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January 8, 2018 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: More Women's Royal Rumble details, UFC 219 reviewed, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 January 8, 2018



Thumbs up 19 (13.6%)

Thumbs down 30 (21.4%)

In the middle 91 (65.0%)



Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza 74

Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm 39



Dan Hooker vs. Marc Diakese 33

Neil Magny vs. Carlos Condit 15

Michal Oleksiejczuk vs. Khalil Rountree 12

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, Jan. 2.


The 2018 Royal Rumble show will have both a 30 man Royal Rumble as well as a 30 woman Rumble on 1/28 in Philadelphia.

The idea of doing equal matches means that a number of wrestlers from the past or women in developmental will have to be called up since there are 18 women on the active roster between Raw and Smackdown and two of the 18 won’t be in because they are the champions. It also eliminates both champions from wrestling on the show in theory, since they already did the champion vs. champion match and all the other women have to be in the Rumble.

In addition, that would also in theory mean roughly two one hour matches on the same show, unless they cut the entrance time down. Usually the entrances are at intervals whenever the company wants them, but are usually announced at two minutes, but often are closer to 90 seconds and have been 60 seconds at times. I’m not sure the women’s Rumble needs 30 participants but there will probably be surprises involved.

In the key women’s angle on Raw, Asuka beat Alexa Bliss in a non-title match, which should set up a title match. So they either end Asuka’s winning streak with Bliss, do a gimmick finish that weakens the streak, or change the title. The two main title matches will be Brock Lesnar vs. Kane vs. Braun Strowman for the Universal title, and a handicap match with A.J. Styles vs. Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens for the WWE title.

The handicap match came across on television like a heel turn for Daniel Bryan, who announced the match. It does lead to some interesting spots since Owens and Zayn are claiming to be best friends, but will likely do spots where they don’t allow the other to score the pin and will be revealed as fake friends similar to the Chris Jericho/Owens dynamic.

Bryan took Styles’ words out of context to put Styles in the handicap match for the title. After Owens’ distraction cost Styles a singles match loss to Zayn, he said he wanted them in a handicap match. Bryan took it farther making it a title match at the Rumble.

I can see WWE wanting to turn Bryan heel if they think he’s leaving because the heel turn would hurt his mainstream value to a degree as heel Bryan isn’t going to have an edge taken from him.

As far as the indie fan base, it’ll mean nothing and there’s no way a WWE storyline turn will register once he’s gone from WWE. But I sense WWE realizes that, and Bryan being a big star on the indie scene can’t be stopped, but the idea that Bryan draws a new WWE fan base as its most likable character to the indie scene, that’s the goal to stop.

It was funny because in the end, there were fans booing him, but when he started doing the “yes” chants with Owens and Zayn after the announcement of the title match, it seemed like much of the crowd, not all, but much of it, was still doing it.

The Rumble will also include the finals of the U.S. title tournament. The way the bracketing is set up, one semifinal is Jinder Mahal vs Xavier Woods and the other is Bobby Roode against the winner of the 1/9 Smackdown TV match in Birmingham, AL with Zack Ryder vs. Mojo Rawley, so presumably Rawley.

It looks like Roode vs. Mahal is the most likely final out of that group.

As far as the Rumble goes, the major news of the week was that John Cena is in. If Cena is in a match much bigger than a title match at WrestleMania, which I’m guessing will be made clear either at the Rumble by what happens or on the 25th anniversary of Raw on 1/22, then he’s not a likely winner. It is pro wrestling and he could win and then get his title match early or some kind of angle could take place.

With Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns likely, that does put Reigns as a possible winner, but he could also win the Elimination Chamber to get the shot. Reigns winning with a Rumble in Philadelphia won’t be pretty, but it is possible they could leave him with someone who they think he’d get cheered against.

Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton are always possibilities if Styles remains champion, since he’s never done programs with either of them. If he doesn’t, and either Owens or Zayn wins it, that would leave Styles as the most likely opponent and the Rumble winner could come from Raw.

There is also a chance that Corbin could lose to Roode, but then come back and win the Rumble. It also could be a surprise, such as Dave Bautista returning unannounced since it’s known he’s talked about returning as a regular for one last year. Or it could be a surprise like Dolph Ziggler’s return with his angle, and while he and Styles could have a great match, that hardly sounds like a match Vince would put as a key match on a Mania show. But with PPV no longer significant, and the live event drawing no matter what based on the Mania name, anyone can really be put in any position on the show and it won’t make much difference.

Finn Balor, as the Demon, is featured prominently in the advertising for the show, but that’s because he was originally facing Lesnar. He also could win and get his title shot on the Chamber PPV, or switch brands to play off the Balor win over Styles on PPV last year.

No matter what the economics of the year may see for Zuffa, when it comes to UFC’s popularity, it has taken a major hit this year.

Yes, UFC still had a great year when it came to profitability. Numbers are not available of exactly where things stand, and no matter how they publicly try to explain it, the year on PPV has to be a disappointment for core business. But they were co-promoters of Mayweather vs. McGregor and cut costs greatly. While revenue from core PPV is down, Mayweather vs. McGregor made up for at least much of that, and television rights fees contractually increased.

In 2016, the UFC had EBITDA of $226 million, by far the biggest year in company history. In April, when applying for yet another loan, to finance buying the remainder of Lorenzo & Frank Fertitta’s stock, to get the money they released more financial information.

The Fertittas were able to sell their final shares to WME IMG at a valuation of $5 billion, up from the $3,995,000 of the majority sale. It’s notable WME IMG must still be very bullish on the future, contrary to people who have thought they got swindled in the deal of buying when things were hot, in the middle of the company’s best-ever year, but with one of the two big stars leaving and the other so rich who knows if he’ll ever fight again and what kind of terms it would take to make him do so, and no comparable stars on the rise.

Still, in their first year of ownership, WME IMG was projecting $320 million in EBITDA for 2017 in the spring, based on cost-cutting and escalating television rights. Keep in mind the timing of the projection of that number was before Mayweather vs. McGregor, but also before a year where most shows didn’t do strong numbers on PPV. The increase in EBITDA was based on $55 million in cost-cutting from the prior year, between salaries of employees let go and other cost-cutting across the board.

Still, UFC enters 2018 with a lot of questions. Declining ratings to a small degree are acceptable, but UFC’s declines have been larger than what can be dismissed as just trickling downward like some other sports like football or even WWE. The lack of major fights with Conor McGregor and departure of Ronda Rousey, along with the suspension of Jon Jones, were going to lead to a decline in the PPV prelims television ratings. If they and the PPVs buy numbers were the only declines, that would be one thing. Those are totally star-driven.

But the declines are big when it comes to Fight Nights, and that’s your almost weekly broadcasts that inherently doesn’t have the big stars. That’s a core fan base decline and those numbers to me are more troubling, even if they are less important to the bottom line. In addition, the audience is aging, not at the pace of pro wrestling, but UFC is far from the cool thing in the 18-34 demo like it was a decade ago.

The lesson here is that UFC is a trickle down effect, in the sense having big stars broadens the overall audience. Even though the big stars don’t appear on TV fight cards, them not being in the mix seems to lower the audience for the shows they aren’t on as well. In addition, based on the fall numbers, the idea that McGregor becoming a bigger star than ever before due to the Mayweather fight would put more eyeballs on UFC and raise the profile of the promotion with tons of new fans watching on 8/26, well, that didn’t happen at all. And the jury is still out on its effect on McGregor himself, who hasn’t fought since. Will the public see it as it McGregor in an unfamiliar sport didn’t get blown out and see him as a bigger star because of it, or will they see it as a guy who talked big, promised big, and couldn’t deliver. That was a key difference between McGregor, and his great-talking predecessor, Chael Sonnen. Sonnen could draw for a while based on his talking, but when he continued to lose, and in his case, all the drug test failures hurt or killed his credibility and people didn’t take his talking as anything serious, he was no longer a huge draw. Just the fact that UFC didn’t match Bellator’s offer to keep him tells you volumes about what their belief his value was. McGregor is champion, but he has his weaknesses and there’s a question of how long he can avoid facing Khabib Nurmagomedov, and what happens to his drawing power if he was to lose to him. There is a major key to McGregor that’s different with others going forward. When Chuck Liddell was no longer a title contender, people still paid to see him fight, but his costs were reasonable. With McGregor, if he’s asking for $10 million and no longer champion and drawing 500,000 buys–and remember that Mayweather himself was only doing that range before McGregor stepped in to become his economic Viagara, that makes no sense for UFC.

What is notable is that even though McGregor never fought in UFC, because of the Mayweather fight being so gigantic, he was a far bigger star this year. But that bigger star value did not translate at all to more viewers for free UFC television shows. No matter how you can justify bottom line profits, those type of declines show that fewer people are interested in and fewer are following your product.

With the help of Paul Fontaine, we’ll look at the numbers.

The Fight Night on FS 1 ratings, which, while not necessarily the most important numbers, are the numbers that measure the weekly regular fan base the best, saw a decline from 965,111 viewers on average for the main cards to 795,412, or a drop of 17.6 percent.

These figures include all shows. I would usually throw out the shows out of prime time, but in both 2016 and 2017, there were two non-prime time shows that hurt the averages so it’s still close to an apples-to-apples comparison.

That level of annual drop was equal to WWE for the worst of the Raw declines earlier in the year. The key to this number is that the big draw like McGregor or Rousey never fought on Fight Nights, and it shows that the big stars rise all shows in general and the promotion itself, and not just the show they are on.

UFC had a big year in 2016 and a big decline in 2017. I don’t know if these things are tied together, but historically, when UFC is up, WWE is down and the last two years have shown that, as WWE had a bad ratings year in 2016 but steadied in 2017 and WWE steadied in 2017 while UFC had a bad year.

This isn’t the early days of UFC on television where they started with similar fan bases, as today both have their unique fan bases and while there is overlap, the reality is the NFL and NBA, at least the playoffs, hurt both WWE and UFC viewing far more than each other would, and they almost never go head-to-head. The same weekend PPV shows, which did show a strong UFC hurting WWE significantly the next day, no longer matters since PPV is such a tiny part of WWE’s business.

The prelims for Fight Nights on FS 1 fell from 730,125 to 634,929, a drop of 13.0 percent. A key is that this percentage drop being less than the main card drop shows that the audience that is watching is more apt to watch longer. But theoretically that would be the case because the most hardcore fans who are willing to watch all five hours instead of two or three on Saturday are going to be less likely to give up their viewing habits.

The live FOX main cards (and this factors out the big Christmas Eve number last year) averaged 2,084,500 viewers this year, as opposed to 2,661,600 last year, a decline of 21.7 percent. The reality is that the four UFC on FOX shows in 2017 were among the five lowest in the six year history of UFC on network television. It’s hard to explain why, as in 2016, shows headlined by women, Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko and Paige VanZant vs. Michelle Waterson, were big successes. But 2017 opened with Julianna Pena against the same Shevchenko that had just beaten Holm.

Holm vs. Shevchenko did 2,975,000 viewers for the show and 4,687,000 for the main event (the fifth largest number ever on FOX at the time for a main event). Pena vs. Shevchenko, in January, a better time to draw, did 2,109,000 viewers for the show and 3,003,000 for the main event. That level was consistent all year with the exception of the Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis flyweight title fight, that did the year’s lowest numbers.

PPV prelims on FS 1 dropped 28.6 percent from 1,168,500 to 834,000. But that’s to be expected, because those numbers are directly related to interest in the main event, and this year had fewer big PPV matches and shows headlined by marquee names.

The key is the FS 1 and even FOX numbers are based on stars who are not your super draws, so both measure basic product interest.

Not including the final show of the year, and if anything, that show will hurt the average rather than help it, the PPVs have gone from an estimated 558,000 buys in North America to 305,000 (the averages in last week’s issue included December, so were boosted by the big numbers of Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes), or a 45.3 percent drop. These numbers would not include the 12/30 show, which probably wouldn’t have changed the average by much in either direction. The prelims drop tells a story. If the drops were identical, there isn’t much to learn from it. But the drops being less tells you that while all audiences declined, the audience willing to watch for free didn’t decline at nearly the rate of the audience willing to pay PPV prices.

However, if you factor in the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, which the company co-promoted, and which a large percentage of the 4.3 million North America buys were UFC buyers, that more than makes up the difference. If you include that, it is, by a large margin, the most successful PPV year in the history of the company and in the history of any company ever. And you have to think that because of the high price for Mayweather-McGregor, it cost UFC on the shows right before and right after. Still, even with UFC cut in and having its most successful year, all of the numbers for their own shows dropping at this level is not something to ignore.

Bellator also suffered significant declines, particularly toward the end of the year. The 2016 average was 676,364 viewers per show, and this past year that fell to 610,318, or a 9.8 percent drop. With Spike losing homes, and also, the loss of top ratings draw Kimbo Slice and no freak show fights with people like Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie, that would account for some of the decline as well. Still, they have declined less than UFC, and a Bellator average of 610,318 for the year as compared to a UFC average of 795,412 for live events on FS 1 is closer than you’d expect considering how much bigger and more talked about UFC is.

In 2018, Spike is being rebranded the Paramount Network, but Kevin Kay, a huge fight fan, is still in charge. They own the promotion and it is still live TV, on Friday nights, a hard to draw night, and good publicity for the network. Bellator’s big picture economics are not available. Those in the company point to worldwide television deals as a key to say they are doing well. It is notable the percentage of live events Bellator has been doing outside North America. Still, Bellator has spent heavily to garner former UFC stars like Ryan Bader and Gegard Mousasi, who were legit leading contenders, not to mention a long past-his-prime Fedor Emelianenko, but they didn’t translate at all to being big television drawing cards.

They are banking 2018 around a heavyweight tournament, which is big in names, but most of the fighters are past-their-prime and many of the heavyweights are light heavyweights and even Sonnen, whose main career was mostly spent at middleweight. Still, they are names. And while Bellator always has its share of great fights each year, and good young fighters, they are still more TNA than WCW in the sense even with people with talent, they’ve never been able to make their own stars. Michael Chandler, perhaps the biggest name home-grown Bellator star, is really no hotter fighter today to the general public or the hardcore MMA fan as he was as he was six years ago when his first fight with Eddie Alvarez, even though on a much weaker network, really did significant buzz and seemed to make him a star.

Bellator has pushed A.J. McKee, James Gallagher and Aaron Pico as young stars, and 2018 will be key for all three.

Cris Cyborg retained her women’s featherweight title over Holly Holm to headline UFC’s final show on the year on 12/30 from the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Even though Holm came into the fight having lost three of her previous four fights, she was the one fighter in UFC who on paper could give Cyborg some trouble. She was big enough that it wasn’t the gigantic size mismatch of all of Cyborg’s previous bantamweights who moved up in weight. In theory, with her Hall of Fame boxing credentials, she should have had better footwork and speed, and been able to counter Cyborg’s relentless aggression. She came in with a game plan, which appeared to be to tire Cyborg out by wrestling her early, and take advantage late.

In the end, it didn’t work, as Cyborg own 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 in a fight that wasn’t nearly as close as the scores indicate. Two judges gave Holm the first two rounds even though Cyborg outlanded her 16-5 and 21-4 in those rounds, and her punches were more powerful. They probably gave Holm the rounds for clinching Cyborg and holding her, neutralizing her in between Holm getting outpunched. But Holm accomplished nothing but neutralizing Cyborg and that shouldn’t give you the round unless you win the rest of the round.

The key is that Holm was the biggest she has ever been. The idea clearly was to give her the strength to hold Cyborg early. But Cyborg saw the strategy, never fought the clinch, and it was Holm, carrying the extra weight, who got tired faster. Holm’s conditioning was amazing given she had to be 160 in the cage, much bigger than usual and never stopped moving for five rounds, but it wasn’t that effective movement. She circled into Cyborg’s right, which made no sense. Cyborg was probably 170, and the size wasn’t the big issue. The key was Cyborg was more patient and knew she couldn’t go all out early and risk getting tired, and Holm, figuring she’d have the stamina edge, did so much more work, she expended so much more energy that it was to no benefit.

Still, it was the first time Cyborg was in a competitive fight. The problem is, it’s back to having no true contenders, and even with Holm, it was just a style match-up and popularity of Holm that made it interesting, because losing three of four a weight class down (one of those fights was at 145, which Holm lost, but she was fighting another woman who is a usual 135-pounder who moved up to create the title when Cyborg wouldn’t fight due to health issues from cutting weight) hardly makes one a real contender.

The two names being mentioned are Megan Anderson, whose main claim to fame is that she actually fights at featherweight and is the Invicta champion in that division, meaning UFC had never thought of her previously as UFC-caliber, and Amanda Nunes, the bantamweight champion, who would give up size, but is a quality all-around fighter. Given that Nunes has no contender ready, matching Cyborg with Nunes isn’t that bad an idea, if you don’t mind booking a champion in a size mismatch.

In the end, the preferential treatment of creating a weight class for Cyborg, a division with exactly zero contenders under contract and feeding her women so much smaller looks to have paid off in the sense there was more interest in this fight then all but two or three this year.

While we don’t have any PPV figures, the early indicators look good. The prelims were the fourth best of 2017, and that was going head-to-head with the Orange Bowl, with Wisconsin win over Miami that did 11,727,000 viewers. -00. Google searches were the third best of the year, at 1,050,000, and UFC 219 and terms related to the show was the single most searched for topic in the U.S. on 12/30. Searches were up 70 percent from UFC 218 (Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo),and while well down from GSP vs. Bisping, they were also up 121 percent from UFC 216, the show headlined by Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee.

The live show drew an announced 13,561 fans paying $1.76 million, but given the gate, that would seem to indicate substantial papering. The one thing is for UFC, the $50 tickets usually go instantly, and there were tickets in that price range available the day before the show.

The prelims, despite having no name fighters and a main event of Khalil Rountree vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk, did 914,000 viewers, peaking with the main event at 998,000 viewers. The show also did an average over the show of 10,928 viewers streaming live.

Even with a women’s main event, the prelims didn’t indicate a great women’s audience as it was 70.8 percent males watching in 18-49 and with teenagers, which don’t watch UFC in big numbers, it was 62.6 percent males which among teenagers was a higher than usual female skew. As far as overall viewership, they did a 0.20 in 12-17, 0.25 in 18-34, 0.39 in 35-49 and 0.36 in 50+. The other key numbers were the prefight show did 209,000 viewers, the postfight show did 119,000 and the weigh-ins did 138,000.

While Cyborg vs. Holm was the draw, the star of the show was Khabib Nurmagomedov, who moved to 25-0 with a 30-25, 30-25 and 30-24 decision win over Edson Barboza. This was said to be from a scoring standpoint the most lopsided decision in history. The key is that Barboza stylistically looked dangerous, a great striker, who specializes in low kicks and with top-tier takedown defense. Nurmagomedov shook off the low kicks like they were nothing, got Barboza on the ground, and there is no fighter in the UFC who is more of a nightmare to face on top of you because he doesn’t knock you cold while on top of you, but he beats the hell out of you and it never stops.

Looking at this fight, Nurmagomedov would have to go in as a strong favorite over Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson. Given that who knows if McGregor is going to fight again, that Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, a fight UFC has tried to make for years, is likely next on the agenda for the interim lightweight title.

Going into the final two fights, it was a lackluster show.

1. Tim Elliott (15-8-1 beat Mark De La Rosa (9-1) at 1:41 of the second round in a bantamweight fight. Elliott took him down, and moved to side control. Elliott slammed him when De La Rose went for an armbar. Elliott got his back and landed punches. He went for a few chokes and got mount and started landing elbows. In the second round Elliott got an anaconda choke for the submission. Elliott dedicated the match and was emotional talking about his coach, Robert Follis, who committed suicide two weeks ago. Elliott got $106,000 for the win which included a $50,000 performance bonus. De La Rose got $12,000 for the loss.

2. Matheus Nicolau (13-2-1) beat Louis Smolka (11-5) on scores of 30-26, 30-26 and 30-25 in a flyweight fight. Considering Smolka was a ranked contender, Nicolau made a statement here in a one-sided win. He was too quick and crisp standing. Nicolau dropped Smolka with a left hook and was punching him on the ground. Nicolau dropped him two more times in the round, and also wobbled him. In the second round, Nicolau continued to land. Smolka was bleeding badly. In the third round, Nicolau took him down, controlled him and worked for a choke. Nicolau got $28,000 for the win and Smolka got $32,000 for the loss.

3. Marvin Vettori (12-3-1) drew Omari Akhmedov (17-4-1) on scores of 28-28, 29-28 Vettori and 28-28 in a middleweight fight. I had it 28-28 as well with Vettori getting a 10-8 third round. Vettori billed himself as “The Italian Dream.” However, reporters scores were 63 percent for Akhmedov, who won the first two rounds, 25 percent a draw and 12 percent for Vettori. Both landed well in the first round, including landing big punches but Akhmedov hurt him in the round and landed a lot of good punches late. In the second round, Akhmedov landed more but Vettori did have a triangle threat. In the third, Vettori started landing punches and knees and was taking him apart. It turned into a rock-em sock-em robots fight at the end. Akhmedov got $29,000 and Vettori got $32,000.

4. Myles Jury (17-2) beat Rick Glenn (20-5-1) on straight 30-27 scores in a featherweight fight. Jury landed body kicks and uppercuts to take the first round. In the second round, Jury took Glenn down and kept him on the ground most of the round. Jury landed strikes, got a takedown and kept him there to win the third round. Jury got $66,000 for the win and Glenn got $22,000 for the loss.

5. Michael Oleksiejczuk (13-2) beat Khalil Rountree (7-3) on straight 30-27 scores in a light heavyweight fight. The story of all three rounds was identical. Rountree came out fast, and would land big punches and kicks but the pace would tire him out and Oleksiejczuk would then win the rest of the round. Oleksiejczuk got takedowns in the first and third round and landed punches on the ground. Oleksiejczuk got $24,000 for the win and Rountree got $19,000 for the loss.

6. Neil Magny (20-7) beat Carlos Condit (30-11) on scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in a welterweight fight. I have no clue how Condit could have won a round here. Every media score was 30-27. Condit wasn’t the same. Condit looked softer and slow, like either his body is done or he hadn’t trained hard. He had talked retirement and fought like a fighter coming out of retirement for a paycheck, as the old Condit would beat Magny. Magny got two takedowns in the first round. He got three more takedowns in the second round. Condit did get some offense in the third round until being taken down. Magny got $140,000 for the win and Condit got $115,000 for the loss.

7. Carla Esparza (14-4) beat Cynthia Cavillo (6-1) on straight 29-28 scores in a strawweight fight. Cavillo was furious about the decision but I saw Esparza winning rounds two and three. Media scores were 83 percent for Esparza and 17 percent for Cavillo. Esparza was a lot bigger. Cavillo took her down and dropped some elbows. Esparza went for an armbar from the bottom. Cavillo escaped into side control. Cavillo dropped a few elbows and punches but Esparza reversed to the top at the end of the round. In the second round, Esparza got two takedowns to win the round. In the third round, Cavillo shot in and Esparza got a guillotine. Esparza was landing punches and got anther takedown. After Cavillo got up, Esparza landed more punches. Esparza got $72,000 for the win and Cavillo got $41,000 for the loss.

8. Dan Hooker (15-7) beat Marc Diakiese (12-2) at :42 of the third round in a lightweight fight. Neither hurt each other in the first round standing but Hooker looked to take the round with a takedown. The second round was the same, with Diakiese unable to get any real advantage before being taken down. The crowd booed as Hooker kept his back working for a choke but didn’t do much damage. In the third round, Diakiese knew he needed a big round or a finish, started landing punches and shot in for the takedown, but Hooker got a guillotine on him for the submission. Hooker got $48,000 for the win and Diakiese got $24,000 for the loss.

9. Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0) beat Edson Barboza (19-5) on scores of 30-25, 30-25 and 30-24 in a lightweight fight. Nurmagomedov’s wife gave birth the morning of the fight. Barboza looked good early, landing low kicks and escaping the first takedown attempt. Barboza continued to land body shots and body kicks. But once Nurmagomedov took him down, he destroyed him with hard punches from the top and body shots and worked for a choke. Barboza took such a beating that you questioned him even coming out for the second round. He didn’t look like he wanted to fight or was just too hurt to do much, but didn’t want to quit. Nurmagomedov started landing punches and kicks but Nurmagomedov got him down and destroyed him again, although not as bad as in the first round. In the third round, Nurmagomedov got a takedown. Barboza got up and landed an awesome spin kick and another just missed, but Nurmagomedov took him down again and landed hard punches. Barboza got back up and Nurmagomedov landed a hard jumping knee. When it was over, Nurmagomedov said he could beat Ferguson and McGregor both in the same night. He said that right now McGregor has a lot of money, but once he spends it, he’ll have to come back. Nurmagomedov got $210,000 for the win, which included a $50,000 performance bonus. Barboza got $75,000 for the loss.

10. Cris Cyborg (19-1, 1 no contest) beat Holly Holm (11-4) on scores of 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 to retain the UFC women’s featherweight title. The crowd was solidly behind Holm. Holm got a takedown in the first round and tied her up. But once Holm let her go, Cyborg landed strong punches until Holm tied her up. In the second round, Cyborg landed a good right. Cyborg was bleeding from the nose. Holm tied her up for a time but Cyborg landed much more. In the third right, Cyborg landed a right, a knee and head kick. Cyborg landed many good shots and hurt Holm late in the round. In the fourth round, Holm’s left eye was busted open and bleeding. Cyborg landed more until Holm tied her up. Amazingly, had Holm won the fifth round she’d have taken the title even though Cyborg outlanded her 79-24 and hit harder. Cyborg landed kicks. They traded punches. Cyborg with a body kick and Holm came back with a hard body kick. Cyborg landed hard right and kept landing the right as Holm would leave herself open to it. Holm grabbed her in a clinch, which made no sense since she was losing the round and at this point needed a finish. Cyborg got $550,000 for the win, including a best fight bonus, and Holm got $350,000 for the loss, including the best fight bonus.

Japan’s New Year’s Eve fighting tradition continued this year with Rizin running events on 12/29 and 12/31 at the Saitama Super Arena, a mix between a very serious bantamweight tournament and some freak show fights, the biggest and most talked about of which never took place.

Kyoji Horiguchi, who was one of UFC’s top flyweight fights, moved up to bantamweight, and captured the eight-man two-night tournament with wins over Gabriel Oliveira on 12/29, and Manel Kape and Pancrase champion Shintaro Ishiwatari on New Year’s Eve. Horiguchi won over Kape via arm triangle in the third round and knocked out Ishiwatari with a punch in the second round.

The biggest name fighter competing, 43-year-old Mirko Cro Cop, who is becoming the Terry Funk of MMA with his numbers of retirements, knocked out 47-year-old former pro wrestling star Tsuyoshi Kosaka in 1:02. Cro Cop then announced he would be retiring, naturally, on December 31, 2018 in the same building, and was looking to fight twice this year.

In the U.S., the most talked about story was that of Gabi Garcia, which got so much interest that it ended up being the 16th most searched item on the Internet in the U.S. on 12/29.

That stat is amazing because at no point in recent years has anything from NXT, New Japan, ROH or any pro wrestling or MMA group other than UFC, WWE and Bellator ever trended on Google, which is probably the most accurate standard for general interest.

Garcia, the monstrous woman who looks similar to former WWE star Ryback, if Ryback was in a dress, was scheduled to face 53-year-old former pro wrestling star Shinobu Kandori. The fight was scheduled originally for last year, but fell through because Kandori was injured in training.

Kandori’s background included placing third in the world judo championships in 1984 in the 145 pound weight class at the age of 19, but then left the sport to become a star pro wrestler. When women’s MMA started, with her legit background from judo and his pro wrestling shooter rep and stardom, she was one of the first stars, compiling what is listed as a 4-1 record between 1995 and 2000. That may or may not be accurate, as in those days there were shoot pro wrestling matches that aren’t counted in, or there could be worked MMA fights that are.

She later became a politician and a member of the House of Councilors in Japan. She did a few pro wrestling matches as late as this past year.

The fight was contracted at 209 pounds. Kandori weighed in at 162. Garcia weighed in at 237, missing weight by 28 pounds. The fight was canceled. Garcia got in the ring on 12/29, and in tears, explained that her blood pressure was very high and she was bleeding from the nose and was scared to cut weight, talking about how she felt it was more important to live than to cut weight.

The 12/29 show did 15,539 fans and the New Year’s Eve show did 18,316 fans. That was slightly down from last year’s numbers of 16,642 and 19,357, the latter show being a sellout.

Ratings were also down, overall very slightly, so that would be neither a good nor a bad sign. The 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. segment which was highlights and build to the main fights did a 4.8, down from a 5.6 last year. The live show with the main events airing from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. did a 6.4, down from 7.1. The 9:30 p.m. to 10:50 p.m. period, which aired taped fights from earlier in the night, as well as replays of the finishes of the key fights, did a 6.2, which was considered a big success, as they held most of the audience, up from a 5.7 for that segment last year. In the final segment, from 10:50 p.m. to 11:45 p.m., which was the wrap-up show, this year’s show held at a 4.3, well above last year which fell to a 3.6.

The key part of the show delivered more than 6.5 million viewers in a country with 127 million people, so from a general public interest standpoint it would be equivalent to a network show doing 16.6 million viewers. But that’s not fair in another way because Japanese television viewing is far more network oriented and this was the biggest television day of the year. I believe it finished fourth among the six networks. Still, from a general public interest standpoint, it’s still close to a major NFL game or an NBA final than any UFC or WWE television show in the U.S. over the past year.

The 7:30 to 9:30 live stuff featured Shinju Nozawa-Auclair, the daughter of a famous Japanese actress/celebrity, Cro Cop, Tenshin Nasukawa, a popular teenage kickboxer who was basically given two squash matches in winning a four-man one-night tournament with a second and first round knockout, Rena Kubota, a woman kickboxer who has been the company’s biggest ratings draw, followed by Horiguchi vs. Ishiwatari in the tournament final.

The other major star of the Pride era, 39-year-old Takanori Gomi, the one-time star lightweight in the world, lost his sixth fight in a row, when he was submitted by Yusuke Yachi with a first round triangle after Gomi came out fast early.

Kubota faced Kanna Asakura, a top Japanese woman legitimate wrestler, in the finals of a four-woman tournament at 108 pounds, but Kubota lost via choke in the first round. Asakura had beaten Maria Oliveira with an armbar in the second round, while Kubota beat Irene Cabello Rivera via strikes in the first round.

New Year’s Eve is the biggest night for television in Japan. Among the celebrities involved on rival networks to draw in casual fans included Bob Sapp and Masahiro Chono, and AbemaTV, the streaming service that owns the DDT promotion, used sumo legend Asashoryu’s final retirement match on New Year’s Eve.

The show on 12/29 went six hours and the New Year’s Eve show went more than seven hours.

However, most reporters in Japan said that the shows were the most entertaining to date, and with the New Year’s Eve show starting right after UFC 219 ended, the feeling was the Rizin show was the more fan-friendly of the two, even if, aside from the bantamweight tournament, the quality of fighters and fighting wasn’t.

Former UFC fighter Ian McCall lost on 12/29 in his first round fight. He and Manel Kape went out fast with a great exchange, McCall shot in and Kape caught him with a guillotine. In shooting in, McCall caught his forehead on the ring ropes and his head was sliced open and the cut was so bad that the fight was stopped. Kape then lost in the next round to Horiguchi.

Woman star King Reina, who came in unbeaten and had wins over pro wrestlers Shayna Baszler and Jazzy Gabert in 2017, lost a split decision to Invicta’s Cindy Dandois on 12/29.

Larry Matysik, 71, best known for writing a number of books on pro wrestling and as one of the top wrestling announcers of the territorial era, was hospitalized this past week.

Herb Simmons, the promoter of Southern Illinois Championship Wrestling, who has kept Matysik active in wrestling as an announcer and booker while his physical condition has deteriorated due to horrible problems with his spine, posted on 1/1, “Not the way I wanted to start off 2018. Please keep our friend Larry Matysik in your prayers. He has been admitted to the hospital this evening. I will keep everyone updated to his condition.”

The next day he said that Matysik was able to respond to his verbal commands and was experiencing episodes of pain and they were doing tests on him. They were waiting to hear from doctors and a course of action.

At press time, his wife said that he was hospitalized and in a lot of pain but they hadn’t diagnosed the cause of the pain.

Matysik was a childhood fan of wrestling in the 50s, whose father was a fan and actually attended the famous 1928 Joe Stecher vs. Strangler Lewis match in St. Louis live.

In the early 60s, he started writing for wrestling magazines and did an interview with Sam Muchnick. Muchnick took Matysik under his wing and would first pay him $25 to call in all the area newspapers with results of the shows and later hired him full-time and groomed him as his personal protégé and taught the business to him. Matysik, like people like Mike Graham, Greg Gagne, Joel Watts and others were brought up with the idea they would eventually be running their territories until cable television and Vince McMahon changed wrestling.

Matysik was only 24 when KPLR-TV and Muchnick hired him to be the host of “Wrestling at the Chase” in 1970. During the 70s, Matysik, Gordon Solie and Lance Russell were considered the premier wrestling announcers.

St. Louis was a unique city, as it was not part of a territory, and its television wrestling show was one of the highest rated in the country, and the lives shows at Kiel Auditorium and the Checkerdome (or the Arena, as it was sometimes called), were considered, along with Madison Square Garden, the most prestigious place to appear in the U.S.

It was very tame, presented sports-like as Muchnick hated things that he felt would bring disrepute to wrestling. Things like making referees look bad were not tolerated. Wins and losses were of the utmost importance and constantly referred to in the building of championship matches. The world title was always the main event and ultimate prize. Muchnick, in the 50s, spearheaded the NWA and arguably the most important figure in pro wrestling until he left as NWA President and booker of the world champion in 1975. In the 50s, the original idea of the NWA was to be a regulatory body that would establish world champions that would defend all over the world. The NWA champion was chosen by a vote of the Board of Directors, with Muchnick booking him all over the world. Leroy McGuirk was put in charge of the junior heavyweight title and Salvador Lutteroth was put in charge of the light heavyweight title. While other NWA titles at lightweight and welterweight existed in Mexico, and there was a number of NWA world tag team titles and U.S. titles and such, the alliance itself didn’t recognize them as true touring world championships.

St. Louis featured limited angles and fewer interviews than other shows, focusing on wrestling and featuring more competitive matches. By the late 70s, Muchnick appointed Matysik to be the co-booker with Pat O’Connor, and the last several years of the Muchnick run ended up being his most successful, built around Ric Flair, Harley Race, Ted DiBiase, Kevin, Kerry & David Von Erich, Dick the Bruiser, Gene Kiniski and Bruiser Brody.

It was Matysik who made the call to bring in Flair as a top star, while O’Connor felt he was too small to headline St. Louis. Matysik showed Muchnick tapes of him and Muchnick immediately saw money in him. The exposure in St. Louis and reputation garnered by main eventing and drawing well there greatly helped Flair’s standing to become world champion, since St. Louis was the flagship market of the NWA.

After Muchnick retired on January 1, 1982, on what the Mayor and City Council named Sam Muchnick Day in the city, Matysik took over the office as General Manager. But St. Louis had a way of doing things and a way of paying, and Geigel, who was in charge, had other ways of doing things. They butted heads as Matysik felt they were making decisions that were hurting the city and the reputation of wrestling in the city.

He left once, but came back, but the problems continued. It was little things, like Muchnick’s rule was when a bill came in the morning mail, it was always mailed back with a check by Noon, while Geigel was more into putting off payment. He also at times drained the company bank account of profits.

The final straw was the 1983 Flair vs. Bruiser Brody NWA title match, the 60:00 draw that was on the DVD he later released that was taped by NTV in Japan. That match set the all-time record gate for the city, and by the usual percentages, Flair and Brody should have both been paid more than $7,200. Geigel overruled Matysik’s payoffs and paid them just under $6,000, which was a giant payoff in those days but not the fair percentage, taking the money off the top as greater profits for the owners.

Matysik quit, and briefly ran opposition in St. Louis. At the end of 1983, KPLR-TV, which aired “Wrestling at the Chase,” was unhappy with Geigel’s product as when Matysik left, Geigel had no idea how to promote the city, running it like Kansas City and popularity and ratings collapsed. Both Vince McMahon, looking to go national, and Matysik, were negotiating for the time slot, one the key slots in the country. Ted Kopplar suggested that they work together, with the idea he loved McMahon’s ambition and the fact McMahon had a strong stable of talent that was doing good business throughout the Northeast, but Matysik knew the market and the local media.

In a meeting, McMahon and Matysik agreed to be partners, but after the meeting, Jim Barnett, the Director of Operations for Titan Sports, the parent company of WWF, called Matysik and said the deal was changed, that he would be put under a salary, but would have no points in the St. Louis operation.

McMahon had also offered KPLR-TV $2,100 per week plus a percentage of the live shows to make the deal to get the time slot. Matysik worked for McMahon through 1993, when he was let go.

Matysik also was nearly the first booker for World Championship Wrestling. Jim Herd knew Matysik as he was the Director for Wrestling at the Chase as well as a program director in St. Louis, and he was brought in to head WCW after the 1988 purchase of Jim Crockett Promotions. Matysik was first offered the booking job, but Barnett, at this point working for Crockett and then Turner (Barnett had been fired by McMahon and Crockett hired him), pretty much talked Herd out of the decision.

Matysik was responsible for the main event and the finish of the match at Starrcade ‘88 in Norfolk.

Dusty Rhodes was the booker, and at this point, Rhodes and Flair had been butting heads and Rhodes wanted Flair gone. Rhodes’ idea for Starrcade was to put Flair in a match with Rick Steiner, in a cage, and given Steiner was a legitimate shooter (he was starting heavyweight at the University of Michigan a few years earlier) and tough guy, he was to beat Flair clean in six minutes, figuring Flair would quit over it.

The problem was that Turner hadn’t signed the purchase of WCW, and to Turner, having Flair was a key part of the purchase. Herd called Matysik and explained his problem. He was savvy enough to see what Rhodes was up to and feared Flair quitting, knowing the entire Turner deal could fall apart if that happened.

Matysik told him that Starrcade needed to be Flair vs. Lex Luger, which was the company’s biggest drawing match at the time, and that Rhodes had abused Flair so much in booking that fans saw Hulk Hogan as the real champion, and not Flair. He felt they needed to rebuild the title, and felt Flair, generally considered the best in-ring wrestler in the country at the time, and the best promo of anyone who could have been champion, had to be rebuilt.

While most NWA promoters would use the champion to get over their local talent, Muchnick believed in a strong champion. While there could be draws and DQ finishes, at the end of every major program, the final result would be the champion going over clean. Flair had never beaten Luger clean, so Matysik booked the idea of a 30 minute match with Flair winning. It should be noted Flair himself ended up doing a heel move holding the trunks to win, because Flair always felt protecting Luger and Sting was important in building the company’s future.

The decision saved Flair, who stayed with the company until a falling out with Herd in the summer of 1991. It’s questionable if the WCW era would have happened if Herd hadn’t replaced Rhodes and overruled him there, and even if Turner had bought the company, their famous 1989 year, built around Flair’s matches with Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk never would have happened.

There was also the issue that Matysik didn’t want to leave St. Louis and move his family to Atlanta. Herd did give him a low-ball offer to be part of management, but not as booker. He felt insulted by the offer and stayed with WWF.

He remained an avid fan and of all the people I knew in wrestling, when it came to watching angles in WWF, well into the last few years, I would say that nobody had a better track record of predicting successes, failures and in betweens that I dealt with.

In 2014, when he was inducted into the Thesz/Tragos Hall of Fame and given the Jim Melby award, he thanked me and this newsletter (which he always called “the bulletin”) in his speech for keeping his interest in pro wrestling alive the past few decades, which led to him writing books and distributing St. Louis DVDs and such, which led to him coming back to book and announce on the small-time scale because he just loved doing it.

His physical problems have been terrible due to the collapse of his spine years ago and got progressively worse. Few know it, but the reason that myself, Wade Keller and Scott Williams in recent years were added to the Thesz/Tragos Hall of Fame there is because Matysik pushed it to people like Gerald Brisco and Kyle Klingman, who were at first skeptical, but later embraced it.

When he got word that I was going to be inducted (which, due to a schedule conflict, ended up taking place in 2016 instead of 2015), before they asked, he told me they were going to, and urged me to go. For one, due to his declining physical condition, he couldn’t go for his own induction, and also said, and this is probably the proudest thing anyone has ever said to me that it would mean so much to him as to the value of the Jim Melby Award if he was on the same list historically with me. I can say without reservation that nobody in my early years and you can count the names on one hand overall, had as much to do with my learning the nature of the wrestling business, both the good and bad. While most people say that my mentor in reporting was Frank Deford, the reality is I didn’t even know Deford until 1989. Deford was the one who gave me a national platform. But it was Matysik, more than anyone, who gave me the background insider knowledge, just as Muchnick gave him, to navigate the industry at a young age and teaching about the cons and swerves and manipulations and seeing through them.

Matysik had written a number of books for ECW Press including “Wrestling at the Chase,” one of the most popular books for inside fans, “Drawing Heat the Hard Way,” about the business of pro wrestling, “ a book where he did the impossible task of rating the top 100 pro wrestlers of all-time and did bios of all of them, and was most recently working on a book comparing and contrasting Sam Muchnick and Vince McMahon, since he was the only person who worked for both of them.



Thanks to Stefan Gorges

Fabian Aichner 34 5 29 0 .147
Cedric Alexander 61 41 20 0 .672
Mustafa Ali 63 35 28 0 .556
Aliyah 55 25 30 0 .455
Andrade Cien Almas 104 28 76 0 .269
Dean Ambrose 169 144 24 1 .857
Enzo Amore 120 55 63 2 .466
Karl Anderson 137 37 100 0 .270
Mark Andrews 22 13 9 0 .591
Austin Aries 44 16 28 0 .364
Asuka 94 92 0 2 1.000
Authors of Pain 64 43 17 4 .717
Curtis Axel 108 27 79 2 .255
Finn Balor 127 112 14 1 .889
Sasha Banks 154 105 47 2 .691
Marcel Barthel 22 4 18 0 .182
Shayna Baszler 24 16 8 0 .667
Tyler Bate 33 25 8 0 .758
Bayley 138 108 28 2 .794
Sage Beckett 25 8 17 0 .320
Bianca Belair 47 18 29 0 .383
Nikki Bella 20 18 1 1 .947
Shelton Benjamin 36 12 24 0 .333
Big Show 33 22 9 2 .710
Aleister Black 95 87 8 0 .916
Wesley Blake 58 7 51 0 .121
Alexa Bliss 148 59 89 0 .392
Cezar Bononi 49 5 43 1 .104
Vanessa Borne 37 6 31 0 .162
Tyler Breeze 147 49 98 0 .333
Demetrius Bronson 20 5 15 0 .250
Dana Brooke 71 32 39 0 .451
Danny Burch 25 11 14 0 .440
Sin Cara 113 74 32 2 .667
Carmella 139 14 125 0 .101
Big Cass 84 42 41 1 .506
John Cena 76 53 23 0 .697
Cesaro 172 63 107 2 .371
Tommaso Ciampa 31 21 8 2 .724
Adam Cole 32 15 14 3 .517
Epico Colon 117 10 105 2 .087
Primo Colon 95 9 84 2 .097
Baron Corbin 181 63 117 1 .350
Apollo Crews 117 75 42 0 .641
Nikki Cross 67 30 36 1 .455
Steve Cutler 63 13 50 0 .206
Killian Dain 91 43 44 4 .494
Ariya Daivari 61 10 51 0 .164
Bo Dallas 99 4 93 2 .041
Noam Dar 58 9 49 0 .155
Angelo Dawkins 84 60 23 1 .723
Scott Dawson 31 13 18 0 .419
Sonya Deville 91 39 51 1 .433
Tye Dillinger 136 83 51 2 .619
Lince Dorado 28 13 15 0 .464
Otis Dozovic 83 51 31 1 .622
Velveteen Dream 88 23 65 0 .261
Pete Dunne 38 27 11 0 .711
Big E 99 31 67 11 .316
Gabriel Ealy 31 1 30 0 .032
Uriel Ealy 30 1 29 0 .033
Elias 106 29 77 0 .274
Emma 53 5 48 0 .094
Aiden English 142 19 123 0 .134
Lacey Evans 62 30 32 0 .484
Fandango 147 49 98 0 .333
Charlotte Flair 173 94 78 1 .547
Bobby Fish 30 19 9 2 .679
Montez Ford 87 62 24 1 .721
Alicia Fox 66 24 41 1 .369
Chad Gable 138 77 60 1 .562
Jack Gallagher 63 37 26 0 .587
Luke Gallows 119 38 81 0 .319
Johnny Gargano 77 56 19 2 .747
Goldust 104 71 31 2 .696
Simon Gotch 20 1 19 0 .050
Drew Gulak 55 12 43 0 .218
Jeff Hardy 58 35 22 1 .614
Matt Hardy 88 49 38 1 .563
Luke Harper 136 91 44 1 .674
Curt Hawkins 0 120 0 0 .000
Hideo Itami 75 40 33 2 .548
Mickie James 93 39 52 2 .429
Adrian Jaoude 40 19 21 0 .475
Nia Jax 154 26 128 0 .169
Chris Jericho 37 15 21 1 .417
Samoa Joe 114 31 80 3 .279
Jason Jordan 166 113 53 0 .681
No Way Jose 80 65 13 2 .833
Dakota Kai 22 9 13 0 .409
Kalisto 126 76 49 1 .608
Kane 25 4 20 1 .167
Mike Kanellis 40 4 36 0 .100
Billie Kay 52 20 32 0 .385
Brian Kendrick 50 17 33 0 .340
Kofi Kingston 98 33 65 0 .337
Tucker Knight 83 51 31 1 .622
Konnor 112 10 102 0 .089
Chad Lail 26 3 22 1 .120
Abbey Laith 37 4 33 0 .108
Lana 57 12 45 0 .211
Sarah Logan 41 15 26 0 .366
Oney Lorcan 71 29 41 1 .414
Becky Lynch 143 87 56 0 .608
Jinder Mahal 185 60 124 1 .326
Dan Matha 28 8 20 0 .286
Drew McIntyre 69 62 7 0 .899
Raul Mendoza 33 11 22 0 .333
Gran Metalik 36 24 12 0 .667
Nick Miller 21 10 11 0 .476
The Miz 128 34 92 2 .270
Ember Moon 79 61 18 0 .772
Liv Morgan 81 47 34 0 .580
Riddick Moss 73 6 67 0 .082
Buddy Murphy 45 26 19 0 .578
Shinsuke Nakamura 170 131 39 0 .771
Naomi 127 107 19 1 .849
Natalya 161 29 131 1 .181
Tony Nese 72 20 52 0 .278
Neville 114 93 21 0 .816
Titus O’Neil 107 33 73 1 .311
Kassius Ohno 105 70 35 0 .667
Kyle O’Reilly 30 19 9 2 .679
Randy Orton 146 111 35 0 .760
Kevin Owens 157 44 112 1 .282
T.J. Perkins 61 22 39 0 .361
Mojo Rawley 130 90 40 0 .692
Kona Reeves 61 22 39 0 .361
Roman Reigns 137 116 18 3 .866
Rhyno 118 85 33 0 .720
Ruby Riott 96 67 27 2 .713
Seth Rollins 150 127 22 1 .852
Bobby Roode 124 79 45 0 .637
Mandy Rose 77 23 53 1 .303
Erick Rowan 100 21 79 0 .210
Peyton Royce 60 25 35 0 .417
Rusev 124 33 90 1 .268
Zack Ryder 60 23 37 0 .383
Tino Sabbatelli 71 7 64 0 .099
Kairi Sane 32 27 5 0 .844
Trent Seven 30 18 12 0 .600
Sheamus 169 62 105 2 .371
Heath Slater 117 82 35 0 .701
Roderick Strong 88 60 26 2 .698
Braun Strowman 117 62 50 5 .554
A.J. Styles 179 117 60 2 .701
Lars Sullivan 76 59 16 1 .787
Rich Swann 75 49 26 0 .653
Tamina 107 16 91 0 .150
Akira Tozawa 80 44 36 0 .550
R-Truth 83 68 13 2 .840
Jey Uso 143 91 52 0 .636
Jimmy Uso 144 93 51 0 .646
Viktor 115 10 105 0 .087
Dash Wilder 51 14 37 0 .275
Brennan Williams 28 2 26 0 .071
Alexander Wolfe 91 45 40 6 .529
Wolfgang 20 10 10 0 .500
Xavier Woods 72 24 47 1 .333
Bray Wyatt 144 43 101 0 .299
Eric Young 79 36 37 6 .493
Sami Zayn 178 70 107 1 .395
Dolph Ziggler 142 26 116 0 .183

MOST MATCHES: Jinder Mahal 185, Baron Corbin 181, A.J. Styles 179, Sami Zayn 178, Charlotte Flair 173


MOST WINS: Dean Ambrose 144, Shinsuke Nakamura 131, Seth Rollins 127, A.J. Styles 117, Roman Reigns 116


HIGHEST WINNING PERCENTAGE: Asuka 1.000, Nikki Bella .947, Aleister Black .916, Drew McIntyre .899, Finn Balor .889


MOST LOSSES: Natalya 131, Nia Jax 128, Carmella 125, Jinder Mahal 124, Aiden English 123


LOWEST WINNING PERCENTAGE: Curt Hawkins .000, Gabriel Ealy.032, Uriel Ealy .033, Bo Dallas .041, Brennan Williams .071



2004 - Chris Benoit 165

2005 - John Cena 163

2006 - John Cena 173

2007 - Batista 161

2008 - C.M. Punk 174

2009 - C.M. Punk 197

2010 - Kofi Kingston 183

2011 - Randy Orton 202

2012 - Sheamus 220

2013 - Daniel Bryan 232

2014 - Cesaro 218

2015 - Roman Reigns 219

2016 - Dean Ambrose 206


As far as comparisons with New Japan, when it comes to the injury rate, Tetsuya Naito had 155 matches this year, Kazuchika Okada had 141 and Hiroshi Tanahashi had 132. Kenny Omega had less than 100. Of course the difference, and probably the reason WWE has the much higher injury rate, is that the travel is far more extensive, and that the WWE wrestlers work far more singles matches. For example, A.J. Styles had 139 singles matches during the year while Okada and Naito had 18.

Just 19 days after the death of one of his career leading rivals Gwyn Davies, three-time British heavyweight champion Albert “Rocky” Wall passed away on New Year’s Eve.

Wall, also known as the Doncaster Panther, was known as a great technician who wasn’t particularly charismatic in the days when the British heavyweight title was dominated by shooters.

Wall started as a pro wrestler in 1957, and by the mid-60s was considered one of the country’s best heavyweights, and rarely lost.

He first won the British heavyweight title on January 20, 1966, when he defeated Billy Joyce in Nottingham. He lost he title to Davies on February 17, 1966, in Nottingham, when Wall suffered a knee injury and was unable to continue, as a way to keep the rivalry going.

He remained one of the top contenders during Billy Robinson’s long reign as the dominant heavyweight in Europe in the late 60s. He was in most magazines during that era as the top contender for Robinson’s British and European titles, and the general belief is that if Robinson was not around, that Wall would have been the country’s champion heavyweight from the mid-60s through the mid-70s.

His big run came after Robinson left for Japan, Australia, Hawaii and later North America.

Wall was chosen to be the next Robinson, the great technical champion who represented the sport end of wrestling on television and to the public.

Wall won the British title that Robinson vacated in an April 13, 1970, match with Steve Veidor. It was during this title reign that he had two title defenses against Jean Ferre, when he was working the U.K. prior to his days as Andre the Giant. He lost the title on January 18, 1971, when he was disqualified in a match with Davies in Loughborough. Wall won the title his final time, beating Davies on May 8, 1971, in Manchester. He remained champion through 1974, when he vacated the title due to a knee injury.

He also held the Joint Promotions British Empire championship, beating George Gordienko on January 8, 1972 in Hanley. Wall always stated that he believed out of all the pro wrestlers he encountered in his career, that Gordienko was the toughest, a view that a number of wrestlers in North America also have told me, including legendary tough guys like Stu Hart and Red Bastien.

He lost that title to Count Bartelli via disqualification on September 2, 1972, in Hanley.

He also defeated Horst Hoffman on February 4, 1974, to win the European championship, in Hoffman’s last match in Europe before heading to the AWA to form a tag team with Baron Von Raschke.

Wall was best known during that period from 1969, after Robinson left, through 1974, when he was generally considered the best heavyweight in the U.K., and along with Hoffman, the best in Europe at the time. Wall was the first wrestler to popularize the diving head-butt, a move later made famous in the U.S. by Harley Race. In 1971, he appeared on the weekly television show 12 times, which may have been more than any other wrestler in the country.

He also had a major tour of South Africa in 1975, which he said was his favorite place to wrestle.

Wall debuted in Japan in 1968 with the IWE promotion, with several wins over top stars Shozo Kobayashi and Rusher Kimura, and his only loss was to the Great Kusatsu, who beat him for his Western Great Britain championship.

He returned in 1969, mostly as a rival for Robinson, who was a superstar babyface at the time, most notably for an April 23, 1969, main event in Tokyo where Robinson retained his European title over Wall in a two of three fall match.

A quick note regarding questions on the 2017 awards.

Most categories are self-explanatory but there are a few questions.

Regarding promotion of the year, NXT is WWE developmental so it is part of WWE, not separate. Obviously the television show is separate.

With the advent of streaming, the best television show category is limited to regular weekly shows that had at least 20 episodes. Things like the Mae Young Classic, G-1 Climax tournament or Super Juniors tournament would not eligible. Streaming weekly shows like CWF Mid Atlantic are, as would be shows that aired enough episodes but not year-around like UFC Fight Night, The Ultimate Fighter and Lucha Underground. Based on those rules, also eligible are the CMLL Friday night live streaming shows (as well as the Monday and Tuesday shows) and Being the Elite. GLOW, on the other hand, because of a lack of episodes, would not be eligible even though as a show itself, it was better than any wrestling or MMA shows, nor would UFC on FOX be eligible.

As far as the Conor McGregor question goes, this is a weird one. Let’s face it, anyone but Conor McGregor winning biggest box office draw would be ridiculous in a year he and Floyd Mayweather did almost as much total revenue on their own in one night as WWE and UFC did the entire year. But it was in a boxing match. But it was co-promoted by UFC and made all the difference in the world in them having a great financial year as opposed to a bad one. But McGregor never fought once in MMA. But there is also no question that to MMA fans, they spent more money and more of them watched Mayweather vs. McGregor than anything else this year.

By that standard, in a publication covering the business of MMA, it’s burying your head in the sand stupid to act like it doesn’t count in business categories like best draw. However, it would not count for best match, as if it had a chance to win to begin with. But as far as other applicable categories, whether he fought MMA or not, who drew more money and as a show itself, everything related to the promotion of the event that led to the drawing of that level of revenue should count.

For best DVDs and streaming documentaries, those put on by WWE should count, as should the 30 for 30 on Ric Flair and other documentaries of that type like High Spots on Bruiser Brody, WWE 24 and 365 shows and others like that.

Raw on 1/1 did an impressive 2,860,000 viewers, up 6.2 percent over the Christmas night show, even with the toughest competition of the winter.

The first 82 minutes of the show went against the blockbuster Oklahoma vs. Georgia college football semifinal game that did 25,854,000 viewers. The last 104 minutes of the show went against Alabama vs. Clemson, which did 20,407,000 viewers.

Raw was tenth for the day on cable, but every show that beat it was ESPN programming that was either the two games, or studio shows between games of the SportsCenter broadcast after the second game.

Raw didn’t have as much of a third hour drop as most weeks have done, although the show did fall 16 percent from hour one to hour three among women 18-49 (0.84 to 0.65). However, with men 18-49, the first hour and third hour did identical 1.20 ratings.

The first hour did 2,969,000 viewers. The second hour did 2,912,000 viewers. The third hour did 2,714,000 viewers.

The show did a 0.70 in 12-17 (up 14.3 percent from Christmas night), 0.80 in 18-34 (up 25.0 percent), 1.14 in 35-49 (up 8.8 percent) and 1.07 in 50+ (down 3.6 percent).

The audience was 61.8 percent male in 18-49 and 58.2 percent male in 12-17.

Another Best of Impact episode on 12/28 did 285,000 viewers, which was up six percent from the week before. It was the best number Impact has done since 8/24, and usually the Best of Shows don’t do well. The key is there was no Thursday night football, so Impact is getting the post-football bounce-back. They had also pushed that the show would include the Eli Drake vs. Johnny Impact main event from Bound for Glory.

There was no new episode of Total Divas on 12/27.

Smackdown on 12/26 did a 1.76 rating and 2,656,000 viewers (1.64 viewers per home). The rating beat Raw, which is unusual for Smackdown to do so in the same week, but Smackdown didn’t have the sports competition Raw had. Like with Raw, the viewers per home were way above normal, which means more families were together watching than usual. It was up three percent in viewers from the prior week.

It was third for the night on cable trailing College Football on ESPN (3,261,000 viewers) and Major Crimes on TNT (2,742,000 viewers), and beat college football in the 18-49 demo.

Head-to-head, football was ahead of Smackdown by 11 percent with men 18-49 but was 41 percent higher than college football with women.

The show did a 0.51 in 12-17 (down 3.8 percent), 0.65 in 18-34 (up 8.3 percent), 0.99 in 35-49 (up 10.0 percent) and 1.12 in 50+ (down 0.9 percent).

The audience was 62.2 percent men in 18-49 and 60.2 percent male in 12-17.

Raw on Christmas night drew a 1.68 rating and 2,694,000 viewers (1.75 viewers per home). There are a couple of keys to this number. The number of viewers per home was staggering, and what it basically showed is with families together, more people watched wrestling in groups than ever before. However, the number of homes watching as a percentage of the number of homes that get the USA Network, which is 1.68 percent, was the lowest in the nearly 25-year history of the show and I believe also the lowest in more than three decades of WWE Monday night cable programming.

It also should be noted that both Raw and Smackdown had their averages inflated by the first hour of each show being commercial free. This would help Smackdown’s numbers last week more than Raw, because Smackdown was 50 percent commercial free while Raw was 32 percent commercial free.

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12/20 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Dragon Gate - 1,850 sellout): K-Ness & Shachihoko Boy & Shun Skywalker b Gamma & Problem Dragon & Kaito Ishida, Takashi Yoshida b U-T, Ryo Saito & Hollywood Stalker Ichikawa b Shingo Takagi & Punch Tominaga, BxB Hulk & Kzy b Yamato & Yosuke Santa Maria, Masaaki Mochizuki & Genki Horiguchi & Kagetora b Masato Yoshino & Ben K & Jason Lee, Yasushi Kanda & Lindaman & Hyo Watanabe & Don Fujii & T-Hawk b Big R Shimizu & Eita & Naruki Doi & Kotoka & Susumu Yokosuka

12/21 Tokyo Shinjuku Face (New Japan - 467 sellout): Tetsuhiro Yagi d Ren Narita, Hirai Kawato b Shota Umino, Katsuya Kitamura b Tomoyuki Oka, Manabu Nakanishi & Kotaro Yoshino b Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Dinosaur Takuma, Satoshi Kojima b Daisuke Kanehira, Yuji Nagata b Yuma Aoyagi

12/22 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 5,000): Fiero & Oro Jr. b Raziel & Templario-DQ, Puma & Tiger & Virus b Drone & Guerrero Maya Jr. & Soberano Jr., Angel de Oro & Mistico & Niebla Roja b Cavernario & Cuatrero & Negro Casas, Rush won Leyenda de Azul over Mr. Niebla, Ultimo Guerrero, El Terrible, Shocker, Sanson, Kraneo, Euforia, Mascara Ano 2000, Rey Bucanero, Gran Guerrero, Forastero, Pierroth, Hechicero, Misterioso Jr. and Vangellys, Caristico b Volador Jr.

12/22 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,615 sellout): Great Kabuki & Shiro Koshinaka & Akitoshi Saito b Go Shiozaki & Yoshinari Ogawa & Masao Inoue, Hajime Ohara & Hitoshi Kumano b Tadasuke & Seiya Morohashi, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya b Cody Hall & Sheldon Jean, Atsushi Kotoge & Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 b Yuko Miyamoto & Mitsuya Nagai & Leona, GHC jr tag title: Hayata & Yo-Hey b Gurukun Mask & Shuri Joe, GHC tag titles: Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm b Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi, Takashi Sugiura b Moose, GHC jr title: Daisuke Harada b Minoru Tanaka, GHC hwt title: Kenou b Eddie Edwards

12/23 Oberhausen, Germany (wXw): Julian Pace b Juvenile X, Pete Dunne b Marius Al-Ani, Avalanche & Julian Nero b Jay Skillet & Francis Kaplan, David Starr b Jurn Simmons, Tag title: Walter & Timothy Thatcher b Tarkan Aslan & Lucky Kid, Women’s title: Killer Kelly b Melanie Gray, Shotgun title: Bobby Gunns b Ivan Kiev, wXw title: John Klinger b Ilja Dragunov

12/24 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (DDT - 2,017 sellout): Mad Paulie b Gota Ihashi, Miyu Yamashita & Yuka Sakazaki & Yuna Manase b Francoise Takagi & Margaret Owashi & Kazuko Hirata, Kudo & Yukio Sakaguchi & Masahiro Takanishi & Saki Akai b Keisuke Ishii & Tomomitsu Matsunaga & Tomoya & Nobuhiro Shimtani, Makoto Oishi & Shunma Katsumata & Mao b Danshoku Dino & Super Sasadango Machine & Antonio Honda; Diego & Akito & Kazusada Higuchi b Koki Kawasaki & Mizuki Watase & Rekka, KO-D tag titles: Harashima & Naomichi Marufuji b Daisuke Sasaki & Tetsuya Endo, KO-D title: Konosuke Takeshita b Colt Cabana

12/25 Chicago All-State Arena (WWE Raw/Main Event TV tapings - 11,000 sellout): Kalisto b Tony Nese, Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder b Apollo Crews & Titus O’Neil, John Cena b Elias, Hideo Itami b Brian Kendrick, Paige & Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville b Bayley & Sasha Banks & Mickie James, Kane b Heath Slater, Finn Balor b Curt Hawkins, Miracle on 34th Street fight: Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali & Akira Tozawa b Enzo Amore & Drew Gulak & Ariya Daivari, IC title: Samoa Joe b Roman Reigns-DQ, Handicap match: Braun Strowman b Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas, Tag titles: Jason Jordan & Seth Rollins b Sheamus & Cesaro to win titles, Last man standing: Braun Strowman b Kane

12/25 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 2,000): Nitro & Pierrothito b Fantasy & Shockercito, Jarochita & Marcela & Princesa Sugehit b Dallys & Tiffany & Zeuxis, Angel de Oro & Blue Panther Jr. & Niebla Roja b Hechicero & Rey Bucanero & El Terrible, Kraneo & Pierroth & Sam Adonis b Felino & Mr. Niebla & Negro Casas, El Hijo del Signo lost his mask in cage of death fo Star Jr., Nitro, Oro Jr., Templario, Starman, Cancerbero, Fiero, Pegasso and Raziel

12/25 Tokyo Shinjuku Face (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 397 sellout): Pennywise (Naomichi Marufuji) b Junta Miyawaki, Tadasuke won four-way over Daisuke Harada, Hayata and Yo-Hey, Panda (Hi69) & Kiki (Hajime Ohara) b Kototaro (Atsushi Kotoge) & Mole (Masao Inoue), Panda won Rumble

12/26 Chicago All-State Arena (WWE Smackdown/205 Live TV tapings - 10,500): Mojo Rawley b Zack Ryder, Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin won three-way over Big E & Xavier Woods and Rusev & Aiden English, Harper & Rowan b Tyler Breeze & Fandango-DQ, Ruby Riott b Naomi, Jinder Mahal b Tye Dillinger, Non-title: Kevin Owens b A.J. Styles, Hideo Itami b Jack Gallagher, Tony Nese b Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali b Ariya Daivari & Drew Gulak, Daniel Bryan referee: A.J. Styles & Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura b Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn & Jinder Mahal

12/26 Kobe (Dragon Gate - 1,100 sellout): Kaito Ishida b Shachihoko Boy, Shingo Takagi & Yasushi Kanda b Kagetora & K-Ness, Takashi Yoshida b Hyo Watanabe, Susumu Yokosuka & Yosuke Santa Maria b Gamma & Problem Dragon, Kzy b Big R Shimizu, T-Hawk & Eita & Lindaman b Ben K & Jason Lee & Kotoka, Masato Yoshino & BxB Hulk & Ryo Saito & Don Fujii b Masaaki Mochizuki & Yamato & Naruki Doi & Genki Horiguchi

12/27 Uniondale, NY Nassau Coliseum (WWE Raw - 10,500): Matt Hardy b Bray Wyatt, Bayley & Mickie James & Sasha Banks NC Paige & Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville, Heath Slater & Rhyno & Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews & Goldust b Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas & Curt Hawkins & Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder, Cruiserweight title: Enzo Amore b Kalisto, Samoa Joe b Finn Balor, Asuka & Dana Brooke b Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss, Braun Strowman b Kane-DQ, Cage match for tag titles: Jason Jordan & Seth Rollins b Sheamus & Cesaro, IC title: Roman Reigns b John Cena

12/27 Detroit (WWE Smackdown - 6,000): Tag titles: Usos b Big E & Kofi Kingston, Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan b Becky Lynch & Naomi, Sin Cara b Tye Dillinger, Rusev & Aiden English & Mojo Rawley b The Ascension & Zack Ryder, Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura & Bobby Roode b Baron Corbin & Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens, Four-way for women’s title: Charlotte Flair won over Carmella, Natalya and Tamina, Cage match for WWE title: A.J. Styles b Jinder Mahal

12/28 Hartford, CT (WWE Raw - 6,200): Heath Slater & Rhyno & Goldust & Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews b Curtis Axel & Bo Dallas & Curt Hawkins & Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder, Cruiserweight title: Enzo Amore b Kalisto, Sasha Banks & Bayley b Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose, Matt Hardy b Bray Wyatt, Cage match for tag titles: Jason Jordan & Seth Rollins b Sheamus & Cesaro, Mickie James referee: Asuka & Dana Brooke b Nia Jax & Alexa Bliss, Samoa Joe b Finn Balor, IC title: Roman Reigns b John Cena

12/28 Pittsburgh (WWE Smackdown - 6,000): Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Kofi Kingston & Big E and Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable, Sin Cara b Tye Dillinger, Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan b Naomi & Becky Lynch, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan b Fandango & Tyler Breeze, Bobby Roode & Randy Orton & Shinsuke Nakamura b Baron Corbin & Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, Rusev & Aiden English & Mojo Rawley b Zack Ryder & The Ascension, Four-way for women’s title: Charlotte Flair won over Lana, Natalya and Carmella, Cage match for WWE title: A.J. Styles b Jinder Mahal

12/29 Albany, NY (WWE Raw 8,000): Rhyno & Heath Slater & Goldust & Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews b Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel & Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson & Curt Hawkins, Cruiserweight title: Enzo Amore b Kalisto, Sasha Banks & Bayley b Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose, Matt Hardy b Bray Wyatt, Cage match for tag titles: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan b Sheamus & Cesaro, Mickie James referee: Asuka & Dana Brooke b Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax, Samoa Joe b Finn Balor, IC title: Roman Reigns b John Cena

12/29 Hershey, PA (WWE Smackdown - 5,000): Three-way for tag titles: Usos won over Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods and Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable, Sin Cara b Tye Dillinger, Ruby Riott & Sarah Logan b Naomi & Becky Lynch, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan b Tyler Breeze & Fandango, Bobby Roode & Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton b Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn & Baron Corbin, Rusev & Aiden English & Mojo Rawley b Zack Ryder & The Ascension, Four-way for women’s title: Charlotte Flair won over Lana, Carmella and Natalya, Cage mach for WWE title: A.J. Styles b Jinder Mahal

12/29 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 8,000): Metalico & Universo 2000 Jr. b Magia Blanca & Robin, Puma & Sagrado & Tiger b Blue Panther Jr. & Star Jr. & The Panther, Cuatrero & Forastero & Sanson b Angel de Oro & Rey Cometa & Titan, Cavernario & Mr. Niebla & Negro Casas b Johnny Idol & Okumura & Sam Adonis-DQ, Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Shocker b Marco Corleone & Niebla Roja & Valiente, NWA historic welterweight title: Volador Jr. b Caristico

12/30 Toronto (WWE Raw - 7,000 sellout): Finn Balor b Karl Anderson, Rhyno & Heath Slater & Goldust & Titus O’Neil & Apollo Crews b Curt Hawkins & Scott Dawson & Dash Wilder & Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, Tag titles: Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan b Sheamus & Cesaro, Mickie James referee: Asuka & Bayley & Sasha Banks b Dana Brooke & Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax, Matt Hardy b Bray Wyatt, IC title: Roman Reigns NC Samoa Joe

12/30 Tampa (WWE Smackdown - 6,000): Four-way for tag titles: Usos won over Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods and Rusev & Aiden English, Mojo Rawley b Zack Ryder, Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan b Naomi & Becky Lynch, Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton & Bobby Roode b Baron Corbin & Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, Luke Harper & Erick Rowan b Tyler Breeze & Fandango, Four-way for women’s title: Charlotte Flair won over Carmella, Natalya and Lana, Three-way for WWE title: A.J. Styles won over John Cena and Jinder Mahal

12/30 London, UK (Progress - 700 sellout): Elimination match: Tyler Bate & Zack Gibson & Kyle Fletcher & Chris Brookes b Trent Seven & James Drake & Mark Davis & Kid Lykos, Jack Sexsmith b Joe Coffey, Millie McKenzie won six-way over Charlie Morgan, Sierra Loxton, Candyfloss, Charli Evans and Chakara, 12 Days of Christmas no DQ match: Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins b Clint Margera & Drew Parker, Rampage Brown b Flash Morgan Webster, Progress title: Travis Banks b Will Ospreay, WWE UK title: Pete Dunne b Jack Gallagher

12/30 Merrionette Park, IL (AAW - 715): Shane Strickland & Keith Lee b Zachary Wentz & Dezmond Xavier, Matt Riddle d ACH, Tag titles: Davey Vega & Matt Fitchett b Curt Stallion & Nick Brubaker, Street fight: David Starr b Eddie Kingston, AR Fox won four-way over Teddy Hart, Penta 0M and Joey Janela, Sami Callihan & Dave & Jake Crist b Myron Reed & Stephen Wolf & Trey Miguel, Jake Something & Connor Braxton b Sean Waltman & Paco, AAW title: Rey Fenix b Jeff Cobb

12/31 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Multi–promotion tag team tournament - 1,411): Daisuke Sekimoto & Kazusada Higuchi b Ryota Hama & Soma Takao, Akito & Kazuki Hashimoto b Ryota Nakatsu & Kota Sekifuda, Daisuke Sasaki & Brahman Brothers b Antonio Honda & Takuya Nomura, Danshoku Dino & Daichi Hashimoto b Keisuke Ishii & Tomoyuki Ueki, Yuko Miyamoto & Harashima b Yuya Aoki & Yukio Sakaguchi, Yoshihisa Uto & Isami Kodaka b Tatsuhiko Yoshino & Masahiro Takanishi, Abdullah Kobayashi & Colt Cabana b Minoru Fujita & Shunme Katsumata, Konosuke Takeshita & Hideki Suzuki b Great Kojika & Tetsuya Endo, Daisuke Sekimoto & Kazusada Higuchi b Kazuki Hashimoto & Akito, Daisuke Sasaki & Brahman Brothers b Danshoku Dino & Daichi Hashimoto, Harashima & Yuko Miyamoto b Isami Kodaka & Yoshihisa Uto, Hideki Suzuki & Konosuke Takeshita NC Abdullah Kobayashi & Colt Cabana, Hideki Suzuki & Konosuke Takeshita b Abdullah Kobayashi & Colt Cabana, Daisuke Sekimoto & Kazusada Higuchi b Harashima & Yuko Miyamoto, Hideki Suzuki & Konosuke Takeshita b Daisuke Sasaki & Brahman Brothers, Kotaro Yoshino & Dinosaur Takuma & Kazumi Kikuta & Mao b Taka Michinoku & Dick Togo & Ryoji Ito & Sanshiro Takagi, Finals: Hideki Suzuki & Konosuke Takeshita b Daisuke Sekimoto & Kazusada Higuchi

1/1 Miami (WWE Raw/Main Event TV tapings - 12,000): Dana Brooke b Mickie James, Akira Tozawa b Tony Nese, Jason Jordan b Cesaro, Bray Wyatt b Apollo Crews, Non-title: Asuka b Alexa Bliss, Braun Strowman b Rhyno, IC title: Roman Reigns b Samoa Joe, Goldust & Cedric Alexander b Ariya Daivari & Drew Gulak, Finn Balor & Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson b Elias & Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel

1/1 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL - 8,500): Electrico & Ultimo Dragoncito b Mercurio & Pequeno Olimpico, Oro Jr. & Star Jr. & Starman b Cancerbero & El Hijo del Signo & Raziel-DQ, Blue Panther Jr. & The Panther & Pegasso b Nitro & Sagrado & Virus, Mr. Niebla & Shocker & Vangellys b Drone & Esfinge & Titan, Angel de Oro & Niebla Roja & Valiente b Cuatrero & Forastero & Sanson, hair vs. hair: Negro Casas b Sam Adonis

1/02 Orlando (WWE Smackdown/205 Live TV tapings - 9,000): Mojo Rawley b Zack Ryder, Tag titles: Usos b Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin, Xavier Woods b Aiden English, Ruby Riott & Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan b Charlotte Flair & Naomi & Becky Lynch, Non-title: Sami Zayn b A.J. Styles, TJP b Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander b Drew Gulak & Ariya Daivari, Shinsuke Nakamura & Bobby Roode & A.J. Styles b Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn & Jinder Mahal

1/02 Tokyo Korakuen Hall aft. Show (All Japan - 1,522 sellout): Keiichi Sato b Yusuke Okada, Masa Fuchi & Dick Togo & Atsushi Maruyama b Osamu Nishimura & Ultimo Dragon & Yohei Nakajima, Kento Miyahara & Yoshitatsu & Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi b Ryoji Sai & The Bodyguard & Kai & Hikaru Sato, Kai won Battle Royal, Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa & Atsushi Aoki b Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori & Koji Iwamoto, Jr. Title: Tajiri b Kotaro Suzuki, Triple Crown: Joe Doering b Zeus

1/02 Tokyo Korakuen Hall eve. Show (Big Japan - 1,568 sellout): Yuya Aoki & Masaaki Morihiro b Takuya Nomura & Takuho Kato, Kazuki Hashimoto & Tatsuhiko Yoshino & Kota Sekifuda b Shinobu & Tsutomu Oosugi & Hercules Senga, Yuko Miyamoto & Isami Kodaka & Minoru Fujita & Ryuichi Sekine b Shu Brahman & Kei Brahman & Kankuro Hoshino & Tajiri, Ryota Hama & Yasufumi Nakanoue & Taishi Takizawa b Hideoyoshi Kamitani & Kazuki Hashimoto & Yoshihisa Uto, Barbed wire board death match: Abdullah Kobayashi & Ryuji Ito & Jaki Numazawa b Masaya Takanishi & Takayuki Ueko & Toshiyuki Sakuda, Shuji Ishikawa & Kohei Sato b Daisuke Sekimoto & Hideki Suzuki, Strong heavyweight title: Daichi Hashimoto b Ryuichi Kawakami, Death match title spike board fluorescent lights cage death match: Masashi Takeda b Takumi Tsukamoto

1/02 Mexico City Arena Mexico (CMLL): Fantasy & Shockercito b Pequeno Nitro & Pierrothito, Astral & Robin & Starman b Cancerbero & El Hijo del Signo & Nitro, Dallys & Metalica & Tiffany b Jarochita & Maligna & Princesa Sugehit, The Panther b Triton, Guerrero Maya Jr. & Soberano Jr. & Stuka Jr. b Felino & Mr. Niebla & Sagrado, Angel de Oro & Caristico & Niebla Roja b Cuatrero & Forastero & Sanson

1/3 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (All Japan - 1,438): Yohei Nakajima b Yusuke Okada, Ultimo Dragon & Koji Iwamoto b Masa Fuchi & Osamu Nishimura, Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato b Kotaro Suzuki & Keiichi Sato, Tajiri & Kai b Joe Doering & Black Tiger VII, Ryoji Sai b Naoya Nomura, Kento Miyahara & Yoshitatsu & Yuma Aoyagi b Zeus & The Bodyguard & Atsushi Maruyama, World tag titles: Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa b Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori to win titles

CMLL: Negro Casas beat Sam Adonis in their hair vs. hair match on 1/1 at Arena Mexico. The match was good, but more basic than anything. There were no crazy moves or anything like that, more just brawling but the atmosphere was great as the fans were heavily into it. Really, I think Adonis should have won, since there’s more heat to be put on him for taking the hair of a 57-year-old legend than gain for Casas at this stage of his career for blowing off Adonis’ heat that he could use for future big matches, like having one of Blue Panther’s kids (since he beat Panther for his hair) gain the revenge to elevate them, but CMLL usually doesn’t think like that and they’re thinking Casas will draw better with his hair against one of the big stars because of the name value than Adonis would against a lower card guy that would get elevated for the win. Casas won the first fall with the scorpion deathlock in 2:39. Adonis won he second fall in 2:13. The third fall went 6:55 (total time of the match with the time between falls was 15:13 which is short for a usual big stip match). They traded big moves and near falls. Casas won with a missile dropkick and a Casita (la magistral) for the pin. Adonis walked off like he wasn’t going to get his head shaved while Casas and wife Dallys were dancing in the ring. Casas may have hurt his rib because he was holding it and the doctor came out at the end of the match. Casas has since said that he was hurt during the match but that he still would be going to Fantastica Mania next week. Adonis came out and threatened to punch Dallys, but didn’t, and Casas didn’t attack him in a spot that theoretically should have required that. Adonis then got his head shaved. This was pushed as the biggest match of the holiday season. We didn’t get a crowd, but it was far from full, not that anyone expected it to be full, but it looked a little larger than on a good Friday night and the live figure we got was 8,50

. Marco Corleone, the current CMLL heavyweight champion, did an interview with the local newspaper in Auburn, NY, where he said he’s looking at wrestling for two or three more years and then retiring and moving back home. He was home for the holidays, the first time since his mother died in 2007, and has a 14-month-old child. He said he had a mediocre run in WWE from 2001 to 2005 and noted that he was recently at a mall in Atlanta where he said he was recognized more for his role in a Mexican telenovela “Porque de Amor Manda,” than he ever was when he was in WWE. He said his body feels good but he’s craving a small town life

Volador Jr. retained the NWA historic welterweight title beating Caristico in the main event of the 12/29 show at Arena Mexico. Even though it was in the middle of a holiday season with much more publicized shows and Arena Mexico hasn’t drawn big since WWE came, this show drew 8,000 fans. Of their three recent Arena Mexico singles matches, I’d rate this in the middle at ***½. It’s the same basic pattern. Two quick falls and a long third fall with lots of big moves and near falls. The match went 22:00, and they gave more time between the big moves, which in theory is a plus but for some reason it wasn’t here. It was very good, and some of the near falls got big pops but it felt too routine and lacked drama. Caristico won the first fall at 2:23 with a small package. Volador won the second fall in :51 with the backstabber. Volador ripped up Caristico’s mask between falls. Volador was the cocky heel, but didn’t go all out in that role. Among the big moves were Caristico climbing the ropes and hitting a plancha over the post. Caristico missed a springboard off the guard rail into the aisle and crashed on the floor, which was a throwback to hitting the spot in last week’s match. Volador did a running flip diver over the post. He did a springboard into the ring but was nailed by a dropkick by Caristico. Caristico went for a moonsault but Volador got his feet up. The heat was real strong by the 13:00 mark. Caristico did a springboard into a Del Rio style double foot stomp for a near fall. Caristico did a twisting dive over the top. Volador did a Super Frankensteiner and there was a big pop when Caristico kicked out. Caristico crotched Volador on the top rope and used a springboard top rope Frankensteiner for a near fall. Volador did an Asai moonsault. The finish saw Caristico use a top rope Spanish fly but Volador got his hand on the ropes. Flyer, who is the nephew of Volador Jr., distracted ref Tirantes. This spot was likely designed for Mistico, who missed this show after also missing the Christmas show in Puebla. Caristico let go of the move to try and get Tirantes back in the game. Volador then used a running Canadian Destroyer to win the match. The ending was weird as Caristico got screwed by Flyer, but after, Caristico put the belt around Volador’s waist and shook hands with both he and Flyer. Maybe they watched HHH vs. Sting from WrestleMania 31 and thought that was what a babyface who has been screwed by outside interference does when it’s over. The crowd was heavily pro-Caristico, which was the reaction they were working for. There were post-match challenges. Volador ran down Caristico, saying he was lazy, not very good and said he wasn’t looking to a hair vs. mask match with Caristico saying that his hair is more valuable than Caristico’s mask, which is actually a really big insult. But he did say he was open to a hair vs. mask match at the Anniversary show in September if the fans wanted it, but he said if he was going to put up his hair, he’d rather it be against Ultimo Guerrero’s hair because he considers Guerrero a bigger star. They pushed the Adonis vs. Casas feud, as in a trios match with a battle of rudos as Casas & Cavernario & Mr. Niebla beat Johnny Idol & Okumura & Adonis, Adonis was disqualified in two straight falls, the second for Adonis attacking Casas with his U.S. flag that has a picture of Donald Trump on it. It’s really kind of sad when our President is considered a super heel everywhere else in the world. Adonis hit him in the knee and back of the neck and choked him with the flag. Adonis did a promo where he called Trump the President of the World. Casas ended up getting the flag away from Adonis and used it to run him off. The crowd was pretty hot for the angle. The two did another brawl later that night in the press room. The other top match saw Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Shocker beat Marco Corleone & Niebla Roja & Valiante, with Roja replacing Mistico. This week is the rare Friday night without a show as they are moving the big show to 1/6, Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern. I presume it’ll stream live. The show is built around rematches of big matches held in 2017, so they have Niebla Roja vs. Gran Guerrero in the Anniversary main event rematch, Cavernario & Volador Jr. vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Valiente in the rematch of a tag team tournament final in February (and one of CMLL’s best matches of 2017) and Soberano Jr. vs. Rey Cometa, a rematch from their match where Soberano won the Mexican national welterweight championship. Fiero has been given a name change and is now Audaz. He was named after a 70s star who held the UWA light heavyweight title of the same name

Not sure what the story is but all of the Munoz Brothers have been gone. Rush hasn’t worked since winning the Cibernetico match on 12/23 and has taken a vacation. Mistico has worked only 12/26 in Guadalajara (his home city) this past week and missed all of his other bookings with no explanation. Dragon Lee hasn’t wrestled since 12/17, but is back on 1/8 in Puebla and then will be leaving for Fantastica Mania in Japan in mid-January

Hechicero retained the NWA historic light heavyweight title over Blue Panther Jr., on the 12/30 show at Arena Coliseo in Mexico City

Mephisto retained the CMLL welterweight title over Caristico on 1/1 in Puebla.

. Atlantis is listed for a 1/6 show in Tlaxcala in the main event teaming with Caristico & Tinieblas Jr. against Ultimo Guerrero & El Hijo del Solitario & Pirata Morgan. Atlantis was billed for a show over the weekend and was there, but didn’t wrestle, saying he wasn’t ready after knee surgery but said he would be returning in 2018. He said that he would be working Fantastica Mania for New Japan in less than two weeks

Triton was injured on the Jan. 2 show at Arena Mexico. He was facing The Panther in a singles match, missed a corkscrew moonsault and was hurt in some form. Panther went for the pin and the ref, knowing it wasn’t the planned finish, held up his count at two even though Triton didn’t kick out. Then, realizing Triton wasn’t getting up, he counted to three. Triton went out on a stretcher.

AAA: Guerra de Titanes, which used to be the big year-end PPV, but one year they didn’t get around to it and has now become the first show of the year, was announced for 1/26 at the Juan de la Barrera Gym in Mexico City. The lineup is Lanzelot vs. Australian Suicide for the cruiserweight title (Suicide lost a match some time back where he could never get another title match in AAA, but stuff like that doesn’t mean anything in AAA), Lady Shani vs. Faby Apache for the Reina de Reinas (women’s Queen of Queens) title, an elimination match for the trios titles with Drago & Aerostar & Raptor vs Mocho Cota Jr. & Tito Santana (not the former WWE star) & Carta Brava Jr. Vs. Argenis & Bengala & Mascara de Bronce vs. Chessman & Averno & Super Fly, Psycho Clown vs. Rey Escorpion in a bull terrier (dog collar) match, La Parka & Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria vs. Murder Clown & Monsther Clown & Dave the Clown, a cage match for the Latin American title with El Hijo del Fantasma vs. El Texano Jr., and the AAA Mega heavyweight title with Johnny Mundo defending against Dr. Wagner Jr. with Vampiro as referee. Hernandez will be in Mundo’s corner while El Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr. will be in his father’s corner. It’s interesting to note that while Wagner was the loser of last year’s biggest match of the year to Psycho, he’s the one getting the title match

Pagano suffered a broken rib on the 12/30 show in Torreon. That puts him out of action for three months. Pagano was likely figured into Guerra de Titanes so they’ll have to change some plans. Pagano wasn’t booked on the upcoming set of Impact tapings so it doesn’t affect him there.

THE CRASH: They announced that wrestlers from Dragon Gate would be coming in later this year

Matt Riddle and Jack Evans are both advertised for the 1/20 show in Tijuana, as well as for other dates the same night. Riddle is listed as facing Rey Fenix for the AAW title in the Chicago area. Riddle is getting a rep for not being very good with the calender and booking himself on two shows the same night and having to cancel. Evans is booked for Arolucha in Texas. AAW made the announcement of Riddle going for the title at its 12/30 show and their owners would have been very much aware of the advertising for Tijuana. Right now the lineup is listed as Penta 0M & Daga & Masada vs. Garza Jr. & Bestia 666 & Mr. 450, Rey Horus vs. Riddle and Damian 666 & Extreme Tiger & Evans vs. Joey Janela & Douglas James & Charlie Haas

CMLL is not allowing Rush and Pierroth to work on shows in Mexico City, Guadalajara or Puebla, which are CMLL weekly cities.

DRAGON GATE: Flamita and Bandido start here in January. Flamita really made his name here first several years ago. Bandido is Ultimo Guerrero’s top trainee and is thought to have a great future. He and his cousin (who is now Magia Blanca, a prelim wrestler in CMLL) were known as Los Magnificos in Northern Mexico when Guerrero brought them to Mexico City to personally train them in the CMLL system. Guerrero told Bandido to stay away from CMLL because he’d have to start in openers and some of the veterans would try to hold him down, so he worked indies and improved greatly. El Hijo del Santo personally chose him to work with his Son, Santo Jr., on several shows. There are people who expect big things of him in 2018.

ALL JAPAN: The year opened on Jan. 2 at Korakuen Hall before a sellout 1,522 fans with an incredible match with Joe Doering beating Zeus for the Triple Crown that was described as an incredibly brutal match with the hardest chops and said it was ****, described as a classic big bruiser type. There were two refs bumps, which were weird because they had nothing to do with the finish. Doering won with the Revolution bomb in 20:09 and will next defend against Kai, who won the annual Jan. 2 Battle Royal earlier in the show. With so many Americans in the crowd, Kai, tried to talk some English in his challenge. That match was announced the next day for 2/3 in Yokohama. Tajiri retained the jr. title beating Kotaro Suzuki in 12:42 in a match that got mixed reviews. Atsushi Aoki will get the next shot on the Yokohama show

They announced that February will be built around the Junior Heavyweight Battle of Glory tournament that starts 2/13 at Korakuen Hall and goes through 2/25 in Osaka. The A block has Aoki, Shuji Kondo of Wrestle-1, Yusuke Okada, Atsushi Maruyama, Soma Takao of DDT and Keiichi Sato. The B block has Koji Iwamoto, Yohei Nakajima, Tajiri, Hikaru Sato and Mineo Fujita

They drew a near sellout of 1,438 for the 1/3 show at Korakuen Hall built around Shuji Ishikawa & Suwama following their Tokyo Sports tag team of the year and World’s Strongest Tag league win by taking the World tag team titles from Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori. Ishikawa pinned Akiyama in 20:38 with splash mountain. Was told this was a ***½ match. I was told it was building to an amazing match until Omori got hurt in the middle and it killed the momentum. He got something that looked like a stinger or a concussion, but did come back later in the match and was effective. The show wasn’t as hot as the day before, but still good. But the only noteworthy stuff was Kento Miyahara coming across like a superstar in a six-man tag and the main event. Ishikawa & Suwama will likely next face Kento Miyahara & Yoshitatsu for the titles on the Yokohama show. Yoshiaki Yatsu, a former Olympian who was one of the best pro wrestlers in the world in the mid-80s, was at the show reading the tag team title proclamation before the match.

NEW JAPAN: Katsuyori Shibata revealed that he was told that his condition was so bad after his match with Kazuchika Okada due to the brain injury that he had only an 18 percent chance of survival

We had Kenny Omega on for an interview and he noted that he and Kota Ibushi have turned down singles matches a few times because the setting hasn’t been right. Years ago, when they did a match for DDT at the Tokyo Dome that was a match of the year candidate, they pretty much said they wouldn’t do another singles match because there’s nothing left to do. But he said that he does see it as viable now in New Japan. He also talked about wanting to work a program with Tetsuya Naito, as well as with Hiroshi Tanahashi, and perhaps do something against other members of the Bullet Club

The company announced a Fire Pro Wrestling video game for PS 4 that will be released this summer

There is also expected to be some sort of an announcement next week regarding the U.S

As of the day before the Dome show, there were 32,600 tickets sold, so whatever number announced, you can figure from the walk-up

For New Japan World, the scheduled live shows this month are New Year’s Dash on 1/5 from Korakuen Hall, which is almost everyone from the Dome show including maybe a surprise or two from the Rumble match at 4:30 a.m., and then the last three nights of Fantastica Mania (the full cards should be released after New Year’s Dash) which are 1/19, 1/21 and 1/22 at Korakuen Hall at 4:30 a.m., followed by two straight nights in Sapporo with New Beginnings shows on 1/27 at 4 a.m. and 1/28 at 1 a.m. So for those keeping track, on 1/27 there will be an NXT Takeover show live from Philadelphia, a UFC on FOX headlined by Ronaldo Jacare Souza vs. Derek Brunson and what looks like a very weak show by FOX standards, as well as New Japan shows. For those of us on the West Coast, since the New Japan show on 1/28 starts at 10 p.m. Pacific time, that is one heavy schedule, not to mention the Royal Rumble takes place the next day and that’ll probably be five-and-a-half to six hours

The other Fantastica Mania shows, which won’t be on NJPW World, are in smaller buildings like 1,500 seats or less with 1/12 in Nagoya at Congress Hall, 1/14 in Kyoto at KBS Hall, 1/15 in Takamatsu, 1/16 in Osaka at the smaller Edion Arena and 1/17 in Toyama.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: The annual multi-promotional New Year’s Eve 16 team tournament took place at Korakuen Hall before 1,411 fans. The gimmick is it’s a super long shot which ends after midnight. It’s become the event for hardcore pro wrestling fans after the success of the MMA fans annual Saitama Super Arena show. It was a combination of talent from DDT, Basara and Big Japan. In the end, it was the expected winner with Hideki Suzuki, who spent most of the year as Big Japan Strong champion, teaming with Konosuke Takeshita, the current DDT KO-D champion, beating Daisuke Sekimoto & Kazusada Higuchi in the finals in 12:44 when Suzuki pinned Higuchi with a double arm suplex. I was told the show was great fun, if not long because it had to go past midnight and had 16 matches. The report was that every match was either *** or better or pure comedy. There were a lot of Americans at the shows this week as well as Rizin because they came in early. This got marks as the most entertaining of the early shows with a hot crowd. It was described as a great combination of high-end wrestling with good comedy. The finals were good, based on some high angle suplexes, but nothing that special. In the road to the finals, Takeshita & Suzuki, billed as “The Most Strongest Combo,” beat Tetsuya Endo (who is very good) & Great Kojika (who is 75 years old and I believe except for Dory Funk Jr. and Mil Mascaras, the oldest wrestler still working fairly often) in the first round in 1:38, Colt Cabana & Abdullah Kobayashi in the second round in 5:07, and Daisuke Sasaki & The Brahman Brothers in the semifinals in 7:20. During the tournament, Takeshita & Suzuki took on a new identity, with Takeshita dressing up like Jimmy Snuka and Suzuki like Bruiser Brody. They did this for the match with Cabana & Kobayashi, where Kobayashi, who usually does the Abdullah the Butcher gimmick, came out as Stan Hansen, and was balled Stan Kobayashi, while Cabana was dressed like Abdullah and was Butcher Cabana. They all did the signature spots, with the lariat, the King Kong kneedrop, superfly splash, etc. Suzuki & Endo also came out to the “Immigrant song” which is famous in Japan as Brody’s theme, and now Togi Makabe’s theme (since he’s the New Japan version of Brody, although due to copyright purposes they don’t play it on New Japan World). To commemorate the 80s superstars, they actually first went to a double count out, which teased the idea that both teams would be eliminated. But they came back and did another match instead, with Suzuki & Takeshita winning. A lot of people have compared Takeshita to a young Okada. Sekimoto & Higuchi reached the finals beating Ryota Hama & Soma Takao, Akito & Kazuki Hashimoto and Harashima & Yuko Miyamoto. The show also featured a match honoring the 25th anniversary of Taka Michinoku’s debut, as Michinoku & Dick Togo & Ryuji Ito & Sanshiro Takagi lost to Kotaro Yoshino & Dinosaur Takuma & Kazumi Kikuta & Mao. Yoshino and Takuma are students of Michinoku who have been on the Young Lions New Japan shows. During the show, they gave out the indie awards, which were mostly Big Japan oriented. Suzuki won MVP. Masashi Takeda vs. Masaya Takanishi on 12/17 in Yokohama won match oft the year. Damnation of DDT won stable of the year, which is Daisuke Sasaki & Endo & Shuji Ishikawa & Mad Paulie. Best show was the 11/17 Big Japan show. Rookie of the Year was Andre the Giant Panda. They also gave a special award to honor Mr. Pogo, who passed away on 6/23

DDT is doing a D-Oh singles Grand Prix tournament starting on 1/5 at Shinjuku Face with the finals on 1/28 at Korakuen Hall. The A block has Tetsuya Endo, Masahiro Takanishi, Harashima, Keisuke Ishii, Takeshita, Joey Ryan and Jiro Kuroshio. The B block has Daisuke Sasaki, Akito, Kazusada Higuchi, Yukio Sakaguchi, Mike Bailey, Soma Takao and Shuji Ishikawa

DDT also drew an announced 1,187 for a Wednesday afternoon Korakuen Hall show on 1/3 with Harashima & Higuchi & Kuroshio beating Takeshita & Bailey & Ishikawa in a Grand Prix preview match that was said to be ***½. I was told there were close to 800 and people were shocked since they usually sellout the 1/3 show, but there is just so much going on and they were going against the New Japan Fan Fest. Usually they do a low ticket price show and this was more expensive tickets.

They also announced Great Muta appearing on their big show on 3/25 at Tokyo Sumo Hall

Zero-One opened the year at Korakuen Hall on 1/1 before 835 fans for a show filled with title matches. The crowd was better than they usually draw with all the tourists in town. In those with title changes, Sugi & Masamune won the NWA (no affiliation with the William Corgan group, as this is called New Wrestling Alliance but it is meant to make people think it’s the old NWA) light heavyweight tag team titles from Ikuto Hidaka & Takuya Sugawara. Shogun Okamoto & Yutaka Yoshie won the NWA Intercontinental tag team titles from Kohei Sato & Hideki Suzuki when Okamoto pinned Sato with a back suplex. Yusaku Obata beat Masato Tanaka to win the Zero-One world heavyweight title in 23:54 with a double foot stomp off the top rope in a **** match. Yuko Miyamoto came out at the end of the show to issue the title challenge. Besides the main event, the best guys on the show were Sean Guinness from Ireland and Sugi. The main event was fantastic live and there was a great table spot where Obata jumped off the top of the entrance into the seating part of the arena and put Tanaka through a table. Really great near falls

DDT ran on 12/30 at Korakuen Hall before 1,050 fans. The number was lower than usual because they had the New Year’s Eve show the next night. The show featured two world champions with Takeshita & Masato Tanaka (before he dropped the title) teaming up and losing to Endo & Masashi Takeda when Endo pinned Takeshita with a shooting star press, which should earn him a title match. This was also said too be ****. Endo was the best guy in the match and was described as a young Kota Ibushi. The main event saw Yuko Miyamoto win 2/3 falls to take the DDT Extreme title from Daisuke Sasaki in a match that went 29:43 and was rated ***3/4

Big Japan also ran Korakuen Hall on 12/30 and drew 1,135 fans. There were no standout matches. The main event was a death match Battle Royal that Abdullah Kobayashi won. It was comedy and death match moves and the crowd liked it

They also ran on Jan. 2 for the evening show, and drew a legit sellout of 1,568. The estimate was about ten percent non-Japanese which is unheard of. The big matches were the death match title saw Takeda beat Takumi Tsukamoto of Basara in a spike board and fluorescent lights cage death match. The reports from people who hate death match style said even they were impressed, saying it was a **** match and the crowd was on fire, and that Takeda really should join the strong style division because he’s a great worker. After the match Takeda & Tsukamoto shook hands and said they would reform their tag team to go after the title. Daichi Hashimoto retained the Strong heavyweight title beating Ryuichi Kawakami via ref stop with a triangle submission. Ishikawa & Kohei Sato beat Sekimoto & Hideki Suzuki in a tag match

Stardom opened their new year with a 1/3 show in Tokyo with Miranda Salinas, Nicole Savoy, Rachael Ellering, Kay Lee Ray, Xia Brookside (Robbie’s daughter), Mary Apache and Kris Wolf as the foreigners. They are building a 1/21 Survivor Series type match with the two main factors with Io Shirai & HZK & AZM & Momo Watanabe & Viper vs. Kris Wolf & Kagetsu & Sumire Natsu & Tam Nakano & Hana Kimura where the last person eliminated from the losing team has to leave the faction. Two of the Stardom women, AZM and Starlight Kid, are both 15 and the feeling is they are both coming along so well now that by the time both will be 18 they will be great. Starlight Kid just got her first title shot in a match with Mary Apache. AZM is already doing house show main events as part of Io Shirai’s Queen’s Quest group.

HERE AND THERE: WWN has made a deal with the Fite App for more distribution of their live iPPV shows. Their business plan in 2018 to replace their old deal with Flo Sports that fell apart is Club WWN, a $9.99 per month streaming service that has the complete library of all WWN shows, as well as all events are put up two weeks after they happen. It does not include live events, which will remain single event iPPVs, but members of the club will be able to order the events for half price, or $5 to just watch it live, or $7.50 to watch live and have unlimited VOD of the event. They’ve also got Matt Riddle, Keith Lee, Walter, Daisuke Sekimoto, Darby Allin, Austin Theory, Jaka and Chris Dickinson signed exclusively for WWN shows over WrestleMania week in New Orleans

Regarding the death of Tom Zenk last month, there is still no cause of death but the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said that they are awaiting toxicology reports and that it should be a few more weeks. That would indicate suspicion of a drug-related death, which would be sad because that would be the same as Curt Hennig and Rick Rude, his high school classmates, and he talked to me at length about both of those deaths because they both hit him hard

Emily Dole, who played Mt. Fiji in the original GLOW promotion in the 80s, passed away on 1/3 at the age of 60. Dole was a world class shot putter, who attempted to qualify for both the 1976 and 1980 U.S. Olympic teams. Dole also had a role in the highly-acclaimed movie “Personal Best” in 1982, before going on to the GLOW TV show in 1985. She had been in poor health for some time. She was also in the 2012 documentary of GLOW, which is what led to the Netflix television show based on the 80s series

Thanks to Paste Magazine for listing Wrestling Observer Radio as one of the 35 best podcasts in the world, and being the only sports podcast to make the list

Also thanks to everyone who made the episode of The Officer and a Gentleman videocast show that I did with Ricochet, hosted by Dan Barry and Chuck Taylor, into one of the nine most watched videos on the Highspots.com network this past year. Considering it’s on the same list with the great Bruiser Brody documentary they did is something

Caifan, one of Mexico’s top independent wrestlers, announced after his match on 12/29 that he was retiring due to injuries after a 21-year career. He said he’s been dealing with a lot of pain in his knees and getting injections on them to continue to wrestle, and realized that’s not a good thing. He said his doctor told him he’s got significant damage to his knees and said he probably had two or three years before he’d have to retire, but he said he didn’t want to push it that far because he doesn’t want to wind up needing crutches to walk or end up in a wheelchair, and would rather be able to walk around and play with his young children. He also said he’d rather leave when he was still good rather than go for a few more years in pain and not be able to deliver good matches. He said he’s going to ask doctors if surgery was the best option for his knee damage. He said promoters have talked with him about a farewell tour but he needs to talk to doctors more before deciding on that

Tom Lawlor, who has gotten a lot of praise for his pro wrestling work considering his experience level, is right now looking at returning to MMA in October when his two-year suspension for a positive test for Ostarine expires. Right now he’s contemplating some moves that will allow him to take more pro wrestling bookings but noted it’s a tough decision, particularly with a family. Plus, Lawlor will be 35 before he can return, and at that age, there’s more longevity in pro wrestling. But on the indie scene, unless you’re an indie superstar in demand all over the world, the money is tough and the number of non-indie places are limited

With last week being the 23rd anniversary of the death of Woody Strode, a name that has been forgotten in wrestling but probably shouldn’t be, he is the answer to a number of trivia questions. He was one of the first blacks to play Division I college football at UCLA (where he was teammates in the backfield with Jackie Robinson). He played pro football (not NFL but the Hawaiian league) with the Honolulu Polar Bears and was a teammate with both Robinson and Robert Shibuya (Kinji Shibuya). He also started pro wrestling in 1941 and wrestled through 1962, wrestling between acting gigs and playing pro football and was a former Pacific Coast champion. He and Kenny Washington broke the color barrier in the NFL in the 1946 season, but left for more money in Canada where he was a two-time All-CFL player with the Calgary Stampeders in 1948 and 1949, but 1949 was his last season due to an injury. He was far more famous as an actor, starting with small roles while still in college and working through 1995. If you watched “Psych,” the coroner character was named after him. But he is also the only regular pro wrestler that I’m aware of ever to be nominated for a major acting award, when he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the 1961 Golden Globe awards for his role in “Spartacus.

Arolucha announced the talent for its 1/19 show in Amarillo and 1/20 show in Lubbock, TX. What’s notable is that Rey Mysterio Jr., who is the face of the company, is not on either show, although we’re told they are committed to running regular house shows for the next several months in Texas and Southern California, and Mysterio Jr. will be the top star on most of the shows. The names listed are Juventud Guerrera, Super Crazy, Carlito, James Storm, Shane Helms, Low Ki, Jack Edwards (Jack Evans, who as noted is also booked that night for Crash in Tijuana), Laredo Kid, Pierroth (notable Pierroth is there but not Rush), Black Taurus, Taya (but no John Morrison), Mascarita Dorada, Draztik Boy, Lufisto, Mascarita Dorada, Demus 3:16, Pirata Morgan Jr. and Steve Pain. Also notably not on the tour are Penta 0M, Rey Fenix, Willie Mack, MVP, Sammy Guevara, Garza Jr., La Mascara, Daga and M-ximo. However, Guevara is the first wrestler they’ve signed to a contract, with the proviso that Guevara can work anywhere he wants with no restrictions, but that they get first priority on him for their own dates. The shows will likely be heavily filled with action, but an unknown promotion with those names looks tough, and the idea is they are running in cities with Hispanic populations. They are also looking at bringing in Blue Demon Jr. for some shows with the idea that they need some names to help draw besides Mysterio. Arolucha put together a highlight reel of footage from their Nashville taping, and it looked good with lots of action, but today everyone can provide a product that has a lot of action, but television is obviously hard to come by. Dorian Roldan sent a cease and desist to Arolucha regarding Penta 0M, claiming that they own the gimmick and using him with that name causes confusion in the marketplace. Penta 0M claims they never trademarked the name, only that Lucha Underground owns the rights to Pentagon Dark and Pentagon Jr., but Roldan claims they also own the rights to the phrase Ciero Miedo

Somebody, and I don’t know who, on Wreditt, compiled a list of the highest rated matches in history based on the day of the year, so, as an example, the highest rated match ever on 1/6, just picking out a date, would be Kurt Angle vs. Christian from a TNA Final Resolution show in 2008. So dating back as far as records would allow, the 20 wrestlers who had the most dates out of the 366 with the highest rated match would be: 1. Kurt Angle (29); 2. A.J. Styles (28); 3. Kenta Kobashi (26); 4. Chris Benoit (24) and Kazuchika Okada (24); 6. Shawn Michaels, Mitsuharu Misawa, John Cena, Edge and Hiroshi Tanahashi (23); 11. Rey Mysterio Jr. and Tomohiro Ishii (21); 13. Toshiaki Kawada (19); 14. Chris Jericho and Jushin Liger (18); 16. Seth Rollins, Kenny Omega and HHH (16); and 19. Ric Flair, KENTA and Bryan Danielson (15). Obviously modern wrestlers have a huge advantage given more PPV matches and more top tier television matches because in the past the TV matches were of the squash variety and while there were more good matches on house shows, they don’t end up being rated personally by me. I have no doubt that guys from the 80s if you included house show ratings wouldn’t be doing much better in this type of thing, which is not to take anything away from those in the top 20. It also goes to show just how good those on top of this list are. Others with the best match of the day at least ten minutes are Akira Taue, Undertaker, Kota Ibushi, Shinsuke Nakamura, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Jun Akiyama, Bret Hart, Katsuyori Shibata, Randy Orton, Shinjiro Otani, Samoa Joe, Young Bucks, Roman Reigns, Will Ospreay, Eddy Guerrero, Naomichi Marufuji, Christian, Jeff Hardy, Brock Lesnar and Tetsuya Naito. The highest of the non-Hall of Famers are Edge, Ishii, Rollins, Omega and KENTA. Also notable that there were more high rated matches from WWE than any other company, with New Japan next

Jericho has taken his podcasting network which includes Konnan, Lance Storm, Don Callis and Raven from Podcast One to Westwood One

The first round of Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore TV title tournament will be on 1/26 at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia. The first round has Luchasaurus vs. Willie Mack vs. Matt Cross, MJF vs. Crazzy Steve, Brian Cage vs. ?, Matt Riddle vs. Austin Aries, Ace Romero vs. Dan Maff, Little Guido vs. Kevin Kross, Bull James vs. Eddie Kingston, Alex Reynolds vs. Super Crazy, Kenny of the Spirit Squad vs. Lisa Maria Varon and Mikey of the Spirit Squad vs. Swoggle

Ariane Andrew, who was Cameron in WWE for years, is starring in a movie called “Underdog,” about a young woman who meets a boxing coach and they both work with each other on battling addictions

Sid Vicious (Sid Eudy, 57), who had a terrible reputation for no-showing when he was active, was set for an appearance for the Cleveland-based AIW promotion on 12/29 but never got on his flight. What was rich was how he handled the situation. When the promotion found out he never got on the flight, they called him repeatedly. He never picked up. Finally they used Swoggle’s phone to call, so he did pick up. Eudy claimed that Donald Trump’s travel ban prevented him from boarding his plane to Cleveland because he had an unpaid speeding ticket and said that there was a new government policy that they wouldn’t let him on without his passport. Given that passports are never asked for unless you are going out of the country, that is ridiculous. The promotion recorded the phone call to play it at their event or if needed if somebody was to claim they made up the story. The promotion noted they lost out on close to $1,000 for airline tickets and hotel costs, as well as for merchandise they created for him

Phil Lions, who has done extensive research on pro wrestling in Europe, noted that there’s always been talk about Jim Londos and his big matches at the 80,000-seat Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, Greece. These are what he was able to find out. The first big show he headlined there was December 2, 1928, which drew 50,000 fans (using the numbers used most often in local newspapers at the time) as Londos beat Karol Zbyszko in 74 or 75 minutes with Olympic gold medalist Dimitrios Tofalos as referee. It was also raining, so the crowd was in the rain and match was in the rain, which couldn’t have helped attendance. The show was also rescheduled twice. It was promoted by a local sports newspaper and a number of different sports events took place with Londos and wrestling as the big attraction. October 22, 1933, is the famous Londos win over Kola Kwariani which most accounts have as a sellout 80,000 fans (there was one paper that listed 70,000 and two that listed 100,000). There is footage of the crowd available on this and it looked like a giant football stadium and the crowd looked similar in size, even more jammed tighter together but about the same number as the WrestleMania III crowd. August 2, 1936, Londos beat Dinarli Mehmed on a show where the various papers reported either 50,000 or 60,000 fans. July 25, 1937, Londos beat Johannes van der Walt before a crowd reported as anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000. His final show was October 3, 1956, where, at the age of 59, he beat Jim Wright in 43:00 before 40,000 fans. The level of press coverage the shows received was described as ridiculous, as his build to matches would be the lead story on the front page for seven to ten days before the matches when he had his biggest matches in the U.S., and even more for these bouts. For the 1936 show, the idea was Londos vs. Dan Kolov, which would have been the biggest match possible, but Kolov never agreed to it

Jacob Cohen compiled a list of reserved seats sold for several of the WrestleMania weekend shows through ticket outlets as of 1/1. It should be noted the WWN shows are not on this list and the lists don’t include General admission sales, so actual numbers will be more than this. Also, the WrestleCon show is sold out except for General Admission. This is all with no matches and for the most part no talent announced. Wildkat, which is Luke Hawx’s group out of Louisiana had sold 68 for $3,290. WrestleCon super show, which is traditionally really loaded, has sold 438 for $34,972. Crash had sold 91 for $8,708. Revolution Pro has sold 149 for $13,100. Keep in mind they’ll have New Japan talent on that show and have announced some. Impact has sold 44 for $4,436. Revolver (Sami Callihan’s group) has sold 210 for $11,200. CZW has sold 62 for $3,840 and House of Hardcore has sold 91 for $8,515

CBS This Morning on 12/30 did a feature on Kris Wolf of Stardom, who is 33-year-old New Jersey native Kris Hernandez. 4-foot-11 Hernandez went to Japan four years ago to teach English after a bad breakup, and saw some videos of Stardom and felt that was for her. She’s been with the promotion since 2014. The anchor in leading to the story showed clips of Shadia Bsesio training at the Performance Center and gave you the impression that WWE’s greater emphasis on women’s wrestling has led to women’s wrestling now taking off all over the world. They showed WWE clips and said that WWE was more theatrical and Wolf’s Japanese matches are more physical and she gets bruised up in her matches. They pushed she was the first woman to go through the Japanese ranks and go pro. There are women who had never really done much in the U.S. that were pretty much brought in and trained like Japanese women (Awesome Kong and Debbie Malenko come to mind), but I don’t know of anyone, although there probably was someone at some point, who is American that had never trained at all in the U.S. that started with one of the Japanese groups. They said she earns $250 a week. In actuality, Wolf makes $250 a match. The piece was actually filmed in Japan one year ago and didn’t play until this past week. Vice came to Stardom for two weeks in August for a documentary that is expected to air at some point in 2018

AAW ran 12/30 in Merrionette Park, IL, headlined by Rey Fenix keeping the AAW title over Jeff Cobb using the Canadian Destroyer in what was said to be an excellent match. David Starr tried to interfere but he was run off by Sami Callihan & Dave & Jake Crist from TNA which will set up a six-man match on 1/20 with Callihan & The Crist Brothers vs. Cobb & Starr & Keith Lee. Fenix’s next title defense will be against Matt Riddle on 1/20 in Chicago, and ACH will be getting a shot at the winner on 2/3 in La Sale, IL. Also on 1/20 will be tag champs Davey Vega & Mat Fitchett vs. Keith Lee & Shane Strickland. Juice Robinson will be wrestling there, as well as MJF. Sean Waltman worked the 12/30 show. There was a four-way with AR Fox beating Hart, Penta and Joey Janela when Janela was pinned. Janela did an insane balcony dive and Fox did a coast to coast dropkick on Penta on the floor. It was described as a great car crash style match. Starr beat Eddie Kingston in a street fight with the stipulations that Starr now controls Kingston’s career in AAW for one year. It was a weapons style match with Starr bleeding from a fork. Starr used a baseball bat to knock him out. Riddle drew ACH in a match said to be ****1/4 or better that went 20:00. They also put tickets on sale for a 2/17 show at Logan Square Arena in Chicago for Callihan vs. Tetsuya Naito, which sold out the 500 seats in 90 minutes

A 2/16 appearance of Naito for Wrestling Revolver at the Rockstar Arena is also sold out.

. Lisa Marie Varon is appearing on the Amazon TV show “Tainted Streams,” which is the show Jessie Godderz is in. Varon plays a parole officer for the character that Godderz plays

After the posts not that many weeks ago about the promotion folding, and the promoters not responding to calls, WrestleCircus is now scheduled to return and supposedly has at least six dates over the next six months in Austin, TX

The IWRG promotion in Naucalpan, Mexico did an all cage show on 1/1 with various stipulations like TNA Lockdown. There was a cage of death (rookies put in a cage, last man left loses hair or mask), a Reyes de Aire multi person match where wrestlers had to be pinned and leave the cage and the last guy left wins, another hair match in a cage, a multi-team match where as teams are pinned, they have to leave and the final team gets a tag team title shot. The main event was Imposible vs. Dr. Cerebro for their Rey de Ring title. The rules were that they were in the cage with the belt hung from the ceiling. They went ten minutes where nobody was allowed to win. At the 10:00 mark, a ladder was then put in the cage and you had to climb the ladder to grab the belt, and then climb over the cage with the belt to win. Imposible retained

A group called Blue Water Championship Wrestling in Port Huron, MI, is bringing in Brian Pillman Jr., as well as Jungle Boy (the son of actor Luke Perry of 90210 fame).

EUROPE: Progress did a mystery show on 12/30 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London. It’s similar to PWG’s Mystery Vortekz, where nobody knows ahead of time who is on the show or what the matches are. They drew a sellout 700 fans and got huge reactions with surprise appearances by Will Ospreay and WWE’s Jack Gallagher. WWE had allowed Gallagher to work when Progress came to New York several months ago against Pete Dunne, but Dunne was injured and it had to be canceled. So this was a make-good, even though unadvertised. The crowd didn’t know Dunne would be there either, let alone they’d be getting a U.K. title match. Dunne retained and both showed respect for each other. Ospreay got a huge reaction for his surprise return, where he challenged Travis Banks for the Progress world title. It was said to be easily one of the best matches of the year in the promotion, and perhaps in the history of the promotion. Banks also retained the title. They had what may have been a new idea for a Christmas gimmick match, called a 12 Days of Christmas no DQ match. There were 12 weapons wrapped up as Christmas presents that could be used, with Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins beating Clint Margera & Drew Parker. They opened with a comedy match where members of established tag teams would be on each side, under elimination rules as Tyler Bate & Zack Gibson & Kyle Fletcher & Chris Brookes beat Trent Seven & James Drake & Mark Davis & Kid Lykos, where Brookes was the final survivor

Regarding last week’s wXw 17th anniversary show, the company’s final show of the year, they did a big farewell to Ilja Dragunov after he lost to Bad Bones John Klinger in a wXw title match in the main event. It was said to be a ****½ match and one of the best of the year in the company. Dragunov bled early when he did a plancha into a chair shot by Klinger and he was a crimson mask the rest of the match. Lots of chair spots as well as Klinger spearing Dragunov through the ropes and through a table on the floor. Klinger won with his Shadow driver (Michinoku driver). A lot of people saw the farewell as a sign Dragunov is going to WWE. Those in Germany have said it looked like he’ll depart wrestling, whether for good, or temporary, to build for a big return. He was almost in tears and said he didn’t consider himself a loser, as he left everything in the ring and maybe he wasn’t meant to be world champion and that there were two people in this world, his wife and his son, who needed him more than pro wrestling does and then thanked the fans. Historically, when wrestlers leave for WWE, the company gives them a different type of goodbye, as they push the farewell show ahead of time, like with Alexander Wolfe, Marcel Barthel and Aleister Black. They also shot a documentary which pushed Dragunov has always put his family ahead of wrestling. But there is a missing piece of the puzzle as Dragunov is also the European champion for Next Stop Wrestling and retained his title on 12/16, so if he was retiring, one would think he’d have dropped that title unless he’s just going to come back and do that on their next show

Five Star Wrestling, which is trying to get started for yet another run doing major arenas for live weekly prime time wrestling on FreeSport every Thursday night, has only announced for its debut on 2/1 in Liverpool at Echo Arena a John Morrison vs. Rob Van Dam main event plus Zack Gibson. Much of the U.K. talent is avoiding any commitments because of what happened last time when guys had bookings for all these planned big shows and then they all got canceled.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: Penta 0M and Rey Fenix have pulled themselves off the 3/9 to 3/11 wXw 16 Carat Gold tournament due to working the tapings here. The dates for the season four tapings at this point look to be 2/23 to 2/25, 3/2 to 3/4, 3/9 to 3/11 to 3/16 and 3/17. About 21 episodes are scheduled to be taped for a probable summer debut on El Rey. What is interesting is Jeff Cobb is still on those shows, although that may be temporary as Cobb is expected to return for the season. I think that a lot of the guys who were unhappy and looking at getting out of their deals see it as a month of weekends that they have to cancel so it’s not that bad, and it is television exposure. Some guys who have asked for their release have gotten them. Some guys on previous seasons may not be brought back due to budget cuts. Some guys who are looking to leave haven’t been given their releases and were told they need time to write them off. There may be more of a move to get out if WWE was interested, because when it comes to other groups like Impact or New Japan, they could work there while still under contract with Lucha Underground.

ROH: Cody vs. Matt Taven, Jay Lethal vs. Flip Gordon and Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley defending the tag titles against Chuckie T & Baretta are the first match announced for the new year, at the next show, TV tapings on 1/20 at Center Stage in Atlanta

While not announced yet, Kota Ibushi will be on the New Orleans show along with Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kenny Omega

The finals of their Women of Honor tournament will also be on the New Orleans show

Booker Hunter Johnston, in his gimmick as Delirious, was at the 1/3 Stardom show and came to the ring with Stardom President Rossy Ogawa in the ring and they announced Mayu Iwatani, Kagetsu, Hans Kimura and HZK from Stardom will all be in their 16 person Women of Honor title tournament.

IMPACT: The 4/22 PPV show, where the angle for the main event may be shot at the next tapings, will be Lockdown, meaning every match on the show will be a cage match.

UFC: Dana White said on FS 1 that Conor McGregor has to defend his title next against Tony Ferguson if McGregor wants to come back. This week’s story is they are trying to put that together for the summer

The UFC was looking at first to do a press conference pushing the fights in the early year, but then decided to just focus on the two title fights on 1/20 in Boston, which are Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou for the heavyweight title and Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir. White said they were 1,000 tickets shy of a sellout. There wasn’t a lot said. This one does feel like a major show, not at the GSP vs. Bisping level. Miocic seemed pretty confident he could beat Ngannou, and it didn’t feel like false bravado. When Ngannou’s punching power was brought up, Miocic said he’s a Midwest guy who doesn’t care about the hoopla, and Ngannou can get all the hype while he’s going to keep on winning. Ngannou said that no matter how Miocic portrays it that he knows Miocic is really intimidated and knows what’s going to happen. Cormier, when asked about Oezdemir’s assault charge, said that he’s fought guys who have issues and has adopted the mentality that if Oezdemir doesn’t show up, it’ll be someone else. Regarding still being champion after losing to Jon Jones, he said, “It’s hard for me because I know who I am. I know what happened. I don’t hide from the result. I lost a fight. That’s the reality. When something bad happens to me, I get up, I dust myself off and I have to right this by not just beating Volkan Oezdemir but by smashing him.” When asked about fighting heavyweight, Cormier seemed negative, so he doesn’t think he wants to fight Miocic and he’s not about to fight Ngannou

. MacKenzie Dern, who there is hope can be the next big thing in women’s fighting, will make her UFC debut on the 3/3 show in Las Vegas against Ashley Yoder. Dern is 5-0, and has won five different world championships in submission grappling in 2014 and 2015 at weights ranging from 121 to 132 pounds and even being relatively small, has several third place finishes in high-level no weight class competitions. Dern has the look and, rightly or wrongly, that gives her a marketing edge if she can be successful at a high level. But this is more a striking sport than ever before

Miesha Tate, 31, announced this week that she is pregnant with a baby girl. Tate, a former UFC and Strikeforce bantamweight champion, best known for her two fights and feud with Ronda Rousey, retired as a fighter after her November 12, 2016, loss to Raquel Pennington. Her current boyfriend is lightweight fighter Johnny Nunez, a one-time wrestler at Boise State, who fought in season 22 and season 25 of The Ultimate Fighter, but lost both his bouts the first season and was eliminated in his first bout in the most recent season, but has a 6-1 record outside UFC. She was known for a long relationship with Bryan Caraway, another UFC fighter, but they broke up some time back

Since every time Conor McGregor says something, it’s news, his reaction to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s win on Twitter was “That Dagestani was dog shit the other night. You’s are all nuts. Game full of sloppy bums asking to be slept. Pay me my worth and King’s back.” He then said “Get on your F***ing knees and beg me. Otherwise I don’t give a bollox.” McGregor was also pushing for Mayweather under MMA rules, which isn’t going to happen, saying that the rules set in their last fight kept him out of the funeral home

Nate Marquardt, 38, announced his retirement this past week after 56 fights in an 18-year career. Marquardt was a pioneer in cross training. He started his career in 1999 and won his first six fights via submission, five of them in less than 4:00. That year he won the Bas Rutten Invitational tournament in Littelton, CO, where the winner was supposed to get a UFC contract. Instead, he wound up getting a contract with Pancrase, but lost his first fight there to Genki Sudo. In 2000, he won an eight-man tournament to become the King of Pancrase middleweight champion. He lost the title on December 1, 2001, in Yokohama to Kiuma Kunioku. He beat Kunioku to win the title back with a flying knee on December 21, 2002. He lost it to Ricardo Almeida on November 30, 2003. After Almeida vacated it, Marquardt won the title for a third time beating Kazuo Misaki on November 7, 2004, and after one defense, vacated the title in 2005 to join the UFC. He tested positive for Nandrolone (Decadurabolin) in his first UFC fight, a win over Ivan Salaverry in 2005. He won three in a row to set up a title shot with Anderson Silva on July 7, 2007 in Sacramento, that Silva won via stoppage in 4:50. He went 10-4 in UFC competition before signing with Strikeforce, where he won the welterweight title in his move to 170 by beating Tyron Woodley on July 14, 2012, in Portland, OR. But he lost the title to Tarec Saffidiene in his next fight on January 12, 2013 in Oklahoma City. He lost his last three fights to Sam Alvey, Vitor Belfort and Cezar Ferreira, losing all three via decision in 2017

There’s no show this weekend. The week after there is an Invicta show on 1/13 on Fight Pass headlined by Sarah Kaufman vs. Pannie Kianzad. UFC has an FS 1 show on 1/14 with its debut in St. Louis for a Sunday night show headlined by Jeremy Stephens vs. Doo Ho Choi, Vitor Belfort vs. Uriah Hall and Paige VanZant vs. Jessica Rose-Clark

The California State Athletic Commission has ruled that Marlon Moraes, Iuri Alcantara, Davi Ramos and Luke Sanders all cut too much weight. The commission said they will not license any of them to fight unless they move up a weight class. Essentially all this means is the four are going to have to avoid shows in California or move up in weight. Moraes went into the cage at 155 pounds for a 136 pound fight. Alcantara was 154.6 for a bantamweight fight. Ramos was 179 pounds after weighing in at 154.6 and Sanders was 154.5 after weighing in at 135.6. It’s all well and good that California is monitoring this, but unless we have a nationwide or worldwide rule set in place, it’s really not going to mean a lot

The UFC has its first husband-and-wife duo in Mark and Montana De La Rosa. Mark debuted over the weekend against Tim Elliott. Montana, the former Montana Stewart, was on the last season of Ultimate Fighter in the women’s flyweight tournament and won a fight on the 12/1 show in Las Vegas beating Christina Marks. Montana has a seven-year-old daughter, which she gave birth to at 15, who is an age group Texas state champion in wrestling

Mark Aragon, a photographer for Holly Holm who made an Instagram post using the word “he” over and over to describe Cris Cyborg, was given the word that he will no longer be given a press credential for company events according to a story in MMA Fighting. “UFC does not condone or tolerate the remarks that were used. The organization has reached out to the JacksonWink team to inform them that the individual in question will not be granted access for future events.” Aragon has since apologized and said it was a reaction to Cyborg and her camp accusing Holm of using PEDs, which in fact, did really happen

Khabib Nurmagomedov, who in the past has had trouble making 155, is now talking about cutting to 145. He’s missed weight once in his UFC career and was hospitalized a second time while cutting and couldn’t fight

Carls John de Tomas failed a drug test taken the night of his 12/9 loss to Alex Perez in Fresno. He is on a temporary suspensio

Yoel Romero vs. David Branch has been signed for the 2/24 FOX show in Orlando

Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski was announced for the 3/3 show in Las Vegas

Jessica Aguilar vs. Livia Renata Souza has been added to the 2/18 show in Austin, “TX. Souza, a former Invicta strawweight champion, will be making her UFC debut against Aguilar, who held the strawweight title for the old WSOF before coming to UFC

Added to the 2/11 PPV show in Perth, Western Australia is Jake Matthews of Australia against Li Jingliang and Luke Jumeau of New Zealand against Daichi Abe

New fights added to the 2/18 show in Austin, TX are Geoff Neal, who got a contract out of the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender series, against Brian Camozzi, Roberto Sanchez vs. Joby Sanchez (what a nightmare covering a fight where both guys have the same last name) and Sarah Moras vs. Lucie Pudilova

In a trivia note, James Morgan, who is a doctor on Cris Cyborg’s team, is a former independent wrestler from Southern California. He had worked for Championship Wrestling from Hollywood.

BELLATOR: Jimmy Smith’s contract with Bellator expired at the end of the year and they didn’t agree to terms. He’s one of the best color guys around and the only fixture on television for the company from almost its inception. He’s easily the best among the announcers at scoring fights as they happen. Ariel Helwani reported that Bellator will be using Chael Sonnen more frequently in the color role, and is also talking about Frank Mir in that role. Sonnen is a great talker, but he’s a pro wrestling style announcer and this is one thing Smith is better in. Smith said, “I am very grateful to the entire Bellator organization and fans for an amazing and unforgettable nine years. As I move on to the next phase of my career, I want to wish all of the fighters, producers and Bellator staff the absolute best.

James Thompson, who fought on the 12/15 show in Newcastle, England, tested positive for the steroid Drostanolone in a test taken that night. Thompson lost on the show to Philip DeFries. He has been suspended for one year.

WWE: Jazzy Gabert, 35, who got over huge at the Mae Young Classic, and was on the list to be signed (after the tournament we were told she was being signed, and she did a few matches in NXT, and then nothing was heard about her), explained the situation on the Edge & Christian podcast this past week. She said she was offered a contract and agreed to it, and when they were doing medical testing, they found that she had three herniated discs in her neck, so they pulled the contract. That happens from time-to-time with Willie Mack and Nigel McGuinness perhaps being the most well-known. Shelton Benjamin was also in that category but Benjamin got shoulder surgery and was later offered a deal a second time. Gabert said that she was going to undergo surgery due to numbness in her arms and shoulders. For what it’s worth, there were still people in WWE who were of the belief she was coming in. But if she’s undergoing neck surgery, that’s a long rehab period depending on the surgery, often as long as 14 months and given her age, that becomes problematic

Candice LeRae (Candice Dawson Gargano, 32) is on the radar. She hasn’t been signed yet but is going through the process which means unless it falls through she’ll be off the indie scene. She and Rachael Ellering (as Rachael Evers because they didn’t want to use the Ellering name since Paul Ellering was managing there) were the two most popular women at Full Sail not under contract every time they were brought in for largely enhancement or extra duties

Strowman missed the house shows from 12/28 to 12/30 due to going home early with a bad case of the flu. The term I was given is that he was violently ill. Kane was his scheduled opponent and he was moved to working angles on the show with Anderson, Gallows and Elias where he’d sing with Elias and then turn on them and go babyface by choke slamming everyone. Kind of weird they’d have him go babyface at the house shows when pushing him as a monster heel for television

Enzo also had a bad case of the flu and missed the 1/1 Raw, although he has been medically cleared to wrestle so could be on the weekend house shows and should be wrestling by Raw next week. He was in Jackson Memorial University of Miami Hospital and they did a storyline where Jax wouldn’t be in Bliss’ corner against Asuka because she was going to the hospital to bring him chicken soup. He said he went from Toronto to Miami on 12/31. He was in Toronto but didn’t work the show as he had worked with Kalisto at all the other shows that week. The story as we heard it was that he got sick in Toronto but didn’t want to go to the hospital there. He flew to Miami for Raw. He ended up going to the hospital but checked himself out of the hospital and wanted to do the match with Alexander on Raw as scheduled. The company didn’t want him doing so, and the word we got is that they didn’t want him backstage for fear he was contagious. So he was told that instead of going backstage, he should go straight to his hotel room. He said he skipped Diddy’s New Year’s Eve party in Miami to try and rest up but ended up in the hospital. They’ll probably do the match whenever he recovers

Angle did a tweet and said that due to Enzo having the flu, he would be out of the Mixed Match Challenge and Angle said he would replace him. You could take that to mean Angle is wrestling and replacing Enzo. That’s not what it means. It is supposed to mean Angle is making the decision who to replace him with. Even though Enzo is cleared, and it’s two weeks away, the decision was made to pull him from the series and put someone else in.

For those wondering about Jericho and the Rumble, Fozzy is playing that day at the Olympia in Paris, France, so it’s not happening. He’s also booked on the day of Mania, and based on the Fozzy touring schedule, if he is to come back here or do another match with New Japan, the earliest would be mid-April

The WWE web site had a list of its 25 best matches of the year. What’s notable is that I can hardly complain, given that their top three was the same as my top three, which were Cena vs. Styles from Royal Rumble, the four-way from SummerSlam with Lesnar vs. Reigns vs. Strowman vs. Joe, and Pete Dunne vs Tyler Bate from NXT Chicago. No. 4 was Usos vs. New Day from SummerSlam, which was a great match but I wouldn’t go No. 4 of the year for it. No. 5 was Lesnar vs. Styles from Survivor Series. No. 6 was Asuka vs. Ember Moon from NXT in Takeover in Brooklyn. No. 7 was Styles vs. Balor from the TLC PPV. No. 8 was Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa vs. The Revival vs. Authors of Pain from NXT Takeover in Orlando (I’d probably go even higher, that match was fantastic), No. 9 was Show vs. Strowman on Raw on 2/20 and No. 10 was Balor vs. Rollins vs. Miz on the 5/1 Raw show

The attempt by Alpha Entertainment to trademark UFL was given an initial refusal due to another attempt to trademark UFL by a group called the Urban Fitness League that filed first. There is no problem with United Football League but not using the UFL initials

Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler are booked on the 1/22 25th anniversary of Raw. While not announced, the belief is that Ross and Lawler will call the action together for the matches at the Manhattan Center

Cena has been filming a movie called “Bumblebee,” which stars Pamela Adlon of the FX show “Better Things.” He’s listed as the character Burns, an agent of Sector 7 and the movie will be out on December 21, 2018

For New Year’s weekend, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” starring Dwayne Johnson, did $50,355,000, putting it just behind “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at No. 2. Jumanji has done $170 million domestic and $153 million international as of the weekend, its second weekend out. “Ferdinand,” the animated movie where Cena has the voice of the lead character, was No. 5 at $11.4 million, giving it a three week total of $53.6 million domestic and $72 million international

The Facebook Mixed Match Challenge series begins on 1/16, right after Smackdown, or 20 minutes, which will then be followed by 205 Live on WWE Network. It will be a 12-week single elimination tournament made up of teams with one man and one woman, each representing Raw or Smackdown. Renee Young and Byron Saxton will host, while Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Beth Phoenix will handle the announcing. The talent involved with be Raw men Strowman, Balor, Goldust, Miz and two more guys, one person to be chosen by fan vote and another one to replace Amore who is not expected back in action and Kurt Angle said that he must replace him; Raw women Bliss, Fox, Asuka, Bayley, Jax and Banks, Smackdown men Roode, Jimmy Uso, Rusev, Zayn, Nakamura and a member of the New Day chosen in a fan vote, and Smackdown women Lynch, Carmella, Lana, Naomi, Charlotte and Natalya. Strowman & Bliss and Roode & Flair as teams have already been announced, so you have a face teaming with a heel on the Raw side

The TV crew noted a crazy schedule week at the end of the month with 1/27 Takeover in Philadelphia, 1/28 Rumble in Philadelphia, 1/29 Raw and 1/30 Smackdown, then one day off before NXT tapings on 2/2 and2/3 at Center Stage in Atlanta. It’s a lot of consecutive long days, but it’s four days in Philadelphia with no travel on those days, a day off (and nobody really wants a day off when you can’t go home because it’s a waste of a day) and then two days in Atlanta

No Way Jose was out of action with injuries suffered last month. I believe he’ll be back this month

Although advertised for all the shows, Ziggler was not working the Smackdown tour to sell the angle that he’s quit the promotion

WWE stock closed at $31.41, so the decline when Vince McMahon sold 3,340,000 shares was short-lived and it is now trading at the highest point the stock has ever hit since its $42 valuation when it first went public nearly 20 years ago. The company’s market value is now $2.422 billion. It’s trading at 67 times earnings, which is very high, but the feeling is that earnings will grow greatly with the new television deal

The company will be releasing a Children’s Multivitamin Gummy collection at Giant Eagle stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana

The most-watched shows of the past week on WWE Network were: 1. NXT on 12/27; 2. Photo Shoot with Cesaro; 3. Photo Shoot with Miz; 4. Clash of Champions; 5. Survivor Series; 6. 2017 Royal Rumble; 7. 2017 WrestleMania; 8. Best of Ride Along; 9. Table for 3 with Balor and Hardys; 10. Raw’s Greatest Moments 100-75. The 12/26 episode of 205 Live was in 11th place for the week

Notes from the 1/1 Raw in Miami. New Year’s Day proved to be a big day as they had nearly 12,000 fans at the show, almost sold out. It was a show filled with long matches and even with the big crowd, they were dead for pretty much everything except to see Strowman, Lesnar and the Reigns vs. Joe match was the only bout with any real heat. It was a show of long, quiet matches. None of the wrestling was bad, and the matches you wouldn’t expect to have heat didn’t, but matches like Jordan vs. Cesaro which opened after a strong promo was deathly quiet and Bliss vs. Asuka was as well, but that followed the pattern of Asuka matches built around her selling lengthy periods of time that end up quiet. And that was Asuka winning to set up a title match. The show opened with Main Event, as Brooke pinned James, which I wouldn’t take as a good sign for James. Brooke is the one in a storyline. Tozawa pinned Nese and the crowd was into Tozawa. So Nese hasn’t turned babyface even with the heels on the Zo Train turning on him. He did an interview where he kind of made it clear he was staying a heel. Raw opened with Angle announcing Bliss vs. Asuka. Bliss came out and told him to cancel the match. Angle told her it’s happening and right now it’s a non-title match, intimating if she didn’t shut up about it he’d change it to a title match. There was a video package building to the 25th anniversary special in three weeks and the Rumble the following Saturday. They announced Cena in the men’s Rumble and that the women’s Rumble would have 30 participants. Angle said he expected Raw to win both matches. Sheamus & Cesaro came out and Sheamus said they were robbed last week. Cesaro, thank God, is no longer talking with his mouthpiece in. Cesaro said that Jordan & Rollins didn’t deserve a title shot in the first place and that Angle played favorites for his son. They wanted their rematch tonight. Angle said they would get their rematch, but when he says so. Jordan came out. The crowd mildly, and I mean very mildly booed him. There was really no reaction at all, which is worse than even loud booing. This Angle son thing has done a number on him and having him win the tag titles and team with Rollins isn’t changing that so quickly. Plus, with Rollins and Reigns acting like he’s a goof, that won’t help him as a face, and clearly, he’s not getting hardly any heat as a heel, and when he does, it’s not the right heat. There were some “Daddy’s boy” chants. This led to Angle making a Jordan vs. Cesaro match. Before it started, Rollins came out and said that Jordan has a lot to learn about being a good teammate, basically saying he should have never come out when Sheamus & Cesaro were both out, because they could have jumped him and hurt him. While Rollins acted like he didn’t really care if Jordan was hurt, since he’s his partner as tag champions, it’s now his concern. He said that you don’t have to like your partner to worry about their health and safety. Rollins told Jordan to quit being so self-absorbed. Rollins said he had to protect his half of the titles so he’d be in Jordan’s corner. They really need to get Booker off commentary. He was awful here. He claimed this was the first time a team that had never teamed together had been given a title shot, which is ridiculous. The crowd was dead, made worse because the match was so long. Jordan sold the knee and did a double Northern lights suplex but held the injured leg in the air as he went for the pin and that was explained as to why Cesaro was able to kick out. Sheamus punched Jordan and Cesaro tried a roll-up, followed by a half crab and a full Boston crab. Sheamus tried to interfere again but Rollins took him out, and Jordan pinned Cesaro clean with a neckbreaker in 16:31. Reigns did an interview. He said that Joe hurt Ambrose, that Joe was a punk, he talks like a punk, walks like a punk and this week he’s punking him out. He said that unfortunately for Joe, this week because the title could change via DQ, he was going to stay within the rules, or at least he hopes so. Wyatt beat Crews in 10:20 with Sister Abigail. Crews did some good athletic stuff but the crowd was dead as this was very much a crowd that didn’t care what you were doing, only if you were a star. Crews did a standing shooting star and a moonsault off the apron. Dana Brooke as the statistician for Titus Worldwide, jumped on the apron. Wyatt scared her and she got scared and fell off the apron, right on O’Neil. Crews went for the finish but Wyatt reversed and hit Sister Abigail for the pin. Matt Hardy appeared on the screen. They did a special effect breaking him up into different quadrants and more on the screen. The crowd loves to chant “delete,” and Wyatt sold Hardy’s gimmick acting like he was freaked out. Jax had chicken soup to bring to Enzo in the hospital. This spot was to establish that Enzo was sick with the flu and his match with Alexander for the title wasn’t happening. Bliss came up and wanted Jax in her corner against Asuka. Jax said she had to leave to give the soup to Enzo. Bliss talked about how they were best friends and she needs Jax. Jax went to leave and Bliss said that it’s she or Enzo, Jax had to make the choice. Jax then left the building. Asuka beat Bliss in a non-title match in 14:43. The crowd was dead here. Asuka was selling for long periods of time and the crowd sees Asuka as someone who isn’t a traditional babyface and shouldn’t do long selling. Some basic styles simply don’t work with people with certain gimmicks. Bliss slapped her in the face, and Asuka came back with two dropkicks, a missile dropkick, a knee to the head, spin kicks and then got the armbar submission. Renee Young interviewed Joe. Joe said he would beat Reigns just like he does every time they step in the ring together. These two have fantastic chemistry because Young plays up how he hates him for hurting her husband but is professional enough not to make it feel like a cartoon. And Joe rubs it in, without coming across as a fake pro wrestler reading lines, and instead just an asshole. He called Ambrose a stay-at-home husband who lives off his wife’s paychecks. Strowman pinned Rhyno in 2:29. The idea is that Rhyno is trying to toughen Slater up. It was explained that’s why this match takes place. They tried to have that make sense, but it just doesn’t. There were light ECW chants. The crowd was way into Strowman. Slater was at ringside and Strowman told him to shut his mouth or get in the ring. Slater attacked him right in front of the ref but the ref didn’t call a DQ. Granted, this is pro wrestling and there’s always inconsistencies, but it looked stupid to have two guys double-teaming Strowman right in front of the ref without a DQ called. Strowman came back and powerslammed Rhyno for the pin. He powerslammed Slater after the match Then he powerslammed Rhyno, Slater, Rhyno and Slater. Reigns did an interview. Rollins told him to keep his temper in check and not to get DQ’d because he wants he and Reigns to both have belts. Jordan then showed up and said that he and Rollins are now focused on The Bar, so he’s not looking at wrestling Joe anymore. But he said that if The Bar interferes, he and Rollins would take them out, “believe that.” Rollins and Reigns looked at each other like Jordan was a goof. Strowman was backstage and approached by Kane. Kane said he’s not there to fight, and he’s got a plan. He said they should work together to take out Lesnar. Wasn’t Kane the guy who turned on Strowman and tried to murder him? Anyway, Strowman said he was the only Alpha Monster (weird using that word Alpha this week) and if he’s going to take down Lesnar, he’s doing it on his own. Angle was on the phone. Balor came out and said he was entering the Rumble. He also said he found his partners for a match against Axel & Dallas & Elias later in the show. They were Anderson & Gallows. This led to a loud “too sweet” chant in the building. Reigns retained the IC title over Joe in 24:50 in a ***3/4 match. This was the first match the crowd was really into. Joe did an elbow suicida and the way he landed, his left elbow hit the floor and he was shaking it off. He seemed to ding it because it didn’t play into the match. Reigns reversed a whip and threw Joe into the steps. He picked up the steps and ref John Cone warned him about a DQ. Joe dared him to do so and then eye poked him. Reigns used a Superman punch off the steps and another in the ring. He went for a spear but Joe got the knee up. There was a ref bump as Joe threw Reigns into Cone. They teased Cone would DQ Reigns, but he didn’t. Reigns missed a charge and Joe hit a uranage, but Reigns kicked out. Joe got the choke on but Reigns flipped him over and hit the spear for the pin. Heyman was backstage with Angle. Heyman said that if Kane and Strowman team up on Lesnar, Lesnar will be proactive not reactive. He said 2018 will be the year of the beast. Gulak & Daivari were in the ring. Gulak read a message from Enzo. Gulak just cracks me up even though the crowd never reacts to him, especially when he does the Enzo lines and botches them like “How are you doing?” Alexander interrupted him like he always does. Alexander said since Enzo is sick, which of you guys will take his place. Gulak & Daivari said they would do a tag match against him and anyone he can get as a partner, and then joked about how nobody wanted to be his partner. That’s weird given that Alexander works tag matches against those guys every week. Goldust then came out as a surprise partner. The crowd was into Goldust in the new role. Goldust & Alexander beat Gulak & Daivari in 3:26 when Alexander pinned Daivari with the lumbar check. Fans were chanting “You still got it” at Goldust. That chant was cool the first time it was done. Elias came out and Axel & Dallas sang. Axel sang as bad as he could on purpose, since the last time they played the harmonica as heels, people cheered. They noted Miz would be back next week and mentioned that he won the Rolling Stone WWE Wrestler of the Year award. I’m not exactly sure what qualifies Miz for the award. Being average in the ring, an excellent talker to be sure, never really in a main event position and his big angle of the year, with Cena, where he did great promos, absolutely nobody cared about the match which ended up being a backdrop for the proposal. This led to Balor & Anderson & Gallows beating Elias & Dallas & Axel in 3:25 when Anderson & Gallows did the Magic killer on Dallas, and then Anderson used a pescado on Axel, and Balor pinned Dallas after the coup de gras. The crowd wasn’t into Anderson & Gallows as faces. They never did a turn. I think everyone is just supposed to know they were all in Japan together as part of the Bullet Club, which was touched on. The show ended with Lesnar & Heyman out. Heyman talked about how in the old days it was about the champion and the challenger, but now it’s plural challengers. Well, it’s not like Heyman wasn’t the one who popularized that in the first place. He noted that if Strowman pins Kane, Lesnar loses the title, and if Kane pins Strowman, Lesnar loses the title. Heyman also said that he’s spoken with the devil, and the devil’s favorite wrestler isn’t Kane, it’s Lesnar. Kane came out and immediately laid out Lesnar with a choke slam. He want to leave, but Lesnar sat up like Undertaker and Kane, and started laughing. Lesnar clotheslined Kane out of the ring and then most of the undercard guys came out and pulled the two of them apart. Pretty much of a nothing finish to the show. After Raw went off the air, Strowman came back out and said he still wanted a fight. He called out Kane, who came back out. They brawled with Kane getting the better of it and setting up a table. Of course being the end of the show, Strowman came back and finished the show by powerslamming Kane through the table

Notes from the Jan. 2 tapings in Orlando. Smackdown remains a strong show with the slow building Bryan vs. Shane storyline. The show drew 9,000 fans, well over the usual Smackdown average probably because of the WWE ties to the Orlando market. A lot of the NXT talent was backstage. Rawley pinned Ryder in the pre-show match in less than 5:00 with a running punch into the corner. Smackdown opened with Styles out. He said that his New Year’s Resolution is to take the title to WrestleMania and walk out of the main event as champion. I’d hope the resolution would be more than be champion through the first week of April. His second resolution was to beat Zayn. Styles called out Bryan. Bryan came out, and Shane also came out. Fans chanted for Shane, and then Bryan, but were louder for Bryan. Shane said that we’d all rather have a match end by the ability of the wrestlers and not due to distractions and interference. Shane apologized to Styles for costing him his match last week. Shane said that a lot of people think he’s got a vendetta against Zayn & Owens, but he think that Bryan has a kinship for both of them, and asked Bryan why he let Zayn come to ringside last week. He asked Bryan if he was turning the “yes” movement into the “yep” movement. Shane said that if Owens was going to be at ringside for the main event, that he will be as well. Bryan said that if both of them were going to be at ringside, he would be as well. Usos defended the tag title against Gable & Benjamin. Jey went wild in the end. The one thing I’ve noticed is the Usos, who are great, pretty much have copied the indie style of tons of big spots, lots of dives and tons of superkicks. It’s funny because it’s bad psychology only when it’s not in WWE, but great work when it’s in WWE. Jey hit a tope on Benjamin, then another on Gable. Benjamin threw Jey into the barricade. The finish saw the double-team sky high clothesline on Jimmy, but Jey was the legal guy, and for that matter, so was Benjamin, and it was Gable who scored the pin in 5:36. They celebrated like it was a title change and the crowd was played to react like it was. The fans were cheering it as even though Gable & Benjamin are heels, crowds are excited to see happenings more than care about whether their favorites win or lose. That’s a part of making wins and losses not meaningful. Another ref came out. They watched the replay and the original ref said he blew the call, and restarted the match. The Usos did one superkick after another and Jimmy pinned Benjamin in 1:21 with a splash off the top rope to retain. Owens & Zayn were being interviewed by Renee Young. Zayn said it didn’t matter if Shane or Bryan were at ringside. The gimmick of their interviews is Owens talks and Zayn just says, “Yep.” Harper & Rowan were to wrestle Breeze & Fandango. Harper & Rowan destroyed them before the bell. The Ascension came out for the save, but Harper & Rowan knocked Konnor out of the ring and laid out Viktor with a double choke slam. New Day was backstage doing a comedy bit where Woods was blindfolded and he was supposed to guess what present they got for him. Except he could see through the blindfold. Woods said if he wins the U.S., title, all three of them would be the U.S. champion. I’m not sure that made sense, but it is pro wrestling. English & Rusev came out. Rawley did a promo saying when he beats Ryder next week in the U.S. title tournament, that Ryder will be left in the past where he belongs. Woods pinned English to advance to the tournament semifinals in 5:46 with a ropewalk elbow drop. English at one point tried a piledriver off the middle rope but Woods backdropped out of it. Natalya, Carmella, Tamina and Lana did an interview and they were back calling themselves the Welcoming committee. Riott & Morgan & Logan beat Carmella & Tamina & Natalya in 5:29. Tamina was put over big in the match with Lana cheerleading for her. But Morgan shoved Tamina off the top rope and Morgan pinned her after a kneedrop to the back of the neck. Riott did an interview and told the fans that magic isn’t real, it’s like everyone one here, phony. I wonder if she meant the Magic (the NBA team that plays in that building) or magic in general. Charlotte came out and said that all actions have consequences. She called out Naomi who ran down the ramp and slid, which was kind of silly since they just had hurt her the week before. Then Lynch came out. The crowd popped big for her return from doing “The Marine” movie. There was a big brawl with Naomi doing a springboard knee on Morgan and Lynch used an exploder on Riott and Morgan. Corbin did an interview and said he would win the Rumble and headline Mania. Zayn pinned Styles in 13:45. Good match. The crowd was into it when Styles got the calf crusher on the Zayn made the ropes. It was the usual finish that was all about building Shane vs. Bryan. Ref Mike Chioda tried to avoid getting bumped and in jumping out of the way fell out of the ring. Owens blocked him from getting back in the ring while Styles had Zayn pinned. He jumped in but Zayn was able to kick out. Shane shoved down Owens. Shane then told Chioda to kick out Owens, which he did. Bryan then told Shane to leave with Owens. It was notable the crowd was loudly chanting “Yes” when Bryan kicked Shane out. Styles kicked Owens when he tried to distract him, but that allowed Zayn to hit the helluva kick for the pin. Styles was furious about losing again and said that Shane and Bryan need to stop acting like bickering children. He was also sick of Zayn and Owens interfering in each others’ matches and said he wanted them in a handicap match. Bryan said that was a great idea, and ordered the handicap match to be for the title at the Rumble PPV. Fans did boo that at first but when Bryan started cheerleading, it sounded like most were with him. For 205 Live, TJP returned and pinned Tozawa in 9:55 with a detonation kick. Good match. Not much crowd reaction. There was a fairly loud “We Want Neville” chant. About 20 percent of the crowd left during the show. Goldust was backstage with Alexander. Goldust is now on the 205 Live roster even though they make it clear they aren’t even pretending he’s under205 pounds. Goldust was acting weird and said that he and Alexander are friends. He said Alexander was a rising star and he’s here to help him in his quest for gold. Itami vs. Gallagher never got started. Gallagher tried to attack him for revenge on Kendrick. Itami got the better of it until Gallagher hit Itami with the umbrella which was loaded with a pipe. Gallagher hit Itami a second time with the pipe. Main event saw Alexander & Goldust beat Gulak & Daivari again in 11:54. The crowd wasn’t into this except when Goldust tagged in. Goldust did a quick powerslam on both. Alexander did a running flip dive on both and pinned Gulak with a lumbar check to win. Dark match main event was Styles & Roode & Nakamura over Zayn & Owens & Mahal in 12:00 when Styles pinned Zayn with the phenomenal forearm. The wrestlers kept using a water bottle as a weapon. The crowd was way into it. After the match, Roode invited Karl Malone into the ring. Styles was by far the most popular wrestler on the show. Lots of “Rusev Day” chants before the show

Notes on the 12/27 NXT TV show. Good show since it was built around the four-way for the title shot at Takeover and that was a great match. It opened with the Street Profits over Chris Starr & Riley Apex. They never identified which was Starr and which was Apex, but Starr was a shorter guy with a good body and Apex looked to be about 6-foot-6. Nigel McGuinness kept calling Apex “JBL” because he looked like a 23-year-old JBL. If Ford doesn’t get over as a superstar in this business, he should sue the company for promotional incompetence. He’s got something you can’t teach, both in the charisma and the hops departments. He did a great double leap frog spot and his frog splash off the top is just ridiculous. They did a promo after the match together basically saying they were coming for the tag team titles in 2018 and challenged AOP, Sanity and the Undisputed era. Their promo style to me is too similar to the Usos. It’s entertaining but you really don’t want two teams doing the style cadence of gimmick promos. Ember Moon pinned Sonya Deville to keep the tag titles with the eclipse in 7:02. The crowd wasn’t into this one at all. They opened the match with this crazy series of misses kicks. It’s like an opening you’d see with the top indie guys except with these two it wasn’t fluid and took you out of it. The crowd didn’t react. They were trying to be too complicated for their own good. That said, Moon is very good and Deville has picked up some little things. It wasn’t that bad, just the crowd really didn’t care. Maybe they knew Deville had no chance of winning the title. After the match, Kairi Sane came out. She was looking into a periscope at Moon. While she was doing so, Shayna Baszler came out and choked her out. The crowd really likes Baszler but the attempt was to get her over as a heel since Sane is such a great babyface. Baszler stared at Moon when it was over. Paul Ellering did a promo talking about AOP in 2018. Main event saw Johnny Gargano win a four-way over Aleister Black, Lars Sullivan and Killian Dain to get the title shot in 13:38. I can almost guarantee Gargano vs. Almas will be something as the Takeover main event. I saw them have as good a house show match as I’ve seen from WWE in years and it was the opener, so imagine them in a Takeover main event. So whoever worked with these guys in putting together this match did a great job. They took advantage of everyone’s strengths and nobody was hurt. Sullivan was protected but he’s still more of a force live than on TV. Dain came across as the most awesome force in the match. Black lost the fall but it was due to interference and was there to set up Black vs. Adam Cole. Black did a moonsault off the middle rope to the floor on Sullivan, who caught him and dropped him on the apron. Gargano did a pescado on Sullivan, who caught him and dropped him on the apron. Then Dain, who is a monster, hit Sullivan with a tope and knocked him flying. Sullivan at one point pressed Gargano and threw him off the ramp onto Black. Dain came off the ramp and did a splash on Sullivan, putting him through the through announcers table. This left Black vs. Gargano and the crowd exploded, as to the crowd, they were the real stars of the match. Gargano got the Gargano escape on when Dain recovered and broke it up with a senton on Gargano. He also did a senton on Black. Sullivan jumped in and they had a Sullivan vs. Dain square-off of the big guys. This got a reaction, but nothing close to what Gargano and Black got. They did some power spots until Black and Gargano recovered. Black hit Black Mass on Sullivan, but Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly pulled Black out of the ring as he seemingly had the match won. Cole then laid out Black with the last shot. Gargano hit a tope on Cole. Gargano then gave Black a DDT into the ring for the pin. The crowd popped really big as I don’t think anyone expected Gargano to win since his storyline was of the guy going through a breakdown because he couldn’t win. And he was the most popular of the four since Dain is really just a guy in Sanity, Black has a cool aura but didn’t connect at the level of Gargano and Sullivan has the look and is being pushed hard but the fans don’t naturally like him at the level they do Gargano since the NXT fan base is more into guys with more tenure as underground stars. I’d go at least **** for this one

For this week with the holiday, they were working every night of the week since this is traditionally the best week of the year to draw live crowds. Both crews did well above average for house shows and the Cena vs. Reigns matches in particular drew very well. The Raw shows with the Cena vs. Reigns main events did the best U.S. house show run in a long time. On 12/27 at the Nassau Coliseum they drew 10,500, a near sellout. 12/28 in Hartford drew 6,200. 12/29 in Albany, NY drew 8,000. 12/30 in Toronto drew a sellout of 7,000 fans using the smaller Ricoh Coliseum as opposed to the Air Canada Centre

The first Smackdown house show of the week on 12/27 in Detroit drew 6,000. 12/28 in Pittsburgh also drew 6,000. 12/29 in Hershey, PA, drew 5,000. 12/30 in Tampa drew 6,000

The Nassau Coliseum show was almost identical to the MSG show the night before. I’d think if you play two nights in the same market you’d want to switch it around a little. The only difference was the women’s six-way because of the Paige injury. Matt Hardy pinned Wyatt with a twist of fate in an average opener. Bayley & Banks & James no contest Paige & Rose & Deville when it was stopped due to Paige’s injury. Elias did an in-ring with Gallows & Anderson. They at least switched it up, as Elias sang “Piano Man,” since Billy Joel is from the area. Goldust & Crews & O’Neil & Slater & Rhyno beat Axel & Dallas & Hawkins & The Revival in an entertaining match. Amore pinned Kalisto with a roll-up holding the tights to keep the cruiserweight title. Amore’s hair weave came off, which was planned since it has happened before. Joe beat Balor clean with the choke. Asuka & Brooke beat Jax & Bliss when Asuka made Bliss submit. Strowman beat Kane via DQ in a quick match with a chair shot. Strowman powerslammed Kane through a table. Jordan & Rollins beat Cesaro & Sheamus in a cage match to keep the tag title. This was the same story they did all week. Rollins escaped the cage first. So Sheamus & Cesaro were double-teaming Jordan. Rollins then climbed back in and did a crossbody off the top of the cage to save Jordan. Jordan then escaped, followed by Cesaro. Sheamus was climbing over but before he could hit the floor, Jordan put him on his shoulders so his feet couldn’t touch and Rollins got out the door to win. Inherently these rules make no sense but the match was exciting. Reigns pinned Cena with a spear to keep the IC title. Said to be a good but methodical match

Hartford was mostly the same show. The two changes were Paige was injured and for whatever reason, Strowman wasn’t there. So the women’s first match ended up as Bayley & Banks over Rose & Deville when Banks used the bank statement on Deville. With Strowman not there, Kane played babyface for whatever reason. Elias was out with Gallows & Anderson playing “Freebird.” Kane came out and choke slammed Elias so he was used as a babyface. James was there and referee’s the Asuka & Brooke over Jax & Bliss match. Asuka used the armbar on Bliss to win. Reigns again pinned Cena. Said to be a good, but a little klunky

Albany was the same show. Elias, Gallows and Anderson were all out singing. Kane came out and sang “She’ll be coming around the mountain” with them and then choke slammed all three of them. The crowd was really into Enzo’s catch phrases until he turned on the crowd by saying they have no sports teams. Matt used the Hardys music and not the piano theme that he used in MSG. Crowd was dead for Asuka & Brooke vs. Bliss & Jax because they came after the cage match. Jordan was heavily booked in the tag title match. Cena vs. Reigns had great heat. Crowd was strongly pro-Cena and loudly booed Reins. Match was okay. Cena looked klunky but both worked hard

Toronto was a different show. Cena was moved to the Smackdown tour to work Tampa, leaving Reigns vs. Joe for the IC title as the main event, and that was unique as Joe got busted open about five minutes into the match and when it became clear they couldn’t stop the bleeding after working on him at ringside, they stopped the match and ruled it a no contest. When Joe was bleeding, Jamie Noble, a producer brought out a paramedic to check on Joe. Joe was really upset about the match being stopped. They set up Reigns spearing him for one last pop. I’m not sure why, but Riott, Logan, Enzo and Kalisto were all off the show as well. Sometimes it’s hard to get people into Canada and that probably has to do with it. So Brooke was moved from face to heel due to the imbalance and there was only one women’s match. With Joe moved to the main event, it opened with Balor pinning Anderson, who had Gallows in his corner. Anderson & Gallows teased a walkout and Balor

brought up their New Japan past saying he thought he knew them better and called them chickens and nerds. Balor did a flip dive on both, and then used a sling blade, woo dropkick and coup de grace for the win. They did the same ten man tag with Rhyno pinned Hawkins with the spinebuster. Elias did a concert and was booed. Kane came out to a babyface reaction. They sang “Shell be coming around the mountain”: again. Elias said Kane was a terrible singer and Kane choke slammed him. The tag title match was not in a cage, so I guess the cage didn’t get its passport done in time. The crowd hated Jordan but loved Rollins. When Jordan was in, the crowd would chant “We Want Rollins.” Best match of the show. By the end, Jordan had won over the crowd. Jordan gave Sheamus the neckbreaker and Rollins used the knee on Cesaro for the pin. The woman’s match ended up being Asuka & Bayley & Banks over Brooke & Bliss & Jax, with James as referee. Brooke and James got into an argument and Asuka used a flying armbar to beat Brooke. Hardy pinned Wyatt in their same match. More negativity about Hardy doing his new character but coming out to the old Hardys song. He countered Sister Abigail into a twist of fate. Fans chanted for Joe and Reigns got a mixed reaction. The cut looked like it came when Joe was thrown into the steps and it was stopped

Smackdown opened in Detroit with Usos keeping the tag titles over Big E & Kingston. Logan & Morgan beat Lynch & Naomi when Riott from outside the ring distracted Naomi and she got pinned. Sin Cara pinned Dillinger with Dillinger working as the heel. Sin Cara won with the senton into the ring. Rusev & English & Rawley beat The Ascension & Ryder when Rawley pinned Ryder after the running punch in the corner. Orton & Nakamura & Roode beat Corbin & Owens & Zayn when Orton pinned Zayn after an RKO. Charlotte won a four-way over Carmella, Natalya and Tamina using the figure eight on Natalya. Main event saw Styles beat Mahal in a cage match to keep the title. Styles had the match won with a calf crusher but the Singhs interfered to break it up. Styles used the Pele kick and went to climb out but one of the Singhs came in and tried to pull Mahal out the door. As Styles climbed over, he kicked the door into Mahal’s face and dropped to the floor to win

Pittsburgh was mostly the same show. A few differences. Gable & Benjamin were added to the tag title match. Usos pinned Gable in that one after a double superkick and splash off the top rope. Lots of stalling early to establish Benjamin & Gable as the heels in the match. Riott worked instead of Logan in the first women’s tag match. Same finish, only this time it was the outside distraction of Logan that made the difference. They did an angle on the screen to lead to Bludgeon Brothers (who were called Luke Harper & Erick Rowan, getting their first names back) over Breeze & Fandango in 2:00. Harper pinned Fandango after a double-team power bomb. In the Rusev match, it was said to be sloppy overall. Rusev was the biggest face in the match even though he was on the heel side. In the women’s four-way, they used Lana as the fourth woman instead of Tamina. Carmella and Lana did not look good in the match. Lana also used some of Rusev’s moves in the match. Said to be the worst match. Styles vs. Mahal was said to be the best match with the crowd going crazy by the end. Ziggler was advertised but not there

Hershey was the same show other than in the women’s tag match, it was Logan & Riott beating Naomi &Lynch when Morgan distracted Naomi which led to her being pinned. Ryder painted his face up like Ultimate Warrior in his match. He still got pinned by Rawley after the running punch

Tampa was changed up a little with Cena added to the show. Usos won a four-way over Gable & Benjamin, Rusev & English and Kingston & Woods. Lots of comedy. Usos did a ton of superkicks. Gable was the one pinned after a splash off the top rope. Rusev was the most over. Rawley pinned Ryder with the running punch. Ryder cut a promo on Rawley and sucker punched him before the match. That is such weird psychology to have the face do the sucker punch (it’s not bad he did it, but only if he’s going over) and then still lose. Ryder claimed he carried Rawley for two-and-a-half-years, which is what a heel should say. Rawley worked the match as the heel. Crowd wasn’t into it. Logan & Morgan beat Naomi & Lynch due to outside help from Riott, who distracted Naomi so Logan could roll her up. Nakamura & Orton & Roode over Corbin & Owens & Zayn with Orton pinning Zayn with the RKO. Orton may be hurting as he only tagged in fo the finish. Owens wasn’t in much either. Nakamura & Orton got big reactions but Roode not so much. Harper & Rowan beat Breezango quickly. Charlotte retained in a four-way. Charlotte used the figure eight on Natalya. Main was a three-way with Styles over Cena and Mahal to keep the title. They went 18:00 and had the best match of the show. The Singh Brothers kept interfering and attacking Cena and Styles to alleviate the psychological problem of one heel against two main event faces. Cena had Mahal pinned with the Attitude Adjustment but the Singhs pulled the ref out of the ring to stop the count. The finish saw Styles give one Singh brother the Styles clash and Cena gave the other the attitude adjustment. Mahal then put Cena through a table but he turned around into a phenomenal forearm for Styles to get the win. Notable that’s a different type of finish and Cena’s role was to draw the crowd, but essentially sacrifice himself on the finish so Styles came off as the star babyface. Cena gave Styles a stare after the match.