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June 12, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Extreme Rules and Best of the Super Juniors finals reviewed, tons of news

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN10839593 June 12, 2017



Thumbs up 101 (37.7%)

Thumbs down 60 (22.4%)

In the middle 107 (39.9%)



Reigns vs. Rollins vs. Wyatt vs. Joe vs. Balor 214

Neville vs. Austin Aries 20

Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Hardys 14

The Miz vs.. Dean Ambrose 13



Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley 242

Swann & Banks vs. Dar & Fox 22



Thumbs up 123 (93.9%)

Thumbs down 0 (00.0%)

In the middle 8 (06.1%)



Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo 117



Nate Marquardt vs. Vitor Belfort 88



Thumbs up 178 (96.2%)

Thumbs down 1 (00.5%)

In the middle 6 (03.2%)



Kushida vs. Will Ospreay 183



Six-man opener 29

Liger & Tiger & Volador vs Suzuki-gun 16

Goto & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Suzuki & Taichi 10

Based on e-mails and phone calls to the Observer as of Tuesday, 6/6.


Samoa Joe won the five-way title shot eliminator at Extreme Rules on 6/4 in Baltimore to set up a WWE Universal title match with Brock Lesnar on 7/9 in Dallas.

Joe winning gives the match with Lesnar an interesting aura with the idea of two tough guys going for the championship and is something of a 2004 dream match that took 13 years for it to take place.

While the PPV didn’t appear to have that much interest as compared to usual Raw shows coming in, with Joe winning, clearly interest was there coming out as the first hour of Raw was way up, the best opening number in seven weeks and the overall rating for the show was up 14 percent from the week before. Plus, an angle where Joe choked out Paul Heyman, leading to a phone call where Heyman talked to Lesnar and said that he wanted the beast unleashed and to teach Joe to fear Lesnar was done to build up the 6/12 Raw in Lafayette, LA, which features Lesnar’s first appearance since the day after WrestleMania. Lesnar isn’t scheduled for the 6/19 Raw in Evansville, but is scheduled for 6/26 in Los Angeles and 7/3 in Phoenix to build the match.

As of right now, Lesnar vs. Joe is scheduled for a one-time thing, with Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman at SummerSlam, and Lesnar with title matches with both Seth Rollins and Finn Balor prior to his WrestleMania match with Roman Reigns. Market conditions and injuries can cause any of this to change.

Extreme Rules was another mixed bag show. The show drew a sellout of 8,700 fans to the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.

The wrestling was mostly good, with the main event being among the best WWE matches so far this year. Really, the main event saved the show which was marred by too much cute and bad booking, most notably in the kendo stick match where their attempts to tell a story with the Bayley character has taken her from a hot commodity on arrival to being booed and seemingly left for dead. Most likely the idea is to build for her redemption story, but all of her momentum has been destroyed.

It was mostly a heel night. The Miz won back the IC title from Dean Ambrose in a match built around teasing Ambrose would be DQ’d by referee John Cone. Sheamus & Cesaro won the tag titles from The Hardys in a cage match where the rules, the only way you can win is if both men on the team escape the cage, made the strategies involved working the match make no sense. The rules were never explained beforehand and seemed like they were just made up in the middle of the match. Similarly, in the Neville vs. Austin Aries cruiserweight title match, there was a DQ tease in a submission match, which also makes no sense since the very idea that the match can only be won via submission negates the DQ, except apparently now it doesn’t.

From the gambling standpoint, it was clear that smart money came in on Friday, and even more on Sunday late afternoon, as before the show, all the winners had huge odds in their favor. The money that came in on Friday was all backing the winners, so it was clear all the winners were decided and those in power knew who they were by that time.

Past Lesnar vs. Joe and a likely Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Hardys tag title match and probable rematches with The Miz vs. Ambrose and Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax for the women’s title, the Great Balls of Fire show looks unclear. It’s more of a bridge until SummerSlam, when things are likely to be more loaded.

On the Smackdown side, the only real change is that a Naomi vs. Lana match for their women’s title has been added. Lana is supposed to be a heel but with the gimmick they have given her, it’s almost a lock she’ll be a babyface. She’s basically been slotted in the role that was originally made for Eva Marie, who has gone into acting and won’t be returning to the company.

Money in the Bank had turned really into one of the big four the last several years, but now it’s a single-branded show, with the weaker drawing brand. With the way it’s done now, Survivor Series is back as No. 4 since it was made a dual branded show and part of a destination weekend.

1. Kalisto pinned Apollo Crews in 9:34. This was a step above most pre-show matches. For actual wrestling itself, this was one of the better matches on the show but positioning it as pre-show hurts people reacting to it. There were nice leap frogs early. Kalisto did a springboard 450 bodyblock to the floor and a crossbody off the middle rope to the floor into a kick by Crews. They went to near falls. Titus O’Neil was at ringside as the coach of Crews and was yelling at him. The action was so good that the crowd got into it. After Crews failed to get the pin with a standing shooting star, O’Neil started yelling at him. They argued, and Kalisto got up, kicked off O’Neil to do the Salida del Sol and get the pin. ***1/4

2. The Miz pinned Dean Ambrose in 20:01 to win the IC title. Booker T got nailed with the pyro during the open. The early part of the match was psychological and the story was that Miz kept trying to get Ambrose DQ’d. Ref John Cone kept threatening the DQ. Ambrose hit a tope. Miz grabbed a chair, but Ambrose took it away from him. Cone saw it and threatened the DQ. Miz used a DDT on the apron and ripped his nose. The crows was reasonably into this. Ambrose did an elbow off the top rope to the floor. There were dueling chants with the women for Ambrose and the guys for Miz. Ambrose jumped off the top rope and started selling his left knee. Miz worked on it with a figure four. There were more dueling chants, louder for Ambrose. Miz undid the padding on the turnbuckle. Ambrose was about to ram Miz into it but the ref threatened him with a DQ so he stopped. Miz then hit the Busaiku knee, the old KENTA finisher that Daniel Bryan brought to WWE that Miz uses since he copies Bryan’s moves. Miz did the kicks and there were loud “Yes” chants for Miz. Ambrose came back with the figure four and there was a good tease before Miz made the ropes. Both ended up selling their knee. Miz then told Maryse to slap him. She did and Miz told the ref to DQ Ambrose for the interference. Cone instead kicked out Maryse. While Cone and Maryse were arguing, Ambrose had Miz pinned with a rolling reverse cradle. But no ref. Miz then kicked Ambrose low and threw Ambrose into Cone, who had his back turned. Cone got out of the ring to tell the timekeeper to ring the bell for the DQ. Ambrose was pleading for him not to. With Ambrose distracted again, Miz hit the Skull Crushing finale for the pin. ***1/4

3. Rich Swann & Sasha Banks beat Noam Dar & Alicia Fox in 6:17. Swann did his standing jump to the top Frankensteiner on Dar. Dar & Fox would tag each other in by hugging each other. Banks got the bank statement on Fox and Dar pulled her foot on the ropes. Swann did a cool looking huracanrana and ax kick for a near fall. They did the yay/boo spot, which in one of the recent rules for wrestlers, is banned for anyone not named John Cena. The women fought and rolled out of the ring. Banks came off the top rope onto Dar on the floor with double knees and then Swann pinned Dar with the Phoenix splash. **½

4. Alexa Bliss pinned Bayley in a kendo stick on a pole match to retain the women’s title in 5:07. Both were climbing. Bayley got the stick first but hesitated as Bliss begged off. Bliss knocked her down and hit her with several shots with the stick, including to the neck. Bayley came back with the belly-to-belly and went to get the stick, but Bliss shoved Bayley’s head into the stick in the corner. Bliss used a few more shots with the stick and pinned Bayley after a DDT. This match was a psychological disaster and a joke of a championship match. This was a worst match of the year candidate. DUD

5. Sheamus & Cesaro beat Matt & Jeff Hardy in a cage match top win the tag titles in 14:55. For moves, this was good. But the logic issues killed it. The rules weren’t explained, but both members of a team had to climb out of the cage to win. The problem with that is that it makes the most sense to let someone get out of the cage, then you have the two on one, then beat them down and escape together. So nobody should leave the cage on their own. And both teams should have let one person escape. And once that’s the situation, the whole match is ridiculous. Jeff did the poetry in motion on both. Cesaro came off the top rope with an elbow on Matt. Everyone was climbing. Cesaro had an armbar on Jeff to keep him from escaping the cage, but Jeff broke it and escaped. This left Matt alone with both. First he hit the side effect on both. He tried to climb. Matt was at the top with Cesaro trying to pull him back and Jeff trying to pull him out. Cesaro head-butted Jeff and dragged Matt back in. Sheamus & Cesaro laid out Matt with a double Razor’s edge. Cesaro tried to escape but Jeff slammed the cage door on him. Sheamus then gave Jeff a Brogue kick knocking him off the apron. Sheamus tried to escape but Matt blocked him from leaving. That made no sense because if he let him escape it’s a 50-50 match rather than a 2-on-1 match. Sheamus used white noise off the top rope on Matt. At this point Jeff climbed back in and did a whisper in the wind off the top of the age on both of them. The crowd was going nuts for that spot. So Jeff hit the move, but it was Sheamus & Cesaro who got up and started climbing out together while Matt tried to drag Jeff out the door. Shouldn’t Jeff have missed the move if that was the story? Sheamus & Cesaro hit the floor before Matt could drag Jeff, who in theory had already escaped and Matt his the floor first meaning they both hit the floor first. ***1/4

6. Neville beat Austin Aries in 17:24 to retain the cruiserweight title in a submission match. Aries had kiniseo tape around his neck, which wasn’t a good sign. He also didn’t look in his best shape physically, as in slightly off, although his work was great. As far as the wrestling went, this was the second best match on the show, and really basic wrestling, the best. But the minute they tape up the ropes, it’s like a signal to the crowd that the next match isn’t worth watching. I’m not sure what the answer is but until they find one, it’s a shame how these great performers keep not getting over. Aries came off the top rope with the sledge to the floor and started selling the left knee. Neville worked over the knee. Aries came back. Neville started working over the arm. Neville came off the top rope but Aries caught him with a power bomb. Aries used the figure four but Neville made the ropes. Aries missed the missile dropkick and Neville put on the Rings of Saturn in the middle. Aries got to the ropes. It was notable that the crowd booed that rather than cheered it. Neville tried the Rings of Saturn but Aries reversed it into the last chancery. So Neville grabbed the ref and was about to throw him, so he’d get DQ’d and save the title, so Aries let him go out of the move. The match was pretty much dead to the crowd, but that spot was ridiculous. Aries got a guillotine but Neville made the ropes. Aries got the last chancery in the ring but Neville made the ropes. Aries got the last chancery on the floor and Neville was tapping like crazy, but it didn’t count because it was out of bounds. Aries hit the discus fivearm but then missed his low tope and crashed on the floor. Neville used the red arrow to the back and put on the Rings of Saturn and Aries tapped out. After the match, they showed Aries with a big smile on his face. The impression you’d get is this loss is a catalyst to a heel turn. ***1/4

7. Samoa Joe won the five-way over Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns in 29:05. All four started fighting except Reigns, who just stood there to get booed like crazy. Rollins early on was the clear crowd favorite as he got a bigger reaction than Balor. Wyatt & Joe worked together for several minutes until they started going at it. Rollins hit a tope on Joe. Balor followed with a running flip dive on everyone. There was a lot of brawling on the floor eliciting “We Want Tables” chants. Joe & Wyatt used the steps to take out the other three, and Reigns in particular. Wyatt gave Rollins a DDT on the steps. Balor got out of Joe’s choke and hit him with a double foot stomp, but Wyatt hit Balor with a chair to the back and Joe did a senton onto the chair that was on top of Balor. Wyatt also hit a senton on a chair on him. Reigns at this point came back with the drive by on Wyatt. Reigns kicked Joe in the face but Wyatt gave Reigns a uranage on the table. Fans chanted “One more time.” Rollins hit a plancha on Joe. Rollins did a springboard clothesline on Wyatt for a near fall. Rollins also did a double blockbuster on them. Rollins used a tope on Joe, and went for one on Wyatt. Wyatt then shoved Joe into the path of the Rollins tope. Rollins did a springboard but in coming off, was caught with Sister Abigail. Wyatt had him pinned but Joe broke it up and got mad at Wyatt for shoving him into the path of the tope. Joe and Wyatt finally went at it. Wyatt went for Sister Abigail, but Joe reversed it into the choke but Balor broke it up with chair shots on both of them. Balor did a double foot stomp onto a chair on Wyatt. Balor did a sliding kick on Reigns and a soccer kick on Reigns. He gave Wyatt a running dropkick knocking Wyatt into the barricade and followed with a dropkick to Joe. Balor teased doing something to Wyatt who was on the table, but Joe got behind him with a choke. Reigns speared Balor and Joe through the barricade. Rollins then jumped off the top rope onto Wyatt, putting him through the table. Rollins was selling his right knee. Reigns was bleeding from the mouth and the cheek. Reigns and Rollins were in the ring together and they’d largely been kept apart until this point. Reigns hit a Superman punch for a near fall, but Rollins side stepped the spear. Rollins hit a superkick and frog splash on Reigns, but Reigns kicked out. The match finally ended with Reigns hitting a Superman punch on Balor, but Balor came back with a sling blade and a John Woo Suwa dropkick on him. Balor went to the top and hit the coup de grace on Reigns. Joe then pulled Balor off Reigns and put him in the choke for the win. Everyone looked great here. ****½

The aging of the television audience is the subject of a cover story in the latest issue of the Sports Business Journal.

The decline in interest in major sports among younger people has been a significant trend and I’ve seen it throughout this generation with my son and his friends, who have far less interest in sports in general (that changes to an extent when a local team has a chance to win the championship in baseball, football, hockey or basketball) than when I was growing up. It could be because sports were so limited on television that any sport on TV was a big deal. And the reality is most sports attendance are stronger and the fan base across the board is mostly far more affluent at live events than before due to the higher ticket prices.

But the aging of the sports audience is notable. Some of it coincides with the aging of television and all the changes that everyone talks about. In 2000, half of the U.S. was under 35 and half was older, making that the median age. People living longer has changed that to 38 years old today. But older people watch far more television. Over the last ten years, the median CBS viewer went from 53 to 61, NBC from 49 to 57, ABC from 46 to 55 and FOX from 40 to 51.

Every sport has aged in audience during that same period with the exception of Women’s Tennis, which skewed old, to begin with.

In following the trends for both pro wrestling and MMA, what we’ve seen is that there is a starting point, with pro wrestling that was a lot of new fans were made from 1997 to 2000, the Steve Austin, Dwayne Johnson, Bill Goldberg/NWO era. Those 20-year-olds are now 37 to 40. Of the audience that is still around, it’s heavily skewed to those people, as opposed to more new 20-year-olds. What’s notable about today’s wrestling is that they do bring their kids to the family-friendly shows, and there are kids who follow it, but they are minuscule compared to the past.

There is the feeling with WWE that it’s kids talking their parents into coming, which is what it was in the 80s and 90s. Now, it is more likely to be parents who like wrestling taking their kids, who aren’t watching it on television. It is possible that the difference in the under 18 audience is partially offset by watching in different forms, but not to the degree that would be necessary.

The story listed that the average television viewer of pro wrestling in 2000 was 28 years old (at the time that was 24 for WWF and 35 for WCW and ECW also would have skewed the numbers), in 2006 it moved to 33 (presumably WWE and Impact) and in 2016 was 54 (presumably WWE, Impact, ROH and Lucha Underground, since New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS isn’t rated by Neilsen). Getting exactly what this means is tricky. But seeing demos weekly this year and having access to median viewer ages of shows as late as last year, that 54 is not possible.

I’m not sure how that is figured because Raw was still skewing early 40s two years ago and Smackdown was a little older with mid-to-late 40s. If they use the average of Raw, Smackdown, Impact and Lucha Underground, ROH and don’t factor in total audience in getting that number, perhaps they can hit 54, since Lucha Underground and Impact draw such an older skewing audience (even then, as of last year, those two shows were mostly between 49 to 56 years old as the median age of the viewer). We don’t know the ROH audience breakdown but given it’s the only show in syndication and in many markets airs late on Friday and Saturday nights, it likely skews older as well. This also doesn’t include Total Divas which actually skews much younger and more female than any pro wrestling television show. In theory, if you figure Raw at 3 million viewers, Smackdown at 2.5 million, Impact at 300,000, Lucha Underground at 150,000 and ROH at 400,000, the smaller groups that do skew older shouldn’t have enough audience to change the average composition that much from the WWE number. So there are some issues with this.

However, as a general rule, the pro wrestling audience appears to e growing older far faster than the networks, or any other sport.

But even so, the basic case is that the 24-year-old WWF fan is 41 now, and those are the people who are still left watching the weekly shows and it’s the older ones sticking with it more than the younger ones. Even if you factor in things like Hulu and YouTube, there are two key points and that is the median age of a viewer had increased by a year every single year since 2000, long before these new factors. It’s possible that the huge change in the last two years involves outside factors, but not the consistent 17 year change nor the kids drop that was already gigantic by 2006 and even worse by 2010, and continue to get worse.

When it comes to Raw and Smackdown, when there is something newsworthy, such as a big angle or a return or something major promoted, the 35-49 age group will be the largest, but if not, and on a consistent basis, the largest group watching Raw and Smackdown are over the age of 50.

Figure skating, for example, went from a median viewer being 54 in 2000 to 64 in 2016. Horse Racing went from 51 to 63. Tennis went from 51 to 61. Baseball went from 52 to 57. The Olympics went from 45 to 53. College Football went from 47 to 52. College men’s basketball went from 44 to 52. The NFL went from 44 to 50. The NHL went from 33 to 49 (where the NHL does well is that its viewers are by and large very affluent) . Boxing went from 45 to 49. However, the NBA went from 40 to 42 while the WNBA went from 42 to 55. The only sport skewing younger over the period from 2000 to 2017 was women’s tennis, where the median viewer age went from 58 to 56.

Pro wrestling used to be strong with kids. During the Attitude era, about 37 to 39 percent of the WWF television audience was 17 or younger. This study, which in 2000 would also include WCW, which didn’t do nearly as well with kids, listed the 2-17 TV audience of pro wrestling as 31 percent in 2000, a number that would make sense for WWF and WCW combined, 26 percent in 2006 and only nine percent in 2016. That nine percent seems low (I have a feeling other companies skew that) , but even at 15 percent of 3 million Raw viewers as compared to 37 percent of 6.5 million Raw viewers, you are talking about a viewer drop from 2,405,000 under 18s to 450,000, and please don’t talk about cord cutting because in 2000 there were only 78 million homes that got USA as compared to just under 92 million now.

You can talk about excuses, such as kids watching clips elsewhere on YouTube or whatever, but the problem with that is the decline from 26 percent to nine percent from 2006 to 2016 is unlike anything in any other sport, which also has social media, YouTube, etc. And if WWE promoting social media harder than the other organizations has led to this, then that’s an even more interesting issue in the sense if that was part of the reason, they would be causing their most valuable revenue stream to decline in place of a revenue stream that brings in little money in one case and costs them money in the other.

Also keep in mind our comparison point is 2016, not 2017, because the ratings took another significant hit this year.

Most sports declined over the same period, but not to anywhere near the same extent. The NHL went from 13 percent to 8 percent, UFC from 12 percent to 9 percent, NBA from14 percent to 11 percent, College basketball from 11 percent to 9 percent, Baseball from 9 percent to 7 percent, Boxing gained from 9 percent to 10 percent and the NFL from 9 percent to 8 percent.

But the idea that the same percentage of kids are watching pro wrestling and MMA doesn’t make sense, unless they are overly skewing in the non-WWE programs and those are hurting the average. The idea boxing is now skewing younger than pro wrestling and has a higher percentage of viewers under 18 is hard to believe.

But in figures that we do get weekly, in the last year, the decline in teenage viewing of WWE has been substantially more than any other age group.

That no other television sport has come close to the aging out as the pro wrestling audience, which is shocking since the perception would be that boxing and Horse Racing would be the worst, and pro wrestling would be the least. And now boxing seems to have a younger median audience than pro wrestling.

UFC had no television in 2000. But in 2006, its second year where it had television, the average viewer was 34 years old and ten years later, it’s listed as 49, which is also a big difference in a relatively short period of time. The UFC viewership, like the WWE viewership, based on numbers we had gotten until a year or two ago were aging about one a year, once again the idea being that the big audience starting point was 2005 and instead of gaining younger viewers, they are more maintaining that audience. But that’s a 12 year difference and not 15, and UFC’s TV demos have been strongest in 35-49, and not 50+.

Nevertheless, no sport, as far as percentage of viewers being under the age of 18, was close to pro wrestling in 2000. At that time, and because of that, the perception was that wrestling would grow because those people would grow to adulthood while baseball, with only nine percent under 18, would falter going forward. Baseball attendance remains huge and while daily games don’t do as well on television, there are far more games with all the sports networks and this past World Series was gigantic. WWE live attendance has fallen from more than a 12,000 per event average to less than 6,000 during that same period.

With the worldwide boom in quality lighter weight wrestlers, this year’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament looked to have potential to be the best one ever.

Between the ridiculously loaded A block, and a solid B block, the tournament largely lived up to that. Not every match was great, but most were good, and almost all the dream matches lived up to, and some exceeded expectations.

It came down to 24-year-old Will Ospreay trying to become only the second repeat winner (Tiger Mask won in 2004 and 2005), and 34-year-old Kushida doing his comeback storyline. Kushida had suffered a number of losses, including the loss in 1:56 to IWGP jr. champion Hiromu Takahashi on 4/9 at the Sakura Genesis show. Then, after winning the ROH TV title from Marty Scurll, the simple story was that he developed a new finisher, the small package power bomb called Back to the Future. Then he had the Cleveland Cavaliers opening, being down 3-1 in the best of seven, so to speak, before pulling out his block win and then beating A block winner Ospreay in what may have been the greatest match in the history of the tournament that dates back to 1988.

Kushida scored the pin in 27:59 with the Back to the Future before a sellout crowd of 3,454 fans at the smaller Yoyogi Gym in Tokyo. The match featured great wrestling, tremendous selling and body part working and blow away moves to make it probably one of the top four matches so far in this amazing year.

Adding to the match from an atmosphere standpoint is that watching it at ringside kneeling around the ring were Dragon Lee, Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi, Ricochet and Volador Jr. They kept the heels away so had no interference. Jushin Liger was also at ringside doing commentary. After Kushida and Ospreay hugged after the match. They presented Kushida with the trophy and Kushida told all the wrestlers at ringside to get in the ring, and thanked them. He then told Liger to get in the ring. Liger wrestled his final Best of the Super Juniors match of his career a few days earlier. He was the most over wrestler in every city except on the final night. He then addressed the different guys in the tournament, led the crowd in a big wave and they had a confetti celebration and trophy presentation that gave the feeling you just saw something noteworthy, which, in fact, you just did.

Whether this was the best Super Juniors tournament in history is tough to say. In other years, only a few of the matches were taped for television and many aired edited. In the early and mid-90s, the talent that was in the tournament was unbelievable. There were a higher percentage of great wrestlers in other years but there were no years with as many off-the-charts matches and the final was as good or better than any in history. That generation physically pushed the envelope as to what was the standard of the time, but this generation takes it much farther.

There is a scary negative about the lengths some of these men went to have these kinds of matches. Ospreay has had a ridiculous past few weeks, with six four-star matches starting with the match with Jay White on the ROH PPV show. It’s an unreal pace, but a worrisome pace as well. The problem is setting a standard so high that expectations are at a certain level. The thing is, if you take the riskiest spots out, you would still have had one of the best matches of the year. Perhaps it wouldn’t be as memorable. As much as I wish he wouldn’t do it, the prevailing memory of most of the biggest matches on the biggest shows, Shane McMahon’s leaps, Michael Elgin’s power bomb of Tetsuya Naito into the guard rail, Kenny Omega’s top rope dragon superplex on Kazuchika Okada, and the worst of all, the head-butt that may have ended Katsuyori Shibata’s career are also some of the most dangerous.

Plus, these days matches we’d have raved about for weeks even ten years ago are forgotten in days because another one comes along.

In the finals, the two craziest spots were taken by Kushida, with a reverse huracanrana on the ring apron where he landed on his head where the ring has almost no give, as well as taking a number of kicks to the face when he was trapped in the corner. While the kicks made a great sound, they weren’t so hard that there were any bruises, but in this day and age, anything that leads to excessive trauma to the head and neck is worrisome. Like with the dragon suplex off the top rope in the Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada match, the match would have been just as off the charts without those spots.

The win means that the third Takahashi vs. Kushida IWGP title match of the year is part of the 6/11 Dominion show at Osaka Jo Hall, which, based on the lineup, looks to be the company’s second-biggest show of the year. The show features four rematches from Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome, which was an incredible show. This was also the fastest Osaka Jo Hall sellout for New Japan Pro Wrestling in history and will set the company’s Osaka indoor gate record.

The show will start at about 2:40 a.m. Eastern time late Saturday/early Sunday, with a show starting off with two six-man tag matches, with David Finlay & Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi & Katsuya Kitamura & Hirai Kawato and Tiger Mask W (Kota Ibushi) & Tiger Mask & Togi Makabe & Yuji Nagata vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Jushin Liger & Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan.

Next will be a gauntlet series of matches for the Never trios title. The match order won’t be announced, but champions Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi will be in the series, probably seeded last as champions, with Team Taguchi of Ricochet & Juice Robinson & Taguchi, Team Chaos of Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi, the Bullet Club team of Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi & Hangman Page, and the Suzuki-gun team of Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru.

From there, in order, it’s Rocky Romero & Baretta defending the IWGP jr. tag titles against The Young Bucks, the team they won it from at the Tokyo Dome; War Machine defends the IWGP tag team titles against Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa, Michael Elgin vs. Cody (the winner of this match will probably challenge for either the IWGP or IC title very soon), Takahashi vs. Kushida for the jr. title (a rematch from the Tokyo Dome show where Takahashi beat Kushida to win the title), Minoru Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto for the Never title I a lumberjack death match, Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IC title (a rematch from the Tokyo Dome where Naito retained the title) and Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega for the IWGP heavyweight title (a rematch from the Tokyo Dome match won by Okada).

The second Okada vs. Omega match is notable because of all the talk around the world that the first match brought. It will be interesting if they have a big one-day New Japan World sign-up both in and out of Japan like they did around the first match. But really, most of the sign-ups were to see the Tokyo Dome show, and not after the show because of all the social media talk regarding the match. Because of the quality of the first match, and the changing fan base and social media, there is a pressure on Omega and Okada to live up to that first match.

Omega has said that he’s not going to try and top it, and that the goal is to do a different match, and tell a story to build a scheduled third match which, no matter the outcome, is going to happen at some point. Still, this is a time where almost no matter how great this match is, it’s going to be hard to live up to the hype. With legendary series’ of the past like Jack Brisco vs. Dory Funk Jr., Lou Thesz vs. Pat O’Connor or Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat, in the former two, it was never about match quality. The match quality was there but they were selling who would win a classic match between the two best wrestlers in the world battling for the “real” world title.

With Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat, it was two guys who worked together and the fan base had changed to where match quality was talked about. The two did deliver five or more different match of the year contenders in 1989 in a short period of time, including two on the same day in Philadelphia and Landover, MD. People were expecting a great match but it wasn’t like if they did a ****½ match, people would say it wasn’t as good as their other match, because that wasn’t the mentality.

Similarly, for Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada and Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi, they both had multiple fantastic matches over many years, and had ridiculous pride and drive and would do everything they could to equal and try and top what they did before. People were expecting great matches from them, but it’s still a very different dynamic from here.

The closest I can come to this would have been the second WrestleMania match with Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels. The first was so great and in the second, deep down everyone knew the outcome and that it was Michaels’ last match, and since Michaels was all about having the best match at WrestleMania, I did sense pressure on them to at least come close to their first match like would be on Omega vs. Okada.

Because Okada has been champion for a year and has had the unreal run since October with Naomichi Marufuji, Omega, Minoru Suzuki, Tiger Mask W and Katsuyori Shibata, every one of which was a match of the year contender, there is significance in this title reign. No Canadian has ever won the IWGP title and only a few North Americans have. He would also become only the second person to have held both the IWGP jr. heavyweight title (which he held twice) and the heavyweight title, after Nobuhiko Takada. Tatsumi Fujinami held the WWF jr. heavyweight title, which was the predecessor to the IWGP jr. title, as well as the NWA International jr. title, prior to his six runs as IWGP heavyweight champion.

Given the nature of pro wrestling and it’s the brand and not the person in most cases, it’s very uncommon where the winning of a title would be so significant. Omega does represent the ability to be the face of an international expansion of New Japan into new markets, but also represents a negative to that growth if he gets over huge and then doesn’t stay. New Japan did not just survive, but after a rough spell, is back thriving after the major losses of 18 months ago. Shinsuke Nakamura did appear to be a huge loss and A.J. Styles a very significant loss, but the ascension of Tetsuya Naito and Omega, as well as Okada becoming so much of a bigger star alleviated that. Granted, nobody really understood there was an Omega in the wings when Styles left. But the point is, as a match result goes, this is a huge decision.

This would be the one-year anniversary of Okada’s winning the title, as he defeated Naito at last year’s Dominion show in the same building on 6/19. Even though Okada is only 29, his 1,147 days over his career as IWGP champion as of 6/7, is in third place all-time to Tanahashi at 1,358 and Keiji Muto at 1,238.

In the parity booked B block, where all eight wrestlers were 3-3 going into the final show, Kushida defeated Volador Jr. and advanced to the finals based on the tie-breaker criteria.

The B show final on 6/1 in Nagoya wasn’t nearly the level of the A block finals. The Nagoya crowd is usually tougher than Osaka, and the A block was also far more talented.

Even though everyone was eligible and it was a must-win across the board, Kushida vs. Volador Jr. was the only match that had the level of intensity you’d want from a must-win last day. Even so, they did an Arena Mexico main event style match except maybe with fewer dives as less acrobatics as opposed to Japan style.

In the end, with everyone eligible, it made following it confusing and since Volador had lost to Kanemaru, Taguchi and Bushi, while Kushida had beaten all of them, Volador was mathematically eliminated before the match started. Most fans were likely not aware of that since it wasn’t spelled out in the arena. Had Volador won, Bushi would have advanced as he had beaten Kanemaru, Taguchi and Volador in round-robin play.

Gedo’s booking wound up with all eight guys at 3-3, meaning that there were a ridiculous amount of possibilities of who would go over. When Kushida and Volador Jr. were announced as the main event, Kushida certainly was the favorite and he was the best wrestler in the group to begin with.

With wins by Kanemaru, Taguchi, Bushi and Kushida, in the battle of who had the best record among those four against each other, Kanemaru was 0-3, Taguchi was 1-2, Bushi was 2-1 and Kushida was 3-0.

This was Kushida’s second tournament win, having won in 2015. He joins Liger (1992, 1994, 2001), Chris Benoit (1993, 1995), Koji Kanemoto (1998, 2002, 2009), Tiger Mask (2004, 2005) and Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) (2010, 2013) as multiple-time winners.

As far as those setting themselves up for title shots between now and the end of the year, champion Takahashi lost in the tournament to Dragon Lee, Ricochet and Ospreay. Kushida lost to ACH, Desperado and Tiger Mask. Ospreay may be getting a shot soon since Takahashi specifically said that he would rather defend against Ospreay (who beat him and was the most impressive guy in the tournament) than Kushida (who he beat twice).

Overall tournament business was up seven percent from last year, even with Kazuchika Okada only working the last few shows and Hiroshi Tanahashi off the entire tour due to a torn biceps.

BEST OF SUPER JUNIORS SCORECARD (based on star ratings)


Wrestler 3-3.75 4+ Average
3 0 2.46
6 1 3.46
Ricochet 2 3 3.57
Taichi 2 1 2.71
2 3 3.50
2 5 4.03
5 2 3.69
2 4 3.79
5 2 3.50
4 0 3.04
ACH 5 1 3.25
Bushi 4 1 3.36
Desperado 5 0 3.07
Kushida 3 4 3.97
5 1 3.29
5 0 3.11


Ospreay gets both the best performer on average and most outstanding for having the most four-star matches. Three wrestlers, Liger, Lee and Volador Jr., had nothing but good matches. It was notable in the case of Lee and Volador, because in years past, the Mexican wrestlers because of style differences, would have great matches and messed up matches depending upon the opponent. The world has trained and styles are melding and Lee and Volador and their opponents really showed the old worrying about style clashes when you put great talent from different countries against each other is, at least with this level of talent, a thing of the past. Liger also wins the award for getting the best match out of Taichi.,

The tournament’s best matches were Kushida vs. Ospreay, Ricochet vs. Ospreay, Kushida vs. Taguchi, Ospreay vs. Takahashi and Kushida vs. Bushi.

Both Dominion and the show with the final angles building to the card, on 6/9 at Korakuen Hall starting at 5:30 a.m. Eastern on Friday morning, will be broadcast in English and Japanese on New Japan World.

The Korakuen Hall show has Umino & Yagi vs. Desperado & Taka Michinoku, Makabe & Nagata & Tiger Mask & Kawato & Oka vs. Kojima & Tenzan & Nakanishi & Liger & Kitamura, Ishii & Gedo vs. Page & Yujiro Takahashi, Elgin & Finlay & War Machine vs. Cody & Fale & Tonga & Roa, Goto & Yano & Yoshi-Hashi & Jado vs. Suzuki & Taichi & Kanemaru & Sabre Jr., Tanahashi & Taguchi & Robinson & Ricochet & Kushida vs. Naito & Evil & Sanada & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi, and headlined by Okada & Romero & Baretta vs. Omega & Young Bucks.

Dominion will be the last major show before Long Beach and the G-1 Climax tournament. It is expected that the Long Beach lineup and G-1 lineups will be announced next week. The G-1 lineups and A and B blocks are expected to be announced during intermission in Osaka, with the entire tournament lineup announced soon after. The biggest matches in Long Beach are expected to be title defenses by the winners of the IWGP, IC, IWGP heavyweight tag and IWGP jr. tag matches as well as a two-night tournament to create the U.S. title. They should be announced at a press conference a day or two after Dominion.

There will be a Lions Gate show on 6/15 on New Japan World at 6 a.m. Eastern. There will be a short tour, from 6/18 to 6/27, which will have three live shows from Korakuen Hall, all at 5:30 a.m. Eastern, on 6/20, 6/26 and 6/27.





1. Yoshinobu Kanemaru beat Desperado via count out in 9:39. This was the battle of Suzuki-gun. So they split up, with Taka Michinoku in Desperado’s corner and Taichi in Kanemaru’s corner. Desperado wanted to do a dive but Taichi tripped him. Kanemaru threw Desperado through three rows of ringside chairs. Taichi went to spit beer in Desperado’s face, but he ducked and it went in Kanemaru’s face and Desperado followed with a spear for a near fall. Desperado did a tope con giro. Desperado then went wild hitting Michinoku, Taichi and Kanemaru with chair shots. Kanemaru used a reverse DDT on the floor. The finish saw the usual double count out tease that they do constantly and yet always gets over to the fans even though nobody is ever counted out. So this was the education match. Kanemaru threw Michinoku into Desperado, knocking him down. Kanemaru jumped in to beat the 20 count and won. It was good that they did the count out finish. **1/4

2. Ryusuke Taguchi pinned ACH in 13:41. The story from the start was about working on each other’s asses since it started with the story of who had the harder ass. Taguchi would kick ACH’s ass and ACH would do moves like reverse atomic drops no Taguchi. ACH did a series of three topes. The third one did get the biggest reaction. Later ACH went for another tope but Taguchi kicked him in the head as he was coming through the ropes. ACH once again did the jumping from the mat to the top rope and then delivering a superplex spot. They traded cradles back-and-forth until Taguchi on a triple reversal, got a three count. ***

3. Bushi pinned Tiger Mask in 12:05. Tiger Mask hit a tombstone piledriver right away. He also did an armdrag off the top rope and a Tiger driver for a near fall, as well as a double-arm superplex off the top rope. Tiger went for the Tiger suplex, but Bushi kicked his knee and shoved Tiger into the referee. Bushi used a codebreaker with a chair assistance. Tiger kicked out of that, but Bushi then came off the top rope with a codebreaker, his MX finisher, and got the pin. **3/4

4. Kushida pinned Volador Jr. in 15:44. They did some cool spots early and told a story of each trying to outdo the other. Volador did a running flip dive over the top. Kushida did a springboard dropkick and a running flip dive over the top. Kushida got a near fall with a moonsault. Volador did a unique version of the back stabber where he balanced on Kushida’s back and then did the move. Volador went for a springboard crossbody, but Kushida caught him with an armbar. Volador did a really well set up spot into an Asai moonsault. Kushida barely beat the 20 count. Kushida did a top rope Super Frankensteiner, and Volador a few minutes later did the same move. Then there were a sequence where Volador came off the top, but Kushida armbarred him again, Volador escaped into a la magistral cradle for a near fall, then tried a second one but Kushida blocked it, an then Volador reversed that into a front rolling cradle for a near fall. Kushida did La Mistica, then went for the hoverboard lock and won with the back to the future. The small negative is that the finish didn’t pop the crowd as it wasn’t at the peak time and people weren’t ready for it. Will Ospreay then came out and offered his congratulations and said he was very happy Kushida won because he wrestled Kushida twice last year and lost both times, while Kushida wrestled Takahashi twice this year and lost both times, the second time in less than 5:00, so both have something to prove. He said he wants Kushida to bring his best because his best won’t be good enough and he’ll be back-to-back winner. Kushida spoke some Japanese, and some English, and said “Let’s go crazy.” ****1/4


JUNE 3 - TOKYO YOYOGI GYM - 3,454 sellout

This was a strong card with a hot sellout crowd. The show was all about the main event, but almost everyone had their working shoes on and with added heat and being a better show, the multiple person matches generally were a step up from the rest of the tour.

1. Yuji Nagata & Tomoyuki Oka & Shota Umino beat Manabu Nakanishi & Katsuya Kitamura & Tetsuhiro Yagi in 7:59. Kitamura and Oka did power spots and hard chops with each other. Umino is amazingly good for only wrestling for a few weeks and I expect he and Kawato to end up as the best workers of the new group (along with the injured Teruaki Kanemitsu). There was a double torture rack spot with Nakanishi on Nagata and Kitamura on Oka (people are already talking like Kitamura vs. Oka will be one of the top New Japan programs seven years down the line). Yagi has a nice dropkick. Oka won via submission with a Boston crab on Yagi. **½

2. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano & Jado beat Togi Makabe & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hirai Kawato in 7:24. This match was all about Kawato. He sold strong early. The crowd got behind his comeback. He especially looked good in with Ishii. Kawato actually kicked out of Ishii’s brainbuster, but Ishii then nailed him with a lariat for the pin. Ishii left the ring after winning rather than celebrating with his partners. ***1/4

3. Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask & Volador Jr. beat Taka Michinoku & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Desperado in 5:46. Fans were into this one big from the start. Volador and Desperado opened to a big reaction for their spots. Liger got a big reaction and ended up selling after Kanemaru threw his shoudler into the post. Volador worked most of the match with his mask on. Volador pinned Michinoku with a top rope belly-to-belly that was supposed to be a Spanish fly off the top. **3/4

4. Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa & Yujiro Takahashi beat Ray Rowe & Hanson & David Finlay in 10:06. Takahashi came out with two women, Pieter and a woman called Tokyo Latina. Tonga at one point took a camera from a fan and started shooting photos with it. Hanson did his takeoff on the Rocky Romero forever clothesline spot. ACH was dropkicking everyone and did a tope on Fale and crashed into the barricade. Hanson did a flip plancha on Tonga and Roa, and then in the ring, Takahashi pinned Finlay with a DDT. War Machine is one of the best tag teams in the business and Finlay is great, and just has to bide his time because he’ll be a real star here at some point. ***½

5. Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi beat Minoru Suzuki & Taichi in 12:13. Taichi didn’t have Miho Abe with him as there’s no fooling around during a Suzuki match designed to promote a big singles match. This was all about heating up Goto vs. Suzuki for their Lumberjack match. Kanemaru and Desperado were interfering and killing Yoshi-Hashi while Suzuki hit Goto in the back with a chair. Taichi hit Yoshi-Hashi with the ring bell hammer. Don Callis had the line of the night when Yoshi-Hashi was firing punches at Suzuki saying, “Hitting him in the face is like foreplay.” There’s something about Suzuki that brings out the best in the American announcers, because Callis and Jim Ross are always at their best when calling a Suzuki match. As far as being an all-around performer with the facials and being able to get you into a match, Suzuki was like an all-time great here. Maybe he just is an all-time great to begin with. Goto and Suzuki went at it and a Suzuki elbow popped the crowd. Desperado hit Yoshi-Hashi with a chair but he kicked out of Taichi’s pin. Then we had a ref bump as Marty Asami got knocked down. Desperado, Kanemaru and Suzuki were beating on Gogo & Yoshi-Hashi. Suzuki threw Goto into the front row. Kanemaru drank from the whiskey bottle and went to blow it in Yoshi-Hashi’s face, but Yoshi-Hashi ducked and it went into Taichi’s face. Yoshi-Hashi then pinned Taichi with Karma. After the match, Goto cleaned house on Suzuki, Desperado and Kanemaru. Before leaving, Suzuki grabbed a chair and hit Umino with four chair shots and punched Yagi in the jaw and knocked him out. ***½

6. Tetsuya Naito & Seiya Sanada & Evil & Bushi & Hiromu Takahashi beat Satoshi Kojima & Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi & Ricochet & Dragon Lee in 12:19. The face team was out there dancing when Naito’s music played. One of the storylines is how Naito has pretty much destroyed the IC title belt, which is falling apart. They did a publicity deal recently in one of the sports newspapers where Naito tried to pay at a convenience store with the belt. Naito threw the belt at a table where Jushin Liger was sitting. The crowd went crazy when Takahashi tagged in. He’s really become a major star in Japan in a very short period of time. His spots with Lee led to the biggest reactions. Ricochet did a shooting star press off Robinson’s back onto Bushi for a near fall. Sanada did the spot where he tied up Kojima in a knot. They were trading near falls until Naito hit the Destino on Kojima and got the pin. After the match, Hiroshi Tanahashi came to the ring dressed up and he and Naito went back-and-forth on the mic to great reaction. Naito then threw the belt over his shoulder. ****

7. Kenny Omega & Marty Scurll beat Kazuchika Okada & Gedo in 13:04. Okada and Omega basically avoided each others’ big moves. There was a lot of comedy early. Gedo had the Gedo clutch on Scurll and Omega broke it up with a springboard leg drop. When the ref was distracted, Scurll used an umbrella. Omega did a snap dragon suplex on Okada and then Omega & Scurll gave Okada a double superkick. Gedo kicked out of a Scurll piledriver. The finish saw Omega get Okada in the figure four on the floor, while in the ring, Scurll did the broken fingers spot on Gedo and put him in the chicken wing for the submission. ***1/4

8. Kushida beat Will Ospreay in 27:59 to win the Best of the Super Juniors tournament. An incredible match that blended in so many different facets of a great match and used so many different styles. Ospreay did a great step over toe hold escape when they were doing the trading holds early. Ospreay was bleeding from the mouth right away. There were a great series of misses leading to both guys missing a dropkick at the same time. They traded hard elbows with Ospreay getting the better of it, but Kushida used a koppo kick to knock Ospreay out of the ring and did a flip plancha off the top rope to the floor. Kushida started working on both the right arm and the knee. He used the figure four. Because of AXS and New Japan World, there are a lot more American fans who fly over for the big shows, and this week, with this and the Osaka show eight days apart, there were a lot there. You could tell as when Kushida put on the figure four, there was a noticeable “Whoo,” which was an American fan reaction. Ospreay did two running dropkicks into the corner and the Octopus hold, which was a tribute to Katsuyori Shibata. Kushida came back with divorce court off the middle rope. Ospreay did his dropkick to Kushida where he landed on his feet and followed with a step-up enzuigiri. That knocked Kushida out of the ring and Ospreay did a Fosbury Flop dive, followed by a springboard forearm. He missed the Robinson special (the spinning kick he uses just before the Oscutter, named after British wrestler Paul Robinson). Kushida used a Pele kick. Ospreay followed with a standing Spanish fly for a near fall. He went for the sky twister but Kushida got his knees up. Ospreay got out of Back to the Future, but Kushida used a Dragon suplex. He went up for the moonsault but Ospreay got up and dropkicked him. Both were standing on the middle rope when Kushida put on the hoverboard lock. Ospreay hit a shooting star, then a reverse huracanrana on the ring apron, but Kushida managed to get in just before the 20 count. Ospreay followed with the Essex Destroyer, which is a move that ends up as a DDT, for a near fall. That’s a crazy move. Ospreay came off the ropes for his Oscutter, but Kushida caught him in an armbar. He was arching his back while applying it with the idea he’s adding pressure to it. Then Kushida switched to the triangle. Ospreay then broke it with the one arm power bomb into the turnbuckles and broke the triangle. Later, when Kushida came off the top rope, Ospreay hit the RKO with perfect Randy Orton timing, as a tribute to Orton, and then hit the Robinson special. He went for the Oscutter again, but Kushida moved and Ospreay fell on his ass. Kushida hit a handspring diamond cutter. Kushida put on the hoverboard lock but Ospreay punched him in the face to break it. Ospreay delivered a series of Kawada kicks, and Kushida came back with Kawada kicks of his own. Then they traded elbows, leading to Ospreay throwing a punch and Kushida coming back with a punch. In every long Kushida match, he throws exactly one punch, and his timing of when to throw it is impeccable because the crowd always goes crazy. Both were down. Kushida went for the hoverboard lock, and then went for Back to the Future, but Ospreay reversed into a stunner. Ospreay hit the inverted 450 for a near fall. The key is that was the move Ospreay used on Taguchi last year to win the tournament. Ospreay used the helluva kick that Sami Zayn does into the corner, and then tied up Kushida in the corner and threw seven hard kicks to the face. Ospreay went to the top rope again but Kushida pulled him off with the Back to the Future off the ropes and did a second one for the pin. *****

Demetrious Johnson gave a very detailed reaction to Dana White, who on the UFC Unfiltered podcast, had knocked Johnson for not accepting a title fight with T.J. Dillashaw.

Johnson on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, said that he was threatened that if he didn’t agree to defend the title against Dillashaw that UFC would shut down the entire flyweight division.

Johnson claimed he responded negatively.

“I said close the motherf***ing division then,” he said. “Because if somebody is willing to do that, that just shows you that they have no interest whatsoever of working with the champion.”

White said Johnson had turned down the fight, which they wanted for a proposed 8/19 PPV show, likely in Seattle. He noted that the company had offered Johnson PPV points for the fight, and that he couldn’t understand why he’d rather fight Ray Borg. “Tell me, you tell me. It’s insanity,” said White. Then he said, “Unfortunately for DJ, you don’t make the fights around here. I do.”

“I respect the UFC saying, `Hey, we’re gonna close your f***ing division, take T.J. to fight,” said Johnson. “Sounds good. Here’s my stance. Go ahead and f***ing close it. Like I respect them for being honest and straightforward with it. But don’t expect me to be, `Okay, I’ll take the T.J. fight if you’re gonna close my division.’ No, no, no no. that’s not how it works. What have I been doing the last five years in this division? Trying to make it the best division in the world.”

This has been talked about, because flyweight fights haven’t drawn. Johnson had drawn well on FOX, but his last defense did poor numbers and his PPV numbers when he’s on top have hovered barely above 100,000, when almost any other championship fight is going to bottom out at closer to 200,000 buys.

He said throughout his career he feels he’s been a company man, keeping quiet and doing what was asked. But he said UFC’s mistreatment and bullying of him has changed his views.

He said it started when Mick Maynard, the UFC matchmaker who handles the flyweight division, called and offered him Borg. He said he thought Sergio Pettis would be more marketable as an opponent and was on a longer winning streak. Pettis has won three in a row, and five of six, with his biggest win being John Moraga in his last outing, where he looked good. Borg has won two in a row, beating Jussier Formiga and Louis Smolka, who are both higher ranked than Moraga, and also has won five of six.

He said Maynard went to Dana White about his suggestion of Pettis, and White nixed it, and said Borg was the guy, and Pettis wasn’t an option. He was offered PPV points to fight Borg. Now, every contract is different but most PPV points deals come into effect closer to 300,000 buys, but even if it’s 200,000 here, it doesn’t matter because Johnson vs. Borg or Pettis probably won’t hit that. Johnson would be going for Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive title defenses, but that doesn’t appear to be something anyone but the hardcores care about, since when he was going to tie the record with Wilson Reis, it did the second lowest ratings for a FOX special in history.

He agreed to Borg, but felt it wasn’t fair that he was told this was the only show he’d be cut in for PPV points. Johnson said the fight he wanted if he was cut in for points would be Cody Garbrandt, who had talked about cutting to 125 and going after Johnson by that time. Johnson said he agreed to fight Borg but wanted any future title defenses to also have PPV points included. He said Maynard agreed, but then came back to him and changed the deal saying that White and Sean Shelby decided against offering him PPV points going forward and that he had to fight Borg and there was no other alternative. He said he accepted the fight, and felt he would deal with White and Shelby after winning and breaking the record.

But he asked why he wouldn’t be getting PPV points for any future title defenses. He said Shelby called him and said that the division isn’t drawing and UFC can’t make anyone they want a star. When Johnson again asked about Garbrandt, he said Shelby told him that he against Garbrandt wouldn’t be a sellable fight. Johnson argued that if the UFC marketed it hard that it would be. Obviously at the time they were looking at doing Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw, because of the dynamic, and using TUF to promote it, which is a bigger fight to fans because of the grudge match and storyline than Johnson against either.

Johnson claimed UFC hasn’t promoted him appropriately. Obviously they don’t spend the money on his fights that they’d spend on a Jon Jones fight, but there’s a track record reason. But he blamed UFC for not promoting his attempt to tie Silva’s record. He blamed UFC for not marketing the division or his fights compared to other main events.

“I can’t think of any other sports organization in the world that has the best player in the sport where the league, or the organization, doesn’t market that player to their loyal fan base to sell more of their product. Look at my track record for showing up to fights. Look at my track record of finishing fights. Look at my track record of getting fight night bonuses. Ask yourself if you think that if the UFC decided to truly put marketing dollars behind me, that they couldn’t sell me or my fights.”

He said that after he accepted the Borg fight, Garbrandt was injured and Dillashaw wanted to fight him. White told Johnson he wanted that fight and Johnson turned it down, saying that Dillashaw has never fought at flyweight and he thinks he won’t be able to make the weight, and thus it wouldn’t be a title match so he couldn’t get the record. Then he said that UFC told him a fight with him and Garbrandt, the champion, wasn’t sellable and now they’re pushing Dillashaw, who isn’t the champion. He said a fight with Dillashaw gives him no monetary upside. Plus he said that Dillashaw was knocked out by a guy that he beat twice (John Dodson). And he said he had agreed to face Borg, who UFC demanded that he face in the first place.

Okay, the reality is that for UFC, the fight people most wanted to see was Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt, leaving Johnson with Borg. You could argue Pettis was a better contender than Borg for drawing. Borg had beaten better guys. I do think Pettis would draw slightly better, but realistically either fight is doing about the same. Take Garbrandt out, and the Dillashaw fight is the bigger money fight.

He said that White told him he’s fighting Dillashaw and that if he didn’t fight Dillashaw that he would get rid of the entire flyweight division. He said that would be his reaction for not fighting Dillashaw.

Obviously if White actually said that, that’s not a good deal. I would feel bad if they got rid of the division. There are good fighters and good fights all the time in the division, and most of the guys in are too small to be factors at 135. That said, from a business standpoint, the division hasn’t drawn.

Johnson said he’s not taking the fight, that he wants to fight current flyweights, break the record and then after breaking the record, go after the bantamweight title. He said they didn’t come to an agreement and the next day White said that he was going to put Johnson vs. Dillashaw “in an obvious attempt to bully me in the media and tarnish my reputation.” He said that he, after being asked, said that he had not agreed to that fight, and had already agreed to the fight UFC demanded he take at first with Borg.

He said that Maynard then called him trying to get him to agree to face Dillashaw. He said he told Maynard that Dillashaw should fight once at 125 to prove he can make weight and at least get a win in the division. Maynard later called him and guaranteed him that Dillashaw would make weight. He then countered saying if UFC guaranteed Dillashaw would make weight, that if Dillashaw doesn’t make weight that the fight would be off and he would get both his guarantee and Dillashaw’s guarantee. Maynard told him that they’d book Borg on the show and if Dillashaw couldn’t make weight, they’d put him in with Borg so he can still go for the record. Johnson asked if this was a world championship fight or an amateur tournament where you don’t know your opponent until the day of the show?

Of course UFC turned down his request regarding what would happen if Dillashaw didn’t make weight, so he said that their guarantee wasn’t really a guarantee. But then Dillashaw said that he would forfeit his entire purse to Johnson if he failed to make weight, which sounds notable but to get it Johnson would still have to face him in a non-title match and if Dillashaw doesn’t make the fight, he wouldn’t get his purse to forfeit to begin with.

An irony in all this is that Johnson first got his title to begin with by being put in a tournament as a 135 pound fighter dropping to 125 and eventually winning the tournament.

Maynard came back and told him that White and Shelby both said that he has to defend against Dillashaw with none of the stipulations regarding being paid both his and Dillashaw’s guarantees if Dillashaw fails to make weight.

The once-seemingly untouchable Jose Aldo, looking much older than his 30 years, was knocked out in the third round by Max Holloway in what came across like a changing of eras fight in the main event of UFC 212 on 6/3 in Rio de Janeiro.

Aldo had at one point gone undefeated for ten years and was considered for years as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. But he looked like a different fighter than before, even from his last fight when he was too fast for Frankie Edgar for five straight rounds.

Aldo won the first two rounds over the 25-year-old Holloway, who came in as the interim featherweight champion to Aldo’s main featherweight champion after the belt was taken from Conor McGregor.

But in the third round, he was clearly tired and Holloway took control, giving Aldo a beating like he had never taken before. Even though Aldo protested the stoppage, he was given every opportunity to get out of a bad position and alleviate the onslaught and was unable to do so.

Now it’s Holloway, a Hawaiian native, who comes across as the likely future of the division. Holloway’s win was the 11th in a row, since a decision loss four years ago to Conor McGregor. Holloway is clearly a much- improved fighter from the 21-year-old who lost to McGregor because he couldn’t stop his takedowns and lost a decision. Holloway’s winning streak ties Royce Gracie for fifth place in UFC history behind Anderson Silva (16), Jon Jones (13), Georges St-Pierre (12)_ and Demetrious Johnson (12).

The big question in watching the fight was how, even when he was winning, how this was a different Aldo than fought Edgar. For most of Aldo’s career, his key weapon was his low kicks, made famous when he brutalized the legs of Urijah Faber. In this fight, over three rounds, he threw exactly one low kick.

Aldo had won 18 fights in a row before being knocked out in 13 seconds by McGregor on December 12, 2015. Anyone can get caught and there’s also no discounting how good McGregor is. Holloway, like McGregor, also had a reach advantage over Aldo, which was not the case with most of his opponents during this streak. The Edgar fight seemed to indicate Aldo was still top tier, and perhaps the McGregor thing was just one of those things. But there is no questioning what happened here. Aldo got tired in the third round, something he didn’t get in five rounds with Edgar. There was no explanation given of Aldo being sick or anything, but he looked old for the first time when he came out.

Holloway once again pushed after winning for UFC to come to Hawaii. Hawaii, dating back to the fame of B.J. Penn, has been one of UFC’s strongest per capita markets for PPV. Hawaii was one of the first states to have a local promotion that drew consistent live event business, the SuperBrawl group. But as UFC got stronger and there was so much free television product, local MMA stopped drawing. The problem is the only arena in Honolulu that can be used, the Blaisdell Center, holds about 8,000, it’s awfully small. There was an MMA show once at Aloha Stadium, but there’s the risk of rain no matter what the season. Plus when Hawaii regulated MMA, the taxes were ten percent of the gate, which is unusually high. Many years back, when the law was put into place with those high taxes, Dana White mentioned to me that he thought they were passing a law telling them they weren’t wanted, not that they were. But a first show at the stadium with Holloway defending the title, because of the decades of pent-up demand, would probably be a huge spectacle.

Besides Holloway, the big winner on the show was Edgar. Edgar had lost twice to Aldo, but was still pretty clearly one of the top three fighters in the weight class. While Holloway vs. Edgar on its own is not a big drawing fight to the masses, it’s a big fight for hardcores and a real test for both. Holloway, ten years younger, would be favored and if Holloway could get consecutive wins over those two names, it’s as good a case scenario of making him as much of a star as he’s going to be short of a fight with McGregor.

The show wasn’t strong on names, but was good when it came to action. The No. 2 fight saw the two women generally considered as No. 2 and No. 3 at strawweight behind champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Claudia Gadelha face Karolina Kowalkiewicz.

Gadelha ended up taking Kowalkiewicz down and choking her out in just 3:03. Gadelha had proven to be strong early against Jedrzejczyk, winning the first two rounds, and this gave no indication her conditioning weakness in her last title fight was different.

Still, Gadelha will probably have to wait one more fight cycle, since due to her two losses to the champion, Rose Namajunas still seems like the next likely contender. But with the lack of depth, Gadelha, with one more win, should get the next shot.

There were also two very disputed decisions. In a fight with little action, Vitor Belfort got straight 29-28 scores over Nate Marquardt. Belfort did almost nothing in the first two rounds and little in the third, but enough to win the round since Marquardt wasn’t doing much either. In this case, media scores were 67 percent for Marquardt and the public scores were 68 percent for him. Marquardt landed more in every round, 11-3 in the first, 26-16 in the second and 20-18 in the third, and also had the fight’s only takedown.

Last week Belfort had said that he was wanting to leave the UFC unless they opened a masters division, hinting the idea he’d go to Bellator, which sort of has that unofficial division. Anyway, by fight time, Belfort must have looked at his contract or had his mind changed, because he was talking very differently, saying he wasn’t retiring and would be staying in the UFC.

In the other, debuting former WSOF bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes faced top bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao. I had Assuncao in the first, Moraes in the second, and Moraes clearly in the third (as did 80 percent of public scores). All three judges gave the third round to Assuncao, inexplicably, and he won on scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 30-27 in a split. There is no justification for judge Phillipe Iorio giving Assuncao all three rounds and really all three judges giving him the third was bad. The media scores were 94 percent for Moraes for the fight as a whole and the public scores were 84 percent for Moraes. This was bad because Assuncao was the No. 3 contender and Moraes would have probably been right behind Dominick Cruz in line for the winner of Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw had he gotten the decision. But not getting it, even though he deserved it, makes the path a lot longer.

As far as the stats went, the show drew a legitimate sellout of 15,412 fans to the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro.

The early PPV estimates are surprisingly strong, as the estimate was only slightly below the last two shows, the Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson and the Stipe Miocic vs. Junior Dos Santos show at 290,000 buys. Keep in mind that anything this early could be off 20 percent, but even then, most figured this show as a 200,000 level show and every indicator would show this probably beat that number by a solid amount. Google trends point to a similar level of buys as it was very slightly below the last two shows. Google searches of 500,000 were also an encouraging sign as that usually indicates a number closer to 300,000 than 200,000. It was clearly the main event alone as this show had no marquee support. It looks like there were enough hardcore fans who bought this as a serious fight and that either McGregor made Aldo more of a star, and/or people have followed Holloway enough and seen his exciting wins to care about him chasing the title. The indications are the show did huge numbers in Hawaii, but that state doesn’t have the population base to make that much of a difference even if it was a big deal there.

The ratings weren’t good, but they weren’t going to be with the baseball game on FS 1 going long and the show starting 32 minutes late. The show averaged 732,000 viewers and peaked at 905,000 for the Moraes vs. Assuncao fight. The average is 19 percent down from the 902,000 average for the year. Because baseball on FS 1 went into extra innings, the pre-game show and the first bout of the prelims were moved to FS 2. That was a lock to hurt ratings. Also hurting would be major league baseball on FOX (2,084,000 viewers) and Stanley Cup Playoffs on NBC Sports Network (2,953,000 viewers).

The prefight show did 68,000, moved to FS 2 because of baseball. The postfight show did 113,000, which is very low. For a comparison, those numbers were 522,000 for the prefight show on 5/13 (Dos Santos vs. Miocic), but on FX instead of FS 2, and 329,000 for the postfight show.

A positive stat is that a replay of the weigh-ins did 240,000 viewers on FS 1 after the live airing on FS 2 had done 33,000 viewers. That was the sixth largest weigh-ins audience in FS 1 history.

Aldo vs. Holloway was a great bout, particularly round two when it was very competitive. The two both got $50,000 bonuses for best fight, while Gadelha and Brian Kelleher (who debuted by upsetting ranked Iuri Alcantara quickly via submission) got $50,000 performance bonuses.

1. Deiveson Figueiredo (12-0) beat Marco Beltran (8-5) when it was stopped at 5:00 of the second round in a flyweight fight. Beltran was fighting even though his mother passed away days before the fight. Figueiredo got a takedown and stayed on top, but Beltran got on top when Figueiredo tried a guillotine and did some damage to make the round tight. The second round saw Figueiredo go for all kinds of submissions. Beltran got up and was nailed with an uppercut, and Figueiredo pounded on him on the ground. It was stopped the moment the horn sounded.

2. Luan Chagas (15-2-1) beat Jim Wallhead (29-11) at 4:48 of the second round in a welterweight fight. Chagas did more damage standing in the first round and Wallhead couldn’t take him down. In the second round, Wallhead got poked in the eyes. The ref missed it but stopped the fight to allow him to recover. Chagas took over when it was restarted, knocked him down with a punch, and got a choke for the submission.

3. Vivianne Perreria (13-0) beat Jamie Moyle (4-2) via unanimous decision on scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 in a strawweight fight. First round didn’t have a lot of action but Perreria was more aggressive. She took over the stand-up in the second round and also got a takedown. In the third round, Perreria dominated the standup and easily won the round and the fight.

4. Brian Kelleher (17-7) beat Iuri Alcantara (34-8, 1 no contest) in 1:48 in a bantamweight fight. Alcantara threw him down once. When Alcantara went for another takedown, he got caught in a guillotine and had to tap out. This was a huge upset as Alcantara was ranked and Kelleher was debuting. Kelleher did a promo that made you remember him. He asked for a $50,000 bonus, which you shouldn’t do but he did deserve it. He also asked to be put on the Nassau Coliseum show on 7/22, since he’s from that area. He got his wish as just a few days later, Kelleher vs. Marlon Vera was announced for the Nassau Coliseum show after apparently John Lineker turned the fight down. He then started chanting “You’re gonna die” in Portuguese, the big chant the Brazilians chant at the Americans, back at them, and he got ridiculous heat. As a wrestling fan, this was awesome to see.

5. Matthew Lopez (10-1) beat Johnny Eduardo (28-11) in 2:57 in a bantamweight fight. This was similar, as Eduardo was the favorite from Brazil. Lopez took him down. Eduardo worked for a heel hook and Lopez started throwing punches since Eduardo’s hands were tied up in that position. After way too many unanswered punches, it was stopped. Lopez said he wanted somebody in the top ten next.

6. Antonio Carlos Jr. (9-2, 1 no contest) beat Eric Spicely (10-3) at 3:49 of the second round in a middleweight fight. Both of these guys are ground specialists with Carlos a former BJJ world champion. Spicely is a Northeast independent pro wrestler and they did bring up that he was a pro wrestler on the broadcast. UFC is now letting their guys do at least low level pro wrestling at this point. Spicely got a takedown right away. The crowd booed the early ground stalemate. Carlos took him down and got his back, trying for a choke, but Spicely escaped. In the second round, Spicely tried for a takedown. Carlos blocked it and landed on top. Carlos got his back again. Carlos got the body triangle and Spicely was defending it well at first, but Carlos got the choke. After two straight Brazilian losses to unheralded Americans, the crowd went nuts for this. Carlos challenged the winner of this coming week’s Daniel Kelly vs. Derek Brunson fight in Auckland.

7. Raphael Assuncao (25-5) beat Marlon Moraes (18-5-1) via split decision on scores of 28-29, 29-28 and 30-27. Moraes looked to have the speed advantage early but Assuncao did land harder and I had him taking the round close. In the second round, Moraes started landing more. The crowd booed as it was a slower fight than they expected, especially after the fireworks early in the show. Moraes was bleeding from the nose. Moraes landed more in particular late in the round. In the third round, Assuncao did hurt Moraes with one good punch but Morales kept landing punches and body kicks and seemed to take the round, but the judge went for the one good punch Assuncao landed. 8. Yancy Medeiros (14-4, 1 no contest) beat Erick Silva (19-8, 1 no contest) at 2:01 of the second round in a welterweight fight. This was a lot of action. Medeiros landed some kicks and hurt him with punches. Silva landed body punches and a strong low kick. Silva also hurt him with a knee. In the second round, Medeiros got more aggressive. Both were landing until Medeiros dropped Silva and it was stopped. Some thought it was an early stoppage. I thought so when it happened, but when watching the replay, Silva’s eyes did go blank for a second.

9. Paulo Borrachinha (10-0) beat Oluwale Bamgbose (6-3) at 1:06 of the second round in a middleweight fight. The crowd was very into Borrachinha. He’s Brazilian and has an impressive look. Bamgbose came out fast and took him down and went for a choke. Borrachinha shrugged him off. Bamgbose continued to land until Borrachinha took over later in the round, landing all kinds of punches, kicks and knees as Bamgbose seemed tired. At the start of the second round, Borrachinha dropped him and landed tons of punches on the ground until it was stopped. Borrachinha said that he wanted a top ten guy in the division next.

10. Vitor Belfort (26-13, 1 no contest) beat Nate Marquardt (38-18-2) on straight 29-28 scores in a middleweight fight. A boring fight although it was watchable in the sense Belfort has a lot of presence and is a huge star. Marquardt got the takedown early. A stand-up was ordered way too fast. Marquardt landed more in the round but Belfort did land an uppercut. In the second round, Belfort got a flurry in and landed a knee. But then Belfort did nothing as Marquardt got aggressive. It felt like Belfort was afraid it would go the distance and he’d get tired, so he did little in the first two rounds except very short bursts. Marquardt controlled the third round early until Belfort came back and landed some head kicks and body kicks. Neither looked good here.

11. Claudia Gadelha (15-2) beat Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-2) in 3:03 of a strawweight fight. Both of these fighters were undefeated with the exception of their losses to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Gadelha won the first two rounds before getting tired against the champion, and Kowalkiewicz hurt the champion and nearly finished her, but other than that, did lose four of five rounds and aside from landing the one hard punch really didn’t threaten her. Kowalkiewicz landed a combo but Gadelha took her down, got her back and choked her out.

12. Max Holloway (18-3) beat Jose Aldo (26-3) at 4:13 of the third round to win the UFC featherweight title. Aldo landed a lot early. Then they started going back-and-forth, but Aldo took the round. The second round was even more exciting. Both continued to land. The crowd loved it. Aldo had a 29-28 advantage in punches so really the second round was even. In the third round, Holloway started landing more as Aldo tired. Holloway dropped Aldo with a punch and got on top in mount. Holloway landed a lot of punches on the ground. Holloway got his back and worked for a choke. He gave up the choke attempt and went back to landing punches on the ground until it was stopped. Holloway won and once again pushed for a show in Hawaii.

Jonathan Koppenhaver, 35, who legally changed his name to War Machine years ago (so he’d be able to use it as his legal name as Impact Wrestling had filed a claim against him when Rhyno was working for the promotion), was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 36 years for his savage beating in an assault, sexual assault and kidnapping case involving former girlfriend Christine Mackinday (porn star Christy Mack).

Koppenhaver was sentenced on 6/5, after being found guilty of 29 counts in a jury case that made national news coverage. After the assault took place, when Koppenhaver ran from the law, for several days, until he was found, his case was a major news story, particularly in California and Nevada.

In the 2014 incident, Mackinday said that Koppenhaver knocked out several of her teeth, broke her eye socket, fractured her rib and ruptured her liver and she believed he was going to kill her, and also cut off some of her hair. He was also declared guilty of assault of Corey Thomas, the man he found Mackinday with when he came to her home. She claimed he also attempted to rape her while holding a knife, but wasn’t able to do it.

The unlikely story of Joe Silva, an arcade worker who watched early UFC events and made a cold phone call, which led to him becoming one of the most influential people in building a worldwide sport, will have a fitting next and possibly last chapter in a sport he played a huge part in building.

Silva was announced during UFC 211 on 5/13 as the latest inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame as a contributor. He will be honored on 7/6 in Las Vegas, along with Urijah Faber and Maurice Smith. Still to be announced is a fight that will be inducted.

Silva was the matchmaker for UFC from 2001 until retiring this past December after getting a huge cash payout stemming from the sale of the company by the Fertitta brothers to WME-IMG. Silva, along with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta, were probably the three most influential people in taking a company on life support in 2001 and building it into a sport that is televised and sells out live events all over the world.

“Joe Silva is the greatest matchmaker in the history of any combat sport,” UFC president Dana White said. “Period.”

If the job of a matchmaker or booker is have a role in building the popularity of their company, admittedly a simplistic way of looking at it, but the ultimate goal of the job, there can be no arguing that statement.

Obviously the key in the growth of UFC came from its television exposure starting in 2005. The company was struggling, having lost $34 million according to lore, over its first four years in existence. Fertitta believed in the sport, but finally gave up, thinking the time was wrong, and told White to sell it. But unhappy with the price of offers, Fertitta decided to make one last-ditch effort, essentially buy their way on television by producing one season of a reality show, getting Spike TV to agree to air it, and if that didn’t work, that would have been it.

It was Silva who came up with the concept of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, the catalyst for the company’s worldwide television success.

Yet, even as one of the most influential people in building what is now a worldwide sport, Silva’s role was rarely talked about. Outside of MMA, few have written about his role in the sport. McLaren used to call him “our secret weapon,” and White and the Fertittas tried to keep it that way, which he was very happy with. When he got the job as matchmaker, the company’s directive was that White would be the company spokesperson and only on rare occasions was Silva allowed to do interviews. Stunningly, even today, Silva doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page.

Silva is the fourth contributor to be honored, after Charles “Mask” Lewis, who built the Tapout clothing brand (which now is ironically half owned by WWE and no longer associated with UFC), Jeff Blatnick and Bob Meyrowitz, the owner of Semaphore Entertainment Group, which greenlit Art Davie’s idea of the UFC and was the money behind th e original boom period from 1993 to 1996.

Silva was very different from White and Fertitta on a personal level. During his tenure, he had frequently been impressed with how hard White and Fertitta worked, noting that if he was rich like they were, he'd walk away and enjoy his family, never thinking that such a day would come any time soon. During all the talks of a sale in 2016, Silva, working the crazy hours of constantly making matches and remaking matches after injuries, drug-test failures and other issues that would change events on a daily basis, wouldn't even think about the sale. If there was a sale, and the price was in the $4 billion range that was being talked about, he'd be getting more than enough for him to retire and live comfortably on for the rest of his life. His reaction was that things like that don't happen to people like him. So he blocked all of the talk from his head space.

Then it happened. The sale was completed. Silva quickly announced his retirement, saying he'd work through the end of the year. He noted several weeks ago that he hadn't had a bad day since.

Silva was a 29-year-old arcade worker, living in Richmond, Va., who made a random phone call to Campbell McLaren of Semaphore Entertainment Group in 1994. McLaren, at the time, was running the UFC for Meyrowitz. By some fluke, that neither he nor McLaren could ever fully explain because it was a fluke that the odds were huge against happening, McLaren decided to take the call from this unknown person that afternoon. They talked for hours. McLaren was so impressed with Silva's knowledge of fighting that he tabbed Silva "UFC's greatest fan," and soon after that, hired him as a consultant.

Until his retirement, he had the longest tenure working for the UFC of anyone in history. Aside from a period when he quit during the early days and was later brought back, he worked for the UFC from 1995 until the end of 2016. In a little-known piece of trivia, when UFC was going down, Silva, with no experience whatsoever as a radio producer, was offered a job by Meyrowitz as the producer of Wrestling Observer Live on Eyada, but turned it down because it would have required him to move to New York, which he was not interested in doing. An avid childhood fan of pro wrestling, he also, during the days of the letters page in the Observer, someone who wrote letters to this publication.

“To have been a part of the UFC from its early days and to see the heights to which it has risen has been amazing,” Silva said. “The martial arts have been my passion since I was a kid, and to have been a part of the sport that has impacted them so much was a wonderful experience. To be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame is a great honor and caps off what has been a wonderful journey.”

Silva loved reading about all subjects, but in particular, was a huge fan of boxing, kickboxing, martial arts and pro wrestling. He was an avid reader of this publication where he learned the background and history of pro wrestling, a sister business to UFC. He was also heavily influenced by the booking of George Scott and the growth of Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

He incorporated his learning about the good and the bad of boxing, kickboxing and pro wrestling with his influences in UFC. He was such a big wrestling fan when he was younger that he said that whether he had a good or bad week was determined by the results of Ric Flair’s matches when Flair was the top star in Jim Crockett Promotions, which ran the Richmond Coliseum. His being a champion for smaller fighters stemmed from his being small, but also, in the 90s, watching two of his favorite wrestlers, Rey Misterio Jr., and Jushin Liger, not be promoted effectively by WCW, and WWF having a mentality that smaller wrestlers had no place in the business.

He trained and did real fight sparring with rules that would allow basically anything you could come up with to do. So he was aware of the value of wrestling and submissions in a real fight long before most. Few until the 1990s who didn’t have a high-level wrestling or Jiu Jitsu background understood those skills as key components of a real fight. Most at a time when people thought a real fight looked either like a boxing match, a kickboxing match, or a martial arts movie fight scene.

That taught him enough to know that most of what was in the martial arts and fighting magazines of the time was pure fantasy. He hated the fakeness of the MMA world as it was, and trainers with their secret systems who peddled their wares in magazines. Indeed, that system, as well as the entire business of martial arts gyms, have undergone a total overhaul due to the lessons shown in the growth of MMA.

An actual sport like UFC, which mixed boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, judo and jiu-jitsu, was like a dream to him.

In 1994, he saw an ad in Black Belt magazine that the UFC was looking for fighters, and called the phone number. He called McLaren, who was the person said to be in charge. And they continued to talk. Today, when McLaren talks about his role in the UFC, he always notes that he was the one who first hired Joe Silva and Joe Rogan.

McLaren was fascinated by Silva's knowledge of fighting and his perspective on the fights, and wanted to fly him in for shows.

Silva, at the time, had never flown in an airplane, and didn't even have a drivers license.

Silva continued to turn down McLaren's offers to come to shows until the 1995 Ultimate Ultimate inྭDenver, a one-night tournament of UFC's biggest stars. The lure of seeing a show so big overrode his never wanting to fly. After that point, he was regularly attending the early shows that helped build the sport and its early stars. ྭ

Later, Silva worked with JeffྭBlatnick and John McCarthy to write the UFC's first rule book.

Silva didn't even own a computer. Blatnick took a liking to him immediately, and bought him his first one. Later, when Silva became Vice President of Talent Relations, it was joked that a guy who had never eaten an expensive steak was now an executive dining with the Fertittas in fancy Las Vegas restaurants. In truth, while he could have been part of that scene, the scene wasn’t for him.

After a few years in Las Vegas, with no other major job prospects in sight, he was ready to quit and go home to Virginia. White and Fertitta saw him as so valuable that they allowed him to leave Las Vegas, and for the entire period when UFC exploded in growth, one of its key figures was rarely ever in their Las Vegas offices, and instead worked endless hours from his home office.

Had SEG sold the company to Dan Lambert, the current owner of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., as was expected to happen in 2000, Silva would have almost surely been a forgotten figure in UFC history. Lambert himself admits that if that had happened, there would have been no MMA boom. His goal was simply to run a few shows a year using the UFC name as he didn’t have the Fertitta’s financial resources nor political pull in Nevada to make the breakthroughs necessary.

But instead, the Fertitta brothers purchased the company under Lambert’s nose in what was really a major double-cross since Lambert had helped fund Meyrowitz’s shows at the end when SEG was scrapped for cash, with the idea he’d eventually be getting the company.

Silva had become friends with Tito Ortiz, who was UFC's top star at the time of the sale. After Ortiz had lost to Guy Mezger in his second UFC fight, it was Silva who pushed hard for UFC to bring Ortiz back, thinking he had potential to be a top fighter, and also had that rare charisma to be a genuine star. After being brought back, Ortiz quickly became one of UFC’s top fighters, and after the retirement of Frank Shamrock, Ortiz beat Wanderlei Silva in Tokyo to win the UFC title in the under-200 pound weight class.

At the time, both Ortiz and Chuck Liddell were being managed by Dana White. Through those connections, White found out that the UFC was for sale. White had been friends with Fertitta at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, and the two reconnected at a wedding and had talked about starting a boxing promotion. Unlike in boxing, where at best they’d be one of dozens, in UFC, they would be able to essentially own a sport on the major level in the U.S.

After Fertitta bought out Meyrowitz, White asked Ortiz who he thought should be the UFC's matchmaker. Ortiz suggested Silva. Silva had no experience at the job, although had studied how the job would have worked by seeing the booking in sports like wrestling, boxing and even kickboxing. He noted that in kickboxing, the best fighters avoided each other to remain unbeaten, but felt the sport died in the U.S. partially for that reason. In boxing, guys who were thought to be marketable were given stylistically easy fights to build up undefeated records before facing anyone significant.

While MMA would likely have done this anyway, there are those who credit Silva’s mentality as a matchmaker, along with White, for changing the entire mentality regarding fans about fighting. For a generation, the belief was that if a fighter lost handily on the way up, they were done and forgotten about. Sure, a guy who was 42-2 was a star, but a guy 10-3 was a bum. With a limited talent pool at first, guys who lost early on couldn’t be just discarded. When UFC first hit television, Randy Couture, who defended the light heavyweight title against Liddell in the first PPV after television, came in with a 13-6 record. Those on the boxing side mocked the idea that a guy with that kind of record could either be a good fighter, or draw in a PPV main event position.

Still, going with Silva, as much knowledge as he may have had from studying matchmaking, he was still a guy who no experience in negotiating contracts and while he had some experience in dealing with agents, it was hardly on the level of what you would expect for someone given such a major role.

In hindsight, it is completely improbable that someone with his lack of experience in those key aspects would have been given such a job, and even more, that they would take to it like a duck to water and flourish at it.

From the start, Fertitta and White had tried to get UFC fights on television. White used to always tell me his concept was Tuesday Night Fights, a USA Network staple in the 90s. The idea is that you would air fights with up-and-comers on television, get the public interested in them, and stars would emerge. Then you’d match up the stars on PPV. But boxing, far more popular and accepted at the time, had lost Tuesday Night Fights and nothing had replaced it. TV had no interest in UFC, plus it was still a controversial sport that the media had decried as human cockfights.

In 2004, when UFC was on its last legs, Fertitta and White’s last idea before closing shop was to produce a reality show. They came up with a concept, a show called "The American Promoter." The idea was a reality show about White, following him around while he put together shows a few times a year.

Silva argued against the idea, and came up with an alternative plan, a show about unknown fighters who would fight to get a UFC contract, coming up with the name, "The Ultimate Fighter." He also handpicked most of the fighters for the first season, including Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck and Stephan Bonnar, Mike Swick, Chris Leben and Nate Quarry. I believe Dana White picked out Kenny Florian after seeing him fight on a local show in Boston. He also picked most of the key stars that emerged coming out of all the show's early seasons.

The show was an almost immediate success. It aired right after Monday Night Raw on Spike, and almost immediately, kept almost the entire 18-34 audience of Raw. Ironically, it kept almost none younger, and a whole lot older. But to that audience, it immediately became a hot thing. Airing at 11:05 p.m., Leben became an immediate star as the big mouthed heavy drinking guy in the house. But then he became a sympathetic figure when mentally ganged up on by Koscheck and Bobby Southworth. A Koscheck vs. Leben fight drew more than two million viewers, but the fight was a dud when it aired.

UFC was a hit. The two coaches, Couture and Liddell, drew about 300,000 buys on pay-per-view that August. The same two’s first match before television had done 48,000 buys. The ratings were very good. The finals, featuring the Griffin vs. Bonnar match, couldn’t have been scripted to be any better, and can be argued was the most important fight in UFC history.

After the success of the reality show, and then of live fights on Spike, Versus, now NBC Sports Network, wanted to get into the MMA game. They were negotiating with the International Fight League. UFC was trying to head them off, but due to having an exclusive contract with Spike, UFC couldn't put fights on Versus.

To get around that, the Fertittas purchased World Extreme Cagefighting, a group that was running casino events in Lemoore, CA, outside of Fresno. WEC was to be a separate promotion to enable UFC to head off the IFL, and get a presence on Versus.

It was Silva's idea to use WEC to feature smaller fighters, rather than just the heavier weight classes that were in the UFC, partially because at the time, the biggest local star WEC had was its featherweight champion, Urijah Faber.

It was the success of the WEC, and in particular the popularity of Faber, which made the WEC, and with it, the featherweight and bantamweight divisions popular. Eventually the stars of WEC got so big and the Faber vs. Jose Aldo pay-per-view show was so successful that the decision was made to shut down the promotion as a separate entity and bring the stars, and those weight classes, to UFC.

Along the way, he helped train Sean Shelby, who was his assistant and handled several of the weight classes in recent years before taking over as the man in charge in January. Shelby had some experience in matchmaking, but learned Silva’s do’s and don’ts, in his concepts of how to match up talent. The rules were to constantly look at creating viable contenders for championships. At first there were attempts to do like boxing, and take marketable fighters and give them easier fights to make certain people into stars, and obviously that still exists to this day. But after a bad experience in trying to make a superstar out of Roger Huerta, Silva was skeptical more often than not. Obviously in recent years, UFC attempted to protect some marketable fighters to a degree, like Paige VanZant and Sage Northcutt, but VanZant, on her way up, was put in with people like Rose Namajunas and Michelle Waterson, who were very real fighters. When Matt Riddle came in from Ultimate Fighter having had no fights but being picked for the show by Spike because of his look and personality, but doing well on the show, he wasn’t booked with tough people right away coming out of the show with the feeling he had potential, with the feeling he’d come to UFC after making a name on the show with too little experience. But after a few fights, Riddle wasn’t protected either.

In the early years, when Ultimate Fighter was such a key part of the company’s business model, he’d argue with executives as Spike, who were looking for characters for the show, while he wanted the show filled with fighters. His argument was that characters who couldn’t fight well that would get over on the show were of no long-term use, and the hope was that the fighters who could be stars in UFC would get their personalities over on the show. Indeed, characters like Junie Browning may have helped ratings for a season, but in the big picture, fighters like Michael Bisping, Ryan Bader and Rashad Evans were umpteen times more valuable in the big picture.

It was very different from boxing, Unlike with boxing, where stars are picked from early on and given easy matches and wins to build up records, Silva tried to match fighters more evenly. By doing so, UFC results became far more unpredictable, with major upsets almost every weekend. It also trained fans to accept that almost everyone would lose, and that losses, while important, are things you can rebound from as opposed to things that end careers.

Silva didn't always get his way, although White, and others, would joke that it was impossible to win an argument with him. But Silva had a hand in virtually all major matches the company put on from its near death to being sold in what, at the time, was the biggest money sports franchise sale in world history.

Usually, he would argue for the sports side when it came to ideas, although was very aware that some very good fighters weren’t marketable and lesser fighters had the ability to become bigger stars. He loved when he was able to make matches that served a long-term purpose, but understood that with so many fighters and events, a lot of his job was just finding two guys in the same weight class who were near the same levels of ability that were ready to fight on a given day. Another key aspect was looking at the locations of each show and trying to book as many fighters from that area onto the shows and hopefully have the ability to showcase them and build them to have local followings.

He was against running so many events, an argument he lost with White and Fertitta. Television history showed that overexposure led to declining ratings and burning genres out. But the change in television, where it was more about niche events and creating weekly live sports product than trying to maintain three million viewers each week, led to UFC going from a company carried by its PPV revenue to a company looking to create as much live event programming to sell to sports channels around the world.

Nicknamed "the best matchmaker on the planet," Silva went from booking six shows a year with maybe eight fights, to 45 shows with 10 to 13 fights and managing a roster of more than 600 fighters. He described his plight as going from being a master chef to a short-order cook.

While doing all this, Silva largely stayed out of the public spotlight. He was rarely shown on television, although fighters and announcers would constantly mention his name during broadcasts. The only reason fans could likely pick the otherwise mysterious Joe Silva out of a police lineup would be because he would be introduced individually to fans at weigh-ins.

Since then, he's returned to anonymity, reading books and studying all sorts of subjects. The only difference is, people today know that boxing isn't a real complete fight, and that the kind of fights you used to see in martial arts movies aren't what real fights usually look like either. Martial arts studios are less about breaking boards and more about breaking out of submission holds. His theories of the importance of wrestling, submissions and all forms of ground fighting in an actual freestyle fighting situation were proven. The idea that such a sport incorporating them being financially viable was also proven. The idea that the public will pay big money to see smaller talented, charismatic fighters was proven as well.

In all, Silva negotiated more than 3,000 fights on 340 different events held around the world.

The triumphant and tragic career of Kazushi Sakuraba will likely best be remembered for May 1, 2000, when he put on a performance that will almost surely never duplicated in MMA competition.

In one night, Sakuraba became a national sports hero in Japan, and the really the catalyst for the heyday of MMA in that country.

Sakuraba only fought twice in the UFC, on the same night, against the same opponent, in winning one of the stranger tournaments in company history.

But for his success in building the sport in Japan, beating seven UFC champions, most much larger than he was, Sakuraba was announced on Saturday night as the latest inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame in the Pioneer division.

Sakuraba will be honored on 7/6 in a ceremony at 7 p.m. Pacific time at the Park Theater in Las Vegas, which will air on UFC Fight Pass. It is part of International Fight Week in Las Vegas, in a class that will include previously announced Urijah Faber, Maurice Smith and long-time matchmaker Joe Silva. The class will also include the induction of a fight that took place at least five years ago, which will be announced at a later date.

In doing so, he becomes the first person to be inducted into both the UFC Hall of Fame and the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.

Sakuraba was competing on that night 17 years ago in the Tokyo Dome in what was the single greatest one-night eight-man tournament the sport had ever seen, and still, to this day, has ever seen, before a crowd of more than 38,000 fans.

While he normally fought between 180 and 195 pounds (later in his career he did cut weight to fight as a welterweight at 170) during his prime, without weight cutting, circumstances saw him show up at 174 pounds, making him the lightest man in the open weight tournament. The tournament featured some of the most powerful heavyweights of the era, including eventual winner Mark Coleman, Gary Goodridge, Mark Kerr, Igor Vovchanchyn and Kazuyuki Fujita.

In his first round fight, he was to face Royce Gracie in what was a major grudge match.

The Pride Fighting Championships, which along with the UFC was one of the two major MMA organizations in the world, was a struggling entity early on. The promotion formed in 1997 by putting on a show at the Tokyo Dome headlined by Rickson Gracie, the older brother of Royce, against Nobuhiko Takada, a huge pro wrestling star who helped get Sakuraba started in 1993 as a pro wrestler.

As a pro wrestler, Sakuraba was coached by Billy Robinson, a noted catch-wrestling submission expert from England, who was one of Britain’s best amateur wrestlers and considered its best submission fighter in the late 50s and into the 60s.

Gracie beat Takada, and then did it a second time in a rematch, to the surprise of almost nobody. Takada, while looking the part and able to act the part of a great real fighter on the pro wrestling stage, was not real in the true sense of the word. But he was Pride’s biggest star, and he couldn’t beat anyone of note in a real fight.

The organization bought and paid for a few wins, but crowds fell greatly when the fans realized he was not who they thought he was.

However, his protégé was every bit that and more. Sakuraba was not a star in pro wrestling, nor did he look the part. He didn’t have the movie star looks and striking physiques of the pro wrestlers who were supposed to be the real badasses at the time, like Takada, Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki.

But Sakuraba had the MMA wrestling skills of a prime Georges St-Pierre, had become the top submission student of Robinson, plus had the comedic charisma of Forrest Griffin and the heart of Don Frye. Those skills and some unique timing combined to make him a national hero from that day forward.

The story really started on November 21, 1999, when Sakuraba faced Royler Gracie, who weighed 151 pounds. Sakuraba had proven to be the pro wrestling star who had real fighting skills by this point, with a win over former Extreme Fighting heavyweight champion Marcus “Conan” Silveira, who outweighed him by 60 pounds, former UFC welterweight champion Carlos Newton and future UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort.

The fight garnered major sports press because the Gracie family demanded rule changes or Royler would not fight. They demanded that neither the referee, nor doctor, would have the power to stop the fight. The only way Royler could lose was if he submitted, or his corner man, Rickson, threw in the towel.

The fight would be two 15 minute rounds. There would be no judges, so it if went the time limit, it would be a draw. The Gracies pushed hard for a stipulation that if Sakuraba failed to beat Royler in 30 minutes, that due to the size difference, Royler would be declared the winner. Pride refused that, but the Gracies still pushed the narrative that with Royler being 52 pounds lighter, that if it was a draw, Royler would really be the winner.

The show did huge walk-up business and garnered a lot of mainstream sports press due to the Gracies trying to change the rules at the last minute. Japanese fans had seen Rickson twice beat Takada, and now felt, that the Gracies saw Sakuraba as a threat and were trying to change the rules. Fans heavily booed the announcement before the match of no judges, and booed the Gracies like they were super heels that night.

While not exactly true, the history that the Gracies were touting at the time, and that the Japanese believed, was that no member of the Gracie family had lost a fight since Masahiko Kimura, the Japanese judo legend, used a double wristlock, later known as a Kimura, to defeat Helio Gracie at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil some 48 years earlier.

All the media controversy had led to the Japanese fans, who had loved the Gracies a few years earlier, to hate them and want Sakuraba to beat them.

Sakuraba kept the fight standing and destroyed Gracie. He went to his back, where Sakuraba, remaining standing, kicked his legs to death. But no matter how much punishment Gracie took, he was never close to quitting. But time was running out as the fight had passed the 28:00 mark. Finally, Sakuraba went to the ground and locked on a Kimura, the very same move that Masahiko Kimura had used to submit Royler’s father.

Sakuraba had him. Royler was not going to submit. The doctor implored Rickson to throw in the towel. He wouldn’t do so. Royler was screaming in pain, but still not submitting. It appeared Sakuraba had the ability to ear out Royler’s shoulder, but he had been trained that when you get a guy in a submission, he taps, and you win without hurting your opponent. This was his teaching from the UWFI dojo, because your opponent is also your friend. Sakuraba was calling for someone to stop it. Finally, an outside referee jumped in and stopped the match and awarded it to Sakuraba at 28:16 mark.

Even though the stoppage did violate the agreed upon rules, in Japan, there was no controversy because fans saw it as a submission hold locked in for a long time, and the referee was protecting the fighter. The place went nuts and a national hero was born.

The Gracies protested, noting the stoppage was against the rules and that Royler only needed to last another 84 seconds for the draw. They claimed Sakuraba was not a real warrior. They claimed the fight proved Sakuraba had no knockout power and claimed he was afraid to fight Royler on the ground. Later, the family view changed completely on Sakuraba. Later, after Sakuraba had defeated Renzo Gracie, his third of four Gracie victims during his 1999 to 2000 run, the period Pride exploded to mainstream popularity in Japan, with a Kimura that dislocated Gracie’s elbow, Renzo Gracie called him a Japanese Gracie.

This built perfectly for a Sakuraba vs. Rickson Gracie fight. Even though Royce Gracie was better known in the U.S., it was Rickson Gracie that was the bigger star in Japan and acknowledged as the toughest of the Gracies of that era. Promoters for years tried to make the match, but Gracie never accepted. Then, after the death of Rickson’s son, he made it clear he was no longer interested in fighting.

That version ignored that Sakuraba was destroying Royler standing and Royler laid on his back, with no defense while his legs got kicked to death, rather than stand back up. And it also ignored that when Sakuraba finally did go to the ground, he instantly locked on the Kimura.

Royce Gracie, who had won three Ultimate Fighting tournaments, had come out of retirement and defeated Takada three months earlier. Royce was representing his family. Sakuraba was representing his dojo, and really the world of Japanese pro wrestling.

Even though it was an eight-man tournament, the Gracies once again demanded, this time even stronger, that the fight could only end via submission or the corner throwing in the towel, and Royce insisted on no time limit.

The agreement was they would be 15-minute rounds until there was a finish. Until the demands, the belief was Sakuraba would win the fight. He was the better striker and the better wrestler. Really, by that time, his submission game had passed that of Royce as well. But no time limit changed the game, as Royce had never lost in MMA competition and was durable.

Even though the tournament was to start on a Monday afternoon, which was part of a holiday week in Japan, because of the no time limit rules, the building and those working in the building were told that the show could last until 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. At that point, it would have to be stopped because that was the latest they could clean up and get ready for a baseball game the next day.

Sakuraba came out with a pro wrestling mask and orange hair. The crowd that night hated Gracie. Sakuraba was better at striking, but Gracie was more aggressive as Sakuraba outplayed Gracie in his own game, letting him burn himself out. Sakuraba clowned around, including pulling down Gracie’s pants, pulling Gracie’s gi over his face like in a hockey fight, and using Mongolian chops, a pro wrestling maneuver that entertained the crowd but were of no real value in a legitimate fight. At one point, Sakuraba even teased doing a piledriver. Sakuraba nearly had a kneebar just as the first round ended.

The second and third rounds were slow, with Sakuraba again pulling Gracie’s pants down. Gracie worked for a choke at one point.

By today’s standard, the fight would have been considered boring, but given the names involved and stakes involved, the crowd was enthralled. After the third round, meaning the fight had gone 45 minutes, the crowd recognized that they were spectators at an event that would go down in history.

Sakuraba opened up above Gracie’s eye. Sakuraba had used leg kicks throughout the fight. When the fifth round started, one hour into the battle, Sakuraba stopped conserving energy, sensing Gracie was tiring, and got more aggressive with the attack.

At the 67:00 mark, Sakuraba started landing a number of punches. At the 74:00 mark, for the first time, Gracie seemed in serious trouble, but survived until the end of the round.

In the sixth round, Sakuraba bloodied Gracie’s mouth and knocked Gracie down. He then scored another knockdown. At this point, Gracie was just taking punishment and there was fear that all the leg kicks may have broken his leg. At the 87:00 mark, Rorion Gracie, Royce’s older brother, grabbed the towel to throw it in. But, in one of the most dramatic and talked about moments in MMA history, Helio Gracie, his father, refused to allow Rorion to throw in the towel, and Royce was never going to quit with his father in his corner. Finally, at the 90:00 mark, seeing the condition his son was in with the possible broken leg, Helio told Rorion to throw in the towel.

That alone would have made a career in one night. But in many ways, something more impression was to come.

Sakuraba had about 90 minutes to rest, and then would have to face Igor Vovchanchyn, the tournament co-favorite, in the second round.

Vovchanchyn was 225 pounds, 51 pounds heavier than Sakuraba, if not more. Nobody knows how much weight Sakuraba lost in that 90-minute fight. Vovchanchyn had fought before Sakuraba, winning in ten minutes, and had well over three hours rest. He was 42-2 at the time, unbeaten in his last 38 fights over five years. At the time, the debate was whether Vovchanchyn or Mark Kerr, also in the tournament, was the No. 1 heavyweight in the world.

Few believed Sakuraba would come out for another fight. Not only did he, but he scored multiple takedowns and was clearly winning the first 11 minutes of the fight.

About 90 seconds later, Sakuraba was done. After 102 ½ minutes of fighting, his body shut down. Still, he survived the last three-and-a-half minutes of taking a real beating and hanging on as the 15 minute round ended. Because he had dominated most of the fight, the judges ruled it a draw and ordered an overtime round. At that point, Sakuraba’s corner stopped the fight.

While most remember the Gracie fight, it was the Vovchanchyn fight that was in reality, the far more impressive performance.

“When I was told about being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, my first reaction was surprise,” said Sakuraba, who was just informed of his induction in the past few days. “I stepped into the Octagon 20 years ago at UFC’s Ultimate Japan tournament and I never could have dreamed at that time that one day I would be invited to join the other legends in the Hall of Fame. That was an important fight for me as it was my very first entry into MMA fighting. I continued to fight on a square battlefield–a white canvas mat supported by ropes–and you could say that is where I built my career. But it has always been my mission not only to become the best, but to show the world the excitement and glory of MMA.”

Sakuraba and Pride became huge that night. Sakuraba followed with wins over Renzo Gracie (via Kimura, dislocating Gracie’s elbow) and Ryan Gracie via decision.

On March 25, 2001, with Sakuraba at the peak of his popularity, he faced Wanderlei Silva in the main event at the Saitama Super Arena. Silva cut to make 203.6 pounds, and was believed to be about 212 pounds going into the ring. Sakuraba was 187, and actually carrying extra pound around the middle. But the Japanese by this point figured Sakuraba was unbeatable. Silva, while known inside the sport as a great fighter, didn’t have a big reputation in Japan yet, although he became a superstar due to this win. Before the fight, they had played a video package on Rickson Gracie, with the idea that Silva was just another Brazilian that Sakuraba would beat en route to the ultimate showdown with Rickson.

Sakuraba had been heavily drinking since New Year’s Eve, to the point he had hospitalized with liver problems before the fight. Silva overwhelmed Sakuraba with punches and knees, busting his nose, and the fight was over in 1:38.

Even after suffering all that damage, because they had the Saitama Super Arena booked for July 29, 2001, they were looking to give Sakuraba an easy win. They were looking for a guy who looked like a monster, but wasn’t a very good fighter.

In what turned out to almost be one of the worst booking errors ever, they came upon a guy named Quinton Rampage Jackson, a former college wrestler who was 9-1 fighting low-level competition in the King of the Cage circuit. Somebody saw Jackson, who did a Junkyard Dog gimmick, coming to the ring with a chain and barking before his matches. The Japanese billed him as a homeless maniacal street fighter, since it was still the cartoon days of MMA as pro wrestling there.

Jackson showed up in Japan at 221 pounds, and then was ready to cut to the contracted 205. But Jackson was detained at the airport by police for an arrest while in college and missing a probation meeting, so had a warrant out and missed his flight. When he got to Japan late, he was only able to cut to 209. Sakuraba was 183, this time in great shape. Jackson threw him around like a rag doll, with bodyslams and power bombs in an incredible match. Sakuraba was hurt for all the hard slams, but at 5:41 still managed to choke Jackson out. Sakuraba’s win protected the biggest money grudge match, Sakuraba vs. Silva, set for November 3, 2001, at the Tokyo Dome.

While Pride officials definitely didn’t want Sakuraba losing to Silva, when it happened, there was a silver lining as in thinking like pro wrestling promoters, and since MMA wasn’t established, pro wrestling was the mentality of the day, they knew Sakuraba going for revenge would be huge business.

They created a Pride world middleweight championship, a 203.6 pound weight division title, for the Sakuraba vs. Silva rematch. It drew 53,246 fans, the first MMA show ever to sell out the Tokyo Dome, paying $5.5 million. Sakuraba was 32, physically banged up from his previous two fights, giving away more than 30 pounds, and the years of drinking and smoking were catching up with him.

On August 28, 2002, Sakuraba, who by today’s standards would probably be a lightweight or small welterweight, fought Mirko Cro Cop, the most dangerous heavyweight striker of that era.

It was a loaded up show, but the main event had a major storyline. Cro Cop was called “The Pro Wrestler Hunter,” after getting first round wins over Kazuyuki Fujita and Nagata in MMA fights, as well as a first round knockout of Ryushi Yanagisawa in a kickboxing match.

This led to an MMA attendance record that still stands of 71,000 fans, paying a gate in excess of $7 million, a figure that remained the world record until the Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields fight in Toronto and still has only been topped a handful of times.

It also more than doubled Japan’s all-time PPV buy record, with 125,000. That figure doesn’t sound impressive, but there were only 2.75 million homes in Japan that even had PPV. While it’s not really fair to give an equivalence because of so many different factors, from a percentage basis, this would be equivalent to a show today in the U.S. marketplace doing 4.5 million buys.

Sakuraba, feeling he had been too small and that led to losing to Silva and being thrown around like a rag doll against Jackson, bulked up to 195, while Cro Cop was 220.

Cro Cop hurt Sakuraba standing, but Sakuraba was able to take Cro Cop down, something the best heavyweight wrestlers in the sport weren’t able to do. Sakuraba didn’t do much damage, but he was winning the fight, when Cro Cp threw a punch from his back, breaking Sakuraba’s right eye socket. Cro Cop had great punching power and no matter how tough Sakuraba was, he had the bone structure of a small welterweight or even a lightweight. When the bell rang to end the second round, Sakuraba’s right eye was swollen shut and the doctor stopped the fight.

The reality is that being a national hero led to destroying Sakuraba, who fought for another 13 years, ending his career with a 26-17-1 record with two no contest.

For most of his career, Sakuraba was mostly facing 220 pounders who cut to make 205. In some cases, he faced full-fledged heavyweight champions like Cro Cop, Ken Shamrock, Kevin Randleman and Marcus “Conan” Silveira. He finished the latter three who he finished, Shamrock via knockout and Randleman and Silveira via submission.

His only fights inside the UFC were in a tournament on December 21, 1997, at the Yokohama Arena. He was a late replacement in a four-man heavyweight tournament. He claimed to be 203 pounds, but was really 20 pounds lighter. Because it was a heavyweight tournament and it was still in the early days of MMA, there was no need to weigh-in, so they didn’t actually conduct one.

Silveira who weighed 243, was the first champion of the Extreme Fighting Championship, a group that was UFC’s biggest domestic rival a few years earlier that had gone out of business. The tournament was put together for a Conan vs. Tank Abbott finale.

Conan landed a punch that dropped Sakuraba, and John McCarthy, perhaps due to the ridiculous size difference, stopped the fight, even though Sakuraba was moving forward and attempting a takedown after being dropped. McCarthy on many occasions has said it was the worst call of his career, and he overruled himself later.

When Abbott suffered a broken hand in a win, Sakuraba and Silveira were brought back for the tournament championship and Sakuraba won with a first round armbar.

But he took some horrible beatings in three losses to Silva, a brutal loss to Ricardo Arona where he took far too many knees to the head on the ground and soccer kicks, and in a win over Kestutis Smirnovas, where he was knocked out at least twice and came back to win via armbar. The allowing him to continue after being knocked out was very controversial at the time, and today it would be viewed even worse.

In those days, while the officials treated the fights like celebrities outside the ring, in the ring there was no compassion, particularly for favorites like Sakuraba and Frye. The officials and fans loved that those fighters would never give up, so the officials would allow them to take horrible beatings without stopping the fights, with the idea that they could possibly come back from those beatings and win. It was a short-sighted view. In those days, the referees very much protected the star fighters and were there to give them every chance to win. But in doing so, they destroyed what they were there to protect.

Signs of Sakuraba fading were evident as early as 2003, when he was knocked out by Nino Schembri, who was not expected to be competition. His knees were shot to where he could barely bend them by 2004, yet he continued to fight top level competition. He was still beating name fighters as late as 2005, but he was clearly past his prime, and fought another decade as a shell of himself.

Keep in mind that Sakuraba as a college wrestler competed at 149 pounds, and was only heavier because he did everything in his power to gain weight because he was considered too small for pro wrestling when he first went into that world after college. The punishment he took in both his losses and his wins against far bigger opponents left him as a shot fighter within a few years. But as a major drawing card, the attempt was to put him on the card whenever there was a big show. Then, as Japanese MMA started fading, he was brought back constantly to help stave off the death, and again in 2015, when Rizin debuted, to play a part in its attempted resurrection.

There were so many sad aspects of this story at the end, as he was losing to people who, in his prime, he’d have beaten easily.

Sakuraba grew up as a huge fan of pro wrestling, and very much represented pro wrestling as a fighter. He would come out with masks on of people like Tiger Mask, his childhood hero, Mil Mascaras and Super Strong Machine, as well as dress up like Vader and the Road Warriors.

Even during the peak of his MMA fame, Sakuraba remained like a little kid when it came to pro wrestling. One of the reasons he faced so many bigger guys was because he thought it was his duty to be the man who defended the sport, and unfortunately, the toughest guys of that era were a lot bigger than he was. He and his friends during that period would get together to watch the biggest shows and they would make their own masks, costumes and replica title belts.

Today, if there was a guy like him, and Georges St-Pierre is probably the closest thing, they were somewhat similar in size even though Sakuraba in his best shape was really smaller, he’d have fought welterweight or even lightweight. It’s a different game today as Sakuraba’s biggest weapon, his submissions, wouldn’t be as effective against modern fighters and he was not a great striker. But had he fought guys his own size, he would have been No. 1 in the world for years, even with his excesses.

In high school wrestling, he took second in nationals, and in college, placed fourth in the nation as a senior and once beat Olympic bronze medalist Takuya Ota.

He was considering coaching college wrestling, but decided to try his childhood love and become a pro wrestler in 1993. He went to the UWFI, a promotion where Takada was the top star, and was often punished badly in the gym by Kiyoshi Tamura, who was the same age, but had more experience with submissions at the time. Tamura was a very good fighter, but Sakuraba’s success was far more significant. Pride and K-1 promoters for years wanted to match them up, feeling it would do monster business for a grudge match, but Tamura would never allow himself to be put in a position to lose to Sakuraba.

While Tamura himself fought many guys bigger than himself, like Sakuraba did, he didn’t take anywhere near the level of punishment Sakuraba did, nor did he have anywhere near the success against those larger opponents. The two finally met on the K-1 Dynamite New Year’s Eve show on December 31, 2008, long after Sakuraba’s body had been ravaged, with Tamura winning via decision.

Yoshihiro Akiyama, who K-1 wanted to make Sakuraba’s successor, promoted a passing of the torch fight on December 31, 2006, which backfired. When Sakuraba went for his low single, he slipped off and started complaining about Akiyama having greased his legs. Later, footage was discovered backstage of Akiyama doing just that. While Akiyama remained a celebrity, and many years later was a popular fighter again, for a few years he was the most hated fighter in Japan because of the feeling that he was cheating to beat a national hero.

On June 2, 2007, K-1 promoted a show at the Los Angeles Coliseum, with a Royce Gracie vs. Sakuraba rematch. It was nothing fight but Gracie was older but undamaged and Sakuraba was not the same. Gracie won via split decision, but he ended up not just failing a steroid test, but his T:E ratio was near Chris Benoit levels at the time of Benoit’s death. Still, because the commissions still were behind, they could suspend Gracie, and did, but it wasn’t in the bylaws where they could strip him of his win, so the Gracies can claim that in the end, Royce beat Sakuraba. In late 2007, to rehab, he did submit two major pro wrestling stars, Masakatsu Funaki and Katsuyori Shibata on major shows. He also lost a decision to Ralek Gracie in 2010, and for the first time in his career, submitted in a match, to Jason “Mayhem” Miller, also in 2010. At the age of 46, after being out of action for four years, Rizin brought him back to headline their first show, where he lost to Shinya Aoki in 5:56 after he was taken down and mauled on the ground and couldn’t get back up.

It was nearly 20 years since he had his first fight. After training in the UWFI gym under Robinson, in 1996, Sakuraba, the 180-pound pro wrestler, won a mixed rules match over Rene Rooze, one of the world’s best heavyweight kickboxers of the time, winning via submission.

“I gave everything I could in the gym, to perfect myself and my technique, so that I could give the fans a spectacle they deserved, “he said. “With that belief in my head, that it was my purpose in life, I’ve never stopped pushing the limits of what I can do. In the process, if I’ve somehow influenced the sport of MMA, it was never in my power to do it alone.

“I couldn’t have achieved anything without my esteemed opponents with whom I fought the fiercest of battles, without the staff, who made the events happen, without the media, who tell our stories, and most importantly, without the support of the amazing fans.

“It is my wish to share this honor with everyone in the Japanese martial arts world, that through Pride, helped establish a new era in fighting sport.”

Sakuraba’s Pride fame made him also the biggest pro wrestling star of that period to the mainstream audience. In 2000, the story was that he had followed his idol, the first Tiger Mask, to become the second junior heavyweight in history to win the Tokyo Sports Most Valuable Player award for pro wrestling, which is Japan’s biggest honor. The year before, the publication had named him the Most Outstanding Wrestler. Later, Nikkan Sports did a poll for the greatest pro wrestler of the 20th Century, and the Japanese fans voted Sakuraba seventh place. In 2004, when he was voted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, he went in as a rare first-ballot entry, and with 86 percent of the vote, tied for third with The Rock, behind only Kenta Kobashi and Jushin Liger as the highest percentage of anyone ever voted in. Today, people can’t understand why a guy who was not a long time top star in pro wrestling itself received those level of accolades, but Sakuraba was, in Japan, at that time, considered the pro wrestling superstar mainstream of that era. When he would go to the ring, his martial art was pro wrestling. His fan base came from pro wrestling although he did have appeal universally during his heyday. Pride specifically marketed its fights and spectacle to the casual fan and to the pro wrestling audience.

In his heyday, he was all over television commercials, with his character as the not very good looking “boy next door class clown.”

Born July 14, 1969, in Akita, Japan, he was both a wrestler and basketball player in high school. He placed second in the high school nationals in wrestling. He went on to wrestle at Chuo University in Tokyo (the college where Jumbo Tsuruta had won national championships in the early 70s), where he was team captain and was Eastern Japan freshman champion. As a senior, he placed fourth at nationals at 149 pounds.

On October 9, 1995, when the UWFI was struggling and went into a promotional feud with New Japan Pro Wrestling (it was this feud that Eric Bischoff saw and spawned the idea for the NWO angle), it was one of the hottest angles in Japanese pro wrestling history, headlined by UWFI’s champion, Nobuhiko Takada, losing to the IWGP champion, Keiji Muto. New Japan, in a position of power since UWFI came to them needing their help, had full control of the booking.

New Japan took advantage of that, and like with the WWF/WCW angles years later, the goal seemed to be not so much how to derive the most long-term businesses out of the feud, but for New Japan to show that their style of wrestling and wrestlers were superior to the shoot style of UWFI.

The opening match on that show, which drew 57,000 fans to the Tokyo Dome and $6.1 million, a gate record at the time, was a hot match with Sakuraba & Hiromitsu Kanehara vs. Tokimitsu Ishizawa (who later became Kendo Ka Shin) & Yuji Nagata. The match became more famous years later, since Sakuraba and Nagata became such big stars in different worlds and it was unique trivia how they had faced each other at the Dome on such a big show when they were both just starting.

During his heyday, Sakuraba came to Los Angeles and trained with some of the best fighters in the world. In the gym, his submission skills were described as unbelievable. He was in the real world there, with people who laughed at pro wrestlers as being fakes, and he was so good he was given the nickname of “water,” because it was said that wrestling with Sakuraba was like wrestling against water and you couldn’t win.

On June 24, 1998, when he defeated Carlos Newton via kneebar, it shocked everyone in the U.S. since Newton in many people’s eyes had just been robbed of a decision in a fight with Dan Henderson.

Sakuraba would come out paying tribute to pro wrestling, wearing trademark masks or replicate ring gear of the colorful stars of his childhood like Tiger Mask, Great Kabuki, Mil Mascaras, Super Strong Machine, Vader, the Road Warriors and many others. In his early days part of seeing him was about what pro wrestler would he be imitating in his ring entrance. At that point in time, major pro wrestling stars like Takada, Bam Bam Bigelow and Kendo Nagasaki had been getting destroyed in real fights. Sakuraba’s success became the rallying point for younger Japanese pro wrestling fans, particularly because he was the key figure in people believing the toughest pro wrestlers were legit top level fighters and that pro wrestling wasn’t a joke as a sport, even if the outcomes were predetermined.

Soul Rocker and Carta Brava Jr. ended up losing their masks in a three-way tag team match against the teams of Dr. Wagner Jr & Psycho Clown and Monsther & Murder Clown in the main event of AAA’s Verano de Escandalo show on 6/4 at Gimnasio Municipal Jose Neri Santos in Ciudad Juarez.

Only one of the six matches took place as advertised. Well, two, technically as Pimpinela Escarlata vs. Mamba was to take place in a hair vs. hair match, and it did, but it was also advertised as a bull terrier (dog collar chain match) match and it wasn’t.

They officially announced a three-way with Johnny Mundo defending the AAA Mega heavyweight title, AAA cruiserweight title and Latin American heavyweight title in a three-way against El Hijo del Fantasma and El Texano Jr., for TripleMania on 8/27 at Arena Ciudad in Mexico City.

The main event on that show is Wagner Jr. vs. Psycho Clown in a mask vs. mask match, which led to the Verano de Escandalo show getting buried in the press with talk of fraud. The idea is that with Wagner vs. Psycho as AAA’s biggest singles match in years, there was no way they could lose the 6/4 match with their hairs at stake.

The show didn’t sell out, as there were a lot of seats empty on the floor. Still, the promotion claimed it was a sellout. Vampiro started the day going on Facebook and knocking the locker room for being disgruntled.

1. Mascara de Bronce pinned Hernandez. Bronce came to cash in his mega title opportunity. But Johnny Mundo wasn’t there. Hernandez then showed up and while he lost the match, he stole Bronce’s title shot briefcase. About an hour or so later, Vampiro came out and got the briefcase from Hernandez.

2. Averno & Chessman & Super Fly beat La Parka & Lanzeloth & Argenis. Averno pinned Lanzeloth after a low blow.

3. Pimpinela Escarlata beat Mamba in a battle of exoticos in a hair vs. hair match. It wasn’t the bull terrier match that was originally advertised.

4. A cage match with El Hijo del Fantasma, Kevin Kross and El Texano Jr. ended up as a draw. This was advertised as Fantasma vs. Kross in a non-stip singles match. The rules were that the first person who escaped the cage would win. Fantasma and Texano landed simultaneously. Vampiro then announced that both Fantasma and Texano were the winners and the two would get a title shot at Johnny Mundo’s title later this year.

5. Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria won the AAA tag titles in a four-way over champions Mesias & Pagano, Australian Suicide & Bengala and Aerostar and Drago. Mesias then turned on Pagano after the match.

6. What was advertised as a six-way mask vs. mask match was changed to a three-way tag team match where Carta Brava Jr. & Soul Rocker were the losers against Wagner & Psycho and Monsther & Murder Clown. Carta Brava was unmasked as Sergio Mara, who has wrestled for 15 years. Soul Rocker was announced as Ignacio Patino, who has been wrestling for 15 years. Patino used to be known as Tito Santana, since apparently Antonio Pena liked the WWF Tito Santana and named a wrestler after him.

The All Japan Women’s Wrestling promotion, run by the Matsunaga brothers from 1968 to 2005, will be having a one-night reunion.

Former legends Bull Nakano and Jaguar Yokota held a press conference on 6/6 in Tokyo to announce “The Return of All Japan Women” on 9/29 at Shinjuku Face in Tokyo, a small building that only seats a few hundred people, and not even at Korakuen Hall.

Women’s pro wrestling started in Japan in 1954, when a tour of women headed by Mildred Burke (which included the supposed confrontation that Burke claimed where Mae Young backed down, a story Burke wrote about in an unpublished autobiography but that I’m skeptical of ever happened) drew sellout crowds to the old Sumo Hall. Several companies started running shows, including the Matsunaga family. Most of the time shows were held in places like strip clubs and were not taken seriously. In 1967, they even brought Fabulous Moolah over to drop her title for a short period of time.

AJW was formed in 1968, and immediately became the biggest women’s promotion after landing a deal with the Fuji Network for weekly broadcasts. The first boom period came in 1975, with The Beauty Pair tag team of Jackie Sato & Mach Fumiake. Sato was the first true female superstar and her popularity as a singer and wrestler led to a lot of women trying out, huge television ratings and even a show that sold out Budokan Hall. Next was the boom period in the 80s of the Crush Gals. During that period, the shows aired on weekend afternoons and did 14 ratings, beating everything on television during its time slot, and its biggest matches packed the biggest arenas. This led to the early90s period when AJW put on the best pro wrestling shows in the world behind talents like Manami Toyota, Aja Kong, Bison Kimura, Kyoko Inoue, Akira Hokuto, Etsuko Mita, Mima Shimoda, Toshiyo Yamada and many others. The biggest show was in 1994 at the Tokyo Dome, where they had the Five Star women’s tournament, won by Hokuto, before 32,500 fans.

The company faded as women’s wrestling splintered into different groups and the Matsunaga family had financial issues from a collapse of the real estate market that they had invested in. Also, ratings fell so the shows were moved from the afternoon to past midnight.

The uniqueness of the glory days of the promotion was its appeal to women. During the Crush Gals era, when I attended a sold out show at Korakuen Hall, there were probably about 15 or 20 guys among the 2,000 fans. The audience was almost exclusively female, maybe from the age of 14 to 21 mostly. In the 90s, that changed, because there was a stigma in the 80s that guys shouldn’t go to women’s wrestling, which changed in the 90s when the women started working men’s shows and would do blow away matches. But the pop appeal of the women as wrestlers and singers that attracted the teenage girl audience faded, and ratings fell. The show was moved past midnight, which killed it with the audience that made the show big. Then it was moved from weekly to monthly, before being dropped altogether in 2002. The promotion limped out of business in 2005.

The promotion reunion show called “Forever Spirit,” announced that Yokota, Dump Matsumoto (the greatest heel in company history), Yumiko Hotta, Aja Kong, Kaoru (Maeda), Toyota, Shimoda, Kyoko Inoue, Takako Inoue, Mariko Yoshida, Kaoru Ito, Tomoko Watanabe, Nanae Takahashi and Ayako Sato would all wrestle on the show. They also announced that Lioness Asuka, Jumbo Hori, Yukari Omori and Maki Ueda (who to the best of my knowledge hasn’t been at any show in close to 40 years) would be appearing. The notable name not mentioned, Chigusa Nagayo, is still working on FMW shows today doing gimmick tag team matches with Atsushi Onita.

Here is a look at the business for the major U.S. pro wrestling companies in May.

North American house show attendance for May, which was a limited month in 2017 because of the European tour this year being in May instead of April, averaged 3,278 paid, down 15.7 percent from last May’s 3,889 average. This year’s numbers were broken down as 4,400 for Raw and 2,540 for Smackdown.

Raw TV tapings averaged 9,000 per show last May and fell eight percent to 8,250 this May. Smackdown TV tapings averaged 6,325 this May. We don’t have a figure for last May, but they are probably up since Smackdown tapings have done better with the show being live and the exclusive roster.

NXT outside of Florida events averaged 1,500 last May, and fell 45 percent to 825 this May.

NXT events inside Florida averaged 256 per show last May and fell five percent to 243 this May. Basically that’s the same.

Raw this year fell from a 2.27 average rating and 3.26 million viewers to a 1.88 average rating and 2.70 million viewers, or a drop of 17.2 percent in ratings and also 17.2 percent in total viewership. The number of homes available dropped by one percent but that was offset by a larger number of viewers per home watching.

Smackdown was almost the same, as last May averaged a 1.61 rating and 2.26 million viewers, and this May was a 1.60 rating and 2.30 million viewers. Even though the number of homes carrying USA did drop, the increase in viewers per home for the show led to a slight increase in total viewers. Keep in mind that we are comparing a taped show with a non-exclusive roster to a live show with an exclusive roster. We really won’t be able to accurately see where Smackdown stands compared to last year until the July and really the August comparisons. July won’t be fair because of the draft being the first Smackdown live Tuesday show, but August will really give the fair read.

Impact dropped from an average of 320,000 viewers last year to 274,000 this year, a decrease of 14.4 percent. This is comparing a Tuesday show last year to a Thursday show this year. Factoring out the day of the week, we won’t be able to make a truly fair comparison until August as well.

ROH in May went from averaging 1,250 in attendance per show in May to 1,350, an increase of eight percent. Both May numbers were inflated from normal levels because they were the War of the Worlds shows with New Japan Pro Wrestling and comparisons are misleading because all four shows in May in both 2016 and 2017 were sellouts, and the increase is because the Manhattan Center is larger than the Frontier Fieldhouse, since the other shows were in the same buildings, so really it would be more fair to say things were equal.

Even though Raw was way up, this week, Smackdown was pretty much identical for the third straight week, doing 2,349,000 viewers.

Smackdown was sixth for the night on cable.

The show did a 0.56 in 12-17 (up 9.8 percent), 0.54 in 18-34 (down 8.5 percent), 0.94 in 35-49 (down 1.1 percent) and 0.96 in 50+ (up 1.1 percent).

The audience was 56.8 percent male in 18-49 and 56.8 percent male also in 12-17.

Raw on 6/5 got a huge boost from Extreme Rules as, even against the NHL playoffs, doing a bigger number than expected. The show was up to a 2.03 rating and 2,984,000 viewers (1.60 viewers per home), a 10.3 percent increase in ratings and a 14.4 percent increase over the level of the previous two weeks.

The Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Nashville Predators game four of the Stanley Cup Finals did 5,656,000 viewers. It would be the last playoff game of this season on either a Monday or Tuesday night. Next week’s Raw, featuring the return of Brock Lesnar, will go head-to-head with Game Five of the NBA Playoffs, if a game five is needed, as the Golden State Warriors are up 2-0 over the Cleveland Cavaliers with both wins by more than 20 points. If it’s not a clean sweep and there is a game five, it will be huge numbers.

Part of it could be them doing the longer storylines like whatever the deal is with Kurt Angle’s text message and who attacked Enzo Amore, as they’d gotten away from stuff like that and that is the stuff that works in soap opera settings, and ultimately, pro wrestling is sports soap opera.

Raw was No. 1 for the night on cable, just barely beating Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News at 2,974,000 viewers.

The increase in viewership was across the board. The first hour, in particular, was the strongest, with the best numbers in that hour since 4/17. The overall show had the best numbers since 4/24. The increase was more than 20 percent between the ages of 12 and 49. It was a better show and it’s hard to say what was the cause, although much of the talk after Extreme Rules was about the Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe impending match.

The first hour did 3,113,000 viewers. The second hour maintained at 3,110,000 viewers. They did have an 11.3 percent drop, which is a big figure, in the third hour to 2,758,000 viewers. In 18-49, that drop was 11.8 percent female and 10.7 percent male.

The show did a 0.72 in 12-17 (up 20.0 percent), 0.84 in 18-34 (up 20.0 percent), 1.24 in 35-49 (up 21.6 percent) and 1.14 in 50+ (up 6.5 percent).

The audience was 60.9 percent male in 18-49 and 61.3 percent male in 12-17.

Impact on 6/1 did 287,000 viewers, a six percent drop from the 305,000 the week before. That’s actually a good sign given it was going against Game one of the finals of the NBA playoffs.

The return of Lucha Underground on 5/31 did a disastrous 65,000 viewers for the Johnny Mundo vs. The Mack All Night Long (Iron Man) match. A replay did 36,000 viewers. The combined 101,000 for the two airings was down 34 percent from the season three average leading up to this of 154,000.

Since there is a lot of controversy regarding the Sexy Star title win and whether it was or wasn’t good for the promotion, over the last season, the show was averaging 160,000 until the title win for the season, and the episodes starting the next week until the end of the season dropped 14 percent since then to 138,000.

Ultimate Fighter on 5/31 did 373,000 viewers, and 249,000 more viewers via DVR over the next three days. It was the most-watched episode of the season, and this may be the first season in years where the audience is steadily growing throughout the season, up 16 percent from last year at this time.

UFC Tonight did 109,000 viewers.

The 5/30 Smackdown show was only up 22,000 viewers from 5/23, even though 5/23 had competition from both the NBA and NHL playoffs.

The show did a 1.62 rating and 2,350,000 viewers (1.58 viewers per home), which was still good for third place for the night on cable.

The show did a 0.51 in 12-17 (up 6.3 percent), 0.59 in 18-34 (down 4.8 percent), 0.95 in 35-49 (down 3.1 percent) and 0.95 in 50+ (up 2.2 percent).

The audience was 57.4 percent male in 18-49 and 60.0 percent male in 12-17.

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CMLL: Universo 2000 (Andres Reyes, 54), the longtime CMLL world heavyweight champion suffered a severe heart attack on 6/5 and was listed in stable condition at last word. Reyes suffered a stroke last year. Universo 2000 is best known as the youngest of the three Dinamita Brothers who were one of the most famous heel trios from the late 80s and were headliners well into the 00s. His 2,555 days as CMLL world heavyweight champion, or about seven years in total over three reigns, would make him one of the longest total tenures of any world heavyweight champion with a major promotion of modern times

The Friday night shows from Arena Mexico started back on 6/3 on the Azteca Network in the U.S., in a Saturday afternoon/evening time slot. They have been on-and-off for years on the station in Spanish, but they are now closer to real time as they are airing the show eight days after it runs. I wonder if that’ll mean the live feed from Mexico streaming on Claro Sports gets blocked most weeks. Azteca has stations in a lot of the major markets like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco

Marco Corleone, 39, won the Cibernetico to crown the new CMLL heavyweight champion on 6/6 in Guadalajara. This was the title vacated when Maximo Sexy was fired for destroying Ultimo Guerrero’s car. After Dragon Rojo Jr., Gran Guerrero, Euforia, Pierroth and Kraneo were eliminated, it came down to Corleone, Rush, Mr. Niebla and El Terrible. Corleone pinned Rush and then Terrible pinned Niebla. Corleone pinned Terrible to win. This was Corleone’s first match ever for the heavyweight title even though he’s been with the promotion for almost 11 years. He’s the first non-Mexican to hold the title since Steele (who later became Val Venis) in 1997

The vacant CMLL light heavyweight title, that was held by La Mascara, will be decided in a tournament on 6/10 at Arena Coliseo in Mexico City. Those announced are Caristico, Niebla Roja, Johnny Idol, Drone, Blue Panther, Ripper, Stuka Jr., Misterioso, Polvora and Cavernario. Drone is right now in the Gran Alternativa tournament the night before at Arena Mexico so on Friday night this week he’s in a show as a young wrestler trying to get a break and on Saturday he’s in the world title tournament

Caristico’s situation is unknown as he was injured on the 5/28 show at Arena Mexico and hasn’t wrestled since

The 6/2 show at Arena Mexico was Block A of the Gran Alternativa tournament. Ultimo Guerrero teamed with Sanson in the finals to beat Atlantis & Esfinge. Guerrero & Sanson had beaten Espanto Jr. & Kraneo in the quarterfinals and Mistico & Star Jr. in the semifinals. The matches were rushed, with everything one fall and ranging from 3:00 to 7:00. The crowd was down from recent weeks to about 5,000. Star Jr. got good reviews among the undercard guys being put in with the stars. Shocker, who returned to action, was moving slowly and working with protective headgear (he’s returning from jaw surgery). His opponents all looked really light with him to where it looked bad. There was also an undercard angle where Vangellys turned on Negro Casas allowing Pierroth & Rush & Hechicero to beat Casas & Vangellys & Rey Bucanero in two straight falls. Vangellys then asked to join Los Ingobernables but Rush turned him down. So they started fighting including Rush jumping into the crowd and being showered with beer. With the new audience that attends, tourists looking for a fun night out, doing things that could lead to security issues are frowned on

The 6/9 show features the B block of the tournament with Caristico & Soberano Jr., Mephisto & Raziel, Volador Jr. (returning from Japan) & Flyer, Negro Casas & Canelo Casas, Niebla Roja & Drone, Valiente & Astral, Angel de Oro & Oro Jr., and Pierroth & Akuma. They also have a strong trios match with Dragon Lee & Atlantis & Mistico vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero & Euforia

Mephisto & Ephesto & Luciferno retained the CMLL trios titles over Casas & Puma & Tiger on 6/4 at Arena Mexico in a battle of heel trios. The Casas trio had earned a title shot back in December in winning a one-night tournament, but the promotion seemingly forgot about it and never scheduled the match. Fans had started pushing about how it had been months and no title match. After a while, even the wrestlers brought it up so the match was finally scheduled

. Another new member of the Reyes family, Universo 2000 Jr., debuted in a mid-card match on 5/30 at Arena Mexico.

AAA: Dorian Roldan announced that TripleMania, built around only the Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Psycho Clown mask vs. mask match is 80 percent sold out, which, if real, would be about 14,000 tickets. That’s amazing for what is still a heavy walk-up culture (although less for big shows). Roldan said that they would be announcing other matches soon and they’ll be honoring the history of AAA by bringing back stars of the past. That was the idea behind the famous Psycho Circus vs. Villanos match a few years ago that was among the worst bouts in recorded history

They will start on U.K TV on 6/14 at 7 p.m. Wednesday nights on Front Runner TV, which is owned by Sky, but a new channel that few know about. This will be the first time AAA has had television in the U.K. I more than 20 years. In the 90s, AAA aired on the European version of Galavision on Saturdays until the station folded in 1996

Even with the issues of the advertising matches that never take place constantly, the 5/26 show at Juan de la Barrera Gym did sell out with about 5,000 fans. While these matches probably won’t happen, since the mentality is that they don’t have to deliver what is advertised, the 6/30 TV taping in Puebla lists Psycho Clown vs. Pagano in what is pushed as a rematch from TripleMania 24, Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Mesias, which is another TripleMania rematch from years ago, and Johnny Mundo defends the AAA Mega heavyweight title against El Texano Jr.

THE CRASH: La Mascara and Maximo did a run-in on the 5/30 show in Queretaro. They ran in during a three-way match with Flamita vs. Septimo Dragon vs. Rey Horus, and later ran in again during the main event for a confrontation with Penta 0M and La Rebelion and are being set up for a feud with Penta & Rey Fenix. AAA had hoped to get La Mascara and Maximo, to the point they actually publicly supported them in what was really an unsupportable cause (given that they were involved in destroying Ultimo Guerrero’s car). Konnan had also been careful not to say anything negative about them, which made it clear they were working on getting them. The Crash show drew a sellout of 3,700 in their debut in the market

They also sold out Tijuana on 6/2 with 5,000 fans, which raised enough money reportedly to pay for Nicho’s needed knee surgery. He’ll be out of action after the surgery for at least eight months. The show was promoted around being a fundraiser for the surgery. In the main event, Rey Mysterio Jr. & Daga & Garza Jr. beat Nicho & Damian 666 & Mr. Aguila. After the match, La Mascara and Maximo attacked Mysterio Jr. & Daga & Garza Jr. X-Fly returned under a mask and attacked La Mascara and Maximo as well as the faces and there were challenges back-and-forth for a cage match. Penta 0M & Rey Fenix beat Black Terry & Skayde. I was told this was the best match on the show, and Terry is 64 and Skayde is 52. The story of the match is that both Terry and Skayde helped train Penta and Fenix. The crowd ended up getting behind Terry in a big way when he stood toe-to-toe with Penta exchanging chops and submissions to the point the crowd actually booed Penta against him, which shocked everyone. Maximo (who is using the name M-ximo) and Mascara (still using his CMLL name) attacked Penta & Fenix after this match as well, and pulled off both of their masks. More challenges were issued there for Penta & Fenix vs. Mascara & Maximo for 6/23, which is the next Tijuana card. Lio Rush was announced to debut that show. Rey Horus also won the cruiserweight title on the show from Flamita in a match said to be far below expectations. The top matches on 6/23 is a four-way with Daga, Garza Jr., Nicho and Damian 666 inside of a cage where the last man left in the cage gets his head shaved. With Nicho leaving for the knee surgery, this could be giving him an extra payoff. Jeff Cobb & Keith Lee vs. Brian Cage & Willie Mack, Douglas James & Flip Gordon & Jack Evans vs. Bestia 666 & El Hijo de Pirata Morgan & Mr 450, and Horus defending the cruiserweight title against Sydal, Lio Rush and Sami Callihan are the top matches on the show. From people who are watching a lot of Mexican wrestling, the in-ring of Crash is the best, but it doesn’t have the week-to-week tradition and storylines of CMLL or the historical popularity of AAA

They also announced a 7/9 show at Arena Coliseo in Monterrey with Penta & Garza Jr. (who is local and part fo the famous Garza wrestling family of Monterrey) vs. M-ximo & Mascara, a four-way with Daga vs. Bestia 666 vs. Mack vs. Ultimo Ninja vs Sammy Guevara and Cibernetico & Sharlie Rockstar vs Damian 666 & Zorro. Cibernetico and Rockstar are only working Monterrey. It’s possible they may work other shows in the future but right now that’s the only date they have for Crash.

DRAGON GATE: The updated standings in the King of Gate tournament are: A block: Eita 2-1-1, Yamato 3-2, Dragon Kid 2-2, Don Fujii 2-2, Big R Shimizu 2-2-1; Jimmy K-Ness 0-1; B block: T-Hawk 4-1, Jimmy Susumu 3-1-1; Kzy 1-1-1; Yosuke Santa Maria 1-2, Gamma 1-2, Ben K 1-4; C block: Cima 3-1, Naruki Doi 3-1-1, Ryo Saito 2-2, Jimmy Kagetora 2-2-1; Takehiro Yamamura 1-2-1, Takashi Yoshida 0-3; D block: Shingo Takagi 4-1, Masaaki Mochizuki 3-1, BxB Hulk 3-1, Genki Horiguchi 1-3, Jimmy Kanda 1-3, Lindaman 1-4

The big show of the tour was on 6/1 at Korakuen Hall, before a sellout of an announced 1,850 fans. Naruki Doi pinned Takehiro Yamamura with a sliding kick in 15:25. Big R Shimizu scored a quick win over Yamato in 3:31 with a shot put slam. Sometimes you have to do that to teach fans that a win can come at any time. Jimmy Susumu pinned T-Hawk in 13:14. And in the main event, Shingo Takagi beat BxB Hulk in 19:42. Since the tournament matches are 20:00, fans pretty much expected a draw in the main event, when Takagi distracted the ref and gave Hulk a low blow for the pin. Yamato, the champion, was critical of him for cheating t win, but Takagi said that Yamato had just been squashed quickly and was a paper champion. This led to Yamato & Hulk vs. Takagi & T-Hawk for the next show at Korakuen Hall in July.

There was a big angle on a 6/2 show at the Hotel Rajeon in Tokyo. It was a combination wrestling show and fancy dinner. The waiters for the dinner were the wrestlers, and there was also a bridal show where a local bridal service sent models and some of the wrestlers were in tuxedos as their escorts. Yosuke Santa Maria, who does a cross-dressing gimmick, was in a green wedding gown and was paired with Yamato. Santa Maria then said he (she) wanted to get married and whoever he (she) kissed would have to marry her. She kissed Yamato. Yamato tried to run away but was stopped. Santa Maria’s real parents were there and Yamato and the parents went along with a mock wedding ceremony and they kissed, promised to have kids and that perhaps their kids would grow up to be stars in Dragon Gate

Jimmy K-Ness is out of action due to a pulled calf muscle. That could mess up the tournament a little.

ALL JAPAN: They announced for the 6/11 show at Korakuen Hall three top matches with Shuji Ishikawa defending his Triple Crown against Jake Lee, Suwama vs. Kento Miyahara, almost surely for the No. 1 contender spot, and Kengo Mashimo & Kai defending the world tag team titles against Zeus & The Bodyguard.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Takashi Sugiura, 47, will be out of action for some time as he has to undergo heart surgery. He said he’s been suffering from arrhythmia for six years and has been taking medicine for it. He said that the medicine is no longer taking care of the issue. He’s been suffering from dizziness in training of late and when he consulted with his doctor, he recommended surgery. The surgery is scheduled for 7/14 as the doctors want him to rest from all physical activity for one month before surgery. The doctors told him he would be able to return to the ring about three months after surgery, so that’s pegged for mid-October

They did a strong crowd for a show with two title matches on 6/4 at Korakuen Hall, almost filling the building with 1,405 fans, a good sign given how well they’ve been struggling of late. The main event saw Katsuhiko Nakajima retain the GHC title beating Mohammed Yone in 18:56 after a brainbuster. Nakajima’s next title defense will be on 6/25 in Koriyama against Atsushi Kotoge, on a show that also has Hayata’s first jr. title defense against Taiji Ishimori. Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi retained the GHC tag titles beating the giant combination of Cody Hall & Randy Reign in 21:34 when Taniguchi pinned Reign after a Maybach bomb. Marufuji & Taniguchi were challenged by Masa Kitamiya & Go Shiozaki. Right now they are also on the 6/25 show, but it’s a non-title match. Kotoge got his title shot by beating Kenou in 16:44 after the killswitch. Brian Cage is also in line for a title match after pinning former champion Takashi Sugiura. Cage said that he wanted Nakajima, so that looks to be for a bigger show in the summer

They announced a junior heavyweight tag team tournament that will take place from 6/13 to 6/27, with the first and last night at Korakuen Hall, as the focal point of the next tour. The teams are current jr. tag champions Taiji Ishimori & Hi69, Ohara & Hitoshi Kumano, Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke, Hayata (the GHC jr. champion) & Yo-Hey, Shunma Katsumata & Mao (from the DNA promotion), Phil Atlas (a Canadian independent wrestler) & Seiya Morohashi, Gurukun Mask & Shiuru Joe of the Ryukyu Dragon promotion, and Kaiser & Gaston Masteo from Chile

Kaito Kiyomiya is leaving for Canada as he’ll be based in Windsor and train with and be booked through Scott D’Amore of Impact Wrestling, which means there’s a good chance he’ll end up with Impact.

NEW JAPAN: Kenny Omega was on Live Audio Wrestling and talked about his future: “Right now, I’m 100 percent content with where I am because I would love to be the driving force behind New Japan in the global market. However, generally, I’m just guided by how I feel, where my heart’s at and where I’m needed, if that makes sense. I’m not gonna lie. There are things that I haven’t been able to do that I would love to do at some point in time. One of those things is, I really feel I need to have a high-stakes main event with A.J. I really feel I have to. I’m not sure where it will be. I’m just saying that it’s always in the back of my mind.

Tomoaki Honma is continuing to improve. While he can lightly jog, there are hand coordination issues that he still needs help with. He still needs assistance at things such as pouring water or brushing his teeth

Katsuyori Shibata is now said to be in good spirits. While he probably will never wrestle again, there is talk of him staying with the company and working full-time as a coach.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Kairi Hojo, who is leaving for WWE shortly, had her farewell match on 6/4 in Tokyo. They booked her farewell as a series of one-minute matches against ten different wrestlers. She scored three wins, had six draws and one loss. Her loss was the KZK. After the match, all of the wrestlers can to the ring to give farewell messages

DDT booked the Tokyo Dome on 6/1 for an empty arena match between owner Sanshiro Takagi vs. Minoru Suzuki. It was a half hour of comedy, with no ring, including submissions where if they could touch one of the bases (baseball set up), it was a break. There were cameos of all kinds of DDT wrestlers showing up at different points in the match doing comedy bits. Aja Kong sang the national anthem and got annoyed that they tried to interrupt her. It was totally ridiculous as Suzuki came out with his same entrance while encouraging the fans, in the building with no fans, to slap. He’d work the non-existent crowd. Saki Akai, a woman wrestler, was in the stands as a beer vendor even though there were no fans. Jun Kasai was there as a janitor. There were guys dressed up as Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Genichiro Tenryu was there watching. Old-time wrestler Goro Tsurumi was also there. Meiko Satomura showed up on the pitching mound with a baseball and glove and threw a pitch to Suzuki. Suzuki, who came out as Never champion with his belt, eventually won with a Gotch piledriver on home plate. After the match, Takagi challenged Suzuki to a rematch on an uninhabited island. DDT broadcasted this live on its DDT Universe subscription website with the first half free as a way to get new subscribers. To their credit, it was a unique idea for attention and did get people talking about the promotion who usually never talk about it

The King of DDT tournament has come down to the semifinals of Shigehiro Irie vs. Harashima and Tetsuya Endo vs. Akito. The semifinals and finals take place on 6/25 at Korakuen Hall

Konosuke Takeshita’s next KO-D title defense will be against Mike Bailey on 7/2 in Tokyo

Keiji Muto announced a legends dream match teaming with TNT (Savio Vega) & Great Kabuki to face Riki Choshu & Tatsumi Fujinami and a mystery partner in the main event of the second Pro Wrestling Masters show on 7/26 at Korakuen Hall. Muto used to team with TNT in 1990 in New Japan, and Kabuki is considered the father of the Great Muta gimmick and in WCW was billed as Kabuki’s son by Gary Hart. .. Antonio Inoki’s NEW promotion on 6/2 at Korakuen Hall before 1,233 fans, had a match where Shinya Aoki beat Masakatsu Funaki via submission. Funaki was Japan’s top MMA fighter in the mid-90s and Aoki was in the same position about 15 years later

Real Japan announced a 6/29 show at Korakuen Hall with Shinjiro Otani defending the Legends title against Masakatsu Funaki

There will be a 40th anniversary of Jaguar Yokota’s debut on 6/17 at Korakuen Hall featuring Yokota & Aja Kong & Taru facing Manami Toyota & Kyoko Inoue & Shiro Koshinaka in a mixed tag. Yokota debuted as a wrestler on June 28, 1977, at the age of 15. She was WWWA world champion, at the time the top belt in women’s pro wrestling, at the age of 18, at which time she was as good as the top male wrestlers in the world. Really, she was the first woman wrestler who was as good if not better than the top male wrestlers of her era.

HERE AND THERE: Bucky Palermo, a famous referee in the 70s in Pittsburgh as well as the rest of the WWWF, passed away on 6/6 age the age of 86. According to Bill Apter’s 1Wrestling.com, Palermo fell down on 5/31 and hit his head on the floor. He first complained of headaches but didn’t get it checked. But he blacked out at one point and when he was taken to the hospital, the doctors found he was bleeding on the brain, and at his age they likely couldn’t do surgery. He was taken to Hospice care. Palermo was a referee second and ran a shoe shop in Lawrenceville, PA as his main occupation. He started working on fixing shoes back in 1941 at the age of ten, and didn’t retire until 2015. He was also a referee for 35 years and won a Golden Gloves boxing championship in his youth in 1950, so always had the respect of the wrestlers for being a real fighter. For decades, he was a referee on virtually every show held in Western Pennsylvania. The local KSWA promotion gave him a Hall of Fame plaque in 2013

Smith Hart, 68, the oldest son of Stu & Helen Hart, has entered hospice care. He’s been battling advanced cancer. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years ago, but unlike Bret, where the cancer was found in its early stages and he was able to have it taken care of through surgery, Smith’s cancer was advanced by the time he was diagnosed. On Facebook, Hart wrote, “I am now more comfortable after being moved into Hospice care. I would like to end any strife or suffering I have been involved with over my life. To anyone and everyone, cherish the moments you have in this world. Do not waste your time with hate or anger. To anyone I have offended, mistreated or been at odds with, please accept my humblest of apologies. While I may not have always been everyone’s cup of tea, I always did my best to be the person I as most inspired by, my father.

Bill Eadie, 69, who was best known as Bolo Mongol, Masked Superstar, Billy Crusher and Demolition Ax as one of the major stars in wrestling both in North America and Japan during the 70s and 80s, said at the 6/3 show in Parkersburg, WV that it was the final match of his career. Eadie, wrestling as Demolition Ax, wrestled in a six-man teaming with Bulldozer & Nightmare against Tony Atlas & Adam Parsons & Brad Thomas for the IWWA promotion. Before the match, the promotion inducted Eadie into their Hall of Fame, with Jim Cornette doing the induction. Ax was a babyface to the fans on a heel team, and turned as his partner Bulldozer turned on him and beat him down until Cornette threw Ax a tennis racquet, which he used on Bulldozer to set up the pin. He noted that his final match was in the state he got his college degree in (West Virginia University). He was trained by Newton Tattrie in Pittsburgh, who took Eadie under his wing as the replacement for his former partner Bepo Mongol, who had become Nikolai Volkoff

There is a trademark issue with the NWA name which is really what has been holding up the sale to Billy Corgan. There is also an issue because in 1998, when the NWA name was brought into WWF with Jim Cornette leading the Rock & Roll Express, Dan Severn, The new Midnight Express (Bob Holly & Bart Gunn) and Jeff Jarrett, that Howard Brody, who was running the NWA signed a deal where WWF would have the rights to use the name open-ended. They wouldn’t own the name, but they would have a legal right to use it, although they stopped using it nearly 20 years ago. Bruce Tharpe’s trademark application for the NWA name was suspended by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office which has messed up the sale because the key thing Billy Corgan was looking at buying were all the trademarks to the NWA name. Tharpe filed for the trademarks in March after his original rights to the name and the trademarks expired in December. Until it’s taken care of, he can’t transfer the ownership to Corgan, who had hoped the deal would be completed by now

Harley Race, 74, who is mostly confined to a motorized scooter, suffered a fall in his home on 5/30 and needed immediate surgery to relieve the swelling in his legs. He suffered a broken right femur, left fibula and left tibia as well as a spiral break of his left ankle. He was originally brought to the local hospital where he was diagnosed with the four breaks. They are hoping the left leg can heal naturally but had surgery to repair the break of the right leg. He needed four blood transfusions and then underwent a second surgery on 6/2 to reset the fractures. He had started physical therapy over the weekend. He was told years ago that he would probably never walk again and he laughed it off, and he was back walking 50 to 100 feet at a time regularly. Race was the NWA world champion seven times, and with a few brief one week interruptions for the likes of Giant Baba, Dusty Rhodes and Tommy Rich, was champion from 1977, winning it from Terry Funk, until 1981, losing it to Rhodes. He had another reign from the summer of 1983 until Starrcade 1983, winning and losing it back to Ric Flair. One of the great behind-the-scenes stories of the era is that in late 1983, Vince McMahon was setting up his national expansion and made a big offer to Race to no-show Starrcade and come to the WWF as the rightful NWA champion, to lose the title to Hulk Hogan which would have made Hogan essentially the real world champion of wrestling as WWF champion, NWA champion (at least in the fans’ eyes) and Hogan had never lost in the AWA either. Race turned the offer down. He still runs the WLW promotion and trains wrestlers out of his home base of Troy, MO.

Judy Poffo, the mother of Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo and wife of the late Angelo Poffo, passed away on 6/3 at the age of 90. Angelo Poffo met his wife when both were attending DePaul University, where he was on the baseball team. He started as a pro wrestler in 1948 and was married the next year, and Randy was born in 1952 and Lanny in 1954. The two were married for 61 years before Angelo passed away in 2010 at the age of 84

Superstar Billy Graham, who turned 74 on 6/7, was ruled two weeks ago by his doctors at the Mayo Clinic of being 100 percent cured of Hepatitis C. He had been undergoing treatment for the disease from September through November. In December, he has his blood tested and they found no signs of the virus. Another test in March showed the same thing. The latest test, in May, came six months after treatment and doctors felt that with no sign of the disease that the treatment cured him. Graham had been battling the disease for decades, including it leading to a liver transplant that saved his life in 2002. Graham will be having a complete left hip replacement in the late fall. He’s had a multitude of hip replacement surgeries. The current hip is loose and the metal cup is wearing his pelvis bone away. But all of his vital organs right now are in good shape

Matt Riddle has pulled out of the 6/16 PWG show, which has changed the show around. The new lineup is Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly vs. Zack Sabre Jr. & Marty Scurll, Matt Sydal vs. Sami Callihan, War Machine vs. Brian Cage & Michael Elgin, Lio Rush vs. Keith Lee, Jeff Cobb vs. Trent Baretta, Trevor Lee vs. Chuck Taylor and Jason Cade vs. Jake Crist vs. Dezmond Xavier

Ric Flair, 68, apparently has a broken right hand. He had photos of his hand with a cast on it and posted photos of a badly broken little finger on the hand. He also had a cut on his nose. He made a joke about one Warrior fan down, which then turned into people coming up with news stories about him getting into a fight in the hallway at the game in Cleveland, except there is no evidence that happened either and one would think if it did, given the amount of fans and press there and who he is, it would have been a huge story. At this point it’s still not clear exactly what happened to him

The planned All Pro Wrestling show on 9/30 at the Cow Palace, the return to that building, is now being moved to November

It at least appears that the only three states that Josh Barnett and Tom Lawlor wouldn’t be able to do pro wrestling in are Virginia, Kentucky and Maryland. There may be others. All states that have athletic commissions that still regulate pro wrestling where wrestlers have to get licensed would be states they would be banned since they are would not be allowed to be licensed anywhere due to their suspensions for drug test failures. Brock Lesnar would also be banned in those states, although I have the feeling that WWE may be able to get them to pull strings for him. New York is a commission state and Lesnar was allowed to work SummerSlam on the guise that since wrestlers aren’t licensed, they wouldn’t stop him from wrestling even though he’s on the national suspension list. In theory, the commission could go after the promoters, who are licensed, for using a banned competitor, but in real life, the New York commission is hardly going after WWE for that

Pat McAfee, 30, who was a punter for the Indianapolis Colts from 2009 to 2016 and was first-team All Pro in 2014 as well as a first-team All-American at West Virginia, said on his podcast that he is starting to train under Rip Rogers for pro wrestling. McAfee retired after the last season and is now a podcast comedian

On 6/3, the AULL promotion ran a show that sold out Tlalnepantla’s Arena Lopez Mateos pushed as the 50th anniversary of Hector Guzman as promoter and built around honoring Dr. Wagner and Blue Demon, using Wagner Jr. vs. Demon Jr. as the main event. Demon was DQ’d for a low blow in a cheap finish

. A 6/4 show promoted by MDA and Lucha Memes at Arena Puebla drew a crowd similar to what CMLL does for its weekly Monday shows in the same building with an Ultimo Dragon vs. Ultimo Guerrero main event, with Guerrero winning via pin after a low blow. This was the show that at first was to have Jeff Cobb of Lucha Underground against Hechicero of CMLL, which is a politically tough match. Cobb said he had to pull out since the promotion never told him it was working with CMLL talent. Cobb was replaced by El Satanico. That show also featured an old school technical match where Black Terry & Negro Navarro retained their Arena Coliseo tag team titles beating Blue Panther & Octagon. It was noted that 64-year-old Black Terry, who used to wrestle for the LeBell promotion in California, worked on 6/2 against Penta 0M & Rey Fenix in Tijuana; Saturday against Dr. Cerebro & Caifan, and Sunday against Panther & Octagon, and all three nights, fans threw money in the ring when the match was over

In Puerto Rico, the new WWL group is building around newcomer Manny Ferno, who is the top heel in the promotion besides Konnan, who is a fly-in and not an in-ring wrestler. Ferno went to El Vikingo’s wrestling school looking for Mike Mendoza, who jumped from WWC, and is Vikingo’s grandson. Mendoza wasn’t there, so he beat up Chris Mendoza, Mike’s younger brother to build up a match on 6/24

The Ray Gonzalez Jr. turn has been the big thing in WWC. Ray Gonzalez Sr. is the booker and Ray Jr. is trying to get over by insulting fans on the Internet and saying how they talk without even going to the shows

Hugo Savinovich is promoting a show on 9/23 in Bayamon as a tribute to Ricky Banderas (Mil Muertes in LU). It’ll be Banderas vs. Rey Mysterio Jr., plus Ivelisse (who is considered the best woman wrestler to come out of Puerto Rico), Brian Cage and MVP

. Trevor Lee and Michael Elgin had a reported ****½ match on 6/3 in Gibsonville, NC at for the CWF Mid Atlantic promotion. Elgin worked the match with an ankle injury. The injury was a fluke deal at his home, taking a step off his doorstep. He joked given the hard style that he works and the heavy weights he puts up in the gym, he ended up hurting himself just that

It looks like the former Santino Marella, who retired after neck surgery, will come back to wrestle later this year for his own Battlarts promotion that is out of his gym in Mississauga, ONT

The U.S. World Team Trials, which will determines who represents the country from 8/21 to 8/26 in Paris, France, takes place on 6/9 and 6/10 in Lincoln, NE. The U.S. team, coming off winning two freestyle medals at the Olympics, has one of the most balanced teams in a long-time. There are genuine stars in every weight class, with the favorite being Tony Ramos at 125.5, Logan Stieber at 134, Jordan Oliver at 145.5, James Green at 154, Jordan Burroughs at 163, J’den Cox at 189, Kyle Snyder at 213.5 and Nick Gwiazdowski at heavyweight. Snyder has talked about doing UFC and Gwiazdowski is expected to go to WWE in 2020. Hodge Trophy winner Zain Retherford will be competing at 145.5. Kyle Dake will be at 163 and David Taylor, who was the star at the U.S. national championships this year, is at 189.

There were some interesting recent podcast notes. Sonny Onno was on with Eric Bischoff, mostly talking about the Collision in Korea shows but Bischoff asked him how much he got in the settlement with WCW on the racial discrimination lawsuit. Onno wouldn’t say, but did hint, saying it was about double his annual contract and enough to pay for his kids college education

. Kevin Sullivan made a mention that the WCW version of Prince Iaukea (Mike Haynor, given the name because of Sullivan’s fondness for Curtis Iaukea) had won the lottery and instead of a lump sum, gets a six figure check every year

Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore promotion is running a tour in Australia with shows on 6/16 in Brisbane (Young Bucks vs. mystery former WWE tag team champions, Jake Hager vs Billy Gunn, Tommy Dreamer vs. Mohamed Ali Vaez in a street fight); 6/17 in Sydney (Young Bucks vs. Dreamer & Gunn, MVP vs. Matt Cross); 6/18 in Perth (Young Bucks vs. mystery former WWE tag champs, Hager vs. MVP); 6/23 in Melbourne (Hager vs. Dreamer vs. MVP) and 6/24 in Adelaide (Dreamer & MVP vs. mystery former WWE tag champs), Gunn vs. Swagger. The Bucks aren’t on the Melbourne and Adelaide shows since they have the ROH PPV and TV tapings that weekend. Also on the tour are Colt Cabana, Swoggle and Bull James. .. Lio Rush has missed some action due to a broken nose suffered two weeks ago although was working over the weekend

Jesse Neal, the former Impact wrestler, returned this past weekend after being out with a broken ankle..

EUROPE: Five Star Wrestling officially announced the cancellation of its entire 30-week tour they had been pushing and the 128 man tournament. We’d noted last week that things seemed in trouble. A lot of the talent is furious since these were Saturday night major gigs. They are claiming they will be still be doing the tournament, but starting in February, with dates announced for 2/1 in Liverpool, 2/8 in Newcastle, 2/15 in Sheffield, 2/22 in London, 3/1 in Belfast, 3/8 in Aberdeen, 3/22 in Manchester, 4/19 in Dundee, 4/26 in Blackburn and 5/10 in Cardiff. In a letter to talent booked, they were told the shows were canceled due to the Manchester terrorist attacks, which most took as offensive since shows take place everywhere and aside from the Manchester Arena, which was still closed this week (which is why WWE had no choice but to cancel that show), it hasn’t changed any dates anywhere. The promotion probably realized quickly how badly that excuse came off. The next day, when announcing the shows being canceled to the public, they never gave that excuse. Nick Aldis, who wasn’t booked on the tour, gave this advice, “I’ve probably lost out on more than a few bookings over the years by demanding details and deposits. This shit is why.” The feeling is the C.M. Punk grandstand challenge was a last-ditch effort to publicize the shows and ended up getting no results

What Culture Pro Wrestling was doing a live streamed show on 6/3 called “Fight Back,” using a logo on the word “Back” what is like the YouTube logo. During the show, the promotion pushed about how the new decisions by YouTube in categorizing pro wrestling as non-advertiser friendly have greatly hampered their ability to generate income since ad revenue from their shows put up on YouTube were a major part of their business model. This show, which was headlined by Joe Hendry vs. Martin Kirby for the WCPW title in a last man standing match, and didn’t include any American fly-ins, was an admitted money losing effort designed to raise awareness of the categorical change of wrestling and how unfair it is to wrestling content producers. YouTube claimed it was taking a harder stance on certain categories of videos, which are 1) Hateful Content, which is content that promotes discrimination or disparages or humiliates individuals or groups of individuals based on race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, etc; 2) Inappropriate use of family entertainment characters: Which is content that depicts characters engaged in violent, sexual, vile or otherwise inappropriate behavior, even if done for comedic or satirical purposes; and 3) Incendiary and demeaning content: Videos that use gratuitously disrespectful language that shames or insults an individual or a group. I’m not sure how modern independent pro wrestling fits into those categories except in its most extreme form, which isn’t what the vast majority of promotions are doing. WCPW did the show and took the tact of trying to promote to YouTube that pro wrestling is not about hate, but it’s an art form which brings people together. WCPW tried to get fans to sign a petition to demand YouTube changed their new policy on pro wrestling. So then, YouTube decided to ban WCPW from streaming any of its content live claiming it was a violation of YouTube policy on spam and deceptive practices. WCPW protested that and later in the week got the strike taken away and are back to being able to stream live, but still can’t make any money off it. The company may be forced to move most of its material to its subscription channel that it controls and just put highlights on YouTube to promote subscriptions

Revolution Pro has announced an 8/17 show in York Hall in London with Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Marty Scurll as the main event

They also announced the first round of the one-night British J Cup tournament on 7/8 in Walthamstow at Assembly Hall, as Tiger Mask vs. Scurll, Will Ospreay vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Jushin Liger vs. Josh Bodom and Kushida vs. Kyle O’Reilly.

LUCHA UNDERGROUND: The first TV show back on 5/31 was the All Night Long title match where Johnny Mundo retained going to a 3-3 draw with the Mack in about 40:00. The match was great. There were no other skits or anything else on the show, just a long title match.

ROH: The TV tapings on 6/3 in Chicago Ridge, IL drew 950 fans, which was just short of capacity

There are no shows until the 6/23 PPV show from Lowell, MA with Christopher Daniels vs. Cody for the ROH title, Young Bucks vs. War Machine for the tag titles, Ultimo Guerrero & El Terrible vs. Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia, Jay Lethal vs. Silas Young and Frankie Kazarian vs. Hangman Page in a strap match

The 6/4 show in Collinsville, IL, drew 500 fans. The crowd was down from what they’ve been drawing with the NBA playoffs, and a WWE PPV going head-to-head. The show started at 7 p.m. and the main event didn’t go into the ring until 10:45 p.m. The show got positive reviews overall. A lot of fans left during the main event as it appeared that after both a Young Bucks match and a Cody match, the people had seen everyone but Christopher Daniels since Jay White and Punishment Martinez, who he wrestled in the main event, had worked earlier in the show, and nobody believed either of them was going to win the title. It opened with Myron Reed pinning Curt Stallion. Both are students of Michael Elgin’s Glory Pro promotion that runs out of St. Louis. Both looked good. Frankie Kazarian pinned Flip Gordon in a real good opener. Rhett Titus & Caprice Coleman beat Coast 2 Coast of Leon St. Giovanni & Shaheem Ali in a solid match. Jay Briscoe pinned Shane Taylor in a good brawl with Taylor looking good and Jay always has a good match. Next was the ten man gauntlet match, basically a Royal Rumble but more like Aztec Warfare since it was pins rather than over the top rope (which actually makes for a better match) where it came down to two people and then they would do a singles match, where the winner would face Christopher Daniels in the main event for the title. The gimmick was that nobody could be in this match if they had ever been ROH champion in the past. Those eliminated were Cheeseburger, Will Ferrara, Kenny King, Dalton Castle, Sho Tanaka, Jonathan Gresham, Jake Crist (with his brother who is injured with him) and Yohei Komatsu. It came down to Punishment Martinez and Jay White, who are feuding coming off the attack at the PPV, and they went to a double count out. Very strong booking and stories. Castle was the most over. King was the guy in the longest. Cheeseburger eventually pinned King thanks to help from Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley. Ferrara then destroyed Cheeseburger with a chair and got DQ’d. Cheeseburger was destroyed and easily pinned by Martinez. This led to Christopher Daniels defending against both in a three-way in the main event. Mandy Leon pinned Stacy Shadows. Bobby Fish beat Jay Lethal in what was reported as the best match on the show. This result would seem to indicate to me that they think they’ve got Fish for at least a little while longer. Silas Young and Beer City Bruiser got involved. When it was over, Fish & Lethal were together against them. Bully Ray & Mark Briscoe beat Silas Young & Beer City Bruiser. Fans were into this one with a simple face vs. heel dynamic and Bully Ray is strong in his role as the credible veteran star who can still go, but is no longer the focal point of the promotion. The Young Bucks retained the tag titles over Matt Taven & Vinny Marseglia. The Young Bucks debuted a new finisher, the one armed Meltzer driver where Matt held the opponent in a tombstone position with one arm when Nick came off the top rope. This was reported as really good as well. Cody & Hangman Page beat Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley. There was a tease of a split-up of a heel turn by Sabin. He guaranteed that they would win the tag team titles “Well, if not, we’ll see.” Cody wasn’t even advertised for the show until a few days ahead of time. Daniels retained the title over Martinez and White in the main event. Not much crowd reaction to this one.

TNA: The company is running its first house show since 2015 on 8/5 in Staten Island, NY, at the Staten Island Yankees Stadium. The plan is to run a series of house shows starting this summer

It is confirmed that DeAngelo Williams, 34, currently a free agent but a legit star running back with the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers, will be teaming with Moose at Slammiversary against Chris Adonis & Eli Drake. Adonis was injured on the 5/30 show in Mumbai and hospitalized, but did work the next day

The company announced on 6/5 that James Storm would be announced as their 2017 Hall of Fame inductee. Usually, the announcement is made on the Slammiversary PPV and the induction is part of the Bound for Glory show. Storm, 40, was hired by the Jarretts when they started TNA after seeing him on an independent show against Chris Harris. The two were put together as the babyface tag team America’s Most Wanted, who held the TNA tag team titles when they were called the NWA belts seven times, and won the Observers tag team of the year award in 2005. He also held the TNA tag team titles five times with Bobby Roode as Beer Money, and had single reigns with Gunner, Christopher Daniels and Abyss

While in India last week they taped in a TV studio that held 500 people. Everyone in the crowd was paid 250 to 400 rupee (between $3.80 and $7.60) to attend, so even in a small studio they not only didn’t charge for tickets but paid people to attend. That’s common for television shoots in India and wouldn’t have the same stigma if you did that in the U.S. Fans were instructed who to cheer and boo, and they were very good at doing so. They were told the villains would come from the left side of the stage and the heroes from the right side. The waves that may make the air were also instructed by the M.C. and not something the audience did spontaneously. However, EC 3 did have very legit heat when he came out as E Singh 3, and the crowd really loved Mahabali Shera and Sonjay Dutt. Jeff Jarrett was telling reporters that they are scouting more talent from India.

UFC: Dana White said this week that Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping isn’t happening and that St-Pierre would be fighting a welterweight. Both Bisping and St-Pierre still want that fight

White also pushed that Cris Cyborg would be fighting on the 7/29 show in Anaheim. The plan is for Cyborg to fight for the vacant featherweight title. Right now it looks like Germaine de Randamie is going to vacate the title and move back to 135. Megan Anderson, who is the Invicta champion at 145 and who is the only person who has been pushing for a fight with Cyborg, had signed to defend her title on 7/15 in Kansas City against Helena Kolesnyk. However, Ariel Helwani reported this week that there are talks back on for Cyborg vs. Anderson as a title match for Anaheim. This is also Cyborg’s last fight on her contract, but if she wins the title, the contract automatically extends. One of the things with Cyborg and UFC is that even though there are all kinds of headaches with her, and they are having to create a title for her in a division with almost no fighters, if she were to leave, she’d go to Bellator, and Bellator would have a claim that they have the best female fighter in the world, and I don’t think UFC wants that. Other new fights on that show are Sara McMann vs. Ketlen Vieira, Jarred Brooks vs. Eric Shelton, Dimitri Smoliakov vs. Adam Wieczorkowski, Josh Burkman vs. Drew Dober and Alexandra Albu vs. Kailin Curran

Forbes magazine listed Conor McGregor as the 24th highest paid athlete in the world over the past 12 months, at $34 million, with $27 million coming from his purses (which would be the second Nate Diaz fight and the Eddie Alvarez fight) and $4 million in sponsorships. That sounds high to me. No other MMA fighter cracked the top 100, although Chandler Jones, the brother of Jon Jones, was No. 76 at $22.9 million. Three boxers made the list, Canelo Alvarez at $28.5 million, Anthony Joshua at $22 million and Wladmir Klitschko at $21.5 million

With the $360 million that White made from the sale of the company, among the things he did was buy three expensive homes in the Tournament Hills enclave in Las Vegas in the past few months. They are all near each other, all near the 6,000 square foot mansion he bought there in 2006 from Frank Fertitta for $1.95 million. In the last few months ,he purchased three houses in the same neighborhood, a 7,700 square foot home for just under $1.8 million, a 5,500 square foot home for $2.4 million and a 4,700 square foot home for $2.0 million

The word going around is that the guys fighting on the new Tuesday night show from the UFC Gym would be newcomers to the promotion who fight at the regional level at around $5,000 to show and $5,000 more to win, although there will also be veterans with higher contracts on losing streaks put on the show with it being their chance to save their jobs

This week’s show is on 6/11 from Auckland, New Zealand, which airs on Sunday morning local time so it appears in prime time on FS 1 on 6/10 in the usual time slot. The show starts at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Fight Pass with Maestro Dong Hyun Kim II (15-8-3) vs. Thibault Gouti (11-3) and J.J. Aldrich (4-2) vs. Chan-Mi Jeon (5-0). Then comes the five hours on FS 1 with Kiichi Kunimoto (18-6-2) vs. Zak Ottow (14-4), Ashkan Mokhtarian (12-5) vs. John Moraga (16-6), Luke Juneau (11-3) vs. Dominique Steele (14-8), Damien Brown (17-9) vs. Vinc Pichel (8-1), Mizuto Hirota (18-7-2) vs. Alex Volkanovski (14-1), Tim Elliott (14-7-1) vs. Ben Nguyen (15-6), Ion Cutelaba (12-3) vs. Henrique da Silva (12-2), Dan Hooker (13-7) vs. Ross Pearson (19-13), Derek Brunson (16-5) vs. Daniel Kelly (13-1) and a main event of Derrick Lewis (18-4) vs. Mark Hunt (12-11-1)

New fights added to the 8/5 show in Mexico City are Rashad Evans vs. Sam Alvey and Dustin Ortiz vs. Hector Sandoval

Chan Sung Jung, the Korean Zombie, pulled out of his 7/29 fight in Anaheim with Ricardo Lamas due to a completely torn ACL and MCL, which will require surgery. He’ll be out of action for probably eight months minimum after an injury like that and he came back with a lot of momentum with a big win over Dennis Bermudez as well as drawing a strong television rating. Jason Knight, who has been looking great in recent fights, gets his shot to break into the division’s top tier as the replacement.

Alexander Gustafsson was on the MMA Hour this week and his Twitter altercation with Jon Jones was brought up. Gustafsson, who said that he believes Jones is the best fighter of all-time, said that he doesn’t like him and hopes that Daniel Cormier, who he does like, wins their title fight. Either way, Gustafsson is likely to face the winner later this year. Jones went on Twitter and said Gustafsson had no heart and that’s why he lost to Cormier. Gustafsson said he didn’t like how Jones was on stage bragging that he beat Cormier one week after doing a bunch of cocaine. “He’s been getting caught for everything, it feels like one thing after the other, but the way he was sitting on the stage with DC and he just said he did cocaine a week before he fought him, he’s not even embarrassed telling that stuff. He’s just proud telling that stuff. For me, you don’t do that.” Jones has also said that when he got into the cage with Gustafsson in what is generally considered the greatest light heavyweight title fight in UFC history, that he thought he was going to lose because he ha partied so much before hand. Gustafsson said that he believes Jones had been doing PEDs before his fight with him

Alan Jouban pulled out of his 7/8 fight with Brian Camozzi in Las Vegas due to a broken foot suffered this past week in training

Two bouts announced for the 9/9 show in Edmonton are Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis and Sarah Moras vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith.

OTHER MMA: Whether this is legit or not I have no idea, but the KSW promotion claimed that the paid attendance for their show on 5/27 at PGD Narodowy Stadium in Warsaw, Poland was 57,766. That may have beaten WrestleMania besides beating every UFC show ever, and all but one Pride show

Michael “The Voice” Schiavello, the play-by-play guy for AXS Fights, had his final show on 6/2 and bid farewell at the end. He was hired in 2011 by AXS to be their lead announcer and moved to Las Vegas from Melbourne, Australia. With his wife pregnant with their second son, he and his wife made the decision to move back to Melbourne so both of their families could see the kids grow up. He had worked with AXS for eight years (the first few years he did a few shows flying in or shows in Japan where he’d fly from Australia to Japan to cover them) and hosted more than 250 shows on the station, doing live events around the country most Friday nights. Schiavello’s phrases such as “Good Night Irene” (taken from Adrian Adonis’ sleeper hold in the 80s WWF) for a knockout or choke, and “The Big Kibosh” when a killer knockout blow was thrown and his ability to turn a comedic phrase at the spur of the moment made him a unique announcer that many loved and I was always entertained by him. Really, he brought the Jim Ross enthusiasm and product knowledge to kickboxing and MMA and worked hard to give the fighters personalities and tell stories. Particularly in the K-1 World Grand Prix’s, if you never watched K-1 before, he would get every fighter over as a larger-than-life personality such as his ability to make Peter Aerts at the Grand Prix the equivalent of Undertaker at WrestleMania (even using that comparison). I had first seen him and known him for his work on K-1 in Japan as their English language announcer, and AXS hired him full-time after K-1 went down. He also did some amazing television interviews with people like Dan Gable, Steve Austin, Dana White, Hulk Hogan and Fedor Emelianenko. But he never got his dream to do “The Voice vs. The Rock,” and in a funny story in it’s own way, he was scheduled to do one of those amazing interview shows with Nick Diaz, who then no-showed the taping. But because of his unique style, those who just wanted a straight play-by-play guy may have had different views. But this was his dream job and he gave it up for family reasons and you have to respect that. Schiavello is also an excellent pro wrestling announcer. His hero growing up was Gorilla Monsoon and he was a huge wrestling fan, and a lot of what he did was emulating different wrestling announcers mixed with some of the best boxing announcers and his own personal touch. He did some indie stuff and also did one episode of Lucha Underground and was a natural at it. Ron Kruck will take his place as the play-by-play calling working with Pat Miletich. AXS heavily promoted the last show and gave him a nice sendoff, which while watching it once again really exposed just how badly UFC handled the Mike Goldberg situation (you could argue the same with WWE and Jim Ross, but deep down I think everyone expected there was a good chance he’d be back and now is)

The Professional Fighters League, which is the remnants of the old World Series of Fighting, has made a deal where they will have their debut show on 6/30 at the Daytona International Speedway on NBC Sports Network, immediately following the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 NASCAR race in the same stadium. The fights announced are Jon Fitch vs. Brian Foster, Ronny Markes vs. Smealinho Rama, Herman Terrado vs. Joao Zeferino an Caros Fodor vs. Jason High.

WWE: Regal did another interview with Metro in the U.K. Regarding his relationship with Paul Levesque, he said, “We have a very odd relationship in the fact that I probably speak to him less than anyone in the company. He trusts me with what he needs to trust me with. He can literally look at me from across the room, and we know that we have the same kind of mind set. He noted that he helped Levesque out when Levesque started in WCW and when he came in he offered to help him he’d bring him to his apartment and his wife would cook for him. They got put together as a snooty European tag team (Levesque was known in WCW as Jean Paul Levesque from France). Regal said that when Levesque’s WCW contract was up, he advised him to not sign and go to WWF, but he wanted to do that anyway. He said that WWF was doing 300 dates per year (wrestlers weren’t working close to dates then, the killer years were earlier, but Levesque would have figured to work more matches and got a bigger push in WWF since in WCW he was actually, as crazy as this sounds now, considered as a light heavyweight at times as in commentary they talked about him as an upcoming contender for the light heavyweight title) and he needed to go there. “Some people are good from the get go. I wasn’t and he wasn’t. We had to learn everything that we ever got. The only place to get better is to work in front of a crowd every night. That’s when you’ll find what really works and what doesn’t.” “We do all the stuff at NXT because he knows he can trust me to do anything, and we’ve always got each others’ back.” He pushed Drew McIntyre, Bobby Roode, Aleister Black, Roderick Strong and Kassius Ohno as the new brand stars. He said that Black is both a great wrestler and had presence. He said that at the last few TVs he and Levesque are going with the idea that everything is starting up new again, since it’s really a lot of new faces being pushed at NXT

The death of Frank Deford last week and the story about Pat Patterson stealing his shoe was covered in Deford’s autobiography, “Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter,” published in 2012. In the book, he spoke about Rodney Dangerfield, who he did a series of TV commercials with, and talked about what a jerk Dangerfield was in real life. Then he said that of all the famous people he had come across in his life, Dangerfield was only No. 2 on the list, saying No. 1 was Vince McMahon. Deford, in the book, noted that he was at the 40th birthday party for John Filipelli, who he had worked with when both did an NFL show together and were good friends. Filipelli was heading television for WWF at the time, so McMahon and Patterson were there. So they’re in this country club bowling alley and he described McMahon as acting maniacal, and then one of the people at the party was named Dick, and whenever it was his turn to poll, McMahon and Patterson were acting like second graders laughing about his name, talking about Dick as a metaphor for penises. Keep in mind that Vince of 46 at this time, Patterson is 50, Deford is 52 and that was the age range for most of the people at the party. The Filipellis were embarrassed and rolling their eyes. Patterson then stole one of Deford’s shows and one of his wife’s shoes. When it was over, and the Defords couldn’t find their shows, McMahon and Patterson were laughing about it. So they figured, okay, a joke and waited for them to give it back. But they never gave up the shoes and the Defords had go home still wearing their bowling shoes until they returned the bowling shoes later. And they were expensive shoes that were stolen. McMahon also sent him a Christmas card a few months later asking if he had found his shoe. But what made Deford madder was McMahon claiming to a Congressional committee that the article he had written in 2007 after the death of Chris Benoit, on all the young deaths in pro wrestling, was because he was holding a grudge against him for stealing his shoe 16 years earlier. When Deford found out that McMahon had said that before the Congressional committee, he said, “I’m rather amazed that McMahon would bring this up, but it’s a pretty accurate account of him acting like a horse’s ass. Really weird.

Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that WWE would be taping television every six weeks and do one live event very other week. They also signed Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Wolfgang and Mark Andrews to new contracts where they would start working in the U.S. as well as in the U.K. Taping TV every six weeks doesn’t sound right, because six hours of taping at one sitting is bad idea. They had started booking dates in the U.K. weeks ago, with one date at Hull City Hall in mid-June and a July date in Liverpool at the Olympia. But when nothing was said and the June date coming up, it felt like plans must have changed. Still, at this point, no dates have been announced

Right now, the plan for the Ric Flair 30 for 30 piece, which was originally to air early this year, is for it to run in January 2018, but that date has changed many times

There is an idea now to get women from the main roster on 205 Live more to try and boost interest in the show

Matt Hardy’s second child was due on 6/5 which was why the Hardys weren’t at Raw this week

The company had symposiums for talent before the TVs this week regarding security of their different accounts after several of the women had issues with releases of private nude photos. They were taught how people can get access to the accounts and what steps to take to make sure private accounts stay private

Owens suffered a broken thumb but isn’t missing any time for it

WWE got pub from Sky News in the U.K. on 6/6 for the talent going to Manchester and a number of the NXT wrestlers as well as Jim Smallman, the promoter of Progress Wrestling, visiting an eight-year-old girl who was injured in the bombing at the Manchester Arena. Others donated items to raise money for the victims

Regarding the questions asked why NXT has such great ring entrances on Takeovers and WWE PPVs, with the exception of Mania, usually don’t, is because Paul Levesque is in charge of the NXT entrances and the WWE entrances are Vince McMahon in the end, but really handled by Kevin Dunn

Charlotte missed the 6/3 house show in Bridgeport, CT because she was in Vancouver filming a non-WWE movie. The movie is something related to the old USA Network TV show “Psych.” She flew right from the movie set to the house show the next night in Glens Falls

Ariane Andrew, 29, who was Cameron here before being released last year, said that she’d like to come back

Marcel Barthel, 25, better known as Axel Dieter Jr. is starting soon at the Performance Center, as is Jessicka Heiser, 25, who has been with ROH as Kennadi Brink as one of the stars of their Women of Honor group. Right now she’s working in NXT already as a referee just using the name Jessicka. It’s the first time they’ve used a woman referee for men’s matches in a long time. Dieter Jr., was the wXw world champion, beating Marty Scurll late last year and dropped it to Jurn Simmons when he agreed to the deal to come here. Also starting here is D.A. Brewer, who had been a referee for Evolve, and Adrian Severe, better known as Fabian Aichner, who was in the Cruiserweight Classic tournament. Aichner was born in Italy and speaks the language fluently, and has a bodybuilder look, but he’s considered by everyone as a German wrestler since he has worked most of his career there for the NEW promotion run by Alex Wright. He’s the third German wrestler signed after Axe Tischer (Alexander Wolfe of Sanity) and Dieter Jr

Thea Trinidad, 26, who was Rosita in TNA years ago, also signed a developmental deal. She had already started on television at the last tapings and was going to be linked in some form with Andrade Cien Almas as she was with him at the tapings. However, when the match Almas had aired this past week with Cezar Bononi aired, she was never shown on camera

An interesting story is that some time back, Mahal had decided he was looking at getting out of wrestling and opening up a Subway sandwich shop and work some real estate

They are really loading up the 7/7 show in Madison Square Garden with two matches from Smackdown. The new card is Reigns vs. Wyatt, Owens vs. Styles for the U.S. title, Rollins vs. Joe, Ambrose vs. Miz for the IC title, Nakamura vs. Ziggler, Balor vs. Anderson, Hardys vs. Sheamus & Cesaro for tag titles, Bayley & Banks & James vs. Jax & Bliss & Fox, Neville vs. Aries for the cruiserweight title and Goldust vs. R-Truth. They are pushing the show that it’s the MSG debut of Nakamura, Balor and Bayley and the first time the Hardys have worked MSG in eight years

Regarding the third person in the booth on Raw, Otunga was at the PPV, but didn’t do the show, only the preshow and Booker did the show. Booker was originally just a fill in for Otunga while he’s doing a movie. However, Otunga was only at the PPV because he had the day off from shooting. He’ll be back in a few weeks. It’s pretty much acknowledged that Booker has been better in the role than Otunga, so we’ll see what the decision they make at that time

It’s interesting that WWE usually does one tour of Japan a year, and is going on 6/30 and 7/1 for shows at Sumo Hall with the Raw crew. They’ve just added a 9/16 date in Osaka at the Edion Arena built around Nakamura with the Smackdown crew

Because they are doing two PPVs most months as well as doing the women’s tournament and the U.K. show, there are no plans at this point for any special shows such as a Japan show in July or a Lesnar hour show

The plan for the women’s tournament is to tape everything but the finals on 7/13 and 7/14. Everyone involved will be brought to Orlando for one week, so they can get ready for the tapings. At this point they will not be releasing the shows weekly like the Cruiserweight Classic. Instead, they are doing it Netflix style or their television series style, releasing 16 matches, which is likely 5-6 shows, all on 8/20. The rest of the matches taped, which will be 14 matches, probably another five shows, would be released in September, again as a binge thing to watch. The finals are still set for 9/12, which will air live on the network, likely from the Smackdown tapings that night in Las Vegas. .. Swagger did an interview with John Pozarowski and said that WWE had said they wanted to offer him a raise and sign him up for another five years, but the figure they offered was way off what he had been averaging the past five years. So he said he felt he needed a change and to become the best pro wrestler he can be, but to do that he had to leave, with the idea of making a name on the outside the making the company then want him back, I guess similar to how things worked out with Drew Galloway. He said he was angry for a long time but can see that it was just a business decision and he understands their side, his side and said he left on good terms. He said he wants to show what Jack Swagger can do, and not what they would let him do. He put over how great it was to work and travel with Dutch Mantell

The company obviously wanted Tyler Bate on the current U.K. NXT tour, but he had scheduled a vacation

Regarding the notes on Fred Hatfield and his death on 5/14, Hatfield was not the first guy to squat 1,000 pounds. Lee Moran did 1,0003 pounds three years before Hatfield, but Hatfield was much lighter and his mark was considered more impressive. Also, when we mentioned Doug Furnas’ best squat as 980 pounds, he actually did 986 pounds in the squat at the 1986 World championships. His coach, Marty Gallagher, said the Furnas put up 986 with such ease that he asked him to try 1,030 and destroy the world record. Furnas said that his goal was to top 2,400 in the total (of squat, bench press and dead lift) that day and wanted to conserve his energy for the other two lifts. Furnas did achieve his goal, doing 2,403 pounds that day, which was a world record for the 275 pound weight class and few superheavies at the time had ever topped that mark

WWE didn’t promote the first season of “American Grit,” with Cena, but they are pushing the second season pretty hard

WWE stock closed at press time at $20.45 per share giving the company a $1.56 billion market value

The top ten shows for the week on the WWE Network were: 1. Extreme Rules; 2. Extreme Rules post-show; 3. Extreme Rules pre-show; 4. Table for 3 with Bruno Sammartino, Ric Flair and Randy Orton; 5. Table for 3 with Eric Bischoff, Michael Hayes and Jim Cornette; 6. Music Power 10 Orlando (a show about the ring entrances at WrestleMania); 7. NXT from 5/31; 8. Backlash 2017; 9. WrestleMania 2017; 10. WWE 24 Finn Balor. It’s notable that a week after it aired, the 5/24 NXT show beat out the 5/30 205 Live show (19th place for the week) and the 5/30 Talking Smack (20th place) for the week. Also beating both of these. shows were Payback 2017, Royal Rumble 2017, a weeks old Table for 3 with Styles, Shawn Michaels and Nash, Takeover Chicago, another weeks old Table for 3 with Edge, Christian and Angle and one episode of the Monday Night Wars series from years ago

Notes from the 6/5 Raw tapings in Wilkes-Barre. They continued in the mystery of who is attacking Enzo and it looks like they’re splitting up Enzo & Cass. This week is was Cass who got attacked and he found a chain of the guy who attacked him, implicating Enzo. So the idea is that one of the two guys is faking being attacked and attacking the other. Enzo was also portrayed as a nervous geek as he had Show replace the injured Cass in a tag match with Gallows & Anderson. It also came across like when Cass was hurt, Enzo wanted him to still wrestle even though he needed to go to the hospital. He didn’t to go the hospital and instead did a vignette later where they showed him, Show and Enzo all kind of nervous around each other. They also continued the Angle and Graves mystery where Angle got a text message that got him really concerned and upset, enough that he later left the arena, and talked with Graves about it, and neither would talk about it to anyone else. The show drew a sellout of 7,000 fans. For Main Event, Lince Dorado pinned Gulak and Dallas pinned Hawkins. Raw opened with Wyatt out. He said that had he won the five-way, he could have saved all of us from damnation. I didn’t realize that he could have taken over the booking of the promotion had he won. Reigns came out to confront him. Reigns grabbed the mic and there were loud dueling chants for Reigns. Reigns decked him and Wyatt first ran off. Cole said that Reigns was the big dog and he was marking his territory. This led to Reigns pinning Wyatt in a singles match in 19:29. They had a long, good match. Wyatt threw Reigns into the post and gave him a senton on the floor. He used the crab pose deal and hit a uranage for a near fall. The crowd was into the match. Wyatt got tired and the announcers even called attention to it. Wyatt jumped out of the ring at the first spear attempt. There was a spot where Reigns hit the drive by, but Wyatt got right up and clotheslined Reigns and the jumped in the ring. Reigns dove into the ring doing the Japan teased count out spot and the crowd booed when he beat the count. Reigns then hit a Superman punch and won clean with a spear. The strange thing was after being booed the entire match, he was cheered fairly loud when he won. Charly Caruso was backstage with Enzo & Cass. Enzo was hitting on Charly hard. Cass was furious that people thought he was the one who attacked Enzo and said that he would have Enzo’s back at all times from this point forward. They announced that Bayley wasn’t on the show because she was injured. She took a few kendo stick shots and guys go through demolition derby matches on PPV and are back the next night without telling anything. It’s just amazing how much they’ve screwed her up. Bliss showed up to talk to Angle. She said she was done with Bayley and wanted to celebrate with a “This Is My Life,” segment. Angle said that was a terrible idea as the segment last week was one of the worst segments in the history of Raw. At least they aren’t trying to defend it and have a sense of humor about it. Angle told Bliss that she promised Jax a title shot after Bayley. Bliss was trying to get out of it. So Angle said that Bliss vs. Jax would take place tonight. Samson was in the ring playing and singing. Ambrose showed up and hit him with the mic. Ambrose then said he wanted Miz in a rematch right now. Miz said he wasn’t wrestling tonight as he was going to have a celebration for his comeback tour as IC champion. Samson then recovered and attacked Ambrose, so he’s ending up in a program with Ambrose at some point. Samson laid Ambrose out with the twist and shout neckbreaker. Ambrose backstage said nothing about Samson, to Angle, but wanted Miz for the title tonight. Angle told him that Maryse had worked hard on the celebration segment and he didn’t want to deal with Maryse so told him he would get his rematch soon, but not tonight. Ambrose then said he wanted to congratulate Miz and asked where his dressing room was. Angle then told Ambrose to take the night off and ordered him to leave the building. With Ambrose, everyone knew that meant he was coming back. They did a really clever angle out of it. Joe came to the ring for what ended up being a great segment. He said that he wasn’t afraid of Lesnar, and that actually he was envious of Lesnar. He wants everything Lesnar has and wants to take it from him. He wants his easier schedule. He wants his ability to bring fear to men. He wants Heyman to be his advocate and to run all of his errands. And he wants the Universal title. Heyman came out and said that he believes that Joe doesn’t fear Lesnar, but that Lesnar doesn’t fear Joe either. He mentioned that others didn’t fear Lesnar, mentioning Rock, Undertaker, Cena and Goldberg, and he beat all of them. Heyman then talked about wanting to see Balor vs. Lesnar, and said that Balor vs. Lesnar was a license to print money (the plan is to do a major Balor vs. Lesnar match on this Lesnar title run but it hasn’t been decided yet which show that will take place on). He said Balor vs. Lesnar was a best case scenario out of Extreme Rules, while Joe vs. Lesnar was a worst case scenario. But Heyman told Joe that he had Brock, and the two shook hands. Joe then took Heyman away and neither had a mic, but the cameras could pick up Joe telling Heyman that something very bad is going to happen to you. Joe said he was going to wrap his arms around Heyman’s neck and Heyman was going to go unconscious, and then Heyman was going to tell Lesnar exactly how it felt. Joe then grabbed Heyman and put him in the choke. It is interesting that even though Joe used the muscle buster as his finisher in NXT, on the main roster, he’s never used it nor teased it. There were people who didn’t want him using it because Tyson Kidd suffered the near fatal broken neck when something went wrong from that move, but he used it for more than a year all the time after that point. Fans were chanting “We Want Brock” as Joe choked Heyman out. As the fans continued to chant “We Want Brock,” with Heyman unconscious, Joe said, “So do I.” This was suggested to me and it’s so true. Instead of calling this show “Great Balls of Fire,” they should call it “Lesnar vs. Joe” to give it the aura that it’s something serious and significant. Backstage, Angle was with Joe. Angle was yelling at Joe and Joe told Angle that he was going to take out anyone who gets in his way, and then asked Angle if Angle wanted to get in his way. Rollins then came out and got in Joe’s face. Rollins said that last night Joe won, but Joe beat Balor and he’s not Balor and he’s not Reigns and he’s not Wyatt. He said that he had beaten Joe before and he’ll beat him again tonight. Angle said that sounds like a great match. Sheamus & Cesaro beat Slater & Rhyno in 1:39 when Sheamus pinned Slater after a Brogue kick. Rhyno never tagged in for the match. Cesaro & Sheamus cut a promo. Cesaro said the Hardys picked the match they thought would be to their best advantage, but they still lost. Cesaro & Sheamus seemed to introduce a new catch phrase, “We don’t just set the bar, we are the bar.” At least it’s not “We are at the bar.” TJP noted that Neville had beaten Aries, so he wanted his title shot. TJP pinned Mustafa Ali in 2:41. The crowd died for this match. Ali went up for his inverted 450. TJP kicked him and hit the detonation kick for the win. Neville came out. He said he went to Angle and unfortunately, TJP isn’t getting a title shot. TJP didn’t buy that and wanted to have Neville and him come to Angle together and see if it was true. As he went to go, Neville jumped him from behind and laid him out. He said that TJP can get his title shot tomorrow night. After the consistent bad viewership numbers of 205 Live, next week will be interesting because they are doing a big title match that is part of a multi-week storyline that would normally be on PPV. Goldust did another interview with his old gimmick of reciting lines from movies. Even though he’s been abused for so long, he can still go, he’s in great shape and his character like this is actually just about the best gimmick character in the company with the exception of maybe the Lesnar gimmick. I’m not saying main event him, but he can be used really well because he’s unique. I don’t think that’s what they have planned, though. Backstage, Bliss came up where Banks, Brooke and James were talking. Banks just walked off. Bliss tried to recruit Brooke and James to help her with Jax. They told Bliss that she’s got her own problem and they weren’t helping her. They walked off on her, but they did say they were going to ringside to watch her match. Angle showed up and he asked Graves to talk with him. They talked about a text message that concerned him. Angle showed Graves the message. When Graves came back to the desk and was asked about it, he ignored the question. Angle was then asked backstage about it, and he said it was a private matter. He left the building and when he left, Ambrose came back in. The Revival was also shown hanging around in the background. Kalisto pinned O’Neil in 1:21 when O’Neil tried to get a pin holding the trunks like last week, but Kalisto reversed and held O’Neil’s trunks and got the pin. Tozawa was shown watching with the idea that O’Neil is recruiting him to expand The Titus Brand to Japan. Cass was found laid out with all kinds of stuff on top of him including a pipe. Enzo found him and freaked out. As they got Cass up, he had a chain which was Enzo’s with the idea it was Enzo who attacked him. Enzo said when he got attacked those people took his chain so it was the same people. Then even though Cass was all beat up, Enzo didn’t seem to care and told Cass they had to go to the ring for their match against Gallows & Anderson. Everyone was telling Enzo that Cass was in no condition to wrestle but he came across as not caring and only thinking of himself, teasing the idea of a heel turn, although this storyline looks to be filled with different teases. Next was the Miz celebration. Maryse came out and introduced Miz. Very few fans, but enough to be heard, were chanting, “You deserve it.” Miz started laughing because he apparently had his comeback ready. He said that would mean something if the people don’t chant that to everyone who wins a title. In the background there was a guy in a bear costume, and except for the fact he was clearly too skinny to be Ambrose, I think everyone expected it to be Ambrose. So Miz was cutting his promo and thanked Maryse to bringing out the dancing bear. Maryse said that she didn’t arrange for him to be there and thought he did. He said he didn’t. Miz then attacked the bear, thinking it was Ambrose. He then pulled off the head and it wasn’t Ambrose but just some guy. Then a giant gift came. Miz was sure that was Ambrose in the box so he attacked the box and started giving it elbow drops like he was Ric Flair. Maryse was yelling at him that it was a present but he kept destroying it. He opened the package and it was a Grandfather clock. Maryse was furious at him and left. Miz then blamed Ambrose for everything that happened and wanted Ambrose and offered him a shot at the title. There was a camera man in disguise and he took his hat off, and the camera man was Ambrose, who laid out Miz with Dirty Deeds. This was another really good segment, but the show started feeling long at this point. Enzo came out without Cass and they teased it would be a handicap match against Gallows & Anderson. Enzo then said he had a surprise who was seven feet tall. People expected Cass but it was Show, who has lost even more weight. He may be 370 or so, but it in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in. Show did the SAWFT stuff and he and Enzo did some byplay after Show at first acting like he didn’t want to do it. The announcers were burying Enzo saying that if you team with him, you’re the one doing all the work. Show made a hot tag and choke slammed Anderson. Enzo got on the top rope for the rocket launcher. Show picked him up off the top rope and didn’t throw him like a rocket launcher. He pressed him and walked with him with the tease he was just going to toss Enzo, but he dropped him on Anderson for the pin in 1:38. Enzo & Show were joking backstage after when Cass showed up, all taped up around his shoulder and he wasn’t happy. They had the uneasy tension. Enzo said they should all go out to the casino together and have fun, but Show, being the nice guy and seeing Cass wasn’t happy, said he’d pass and let them go out together. R-Truth cut a promo for his character. Bliss beat Jax via DQ to retain the women’s title in 2:19. Bliss mostly ran away. James and Brooke were at ringside for no reason other than a storyline way out of the match. The crowd was dead. Bliss took a few bumps and went out of the ring to attack James and Brooke. They fought back. The ref saw it and ruled Bliss the winner via DQ for outside interference with the clear inference that Bliss manipulated the whole thing. Bliss ended up with a split lip from the fight outside. Jax then threw both of them down because they cost her the match. Jax threw them into the barricade. Bliss ran away. Jax went back to beating up James & Brooke and left Brooke laying with a Samoan drop. Backstage, Heyman was still among the living. His phone rang and it said “Brock.” He talked to Lesnar and told him he needed to come next week and teach Joe to be in fear of him and then Heyman cut a promo, saying Lesnar would be there next week and this wouldn’t be like before as next week he was going to unleash the beast. Joe beat Rollins in 15:41. The crowd was tired by this point and until the last few minutes this didn’t get a lot of reaction. They did the match which they should have done because Joe needed a win over a star in a singles match, and since Rollins beat him on the PPV, that’s the guy he needed to beat. But they, mentally, decided they needed Joe to win and needed to protect Rollins. This was not the week to protect Rollins. The match was too back-and-forth and Joe, while on offense, should have won shorter, cleaner and with more of a destruction of a top star than a typical WWE heel win over a top star. Lesnar has been booked as something special, and the idea of Joe is that Joe can be that special opponent, and they should have at least for this month booked Joe like they’ve been booking Strowman, as opposed to him trying to have the multi-star match. Joe did a great powerslam at 11:00 which woke the crowd up. Rollins then made a comeback with three tope’s and a blockbuster, and clothesline off the top, etc. Rollins did the falcon arrow and went to the top rope when Wyatt’s visual hit. It went dark, and when it came back on, Rollins was distracted by Wyatt, who wasn’t there, and Joe got him from behind with the choke and put him out. The ref stopped it as Rollins never quit and the show went off the air at that point. After the show was over, Joe & Wyatt beat down Rollins until Balor, who hadn’t appeared in front of the people all night and wasn’t on Raw backstage either, made the save. They cleaned house and Rollins & Balor celebrated with Rollins even throwing his hands in the air like Balor does as Balor’s music played

Notes from the 6/6 Smackdown tapings in Rochester, NY. The show drew 6,000 fans, a strong crowd for that market. The dark match opener saw Harper & Jordan & Gable & Dillinger over The Ascension & English & Rowan. Harper got the pin on English using a discus clothesline. Harper is from Rochester and did some local pub for the show and got a gigantic reaction coming out. This was a show that would have benefitted him to be on Smackdown on because he’d have looked like a big-time star, but you know how that goes. Smackdown opened with Shane out and with the five women in the Money in the Bank match in the ring. He introduced everyone. Lynch got a nice reaction and Charlotte got by far the strongest reaction. Ellsworth interrupted Shane to put over Carmella. I had thought Ellsworth would have run his course by now but he’s good in this new role. Charlotte was still doing a heelish promo about being the Queen. Not sure about the long-term past being told there is acknowledgment she’s better as a heel and may be back there. Natalya was mad that Charlotte does nothing but rip off her father. Of course then she did the “Best there is, Best there was,” thing and Lynch said all Natalya does is rip off Uncle Bret. Tamina spoke for the fist time. Naomi came out and she said wished she could be in the Money in the Bank match. Then Lana came out. Lana was in a movie star red carpet style dress. Even though she’s positioned a heel, dressed up like that she’s going to get a big babyface reaction. Fans started chanting for her. The whole thing is about different. If the basis of the division is attractive athletic women, a woman dressed up to be super hot is different rather than regular and she’ll get over big. Lana wanted to be in the MITB match and Naomi laughed at her. Naomi asked her “Who have you ever beaten?” She then sang the Jeopardy theme while waiting for the answer. Lana said she could beat Naomi. She asked Shane to get into the match. Shane said that she would have to earn it and Lana walked off. This left the other six in a match. Tamina & Carmella & Natalya beat Naomi & Charlotte & Lynch in 10:52. This built to a hot tag to Naomi. Lana came back out and distracted Naomi. Then Lana tripped her and Naomi got up and walked into a superkick by Tamina for the pin. Tamina needed the credibility of scoring the fall over the champion more than the others in the match. Shane walked into the Andre the Giant Battle Royal trophy. Rawley came out and said that when he won the trophy, it was the happiest day of his life and he thought it was going to open all kinds of doors and would springboard his career. But he said for the last two months he’s been a ghost, riding the bench. He said he didn’t want a favor, only an opportunity. He said he’s the only guy on the Smackdown roster to have beaten Mahal. Shane said that lots of guys want to break through and mentioned Dillinger and Harper (which got a big reaction since they were in Rochester). Shane offered Rawley a spot in the MITB match if he could beat Mahal on TV today. Styles pinned Ziggler in 6:55 with the Styles Clash. So he got his win back from last week. They played off spots from the match the previous week (that’s the stuff Styles used to do in Japan, playing off previous matches). He went for the forearm, which Ziggler countered for the finish, but then got off the ropes and Ziggler committed and Styles took over to win. It was good but they didn’t have enough time. There was another Fashion Files segment with Breeze & Fandango. The campy stuff has worked in getting them over as characters. They had the different photos of people and their fashion problems including a photo of a late 90s Billy Kidman and then did a gag about Colon Cologne. They kept saying it over and over. New Day was backstage and needed help to solve a case so asked Breeze & Fandango for help. When they walked into the room it went from color to black & white and they made some black & white jokes. They would ask Breeze & Fandango stuff. You’d hear them “thinking” their answers ut they never talked. New Day couldn’t hear them talk. New Day wanted info on the Usos. They gave New Day boxes of evidence on the Usos. Mahal pinned Rawley in 3:57. Nothing like a babyface being put in a position to fail miserably, but the whole idea right now is to get Mahal over. The Singhs distracted Rawley and Mahal laid him out with a superkick. Mahal threw his shoulder into the post and used the cobra slam. Mahal cut a heel promo in English, and then in Punjab, cut a babyface promo that everyone booed because they didn’t know what he was saying. The gimmick is the old Bret Hart gimmick where the American fans are meant to be the heels in the home country and your gimmick is you aren’t anti-American, but pro-Indian, but the Americans don’t like that. As far as the reaction, he came across as a real top heel. In the ring, he’s just a guy but the face and body make him different enough. Either way, it’s all about the India market so as long as he’s not a huge negative in the U.S., it’s fine. Orton did an interview where he said he talked to Flair, Race and his father and they told him that actions speak louder than words. New Day, being E & Woods, beat the Colons in 7:11. Kingston is probably not fully ready to wrestle. It’s weird that on this show they did the picture in a picture during commercial breaks for the women’s match and this match, but not the Styles vs. Ziggler nor Nakamura vs. Owens matches. The New Day do a spot where each has an abdominal stretch on and they slap the ass of the opponent to the tune of “New Day Rocks.” Woods did a great looking missile dropkick and hot tagged E. Woods did a flip dive onto Primo and then they did the double-team Midnight Hour on Epico for the pin. The Usos came out and told jokes about the New Day including asking Big E if E stands for his bra size. Zayn did an interview. They toned down his goofiness. He said he’s been studying tapes of everyone in the MITB match looking for weaknesses and tendencies, but he can’t figure out Nakamura. So he said he was coming to ringside for commentary tonight to study Nakamura. Corbin came out and decked him and then hit Zayn in the back of the head with a ladder and threw him into ladders. Corbin said that the spot to do commentary in that match just opened up. Naomi came up to Shane and wanted a match with Lana at the PPV. She said she’d put the title on the line to get it. Shane said that it’s on and Naomi said she was going to snatch Lana bald. Nakamura pinned Owens in a non-title match in 10:16 with the Kinshasa. The match was fine but nothing special. Owens is hurt and Nakamura did a few cool things early and then mostly sold for chinlocks until they went to the finish. After the match, Corbin laid out Nakamura with the End of Days. 205 Live opened with Dar in the ring saying that Alexander was jealous, just like everyone here, because he’s got Fox. Dar & Graves claimed that Fox left Alexander for Dar, while Tom Phillips said he remembered it as Alexander dumping her first. Fox wasn’t there, with the idea she was recovering from a neck injury. Alexander pinned Dar in 7:06 with a lumbar check. They were trading near falls to very little reaction. Alexander then told Dar that he was done with him and was moving on. He said that months ago before he got hurt, and also said that when he came back. They did a promo piece on TJP to lead to his title match. Ali pinned Louie Valle in 3:22. The crowd was so dead. Ali went up for his inverted 450. Gulak came out with the bullhorn. Valle tried a schoolboy but Ali reversed it and got the pin. Gulak then said how proud he was on him winning the match using a ground maneuver. Gulak told Ali that if he stays grounded, he will continue to find success. But if you continue to flip and flop, you will never reach your full potential. He said that pandering to the fans is s mistake and you have to learn to ignore them. Ali then did a flip dive on Gulak and knocked down his “No Fly Zone” sign. Swann and Tozawa were backstage talking to each other in Japanese. O’Neil showed up and wanted to talk to “Towaza.” Swann told him it was Tozawa and left. O’Neil pitched him on joining The Titus Brand. O’Neil started putting over Tozawa’s chant and told him to go home and talk with his best friend Crews (the two are good friends as they worked together for years in Dragon Gate) and give him a call. Neville said an interview and said TJP was a tool, and that he used TJP as a means to the end and tonight he would dispose of him. He said TJP was the same as the rest of the pretenders, and not on the Neville level. Neville beat TJP to retain the title in 14:08. The two worked a technically very good match. Really, both of these guys are excellent in the ring. Some of the crowd was with it but it still didn’t get the reaction a match of this quality should get due to its position on the show. TJP backdropped Neville over the top and gave him a twisting plancha. TJP worked over the knee. He got the kneebar but Neville reversed it into the Rings of Saturn. TJP cradled him from there but Neville reversed back into the Rings for the submission. Graves actually seemed to mess up the call as he said that TJP had gotten his hip free and then the bell rang, so he seemed to be expecting a dramatic escape. After all that build, the idea of Neville winning via submission on 205 Live on the surface makes no sense. They probably have some idea because with the exception of Alexander, who just came back, Neville has beaten Swann, Gallagher, Aries and TJP clean. The final dark match was Orton over Mahal via DQ in a title match. Orton hit the RKO when the Singh Brothers interfered. When it was over, Mahal escaped and Orton laid out both Singh Brothers

Notes from the 5/31 NXT TV show. This was the first taping from Full Sail and once again, the atmosphere just isn’t like it used to be. The show opened with Tommaso Ciampa out on crutches, although he could walk on his own. There were dueling chants for him. He called out Johnny Gargano and said he wanted to explain to him why he did what he did at Takeover. Gargano wasn’t there. Ciampa said he got hurt the Thursday before Takeover and a lot of people wondered if he could wrestle, but he never had any questions. He said that on Twitter people were talking about who should replace him. He said it was less than 24 hours after he was hurt when fans were talking about replacing him. So this was the heel turn where the blamed the fans, which are often the best because comic book heel turns bring out the feeling of a comic book but serious rational turns threaten people and bring out a completely different vibe. He said that at Takeover during the ladder match that he felt his knee pop, and that he knows the difference between being hurt and being injured. He said he knew right there he’d have to go away for a long time, but decided to keep fighting. He said just like the wants were just going to replace him, he knew Gargano would as well and wouldn’t even hesitate to do so. He said he refused to be an afterthought so he made his decision and said it was the fault of the fans and Gargano. He said that he and Gargano had something special as a tag team but the fans ruined it and said he never needed the fans and when he returns, he will be the most dangerous son of a bitch in NXT. Ciampa gave a very strong performance here. When he was done, the reaction was light and mixed. There were some boos and some fans gave him a standing ovation. Roode was in a car having to do a bunch of things but said that next week there would be a Glorious Celebration. Pete Dunne pinned Danny Burch in 8:27 with the Bitter end. When Dunne came out, the crowd treated him like a superstar. But even though it was a well worked match, the crowd was pretty quiet. It was paced more Japanese style. Dunne did an interview. Dunne seemed there for the announcers to put over the idea of the weekly U.K. television show and also getting him over as the star of that show as well as his title win. There was an interview with The Velveteen Dream. There was also a taped Paul Ellering interview. Neither were much. Cezar Bononi pinned Andrade Cien Almas in 3:04. This was not the big win that it would appear on paper for Bononi. The entire match was worked like a squash match for Almas until Bononi got the pin with a small package off a suplex in what was Bononi’s only offensive move of the match. These kind of matches generally don’t hurt the loser, but they also never help te winner. Nigel McGuinness tried to compare Almas with Joe Namath, George Best and Dennis Rodman. I’m not sure how the Almas Airport sounds. The crowd was dead for the match. They again pushed the storyline that Almas was out partying all night long and doesn’t care about his matches. When it was over, Almas acted like he didn’t care about losing. Bononi is tall and has a great physique, but more of a fighter physique than the pretty boy physique WWE likes. He also sells well, and in a very believable fashion. They showed Billie Kay and Peyton Royce doing an interview. At first they were setting it up out of character but still in character really. Then they did the exaggerated character interview when Ember Moon showed up. They were making fun of her for mad at her for walking into the scene. Then she signed her release form meaning she can wrestle again and both Royce and Kay freaked out. They announced Asuka vs. Nikki Cross vs. Ruby Riot for next week along with Hideo Itami vs. Oney Lorcan. They aired footage showing Itami throwing a fit backstage after his loss to Roode. Funaki (the Japanese language announcer for WWE) and Ohno were trying to calm him down but he was throwing garbage around the locker room. He shoved Ohno away. Later they showed footage of Itami and Ohno in the parking lot and Itami apologizing and shaking Ohno’s hand, which in WWE booking means he’s turning on him again. Ohno & Roderick Strong beat Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe in 10:30. This was a good match. Strong once again worked faster and crisper than an anyone else in NXT. Strong gave Young a back suplex on the apron. The finish saw Killian Dain on the apron. He’d interfered earlier in the match. This time No Way Jose returned and stopped Dain and threw him into the post. Ohno then used the rolling elbow on Jose and Strong pinned Young with a backbreaker

The NXT tour opened on 6/1 in Orlando before 300 fans. No Way Jose pinned Brennan Williams with the windup punch. Sawyer Fulton had his first match back from surgery and pinned Demetrius Bronson. This was a bad match. Bronson is really green only having had a handful of matches. They introduced Jessicka as a referee. Ruby Riot pinned Mandy Rose. They were solid with each other. Roderick Strong did a promo wanting a title shot at Bobby Roode. He talked about how thankful he was that everyone was accepting him after his promos aired. He said that he’s done with Sanity and wants Roode. Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli beat Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins with a double-team wheelbarrow bulldog. Good match. Aleister Black pinned Velveteen Dream with black mass. They didn’t work well together and Black may have gotten hurt. Lars Sullivan pinned Kishin Raftaar with a slam in a fast match. When Jessicka came out for this match they announced this was the first time a woman had refereed a male match in NXT history. Ember Moon & Liv Morgan beat Peyton Royce & Billie Kay when Moon pinned Royce after the eclipse. Good match. The main event saw McIntyre pin Almas after the Claymore kick in another good match

The 6/2 show in Ocala, FL drew 250 fans. Dawkins & Ford beat Gabriel & Uriel Ealy with Ford winning using the frog splash. Sawyer Fulton beat Babatunde Aiyegbusi in a battle of giants using a suplex. Mary Kate pinned Sarah Logan with a black hole slam. Dory Funk Jr. came out. They use him regularly when they come to Ocala. He came out for an interview and was fronted by Wesley Blake, who got his start at Funk’s school. Steve Cutler came out with Blake. They surrounded Funk until Roderick Strong came and it set up Strong and a partner against Blake & Cutler as the main event. Oney Lorcan pinned Jeet Rama with a running blockbuster. Buddy Murphy pinned Almas with double knees off the top rope. Said to be a good match. Almas is losing most of the time based on his storyline where he doesn’t care about winning or losing, because he’s more into partying. Lars Sullivan pinned Kona Reeves with a slam. Ruby Riot pinned Sonya Deville with a kick. Strong & Jose beat Blake & Cutler. Funk was in Strong & Jose’s corner

The final weekend show was 6/3 in Venice, FL before 250 fans. Kassius Ohno and AOP were pushed on Twitter as appearing but weren’t there. Nick Miller, with Shane Thorne in his corner (the two have been out of action since Thorne had knee surgery) pinned Blake, with Cutler in his corner, using a back suplex into a sit out power bomb. Adrian Jaoude pinned Cezar Bononi in a short match with a powerslam. Deville & Mary Kate & Mandy Rose beat Liv Morgan & Sarah Bridges & Kimberly Frankele when Kate pinned Morgan. Sullivan did an interview saying that he was the guy who would end Cena’s career and would main event WrestleMania. The fans booed him a lot. Aiyegbusi pinned Fulton with a backbreaker to reverse the result from the night before. Lorcan pinned Sabbatelli with a blockbuster. Sabbatelli dominated with chinlocks. Ford & Dawkins beat the Ealy Twins with Ford using the frog splash for the win. Lacey Evans beat Bianca Blair with a Fujiwara armbar. The crowd was into Evans. Strong beat Velveteen Dream in the main event with a suplex into the backbreaker

The U.K. tour opened on 6/5 in Aberdeen, Scotland, before 1,100 fans. The ticket were priced high so it’s not as bad as that number sounds. This was the tour where the advance was weak so they started advertising that Nakamura would be there, but then a few weeks later he was pulled from the tour. No Way Jose pinned Gallagher. The crowd was behind Jose. Dunne & Wolfgang beat Trent Seven & Mark Andrews. The crowd was way into Wolfgang, since he’s from Scotland. Since Dunne is a heel, they teased Dunne and Wolfgang not getting along. After they won, when Dunne pinned Andrews, Wolfgang laid out Dunne and posted him. Nikki Cross pinned Ember Moon with a swinging neckbreaker. The crowd wasn’t into this match at all, although Cross got a reaction coming out and was likely put over since she’s from Scotland. Strong & Black beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli in a good match that got a lot of heat. Strong was busted open late in the match. Ohno pinned Almas with the elbow. Regal came out to talk about NXT. The crowd gave him the biggest reaction of the show. Asuka beat Royce with the Asuka lock to keep the women’s title. Asuka was really over. Authors of Pain beat Sanity, as in

Killian Dain & Alexander Wolfe, to keep the tag titles. Eric Young was in the corner. Sanity was really over since Dain is from the area. Fans were chanting “Damo” loudly, which of course is Dain’s previous name. Wolfe, who didn’t get much of a reaction, was pinned after a clothesline. Main event saw Roode beat McIntyre to keep the NXT title. Super heated great title match where each kicked out of the others’ finisher. The crowd loved Roode at first but he was able to turn the crowd, plus McIntyre is from Scotland. Roode won with a low blow and his feet on the ropes. McIntyre attacked Roode after the match and left him laying after a Claymore kick. McIntyre cut a promo saying that he would fulfill the prophecy and would one day be NXT champion

6/7 in Leeds, UK, drew 2,500. Fans were told they could vote for a match to air on the screens between Rollins vs. Mahal, Neville vs. Zayn or Bayley vs. Banks. The women’s match got the most votes, but when it was announced as the winner, it got booed. Lilian Garcia was brought in to sing the U.K. national anthem as a special because of what happened in Manchester and London in recent weeks. Ohno pinned Wolfgang with the spinning elbow in a good opener. Gallagher & Mark Andrews & Seven beat Moss & Sabbatelli & Lars Sullivan. Moss got the easy heat saying they were in Sheffield. Andrews pinned Sabbatelli with a shooting star press. Riot pinned Cross with a kick that didn’t look good. Dunne beat Strong with the Bitter End in a really good match. Black won a three-way over Eric Young and Almas when Black pinned Almas after Black mass. Also said to be very good. Regal came out for a promo and got a great reaction. Authors of Pain kept the tag titles over Dain & Wolfe. Match wasn’t good. Again, Sanity were the faces. AOP did their usual finisher on Wolfe. Asuka & Aliyah beat Billie Kay & Royce. Royce tripped on her entrance which got a big reaction. The match was sloppy early. Asuka beat Kay with the Asuka lock. Roode again beat McIntyre in the main event with his feet on the ropes. McIntyre laid him out with the Claymore kick after the match

For the 5/26 show in Pikeville, KY, that we didn’t get an attendance on last week, the show drew a sellout of 4,900 and $200,000. Greensboro’s 6,000 fans on 5/27 drew a gate of $300,000

Raw opened on 6/2 in Trenton. We didn’t get an attendance for the show or for the 6/3 show in Reading, PA

Smackdown opened on 6/3 in Bridgeport, CT, before 5,200 fans. The 6/4 show in Glens Falls, NY drew 2,000. 6/5 in Elmira, NY also drew 2,000.. . Trenton opened with Crews (on the face side still at house shows and on the opposite side of O’Neil even though they’re together on TV) & Axel & R-Truth & Kalisto beat Samson & Goldust & O’Neil & Dallas. Neville retained the cruiserweight title over Aries using the ropes for the pin. Balor pinned Hawkins with the coup de gras. Bayley & Banks & James beat Bliss & Fox & Jax. Rollins pinned Wyatt. Enzo & Cass won a three-way over Gallows & Anderson and Rhyno & Slater. Reigns pinned Joe with a spear in the main event

Reading was the same show except they switched around the two main events, where Rollins pinning Joe and the Reigns pinning Wyatt with a spear in the final match. .. Smackdown in Bridgeport opened with Breeze & Fandango winning over Jordan & Gable and the Colons. No great reaction to any of the teams. Jordan & Gable were booed. Fandango pinned Epico to win. Dillinger pinned English using the tye-breaker. English once again got a lot of heat by running down Bridgeport. There were chants of “this is stupid” during the match. Harper pinned Rowan with a black hole slam. Nakamura & Zayn beat Corbin & Owens in the best match of the show. Nakamura took a brutal End of Days into the guard rail. Nakamura pinned Owens with the Kinshasa. Rawley & Sin Cara beat The Ascension when Rawley pinned Viktor. Crowd wasn’t into this coming off intermission. Naomi & Lynch won a two vs. three match with no Charlotte on the road beating Natalya & Carmella & Tamina. Naomi was super over and used the rear view on Natalya for the pin. Mahal pinned Styles in the main event using the tights after distraction from the Singh Brothers. Styles laid out the Singh Brothers after the match with the Styles clash. Nakamura and Breezango were the most popular on the show. Mahal got good heel main event heat

Glens Falls was the same show except Charlotte worked the show on the face side evening up the sides. Owens got strong heat by saying he was the greatest WWE superstar of all-time. The women’s match got a good reaction. Mahal was once again strong as a heel and they had a pretty good 15:00 match. Even though Breezango was way over the night before, on this show there were some booing them. English got a lot of heat for his singing. Crowd was silent during The Ascension match. The Nakamura & Zayn vs. Owens & Corbin match was the best thing on the show

Elmira changed some things from the prior night because Orton returned on the show. So the main event was Orton & Styles beating Mahal & Owens when Orton first gave the Singh Brothers simultaneous draping DDTs and then pinned Owens after the RKO. Owens moved to that spot led to Zayn vs. Corbin in a singles match which Zayn won with the Helluva kick. Corbin took the entire match until losing at the end. Nakamura’s role in the show was quick. After Dillinger beat English, English complained and said he wouldn’t leave the ring and wanted another match. Nakamura came out and beat him with the Kinshasa in ten seconds.