him as The Destroyer and he became WWA world champion, which was the world title recognized at the time in California and Japan. He went regularly for years and then moved full-time to Japan when Giant Baba started All Japan Pro Wrestling. He turned babyface and regularly teamed on top with Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta. At the same time, he was part of the television ensemble comedy show on NTV which was the most popular prime time show in the country at the time. His wrestling match with Rikidozan made him a household name and the 70s show built his name for another generation

William Corgan announced that NWA champion Nick Aldis would defend against Tommy Dreamer on Dreamer’s 3/24 House of Hardcore show in Philadelphia. Aldis is now being managed by Austin Idol (or Idolmania Sports Management as they are calling it), who was a major star of the 70s and 80s and one of the great promos of that era. In fact, Hulk Hogan’s promos are basically knockoffs in wording and cadence to Idol (as well as Superstar Graham and Jesse Ventura) and Hulkamania, even though credited often to the AWA and Verne Gagne, is really a knockoff on Idolmania in the Gulf Coast who was a headliner when Hogan was breaking in. That show will also have the second round of their TV title tournament with Kevin Kross vs. Austin Aries, Willie Mack vs. Brian Cage, Bull James vs. Dan Maff, Alex Reynolds vs. Crazzy Steve and Kenn Doane vs. Swoggle

ACH beat Rey Fenix on 2/3 in La Salle, IL to win the AAW title in a great match after a brainbuster in 16:47. The co-feature with Jessicka Havok vs. Rosemary ended abruptly as Rosemary suffered a leg injury. They went right to a tombstone piledriver finish in 4:23 and Rosemary needed help getting out of the ring. Havok had her foot on Rosemary’s throat and Rosemary kicked her off. Her leg went out. She rolled to the floor. The match was stopped. They went right to a finish and Havok helped Rosemary to her feet and the refs helped her to the back. She couldn’t put any weight on her right leg. Reports we got were that the Sami Callihan win over Matt Riddle with an ankle lock submission and the Fenix vs. ACH Main event were great matches

In a horrible story, Acapulco pro wrestler Ignacio Aguirre Zeron died on 2/3 in an auto accident. He was an area regular under the name Black Silver Jr., and would frequently face big stars with big names when they came to Acapulco. This death was only a few months after the death of his wife

The WWC promotion in Puerto Rico, which has been shut down since the hurricane, announced that they will be doing a Road to Aniversario series of shows. Aniversario usually comes in September, although it has come as early as July and as late as October. But they never held a 2017 show since the island was ravaged so badly. The plan has been to return in March. Apparently a lot of the tapes and equipment were damaged in the hurricane. Ray Gonzalez Jr. has become a polarizing figure as Pro Wrestling Illustrated placed him in second place in their rookie of the year award. The most loyal of what is left of the WWC fans see him as a star of the future but most people see him as a guy in the business for three years already who is overpushed, has already held a bunch of titles and wrestles high on the cards even with a bad body and limited ability, mostly because of how famous his father is

A group called Imperio Lucha drew 2,250 fans on 2/4 in Lima, Peru for a show headlined by Carlito over Brian Cage for their championship. There was also a singles match where Austin Aries beat Marty Scurll. Paul London appeared to be injured doing a shooting star press. Other names on the show were Matt Sydal, Ricky Marvin and Chilean stars Alejandro Saez and Kaiser

Cleveland Knights Championship Wrestling is doing an iPPV on 2/9 and UFC’s Jessica Eye will be involved in the show. She did their November show working the corner of J-Rocc and will be in his corner again when he faces Kongo Kong

Bobby Fulton (real name James Hines, 57), announced that he was doing a retirement show on 5/26, which would also celebrate 40 years in the wrestling business. Fulton was best known in the 80s and 90s as part of the tag team of The Fantastics. The original team a takeoff on the Fabulous Ones, worked Georgia as The Fantastic Ones with Terry Taylor as a partner, but few remember that. The most famous version, with the late Tommy Rogers (Thomas Couch), was one of the most underrated tag teams of all-time. They were just awesome, particularly their feuds with the Dennis Condrey & Bobby Eaton version of the Midnight Express in Mid South, World Class and Crockett Promotions in the 80s. He later teamed with brother George, better known as Jackie Fulton, as the tag team in All Japan. He didn’t announce where but is looking at doing a convention and a show called World Class Professional Big Time Wrestling Memorial Weekend Pro Wrestling Superfest

DZJ will be exclusively with the WWN shows over WrestleMania weekend, working 4/5 for Evolve and 4/6 for the WWN Super Show

Tinieblas Jr. said the Heroes of Lucha Libre promotion, which drew two crowds of 2,500 to the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, CA, would return with shows on 4/6, 4/7 and 4/8,but didn’t say where

The Florida Wrestling Revolution promotion that was going to run on 2/10 in Orlando using stars from Puerto Rico, including Jose Gonzalez, canceled the show but announced they were coming in May. Sales were terrible. AAA has told FWR that even though they canceled they need to pay a booking fee for the talent they had booked like El Hijo del Fantasma, El Texano Jr. and Psycho Clown

Defy Wrestling out of Seattle set its record with s sellout of 700 fans on 2/2 for a show headlined by Shane Strickland keeping the Defy title over Matt Sydal. They brought in Penta 0M and Rey Fenix unadvertised and they got the biggest reaction of the show

The Macon Telegraph ran a story about Chip Minton, a two-time Olympian in the bobsled who later wrestled for WCW. He competed in the 1994 and 1998 Olympics, and nearly medaled in the latter. He got into pro wrestling but soon nearly destroyed his life with substance abuse. He now does motivational speaking at high schools.

EUROPE: Revolution Pro announced its next show at York Hall in London will be on 5/11, with Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. defending the British tag team titles against CCK (Travis Banks & Chris Brookes), plus a rematch of the Keith Lee vs. Tomohiro Ishii match that was a simple psychology match that tore the house down last year, and Matt Riddle & Jeff Cobb vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)

Some names announced for the Progress shows in New Orleans over WrestleMania weekend are Will Ospreay, Travis Banks, Toni Storm, Flash Morgan Webster, Jimmy Havoc, Mark Haskins and Walter.

ROH: The Cody vs. Kenny Omega match was announced this week for Supercard of Honor on 4/7 at the UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans. As noted last week this show, which had only announced Omega, Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi, was going to set the company’s attendance record and with that match announcement that is now official as 3,828 tickets were sold as of the morning of 2/5. They have set the Lakefront Arena up with 5,000, and given the type of walk-up with probably 100,000 wrestling fans in the area (far more people come to Mania week than people who go to Mania itself) I would have to think a sellout is a lock, if not very quickly from now. The company record was set last year at their show the night before WrestleMania with 3,500 tickets for the Hardys vs. Young Bucks ladder match

The match was announced at the end of the 2/2 episode of “Being the Elite,” which was built around all the members of the cast (Hangman Page, Young Bucks, Omega, Marty Scurll and Flip Gordon) being completely despondent about what happened in Sapporo, while Cody & Brandi Rhodes didn’t have a care in the world, hanging out at their vacation home in the snow. This was seriously the best work of Cody’s career as he was doing 80s Ric Flair playing the rich guy, with the full-length mink coat, out flexing his muscles while around the snow, smoking a cigar and at one point being in the bathtub with a giant drawing of himself in the background. The Young Bucks, Cody and Omega have gotten the okay from both Delirious and Gedo to book their key internal storylines through the end of the year which will play out in New Japan, ROH and also on their own Being the Elite show

ROH announced details of its Honor Club, its streaming service, which will take the place of the former Ringside membership. The key to this is that they will stream not only the big shows, but it appears all live events and all the events will also be available after the fact on video-on-demand. They will also stream the television show and the archives will include the live events and all the TV shows. There will also be pre-sales to Honor Club members for live show tickets and 15 percent off merchandise. All Ringside Members will have their existing time of their subscriptions moved to Honor Club members. There will be two tiers to the pricing. The regular price is $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. But the premium price will be $119.99 per year which includes all the PPV shows. The $9.99 price allows one to order the PPVs at half price

Two matches in the Women of Honor tournament were announced for a Stardom show on 2/24 in Osaka, with Mayu Iwatani vs. HZK and Kagetsu vs. Jenny Rose. I can’t imagine Iwatani losing in the first round of he tournament

The lineup for the 2/10 TV tapings at Center Stage in Atlanta (it will be very interesting if they can sell out–it’s a small building and they should, but NXT was just in and sold out two nights in a row so coming in so quickly after that is a bad date) with Silas Young vs. Kenny King for the TV title, Mark & Jay Briscoe vs. Baretta & Chucky T, Adam Page vs. Christopher Daniels, Young Bucks vs. Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky, and Will Ferrara & Rhett Titus vs. LSG & Shaheem Ali

The 2/9 house show in Concord, NC, has Cody & Marty Scurll & Page vs. Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia & TK O’Ryan, Jay Lethal vs. Jonathan Gresham, Young Bucks vs. Baretta & Chuckie, Dalton Castle & The Boys vs. Scorpio Sky & Kazarian & Christopher Daniels, Flip Gordon vs. Punishment Martinez and King vs. Shane Taylor.

IMPACT: There will be a new announcing team on the 2/8 show. At one point over the past week or so the plan was Sonjay Dutt and Don Callis, but we’re told that looks to have been changed. Callis originally said he wasn’t going to be a TV character. The first show of the new era was weird to watch because it had all the lame duck characters like Jeremy Borash (who had done the voiceovers before he left and the show was already done), Ethan Carter III, Chris Adonis, Bobby Lashley and Laurel Van Ness. The show was already completed when Borash gave the word he was leaving but my impression is they were going to do new voiceovers with whatever team they have starting with this week. Several names were considered and talked with. Dutt is the guy who is writing the television shows right now

The 3/3 joint show with Scott D’Amore’s Border City Wrestling in Windsor, ONT will be a One Night Only taping

A lot of the talent including Kevin Matthews, Matt Sydal, Moose, Alberto El Patron, Eli Drake and Johnny Impact worked a 2/3 show in Rahway, NJ for Wrestle Pro which drew 1,000 fans. The show will air this coming weekend on the Impact twitch channel

The never-ending pay issues are that now the checks come six weeks after the appearance and some guys now, since Impact is booking guys for indie dates, are mad at losing their own indie dates where they’ll get paid that night and working indie dates for Impact where they’ll be paid six weeks later instead

Bob Ryder, who would be the last person of the originals with the company (Abyss started at the first taping but Ryder was there with the Jarretts and Jeremy Borash even before that) spent six nights in the hospital treating multiple blood clots in both lungs, which were side effects from medications he’s taken to battle cancer.

UFC: TV negotiations are continuing. There are a few stories out that say that FOX has increased its offer to $250 million per year from the initial offer of $200 million. Evan Rutkowsky, the former manager of marketing strategy at HOB reported that number on his podcast and we confirmed independently that was accurate. While UFC and WME IMG talked about numbers like $400 million and more publicly, I was told a long time back by WME IMG that they were really expecting $250 million. However, with numbers still escalating, a number they thought was good a year ago may be considered low today. But this is all good for WWE, as every increase in UFC offers leads to increased expectations for what WWE will be getting, but also increases the value of things similar to UFC in television, which WWE is. With FOX having sold so many of its assets, really, the value of UFC and live sports to them has increased because that’s their direction and UFC provides tons of programming hours for FS 1 and FS 2. One of the things noted to me is that there could be major changes in how things are done as far as scheduling goes in 2019. Basically, unless there is a major star or a somewhat big show, you can pretty much figure the PPVs are doing 100,000 to 225,000 buys, mostly around 200,000. That’s about $6 million in revenue from PPV. So, theoretically, if you cut out the low performing PPVs and put them on television, and go with five or six PPVs, if you dump six, you’re talking about $36 million so if you can do that and increase your TV money by more than $36 million you’re ahead of the game. Keep in mind that this year the UFC television revenue from FOX will be $168 million. Lots of other things are being considered because the company is very largely going with the short-term mindset of cutting costs and generated revenue now as opposed to the Fertitta model of making big profits for sure, but they were always looking down the line as well. Of course their interest on their debt was significant, but nothing close to the current interest on the debt where EBITDA has to be ridiculously high. The future of Fight Pass is also in play, with the idea of a potential sale to Amazon or YouTube or someone like that

It was reported in Brazil first, and then in the U.S., that the drugs Anderson Silva tested positive for prior to his fight with Kelvin Gastelum were methyltestosterone and a diuretic. You can claim tainted supplement, but now you have to find a supplement that has both the drug and the diuretic in the same supplement and the latter is a tough one. As a second violation, and with it being for testosterone, that would seem to indicate a four-year suspension which at his age would more than likely be the end of his career, at least as a serious fighter. The idea that he’d come back in four years wouldn’t surprise me, but at that age he’d be more of a gimmick. The stories are that if he is suspended for more than two years he would retire, but never believe retirements of fighters. Silva had tested positive for Drostanolone, a different steroid, as well as anti-anxiety medications in a test before and on the day of his January 31, 2015, fight with Nick Diaz, which he won via decision. The win was overturned due to the positive test, which he claimed was because he took a sexual enhancement pill from Thailand that somebody gave him. He was suspended for one year and fined $380,000

Based on the last word, the 1/27 PPV from Boston with the Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou and Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir double headliner looks to have done about 350,000 buys. The estimates are about the same or just slightly down from the Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm fight four weeks earlier. The Cyborg vs. Holm fight was considered to have overperformed based on expectations, while the next show was expected to do better

They announced a PPV show for 6/9 in Chicago at the United Center. It’s expected that C.M. Punk will fight on the show. Dana White said a few weeks ago that they would give Punk another shot, but was on UFC Tonight saying that no date was clear as to when that fight would be. The rumored name floating around is Mike Jackson (0-1), a 32-year-old MMA reporter who fought once in UFC and lost to Mickey Gall in 45 seconds, which was quicker than Punk lost to Gall. I don’t see the interest in Punk being anywhere close to the first time because he’s been so quiet and also because of the long delay between his first and second fight combined with his first fight performance and the curiosity element of how well he’d do being gone. I do think he’ll help some with live ticket sales in Chicago, though

Tyron Woodley said that he’s been talked with about a title defense against Nate Diaz on the 7/7 show in Las Vegas. White said that Woodley was full of shit and that Woodley’s next opponent would be Rafael dos Anjos. Woodley shot back asking who has more of a history of being full of shit, he or White. White claimed UFC lawyers had even told Woodley to quit talking about it, but evidently they forgot to tell Woodley given he shot back disputing White within minutes. Woodley had said it was just up to UFC coming up with a dollar figure that will satisfy Diaz. That isn’t as easy as it sounds because Diaz is used to making the money he made for his Conor McGregor fights, and a fight with Woodley won’t generate the kind of money that would allow that kind of a guaranteed purse make economic sense. It is really too bad the sport has come to this. Diaz is hinting about wanting to come back this summer. An occasional title fight being given to someone as a gimmick like Georges St-Pierre last year due to the unique circumstances makes sense. But Diaz has done nothing at all to deserve a welterweight title fight. But in the end, the public will pay more for Woodley vs. Diaz than for Woodley vs dos Anjos or Woodley vs. Colby Covington, no matter how hard Covington tries to get headlines

White also said that a McGregor vs. Mayweather rematch would only happen under MMA rules. As if

McGregor ended up being the most searched for athlete in the U.S. on Google in 2017. What’s interesting that while he was No. 1 in the U.S., he was not even top ten in the world. And the world and U.S. lists were very different when it came to top ten. Only one person was on both lists, Floyd Mayweather, who was No. 1 worldwide and No. 10 in the U.S. The U.S. top ten was McGregor, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, O.J. Simpson, Ronda Rousey, Tiger Woods, Kevin Durant and Mayweather. What’s notable about Rousey is that she didn’t fight all year. If she had fought, she’d have finished much higher as Google searches are widely based on participating in high profile events. Rousey’s shows always did more searches than McGregor’s except for the Mayweather fight

As part of the company’s promise when getting legalized in New York to run multiple events annually, they’ve announced a 6/1 Fight Night show (this will be on a Friday night rather than a Saturday) on FS 1 from Utica, NY. What’s notable is they are booking the 4,500 seat Adirondack Bank Center, which is a smaller building than they usually run in

Colby Covington, one of the top welterweight contenders, who is trying to get a match with Tyron Woodley, did a pro wrestling show for Wrestle Pro in Rahway, NJ. For a long time UFC wasn’t allowing its talent to do pro wrestling. He wrestled a guy called Tyquil Woodley, I guess as a takeoff of Nyquil, trying to get over that Woodley is boring and puts people to sleep

This coming week’s show is a PPV on 2/11 from Perth, Western Australia. It’s a Sunday morning show in Australia, but airs in the usual Saturday night time slot in the U.S. The show starts at 6:45 p.m. Eastern time. So local time the show starts at 7:45 a.m. Crazy. The Fight Pass fights are Luke Jumeau (12-4) vs. Daichi Abe (6-0), Jose Quinonez (6-2) vs. Teruto Ishihara (10-4-2), and Mizuto Hirota (18-8-2) vs. Ross Pearson (19-14). On FS 1 at 8 p.m. will be Ben Nguyen (16-6) vs. Jussier Formiga da Silva (20-5), Alexander Volkanovski (16-1) vs. Jeremy Kennedy (11-0), Israel Adesanya (11-0) vs. Rob Wilkinson (11-1) and Damian Brown (17-11) vs. The other Dong Hyun Kim (15-8-3). The PPV card is Tyson Pedro (6-1) vs. Saparbek Safarov (8-1), Jake Matthews (11-3) vs. Li Jingliang (14-4), Cyril Asker (8-3) vs. Tai Tuivasa (6-0), Mark Hunt (13-11-1) vs. Curtis Blaydes (8-1) and the main event has Luke Rockhold (16-3) vs. Yoel Romero (12-2) for the interim middleweight title. The main event itself is interesting, but if something happens the last week and it falls out, there is nothing else of major interest on the PPV show. Really, to me, the FS 1 bouts like Nguyen vs. Formiga and Volkanovski vs. Kennedy are the most interesting fights except for the main event. I sense this at under 200,000 buys between the lack of the undercard, the fact these interim titles mean nothing and even though it is a legit big show main event as far as two proven fighters, nobody cares about Romero

Robert Whittaker finally talked at length about his health issues on the MMA Hour on 2/5. He noted that he went into the Yoel Romero fight with a torn ACL. He went into many fights with broken hands. When he was training for Rockhold, he blew out his hamstring but didn’t pull out of the fight. He said it was an abscess that took him out and he was on antibiotics for weeks. That will do it. Really, a blown hamstring or a torn ACL should take you out of fights. Then he got chickenpox. He said he still thought about fighting but his coaching staff told him there was no way he could fight, and even if he could it would be unsafe going in as weak as his body would be. He said the abscess left him bedridden and he believes weakened his immune system that led to the chickenpox. He said the chickenpox left hi with blisters from head to toe, even on his scalp, and some of the blisters were getting infected. Then, this past week, his wife was told that they needed to induce labor because his baby wasn’t growing so if he had fought, he’d have missed the birth of his daughter

Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Volkov was announced as the main event for the 3/17 show in London at the O2 Arena when Michael Bisping made the decision that he wasn’t going to fight on the show. That was probably for the best. The winner of this fight would be in line for a heavyweight title shot

Werdum was also hired back as the color commentator for the Spanish language version of UFC broadcasts on Fox Deportes and throughout Latin America. Werdum was fired after doing an anti-Reebok post in 2016. He was on the MMA Hour and said he had a meeting with Dana White last week and got his job back

Jim Wallhead accepted a nine-month suspension for failing a 10/7 out-of-competition drug test for Ostarine, which he was able to prove came from a contaminated supplement. USADA examined one of the products Wallhead was taking and found it contaminated with Ostarine. They have put the supplement on their High Risk list. The nine month suspension was because he was taking a supplement which itself wasn’t flagged, but it was manufactured by a company with a history of producing products with banned substances. Wallhead’s suspension will end on 7/7

Carls John de Tomas accepted a one-year suspension by both USADA and California stemming from a drug test failure in December. John de Tomas tested positive for the Diuretic Furosemide on 12/8, the day before his fight in Fresno with Alex Perez, that he lost via second round submission. He was also fined $2,500 by California. He will be eligible to return on December 29, 2019, which is one year after his test result came in

The company officially announced a 4/21 show in Atlantic City. Thiago Santos vs. David Branch, Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Luan Chagas,. Aspen Ladd vs. Leslie Smith, Merab Dvalishvili vs. Augusto Mendes and Magomed Bibulatov vs. Ulka Sasaki have all been announced for that show

Nick Hein vs. Davi Ramos and, Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev have been announced for the 5/12 show in Rio de Janeiro, likely as prelims on what is a PPV show. Junior Albini vs. Alexey Oleynik, which could be a PPV fight, was also announced this week

Alex Perez vs. Eric Shelton and Manny Bermudez vs. Albert Morales have been added to the 2/24 show in Orlando, likely as part of the Fight Pass prelims on the FOX show. Bermudez comes to UFC with an 11-0 record and off a 1:06 win over Seth Basler on 1/27

. Arjan Bhullar, an undefeated world class wrestler from Canada, will face Adam Wieczorek as part of the 4/14 FOX show from Glendale, AZ. Bhullar is the guy who is close friends with Jinder Mahal. Also added to that show is a battle of former flyweight championship title match challengers in Wilson Reis vs. John Moraga (who wrestled at Arizona State) and Yushin Okami vs. Dhiego Lima

Ashley Evans-Smith vs. Bec Rawlings has been added to the 4/7 show at the Barclays Center

Josh Burkman vs. Alex Morono has been added to the 2/18 show in Austin.

BELLATOR: Jon Fitch, who turns 40 next month, and was the welterweight champion of World Series of Fighting (now PFL) said that he was a free agent and is looking to sign with Bellator. Fitch is part of an anti-trust lawsuit against UFC so wouldn’t be going there. It’s notable because he would have been one of the biggest names in PFL and they are doing the tournament later this year with the $1 million first prize but he’s opted to leave that company

The next show is 2/16 at the Mohegan Sun Casino which is being built around the Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson fight in the first round of the heavyweight tournament as well as Patricky Pitbull Freire vs. Derek Campos, Liam McGeary vs. Vadim Nemkov and Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton in a battle of name women boxers who are supposed to first have an MMA fight and then do a rematch under boxing rules

Marc Sims, who was supposed to fight in a prelim on the 3/2 show in Thackerville, OK, on the prelims, wrote that he wouldn’t be fighting, saying he’d make more money working at Dollar Tree and posted his contract that listed $250 to show and a $250 winners bonus.

OTHER MMA: Alexandre Pereira da Silva, a Brazilian fighter, was in the intensive care unit over the weekend. This actually happened as he was cutting weight for a 1/27 weigh-in for a Shooto Brazil show. He suffered convulsions while cutting and was rushed to a hospital in Rio de Janeiro. He remained hospitalized a week later, still in ICU due to problems with his heart and his kidneys.

WWE: Even though Vince McMahon said at the XFL press conference that there would be no changes as far as his role in WWE with the forming of the league, the feeling is that Paul Levesque will gain a lot more control just based on the fact he’ll have to because there are only 24 hours a day. He is assembling his team in NXT which is where the Jeremy Borash thing from last week is a lot bigger than just a hire of a guy, and there are other people who have been talked to of late with the idea of being his team and coming up to fill the key positions when he’s in charge, whether that’s next year or the year after. Running NXT to satisfy insider fans is very different than WWE, but there are also good points to it when you look at the presentation of NXT and the booking and long-term plans that don’t change as frequently, and the more organic feel that are a good thing. But it is also very different to produce one hour of television weekly with the main goal just being storylines to build to the next TV and the ultimate big show and creating five hours of new television each week and two more hours of other shows (Main Event and 205 Live

. PW Insider reported that Miz had just signed a new four-year deal, locking him up through 2022. With the reality show coming up and the depth problems on the heel side, he’s the most valuable he’s been to the company in many years. Between the fans turning Strowman, unless they go with Reigns as a heel, they are left with Joe and an unproven Elias on the Raw side to the point Sheamus & Cesaro, a tag team, has been headlining the house shows. The Smackdown side isn’t much better with Mahal, who was demoted, Corbin, who they are behind big but he was expected to be a superstar by now and it didn’t happen, so Zayn has ended up being a top heel with Owens on that side

When Mysterio Jr. was in the U.K. for 5 Star Wrestling, he spoke with The Mirror and talked about possibly going back to WWE and gave what I’d consider to be a pretty strong positive answer. I think his appearing in the Rumble may be what saw the Impact negotiations stall. It’s funny because he was brought to the U.K. for another company and put over WWE more than anything. Even on the 5 Star TV show, the interviewer on that show brought up Mysterio being in the Rumble on their own TV show and he was positive about the experience. Regarding the reaction to him at the Rumble, he told The Mirror,“It’s been indescribable. I have nothing to say but to thank the fans for their loyalty, for their respect, for being a Rey Mysterio fan from day one.” Regarding appearing in the match, he said, “It’s undescribable. It was one of those moments that you had to be there, to really live it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that type of reaction, in a massive fan base, like it was in Philly. Man it was just unforgettable. It was just one of those feelings that you’re going to cherish and it will be with me for the rest of my life.” As for going back to WWE, he said, “I want to say that there is a big possibility that I will be back, figuring out what the situation is, you know, from both ends. But there is definitely a positive feedback on behalf of the fans, on behalf of the WWE staff and behalf of myself. I think we’re possibly going to sit down and negotiate something where we can both work together and have a good time and enjoy.” There is no deal and he has a lot of commitments right now but anything is possible right now. He’s unlikely to go back with a full-time schedule

The NXT Takeover New Orleans show at the Smoothie King Center on 4/7, which will go head-to-head with the ROH with Cody vs. Kenny Omega at the UNO Lakefront Arena, will have Andrade Cien Almas vs. Aleister Black for the NXT title and a rematch with Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler for the women’s title. There was a lot of teasing of a Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa match, and obviously there will be that match at some point when Ciampa is ready to return. They also started the Dusty Rhodes tag team tournament, an eight-team tournament, on the 2/2 TV tapings. It would make sense to have the finals in New Orleans. Three first round matches took place at the tapings with Authors of Pain over TM 61, Street Profits over Heavy Machinery and Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe over Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler had already done a promo saying they were in the tournament so they’ll probably be at the next tapings. Their first round opponents could be Fish & O’Reilly if they enter or War Machine if they are scheduled to debut on this cycle

The WWE will announce its year-end financial numbers on 2/8. The key comparison numbers to look for is the 12/31 subscriber number of the network. As far as over/under goes, a number for paid subscribers worldwide of 1,466,000 would be expected. Above that is good, below that isn’t as good. A domestic number of 1,068,000 would be about what should be expected. In 2016, the fourth quarter average paid attendance at the live domestic shows was 5,300, so that would be what 2017's fourth quarter should be compared with. That was a down number as it was 6,300 in the fourth quarter of 2016. Wall Street is expecting the company to have about a $15.2 million profit for the quarter

There have been people now openly talking about next year’s WrestleMania at MetLife Stadium (before it was something talked about, but not in public to fans), so one would think the official announcement should come soon

Paul Levesque is now officially in charge of 205 Live. The key was the introduction of James Curtin (Drake Maverick) as General Manager. As noted before, the idea of a 205 Live G.M. who would be portrayed not as a gimmick, but as a guy with credibility whose in storyline would be out there only to give people the best match quality possible and make fair decisions was a Levesque idea that dates back several months. But Vince didn’t have that mentality for the show, and felt the problem was not enough personality development and storyline and that came before having great matches. Between the last two weeks, the Daniel Bryan speech last week and a Drake Maverick speech this week, it’s clear that the company is looking now at ditching the comedy and skits, and trying to go back to the Cruiserweight Classic type of presentation. But the problem is far less what they are presenting as when. As long as you present the big stars for two hours and follow with lesser stars, it doesn’t matter what the lesser stars are doing. The Itami vs. Strong match on this week’s show may have been the best 205 Live match to date from a technical standpoint, but aside from a very small number of fans, so small at times it was embarrassing when they did the “This is awesome” chant (and it really was awesome), almost nobody was paying attention and the crowd was dead. The show will probably be more critically acclaimed, but unless they do something about when it’s taped, it’ll be no more effective

The relaunch of the XFL led to the Daily Beast and the Deadspin website revisiting the 2006 story on claims by a 22-year-old employee at a tanning salon in Boca Raton, FL, that she was groped by Vince McMahon, the reason being McMahon’s strong stance against anyone with a criminal background being allowed in the league. But McMahon was never charged in this case. The story was covered when it happened and the District Attorney eventually decided against pressing charges. The alleged victim claimed McMahon showed photos of himself naked on his cellphone and then made unwelcomed advances, cornered her and groped her. She claimed the woman was asked by McMahon to take his photo and send it to another person and she did so and when she gave him back his phone, he showed her nude and semi-nude photos of himself on his camera phone. She asked hi to stop. She claimed after the session was over, he followed her back into the tanning suite, closed the door and started forcibly kissing her. She said he stopped when she pushed him away as he tried to pull her shirt off. Another employee defended McMahon in media reports at the time, basically rebuffing her story. She had claimed her manager told her not to press charges. McMahon was a regular at the tanning salon. When she did, she claimed she was fired, and by the time the police report came out, she was listed as a former employee of the Tanzabar tanning salon. One thing is that the police report did have a line in it that stated “There is probable cause to believe that Vincent McMahon did actually and intentionally touch against the will of (woman’s name), contrary to Florida Statute 784.03. It should be noted that this came after the woman failed to identify McMahon in a police lineup. The only other thing new from what was reported at the time, was that after the woman was in the room with McMahon, she ran to a Papa John’s restaurant in the strip mall and told William Wells, an employee, of what she said happened. Wells, who was 17 at the time, said the woman ran in and was crying. It should be noted that the woman didn’t know who Vince McMahon was so from that standpoint it wasn’t someone trying to fake a claim against someone who she knew was either rich or a celebrity. However, Wells recognized McMahon walking out. She asked Wells to please come with her to the tanning salon and to bring a baseball bat until the police arrived. Wells claimed McMahon was in his car staring them down for 45 minutes, turning his car around to face the store, and didn’t leave until just before the police arrived. Wells said McMahon not leaving scared the woman.

This all led to a WWE storyline just a few weeks later where Mickie James played a psycho woman who came on to a man who was playing the role of someone Trish Stratus (who James was feuding with) dated. But the man pushed her away and then James claimed she was sexually assaulted and tore up her own clothes to prove it, with the idea that psycho women claimed they were being sexually assaulted by guys who were actually innocent. This was the time when it seemed whenever something weird happened to Vince McMahon in real life, it would lead to a Raw storyline played out with the idea that in real life, the person in the McMahon role was the victim

The company is allowing Drew McIntyre to appear on 2/12 for ICW in Glasgow for an induction ceremony into the ICW Hall of Fame

For those who still think Jericho will be at WrestleMania, on 4/8, he is doing a concert in Hampton, VA at Wally’s and will be hosting a WrestleMania viewing party after the concert in the same location

Dwayne Johnson claimed, and this would be the first time he has ever said this publicly, that when he was 15, he had to save his mother, Ata, from a suicide attempt. He also said that she has no recollection that any of this happened. “My mom tried to check out when I was 15,” he wrote. “She got outta the car on Interstate 65 in Nashville and walked int oncoming traffic. Big rigs and cars swerving outta the way not to hit her. I grabbed her and pulled her back on the gravel shoulder of the road. What’s crazy about that suicide attempt is to this day, she has no recollection of it whatsoever. Probably best she doesn’t.

Johnson also announced a new reality show for NBC called “The Titan Games,” a unique name since the parent company of WWF from 1982 to 1998 was called Titan Sports before renamed World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, and later just World Wrestling Entertainment. It will be an athletic competition which sounds similar with shows like American Gladiators and Broken Skull Challenge. Johnson will be the host and Executive Producer along with his Seven Bucks Entertainment Company, and listed as other Executive Producers are Dany Garcia (his ex-wife and co-owner of the company as well as business manager), Hiram Garcia (her brother) and former WWE writer Brian Gewirtz, who Johnson worked closely with when both were with the company. The show will start filming in September, and there is no scheduled debut date but likely in 2019

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” was No. 1 at the box office this past weekend at $10,930,222. It was the first time since the release of the movie “Titanic”: in December 1997 that a movie released in a December would have been No. 1 on the charts during February, which shows to the amazing staying power of this movie. And this was a weekend where movie business was way down due to the Super Bowl. As of the weekend, the movie had done $352,572,974 in North America and $505,031,381 in the rest of the world. The $857,604,355 puts it in 60th place of all-time and fifth in the last 365 days

The 25th anniversary of Raw did 122,000 viewers in the U.K., plus 30,000 for a replay showing. Smackdown did 29,000 viewers live and a Wednesday at 10 p.m. replay did 47,000. For a comparison, the three prior Raw shows that aired live did 31,000, 67,000 and 47,000 viewers

Jim Ross is in talks with two companies about being the new home of his Ross Report podcast and a final deal is expected with one or the other shortly

The new Raw theme is called “Born for Greatness” by Papa Roach

Ricochet debuted at the NXT tapings on 2/2 using that name. The place went nuts when they saw his name on the screen and it was said to be the loudest pop at any of the three NXT tapings at Center Stage in Atlanta. People were chanting “This is awesome” 30 seconds into his match with Fabian Aichner. The crowd took to him like a major superstar, but you would expect that for a debut of a name guy

The original main event for the Takeover in New Orleans looked to be Almas vs. Lars Sullivan. Sullivan (Dylan Miley, 29) had been booked like a monster up to that point including almost a squash win over Roderick Strong. They had taped an angle to lead to a Sullivan vs. Killian Dain match where the winner would become the No. 1 contender for the title. But on the TV show that airs on 2/28, they did an angle where Black challenged Dain and Black beat Dain for the title shot. Sullivan then disappeared. He’s had some problems with the knee that he had reconstructive surgery on and there are also issues with his pituitary. He had surgery a few years ago, after coming to WWE when they found out his look and freak size was due to acromegaly, the same thing guys like Andre, Antonio Silva, Giant Silva, Great Khali, The French Angel and Choi Hong-man all had which led to their larger than life features like giant hands and giant feet and there were some issues relating to the surgery. He’s expected back training very shortly

Big Show was on Busted Open radio this past week and talked about his recovery from hip surgery. He had hip resurfacing surgery, which is putting in a metal implant, in September and it went so well that he was up to walking one mile less than a month after surgery. Then things got bad, as he developed an infection from the surgery. So he needed another operation to clean up the infection. If he had not gotten that operation as soon as he did and the infection got worse, they would have had to cut out the metal pieces put in and put I a cement joint, then do a full hip replacement, and his wrestling career would have been over. For the next seven weeks, he needed to be hooked up to an IV eight hours a day. So he really couldn’t go anywhere for any length of time or do anything. He got out of that on Jan. 2. He said that he’s been back in the gym and is down 27 pounds, right now at about 390, since starting back training, but he’s got another six to eight months before he can return to the ring

As expected, the spring set of 205 Live house shows were canceled. Technically, they were never announced but there was a tour of California on the books that has been canceled. The word is that the concept of 205 Live house shows isn’t dead, and the Lowell and Poughkeepsie shows got good reviews and drew decently enough. But the big draw on the tour was Enzo and they had to add Matt Hardy, Bray Wyatt and had a Nia Jax angle thrown in as well as had to cancel one of the three shows due to poor ticket sales. But right now nothing is on the books. Whether this is the same we don’t know, but that was the wording used when they canceled the ECW house shows at the end of 2006, with the idea that they’d start them up again and then never did

WWE sent out a marketing survey this past week. Not sure who it went to and didn’t because I only saw one copy of it and I’m a network subscriber and never got it. It asked about WrestleMania and basically asked people if they were going to New Orleans or not, and if not, what was the reason (cost, don’t like the card, several options actually). There were other questions about attending, if you had attended the WrestleManias the past few years, but the one I found most interesting is they asked fans if they would like to see Nakamura beat Styles and if they would like to see Asuka win one of the women’s titles

The company also put up a job posting for new writers, saying the job is to develop and implement creative storylines for both television and shows on the WWE Network

Currently there are 8,000 tickets sold for Elimination Chamber on 2/25 in Las Vegas at the T Mobile Arena, so it won’t be close to a legit sellout. The Raw on 2/12 in San Jose only has a 7,000 ticket advance, which for this market is very soft. For 2/19 and 2/20, they are doing both Raw and Smackdown in Phoenix. There are combined tickets and such to help Smackdown in particular and the expectations right now are about 8,500 for Raw and 6,500 for Smackdown. The house shows coming up this weekend in California don’t have strong advances. The one thing that is different this year from the past is that January through end of March is the season, where everything is up. But this year the house shows have been well below expectations and the Raws seem that way as well

What I believe will be a first-ever meeting of Lesnar vs. Miz for the Universal title is scheduled for the 3/9 house show in Minneapolis at the Target Center

Listed under real name Jonathan Huber, Luke Harper has one of the lead roles in the movie “Mohawk,” which will have a limited theatrical release starting on 3/2, actually in less than ten theaters, while at the same time also being released digitally. It’s an action-thriller that Huber filmed during the period in 2016 he was out after knee surgery

LIDS Sports Group and WWE announced a partnership this week giving LIDS the licensing rights to produce WWE headwear, using names, logos and autographs of WWE stars. Customers will be able to customize headwear of different WWE stars in minutes both on-line and in the company’s nearly 1,000 stores nationwide

Bianca Belair, real name Bianca Blair (who is engaged to Kenneth Crawford, who is Montez Ford of the Street Profits), who is generally considered the best female athlete in the company was a Tennessee state high school champion in track in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles and competed in the 100 and 400 meter hurdles from 2010 to 2012 at the University of Tennessee. After graduating college, she got into Crossfit training and was in a competition in Puerto Rico. Mark Henry saw it on television and contacted her suggesting he could get her a tryout with WWE in 2015 and she started in April 2016

Cena is releasing a children’s book called “Elbow Grease.

The 2/13 Smackdown tapings in Bakersfield have Ziggler vs. Corbin in Ziggler’s TV return, and I have no idea why he left in the first place, Bayley & Elias vs. Lana & Rusev in the mixed match challenge and two more first round matches in the cruiserweight tournament with Tozawa vs. Mark Andrews and Nese vs. Gulak

The biggest sports name at the current WWE tryouts is Todd Clever, 33, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound American rugby union star. One thing about the current camp is you can see they are back in the mode of looking for big guys. Clever was the U.S. team captain of Rugby Union and has represented the country more times than anyone in history in international competition. He competed from 2000 to 2002 on the teenage U.S. national team and from 2003 to 2017 on the national team. One thing interesting, because this goes so much against WWE mentality, is that Clever had run-ins with his coach including one heavily publicized which saw the coach remove him as team captain and not even play him a few years back. He retired from rugby this past summer. He’s from San Jose, and has played Rugby Union professionally in New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and England

Other names at the tryouts this week include Evan Cloyd, who wrestles for Evolve as Jarek 1:20; Jaxon Stone, a Philadelphia based wrestler who has worked for wXw in Germany; Evan Markopolous, a New England wrestler who at 18 appeared with TNA and looked great and got over, but was deemed too small and they never did anything with him, but he’s now 23 and has a good physique; Maverick; Juan Adams a 6-foot-5 MMA heavyweight from Houston who cuts to 265 and has a 2-0 record after his pro debut in November and just fought his second fight last week; and Matt Van Buren, 31, an MMA fighter with a 7-5 pro record. Van Buren, who is 6-foot-5 and fought as a light heavyweight in UFC, went to the finals of the spring 2014 season of Ultimate Fighter, before losing to Corey Anderson. He fought once more in UFC, losing a fight of the night to Sean O’Connell before he was released. He last fought in the summer of 2016 where he was knocked out in 14 seconds by Jeremy Kimball

The stock closed at press time at $34.56 per share, giving the company a market value of $2.665 billion. Considering the stock market itself collapsed during the week, that’s actually a good sign. But the stock should do well because all indications are that the TV rights fees should be up based on UFC negotiations, and that’s the company’s best shot at increasing profitability

For the most-watched shows on WWE Network for the past week, they were: 1. Royal Rumble; 2. Mixed Match Challenge (Bliss & Strowman vs. Lynch & Zayn); 3. NXT Takeover Philadelphia; 4. NXT TV show for 1/31; 5. WWE 24 WrestleMania Orlando; 6. Photo Shoot: Eric Bischoff; 7. Alexa Bliss’ first televised match in NXT; 8. Alexa Bliss talks her time in NXT; 9. Alexa Bliss’ most memorable clashes; 10. Bloopers, Bleeps & Bodyslams (an 80s home video release). 205 Live on 1/30 was in 11th place

Notes from the 2/5 Raw show. It was a show to set up the direction for Elimination Chamber. The angle with Jordan and Rollins and how it played out was good, but with Jordan’s neck injury, there’s limitations in what you can do to play it out right now. The show drew 6,500 fans. For Main Event, Goldust pinned Hawkins in the losing streak match. Kalisto pinned Daivari. Raw opened with a Wyatt interview. He talked about how he won the title last year in the Elimination Chamber. He said Reigns lost at the Rumble (well, almost everyone did) and lost his IC title and has fallen so far that nobody would recognize him. He said Reigns lost his confidence, is a failure waiting to be put out of his misery and he’s happy to oblige. Reigns said a failure is somebody who gets knocked down and stays down. Reigns pinned Wyatt in a chamber qualifier in 14:47. This was a good match. It was kind of slow early, picked up with the near falls and the crowd was hot for the last few minutes. Lots of near falls including Reigns kicking out of Sister Abigail. Wyatt started laughing in disbelief that it happened. He went for a second one a few minutes later, but Reigns escaped and hit the spear for the win. After the match, Matt Hardy got in the ring and laid out Wyatt with the twist of fate. Rollins and Jordan were backstage. Jordan said he was 100 percent healthy and medically cleared. Rollins told him that this match with Sheamus & Cesaro was their last chance, it’s not about me or you, it’s about what we can do together. Wilder vs. Balor was scheduled next. Balor came out with Gallows & Anderson. When The Revival came out, Dawson said that they were a tag team and told Balor to get a partner for a tag match. Balor picked Anderson. The always-smiling babyface Balor doesn’t do it past mid-level. This was also good. Anderson took out Wilder with a flip dive and Balor used the woo dropkick and coup de grace to pin Dawson in 8:05. Banks was nearly in tears after watching the tape of her match with Asuka. Bayley came in and said that she’s watched the tape 20 times. Banks said she came this close to ending Asuka’s streak, and she knows how to end the streak. They talked about how in the women’s elimination chamber it’s everyone for themselves, just like the Rumble. Banks said she did what she had to do which was the first mention of her throwing Bayley out. Banks indicated she didn’t think Bayley could beat Asuka. Bayley said that “I know I can beat you, and if you can beat Asuka, so can I.” They’ve been teasing this best friends split forever. Banks was originally to turn on Bayley before last year’s Mania, that’s how far back the idea has gone. Alexander & Ali beat Gulak & Nese in 4:19. Right before Enzo left they did a double turn with Alexander and Enzo in a segment on 205 Live, but that stuff seems to have been dropped. Drake Maverick was on commentary and once again they acknowledged that he used to be Rockstar Spud. Alexander pinned Gulak with a springboard clothesline and the lumbar check. Angle came out and announced the six women in the chamber match, as well a announcing Asuka vs. Jax. He went through the stips involved. Bliss came out and said this needs to stop, that it’s wrong and unjust and against the company policy where men and women are treated equally. I can’t imagine pay records would indicate that at all. Her claim is that Lesnar is not defending his title in the Chamber match while she is. She asked why doesn’t she get the same privilege as Lesnar and asked Angle if he values Lesnar more than he values her. Bliss said that Angle was guilty of preferential treatment to guys and being sexist. So in other words, we had a writer and it went through all the channels of doing a storyline where women complaining sexual discrimination are making totally silly complaints. Angle noted that she hadn’t defended her title in months and Lesnar just defended at the Rumble. She blamed him for not booking her to defend the title since October. So Angle said he would leave it to the fans, and asked them if they wanted Bliss to defend the title in the Chamber match. This got a loud and standing “Yes” chant. Cena did a backstage interview saying his match for the last spot entering the Chamber gives the winner of his match later that night the best chance of winning the match and getting the title match at Mania. He put over Strowman as a monster and said Elias was the ghost of Eddie Van Halen. Actually the best part of the show was Reigns being at the Martin Luther King Museum telling the story about the young men and women who did a non-violent sit-in at a restaurant to protest Jim Crow laws. It’s still amazing that in the U.S., even as late as the 60s, and maybe later, that there were restaurants that wouldn’t serve blacks. Henry was in the piece as well. I’m not much for WWE as teachers of history and this wasn’t exactly what you’d expect on a wrestling show but it did teach a good lesson. Asuka beat Bayley in 11:11. Bayley has dropped noticeable weight. The crowd wasn’t that into it but the action was good. Asuka went for the Asuka leg in the ropes, but Bayley escaped by giving her a stunner. Bayley came off the apron with a knee to the face. After some reversals, Asuka went back to the flying armbar finish for the submission. The two shook hands after the match. Cesaro & Sheamus did a promo. Cesaro is now wearing braces. Actually, I’m sure he has since the mouth injury but in the past he had to cut interviews wearing a mouthpiece. The Miz did a promo. He noted that when he beat Reigns it was the highest rated Raw in three years and it was all because of him. That was funny, since it was Raw 25. Then he talked about beating Reigns in a rematch, but didn’t bring up the ratings. He said that Doug Pederson showed the Eagles a video of his last match with Reigns and it motivated them to win the Super Bowl. He said that his daughter will be born before Mania (she’s actually due the day before) and will see him become the first wrestler to hold the Universal and IC championship at the same time. Miz pinned Crews in 5:28. Crews did a bunch of cool moves. Miz did all the right things, but even by his standards, he looked like a guy pretending when doing them. Whatever the opposite of wrestling crisp is, that was Miz here. After Crews was crotched, Miz got the win with the skull crushing finale. Backstage, Jordan was with a doctor and Angle. Rollins was there and Jordan told him that when he was warming up, his neck got hurt, he got examined by the doctor and he wasn’t cleared to wrestle. Rollins was pissed at him. Honestly, Rollins came across as such a selfish heel here, since he had no sympathy for his partner being injured and not cleared. If the story was that Jordan told him he hurt his neck and couldn’t wrestle, it’s one thing, but when the story is the doctor wouldn’t clear him, and it wasn’t his decision, that’s a different reaction. Especially when Angle insisted to Rollins it was real. It didn’t make Jordan a heel either, even though that was the goal. And it could have been tweaked so slightly for Jordan to be a heel. Rollins was also mad because this was supposed to be their last shot. Angle said that they were going to have to forfeit, when Reigns showed up. Sheamus & Cesaro beat Reigns & Rollins via DQ in a title match in 13:29. Another good match. Rollins did a tope but was caught on the floor with a backbreaker by Sheamus. Rollins was really over since he’s from Davenport, IA and they were in nearby Des Moines, so he’s the local star. He came back and hit a tope on Sheamus and later hit a tope on Cesaro. Jordan came out to cheer Rollins & Reigns on. Jordan tripped one of them. Reigns then yelled at Jordan and told him to leave. Jordan was mad at Reigns, and rightfully so given Reigns yelled at him for no reason. Reigns and Rollins set up The Shield power bomb on Sheamus but Cesaro pulled Sheamus out of the ring. Then Sheamus & Cesaro decided they were going to lose via count out. They grabbed the belts and left. Jordan blocked them from leaving. They started yelling at Jordan, and in doing so, Jordan got mad and punched both for the DQ. Sheamus & Cesaro celebrated that they tricked Jordan into the DQ and Jordan felt awful. Reigns and Rollins were mad at him. This was a good storyline to further the Rollins vs. Jordan program, but in doing it before Jordan left, they heated up a program they can’t follow up on for at least a few months. Strowman did an interview about the main event. Backstage, Rollins was yelling at Jordan, saying that he never wants to listen and never wants to learn. Angle came in. Rollins called Jordan a selfish son of a bitch. Does that make Angle the bitch? Rollins said the only thing he’s mad about is that he didn’t hurt Jordan himself. Angle told Jordan to leave and go home and stay home. Jordan said that Rollins can’t talk to him like that. Jax beat Vanessa Floyd in 1:22 with a legdrop. Vanessa Floyd is a student of Michael Elgin’s who uses the name Savannah Stone. The other thing notable is she’s apparently 17 years old (will turn 18 shortly). WWE usually has a rule of not using anyone under the age of 18. Jax pressed her overhead ad dropped her before the finish. Renee Young interviewed Jax. She said that she’s the only one in the locker room who doesn’t fear Asuka and the only one in the locker room that Asuka can’t beat. Well, other than the fact Asuka has beaten her multiple times, including on Raw. She said she was going to mess up Asuka’s face so badly that Asuka will be wearing the mask permanently. Mickie James pinned Deville in 3:37. A funny story in commentary is Coachman mentioned how Deville’s idol was Allan Iverson, the former NBA star. Cole then said that he had just told that story at the Royal Rumble. That was a burn, because he essentially acted as if Coachman either didn’t watch the Rumble, or if he did, he didn’t pay attention. Deville kept touching her nose like she may have gotten hit there and the announcers acted like it was a possible broken nose. But there wasn’t any noticeable blood. James won clean with a schoolboy. After the match, Deville and Mandy Rose beat down James. It was notable that Paige was out there and she stayed a few feet away, so she’s not even allowed to touch anyone at this point. Bliss ran in and pulled James out of the ring to safety. James looked at Bliss like she had no idea why Bliss saved her and didn’t trust her, and was just confused by it. They announced the four-way for next week for the final Chamber spot. In the match to determine who gets the final spot in the Chamber, Elias won over Cena and Strowman in 9:57. Cena tried the Attitude Adjustment on Strowman but collapsed under his weight. Cena and Elias threw Strowman into the post twice to get him out of there for a few minutes. They also threw Strowman into the steps. Elias hit Strowman with a guitar and Cena gave Strowman the attitude adjustment on the steps. The finish saw Strowman come back and powerslam Cena. He went to powerslam Elias, but Elias escaped, threw Strowman out of the ring and pinned Cena. I get why they did it, so Elias would be in last but the whole idea was to put over Strowman as the hot star since he powerslammed Elias first, then powerslammed Cena again, Strowman gave Elias another powerslam, then powerslammed Cena again and then powerslammed Elias again. So he powerslammed each of them three times. There was blood on Strowman’s chest. It looked like at some point the middle of his chest was sliced open. The negative is there was a long time before the first powerslam on Cena and the cover by Elias to the point nobody expected it to be the finish, and Cena losing that easily left the audience flat

Notes from the 2/6 tapings in Kansas City. A better than usual taping as they had two great matches, a Zayn vs. Owens match on Smackdown with a non-finish, and Itami vs. Strong. The show drew 7,000 fans. Lynch beat Natalya in the dark match opener with the disarmer. Smackdown opened with a long first segment. Shane came out and said that Zayn and Owens don’t deserve another shot at the title. Some fans booed him for saying that. Shane said that there is a guy who does believe they deserve another shot and that’s Bryan. Bryan came out to a big reaction. Fans started chanting “Rusev Day” for no reason in the middle of Shane’s speech. Shane paused and acknowledged it. He said that Bryan continues to gave the same two guys opportunity after opportunity and he thinks people may want to see somebody new go after the title. I hope he’s not referring to Corbin or Mahal. Bryan came out and noted that he’s putting Owens vs. Zayn as the TV main event and thought Shane should give him a well-deserved raise. Fans popped big when he said that. Shane asked why he keeps giving them opportunity after opportunity. It is so weird having these speeches where the guy can’t use terms like title shot or chance. Shane said that Bryan favors Owens and Zayn because they had the same career path he had, but he told Bryan, “They’re not you. The yep movement is a cheap imitation of what you have created. I don’t want those two to manipulate you anymore.” Shane said he thinks that because Bryan isn’t allowed to wrestle, he’s living vicariously through them. Styles came out and said he’s walking out of Fast Lane as champion. Styles was talking backstage and bumped into Nakamura, who told Styles that he was going to beat him at WrestleMania. Charlotte beat Morgan in a non-title match in 7:58. Riott and Logan kept getting involved until ref Mike Chioda threw them out. Charlotte won with a running kick and the figure eight. Charlotte then said she’s got two to go, so sounds like she’ll be doing singles matches against Riott and Logan over the next few weeks. Renee Young was backstage with Owens. She asked if he and Zayn’s friendship will endure tonight’s match. He said that’s up to Sami, if he can handle losing the match. Harper & Rowan destroyed two guys who were never named. One was Matt Fitchett. They used a double choke slam in 1:21. As they were leaving the Usos came out, so they continued to do the small tease for that direction. The Usos did an in-ring promo. They’re really good in this role but they didn’t say anything noteworthy. Bryan announced the top ten. Supposedly the Smackdown wrestlers vote for the top ten and they aren’t allowed to vote for themselves and he and Shane have no vote. I have no idea what this is supposed to be about, but between the gimmick of ranking Dillinger at No. 10, ranking tag teams and women with men all together, and not having Owens & Zayn, the two guys fighting over the next title shot, even in the top ten, it became a joke from week one. Whenever pro wrestling does this it almost always doesn’t work, but sometimes it at least doesn’t get silly for a few weeks. Anyway, from ten to one it was Dillinger, Orton, Lynch, Usos, New Day, Roode, Naomi, Nakamura, Charlotte and Styles. Roode retained the U.S. title over Rusev in 15:46. English came out singing a terrible Rusev song. His singing was fine but that song was awful. Graves did an analogy from this match taken right out of the movie “Pumping Iron,” which came out long before he was born. The match was okay in the first half and the last minute was really good. Rusev tried the accolade for a second time but Roode got out and hit the Glorious DDT and got the clean pin. I think the mentality is that since they are eventually turning Rusev, they can beat him all they want now. As Roode was celebrating, Orton hit the RKO on him, so looks like they’re doing a U.S. title program. Orton also hit an RKO on English and then on Rusev. There was a backstage skit where Gable & Benjamin were acting like Breeze & Fandango and The Ascension were turning the tag team division into jokes. The new thing on WWE broadcasts is they do these giant word graphics in some promos, when English sings and in other spots on the show. It makes it feel like a show for little kids which is funny when the median age of viewers is early 50s. Gable & Benjamin beat The Ascension in 3:46 when Benjamin pinned Viktor after the sky high clothesline. Gable once again did the O’Connor roll into a German suplex as a hot spot. Zayn did an interview and said that this was his opportunity to step out of Owens’ shadow. He noted that they started together, but Owens was the one who has won all the titles. Zayn vs. Owens ended in a no contest in 13:53 when Styles attacked both of them. They were having a great match. Zayn worked as the babyface. These guys were noticeably better with each other than they are with anyone else. Zayn dove in and out of the ring with the spinning DDT on the floor. Zayn kicked out of a frog splash. Zayn got near falls with a half nelson German suplex and a blue thunder bomb. The match ended when Zayn was yelling at Styles, who was doing commentary. Styles shoved Zayn into Owens and attacked both of them so the match was over. Styles cleaned house on both and hit both with a plancha. Bryan came out and announced that since there was no winner, the main event at Fast Lane would be a triple threat match with Styles vs. Owens vs. Zayn. Fans didn’t react all that much to it. Honestly, it does feel overdone but right now we’re in this unique period where they have a WrestleMania show, but have to do two PPVs before it and are just trying to get past these shows without giving away anything they want at Mania and setting things up for Mania. Next was mixed match challenge, with Jimmy Uso & Naomi beating Goldust & Mandy Rose in 9:59. Bryan was referee. They did a fan vote where 62 percent voted for Bryan as referee and 38 percent voted for Angle. Past the pop Bryan got it was kind of a waste because there was no storyline or even spot set up and he was more like an anonymous ref, and you shouldn’t put a top star in a position to be nobody. The match was mostly comedy, including a quick high spot open where Goldust started gasping for air and played the idea he was old and out of shape saying bending over and saying he’s old and needs a breather. Then they built up to a spot where both teams would hug until Jimmy & Naomi kissed. People wanted Goldust & Rose to kiss but Uso attacked Goldust before he could kiss her. Rose made fun of Naomi’s hair weave. Naomi hit the rear view on Goldust and Jimmy splashed him off the top. Rusev & Lana came out after the match. Lana sang a song about Rusev being No. 1. As popular as Rusev is, the crowd actually booed them at first. They noted next week Rusev & Lana face Elias & Bayley. They did a backstage segment with Elias & Bayley where Bayley wanted him to hug her and he blew Bayley off. The good news was that viewership was up from last week, but it was still much lower than the first two weeks. The match opened with about 40,000 people watching and peaked with the finish at 77,700, and was at 54,000 when the show was over. The peak was up 25 percent from last week and they ended up 22 percent from last week, which is notable because last week has Strowman & Bliss as a team. The shows end up with around 1.7 million viewers total, but that’s people who watch for a few seconds, many counted many times over and worldwide numbers which are 75 to 80 percent outside North America so are extremely misleading. 205 Live opened with Kalisto pinning Lince Dorado in the tournament in 11:36. Cool moves and not much reaction to them. It was embarrassing because Kalisto stopped and did the arm stuff to get a Lucha chant going and almost nobody would do it. Dorado hit a shooting star press and Kalisto rolled to the floor. To me, if you’re doing that move, at least do a near fall with the foot on the ropes spot out of it, or why even do it? Kalisto used the Salida del Sol and Dorado made the ropes. The finish was supposed to be this awesome spot where Kalisto did a backwards springboard off the ropes into a reverse huracanrana. He did the springboard, landed on the shoulders perfectly, but Dorado took the move sloppily, ruining what could have been one of the most amazing spots of the year. Kalisto hit the Salida del Sol for the pin. Alexander did a promo and Ali came up from behind him. Alexander acted kind of weird to him so they may still be doing that heel turn they started one week and dropped cold. TJP did a promo saying when he won the cruiserweight classic, he was doing it for the fans but not he’s going to win this tournament but he’s doing it for himself. Tozawa is doing vignettes where he walks around backstage with the Vince McMahon/Conor McGregor walk looks at guys backstage and says “You’re fired.” Drake was backstage with Nese and Gulak. He asked Gulak why he’s turned into such a goof. He said that Gulak is one of the toughest grapplers but now he’s a guy holding picket signs and doing power point presentations. He told him he wanted the serious Gulak back. Then he told Nese that all he does is point to his abs, and told Nese he was one of the most physically gifted guys and yelled at both of them for being comedy acts. It was perversely entertaining to see Rockstar Spud yelling at people for being comedy acts. Strong upset Itami in the tournament in 17:00. Awesome match had it been held anywhere else. Really, this was even better than the Strong vs. Bate match on NXT. Strong was bleeding slightly from the chest. At one point, when Itami was down, Strong said, “Come on Kenta,” which was his old name and Strong when he was younger worked for NOAH when Kenta was one of the top stars. He did correct himself and say, “Come on Itami” seconds later. All kinds of great stuff. Itami went for the busaiku knee but Strong caught the legs in mid-air and tried to turn him into a Boston crab, but couldn’t get it. Strong got the clean pin with a jumping knee and the end of heartache backbreaker. Styles & Nakamura beat Corbin & Mahal in the dark match main event when Styles beat Mahal via submission with the calf crusher

Notes from the 1/31 TV show. This was the show taped before the Philadelphia Takeover show. It opened with Nikki Cross pinning Lacey Evans in 2:29 with the fisherman neckbreaker. It was fast paced. Cross plays her role well. Evans does her entrance well. Backstage, Shayna Baszler did a promo. She was asked about her loss to Ember Moon. She said that they should go to the medical room and look at Moon and figure out who really won that match. They pushed a tag title match with Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly vs. Sanity for next week, which ended up not happening. Velveteen Dream did a promo and said to read his trunks, which read “Dream over.” That was to mean he went over in his match with Kassius Ohno at Takeover. TM 61 came out to a surprisingly big pop. That would seem to indicate the video features done on them helped them out. They beat the Ealy Twins, Gabriel & Uriel, in 3:17. Shane Thorne did a Fosbury flop dive. The Ealy Twins did a switch at one point. Gabriel did the switch to replace Uriel but ended up taking a Thunder Valley bomb and being pinned. TM 61 did an interview. They just said “We are the mighty and the mighty don’t kneel.” They showed Tommaso Ciampa walking with his crutch. Supposed media was all there asking him questions but he just walked past them. Zelina Vega did an interview and said that happened to Johnny Gargano was only the beginning. Vega made a joke about how Almas was in the Royal Rumble and Gargano had to watch the match on television. Main event was Roderick Strong beat Tyler Bate in 9:57 to earn a U.K. title match with Pete Dunne. The crowd was very hot for Bate. This match was great, every bit of **** even though it went short. It felt like it went longer and never felt like they were rushing. Strong had been working over Bate with his backbreakers. Bate went for the Tyler driver but his back gave out on him. Strong won after two jumping knees and a suplex into a backbreaker, and then finished with the End of Heartache

Notes from the 2/1 NXT tapings at Center Stage in Atlanta. The show drew a sellout of 700 fans. They opened with a dark match as the Street Profits beat Raul Mendoza & Fabian Aichner in a quick match with Montez Ford pinning Mendoza after a frog splash. The first taping, for 2/7, opened with Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole coming out for a tag team title match against Sanity. However, Sanity attacked the Undisputed Era from behind and security had to break it up. William Regal then announced that there wouldn’t be a title match and instead there would be a six-way tornado match later in the show. Heavy Machinery beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. Sabbatelli got the pin using the ropes but ref Drake Weurtz caught him. There was some dissension between Sabbatelli and Moss. Maybe Sabbatelli was tired of hearing about Vince Russo. Moss tagged Sabbatelli by chopping him. When Moss wanted to tag back in, Sabbatelli wouldn’t. Knight, who is about 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, did a dive. Heavy Machinery won with the double-team world’s strongest slam, which they call the trash compactor on Sabbatelli. Sabbatelli extended his hand so Moss could help him up after losing and Moss wouldn’t do it. Johnny Gargano came out for a promo. He said he wants a fight with Tommaso Ciampa. Andrade Cien Almas and Zelina Vega came out. Vega cut a great promo about how Gargano is 0-3 against Almas and how Gargano is such a bad wrestler that even his best friend hates him. Candice LaRae came out and attacked Vega. Vega and Almas backed off. Gargano said he wanted another title shot and Vega said that they would give him one under the stipulations that if he loses, he must leave NXT. Gargano accepted. LaRae was upset that he did because what if he lost. The match was announced for TV “in two weeks.” Bianca Belair won a squash. They never announced the name of her opponent. She used a reverse power bomb for the win. The first hour main event saw Young & Wolfe & Dain beat Fish & O’Reilly & Cole under tornado rules. They went more than 15:00. Dain pinned Fish with the One Winged Angel, so this should set up a tag team title match. They used kendo sticks, chairs and tables. O’Reilly looked like he may have gotten hurt. Very entertaining match. The 2/14 show opened with TM 61 beating John Skyler and a partner who was never announced, using the Thunder Valley bomb. Lots of signs in the crowd for TM 61 so the videos worked. They got a big reaction. Pete Dunne beat Roderick Strong in the U.K. title match, using the bitter end for the finish. Fantastic match with lots of near falls. Dunne spent most of the match working on Strong’s right hand. Both men got a standing ovation when it was over. Aleister Black came out for a promo. He wanted the NXT title. Dain came out and said that he wanted the title. There was a staredown that seemed like it was building a singles match between the two for a shot at Almas. The TV main saw Shayna Baszler beat Ember Moon via DQ in a title match. In Orlando they love Baszler, but here she was booed more than anyone on the show. Baszler worked over the arm most of the way. Moon hit a tope that drove both women into the announcers table. Baszler was using an armbar between the guard rail and the idea is she would have badly injured Moon, but Kairi Sane made the save to attack Baszler. She speared Baszler. Sane helped Moon to the back but Moon gave her a glare. It looked like they were building a three-way match next. For the 2/21 tapings, it opened with Velveteen Dream beating No Way Jose with the elbow off the top rope. Dream was cheered more than anyone else on the show. Dream complained that he didn’t win every NXT award last year. Nikki Cross pinned Vanessa Bourne with her fisherman neckbreaker. Bourne is doing a dominatrix gimmick which started to get over. Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake are starting to get a push since they need team for the Dusty Rhodes tournament. They are now called the Forgotten Sons. The crowd didn’t give them a chance. Almas beat Gargano to keep the title in 16:00, so Gargano has to leave NXT. Another great match, but not as good as their previous match. LaRae attacked Vega. Each did the others’ big moves. Ref Drake Weurtz was knocked down and Gargano had Almas in the Gargano escape. Tommaso Ciampa did a run-in and hit Gargano with his crutch and Almas hit the hammerlock DDT for the finish. Gargano got a huge ovation. He hugged his wife in the middle of the ring. Fans were chanting”Thank You Johnny” and “Please don’t go.” Regal came out and hugged Gargano. Ciampa then waved goodbye. After cameras were off, Gargano thanked everyone and he and LaRae took photos with fans and signed stuff

Notes from the 2/2 tapings at Center Stage. This drew another full house of 700 fans. Ohno pinned John Skyler in a dark match with the elbow. It only went a minute. Ohno got a big reaction. Then they retaped the Cross match with Bourne from the night before. It was the same match, almost move-for-move from the prior night. The change is that the first night Bourne was doing a dominatrix gimmick, came out with a whip and licked Cross in the ear during a rest hold. That was all taken away in this mach. For the 2/28 show, it opened with Cole, O’Reilly and Fish trying to recruit Cezar Bononi. Bononi is tall, has a great physique and shows flashes of getting it. Plus they gave him the Future Star award and they like him as a star for the Brazilian market. O’Reilly gave him an Undisputed T-shirt. He teased putting it on, and then Cole superkicked him. Cole beat him in a match using the shining wizard. Dream came out toa big reaction with the whole place chanting “Velveteen.” Then Bate came out and the crowd went crazy. They had a good match ending when Dream pinned him after the elbow off the top rope, which is called the purple rainmaker. So Bate came in this week and lost to TJP, Strong and Dream. He’s still great but you can see how far his stock has dropped in the last seven months. Baszler beat Sane with a choke in a rematch of the Mae Young Classic finals. Except for Ciampa, nobody got more heel heat than Baszler, which is funny, because at the house shows she’s heavily cheered. Baszler after the match said to “Tell Ember the next time I see her I’m either leaving with the title, or leaving with a limb.” The show ended with Almas & Vega out cutting a promo. Vega pushed that Gargano is now 0-4 against Almas and now he’s gone from NXT. She also said that unlike some women (in reference to LaRae), “I don’t live off my man’s success. I create success for my man.” Black came out after him but Dain attacked Black and left him laying. The 3/7 show opened with Fabian Aichner out. Then the name Ricochet appeared on the screen. The place went crazy. He did a few trademark spots and won with the 630. The fans acted like they had just seen a major superstar. Regal then came out and talked about the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic opening. This was just for the live show and didn’t appear to be taped. Authors of Pain beat TM 61 in the tournament. It was noted that this match was the finals of the first tournament in 2016. Good match. TM 61 was very over with lots of signs and chants. Nick Miller was pinned after the last chapter. Bianca Belair pinned a woman who wasn’t named with a reverse power bomb. Ciampa came out to incredible heat. It was said to be like Reigns on the Raw after Mania. They booed him for eight straight minutes when he tried to talk and chanted “Johnny Wrestling.” Ciampa got mad at the fans, and then destroyed a fans’ “Johnny Wrestling” sign. Ciampa destroyed his crutch beating on the sign. He never ended up saying a word. Black pinned Dain in the main event to get the Takeover title shot at Almas. The show airing 3/14 looks like it opens with The Street Profits over Heavy Machinery in the Dusty tournament. Fans cheered both teams. Some comedy. Machinery went for the double-team world’s strongest slam but Angelo Dawkins pulled the top rope down and Tucker Knight fell out of the ring. Montez Ford pinned Otis Dozovic with a frog splash. When it was over, Ford started dancing on the announcers table and Nigel McGuinness started dancing as well. Then they passed out signs to the crowd with Gargano’s face on it, so that stuff that looks like everyone brought Gargano face signs is actually all fake. Ciampa then came out and the fans waved the stuff at him. They booed him like crazy again. Fans were throwing the paper at Ciampa. Ciampa went crazy to build the Gargano chants. Dakota Kai pinned Lacey Evans with a roll-up in a quick match. Baszler came out after Kai. Moon then came out for the save. Moon got a big reaction coming out. Moon did a prom talking about her title defense in New Orleans against Baszler. They went at it and Baszler got the better of it and was about to break Moon’s arm. Kai broke it up by knocking Baszler out with a running kick to the head. Moon then hit Baszler with the eclipse. Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe beat Moss & Sabbatelli in the tag tournament. Moss accidentally knocked Sabbatelli off the apron. Sabbatelli hit his head on the guard rail. They were teasing a split up of the two once again. Sabbatelli was pinned after a double-team spot. Dunne retained his U.K. title beating Cole via DQ. Fans went crazy when they realized they were getting this match. Great match. Fish & O’Reilly were at ringside. Dunne went for the bitter end but O’Reilly interfered for the DQ. Strong ran out for the save and Strong & Dunne ran off Fish & O’Reilly. So they could be doing that either at the next tapings or as the tag title match at Takeover. The final segment of that show and of the tapings was a contract signing for the Almas vs. Black match. Vega cut a promo saying Almas wasn’t there tonight. The crowd groaned because they all knew he was there. Black started looking under the table and said he didn’t believe Almas wasn’t there. Black sat down with his legs folded and said to Vega that now we’re the same height The fans were chanting, “Too short, whoop whoop,” like a Marty Scurll too sweet chant. Black said that at Takeover, Almas would be just like Vega, a little short. She slapped him. The crowd started chanting “Candice Wrestling” at this point. Black said he’s glad she came alone because he didn’t. LaRae ran into the ring and attacked Vega.

. The only NXT outside of Florida house show of the week was 2/3 in Nashville before 1,000 fans. No Way Jose pinned Cezar Bononi in a fun opener. Baszler & Lacey Evans beat Nikki Cross & Dakota Kai when Baszler beat Kai with a choke. Crowd cheered Cross and Baszler the most. Strong beat Ohno in 14:00 of a great match with the lion tamer, called the Stronghold. Said to be the best match on the show. Crowd was super hot for it. In a six-man, Sanity beat the Undisputed Era when Young pinned O’Reilly after an elbow off the top rope. Young was really over since he’s lived in Nashville for more than a decade. After the match Young did a promo talking about how much he loves Nashville and how he moved there in 2004. Black pinned Dream with black mass. Dream did an interview before the match, saying that he was sick, talked about how the fans didn’t appreciate him the last time he was in Nashville and was wearing a Tom Brady jersey for easy heat. Moon retained the women’s title over Belair. Belair looked good. Main event saw Gargano & LaRae over Almas & Vega when Gargano used the Gargano escape on Almas and LaRae used it on Vega at the same time and Vega tapped out. Crowd chanted “Johnny Wrestling” and “Candice Wrestling.” Gargano & LaRae did simultaneous topes. Gargano worked the match even though he had lost the loser leaves town match two days earlier as NXT I guess still does the archaic it doesn’t count until it airs on television (except when it doesn’t as it’s a case-by-case basis)

The 2/4 show in Knoxville drew 1,000 fans and had the same results

The only weekend show in Florida was 2/3 in Largo, FL, before 300 fans. Jason pinned Kona Reeves with a schoolboy after whipping Reeves into his bodyguard, who had been interfering. Jason looked good. Aliyah beat Rhea Ripley. Aliyah was supposed to be the face but the crowd was behind Ripley. Next was a four-way where the winner would get a show at Almas’ title on the next show in Largo. Buddy Murphy won over Brennan Williams, Jeet Rama and Raul Mendoza. Murphy was the star as a heel. The crowd was most behind Rama. Dan Matha came out and cut a great promo. He then challenged anyone in the back. Tucker Knight came out and beat Matha in 3:00 with an ankle lock. Knight issued another open challenge and Otis Dozovic came out. Dozovic won the match in 3:00. Matha then was walking to the back and tripped and took another bump. TM 61 beat Moss & Sabbatelli when Nick Miller pinned Moss after a roll-up. Fans were chanting “XFL” at Sabbatelli, who played several years in the NFL and was a legit college star. Jessie Elaban & Sane beat Reina Gonzalez & Sage Beckett. Gonzalez and Beckett are both more than six feet tall which only accentuated how small Sane is. Chad Gail pinned Kishin Raftaar with a roll-up. Fabian Aichner pinned Tian Bing. Main event saw the Street Profits beat Wesley Blake & Steve Cutler with Ford getting the pin using a splash off the top

Raw opened on 2/2 in Salina, KS, before 3,500 fans. It was the first main roster show in the city in forever. NXT had a show and WCW ran in 1999. 2/3 in Lincoln, NE drew 2,500. 2/4 in the afternoon prior to the Super

Bowl show in Omaha drew 2,500, and Omaha is a traditionally strong market and Super Bowl afternoon shows usually draw okay

Smackdown opened on 2/4 in Little Rock drew 1,600 for an afternoon show prior to the Super Bowl. The tour was originally to open on 2/3 in Texarkana, AR, but that show ended up being canceled. 2/5 in Springfield, MO, drew 3,000

In Salina, the opener saw Balor pin Dallas with the coup de grace. The Revival beat Rhyno & Slater. The Revival got the pin when Wilder pinned Slater with his feet on the ropes. Rhyno told Slater he needed to toughen up and Slater called out anyone from the back. Strowman came out and powerslammed Slater and then Rhyno, and then signed some autographs. Alexander pinned Gallagher with the lumbar check. The crowd was dead for this. Gallows & Anderson beat O’Neil & Crews when Anderson pinned O’Neil after the magic killer. Matt Hardy pinned Wyatt with the twist of fate. No real reaction for Hardy coming out and he led the crowd in “delete” chants but those ended quickly. He was more over as the match went on. Goldust pinned Hawkins in a short comedy match with a roll-up. Bayley & Asuka beat Bliss & Jax when Asuka used the armbar on Bliss. Crowd was into the match, particularly Bliss and Jax. Main event was a 2 on 3 match with Reigns & Rollins over Elias & Sheamus & Cesaro. Reigns pinned Cesaro after a spear

Lincoln the next night was the same show

Omaha was pretty much the same show except after Goldust pinned Hawkins, Hawkins got on the mic and challenged anyone to face him. Strowman came out and pinned him after a few powerslams in 30 seconds. Goldust vs. Hawkins was a 2:00 mach leading up to it. So Strowman wasn’t involved with Slater & Rhyno on this show. One thing noted in all three cities this weekend was how not over Matt Hardy and the gimmick were and how hard he had to work to get the “delete” chants going. Alexander vs. Gallagher was very good for its 5:00. The main event only went 12:00. Over the weekend the reports were that Reigns was the most heavily cheered wrestler at the shows, getting the only real superstar reaction with very few boos. All of the matches were kept short because they wanted to show to end in time for people to get home for the Super Bowl

The Smackdown open in Little Rock saw Usos retain the tag titles over New Day, being Big E & Kingston, and Gable & Benjamin. Ryder pinned Kanellis with the Rough Ryder. Naomi & Lynch beat Riott & Morgan. Harper & Rowan beat Breeze & Fandango. Roode retained the U.S. title in a three-way over Mahal and Corbin. Charlotte retained the women’s title in a four-way over Natalya, Lana and Carmella. Nakamura & Orton beat Rusev & English when English was pinned. Main event saw Styles retain the WWE title in a handicap match over Owens and Zayn

Springfield was the same show, except for Logan replacing Morgan in the women’s tag and Woods replacing Kingston in the New Day team. There were about 30 percent of the fans cheering Owens & Zayn above Styles. There were several Bullet Club chants during the show. Rusev was super over and there were dueling chants for Nakamura and Rusev Day during that tag match.